Gift for: islingtonroad
Pairing: Snarry (Severus/Harry)
Rating: R (for graphic detail of prison life and violence, character death)
Disclaimer: The world of HP does not belong to me – I just play with it for free.
Beta: saladbats! Thanks also to my Snarry feedback team: djin7 and dracofiend *loves*
Summary: Harry offers himself in exchange for the lives of 300 Ministry hostages and two missing Order members. What should be an ending, is only the beginning.
Author’s notes: This is rather angsty for me, but there is also humour, flangst, longing and love, so don't be afraid to dive right in. *smile* This is only my second attempt at a full length Snarry fic, but the more I spend time with them, the more I love their dynamic. I truly hope all of you (and especially islingtonroad) enjoys this slow burn post Hogwarts look at our hero and our disgruntled former Potions Master as they learn how to co-exist in very cramped quarters.
Your comments, questions and feedback are always welcome!
Original request: Slash, accepted G to NC-17, pre-slash eg, tension builds between main characters that suggests a romantic relationship ahead, vamp!Snape/Harry, vamp!Harry/Draco, vamp!Harry/Ron, or vamp!Weasley twins/any male character/s
Special requests: Converted character noticing extra sensitivity in his mouth as the change takes place eg, during eating, kissing etc.
"Of all the senseless, foolish…" Snape roared, raining sprays of spit down on the target of his anger.
Harry was trying, unsuccessfully, to pull himself off the floor and into a prone position against the damp wall. His body responded slowly after the final round of Cruciatus, but his eyes were full of urgency, regaining focus with impressive speed.
"Take Kingsley and go, hurry!" Harry insisted, ending with a wet cough. He wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand.
Snape crouched to Harry's eye level. "Is there no end to your stupidity?"
Harry pulled up a little more, but his elbow gave out. He squinted up at Snape, wishing the man would just shut up and get out while he had the chance. "Voldemort agreed to the trade; you and Shacklebolt for me. Please, go. I'll be all right."
Snape pasted on a twisted smile. "Locked in a cell and coughing blood, yes, I see how you could mistake that for a pleasant holiday,"
Harry's eyes swept to the red stain on the back of his hand, and a new wave of nausea washed over him. "Yell at me when you come back with help."
Snape swore and crossed quickly to the other side of the cell. He came back into view dragging something large and dark across the floor.
"Potter, meet Shacklebolt."
Kingsley's lifeless body slumped to the floor and Harry choked on the dust that spiralled up around him. He shuffled over and pressed two fingers below the Auror's jaw.
"He's dead," Harry said in a near-whisper. He rolled onto his back again, one hand still resting on Shacklebolt, as if still trying to protect him.
"Very. How brave of you to trade your life for two dead men. I trust you have a plan, perhaps something involving Weasley leaping out from behind a mask and yelling 'Surprise!' at the Dark Lord?"
Harry ignored the bait, and turned his head away. "It was dark in the corner; I thought he was injured—or sleeping."
"And you don't know of any spells to light dark corners or locate body heat? I assume yours is an honorary Auror's license?"
"The letter said to leave my wand, or you'd both be…" he trailed off, and then started again, his voice much lower. "And there's some sort of barrier here, I feel it. Wandless magic won't wor…"
"What letter?" Snape snarled, wrenching Harry up a few inches by the front of his Auror's cloak.
Harry gasped in pain from the sudden movement, but met the challenge in the eyes that locked on his. "What did you mean, two dead men? Ow." Snape dropped him back to the floor. Harry rubbed the side of his face that was scraped and bruised from being thrown earlier into the cell.
Snape swatted Harry's hand out of the way and took the swollen jaw between his thumb and forefinger, examining as best he could in the low light. "Later. Tell me about the note."
Harry pulled his face from the cold grasp, wincing from the effort. The man smelled of blood and filth, and Harry's stomach twisted in disgust.
"It's why I came. The Minister called off the search for you and Kingsley after a few weeks of no leads. I fought him on it, but he said we needed to 'cut our losses' and 'focus our energies elsewhere'. But then I got an owl last night, after the Dementor attack on the Ministry."
Harry pressed a palm against his forehead and closed his eyes momentarily in thought. "Wormtail, I think. It said you and Kingsley were alive and being held, but Voldemort would call the Dementors away from the Ministry and release you both if I stayed in your place, so I agreed."
"The Dementors were called off?"
"Yes, this morning. All the hostages have gone free as far as I know."
"Oh," Harry closed his eyes again and let his head rest against the wall. His strength was slowly failing him. "I don't know exactly—three hundred? Something like that. The Minister has all the docu…" His words slowed as his chin sunk down to his chest.
Snape nudged his foot insistently against the side of Harry's knee. "Wake up, Potter!"
"What? Oh, sorry." His head came up again. "Wait. Why aren't you—he's not letting you go, is he?" Harry swiped a dirty hand over his eyes. He shivered between breaths, the cold floor and aftershocks of the recent curses taking their toll on his battered body.
Snape snorted in disgust, lifted Harry easily into his arms, and then deposited him gracelessly on to a cot that Harry, through his tremors, told himself must have belonged to Kingsley until a few moments ago.
He catalogued his surroundings as best he could: two cots, one on either side of the cell, toilet and sink between the beds on the back wall, and barred door across from the toilet. The only light was shining somewhere behind the door, slicing into the cell on dusty beams.
His roommate paced.
"Three lives. Fair trade for three hundred, although it could have only been two if you were not as gullible. You unnecessarily wasted…"
Snape paused in mid-rant, interrupted by quiet laugher coming from the huddled body on the bed.
"What could possibly be amusing?"
Harry pulled his cloak tighter around him as the light dimmed. "Hermione, she once said I had a 'saving people' thing. I bet she's somewhere yelling at me right now."
And with that, Harry was swept into warm darkness, and the far-away sounds of Snape's mumbled cursing.
Harry opened his eyes to near-total darkness and the sounds of low groaning coming from Snape's side of the cell. He stretched out his aching muscles, but stayed put on the cot. The moaning stopped, but faint growling replaced it. Harry's heart sped up without his permission.
He squinted into the darkness surrounding Snape's bed. "Are you all right?"
"No. Sleep." Snape grunted, turning his back to Harry.
"I can't sleep when you're - You sound like you're in pain."
"It's none of your concern."
