He didn't really expect anything. True, a birthday present would have been nice, but Harry was just happy to spend the evening with Sev.
He was up to almost nine stone. It wasn't anywhere near what he was supposed to weigh, but Harry could tell the difference in the lightened hollows of his face, in the way the bony surface of Severus' jawbone was separate from his skin, in the faint muscle tension starting to come back in his forearms. Granted, a potion or something would have been nice, but as far as Harry was concerned his birthday had come early that year.
Sev leaned back in his chair, quietly watching the chessboard. Harry scowled and picked up his rook.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Harry looked up and raised an eyebrow. He'd gotten rather good at that, what with spending so much time with Snape. "I'm nineteen years old, thank you very much. I think I'm capable of making my own move."
The white pieces gazed longingly at Severus. Harry grumbled and moved three squares. With a sigh and a flourish Sev tapped his knight and looked utterly bored as it demolished the little tower. "I don't see why they haven't started a revolt. I'd much prefer it if you'd allow Mister Weasley to visit again. At least then the game might last more than twelve moves."
"Like you'd pay any attention to it."
"And what do you mean by that?"
"You know perfectly well, y'Witherin twit." Harry plopped a pawn down in the centre of the board. It looked puzzled. The rest of the pieces shuffled uneasily or gave him strange looks. "What is it this time?"
Sev smirked wickedly. "Your king might as well just bend over and be buggered right now. If that move were even legal, that is."
Harry looked again and groaned. He'd moved it two up and one over like a knight. Face burning, he put it in its proper place. Sev sniggered.
In two more moves the game was finished and Severus looked smugly pleased as his pieces marched into their box. "I hardly understand why you won't let me play someone worth the effort."
"Because you'll spend the whole time drooling over Ruby. It always happens."
Sev sniffed. Harry smirked when the greasy bastard began to put away the white pieces as well. Severus was putty as far as Ruby was concerned.
"I resent that implication."
"Resemble it, more like."
"Don't you ever go away?"
"Didn't work last time." Harry grinned and tapped Sev on the nose.
Severus gave him a haughty, insolent-brat-don't-know-why-I-ever-agreed-to-take-care-of-you look.
Harry chuckled, satisfied. "Did you leave me any Chocolate Frogs?"
"Why would I do that? You're in training, aren't you?" Sev passed one of the brightly coloured boxes across the table anyway before taking one himself.
It was an evening's entertainment in itself to watch him eat chocolate; for some reason it always melted in his cool hands and he would try for the next twenty minutes to discreetly lick up tiny patches of brown. That led to getting it on his lips, his nose, his robe, his hair, his back once (Harry still had no idea how that had happened), and being a sweet it had to be eaten. The man had the metabolism of a hummingbird. Otherwise, he'd weigh twenty stone, Unicorn Blood or no Unicorn Blood.
Sev was already pretending not to suck chocolate from the web of his thumb when Harry finished opening his frog. (Fred, purring on the table next to the chessboard, had unwound his long, sticky tongue and was lapping at a small brown blob on Sev's lip, much to Sev's obvious annoyance. He moved his thumb, trying to block the pink invader; its effectiveness was negligible at best.) Harry wolfed down his chocolate while prising out the card. There was a whole new series of collector cards with a whole new series of Famous Witches And Wizards. So far Harry had about thirty, and with luck the box of Chocolate Frogs Ron had sent for his birthday would net at least one more. He fished it out and stared.
Philia was looking at him.
"Uh. " He turned it over and read the back:
Philia Westin (1903-1973), perhaps the greatest Potions expert ever to have lived, was the driving force behind mediwizardry research during most of the twentieth century. From 1949 until 1958 she was Cauldron Mugwump for the International Confederation of Wizards. Her greatest achievements include the invention of Skele-Gro, the development of injected potions, and pioneering research in the field of magical mental disorders. Her interests included archaeology, art, and competitive chess.
