Hiding Under the Ninth Earth
Book 02 : A Bit of All Right
by I Got Tired of Waiting (with The Book contributions by HaldolPOIM)
Part None : Introduction
Hiding Under the Ninth Earth is a continuing story of Severus Snape and Harry Potter--their relationship and life together. It's about the Muggle Wars. And it's about how two people, standing firm together, can change history.
The entire Work, when finished, will contain a series of stories, novellas, and novels comprising a total work. Each of these "stand-alone" Books or Anthologies provide a "flashback" of importance to the overall story; the Epilogues of each comprises a chapter in the larger work, "Hiding Under the Ninth Earth" and will be published in order.
A Bit of All Right, which follows this Introduction is the story of how Severus Snape and Harry Potter got together. Whether they stay together is another matter all together. Is their love strong enough to overcome deceptions and secrets they both hold? Or are these things enough to tear apart a long-standing relationship? Only time and this story will tell. Epilogue contains Chapter 01 of "Hiding Under the Ninth Earth".
Warnings : SLASH :: Mild Het :: Implied Non-Con :: Implied Turture :: Heavy Angst
Pairings : Past (Alluded): SS/LM; SS/TR; SS/OC; HP/SF; HP/FW; HP/Hufflepuff; HP/JF
Present: HP/DM; HP/SS; RW/HG; BW/FD; AD/??
A/N : Edited to "R" for FF.net--it will be noted where scenes have been edited. The unpurged NC-17 version is available at my site.
Obligatory Disclaimer : The characters belong to JK Rowling (although I don't think she quite saw them in this way) without permission and without malice. While I wish I could make money off of it, none is being earned and this piece is strictly for entertainment purposes; suing me would be pointless as I have no assets except my mind and I dare you to try and get it.
Betas : My thanks to my beta's: the ever faithful Lydia Lovestruck (who kicks ass, mainly mine and provides a much needed prop on those days when the words just won't come), the love god HaldolPOIM (practice, practice, practice), and Rainyshiny (who only gets to read the PG-13 parts). I am the luckiest of women.
Thank you's : A huge thanks to all of you who have reviewed. The response here and via e-mail has been most heartening. I will try to answer all of you I can off-line and questions will be answered in the Author Notes on my site.
Dedication : To my family who love me despite the messy house, odd hours, and my obsessions. I love you both.
Are you still here? Go. Go now. Enjoy!
I Got Tired of Waiting :: 8/2003 (rewrite 5/2004)
Hiding Under the Ninth Earth
Book 02 : A Bit Of All Right
by I Got Tired of Waiting
Part I : Severus
Chapter One : An Empty Corridor
20 June 2003 : Early Morning
"Hey Professor Snape!" The painting of a young squire in all his finery waved at him frantically. "Professor Sna-ape!" He appeared in the next painting oblivious (well, almost) to the young ladies bathing in a lake, their clothes strewn all over the bank. Their eyes followed him as he crossed the painting and left to go to the next one, their giggles and shrieks of outrage disappearing even as he did.
The two matrons having their tea in the next painting harumphed in disgust as he trod mud through their parlour. "Pro-fessor Sna-ape. Over here," he called out again.
Severus Snape's awareness of his surroundings slowly returned with the sound of the tiny man calling to him from picture to picture. He looked around him and realised the hallway he was in, while clean the last time he'd been there, was filthy with cobwebs and dust lying over every surface.
'Really, I wonder when was the last time the house-elves dusted these statues? Even in the moonlight they're a mess. Perhaps I've been remiss in my long absence.'
The thought was dismissed almost as soon as it was formed. He grumbled in self-derision, 'As if I would trade my normal nightly activities for roaming the hallways again.'
Then came the sobering reflection, 'Perhaps, I will need to get reacquainted with it again.' Shuddering, he shied away from the unhappy conjecture.
"Professor, where have you been? It's been what? Four years? Do your new pursuits interest you so much they keep you from ever visiting us?" the squire asked when it appeared he finally had Snape's attention.
"Arthur, a pleasure as always," Snape said, stopping and bowing to the young man before he was a king. He would really prefer to ignore him, but if he did, Arthur would tell Merlin, and Merlin would tell Dumbledore, and well, 'I really don't want to deal with them on top of everything else.'
