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Huh. Who'd have thought that the first thing I'd post here would be a H/S fic??

Ah well. Life is weird. :P


Disclaimer: not mine, JKR's. That's right, JK Rowling owns Harry Potter and he's actually straight and in love with Ginny and making tiny little babies in her head, ok. Can I go now?

Author's Note: I blame tgin's Harry/Snape vids. Oh and Seal's 'Kiss from A Rose' on repeat. Be warned. Part two of the title is a reference to Vienna Teng's 'Lullabye For A Stormy Night', ha ha. Ha. Shut up, ok. Yeah, so this was was supposed to be some sort of semi-serious and/or likely semi-romantic H/S post-DH AU fic, but I'm still incapable of those, so. :P Besides, my Snape sucks anyway. :P But aren't you amazed I wrote anything at all?? So there. This author's note is way too long, btw. Here, now it's longer, muwahaha...ha...ha. Um. *cough*






- two strangers at the door -

(A Stormy Night's Lullabye)



A man stares down a sheer drop into the sea. The waves make a shushing noise, filling the empty corners in his mind. There are many empty corners to fill.

He doesn't think of leaping. He doesn't think of anything at all within that momentary stillness.

For some scant seconds, he can pretend the only moment that matters is right now, and there's no past or future worth considering. He is anonymous in the rush of the now; not an observer but a part of something greater. His consciousness surges and wanes with the movement of the sea, content to be empty.

All that shatters into foam and nothingness as soon as the other man repeats his name, implacable in his wretched persistence: "Snape!"

Once named, he stays motionless, not looking back at the figure behind him. A part of it is self-composure, a waiting game, but another part is simply the frozen posture of prey, hoping that being immobile keeps you unnoticed by those who would harm you.

His fists are clenched beneath his voluminous robes, and he shivers.

The cold is nothing to him, he knows. It is only something to focus on, separate from the unceasing murmurs of Potter's loud, untrained thoughts battering against his inner ear. Once aware of them, he cannot stop paying painfully close attention to every nuance of Potter's muffled thoughts. It is all he can do to keep them as muffled as they are, though it's nowhere near enough for his peace of mind. Quite literally so, in fact.

They've told him he had been good at this. He'd been very good, judging by the strength of the connection, though no one has much detail about this or any other aspect of Snape's life. The only person who did is well and truly dead, and by his own hand. It is indeed ironic, how secrets too well-kept have come to haunt him.

"I've told you before," he says with what dignity he can muster, hoping to forestall another retread of old arguments. "I'm no good to any of you any longer. I know you need help rebuilding Hogwarts. I would help if I could, since I've no reason not to. Be that as it may, I cannot. I don't know why they sent you yet again, Potter, because this is pointless. Is it so very difficult to leave me be?"

There is a long silence. At times, the sound of the sea and the distant susurration of Potter's thoughts unite, becoming a single drawn-out breath, ever leaving him.

"You hated me, once."

"So it seems. I can't imagine why," he adds dryly, too weary for disdain. There's a lighthouse flickering on the distant shore, and as he unfocuses, his eyesight blurs until there are many different lights dancing before him instead of just the one.

"I just-- I wanted you to know I understand." A shuffling of feet, and more of that infernal fluttering, rasping against the edges of his mind. Potter's mind is as restless as a moth, and Severus finds himself an unwilling flame. "I'm sorry."

"Spare me your childish apologies," he snaps, immediately aghast once more at how easily he is goaded. "Please. I beg you. Better yet, let's say I accept and be done with it. There, now you can leave."

"I'm sorry," Potter repeats, the same blatantly unapologetic imbecile he's been throughout their short acquaintance.

Control. Control.

He needs it; he used to have it, clearly.

They had told him control of his Legilimency should only require the slightest push to reestablish. Some said the other memories would eventually fall into place if he but acquainted himself with the memories he'd left in the old Headmaster's pensieve; those who were idiots unworthy of their Healer's salary, that is. The nightmares said otherwise, as did Severus's initial readings in what remained of the Hogwarts library. He'd done a few quiet experiments on himself, in the early days; back when he'd been so gullible as to almost believe the tripe they'd fed him.

"You should have let me die. Now you're sorry." He grinds his teeth, swallows more words.

"You could-- you could be yourself again. If you tried. You're a--"

"Don't say it!" He whips around, cloak billowing behind him in a sudden gust of wind. There is only weak moonlight right now, yet those green eyes glow like lanterns. He all but shudders. The one thing he does remember is that: everything else may be worse a shamble, bare inklings of memory, but the eyes have apparently been burned onto the back of his skull. Sometimes they are laughing, red hair curling past one corner; sometimes glaring in defiance. Most often, Severus sees them in his dreams as wide open and filmed with a fine sheen of tears, blinking stupidly behind those childish lenses. It is enough. More than enough. He doesn't need much more, if he desires to keep his sanity, that much is clear.

