A Roof for the Rain
Summary: Harry convinces Severus Snape that life is worth living. With that comes certain responsibilities.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to JK Rowling and probably a bunch of other companies/entities. But not me.
Warning: This fic will eventually be Snarry. As such, it will contain sexual interactions between two male characters. If this is not your cup of tea, please hit the back button.
Note: This fic is complete and contains four chapters. Some of the dialog in this first bit is taken directly from The Deathly Hallows.
"I've got to go back, haven't I?"
"That is up to you."
"I've got a choice?"
"Oh, yes," Dumbledore smiled at him. "We are in King's Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to . . . let's say . . . board a train."
"And where would it take me?"
"On," said Dumbledore simply.
"Voldemort's got the Elder Wand."
"True. Voldemort has the Elder Wand."
"But you want me to go back?"
"I think," said Dumbledore, "that if you choose to return, there is a chance that he may be finished for good. I cannot promise it. But I know this, Harry, that you have less to fear from returning here than he does."
Harry glanced again at the raw-looking thing that trembled and choked in the shadow beneath the distant chair.
"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say good-bye for the present."
Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same, and they looked for a long moment into each other's faces.
"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
Dumbledore beamed up at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong to Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
Harry turned and spotted something he hadn't seen before. And he was sure it hadn't been there before, because how could he have missed it if it was? If he was. Someone else was here, sitting on a bench by himself, hunched over, head in his hands, long dark hair obscuring his face.
Harry turned back to Dumbledore. "Hang on," he said urgently, as Dumbledore seemed to have all but disappeared into the mist. "What's he doing here?"
The mist receded somewhat, and Dumbledore came back into clearer focus. "He, like you, is deciding where to go from here."
"But how is that possible?" Harry asked. "I saw how much blood he lost. How could there even be a choice to be made?"
"Death comes for us in strange and unique ways," was Dumbledore's typically obscure explanation.
"He's been here a while," Harry noted. Snape had been bitten by Nagini at least an hour ago. Harry had had time to view the memories in the pensieve, walk into the forest, and get himself killed by Voldemort since Snape had himself, presumably, been killed by Voldemort's familiar.
"Yes," Dumbledore agreed. "The longer he stays, the less likely he will be able to return should he choose to do so."
"Have you talked to him?"
"Yes. Before you arrived. I'm afraid poor Severus feels as though he hasn't much reason to return."
"Can't you convince him?"
"Convince him to do what, dear boy?"
"To return, of course," Harry said, confused.
Dumbledore smiled sheepishly. "I wasn't sure which direction you'd send him, given the choice."
Harry huffed impatiently.
"I cannot influence his decision one way or another," Dumbledore explained. "As I could not influence yours. I can only suggest."
Harry huffed again. Dumbledore was the master manipulator. His brand of "suggestion" was as coercive as anyone else's force. Harry turned to the forlorn figure on the bench again. "Have I got time to talk to him? There are some things I need to say. In case . . ."
"You have some time," Dumbledore assured him. "He, however, hasn't much more."
"If he decides to go back, will there be someone there to help him? Because if there's not, he'll bleed to death in the Shrieking Shack, despite what he might choose."
"Aberforth is already on his way. If Severus finds the will to live, he should be able to assist."
"Good then," Harry said. "It was very nice seeing you again, sir."
"And you, dear boy. And you. Good luck. In all your endeavors."
"Thank you, sir," Harry said, but Dumbledore had already faded away into the nothingness.
Since he'd made the decision to return to life, weariness had been creeping in. Harry tiredly set his mind to the task at hand. As he walked toward his former professor, he wondered if Snape had heard his conversation with Dumbledore. They hadn't been that far away and they'd been making no effort to keep their voices down.
He sat beside Snape on the bench. The older man looked up at him through the veil of his hair. "Potter," he said with no small amount of disgust. "Is there nowhere I can go to be rid of you?"
Harry smiled, thought about replying in kind, then decided they simply didn't have time for witty repartee, nor did he have the energy. "Thank you," he said instead.
"I don't want your gratitude," Snape said, sitting back impatiently. "None of what I did was for you."
"I know," Harry assured him. "But I needed to say it, and I think you needed to hear it. I also need to say I'm sorry, for all the times I doubted you. Which was pretty much all the time."
"I gave you reason," Snape admitted.
"Yes, you did," Harry agreed. "But I was still wrong, and I'm sorry."
Snape hmphed. He apparently didn't want Harry's apology either.
"So what are you going to do?"
"Is that really any of your concern?"
"It feels like it is." Harry leaned into Snape and rested his head on the man's bony shoulder.
Snape looked down at him, disbelief mingling with revulsion. "The fact that I cannot kill you here seems to have emboldened you."
Harry sat back up quickly and stifled a giggle. "Sorry. Little tired. Making me giddy."
"What are you going to do?" Snape countered.
"I'm going back," Harry said, running a hand through his hair, making it stand up worse than ever.
"How did you get here?"
"Voldemort killed me. Used the avada kedavra on me again."
"And yet here you are, faced with the decision to return to life. Really, Potter, if you could bottle this immunity you seem to have to the killing curse, you'd be a rich man."
"With any luck, if I do this right, it will no longer be necessary."
"What do you mean? You're going back to face him?" Snape asked, incredulous.
"I'd love to explain all this to you, but you don't have time. If you sit here much longer, the decision will be made for you."
"So be it."
"That's the coward's way out," Harry challenged.
Snape turned on him, his head snapping up, his glare full-bore. "Do not call me a coward!"
"Then stop acting like one," Harry said simply. "Do you know what it's like to lead your own life, free from the control of others?"
"No," Snape admitted.
"Neither do I," Harry said, "but I'm going back to find out." He stood up. "The best days of our lives are ahead of us. I don't intend to miss them. I'll look for you on the other side. I hope to see you there."
Snape didn't respond, and Harry left him sitting on the bench.
It was over. It was finally over. As Harry's tired feet carried him numbly up flight after flight of stairs, he spared a thought to wonder what Professor Snape had decided. After he'd slept for two, maybe three, days, he'd have to find out.
Harry awoke to glorious sunlight streaming through the window. He lay in bed for a time, savoring a new sense of freedom, hoping it hadn't all been a dream. His stomach grumbled mightily, and he wondered just how long he'd been sleeping. He realized with a start he was fully clothed – he'd been too tired to even undress, let alone put his pajamas on. He sat up, rubbing a hand lazily over his forehead. It was going to take some time to get used to the idea that his scar would never pain him again.
What should he do first? he idly wondered. He needed a shower, he knew that for sure, and a change of clothes. He needed to eat. But more than either of those things, he needed to reassure himself that his friends and classmates were all right. Overwhelming sadness for those he knew to be lost threatened to incapacitate him, and with a tremendous effort, he forced those emotions down. What's done was done. Regret and recrimination could wait a bit longer.
The Great Hall had been turned into a triage area immediately following the battle, and that's where Harry went first.
He learned from Professor McGonagall, after a brief and very surprising hug, that he'd been asleep for eighteen hours. Most of the superficially wounded had been treated and released to attend the impromptu celebrations begun after the victory. Those requiring more involved care had been taken to the hospital wing. The most serious cases had been stabilized and transferred to St. Mungos.
Harry had never seen the Hospital Wing more crowded. Every bed save one was occupied. The bed at the very end of the row was shielded by curtains. Harry made his way down the aisle, zigzagging from side to side, talking to everyone. There were several mending broken bones and some suffering from the residual effects of curses, but no one here seemed seriously injured.
When he finally reached the curtained-off area, he hesitated before he looked around the barrier, wondering if he should. When no one told him not to, he plucked up his courage and peeked around the curtain. He was a little surprised to find himself immensely relieved to see Severus Snape lying in the bed. His relief was tempered by Snape's appearance – he was paler than Harry would have thought possible for a living being, and he lay still under a blanket, his eyes closed.
Harry looked around for Madam Pomfrey. When he caught her eye, she made her way toward him.
"How is he?" Harry asked, looking down at Snape's still form.
"Well, the combination of the tremendous loss of blood and the snake venom is certainly not helping. We've given him blood replenishers and the antidote, and now it's just a matter of time until the venom works its way out of his system. It's a painful process. He's been given a rather strong Sleeping Draught to get him through the worst of it, but it'll only help for a while."
"Will he be all right, though?"
"It's too early to tell," Madam Pomfrey said with an inexplicably tender look down at her patient. "Frankly, it's somewhat of a miracle that he's still alive. If he hadn't taken one dose of the antivenin just after the attack, he likely wouldn't be. If he makes it through the next forty-eight hours, I'll feel more confident about his recovery."
"Should he be at St. Mungos?"
"He's not stable enough to move. And I'd fear for his safety there. Minerva told me about . . . about everything. He's safe here. He may not be elsewhere."
"Is there anything I can do?"
Madam Pomfrey looked around the crowded infirmary. Every occupied bed was surrounded by friends and family. "You could be here for him," she suggested. "He has no one."
Harry looked down at Snape. He owed the man at least this much. "I'm going to get cleaned up and get something to eat. Then I'll be back," he promised.
Harry spent long hours at Snape's bedside, waiting for some improvement in his condition. He spoke to the unconscious man often, not at all sure if he was being heard, telling him about the final battle with Voldemort, trying to paint an attractive picture of the new world free of the Dark Lord, trying to give Snape the will to live now that he'd helped to create that better world.
