Title: The Side Effects of Too Much Tea
Rating: Hard R
Word Count: 3845
Summary: Severus goes looking for his student.
Warnings (Highlight to view): For alternate reality in which Harry has always been Harriet, Snape's first loyaly has always been to himself, implied chan, and mild violence.
Disclaimer: This story 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: Written for rhiandra. Thank you, aseneth, eaivalefay, ladylark77, reddwarfer, and stasia, for beta'ing.
The picture was that of a young woman, perhaps just into her twenties, who looked older than she should have by virtue of the pain glimmering in her dark eyes, the set of her jaw, and the clenching of her hands—she was obviously frightened. Her hair was long, but shapelessly cut and held back somehow from her face. Her tartan skirt was entirely too short, and she looked cold, which wasn't a surprise as she was wearing only a scarf over a denim jacket to protect her from the elements. Slung over her shoulder was a manky tan and olive green bag; it did not appear to carry much.
Severus examined that face, but he could find no trace of any scar. A glamour, most likely, he thought, tossing the photograph onto his desk. "You did well to bring this to me, Fletcher. How much?"
"The picture's free, o' course. I doubt the Prophet would take a Muggle picture, but you did say to be discreet."
"I meant how much for your silence," Severus replied, surreptitiously grasping his wand as he pushed a piece of parchment forward. "Write your price."
"Well now, it's Harry, ain't it?" Fletcher said, eagerly moving the parchment closer to himself as he reached for the quill on the edge of Severus' desk. "Everyone wants to know where she is, Sna—Deputy Headmaster, so I think my sile—"
"Obliviate!" Snape cast, frowning at Fletcher's use of Harriet's nickname.
He'd never cared for it.
It didn't take Severus long to locate where Harriet had been hiding herself since her defeat of the Dark Lord and subsequent disappearance. He took a leave of absence from Hogwarts and rented a flat two doors down from the witch's own, shadowing her for days to learn her routine before engineering a "chance" meeting between the two of them.
"Pardon me," he said, as he walked into Harriet, who dropped the grocery bag she'd been carrying. "Let me help you."
"I've got it. It's fine," she replied, quickly scrambling to catch her tins before they rolled into the street. "Really, it's fine."
"Miss, you really do want my help," Severus insisted, waving his right hand casually.
Harriet gasped as her purchases suddenly appeared in her bag before her. "How'd you do that?"
"I'm a magician. It's a trick," Severus said, picking up the bag and standing as Harriet did the same. "Name's Severus. You?"
"Um," Harriet said, appearing uncertain, "um, thanks, Severus. I've got to be going. Neat trick, that," she continued, pulling her bag out of Severus' arms and walking past him.
"You're not going to tell me your name?" he called after her. "We're neighbors, you know."
Harriet stopped and turned. "I'm Ree. Nice to meet you. Goodbye," she said, striding quickly away.
Severus watched her unlock her door and enter her flat without looking back at him, and he sighed. Amnesia. That isn't a surprise, either.
What Severus did find odd was that Harriet seemed so terrified. He supposed that waking up to find one didn't know oneself would be alarming, but watching Harriet walk hurriedly to and from her flat, which he did from his bedroom window each morning and evening, upset him: there was nothing of the Harriet he'd known in this timid young woman.
This timid young Muggle woman, he thought, a week after his discovery of "Ree's" name. She has no idea that she's a witch.
Severus told himself that he would have left Harriet to her new life if she'd appeared happy, if she'd been herself, but this woman she'd become seemed desperate and lonely and sad; knowing this, he had to find out what was making her so. He didn't believe it was just her amnesia.
He suspected nightmares.
She's been having them since she was at least fifteen, he mused, removing a phial from his work case and removing to the kitchen. Her amnesiacal state may not be complete. She needs my help. She's always needed it.
Severus spent the next hour baking, timing the pie's removal from the oven to coincide with Harriet's evening appearance; he was holding it in mitts as she passed his flat.
"Good evening, Ree," he said quietly, laying the pie on the bench by his door.
"Oh! Se—Mister Magician. Evening," she replied, but she didn't stop walking.
