|snarryswapmod (snarryswapmod) wrote in snarry_swap,|
@ 2008-01-28 12:00:00
|Entry tags:||creation: fic, envinyatar15, rated: r|
Happy Daft Day, regassa!
Title: A Thousand Years Spent Sleeping
Warnings: Mostly DH-compliant (EWE), canon character death, ghost!Severus, magical bonds, ungraphic smut,
and I will not warn for plot.
Prompt/Summary: A month after the war sees Harry feeling his way through the world. He feels thin, stretched, as if he isn't meant to be like this.
Word Count: 8,188
Author/Artist's Note: regasssa asked for anything that wasn't on her squick list, as long as it was angsty. I hope I managed to comply and give you something you enjoy. Inspired by “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence. Many thanks go out to the amazing zebraspots05 for the beta; all remaining mistakes are my own.
all this time i can't believe i couldn't see
kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
i've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
got to open my eyes to everything
without a thought without a voice without a soul
don't let me die here
there must be something more
bring me to life
The memories seep out of him like liquid through a sieve, leaving him cold and empty.
Something from beyond calls for him, but Severus can't go yet. There is still something that he has dedicated his life to do. Gathering the last remnants of strength to keep the unstoppable flood of his essence for just a moment longer, he demands of Potter - Harry - to look at him. Their eyes connect with a jolt. Life comes seeping back into him, the green eyes pouring warmth and understanding and love into his last intake of breath.
With his last exhalation, Severus gives all he is to the son of the love of his life, praying that it will be enough.
It has got to be.
A month after the war sees Harry feeling his way through the world. He feels thin, stretched, as if he isn't meant to be like this. What this is he can't define, but he feels shattered like a broken glass that needs putting together. (Will the pieces match?)
He has theories, of course, but none he's particularly interested in having confirmed. Hermione could help him but Harry has been operating by himself virtually all his life, and this matter... It's nothing he will trust anyone with. Especially not someone who's trying to set up her new life with her boyfriend - his other best friend.
Ginny is the only one who might know what he's going through but she's off finishing her education and then maybe trying out for professional Quidditch. She needs to live her own life, she said before kissing him goodbye. They both don't know if it's been the Have a good life kind of kiss or the See you later one, but either way it doesn't matter. Ginny needs to live her own life where she's not the girl who's been in love with Harry Potter since forever. Harry understands that. He won't burden her with his slight case of Not Having a Direction after dealing with Voldemort; he needs to find out what he wants for himself.
Cold is the first thing Severus feels. He doesn't know it's cold he's feeling, but there's a chill running up and down his spine. It's uncomfortable and base instinct tells him to curl into himself and preserve the warmth.
He doesn't know his name yet, but it isn't anything that concerns him. He can't see, can't hear, can't think - all there is the cold and darkness and instinct. He floats in the nothingness of eternity, like a lost soul separated from everything that makes it special.
Then suddenly there's something else. It's warm and light and calls out to him, and every instinct tells Severus to wrap himself around it like a blanket. Instantly he feels warmer. It's the place where he belongs.
This is how it begins for Severus.
It's been four months since the Battle of Hogwarts. In this time a lot has changed - Kingsley is the new Minister for Magic, legally elected, and he's doing his best to get everything functioning again. Harry's on his road to becoming a full-fledged Auror, but what seemed like a good idea lately feels a little empty now, like maybe he should have given himself more time to think about what to do with his life.
He's doing enough of that now though, and flashing back to the war often fills his evenings, when he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. Snape is among the most frequent topics. Harry feels ambiguous about him; he thinks they have come to an understanding in those last few moments, a connection that ran deeper than anything Harry has felt before. He held the essence of Snape in his hand, and if that isn't intimacy he doesn't know the word's definition. Which, truth be told, makes him uncomfortable, so he tries not to think about it. A history of hate is not easy to overcome.
What makes things worse is the fact that Harry keeps seeing this moment in Snape's life over and over again. His sleep is filled with Snape and all the memories Harry has of him. Hermione and Ron tell him it's quite normal to dream after what they've gone through; there are traumas involved with the war and Harry's no stranger to guilt. He nods to that, silently worrying that maybe there's more behind it.
Five months go by, then six. Harry still can't stop dreaming about Snape, which is kind of weird. He relives the Occlumency lessons in fifth year, the moment Snape saves him from Quirrell on the Quidditch Pitch, the showdown in the Shrieking Shack. All of this feels so real; not just like a dream but like memory. Odd moments are mixed into this, though. There's an image of nothing filled with coldness that keeps creeping up in his dreams, and he feels like in those dreams when something bad has happened and he keeps running without being able to move. He always wakes up with a gasp on his lips, his hair twisted more than usual from the sweat that's dripping down his face.
This is how it begins for Harry.
Potter is the first thing Severus thinks. Whether it's his hatred for James or his love for Lily or his jumbled feelings for Harry that awake him Severus doesn't know nor cares about, but the fact remains that that's his first thought.
