FIC: Cloistered, Chapter Seven
Title: Cloistered Author: sioban_parker Translation: from the original French by joanwilder Beta reader: jadzialove Pairing: Harry/Snape Rating: R Genre: AU/AR, Romance, Angst, Drama Warnings: some religious (Christian) content Summary: During fifth year, Harry is stunned to discover that in a previous life he was a novice in a monastery. And that Snape was there with him…
Harry felt the blood drain from his face. A vice of iron seemed to brutally squeeze his chest, making him almost suffocate with dread. His first inclination was to tell Severus the truth, to ask for his forgiveness, to beg for his help against Lucius. But he firmly pushed away this wave of panic. He was proud of having spoken to the Count, he was happy for having followed his instincts. He wasn't going to take it all back, even to please Severus.
"I can't believe this," he answered intensely. "You're asking me to be quiet or to lie? To act as if everything's fine in the abbey? You believe Lucius has the right to use blackmail to get what he wants? You know what you are? A hypocrite! And you're a monk; you've taken an oath to live your life at a higher standard than other men, for the glory of God. You're no better than the Prior. Your duplicity makes me sick!"
Severus reeled in shock from his words. His face became an ugly brick red, so great was his anger and vexation. He made an abrupt gesture that made Harry fold in on himself, fearing a slap.
"Don't be afraid, I'll not strike you," Severus hissed, "even though I'd dearly love to do it. I am not a violent man." He ran a hand through his black hair—a gesture that betrayed how lost he felt. Harry had hit the nail on the head. "You're right," Severus finally murmured. "I'm a hypocrite. I don't have the courage to live what I believe."
Harry was literally stunned by this admission he hadn't expected. "Master…."
"Listen to me. For once, let your confessor speak," Severus scoffed, not without bitterness. "It's true, I've shown myself as deceitful. I don't honor my monastic commitment. I'm a vile sinner, and I admit it."
He glanced at Harry, then murmured even lower, "And you don't know how much…. Anyway, I don't do evil for the sake of evil, as Lucius does. You haven't the slightest trust in me, and I've done nothing to deserve it—this is what you believe, isn't it?
"I won't disagree with you on that notion. But I implore you to do what I've told you on this matter: for your own good, you must forget what happened."
Harry, shaken in spite of himself, said bitterly, "For my own good, or because of your schemes with Lucius? In any case, it's too late. I've told Count Cornelius everything, and I'm hopeful he'll select a different Abbott."
Unable to bear Severus' intense expression, Harry turned away. As he started back to the refectory, Severus stopped him again. Harry was seized roughly by the arm. The harsh voice sounded just at his ear.
"One more thing, you presumptuous idiot. From now on, do not allow yourself to be caught alone with Lucius, for any reason at all. Even if he orders you to do so. Keep close to your friends, and avoid being alone. Obey this at least!"
Severus released him just as roughly and disappeared with a rustling of robes.
The conversation deeply troubled Harry. He held fast to the fact that he'd done well to follow his conscience, but he feared he'd done something impulsive that would now be turned against him. He followed Severus' advice (or order) that he avoid being alone. Despite that, his anxiety once again disturbed his sleep. He awoke with a start, sweating and trembling, biting his hand to hold back his cries of terror. This couldn't go on.
When the sun came up, Harry resigned himself to a trip to the infirmary. He was reluctant to bother Brother Remus, but he desperately needed a cure for his agitated nights.
In the main room, Neville, who was grinding herbs in a mortar, gave him a big smile. "Do you feel better today?"
"Yes, thanks. I'm sorry I woke everyone. I didn't do it on purpose."
"I know that."
Harry envied Neville. As an adolescent, he'd been excessively shy, all thumbs when it came to manual labor. Severus had shaken him soundly at the time. Then Brother Remus had taken him under his wing, and Neville had blossomed incredibly, preparing remedies and caring for the medicinal plants. From there on out, he was sure of himself, happy to have found his place in the world.
This was a sentiment that Harry realized was foreign to himself.
Remus came in from the garden where he was harvesting his plants. "Hello, Harry." He examined the novice with a friendly yet piercing gaze, sizing him up. "Everything all right?"
Remus knew better than anyone the difficulties that Harry faced each day; he was the boy's only confidant. Still, even Remus was far from knowing all there was to know about him. Harry carefully kept his secrets locked deep in his heart, especially the complicated and frightening thoughts that Severus evoked in him….
"I'm fine," the young man reassured him. "Just a bit tired."
