TITLE: Veritas Vos Liberabit
DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling, etc.
BETA: The Outstanding ShadowPhoenix
NOTES: Okay, I've been totally dry lately when it comes to ideas for writing. It's like some sort of writers' version of erectile dysfunction. Anyhow, I finally came up with this, but I don't know if I'm out of the slump, yet. ShadowPhoenix assured me the end was good, but I thought it was too…I dunno. Concrit on that bit would be especially welcome.
SUMMARY: Another of my humorous takes on a 'cliché' fic idea. Harry is just about to graduate from Hogwarts, and there are some things that Severus doesn't want to get off his chest. Unfortunately, he doesn't get much of a choice.
Veritas Vos Liberabit
If you wish to astonish the whole world, tell the simple truth.
"Mister Potter!" Snape growled, leaning over Harry's cauldron to glare at the young man. "What, exactly, do you call this," he waved his hand, indicating the bubbling potion, "Unmitigated disaster?"
Potter's cheeks coloured. "Er. Veritaserum, sir?"
Snape planted his hands on either side of the cauldron. "Wrong. What consistency should Veritaserum be when it is finished, Mister Malfoy?" he asked, eyes still locked on Potter's.
Granger's hand was waving wildly about, but everyone ignored it.
"It should be as thick as cream, sir, and totally clear," Malfoy responded, smiling smugly.
"Correct, Mister Malfoy. Five points to Slytherin. What consistency is this, Mister Potter?"
Harry glanced down at his brew, swallowing several times. "Uh…not as thick as cream, sir?"
The Potions Master's lip curled. "What fantastic analytical skills you've developed, Potter. This is, in fact, the weakest measure of Veritaserum that I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. What have you to say for yourself?" he inquired in a clipped voice.
The world exploded in a shower of runny Veritaserum.
When Severus Snape managed to get to his feet, he discovered that he'd been drenched by Potter's defective brewing efforts. Carefully wiping his face with his robes, he scowled down at the youth, who'd managed to stay completely dry, since Snape had been leaning far over the potion and took the brunt of the deluge. How very like my luck, Severus thought. Malfoy was snickering behind his hand, while Granger scrambled to get the leftover ingredients away from the puddling potion.
Harry was horror-struck. "Oh, I—I really didn't mean for that to happen; I think I just missed the bit about letting it sit for five minutes before turning on the heat, and you're completely going to kill me, aren't you?" He was wiping frantically, if ineffectually, at the desktop with a towel Granger had transfigured out of some parchment.
Snape took a deep breath. "That. Was. The single most exasperatingly disgraceful excuse for a potion I've seen outside of any brewed by Longbottom. Potter, do you realize that since you've entered your seventh year you've melted two cauldrons, afflicted the entire class with seizures when you let the fumes from your Spasming Draught get out of control, in one memorable instance turned yourself puce, and on three separate occasions emptied my entire classroom in ten seconds flat when your efforts threatened to get out of control? It boggles my mind, but for the life of me I swear that if I switched you with Longbottom, it might even be an improvement."
Harry was staring at his shoes, looking rather dejected for someone who'd defeated Voldemort over a month ago, had been offered a spot on the Lancaster Lightning before he'd even finished school, and had won Witch Weekly's latest award for 'Most Charming Demeanour'—an award that was almost unquestionably made up just for him. "I know, sir. I'm really sorry. I don't know why I'm so bad at Potions," he finally said in a subdued voice.
Severus, rather taken aback by this uncharacteristic humility, spent a moment glaring at the rest of the class before returning that piercing gaze to the wiry youth before him. "You are the second most worthless potions brewer ever to grace this earth," the man finally said. "You didn't even get into this class on merit. If the Headmaster hadn't been absolutely intent on parking your vapid, drooling intellect in my class, you'd have rightfully joined Longbottom in his ignominy." Potter winced at this. "Clean up your mess, get the hell out of my sight, and never return," Snape instructed, and watched the creature do as he was told, his face a picture of misery.
"That wasn't a very nice thing to say," Granger found the courage to remark after the boy had fled the room and the rest of the class was cleaning up.
Snape had an odd feeling of unease at this, but shrugged it off. "Who the bloody hell cares?" he demanded. "It was the perfect truth!"
