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Get Back | Tomorrow Never Knows

Resolution
Monday, 25 April, 1977

10:20 PM


“You think I what?” Black demanded.

He stood in the middle of the room, the nucleus of a tight circle formed by Prozac, Poppy Pomfrey, Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Severus himself, sitting up in his hospital bed. Like one of those old Muggle witch trials, Severus thought, and the ironic image brought him neither guilt nor pleasure. Like we’re about to close in with our torches and our Bibles and burn him at the stake.

“I believe you heard the charges clearly enough, Mr. Black,” Prozac said coldly.

“I heard them. Sir.” Black glared at him. “And they’re rubbish.” He turned to Severus, his face a study in frustration and dismay. It was a look Severus would have relished under normal circumstances, but not now. Now he just wanted this all to be over, just wanted this incredibly long and exhausting day to finally end. “Why are you doing this?”

Dumbledore spoke up. “Severus has not done anything, Sirius,” he said. “Severus has no recollection of his assailant, nor even of the assault itself.”

“Then why am I here? What the hell did you all do, draw straws?”

Dumbledore glanced at Madam Pomfrey; she nodded and took a step forward, crossing her arms over her breasts. She got right to the point.

“Mr. Black, your semen was found in Severus’s body.” She explained about wizards and witches and magical signatures, adding, “We have the signatures of everyone in this school on file, students and staff alike.” She cast him a shrewd glance. “I trust you didn’t know that?”

“No.”

“Of course he didn’t know it,” Prozac snorted. “Otherwise, he would have been more careful.”

Black spun on him furiously. “I don’t have to be careful! I haven’t done anything wrong!”

“That will do, Sirius,” McGonagall said firmly. “Have you an explanation for this or not?”

“Do you really need one?” he asked. McGonagall’s face tightened into that hard-ass look of hers — that dead-pale, clenched-jaw, no-lips-left Look — and he blushed and dropped his eyes. “Oh, for Merlin’s sake! Yes, all right, we had sex. But it was hardly the first time, and it bloody well wasn’t rape. He wanted it more than I did.”

Pomfrey gave him a hard look. “I find that very difficult to believe, Mr. Black. I saw Severus’s injuries; I treated them myself, and they were extensive. No one in his right mind would ever consent to such brutality.”

“I saw his injuries, too,” Black retorted, “and they were extensive. What’s that got to do with me?”

Dumbledore frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Just what I said. He had all that going on before I ever laid a finger on him.”

“And when was that?”

“This afternoon.” Black gave Severus a puzzled, slightly exasperated look — didn’t you tell them? — and turned to Madam Pomfrey with a sigh. “I’m the one who sent you the note, Madam. You know. Hagrid’s ‘emergency’?”

Her face didn’t change, but her eyes darkened with anger. “I see. May I assume there was a purpose to this deliberate waste of my time?”

“I wanted to get you out of the infirmary. I wanted to see Severus alone.”

Prozac was appalled.

“You despicable little animal,” he breathed. “You assaulted the boy once, wasn’t that enough for you? You had to return to the scene of the crime and repeat your vile actions?”

“What are you talking about?” Fury made his voice rise helplessly, a fury so great it sounded like agony. “I NEVER assaulted him! Not once, not twice, not ever!” He clenched his fists, controlling himself with a visible effort. “I didn’t even come down here to…to do anything. I just wanted to talk to him.”

“It would seem that you did a bit more than that.” Dumbledore’s voice was gentle; his eyes were not.

Black blushed again. “No…I mean, yes. Yes, that’s true, but…but it wasn’t rape. He wanted me to fu — to have sex with him.”

Prozac snorted again.

Black stiffened. He turned to Severus and spread his hands imploringly. “For Christ’s sake, Snape, will you help me here? Tell them!”

Severus cringed back against his pillows — oh, a good move, he noted; Pomfrey immediately stepped forward, as if to protect him — and shook his head. “Tell them what?” he whispered.

Black blinked. He frowned, a little. “Tell them what happened between us this afternoon.”