As he did, he couldn't help but wonder what he himself was going to do now that Voldemort was gone. Where would he go? He was currently homeless, he realized. He had no intention of ever returning to Privet Drive, even had he been welcome there. Grimmauld Place was depressing to think about, although he guessed it would do for the short-term if there were no other options. And though he was sure the Weasleys would let him stay at the Burrow, that wasn't any more than a temporary solution either. He couldn't stay here now that school was done.
Not only did he need to find a place to live, he needed to figure out what to do with his life. His dream of becoming an auror was finished. He hadn't completed his last year of school and hadn't taken his NEWTs. Maybe he could return to Hogwarts for his last year. That would solve both his problems, he supposed. He'd be in Ginny's class – that wouldn't be so bad. Somehow, though, the thought of returning to school after everything he'd been through felt wrong, as though he'd be trying to reclaim his childhood after living through adult horrors.
Harry ran a hand through his hair in agitation. He hoped Snape woke soon – all this free time for thinking was starting to wear on him.
"Harry," a familiar voice said behind him.
Harry rose from his chair. "Professor McGonagall." He gestured to Snape. "No change yet."
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey has been keeping me informed. The Board of Governors – the newly reconstituted Board of Governors – has appointed me Acting Headmistress," she explained.
Harry smiled. "Congratulations, ma'am," he said sincerely. "I know that this last year has been tough on you."
Professor McGonagall looked at Snape for a moment. "Yes, well, I haven't come here to discuss school business. This is more personal, I'm afraid. Please sit." Professor McGonagall conjured a chair for herself, and they both sat down.
"You've heard, I'm sure, that several of the Death Eaters escaped from the grounds following the battle?" Harry nodded. "Specifically, the Order has received intelligence that Avery, Crabbe and Goyle have gone to ground together and that they're vowing revenge on you and Severus for what you've done."
Harry sighed tiredly. Would this never end? "The Order is still active then?"
"Yes. We've sustained heavy losses, but until every last Death Eater has been killed or incarcerated, we'll continue to hunt them down. A meeting was held yesterday, in fact, to discuss the threats to you and Severus. I apologize for not including you. I thought perhaps you'd prefer to sleep."
Harry nodded in acknowledgment.
"The threats have been deemed credible," Minerva continued. "Those who escaped have the means to do what they've threatened. And we expect more to join them."
"Let them try," Harry said, unafraid.
"We thought you'd feel that way." She looked down at the bed again. "Severus, on the other hand, is in no shape to defend himself."
"He's safe enough here, isn't he?"
"For the time being," Minerva agreed. "But everyone will be gone soon. He cannot stay here. His home isn't safe, even if he were in perfect health – too many of the Death Eaters know where he lives."
"Could he be transferred to St. Mungo's?"
"We could protect him there even less than we could here. And he really doesn't require that level of care, according to Poppy. She tells me that in a day or so, he should be able to leave the hospital."
Harry perked up at this. "She expects him to . . . she thinks he'll make it then?"
"Assuming he survives the next twenty-four hours," she corrected herself. "He will obviously require assistance. He'll need someone to watch over him, administer the necessary potions, make sure he eats when he's capable, help him to get up and move about once he's got his strength back."
"So where will he go? Does he have family?"
"No, there's no one." Professor McGonagall was looking at Harry in such a way that he knew she was trying to make a point. He didn't immediately understand what that might be, but once he did, his eyes widened.
"You want me to . . . Professor, I can't!"
"Have you got other plans for the summer, Mr. Potter?" she asked, looking down her nose at him.
Harry obviously didn't. "Well, no, but – "
"Seems to me like you owe Professor Snape quite a lot," Minerva noted quietly.
That was certainly true, Harry knew. "You're trying to guilt me into this, aren't you?"
"Is it working?"
"What do I need to do?" Harry asked, resigned.
"I'll speak with a limited number of the Order, perhaps just Kingsley. The Order has several safe houses. We'll determine which is best for this situation. Once Severus is stable enough to transfer, we'll send both of you there."
"Professor, I'd much rather be actively involved in hunting the escaped Death Eaters," Harry tried, a little desperately. "Couldn't you – "
"Oh, I'm much too old to play nurse maid, Potter. And I'll be much too busy here, overseeing renovations to the castle so that we can open school as close to September first as possible. Besides, wasn't it you who convinced Severus to return?"
"You've obviously been talking to Dumbledore's portrait," Harry grumbled, knowing now that he was beaten. "Yes," he said with a sigh. "I guess I did convince him." His shoulders slumped in defeat.
Minerva stood up and put an encouraging hand on this shoulder. "Thank you. He needs you."
"You should probably tell him that," Harry muttered, not at all sure that Snape wouldn't hex him as soon as he heard what they had planned for him.
Harry had begun to lose track of time, sitting by Snape's bed and waiting for some kind of change in his condition. Madam Pomfrey appeared once every hour or so to administer Blood-Replenishing potion and the antivenin and change the still-bloody bandage covering his neck wound, but Snape's color wasn't improving, at least as far as Harry could tell. The nurse was noncommital in response to Harry's questions, and he was beginning to fear that Snape was never going to wake up.
Harry had finally retrieved a book from his room after dinner and was sitting by Snape's bed once again, reading, when a somewhat familiar voice broke the stillness.
"Potter," Snape said, his voice weak and raspy.
Harry nearly dropped his book in surprise. "Professor!" he said, getting quickly to his feet.
"Where am I?"
"Hospital wing. How do you feel?"
Snape's eyes flitted about the room before he answered. "Like I was bitten by a giant snake."
Harry smiled, his relief making him a bit light-headed. "I'm going to get Madam Pomfrey." He stepped around the curtain and looked the length of the room for the nurse. In the length of time Snape had been here fighting for his life, the other patients had been released, one by one, until the ward was empty except for Snape.
"Madam Pomfrey!" he called. "Professor Snape is awake!"
Madam Pomfrey came bustling out of her office immediately. Harry stayed outside the curtained off area while she examined Snape. When she emerged, she was smiling.
"Good news?"Harry asked.
"He should make a full recovery," she beamed. "It will take some time. He'll be weak for a while, but with plenty of rest, he should be fine."
"Thank you, Madam. Is there anything I can do?"
"You can try to get him to eat a little. There's a bowl of broth beside the bed. He'll get his strength back sooner if he begins to eat again."
"All right. I'll see what I can do."
Harry went back behind the curtain. He thought at first that Snape was sleeping, and he stood silently, wondering if he should wake the man to try to get him to eat.
"Why are you standing there?" Snape asked without opening his eyes.
"Madam Pomfrey says you should eat."
"Not . . . hungry."
"You'll get your strength back sooner."
"Stop annoying me."
"I will – after you eat," Harry promised. "Come on. Try just a little."
"You'll go away if I do?"
"I'll stop annoying you if you do."
Snape made a noise which Harry chose to take as acquiescence. "Great! Can you sit up a little?"
"Wand," Snape muttered.
"Where is . . . my wand?"
Harry picked up Snape's wand from the bedside table and placed it in his hand. With the smallest lift of the wand tip, Snape raised the head of the bed until he was in a semi-sitting position. That small use of magic seemed to tire the man incredibly.
"Cool," Harry noted. He picked up the bowl of soup, but it quickly become apparent that Snape hadn't strength enough to hold the bowl himself or even to lift the spoon to his mouth. "I'll get Madam Pomfrey," Harry offered.
He called out once again, but the witch didn't appear this time. "Madam Pomfrey!" he tried again. "Guess she stepped out," Harry said, stepping back around the curtain. "I can do this," he said confidently.
Snape looked like he wanted to protest, but he lacked the necessary strength, plus he really was a little hungry.
"Okay," Harry said, giving himself a little pep talk. "It can't be that hard." He picked up the bowl of soup and sat beside the bed. He dipped the spoon in and held it up to Snape. The older man's black eyes bored into Harry's green ones – he was clearly unhappy about having to rely on Harry Potter of all people.
At Harry's questioning look, Snape rather sulkily opened his mouth, and Harry placed the spoon into it, spilling only a couple of drops onto Snape's sheet. Snape swallowed and closed his eyes. Maybe he could get through this if he couldn't see Potter feeding him as though he were an infant.
Harry continued to spoon the soup into his Professor's mouth quietly. When it was half gone, Snape no longer opened his mouth.
"Choo choo?" Harry said invitingly, which caused Snape's eyes to fly open and a glare the likes of which Harry hadn't seen in a long time to skewer him. "Maybe not," he said hastily, returning the spoon to the bowl with a clatter. "Enough then?"
Snape nodded curtly, then flicked his wand again to lower the bed until it lay flat again.
"Okay. You get some rest now," Harry said, but Snape was already asleep.
"We've decided where to move you," Professor McGonagall told Harry. They were seated in her new office, formerly Snape's office, formerly Dumbledore's office. "It's one of the Order safe houses. It's warded to the teeth and the two of you should be safe there. It's fairly secluded, but there's a Muggle town within walking distance where you can buy essentials. We debated sending regular patrols by, but we finally decided that the fewer who know your whereabouts the better."
"Ron and Hermione will know?" Harry asked.
"If you wish."
Harry nodded. "I do. Actually, I'd trust any of the Weasleys with my life. Well, maybe not Percy. I'm still not sure he won't go with whichever side looks like it might be winning at the time."
"I think we'll limit it to Arthur and Molly for now anyway. We can always add people if the need arises."
That was acceptable to Harry. "What's going to happen to Teddy Lupin? He's my godson, did you know?"
