Disclaimer: Characters and places in this story, which appear in the Harry Potter novels, belong to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros. and Scholastic. I don't make, or intend to make money out of them. They just wouldn't leave me alone.

Thank you: My Beloved Cindy Lou, Accompaniment from Trent and Ozzy. Unending Gratitude to Betas Kyohaku Celestiale Vespertina, Maruchina, Bettyblue, and Olivia Lupin - I couldn't have done it without you.

Author's Notes: Random lyrics shamelessly stolen from Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine." References to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappachini's Daughter." Influenced more than I realized by two lovely fics, Accio Snape's "Something to Live For" and Cybele's "Le Lien des Beaux Rêves."

Archiving: Please ask.

Virulentus Somnium

Part 7

By Salix


4 AM, Day 5


Severus had had no idea what to expect. Knowing Voldemort, and that the boy's nightmares had something to do with sex, he had expected the worst. The previous night, it had been like he was Harry, in Harry's dreams. Feeling what he felt, seeing what he saw. Tonight Severus was surprised to find himself somewhat conscious of the fact that he was dreaming. He was in a dark room, with a large bed in the middle. He approached slowly, and stood at the foot of the bed, watching Harry in bed with Tom Riddle.

He was amazed at the deviousness of Voldemort's plan, and sickened watching him manipulate and humiliate the younger version of Harry. It was all so clear, he thought furiously. Harry's self-loathing, repression, sense of helplessness...

Severus awoke when Harry did, as if he'd been bodily jerked out of a movie theater mid-show. He wrapped his arms around the gasping young man next to him, smoothing his hair back from his sweaty face and murmuring calming words. He briefly drew away enough to grasp his wand from the bedside table and whisper the cleansing charm for the sheets and pajamas before Harry even noticed. Harry rapidly fell back to sleep in his arms, but Severus was wide awake.

Half of him was seething with barely controlled fury, fanned even hotter with the frustrating knowledge that there was no one to vent his anger on - the author of this horrible curse was already dead, as were his servants. There was nothing he could do to them for revenge.

The more logical half of his mind was busily replaying the details of the dream, until he could clearly hear Voldemort's whisper of Virulentus Somnius. He'd never heard of that curse. Poisonous dreams indeed... A curse over four years old, subconsciously embedded... What on earth are we going to do to counteract it?

He pulled Harry closer and gently brushed his lips across Harry's temple. We'll find something. Neither of us ever gives up. I won't stop working on this until he's free... The more I see into his mind, the more I fall into him...

A moment later he mentally cleared his throat at himself to halt his sentimentality. When did I turn into a living cliché? My thoughts sound like a bloody greeting card. What happened to the lovely bastard I used to be?

I forgot what it was to feel this much for someone else.

He turned to the comfort of anger to escape his more confusing emotions. That manipulative fiend Voldemort... I suppose it could have been worse, if he'd actually raped the boy. But that dream was bad enough, and not really dissimilar enough for comfort... It's as if he raped Harry's mind. For all his evilness, I hadn't really thought him that clever. Perhaps Lucius suggested it; take the boy apart by making him feel alone, unworthy of being loved, disgusting...

Gods. I so want to prove to him that it's not true. That he isn't like that. Not broken. Not evil. Not toxic enough to kill those he desires.

Such as Draco Malfoy... Luminous, youthful beauty...

I must be kidding myself to think he could ever be interested in me.

Severus slowly disentangled his limbs from Harry's. The young man seemed to be sleeping peacefully, so he made himself some tea and selected a book to read, returning to his bedroom, close enough to be nearby when Harry awoke.

He liked literature; it was pointless and soothing and gave him something to think about while he stirred his potions. This was one of his favorites, read many times, and even if it was by an uncouth American at least it was suitably old. He liked the potions aspect too, of course, even if the drippy romance was off-putting. He was damned if he was going to identify with either romantic lead; he was already internally disgusted at how much his recent feelings had begun to resemble the sappy hero's.

And what was with that girl anyway? Were all Italian Muggle girls named Beatrice or was it simply authorial shorthand for "young, dumb, and overall unimportant to the actual story"? Except perhaps the Bard's Beatrice, of course. He silently apologized for having briefly forgotten the eccentric 16th century wizard who lived as a Muggle.

But he digressed. He realized he'd stopped reading and was staring at the young man sleeping in his bed. Back to the book. His mind continued to wander a fair bit as he read, mostly idly trying to think of possible counter-curses. Ranting about Voldemort. He closed his eyes and let himself get lost between the layers of the familiar story and the current situation. Toxic seduction... So evil, so long lasting. Voldemort as our very own Dr. Rappachini, whose subtle poisons persist even beyond his death...