Severus drew a calming breath. Every eye in the room was on him. Here it is, Sev, he thought. The spotlight. Your big moment.

“I don’t remember,” he said.

Black’s mouth dropped open. He didn’t even look angry, not at this point — he looked stricken. “You don’t remember? It was less than six hours ago, and you don’t remember?

Suddenly hating himself, Severus pressed harder against Pomfrey and shook his head.

Black kept on staring. “You’re lying.”

“No—”

“I didn’t hurt you, I didn’t rape you. No trauma, no pain. I didn’t do anything to you that you didn’t want me to do, so why wouldn’t you be able to remember it?”

“No! No, I swear to you, I don’t remember! I…” He let his voice falter, adding the tearful little tremble that had worked so well on Black earlier, and Pomfrey tightened her arms around him. “I…I suppose I must have blocked it all out.”

Black exploded. “Blocked all what out? How you were all over me this afternoon? How you kissed me and begged me to fuck you, is that what you’ve blocked out?”

“Mr. Black!” Pomfrey hissed. “Stop that this instant! This boy is my patient, and I won’t have you upsetting him. Haven’t you done enough to him as it is?”

“Not half what I should,” Black muttered. The wounded shock was gone from his face; his handsome features were twisted, enraged, ugly with hate. “I should kill you, you lying sack of Slytherin shit.”

He lunged for Severus, but Dumbledore, clearly expecting it, grabbed him and held him back. Severus had expected it, too, but he flinched anyway, just for appearances’ sake.

Black struggled in Dumbledore’s grip, but apparently the old wizard was stronger than he looked; Black went nowhere. “You will calm yourself, Sirius,” he said, not even out of breath. “You will restrain yourself, right now, or I shall do it for you.”

Black stopped struggling, but he would not be calmed. He looked at Dumbledore almost pleadingly. “Gods, don’t you see what he did? He set me up! He arranged this, all of this. Malfoy raped him, don’t you see? Malfoy, or one of his friends, and he’s protecting them by framing me!” He wrenched himself from Dumbledore’s grasp and stood back, trembling, red-faced, panting. “As soon as I walked in here this afternoon, he was on me. He kissed me, he begged me to fu — to have sex with him. And now I know why.”

“Rubbish.” Pomfrey’s voice was ice. “Severus was in no condition to engage in intimacy of any kind. It would have been excruciating. Even if you didn’t attack him” — her tone made it clear that this was a very big ‘if’ — “you obviously misconstrued his words.”

“It’s hard to misconstrue ‘Fuck me, please, fuck me right now,’” Black spat.

Prozac looked outraged; Pomfrey, furious. Even Dumbledore frowned a bit. “I believe that’s quite enough vulgarity for one night, Mr. Black. I’ll thank you to watch your language from hereon.”

Black shrugged, sullen and unrepentant. “It’s what he said.”

“No,” Prozac sniffed. “It is what you claim he said, and a more ridiculous version of events I’ve never heard. Are you deliberately lying, Mr. Black, or have you deluded yourself into believing this drivel merely to salve your conscience?”

“Ask him, then.” Black turned his hard grey stare on Severus. “Ask him where he spent the last two weeks. Ask him how long he’s been sleeping with Lucius Malfoy, and ask him about those special ‘parties’ Malfoy likes to throw with Daddy’s money. Maybe it’ll jog his poor little sex-blown brain.”

“We all know where Mr. Snape spent the holiday,” Prozac said impatiently, “and it is irrelevant. Lest we forget, Mr. Black, the” — here his mouth curved down in delicate distaste — “emissions Madam Pomfrey found were yours.”

“Yes, sir. I believe I’ve explained that, sir. Perhaps you need a Sound-Boost Potion, or one of those Muggle hearing aids. Sir.”

“Why, you insolent little thug! I’ve a good mind to—”

“Gentlemen, if you please.” Dumbledore looked as close to irritated as Dumbledore could. “Pavel, Sirius is understandably distraught; Sirius, you are not helping your case; and I would be most grateful to both of you if you would just shut up.”