Harry was quiet for a while, and had nearly dropped back to sleep when the pained groaning started up again. He rolled to his side and pulled himself carefully into a sitting position. "Maybe if you walked around a bit, or ate something. You didn't eat any…" Harry left his bed and took a few shaky steps.
"Stay back, Potter!"
"Fine," Harry said darkly, and sat down hard on his cot. The wood frame made a groan of protest. "So sorry to interrupt your private suffering." He made a few grunting noises of his own and settled back onto his mattress that reeked of numerous things that Harry didn't want to give names to.
Snape let out a string of curse words that were half-muffled by his own sorry excuse for a mattress. He turned over to face Harry, his eyes shining dangerously through the dark.
Harry inhaled sharply.
There was a hint of something dangerous in Snape's tone when his voice cut through the darkness once more. "Have you not wondered why you haven't been given audience with the Dark Lord since your arrival a week ago?"
"I thought he must be waiting until my strength…" He slowly sat up again. "Your eyes…"
"Yes, according to Kingsley, they get steadily brighter, turning bright red just before…"
Harry couldn't stop the shiver that crept over his shoulders and up his neck like fingers of ice, nor could he pull his gaze from the shimmering eyes that were fixed on his own. He stuttered involuntarily. "You – You're a…"
"Yes, Potter. I am," Snape offered, without emotion. "That would be why I don't touch my food, why it was foolish of you to be deceived by that letter, why I killed Shacklebolt the day before your rescue attempt, and why I am now starving to death—again."
Harry sat silently for a time, digesting the information through the panic that slowly rose in his chest, tightening as it ascended. His understanding came out in a quiet voice, almost as if speaking to himself. "Voldemort had you turned, and then threw you back into the same cell with Kingsley to – he wants you to kill me," he concluded, raising his head in time to see Snape turn his away.
"Five points. Now, let me die in peace."
Harry stood, ignoring the warning growl. "What? No!" His voice softened, "why didn't you—er--do it, bite me?"
"Your life is more valuable than mine, and if you die before the grand rescue I'm sure someone is planning, you wouldn't be able to finish—your task."
"No one knows I'm here."
"Oh, they'll come, Potter. Eventually. Kingsley and I are expendable, but you are one link they cannot do without."
Harry ignored the comment, his thoughts still on Snape's earlier moaning. "I can help you."
"I'm beyond help, and you've already proven your 'saving' has limits. This conversation is over, Potter."
Harry let the silence stretch between them, but his mind would not let the problem rest. "How long did you fight your hunger, I mean, before Kingsley…"
The reply was slow to arrive, and so quiet that Harry had to lean forward to hear. "Two weeks, give a day or two."
"If they do send a rescue team, there's no reason why we both can't be healthy when…"
"No!" He walked to the middle of the room, ignoring the snarling noises, thrust out his arm and lowered his voice to a whisper. "You can feed from me."
Snape swatted at the offered hand. "Put that away."
Harry squatted in front of him. "They bring enough food to keep my strength up, and there haven't been any more curses or hexes. We can both survive this."
The silence that followed was nearly deafening. After a too-long stretch, Snape's reply floated over to where Harry had curled up once more. "What makes you think I want to survive?"
"Because you want to see him dead as much as I do," came the quick reply.
"Your plan could kill us both before any rescue is possible."
Harry nodded in the darkness. "True, but since you're dying anyway, what do you have to lose?"
They waited until the next night, giving themselves time to come up with the best way to proceed. The plan was to wait until the guards had turned off the lights and left for the night. Once he was sure they had gone, Harry crossed the room. He knew what would happen, agreed to it all, but Snape's shining eyes following his every movement unnerved him.
"No guarantees, Potter. I imagine this is going to be painful."
"I know," he whispered, reaching down to the cot to locate a place to sit. Snape took his hand and guided him. "Thank you."
Snape snorted under his breath. "You're far too polite to someone who's ready to tear into your flesh," he growled, voice thick with something Harry couldn't identify. He stiffened as Snape's hand squeezed around his own. "Apologies. Your scent at this close range is almost too much to…"
"I know, sorry."
"Ever the gentleman. That's not what I meant, Potter." A sharp-tipped finger dragged down Harry's throat, pausing at the place where the pulse was the strongest. "I can smell your blood, under all that other unpleasantness."
Harry tried to relax his breathing. "Oh, what does it smell like?"
Snape's fingers closed around his upper arm and pulled him a fraction closer. "A feast," he rasped, sounding like a completely different person. A stranger. Harry shivered as something cool trailed up the back of his neck. Snape inhaled deeply.
"I, well, I - was thinking, you should bite somewhere the guards won't notice," Harry offered, struggling to clear his mind enough to properly sort out the plan.
A growl started low in Snape's chest, and ended in a frustrated whine. "What's the use of marking you, then?"
Harry pulled back from the fingers on his throat. "You're not marking me, you're feeding, remember?"
Snape pushed him away sharply. "Your proximity clouds my judgement," he panted, running his hands over his soiled hair.
Harry tried to gracefully right himself, but he stumbled a few times on his way back to his own bed. "All right. Then I'll stand over here while we decide where you want to feed from. Is that…"
"You were right about concealing the wound." Snape rasped, his voice still heavy with power. "There's an artery in your thigh that would…"
"All right. I guess that will work," Harry said softly, and then removed his trousers. "If the guards ever touch me, I doubt it'd be the first place they look for—you know." He was left standing in a small pile of fabric wearing only a once-white t-shirt and pants that had seen better days. He looped a finger under the band. "How high up on my…" He tried to control the tremor in his voice with a deep breath. "Do you need these off?"
Snape's quiet chuckle sent the blood rushing to Harry's cheeks. "I'm taking your blood, not your virtue."
Harry exhaled. "Very mature," he said, rolling his eyes in the darkness, knowing Snape could probably make out the movement. He walked the short few steps to the sink, wet his hands and swallowed a gasp as he splashed the icy water onto his leg, trying to clean away some of the grime from a week's worth of imprisonment. He met the eyes that were fixed on him. "I'm coming back now, all right?"
"Sit on the bed with your feet on the floor, legs apart."
Snape backed off, allowing Harry to arrange himself. When the shuffling stopped, he stood in the V of Harry's legs, and lowered himself to his knees. Harry, not knowing what to do with his hands, pressed them against the mattress on either side of his legs, and curled his fingers around the edge. Snape's hair grazed over Harry's knee and tickled slightly with the downward movement of its owner's head.
