Title: From Memory
Word count: 19,250 words
Warning: Past reference to Chan (Harry/Severus; Harry was 16; all sex consensual). Memory loss. Past, non-explicit reference to Harry/Ginny; past, non-explicit reference to Severus/original female character. Despite what the prompt might imply, this story does not contain mpreg
A/N: For suitesamba. Written as a gift for Secret Snarry Swap 2013.
I selected this prompt because one of my all time favourite Snarry fics is dementordelta's "The Dreaming Spires." My story goes in an entirely different direction, but there are some similarities as well as nods to the original. Thank you to the mods for their unending patience and extensions.
"What do our numbers look like this year?"
Minerva looks up from the stack of papers on her desk. A silver orb—a remnant from Dumbledore's days in the office—whirls and spins as Harry sits down.
"Forty-six letters went out. We've received confirmation from thirty-two so far." Minerva pushes her glasses up her nose. "Two girls will be attending Beauxbatons, and one family has chosen to home school."
"So we're still waiting to hear from eleven students." Harry laughs. "I've never seen Albus so excited—even though he knew he'd get a letter. He made Gin send a return owl with his reply immediately."
Minerva nods, expression fond. "Yes. It's amazing how something expected can still be so exhilarating."
Harry smiles. "Yeah."
"And that brings us to our Muggleborn students," Minerva continues. "There are two this year." She looks down at the parchment in front of her. "A Sara Beth Bailey in West Sussex and a Harry Prince in South Kensington. I've got their letters here. Will you be able to visit this week?"
They never should have been together. It was absurd. Not to mention a violation of half a dozen school rules and technically illegal.
Even now, nineteen years later, Harry sometimes can't believe it ever happened.
They hated each other, and Severus... Severus wasn't one to show affection to anyone. He never let his guard down—how could he? And, after the Dursleys, after losing Sirius, Harry was determined never to put himself into a situation where someone could hurt him again.
Still, when he thinks about it—and he does now more than he probably should—Harry wonders if it was inevitable. He knows there was always something between them. First a loathing and antagonism that developed into some sort of spiteful partnership, and then...
Dumbledore forced their hands, of course. Forced them to work together, train together, tolerate one another.
And Harry knows Snape always took a perverted sense of pleasure in flaunting their relationship—if you could call it that—under the old headmaster's nose.
It made Harry uncomfortable, but Severus was right. There was nothing Dumbledore could do. He needed them too much, and had already asked of them more than anyone had a right to ask.
Harry's been the one to visit prospective Muggleborn students and their families since he took the post of deputy headmaster six years before. It was a natural appointment, since he was raised by Muggles and knew nothing of the Wizarding world until he received his letter. And Harry enjoys it.
The Baileys live in a modest, one-storey home in Shoreham, West Sussex. It reminds him a bit of the Dursleys', but he only has to take one step inside to know they are nothing like his aunt and uncle.
The Baileys are hospitable and, though they are understandably shocked at first, it only takes Harry one Accio and two Leviosas to convince them that magic is indeed real.
Apparently, any explanation is better than no explanation as to why your daughter is capable of unbelievable things.
Harry leaves them with Sara Beth's letter and instructions to meet her wizard liaison at the entrance to Diagon Alley on 28 August.
He Apparates to the corner of Queen's Gate and Gloucester. The Princes live in an old Victorian manor that's been converted into single family units. Their flat is on the ground floor. The small flowerbed is neatly maintained; pink and yellow roses line the narrow walk.
Harry knocks on the door, slipping his hands into his pockets while he waits. He's dressed in khaki trousers and a plain, white button-down. They learned long ago that robes don't go over well when approaching the families of Muggleborns. He's just about to turn around, thinking no one is home, when the door opens, and Harry has to close his eyes. His heart is suddenly in his throat, but when he opens his eyes again, the man is still standing there.
It's like he's staring at a ghost.
"Can I help you?" the man speaks, and it takes too long for Harry to find his voice.
"Severus?" It's been nineteen years, but he looks the same as he ever did. There are a few more lines around his eyes, his mouth, and his temples are streaked with silver now, but it's the same Severus. Harry can't catch his breath. "Severus?" he says again. "Severus Snape?"
But the man just frowns. "I'm afraid you've the wrong address."
Harry sticks out a hand just as Severus goes to close the door. "No, wait. Please. I've got a letter for Harry Prince."
The sitting room is modestly appointed, comfortable, lived in.
Harry sits in one of the overstuffed armchairs by the hearth trying to make sense of what he's experiencing. Severus Snape has been missing—presumed dead—for nearly twenty years, ever since his body disappeared from the Shrieking Shack in the midst of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Harry always assumed he'd been taken by Death Eaters. Never in one million years did he expect to find him in South Kensington.
Harry Prince appears a moment later. He's wearing loose gray shorts and an orange t-shirt with a faded Manchester United logo. His hair is dark like his father's, but curly and in need of a cut.
"You said you had something for my son." Snape stands in the doorway, arms folded across his chest. His voice is cool, completely devoid of emotion. If he recognises Harry at all, he's made no indication.
Harry's head is spinning. It's surreal—like he's entered a strange dream. Severus Snape alive after all these years, living in Kensington, and with a kid no less.
"Severus," he says again, once he's managed to find his voice. He desperately needs a drink, but he doesn't think a cup of tea—or whisky—is on offer. "We thought you were dead."
"Who is this man, Dad?" Harry Prince asks apprehensively. He hasn't moved from where he's standing beside his father.
"What did you call me?" Snape asks.
"Severus. Severus Snape."
"You're mistaken. My name is Stephen Prince."
"I…no—" but Harry stops there. He doesn't know what's going on, and that worries him. Either Snape truly doesn't know who he is, or he's good reason to pretend that he doesn't. Both are equally concerning, but Harry doesn't think it's the time to figure it out. "I'm Harry Potter," he says, and though he knows Snape is a master at shielding his thoughts, it's still unnerving to see no sign of recognition flash across his face. "I'm deputy headmaster of Hogwarts School, and I'm here to offer Harry a place in our incoming class."
Snape frowns. "Hogwarts? I've never heard of it."
Harry just manages to bite back the comment on the tip of his tongue. "You wouldn't have," he says instead, following the script he uses for normal Muggleborn students. "You see, Hogwarts is a school of witchcraft and wizardry."
"Witchcraft and—" Snape's expression goes cold, but his son looks like Christmas has come early. "Is this some sort of joke?" Snape asks, voice steely.
"No, it's not," Harry says, reaching into his pocket for his wand. But Harry Prince is bouncing on his toes and pulling on his father's sleeve.
"Dad, Dad! Did you hear him? Wizardry! That means there's magic!"
"There's no such thing as magic," Snape snaps.
"But there is!" his son insists. "You know there is."
"He's right," Harry says, wand raised. He casts a quick featherweight charm, and the boy hovers six inches above the ground.
"Oh my God! Dad! Look at me!"
"What are you doing to my son?" Snape says dangerously, and Harry says "Finite."
"Nothing, Mr. Prince. I'm just showing you that magic is indeed real."
