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Complete header information may be found in Part One.

Return to Part Seven

Acts of Will, Part Eight

"Hey," Harry said to Severus, as he wrapped his arms around the other wizard.

Severus, who had pulled a chair up to the window, leaned into Harry's embrace but kept staring up at the moon.

"Something wrong?"

"I don't know how to answer that question."

Harry moved to lean against the sill and stared at Severus, frowning to see how pensive he looked. "Having second thoughts?" he asked, purposefully keeping his tone light.

"All I have are thoughts."

"Want to share them?"

Severus sighed. "I'm . . . I've never been one for introspection, Harry."

"Funny word, 'introspection', what with your body being a projection, now."

"That's partially true," Severus said quietly, turning to gaze at Harry. "Everything we've experienced together—physically—hasn't truly been physical at all."

I would have found a better way to put that, Harry thought, worrying. "Everything we've experienced together"—does he regret it? "Severus, I know you want to be back in your own body, but—"

"Before you came home, I was thinking of ways to destroy it."

He said "home"—"Wait, destroy your body? But why?"

"Because this isn't good for you."

"You're good for me," Harry protested, kneeling before Severus and laying his palms on the man's knees. "I love you."

Severus smiled slightly and placed his own palms over Harry's hands. "I know, but—"

"No, don't be like this. I don't regret—"

"Let me speak."

Furrowing his brow, Harry fell silent.

"I don't regret you, either, but I'm no good to you like this, and I'm . . . concerned about your state of mind. What were you doing, before I called to you?"

Harry flushed and looked down.

"Harry?"

"Being stupid, but that doesn't matter, now."

"Harry. What were you doing?"

"Letting myself fall, all right?" Harry admitted, pulling himself free of Severus' hands and sinking to the floor.

"You were trying to kill yourself?"

The edge of fear in Severus' voice was oddly soothing to Harry, who could only nod.

"Things are worse than I knew. You've been locked up here with me too long. You haven't even begun to deal with—"

"Is it too much to ask that I just be allowed to be happy, for once?"

"You're not happy. You're desperate."

"Why? Because I love you?"

"I can't deny our . . . connection—"

Harry stood abruptly. "Don't say it like that!"

"Our love, then."

"When you say it like that, I really believe—"

Severus rose and grabbed Harry gently by the shoulders. "I do. I do, Harry, but how we came to feel this way was . . . unusual at best."

"Nothing has ever been normal for me. Why does that matter?"

"Because you can't take me to holiday dinners. You can't take me anywhere."

"We'll find a way, Severus."

"We might. Should we, how will things change? We were never friends. You had cause to hate me. Have you forgotten that?"

Harry slumped his shoulders. "You're scared."

"I can't help being a lot of things, feeling a lot of things. But you didn't answer me."

"Look, you're right. There's a lot I want to know from you. . . . But . . . it's just—I did things I'm not proud of, myself. I think that means I owe it to you to listen to your explanations."

Severus dropped his hands. "Harry, many of those will begin and end with the fact that I was a Death Eater, and, for some time, loyal to the Dark Lord. Whatever we feel for each other, nothing will change that—just as nothing can change the fact that you and I don't know each other. What we . . . what we have is tenuous at best and due to the life debt between us in large part."

"And you think that means we can't be together?"

"I think that means our being together is little more than a metaphysical oddity, spurred on by our loneliness," Severus admitted.

Harry felt the unwelcome burn in his eyes that forecasted tears. "You said you'd never let me go."

"And I meant that—but I'll break my word if it will mean keeping you safe."

"You're not a threat to me!"

"You're not particularly stable, Harry, by your own admission. How is continuing to hide here with a disembodied intellect going to help you?"

Harry folded his arms. "Tell me that you don't regret us."

"I don't."

"Tell me that you love me."

"Harry."

"Tell. Me."

"I love you."

Some of his worry gone, Harry smiled. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

Severus sighed.

"I know. I do. This is weird and seemingly unworkable, but we'll make it work—we'll find a way to make you whole again. I promise."

*

Foolish brat—making promises he can't hope to keep, Severus thought, opening his arms to Harry and thrilling anew when Harry stepped into them.

He knew how he wanted Harry's body to feel, and it was almost real to him, the sensation of warm skin and hairy chin and another heart pounding against his chest.

What have I got myself in for, now? "I just want this all to be real."

"I know. It is. It . . . it will be—it is, Severus."

