August 2nd, 2006
|09:17 am - REPOST: death row 1 (snape/potter)|
I am off to New York, New York, tomorrow morning at spank-my-arse o'clock, so I will not be around very much for a bit.
That said, I have a parting shot. And here it is.
title: Death Row (1/5?)
pairing: Snape/Potter (to a certain flist sector, please forgive me)
warnings: WIP; HBP spoilers
note 1: fulsome thanks to secrethappiness, apple_pi and buckle_berry for input and beta-ing. Pi has pointed out something which could be improved and may well be when the completed fic is posted. For now I am lazy and impatient and leaving the country at spank-my blah blah blah... sorry, readers.
note 2: this is first and foremost for fitofpique whom I adore and to whom I owe a snarry debt of thanks too enormous for mere fic to express. (happy v. late birthday, baby!)
Chapter One: Malfoy Manor
“Severus! Severus!” There’s a scuffle of footsteps outside Snape’s tiny laboratory, before the unwarded door bursts open, and in flounder Pettigrew, Nott and Malfoy Junior and a levitating mess of robes and sticky blood. Pettigrew is terrified and shaking.
It’s Potter. Severus’s pulse kicks up several notches. He has been distilling wormwood essence on the broad workbench, a delicate four-hour process, but now beakers and phials are snatched up unceremoniously, an entire batch forfeited, so that Malfoy can lower the small body onto the bench. Robes bunch awkwardly under Potter’s shoulder, and his body is unnaturally twisted and tilted, head bent backwards and hips propped oddly in mid air. He stares straight into Severus’s eyes. Blood is starting to coagulate where it has been seeping from his neck; there are broad slashes across his torso, slicked and matted with thick blackish gore. Potter’s hair sits in tacky clumps around his face. The glasses are in place but smeared with grime, and there’s a red dribble drying between eye and ear. A wand is held in fingers tight and rigid as claws. He’s very much alive.
“Why is he stiff?”
“I used Petrificus Totalus,” says Malfoy quietly. “He was wriggling so much I thought he might rupture something.”
At which point something apparently ruptures in Wormtail, and he begins to gibber. “He was screaming. I heard him. I was only gone for a minute to check the wards. Those were my orders. It’s not my fault, Severus. You’ll tell the Dark Lord it’s not my fault?”
“We won’t be telling the Dark Lord anything, if we can help it.”
Severus passes his wand over Potter’s body, holding it so lightly that it jerks like a divining rod, the threads of a familiar magic tugging at it from each wound. Sectumsempra. It’s Severus’s own spell. He glances up at Malfoy, who - now that Severus takes the time to look - appears singularly pale. It’s only been a couple of years after all, since he was Potter’s last victim. An act of reckless and vicious idiocy that would have had anyone else expelled. Severus finds it in himself once again to regret the lack of that discipline that might have shocked the recklessness out of the brat for good.
Severus peels open robes and shirt, knowing that it’s going to be a sketchy patching up at best. He half sings the words that knit Potter’s flesh together roughly, leaving wide red seams, then summons a thick salve of dittany. He keeps his eyes down while his fingers work awkwardly round the torn flesh. The salve is pure and a higher quality than anything you might find in St Mungo’s, but his hands are not the hands of a healer. He doesn’t know how to direct the fizz of power he feels cushioning his palms against Potter’s chest. He knows how to apply, but not how to soothe, and all the while Wormtail is fidgeting at the edge of Severus’s eyeline, unsettling him almost as much as the burn of Potter’s blank green gaze on his temple.
When it’s done, Severus steps back and breathes deeply. Nott speaks up in an impatient tone.
“This can’t happen again, you know. The Dark Lord will find out. I can’t keep it from him or I’ll be crucio’d into next week along with the rest of you.”
Wormtail makes an anguished sound. “We can – maybe we should take his wand?” he says falteringly.
Snape spares him the sort of glance he once reserved especially for Neville Longbottom. “Fool. He hasn’t had his wand for three weeks. Bellatrix broke it the night he was taken from Hogsmeade. Don’t tell me you don’t recognise this?”
He gestures at the pale stubby wand white-knuckled in Potter’s fist. Potter seems to glare back at him, bare-chested and furious, and looking for all the world as if he is poised on the verge of a truly vicious hex.
Wormtail pats his robes stupidly. “I – How could he have –?”
“One can only imagine,” Severus says, voice treacly with sarcasm, eyes fixed on Potter’s. “Fortunately, even Potter’s capabilities have their limits.”
He steps back to the bench and the boy propped there in a nest of his own bloody clothes. Snape puts his wand against the boy’s neck, just to the right of his Adam’s apple, angling it a little inwards and stretching a pale dent into the newly healed flesh. He waits just long enough to see those bright green eyes flash with something unexpected – pain? alarm? – before he nods at Malfoy.
