Disclaimer: I own neither Harry nor any of his associates.
Warnings: male/male sexual situations, chan, mentions of violence;
This is the new, slightly edited version of And yet…, compliant
and Metamorphosis at Dawn.
Very little has been changed – mostly commas, really. They were
For those who are reading Pantogogue: You're facing major spoilers! I warn you! You'll get spoiled!
For those who have read Pantogogue: Enjoy the epilogue. Cheers.
"I am proud of you, Severus."
Yes, but I am not proud of myself, Headmaster. No, not in the least.
"Thank you, sir," I reply tonelessly and he takes it for what it used to be before – my obstinacy, ascertaining me that I am totally unworthy of such sentiment. And I used to believe it, too. Having joined the Death Eaters was one thing that marked me for ever, something so substantial that I have never had a hope of purifying my soul. And yet… this is not what makes me disagree with the Headmaster now.
It is the way of Slytherins and the way of spies that I would use the same tone now as back then. Dumbledore has never noticed the transition and probably never will. My soul still is not pure but I have had it shown that the purity of one is irrelevant. I have had it demonstrated that the one person that is larger than life, that is Light, that is good, that is power and justice and absolution and love is anything but pure. His innocence has been ripped away at an age that by right should have been its start. He was taught to be ruthless. He was trained in hatred. He killed and hurt and slaughtered… And yet…
"We have thought, my boy, that perhaps you might want to make your relationship official."
My inner self is rolling on Dumbledore's red and gold and purple carpet, laughing hysterically. I want to cry. Make our 'relationship' official? Oh, this is the first time someone managed to fool the old coot. It is not such a surprise that it was me – his personal spy-puppet – and Harry. Harry was always talented in fooling people. He fooled Voldemort. He fooled Dumbledore.
He fooled me. After eighteen years at Hogwarts (counting the time I spent here as a student), he managed to make me see what I wanted to see. It took a war, a siege, a battle, a near-death experience, and Harry's conscious decision to make me see the deviousness and cunning inside that Gryffindorly thick skull. I still sometimes wonder how he managed to prevent me from seeing it before, during the Occlumency lessons. Little obnoxious runt.
Merlin, but I love him.
"I do not know what you are talking about, Headmaster," I drawl darkly. It was our decision to maintain my typical headstrong attitude about this. If I went around, admitting that 'perhaps' I do not hate Harry Potter as much as I did before, the more observant people would not believe it. My colleagues and some of my students know me well enough that they would notice I have changed.
As it is, everyone knows that I do not hate Harry and everyone expects me to deny it. I do deny it; they smile knowingly and, secure in their 'knowledge', they do not look closer. That would be bad.
Dumbledore smiles at me knowingly and hands me a roll of parchment. I refuse to look at what is written there, simply because I would not do so in the Headmaster's presence. Besides, I already know. My inner self is doubling with hilarity. Harry would like this scene. Were he sitting in the armchair next to me, he would widen his eyes to an unbelievable size, look at me, at Dumbledore, at me again, and in his smallest voice ask me 'Sir, please… I would really like that…' That is not a question per se, but it would require me to glare at him, bark something along the lines of 'No way in Hell, Potter!' and inconspicuously take the parchment with me as I left, slamming the door. Harry would stare after me with sorrow, sigh and leave the knowingly smiling old coot alone in his office. My little Slytherin.
Today, however, I was forced to leave Harry in the infirmary. If he is lucky, Poppy will clear him. If he is not, he will have to wait until her back is turned to make his escape. Therefore I glare at the Headmaster and, little too forcefully, set my empty cup on his desk.
"No. He will be seventeen within the next month-"
"Oh, but Severus, the bond is already there and it does not hurt even for an adult to have a parent to turn to."
My inner self's jaw is aching – he is laughing so hard. There was a time when I though this man infallible. Dumbledore knew everything. Everything that went on in the castle… Except that now one set of rooms was warded when I allowed Harry to spend the night for the first time. The boy came in with a book on advanced passive charms. While he un-hung all paintings and stored them in a cupboard, I glanced at the first chapters. I did not understand half of it; he came, opened it near the end, skimmed over the page and fell into a trance. An hour later my quarters were under Fidelius-like (Harry had somehow managed to tweak the spell to his need) magical shield that created a bubble of void for all outside sensors, and denied the house elves entrance.
