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This place I am

lost in space, lost in time, and meaning

another day....
fic: Testing, Testing
author: saraid
fandom: Harry Potter
pairing: none
rating: PG
sequel: no
archive: just tell me where it is
feedback: saraid@wf.net

notes: this one snuck up on me and forced me to write it.

"I don't understand why we have to take this class," Harry grumbled as
he filed in behind his friends. All of Hogwarts 6th years were here, the
boys, anyhow; the girls' class was being held separately, on a
completely different floor. "It's not like I've never seen the telly."

"This is wizard stuff, Harry, it's required. Fred and George told me all
about it. Things are a little different for us than they are for Muggles."
Patting him on the back, Ron took a seat near the back, Harry beside
him. There was a thin booklet face-down on the desk in front of each
chair. Harry reached out to look at his; blue sparks flew, stinging his

"Ten points from Gryfindor," Professor Snape growled, standing behind
him as if he'd Apparated. Harry jumped, startled, and then glared at the
man. Ignoring him, Snape swept by with a grand gesture, robes
billowing. He stopped at the head of the class, not stepping up to the
podium, and turned, sneering.

"So we commence another wasted day of sexual ed-u-ca-tion for the so-
called future of the wizarding world." His eyes glanced over them,
pronounced them all worthless, and returned to Harry. He returned the
look with as much ferocity as he could muster, but, frankly, he was a
little nervous.

For the past three summers he'd been forced to listen to Dudley in the
bedroom next to him, every night; his cousin had discovered the joys of
masturbation and showed no shame in it. If he made too much noise or
woke his parents with his gross enthusiasm, it was always blamed on
Harry. The stash of dirty magazines and hand-lotion he kept behind his
bed had drawn Harry more than once, out of curiosity, but he'd never
felt any physical reaction to them; they were strange and uncomfortable,
but his body didn't react the way the telly and books he'd read
suggested it should.

Harry Potter was worried there was something wrong with him. With
his luck it would be related to Voldemort and his bloody destiny.

Snape was speaking again. Harry stared at him, doing his best to look
like he was paying attention and not letting his mind wander the
thought of Snape discovering this inadequacy and exploiting it was too
terrible to bear.

"As most of you were, blessedly, raised in proper wizarding families, I
will simply cover the basics and then leave you to read your instructions
and take your exam."

There was a test?! Harry shot Ron a glance; his friend bumped his
elbow and gave his head a half-shake.

Snape commenced lecturing, as if this was any other class, though,
Harry had to admit, his style and tone were less threatening than usual.

"Due to the nature of magic and the demands it places on a young
person's body, most witches and wizards don't begin puberty until the
age of eighteen or later. This is considered beneficial, as it gives young
wizards and witches the chance to develop close emotional ties without
the added stress of sexual tension. Generally by the time a witch or
wizard reaches puberty they have already formed the close emotional
relationship necessary to make sexual activity rewarding and exclusive."

Giving his head a little shake, Harry tried to look at Ron, but his friend
was paying close attention. Harry blinked, suddenly realizing that what
Snape was talking about was what Ron and Hermione had been doing
for the past two years! Their friendship had grown steadily closer and
Harry had actually wondered why they never did more than hold hands
or occasionally hug.

They didn't want to yet. It was like they were twelve or something, not
ready even for going steady.

This was going to change the way he thought about everyone.

"Most of you will begin to feel the first stirring of sexual attraction in
the coming months. Those of you who do not, there is no need to panic.
Puberty can come later for some; if you have not begun to have such
feelings by the age of nineteen you should consult a mediwitch or

Looking around the room, Harry saw Draco looking bored. It was too
bad, really. The blond boy was just about the most handsome thing
Harry had ever seen. Before he'd thought he wasn't interested in him
because Draco was, well, Draco. What if that wasn't it? If he hit this late
wizard puberty thing and didn't have a close friend would he fall for just

He'd known for the past year that he was more interested in boys than
girls; even Cho didn't do a thing for him anymore. He didn't even want
to spend time talking to girls, Hermione being the exception. She was
his friend.

