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True Minds [fragment and notes]
Snape wants some sort of forgiveness, absolution -- both to give it and to receive it. He's been both victim and object of a great deal of injustice, and the whole web seems to center on James, who can't say, "I'm sorry," who can't say, "I forgive you."
James is the reason Snape concentrates on Potions -- he came to school quite skilled in Transfiguration and Charms, but he can't excel in any class he has with Gryffindors. The Potions professor, a Hufflepuff, insists on having the great rivals separated. The Headmaster doesn't see the point of this, but he indulges him/her.
James' bullying of Snape was more or less impersonal, the way those things usually are (if only because bullies don't really experience their victims as real people) -- Sirius may have had an actual, direct grudge against Snape, but James only saw him as an easy victim and as someone whose torment made Sirius happy.
Canonically we don't know anything that would point to Snape being responsible for James' death -- but I suspect that's in there, because I suspect that Snape will turn out to be the one who recruits Peter. Unless it goes the other way, and Peter recruits Snape?! That could be really interesting.
But anyway, canonically Snape's involvement in the Potters' death is impersonal, too, except that, again, it sort of isn't, because I expect that James' bullying is one of the things that leads to Snape being a Death Eater in the first place.
Snape is *formed* by those experiences -- bullying victim, Death Eater, spy. And in turn those are the only things that put him in the position to protect Harry.
He may hate Harry for that, too -- it's as though James, from beyond the grave, says, "Do this ... do that ... do that ... OK, yeah, now you've got what you need now to protect my son." Like those wasps that lay eggs in the caterpillars -- he destroys Snape's life so that Snape can protect his son.
And Harry's innocent. And Snape knows that. And it infuriates him. And he's unjust to Harry, and he can't have, or even freely want, Harry's forgiveness.
[tiny bit of narrative here; this would have been the beginning]
Snape likes to go into Harry's brain and drag up things he doesn't want to think about.
The good interpretation of this is that he's trying to drive Harry past his resistance. No one seems to be able to tell Harry how to block a qualified Legilimens from getting into his brain, which suggests that it's one of those things you either know or don't know, like flying. Maybe Snape figures that if he makes it unpleasant enough for Harry on the ground, Harry will take flight just from sheer horror.
The other interpretation is that the man is a sadist.
In the real world, he's vaguely aware that he's still standing, which is good. In the realer not-real world where their two minds are doing battle, an eleven-year-old Hermione is in tears outside the Charms classroom, and Harry is nodding earnestly as Ron says, "She's a nightmare, honestly."
stop stop stop
"I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, did you say something?"
"She must have noticed," Ron says loudly, "that she's got no friends," and that-Harry nods, and this-Harry, himself-Harry, says, "Stop," again, but he can't say it out loud, and his mental voice isn't strong enough to stand against the sound of Hermione's sniffling.
[back to notes]
And to wring a happy ending out of this mess? I suppose that in the process of making Harry into what he needs to be to defeat Voldemort, Snape has to make him into what he needs to be to heal Snape. Not on purpose. But to discover, afterwards, that he himself has molded Harry into --
Well, what does Snape need his healer to be?
To heal the bullying -- public humiliation, forced vulnerability -- he would need to be able to provide public adulation (this may be why Snape wants an Order of Merlin so badly), and he would need to be able to provide safety.
To heal the participation in the Death Eaters -- actively and passively helping evil, murder, genocide -- he would have to not only defeat the evil but get to a point where he could sympathize with it. In fact, he's going to have to, anyway; he's not going to be able to out-Voldemort Voldemort, and his victory is going to have to come from somehow having a larger soul. (Snape can provide that, in part, by finishing the work Malfoy did in giving Harry a distaste for Slytherin. At some point, Harry's going to have to be tempted -- he's going to have to have the opportunity to AK Voldemort, which would be "using any means to achieve his ends," and he's going to have to think of Malfoy and Snape, and walk away from that, and choose a just means to achieve his ends.)
To heal the spying -- distrust from both sides, forced to remain in the filth he created and be stained by it in the eyes of the people for whom he now works -- he would need to be able to make him clean, publicly.
