Disclaimer: Don't own the Potter series. Just a copy of each of the books.
Warnings: slash, sexual situations, insanity, violence, blasphemy
A/N: First ten chapters were edited with the help and guidance of the (great and very patient) Katie aka shuichi'sgirl. Thank you, Katie!
Chapter 1: Ghost stories
"Come on, Professor. This is something you should hear." An unsaid 'and act upon' remained hanging in the air. He stepped up and was about to, quite undignifiedly, put his ear to the door, when he realised it wasn't necessary. The voice carried well even through the wood, and filled the adjacent corridor. That was probably the reason why his Slytherins had noticed… well, punishments would be handed out later. If at all.
"I'm not arguing. I'm not saying that I don't deserve it."
Severus blanched. In his position he automatically expected the unexpected, but since the bathroom was for 'Ladies' he had somehow assumed that he was coming to the aid of a girl. This voice, however, was decidedly male. And not only that.
It was unmistakably Harry Potter's.
"I don't understand," replied a female, and this time Severus couldn't identify who the speaker was, until he remembered the ghost – the ghost of a girl who became involved in the mess around the Chamber of Secrets… of course she would be acquainted to Potter.
"I… Look, I'll try to put it really simple. My life is quite screwed. But I believe… I believe that it should be screwed because of my choices, not because someone fucked it up for me. I didn't even get a chance. Ever since the beginning… not a bloody chance."
Severus gulped and his eyes went wide. He never thought about the Potter boy from the other point of view. He, naturally, realised that the Golden Boy had to have some kind of personality, he just never expected it to be different from James Potter's. What he was listening to now didn't remind him of James Potter in the least. This was a troubled person – mentally no longer a child – that he could relate to.
He frowned. He had a very vague idea of all the wrongs that were done to Harry Potter and that the boy rarely mentioned them, definitely not using them to seek attention (though he could have, and not even Severus would be able to rightfully scorn him for it), and most certainly trying to hush them up on occasion. Where James Potter would scream, Harry Potter remained silent. And the silence…
"Why not end it, then? If you never had the chance… I… I mean… I know what that's like. I would give you a chance. Gladly."
The statement interrupted Severus's train of thought and for a while his consciousness seemingly froze, unable to do anything but follow the conversation. Draco was staring at him expectantly, but he had no idea what the blond thought he would do. Go find Dumbledore or McGonagall maybe… But he couldn't force himself to leave.
Having thought about it, which should have come as a surprise but for some unspecified reason didn't, Potter replied: "Indeed. Why not."
"I offered before, Harry, the offer's still valid. You're welcome to share my bathroom." Severus's eyebrows shot up. He glanced at Draco, but the boy merely shrugged, as befuddled as himself. Potter let out a short, dry laugh that was obscenely wrong, coming from such a young person.
"We were so idealistic back then, weren't we…"
"Not me," the ghost replied indifferently. Potter chuckled.
"Not you. I think I understand you now, Myrtle."
"So, will you kill yourself? Will you stay here with me? Because I want to stay with you. Forever."
Severus's stomach turned over and for a while he thought he was going to be sick. He swallowed, tasting acid. Hearing two children calmly talking like this, while he was aware that they realised the full implications of what they said, was just morbid. He noticed that Draco's eyes were wide, incomprehensive. How sheltered a son of a Death Eater could be… not anywhere near as much as a normal child, but definitely more than either of those on the other side of the door.
"Do you promise?" Potter asked, and Severus could hear hope in his voice.
"Good. See you in a bit."
He was fairly sure that Potter was actually smiling when he said that last sentence. It bothered him more than anything, but then there was a muffled whispered Sectumsempra and he had to act, lest Harry Potter's silence became permanent.
Cold, potion-stained fingers grasped the door handle and pushed. The door didn't move an inch, though the brass lock gave in easily, as if mocking his effort. He tried again, harder, then rammed his shoulder into the wood, but the only reaction he got was an upset shout of "Go away!" from inside. It was the ghost. Potter didn't react.
Draco's jaw sank. It must have been the first time he had heard Severus curse like that. He was usually a very calm man, except for his encounters with the Boy Who Lived…
"Have you been taught how to deconstruct wards?"
"No, sir, they don't teach it at Hogwarts…" Of course they didn't – it was bordering on dark magic.
"Nor do they teach how to construct them," he grumbled. Potter once again proved to be more trouble then he was worth-Severus realised what he was about to think and mentally slapped himself, ashamed. This was not the right situation to criticise Potter – he should save that for when the little monster was safely sedated in the hospital wing.
Then, quite suddenly, a commotion was heard from inside, and he would have bet it was the sound of a body slouching to the ground.
"Harry?" inquired the ghost. Severus desperately launched at the door and… fell through. The wood banged into the wall and a high-pitched shriek resounded as Severus stuck his hands in front of himself to avoid having his nose broken yet again.
"Go away! Go away!" the ghost repeated. He ignored it, looking around. As if to stop him, the sinks overflowed all at once, and mercifully clean water spilt on the floor. He stood up before the swiftly widening flood reached him, only his boot and the hem of his robe coming into contact with it. Soft pink streams mixed with the transparent liquid; Severus followed it to its origin.
