Potions and Snitches
Snape and Harry Gen Fanfiction Archive

Chapter 3: Falling Into Fate

He found the boy at last on the roof of the Astronomy tower, with Granger’s hideous ginger cat in his lap and a phoenix on his shoulder. Fawkes had always been fond of Potter, inordinately so. But considering just how much the kid got himself into, perhaps having a phoenix looking after him was the best Albus could do.

“Professor,” Harry murmured in greeting as Severus stepped out onto the roof cautiously and sat down next to him. “Afraid of heights?”

“I was never at home in the skies, the way you are,” Snape admitted. “I am sure you heard how Longbottom finally found his magic?” he asked, after a moment.

“Yeah. Dropped out a window by a bloody bunch of idiots.”

“It’s a tried and true method of magical testing, for pureblooded children, if one takes the necessary precautions. But I was only three when my father did the same to me . . . and there wasn’t anyone waiting to catch me at the end of the drop if my magic didn’t kick in.”

Harry was silent for a long moment. “Bit of a bastard, your father.” He reached into a pocket of his robes and withdrew a pack of cigarettes, offering one to Snape, who growled.

“There’s no cure for cancer, even in the magical world,” Severus said, harshly, and Harry shrugged.

“If Voldemort doesn’t kill me, one of his followers will, long before my bad habits catch up with me.” Harry held the cigarette between his fingers, unlit, as he looked out over the sleeping castle and the grounds beyond. “Most children, even when they’re very young, have this . . . this notion of what they’d like to be when they grow up. By this point in our lives, we’re expected to know for sure, at least in a general sense. But even now, I can’t imagine life as a adult, can’t picture myself as anything, really. And I wonder if that’s because, in a way, I’ve known all my life that I won’t have to make that decision. That I won’t live long enough to need to.”

“That’s . . morbid.”

“But accurate, wouldn’t you say?” Harry countered, touching the cigarette briefly to Fawkes’ feathers and smiling faintly as it lit.

“Not necessarily. Not unless you wished it.”

“It’s never been about what I wanted, Sev. Just about what the rest of you wanted from me.” Harry paused. “Perhaps it’s best that way. Better me than someone else, to be sure.”

“You haven’t done anything worthy of death, Harry. Take it from someone who knows.”

“Then why they haunt me still?”

Severus didn’t answer. He didn’t have one. “Brandy?” he said at last, producing a pair of glasses and a bottle.

“Sure.”

***********

Harry opened his eyes and stared blearily at the ceiling . . . closed them again as the dim light sent pain spiking through his skull. “Shit.”

“You look it,” Snape said from somewhere to his left. Harry wasn’t about to open his eyes to check for sure. He heard Snape’s soft snort of disdain, followed by a murmured, “Nox.” Then: “You really shouldn’t drink, Potter. ‘S bad for you.”

“You offered,” Harry protested, tenatively opening his eyes again. The only light poured from beneath a closed door down the hallway, and he sighed in relief. He couldn’t rouse himself enough to put any coherent thought into determining where he was. “I’d be right enough too if you’d give me a bit of that hangover potion you make for Pomphrey.”

“And if I don’t happen to keep any in my private quarters?”

“First, you’re a fucking hypocrite, or a masochist, one. Second, you’re a damned, lying, heartless bastard to deny a dying man his cure,” Harry retorted without a pause, taking the news that he was currently ensconced in Snape’s rooms in stride.

“And it would be difficult to explain to the headmaster just why your dead body was found in my quarters,” Snape admitted, dangling a tiny glass vial over Harry’s face.

“Just hand it to me,” Harry muttered, cradling his head in his hands. “If I let go of my head, it might well fall off.”

“You’re a terrible drunk, Potter.” Snape pushed the little bottle into his hands, watched in silence as the boy gulped down the green potion it contained. “Harry,” he said, more gently, “Dumbledore’s arranged Tonks’ funeral for Saturday.” He saw the boy wince, and fought down his own sense of grief. “He’ll allow you to go.”

“Well, that’s big of him.”

“He didn’t have to make the offer.”

“She didn’t have to die, Severus.” Harry turned, and Snape read in his eyes a maturity a boy of sixteen should never have to possess. The inappropriateness of the familiar address never registered; it was an adult looking back at him, not a student. . . not a child. “I was there. I could have saved her. I should have.”