"You're a hero," Potter says, quietly relentless.

"You enjoy this, I see. Tormenting a defenseless, aging man." He raises an eyebrow. He's so infuriated, he's past some rubicon; finally, he's no longer cold, and his fingers are still. "Poke a walking corpse one more time. Why not. Can't say I blame you. Your friends have made a minor hobby of telling me I've done you great wrongs while you were my pupil. How I owe you." He smiles slowly, almost amused to see Potter flinch. "Shall I thank you? Shall I invite you back inside, to share some tea and a chat about the nasty old days, by chance? No? You could fill in all the blanks." He feeds on Potter's guilt-struck expression, becoming reckless. "You could tell me what you know of your mum. It should prove to be most enlightening."

Potter stiffens. Dispassionately, Severus wonders if the brat would actually strike him. How much can it possibly take to make even a complete idiot give up?

Finally, Potter sighs with some force. What a very world-weary sigh it is. How trying Potter must find him.

"I told you. I'm sorry. I told you!" He shouts this last. "What more do you want me to say, Snape? If I'd chosen to use the bloody power to raise the dead, I'd have used the Stone! Do you think I'd have spent it on you?"

He observes Potter without flinching, striving for dispassionate analysis and near choking on the unavoidable flood of Potter's out of control emotions, like a battering ram against his mind. This could not be borne, and yet he'd rather die yet again than spell it out to try and stop it, what being around Potter does to him.

"Ah yes, I do recall, having read the Prophet within the last month. The hero. That would be you, no doubt." He smiles thinly. "How admirable of you, Potter, to waste your benevolence on one as unworthy as myself. Now if you'll take your leave, I have things to do."

"Snape!" Potter all but growls it.

It shouldn't work this way, but seeing Potter's lost control enables Snape's own. If only he could hold on to this edge, he'll be fine. He'll be just fine.

"It's your own bloody doing, isn't it! When you sent your consciousness into mine right before your body 'died', who's the one who chose to do that! Not me! Do you think I knew what was going on? Do you think I could have stopped it? I didn't even realize anything was wrong until weeks had passed with weird dreams I hadn't had since I killed Voldemort! You bastard, do you think you're the only one who doesn't want to live with this?"

"Oh, but Potter, it was you. It doesn't take a genius to know you can't trust the choices of a man staring death in the face. If I was as skilled in Legilimency as they tell me, it may not have been conscious at all; if I did stare into your eyes at the moment of death, it's quite possible-- no, most probable-- the transfer was involuntary. It was you who chose to dig up and reanimate my body for the spell, you who went against your friends' advice, and you who thought your guilt justified your actions. Anyone with half a brain would realize that there's a reason that sane wizards don't use this as a way to cheat death! Or did you think that no one had thought of it before?"

"You know, when I was a first year and you my Potions Master, you'd said that you'd teach us to 'stopper death' before our first lesson."

"Mister Potter," Severus spits out, biting off each syllable. "That's enough! Are you quite sure you're not mentally disabled? Perhaps you're doing this on purpose; it wouldn't surprise me, but then nothing does anymore. Need I explain that to stopper death is not the same thing as to reverse its course entirely once it truly has been set?"

"You just don't want to admit you were exaggerating for effect, do you."

"I'm glad you think this is a joking matter, Potter. Do you realize that you've got to have had an idiot's luck, since your mind is in one piece after all that you did? You should have simply cleansed it as soon as you realized that I'm-- I'm--"

"Alive?"

"And what kind of a life is this, you utter, utter--!"

Snape falls silent, at a loss for words. He thrusts out his mottled bluish white hands before him into the moonlight, but unsurprisingly, Potter turns his face away.

"I said I was sorry," he mutters sullenly as the first-year he must once have been.

"Sorry doesn't wipe the arse of a dying man in China, you lackwit!"

"Well, how was I supposed to live with you in me, never letting me alone! Tell me that!" Potter yells, but Snape is past listening, or caring that he yells back, his own face contorted in rage.

"You weren't! All it would have taken is one trip to St. Mungo's! They've got people trained to deal in just these sorts of situations! But the common road isn't good enough for Harry Potter, clearly, not the boy hero of the wizarding world, no!" He gasps a breath. "I don't even need to know you to see this is how you've always operated. It's got the feel of a lifelong habit, Potter. You've got all the good judgment of a flea, and not even the sense to listen to the people around you who have a smidgeon more. How you've survived up to this point is truly beyond me."