They stared at him in astonishment.

Dumbledore turned to Pomfrey. “Poppy, when you examined Severus, did you find any evidence that he had been with anyone other than Mr. Black?”

“No.”

“And he did not have his wand when you brought him here.”

“No. He had nothing. He was unconscious; Pavel carried him here.”

“I see.” Dumbledore nodded, bent his head, pulled at his long white beard. Severus watched him uneasily. The gestures, the absent air, the furrowed brow — all of it made him extremely nervous. Dumbledore was on to something, or thought he was, and Severus could only pray it was the wrong scent. “Then it is not possible that Severus could have disposed of such evidence.”

“Of course not. You can’t just wash away a magical signature.”

Black, watching this exchange back and forth, suddenly groaned aloud. “Oh, shit,” he said, almost to himself. “He did have a wand.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Black explained.

“Oh, I see,” Prozac sneered. “So he asked you for your wand and told you to close your eyes, and you just did it, without any questions at all?”

“Yes, I did. I — he said it would prove he could trust me.” For a moment, Black’s contemptuous smirk faltered, and Severus could see the raw hurt still there, stamped hard in the lines of his face, in his eyes. “I don’t know what he did with it. I gave it to him and closed my eyes, and I didn’t hear any of his spells, but—”

“That’s a lie.” Gods, Severus was starting to impress himself with this performance — his voice shook with just the right amount of outrage, just the barest hint of hurt. “That’s a lie, why would I do any of that?”

“How do you know it’s a lie?” Black countered. His voice was very soft. “You don’t remember anything. You’ve blocked it all out, isn’t that right, Severus?”

They were all staring at him again; even Prozac looked interested. Shit! Had he overplayed his hand? Well, no matter. He was stuck with it now.

He turned his head and looked at Pomfrey — the softest of the lot of them, and definitely the weak link in the chain — and made his face scared and confused, all big dark eyes brimming with tears. “But…if I had had a wand, I…I could have stopped him. I would have stopped him…wouldn’t I?”

She patted him soothingly. “Perhaps, dear. Perhaps not. After what you’d been through, it isn’t likely you were thinking very clearly.”

“Oh, yes, the poor darling,” Black mocked her. “He was thinking clearly enough to pull me into his bed and get himself some nice new ‘evidence,’ though, wasn’t he?”

“You forget yourself, Mr. Black.” Pomfrey laid a protective hand on Severus’s shoulder; he trembled convincingly beneath it, not entirely acting now. “Severus had suffered an intensely traumatic experience. He was frightened, he was confused, he was in pain. And he had been heavily sedated. It isn’t likely that he was thinking at all; most certainly, he was not capable of formulating some, some diabolical master plan.”

“You don’t know Snape,” Black sneered. “He was born with a diabolical master plan.”

He and Severus exchanged scorching glares, Severus hiding his behind his hair.

“Sirius,” Dumbledore said, “do you have your wand with you now?”

“Yes.”

“Would you kindly give it to me, please?”

Black complied. Severus watched, biting back a small smile. He wasn’t sure, but he had an idea that Black might have just outsmarted himself. He had an idea Black didn’t know about—

“Prior Incatato!” Dumbledore intoned, holding the wand tip-to-tip with his own. A ghostly shimmer shot out from the end. It was indistinct at first, but it quickly clarified: an image of this room, Severus in his bed, sleeping peacefully, all of it as flat and still as a Muggle painting. Prozac and Pomfrey looked at it blankly; only Dumbledore seemed to recognize the spell for what it was.

He also seemed intensely troubled by it, and Severus’s triumph evaporated.

“Albus?” Prozac prompted.

“A glamour,” Dumbledore said. “Quite complex, most advanced. A glamour, conjured around Severus’s bed to give the illusion that he was sleeping.”

“In case Madam Pomfrey returned at an inopportune moment, no doubt.” Prozac curled his lip at Black. “Is there no limit to your audacity, boy?”

