I got horribly sick, so I'm behind in everything. I most likely won't be able to post again until February.
“How is Dimitri?” Hermione slipped into the lift just as Harry hit the button.
“Fine,” said Harry. “A healing salve was all he needed.” He hated lying to Hermione. He was terrible at it.
Hermione fixed her eyes solidly on Harry’s. Not a good sign. “When I saw him as Snape, the resemblance was quite uncanny.”
“That’s why we had him do it,” said Harry, wishing the flat moved faster.
“Did he know Hadrian?”
If she didn’t know, she heavily suspected. She was too clever not to figure it out. “He knew of him, but I didn’t ask if they knew each other personally. It’s a small town and I didn’t want to seem too interested in Hadrian.”
“Does he plan to return to Kavala?” She sounded a bit too concerned to consider Dimitri just a potential date.
“I don’t know,” said Harry honestly. “If he leaves, I’m not going to chase him. If he stays... We’ll see what happens.”
Hermione reached over and squeezed his hand. “If you need help with anything, just let us know.”
She knew. Relief. Terror. Happiness. A million emotions seemed to crash into Harry at once. Hermione knew and she wasn’t looking him with disgust. Just cautious optimism. “Don’t say anything,” he warned.
“I know,” she answered with a touch of annoyance.
They stepped off the flat and walked into the room where the other members of Dumbledore’s Army who’d been in the fight milled about.
Luna wandered over to Harry. “Is Professor Snape okay?”
“His name is Dimitri,” Hermione corrected.
She tilted her head to the side, her large eyes examining Harry instead of Hermione. “Is that what he calls himself now?”
“Yes,” said Harry, knowing that if she told others, most of them wouldn’t believe her.
“Oi! Harry! Where was the fight?” George called across the room. “There was nothing there by the time we arrived.”
Harry crossed the room to hug him. He’d been so concerned with Severus, he hadn’t had the time to greet his old friend. It had been too long. “They didn’t stand a chance once you arrived. I should hire the lot of you as emergency Aurors.”
“Couldn’t afford the pay,” joked Neville. He’d recently left the Auror Department to join the Hogwarts staff.
As much as Harry wanted to stay and chat with everyone, he needed to get those ingredients for Severus. “I have to finish up some paperwork. Does anyone want to grab dinner later?”
“Some of us have to work tomorrow,” said Ginny with a smile.
“Today,” George corrected with a glance at his watch.
“Why don’t we plan something for Saturday?” suggested Hermione, already pulling out her planner. After a bit of debate, they settled on Sunday afternoon. Harry readily agreed to it, then left as soon as he thought he could get away cleanly. Since he was still disguised as Ben, he didn’t bother with glamours as he took the Floo over to Diagon Alley and bought everything on the shopping list. He threw in a few random ingredients as well, although he couldn’t imagine anyone learning much from the list.
Eager to get back to Severus, he Apparated back to Ben’s flat, even though Apparition was known to affect the quality of some potions ingredients. He stepped out of the fireplace to find the place spotless. Severus had cleaned up the remains of the chair, removing the black smudge from the floor. The notes that had been scattered over the kitchen had been folded, sorted, and placed neatly on Harry’s desk in his office. Severus had separated out his newest additions, which had been set on Harry’s chair as if ready for review. For a temporary roommate, Severus hadn’t been bad at all.
Harry walked down the hall to the guest room, only to find the door shut. Softly, he knocked. No answer. That didn’t mean much. He tried again, with the same results. Should he insist on entering in case Severus needed help? Severus had said that he needed rest. He was an adult. If he needed help, he would ask for it. Harry had absolutely no need to intrude upon him. Setting the potion ingredients down by the door, he turned and walked up the hall.
He’d got nearly halfway to his room when curiosity and fear for Severus’s health got the better of him. Returning to Severus’s room, he pressed his hands against the door and felt for wards. Strong. Powerful. He’d got quite good at ward-breaking, but he couldn’t get through these. Not on his own.
The house-elf popped into the hallway. “Yes, Master Harry?”
Harry picked up the potions supplies. “Take me in there.” He nodded to the room. If Kreacher couldn’t get in, no one could.
