Snape and Harry considered each other from across the table. Neither spoke for several minutes.
“You’re going to have to tell me something,” Harry insisted. “I know you don’t trust me, but I have to at least know where we’re going, what we’re looking for.”
Snape clasped his fingers together and said nothing.
“Who am I going to tell?”
“It is not who you will tell,” Snape replied. “It is the fact that you might suddenly find me disposable.”
“Oh and suddenly you’ve lost your cockiness?” Harry scoffed. “You think I could kill you?”
Snape raised a brow. “I am not about to let it become a possibility.”
Harry let out a frustrated sigh. “How am I supposed to do anything, to plan, without knowing what it is we are doing?” he demanded.
Snape looked at him for a long moment. “We are going to break into the Lestrange manor and steal a cup.”
“A cup?” Harry asked. He was surprised by the honesty that Snape displayed. He had expected him to be more slippery, more dodgy.
“Yes. A golden cup, perhaps a goblet, if you will.”
Harry scowled. “How on earth are we going to break into the Lestrange manor?”
Snape pulled a roll of parchment from under the table. “I have drawn a rough sketch of the layout.”
Harry was skeptical as he looked over what he had drawn. Much to his surprise, it was rather clear and precisely labeled. “So there’s an old servant’s corridor that runs this way, from the kitchens to the west wing,” Harry mused, tracing with his finger.
“Further, there is a blocked off entrance somewhere around here,” Snape said, pointing. “Unless we are going for stealth, we could probably break through with a blasting curse.”
“I would imagine we are going for stealth, else we might as well go up and knock on the front door,” Harry said, annoyed.
“No sarcasm, remember?” Snape reminded him snidely. Harry frowned. “We can do it stealthily, though it will probably require a little more time and work.”
“And what do we do once we’re inside? Where do we go?” Harry asked.
“I know my way inside,” Snape stated. “I am guessing that it will probably be in the safe in Bellatrix’s bedchambers, here.”
Deliberately testing his limits, Harry said lightly, “And naturally you would know where those are.”
The glare he got in return almost knocked Harry out of his chair. He wigged his toes, for he was afraid his blood may be freezing in his veins. “Er, uh, anyway, what’s with this cup?” Harry asked, trying to keep his voice from wavering under Snape’s glare.
Snape didn’t reply but continued glaring.
Harry placed his hands flat on the table. “Right, so, uh, sounds like a good plan, I think I’ll let you be and, er, just leave now...” He stood to go but was halted.
Slowly, Harry returned to his seat.
“First of all, the ‘being nice to each other’ deal is off, since you can hardly be trusted to hold up your end of the bargain,” Snape stated dryly.
Harry looked down. He deserved that.
“Secondly, we cannot move on the manor for another week.”
“What? Why not?” Harry asked in alarm. He was hoping to get this over with quickly. To off Voldemort then be back with his friends by Christmas.
“I need a week to brew an invisibility potion.”
“Why?” Harry asked. “I’ve got an invisibility cloak.”
“I had suspected as much," Snape said with a certain satisfaction. "But can you fight in a cloak? Can you run, can you apparate? Can you crawl through a tight space? All of that without slipping and revealing your presence?” Snape demanded harshly, seeming annoyed.
Harry frowned. “Why do I need to be invisible anyway? It is for me, right?”
“So many questions. Can you be any more irritating?” he snapped. Harry stayed quiet as Snape rubbed his forehead with a large hand. He composed himself and then replied. “You must be invisible because if they know you are acting with me, they will double the effort to find me. Right now, they do not have the resources to spare on revenge for traitors but if it means Harry Potter...” he trailed off in disgust.
“So you’re doing this to protect yourself, not me?” Harry asked for clarification, then winced at the fact he was asking yet another question.
“Would you expect differently?” he asked with a sneer.
Harry shrugged. Not really, he thought. Perhaps he had hoped differently. “So a week, then. So, er, do you need any help with the potion?” Harry asked, a gesture of good-will after causing Snape such a pain.
Snape studied him as if trying to discern whether or not he was being serious. Harry tried to look innocent. “From what I recall, you are hopeless at potions.”
“Who knows, maybe dropping out of school improved my skills,” Harry muttered.
“Hopeless,” Snape repeated.
Harry shrugged. “It’d help if you weren’t always hovering over me, waiting for me to mess up,” Harry said resentfully.
“And if you helped, what would I be doing?”
“The same,” Harry admitted. “Fine, I won’t help. Why didn’t you just say you didn’t want my help?” Harry asked irritably.
Snape didn’t reply for a few moments. “You may help, if you wish. We will start it tonight. Keep yourself occupied until then.”
“How?” Harry asked. “There’’s nothing to do here.”
“There is a library,” Snape said, gesturing to a closed door. “There. Enrich your mind.”
Being difficult, Harry responded, “You never gave me permission to go in that room.”
Snape gave him a flat stare. “I allow you to go in that room.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, hopping up. “I am allowed to go now, right?” he said in his best obedient voice, hoping to get Snape to tire of his always asking permission.
Harry didn’t stay for more conversation. He headed for the door and then for the library, settling down with a book about Dark magic. Reading up on the enemy, he told himself.
Just as Harry was about to be sick from looking at pictures of gruesome ways to kill people, Nimby appeared.
