Author: Adrienne Wolter (catsncritters).
Summary: A potion's accidental side effects were passed down an ancient bloodline for centuries, before they reached the one that needed them.
Rating: R. M. Whatever. To be safe.
Warnings: Harry/Severus Snape slash! Snarry! GAYNESS! And, er, a very procrastinating author.
Reviews: Very much appreciated, but not required. If you have confusions I will try and resolve them by answering you in the next chapter. I also appreciate long, constructively-criticizing reviews on writing technique! In two years I want to be a creative writing major, and I'm already used to constructive criticism on other writing - slam me with it! Point out every little nitty gritty typo and error and out-of-character remark I make! This story doesn't have a beta (I procrastinate too much, I'd drive all but the most lenient of betas insane), so all the mistakes are mine. I plan to clean this story up someday, and constructive criticism can only make a writer better!
Archive: Ask first.
Noted: Please don't die. Really, I don't mean to give you all heart attacks from the speed at which I'm suddenly updating. I'm thinking maybe I can write this between everything else, and hopefully finish it before another school year goes by during which I don't update. And, hey, look, this story's two years old today!
I toyed with the idea of calling this chapter "The Chapter In Which the Author Realizes She Overuses Italics." Beware.
He threw his robes to the corner in disgust. They folded, and on top of them, his dress shirt and pants folded themselves, too. He sat on his bed, holding his head in his hands, mussing up the wisps of hair he'd tried to keep perfect all day, and for what purpose? To impress H–the Potter boy? He tugged the cord that tied it out of his hair, flinging it away from him, not noticing where it landed. He was sure a house elf would find it eventually.
Severus wasn't sure why he cared so much.
It had been the plan, hadn't it, to stay away from Potter? Be as cold as he'd always been, never hint at anything that may lead him to wonder. And yet, Albus insisted on arranging it so that he must spend an entire hour every Saturday evening, alone in a room with the boy. And what had it done? The exact opposite.
He was disgusted with himself about how all this had progressed. Honestly. Potter was still only sixteen, and Severus had been making out with his image for the past month, then dreaming of replacing it with the real thing. It was pathetic; morally wrong, even.
He pressed on his closed eyes with the heels of his hands until he saw burned-in black and white circles, like he used to do as a teenager. It was calming.
The bed dipped in beside him, and he snarled. "Why did you come back, anyway? To encourage irrational thought before reality set in? You are nothing like him. He's not gay." The vision was quiet. Severus fumed for a few seconds longer. "How is this happening? How are the Potter boy and I soulmates? This has to be some cruel punishment from the Dark Lord. He had plenty of time to curse me before the trials, didn't he?" More silence. "Or maybe it was Albus." He rubbed at his eyes, sore from being pressed in so hard. "That would be just like him, wouldn't it? To try to put some semblance of a relationship in my life to–to what?"
"Distract me from myself? Make me more normal?"
"I won't stand for it. This can't–"
"What?" He growled and whipped around, eyes flying open, to face his left, where Vision-Harry was sitting patiently. "Are you going to–"
Severus' mouth closed with a snap. He glared at the floor stones.
"Go grade tests or something."
"I finished them while–I finished them."
"Then go make more."
He lay back next to Severus, lying horizontally across the bed, arms outstretched on either side, effortlessly taking up the entire bed. He shut his eyes, yawned with the gawkiness of a teenager. As he watched, the Slytherin's mouth twitched, leaving him somewhere in the fuzzy grey area between amusement and annoyance. His anger was now leaving him in torrents, leaving nothing behind but tiredness.
Somehow, he fell asleep, and when he awoke in the middle of the night, Vision-Harry was nestled comfortably in his arms, asleep with him. The other puzzle piece.
-point of view switch-
Harry maneuvered through the halls mechanically. How many times had he gone between the dungeons and Gryffindor tower over the past five years? But today he did it slowly, and by the time he got back to the common rooms it was half past eight.
Ron and Hermione were in the corner by the stairs up to the boys' dorms, playing chess. Hermione wasn't losing as spectacularly as she usually did, most likely due to the fact that Ron appeared to be explaining to her exactly why he was making each move as he made it. For the first time since he'd left them earlier for his lesson, he smiled. It was much less worrisome here, the whole Snape thing, surrounded by the comfort of red and gold and his friends.
