It was the middle of January at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ever since the Christmas party the day before the winter holidays, Harry Potter had been acting rather out of sorts. You see, this was his 7th year, and he had defeated Lord Voldemort the previous year, not that you would ever guess it with all of the rogue Death Eater attacks on the Ministry. Our potions professor, Severus Snape, had noticed Potter's behavior, and currently he was going over things in his head to attempt a reasoning for the boy's withdrawn attitude. Snape had been noticing quite a lot about our hero over the past school term, and had found out all sorts of things about him. Mainly, this was out of boredom, as the man had no other form of entertainment. It had absolutely nothing to do with respect for the boy. Nothing at all. Not a thing.
Potter's Godfather, Sirius Black, had been killed by Draco Malfoy. As it turned out, Lucius Malfoy was trying to rise to be the next Dark Lord, and attempted to recruit Mr. Black, who in turn killed him mercilessly. Draco's killing of Mr. Black was a revenge plot for his father's memory. This also earned our dear Draco a cozy spot in Azkaban. Not that Snape cared mind you, he had always hated the Malfoys and was, quite frankly, glad to be rid of them. As for Black's death, well, Snape was still undecided on his feelings towards that. While he truly did disdain the animagus when he lived, Snape had never really wished death on him, as he was the one member of the Black family with appreciative morals, nevermind the fact that his pranks had caused nearly as much grief as some of the Death Eaters Snape knew.
The werewolf who had attached himself to Mr. Black died from a literal broken heart. Apparently the two had done some sort of bonding ritual that made it so when one died, the other would as well. It was all very Shakespearean, in a foolish Romeo and Juliet kind of way. While Snape had still been rather uneasy at the prospect of being near the werewolf within a week of the full moon, thanks to that prank played on him way back when, he still saw Mr. Lupin for what he was, a brilliant Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, a logical thinker, and the one thing that could keep Black away from Severus. In short, Snape almost respected the werewolf, and hadn't wished his death either, at least, not since he was 22, when he finally calmed down from his near death experience in the Shrieking Shack.
Now, both of these deaths would have weighed heavily on the Potter brat, there's no doubt about it, but they both happened nearly a year ago, so it made no true sense why the boy would be affected now, when he had already grieved for them. Perhaps whatever happened over the holidays was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Since the professor had the weekend free to do as he wished, he decided to use it to follow the boy and see what was the matter. After all, having a depressed student not paying attention in potions class was a one way ticket to an explosion, he knew from personal experience.
Through the weekend and into Monday, Severus noticed something that he wouldn't have believed had he not witnessed it with his own eyes. Many of the other Gryffindor children, that had been crowding around Potter in thinly veiled attempts to leech some of the boy's fame, had taken to ignoring him altogether, as if he didn't exist. They didn't speak to him, never acknowledged his presence, and when a conversation would turn Harry's direction, they would simply act as if nothing had been said. Today, Tuesday, something had obviously been spoken about the young man, as a group of children laughed and the boy's face went as red as his house's flag. He looked to be truly hurt.
Harry left the Great Hall rather silently. He fancied himself appearing strong in the face of humiliation by being the first to leave standing tall and proud, none of which he actually believed. Once the doors had closed behind him, as most of the students were still eating, he allowed his posture to revert into what he felt, weak, short, and unconfident. He stayed near the wall, using it to lean on, while he made his way up to one of the towers.
The boy had no clothes on that would block him from the cold weather, but he went out to the balcony anyway, simply standing there, peering over the edge. A noise from behind him startled him. He had been followed, by more than one person it seemed.
"You're sick you know." The youngest Weasley boy stated, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
In a show completely lacking of the Gryffindor courage that Snape was assured the Potter brat possessed, the boy simply whispered. "I know." His grip on the banister tightened.
Miss Granger was the next to speak, and she completely shocked Snape with her statement. "If you know it's sick, then change it." She snapped in a haughty voice.
Potter's head lowered even more than it already was. "I can't..." He whispered. "I've tried, nothing works."
"Pitiful." Granger stated caustically. "It's your choice whether you are or aren't, simply choose not to be. Since you say you can't, then obviously you don't want to, and you're just as sick and twisted as Voldemort was."
Snape was glad at that moment that he was hidden within the shadows, as his mask was completely shattered. He had figured out what the girl was berating her supposed-to-be friend about, and couldn't believe she would be that narrow-minded. It wasn't hard to figure out, after all, he had heard the same things from his own father as a teenager. How in Merlin's name could she even compare such a thing to being as twisted as the Dark Lord? Was she the one who rallied the others against him for something like this?
Potter pried his hands from the railing and sunk down to the ground, curling his legs to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. "I really can't help it, I can't stop my body from reacting the way it does." He tried.
"Oh, and how many of us did your body react to in the showers?" Weasley demanded, his face twisted in seething anger.
Potter shook his head, "None of you, I don't fancy any of the students here."
"I don't believe you. Remember, I caught you that time in the showers after the last Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match, you acted like some bloke had his hands all over you." Weasley stated.
"I don't like any of the students here!" Potter yelled, trying to get his point across.
"It's a teacher then." The know-it-all interjected.
"Please leave." Harry begged, not daring to look up.
"With pleasure." Granger said. "It's bad enough you're homosexual, but you fancy a teacher as well. It's wrong on all moral levels. You can come back to sitting at the Gryffindor table and common-room when you feel you've cured yourself." She sneered, then traipsed off.
"Yeah, what she said." Weasley replied, in a true show of his own stupidity. "You know, all the Gryffindors already know you're a fag, when they find out you actually wanked over someone in the school, they'll be more than happy to join me in my stress relief." He then followed after the girl and slammed the door behind him.
