Title: Pains and Contradictions
Rating: R - NC-17 (in later chapters)
Warnings: Character Death (not Harry or Snape), angst, under 18 (Harry is 17), violence, AU after Book 5 (I needed Dumbledore alive and Snape at Hogwarts). Some of Snape's back story has been used.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or his nifty universe. Just taking the characters out to breath some new life in them. Trust me, I'm sure they're grateful.
Summary: With the events of 5th year still heavy on his mind, Harry's 6th year ends unexpectedly. With their lives on the line, Snape becomes Harry's protector but both are being manipulated together by forces beyond the Dark Lord and Dumbledore.
Chapter Title: Your Hand In Mine
Chapter Warning: While this story has been relatively tame for six chapters, it will eventually be slash. That means sex/romance/love between two men. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, the time to turn back is now.
A/N: This chapter has been written for almost two weeks now but has undergone massive edits and rewrites as I worked to make it as perfect as possible. I'm sure that it isn't, but not for lack of trying. I have to thank the three different betas who worked on this: Laurenke1, Pandora de Romanus, and forevagreen, the latter taking a good day out of her busy schedule (she moved to Europe this week) to help with Snape's characterization. All remaining mistakes are my own. Please drop a line and let me know if you enjoyed this chapter. If you didn't, constructive criticism is always welcome.
The three men watched as Madam Pomfrey administered potion after potion to the injured Severus Snape as he lay in his bed in the hospital wing. It was an awful thing to witness such a proud man be reduced to such a helpless state, but no doubt those were Voldemort's exact intentions.
"Well, gentlemen," Dumbledore turned his sight from his potions professor, "it is either very late or very early, I will admit I am not entirely sure which." Dumbledore looked between the two men, "I suggest we adjourn for the night. Any other business between us can wait until morning, which is now not too far off." He said this with a sad smile as he rose and waited for Harry and Remus to walk in front of him.
Remus walked to join the Headmaster but Harry remained.
The other two seemed to notice Harry's absence and turned back; Harry shuffled his feet and ran his hand through his hair as he said, "Shouldn't someone stay with him? I mean, it just seems wrong to leave him like this. What if he needs something, what if he wakes up?"
"Don't concern yourself, Mr. Potter. There's a charm over Severus that will inform me if he's awake or in pain. He will not suffer as far as I can help it, I assure you," Madam Pomfrey told Harry as she used a spell to put Snape in hospital issued night clothes.
Harry frowned; they weren't understanding him. "No, I know that, Madam, but what if he has a nightmare and he thinks he's back in Riddle Manor." Harry had been terrified of that awful place even when he had only seen it in his vision. "You didn't see what they were doing to him, the place he was in. He wasn't even in his right mind when I got him out of there; what if he wakes up alone and thinks he's still there? No one deserves to dream about that and wake up alone." Though Harry was still pale and distraught, he seemed determined that the man would not be alone in his suffering.
The Headmaster raised an eyebrow. He knew that something had changed tonight and was pleasantly surprised to see Harry taking such an issue with Severus' well being. Merlin knew the boy had need of a kind soul to turn to, even better if, after all this time, it was Harry Potter. It was far past time that these two put aside their differences, especially after what had occurred tonight. If Harry wanted to stay here with Severus, he'd gladly allow it.
He also knew very well that there was no way Harry would back down from his protective stance in front of Severus' bed, and he was in no state of mind to be arguing with a young man tonight, "If you wish it, Harry, you may stay with Severus. Just be sure to get enough rest, my boy. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I'm sure you will need it."
Harry nodded as Madam Pomfrey brought him a change of night clothes.
Severus Snape rarely dreamed, or he didn't any more, at least. True, he was once plagued by nightmares; most of the nights of his youth were spent reliving the atrocities he committed in the name of the Dark Lord. There was an entire month where all he could dream was stopping himself from going to the Dark Lord on that fateful night so long ago and revealing the prophecy that had shaped both his and the Wizarding World's future.
But as he grew older and both his strength in Occlumency and personal control matured, he stopped having dreams altogether. Well, perhaps to say he never dreamed would be somewhat untrue. But he no longer dreamt of events or people, benign or otherwise. Instead he'd dream of images, feelings. Sometimes he'd dream of the lake at Hogwarts. For hours he'd feel surrounded by its calm waters and relax in his sleep enough to feel the gentle coolness comfort him. It was a lovely respite, no matter how undeserved.
