Through a Glass, Darkly

BY : Lexin
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Harry/Snape
Dragon prints: 23916
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Part 2 - Fanfare for the common man


A year passed, then two. Winter or summer Potter's life was the same. He studied, he played Quidditch, he spent time with Snape. He didn't talk to Lupin again, not alone, and though occasionally he saw those odd eyes on him he couldn't tell if it was in curiosity or pity. 'You're a man,' Lupin had said, if not in those exact words.

He only saw Weasley Sextus in class; the silence between them was opressive.

Potter was treated every day like a boy still. At times it was comforting, mostly it was simply annoying but at least he had words for his formless anger.

**

He studied in the library, and one evening he looked up to find Draco Malfoy standing opposite him. "Mind if I sit down?" said Malfoy. He'd done so before Potter could reply.

"Be my guest," said Potter. He went back is Ais Arithmancy, silently cursing the Headmaster for making it compulsory. Numbers and charts meant nothing to him at all, and he kept having visions of himself spread under Snape, which didn't help his concentration one bit.

"Do you have a knife?" Malfoy asked.

Potter threw him one, irritably wondering why he couldn't get his father to buy him one. Malfoy trimmed his quill.

"Thanks," Malfoy returned it, to Potter's mild surprise. He'd expected to have to ask. "Very busy?" Malfoy asked.

"Yes," Potter said.

Malfoy was back the next night. And the next. Potter ignored this sudden desire for his company, he found it irritating rather than anything else. The fourth night, knowing Snape was busy, Potter collected the books he needed and headed back to the Gryffindor common room, where he terrified Barnes off his chosen table. It wasn't exactly working in peace, but it wasn't Snape's workroom, which was depressing when he wasn't there, and there was no Malfoy.

**

The Headmaster stood, and cleared his throat. "Your attention, boys."

Potter looked up. It was the Headmaster's habit to give out notices before meals, but this didn't

sound like the usual kind. The Headmaster looked far too pleased.

The Headmaster went on, "We are to be honoured by a visit from the Dark Lord himself." Potter saw Black and Lupin exchange glances, and Snape look at them both, coldly assessing.

"As you all know, his Great Work demands properly trained young wizards and he takes a great interest in every one of you."

Right, thought Potter. He was remembering Snape's endless report writing. He wondered what Snape said about him. 'Sullen, but good in bed'? Perhaps. No. Snape wouldn't want to tell anyone about them. Potter was sure of that if of nothing else.

"What is it?" Potter asked that night.

Snape sat behind his desk, fingers steepled. "Hm?"

"Severus? What's the matter?"

"Hm? Oh, nothing."

Knowing Snape as he did Potter felt sure that was an outright lie. "You should be pleased," said Potter. "About the Dark Lord's visit." He'd seen the mark on Snape's arm often enough, and knew what it signified.

"Yes," Snape said, his voice neutral. "I'm sure it will be most interesting."

**

Professor Black stood in front of the board, illustrating the Blinding Curse, when Potter noticed something he'd seen before but never really taken in. Black's robe slid back to reveal a bare arm, as pale as Snape's. It was unmarked. Black turned it over to demonstrate the wand movement and Potter could see that the Mark wasn't on the underside, either. Curious. That meant Black had been excluded from even the most basic of the Dark Lord's supporters. And yet he was allowed to own a werewolf. Even more curious.

**

"Potter?"

He turned. He'd barely spoken to Weasley in two years, so was surprised. "Yes?"

Weasley didn't seem to know what to do; he blushed. Potter waited. He didn't know why, if any other boy wasted his time like this he'd cut them dead. Weasley said, "I-- I wanted to talk to you."

"Very well."

"Not here. Meet me in the old Divination classroom? Six tonight?"

"All right." And why had he agreed?

**

"You're on your own?" Potter looked around. He'd been expecting the twins and Creevey to be hanging around.

"Um...yes." Weasley sat down. "You'll think I'm insane. I think I'm insane."

"I doubt it." Privately, Potter thought that if anyone was mad around here it was him. "What's wrong?"

"I don't want to join the Dark Lord. I know we don't have a choice, but..." He trailed off.

"You barely speak to me for two years and then you come out with this? You do believe in living dangerously."

"Fred and George keep saying how wonderful it will be to be taking part in the Great Work, but I can't see it. Even Dad's one, but I can't make myself do it. And ever since Mum..." Weasley swallowed.

"I heard about that. I am sorry."

