Chapter XI - Magical Empathy


"My boys. Allow me to say, first of all, that I have called you here to apologise."

Snape and Harry exchanged suspicious looks, but said nothing.

"I know I shouldn't have laughed like that in front of you. Forgive me. Now I suppose you must have understood why I couldn't be the one to tell you the meaning of your deed: you wouldn't have taken me seriously."

"Albus, what are you up now? Spit it out, I'm sick and tired of your meandering around."

"Meandering around? Slithering? Curious, Severus. I liked the expression."


"All right, calm down! What I need to tell you is... well... you must have noticed already... although you two are very... distracted people... that... there is a... magical empathy between the two of you."

"A magical empathy?" Harry echoed, intrigued.

"Headmaster, I don't think it's convenient to address this subject right now," said Snape, alarmed.

"Severus, you have nothing to fear. I will not scold you for not having told me..."

Snape paled. Harry stared from one to the other, not understanding a thing.

"I couldn't help noticing what has been happening between you."

Harry blushed. Where were they going with that conversation? Could it be that only now the Headmaster would question them about the kiss? Why only now? Would that cause them problems?

The Headmaster proceeded. "There is a very strong magical empathy between you. If it weren't that strong, you wouldn't have been able to open the door to Slytherin's Altar. Harry, by your expression I take it that you don't know what I'm talking about. It's a special affinity formed between certain wizards, regardless of sex or age. It is very rare, and you two possess it. Individually, you are powerful wizards, but together you are even more powerful. And it's not merely a summing of strengths; it's an exponential process. Your power will grow vertiginously if you work together. In a war like the one we are engaged in, and considering the role each of you plays in it, we cannot afford to waste this potential. When you have perfected your joint magic, you will be able, for example, to move the Grail. You'll need to practice this joint magic. That's why I am even gladder to see you two getting along now."

Snape got up and paced the Headmaster's office in circles.

"You know the risks we would be taking, don't you?"

"I trust you both."

"It's not a matter of trust, Albus! You know very well how sometimes these processes get out of control! That an empathy of this nature has often led one of its components - or both - to insanity!"

Harry didn't like the sound of it at all.

"True," agreed Dumbledore. "But we won't take any unnecessary risks. We will follow a work schedule, and I will monitor you very closely."

Snape heaved a deep sigh.

Harry folded his arms. "Brilliant! You have already decided my future, then? Don't I have a voice in this?"

"But, Harry, you are here precisely to express your opinion!" answered the Headmaster, in a resentful tone.

"Oh, sure. Only problem here is that you keep talking in this cryptic language. If only you'd talk in Parseltongue, then I would understand."

"Severus is worried because, when there's a magical empathy between two wizards and they begin to put it in practice, its impact on the wizards' minds is very intense. The stronger wizard of the pair might dominate the mind of the weaker one, and cause it serious damage. That's why a good level of trust was necessary between you."

"Was necessary? You mean... Are you saying that our... closeness... has always been part of your plans?" asked Harry, clenching his fists.

"Harry, please! You don't really think I am that omnipotent, do you?"

Snape, still standing, rested his hand over Harry's shoulder, creating shining magical sparks, under Dumbledore's fascinated look.

"You are lucky that not everybody sees these magical discharges you emit; it would be too embarrassing... Only the wizards with a certain degree of clairvoyance can see them," noted Dumbledore. "It's like the aura, Harry. Very few wizards can see it. Can you see the discharges?"

"Headmaster, you're only trying to dodge the issue," snapped Harry. "We are only puppets in your hands. The truth is, our opinion doesn't matter. Whether we wish it or not, we'll have to do what you say."

The old wizard lowered his eyes, and all the weight of his age seemed to fall on his shoulders and reflect in his expression.

"One day you will understand, Harry. It's a shame that, when this day comes, it might be too late for me to regain your affection."


"He only said that to make me feel guilty, so that he could manipulate me. Didn't he?" Harry asked.

It was the first Wednesday night since the conversation with Dumbledore. Harry and Snape were in Snape's office, sitting on the sofa near the fireplace, planning their Magical Empathy practice.

"He has many layers. In one of them, he holds deep affection for you; this is unquestionable. But it's always hard to tell which layer we are dealing with."

"Er, it's not only with him that I have this kind of problem..."

"Like I told you once, the mind is a complex and many-layered thing - or at least, most minds are," added Snape.

"Oh, I remember that one. I was talking to another layer of yours, then."

Snape flashed him an ironic grin. "Are you sure of that, Mr Potter?"

