Disclaimer: Not mine. Shore, Singer, Jacobs, and Rowling are the architects of this amalgam. None of the other stuff is mine, either. Just the convoluted plot.
Summary: Incorrigible. That's what Cuddy and Wilson call him whenever he's pulled some stunt or played a prank or made some comment. It's one of his favorite words, but they don't know why. Considering the circumstances, neither does he.
Rating: M for darkness, angst, and...well, the fact that it was Smut Tuesday over at house-cuddy also says a lot.
Pairings, etc.: :sighs: I don't think I have room to list all the possibilities I plan to explore. The CONCRETE ones, however, are House/Cuddy/Wilson and all that that implies. Oh, and James/Lily, for canon-sake, obviously.
Spoilers: The entire series, discounting that frustrating as hell epilogue. House, seasons one and two. I flatly refuse to mention the Shitter debacle or its completely irrelevant detraction from the main story. The Demons series by my dear friend, KidsNurse, who has kindly consented to let me use her wonderful plot for my own machinations and such. I hope she doesn't regret it.
Special thanks to silja-b, who put up with at least six revisions on this thing. She deserves cookies, damn it. Lots of them. Reviews are always encouraged and appreciated.
Now completely AU, but as DH-compliant as I can make it.
...Love of mine, someday you will die and I'll be close behind; I'll follow you into the dark...
Sometimes he dreams about it. Though that really isn't much to go on because he's dreamed about solving that damned worded Rubik's Cube, too, and it's still taken him two weeks, off and on, to get the sections positioned right. But sometimes, when he's still awake at four am, listening to their breathing on either side of him, he thinks about it.
Reducto, something in his head says, or Avifors, and the barriers break, his memories coming forth like birds or a fountain of wine from the end of a wand.
Or like that sickly green haze so benign in and of itself, signifying so much more (destruction, malevolence, blood, and death...so much of it...) in their whole.
He shivers, clenching his eyes shut and trying not to remember.
Obliviate, he thinks, lifting a hand to his chest. Maybe if he thinks it hard enough, it'll work. He's kidding himself and he knows it.
"You never worry," her voice is telling him as she hugs him goodbye. It's no use trying to persuade her otherwise. Sure, he worries, but it doesn't always show. He thinks that, deep down, she knows.
"If I come down with terrible bleeding sores or wake up covered in blisters--"
"I'll give you essence of murtlap...or tell you to take an oatmeal bath. One of the two--herpes is a bitch and a half to deal with and I'd hate to have to lecture you on the proper spell for a condom--"
And she laughs in that shrieking, wide-eyed way she always did when he's managed to shock her yet again. You'd think she was used to it by now, but...
"Gregory House, you are absolutely incorrigible."
Incorrigible. That's what Cuddy and Wilson call him whenever he's pulled some stunt or played a prank or made some comment. It's one of his favorite words, but they don't know why. Considering the circumstances, neither does he.
Lily had Apparated directly to his apartment herself. He and James had decided to finally call a truce for Lily's and Harry's sakes and Lily thought that dinner would make it official. She had given him the address and had watched him personally burn it. He'd been so relieved to finally get to see her that he hadn't even made any jokes about her taciturn mood. They had been the joking ones, always teasing Regulus for his broody nature and grinning whenever he rose to their bait, which was often.
He'd been late because he'd been too nervous to concentrate properly on Apparating and had Splinched himself in front of a Muggle, costing him six hours of paperwork and two hundred Galleons, leaving him in quite the sore state at the time but all had been forgotten as soon as his eyes had landed on their partially destroyed house.
His ties sit in a box in the back of his closet. They're the only parts of his uniform that he has left. Blue, black, and bronze. Dotted with blood. He'd worn the shirt and tie because Lily had asked him to dress nicely for dinner with James and it was the only decent unrumpled, non-t-shirt thing he'd had at the time.
