Civil War

Chapter Twenty-One - Childhood’s End

By Sushi


“Aaaaah.” Harry stuffed most of the sandwich half in his mouth.  A thin snigger distracted him from ravenous hunger.  “What?” he said around a mouthful of chicken and cheddar.

“And people tell me I’m an animal.”  Harry showed Remus a large mouthful of half-chewed food.  “Ew.”  For a horrifying, bloodthirsty creature of the night, the man had an awfully weak stomach.  They’d both forgotten who was taking care of Grendel that night and both showed up at the paddock at nine sharp.  So, what the Hell, they both stayed.  York stuck his head in at one point to see if they were okay but, otherwise, they’d had a nice evening alone chatting about nothing.  Severus, still not himself after the attack earlier in the week, was sleeping after another one.  To make matters worse, he’d had a couple of hazy semi-attacks the day before.  He didn’t outright believe Harry was someone else, and didn’t try to attack him, but he thought that Perditus was alive and angry with him.  They passed, but not without a long, focused talk with Harry.  Harry needed time away.

“Tell me the story about that Incantation concert?”  The last of the sandwich was chased by rather a large drink of pumpkin juice.  Remus had been hinting at this all night.  He grinned and laughed.

“Okay.  But repeat this to anyone but Sirius and next full moon I’m gonna bite you.”  Harry snorted in his juice, which set them both off.  Poppy’s Wolfsbane Potion, while not as potent as Snape’s, was nicely effective.  Somehow, the fact that she could prepare it made Lupin relax a bit with his affliction.  He was also in a very silly mood.  “So, Peter’s Mum had never listened to Incantation, didn’t have a clue what they were like.  She was a huge oldies fan – adored Muggle Big Band.  I guess she got the idea that Incantation was Glenn Miller or Celestina Warbeck because she went out and bought six tickets for our leaving school presents.  Peter, Paddy, Prongs, Lily, me, and herself.”  He leaned back in his chair, folding his hands on his stomach.  “Her first clue that this was out of her league was her sweet little boy wearing fishnet stockings.”  Harry nearly choked on the other half of his sandwich.



“Wearing fishnets.”

Lupin tapped his nose.

“Did Voldemort know about this?”  Lupin snickered.

“Probably.  That’s where Peter got the idea, for all I know.  Anyway, Mrs. Pettigrew was still having a conniption over Peter’s stockings – and ripped robe with the pentacle on back, and spiked hair, and lipstick – when we Floo’ed in.  Sirius looked pretty much normal for Sirius.  Big red poet shirt, hair in his face, big dramatic cloak.  With one minor difference.”


“Leather miniskirt.”  Harry had to lean his head on the table in the kitchen.  The room echoed.  A few house-elves looked worriedly at him.

“Is you okay, Mister Harry Potter, sir?” one asked tentatively.

“I’m fine.”  He looked up at Lupin, trying to breathe.  “Oh, my god.  Tell me you have pictures.”

“Not where he can find them.”  The werewolf looked smug.  “I’m just glad Paddy didn’t fly his bike there.  The poor woman would have had a heart attack.  Okay, so, Peter in fishnets, Sirius in a skirt.  James was wearing body glitter and a cloak and not much else.  Lily had tarted herself up in this bizarre Muggle contraption called a ‘corset’ which she put over her robe.  Which had been hacked off about three inches below her crotch and had neither sleeves nor noticeable top half of any kind.  We didn’t hear James complain that night.”  Remus smirked evilly.  Harry tried to picture his mum dressed like that.  He couldn’t.  He honestly couldn’t.

“Dammit.  I’m taking you and Sirius to the next Weird Sisters concert.”  Lupin smiled broadly.

“No objections here.  Though I can’t quite picture Snape in glitter.”  Harry giggled.  He could.  That would be one for the mantle.  “You already know what I did to my hair.  There was a minor problem with the dye, though.”

“Tell?”  Lupin blushed.

“Erm… it ran.  I didn’t quite cast the spell like I was supposed to so I had this lovely lavender tinge running down my face, all the way down my chest, and finally down to the only piece of clothing I had on, plaid trousers.”  Harry stared for a moment.  He finally had to put his face back on the table and howl.  “Oh!  It gets better!”