What did he do to Potter? Snape was just about to try to find out when the child removed his outer robe and his shirt. Now the professor wanted to know why the boy was taking off clothes in such weather outside. Wait a moment, those were bruises. Disgusting, large bruises that looked to be the size of fists. Merlin, they were everywhere! Is this what the Weasley prat meant by stress relief? Why when Snape got his hands on the red-headed child he would wish-
When did Potter get up there? The boy was sitting on top of the 5 inch wide railing, simply staring down, his wounded back plastered up against one of the columns. The child pulled his wand from his pocket and haphazardly tossed it on top of the small pile of clothing. Stupid boy! Without his wand, if he were to fall he couldn't save himself!
Snape's eyes widened as he realized what was happening. Once the child's body had swayed to the side a bit and started tipping, it seemed like the world was standing still. Snape lunged forward, reaching his arm out, but couldn't quite make it, the boy's body was out of his grasp and falling down the side of the tower. He withdrew his wand, jumping from the edge himself, and pointed it at the boy, engulfing him in a blue light and drawing him near to the professor. Snape then, once he had a good grasp on the child, pointed the wand at himself and, with a first year charm, levitated both of their bodies to the ground, where they landed quite hard, despite the spell, but would live.
They hit the ground with loud thud, the cracks of bones snapping ringing high in Severus' ears. Somewhere along the way, Potter had passed out. Once Snape heard the frantic voice of one of the children, a girl he thought, screaming, 'Oh my god are you okay did you get hurt are you alive?' in one long breath, he choked out, "Infirmary..." then succumbed to the darkness himself.
"Professor, are you alright?" A panicked voice called out, as Snape was waking up.
The man growled a bit, unable to open his eyes. "Five points from whatever house you're in for waking me up." He stated, trying to move his neck, but failing. At least he realized he was in the infirmary, that smell was unmistakable. "Give me my wand." He demanded, holding out his hand.
The owner of the voice scrambled and quickly pressed the man's wand into his palm. "I'm so sorry."
"Be quiet." Damn, he couldn't open his eyes, and his ears were fuzzy. "Get that damnable medi-witch." The unidentified voice gasped a bit, presumably at hearing the man curse. "Check on Potter, make sure he's alright."
"I'm... I'm sorry Sir, and I... Potter is fine."
"Don't be a fool, the brat hasn't been fine since the Christmas party. Check on him NOW!" Snape bellowed.
"Ahh, Severus, I see you're awake." A much older voice said. "And you have company."
"Headmaster... That infuriating twinkle is ever present, even in your voice. What do you want?"
"I want to thank you for saving our young Harry here... He informed us what happened up until the moment he passed out. You were very br-"
"Don't... Just don't... Is he alright?" Snape asked.
Dumbledore had an odd look pass on his face as he glanced to Harry, who held his finger up to his mouth and shook his head positively. "Yes, my boy, he's fine." Albus said, quite confused at whatever was going on.
"Good... Because when he wakes up again, I'm going to kill him." Snape said contently.
Harry's eyes widened and he scooted back from the bedside. Albus simply asked, "Why would you do that?"
"Because the brat worried the hell out of me, Albus! Did you know that Granger girl and the Weasley boy have been... No... That is not mine to tell... Albus, I am ordering expulsion for those two. I know you can't do that without a reason, so make one up! I will not have those two running aroun-"
"Severus, they have already been expelled." Albus said, quietening the man down. "Harry told me everything, about their actions, their abuse, both verbal and physical, and-"
"Albus, be quiet!" Snape said urgently. "There's someone else here, no offense to whomever you are, I'm sure you're absolutely fine as a person, but this is not their business, this is between Potter and whomever he wishes to tell." He snapped.
"Professor..." The voice said lowly. "I... I am Harry."
Snape's breathing got very shallow and his mouth contorted into a scowl. "Shit." He grumbled. Now the boy knew he had a soft spot for him... This wouldn't do at all. "Would someone kindly remove these blasted bandages so I might see who else is residing in this room, taking advantage of my state?"
"Yes yes, we can take off the bandages." Poppy's voice called out suddenly, removing the offending material from the man's eyes and forced a pain potion down his throat.
Once Snape was able to see again, after much colorful language at the brightness of the room, he fixed his glare on Potter. "You are not to tell a single soul outside of this room that I asked on your well being. You shall continue to act as if I hate every fiber of your existence, and I shall do the same. Do I make myself clear?"
"Sorry Sir, but I don't really think I can go back to acting like you're a complete git now that I heard you asking about my well being." Harry said honestly.
Snape seethed. "Then I shall give you reason to believe it. 50 points from Gryffindor for not residing in class where you belong."
"Severus, it's a Saturday. Not to mention just after 6 in the morning, he wouldn't be in class now even if it were a weekday." Dumbledore said.
"Surely you must be mistaken, it was Tuesday when we fell." Snape said, wondering if he had really slept that long.
"I fear that you have been unconscious for the better part of four days." Albus said solemnly.
"Well, you seemed pretty awake when I woke you up from a nightmare two nights back." Harry added.
Snape tried to glare at the boy, then fell backward on to the bed. "Wonderful. Just bloody wonderful. He's seen me incapacitated, he's witnessed my nightmares, he knows I care about his safety... I get it, I've died. My body has expired, and this is Hell. You are all demons sent to torture me in the most inhumane ways possible, by allowing those I care about to supposedly find out about it. Just great. Albus, you should know that I do indeed think of you as a father, Poppy, I consider you to be a very annoying older sister, someone go find Neville and tell him that Professor Snape said he had an amazing amount of raw power, he only needs to channel it correctly, and he may be as strong as Potter. Oh, and while you're at it, someone get me a scotch, I feel the urge to get drunk."
