Summary: In an effort to make them get along, Dumbledore locks Snape and Harry in a classroom for 72 hours. How will they survive one another?
Disclaimer: I own nought but the disk space I saved it on.
A/N: See, here's the thing. My computer was annoyingly slow, needed upgrading and generally getting rid of all the junk on my hard drive. Me being the 'genius' that I am thought "hey, no problem". I created a new account on Windows XP, moved all the files I needed to that account and then proceeded to delete the other one, effectively deleting into the oblivion of cyberspace everything else. Only after which did I notice that none of my Solitary Confinement chapters had been transferred and were lost forever, including the nearly completed sixth chapter and ALL of my notes. You can imagine my turmoil. It has therefore taken me this long to begin, from scratch, the following. Well, actually, I wrote about a thousand words before I realised I hated the way it was going, that it was simply nothing more then bad writing, proceeded to delete that, and then began from scratch. That's my excuse for such a late update and my need for squishes and cuddles. I hate technology. Then, of course, there's this incredibly annoying thing called life that got in the way. Don't you hate that? Death to life!
Well, there's a conversation stopper for you, Harry thought wryly as his already perplexed mind attempted to wrap itself around the utterly bewildering concept. Snape had an unsettled debt with his father? The very possibility seemed altogether ... wrong. How could the Potions Master even consider the likelihood that James Potter would collect on such a seemingly trivial due? Harry wasn't sure if he should be insulted on his behalf or not ...
"So ... you and he ..." for once during this entirely too long ordeal Harry didn't know what on Earth to say. What did someone say to something like that? A Death Eater telling him that said servant of You-Know-Who had pledged to his dead father the protection of one unborn son, and as dire consequence and fateful cock-up would have it Harry was left to reap the 'rewards' of the ridiculous promise ... now, if that's not completely mental Harry didn't know what was. It was only then that Harry realised he had been gaping for nearly a full minute before he snapped his jaw shut. Swallowing any bewilderment that might find its' way into his voice, he tried again. "W-what exactly does that ... mean?"
Snape sighed impatiently and began taking up his familiar pacing from one side of the room to the other. "It means, Potter, that until the Dark Lord is thoroughly defeated, it is my unfortunate," a pause in which he took in a deep, unnecessary breath and swapped his scowl for a well-practised grimace, "duty to stop you from partaking in any imbecilic or suicidal behaviour."
Snape glared angrily at him. "If you had been left to your own devices, I can assure you, you would have been as deceased as Cedric Diggory midway through your first year."
Somewhere deep inside him, Harry felt the burn of a raw pain. He had caused it, the death of a fellow student, a young prospect with such potential yet to be honed and unleashed upon the world, and now unable to fulfil it ... Harry didn't want to consider it any longer.
Glaring darkly, the young wizard looked away to conceal the misty storm of shame that raged in his mind, so sure it reflected in his eyes. Filled with that bitter ache, he dropped his gaze to his hands, only partially visible from the folds of his rough robe, expecting to see the tell-tale stains of his crime there, but was surprised to see their pristine black hue instead.
"It wasn't his fault," muttered Harry morosely, a melancholy that seemed too heavy in his voice. "He hadn't known. He was chosen," a bitter laugh escaped him, "I chose him. I insisted."
"No, Potter," Snape's viciously steeled tone brought Harry's deeply green eyes to his own, so much like the lifelong evergreen meeting the darkest of winter during a biting frost. "He chose his own fate. Each of you were informed of the ramifications should you be chosen as a Champion."
"No one said that Voldemort would be one of those 'ramifications'," argued Harry venomously, levelling Snape with a glare to rival one of his Professor.
"It happened regardless. Surely you had your suspicions? Diggory knew what was expected of him, whether the Dark Lord was involved or not did nothing to lessen the danger of the Tournament ..." He trailed off as Harry leered fiercely at him, giving his student a challenging look.
A flaming heat seemed to erupt in Harry's cheeks at the casual, almost accusing mention of the cruelly murdered Hufflepuff. It wasn't even a year after his horrific death, not even a bloody year! And yet Snape could stand there and talk about him so coldly, as though his life hadn't mattered one iota.
"Don't you dare. Don't you dare talk about Cedric like it was his own fault," Harry spat furiously, his suddenly numb fingers clenching. "He hadn't wanted to die! He hadn't known!"
"Do try and restrain that temper of yours, Potter," sneered Snape derisively, though his eyes had narrowed in an infinitely frozen warning. "You didn't know the boy."