Then panic wipes away all confusion as Severus struggles with himself, trying to open his eyes and see through the darkness. Not knowing his surroundings is the death of a spy, but his eyes won't comply; they won't open. He pushes at the dark wall in front of him, but it won't budge. He feels like a prisoner in his own mind, the walls too close for him to push them away.
He twists and turns, feels air becoming short at hand as his chest pumps uselessly. He's hyperventilating. Breathe, he thinks, but his muscles won't listen. Breathe! The world can't narrow down because he has no vision. Instead it's his thoughts that do just that; his focus lies on himself, nothing else matters, breathe.
In the last moment before he loses consciousness a warm presence comes to his rescue. It wraps around him like a blanket. The light radiating from it shines through Severus' closed eyelids, calms him, soothes him.
Exhausted he succumbs to the dark.
It's another night filled with dreams of Snape, but the dream has changed. Instead of coldness there's the fear of being lost that dominates the black dream picture. The image is accompanied by struggling, a fight not to lose to panic - but all those feelings aren't Harry's, they are coming from another being, a black shape. He can sense the shape as clearly as if it were standing beside him, but its signature is muddied. Its lines feel broken. (Is it someone like me?)
Harry wants to soothe the presence's rising panic so he does the only thing he can do: he mentally wraps himself around it, caresses it like he would a crying child. It'll be alright, he tells it. You'll see.
The presence calms down and so does Harry. He slips back into sleep.
The next day he doesn't remember.
The day Severus is awoken by sound, he gasps - and instantly is thrown back into the invisible reality that is surrounding him. It's been days since his memories came back to him, one at a time as he lived through the darker and lighter moments of his life.
Severus can make as much of his question of Where am I? as he can of the screeching sound he's hearing. He's determined to try, but at least he knows that his hearing will need time to adjust. If he's had time to figure out one thing yet it's that overexerting himself won't make things better. He's past annoyance at that fact; he's lived a life full of hard feelings, and now that his time is up he can't seem to find the strength to call the walls of anger back into place.
He's tired. (Isn't it time he went to sleep?) He curls back into the warmth he doesn't fight anymore and closes his eyes.
The presence gives him strength. Everything will be better the next time he wakes. (What that will entail he doesn't know.)
The image changes again. There's sound to accompany it now, albeit only a small, quiet one. It sounds like a gasp, but Harry can't be sure. He tries to get closer to the source, but whenever he tries the image blurs, and Harry's back to chasing Death Eaters or reliving another equally random, equally unhappy situation from his past.
He sleeps uneasily that night, the might-be-gasp echoing in his mind as his subconscious searches through the depth of his mind for its identity.
Severus hurts. His eyeballs feel like they're going to explode; his head aches like his brain is going to melt; his body lays paralysed as every fibre of his being concentrates on the cells on fire.
He doesn't feel anymore. Maybe his hands come up to grip as his head, but he can't be sure and anyway thoughts are beside him. His entire world consists of pain and hurt and fire, fire eating away at him, sizzling, burning, destroying. Time flees, becomes meaningless.
Suddenly the sharp reds and oranges and yellows give way to other colours. Severus thinks he sees a hand stretching for him, a familiar face looking at him concerned, worried, surprised. (Maybe this is what death feels like.)
The face vanishes as Severus' vision blacks out.
The darkness of the image becomes sharper. Harry senses a familiar presence behind the shape now. He is bound and determined to get close to it, find out who it is, but it's a difficult task. For every small distance he closes in the warmth radiating from the presence becomes more intense. At first it's comfortable, like a warm blanket surrounding him. Then it feels as if the warmth worms its way under his skin, is in him, slowly heating him up from the inside.
Harry squirms as he catches fire. It licks at him at first, but slowly becomes more violent. Harry's stubborn though. He will see this through until the end.
He fights his way through the flames. It feels like his skin is sizzling, burning. His breathing is laboured, his body sweating. The final steps are agony; almost he turns around, almost he flees. He touches the black shape amid light at long last. When he does the heat eats him up, but he's reached his goal. That's all that counts.
The shock wakes Harry up as he's coming inside his pyjamas, Snape's face still clear before his eyes.
This should have been the first clue that something more complicated is going on. But Harry being Harry he ignores the signs, just keeps on doing what he's doing with little enthusiasm. With his purpose lost and tiredness overwhelming him it is difficult to find joy in his job or his personal life, or to find the strength to worry about himself.
Harry doesn't want to go to sleep the night after his wet dream, thinking he's going crazy. No one in their right mind would have Snape's image in their head the moment they come, right? The man, for all the he was a war hero, was an utter bastard and ugly on top, with his lanky hair and yellow teeth and sallow skin and cold, fathomless, black eyes and...
Harry falls asleep, right into the dream picture. Except now the presence has a distinct shape, fog wildly swirling around it.
"Snape," Harry mumbles, his dream-self not even remotely surprised it's him. Snape's figure is one he'd recognise anywhere. The proud form with the slightly hunched shoulders, the shoulder-length, oily hair, the thick black cloak. Snape is unmistakeable.
