Chapter Twenty-Two - Puffskeins Eat The Strangest Things
Harry didn’t close the book and set it aside until Severus was lost in his plague of nightmares. He’d listened quietly, eyes closed, turned on his side facing Harry. The duvet at his hips looked like a pool of blood. The dog tag lay on the bottom sheet. It reflected the sunless pallor of his body, and the black of his hair. One long arm was wrapped around the pillow from beneath. It took all of Harry’s fear not to kiss his hard lips just to find the life they must still hide. Sev stayed in the same position after he took his potion. Occasionally, he twitched. Harry realised he’d never, not once, complained about his condition. He’d hidden it, lied about it, asked for release from it, sent Harry away to spare him its torments, but never whinged. Anger surged hot in his gut. Philia may have been formidable, but she did not have the right to demand his willing death.
For the third time in as many nights, Harry picked up the Pensieve. He set it on the desk and stared deep into it. “Don’t you dare take him away before I’m ready to let him go.” The black threads thrashed mockingly. He started to plunge his finger in the middle of the swirling tempest; they rushed forward. Harry jerked back and they sank, angry, hungry. Carefully, he slipped his other hand in his pocket and clutched his watch. It was safe. It calmed him. Fawkes flapped over from his perch and sat on the desk. He trilled once and nudged Harry back towards the Pensieve. “Albus sent you to him, didn’t he?”
The phoenix blinked.
“I’m glad he did.”
Fawkes pecked impatiently at Harry’s hair.
“Okay, I’m moving!” He put his hand on the edge of the bowl. The bird’s brilliant scarlet faded to warm rose as the Pensive’s rush overtook him. A hard lump hurt Harry’s throat when he realised where he was. A large candle burned on the white surface of the bedside table. Sickly grey natural light turned the carpet lavender. Beyond the window, heavy snow fell in myriad silent clumps. Harry couldn’t make himself look at the bed until he recognised Philia’s low voice. She was reading “Homecoming”. He glanced over. Sev, as old as he’d been when Eversor found him in this same room, was curled up silently, his head resting on Philia’s emaciated shoulder. Harry recognized the thinness under heavy yellow flannel. A long, young arm covered in stone grey ran across her waist on top of the covers. She had half-moon glasses perched on the bridge of her shadowed nose, and held The October Country in the hand not around her grandson’s shoulders. Her chair, which looked like any other small armchair but hovered a few inches off the floor, was next to her bed. A fine layer of dust had settled on it. As she read, Severus’ free hand stole to his mouth. A fingertip pressed against the corner, a remnant of his childhood habit.
“Leave us alone, Potter.” The ghostly head turned and sneered at him.
“No.” He folded his arms, glaring. Come on, Philia. Try to push me.
To his surprise she sat up. “Don’t you dare hurt my grandson.”
“Why don’t you listen to me long enough to tell I’m trying to help him?” She snorted.
“Why would you help him? James Potter’s son. From what he’s told me I’d expect you poisoned him yourself!” Harry reflexively reached into his pocket to clutch the watch, to draw strength from it. He pulled it out. Frosty light marred the warm brown. Philia saw it and pulled herself into her chair. “Where did you get that?”
A look of pure hatred crossed her face. “How dare you steal from him.” In a flash of defiant inspiration Harry pressed the fob.
“Magnus Snape, Anne Miller.” He glanced up. Her eyes were as cold as ever. “Devoro Snape, Chastity Wolfsbane. Canonicus Snape, Persiphone Ipield. Veritas Snape, Christine Avery. Bellator Snape, Augusta Semper.” Harry’s voice slowly grew from angry and shaking to determined and deafening. “Obscurus Snape, Zenith Macnair. Perpetuus Snape, Mariah Sent. Viatrix Snape, Dominus Snape. Eversor Snape, Chlamydia Malfoy. Curtus Snape, Philia Westin. Perditus Snape, Arian Horace. Severus Snape, Harry – James – Potter.” Her clawed hand went through his wrist. It felt numb. With a bitter surge of triumph he turned the watch to show her. Philia stared. Her dark expression didn’t change. “Are you going to listen to me?”