There was the Boy Wonder, probably slumped against the wall before, yet now lying on his side on the cold, wet tiling with one hand hidden under his torso and the other almost romantically placed a foot from his shoulder, palm downwards and fingers splayed. There was a clear space between his wrist and his forearm.
Severus almost gagged; let it never be said that the boy did anything halfway. Severing his hand surely worked better than just cutting his veins. It reminded the Potions Master of the way he dealt with his quests – impulsively, and yet taking great care to make his efforts worthwhile. Though, whether Potter did this purposefully, or had merely not mastered the spell remained questionable.
A spell told him that Potter's vital functions were still there. Severus went into a kind of trance, re-attaching the detached body parts as best as he could, while there was a mad ghost flying all over the room and occasionally passing straight through him. Not even the waves of chill managed to disturb his concentration… fortunately for the Gryffindor in front of him.
When he finally looked up and let himself take in the surroundings, he found that sometime during the treatment, Draco… the boy had done something. Severus had no idea what it might have been, but the outcome was that the ghost calmly hovered next to the Malfoy heir and chatted about something (after she had closed all the taps). Severus would have been impressed, but he was too tired and there was too much on his mind.
"Sir?" Draco asked as their eyes met.
"He'll live," Severus grumbled, perfectly aware that he had just given himself out. As soon as the young Malfoy's thoughts were clear, he would realise that Severus could have easily let Potter die – no one would blame it on him – and pleased the Dark Lord. It scared him. He would have to either think up a believable excuse, or Obliviate Draco. But first, at the very very first, they had to get Potter to the hospital wing. And then Severus would have to sit down and think, and figure out why in the seven circles of Hell did he save the insufferable brat.
Draco once again proved to be intelligent and thoughtful – to Severus's great pride and dismay – and conjured a stretcher. The Boy Who Just Lived wasn't in a state to be levitated, and Severus appreciated that he didn't have to do any magic himself right now. He felt drained. Exhausted. And he had a rough bout of explaining to do in the near future.
At least he had screwed his life himself. He couldn't even imagine having somebody else do it for him…
Draco watched as Pomfrey leant over the bed, closely scrutinising the boy that lay in it. He realised in the past fifteen minutes that there were some things Healers and Aurors had in common – they could go straight from deep sleep to full alert. The medi-witch worked on a password, at least so it seemed. One could kick down her door and she would but grumble sleepily, but it was enough to mutter 'emergency' in the hallway and two steps later she would be on her feet and in the middle of the process of putting on her robe.
"Severus, go to the dungeons before you start snoring. You've got classes tomorrow and I'm going to need a new store of Blood-replenishing potion."
The Potions Master jerked from slumber, even though his eyes had been opened and posture straight all the time. Pomfrey must have known him really well to be able to tell he was close to asleep.
He merely grunted in response, but complied. On his way to the door, he paused in front of Draco.
"Stay here and keep an eye on him. You are excused from your classes tomorrow."
Before Draco could ask him why, Snape was gone.
Pomfrey glared at the boy, as he walked up to the bed and sat down on the sheets next to… not Potter, he would never sit down near Potter, but next to an unconscious body. It was paper-white. For the first time he met someone who was actually paler than himself.
The body… Potter… didn't look alive. If Draco had found him like this on a road somewhere, he would just bury him, not even bothering to check the pulse. But both Snape and Pomfrey said that his vital functions were steady, so he must have been still alive…
"Why won't you move then?" he whispered, spooked by the pearly apparition. Its lips were probably blue, but in the clinical, neon light that remained after Pomfrey finished her work on the Gryffindor, all colour was lost. The blackness of Potter's hair seemed almost vulgar. Draco wished that the other boy would move, at least visibly breathe or something, because it looked like they were all waiting for the rigor mortis to set in right now.
"Did you say something?" Pomfrey asked from the doorway. Draco looked up, startled, then the meaning of the question reaching his brain and he shook his head. It was too late. Too late to be awake.
"Ma'am, Professor Snape said I should stay here with… him."
She looked at him suspiciously. Draco gave her a tired gaze that was supposed to relay his true feelings: he wished for his bed in the depths of Slytherin's dormitory, and the last he wanted to do right now was watch some stupid suicidal Gryffindor hero.
"Very well, Mr. Malfoy. The wing is empty, you can choose whichever bed you like. At least you can help me in the morning."
She switched off the neon light and the room was suddenly bathed in darkness. Potter glowed. Draco shivered just looking at him.
"Help you with what?"
"Moving him to the ward," the woman called from the adjacent room and, exasperated, slammed the door shut behind her. Draco remained solitary, and Potter's un-dead presence started creeping on him for real. Why did it have to be him? Why couldn't Potter's cronies guard him? Well, of course they couldn't be trusted with any kind of responsibility – they were Gryffindors, after all, but why him?
He looked up and regarded the silvery figure that glided towards him. She looked eerily like Potter – both shining white in the darkness, both not alive, both not quite themselves without glasses on. And, though he wasn't the least bit happy about it, he knew why it had to be him.
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