Harry stared wide-eyed at the man in front of him. "Pr- Professor Snape, you are alive, this isn't He-"
"I am aware of that you foolish boy. These are all things I've already said, I was simply voicing my displeasure. The people mentioned are already aware of my feelings towards them, though you wouldn't be if you hadn't have jumped." He returned to a sitting position. "I was, however, dead serious, excuse the pun, about the scotch. If I do not have a tumbler in my hand within the next five minutes, I shall be taking a trip to my quarters."
"Is he alright?" Harry asked Madame Pomfrey.
"He's fine dear, he's just a bit out of sorts, he always has this reaction to the pain potions." She said. "And no alcohol for you, it will mix badly with those potions. Not to mention you're unable to leave this wing until Monday."
"Wonderful, you've put wards around me to keep me in." Snape stood and paced. "I shall, of course, be forced to make all of your lives a living hell whilst I am here. Albus, I demand a liqueur cabinet be put by my bedside."
"We have had this discussion before Severus, and you know the answer is no."
"Milly!" Snape bellowed, and a little house-elf popped into the room. "So nice to see you again dear, do be a doll and bring me a scotch on the rocks please." He stated, returning to his bed.
"Milly is sorry, Sir, but she has been ordered not to bring Master Snape anything alcoholic." The little elf said.
"Yes, well, not your fault, the blame lies completely with the headmaster. Go about whatever it was you were doing then, thank you for your time." He said with a wave of his hand. The little elf bowed out and Snape turned to Dumbledore. "You do realize that I have my wand and I am able to conjure alcohol if I wish, correct?"
Albus smiled, his eyes twinkling vibrantly. "Yes my boy, but I also realize that any alcohol you can conjure will only taste of it and will have no inebriating effects. Do try to get some rest, I have an appointment to keep in ten minutes." He said, walking from the room.
"Are you okay Professor?" Harry asked, still unsure what to think with the very odd way Snape was acting.
"I am not okay Potter, in fact I am far from it. Pain potions tend to drug me and impair my ability to think properly. In fact, were I thinking properly now, I would have told you I was absolutely fine and to get back to your bed... What are you doing here anyway? You seem to be in decent condition."
"He's refused to leave your side since he woke up." Poppy stated, earning a glare. She threw up her hands and muttered, "Fine, I will leave, have it your way." Then walked off to her office.
"I... I feel awful about you getting hurt Sir." Harry said uncomfortably.
"As you should. At least you're quite alive and obviously healthy, my efforts were rewarded in that aspect." Snape said, flopping back down again. "It goes without saying that anything you may hear from my mouth during the next few days should never be repeated, and if anything I've said, which I will remember, starts flying around the school, I shall have to do unspeakable tortures to you to make up for your indiscretion."
Harry tilted his head a bit. "Yes Sir... If you don't mind me saying though, you seem pretty coherent for being drugged."
"Of course I do, Potter. The pain potions simply impair my ability to think before I say, therefore the first thought I have comes out of my mouth. If you use this to your advantage, I shall throttle you."
"Oh, and Potter?"
"If I ever catch you doing something as foolish as attempting to take your own life again, you will be physically assaulted. In fact, give me your hand."
"What are you going to do?"
"I am going to give you a gift. Give me your hand."
Harry, with much uncertainty, extended his arm and allowed Snape to take his hand. The man then pointed his wand at it, said something that sounded suspiciously like some sort of binding spell, and a ring appeared on Harry's middle finger. "What... What is it?"
"Obviously, but why?"
Snape sighed. "There are several students I have taught that I have, at one point or the other, saved from taking their own life. Each student has a ring like yours, but with a different gem. My ring," He pulled back his sleeve and showed his own, which had a clear crystal quartz, "is designed to emulate the gemstone of the particular student's ring when they try to harm or kill themselves. You are, in essence, now bound to me, along with 3 of your classmates, and 5 adults out in the real world. It shall act as a port-key should it activate.
If you are harming yourself simply to be harming yourself and nothing fatal is happening, my ring shall only heat up, and you should expect an angry letter within the next day. If you are harming yourself without care of death or not, my ring will shake and I shall port-key to your location if the shaking increases. If you are actively trying to kill yourself, my ring shall constrict very tightly, and I will have 60 seconds to find an out and be port-keyed against my will to your location. Should I be doing something I absolutely can not get out of, such as when I was a spy and attending a Death Eater meeting, my ring shall forward all motions to the Headmaster's ring, who shall take over my duties."
"Why does he have a ring?"
Snape rubbed at his forehead. "Because the rings were his idea, he started it when I attempted suicide as a teenager."
"Oh... Sorry Sir."
"You should be. You should learn to not pry into business that is not your own. Just because I am unable to stop myself from talking does not mean you are unable to stop yourself from asking. By the way, you are not able to take it off."
"What? What happens if it gets gunky underneath and I need to wash it?"
"It can be moved around on your finger, you can slip it up near the tip and clean under the metal. That's actually the first logical question you've asked, do keep up the good work. You're taking this much better than I had assumed you would."
Harry tilted his head to the side. "Why is that?"
"Normally, when I force a ring onto a student, they become offended and subject me to a myriad of protests with empty promises of never trying something like that again."
"Oh... Well, I couldn't really promise that, I mean, I do feel guilty for getting you hurt, but... I still don't know if I really want to keep living... Not to say I am trying to think of ways to kill myself, it's just... I don't know how to explain it. Life is really bad at the moment..."
"And that shows maturity on your part. While you know it is expected of you to promise never again, you look at the situation from a logical stand point. I suggest you get a hobby if you find thoughts of suicide begin to plague your mind."
"A hobby, Sir?"
