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Ariel & Gobuss
| Chapter 16 - "The nightmare" |
Beta Reader: Ailslin Avalbane
16 The nightmare
Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real*
Harry looked at the gem he was holding in hand. It was the middle of the night, and he was still lying in bed, unable to sleep.
He couldn't understand Severus. He probably never would.
Sometimes Snape was quite nice to him: allowed him to hug him, didn't look at him with disgust, while the most important thing was that Harry's presence somehow made him a bit... softer. But then everything would suddenly change. Snape could, at once, fly into such a fury that it seemed he couldn't control himself at all. He was hurting and wounding.
Harry closed his eyes and shuddered at the memory of the unbridled hatred he'd seen in Severus' eyes. The Potions Master had looked at him as if Harry'd been his greatest enemy, as if he'd been guilty of all the evils of the world; of all the bad things that happened in his life. The boy couldn't understand why. What was wrong with him? After all, he didn't do anything wrong...
Snape had apparently got a call from Voldemort when Harry'd been hugging him. But why had he fallen into such a rage? As if he suddenly hated Harry, not wanting to have anything to do with him. As if the Gryffindor had been guilty of something. But of what?
Harry clenched the stone in his hand, closed his eyes, then sent the message, just as he'd been doing every night since he'd received the jewel:
It was a little thing to do, and probably would only infuriate Snape because Harry, again, was misusing the stone. But he had to do it. At least in this way he could give him a sign that he was still around, thinking of him, and wouldn't stop... whatever happened.
Harry was really looking forward to Monday's Potions class and meeting with Snape. However, he ended up disappointed: Snape treated him very badly and seemed to be in a foul mood.
Harry couldn't be sure, but he thought it was Voldemort's fault. Perhaps he began to suspect Snape of being a spy? Or maybe he was angry with him for not having performed some task? Severus had never mentioned his second job, and Harry would never dare ask him about it, but the burning curiosity gave him no peace, making up new and more and more improbable options.
Harry was so lost in his thoughts that he had completely bungled his elixir and ‘rewarded’ for that with extremely nasty comments and a loss of house points. As if Snape didn't understand that Harry might have a lot of catching up to do. As if he didn't care at all. He told him to learn everything they'd been doing while he'd been absent for the next lesson. Snape was mean to everyone that day, including the Slytherins, but probably most of all his anger was directed at Harry. The boy promised himself he would no longer do anything that could throw any suspicion upon him and Snape. He swore that he would behave as if he didn't care, but it wasn't easy. No, when Snape was standing over him, upbraiding him for being damn fool, arrogant brat who thought that everything was about him, and the whole world was ready to submit to his incompetence and overrated opinion of himself. He should have long mastered the lessons which he had missed, because no one would be waiting for him and lead him by the hand, even if he was the Golden Boy who was put above everyone, believing he was better than the others and had other rights.
All this time Harry was sitting with his eyes fixed on the cauldron, clenching his fists so hard his knuckles turned white, and his nails dug painfully into his palms. The ferocity with which Snape was reproaching him was so great that Harry began to seriously wonder if it was just a game, or the man was completely serious.
But, it didn't seem like a game at all...
After the lesson Harry was really proud that he had been able to withstand all that. He knew that he should be grateful for the words he'd been repeating constantly to himself: ‘He saved me. He cares for me. No matter what he says and does. I know that he cares for me.’
In the afternoon, he sent Severus a message:
Can I come tonight?
He didn't receive any reply.
It bothered him, but he tried to explain to himself that Snape may be busy, not having time to send him the message back. Still, he caught himself putting his hand into the pocket and clenching the stone, checking whether it wasn't emitting heat which he might not feel by chance.
By evening he’d turned into a bundle of nerves and sent another message.
Are you angry with me?
But, again, he got no answer. He tried to study along with Ron and Hermione, but turned a deaf ear to all of Hermione’s lectures and explanations. He couldn't focus on anything. He was still waiting for a reply or any sign, but nothing came.
Late in the evening, when he was lying in bed and was unable to wait any longer, Harry closed his eyes and sent Severus the last message for the day:
Tuesday passed very quickly for him, mainly in anticipation of messages from Snape. The Professor wasn't at meals and Harry' began to get disturbing thoughts that maybe something had happened to him. Fortunately, asking Luna helped: today the fifth-years had Potions, and Snape was present at the lesson, just as always. It calmed Harry down a bit.
