Deaths Trials: Second Trial End Is Near

Someone was watching him intently. Tapered fingers finally drifted from that withered book, a scornful sense of dread shimmering in usually frozen onyxes. He could feel it, so undeniable, so outrageously obvious, so pointedly present as he focused his icy glare upon the book's spine. Someone was staring. Eyes lingered heartlessly over the details: that little tear shrouded in a darkened splodge, that small, tiny area lacking the colour that had been lost from the ages, some dust here and there. A frown of unaccepted distain plastered his lips; the presence was motionless behind him. His eyes glinted in a suspicion ingrained by years of being a double spy. Indeed, he sensed that sensation in the pit of stomach that warned him of watching eyes...of an aura much too content and laid back to be entirely his own.

"Accepting me is compulsory, dear Severus. Why ignore such a part of yourself?"

"More like why I possess it in the first place," Severus snarled, ever so slowly turning his head to glare at the character with distaste. The other's tone was just too calm and content and it struck an angry chord in him. "The last useless thing I need is 'happiness.'"

His tense posture spoke all that needed to be said, and the other character detected it without fault. After all, both were the same person—keen eyes were applicable to both.

The Severus counterpart that had appeared smiled, actually smiled to him, and raised a delicate eyebrow in question. "I believe you are as stubborn as the boy says you to be, Severus. At least have the decency to glance at me at least."

Severus kept his guard up. Yet, despite that, he knew he was running out of time in the trial...he had to face him. A low sigh escaped him as he gracefully brushed his hair from his eyes, the black strands being forced out of the way. He then turned with a caged heart to fully face the other. His eyes were stern—emotionless.

They instantly widened against his will.

The other was identical to him in appearance. Well, except for one very important difference...

Happiness glowed an aura of golden yellow.

Snape nearly clutched his throat at feeling like he was being choked by invisible hands of shock, for that was not the only major difference. He stumbled back, his heart strangely racing despite his pride screaming at him to remain collected. No, no, it could not be! Those eyes...

They were the memorable emeralds of a certain woman and a persistent Potter.

"Y-You," Snape hoarsely stammered, much unlike his normal persona. That shocked stammer turned to blazing rage. "You are mocking me you insolent being! Change those eyes!"

"Hahaha!" Happiness laughed, the aura turning ever so slightly brighter. He calmed after a bit in order to smile to Severus. "I can not change, I am you. I am what makes you happy, in the past, present and future. To change my eyes...would be to forget they ever existed. And you obviously have not which concludes why I have this colour. Only you can formulate how we emotions appear, and once it is done there is no going back. Do Lily and Potter not bring you happiness?"

"Do not speak of Lily so lightly. And in the circumstances of Potter, he is a spitting image of his inconceivable father. Happiness is the last emotion to feel with him, exasperation beyond measure the first."

Happiness closed his eyes with yet another smile. "Indeed?"

The glowing Happiness took a step away. His posture and grace was just as identical to the original, yet Snape narrowed his eyes as it seemed...swifter somehow. Unexpectedly, Happiness actually did a small twirl with a grin and suddenly ran for the darkness.

Severus' heart stopped. He paled, hastily reaching out to run for him. This is a personification of me? What is this idiot thinking?! His thoughts rebelled against such a happy character being a part of who he truly was. The Gossireapers were there awaiting his counterpart. He saw them evilly smirk—blood thirsty. Crimson eyes flashed in the darkness. Shadows swarmed. Happiness rapidly drew closer.

As if on instinct to protect himself, Snape growled whilst abruptly sprinting to grab the other. Snape yelled in a tone familiarly harsh, "No you utterly incompetent—"

But his words stooped short. He stumbled with a burning pride at his unintentional gasp that resounded. Once hasty strides slowed in a shock he refused to admit when Happiness laughed, leapt into the darkness, turned to wink at him...and the bright glow emitting from him made the Gossireapers shriek in fear. There Happiness stood: away from the safety light Severus motionlessly stood within, his strange glow lighting up the darkness in the aisle— leaving Happiness unharmed and untouched. His glow was brightly illuminating the shelves whilst the Gossireapers refused to near him and scurried as far from him as possible. Snape's contemplating mind instantly came to the conclusion that the light Happiness glowed with was pure enough to deflect the darkness.

