"And to what, may I ask, do I owe this visit?"
The chamber door was only open enough to reveal half of Snape's angry expression. He wasn't wearing his usual robes, but his sleepwear was still black as night; Harry could tell he'd woken the Potions Master at an unreasonable hour.
"I... I'm sorry to bother you, sir," he began. The words sounded as fake as they were; he was not sorry in the slightest. Why on earth Dumbledore would subject him to such a punishment was beyond him. Sure, he'd been caught. Sure, he probably needed a blood replenishing potion. But Snape? It wasn't his fault that Madam Pomfrey had been on vacation for the winter holidays! If he'd only been more careful... he cursed under his breath.
"Am I to assume you've called at such an hour to spew profanity at my door, or did you actually intend to finish that sentence in a reasonable manner?" The ice in his tone was enough to make Harry forget his promise to the headmaster. This was SNAPE, for Merlin's sake. He could just turn around. He could just pretend Snape hadn't answered the door, and walk back up to the Gryffindor common room.
Or could he? Just as he'd turned around to leave, the dizziness had become too much. He threw his arm against the dungeon wall; it was all he could do to keep from collapsing.
"Are you intoxicated, Potter?" Snape hissed, opening the door completely. "Could you not have bothered some other professor at this late hour? Perhaps Albus?"
Harry turned arond slowly, steadying himself with the wall once more. "I've seen him once already. He- he sent me to you. And no, I'm not drunk," he added, narrowing his eyes. Not even ten firewhiskeys could make him come to visit Snape willingly, late or otherwise. "I've been told to ask you for a potion."
Snape's eyes widened with curiosity for a split second, quickly replaced by his usual cold stare. "Albus has asked YOU to awaken me at half past two, in the middle of the winter holiday, to request a potion from me? What potion requires such urgency?"
This was the part Harry had been dreading. He had been rehearsing what lies to feed to Snape on his walk from the familiar gargoyle all the way down to the dungeon, but in the face of such interrogation, had forgotten his lines. He bit his lip and looked up at his potions professor with resentment and, as Snape was surprised to see, a hint of embarrassment.
"I need- do you happen to have a, well, you know, blood replenishing potion?" He'd attempted with all his might to come off as matter of factly, but Snape's gaze revealed his shortcoming. His black eyes bore into Harry's without blinking. Harry recognized what the look meant, and he tried furiously to block it, but it was no use: Harry had never been good at occluding, even in a right state.
"Come in, Potter," he spat, and turned on his heel. Leaving the chamber door open, Snape walked into the darkness within. Harry paused for a minute at the door, gave a quick look behind him, and entered Snape's office, holding his breath.
Perhaps Snape hasn't seen anything, Harry thought optimistically, and he just wants to get rid of me as quickly as possible. He followed Snape through the candle-lit room, hoping he could avoid more questions.
Snape opened his potions storage cabinet and fingered through a few vials. His hand stopped at a full vial of crimson fluid. He turned around and, without making eye contact with Harry, handed him the opened container.
"You will need to swallow it entirely at once, or it will lose its effectiveness," explained Snape. "It's best to take with water, as I'm sure you're probably dehydrated as well." His tone was no longer icy, but it wasn't friendly either.
Harry continued to stare at Snape, the vial still clasped in his sweaty palm. "It's not for me, professor, it's just-"
"Spare me your petty attempts at a dishonest justification, Potter," Snape interrupted. "The longer you wait to take the potion, the longer you will continue to soak the right sleeve of your repulsive Gryffindor-crested robes with even more scarlet than necessary."
Harry quickly jerked his arm behind his back. He'd assumed nobody could see the blood through the jet black color of his sleeve. Of course, Snape had always been more perceptive than most. Realizing his best option was to drink, he pressed the vial to his lips and obediently swallowed the contents in one gulp.
It tasted like metal, weeds, and, oddly enough, pineapple.
He handed the empty container back to Snape without eye contact. He continued to stare at his feet. He heard footsteps, clinking, and the unmistakeable sound of rushing fluid. Moments later, a glass of water appeared on the table in front of him.
The command was well understood, and quickly followed. An argument was the least of Harry's desires at the moment. He did not look up until his glass was empty. Snape was standing across from him, his expression unreadable.
"T-Thanks," Harry stammered with uncertainty. He wasn't sure what else to say to Snape, but an expression of gratitude seemed the most appropriate, small as it was. Snape didn't seem to acknowledge the weak attempt, and continued to stare at Harry with the same blank expression. A few moments of awkward silence passed between the pair, until-
"We will need to dress that wound before the potion becomes obsolescent, Potter," said Snape. "Kindly lift your sleeve."