"She was ill, you know? Had been for a long time, ever since my sister was born. But...thanks."

There was silence. Potter said, "I won't be joining the Dark Lord, either."

Weasley looked up, astonished. "You? But Snape..."

"I realise that."

"What's he going to do?"

"Snape? I shouldn't think he'll get the chance to do anything. I think the Dark Lord's going to kill me."

Weasley stood up. He said, "You mean that?"

"He killed both my parents." Potter looked out of the window, down into the quiet grounds.

"How do knowknow?"

"Mr Lupin told me."

"You believe him? He's mad--"

"He's the sanest person at Hogwarts. And yes, I do believe him. He doesn't have any reason to lie to me about it."

"What does Snape say?"

"I haven't discussed it with him. But I've no doubt he's worked it out for himself. Besides," Potter said, "we're not the sort of people who share confidences."

"I thought you were friends."

Potter laughed, shortly. "Severus? He's a patron. A very kind and generous patron, I have to admit."

Weasley looked aghast. "Don't you like him at all?"

"I'm fond of him. But we're not

friends. Not the way that you and I...were."

"I thought you were so strong and you-- You had him."

"I thought you were afraid of me."

"Everyone's afraid of you. When you get that weird look I'm scared rigid. But that shouldn't have stopped me--"

"Thanks," said Potter.

"For what?"

"Just... thanks."

There was an awkward silence. Then Weasley said, "So what are we going to do?"

"I don't know. Die, I expect."

"What's the point of being as powerful as you are and then just--"

"It's because... I am what I am that he wants me dead. Don't you see that?"

Weasley closed his mouth. He said, "You're as powerful as the Dark Lord? That's... Are you sure?"

"Yes," said Potter. He couldn't have said how he know, but he did.

"The has to be something we can do."

"We?"

"All right, I'll die quicker but... yes, we." Weasley smiled, "We know some good curses and they work for you."

"Curse the Dark Lord," Potter considered. "He'll be well guarded - I don't know. I'll think about it.

"Everyone's got to have a vulnerable spot." Weasley sounded hopeful.

Potter snorted. "I think you'll find that's dragons."

"Oh." Weasley looked taken aback. "Well, surely it has to apply to Dark Lords, too?"

"Have there been any other Dark Lords?"

"Grindelwald."

"He won," said Potter.

"But he's dead," Ron objected.

"Severus - Professor Snape - poisoned him for Voldemort."

Weasley gasped, "You named..."

"Yes, I do that from time to time. Sorry."

"So, Snape--"

"Poisoned Grindelwald for the Dark Lord. That's why he's stuck here, the Dark Lord needs a true Potions Master, but doesn't want him too close. Most of the rest of the masters - sad bastards that they are - have similar stories."

"Such as?"

Potter sat down again. "I hear things from the other maidens, the boys who share the masters' beds. The Headmaster's a failed enforcer, Sprout displeased the Dark Lord - something to do with an experiment that went wrong and ate someone he wanted to torture. McGonagall's quite powerful, but he's lost hope, a long time ago. Sinistra's a failed fortune teller - the Dark Lord killed any with pretensions to actually being able to see into the future."

"Who keeps Lupin in those splendid robes?" It sounded as if Weasley had been wondering this for some time.

"Black. He owns Lupin."

"That's sick."

"I know."

They sat in silence for some time. Then Weasley asked, "Won't Snape ask where you've been?"

"No. Why should he?"

"Bill told me that when he was with Sprout, he wanted to know where Bill was all the time."

"Snape's not like that. At least, not with me, I don't know what he was like with his other boys."

"Suppose not. Shouldn't think he'd dare." Weasley grinned, suddenly. "You know, if I were you I don't think I'd attend another lesson. I mean, who's going to punish you?"

Potter smiled. "I'd be a bad example."

"Anyone would think you were a Prefect - why aren't you?"

"The Headmaster suggested it, but Snape didn't want me to be."

"Seems weird, several of the maidens are."

"I know. I didn't want to, the idea of beating anyone turns my stomach. Even those who deserve it like Barnes and Chalfont - or Crabbe and Goyle. Just think what I might do to them if I really lost my temper."

**

The day of the visit came closer. The castle was given an unaccustomed clean, the spider webs were swept from the ceiling and the suits of armour polished to a high shine. Filch looked satisfied. He was tired, but clearly pleasedh soh something.