"Come now Severus, shall we...walk down 'memory lane' as the saying defines?" Happiness chimed, strangely calm for an emotion that was proposed to be bouncy and hyper. Severus noted how this personification was nothing like that.

Snape snorted in distrust, "More like trespass down memory lane."

Snape's eyes rolled like a parent with a misbehaving child when Happiness blatantly ignored him with a laugh. This is happiness? A completely moronic and thoughtless—

May I remind you that you are talking about yourself, dear Severus; Death chuckled warmly through his mind.

Joy, that makes me feel so much better, Snape droned sarcastically. Truly, you are an expert in compliments.

You do understand that I can hear you, you know...? Snape darted his eyes to the other present when he heard the secondary voice echo through his mind.

Happiness...could hear his thoughts? On impulse, Snape growled at the smiling other, yanking up the mental bars of his unbreakable cage. He suddenly became the heartless Potion's Master he was continuously portrayed to be. The very essence of his mind seemed to turn deadly cold. Stay out of my head, you frustratingly ludicrous being! At the same time, he distinctly heard the small gasp of Death since, as an intriguing result, the barricade around his mind forced him out too.

Happiness' glow dimmed ever so slightly at those words, yet the glow remained despite the saddened smile on his lips. At not being able to communicate through his mind, he let himself withdraw from Severus' brain.

Happiness then sighed into the dark silence, tone almost sad (ironic considering his purpose): "Why do you not have any sense of trust for me? Not trusting me is therefore refusing to trust yourself."

"Because happiness is useless and fragile, it brings nothing but excruciating agony when it is shattered. I have experienced enough of that and I desire no more of it. You are pathetically preposterous."

"...This whole scenario is preposterous," Happiness pointed out in a chuckle.

Snape sneered in distain. However, he could not deny that the other had a valid point.

"Come, walk with me," Happiness stood in the darkness with his hand raised in offer to him, wanting nothing more than for Severus to come and accept it. His smile was nothing if not genuine, nothing if not caring, nothing if not trusting.

Snape eyed the shadows. There the Gossireapers slunk and slithered in the dark depths. That glare he gave, it was hot enough to burn anything from the inside out. But...all he had do was take the other's hand...to just trust for a mere moment...

Snape, who had his forehead resting against the bridge with his eyes closed, slowly drifted them open at feeling something faint. It was miniscule, a light gracing across the tops of his hair. Looking up with tired eyes those eyes widened in disbelief at what he saw. There Harry was, face filled to the brim with concern, holding his hand out to him. He was offering his hand to him willingly, willingly offering the cold-hearted man help. That made him narrow his eyes...this made no sense.

A single step resounded as anxious eyes remained sharp on the other. Gossireapers whispered nothings among themselves with evil glee. Another step followed as he drew closer. A pale, yet elegantly slender hand, hesitantly lifted. This was madness! He hated happiness, despised it even, and yet...

With a snarl Severus defiantly whipped his head away, eyes moving away from the hand mere centimetres from his face. Bitterly glaring into nothingness he spat, "I do not need your worthless help, Potter. Do not touch me."

No, he should not do this, could not do this, would not! Growling he took a step backwards, remaining in the safety light of the book section, hair fluttering gracefully in a draft none could feel. There was a set of untrusting fires in his eyes that continued to burn.

Happiness, despite it all, kept his glowing hand in offering. He uttered in a tone calm and true,

"All you have to do is accept it."

A laugh made Snape instantly look back up, onyx eyes overwhelmed with confusion. Harry was surprisingly smiling down at him as he chuckled, "You really are as stubborn as a Gryffindor, sir."

Stubbornness? Severus averted his gaze away for a moment, lips pursed in thought. All the while Happiness' smile remained on him. Was that all this was, was that the chain holding him restrained? No, it was only one chain; the other even sturdier one was his pride.

And it was his pride that screamed unrelentingly within him when he resumed his steps; face as hard as steel...

"Oh but you are, you're literally the most stubborn person I know," Harry laughed, the offered hand shaking a little from it and his green eyes sparkling with mirth as he continued. "I can help, you know."

A boot thudded gently on the wooden floor. It connected outside the safety light, within the faint darkness surrounding him. Ash fled from his steps, cowered in fear. A shaky breath left him within his mind. For now he was relying on Happiness' glow. One more step, another step, closer and closer. He was away from safety—in Happiness's shielding light. All he had to do...was take that hand...