Kreacher clasped Harry’s hand with his small, cold fingers. One second they were in the hall, the next second they stood in complete darkness.
“Lumos.” Light burst from the tip of Harry’s wand and spread across the room, nearly filling the small space. “That will be all, Kreacher,” said Harry softly. “Thank you.”
Kreacher bowed and vanished.
Harry half-expected Severus to pop out of the darkness and grab him at any second. He crept close to the bed, where Severus lay face down, the blankets pulled up to just below his armpits. Certain that Severus would wake at any second, Harry stood for several minutes, just waiting for him to move. When, after what seemed like forever, Severus did nothing but breathe evenly and deeply, Harry crept a bit closer to the bed for a better look.
He was topless. His colour had returned and the darker skin tone helped hide the scars, but not the one Nagini had given him, or the one he’d received when he’d hurried back to protect Harry from Avery. The tip of that emerged from the blanket, an angry swath of wrinkled flesh.
Harry’d never seen Severus sleep. After all the hours they’d spent together, after all the intimacy, he still couldn’t help but feel that he was intruding on something incredibly private. He’d bet good money that no one had seen Severus sleep for years. Maybe even decades.
Severus twitched slightly. Harry’s heart flipped; half out of fear and half out of tenderness. When he slept, Severus was almost.... Not cute. Severus Snape would never be cute. But he looked gentle, vulnerable, like someone who needed protection. It was a reminder that, despite how invincible he sometimes seemed, he was human after all, and he needed Harry’s help.
Harry set the potion supplies by the end of the bed. Severus could bugger off if he disapproved of Harry being in his room. After all his invasions of Harry’s privacy, he had no right to object. Harry glanced around the room, the familiar thrill of being somewhere forbidden rising in him quickly. A neat stack of papers rested on the small table near a plush chair.
Sitting down, Harry shifted through them. In his hands he held a collection of maps, along with Muggle and wizard real estate ads. Severus had marked properties for sale, not rent. He didn’t seem to care if he purchased a flat or house, just that it was small, in a quiet neighborhood, and in one of the locations he’d marked on the maps. Although Harry hadn’t expected Severus to permanently live with him, the papers sent his heart sinking. He was being stupid. He should be glad that Severus had decided to make a home nearby instead of running off to yet another country. Two very opinionated men in a three bedroom flat wasn’t ideal, even without all the complications between them. Maybe he should offer up Grimmauld Place. Kreacher would enjoy the company, and it was located in one of Severus’s preferred areas.
Underneath the real estate papers were Severus’s notes on the Death Eaters. Harry had already read through most of it, so he set it back and set about exploring what Severus had placed in the dressers. Clothes. Potions. Nothing out of the ordinary. Harry was about to open the cupboard when he noticed Severus’s robe thrown over the chair near the bed. Had he remembered to recast the spell designed to keep others from snooping through his clothing?
Harry tiptoed over, grabbed the robe, then escaped back to the other side of the room. He spread it flat on the floor, then slowly ran his hands over the cloth, searching for magical and Muggle pockets. He emptied them out one by one, finding a vast quantity of potion bottles and a few magical devices. Maps and language books rested in one pocket, while specimens stored in jars and vials filled another. He’d just finished emptying potions from the pocket over the breast when his fingertips brushed against something magical in the cloth. A hidden pocket. He had to cut the fabric to get inside. Wizard space. He withdrew a small, flat piece of wood that barely fit in the palm of his hand. The Hogwarts Crest had been carved into one side and, on the other, was a phrase in a language Harry couldn’t read. To the untrained eye, it appeared to only be a plaque, but it hummed with magic. Instinct told Harry it was a box and could open.
Although he doubted it would work, Harry started with the basic opening spells. None of them worked on the box. Holding it inches from his lips, Harry whispered, “Lily Evans.” A loud click echoed in the room and the wood split down the length, revealing wizard space inside.
Really? After all these years, he still wasn’t over her? It had been long enough. His heart heavy, Harry turned the box over and shook it hard enough to dislodge the contents. A picture fluttered to the carpet and Harry picked it up, his stomach churning because the last thing he wanted to see was more proof of Snape’s obsession with his mother.