“Did you try?” Snape asked levelly, and Harry glared at him.

“Damn you, you know I did!”

“Then you did all you could. It’s not possible.”

“It has to be!”

“Why? Because you’re the omnipotent Harry Potter? That excuse just doesn’t fly anymore. You’re not God. They’re not dying for you! They are dying because they believe the Dark Lord is wrong. This war began before you were even born, and will in all likelihood continue long after you and I and all of us are dead and forgotten. It’s not about you, or him, or some prophecy made by a washed-up, pathetic excuse for a Seer! It’s about the very basic difference between Light and Dark, good and evil, and nothing you can say or do will ever change the way the world works.”

Harry was silent for a long moment. And when he looked up at Snape, his green eyes were suspiciously blank. “He’s going to kill me. I know that. And I can’t bring myself to care.”

“Believe that, Potter, and you will die the next time you face him – and that will be sooner than any of us would wish, I suspect.”

“What would you have me do? The connection between us is strong . . . more than it ever was. Each time I have a vision, it feels as though he forced more of his evil into me. I’m not a good person, Severus. I lost my faith in humanity early; the Dursleys taught me that. And every night, I watch his victims die, and it’s worse now than it ever was before, because it feels as if I could help them . . . if I only wanted it enough. I’m afraid of him, Sev. Not of what he can do to me physically – my mind would shatter before he broke my body to pieces, and I would die hating him long before I stopped breathing. I would escape him before he wished to grant me the release of death, and count myself lucky for it. But I am so afraid that if I stood before him, hating him this much, he could turn me into what he is. And I would rather die by my own hand . . .” Harry paused, considered. “I have thought of that,” he admitted. “The bond between us kept him alive when he was little but a spirit. My blood brought him back to life. I’ve wondered since my fourth year if he would die when I did.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Snape muttered, but there was little conviction in his words . . . only pain, and a compassion he’d believed he no longer had.

“Is it? He’s had a dozen chances to kill me already, and yet he hesitates, each time. Why, Sev? Why does he balk, when if that prophecy is true, I am the only true threat to him?”

“He doesn’t know the prophecy.”

“He knows there is one, and more than that, he hates me. It’s the only genuine emotion I’ve ever seen in him. It would be easy to kill me, if only because his hatred of me overrules his better judgment. And yet, if I tried it, and I was wrong, he would become immortal in a very real sense.”

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Snape nodded his agreement.

“Yeah.” Harry looked at his watch, and with an apologetic smile, turned to go. He paused in the doorway. “I was damned from the moment I was born, Professor. I don’t expect salvation . . . he shares my soul, and my only consolation is that I will drag him to hell with me. One way or another.” And in a swish of black fabric, he was gone.

**********

“Harry, where were you last night?” Hermione demanded, tapping at his shoulder to retain his attention. She and Ron had waited up all night for him, only to have him come slinking in at dawn, looking so exhausted and haggard she doubted he’d slept at all. It wasn’t a rare occurrence; he’d pulled an all-nighter like this one before. But she’d never seen him look quite so . . . beaten.

“Tonks is dead, ‘Mione.”

“Tonks?” Ron sat up, shifting from half-dozing to full alertness at the flat statement. “How . .”

“Another vision?” Hermione asked, stroking Harry’s arm, trying to soothe his anger, and somehow ease the pain.

“Yes. I knew she was dying, and yet . . . They found her too late, and I sat beside her in the Infirmary last night, held her hand as she died. And somehow, I thought each death would hurt a little less. But it doesn’t.” Harry knew his teeth were chattering, his chin quivering as he fought back the tears. The alcohol had spared him this last night, and he knew it was better that he faced it now, with the bright light of morning making it feel like little more than a horrific dream. Snape had given him time, but the wounds had only been cauterized . . not healed. He bit down on his lower lip so hard he broke the skin in a futile effort to hide his weakness. They didn’t need that from him. For an instant he was sure it had worked; the pain centered him, held him steady even as it felt like he was falling apart.

He swallowed hard, and the metallic taste in his mouth made him gag as he recalled Voldemort’s laughter -- his laughter – as the auror’s blood splattered his face. His mind was no longer than secure haven it had once been, not since his empathic gifts had become readily apparent during his training with Snape. He was dying inside, little by little . . . and there were days when he woke with blood on his hands, and no real explanation for how it got there. There were nights when the screams of the damned and dying nearly drove him mad. But he hid it, and if every now and then it all became too much, no one ever saw the scars.