Ever so slowly, yet gently, Snape placed his forehead against the wood, the contact making a tiny thud. Without even looking back up to Harry he slowly lifted his arm up with the palm freely open, being mutely silent the whole time.

In his inner shame Severus Tobias Snape looked to the floor. Meeting the other's gaze would undoubtedly make his pride scream. He just could not do it, could not listen to that scream that he could never disobey at the moment. Instead, he just stared with distressed pupils at the yellowish glow that shimmered over the floorboards.

To accept is to give in. His own steps vibrated through his mind. To accept is to let someone in. Step after step until he was in front of Happiness. Shadows curled around the vulnerable safety light that Happiness supplied.

To accept...is to lose the dignity within.

A growl escaped him in exasperation. Accepting assistance was just too unforgiving, too undeniably dangerous. Close, he was so close...so close as he raised his own hand to meet the other's.

And as soon as hesitant fingers brushed against the offered hand, as soon as Snape tightened his grip with a tendril of humiliation, the light encasing Happiness seemed to explode. Light expanded. Shrill cries of the creatures of darkness screeched as they were forced away not unlike how a patronus discards a Dementor. Snape instantly let go with tangible distrust. Happiness smiled a sincere smile and grasped the uncertain Severus's shirt cuffed wrist before he could escape.

"Do not touch me!" Severus spat. What was that mighty pang in his chest...anxiety? I can not accept it, I just can not! In a fear he tried to hide he attempted to yank his wrist free, but Happiness kept his grip gentle yet firm—unrelenting. Against Severus' will, Happiness began to carefully pull him down the corridor. That comforting smile refused to leave Happiness' face. "Merlin, why are you so forceful?!"

"...Because I have to be in order for you to accept me."

Snape blinked, slowly glancing to the other in intelligent understanding. The emotion of happiness was so well concealed away inside that it had to be forceful in order to even be felt? And as Happiness pulled him further away at a gradual pace, Snape reluctantly surrendered to the notion. Or at least...he saw it as a type of surrendering. It was an aspect which made his high pride blaze to the point there was an actual physical burning searing his chest. His free hand lifted to clutch it with a groan: annoyed, hurt, and ashamed.

This did not go unnoticed by Happiness who distinguished the inner turmoil. Who could not? It was practically rolling off Severus Snape in waves.

Within the newly ignited glow of Happiness, Severus Snape momentarily allowed his guard down regardless of his conscious. Deep down he debated with a concerned heart if this was the right thing to do...

"Your past is your cell and you are its prisoner, yet the key to open the cell is right there in front of you, in arms reach, easily obtainable...yet you refuse to open the door and leave your past behind you. Do you know what that key to open the door is, Severus? It is forgiveness. And it is your own pride that prevents you from taking it and allowing yourself to be free—to have happiness."

"Happiness solves nothing!" Snape all of a sudden whipped his head around and spat venomously, black hair fluttering around his shoulders in an intimidating manner. The glint in his eyes was one of pain, hatred and regret, and its dark strength took Death by surprise.

"It only brings more pain, more suffering, and more reasons to ignore the key and stay in my cell. For in my cell I am protected."

"May I inquire as to where you are dragging me?" Severus coldly asked

"And so you are restricted."

"To where your happiness lays, Severus. The past."

"So there is no danger of changing for the worst!"

"That is ludicrous! The past is where..." All of a sudden Snape trailed off from a clutching upon his heart. It was the heartless clutch of inner self loathing. The past is where my pain lies.

"And in turn no chance to change for the better."

"Open up your labyrinth mind, Severus," The smile that proceeded to plaster Happiness' face proved that he acknowledged just what Snape was about to say. His hand slowly let the other go so that they stood still in the empty passage. He continued in a silky tone the same as Severus', "Intelligence beyond measure you possess, sarcasm worthy of causing the most hardened of characters to laugh you were gifted with, a logical mind capable of outwitting the most professional genius lies within your head. And yet, despite all your best qualities, you rely solely on the faults and flaws that scar you."

"..." Severus looked away at having no answer to that, Happiness had got him there.

