Title: Doors we open, lines we cross
Author: Aristide Cauquemaire
Warnings: A possibly unsatisfactory ending to an imperfect story.
"I took the liberty to deal with your landlord two weeks ago, paid your rent two months in advance. I figured you wouldn't want to be evicted while absent... or Muggles poking around in your stuff during a public auction by court order."
Potter shoved the door open with a shoulder. The door that had gotten stuck like that ever since he had moved into the flat protested but had to surrender to brute force. Instead of entering, Potter stepped aside and motioned with his hand, indicating him to go first.
Good grief, the air was truly horrible. He closed his mouth and tried to inhale through the nose without smelling.
"There was also something in your fridge. A greenish potion in a medium-sized Erlenmeyer flask, about this big." Severus knew that he was illustrating the size with his hands but didn't turn around to see. "Had some noxious foam around the cork. I figured it'd be better to get one of your team to pick it up. Before it... I don't know. Explodes or something."
He refused to waste his breath on explaining this course of events would have been highly unlikely – something Potter might have known if he had paid even a shred of attention in Potions class.
He didn't give in to the urge to tell him that the worst that could've happened would have been for the potion to eat through the refrigerator's interior and maybe some of the horrible PVC floor in his kitchen. Which could've made for an improvement, eventually. Maybe it would've gotten rid of that yellowish stain that he strongly suspected was the trace of cat piss.
Instead, he wondered which of his four underlings had seen this poor excuse of a habitation, linenless, yellow-stained duvet on the couch and all. He hoped it had been Galuyshka.
"She didn't say much at all, but she seemed to know what she was doing."
He nodded to himself, quietly pleased. A raise was in order for her.
"She also took the other two flasks and the large jar with the... wibbly wobbly... stuff in it. The one from the, uhm, bathroom. And two satchels of something out of that cabinet by the oven. Looked like cooking spices to me but she took them anyway." He cleared his throat. "Well, actually, she took it all away. Can't argue with a person who doesn't argue back."
Perhaps he should get a carpet. The cheap plastic flooring didn't offer much in terms of traction. Merlin knew he needed as much of that as he could get right now.
The rubber foot of his cane made an awful squelching sound on that PVC when he walked, a sound that reminded him uncomfortably of Horace Slughorn for reasons he didn't care to analyse.
He proceeded towards the couch, but once he had arrived – after what felt like a small and infuriating eternity to a naturally impatient man like himself – he didn't know what he should do there. He couldn't venture sitting down on that sagging, barely knee-high piece of furniture. It would make for a spectacularly ungraceful bit of geriatric gymnastics. Not in front of Potter. Not on that couch, either. Not on that duvet, for Mordred's sake.
There was a chair by the kitchenette counter but he knew it was rickety and – well, it was by the kitchen counter. It looked near since his flat was not of the spacious variety but it might as well be on the moon right now.
He turned around to face Potter. If Potter left, he could take his chance with trying to sit down on the couch, however long that formerly simple task would take and however ungainly it might manifest itself.
"That'll be all, Mr Potter."
Potter stared at him for some seconds. He stared back with a pointedly even face, although there was something boiling inside his chest.
"I could open the windows."
Boiling and seething. "I think I will be able to handle them myself."
"I'm sure you are." He even sounded like he meant it. "I didn't mean to imply-"
A thousand million things came to his mind then, things he wanted to say or needed to say, inappropriate and unseemly things, cowardly, truthful, impossible things. He briefly wondered if this was the feeling that drove people into doing things like modern painting and making music and writing novels that were hundreds of pages long. Or, alternatively, into committing suicide.
"That will be all," he reiterated instead of all those things.
Maybe he should start with a letter. He had always been good with letters, his handwriting had been perfect for it – neat, pointy, slightly cursive when he wanted to, rather pleasing to the eye if one didn't look at the mercilessly snarky content.
'Mr Potter,' he could start. 'I hereby apologise for the inconveniences that I
that were caused. I understand your hearings in Paris, Bern, Berlin and London
might lead to several weeks of punitive imprisonment, social work or considerable
fines and heap upon you and Mr Malfoy, as well as on Shacklebolt in particular
and the English Ministry in general, a substantial amount of unwanted and
unfavourable press attention, the consequences of which might be even more
unpleasant in the long term. Not to mention the obnoxiously smartarsed
Strike the last two words.
rebukes from French, Swiss and German ministries you will probably not hear
the end of for the rest of your political life.'