Straightening, he continued walking through the empty corridors in the same sweeping manner as years past, robes billowing, following the same ingrained path. He assumed the young man would follow him.
"Tell me Professor, why are you in such a hurry?" Arthur asked jumping into the next picture, a pastoral landscape with a few Jersey cows in the background. "Ech! I really stepped in it that time," he said, shaking his foot. "Mithral's Beard, Snape! Will you please slow down! Give me a minute to scrape the shite off my shoe."
Snape slowed down and stopped, looking around him again. There was no evidence anyone had been here in a very long time. In his previous life he'd stalked wayward students up to no good after curfew in these halls. His eyes would peer in the dark for furtive movement, ears straining to hear the minute noises of people, desperately standing still, in the delighted hopes of scaring the living daylights out of them. He'd had a reputation to maintain; the stripping of House Points not merely a thing of discipline but a gratifying art. He'd enjoyed making the little buggers squirm.
Tonight however, his eyes sought no miscreants, his ears, when listening, heard no wayward footfalls, and his joy in his past endeavors lay dormant. No, tonight his intent was only to clear his head and do some serious thinking--alone if he could. So far he was grateful he'd met no one. Well, no one except Arthur.
Arthur drew even with him. "You're not very talkative this evening. Are you well?" the young man asked, sober.
Breaking his thoughts, Snape eyed the young portrait wondering, as he always had, how accurately the portrait had been painted. If it was even close to his true self, he could see where Arthur had made a formidable king; it was difficult to resist him. For reasons he'd never explored, he'd always been able to talk to this young man and had usually made time to visit with him when on his rounds. Arthur's manner and demeanor had demanded a polite formality long unused and pulled the best out of his dry sarcastic wit. He replied without rancor, "Well enough, thank you. Forgive me if I give offense. I was merely trying to think."
"And this need for thought--is this what draws you away from your warmed bed?" Snape paused, startled. Arthur merely laughed. "Oh we know all know about it. Never tell Merlin anything if you don't want it noised about."
"I'll keep it in mind. He's almost as much bother as Dumbledore," he said wryly.
"Maybe more so--he's older and had more practice," Arthur chuckled. "Although the Headmaster is kinder about it."
"I assure you, that depends entirely on what side of his wit you're on," he observed, thinking of a few choice instances where he'd definitely been on the wrong side.
"I hear you're sleeping better now, Professor, no longer the insomniac," he said slyly.
Snape's surprise made him answer honestly, "I suppose one could say that." He grimaced with his following thought, 'Or at least I was.'
Arthur thoughtfully considered him before observing, "Maybe before, but not tonight? What has changed Professor?" he asked, curious in the thoughtless way young men have.
Snape snorted. 'Why not? It's not like Albus doesn't already know.' With some irony he replied, "The bed is not--warmed--tonight." Snape found he could not hold Arthur's eyes long, filled as they were with an indefinable something that could either be taken as pity--or compassion. It was hard to tell.
Arthur cocked his head at him. "Is it completely cold?" he asked.
'Now, that's an interesting question. Is it cold?' Giving it some thought, he replied, "Not completely, no."
"Then it seems to me you stand a good chance of getting it warm again," Arthur remarked, shrugging.
'Do I? Can I?' Out loud he said, "Perhaps but not if I don't know what the problem is."
Arthur regarded Snape a long moment as if reading his thoughts--and his desires. "Perchance, you would prefer to be alone--to think, Professor?"
"If it's no offense to you, yes I actually would," he replied quietly. He looked up about to apologise, when the expression on Arthur's face stopped him. This was not a person upset with a rebuff. This was a king-in-the-making knowing when to leave well enough alone.
"I will leave you to it, friend Professor. Buck up, it's not as bad as you think," he said cryptically.
"Thank you for your consideration, Arthur. As always it has been a pleasure. Do stop by sometime; you know where the frame is." Snape gave him another little bow.
Arthur moved his head to the side, a little embarrassed. "Here I chastise you for being such a stranger when I have been equally remiss." He laughed sheepishly. "I will see you, friend." He turned to go back to his painting. As a parting shot he looked over his shoulder and said, "I have heard from Violet and the Fat Lady that the one who warms your bed is even now returning to it. Perhaps, it is time for you to retire as well." With a wink and a smile far too old for his young face he was gone.