Snape must have heard Harry's voice, or perhaps he's sensed him, either way he turns around. Just like in old times his robes billow behind him as he comes storming toward Harry. The Slytherin looks livid, his teeth bared and his eyes flaring, but Harry doesn't think of being afraid. He knows this is a dream, and he's mostly conscious Snape won't be able to hurt him. Instead Harry smiles to himself, wholly unsavoury thoughts running through his head. A fallen angel.
"I do not appreciate the thought," Snape whispers when he's looming over Harry's smaller frame. His face is contorted into an ugly expression of fury and something else Harry can't quite identify.
Harry rethinks his position. Perhaps he should be afraid after all. Is he in my head?
"Yes, Potter. I am in your head. You think so loudly your thoughts are echoing through my head." Snape turns away from Harry then, a look of tiredness replacing the anger from before. It gives Harry a chance to study his old enemy-turned-ally. The Slytherin looks different from when Harry last saw him, but that's not surprising - the circumstances had been less than ideal. Still the deep lines of exhaustion and the glint of raw, controlled anger no longer visible in his eyes make the man seem like a different person. The impression is unsettling. Snape was consistent, a constant source of hatred in Harry's life. Hating Snape was never questioned.
Since his death, however, things have changed, and these changes are following Harry still in his sleep.
"Why am I not dead?" Snape asks no one in particular, frowning. Confusion is rolling off of him in waves; he really seems to think he is alive.
Harry opens his mouth to answer, but no sound comes out. He swallows. You are dead, he thinks instead. Panic does not seem to be a default mood in this dream world.
Snape turns back to Harry, an odd look overcoming his face. "I'm not just an illusion, Potter."
You are an illusion of my subconscious.
"I am more real than you think. I'm gaining strength."
Harry doesn't have an answer to that. How do you fight a figment of your own imagination? If Snape insists he's real, what could Harry possibly say to prove him wrong? They are in a dream, and dreams have the particular feature of being rather corporeal, and besides Harry doesn't want to try touching Snape to show him he's not really there. Harry thinks the other man would appreciate this as much as Harry's previous thought.
"Go now. I want to be alone." Snape turns around and walks away, the mist swallowing him up.
It's almost a physical push that drives Harry out of his own dream. When he wakes, thoughts cloud his mind. Snape's face and words accompany him through the dead of the night, until morning dawns bright and clear.
Harry's hesitant to return home in the following weeks. He feels like the walking dead by then, having been up for days on end and without a decent night's sleep for the last couple of months. Still he draws out his meeting with Kingsley as long as he can. He's not really there with the Minister, but school and its pretense of concentration aren't that distant a memory that Harry's forgotten how to fake wakefulness. He must have been less successful with his deception than usual though, for Kingsley's deep voice cuts through his thoughts.
"What is it, Harry? You look tired." These days it's seldom that anyone in the working environment calls Harry by his first name. It's Auror Potter now, or Auror-in-Training Potter from his superiors. That Kingsley calls him Harry shows the level of the Minister's concern.
Harry doesn't quite know what to answer, for he doesn't understand what's happening himself. Instead he blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. "What do you know about dreams, Minister?"
Kingsley regards him for a moment, raising an eyebrow. "Couldn't Miss Granger help you in that area?"
"No!" Harry wishes his voice would sound less like a squeak; he doesn't exactly sound inconspicuous. He stumbles over an explanation. "I mean, I'm sure she could help me but I don't want to worry her and Ron, y'know? With the wedding coming up and all." He's biting his lip, the embodiment of innocence.
Evidently his reasoning is something Kingsley can understand. His expression has switched to curious. "What kind of dreams?"
Harry squirms in his chair, looking down at his hands in his lap. What am I doing?
"You're trying to figure this out," a voice mumbles close to his ear.
Harry jumps, his head jerking around. "Wha-"
"Shh," Snape tells him, a dark, forbidding figure in the middle of the room. "The Minister cannot know." The smirk on the man's smile makes Harry wish he could punch Snape in the face as much as it sends a cold shiver down his spine, but deep down Harry knows he's right. Harry's always been better with instinct than with logic, so he goes with his gut instinct.
"Harry?" Kingsley asks, concern imbuing every syllable. "Are you feeling alright?"
With effort Harry takes his eyes off Snape. He whirls around to face him. "Yes, everything's fine," he says, smiling apologetically at Kingsley. "Just thought I'd heard something." He prays Kingsley will not question him further.
"You look pale," is Kingsley's only comment, though, to Harry's relief. "Have you seen a ghost?"
Harry thinks his laughter is the epitome of hysteria. Kingsley chuckles but keeps looking at him with concern in his yes, one eyebrow slightly raised as if asking What's gotten into you? When they've calmed down enough that Harry has a chance to find his voice again he quickly stands up, ignoring the Minister's wordless inquiry. Retreat seems the best strategy now, giving him the chance to pull himself together. He knows Kingsley won't buy what he's about to say, but that doesn't matter now. "Nothing of the sort, Minister. I'm afraid I have an early day tomorrow. Good night!"