Most of the masters looked worried, even Snape seemed politely concerned. As Potter had seen him deal with an explosion in his workroom which reduced the table Longbottom was working on and those either side to cinders with no more than a raised eyebrow, that spoke volumes.

Black looked his usual self, pale and

silent, but Lupin's temper was balanced on a knife edge, as they discovered one day when he smacked Goyle around the head. Nobody said anything. Nobody dared.

**

Potter stood at his place at table with the other six form boys. They were waiting for the instruction to sit down and start their meal, but there was a tense waiting silence.

The door flew open with a crash, and the Dark Lord arrived. He walked up between the tables of waiting boys and stood in front of the Headmaster, who tried for a smile.

The Dark Lord said something and suddenly the Headmaster was on the floor, screaming. Potter surmised the Cruciatus curse. He'd never liked the Headmaster, and didn't feel particularly sorry for him, but Zabini - the boy who'd taken over from Diggory - went white, then green as the screaming went on.

The Dark Lord turned at last to the assembled boys, and the noise became a helpless sniffling. Potter felt nausea turn in his stomach, then gasped as pain arrowed in to the scar on his forehead. He bit his lip. The scar had hurt before from time to time, but never like this. He wanted to run but remained standing.

Potter knew the Dark Lord was looking for him, alone among the others, and he looked up. The Dark Lord made a curious noise, and the pain in Potter's scar peaked; it was beyond horrible. Potter kept on staring, and didn't move. He could feel the Dark Lord willing him closer, but stood still though he shook with the effort.

At last the Dark Lord dragged his eyes away, and Potter saw him turn to Snape. "You said nothing of this." The Dark Lord's voice was a strange hissing, and the pain in Potter's head rose again, sharply. Snape said nothing, he merely looked.

"Traitor! Crucio!" The Dark Lord pointed his wand, and Snape fell. He screamed once, and then again.

"Stop!" said Potter, from where he was standing.

He didn't think he'd spoken particularly loudly, but at once the Dark Lord turned. "So! The traitor's pup speaks."

"Leave him."

"Why?"

Stupid question, thought Potter. "He's mine," he said, aloud. The Dark Lord turned back to Snape. "You'll regret it," said Potter, surprised at the almost conversational tone of his voice. The Dark Lord didn't even get to the end of the curse. Before the word ended he had hit the back wall of the Great Hall and slid down. There was an absolute, horrified silence.

Potter walked up through the hall and past the tables of other boys to the high table, and stood, waiting. The Dark Lord stood, and pointed his wand. "Avada Kedavra," he said.

Potter raised his wand and held it across himself; somehow he knew what to do, it was as if he'd seen it done. But that was absurd. "Declinare!" he said. The wand deflected the spell towards the ceiling, which crashed down. It narrowly missed him and he winced.

The Dark Lord stared at him as if seeing him for the first time. "You!" he said.

Potter smiled. "You tried that once before and failed. It nearly killed you then." He had no idea where this knowledge came from, either. But he knew it was true, as true as his own name.

"You should bow before me!"

"Like the rest of the craven fools? No." Potter took a deep breath. "Make me die," he said. "There's nothing else you can make me do." He waited for the inevitable. It never came. The Dark Lord disapparated.

Potter felt himself start to fall and pulled himself up with an effort. He could feel a black tunnel waiting to suck him in but he fought it off. He could not collapse now, not in front of all these people. He looked around the Hall, suddenly feeling very young and very cold. He walked the length of the Hall in silence, the noise of his shoes echoing loudly.

Outside the doors he leaned with his back against the wall, then sat down, still using it as a support. He could see boots - Weasley was standing in front of him. Weasley said, "That... That was..."

"I think I'm going to be sick," Potter said.

"You made him run... You..."

"I am going to be sick," said Potter. And he was.

Despite this, Weasley continued to look impressed, "You threw him against a wall. I've never seen anything like it!"

"Nor will again," came Black's harsh voice. "Not now he knows Potter exists. Stupid boy, you were supposed to be a secret."

"For how much longer?" This was Lupin, Potter could hear the soft rustle of his silk robe - ze aze again today. "Here, take this." It was a cold cloth to wipe his face. "Can you walk?"

Potter nodded. The pain made him feel as if his head was about to fall off.

"Not without help, I'd imagine. Help me, Weasley. Sirius, can you go and see how Professor Snape and the Headmaster are doing, please?"

A few steps down the corridor, Potter said, "Severus?"

"He'll be fine," said Lupin. "The effects of the curse will wear off."

