Apologies. Tears. A small bit of fluffiness. More tears.
Also, I apologize for the HUGEEE cliffie I left you on last chapter. It wasn't supposed to be that bad of a cliffie, then it kind of was. Also, I felt bad and really wanted to post a chapter.
Without further ado, Chapter 18!
Glimpses – Chapter 18
The hangover Snape found himself having upon his awakening was one of the worst he ever recalled having. That was entirely his own fault, of course, having drained a bottle and a half of Firewhiskey throughout the night.
He rose from the armchair he had fallen asleep in with a groan, staggering down the hall to his lab. He clumsily searched through the potions he had in the cabinet until he came across the burgundy Hangover Potion. Knocking it back, he shuddered at the taste. Dirt. Then again, anyone who stayed up long enough and drank enough alcohol to require it deserved the less-than-desirable taste.
He ran his hands through his hair several times as he returned to the living room, where a swift wave of his wand cleaned up the empty bottle and shattered glass.
There weren't many days he could muster enough self-pity to call himself a fool, but this was definitely one of them.
Screw tea, he needed coffee. Strong, dark coffee.
Another wave of his wand set the coffee to brew, and he let himself collapse onto the leather couch with a groan. His flushed face pressed into the cool leather, and he let his eyes fall shut, easing the burning behind his lids. He felt the potion beginning to take effect, easing his splitting headache and calming his churning stomach.
When he woke again, he had no idea what time it was, but the coffee was cold. However, the potion had done its job, and he moved around the quarters with his usual swiftness.
Seeing as it was past noon, he figured Harry was awake, but the boy had asked for time to think, and Snape didn't want to risk another outburst, so he let him be. He left lunch on the table with a stasis charm over it and hesitantly moved toward the door. He knocked lightly.
"Harry?" He listened for a response but, getting none, continued. "Lunch is on the table. I know you don't want to see me, but please eat something."
He stalked back to his lab, where he spent the remainder of the day, only leaving when he needed to. He noted with slight approval that the earlier meal was nowhere to be seen, and took reassurance in the fact that at least Harry was eating. If nothing else, the boy was eating.
Harry stared at the door in silence. He didn't want to see the man. He didn't want to talk to him. And he certainly didn't want to eat lunch with him.
When he was certain he had heard Snape walk back down the hallway, he crept out of his bedroom, grabbing the plate and bringing it back into his room with him.
It wasn't that he was angry. Not really. He could never hate Snape, the man who had brought him from his relatives' abusive home and cared for him here. He could never hate the man who actually cared, the man who fed him properly and gave him a bedroom, sacrificing his own until it was adequately prepared.
So it wasn't so much that he hated him, although he had certainly yelled that the night before. Harry shuddered slightly; no one deserved to hear that they were hated. He would have to apologize for that in the future. No, he didn't hate the man. It was more so that he was so shocked by all the details. He had been taken in by a man who had completely hated him. Certainly that would have been Dumbledore's second mistake. First to send him to his aunt and uncle's and then to send him off to the very man who hated him just as much as they did! It was absurd.
He could forgive Snape. He could forgive his father, the man who had held him and comforted him even when he didn't deserve to be comforted. The man who had run out into the corridors of the cold castle to make him come back. The man who had adopted him and called him his son, the one thing he had never been to anybody. For the first time in nine years, he had a father, and how had he treated the man?
The previous night's conversation drifted hauntingly through his brain.
"I love you. Harry, I will fight for you. I will die for you. I will sacrifice everything I have for you. What else could I give – what else can I give but my entire being for you, my son? I will be there every time you need me and even when you do not."
And yet even after hearing that, those words of reassurance, the proof that he was loved, he had pushed the man away.
"Let me go! I hate you!"
He had turned quickly to run to his room when Snape stepped back in shock, but he wasn't so quick as to miss the pain in the man's eyes. The normally stoic man, who never let his emotions peek through – the only time Harry had ever seen him smile was Christmas, for goodness sake – had shown pain at the prospect of being hated by Harry.
Harry, the boy who he had even admitted to hating in the past. Harry, the boy he had nearly beaten with his belt. And yet Harry, the boy he had taken in and cared for, hugged and whispered reassurances to, sacrificed for and made space for.
The thing is, if you hate someone, you don't treat them kindly. If you hate someone, you would get them out of your sight at the first possible chance. But he was going to make you leave, that day when he almost hit you. And yet he had been too upset, the way he had carried it out made it all the more clear that he did care. If you hate someone, you don't look out for their well-being. If you hate someone, you don't buy them clothes and a bed and Christmas gifts. If you hate someone, you don't sit on the couch with them, reassuring them, caring for them. And if you hate someone, you certainly don't tell them that you love them. And if you hate someone, you aren't hurt when they tell you they hate you back.
Snape didn't hate Harry, and that was becoming clearer and clearer to the young boy. He tried to trace back when the man's attitude toward him had changed, when he had stopped calling him 'Potter' and started calling him by his given name, but he couldn't remember.
Besides, all that really mattered was that he did. All that really mattered was that he cared.
Tears suddenly began to drip steadily down his cheeks. He was so stupid – so, so stupid. He had pushed away the one man that actually cared for him, even if it hadn't always been so. He had hurt – hopefully not beyond repair – his father. Snape was his father, and Harry forgave him. He couldn't forgive the Headmaster – certainly not now, maybe not ever – but he could forgive his father, the only man who had ever come when he needed help, the only man who had shown that he actually loved him.
Harry picked up the book he had been reading a few days before – Hogwarts, A History – and buried his nose in it, desperate to stop the tears that were dampening the bedspread and making his nose run.
A few hours later there was another tentative knock on the door.
