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Notes: Written for the Death Challenge. Harry Potter reacts to Severus Snape's death. Snape/Harry UST if you squint; Harry/Ginny if you don't.
One day, Snape doesn't come to teach them classes.
It is Harry's seventh year.
There is no grand announcement at breakfast, no replacement teacher found until the next day. In fact, they don't even find out until one week later that Snape has died, and at first it is only a rumor, begun by some unnamed student in Slytherin, that isn't confirmed until the following Thursday when Dumbledore sweeps in ten minutes late to dinner. His face is drawn and dull and strangely calm, and he places the tips of his fingers on the staff table and says:
'A matter of great sorrow has come to my attention. Severus Snape will no longer be teaching at this school.'
A pause, in which Harry sets his glass of juice down carefully, and everyone around him erupts into whispers.
'He... passed away. Exactly one week ago.'
The whispers suddenly collapse into an echoing silence. The last shocked jangle of someone's fork against a plate sounds loudly through the hall, but then nothing, nothing, and Harry feels as though his breath has stopped.
'I...' Dumbledore stops; and Harry can almost hear him think I'm sorry I sent him out sent you out Severus Severus, at least that is what he imagines Dumbledore is thinking, what he should be thinking, but then Dumbledore's saying: 'I'm truly sorry to announce this in such a manner, and late to boot... but we had to make sure...'
That Snape was dead. That Snape was dead. That Snape was dead.
Everyone at the staff table is stiff and quiet--Minerva McGonagall is looking into her plate with a tight, fixed expression, but her eyes are dry. Flitwick's face has crumpled, but he too manages to stay composed. Hagrid isn't here. Trelawney either. Sprout looks vaguely sick; Pomfrey has her hands folded in front of her, white-knuckled yet steady. Everyone is so calm calm calm, so fucking silent, and Harry feels sick just watching it, sick for some reason he can't begin to understand.
Dumbledore continues to say something--explain away Snape's death to some accident or other--but Harry knows where Snape had gone last week. He remembers that sudden flinch on Snape's face, Snape's hand going automatically to his Marked arm. He remembers being dismissed from detention curtly, without even an insult to send him packing, Snape's yellow teeth gritted and his black eyes blacker with pain.
Harry knows. So he doesn't care to listen to Dumbledore, he doesn't care to listen to one fucking false word, and he realizes that it's ridiculous for him to be angry, because didn't he hate the slimy bastard and wish him dead so many times? Didn't he?
And then he pushes his chair back--suddenly--a loud screech that tears through the hall, forcing even Dumbledore to pause in his speech.
Harry's throat works silently--as though he needs to say something--and he does, but nothing comes out, and his mouth is dry, and his mind has run as silent and thoughtless as a tomb.
For some reason the words 'I'm sorry' almost stumble past his lips--but they make no sense, so Harry just stands there trembling for a moment, and then he turns to leave.
'Harry!' He hears Ginny's hushed, urgent voice calling him--and he hates her too, for a moment, hates her because he'd fucked her that night, after Snape had gone, fucked her sweet and hard and good and angry, and he'd tangled his fingers in her too-soft, too-clean red hair and had buried his face in the more comforting harsh starch of her robe, and in the shadows her eyes had almost been black enough, hollow enough, and while he'd been coming Snape had been getting killed, damn it, and it was all her fucking fault and Snape's fault and why did he--
'Harry,' softer, but he ignores her and he's at the hall's doors now, and she doesn't come after him, and he doesn't stop.
Ron doesn't come after him either. Hermione doesn't. They know him better by now. They know him.
Harry doesn't go to the Gryffindor common room, where he knows a barrage of students will soon arrive, all of them alive alive alive, and wanting to fucking talk about this, loudly, to conjecture about how the Greasy Git got killed, all of them with their bellies heavy with dinner and hearts perversely satisfied that they, at least, were still alive.
Harry doesn't go to the Gryffindor tower. Instead he veers sharply the other way, goes down instead of up, and his footsteps are sure and swift as he heads down the stairs.
The path is so familiar to him by now--worn through after years of mischief-making and detentions and, later, Occlumency lessons--that he's sure he could make it to Snape's office blind-folded. How many years had Snape walked this way himself? How many years had his boots echoed here, staccato and surly and frightening students out of their path?
And then the heavy wooden door's looming in front of him, tall and familiar. Suddenly he remembers every time he's stood here--nervousangrytentativehungry--a trembling first year to a sixth year riddled with hate, to a seventh year grown more cold and pragmatic in his anger.
It swings open when he whispers the password--his password, the emergency password, which Snape had given to him just this year, after Voldemort had almost infiltrated the school. I don't trust you not to misuse this, Potter, but I have no choice. Snape hadn't said: Call me if you are ever in danger. If you need my help.
But that's what he'd meant, and that's what Harry'd understood, and he knows that he's misusing it now, this password, but Snape isn't alive to tell him off.
The office is dimly lit when he enters.
The magical fire still hasn't gone out, of course--and it's exactly the same as it had been last week, the same sickly sheen flickering across stone walls, lighting everything in a way that is both oppressive and hateful. Snape's massive bookcase hulks in one corner, as tall as Hagrid and twice as wide, and the smaller shelves for Snape's potions glitter in the firelight, the little convex curve of each bottle winking like an eye.