"Like that matters! He's still dead isn't he? He was still murdered by that vile bastard you call your Lord!" Harry punctuated angrily, flashes of the disastrous night of the Third Task surfacing in his mind. Cedric and he grasping the Triwizard Cup together. The ominous graveyard, the hooded figure. A spark of that horrifying green light. Cedric's lifeless body staring blankly at him. The cauldron. Voldemort. Cedric's ghost. "He's dead!"
"People die every single day," Snape intoned monotonously in a silent challenge. "It's a fact of life, Potter."
"And how would a 'fact of life' help Cedric?" growled Harry.
"It doesn't," ... Snape. "But it might help you." Harry opened his mouth to retort until exactly what Snape had said registered.
"It - ... excuse me?" Harry's anger seemed to have been cut off at its' source, ebbing away as quickly as it had come, only to be replaced by an increasingly infuriating confusion. Snape was standing with his back to the door now, leaning against it with his arms crossed and held tightly to himself. Harry took a hesitant step towards him. Glancing through the curtain of slightly matted, and forever oily obsidian hair, he gave Harry an obscurely cryptic glower.
"You couldn't have been less angry with me if you tried, Potter," Snape began in way of explanation, causing Harry to furrow his brow in confusion. "You're angry with yourself. You think you could have prevented his death."
Harry sputtered in furious indignation for a moment, coming up with nothing beyond babbling monosyllabic nonsense. Raising one hideously dark eyebrow, Snape continued, "in fact, you're blaming yourself not only for his death, but for that of your parents, the old man and Bertha Jorkins. Are you not responsible for every single person whose fate was met by the end of the Dark Lord's wand? And those whom you saw in the graveyard that night? Are you not personally at fault for every last one of those murders? You tell me, Potter."
There was a moment of endless silence between them with Harry gazing down at his own feet in contemplation. Never before had he realised the heavy weight of guilt on his conscience was not caused only by Cedric's death, but by his own survival. The cool, harsh reality of Snape's next words seemed to be coming from his own thoughts.
"Why should you survive the Dark Lord's wrath on countless occasions when so many others have mercilessly perished at his feet?"
The messy head of hair raised to meet Snape's hauntingly dark eyes, so perceptive in their cruelty, and for the briefest of moments a spark of kinship rippled within the turbulent waters, no longer spitefully calm to hide the fit of rage lingering beneath the surface. But as swiftly as it appeared it drowned, once again, into the desperately bottomless ocean of night, leaving only the icy waves of despair and determination.
"I don't know," was Harry's eventual reply after the longest second of silence he had ever endured seemed to gain pace with the rest of the world. A crease of inquiry appeared between Snape's brow as he surveyed his student.
"You fear him," he hissed with certainty, sounding utterly disgusted at the prospect, as though Harry had committed a personal wrong against him. "Every time you encounter him it may be the last. Either for you, or someone you hold dear. He has you in his control, as he does the rest of us."
A nod was his only answer. "You fear his manipulation, that he can instil such feelings of guilt and despair within your very soul. You ... long for death. For a reprieve, an outlet of the misery you're slowly drowning yourself in." Wide-eyed and hesitant, Harry backed away towards his bed, as far from the Potions Master as possible. He knew too much, leaving Harry exposed to his fathomless eyes, allowing them peel away the remaining layers that would surely leave him naked for all the world to see. He needed protection, even if it came only in the reassuring stone surrounding the bed.
"I won't allow it."
It was said with such certainty and utter determination that it startled Harry out of the daze he hadn't realised he'd slipped into.
"You won't?" asked Harry, unsure, despising the desperate reassurance he required.
"A promise was made, and I fully intend to keep it. Did I not say I was to stop you from suicidal behaviour?" There was a dry smirk in replacement of the scowl. "That doesn't only include running headlong into certain death."
Something suddenly occurred to Harry. "How did you end up making such a promise?"
"You're father saved my life once," Snape sneered at the thought. "No matter how much I detest the fact. The repayment didn't come full circle as it should have. There in lies the mistake that cost him his life, and it was then I vowed to ensure the survival of his son, if I could."
"You blame yourself?" asked Harry, not having the time to appreciate the irony of the question. A pained smirk was offered to him.
"I was the informant that gave the Dark Lord word of a threat to him and his power. Only too late did I realise that he traced that threat to the Potters, and inevitably, to you," the heavy note of anger in his voice was not directed at Harry, and he had redirected his gaze to the suddenly interesting stone of the floor beneath his feet. No face could be distinguished between the strands of greasy black that hung limply at his shoulders. "I owe him his life and my own. The father that is owed to you, however, is something else entirely. That cannot be repaid."