If Snape's compliance with the potion hadn't been surprising enough, his last remark had exceeded all expectation. Harry did not oblige, however. He looked up at the potions master apprehensively.
"I shall give you a moment to overcome your disinclination while I retrieve some basic medical supplies."
Snape disappeared into a back room, leaving Harry feeling ashamed and regretful. He didn't want Snape's help dressing any wound. On the contrary, he'd wanted to fulfill Dumbledore's orders to take the potion as quickly as possible before disappearing back to the Gryffindor common room. Checking to make sure he was still alone, Harry glanced around the room quickly before bringing his injured arm in front of him and slowly peeling back the sleeve. Disgusting. A behavior nobody would assume of the boy-who-lived, and yet here it was, screaming at him in bright drops of blood. He definitely couldn't show this to Snape. The cut wasn't suicidal, nor did it appear to be, but it was still scary - long, deep, and telling.
He traced the incision with his forefinger, taking note of the less severe, thin white scars surrounding it. He'd never gone this far before. And he hasn't really intended to, it had just... come out, in a wave of frustration and grief.
He reached to pull the sleeve back down once more, but a hand clasped around his wrist and held it steady, rendering the attempt useless. Harry's heart jumped. Startled, he looked up at Snape. "I-I didn't realize you'd returned-"
"I appreciate your cooperation," said Snape coolly. He dropped Harry's wrist and it fell limply to the side. Harry knew better than to fight it again, and looked away as Snape began cleaning his wound with what he assumed to be some sort of disinfectant. It stung something awful, and Harry let out a quiet whimper before he could stop himself. Snape looked down at him with slight amusement.
"I can't imagine this hurting worse than what you've already done to yourself."
Harry bit his lip. Snape was right, of course. Still, it was a different sort of pain. He hadn't caused it. It was out of his control. Much like the deaths he'd experienced so recently. Much like his inability to save the world.
I wonder what Sirius would think of me now, thought Harry. He pushed the thought out of his mind. Even fleeting thoughts of his godfather caused him severe pain lately. He looked up at Snape, who was now holding his wand against Harry's cut and muttering something incomprehensible.
"Please... please don't."
Snape stopped his incantation and stared at Harry curiously.
"I'd like to keep... well, keep the scar, if it's all the same to you."
Snape gave Harry a look of confusion, but pulled back his wand nevertheless. "I suppose that remains your choice." He pocketed his wand and opened the small medical kit he'd brought, retrieving a roll of gauze and wrapping it slowly around Harry's forearm.
Once the wound had been adequately wrapped, Snape returned his tools to the back room and took a seat in the chair across from Harry, who had expected more long silences. He was disappointed, however, as Snape began to speak immediately.
"Do you wish to die, Potter?" asked Snape.
Harry shook his head.
"I would assume not, as your injury doesn't appear to be suicidal in nature. However, I don't feel comfortable allowing you to leave my quarters tonight. Not in your... current emotional state."
Harry's jaw dropped. "Stay HERE? With... with YOU?"
"I assure you it isn't my strongest desire either, Potter."
"Then let me LEAVE!" Harry started, surprised at the strength his voice had recovered. "Why should you give a flying fuck what I do or where I go tonight?"
"Language, Potter," Snape snarled. "I would expect you to treat me with a little more respect given the help you have received tonight."
"I don't need your- I don't need ANYONE'S help-"
"It appears the headmaster begs to differ with that sentiment, Potter, and I certainly doubt he would approve of me releasing you to your own devices just now."
"I only came here because he made me!" Harry snapped, glad to have some anger to diminish his embarrassment. "I did what he asked me to do! I don't have to do anything else!"
"On the contrary. You have been asked by your potions professor to remain here. You will stay, or I will have to tell your little Gryffindor friends to keep an eye on you in my place - I presume you haven't told them about this little issue yet?"
Harry fell silent. The ultimatum was unfair, clever as it was. He couldn't imagine the looks on Ron or Hermione's faces, being escorted to the Gryffindor tower by the greasy git with knowledge of his habit. He regained some composure before speaking again.
"I don't have anything to sleep in."
"That can be arranged."
"My friends will be expecting me-"
"Your friends will understand an early morning detention with me, should you choose to be dishonest with them as well."
Defeated, ashamed, and quite sleepy, Harry gave a slight jerk of his head, which Snape understood to be agreement. Snape waved his wand, and a small bedset appeared on the little couch behind them, as well as a pair of pajama pants. Without another word, Snape returned to his room, leaving Harry alone to ponder the events of the night on his makeshift bed.