The blood spatter on the tie is his own because Avada Kedavra doesn't leave a mark. He'd smashed his fist into the door trying to get through it and the rest of his arm had followed suit. He hadn't even realized he'd either broken or fractured his (hamate, hook of hamate, metacarpal, trapezium, proximal phalanx) hand, his (radius, ulna) arm, his (scapulae, clavicle) shoulder, until hours later when the pain had woken him up and it was time for his potion replenishing. It was the last time he'd been in Saint Mungo's. Remus had been the one who found him, he'd later discovered. Sirius, of course, was...
He wants to slam his head back against the bars of Cuddy's bedstead, but that would wake them.
He breathes deeply and counts to one hundred, two hundred...does their multiples by three. He stops after 600, when it's clear he won't be sleeping tonight. He pulls numb then tingly arms out from under one of the pillows and presses the heels of callused hands into his eyes.
He really misses his piano right now, but it's at his apartment alone and in the dark--like him, on most days and some nights.
He almost wishes for a spasm, just for the distraction. The excuse to pop a pill. Then he wants to kill himself because he can see Lily's bright green eyes staring at him with such hurt, such scorn, for letting himself get so wrapped up in trying to be numb. Regulus would sigh and frown, but would let it go and he'd be grateful, but Lily would grieve for him as he does for her.
Then he imagines her tears falling on his face and hears her whispering, asking what she could possibly do to help him want to feel again because he's her brother and she hates what his pain does to him.
After all, Jimmy and Lisa have tried (have done more than they should have, really, at risk to their licenses and sanity and all for just a few ephemeral moments' relief) and his mother has tried and even Stacy. But Stacy didn't know what it was like to hold your best friend's body in your arms, staring at the equally lifeless form of her husband, wondering why they were dead, what the fuck purpose it served. If there even was one. He'd been insanely irritated by James more than once, but not enough to ever want this.
Never, in a million eons.
He's always hated to remember, and never more than now.
The lime green numbers glowing from Cuddy's bedside table color Jimmy's skin and make him look sickly. Wrong body, he believes, but he's in the middle of their tangle, languishing in bare skin and the gentle slide of Cuddy's silken sheets (warmth that he can't seem to find anywhere else except for the bottoms of plastic vials and glass bottles) because he likes it.
...I love it, but I hate the taste...Weight, keeping me down...
He feels small and negligible in the middle. It's a feeling he's grown used to and he's learned to use it to his advantage.
So he makes himself negligible now and forces himself to forget.
He remembers what it was like to be little, listening to his father teaching his mother how to use a telephone. He remembers his father being astonished that she'd never used one before. Sometimes it's funny to be a half-blood. Most of the time, though, it isn't.
"You're an idiot," he tells Regulus, staring (with the same detached sort of fascination that he now employs in his once in a week--or month--cases) at the Dark Mark now etched into the other boy's skin like some macabre tattoo. "And we might as well start planning your funeral now, you altruistic bastard. Tell me--" And here he throws his arms wide, twirling them like a conductor following music. "How did that old bastard convince you to do something so..."
Stupid, he'd been about to say. He'd never finished his sentence. Regulus was staring at the Mark, upper teeth working over lower lip in that way that he was so familiar with. Grey eyes clouded with worry, framed by black hair and the silver and green of his uniform.
"I might as well tell you goodbye now," he says, and the backs of his eyes burn. Regulus looks up at him before reaching up to undo the fastenings of his cloak.
"You're cold," Regulus tells him, pale and frowning. He reaches up and straightens Greg's hat and right in that second Greg might want to kiss him, possibly to say the goodbye that couldn't seem to find its way out of his chest. But he doesn't. It's a regret he'll carry for the rest of his life.
"No, I'm not," he denies, the burning spreading down from his eyes to his gut, the acidic sensation of fear roiling and churning like he'd drank sour milk. But Regulus disagrees, pulling the cloak off square shoulders and placing it around his own rounder ones. Lily always complained about his slouching.
"It's not bad to be tall," she'd tell him, pulling him into a straighter position. "It's not bad to stand out."
Yes, it is, he'd always wanted to tell her. And I do it enough without trying.