Severus had the first inkling that something was wrong when he sat down at lunch beside Lupin—he of the cowardly mien and obnoxious diplomacy—who had returned to take up the reins of Defence Professor once more. The Potions Master said nothing as he slid into his usual seat, dipping his spoon into his tomato soup with, he felt, fine indifference.
"Hello, Severus," the werewolf had the gall to say. "Lovely weather we're having, isn't it? It's been so nice the past few days that I decided to buy myself a lighter set of robes. Feel this fabric—it really lets you breathe."
"Hmm," replied Snape noncommittally, pointedly not touching the cloth, but glancing up to be certain his colleague could see how very unimpressed he was. "Yes, and it actually looks rather good on you," he said. He paused, blinking slowly. He turned to Lupin, who was openly staring at him in shock. "Of course, you typically dress as though you're a transient with incipient dementia and a markedly feeble grasp of aesthetic assembly, so I suppose just about anything would be an improvement."
Lupin closed his mouth. He stared suspiciously at Severus for a long moment, causing the man some anxiety. Finally, the Defence professor shook his head and went back to his food. After a moment he struck up a conversation with Flitwick, the incident already forgotten.
Snape stirred his soup with great discomfort. He had paid Lupin a compliment. What the devil was wrong with him? Looking up from his meal, he saw Potter staring at him, as he did so often these days, from the Gryffindor table. Severus arranged his face into something appropriately fearsome, and the brat flushed and looked away. The Potions Master resumed eating, feeling a little better about things. After all, the day could only improve.
Or so he'd thought, before being called up to speak with the Headmaster about 'throwing students out of their much-needed studies.' It was aggravating beyond belief.
"Harry has spent too much of his time at Hogwarts mired in intrigue and conflict. I am convinced, had he been allowed to concentrate more fully on his schoolwork, that he would be an adept potions maker," Dumbledore told the man.
Severus gave a snort of derision. "Don't pretend you're doing this out of concern for his education," he replied. Snape was mildly appalled at his own words. He rarely spoke out of turn to Dumbledore, but felt some stirring of pride at standing up to his frustrating employer.
"Whatever do you mean? Of course I have only Harry's—and your own—best interests at heart," the man protested. "I would not have otherwise entrusted his education to you."
"We both know the only reason you placed him in my care is that you have some misplaced idea about the two of us 'bonding,' and you're driven by revolting ambitions that we ought to 'learn to work together.' Your fanciful notions are turning my classroom to chaos."
"But you do need to learn to work together. I don't think such a thing would be impossible. After all, there were times that you worked very well together when plotting Voldemort's downfall."
"That was necessity, Albus. You're hoping for something more, something of our own free will, and I ought to tell you that I find the thought absurd in the extreme. The boy hates me. Now that Voldemort is dead, I'm sure I've found top honours on the list of people he despises." Snape's voice was bitter as he gazed out the window of the Headmaster's office.
"Now, Severus, be reasonable. Harry only has three days until graduation. I fail to see how letting him attend these last few classes could harm anything." Dumbledore's eyes were bright with what Severus had long ago deemed madness. "It's all just lectures from here on out. Really, what harm could it do?"
"Plenty, you daft, meddling old schemer." Severus and the Headmaster stared at one another. "Er. That is…" Snape trailed off, looking vaguely perplexed.
"Well, you never were one to sugar-coat things, were you?" Dumbledore said finally, looking amused and faintly taken aback. "I must admit that you're a bit more rancorous than usual. Are you quite all right?"
"Ah…I think so," Severus responded carefully. "I'm not sure what's going on. Certainly I've entertained thoughts of this nature about you quite frequently in the past, but I am unaccustomed to voicing them."
Albus merely smiled and sipped his tea. "Well, we all have our crosses to bear, I'm sure."
A sudden idea occurred to the Potions Master. "Dammit! It was Potter—Potter and that blasted, botched truth serum! When I get my hands on that dratted idiot, I'll—"
"Now, now. I'm sure it was an honest mistake, my dear boy. And he can't have fouled it that badly; you are, after all, speaking the truth."
"What a lucky thing that Voldemort is dead," the professor replied in a distracted voice. "I could nearly thank Potter for that, at least, except that it would probably kill me to swallow my pride to that extent." He bit his lip. "Albus, what am I going to do? I can't teach in this condition!"
"Nonsense. Why, as forthright as you generally are, I should doubt anyone will even notice. You didn't even notice until a few moments ago, and it's well past noon. Besides, I doubt it should last more than a day or so. What's the worst that could happen?"