A laugh reverberated through Happiness' throat as he motioned with an elegant flick of his wrist for Severus to follow...or get sucked into the darkness of the Gossireapers without his light. Naturally of a logical mind, Severus chose the first option.

"If I truly am the personification of your Happiness, which I can guarantee you I am indeed, then observe me carefully."

Snape's eyebrows furrowed in suspicion. "Where are you leading me to?"

"In reality, to Death and the end. Metaphorically, through your thick skin to your core." Over Happiness' shoulder a smirk Severus found uncanny was shot his way. "Either way, I am your passageway to the end of the trial...and I refuse to hand you to Death unless you cooperate otherwise."

"So, either way I am undeniably 'screwed' as they rightfully proclaim it. Fantastic," Severus' tone once again dripped with sarcasm. In the light of Happiness, his own smirk could not be missed.

Happiness burst into laughter, "Haha, indeed."

Severus, are you alright? I have only just been able to get through, Death suddenly called to him. Severus nearly smiled himself at how the tone sounded inevitably worried.

Everything is stunning. I am just frolicking away eating cake and biscuits, Snape mentally rolled his eyes.

Ahead of him, only a few measly steps away, Happiness laughed out loud. Snape raised an eyebrow at that, was that how the other responded to how he currently felt? Ignoring Happiness, he attuned his mind to listen to Death instead.

Your sarcasm has no bounds, does it Severus? Death said, voice warm. Cold seriousness abruptly swept other Snape from Death's side making him more alert. Time is nearing an end; the end of your trial is ever near. Be extremely careful not to fail now, Severus. I have the upmost faith in you.

Snape mentally scoffed at such reassurances until he shut the quiet link off again.

Out of the blue, Happiness suddenly began to run.

Severus' heart nearly stopped, the shadows behind him approaching fast without that glow. He was frozen from disbelieving astonishment for a moment, why was Happiness running? For there was no warning, no sign, no sense of threat. Gossireapers hungrily stared as the light edge was nearly passed him. Bony fingers clawed towards him. His eyes glinted; he had to run—to chase.

Snape furiously roared as he bolted after the other, "What in Merlin's name is wrong with you?! Have you no sanity present? Obviously not!"

The laugh that Happiness released nearly made Severus want to growl in frustration.

Shelves were a swift blur past him like a storm of darkness. The wind whipped through his hair making it gracefully fly. Darkness lay ahead and behind, always surrounding the light. Bang, bang, bang were his thunderous feet. Hastily glancing up allowed him to glimpse the hourglass—only a minute left. Sand, sand, sand, crimson, crimson, crimson, grain after grain, second after second. Time was being yanked heartlessly from under him—fast. All the while the prospect of fail trailed behind him in the form of skeletal creatures.

Happiness' next words soared through him like the knife of truth, "Contemplate on me, Severus. Every action and word I have said has been for reason, not for pathetic trivialities. Happiness is an emotion you struggle with—and do not deny me the truth, because you do—but do not let your pride prevent it happening again. Because, unbeknownst to you—"

Severus felt his heart sickening drop into his stomach. Such a wickedly mighty blow it was. Was it the approaching darkness behind? No. Was it the remaining sands of time slipping loose? No. Was it the fact that Happiness had literally just disintegrated in a puff of sparkles leaving no light...?

"—without it, you are helpless."

"No..." Snape whispered in disbelief, his pace slowing as the form before him abandoned him in dangerous darkness. So sudden it had been that he had barely enough time to understand what had occurred.

Shadows consumed him in its hateful jaws. It seemed to mock him with loathing laughter...or was that just the Gossireapers pouncing after him at their freedom to roam without Happiness' repelling glow? He did the only thing he acknowledged he could:

He fled.

There was no light near to shield him. Alone, alone, he was alone in the darkness. Everywhere appeared the same—a maze of books without safety. Spinning around he was met with a hoard of ravenous eyes. Fanged jaws were wide open. Final grains of sand fell. They were so close—ready to—

SEVERUS! Death bellowed.

The final grain fell.

All of sudden, Severus Snape vanished from the Library of Alexandra in a flash of blinding light. In slow motion, the Gossireapers shrieked as the pureness of the flash physically tore through them: their bones cracking, their cloaks tearing in a mess of smoky blackness.

Everything then fell deadly silent.