Sev looked up. There was a brown smudge next to his mouth. "I suppose you'll want another Gertie Keddle. Bloody athlete."
Harry didn't retort. Silently, he handed his card over. Sev scowled in surprise. He snatched the card and brought it close to his eyes. A tiny smirk twitched at the corner of his mouth. He snorted when he flipped it over to read the back. "Gran would pitch a fit."
"Did they get something wrong?" Harry moved to perch on the arm of Sev's chair. He squinted, rereading.
"She hated sweets. Loved olives, though. I could never develop a taste for them myself."
"Olives and cherries, what, then?"
Sev looked at him quizzically. In a moment he'd gone back to the card. He smiled crookedly, suddenly, as though he'd remembered something.
"For my seventh birthday," he murmured, "she took me to Madrid for the day to visit the Prado. It's got a whole building dedicated to wizard art, you know, Muggles don't even know it's there. It was the only one in Europe at the time. I remember I didn't want to go because there was a match on between the Falmouth Falcons and the Wigtown Wanderers that I wanted to see."
Harry looked at him in surprise. "You?"
Sev raised an eyebrow. "It was a childhood phase. I'm sure you'll grow out of it any day now."
Harry stuck out his tongue. "Don't see you bringing home a pay packet."
"As if yours were anything to brag about." Sev shot Harry a cool glare; he blinked and distantly rubbed the edge of the card with his thumb. "The first thing she did when we arrived was take me into the gift shop and buy me a sketchbook and a quill. 'Draw what you feel,' she told me."
Harry settled his head on Severus' shoulder; Sev paused. A moment later Harry realised what he'd done. A second or so after that it struck him that he didn't want to move. "Go on?" he murmured.
Sev nodded slightly and put a tentative hand on Harry's leg. "I spent the day riding on her lap, mainly drawing team logos in the back of the book." He shuddered. "The paintings were... I wouldn't say dull, but they weren't what I was interested in at the time. Gran would spend whole minutes looking at a detail. I couldn't understand why. They were only pictures, not really real like Quidditch."
Sev slouched a little, a look of supreme sadness fighting its way out through his skin. "It didn't mean anything to me. I didn't understand until she was--it took a long time to figure out that what she'd given me was a part of herself."
Harry pressed his head against Severus' in a small hug. Something dawned on him: he hadn't given Sev his anniversary present yet. "I'll be right back," he whispered.
Sev nodded distantly, now looking at the front of the card. His thumb slowly stroked Philia's hair.
Harry crept into the bedroom and levitated just enough to reach the high top shelf in the closet. The closet itself was rather small, and he hoped that the house - which he still hadn't seen - would have larger ones.
With luck it would have a larger mantel, too. Their current one was barely big enough to hold the array of bits they'd crammed onto it: photo albums, phials, the odd framed picture (including Harry's favourite, Sev sound asleep in his chair and drooling, with Ruby against his chest - and Sev's revenge, Harry looking rather shocked and soggy with a damp towel clutched perilously around his hips), and a huge ceramic bas relief of the Cannons' logo that Harry kept only to annoy Severus. It was a nice counterpoint to the cauldron of Floo powder. Harry certainly didn't remember agreeing to that again.
He groped on the cluttered shelf. It was crammed with cracked vials and ruined stirring rods that Sev couldn't bring himself to part with. Sodding packrat. Finally, Harry's hand closed over the irregular, flat package covered with silver paper. He blew off a thin layer of dust; for a brief moment, he wondered if he'd ever be able to give Severus another gift not crusted with the stuff. Harry had wrapped it in May, and shoved it someplace he couldn't see it before June. There'd not been any obvious reason not to.
Severus was still in his leather chair. He looked stern, but the dot of chocolate on his chin was sufficient evidence that he'd snuck another frog. Fred was in his lap, trilling contentedly.
Harry smirked. "Greedy bastard. No wonder you're getting chubby." He cringed. My god, I didn't know he could glare like that.
"I am not getting," Sev grimaced horribly, "chubby. And I forbid you to ever use that word to describe me again."