To heal his own part in all this -- as the unwitting locus for all that pain -- he's going to have to be able to say, "It was unfair and it hurt," and then say, "I forgive you."
But a child can't offer absolution to a man, and if a man tries to take absolution from a child, all he does is damage the child and put another crime on his conscience.
Somewhere in Harry's teens, all this has to come to a head. Some awful, realistic sexually-charged student/teacher contact -- awful because it's not 100% revulsion, and it's made of Harry's inchoate desires, and it molds them.
It retroactively changes all his relationships with adult men. Sirius. Remus. Dumbledore, if he's still alive.
Not a kiss. Something that's irreparably damaging and yet not, objectively, a violation. Hand on a sensitive spot, small of back, nape of neck? If seen, not shocking. Meaning of it is all in the relationship and the Legilimency.
Because as soon as Snape does it, there's a rush -- desire disgust fear longing vulnerability ... Snape's brain giving back what it feels like to be stripped and held aloft, threatened with complete nakedness, at your enemy's mercy, and the memory that a part of him said yes, that there's a certain exhibitionism and a certain connection of humiliation with sex that dates to that day ... all this taking place in the shared space their minds become, unfamiliar adult desires, familiar teenage ones, echoing in that space, until Harry can't tell what comes from him and what comes from Snape ...
And Harry's thinking: He'll do something, now, he'll use this weakness against me, he always does -- and Snape feels that, too, rush of mixed terror and triumph, and Harry realizes, My safety depends upon Severus Snape showing sympathy and self-control, I am well and truly fucked ...
and, too, He'll do this to get revenge on me, because it wasn't me who humiliated him, but can I be sure that I wouldn't have done, if I'd had the chance?
and Harry says, "I don't want that," and there's a long empty pause while they both understand that that's only half the truth, and then he feels everything in the shared mind, all that incredible emotional intensity, brought under the control of will -- and he sees the will itself for a moment immensely powerful, as though it's absorbed all that power somehow -- and Snape says, "Very well."
And they never speak of it again. Snape goes off somehow and gets himself under control, even if it takes a daily Calming Charm, and that swirl of mixed desire and fury that Harry now realizes was suffusing all their sessions and even their in-class relationships, is gone.
Harry now has an incentive to work really hard at Occlumency.
Once Harry pushes. "I've changed my mind." Snape says, "No."
That Day -- he thinks of it in capital letters, That Day In The Dungeon (all their sessions now, they're very careful to make sure they take place in public, where there's at least the chance of someone else seeing). And it shapes his whole sexual gamut, his memories, his relationships.
And eventually Harry is captured by Dementors, and they take away his happy memories one by one, until he can't raise a Patronus, and then the memory of That Day is the only one that remains, because like Sirius' innocence, it isn't good, so they don't take it, but it's intense, and it's what he needs to raise a Patronus and escape.
And eventually he has an opportunity to Avada voldemort -- he calls up all the necessary rage and aggression and willingness to do whatever it takes to win regardless of the means, all the Will To Not-Being -- and he points his wand at him, and he chooses not to. And the backwash, the passion and aggression mastered by will -- it sucks Voldemort out of his borrowed body and destroys him.
And Harry doesn't recognize the similarity to That Day, but we do.
Helen says: Part them for a while -- Harry attempts normal relationships, and they either don't work or aren't satisfying. Normal relationships are going on all around him, and he sees them and sees how they're taking place in a world that he's been cast out of.
Helen: Make them work together on buddy-system Legilimency interrogations for the postwar trials, where two people have to go in together because it's not safe for one, and they're as good at tandem Legilimency as anyone else in the world. Not that there are very many others who would even attempt it.
Helen suggests: Maybe they actually go to bed together, with all their mutual rage and pathologies. Harry -- it's the be-all and end-all for him, the culmination of the thing that Formed him. And what is it? disappointing? mundane? just sex? incredible, but the next day it changes nothing? Not sure.
Next day back at work, it's like being free of an obsession, but empty where it was. Disappointed. It's always disappointing. anyway, now he doesn't have to waste energy trying not to think about it, or to hide his thoughts. Snape seems likewise freer. The work goes well.