While he was talking to Luna, something strange happened. Tonks approached them and asked Harry how he felt and whether he could cope with lessons. She said she was preparing something amazing for them for tomorrow's classes. Harry, knowing her unusual methods, could only be afraid of what she'd come up with, but he smiled and replied politely that he was looking forward to it. Luna then did something unexpected. She pulled a letter out of her bag and with the words "I wanted to give it to you earlier, but I feel that you are constantly avoiding me," handed it to Tonks. Nimphadora blushed, quickly snatched the letter and put it in her briefcase, as if she wanted to hide it as soon as possible and forget about the incident. She glanced at Harry, who pretended to be looking in another direction, and then scolded Luna with a look, but the girl just smiled innocently and unconsciously in response. Harry may not have been such a careful and intelligent observer as Hermione, but he had no problems with reading the look from Tonks: ‘We'll talk about that later. Without witnesses!’
When the teacher left, the Gryffindor opened his mouth to ask Luna what was going on, but the Ravenclaw smiled at him dreamily and sighed:
"What a beautiful day, don't you think?" And then drifted down the hallway, jumping and humming a cheerful song under her breath. Harry looked out the window. The sky was overcast with heavy, gray clouds from which rain was falling incessantly.
"Indeed, beautiful... " he muttered to himself, looking at Luna's back disappearing from view and understanding nothing. He decided to ask Hermione about it when he saw her. She was the expert in drawing conclusions from observations of human behavior.
But the lack of response to messages he had sent Severus drove him to such a state that he completely forgot about it.
In the evening, his hand involuntarily tightened on the stone, sending:
I miss you.
Later Harry was angry with himself for having done it. He was bothering Snape like some girl who had fallen head over heels in love. And he was neither a girl, nor had he fallen in ... He blushed, unable to even think about himself, Snape and you-know-what in the same sentence, and decided that he would no longer disturb him. If Snape chose to ignore him for unknown reasons, Harry would do the same. Or at least try to.
If Snape had nothing but contempt for him, it was his business. He wouldn't go running after him anymore, as if he didn’t have other things to do. Enough of this!
It was late, but Harry couldn't sleep. He was turning from side to side because something was still bothering him. The silence that reigned in the room, broken only occasionally by Ron's or Neville's snoring, was driving him to madness. It was bad. Gloomy, frightening thoughts had been lurking there, and now they were coming out of hiding, attacking him, sinking their long, sharp teeth into him, taking away his self-confidence and peace.
He doesn't want to know you anymore. Why would he need someone like you? He’s shagged you already. He doesn't need you anymore. He’s satisfied his desires. Now he’ll look for someone else...
Harry clenched his hand on a green stone. The smoothness of the jewel was driving the monsters away, healing wounds; protecting him.
He closed his eyes, feeling the tearing fangs withdraw from his mind.
The cool darkness was everywhere. Despite the prevailing shadows, bare rocks and tufts of grass growing here and there were clearly visible in the terrifying, cold light which didn't have any source. It seemed to float in the air. The landscape looked like one would during the full moon - just that moon didn't exist. There was nothing but a small piece of ground on which Harry was standing. When he continued to stare, everything was disappearing in the murky void and deafening silence.
Suddenly a high, cold, phantom laughter reached his ears. He looked around, trying to locate its source, but at the same time a new one came from another side. Now it was low and hoarse. Soon, those laughs were echoing everywhere around him, mingling with each other and bouncing off his mind, growing louder. Causing him pain. He covered his ears, but it didn't help. They were still increasing in volume, as if echoing in the emptiness and returning in subsequent waves.
Suddenly he realized that he was no longer alone. He was standing in the middle of a circle, surrounded by tall, black cloaked figures, merging in all-encompassing darkness. Like material shadows. Their faces were covered with white masks in the shape of skulls, but one of them didn't have it. Voldemort's face was contorted with a cruel, triumphant smile, chilling and full of satisfaction as laughter erupted from his throat.
