Title: Be Good and Don't Make a Sound
Snarry Games 2007 Team: Wartime
Prompt: Chain of Command
Length: ~18,000 words total. ~3,500 in part 4 - FINAL PART.
A/N: Dedicated to Ac1d6urn. Written between 24.3 - 21.4.07.
Betas: Sazzlette, Eeyore9990, Medawyn, Unrequited Angst, Joanwilder, Perfica and Ac1d6urn. Thank you all.
Summary: How can Harry rush to the rescue when it's his own dad who stands in his way, and Death Eater Severus Snape who needs his help?
Be Good and Don't Make a Sound
It wasn't that Harry didn't want to go back home and see his family and friends. Something from last month was still echoing around somewhere in his mind, telling him he should feel excited and comfortable.
Well, he didn't. Harry's palms were damp and his scalp was itchy. His mouth was terribly dry no matter how much he drank. More than once he'd refused the urge to run after Shacklebolt and beg to remain at the training area.
But he was three months along in Auror training now, and he hadn't been sitting on his arse doing nothing. Harry thought that if people didn't learn bravery in Auror training, they never would.
So he went home.
He noticed the cleanliness of the fireplace. Because his head was half in it, Harry noticed that the chimney was very clean as well.
Stepping onto the rug, he glanced around the living room and saw that the table had been recently polished. The pillows of the armchairs and sofa were all fluffed up, and the windows sparkled in the dim wintry daylight, their glass-panes reflecting Harry's image.
In the clean room he stuck out like a sore thumb, with his hair a sweaty mess stuck to his head, his robes wrinkled, and an internal storm that was out of odds in the strict neatness of the living room.
Maybe his bedroom would be better . . . but no, it wasn't; the carpet had been vacuumed, the bed aired and thoroughly made. There was nothing on the desk for the first time ever. Harry almost felt guilty putting his trunk at the foot of his bed and rummaging though the items to take out some things he wanted.
The hallway to the shower was blessedly empty.
In the middle of his shower, however, somebody rapped on the door and shouted, "Harry, is that you?" The voice, muffled by the water-flow, sounded vaguely like James.
Harry shouted that yes, it was, and wondered who else it could've been. With that thought he finished his shower and went back to his room, hoping to take a brief afternoon nap to catch up on his lost sleep.
He found himself eyeing the bed, not really wanting to go to sleep, but rather to go upstairs, where he could feel elated again, knowing that he knew.
Where he could be let down and discover that he knew nothing and nobody. Where, if James discovered him, he'd lose more than what he thoguht he had.
Making his decision, Harry slipped into bed, enjoying the feel of his clean skin against his pyjamas, enjoying the silence that meant his sleep wouldn't be disturbed, and knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to sleep at all.
Sleep had become a rare commodity for him during October. Whenever he was awake, he could think of little else but drowning deeply into black sleep, and whenever he was in bed, he would think of drowning deeply into black eyes, muting the voice –
Harry sat up, swearing, trying to clear his mind. This wasn't working. He threw the blankets aside, rumpling them into a much more lived-in look, and went downstairs for a glass of water.
At the bottom of the stairs, he stopped, thinking he'd heard something. He strained his ears and didn't dare even to breathe as he listened.
"Will it take long?" James asked, his voice low.
"It might," replied Sirius's voice, muffled by the fire's cracklings. "Gawain recalled the entire team again."
"Doesn't mean we can afford not to go."
"I don't want to leave Harry at home alone, not with – you know," said James, sounding frustrated.
"Can't help you there," Sirius said cheerfully. "But I don't think he'll do much harm. He's probably asleep and won't wake up until you get back."
"Fine," sighed James. "Give me a few minutes to get my stuff, all right? I'll meet you—"
Here Harry snuck back up the stairs and to his bed, covering his head and pretending to be asleep. He could hear his dad's footsteps on the floor outside his room, could feel their sudden slowness, and then they picked up their pace. Five minutes later, James passed by the door again on his way downstairs.
A minute later Harry peeked out from under his blankets. Another minute later his entire head was uncovered. Two minutes more saw him seated on his bed, legs still under the blankets.
He waited with his eyebrows drawn together in concentration, searching for any unexpected noise that meant James hadn't left yet.
He got up; his course of action might be prudent, but being caught by James was the last thing Harry wanted. He opened the door to his room as loudly as he could and went downstairs, careful to step on every creaking spot and make as much noise as possible, so that James would want to enquire about it, if he was still at home.