"I could admit in front of God, England, and a cast of thousands that Granger makes the most intelligent of my Slytherins look like semi-literate apes, that I likely wouldn't have become a Death Eater if I hadn't been wallowing in misunderstood teenaged angst, and that ever since Potter grew up and stopped whinging so much I've really rather begun to find him quite attractive," Snape rushed out, unable to stop himself. He put his hands to his face, feeling panic swelling in his chest. "Oh. Dear Merlin. Please kill me now."
The Headmaster was delighted. "But that's wonderful, Severus! Just think how much progress we could make if you only opened up this way more often. I knew you didn't really hate the boy. No, no—I think this little incident could be just the ticket to get you to share a bit more with others. Remember, Severus; there are no problems—only opportunities in work clothes!"
"Abstract thought processes do not require clothing, Albus," Severus snapped at him. "And I should dearly love to tell you that I have every intention of throttling you just as soon as I was sure I could get away with it. Or at least sticking you in a very poor senior wizards care facility. But I can't, of course, because as annoying and mental as you may be, you're the closest thing I've got to a family and I'm disgustingly fond of you, so it would be a lie. Blast and damn," he added, vexed.
Dumbledore beamed at him. "I quite like you as well," he assured the man. "And do try to cheer up," he continued, as Severus began attempting to beat his head against the wall. "I'm sure everything will work out in the end."
The rest of the day was not an improvement. For starters, Severus ran into Minerva in the hall and—upon hearing someone voice the question, 'Who do you suppose will win the House Cup this year?'— spontaneously informed her that after the defeat of the Dark Lord, Gryffindor surely would, and rightly so. Still, he felt he made a masterful save by promptly adding that tartan made her look old, and her frequent expression of disapproval probably added years to the lines around her lips. She'd gasped in indignation and whacked him with her Transfiguration text in response, but he felt it was well worth it for having distracted her so thoroughly.
Things continued to go downhill after that. He complimented a Hufflepuff third year on her Dozing Draught in the afternoon, causing no end of terror and speculation, and then called one of his most promising Slytherins a smug dandy with porridge for brains. Rumours were flying. The first years were refusing to enter his classroom, and one girl fled in frightened tears when he told her that her dimples were rather becoming. He seriously considered amputating his tongue. After all, surely Poppy could grow it back after the worst was over.
Severus felt supper was probably the most unpleasant experience of the day. He hadn't even planned on attending, but Albus insisted. It was going to be a long, long time before he lived down the embarrassment of having a bowl of black pudding thrown at his head. It was probably going to be an even longer time before Madam Hooch deigned to resume speaking to him, ruffled as she was about being accused of having broomstick envy and being a rampant lesbian. Snape was certain he didn't help matters by immediately assuring her that he cared not a whit, as he was as bent as a nine-bob note as well.
The awful laughter was still ringing in his ears when he escaped to his rooms, intent on having a strong shot of something and slashing up as many end of year papers as he could get his hands on. He stalked through the halls on silent feet, radiating fury and shame, viciously deducting points from anyone with the nerve to so much as glance at him. Firewhiskey would make everything better, or so he told himself. It had to. And surely tomorrow would come, and tomorrow was another day, and he'd suffered enough, hadn't he? The fates would be kinder in the morning.
Severus stared at his bathroom mirror, his sleep-deprived eyes red and scowling. "Ask me a question," he commanded.
"Er…what is the square root of one hundred?" it responded in a puzzled voice.
Snape ground his teeth together. "Not that kind of question. Ask me something that requires my opinion. Something about, say, Gryffindors, or something of that nature."
"Uh…okay. Do you think the Gryffindors are better than the Slytherins?" the mirror finally asked somewhat apprehensively.
"Unfortunately, for the most part, yes. But that's merely because Slytherin has only managed to acquire the absolute dregs of wizarding society over the past few years, mincing morons like Malfoy and lumbering trolls like Crabbe, while the Gryffindor House was lucky enough to find itself endowed with students like the infuriatingly dazzling Boy Wonder. Fuck. It's still not gone. What the sodding hell am I going to do?"
The mirror was silent, as if contemplating this dilemma. "Dazzling?" it repeated tremulously.
"Oh, do shut up."