Harry shuddered involuntarily and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, but something wasn't right. He looked down and discovered that he lacked clothes. He was standing in front of them completely naked. Despite the horror, his face flushed. The laughter intensified even more. Its strength tore at the boy's ears, pushed him into the darkness, crushing him. Harry bent under it and dropped to his knees, trembling with fear, cold and shame.
What were they going to do with him? He was here all alone, with no wand, nothing to defend himself. They would kill him...
Snape! He had to let him know! He had to use the stone! Severus would help! Severus would save him! Just as he had done the last time! He wouldn't let him die here!
Suddenly, a terrifying realization rushed into his mind. He was naked. They’d taken his clothes. The stone was there! He couldn't notify him...
He closed his eyes, struggling against the tears trying to fill them.
He didn't want to die here! Not now! He wasn't ready for it. So many things were still before him... he didn't want them to be over. He wanted only to live in peace. Why must he die? He didn't want to!
And then he heard it. Severus' voice in his head:
This time no one will save you, Potter.
His heart fluttered with fear, as if pierced by an icy dagger, exploding with pain. He groaned and opened his eyes. He saw blood on his hands: it was flowing over his body, warm and sticky, in small streams at first, then grew in volumes. He didn't know where it came from. He tried to wipe it from his shoulders, but only smeared it. It had a dark, cherry, almost black color to it. His hand left red stripes on the shoulder, which almost immediately disappeared under the huge wave of flowing blood. It was coming over his head, gluing his hair, pouring into ears and nose. Warm ichor that consumed his body to such an extent there was no dry fragment left. Dark, red, viscous goo flowing over his skin began to flood his eyes and encroach on the mouth. The laughter became even stronger. The whole world started to spin, and he was in the center of a vortex. Weak, helpless, and naked. He tried to scream, to cry for help, but no sound could escape his throat. He couldn't see any longer as the blood flooded his eyes completely. He couldn't breath! As soon as he opened his mouth, the blood poured down his throat and into his nose. He was choking, desperately trying to hide his face to protect himself from the suffocating, thick goo.
Then, Voldemort's voice, cold as ice, broke through the hollow laughter:
"I'm so thirsty, my friends... Time to start the feast."
Harry wanted to scream, but the blood had filled his mouth, making it impossible. He was desperately trying to catch his breath, gagging helplessly. His body was shaken with convulsions, and he fell onto his back, twitching and writhing, unable to defend himself against the sea of blood flooding him.
With the last breath of awareness plunged in agony, he felt his hands grabbed something. He pulled it to himself, trying to cover his face. The sound of tearing fabric took him out of abyss. With a wheezing sound he pulled the air into his aching lungs and brought them relief. Harry opened his eyes and saw the canopy bed above him. He was holding in hands a torn veil surrounding his bed. He could hardly breathe the desired air, lying in silence for a moment, waiting for his twisting nerves to calm down a bit, and his mind begin to work properly again.
It'd been a dream.
However, he didn't take in a sigh of relief. He was breathing heavily, and the sweat was pouring down his trembling body. White masks and Voldemort's face, reveling in his suffering, were still swirling before his eyes, and cruel, tearing laughter was ringing in his ears. Something huge, sour, and bitter had blocked his throat.
The room was already bright, it had to be morning, but Harry's eyes saw only his body, covered with blood. He looked down at his hands, but didn't see it. It didn't give him the reassurance though. Why did he feel like it was still there, just invisible?
He jumped out of bed. His body was shaking and he felt sick. When he straightened up into a sitting position, his stomach violently protested. The sickness intensified, and Harry covered his mouth quickly. The ugly, bitter taste of vomit rose in his throat. He managed to stop it, but he knew that wasn't for long. He hastily put on his clothes, anyhow. Neville and Ron were still asleep, deep in their pleasant, sweet dreams, when Harry ran from the dormitory to the bathroom. He’d managed to get there at the last moment, bending over the sink and vomiting. When he finished, he still felt his stomach being attacked by violent spasms, even though there was absolutely nothing left, nothing except aching, painful bile that had come up last. Exhausted, he gargled with cold water and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He looked terrible. His face was pale as a sheet, his eyes sunken and bloodshot, his lips blue. Tears glistened on his cheeks. His hair, sweaty and disheveled, protruded in all directions. His whole body was shaking with uncontrollable shivering. He felt that his appearance certainly fit his present state perfectly. He was so weak he could hardly remain on his feet, his knees buckling under him.