Immediately Potter’s body flexes, arching sideways, and he gasps, air powering in and out of his patched-up chest.
“You,” he chokes out in Severus’s direction, and then has to stop and screw his face up. Severus digs the wand a little deeper. Do it now.
Snape bends at the waist so his nose is a mere three feet from the stone-flagged floor. “News, my lord?
“We’re closing in.” Voldemort’s voice is high and creaky with triumph. “The werewolf was seen this morning. He will lead us to the insurgents.”
Snape sighs at the floor. Closing in. Oh good. It was such a success last time. Snape remembers the hysteria amongst the faithful when Macnair returned to Malfoy Manor last spring without the Dark Lord. Everyone comparing dark marks in a panic. Goyle Junior had been on the point of defecting, when Bellatrix crucio’d him at the door. They’d been ‘closing in’ then too.
It was a dismal chaotic week with Lucius in charge, throwing meaningless orders and persuading Wormtail to grovel as if Lucius were already parked in that adamantine throne a few scant metres in front of where Snape bends now. After a week Voldemort had returned, wiry and snappish, and Snape, no longer in anyone’s inner circle, was spared the details. He counted it a mercy.
“You have my congratulations, my lord.”
“We need to watch the boy, Severus. He mustn’t know how close we are.”
“The boy has been effectively disarmed, as you know, my lord. He cannot harm himself.”
Severus sees a whip of irritated movement, a clawed hand open as if to grasp. Now is evidently not the time for prevarication. Voldemort takes a step towards him, then paces away again. “And for his failure at silent magic, I believe I have you to thank, Severus,” he says with vicious emphasis. “Nevertheless, if he suspects his friends are near to him, he may renew his attempts. Who knows what resources desperation may uncover? No. I need you to watch him for me, Severus. Distract him. Keep him entertained.”
Severus rolls his eyes at the floor. Naturally. Who better? If the Dark Lord thinks the boy is sickening for a familiar face, he could remind him that Potter has met Bellatrix on a number of occasions. And of course there’s always Malfoy. “Certainly, my lord. And was there any particular form of entertainment you had in mind?”
“I?” He’s pacing forwards again now, robes drifting lazily and unaccountably soft-looking around his bare ankles. His voice, however, is sharp as a knife. “Severus, I care nothing for the boy. I only require him to live. The means of his survival is immaterial. I leave that entirely to you.”
“I am flattered indeed by your trust, my lord.” Severus lowers his head another inch or two just as a shiny black beetle crawls warily from the gulley between the black and white floor tiles. He slides a foot forward and crunches it surreptitiously beneath his heel. Perhaps it squeaks a little. How we must all suffer, he says to himself.
Lucius corners Snape just outside the ballroom door.
“He does seem a little… depressed, you know, Severus. Still I’m sure you will find new and dynamic ways to keep him happy.” Malfoy’s smile is thin but deeply curved. “I’m told the boy positively thrives on attention.”
Snape doesn’t need it rubbed in. “I’m not surprised he’s depressed, Lucius. I understand he’s been having all his meals from your miserable son. I confess I find the thought hardly uplifting myself – I can’t imagine who would – although I suppose it keeps Draco off the streets. Dove Town’s been mercifully free of half-dead muggles since September.”
Lucius had finally been sprung from Azkaban last year to be greeted by the dismal collapse of all the hopes he’d placed in his son. Of course the Dark Lord had had no choice but to keep Draco close, mine of information that he is, and still Lucius’s soft underbelly, but he, like Snape, is a placeholder. Together they are a set of used up Death Eaters on babysitting detail, and Snape has no doubt that an ignominious end awaits the pair of them, when the scrag end of the other side is at last put down, when the boy can be destroyed.
In any case, no one would consider Draco Malfoy distinguished company as far as Death Eaters go. Snape himself can at least still utter a fine strong killing curse if the situation calls for it, not the blanched stutter and dribble of green that Draco manages. Snape can at least induce more than a mild stroke.
Not that he ever does these days, of course. Albus would be furious with him.
The cups on Snape’s tray rattle as he steps through steel-hard wards and into a small room. The room is cased in wood panelling, all spelled as thick and impervious as the walls of a keep. There are small holes in various places around the wall, suggesting that pictures might once have hung there. The ceiling is high, making the room twice as tall as it is wide, a little like a chimney blocked at either end. One side of the room has a narrow bed with no bedstead and a rumpled red blanket; on the other is a fireplace, floo-disabled naturally, and clustered around it a stiff-backed armchair upholstered in an ugly vivid green velvet, a low table, and a deep soft claret-coloured sofa. Snape smirks at the yellow cushions.