“Oh, Harry.”

He permitted her touch because he felt she needed it, not because it offered him any comfort. Hermione was a tactile, loving individual; she would never understand the kind of life that made him flinch away from human contact. He hoped she would never have to. Ironic, that he wouldn’t wish this life on his worst enemy, when Voldemort had already lived it.

“It’ll be alright, mate,” said Ron awkwardly. “Someday.”

“Why me?” Harry asked, despondently, and Ron smiled wryly.

“Because you’re . . . . you’re Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived.”

“Well, nobody bloody asked me if I wanted my mum to sacrifice herself for me, did they?”

No one replied to that. In silence they settled down again – Ron stretching full length on one of the couchs, Hermione swaying slightly in a rocking chair, Harry sprawled out on his stomach in front of the fire. Maybe there was no answer to that. Only the silent tears of a boy who’d been taught not to cry, and the soft sobs of an auburn angel.

**********

Harry didn’t look up as the shadow fell over him and the Gryffindor table – ever boisterous – went uncharacterically silent in anticipation of the coming explosion. Any occasion Draco Malfoy took to make his presence known to the Gryffindors in so obvious a venue as the Great Hall carried with it the potential for one hell of a duel, and there wasn’t a student present who would miss it.

“Malfoy.” Harry offered the off-hand greeting without looking up from the Daily Prophet. When Draco didn’t respond, Harry dropped the paper on the table and turned around, looking up at the other boy with a hint of exasperation. “Can I help you with something? Like, I don’t know, getting your father out of prison, perhaps? No, wait. I put him there, that’s right. Sorry ‘bout that, by the way. Wouldn’t want you to have to muddle your way through school without daddy dictating your every move.” Harry frowned. “You can think, can’t you?” he said in apparent interest, as Draco’s face flushed with fury. “On your own, I mean. But then, you have Voldemort to tell you what to do, now. I will tell you, Malfoy, you aren’t going to make a very good Death Eater. Your father wasn’t either. Must run in the family, hmm?” Without waiting for Malfoy’s answer, he resumed perusing the paper.

“You will pay for what you did to my father. He won’t stay in Azkaban for long. The Dark Lord will reward his loyalty.”

Harry paused, folded the newpaper carefully and handed it over to Hermione, murmuring a brief prayer of thanks that Ron hadn’t come downstairs yet. His best friend’s violatile temper would only have made this worse. “Has it ever occurred to you, Malfoy, to wonder just who Voldemort was before he became an evil bastard?”

“He is the only heir to our Lord Slytherin,” Draco answered, and despite himself, he was curious to know just what Potter thought he was getting at.

“True enough. But to be perfectly honest, your master is nothing more than a half-blood Slytherin boy who grew up in an orphanage and decided to fuck over the world when he grew up because his childhood sucked. He’s just an egotistical, self-proclaimed lord of nothing who happens to have a certain theatrical flair and a gift for the Unforgiveables. He’s nothing special. He’s suckered you into believing he is, that’s all.”

Snape, listening from his seat beside the headmaster’s, had the odd and almost uncontrollable urge to applaude Potter’s clearheadedness. It staggered him, to hear the Dark Lord so ruthlessly slandered and brought down to the status of merely mortal by the biting words and keen wit of a sixteen-year-old boy. He looked at Malfoy, and felt a flicker of pity for the confusion and outrage on the boy’s face. Draco would learn the hard way that Potter was right, but perhaps Potter’s forthright analysis of Voldemort’s failings would make a least a few of his Slytherins rethink their decision to join their parents in Voldemort’s ranks. With the faintest of smiles playing about his lips, he leaned back in his seat to watch the confrontation. “Get ‘im, Potter,” he murmured beneath his breath, and his grin only widened when Minerva glanced at him in bemused surprise at his words.

“He’ll get you for that,” Draco hissed in his most malevolent manner, blinking in surprise when Harry laughed.