Snape ordered the class to read from their Potions texts, feeling that lecturing them while he didn't have sufficient control of his oral skills was probably asking for trouble. The seventh years, curious and hesitant because of the odd tales flying about concerning their Potions Master, did as they were told, muttering and exchanging looks.
"I would greatly appreciate it if you all studied in silence," he announced ominously.
This worked for a good five minutes before a knock came at the door, and everyone looked up to see Potter standing awkwardly in the entryway. "Er, I'm sorry to disturb you, sir. It's just that Dumbledore told me what happened, and I wanted to apologise."
Snape scowled. "I can honestly tell you, Mister Potter, that you are the last person in the entire world I want to see right now."
Harry smiled sadly. "I know that, sir. But I still thought I ought to apologise. I should have been paying closer attention in class."
Severus clenched his fists, nails biting into his palms. "Take your seat and get to work," he instructed brusquely.
Harry leapt to obey, much to Snape's astonishment. "Ah…what are we doing, sir?" the teen asked, glancing curiously at Hermione's open book.
"We're reading, Potter," Malfoy retorted in his arrogant drawl. "Surely even a complete cretin should be able to see that."
Potter glowered, and the Potions Master felt his shoulders begin to tense. How the hell was he supposed to sort them out if they started to brawl? He couldn't trust a damn word that came out of his own mouth today. With his luck, he'd probably start spouting nonsense about sunshine and kittens and how they should shut the hell up and learn to make due with what they had.
"Why don't you mind your own business?" the Gryffindor snarled.
"I was just trying to help Professor Snape," Draco said with false innocence. "I know he's having a trying day, and I thought I should do what I could." Harry's jaw clenched. "Besides, Professor Snape wants my assistance, don't you?"
Snape couldn't contain himself. "Of course not." He squeezed his eyes shut.
Draco turned an astonished face to the man. "What? Why not?" he demanded.
"Where do you want me to start? You're an irritating little sycophant who gets off on getting a pat on the head for a job well done, and you don't realize that you drive absolutely everyone to distraction with your snobbery and ill-concealed self-absorption. Even your closest friends think you're a spoiled, stuck up monster, and if it hadn't been for the fact that I needed your father's good graces to assist in infiltrating the Death Eaters, I should have been obscenely pleased to wrap your expensive silk pants around your neck and strangle you to death."
The entire class stared, silent and motionless.
Potter recovered after a moment or two. "Well said, sir."
Severus grimaced. "I'd thank you, but I'm sure you're well aware that I find your glowing praise irritating and meaningless. Also, your hair is a rat's nest." Knowing the effects of the Veritaserum, the man felt it would probably be best to stick to the most offensive truths possible. "And your father was a sadistic beast," he added after some thought.
"Er. All right," Potter responded, looking confused by the random remarks.
Malfoy got up and stormed from the room. "You haven't heard the last of this," he spat menacingly. "Just wait until I tell my father."
"That particular threat would be far more effective if your father weren't in Azkaban, struggling not to have his soul sucked out of any of his various orifices," the man retorted dryly. "And if you wish to tell your mother, please do. You can also add that I can cease making her youth potion at any time, and let her return to the middle aged hag she'd otherwise be." Draco didn't respond, and Snape heaved a heavy sigh, resting his forehead against his knuckles. "That's it. Class dismissed. Get out of here, you wretched vermin, before something else goes wrong. And have the last chapter read by tomorrow."
Most of the class filed out, sniggering and gossiping, but Harry hung back a moment. "Sir? Dumbledore said that he wanted me to come to the last couple of classes. But I don't have to. I mean, I can, but not if you don't want me to." He shifted from one foot to the other. "Do you want me to come back to class tomorrow?"
"No," Severus responded, biting back anything further and trying to shove the student towards the door. "And you need to leave. Now."
"I'm pretty sure we'll win the House Cup even if you take away points, sir," Harry pointed out.
"You're as arrogant as your father," Snape replied, sounding oddly relieved at the direction of the conversation.
"Why don't you want me to come back to class?" Potter persisted.
The Potions Master made a strangled groan in the back of his throat. "Because I don't know if your bloody potions blunder will have worn off by then, and I don't want to take the chance that it hasn't."
Harry really dug in his heels at that, refusing to budge another inch towards the hall. "Really? But—"
"Yes, and shut up! Stop harassing me and wasting my time! Fiend. Devil. Siren," he accused when Harry refused to shift.