Everything except Harry's heart seemed frozen.
"Yes…flowing faster now," Severus purred to himself. His cheek brushed against Harry's right thigh as one of his hands fished under the cot for whatever he was looking for. "Bite on this." Something soft nudged Harry's chin. "We don't want the guards to come running back if you scream." Snape forced one of Kingsley's abandoned leather gloves between Harry's teeth. "Relax."
Harry tried to obey, but every fibre of his being begged him to yell for the guards and try his luck with Voldemort. Every mock-soothing word and gentle touch from Snape felt wrong and foreign in a way that threatened to bring his food back up. The leather in his mouth tasted vile, and was sending a foul-tasting drool down the back of his throat that he was forced to swallow.
He didn't know what to expect, how much pain to brace for, and that was more frightening than the sharp nails digging into his thighs, or the shimmering red eyes that looked up at him from his lap. Snape tilted his head back suddenly, unveiled his fangs, and released a ravenous moan that chilled Harry to the core and covered his body in gooseflesh.
"Prepare yourself, Potter."
They repeated the ritual nightly until Snape had enough strength to hold off his cravings for few days between feedings, but the distress of the first time made them both too uneasy to speak about it.
Harry had forced himself to swallow the screams that demanded release, but failed to hold off the hot tears and gnawing fear that Snape wouldn't be able to stop himself from taking all of Harry's blood. He remembered praying that Severus wouldn't lose his slim hold on reality the moment his new nature refused to be ignored any longer – the moment he tasted Harry's blood for the first time.
An image of Shacklebolt's cold eyes flashed from somewhere in the back of his mind.
One benefit of shared terror was the shaky bridge it built to common ground. They snapped at each other less often, spent more time in civil conversation, and even found the occasional moment for shared laughter. What surprised Harry most was how subtly common ground turned into mutual benefit. He began looking forward to the feedings, hardly noticing when his fading fear was replaced with desire for touch and the too-short moments of physical contact.
It was near the end of the second week when his hands left the mattress.
Harry knew the feeding was almost over by the wave of exhaustion and the powerful need to connect that was only growing stronger and more painful with time. With the strength he had left, his hand moved to cover one of Snape's that was pressing into the skin above his knee. The other hand landed clumsily in the greasy hair of the man running his tongue over the irritated wound.
Snape raised his head at the contact and Harry saw, for the first time, his own blood smeared over thin lips and down Snape's pale chin. He wasn't repulsed the way his mind told him he should be. In fact, he found the sight strangely beautiful.
They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Harry, his mind and body weak with exhaustion and lack of blood, tugged weakly on the skin and hair under his hands and started a slow decent to the side so he could properly lie back on the cot. Snape hissed and followed the invitation, crawling up and over Harry's shaking body with the speed and skill of a much younger man. Harry hummed his satisfaction as Snape's delicious weight settled on top of him.
He rolled his head toward his side of the room, closing his eyes and exposing his grimy neck, allowing gravity to help him pull the stringy hair in his feeble grasp until the head stopped resisting and lowered slowly. They both moaned at the contact as Snape's mouth met the offering, but the expected bite never came, only the press of lips and tongue at the base of Harry's throat, and then a frustrated growl, muffled swearing and a quick retreat.
Harry was suddenly cold and more tired than he ever remembered being. He lifted his hands a fraction, but there was nothing left to hold, no one there to touch.
He woke on his own bed, his heavy Auror's cloak tucked tightly around his still-shivering body.
"We require a new plan, Potter."
Harry grunted with the effort it took to turn onto his side. "What's wrong with this one?"
Snape snorted. "Several things." He moved over to Harry's side of the room, sat down on the edge of the filthy toilet and lowered his voice "Why don't we begin with your wound."
Harry gingerly stretched his leg. "It's not healing, I know, but I we can't risk you feeding from a place that the guards will…" Harry couldn't finish his sentence as images of the night before flooded to the front of his mind. One hand emerged from the cloak and felt its way up his neck.
"Remember, do you?"
Harry dropped his hand. "I don't understand why I—"
"I have a few theories, however, I believe we have a greater problem at hand."
"Lack of rescue team?" Harry gave a weak smile at the momentary look of surprise. "At night, I dream that they've come, but I still wake up here with you."
"Heart-breaking," Snape replied, sounding more amused than insulted.
"I figure we might have a day or two before Voldemort gets tired of hearing from the guards that we're both still alive."
"We're going back to the original plan."
"What?" Harry asked, pulling himself up to sit on the side of the cot, cloak still draped over his shoulders. "You mean the plan where you starve yourself again?"
He met Harry's eyes for a moment, and then lowered his gaze to the floor. "I've killed an Auror, Potter, and I'm slowly killing you."
Harry was silent for quite some time, but then slowly, he let the fabric slide off his shoulders and reached out for the hand resting on Snape's knee. The man's eyes snapped back up to his with a look of wildness that almost made Harry pull back.
"Then maybe we should talk about the other thing now?" Harry asked, unconsciously brushing the fingers of his other hand over his collar bone.
Snape stood abruptly, spun and fled back to the safety of his side of the room.
Harry flopped back onto the stinking mattress.
As predicted, the plan changed, but it wasn't of their making.
On the evening of their discussion, Harry's dinner failed to arrive, as well as breakfast the next morning. Snape refused to feed. The next day, the lights stayed off and the guards began showing up at random times to peer through the slotted openings of the door.
As the week wore on, it became impossible for Harry to distinguish between night and day, until he became aware that Snape's new nature was nearly as reliable as a clock. The hours that Snape restlessly paced, Harry identified as night, and the grunting and sleeping hours– day.
He had hoped with the distraction of hunger, that the itch for the intoxicating contentment he had felt the last time Snape had fed would fade away, and he could once again sharpen his mind into focusing on escape. He choked on a bitter laugh as he realised that nothing was ever that easy for him. The need to just be near the other man was overwhelming almost to the point of pain. He didn't know if Snape could feel the same tug under his skin as Harry could, but doubted he would ever admit if he did.
Even in his weakened state, Snape continued his pacing every night, although the sessions weren't as long as before, and he restrained himself to his side of the cell. Harry's thigh had stubbornly refused to heal, and even with water from the sink and fairly clean strips of cloth torn from his former t-shirt, infection set in. Every time Harry changed the makeshift bandages, he knew Snape had to distract himself - with biting at his own tongue and lips - from sweeping across the room at the smell of new blood.