"It is, Dad!" Harry Prince practically screams. "You know what I can do."
"What can you do?" Harry asks.
"Nothing," Snape says quickly. He looks uncomfortable now, nervous, and it reminds Harry that he doesn't know what's going on—this man is not the Snape he knew.
"That's not true," his son says. "I can turn the lights on and off. I can heat water for the kettle instantly. I can make things come to me when I want them, and—"
"Enough," Snape says angrily, but the boy is literally vibrating with excitement.
"And when you cut my hair, it always grows back right away because I don't like it short."
Harry laughs. "Mine used to do that too."
"And Dad can do things too!" Harry Prince continues, ignoring his father's warning completely.
It's all Harry can do to keep his face neutral. Of course Snape can, he thinks. Though, the entire situation is too bizarre to fathom.
"He always knows who's on the phone before we've answered it," the boy offers, "and sometimes he can tell what you're thinking even when you haven't said anything."
"That's because you're an open book," Snape says curtly, and though he glares at his son, his expression is not unkind.
"But it's not just me, Dad. You know that. Maybe you can come to magic school, too."
"No one is going to any magic school," Snape says sharply, and the tone of his voice is achingly familiar.
Harry Prince's face falls.
Snape's hand finds his shoulder. "Go start dinner, son," he says. "I'll be in there in a minute once I show Mr. Potter out."
The boy scowls but does what he's asked, casting one backwards glance at Harry as he heads to the kitchen. Harry takes a deep breath. Everything feels shaky and out of focus—his entire world knocked off its axis—but he needs to convince Snape to let him see him again, to let his son come to Hogwarts. Maybe then he can figure out what's going on. "Look," he says, before Snape can usher him to the door. "I know this must come as quite the shock, but—"
Snape sits down across from him. He looks tired; he looks fantastic; he looks like Snape—and isn't that the most amazing thing? Snape leans forward, clasped hands falling between his knees. "I can't say I was expecting this, but it's hard to deny what Harry is capable of. And," he shakes his head, "you…"
"Then you do remember me?" Harry interjects, relief flooding his veins, but Snape only frowns.
"You remember me," Harry says again.
"I'm sorry? Should I?"
Harry sighs. "Never mind."
"Have we met before?" Snape seems unsure, and that, alone, is unsettling. And when he shakes his head, the ache in Harry's chest only intensifies, as though someone's taken a paring knife to his ribs.
"You called me something earlier," Snape says slowly, "as though you knew my name. And you looked…you looked like you'd seen a ghost."
"Severus," Harry says. "I called you Severus."
"Do you know me?"
After the battle, after Severus's body disappeared, there were months when Harry held out some sort of vague hope—that Snape was alive, that he'd come back unharmed. But it's been years, and Harry long ago stopped looking, stopped hoping. He doesn't understand what's going on, and he doesn't know what he should say, but he settles for "Yes."
Snape nods as though expecting as much. "There's a part of my life I don't remember. Years ago, something happened. A trauma. But every once in a while—" he stops, rubs a hand across his face. "You. This…magic school. It's all part of my past, isn't it?"
Something happens sixth year.
Harry isn't paying attention at first; it's not like it's something he's looking for. But after a Pensieve session one evening, Dumbledore looks up at him over his spectacles and calmly says, "I need you to work with Professor Snape again."
And Harry nods, lips set in a thin line. "Occlumency?"
Things start badly—how could they not? Snape enjoys tormenting him, and Harry never fails to take the bait.
But one night after a particularly gruelling session, Snape looks at Harry, and his expression is not nearly as harsh as it usually is. "Better," he says simply.
And somehow things become...tolerable between them.
Harry doesn't enjoy the lessons, but Snape's teaching him something, and he knows he's getting stronger.
Snape is still ruthless at Legilimency, but sometimes he has marking to do, and instead of training, they sit at his desk together. It's easier to talk to the man this way—preoccupied with schoolwork—and Harry finds himself revealing bits of information about himself, his life.
He's not entirely surprised, when he mentions something about the Dursleys, that Snape seems to honestly know nothing of his situation there.
"You're a wizard, Potter. Why have you done nothing to rectify things?"
Harry bristles at that. "What? And risk expulsion? No thank you."
Snape frowns. "Expulsion?"
It's all Harry can do not to roll his eyes. "Yes. Expulsion." He crosses his arms across his chest. "Second year, Dobby performed magic at my aunt and uncle's, and I was blamed. Then, last summer?"
Snape is still frowning.
"Surely you heard about the Dementors."
"Well, I was brought in front of the Wizengamot."
"For defending yourself?" Snape's voice is incredulous.
"Yeah. And saving my cousin's life."
"I didn't know."
"Kensington? Professor Snape is alive and living in South Kensington?"
"I know, right?" Harry flicks his wand, bringing the water in the pot to a boil. He adds a handful of salt and the pasta. Even over summer hols, the house-elves are happy to cook for Hogwarts's staff, but Harry likes to do it.
Hermione sets her wine glass down. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." Harry leans against the counter, crossing his arms across his chest.
"But Harry," she says, and he hates the pity that bleeds into her voice. "I know how much he meant to you, but it's been nineteen years. Don't you think—"
"No," he cuts her off, voice sharper than he intends. "No. It was him. Older, yes, and with no memory of who he really is, but it was him."
Finally, she nods, mouth a grim line. "Okay. So what are we going to do about it?"
Harry sighs. "I don't know." He takes the pot from the stove and drains the pasta while Hermione takes the plates from the cupboard.
They sit at the table in the den. Harry's rooms, though furnished plainly, are spacious and comfortable. Since Ron joined the Aurors' International Division, Hermione has taken to bringing Rose and Hugo over for dinner on nights when her husband is out of the country.
"Kids! Dinner," she calls, ladling sauce over the spaghetti. They emerge from James's room, Lily and Rose leading the way. The boys trail behind, and Harry can hear his middle child's complaints from the hallway.
"James, come on. Give them back."
James has his wand out; Albus's chocolate frog cards dance high in the air above his head.
"James Sirius Potter," Harry says. "Give your brother his cards. And if you cast one more Leviosa, I promise you, I'll take your wand, and you won't see it again till start of term."
James scowls, but the cards fall to the floor. "I was gonna give 'em back."
"Doesn't matter." Harry sits down across from Hermione. "And what did I say about magic?"
James pulls his chair out from the table with a bit too much force. "That underage magic is against the rules and I could be brought before the Wizengamot for inappropriate use."
"But I don't understand," he says, pushing the pasta around on his plate. "How could they tell? There's so much magic in the castle, how would they ever know that it's me?"
"Because no one else in this castle uses twenty levitation spells a day."
James rolls his eyes.
"Besides," Hermione interjects, "it's their job to know. And the underage magic statute exists for a reason. Violations are taken seriously."
"Yes Aunt Hermione," James says sullenly.
Harry refills his wine glass.
"It'd be fine if you just got me my wand, Dad," Al offers from his end of the table.
"You'll get your wand weekend before term starts just like every other first year."
Albus grumbles to himself, but doesn't say anything else as he stabs at a meatball with his fork.
