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The Way I Smile

Sometimes you make me feel like I'm living at the edge of the world / "It's just the way I smile," you said.

Snape/Harry  |  R  |  2,000 words  |  September 2004
warnings: implied bdsm, some war-related violence, pseduo-dark!Harry

*

"You said you'd wait."

"Until the end of the world, yes. Surely it has not escaped your notice that said event has come and gone."

"We're still here."

"No, Potter. We're not."

And then he wasn't. Harry fell, screaming, and the sky fell with him.

*

No one was sure how it happened, how one wizard and a couple dozen followers had managed to do so much damage. In Harry Potter's seventh year at Hogwarts, much like all of Harry Potter's other years at Hogwarts, he and Voldemort had clashed. Harry had come out on top and Voldemort had disappeared. Several years later, he re-emerged from Durmstrang, a madman with a prejudice, a grudge, and an army. Darkness swept through Europe, and in the end, it was only Britain -- Hogwarts -- that held out. History is funny like that.

Wizards from the rest of the world finally took notice, and they began to trickle into the school to fortify the resistance. Fortunately for them, Voldemort's obsession with killing Harry Potter soon outstripped his obsession with ruling the world, and the Boy Who Lived always lived up to his name. He and a bodyguard -- a spy -- went on the run, leading Voldemort on a wild goose chase throughout Europe, giving Albus Dumbledore time to marshal the new arrivals at the castle.

As it turned out, not all of Voldemort's followers were quite so mad as their Lord. Correctly assuming an assault on Hogwarts would bring Potter out of hiding, they besieged the ancient castle. Three-quarters of its defenders died in the months before Potter was able to return, and the final battle razed the walls to the ground. A large part of the fighting took place in a cemetery on the castle grounds; the earth shook and the graves emptied as the ground was rent by magic and blood. Dark creatures poured out of the Forbidden Forest as it went up in flames, and the smoke settled heavily over the battlefield, illuminated by fire both red and green. Rotting corpses mixed with fresh as the soldiers of both sides fell.

There was no one left to say how long it took the smoke to clear.

*

"Promise."

"Don't be ridiculous, Potter. I'll do no such thing."

"You have to. It's the only way."

"Potter. We have just discussed this. If you seriously mean to take on the mantle of the Dark Lord yourself and kill all those who bear the Mark, how, exactly, am I supposed to kill you?"

"With poison, of course."

"Ah. Of course."

*

It was the silence that woke him, a silence no battlefield should have, a silence that spoke of no survivors. The stench hit second. Countless creatures had burned with the Forest, and the flames had jumped to the cemetery after the battle, charring many of the bodies beyond recognition. He smelled burnt flesh and rotting corpses; blood, shit, and vomit; pain, death, and fear. Harry retched until he passed out. He did this three times.

The fourth time he woke to the sickening silence, he was able to stand and survey the carnage. Another wave of nausea hit him, and he thanked Merlin he didn't remember his part in this. He thought he should, but he didn't. The pile of rubble to the west tugged at his heartstrings, but he couldn't fathom why. He knew there was someone he had to find, but he didn't know who. He thought he would know if the person had died, he would feel it; but there was no weight over his chest, no suffocating emptiness where his heart should be. No, the person -- a man? -- was still alive.

He looked around. There were too many bodies to count. The Forbidden Forest was a desolate, smoldering wasteland. It had rained at some point, and Harry sank to his knees in the mud and the blood. It took him two hours to cross the cemetery and plant his feet on solid ground. He found none of the living, and he recognized none of the dead.

*

"Mr. Potter. To what do I owe the displeasure?"

"I'm leaving."

"All appearances to the contrary."

"No, I mean-- I, I'm leaving Hogwarts."

"Would you be so kind as to repeat that? Because it sounded as if you just said you were planning to leave Hogwarts."

"Come with me."

"Mr. Potter. I'm going to sit down at my desk and close my eyes. When I open them, I would very much like for you and your asinine notions to be somewhere other than my office. If, however, you are still here, you will need to be prepared to exhibit some modicum of coherency so I may properly shred whatever plan it is you managed to scribble on a napkin the last time you overindulged in firewhiskey."

"I don't drink fi-- nevermind. Look. It's just us left, just Hogwarts. Others are coming to help, but they're having a hard time getting here. We need a diversion. I need to draw Voldemort's attention so Albus has time, so the reinforcements can show up, so we have a chance. It's the only way. I've been reading about it."

"At risk of my sanity, Potter, what have you been reading about?"

"Espionage. Counterintelligence. Diversionary tactics."

"Merlin save us. Very well; let's pretend I am interested. I figure into this scheme of yours how?"

"You have to keep me out of trouble."

"Oh, for-- impossible."

"I need you. You know I'll just get myself killed if I try to do this by myself. I'm not good at hiding and sneaking. That's your department. Besides, together, we're an irresistible target. He hates you almost as much as he hates me."

"Albus has approved this scheme of yours?"

"Do you think I'm stupid? Wait, no, don't answer that. I haven't told him. You know he'd never let us go. And you know I have to. And you know I can't do it without help. Please, Prof... Severus. Please."