The library was left emptily cold, forever lost in time where it should have been.

XXXX

Time for thought appeared to elude him; however, as the dark Potions Master suddenly teleported into Death's living room in his final, fatal moments. Before being able to intervene, the carpeted floor was what his back connected harshly with, unexpectedly hard and fast, forcing the air suddenly out of his lungs. Thoughtlessly letting out a groan of pain was his only method of response. The monstrous pride deep within him rebelled at such weakness.

Death immediately rose from his sofa by the fire in concern.

"Severus, Severus are you alright? Are you hurt?"

"...Only my pride," Snape admitted in what one could only call a pained croak.

He now had to face Death with his questions...which was a strangely frightening prospect to Snape.

To be honest, he was not sure if he was ready for the questions that would be asked of him. Happiness. That was the one that confused him the most. What did he have to gain from the knowledge Happiness had bestowed to him?

Just lying there on his back lost in thought allowed Death to get over to him without him realising. If Death had eyebrows, one of them would most definitely be raised. At least Severus believed so.

Death lets out a chuckle as he offers a hand down to the soul splayed across his carpet. There appeared to be a spark of friendly amusement in the chasms of his eyes. His words are tinged softness, "Had fun?"

"Clearly," Snape groaned, not amused.

"It is time to finish this Severus, I hope for your sake that you are prepared," Death exclaimed, the atmosphere descending into a brutally freezing chill. Flames within the fireplace flickered from the temperature drop. Severus, with his heightened senses, detected it and frowned at Death's hand.

Severus refused to grab the offered bony palm and smacked it away with a hiss of reflex. He then stood up gracefully as if nothing had occurred. Brushing his knees off, he seemed indifferent. All the while he attempted to block out Death's sad staring eyes, using brushing himself off of the library's ash as a means of distraction. Upon his face he plastered his signature emotionless mask, a mask concealing the true frazzled mind within.

"Pray tell, can I be warned of the oncoming themes to come?" Severus asked, despite knowing in the back of his mind it would be answered negatively. So when Death sorrowfully shook his head, he merely sighed in knowing. "I thought as much."

"Pray tell, SSSSeverusss, we have been waiting for you. Asss utterly worthlesssss asss you are, you are needed."

That did it. Snape froze. He and Death were not alone. Icy blood pounded painfully hard through his veins. Shadows in the corners of the room stirred and cowered in the tense stillness. Silence, that was all that followed, deadly silence as Severus ever so slowly turned to face the sofas. Those onyx eyes had a gleam of...wild concern?

Concern was an understatement compared to the confusion that lit his face at the scene before him.

Anger sat crossed-legged so close to the fire you would think he would be set alight by those emerald embers. Those evil demon eyes burned holes into his very soul. The child of Sadness was huddled in a single sofa, cutely holding a cup of tea that Death had obviously made for the boy, seeming to also stare back at Severus...but with longing instead. Fear was stood and pacing in front of Anger and would occasionally flinch when Anger, out of spite, would attempt to grab his leg—the fear of being touched evident. And finally, there was the one that Severus now stared at:

Happiness.

The emotion that seemed to differ from the rest of the emotions—calmness and thoughtfulness abound—stood apart from the others. He stood leaning against the wall lost in his own thoughts. That familiar glow that shrouded him like a holy veil seemed to rival the glow of the fire. Severus' eyes narrowed at the smile that Happiness constantly wore. Those stern, sparkling, emerald orbs were locked on Snape's own, deep green meeting black—contentment meeting confusion.

Snape felt more than made his posture straighten from stiffness, the desire for answers seeping from his irises. The desperateness was almost like solid threads that you could literally grasp and pluck from his pupils, every thread weaving through to Happiness in wanting. His sudden change in demeanour from guarded to determined was unnoticeable to all...

All except Fear who actually paused in his pacing to glance at him, peering at him in the corner of an eye obscured by silver hair. He seemed as anxious as ever, and Severus actually felt a pang of foreign sympathy for him. How could he not? Too many people were close to Fear and it was triggering his nervousness off.

The Potions Master kept himself cold and reproachful to them just in case. But he understood how each and every version of him felt in this room...