He did drink his water in large, deep, loud gulps. He made sure the glass chinked against the sink as he put it there for washing later.
And still there was nothing, and Harry was glad.
He made his way upstairs then, his steps much softer, avoiding the spots he'd earlier sought. Every few steps, he stopped in his tracks and held his breath, waiting for James to jump on him from some shadow and lock him in his room.
The wards were still in place from the prior month. They weren't stronger and they weren't weaker; they were exactly the same way that Harry had redone after breaking through them. His dad and Sirius hadn't noticed that Harry'd tampered with them, the last time he was home.
The attic was the same as well. Nothing had been moved, but more importantly, Harry couldn't think of anything that had been removed.
Severus was still there. Harry's heart missed a beat at the telling greyness of his pallor, emphasised by the familiar red and gold he wore. He was leaning heavily against the wall, his breathing more laboured than Harry thought was healthy. His eyes were closed, his mouth slightly open.
All the nervousness he'd felt in his month in training dissipated, leaving only a faint trail of unease. "What have they done to you?" asked Harry, horrified.
The effort Severus put into opening his eyes was heartbreaking. Harry rushed over to him to put a hand on his shoulder, either for stabilising or for comfort, he couldn't decide; couldn't know. Wouldn't know.
Severus licked his chapped lips with a tongue almost as equally dry. "Go away," he whispered, his voice cracked.
"What?" Harry asked, incredulous. "No! You're—" he began and grabbed one of Severus's hands in his. He paused. "Freezing!" he exclaimed.
With what Harry thought was all the strength that remained in his body, Severus pushed him away. "Leave me," he snapped, his words more puffs of air than voice.
"No," said Harry. "What have they done to you?"
Laughing bitterly, Severus asked, "What haven't they?"
"But Sirius promised—"
"Of course you would listen to Sirius Black," said Severus in a tone that was supposed to be cutting. It was tired.
"He would, and he has."
Harry snapped his mouth shut.
"Leave me be," said Severus then, broken.
Harry tightened his hold on Severus's hand, trying to warm him. To give comfort, he decided. "No," he said. "Tell me what they did to you after I left."
Severus paled even further and closed his eyes before beginning to speak. "After you left, your father was under the notion that I was to be blamed for the argument I witnessed. Since then he and Black have gradually increased my workload, reduced the amount of food I receive, and removed the heating charms from the attic as punishment."
That wasn't all, Harry knew. Severus was hiding everything that wasn't the big things. He would admit the painful truths Harry was seeing; he would not admit the insufferable secrets he wanted to hide.
Harry could order him to speak; in fact he—already had. . . .
"Oh, hell," he said helplessly.
"You promised," said Severus, his eyes still closed.
Harry felt sick to his stomach. "I know."
But he didn't have time for this. He took out his wand and cast several warming spells on the room, concentrating hard to not raise the temperature too quickly. He waited for the room to lose the chill he only now began to feel, after the excitement of seeing Severus again had worn off, clutching Severus's hand in his and not letting go.
"Is there a reason they hate you this much?" Harry asked.
Mildly, Severus asked, "Other than my being a Death Eater and causing the death of your mother?"
Harry shuddered at the tone, and shuddered at the words, and promised himself to forget them by bedtime. "Yes."
"Then yes. They have many other reasons for hating me."
Harry stiffened. He'd hoped Severus would say No, but he'd said Yes. "What are they?" he asked.
Severus opened his eyes again now. Some colour had returned to his skin, and he'd regained some control over his voice. He cocked his head to the side as if thinking. "You should leave," he said after a moment.
"No," insisted Harry.
"So be it," said Severus. Just at that moment, James raced through the door, Sirius at his heels.
A brief flash of panic shot through Harry, making him want to bolt to safety and hide in his cupboard like he had when he was small.
"Let go of him!" shouted James and pointed his wand at Severus while coming near them.
"I said, let go of my son!"
Severus said, his tone unreasonably stable and his face a mask again, "Your son is the one holding my hand."
James, not lowering his wand, turned to his son and frostily asked, "Harry?"
Harry cleared his throat, thinking of how to get out of this mess. His mind didn't supply him with an answer, and so he said the first thing it did supply him with. "You were killing him!"
His dad didn't respond for a long moment, in which all three men stared at Harry, who felt stupid.
Harry continued: "He was almost frozen to death when I came up here!"