Sometimes he'd dream of fire. Never of the people he had seen slaughtered or the homes that were destroyed. Just fire, all consuming, relentless fire.
At the moment, he felt like he was dreaming of the lake again. His mind and his body felt like he was laying in the murky bottom, cold and numb. It was as if he could almost feel the pain in his body, as though he recognised its presence but chose to ignore it.
His mind felt weary and blurred. Though he had very little recollection of where he was or how he came to be here, a small whiff from his admittedly large and oversensitive nose told him that he was in the hospital wing at Hogwarts. He'd been brought here to be patched up enough times after his clandestine affairs with the Dark Lord to recognize that scent whether he was coherent or not.
He could almost feel his body waking up, almost feel the pain that would accept his dismissal no longer when suddenly all of his attention was focused upon his right hand.
Someone was holding his hand. Not patting it once or twice the way Albus did when he was wounded in the infirmary. Nor was it the gentle touch of Poppy who would take pity on him during his mending.
No, though he was disoriented he could feel the hand holding his with an affection he'd never felt before. Fingers were gently... caressing him, loathe though he was to use the word in relation to himself, lucid or not.
The hand was small but was most definitely male. He could feel the hardened palms and calloused fingers as they ran over his own. Fingers that turned his palm over and ran themselves over his own calluses and lifelines. They traced every scar, every burn that he intrinsically knew were there. He felt it hold his hand up vertically, feeling the tips of his potions-stained fingers. They lined themselves up with his own and then sank in between them, closing themselves around his like lovers do in their youth when walking up and down streets. Then a toughened thumb ran massaging circles around the space between his thumb and forefinger softly. The unfamiliar movements brought the sudden realization of what was occurring to the Potions Master's consciousness.
Someone was making love to his hand.
Even in his incoherent state, he knew he'd never known a touch like this. His horrid looks and acidic personality made it impossible to find love let alone lust in his youth at Hogwarts. He briefly recalled a Ravenclaw boy and losing his virginity in an empty classroom late one night past curfew. He could barely recall his face, let alone his name. Snape was no fool; he had realized early on in his life that he would never find someone of his own. While others were acting like simpering idiots and rutting like wild dogs, he had been content in his world of academics and potions, knowing intrinsically that that would be the world in which he would find his solace. He had felt that way even before he became a Death Eater but after he committed his greatest sin against Lily, his solitude was reinforced.
One could not embark on a journey for absolution always dragging another person along with him. No, his treason merely supported the fact that in his life he was meant to be alone.
His friendship with Lily had been the one shining light in a very solitary life.
Sex had become something to do only out of his body's necessity and with anonymity. And so while he'd slept with men infrequently, he'd never once entertained the idea of taking a lover. He'd never even slept with the same man twice.
He had made a conscious choice a very long time ago to avoid romantic entanglements. Of course, it was no hardship, it wasn't as though they were beating down his door. The "no trespassing" signs he put out at every opportunity saw to that.
Which was why he was so utterly confused to find himself in this situation.
The hand hadn't stopped. It would squeeze his own lightly, then go back to gently mapping his knuckles and the spaces in between them, almost memorizing them for future reference. He had no idea why this was happening to him. What could he have possibly done to deserve such kindness? Was this some stranger who received some sort of malicious pleasure out of bestowing kindness upon ugly, cruel hearted, damned men who had never known a kind touch in their lives?
As much as he was questioning it, he did not want it to stop. Which is why he flinched slightly when he felt more than saw a torch being lit and heard soft footfalls enter the room.
He briefly heard a woman speaking, then the man who was being so kind to him. He could feel, slightly, the vibrations of his voice through his hand. The voice was unrecognizable, like he was hearing it under water but he could make out a soft, kind tenor, and he thought it suited the hand perfectly.
The woman made something that sounded like a short remark and the hand unclenched from his, and made as if to draw away from him.
Instinctually, he used all his strength to keep it from leaving with a firm grasp. Well, he had tried for a firm grasp but wasn't sure he made it past a twitch in his fingers. Nevertheless, the hand came to back to hold his; fingers began to move in small soothing circles again.