He wouldn't though. Couldn't bring himself to reject her caring gestures. To make her go away.
He watches, his brain and his vision in a sort of sideways leaning fog, as Wilson scoops eggs onto his plate. He'd follow the conversation Wilson is having with Cuddy, but that would require concentration and he just can't bring himself to fake any right now. The date on the calendar is mocking him, a surreal glow to it from across the kitchen. He'd like to think he was imagining it, but he can't let it go.
Tomorrow was November. All Saints Day. Today was October. All Hallows Eve. The inconsistency of those names tickled Lily terribly when he and Regulus first pointed it out to her. He tries not to remember her laugh because today Lily died and it makes him bleed inside. He's tempted to ask Jimmy to do some exploratory surgery. Maybe an 'insert prefix here'-dectomy would lessen the heaviness pulling on his viscera. It's been twenty-five years but that doesn't feel right. It doesn't seem more than a minute.
Someone is touching him. He sits listlessly as Cuddy's fingers trace his collar, her lips alighting on the back of his head for fleeting moments until she and Wilson go to the hospital. They let him mourn in silence and space. He always gets to take these three days off. He's never been very in-depth about them, but she and Wilson don't seem to mind. His team won't be calling. There are never any cases taken in the end of October. It's a firm rule, one Chase knows well and was quick to inform Cameron and Foreman of. The consequences of breaking that law are well-versed throughout the hospital. No one so much as asks for a consult or even a packet of sugar (like they'd ever ask for that) lest they drown in House's clinic hours for the next month.
He's thankful, even if he can't seem to say so.
His mother calls him every day this time of year. She's no stranger to telephone usage by now but still prefers to use owl post most days. It's how they usually communicate. She feels, however, that it's important for him to hear her voice on certain occasions.
"You're eating," she says (never phrasing it as a question as though asking would make him say no just because), her telephone voice always louder than her usual speaking tone.
She seems convinced that he can't hear her quite as well despite the fact that she's been using telephones for over forty years now. Still, he doesn't mind. It keeps him grounded in the conversation and doesn't let his thoughts carry him away. He relishes the tether, even if he can't admit that he needs it.
"Yes, Mom," he says, his voice quiet, eyes burning and bloodshot. He ate the eggs Wilson cooked him this morning. Drank the strong coffee Cuddy made. He remembers introducing Lily and Regulus to coffee and beer, remembers the way their faces twisted at the unfamiliar tastes. The way he laughed as Lily struggled to swallow the beer and not spit. How Regulus choked on his coffee the first time and added a pound of sugar and even more milk to his cups thereafter. He almost threw the mug at the wall, but managed to restrain himself this time. Last year, Wilson wasn't so lucky and spent thirty minutes cleaning up ceramic shards and caffeine off most of the kitchen surfaces. He tried to say he was sorry, but all that wanted out was screams. He shook inside and waited until that night. Pounded Lisa, then Jimmy into the mattress, trying to use love as a cover for despair.
...You'll be loved, you'll be loved...Like you never have known...And the memories of me will seem more like bad dreams...Just a series of blurs, like I never occurred...Someday, you will be loved...
Or perhaps not. He still doesn't know and isn't interested in pondering the question.
"I love you," his mother tells him, and he nods, wishing like he does every year that he had his fireplace connected to the Floo Network for this one moment. But that would defeat the purpose of having defected in the first place, so he clenches his eyes shut and leans against the back of his couch. "I love you, too."
He doesn't ask about how Wales is. He doesn't want to know.
House, in general, has always enjoyed watching people's reactions. Jimmy, in particular, is excellent for responses that are completely above and beyond the situation itself. Cuddy's good for the little flush she gets whenever he make some comment that makes him want to throw her back against one of their desks and defile it properly. It's not much, but it's a reason to smile (to laugh until he and Lisa are breathless and hold onto each other to keep from falling over and he feels drunk with glee and lightheaded afterward and can forget for a while) so he takes it.