Minerva nodded. "Nymphadora's mother will assume guardianship. I'm sure she'd be amenable to your visiting with the boy."
"I'd like that, but maybe not until things settle down. So when do Snape and I move?"
"Madam Pomfrey says Severus should be stable enough to move tomorrow. I think the sooner the better."
The thought of being alone with an invalid Snape made Harry feel queasy. "Um, Professor . . . I don't know how to care for someone in Snape's condition. I mean, how will I know . . ."
"Madam Pomfrey will provide you with all of the instruction you need."
"But what makes you think he'll even let me care for him? I mean, me of all people!"
"The fact that you're willing has to mean something."
"And also that no one else is?"
"There's that, too," Minerva agreed. "You'll figure this out, Harry. I have great faith in the two of you."
Harry wished he felt half as confident as she seemed to.
"Now, I've written everything down," Madam Pomfrey told him.
"Thank God," Harry thought to himself. Nearly everything she'd said over the last hour had gone in one ear and out the other. What he retained were the basics – although Snape was out of the woods, he'd be able to do next to nothing for himself for the foreseeable future . He'd be dependent upon someone – Harry – for everything – eating, bathing, ensuring potions were taken on time, changing bandages, visiting the toilet. And if anyone thought Severus Snape was going to make any of it easy, they were barking mad.
Harry suddenly felt more overwhelmed than he'd ever felt, and he hung his head, the weight of the responsibility he was taking on pressing down on him. How was he ever going to pull this off? It seemed more impossible than defeating the Dark Lord. Why did it have to be him?
"Who else?" a small voice answered. When it was all said and done, there was no one else, and Harry wasn't the type of person who could walk away from someone to whom he owed everything, who needed everything, and who had nothing.
"Cheer up, Mr. Potter," Madam Pomfrey said. "You'll be fine. What you'll need more than anything is patience. Severus will not make this easy."
Harry smiled his agreement. "Has anyone told him what's happening?"
Madam Pomfrey turned a light shade of pink. "Selfishly, no. Quite frankly, we didn't want to listen to him complain. We'll give him a potion to make him sleep during the move. He'll go to sleep here, and he'll wake up there."
And Harry would get to explain it all to him. Lucky him.
Minerva accompanied them to the safe house. Provisions had been laid in which would last them a week. They settled Snape into the cottage's only bedroom.
"Can I get you a cup of tea?" Harry asked, desperately hoping she planned to stay until Snape woke, to help explain.
"I really must be getting back," she said.
Fine. Harry had no intention of begging. "I'll see you soon then." He'd almost thanked her, but really, what on earth did he have to thank her for?
After she'd gone, Harry cursed her, every member of the Order, the remaining staff at Hogwarts, the family Snape didn't have, his friends, Snape, and Voldemort. Once again, his life was not his own, and everyone shared in the blame.
Harry threw himself onto the sofa and closed his eyes on the self-pitying tears he felt threatening. He needed to get a hold of himself before Snape woke. Apparently, feeling sorry for oneself was tiring, because Harry fell asleep.
When he awoke, he had no idea how long he'd been out, but he figured he'd better go check on his patient.
Snape had woken up many minutes ago and panicked slightly when he didn't recognize his surroundings. He was certainly no longer in the hospital wing, and it seemed obvious he wasn't at Hogwarts at all. He'd been moved while he was asleep, and he had no idea where he was or even who had taken him. No one had told him he was to be moved. Did that mean he'd been taken by someone who intended to harm him? If that was the case, why was he ensconced in a comfortable bed in a pleasant room? Were they going to nurse him back to health in order to torture him longer? He looked about for his wand. It wasn't on either bedside table, and he began to grow rather frantic as time passed and possible scenarios played out in his head.
He'd worked himself into such a state that relief quickly turned to anger when Harry Potter – Harry Potter of all people! – entered the room, looking disheveled and half asleep, though the sunshine he could see through the window told him it was mid-afternoon.
"Potter," he spit, his voice still a shell of its former self. "Where am I?"
"Professor! You're awake!"
The idiot had a gift for stating the obvious. "Where. Am. I?"
"An Order safe house. Are you hungry?"
Snape was actually a little hungry, but he wasn't admitting that for anything. "Where is my wand?"
Harry stepped closer to the bed. "It's here, by your pillow." Harry picked up the wand, which had been no more than six inches away from Snape all the time.
Oh. Snape hadn't thought to look so close. If he'd known he had access to his wand, he wouldn't have been so – not scared. He hadn't been scared. More – concerned.
Harry searched Snape's eyes and seemed to understand what had been going through Snape's mind before he'd entered the room. Damn him.
"I'm sorry, Professor," he said softly. "I should have been here when you woke. You must have been frightened."
Snape snorted very convincingly. "I wasn't frightened."
Okay. "Disoriented then," Harry amended. "Why don't I get you something to eat, and then we'll talk."
"Talk now," Snape ordered.
"You need to eat," Harry insisted. "I'll be back in a bit."
Potter left, and Snape growled because there was nothing he could do to make him stay.
Potter returned twenty minutes later with a bowl of broth and a cup of tea on a tray.
"It is time for the Blood Replenisher," Snape said right away. "Is Poppy coming to administer my potions?
Harry smiled thinly. "I'm afraid it's just me."
Snape stared at him. No. It wasn't possible he was stuck here at the mercy of Harry Bloody Potter. Minerva wouldn't do that to him. "This is hell, right? I've died after all and gone to hell?"
"Not yet," Harry assured him.
Harry tucked a paper napkin under Snape's chin, earning him a reproving glare. When it looked as if Snape was going to refuse to eat, Harry told him, "I'm not answering any of your questions until you eat something."
Pouting like a small child made to eat his vegetables, Snape allowed himself to be fed. He found he was able to finish the entire bowl of broth, but the simple act of sitting up to eat tired him tremendously.
"Potion time," Harry said. He pulled two bottles out of his pocket, then searched for the parchment on which he'd written the directions. "I know I have the instructions here somewhere."
"For Merlin's sake, Potter. I am a Potions master! I think I know how to take the potions!"
Harry gave up the search. "All right. The Blood Replenisher first." Harry uncorked the vial and held it to Snape's lips so he could drink it down.
"And this one is the pain potion," Harry said.
"Really?" Snape asked drily.
"Are you in pain?"
"The biggest pain I have right now is in the arse. Give me the potion." Harry complied, and Snape drank down half of the second vial.
"Good," Harry said, gathering the dirty dishes and potions bottles onto the tray. "Are you tired? Would you like to sleep now?"
"No," Snape said, though he was quite tired. "You will tell me what crime I have committed to get myself sentenced to be here with you."
"The Order has information that escaped Death Eaters are organizing to take their revenge against both of us. Since you're in no condition to defend yourself, they thought it best that we be stashed somewhere together."
Snape closed his eyes and was quiet for a time. "He's really gone?" Several people had told him this was the case, but he was having a hard time accepting it.
"Yes. He's dead."
"Quite alive, thanks."
"Don't be impertinent!" Snape snapped at him.
Slightly contrite, Harry nodded.
Snape opened his eyes wide and stared at the boy, sure he must be having him on. "That's not possible."
Harry shrugged. "I know."
Harry sighed. He didn't want to talk about this again. "It's a long story. And you look tired. We'll have plenty of time to talk. Now, do you need to use the loo?"
Harry tried not to flinch at the murderous look Snape gave him and soldiered bravely on. "You obviously can't get up yet so Madam Pomfrey sent this bed pan." Harry retrieved it from under the bed. "Do you need any . . . do you need me to . . ."
"Put it on the bed and get out!" Snape growled.
"Right. I'll be back in five minutes to change the bandage." He left the room to muttered curses.
When he returned, Snape was sleeping. The bed pan, thankfully spelled to disappear the contents on contact, was on the bed, and Harry returned it to its place on the floor. Glad to put off talking about the final battle again, Harry gently removed the bandage from Snape's neck, hoping the man wouldn't wake.
The bandage was bloody still, a week after the infliction of the wound. Harry banished it with his nose wrinkled in faint disgust. Obviously, he wasn't cut out for the healing arts. The wound itself was awful looking: two large inflamed red puncture marks, seeping blood and something else which Harry guessed might be venom. He shuddered, then cleaned the wound as Madam Pomfrey had shown him. He applied cream, which was a mixture of antiseptic healing potion, numbing agent, and the antivenin that Snape had invented/perfected after Arthur Weasley had been attacked by Nagini two years ago. Harry wondered if Snape could have guessed back then that he was brewing something that would help to save his own life later.
After spelling a clean bandage in place, Harry stood back to survey his work. Not a bad job, if he said so himself. He suspected the job had been made easier by the fact that the patient was unconscious, but he'd take what he could get. Especially since he knew the bath later would be an ordeal he might not survive.
Snape woke again later just in time for another meal of broth and tea. He didn't think he'd ever get used to being spoon fed – it was degrading, humiliating, and depressing to the extreme. But it was nothing compared to what happened next.
"So," Harry said, as cheerfully as he could, "had enough?"
Snape's reply was accompanied by a glare that could melt gold. "I had enough of you years ago."
Harry ignored this. "Madam Pomfrey thinks it's a good idea for you to bathe every day. We're to remove the bandage and get you into the bathtub."
Snape's look told him there was no way in hell he'd agree to that. "Potter, I can't even move."
"I'll help you. That's why I'm here."
Snape barked out a laugh. "I would rather eat slugs."