"Considering the nature of sexual attraction and the customs
surrounding marriage in Wizard society, it is further thought that early
relationships, whether positive or negative in form, are ninety-eight
percent of the time the relationships that carry into puberty and beyond
into adult life."

Snape looked at Draco and smirked.

"Yes, Mr. Malfoy, that means that when your parents force you to marry
Miss. Parkinson, you will probably enjoy the event despite your current

Draco smirked back and said nothing, leaning back in his seat, crossing
his arms casually over his chest. Harry rolled his eyes.

What did this mean to him? He didn't have that many close
relationships. He couldn't. Aside from the ongoing threat to his life, it
was almost impossible to find anyone that didn't think of him as 'The
Boy Who Lived' or 'The Boy That Will Save us'. There was Neville,
and Ron, and Colin, just a bit he had a more powerful relationship
with Draco than with any of those!

"As all of you have reached your legal age of majority, this test is
administered to all wizards and witches in 6th year, to determine their
mental health in regards to the ability to form the close relationship
needed to be a successful wizard adult. The test is simple, multiple
choice absolutely the simplest test any of you will ever receive from

There was a light laugh. Harry swallowed hard. It seemed like Snape
was being... friendly. It was disconcerting. Even frightening.

"There will be no changing of answers. Once it is written it cannot be
undone. When you are finished the test will close itself and deliver itself
to my desk. At that point you are free to go."

A quill appeared beside each booklet. Harry didn't reach for his.

A partition sprang up out of the desk between each student. Harry
shifted, more nervous now.

"Your answers will be private. There is a truth-detecting mechanism in
the tests as well. Answer each question to the best of your ability, as
truthfully as you can."

"Bet Draco can't do that," Harry whispered to Ron.

"Ten points, Mr. Potter," Snape snarled. Ron gave him a look that said
'are you five?'. Feeling his face heat, Harry leaned away from him.

"You will begin," Snape said. The quill popped upright and the booklet
flipped itself over.

Taking the quill nervously in hand, Harry glanced at Ron. His friend
looked white beneath his freckles. This was more important, then, than
anyone had let on.

The test was supposed to be able to tell if he was lying, so Harry worked
his way through it trying to be as honest as he could. He knew there
were prejudices in the wizarding world Remus' inability to find a job
was an example of that. But he'd never heard anyone called a fag or a
queer and everyone seemed to turn a blind eye to Fred and George and
their odd living situation. Just last Hogsmeade weekend he and Ron and
Hermione had visited them in their little flat above Zonko's joke shop,
where the twins were apprenticing. Fred and George had given them a
quick tour and it was obvious to Harry that not only did the two of them
share a bedroom, as they had at the Burrow, but they still shared a bed.
The were twenty now, Harry recalled, and neither had ever had a
girlfriend or boyfriend. He would've met them, since he practically
lived with the Weasleys over the hols and the twins were always there.

Any society that would allow a pair of male twins to be in a relationship
with each other and Harry was positive that's what was going on,
because he'd seen Fred slip his hand into George's more than once,
even seen them kissing behind the garden shed a couple of times if
that was okay in the wizarding world he wasn't too worried about his
own leanings. So he answered the questions honestly and tried not to
think about how personal they were. He hoped Snape didn't see them.
Truthfully, if he had to guess if anyone else in this school was like him
that's who he would guess.

Not that he thought the professor was attractive, not at all. With that hair
and those mean eyes and that big nose... and those big hands, with the
long, slender fingers, and that voice that made even an insult sound like
it was dipped in chocolate...

Giving himself a harder shake, Harry answered the last question; Who is
your closest friend and what are the kinds of things you like to do
together? (Ron Weasley; hang out, play Quidditch, eat, study) put his
quill down. Just as Snape had said, the booklet closed itself up, folded
itself into a paper airplane, and flew to the teacher's desk at the front of
the classroom. A second later Ron's followed it. They got up together
and left the room.

"That was weird," Harry said softly. Ron gave him a sideways look.

"Not too weird, eh, Harry?" There was something in Ron's voice...he
sounded...unsure. Uncomfortable.

"No, not too weird," Harry agreed, looking back. Had he said something

"Good, then. I'm off to meet Hermione want to come?"

