Holding The Fort

Saturday, 13 June

By Sushi


Logic problems didn't go very far when one's brain was still reeling. Severus leaned heavily against his pillows and tried to ignore the burning sensation running through his ganglions. It wasn't a headache, exactly, more the feeling that someone had lit a fire in his skull and the cells were cauterising one by one by one. He really must ask Poppy about it when his strength was recovered. She never asked too many questions. He didn't want to answer questions.

Harry wasn't there. It would have been more pleasant to have his ribs cracked wide whilst conscious than it had been to send him away (even for a short while). After what the Death Eaters did, he needed the anchor into life. Harry's protective presence also kept away any leering visitors Snape might have had. Now that Harry was off somewhere, anticipation of the inevitable derision and sneers from shocked colleagues had set a burner going under Snape's churning stomach.

He still didn't regret a moment. Except maybe the time he'd wasted that first week.

"Severus?" Poppy's voice ripped him from his introspection. "Emily's here. Should I send her in?"

Emily. She'd only see the irony in the situation. Stiffly, he nodded - all of his battered motions were stiff. Poppy murmured something and the door swung wide to spit a tall, stocky, at once thoroughly plain and utterly beautiful sight. It didn't occur to him that she walked slowly, or that the grey eyes fixed on him were clouded, or that she kept her hands in her pockets until she stopped at the foot of the bed.

"I'm afraid I've proven you right," he rasped. "I found someone permanent before you did."

She blinked. "How are you feeling?"

"I may survive." This wasn't his Emily. "No infuriating commentary on my less than nominal appearance?"

"I didn't think you'd appreciate it."

Severus motioned weakly to the chair Harry normally occupied.

"Can't stay, sorry."

"What could be so urgent when the banes of our existence are fleeing for another summer of letting their brains go soft?"

She didn't answer. Vector shifted from foot to foot. Severus was about to open his mouth to ask if she hated him when she said, "I can't believe... you of all people, Severus."

"You're one to talk."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Unless we did something while I was passed out drunk that you haven't told me about, I don't think you can quite put that in the same category. Personally, I don't think you'd stoop that far." Emily looked like she was going to cry. "Sorry. This is going to take some time to get used to."

"I know."

"Goddammit, Severus." A single tear trickled down her flat cheek. She smeared it away. "I mean, really, spend nearly twenty years thinking you know a person, and then this happens. All you can say is, 'I know'? Then you nearly went and died on me, you son of a bitch. Don't you ever think about anyone else?" Her voice was painfully thick.

Snape folded his arms as best he could. It left his rent muscles and shattered ribs whimpering. Making Emily cry was almost as bad as disappointing Albus. "What would you have me do?"

"Come to your senses, for a start! He's what, eighteen?"


She stared incredulously. "My god, hon, he's a child!"

"Harry Potter is no more a child than I am, and hasn't been in a very long time. How many children do you know who have destroyed the most dangerous Dark wizard in a millennium?"

"None. I don't know Potter."

Severus closed his eyes. "That's low, Emily."

"Well, maybe you need low. What makes you think he's not going to run off with the first pretty face that catches his eye? Think about it. We did things like that when we were seventeen."

"I didn't," Snape said quietly. He'd been quite devoted to the Death Eaters, two in particular.

Draco had been one of many hit by Penny's wide-area Lethargus Hex, the one that not only kept the students from panicking to their deaths but confused the Death Eaters enough to shift the element of surprise. For an instant Severus remembered Narcissa's eyes when she'd come to visit her son after he'd regained consciousness. They'd been red, and narrowed at him to say, "It should have been you." She had found a way to pay him back for losing Lucius, oh, yes, she had. I only saved her life. So much for an undying bond. He wished desperately that Harry would come back. His friends were leaving, though, and Severus couldn't deny him his goodbyes.

Vector hugged herself. "Yeah, well, you were also a Death Eater. That ought to say something about how normal you are." Tears flowed down her cheeks, but she chained any sobs behind her trembling mouth. With a wet snort, Emily wiped her nose on her sleeve. "You're going to get hurt."

"Possibly." In a much softer voice, he said, "I don't know how long I shall live once he's gone."

Vector's choked sob ached in his ears. With a shake of her head and a wave of her hand she scurried towards the door. "I need to go," she uttered before it slammed behind her.

Severus lay still, watching the heavy slab of yellow pine, willing it to open. Harry had to be back soon. He could hold together the rending hole in Snape's chest wall. It felt like he'd lost his best friend. You may have, Severus. He shoved the thought away and tried to focus on Harry.

He didn't entirely succeed.

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