The Lovers' Circle, Part Two
Harry stepped out of his near-scalding shower and sank to the floor of the bathroom. He was not staying at the novitiate in Hogsmeade with the other newly graduated Aurors because of his status; Dumbledore had wanted to keep him safe at the school.
"Safe," he muttered, drawing his knees up against his chest and hugging himself. "Take," he remembered, burning with shame as he thought of how Ron had felt inside of him. He did not understand how his pain had turned to . . . . No. Don't think about it. It wasn't him. "It wasn't."
Harry sat on the floor all night and got no sleep at all.
As dawn was rising, the Auror picked himself up and went to the Headmaster's chambers. He knew that man did not have much time left to live, and had made a habit—as had Snape—of visiting him before bed.
Albus was awake when he entered his bedchamber.
"Ah, you're . . . ."
"What?" Harry asked, as the man's greeting trailed off into silence. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, dear boy. I do not know what to say."
The wound that was Harry's memory of his rape bled into his consciousness as he realized that the old wizard had easily seen everything, and he tried unsuccessfully to staunch his threatening tears.
Albus raised quivering arms, and Harry fell into them, clutching the man who had been like a father to him as if he could make it all go away.
"I wish that I could, Harry. Oh, I am so very sorry."
Harry felt the wizard's fingers card through his hair slowly, but, as his sobs faded, he realized that the man's hands had stopped soothing him, that his breathing had become shallow. "Are you okay? Should I get Mada—"
"Listen, Harry. It's . . . time," Albus wheezed. "You must . . . tell Severus . . . tell him . . . ."
"Yes. Anything. I'll tell him whatever you want, Sir."
"Sons, you both . . . . Yes, like sons to me. Proud. Be happy. Don't . . . no shame. Love," the Headmaster said, his mouth suddenly slackening as he fell back against his pillows.
Harry knew that Albus Dumbledore was dead, but he had no tears left to cry for him. As if watching from outside of himself, he saw that he rose and placed the man's hands over his chest. He carefully pulled down the man's eyelids over his lifeless orbs. And then he slowly walked out of the room and to the Infirmary to summon Poppy.
That's right. She said I could call her that, he told himself sometime later, while watching the stoic nurse tend to the Headmaster. He had no memory of returning to the room. "You need to help him," he said, not really knowing why.
"Oh, oh, my dear. Albus is beyond help, now," the witch said, gently taking Harry by the hand and leading him to the wizard's office. "Sit here. I'm going to get someone to stay with you."
Sit here, the young man thought. She's going to get someone to stay with me.
The next thing Harry knew, he was in the Infirmary, and Severus Snape, looking as harsh and autocratic as ever, was sitting next to him in a chair beside the cot upon which he was lying. "He's dead, isn't he?"
"You were there, Potter, so I was told."
"Fucking bloodless bastard."
A vein throbbed in the Potions master's jaw, but Harry did not see this.
"Wait," Snape said, and then he handed them over.
It struck the Auror as odd that the man had been holding them, but he did not speak of it. "What happens now?"
"A funeral, Potter."
"I know that. I mean—"
"You should not—do not concern yourself, boy. I am aware of your . . . injuries from last night's mission. You need to rest," the man said, standing.
"Don't tell me what I need, Snape."
"Mr. Potter, you may no longer be a student here, but you would do well to remember—" that I am a dangerous man, he thought, inwardly cringing at his unfinished threat. I can't do this. I cannot— "What. Did. He. Say. To. You?" he ground out, not knowing what else to say, and not wishing to argue with the boy.
"What?" Harry spat, throwing his shapely legs over the side of the bed and standing up.
Severus turned and rushed to a nearby basin, retching into it and hating himself for noticing Potter's charms at such a time. Sick. I am a sick bastard. God!
"Professor Snape? Are you . . . here," Harry said, handing the man a towel. "Sorry, I—"
"Do not apologize to me!"
"Fine," Harry said, backing away and looking, Snape was horrified to note, a bit frightened.
Severus grabbed the towel, wiped his mouth, and said, "Do not . . . do not trouble yourself. Forgive my outburst. The shock," he said, feeling like a fool.
"I miss him, too."
I do not deserve your pity. "Yes, we all . . . miss him. Get back into bed."
It was a plea. He needed to see less of the boy's body. He needed to not see the worry in Potter's haunted eyes.
Confused, the Auror went back to his cot and sat down, watching the Potions master with wide green eyes, and waiting.