“It, um, reacted with the plaid.  I still don’t know how, but by the end of the concert I was the first, and possibly only, plaid purple werewolf ever to grace Great Britain.”  Harry couldn’t breathe.  The tray of sandwiches was long forgotten.  He tried to stifle his laughter but only managed to get dizzy, which made him laugh harder.  Lupin was snickering, too.  He had one hand over his mouth, and looked younger than Harry had ever seen.  The fire behind him gave his hair a deep coppery tinge.  “Poor Mrs. Pettigrew followed me around half the night, trying to reverse the spell, but she was so nervous in this flood of punked-out teenagers that the most she did was turn the flowers on her dress yellow.”  He leaned on his elbow, smiling.  “That was probably the best night of my life.  The last song they played was ‘Lupus Outrageous’.  It was one of their really big hits, about a werewolf.”  The smile turned wistful.  “All five of us just stood there and when the chorus hit we howled.  I don’t think I’ll ever be happier than I was right then.”  Harry smiled at his friend.  More than ever, he wished he could have known his father’s friends when they were his age.

“You liked that song?  Please.  It sounded just like everything else those hacks did.”  A gloved hand grabbed a sandwich from the plate.  Uden munched.  Her magic eye followed the nervous house-elves.

“What are you doing here?”  Lupin’s wistful smile was gone, replaced with stone.

“My job.”

“If the Death Eaters suddenly appear in the kitchen and start bumping off the house-elves, we’ll be sure to let you know.”  Remus stood up.  He towered over her by a good eight inches.  “Get out of here.”  Most living beings would have messed themselves in response to his tight-lipped glare.  Uden smiled sweetly and patted him on the cheek.

“Good wolfie.”  Remus jerked away.  Harry started to his feet.  Irene held up what remained of her sandwich.  “Come on, boy, beg.  Come on, you can do it.”  Lupin snarled.

“Get out of here before I find Montague.”  With a smirk, Uden sauntered backwards.

“Astronomy Tower, midnight,” she murmured, and snickered.  The werewolf sat back down and held his head in his hands.  He looked old again.  If anything, he looked even punier than he had on the Hogwarts Express.

“And I was having such a nice evening,” he muttered when the kitchen door closed behind her.

Harry frowned at the door.  “I wonder if anyone would care if we fed her to the squid.”  Lupin managed a weak smile.

“Sounds like a plan to me.”  He put his slightly fuzzy chin on folded hands.  “I really envy you, Harry.  I know things aren’t ideal right now, but if I’d had someone who cared about me as much as you do about Severus I wouldn’t have wasted three years sneaking around with that cow.”

“Why did you?”  Harry picked up another sandwich.  This sounded like it was one of those things that needed to be listened to.

Lupin raised a self-questioning eyebrow.  “She figured out why I disappeared every full moon, it didn’t bother her, and I thought, ‘hey, someone else can see past the fur!’  Idiot.  She just liked the idea of shagging a werewolf.”  Harry looked at his bitten sandwich.  His appetite was gone.  It was one thing to hear this from Sirius, completely another to see the years of pain and anger and betrayal in Remus’ strained face and hear his voice go thick and hoarse.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled around his full mouth.

“Thanks.”  Remus sighed.  It was bad enough for Lupin, what with the Slytherins – not to mention everyone else who hated werewolves, but the Slytherins especially.  They referred to Magical Creatures as “Care of Professor Lupin” behind his back.  Not even strict Grubbly-Plank, who taught on the days he was “indisposed”, could scare it out of them.  Uden just made everything worse.  “You know, she never said a thing to me unless we were alone.  If she had, I’d probably be in a lot worse shape than I am.”  He sat up and pushed back his chair.  “I should get to bed soon.  Fourth year practical on bowtruckles in the morning.”  Harry pushed his own chair back to go with Lupin.

“Is there anything I can help with?”  Remus shook his head.

“I’ve got it, thanks.”  Harry started for the door.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.  Going to go the long way back, I think.”

“You’re sure?”  Remus nodded.

“I could use some time to myself.”  Harry wondered if he’d become contagious.  “Goodnight.”