Feeling off, after the test and everything Snape had said, even if he
hadn't quite been paying attention and had missed some things, Harry
shook his head.

"I still need to do ten inches for Sprout."

"Okay, then." Ron nodded. "See you at supper?"

"Sure," Harry said.

He spent a couple of hours working on the essay, but it didn't really
catch his attention. He took his broom out and flew a couple of hours
more, trying to quell the falling sensation in his stomach. No matter how
he thought about it, it seemed like he'd done something wrong.
Something that upset Ron.

Maybe they were spending too much time together and that was
confusing Ron, because of the thing with Hermione. Now that Harry
understood that it was more than just the usual teenage flirting, he
would have to back off a bit. Make sure they got more time to

He could do that. No matter what his inclinations, he'd never thought of
Ron that way. He hoped Ron wouldn't be angry with him when Harry
got around to telling him the truth. There were so many other things
going on in his life, it might never come up. Not before he died,

At dinner there was more wriggling among the upperclassmen.
Everyone was quieter, too. One after the other, people's heads would
raise, look around and then duck back down. It passed down tables in a
wave. Ron did it more than once. The tension in the Great Hall was
palpable. It was like everyone was waiting for something bad to happen
and no one had told him. Harry let it go until the pudding came out.
When Ron did it a third time, he couldn't take it anymore.

"What are you looking for?" he hissed when Ron picked up the spoon
he'd dropped and poked at his trifle again.

Hermione glanced at him. Her eyes were suspiciously red.

"Hermione?" Harry asked, leaning past Ron. He was shoved back with
more force than necessary; he stared at Ron, shocked. "What's gotten
into you?!"

Across the room, at the Slytherin table, someone screamed.

"Aaaaiiieee!!!! No, No, not me, not me, it's wrong, the test was

Everyone was on their feet, staring and stirring, muttering and
whispering. Harry had to shove past Ron and stand on the bench to see.

A girl he only knew by her first name Amanda, or was it Amy? was
flat against the wall, shrieking in terror. A cloud of something white and
foggy was enveloping her, binding her

Harry started to leap from the table, his wand already drawn, but hands
grabbed him, several sets of hands

The fog covered her completely Amy, her name was Amy, he
remembered now, he'd been paired with her in Potions once, in third
year and she vanished.

At the Hufflepuff table a boy screamed. Harry fought his attackers
fought his friends as they wrestled him down, pushed him to the bench
and Ron almost sat on him to keep him there.

Another boy, another Slytherin; Franklin Howard Sturgis got up and
ran, ran for the entrance, ran like his life depended on it, but the fog
caught him too.

Then it was quiet.

Hermione was sobbing on Ron's shoulder. Harry realized he could hear
others crying. Boys and girls and

"What the Hell is going on?!" he shrieked, as loudly as he could. With
his wand out he forced Ron off him, and was shocked when Hermione
let go of the redhead and attached herself to him.

"I thought it was going to be you!" she wailed inexplicably. "I thought
they were going to take you! Oh Harry I'm so sooooory!"

Grabbing her 'round the waist afraid she'd fall if he didn't Harry
stared at Ron stupidly.

"What just happened?" he asked, softly. He didn't want to shout in
Hermione's ear. There were people talking and people crying and
people getting sick. It seemed the Great Hall was filled with a
contagious madness.

"Shhh, Harry, just, just just sit down, okay?" Ron's hand on his
shoulder pushed at him. Harry sat, stunned. Ron pulled Hermione away.
Across the table, Ginny Weasley was bawling her eyes out. Harry
reached for her, petted her straight red hair back from her face, offered
his wadded hankie. She took it and sobbed louder.

The teachers came down from the Head table. Dumbledore looked
bereft, McGonagal looked furious, and Snape... Snape looked sick. Like
he was going to be sick any second. His face was whiter than Harry had
ever seen it.

They walked between the tables, passing out tummy-charms and soft
words, patting students and leaning to speak to them privately. Harry
watched Snape bend to speak to Pansy, who, Harry realized, had been a
friend of Amy's. The man was being almost...kind.

Harry shuddered at the thought.

Dumbledore was beside him in a few minutes.