"Do quit calling me, 'Sir'. I'm drugged up, lying in a bed in the infirmary, I do not feel like a 'Sir' at the moment. I feel quite like I did as a student. Call me Severus. If you ever call me Severus inside a classroom or around other students that do not have the ring, I shall have to hurt you."
"Right... Sorry, Si- er... Snape... Severus."
"Quite right. Yes, a hobby. You could paint, draw, write, play an instrument, sing, though I would assume you to be horribly off-key if your speaking voice is anything to go by, or any other number of things. Hobbies keep your mind out of its dark corners where thoughts of a harmful nature tend to lurk."
"What's your hobby?"
"Dear Merlin, must you use this time to learn as much about me as you can? My hobby is rather none of your business."
"Hey, I thought you had to answer me!"
"I did answer you. There are some things, such as things my students need not ever hear from my mouth, that I have conditioned into myself not to say to them unless under the effects of a truth serum, do not get any ideas or I shall hit you with something."
"You're a very violent person, you keep threatening me with bodily harm."
"I find it works well as a deterrent."
"Oh? What if I liked that bodily harm?" Harry asked in a nearly flirtatious voice. Snape raised an eyebrow, and his head, staring at the young boy who flushed and buried his face into his hands. "I shouldn't have said that."
"Indeed. I can assure you that you would be able to distinguish between my form of bodily harm and whatever else it is that your perverted little mind came up with."
"If your face gets any redder I shall have to start referring to you as an apple."
"I can't believe I said that."
Severus snorted. "Yes, well at least you didn't go into any details, that would have been uncomfortable, wouldn't it?"
Harry's face flushed even more and he shook his head violently. "You're not helping!"
"And you're an apple... No, you've just crossed the threshold into being a tomato."
"Mr. Potter? Why is your face so red, are you quite alright?" Madame Pomfrey asked, coming up to the bed.
Just as Harry was about to reply, Snape saved him the trouble. "Oh yes, he's quite fine, just embarrassing himself with innuendo."
"Snape!" Harry cried out.
"Ah, now you're a quite ripe tomato."
"What are you talking about?" Poppy asked, flicking her eyes back and forth between the men.
"Nothing Poppy. Please get me another pain potion, I can feel the skele-gro working in my neck." Snape said.
"Oh dear, my apologies Severus, you shouldn't be able to feel that." The medi-witch said, quickly removing a vial from her pocket and handing it to the man.
Once he downed the horrible tasting liquid, he handed the vial back. "I really need to start making those taste better."
"I've been saying that for years!" Harry protested.
"I know, why do you think I've put it off?"
Harry wrinkled his brow. "You are a git." He smiled a bit though, for some ungodly reason enjoying the banter.
"I'm so glad you've finally realized that." Severus replied, the corner of his mouth quirking up a bit as well. It seemed he wasn't averse to the raillery himself.
The days passed into weeks which passed into months. Severus and Harry had went back to arguing at nearly every encounter, and the young man was beginning to truly feel as though everything Snape had said in the infirmary back in January might have been untrue. Well one thing was true, that damnable ring wouldn't come off.
The Gryffindors had taken to excluding him from everything, even going to far as to pressure him to quit the quidditch team. The only lion that would sit with him anymore was Neville. It seemed that Neville, though straight, had no problem with anyone being gay and didn't see that as a reason to exclude them. Of course, this viewpoint also got him excluded as well. Hermione seemed to be pulling strings from her home via letters to Lavender Brown and Padima Patil.
Snape was nearly in a pleasant mood from his recent potion successes when he felt his ring start to shake. Crap, that meant one of his students was harming themselves without care of death or not. Since his quartz had not yet taken the quality of the student's gemstone, he glanced around the Great Hall to seek out which ones were there and which weren't. Hmm, the Ravenclaw was sitting there, that was good, however, both the Slytherin and the Gryffindor were missing. He quickly excused himself from the meal and went searching.
The shaking hadn't enhanced yet, so they hadn't done anything fatal for the time being, but he didn't want to take any chances. He checked the gemstone again, and now it appeared to be a deep purple amethyst. Shit, that was Potter. As he looked at the stone the shaking increased massively, but before he could port-key with it, it stopped shaking and reverted back to its normal state...
That had never happened before. It wasn't supposed to do that until his ring got within 5 inches of the other person's ring, and he was nowhere near Potter. Snape's eyes widened as he realized that the boy must have been able to take his ring off, or worse, must have succeeded in taking his own life. He hoped against hope that it was the former. Would Snape be too late? Shit, shit, shitshitSHIT!
Now, if he were a depressed Potter, who felt isolated and alone, where would he go? Somewhere that he could control, somewhere that others couldn't easily get in to. He had taken to disappearing quite a bit lately. The ghosts always seemed to know where he had went, maybe he could ask one of them.
"Sir Nicholas!" He called out to the nearly headless ghost passing by.
"Ahh Professor Snape. What can I do for you?" The spectral being asked.
"One of the children are in trouble, you're aware of my ring system, one of them has either managed to take their ring off or succeed in their attempt. It stopped shaking immediately after going into the fatal zone." Snape said, panting a bit. The house ghosts had all been made aware of his ring system, as they could be an extra set of eyes and ears should the need arise. "It's Mr. Potter, have you seen him?"
If ghosts could pale, Sir Nicholas would have. He quite liked that young man and had been astonished when given the boy's name as one of those in the professor's care. "The last I saw, he was heading into the hallway of the second floor from the Grand Staircase."
"Right, thank you. If you see the others, please inform them, and for the love of Merlin, don't let Peeves get hold of this information. Lord knows what that blasted thing would do to the boy's reputation, it's already in shambles enough as it is." Severus said, nearly running from the man and up the moving staircase.