Curled on the edge of the armchair, hands hanging limply over the ends of the arms, is the Boy Who Lived, in a fortnight’s growth of beard and what looks like a monumental sulk. A small pile of books lies untouched on the table. Muggle books – Snape had the misfortune of seeing Bellatrix cackling over the package when it arrived from the local library. Potter’s eyebrows are beetled down as his lifts his head, but Snape approaches nonetheless, tray bobbing in front of him.
Potter’s face seems more plastic these days. At school, he had shuttled between sulky anger and blank surprise, with virtually nothing in between, and now there are a thousand degrees of anger and shades of surprise. Snape wonders if a fortnight of studying has given him a niche-y sort of expertise, expanded his own Potter vocabulary. Fifty different words for snow. Right now Potter’s face says Don’t even think about being polite to me, I’m not going to be polite to you no matter what you’ve brought, you headmaster-murdering bastard. Most of Potter’s expressions carry a hint of headmaster-murdering bastard. It’s admirably single-minded, even if it is beginning to lose its impact.
“Good evening Mr Potter. No, please don’t get up.” A deepening scowl. Snape nods sweepingly towards the pile of books. The top one has a dog-eared green cover, a woman with Weasley-red hair and a flatteringly disarrayed bodice, and a tall, black-browed specimen crowding behind her possessively. Both look to be in the grip of a powerful dementing draft. “I see you’ve spent a productive day.”
The expression changes from high-order pettishness to stroppy suspicion when Snape hands him a cup. Potter holds it up to his face and sniffs at it. The cup rattles on its saucer.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Potter, it’s tea. If anyone’s trying to put an end to your miserable life, it certainly isn’t me.”
That was a little below the belt perhaps. While Potter huffs noisily in his chair, Snape folds himself onto the sofa opposite, moving every cushion as far away from himself as possible. He crosses one leg decorously over the other, brushes a little dust from his trousers and pulls a copy of the Daily Prophet from the inner pocket of his robes. As he flaps it out flat, he catches sight of Potter’s face. The boy is staring straight at Snape, his top lip drawn up on one side, and his tea-free hand is gripping the arm of the chair like he’d like to scratch the nap right off the velvet. Sneering affront, that is, with perhaps a side order of headmaster-murdering bastard. The room practically rumbles with unreleased magic.
Snape smirks. “Well you’re obviously not in the mood to talk.”
A bearskin rug has made an appearance in Harry’s room. It roars silently at Snape as he appears for the second evening with the tea tray, and those fangs are surely too sharp and shiny to be real, but they flicker prettily in the light from the fire.
“Who’s your friend?” Snape asks.
Harry just barely glances up. He’s busy fiddling with some globby orange substance Snape has never seen before. To express curiosity might seem undignified, so Snape lowers the tray onto the table.
“Will you be mother or shall I?”
Gormless incredulity. Recognisable despite the thickening shadow of stubble. Incredible how the boy achieves such differentiation – he must have been practising.
“Oh, very well.” Snape levitates and tips the milk, then the tea, into two cups, while Potter looks on with the distaste of a boy whose aunt has probably mistakenly informed him that the tea goes in first. He goes back to pulling at the orange blob, which now appears to have arms.
Potter yawns and holds up two fingers.
“Suit yourself.” He leaves the cup unsugared.
Snape’s forgotten to bring his newspaper. He sits for a minute or two, sipping his tea, watching Potter suspiciously. The boy doesn’t spare him a glance, although perversely his attention appears to be directed towards Snape. He’s sitting with his knees together in horrible worn jeans and a grey t-shirt that shows his knobbly elbows. There’s probably a scowl under those wild eyebrows as he prods viciously at his orange stuff.
And who gave him that – whatever it is – anyway? Some sort of muggle toy, no doubt. Thank god for that Death Eater sense of humour.
Snape picks up a book. It’s a different one on top today. Perhaps the boy’s been reading. This one has a black cover, and the picture on the front is a woman on her own, frowning in a brown dress that Snape supposes is old-fashioned, artfully torn so as to expose a dark shadow between her breasts. A large thick chimney is smoking meaningfully behind her. Such subtle imagery.
The text is no less impressive in its trite obvousness, and Snape flicks through, reading passages about schoolyard bullying, tragic muggle diseases. The heroine appears to end up in something called a ‘workhouse’, which sounds to Snape like a good solid place of correction and discipline. Then she’s some sort of house elf, and there’s a man twice her age trying to get into that brown dress. Snape chuckles and has almost forgotten that he’s not in his own poky little room, when he catches sight of the shuffling in the chair opposite. Potter has conjured an expression that is simultaneously curious and derisory. A reflection of flame flickers on the left lens of his glasses.
“Oh, what is it?” Snape spits. “Look, I’m not reading aloud to you.”