At first he thought of going to the hospital wing, but he was almost certain that Pomfrey would immediately put him in bed and keep there for a week. Then he thought of someone else who could help him, because he had a lot of healing potions. Harry couldn't go to classes in such a condition, and further absence wouldn't help him catch up. Besides, he preferred to keep busy. He feared that if he was alone, forced to spend the day in bed, frightening memories of the dream would return and flood his mind again, taking away his breath and sanity. He feared that most of all. Therefore, without long hesitation, he pulled the stone from his pocket, clenched it in his hand, closed his eyes, and thought:
I need a Calming Potion. Could you please give it to me? As soon as possible. It's very important. Please.
He didn't know if Snape was going to respond. Slowly he began to lose hope that Snape read the messages at all, but it was worth a try.
However, just as he began placing the jewel back in his pocket, he suddenly felt the heat emanating from it, which almost burned his hand. Surprised by the quick response, Harry lifted the stone to his eyes and read:
Come to my office. Now.
He blinked several times, completely surprised by the speed with which he'd received an answer. He sighed with relief and put the stone back into his pocket with a trembling hand. After quickly rinsing his face with cold water, he headed for the dungeons.
The castle was still quiet and empty at this early hour, so Harry managed to get to the door of the Potions Master's office without any problems. He didn't even have time to knock. The door suddenly opened, and there stood Snape. Seeing the state in which Harry was, his eyebrows rose and his eyes widened. However, he refrained from any comments, moved aside without a word and let him in.
Harry really tried not to shiver, but he couldn't help it. His breathing was hard and shallow and he was still pale. He knew that he must look like something the cat dragged in, but he didn't want to talk about it. Snape opened his mouth as if to ask what had happened, but Harry was faster:
"I really need this elixir," he said firmly, though in a somewhat tremulous voice. "I don't want to explain now. Will you give it to me?"
He was surprised by the sharpness of his voice. Snape frowned.
"Wait here, Potter," he spat severely, and then walked to one of the shelves. He returned a moment later with a small vial in his hand. The fluid had a warm, pink color. "Not more than a mouthful," he said, and handed it to Harry who mumbled a thanks, pulled out the stopper and, without hesitation, took two sips. He knew the dosage. He knew that in a state in which he was now, one wasn't enough.
The liquid was sweet and warm. It poured into his throat, almost immediately bringing soothing calm to his nerves and trembling body. He began to relax, and troubles along with worries slowly flowed away and melted in a pleasant warmth. The blood from the dream, which he'd had before his eyes all this time, disappeared. He sighed, taking air deep into his lungs. Harry felt his cheeks blush slightly, and he slowly ceased to tremble. When he opened his eyes, he saw Snape was looking at him thoughtfully from half-closed eyelids.
Harry lowered his eyes, clearing his throat in embarrassment.
"Thank you," he repeated quietly. "Can you give me also the... Sleeping Potion?" he asked, looking up at the man. The Potions Master's eyes appeared understanding. Harry bit his lip and looked away again.
"Come in the evening, Potter, and you'll get it. After dinner," the man said, dryly. Harry nodded and offered the bottle to Severus. "Keep it. It might still be useful to you," said Snape.
The Gryffindor nodded again.
"So... I'll go. Breakfast will be starting. I don't want to be late."
Why had being in Snape's company suddenly become so hard and stressful to him? Was it because of how Snape'd treated him lately? Was it because he'd been ignoring him for two days? Or... perhaps because of what he'd heard in his dream?
He wanted to ask him about so many things... but it was neither the place nor the time to do so. Maybe they could talk in the evening? If Snape wouldn't suddenly throw him out again ...
He turned away from the man looking at him with piercing, thoughtful eyes, left the office, and slowly dragged himself back to the tower to put himself in order before heading to the Great Hall.
The first lesson after the breakfast was DADA. Harry took the bottle of Calming Potion with him, just in case. He felt quite well, but he didn't know if nervousness and fear wouldn't come back suddenly in the classroom. He had no idea how long the potion worked.
"I have something unusual for you for today, kids!" Tonks called out cheerfully, walking to the front of the class and stumbling over the threshold. When she regained her balance and cast a sizzling glance at the threshold for having had the audacity to want to turn her over, she waved her wand in the direction of the blackboard, on which appeared the inscription: Legilimens.
