Flames of War

Chapter One: The Husk of a Man

As if to pile up our loneliness

We kiss

The scars that we damaged

Will tell of a beautiful parting…--"Beautiful Alone"

July 10/11, Monday/Tuesday, late night/early morning, 2000

They were both so messed up.

That was the only phrasing that Snape could think of for their predicament. He barely processed it himself.

Every night, they met each other without fail. There was no greeting kiss, no vestige of intimacy before they made love to each other—if you could really call it that where there was not love—screamed each other's names, held each other tightly, shielded each other through their actions from the cruel world around them.

Yes, the War had ended. But it had left many scars in its wake; they were both victims of the same disaster. A disaster that held them captive, mind, boy, and soul, despite its passing. Both were merely shells of their former selves.

And yet, he had become accustomed to this stranger-yet-not-stranger—who had walked into his life, no barged into his life with careless abandon. A stranger who had more in common with him than he had ever expected; more than he had ever desired.

Stranger still was that while there was no intimacy in their relationship, there was something else, an understanding that Severus had, albeit grudgingly, began to except.

He looked over at his partner-not-partner, at his stranger-not-stranger, knowing that he vapid features displayed on the boy's face were simply a more relaxed version of his own.

Severus sighed. He was tired of the hate, tired of death and sorrow. Rising from his own bed, he initiated a cleansing spell and shrugged on a robe, leaving his private chambers in exchange for his den, stopping fires to pour himself a glass of wine.

He was tired of it all. He wished that it would all end. Even now that eh war was over, there were Death Eaters killing in the name of revenge. Killing in the effort to warn the very boy in his bed chambers that they were coming after him.

It had all began terribly long before Harry Potter had even been born. It was because of the shifting of the pluck of young wizards. Wizards who believed that muggles should be hiding, not those with magic in their veins.

He, too, hated muggles. But, besides fearing what they could not understand, they were only being human. Even Wizards sometimes degraded themselves to muggle-like behavior.

Worst of all, he had been tired of the antipathy of the Hogwarts Houses. Despite the Four Founders' intensions, their ancient squabbles were still the root of many of the broken friendships still in place in the building to that day. And broken friendships, especially between other Houses and Slytherins, created people such as Tom Riddle, and gave those who wanted to serve him a place to gather.

Even now in the Wizarding World, adults typically remained friends with those they grew up with in their Houses at Hogwarts.

Look at Durmstrang, Severus reminded himself. Led by a servant of Voldemort, and yet their battle readiness helped the War against Voldemort immensely.

He jiggled the glass in his hands, realized that it was there, and took a long drink that emptied it. He rose back to the wine shelf. I'd better get the bottle.

There had been events recently that had given Severus hope, however slight, that the future was truly not that dim. Various people, including Draco Malfoy, had stepped out of the shadow of lives that barely belonged to them to help Harry throughout the War. Several Slytherins who trusted Malfoy had also come to Hogwarts, their major War-time headquarters, to assist Dumbledore. Some even convinced their parents, like Pansy Parkinson. Some refused to come to their side, like Blaise Zabini and his parents.

Sitting back down in his chair and refilling his glass, Severus sighed. Despite the bright signs ahead, he could not decide whether or not he believed in a future without chaos and mistrust.

It is indeed a horrible sign, for a good future when Harry Potter crawls into your bed every night. And with that, Severus drained his glass again.

Yes. Voldemort had been killed. But at what expense? The destruction of a world, its relationships, its people? How many people had Voldemort imprisoned? How many were missing? How many of those missing were dead? How many were Death Eaters?

And then there was Lucius. Lucius, who had betrayed Severus's trust more than anyone. Lucius who for the most part was the reason why Severus had the scars that made him identify with The Boy Who Lived in the first place.

Ronald Weasley, too, had played an essential part in what Severus now called 'Harry's fucked up psyche', which was truly no more fucked up than his own. When Albus Dumbledore had returned to the War with the news that Weasley had become a Death Eater, the world had collapsed for everyone at Hogwarts. Especially Harry. Ron's family was at that moment truly shamed, despite their positions as Aurors, and Ginny Weasley's particular skill in Healing Magics. Charlie Weasley had been famous for training one Dragon in particular—one named Norberta, it seemed—to sense and destroy the Dark Mark, and those who possessed it. Unfortunately, Severus now owed his life to that oaf, Hagrid, who had saved his life after the wretched thing attacked. It took four months until Severus could walk in the presence of that infernal creature.

However, he mused with another sip, You did receive the satisfaction of watching her devour several Death Eaters…

Ron Weasley had sworn the oath of loyalty and had been given the Dark Mark, even. If Severus had had thought the boy's betrayal an act (which he had, at first), all suspicions of that faded when, during the Final Battle, he had seen it upon the boy's arm with his very eyes. And he knew from experience that the Dark Mark was not something you agreed to have etched in your skin on a whim. It was a commitment, a burden that one would have to deal with his entire life. It meant sleepless nights, it meant endless torture from Voldemort. It meant that your life was no longer your own.