Harry’s mouth presses into a thin white line, proving that he entirely lacks the ability to take a joke. Between thumb and forefinger, he grips a portion of his orange man’s face and smooths it outwards, forming a grotesque tab of a nose.
Snape crosses his legs, shifting slightly away from the fire, and fixes his regard on his book. Which, of course, is in no way a sign that he has a sense of humour problem. For goodness’ sake. Why would the boy assume that his appearance is of the least significance to him? Has he forgotten why they’re both here? What’s at stake? Sheer childishness.
And like a child he falls asleep less than ten minutes later, right there in that ugly green chair while Severus is still fuming self-righteously into his book. The back of his hair’s ruffled against the velvet, the neck of his t-shirt hitched up, so it looks like he’s hanging from a hook, and all the energy’s gone out of his scowl. The orange effigy lies in one open hand in his lap. He’ll shift sooner or later and squash it flat. Death Eater dies inexplicably of massive organ failure.
Snape closes his book and leaves it on the table. Potter can stumble across to the bed on his own when he wakes. At the threshold Snape turns, and for a second he has the eerie feeling that the boy’s eyes are open.
Severus used to suffer badly from nightmares of masks and torture. Death Eater monstrosities perverted by the mask of trust, the torture of unearned kindness. Nightmares seemed to stop dead after Dumbledore, like a pressure valve was suddenly released. He hasn’t been crucio’d once since his return, and even Potter’s snarl doesn’t unduly upset his complacent subconscious.
Potter talks in Severus’s dreams, though, in a voice that seems lower than Severus remembers, but encompasses all the familiar scorn.
Tonight Severus is dreaming of Potter’s room, which is wider and warmer than his own, with its stove and tiny table. Perhaps this room was Draco’s before the Manor was co-opted and filled with thugs. Potter’s not there and Severus has a chilly suspicion that he’s managed to finish the job at last, eliminate the last horcrux, but then there’s the boy’s voice.
“Look,” it says. Potter sounds angry. And Severus looks blindly around, not certain what he’s supposed to be seeing, but there are pictures on the walls now, pictures of men and women with silver-blonde hair and Malfoy’s superior smile. The fire is lower than before and the light flickers off the portraits, so that even the most ancient ones appear to move. Severus suddenly recognises the room as the one he used to sleep in as a teenaged visitor, where he’d seen Lucius’s dark mark for the first time, horrified and horribly excited.
And then with that acknowledgement, the furniture shifts and changes – how could he not have realised – and there’s that beautiful mahogany linen press, the chaise longue–
“Look!” The voice is angrier, impatient.
Severus turns and there’s the bed – a four poster, with the Slytherin silver satin quilt and heavy green curtains with the Malfoy crest, tied back. There’s someone in it, and it can’t be Severus because he’s standing here staring. He moves towards it, and has the presence of mind to hope it isn’t Lucius either. It isn’t, of course, it’s Potter and he’s twisted and rigid, eyes drilling into Severus’s. On his bare chest those ridged scars are beginning to seep blood.
“Look,” the voice says, though Potter’s lips don’t move, and it’s only sneering now, not angry any more. Snape stares and stares.
The dream lifts off him like a blanket when he wakes. The little stove has gone out and the tip of his nose is chilled. He wonders if it counts as a nightmare.
The tea tray’s barely on the table when there’s a shriek and a clatter of footsteps outside the room. Snape strides to the door.
“Lucius!” Goyle Senior is pelting down the corridor towards the main stairs.
Snape shouts for him to wait, and he skids to a halt, turning. His face looks long and lined, his eyes bulging.
“Severus,” he pants. “It was an ambush. We was – we was out scouting, you know, Medway perimeters–”
Goyle pauses for breath, and Snape can feel the boy pressing up behind him, peering over his shoulder.
“Potter, go and sit down. This doesn’t concern you.” The boy mustn’t know how close his friends are. Those were Voldemort’s specific orders. Snape steps from the room and closes the door behind him.
“It was an ambush,” Goyle says again. He’s leaning with one thick arm against the wall, chest heaving. “We didn’t see nothing – then Macnair, he went down – I apparated out – I weren’t sticking around – scout or no scout.”
“Macnair is dead?”
“I dunno – think so. Went down like a sack of spuds. Sort of staring. I gotta tell Lucius – he’ll know what to do, right?” Goyle hesitates. He’s always found it hard to act without direct instruction, so Snape waves the back of a hand at him, and he takes off again.
Whichever way you look at it, this is bad news. Picking off random Death Eaters – especially one as ultimately purposeless as Macnair – will achieve nothing aside from alerting the Dark Lord to the Order’s proximity. Neither side can afford the kind of pyrrhic skirmishing that resulted last time. McGonagall had died in a ditch, looking at Severus with eyes that said she still wasn’t entirely convinced and in any case she didn’t really approve; Amycus Carrow had trodden on his own wand and got hit with a stray Incendio from Lucius himself. There were other less notable deaths and many more glorious. If it starts up again, they will all pay the price.
