The Last Battlefield
Chapter 1 - Thicker Than Water
Smooth lips played over his own, warm and yielding. They left a moist trail down the front of his throat, across his shoulder, back along the ridge of clavicle to rub against the roughness of his cheek. Their bodies pressed together, skin on skin, fitted, arms wrapped tight. Short, stubborn fingers traced the bumps of his spine; he returned the gesture with broad, worshipful strokes of his palm over a muscular back. Severus crushed his face into the crook of Harry's shoulder for a moment before pulling back to gaze into brilliant eyes, the colour of leaves in summer, crinkled in a smile meant only for him.
Severus did his best to return it, but could only press his Harry against the pillow and trickle light kisses around his mouth, his cheeks, his forehead, his scar, down his nose and lips and chin and in a meandering path through the dark hairs littering his chest. He rubbed his cheek against the dense patch just over Harry's heart; through bone and muscle he felt a rapid throb, felt his own match it. "Harry," he whispered, laying a kiss on an inch of bare skin.
"Mi Severe," Harry echoed. A hand hesitated over Severus' hair. Severus started to shudder, grabbed Harry's arm and held it steady until the tender fingers tangled themselves in the greying mess. He whimpered as they did, but it wasn't a whimper of rising memory, old or fresh. Severus wrapped his arms around Harry's waist, which fit within his grasp as though the two of them had been forged together, and drew his mouth over the smooth edges of firm muscles, over hard bone and the delicate, pointed flesh of a nipple.
"Sev," Harry breathed again, a bit more urgency low in his throat. "Oh, god, my Sev."
"Sev... Sev... Sev... SEV!"
A scream jolted him awake. The duvet flailed and writhed; for a moment, Severus was lost in the darkness and chaos, grabbing for the covers. Harry keened, then shrieked, "SEVERUS!"
Severus flinched. He reached over and grasped Harry's shoulder to shake him awake; a hand shot up, grabbed his wrist, and wrenched it away hard. Severus hissed. "Harry, wake up."
"Let me go! Severus! Sev! Get your hands off me, you bastard!"
"I am Severus! Wake up!" He freed his hand from Harry's bruising grip and fought the covers until he was on his knees. He took Harry by the face. A set of nails dug into his arm. Severus hissed through his teeth. "Mister Potter, wake up and look at me now!"
Harry froze. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead in delicate paths, glistening in the orange light of the embers sitting in the fireplace. He whimpered. "Don't touch me!"
Severus let go. He still hovered over his maritus, Harry's nails still biting into his skin, heart pounding until pain shot down his arms. "Harry, open your eyes and look at me."
One cautious eye opened. Harry flinched. He drew back, scrabbling for his wand. His fingers closed around it and he thrust it forward, the curse almost forming on his lips.
Severus fell back to his knees, holding up his hands. His nightshirt stuck to his back with sudden sweat. "That'll be fifty points from Gryffindor unless you put that thing away right now, Mister Potter." He stared down the shaft of a wand that had killed greater wizards than he.
Harry slumped. "Oh, god, it's only you." He shivered, drawing his knees up to his chest. The new pyjamas Severus had insisted he get - the same bottle green as his best robe - seemed to swallow him. "Oh, god. My god. Only you."
With a gentle grip, Severus pried the wand from Harry's fist and laid it on his pillow. "I shan't ask of whom you were dreaming," he said with a note of bitterness.
Harry glanced over at him. He hid his face again and nodded. "Don't know what happened," he mumbled. "Don't be angry."
"Why would I be angry with you for a nightmare? Apart from the fact that those are my area of specialty." He froze at the thought of a certain jar sitting in his laboratory. "You haven't--"
"Haven't been near it. Couldn't pay me to touch the stuff." Under his breath, Harry muttered, "Fucking unicorns, fucking blood."
A knot in Severus' chest he hadn't felt form loosened. "Thank Merlin," he said under his short breath. A different type of knot seemed to be building within his rib cage; it made sitting difficult and breathing more so. Quietly, he lay back down, facing Harry, one hand stretched towards him. It never touched him, only rested there in silent offering. Severus' breaths were still short and shallow. The pain, however, was lessening somewhat; as he lay still, it continued to diminish.
He noticed Harry peering at him. "Are you all right?" Harry asked, his eyes narrowed even in the dim firelight.