"So, Professor Snape," Hermione says after a moment, once the kids are busy eating.
"I don't know," Harry says, shaking his head. "He must have some type of amnesia. I don't think he was lying. He honestly didn't know who I was."
"That's very odd." Hermione leans forward, resting her elbows on the table. "It's been nearly two decades. No one has seen or heard from since he disappeared the night of the battle."
"We stopped looking for him. Everyone thought he was dead." He twists the stem of his glass between his fingers. "He hasn't been using magic—hell, he didn't even know he had magic, so there was nothing to trace."
Hermione purses her lips.
"It was like seeing a ghost," Harry says. "Severus Snape, back from the dead."
"Necromancy is a very dangerous art," Rose offers from her end of the table. "Mum says it's the darkest of magic."
"And she'd be right." Harry smiles at Rose. "But no one's come back from the dead. I just didn't know he was still alive. He disappeared a long time ago."
Rose nods, apparently satisfied, and twirls the last of her pasta around her fork.
"It's so strange," Harry says, pushing his plate away. "He has this entirely new life. And a kid! He has a kid named Harry, of all things."
Hermione smiles, but her face is sad. "That can't just be coincidence, can it?"
"What else can it be?" Harry has deliberately refused to think about Harry Prince. It's too alarming. "Harry's a popular name nowadays. Snape's kid won't even be the only Harry his year."
"Yes," Hermione agrees. "It's popular among wizard children. Not Muggles."
Harry nods. He knows this. He's simply been ignoring the implications.
"Did you meet his wife?"
"His wife?" With all that's happened, Harry hadn't even thought about that.
"Yes." Hermione drains the last of her wine. "He's married, isn't he?"
"I…I don't know."
Hermione finds out about them one month before Snape kills Dumbledore.
Harry thinks, perhaps, she's suspected something for a while but she's never said anything, and he's become dangerously complacent. It's hard to care, really, when he'll most likely be dead by end of term.
But they haven't been discreet. On this particular night Harry doesn't even bother with his Invisibility Cloak when he sneaks out of the dorm.
He's not paying attention afterwards, mind back in Severus's room, remembering the way he fingered him open, pressed bruises onto his hips, kissed him until he could barely breathe.
Hermione is sitting in the hallway outside Snape's office, under Harry's cloak no less, but he's so distracted he doesn't even notice the weak Lumos she's cast until he nearly trips over her.
"I think you owe me an explanation," she says, pulling the cloak off and setting her Transfiguration textbook aside.
Harry's heart is in his throat. This is very bad. He eyes the corridor behind her longingly, wondering if he could just Apparate back to his room and avoid this conversation entirely.
"Don't even think about it," Hermione says curtly.
"I, er…" Harry glances back as if an explanation will suddenly appear on Snape's door. "We were practising—"
"No, Harry," she cuts him off. "You were not practising Occlumency at half three in the morning. And," she adds, before he can say anything, "I know he wasn't showing you his potions collection either."
"Have you told Ron?" is all Harry manages when he finally makes his mouth form words.
Hermione rolls her eyes. "No. Not yet."
He breathes a sigh of relief.
"But that doesn't mean I won't."
"But you can't!"
"No, Harry. You don't get to tell me what to do. Not now. Now, you're going to tell me what's going on."
He sinks to the floor beside her. "It's nothing really."
She glares. "Don't give me that. You've been down here every night this week, and I know it's been going on for over a month."
Hermione looks scandalised. "Harry, I don't understand, but this has to stop."
He shifts uncomfortably and says nothing.
"I thought we agreed not to lie to one another?"
He feels as though he's been slapped. "Hermione—"
"No." She raises a hand. "After everything we've been through. How dare you?"
He glares at her. "How dare me?" He's angry now, and it tempers some of his discomfort. "Did you ever think that it was none of your bloody business?"
She frowns, but he doesn't let her respond. "My life is shitty enough. I think I deserve something good just for a little while."
"It's illegal," she says after a moment. "Not to mention a blatant violation of school rules."
"What does that matter," he demands, his voice petulant even to his own ears. "He's not forcing me."
"He's a professor, Harry," she says slowly, as though talking to a child. "It's wrong—deplorable, really. There's no excuse."
"This is exactly why I didn't tell you. I knew you wouldn't understand. I knew you'd react this way."
"How else am I supposed to react?" He hears the concern in her voice, and it makes him sick to his stomach. "He's breaking the law, Harry. Every time he touches you."
"Then the law is wrong." His voice is harsh, but it doesn't matter. This is too important. He won't back down.
"If Dumbledore found out, just think, Harry. Professor Snape would be fired. He would go to jail."
"What?" her eyes go wide.
"Dumbledore. I'm pretty sure he already knows."
"That's not possible."
He shrugs. "Why not? You know what he's asked me to do. And what he's asked Snape to do?" Harry shakes his head. "Well, it's even worse."
Hermione doesn't say anything, but she bites her lip, face sad.
"I think this must be his way of making it up to us."
She takes his hand in hers then; her fingers are cold as she curls them around his. "It's really happening then, hmm?"
Harry leans his head back against the wall, his hair catching against the rough stone. "Yeah, I think so."
She nods. "I don't approve, you know."
He turns to look at her; the dungeon torches cast shadows on her pale skin. "I wouldn't expect you to."
"He's good to you?"
He squeezes her hand tighter. "Yeah. He's good to me."
Harry returns to the Princes' flat the following afternoon. He's not entirely sure what he's going to say, but it doesn't matter; he has to see Snape again.
Harry Prince answers the door. "Mr. Potter!" he greets Harry with a smile, but then his eyes narrow. "Wait, they didn't change their minds, did they?"
"What? Oh," Harry laughs, "no, of course not. Hogwarts eagerly anticipates your arrival—assuming you accept our invitation, of course."
"Oh, I will."
Harry raises an eyebrow. "Your dad's agreed?"
The boy frowns. "I'm working on it."
"I'm sure you are." Harry smiles. "Is he home?"
He nods, opening the door wider so Harry can come inside. "He just got home from school."
"Yeah. Dad's a chemistry professor at Imperial College." Something warms in Harry's chest at the note of pride in the boy's voice. "Dad! Dad," he calls. "Mr. Potter's back."
"What's all this commotion about?" Snape emerges a moment later, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. "Oh, Mr. Potter," he says, pausing in the door of the entryway. "I didn't expect you today."
"No. I'm sorry. Perhaps I should have rung first?"
Snape laughs wryly. "They have phones in your world?"
"Not really, I mean, we have Floos, but I have a mobile…" he stops when he realises Snape is staring at him like he's grown a second head.
"Never mind." Snape shakes his head. "I'm certain I don't want to know. What can I do for you? There was no mention of a follow-up visit."
"No," Harry says, "I'm not here in an official capacity, not really. Can I come in for a moment?"
Snape frowns, but turns and leads the way into the sitting room. Harry follows, sitting when Snape motions to the chair by the fireplace. He takes the seat opposite Harry.
"Harry," Snape calls, and the boy pops his head around the corner of the door he's clearly been listening from.
"Please check the stew. Make sure it doesn't burn."