In any case, Severus thinks with a sigh, the boy must be kept calm. It’s a truth that he accepts with sardonic resignation.
The boy is far from calm when Severus re-enters the room. He’s standing by the fire, teeth bared and hand outstretched, clutching a long darkwood wand.
You fool, Severus.
Snape resists the childish urge to pat his robes and assumes instead an air of command.
“Potter, put it down.” The boy’s eyebrows descend, and the hand shakes a little. His jaw is set like a vice. “Put it down, I said. We both know you can’t use it.”
Potter struggles, every muscle is tensed. He huffs viciously, trying to force something out. Nothing comes of course – no red light, no green light and most certainly no words.
“Potter, this is a little sad. And I believe the tea is going cold.”
Potter makes an explosive breathy sound and turns the wand so it points at his own neck, at the soft place just below the line of stubble. It presses in sharply and Potter’s eyes are furious and desperate. Still nothing happens, and then more nothing.
Snape sighs and approaches the boy with his hands stretched a little forward in appeasement. He has to wrench the wand away from that vicious grip, whereupon Potter flops into his chair looking empty and defeated. Despite himself, Snape feels a little sorry. The boy is as helpless as a squib.
“Drink your tea.” On an impulse, Snape decides to pour by hand, but Potter’s looking into the fire and doesn’t notice.
As Snape suspected, the Death Eaters are confined to quarters for several days and only scouting teams are allowed beyond the apparition wards. Generally it is cannier pairings than Goyle and Macnair that are sent: Bellatrix and the remaining Carrow, Nott and Zabini, even Lucius one evening. There are no further ambushes, and at the end of the week Snape is granted a much-needed pass to visit Gradgrind and Tubbs’s Apothecary in Knockturn Alley. Draco is detailed to provide the boy with tea and entertainment as well as the customary dinner.
As a chilly dusk settles, Snape passes silently through the rough heath that fills the grounds of Malfoy Manor. There is a strong wind blowing up from the Channel and Severus’s robes clip sharply round his legs. A copse of sapling birch bends violently towards him, and for a second, with his hair flipping in his eyes, it looks to Severus like there is someone in the middle trying to clamber out. He fixes his gaze in front of him and speeds up.
Knockturn Alley is sheltered from the wind and quieter. Apart from an ancient-looking wizard crouched picking bits of what looks like a trodden-on pumpkin pasty out of the gutter, the street appears deserted. It is not, of course, there are ample darkened doorways for assassins of any colour to lurk in, and Snape hears the snap of his own footsteps like a great clanging bell. Here I am. Look. Here for the taking. Which side would take him is anyone’s guess.
Mr Tubbs is in the shop when Snape enters. A tall thin man, ironically enough, with a nose to rival Snape’s in length, but scarcely in nobility, rounded off as it is with a bulbous cleft protuberance. He lacks the sneer, too, and looks blank and vague most of the time. A terribly ugly man, Snape would think, if he were ever to give thought to others’ appearance.
The man looks surprised.
“Professor Snape. I was expecting you five days ago for your delivery. No trouble, I hope?” Tubbs is certainly as stupid as his expression suggests.
“What a very personal question,” Snape replies coldly.
“Well, never mind, never mind, you’re here now.” Tubbs lopes off into the back room.
He emerges with a large box and a list which he holds up to read.
“Two gross of toads’ feet, three kilos of aconite, a box of saffron, five stalks of belladonna, wormwood, newts’ livers, aloe sap. All here.” Tubbs puts the box on the counter with a thump. “On the tab, professor?”
Snape has a sudden thought. “I’ll have some of that papaverus too,” he says, pointing at a barrel of prickly poppyheads. Half a kilogram, I think.” Despite the fact that no further wands have been stolen, the boy may benefit from a sedative.
Tubbs shovels the flowerheads into a tub and slips them inside the box. Snape spells the box closed and shrinks it to fit in an inner pocket.
“Anything else I can help you with, professor?” But Snape is already halfway to the door.
The grass has hardened and crunches under Snape’s feet as he heads back across the heath. It’s too dark now to see the ground, but he’d rather trust his own sense of balance than cast a lumos, however dim. Lights, both physical and magical, are blaring from the manor – an arrogant assumption that Death Eater magic is enough to keep prying eyes from Voldemort’s new home. Snape thinks it’s a childish urge to display, and part of him is surprised that Wormtail hasn’t cast the Morsmordre right over the north wing in a fit of insane and frenetic pride.
It’s hardly surprising that the Order are closing in; Snape should probably start planning his escape route, and yet it’s still a relief to have the heavy manor door shut behind him. He heads for the kitchen.