"I'm fine, Mister Potter," he snapped. "All told, I'm not terribly accustomed to being woken in the middle of the night by frantic screams."
"Sorry," Harry muttered.
Severus frowned. He hesitated, then inched his hand closer to where Harry's was dangling and clasped it. Much to his relief, it clasped back, although a distinct shudder ran up Harry's arm.
"He's dead, you know," Severus murmured. "I made quite sure of that."
Harry shrugged. "I know. I saw it, remember?"
Severus dropped his eyes. "So you did."
Harry gave a few dry sniffs, then sneezed. With his free hand he rubbed his nose. "M'sorry. Didn't mean to wake you up. I know how hard it is for you to get to sleep in the first place."
"Better you than that blasted device." He motioned to the six-handed alarm clock on Harry's table, the housewarming gift from Harry's mongrel of a dogfather. In addition to two regular hands, it had ones that read, "Time To Get Up!", "Time For Bed!", "Time For Work!", and "Free Time!". Every morning, the damned thing shouted, caterwauled, did impressions of cannons firing, anything it took to get Harry (and Severus - that probably being Black's spiteful intent) out of bed.
Harry chuckled. "Okay, you've got a point."
Severus squeezed his hand. "Do you need anything?"
Harry shook his head. He gave a parting squeeze and loosened his hand. He lay down once more, facing away from Severus and curling into a near-foetal ball. His wand rolled off the pillow; Severus set it with his own.
"Um," Harry asked, "could you put the fire up a little? It's sort of dark."
Severus blinked. He rolled over and picked up his wand anyway. "As you wish." A moment later, the fire roared.
"Is there anything else?"
Harry shook his head. The skin on the side of his face glowed golden, ashy with a day's worth of stubble. The green cotton pyjamas brought out the warmth there; Severus' mouth quirked up at the thought of Slytherin green next to Gryffindor gold.
Harry wrapped his arms around himself. "Don't go anywhere."
"I shan't," Severus murmured. He reached out to touch Harry's shoulder, only to draw back when his maritus flinched.
Severus sulked. He leaned against the wall outside the Cannons' changing rooms, arms folded across his chest. Slews and slews of Cannons fans (and those with baser interests, he imagined) mulled about, held back by security wizards.
"How come he got through?" a witch in her late twenties scoffed, pointing at him.
"Family're allowed past the railing," a gruff-looking guard with springy, steely hair drawled in a tired voice. His dark blue robe with its yellow stripe across the shoulders drooped.
"But he looks like--oh, my god, it is." She flushed and turned away just in time for Severus to recognise her as one of his students from many a year before. Robbing the cradle, are we, Miss Shelby? he mused, doing his best to ignore the irony.
The Cannons, for the first time in decades, had actually beaten the Falmouth Falcons. It was only by ten points, but those ten points had triggered a cheer on the Cannons' side of the pitch that had left Severus deaf in one ear. Seeker Helen Tuttle was out on maternity leave, had been since her mistaken bout of stomach flu in July, vacating the position for reserve Seeker Harry Potter. Severus had no doubts that most of the doe-eyed young witches (and a couple of wizards slinking about near the back) had fancies of wooing his Harry. He also doubted that Harry would let him forget for a moment that it was the Falcons from whom the Snitch and the win had been stolen.
The door to the changing room swung open. The crowd roared, only to hush with a disappointed, "Oh," as Keeper Erronius Doyle slipped out. He looked rather hurt at the response.
"Evening, Severus," he murmured as he passed.
"He's just finishing up. Was tying his shoes a minute ago."
Severus grunted and nodded. Doyle slunk up the cement walk towards the stadium exit. Near the door, a plump, dark woman rushed up, hugged him, and was promptly caught in an enormous kiss. Severus closed his eyes in quiet approval. Ellen Doyle had sat next to him at many a match, and was never anything less than polite, kind, and, despite the fact she was half his age, a little bit motherly.
The door flew open again, and this time the expectant roar grew in pitch and volume. Harry stiffened, the broom Severus had given him clenched at an awkward angle in one fist, his shoulders taut, pieces of hair flying about as he looked around at the crowd. He wore a stunned smile that probably spoke different volumes to the crowd than it did to Severus. To Severus, it shrieked, "Help me."
