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[personal profile] carmilla

How could he think I wouldn't know? How could he possibly? When he used to say I knew him better than he knew himself, how could he even imagine that I couldn't tell the minute he let that thing inside him? I could see it in the way he moved, the way he talked. I could practically smell it on him.

I knew something was wrong when the letters dried up. He had been writing to me from every new place he visited, after every fresh triumph, each new monster that he vanquished. And there were triumphs, no matter what the rumours might have said. I felt it, in those letters, felt the growing confidance, felt those self-doubts slipping away. I was watching him grow into his power, begin to realise that he could be strong, that words and books were not his only weapons, and it was beautiful. I still have those letters, locked in a chest in my private study. Shameful. Disgustingly sentimental. Time moves on, as the last few weeks have surely proved well enough. But I can't quite bear to destroy them, not yet. It would feel like I was destroying the only bit of the real him that's left.

And then, suddenly, nothing. For six weeks, nothing. I tried writing to him, scrying for him, using location charms, everything I could think of. Nothing. It was like he had vanished off the face of the earth. And then, just when I was thinking of leaving to look for him first hand, I got a letter. It was short, and terse, and very unlike him. But it was from him nonetheless. He said that he had had a bad encounter with some vampires, had had to place protections on himself, and was still in hiding. But he did tell me not to worry, and that he hoped he would soon be back in England. I thought that was that. When I saw him again, I knew I was wrong.

He had lost weight, and his hands shook ever so slightly as he lifted down his bags from the rack of the Knight Bus. When he spoke to me, I noticed his old stutter was beginning to reassert itself. And when I took him in my arms, he tensed more than he ever had before, even more than that first time I touched him, when he still didn't know who he was or what he wanted. I knew, knew then, that it was over, however hard I tried to convince myself otherwise.

We went back to my quarters at the school. Discretely, of course. We were always discrete, always so damned careful. After all, we wouldn't want complaints from the parents that two of the Hogwarts faculty were giving the children funny ideas, now would we? Not that we had much to be discrete over, not that time or any time after. He was cold to my touch all of a sudden, cold and stiff and silent. I drew back from him, wanting an explanation, any kind of explanation at all. He just looked at me and said, "Severus, I don't think I can do this." That was all. No reason, no confession of dark fears brought on by human contact, no sudden recall of whatever dreadful thing had done this to him. No tears. Just a simple statement. I offered to talk. He didn't want that. I offered to wait however long it took until he could talk to me, touch me, again. He didn't want that either. I said that I loved him. And just then, I saw a flash of some emotion in his eyes. Like pain. Like fear. Not like anything I wanted to see. And then, something in him went out, and he turned away from me. Aside from the occasional, awkward meeting in the Hogwarts library or grounds, that was the last time I saw him until term started. And all through that year, our eyes met briefly in corridors, then snapped away again, or we exchanged a few clich├ęd pleasantries in the staff room, but that was all. He didn't want to talk to me. It seemed to hurt him to try. So I stayed out of his way. But I watched him, and my heart broke again and again.

I heard many rumours about what had happened to affect this change in him. I had a few ideas myself, some of them plausable, some of them completely insane. And I had some equally insane ideas about what I would like to do to whoever or whatever had done this to him. To take a life that was so full of promise, a mind so brilliant and well-honed, and a spirit that was just beginning to grow into confidance and happiness; to take all of that, just reaching its peak, and snuff it out, and leave behind something broken and hurting - how could any creature do that? I knew of only one that could, but I never, even in the wildest of my suspicions, thought it was him.

Not until I met him the day he came back from London, wearing a ridiculuous turban and a haunted, hunted look. I knew that look. I had worn it myself for too long to forget it. Even in the greatest, most savage triumphs, that look remained at the back of the eyes, just as the fear lingered in the back of the mind. Fear of Him. The Master. The Inescapeable. And I knew, as soon as I saw, that there was no escape for him, and I didn't know whether to roar in fury or burst into tears. In the end, I did neither. But I watched him twice as carefully as before, and with twice as heavy a heart. I might have known, but I still needed proof.

I knew what he wanted, of course. He would never have risked such close involvement for any lesser prise. As soon as Dumbledore asked me to assist in guarding the Stone, I realised why he had come so close, close enough for me to see him. I knew that such a thing could restore him, whatever had happened to rob him of his powers. As I was making my protection, I felt how futile it was. With two such brilliant minds pitted against us, there was nothing any of us, except perhaps Dumbledore, could do that would do more than delay the inevitable. That's why I needed to keep a watch on him myself, to make sure he never got close, until I found a way to expose him.

Hallowe'en was my first major chance, but that blasted dog of Hagrid's stopped me from raising the alarm. And when he disappeared at night and I couldn't trace him, I knew I had to act.

Despite everything, asking him to meet me in private brought back memories I would rather forget. And when he came, full of wide-eyed innocence, stuttering and trembling and feigning confusion and fear, feigning and pretending the way he had the last two horrible years, something inside of me broke.

I pinned him up against the tree, hands intwined in his robes, face inches away from his. I told him I knew exactly what he was up to. I told him to decide where his loyalties lay. I told him that as if he actually had a choice, blasted fool that I am. And he was there, under my hands, staring me in the face, and looking..... so like I remembered. I broke away from him with a snarled warning, while I still had some vestiges of control, and came back here.

How dare he? How dare he? How dare he wear that sweet, shy face, those big, frightened eyes, as if nothing had changed? As if he were still himself? How can he talk in that same gentle voice, carry that same tremor of frightened self-doubt? How can he still have all those little traits that made me love him so much to begin with? The razor-sharp mind, the pale skin that begged to be touched, the pale eyes that begged to be loved, how can they still be his? How can the touch of him, the feel of his breath on my skin, the closeness of his trembling body, still take me back with a rush of memories to every time we made love, every time I kissed him and held him and rejoyced that he was mine? How could he try to fool me into thinking it was him, to falling all over again? How could he do this to me?

How am I supposed to go on like this?
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