Written as a christmas gift.
Warnings: hints of slash, and dammit, it's FLUFFY.
Summary: Saved from his untimely demise by a mythical beast, Severus rests in the hospital, contemplating whether or not his life still has any value, when an unexpected visit reminds him that life is full of surprises.
Every Day is a Beautiful Day
Things that linger past their time: ghosts, stale cigarettes in the dash, the scent of cheap perfume, trousers in need of mending, blue cheese, Severus Snape. The latter had learned as a boy that staring at the ceiling was the best possible time for making lists. He renewed that assertion in a silent compact with the ceiling of St. Mungo's. There was, in the estimation of his overused brain, not a single good reason for him to be alive. Unfortunately, he could also think of no convincingly good reasons to die. That left only one option: stare at the ceiling, making lists. Reasons to live: peace, quiet, a life in which he owed nothing to anyone. Reasons not to: boredom – which he rather thought counted several times. He mused on just how many, and tried to determine if it balanced the scales.
He was still musing about it when the door creaked open and heavy footsteps tried in vain to make their way across the ancient floorboards without making undue noise. It couldn't be a nurse – they were not so considerate. Likewise, it could not be Harry Potter – for more or less the same reason.
Severus rolled his head to the side to inform his unexpected visitor that he was quite awake, and there was no need for the fuss.
"Ah, hrm, did I wake you?" the ginger asked, rubbing the back of his neck and shifting his weight, even though it was clearly apparent that he hadn't.
"Weasley?" Severus quirked a brow. He called them all Weasley. In retrospect, this was perhaps confusing, considering just how many there were. He shuddered at the thought of the day grandchildren began popping out of the lot, and prayed at least a few of them were gay – to limit the potential for gingers taking over England first, and then the entire Wizarding World. Alright – the pain numbing potion must be numbing his brain as well, for such a bizarre line of thought to enter his mind, let alone amuse him so terribly. His face, of course, did not show it.
"I didn't mean to wake you," the burly redhead said, even as he pulled up a chair, which squeaked against the floor.
Severus knit his brow. Charlie winced.
"I should think you have far more important matters to attend to than confirming that I am vulnerable," Severus droned.
"Hey, come on, give me a break. It's been a rough day for everyone."
"My point, I think, is that you should be with your family," Severus said. Feeling too vulnerable on his back, he grit his teeth to try to at least lift his head a little. It didn't go well – though it might have, if Charlie didn't instantly jump to help him adjust an extra pillow under his head. The position was better, but he would have preferred to manage it on his own.
"Oh, yeah. Mum's cried herself to sleep at last. I think the rest of us need a bit of a break from all the crying," Charlie admitted sadly. Grief would be slow to leave them – it might never leave completely – but there were only so many tears a person could shed, before the eyes refused to participate any further in the sorrow. "The kids are trying to seek some solace in the victory parties, though I imagine that's most about the booze," Charlie offered a weak sort of smile. His younger siblings would always be 'the kids' so far as he was concerned. "Bill's had so much coffee he's vibrating in place. I needed a bit of reprieve, some good news, as it were, so here I am."
Severus scoffed. "Good, indeed."
"Don't say that. It is good news, isn't it? Everyone's been on about all the shit you went through for the cause. You're a hero. You can finally relax now."
Severus frowned thoughtfully. Relax. Retire. He wasn't sure what the difference was, but he was at least certain that being a hero sounded at least as exhausting as being a spy.
"Worried about the unicorn?" Charlie asked in response to Snape's silence.
"Hrm..." Severus answered. The unicorn. The healers had told him, but he still couldn't get his mind around it. He, Severus Snape, had been saved by a unicorn. It was true that unicorn blood had powerful healing properties, but the curse involved did concern him.
"You shouldn't be," Charlie continued when he failed to answer again. "You didn't take the unicorn blood, after all. The unicorn found you out by the Whomping Willow and gave it to you all on its own." He grinned – an unexpected expression on a man who's brother had just passed. "It was really something to see."
"I can't imagine it," Severus answered. That's right. He remembered now, vaguely, strong arms and a flash of red hair, something white and shining. Charlie must have been the one to drag his bony arse off of the battlefield. He could scarcely remember it.
"Oh, it's not so surprising," Charlie answered with that usual casual air of his. "Animals have a sense for people. They're not confused by legilimency, or a bad attitude."
Severus gave Charlie the best stern glare he could manage from a hospital bed. Charlie's smile just broadened. "Learned that from your dragons, I imagine."
"Learned that from Hagrid," Charlie laughed. "Learned what prickly bastards serpents can be from the dragons."
Severus inclined his head minimally. The wounds on his neck may have been miraculously healed, but he was still rather weak, and quite sore. "Touche."
The wooden chair Charlie was seated in was barely large enough for a woman, let alone for a grown man, and certainly not nearly large enough for a man of Charlie's stocky build. Charlie shifted uncomfortably in its constraints. "I never believed it, you know – that you were one of them, that is."
"I was," Severus said. "Once."