Clearing his throat, Severus took a step away from the wall and put on his sternest "Professor Snape" glare. Fully three-quarters of the crowd gasped and stepped back. Harry looked up at him in wide-eyed gratitude.
"Have any of you got anything to say?" Severus hissed in a silken voice. "Stop looking at me like that, Mister Emery, or I'll owl your mother about the frog you tossed into my cauldron your fourth year."
A pallid, blond wizard near the front gave a terrified squeak and vanished into the herd. Several others took his lead and scattered as well.
"Hey, Sev," Harry said out the corner of his mouth.
"Enjoying your celebrity status, Potter?"
"Oi! You can't talk to him like that!" a witch at the front shouted. A few more voices rose up in agreement.
"Oh, yes, he can!" Harry grabbed Severus' hand and dragged him away from the crowd. He ducked inside an alcove marked "PRIVATE - UNAUTHORISED ENTRY PROHIBITED" and pulled Severus through a minor labyrinth until they emerged into sunlight just off the pitch. It looked as though they'd come out in the Cannons' box, as the concrete semi-enclosure was sunk so the rest of the pitch was at waist height. Harry released a sigh and thumped his head against Severus' chest.
"You realise, of course, that every tabloid in Europe is going to pick up on the rumour that you're shagging your former teacher," Severus muttered.
Harry shrugged. "Eh. Had to hit sometime."
"Quite." Severus bent down just enough to kiss the top of Harry's head and leaned against the wall. Wincing, he tried to rub his tight chest so Harry wouldn't see.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Harry asked with a scowl. "You've been doing that all day."
"How would you know?"
Harry arched an eyebrow. He'd gotten rather good at that over the previous year or so. "The Snitch isn't the only thing I can see from up there."
Severus snorted. "Which might explain why the match ran a full four and a half hours, if you were more interested in your adoring fans than in the game. Really, I think I need to look at that watch of yours. Does it say Harry Potter or Gilderoy Lockhart?"
Harry blew him a raspberry. "Depends. How much do you like the couch?"
Severus sniffed. "If that's how you feel, Gilderoy, I suppose I'll simply have to see if Emily wants a guest." He chuckled when Harry smacked his arm. He hissed when Harry smacked it again.
Harry pulled back. His eyes were round, wide, frozen open. "Did I hurt you?"
"No," Severus said through gritted teeth. He stretched his left arm, flexed his fingers, rotated his shoulder. A dull ache lingered there, running into his chest. "I must have pulled a muscle. No surprise, what with the things you put me through. Up by six, to the stadium by eight, match didn't even begin until noon--"
"Hush." Harry leaned up and pecked him on the cheek. He still looked worried when he pulled back, his skin drawn and ashen in the evening light. "Do you want me to go and find Doctor Morgensdottir?"
"I hardly think a Quidditch quack would have any idea how to treat a properly pulled muscle. Really, what's he going to do? Give me a potion I could brew in my sleep and tell me to run some laps?"
"Sit down, at least." Harry squinted. "You look pale."
"Trick of the light." Severus allowed himself to be led to a bench anyway. The ridiculous wooden object dug into his spare backside, lending new weight to the word 'uncomfortable'.
"Did you take your potion this morning?"
"Yes, I took my potion this morning. And last night, and yesterday morning, and twice every single day since I made the stuff. Do you want me to add Veritaserum to the mixture to prove it?"
"Would it still work?"
Severus snorted. "Another comment like that and I'll put you over my knee."
"Ooh, Professor, how did you know I've been naughty?" Harry fluttered his eyelashes and sat down next to Severus. He laid the Firebolt on the ground at his feet. "Need to rest for a few minutes before we get out of here?"
"I suppose. All that flitting about is bound to have worn you out. I'd hate to see you fall out at the wrong grate again."
"Does that mean you'd miss me if I got lost?"
"No, I'd just rather not have to search every grate in the county again before I found out you'd stashed extra Floo powder in your robe. Or do you enjoy making me think you've gotten stranded on the other side of the country?"
Harry stuck his tongue out. "Greasy bastard."
"Owl?" Severus frowned. He glanced up to see a large, brown owl of the Ministry of Magic variety soaring over the pitch. Ah, owl.
It circled once and came to a flapping halt on the ground in front of them. A brief lift of its wings and it lighted on Severus' knee. It stuck out its foot with a haughty air.