While Sir Nicholas was off conversing with Lady Helena, otherwise known as the Grey Lady, updating and informing her to search out for the Fat Friar, Severus was rigidly looking around the corridor when he heard chatting coming from the girls lavatory. After bursting in he noticed that the ghost that haunted the bathroom, Myrtle he thought was her name, was half speaking half yelling down into a gaping hole where the sinks were. "Have you died yet?" She called out.
A weak, "No." came from the hole. Oh god, he wasn't too late!
"Madame Myrtle!" He called. "Are you encouraging that young man to take his life?" He demanded rushing over to the hole, gripping the sinks.
"Shhhh!" She whispered. "Of course not, stupid boy. Where have you been? I sent for help nearly 20 minutes ago!" She stated in a hushed tone.
"Help never arrived, my ring went off. Right, you don't know about the rings, ask one of the house ghosts later. Tell me how to get down there."
"Ugh, boys can be dense sometimes. You just, jump." She said, pretending to jump into the hole herself. "It's not a long way down."
Severus stood on the edge... He did have a bit of a fear of the unknown, thanks to the Dark Lord and his tactics, but he needed to get to the child, and quick. He gave a grunt and went, feet first, sailing into the chamber. He landed on his back with a rather loud crunch, as the bones beneath him broke his fall, so to speak.
"Whose there?" Potter demanded from his perch on a rock from the fall in second year. He saw Professor Snape, as angry and foreboding as ever, stalk towards him. "Oh, it's you." He said, lowering both his wand and his head. "Come to yell at me more? D- deduct more points?" He shivered. "Or have you come to pretend nice and try to gain my trust again only to smash it to bits later?" He asked, feeling, rightfully in his mind, as if he'd been deceived.
Snape reached out, grabbed the boy's shoulders and shook. "You foolish boy!" He said, his face contorted in anger, worry, and slight disbelief. He grabbed the small body and pulled it into his chest, holding tightly and refusing to let go. "What have you done to yourself, where is your ring and how did you get it off?" He demanded, not letting up on his grip.
"Is over there beside rock that looks like goblin's head." Harry said, his voice quavering. "I don't know how I got it off, I just know it was on a'minute, and next was off." He pointedly ignored the question of what he had done.
"I shall look into that later." Severus said, his voice deep and his chest warm, sending vibrations through the younger man's body as he spoke. "Please, what did you do? You removed your ring before I could port-key to you. I see no blood, nor open wounds. Have you ingested poison?"
Harry lost the battle with his emotions and finally, with wrecked sobbing, he pushed into the grip that held him as he removed his glamour and the spell he had been using to keep the blood from getting on anything else. At once Severus felt his robes wetting, and when he looked down, he saw that the boy made rather deep slashes on his arms. What was more alarming, was the copious amount of blood staining his blue shirt from what looked like his stomach area. He really didn't want to let go, but he knew he needed to so he could attend the wounds.
As he was lifting the young man's shirt to get a better chance at sealing the wound before it did any more damage, Harry swayed on his feet a bit, his knees buckling. Snape caught him, hooking his arms underneath the child's shoulders and laying him down gently. "Oh no you don't, you are not going to sleep on me right now, do you hear me?" Snape demanded, sending a light but sudden slap across the boy's face to jolt him up. With all of this blood-loss, if Potter passed out, that may wind up being the last thing he ever does.
"S'not like y'care."
"What gave you that idea? Of course I care, I'd not have forced the ring on you in the first place if I didn't!" Snape yelled, running the tip of his wand over the gash on Potter's upper abdomen.
"Y'kept yellin at me. Acted like... nothin happen'd."
"This is not the time for this discussion, you foolish boy." Severus' voice wavered a bit on the last two words. "Now shut up and let me get you to a stable point."
Minutes went by as they flew into hours, blood was forced back into the boy's body, and the wounds were sealed. All in all, it took Severus nearly four hours to get the child in a lasting enough condition to move him. The wounds weren't exactly healed properly, as he was not a medi-wizard, but they would do if the child didn't move around too much.
Snape slipped behind Potter and pulled him up leaning against his chest. He wrapped his arms around Harry's torso, though he wasn't too sure why he did that as there was no medical reason for it. "The only way I see out is to use levitation on ourselves." He commented.
"No. I hiss at th' snake an grooves go in th' wall. Ladder kinda." Harry said sleepily, then hissed loudly and, just as he said, grooves appeared in the wall of the tunnel leading back to the bathroom. "Why d'ya yell so much?"
"It's what I do, I've explained this to you. Should my classroom become relaxed in atmosphere, more accidents are bound to happen."
"No, in th' hall."
Snape sighed. "Habit."
"Get a hobby."
A pained smile found its way to Snape's lips as he wrapped his cloak around the shivering boy. "It seems my hobby is saving you, Mr. Potter."
Harry curled into the warmth offered. "Mmm mine's needin savin. Please don't hate me." Was the last thing he said before he fell asleep, and this time, Severus let him.
Once the boy was out cold, Snape used mobilicorpus and got them both out. When they'd reached the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey was fussing over the boy, Severus sighed and said in a near whisper, "I don't hate you.", and walked out heading to his chambers as he needed a good bath. He actually picked a bit of rat bone from his hair on the way down.
Snape was sitting in his quarters, alone as always, drinking a scotch. It was the first time since the summer holidays he had drunk more than a half a tumbler at a time. In fact, he was on his third.