"I've ruined your robes."

"They'll clean. Don't worry about it."

Madam Pomfrey had beaten them to the infirmary and was waiting. "He must rest," she said.

"I know," said Lupin.

"Of course you do. How are you, Remus?"

"Oh. You know."

Potter sat down on the edge of a bed, feeling wretched. Despite this, he thought their exchange odd.

"If it's any consolation," Lupin started to help Potter with his robe, "I would imagine Voldemort feels as bad as you do."

"I sincerely hope so." Potter looked at him a little curiously. Lupin was the first person other than himself he'd ever heard use Voldemort's name, and he'd never done it before.

"Now we find out why very powerful wizards don't get on too well," Lupin went on. "I'll get you some clean robes."

"Thanks."

There was a noise at the door and Professor Black came in, with Snape leaning on him.

"Or maybe not," said Lupin.

"I'll find him something," said Madam Pomfrey. She handed Potter a fresh cloth, cold and wet.

"Good," said Snape. He sounded tired. "Because I don't want that...thing...in my rooms."

Potter saw Lupin flush slightly. Professor Black said, "Watch your mouth or I'll drop you where you stand."

"Stop. Both of you," said Potter, through gritted teeth. He put on the light nightshirt Madam Pomfrey had brought. He could still taste vomit, and he drank the water she offered him. He lay back and closed his eyes.

**

He woke up hours later. Night had fallen, but the room still seemed too light for him, he was used to the perfect blackness of Snape's dungeon and he woke instantly. Black and Lupin were still there, he could see their shapes in the room; he turned his head and saw Snape sitting up in the next bed. They had been talking, he was sure of it, but they stopped as soon as they saw he was awake.

Lupin came over, "How are you feeling?"

"Rough," said Potter. "But better than I was."

"You're not used to that kind of expenditure of power," Black came to stand beside Lupin.

"Dead right," Potter winced and sat up. He looked at the table beside the bed, "What are those?"

"Gifts from Weasley," said Lupin. "Quite safe, I checked."

"Ah! Oh, goodness, that's sweet," Potter coughed. The toffee was the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted, even Hagrid's offerings weren't like this. "Where did he get it from?"

"Probably better we don't ask." Lupin smiled.

"It's practically unadulterated sugar," said Snape. "I hope you weren't expecting to sleep."

"Not now." Potter looked across at Snape. It was hard to tell in the light, but he looked even paler than usual. "Are you all right?"

"I'll recover."

"Has...he...been back?"

"No," Black looked over from the window. "He'll think very carefully about returning to Hogwarts while you're here."

"And his followers? There are enough of them." Potter took another toffee.

"Yes, they are a problem," agreed Black.

"Is this... Is it why Malfoy was trying to make friends with me?"

"Malfoy?" Black looked puzzled. "I suppose it could have been."

"But you don't think it's likely?"

"No, I don't."

Snape spoke, "It would argue that either he or his father guessed who you are, and I don't see how--"

"But you knew. Didn't you?"

"Yes. Not immediately, but yes."

"And you?" Potter turned to Lupin and Black.

"I realised you were James' son, you will recall that detention. I didn't realise there was anything else, not for some time. Potter is not an unusual name, I had never met your mother and I didn't know your father that well."

"But you were at school with him."

"Yes," Lupin's voice was soft, bleak. "But I was kept apart from the other boys. The only one I came to know well was Sirius, and only then thorough a punishment he was given."

"A punishment?"

"Ah...Sirus thought it would be...amusing...to set the werewolf on...another boy. I only didn't kill because your father intervened. As a punishment Sirius was made to look after me for the rest of the year. 'Mucking out' they called it. Filch didn't much like it, you see. We didn't get on very well at first," Lupin's eyes flickered to Black. "But at the end of the year he refused to top. He said I'd got used to him. Which I had. Sort of."

Potter looked at Black, "And you?"

"I knew the moment I saw you." Black stopped. "No, I knew who you were, but not what you were. That I wasn't sure of, not until you cast the Imperius curse on that stupid boy Barnes."

"You never told me."

"What was I supposed to say? 'Did you know you're the most powerful wizard in the world and Voldemort's going to try to kill you?' That wouldn't have been very helpful, would it? Only scared you half to death."

Potter stared up into the pale eyes. "Is there anything else you're keeping from me for my own good?"

"Yes."

"I think you should tell me. Now."

"I'm your godfather."

"Oh," said Potter. "Wonderful."