"You weren't expecting anything, were you?" Harry asked Severus while Severus untied the scroll. The owl blinked once and took off again. A few scattered feathers marked its passing.
"No." Severus unrolled the letter. His back went stiff as he read.
Mr. Severus Snape, The Autumn House, Godric's Hollow, North Yorkshire/Visitors' Box, Midlands Arena, Nottinghamshire
Dear Mr. Snape,
It is my most solemn duty to inform you that Mr. Lucius Malfoy died yesterday, the twenty-fourth of September, 1999, in Azkaban fortress. The cause of death was a respiratory infection that, regrettably, proved untreatable. As you are his sole surviving known relative and the sole living beneficiary of his will, Ministry officials have informed us that you are to inherit his entire estate pending its investigation.
Tomorrow, the twenty-sixth of September, his home will undergo inspection, necessary given the nature of his incarceration. You are welcome to attend, should you desire. Nothing unrelated to certain persons or groups will be harmed.
Special Task Forces
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic
Severus read the letter twice before crushing it in his fist. Harry pried at his fingers. "What? What happened?"
Severus unfolded himself from the bench. The burning in his chest seemed to have gone through his breastbone and his spine as well. He let the letter fall from his grasp. "Lucius Malfoy is dead."
"Oh, Sev." Harry rubbed his back. There was a distinct note of relief in his voice. Harry crouched and un-crumpled the letter. His eyes ran over the words, narrowing when he reached the end. "That lying, arse-kissing bastard," he growled under his breath.
"Ah." Severus paused. "At least he bothered to lie."
Harry snorted. He said nothing.
Severus took a deep breath, or as deep as he was able. "Your adoring psychopaths have likely been dispersed by now. Shall we?"
He held out his right elbow. Much to his relief and comfort, Harry took it.
"Oh, for--watch where you're going, you insufferable cretin!" Severus snarled as the Auror - a junior Auror - ran past him and straight through the muddy lawn. The lot of them must have arrived at daybreak; not a speck of sod was visible in great, sweeping tracts.
"Settle down," Harry murmured. "You'll make yourself sick."
Snape snorted. "Shows what you know, you obnoxious brat." He shook his elbow out of Harry's clenching fingers and swept closer to the devastation. "Get away from my property!" he roared at a pair of Aurors uprooting one of the manicured hedgerows.
"Only following orders," one called. The other inspected the shrub's roots, casting myriad tiny spells that revealed nothing.
"For the love... Have you any idea the historical atrocities that excuse has been used to justify?"
The Auror shrugged. He and his partner dropped the shrub and started uprooting another.
"Come on, Sev." Harry grabbed his arm. "Let's get inside."
According to the oiled legalities of Lucius' will, the Malfoy estate couldn't be touched until his release or death. Now that he was dead, the Ministry of Magic seemed to be making up for lost time with the enthusiasm of a randy teenager. A small pack of Aurors loosened tiles on the roof. Several others wove a complex net of spells on the trees, the statuaries, the maze of shrubs surrounding the back garden. From the sounds coming from inside, they were busy hacking the house to bits, and chances were they wouldn't even come close to what they were looking for.
Severus allowed himself to be dragged to the front door. Harry stopped there, shifting from foot to foot. He looked up at Severus. "Uh, you'd better, y'know, make sure they're not torching the place." He flushed and dragged a hand through his hair. "God. Never thought I'd be coming over to Draco's house to play."
Severus rolled his eyes and grabbed the doorknob. It turned as easily as it ever had, and as soon as it did he heard the most godforsaken crunching noise from the bowels of the house. Metal shrieked, and a low death wail echoed through the walls. He shuddered, bristling. "That, I expect, was the fifteenth-century organ."
Harry winced. "You might want to get in there then."
"I'm inclined to agree." He pushed the door open with a rending twinge of dread.
Black-robed Aurors packed the marble-floored foyer, tapping the walls with their wands. The collection of paintings that had once covered the white-and-grey-striped walls sat on the floor, looking rather stunned. Several had been removed from their frames, and one sliced from its wooden stretchers. One Auror in the middle of the mess dissected the small chandelier, one prism at a time. The cloakroom door was open, but the secret area at the back was sealed and seamless as it had always been. Given that it was keyed to only a few wizards, Severus wasn't terribly surprised.