"Quite frankly, so would I," Harry said. "But if it'll help you heal and get you back on your feet quicker, it's what we'll do."
"No. I refuse."
"Okay," Harry said reasonably. "Sponge bath it is, then."
Snape's eyes widened in indignant horror. "You wouldn't dare!"
"Wouldn't I?" Harry asked with a cheeky tilt of his head.
"If you touch me in any way, I will curse you," Snape promised.
"I hope you can do so without your wand, because while you were sleeping, I took it away."
"Contrary to what you think, I'm not stupid."
"I suggest you never return my wand, then, because as soon as I have it in my hand, you will regret everything you have ever done in your miserable little life."
Harry shrugged. "Whatever. So – tub or sponge?"
"I would sooner drown than have your hands anywhere near me."
"Tub then. I'll go draw the water."
Harry filled the tub with hot water, then steeled himself to deal with the recalcitrant patient. When he entered the bedroom, Snape's eyes were closed. He somehow knew the man wasn't sleeping.
"Nice try," he said. "Shall I levitate you, or do you want to try to walk?"
Snape didn't answer, other than to breathe a little more deeply. Harry sighed. "Mobilicorpus," he said, pointing his wand at Snape and levitating him off the bed. Still Snape didn't stir.
All right, Harry thought. If Snape found it easier to get through this by pretending to be asleep, Harry wouldn't begrudge him that.
Once he had Snape in the bathroom, Harry hesitated, then figured there was nothing for it but to do it. Keeping his eyes on Snape's face, Harry untied the hospital gown and slid it off Snape's arms. All in all, Harry was glad Snape was wearing only the gown, as removing the man's pants would have totally unnerved him. He lowered Snape gently into the water, and when Snape didn't slide beneath the bubbles, Harry became doubly convinced that the man wasn't sleeping.
"I'm going to remove the bandages now," Harry told hin, his voice low and reassuring. He peeled off the bandage and examined it. "It looks like the bleeding has slowed . That's good news, right?" Harry banished the old bandage. "Can you wash yourself?"
No response other than Snape's head lolling back against the edge of the tub. Harry sighed again. "All right. I'll have to do it then."
Harry wet a flannel and lathered it up with soap. He chatted nervously at Snape while he worked. "I'm going to wash your arms now," and "Okay, time for the feet." Harry finished by washing Snape's back. He'd avoided going anywhere near Snape's private areas, figuring the man was sitting in water and that would just have to do.
"Hair now?" Harry asked. He didn't expect an answer, and he didn't get one.
"And how shall we do this? It'd be easier if you'd help." No response. "Of course not." Harry pondered the problem and saw only one way to go about it. Gathering his courage, he plunged his hands into the water, grasped Snape's hips, and moved him forward so that he was more reclined. This way, he'd be able to run water onto Snape's head without having it run into the man's face.
Working carefully, Harry wet Snape's hair, then washed it, rinsed it, washed it again, and rinsed it. During the entire process, Snape lay unmoving, unaiding.
"I'm going to let you soak for a few minutes now," Harry said, figuring that couldn't hurt.
Leaving the door open so he could keep an eye on Snape, Harry returned to the bedroom, changed the sheets on Snape's bed, and found a clean hospital gown. He readied the bed pan, assuming Snape would need to use it, and returned to the bathroom.
Snape had slithered down a little further into the water, and looked quite comfortable lying there, his eyes still closed.
"Ready to get out?" Silence. Harry grabbed two towels and his wand. He levitated Snape out of the tub, covering his groin with one towel immediately. Using the other towel, he dried Snape as thoroughly as possible, used a drying spell on his hair, and floated him back into bed. He threaded Snape's arms through the clean gown, tied it up, and removed the towel covering Snape's mid-section. He settled Snape as comfortably as he could in a semi-sitting position, then treated Snape's wound as he had done earlier. Finally, he lifted Snape's head gently off the pillow and combed the man's hair out. Clean, soft and combed, his hair didn't look that bad, and Harry absently carded his hand through Snape's locks a couple of times. He placed Snape's head gently back on the pillow and decided it was time to end this charade.
"Professor," he said, gently shaking Snape's shoulder. "Professor, wake up."
Snape did a creditable imitation of someone waking up and allowed his eyes to flutter open. "Potter," he said, disgust filling his voice. That he didn't have to fake.
"Professor," Harry acknowledged. "It's time for your potions. Blood replenisher first." He held the potion out and waited while Snape slowly pulled himself up higher in the bed. Snape took the vial and drained the contents.
Harry took the empty bottle and held out the other. "Pain potion."
Snape shook his head. "Don't need it." The bath had actually helped – Snape's muscles felt refreshed and reinvigorated. The site of the wound was still aching, but it was manageable.
"The bath did you some good then," Harry noted.
"Bath? What bath? I don't know what you're talking about, Potter."
Harry chuckled. Okay. They could pretend it never happened if that's what he wanted. "Do you need the pan?"
"I do not require assistance with it," Snape told him haughtily.
"I'll be back in a couple of minutes," Harry promised, placing the pan on the bed beside Snape.
When Harry returned, he replaced the bed pan under the bed and arranged Snape's sheets and blankets over him. The man really did look exhausted now. "Is there anything else I can get you, Professor?" he asked softly.
Snape yawned, which Harry found strangely endearing. "I would like to sleep."
"Good night then, Professor. Just give a shout if you need anything in the night. I'll be right outside."
Harry turned out the light and closed the door. Snape snuggled down under the covers, happy to be clean. Poppy's cleaning spells were all well and good, but there was nothing like soap and water to get a man clean. And the shampoo Potter had used on his hair smelled really nice. He wondered what it was as he yawned again. In his exhausted state, he couldn't keep his mind from admitting that Potter really had been very decent about the whole bath thing. He'd preserved his privacy as much as possible under the circumstances, and he'd been surprisingly gentle when handling him. And running his fingers through his hair had felt really nice. Snape yawned again and thought maybe Potter had missed his calling. Instead of being a slayer of dark lords, perhaps the brat was meant to care for the sick and afflicted. On that surprising note, Snape let sleep claim him.
Harry bustled in the next morning with a tray of porridge and tea for breakfast. He hadn't slept well last night – the sofa was too small and too hard, and he hadn't thought to transfigure it into something else until he'd given up getting any more sleep.
Snape was his usual grumpy self and insisted on feeding himself this morning. He got more on the sheets and himself than he did in his mouth, but Harry let him. As long as he was eating, Harry thought, he was okay – he could always ask for more.
"Madam Pomfrey promised to come by this morning to see how you've settled in and bring more potion," Harry told him.
Snape didn't answer, and Harry sighed. Already his patience for this man's bad moods was wearing thin. Maybe when Pomfrey was here, he'd go for a walk. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day, and spending time in the fresh air and sunshine could only help.
After they took care of toilet needs, Harry said, "I thought I might move your bed out into the living room, give you a little change of scenery. Would you like that?"
Snape would, but he couldn't admit that, could he? So he said nothing. Trying not to mutter aloud, Harry enlarged the doorway, then moved the bed out into the middle of the living room. Harry placed the Daily Prophet on the bed beside Snape, in case he wanted to read it, then sat to eat his own breakfast. Snape stared accusingly at him as he downed bacon and eggs and toast, but Harry didn't let it bother him.
Snape attempted to pick the paper up, but his arms were still so weak, he could only hold it up for a few moments at a time, and he finally gave it up with a disgusted huff. He tried using his wand to levitate the paper before him, but even his magic seemed worn out, and he could only manage a weak flutter of the pages.
Harry watched him surreptitiously from his place at the table, and when he finished eating and cleaning up the few dirty dishes, he sat on the sofa beside Snape's bed and, without being asked, began to read aloud from the paper. Harry read each story's headline. If Snape didn't look away, he read the article. If he did, Harry moved on to the next one.
When he'd made it through the paper, Harry said, "If you're all right here for a bit, I'll shower now."
Snape once again didn't respond, and Harry left him alone. Snape watched him go, wondering why the boy seemed so low today. It never occurred to him that if he asked, Harry would probably tell him.
Harry felt marginally better after a shower and a second cup of coffee. Snape was dozing, and once Madam Pomfrey arrived, Harry let himself out of the cottage and into the sunshine.
The walk had done Harry a world of good. He'd made his way to the village, bought some fresh fruit, and picked up a surprise for Snape on his way back.
Madam Pomfrey was obviously anxious to get back when Harry returned, but Harry didn't let himself feel guilty for taking his time. Pomfrey told him that Snape appeared to be progressing as expected. The wound, finally, appeared to have stopped bleeding, meaning it could now be left uncovered by bandages, though the healing creams still needed to be applied. The blood replenishing potion would need to be administered for another week, at which point Snape's strength should begin to return. Until then he would continue to need assistance with nearly everything. Madam Pomfrey recommended liquids and semi-solid foods only for another week and then a reintroduction to solid foods.
Snape had been moved back into the bedroom for his examination, and he remained there now.
"Madam Pomfrey's gone," Harry said, entering the bedroom with a cardboard box in his hands. "She said everything looks good."
"That is because she is not the one stuck in this bed," Snape griped.
"I know it's hard," Harry started to say.
"You know nothing, Potter," Snape interrupted, his voice hard and mean. "You never have, and it appears increasingly likely that you never will."'
Stung by the tone and the words, Harry took a step back. "Well," he said, swallowing a lump of emotion that had leapt into his throat. "I . . . .um . . . picked these up while I was in town. I thought they might help to pass the time." He set the box on the bed next to Snape and fled the room.