Severus followed her, falling into step with her easily. "So, I'm afraid I startled you the other day. Forgive me."
"Look," Harriet said, stopping abruptly. "You seem a nice enough bloke, but I'm—"
"Dreadfully unneighborly, yes, I know—but I promise not to hold that against you," Severus said, forcing himself to smile.
It was easier than he'd thought it would be, but then, it was easier to do everything again since he'd found Harriet.
Harriet grimaced. "You're a bit pushy, aren't you?"
"I moved to this neighborhood because it seemed cozy. You're not very cozy, and that makes me curious."
"Not very proper of you, that," Harriet replied crisply, but she seemed to relax all the same.
"Would you believe that I've been a very proper schoolteacher for over twenty years?"
Harriet looked Severus up and down. "You look more like a . . . a shabby magician than a schoolteacher—it's the robes," she continued, somewhat apologetically.
"Ah, yes. My mother considers herself something of a seamstress," Severus lied, delighted by Harriet's . . . curiosity.
It sent a thrill of remembrance through him. No one had ever looked at him the way Harriet Potter had.
"In love with buttons, is she?" Harriet asked, smiling slightly.
"Indeed, and I'm a good enough son not to disappoint her, but my point was that I'm done with propriety if it means that I can't put myself forward to meet a neighbor." Extending his hand, he said, "Severus Snape. And you are?"
Harriet drew in a breath and held it, appearing to consider something, and then let it out as she took Severus' hand. "The world must be small. It's Ree Snape, actually."
"What a . . . charming coincidence, Miss Snape," Severus managed to say, while his mind swam with possibilities. No permanent damage, then. She's parsing bits of her past into her present. "Would you care for some of my pie?"
"What? Your mum didn't make that?" Harriet asked, inclining her head toward Severus' front step, the bench, and the pie in question.
"I don't live with my mother, of course."
"I should hope not, a man of your age."
"Do I seem so old to you?" Severus asked, unexpectedly experiencing an old concern.
"Well, no—not for a pushy, pie-baking magician," Harriet replied, shifting from foot to foot as if considering something more weighty than Severus' offer.
He drew in a breath, watching her.
"I . . . I suppose I would. Thanks."
Severus made a point of visiting a Muggle clothing shop the following day, so that the next time Harriet saw him, he looked less like a "magician" and more like a retired schoolteacher.
"Now that's proper," Harriet remarked, stopping in front of his gate that evening.
Severus looked up from his paper as if he hadn't been sitting upon it over forty minutes and waiting. "Cuppa?" he asked, with purposeful casualness.
"I shouldn't put you out."
"Then you can make the tea," Severus replied, rising.
It was always best, he'd found, not to give Harriet any time to think.
"You know, this is a 'cozy' neighborhood. People might talk."
Then I'll cut out their tongues. "Let them."
Harriet smiled. "I'll just wait here, shall I?" she asked, opening the gate and approaching the bench.
"That would be proper."
Severus went to put the kettle on, feeling pleased but confused. It shouldn't be this easy. I'm a stranger to her. Has she spent the last four months being friendly with everyone?
He pushed that thought out of his mind; he hadn't seen any evidence that Harriet was involved with anyone. Still, it was important that the girl begin to involve herself with him before he went mad with impatience, so he modified his plan a bit.
He'd only added a tiny amount of Gregory's Unctuous Unction to the pie; he hadn't wanted to give rise to any suspicions Harriet and his neighbors might feel were he and Harriet to suddenly become fast friends—but it seemed wise to up the dosage, just a bit, so he added more of the potion to the tea water.
Damn! Severus inwardly exclaimed, pushing the potion bottle away and turning to regard Harriet. "Risking 'talk', are you?"
"Well, it was a bit chilly. I expect everyone's indoors," Harriet replied, setting aside her bag and gesturing toward a kitchen chair with an arm.
Severus arranged the tea things on a tray, saying, "Of course. Please sit down."
"You're so tidy that it's hard to believe you just moved house."
"My school boards, so I lived in. The rooms there are small, and I've never been much of a pack rat," Severus replied, beginning to levitate the tray and then stopping himself. Careless fool!
He'd magicked Harriet's groceries back into their bag as a test.