"He does not need a parent-"
Damn. A slip up, for my usual persona… but Dumbledore merely twinkles.
"Of course not, Severus. He has you."
That he does. But I do not think you would appreciate it still, if you understood the meaning of that statement.
"I do not know what you mean. I have things to do, Headmaster. If that is all…"
He dismisses me and I take the scroll with me, because that is what he expects. He also expects that sometime, in the middle of the night, when nobody is looking, both Harry and I will sign the form and make it official. He will be disappointed.
"Hello," a quiet, but strangely happy voice greets me when I enter my – our, really – living room. He sits on the sofa, with his back to me, and stares at the empty fireplace over a cup of something on the coffee table. All that I can see of him is the unruly mane, black, with several grey hairs here and there. Not seventeen yet, but sometimes I feel that he is just as old as I am.
I shed the robes, disinclined to melt in the heat of the summer day, and sink down next to him, closing my eyes for a moment and spending a little while simply not thinking of anything. I cannot help but wonder if he will still be here next month – next week, even. If I will be here. The Headmaster may be proud, and I may feel that my life is not worthless, but ultimately all that makes me go on is him.
He does not move, giving me all the time I need to clear my head, to perfect my shields, and to accustom to his closeness once again. It has been a long time… perhaps five, six days, since he was sitting next to me. He is patient, though… to get on with me he needs to be. I admire him for it, but it does not change the fact that I am not. I am used to waiting, of course, but I am not patient.
"How are you feeling?" I ask a while later, and sense him kneeling up on the couch and leaning closer to me.
"Better," he says, as though I did not know that already. He is clever enough not to leave the hospital wing until he knows he doesn't need to be there anymore.
"Did the dragon let you go?"
He laughs gently. I noticed a long time ago, that unless he absolutely needs to yell, he does not speak loudly. He does not make any loud sound, at all.
"No way. She would have me there until next Sunday… but I don't have the time."
There is something sinister in his voice.
I still keep my eyes closed, but feel him nodding. He sighs and rests his head on my shoulder.
"I'm leaving the day after tomorrow."
Something blocks my throat for a moment and I feel a strange pressure in my chest. The day after tomorrow. I always knew he would leave, and yet… and yet… It feels like a part of me will die when he goes. The day after tomorrow.
I concentrate on my breathing and on the Occlumency. It does not go away and I am afraid I will not be able to play this charade any longer. I might be distraught to lose my charge, when the time comes, even devastated (for he was one of the two people who truly care about me), but the Headmaster will know. I will not be able to downplay this.
"I cannot come with you, can I?"
He shifts slightly and sighs.
"Not this time."
Not this time. The same answer, ever since I lost my cover…ever since I have encountered the true Harry… since I…
"I'll try to come back."
It might sound strange, but for us the admission has a deep meaning. I was worried he might not try to – either choose that he wants his own life and disappear, or not even want to live on… he tends to say strange things that make me worry at unguarded moments. But he will try – he does not lie to me – and that means he wants me in his life, and wants a life with me. That makes everything I went through worth it.
"What's this?" he asks, reaching for the scroll on the table. I do not reply, but wait for his reaction. What is mine is his and he knows it as he unrolls the parchment and reads. And then he laughs and laughs and in between he manages to choke out: "Dumbledore's… idea?"
I do not even have to answer. He lets go of the scroll, straddles me and pulls me into a deliberately obscene French kiss, for the audience of himself and myself.
I wonder what would Dumbledore's knowing smile change into.
I refuse to get out of bed. It is his birthday, more than three weeks since he has left, and there has been no message, no news… No one has seen him or heard from him. I was never one to hope, but I feel hopeless now. He left without telling anyone where he went and Dumbledore made an effort to find him – sent out teams, gathered intelligence and the usual… but now, three weeks later, the search has been called off, and I know he is dead.