Staring at him in bewilderment, Harry asked, "why're you telling me all of this?"
"You asked," answered Snape wryly. "And it is time for you to realise that the death of those around you are not of your doing. They're mine. It began and ended with the Potters, and now it continues until the Dark Lord has the whole of the Wizarding world at his mercy." A sigh. "They will receive none."
"Not if we defeat him. The Order -"
Snape scoffed. "The Order has no power over him or his followers. There are measures being made to sustain the society we've toiled to rebuild, yes, but that will soon fall into anarchy when his hoards make themselves known. A panic will ensue and the world will tear itself apart through its' fear. All we're doing is delaying the inevitable ..."
"Unless we overcome our fears and fight against him," muttered Harry to himself, Snape's words of inducing terror into the Dark Lord suddenly coming back to him, clearer and more precise then they had been.
Their eyes met in that instant, forging an almost palpable understanding between them and for the briefest of moments Harry no longer saw the Potions Master as either a teacher or a spy, simply a man. They were all men, one and the same, each brought into the world by whatever deity people chose to believe and given the opportunity to live. Life was so supremely precious. So fabulously fickle. Yet, wholly insignificant. Within those charred eyes of darkness, inevitable death seemed to be glaring back, welcoming with scythe outstretched and Harry realised that he was no longer afraid. The fear was just an image they wanted him to believe, to manipulate his behaviour. The skeletal, clawing grasp was neither feared nor welcomed, simply accepted.
As was Snape. Harry could accept him now as his reluctant saviour. A protector, charged with his safety and survival, and for all it was worth, he could foresee it. His survival. He would, when the inevitable end finally arrived, emerge victorious. However deeply he may be scarred, however horrendously difficult life became he would live it. He would cherish the moments in darkness and be all the stronger for it. Snape was in the middle of that darkness now, still toiling through its' depths, but he too would survive. Battered and bruised, but alive nonetheless.
"We're powerless in this war."
It came with such a bitingly grim conviction Harry was abruptly startled from his thoughts. Frowning in contemplation, he gazed at the stone by the Potions Master's feet.
"Yes," he agreed matter-of-factly, causing Snape to glance at him dubiously. "But Voldemort -" Snape still flinched at the name, and Harry restrained himself from rolling his eyes at his Professor. For all he preached about one's fears, he sure as Hell didn't seem to practice them. "- has his weaknesses. I don't know how to counter them and I definitely don't have a plan of action but I'm sure when the time comes I'll know what I have to do."
At the cocked eyebrow Harry received, he added, "I work best under pressure."
"Really?" asked Snape sarcastically, his tone dry. Harry grinned slightly.
"Oh yeah, you should see me in Divination. Thinking on my feet has become my speciality," Harry gave him a pointed look and couldn't help but smile at the thought of his and Ron's many essays involving their 'predictions' of life-threatening disasters to occur each day of their week. Rather then a derisive comment on his arrogance or that of his father Snape smirked slightly, and Harry somehow knew it was at the thought of Trelawny's many insights into the deaths of certain individuals. He must have hated her as much as the rest of the student body. "They should change the course to Applied Nonsense."
"Already taken," said Snape wryly, seeming completely serious despite the smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Officially taught by the most competent," he sneered, "Gilderoy Lockhart."
Laughing, Harry grinned at the thought of the horrendous teacher from his second year.
"Competent and Lockhart in the same sentence? Must be a first."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
... Harry's eyes widened at the quiet, nearly inaudible noise, anything he was about to say about Gilderoy and his pixies dying on his lips. It wasn't possible, was it? How many times had he imagined he'd heard that noise during the expanse of their imprisonment over Mickey's sarcastic chatter? Snape had taken a hasty step away from the door, glanced at Harry over his shoulder before nearly leaping for the handle, forcing the wooden door open with such force he nearly toppled on top of the occupant in the corridor. It wasn't who Harry had expected in the least.
Rather than the aged Headmaster standing on the other side of the door, twisting the end of his beard in amusement and that tell-tale twinkle sparkling infuriatingly, it was Hermione. Her luxuriously brown eyes were wide in surprise, a bloom of persistent humour shining within them at the sight of the dishevelled Potions Master that had desperately leapt at her from behind the door.
They froze in that stance for a long moment, Snape apparently as surprised to see her as Harry was. She graced the both of them with an uncharacteristically confident smile.
