Guilt ate away at Harry's gut for the next two days. He could still feel the weight of the letter opener in his hand, the initial resistance of fabric and flesh upon the first stabbing, before the metal penetrated his professor's gut like it was little more than soft butter. Queasy at the thought, Harry shook his head and wrung his hands, as if to banish the feeling altogether. Snape had returned that morning, quite healed – though clearly exhausted from the incident and resulting blood loss. If possible, his normally pale complexion was downright pasty. Even Malfoy possessed more colour in his face.
The dark-haired man had scowled at Harry's immediate apologies, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Snape's irritation was clear in his snapping reply, asking Harry if he considered every misdeed of the Dark Lord his own personal burden, before adding that his arrogance knew no bounds if this were the case.
Though the words were clearly designed to hurt and squash any further attempts to discuss the subject, Harry was relieved at the clear bite behind the other man's tone. Despite the harsh address, it was apparent that Snape neither blamed his student for what had taken place, but even more importantly (to Harry at least), he didn't fear the boy either.
Harry couldn't help but snort at that thought, breaking his train of thought and ending the guilt-laden funk he had settled into for the moment. If Snape ever caught on that Harry even considered the older man might be afraid of him – for whatever reason, Dark Lord possession or no – he would turn downright nasty and no doubt launch into a speech dedicated to the ego of all Potter males.
Both students, Gryffindor and Slytherin had promised Dumbledore that they would assist the potion's professor in any way they could, but Snape was having none of it, shutting himself up in his room after barking orders to not be disturbed. Neither boy disobeyed, retreating to their own rooms before midday. However, it was now well into evening and hunger drew them out of their confined safety and down toward the kitchen.
Malfoy was already sitting with a plate of roast beef in front of him when Harry entered, the blonde offering a tentative nod, letting him know the coast was clear and Snape wasn't going to loom out of the darkness and bite his head off.
Harry shut the door behind him, crossing across the room to serve himself some food, momentarily considering bringing a plate upstairs for his professor before reconsidering. Snape had been very clear on his wish to remain undisturbed. If he didn't make an appearance by morning, Harry would brave bringing him something to eat.
"Do you think he's all right?"
The words caught the green-eyed boy off guard and he turned around to face the blonde, his raised eyebrows melting away when he realised Malfoy wasn't looking at him, but was rather focused on his meal, almost as if he hadn't spoken at all.
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "I'm sure they healed him well enough, but…"
The words hung in the air uncomfortably, but Malfoy didn't press him to finish the sentence, knowing exactly what the other boy meant.
"Do you remember… it? When it happened?"
The blonde still wouldn't look at him and suddenly Harry was desperate to meet his eye, to see what the other was thinking, feeling.
"Yeah. I could see it all, but I couldn't stop myself."
"Like the Imperius curse?"
Harry sat down, his plate quite forgotten. He shook his head and finally the other boy looked at him, curiosity and fear etched into his features.
"No, not really. It feels good to obey when under Imperius. This was more like having a puppeteer pull all your strings against your will. I could feel my legs, arms, hands – all of it – moving, but I couldn't control it. A spectator in my own body."
Thinking about those words, Harry felt anger stir within him, hating Voldemort for using his body so effortlessly. Even now, after escaping him in so many ways, so many times, he remained vulnerable and always within the Dark Lord's grasp. Those long, pale fingers were just itching to bury deep into Harry's soul and he knew in his heart that they had and would again.
Shivering, he noticed Malfoy openly staring, which dragged him away from the more unpleasant aspects of his musings.
"It just goes to show you though," Malfoy muttered, his head dropping to focus on his plate.
"Goes to show what?" Harry asked, almost afraid to hear the rest.
"That things could end at any moment. Snape could have died there and then. So could you. I had thought that because in our future we had lived at least another two years that it would be the same now, no matter what happened. But that's not true. This is an entirely different time line. Who knows how long any of us have."
The words sat in the space between them, both dreadful and refreshingly clear. Malfoy was right. Things were different. There were no guarantees, either way. Harry could have murdered Snape the other night. Or Voldemort could have just as easily had Harry cut his own throat. It was a horrifically simple truth. How much time did any of them have? But rather than fill each of them with dismay, the words provided some twisted strength, verbal admittance that things would have to be different.
Unbeknownst to him, Malfoy had strengthened Harry's resolve to not allow things to slip any further into despair than they had. What if Voldemort took possession of Harry that very night and had him drown himself in the bath or hang himself from the ceiling? What then? What would any of this have been for? What if he murdered Malfoy and Snape while they slept?