"Don't worry so, children," he urged them. Calm seemed to flow with
his words, Harry wondered if it were a spell. He raised his voice, his
hand warm on Harry's shoulder. "Your friends will be returned to you
soon, with their ills healed and their spirits mended. Rejoice that they
have been discovered so that they may live the happy, meaningful lives
they are intended for."

His words seemed to ease some tension in the room. Gradually everyone
calmed, the noises stopped. The Headmaster stepped away from Harry.
His shoulder tingled where it had been touched.

"Everything is all right, Harry," he said, smiling at Ron and Hermione
and Ginny. "Remember this day."

Harry sat shell-shocked as the last of supper vanished from the tables
and the teachers began leaving. Other students got up and left, then
more, until the only ones sitting in the Great Hall were Pansy Parkinson,
who looked as shocked as Harry felt, and Harry and his friends.

"Should go say something to her," Hermione said softly. "Amy was her
best friend since they were about three."

"She'll be back," Ron said, but it wasn't a happy thing.

"But it won't be her, Ron. You know that. It won't still be Amy."

He sighed, looked away. His eyes caught Harry's and he reached out,
grabbed him and pulled him into a hard hug.

"I've been wanting to do that for months," he whispered.

"Why didn't you?" Harry asked, just as quietly. The two girls got up
and went over to talk to Pansy. She looked up, saw them, and burst into
tears again.

"Because," Ron made a wild gesture, letting go of him. "I knew this
damned test was coming and I have to tell you, Harry, I was afraid... I
was afraid please don't be angry with me, I didn't mean anything by it

"I have no idea what you're saying, Ron," Harry said firmly. He still felt
warm from the hug and Dumbledore's hand. Were these those first
stirring Snape had suggested?

"I thought you were one of them, Harry." Ron looked ashamed, his
expression unlike any Harry had ever seen on him. He could hardly
meet Harry's eyes.

"One of what?" He didn't even know if he should be insulted yet.

"A...a..." Ron worked his mouth, trying to get the word out. "A

"What?" Harry said, far too loudly. The girls looked at him. Pansy was
crying on Hermione's shoulder now.

"Keep your voice down!" Ron waved his hands, shushing him. "I didn't
mean anything by it; it's just, you're so powerful and the whole thing
with you-know-who and you don't spend time with any girls..."

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was a ball of ice
forming in his stomach. He felt like he wasn't going to be able to breath
much longer.

"Ron, forget that I'm 'The Boy Who Lived', forget that I've been your
best friend for the past six years and explain this to me, please, like I'm
a Muggle can you do that?" he leaned in gripped Ron's arm, hard,
letting his fingers dig into the skin under the jumper.

"Harry, I -"

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," Harry snarled.

He watched his friend take a deep breath, blue eyes widening in shock.

"You really don't know?"

Harry shook his head. Ron looked sick; he actually turned green.

"You went in there and took that test and you didn't know?"

"Didn't know what, Ron?" Harry tried to be calm, but the ice was
getting thicker and starting to spread.

"What the test was for," Ron said, as if it were obvious.

"It was a psychological exam to detect any signs of developing mental
illness, right?" Somehow Harry knew that wasn't the answer, or all of
it. He knew now.

"Noooooo...." Ron wrenched his arm away and covered his face with
both hands. "I know you were raised with Muggles, but I thought - I
thought you'd, y'know, learned something about being a wizard "

"What did I miss?!" Harry almost shouted. "What the bloody hell is this
all about?!"

Hermione looked up at his shout; Ginny got up and started to come back
to them, but Ron waved her off.

"We better keep this between ourselves, mate," Ron said. He stood,
grabbing Harry's arm and pulling him up. "Just need a private place to
talk not the dorm, everyone will be mad there "

He left the Great Hall, dragging Harry behind him. Hoping for answers,
though he believed, now, that they wouldn't make him feel a bit better,
Harry caught up and shook his arm loose.

"This is private enough. What happened to Amy, Ron? Amy and
Franklin and that other boy? What were those things that took them?"

"White Coats," Ron's eyes flitted around the corridor they were in, as if
he expected them to appear with the name. "From St. Mungo's. They
only come when a mental illness is detected. To take the, the, sick
person to the locked wards for treatment."