Severus cleared his throat. A few of the Aurors glanced over; none ceased their apocalyptic toil. He growled.
"I command you cease and desist. This is private property, and I have no great desire to see it turned to private rubble." If anyone's going to do that, it'll be me.
"Ah, Snape. Only three hours late." Montague looked up from inspecting a painting of a rabbit cowering in a clump of rushes. His clipped tone was matched by the narrowing of his icy eyes.
"What in Merlin's name is going on here, Montague? You promised there would be no unnecessary damage."
"A thorough inspection is necessary, after which we will repair anything--"
"If you'd had the sense to wait, I could have shown you everything you wanted to see." Severus frowned, looking down at the Auror, daring him to talk back.
Montague rubbed his hands together and fiddled with his wand. "Given the, ah, nature of your involvement with the Malfoys, we didn't feel it would have been prudent--"
"Don't talk to him like that," Harry snapped.
Montague drew back in surprise. He gave Harry a curt, wary nod. "Good morning, Mister Potter."
"Not really, no." Harry folded his arms like Severus, his wand in hand and a sneer of profound annoyance on his face.
Montague fingered the cuff of his pockmarked robe. "What can we do for you to make things more satisfactory, then?"
"Treat my husband like a human being, for a start."
The lot of Aurors working the foyer froze. Most glanced over at them, some out of the corners of their eyes, some openly. A few simply went back to work, albeit a bit more slowly. Montague made a choked noise low in his throat.
"Yes. Well," he said in his gravely voice, "as I said, given the nature of your, ah, spouse's involvement with the Malfoys--"
"Lucius Malfoy was his cousin."
"And a..." Montague's mouth set hard.
Harry blinked. "Who's in charge here?"
Montague swelled. "I find that remark rather offensive, Mister Potter--"
"That'd be me," a croaking voice called from the other end of the foyer. It was followed by a heavy wooden thump, and another, and another. The clack of a walking stick interspersed them. Severus stiffened.
"Moody," he growled. His chest tightened at Moody's short, barking laugh.
"Not quite so full of yourself anymore, are you, Snape?" Moody's wild blue eye rolled about through his head. As it did, his real one flickered towards Harry. He nodded. "Mornin', Potter."
Harry inched in front of Severus. "Moody."
"Snape." Moody lurched, circling them. Severus felt glares both real and magical trying to reach into his flesh. "Reckon you're starting to turn respectable. Respectable as one of your lot could, anyway."
"Harry, let him finish." Severus ground his teeth. "It's the only way he can live with himself." He turned his head to glower at Moody.
Harry snapped, "I don't want to hear anyone--"
"Got one Hell of an advocate, haven't you, Snape? The Boy Who Lived?"
"Don't call him that."
"It's okay, Sev."
"No, it's not." Snape pulled himself taut. Moody stopped in front of him, leaning heavily on his stick; he wore a cold, vengeful smirk, full of anticipation and amusement. "What in god's name are you doing here, Moody? I thought you'd be in the madhouse by now."
Moody shrugged. He waved a thumb at the Aurors gathered behind him. "They needed someone who can see places Lucius Malfoy didn't want them to go." He grinned; his blue eye rolled a quick circuit back in his head.
"What about your shadow?"
Moody's grin vanished. He gripped his stick, digging his nails into the knot on top. "You leave her out of this," he muttered. The stick swept through the air, nearly taking Severus' knees with it. Moody brandished it at the cloakroom. "Tried breakin' the door down, but you know how magical spaces are. How do we get into that thing?"
"Open the door."
"You know what I mean, Snape."
With a sigh, Severus pulled out his wand and stepped inside the cloakroom. He gave an exaggerated bow and tapped the back wall. It sprang open. Inside hung a single white mask and a tattered cloak, both crusted with dried blood and earth. His blood. He stepped back before he could stop himself. His eyes darted to the side.
"Well," Moody murmured with a note of amusement, "bring back a few memories, Snape? You fellows must've had loads of fun to get this thing so battered up."
"Watch your mouth, Moody--"
"Potter," Moody said, clunking past Snape and pulling the mask and cloak from the alcove, "you might think you know a lot of things, but there's plenty you don't understand."
"I said watch--"
"Harry, let me handle this." Severus closed his eyes a moment. He opened them and flinched to find Moody holding the cloak up to him.