Harry flees the Ministry as if Death was on his feet, and the only place to offer him safety was home.
Unfortunately outrunning your personal ghost is not a plan that can succeed.
As he rushes from the Ministry to the closest Apparition point Harry feels as though wherever he looks his old Potions Master greets him with a scowling look. The street is crowded despite the late hour - the perfect opportunity for Snape to follow him. They both know the best place to hide is among people (though never for Harry). Harry hurries, his shoulders hunched as he keeps his eyes on the pavement. He doesn't want to see Snape out here, and though Harry has learnt from experience that playing I don't see you, you don't see me doesn't help he's clutching to this one last thread of control that he has.
The shadows on the streets from the Apparition point to where he lives move with him, fluid like black ink. There are no people anymore; he lives in an anonymous neighbourhood, a place where he can hide himself. Now he feels uneasy there, though, exposed to that which he cannot hide from. Harry's always thought that the darkness was where Snape belonged, and maybe this is the best cloak for the man - better than the Invisibility Cloak for Harry, for the darkness is his natural habitat. Maybe the shadows are oozing from the Slytherin's oily hair, Harry thinks; taking with them the essence of secrets of the past no-one is supposed to know, fleeing into the darkness where they belong.
In his flat there is no ghost, much to Harry's relief. He flops down on the sofa, curling into himself, shivering but not laying defeated by fear. He does not trust the peace, keeping a watchful eye on his surroundings. Maybe keeping his eyes open does not remedy the situation if he's seeing ghosts while awake and asleep, but it at least gives him the illusion of control.
I'm going crazy.
"You are not crazy."
Harry jumps off the sofa and turns around in one hectic motion. He's angry all of a sudden, his feelings ingrained in every line of his face. This isn't supposed to happen. He should be living a care-free life now that Voldemort's dead, not having to fight with those who should be dead. He should be going on instead of living backwards. He's earned a right to that.
Even his hair takes a stand, magic sizzling around him like electricity. "You!" he spits. His jaw is clenched from uncontrollable fury, muscles working like an athlete's under his skin, tense and ready to leap. His wand is out the moment Snape takes a step forward, pointing at the Slytherin.
Snape is unfazed by this, his eyes glittering coolly as he crosses his arms. "Put the wand away, Potter," he says calmly. Like there is no storm that could rattle him, or perhaps Harry' is just no storm that could rattle him.
"You're dead!" Harry accuses, his hand shaking from the need to hex the other man.
"I am not. Now stop being idiotic and put your wand away." Snape's eyes are finally blazing with a distant fire, like there's unclear glass separating them. It makes Harry feel uneasy; he can feel the man's distaste radiating from him, but not in a manner he's previously sensed. It doesn't feel as raw and intense. Harry doesn't put the wand away, but he does lower his arm, getting a grip on his own feelings. Self-control has become an imperative.
"Now. What do you know about our situation, Potter?" Snape sneers. "Or have you given in to thinking something's wrong with the world again?"
Harry thrusts out his chin, his eyes glittering challengingly, but he keeps his anger tight under control. "What do you know, then?"
"Still the bold brat, I see," Snape murmurs so softly Harry almost doesn't hear him. He's sure he imagines seeing the corners of Snape's mouth lift. "I imagine this" - he softly inclines his head - "has something to do with the fact that I died in your arms." Harry gapes at him upon hearing this statement, staring in disbelief at the hard lines of Snape's face. "What, you do not appreciate my Gryffindorian sentiment? Shame on you, Potter." Snape looks down at him. Right. Harry had forgotten the man's humour. "I'd think you were the re-incarnation of Gryffindor himself, if you listened to the thoughts of the people on the street."
"So you were following me!" Harry's wand is back to pointing at Snape, his magic threatening to spill over; Harry's hanging on to it by a thread. He can't help but feel betrayed, all sense of security lost, however false that sense was. Sometimes living with an illusion is easier than facing the truth.
"I agree. I seem to be bound to you." Snape's comment sounds thoughtful, like he's trying to figure out what's going on. But, Harry wonders, that can't possibly be true. If Snape is a figment of his imagination, how does Harry pull off how real the man looks? Harry's never seen him act this way either. There's only ever been hatred and even a sense of rivalry between them. This new-found half-truce is what Harry might have wished for if Snape had survived, but...
Snape rolls his eyes. "Potter. Have you even considered the possibility I am a ghost? And you call yourself the son of Lily Evans!" He looks disappointed.
"You cannot be a ghost." Harry shakes his head, completely bewildered. "You would have appeared much sooner."
Snape raises an eyebrow. "If you cannot do your research, I will certainly not do it for you. I suggest you ask little Miss Know-It-All."
With these words Snape fades away. Harry slumps onto his couch, feeling drained and sick all of a sudden. He barely makes it to the loo before throwing up the contents of his stomach.