"Okay." He disappears again.
"I'm sorry," Harry says, suddenly uncomfortable. "This is a bad time. I shouldn't have bothered you."
"It's fine." Snape leans back in his chair and crosses an ankle over his knee. "Now tell me, to what do I owe this…pleasure?"
"Your memory," Harry blurts, then flushes. "I'm sorry" he apologises again. "I know it's none of my business, but I have a few questions."
"No," Snape says slowly, "it's none of your business. But you said you knew me from before."
"I did…" Harry's not sure what to say, but he had to come. He had to see Snape again, to make sure he was real, that this wasn't just some strange dream. Harry leans forward unconsciously, wanting, needing to be closer. "What do you remember?"
Snape sighs, and for a moment Harry is sure he won't answer. After all, he's always been an exceptionally private person, and Harry's question borders on impertinence. This Snape doesn't know him, has no reason to trust him, to share any personal information with him.
After a long moment, though, he responds. "I don't remember much. I woke up in the hospital. They said I'd been attacked, lost a lot of blood. But I have no memory of what happened." Snape stands and walks to the sideboard; he pours a measure of whisky into a glass and holds it out to Harry, but Harry shakes his head. Snape takes a slow drink. "I still don't know what happened. The doctors said trauma can sometimes cause memory loss." He twists the glass between his palms, watching the amber liquid slosh up the sides. "It's a protection mechanism—the mind shielding itself from painful experience."
Harry nods; that makes sense. "But the memories, they never returned?"
"No. For a while I thought they would, but now…" Snape shrugs.
"And what did you do?"
Snape sips his whisky; his mouth is wet with it when he lowers the glass. "They had all my personal effects. My identification, the key to my apartment. I came home. I rebuilt my life."
"Yes. A studio in Soho. Though, apparently, I'd been planning to move."
"Oh?" Harry asks, trying to put the pieces together without much success. Snape disappeared from the Shack the night of the battle—the night Harry thought he had died—and turned up in a Muggle hospital with an alternate identity waiting for him? He doesn't understand.
"Yes. Everything was in boxes, and I'd just accepted a position at Imperial College for the upcoming fall term."
Harry nods, a coldness slipping through his veins. "You were planning to disappear."
"I'm sorry?" Snape asks, brow furrowed.
"You had everything ready. You wanted to disappear."
"From what?" Snape asks.
Harry Prince reappears then. "Dinner's ready, Dad." He looks at Harry. "Are you staying?" he asks eagerly.
"You're welcome to," Snape says, standing.
"Are you sure?" Harry follows Snape into the kitchen. "I mean, your wife won't mind?"
Snape laughs. "No. I don't think she'll mind in the least."
Harry frowns; there's something in Snape's tone he can't place.
"Mum's in Madrid," his son says cheerfully.
"Madrid? For work or pleasure?" Harry sits down at the table, watching as Harry Prince takes the bottle of milk from the fridge and pours himself a glass. The kitchen is small but brightly lit. Yellow curtains hang over the window above the sink; black and white tiles line the countertops.
Snape takes an extra bowl from the cupboard before ladling stew from the pot on the stove. "Pleasure, I assume."
"She's got a new boyfriend," the boy adds, taking a piece of bread from the basket on the table.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Harry says, feeling distinctly uncomfortable.
"We've been separated for quite a while now," Snape says, setting a bowl of stew in front of Harry. "It's for the best."
"My wife and I are separated too," Harry confides. For some reason, it's important that Snape knows this. "Divorced two years ago last spring."
Snape nods. "And do you have children?"
"Yeah. Two boys and a girl." Harry smiles. "My middle, Albus, is starting Hogwarts this year as well. He'll be in Harry's year."
Harry Prince beams, mouth full of stew.
"Yes, well," Snape says, breaking a piece of bread in half. "Why don't you tell me a bit more about this school of yours.
Harry talks at length about Hogwarts, the curriculum, and the staff. He explains that he was raised by Muggles and, like Harry Prince, did not know he was a wizard until he got his letter when he turned eleven.
"Muggle? What's a Muggle?" Snape asks, dunking his bread in his bowl.
"Someone without magic."
"So I'm not a Muggle?" Harry Prince asks, eyes wide.
"No. You're definitely not a Muggle."
"Awesome. Dad, did you hear that?"
"Oh yes, I heard it," Snape says with a roll of his eyes. "And I'm still curious as to why our friend Mr. Potter hasn't been committed yet."
Harry chuckles and waves a hand at the refrigerator, summoning the bottle of milk to refill Harry's glass. The boy claps his hands, bouncing in his seat.
"Wow, that's so cool. Dad, why didn't you ever tell me we could do magic?"
"Because we can't. Or," Snape frowns, "or, at least we shouldn't be able to do magic. No one should." He presses his fingertips to his temples. "I think I'm getting a headache."
His son laughs. "He's not. This magic thing is just a bit much for him."
"Indeed," Snape says, standing to get the bottle of whisky from the counter. "Indeed."
"Tell me more about school." Harry Prince pushes his bowl away and leans back in his chair. "I want to know everything."
Harry's in the hospital for exactly two weeks after the final battle. He has a constant stream of visitors, most of whom he ignores. He doesn't want his picture taken or to do another interview about what it feels like to have saved the world. There's only one person he wants to see, and he knows he won't see him again.
Hermione sits at his side for hours. Sometimes she talks to him, and he lets her stroke his hair. But mostly she just reads. The war's barely over; Hogwarts's reconstruction hasn't even begun, and she's already talking about returning to finish her seventh year.
The day before he's released, Ron comes by. "We caught 'em." He's out of breath, face flushed, dressed in faded jeans and an old Cannons t-shirt.
Harry sits up.
"I knew you'd want to know," Ron says with a grin. "They were holed up in an abandoned warehouse in Wapping. Came out firing Unforgivables. Nott and Dolohov got AK'd. The rest are in custody awaiting trial." He sits down in the chair beside Harry's bed. "Lucius is already claiming Imperius."
Ron shakes his head. "Apparently he and his mum fled to the continent after the final battle, but it doesn't matter. It's over."
"It's over," Harry agrees. It's surreal; it feels as though he's just surfaced from the bottom of a pool, and it takes a moment to get his bearings.
"I wish you could have been there, mate," Ron says after a moment.
"Yeah, well, it's not like I'd be of much help now anyway." Ron flinches at the harshness of his tone, but Harry doesn't care. He looks away. He feels worthless, confined to his bed in St. Mungo's. He should be out there with them, hunting down the remaining Death Eaters, looking for Snape— No. He stops himself. There's no use. Snape's gone.
"He wasn't there," Ron adds, as though reading his thoughts. "Snape. We looked, but... I'm sorry, Harry. I know the bastard was important to you."
Ron's gone when Harry looks up again.
"The Muggle doctors are right, of course. Trauma can cause memory loss. It's proven." Hermione takes a bite of ice cream, spoon scraping the side of the paper cup.
Harry frowns. He desperately wants a cigarette, though he hasn't smoked since before James was born. He takes a swig from his water bottle; the condensation is cool and slick against his palm. "But surely there's something we can do. Magic can cure that type of thing, right?"