"Looks about your size, doesn't it?" the bastard mused. "I don't remember seeing too many fellows in Azkaban who could have worn this thing."
"I haven't got time for this." Severus swept out of the cloakroom and huddled in the nearest corner with his back to the wall. His arms wrapped around his chest of their own accord; a vicious tremble coursed through his body and settled in his throbbing heart. He closed his eyes again. Moody's low chuckle drove the memory of the last night he'd worn that particular cloak further into the open.
"Sev?" Harry's hand on his shoulder made him jump. Harry cringed, pulling back. "Do you need to leave?"
Severus shook his head. He fought not to crush Harry in a choking hug. Still, he jumped when he felt arms wrap around him and an impossibly thick skull rest against his shoulder.
"Love you," Harry whispered.
Severus could only respond by putting a quivering hand on Harry's shoulder. He dragged in shallow breaths that razed the insides of his lungs; a contrasting pressure within his chest forced the air out in quick bursts.
The Aurors had stopped working again. They stared. One still held a painting in his hands; it slipped an inch, though he didn't seem to notice.
Moody frowned at the two of them like they'd broken a law of nature. Glancing back at the Aurors, he barked, "Well? Never seen two men all over each other? I know you have, Barnes."
A younger Auror flushed bright red and hurriedly waved her wand over a painting. She turned away, making a show of not looking at them. The others gradually followed her lead. Most of them seemed more curious about Harry than Severus.
"Break it up, you two," Moody muttered. "Plenty of rooms in this place if that's what you're after."
"Fuck off, Alastor," Severus snapped.
Moody arched an eyebrow at him. "I don't think you've got the right to call me that, Snape. We're not friends, and I'm not about to head down the pub with you when this is over." He pulled the flask from his hip and took a swig as if to prove his point.
"I am the master of this house," Severus said, "and I shall call you whatever I damned well please. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you shove it up your arse." He almost didn't stifle his smirk when Harry snorted into his chest.
Moody snorted, too, if with less amusement and a great deal more insult. He crept a little closer. "Just remember, Snape, I've got more filth on you than you could ever have on me."
"Shut up, Moody. You're talking about my husband."
"I'm talking about a Death Eater, Potter, and you'd do well to remember that, no matter what else you call him." Moody turned away too soon to see Harry rush for his wand or Severus place a restraining hand over it before it was fully drawn. Harry pulled away, shaky, glaring at Moody.
Clearing his throat, Severus said, "If I show you my cousin's stash of objects of dubious repute, will you and your lot kindly fuck off?"
"Maybe." Moody's magic eye fixed on him as though it were trying to peek inside his skin.
Severus sniffed and brushed down the hall towards the sitting room. Behind him he heard Harry's shoes squeaking on the hardwood floor and the steady shuffTHUMP of Moody's leg and stick like a pounding heart. He ignored the pounding of his own heart; it was only due to nerves. After all, the last time he had been surrounded by Auror upon Auror he'd been screaming as they yet again tightened those damned chains--
The pain in his chest twisted over the next hour or so as he led Moody around the house, pointing out and opening things such as the secret cell beneath the drawing room rug, the safe inside the suit of armour on the first landing of the front stairs, and the magically displaced closet in Lucius' antique Spanish chest. Inside were photographs, letters, Tom Riddle's schoolbooks, his robes, several quills, a cauldron, stacks of scribbled notes, the diary that had caused so much trouble so many years before, a locket containing strands of mingled brown and black hair - all in all more errata of Lord Voldemort's life and lamentations than could be found even in the old Riddle house.
As Moody and his horde inspected the cell under the drawing room, Severus fell into his green leather chair. It was harder than he remembered. He rubbed his neck, his shoulder, realised his nose had wrinkled in pain. Harry touched him on the arm.
"You need to see a mediwizard, Sev."
"I'm fine," he snapped. "I need to get away from this lot."
Harry motioned his head towards the door. "Come on, then. Let's get you out of here."
Severus nodded. His breathing was a bit ragged as he pushed himself to his feet and they crept out. If anyone saw them go, it wasn't mentioned.
Harry started to pull him towards the hearth. Severus held back. "I'd like to look around first if it's all the same to you."
Harry glanced back at him. "You sure?"
"If I weren't sure I wouldn't have said it."