Harry began to shift around, bringing Severus back to the present. He watched as the young man stretched and rubbed his eyes, yawned, and slowly opened them to peer out at the world suspiciously. He was facing away from where Severus sat, looking at the empty space on the other side of the bed. His expression was mostly unreadable, but he seemed upset.

Severus cleared his throat; Harry didn't seem surprised that he was there. He started to say something, but Harry held up his hand, avoiding eye contact and mumbled, "I don't want to talk about it. Yet. Please. I need to think," as he got out of bed, picked up his dressing gown, and put on his glasses.

Severus sat still, watching, until Harry reached the doorway. "Take all the time you wish," he said simply. "I'll be here when you... need me."


5 PM, Day 5


Ten hours later, as the stars began to tentatively shine through the cold winter solstice sky, Harry was seated on the floor of an abandoned room near the top of the Astronomy Tower. After the first few hours of thinking, he wanted nothing more in the world than to stop thinking permanently. Or to kill someone. Or destroy something. But definitely no more thinking. Unfortunately, there was no one nearby to kill. And he ruefully acknowledged that he probably wouldn't be able to enjoy it even if there was. There was also nothing to destroy. But he had his wand and he wasn't a wizard for nothing.

A few old rags in the corners were easily transfigured into wine bottles. They flew across the room, smashed into the stone wall opposite with a brilliant crashing noise and spray of glass. A slight pause to dig out any stray shards that bounced back and embedded themselves in skin. A quick flick of the wand repaired the bottles. A weak healing charm stopped the blood. The bottles flew and shattered again. And again. And again. And again.

He worked on hitting the exact same spot on the wall, on creating as much or as little spray as possible, on removing the glass from his skin with the least amount of fuss. It was good to think about such small things.

Finally his arms hurt from the repetitive throwing motion and the only partially healed wounds, and he was tired and lightheaded from not eating all day. He didn't want to leave the room. He wondered if Snape would come looking for him and if he wanted to be found. He was beginning to feel trapped again, stuck in the tower. In the castle. In his life. Waiting for Snape to rescue him. Or something.

He looked at his arms and hands and felt the scratch on his face that he'd had to conjure a mirror to remove the glass from (after that he erected a shield around his face - no need to take destructive all the way to self-destructive, even if he was capable of fixing the damage later.) When did I get like this? This isn't all some fucked up curse. Some of this is me.

Maybe all of it's me. Maybe it started as a curse, but now it's just me.

No. Stop thinking.

Better go get something to properly heal these cuts, before anyone gets suspicious.


8 PM, Day 5


Harry avoided everyone at dinner, ducking into the kitchens to grab some food and return to his rooms instead. He hated his rooms. They were so sterile and empty and cold. Like my soul, he thought for a moment. Oh please. How much more melodramatic can you get?

He was debating between the bandages in his bathroom or looking up a better healing spell in one of his old textbooks when the knock he was semi-expecting sounded at his door.

He was surprised, and admittedly more than a little disappointed, when it was Madam Pomfrey, stopping by to see how he was feeling and why he hadn't been seen at meals regularly. As he shut the door behind her half an hour and some circumlocutious explanations later, he realized that she had never paid him a house call to see how he was doing before. She had implied while healing his cuts that perhaps Snape wasn't taking care of him properly, and Harry felt a wave of anger pass through him in retrospect.

Of course Severus is taking care of me. Better than anyone ever has. He's the only one that cares about me...

I wonder what he's been doing all day, and if he feels as... lonely as I do. Without him. Like something is missing.

I should go see him. I can't put this off any longer.


A few minutes later he was knocking quietly at Snape's door. He was exhausted, emotionally drained, but determined to face things, to talk about it all. Well, almost all. Snape still didn't need to know anything about his recent warped desires.

The door opened and Snape stood looking down at him, expression unreadable. He ushered Harry into the sitting room, which was cluttered with books of various sizes, shapes, and degrees of musty smell.

Harry turned to face Snape, brow quirking. "Been busy, have you? What are you researching?"

Snape hesitated a moment, then answered, "Just following an idea. Nothing to get excited about." Harry's eyes flitted skeptically over the names of the books, taking in the potions manuscripts, botanical encyclopedias, Italian and Latin lexicons.

"I'm not stupid you know," he said irritably. "I know you've been working on the curse. What are you researching? What does any of this have to do with Italian flowers?" he asked, picking up one of the largest books.