Maybe if he just made the sentences long and complex enough there'd be enough space between the lines into which all of those unspeakable things might fit.
"That will be all," he said again.
Potter remained standing there as if frozen to the spot and it didn't bid fair for that to change any time soon.
'Although your response to the following is predictable due to your earlier,
categorical dismissal of the subject, I would request you allow me sharing in
the accumulated amount of fines, as well as compensate you for the
expenses incurred for my transportation, hospitalisation, tortury
surgery and repatriation. Seeing that I am solely responsible for the former
and was the beneficiary of the latter, I believe it would be a blatant
non-propriety to accept this gratuitous grant, thus I insist on a reimbursement
His back and left leg were aching worryingly by now. Potter wouldn't move. The kitchen chair it is, then. He embarked on the journey towards it under the silent gaze of one ludicrously powerless Head Auror.
'Said outlay includes the value you would appoint to the countless favours
indubitably called in on my behalf and/or the pay those who were involved
in the surgery itself or its covering up have received.
Despite the fact that, by all indications, the surgeons' course of action was
to rip my bones from my body, split them open, scoop out the marrow, fill
the hollows with shrapnel, fit the halves back together with some amount
of duct tape, put them back in the wrong way up and secure them with the
frayed ends of my muscles-
Maybe strike that entire paragraph.
I appreciate the effort and the great lengths that were gone to in order to
restore me back to something akin to health.'
Potter got no answer. He sighed and tried again. "Severus."
It was really a bit worrying how easily the youth was on first-name basis with him by now. Maybe it was time for him to stop thinking about them as 'youth'.
'The reimbursement will also include the aforementioned rent.'
"Mr Potter, I do believe you will find your way out by yourself."
'Please rest assured that no legal prosecution will follow on my part on the
account of misuse of my signature, faking of the same, and forgery in no less
than forty seven cases (that I know of). I understand that, at the time of
giving my permission to administer unauthorized pharmaceuticals, I was
already under the influence of said substance, injected into my leg some
moments before. I also assure you that I, should the question ever arise from
third parties such as the Swiss or German Ministry courts, will swear under
oath to have granted explicit and implicit permission for everything that
happened to me from the night of the 14th onward, which should effectively
extricate you, Mr Malfoy and the mediwizards in attendance from responsibility.'
'What you accomplished is, I can only avouch once more, highly appreciated
by my person. Or will be appreciated once it heals over, because right now,
it quite simply hurts like gigantic mountains of fuck-'
"You stubborn git!"
He stopped. Partially because of this uncharacteristic outbreak and partially because he physically needed to. He was sweating, out of breath, his back hurt. It was wearing to fake the opposite. For the second time in two days he berated himself for deciding against the second cane. With twice the number of crutches he might have made twice the distance and he would've been there. Almost.
Potter frowned at him, both angry and pleading, wordless for several moments. Then, when Severus turned to continue towards the kitchen chair with breath whistling from his nose in agitated little bursts, he suddenly asked, "What do I have to do? Tell me."
"Mr Potter, I'm not-"
"I cannot leave you here, for Merlin's sake, look around. I will not. Not one more time will I just leave someone somewhere just because he's so damn stubborn and proud or angry with me – legitimately angry, even – and because he tells me to fuck off. Not," he breathed in shakily, "one more time."
He had heard the story of Ronald Weasley's demise. He didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing to suddenly be paralleled like this. He suspected the latter. He gripped the already slippery handle of his cane a little more tightly and didn't know what to say.
"Draco and I... we want... you."
That made his mouth go dry all at once. "Don't be ridiculous," it hissed out of him before he could stop himself.
"Pot, kettle, black," Potter responded with a gesture that included him, leaning heavily on his cane as he was, and the dingy apartment with its foul air. Then he repeated with an emphasis on every word, "We want you. I want you."
His heart was trying to gallop out of his chest all of a sudden. The physical exertion, he knew. He grabbed at it, clawing at his shirtfront.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Potter pull his wand and point it at the kitchen chair. It slid towards him at a speed, spun around in mid-air and landed as a massive, cosy-looking wing chair that would've made Minerva McGonagall beam with pride. It skidded to a halt right behind him and gently nudged his calves.