"Hey, mate," Ron said, and invited him to sit down. This seemed to make Hermione lose her concentration, and she leaned back from the chess board, squeezing her eyes shut for a few seconds. She offered Harry a smile.
"Hey guys," he said, and sat on the chair between theirs. "How are you?"
"We're good. How was your lesson?" Hermione beamed at him. Ron didn't seem to notice her excitement, stretching in his seat and yawning. "Anything exciting happen?"
Harry sent her a sour look while his other friend wasn't looking. "It was fine. He lectured about the theory behind Occlumency the whole time."
"I'm sorry for you," Ron said, grinning. "That sounds about as exciting as Binns' class." His face rumpled into a look of mock nostalgia. "Oh, how much I don't miss that class."
"It wasn't that bad," Harry admitted, poking one of Hermione's pawns, which growled at him. "Occlumency, that is. It's kind of interesting, I mean, there's a whole lot more mind magic than just what I'm learning."
"I think Professor Snape's building a much stronger foundation by teaching you the theory first," Hermione added.
"Well, he learned the first time, didn't he?" Ron replied, capturing one of his girlfriend's knights. His castle punted it off the side of the board.
Hermione hastily lost the game of chess ("What happened, Hermione? You were doing so good before!") and out came the Prophet articles. Ron moved the board off the table, and they spread them out in front of them, so they could all be seen at once, and started rereading them, looking for some kind of connection.
"You know," she said finally, staring at the article she'd first shown Harry, the day he'd arrived at the Burrow. "What if this is all a distraction? What if they're doing something else that no one's even cared to notice because they're too busy in this crisis with all the dead patients?"
"But why would they use a hospital for a distraction?" Harry asked. "If they want a distraction, they can go attack any old clump of wizards in Hogsmeade or wherever. Why St. Mungo's?"
"I don't know," Hermione said, finally relinquishing the clipping to pick up another, shorter one. It detailed the deaths of three patients under intensive care for magical ailments and diseases. "It doesn't make much sense when you put it that way, I guess."
Ron had been silent a very long time, so it surprised them both when he spoke up. "What if they're using the attacks to cover up something they're doing in the hospital?"
A pause. "Like what?" Hermione looked like she was on the edge of her chair.
"Like..." Ron was rubbing his finger in a crescent created by a burn on the table. "I don't know. Maybe they're stealing stuff."
"Do they even think about taking inventory, when everything's smashed up and they have to deal with people being dead, too?" Harry asked.
Ron stared at the wood grain, exactly between two articles. "What do they have that's valuable in a wizard hospital?"
"What do they have in the infirmary?" Harry asked.
"Medicine," said Ron.
"Duh," said Hermione. "Potions." She wrung her hands compulsively. "Potions for curing people, very sophisticated potions, not things that are easy to make. They don't have a potionmaker, do they? They haven't for some time now."
The three of them shared an anxious look, then distractedly eyed a third-year who was retiring to his dorm, passing close to their table. Ron broke into a yawn.
"Okay. Well, there weren't any attacks yesterday or today, so we can wait until the morning to tell Dumbledore, right?" Harry asked, a little nervously, as beside him his friend stretched.
"That should be okay," said Hermione, biting her lip. Harry knew that if anything happened overnight, she would feel partially responsible for not telling anyone.
They retreated to some other, less important topics for a few minutes. Soon after that, Ron retreated to the dorms to sleep, saying goodnight to his friends.
"So," Hermione began, as soon as the dorm room door had clicked shut. The common room seemed considerably emptier now. "Anything exciting happen during Occlumency that you couldn't mention in front of Ron?"
"I said," Harry told her. "It was just a big lecture."
"That's all?" She looked disappointed.
"Yeah." Harry made a face. "And, okay, I had to go and be stupid right before I left. I told him I liked his hair."
"What'd he say?"
"He said he'd consider it, and thanks for the suggestion."
"No." Hermione looked incredulous. "You sure you didn't mishear him? Maybe he said, 'I'll consider it, and fifty points from Gryffindor.'"
"No, I heard him right, we were practically ten centimeters apart."