Snape's eyebrows furrowed, he understood all apart from Happiness. That emotion, that person against the wall watching him intently, no scorn yet serious, no hate yet happy—just calm. Severus felt inwardly paranoid at still failing to read him.

The original nodded curtly to them all, yet felt a little uneasy when the child known as Sadness put down his tea and gradually stood to approach. The boy seemed hesitant as he trudged closer to be in front of the tall man. Keeping eyes as sternly heartless as he had when teaching at Hogwarts, Professor Snape raised an inquiring eyebrow at the boy.

"Pray tell...what do you want, boy?" Severus coolly asked, crossing his arms. Strict pupils focused on the little Severus.

Fear timidly turned to face the two properly. Anger sneered and snorted, rolling his eyes in loathing. Happiness' glow seemed to brighten ever so slightly. Death, decidedly silent, watched in interest.

"...Albus?" Sadness began, voice brimming with a dependence that caught Snape off guard. His cutely young voice spoke as if Severus was his everything. "You came back! I am so glad!"

Snape nearly fell over from utter shock when the child abruptly leapt into his arms without any sense of remorse. Fear harshly flinched like someone had actually grabbed him rather than Severus. This reaction from Fear only resulted in Anger bursting into cruel cackles at him. Happiness rolled his eyes and slightly shook his head at Anger, a Snape-like glare piercing the emotion sitting upon the floor.

"Anger, cease teasing Fear. Leave the bloke alone you insolent idiot," Happiness chided. Anger turned to him hatefully, crimson eyes flashing.

"Pray tell, when did you become the leader of usss, Happinessss?" Anger stressed the other's code name in such a sickening hiss that it caused Fear to take a little step back. "You are asss worthlesss asss the original!"

A muffled voice from Sadness in Snape's shirt sounded, the boy still refusing to let his embrace from the older man's waist go. "Do we always have to fight?"

How does my younger self unconditionally look up to me so? Snape thought suddenly whilst staring at the clinging child. In the confines of his subconscious, he was trying not to reflexively push the boy away. Discomfort of the caring behaviour from Sadness flowed through him. Yet the last thing Sadness needed was to be pushed away more. And so, Snape contained the will to push him away from him.

"SSShut up pipssssqueak!" Anger shouted, blood pressure building.

Severus instinctively clutched the boy closer to his chest. He glared venomously at Anger suddenly leaping to his feet in an aura of blood thirst. If Anger was any comparison to the Dark Lord, then he would protect Sadness from him at all costs. However, his concern seemed unneeded at spotting that he was not the first to react.

"Do...not...even...dare," Fear courageously muttered, the quietness of his voice deadly. The frightful emotion stepped in-between Severus and Anger. Every pause in his words was an icy stab into the fires of Anger, an identically fear-striking tone to the original Severus Tobias Snape.

Anger smirked at him with bared fangs until Fear visibly swallowed. A slender finger tauntingly rose to dig a nail under Fear's chin, the contact making the victim's breath hitch. Fear's eyes widened in fright and he trembled, Anger was close—too close! Expect Anger to infringe on personal space. The joy of the tremble he caused Fear was evident in his evil smirk.

"I stated for you to relent your abusing of Fear you despicable—

"S-Stop fighting! Please stop!" Happiness had no time to finish his sentence, since Sadness had burst into a fit of miserable tears in Severus' arms. The Potion's Master felt uncomfortable while he stood there, he was not used to aspects of giving comfort. What was he supposed to do? What did he have to do?

At finding Severus reluctant to do much, Death cleared his throat. "Sit, Severus, it is time for the questions to begin."

All at once, the emotions met eye-contact with each other: Anger, Sadness, Happiness and Fear. In an obedient manner they cleared their throats and resumed their positions, Sadness tentatively grabbing Severus' arm and pulling him towards the sofa he had previously sat in. Poor Sadness looked like a child leading a parent to something he had done wrong.

Once all were just as they were, except Sadness who shyly grabbed his tea from the table and, much to Snape's mild discomfort, carefully huddled himself into "Albus'" lap, they awaited Death to make the first move. Unbeknownst to the usually keen Snape, Happiness was smiling at him where he leant against the wall once more.

Ever so quietly to the point that Snape would have missed it if he was not a trained spy, Sadness whispered into his chest, "Good luck, Albus."

