The Potions class is over. Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter are walking down the hallway together, returning home. To their quarters. They all live together now. They do everything together, as a matter of fact. They share meals. They read together. They go to class together – Severus carrying his teaching materials, and the three students, their textbooks, parchments, and quills.
It makes sense, kind of. After all, there's no-one else left in the entire school.
The school is deserted, abandoned, desolate. The hallways are dark and empty. There are no other students, no teachers, no caretakers, no pets, no ghosts. Even the portraits are gone. The silence is absolute, and darkness abides.
There's no-one left, no-one but the four of them.
It's been five years since everyone else had disappeared, and only the four of them were left behind. Their memories are hazy, unclear. They don't remember much. Somehow, everyone ... just... left. They got trapped in the deserted, abandoned school. All the doors are locked. All the windows are covered by metal plating, and locked as well. They are completely isolated from the outside world.
They don't understand what is going on. Or rather, the three students do not understand. Severus.. he knows. He's just not telling. But he is the key, he holds the answers... Harry is certain of that. He loathes him for refusing to reveal the truth to them, for declining to explain what is going on.
And yet, Harry is grateful to him, deliriously and ridiculously, for keeping the three of them sane, for establishing some sort of structure, some sort of routine, for demanding that they stay active, learn, do something – anything – lest they go insane from aimlessness and uncertainty. Severus' direction had kept them sane throughout the years.
Monday through Friday they go to classes, that Severus teaches. He never runs out of things to teach. Never.
Saturdays, they do chores, and go to the library to read. The Hogwarts library has changed. It has disproportionate amount of material on Potions and DADA, while many shelves and entire bookcases are completely bare. Severus does not seem surprised by any of it.
Sundays, they play board games, and talk. They talk about the distant past, the people who are no longer around, the things that happened a long time ago that still linger in their memories: Harry's first broomstick, Hermione's first successful spell, Ron's first kiss with Hermione. They never discuss what happened five years ago. Severus doesn't want to; and the three students simply don't remember.
They enter their quarters together, and undress. Only two years into their forced sojourn together, they had taken to showering together and sleeping together. What's the point of maintaining privacy when your universe is an abandoned, deserted building; and when the four of you are the only ones left in it?
They step into the shower together, and the streams of hot water envelop the four of them. Harry watches with a smile as Ron holds Hermione's face in his hands, leaning in to kiss her. Her hair is like a dark waterfall, cascading down her shoulders. She opens her lips to her lover, and arches her body out, until her breasts touch against his chest. Ron draws her close, and then, presses her against the shower wall, his hand sliding down her chest, to her belly, and then, between her legs, which she parts instantly with a quiet moan.
"I love you, 'Mione," Ron whispers furiously. "I love you so much."
"I love you too, Ron," she says, her hand reaching behind him, caressing his thighs. "I am so happy you are here. I don't know how... I don't know why the three .. the four of us are all alone here... but I am so glad you are with me."
"Me too," he tells her. "Me too."
Ron lifts her slightly and his erect organ enters her sex. She gasps quietly, but then, throws her arms around his neck, and wraps her legs around his waist. They move together, under the streams of hot water, him pouring all of his passion, all of his desire into her. She climaxes with an abrupt cry, and then, Ron does as well. Done, they stand together, locked in embrace, as water runs over their bodies, cleansing them and uniting them.
Harry watches them with a warm smile, and feels a hand on his shoulder.
"Enjoying yourself, Potter?" Severus drawls contemptuously.
Harry turns around and looks at him with a smile. The man's cutting remarks and disdainful tone no longer have the same bite. Harry knows when he is loved. He can recognize love miles away, whatever shape it might take.
Harry leans against him, and presses his face to Severus' chest. Harry feels his heartbeat, rapid, uneven, as if an anxious storm is welling up within him. Severus embraces him tentatively and then says, with sudden gentleness:
"Shall we call it a night then?"
"Yeah," Harry whispers, and presses his lips against an old faded scar on the man's chest. For some reason, Harry's eyes sting with tears, but he wills them away.
They go to bed together, all four of them.
At first, the three tried to sneak out at nights, and roam around the school without Severus; but they soon discovered that there was no way of fooling him. It was as if he knew everything... somehow. He made sure they fell asleep, and slept through the nights. "It's not safe to be out there at nighttime," he had told them. "You never know what you might hear... or see. At nights, you should sleep." They do.
And the nights come unexpectedly. Sometimes, night-time starts at three in the afternoon. Sometimes, it starts after midnight. They never know when night-time approaches, but Severus does.
Ron and Hermione fall asleep first, their limbs intertwined, and their foreheads touching. Then, Severus shuts his eyes, and appears to be drifting off. Harry lifts himself on the elbow and watches him with terror, and hope.
Harry wants to know what is going on. So far, he only knows that Severus is the key. Severus is different from the three of them. Severus is the only one of them that ages.
And almost every morning, Severus wakes up with new scars on his body. They never bleed, or inflame – they always look old, as if they had been inflicted years ago. But nonetheless, every day, his body carries more and more scars: horrifying, deep, disfiguring, terrible scars, that speak of torture more awful than words can express. Severus never explains. Eventually, Harry had given up on asking. But this time, Harry intends to stay awake – for the entire night, if that's what it takes. He wants to see where those scars are coming from.
Harry runs his hand across Severus' body, fingers trailing those horrifying marks. "Let me stay awake tonight," Harry asks. "Don't make me fall asleep."