"Sometimes, yes, but—Hugo, stop that, please. You'll crack your head open and I won't put it back together again."
"Mum," the boy says peevishly, rocking forward again so the front two legs of his chair hit the ground with a thunk. "I'm fine. I can balance."
"I don't care," Hermione says. "Chairs have four legs for a reason."
Hugo scowls, stirring his ice cream until it turns soupy. Rose laughs, and her brother sticks his tongue out at her.
"I'm sorry," Hermione says, licking her spoon. "What was I saying?"
"Magic can cure memory loss."
"Right. Sometimes it can, but not always. Not when the memory loss has a magical cause."
Harry frowns. "But Healers reverse that type of thing all the time."
"From simple memory charms, yes. But you know how powerful, how dangerous even a well cast Obliviate can be."
"Or a poorly cast one," Harry says, remembering Gilderoy Lockhart, still in St. Mungo's after all these years.
"Yes," Hermione agrees, banishing her empty ice cream cup to the bin.
"So there's nothing we can do," Harry says testily. "We can't fix this."
"I didn't say that." Hermione taps her wand against the palm of her hand. "I just don't know. Not yet. Not without knowing what really happened to him."
"Well that's bloody helpful." Harry crosses his arms sullenly. "He doesn't even know what happened to him."
"I know," she purses her lips, brow furrowed. "If only there was someone we could talk to, someone who knew what happened after the battle."
"Well, there's not. If there was, don't you think we'd have found him before now? I looked, Hermione, I looked."
"I know you did." A curl of hair escapes from the knot at the base of her neck; she brushes it behind her ear. "But what if he had help?"
"Yes. We always thought Death Eaters had taken his body."
"Yeah…" Harry says slowly, unsure what she's getting at.
"Well, what if we were right?"
Harry spins the water bottle around on the table in front of him. "We weren't. We looked everywhere, and when we found the remaining Death Eaters, he wasn't with them."
"He wouldn't have been. He was in hospital, wasn't he?"
"So you think someone took him there?"
She nods. "Professor Snape was believed to be a loyal Death Eater for years. Surely he had friends."
Certainty blooms in the pit of Harry's stomach. "Lucius."
"Were they close?"
"Yeah. Severus was Draco's godfather." Harry shakes his head. "To think, I was always jealous of that pointy-faced prat."
Hermione smiles. "And here I thought you had a bit of a thing for Draco."
He laughs. "No. It was never Malfoy."
"Well, I know that now, of course."
Harry leans back in his chair. It rained that morning, but the afternoon sun has dried the streets; the cobblestones are no longer slick with water. Diagon Alley is quiet today; it's still three weeks till start of term, and the summer heat keeps most people home. They are the only customers at Fortesque's.
"So, Lucius?" Hermione says after a moment. "Do you think he might know something?"
Harry sighs. "There's only one way to find out."
Harry turns to the table beside them. "James, is your mum back in town yet? When's your next night with her?"
James doesn't even look up from the Muggle gaming system he's holding. Harry probably shouldn't have bought it for him, but he was always so jealous of Dudley's Nintendo growing up that he couldn't help himself. And, he might be guilty of playing Katamari on the device when the kids are at Gin's. "Not till Saturday, Dad. She's in Ireland."
"Bollix," Hugo groans from behind James's shoulder. "Tough luck, mate."
"Language!" Hermione chides, but they ignore her.
"My turn," Albus says, reaching for the game.
"Not yet. I've still one more life."
Al sighs and comes to sit down beside Harry.
"So you're back at your mum's on Saturday. For how long?" Harry asks.
Albus rolls his eyes. "How do you not know our schedule, Dad?"
He shrugs. "I can barely manage my own calendar. You know that. If it weren't for Aunt Hermione here, I doubt I'd know when school starts.
Al smiles. "I'd remind you."
"I bet you would." Harry ruffles his hair. "Your mum's?"
"We're there until Thursday. Then she's in Australia for a week. The Harpies are playing the Kiwis. Apparently," Al holds up his fingers to make air quotes, "there are business opportunities down under."
"So Saturday," Hermione says. "Ron's home this weekend. We can call on Lucius around lunchtime."
Harry nods. "Saturday."
One night Harry falls asleep in the armchair by Snape's fire and wakes to find himself covered by a blanket, a glass of water on the table at his side.
He knows it's dangerous. They both do, and Harry is a student, and he is only sixteen. This bothers Snape perhaps more than anything. Harry can talk till he's blue in the face about age of consent, but it doesn't matter. Snape feels incredibly guilty; Harry knows this, and he hates it because the man has surely had enough self-loathing to last a lifetime. But they are most likely going to be at war in a few months, and a tiny voice inside his head says that maybe he should just be happy for a little while.
The Manor looks much like it ever did. Harry hasn't been here in years; still, memories of the night they were brought here by the Snatchers swim to the front of his mind. Hermione takes a deep breath beside him, and he knows she's thinking of the same thing.
There are no peacocks now, and the gate opens at their touch. Yet the path is neatly maintained, the gardens as lush as ever.
A house-elf in a pristine white towel answers the door.
"Hello," Harry says. "I'm Harry Potter, and this is my friend Hermione Granger-Weasley. We're here to see Lucius."
"Is you having an appointment?" the elf asks, wringing his hands.
"No. But we're old friends. I'm sure Mr. Malfoy will be happy to see us."
"Severus? Severus Snape is alive?" Lucius Malfoy turns from where he stands by the window. The golden serpent on the head of his cane glints in the afternoon sunlight.
Harry frowns. "You didn't know?"
"Of course I didn't know," Lucius snaps. "Where is he?"
"I can't tell you."
Lucius glares. "You mean you won't."
Harry shrugs. "No. I won't."
Lucius sighs, sitting down. The brocade of the upholstered chair is worn, showing its age. Most of the Manor is closed off now; Lucius lives here alone. Narcissa and Draco have been in France since the end of the war. Draco's and his wife Astoria's son, Scorpius, will attend Hogwarts come fall, but they are rarely in England. "It's been twenty years," Lucius says, "how is it that he's still alive?"
"That's what we're trying to find out." Harry leans back against the mantel, arms crossed over his chest.
"After the battle, his body was moved," Hermione says, speaking for the first time. "He ended up in a Muggle hospital."
"I thought he was dead." Lucius sounds tired; the years have been hard on him. The silver of his hair is streaked with gray; his eyes, his mouth are lined.
"So it wasn't you? You didn't move him?"
"No," Lucius shakes his head. "I didn't know he survived."
Harry turns to Hermione. "Then what happened that night?"
"I'm not sure."
"Why don't you ask Severus?" Lucius asks, and then he frowns. "Wait, is he all right?"
"Yeah," Harry says quickly, "he's fine. He's got a kid, actually. Starting Hogwarts this term."
Lucius raises an eyebrow. "Severus a father? Why, imagine that." Harry doesn't like the mocking lilt to Lucius's voice. He scowls.
"Well, thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Hermione says, placing a hand on Harry's arm. "We appreciate your time."