The work continues to go well. They're good at it. at a big trial or something, he gets to meet a couple of other teams. One pair is inseparable, seems weirdly obsessed with each other; the other is suspicious, with lots of rules and rituals to protect themselves. "We've been working together since I was at school." "Then you have a mentor relationship?" "Hardly."
He discusses it with Hermione, who of course knows the theory. "Rules, or trust." Harry thinks then how it is that they know each other's one great secret, beside which others seem trivial, so they don't waste time trying to protect themselves.
It does feel weirdly like intimacy. In ordinary 3D space, Snape still sometimes surprises him -- bigger or smaller than he expects, awkwardly physical, because they spend so much time in that shared mindspace in which the scent of Snape's thoughts is utterly familiar. He's more comfortable there than anywhere else.
Some particularly strong, dangerous opponent, one Snape has known in the past, and Harry expects to be the strong one, but actually he gets sucked in and Snape has to rescue him.
Harry tentatively begins a relationship with someone else, but it peters out before it really begins -- Harry's distant, guarded. The guy, slightly younger or older Hogwarts student with an unknown name, from Blackburn, rather Kirky-ish. Says, "I guess you're like this because of Snape" (means, you spend all that time in Legil with someone like him and it's no wonder you're so self-protective after) and Harry agrees, but means the opposite.
After a time, most of the ex-Death Eaters are already tried, and Harry begins to worry about what they'll do with the rest of their lives when the trials are over. Someone tells him there's demand for tandem Legil in law enforcement and also therapeutically -- some promise in it for treating Cruciatus and Dementor's Kiss victims -- and of course financially Harry doesn't need to work, and neither does Snape (legal proceedings having awarded the Black holdings to him as the last remaining blood relative, his father being a distant cousin of Sirius' and Andromeda's and Narcissa's fathers, though an impoverished branch of the family -- he gloats to have the house and the money) -- but you have to have something to do all day. Snape would be happy to do pure potions research, perhaps write a text book.
Sometimes they connect accidentally in dreams -- nightmares that could come from either of them.
Harry could travel if he knew he had a home to come back to -- it's common for wizard couples without kids to live apart, due to long lifespans and instantaneous travel.
Maybe Viktor Krum is rehabilitated and reunited with Hermione? and Ron hooks up with Gabi Delacour? Ron filled with romantic ardor, Hermione showing signs of sleep deprivation.
So when Harry's feelings begin to include plain ordinary desire, of course Snape knows immediately. He responds with a fury that turns out to be self-protective.
It means a certain amount of access to that shared mind-space that they created before, and they approach that with grave care for mutual consent and boundary-setting. But there can't help but be some image leakage, and through a series of apparently inconsequential images, Harry occasionally gets a picture of himself at fifteen or sixteen, concentrating hard on something, and absently scratching his eyebrow with his wand. he begins to get curious.
"I want a closer look at that one."
Thoughts and images flow and flock and turn. It's like a school of little silvery fish that part around the diver, close together in front, turn and dart suddenly, separate and join. Or, again, like shifting, moving, visible beams of colored light. Practice, and you learn to tell your own thoughts from the other's -- but practice much in partnership, and sometimes your two thoughts school together, and you have the vertiginous sensation of sliding down the twinned beam of a shared experience, slipping back and forth from one point of view to another
I'm he's falling falling she's she's set his my robe on fire
but Harry has no memory of the day he sees in that image.