"While it is true that you are incapable of staying out of trouble on your own, I fail to see why you think I need to go with you. You have plenty of fans who would follow you to the ends of the Earth."

"My friends are all Gryffindors, Professor. I love Ron, but d'you really think he would keep me out of trouble? I need you."

"I think the world may be ending, Potter. You might want to mark your calendar; I am about to concede your point. Be back here at midnight. Wear that infernal cloak, but pack nothing else. Tell no one. Leave letters if you must say your good-byes."

"Good-byes? Why? You won't let them kill me."

"Only because I intend to do it myself. Go."

*

The Death Eaters all died slowly, painfully, and at the exact same time. It began normally enough, with an itch on the left forearm. The pressure built until the Dark Mark burned black, but there was something different. It was not a summons; no Apparition coordinates were transmitted. It was simply rage, pure and powerful and painful. It manifested in their skin, poisoned their blood, blackened their vomit, and killed them with all the finesse of an extended Cruciatus Curse, brains dribbling out their ears.

Seeing this, their armies crumbled. Their captives rose and rioted and soaked the land with blood. Four days later, the forces of Darkness had lost what it had taken them four years to gain. But the price had been almost too high, and there was no rejoicing.

*

"Legilimens!"

Darkness. Helplessness. Bitterness. Humiliation. Agony. Fear. Hatred. Seduction. Despair. Power. Knowledge. Lust. Betrayal. Self-loathing. Rage. Rage. Rage.

"My Severus."

"My Lord."

"What do you have to say for yourself, Severus?"

"I am yours to command, Master."

"Are you?"

"Of course, sir."

"You've said such things before."

"Not to you."

"And I am?"

"Harry Potter."

*

Even as he lost sight of his own humanity, the power of war to turn men into animals never ceased to amaze him. Wizard-kind hadn't developed the cold long-distance warfare of the Muggles. Out here, it was personal. Out here, he could look into feral eyes as the killing curse spilled from his lips. He could smell it when they vacated their bowels, taste it when they breathed their last. His lips curled in grim satisfaction as the blood-lust took him, and he started dreaming of more painful ways to kill.

And then the wind shifted. The smoke rising from the Forbidden Forest enshrouded the battlefield, making it all but impossible to see. The sky -- or something else -- ripped open, pelting the ground with lightning and fire. His Mark glowed green, and the screams of the dying were deafening. He dove into a newly opened grave just before the explosion hit, and then all was black and silent.

*

"How many was that?"

"I-- er, twenty-three?"

"Twenty-three. Tell me, Mr. Potter, when was the last time you had to count higher than ten?"

"I do it all the time, sir."

"All the time? I see. I suppose this explains how you failed my class."

"Was it... was I wrong, sir?"

"Yes, Mr. Potter. Your count was off."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Mm. No, not yet. But you will be. What do you think your punishment should be?"

"My-- oh, god! Um. Punishment. A spanking?"

"Don't be cute, Potter. I said 'punishment,' not 'reward.'"

"But I can't think while you're-- ah! Jesus. Umm... A caning?"

"Hmm. Possible. Give me another option."

"A flogging?"

"Potter, I would thank you to show a little more imagination. Unless... would you like me to come up with something?"

"No! I... shit. Er, okay. Oh, god! Oh, um, punishment. I..."

"Three seconds, Mr. Potter."

"Crucio?"

"Two."

"The single-tail?"

"Mm. I think we'll stick with the cane after all. In the future, Mr. Potter, when I ask for 'options' regarding your punishment, I don't want you to just name every instrument with which it is possible to administer a beating. A beating is a beating, and I expect you to exhibit a little more creativity during these sessions. Is that clear?"

"A beating is not just--"

"Potter."

"Sorry, sir. Yes, we're clear."

"Good. Now, count."

*

It was everything that woke him. He was hot, possibly on fire. He was under something heavy, something dead. His left arm ached. He didn't even want to think about the substances caked all over his body. He added vomit to the mix when the smell hit him, and then he started digging his way out from under the bodies. He had to get to Potter. The Mark was intact; the boy had lived.

*

"Will it work?"

"The theory is sound. You will need to touch him to do it."

"He won't be expecting that, will he?"

"No one touches the Dark Lord."

"You're-- whatever. How are you going to bring me back? From... you know."

"Ah. From the darkness which will inevitably consume you should you channel Voldemort's power to kill thousands of people in roughly thirty seconds? I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but I really don't think there's any coming back from that."

"Oh. Well, will you wait for me, then? To come back?"

"Will I wait for you? You're not coming back, Potter."

"Well, I might. I mean, I'd wait for you, if there was something wrong. If you were sick."

"You will not be sick, Potter. You will be--"

"No! I don't want to think about what I'll be. You're right. You're right! But I need to know you'll be waiting when I come back. I love you, Severus. You need to give me something, a reason to try. Anything. Make me want to come back. Wait for me."

"You are a sentimental fool."

"Wait for me."

"For the lo-- Fine. But only until the end of the world."

"And after... if I'm still dark after the world ends, you'll have to kill me."

"Kill you."

"Promise."

FIN.

Fluid 960 Grid System, created by Stephen Bau, based on the 960 Grid System by Nathan Smith. Released under the GPL/ MIT Licenses.