"I thought you'd be pleased about that, since I'm a complete failure."

"I'll say," muttered Snape.

Black's look was murderous. "You're one of the reasons. I totally failed to keep you away from him you slimy, perverted--"

"At least my partner is fully human," pointed out Snape.

"Oh, shut up. Both of you," said Potter. "Severus hasn't hurt me, I wasn't exactly innocent when I went to him." He saw Black's expression. "Face it. You know what it's like here. You must do."

"Yes." Black answered the unasked question. "I wanted to protect you. I was afraid that if I paid attention to you Voldemort would work out who you were. I lost your father, I couldn't lose you."

"It's certainly a definition of protect which I find very interesting," said Snape.

"Besides," said Black, after a moment. "The last place Voldemort was g tog to look for his greatest enemy was in the bad of one of his closest supporters."

Potter smiled, grimly. "I doubt if he'll find that support all that convincing in the future, don't you? Looks as if I've rather burned Severus' boats for him."

**

"Oh," said Snape. "It's you." He was sitting behind his desk, fingers steepled.

"Whom were you expecting? Longbottom?" Potter entered the room.

"I didn't imagine you would want to... You're perfectly capable of looking after yourself."

"I know. I have been for years."

"I didn't think you realised."

Potter strolled over and looked down at Snape. "Why wouldn't I?"

"You have no need of me."

"Not for that, no. But I told you. I haven't needed that for a long time. And you have no need of a boy, I've known that for a long time, too. We are more to each other than that."

"Do you really think--"

"Yes, I do. Now, strip for me, Severus. I'm supposed to be at Quidditch in an hour and I really," he leaned down for a kiss, "really," another kiss, "want to fuck."

**

Lupin looked worse than Potter had ever seen him; he wondered that the man could stand let alone teach. His face looked bone white against the

dark burgundy of his robe.

Potter sat through Lupin's lesson on fire demons impatiently; as soon as it was over he went to the front. Lupin had sat down, and Potter could see his hand trembling slightly. "What's wrong?" Potter dispensed with preliminaries.

"The Dark Lord is compelling Sirius to sell me."

"To whom?"

"Lucius Malfoy."

"I thought young Malfoy was going about looking like the fox which got into the henhouse. Potter considered for a moment, "It's quite simple," he said. "You're not going."

"But--"

"Tell Sirius to refuse."

"I'm not worth provoking the Dark Lord over."

"Tell him," Potter knew his voice was sharp. "Better still, I will." Potter looked down at Lupin, who was shaking his head. "He made you kill again, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"That must stop."

"The Headmaster won't want me at the school."

"We'll manage something. In any case, I really don't much care what the Headmaster thinks or wants."

A door opened at the end of the room and a head came round it; it was Robert Godfrey, a first year. "Mr Lupin?"

"Get out," said Potter. The head disappeared.

"Are you sure you can manage?" Potter turned back.

"I can cope with first years. Have you thought of taking up teaching? You certainly scare the little sods half to death."

"I would be as bad as Severus. Only the very talented learn anything at all about Potions. Everyone else comes away with a lifelong terror of messing them up - which I suppose is his aim." He turned to go.

Lupin said, "Potter?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks."

"No need. You and Black would be disastrous apart. It would kill both of you, and probably take other people with you."

"You think so?"

"I know so."

**

"Where did you get this?" Snape looked at the book as if it migontaontaminate him.

"Library. Restricted section." Poter turned the page. "I'm right, aren't I? It's a potion which allows a werewolf to stay in its human mind during the transformation."

"Yes...in theory. But I don't think it would work." Snape looked to be reading down the ingredients and instructions, brow furrowed. "I don't think this can have been written down correctly. Well... Perhaps if--" He looked up. "Why am I bothering? I don't care what happens to that creature."

"Why do you hate him so much?"

"He's a murdering beast. Isn't that reason enough?"

"Have you...?" Potter stopped. "Have you ever seen him kill?"

"No."

"Then why?"

"You remember Lupin told you that Black set him on another boy?"

"Yes."

"It was me. Black would have killed me, and he would have used Lupin to do it."

"That's hardly Lupin's fault," said Potter.

"He was a handy tool. Too handy. Just as he is for Voldemort."

"But if he was made safe."

Snape scowled. "I'll see what I can do."

"I'm sure he'll be very grateful."

"I'm not doing it for him."

"And so will I be," said Potter, infusing his voice with lascivious meaning.