He continued on his walk alone, deep in thought. It felt strange to be up this late again--or early depending on one's perspective. Previously a restless insomniac, he usually went to bed at a reasonable hour and, after some more--adult--pursuits, slept like a baby. Instead of crawling from his bed at dawn, feeling worse than when he'd finally got to sleep, he now awoke most mornings refreshed and ready to start his day. The sound sleep, not to mention the sometimes--charming--ways he was awakened, gave an extra sting to the interminable reprimands he still gave his capricious students and piquant to the roguish sarcasm given to the staff.
No one really noted the change until they came under the lash of his sharp tongue. Mystified, they would realise the hated, biting sarcasm of previous years had mellowed into something approaching ironic humour; struggling, they would try to fathom when the change had occurred. He, however, had no such difficulty. He could pinpoint the start of the whole metamorphosis to within a few seconds after Harry Potter had finally become his lover.
Right before turning another corner, his boots making a lonely sound in the dusty unused corridor, he almost missed the sultry voice calling out to him. "Why hullo, handsome. Aren't you even going to stop and chat?"
His head snapped up, his attention focused on his surroundings. He stopped, chagrined, to find he was striding through her corridor, and he hadn't even noticed. He felt vaguely ashamed. Retracing his steps, he returned to stand in front of a portait of a middle-aged woman with hair so shiny black it was almost blue. Her face bore the remnants of a once breath-taking beauty now turned hard and unforgiving, but her azure eyes hid kindness, and her lush mouth had the lines of someone who was perpetually amused by everything that passed under her gaze.
He cut her a bow, saying, "Cerise, please forgive me. I can only claim a pressing distraction that I missed seeing where I was and your lovely face."
She shook her head in mock disdain, her voice low and smoky. "I see some things never change. Always the flatterer, eh, Severus?"
He laughed out loud at this, knowing she'd seen him in real life (and later as this painting) in more foul moods than any human had a right to tolerate. During his days as a spy, Cerise had been the only person he could ever open up to honestly; she had in more ways than one saved his sanity in the whole nasty business. A "Madame" by profession, she'd run the only bordello in Hogsmeade, "The Randy Rooster". It had died when she did, the men and women within going to Knockturn Alley as a result.
"Well, if I flatter, it's only because you inspire me to," he said with a smirk.
She tilted her head at him, devilment in her eyes. "Severus, Severus, Severus. Whatever am I going to do with you? You never change, do you? You're still as 'charming' now as you were the first time I rescued you off the streets and still using that honeyed tongue of yours to lap your way out of trouble. So tell me, what distracts you tonight that you could pass me by, unseen?"
"Harry, what else?" he asked, shrugging.
She shook her head, the corner of her mouth twisting. "Why does that not surprise me? You're wearing that 'beat-me-my-lover-hates-me-I'm-down-and-depressed' look. Horrible to experience, wonderful for business."
He had to smile. She returned it, saying, "Let me see, the last time we talked was what, a year ago?" At his nod she continued, "If I recall, Harry was in school and everything was smooth." She paused and leant closer to him, her voice low and confidential. "But you know how us pictures tell a thousand words--the rumours have been rather strong lately about the two of you and given the way you're pounding down the corridor, I'm almost convinced they're right. So, I ask you again, sweet Severus, what's on your mind? And, none of your lovely prevarication either," she lightly scolded him.
He sighed, shifting his feet, uncomfortable. He might have once been able to talk to Cerise about almost anything; however, this was a bit more personal than previous conversations. The moment the thought ran through his mind, he knew it wasn't true. He'd met Cerise in his early 20's when she'd rescued him staggering in from a Death Eater meeting. She'd 'given' him his first and only woman when he was 22 and even though the woman had been kind and thorough, it had been a frightful experience; Cerise had never laughed at him for it. She knew most of his dirty little secrets about Lucius and his days of spying. One thing he'd always known, always counted on--Cerise could keep a secret and had ever been his friend.
He cleared his throat. "I have no idea where to begin--"
She chuckled, a wicked throaty sound. "Well, most folks start at the top and work their way down, but in your case? I find starting in the 'middle' usually works best."
He smiled weakly. Looking him over, she continued, "Must be very bad then if I can't even get a rise out of you. Tell me, Severus. What's on your mind?"