The Minister sends Harry a message the next morning, suggesting he take a few days off from work. Harry agrees; Tonks has always warned him not to go against the Minister's wishes, and he's not about to begin doing so now.
He spends the day contemplating Snape's words while ignoring the fact of Snape's real appearance. In the end he decides he hasn't seen his friends in too long anyway. Grabbing his keys he storms out of the door, smashing it shut when he hears the deep chuckle from somewhere behind.
Harry stands in front of the door, just looking and thinking. He's not sure he's doing the right thing here; didn't he tell the Minister just yesterday that he didn't want to involve his friends in this?
Ghost, memory whispers in his ear. Ghost.
Curiosity has always been one of Harry's weaknesses. Besides, he really does want to know what's going on. Either Snape is real or Harry is going insane. Either way the situation is less than ideal, but clarity in this matter is definitely the better choice.
He takes a deep breath and knocks. He prays it's Hermione who will open his and, against all odds, it really is her.
"Harry!" She smiles deeply as she lays her eyes on him, then draws him into her arms. "Come on in!"
The more time goes by, the more the atmosphere in the house changes, becoming more them - warm and friendly and in it's own way a little conflicted. Ron and Hermione wouldn't be them if they didn't clash. Harry finds himself yearning for this kind of family life, but even though he's sure the two of them would be happy to have him move in they are a couple, and they need space to themselves. (He's not a part of them any longer.)
Hermione draws Harry into the kitchen, where Ron broods over a stack of papers, scowling. Harry laughs quietly. He's had enough complaining letters from Ron to know exactly what this is about: the wedding. "Still busy, I see? Shall I come back later?" Harry asks, trying his best shot at serious.
Ron actually jumps, looking about him wildly for a moment before he sees Harry standing in the doorway. His expression abruptly changes from shock to a wide grin. "Harry mate! I've been missing you!" Ron comes over and claps Harry on the shoulder.
"You're just saying that and you know it. You're just happy I'm taking you away from those plans." Harry mock-frowns at his best friend.
"Right, right. You want tea?" Harry laughs again. Ron seems genuinely happy to have him there, even in the middle of all the stress. Harry wishes he could do something to help them with the planning, but there's only so much you can do when you're working with a perfectionist like Hermione.
"Sure. I'm here to speak to Hermione, though." He looks over to her. "About a case."
Hermione's interest is piqued immediately, Harry can see it. "A case?"
"Yeah. It involves some magic I'm not familiar with and I thought you might be able to help me."
When Harry and Hermione are finally alone - having left a cursing Ron to his paperwork - Harry asks her the question that's been burning his in his throat all day.
"What do you know about ghosts, Hermione?"
Hermione's forehead wrinkles as she concentrates fully on what he's saying. "What kind of ghosts?"
"The ones that don't appear immediately after the person's death." He rubs his forehead. "Is there anything like that?"
Hermione gets up to crouch in front of one of the bookshelves. Harry remembers that the library they're sitting in now was one of the first rooms she insisted be set up once she and Ron had moved in. The demand had caused much moaning from Ron, but Hermione had gotten her way. Ron knew her and loved her too much to deny her a space for her books.
Harry hasn't thought he'd ever admit this, but now he's kind of glad Hermione won the argument. Many rooms in the rest of the house are still in various stages of the moving in process, but in here it's calm and quiet, and it's soothing his frayed nerves.
"Well," Hermione begins thoughtfully, "there are the ghosts that haunt places and sometimes people, of course, but those are your standard ghosts like Nearly Headless Nick or Moaning Myrtle. There are violent spirits and peaceful ones, most of them dead through violence – suicide or murder or accidents. These ghosts often have unfinished business they need to attend to and can't let go. There also are incidents reported where the soul only temporarily left the body. Those are your standard out of body experiences. Now where is the book... Ah, here we are." Hermione pulls a thin leather tome out of the lowest shelf and leafs through it for a few short moments before turning back to him. "What specifics can you tell me about this case of yours?" Her eyes go right through him, making Harry squirm. He sighs. This is going to be difficult.
"A man was murdered some months ago, in the victim's presence. Now the dead man is back as a spirit, haunting the victim."
While he talks Hermione comes over to sit beside him on the small leather sofa. "Hmmm." The book's sitting on her lap now as she's scanning the table of contents. Harry hopes she'll find something without him having to reveal much more. He is uncomfortable even now.
Hermione speaks again before the silence becomes too oppressive. "Well, there are two possibilities, I think. One, the victim actually is the murderer and the spirit appeared because of revenge, but I'm sure you've already ruled that out?" Harry hums in confirmation. "Alright. The second possibility..." Hermione looks up from the page she's reading to link their gazes. Her eyes are wide; Harry knows nothing he wants to hear will follow. Still he must listen.
"Or?" he prompts, trying to smile encouragingly but even so, he feels he's failing.
"The second option is not a ghost per sé. Do you know - is the appearance linked to dreams?"
Harry blinks, then nods. This really isn't going to be good.