“Depends what you say. How old is he?”
She gave him a look of surprise. “How old are you?”
“Young little trollop, aren’t you?” He glared. Harry wasn’t going to take this.
“Not after living with him. Quite frankly, if I had an ounce of sense I would have kicked him out after everything he’s put me through. I don’t want to, though. I love the bastard. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have this thing!” He shook the watch in her face and stuffed it back in his pocket.
“I want to hear it from him.” Harry sneered.
“You know, I’ve got a picture of you, and from its reaction I thought you might actually want to help him. He’s in pain. Lots and lots of pain.” He found his face barely six inches from Philia’s. “You can make him better.”
“Or I can have my grandson back.” Her pointed glare was sharper even than Sev’s.
“What makes you think he wants to die?”
“What makes you think he wants to live?”
Harry hissed, “The fact that he’s still alive after all the shite Eversor put him through.” She scoffed.
“I took care of Eversor.”
“No, you didn’t. He just waited until you were too sick to do anything about it.” For a kindly, caring grandmother, Philia Westin was the meanest bitch he’d ever met. Irene Uden could have taken lessons.
“Oh, really. Then why didn’t Severus tell me?”
“Eversor threatened to kill you if he did.” At that, Philia laughed out loud.
“You’re funny. How do you propose a Squib is going to kill a trained witch? I could turn him to dust before I saw him.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort when a heavy, black shadow crossed over the room. His spine prickled. There was a sound like a bullwhip and a burst of pain. Harry fell to the stone floor, clutching his ribs and panting. His eyes crossed and he moaned. God, it felt like the Cruciatus Curse! It occurred to him that it very likely might have been. Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet. Thirteen-year-old Sev was poring over the blue-covered book again. A copy of Forbidden Potions And Their Uses sat, closed, near his elbow. While the solid Philia watched, he minced a handful of red, curved leaves and sprinkled them into a cauldron of white, lumpy stuff like watery cottage cheese. It whistled, making them both cover their ears, and suddenly looked like molten gold. He dipped into it with a small ladle and let it drip back into the soot-crusted cauldron. “How does it work?”
“In theory, by inhibiting certain RNA-based processes peculiar to some types of malignant dermal cell reproduction.” Harry couldn’t follow much else she said. It was technical, precise, painfully so. He wondered if Poppy would understand it.
“What the fuck just happened?” The phantom Philia looked around, puzzled. Her mouth was drawn down hard and her brow was furrowed. She looked the same age she had in the last memory. “How did you get here?”
“I don’t know. Some of the threads in Sev’s Pensieve are black, though, if you know anything about it.” Philia blanched. She nearly faded.
“Sanguinoform Pseudoschizophrenic corruption of temporal synaptic pathways,” she muttered.
“I have no idea what you just said.”
Philia sneered. “The Unicorn Blood has affected his memory cells, you stupid child. Alteration of magical filamentous memory is one of the early symptoms. Let me guess, you’re a Quidditch player.”
He bristled at the negative implication. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything. I’m only here to try to find out how to make him better!” She blinked, and an ominous smile spread over her face.
“Very well. Unicorn Blood toxin triggers a systemic, progressive neurological response, resulting from the bonding of magically inclined venins to synaptic pathways, starting in the hippocampus region, thus disrupting the transfer of neurochemicals within the central nervous system. There is no natural immunological defence, but hypothetically one can be induced. This may or may not be effective in later stages of affliction. The difficulty in finding a cure involves breaking the magic bond between venin and neuron at the molecular level and successfully extracting all traces from the afflicted organism. Do you follow me so far?”
Harry blinked. His brain hurt. She’d spoken so rapidly he wasn’t entirely sure it was English. “I was told it’s a curse.” She sniffed.
“Who told you that?”
Harry straightened. “A centaur friend of mine.” Philia beamed.
“You listened to a bloody centaur? You are daft.” She was downright chipper as she moved back to her “body”. Harry’s fists curled. Nails bit deep into his palms.
“And I thought he turned into a nasty, spiteful bastard because his brother raped him.”