Black looked thunderstruck. “You don’t think I did that?”

“It is your wand, is it not?”

“But I just told you, I gave it to him! For Christ’s sake, I couldn’t conjure a glamour like that to save my life. Ask anybody! Ask Flitwick, he’ll tell you!” His eyes narrowed on Severus again. “Just as he’ll tell you how Snape’s a bloody prodigy with them.”

No one said anything.

Black turned to Dumbledore again, desperately. “I didn’t do this, any of this, I swear it! I swear it on my life! What do I have to do to prove that? Take a test? Take a truth potion? Whatever it is you want me to do, I’ll do it, I’ll do it right now.”

Severus froze. Truth potion? Was Black insane? Black had nearly as much to lose as Severus if the truth — the whole truth — came spilling out. Even if he was innocent of this attack, what of all the other times? Did he really want them to learn how he’d raped Severus in his own bed on the night after Christmas, or try to explain how he’d used a magic room to restrain the Slytherin so he could be fucked by a dog? Did he really want to answer questions about ropes and handcuffs, spankings and sex toys and spells?

No, Severus decided. No, Black was bluffing. Had to be. He wouldn’t dare risk it — not with everything else that might come out.

“I don’t believe that will be necessary, Mr. Black,” a new voice said.

It was McGonagall, standing in the doorway. In all the tumult, Severus had not even missed her, and he wondered when she had slipped away. And why. Then he saw the slight, sleep-rumpled figure standing close behind her, and his stomach gave another uneasy lurch. Remus Lupin. Never a welcome sight even at the best of times — and what was the mealy-mouthed asshole doing here, now?

“Minerva.” Dumbledore nodded. “I expected you might have a Gryffindor or two in tow. Has Mr. Lupin something to say to me?”

“Mr. Lupin has something to say to all of you. Remus?”

Lupin stepped forward. He nodded politely all around, even to Severus, who was struggling to maintain his sad facade. That was something else he hated about Lupin: the little prick was unfailingly well-mannered, even in the face of the most blatant hostility. It was maddening, irritating…it was downright unnatural.

But, then again, so was Lupin.

“I don’t really know what this is all about, or what it means,” Lupin said in his soft, pleasant voice, “but Professor McGonagall thought I should tell you anyway. Sirius never left Gryffindor Tower last night. He went to bed around ten, and he didn’t leave until breakfast this morning.”

“And how do you know this, Remus?” Dumbledore asked.

“I was up all night, studying in the Common Room,” he said. “I missed a big Charms test last full — last month, and Professor Flitwick is letting me make it up tomorrow.”

Severus caught the slip, and his contempt increased. Full moon, he’d started to say. Bloody freak! Did he actually think no one knew? Any fool with a calendar and a pair of eyes could put it together. And that nickname—oh, yes. Very subtle, that.

“He’s lying,” Severus said, before he could stop himself.

“No.” Lupin turned to him with that mild, puzzled frown that he so despised. “No…why would I lie, Severus?”

Dumbledore cocked his head at Severus. “You seem very certain of a sudden, Severus,” he said pointedly. “Has your memory returned?”

“No, but…” He was caught. He struggled to get back into victim mode, to look helpless and confused; inside, he was burning with frustration...and with fear. “He must be lying…Black came to me this afternoon, we know that, he’s admitted as much, and…well, it’s hardly likely that he attacked me today, but someone else did it last night, is it?”

“No, Severus.” Dumbledore was still looking at him intently. “It is hardly likely at all.” He turned back to Lupin. “You truly don’t know what this is about?”

Lupin shook his head. “I told him nothing,” McGonagall confirmed.

Prozac was not convinced. “Please don’t be coy, Minerva. Whether you told him anything or you didn’t, the boy is not stupid. He may not know all that goes on here, but any idiot can see that Mr. Black is in trouble and needs an alibi for something. That’s reason enough for him to lie right there.”

“Remus Lupin is one of the most honest, honorable, and rule-abiding students in this school,” McGonagall huffed. “I trust him utterly.”