He figures Cuddy and Wilson wonder if they were ever more than friends. They weren't, he knows, but that didn't stop curiosity from making its rounds. The memory of Regulus' skin on his is fresh as Jimmy's lips wander over the back of his neck. Lisa's hands on him, her breath in his ear and he recalls Lily's flaming hair brushing across his shoulders as she rose and fell above him. Jimmy's fingers around his wrist are Regulus's and he has to open his eyes and see Jimmy's deep brown ones to get the facts straight.
But crushes and inquiries aside, they were his firsts. He was Cuddy's, and neither of them were Wilson's, but there's only so much of an indentation that can be filled.
It's not for lack of trying and he's reminded as he lets his hands follow Jimmy's over Lisa's body, loving her moans and gasps and the way she clings to him with sweat-slick hands. The feeling of Jimmy's hair brushing against his back as they crash together, Jimmy into him, he into Lisa. It's almost perfect.
"So when's the wedding?" He asked cheerily and Sirius goes to answer for half a second before Remus stomps on Sirius' foot and they both send him identical glares of 'We are not together!' irritation.
He smothers a chuckle and continues on toward Transfiguration.
"House. Do you really think I'd be here if it weren't of dire importance? It's taken me nearly two years to track you down as it is."
"Of dire importance, you say, oh great Half-Blood Prince? Lucius finally managed to knock you up, I see. The resemblance is uncanny." He smirks until he realizes the kid is too damned scared to take offense. He's practically pissing his pants, his eyes glued almost hypnotically to the pestle and bowl on House's desk. Probably because it's the only thing he can immediately recognize in this office. That knowledge gives House a tiny sliver of satisfaction at having hidden himself so completely in something so foreign to them. "And about that 'two years' thing? How the hell are you still alive? Much less the kid--"
"If you're done--"
"What the fuck do you expect me to do, Snape?" he asks, contempt thick in his voice and managing to cover up the burgeoning concern that's building now.
"Safe passage, refuge, all that shit--yeah, I get that, you fucking moron. You've got balls of titanium, coming here. Is Peter hiding in your pocket, writing notes in the lining of your robes? Going to report to Daddy as soon as--"
The blood has drained out of Snape's already sallow face, giving him a dead, papery sort of look. House is pleased to note he's started to shake almost imperceptibly.
"You killed her." His voice is frigid, his blue eyes even more so. "You killed them both."
It's a moment before Snape says anything, but House is able to detect a change in the timbre of the greasy git's voice. "I...had nothing to...do with..."
"Yeah, you didn't do anything, did you? You let him die. You told Dumbledore you'd protect him. You didn't. That monster, Greyback, tore him apart. MacNair finished the fucking job and gave his ax a hummer as a reward. He loves his little harbinger of death just that much. Now you want me to do better for you. Blow me."
The desperation that flashes across Snape's face makes him think for a moment that the bastard might actually consider it. He's a little sickened, just now.
"Don't help me, then," Snape says and it's clear that it is the last thing House expects him to say. "Help him." Snape frowns, giving Draco a look. "He's done nothing to deserve this."
"Well, then, I guess it's his bad luck that he has you to look out for him, isn't it?"
He wants Snape to say something, to at least give him the courtesy of a curse. The Leg-Locker or Diffindo would do nicely.
"Yes, it is."
The darkness and anger in Snape's eyes has drained away. Only exhaustion and...guilt...are left. It's rather unnerving to see, actually.
What the fuck did you do? He decides he doesn't want to know. He learned Legilimency and Occlumency for a reason and this was certainly a time to use at least one of them. He analyzes the Periodic Table of Elements instead of figuring out Snape's motivations, which leads to him thinking about flirting with Cuddy under the cover of biochemistry as a teaching assistant. He's always had a soft spot for bleach (Sodium hypochlorite (NaClO)--your father's lab coats were never so bright, Cuddles...), but tries not to think about Cuddy's breasts while Snape is standing there and trying to see his thoughts. Memories of Cuddy are his, damn it, and they're going to stay that way.