"What is it that you want me to say?"
"Nothing. I . . . I guess you want to know what he said, right?"
"Sit—please—it's hard to talk with you looming like that."
Severus moved to the chair with all due speed, surprising Potter.
Harry slid himself back under the covers and leaned up against the headboard.
He is so young. So . . . .
After a moment, Harry told him what Albus' last words had been, how he had sounded, what he had looked like, and the Potions master felt himself becoming nauseated once more.
I will not be ill, and I will not cry! he ordered himself, stiffening and glaring at Potter, though he was actually not looking at anything. Love. Pride—I deserve neither.
The guilt washed over him afresh, and he rose to leave, but Harry stopped him.
"It's my fault, Sir."
"The Headmaster's dying," the boy said, one tear rolling down his stricken face.
Severus sat down again heavily. He told him. The knowledge was too much to bear.
"On the mission . . . something happened."
"And you told him," Snape said accusingly and coldly.
"N—no, I didn't, but . . . he knew. He just knew. I never would have said anything to upset him, but—"
Knowing that Harry had not revealed his hateful act willingly made Severus immediately penitent. "Potter," he said hoarsely, "you are not—whatever went . . . wrong—during your mission . . . . You can hardly be blamed for the Headmaster discovering it. His skills in Legilimancy far outstrip—outstripped—your own."
Harry chuckled humorlessly. "Only you could try to comfort someone by insulting them."
"It was not my intention to—"
"Leave it. Just tell me what happens now," Harry replied hollowly.
"Now you rest, and . . . forgive yourself for whatever it is you believe you did wrong last night. I am certain that it was not your fault, Harry."
"You called me Harry."
"Forgive me. I should not—"
"No, it's all right. I . . . don't mind. It was just a surprise."
"Yeah, I mean, of course. . . . It seemed very important to him, Professor, that you knew he thought of you as a son."
"And you as well, apparently."
"I suppose that makes us . . . brothers."
"It most certainly does not!" Severus almost yelled, abruptly quitting the room.
He was ill as soon as he entered the corridor.
Oh, dear God. He . . . . No!
It was bad, worse than he imagined it would be, to see Potter. And now it seemed that the boy was looking to forge a bond in grief with him when—
"FUCK!" Severus yelled, forgetting a cleaning spell and returning to his chambers.
To hell with plans and funerals and pity, he raged in his mind. "I will not permit him to befriend me!"
The man knocked back a Scotch and then began pacing his rooms, staring at nothing. It was very early in the morning, and McGonagall was efficiently dealing with the matter of Albus' death. He was supposed to be coordinating Order matters with Arthur Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt later that afternoon, but he could not think of that, any of it, though one thing in particular rose in his mind: Harry's frightened face.
"Fuck," he whispered, remembering how often that face had risen in his dreams since the boy had left the school—before it, truly, if he were to be honest with himself.
Severus had felt Potter's eyes on him beginning in the middle of the boy's seventh year and had ignored it. His prick had not, but that was a private matter for his hand to deal with, and so it had, sometimes both of them, for months before Harry had left to train as an Auror. He fancied the boy. It was disgusting. And, in light of recent events, it was an obscenity—for there was no way he could act on his feelings now.
He was certain he could keep Potter at arm's length, no matter the connection that Harry apparently felt laid between them because of the Headmaster's death-bed declaration. "Brothers," the boy—the young wiz—the man had said they were. And the way he looked at me, as if he wanted me to comfort him . . . .
Thank God Granger had been present. Severus had no idea what he would have done if she had not been.
An awful thought suddenly occurred to him: I still have Weasley's wand. I'll need to return the damn thing to him.
He had taken the wand before the mission because it would have looked quite unusual for "Ron" to have wielded Snape's wand. Arthur Weasley knew, of course, about his son's condition, but now that Albus was dead, and there was to be a funeral . . . .
"They'll know. They'll find out. He'll—"
A knock interrupted him.
The door slammed open. "No. I don't think I will," Ron Weasley, looking like Death himself and standing with the assistance of a cane on the threshold, said. "My dad told me that you had my wand, that you needed it for a mission," the young man—Severus could no longer think of Ron as a boy, not when he was half a head taller and twice as broad as he, himself, was—continued. "What mission?"
"Mr. Weasley, it's certainly good to see that you're well enough to be intruding upon former professors. Come in." Fuck.
The wizard did so, favoring his left leg. He walked toward the Potions master and glared down at him.