~*~

The next morning, Severus and Harry were lounging on the sofa, Harry's head in Severus' lap, trying out their newfound silent communication when Ron burst into the drawing room.

The verbal connection between them snapped at once, as if they were both too shy about what they'd been doing to risk its exposure, despite the fact that there was no way anyone could have guessed what they'd been doing.

Severus took one look at Weasley's expression and knew something was badly wrong, but he was surprised to observe that Harry reacted calmly, saying only, "Hullo, Ron."

"Sit up—no, stand," Ron demanded.

"What's got your knickers in a twist?"

"I should beat the shite out of you for making her cry," Ron answered, his hands balling into fists.

"What? Oh! Hermione. I forgot lunch, didn't I?" Harry asked, standing.

"You did more than that," Ron replied. "Accio Harry's broom!"

"What are you—"

Damn, thought Severus. He was seen.

Ron ignored Harry, casting a complicated-sounding charm on the broom as it floated through the door. Bright sparks, which coalesced into quivering letters, flowed out of Ron's wand:

H O g S M e A d E W e D N E s D A y M o R N I N g

"Damn it!" he shouted. "It was you—people saw you, Harry—people saw you drop like a dead-weight from the sky over Hogsmeade this morning! What the hell were you playing at?"

"Nothing. I mean, I was just careless, is all. How'd you know it was me? I mean, why'd you come here?"

"Because you didn't just forget about lunch with Hermione. You forgot our Quidditch session yesterday—and then I received three reports of attempted suicide by broom!"

"You can see I'm fine," Harry retorted, his eyes narrowing in anger.

"I don't see that. I see you in trouble, mate. I thought you were getting better, but Hermione thinks . . . ."

"What?"

"She thinks you're having . . . delusions about Snape."

Oh, fuck, Severus thought, laying a hand on Harry's shoulder to steady him. "Don't tell him, Harry. He won't understand."

"I have to tell you something, Ron."

Ron's eyes widened. "She's right?"

"No, of course not, but—"

"Harry, don't."

"It'll be okay."

"Are you talking to me?" asked Ron.

"Listen, it might just be better if I showed you, all right? Come with me," Harry said, walking toward the door.

Severus felt a stab of what might have been fear in his gut. "Don't."

"It'll be all right. Promise," Harry said, turning back to look past Ron at Severus and smile.

Severus saw the muscles in Weasley's back tense.

"Like hell it will be," he said, following the other two.

"You're not talking to Walburga, are you?" Ron asked, his voice sounding almost choked.

Severus, stop worrying. I can feel it from here.

This is not wise. He'll think you're certifiable!

"I'm not that fond of basements," Ron said. "What exactly are you—what the hell?"

Harry stepped into the sub-cellar, throwing wide the door, and Severus knew that Weasley had seen him.

It.

"You, you didn't . . . ."

"I didn't kill him, Ron. I couldn't. I've been trying to find a way to bring him back."

"Do you . . . talk to it?"

"Severus isn't an it," Harry retorted. "Well, that—his body—may as well be, but he's—"

"Not in there," Ron interrupted. "Harry, this body's . . . empty."

"I know. Would you just listen?"

"Oh, gods—does Hermione know about this? Is this why she thinks—did you show this to her?" Ron asked, again clenching his hands into fists.

Severus moved to stand between the two younger wizards. He didn't know if he could physically affect Weasley, but it would be worth a try if it came to that.

Please don't come to that, he thought, watching Weasley mouth numbers as if counting to ten to calm himself.

"I can't believe she didn't tell me this. I can't believe—you've gone completely off your nut."

Harry stepped around Severus. "I haven't. Severus is here, Ron."

"He can't see me, Harry."

"No, his empty shell is here! You've—oh, hells! I don't know why, exactly, but you've obviously . . . imagined the rest. Oh. Oh, no. Oh, Harry. What exactly have you been imagining? What have you done?"

Harry looked from Ron to Severus' body and a look of disgust spread over his features. "Ron! Nothing sordid like that."

"Well, what then? What am I supposed to think? How long—have you had—is this what you did instead of killing him? Tell me!"

All right, maybe you were right, Harry thought to Severus, moving toward Ron as if he meant to touch him.

Weasley recoiled.

Severus saw how hurt the flinch made Harry and said quickly, "Don't take it personally. You must know how shocking this looks."

Harry swallowed and lowered his hands. "She hasn't known that long," he admitted.