“Mr. Harry want lunch?”
“Uh...” Harry trailed off, stomach churning. “Not unless it’s soup.”
“Anything Mr. Harry wants, Nimby can make,” the elf squeaked.
“Really?” Harry asked, brightening at the possibilities. Unfortunately, at the mere thought of a rich chocolate cake, Harry fought down a gag. “Soup would be great, thanks Nimby.”
Nimby bowed and disappeared as Harry closed the book without glancing at the diagram of someone with his skin turned inside out. Snape would be at lunch, Harry supposed. He’d have to talk to him again. Why was it so awkward with them? Was it because Harry had glimpsed that memory in the pensieve? Or perhaps because the hatred between them was tangible, electrifying the air? It made things very uncomfortable. Yet the thought of becoming familiar, comfortable, with Snape made him equally so.
It was not long before Nimby arrived to tell him that lunch was ready. Harry followed to him to the table, shaking his head at the strange and glorious elven magic that allowed him to prepare soup in minutes. That was assuming that the soup was not tinned but, based on Nimby’s track record, he was pretty sure he had whipped up his own. He took a seat just as Snape came in.
Snape slowed upon seeing Harry there. What did he expect? Harry to disappear? Maybe he hoped I would, Harry thought bitterly. Maybe he hoped this was some sort of nightmare. Harry hoped the same thing. Snape sat at the head of the table and Nimby served them both.
Harry slurped at his soup, waiting to see if Snape would attempt conversation. He should’ve known he wouldn’t. Though gaining familiarity with Snape was abhorrent in Harry’s mind, he figured he would prefer it over this horrible awkward silence.
“So, uh, how’ve you been?” Harry asked.
Snape looked at him like he had three heads. “How do you think?” he snapped.
Harry shrugged. “Sure you’ve been on the run but at least you don’t have to teach.”
“Is that a good thing?” Snape asked.
“I thought you hated kids,” Harry stated warily.
“Not all of them. Only certain ones.”
Harry took the hint and frowned. Silence reigned for a few more minutes before Harry could stand it no longer. “Oh, come on, why do you hate me so much?”
Snape eyed Harry. “Are you truly that oblivious that you cannot see it?”
“See what?” Harry asked. “I mean, I know you hated my dad-”
“He hated me.”
“-but does that really mean you should hate me too? I’m not him.”
“You are as good as,” Snape stated. “That is not the only reason, of course.”
“Then what?” Harry prompted. “Honesty is the best policy.”
The cliche earned him a nice glare. “You are an insufferable, arrogant, self-righteous, talentless child who will surely manage to screw up our one chance of defeating the Dark Lord,” Snape said with a venom. “And you are the Gryffindor son of Potter. Is that reason enough?”
Harry tilted his head. For some reason, he found that the insults didn’t actually get to him. Maybe it was because he knew that Snape was just bitter. “I won’t screw up,” Harry protested simply, firmly.
“No, really,” Harry said, unsure of where this sudden conviction was coming from. The words spilled out of him almost of their own accord. “You’re here to help. You won’t let me screw up.”
Both Harry and Snape sat in silent shock for a moment. Where had that come from?
Snape opened his mouth to say something when he suddenly doubled over, hand clawing at the tight sleeve on his left forearm. The buttons gave way, exposing the curling, writhing form of the Dark Mark in thick black lines on his skin. Snape hissed in pain.
Harry sat in shock, unsure of what to do. Was Snape being called? Why didn’t he go rather than endure this pain? He looked to be in agony but fought it well, merely gritting his teeth and clutching the arms of the chair. Harry felt a stab of sympathy.
“In my case...” Snape managed. “Small tin...”
Harry nodded, racing to the other room to retrieve the case that he had carried in. He unlatched it with fumbling hands and managed to remove a small silver tin of what looked to be cream. He hurried back and handed it to Snape.
Snape’s hands shook as he tried to untwist the cap. Another spike of pain seemed to shoot through his arm and he dropped the tin. Harry scooped it up off the floor and took off the cap. He looked at Snape, eyes closed, teeth gritted. Biting his lip to swallow the revulsion, the uncomfortableness, Harry stuck his finger into the tin. It must be numbing cream, he figured, feeling his finger tingle.
Somehow, the fact that he couldn’t feel his finger made his job easier. Harry spread the cream onto Snape’s Dark Mark and immediately, Snape’s dark eyes snapped open. He looked at Harry intensely, almost crazed before he closed his eyes again and tipped his head back.
He stayed that way for a few minutes and Harry began to wonder if he had passed out. If he had, that seemed like an okay way to recover so Harry left him be, capping the tin and setting it on the table in front of him. Even if he was still conscious, he probably wouldn’t want to talk to Harry, of all people. Therefore, Harry left, despite himself feeling a little bad about abandoning Snape. He truly felt that he had done all he could for his former professor and was almost certain that Snape would not want him to have witnessed that moment of weakness anyway.
Harry retreated to his room, closing the door with a soft thud. Could Snape have been telling the truth? Was Snape really just as much a victim in all of this as Harry was? Harry slid to the floor. He couldn’t, wouldn’t rethink his opinion of Snape. Snape was a traitor, an evil git who was responsible for killing Dumbledore. Wasn’t he?