Hermione swallows. "I think... What might have happened is that the moment the man died a connection was forged. To cut it short their essence got intertwined." She says this last bit as if it explained everything, but Harry doesn't understand. As much must have shows on his face, for Hermione looks exasperated.
"Don't you understand? It's a bonding of the souls! The moment the one dies his soul leaves his body. Instead of wandering to its final destination it gets sucked into the canal of thoughts and bonds with the other's soul. They Bond!"
Harry blinks again, her words only barely penetrating the fog surrounding his brain. "So," he says weakly, "how do you reverse it?"
"You can't. Not without damaging both souls irreparably."
That's when Harry understands how very fucked he truly is.
"You can't reverse it?" he asks, feeling more like a parrot than himself. If this is how it is... Then what are the repercussions? He feels faint all of a sudden, as if he's going to lose consciousness any minute. He carefully controls his breathing, concentrating on nothing but the sucking in of air and slow exhalation.
"Harry?" Hermione asks after a while. "Is everything alright?"
"Yeah," he answers, surprised his voice is as strong as it is. He would have suspected something more along the lines of a whisper coming out of his mouth. He coughs. "So what happens after the Bonding?"
Hermione looks away from him, back to the page in front of her. "According to this after the Bonding the spirit strengthens and becomes corporeal, while draining the victim of his strength and finally killing him."
Harry closes his eyes, leaning his head back on the sofa. This doesn't bode well. "So they'll just die?" he whispers more to himself than Hermione, but Hermione answers him anyway.
"Well, yes. The spirit needs something to 'feed' on - he needs the strength of the victim to get stronger, but without it he'll just whither away again. They both die. It's extremely powerful, extremely rare magic - there are no more than a handful of cases noted."
Hermione sounds more intrigued now than horrified by this way of dying. Harry supposes maybe it is interesting in its own way, but if you seem to have gotten yourself a Bonded spirit things look a little differently.
"Thanks, Hermione," Harry tells her as he gets up. "May I borrow the book? I'm still unclear on a few things..."
Hermione looks at him sternly before nodding. "Absolutely no damaged pages. This book is very valuable." When she hands him over Harry finally reads the title. Necromancy.
When they get back downstairs Ron is gone. Need to get something, Be back later, Give my regards to Harry. Love, Ron, Hermione reads out loud the note he's left, casting an apologetic look in Harry's direction. Harry isn't sad to find out about this, though. He's not sure he could return to cheerfulness right now, too much weighing him down. He leaves the house after quickly hugging Hermione, Apparating straight to the Three Broomsticks where he intends to get himself drunk.
"You're a fool, Potter," a voice whispers close to his ear, this time not managing to surprise Harry. He's been waiting for Snape. He turns around with alcohol-induced slowness, his eyelids already drooping.
"Sssshuddup," he says in Snape's general reaction. "Lemme alone." Turning back to the glass in front of him he tries to ignore the Slytherin, which truth be told he doesn't find difficult. The world has become a haze anyway. Whether Snape disappears to wherever it is he disappears to or if he only shuts up Harry doesn't know; he's too far gone to care, about Snape or about Madam Rosmerta, who is throwing concerned looks in his direction.
Rosmerta Floos him home not long after, stating he's had enough for one night. Harry isn't sure he agrees.
Alone in his flat Harry makes his way over to the couch with dragging footsteps, dropping there like dead weight, a stone perhaps or a shot bird.
He's tired and wants to go to sleep, but doesn't seem able to find what he so desperately wants. His head is pounding by now and the world turning around, so he's simply lounging on the couch, his eyes closed. He doesn't know how long he lies there, but when he opens his eyes next the world is back on its axis - and not unexpectedly Snape is sitting in the arm chair opposite him, softly glittering in the dark. Harry sighs.
"Why couldn't you decide to haunt someone else?" he mumbles in Snape's vague direction.
Snape snorts. Harry thinks he might be pinching his nose too, but there's no way to be sure. "I would change it if I could."
Harry pops one eye open, but that's all he can be bothered to move. Besides there's light radiating from Snape, which hurts his eyes. (Is it just him or is the light really more brilliant that night than it should have any right to be?) Perhaps it's just what growing up has done to him, but Harry thinks Snape's blades might have lost their cutting edge. "Right," he agrees, his eyelid falling shut already.
Ignoring the insulted huff from Snape's corner, Harry doesn't even move to his bedroom before falling asleep.
When Harry wakes one more time that night because his head is aching, Snape is still there. The white light radiating from him illuminates the living room, casting a gentle, warming light in what is a very dingy place by daylight.
Harry finds his thoughts disturbing. There shouldn't be anything warm about Snape's appearance, not even in death.
A hand caresses his face, running down his throat and down his chest. Harry arches into the touch. It feels good and warm and right, everything he doesn't feel himself anymore, and he gives himself over to the feelings the hand is evoking in him.
His eyelashes flutter when the hand slips into this pyjamas and wraps around his half-hard, sensitive cock, but the pleasure the almost too-soft touch brings him is enough to bring his hips off the bed, his eyes falling closed. His cock is instantly hard.