"When I spoke to Hermione earlier, she said something about an explosion and asked after my head. She said a lot of things, actually, none of which made any sense."
"She said more than she meant to, really. I told her, 'that's not how I remember last night', meaning, of course, that I didn't remember anything because I was still in a healing trance. Imagine my surprise when she started begging me not to tell Harry I remembered."
"What is it, Professor, that I remember? What. Happened. To. Harry? What did I do to him? Dad told me it was you who went along last night," Ron accused.
Severus was relieved that the wounded Auror did not have his wand. "Sit down, Mr. Weasley," he said quietly. "We have . . . much to discuss."
Madam Pomfrey did not ask any questions when he dragged himself to the Infirmary a little over an hour later with a broken arm and nose and shattered knee. She closed her eyes, opened them, sat him in a chair, and then set about healing him in her efficient manner.
Weasley was still there when Snape returned to his chambers.
"Sorry to make you late for your meeting," the young man said, though he sounded nothing like apologetic. "A curse. No control. Is that right?"
"Yes," Severus replied through clenched teeth.
He was not angry. In fact, the thrashing Ron had given him had helped.
"That's what Hermione said. Sit," he ordered, and evinced no surprise when the Potions master did so. "What the hell do we do now? I can't have Harry thinking that I . . . ."
"Squeamish now, are we?" Snape shot out before he could stop himself.
"Not by half. It's just hard to think about."
That is being squeamish, Severus thought, though he refrained from voicing it. "I quite agree."
"He's broken up about Dumbledore. This isn't a good time—"
"There will never be a good time to tell Harry that I raped him, Weasley."
Ron's eyes narrowed in anguish and anger, but he said nothing.
"I suggest we—I—get it over with."
"No, you had it right the first time. We will go to him together."
Severus covered his face with a hand and leaned back into the chair. He heard Ron speak, and this time, his voice was free of its earlier hardness.
"I wasn't your fault, you know. It wasn't you, either. It was the spell."
"I cannot tell you how sorry I am."
"No, you have to tell Harry. Fuck. I can't believe this happened."
Neither can I.
Inexplicably, the Auror said, "Whatever happens—after—you have to swear to me that you won't try and get yourself killed."
"Why the fuck not?" Snape asked, not caring how he sounded any longer.
"That's not for me to say. Just swear it. Because if you don't, I'll save us all some time and trouble and do it now."
I believe that you would.
"Believe me. I would."
Severus started, wondering how the young man had read his mind, and then cursed himself and his nerves for his own idiocy. "Of course. What else would I have been thinking? Fine. I will not."
"You 'will not', what?"
Suspicious, literal, relentless bastard. "I will not try to kill myself."
"Good," Ron said, thinking, Because it would be too much for Harry if you did. The wizard well understood how much his friend . . . regarded Snape, though he had no great admiration for Harry's taste. "I'll be in touch."
At Albus' funeral, Severus watched how Ron's face darkened when he accidentally brushed against Harry's body and the other boy flinched, and he felt a fresh burst of self-loathing. He thought he would never be clean again, or free of the shame of that night. Harry's face, Harry's cries, and Harry's fear, tormented his dreams—when he was not remembering the pleasure he had taken in them at the time. He knew that Weasley would come to him soon, and dreaded it, though he was able to shove the emotion to the back of his mind so that he could function. There was still a war to fight. In charge of the Order now, however, he made certain to keep Potter out of it—or he tried to, for a time.
Quite by accident, while Potter was off on one of the increasingly long flying jaunts he had taken to indulging in, the boy discovered where Lord Voldemort had been keeping himself. In his outrage at finding the Dark Lord holed up in the cottage at Godric's Hollow, Harry braved the evil wizard's guards and his wrath and slew them all.
"—and then Pettigrew begged me to kill him, as well," the Auror said before the Wizengamot on a chill December morning about a week after the rather anti-climactic event.
"And did you?" one of the minor judges asked dispassionately.
Snape stood behind Harry with a guard of Aurors that had nothing to do with honor. There were Death Eaters aplenty yet living, and the Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts and leader of the Order would be damned before he would allow any of them to harm the hero of the hour. He refused to permit any of the journalistic throng outside of the chamber speak to Harry, either, and whisked him away from his well-wishers as soon as the proceedings had ended.
Ron Weasley spent a great deal of time explaining his friend's story to the press, with his fiancée at his side. The young man seemed a great deal older to Snape when he was handling the reporters, and he felt grateful to him for shielding Potter in his capable way.