Lucius had a hard time finding a new house elf when Potter freed his last one. Ridiculous gesture after all. Draco said they spent four months without one, and Snape imagines those three silver-haired Malfoys sitting sulkily around an empty dining table. The image of Narcissa cooking is one he simply cannot conjure up. In any case the new elf is a necessary compromise, a filthy and cantankerous drunk. Snape doesn’t know its name, but it staggers round the kitchen, breaking plates, snorting sarcastically at every order it is obliged to fulfil and periodically trying to break into the carefully warded alcohol larder.
“Tea,” Snape commands and is rewarded with a resentful “Gah! And a biscuit too, I is supposing?”
Snape is still in the cavernous kitchen when Malfoy returns with Potter’s tea tray bobbing behind him. He looks a little shaken, and his hair is ruffled in a way that would probably be considered becoming by someone who regarded Malfoy in that light. Snape is not that person.
After a sip of tea he asks, “And how is the Hostage who Regrettably Continues to Live?”
Draco lowers the tray and shrugs with an air of supreme unconcern. “How should I know? He sits there with that disgusting expression on his face.” Snape wonders which of the myriad disgusting expressions it might be. “Drinks the tea. Not a word of thanks.”
Draco’s own face lightens, as if he’s just told the most amusing joke. He takes a cup from the tray and turns towards the stove. Snape watches him as he apparently catches sight of himself in the back of one of the copper pans hanging from a ceiling rack and, with a devastating lack of subtlety, hurriedly proceeds to smooth his hair down. Snape would smirk if he didn’t have to reflect that Malfoy was a Slytherin and one of his own. He sighs inwardly. Since the Dumbledore debacle it’s like all the cunning has been sucked out leaving only a veneer of smooth charm.
“Are you sure Potter didn’t behave at all unusually?
Draco mutters a few words to dismantle the wards on the larder and has two seconds to summon a bottle of Firewhiskey, as the house elf hurls itself across the kitchen moaning with longing. The stream of invective that is unleashed when the wards are replaced is drowned out only by the sound of a small hard head hitting a door. Malfoy sits down at the table opposite Snape with a resentful look.
“Potter always behaves unusually.” Snape had to acknowledge the justice of that.
“He showed me something he’d made. Something orange. It looked a bit like you actually.” Draco mimes pulling at his nose with his left hand, while his right pours several fingers of Firewhiskey into his cup. One side of his mouth is curved in amusement. “I thought it was rather sweet.”
“Indeed.” Snape pulls at Draco’s wrist and tips the bottle so it pours into his own mug.
“Anyway, he put it on the table, stuck its little feet down and er,” his eyes flick up, “smashed it with his fist.”
Snape raises an eyebrow and sniffs. He thinks about saying and I thought we were beginning to reach an understanding, maybe larding it with sarcasm. In no way could it be said to be true.
“How charming. Really, he exceeds my expectations.”
Malfoy chuckles quietly. “Yes, well. Under the circumstances, I decided it would be a good idea to tell him the truth.”
The truth? If Snape’s lungs were cooperating he would have said it. The silence functions just as well.
“I explained to him about what happened in the Astronomy Tower. About the oath.” Draco looks up and starts a little. Snape’s face is obviously as outraged as his feelings. “Well, it’s not like he can tell anyone. Anyway I thought it might make him a little more, well, docile.”
Snape drains his cup. The alcohol in no way washes down this unpalatable news. It sits in a hot lump in his upper chest and tries to burn its way back up and out.
“And how did the boy take this startling revelation?”
“He seemed a bit confused at first.” Draco pauses. “Frowned a lot.”
“I’ll bet. And afterwards?”
“Well. Afterwards – in fact – I mean – afterwards I think he tried to have sex with me.”
Over by the sink a plate smashes distractingly.
Snape spends a substantial part of the night brewing Potter’s sedative potion. The brat is clearly distraught. The way Malfoy tells it he barely escaped with his clothes intact. More than that he won’t say, and of course Malfoy has always been inclined to exaggerate. Nevertheless Snape is not in a mood to face a barely sane Gryffindor, no matter how minor his penchant for Death Eaters, without a decent potion ready to hand.
Accordingly, it is with a phial of blood-brown liquid in his sleeve and a copy of the Daily Prophet in his inner robe pocket that Snape crosses the wards the following evening, tea tray in tow.
Potter is not in his chair, and Severus turns, surprised, to see him sitting on his bed, back against the wall, with his chin propped on his knees and bare toes curled on the red blanket. He looks obscenely young, and Snape is momentarily disorientated before he realises that the beard has gone.
“Did they give you a razor?” Snape asks, alarmed. He looks around the room for murderous implements.