"Professor?" She inquired lightly, before shifting her imploring gaze to Harry, who still hovered near the bed at the other side of the room. Straightening hastily, Snape finally addressed her.
"Where -" he growled angrily. "- is Dumbledore?"
Hermione's smile faltered slightly, and she looked towards the stairs she had previously descended.
"In his office, Professor," she told him quickly, giving Harry an uncertain glance before Snape stormed up the stairs as though the very hounds of Hell were on his heels. Harry didn't blame him. He, on the other hand, was still inside his cell watching Hermione watch him. "Well?" She asked him expectantly. "Are you coming out or would you rather I locked you back in?"
That lit a fire beneath him as he hastily strode out of the room and was promptly bombarded by a lap full of Hermione.
"Ooft! Er – H-Hermione? Can't breathe," he choked out, tapping her on the shoulder.
"Oh," she released her death grip slightly, and said sheepishly, "sorry. How was it? Was it awful? Ron was absolutely furious when Dumbledore told us what he'd done, and so was I to begin with. I do hope you got something out of the experience, I don't want to give Ron the opportunity to gloat. He didn't try to hurt you, did he?"
"Alright, no, I did and yes," he told her with a grin as she finally paused for breath.
"Good, at least - ... what? He did?" she asked in horror, and if possible, her eyes widened. "Oh, my God, Harry, are you alright? What did he do?"
"I'll tell you and Ron about it later," he told her as he began to walk down the corridor and towards the stairs leading out of the dungeons. How he wanted to see the light of day. As she began to quickly follow him she continued.
"Well, it mustn't have been too horrible then," said Hermione thoughtfully, though surreptitiously scanning Harry for signs of anything fatal. "But Professor Dumbledore wanted you to go see him first."
"Like he hasn't done enough," he mumbled irritably. Leaning towards him as though to share a secret, Hermione all but whispered;
"Think of it this way, you'll see him being put in his place by Professor Snape..."
"When you say it like that -" He gave her one of the few genuine smiles he'd been able to give anyone for awhile, and came to a slightly reluctant halt before the statue that guarded the entrance to the Headmaster's office. He glanced to Hermione with a pointed look.
"Chocolate buttons," she sighed, smiling at him before making her way past Harry and towards the marble staircase as the statue sprung to life to allow him to pass, revealing a set of stone stairs leading upwards. Always a joy, he thought wryly.
Trudging up the stairs with slow, laborious steps he reached the door to the office and paused a moment. He frowned in confusion. There were no sounds of breaking furniture, raised voices or potentially deadly spells, simply the low murmuring of serious conversation. He knocked and waited admittance. And waited. And waited.
For a moment he thought they hadn't heard him and raised a fist to knock again when the door swung open and Snape clambered out, paler than he had been and nearly bowled Harry over in his attempt to get away from the office and Dumbledore.
"Watch where you're going, Potter," he growled menacingly, practically shoving Harry aside as he strode down the stairs and out of sight. So much for a breakthrough, sighed Harry mentally.
"Harry, do come in," said the smiling Headmaster from behind his desk, shuffling and keeping paper work within one of the mahogany's many drawers. As he reluctantly walked into the room and sat in the chair the Headmaster had indicated he waited impatiently for an explanation. Unfortunately, he didn't receive the correct one. "I'm afraid you'll have to excuse Severus. There was some rather unfortunate news."
Harry nodded once, urging him to continue. "I trust everything went well?"
Was he joking? He was not asking Harry how everything in a plan he had designed had turned out? He sighed shortly, wondering if perhaps there was still some remnants of Snape in him before he ventured an answer.
"Alright," said Harry bitingly, turning up his palms in lieu of a shrug. He left the sentence open, as though to say 'it could've been worse'. Dumbledore nodded in understanding, the persistent gleam of knowing glaringly bright in his eyes.
"And I also hope to trust that you will not be informing the Daily Prophet of your treatment?" asked the wizened wizard laughingly, though his meaning was clear. 'Don't go around telling every Tom, Dick and Harry'. "Though, Miss Granger and Mr Weasley have already been informed of the situation."
"No, sir," muttered Harry, suddenly anxious to leave. He hadn't realised exactly how he'd missed the company of his friends, of the occupants in Gryffindor Tower. By some miracle of God, his wish was granted.
"Then I'll leave you to get back to your dormitory," said Dumbledore, standing and leading his eager student to the door. "I think you'll find that Hedwig has missed you terribly during your short absence."