"Wait," Lucius stops them when they reach the door. "I'd like to see him."
"I'll let him know," Harry says.
"No. Tell me how to contact him."
Harry shakes his head. "I'm sorry, but I can't do that."
Lucius might be harmless now, but Harry still doesn't trust him.
"You know, I never thought I'd get married, but now I'm not so sure."
Severus hmms beside him, fingers threaded through Harry's hair, but says nothing.
They're comfortable like this, curled together in Severus's bed, the early morning light filtering gray through the window high above the dungeon room.
Severus used to insist that Harry return to his dorm before curfew, shooing him out of his rooms nearly before he managed to do up his trousers, and Harry hadn't really cared. After all, it wasn't like they meant anything to each other.
But then something changed. Harry can't pinpoint what; he's not sure it even matters. But he knows he's happy with Snape in a way he never thought he could be. Months ago, he wanted nothing to do with the man. Now he can't imagine not being with him. But he also knows it won't last.
Severus is walking a dangerous line, and Harry is sixteen and expected to kill a madman.
"Have you ever thought about being bonded?" Harry hears the hesitancy in his voice, but he doesn't care. He's as close to happy as he's ever been, here in bed with Severus, and the world's about to end anyhow. "They do that, right? Two wizards, I mean."
"Do you think it's something we could..." Harry feels his face heat, as he realises the absurdity of such a thing, but it doesn't matter. It's important that Severus know how he feels. It's important that he understand, even if he only uses the information as a means to belittle and mock Harry.
But Snape doesn't laugh or curl his lip with disdain. He only presses his mouth to the curve of Harry's throat. "Perhaps, when the war's done, we can talk about it."
Harry hears the lie in his voice, but he nods anyway, closing his eyes, letting himself pretend.
"My memories, my past, they are important to you."
"Yeah. They are." Harry feels vulnerable admitting as much, but he's certain Snape could tell if he lied, and he thinks it's something the man should know.
They're at a bar in South Kensington just a few blocks from Snape's flat. He hadn't seemed surprised when Harry'd shown up at his door, and they'd walked together in the warm August night to the Hereford Arms.
Snape eyes him speculatively, and picks up his drink. Ice clinks against the sides of the glass. "We meant something to one another, didn't we?"
Harry looks down into his drink, uncomfortable. He's not sure what he should say, how much to reveal. "You were my professor for many years."
Severus frowns. That was obviously not what he was expecting to hear. "Professor? But you attended—"
"I was a professor, at a school for magic?" His voice conveys his disbelief.
"And what exactly did I teach? Introduction to card tricks?"
"Haha, very funny," Harry says taking a swig of his bitters. "No. You taught Potions."
"Potions?" Snape says sceptically.
Harry nods again. "You were the premier Potions Master in all of England." Snape's looking at him like he's sprouted tentacles. "Well, it makes sense, doesn't it?" Harry asks, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "You teach chemistry now. Didn't you ever wonder what you did before?"
"Of course," Snape drains his glass. "However, I can't say 'wizard' ever crossed my mind."
They're in Snape's rooms one night. It isn't late—barely an hour past curfew—and Harry is curled on the sofa, Defence textbook open on his lap. Severus sits beside him, a cup of tea in his hand.
Harry leans back, resting his shoulder against Severus's side, and closes his book; it falls to the floor with a thud.
"Would it kill you," the man says dryly, "to finish one of the readings I assign?"
"Possibly," Harry replies, butting his head against Severus's arm. He obliges, fingers threading through Harry's hair. "And what would you do in class?" Harry continues. "The shock alone might give you an aneurism. And then who would you yell at? Neville can't take it. Hermione always does her readings, and Malfoy is a precious snowflake who'll run home to daddy if you so much as raise your voice at him."
"So you're neglecting your studies for my benefit."
"Of course." Harry grins. "Besides, I know you love having a reason to assign me extra sessions. Makes you feel important."
"Perhaps," Severus laughs. "I suppose I should thank you then?"
"Naturally." He looks at Severus then and sees a flash of something in his eyes. It's subtle, but Harry's spent hours studying his face, his expressions, and this particular look makes his chest ache. It feels like a Stupefy, forcing the air from his lungs, and he knows, right then and there, that he loves Snape.
This is wrong. He's a student. Snape's his teacher, and there's going to be a war soon.
Snape touches him then, and Harry startles. "Are you all right?" he asks, pulling his hand away.
"I…yeah, I think so," Harry manages, reaching up to trace a line down Severus's face with his palm. "I think so."
"Mr. Potter," Snape says as he opens the door. "What a surprise. I wondered what I might do if a day went by without your visit."
Harry laughs at the sarcasm in his voice. It's funny how this Snape, with no memories of who he used to be, can sound so like the Snape of Harry's past.
"Please, do come in," Snape says as Harry brushes past him.
"Where's Harry?" Harry asks, walking into the sitting room. The boy is usually lounging on the sofa with a book or sprawled in front of the telly.
"With his mum. She's in town for the weekend."
"Oh," Harry says, shoving his hands in his pockets, "all right. Well, there's somewhere I want to take you. We'll just have to go without him."
For a moment, Snape looks like he might protest, but then he simply rolls his eyes and says, "Let me grab my keys."
Harry's a bit worried about taking Snape out in Wizarding London, but he realises quickly he doesn't need to be concerned. No one's thought about Severus Snape in years; he's not at risk of being recognised.
The bartender doesn't bat an eye as Harry leads him through the narrow maze of tables at The Leaky. Snape watches sceptically as Harry taps his wand against the wall leading to Diagon Alley, but his eyes go wide as the bricks start to shift, rearranging themselves into the entrance way.
"Where are we?" Snape asks.
"This," Harry says with a grin, "is Diagon Alley."
He leads the way through the winding streets, pointing out shops and explaining what they sell. They spend nearly an hour in Flourish and Blotts, as Severus wanders through the stacks. Harry watches as he runs his fingers over the spines and takes books off the shelves to flip through the pages before putting them back again. He wonders if Snape can feel the magic here. If it crackles under Snape's skin and dances along his spine as it does to him.
Harry hasn't been in Slug and Jiggers in years. Hermione did James's back to school shopping last term, and one benefit of being the deputy head at a school of witchcraft is that the resident potions expert or Mediwitch is usually quite happy to fill requests from him. Harry doesn't need much in the way of potions, but he hasn't had to brew his own headache draught or vial of Dreamless Sleep in quite a while.
Snape stops in the doorway. "What is this place?"
Harry places a hand on his shoulder, guiding him inside. "A potions shop."
Snape walks down each aisle, examining ingredients and taking inventory. Harry follows him, watching, hoping something will spark his memory. He's never spent this much time in Slug and Jiggers before.
Finally, Snape turns to Harry. "They sell these products to anyone?
Harry frowns. "Well, you have to be a wizard to enter Diagon Alley. You saw the wall. Muggles can't get in."
Snape shakes his head. "Right. But any…wizard," the word falls from his tongue like pulling teeth, "can walk in here and purchase…" he lifts a vial of dragon's blood from a shelf, "whatever he likes?"