“He is also one of Sirius Black’s closest friends,” Prozac snapped back, “and I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”

McGonagall looked like she might hit him.

That’s telling her, Severus applauded silently. In a normal argument, he might have been on McGonagall’s side — he generally liked her better, and Prozac had never been especially supportive or protective of him before. But he was making up for it tonight. Of course, Severus knew it was only because Prozac was scared shitless of the Malfoys, and liked to screw the Gryffindors every chance he got besides, but what was that Muggle saying Lily liked so much? Never look a gift horse in the mouth?

“Minerva, Pavel, that will do,” Dumbledore said, stepping in before things could get really ugly. “Remus, is there anyone else who can confirm that Mr. Black was in his room all night?”

Lupin didn’t even have think about it. “Well, Lily Evans was there. You know, in the Common Room with me. She was helping me study.”

“All night?”

“Yes, sir.”

Severus’s heart sank. Lily? Lily? Lily was as close to an unimpeachable source as Dumbledore could get — she liked Severus, she couldn’t stand Black, and she always, bloody always, told the truth. And how ironic — how like his blasted luck — that Lily, of all people, should prove to be the final nail in his coffin.

He glared at Lupin, not even bothering to hide it now. Gods damn him anyway! Severus had been so careful in all of this. So careful not to accuse Black of anything directly; so careful to not remember anything, any details which might later be refuted or challenged. Most of all, he’d been very careful not to establish a time frame for the rape, a time frame for which Black might prove to have an alibi — and now, thanks to Lupin, the bastard had an alibi for the entire night. It was hard to believe sometimes, the luck these Gryffindors had.

Freak, freak, freak! Severus thought, in a frenzy of childish spite. Gods, if he got out of this mess and got even the slimmest chance, he promised himself he would ruin Lupin, he would tell the whole fucking school, the whole fucking world, what Remus Lupin really was.

An awkward silence fell. After the name “Lily Evans” was dropped, even Prozac seemed out of arguments.

Dumbledore spoke first. “Minerva, would you kindly escort Messrs. Lupin and Black back to Gryffindor Tower?”

McGonagall looked startled. “What — right now?”

He nodded.

“But—”

“Please, Minerva. I’d like to speak with Severus alone.”

Severus’s heart began to pound again, thudding in his throat and behind his eyes.

McGonagall bit her lip and nodded. Her expression went carefully blank, and she motioned to Black and Lupin. “Of course, Albus. Come along, boys.”

“That’s it, then?” Black asked. His face spun from Dumbledore to McGonagall and back again, simultaneously incredulous and hopeful. “I’m free to go?”

“You are free to go back to your room,” Dumbledore corrected, “where you will kindly remain until further notice.”

“But — I thought — what Remus —”

“While it would appear that you have been exonerated on one charge, Mr. Black, there is still a conflicting version of later events. I hope to get to the bottom of that matter soon, and when I do, you shall be informed of my decision.”

Black’s face fell, but he assented. “Yes, sir.”

Cheer up, idiot, Severus thought, watching Black and Lupin follow McGonagall out the door. You’ve won, even if you are too stupid to see it.

“And Pavel, Poppy, if I may trouble you to leave us as well…?”

“Albus, can’t it wait?” Pomfrey asked. “Severus is still not well. He needs to rest.”

“I shall be as brief as possible, Poppy, and I shall not tax him.”

With some ungracious muttering under her breath, she stalked to the door. Prozac, however, hovered, obviously reluctant to leave.

“Albus,” he said, “you have evidence.”

“That I do.”

“Irrefutable, physical evidence.”

“Yes.”

“Alibi for last night or not, Black was here this afternoon.”

“It would seem so.”

Prozac clenched his bony fists. “You have all of this, you know all of this, yet you still believe his version of events over Snape’s, just…just like that?”

“At the moment, Pavel, I believe no one.”