But to continue with such tricks . . . .
"You really are something, with that magic of yours," Harriet said slowly. "Magnets?"
"Yes," Severus assured her, manually moving the tray to the table and busying himself with the making of the tea.
"I thought I was to make it?" Harriet chided him, smacking away Severus' hands and preparing the tea herself. "How do you take it?"
Any way I can get it, Severus thought. "Guess," he said, wondering if any such guess would be accurate. How much memory has she lost? "I'm certain you can figure it out."
Harriet laughed. "You're an odd one, magician—bet you take sugar, scant, and lemon?" she asked, preparing his cup without waiting for a response.
Severus smiled. "Good tea."
"Good company," Harriet answered, grinning.
Harriet Potter, Severus thought, clearing his throat at the rush of emotion her expression caused in him. No one smiles like you.
He ignored the voice inside his mind that hissed, No one ever smiled at you before Harriet.
They spent the evening discussing books.
By the end of the month, they were sharing them.
Walking Harriet to her door after an evening of literary discussion and tea-drinking, Severus paused nervously before her rusted gate. "Ree" seemed to enjoy his company. They'd spent a great deal of pleasant, relatively undemanding time together. He'd been good—more patient than he'd ever been, in fact—but he still didn't know whether she had merely been indulging a lonely old man, or if she had become interested in a more mature suitor.
Why can't I read you Legilimentically? he wondered, smiling slightly down into Harriet's eyes.
"Something tells me that you want to kiss me," Harriet said.
Her tone was mischievous, but husky enough to make Severus hope. "Oh?"
"Schoolteacher-cum-magicians are fond of that sort of thing, or so I've been led to believe."
"By whom?" Severus almost demanded, before he realized that she was teasing him. "Oh. You mean me, don't y—"
Harriet pressed her lips to Severus' and stopped his mouth.
"You still taste like raspberries," he whispered, when they broke their embrace.
Harriet raised her eyebrows. "Still?"
Severus winced. "I meant—"
"You've been having sordid dreams, I expect. It's a noted side effect of too much tea."
"Is there a cure?" Severus asked, feeling emboldened by Harriet's flirtation to draw her closer. Yes. The potion's working. She's going to—
"Don't drink tea?"
Severus snorted, and drew a hand lightly up and down Harriet's back. "Perhaps we should continue our discussion of the cure for too much tea inside?"
Harriet's face fell. "Severus, I . . . I think that all I could offer you inside would be . . . more tea."
"A pox on all tea," he replied, with an attempt at lightheartedness.
Severus didn't see Harriet leave for work the next morning, and his mood turned sour to realize, as he saw her walking home in the evening, that she must have left her house by the back door earlier in the day.
She's avoiding me now. I knew things were going too well.
Frustrated—and regretting his failure to have set a tracking charm on that dreadful bag Harriet had taken to carrying—he took himself to bed.
The annoyed tapping of talons against his bedroom window woke him hours later. The owl had brought him a letter from Minerva, who, of course, had assumed that he'd left to find "Harry." Everyone was looking for Harry.
Severus had given up wondering how it was that only he had found her, telling himself that it was due to the . . . connection between Harriet and himself that had made the difference in his efforts.
He wrote back to the Headmistress at once to report himself in pursuit of a lead.
"Because 'Ree' isn't Harriet," he whispered, completing his letter and sending the Hogwarts owl on its way. "She may never be Harriet again." But she's still mine.
Unfortunately, Minerva felt a keen personal interest in Harriet, as well, and came to see him the following day. She was just leaving as Harriet appeared at the end of the street.
"I knew it. You lied to me!"
"You have to go," Severus told Minerva, deeply concerned that she might somehow ruin his plans. "You shouldn't let her—"
"Hello," Harriet called, approaching them, her expression unaccountably wary. "Is this your mother, then?"
Minerva glared at him. "Severus."
"Just be quiet," he snapped, hoping that Harriet hadn't heard their exchange as he watched her approach. "Ree, this is Minerva McGonagall, an . . . a former colleague of mine. Minerva, Ree."
Harriet held out her hand to Minerva, who took it and smiled in her brittle, disapproving manner.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. Severus didn't mention that he'd found a . . . friend."