"Of course. Harry will need half these things for his school supply list. And the rest," he waves a hand at the rows of dry ingredients, "you need loads of stuff to brew."
Snape laughs, but it lacks humour. "You do realise most of these substances are illegal…or poisonous?"
Harry gapes. "Poisonous?"
It is clearly all Snape can do not to roll his eyes. "Foxglove, angelica, henbane…" he points to one ingredient after another. "These are all exceptionally dangerous, deadly in the right quantity. Please tell me there are regulations on the sale of such items."
Harry shrugs. "I think the Aurors monitor suspicious purchases."
"Yeah, our police force."
Snape shakes his head. "Of course."
They browse for a few more minutes. Harry tries not to laugh as Snape curses under his breath each time he spots another suspicious product.
"Surely you work with dangerous ingredients."
"Yes, but I'm a licensed chemist. I have authorisation, and I must go through appropriate channels whenever I purchase particular chemicals."
Harry smiles. "Well, I was never that great at Potions."
After a while, they stop at a cafe and sit at one of the small wrought iron tables by the street. A tall, spotted-faced young wizard comes to take their order; Harry thinks he recognises him from Hogwarts—Hufflepuff, graduated a year or so ago. Harry orders a pot of tea, and Severus asks for coffee, black.
"So," he says after a moment, "I was really a part of this world?" He's not looking at Harry; he's staring off across the street at the shops that line the Alley.
"Yeah," Harry says as the waiter returns with their drinks. He takes the tea bag from the tray and pours the hot water. Many people complained when Alouette's starting serving bags instead of leaves, but Harry doesn't mind. Less chance he'll see a Grim or some other portentous omen at the bottom of his cup, anyhow. "Does this place seem familiar to you?"
Severus frowns. "No. I can't say that it does."
Harry must hide the rush of disappointment that washes over him. He takes a sip of tea. It's too hot, too bitter against his tongue. "Oh." He squeezes a wedge of lemon into his cup.
"Yet," Severus continues, cupping his mug between both hands, "I feel as though it should be familiar."
"What do you mean?"
A witch appears on the street not five feet from their table; the crack of Apparition echoes in the Alley. "I suppose," Severus says slowly, "I feel comfortable here, when," he waves a hand at their surroundings, "none of this should feel comfortable to a sane individual."
Harry takes a slow sip of tea. "When I was eleven, I knew nothing of magic or wizards or this other world until Hagrid rescued me from the Dursleys and brought me here. And yet, I'd never felt more at home, more content than I did, walking through these streets that day."
Snape returns from a Death Eater meeting late one night. Harry's been waiting for him, curled up in the corner of the leather sofa in his office.
He knows Snape has to go when Voldemort calls, knows it as assuredly as he knows he will one day have to face Voldemort himself. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch as Snape slips from the Great Hall before dinner is over, hand clutching his left forearm.
Harry snuck down to the dungeons as soon as curfew struck. The wards recognise him now. All he has to do is press his hand to Snape's door, and it lets him in. Harry knows the password to his chambers. He could wait in the armchair by the fire, or in Snape's bed, even. But he doesn't know if he'd be welcome, so he stays in the office.
It's nearly four when Snape returns. Harry's dozing but wakes to the fizzle of wards, to the creak of the door as Snape steps inside.
Snape knows he's there—Harry's certain he can sense his magic, probably knew he was waiting before he'd even made it down the hall. Still, the man says nothing. He just stops by his desk and looks down at Harry on the couch.
Harry smiles, eyes adjusting to the dark. Then he looks at Snape—really looks at him. "Merlin, Severus," he gasps. His lip swollen, his cheek bruised and purpled. His robes are caked with what looks like blood. "Fuck."
"It's not as bad as it looks."
"What did he do to you?"
"I was lucky. Tonight, unfortunately, his rage was directed towards Mr. Malfoy."
Harry sits up. "Draco?"
"Yes. The Dark Lord is not pleased with his efforts."
"But he won't succeed. He has to know he won't succeed."
"No. I wouldn't think so. Still, he doesn't take failure lightly." Snape sits down beside Harry. Harry leans into him; he smells of sweat and blood, but Harry doesn't care. He's comforted by his presence, by the fact that he's made it home when he could just as easily be killed any time he leaves the castle.
"You should go back to your dorm," Snape says. He closes his eyes, leaning his head back against the sofa cushion.
"No. Not tonight. I'm staying with you." Snape doesn't argue.
They sit there for a long time. Harry can feel the weariness seeping into his bones. He feels it in his blood, his magic; he can smell it on Snape. Finally, Harry stands. He takes Snape's hand, leads him into his rooms. There's so much going on in his head; he has to pause, trace a hand down Snape's chest and just breathe.
He knows Snape was nearly killed tonight, knows he could be killed any time Voldemort calls. And he knows there is nothing he can do about it.
He walks through Snape's bedroom to the bathroom and turns the shower on. He turns to where Snape is standing in the doorway: "You need to shower," he says simply. "I'll wait in here."
Snape doesn't say anything. He only nods and walks past Harry into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Harry sits on the edge of the bed. He takes off his shoes, lies back, and stares at the ceiling. He's never bathed with Snape, never seen him naked—except under the cover of darkness in Snape's bed at night. There, they're lit only by firelight, shielded by sheets, and barely exposed. He knows Snape is self-conscious, not comfortable in his own skin, and Harry feels similarly—awkward and gangly. But he loves the way Snape looks at him, and he thinks the man is beautiful.
He closes his eyes and inhales deeply, counting to ten. He tries to clear his mind, forget about everything, save the feel of Snape's sheets, the smell of him on his skin.
The water shuts off, and Snape opens the door. He's wrapped a towel around his waist. Harry sits up as he comes into the room; Snape turns his back, lets the towel fall to the floor. Then he pulls the covers back, slips into bed. Harry strips quickly, pulling his jumper over his head, leaving his trousers crumpled on the floor.
He climbs into bed, curls his body around Snape's. His chest presses to the warm curve of Snape's back, and he rests his arm on Snape's stomach. Snape takes his hand in his, laces their fingers together. Harry sighs, presses a kiss to Snape's neck. Together they fall asleep.
"I must say, Mr. Potter, I can't imagine that you devote this much time to every potential student." They're in the Princes' kitchen; Snape is slicing vegetables. Harry watches his hands, his fingers as he moves the knife precisely, deliberately. He's seen him manipulate the instruments in his lab the same way countless times, and the memories catch in his throat, tighten in his chest.
"Granted," Snape continues, sliding the chopped carrots and celery into the pot on the stove, "Harry is a capable student. He makes fine marks. Though, I'm still certain he does not warrant this particular level of attention."
"Yeah, well..." Harry shrugs, looking down. He's not sure what to say. He can hardly explain it to himself. It's been years, but now that he's found Snape again he can't stay away.
The air is thick with magic, both Snape's and his own. Snape's feels dark and achingly familiar. It's like coming home. He wonders if Snape can sense it too, if Snape can feel the magic under his skin and in his blood.
When Harry looks up again, Snape is watching him curiously. "Tell me, Mr. Potter," he says slowly, steadily, "when we knew each other before, was there something between us?"
