Okay. I've started a kind of rotation thing with my ongoings, so hopefully updates will be a bit more regular. Hopefully. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, here's the next chpt of If You Offered. A new factor to their dynamic appears this chapter. So. Enjoy!
Chapter 6: Promises
Harry stared down into his cauldron in confusion. This was not exactly a rare occurence, but this time was different. This time, he wasn't desperately trying to figure out what he'd done wrong before the thing exploded. No. This time, he was trying to figure out how the hell he'd gotten it right. Not just right. Perfect. He was standing there, in Potions, looking down at a cauldron containing a perfect potion that he'd made, on his own, with no help. Merciful Merlin!
"Well, and how is our resident celebrity doing today? Mr Potter?" Severus' sneering voice sounded over him, and he glanced up, startled. The black eyes appraised him, locking gazes for a strained moment, then wandered down to stare in fascination and not a little wonder at the cool blue liquid swirling sedately in his cauldron's depths. The man looked back up at him, and for a moment, the barest of seconds, Harry saw pride in that shuttered gaze, before his friend's classroom persona kicked back in and swallowed it.
"Well. Will wonders ever cease! Mr Potter, wonderboy of Gryffindor, has actually managed to keep his mind off Quidditch long enough to brew a passable potion. Merlin, I must mark this down! 'Day Harry Potter paid attention to class.' Truly a once in a lifetime event!"
Harry let his Professor's sarcastic comments flow by him, barely noticing. He didn't even respond to Ron's growled reassurance. "Greasy git! You get sneered at for doing it wrong, and then he goes and gives you the same for getting it right! Don't worry, mate. It his bloody problem!" It didn't matter to Harry. Professor Snape didn't matter to Harry. All he could focus on was the fact that he'd seen, however briefly, pride in him in Severus' eyes. Severus was proud of him. Whatever Professor Snape had to say was irrelevant. He'd seen. He knew. Severus was proud of him.
"Mr Potter? I'm well aware that this is as stunning an event for you as it is for me, but it would be a shame to ruin it by daydreaming when I'm speaking to you! Mr Potter? Do you hea-" The sudden hitch in the tirade brought Harry's head up. He stared at his Professor in consternation, wondering what was wrong. The man's mouth was thinned to a firm, straight line, his face white and confused. Harry frowned.
"Sir?" A voice on the other side of the room gasped. Draco Malfoy raised an unsteady hand and pointed to his teacher's face, brushing the corner of his own lips on the way back down. Severus frowned, and raised his own hand, brushing at his face. Lifting it up, he stared at the liquid now staining his fingers. Blood.
Harry gasped, and lurched forward out of his seat, barely a millisecond ahead of Malfoy. Simultaneously, they moved towards Severus, ignoring each other and everyone else in sudden panicked concern. Concern well-warranted, as they found when Severus bent forward suddenly, cheeks swelling as his mouth opened and gushed blood onto the floor. The red liquid splashed outward, luridly decorating the bottoms of the nearest desks in spattered relief. Someone screamed, a girl, then all out panic broke out. Harry couldn't have cared less. He ran forward and caught Severus around the waist to support him. His hands bumped into Malfoy's, and he glanced up into the blonde boy's wide eyes, recognising real concern. They stared at each other, measuring. Then Malfoy nodded slightly.
Severus heaved again, more blood splashing out. Hermione, levelheaded as usual, sent Ron running for Madame Pomfrey, and Neville for the nearest teacher. Harry shot her a grateful look, then turned back to the man sagging against his arms. Strangely, for all that he was coughing up enough blood to fill a slaughterhouse, Severus didn't seem unduely concerned. His expression, what Harry could see of it between heaves, was more annoyed than scared or hurt. Struggling for breath, he was trying to speak.
"What in Merlin's name is going on here?" Harry looked up at the sound of McGonagal's voice. "Clear the way, Ms Bones. Now someone tell me what is happening ... Merlin! Severus?" The sturdy woman shoved a hysterical Slytherin to one side and raced up to them. "Severus! Hold on! Someone get Poppy! Oh, they've gone? Good. Severus? Severus, are you alright?"
Severus growled through the blood. Harry, arms wrapped around him, was startled to feel the vibrations in the man's chest as he gestured in annoyance at the blackboard. Harry, along with everyone not screaming or running around like a headless chicken, looked at it.
The chalk that he used to write up potion's enstructions from time to time moved now for a different reason. Rapidly, it scribed lines tinged with Severus' distinctive sarcastic annoyance.
If anyone would like to pay attention to the bleeding man, would they kindly look this way. Thank you. Sooo grateful. Now, if everyone would CALM DOWN, we might get somewhere. Minerva, would you kindly shut these brats up for a moment?
McGonagal blinked once in consternation, then recovered with admirable poise. "Severus, you should know better than to insult the students."
I did no such thing. Look and see. And the lines had indeed changed, reading now as a polite request for some quiet. However, even if I had, I think I've rather more pressing concerns, don't you? Now hush them and pay attention. This isn't blood.