But even more unsettling to him was the battle that was taking place inside him between his hunger pangs and his increasing desire to protect, obey and touch the man who swept up and back, never venturing across the invisible, non-existing barrier between them.
Harry's mind spun with estimations of how many days they had left - how many hours. It was the only way to keep several kinds of aching at bay.
After losing track of how long he had watched the pacing, caged creature, Harry gave up the death-grip on his cloak and mattress and rose with more speed than he had energy for. He strode forward before his courage wore out and his dizziness took hold, and placed himself squarely in Snape's path.
His breath left him in a grunt as they collided, and strong arms caught him before his head met the edge of the toilet.
Even while being tugged back to standing and assaulted by some very creative curses, Harry held on. He curled his hands around as much fabric and flesh as he could manage, and used the momentum to keep moving forward once he was back on his feet. Snape's swearing stopped abruptly as Harry closed his arms around Snape's ribcage and buried his head against the silent chest. His sigh of contentment was nearly obscene.
Harry clung tighter, and whispered shakily into the fabric. "I—we need this. Please."
Almost as if under someone else's command, the fight drained from Snape, and he stiffly folded Harry into his arms, relaxing a fraction with every second that passed. His cheek landed on the filthy head below.
Some of the aching deep in Harry's chest diminished.
They eventually stopped counting the days as hunger consumed them both. In a cruel and pathetic attempt to finally bring their suffering to an end, a platter of food slid through a horizontal slot in the bottom of the door. If Harry could have walked, he would have been on it in seconds. Regardless, he still stirred, and tried to roll into a sitting position.
Once Snape was certain the guards had gone, he whispered to Harry. "Don't touch it. Something doesn't smell right."
Somehow Harry found the strength to smile. "Not rare enough?"
"Amusing. I think it's been poisoned."
Harry nodded in the dark, it was the best he could do. As the days wore on, it was hard enough to keep his emotions away from the surface, but now that heavenly smells were filling the rotting room, and death closer than he had ever knowingly come to it before, his damn finally broke, shaking him with sorrow. He turned toward the wall and let his tears fall. He would have been embarrassed to show such weakness or cowardess, he wasn't sure which, but there wasn't strength left to care.
Snape watched in silence.
In days past, when Snape could still distinguish between need for contact and the need for blood, they would lean against one another on one of their beds, usually Harry's, and allow the nearness to keep their minds from abandoning hope. It was too late now. Harry's finger's traced the lines between the bricks as his heart sank. He knew that if he asked Snape to cross the void, begged him to hold him, it would be the last time for them both.
Suddenly, he knew what he had to do.
He rolled over.
"I think you should feed," he said without emotion, wiping his filthy cloak across his eyes.
"It would kill you."
"The hunger is affecting your thoughts. Try to rest."
"No. Please, just listen. We get rid of the food down the toilet and then you feed from me. When the guards come in the morning, they'll see us both lying on the floor. They'll assume I ate the food and died from the poison. They'll be more cautious approaching you, but maybe they'll think you got the poison from my blood and died, or that you fed after I died, and that wou…"
"Sorry. Once they lift the wards to remove my --our bodies, you might have enough strength from my blood to attack them, drain them, and then you could either find a way out, or—you could try to kill Voldem..."
"What makes you think I'll agree to be your murderer, Potter?" Red eyes flashed at Harry.
"It's the only way. My blood won't be any good to you if you wait until after I… Even if I had a meal sometime this week, I doubt I'd be strong enough for a while to do anything more than throw up and sleep, but we can still save you."
"And for one small chance, you're willing to die - knowing all that I've done?"
"Good, then you won't be opposed to my small amendment."
Snape was at his side instantly, and Harry gasped at the sudden tug at the clothes wrapped tightly around him as he was pulled into a sitting position. He blurrily stared into glowing eyes for a few heartbeats before he realised he might be in danger, but his body was more than willing to surrender to the dominance. A fist buried itself in the ratty nest of Harry's hair and pulled until his face was parallel to the mouldy ceiling.
"In my opinion, two vampires would have a better chance of escape than one."
Snape pressed his nose against Harry's throat and inhaled slowly while Harry shook like a family pet left out too long in the rain and whispered, "Oh, yeah. I didn't think of that."
This feeding was different from all the others. He knew it would be, and yet the familiar nudge to physically connect with the vampire who was preparing to save him, kill him, had become an iron hand around Harry's heart and lungs, distracting him from his urgent hunger, and even his fear. His body was calling to Snape's, and it didn't really matter which parts touched, as long Snape didn't let go.
With his neck exposed eagerly, Harry whispered his permission until his breath was choked off by the pain of the bite and the kick of adrenalin giving him a false sense of warmth. This feeing was also longer than the others. More intimate. Urgent. Snape was too consumed by his hunger and his nature to hold back, or to be gentle.
The warmth drained from Harry's skin as his heart fought to keep up with the loss of blood. The sound of it pounding in his ears was almost enough to drown out the smacking and slurping coming from Snape.
Harry's hurried heartbeat faltered and his lungs seized. His body convulsed, fighting for air and freedom, but his strength was failing as Snape's was building. It was a futile fight. He tried to let go – to trust – but surrender felt as unnatural as swimming against the current. He suddenly understood the blinding fear that often turned the bravest of men into whimpering children moments before the end of their lives.
Worlds away, Snape continued to suck, lap and growl.
Harry's chest gave a violent shudder as his lungs finally failed, and his heart lost the strength to continue the fight. Bright lights exploded behind his eyelids in random patterns, and for some reason his ears began to ring, as if the last of his internal alarms were being employed. There was an unbearable sharp pain as his heart squeezed itself dry, gave one last dull thud in protest of the unfair treatment, and then stopped.
His body was dead.
However, in a cruel twist of fate, his mind refused to follow.
Blinding light and anguished cries filled the universe trapped behind Harry's scar.
Voldemort's face suddenly appeared with terrifying clarity. Harry watched for a moment, a lifetime, as the pale face contorted and rearranged itself. The haunting red eyes drifted apart and chin and ears melted into his neck and shoulders, creating a worm-like appearance. He opened his mouth, but this time the chilling scream was replaced by a single hissed word that rolled off of his forked tongue.
The vision dissolved, and a feeling of peace settled over Harry. He released his hold on the world he knew and allowed the darkness to take him.