A look of near-hatred crossed Weasley's face, and Severus felt himself tense.

"She's lost two babies. Two, Harry. How dare you involve my wife in this?"

"I'm—"

CRACK!

"—sorry," Harry finished, but only Severus remained to hear him. "I thought he'd understand."

"We don't even understand," Severus replied, pulling Harry into a hug and wondering, What now?

~*~

A series of loud snappings, as if wooden planks were being ripped apart, filtered down to the sub-cellar, and Harry pushed himself away from Severus, drawing his wand at the same time.

"Someone's destroying the wards!"

"What? How do you know?"

"Can't you hear that?" Harry asked, thinking, Ron, what are you doing? as he made to rush from the room.

"I can't work magic. That must mean that—"

"You can't sense its destruction. I have to go. Stay here."

"No! You stay. Whoever it is won't see me," Severus insisted.

"Ron must be naffed off but good—and you won't be able to calm him down. I should go."

Severus put himself between Harry and the stairs. "I doubt very much that Mr. Weasley would be destroying your wards. He hasn't any reason to do so, and—"

"Potter!"

"Fuck me, that's Malfoy," Harry said. "How would he—"

"Potter, I know you're here!"

Harry reached around Severus and pulled the door shut, murmuring an incantation.

"Not bad for an on-the-fly Unplotting spell," Severus noted, "but it will only work for so long if he overheard your friends discussing where my body is."

"I know that, but I need time. Why is he here?"

The sounds of objects being destroyed filtered down to them.

"Was Draco present when you took me from Riddle House? Does he think you—"

"Killed you, yes. He promised to kill me before the Aurors took me into custody. I guess we know now why he was so keen to work with Hermione."

Abruptly, the noises above stopped.

"I think that means Walburga's found him. She's wanted—"

"What?" Harry asked, looking confused. "She's still here?"

"I've no time to explain. You must stay here. Please."

"I can't just—"

"You have to trust me. I can't protect my body, so you must."

"But—"

"Just do as I say, Harry!" Severus ordered, willing himself abovestairs.

*

The drawing room was in shambles when Severus appeared in it, but Draco wasn't there. Moving from room to room, he finally found Draco and Walburga standing together in Harry's bedchamber.

"—what he's been doing with it!" she hissed. "You can smell it, can't you? You have to do something, boy—it isn't right!"

Draco was holding his wand so tightly that Severus thought it would snap. "I don't believe you."

"Your own flesh and blood? How dare you insult me like that? You must listen to me. Destroy the usurper and I'll give you what I've been waiting so long to—"

"Shut it, you bloodthirsty crone!" Snape demanded, striking her.

Walburga shrieked. "You must help me, Draco. He's using his magic on me. Make him—grrrngth!"

His hands wrapped around her neck, Severus squeezed until she was powerless to speak. A ghost, she should have known better than to fall for a quasi-physical attack, but Severus had been counting on her strong sense of self—and limited imagination—to work for him.

"If I kill you in this form," he lied to Walburga, "you're as good as banished. You will. Remain. Silent. Better yet—get out!"

"What's happening to you?" Draco asked, lowering his wand in confusion.

Good. He's releasing his rage, Severus thought, squeezing still as Walburga had refused to leave.

"What birthright? What the hell are you having fits like that for? Where's Potter?" Draco demanded.

"I'm right here," Harry said.

"Damn it! No, Harry!" Severus shouted, surprised into releasing his grip around Walburga's throat.

In the struggle, her hair had come unbound, and she made a compelling if twisted picture of a damsel in distress.

"You have to kill him, Draco," Walburga pleaded, tears coursing down her cheeks. "Kill him. Do it for your revenge, for your mother's house, for me. Kill him!"

Draco's hand shook. "Don't tell me what to do," he said harshly, his eyes never leaving Harry. "Potter, you bastard. You did kill him—didn't you? She says—"

"Severus is here, Malfoy," Harry answered.

"She says you've been using him," Draco hissed, horror playing across his features.

"No, I haven't—"

"HE HAS!" Walburga shrieked. "My word as a BLACK!"

Severus moved to quiet her, but Walburga side-stepped his lunge and kept screaming.

"He's a foul, miserable, useless pervert! You must kill him—only then can you claim what's yours, what's been waiting for you—what Regulus left for you on the Dark Lord's behalf—kill him and become a god for your master!"

"Wh—what?" Harry and Draco both stammered.

"Are you . . . do you think there's a Horcrux here?" Harry asked.