He never wanted it to end.
He felt the hand squeeze his for a moment and it left him. He felt cold where it had once been and lamented its loss. Then he felt what was undoubtedly that same hand tilt his head back and pry his lips open. Understanding, he summoned the will to open his lips just enough for him to slip a potion into his mouth.
A strong pain potion and sleeping draught, he thought to himself as he strained to swallow. At least the memory of his potions was intact.
As that was done, he felt a cup being lifted to his face and water being poured gently, slowly down his throat. He didn't catch all of it and shuddered to think what he must look like; weak, injured, and drooling in front of this man. But the underside of that hand was soft as it wiped away the bit of water that remained on his cheek and chin. The torchlight was put out and the hand grasped his again.
Snape had to know. This kind of compassion was beyond his understanding. He'd never known it before, not even with Lily. Perhaps she would have been kind enough to nurse him back to health but she had never had the chance. He had only turned away from the Dark Lord after she went into hiding and he had never been a demonstrative man, even in his friendship with her. He sincerely doubted she would have touched him in this way, and he knew without a doubt that his reaction would not have been as strong.
He had to know who this man was. He cursed his weary body and the potion that was making him twice as tired as before. He had to open his eyes, just to get a glimpse of him, even if he never saw him or knew him again.
His breathing accelerated as every ounce of what little strength he had left labored to open his eyes.
It truly was like being at the bottom of the lake. Not only was his head swimming but his vision was so blurred he would not have been surprised to see fish swim past his view. The darkness of the room was alleviated only by the moonlight coming in from a nearby window. He struggled to focus his vision on the man before him. His head was tilted down at an angle and he saw their hands entwined. That hand was grasping his so firmly, so intimately, he would say it was almost indecent. He realized it was more than just holding.
It was an embrace.
Slowly, he forced his eyes to focus on the arm, which looked small but strong, scattered with dark hairs, then the confidently poised shoulders, pronounced but not too broad. He tried to make out the man's face, but it was so pale that it seemed to absorb the moonlight.
At last, he met his eyes and they took his breath away. Bright green eyes looked straight at him with a distraught but resolved look in their expression. He looked straight at him and all his defenses were down. He wouldn't have been able to form his usual stoic expression even if forced. He considered, briefly, lowering his gaze, but then realized that this man, above any other, deserved to see him as no other ever had before. He forced himself to keep hold of his gaze, not willing to look away.
Weakness. For just this one moment, Snape thought, he could be weak. In all his life, he'd never allowed himself a moment of weakness. His mental will and physical strength had helped him endure all he had to in the name of spying on the Dark Lord. He kept his mental shields strong and never once let his guard down. He had never allowed himself to slip, even once.
But this one time, he thought, he could forget that he was damned. Just for one moment he could entertain the idea that there was someone in this world that could love him and he was looking at him right at this moment.
Although his drowsiness only increased, his mind began to clear. He did not break his gaze away from those piercing green eyes for one moment. After this was over and the world was right again, he would still have this memory. Memory of lovely almond shaped eyes that seemed so familiar. As his conscious mind was slowly coming back to him, he knew he had seen those eyes before.
But wait, it couldn't be Lily. This was unmistakably a man in front of him, and Lily was dead, Severus knew that all too well. His betrayal had lead to her death, which was why he was in the infirmary, why he was fighting against the Dark Lord. Fighting for an atonement he would never receive, for the life of a boy...
No, it couldn't be.
Snape eyes widened and he looked again, harder, straining his tired eyes and mind. Trying to see the boy he knew in the man before him and not finding him. The firm but kind set of his eyes, the strength of his shoulders and that hand that had still not stopped gently caressing him.
"Harry?" the word was out of his mouth almost of its own volition. His throat was raw and the voice sounded nothing like his own.
Harry nodded, "I'm here, sir. You're safe, I got you out of there. You're at Hogwarts, you're safe now."
No. He couldn't accept this. He endured being a spy for the Order in a vain attempt to attain retribution. He had been alone in this life for a reason. He knew that not only did he not deserve a kind touch, but any man he was involved with wouldn't deserve the dead weight of his betrayal that came with him. He didn't deserve the comfort he was receiving, let alone comfort from the son of the two he had killed. It was an abomination.