And it keeps him from coming to me, as I know he will, the wizard thought, sitting in his new office at the school and pretending to look at paperwork. It also keeps him away from the friend who is afraid of him.
Severus sighed. Potter had taken to his rooms and remained there ever since the arranged display before the Wizengamot, undertaken as the surest way to prove the Dark Lord's death, as there had been no witnesses to it. The house elves took the boy food, and sometimes returned to the kitchens with empty trays, but, more often than not, Potter ate nothing. Minerva—and many others besides—had attempted to coax him out of his imposed isolation, but he had refused to talk to them. The only person who had seen Harry was Hermione Granger, and she, just the once.
Snape was worried, but did not know what to do. For him to attempt to comfort Potter seemed a ridiculous idea. And I am too busy in any case, he told himself. "Coward."
"I wouldn't say that," a soft voice spoke in front of him.
The Potions master jerked his head up in surprise. So lost in his thoughts had he become that he had failed to hear Potter enter his office. The boy looked upon him with an uncertain gaze that made Severus hate himself still more.
"Auror Potter," he said, formally inclining his head a fraction.
"Deputy Headmaster Snape."
"I would say that it is good to see you well, but you appear somewhat the worse for wear. Have you been feeding yourself enough? No, of course not. I'll call for some luncheon."
"Wait, please," Harry said, taking a chair. "I want . . . I'm ready . . . that is, I'd like to get back into the field, Sir."
"Why?" the boy demanded, the ghost of anger coloring his tone.
"Clearly, you are unfit to return to duty, Potter. You have been neglecting yourself. I will not be responsible for your—"
"Hermione says that they've found Malfoy," Harry interrupted stoically, "and I want him."
"You've seen fit to admit someone into your inner sanctum. I suppose that is progress, of a sort. Nevertheless, you may not return to duty."
He knew very well that reports of Draco Malfoy's location had been sent in, and had made plans to join the next raiding party. It almost amused him that Harry Potter, slayer of Voldemort and celebrated hero, had come to ask for permission to kill the boy.
"You don't understand, Sir. I have to be the one who . . . ."
"'Who', what, Potter? Surely the childish rivalry between you and Mr. Malfoy does not extend so far that you think yourself the only one who ought to . . . apprehend him," Severus said harshly, falling back into his old pattern of behavior toward the boy in desperation.
He was being cruel, and he hated himself for that, too.
"I can't tell you why. I just have to—"
"No, you do not," the wizard said, allowing himself to glare. "Now take—"
He stopped speaking as soon as the word escaped his mouth at Potter's flinch, and damned himself for a fool. He had never so thoroughly and carelessly exposed himself before.
Harry looked at him, stunned, and said, "How?"
Forcing himself not to drop his gaze, Severus asked in a hoarse, fearful voice, "'How'?"
"How do you know?"
"Mr. Potter, I do not know what you are talking about," the man responded, looking his mind against the immediate sensation of intrusion.
"You do know. You're blocking me. You know."
"I 'block' everyone, Mr. Potter, as I attempted some time ago to teach you to do. Now, if you will excuse me, I have—"
Harry rose and walked slowly toward Snape, his mind recoiling from the memories that had been plaguing him for weeks, bent on making the wizard tell him what he knew. He pulled his wand, and found that the Potions master had already stood and drawn his by the time he leveled it on the man.
"Potter, you are overset. Put that thing away and be reasonable."
"Snape, you're lying to me. You know. I want you to tell me how."
"Fuck," Severus said, lowering his wand and setting it on the desk. "Fuck."
Harry kept his wand trained on the Potions master and waited.
"I did not wish for you to find out like this." I did not wish for you to find out, at all.
When the other wizard did not say anything for several long, torturous moments, Snape blurted out, "It was not Ron."
"Christ!" Harry spat. "I know that, you bastard! How do you?"
It took every ounce of courage that Severus possessed to admit the truth: "Because it was I who raped you, Harry."
It made the Potions master irrationally furious to see the boy drop his wand and choke out a near-hysterical laugh at his words.
"You're . . . insane. You . . . it couldn't have been you. What are you saying? Why?"
Fuck. "It was. I was there . . . that night. I was on the mission in Weasley's form at Albus' request because he had been wounded too badly to join you and Miss Granger."