Harry opened his eyes at the touch of a soft hand. He was in a room that seemed to have no visible walls or dimensions. The only thing Harry could say for sure was that the light that filled the space was soft blue, and that his mother was there, touching him gently.
She smiled at Harry, with his own eyes, and whispered, "We've missed you, sweetheart," as Harry's father came into view right behind her.
"Mum," Harry breathed the name, ignoring the impossibility of the situation. He closed her hand in his, and reached out to his dad with the other. Unfathomable joy and relief covered him like a warm drink on a brisk day as he pulled them both into an embrace.
He stayed there, wrapped in their arms forever.
The image of Voldemort's new form jolted Harry into pulling back.
"Is he dead?" he asked his father.
"Not yet, but close enough. Mortal."
"What was that I saw?"
"The destruction of the last Horcrux," Lily whispered, placing a soft kiss over his scar.
James smiled sadly and nodded. "Yes, son."
Panic washed over Harry's face. "Something went wrong. I mean, I'm glad I'm here with you, but it was my job to – Snape was – I still have to…"
His mother gave him a hug that felt too much like a goodbye. "Harry, there's still time. This is only a visit."
He was silent for a moment, his mind a battlefield of duty and longing. He knew what was at stake if Voldemort was allowed to live, and yet, the boy inside begged him to not to leave.
He reluctantly nodded his understanding, but found he was unable to speak when he tried to form the words that would make up his farewell.
A trail of something thick and tepid was coating his throat and tongue. He screwed up his face, fully expecting his body to force whatever it was back up, but when he met his mother's calming gaze, he stopped fighting and merely watched them both fade from view.
The blue glow slowly dissolved, leaving the space that surrounded him empty and black, smelling strongly of whatever it was that he had just swallowed. Somewhere in the darkness, his father's voice found him.
"Drink, Potter!" Harry heard, but the voice now belonged to Snape, and Harry's world slammed back into the stinking cell.
He woke in a rush of fear and disorientation. Even as a calming hand stroked his wet hair, it took him a few minutes to realize he wasn't in immediate danger, but curled up against Snape's chest, trying to make himself as small as possible. A pitiful moan escaped his lips as he inhaled the tang of blood that hung thick in the air around him.
"Keep still until…"
All at once, Harry's fingers, lips and tongue were blocking Snape's instructions. He couldn't seem to move fast enough as he licked and sucked the remnants of his own blood from the rough chin and comforting mouth of the one responsible for ending his life. He gave a huff of dissatisfaction when his determined tongue had claimed the last smear.
Frustrated with the loss, he bit down onto Snape's shoulder, but was too weak to even break the skin. Impatient fingers prodded at the blunt teeth where he assumed his fangs should be. Defeated, he collapsed into waiting arms and tried to ignore the undignified whimper that accompanied the action.
Snape laughed dryly, "You'll have more to feed on soon – the guards should make an appearance - along with your fangs - just before sunrise."
Feeling weak, and unbelievably cold, Harry buried his head under Snape's chin and tried to steal the little body heat Snape still possessed.
"I can't even begin to imagine what…"
Harry stuttered through his shivering. "That –I didn't - that wasn't a kiss - I don't know what that was."
"Hunger, and your new instincts."
Harry's stomach seemed to turn in on itself, treating him to a pain almost as nasty as Cruciatus. He couldn't stop the dry heaving that followed.
"Feel sick-" he grunted out between contractions.
"You will until the transformation is complete. Your body is resisting the unnatural."
"When they – I mean, when you – how did you feel?"
Another tremor raced though Harry. Snape reached for the discarded cloak and draped it over them both. Harry settled into the comforting warmth, nearly drifting off until Snape shifted slightly and began to answer Harry's question.
"How much do you know of Greek Mythology?"
"Not much – some of the god's names, a few stories," Harry answered, balling his hands under his chin to warm them.
"The fall of Troy?"
"A bit. Um, heroes and gods on both sides…bloody ending?"
"Indeed. And of Hector?"
"Just his name," Harry mumbled wearily, enjoying the distraction of fingers traveling through his hair in slow, deliberate patterns.
"He was an honoured champion, and Troy's last defence. After his death, the Greeks gathered the Trojan women onto ships, and slaughtered the remaining men and boys. The commanders paid a visit to Hector's wife and took her young son to be Troy's last sacrifice. They let the boy kiss his mother, and then threw him off a tower."
Harry pulled back a fraction and glanced up through the fingers twisted in his fringe. "Is this your way of cheering me up?"
"I'm answering your question. Listen."
"Sorry," he apologised, reclaiming the comfortable place under Snape's chin. The hand buried in his hair continued its slow exploration.
"The stories are varied, although a few accounts state that one of the gods had pity on the boy and opened up the ground before he reached it."
Harry closed his eyes and tried to imagine the scene. "So he was saved?" he asked quietly.
Snape took a moment before answering. "That would depend on your definition of salvation. Some might argue that the finality of hitting the ground is more merciful than an eternity of falling."
"What do you believe?"
"I imagine the one who plummets will forever be expecting the impact, regardless if it comes or not."
Harry nodded his silent understanding. He felt the same way.
Lost. Spinning. Falling.
In the hours that followed, Harry's body began to adapt to being undead. As his convulsions subsided, and the wait for the guards continued, he explored his new reality. He became aware that his organs were now silent, and he took a moment to wonder if they were all still there at all. There was a new numbness that made pain and the cold less noticeable, and his eyes had no trouble picking out detail in the darkness.
He slid his index finger into his mouth and began exploring his tingling gums and teeth. Every nerve in the warm cavity was buzzing in complete contrast to the numbness of the rest of his body that focusing on anything else became nearly impossible.
"Ish your mouf thish sensitib all duh time?" he asked around his prodding finger.
"The sensation gets stronger as the hunger grows."
"And what about – " Harry tentatively touched the pale hand resting across his chest, pulled back an inch or two, and then touched Snape again.
Harry fought to put words to what was happening to him, what he felt. The most troubling change was the increased connection to Snape. The pull had been strong before, but was nothing compared to this new sensation of Snape's presence lingering under his own skin. He tried to analyze why the connection jumped in intensity whenever there was skin to skin contact.
"When you first fed from me, weeks ago, I felt like there was a link between us, but now it's much stronger – like you're a magnet, and I'm a pile of paperclips."