“Oh, yeah, I can just see the headlines now – ‘Voldemort sues Boy-Who-Lived for slander’. Merlin, Malfoy, where have you been? Your master would like nothing more than to kill me. I’d happily return the favor, myself. I’m pretty sure he knows I think he’s a slimeball, and a bit mad besides. Matter of fact, I don’t think he cared, and the feeling is more than mutual. And,” he added with a glance at his watch, “I’m about to be late for Transfiguration. I believe we’re learning human to animal transformations today. So, ferret, I believe I’ll be on my way.”

Potter grabbed his bag off the floor and rose, stepping past Draco, headed for the stairs.

“I heard your godfather screamed like a girl as he fell through the veil.”

Severus was moving before the words even fully registered, desperate to keep Harry from doing something he likely wouldn’t regret later. He knew what Potter was capable of, now. After several months of intensive one-on-one training in the Chamber of Secrets, Snape was quite certain that Harry could take down the average Death Eater with very little difficulty. Merlin knows he wasn’t sure how much more he could teach the boy. Potter was matching him curse for curse now in their duels; the boy’s natural apititude for magic and seeker’s reflexes made him an incredible opponent. But if Potter crucio-ed Draco in the middle of the Great Hall, there would be hell to pay for both of them.

Harry went for Draco with fire blazing in his eyes, but he never quite forgot where he was, and who was watching. His first punch broke the Slytherin boy’s nose and sent him sprawling on the floor, scrambling to get away. The Gryffindor table was closest, but not a man moved as Harry grabbed Malfoy by the collar of his robes and slammed him up against the wall.

“You are out of your league,” Harry said in a deadly snarl.

“My father will—”

“Your father will die in Azkaban, because he is guilty as sin and probably already mad. I’d wager that someday, sooner than you think, Fudge will tire of the escape attempts, and just have the whole lot of them Kissed. And when that dementor comes for Lucius . . .” Harry’s eyes nearly glowed with malice and anticipation – “When they stand over him and prepare to feast on his black soul, it’ll be his turn to scream. And there won’t be a person in the world, ‘cept you, who cares.”

“Potter!” Snape’s roar of rage echoed through the room. Harry winced as he saw the Potions Master bearing down on him, but didn’t say a word as he was dragged out of the hall past a staring and befuddled Ron, and down toward the dungeons and Snape’s private lair.

“What was that about?” Ron asked the room at large as he sat down in Harry’s place at the Gryffindor table.

“Harry’s opinion of You-Know-Who,” Seamus said.

“Well, then.” Ron considered that.

“And he broke Malfoy’s nose, too,” Dean added with a hint of wistful humor, watching as Draco was led upstairs to the infirmary by a remarkably brusque Madam Pomfrey.

“That’s alright then,” Ron said agreeably, and the rest of dinner passed without further incident.

**********

Remus Lupin was cursing the moon as he staggered downstairs, toward the Great Hall. Not that this was an unusual state of affairs; it was perfectly normal for Remus to spend much of his forced stay in the hospital wing after a transformation cursing said astral body. It was a familiar ritual, and in times like these, he found a certain comfort in it. But this Change had been difficult – the stress, he supposed. But when Voldemort was prowling the streets with his little pack of cutthroat killers, he doubted anyone was sleeping well.

His keen hearing caught the faint sound of voices outside the Hall, and frowned in slight puzzlement as he recognized them as belonging to Severus and Harry. “Damn,” he murmured, quickened his step in instinctive response to the sound of his pup in danger. He smiled wryly as he realized the way he’d phrased the thought, but thanked God that the wolf inside him had seemingly obeyed his own familial feelings for Harry and accepted the boy as pack, both through Prongs and Padfoot. Not, of course, that he would ever deliberately pit that pack instinct against the werewolf’s hate for humans, but it was reassuring just the same.

“Snape, damn you to the darkest depths of Hell,” Remus snarled as he rounded the corner and found himself face to face with the object of his displeasure. He noticed Harry’s eyes widening, in response to his cursing, he supposed, but he couldn’t help it. He was feeling surly, and exhausted, and downright wolfish yet, and it seemed to him that every time he turned around Harry was in trouble again, in detention with the Potions master. Poor kid probably never had a free moment, between classes and Snape the Slimeball and Voldemort-induced dreams, and Remus personally thought it sucked. Bad enough that Harry had been told about the prophecy – and Dumbledore had taken some flak from damn near everyone who knew ‘bout that – and been forced to take advanced DADA lessons all summer, in Sirius’s house no less. By Merlin, the kid shouldn’t have to deal with unfairly biased professors too, and frankly, Lupin was through with Snape’s irrational disdain for Harry. He’d ignored it, or gently interfered and drawn Severus’s fire, up to now. But he’d had enough.