It takes skill to single out one beam, one fish, Snape's mind passive around him and patient, enduring -- this is a beam he passes through, quite a verbal one, as some of Snape's are:
I shall endure this; it's a small grain in the balance
and Harry catches it:
I won't hurt you
Yes yes you will if you must you may
Some insignificant movement in the gray not-ness that the physical world becomes when he's in the mind space, and he's washed into the wake of, carried down the beam of, he's got hold of that memory. It bursts into a shower of stinging sparks, ghosts of itself, as Snape recalls returning to the memory again and again,
looking at Harry through the wavering ghost of his own younger face, deep in thought, fifteen, cheek and jaw just beginning to lose the last bit of childhood softness, old old eyes, and for once his complete attention is on his work, the _____ potion requiring split-second reaction to color change and thus able to keep his attention --
that must be the reason, yes, I'd always wondered why
-- eyes resting on him, watching the liquid, absently scratching his eyebrow with his wand, which taps with the tiniest noise against the frame of his glasses. And in the familiar brew of emotions, fury remorse desire contempt fear helplessness loathing protectiveness, a moment of simple half-amused
the fool will blow his eye socket out from sheer concentration
Pulls him through the ghosts, as through the pages of a book, places where the memory recurs --
accepting his Order of Merlin, hair the subject of painstaking magical grooming, as though he'd never stood over a cauldron --
after Wormtail's interrogation, fingers white-knuckled on his upraised wand as he pulled out thread after thread into the Pensieve, wand nearly touching --
an eyebrow with a fingertip, leaving it ruffled the wrong way, grinning over Snape's shoulder at some random passing Weasley --
That Day, shadowed vulnerable eye sockets, yes comfort you let me absorb you punish you destroy you --
and stumbling out blinking into the dim light of the conference room, swaying and caught by, why is his hand, Snape's hand tightly clutching, he leans on it and pulls himself upright, coming out of the dizzy swimming head that always accompanies a deep dive.
Oh. Here I am. In the conference room. With Snape. Holding my hand.
Instinctive mental reach, instinctively aborted. The usual irritable shove back from Snape is missing. Snape's face is blank. Snape meets his eyes blandly. Snape's fingers are icy. There's enough residual connection between them -- always, unless they put some effort into severing it -- that Harry's thought makes Snape release his grip.
How odd for there to be anything as mundane between them as --
"I like you, too, you know."
Snape's lip curls -- so familiar -- and Harry sends him a pulse of an emotion that feels like a smile, though he doesn't smile.
Snape, of course, doesn't smile back.
"You never touch me."
"Of course not."
"But ordinary people -- I mean, if I fell, you'd find some magical way of picking me up again without your hands."
"Yes. Recall that the last time I touched you, tragedy ensued." The usual hot rising flood of shame rage fear desire.
"You didn't do anything wrong."
"No. And yet you were irreparably damaged. This is the very definition of tragedy."
"In Azkaban -- did I ever tell you? It was the only thing I had left, by the time I escaped." A pulse of shame disgust. "No. No. It made me a Patronus. It saved my life."
"Imagine how proud that makes me."
"I want you to touch me."
Opening out the beam for him to read: curiosity desire nervousness curiosity
"If you want this, you must be the one who --"
"No. It has to be you, I think." There's a long silence, and he adds, "Please."
Another long pause. "Any sort of touch?"
"Like before. Like that day."
Snape puts a thread between them, fine as silk, just enough to tell him the instant the boy feels any distress.
"I can feel that, you know. You're not so subtle as you think. Go on. It's all right."
Snape lays one hand heavily on the back of Harry's neck. The boy's untidy hair tickles his knuckles. The thread trembles with
*fear arousal fear peaking and receding into*
"Your hand wasn't so cold, that day."
"I wasn't afraid. Or not so much as I should have been."
"I know you didn't mean to hurt me."
"Not that day. Other days, I did mean to."
"I am ... aware that you never intended to do harm to me, either."
"I didn't know I could. If I'd known, I might have done."
"Yes. You might."
The thread shimmers. Desire, curiosity, possessiveness, pride. His.
"God, I want to kiss you."
"I know. Please don't."
And step in close to Apparate together, the way friends would if they needed to share a small umbrella or a small space in an elevator. Harry, still a head shorter, steps in, shoulder touching the join of Snape's arm and chest, head bent, not really touching, but they would be if either of them took a deep breath. And arriving at the other place, looking up at him, taking his elbow as though he were in danger of stumbling.
Snape looks about furtively, face hot, expecting every eye in the place to be on them, but Shacklebolt's gaze slides across them carelessly, and Lovegood, lost in thought, looks right through them, dreamily chewing a lock of her hair.