Charlie scoffed. "Even smart blokes can be young and stupid. Call it growing pains, and let it go. You're a good man. If a unicorn knows it, everyone else had better just bloody well catch up."
"I think I would prefer they didn't," Severus answered frankly. Charlie had a way of pulling down walls. Combine that with the medicine, and Severus found the compulsion difficult to ignore. Charlie Weasley had a natural talent for making people feel comfortable. His easy confidence and friendly demeanor made even Severus Snape like him, even if he was a Gryffindor and a Weasley.
Charlie laughed. "That sounds like something you'd say, but it's too late. Harry's been talking you up to everyone who'll listen, which is more or less everyone, since he's Harry Potter, what with defeating the Dark Lord n'all. President of your fan club, that one. You may have a whole posse of teenagers worshiping the ground you walk on by the time you're released, if he has his way."
"Perish the thought," Severus said. That sounded like a nightmare. He put it on the list of reasons to die.
Charlie laughed again. "It's a pity. I'm a bit too old for fan clubs myself, I think, but maybe not too old for the t-shirt," he joked. "I wonder what the dragons would think of your face plastered across my chest."
"I should think I would have to be a fair bit larger than life to fit across your chest," Severus blurted. Damnable potion. Why did he just say that? Charlie was so muscular, though. He always had been, but he was even moreso now.
"Well, yeah, I guess I've overdone it on the pie a bit..." Charlie rubbed his neck awkwardly, as if he'd just been chastised for not doing his homework.
Severus quirked his brow. Charlie always seemed so confident, he didn't expect such a remark to bother him. It was true that the man had a bit more weight around the middle than he had when he was young, but he was not a boy anymore, and that came with age. A bit of podge was nothing to be concerned about, especially on such a handsome, amiable man. It stunned Severus momentarily, to have found something that made Charles Weasley fidget.
"I was not referring to that," Severus said. He was no good with compliments, but he als had spent so much of his life lying, he thought perhaps a bit of honesty was called for. "That's..." but how to say it without insulting his visitor further? "...not such a bad thing."
"Eh? Then what? I mean, you just called me big, didn't you?"
"And? So what if I did? You seem to grow more muscular every time I lay eyes upon you." Which, admittedly, wasn't all that often.
"Oh!" Charlie declared, and laughed awkwardly. "Bit of an occupational hazard, that. As is eating shite food in a rush. The dragons require so much caring for, there's really no time to cook. Even my healing potions are off-the-shelf these days. I know that must horrify you."
"Do you not have a brewery or a kitchen on the reserve?"
"Both, yeah, but no one to work either. We had a lady who was decent at it, but she got knocked up by one of my mates. Lone, single young woman surrounded by blokes who see a skirt but once or twice a month? It was bound to happen. Anyway, since the work's dangerous, they don't let pregnant witches work on the reserve, so she had to leave off. I don't think she much liked the work anyway, so I doubt she'll come back, nine months or otherwise. In the meanwhile we're supposed to take our turns, but that mostly ends up being pizza one day, convenience store pies the next. Nobody really has the time, and we're not having a lick of luck finding a replacement. I guess it takes a real masochist to cater to two dozen hungry, sweaty, smelly dragon keepers who're constantly getting themselves knocked about by giant lizards."
"It would certainly not be a boring job," Severus replied. It sounded more like a job for someone who didn't mind losing a bit of sleep.
"No, I guess not," Charlie answered. "But, I think I'll stick to the dragons, myself."
"You'll be going back soon, I imagine?" Charlie never stayed long. He'd run out of England at full tilt, and did not seem at all inclined to return. He was having far too much fun at his time-consuming and incredibly dangerous job.
Charlie got up and moved to the window. Severus could see the way his strong shoulders tensed. He realized he'd accidentally brought up exactly the subject that Charlie was in here running away from. He cursed himself for the thoughtlessness.
"Dunno," Charlie said. "I'm on a leave at the moment, to put affairs in order and what not. The reserve is generous about it. It was bad everywhere, but this...well, this was ground zero, you know. Most of my colleagues are from Romania, or at least countries a fair bit closer. They've got a bit of hell on their hands, too, but not so much they can't go back and forth. It's not that way for me. It's important for me to be with my family right now. It doesn't stop me from worrying about the dragons, of course, but family comes first. It should."
Severus thought Charlie sounded like he was trying to convince himself. "I suppose it depends on the family," Severus answered. His own had been such a disaster that he'd never given much priority to it. Maybe if his parents had given a little more priority to him, things would have been different.
"How about some fresh air? It'll do you good, and it's a gorgeous day." Charlie blatantly changed the subject and thrust the window open. He took a deep breath of the English air, but if Severus's intuition was correct, it only made him miss home, which wasn't England for Charlie, and hadn't been in quite some time. Severus could understand that. He half-missed Hogwarts, really – not the job, but the familiar surroundings, his potions closet, and his books. He'd had his possessions all sent on to Manchester; whether or not he would return to Hogwarts was uncertain, but he certainly wouldn't be returning this year. The healers claimed, unicorn or no, he needed to avoid unnecessary excitement for the time being. He thought his days at Hogwarts might be behind him. He would miss its halls and it's abundance of secrets, but he would not miss the insufferable brats he'd been teaching. The little whelps just seemed to get younger and more irritating by the year. He knew that had more to do with him than it did with them, but rather preferred to blame them for it anyway.