Prozac studied the old wizard’s face, tired and lined, eyes heavy with sadness, and the anger drained from his own. He sighed and nodded, tossed Severus an inscrutable glance, and followed Pomfrey from the room.

When they were alone, Dumbledore waved a hand and drew a chair up to Severus’s bedside. He settled into it with his usual easy grace and propped his chin in his hand, as if they were old mates about to have a leisurely chin-wag. “Is there something you wish to tell me, Severus?”

Severus swallowed, but he met the gaze straight on. “I believe you wished to speak to me, Headmaster.”

“Indeed.” Dumbledore paused again, a long pause, no doubt calculated to make him nervous. He needn’t have bothered; Severus was well past nervous and much closer to sheer panic by now, but he’d be damned if he’d let Dumbledore see that. “That was a most intricate spell I reproduced from Mr. Black’s wand.”

It wasn’t a question; Severus said nothing.

“Both you and Mr. Black studied rudimentary glamours in Charms this semester, did you not?”

“Yes.”

“May I ask how you fared with them, Severus?”

“Fine, sir.” Calm. Polite. Succinct. “I passed.”

“With what grade?”

Severus frowned. As if the old coot didn’t know! “‘Outstanding,’ sir,” he said reluctantly.

“Ah,” Dumbledore nodded. “Sirius Black failed them.”

Severus didn’t move. Not a muscle, not an eyelash.

“Oh, yes,” Dumbledore continued, just as if Severus had responded. “Professor Flitwick mentioned it to me in passing a few weeks back. Just an offhand remark, you understand, and I doubt I would have recalled it tonight had Sirius not mentioned the professor’s name. But it is true, just the same: Sirius Black failed glamours most miserably.

“With that said, Severus, I will repeat my question: is there something you wish to tell me?”

Silence spun out between them. They stared at each other for a very long time, neither of them moving. Dumbledore’s eyes, that amazing shade of gas-flame blue, held his steadily, not allowing him to look away or duck his head or hide his face in the long fall of hair. Yet, strangely, Severus was no longer frightened. Dumbledore’s eyes demanded the truth, but they did not threaten or condemn, and there was something both soothing and stimulating in their deep blue depths, like sliding through cool water on a stifling day.

Yet he was reminded forcibly of the Dark Lord, too. The almost physical weight of his stare, the deadly-sweet pull of even his most poisonous thoughts. How much difference was there, really, between these two powerful men, his two father figures, the Dark and the light? Severus was startled that he’d never made the comparison before, and he wondered: did he really want to trade one Master for another?

“I have told you all that I know, Headmaster,” he said. “You may choose to believe or not believe as you wish.” He lay back against the headboard, where Pomfrey had piled a half-dozen exquisitely fat pillows, and closed his eyes. A child’s trick, at best — you’re not there, I’m ignoring you — but Dumbledore was still a child himself half the time; perhaps it would work.

A strong hand landed on his cheek, too hard to be a caress, too caressing to be a slap. He opened his eyes with a start.

“You are so frightened, Severus. You burn with it, as though with a fever, a terrible sickness. Why are you so frightened that you would burn, so frightened that you would go to such improbable lengths to escape?”

Severus fought the urge to lean into that exquisite touch, to close his eyes again and nuzzle the warm, gnarled hand like a babe at the breast. Like the Dark Lord, Dumbledore had wondrous power in his hands, power that surged into Severus and through him, leaving him dizzy and weak. Yet, here, too, there was a difference: there was no lechery in Dumbledore’s touch, nothing shaming or dirty or sly. When Voldemort touched him, Severus felt owned; when Dumbledore touched him, he felt only loved.

Bah. He doesn’t love you. He loves his Gryffindors. He loves the Sirius Blacks and James Potters of the world. He loves winners.

And even if Dumbledore did, by some miracle, actually care for him, Dumbledore didn’t know what he was now. What he had become. He didn’t know the snake he was clasping to his bosom.

“I — I cannot speak of it,” Severus whispered. Something tickled his cheek; he thought he might be crying. “Not yet.”