There is a glimmer of something that refuses to go out and my hand finds a hard, angular object on his side of the bed… a book. I have checked it out of library a long time ago – a month, perhaps, but it feels like years. I suppose it might have been that, which gave Dumbledore the idea of giving me the adoption parchments.
I pull the text closer and open it where the bookmarker sticks out from between the old, yellowed pages. If… If he comes back… I want to do this. I do not care what Dumbledore says anymore, I do not care he will not be proud, or that everyone will point their filthy fingers, or… anything. I want to know that Harry is alive at every moment.
It is Harry's birthday, his gift lies abandoned on the bedside, I am alone in our bed, and I know that nothing will ever be the same. And yet…
I cannot help but get out of bed. Because he just might come back…
Go away. It is no good. I try to sleep, but he always comes back to haunt me. I see him, hear him, feel him, taste him… He fills my senses and my memory and every second of every day my insides scream 'Come back! Come back!' and he never does.
"I'm sorry…" he repeats, and the catch of his voice indicated that he is crying. I feel like crying too. He should go away and let me sleep. The darkness is empty and cold, and the obscurity of the night is playing with me. At times like these I want to die. The birthday present is still on the bedside and I reach out for the book, but my fingers collide with something. It is warm. Moving. Alive.
Shocked out of sleep, my eyes open and I stare and stare and stare and my vision is filled with a pair of brilliant green eyes. I am finally, finally insane.
"I'm sorry…" he says once again. "I couldn't make it sooner."
I do not believe my eyes and ears, but, Merlin, do I want to. He reaches out and his hand on my face is warm.
"You look weird with a beard…" he states, but leans over and kisses me. Gently, just solidly enough to make me doubt my conviction that he is not real. "Do you want…" he pauses and shakes his head. "Never mind."
His hand moves ever so slightly and I feel cool air on my skin. He has done away with my facial hair with but a thought.
"Wand too much of a bother?"
He frowns, and his eyes darken. I have no idea what he went through (in the instance that he is real), but he never before managed consistent wandless magic. I suppose that were he a figment of my imagination, he would not be able to do it – I would have kept him unchanged.
"He destroyed it," he whispers, kisses the corner of my mouth and guides my hand to a dent in his side. A wound. A closed one. "I destroyed him."
I do not believe this either. It sounds too ideal, too… improbable. I have noticed no change in my Dark Mark, and it did change the last time Voldemort fell. And were Voldemort truly dead, there would be special news… everyone would know…
"How?" I ask, still doubtful of his existence. He moves over, pushes his knee between my thighs, and leans over me. I reflexively put my arms around his waist and force him closer. He feels real enough.
"He thought it would be funny to break my wand. And a bit funnier yet to use me in the process." My hand travels up his spine and he shivers. It makes me feel alive. "He didn't realise that breaking the wood within me would make me absorb the core. I was fun to watch his face as I walked up to him. He kept casting spells at me, and none of them worked. Made my day…"
Neither of us finds this truly funny, however. My fingers examine the wound, and I wish for light so that I could see it.
"It's just a scar. It sealed itself when I pulled out the splinters," he assures me, and plants a kiss on my chest. "He's dead. Really. He's finally dead."
I have trouble believing him. It is so surreal – Voldemort was there almost all of my life, and, suddenly, he is not? If there was an explosion, or a battle, or a natural catastrophe that marked the Dark Lord's passing, I might believe it… But there was nothing. In the middle of the night, silently, Harry came into our room, slid into our bed, and woke me up, apologising.
"What are you sorry for?"
He does not answer.
I wake up alone in the morning and know that it was a dream. It was too beautiful, too perfect to be real. The present is on the bedside, and the book on the floor where it fell at some point during the night. I climb out of the bed without protest. I am too weary to protest. A Hufflepuff first-year could push me around.
"Severus! Severus, open this door!"
I stagger into the living room, grumbling some rather unappetising phrases under my breath. I do not want to talk to Dumbledore. I do not want to talk. I do not want… Last night I almost believed it. Today, I feel dead. I open the door as I was ordered to.
"Severus!" the Headmaster beams at me and I have to shade my eyes against the twinkle. I hate him. Really, I mean it. Right now I see little difference between him and Voldemort. Both are happy looking upon a suffering being. I stand soundlessly, waiting for the end and whatever comes before it.