"Harry?" Snape's low voice drifted through the door, slightly muffled. "There's dinner, if you – if you want to want it – but if you want to eat alone, that's okay."
Harry closed his book carefully and set it on the bedside table. The man sounded so hurt, so defeated. He opened the door quietly and saw the man had turned toward the dining room. At the sound of the door, however, he turned back toward Harry, his expression guarded. Harry noticed the slightly hopeful look that peeked through for a moment.
Once settled down at the table, they both stared at their food, neither looking at the other. In the awkward silence, Harry picked at his steak, eating little bits of it. He glanced up shyly. Snape was staring sullenly at his food, eating his potatoes with slow, deliberate bites.
"Sir?" Harry ventured nervously. Snape flinched violently at the term, but looked up and nodded for him to continue. "I want –" He broke off and squirmed nervously in his chair. "I – ugh – I want – arghh – I'm sorry!" he finally blurted. Snape's impatient expression fell from his face immediately.
"You're sorry?" His voice was flat. Harry nodded, uncomfortable. "What for?"
"For what I said last night. I don't – I don't hate you. You're my dad and – Dad?"
Snape had stood abruptly from the table and turned toward the wall. At the sound of the confused boy calling him 'Dad' again, he turned back, taking the few steps necessary to stand before the boy. He dropped to his knees, bringing their faces level.
Harry continued, guarded, "And I – I was confused last night because of that nightmare. I thought you were leaving me, so when you told me you had hated me, I got upset. And I know you don't hate me anymore, and I'm sorry for how I reacted. I don't hate you, and I'm sorry if I hurt you. I just – I'm so stupid," he finished, burying his face into his arms in distress. Snape had yet to respond. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It's too late.
He watched the warring emotions in Snape's eyes, feeling as if he was going to throw up.
"And what do you expect me to do?" Snape asked finally, his face and words devoid of all emotion. His eyes searched Harry's face carefully.
He felt his eyes widen, partially in fear, partially in surprise. "I expect you to…" There was a long pause. "I don't know. Give me back?"
Snape's face hardened with anger. "You expect me to –" He broke off, calming himself with deep breaths. Then he pulled Harry into a hug. "Damn nightmares," he muttered. "Harry James Potter, I am never giving you back. I am never going anywhere without you."
"But I hurt you!" Harry protested against the man's shoulder. However, he found himself melting into his father's embrace, letting the tension leave his back and shoulders.
"As if I've never been hurt before," he answered, then spoke slightly louder. "Harry, you're ten years old. You're still a boy. You're still growing up. Part of growing up is hurting others and others hurting you. You have to learn how to control your temper." Harry began to twist away, but felt strong arms pulling him even closer. "I don't mean that in a bad way. You're going to make mistakes. You said it yourself, remember? In the very wise words of a ten-year-old boy, 'Obviously we're not perfect, so who's to judge us because we aren't?' Harry, look at me. Yes, your words last night hurt, but do you expect me to get up and leave you just because you said something you didn't mean?" Harry felt the man flinch slightly, and wondered if it was in response to an old memory. "I love you, Harry. You're my son. And I am never, ever going to give up on you."
"Do you mean it?" Harry asked hopefully, praying to a god he wasn't sure he believed in that it wasn't another trick.
"Of course I mean it, you fool," Snape whispered, pressing his lips firmly against the boy's forehead.
Silence fell over the room for several minutes, the food left untouched on the table. Harry turned into his father's robes, taking in the familiar, reassuring scent of potions as he felt the first tear fall.
The boy's broken question cut painfully through the silence. "Why didn't anyone come for me?"
"We didn't know, Harry. I promise we didn't know. If I had known, I would have come, I promise. No matter what I thought of you, I would have come." Snape was shaking slightly.
"Why was I sent there in the first place?" His voice was barely above a whisper.
"You were supposed to be protected there. It was supposed to be the safest place for you. Obviously, the Headmaster was wrong," Snape answered, suppressed anger in his voice.
"I don't think I can forgive him. Not yet. And then he sits there and acts like it never happened!" he went on, his voice shaking with his effort to keep the tears from flowing freely.
"I am finding it very hard to forgive him as well, child," Snape replied honestly, then went on. "The Headmaster is a very secretive man, but he is very aware of what happened. And he is very upset by it. He is finding it very hard to forgive himself, Harry, so do not be too quick to cast judgment based on what you have seen of him. He regards this as one of the biggest mistakes of his life, and I have never seen him break down like he did when he learned the full extent of what he put you through – of what you went through."
"I still –" Harry began angrily, but was cut off.
"I don't expect you to forgive him now, but it does not do one well to hold grudges forever." Snape pulled the boy closer to his chest and hugged him carefully as Harry let the tears finally fall.
There was a long silence, broken only by the sobs of Harry, before the boy looked up into the face of the Potions Master.
"Last night. What you said last night." Harry tried to harden his face.
"Which part of what I said last night?" Snape asked cautiously, wondering what was about to come back up.
Harry began reciting with perfect accuracy, his voice shaking, breaking: "'I love you. Harry, I will fight for you. I will die for you. I will sacrifice everything I have for you. What else could I give – what else can I give but my entire being for you, my son? I will be there every time you need me and even when you do not.'" He paused, taking in the shock on Snape's face before asking, "Did you mean it?"
Snape was silent for a long moment, before whispering, "Of course I meant it, Harry. You mean the world to me. I can't imagine my life without you now. How could I not fight for you, sacrifice for you, give my very life for you? I love you so much, you foolish boy." He pulled Harry tightly to him, feeling the boy begin shaking with quiet sobs once again.
Harry sobbed into his father's robes, speechless.
He was loved.
He was loved.
What did you think?