"Why do you hate me so much?" the youth demanded. "You know I'm not my father. I've apologised for my own mistakes. We even worked together during the war, and worked well. I think you owe me an honest answer, and by God I'm going to get it! Why? Why do you hate me?" He glared fiercely up at the man, eyes bright.
"I don't! Augh! Get out! Get out!" Snape drew his wand and attempted to hex the brat, but Potter was far too quick, and handily disarmed him.
"Expelliarmus! There." Now that Harry had both wands, he looked a tad smug, and still very determined. "If you don't hate me, why are you shoving me away?"
Snape was livid. "Because. Because. I—dammit! Because of your nauseating sense of fair play, and how you had to be brave and risk your life to save mine when the Dark Lord discovered my true allegiances. Because we spent night after night going over and over defensive spells that might not even do any good, and you yelled and argued, bitched without end, and eventually came to respect me, blast you, and even worse, I learned to respect you. Because you're so bloody clever and asked my advice and rambled monotonously for hours about Quidditch and learned how to make the tea the way I like it! Because you grew up and filled out and turned out flaming spectacular, with your damned smile and your taut muscles, and I want you. I want to touch you and taste you and tame you; I want to worship every inch of you for who you are instead of what you've done. Because I lie awake nights wanking and picturing you and wishing I were dead because it'd be easier than an endless existence where I can never touch you at all. Because I came to trust you, of all the infuriating—and you're leaving, and good riddance, because I love you, and I can't imagine anything more humiliating than—than this. Bloody, buggering hell!"
Harry's eyebrows had disappeared under his hair, his face blank with disbelief. "Oh. Oh, I see. Er. You...fancy me?" he asked incredulously.
"No, I fucking well adore you, and I'd dress you in rainbows and shower you with jewels, and spend the rest of my life strewing rose petals across your path, and probably numerous other horrifying, sappy and improbably poetic things as well, if it bloody well made you happy," Snape roared, his face bright red with shame and ire.
Potter tilted his head to the side, his eyes narrowed in thought. "Would you let me move into the dungeons with you?"
"I'd slay a blasted dragon if you bloody well wanted! Of course I'd let you move into the dungeons; what kind of stupid question is that?" Snape shouted, throwing his hands in the air.
"Huh. Would you move into one of the towers with me? Wait—that probably comes under 'stupid question,' as well, doesn't it. Besides, I can't very well stay at Hogwarts for the rest of my life. Could we get a flat somewhere? If I travelled to play Quidditch, would you go with me?"
Snape scowled at him. "Yes, yes, yes, blast you! I've already said; whatever you want! I'd fly you to the fucking moon if you wanted it. Where are you going with this?"
Harry smiled broadly. "Well, it's just that you're probably never going to be this agreeable again, so I figure I ought to press my advantage and lay out my demands while I have the chance. You don't get to change your mind later, you know. I'm just not sure what I want to do. I'd like to play Quidditch, but at the same time I've never seen your bedroom here at Hogwarts, and I always wanted to sleep there. I guess I can decide that later. D'you mind if I top? I don't really care, to be honest. I'm happy either way. Oh, but wherever we go, you'll be nice to Ron and Hermione, won't you? And Remus as well. Because that's important. And when Mrs. Weasley invites me to things like Christmas supper, you'll go and you have to enjoy yourself, as well. No sulking, understand?"
Severus gaped at him. "What, exactly, are you saying?"
Harry tentatively stepped forwards and wrapped his arms around the man. "I'm saying I like you, too. I didn't think you'd ever notice. And all that time spent listening to you prattle on about magical theory, and spending hours trying to memorize just how you liked your tea—I thought it was all going to be an utter waste. You're the most stubborn, cynical jackass I've ever met, d'you know that?" he said, looking up at Severus with patient affection
Severus blinked several times before his body relaxed in the embrace, one arm eventually settling around Harry's shoulders. "And you," he responded quietly, "Are the most troublesome, reckless, wickedly sexy pest that's ever existed." He gently traced the youth's jawline with a long finger. "And I'm tying you to my bed and never letting you go."
Harry held tightly to the Potions Master as the man tried to kiss him breathless. "Ever?" he murmured as they parted for air.
"Ever," Snape confirmed with a wicked gleam in his eye. "It's the pure and simple truth."