Harry set his mouth. A moment later, he said, "All right," but his brow was furrowed and his eyes were dark.
Severus held out a tentative hand. Harry took it but stood a few inches away from him. Severus grunted. "The servant's stairs should be more or less deserted if you'd like to avoid those imbeciles."
Unfortunately, at the top of them stood an Auror little older than Harry. He twitched when they came near. "Sorry, can't let you up here. We haven't inspected it yet."
"I think you can," Severus said, brushing past him.
"Just let us through. He's not going to do anything," Harry said.
"I have my orders--"
"Look." Harry pulled out his wand. "If he tries anything, I'll hex him. Okay?"
The Auror scowled. "How do I know I can trust you?"
Harry sighed. Rolling his eyes, he lifted his mess of fringe to show the scar he hated almost as much as the wizard who'd given it to him.
The Auror's eyes went wide. "Oh, wow, I thought that was only a joke!"
"Need me to shag him right here to prove it isn't?" Harry snarled.
The Auror turned purple and stepped back. "Move along," he muttered, hunching between his shoulders.
Severus smirked. As he led a glaring Harry down the hall he murmured, "Well done, Potter. You may learn the fine art of sarcasm yet."
"Yeah, it'll give me a chance to teach it to you." Harry tightened his hand in Severus'. He looked around. "God, never thought I'd be in Draco's house."
"L'Maison du Mal Foi."
Severus arched an eyebrow at him. "Is it too hard to understand the name of the place? Literally, this is the House of Bad Faith."
Harry shivered. "How fitting," he muttered.
"Yes, I rather thought so myself when I was old enough to appreciate it."
Severus had every intention of looking at his old room one last time before the Aurors ripped it to pieces. For some reason, though, he walked past the door, past the master bedroom, down the dim corridor towards a room he'd seldom entered in fifteen years. The door was white where the others were dark wood, and the walls at that end of the hall were yellow rather than half burgundy and half polished mahogany. Harry scowled at the change.
"What's this, a torture chamber?"
Severus sniffed. "Hardly."
He put his hand on the knob. A small shudder ran through his chest, and a slight touch of dizziness invaded his skull. He shook his head. Have a sit-down, old chap. You're going to knock yourself silly.
The door opened without a sound. The house-elves had kept to their duties even after they were no longer needed; Severus didn't find the layer of dust he'd expected. In the sunlight streaming between the yellow curtains, the bright green walls were the same shade as Harry's eyes. The furniture was oak, similar to what he'd had as a boy (if somewhat more ornate), and covered with books, photos, trophies, miniatures of famous Quidditch players, and a large and half-assembled model of Ballycastle Arena. The bedspread was deep blue, much like Severus' own had been, and in the middle of the pillows sat the last thing he'd expected to see: a battered, faded brown teddy bear, stuffing hanging from its paws and one eye covered with an eye patch.
His heart lurched, and didn't quite come back. "Mi puelle," he sighed.
Harry looked at him. He'd been hanging in the doorway, staring in mild shock at the room. Severus loosened his hand and crept towards the bed. The thick, Prussian blue carpet muffled his footsteps, just as old grief muffled the pain shooting through his chest and neck. Gingerly, he reached out to touch the bear. It sat there, smiling at the world, its one eye clouded with teeth marks.
Severus picked it up and brought it to his chest. He buried his face in its squishy, squashed head. In the old fibres he could still smell the boy he'd failed, still find traces of all the times he'd rocked a child to sleep, only to fall asleep himself with bear and boy clutched against his chest. Draco had carried it everywhere: its eyes had been his teething ring, and every night as a child he'd insisted it be with him before he went to sleep. Severus had once caught a glimpse of it in the crook of Draco's arm during a midnight inspection of Slytherin House. Whether Draco ever knew who gave him the bear was moot. The mere fact that any gift of Severus Snape's had ever been so thoroughly adored was...
A lone, stinging tear slid from his eye and soaked into the bear's plush head. It was followed by another, and another, and another until he found himself shaking, screaming without sound into the toy.
"Sev?" Harry's voice seemed to come from a distance, getting tangled with the pain arcing through Severus' body. "Sev, what's wrong?"
A hand touched his back. He barely felt it through the ripping jolts in his chest. A strange blackness filled his field of view, and as the blackness engulfed him he could have sworn he heard Harry shrieking--
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