He may be momentarily protected by Dumbledore, but that would not last beyond the following day. What then?
Crossing the landing to his room, Harry entered and made his way to his trunk, throwing it open and searched within its depths. Perhaps it was a need to apologise, perhaps a debt owed, or perhaps it was one last pleasure he could provide before things really took a turn into the dark. But regardless of the reason, when he drew out the carefully wrapped Resurrection Stone, Harry knew that this time was the right time. Severus Snape needed this now more than ever.
And secretly, Harry knew that he himself needed to offer something good, something kind and welcome, to someone. For it seemed that all he ever did was bring about misery and despair. Inadvertently perhaps, but the results were still the same. Death and destruction followed him, but this time, he had a gift to offer. A most rare treasure that had once been his own touchstone – a reminder that he was not truly alone. Now someone else would reap the benefits. He just hoped that Severus Snape could allow Lily Evans to depart when the time was right, once they had reunited and had a chance to sit like old friends and converse to their hearts desire.
Harry waited until Snape had made the choice to leave his room, heading for the library rather than the sitting room, a choice which stood out to the young wizard. Creeping down the stairs, noting the darkness under Malfoy's bedroom door, he quietly made his way to the library. Taking a deep breath, he knocked gently on the door before swinging it open slowly, not wanting to alarm the man inside. A gravelly sigh could be heard upon his entry, Snape's scowl immediately clear from the armchair where he sat; a book balanced on the armrest and a cup of something on the table next to him. He was dressed in his usual fashion despite the late hour and didn't look happy to receive company.
"I swear Potter, if this is another attempted apology or painful heart-to-heart, then I have no-"
"It's not, really!
Snape stopped to consider Harry's face, which was as open as the boy could manage, willing the other man to let him stay.
"Fine. What is it then? I don't have all night."
Now under his professor's scrutiny and in possession of his attention, Harry faltered, his hand unconsciously reaching into his pocket to pull out the wrapped treasure within, his fingers fumbling slightly with trepidation.
Snape stiffened momentarily, something Harry didn't miss and it pained him to see the caution in the other's eye when he honed in on the object in Harry's hand.
However, it soon turned to curiosity when the silence stretched on, Snape's face immeasurably clear that the boy-who-lived had better explain himself quick.
With a sigh, the fifteen-year-old approached the couch sitting adjacent to Snape's armchair and sat, leaning back into the cushions as if they provided some mental support, as well as functional. Telling this tale would not be easy. He decided to start with the simplest of beginnings.
"What do you know about the Deathly Hallows, sir?"
Out of all the questions in the world, that was not one that the Slytherin professor was expecting and his eyebrows rose considerably. "You wish to discuss fairy tales at this late hour? Really, Potter?"
Harry's expression remained steadfast, so Snape rolled his eyes and obliged him. "Supposedly there are three. The Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility and-"
"-the Resurrection Stone," Harry finished, looking more serious than Snape could have imagined him to be when discussing nonsense with his famously impatient professor near midnight.
"Yes. What is the point of this discussion, Potter? Such childish nonsense hardly warrants a conversation."
"But that's just it, sir. It's not childish nonsense. It's very much real."
Snape looked murderous, ready to interject with a lecture on good sense, but Harry continued quickly, determined to get through. He launched into his tale, touching briefly on Dumbledore's past without revealing too much that the headmaster himself would not wish to divulge. Snape's face was impassive, but his expression shifted slightly when Harry came to discuss the Elder Wand and Voldemort's future possession of it. It was clear the man believed him to be exaggerating, but the Gryffindor pushed on, revealing that the wand in question was now in Dumbledore's possession.
"This is all fascinating Potter, but even if what you say is true, what does this have to do with me? Surely you should be revealing these rather fantastic tales to the headmaster."
Harry sighed, looking down at the object in his hands. Purposefully, aware of Snape's watchful eyes, he unwrapped the small parcel, finally revealing the dark stone within.
Green eyes lifted to bore into the obsidian ones sitting across from him, which now were bent into a wary frown.
And with those two simple words, Harry held out the tiny prize to his professor, who looked as bewildered as a man of Snape's conservative nature could.
He didn't budge.
"You can't pretend to tell me that this is-"
"It is. I swear."
Silence reigned, neither man nor boy moving. Snape's face was questioning, as if he was trying to figure out the other's motives. However, despite everything, Snape's heart thumped loudly in his chest and his blood seemed to slow in his veins at Harry's next words.
"Talk to her."