She froze. “What did you say?”
“While you were sick, Eversor did anything and everything he could to make his life a living Hell, including things I don’t even want to think about from the time he was eight. He scared Severus into thinking you’d be killed if he told you about it.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Her voice cracked.
“It’s the fucking truth.” She glanced back at him. For the first time, those vicious black eyes showed him something besides arrogance and immolating hatred. They showed fear. She was as terrified of letting down her grandson as he was of letting down his Gran. “Are you going to be a little more civil now?”
“I might. I want to hear it from him. For all I know you’re lying.” She spoke softly, like she simply didn’t want to believe him but knew better. “Go get him if you’re telling the truth.”
“I can’t. He’s asleep.”
“Then wake him up, you daft twit.” Harry growled softly.
“As soon as I figure out how to counter about a pint of Draught of Living Death I will!”
She trained the blackest, most vicious, most soul-withering glare Harry had ever seen straight between his eyes. “What?” The whisper sliced like a razor, and like a razor it took a moment for the impact to hit him. He forced himself to stay focused.
“I said, ‘as soon as I fig—‘”
“I heard that, you stupid boy!” She began hovering back and forth – pacing, he supposed. She muttered almost silently, “No reason to take that much, he should know better. Unless he… no, no, he knows better than that.” It trailed into Latin so rapid he could only make out the word “Brampton”. The petrified fear was back in her abyss of a stare. Harry crossed his arms.
“If you’re just going to talk to yourself I’ll just go back and tell him the formula he’s been trying to track down for months is lost, then, shall I?” His innards turned cold even as he spoke. It took more effort than he was willing to admit to keep his voice steady. Philia froze.
“I’m going to. It’ll destroy him, but there you are. At least you’ll get what you want.”
The shadowy outline flickered for a moment. Philia’s head dropped. She rubbed one of her transparent hands until it tinted red. “I worked as a potions researcher for more than forty years. I’d still be doing it now… would have been doing it until I died if my little boy hadn’t told me his brother threw his clothes in the tree. Eversor… he was Curtus all over again.” She elbowed her chair’s arm sharply. “I’m only in this thing because Curtus thought Perditus was a Squib. He didn’t show any magical ability until he was five. Cruel, resentful monster, Curtus – I only married him to make my parents shut up. Goes to show what pureblood families will do to stay pure. Of course, it was my fault. I was his mother. Then Eversor came along and… well. I made sure Curtus couldn’t hurt Arian, too.” She gave him a cold look. “She was pureblood, but I’ve never seen anyone that weak short of a Squib. Most of the family assumed Severus was going to be the same way. Perditus couldn’t accept two Squibs, especially after he lost Arian.” She took a deep breath.
“Eversor always had a nasty streak in him. He would pit his toys against each other and break the one that lost. Perditus let him do the same thing to his brother to scare some ability into him. He thought a little pain might bring it out. If you ask me, it slowed it down. Severus could have proven himself before he turned four if he hadn’t been scared out of his wits. Eversor never did anything around me, though. He knew I’d tan his hide if I caught him.” She snorted. “Hindsight.” Her eyes narrowed. “But I still want to hear it from him.”
Harry looked pointedly at her. “How do I make him better?”
“You don’t,” she snapped. “Get him in here. If you can’t understand a basic explanation of the poisoning process you sure as Hell won’t understand the damned potion.” Ah. That might be easier said than done. The prickling on his spine started again. Harry braced himself as the memory dimmed and flickered. Fortunately, he stayed put. Philia looked around nervously. “It’s never been tested. No guarantees it’ll work.”
Harry pursed his lips. “It had better.” Before any more of the black threads could come at him he pulled out of the Pensieve. The fire had died down; the coals would burn until extinguished, and put out a little heat. He felt ill. Philia certainly didn’t give him the reception he’d expected. He hated to admit, even to himself, that he couldn’t save Sev single-handedly. As long as they found something to make him better, though, Harry didn’t much care. Something at the back of his mind nagged about Philia. What the Hell was she? Not a ghost, or she’d know she was dead. Certainly not a pure memory. She might have been something Sev imbued accidentally, like a drawing. But that Philia had been nice to him. Sort of. Not the snide harpy in the Pensieve. Or she may have been a side effect of the Unicorn Blood. That last possibility scared him.