"If you keep eating my chocolates I'll have to!" Harry fought a grin - in truth he was happy Sev was eating, period. For a while he'd lived on little more than tea and maraschino cherries. His appetite wasn't large, but it was getting back to normal.
Harry held out the package and his joints went suddenly loose in a wave of timidity. It was only a little thing, nothing right for an anniversary. He wasn't even sure Sev would like it. "Happy 'n'vers'ry," he mumbled.
Severus raised his eyebrows coolly. "Between you and your frogs I think I may need a shot of insulin." He took the package anyway and inspected it. Harry hadn't done the neatest job of wrapping it. The paper didn't want to lay flat. Nine weeks in the closet hadn't done the now-squashed green bow any favours, either. Sev picked at the Spellotape. "What colour is my hair going to turn this time?"
Harry shrugged. The drab blue carpet was suddenly quite interesting. "Open it and find out." He heard the precise pop of tape, the rustle of foil folding back. He held his breath.
Harry nodded reluctantly. "Watercolours. You're so good at drawing I thought maybe..." he trailed off.
Sev snorted. "You and Gran."
Harry glanced up to see Sev peering at one of the sable brushes. A woman at the art shop in Chudley had said sable was the best for watercolour. Harry had bought seven different brushes, from a tiny thing he could barely see (it said 18/0 on the handle, whatever that meant) to a big, wide, flat one that the woman had said was good for a "wash".
"Thank you, I suppose," Sev said dryly.
"'Welcome." Harry's chest was hollow. Should have just gotten another cauldron - least he'd appreciate it. Then again, to be lumped in a category with Philia couldn't be a bad thing, could it? The confused look Severus gave the tubes of paint made him wonder.
Harry gave a sudden mighty yawn. Sev looked up. "Get to bed. You've got early practise tomorrow, for all the good it'll do. I pity the Cannons' chances with you around."
"Do I need to Mobilicorpus you, Potter?"
Harry grumbled softly. "As if you could." It was a bit late, nearly eleven. Practise started at eight sharp whether he was there or not. The Cannons had a match against Puddlemere United in a couple of days, too, and if Helen Tuttle wasn't over stomach flu by then they would have to rely on their reserve Seeker.
Harry shuffled forward and planted a hurried kiss on Sev's cheek. "G'night."
Sev made a noise. He didn't look up.
Harry dragged his feet towards the bedroom. He dropped his clothes in a trail from door to bed. The hollowness growing within him left him too apathetic to even bother with pajamas or a shower. He could get cleaned up in the morning and, really, he slept better without getting tangled up in his clothes. He fell asleep surprisingly quickly, and didn't dream.
Harry woke up and looked at the clock. He groaned. Five thirty; too early to get up, but too late to go back to sleep. Sev was breathing softly next to him. His lashes flickered and he muttered, "You're going to be unfashionably late, 'Cissa. He'll be fine."
Harry smiled sadly. It was still hard to imagine Sev taking care of baby Draco. He found his glasses and slid out from between the sheets. Yawning mightily and tying his dressing gown snug, Harry started to head for the shower. Something caught the corner of his eye.
The brushes were spread out next to an array of dented watercolour tubes scattered on a paint-crusted pane of glass. On the corner of the small desk sat a tiny pewter cauldron. Its contents were translucent, muddy blue-grey. The brushes had been used - a greyish tinge on the ginger bristles attested to it.
He was so surprised to see them, it took a moment to realise Sev's journal was carefully set out alongside. Harry picked it up. It was sealed.
He glanced back at the bed. Severus shifted slightly under the duvet. He hummed softly. It sounded like a lullaby.
"You couldn't," Harry said under his breath, brow furrowed. There was no possible way Sev could know Harry had read his journal. He must have only gotten drowsy and didn't expect Harry to wake up.
