Title: Inter Vivos
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, Dean/Ginny. There's also a Harry-Snape mentor relationship and strong Trio friendship.
Warnings: AU, starting off on a tangent in second year and then getting progressively farther away from canon events. Mentions of child abuse (the Dursleys' canon abuse of Harry), profanity, angst, violence, eventual—very eventual—slash sex.
Summary: AU. The Parseltongue incident in second year caused a more violent explosion in Gryffindor House than anyone could have foreseen. Harry, trying to withdraw from everyone except his two best friends, finds himself helped by people he couldn't have foreseen either, first Snape and then Draco Malfoy. Sometimes, all it takes is one sudden impulsive throwing of a stone for the ripples of change to spread through several lives.
Author's Notes: This is a fic for heeroluva, who made a very generous donation to marriage equality through the LJ comm livelongnmarry. She asked for an AU fic in which Harry tries to withdraw from everyone after a betrayal, but Snape helps him, eventually becoming his mentor, and Draco slowly becomes first his friend and then his lover. "Inter Vivos" will probably be twenty-six chapters long, and the chapters will vary greatly in length, usually covering at least a few weeks or months. The title is Latin for "between the living," and also describes a kind of legal trust in which property is given to another person while the owner is still alive, as well as living organ donation.
Harry shook his head as he slowly climbed the stairs to his bedroom. Ron and Hermione had dragged him up to the Gryffindor common room as if they were afraid that someone would be chasing them after what he'd said to the snake, and the way they'd talked about Parseltongue…
It's not as though I knew what it was before I spoke it, Harry thought angrily as he pushed open the door. I didn't even know it was evil or that that was the reason Slytherin's symbol is a snake. No one ever tells me anything like that!
He sighed and shook his head again, then stumbled over to his bed and collapsed in the middle of it. He could just imagine what kind of rumors were going to fly around the school tomorrow, probably saying that he was the Heir of Slytherin and a Dark Lord bent on taking over Hogwarts and all the rest. The mere thought made him tired.
I might as well get some rest now, before it starts happening, he thought, and closed his eyes. Sleep dived on him like a phoenix, and Harry exhaled once, a silent plea to anyone who might be watching, and who might care, and who might have the power to make it better.
Harry woke feeling as though someone had filled his head with cotton. He heard voices yelling, but they drifted as if on the other side of a veil. He rubbed his eyes with one hand and slowly forced them open, against the sticky pressure of sleep that wanted him to keep them shut.
His limbs were too heavy. His mouth was full of a bad-tasting yellow liquid. Harry scowled and spat. What had happened to him? Had he slept twelve hours, like he did the time after the Dursleys made him miss sixteen meals and he stayed awake for two days after they did let him eat wondering if he was going to die from it?
Someone flung open his curtains and dragged him out of his bed. Harry stumbled. He still couldn't get his eyes to let him see properly, and his hand shook as he tried to find his glasses.
But then he smelled fire, and that jolted him enough to make him open his eyes.
There was a smoldering pile of—things—in the middle of the room, with a spell wrapped around it that seemed to keep the fire from creeping towards the beds. Harry snatched his wand in one motion and jammed his glasses on his face. He thought he could remember a water charm that Professor Flitwick had taught them the other day if he needed to.
And then he heard the yelling and frowned. Dean was saying, "Seamus, how could you?" Neville was just repeating Seamus's name over and over again at the top of his lungs. Ron was crowding close to Harry and snapping something at Seamus so low and fast that Harry couldn't even understand it. Had Seamus caused that fire? Why?
And then he saw that the top of his trunk was open.
Harry froze. Whatever spell had made his sleep heavy, and he thought now it must be a spell, seemed to have come back full force. He strained his eyes, without moving, for a glimpse of his Invisibility Cloak and photo album.
They were gone.
They were gone.
Harry looked back at the fire again, and clenched his hands into fists. He wanted to curse and cry and swear, and at the same time, he doubted anything would be enough to express his feelings. When he blinked and stared past the smoke, he saw that crumbled bits of his Nimbus were part of the fire, too. The three objects he loved most, gone.
At least Hedwig is safe, he thought wearily, and closed his eyes. She would have flown away if Seamus went after her. He was sure she was smart enough to tell the difference between someone who wanted to pet her and someone who wanted to kill her.