"Please, sit." Potter tucked the wand back into his pocket and added in a low voice, "I promise this one won't tie you up."
If only he had enough breath for a snarky comeback. If only he could resist the pull of that wonderful chair.
Suddenly his cane was out of his palm and replaced by someone else's strong hand. His other flailing hand was caught as well in a firm, sure grip that readjusted itself and supported his elbow instead to better catch all his weight.
Suddenly, he was eye to eye with Potter who was the only thing holding him up, the only thing keeping him from crumbling to the ground in a painful mess of dislocated bones, half-overhealed titanium screws and torn stitches.
Skin contact was such an unusual thing, he thought. He had massive skin contact with his clothes every second of every day, also with his hair and with his own breath – and, on busy days at work, with several unspeakable and unpleasant substances – and none of it had never given him the slightest pause.
But when another person touched him – curiously, it didn't even matter if he touched his palms, calloused and acid- and alkaline-hardened, or a more tender part of him – it caused an earthquake inside and everything tilted a little.
"What do I have to do?" There it was again, that look of want and urgency that he had given in to once before. Like a feral child, mortal enemy of the word 'No' and of denial.
He stared back and didn't trust himself to utter so much as a word.
Potter gently handed him over to gravity. After a split second of falling and clutching Potter's hands in a panicked death grip, he was seated in what might have been the most comfortable chair on planet Earth. And it still wobbles. Severus hastily wiped the corner of his eye when Potter let him go.
"If it would make you feel better, you could tell yourself that it's all just for me." Potter had turned away and spoke with his back towards him. "Me, getting my way as per usual, being egoistic, greedy, lewd, perverse and entirely impossible." The last word came out as a groan as he forced open the living room window that hadn't been opened for quite some time and gotten jammed in its flaky frame.
The fresh air streaming into the room only reminded Severus of how bad the stink really was. Potter leaned out of the window and craned his neck to get a good look around. Presumably at all the nothing there was to see.
"I will probably be away for the next few months." His words were hard to catch over the sound of cars. "I need someone to have an eye or two on Draco for me. To keep him company."
He turned around and looked over to him as if to give him the opportunity to object or comment. Severus chose not to take it.
Potter vanished from his line of sight. Judging by the direction of his voice, he had gone to the bedroom.
"Even though he wouldn't admit, he is still trying to get over what happened in France and what he did there. He should have someone to talk to about it... if he wants to."
There was a hollow bump, a thump and a creak.
"He will need someone else to hold on to when I'm gone. It might come as a shock to him, seeing that I'm not the powerful, immune super-wizard I made him believe I am." Another bump. "I don't want him to get scared and feel... exposed." He said a spell Severus had never heard before. It made a sock crawl out from under the sofa and zoom towards the open bedroom door, shedding dust motes along the way.
There was a sound of a closing suitcase. Then, silence for quite some time.
When he turned his head, Potter stood there. By his side was the dark brown, more than slightly battered suitcase that had been an artefact when it had come into his possession at the age of eleven. This was the same suitcase he had packed for Hogwarts for seven years in a row. He had always hated it. It smelled musty and like a sick animal, it would always get wet somehow and soak through a quarter of its contents, it would spring open unannounced and resist closing for no good reason. It was heavy and ugly. He couldn't get rid of it. In many respects, this damn suitcase belonged to him. In the deepest ways.
Judging by the bulge, it was full with every single piece of clothing he owned. Clothing and everything else. His entire life was in that stinky suitcase.
"Before we came here, you told me to get you back to your flat. 'I should go to my flat', you said."
Potter wore an odd expression on his face. If he hadn't known better, he would've guessed that he was a little afraid.
"Here we are. In your flat." He gestured with his free hand. "I think we've been here long enough. So let's go home now, shall we?"
I spent almost seven months writing this, with two large breaks in between. Prior to that, I already spent weeks dreaming about it, thinking about it, talking to myself to hear how it sounds.
It's hard to accept that this is the best I could manage. In defiance of my narcissistic perfectionism, there are some parts I actually quite like. I see them in my head like scenes of a movie and they give me feelings.
All in all, I wished you, dear reader, had a a quarter of the fun I had with this.
I apologize for making you waste your time. I especially apologize for the unoriginality of it all and for occasionally atrocious grammar and punctuation*. (*Slightly better now that I reworked it.)
Thank you for reading.
Comments are always appreciated.