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Chapter Sixteen: Fireside Theorems

Harry let Snape maintain his grasp on his arms, giving Snape support and time enough to recover himself. "What... what was that?" Snape eventually managed to get out as he grew steadier. He had a not-quite overwhelming sense of the boy sitting next to him; his nerves crackles with energy tinged with Harry's guilt, concern, anger and amazement.

As though to confirm the latter, Harry simply shook his head, wide eyed as though trying to sort out recent events as well. Eventually Harry sat back, leaning against the nearby rock. "I'm exhausted," he murmured as his eyes drifted closed.

With a sudden wash of concern, Snape moved forward to inspect the boy. Seeing that Harry wasn't in immediate danger of unconsciousness, Snape slowly sat back as well. As he tried to be honest with himself at the very least, he pitched his voice to a tone less sharp than he customarily took. "What happened, then? This seems a question that comes up far too often of late for my taste."

Harry's voice sounded as though it was coming from far away in his weariness. "The pain was affecting you again... but this time it was different. It wasn't caused by the Dark Mark." Harry hesitates then, opening one eye and then the other to meet Snape's intent gaze.

A few moments passed as the younger wizard studied the older one. "What?" Snape eventually snapped, unable to completely keep his sudden irritation from showing.

"I'm worried that if I say the wrong thing it'll set you off again," Harry reluctantly clarified.

Snape pressed his lips together in thought. "Well now, we can either sort this all out through actual speech- or we can just wait here to get picked up by Voldemort." Pausing for a beat, Snape relented enough to qualify his words with, "We'll have to deal with this sometime. I'd prefer it be without distractions. However, as it is morning, let's remove ourselves from this location and speak further afterwards." With this, Snape got up to pack, frowning at the cold pan of stew, solidified over the magical fire which had long gone out.

Bone weary, Harry tried to get up and help, but Snape snarled, "Sit. Down." When Harry looked about to protest, Snape tossed the blanket on top of him and ordered, "Fold this." With Harry kept temporarily busy extricating himself from the light covering, Snape set about cleaning the abandoned attempt at dinner with a few muttered words and a gesture with his wand.

When he noted Harry was setting the folded blanket at his side, Snape promptly used his wand to levitate the other one and the sleeping bag over to be folded as well. The silence was almost peaceful as distant birds called to each other and a light breeze made the leaves above them rustle softly. When the camp was packed up and traces removed from the area, Snape shrunk down the equipment and pocketed it before eyeing Harry and taking up his broomstick. "Are you well enough to ride?" Snape asked brusquely. "The last thing we need is to have you falling off in mid flight. Let me know if you're that tired, and I'll charm you to the broom."

Harry opened his mouth as though to automatically reassure that he'd be able to hold on, that he shouldn't be worried over... but pausing for thought and studying Snape rather intently, Harry nodded once instead.

Murmuring the charm over Harry, Snape mounted his broom and gestured Harry behind him. As the charm activated Snape felt Harry's fingers fasten themselves carefully into his tattered cloak, but not with the clutching tightness of fear. Expecting- no- knowing that Harry would speak up if he was not ready or if something truly concerned him, Snape kicked off from the ground and expertly maneuvered them just above and amidst the thick covering of the forest.

A few hours passed with several changes in direction on Snape's part in order to prevent the chances of their trail being followed. Spotting another defensive spot ideal for their next camp, Snape brought the broom down for a landing, again finding that he didn't have to concern himself for Harry's landing as the boy's Quiddich skills came to the fore once again. Snape dismissed the charm and let Harry stretch his muscles by assisting with the unpacking.

With the layout of their last camp to use as a template, setting up their second camp was easier and took less time. Soon enough they were seated on the blankets with tins of fruit for lunch. "Now," Snape stated. "Explain."

Harry sighed and began, telling Snape of his reaction to Harry's description of how the Glamour spell had worked differently with him, pausing soon afterwards and eyeing Snape as though expecting the same reaction. When none was in evidence, Harry warily continued with his perception of the two kinds of 'Severus-shaped energy', attributing the sparkled energy that kept the rest in as Dumbledore's doing while the darker energy trying to escape was Voldemort's.

"Trying to escape?" Snape questioned. He vaguely remembered something of a pressure building in him as though something within was about to explode but was then restrained... Reaching out to something- someone, but being held back. He recalled the pained confusion as he felt himself both try to call out and to restrain himself from doing so, both without his own initiative. He remembered it as being somewhat akin to being under the Imperius and said as much to Harry.

"I can see where that would be true; it was your own energy being used to do that," Harry fretted. "That's why you were being drained. The black energy was feeding off of you in its efforts to escape."

"So was the brighter energy, from your description." With a dark frown, Snape attempted to bore a hole through the nearest innocent tree with his gimlet stare. "Dumbledore's efforts were feeding off of me as well."

"But only as much as it had to in order to contain the black energy." Harry's protested defense of Dumbledore made Snape sigh as the boy continued. "The black energy fed off of you on its own initiative and Dumbledore's reacted."

"Yes, of course," Snape drawled, idly plucking a maple leaf from the ground next to the blankets and systematically stripping it bare to leave only the skeleton. "And if you hadn't been on hand to get the black energy under control - however you did that - then both of them would have escalated until I was nothing more than an empty husk," he finished bitterly.

"I don't think it would have happened if I wasn't there," Harry countered. "There wouldn't have been someone who could set off whatever that reaction was because they wouldn't have been able to describe what I saw." Harry paused before forging on, "Your 'normal' appearance is actually a Glamour disguise. What you look like now is more like your real appearance."

Somewhat uncomfortable, Snape tossed away the skeleton of the leaf and reached for another victim to strip away. "What appearance is that?" he questioned, not really wanting to know, yet knowing that Harry would tell him anyway.

As Harry outlined the subtle differences in his features Snape brooded upon what memories he had assembled... and found Harry's words contained truth to them. He was abruptly brought out of his reverie as Harry added, "I think you should wash your hair."

Snape's instinctive reaction was to gut Potter where he sat, but ingrained behavior was weaker in the face of current circumstances. Rather than granting the boy the messy death he so seemed to crave, Snape stopped himself from doing more than standing and growled out, "What are you implying, Potter?"

The unfortunate soul before him raised his hands as though in an attempt to ward off an evil spirit he had roused, blurting out, "I didn't mean it like that, Severus. I'm sorry- it's a part of your changed appearance," he desperately continued, gazing up wide eyed at Snape's suddenly looming figure.

Snape stared down at the boy without expression and folded his arms, waiting...

"When we were in the shed- there was a moment when I had touched... erm..." Potter stuttered, hearing suddenly how awkward his statement was going to potentially sound. Like a true bull-headed Gryffindor however, Potter continued. "... I had touched your hair. And, well..." As Snape growled softly at the renewed implication it prompted the fool to hurry with his explanation. "There was... uhm... asubstanceonitwhichwasclearbutchangeditscolor," Potter hastily concluded, tensed for flight.

Snape slowly brought his quietly simmering rage under control again as he considered Potter's words.


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