Potter shakes his head. He gestures a swish and flick with his empty fist. Evidently someone has spelled the beard away. It’s odd to see that blank expression again – no angry nuance, just waiting. Snape might even call it thoughtful if he didn’t know that Potter rarely engaged in anything so cerebral.
“It’s a shame they didn’t think to comb your hair while they were at it.”
Snape peers to see the response. Potter’s lip curls a little, but nothing that even hints at a lifelong hatred. This is peculiar and unsettling. Snape feels an odd sort of resentment towards Malfoy who has apparently cut the strings that Snape took such pleasure in tweaking. He tries again a little desperately.
“Of course your father had stupid hair, too.”
Hardly his usual calibre, but it should still have provoked the my father was a hundred times the man you are, you oily coward snarl of righteous defiance. Potter’s smooth face says nothing more clearly than er, what? And that’s all in the eyebrows, no snarl at all.
Snape sighs. He supposes he should be relieved that Potter is no longer exhibiting any signs of rage, or indeed any kind of desperation. Perhaps the sedative won’t be needed. Nevertheless, Potter on a bed is not something Snape intends to approach. Not without his thickest dragonhide gloves.
“I’m going to pour the tea,” Snape says. “And I’m going to leave it on the table. You’ll have to come over here if you want it.”
Accordingly he pours, settling himself for once in the green chair, while the teaspoons stir. He flaps out his newspaper and pretends to read. There’s hardly anything worth reading in the paper any more. The Prophet is in the pocket of the Ministry and the Ministry’s official line appears to be that the war is over. Endearing human interest stories seem to be the order of the day. Familiars spelled down from trees and so on. From the corner of his eye, Snape sees Harry slide off the bed and head decisively in his direction.
“You want the Quidditch section, I suppose?”
There’s no reply of course and when Snape lowers a corner of the newspaper, Potter is standing there, holding out a surprisingly large hand, his lips set in a line.
The hand gestures towards him emphatically. Potter’s eyes are frighteningly large and earnest when his eyebrows are lifted like that. Snape shrinks back a little in the chair, newspaper folding in towards his chest.
“Potter, I am not shaking your hand. No. You may think we have buried the hatchet, but believe me six years of ingratitude, strutting and rank stupidity cannot be undone just because you say so.”
Potter has the grace to look a little taken aback, then slightly annoyed. His hand falters and drops.
“Go and sit down.”
This whole business is unsettling in the extreme. Snape picks a few tiny flecks of orange goop off the arm of his chair and flicks them into the fire. Has Potter always been so quick and arbitrary with his allegiances? Merlin knows he’s a shaky judge of character at best. With a pulse of alarm, Snape foresees himself being forcibly rallied to the side of Light by order of the Chosen One. Sure enough, Potter is staring right at him from the sofa, doubtless considering for what noble cause he could be enlisted. It’s nothing short of humiliating.
Snape lifts his paper and holds it close to his face as a bulwark.
“I still killed him, you know. No matter what Mr Malfoy told you.”
Potter doesn’t make a sound. Snape persists.
“I’d do it again.”
Nothing. Perhaps the boy’s chewing it over. Snape shakes out the paper with a loud crack to indicate that he’s made his point and the topic is now closed. He’s almost managed to focus on a headline above a picture of a toothless gurning witch with a cat in her arms, when there’s a squeak and a rustle and a soft shush shush shush. Snape lowers the paper surreptitiously, and –
dear god – the boy is shuffling towards him on his knees, jeans scuffing softly through the bearskin rug. Snape almost jumps out of his seat, but a hand on his knee freezes him in place, stuck through with horror.
“What the–! Potter?”
Potter’s eyes are huge and startling and presumably doing their best to be seductive. Snape stares in disbelief. This is decidedly not happening. He should lift that hand off, drop it coldly by Potter’s side, but before he can organise himself to move, Potter has shifted up, lowered his head and laid one smooth pink cheek halfway up Snape’s thigh.
Potter’s head is heavy and from the heat pricking through the heavy twill of Snape’s trousers, it must be unnaturally hot as well. God, the child must be ill. And Snape?
“Get off me, Potter.” Croakier than he’d hoped, but a voice nonetheless.
Potter lifts his head and Snape takes the opportunity to scrabble back in his chair. One arm swings violently out to catch the chair arm and the phial of sedative scutters onto the floor and into the hearth, irretrievable. Snape’s pulse is kicking painfully. Half of him wants to flatten itself backwards into the cushions then leap over the top and scurry out, the other half is somewhere unforeseen and truly unconscionable. Snape knows exactly which half to heed and is moving to his feet, when Potter grabs the front of his robe in one tight white fist and opens his mouth wide. A wet pink tongue darts and twitches behind his teeth.