"Has anyone ever heard of this spell?" she asked, smiling encouragingly. Hermione, sitting next to Harry, shot her hand up.
"Yes, Hermione? I mean... " Tonks blushed, " ...Miss Granger?"
"Legilimens is a spell to break into someone's mind and read their memories."
"Great. Ten points to Gryffindor."
Hermione blushed with pride.
"You don't have this in the curriculum," said Tonks, "so you don't need to look in the textbook, Mr... " she hesitated.
"Thomas," Dean replied calmly. They had all gotten used to the fact that the teacher was still forgetting their names. Dean closed the book and put it aside.
Harry felt a little uncomfortable. He knew perfectly well what Legilimency was and what it could do. He still remembered the humiliating lessons with Snape last year, when the Professor had been breaking into his mind and watching all of his memories. Even the most personal ones. And despite the attempts to push him out of his head, Harry couldn't defend himself.
Tonks didn't tell them anything that Harry didn't know, but the others were listening to her with great interest. They probably thought it was much more interesting than catching some fire creatures.
"I thought you should know about this spell, especially now, when we are on the brink of war," Tonks continued, apparently flattered and pleased that for the first time, everyone was listening with such attention. "But this is not everything. There is also a second version of this spell, almost forgotten, but recently re-discovered and being successfully used by You-Know-Who and his followers. Much, much stronger and much more dangerous. In fact, the Ministry considering putting it on the list of Unforgivable Curses, because the effects of it could be terrible and irreversible. More than that - it is almost impossible to fight it. There is no counterspell, and the only thing that can save the wizard on whom the spell is cast, is the strength of their will. Unfortunately, it must be truly enormous, and only a few people have it."
Harry pricked up his ears. It was something new. The teacher waved her wand in the direction of the blackboard where appeared two words: Legilimens Evocis.
"Has anyone heard of it?" Tonks asked.
The class was quiet. Even Hermione didn't raise her hand.
"Well," Nimphadora said very seriously, "I'm not surprised that no one knows this spell. As I have mentioned, for centuries it was absolutely forbidden, and the knowledge of it was carefully concealed. It’s only recently that it has started to be used again. It is called Detailed Legilimency, or Profound. It differs from the usual Legilimency in some important details. First, Profound Legilimency enables one to not only penetrate the mind of the victim and to read theirs memoirs, but thoughts as well. Looking at the memory, you can also hear what thoughts were running throughout the victim's head at that moment. It's like a full entry into one's mind, looking at the world through the eyes of another person. Secondly - the use of eye contact is needed. Furthermore, in contrast to the usual Legilimecy, we don't watch a stream of memories, conglomerated together and mixed. The person who casts the spell finds the memory they like and sort of pulls it to the surface. It can be watched as long as you want, you may also recall all memories and thoughts connected to it. If, for example, someone wanted to know what the other person thinks of them, they could choose all related items to the memory and then watch them and listen for as long as they'd want. It's just an example, so you shouldn't come up with any ideas to cast this spell on your friends! We know that it has been recently discovered by You-Know-Who and now he often uses it to pull interesting information from his prisoners. It's much faster and simpler way than Cruciatus which was used previously.
All students were listening with rapt attention, full of horror. Unwelcome thoughts began to circulate in Harry's head, and they disturbed his peace. Tonks sighed and continued in an even more serious tone:
"But that isn't the most dangerous thing about this spell. Even if you tried, you would never succeed, but an experienced, powerful Legilimens can manipulate dreams and dig in the memories of the victim. While in theory you can change the dream, the change of a memory is, fortunately, practically impossible. It can be only removed, similarly to a spell you know very well - Obliviate, but it's not everything. You can imprison the victim in their worst nightmare, and force them to experience it over and over again. A person locked in their mind becomes a wretched plant, reliving, over and over again their worst nightmare. And they'll never get rid of it. When I say nightmare, I'm not exaggerating. You can select the most terrifying dream of the victim, and close them there forever."
Harry felt himself growing pale. He recalled the blood flooding over him and laughter echoing through his ears. His head was spinning, and his stomach clenched as if he were about to vomit again.