He put the Pensieve away again and stretched. It was only a little after eleven. He probably ought to get some sleep, but his mind wouldn’t stop working. Why, why, why had he decided to stay in the library instead of seeking mediwizard training? He might understand a little of what was going on in that case. With a sigh he checked on Sev (who’d thrashed his covers completely off at some point and was whimpering, naked, for his Gran), pulled the duvet up, found his cloak and shoes, and wandered out into the castle for yet another mind-clearing walk. With any luck it would be Auror-free.
He’d intended to go to the kitchen for a snack, or possibly out to groom Grendel (even though he’d done it right after dinner), but the door to Lupin’s room opened in front of him before he realised he’d knocked. Or gone there – this was a completely different part of the castle than he’d intended to be in. Maybe the stairs changed. The werewolf grinned; it was a bit sardonic, and there were purple shadows under his eyes. “You’re out late.” Harry thought quickly.
“Can’t sleep, I got lonely.” Remus welcomed him in. The suite was basically the same as his and Sev’s. The anteroom was furnished in tomato red rather than moss green, and rather than row upon row of mysterious books and bottles it was filled with small creatures including the grindylow and a humming choir of puffskeins. He dreaded to think how many other animals were in Remus’ office. The grindylow beat the side of its tank and puffed out its cheeks when it saw Harry.
“Oh, hush, you,” Lupin told it, shaking his head. “He’s been a right terror for days. I think I may need to find him a mate to calm him down.” Harry had an image of a slew of tiny baby grindylows all beating on the side of their tank.
“Would that be a good idea?” Lupin chuckled.
“Don’t worry, I won’t end up sitting outside the school with a box saying ‘baby grindylows, free to good home’. They’ll be perfectly happy in the lake. Oh! I’ve got something to show you. Stay right here.” He disappeared briefly into the heart of the suite and returned carrying a couple of thick parchment squares and what looked like an ancient Victrola. He set the phonograph on the long, low table and handed Harry the squares. They were worn around the edges, and starting to fall apart. Inside each lurid sleeve was a clear, smooth disc that looked like some sort of crystal. He looked at them, puzzled. They resembled Muggle record albums, which he’d seen once or twice in the Dursleys’ attic. Lupin beamed. “They’re my old Incantation albums.”
“Do they say that?” Harry peered at the covers. Sure enough, when he squinted he saw that, indeed, the jagged Gothic script said “Incantation”. One album, “Touch My Wand,” featured “Lupus Outrageous”. Looking a little happier, Lupin grabbed that one and put it on the Victrola. Harry wondered how it was going to play, seeing that there was no needle arm. Suddenly, his eardrums went numb at the barrage of… well, it was more noise than music. Remus stretched out in a large armchair with his hands behind his head, smiling, eyes drooping closed.
“How do you like it?” he yelled.
“Yeah! I know!” Harry sat gingerly on the couch, wondering how such a small machine could produce as much noise as a Weird Sisters concert.
“Can you turn it down a little?” Remus opened his eyes and gave him a puzzled look. Harry put his hands over his ears. Lupin peered for a moment and nodded vigourously. He tapped the base of the speaker horn a few times and the roar abated to a dim cacophony.
“Sorry, that was one of their louder numbers. Mrs. Pettigrew nearly died when they opened with it.” For such a patient, quiet, thoughtful man, Remus could be awfully, um, noisy. “Like it?”
“Um, I don’t know yet.” Harry’s tastes, while not easy listening, tended slightly towards the more sublime end of the scale.
“Try this one.” Remus ran a finger from the edge of the record towards the middle. He stopped about two-thirds of the way in. A low, heady bass riff started. In a moment it was joined by the long, rising whine of a guitar, almost like a howl.
Hiding from the beast within
Suffer not through your own sin…” Music exploded.