Harriet raised an eyebrow. "Well, perhaps he's concerned about propriety."
At Harriet's words, Minerva favored Severus with an astonished glance, but composed herself quickly. "And what do you do, Ree?"
"Minerva," Severus protested.
"Nothing exciting—and certainly nothing as productive as school-teaching," Harriet replied circumspectly.
"How interesting that you're so vague."
"Minerva was just leaving," Severus put in quickly. "It was a pleasure. I'll be in touch."
Harriet appeared taken aback by Severus' abruptness. "I didn't mean to interrupt. It was a pleasure, ma'am. Severus," she concluded, nodding to them both as she walked away.
Minerva waited until Harriet had entered her flat before rounding on Severus with a frosty, "Well?"
"She won't tell me what she does, either." And I've been too happy to have found her that I haven't—
"So there was something going on between you, I take it, before . . . ."
"We can't have this discussion outside," Severus said sternly, leading Minerva back into his flat.
"—vault's empty! I would have told you all of this had you not snuck away and been lying to me!"
"Would you stop shouting at me? What do you mean, her vault's empty?"
"Some spy you are, man! Didn't you check?"
"I did check. When I left, the Potter vault was full."
"Well, Harry's obviously emptied it—she's the only one who could have. That's how she's been supporting herself, despite how she's got you gulled into believing she doesn't remember herself."
"Harriet has never lied to me!"
Minerva scoffed. "Tell me, Severus, just when were you planning on telling me that the two of you were involved?"
"We're not. I've been attempting to gain her trust."
"Her 'trust'? I'm not a fool. I can see how it was."
Severus sighed, too unnerved to be angry with Minerva. "Albus knew," he said helplessly.
"What, exactly, did Albus know?"
"All of it—and I don't feel the need to—"
"You need to bring Harry home. This is ridiculous!"
"She doesn't remember. She doesn't, Minerva."
"You've got that from her mind, have you?"
"Not exactly—but I would know, and she doesn't."
"Are you telling me that you can't read her? You can't read her, but you still think—"
"I don't know what to think!" Severus shouted, turning away from Minerva. "I just know that she's here, and that's enough . . . for now."
"Did you take advantage of that girl?"
"That's none of your—"
"To hell your privacy! Did you take advantage of Harry? Are you doing the same thing now? You work for me, not Albus, and I don't care—"
"Stop it," a feminine voice interrupted.
"Ree," Severus said, turning about. "Did you hear—"
Harriet was trembling so badly that it made Severus stop speaking.
"Go home, Professor McGonagall," Harriet said, with surprising steadiness. "Just leave. I didn't ask to be found, and I don't want you here."
Minerva opened her mouth to reply, but she had disappeared before she could say anything.
"What . . . did you do?"
"Nothing damaging—just sent her back to Hogwarts is all," Harriet replied, crossing her arms. "That's where you should be, isn't it, 'magician'?"
"Why have you been lying to me?" Severus demanded, suddenly furious to know that Harriet had been making a fool of him.
"I just wanted things to be normal. I just . . . no!" Harriet exclaimed, as Severus crossed the room and attempted to embrace her. "Don't you dare."
It was the hatred in her eyes that made Severus stop. He stared at her, gobsmacked. "You've never told me that before," he said, hating himself for the burning of his eyes. This isn't the way it should be happening. This isn't how I planned—
"Just . . . look. Look, I'm sorry I lied to you. I'm sorry, all right? They were becoming so awful, worse every day, and when I saw you . . . I was going to run, but . . . ."
"You mean, the nightmares?"
"Yeah," Harriet replied, stepping backwards and then turning her back on Severus. "I missed you," she whispered. "I thought, I thought that it would be all right to pretend . . . before you left again."
Severus was stunned. "You really believe I'd leave you now that I've found you again? Harriet, please," he said, placing his hands on her shoulders, "you have to know that—"
"Don't you get it? I do know. I know everything—I saw it all in Voldemort's mind when I was ripping it apart," Harriet said coldly, as she turned on Severus. "I know what you did. All of it. I know, but, when I saw you, all I could think of was—"
Severus pulled Harriet forward and crushed her lips with his own, kissing her with all the desperation he'd felt when he'd first discovered she'd left the Burrow after the Dark Lord's fall. He was glad that she didn't fight him, that she kissed him back just as fiercely. He wouldn't have allowed her to pull away if she'd tried.
