Red

by Bernice

I ran out of comic books and magazines and newspapers at work today, so I wrote this after lunch. Another 15 minute, unbetaed fic. Actually, it only took about five minutes, but I spent some time scratching myself to make it go more slowly. I also went and got a drink and had a chat to Chatty D on the other side of the floor.



Snape looks out over a field of poppies, the flowers bright and cheerful, splatters of blood that shiver and dance, and he checks with a practiced touch all the wards that keep the muggle please-men out.

Of course, he knows that they are not really called please-men, but when he tells Harry that "The please-men called on the telling bone again today, talking about how to use electrickery and asking about our herb garden," it does make Harry smile.

Or at, least, Snape thinks it does. It's hard to tell from Harry's dreamy expression exactly what he's thinking, but Snape believes he's happy.

Snape's sacrificed a lot to keep Harry happy. His job, his freedom – he can't leave this cottage now as he would be detected as soon as he stepped outside. As well as his own plans and schemes and ambitions. Not that they were a big loss. He'd never been very successful with his goals. Or maybe he was too successful, but like wishing on a djin, all those wishes became twisted and wrong. He'd sold his soul to the devil to fulfil childhood ambitions and regretted it every moment after. He'd seen the much wished for downfall of his enemies and felt no elation, he'd wanted respect but gained only fear, he'd wanted the power of knowledge and found it lead to nothing but a prison made of the dependence of others, and he'd wanted someone to love and ended up here.

It was his freedom he missed most of all, though. He'd never really gone anywhere before. When he could travel freely, he'd never really wanted to. There'd never been anywhere that he particularly wanted to go. But now that he couldn't leave, he keenly felt the walls closing in with unchanging blandness, day after day. If not for Dobby, who fully understood why Snape and Harry had to hide away, they'd starve for food and information.

Poppy, named for the flowers that surrounded the cottage, had raised seven kinds of hell when Snape had told her of his plans, and called the aurors when he and Harry had slipped away together in the night. He was disappointed. He'd really thought she would have understood the necessity of his actions. How she could stand to listen to the noises Harry had made, Snape had no idea.

He took a bunch of the flower's heads and scraped the resin into his cauldron. He could quickly brew the potion from them, no need to dry or power it, no need to cook it in little spoons as the muggles did, he could brew it up clean and pure, and completely addictive. A few hours, maybe even a few day's worth of bliss from every cheerful bunch of flowers.

A moment of pure happiness that nothing else could equal. Not love, not sex, not treacle pudding – when all of those things had failed to bring a smile to Harry's face, Snape had turned to his field of poppies.

He looked at the young man on his bed, who stared, unseeing, at the ceiling, a small smile playing around his lips. Harry would never really see anything again. When Voldemort had burned through him, one last act of malicious vengeance, it had left very little behind. A young man barely out of boyhood, lived fast, died young, and left what was little more than a good-looking corpse. That's what one of the muggle-born children had said, as they'd stood at the bottom of Harry's hospital bed and made sad faces, barely stopping to pay the respects that were expected of them before they'd rushed out to celebrate their freedom from the Dark Lord.

Harry lay unmoving, unseeing, unfeeling of anything but burnt out nerves and burnt out bones, with a mind untouched and pure, trapped forever in useless flesh.

Tapping the eyedropper he used to administer the potion, Snape stood over Harry's body and watched the colour changes in Harry's skin that would signal withdrawal. This was Snape's life, now. Growing the flowers, making the potion, measuring the doses, hiding from those who said it was evil and would separate them if they could, leaving Harry to go through the agony of withdrawal so he could go back into a nightmare of burning nerves and a dying body, sending Snape to Azkaban or even a muggle prison for the illegal potion he'd created. He went no where, did nothing else, he just watched and made sure that Harry was dreaming happy dreams.

What did it matter if Harry as an addict? What did it matter if he was hooked on a potion that could kill him if not administered very carefully? What did it matter? As long as Snape was here to do it, Harry would be blissfully happy until death did them part, as long as they were surrounded by a field of poppies.

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