Snape looked at him, considering. "That wasn't what I meant, but I suppose it could be entertaining."

Potter dropped the act. "So what did you mean?"

"It occurs to me that there's everyone else to consider. Everyone around Hogwarts and Hogsmeade."

"You're..." Potter smiled at him, he was looking for the right phrase. "You're a good man."

Snape scowled, again. "Get out."

**

Everything in the office was very highly polished, wizarding credentials and awards hung on the walls and it looked to Potter as if Fudge was trying to assure himself of his ability, his worthiness for his position as Headmaster of Hogwarts. That didn't surprise Potter, he'd often wondered himself. Potter looked at the grey figure behind the desk. He couldn't remember a single previous occasion when the man had said two words to him, not even after his meeting with Voldemort. The Headmaster was looking down at his

desk, and seeing his gaze wasn't returned Potter looked round again at the certificates in their polished frames.

He grew bored with waiting and said, "Headmaster? You sent for me."

"Sit down, Potter."

Potter did so, and then waited.

The Headmaster looked uncomfortable, then he said, "Well, Potter--" He stopped.

Potter concentrated on looking politely enquiring. He didn't think it worked because the headmaster looked even more uncomfortable.

"About Mr Lupin--"

"Yes?" Potter was immediately on his guard.

"We don't think it's very wise that he stays he while he's--"

"We?"

"The governors and I."

Potter didn't know what he looked like but the Headmaster squirmed in his seat. "He's a very good teacher and in the normal course of events--"

"He's the best teacher you have," said Potter. "The only one who knows what he's doing."

The headmaster looked for a moment as if he might argue, but then obviously changed his mind.

Potter sighed, quietly. He occasionally wondered if Voldemort had this problem; it was almost impossible to get anyone to give them their real opinion. He supposed they were afraid he might get angry. But it didn't help him if he was never challenged. The only ones who seemed to understand were Snape, Lupin and possibly Black, though he rarely spoke.

"Do the governors include Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy?" Potter asked. He was careful to keep his tone conversational; he already knew that they did. The Headmaster said nothing. "I see," said Potter. "There's nothing you can do. I will not have Lupin exposed Voldemort, I think enough damage has been done."

The Headmaster took a deep breath. "You don't run this school, Potter."

"No. But I could, if I wanted," said Potter. "You will give way in this." He waited a moment, then said, "Is there anything else you wanted to discuss with me? No? Then I'll leave you to whatever it is that you do."

**

The fat lady let Potter into the Gryffindor common room and he looked around for Weasley Sextus. The first year, Godfrey, was cleaning the spaces out between his toes, and looked up with his mouth open in an absurd O of surprise.

"Where's Weasley?" he asked. "And don't do that with your wand, you'll take your foot off."

"I don't know, sir. Sorry, sir." Godfrey looked down at his feet.

"You don't need to call me that, I'm not a master. I'm not even a Prefect."

"I didn't even know you were a Gryffindor," said Godfrey. "I thought you were a teacher."

Potter had already tried the old Divination classroom in the tower and everywhere else he could think of that Weasley might be and he was running out of ideas. He was at something of a loss, not that he was going to display that to Godfrey. He left the common room and went to see Hagrid.

He found Hagrid digging the garden between his cottage and the Forbidden Forest. "All right?" Hagrid asked.

"Fine, thanks." Now he thought about it, Potter could add Hagrid to the pitifully short list of people who didn't seem to be afraid of him. "Are you busy?"

"Not so much that I can't stop and have a dish of tea wi' ye." Hagrid put down the fork, and headed back to the cottage. "Something worryin' ye? " Hagrid handed him the huge mug.

"The usual things." Potter took a swallow of tea. "Voldemort. Mr Lupin."

"I take it Lucius Malfoy isn't going to--"

"Not if I can help it," Potter said. "But I need... Lupin needs somewhere he'll be safe from other people, and they'll be safe from him."

"Not easy, no. Poor bastard." Hagrid cleared his throat. "How's Snape?"

This was unusual, Hagrid's disapproval had never waned and he rarely mentioned Snape. "His usual self. Why?"

"He looked a bit...bothered...when I saw him last, that's all."

"Oh. Thanks for letting me know."

"Mr Lupin, now. Let me think about it, and I'll see what I can find."

"Very well. Thanks Hagrid."

**

Snape did have that mildly

concerned look about him. Potter watched him from the door, and Snape looked up from the cauldron. His longish black hair was lank and looked damp.