"Does he look dead to you?" demanded James.
"No thanks to you!"
"Why do you think he isn't dead by now?"
Frowning, Harry let go of Severus's hand and squared his shoulders. "Because you're having too much fun playing with him!"
"And why do you even care?" sneered James, advancing some more. From behind him, Sirius made a strangled sound and shot closer to James, ready to grab him if James suddenly decided to really harm Harry.
Harry didn't notice this at all. His mind was stuck on his father's question. Why did he care? He didn't have any answer other than the often-used one that this wasn't right, but somehow now it sounded wrong.
"Because this isn't right," he said anyway, looking between Severus and his dad. "What you're doing is just not right."
The sound from downstairs startled Harry in his place under his blankets. The blankets fell to the floor, and only the end of them remained wrapped around his legs.
Trembling slightly, he picked them up and snuggled beneath them again, curling around himself and staring into the darkness. Knots were forming low in his stomach, making him nauseated with nerves at the thought – the knowledge – that James was going to burst into his son's bedroom any moment.
He wasn't disappointed; James did come into Harry's room without knocking, and without waiting for Harry to uncurl and take his head from under the blankets, said, "Sirius and I are called back to active duty. Voldemort's beginning something in London—" he paused. "I suppose it would be useless to tell you to stay away from the attic."
Sitting up, Harry nodded, not looking directly at James, but rather at his hands.
"If the new wards don't stop you from going there, don't do anything drastic. I'm serious about it."
Harry couldn't help retorting bitterly, "What, does feeding him count as a drastic offence?"
"No, but being rude is. I've got to go now, be careful and don't do anything stupid. It might be a diversion."
Harry said with a heavy, dry tongue, "Good luck."
His dad flashed a quick smile at him. "Thank you." He hesitated and added, "I love you," and left.
Harry swallowed back a lump that rose in his throat. "I love you too," he whispered to the door that James had closed behind him.
It took Harry a few minutes to compose himself. That was the most James had ever revealed about his job, and now Harry worried more about the fact that his father was in a battle rather than that his father might be in a battle. He almost regretted wanting to know.
The moment he felt ready, he dashed out of his room and up to the attic, wondering what wards his dad had set up; he realised he'd discovered them when he found himself being thrown down the stairs, almost breaking his neck.
"Bloody—" he began and trailed off. Was his father trying to kill him?
Harry retreated to his room and took a pen back to where the wards were, a few steps from the attic. He threw it directly at the invisible wall, and when it was thrown back, Harry was forced to duck to avoid having his glasses broken by the pen tip.
He studied the magical flow of the ward, and thought of his dad saying that if the ward didn't stop him. . . .
What the hell, Harry thought, took out his wand and pointed to the centre of the wards. "Reducto," he said, certain that it wouldn't work but trying anyway, releasing most of his magical energy.
Strangely, it did work, leaving Harry dizzy and swaying where he stood. Harry wondered if James had purposely made it easy for Harry to destroy them.
Not that Harry was complaining.
He hopped up the rest of the stairs and opened the door to the attic—
And found it empty.
Severus wasn't there. There was no hint of the man, and not even a shred of his lacy underskirt was in sight.
Harry felt a pang of panic. He looked around him, thinking that maybe his eyes had missed the man, but no. There was nothing to miss. There was only the furnishings that had become familiar, and nothing more. Where was Severus?
He had to resist the urge to start looking in the drawers and cupboards. He took a step forward. Where could he be? There was no chance he was anywhere else at the Pound, the ring for the Chain of Command was there, and –
He drew in a deep breath and bade himself to think. Much easier said than done, he mused idly, but tried doing it all the same.
Severus had been here earlier that day. He and Harry had talked, and then James and Sirius had come inside and thrown Harry out of the attic. In between then and now, Harry had hidden in his room, huddled under his blankets and pretending to try sleeping, and James had sulked around the house. Nobody other than Sirius and the Potters knew that Severus was at the Pound. There was no place he could be taken without serious repercussions for all involved.
And the Chain of Command – Harry glanced at the ring still in the wall, certain that the Chain needed its ring. Severus was still here. Somewhere, but here.
He circled the room, his steps small and light, landing gently on the parquet, his ears and eyes straining to notice anything that would be out of place.
There – a swish of fabric to his right. Harry jumped to where the sound came from, his hands open and ready to close around whatever it was that moved – and missed.