"Severus, look who returned."
I do so. From behind the Headmaster looks out Harry, puts his index finger to his lips briefly and steps forward. I do not know what I look like right now. I must be shocked. Thunderstruck. Puzzled. Bemused. Upset. Devastated. I know I am too happy to let it show… because last night was real. Harry has turned the world upside down and formed it into what we wanted it to be. A sick, twisted perfection.
"Potter…" I say coldly, glaring at him. He glares back.
I step aside, let him pass in, and slam the door shut into a twinkling Dumbledore's face. Harry is one devious, evil little Gryffindor. What he did was… inexcusable, but I cannot help but feel amused. From his point of view, it was the correct thing to do, and it is my fault that I am an idiot and do not believe my senses.
"So, how was your audience?" I inquire. Harry shrugs and lets his vest fall crumpled on the pile created by his boots and cloak.
"Honestly? I refused to talk to him. I told him the essentials – bastard's gone, prophecy fulfilled, Death Eaters scattered, I quit the Order, goodbye."
It takes a moment, but I feel my eyes widen as the information sinks in.
"You quit the Order?"
He lets his shirt join the rest of his clothes and, Merlin, it smells bad. He did not smell like that last night. No wonder Dumbledore believed his charade.
"Naturally. I only ever joined because I had to kill the bastard. Right now, the entire Order and Dumbledore can go- well, they don't need me to clean up the rubbish. And they don't need you," he suggests. My clever, cunning Harry. I wish he had not had to go away at all, but right now, the world is his playground. And he wants me to join him. Who am I to refuse?
"But you do, right?" I ask mockingly.
He cocks his head to the side, unbuckles his belt and, pulling off his mud-stained trousers replies simply: "I do."
"Was the old coot too disappointed when you didn't adopt me?"
"Rather." He was. Gave me a stern talking to. But I stood my ground and by that time Harry was missing and his signature was necessary for the procedure, so, fortunately, I was not forced to become a parent to my lover. That would be a bit too sick even for us.
"He tried again today," Harry says and snickers. It must have been funny – a barely seventeen year old telling the 'greatest wizard alive' to stick it where the sun does not shine. "But you're right, this thing looks good."
I abruptly sit up and stare at him. What does look good?
He is lying on his belly, propped on his elbows, studying my book – on the page where I left the bookmark. He watches me with that infuriating patience (I think he could outwait Dumbledore himself. I do not understand what happened to that rash child he used to be…), eyes gleaming (not twinkling, thanks Merlin!). It is not fair. It was supposed to be me who proposed, and him who accepted.
"It does, does it not."
"You are seventeen," I remind him, and he smiles.
"I know. I got a birthday present." Only now I register the absence of the parcel from the bedside. My eyes stray to his hand – he is wearing it.
"I thought we might use it as a focus," I suggest. He shakes his head. I try to fight disappointment.
"I have a better idea. If we change this word, and this one-" He points at two places in the incantation, "and then these to keep balance, we don't need a focus. Or, rather, the focus will be ourselves." I stare at the page in wonder. How come Harry's genius never surfaced in schoolwork? Was he truly so afraid of everyone that he kept up pretences to the point when he wanted to seem stupider than he was? Well… obviously.
"But then it would have to be cast wandlessly," I object. I do not want the Headmaster to cast it for us. We can do it quite well on our own. Even if we would have to use the bracelets as focus.
"You're forgetting, Severus…" He stands up and points at the scar on his side. This time, in the daylight, I can see it. It looks like a burn scar in the shape of a phoenix – it does not surprise me in the least. I lift myself to join him, and enclose him in my arms. He is smiling.
"I want to see the old coot's face when he finds out."
"I, personally, want to see Minerva's," I counter, and he hides his face in my chest while his shoulders shake with laughter. We are a contrasting couple – in our ages, characters, pasts, Houses, choice of associates, occupations and favourite colours. And yet…
The lightning bolt on his forehead and the phoenix on his side do as much cancel the snake and skull on my forearm, as they complement it. I am not proud of myself.
No, not in the least. But, Merlin, I am happy.
The Very End