He opened his mouth to let loose with a tirade that would have Snape’s ears ringing for a week, when he noticed the amused glance Harry sent Snape’s way. It wasn’t the cruel humor Remus expected, of the ‘nah, nah, nah, nah, nah’ variety, but felt more friendly than that, as if he expected Snape to join him in the joke. And Remus shut his mouth with an audible click. “What in hell is up with you?” he demanded, glaring at first one, then the other.

Harry was struggling not to laugh. It wasn’t necessarily a good situation, per say – Snape had really wanted to hang on to his badass, Potter-hating reputation for a bit longer at least. But Remus was a member of the Order, and therefore privy to all kinds of ultra-top-secret information already. And Moony knew him extremely well, could read him as well or better than Ron or even Hermione. Perceptive, Remus was, and Snape knew it too. That, he expected, and the realization that they had to tell someone what they’d been doing before Harry actually marched out the door to go duel Voldemort, was the reason Snape didn’t fight it, but instead conceded with relative grace.

“Potter.” Snape sighed, ran a hand through his hair. “Never try to lie to the Dark Lord; he’ll see right through you.”

“Right,” Harry agreed. “Didn’t figure on talking to him a whole helluva lot anyway, but thanks for the advice.” But that dark reminder of his reasons for these private lessons sobered him, and it was with a solemn expression that he turned to Lupin. “Moony, who can you think of, other than me, who truly understands and has spend some time in Voldemort’s presence?”

“Maybe you should start from the beginning,” Remus suggested, but the light was already dawning.

“Excellent place to begin,” said Snape blandly.

“It’s simple, really,” Harry began, taking a deep breath. He really didn’t think Remus was going to like this. “I have to kill him – Voldemort. At least destroy his body, if not his soul. But I can’t exactly do that with the spells I’ve learned up to now; they’re no good for dueling, not in a life or death situation. And if I intend to try to destroy him entirely, black soul and all, I needed help. Someone who wouldn’t give me away, who knew Voldemort even better than I did . . . who no one would suspect. I’ve beeen training with Snape for months now, in everything from dueling to Occlumency to the Dark Arts.” Harry paused, met Lupin’s eyes steadily. “I don’t know if I can kill him, Remus,” he said, very softly. “But I am damn sure going to try.”

“Merlin, Harry . . . I know Albus mentioned that prophecy to you, but . . . I didn’t think you’d take it so literally, so fast. And if . . if you were going to come to one of us for help, why not Minerva, or Albus, or me? You’re already dealing with one devil on quite a regular basis. You really don’t need another.”

“McGonagall would never have taken me seriously. You . . . I’m not sure you would have found it in you, Remus, to teach me, knowing all the while that at the end of that training, you’d be sending me out to die. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Dumbledore and I have parted ways – in many things.”

“I noticed,” Lupin admitted. “I thought the rift between you would heal, if not of its own accord, then out of a mutual desire to see Voldemort defeated.”

“Defeated,” sneered Harry. “Dead, you mean. Don’t pretty it up, Remus. We both want him dead . . . you just try to make it sound better. Dumbledore, perhaps, believes there is something of the boy he was in Voldemort still . . I don’t care. Tom Riddle made his choices, and there can be no salvation for the man he became. Either he lives, or I do. There are no other options.”

“Potter, do you always have to be so damn dramatic?” Severus asked, wavering between disapproval and amusement.

“I have to be honest. My chances of survival aren’t good even here, and the very castle itself looks after me. I was dead the moment that prophecy was made . . . I’m just living on borrowed time.”

“Jesus.” Remus turned away, sickened by the calm rationality in his pup’s words.

“I could lie to you, Remus. And for all that Sev isn’t reacting, he cares.” Harry smiled faintly when Snape snorted but didn’t protest. “But it thought it would better for all of us if I made it clear from the beginning that I don’t expect to survive my next meeting with Voldemort. Even if I did . . . what kind of life would I have, living away from everyone I knew, unable to be part of this world for fear of the remaining Death Eaters. I won’t live like that. I won’t try.”


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