"That's weird, Harry," Hermione said, seriously. "Something's really wrong with Professor Snape. We should tell Professor Dumbledore."
"I don't know," said Harry, scratching the back of his neck. "It's not like he's really doing anything. I mean, anything wrong."
"Alright," she said, hesitantly. "But I'm kind of worried. If anything too weird happens, we need to tell him, okay?"
"Okay," agreed Harry. Soon he went up to bed, too, trying to suppress images of tall, pale men in swishy robes cupping his face with long, thin fingers. Instead he tried to replace the image with something female: long, shiny blonde hair, his fingers running through it gently. It was safe enough, wasn't it?
Sometime during the night, though, the hair he was dreaming about became wispy and black.
-point of view switch-
Hermione wasn't one to go about breaking rules. Being a prefect, she scolded those who did, even her best friends. But tonight, she wouldn't be able to clear her conscious unless she told the headmaster about their suspicions. So she left the tower, even though it was well past curfew, and walked speedily and silently to the hallway which led to his office, and was relieved to find him exiting at that exact moment.
"Good evening, Miss Granger," he greeted her cheerily, standing thoughtfully before the closed entrance to his tower, in light blue pajamas covered with owl motifs. "I'm trying to think of a new password. Any suggestions?"
No scolding for being out after curfew. No questions asked. She smiled. Harry had mentioned Professor Dumbledore's sweets passwords before. She remembered the sugarless, individually-wrapped ones her parents used to give out at the office, the ones she'd steal from the little box by the register and hide under the desk, quietly opening and gorging on them. "When I was little, I really liked lifesavers." She'd roll the circles around on her tongue until they melted away.
"Lifesavers it is!" said Dumbledore, and the entry to his office opened up, and he led her inside. She felt a little guilty for making him go back up into his office, which he'd obviously just left, but he didn't seem to mind. He was even humming a little as they circled their way up to the top. When they got there, they went through his door and each sat on squishy chairs. "What's concerning you?"
Hermione set the pile of newspaper clippings the trio had collected onto his desk. His smile vanished, and he glanced through them. "We've been following the St. Mungo's attacks for some time. Ron, Harry, and I, I mean." She cleared her throat a little. "We've been trying to figure them out for ages. And I think tonight we may have come up with why the Death Eaters keep attacking."
"Go on," he encouraged her.
"We believe that the attacks are just to shift the focus of the news coverage. We think they're stealing medicinal potions from the hospital."
The headmaster was silent for a moment. "I do believe they have been missing potions when they clean up the wards that keep getting destroyed. They were hoping that the missing potions were simply destroyed in the onslaught, but do realize that they were probably stolen."
"They already knew?" Hermione asked. Her cheeks burned. It had been obvious to everyone else. They'd spent more than a month trying to solve what had already been discovered. "Why wasn't it written about in the Prophet?"
"So the Death Eaters don't know we're on to them, I imagine."
"Well, it doesn't really seem to be doing much good," she said, still feeling shameful.
"No," he said, staring off into space for a moment. "No, it doesn't." He ran a hand through his beard. "They are planning to ship the more difficult to produce medicines to safer places, however."
Nothing, for a few moments.
"Was that all?"
Hermione nodded, thinking of her conversation with Harry. It wasn't like he told her she couldn't tell the headmaster. "No, actually."
"Well, it's just that Professor Snape's been acting rather strangely lately."
For the first time since she'd mentioned St. Mungo's, the sparkle seemed to return to his eyes. "Oh?"
"He... didn't seem well during our first few classes. He kept stumbling, and looked very stressed. And recently..." she trailed off for a moment. Recently, what? He'd been acting ready to seduce her best friend? She supposed it hadn't progressed nearly that far, but from the way Harry described his Occlumency lessons... "Recently, he's seemed to be acting... differently with Harry."
Dumbledore wasn't making this easy at all.
"Um. I don't know. More civilly." She supposed that was the easiest way to explain it. And it safely hid away the other half of the issue, the part Harry seemed to be stressing about, the reasoning behind it all.
The headmaster was silent for a long while. "I believe that, given the current situation, that is understandable."
She blinked. "What?" She didn't understand. "What current situation?"
He smiled. "Severus has recently had a... change of heart. He discovered something very personal and now must decide whether he will accept it or fight it."