Snape sighed and lay back on his pillow. He really should curb his tongue, just a little, when talking to the boy. Snape wondered what could be in the box. Books, perhaps. He'd said they would help to pass the time, and books would certainly do that. He wondered what kind of books Potter would choose. Muggle comic books likely. Wait – that was unkind (though probably true).
Snape's musings were cut off when he heard a sound from inside the box. Books that moved?! Curious, Snape pulled the box closer and peered over the edge. Two kittens, one orange and one black and white, were wrestling atop an old blue baby blanket.
Snape blinked at them, surprised. One of them, the orange one, spotted him looking, sat up, and looked back.
"Hello," Snape said.
The orange kitten yawned. The other somersaulted while trying to bite its own tail.
The ends of Snape's mouth turned up in what looked suspiciously like a smile. He reached in and lifted the orange kitten out. It fit into the palm of his hand and sat there willingly while Snape petted its ears and back. He felt and heard the unbelievably loud purr emanating from the tiny creature and held it up to snuggle under his chin.
He'd always wanted a cat. His one attempt at pet ownership as a child had ended horribly, and as an adult, his life had not been conducive to something as domestic as a cat.
The black and white kitten, unhappy to have been left alone in the box, began trying to scale his way out. When that failed, it sat and mewed piteously.
Snape lifted it out and set them both on the bed after ascertaining they were both females. He pushed the box onto the floor, slid his hand under the counterpane, and wriggled his fingers. Both kittens pounced. Snape moved his hand, and the kittens chased his wiggling fingers all over the bed, often getting entangled with each other in their enthusiasm.
Harry caught them at this when he brought the lunch tray in, and he couldn't help but smile. "Do you like them?"
Snape immediately stopped what he'd been doing, embarrassed. "They're cats," he said with a dismissive shrug.
"That they are," Harry agreed. "Lunch. Do you want the pan first?"
"No. Lunch first, please."
Please? Snape said please?! Trying not to show his shock, Harry prepared Snape's lunch. The orange kitten, nose twitching happily, did its best to interfere.
Harry picked the kitten up to scold it when it hissed at him and swiped at him with a tiny paw. "Oi!" Harry said, dropping it back onto the bed. "You behave or I'll put you out!"
Snape picked the kitten up and stroked it. "There now," he cooed, "Who's a good judge of character, then?"
Snape's strength had returned enough so that he was able to get most of his lunch into his mouth, despite the distraction of the two rambunctious kittens. When lunch and toiletries were finished, Harry moved Snape's bed back out to the sitting room. The kittens went along for the ride.
"What are you going to call them?" Harry asked.
Snape picked the orange kitten up and studied it. "This one looks like an Aristophones to me."
Harry snorted at the mouthful. "Good thing it will never have to learn to spell it. And the other?"
Snape looked at the black and white kitten, which was currently bathing its tiny feet. "You should perhaps name that one," he said magnanimously.
"Hmmm. Frank, I think," Harry said, deliberately choosing a name that was as simple as the one Snape had picked was not.
It was Snape's turn to snort. "They are both females, Potter."
"Well, Frances then. We can call her Frankie." Snape sneered, likely at Harry's use of the word "we", like they were going to be together for a while. "What would you like to do this afternoon?
"I thought perhaps a long, vigorous walk through the forest, or mountain climbing maybe."
"You don't have to be so sarcastic, because I will go do those things and leave you here alone."
"Go then," Snape said, not really caring one way or another what Harry Potter did.
Harry sighed. "Would you like a book to read?"
"If I do, I can get it myself," Snape said curtly, ignoring the fact that his magic was only strong enough for the most basic of spells. If he did want a book from the limited library here, the chances were only breakeven that he'd be able to get it.
"Fine," Harry said. If the git needed something, he could just ask. Feeling as though he might go insane with inactivity, Harry stalked into the kitchen. There were lunch things to clean up, dinner to be planned and . . . what then? If he didn't find something to do, preferably something that would take him out of Snape's company for extended stretches of time, he thought he really might go spare. He sighed and stared out the window at the sunshiny day. Wait a minute – could that be a garden underneath all those overgrown weeds? It was worth checking out, he decided. Of all the chores he'd been forced to do at the Dursleys, gardening was the one he'd disliked the least. There was something satisfying about getting your hands dirty, coaxing life out of the soil. Harry hurried his chores in the kitchen now, eager to get started.
Before going out, Harry checked on Snape. He was asleep (good!), both kittens curled up sleeping as well (Ari on his chest, Frankie by his feet). Harry couldn't help but smile and wish he had a camera, though Snape would likely kill him if he actually photographed him. Harry would leave the kitchen door open so he could hear Snape if he called while Harry was outside. Hopefully he'd sleep until dinnertime.
Harry had spent a happy two hours in the yard, weeding and cleaning away overgrown brush. He'd found several flowering plants he could identify and many others he couldn't. He'd only cleared half of the garden, but he figured he'd done enough for one day. He was dirty and sweaty, but he was happy in an exhausted kind of way. After a shower, he'd start on dinner. Tomorrow he'd finish weeding and maybe he could convince Snape to go outside with him and help to identify the remaining plants. Fresh air was good for sick people, right? Or he could go back into town and buy a book on local plants. Harry hummed to himself as he crossed the kitchen – it was nice to have purpose and something to look forward to.
His good feeling evaporated when he entered the sitting room. Snape was not in his bed, and a brief moment of panic fluttered in Harry's chest. Had someone taken him? Two more steps relieved him of that worry but brought home another.
Snape was lying in a heap on the floor beside his bed, his limbs splayed awkwardly.
Harry rushed to his side. "Oh my God! Snape! What happened?!"
"I fell, you moron! Get me up!" Snape's voice was rough, and if Harry didn't know better, he'd think Snape had been crying. He did know better, right? As Harry helped straighten out Snape's arms and legs, he looked closely at the man's face. Tracks were clearly visible on his cheeks – he had been crying. Merlin! What had happened to bring that on?!
"Are you hurt?" Harry asked anxiously as he helped Snape to his feet. In his weakened state, Snape could only stand for a moment before collapsing into a sitting position on the bed.
"No!" he snarled.
"What difference does it make?"
"Did you fall?" Harry pressed.
"No, Potter, I very carefully got out of bed and arranged myself in a painfully uncomfortable pile on the floor."
"Did you fall out of bed, or were you trying to get up for some reason?" Harry sat on the edge of the bed, willing himself not to respond to Snape's anger in kind, trying to get at the bottom of whatever had brought the man to tears.
"I fail to see how that matters now."
"It matters a great deal. If you simply fell out of bed, I can put up rails to keep you . . ."
"I am NOT a child!" Snape exploded, looking at Harry for the first time since Harry had discovered him on the floor. His eyes were wild with emotion, red-rimmed and still moist. There were so many emotions in those dark eyes that Harry couldn't separate any of them out to identify them.
"I know that," he said calmly. "I only meant . . ."
"I know what you meant!" Snape interrupted again. "You don't want to be burdened with picking up your hated professor again! Why are you even here, Potter? You claim to be helping me, but when I require assistance with one of life's basic necessities, you are nowhere to be found. Off gallivanting, no doubt, wasting your time wiling away your life. Well, if this is the level of care I can expect to receive from you, you may as well just leave me to the Death Eaters!"
Harry thought he knew what was going on – Snape had required assistance with one of life's basic necessities – he'd needed the bed pan, and Harry hadn't thought to bring it out of the bedroom and leave it within easy reach. If Snape had called for help, Harry hadn't heard him. Either way, he'd obviously tried to get out of bed to take care of the problem himself, and he'd fallen. After figuring this out, Harry figured something else out, too. There was a wet spot on the carpet, and the acrid smell of urine in the air. He'd had to go so badly that he'd wet himself.
No wonder he'd cried. Harry could only imagine the anger, frustration and humiliation Snape must have experienced as he lay on the floor, soaked in his own urine, waiting for the one person he hated more than any other to come in and find him and pick him up.
Harry closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest, overwhelmed. He'd been so happy only a few moments ago – now he felt like an utter failure. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"You're sorry?" Snape repeated, disgust evident in his voice. "Do you think that helps even one little bit?"
"No," Harry said softly. "But it's true. When Professor McGonagall comes tomorrow, I'll tell her to find someone to take my place. You deserve better." Now it was Harry's turn to feel like crying.
"You've just been waiting for the chance to run away, haven't you, Potter? Why does this not surprise me? You thought you could dump kittens on me and then leave me in their care while you went off doing who knows what. Probably snuck off to get laid somewhere, no doubt."
Harry said nothing in his own defense – he felt he deserved every scathing word Snape heaped on him.
"I'm going to draw some bath water. I think perhaps it's a good idea to bathe before supper today. For both of us."
"Yes, you do rather smell like a mountain troll," Snape said meanly. "And the day you start thinking is the day I win Miss Congeniality in the local beauty pageant."
Harry had to get out. Snape's comments were cutting too deep. Face averted to hide the tears in his eyes, Harry got up and went into the bathroom, his chest aching.