Snape's face took on it's characteristic haughty expression, but his eyes glinted with subtle amusement as he drawled, "Crabby again, Mr. Potter? Still not sleeping well? Long day of mentally taxing activity? Pining away in want of my company?"

A snort of laughter vented Harry's mood. "I suppose you could say that. All of the above."

Snape's expression softened as he asked gently, "And are you done thinking, then? Ready to talk about last night's dreams?"

"No," Harry sighed. "But I don't think I'll ever be done or ready. So here I am." He sat down on the couch and began to fiddle with the cushions. He spoke rapidly and fixed his gaze on the fireplace. "I don't know where to begin. I know it was a curse; you were right about that. But... I don't know if it's still a curse. I think it's just me, now."

Snape removed a small glass from a cabinet, and filled it from a bottle on his coffee table, as well as the empty glass already there. "Port," he said, in answer to Harry's quizzical look. "I find it helps loosen the tongue."

Harry blushed slightly, thinking about Snape's tongue for a second. They sat and sipped companionably for a few minutes.

Snape broke the silence. "Perhaps it would be easier if I told you what I've been thinking and you can fill me in?" Harry nodded. "It seems to me that there are a few confusing aspects to this curse: one, that it was cast in your dream itself. Perhaps your unique connection with Voldemort can explain that away, though. Two, that it was such an effective curse and has lasted so long, particularly past Voldemort's death. Three, that it seemed to get worse once you killed Lucius Malfoy. Maybe that was simply because you were less occupied and therefore less fatigued when you went to bed, but you said the dreams got worse once he was gone. Four, that you are unable to talk about it, and that whenever you do, you become... emotionally distraught," he finished delicately.

Harry made a face. "You mean I burst into tears like a hormonal teenage girl."

"No, I've been thinking about that. Not that there's anything wrong with crying," Snape hurriedly added. "But I think it's a combination of your fragile emotional state from the sleep deprivation and the stress of confronting something more fearsome to most of us than death - shame." Harry looked surprised at this, so he continued, "Shame is something irrational and deep in your psyche. It's difficult to make yourself want to confront it long enough to get over it. Most people, myself included, would rather sweep it under the rug rather than even admit that it exists. It's one thing to own up to an action or event that makes you feel ashamed, but many of us even feel ashamed of the shame itself. Especially when we rationally know it wasn't our fault, but deep down we don't believe that."

Harry began to unravel the corner tassel on the pillow in his lap. "So what do you think I feel ashamed about then?"

Snape smirked knowingly. "I think in order for you to get over it, you should be the one to answer that question. Honestly. And fully. In my experience, the only way to get over shame is to admit it out loud and force yourself to talk about it."

Harry pouted for a minute, then got up to refill his glass and flopped back down on the couch testily. "Fine. When I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was run away from you so I could think about it in peace. And after I'd thought about it for a little while, all I wanted to do was destroy someone or something. It makes me sick to think about. It makes me feel on the edge of losing control. I want to hurt someone. Something. Myself."

Snape raised his eyebrows questioningly, but didn't really look surprised at this bitter admission. "What is it that makes you feel like that?"

Harry tried a few times before he hesitantly, and angrily, confessed, "I... wanted him. In the dream. In all of the dreams. Every even vaguely erotic dream I've ever had turns into that dream."

He took a few deep breaths before continuing, rage steadily growing as his voice wavered and became even quieter. "He touched me and I liked it and it makes me sick." He steadfastly looked at the fire, refusing to look anywhere near Snape.

"That curse made me terrified to feel anything for anyone, love or desire. Even friendship. When he killed Malfoy, it made me afraid to ever care about anyone, least something bad happen to them. I pushed away all my friends. I lost everyone. So alone..."

"And I'm so disgusted. I couldn't tell anyone. I can't believe I'm even telling you, but you've seen it, in the dream... I can't believe how sick I am to feel this way."

Snape started to say something, but Harry cut him off, gaining momentum as the words spilled out like fire from his lips. "I know it was a curse. Not my fault. But the way my body reacted... that's my fault. And I know Voldemort was manipulating me. But still, it's my fault. I should have... I don't know. Pushed him away. Been more revolted by what he was doing. Anything but... aroused."

Snape's voice, soft and warm, tugged him back into the present. "You were fifteen. And no one's body is really ever entirely under their control. And regardless of whether you were in control or not, you didn't do anything. Voldemort did." He sighed. "Harry, it's perfectly normal that you would feel that way. But it's also perfectly wrong. You have to forgive yourself and let go of it."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Save the platitudes. I know all that. In my head. But not... deeper. There's not exactly much incentive either, to not wallow in it. All those dreams of being helpless... I was helpless."

