Every time Severus woke with Harrys’ random parts glued on him, he promised himself it would be the last time. Every time he opened his eyes to watch that face buried on the pillow next to his while a hand or a leg was entangled around Severus, he vowed to end this decadency and move forward to a happy independent life. As this was not an option, however, he watched himself falling and falling again, unable to find a good enough reason to stop this fall. Next time, he thought to himself, although he knew that he needed not another time to know that he should stop.
The fact that Harry was at last sleeping normally should not be as strong an argument. The fact that Severus himself was sleeping better when the bed wasn’t empty was outrageous.
Sometimes, the best and worst times of one’s life can coincide. It was a talent of the soul to discover the joy in pain – the bitter ache burdened Severus’ soul and he found that he didn’t know what to do with it. Until a solution presented itself, he carefully packed it away and continued obeying the boy’s desires.
Not all of them.
He turned to see Harry sleeping on his belly with the sheet up his neck, facing away from Severus. His breath was even; Severus’ was far from it. His mark hadn’t stopped burning, and he was to be summoned any time now; the Dark Lord had already decided that taking Hogwarts was a priority, and no one knew the school as well as Severus. The Death Eaters would have to break in.
To his defence, he was once again forced to do as he was told.
And apart from that, he was indeed going to have to betray the Order under Dumbledore’s orders. Not that Severus had any friends.
He had allies. To him, it was the same.
And now another Weasley was getting married and Harry would stubbornly want to attend. Between witnessing another Weasley wedding and killing Dumbledore, he definitely preferred the latter. And a wedding with a Veela it was, just to make sure that she’d get fucked as frequently as the tradition demanded to produce another dozen of mindless Weasleys.
Giving birth was not something to be proud of; getting married applied to that category too. Announcing one’s love and expecting to be admired for it. For having succeeded at being absolutely ordinary and having found a person amongst the billions of the earth to get along with for a reasonable amount of time. This was what animals did, and they were certainly not proud of it.
Yawning, he reached the conclusion that he was glad he'd never been married. Sharing a life with someone else was not something he wished for. Having to rely his secrets and give away his habits and desires for the sake of a brainless wife seemed to him terrifying. He could never stand not having a bed for himself.
Except he could.
He stretched and made a much too needed trip to the bathroom before washing his face and pouring himself a cup of tea. The forgotten box of biscuits from yesterday's night laid on the mattress next to Harry’s hand, and Severus placed it on the nightstand. He sat back to the bed and took out of his robe the invitation.
Miss Fleur Delacour and Mr. Bill Weasley request the pleasure of your company at their wedding.
He stopped reading and crumpled up the paper. It seemed that they’d have to survive their wedding without him, then. Pity. It occurred to him that it must have been Molly’s insistence that they invite him. His mark itched again and he almost dropped his cup on the sheets. He winced as the pain became stronger and Harry curled to his side hissing. “Fuck.”
The boy clutched at his forehead and Severus dragged him up to a sitting position. Harry pushed him away. “Let go! Ah – FUCK!”
“Focus. Push him out!” Severus’ mark throbbed. He had to go.
“AH – NO!”
“Focus!” Severus repeated. “Remember what I taught you.”
Harry’s forehead fell forward on Severus’ lap and he screamed. Not knowing what to do, Severus stroked his back awkwardly. The screaming didn’t stop. Harry’s nails dug into his scar as though trying to remove it. Severus watched in terror the connection he had heard about but had never seen this clearly before. Their souls connected. Harry was indeed the piece that had been missing from the Dark Lord’s soul. They were one.
Dark magic was Severus’ passion since he could remember himself. He was in love with its abilities and the lack of limits it provided to those who knew how to treat it. It was an art, he used to think, but it wasn’t. It was power. It amazed Severus like nothing else.
At this moment, it sickened him.
Harry let a final sob on Severus’ thigh and stopped. He helped himself to his feet and ran to the bathroom, where he closed the door and most likely retched his stomach out. Severus dressed himself and drank the rest of his tea in a gulp. When Harry came out of the bathroom Severus was ready to depart. “I left a painkiller on the kitchen table, in case you need it,” he said, taking a handful of floo powder.
“Are you going to him?” asked Harry.
Severus didn’t look at him as he threw the powder to the hearth. “Spinner’s end.”
“Where are they going to hide the boy next?”
“At the home of one of the Order,” said Severus. He ran through the details of a plan that didn’t exist and fixed his gaze with the Dark Lord’s. At the front of his mind hovered the images he wanted him to see.