“G’night, sleep well.”  A weary, crooked smile and Lupin was gone.  Harry gave him a few minutes to gain some space.  He checked his watch.  Eleven forty-five.  Some deep part of him wondered if Lupin was going to the Astronomy Tower.  No, that was silly.  He cursed himself for even thinking that Remus would have anything to do with that woman now.  It was probably time to get back and check on Sev anyway.  He’d be waking up soon, and a little company would make it easier to take another dose.

Soft, mournful birdsong met him when he opened the door to their suite.  Harry closed his eyes for a moment to bask in the sound.  It untangled snarls in his guts he didn’t know were there.  Quietly shutting the door he wandered in to check on Severus.  The unmade bed was empty.  It took a moment to realize he was sitting in his chair in front of the fire.  Fawkes stood on the back of the chair, beak open, dipping his head down to brush that stripy, tangled hair.  Sev was perfectly, perfectly still.  His glasses were on the tip of his nose, head leaning against the back of the chair, hands flat and limp on the copy of Watership Down propped on his bathrobed abdomen.  Harry couldn’t see his chest moving.  Claws ripped him from throat to crotch as he tore across the room and fell in front of the chair.  “Sev?  Sev, wake up.”  His hands fluttered madly above skin.  He couldn’t feel heat.  He couldn’t feel anything.  “Severus, wake up, please.”

Lashes fluttered and calm black eyes fixed on him.  “Do you see a goblet anywhere?  Daft twit.”

Harry thumped his head on the small table.  “You arsehead!  I thought you were dead!”  His heart pounded, sending small quakes through his entire body.  Fawkes sang a final trilling note and tension took Harry’s back.  “Don’t do that!”

“Don’t do what?  Attempt to relax for a few fleeting moments before you come bursting in here to make my life a—?”

“Shut up.”  He fell into his chair.  The sandwiches in his stomach felt like cement.  Harry leaned on his elbow, squeezing his hair until it hurt.  “My god.  You’ve just found out that you’re in the late stages of Unicorn Blood poisoning, I come in and can’t see you breathing, what am I supposed to think?”  A high, harsh, terrified scream caught in his throat.  He swallowed it hard.

“I’m sorry.”  He jerked his head up.  That was unexpected.  Months of anger refused to settle down, though.

“What, not ‘paeniteo’?”

“If you’d prefer, then paeniteo.”

Harry looked in the fireplace and fumed.  As much of a pain as the man was, he wasn’t quite ready to let him go.  “How would you feel if you came in and I wasn’t breathing?”  Snape said nothing.  “God.  I haven’t even given you your Christmas present yet.”

More silence.  He glanced over.  Severus was staring into the fire.  It reflected off his glasses and turned his dead skin to tarnished gold.  Scowling, Harry marched to his trunk and yanked it open.  The present was in the corner, next to the small box he’d found for his dog tag and key.  He picked it up, blew off a cloud of dust, and kicked the trunk shut as he stood up.  Harry dropped it in Sev’s lap.  The stacking charm held.  He sat back down, refusing to look.  Much to his surprise, ribbon hissed, Spellotape popped, paper barely tore.  Of course, Sev had opened his birthday present the same way: along the seams, so as not to damage the paper.  It was almost scientific.  He heard a soft shuff as the first paper hit the floor.  “Harry…”

“I’m sorry it’s not the most expensive damn broom in the world, but some of us don’t have a fortune we conveniently forget about.”  He hated himself for saying it, but, for fuck’s sake, how much had the man put him through?  He hated himself for resenting it, too.

“This was Gran’s favourite book.”  The whisper broke Harry from his bottled rage.  Severus gazed at the paperback copy of The October Country like a treasure he thought he’d lost.  “Eversor burned it.”  Harry couldn’t say a word.  Sev carefully put the book in his lap and ripped into the next one.  Ripped.  Shreds of green foil scattered the floor.  The long silver ribbon curled and coiled and crossed his slippered foot.  Together, they looked like a huge snake, its body pulsing and pulling in the twitching light.  Ten books.  They’d cost no more than twenty Galleons, probably closer to fifteen, but they might as well have cost a million with the way Snape traced his fingers along the spines, studied the covers, flicked through the pulpy pages with their sharp inky smell.  Why didn’t Harry react to his present like that?  Because he was an immature, selfish cretin who only thought of the money it cost rather than the fact that Sev had gone far out of his way to get him the best broom in the world.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered.  Tomorrow, he would take his broom out after work and fly it for the third time.  Sev looked at him.

