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The Syntax of Things

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Dear Severus,

If this is convenient to you, I shall use one of your own old formulas to ensure that my new acquisition is safe to use.

I would like to meet you on Thursday, so please kindly come along to my office at 8 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

The next one:


I hope you’ll agree to meet me this time, as you know how much I need your support in this. Although I have honestly questioned my own urge to contact you after all that has happened, I fail to see a reasonable excuse for your insistence on avoiding me. Only a fool would think to go against the flow at the moment. Don’t disappoint your allies; they’re not many.

You are the only one who can help Draco, my only, last hope, and despite everything else, I still have faith in you.

Longing to see you,


Severus shoved the letters into his pocket and opened the brandy. Fools. All of them, fools.

What did Narcissa think when she married Lucius? That they’d live happily ever after in a small cozy cottage somewhere in the countryside? 

She knew he was a Death Eater from the very beginning; she accepted the mark too, just like her parents wanted her to, and had an heir for the sole purpose of their social prestige. 

Lucius had quailed. The tasks upon his shoulders were not becoming any heavier, but his shoulders had weakened during the years of the Dark Lord' absence. Lucius thought that when the Dark Lord returned, he would praise him for his loyalty, awarding him with respect and safety.

Hopefully, his cell in Azkaban would provide all the safety Lucius needed now.

And that's why all of them were fools. Even Dumbledore was still failing to see the point. He was still failing to see that his boy wonder was just another kid. He couldn’t see past what Lucius saw in his son, what the Dark Lord saw in his followers, what Dumbledore himself had learned to see in everyone he knew: tools. Plans. Sacrifices. The greater fucking good.

He took a large sip of brandy and closed his eyes.  

Among all the things that were buzzing into his head, Potter had to be one of them. And where had that wicked bugger gone now?

Severus walked over to the living room, slumped down in his seat and picked up a book.

It worked.

Harry breathed heavily, propping himself up on his elbows to look down at his crotch as he reached for his wand to clean himself up. The new magazine was still open to a random page on the pillow. Dread stressed his sweat, and with a sleeve he wiped off his upper lip and forehead.

Oh gods. It worked.

“I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”


Harry held his notebook up from where he was sitting on the floor. Snape leaned over and yanked it from his hand.

“What he says about the moonstones. It just doesn’t make sense, or it’s too advanced, maybe.”

“You’ve studied moonstones before, have you not?”

“Um. I forgot?”

Snape slid to kneel to the floor next to Harry. His sigh of irritation was hard to miss, but he did explain in detail what Harry couldn't understand. He returned to his chair and Harry continued his reading, confused at how cooperative Snape was sometimes. Snape wasn’t a horrible teacher – he was just a horrible person, and that was somehow better. 

And now he was doing that again.

Harry looked up just in time.“Is something wrong, sir?”

He would only call him sir or Professor when the occasion didn’t require it, and Snape would always twitch his eye at this new challenging mockery.

“No.” Snape filled his glass again and half – emptied it.

“You were staring.”

“I was not.”

Harry grinned. “Liar.”

And Snape smirked back almost right away.

“Careful, Potter. If you keep up the cheek I will be obliged to give you a fitting detention when we get back. One that will have you spending all of your Quidditch training hours in my office, perhaps.” His best venomous voice was covering an amused tone.

Exempt him from Quidditch? As if. McGonagall would chop off his head if he dared.

“And here I was starting to think that spending the whole summer together might be enough for you. But you can’t get enough of me.”

Daring. Arrogant. Exactly as Snape expected him to be. Only, now he looked like he did realise that it was just a pretence. It put a strange relief behind Harry’s actions. 

“That incurable insolence of yours. Are you sure you’re not the one who’s asking for it, Potter?” he smirked faintly, and kept Harry’s eyes for a prolonged moment.

Harry was the first to look back to his text. “Perhaps I do.”

He frowned at his re-written moonstone summarisation in annoyance. Was this the best he could do?

At Snape’s satisfied grunt, he chuckled. He had lost.

He had won. And Potter was reading silently, at last. 

It was a disappointment, honestly. Their sodding saviour was unable to solve out a simple exercise on Potion anomalies. Potter would lick his lips, chew on them, tap his pen on his paper for hours, if that was what it’d take, and then he’d rub his ruined forehead in determination to succeed at something that was entirely common.

Then he would look up at him, while he would still his features in a pathetic attempt to hide his scream for help with homework. A casual look; green eyes unblinking under the possibility of losing control.

He was too easy to read. 

Of course, the boy needn’t know. If he wanted his help, he would have to ask for it. Every time he needed it. And he would have to be grateful every single one of those times. Besides, his worrisome face was fascinating to watch.

The flush reddening his cheeks, when he couldn’t help but ask the same sodding question – for the third, or fourth time – his anger when he'd spit a muttered thank you before going back to his despair.

It was all too good to lose. Too good to let go. He quickly found that the darkest parts of his soul were enjoying this too much, and it was harder and harder to pretend it wasn't becoming a habit. The morals enforced upon his position and age would have to take a part in this; keep him back from humiliating a student, exchanging insulting innuendos with him and allowing him to take a close look at his own bad habits.

As a matter of fact, he objectively emptied another glass of whiskey, the alcohol voluptuously burning his throat and sternum as it sank in. A student shouldn’t stay under the same roof with a teacher anyway. The fundamentals of this... farce were ill–built in the first place. He couldn't be bitter all day long. He was only human.

And the boy was frowning again.

And judging by the way he pushed his fingertips against his temples, he was tired too.

“Potter.” What? “It’s late. You may continue your studying tomorrow.” Why?

Potter nodded, giving a faint smile before mumbling a soft goodnight.

Severus’ anger was yearning to explode upon the impossible boy, searching almost maniacally to find something to blame him for. When he failed, and Potter was already upstairs, Severus directed his anger to himself and exhaled sharply.

You may continue your studying tomorrow.

Pathetic. Weak. It almost appeared as though he cared.