"Why did you do that, Seamus?" Dean hissed the question and stepped past the bed, from the sound of his footsteps, to put a hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry leaned into the touch for a moment, dully grateful that some of his friends cared enough to protect him.
"Why in the bloody hell?" Ron asked, saying the words really carefully, in a way that Harry knew would make Mrs. Weasley gasp if she heard them.
"Look," said Seamus, who sounded defensive and gleeful at the same time. Like Dudley, Harry thought, and scrubbed at his eyes. "My mother had a cousin who was a Parselmouth, and they burned all his things and turned him out of the house. It removed the curse he put on the members of his family. These are the only things I had time to burn, but they're his most precious things. He'll have to leave Gryffindor Tower now."
There was a long silence.
"You're a right idiot," Dean said.
"Expelliarmus!" snapped Ron, the spell they'd learned in the dueling club that afternoon, and Seamus went flying backwards.
"Harry d-didn't curse anybody," Neville said, and for once Harry thought his stammer came from how upset he was rather than from fear. "You c-cursed somebody. You made him sleep so he wouldn't hear you when you c-came in and took the things from his trunk, didn't you?"
"He has to leave," Seamus repeated, and under the surface of his voice Harry could hear fear. "He has to. He's a Parselmouth. That just means that he fooled the rest of us all this time and he was evil."
Harry had heard enough. He opened his eyes and locked them with Seamus's, and Seamus flinched and folded his arms around himself as if he expected to drop dead just from looking at Harry.
Then Harry shook his head and turned away. He had nothing to say.
And he continued to have nothing to say, during the days and weeks afterwards. If asked questions in class, he would reply in a monotone, and usually to say, "I don't know." When Professor McGonagall summoned him to discuss the confrontation with Seamus, he shrugged or nodded or shook his head as her questions required. When everyone tried to talk to him during class or in the corridors or at meals, he'd turn away. He especially couldn't bear the sight of Seamus flinching from him, looking upset most of the time, but triumphant the rest.
Most people were happy enough to leave him alone, given the constant hum of rumors that he was the Heir of Slytherin. Harry knew some of the protective amulets being sold were engraved with his name; they were specifically meant to protect someone against him.
He turned away from everyone who tried to talk to him—except Ron and Hermione.
They wouldn't be left behind. They wouldn't be left out. They followed him to the lake and sat against the trees whilst he threw stones in, chattering quietly between themselves. They waited for him after McGonagall's interrogation and escorted him to an empty classroom they'd found where Harry could watch, in silence, as they practiced a few of the spells picked up in the Dueling Club. Hermione insisted on lending him her notes on a few occasions when Harry was too depressed to go to class. Ron owled his mother for protective incantations and placed them around Harry's bed and trunk himself, giving a dark look at Seamus all the while. Seamus had had a month of detentions with Filch. Neither Ron nor Hermione appeared to think it was enough, but Harry managed to stop them from taking revenge on Seamus. They'd be the ones suspected immediately if any new trouble happened to him, after all.
Harry kept his head down as much as possible and did the bare minimum of what was required of him. Classes and days blurred. He couldn't even muster any enthusiasm for the plan they'd come up with to find out about the Chamber of Secrets. Of course he was staying at the school for Christmas, because why would he want to go to the Dursleys'? But when Hermione reminded him about the Polyjuice Potion, Harry just stared at her and shrugged.
She exchanged a worried look with Ron, but didn't mention it again.
As always, the Potter brat had learned a harsh lesson from life and responded in an inappropriate way. Last year, he had been marked by danger; he continued to seek it out. And this time he had learned that Gryffindors were not all the shining avatars of light he had thought they were, and responded by shunning most of his friends and acting as if the world had ended.
Severus Snape disliked such behavior. It seemed to him to undervalue the actual end of the world, which would come about when the Dark Lord willed it or the Muggles managed to poison each other in any of a hundred ways. He sometimes held academic debates with himself at night over which way would be nastier.
He first deigned to notice Potter's stupidly changed behavior during a class session in which the boy stopped halfway through making his potion. He stared at the far side of the room with blank, glazed eyes, his hands trembling slightly. Miss Granger scolded him in a harsh running whisper and tried to smuggle the necessary ingredients into his cauldron, but this particular potion, the Lizard's Tail, suitable for correcting minor physical deformities caused by hexes, was too complicated and she had to keep most of the attention on her own potion.
