Title: Dies Diem Docet
Author: Daphne Dunham
Disclaimer: Not mine, etc. Not making money, etc. Please don't sue me, etc.
Summary: Severus Snape is an intelligent man, a brilliant man. Nothing he has learned in a textbook, however, can prepare him to cope with his role in the death of Sirius Black. SS/AD. Slash. Companion to "Somnus Misellus."
Dies Diem Docet
By Daphne Dunham
In his thirty-six years of life, there are certain things that Severus Snape has learned. He can, for example, brew Wolfsbane Potion with expertise that would rival Arsenius Jigger's; he can read runes and is well-versed in defensive magical theory. He knows how to Transfigure furniture into animals, and he has become quite skilled in the tenets of espionage—blending in with dark shadows in alleys, guarding against invasions of a Legilimens, and the like. Severus has always been a quick learner; the type of man who earned top marks as a schoolboy and who excelled in his apprenticeship without much effort. He is already a prominent figure in the field of Potions, and in their quiet moments together, Albus has expressed enthusiasm that he may someday be as legendary in the discipline as Nicholas Flamel in Alchemy.
Such education is practical. It can keep Severus alive as he spies on the Dark Lord or ensure that his name will be mentioned in Potions texts for years to come. It cannot, however, help him forget that his back is covered with scars where his common Muggle father used to beat him like a common Muggle child. It cannot rid him of the nightmares he still has of James Potter stripping him naked in front of half the Hogwarts population during their fifth year. It cannot unmake the night he took the Dark Mark or the night that Albus found him, wand pressed desperately to his temple and stammering the first syllables of the Killing Curse.
And it certainly cannot prepare him for the fact that Sirius Black is dead.
"I suppose you won't believe me, Albus," Severus tells the headmaster sullenly, "but I'm not gloating."
The Potions master stares into the fireplace of Albus' private chambers, his eyes as hard and dark as coal and his thin lips turned resolutely downward at the corners. He can feel the headmaster seated behind him—can feel the older wizard's eyes upon him, their intensity and warmth heating him through, heating him more than the flames in front of him ever could. It is during times like these that Severus is only too keenly aware of the fact that Albus is the only one who can stare at him and really see him—that Albus is the only one who will ever understand or sympathize with him—that Albus is the only one who has ever truly loved him.
"I never supposed that you would gloat, Severus," Albus says gently, recalling how distraught the young man before him had been when the Potters were killed. Surely if there was ever a time when he would have been tempted to revel in another's misfortune, it would have been then, and yet Severus had been visibly shaken that night—his hands had trembled, and his skin had been so white he seemed luminous. No, there had been no gloating involved that night, and none tonight either. "It never once crossed my mind," Albus repeats.
Severus nods slightly, allowing himself to be only faintly comforted by the headmaster's reassurance. "In truth," he muses bitterly, "I'm angry. Angry that Sirius died a fool's death, arrogant to the end—not that I expected anything different from him, of course. And angry that there was no need for him to lose his life tonight—that he'd still be here if he had just followed your orders…"
He stops suddenly then, and in the shadows of the room, Albus sees him clench and unclench his jaw, clench and unclench the fist at his side; he notices the vein at Severus' dark temple twitch, watches as he starts to pace forward, then stop abruptly. He's thinking, aligning the pieces of the puzzle of Sirius Black's rationale in leaving Grimmauld Place and realising what Harry Potter had been so quick to criticise: that Sirius might still be alive if he hadn't mocked him.
"Potter will blame me for what happened to his godfather, you know," Severus spits, turning to look sharply at the headmaster.
Albus sighs and shifts uneasily in his crimson chair. "He already does, Severus," he informs him softly.
The pallid young man's face crinkles in disgust, and he lets out a long, low hiss. "And you blame me as well, I suppose?" Severus asks. His tone is rather more savage than he had intended, and he quickly turns back to stare into the fire, barely breathing and unable to bear the burden of Albus' eyes as he awaits his answer.
"Quite the contrary, actually," the headmaster replies matter-of-factly, folding his hands in his lap as he watches the Potions master: Severus' shoulders loosen in relief at Albus' words, but the fists at his sides remain.
"And why not?" Severus probes. "It's true, isn't it? I may not be sorry for the things I said, but Potter is right. I provoked Black at Christmas—he was waiting for an excuse to leave Grimmauld Place so he could prove me wrong."
"We mustn't jump to conclusions on that, Severus. Sirius was quite capable of making reckless decisions on his own—as you learned the hard way your sixth year." Color rises in Severus' cheeks at the headmaster's reference to the night Sirius' imprudence had almost lead to his death in the hands of a werewolf-transformed Lupin, but he says nothing. "I do not deny that I had long hoped you two would be able to set aside your childish differences—for my sake, if no one else's," Albus continues, though not unkindly. "But Sirius acted on his own accord. You cannot hold yourself responsible for his death, Severus."
