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Title: Acts of Will (1/11)
Author: iulia_linnea
Pairing: Snarry, others
Rating: NC-17
Warning (highlight to view): For (mentions of) character death and mild violence.
Word Count: 2204 (33,749 total)
Summary: Haunted by secrets, guilt, and a spectre, Harry searches for answers and a decent shag; plagued by Potter's very presence, Severus finds himself investigating more than one subject with which he's only passingly familiar. For both wizards, metaphysical philosophy is a bitch—and not the only one they have in common.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This story was written for the 2007 hpqfac charitable event to benefit amfAR. It is dedicated to my hpqfac sponsors—accioslash, alliekatgal, brinian, calmingshoggoth, eanja, fodirteg, klynie1, queenrissa, quite_tasteful, and rory8— and was beta read by fodirteg and klynie1, all of whom have my sincerest thanks. Reposted with approximate dates due to my back-up snafu.

Table of Contents for Acts of Will

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Epilogue

Acts of Will, Part One

The dictionary was bound in skin; Harry couldn't bring himself to think of its covers as leather ones because "leather" connoted something that smelled familiar, good, and safe. No, the dried skin of some unknown and possibly extinct magical creature had been used to bind the book he held. In an effort not to dwell on what was dangerous, it had become something of a soothing ritual for Harry to flip through the book's pages until he'd found the right word to distract himself as he drank his morning tea.

Today, he'd selected "reify."

Stretching out on the lumpy sofa in Twelve, Grimmauld Place's drawing room, Harry contemplated the idea of attributing reality to an abstract concept.

How far could you push it? With magic, could you think something into being?

Magic was, as McGonagall had often said, "an act of will," and Harry knew that better than anyone.

Love is real, he thought, as cold beads of sweat welled up from under his fringe, and it can kill.

Wiping away the moisture from his forehead, Harry further wondered if it might be possible to "de-think" something tangible into oblivion, and then he began to tremble.

"Fuck," he muttered, pushing himself up into a sitting position and trying to ignore his rapidly beating heart. "Wrong word." I need to stop.

Reading the dictionary was supposed to be a distraction, not a cause of panic. Disturbed that he'd allowed his mind to wander so closely to the one topic he most wished to avoid, Harry stood and went in search of Grimmauld's resident puzzle.

She was no longer bound to her portrait, which Harry had burned the moment he'd "disensouled" it. The wall behind where the portrait had hung in the entrance hall for so long now was nothing but a patch of faded, peeling paper, but, if Harry called her name, she would materialize: he'd thought it best to keep the witch's malevolent . . . essence bound to the house.

"Walburga."

"That's 'Mrs. Black' to you, boy," she snapped, before she'd even completed her incorporation.

"Walburga, what have you been doing?"

"I've been minding my prison, you useless, filthy—"

"Please don't insult me."

Harry's tone was almost pleasantly conversational, but Walburga reacted to his words as the command they were.

She doesn't want to be banished beyond the Veil. She knows who she'd find there, Harry thought, feeling, as usual, slightly surprised that his threat to exorcize Walburga had made the "ghost"—if she was a ghost; Harry still didn't know—so biddable. "Follow me to the drawing room."

Walburga was hovering near the fire when Harry entered the room.

"Where'd this come from?" he asked, gesturing toward the dictionary.

"A book shop."

"You imbecile," Harry mentally added. "No, I mean, what's it made of? What are the covers made of?"

Walburga raised one disdainful eyebrow. "Leather."

"It's not. It's the dried skin of—"

"'Dried skin' is leather."

Harry sighed. "From what animal?"

"Perhaps from a Muggle?" Walburga asked, her eyes shining darkly.

Harry had to look away from them.

Questioning her isn't going to get you an answer, he told himself, clearing his throat. "Walburga, tell me what the covers of that dictionary are made of."

"I wasn't there when it was bound, so I don't know."

"Bollocks."

"They certainly aren't made of those."

Even without foul language as an aid, Walburga could make anything sound like an insult.

Don't give her the satisfaction of making you angry. "You don't know."

"So I just said. Now if you're quite through, I'd—"

"I'm not. What book shop? Tell me what book shop the dictionary came from, I mean."