Severus opens his black eyes and looks at him with a bitter smile:
"Trying to figure out how long I have left, Harry?"
"How long?" Harry asks, as ache grips his chest.
"I don't know," Severus says tiredly. "Perhaps fifty years. Perhaps... five minutes. Who knows such things?"
Suddenly, a loud impact shakes the school. In their sleep, Ron and Hermione stir and hug each other tightly. And then, as if in response to the explosion, a new scar appears across Severus' abdomen, running across some scars and marks that are already present there.
"You are the school," Harry whispers, his fingers connecting with the new scar.
"No," Severus says quietly. "The school is me."
Harry blinks furiously, as his eyes flood with tears once more. "Severus," he pleads. "Show me. Please."
Severus shakes his head. "I can't... Harry... you will go mad."
"I won't," Harry insists. "I am stronger than you think."
Another explosion rocks the school – and this time, a faded scar appears on Severus' face. Harry sits up, and presses a kiss against it, caressing the scar tissue with his tongue.
"I beg you," Harry whispers. "Please. Let me see the truth. Whatever it is."
Severus grasps him and draws him into his embrace. Harry places his head on Severus' shoulder and weeps in silent terror, as more and more explosions follow, and Severus holds him throughout all of them.
Finally, it's over. Severus stands up, faintly. Harry follows quickly and offers: "Lean on me, Severus." He does, and Harry bears the weight of his body on his shoulders, as they walk, together, to the room next door. Severus reaches to the metal-plated window and lifts the massive cover in silence.
The window opens, but not to the outdoors. It opens to another room, a simple chamber, where, from the chains hangs the naked, disfigured, bleeding, nearly lifeless body of Severus Snape. In front of it, stands Voldemort, with a cold smile on his face, surveying his handiwork with pride. Transfixed with terror, Harry stares at the dreadful view, unable to utter a single word. Then, just as the terror threatens to overwhelm him, Harry glances at the "his" Severus Snape, the one who stands right next to him.
"That is the truth, Harry," Severus says softly, pointing through the window to his own bleeding, mutilated form. "That is what is going on. What is out there is real. What the four of us have in here... is just a little more than a dream."
"I don't understand," Harry protests. "What happened? And what is this place?"
"You remember the war, don't you?" Severus asks.
Harry nods. The war... it was so long ago. Harry shudders as old memories flood him. Voldemort had won. They lost the war. They were taken away, separated. They were sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss. And then, they received it. All of them. Including Severus. Including Ron, Hermione and Harry.
"We are dead," Harry says quietly. "Is this it?"
"Almost," Severus says. "You see... when the Dementors were pulling our minds from our bodies, I reached for you. You were linked to those two, as usual. So... I dragged you three with me. There is a little place within my own mind. I call it Sanctuary. It is a place where one can become disconnected from one's own body and hide, when things go wrong. I have had it for years – just to be ready if something of this sort happened. That's where we are now."
Harry laughs through the tears. "You are completely mental, Severus," he says. "You ... pulled our souls away from Dementors and ... put us all into your own brain?"
Severus laughs as well. "What else could I do? I didn't have the heart to let you go, Harry. Perhaps, I should have – but I couldn't."
Harry nods. "So the school...is a part of your own mind. It's your Sanctuary... and this is where you hid us."
"That's why you are the only one who ages. We are not linked to our bodies anymore, at all. We will always stay the way we were when we first ... were ripped from our bodies."
"And the scars... When out there, in the real world, Voldemort tortures your body, disconnected from your mind... you still get the scars here... and the school is damaged... Because the Sanctuary needs your real, physical body to exist. Right?"
Harry bites his lip, trying to absorb the information he had just received. It's horrifying, but also liberating. Truth usually is. Severus watches him in silence.
"So what's the plan?" Harry asks finally.
"Plan?" Severus echoes. "Harry... There is no plan. Eventually, my body will be destroyed... and then, the Sanctuary will fall, as well."
Harry sighs slightly – and places his hand on Severus' shoulder. Severus is probably right, but Harry refuses to accept it – and to simply wait until the walls of their final refuge crumble, burying them all under the ruins.
"We should fight back," he says firmly.
Severus looks at him incredulously. "Oh?"
Harry smiles, his upper lip curling, his sneer worthy of Severus Snape himself. It is, however, directed at Voldemort.
"Think about it," Harry says resolutely. "Eventually, out there, in the real world, Voldemort will become overconfident, and will release you from restraints. Then, one of us will have to leave the Sanctuary... mind re-connect with your body... and kill him."
Severus shakes his head. "I've been waiting for years, Harry. He hadn't released me yet. Not for a moment. Even though, as far as he knows, my soul is long dead and gone, he is not willing to take any chances."
Harry shrugs, unconcerned. "So what? How long has it been? Five years? A bit longer? It might take decades, but he'll forget himself one day. He'll release you. Even if he does so for just a second, we'll take our chance then. We just need to wait it out and be ready. That's all."
Severus looks at him with an odd smile. "I must admit, Harry, you are taking this remarkably well. For some odd reason, I thought it would disturb you to find yourself a disembodied soul, trapped in the mind of your nemesis."
"Nemesis," Harry smirks unhappily. "What nonsense. That was years ago. I know better now. I love you."
"I love you too, Harry," Severus says softly. "I am glad I told you... It became too hard to bear this knowledge on my own."
Their hands touch and their fingers lock together.
"Thank you for insisting on hearing the truth," Severus tells him. "You are my strength."
"And you," Harry whispers breathlessly. "You are my Sanctuary."