Currently he was obsessing over the Potter situation. The boy's, well, young man's, second attempt at his own life had brought forth some startling realizations for our resident potions master. During Potter's sleep induced mumblings when Snape went to check on him earlier that day, the man had learned that the bo- younger man had vehemently wished that he could die in peace. It was quite startling really, to hear someone only 17 cry out in their sleep to, 'just let me die', as he had phrased it. It was also quite surprising to watch the wounds that he and Madame Pomfrey had spent so much time on reopen from the chil- young man's raw power. That proved that Potter truly really did just want to die. This was very unsettling.
What's worse, or at least to Severus, was that he had feelings awaken inside of him when he held the smaller body tightly in his grip. He had known for a while that he preferred men who were physically smaller than him, as they fit better in general. He had also known that he liked dark hair, who knows why, it was simply a personal preference. He had again previously known that he desired men who had power, as that was something he was very attracted to.
What he didn't realize, until the second save this year, was that Ha- Potter carried all of those traits, and more. There was no denying biology. When Harry had curled up to Severus' chest and showed absolute trust in that blasted tunnel, Snape still didn't know what it was, the older man's body reacted. Dare he say it, he was embarrassed to have gotten a hard-on in the middle of such a serious situation. His chest had literally ached when Harry had asked him not to hate him.
He had spent several hours arguing with himself over the issue. Potter was a boy. No, he was a man. Potter was a child. No, he was a legal adult. Potter couldn't handle any type of relationship right now. No, in fact, having someone around who actually cares about him might make him feel better and see that life really is worth living. Potter fancied someone already, one of the staff. Probably that year's inept Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Potter was entirely too attractive when he blushed. Snape enjoyed calling him an apple and a tomato a few months back, causing even more blushing. Potter had kind of flirted with Snape then as well, though it was more than likely due to stress. There was only one logical course that Severus could see for himself.
A knock at his chamber door roused him from his musings. "Enter." He called out, though he knew the other person would come in as they pleased anyway. "Albus, thank you for coming."
"Of course my dear boy, you sounded urgent. What can I help you with?"
"I need to resign."
"Come again, Severus?"
"I need to resign." The man repeated.
"Why ever would you need to do that?" Albus asked, disbelievingly.
"I harbor inappropriate feelings for a student and I find myself coming within physical contact with them more often this year than any of the previous. I refuse to allow myself to lower to the ranks of a paedophile, and I fear that were I to spend much more time around him I might give in to temptation."
"This is a very serious matter, Severus." Dumbledore said sternly. "How long have you had these thoughts?"
"Since early January, but they came full force this morning... I had just come to the realization only then, and I thought it best to nip the problem before it started."
Albus furrowed his brow. "You aren't talking about Harry, are you?"
"Yes, Headmaster, I am."
The old man's face softened some. "He is a legal adult you know, no longer a child."
"He is my student, and all students are considered children until they leave the school."
"Not true dear boy, all students are considered children until they turn 17, legal age. Fantasies involving an adult are nothing to resign over."
Severus downed the rest of his scotch, pouring a fourth tumbler. "Are you trying to say that you condone a 37 year old man's sexual thoughts for a 17 year old teenager?"
Dumbledore thought seriously about this for a moment, then finally said, "I don't see why not. No one makes a fuss when it's a 100 year old man and an 80 year old lover. 20 years isn't that big of a difference really."
Another two gulps of alcohol down Snape's gullet, and his hand found its way to his forehead. "You're delusional. I'mdelusional. Let's just throw a party for the insane."
"Severus my boy, if you were to act on these thoughts, I'm saying if now, not when, I wouldn't have any say in it. As Harry is a legal adult, he can consent to it and no one could say a thing. There isn't a single line in the school rules against a professor engaging in a relationship with a student, as long as the student is of age. In fact, there are several stipulations outlining the proper way to go about it."
"Those stem from the era of the founders when witches and wizards only lived to be about 70."
"Yes they do. What is your point?"
"That was also the era when being an adult came around age 14."
"True, but the guidelines are very clear and the children are considered adults at 17 now, a much more appropriate age."
"That was an era when the professors were in their 20's as well."
"My dear boy, you started working at this school in your 20's."
"Which has nothing to do with the point I am trying to make!"
"Quite right. The point I am trying to make is that Harry is an adult, you are an adult, and should two adults go into a physical relationship, as long as they are both consenting, it is perfectly alright. Now do stop sulking or I shall have to take away all of your alcohol for a few days. I've not seen you drink this much in a long while. How many of those have you had?"
Severus gulped down the remains from the glass. "That makes four."
"Good grief, give me that." Albus said, snatching the bottle from Snape's hand as he was trying to pour another and locking it in his cabinet. He warded it as well for good measure. "It will open on its own in three days. In the mean time, go to sleep, then go check on Harry in the morning. If you continue to have any doubts about the moral implications of your thoughts and the actions you want to pursue, then remember that I was 30 years Minerva's senior when we started our relationship, she was just out of school, the same age as Harry." He said before he left the stoic man's rooms.
Severus was waiting by Harry's bedside the next morning, worriedly glancing at the sleeping young man. His talk with Albus the night before had definitely made him feel better, especially with the revelation of the Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress' relationship starting so similar. He still wasn't quite over his guilt though. He had decided not to bring it up at all with Harry and hope that the boy- young man would not notice anything. Thank goodness he had been able to get the ring back on.
"Welcome back to the land of the living Mr. Potter." Severus said as Harry's eyes started to open.
"God dammit! You weren't supposed to be able to find me, I was in the chamber!"
"The chamber. The Chamber of Secrets that can only be opened by parseltongue." Harry fisted his hands into his sheet roughly and tears started rolling down his face. "You shouldn't have come! You should have just let me die. You hate me after all, you prove it every time you yell at me and call me a fool!"