"Excuse me," he raised his hand, fearful his earlier symptoms would return. "May I go to the bathroom?"
Tonks looked at him and flinched.
"What is it, Harry? You're white as a sheet!"
"I feel sick," he replied smoothly, even as everything went dark before his eyes.
"Of course, go, go. Maybe you should be escorted to the hospital wing?"
"No, thank you," he replied, getting up from his seat, feeling legs buckle slightly under him. "I can handle it. It's just... weak stomach."
Hermione and Ron certainly wanted to go with him, but he managed to stop them. When he found himself behind the classroom door, with trembling hands, he took the vial of pink liquid out of his pocket and took a sip. He breathed a sigh of relief and found himself lost in thought.
Tonks’ words were still ringing in his ears. Being trapped in the worst nightmare... What would happen if someone trapped him in that terrible dream? Forever. The very thought of it made him shudder. It was probably the worst thing that could be done to another person. He wouldn't wish it even his worst enemy...
Harry felt the terror surround his heart like cold tentacles. A deeply hidden fear, needling him for a long time, began coming to the surface of his weakened consciousness. What if this happened to him? Tonks said Voldemort was using that spell... Harry knew their meeting was imminent. The entire Wizarding World was counting on him. It was just a matter of time when he'd be thrown into the vortex of fighting, and when he'd meet face to face with the most dangerous wizard ever. He knew he would have no chance to get out of this alive. But if he died... at least he would take Voldemort with him. The prophecy was clear that neither could live while the other survived. Did it mean that they both had to die?
He sighed heavily and leaned against the wall. He closed his eyes, not wanting to admit that thought to himself.
He didn't want to die. He wasn't ready for it. The entire Wizarding World couldn't defeat Voldemort, why would he do it? Because he had a scar on his forehead? Yes, everyone expected this from him. Up till now, he'd been devoting everything to this fight, but now he was so tired. Sirius' death had only sealed it. He would never defeat him. He couldn’t do anything. He was just a boy. How could he fight someone who was impossible to kill? Why couldn't he be a normal teenager and live like everyone else? Why did this burden have to be carried on his shoulders? Dumbledore tried to protect him from it, but the Headmaster himself had recently started to look like he needed help, himself. He was also pressed by all this, and yet he was the only person whom Voldemort was afraid of. How could he, Harry, face him? He just wanted to... live. He wanted to be with Severus. To not worry about the war, attacks, or his destiny. He wanted to be happy, but his fate had been preordained a long time ago ... only because he had a scar on his forehead.
He sighed, opening his eyes and looking at the ceiling. After a moment, he closed them again.
But he would do it. He must. There was no other way. It was his duty. He would do it, since everyone expected this from him. He would go to the war, he would fight, though he didn't know how... And… he may die.
But not yet.
The image of a severe, twisted, mocking smile appeared before his eyes. The black eyes staring at him with desire. A calmness filled Harry's heart.
The door opened at the touch of Harry's hand. He walked carefully to the office, but the room was empty. Guessing that Snape was waiting for him in his private chambers, Harry moved on. This time the door didn't open by itself, and he had to knock. When Snape let him inside, Harry realized that he was so nervous he didn't know what to say. Would this man always affect him like that?
He cleared his throat and said softly:
"I... came for the potion."
Snape gave him a stern look. From the expression on his face it could be read that, apparently, he refrained from a malicious comment at the last moment.
"Wait," he spat and went to one of the shelves. He returned a shortly after, holding a small vial in his hand. "I'll give it to you, but this time you must not drink more than one small sip before bedtime. You should already know this."
The Gryffindor nodded. He knew the dosage, they had studied it recently. He took the bottle and muttered a thanks. Snape gazed at him attentively, but Harry couldn't look at him. He still wasn't sure what he should do. He so wanted to stay and to talk to him... but how could he know whether Snape wanted that? Maybe he didn't want his presence? And, yet, Harry couldn't ask directly. He preferred uncertainty to refusal. It was less painful.
He turned with a sigh to leave, but when he touched the door handle, he heard the low voice of the Potions Master behind him:
"Where are you going, Potter? Sit down."