"What?" Harry spluttered. "It looks a lot like blood from where I'm standing!"
Of course it does, Mr Potter. It's designed to. In fact, it's a rather elegant simulation concocted by two of our mutual aquaintances. I'm not bleeding. I'm just being rather spectacularly sick. At a guess I'd say it simulates the last thing I've tasted. I shall have to remember in future not to bite my cheek in frustration at my students' idiocies. I can see it has drastic results.
"Indeed. One of Messers Weasley's better efforts, I'd say." Madame Pomfrey bustled into the room, frowning in disapproval. "It usually takes maybe an hour for the vomiting to clear up. I'm afraid your stomach's going to be in upheaval for the next while, Severus. Odd, though. I know with that shop of theirs thriving that quite a number of their products are in circulation here, but you're usually more careful with your food. Still. Nothing for it. You'd better stay in your quarters for a while, until you tide this over."
Severus sighed. As the healer commands. He bent over again as the next wave hit.
"Perhaps someone should help you over there, Severus?" McGonagal asked, something suspiciously like a smile flickering over her face now that she was sure her colleague wasn't in imminent danger of expiring. Harry jumped at the offer.
"I'll do it!" Another voice cried out simultaneously with his, and he swung to stare at Malfoy. Draco glared right back, holding onto Severus' waist with as much possessive tenacity as Harry. Their glares evolved, Harry's getting heated, while Malfoy could have frozen the lake with his. How long they might have continued was anyone's guess, but a raw rasping interupted them. Severus was laughing.
Ah, me. To have such titans fighting over me. Such entertainment. But I should like to get to my quarters before the house elves become required to resurface my lab floor. And as I cannot pass up a chance to have the great Harry Potter wait on me, he'll come. And Draco too, to make sure he doesn't try to prank me into the next world while we're at it. Not that he would, eh, Minerva? Gryffindors are so noble, after all. He smirked at her blush, the expression only partially ruined by the simulation blood dripping from his chin. Another heave shuddered through him, and Harry and Draco, after another glare for good measure, shouldered his weight between them.
They must have looked a sight, Harry reflected as they reeled drunkenly down the corridor, the two of them holding up a gasping man splashing what looked like blood in a trail all down the passage. Malfoy's longer hair got in the way sometimes, and was red at the ends by the time they reached the door to Severus' rooms. Harry himself, glasses askew, the front of his robes glistening with collateral damage, didn't look so hot himself. But Severus had to take the cake for looking out of sorts. And Harry was going to find out why.
They got him inside, after a minute's confusion where both he and Malfoy uttered the password at the same time, each garbling it in shock, and spending the next thirty seconds stopping and starting before Malfoy ceded control and let Harry get them inside. They sat Severus down on the side of the bath, figuring the bathroom was the more sensible option right then.
Severus slid down to rest kneeling on the floor, head twisted slightly so the bath would catch the worst of the spew, sliding his eyes closed exhaustedly. Harry looked at Draco, and saw the same suspicion in his eyes as Harry himself harboured. There was something more wrong here than a Weasley Special.
"You know," Draco started conversationally. "I was under the impression that the Terrible Twins' barf sweets made one throw up approximately three times as much simulated ... whatever ... as the victim in question had ingested real. Even a third of what you've throw up so far is far more blood than you'd swallow after a bitten cheek, Sev. Any thoughts?"
Severus cracked open an eye wearily. The vomiting had died down enough by now that he could speak relatively uninterupted. "Several, as it happens, Draco. Firstly that you are far too clever for your own good. You and Mr Potter bo-" He stopped to cough into the bath. "You and Mr Potter both," he finished. "And don't call me Sev. I hate that."
"Would you prefer 'Uncle Sevvie', then?" Draco asked bitingly. Harry snorted, unable to contain himself, and recieved twin glares for his trouble. He pulled himself together.
"Seriously, though. Draco's right, Severus," he stated, somewhat reluctantly. "Where'd all the blood come from? You gave me a heart attack back there! Do you know what you looked like? One minute you're giving out to me, the next you're keeled over flooding the classroom with blood! What the hell happened that you'd that much blood in your mouth? What did it look like for real? You dying?" His voice had risen drastically during the speech, but he couldn't help it. He'd known that one day the other man would go out and not come back, but the knowledge was something different to the visceral reaction to actually seeing it happen in front of him. He didn't want to watch Severus die, even in simulation!
Severus sighed. "Harry, you know full well what I sometimes have to do. Draco too. You know that sometimes he's not happy, for whatever reason. As yet, I'm far too valuable to kill off hand. But you, Draco, aren't. And everyone knows he wants you dead, Harry. The pair of you might want to be a bit more careful about who you speak in front of, hmmm?"
Harry stared at him, then looked at Draco in sudden realisation. Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. He'd revealed a friendship with Severus Snape, Death Eater and spy, in front of Draco, son of Voldemort's right hand man. He'd put them both in terrible danger without even thinking. Shit!