Severus snatched the young man's face up into his hand, forcing their heads to face each other. "Look at me." He demanded when the Harry refused to meet his eyes. "Look. At. Me." Finally Potter looked into the coal black orbs of his potions professor. "I do not hate you, nor have I ever. I yell at you when you don't pay attention in class because I worry about your safety. I yell at you when you do something silly because I worry about the consequences. I yell at you- look at me – I yell at you when you sneak around the castle at night because it is past curfew and you need your sleep whether you want to admit it or not, not to mention the fact that there are some corridors within the castle that are simply not safe, which you should remember from your first year upon finding Fluffy. I do not call you a fool, I call you a foolish boy, because your actions border on the very foolish sometimes. I yell because I worry, I bring your attention to your actions the only way that seems to work, by calling you foolish. That doesn't mean you are a fool, far from it, and it in no way means I hate you. If anything it shows I care."
He released the young man's face and grabbed his wand. "Now, I believe I owe you something." He said, while Harry's eyes went wide. Snape poked Harry in the shoulder with his wand roughly, then sat it back down on the table, no magic used.
"What was that for?" Harry demanded, rubbing the sore spot.
"That was the physical assault I owed you. If you recall, the last time we were here, I informed you that should I catch you doing something as foolish as trying to take your own life again, I would physically assault you. You have been assaulted." He stated, his face impassive.
Harry's eyes got wide again and he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand Snape had very openly told him that he did care about him in some way. On the other hand, Snape had, in a rather friend-like manner, poked him and called it assault. Perhaps Harry was simply delusional. The young man turned his head away and let his arm fall. "Why do you care?"
Again, Snape's hand found Harry's face, and he drew him in, closer this time. "Because you are worth being cared for whether you want to see it or not."
Harry did the only thing his mind allowed him to do. In a flash he had his arms around Severus' neck and his lips were on the other man's. For a few seconds, Snape had tensed and showed no sign of reciprocation. Just as Harry was about to pull away, the older man returned the kiss, even going as far as to card his fingers through the younger man's hair and pull him in closer. There was only one thought going through Severus' mind. How easily walls and self promises crumble.
"I see you've taken my advice." A voice called, startling the two and causing them to wrench apart.
"Merlin, Albus, do you enjoy giving people heart attacks?" Severus asked, placing his hand on his chest to emphasize his point. The old man simply chuckled.
Harry, who hadn't been privy to the conversation or the implication of what Dumbledore was saying, panicked. "Oh my god I've gone and got you fired, please Sir, don't blame him, it was me who initiated it, he's completely innocent!" He called out, his hands shaking and his eyes wide.
"Ahh so it was Harry who took my advice, even though he wasn't aware of it. Harry, my boy, do calm down. Severus, please stop his shaking." Albus said, tossing a lemon drop on the floor and transfiguring a comfy chair for him to sit in.
"You can expel me if you want, just please don't fire him, he didn'-" He stopped talking as he felt his body shift and realized he was being pulled into Snape's lap.
"Do stop jabbering on." Severus said as he circled his arms around the young man to still his shaking.
"You... aren't mad?" Harry asked both men.
Snape just shook his head and Dumbledore smiled. "Of course not dear boy. I told Severus just last night that his feelings for you were perfectly fine."
"His.. for me?" Harry looked into his professor's face, searching for the truth. He found what looked like maybe embarrassment mixed with affirmation. Or it could have been indigestion, Harry really wasn't good at reading people's faces yet, so he had no idea.
"Oh yes. I take it you return those feelings?" Albus asked curiously, his blue eyes twinkling over half-moon glasses.
Harry's response was to grab Severus' face and pull him in for another kiss. When they broke apart again, he said, "I've been thinking about doing that since December."
"Really?" Dumbledore asked. "It seems you were only a month apart in your realizations."
"Albus, you enjoy being right far too much." Severus said with a sigh. Then it struck him what Harry had said. "Wait a moment... I was the teacher you fancied?" He asked, staring down at the young man. Harry blushed. "I had thought it was the newest idiot hired on to the DADA post."
"Who, Professor Mufftor? You must be kidding, I wouldn't fancy him if he were the last man on earth. He's a coward."
"I agree with that assessment. Albus, you really should allow me to start screening the applicants for the Defense post."
Harry looked confused, his arms still wrapped around Snape's neck. "I thought you aspired to teach defense."
"Pff, hardly. That was a ruse for when the Dark Lord was around. I have less interest in watching children hex each other than I do watching them throw things into each others cauldrons. Now, you need to eat supper. Milly!"
The small house elf popped into the infirmary. "What can Milly be doing for Sir?"
"Mr. Potter is in need of supper, he hasn't eaten at all today." Snape said. The little elf nodded, popped out, then popped in again with two platters overflowing with food. She set them down on the bedside table, bowed, and popped out again.
"You expect me to eat all that?" Harry asked, wide eyed. There was enough there for three people!
Snape shook his head negatively. "Not at all. I expect you to share. Both Albus and I have missed our suppers as well. A little tip when dealing with the house elves and food." He transfigured three napkins into plates and handed them out. "If you have an amount of food you would like in mind, divide it by three when request it of them, and you'll get the amount you wished for. Their eyes are bigger than their stomachs, both literally and metaphorically."
Harry munched almost happily on the food he was given. Eventually his fatigue got the better of him, and he lay his head down to rest. The last thing he said to Severus before he fell asleep was, "I love you." He never heard if there was a reply.
"He's waking up." Madame Pomfrey stated.
"Good good." Albus said worriedly.
"Is he going to be alright?" Neville asked. Wait... Neville? Why was Neville in here?
"I don't know." Poppy said, her voice stern and stiff, as if not letting any emotions through.
"Muuhnff." Harry said as he tried, but failed, to open his eyes.