"I know you're here," Harry said loudly. He stood in the middle of the room, his hands by his sides, his breathing soft. He imagined he heard its echo to his right, at a much faster and shallower rate. Walking in a wide circle around it to not raise any doubts, Harry continued his circle.
He made a show of turning left, but twisted and jumped right, colliding with something tall, heavy, and very much human.
"Oomph," both he and Severus grunted when they hit the floor.
Harry regained his senses first. He removed the fabric he'd heard swishing, and found himself holding his own invisibility cloak. His hands clenched into fists, wrinkling the smooth fabric, and he berated himself for not hiding the cloak better—from his own father.
Under Harry and the cloak lay Severus, his hair spread messily on the floor, the ridiculous lacy head-covering still in place.
Harry had never had his face this close to Severus's. Severus's eyes were wide open with surprise and possibly pain, his nostrils flaring and his mouth opened a little, showing lines of crooked, off-white teeth. Harry stared, transfixed.
A long time later one of them shifted in place, and Severus murmured, "Get off me." His chest vibrated with the words, and in his place above him, Harry felt the soft, deep voice turn into sensations and he gasped, scrambling off Severus—
"I'm sorry," he said, sitting a good foot away from Severus, his face a deep red. He kept his eyes on the invisibility cloak on the floor, which created a solid border between them.
When Severus said nothing, Harry raised his head and looked at him again, finding Severus studying him, a serious expression on his face.
Harry cleared his throat and the moment passed, leaving the air heavy, tantalising and so very painful.
"Coming here was not particularly wise."
Harry laughed weakly, passing his hand through his hair. "I know."
Severus sat frozen, his face a mask that made Harry's heart beat hard. Harry longed, yearned to hold his hand to Severus's face and bring back the small wrinkles of displeasure that were usually there. At least then Harry knew what Severus was thinking.
"Why, then?" asked Severus.
Laughing again, his pitch higher than usual, Harry said, "I can't leave you alone."
Severus seemed to understand. Harry wished he did too.
"You killed Dumbledore," said Harry.
Severus inclined his head. "You fight the Dark Lord."
"You—" began Harry and had to stop. He shook his head. "You—you won't kill me, will you?"
"I might," said Severus.
"Don't kill me."
Severus's mouth quirked upwards. It wasn't a real smile, but it couldn't be anything else either. "You promised."
Harry smiled back and hoped his lips didn't tremble. "Yeah, well, I lied."
The quirk widened. "You didn't."
Harry averted his face and studied the sky he could see through the window. "Well, yeah."
Fingers – knobbly and stained, but warm, dry and gentle – touched Harry's chin, turning his face back to Severus's. Harry found himself drowning again in glittering eyes, and only now he realised he was so utterly lost. "Thank you," Severus said.
Harry raised his hand and touched Severus's cheek, easing away the rest of the crumbling blankness. Then his hand slipped downwards to Severus's throat and rested on the collar.
"Do you know how to take it off?" he asked.
"The regular way."
Harry raised his other hand and put it to the clasp of the collar, getting the hang of it. "They forbade you to take it off?"
The sheer magical energy that escaped when the collar opened was unforeseen; it knocked the breath out from both Harry and Severus. The Fidelius charm no longer affected Severus.
"You may go now," said Harry, finding it hard to speak.
Severus was smiling. "Thank you," he repeated, and raised his own hand to his neck to remove Harry's. Harry hadn't realised they were still touching. He drew them back quickly, his skin grazing Severus's calluses.
Severus stood and stretched his limbs, leaving Harry seated on the floor with the cloak and the Chain. Scowling, he ripped the upper part of the dress from his torso and revealed a corset, which he dropped next to Harry in disgust. Next went his headpiece, and the stockings and apron came after that. He didn't remove either his skirt or his underskirt.
Harry found himself thinking that Severus would look odd in robes and not in skirts. He watched Severus as the man went to one of the drawers, opening it and removing a wand.
In utter silence, without a word or even a backwards glance, Severus went to the door. Harry felt his heart shatter, breaking into a thousand tiny pieces, and found he couldn't breathe. He clutched the Chain of Command to his chest so hard that his knuckles turned white, forbidding the metal to cool now that it was no longer warmed by Severus's neck.
But Severus stopped before walking out of the attic; he turned around, as if he'd only now heard Harry's plea not to kill him. He wasn't smiling any longer – his face was grave.
"I won't," he promised, and left.