Snape's chest jerked in a single chuckle. "Your intellect is truly dizzying."
Harry resisted the urge to pout. "You asked me to - that's the best I can do right now. I thought maybe you could feel it."
"In the history of our time together, have you ever known me to ever volunteer physical contact – with anyone?" He asked, tightening his grip around Harry for emphasis.
Harry laughed for the fist time since his death. "No."
"There's your answer. Rest. You need your strength for when our guests arrive."
There was no protest when Harry entwined their fingers.
He didn't know how he managed to fall asleep with his body still feeling so strange and foreign, but the moment he opened his eyes, Snape had moved him to the floor to set the stage for the planned ambush.
As he lay there, Harry occasionally ran a finger over his still-blunt teeth, silently worried about whether his fangs would come when he called them or not, but the moment the wards dropped, so had Harry's fangs – painfully. The taste of blood from his ripped gums met his impatient tongue the moment the door clanked open.
"Not yet," Snape whispered from beside him on the wet floor, gently squeezing Harry's free hand hidden by their cloaks. By the time he rasped out "Now!" the guards were too far into the room to have a chance of escape. Harry sprang to his feet and blocked the door until Snape had chosen his victim. At a hissed "Feed!" Harry began stalking his own meal.
Harry's new fangs broke foreign flesh for the first time; the guard went still in his arms.
In past conversations, Snape had tried, through burning hunger, to disclose what he knew of the nature of vampires. He'd briefly mentioned that they were very particular about their victims, sometimes watching them for days, weeks before feeding. With the filthy and foul-tasting guard insulting all of Harry's newly heightened senses, he suddenly wished he had the luxury of being choosy. Snape gave his own disapproving grunt from the other side of the cell as his guard hit the floor, moaning pitifully. Harry looked up.
"Take all of his blood. You need the strength," Snape ordered.
Thankfully, Harry's instincts answered for him, forcing him to focus on his goal, and not the stench of the servant. He fed again, returning to the only food he would know for the rest of his unnatural life. Although, as the man's heartbeat slowed and fluttered, Harry's mind broke through and urged him to release his victim.
"Don't waste your conscience on him, Potter. Finish what you began!"
"No. I have enough. Let's go." He waved his hand toward the two weakened men. Their bodies slid toward each other, and ropes appeared to lash them together.
A hand on his shoulder startled him into moving - and for the first time in over a month - he stepped out of their prison, leaving the old Harry Potter somewhere in the depressing shadows.
Out in the hallway, Harry was buzzing with energy, feeling strong and itching to attack whatever was waiting to slow them down, but the corridor was empty. Harry growled at the lack of prey, but a hand on his hip swung his attention back to Snape, who was muttering wandless healing and cleaning charms over them both.
"Can't we clean up later?" Harry snapped, still strung tight, nearly bouncing with impatience.
"No," Snape answered, closing the lid on the conversation. "This lack of activity is an advantage. Take a moment to calm yourself."
Harry bit his lip and nodded as the suggestion sunk in. He felt the slight tug to obey, but still had control over whether he chose to or not. What was suddenly interesting to Harry, as he searched his feelings, was that he really wanted to act upon Snape's orders – to please him. He meet Snape's calm gaze and silently made the choice to focus his energy where it needed to be directed – on finding Voldemort.
"Do you remember what room he was in?" Harry asked, tucking as much of his unruly hair behind his ears as he could manage.
Snape shook his head. "Most likely somewhere nearby, unless someone was with him during the transformation you saw as you died. If so, he may be out of our reach by now."
Harry focused on what he had seen in the vision. "I remember – by the end he could only speak in Parseltongue. If someone was there, I doubt they would have understood anything he tried to tell them."
Snape nodded, and started walking towards the lit end of hallway. "His faithful may have fled, assuming his unsightly transformation meant the war was lost."
Harry pushed ahead, and turned the corner onto a bright, window-lined hallway. Pain stabbed at his eyes. He threw up an arm instinctively as a strong hand pulled him back into the shadows. He only lowered his elbow once he felt the darkness settle around him once again.
"Fusco -" Snape explained calmly, turning the corner to continue their hunt. "- to make the windows opaque."
Harry rubbed his eyes and followed. "I'll have to remember that one."
The hall ended in a 'T'. Harry considered both directions, closed his eyes, and tried to focus once more, reach out with his new abilities, but only became irritated and uncomfortable with the strange silence.
Then he felt it – cold – the unnatural kind that hovers and feeds…
Snape glanced back the way they had come. "Are you certain?"
"I believe he's been breeding them."
Harry pointed in the opposite direction of where the gloom was strongest. "He'll be this way then; he wouldn't want to risk the last bit of his soul."
After several abandoned rooms and two dead-ends, the hunt had turned into a pathetic game of hide and seek. Harry was nearly ready to accept that they were the only ones left in the massive house other than an unknown number of Dementors. A string of cursing to his left told him that Snape was of the same mind.
They swept in unison around yet another unremarkable corner, preparing themselves to give up and send for a rescue party, when Harry suddenly heard something. His arm shot out to stop Snape in mid stride.
"What is it?"
Harry turned to the long stretch of wall beside him. He slid his hands over the peeling wallpaper, concentrating like a seventh year the night before examinations. He moved closer, finally ending with his ear pressed against the wall. He waved Snape closer and turned to disclose what he had heard. A succession of sibilant words slid off his tongue and filled the hallway.
"Oh, sorry. He's trapped, I think. He keeps calling out in Parseltongue, but it sounds like he's been at it a while. There's some swear words I've never heard before."
"He can be creative when the situation calls for it. You're certain it's the Dark Lord?"
Harry nodded and swung his gaze up and back down the corridor. "No door. Think it's hidden?"
"Likely." Snape walked the length of the wall and gave it more attention than Harry had; stopping at random intervals to press or trace his fingers over a selected spot.
Harry's mind swam back to the dark cave and vividly remembered ancient fingers trailing over glistening rock. He shivered, and felt again the weight of his icy clothing that hung heavy on his small frame until Dumbledore heard the chattering of his teeth, and cast the drying charm.
For a split second, Harry wished it was the old man he had seen during his death-vision, instead of his parents. He loved them with all that he had, but there was unfinished business between him and Albus – so much that Harry had wanted to say – not only about that night, but scores of other things he could have said before, but never did.
Eventually, Snape returned to Harry's side, pointed a long finger at the wall and uttered, "Aperio!"