He decided it couldn't hurt--she's always given him sound advice in the past. Trying to keep his voice level, he said, "This makes the fourth night in a row Harry's been late back to our rooms without a handy excuse--any excuse. And I'm worried. Well, not in the sense that Harry's had a broom accident on the way home or is in some kind of serious trouble, although it wouldn't be any stretch of the imagination to think so. Harry has always been trouble--one way or another."
She chuckled. "Trouble? That's strange coming from you, Severus, with all you got into." Her face took a more serious cast. "So he hasn't been home for a few nights? This is a disaster?" She eyed his austere face. The hard edges in her face smoothed a bit as she asked softly, "What concerns you then, friend?"
Severus shook his head. "I'm not so young anymore, Cerise. Maybe I'm getting too old. I have to wonder if the 21 year gap between us is too large to span anymore? At 22 he's so young. Perhaps I'm too stodgy and old-fashioned? Unable to provide the experiences Harry seems to crave lately? Perhaps he regrets our decision?" His voice slowed and grew pained, "Is he off philandering in a different sort of trouble? Maybe he's off with someone else more able to give him what he needs?"
The mere thought of it made a sore spot in the pit of his stomach. If he was truthful with himself--and he usually was--Harry's possible infidelity was not something he could fault him for; they'd made no overt promises, no verbal declarations of affection. Not that he'd ever set him any kind of good example. After all, he'd stolen him right out from under Draco Malfoy's watchful nose in the first place. 'Of course, my theft probably had more to do with the 'emotional' side of what I offered than any real sex appeal on my part.'
She snorted with derision. "Pshaw. Age has little to do with appeal. Look at me. Your portrayal of me was quite accurate and yet I had no problem attracting men or women for that matter. Severus, you may not be a shagbunny, but I'd like to think there's a certain appeal in maturity and experience. Don't sell yourself so short. And this is Harry we're discussing. I think perhaps you're blind--I've seen the way that boy looks at you, Severus."
"That may be, but I haven't seen him enough in the last few months to know if he still looks at me that way. I don't think I'm 'selling myself short', as you say. I suppose, on further reflection, I'm really worried about Harry's apparent boredom with the physical side of our relationship. Tell me Cerise, are the other attributes I have to offer--stability and commitment, a sincere desire to see him succeed, a warm pair of arms, and affection--not the even trade I'd supposed they were? Are they not enough to cover for my apparent lack of imagination in the bedroom?"
She chided him gently, "Severus, with the passion you have for life, I cannot fathom you being boring at anything. But that's not all you're worried about, is it?"
"No, it's not." He hesitated, then thinking about what she used to do, he shrugged. "Maybe it's inevitable; Harry is young, extremely attractive, beautiful even--at the prime of his life. Perhaps he wants to experiment--wants variety. You know my past--I think I'm too old for that kind of thing. I want a steadier, more stable relationship than Harry seems able or maybe even willing to provide." The thought made him heavy-hearted; they'd had four good years together. He'd been hoping for a lifetime more. "And of course, I never told him my intentions or how I felt about him, which makes me twice the fool."
One could see from her glare at him where he got his from. "Severus Snape! Since when did you ever feel sorry for yourself? I assure you, it's most unbecoming. Now leave off the 'little Nellie' act and talk to me. I can't help you if I don't know what's wrong!"
He chuckled; no one scolded quite like Cerise, and made you feel good about it afterwards. "Oh all right. It started a bit over a year ago. Our--physical--relationship started to lag, and there were actually long strings of consecutive nights when all we did was sleep. I didn't think much of it at first, but over the subsequent months Harry has become a little more distant, a little less inclined to share or to talk, less interested in the sex and our relationship. He's been very distracted; the only thing not suffering is his studies."
With Harry finishing up his university degree via Owl in the Healing Arts in the evenings and his apprenticeship to Madame Pomfrey during the days, it took very little for Severus to imagine Harry was tired all the time. And with good reason given what he was trying to accomplish. He laughed, shaking his head. "As often as I exhorted him to better academics when he was still a student at Hogwarts, I can't believe I'm grousing about his dedication to his studies now."
She laughed with him, a merry sound in the deserted corridor. "Well it does seem a bit silly, coming from you," she declared.