"A what?" Draco demanded, looking from Walburga to Harry. "What is she talking about? And where is Severus?"

"You don't care where that impure thing is, Draco. You must kill the usurper."

Severus, so relieved by Walburga's "triumph" in telling Draco her secret being an empty victory, felt a relief so great that it reduced him to helpless laughter. It was either that or cry, and he didn't cry—at least, not when he could help it.

*

"You all right?" Harry asked.

"Why the hell are you asking her?"

"'M not," Harry said, his eyes widening at Severus' apparent display of mirth. "You're scaring me, you know."

"You foolish . . . old . . . bint," Severus gasped more than said, between peals of semi-hysterical laughter. "There are no . . . more Horcru—oh, fuck but that's—stupid . . . bint!"

"How dare you speak to me like that?" Walburga growled, glaring at Severus.

Draco had completely lowered his wand while looking between Walburg and Harry, something that Harry hadn't missed. As soon as Draco's eyes were off him, he took the opportunity to Accio Draco's wand.

"Hey!"

"Should've paid more attention," Harry replied, tucking away the wand in his back pocket after casting a spell upon it to keep Draco from retrieving it.

"I don't need my wand to kill you, Potter."

With a worried glance at Severus, Harry retorted, "You kill me, and you'll never find out what's going on."

Draco looked back to Walburga, who'd begun to rage about destiny and impure blood and the usurper once more, all the while tearing at Severus' hair and clothing.

"Who's she attacking?" Draco asked.

"Severus."

"There's . . . there's no one there, Potter."

"It looks that way, doesn't it?" Harry replied, before shouting, "Walburga, stop that or I'll banish your arse!"

"I HATE YOU!" she shrieked in turn, sobbing as she threw herself far from Severus, who was still laughing hysterically.

"Oh for—would you please just do it?" Draco asked Harry. "I get enough of that at home."

In spite of himself, Harry found himself sniggering at that.

"Betrayed, so very betrayed—and by my own flesh and—"

"The spell . . . you want is . . . 'Exorcizarus'," Severus said to Harry. "Fuck. Just please . . . shut the harpy up."

"Give me back my wand, and I'll do it," Draco demanded impatiently, "if you're too squeamish."

Harry pointed his wand at Walburga, who had gone utterly silent. "You meant the locket, right?"

"When he opens it, you'll see. You'll see what true power really is, you—"

"Exorcizarus!" Harry cast, turning to Malfoy. "Satisfied?"

"Are you fucking serious? What the hell's a Horcrux? What do you mean, Severus is here? Tell me what's going on!"

"I didn't kill him, you stupid prat. I brought him here."

"Did it work? Is he alive?" Draco demanded, his expression suddenly brightening with hope.

"Uh," Harry said, suddenly not sure how to explain. "Not exactly."

Severus sniggered.

Harry turned to him, saying, "And you think I'm mentally unbalanced."

"Tell him, Harry. Before he decides to try for his wand. I don't want Draco harmed."

"Potter?" Draco asked, sounding confused. "If you're talking to me, the answer's yes. You're clearly insane."

Harry snorted. "I've been worse things."

~*~

Sometime later, after Harry had tried explaining things to Draco as best he could—with Severus' Legilimentical assistance at times—and Draco had run out of questions, the three wizards found themselves sitting together in the kitchen, Harry and Draco drinking a second bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey while Severus looked on.

He knew how difficult Harry was finding it to be calm; he could feel Harry's confusion as if it were his own.

Don't dwell on it, he snapped at himself, experiencing suddenly the warmth of Harry's reassurance that Harry was sending him through their mysterious bond.

Don't. It'll be all right.

Severus wasn't at all certain about that. So much had happened in the past few days that he didn't feel like himself.

No, you feel like two people, don't you? Two people wondering why Draco is here.

Severus understood how Draco had found Grimmauld; he'd apparently overheard the Granger-Weasleys talking about Harry and had followed the careless Auror, but the not so small matter of how Draco had subverted Albus' Fidelius Charm had yet to be explained. Of course, every time he thought to mention this oddity to Harry, Draco said something interesting to which Severus wanted to listen.

It was strange how Harry couldn't glean everything he was feeling or thinking.

But then, I am the more skilled Legilimens, Severus told himself, as he turned his attention back to Draco and Harry's conversation.