Hermione had so many more questions, but like the model student she was, she nodded, in respect for her professor's privacy. She stood, and Dumbledore did, too.
"Good night, Miss Granger."
-point of view switch-
Before he awoke, he was seated at the front, center desk in the Potions classroom. He was the only student there, and Snape was out of his line of vision–behind him, that's where the man was, leaning over him, breathing in his ear. His essay was a paragraph short of completion. Harry's breath hitched.
"Hardly satisfactory," Snape was saying. "Though your work rarely is."
Harry shuddered, feeling the lightest brush of the man's long hair against his neck. Then he felt fingers: long, thin, pale, turning his face to the side. Soft lips, feather kisses. Harry whimpered into the kiss.
That was when he woke up. His pajamas felt uncomfortable on his skin, which was dotted with goose bumps, the hairs on his arms standing up. He'd pushed his blanket off during the night, but now he wrapped it around himself, tightly, and hugged the excess to his chest. He squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to imagine he was kissing Snape, just for a few minutes longer.
He jumped, the mattress below him squeaking as he threw his arms apart, relinquishing his pretend hold on his Potions Master. What was he thinking? I'm not gay, he reminded himself, but felt a twinge in his chest as he thought it. He didn't even believe himself. He tried to think about Cho, her eyes crinkling as she smiled, the face he had fancied himself to be in love with for so long cracking into a grin. There we go.
Her thick-lipped smile thinned, her eyes darkened, her face became the slightest bit slimmer and paler. Damnit.
It was only seven-thirty. Breakfast wouldn't start for half an hour, but Harry threw back the comforter, passed the beds of his sleeping dorm mates, and went down to the common room, still in pajamas. Hermione was awake, as he'd suspected. He sat himself on the couch facing her. She was reading from a book about spellwork in medicine. "Good morning, Harry."
"'Morning," he said. He fidgeted.
"I have–" he started, just as Hermione said, "Last night–"; he gestured for her to start, smiling nonchalantly.
"Last night, after you went to bed, I went to talk to Professor Dumbledore." When Harry didn't say anything, she went on. "I told him about what we realized about St. Mungo's and he said it's true, they were stealing potions. And they are doing something about it, just not fast enough."
"What are they doing?"
"Just moving some of the potions to more stable locations. They haven't published anything in the Prophet about it at all." She looked down at the paper in her lap, face apologetic. "And I mentioned how Snape was acting strange."
"And?" Harry felt something weird, like his insides were being drained out. It only lasted a second, though. It wasn't anything, really.
"Professor Dumbledore said... oh, I forget what he said exactly. Something about how Snape found something out that he could either accept or fight. He had a 'change of heart,' I think he said." She shrugged. "What were you going to say?"
I have a problem. Harry smiled at her again. I think I'm gay. "Oh, nothing," he lied. 'A change of heart?' he wondered for a moment.
"Alright," she said, and picked up the news again. "Nothing again today. I guess that's good."
"Guess so," agreed Harry. His mind was preoccupied now, thinking about Snape, wondering what it could possibly be that Snape had learned. It would be something he wouldn't like, something would try with all his might to argue with before giving in, because that's probably what Dumbledore wanted. Something involving himself, judging by the way the man was acting. He really had no idea. Unless the Slytherin had decided he was gay, but the thought was really quite stupid. He was intimidating. Cold. The idea of Snape being gay, too, was similar to the idea of Dudley suddenly wizening up, doing his homework, and graduating valedictorian. Laughable. Unlikely. All but impossible.
Gay, too. Harry grimaced. He really didn't know what to do. Hermione would just reassure him that it was perfectly normal, what was there to sweat about? You're still Harry, she'd tell him.
Maybe this Snape thing was just a phase. Maybe in two weeks he'd think back and question his stupidity, wonder what the hell had been wrong with him. Really, what good would a–he scowled at the sound of the word–crush on any Professor, especially Professor Snape, do? Absolutely nothing. And if the man found out...
Oh, that would be hell.
"You sure nothing's on your mind, Harry?" Hermione asked, looking concerned, and Harry realized his face was pinched into a sour look.
"Er." No, actually, I don't know what to do about my crush on our potions professor. Any suggestions? "Yes, I'm sure."