"Why not?" Severus croaks hoarsely, sounding suddenly far away. "I'm already responsible for James and Lily—if I hadn't told the Dark Lord…"
"You did not know what the Prophecy meant, Severus, just as you did not know how Sirius would take to heart your comments, however scathing I'm sure they were," the headmaster says. "Your only fault is in not realising the long-term consequences of your actions—a fault that even the wisest of men find themselves victims of. You must learn to stop abusing yourself."
Severus is silent, turning the headmaster's words over in his mind. His brows meet in a bewildered knot over his cold eyes, as though he can't quite decide whether or not he wants to believe Albus. Only when he hears the fabric of the headmaster's robes shift as he stands from his chair—only when he hears the creak of the floorboards beneath the older wizard's feet as he walks across the room—only when he feels Albus' arm around his shoulders as he stands beside him—does Severus finally speak.
"It's been so long, Albus," he whispers sulkily. "I'm not sure I know how to do anything but abuse myself."
"Perhaps," the headmaster replies. "Or perhaps you're unwilling to try."
Albus' voice smooth and soft, soothing and sympathetic, and he reaches out to brush aside the curtain of Severus' lank hair so that the young man's pallid cheek is visible to him. It's a cheek as pallid, Albus realises in the flickers of the firelight, as the one Severus had worn that Halloween night so many years ago.
"You do yourself a great disservice by tormenting yourself, my dear boy," he murmurs, sweeping his lips affectionately across that ashen flesh.
Severus exhales slowly, audibly, eased by the headmaster's touch, and his body becomes suddenly lax. His head drops from its usual haughty tilt; his frown loosens into a noncommittal fleshy crease; and he raises his arms and twines his narrow fingertips over the ledge of the mantle, clinging to it to keep himself from falling. He's all but quaking as the headmaster's lips wind a trail further down his neck, skirting along his collarbone, and hovering over that tender spot he favours—that sensitive square of skin just below his Adam's apple.
In moments, Albus' hands have found their way into Severus' robes, undoing buttons and parting the excess cloth along the way. The older wizard pauses to admire the way the glow of the fire gives the Potions master's skin a pearlescent sheen, as though to validate his beliefs that Severus is indeed something rare and beautiful—that he's something precious. Then, Albus lowers himself to his knees by the fire, tongue flitting over the peaks of Severus' nipples, fluttering down the valley of his chest, flickering in and out of his navel, before venturing further.
"Albus," Severus breathes, a distinct whimper-like undercurrent in his tone.
The headmaster's ministrations are slow and deliberate, the right amount of pressure here, the right amount of suckling there—a swirl of the tongue, a gentle nibble with the teeth. Albus feels the sweat gathering at the backs of Severus' knees, feels the tell-tale quiver in his thighs; he knows just when to stay and when to let go, and he knows exactly when Severus will give in, when he'll crumble to the rug beside him, panting with soft groans caught in the back of his throat.
The piercing chill in Severus' eyes fades after he comes; it dulls into an expressive, lonely onyx that makes Albus' heart swell and burst. He takes the Potions master on his back tonight for the sake of those eyes—so that he can stare into them as they move together, Severus' heat curled snugly around him, Severus' fingers laced possessively in his beard. Intricately linked together like this, their bodies emulate the intangible bonds they share; intricately linked together like this, everything else—Sirius Black's death, the Dark Lord, and even Harry Potter—is alien to them.
"I'm willing to try, Albus, if you'll teach me," Severus later mumbles, lids heavy with drowsiness, as they lay ensnared in a net of their own limbs and discarded robes.
"Try, Severus?" the headmaster asks hazily.
"To stop this torment… like you asked," Severus explains. "I'm willing to learn."
The headmaster's chambers are dark in the dying flames of the fire, but Severus can feel Albus' lips curve into a smile as he nuzzles against his back. "I'll teach you everything I know, Severus. Everything."
The next morning Severus wakes to find Albus gone. Blinking sleep from his eyes, he stretches his hand across the deserted bed sheets, expecting to feel the warmth of the older wizard beside him.
"Albus?" he calls hesitantly, sitting up in hopes that he'll spot the headmaster across the room, seated at his desk or standing by his library. Instead, all he spots is a piece of parchment on the pillow, a note signed in his lover's small, slanted script.
My dear boy—Gone to follow lead on L.V. Have left castle in your charge. Will be back in a few days.—Albus
Severus crinkles the piece of parchment in his hands and throws it into the ashes of the fire. He lets out a choked sob, a guttural sound that is half between a gasp and a scream, and buries his head in his hands mournfully. He does not like this web he and Albus are tangled in with the Dark Lord, and although he'll have to wait until the headmaster returns for an explanation of where he's gone, Severus is already uneasy. He's having a hard enough time learning how to grapple with the loss of Sirius Black, someone he hated; he doesn't want to have to learn how to learn how to grapple with the loss of someone he actually loves.
A/N: The title for this story is (or at least should be, assuming my sources are correct) Latin for "the day teaches the day," or, more often, "schooling is never complete." Also, it supposes that Snape, despite appearances in HBP, is still somehow "Dumbledore's man." mischievous grin Finally, the note Albus leaves Severus is meant to mark the beginning of Albus' hunt for the horcruxes, which we know from HBP must have begun shortly after Sirius' death.