Remus smiled shyly. “This song has gotten me through many a lonely night.” He sighed, lost in memories. Harry didn’t bother him. He listened quietly. It was rather a good song, really, not nearly as loud or jarring as the first one. It faded out with a howl of anguish. Remus leaned forward and turned the player off with a finger flick. “Any better?”
“Much.” He could get used to it. “Do you have any more albums?”
“No, unfortunately. They only made the two.” Lupin studied the cover to “Won’t You Ride My Broomstick, Baby?” “Their singer was killed right after the Wand tour. By a werewolf,” he muttered. He frowned sadly.
Harry wasn’t quite sure what to say. “Oh,” he finally managed.
Remus shook his head. “No matter. It’s all in the past.” He raked a hand through his hair. “So, how’s your day been?”
“I can sympathise.” He went quiet.
“I heard you howling in the Astronomy Tower last night.”
“Hmm. Sorry about that. I’m trying to forget it.”
“What happened?” The unspoken question, “And who were you with?” hovered between them. Lupin gave him a melancholy look.
“Incantation, and most of a bottle of vanilla schnapps. Irene is a couple of corridors away and I really didn’t fancy the idea of being that close to her.” Harry’s abdominal muscles relaxed in relief. “What did you think?”
“I didn’t know.” Something hit him. “Why didn’t I hear any music?” Incantation wasn’t the sort of thing someone could just ignore without being totally deaf.
“Earphones. You’ve never heard of them?” Lupin cocked his head.
“Wizards have earphones? I thought they were a Muggle thing.”
“I thought they were a wizard thing.” Remus settled into his chair. “Good thing I’m not teaching Muggle Studies, I guess.” Harry smiled faintly. Lupin sighed. “After what Irene said I guess I just realised how little living I’ve been able to do since Lily and James died. The past caught up with me. I haven’t felt in charge of my life since leaving school.” He exhaled sharply and sat up straight. “Well, that’s enough self-pity for tonight. How’s Severus doing?”
“Oh, he’s… slowly dying and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.” Harry crumpled against the couch cushion, arms wrapped tight around his chest. Lupin got up and sat next to him, still careful not to touch him.
“I’m sorry, Harry. After everything you’ve already gone through you don’t deserve this too.” Harry shrugged a little.
“Could be worse.”
“Not by much. Dammit. I wish there was something I could do for you.” Harry snorted. Without thinking, he opened his mouth.
“Can you convince him to go into his Pensieve and talk to his grandmother’s ghost?”
Lupin looked at him rather oddly. “I’m not quite sure I follow.”
Oh, god. Yes, he’d said it. No, there wasn’t any way to deny it. “Erm… I met his grandmother, or her ghost or something, in his Pensieve. She said she’d created a treatment but she won’t tell me how to make it.” Lupin leaned weakly against the back of the sofa.
“Leave it to Severus to have a haunted Pensieve.” He tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage to get it past his bewilderment. “Are you sure it was a ghost?”
“I wasn’t seeing things.”
“No, no, that’s not what I meant.” He scratched his arm absently. “I mean, are you sure it wasn’t… I don’t know, something to do with the Unicorn Blood?” Harry shrugged.
“Dunno. I thought it might have been like a painting or something.” Remus nodded thoughtfully.
“But made of memories?”
“Yeah.” Lupin chewed his bottom lip, scowling in thought.
“You might have something there. The most realistic-acting pictures were done by people who knew the subjects best, especially self-portraits. Were Severus and his grandmother close?”
Was Hagrid tall? “I think so.”
“Hmm. It still sounds like it may be something to do with the Unicorn Blood, but… if she says there’s a treatment, there’s no guarantee it’s in there. Everything will be based on Severus’ memories.” Harry wrung a finger. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to shatter your hopes.”
“It’s not your fault.” He pulled his glasses off and polished them. They were getting greasy around his eyebrows. Oh, brilliant. Now my eyebrows are trying to act like Sev. He giggled suddenly at the image of his brows fixing into a permanent Snape-like scowl. Lupin looked surprised. “Sorry, random brainfart. I need to figure out a way to get him into the Pensieve.”
“Tell him what? He didn’t believe me the first time I mentioned his Gran looking at me.”