Keeping an eye on his sleeping maritus, Harry fetched his wand from the bedside table and unlocked the book. He started to flick to the latest entry. On a whim he paused and, for the first time, looked in the very back. A huge, slightly off-centre hawk's head filled most of a page. Some of the lines were shaky. They reminded Harry of the homework he'd done a time or two on the Hogwarts Express. Childish, Medieval-type text at the bottom proclaimed, "Break Some Heads".
Harry smiled softly. It made sense, it really did. You'd follow the most violent team in the league, wouldn't you, you greasy bastard?
Sev snorted, and Harry slammed the book shut. A glance back told him Severus was only shifting in his sleep. Quietly, he opened the journal again and found the day's entry. One of the pages was wrinkled. He blinked at it, then set to reading.
31 July, 1999. Once upon a time, there lived a man named Severus Snape. He lived alone in a dungeon. He liked it there, with his ingredients and vials and elixirs and thoughts and very little else. From time to time the dungeon would be invaded by monsters called "children". He would growl and grumble and try to put ideas into their heads, but, despite the fact that nature abhors a vacuum, the ideas mainly bounced off of their empty little skulls.
One day, a little boy came into his dungeon. He was a nasty little boy, with an ugly scar right across the middle of his head. To make matters worse, the boy was a puerile copy of the troll who'd made Severus' life a living Hell for a very long time. At least, that was what he let people think. The boy was very much like his horrible father, but there were better reasons to hate him; the ugly scar made Severus think about his life, and his past, and other things nobody should ever have to think about. Plus, the time the boy should have spent over a cauldron was more often than not spent daydreaming and making a general prat of himself.
One day, many, many years later when the little boy wasn't so little anymore, he came to the dungeon again. Severus was very, very scared and very, very lonely at that time. Bad things were happening and he didn't know if he could stop them on his own. He learned that he and the boy weren't so very different despite the fact the world said they were. It made him less scared and lonely and, because that was the way things worked for Severus, gave him something nice to think about on other lonely nights when his past burned black.
When the boy came back to the dungeon the next day, Severus was quite surprised. Certainly, he thought, the boy's taken a stray Bludger to the head and has mistaken my dungeon for a Quidditch pitch. (You see, the boy had some modicum of talent on a broom and it went to his head. He fancied himself a Seeker! Bloody stupid boy, he must have been quite dim to fancy himself in the same category as Omar Nicholas or Josef Wronski.) However, he wasn't mistaken, and he truly did want to talk to Severus.
When Severus finally lost his senses and gave in, a little of the past stopped hurting so much.
The boy kept coming to the dungeon, and despite his raging teenage hormones they actually managed to achieve a few constructive things. The most obvious was bumping off a big nasty wizard named Voldemort. The whole world knew about that, if not that Severus and the boy had done it together.
What the whole world didn't know was that the boy could wear out a bloody steam engine. They also didn't know that a little bit of Severus gave in and he eventually decided that, while he'd loved somebody once (even though the person couldn't love him back in the same way, which made Severus sad but was nothing he could hold against the man), he wasn't so dead inside he was incapable of doing it again.
One day, Severus got hurt. Horribly, nastily, badly hurt, both inside and outside. The person he'd loved before the boy and an annoying little goblin named Gus brought him home. What they didn't know was that the boy was waiting for him. If he hadn't been, Severus would have died. Without the boy there was no point in staying alive any longer. In fact, Severus only stayed alive that long in hopes that he'd see the boy one last time. He tried to slip away in the boy's arms where he felt safe.
As usual, the boy decided to make his life a living Hell and Severus stayed alive only to spite him. Or, perhaps, because he loved the boy very, very, very much, and the boy obviously loved him, too, and Severus couldn't bear to hurt him. At one point they were separated, and Severus did die, but he was given a special elixir and it made him stay alive. For a while. Not that the boy would have understood anything about it - he really should have gotten an "F". But that's what you get for shagging your teacher.