"Charlie!" the younger man corrected insistently.
Severus ignored the correction – the name was too amiable, too friendly, and entirely too intimate between them, but Weasley was just too confusing, with so many of them running about. "I appreciate that I am a convenient escape from your troubles, but I have several nurses already."
"I'd wager none that put you first," Charlie retorted, moving back toward the bed.
Severus knit his brow. He didn't think he'd ever been 'put first' by anyone. Even now, he wasn't first; he was second to Charlie's escapism. It would be nice, perhaps, to be put first now and again. He imagined that must be nice. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again.
Charlie was easing himself back down onto the hellishly uncomfortable chair. "Getting tired?"
"I am well enough," Severus answered, though very nearly yawned. "I spend so much of my time asleep, I can scarcely tell day from night."
"It's day," Charlie smiled. "Though it's hard to tell through all this fog."
"I thought you said it was a beautiful day."
Charlie shrugged. "The war is over, and we're alive. Every day is a beautiful day."
The words struck so deep into Severus's psyche that he felt he might never forget them. Reasons to live: because you're alive – which, Severus thought, probably deserved the right to hold several positions on the list. He wasn't sure just how many. He squeezed his eyes shut and blinked again, trying to regain some focus through his scattered thoughts.
He was silent too long, apparently, because Charlie was struggling for some new stream of conversation, and looked as if he was about to admit something embarrassing. "You know, back at Hogwarts, when I was a dumb kid..."
"Have you grown so terribly since then?" Severus quipped.
"Come on, I'm trying to tell you something that's going to amuse you. Don't ruin it."
Severus already found himself a bit amused. Charlie was blushing straight down to his shirt collar. Severus inclined his head marginally to encourage him to continue.
"When I was a dumb kid," Charlie repeated, and amended, "dumber and more of a kid than I am now, thank you -"
Severus held back the impulse to smirk at the amendment.
"I had the biggest crush on you."
Severus's brow arched fully in his surprise. It wasn't funny. It wasn't even slightly amusing. Charlie's freckled complexion was so deeply flushed, it also wasn't a lie. Severus had no idea how to answer. "You've come to your senses, I hope," he said at last.
A fresh gust of wind rushed in through the window, startling them both. Severus thought he saw a glistening golden color with it. Charlie was saved from answering by a brilliantly red and gold bird perched upon the sill. "That's a..."
"Fawkes," Severus observed, quietly awed to find Dumbledore's favored pet appearing before him now.
Fawkes hopped from the sill to the bed. Severus looked curiously at the bird, who plucked its beak at his inky hair. It was most peculiar. After a bit of bird-induced grooming, Fawkes perched himself on the bedpost, a sentinel.
"I must truly look hellish if a bird feels I need tidying," Severus said.
Charlie grinned. "Animals have a sense for people," Charlie repeated knowingly. "If a phoenix takes a liking to you, you must be something special."
"I suppose I am going to have to take care of it, now." Reasons to live: feed Dumbledore's bird.
"I think you'll make quite a pair," Charlie answered.
A light rap on the door interrupted their amiable conversation. Bill Weasley poked his head inside. "Figured I'd find you here," he told his brother, which Severus found a curious statement.
"Mum's awake. We're all heading back to the Burrow. You coming, or..?"
"I'll be right along. Meet you there, alright?" Charlie said.
Bill nodded and quietly closed the door behind him.
They listened, for several moments, to his footsteps disappearing up the hall. "I should get going," Charlie said.
"I am not stopping you," Severus replied, finding his groggy mind still preoccupied with the bird, whose feathers he intended to reach up and stroke when no one was watching. Having a 'pet' (inasmuch as a phoenix can be considered such) would do much to assuage his boredom.
Charlie got up, but gave pause. "About me coming to my senses," he hedged.
Severus quirked his brow, trying to trace back over their recent interrupted conversation and remember what they'd been talking about. He was still trying to recall it when Charlie leaned over the mattress. Severus at first thought the compulsion to pet Fawkes had overcome the animal lover, too, so he was quite startled when the Weasley leaned over him and brushed a tender kiss across his lips.
"Gryffindors are a senseless lot, as a general rule," Charlie said, before pulling back and away. Maybe I'll bring some of mum's leftovers for you tomorrow? It's got to be better than hospital food, yeah?"
Severus nodded dumbly, trying to activate his brain after such a shock to process what just happened.
The door closed, and with it, his scattered thoughts snapped right back into place. Bill had said, 'figured I'd find you here'. Charlie had blushed and confessed a childhood crush, and then, a kiss. Severus felt his heart constrict, and then pump madly as he returned his gaze to the ceiling. Charlie Weasley had a bit of a crush on him, even now. Incredible. Unfathomable. Indescribable. And yet, immensely appealing.
Reasons to live: that kiss, that kiss.