Title: The Only One
Warnings: AU? Brutality. Consensual abuse. Dark n' disturbed.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.
Harry Potter is at his door, hair dripping in inky ringlets around his face. The scar on his forehead, the one that makes him famous for doing little else than living, stands out in stark contrast to his pale skin. His eyes are glowing, that strange shade of green, and it's impossible to tack an adjective to them. Not emerald, not forest, not lime or – Merlin forbid – kiwi.
They are the color of the Killing Curse. They are the unearthly green accompanied by Avada Kedavra.
Albus warned him, of course. With his damned benign smile and his thrice-damned twinkling eyes, he'd warned him that Potter would be stopping by. "Hear him out, Severus," the old wizard whispers, the ghost of a memory, or perhaps the memory of a ghost. "Young Harry has talked with me at length about this, and when he makes his request of you, consider. To refuse him outright would destroy him."
But then, Potter hasn't been himself lately. Even Severus knows this, and he makes a point of avoiding all mentions of the boy. Now that he's fulfilled his destiny and destroyed the Dark Lord, what further purpose is there for the Boy-Who-Lived?
Severus has always thought – in private, mind you, and never did he care to voice these musings – that it was unfair of them to lay the fate and burden of the world on Potter's shoulders. How could a boy, a child, hope to succeed where greater men had failed? They had used him as they would a tool. They had paraded him as an icon to the people, brushed him off as a scapegoat when blame had to be placed, and armed him with an arsenal of children's spells. What good were Stupefy and Expelliarmus against a Dark Lord?
And yet, armed with nothing but these spells and foolhardy, risk-taking stupidity – courage – Potter had destroyed Voldemort.
Had perhaps lost a part of himself when he did so.
Albus is concerned now, which led to a chat in the Headmaster's office, complete with a set of tea and a bowl of lemon drops, and the plea for Severus to "hear Potter out." What could the boy possibly want of his greasy old potion's master? This had been a key point in the argument. Whatever Potter was dealing with, whatever he wanted, surely there was someone else who would be more suited to the task – the ever-attentive Granger, or the sometimes-best friend Weasley.
To which Albus had smiled and responded, "There is no one more suited than you, my friend."
It's only been a month since school ended, since Potter and his little friends graduated. And, Severus admits only in the comforts of his own mind, since he felt the strange pang of something in his chest when he realized that Potter would no longer need saving from himself.
Potter is, as of yet, unemployed. The boy had undoubtedly gotten offers from the Ministry, from professional Quidditch teams, and from everyone who wanted to use his name for their greater good, but there hadn't been any announcements in the papers. They do not respect the privacy of any other aspect of the boy's life; why should his career be any different?
Not that Severus spends any time looking for such announcements.
And now, Potter stands on his doorstep, those fathomless green eyes staring into him with an intimacy that no one should be privy to. "May I come in, sir?"
Has the boy learned _tact_ since they last parted? Merlin forbid.
Severus steps back from the door, raises a brow, and in this gesture manages to convey his irritation at being so studied, as well as a cautious invitation to step inside.
Potter steps forward, footfall surprisingly silent and curiously out of place with the boisterous youth. This is perhaps the reason that Severus agreed to the meeting when Albus mentioned it. Potter has changed since the Dark Lord's demise, and even Severus knows that this change is not a good one. The boy no longer smiles, nor is his laughter given freely as it once was. He withdraws himself from his friends, shies away from human contact, and where he spends his days and nights is anyone's guess.
Whatever he's doing to himself is not healthy. Severus knows this, and tries to pretend that he does not. Why would a greasy potion's master care to be acquainted with life of his former obnoxious brat of a student?
Severus leads Potter to the study, the only room in his quarters that has more than one chair. It helps that the wards there are strongest, and that it is where he feels most comfortable. If he sits behind the desk, tapered fingers folded like so, and Potter sits across from him, he can retain the quintessential element of their former student/teacher relationship.
When they are seated, Severus begins. "Mr. Potter," he says, schooling his expression into a bored sneer. "Why is it that the minute I believed you gone from my life, you've chosen to grace me with your exalted presence once more?"
"I have a favor to ask you," Potter responds simply, his own face tilted marginally to the side. A small, lazy smile quirks the corner of his lips.
"Oh? And what in our previous dealings has ever given you the impression I would be willing to... assist you, in any way?"
Potter shrugs. "You've saved my life several times, and you hated every minute of it. You owe my father a life debt, and you hate having to repay him through me. You've made my life miserable on more than one occasion, and, call it a hunch, but I believe the feeling is mutual."