"Argh." After a brief silence, Harry blurted out, "Speaking of layers, why haven't you ever told me about that damn Magical Empathy?"

"Why should I have?"

"Sev, please."

Snape pulled back the hair that fell over his eyes. "I didn't know what to do with it. I still don't, but now Albus has made the decision for us."

"What do you mean, 'what to do with *it*'? You're also a manipulative bastard, just like Dumbledore, aren't you? I want you to tell me... to explain to me... how that Magical Empathy stuff works. The people who have it... do they feel the same way I feel about you?"

"And how that would be?"

Sliding on the sofa, Harry moved closer to the teacher. Snape's breathing grew faster, his heart started beating frenetically. He stared into green eyes that cast fiery gleams. Harry leaned to kiss him, and the teacher was determined to push him away at once. However... quite conversely... he found himself watching the approach in slow motion and, at last, feeling the soft, warm brush of the boy's lips. His own thin lips parted and soon their tongues met - at first rather shy and clumsy, then more and more daring. Magic waves flowed from one to the other, creating scintillating sparks. As the kiss grew deeper, Harry looked for a more comfortable position. He ended up straddling Snape's lap. With a throaty moan, Snape held the boy's head firmly with one hand while the other grabbed his hips, pulling him closer. Harry sucked his tongue and tried to get as much contact between their bodies as possible. Feeling the lust possessing the boy, Snape felt himself growing harder too, and their bodies started acting by their own will, intertwining more and more.

When there seemed to be no chance of ever regaining control, Snape pulled his lips away from Harry's and held him by the shoulders, to stop him. Breathless, trembling, he lowered his head for a moment. Then, gathering all his strength, he pushed the boy harshly aside. "We can't do that."

"Oh, Merlin."

"We can't. This cannot continue. We need to have a serious talk."

"Ah! Now you will explain the birds and bees to me?"

"Harry, please. This is not a joke."

Their eyes met, and Snape noticed the stunning lust reflected in those green eyes. The urge to grab Harry, to kiss him again, was almost irresistible.

Almost. He took a deep breath.

"There is a potion, you know... It's called Castus. A horrible concoction. It's a libido suppresser potion, with collateral effects that are almost as terrible as a Dementor's kiss."

Harry shuddered. "Do you take that stuff?"

"No. Not yet," corrected Snape. "Let's have some tea."

Snape got up, filled the kettle up with water and put it on the stove, the Muggle way. He enjoyed the ritual of making tea. But at the moment his main concern was putting some distance between him and the boy. He needed to regain his composure.

In silence, he waited for the water to reach the perfect temperature, took the kettle off the fire, picked up the teapot and focused all his attention on preparing the tea. Then he laid the teapot on the coffee table between the sofa and the fireplace. Returning to the kitchen area, he fetched a plate of Danish biscuits and the sugar bowl. Finally, he sat on the armchair which was perpendicular to the sofa where Harry was sitting, and poured the tea.

"Harry, there is nothing mysterious about the Magical Empathy. It only foments, stimulates the magical union of the wizards involved. Naturally, this magical bonding is a highly complex operation, and affects both the minds and the bodies of the wizards. But it doesn't have, in itself, a sexual component."

"It *doesn't* have?" repeated Harry, in an interrogative tone.

"Precisely. It doesn't." Snape sipped his tea.

Harry stared at him, gaping. "You're saying that... it's not this empathy that makes...

"Definitely. It isn't."


"At the risk of being repetitive, I insist: alone, the Magical Empathy doesn't compel those who share it to have sex," declared Snape.

"Great, I'm feeling like a complete idiot now."

"Of course. You needed an excuse to be infatuated with your despicable Potions master, twice as ugly as a gargoyle," said Snape bitterly.

"That's not it! How can you be even more idiotic than myself?" Harry kneeled beside Snape's armchair and reached out to the teacher's face, caressing it softly with his knuckles. "Who told you that you're ugly?"

"Legilimens. Don't you remember?"

"But when? In the Occlumency lessons?" Harry held Snape's hand and closed his eyes, with a pained expression. "This was a *century* ago, all right? If you try to read my mind now, Severus, you'll see what I really... Please!"

Snape touched the boy's unruly hair. "Harry... This is not the talk I must have with you. Go back to the sofa and drink your tea; it's getting cold. Otherwise, I won't be able to say what I have to."

"I'm afraid I don't wanna hear these things you think you have to say to me."

"Do as I'm telling you, Harry."

With a sigh, Harry obeyed. He sat down, took the cup from the coffee table and a biscuit from the plate. Snape emptied his cup.