A door appeared directly in front of Harry. He reached for the handle, but stopped just shy of touching it. He knew it was too late to make his peace with Albus, but he still had time to tell Snape something he had kept hidden for too long.
He found Snape's impatient glare and lowered his voice to a whisper. "In case anything happens, I want you to know that you were worth saving, no matter the sacrifice."
Snape's hardened features melted into something that Harry couldn't find words to describe, and Snape seemed to be having the same dilemma. He simply nodded.
Harry returned a sad smile, his heart lighter, and waited for silent confirmation from Snape before pushing into the room.
The Dark Lord was a pitiful sight – an elongated, near-translucent body with a hissing head at one end. His arms blended into his trunk, and his legs had fused together, leaving something that looked like a deformed, beached sea serpent. Thrashing wildly on the floor, seemed to Harry, the worst Voldemort was capable of.
"Pathetic," Snape sneered, summoning Voldemort's wand. He passed it directly to Harry.
The snapping echoed over the continuous hissing.
Harry tucked the broken pieces into his pocket, and moved a step closer, listening to the Dark Lord's incessant cries
"I think my death did something to his mind. He keeps begging us to help him, but isn't using our names. I honestly don't think he knows who we are – or who he is," Harry observed.
"Interesting," Snape moved to stand equal with Harry. "Tell him who I am, as well as my betrayal to his cause."
The moment Harry felt the words slide over his lips, Voldemort's ranting came to a standstill. Large, almond-shaped red eyes locked onto his, and stayed fixed until long after the utterance had faded into silence.
The reply was slow to come, and was preceded by a quick glance over to where Snape was standing with his arms crossed in front of him, wearing a sour expression.
Harry spoke, but kept his eyes on Voldemort. "He says he'll forgive you if we take him somewhere safe." Snape snorted. "I think he can feel the Dementors."
"Even when he was reduced to a spirit – a portion of a soul - even then, he did not hand out forgiveness," Snape said slowly, his voice low and icy. "Do your job, Potter. Finish him."
Harry strode forward, unarmed and unafraid of the quivering mass at his feet. He made a rapid mental list of all the crimes Voldemort was guilty of as he lowered himself to his knees. A string of faces - his parents, Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Kingsley, and hundreds of others - danced across his mind and blurred his vision. He shivered and took a moment to think about the other unknown victims, the crimes no one had uncovered, and plans that had yet to be orchestrated. Harry hardened his heart and narrowed his eyes.
Voldemort seemed to understand that he was not being rescued. A trail of noisy protests fired up once more. Harry tried to block the words only he could understand, and cleared his mind.
"Your first assumption was correct. He appears to be powerless," Snape said, a hint of urgency lingering in the tone.
Harry hissed over his shoulder and Snape took a step back. "What if he has information we need? We can still perform Legilimens!"
"If his mind truly is gone, there's nothing more to be gained. Fulfill the Prophesy," Snape urged.
Harry swallowed as a wave of hopelessness stirred within him that he couldn't push away. "What if it has been fulfilled? I'm already dead, and he might as well be. Maybe I don't need to be the one..."
Harry looked down at Voldemort, or what was left of him. He could see very little of the man who had taken everything from him. Harry's white-hot anger cooled quickly while his heart and mind battled on without him. He made the decision he hoped was the right one, and reached for his screaming victim, but his stomach turned to stone even as his fangs descended.
He fell back on his heels and took his head in his hands. "I – can't. Not even him."
"He can't be allowed to…"
"I know!" Harry snapped, got to his feet again, and stretched one palm out toward the nearest wall. "Accio Dementors!"
For a moment, Snape appeared genuinely surprised, and then a look of determined resignation settled around his eyes. He gave Harry a nod.
"You're right Potter, our part is played out, all three of us."
"What?" His mind struggled to find the trigger of such a mismatched answer. He had called the Dementors for Voldemort, but Snape's words sounded suspiciously like a goodbye – "No. I'm not – trying to kill all of – I have a theory about the Dementors. If I'm wrong, we can still use Expecto Patronum."
"And you plan to perform it wandless?"
The door rattled a second after the unnerving chill settled over the room. When it burst inward, Voldemort let out an ear-splitting cry. Harry tried to summon his wand, and then Snape's, but nothing came toward him except a train of a dozen or so Dementors. They were much shorter than others Harry had seen before. He took a step back from where Voldemort was cowering.
"Why are they so small?" he asked in a lowered voice.
"They're young. Potter, come to me, slowly," Snape whispered, as the Dementors glided toward Voldemort, their choked, raspy breaths filled the space between his cries.
Harry stepped back and felt grounding fingers wrap around the side of his shoulders. They moved, in unison away from the swarm of young Dementors who hovered above the former Dark Lord in a ring, motionless, as if trying to decide what they made of him.
Their attack was so sudden that Harry didn't see which dark figure had moved first.
One after one, they dove and then rose back into formation, playing with their victim, content to share until all had taken a turn. The smallest of the group finally covered Voldemort in shadow, and inched slowly lower until the Dark Lord was hidden from sight.
The longer the Dementors were in the room, the heavier the darkness bore down on Harry's heart – black and empty - worse than he had ever felt before. Although instead of his mother's haunting screams, his mind filled with the sound of rushing wind. A single word cut through the din, but it didn't belong to him.
He turned at the grunted warning, and the release of his shoulders, but Snape was already on the floor by the time Harry realized what had happened.
Snape's eyes darted frantically around the room until they locked onto Harry's, wild and panicked. When his mouth fell open in an anguished release. Harry glanced over his shoulder to see if the Dementors were attracted to the sound. They had broken away from Voldemort, their small meal finished, but instead of swooping down on the screaming vampire, they turned and slid horizontally over a pocket of air –like penguins on their bellies - and then vanished out the door.
The silence that remained in their wake was almost as eerie as the sucking breathing that still rung in his ears. Harry glanced at the soulless form on the floor, its once-red eyes - now dark and unfocused - stared up at him, through him. His instincts begged him to stun the helpless creature, but with no immediate threat, and no lingering scent of fear or anger, Harry stretched out his hand, and muttered a sleeping spell.
Closing yet another chapter of his life, he turned his back on Voldemort.
Harry slowly returned to where Snape was huddled. The pain had faded from his expression, but a pale hand still clutched his left forearm. Harry covered the hand with his own and lowered himself to his knees, the effects of the young Dementors still tugging at his mind and body.