Draco looked as unhappy. Severus looked between them for a moment, smiling sadly. Then he shook his head. "Draco. Harry. Look at me. Look. It's alright. Well, not exactly alright, but better than you both think. Harry, Draco has been struggling against his father's influence for a long time. Whatever about you, I trust that he won't betray me." He laid a gentle hand on the blonde's shoulder. "I trust you with my life, Draco. Don't forget that. And I also trust Harry. He won't harm you for bearing the Mark. He may hex you into next week over a petty difference in the corridors, but he won't put you in danger from your father or Dumbledore. Believe me. I know."
He clutched his stomach again, leaning over the bath to expell more of the blood. Draco and Harry looked at each other over his bent head, uncertain and wary. Draco's eyes flickered once more to Severus, then he jerked his head at the bathroom door. Harry stood. "Severus? Will you be alright for a minute? Draco and I should talk. We'll be back soon, I promise." The heaving man waved a red-stained hand at them impatiently, gesturing them outside.
Draco pulled the door closed behind them, and stood gazing at Harry for a long moment. "Well," he began.
"Well," Harry echoed softly.
"So you're the one," Draco murmured. Harry tilted his head in confusion. "You're the one he's been talking to recently," the blonde clarified. "I know he's been talking to someone. He's seemed so much ... lighter ... recently. So much more at ease, as if he's only carrying half the world on his shoulders, instead of all of it. It's you, then."
Harry shrugged. "We ... reached an understanding. We sorta ... try to help each other. He helped me. He stopped me doing ... something very foolish. I wanted to help him too. He seemed to need it. I guess he's always needed something, but I only saw it then. I ... want us to survive, if possible. Or at least die doing something worthwhile. He ... He's my friend." And something more, a voice whispered inside him, but he couldn't dwell on it. Draco measured him up, then nodded slightly.
"At least you care, then," he murmured. "That's good to know. Maybe you can really help him. He doesn't trust me enough to let me try, but he might you."
Harry frowned. "He said he trusted you."
"And he does," Draco agreed. "He trusts me with his life. You've seen exactly how much that particular commodity is worth to him. He trusts me with his life, but not with mine. He would never allow me to do anything to jeapordise my position with my father and his master. Helping him with what he has to do would be something like that. He won't let me close enough to get hurt if he falls. He won't let me help him. But he seems to have more trust in you."
Harry shrugged uncomfortably. Draco stepped forwards so they were nose to nose.
"You listen to me, Potter. He trusts you. I can see it. You've helped him so far, more than anyone else has been able to. I don't know what you did to win his trust, but you'd better do everything in your power to keep it. You hear me? He's let you close. He's let you help. He's placed more trust in you than maybe he can afford to. So you'd better not lose it! You'd better not do anything to betray that, or harm him. Or I will destroy you. You have my word on that."
Harry stared. Draco was deadly serious. Severus may not have let him close, but it was obvious they cared for each other. Draco would hurt him if he betrayed Severus. Harry felt absurdly comforted by that. Someone else cared.
"I promise, Draco. I'll do everything in my power to be worthy of his trust, to keep him alive and safe. You have my word on it."
Draco help his gaze a moment longer, weighing the strength of his promise. Then the other boy nodded, once, and turned to leave.
"Take care of him then, Potter. Find out how he was hurt, if you can. I'll deal with your next class for you." He strode out, stopping at the door, back still turned. "And Potter? You'd better be worthy. Because for him, there's no-one else."
Harry stared after him, throat suddenly full. He couldn't believe he was going to cry. Not now, when Severus was coughing his guts up in the next room. But he couldn't help it. Severus was really his, now. His responsibility. Truly.
"He's right, you know, Harry." The soft voice pulled Harry's distraught gaze. Severus leaned heavily on the doorframe, looking sadly at him, blood still trickling slowly from one corner of his mouth. "There's no-one else. There never was. Hmpf. Lucky us, eh? Guess we're stuck with each other. Harry Potter and the greasy git. What a world."
Harry moved to him, wrapped his arms around him, ignoring the red stains on both their robes. He hugged Severus desperately. "I will be worthy, you know," he whispered softly. "I promise."
"Ah Harry," Severus murmured brokenly, hugging him back. "It's me that's not worthy. But I'll get there. We'll get there. I promise. Who knows. We might even survive each other, if not the war. In a world that allows us to have this, who knows? But we'll try. Heaven help us, we'll try. I only hope it's enough."
"It will be," Harry vowed. If he had to take on the whole world, he'd find a way to make it enough. He had to, he realised. Because he loved this man too much to lose him. In barely a week, they'd gone from loathing, to respect, to tentative friendship, and now, for Harry anyway, to love. He couldn't tell Severus that. He'd nothing to offer, since everything he was was caught up in this stupid war. But he'd do everything in his power to keep Severus alive. That much, he could do. And would.
Well? Yes, this is now confirmed Snarry. I know for some people that will spoil it, and I'm sorry, but that's the way the story goes. R&R? And, by the by? I've figured out where this is in the timeline. It's an alternate version of Harry's 6th year, and elements of HBP will be coming in. Including the element. Just thought I'd tell ye. Night.