Severus' sneer deepens marginally. "You make a very pretty case against my assistance." And indeed, it's only Albus' soft whisper, "Hear him out," that keeps him from throwing the irritating boy out into the corridor.
"Ah," Potter says, leaning back a little. The strange – dangerous – smile still plays at his mouth. "But you see, Professor, that's what makes you the perfect choice for this particular favor."
Severus finds it odd that the youth still addresses him with that title of respect, but he does not correct him. "Your inane logic never ceases to astound. Do enlighten me, Potter."
"Did you know that Sirius once told me you knew more curses in your second year at Hogwarts than most of the seventh years?" Potter asks, switching topics completely.
"I don't see how this has any bearing on the conversation, but I ask that you refrain from speaking about that mutt in my presence, however dead he may be." The jibe is not even veiled, and Severus fully expects Potter to go tight-lipped, white-faced, and leave. After several heated insults, no doubt.
Instead, Potter shrugs. "If you like."
To cover his surprise, Severus growls, "Your presence irritates me, Potter. The sooner you ask your favor, the sooner I can be rid of you."
The boy leans forward, elbows touching the desk between them as he rests his chin on his folded hands. He studies Severus for a moment, and those eyes seem to pass silent judgment. Severus finds he doesn't want to know the verdict.
Potter's tongue darts out to wet his lips, the only sign of nervousness he's made since his abrupt appearance. In a voice Severus must strain to hear, he says, "I want you to hurt me, Professor."
A soft hiss of surprise escapes from Severus' mouth before he can curb it. Angrily, he shoves back from the desk, drawing himself to his full height, and glowers down at the boy. "Clearly you've wasted my time, Potter. Get out."
His mind is searching the conversation with Albus. Consider _hurting_ Potter? Why on earth would the Headmaster ever ask him to do such a thing? It wasn't as though he'd never thought about it before. In class, there had been several occasions where he'd had to consciously restrain himself from reaching over the desk and wrapping his hands around the infuriating child's neck.
It was clearly some sort of prank. If he – Merlin forbid – agreed, if he actually _injured_ Potter, the boy would run to the Aurors and have him locked up in Azkaban. For harming the Boy-Who-Lived, he might as well consign himself to a Dementor's Kiss.
"No, I don't think I will," Potter says, still smiling. "You don't believe me. You think I'm asking this to get you into trouble. Or maybe you believe I've got some sort of strange notion about getting my jollies by playing at being hurt." The boy takes in Severus' slack jaw and comments softly, "Sit down, Professor."
Potter continues, "I am not asking you to hurt me because I have some sort of twisted fantasy about pain. I do not want to get you into trouble. I am willing to swear to both of these statements under Veritaserum."
Instead of turning the boy out on principle, Severus says in turn, "I was a Death Eater, Potter. I know more ways of causing pain than you could ever dream of. I don't know what you're playing at–"
The boy cuts in softly. "I'm not playing at anything, Professor. Perhaps you'd care to cast something on me, if you don't believe I understand what I'm asking."
The temptation is almost unbearable. Potter is sitting in front of him, smiling that infuriating smile, _asking_ to be cursed. Just this once, Severus finds himself justifying to his own mind. Just once so that the boy will lose whatever fool notion he has about being hurt.
Almost against his will – but not quite – Severus pulls out his wand and points it at the Boy-Who-Lived. "Crucio," he says.
Potter goes rigid and slips off the chair. He hits the floor with a soft thump.
Cruciatus. A curse Severus is intimately acquainted with, and yes, he knows how easy it is to crush something as fragile as a human mind with this, how easy it is to kill. He's done it before, under the gleeful tutelage of Lucius Malfoy, under the critical eye of the Dark Lord.
Severus watches with rapt fascination as Potter convulses on the ground, blood leaking from the corner of his mouth, where he's most likely bitten his tongue. The room is strangely silent; Potter does not scream.
Severus _knows_ how much it hurts, and for a moment, he forgets that this was just supposed to frighten the boy off. He's lost in the picture Potter creates – the perfection of silent suffering.
A minute has passed.
Men are usually driven insane around three minutes, and Severus only intended this to go on for a few seconds at most. But he can't stop, because Potter's eyes are open and fixed on his own. The burning intensity there is frightening, as is the thought that Potter may be able to watch him coherently while under the influence of one of the most painful dark curses in existence.