XXXX

Clouds of grey obscured the skies that morning, a dulling grey of near black that swept above like an ocean of thick depression. You could feel it: that crisp coldness, that tense stillness among the trees, that occasional trickle of a drop of rain, that silent cry of nature at something precious long since lost. Something was wrong...and Harry could feel it.

A sigh escaped him where he sat on the edge of the Cliffside near Bremilda's hidden abode. He adjusted his glasses higher up his nose, those lenses falling over glazed eyes. Something was just so...so...

"Wrong," Harry finished his thought aloud, fiddling with something in-between his fingertips. "I mean, something about Snape seems wrong. Why won't Bre let me near him...?"

A frosty breeze brimming with winter blew straight through him and made him shiver, made him zip his hoody up tighter...the same one he had offered the Potion's Master.One of his most common thoughts as of late crosses his mind, I hate him, right? Then why am I always so worried about the sarcastic git?

Groaning, he fiddled with the item in his hand even more vigorously, his spare clutching his forehead as if in some sort of inner pain. He was confused, that was the only way to describe it—confused and tired.

In glancing up to the incredible view, to the forest below, he allowed his eyes to train over the thick frost that layered the many bare trees below. Frost heavily patterned the nature's chalky stone in forewarning. Winter was here. There was no escaping it. Both he and Severus would either die out here when the snow kicked in, or they could be rescued.

His heart sank in misery at the latter option...it seemed a far cry. To be honest, he began to believe that they would never get back home. A feeling of sorrow and being truly lost hit him like a brutal tidal wave. Warmth, good food, comfortable beds, society, rules, work, it all seemed so distant. It all seemed so out of place compared to living off primal instinct...

To literally doing everything you could to just survive.

Nothing in Hogwarts could teach him the lessons of what he had learned on this journey with his Potions Professor. And then, as he stared down at the item in his lap, at his reflection in the shiny black wood, he knew it was not solely that.

Nothing in Hogwarts could have displayed the truth of Severus Snape than this experience.

So, he gripped that very same man's wand tighter in his hand. He could not help it; it's strangely accepting magic thrummed through the object like a reassuring hum of a mother to their distressed young one.

A sad laugh that revealed his breath to the air left him, "But I still hate you, you stubborn jerk. I just hate you a little less."

Unknown to the Potter, Bremilda was watching him from her underground hut's bark door. She had gone out to collect some Potions ingredients to start creating Warming Draft for the winter...when the boy's voice had halted her. She had listened intently to his every word that he had spoken to himself with. When one talks to themselves, they are either alone or used to it, are either sad or distressed.

Her faulty eye shed a single tear.

She wildly shook her head and banged her head with her own walking stick, good grief she was not emotional like this. Nope, never! She muttered incoherent berating at herself as she hobbled over to the boy lost in his own world upon the cliff edge.

"Oi!" She suddenly smacked him around the head with her stick. Harry cried out an audible 'ow' and rubbed the back of his head in discomfort, expression pained before looking to the old hag as if to say 'what the hell is wrong with you?!'

"It's too cold to sit around, boy. Come, I need your help with harvesting ingredients anyway."

Harry shot up. "Is Snape alright?"

Bremilda seemed to pause in turning her back on him. A stormy breeze blew through her withered hair. At the same time, she could feel Harry's eyes staring...longing for a shred of hope. Heartless hag she would be if she did not commit.

"He's sleeping, needs his rest," She lied. Memories of his death nearly made her break, but she held firm.

Before Snape allowed her to give him his final descent he weakly raised his hand to stop her, "You...you need...to-to find a way...to get Harry home."

If only Harry could just hear him, even for just a moment. If he had heard Severus Snape right then, then he would have heard the heartless man say his name for the very first time...the last time.

"Inform that...oblivious idiot...that I am-" Severus was interrupted by a sharp pain in his chest. Bremilda attempted to give him the draft once more, but Snape refused. "That I am...sorry...for everything. For the...names, the un-unfairness...my cruelty."

"But he's been asleep for days!" Harry exclaimed, his desperateness and concern that he failed to hide could be read like an open book. Nothing pained her more than his sudden pleas to her, "Tell me, Bre! Please, I know you're hiding something from me—just tell me!"

She nodded miserably, tears streaming down her ancient face, "I will, I promise."

"...I can't, boy."