"You hypocritical bastard," House bites out, giving Snape a withering glare for good measure. He spends a good five minutes bitching, but shoves two sets of scrubs into Snape's arms nonetheless. He wanted to give Snape an open-back gown and have them both admitted, but that would have required entering both Snape and Draco's information and all that crap into the system. The only two people he could afford to tell were going to have to be it. It is the first and last favor Severus Snape has ever and will ever owe him.
Hopefully, the same will bode true for Draco Malfoy, as well.
That night, House phones his mother from his office and explains to her the plan in Italian. He doesn't know whether or not to pity these two, who will soon spend so much time in his father's company. He decides to split it down the middle and feel bad for Draco, who's the enigma of the two. The kid is practically a stranger, after all, and House can just see the innocence dripping off him despite all the posturing he wants to do. He wonders if Draco knows anything at all about pretending to be a Muggle. Short of giving the kid a crash course in Muggle Studies, he settles for teaching him what basics he can at the moment.
"I know how to flush a toilet, sir," Draco tells him flatly, annoyed further by House's subsequent smirk.
"Now, now, I know these things look simple but, really, you can never be too careful." Draco has to suppress a scowl and almost manages it. Not quite, though, and House counts it as a victory.
"Shut up, House," Snape snarls, trying to look threatening in pink scrubs but failing spectacularly. It's an effort made in vain. House knows Snape's jealous because he gave Draco green ones.
Before they leave, he casts the Fidelius Charm on himself. His wand ('Ash, phoenix feather, twelve and one-half inches long...excellent wand for charms, Mr. House...') is cold in his fingers, but feels as though he held it just yesterday instead of sixteen years before. He really doesn't think Snape will enjoy Nyack, but figures he gets what he pays for. Then it occurs to House that he's doing this completely free of charge.
Fuck. He throws Snape another filthy look and they each Apparate to Nyack, New York. It's Draco's first time in a Muggle neighborhood and his disdain is apparent.
"If you have a plan, Whitesnake, now would be an excellent time for show and tell." He doesn't bother to clue Draco in on extinct rock bands, which doesn't matter because Draco is confused by both references and House rolls his eyes. "Didn't your parents at least send you to primary school? Or did they want to get a head start on trying to turn you into a sociopath?"
Draco doesn't answer, instead concentrating with all his might on the concrete echoing below their feet. House continues to soliloquize to himself about the sorry state of pre-school education these days (apparently, show and tell is no longer a crucial part of daytime education for children and that makes him sad; the mere chance to speechify about dead grass you found at some radioactive dumping site is being taken out of the hands of small children everywhere) and ignores them for the next few minutes.
They turn the corner onto House's parents' street and immediately see the porch light of the House residence shining in the darkness of two am.
"Never mind. Look, kid, I don't know exactly what to tell you, but for the next few weeks, you don't speak unless spoken to. You will wear what my mother buys you at the PX--"
Draco gives him another confused look. House scowls in irritation. "Never mind what that is. Just...be polite. Take up something to help pass the time. The piano does wonders on that front. And..." he runs a hand through hair already unruly (his mother always called it a glimpse into that whirling dervish otherwise known as his brain. His father called it--and him--a rat's nest that defied every regulation in the book). "Don't piss off my father, alright? That's the best advice I can give you. Whatever he tells you to do, you do it. No questions. No complaints. And if he's working on some fucking thing, don't ask him about it. Just go...occupy yourself elsewhere. And if you go out, make sure you're back at five pm, sharp or you won't be eating dinner."
Draco stares at him for a moment, slightly apprehensive, but then that practiced blank mask falls over his face. It's something he knows well, masks.
Then he stops and turns to face Snape fully, his face blank, eyes bright with anger. "If you get my mother harmed in any way, shape, or form--Jesus won't be able to save you. Is that understood?"
It doesn't matter that he's on the disbelieving side of agnostic or that these two are card-carrying atheists. He only cares that his mother makes it through this safely.
He'd changed clothes, stopping off at his apartment and dressing all in black. His Boondocks Saints t-shirt seems strangely appropriate.