“What for?”  The October Country was back in his hands.

“I haven’t flown my broom since Christmas.”

“Hmm.”  It wasn’t a neutral sound, more one of disappointment.  “I should have gotten you something you can use.”

“No!  That’s not what I meant.”  He hugged his knees.  They made a good place to put his chin.  “I was mad because it was so bloody expensive.”

“While my experience with giving Christmas presents is somewhat limited, I was under the impression that the thought was more important than the price.  Apparently, I was mistaken.”  He turned a page.  In a moment the book lay open, spine up, on the others.  Irma would have a stroke.

“That’s not what I meant either.”  Harry stared at the paper-and-ribbon snake.  He thought he could hear it speak.  “Good, Potter, tear him apart, rip him apart, you’ve already lost anyway.”

“What did you mean?”

He didn’t want to say it.  It was cruel.  It was cold.  “I thought you’d lied to me when you said you didn’t have a fortune.”  He looked at the bathroom door.

“Did I?”  The cool haughtiness was back in those remarkable eyes.  “I don’t recall telling you anything absolute about my financial state.”

“Will you if I ask?”  Snape blinked.  He absently stroked the open book’s flat spine.

“Ask and find out.”

“Where did you get the money to pay for a Firebolt 10K prototype?”

Fawkes pecked at Severus’ head.  He uttered a single, soft note, which crushed some of the blinding tension in the room.  “From my inheritance.  I decided to use some of it to make you happy.  I have little hope of paying it back in full.”

Harry frowned, puzzled.  “You’re paying yourself back?”

“Should I live, yes.”

“Did you use any of it before you bought my broom?”

“Yes.”  It was a hiss, not a statement.

“How much?”

“Far less than the interest it’s generated since.”  So it was either a long time, or a vast amount of money.  Harry bet on both.

“What did you use it on?”

“Things I’d seen my grandmother use, which have been collecting dust ever since.”

“Why are you paying yourself back?”

“Because the day I freely use anything of Perditus Snape’s I’ll dance naked on the roof singing Gilderoy Lockhart’s praises.”  Clotted venom dripped from his words.

Harry stared at the floor.  Absently, he pushed up his sleeve and let his mouth rest against the soft inner flesh of his elbow.  A sharp pain made him pull back and he saw the perfectly round bruise already a midnight plum.  It made sense.  Gods and demons, it made sense.  Perditus, loving father to Eversor, had been tormented, physically and emotionally – but never anything like what Eversor did – by his dear father Curtus who wanted to make him develop his “late-blooming” abilities.  Again, Philia hadn’t stepped in.  Harry had no idea why.  Maybe it was something to do with her paralysis.  Perditus, Hufflepuff that he was, worked endlessly to do just what his father wanted.  He looked at the bruise again.  It hurt rather a lot.  “Thank you for the broom.”

“Hmm.”  Severus picked up Watership Down and started reading again.  Ballsed up royally that time, didn’t I?  Chest cavity empty, Harry pulled himself to his feet.  He still had his cloak and hat on, he realised.  In a few minutes he crunched through the hard, patchy snow.  It was eerily quiet.  No birds, no animals.

Suddenly, a harsh howl echoed through the turrets and towers above.  Harry looked around frantically.  The howl sounded again, not quite animal but definitely not human.  It was coming from the tallest tower.

The Astronomy Tower.

Harry didn’t even want to look.


“I heard it was the Death Eaters.”

“Nah, it couldn’t have been them.  Didn’t you see Professor Lupin this morning?  He was up all night, running around the Forbidden Forest.”

Harry slammed 1002 Magical Uses For Common Garden Vegetables shut and handed it to the Slytherin fourth year with a malevolent look.  “Have a nice day,” he growled.