"Is it done?" Snape asked, peering around Harry's shoulder at the sleeping former Dark Lord.
Harry nodded. "Does it hurt?" he asked, squeezing the hand under his.
"Bearable," Snape whispered, moving both their hands, as well as his sleeve, further up his arm, revealing a slightly swollen pink scar, in place of the Dark Mark.
Snape's hair hung limp, hiding most of his face, as he continued to inspect his arm. Harry reached out and tucked as much as he could behind Snape's ear, but still, the man's gaze stayed fixed on the scar, as if willing it to fade. When he finally spoke, Harry nearly jumped back with surprise after the extended silence.
"Your Dementor assumption seems to have been correct," Snape said quietly, peering at Harry from under a dark strand that had fallen free.
"I was hoping that the combination of us being dead, soulless dark creatures would be enough to keep them away – but I wasn't certain." He helped Snape lean up against the wall, and then settled back on his heals. He could feel dark eyes searching for his again.
"What makes you think you've sacrificed your soul?"
"I thought that was the price for eternal life," Harry admitted, quietly.
"Merely one theory."
Harry smiled, "A myth?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps not." When he motioned for Harry to sit beside him, there was no hesitation. Harry took his place and watched as Snape pointed toward Voldemort. "We have evidence of a soulless man-" He then gestured at Harry. "-And we have evidence of the vampire who spared his life."
At the end of the utterance, Snape's face screwed up in discomfort, and he clutched once again at his arm.
"You all right?" Harry asked, ashamed at forgetting about the other man's pain.
Shadowed eyes met Harry's. "I've been dead for a month, Potter, what do you think?"
Harry stared for a moment, replaying the sentence over in his head until it made sense to his fried nerves. When a dark eyebrow rose, Harry couldn't hold back his reaction. His shoulders began shaking seconds before the laughter broke free. Snape was wearing his own half-smirk when Harry became quiet again. It was almost enough to drive away the after-effects of everything he had just seen.
A narrow sunbeam forced its way through a small hole in one of the thick curtains on the other side of the room. Harry studied it for a while, but it hurt his sensitive new eyes to stare too long.
In an instant, all the faces and names of everyone he knew and loved came flooding back into his thoughts. When he was preparing to die, he had silently said his goodbyes to each of them, tucking his memories and feelings away, knowing he couldn't afford any distraction when he faced Voldemort. But in the anticlimactic silence of what should have been a proper battle - instead of a pitiful surrender - every emotion rushed forward at once, overwhelming his already exhausted mind. Before he could resist, his tears had already formed. He lowered his head quickly.
"You're injured, let me have a look at…" Snape began, reaching for Harry's face.
Harry pulled back slightly and looked away. "No. I'm fine."
"What is it?"
"Nothing," Harry mumbled, just before a thumb rubbed gently under his eye.
"Of course. Then that would also be nothing running down your cheek?"
A half-smile surfaced. "It's stupid."
Snape stood, brushed the dust from his robes, and offered Harry his hand. "Likely. Tell me."
Harry accepted the gesture and was pulled to his feet. Before Snape could protest, Harry pressed himself against Snape's chest, in a move to mirror the first time he had begged for contact "I don't know what to do next."
Snape's voice stayed steady, but his hands betrayed his cool tone as they wound around Harry's shoulders and settled over his back. "We call for aid."
"No, I mean us," Harry whispered, looking up.
"So did I. We'll need to research our new atributes"
"You're right. Hermione. I know this'll give her a new reason to live in the Ministry's library."
"Why would she…" Snape began, but Harry interrupted.
"Because she has a saving Harry thing, always has."
"Ah. What do you know of the Ministry's policy regarding Vampires?"
"Under the law, registered Vampires…" He trailed off, but after a few seconds, looked up. "We'll have almost no rights."
"We've both lived under restrictions before."
"This is different."
"I'm sure the Ministry will once again make allowances for their savoir."
Harry grimaced. "I don't want another cell, even if it's covered in gold and velvet, besides, you did just as much as… Without you, I'd be dead."
"No, Potter, because of me, you are undead."
"You know what I mean. You could have let me die – without any of the added benefits I'm now enjoying," he ended with a slight chuckle. "Can't you let me thank you?"
"No," Snape answered without emotion, but Harry could almost feel the half-smile on the lips above. He decided to leave that conversation for another time.
"I've only ever seen one Vampire in the Ministry – about a year ago. He was being held in connection with a few Muggle murders last year."
"I imagine we will be closely monitored until all their questions are answered, and their curiosity has been satisfied – possibly separated to ensure our accounts are matched in detail."
A low growl started somewhere in Harry's chest, and his grip tightened on the fabric under his fingers, pulling himself a fraction closer. He felt the soft slide of a hand into his hair, and his growling faded to a brief hum of contentment.
"That would not be my first choice either," Snape admitted, tangling his fingers around dark hair.
Harry paused before speaking again. He knew what he was feeling, but fought with how to organize his words. "I don’t want to hurt anyone, but something…" he sighed, and tried again, pushing his words into the dark cloth under his lips. "If someone, even the other Aurors, tried to take you away from…"
This time the possessive growling belonged to Snape, echoed with a sharp tug to Harry's hair that resulted in instant eye contact. Without thinking twice, Harry lifted up onto his toes until his mouth found its target.
It was a world apart from the blind licking through a blood-haze that Harry had clumsily sought out during the first moments of his new life. He didn't know what to call it, but the moment Snape responded with equal hunger, he didn't care if it ever had a name, he just prayed it wouldn't stop.
His mind briefly reminded him where he was, and prodded him to set his libido aside until the Aurors had the former Tom Riddle safely locked away, but the newly freed caged creature within wanted his last moments of freedom to be filled with much more of this primal activity.
The hand in his hair tightened and pulled, but Harry was more than willing to give anything he had to offer, and the slick tongue that pressed against his newly-healed bite marks seemed eager to take. He released a moan that filled the room.
Far too soon, in Harry's opinion, Snape pulled away slowly, his eyes shimmering with flecks of red.
"And just what was that, Potter?"
Harry tried to imagine what Snape saw as he looked down at him, and pictured some sort of bewildered love-sick smile to mirror the feelings that were stirring inside. In his heart he knew that whatever impact was waiting ahead, he wouldn't have to meet it alone.
Harry stole a quick kiss and answered,