"You were a child! Fighting the Dark Lord. Of course you were helpless, you nitwit! But you did well. You... always thought of something. You survived. And eventually you did defeat him. You're quite resourceful."

Harry looked at the other man for the first time since he'd started talking. "You really mean that, don't you? You don't say things like that just to make people feel better."

His thoughts meandered a bit, trying to take in the surprising compliment before deflecting it. "But still. It's still disgusting. Wrong. I feel so... contaminated. Filthy. And people can sense it; I don't really have any friends. No one's ever liked me. I've never even kissed anyone, never touched anyone. No one wants me. They never will." His embarrassment at such confessions was eclipsed by his sullen angst and desperate desire to be contradicted.

"You're wrong. Someone will," Snape replied. "How could they not?" he added as if to himself.

Harry took a deep breath before demanding bluntly, "Do you? Want me?"

Snape was silent for several long minutes before that velvety voice exhaled, "Harry... Yes. But I know you don't want me. It's all right; someone more your age would be better for you."

Harry's answered quickly before he had time to get nervous or even think about where this conversation was headed. All that mattered to him was proving Snape wrong. "But you're wrong. I'm older than everyone my age; I've already filled my life destiny." He paused a moment to consider the truth of what he'd just said. "Just like you, Severus. We're finished. And we have to make something new of our lives, or go on hollowly... or die."

Snape suddenly really did not want to be having this conversation; it was too much, too soon, not what they needed to be talking about at the moment. He got up to refill his glass. He cleared his throat, avoiding Harry's intent gaze, and said without an ounce of emotion, "So. Have you talked enough about the things causing you to feel ashamed or is there more?"

Harry's disappointment at Snape's change of tone mutated into indignation by the time the other man had finished speaking. How dare he act like he can ignore what I just said! He picked up the bottle from the table and poured the last of the contents into his glass, answering angrily, "No, I suppose my petty little problems have been covered for tonight."

Snape scowled fiercely at him, but before he said a word his expression made something snap in Harry. Before they knew it, the bottle in Harry's hand was flying toward the fireplace and shattering to pieces.

"Oh fuck!" Harry exclaimed. "Um... sorry?"

Snape simply blinked at him in shock for a second. Harry drew out his wand and with a well-practiced flick the mess was gone.

"That was abrupt," Snape finally said. "And a very well practiced clean-up," he added, quirking an eyebrow.

Harry grinned sheepishly. "That's what I did today. I've been a bit... frustrated. I wanted to break something. So I did. Several things. Repeatedly."

Snape laughed. "Wine bottles I suppose? That's creative, anyhow. Didn't any of the glass hit you, though?"

"Well, yes. So then I practiced healing charms," Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "Anyway, I'm sorry. I guess I'm still a bit on edge. So. What did you do today?" he asked, picking up a nearby book.

Snape got up and took it away from him. "There will be plenty of time to talk about it tomorrow. And don't get your hopes up; it may come to nothing. A subconscious thought simply became conscious, and I decided to see where it would lead if I let it guide me."

Harry yawned and stood up. "All right then." He let his eyes purposefully travel from Snape's waist, up his chest, shoulders, neck, and tilted his head slightly back to linger on his lips and then meet his eyes. He took a deep breath and calmly asked, "So whose bed do we sleep in tonight?"

"Harry..." Snape started, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to say. Are you sure? Don't play with me. We don't have an excuse to share a bed tonight. "Do you want to take any sleeping potions tonight?" he asked instead.

"No. I just want to sleep. With you," Harry answered boldly, but averting his eyes "You can wake me if I have a bad dream. Please?"

Snape couldn't find anything within himself that wanted to refuse as he followed Harry into the bedroom.

Still refusing to meet Snape's eyes, Harry pulled off his robes and dropped them to the floor, but this time followed them with his t-shirt and jeans as well, and climbed into bed clad only in his boxers, without looking up to see what Snape's reaction would be, or even if he was watching.

After a moment, the lights went out and Harry felt the other man get into bed as well, staying on his side, not touching. His heartbeat thudded in his ears. Maybe getting undressed wasn't enough of an invitation. I want to take this further, but I don't know how to start. I have to do something. Anything...

But the long day and draining conversation took their toll and Harry fell asleep quickly despite his underlying feelings of frustration and arousal.

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