"Amy was taken to a mental ward?!" Harry fought to keep his voice
low but the pain of it was just too strong. Ron hustled him into the
library, clapping a hand over his mouth and dragging him to the back
among the stacks.

"She's one of them, Harry."

"She's gay? So what?"

"That's a stupid Muggle word!" Ron snapped and Harry saw real anger
in his eyes. He shut up, but the ice spread through his veins and he
thought maybe his heart froze. "We don't use words like that. Wizards
don't. There are words that make it sound okay, like that one, and there
are words that make it sound nasty -"

"Like fag and queer?" Harry asked. "Cocksucker and arselicker?"

"Merlin, don't talk like that!" Ron shouted, covering Harry's mouth
again. "You want someone to hear you?!"

"What? They're just words," Harry mumbled when Ron finally let him

"They aren't just words. This is serious," Ron snarled. He locked his
hands behind Harry's head and shook him, hard. His glasses slid down
his nose and he had to catch them with both hands. His head ached. His
stomach was an icy knot and supper felt like it was trying to come back

"I'm sorry," he said, wanting to calm Ron down. "I didn't mean to upset
you. I only, I don't understand."

"It's a disease, Harry. They can't help it. Here, in our world, there's a
treatment for it. But most of them, like a lot of sick people, they don't
think they're really sick. So they have to be found out and taken to St.
Mungos before they have a chance to act on it."

"What happens if they do?" Harry was confused now, and really, truly
going to be ill.

Ron looked away and whispered.

"That means Azkaban, Harry."

He looked back at him, his expression determined. "So this is better for
them, even if it's horrible to watch and scary and everything. If they get
found out now and taken to St. Mungos and treated they'll be fine; fall
in love, get married 'n have kids. The way it's supposed t'be."

Azkaban. Harry swallowed hard. He was going to go to his thoughts
derailed, unable to even consider it. He grasped for something to argue
this, something to make it not real, but

"But what about Snape? Isn't he ?"

"Harry, I know he hates you and you hate him, but you can't go around
saying that about people!" Ron shouted again. several books leapt off
the shelf, throwing themselves at his head. "Ow, ow!"

"But he's ..."

"Snape's married. He's been married forever. He spends the hols with
his wife, I've seen them together. All the teachers are married or have
been married."

"I don't believe it." And why was his heart breaking, why did he
suddenly feel as if the world had come to an end, now that he knew
this? Snape was married?

"I'll show you," Ron said. Grabbing him again. He took Harry to the
very back of the library, where there was a tiny room with a closed
door. Ron knocked on it; when there was no answer he opened it and
went in.

There was a single book in the room, a gigantic leather-bound book that
looked a thousand years old, sitting on a podium, open at the middle.

"What is this?" Harry said with awe. He'd never even known the room
was here.

"The Big Book of Wizards," Ron gave him a look of disbelief. "You've
never heard of it?"

"What's in it?" Harry stepped up to the small stage beside Ron, who
was flipping the pages, handling them with a sort of reverence.

"Everything. Everybody. Everyone who's born, everyone who gets
married, everyone who dies - everyone's in here."

"Who writes it down?" Harry stared at a million pages filled with small,
tidy script.

"The book does." Ron was looking at him like he really was an idiot.

"How -"

"It's Magic, Harry! What kind of wizard are you?"

"The kind that slept in a cupboard for the first ten years of his life!"
Harry snapped back. Ron took a step back and the small stage
automatically expanded so that he didn't fall off. It seemed like the
room got bigger, too.

"I'm sorry," Ron sighed. "I just forget, that you haven't been one of us
forever. You can do so much, like the DA, I just forget."

"It's okay," Harry said, because everything wasn't. He couldn't bear the
thought of losing Ron. "Show me where it says Snape got married."

"Severus Snape," Ron told the book. The pages began flipping on their
own, and the two of them leaned over when they stopped.

"See?" Ron pointed, ran a finger down the entry. "Severus Salazar
Snape, bound in matrimony to Shefali Lorraine Malfoy, on ... hmm,
they were only eleven years old."