She took the book, wide-eyed.  “Whatever.”  As she left with her friend he heard her say, “Sounds like someone didn’t get his daily rogering this morning.”  He didn’t need that.  Harry checked out the last two students as quickly as he could.  Just twelve more minutes and he could go to lunch.  All morning he’d heard nothing but idiotic chatter about the howls.  From what he could distill, a couple of students had been out after hours and heard it and promptly spread the news to the whole of Gryffindor.  As Gryffindor so often tended to be paired with Slytherin, they successfully fired up the most effective gossip machine known to humanity.  Harry had heard more stories about Lupin than he cared to imagine.  The students had also mentioned Fluffy, Snape having another attack, Hagrid’s ghost, Dumbledore’s ghost, Voldemort’s ghost, Voldemort himself, the Aurors testing out interrogation techniques, a house-elf uprising (quickly squashed by the fact that breakfast didn’t seem to be poisoned), Peeves being Peeves, and The Hogwarts Teachers’ Association Annual Stress-Relief Howl-A-Thon.  Harry had to admit the last idea was somewhat amusing.  Of course, it would be, coming from Wylie Burton.  After so much moronic chatter Harry wanted little more than to curl up on his couch and hide.

He’d not slept.  By the time he came back from his walk, Severus was asleep.  Harry had curled up on the couch and tried to get a little shuteye, but his mind wouldn’t stop working.  A black fog descended deeper and deeper into his brain as he thought about what he’d said to Sev.  Intermeshed was a series of images of Lupin, some alone and some not.  As the night and the depression progressed, most not.  Around four he’d finally gotten up, wide awake.  Harry had finished Silver On The Tree the night before and needed a new book.  How many nights recently had he fallen asleep with a paperback on his chest?  He’d frankly been surprised the first time he saw Snape’s library.  A good deal of the fiction there was Muggle fiction.  It tended to be fantasy – by Muggle standards, anyway, pretty normal stuff as far as wizard authors went – and much of it, technically, children’s books.  He settled on The Book Of Three and started to sit down to read.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Pensieve.  Well, the stack of parchment it was behind.  That didn’t stop him from forming a clear picture of the light grey, rune-covered bowl in his mind’s eye.  “I’m not going to look at you,” he muttered between his teeth.  In a moment he’d settled in with his book.  A distant corner of his brain tickled.  What?  You don’t want to find out how to fix my Nepos?  He jumped.  Heart racing, Harry looked around.  Fawkes sat on his perch by the bed, head tucked under his wing.  Severus churned the covers momentarily and mumbled something incoherent before rolling to face where Harry should have been.  He reached out one unconscious hand, groped, and disappeared under the duvet when he found nothing.  Harry choked back bile.  He tried to focus on reading.  If you cared for him, you’d find me.  Selfish, wicked child.  “Shut up, Philia.  I can’t do anything.”  He wondered if, perhaps, he was starting to suffer the same sickness as Snape.  Was Unicorn Blood contagious?  These weren’t his memories, though.  His madness, perhaps, but certainly not his memories.  Coward, coward, coward.  Little boy’s a coward… the singsong voice rang high and hard in his head.  Harry suddenly dropped his book and pulled the Pensieve off its shelf.  “Say that to my face.”  He blushed all over; he was talking to a figment like it was real.  This was ridiculous.  He needed sleep.  If he got some sleep everything would be—

“Bloody Hell!  Where do you keep coming from?”  Philia glared out the back of her own head.  It reminded Harry nauseatingly of Professor Quirrell.

“Huh?”  He turned all the way around.  He hadn’t touched it – not purposely – and yet he was in the Pensieve.  Severus, possibly thirteen, was waving his wand like a foil.  One of the cauldrons turned into a pauldron and back again.  He snickered.

“And Potter said I couldn’t do it,” he said, smug.

“Would you fetch me the ashwinder eggshell powder, Nepos?”  Sev flicked his wand one last time to make the cauldron bounce and easily pulled a jar from a high shelf.  He was nearly his intimidating adult height.  Gently, he set the jar next to Philia and leaned on the back of her chair, hooked nose pressed against her bun.  She measured out a minute amount of ashy powder on a slender, graded stick.  Her hands were steady but thin.  The other Philia glanced from Harry, to herself, and back to Harry.  She’d turned slightly, and pulled her transparent form out a few inches.