It was just before the boy's birthday, when the cruel Board of Bloody Stupid Prats Who Need A Damned Good Shag Themselves tried to make Severus never see the boy again (for, you see, the boy was a hero and Severus was considered a very bad man), that Severus decided to give him something. It was a watch, and a very old one at that. However, it was one of the only pieces of his past Severus cared anything for because it was the only thing he had that used to belong to his Gran. This made it very difficult to ever give up.
This watch was special in another way. In the front were all of Severus' ancestors' names, and next to that the names of their wives and husbands. He was afraid the boy would write his name below Severus' because it was unthinkable that he would want to be next to someone so bad. However, the boy must have loved Severus more than was good for him because his name went beside Severus' and that's where it stayed.
Severus started getting sicker and sicker. He didn't tell the boy why because he was afraid the boy would go away. It was a long, painful story involving pieces of Severus' past he didn't have the courage to face just then.
The first time the boy nearly died because Severus was sick, Severus felt like he wanted to die. At one point he did try to die because the boy accidentally reminded him of what happened before he was brought home by the loved person and the goblin (and the goblin's yowling fleabag excuse for a cat). Severus overreacted and hurt the boy unimaginably. As usual, though, he bollocksed everything up and simply went to sleep. The next day he was very glad because, although he couldn't bring himself to touch the boy for fear of hurting him again, just to be able to look at him made the sickness a little easier to bear.
The boy later broke through Severus' carefully constructed defences. They didn't get much sleep that night. Or the next. Or the next.
This only made it harder when he had to let the boy go.
While Severus and the boy didn't always seem to like each other very much, Severus very much wanted to be with him. When the sickness finally got too big to hide and bad things happened to Annoying Camera-Happy Gryffindork Tit-Child (who still didn't deserve it), the boy came back. If he hadn't, there would have been no more Severus. It made the boy see what Severus had lived through, though, suffer what he'd suffered, and while it forced Severus to tell all of the things he should have from the start it hurt the boy horribly and Severus can never, ever forgive himself for that. However, he should very much like to try to make it up to the boy (without whose help Severus never would have found a way to make the sickness ease up, and he is ever so grateful for that help). Perhaps the best way to begin is to give the boy a piece of himself.
Since the boy has been sneaking around behind Severus' back since last September, reading a rather personal and private journal, an entry should probably be the best way to start. As it's the boy's birthday, and what he refers to as a "n'vers'ry" (perhaps he means "anniversary" - this is a mystery that may be lost to the ages), it seems an appropriate time to do so. Additionally, the boy gave Severus a rather odd gift that he has no bloody idea how to work, and it might as well be put to some sort of use.
Well, go on. Stop gawking and turn the page, you daft little urchin.
Harry had to read the entry twice. The handwriting was a little less neat in places than usual, and the sentences ran on, and his heart wouldn't stop going thud thud thud at the end. Sev knew. He'd known for months, and he hadn't pitched a fit. Harry stared at the filled double pages and had to sit down. A hole of guilt started to burn through his stomach - Sev trusted him enough to let him betray that trust. The irony made him dizzy. With shaky fingers he peeled back the page. "Oh, Severus."
The figures looked up at him. They seemed a little unsure about their untidy blotches of thin colour, or the wrinkly texture they'd taken where the paint had been inexpertly applied, but their outlines were sharp and painfully accurate. Sev's arms were around him, Harry's cheek pressed against that thin neck. God, how long had it been since he'd been pulled into a narrow lap and held until he felt like a vital organ? A smile traced his lips when the painted Sev kissed the painted Harry on the top of his head. Suddenly, his eighteenth birthday gift had quite the rival.
Harry noticed something else written at the bottom of the page:
Honestly, Harry. Draught of Living Death takes a few minutes longer than that to work when the user has a neutralising agent in his brain. Did you really think you were being quiet? Obnoxious brat, could have woken the dead.
A throat cleared. Harry jumped. He looked back to see Sev sitting up in bed, arms crossed, glaring. Severus raised an eyebrow. "Certainly took you long enough."
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