"So . . . so you've been holed up here taking care of a glorified corpse for over two years? And . . . and shagging Severus' mind?" Draco asked, looking skeptical but attempting to hide it.

"Pretty much—the uh, the shagging's a recent development."

"But you hate each other."

"Obviously not."

Draco belched unapologetically, as if to indicate his disbelief. "And I thought what I saw in Mysteries was bizarre. I could make my career writing about—"

Tell him he will not do that, Severus demanded, forgetting his suspicions.

"I doubt he's going to do that," Harry replied.

"You're talking to him, to Severus?"

"Yes," Harry said. But I probably shouldn't be doing it out loud.

In spite of himself, it touched Severus to know how unashamed Harry was to acknowledge him—no matter how it obviously disconcerted Draco, who was looking wildly around.

"I'm sorry. I tried. Father would've known if I'd warned you, and—"

"He's behind me, Draco."

"I'm so sorry, Severus," Draco continued, looking past Harry's shoulder.

"He says you're not to write about him."

"And just what is he going to do to stop me?"

"Tell him I'll find a way to inform Miss Parkinson about his assignation with Alecto Carrow," Severus urged, suddenly feeling the need to speak, despite the fact that, for all he knew, Harry experienced his Legilimentical communications in much the same manner as he "heard" his disembodied speech. "Further, tell him I'll find a way to inform his mother."

Harry grinned and relayed Severus' threats, which Draco blanched to hear.

"Fuck. He is here!" Draco exclaimed, leaping up from the table.

"After everything we've talked about, now you believe me?" Harry asked, incredulous. He's been . . . indulging me, Severus.

"You're only just working that out?" Severus asked.

"I won't. Write about you. Don't tell them, please," Draco begged, before rushing the sink and becoming quite ill.

"Never could hold his liquor," Severus remarked, in what seemed to Harry to be a half-disgusted, half-affectionate tone.

He didn't actually care for the affection he felt Severus hold for Draco. Don't be stupid, he told himself, as he stared at Draco for a moment before conjuring a towel for him. "This is . . . so fucking weird."

Severus grunted. "'Weird' is a poor adjective to describe this situation."

"Yeah well, I burned the thesaurus, too."

"Th—thanks," Draco said to Harry then, looking at him quizzically as he wiped his mouth with the towel before casting a hygiene spell on himself.

Harry frowned. "You came here to kill me."

"You're just figuring that out, are you, Potter? Gods but you're thick."

"Hey!"

"So thick that you never thought of the obvious solutions to your myriad problems. You must be traumatized."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"And things were going so well, too," Severus quipped.

"First, you should have banished my 'aunt's' ghost the moment she burst from her 'portrait'. Second, you've got Severus' mind and body here, don't you?"

"So what?"

"So think him back into his body, you idiot. Nothing could be simpler."

"What? I can do that?" Harry asked, looking at Severus in surprise.

"You never even tried, did you?" Draco asked, shaking his head.

"I wished for it all the time!" You know that I did, don't you, Severus?

"Of course I—"

"But that was only wishing, not willing, and did it never occur to you that your bloody 'wishes' called him back—from wherever his mind was? My guess is it—he—went beyond the Veil, but—"

"Would you skip the guessing and get to the point?" Harry demanded.

"Well, now that you know he's real, is his . . . manifested form more real than his drooling mess of a body?"

"Thank you."

"Severus," Harry said, "he's just making a point."

"So I am. Answer my question."

"I . . . I don't know, but—hell! Let's find out," Harry said, excitement rising within him as he rushed out of the room.

Severus observed Draco, who had not moved to follow Harry, and his suspicions returned. Draco hadn't, when previously Harry had offered to show him the body, seemed keen to see it.

"I'll just stay here, shall I?" Draco called, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Concerned—but just as excited as Harry at the thought of his impending re-embodiment, Severus willed himself to the sub-cellar.

Some Unspeakable-in-Training he is, Harry thought at Severus, taking the steps two at a time and throwing himself into the room that now held all his hopes—only to find something entirely unexpected.

Severus, his expression completely empty—his mind, as well, for all Harry could tell—was standing by the camp bed, which held nothing but two piles of coiled chain and opened manacles. For a moment, all Harry could do was stare, made mute by the sight and the lack of emotion he was feeling from Severus, and then he closed his mind and began screaming an incantation.

Severus blinked at the loss of contact with Harry, but he was too stunned by Weasley's apparent betrayal to care that Harry's incantation was a Dark one.

Continue to Part Nine