"No, Ron was at the Min—"
"You have only to apply to Mr. Weasley to learn the truth. It was not Ron, Harry. It was I. I fell into the Lovers' Circle. I lost control. I chased you through the Forbidden Forest. I caught you and dragged you back. I raped you." I took pleasure in it. "I am so . . . very sorry, but it is the truth. It was I, Harry," Severus concluded, walking around his desk to stand before the boy without thinking about it, for he seemed so incredibly vulnerable, and all the wizard wanted in that moment was to ease his pain.
"You 'took pleasure in it', you said."
"No, I thought that, but it . . . it is true, as well. I cannot—"
He stopped speaking as he felt the tip of Potter's wand press into his chest. The Auror had levitated it wordlessly into his hand and stood glaring up at Snape with the glimmer of madness radiating from his eyes.
"Tell me where Draco is," Harry hissed, his mind reeling, his blood rushing, and his heart breaking. It wasn't Ron. It was Severus. Severus, who I . . . .
"You needn't keep your promise, Harry. She will forgive you, and to become a murderer," Severus said gently, raising a hand toward Potter's face.
Harry snatch the hand and pushed it away with his free hand and spat, "I'm already a murderer, Snape. And I'll be one again—of you or Malfoy, I don't care whom!" Make it Malfoy, make it Malfoy, make it Malfoy, he silently pleaded in a desolate litany.
"I'll tell you if you permit me to accompany you," Severus said, praying that Harry would accept the condition.
Seven hours later, Draco Magnus Malfoy was dead at their feet, as were four other Death Eaters who had fled to France in hopes of escaping their lord's fate.
Harry stood over Draco's bloody, mangled body and tried to catch his breath. He had not used magic to kill the other boy, but had stabbed him with his wand repeatedly before beating his corpse beyond recognition. His anger was spent. His mind, empty, and, as he slowly returned to himself, all he could do was shake in fear at the monster he had become. He did not protest when Snape gathered him to his chest and held him.
"Oh, God. Oh, God, Severus—he looks like Re—mus," the boy said brokenly, beginning to sob hysterically.
Severus clasped Harry more tightly against him and placed furtive kisses in his hair.
"It . . . was me. I did that to him—looks like . . . Remus—it was me."
"No, Harry. It was not you. It was your rage. It wasn't you," the Potions master soothed.
"I'm him, now, I've beco—"
Severus' hands fell to Harry's shoulders and he pushed the boy away slightly and shook him once, hard. "You are not Lord Voldemort! You are nothing like he was, and you never could be! Do not say that again!"
"I butchered him."
"He needed butchering, boy!"
"I'm not a boy!" Harry yelled, struggling out of Snape's grasp.
"Yes, you are. You are a boy who has been asked to do too much, to whom little has been given in return—certainly nothing that would make up for the horrors you've been forced to endure. It wasn't fair, what you've had to do—none of it was—but you have done it, and now you're finished with it. It's done, Harry. Do not give into this idea that Voldemort has made you a monster—that was Albus' job!" Severus yelled, knowing it for truth, and shocked that he had only just realized it.
Harry looked completely stunned by Snape's pronouncement, and his mouth opened and closed several times before he was able to respond. "You never call him that. You always say, 'Lord Voldemort'." It felt like a stupid thing to say, but it was all he could think of in the face of his former professor and tormentor's outrage on his behalf. My rapist's outrage . . . for me, he thought, suddenly nervous to be alone with the man.
Severus noted Harry's behaviorally shift immediately. "I will not hurt you. I would never willingly—" hurt you, he concluded silently. It's not true. I've hurt you many times, and taken as much pleasure in the act as I did when . . . .
"Fuck. Damn it. This is . . . I don't," Harry tried to say, but he was not certain what he wanted to convey, so he stopped trying.
"I don't, either."
The Auror turned his back on Snape and stepped carefully over the bodies in the room of the shack in which they had surprised the Death Eaters and left.
I killed Draco Malfoy, butchered him, and Severus helped me. Severus, who I've always—who raped me—Severus who— "FUCK!"
"But at least it was not Ron, Harry," Severus whispered. "I was going to tell you. I knew you'd need to know, to understand, but—"
"But you didn't tell me, did you? Not willingly."
"No, not willingly."
"I . . . can't—are you going to tell Headquarters what I've done?" he asked, abruptly.
"You ridiculous boy!" Severus exclaimed, furious at himself and not Potter, though it was easier to direct his rage outward than inward. "Of course, I'm—"
Harry's unexpected Disapparation stopped his mouth.
"Fuck," Severus muttered, immediately following suit.