Firm lips touch his forehead. Harry is surprised at this, his forehead creasing in thought. The kiss is tender, a gesture more loving than erotic. Harry slips out of the world between sleep and reality, his eyes flying open.
He freezes in shock as he sees Snape standing over him, his one hand still steadily working Harry's cock. Harry stares at him wide-eyed, but the pleasure Snape is drawing from his body drains all blood from his brain southward, and Harry does not even think about scrambling back on the bed. Instead he keeps watching Snape with blinking eyes as the Slytherin jerks him off, softly and skilfully and all the better for it.
"Potter," Snape says unfazed. As if what he's doing is perfectly normal. The same moment his finger scrapes over slit, spreading the pre-come over the head.
The sensation is too much for his tightly-wound body. Harry comes, his hips coming off the bed as he gasps with pleasure. There is no afterglow for him, though. The moment he comes down from his cloud and realises what's happened, he is out of bed and out of the room, running as far from Snape as he can. Which isn't very far: Snape is blocking his way out of the flat with his body. Harry skids to a stop just in front of him, anger rising within him like a roaring monster. All he sees now is the body in front of him preventing his wish for escape. He is like a wild animal, panic-ridden and uncontrolled.
Harry explodes, sparks of magic flying right at Snape as his own voice is drowned by the rushing blood in his ears. What have you done? Unseeing Harry slumps to the ground, completely drained.
I have done what the Bond needs, a voice whispers in his ear, or maybe his head.
When Harry looks up Snape is gone.
That night Snape stays away. Harry is glad for it, needing some time to himself. He knows he will have to deal with Snape eventually (wishes he wouldn't), but there's no escape, no escape. He's feeling the Bond in every nerve ending now, as if Snape's touch had strengthened the Bond exponentially; there's a yearning in him for the other man's presence, something that no-one and nothing else can satisfy. It goes bone-deep, this feeling of a missing piece, like Snape's presence could right everything that has gone wrong. Which he can't because everything's going down the drain, everything's jumbled and wrong and not-making-sense.
Harry understands too that Snape is apparently becoming stronger. He's becoming corporeal. How else could he have touched him...?
He doesn't want to go there. He really does not want to think about being touched by Snape, how a peaceful feeling washed over him like he hasn't felt it since before the war, how everything became meaningless except for the hand around his cock...
No! his mind shouts, but it's too late; he's hard again, his hand wrapping around himself. There is no escape, a voice whispers, the devil on his shoulder. Give in.
Harry's head falls back, his eyes closed as he moans breathlessly. His hand around his cock feels good - rough, tight, warm; he imagines another's hand - soft, sensual, cool. Unbidden Snape's face rises before his eyes, the black eyes boring into his with a deep intensity as Harry sets a rhythm. It doesn't take long for him to reach the edge like this, with the whisper of a touch tracing down from his bottom lip to his throat, and Harry is gone with a breath, a name on his lips he wishes he could retract, but it's too late, the air has already carried the letters away. He plunges into the black, wildly swirling pools that are Snape's eyes and doesn't resurface for a long time.
There are many ways of losing a part of one's soul, most often the loss of a deeply beloved one. It is said that when one has lost a part of one's soul, a Soul Bonding is much more likely to happen. The empty space needs filling.
With a harsh movement Harry shuts the book, leaning back into the couch. Think, he demands of himself, already realising his case of a Soul Bonding is different. Think! But with every moment apart the yearning for something deep inside seems to become more intense, like fire burning him from the inside. Every thought dies in the creation process, being instantly replaced by Snape. Still Harry fights for a way around this; he's been a warrior all his life, sometimes with all odds against him. In comparison this fight is laughable. Right? Right?
He hasn't wanted this for himself. He fights himself, his brain battling with his heart battling with his soul. The three-fronts-war is bloody and dangerous and loud, misguiding in who actually fights for what and using up all of Harry's resources. His confusion grows as his body gives up the fight and Harry is no longer able to stand on his own volition, eyesight and hearing failing him. He lives inside himself, battling the pain, wishing to every mighty power he could go back to the way things were. He isn't sure how long this goes on; maybe it's been hours or days. Time has lost all meaning as his strength slips away, his heart rate slowing.
It's only when his mouth forms the word "Severus" that the man appears before him. Crouching beside his strengthless form Snape wordlessly, slowly caresses Harry back to hardness, life seeping back into him. Touch brings warmth, and warmth brings strength.
For the first time in forever Harry feels calm. Secure. He spends his days in bed, sometimes without Snape but most of the time with him, or they sit in the living room, Harry thumbing through the book. Days go by.
Hermione comes to the door of his flat, hammering against it. "Harry! Are you there?"
At first Harry doesn't react, but Hermione is persistent. “Open up, I know you're in there!” she calls, her voice filled with worry. “I'll blast your door away!”
"Go away," Harry whispers. Then, looking over to Severus, he clears his throat and tries again. "Go away!" he calls to the door. “I have the flu, I'll just pass it on to you.”