Remus leant closer to study his face. "You don't look well. Still having nightmares?"
"No," Harry replied.
"Yes," Neville contradicted him.
Harry flashed him a disapproving look.
"Come in so I can examine you," Remus said, his lips pursed. "Neville will prepare the passion flower while he waits for us."
Half-irritated, half-resigned, Harry followed Remus into the infirmary dormitory. All the beds were empty. Remus gestured for Harry to sit on one of them, then took his wrist to check his pulse.
"Too rapid," he said right away. "Are you short of breath? Backache?"
"No, you always ask me the same things, Brother Remus. What are you looking for?"
"I wonder if you have a heart problem. That would explain some of your problems."
Harry smiled humorlessly. "My heart is fine. The muscle part, at least."
"Even if you actually had trouble with it, you wouldn't know it," Remus replied, seeming to not pick up the hint. "A heart that doesn't function correctly isn't just the privilege of the aged."
"In that regard, how's Albus?"
"He's resting. Don't change the subject."
Remus listened to his breathing, his ear pressed to Harry's back, looked at the whites of his eyes, palpating his throat and chest. At last, he sat next to him.
"No detectable signs, as usual."
"I'm not sick, Remus. I'm simply having nightmares…."
"I'm still convinced that your excessive nervousness is masking physical problems. But perhaps I have too much imagination."
Harry smiled at him warmly. "We all know how seriously you take your work. You don't want your flock to become sick. Still, you can't prevent everything, and sickness is a part of life."
"You sound like Albus, my boy. But there's a difference between those whose time has come and those who still have years ahead of them, if they're watched over properly. I've always found it alarming when a well-fed boy of your age has so little endurance and such feverishness."
"It's the way that I am—that's all," Harry retorted. "Didn't Father Albus also say that one has to accept one's weaknesses in order to make the most of them?"
"That saying tidies it all up for you, doesn't it? Tell me about your nightmares."
Harry made a vague gesture. "I don't remember much. I only know I'm surrounded by darkness, and that I'm terrified. I can sense an enemy presence. I want to run away, but I can't. Is it important?"
"Yes, it is. In general, we dream about what we dread, or we relive painful episodes of our lives. In your case, it's probably the latter."
Harry nodded. Remus knew about the murder of his parents. He'd listened sympathetically when Harry had confided in him. "So, these nightmares will never go away?" Harry asked in a small voice.
"I think they will. They'll become less frequent, and will end by disappearing. But in the meantime, you have to be at peace with yourself; you have to be sufficiently satisfied with your existence in order to forget the past, little by little."
Harry remained silent. He was neither happy nor satisfied with his life as it was; Remus knew that.
"You must accept your fate and make the most of it."
"You sound like Brother Severus."
"The Novice Master is a wise man."
"He thinks I'm a bad monk."
"Tell him you wouldn't make a good peasant either."
Harry laughed in spite of himself, while Remus scrutinized him again. "You said you have a heart problem?"
"I didn't say that."
"Yes, you did, when you said that only the muscle was fine. Don't think I didn't get the message, but it's my right to steer the conversation as I like. Are you sneaking out of the cloister to meet this girl?"
"I hope not. It's an act of unusual stupidity."
Remus stood, and Harry followed suit.
"Are you going to give me a potion?"
They returned to the herbalist's room, where they came face to face with Lucius.
Harry was startled, then instinctively took a step backward. Lucius was startled as well. He moved away from the table. Remus went to stand near him.
"Excuse me, Prior." He pushed him firmly aside to take the phial of passion flower that Neville had prepared.
Lucius gave him a superior look. "I took cold," he said in a syrupy tone. "My throat is killing me, Brother Remus. Would you have one of your miracle cures for that?"
"Only our Lord can do miracles," Remus replied. "I can only treat using more ordinary remedies. Sore throat, you say? In that case, you should not talk, or give sermons."
Remus handed him a phial and a wooden spoon. Lucius took a dose and then left the room.
In his presence, Harry had felt his heart begin to beat faster and his hands become damp. Fortunately, Remus wasn't examining him just then, or he would've come to an alarming conclusion.
"I'm sure he stopped by to see how Albus is."
"How is he really doing?"
Remus' silence lengthened long enough for Harry to have time to feel his blood freeze, vein by vein. My God, no….
"He's sleeping," the herbalist finally said.
Harry gave him an incredulous look.