"They got married when they were eleven?"

"It used to be the big thing in pureblood families. I'm surprised Draco
isn't already married to Pansy."

"If he was already married, did he have to take that test in his 6th year?"
Harry asked, curious.

"He might've, only... yeah, see here? She didn't come to Hogwarts."
Ron was pointing at something lower in the book. "His wife Mrs.
Snape, ewww she had a baby when they were both sixteen. Puberty
can come early if you're already married, I know. If he already had a
child he would've been exempt from the test."

"Snape has a kid?" This might be the most shocking thing he'd learned

"No, it died not long after it was born. They didn't have any more
babies; that might be why they don't live together anymore."

"That doesn't prove he's not a homosexual, Ron," Harry said quietly.

"I told you not to say that! You could get him in real trouble, Harry!"
Ron gripped the edges of the book with white-knuckled hands. "It's not
right to say things like that about anyone, not even someone like - like -
Draco Malfoy!"

"But him getting married and having a baby doesn't prove anything!"
Hurt and angry, Harry argued for the sake of argument.

"You're really thick sometimes," Ron muttered. "If he were like that he
wouldn't be able to get a woman pregnant, would he? It just wouldn't

Harry opened his mouth to argue that it was ridiculous, incredibly
stupid, to believe something like that, he'd never thought of Ron as
stupid before but he couldn't. What if Ron asked why he cared so
much about it? What if Ron asked why he knew so much about it? He
could always make something up, about Dudley or something, but
knowing what he'd learned today he was afraid to even try. So the
words that came out of his mouth were unplanned, uncensored.

"What about the twins?"

Ron sucked in a deep breath, and shuddered. He closed his eyes.

"I thought we were friends."

"Huh?" Harry leaned close to him, patted Ron's shoulder. "If it's a
secret you know I won't tell. I would never hurt them like that. They're
almost like brothers to me, too. It's just, I know, so how come a lot of
other people don't?"

Ron stared at him like he'd grown a third eye.

"My God. You really don't know anything, do you?"

Harry shook his head, trying to look less unhappy than he felt.

"Fred and George..." Ron sighed. "Fred and George... there's a reason
my family has such low status in the wizarding community, Harry, and
part of that is my brothers. I mean, I call them my brothers, but they
aren't, not really."

"You've lost me again," Harry said, unable to find any other words.

"Fred and George aren't like that, Harry. They're... special. It's because
they're twins, see, identical, though Mum says fraternal twins wind up
together that way too. But it's only with identical twins that you get the
situation like Fred and George."

"What situation?"

"Fred and George are one person." Ron saw his disbelief and shrugged.
"It's true. Or, more like, they're one soul. It got split between the two
bodies. Their soul and their magic. They can't exist, one without the

"That's just crazy." Harry sagged on the podium.

"Let me show you." Ron touched the book, mumbled something under
his breath. "See, here, right on Mum and Dad's page." He pointed.
Harry pushed himself up to look.

There was a birthdate that was right, he remembered it, and then the
entry: Frederick George Weasley, baby boy (twinned).

"There's only one name," he said slowly.

"Legally they're only one person," Ron told him softly. "It's kind of,
um, embarrassing. In the old days twins were usually killed at birth.
Most pureblood families would still do it."

"That's hideous."

"You know Professor Lupin? He never married, either, right? Because
he was an identical twin, too. He had a brother named Regulus that died
when they were little. I always wondered why he lived; his twin must
have died in the werewolf attack and then the werewolf kept the
Professor alive."

Harry sucked in a deep breath and started to sink to the floor. A cushion
appeared underneath him but he hardly noticed. Ron followed him

"But he'll never really be alive because half of his soul is missing," Ron
continued. "And half of his magic."

"So... the white coats coming today, that happens every year?" He'd
never seen it before.

"Only when there's someone to come for. It's not a common disease,"
Ron said. Harry winced.

"So three is a lot in one year?"

"Yeah, and one if Hufflepuff is really weird." Ron rubbed at his eyes
with both hands. "Maybe now you can spend some time with my sister.
I know she'd like it."