"I'll be totally honest with you: I think the wizarding society imposes too many barriers on sexuality. We live under a level of repression similar to the Muggles' and, in my opinion, for no good reason. In the wizarding world of my dreams, sex would be as free and natural as eating, sleeping or talking. The only requisite would be mutual consent. There would be neither gender nor age barriers. But we can't deny the reality in which we live. The barriers, however artificial they might have been in the beginning, are real, and they are now so strong that they have planted themselves into our hearts and minds, bodies and souls. We cannot break them in an irrational and imprudent way, because this would also be a violence against ourselves." Snape poured another cup of tea for himself and, staring fixedly at Harry, went on. "As Dumbledore has already told you, gender and age are irrelevant to the Magical Empathy. It's a very rare phenomenon. And it's here, between us. So strong. So powerful." The two of them gazed at each other for a long moment. "You are too young to tie yourself to someone. With the Magical Empathy, if we made love, we would never be the same."

"But... is it bad?" Harry asked. "Every time we touch each other is... so good!"

"It would be something irreversible and beyond our normal strengths. I repeat, you are too young for such an experience."

"And when will I be old enough?"

"Nobody can answer this question with certainty, Harry. It's not merely an issue of numbers. At 17, you will be considered of age; you will even be able to Apparate. But this is somewhat arbitrary, it doesn't mean that a wizard at that age has effectively attained the necessary maturity. There are many wizards that only learn to Apparate when they are much older. Or never! In the case of the Magical Empathy, the risks are even greater. You can't be too careful."

"If we didn't have this Magical Empathy, would you be willing to..."

"Have sexual relations with a student? Absolutely not. The Ministry of Magic rules are very clear and forbid any kind of intimate relationship between a professor and a student."

"You know... I don't see anything wrong in what I feel."

Snape closed his eyes, savouring the boy's words. It would be so easy to surrender. It would be so easy to think that there was nothing wrong in it! "You don't see. Neither do I. But society as a whole does."

"And what do I owe society? What kind of life has it granted me so far?"

"You are right, you don't owe anything to anyone. But if you, rebellious and unruly boy, were to rise against *these* rules... society would retaliate with unprecedented violence. We would be totally marginalised. I would lose my job. I would be sent to Azkaban, indubitably. And if that isn't enough... how would *you* feel, seeing me to be stoned in a public square? Seeing me humiliated?"

Harry shuddered visibly.

Snape sipped his tea, and added, "And have you ever thought about how I would feel being in such a humiliating position in front of you?"

"I understand. It's horrible, I know. I understand what you are saying perfectly."

"Do you remember the day you violated the Pensieve that contained my memories? You don't know how I felt, you have no idea. Honestly, I think my worst memory is not the humiliation they made me suffer when I was 15, but that of having you watching it all."

"Severus!" Once again, Harry kneeled beside Snape's armchair and held the older wizard's hand between his. "I'm sorry. After all this time, I've never apologised. Well, in a way, I think it was all for the best. That showed me my father wasn't a saint like people had told me. And that you... were right in many of the things you said about him. But, anyway, I should have apologised for having betrayed your trust."

"I didn't trust you. I was incautious, leaving the Pensieve with you. What I did was... as you called me once... pathetic."

"Oh, Merlin. It seems that I'll have to answer for all my sins today..."

"You..." That was exasperating. There was something in the boy that disarmed him completely. Once again, he had lost control of the conversation. "Forget it. What it matters is that you have understood my motives, haven't you?"

"I have. I understand very well. But I won't renounce you! It doesn't make sense! The only way you can make me give you up is to say you don't want me."

"If you have really understood what I told you, why are you making things so difficult? What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to give me some prospect of resolution for this situation!"

"I told you, while you are my student, there's no prospect of resolution at all."

"Then this is a dead end, is that what you're saying? I can't leave Hogwarts. Hogwarts is my only hope of a future in the wizarding world, and if there's something that I don't want, it's to go back to the Muggle world. Your situation is even worse. Hogwarts is your life. Then... you will say that I am a foolish Gryffindor, and that this is just romantic gibberish, but I... I will wait for you. It's only one year and some months before I finish Hogwarts."

"Please spare me your nonsense. This is a complete absurdity. You are 16. Find yourself a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, and..."

"Girlfriend... Boyfriend... I hate those words. They are so ridiculous. You would never be a boyfriend, would you? Of course not. You know something? I don't want a girlfriend, or a boyfriend. I think the truth is I've never wanted any of it."

"You are a very weird boy, Harry Potter."

"I know. After all, I am The Boy Who Lived, aren't I?"


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