“When was that?”
“First time I got sucked in there.” Lupin’s eyebrow twitched in a very canine way.
“Maybe if you tell him it’s happened again he’ll listen.” Harry snorted. “Okay, good point. Did she do or say anything significant you couldn’t have known?”
“Besides act like a hyper-nasty version of Sev on a bad day?”
“Preferably besides that.” Harry got up to look at the puffskeins. “Get one out if you’d like, it might make you feel better.”
“Thanks.” With a small smile Harry fished one of the cream-coloured balls of fluff out of their cage. It snuggled up on his arm, purring. When he petted it, it chirped and warbled happily. He could suddenly understand their popularity. Harry stroked it gently, thinking. “Well… she said a lot of technical stuff about Unicorn Blood that I’ve never read or heard anything like.”
He blinked. “Um… give me a minute.” He racked his brain. “Something about the toxin binding to synapses and hippocampi.”
“Yeah. I don’t think she was talking about animals, though.” Lupin nodded sagely.
“It’s part of the brain, I think. I don’t know anything else about it, though. You might try asking Poppy. It sounds like a good place to start.”
“I guess.” It sounded like the sort of thing he could find in a mediwizardry text. Sev might think he’d read it in the library. He tried to think of anything else definitive she’d said. The whole story of Curtus and Perditus and Eversor – there were some details there he hadn’t known. “Sometimes I think he doesn’t want to get better.”
“And the rest of the time?”
Harry tickled the puffskein and it trilled. “I think he does. I’m not sure anymore. He hasn’t been himself since that one attack.”
Lupin sighed. “Severus and I have known each other for almost thirty years. Even when we were at each other’s throats his first concern was getting through a situation however possible. He’s very Slytherin that way, any means to an end.” Harry cuddled the little ball of fur closer; that was certainly true, and it would probably always make his throat close to think of some of his means. “I’ve also seen him put his neck on the line for the same reason. Albus gave him a choice about spying, you know.”
“He did?” Remus nodded.
“Professor Dumbledore told Sirius when he asked us to go to Diagon Alley with you. I just happened to be there to listen. He could stay and teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, or he could teach Potions and at the same time work directly to capture the Death Eaters. From what I understand he was salivating over the idea of teaching Dark Arts. It took him a while to decide.”
“Why couldn’t he just do Dark Arts and work as a spy?”
“Because a lot of the information he would have to gather was sensitive and there was a risk of some leaking out, knowing Severus.” Those last words held a bitter edge but Lupin stayed calm. “He tried to talk Albus into it, though. Apparently it was like holding out the deeds to Zonko’s and Honeyduke’s and telling your average third year to choose.”
“Why did Dumbledore tell Sirius that?” Harry sat down in the big armchair and slouched so the puffskein could rest on his stomach. It seemed quite content there, and purred along with his breathing. Lupin grinned.
“I think he’s gotten attached to you.” The puffskein chirped. Harry giggled. “Paddy was throwing a fit and asked why Albus hired ‘that paedophile’ in the first place. He’d never have let on, but finding out that Severus chose to risk his life like that made him respect him a bit more than he had. It was enough to make him willing to play bodyguard, at least.”
“What about you?” Remus sat back quietly for a moment.
“Severus and I have our differences. I don’t necessarily like him all that much, but I don’t hate him either. Came close a few years ago, though, let me tell you. Waking up to learn that all of Slytherin and, hence, the entire world knows your deep dark secret is a mildly embittering experience.” His lips thinned, and his clear gold eyes flashed. “That’s not enough to make me want to damage your happiness, though, and I figured that if you weren’t happy you wouldn’t be with him.” He looked at Harry. “I hope I was right in that assumption.”
Sadly, Harry nodded. It seemed like a long time since he’d been properly happy with Sev. If they had more time it might be possible again, but not if he couldn’t get him into the Pensieve. He yawned mightily. Lupin followed a moment later, which set Harry off again. “Don’t do that!”
The werewolf smirked. “Sorry. I think I should probably pack you off home. You look like you haven’t slept in days.”