But he had been alone for so long, and that touch was the kindest he had ever known. He could feel his will to protest slipping away. That touch was so tender and Snape was so tired. He was weary in his body, in his soul.
Just this once, he thought, please. Never again, I swear, just this one time...
He had no idea who he was pleading and bargaining with but he had to know this just once in his life and he'd never ask for it again. He swore, he would never again take solace in any kindness the young man before him would give him. Of all the people in the world that he could burden with his sins, this was one whom above all others did not deserve such an atrocity.
Harry seemed to sense the thoughts going through Snape's mind because his brow crinkled and his hand stopped moving, almost seeming to know of Snape's hesitance.
He was already damned to hell for this and many other things. Just this one thing, he thought to himself. Snape gently moved his own thumb over Harry's hand to reciprocate the kindness he had received. Harry glanced down at their hands thoughtfully. Then his brow smoothed and he gave a soft smile that seemed to light up the room.
Harry's hand continued the gentle caressing that Snape so longed for, as Snape mirrored his actions.
All his energy spent, Snape took in Harry's eyes one last time and fell asleep.
After the two men had gone to their respective rooms and Madam Pomfrey to the suite behind her office in the infirmary, Harry went to lie down in the bed that was closest to Snape's. He tried to will his body to actually feel the exhaustion he could sense was trying to overtake him but it didn't work. He longed for sleep, wanting so badly to escape the events of the day without having them plague his thoughts into the night.
Though Harry had been completely truthful when he told the Headmaster that Snape should not be by himself, he couldn't ignore the voice in the back of his head telling him that his motives were not completely unselfish. More than anything, after the day he had, he did not want to be alone. The idea of going to a room and lying in a bed like the one he and Ron had slept in for past six years left him breathless and shaking. He just knew that he would wake up and look at the space next to him expecting Ron to be there.
He also could not ignore the fact that when he had been in the presence of his professor today, he had not felt as alone as usually did. For the past year he had grown used to feeling alone even in the crowed Gryffindor common room, even with Ron and Hermione. Harry stifled a sob and thought, especially with Ron and Hermione. That feeling of guilt that he had almost felt while in his room on Privet Drive suddenly came to him like a flood.
He still couldn't fathom that his friend was gone, or that the man next to him had been the one to save his life. Again.
Wanting to distract himself, he sat up in his bed and turned to get a good look at the man. Once Madam Pomfrey had healed his wounds and left him to mend, she had put him in white infirmary standard night clothes. It was odd seeing Snape, who normally wore what Harry now knew to be several layers of clothing, looking so exposed. The man was much thinner than he appeared to be. His inky dark hair fell over the white of the pillowcase like silk. He had always wondered if it was as greasy as it looked.
Harry stood up and wondered how much of a Gryffindor he really was. He went around the foot of Snape's bed and sat in the chair next to him. Before his courage could leave him, he reached out and tentatively touched a strand of Snape's hair.
It was greasy. But not awfully so, more like he should take better care to wash it everyday. With all that went on in the man's life, he doubted that personal hygiene was on the top of his priorities.
"Greasy git," Ron had called him. Harry stifled a sob that seemed to have started in his chest but quickly ran through his whole body. He shuddered as he though, Well, Ron, you were right. Maybe not so much on the git part though.
Trying in vain to push thoughts of Ron aside, he leaned back in the chair again and studied the man in front of him. He wrapped his hands around the back of his neck and attempted to gain control of his breathing. Watching Snape, he couldn't help but be so incredibly grateful to this man who had not only saved his life but had tried so hard to relieve Harry of the guilt of his friend's death.
He still couldn't believe that Snape had cared enough to do that or that he had placed the blame on himself. As if the blame could fall on anyone other than Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy. Even if he had disliked Ron, Harry knew he would have defended him if he could.
The man's calm demeanor was a shock difference to what it had been just a little while ago. Harry decided to take advantage of the situation he was in as Snape slept. Although he had, of course, known what the professor looked like, he had never been able to get a good look at the man's face. The few times he'd cared enough to try, the Potions Master would inevitably know somehow that Harry was looking at him and he would find himself under Snape's glare.