Snape could tell from the set of the young man's shoulders as he left that he was upset. Well good! He'd deserved everything Snape had said. When Snape had woken with a desperate need to relieve himself and no way to do so, there was no Potter in sight. He'd tried summoning the bed pan, but his magic just wasn't strong enough yet. And then he'd come close to panicking. He'd waited as long as he possibly could, and when Potter still hadn't come, he'd tried to remedy the situation himself. Unfortunately, he was still so weak that two seconds on his feet found him crashing to the floor, landing painfully with his legs twisted beneath him. Mortifyingly, he'd felt his bladder let go, and there was nothing he could do to stop it once it started. Frustrated at his continued physical frailty and the weakness of his magic, angered by his supposed caretaker's absence, and humiliated beyond belief by the fact that he'd soiled himself like a toddler, tears of self-pity that he'd been fighting for days had overcome him. He then added ashamed of his weakness to the emotions coursing through him. Finally, after thirty minutes on the floor and no Potter, fear that maybe the boy had left and wasn't coming back joined the party. Snape was an emotional mess when Harry finally deigned to make an appearance. Snape had had every right to tear Potter a new arsehole, and he would not feel guilty about it.
When Harry returned, Snape could tell the boy had been crying, though Harry tried to hide it. What in Merlin's name did the brat have to cry about?!
Without asking, Harry floated Snape into the bathroom, and, as he'd done the night before, lowered him into the water and proceeded to bathe him. There was no pretending to be asleep this time, and there was also no nervous, soothing chatter from Harry. The boy looked simply miserable and kept his eyes averted from Snape entirely during the unpleasant process. When Snape was clean, Harry left him in the tub while he returned to the living room, cleaned the spot on the rug, and changed Snape's bed linens. That done, he returned to the bathroom, removed Snape from the water, dried and dressed him, then saw him back to his bed. This was all accomplished without words from either of them. Snape had plenty more biting comments he would have liked to share, but he couldn't bring himself to heap them on the boy's miserable head.
Harry really wanted a shower, but there was no way he was leaving Snape alone again. He performed a quick cleaning spell on himself before going out to start the dinner he was sure he wouldn't be able to eat.
The remainder of their day was spent in silence. Snape was still angry at the world and himself, frustrated that he wasn't getting better faster, and yes, he now felt guilty, dammit. Potter was still drooping and moping, no doubt feeling sorry for himself and his sorry plight in life.
Harry, for his part, was angry at himself for letting Snape down, but more troubled by why Snape's derisive words had bothered him. He'd been the recipient of the sharp side of Snape's tongue on many occasions – why had it hurt so much this time?
The awkwardness had not left them when the new day arrived. Snape insisted on eating his own breakfast and made a fairly decent job of it. After clean-up, Professor McGonagall arrived fortuitously.
"Yes, Harry, tea would be lovely."
When tea had been served, they sat in the sitting room, the kittens playing with dust bunnies, and Minerva updated them.
"We've been following up on reported sightings of the escaped Death Eaters. By 'we', I mean what's left of the Order. The Ministry, of course, is doing the same, and though they've said catching those supporters of Voldemort who have so far escaped justice is of prime importance, there is much disarray within the Ministry, as you might imagine. It is much like last time, Severus . . . trying to weed out those in power who were willing followers and who were imperiused. One is not completely sure whom one can trust outside one's own circle.
"The bottom line is that all we know is that what started as three Death Eaters has grown to perhaps ten or a dozen. We haven't been able to pinpoint an exact location for a headquarters, so we surmise they're moving about a great deal. Nor do we have any intelligence regarding what their plans are, although it seems evident by the frequency of their gathering that they are up to something."
"Why can't you just scoop them up at their next meeting?" This question, of course, came from Harry.
"If it were that easy, Mr. Potter, it would already be done," Minerva explained patiently. "We don't know of their meetings until they've already happened. We haven't the luxury of a spy in their midst any longer."
They both looked at Snape here. He hadn't said more than words of greeting to this point. "You're very quiet, Severus. Have you no questions?" McGonagall asked.
"Questions? No. It appears you're doing all you can but that there's really nothing new to report."
"That about sums it up," McGonagall said with a prim nod of her head. "The garden looks very nice," she said, looking at Harry. "Your work, I presume?"
Harry nodded, his face coloring at the memory of yesterday's debacle. "I spent a couple hours out there yesterday after lunch," he said, hoping Snape was paying attention. He'd never explained where he'd been when Snape needed him yesterday, but he wanted the man to know he hadn't snuck off to "get laid" or anything even remotely as interesting.
And, of course, Snape was paying attention. So that's where the whelp had been – in the backyard the whole time, close enough so that if he'd called, Potter would likely have heard him. But he hadn't thought to do that, had he, sure that he'd been abandoned. Now that he thought of it, he hadn't heard the door when Potter had finally arrived – apparently, he'd left the door open, probably to hear Snape if he did call. Which he hadn't. Okay, Snape admitted, now he really did feel guilty.
"And how are you boys getting along here? Madam Pomfrey tells me that your wounds are coming along nicely, Severus. And I must say that you look well."
Harry opened his mouth to make the speech he'd prepared and rehearsed last night when he couldn't sleep, about how there had to be someone more qualified and competent to care for Snape when Snape beat him to the punch.
"I am well," he said. "Potter is taking more than adequate care of my needs."
Snape saw the surprise in Harry's green eyes at these lukewarm words of praise. This was followed by the first genuine smile he'd seen on the boy's face in a while and he was glad he'd said what he did.
"Good. Well, I must be getting back. Thank you for the tea, Harry. If you'd like some plants for the garden, I can ask Pomona for clippings."
"That would be great!" Harry said enthusiastically. "There are some things out there that I don't recognize. I was going to ask Professor Snape to go out and take a look when I'm finished cleaning it up."
"I'll see what she's got," Minerva promised. "You two take care."
After she left, Harry continued to beam at his former professor until it made Snape nervous. "Potter, stop grinning at me like a loon. I thought you wanted some help in this garden of yours?"
Harry tried to suppress the smile, but found it just would not stay away. But he said, "Yes, sir," and did his best to hide it.
Harry got Snape comfortable in a chair and levitated him into the cleared portion of the garden. They spent some time examining the plants Harry hadn't recognized until he realized Snape was dozing in the warm late morning sun. Harry moved him to a shadier spot (who knew what might happen to a dungeon dweller when exposed to too much direct sunlight) and set to work on the remaining section of the garden that still needed to be cleared. Ari and Frankie chased butterflies and each other until they fell into an exhausted pile of fur for a cat nap.
As the days passed, Snape began to get noticeably stronger. Strength returned first to his arms: he no longer needed to be fed, he could hold a book to read as long as he wanted, and once Potter floated him into the tub, he could wash himself. This last was a huge relief to Harry because a week into Harry's bathing of him, Snape had developed an enormously inconvenient erection. They both pretended not to see it, but it was glorious and quite difficult to miss. Harry, while embarrassed, took it as a sign that Snape truly was healing, because no sick body could have produced something that . . . healthy. For his part, Snape was quite proud of himself at the momentary widening of Potter's eyes, in which he could see how impressed Potter was and some other emotion he couldn't place. When he added in the lovely shade of pink in Potter's cheeks, Snape had been left wishing he'd been alone so he could take care of the little (okay, not so little) problem. Maybe next time.
Strength returned to his legs a little more slowly, but soon Snape was able to get out of bed on his own and walk a few steps. Though he still tired easily, he could sit at table for meals and take a short stroll in the garden without too much strain.
And best yet, Snape's magic grew in power every day until he was able to perform every spell he tried with no problem.
And, of course, as soon as he started genuinely feeling better, he began to wonder (out loud and rather obnoxiously at times) how much longer he was going to be stuck here with Potter.
After a month, Snape was completely healed and completely sick of being stuck in this cottage. He'd threatened to leave on numerous occasions, but Minerva was always able to calm him down enough to convince him to stay.
Harry, too, was horribly bored here. The garden could only consume so much of his time, and now that Snape didn't require any assistance, he had a lot of free time. The benefit to this extra time was that Harry had had ample opportunity to think about his future. He decided fairly quickly that he did not, after all, want to become an auror. He'd had enough chasing creeps and criminals and he'd definitely had enough death and destruction. Deciding what he did not want to do, as it turned out, was easier than deciding what he did want to do, and he spent many hours thinking about things he might do and discarding them one by one.
He'd discussed it with Professor McGonagall when he had a chance to speak with her alone. He'd been afraid she might be upset at his career change. After all, she had promised to do whatever it took to get him into the auror program. But she'd been very understanding about his reasons for reconsidering that career path, and she'd even brought him career pamphlets at her next visit. Harry had read them all through, but none of them seemed right, and he switched his thoughts to the Muggle world. Once he did that, what he wanted to do became clearer than any crystal ball he'd ever chanced to gaze into. Once again, Professor McGonagall was exceedingly helpful with logical advice and the names of people Harry would need to contact to assist him.
Of course, his future was on hold until the Death Eaters were captured.
Thankfully for the sanity of both occupants, Minerva McGonagall arrived a week later with good and bad news.
"We've apprehended most of them," she announced gleefully. "They've been turned over to the Ministry and await trial!"
"Most of them?" Harry questioned.
"Ten out of the twelve," Minerva confirmed. "We're confident the two left will either go into hiding or be caught soon themselves."
Harry and Snape exchanged happy grins, until Snape realized what he was doing and replaced his smile with a scowl.
"How were they caught?" Snape asked. "Did you finally learn the whereabouts of their headquarters?"
Minerva's happy look dulled considerably. "They were apprehended after setting a fire they were foolish enough to stay around to watch. If we hadn't been monitoring this particular residence, we never would have caught them, but as it was, the wards alerted us in time to catch them still at the scene. Unfortunately, we were not in time to save the dwelling."