"Hedwig's back?" asked Harry in surprise. He had sent her to Sirius two days before his incarceration and hadn't expected her back for at least another three. Perhaps Sirius had changed his location and was closer? The Order might have allowed him out of his house? More anxious then ever to get to the common room Harry resisted the urge to bounce impatiently on the balls of his feet.
"Indeed, she arrived yesterday," smiled the Headmaster wisely. "And apparently she's been quite busy. I'd go see to her as soon as possible. She might be feeling quite peckish."
Pun wholly intended, Harry thought wryly as he imagined his soon to be bloodied digits. That owl could have a strange way of showing that she cared sometimes.
"Thank you, sir," called Harry quickly as he ran down the stairs at a quick jog, nearly tripping over a hissing Mrs Norris at the bottom and then disappearing around the corner as a wheezing Filch arrived soon after. Freedom.
Watching his retreat to Gryffindor tower with a relived smile was Professor McGonagall, shaking her head at his haste before ascending the stairs to the Headmaster's office from which Harry had vacated only minutes before. Dumbledore was now sitting comfortably behind his desk, one hand lightly stroking a chirping Fawkes and gazing thoughtfully at something only he seemed able to see.
"Headmaster?" McGonagall called hesitantly from the doorway before striding into the office when he offered her a satisfied smile. "Everything went according to plan I take it?"
The aged wizard sighed softly.
"It did indeed, though I dare say Severus is quite upset with me," he said gently, smiling ruefully at the thought.
"Can you honestly say that you blame him?" asked Minerva wryly. "And what of his situation with Potter?"
"They seem to have collaborated in a crusade against me," Dumbledore informed her cheerily, seeming incredibly pleased by the fact.
"Why am I not surprised?" McGonagall intoned dryly. "Might I be the first to say 'I told you so'?"
"I do wish you wouldn't, Minerva. Allow an old man his delusions," he was grinning knowingly at her now. She shook her head in dismay, about the only thing she could do at this point. "I'm afraid they are all this old man has left."
"Surely not, Albus. You've still your most loyal friends, though if you continue to incarcerate them you won't have many of them left either."
He chuckled softly at that.
"How true, Minerva, how true."
Meanwhile, Harry was reacquainting himself with the comforting warmth of Gryffindor Tower, savouring the gentle glow of the crackling hearth and the familiar chatter of the few occupants in the room. He was sitting in his pyjamas (a convenience he hadn't realised he had missed) in one of the overstuffed chairs near the fireplace with Hermione sitting on the arm and Ron on a stool next to him.
Sitting across from him was Fred, with George perched on one of the arms, mirroring Hermione, whilst Ginny sat at Fred's feet entertaining an eager Crookshanks. Harry watched as she rolled a wooden spool across the floor for the feline to chase, soothed by the repeated rhythm of her movements. She and Fred were talking animatedly, but too secure and edging on sleep was Harry to pay much attention.
"Oh please," sighed George sceptically.
"The man thinks monogamy is some kind of wood," Fred added, earning himself a swat on the leg from Ginny as she defended her new beau.
"You're just as dense," she replied indignantly.
"As wood!" she squealed laughingly, quickly rising from her cross-legged position on the floor to grab the cushion she had been sitting on and hurl it at her brother. Fred inevitably retaliated, recruiting the help of his twin to overpower her and pin her to the invitingly fluffy rug on the floor
How Harry had missed evenings like this, the total relaxation of the moment without a worry for the opinion of others. The three days spent in isolation with Snape had taught him that much at least. The Professor didn't seem capable of such ease, he was constantly on edge, always awaiting the unexpected, always analysing his surroundings and the people within it. Constant vigilance, as Moody would bellow.
It seemed like they had been forced into each other's company for weeks, and that Harry had had incite into the Potions Master's behaviour, as though he had received some clarification as to why Snape acted the way he did. He understood him somewhat, could grasp the idea that his bitter anger and cold demeanour were the results of a cruel childhood, the ramifications of being a spy but most importantly a means of defence, of ensuring his own survival.
That's all Severus Snape seemed to do day by day. He survived.
A/N: This is my way of apologising, double the length. Basically, you're getting two chapters in here, and so I hope that it makes up for the massively long delay. And now the story has come to an end, my first completed multi-chapter piece. It's quite sad really. Anyway, a huge thank you to all of you loyal readers, and I hope you enjoyed this! I wish you all a happy Halloween and a farewell (as in not goodbye, there's still more creativity rattling around this cranium of mine)! Look out for a short sequel!