“Well, Yaxley?” the Dark Lord called. “Will the Ministry have fallen by next Saturday?”
Severus knew where this was going. With the Ministry down, the next task would be to kill Dumbledore. He kept his gaze calm, but the difficulty with which he was now keeping himself from burning the manor down and taking everyone with him had never been so intense. He listened to their plans and carefully packed them in his memory to convey to Dumbledore later.
“As long as Dumbledore is alive,” the Dark Lord stopped to look at Severus for a second, “I cannot move forward. I want him dead. He protects the boy.”
The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies was that they had a greater capacity to diminish people than exposed ones. They eroded Severus’ strength, his self-esteem, his very foundation. Looking back, he couldn’t think of a moment where he was truly himself. Violently pulled back to reality, he decided that even a tiny bit of deceit was dishonourable when used for selfish or cowardly reasons, but manipulation itself was useful after all. He trusted his instinct upon maintaining the personality the Dark Lord wanted him to have and silently wished for this to end as soon as possible.
“I have been careless, and so have been thwarted by luck and chance, those wreckers of all but the best-laid plans. But I know better now. I understand those things that I did not understand before. I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be.”
“Are you really not going to come?”
“I see no reason why I should.” In all honesty, he saw. But this was his mere protest against Dumbledore’s grant idiocy. Keeping Harry in a cage for his protection but letting him out so he can go to a wedding. Reasonable to the very end.
“Hermione and Ron thought I should use Polyjuice, but since I’m going with Dumbledore I don’t think I'll need it. What do you think?”
“Polyjuice, which you learnt how to brew by stealing from me.”
Harry glanced at him cheekily and put on his jacket. It occurred to Severus that he barely looked any older in it.
“Ron makes a really good effort to be alright with me. It was stupid to think he would never talk to me again.”
Severus didn’t roll his eyes. Making an effort to be alright with someone wasn’t what he had in mind when he thought of friendship. Then again, what did he know. Dumbledore apparated with a pop and smiled at Severus happily. An “I’m-so-happy-I’m-going-to-attend-a-wedding” smile. An “I-have-definitely-not-asked-you-to-murder-me-anytime-soon” smile.
Severus nodded curly and left the room just in time to save himself from the glorious scene of Dumbledore teaching Harry how to make a tie tying spell.
As soon as he stepped foot in his home he ran to the shower, to rub off him Harry’s scent and Harry’s memory and everything that could possibly remind Severus of him. Remembering his place in the world, he wore his Death Eater cloak and departed for the Malfoy Manor. He wondered about the seemingly endless row of horrors that had fallen upon him since he began… pretending to care for the boy. It was surely the most brainless decision of his; wishing for the mere courtesy of self-respect, he brought to mind how he was always being accustomed to situations despite liking them or not.
He assisted Harry Potter because it was asked of him. Nothing intriguing or interesting had him continue doing so, and so it had to be routine. Inwardly, he applauded himself for successfully keeping on hating the boy with all his heart. Outwardly, he forced his face to fall and let his expression become blank.
After all this time of serving old greedy bastards, he finally had to care for himself, even if it was just a little. Dumbledore had been taking advantage of his love for Lily since she was murdered. Severus was expected to be unaffected, of course. He had to live without sympathy, didn’t he? He was the heartless Slytherin bastard. The dirty fascist. He'd lived up to this role and all the strangers’ expectations with no trace of sentiment slipping out. He was proud to state that he was planning to do so for the rest of his days.
But that was impossible.
People acted it to one another, all this hardness; but deep down they weren’t like that. The Dark Lord himself had desires, and thus had weaknesses. Dumbledore disagreed, but Severus believed that even the Dark Lord contained emotions.
One couldn’t be out in the cold all the time; one had to come in from the cold.
Well. Not Severus.
It occurred to Severus that this was against every theory he had developed over the past years. Not that what he believed mattered.
Severus’ job was to pry through the keyhole, and transfer information. That was what servants did.
Other people, not servants, not spies, not perplexed with inadmissible sentiments towards little disobedient children, did better. Fell in love, got married, organised weddings, and invited people like Severus, knowing far too well they’d not attend.
“Ah, Severus. Just in time.”
“The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.”
Harry took out his wand as he looked around for Dumbledore. Hermione dragged him aside and they crouched under a table as the people started screaming and running. Ron kneeled down beside them as soon as he saw them. “Go,” Harry yelled at them. “I have to find Dumbledore. Go!”
“No, you must come with us!” Hermione yelled back. Ron touched her arm.