He looked over the man's face. It didn't look half as harsh while he was asleep as it did when Snape was actively terrorizing his students. His hair was still completely black, unlike Remus who had gone prematurely gray. His face had a few lines and his large nose was crooked as though he had broken it several times but had not had it mended. Harry wondered why it hadn't been set right. Harry had his share of breaks with Quidditch, and he'd come out of it relatively scar free thanks to Madam Pomfrey.
The obvious then occurred to Harry and he mentally slapped himself. Really, it was no wonder why Snape doubted his intelligence. This was the first time that he'd really looked at the man. He had no idea when all the incidents that showed on his face occurred. They were in the middle of a war and Snape was a spy in the enemy's camp. Of course he couldn't just go to Madam Pomfrey for every bump and bruise. There must be whole weeks in the summer when he was at Voldemort's mercy.
Not for the first time that night, Harry thanked the gods that he had been able to locate Snape. Merlin knew what would have happened if Snape had not gone back to Hogwarts to report to Dumbledore.
Harry thought about what Dumbledore had told him. How Snape would be quicker to accept being spat in the face and cursed rather than receive kindness. Compassion, the Headmaster had called it. He was tempted to snort at the thought, but stopped himself.
For the first time, Harry realized that he had assumed so much about this man. He knew that he was a Potions Master, a spy in the Order, that he had been a Death Eater and that he had been friends with his mum, but that was really all he knew. His mind stopped on that last thought. He had said that she was his only friend. Surely he meant at the time; his only friend while he had been in school.
Harry knew he'd been stupid to assume things like this before but what if his mother had been Snape's only real friend. He'd been teaching at the school since the end of the last war. That meant that he was here year round, busy with classes and detention and his potions making. He knew that no one in the Order really liked him; most viewed him with just a look just sort of malice and disbelief that he was even among them. So who were the man's friends and when did he have any time to be with them?
Harry thoughts wandered down that road for only a moment longer when he stopped himself. Just as he had thought earlier, he knew that Snape wouldn't want Harry pitying him. If he had lead the lonely life that Harry thought, that only meant that Harry could understand him more than he did before.
He shuddered a breath and a stray tear fell from his eye. Gods, but he felt guilty at that. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he had grown apart from his friends in this last year. The weight of the prophecy and the despair that he felt crushing him every minute of the day had driven him from that protective feeling he so enjoyed in previous years when his friends had been his entire world. At least he had friends, though, Harry thought. Maybe Snape had some secret life, or any life, away from Hogwarts that he returned to in the summer. That was entirely plausible. It still didn't stop some odd feeling from welling up in his chest when he thought of the Potions Master.
Why did he feel less alone in the presence of his professor? He knew his feelings for Snape had changed in the last day but what were they now? Kinship? Strange, that, but true enough. Harry had endured things that only Snape could understand. If there was anyone in the world who understood him, it was the Potions Master.
Which was an extremely disturbing thought to have. Just yesterday he would have said he had no kind thoughts for the man. Now when he thought of the man it almost felt like he was his... friend, perhaps?
Harry snorted at that thought. There was no way he could ever tell Ron that, he'd go completely mental...
Fuck, fuck, fuck. It was as if someone had punched him in the stomach. Harry curled up in his chair and sobbed. His breath was uneven and tears flowed freely down his cheeks. The grief had just snuck up on him; he didn't even see it coming. His glasses fell on his lap as he curled into a ball and broke down.
Of course Ron wouldn't flip out. Ron was never going to go completely mental on Harry ever again. He'd have nothing to say on the Snape issue because he'd never say anything again.
Harry's sobs were interrupted by a slight movement of the Potions Master. He grunted hoarsely and fidgeted in his sleep. His eyes moved rapidly behind their sockets and Harry guessed that he was probably having a nightmare.
He uncurled himself from his chair. He fought to catch his breath and rubbed at his eyes as he put on his glasses. Thoughts of Ron were still in the forefront of his mind and he tried in vain to stop the tears from flowing from his eyes. Consciously, he pushed down that grief that had taken him by surprise until it was a pain in his stomach. He couldn't mourn his friend now. As much as he wanted to, as guilty as he felt, Ron wasn't here right now; but Snape was. He had to help the man if he could.