It sounded like an order, so Harry drew back his hand and turned away. He felt relieved. Snape wanted him to stay. It was the first good sign he’d had in a while. Slowly, he walked to the black chair and sat near the burning fireplace. Severus took his place in the second chair and for a few moments was gazing only at the fire. The only prevailing sound in the room was the quiet crackling of burning woods. Finally the man turned his head toward Harry, and said in a quiet, and unusually gentle voice:
"What did you dream about, Potter?"
The Gryffindor shuddered, turned pale and looked at the man in fear. He saw blood again. In his mind echoed the words:
This time no one will save you, Potter.
It was Severus’ voice. Cold, unfeeling, distant. Unfamiliar.
Seeing Snape's eyes narrow, Harry quickly turned his head and looked into the fire.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said, with difficulty controlling his trembling voice.
"Potter... " the man began, but Harry quickly interrupted him, desperately wanting to change the subject.
"How was your day, Severus?" he asked, trying to make his voice sound indifferent. Snape closed his mouth, thought a moment, as if wondering whether to continue his examination of Harry, but apparently gave up, because after a pause he said:
"Wonderful. Thanks to me, Gryffindor finally fell from third to fourth place in the House Cup."
The sarcasm emanating from his voice was almost palpable. Harry winced.
"Congratulations," he replied without hesitation. "I thought, thanks to you, we’ve been in forth place for a long time."
Snape blinked. Harry understood what he'd said, and immediately looked away, embarrassed, but he also felt pleased that he managed to surprise the man. A strange thought appeared in his mind: Since he’d started to associate with Snape, he was becoming more ironic and glib. After all, he had to somehow defend himself against the mans attacks. The fear and anger that'd accompanied him for the last two days now began to ebb, and he didn’t dare stop it.
"Maybe you could give us at least a point someday? You'd be written into school history. Wouldn't you want that?" Harry continued, balancing on a very shaky and unstable wave which could collapse at any moment, making him fall into dark depths. "Maybe Neville would have a heart attack because of it? You’d finally achieve what you’ve been striving for all these years." He bit his tongue only when he saw the dangerously menacing look the Potions Master was giving him.
"Careful, Potter. Don't forget who you're talking to," he drawled, his gaze piercing Harry.
Harry looked into the fire and blushed. The rough waves smoothed, and the threat of drowning was shunted.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled. "It's because lately... " he hesitated, swallowed hard, and sighed. He didn't want to beat around the bush anymore. Time to put the cards on the table. "Why are you treating me like that?" he simply asked, looking at Snape. "For two days I was waiting for any message, but you decided to ignore me. Why?"
Snape pressed his lips together and frowned. It looked as if he wondered about the answer. Finally he said with a dry, calm voice, weighing every word:
"I had my reasons, Potter."
He had expected another answer!
"You always have your reasons!" Harry suddenly snipped, his voice bursting from his throat in frustration. "And I still don't understand! I never know what I can let myself feel. I don't know how you'll react. I don't even know if I can hug you now or if you’ll push me away!" His voice faltered. He bit his lip and looked at the fire. After a while, the low, cold voice reached his ears:
"You won't know... until you try."
Harry looked at Snape. His heart was pounding in his chest and there was a ringing in his ears, but the meaning of these words slowly made their way to his mind. He was surprised by the conclusion he'd made. Had Snape just... admitted that he wanted Harry to hug him?
That's how it sounded.
Harry made a decision. He stood up, walked over to Severus and, still a bit uncertain, sat sideways on his lap. He put his arms around man's neck, snuggled his face into his collarbone, and sighed heavily. He wasn't pushed, removed, or cursed. He felt Snape's body stiffen. He could hear his rapid breathing. He was so close... When he pressed himself to the man, his heart calmed down. He felt safe. Such moments were worth fighting for.
"I hate when you treat me like that," he whispered softly, rubbing his face against Severus’ neck and inhaling the bitter-sweet scent, which was the most intense right along the side of the mans throat. Everything he did was one-sided, but it was enough for him. At least for now.
He moved even closer and whispered:
"I need you so much."
For a moment, only their breaths were heard in the room. Finally, the silence was broken by the Potion Master's low voice:
"How much do you need me, Mr. Potter?"
As the grass needs rain to grow. As the earth needs sun to live. As a man needs air to breathe, as a child needs their mother. As the world needs rescue and the Boy Who Lived who was their hope, a symbol of faith.