"That was Father's dictionary, a present. I don't know where it came from or who gave it to him, either. Why do you want to know?" Walburga demanded, as the candles flared around the room.

Funny how they never cast more light when she does that, Harry thought, his mind turning to the nature of "de-reification" as his desire to be shot of Walburga increased.

He started as the candles hissed, flicked, and spat wax—and the room brightened then as his home's resident whatever left him.

I'm making her appear because I can't imagine this place without her, aren't I? Harry thought, casting a warming charm on his neglected tea cup and sipping from it rather than answering himself.

There were some things that he wasn't certain he wanted to know the truth about—no matter his half-arsed attempts to understand them—and Walburga was only one of them.

~*~

Wherever Severus was, it was dark, dark and quiet, and he was grateful.

~*~

"No, Hermione!" Ron protested, flushing with concern at the suggestion she'd just made.

Shocked, Harry added, "You don't mean it."

"I do mean it," Hermione replied, pushing Ron's hand off her knee. "It's my leg. If Harry wants to know if he's some sort of . . . 'reifier'—"

"Don't you mean 'necromancer'?" Ron interrupted.

"—then he should test himself."

"But it's your leg!"

"I know that, Ron."

"What if I can't fix it, like before?"

Hermione bit her lower lip. "You replaced my leg once. There is no reason to believe you wouldn't be able to put it back again—and how else are we going to test your theory?"

"I know, let's go out to those book shops Harry was talking about," Ron suggested, in a strangled tone.

"You're almost squeaking," Hermione chided him.

"Well, it's . . . it's my leg, too, isn't it? We're married and everything, so—"

"My 'everything' will still be ours if I'm one-legged."

Harry laughed, stopping abruptly when Ron's face flared so redly that his freckles disappeared. "Sorry," he muttered.

Ron glared at Harry. "You are."

"Go on. Do it," Hermione ordered Harry.

"You're sure?"

"Yes."

"I'm not. I don't know how I did it the first time, so how—"

"You said you couldn't imagine me without my leg, remember?"

Harry shuddered. He didn't like to remember how Hermione had lost her leg.

"Neither can I."

"Stop it, Ron. You're upsetting Harry."

"He isn't, but you're right about my not wanting you to be one-legged," Harry said, pushing aside the memory of Hermione getting caught in the blast from the destruction of Hufflepuff's cup. "I, uh, I don't think I can imagine you without it now."

"Good," Hermione replied, smiling at Ron.

"'Good'? After all that, all you can say is—"

"Perhaps you might try imagining Mrs. Black gone," Hermione suggested to Harry, as she lifted Ron's hand and placed it on her knee again. "That might help us decide if you're causing her to appear, or if she's a proper ghost. Who knows what the Blacks got up to. One of them could have bound her to her portrait."

"I could accidentally banish her that way, couldn't I?"

"Yeah, couldn't he? How would we be able to tell if Harry'd banished her or 'de-thought'—"

"'Un-thought', I think you mean," Hermione interrupted.

"—her?" Ron concluded.

No, I think it would have to be de-thought, Harry silently corrected Hermione, folding his arms and turning toward the fire without entering the argument because, no matter much reading he'd got done in the past several months, it was nothing to what Hermione had gleaned from her years of study as an Unspeakable. "Your leg isn't—wasn't—an abstract concept," he said, when it was clear that Ron wasn't going to fight for the point, either.

"It was after I was left with nothing but a bloody stump," Hermione retorted. "But perhaps it would be better to work from a new concept. I just don't know which one to test. Any ideas?"

"Yeah," Harry replied. "Let's go look at dictionaries."

He could feel how startled Ron and Hermione were without having to turn around.

*

Ron's scowling presence kept Harry's worshipers at bay as they browsed through every wizard-owned book shop they knew about.

"I don't see anything remotely like your dictionary," he said, easing his way carefully down the narrow path between two closely situated bookcases toward Harry. "You find anything?"

"No. We should probably ask the owner for help."

"Don't be such a girl."

Harry elbowed Ron in the ribs and smirked. "Don't let Hermione hear you saying things like that."

"Too late," she replied, standing up from behind the bookcase in front of Ron and Harry and tapping Ron smartly with a book.