Snape freezes for a second time and a sickening heat laces through his chest and into his belly. “No!”
He tries to slide a leg across the arm of the chair and out, but Potter has him in a strong grip, and is making loud huffing noises and pointing at his throat and, for a second, Snape is so shocked he can only brace himself against the chair and shake embarrassingly. Then suddenly it all becomes startlingly clear.
Idiot. The terror is immediately and entirely replaced by a freezing anger.
“No, Potter, I will not give you back your voice,” he hisses. “Not only have you proved that it is entirely unsafe, given your predilection for threatening your helpers with their own wands, but in addition I have precisely no desire to hear your pathetic and no doubt fantastical explanation of exactly what motivated this little – display. A charade which I believe you have already attempted to foist upon the wretched Malfoy.”
Potter lets go of Snape’s robe, and Snape takes a deep bolstering breath of freedom.
“You are going to sit back in your chair and I am going to leave. The house elf will come later to take the tray. Perhaps you will find him more amenable to your doubtless flattering attentions. He will not, however, restore your voice under any circumstances.”
Snape is at the door when he finally feels safe enough to turn and look back. Potter is not in his chair or on the sofa, but kneeling against his heels on the rug with his hands in his lap. He doesn’t look up.
“I will be back tomorrow evening, at which time you will continue to sit in your chair and drink your tea. If at any time you so much as slump or twitch in a way I find unacceptable, I will hex you into a state of eunuchy. Is that clear?”
Potter doesn’t move a muscle.
With a securely warded door between himself and Potter, Snape has only one thought – to get outside. It’s not a considered decision, but it’s dark and chilly out there and that suits Snape down to the ground. Malfoy pops his head out of the kitchen as Severus strides past.
“Severus?” His voice is smooth and interested but not even remotely surprised. Snape presses his teeth tightly together and doesn’t slow his step.
“Not a word, Malfoy.”
“Sorry? What was that?”
Snape is already ten feet away.
It’s raining in the grounds and Snape walks out over the grass until his hair is sticking to his cheekbones and water is dripping inelegantly from his nose. His stomach feels poisonous with anger and shock. Stupid boy. Thoughtless ignorant boy. Stupid boy. He gets as far as the birch copse before he starts to slow and take stock. It’s cold and his fists are retreating instinctively into his long black cuffs. It’s also deeply quiet, with that creeping ticking sort of silence that makes Snape’s hair stand up in apprehension of something horrible just behind him. A depressingly familiar feeling.
The copse rustles.
“It’s him. It’s Snape. Quickly!”
A flash of red. Snape doesn’t even have time to groan before everything goes black and he feels his body crumpling.
Since I've been meaning to comment on this anyway, seems fair to do it here :)
I laughed all the way through. Your Snape is so pissed off, at himself as much as anyone else. Much more of a sense of humour than you usually see - “Will you be mother or shall I?”
Also I like your Bardot-esque Harry and up himself little Malfoy. I am intrigued to see where it ends up. You'll have me loving snarry yet. (Maybe.)
oh berry berry berry. I'm so pleased you liked, especially as you will be beta-ing the rest - ha!
there is so much snarry you must read. come to me for recs.
I am only now finding the time to get stuck into this.
This first chapter was lovely! I love prisoner Harry, and to be kept prisoner without his voice just seems so sinister.
Of course, Severus is at his snarkiest best!
Harry throwing himself at Snape made me a little uncomfortable. I found it a little hard to read - I wanted to look away. And I think that's GREAT! I totally related to Snapes reaction. Good job there!!
And you left with a cliffie. I would accuse you of being an evil bitch, but since I can click onto chapter 2, there wouldn't be much point!
Great first chapt though. You've sucked me in.
Hi, I have just followed you hear after reading your Slashababy fic and I decided to try this one since it got marked as under appreciated in that meme. I know you didn't feel great about the Slasha fic but I wanted to tell you again that I really enjoyed it.
I also really like this so far. Your Snape is smart and snarky and morally ambiguous and that is just how I like him, and also there is plot that is not too obvious and I am worried for Harry and the others and I'm looking forward to reading more of this.
Well this is very interesting.
I wonder why Voldie needs to keep Harry alive.
Absolutely love Snape's point of view of things. Poor Lucius and Draco, they've been demoted to lackey's and may not even survive the war.
And why does the Ministry think the war is over? Who do they think has won?
Just a quick comment to let you know that we've added this story to the snarry_reader
on our Master List here
If you'd like us to make any changes to the link, etc. please let us know.
Gaycrow, on behalf of the Reader.
Very, very intriguing and intricate. I'm here on perverse_idyll's recommendation and am not in the least disappointed. Snape and Malfoy are uniquely in-character, and it's always fun to see humor injected (somehow) into these darker fics. I can't wait to read on.