It wasn’t Lily, it was Severus’s mum. Eileen Prince, dressed in Slytherin school robes, smiled brightly at the photographer. From her age and the bounce in her steps, Harry guessed the photo had been taken the day she graduated from Hogwarts. She’d been a sad, sullen girl and woman in every other depiction of her Harry had ever seen. In this, she was vibrant and, although not the type of girl normally called beautiful, she had her own charm.
Setting the photo to the side, Harry sorted through the rest of the box’s contents. Stones, a few fascinating seashells, and odd trinkets probably representing years of travel and countries visited. A magical pocket watch stood out amongst the others. Old and worn, the initials E.N.P. had been carved into the back. Eileen Prince? Attached to the chain of the watch were tarnished cufflinks. Had they belonged to Tobias? Harry didn’t have to imagine the difficulties of growing up with a father like Tobias. He’d experienced some of it himself with the Dursleys.
Not satisfied with what he’d found so far, he stuck his hand back in the box and felt around to make sure he’d seen everything. His fingers brushed against sheets of paper. It took a bit of manipulation, since the sheets were larger than the opening of the box, but he rolled up what felt like a magazine into a small enough circle that he could pull it out.
Square pieces of parchment had been sewn together along one edge. Harry flipped to the first page of the unlabeled book only to be greeted by a collection of pictures of himself. They’d been clipped from wizarding newspapers and magazines, and the first had been taken a few months after the war. He looked young then, younger than he remembered looking. In the first picture, he seemed tired, but pleased as cameras flashed while he talked about the Remus Lupin Foundation.
At least, that’s what the caption said. Those early months were such a blur, he didn’t even remember having his picture taken. He flipped through the book, seeing not only pictures, but a few articles. One on his promotion to Auror. Others on the various charities he’d started. One of the clippings was from a picture where he hadn’t been the main focus. He’d been carefully excised, whoever he was talking to or standing by removed. He wasn’t even looking at the camera, but laughing at a joke. At the last second, he glanced at the camera and grinned a genuine smile.
Severus had even added Harry’s bathing suit photos to his collection. Harry’d been ambushed and photographed on holiday with a boyfriend. He hadn’t ever seen the final results, which had thankfully been kept out of the respectable publications. The boyfriend had been stripped away, leaving Harry smiling alone.
With anyone else, he would’ve turned the book in to the Ministry. Some part of him warned that giddy excitement to evidence of mild stalking wasn’t a healthy reaction, but he couldn’t take it seriously. Severus’s most treasured and guarded possessions didn’t centre around Lily Evans or the Death Eaters. Harry had been his prime concern for these last five years. The last picture in the book was one he’d probably recently stolen from Harry’s unsorted pile of pictures. It was a copy of the formal portrait the Ministry had commissioned two years before. Harry thought it stuffy and boring, but Severus had liked it enough to give it its own page.
Why had Severus chosen this one over the others shoved in that drawer?
Severus shifted in his bed and Harry held his breath. When nothing happened, Harry quickly returned everything to the box, and slid it back into Severus’s robe. He set everything back to normal, leaving the potions as the only evidence of his intrusion.
From inside the wards, it was a simple matter to dismantle them enough to let him slip out the door, shutting it firmly behind him.
Things would have been a lot simpler had he stayed out of that room. Whilst that book didn’t prove romantic love, it proved Severus deeply cared for him. Was that enough? Or would their damaged pasts and personalities get in the way of being more than friends? Could he trust Severus to stick around and not disappear again?
Harry closed his eyes and leaned against the door. Did he even want to be more than friends? To try and fail... To be rejected by the one person who knew him better than anyone else... It wasn’t just that though. Severus had struck him in anger several times and bullied him even more. The therapists had said that, as a victim of childhood abuse, he might be drawn to abusive men. As abused children, they were both more likely to abuse their partners. He’d certainly attacked Severus more than he’d ever hurt anyone before. He couldn’t even tell himself that Severus would never hit him because he had. Harry had forgiven him then, and he might forgive him again. Or he might start hitting back.
Merlin, Severus had only been back in his life a week and Harry had already shoved him. Harry sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He needed to stay away from Severus. It was better for them both.