Potter's mouth curls into a grin, forced and more akin to a snarl than anything else. There's blood on his teeth, but Severus can only marvel that there are no tears in his eyes. His muscles are setting into the final stage, past the point of convulsion, locking and freezing in a bizarre parody of rigor mortis.
Potter does not scream.
Two minutes and thirty seconds.
Severus jerks his wand as if burned and the curse is broken.
The potion's master watches the boy as he lets out a soft gasp. He lays prone for a moment, then hauls himself to his hands and knees. Eyes downcast, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, falling to the floor with little pitter-patter noises. His hand, so pale and shaking, fingers reaching up to touch the corner of his mouth and wipe the blood away.
Severus wants to run from the room, but his legs are traitors. Then, Potter looks up – eyes wide, frighteningly wide, with a smile curling his lips.
And his eyes are flashing as his voice hisses out, "I'd expected you to be more creative. Again."
Not because Potter asked him to, but because the boy's voice reminds him of another time and place, of being seven years old and looking up at the terrifying visage of his father as he is tested on one of the many curses he was forced to learn. "Again," his father had said, harsh and unforgiving. "Again," and Severus had obeyed then as well, until his fingers cramped around his wand and he cast his curses perfectly.
The boy asked for creative.
"Osfractum," Severus says, carefully aiming his wand at Potter's leg, and it only takes a second for the largest bone there, the femur, to shatter into a thousand pieces. Though neither of them can see any difference in appearance, the slivers of bone explode outward, embedding in Potter's muscle from the inside.
Potter hisses again, jaw clenched, but he does not scream.
There is a tense moment where their eyes meet, and Severus remembers that Potter is not the elder Snape, nor is he his own father. He'd just cast the bone-shattering curse on a boy half his age.
Without a word, Potter hauls himself up off the ground and into the chair with his arms alone. The movement causes another small, pained noise to pass his lips.
"Better," Potter says, and Severus feels a sickening rush of pride at the word, completely out of place with what he has just done.
"Do you believe me sincere in what I've asked," Potter murmurs softly, "or would you like another demonstration?"
Severus sinks into his own chair, wondering who this boy is and what he has done with Harry Potter. His voice is a rasp, but he asks, "Why me?"
"Because you hate me, Professor. Because you knew more curses in your second year than most students did in their seventh. Because you are a Potion's Master, and no matter what you do to me, you have something in your stores that will enable me to walk out of this room in fairly decent health until the next time I return." This speech is delivered in a matter-of-fact tone that brooks no argument.
"Next time?" Severus asks faintly.
"If you agree to this," Potter says, and Severus notes that his hand is kneading his thigh, "I will come here three times a week, for two hours at a time. In that time, you can do whatever you want, so long as you hurt me to the best of your ability. At the end of each session, you will give me whatever potions necessary so that I can function somewhat normally."
"A Wizard's Contract?"
The boy nods slowly.
Severus shouldn't be thinking it, but he is. "And in return?"
"Having me at your tender mercy isn't enough incentive?" Potter says cheekily, smiling. The blood still stains his teeth and his hand trembles only slightly as he digs his fingers into the flesh of his leg. "In return, you have my oath that I will tell no one what happens inside these room. If you'd like something else, tell me. I'll accept whatever terms you choose, so long as I get what I want."
The potion's master lets out a shaky breath. "What is it you want, Potter?"
"I want you to hurt me, Professor," comes the reply. "I'd believed we covered this."
"Is that all?" Wizard's Contracts are serious business. If he agrees to "give Potter what he wants," he will be bound to that statement.
"I'll give you a simple directive at the beginning of each session, Professor. All I ask is that you fulfill it. If I ask you to make me bleed, I expect you will make me bleed. If I ask you to make me scream, I expect you will do your best to make me scream."
"And if you ask me to kill you?"
Potter grins. "I don't need your assistance if I choose to commit suicide. I will never ask you to kill me, because I can do that myself. But to hurt me... honestly, Professor, I thought you'd jump at the chance."
"Do you agree to these terms?"
After a moment of consideration, Severus sticks out his hand and silently damns himself to hell. Potter extends his own, and as they shake, the oath binds them each to their word.
Potter will ask for pain.
And Severus will deliver.
oA Guide to the Spells of "The Only One"
Osfractum [Bone Shatter]
The bone-shattering curse. The caster must pick a bone or a set of bones; when the spell is cast, the bones will shatter, exploding outward and embedding themselves into the surrounding muscle. Beyond the excruciating pain, the bone marrow will poison the victim's muscles if left untreated.