Dumbledore nodded, smiling a fraction at the tiny concession. “All right. Until then, may I give you a piece of advice?”

Severus sighed. “‘The answer is in your heart, not your head,’” he quoted. “It was something like that, was it not, Headmaster?”

Dumbledore’s smile broadened. “Such profound words,” he chuckled. “I daresay you are quoting a very wise man.”

Too wise by half, Severus thought, but he merely nodded.

“Do you remember the rest?”

Severus shrugged. “Not precisely. Something about trusting my instincts.” He laughed, a brittle, bitter sound. “My instincts are what landed me in this mess.”

“On the contrary. Your instincts are telling you to get out.” The old wizard’s smile was gone; his face was grave. “I’m telling you to get out, Severus. Now, before it is too late. He is not the answer to your troubles. Nor does he want to be. He wants you to keep your pain, your hate, your rage; he wants to feed them, and he wants to feed on them, as a vampire feeds on blood.”

There was no mistaking who “he” was, and suddenly Severus couldn’t breathe. He stared at Dumbledore, his eyes huge in a white mask of face.

“Severus.” Dumbledore’s voice was both tired and amused. “Did you actually believe you could re-enter this school ablaze with Dark magic, and I would not know it?”

Severus opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again.

“Perhaps Tom even meant for me to know,” Dumbledore continued. “Why else would he allow you to return to the castle so bruised and battered, so obviously taken and used? Perhaps he thought it a grand joke, to steal one of my best and brightest right out from under my nose and then flaunt it so boldly, so daringly. To taunt me with it.” He sighed. “Of course, in doing so, he put you in a most untenable position, but I doubt that was of any concern to him. Perhaps you should bear that in mind, Severus, the next time you seek his counsel. “

Severus ignored the slight rebuke; he had more immediate concerns. “But…you…with Black, you let me…you knew all this time, and you let me go on with this?”

“I had to be sure. There was the small matter of Mr. Black’s signature, after all…and the two of you do have a remarkably complex history.” He shrugged and repeated simply, “I had to be sure.”

Severus fell back against the pillows. His head was spinning. Dumbledore knew. Dumbledore knew — yet he didn’t seem angry. He had touched Severus with the same gentleness as ever, was speaking to him with the same patient kindness as he always had. Dumbledore knew what he had done — yet all that mattered to him were Severus’s feelings, Severus’s fate. There was fear in the old wizard’s eyes, yes, but it was fear for Severus, not of him.

He was crying now, just a little, and making no attempt to hide it. Nor did Dumbledore attempt to stop him, or offer words of false comfort. He simply sat and held the young wizard’s hand and allowed the small storm to pass.

It didn’t take very long — expressing any emotion but anger had never been Severus’s strong suit. He swiped a sleeve over his damp face and spoke softly, looking down at his lap. “What now?”

“That, Severus, is up to you.”

“But…you’re not…you’re not going to report me?”

“Report you? For what? You’ve broken no law or even school rule of which I am aware. Your political activities are your own business; your sexual preferences, the same.”

“Stop it,” Severus said tightly. “You know what I mean. I’m a” — he tried to say Death Eater, but the words seemed to lodge in his throat. “I’m a Dark wizard.”

“Only if you choose to be.”

Severus was startled. He hadn’t thought of it that way before, ever, but now that Dumbledore had voiced it, it seemed so obvious, so basic. It was all a matter of choices, wasn’t it? The fact that he had made one bad choice, even one as monumentally stupid as going to the Dark Lord, did not preclude taking other, wiser paths in the future.

If, of course, he had the courage.

“Everything is so simple to you, isn’t it?” he sighed, and his tone was not bitter, but envious.

“My brother Aberforth has a rather appropriate saying on the subject. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

Small stuff. Severus brayed a short laugh. “You’re taking all of this remarkably lightly.”

“No.” Dumbledore sobered. “I am frightened for you, Severus. What you’ve done can only be undone at great risk. I believe you have the courage” — Severus went wide-eyed again at that— “but I fear for you nonetheless.”