And Shepherds we shall be,
For thee, my Lord, for thee.
Power hath descended forth from thy hand,
So our feet may swifly carry out thy command.
And we shall flow a river forth to thee,
And teeming with souls, shall it ever be.
In Nominae Patris, et filli, et Spiritus Sancti.
He remembers the words to other prayers, as well. One military prayer (the irony never fails to amuse him) he learned from his lapsed Catholic father as a small child. He's found the Saints' prayer to be surprisingly useful in conjunction with the Hippocratic Oath, and the Kaddish of his childhood Shabbat nights spent in synagogue with his mother. He'd wondered all sorts of things about all the meanings of what was later considered a creation myth by those who came after. He still doesn't know what to believe and hates that whoever's in charge, wherever they are...could be so...coldly, calculatingly detached from what was happening right under their noses.
He doesn't know the answer and isn't in any particular hurry to find out.
The ones he's learned from his mother (and Lisa and Jimmy), though, stand out the most. He doesn't know why he clings to them the way he does, as they don't seem to have any relevance in his life that he can see. But right this second, it seems fitting.
"Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha olam, she hehiyanu v'kiy'manu v'higi'anu la z'man ha zeh."
"What the bloody--"
House whips out his wand and points it directly at Snape's chest. Silencio, he thinks and Snape's voice is cut off midsnark. "Shut up. I was praying. I know you don't give a damn what the hell's going on with you, but I'd like to at least pretend things might be a little okay. Allow me my denial. It's the least you owe me."
Then he knocks on the door, three times fast, two times slow. It opens immediately and House is thrust inside by a brown-haired witch in pajamas and a bathrobe, her feet in slippers.
"Jesus, Mom, you could have told me you were sleeping."
"Come in, Greg--" she doesn't waste time with pleasantries and that's good. She gives Snape and Draco each a quick once-over. There's a quick look of motherly pity for Draco, but an even quicker flash of...anger, sadness, hatred...for Snape and he can't quite tell which but now isn't the time to mull it over. He ducks into the house (the first his parents bought together after his father, a Full Bird Colonel, finally retired), immediately dropping onto the arm of the couch like he always does and enjoying the quick admonishment he gets from his mother before sliding down onto the cushion.
"You're half-starved to death, both of you," she says to him and Draco, ignoring Snape and it makes House want to chuckle a bit. His mother can be cold when she puts her mind to it and it's always an interesting sight just who she directs the draft at.
She retrieves her wand from the living room table and beckons the three of them into the kitchen before seating Draco and Snape at the table. House stops cold in the doorway when he realizes his father is sitting there fully-dressed and waiting for an explanation. He doesn't have one and it's not his to give anyway.
"Gregory," his father says, laying the newspaper down in front of him and eyeing both Snape and Draco, who--and he didn't think this was possible--pales a bit more. "You look a damned mess."
He resists the urge to roll his eyes. "Hi, Dad. I'm shitty. Thanks for asking."
"Don't swear, Greg," his mother scolds, giving her wand a bit of a flourish and letting a thick sauce (he would guess alfredo mushroom from the look and smell) flow from it into a pot. A larger one already has tortellini boiling away. "And sit down. You haven't eaten in God knows how long."
Greg sighs, but does as he's told. He motions for Draco to do the same and resigns himself when his mother places two heaping plates of pasta in front of them. Then she gives Snape another long, cold look but sighs abruptly before pulling out another chair for him. "Eat," Blythe House orders, placing another plate before him.
Snape looks massively uncomfortable and House takes the time to let the flavor melt the heaven on his palate into a delicious gooey mess as he chews. His mouth is closed, though, because he does have home training, no matter how often he demonstrates otherwise. The silence is thick and uncomfortable and House enjoys every moment of it, staring at Snape's face as though he were the latest episode of General Hospital. Snape scowls deeply, but eats the food he's presented with. Draco takes a gingerly bite before overwhelming hunger gives in and he eats himself into an exhausted haze.
Oh, this is going to be good.