There's a brief silence then, but soon enough Potter rallies. "You could get better with time. They told me at St. Mungo's. They've got treatments, and--"

"Silence!"

Now the pressure at Snape's mind turns gentle, almost kittenish; a scratching at the door. Potter is abashed. To come here every few nights, only to listen to Snape rail against him, the boy must be drowning in guilt. Well, let him. Guilt is a luxury Snape can't afford.

"You'd get better if you opened up and let me in," he says softly. "Some of the younger healers have been cautiously optimistic. With a bit of study, they said-- well, especially with Hermione working with them now, I'm sure--"

What had Snape been thinking? This isn't guilt. The boy is shameless. Completely, utterly without an iota of sense or sensibility.

"Do you have the slightest idea of what you're saying, you insufferable boy? Do you truly need me to spell it out for you one more time? Well, do you?"

He's suddenly too tired for this. The night is all but gone, and so is Snape's strength and productivity. Not to mention his conscious grip on the world. It is not that Snape had ever been a day person, but to be trapped in the nighttime, with these fruitless recurring confrontations with Potter his only constant is beyond a trial. That is, a constant besides the empty shell of a mind, the meaningless fragments of his dreams and the infernal yearning for the memory of a link with this imbecilic, immature twit.... He can't imagine that his old self could have thought up a more perfect hell.

"I'm lonely too, you know." Potter whispers. "I know you are. I can tell. Since Ginny died, I--" There's a short exhalation. "I know."

"You! You dare presume to tell me what I feel!" Before he knows it, he'd whirled about and began to stride purposefully back to his hut. Yet more charity; it chafes, that his only refuge is a summer cottage Dumbledore left him in his will. The man he betrayed. The man he doesn't remember, shouldn't remember, except it hurts to think of him, and that's memory enough for Severus.

Of course, Potter follows, if at a slight distance.

"It wouldn't have to be permanent. If we bonded for a longer while, this time. Just until you've healed."

Snape stops, not turning around. He snorts, almost amused. "Perhaps you make a habit of fooling yourself, Potter, but I do not. If the effects of separation are this bad with only a half-formed, incomplete bond between us, imagine what--" He cuts off, much too late.

Potter all but dances around him, grasping his forearm in a childish mix of vindication, excitement and some other emotion Snape ignores.

"Listen to me, you little fool!" He jerks his arm away violently, no longer caring what shows on his face. "I won't be a misbegotten bandage for your precious lost puppy love! You know how I feel! Don't make me laugh! She was a bit of hormonal slap and tickle, that's all. If it was what you say it was, yet you think it'll be enough for you to distract yourself in such a vulgar fashion, you're a bigger imbecile than even I have imagined. Make no mistake: you're nothing like me."

Potter glares at him, those eyes burning hotter and hotter as Severus speaks, until it seems like Snape's dead body can feel it penetrate all the way to his clenched stomach. It is madness, the same hormonal madness he'd accused Potter of perpetuating, except that Snape has no excuse. By all rights, he should no longer produce any hormones at all. The fact that he is neither dead nor does he live presses upon him, inescapable. Inescapably Potter's fault, he reminds himself grimly.

"Is that what my mum was, then? A bit of hormonal slap and tickle?" Potter cocks his head, considering him; maybe seeing through him... no.

"Don't talk of your mother to me," Snape forces out, finally. Distantly, he's aware that all he needs to do is reach the door to his house first and lock it from the inside. There's no real reason to keep standing here, courting the dawn. And yet, here he is.

"Why not?" Potter says calmly. "Don't tell me you remember now."

Severus feels the return of the relentless cold, and starts to shake again. It improves his mood not at all. "My recollection is not the issue here. It is your unbearable temerity in pursuing the subject that I'm concerned with! I will not speak of it, is that clear!"

"Oh, it's too late for that, isn't it, Severus? You shouldn't have left me the pensieve if you didn't wish it to be known."

"I can't imagine I left it for you, but of course that possibility is beyond your tiny grasp."

"You know, it's a laugh that you actually think I'd use you as a replacement for Ginny, even if I wanted to." Snape can hear the sudden sneer in Potter's voice. "You? You're nothing like her. I'm the one who's always reminded you of my father, one way or another, and I'm the one who's got his mother's eyes, and I'm the one who was always hounded by you, ever since the beginning, all because you couldn't let go of the past! So it's amazing that you'd talk to me about replacements. It really is."

Dawn begins to tendril in, one pale blue strand at a time, and Snape experiences it as a deeply felt weakening in his limbs. Soon, soon now, he'd lie down and not move from wherever he lay until the next nightfall, so in truth none of it matters. None of these words can reach him at all. Only the secret whispering of Potter's loosely strung mind keeps him here, both drawn in and repelled. He misses it even as he recognizes it as mere addiction, an imprinting on the only real source of comfort he can now recall; he misses the focal points of two green eyes to follow him, a voice to call his name and remind him he lives. Not willingly, but he lives.