Her words hung in the air. Neither Harry nor Snape wanted to ask, though it was obvious from her demeanor that this loss was significant to one of them. Harry went quickly through the list of possibilities in his head – Grimmauld Place, the house at Godric's Hollow, the Dursley's. They were all likely targets, he thought.
For Snape, the list was considerably shorter. There was only one place he could call his own – the house at Spinner's End. And when Minerva turned her sad, sympathetic eyes on him, he knew what she was going to say.
"I'm sorry, Severus. Your home at Spinner's End has been destroyed."
Snape sat, unspeaking, unblinking, absorbing this latest blow. His childhood home – gone. Thankfully, he supposed, there hadn't been any wonderful childhood memories lost in the blaze, simply because he had no wonderful childhood memories associated with that house (or any other for that matter). He supposed he should feel bad about the loss of his possessions there, but truthfully, everything he'd had of any value, sentimental or otherwise, had been with him at Hogwarts and was either still there or was here with him. He became aware that Minerva and Potter were both watching him closely, expecting some sort of reaction.
"So," he said finally, "we are free to leave here then?"
Aristophones climbed the chair Severus was sitting in, and he took her into his lap.
Minerva said, "We believe it is safe for you to do so. You do still need to be cognizant of the two that remain at large, but as long as you are well enough to defend yourself, there is no reason for you to remain here any longer."
"Good then," Snape said. He stood, bringing Ari with him. "I believe I will pack."
Snape was packing his belongings. He'd left the door open, which Harry apparently took as an invitation to enter his room. He sat, unasked, on Snape's bed and watched him silently for a time.
"Where will you go?" Harry finally asked.
"Has Minerva left?"
The silence grew awkward, but Harry was reluctant to leave. Frankie wandered in, and Harry lifted her to the bed. He lay down with the kitten on his chest, and Snape glared at his presumption. Ari came leaping out from under the bed, threw herself onto the counterpane, and clawed her way up. Frankie pounced on her, and Harry lay on his side, head propped in his hand, watching them play.
"Where will you go?" he tried again after a time.
Snape finally stopped and sat on the edge of the bed, his back to Harry. "I have no idea," he admitted softly. His family home was in ashes. Minerva had not offered him accommodation at Hogwarts, though he'd hardly stayed around long enough for her to make that offer if she'd been so inclined.
"Then why are you packing so fast?"
"I have no idea," he admitted again. "I just felt an urge to be gone from this place."
Harry sat up. "Listen, I know you're probably sick of me, but I'd like it if you'd consider Grimmauld Place. It's pretty big, and I think we could co-exist there hardly ever seeing each other. If that's what we wanted. I'll stay out of your way. And you could just consider it temporary until you figure something else out." And I'll miss you, Harry added in his head.
Snape was quiet for a moment, and Harry was sure he was deciding which cutting insult to use in throwing Harry's offer back in his face. Instead, he said, "Why are you doing this?"
Harry thought for a moment, knowing the truth but not daring to reveal it. "Because I owe you. Because we all owe you."
If Snape had been expecting flowery words of respect and affection, he would have been sorely disappointed. Good thing he never let himself expect those things. But the bottom line was that he had nowhere else to go. Number Twelve Grimmauld Place was large and depressing – probably exactly what he needed right now. "I would not be able to pay you," he said abruptly.
Harry snorted and fell back onto the bed. "I don't care about that. Besides, I'd miss these characters too much."
"I sort of assumed you would take Frances and I would take Aristophones. When we parted ways."
"Then it's a good thing we're not parting ways," Harry said happily. "They'd miss each other terribly."
Six days later, the move to Grimmauld Place had been accomplished. Snape had been put in the room Harry had shared with Ron on their previous trip here, while Harry had taken Sirius' room at the top of the house. The kittens had been so busy exploring their new home that they had been virtually unseen since their arrival here.
Snape was already breakfasting when Harry strolled into the kitchen. "Good morning!" Harry said brightly.
Snape muttered something into his tea that Harry couldn't quite catch. "All settled in?" Harry pressed on.
"Great," Harry said as he poured himself tea.
They sat in silence for a moment. "Given any thought as to what you want to do next?"
"If you want to be rid of me already, why did you invite me to stay?"
"That's not what I meant! Oi! Do you have to be so prickly? I only meant that if you wished to do some brewing, there's plenty of room in this old house to set up a lab. Ever thought of going into business for yourself?"
"When have I ever had the time to even consider such an idea?" Snape asked. "I've been so busy for the last several years just trying to keep you out of trouble, I've barely had time to breathe!"
Harry sighed. Talking to this man was like trying to push a hedgehog into a box. You got stuck enough times, you stopped trying to make the little bugger go where you wanted it to go and just let it be. But then sometimes, the hedgehog wandered into the box all by himself.
Snape thought maybe he'd been a little mean to his host, and he modified his tone before asking, "What about you, Potter? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?"
Harry fidgeted with his knife self-consciously. He'd told no one but Professor McGonagall his plans. He was sure the wizarding world at large would not approve of what he planned to do. He had no idea what Snape would think, and for some reason, the man's good opinion had come to mean much to him. "I . . . I think I want to teach. In . . ."
Snape's snort of derision stopped him short.
"You?! Teach?! I shudder to think what you might have to offer to the forming minds of our next generation. A class in Disregarding the Rules, perhaps? Or Special Favors for the Spawn of Reprobates?" Snape chuckled at his own humor. "Really, Potter, perhaps you should stick to chasing the darker of our kind."
Harry hung his head, Snape's unkind words cutting to his very heart.
"Nothing to say?" Snape challenged.
"What could I say to that?" Harry asked, his voice small, unable to meet Snape's eyes. He got quickly to his feet, his chest feeling tight and his eyes watering. When was he going to learn?
Later that evening, Harry was on his way to bed when he spotted Snape sitting in one of Grimmauld Place's many parlors. Not entirely sure why, he redirected his feet into the room, which, like all of the others in this house, was dark – dark paper on the walls, dark carpeting, dark corners where any manner of awful things could be hiding.
Snape had a cozy fire crackling though, which helped to dispel some of the gloom. Harry dropped into the armchair beside Snape. He looked around at the room. If he stayed here any length of time, maybe he'd do some redecorating, replace the carpeting, repaint the walls brighter colors, make this place a little less like a funeral home.
Snape glared at Harry, looking for all the world like he was going to protest Harry's presence here. Potter had said he'd keep his distance, but in the boy came, uninvited, interrupting his reading, and just plopped himself down like he owned the place. Okay . . . he did, but still. Snape mentally berated himself for leaving the second chair there, as though it were an invitation, and for leaving the door open. Perhaps if he ignored the pest, Potter would get the hint and go away.
Ha! Fat chance.
"Watcha reading?" Harry asked.
Snape's withering glare found him over the top of his book. "A book." Snape's eyes returned to the page.
Seconds ticked by. "Any good?"
Again with the glare. "I wouldn't know. Someone keeps interrupting me."
"Sorry," Harry said, though he didn't sound like he was, even a little.
Tick. Tick. Tick. "Ron and Hermione just left." His friends had come to celebrate Harry's release from "captivity." They'd talked and laughed and drank for a couple of hours, and though Harry himself had only consumed a moderate amount of firewhiskey, he was feeling warm and relaxed and a little tingly inside.
Snape expressed no interest in that news at all. Harry had asked him to join in the small party, but Snape had, predictably, declined.
Harry sighed, but it sounded like a happy sigh, not an I'm-frustrated-with-Snape's-reticence-so-I'm-going-to-bed sigh. "Can I tell you something?" he asked after a time.
"Can I stop you?"
Harry was silent long enough that Snape began to hope he'd passed out. Again, ha!
"I like you," Harry finally said, his voice soft and dreamy.
"Hooray for me," Snape said.
Harry hadn't planned on baring his soul to Snape tonight, but the crackly fire and the alcohol soaking his brain and the warmth in his belly made him feel as though the world was a fuzzy and safe place, and he could say anything to anyone, even Snape, and it wouldn't be taken the wrong way or thrown back in his face.
Harry went quiet again. Snape was working so hard on ignoring the boy that he didn't notice that Harry had come to kneel beside his chair until a hand that wasn't his own pushed his book down into his lap.
"No. I mean I like you," Harry said, his beguiling green eyes looking up at Snape, the meaning of his words shining clearly there.
"Potter, what are you on about? You are . . ."
Harry silenced him by leaning in and kissing Snape, right on his very thin lips. It was a dry kiss, a chaste kiss, until Harry darted his tongue out and drew it along Snape's lower lip. Harry groaned and pressed harder.
After many seconds, it finally dawned on Harry that Snape was not kissing him back, and he sat back on his haunches.
"Have you lost your mind?" Snape spit out, his eyes glaring holes in Harry's. He brought the back of his hand to his mouth, as though to wipe away something distasteful.
"I . . . I don't think so," Harry said, Snape's very apparent anger dispelling the warm feelings he'd felt only moments before.
"Then your actions can only be explained away as the product of too much drink," Snape charged.
"I haven't had that much!" Harry protested. "I just wanted you to know how I feel!"
"Why?" Snape asked, his tone biting. "Did you think that I could return this foolish . . . affection? Did you expect me to melt into a puddle after telling you that I had been longing for you secretly since the beginning of time? Really, Potter, enlighten me. What were you thinking?"