"Potion not going well?" Potter asked.

"As well as can be expected given that I'm following a recipe translated from Latin into medieval French, then into Polish and finally back into Latin by a monk who might have known a lot about torture but nothing about Potions." Snape stirred the mixture slowly, and steam rose to wreathe around his head. "The thing that surprises me is that Lupin has agreed to drink it."

"I don't think death scares him."

"I would imagine not."

"Do you want help?" offered Potter.

"Not yours. Whatever else you are, you've no talent at Potions."

"Anyone would think you didn't love me." Potter grinned, widely.

"I'm not blind to your faults, if that's what you mean."

Potter turned the grin off and smiled to himself. Whatever else might be happening, Snape remained totally and completely himself. Perhaps it should have annoyed him, but it was actually a great comfort.

Potter watched for a while as Snape chopped and measured ingredients - for what he wasn't sure, he didn't seem to be adding any of them to the brew in the cauldron. Finally, he said, "I'm going to have to face him again, aren't I?" No need to say who 'he' was.

"Yes."

Potter's smile widened a little. Trust Snape, too, not to sugar-coat the truth. Potter said, "And one of us will die."

"Eventually."

"Is that what's worrying you?"

"You know me entirely too well." Snape didn't look up.

"We've been together for--"

"I know how long it is. You were...you are...entirely too young."

"For you for to face Voldemort." Potter leaned against the wall by the door.

"Both." Snape took a deep breath. "Your... Black's right. I corrupted you." It sounded as if he'd been thinking about this for a long time.

"You had help. Percy's, for a start. This school's. Black's." Potter stopped, then added more quietly. "Mine."

"What do you mean?" Snape now looked up.

"Percy recommended me to you. What I don't suppose he told you was that I knew he was going to. I knew what it would mean."

"Prostitution."

Potter raised an eyebrow, a habit he'd picked up from Snape himself. "Is that still worrying you? We got beyond that a long time ago." He sighed. "That's what we were. What we are is something quite different." He moved closer, and looked up into Snape's black eyes. "Do you really think you could force me now?"

Snape said, "No," softly against his lips.

The kiss deepened to the incendiary. Potter asked, "Is that mess safe to be left?"

"For the time being."

"Good. I wouldn't want to poison Lupin, whatever you might think of him."

**

They both sat up suddenly and with almost identical cries of pain. Potter's hand moved to his scar and Snape's to the mark on his arm. "At least I am no longer alone," said Potter.

"That is little comfort."

"What...do you think he's doing?"

"Killing someone, I think. Let's hope they don't suffer too long. Not like..."

"Not like last month when he put us through three days of this," said Potter, almost conversationally.

"I hadn't forgotten."

"You hadn't always--" Potter stopped and they both clenched their teeth on another wave of pain.

"Only since he decided I was a traitor. I knew it could be used for punishment, but he'd never...not to me, anyway."

Potter was curious, he asked, "Would you have chosen me if you'd known what...who... I was?"

"Yes," said Snape. "But I'd have enjoyed it more, being close to his enemy."

"You hate him as much as I do."

"More. I know him better."

"Why did you--" another gasp of pain from Potter, "join?"

"Didn't have a choice. Voldemort wasn't going to let the best Potions Master in Europe go free. Not when he needed him."

"But Black never joined."

"Voldemort didn't want him. I'everever known why. And hew was too late to get the werewolf; Black wouldn't sell then, and won't now. This isn't his firstemptempt to force Black to sell. They've always come up with something, but it always frightens Lupin beyond imagining. I would think it does Black, too, but he never says much." Snape sucked his breath in between his teeth. "Ah! Hurts. Sorry. Black and Lupin are very close."

Potter covered his scar with his hand again, and groaned, softly.

"Ah!" said Snape. He touched the Mark gingerly. "I think whoever it was has died."

"Yes," Potter looked up into the darkness. "I hate it. I hate longing for someone's death to stop the pain. How can I want someone to die just to release me?"

Snape lit at lamp with a wave of his wand, and took Potter by the shoulders. "Don't you imagine they want it even more than you? What you feel...what we feel...is nothing compared to the agony they must endure. Besides, even you have no more chance of speeding up their death than you do of making the Earth turn backwards. No matter how hard you wish."

Potter looked up into Snape's eyes. "You do understand."

"About what?"

"Guilt."

"I am as human as you."

"More," said Potter. "Sometimes I don't feel human at all."