He couldn't be sure of what Snape was dreaming about but he had a fair idea. He knew Snape wouldn't want him anywhere near him, let alone accept any comfort or even admit he needed it. But the man had been through so much today and he'd helped Harry more than he knew. He shuddered to think of what state he would have been in had Snape not talked to him on the train. No, he couldn't leave him to suffer. If there was any pain Snape was in that Harry could take away, he would do it.
His hands shaking slightly and his breathing still harsh, he mustered all of that lauded Gryffindor courage and took hold of Snape's hand. He gripped it firmly, trying to show him through touch, that he was safe.
Almost immediately, the Potions Master calmed down. Harry breathed a sigh of relief and gripped the hand in his tighter.
He looked down on it. He'd noticed Snape's hands before. He'd always thought they were.... elegant. They seemed to fit his personality. Dignified hands for a dignified man. Even when he had hated him, he'd noticed that about him.
But as he was looking down on them, he noticed all the tiny little nuances that he hadn't seen before. Slowly, he turned the hand over and rubbed his palm. There were tiny scars, no doubt from many potions accidents over the years. Harry smiled softly. Snape probably wouldn't admit that even under the pain of torture. That thought made the smile leave his face and he took in the hand that was in his own. As he did so, that feeling of kinship returned.
He held Snape's hand up vertically, still not letting go. He saw the stained finger-tips, years of practice and the love of potions showing on each of Snape's fingers. It was like the man's hands told his story for him. How very fitting, he thought. If anyone were inclined to get to know the man, they'd just have to look at his hands.
They were elegant, scarred, stained and strong, much like the man himself.
Compassion, Harry thought, hearing the words the Headmaster had spoken tonight run through his mind. Dumbledore said that he had shown Snape compassion. He brought their hands up together, lining their fingers up. His hand was much smaller than Snape's. He laced their fingers together and looked up at the man's face.
He grasped his hand, fingers entwined between them, and gently rubbed his thumb over the back of it. Looking up at Snape's face again, he could see the Potions Master was relaxed and he seemed more at peace than Harry had ever seen him.
Which wasn't saying much.
Suddenly, Snape's face was showing signs of being awake and he wore an expression that was almost like confusion.
Just as Harry had thought it, a torch was lit in the infirmary, and Madam Pomfrey appeared from her office.
"My alarms went off, is Severus alright?" She seemed to take in Harry leaning over Snape's bedside, hand thoroughly entwined with Snape's, and raised her eyebrow.
"Severus might not be awake to object, Mr. Potter, but you can't honestly think that he'd want you to be doing that?"
Harry frowned at her. Perhaps the professor wouldn't be too happy with Harry's hand in his but the man had been disturbed in his sleep. He was suffering and Harry, for once, had the power to help him. He'd seen the change immediately. How could he leave him to suffer if he could help it? This man had helped him so much, holding his hand was no chore.
"He was having a nightmare. Holding his hand seemed to calm him down. I'd really rather not leave him," Harry said, his voice still broken but with something like agitation in his eyes.
Madam Pomfrey didn't seem to notice, "Be that as it may, Harry, Severus does not have the means to communicate his dissatisfaction now. It wouldn't be prudent for you to keep doing this. Now that he's out of danger, there are potions I can give him to help his sleep."
Not wanting to fight the Mediwitch on this, Harry began to draw his hand away from Snape's. Then, surprisingly, he felt Snape hold on. There was no mistaking the slight grip around his fingers. Snape didn't want him to leave. He wanted Harry to stay.
The Mediwitch seemed to notice Snape's grip and she sighed, exasperated. "Fine, Mr. Potter. You see how you like it when he's himself again and learns it was you he was holding onto." With that, Poppy shoved a potion into Harry's hand and walked off to her suite again.
Harry squeezed his hand lightly, letting him know he wasn't going far, then tilted Snape's head back and opened his lips.
Snape's lips really were thin, Harry thought. But other than that, they were perfectly fine. Not overly chapped or anything. Normal lips, really. But Harry couldn't help but feel odd at having touched them.