Severus continued, "No, I suppose my first mistake was to leave him be and just offer a warm haven on those nights he staggered in and fell into bed asleep before he was even horizontal. Although, I've always found it rather kills the mood when the other person is snoring through the whole thing." His lips held a parody of a smile. "And I'd thought it was readily apparent there were many times I would've preferred him studying the fascinating uses of skin and friction with me rather than the properties of bandages and poultices by himself." His levity gave way to worry. "I have to wonder now if Harry saw it that way at all, or if he thought I was ignoring him?"
She gave a low chuckle. "Who, you? Ignore that delicious boy? This I cannot imagine." When he failed to respond, the amusement faded from her face. "I am curious, though. Why didn't you get involved with his school work? You are a teacher after all."
"I'm his lover, Cerise, not his teacher, at least not in this." He stopped and took a steadying breath; getting irritated with her would serve no purpose other than hurting her. He noted the careworn lines around her eyes and mouth had deepened into an almost sad expression he'd caused more often than he cared to admit during his younger days whenever he'd been careless or hateful with his words.
His even tone his only apology, he continued, "I try to keep my nose out of it. I hate people reading over my shoulder and was just trying to give Harry every consideration I would want. In terms of Harry's chosen profession, I have very little to do with it other than answering questions when asked and grading a potion he may need for a class. Actually, I've been pleased to do so; Harry has turned out quite talented in that regard. It's a rare moment when I have to make him start over and do it again. It's really too bad he applied himself so late in his schooling; he'd have made a fine Potions Master."
Cerise almost hid her smile. "Somehow I can't see you living with the 'competition', Severus."
He chuckled. "You're right again. As it turns out, I think my assumption, in the long run, has proved correct because Harry leaves me well alone in my work, except to occasionally come down to the lab in the evenings, sometimes to help with the preparations but mostly to keep me company before we retire together." He thought sadly, 'I'd always considered those long evenings together in the lab a type of subtle foreplay, certainly a most satisfactory experience.' He shook his head at the thought, "Or at least he used to."
In fact, Severus was very pleased with the intellectual side of their relationship as well. After sifting through all the layers Harry had built up around him, Severus had found, at the core, an extremely intelligent young man with a love for puzzles and mysteries of all kinds.
Cerise startled him out of his reverie. "You know, you never did tell me how you two got together. One day you were your irascible lonely self, the next you had Harry Potter. You left an awful lot missing in the middle."
Severus retorted with heated disbelief, "Cerise, you don't expect me to stand here all bloody night and give you the blow-by-blow, do you?"
She coughed politely. "Are you a wizard or not, Severus? Quit your grousing. If the seating arrangements displease you, then do something about it. Besides, I don't want the small details, just the juicy ones." She arched her brow at him. "While I admit, I did tell you I wanted you to place me somewhere I could get some rest, I certainly did not count on dying a second time from boredom. Oh, in the beginning it was all right, a few students showed up every now and again with their innocent love play. It was actually rather sweet. A few even came to me for advice, but not anymore."
She gave him the pouting moue so many men had fallen prey to. "And it's all your fault I'm so alone now--you chased all the lovers away. It's been months since anyone passed this way--surely you can keep me company for a little while longer?" she wheedled.
Snape rolled his eyes and sighed at her low chuckle. Resigned, he looked around the corridor. Spying a bench further down, a simple flick of his wand and a muttered spell found the seat floating over to him to settle in front of her life-size, seated portrait. He then lowered the frame so they were almost eye-to-eye. "Better?" he asked, his lips twitching.
"Infinitely. This is quite cosy. Now if I just had a drop of whiskey--?" She laughed. "No? Well, I suppose I can make do with the tea you and the painter thought more suitable for me--"
He winced and decided to ignore the old jibe. The painter had put it in before he could correct him--Cerise liked her fire whiskey. He cleared his throat. "Harry started out in Auror training--not, mind you, he'd been allowed much of a choice given who he was and that damned prophesy. With the defeat of Voldemort over four years ago, Harry'd been so weary of all the fighting and the deaths, he decided not to continue as an Auror--much to the dismay of almost everyone involved. Excepting Albus and me. We'd both been at his side when Voldemort finally fell; only we truly knew what the victory had cost him."
He conjured up a table and a pitcher of water with a glass. "We'd all looked forward to the next stages of our lives--some more than others. Harry's resulting emptiness after the last battles was how I stole him in the first place."