Severus circled closer step by step, breaking Longbottom's confidence into pieces on the way, to give Potter's dread time to build.
He saw, when he reached the boy's side, that he might have saved himself the effort. Potter hadn't noticed him. His eyes were so distant that Severus was reminded of an afternoon when Lily—
But the past is another country, he thought, and snapped his fingers in front of Potter's face. The boy started violently backwards and tripped over his own robes. His head hit the cauldron on the way down and knocked it flying. Several of his Slytherins laughed when streaks of green and red covered the faces of the Gryffindors behind Potter.
Severus permitted himself a slight sneer. Yes, it was potentially amusing. But he preferred to save his laughter for genuine irony and keen wit and other things that none of this current crop of Slytherins would understand if they cut their throats on them.
"Potter," he hissed, stooping down so that the boy would be the main one to hear his words. "What are you doing?"
He received no answer, which had become the boy's usual modus operandi. He simply sat on the floor with potion in his hair and stared at Severus.
Severus briefly formed one hand into a fist under the cover of the right sleeve of his robe. He had better things to do than play nursemaid to Potter's overset balance. But the Headmaster would expect him to do certain things after confronting Potter so dramatically in class, the first of his professors to do so.
"Detention," he said, straightening, "for your continued disrespect of a professor. And ten points from Gryffindor for your continual incompetence." He Vanished the inert, harmless potion from the other amoeba-brained idiots with a wave of his wand and turned to look at Potter.
"It wasn't his fault!" Granger began.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for continually intruding your nose where it is not wanted," Severus snapped, and lowered his voice for her, too. "And where Potter doesn't want it either, I imagine."
She promptly flushed, her eyes widened, and her overlarge front teeth stabbed into her lip as if he had cast the Killing Curse at her. The Weasley boy, of course, glared daggers from the side. Severus wanted to rub at the headache he could feel forming behind his temples. Was it even possible for someone to be so young? Obviously it must be, since he could see the evidence existing right in front of him, but he did entertain certain wild hopes that someday he might wake from the nightmare that the last eleven years had been and discover that he had actual intelligent students.
"I want her to."
Potter's words were without fire, uninteresting sounds produced solely to reassure his friend. Granger looked as if the sun had risen, nevertheless. Weasley relaxed slightly as he put a hand on Granger's shoulder.
And Severus changed several of the calculations he had already made, because if Potter retained a connection to his friends, that might be a way to reach him.
"Detention at seven-o'clock tonight, Potter," he said. "If you are late, you will discover that frog liver is not the only acceptable ingredient in a Lizard's Tail Potion." And he swept away, not waiting for the nod of acknowledgment, which he knew he would not get.
He was almost glad for the task that confronted him now. No one else would break through the barriers of apathy closing Potter off from the world because they pitied him too much. Severus at least did not have that obstacle.
Draco bit his lip thoughtfully as he bottled his Lizard's Tail Potion—perfect as usual, of course—and took it up to the front of the classroom. He'd caught a glimpse of Potter's face when Professor Snape was scolding him.
It bothered him. Potter had been alive just a few weeks ago, challenging Draco at the Dueling Club as if he had an idea how to fight and then charging in like the bloody hero he was to "save" Finch-Fletchley from that snake. Now he looked as if he didn't care at all.
That really bothered Draco. Potter should be angry. He shouldn't weep. That didn't coincide with Draco's sense of the fitness of things.
And from the way Professor Snape was sneaking sidelong glances at Potter, he thought much the same thing. Draco made up his mind in that moment that he was going to watch the detention Potter had tonight as closely and as quietly as he could. If Professor Snape brought Potter back to life, that was fine. Draco could have his rival again and everything would be right with the world. He could concentrate on having fun at Hogwarts during the holidays and writing letters to his parents that pretended he was sorry to miss an endless round of boring parties.
If Professor Snape didn't succeed…
Draco felt his nostrils flare as his lips clamped together in a thin line. Well, then he would have to do what he always did when Vincent and Gregory didn't understand his orders, which was most of the time: he'd do it himself.