"Fine," he says then. "You win. So what? I stand defeated by your wit just as I must. Your unassailable arguments are airtight as always. Now what?"

Surprisingly, Potter lets go, at least for the moment. "Now you let me in, and for starters, I prove you to that you can stay awake into morning, if we're linked. What do you have to lose? It's not as if you're so worried about me, are you? Or is there some secrets you've got left rattling around that you're afraid of me finding? Somehow I doubt it's anything to write home about, is it."

Severus flattens his mouth, scowling as he jerks the door open. Silently, he stands at the doorway, all but daring Potter to squeeze past him and take him up on such an invitation. Ever blind to any subtlety, Potter smiles smugly and walks over to sit at Snape's favorite armchair by the fireplace. He points a wand to light it, showing off. It shouldn't matter; the dead have no ambitions. Even so, something in Snape helplessly responds with a burst of yearning. He wants his other magic back, too. All his arguments to himself, all his pride, all the good reasons he has not to want to study remedial Charms at this late date: all of it flies out the window at the sight of Potter's casual mastery of a first year's skills. And yet... it's impossible to forget for a moment that it's this sort of humiliation that he sought to avoid.

He sits across from Potter in the other armchair. It's only slightly less comfortable, but what truly discomfits him is wondering if this is where he'd sat before, if ever he'd visited Dumbledore in this place. He probably hadn't. Most likely, the old man had no wish to see him outside Hogwarts. He probably has no memories here. Still, if he'd ever come here, he's likely to have sat in this chair, while Dumbledore took the one Potter occupies so casually.

Silently, Snape closes his eyes and lets his walls down, right as the morning comes.

Within his mind, Harry smiles.

"Are you still afraid?"

Severus doesn't answer. He doesn't have to.

For a long while, they sit quietly, and Severus feels the boundaries blur as he sinks into a sort of waking dream, different than the 'sleep' he'd become used to. He feels his tenuous grasp on his identity unreeling, but it is sweet and peaceful, and Harry is there. He's holding his hand; surrounding him. Severus doesn't need to open his eyes to see, not anymore. He's fine like this. This is good.

Some time later, Harry opens his eyes.

He extricates his fingers from the limp and lifeless ones in their grasp, shivering. He's quite cold, he realizes, and then he notices that the fire has gone down. That's quite all right, he thinks. There's no need for it, is there.

"I really am sorry, Severus," Harry says to the empty room. "You believe me, don't you."

When he walks out, he doesn't look back. His part in this is over now.

The last breaths of Severus's mind whispering inside him start to dissipate as Harry stands at the cliff's edge, staring down at the sea below. He's only halfway conscious that this is how he'd found Snape time after time, when he came here.

He grasps after some final half-thought from the remnants of Snape dissolving inside him, becoming part of him, but there's nothing. Only silence.

After a moment, he stops looking.

He wonders if the little lies are hardest, or if it's the others. The ones that really hurt. In the end, it must be enough that Snape is at rest now, and Harry learnt his lesson, if the hard way. Like Snape would have preferred, no doubt.

He then briefly wonders if Ginny would have let him name their child Severus. Perhaps something like Albus Severus. He smiles at himself; Snape would be aghast, Harry knows.

A part of him almost believes his own fancies for a moment, wonders if there was something the healers (or Hermione) could have done. Too late now. This is what Snape wanted. That's what matters.

He knows he couldn't have done this if he were truly alone, like Snape was. He has his friends; his anchor remains. He has his future, and the job he still believes in. He knows he's lucky. He knows how he close he came to sinking into the odd, sharp-edged comfort of living with Snape fitted against him. Weeks ago, even after all that had happened, Harry thought it was a living nightmare and had been willing to do anything to get rid of him. Worst of all had been the knowledge that he liked it a little too much in all the wrong ways. Harry tries not to think of that, then as now. Snape's mind had been a dark, bitter, deeply uncomfortable thing to experience briefly, let alone continuously, but there was something. Something that didn't let go very easily, afterwards.

Harry tries not to wonder how much was truth in his repeated attempts to further his supposed plot to get Snape to allow the full bonding. He knows that it hadn't been certain whether or not he'd go through with his real plan until the very end.

He knows, even if he doesn't have to admit that to himself.

Harry knows, too, that if he'd been upfront about having Snape open up in order to put things right and have him cease this charade of living, he'd have done it willingly. Harry had only to put it in that way, and he could have ended the matter weeks ago. He knows all that.

He'll just have to live with it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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the artist formerly known as lunacy

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