Harry doesn't know what he's doing here--it makes no sense, nothing makes any fucking sense--but he's pressing his palm against the rough, cool stone of the wall, just here, just to the right of the bookcase, where Snape had thrown him in Occlumency practice two weeks ago. Harry can almost remember it--the sharp crash of pain against the back of his skull, hair pulled painfully by the rough crevices in the wall as he slid down--Snape's wand pointing at him, those black eyes glittering strangely, just as Snape's vials did now. He almost remembers the dark-water rush of memory in his mind, the pages of his thoughts rustling under Snape's attack. Legilimens Legilimens Legilimens--each painful thing pulled out of him, a hook out of his throat, until he was gasping and pushing back, mouthing Legilimens Legilimens LEGILIMENS! until Snape's own mind opened under his, a dark vortex of indistinguishable elements, Harry managing to catch a glimpse only of a belt-crack against a young back a yell of pain the chant echoing in a hallway Snivellus Snivellus Snivellus the arch of a neck Snape long and pale and needy a broad hand fisting his prick--
And then out, thrown back, Snape panting and enraged, mouth curling with hate and, what Harry could make out from the gleam in his eyes, satisfaction.
That's enough for today, Potter.
Not accompanied by any insult. Meaning, in Snape's language, You've learned.
Yes. Harry remembers this. Remembers getting up from the floor, the back of his head throbbing with pain, hair damp with a trickle of blood. Snape still hadn't offered to heal him, hadn't offered a potion, so Harry had been forced to cast a healing spell on himself before leaving, and he'd caught that glimmer of satisfaction in Snape's eyes again.
The wall bears no bloodstain now--Snape had obviously cleaned it in that strange finicky-ness he displayed for everything except his own person.
It occurs to him, to some distant part of him, that dinner must be over by now and that Hermione and Ron and Ginny will be worried--and it occurs to him simultaneously that he has a Potions assignment due in two days, which he hasn't even started yet, as usual--incorrigible brat, think you're too good for work?--and that tomorrow class will go on as usual, that there will be whispers and an atmosphere of crackling tension, but soon even that will disappear, and a new Potions teacher who has no grasp of the subject and no grasp of vitriol and how they need it--this teacher will take over everything, take over these quarters, and this may be the only chance Harry has to see them this way again. To see them as Snape's. Before everyone forgets. Before he forgets.
And so he walks to the desk, on legs as stiff as wood. There is a pile of haphazard first-year marking there, scratched viciously with red ink, almost as though Snape were tearing through skin with his quill, ripping out line after line of blood. Useless drivel if you'd done some research Smith perhaps you'd know a moonstone from a mooncalf such as yourself...
But it's the spill that catches Harry's eye: a spill of red that's dried to brown now, over one of the parchments and across the darker wood of the desk, as though Snape had knocked over the ink in haste.
Then Harry remembers it, that detention last week, Snape's hand shooting to his arm... oh. That's when he must have...
... knocked the ink over.
Harry stares at it--red ink a splotch of dried blood now, or as good as, if it weren't for the thin scent of varnish and paper. There's another bottle by the little tumbler of ink--but this one's tall, this one's steady, a square of thick green glass filled with little white globules.
It is uncapped, its small cork lying discarded nearby, and Harry knows, even before he reaches for it, what it is.
He's attended enough of the Order's meetings by now, after all.
The glass of the bottle is cool in his hand, smooth and still as dead skin, and when he tips it over a little lozenge rolls out, a small white tear into his waiting palm.
It gathers moisture from the sweat of his skin, glistening with it--and he stares, unable to look away, thinking was this how Snape died?
The little lozenge hidden behind the molars in one's mouth--a safe, tough little thing that only opens with the murmur of a spell--the owner's own murmur, of course, and Harry almost imagines it--almost feels it, the sick, pounding pulse in Snape's head, perhaps the glint in Voldemort's eyes, the knowledge that Snape was a spy. That split second, before Lucius Malfoy's laughing face turned towards him, a spell on his lips, that Snape rolled his tongue back, whispering Solvo, and felt the faint, sweet burn in his mouth before the poison hit.
What else could it have been? The Cruciatus didn't suffice this time, obviously--there is no Snape stumbling in now, white-faced with pain and vicious-tongued with it--no, no, no. Nothing else.
It takes several minutes for Harry to realize that he's crushed the lozenge in his hands--and he separates his palms slowly, wonderingly, noticing that his fingers are shaking somewhat. There's a strange emptiness in his chest now, an emptiness very different to what he'd felt when Sirius had died, and Remus soon afterwards--this emptiness feels clean, wind-swept--a smooth, lined cut instead of the jagged arch that Sirius' death had been. White powder glistens on his fingertips, beautiful like pixie dust or perhaps crushed diamonds--a lovely, tempting white shine, so pure and sweet and beckoning.
It's harmless outside of his mouth, of course, but Harry finds himself wondering, idly, what it would taste like--if it is bitter as semen or salty as blood, but somehow Harry's always thought it was sweet, perhaps because it looks so much like sugar.
It is irony, he thinks, and a strange kind of justice--because he's sure that Snape died this way, because he was too much of a survivor to die any other way--Snape died at the bite of his own potion, his own poison, and he must have felt the satisfaction of a job well-done.
Harry doesn't feel so angry now. Perhaps he'll feel angry tomorrow, the way he'd felt a day after Remus died--perhaps he will, but right now he only feels clean, and empty, and there's the calming scratch of Snape's words on the scrolls to his left, and the familiar crackling of the false fire to his right, and the door that might open at any moment to admit the harsh echo of black boots, but doesn't, hasn't.
So Harry doesn't move. He's sitting on Snape's tall desk now, feet dangling like a child's, hand gloved with white powder and held loosely in his lap.
The firelight flickers.
This room is empty, so empty, and the false fire doesn't warm it at all.
* FIN *