"Harry dear, let me take the stasis spell off." She muttered something and Harry felt like a large weight had been taken off of him.
"S'cold." Harry mumbled, his eyelids finally cooperating. He didn't know why he said that, he didn't feel cold.
"Of course it's cold, it's the middle of January." Poppy stated.
That woke Harry right up. "What?" He demanded, sitting up sharply in bed. "It is not, it's March!" He said, panicked.
"My boy, I'm afraid that it is January. What is the last thing you remember?" Albus said.
Harry shook his head, refusing to believe them. "The last thing I remember... was sitting here, Professor Snape had saved me from my second suicide attempt, in March. We were eating food a house elf brought us. You were there, and you had told me that it was okay for Severus and I to pursue a relationship, and I told him I loved him."
Poppy's voice cracked. "I can't do this Albus. I'm sorry." She stated, her hands shaking and turning away as tears started rolling down her face. She walked off to her office and slammed the door.
"What's wrong with Madame Pomfrey? Where's Severus? Why is Neville here?" Harry demanded.
Albus didn't say anything, he simply looked pained. Neville spoke up. "I'm here because I'm the one who carried you to the infirmary after you jumped from the tower." He said quietly.
Harry furrowed his brow. "No you didn't, two girls called some teachers' attention to Severus and I after we had hit the ground. I was told about it the next day." Albus closed his eyes and looked as if he were trying desperately not to cry. "Where is Severus?" Harry demanded.
That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Albus buried his head into his hands and shook. Neville trembled a little. "Professor Snape didn't survive the fall." The boy whispered.
"No!" Harry shouted, scrambling to try and get up. "It's not true! He was there for me!" He felt arms wrap around him and hold him still, but didn't see anyone there. "Get this spell off of me, now! I need to find Severus!"
"Please..." Albus begged, lifting his tear-streaked face. He looked absolutely torn.
"No! He's alive! I know he is! LET ME GO! SEVERUS!" Harry called out. He felt like the world was closing in on him.
"Please..." Albus said again, his voice somehow deeper. "Please Harry..."
"SHUT UP! HE'S ALIVE I KNOW HE IS! SEVERUS! SEVERUS!"
"Please don't do this..."
"Please Harry, wake up."
Harry saw a darkness overcome him as if he were passing out again. "Please wake up. Please... Harry come on now, wake up."
When Harry opened his eyes again he was shaking fiercely in someone's arms. "Severus." He whispered. "I have to find Severus!" He tried to get out of the grip.
"Harry, it's me." The voice called, tightening its hold.
"No! You're lying! Let me go, I have to find him!" Harry wailed, beating his fists against the chest. His finger caught on a button and he stopped his motions for a moment. His finger trailed on the button. It looked like the buttons on Snape's teaching robes. He lifted his head and blinked away the tears in his eyes. Severus was staring down at him, pained and worried looking. His eyes were glistening and it nearly looked like he might cry. "Severus!" Harry called out, pushing himself into the man.
He captured Snape's lips in a fierce kiss that sent them both tumbling backward. He knew they had hit the floor, but he never felt it. All he felt was joy and relief, mingling among the terrifying thoughts that he might not have ever seen Severus again. Someone clearing their throat called him out of it.
Harry looked around and saw two blobs. He squinted some, and Severus slipped glasses on to his face. It was Dumbledore and Poppy. "What month is it?" Harry asked.
"March." Madame Pomfrey answered, looking quite red in the face. Just then, Harry realized that he had toppled both him and Severus to the ground in front of the headmaster and the medi-witch. His face, too, became red.
Severus chuckled and pushed some of the hair out of Harry's face with his left hand. "You're turning into an apple." He said softly.
Harry buried his face into the nook between Snape's shoulder and neck. "I had a nightmare that you didn't survive the fall at the tower." He said in a very muffled voice.
"Hey now, my charms aren't that rusty I have you know. That Wingardium Leviosa saved both of our lives." Severus chided, holding the shaking young man in his arms, still lying on the floor. "It's okay Harry, I'm here."
"How do I know this is real and not a dream?" Harry asked, lifting his head up and looking straight at Snape.
"When you dreamed that I hadn't survived, did you physically feel anything?"
"Yes, I felt a spell go around me to hold me down when I tried to run off to find you."
"That was me holding you down. Did you feel anything else? The fabric on the bed perhaps, or the temperature?"
Harry thought for a moment. "No... I said I was cold, but I never felt cold."
Snape surreptitiously conjured a piece of ice and held it to Harry's hand. "Can you feel this?"
Harry jerked his hand away, glancing down. "Hey, that was cold!"
Severus smiled and showed him the bit of ice. "That's how you know this isn't a dream. Your senses work."
"Oh god Severus." Harry said as his face returned to its nook.
"May we get up off of the floor now?" Snape asked. Harry gave something that sounded like a mixture of a laugh and a cry, but nodded and started to get up. Severus, however, was having none of that, and he levitated the young man a bit, stood, and grabbed on to him, curling up in the bed and pulled Harry to his chest. "If you ever find yourself in a situation were you don't know reality from a dream, use a piece of ice to help you figure it out." He whispered.
"I will..." Harry said back, lowly. "Severus?"
"Is it... Is it to fast that I think I love you?" The grip around him tightened.
"Yes, it is." Snape said seriously while Harry tensed. "However, I seem to think that I might have some feelings of mutual affection towards you as well, so we both must be delusional." The younger man relaxed again and snuggled into the warmth.
Albus smiled. "Let us throw a party for the insane then." He suggested using Snape's own words.
Severus leveled a glare at the old man, but faltered when a grin slipped past. "You would be the guest of honor, Headmaster."
"Of course!" Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily. "I wouldn't have it any other way.