“I had a nap this afternoon.”
“Uh-huh. And probably nothing the last two nights.” Remus got to his feet and stretched mightily. He’d filled out quite a bit and was only slightly underweight now. His darned robe fit properly. Harry reluctantly got to his feet, puffskein in hand. “Take him, if you want. My third years already finished that unit, and they’re not complicated enough for the older classes.”
“Are you sure?” Granted, it was only a puffskein, but it might be Hogwarts property. Lupin smiled.
“Please, take him. I’ve got three times as many as I started with. Pretty soon I’m going to need to find a bigger cage!” Harry chuckled and cradled the little creature against his chest.
“Thanks.” Something Ron wrote in his old copy of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them came to mind. “Does he have a name?”
“Not as far as I’m aware.”
“I think I’ll call him Fred.”
“As in Weasley?”
“Mm-hmm.” Remus looked a little suspicious.
“I know there’s a story here. I’m just not sure I want to know what it is.” Harry smirked at him.
“Ron had a puffskein when he was little.” Lupin hid his face in his hand.
“Oh, god, I don’t want to know where this is going. What did Fred do? Use it for Bludger practise?”
“You’ve heard it, then.” The puffskein squeaked and went back to purring. Remus groaned. Still holding his face in one hand, he pointed at the door.
Harry grinned. “G’night.”
“Good night. And no using my puffskein as a Snitch!” He winked when he said it.
Harry made it back home with no Aurors, no Filch, no Mrs. Norris, and no Death Eaters to bother him. The puffskein had fallen asleep en route and he carefully set Fred on his bedside table on his way through to the bathroom. It only took a few minutes to brush his teeth and pull on the pajamas he’d left folded on the washing hamper. When he opened the door, Sev was snorting and waving his hand. That was odd. Harry came closer. A long, thin, pink thing led from Fred to one of Severus’ large nostrils. It kept darting inside, only to be snorted out and batted away. Harry bit down on his lip until he tasted blood trying not to laugh. It wasn’t funny, really, it wasn’t funny. There was no possible way for Sev to wake up and push the tongue away. Harry was going to have a very fat puffskein, and Sev was going to have very, very clear sinuses.
The tip of the long, pink tongue hovered for a moment and rushed in. Severus gave a supreme snort, bashed himself in the nose (nearly catching the pink tongue as it retreated with its dubious goody), and sat bolt upright. He blinked rapidly in the firelight, looking around. His gaze fell on Fred, who purred pleasantly; his eyes narrowed rather less than pleasantly. “Is that what I think it is?”
Harry didn’t answer. He fell to his knees.
The Draught of Living Death had failed.
A/N: I know, I know, it’s dragging a bit. I am so, so wholeheartedly sorry for that. It’s a combination of first novel, and doing the Voltaire write-way-too-much-way-too-quickly thing. The whole story only took about a month and a half – ideally I’d have let it sit for six months and gone back to edit but impatience got in the way. (Writing ten hours a day through that bout of pneumonia probably didn’t help much either. *sheepish grin*) I promise, I’ll get better. Again, I am so, so sorry.
On the question of Harry nearly playing kissy-face with Sirius: I know, it was a bit OOC. I just have the feeling that, after what he went through, a few of Sev’s nasty little happenings are going to creep out on the subconscious level. Also, there’s no guarantee he’d actually get that far. He’s nearly kissed Sev a few times, only to be jerked back at the last moment. When it comes to not seeking help or trying to get over his phobia on his own, honestly, after everything he’s gone through in the last few months I wonder if he’s actually got the will to do it. He’s messed up already, and if Sevvie goes he likely won’t want anything to do with anyone. In a way, it’s a protective shell and – in a very selfish way – a counterbalance to the Unicorn Blood situation. It acts as a subtle punishment for Sev (one that he probably doesn’t know he’s doing), and gives him a bit of a chance to start letting go (in possibly the stupidest way imaginable, but there you are).
That’s my theory, anyway. *grin*picks up Psychology For Dunderheads again*
Enormous thanks to BeccaSnape, who knows far more Latin than I do. *biggrin*
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