"You might have never imagined," he replied quietly. He clenched his hands on the black robe, never wanting to let it go ever again. Why couldn't everything always be like now?
"Hold me, please." The words themselves broke out of Harry’s mouth, so suddenly and needfully.
He waited, but nothing happened. No response.
Harry finally pulled back slightly and reached for Severus' hands, lying on the arms of the chair. He grabbed them and wrapped them gently around his waist. He glanced up at the deep, dark tunnels of the man's eyes, looking for... He didn't know what, but he was sure he would recognize it when he saw it. For a split second something flashed in them, but he couldn’t place it. They remained unreadable and closed to him. The man’s face was tense, and his lips tightened. As if, at any cost, Severus was trying to cut himself off; to move away. To not allow Harry to see deeper than the wall surrounding him - powerful, high and inaccessible.
The boy let go of Severus' hands and clenched his fingers on black-clad shoulders. Gently, he kissed man's bare neck. A moment later, Harry was already kissing every inch of exposed skin, making his way to an extremely sensitive place. His lips found the man’s ear lobe and began to lick and suck it. Snape's body stiffened and his head leaned back. Harry heard a long, unrestrained groan of pleasure. Feeling the excitement engulfing him, he slid his hot tongue into the ear and began to thoroughly penetrate the interior. Later he took up the space behind it, alternately kissing and licking the salty skin. A familiar current began to run through his body, humming in ears and making his heart beat very fast. He kissed more aggressively, harder, and more hungrily. He wanted to taste everything. He heard Severus's moans and rapid breathing. He knew he was already hard, and felt the Snape apparently was as well. His lips found their way to his face. He kissed every millimeter of skin. The man’s chin and cheeks. Harry was overcome with passion, excitement, and heat. He was already a half inch from the mouth when, suddenly, a warning light blazed within his mind. Gasping, he tore his mouth away and looked at Severus' parted lips. He heard very clear, the sharp and icy voice in his head:
I didn't allow you to do such a thing, Potter.
Memories came back abruptly, suddenly dousing him with cold water and cooling his enthusiasm. The fog obscuring his eyes disappeared, and Harry saw that Snape was looking at him with surprise. Harry, feeling sadness, lowered his head and looked away, not wanting Severus to see the pain in his eyes. He noted that Snape's hands were back on the arms of the chair: at one point he must have removed them. Apparently Snape didn't want to embrace him. As if it was too hard.
He couldn't make even that small gesture?
A spark of defiance flared up in Harry. If Severus decided to be so stubborn ...
Harry bit his lip and turned away. The excitement evaporated, as if being cooled down by a cold chagrin.
"It's late," he said quietly. "I have to go."
It was a miserable lie. It was just after dinner. He slipped from Severus lap and looked at him. The man's eyes were half closed, eyebrows furrowed, and his mouth tightened. Fire was burning in his eyes, but it wasn't arousal. This was fire of anger and disappointment.
Harry swallowed hard and turned away, moving toward the door. When he was near it, he heard a quiet growl:
He stopped and turned around. Snape's face was thoughtful. It looked as if he wanted to say something, as if fighting with himself. And he probably won, because he gave up, licked his lips, and looked into the fire.
"Come on Friday evening," he said quietly, in a toneless voice.
"I'll try," the Gryffindor said, watching a shadow cast Severus' face. But he didn't look at Harry - only nodded firmly. Harry put his hand on the doorknob. "Goodnight, Severus." Those were his last words to the man before he opened the door, passed through the office, and went out into the corridor, where he was finally able to take a deep breath.
He felt like he'd been fighting in a very hard and very difficult battle. He was tired. He'd fought bravely, but was defeated. He didn't get what he wanted. He was left with nothing. But at the same time, Harry felt victorious. He'd dictated the terms. When Snape hadn't met them, he went out and left him alone, aroused, but unsatisfied. He hadn't broken, so he'd been able to give Severus a lesson. And on Friday, Harry would find out if Snape learned it...
He smiled to himself.
He hadn't been thrown away. He'd decided himself to leave at the right time. He'd saved his pride, at least this time. Now... Now, he triumphed.
But why, despite this, did he feel so... bad?
* "Crawling" by Linkin Park
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