Snape's tone cut deeper with every word, and Harry began to feel very much the fool. His cheeks flushed red, and he dropped his gaze to the threadbare carpet.
"Well?" Snape demanded.
"I don't know, okay?!" Harry said heatedly. "I don't know what I expected! I just wanted you to know!"
"And you expect me to believe that you have feelings for me that didn't come out of a whiskey bottle?"
Harry raised his eyes now and stared defiantly at Snape. "It's the truth!"
"Is this the price I am to pay for your hospitality?"
Horrified that Snape would think that Harry would insist upon a relationship with Snape in payment for allowing him to stay here, Harry drew back away from Snape, lost his balance, and ended up sitting on his arse. "No! That's not . . . I'd never . . ."
"You're even more of a dullard than I thought. First this insane idea about the irresponsible and under-educated likes of you teaching the next generation of witches and wizards, now this ridiculous delusion. Really, Potter, I must say that I find living with you much more amusing than I had contemplated."
Harry had had enough, and he scrambled to his feet with as much dignity as he could muster. Feeling about two centimeters tall and on the verge of tears, he beat a hasty retreat from the room.
Harry had been miserable a lot in his relatively short life, but he didn't think he'd ever been more so than he was now. He'd confessed his feelings to Snape, opened his chest to reveal his heart, and Snape had stomped all over it. Ashamed and humiliated, Harry had retreated to his room and actually sobbed. He hadn't let go like that since Sirius. How had it come to this? How had he allowed Snape to become so important to him that the man's typically harsh words could destroy him? He didn't want to feel this way about Snape, but he couldn't seem to control it. He'd had a small glimmer of hope that Snape might return his feelings, but he'd been unabashedly disabused of that notion, hadn't he?
And what was he going to do now? The thought of staying in this house, seeing Snape every day, filled him with a cold sense of dread. How could he ever look the man in the eye again? He thought briefly of asking Snape to leave, but he knew that he wouldn't. The man had nowhere else to go, and he, Harry, and indeed the entire wizarding world, owed Snape a debt it could never repay. Harry would not throw him out on the street. If he did that, Harry knew, he'd never see Snape again, and as pathetic as it was to admit, that thought hurt even more than living here with the man.
Harry then considered whether he should leave. He could go to Godric's Hollow. He was quite sure Minerva would let him stay at Hogwarts if he asked. He had the resources to either buy another house or let some place. He had options – Snape did not. But Harry had made plans for his immediate future, and those plans included living here at Grimmauld Place for at least the next three years. He could change his living arrangements without altering the rest of his plans, but he found he didn't want to.
He would simply have to find a way to coexist with Snape without losing any more of his dignity.
But before he could embark on his new life, he needed to tie up the loose ends on his old one. He owled Ginny Weasley and invited her to tea the following day.
"Thanks for coming on such short notice, Ginny," Harry said as he poured tea for her.
"Don't be silly, Harry," Ginny said with a genuine smile. "I've just been waiting to hear from you."
Harry looked away. This was going to be so much more difficult than he'd thought it would be.
Ginny seemed to pick up on his mood. "Is something wrong, Harry?"
Harry sighed. Was it ever! "Yes, Ginny. There is. I need to talk to you. I know we said that once the . . . once Voldemort was killed, we'd get back together and start the life together we talked about."
"You've changed your mind." It was a statement, spoken softly.
"No!" Harry said quickly. "I mean . . . lots of things have changed, Ginny, but there's something fundamentally different about me that I just can't . . . do this. You need to know why. I owe you that." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "This is hard!"
Ginny reached across the table and put her hand over his. "Perhaps you should just say it," she said kindly.
Harry took a deep breath, then swallowed once. "I discovered something about myself this summer, Gin. I . . . I like blokes." This epiphany had made itself manifestly obvious when he'd kissed Snape last night. Even as one-sided as that kiss had been, he'd felt so much more than he'd ever felt kissing Cho or even Ginny. Harry had used the memory of Snape's erection in the bathtub as wank enhancement for weeks after, despite how hard he'd tried to force Ginny into a starring role in his fantasies. It was Snape who got him instantly hard and panting, and once Harry stopped fighting that and just accepted it, something clicked into place inside him. It explained why the whole dating thing had been so painfully awkward for him.
Ginny's expression was difficult to read. She did not let go of his hand, for which he was grateful. He'd half expected her to recoil in disgust at this announcement, as though he were now as repellent as a rancid flobberworm. "Are you sure, Harry?"
Harry nodded. "I wish it wasn't so, but I can't change what I am. It wouldn't be fair to you to hide it." When she didn't speak, he added, "You have every right to hate me."
"I don't hate you, Harry. Frankly, I'm not even really surprised. But I do have to ask – was what we did have – was that all a lie?"
"No! Ginny . . . God, no!" Harry said earnestly. "I loved you. Truth be told, I still do. I just can't love you like a man loves a woman, and you deserve so much more than I can give you. I'm so sorry if I misled you in any way. Honestly, I debated with myself about keeping this to myself. I thought I could hide it, deep down inside. I thought about marrying you, having a family with you, and I knew I could be happy. But it wouldn't be fair to you, and I couldn't do it. I'm so sorry about this, Gin. I never wanted to hurt you."
A single tear slid down Ginny's cheek. "I know, Harry. It'll be all right, after I've adjusted. I want you to be happy. I wouldn't want you to settle for what you thought you wanted."
"I wouldn't have thought of it as settling, Gin. I would have been honored to be your husband."
"I know," she assured him. "You'd have made the best of it, and we likely would have been happy, but neither of us would have been complete. I'm glad you told me, Harry."
"This may be a dumb question, but can we still be friends? I'd really like it if we could."
Ginny smiled a watery smile. "I'd like that, too."
They smiled at each other sadly for a moment as the dream of the life they could have shared together died between them.
"Thank you for the tea, Harry. I think I'll go now." She stood up. "You take care of yourself. And you'd better keep in touch."
"I will. Ginny, I'm so sorry about this."
Ginny pressed a hand to his cheek. "Don't be. Just . . . be happy."
Harry escorted her to the hearth and watched her floo away. He turned and went up the stairs, heading for his room. He planned to lay on his bed and cry until he fell asleep. Crying was becoming a habit, but Harry felt he owed it to himself – he was, after all, grieving the loss of his relationship with Ginny, his dream of a large and loving family, and his own perceptions of himself.
On the first floor landing, he met Snape.
"Potter, you look as though your dog died."
Harry looked him in the eye long enough for Snape to see the emotion roiling there, and the intensity of it surprised him. Then something in Harry's eyes shuttered closed. Harry looked away and continued up to his room, leaving Snape watching him walk away.
Harry began to distance himself from Snape as much as possible. He had a month to go before he began university, and he spent as much of it as he could away from Grimmauld Place.
He got a job. He'd seen several adverts on a bulletin board while visiting campus, and he'd followed up on all of them until he was hired by a Muggle law firm looking for a gopher and office boy. He knew some (read: Snape) would find the work demeaning, but he actually enjoyed mingling with people who knew nothing of him but what he chose to share and who made no assumptions about him because of a scar on his forehead. He was free to be Harry Potter for the first time in his life, and he found it wonderfully liberating. He felt as though he were inventing himself as he went along. He was taken on full-time at first, with the understanding that once school started up, he could cut back to part-time hours that fit into his schedule.
He began to run. First thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, or evening, whenever he had the time, he jogged the streets around Grimmauld Place. He started slowly at first, walking more than jogging, but as the days went by and he stuck with it, he found he could go faster and further and longer. His body felt better physically than it ever had, and strangely enough, while he ran, he cleared his mind and thought of nothing but his endless footfalls.
He took driving lessons, bought a small car, and practiced in it until he took his exam and obtained his driver's license. He took a computer course, knowing he was behind his Muggle peers in this area and that he'd need to at least be semi-literate if he wanted to survive his schooling. He wanted to buy a computer for use at home, but he knew that the magic bounding around Grimmauld Place would interfere and turn the complex piece of electronic equipment into an expensive paper weight. Likely Snape knew some way around this, but as Harry was going out of his way to avoid the man, he'd never know for sure.
And then in September, school began. Thanks in large part to Professor McGonagall, Harry had been selected to attend the University of Birmingham in their Childhood, Culture and Education degree program. The Ministry of Magic had an education department which translated a student's Hogwarts career into something a Muggle university could grasp, and Harry's transcript had been subjected to this treatment and sent off to the University with all of the application paperwork. He'd been thrilled when he received his letter of acceptance, then worried briefly that he had been fast-tracked by magical means. Or maybe it was because he needed no kind of financial aid as his Gringott's vault contained more than ample funds to take care of his education. In the end, he had decided not to worry about how he'd gotten in and simply be grateful that he had. A sense of anticipatory excitement took hold of him when he went to the University book store to purchase his books – what he was doing felt so right.
All of these things combined to take Harry away from home for a large majority of each day, and he hardly ever saw Snape. He knew the man had started a potions business by owl order – Snape had asked his permission to operate out of the basement – but they did not discuss it. Harry would have liked to question him about it, but he had finally learned to never speak to the man unless it was absolutely necessary. Because despite the distance that he'd put between himself and Snape, his feelings hadn't changed one bit. He still hungered for the git, try as he might to quash those feelings, and Snape's scathing comments still cut him very deeply. Some day, if he worked hard enough and ran hard enough and studied hard enough, he'd get beyond it, but right now, it just hurt too much.
Continued . . .