“Harry!” Ron shouted as something behind him exploded. Harry felt a tight grip on his shoulder and looked up startled to see Dumbledore steeling him. Be careful, Harry wanted to say to his friends, but he didn’t have time. Dumbledore apparated them away.
It took a lifetime for Harry to calm down. Dumbledore took him to the safe house and then left, promising to return soon. An hour passed and he hadn’t, while Snape was missing too. Harry took a shower and let the hot water wash away his fear and anger. He checked the fireplace as soon as he got out of the bathroom, but it hadn’t been used, and he couldn’t get out, so he had no way of knowing what was happening to the outside world. The possibility of both Snape and Dumbledore being dead ringed in his ears and made him sick. He imagined staying stuck up in this room until he died of hunger.
He could not sleep. He watched the dawn as it illuminated with its red and golden shining and was reminded of the Gryffindor colours and Hogwarts and all the places he had no access to because he was locked up. His scar didn’t hurt. He was alone.
He drank what lemon juice was left and discovered a box of biscuits in the cupboard. His stomach was a knot and after the first biscuit he felt nauseous. When the pop of apparation was heard, Harry jumped up and saw Dumbledore carrying a tired, grim expression.
“Is everybody alright?” Harry asked at once. “Where’s Snape? Hermione and Ron –”
Dumbledore raised a hand to calm him down. “Everything is in order, Harry. Your friends are safe. They have been moved along with the rest of the Order, and as far as I’m aware we had no losses. Voldemort has taken the Ministry. Things are going to change.”
“Where’s Snape?” Harry asked again.
Harry sighed and collapsed on the bed. He rubbed his face with both hands. “He’s with Voldemort,” he muttered.
Dumbledore placed a hand on his back. “Severus can protect himself, Harry. I believe you know that.”
Harry nodded. He knew that. What he didn’t know was if he could endure losing another person. “When is he going to be back?”
Dumbledore didn’t understand. No one did. Maybe he didn’t even want them to. It didn’t feel right for other people to know.
“I don’t want to discuss it, sir.”
“Severus puts his life at risk for us,” Dumbledore said calmly. “You are a man, Harry, and I feel honoured for having seen you grow up from the little boy you once were.” Harry felt a faint smile taking form on his face. “I need you to think as a man, and tell me, if it’s wise of you to be so close to someone who could be killed if anyone knew that you two are close. If… an urge, a friendship, even, is worth getting someone you care about into a bigger risk than he already is.”
Harry felt the blood freeze in his veins. “He’s a good Legilimens,” he protested.
“Every time you two ignore my warnings, he gets closer to death,” Dumbledore said, and Harry was suddenly perplexed about what to believe. If Dumbledore cared so much about Snape he wouldn’t have him spy on Voldemort. Of course, Voldemort’s death mattered above all. Harry couldn’t bring himself to argue.
He shook his head. “I don’t want anyone to die because of me ever again,” Harry said in a hushed voice, his head bowed. “Ever.”
Dumbledore patted his back. “Then be careful.”
He knew Dumbledore was right. He knew he should stop. But when Dumbledore left and when another fifteen hours passed until Snape appeared, Harry could not bring himself to stop, and he remembered how Snape always accused him of not having control over the simplest things, and like the arrogant little brat that he was to Snape, he bolted up from the bed and hugged Snape in despair, his arms curled around his neck, his weight on his toes, his voice hoarse as he said, “Where the hell have you been all this time?”
Snape allowed the hug without protesting, and grunted only when Harry didn’t seem to have any intention of letting go. He finally pushed him away, and his black eyes peered at Harry's as he studied him. Harry grinned. “You’re alive,” he said.
Snape creased a brow. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Right.” He couldn’t wipe that grin from his face. He could tell that Snape was appalled by it, but he didn’t care. He wanted to hug him again, tight, and never leave him. Instead, he sat back on the bed and tried to reason his stupid heart. “Since I don’t think you visited in the middle of the night to teach me Occlumency, I think you should srop trying to convince me that you’re somehow angry again and just lie down,” he said as he slid under the sheets.
Snape remained still for a long moment, as though considering his options and failing to find a window that would save him from this. At last, he went off to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Harry wanted to wait for him to come back, but after a minute he realised that he hadn’t slept since the wedding, and the sound of Snape taking a shower or washing his face or whatever it was that he was doing was the most relaxing sound Harry had ever heard. He tried to keep his eyes open so he could sleep with the weight of Snape breathing beside him.
Unable to do so, his eyelids shut close and the last sensible thought he made was that Snape would be shocked to see him grinning even in his sleep.