And, a small, sarcastic voice in the back of his mind added, it means night after night with Harry Potter.

Shut up, Severus thought to himself.

However, there was a significant change in the tide of that battle. Harry, out of anger that Weasley had joined his side, had momentarily stunned Voldemort for enough time to snarl into Weasley's face, "Why!?"

Why? It was a simple enough question, but one that helped Severus end the life of one Death Eater by the name of Dolohov. It was the same seething question that he had asked someone else long ago, when he still trusted the world. However, the outcomes of those two situations were very different.

(flashback, late afternoon, December 1999.)

"Because," Ron said, and pointed his wand at Harry. The brunette's eyes widened, bracing for the most horrible blow he would ever take: one from his best friend.

But that was not Weasley's intention. Raising his wand a half inch to the right, over Harry's shoulder and at Voldemort, the redhead called, "Expelliarmus!"

That obviously gave Harry the opening he needed. But even as Voldemort was hit by a Killing Curse from Harry, Blaise Zabini was not finished. For him and for many others, Severus knew, it was not over. With a chill in his eyes that matched a Malfoy's, Zabini peered right at Ron Weasley and hissed, "Crucio!"

Severus, for reasons even he didn't understand, not even then, had tried to take the blow for Weasley; he had been accustomed to it, being an ex-Death Eater. And despite Ron having been a Death Eater, only person had ever experienced the amount of pain that Severus had. He would take the torture much better than Weasley.

But he could not get there in time. Agonizing screams began to rip themselves from Weasley's throat as he coalesced with the meaning of pain. Zabini was angry, and that emotion poured through every magical ounce of the Cruciatus Curse.

"Ron!" Harry screamed, immediately tackling Blaise to the ground and wrenching the Slytherin's wand from him.

But Blaise's concentration was complete and utter; even having his wand taken away from his mind not stop his mind from imposing the curse.

Severus them scrambled to stand between them, to intercept the waves of magic now that there was no wand pinpoint their target. It wasn't too long before he could hear his own screams, despite resolving not to give the boy satisfaction.

"Severus!" It was the first time Harry had ever used his first name. As the other death Easters retreated, Blaise faltered, and his spell slowly faded from the Potions Master.

Harry's murderous gaze was the last thing that Severus saw. His last thought before slipping into the dark subconscious of his mind, was that he was proud of both Harry and Ron.

end flashback.

Ron had been in a healing sleep even since, and that happened more than half a year ago.

Severus had heard, after had had woken up, that Blaise had Apparated away before Harry's anger roused him to action. The Boy Who Lived, after ensuring that Hermione Granger put both injured men into a healing sleep, went hunting that night. Six Death Eaters died the same night, 

none of them Blaise but all of them horrible nonetheless. When he returned, hours after the battle and somewhat covered in rainwater, moody and cold, Harry had finally seemed to have control of himself.

It was four days after that battle when Severus awoke from his sleep. Having been the only other conscious person who had been unoccupied when Ron had been attacked, Harry, effusive as usual (from what Severus had heard, Harry's return to the castle had scared even Dumbledore, so he was glad not to have had to see it), sought to speak with him about it.

And the poignant tale comes full circle, Severus thought with finality, taking another swig of wine—only to realize that there was no longer any in the glass.

He sighed.

"Severus?" a soft call came.

The Potions Master did not even bother to turn, instead refilling his glass.

Just like every night, Severus felt a twinge of guilt for his actions. Harry was already so frail, so broken…

"Severus?" he said one more time. "Are you alright?"

You dare ask if I am alright, when your very soul is shattered beyond repair? Severus thought, instead of answering. You, such an insolent, dilatory child with a paucity of common sense…? You are not the man you once were. You are no longer possessed of the superfluous ebullience, the frenetically garrulous exterior that made you Harry Potter. You no longer make your comrades smile, no matter what your name does to the masses. Instead, you involve yourself with an insipid man who is more than twice your own age. You are a husk, Harry.

"Severus!" Harry was becoming worried.

"Yes, Mister Potter…?" Severus inclined as he tried to forget their current circumstance.

"Do you need to talk, Severus?"

The Potions Master winced at the use of his first name. "No. Go. Back to Bed," he said.

Harry knew better than to argue. As he left, Severus poured himself another glass.

You must do something about him, he thought to himself. Before he loses himself completely…

This world is a riddle,

This world is a lie

However, there's compassion in this world after all—"Kiss me, Kiss me, Kill me"

I did want to make it clear that all of the song lyrics are from Weiss Kreuz, an anime about two groups of assassins; you should look it up if you like the lyrics—all of the words are based off of the things that main characters go through.

I really like this story. This is my biggest project I've ever worked on—on paper, it spans to almost three hundred pages so far, and I'm not even finished completely.