"So why " Harry took a deep breath and asked the question that was
bothering him the most. "Why did you think I might - I might have been
-" He needed to know so he could hide it better in the future.

"There are signs, sort of. We all know what to look for. Most of the time
they're Slytherins. Every Dark Wizard that ever rose was one. Seems
like the more powerful a wizard is, the more likely he's got that

Every time he used that word Harry winced inside.

"But I'm not Slytherin." The Hat had wanted to put him in Slytherin and
he just didn't want to think about that right now.

"No, but you're connected to you-know-who and he's like that and
you're so powerful you scare me sometimes," Ron shrugged. "I said I
was sorry. I would have warned you about the test if I knew you didn't

They both sat, silent, looking at the walls and anywhere but at each
other. Harry sucked in a few breaths. The test hadn't caught him... was
he wrong about himself? Was it just some weirdness that had passed or
would pass?

He glanced up at the podium and for a brief second saw Snape's slender,
graceful fingers curled around the edge of it, the way he did in class
when he was lecturing from a book.

His heart, cold and still, pounded suddenly.

No, he wasn't wrong about that. Whatever wizards called it, he was one.
He would just have to hide it better from now on.

He cleared his throat, tried to make conversation.

"So, Fred and George? I always wondered why nobody ever said
anything about them..."

"Yeah," Ron met his eyes. The blue ones were tired and dark with
worry. "There's a lot of prejudice, though. Mum worries about them
something awful. It's almost a miracle they got that job at Zonko's...
there was petition to keep them off the Quidditch team the first year they
played. We weren't here then, of course. People said it was unfair..."

He talked and Harry let him. Ron would talk himself out and then he
would feel better. It always helped him to get things out.

Harry would never feel better. The ice in his chest was a permanent
fixture. He didn't think he'd ever take a deep breath again. Even if he
saved the world the way he was supposed to he wouldn't be allowed to
love anyone. He'd waited so long to have someone, wanted someone so
badly... all those years of his childhood, locked in that cupboard, all
he'd thought about was having someone. Someone that loved him.
someone that would touch him and hold him and tell him everything
was going to be alright... even his parents would have bene horrified by
this. If Sirius had known, oh Merlin, if Sirius had known... Harry was
glad he was dead and that was terrible, that he was glad he had died
without knowing.

Because the knowing was too much. Harry felt like, if he thought on it
for even just one tiny second, he would shatter into a million pieces and
cry forever, knowing what he'd lost.

After carefully dipping the thin booklet in the cauldron, Severus Snape
held it aloft until the dark stuff coating it was dry. Then he walked over
to his fireplace, the flames roaring brightly, and tossed in a handful of
violet powder. Sparks flew and the flames turned black.

He leaned over and dropped the test booklet in; it disintegrated to ash
within seconds. He burnt his hand but took no notice, watching until the
ash itself was gone, all of it turned to air.

Straightening, he tugged his robe into place and went to clean up after
himself. The forbidden herbs and ingredients went back into the booby-
trapped chest that he used as a coffee table no one ever expected the
most dangerous things in his rooms to be used so mundanely, and hiding
in plain sight had always been his fashion and when that was done he
took down a book and made himself a cup of tea. House Elves were not
allowed in his private rooms, he took all of his meals in the Great Hall.

After reading for an acceptable amount of time, he went to the loo and
tidied up. Wearing a pale green nightshirt and stocking cap, he went to
his bedroom. The lights extinguished themselves as he passed. By the
time he climbed into the large bed with the dark green curtains, the
room was dark save one small candle on the night-table. With his
fingers he snuffed it, then lay back in the silent coolness.

The curtains drew themselves closed. His body relaxed, but never so
much as to make sleep possible.

Finally, in the dark, Severus Snape spoke aloud.

"Now we are even, James. I have saved your son from a fate worse than
death. I only hope he can learn to appreciate his life without - love -
better than I have."

The darkness did not answer him. Severus turned over, pulled a pillow
over his head, and let himself cry.

Just this once.

Because the boy was so beautiful and the world was so cruel and he,
Snape, wasn't supposed to have a heart, let alone be able to feel it

He knew that someday Harry Potter would cry the way he did now, and
he hated himself for being glad about that.