Snape seemed to understand what was going on well enough to down the potion. Knowing how foul these things could be, Harry took the water that had been left by the bedside and offered it to Snape. The Potions Master drank slowly, spilling a little onto his cheek and chin. The torchlight went out and they were alone again.
Harry thought nothing of simply wiping off the water with his hand. The action seemed completely normal to him.
Setting the cup back where it had been, Harry resumed holding the man's hand, gently caressing it, telling him silently that he was safe. That, for the moment, everything was alright.
Harry simply sat with the man for another minute, before he noticed those dark eyes slowly starting to open. He stiffened momentarily, wondering if this was his last chance to drop the man's hand and try to pretend nothing happened.
But he couldn't do that. He would own up to this, even if the man flayed him alive with his razor sharp tongue later.
Slowly, Harry saw the dark eyes open and try to focus. Snape was looking at their hands. But the astonished look on his face betrayed him. He was looking at them as if he had never seen his own hand before. Or, perhaps, as if no one had ever held his hand in his life.
Harry softly inhaled and recalled his earlier thoughts as he realized that thought could very well be true. He remained still as Snape's eyes moved up from his hands, to his arms and shoulders, then finally to his face.
It was more than obvious that the man either couldn't see or couldn't recognize him. That was fine by Harry. This was the only thing he could do for the man at the moment and he wanted to help him.
He doubted Snape would be up for the shouting match that would certainly ensue had he been cognizant. The man was looking directly into his eyes, yet seemed to be looking past him. Harry didn't know what to make of that.
The eyes were searching his own, Harry could see the man's mind working, trying to understand what was going on. Then suddenly it was like a torch had been lit. The man's eyes went wide for a moment. His face took on an open look of bewildered disbelief and a very hoarse voice that sounded nothing like the Potions Master's usual deep timbre, questioned, "Harry?"
Harry was surprised that he was so pleased to hear his first name uttered from his professor's lips and wanted nothing more than to assure the man that he was safe. He nodded and said, "I'm here, sir. You're safe, I got you out of there. You're at Hogwarts, you're safe now." He hoped the man understood him.
A million different expressions flashed across the man's face all at once. Disbelief, sadness, terror. Terror at what, Harry thought?
Sensing the man's growing discomfort, Harry began to pull his hand away. He startled when he felt Snape's hand grip his, the man's thumb falling on top of the scar on his hand.
I must not tell lies.
Looking at the scar immediately made him think of Ron and Hermione, of their adventures together before things had fallen apart so badly for him this past year. Holding Snape's hand, he couldn't help but feel guilty that he had managed to save one man's life but not his best friend's. He knew in his conscious mind that it wasn't the same thing. Ron's death had happened so suddenly while Snape was being slowly tortured to death. But he couldn't help but feel trepidation, looking down and seeing that reminder of their past together, knowing that all he had to look forward to were memories of Ron.
The man gently echo Harry's earlier motion, rubbing his thumb across the top of his hand, trying to offer comfort to Harry. Those wounds had healed ages ago, yet somehow it felt fitting for Harry that Snape touch it now. He doubted Snape had ever noticed the scar, but no one had ever touched it like that before. Without knowing what he was doing, the man was helping Harry yet again.
Harry looked up at Snape who was wearing the most open expression Harry had ever seen. He realized what his face must have looked like in that moment: pale, trembling and guilt stricken. Snape had such an open look of terror on his own that Harry couldn't help but give Snape a small smile.
Harry doubted he would ever see Snape's face be so open ever again, so he paid attention to every nuance, every line and look as the Potions Master seemed to relax into his hand and drifted back to sleep.
A/N Part two, notes on chapter: I really sweated over this chapter because in a way it's a flashback to chapters two (the last time Snape and Harry were alone in a room together for an extended period of time) but it's also the pause between breaths. The characters just had a very long day (seven chapters) and now that the 'intro' is over, I wanted to have them slow down just a bit. I received a few comments from the last chapters on how Harry was easily distracted from Ron's death, which is completely true. With all the action going on in the last chapters (especially the last one, what with the man in black screaming on the bed) Harry just didn't have time to think of Ron at all. This chapter was an attempt to slow it down before things start to happen again, as well as to give that first hint of something more between them. I hope you enjoyed. -- atypicalsnowman