I'm never letting you leave me again! he thought fervently.
Suddenly, Severus found himself sprawled in a heap on the other side of the room, while Harriet laughed. It was the ugliest sound he'd ever heard.
"You think you can hold me?" she half-laughed, half-sobbed. "You think you can make me do anything? I'm not some scared student on her knees in your office! I'm not your . . . apprentice anymore! I'm not some scared idiotic girl who you can trick over the tea cups with your potions and poetry and lies!"
Severus closed his eyes, hearing Minerva's voice ringing through his mind, "Did you take advantage of that girl?" and forced himself to speak. "But you are scared—terrified, in fact—and you do want me. I know you do, Harriet, so why—"
"I was playing, pretending—trying to make them stop! I just want them to stop, Severus,
and you . . . you were here. I knew you were here before I even saw you, and I HATED IT!" Harriet screamed, collapsing to the floor and sobbing.
She didn't stop Severus when he crawled to her and wrapped himself around her shaking body. She'd never stopped him before, never kept him from comforting her.
Never, until we talked about the tea, he thought, holding onto Harriet as tightly as he could. "Please don't leave me. Please don't ever leave me. I can't be without you, Harriet. I lo—"
"Don't! Don't you dare lie to me again!" Harriet shouted, trying to struggle out of Severus' grip.
"I'm not lying," Severus insisted, rolling himself on top of Harriet and pinning her wrists down with his hands. "I've never lied to you!"
Harriet laughed again and stilled. "I've looked in all the books, you know—I've been Apparating to the Spellcraftres' Guild every day to look through them since I left—and I've never found anything about sex magic and control. No one teaches that but you! And Voldemort saw all that in my mind—what you taught me, what you did to me—and he laughed! I was fifteen. What did I know?"
"You knew you had to be prepared to face him—and you liked it. You wanted me. I would never have—"
"You DID!" Harriet roared, sending Severus rolling away from her without moving.
This time, Severus could feel his skin tingling—no, crawling with magic—and it scared him.
She sent Minerva away with a thought. She discorporated the Dark Lord. What the hell are you doing, Severus? She could kill you.
"I could kill you," Harriet said, pushing herself up, suddenly calm. "I've thought about it a lot."
"Then why haven't you?" Severus spat.
Harriet didn't answer, not for a long time. When she did speak, however, Severus wasn't surprised by her words.
"You're all I know. You're all I can want because you taught me to only want you. You're the reason my parents are dead, and I can't make myself care enough to kill you. . . . I left because of everything I saw, saw that you did, and his laughing about it, but I still . . . I still don't feel right when I'm not with you."
"Did you take advantage of that girl?" Severus heard again, and this time, he felt only exultation. "Then be with me. Please, Harriet, you have to know that I'd never leave you. You're . . . the reason. All these years and you're the reason."
Harriet held out her arms. "Get up."
Severus obeyed her at once, rising into her embrace and clutching Harriet to himself, breathing in the scent from her hair and trembling.
"Tell me the truth," Harriet whispered.
"I lied to you. I . . . took advantage of you in the grossest sense."
"I'd do it again. I'd do all of it again, Harriet," Severus admitted, pulling away from her so that he could see her face, her eyes. "I. Have. To. Have. You. . . . I always have."
"You're broken," Harriet accused.
"Yes, but you don't care," Severus challenged.
"No, I really don't," Harriet half-sobbed, leaning in to be kissed.
Severus snaked his tongue over Harriet's and thought, You're broken, too.
You're the one who broke me, Harriet's voice replied in his mind, and you're not even sorry.
Severus didn't break their embrace to give lie to the truth. You understand me perfectly.
"Of course I do," Harriet told him, pulling away. "You taught me to."
"So I did. So, what, now?" he asked, swallowing hard.
Harriet slid a hand down Severus' chest to fondle his prick through his trousers. "More lessons, I expect."