"Ow."

"I have an idea," Hermione announced, "but it will mean going to Knockturn Alley because I don't want a record of my taking the books out of the department archive."

"No," Ron and Harry both replied, Ron continuing, "You're pregnant. You're not going anywhere near that place."

Hermione was already out the door by the time Ron had completed his protest.

"Right," he said, squeezing backward through the shelves toward the door. "Perhaps you should de-think her leg."

~*~

Severus realized that he wasn't actually breathing.

Unacceptable, he thought, trying to find his lungs.

It disturbed him that he even had to try; he wasn't in the habit of misplacing anything.

~*~

Harry awoke the next morning to find a grimoire lying open on his chest, its pages reeking of rotten eggs. It took him a moment to remember why it was there.

Hermione, worn down by Ron's protests, had agreed to return home if Ron would help Harry secure texts on necromancy and other cheerful topics—she'd made a list, of course—and Harry had researched by wand-light most of the night upon his return.

Wonder if I ought to send Aunt Petunia news of what her precious royals got up to in the last century? he asked himself, as he shoved the book to the sofa and Accio'd a cup of tea.

He missed Dobby, whose tea had always tasted better than the sort he could conjure for himself.

A bone china cup, covered in a floral pattern, appeared before him then.

"Lovely," Harry muttered, wiping the lipstick on the cup's rim away with his fingers before taking his first guilty sip. At least I'll send it back to whomever it belongs clean.

"If you were a proper wizard, you'd have a wife to manage your house elves, and they'd brew your tea, you thieving—"

"Good morning, Walburga, and be quiet, please," Harry interrupted, feeling awake enough to consider his previous reading. "I don't think it's anything to do with necromancy, what I can do."

Walburga didn't reply.

"Oh, right—what are you thinking?"

"That such a gift would be wasted on you."

"I don't remember any talk of the Blacks raising armies of Inferi in an effort to achieve wizarding domination," Harry quipped, returning to the sofa.

"Of course not. A Black is always discreet. In any case, one needn't strive for that which has been achieved."

"Bollocks."

"Language."

"Has its uses—such as pointing out that the Blacks never produced a Minister of Magic, so your family was hardly—"

"Superiority owes nothing to politics, you beastly little brat."

"What's got you in such a good mood?" Harry asked, as the hairs on the backs of his arms stood up. Snape used to call me a brat, the ugly bastard.

Harry pushed all thoughts of Snape aside at once.

"Your taste in literature has improved," Walburga replied, gesturing toward the stack of books by the hearth that Harry had not yet read.

They were not as Harry had left them.

"You read Bledsoe's Treatise on Enslavement Draughts for the Dead?

"Reread it. Father's copy is in tatters."

Sick, sick family. I really ought to banish—"Did any of your relatives ever . . . ?"

"Raise the dead?" Walburga asked, her eyes gleaming. "Only for parties."

"You're not serious."

"I'm told it once was all the rage."

The spent candles burst into flame, and Harry knew it was he who had caused it as he drank the remains of his tea all in one swallow, grateful for the burning sensation in his throat. "Get out."

Walburga obeyed him at once, leaving Harry with the image of Mundungus Fletcher's half-rotted face in his mind. It had been weeks since it had last plagued him, and years since Voldemort had unleashed his deaths of Inferi in wave after wave against Harry and the others who fought him.

Harry shuddered to feel un-pumped blood congealing on his skin; he knew it was only a sense memory, but that didn't help. Nothing ever helped to wash away the sensation, or the guilt he felt at having had to destroy creatures with the faces of people he'd once known—the guilt he felt at having had to kill anyone he'd once known, Inferius or not.

"Snape, Snape, you prick! Why the hell didn't you tell me?"

~*~

Severus found that he could move. He knew where his lungs were, as well, which would have made him happier if he could have seen what was producing the stench he'd been breathing in for hours.

"Hours—or days. How the bloody hell should I know?" he asked, before realizing that he'd also found his tongue.

It didn't help matters, being able to breathe and speak, given the stench and the fact that there was no one to talk to.

Irritated, he focused on finding his legs, arms, and other missing bodily bits, and wished for a book.

He was bored—and more than a little confused.

Continue to Part Two