"But I don't know if he'll wake up again. I know you're upset, Harry. Albus is old and tired. He wants to go peacefully, without even knowing it. I assure you it's a good way to die. When you're old enough to think about such things, you'll know how fortunate our dear Albus was."
Harry looked at him as if he'd lost his mind. "How fortunate!? He could live years longer. He still has so much to do, monks to counsel, books to read, even silly things to dream about. How can you say it's all right not to know if he's going to die? Me, I think we have to know—make the best of his last moments, make his mind work while it still can." He started to shake, and had to take hold of the table. Remus took him by the arm.
"I know, you're too sensitive. Even the most natural things in life are complicated for you. Breathe, my child. Drink this."
Harry forced himself to hold back his tears and tried to push the phial of passion flower away. "I hate this potion! I'm asleep on my feet for hours after I take it."
"You're too anxious. Being calm won't hurt you."
What could he say to that? Harry ended by reluctantly obeying, so as to not vex Remus. He didn't complain about the bitter taste. Neville had probably allowed it to boil. But how important was this when compared to Albus' impending death?
Harry rejoined his friends to do his portion of manual labor. Despite the ripples of the past several days, the abbey had to continue on as if nothing had happened. It was at once both strange and comforting. Brother Severus glanced at him briefly. He didn't ask Harry if he felt able to work after his restless night. But he assigned him to the work of tying the hay bundles, a task much less physical than reaping.
At the end of the afternoon, Harry started to feel drowsy, brought on by Remus' calming draught. He was happy that the day was ending; he had trouble keeping his eyes open during prayers.
He curled up on his cot and was asleep the moment his head touched the mattress. He wasn't aware when he began to cry out, as he struggled and scratched at his face.
He wasn't aware, either, when the others rushed to his bedside, panic-stricken, and tried to awaken him. A few of them, terrified, held on to each other as they shivered.
Harry wasn’t aware when Severus seized him by the shoulders, calling to him by his Christian name in an anguished voice.
Nothing seemed to be able to pull him from this fit of madness.
Harry moaned as he slowly emerged from the darkness. Pain spread through his head, his chest, and over every inch of his skin. With a huge concerted effort, he managed to open his eyes, even though the daylight increased his discomfort. He was lying on a bed, wrapped up in a grayish sheet. There were other empty beds around him, and he realized he was in the infirmary dormitory.
He tried to gather his thoughts, but he couldn't remember a thing, other than having fallen asleep on his novice's pallet. He started to panic when he realized that he was fixed to the bed—arms and legs tied down with ropes.
All of a sudden, his childhood terrors resurfaced. His uncle had tied him up too many times for Harry to be able to bear this treatment.
"Let me up!" he screamed.
He began to twist and struggle violently. The tight ropes cut into his flesh.
"Stop fighting!" Remus' voice commanded. The herbalist brother came to bend over him, looking pale and worried. Even this friendly presence didn't calm Harry, still struggling frantically.
"Untie me! Untie me!"
Remus firmly placed his hands on Harry's shoulders to encourage him to stay calm, but it wasn't enough. Harry wasn't yet entirely lucid—he was blinded by panic. He almost hurt Remus as he tried to strike out.
"I was right to want him tied down. You see how dangerous he is."
Lucius walked to stand at the foot of the bed, looking down haughtily at Harry.
Remus, obviously upset, replied, "It's being restrained that's agitating him. Give me a knife!"
"So you can free this demon? Certainly not."
Lucius seemed alarmed, as if what Remus wanted to do shocked him to the core.
Remus, trying to diffuse the situation, grumbled, "Let's not exaggerate things."
"You think I'm exaggerating? He had a fit of madness as if he were possessed. His friends are terrified. The abbey, for which I'm responsible, is in an uproar! Your affection for him is blinding you, Brother Remus."
On hearing the Prior, Harry had stopped struggling. He didn't understand. What fit of madness? What had happened?
Lucius turned majestically on heel and left. Harry looked at Remus, anguish in his eyes.
"Is it true? I had a mad fit?"
Remus consoled him, smoothing his forehead with his hand. "I wasn't there, so I can't say. From what I was told, you were rather violent. It was more than just a nightmare. You can talk to the other novices about it in a while, all right? Take a bit of soup."
Remus brought a bowl to his lips as he helped to tip his head up. Harry obediently drank it down. Not long after, he felt himself drifting off to sleep; Remus had drugged the soup. Harry didn't even have enough energy to reproach him for it. His last thought was that Remus hadn't untied the ropes.