Hermione doesn't relent for a long time, pleading with him through the closed door. Harry doesn't budge and at long last she gives up, but not before he has promised to send her an owl. When she's gone and darkness surrounds them, Harry still feels Snape's heavy eyes on him.
"They're your friends," Snape says after a long time.
"But I'm not myself anymore," is Harry's answer.
Sometimes Harry slips. Snape becomes more corporeal each day, able to hold on to things that aren't Harry for longer and longer. Harry, on the contrary, lets more and more things fall.
"When the Horcrux was destroyed, your soul filled the void," Harry states after dinner one evening, sipping a Butterbeer. The silence hanging between them is often comfortable, but that night Harry feels tense. "That's what makes our Bond different. My soul grew around the piece of Voldemort's soul, and now yours sits there, merging with mine. That's why I'm not dead yet. We're more closely connected than any of the cases noted in the book.” Harry points toward the book Hermione gave him.
Snape nods over the rim of his wine glass, his eyes glittering oddly in the half-dark of the room. "I suspect that's what happened, yes," he says. Harry already knows there are things the Slytherin holds back.
He puts down his bottle down, then leans forward. "What else?"
"Nothing," Snape says.
Finally Snape does Harry the same courtesy of putting down his glass. He sighs. "You will fade into my world," he states, unapologetic and unhesitating. “You will not die. We will feed off each other, until the time comes one of us lets go. What will come then... no one knows.” Snape's eyes bore into Harry's, like he wants to say more. Harry stalls the argument he is sure is coming.
"I suspected as much," he says, grinning when he sees Snape's raised eyebrow. "Hanging between the worlds won't be so bad, will it?"
"Do you think so, now? What else do you suspect won't be so bad?"
Harry knows it's evasion Snape is practising - and not the most subtle evasion either - but either way his body immediately responds to the desire flashing through Snape's eyes. It's long past the point where Harry fights this. His soul wants it too much - needs to feel complete too much to ever let Snape go. The Bond is too strong, Harry already knows that. (Maybe this is what the happily ever after consists of?)
It's not love that lies between them, it's not simple desire. It's something that runs deeper, a connection forged for reasons unknown. Magic has its own will, whispering to Harry This is how it's supposed to be when he's lying in bed awake.
Sometimes there is no changing the situation you're in. Sometimes you have to embrace it fully.
There comes the point when Harry hands in his resignation to the Minister. "This isn't my job," he tells him with every conviction he can muster. He sees his friends less and less, drawing back into the shell he and Snape have built for themselves.
Harry knows Hermione has, at least partly, figured out what is going on. He sees the exact moment realisation hits. When she opens her mouth Harry just waves the unspoken words away; no need, no need, it's too late. You said it yourself. Irreversible.
When you stop fighting the end comes more quickly. Harry knows this; it's why he's never stopped, believing that belief is all that counts. Maybe it is.
Maybe he doesn't know how to handle the whispers of The Chosen One anymore. Maybe he doesn't know how to handle all the expectations anymore, now that he has no certain path in front of him. Maybe he's tired of fighting.
Maybe he wants what Snape is offering. Peace.
His edges blur. His lines become unclear. His colour weakens.
The next time he wakes, he no longer is a part of this world.
Harry opens his eyes to the sight of fog whirling around him. He instantly knows. Sensing Snape standing to the side Harry braces himself on his elbows, watching the man who has made such a difference.
If there's one thing Harry has learnt, it's this: they aren't so different from each other after all. You stupid Potters and your need to sacrifice yourselves, Ginny had once yelled at him, and in the end she's quite right. No, he and Snape really are not so different from each other.
Snape eventually turns around to Harry. "Welcome to my world," he says, the smile gracing his features not overly amused. There it is, the long-awaited fight. Harry's brain is going from zero to overdrive in a fraction of a second. He gets up and goes over to Snape, lifting one hand to caress Snape's face.
Something in his chest expands in joy; not his heart but something else. This is how it's supposed to be, a voice whispers, but it's not a devil's anymore.
"Good." Harry draws Snape down for a kiss, intimate and familiar, tongues brushing softly. Still the kiss tastes of something more. Harry braces himself.
Snape doesn't let it go on for long before drawing back, his hand pushing Harry down on the bed of fog as the Gryffindor tries to follow him. "We cannot do this."
Harry knew this argument was inevitable, but that doesn't mean he's got to be thrilled about it. "Severus. It's fine." His eyes are serious as he tries to convey his point to Snape, but Snape already shakes his head.
"No. No, it's not." There is an almost pleading quality to Snape's voice. "I've sworn to protect you. I've sworn to Lily I would protect you. You've got to go back. Let me go."
"My mother is dead," Harry reminds him, eyes soft on the man pleading with him. He almost pities him; Snape knows there's the fraction of a chance Harry maybe could break the Bond if he really wanted it. But he doesn't. "I can decide for myself." Harry laughs softly, his answer ringing through the air.
"I belong here."