“What are you?” Harry finally managed.

“What do I look like?  I’m a Potionmaker.”  That bored, mildly annoyed scowl was very familiar.  “I’d like to know what you’re doing in my laboratory.”

Her laboratory?  What was this, a ghost?  “I’m not in your laboratory.  I’m in Severus’ Pensieve.”  She cocked an eyebrow.

“Let me get this straight.  You, who are certainly not my grandson, are in his Pensieve.”  He nodded.  “You’d better have a damned good explanation, boy.”  She folded her arms.  “If you’ve hurt him in any way, I’m going to make sure you never get out of here.”  Harry took a step back.  After all of the bizarre things he’d seen in Sev’s Pensieve, he wouldn’t put it out of the question.

“I… he’s sick.”  She blinked, slowly, like a discontent cat waiting for its prey to move closer.

“How does my Severus being sick give you the right to invade his Pensieve?  If you’re telling the truth in the first place.”

Harry felt his ribcage start to crumble under the weight of her stare.  “A pi-icture of you told me you’d found a treatment for…” he trailed off.  Dumbledore wasn’t exaggerating when he called her formidable.  By comparison, The Worst Of Professor Snape was warm and helpful.  She was so calm.  Sev just didn’t do calm – even in his calm moments there was always a jumpiness under his skin.

“I found treatments for a lot of things.  Go find a mediwizard, leave us alone.”  She started to melt into herself.

“Late stage Unicorn Blood poisoning.”  Harry blurted it before he could think.

“Eh?”  She turned her head to raise a sharp eyebrow.  Her dark, transparent eyes jumped with sparks.

“He’s got Unicorn Blood poisoning.  A picture said you’d found a treatment.”  Philia studied him, frowning.

“Who are you?”

“Harry Potter.”  He resisted the urge to call her “ma’am”.  She grunted and turned away.

“Well, you can just fuck off, then, Potter.  That little pack – what, James must be your brother? – pack of heathens probably gave it to him in the first place!”  She melted into her solid body completely.

“James was my father.”  No response.  “Please, I think Sev’s going to die.  I don’t want that to happen.”

“Well, maybe I do.”  Harry blinked.  He could barely make out what she said over soft, murmured Latin.


“I said, ‘maybe I do’, Harry Potter.  I don’t know what you’ve got to do with my grandson or his Pensieve but you can just bugger off right now.  If that James person’s had a son your age I can guarantee you that I’m long dead.  If that’s the case, then I want to see my Severus.”


“Go away.”  A shock of energy hit him square in the chest and Harry found himself holding the Pensieve.  He jerked his perilously close face away from the churning silver and black.  Back on the shelf it went.  It took a minute, but what Philia said finally sank in.  He sagged; the last sandy grains of hope he clutched ran away too fast to catch.  It was over.  The formula was gone.  There was no way to get it back now.  His hideously loose pajamas stuck uncomfortably to patches of sweat that broke out in the cold of the room.  Shivering, Harry peeled off the faded pea-green broadcloth and crawled naked under the duvet.  Severus faced him.  Well, a little patch of his forehead did.  Harry gently pulled down the cover enough to see his face.  Until seven o’clock came and forced him out of bed he lay there, yearning to touch his maritus but never quite able to force his arm to straighten.  What hurt most was that he couldn’t even break his apathy enough to cry.

“Good afternoon, Harry.”  Irma shook out her cloak and hung it on a hook behind the desk.  Despite checking out several books (the cards were in front of him) he was a bit surprised to find himself in the library.  “You look a sight.  Then again, if I had to take care of Severus I would too.”  Take care of Severus.  Gah.  He couldn’t even do that properly.

“I didn’t sleep too well.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”  Rubeus Nattery handed him a small stack of books and he checked them out mutely.  Three minutes.  He watched the boy run out – he was going to be late for class.  With just Harry and Madam Pince, the library felt cold.  “Go on, try to get a nap in before you come back.”

Harry rose.  He didn’t even attempt to argue.  There really didn’t seem to be much point to it.  Gathering his cloak and hat he wandered blindly towards his couch.  Inside, he skinned down to a Chudley Cannons T-shirt and pants and flopped down.  His heavy wooly blanket made a comfortable cocoon.  With a quick tap of his wand and a mumble he set the alarm crystal for one fifty.  “How do you do it?”