Harry grins at him sidelong. Image of an open door, his signal that contact is all right; his door has the gaudiest knocker Snape has ever seen, and he's always meant to ask whether it corresponds to a real place. He shakes his head minutely. Not here. His own door, the heavy one that used to divide his office from the Potions classroom, remains stubbornly closed.
Draco and Tonks are leaning over a map together, watching a rank of pins rearrange themselves over Wales. He murmurs something, and the hair around her ear flashes briefly blue in the wake of his breath. She sees Snape's eyes on her and smiles. She doesn't care who sees.
Harry's nearly as expert as Snape, and the two of them together know as much about consensual Legilimency as the rest of the world combined; Harry can maintain an open or closed door with no apparent effort. Through it, Snape doubles the image of Draco and Tonks --
yes, I saw
-- and then a picture of the two of them as they probably look to their colleagues: encased in a visible cloud of fury and resentment, Snape sneering and Harry snarling, locked in permanent battle.
Harry grins. The lightest of touches to his image, and Snape watches as that Harry, face still contorted with rage, grows five inches, fills out through chest and thigh, sprouts dark hair on forearms and in the V of his open robe.
And as his own nose gets ever so slightly smaller.
Longing suddenly bursts like a vial of warm liquid in his chest. He doesn't even know whether it belongs to him or to Harry. Impossible to comprehend that picture. He takes it down before it changes into something embarrassing.
"Come home with me."
In his mind, his double bears Harry back against a desk -- where on earth are they? But he knows. In the real world they're still walking through the open office of the Department of Postwar Investigations, and Molly Weasley in her judge's robe is looking up from the transcription she's reading. And Harry's hand is still on his elbow, and that white door in his mind is still standing open.
He wraps his arm around Harry's shoulder and pulls him in against his side.
White-hot shock arousal laughter pride
And Harry slings an arm around Snape's waist and buries his laughing face against Snape's shoulder.
Molly doesn't even look up.
Harry taps in and sees nothing but now, in endless prismatic repetition of his face tilting up, his mouth opening, his eyes falling shut.
His own hand clenched in Snape's black robe looking bigger than he expects.
"I want -- oh -- let me. Take off your clothes and let me look at you."
He knows, knows what it will feel like. Snape can't tell whether he wants it for that reason, or out of his own desire.
But he obeys.
"Oh, god." Harry's eyes roam hotly over his body. He knows it's nothing extraordinary -- lean and strong but too thin, too pale. Most of the scars aren't visible on the surface, though since he knows where they are, Harry knows, too. The one that shows is on his forearm, red and shiny like a burn.
But Harry's eyes on him, glowing. Snape taps gently at his mind. Let me see.
His own face. Confused impression of naked skin. A hippogriff bowing gravely. Firenze kneeling for a rider. A Chinese Red lowering its wild-maned head to accept a bridle.
Strength, not humbled but offering itself freely.
"Gryffindor through and through," he says, and swallows to moisten his dry mouth.
Both of them want to pitch. Harry wins because Harry always wins. (If Harry's 23, Snape's 43 -- in a wizard lifespan, this is the equivalent of, say, 21 and 28.) And maybe also because he senses that he's the more ready of the two to lose control. "Or maybe because you're a lazy degenerate." "Maybe, yeah.")
First time, Harry kisses him against the wall, and they never make it out of the doorway.
Then upstairs. He pictures Harry on him, or bending him over a table, but Harry sits and draws him to straddle him. Resisting mind touch for now, not to miss the pleasures of the senses. It's a terribly undignified position, and physically tricky, too -- Harry puts a little buoyancy spell on him, since he has to squat to get a good angle. Hair falls down over both of them, and Harry looks up -- it puts their heights back to their original proportion, and this is the most deeply buried, most heavily repressed impulse of all -- far more carefully guarded than the desire to brutalize or be brutalized -- this impulse to cup his hands around Harry's face and anoint him with the softest of kisses until his face grows hot and he begins to gasp, and then to beg.
Back to in medias Res
July 18, 2007