"You're certainly more of a wizard than most of us."

"It frightens me. Whatever Voldemort is, I'm it too. And I don't want it. I just want to be normal."

"Normal? That was never going to happen. I don't think there's a place or time in which you could be normal." Snape sounded almost affectionate.

Potter closed his eyes and slept.

**

"Did it work?" Potter stopped Professor Black.

"Yes. Surprisingly it did."

"Why surprisingly?" Snape sounded annoyed.

"You wouldn't appreciate it if I cast an untested spell on your--"

"It would bounce off," Snape cut in. "If Voldemort's curses bounce off, I should imagine yours will."

"Shall we test it?" Black produced his wand. "Are you game, Potter?"

"No," said Potter. "Besides, you know hexes work on me."

Snape looked at him quizzically. "Interesting," he said.

"Why?"

Snape just shrugged his robe more securely round his shoulders and strode off with it flowing behind him.

Potter watched appreciatively, then as soon as he was out of sight turned back to Black. "How is Mr Lupin?"

"You want to see?"

The rooms hadn't changed from Potter's last visit two years before; the piles of books had moved around a bit, that was all.

Lupin's bedroom was beautiful as the other room he'd seen, a huge four poster with heavily decorated hangings and a canopy of green and gold. Lupin himself was sitting up, a heavy book in his hands.

"A visitor for you," Black said.

Lupin looked up, "Oh! Harry. How kind--"

Black went on, "You were supposed to be resting."

"I am," said Lupin. "I've read this before."

Harry smiled, "How are you?"

Lupin put his book aside. "Surprised. Sit down, please. I've never spent a night as a wolf in my own mind before and it wasn't at all what I was expecting."

"Was it really horrible?"

"No," Lupin smiled. "I can remember things; normally all I have are confused impressions of blood and screaming. The transformation was no less painful, though. Hence--" he indicated the bed.

Black had gone out and now came back with a tray. "Tea," he said, unnecessarily. He put the tray down. "Stay there," he said as Lupin started to push himself upright. "I'll help."

"I'm not as bad as I usually am," Lupin protested. "I can manage."

Black insisted and Potter noticed how practised he was. "He's always like this," said Black. "Well, normally he's worse, it's true. Can hardly move at all. Better?" He said to Lupin once he was sitting up straight. He handed Lupin his tea. "You'll warn me if you're about to drop it?"

"Yes, of course. Don't worry, Sirius." Lupin sipped his tea. "Voldemort is

still trying to force my sale to Malfoy."

"So I understand. He won't succeed - and if he does we'll find someone to buy you out from under him."

Black smiled, not itself an entirely comforting sight. "Like who? Snape can't afford it, the pay here's a pittance and Merlin only knows what happened to your money."

"My money?" Potter was puzzled. "What do you mean?" He and Lupin exchanged glances, it seemed he knew no more than Potter did.

"Your father was well off. Not filthy rich like Voldemort but--"

"Or like you?"

"Me? James was better off than me."

Potter had thought that nothing to surprise him. It seemed he'd been wrong. "Did Voldemort take it?" The most immediate question forced its way to the top of the pile.

"I wouldn't imagine so - not unless he was named as your father's heir and had the key to his vault. Goblins are strange beasts, and not necessarily under his thumb. I told them myself that you were the heir, but I never had the key and I don't know who did. I expect it was destroyed or lost when Voldemort blew the house apart."

"So where is this money?"

"Gringotts."

"Oh. Oh yes, I have been there. Hagrid took me before I came here first. Great big place."

"That's the one. Why did Hagrid take you?"

"Uncle Vernon - that's my Muggle Uncle - said he didn't care where I went to school as long as he never had to have me back. I nearly killed my cousin - set a snake on him in London zoo. At least, he said I did. Really, it told me it wanted to get out and then the glass disappeared and..." Potter could see them both staring at him. "Sorry. The snake incident wasn't one of my finest moments."

"You said the snake talked to you," said Black.

"Yes."

"What did it say?"

"'Thanks, friend. Brazil, here I come.' Why are you looking like that? I bet lots of people can do it."

"Not at all, it's a very uncommon gift. In fact I only know of one other."

"Voldemort," said Potter. He was conscious of a sickened, sinking feeling.

"Yes."

"I don't want to be like him," said Potter. "The morfindfind out, the more I..." He didn't know how to continue.

"I can only imagine," said Lupin in his soft, hoarse voice.

**


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