Harry squinted up.  Sev was standing a few feet away.  Too far to see his expression, at any rate.  “Do what?”

“Just go to sleep.”

“Staying up two nights in a row helps.”  He heard a muffled creak as Severus took the seldom-used cloth armchair near the foot of the couch.  It was green, just like all the other fabric in the sitting room.  Harry tried to close his eyes.  They wouldn’t stay that way.  Something invisible and painful kept them open.  “Sorry about last night.”

“Hmm.”  God, not this again.  “Forgiveness granted,” he said flatly.  “Thank you for the books.”

Harry shrugged under his blanket.  His head ached with fatigue.  “Don’t mention it.”

“Why Bradbury?”


“You could make some effort to listen.  Or have your ears fallen off under there?”  Harry sighed, annoyed, and sat up.  The blanket pooled at his waist and left his top half rather chilly.  “I asked why you chose that particular author.”  Harry shrugged.

“Hermione had some of his stuff and she let me borrow it.  It seemed like something you’d read.”

“Why?”  This wasn’t typical Sev.  Honestly, live with the bastard for most of a year, take a few runs through his head, and he was still impossible to figure out.  It struck Harry that he might have put up with so much for so long in an effort to pick through the kinks in that impossibly thick skull.

“It’s dark and strange.”  And warm, and funny, and poignant, and Harry often thought Sev would get on well with some of the more bizarre characters, like Uncle Einar.  And Timothy.  Since he read about the family in The Autumn House, Harry’d had a strange affinity for the mortal, powerless outcast in a family of immortals blessed with curses and abilities he could only crave.  While Timothy was never really treated with anything worse than taunts and pity it reminded him of himself, living with the Dursleys.  The negative, so to speak.  It was like giving Sev a little piece of himself.  He waited.

“Ah.”  Harry squirmed in the silence.  He picked up his watch and checked the time.  Ten after; he doubted he’d get a nap.

“Which one’s your favourite?”

“If you had any sort of brains at all you would know.”  Harry pulled the blanket up around his shoulders.  The room felt several degrees colder.  “Gran read me some of them as bedtime stories when I was a boy.  She was especially fond of ‘The Jar’.”

“She read you that as a bedtime story.”

“On occasion, yes.”  Harry cringed.

“Explains a lot.”  He’d read “The Jar” right before bed once and had nightmares for it.  And that was when he was fifteen.

“We must all confront our fears somehow,” Severus said softly.  Harry turned his head away from the blurry figure.  “I was partial to ‘Homecoming’ myself.”

That was Timothy’s story.  Hermione’s copy had a permanent crease in the spine from the eight or so times he read it before she made him give it back.  “That was my favourite, too.”  He felt the curious glance.  By the time he’d looked up Sev was staring at the floor with his steepled fingers pressed to his lips.  He looked like a watercolour painting left in the rain.

“I always hated Cecy.  Nobody should be given absolute freedom to violate the sanctity of any body or mind.”  Cecy, who could leave her body and ride in the head of whatever animal or person she pleased.  Who took her smug, misguided pleasures from others’ actions – or her actions through them.  Who tormented Timothy, offering him the acceptance and power he craved only to laugh when she spoke from within his own head and the joke was over.  Who was most loved in all the family and thus was allowed to wield her power as she wished.  Except, maybe, by Uncle Einar, who loved Timothy best.

“I could read it to you tonight, if you want.”  Sev started to shake his head.  He stopped about halfway through.

“I’d like that, I think.”  His eyes were surprisingly visible even without glasses.  “Go to sleep.”

“I want to stay with you.”  And he did.  For much, much longer than they had.  Brevis Noster Tempus est, Harry.  It had to be used now if it ever would be.  So much changed with the death of hope.  He missed the biting sarcasm and wit that had slowly melted along with Severus’ body, but it was like a glacier thawing: catastrophic, revealing things that hadn’t been seen for aeons.  Who in his right mind would imagine Snape griping about Cecy?

“I’ll be here when you wake up.”  He was.










A/N: Four more to go…


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