“You should.” He couldn’t suppress a shiver; Dumbledore squeezed his hand.

“Know, at least, that I am here to help you. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it, and I promise I shall do all that I can to help you, and protect you.”

He withdrew his hand from Severus’s — Severus mourned the loss — and pushed back his chair. He was a tall man, and when he stood, he seemed to tower over the troubled boy lying in the bed, like a god filling the sky.

“I must go now, Severus. Poppy hasn’t been able to hover and fuss for nearly fifteen minutes; she must be apoplectic by now. And you do need your rest.”

Severus nodded. He’d never wanted to rest so badly in his life. But he had one last question. He didn’t want to ask it, didn’t even want to bring it up, but he had to know.

“What about Black?” What he meant was What about what I tried to do to Black?, but he couldn’t bring himself to be that candid. He could only hope that Dumbledore, as he so often did, would understand the meaning beneath the words.

“I shall advise him that this was all an unfortunate misunderstanding, and that he is exonerated,” Dumbledore replied. He raised his eyebrows. “I shall also advise him that pressing charges of any kind might not be the wisest course of action, given the circumstances.”

Severus could scarcely believe his ears — or his luck. “C-circumstances, sir?”

“I have observed the rather aggressive nature of Sirius’s relationship with you for almost six years, Severus,” Dumbledore shrugged. “I feel it safe to assume your physical involvement has been no less…intense.”

Severus could only stare at him. Again. Sweet Salazar, did he know this, too? Did he know that it had been rape that had started this whole terrible chain of events, that it had been rape that had driven Severus from Black’s arms to an even darker, more dangerous embrace? Was there anything the man didn’t know — anything at all?

“Don’t look so shocked, Severus.” Dumbledore’s smile was rather sad. “It is plain to see. You and Sirius were wrong, right from the start. A volatile combination. I blame neither of you. Some perfectly stable, normal people should not be put together, that’s all. Just as some perfectly normal ingredients should not be mixed in the same potion, lest they explode.”

“I’m not normal,” Severus muttered. “And neither is Black.”

Dumbledore laughed. “No one is normal at sixteen.”

There was a sharp rap on the door. Severus jumped; Dumbledore shook his head. “Poppy,” he said affectionately. “I had better take my leave of you before she breaks down the door.”

“I wish you could stay,” Severus said, without thinking.

“I’ll be here when you awaken.” He leaned over the bed, his long beard tickling Severus’s arm, where the Mark now lay dormant and harmless. He cupped Severus’s chin and lifted it, and then he did what he had done on that other night so many months ago, another night when Severus had been agonizing and Sirius Black had been at the heart of it: he kissed the teenager’s forehead. “Good night, my boy. Sleep tonight; think tomorrow.”

As before, the kiss lingered on his skin long after Dumbledore had left. It was warm, tingling with the man’s power. And the words…they were good words, Severus thought. It was a drowsy, hazy thought. He was very sleepy, wasn’t he? He had much to think about, it was true, and none of it was going to be very pleasant, but…but he didn’t have to think about it now. Like the girl in that silly Muggle movie his mother used to love so much, he would do as Dumbledore said: he would think about that tomorrow.

For years after, Severus would wonder what sly magic was in that kiss, those words; Dumbledore would never say. But even before Pomfrey had ceased her endless clucking and hovering and general bustling about him and retired for the night, Severus had drifted into the last untroubled sleep of his life.

***

Continued

Comments

( 1 Thing We Said Today — Dear Sir or Madam )
Francimara Alves
Aug. 2nd, 2016 12:39 am (UTC)
Unfair
I never leave comments, becouse I have a terrible english, but I could not help myself.

I am so sorry for Severus, how could you minimized what black did to him? Actually if Black really was sorry as he said in the end of sexy, he should take the blame that Severus want put on him. He should Know that him (Sirius)deserves it.

Severus never take happiness, even in fanfics T_T
( 1 Thing We Said Today — Dear Sir or Madam )