The question slips like water, like blood over Harry's skin, but the lie slides off his tongue easily. "No."
After all, what should he say? They've both lived a lifetime since then.
"No," he says again, eyes meeting Snape's stare. "There was nothing there."
Harry returns to the Shack after the battle.
Pomfrey didn't release him; he had to slip from his bed while she was attending to another patient. He has considerable spell damage. No doubt it will warrant a trip to St. Mungo's, but that will have to wait.
When he opens the door, the smell of blood is so strong he nearly doubles over. He closes his eyes, breathes deeply through his mouth. The smell is palpable; he can taste the coppery metallic tang on his tongue.
He wants nothing more than to turn around, to pretend this never happened, that he didn't see the snake rip Severus's throat out. But he has to get his body; Harry can't leave him here in this cold, decrepit place.
His body aches, and it helps distract him from the overwhelming pain of loss. Rationally, he knows Snape is dead. There was too much blood for anyone to survive the loss, but it's still hard to believe.
He takes another deep breath, steeling himself, before he rounds the corner into the room where he watched Snape die.
There is blood smeared across the floor, thick and black. It makes Harry's stomach heave, but he hasn't eaten in nearly twenty-four hours, so there's nothing to sick up. His eyes follow the trail of it to the corner where Snape was attacked, where he kneeled on the floor to collect his memories, but the man isn't there.
Harry gasps, hands scrubbing his eyes, but when he looks again, Snape is still gone.
He doesn't know what to do, so he sinks to the ground. The wooden floor is old and rotted through; it's sticky and wet with Snape's blood but Harry doesn't care. Someone else was here. He doesn't know who, but they took Severus's body, and now Harry is sure he'll never see him again.
"Why did you name your son Harry?" The question's been bothering Harry for weeks; he needs to know. They're at a pub three blocks from Snape's flat. Harry Prince is out with a friend; James, Al, and Lily are with their mum.
Snape looks hesitant. He takes a slow sip of his drink, collects himself. "I don't have many memories from my old life. There are occasional bits and flashes, that's all. But the name, it was important. Somehow I knew that. And it felt right to have that connection, between the old and the new."
Harry nods. "But you never investigated? You never tried to determine what happened to you?"
Snape frowns at that. "Of course I did. I spent months searching for answers, but there was nothing. And the doctors were of no help either. There was nothing physically wrong with me, except for..." he pauses, but Harry knows what he was about to say.
"Except for your neck—the puncture wounds."
Snape's eyes narrow. "How did you know?"
"It happened the night you disappeared. There was a battle. We thought you were dead."
"A battle?" Snape says slowly. "I was a soldier?"
Harry shrugs. "We all were, I suppose."
"Does he even want his memories back?"
"I'm sorry?" Harry looks up from the book he's reading.
"Professor Snape, does he want his memories back?"
Harry leans back in his chair. "Of course he wants his memories back. Why wouldn't he?"
Hermione puts her quill down, folding her arms across her chest. "I don't know. Have you asked him?"
She closes her book with a snap and pushes it across the table. "So, I assume you haven't tried something as simple as a Finite on him?"
Harry flushes. "No."
"Then what are we looking for?" Hermione's voice is sharp. "If we don't know what happened to him, we don't know how to correct it. If he were merely Obliviated, then a Finite might work. But we don't know because you haven't talked to him."
"I won't perform magic on him without his consent."
"Of course you won't! That's an ethical violation."
Harry rubs a hand across his face, pushing his glasses up his forehead. "Then what do you want me to do?"
Hermione sighs. "Talk to him. Explain his options, what we can do. See what he wants. Then we can decide how to progress."
One night Harry is bruised and bleeding. They've been duelling for hours, and he's exhausted. They sit side-by-side, backs against the dungeon wall; Harry rests his head against the stone. Harry's jeans are torn; a cutting hex hit his thigh, leaving it raw and bloodied.
Snape reaches out, places his palm on Harry's leg. His magic sparks against his skin, runs through his veins, but Harry's pulse races in a way that's not from adrenaline or pain. His leg heals, but Snape doesn't move his hand. Harry knows they're crossing a line, but it doesn't matter. He thinks maybe he is being selfish, pushing Snape, but he is going to die soon, so he covers Snape's hand with his and Snape doesn't pull away.
"Do you want your memories back?"
Snape doesn't answer immediately. Instead, he sets his drink down and looks at Harry. "You seem to want my memories back."
It's not what Harry is expecting him to say. He frowns, unsure of how to respond.
"Yet," Snape continues, "you won't tell me why."
"I...can't," Harry says weakly. "Not unless you decide to come back."
"Yeah. To your other life."
Snape looks at him for a long moment. "For a while, I desperately wanted to remember. I felt incomplete. I was, after all, missing a significant portion of myself." He traces his thumb around the lip of his glass. "I know the intricacies of organic and molecular chemistry, but I don't know where I grew up. I know how to perform sophisticated scientific experiments, but I don't know who my parents were. I know how to complete complex chemical equations, but I don't know where I attended school. And, for some reason, I know the basics of hand-to-hand combat, I can detect, identify any poison, but I don't know why."
"I can help," Harry says, "but it won't be easy. And I have to know it's what you want."
Snape doesn't respond immediately. Harry watches as he drums his fingers on the tabletop. Finally, he says, "I think it's time I knew who I used to be."
Harry proposes to Ginny one year after Snape's memorial. They're married the following June.
The ceremony is small; they invite only family and close friends and hold the celebration in the Weasleys' garden.
Ginny looks beautiful. Her hair is down, red curls falling over her shoulders, and she wears her mother's veil; the ivory lace is lovely against her pale skin.
Harry smiles when Arthur walks his new bride down the aisle, and he convinces himself he must be happy.
Still, he hates himself just a little bit when he can't help but think of Snape as the officiant begins their vows.
Harry's surprised by how much it hurts, even after all these years, to think of Snape in love with someone else.
He knows, now, that they are separated, that Snape has not been with his wife in quite a while. Still, he knows they must have been happy once. He pictures Snape meeting this woman, taking her out for drinks, to dinner, to the theatre. His stomach clenches to think that they were in love.
He imagines Snape buying a ring, asking the woman for her hand. Then there was a ceremony. They said their vows before an officiant and a congregation of family and friends.
Harry would not give up his children for the entire world, but he can't help but wonder how different things might have been.
"So my dad, he named me after you, huh?"
Harry is sitting on the Princes' sofa. The boy is sprawled on the floor in front of the telly, piles of comic books surrounding him. "I think so, yeah."
Snape isn't home, though Harry assured him that he expected his dad any second when he'd ushered Harry into the sitting room ten minutes before. The boy sits up, pulling his knees to his chest. He watches Harry for a long moment, dark eyes speculative. "Then you must have been really good friends," he says finally.
"Yeah," Harry smiles. "I guess we were."
"I don't think it's good for you," Hermione says, "spending so much time with him."
Harry leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees. They're on the Quidditch pitch, watching the kids fly. "I'm certain I don't know what you mean."
She rolls her eyes, sighing dramatically. "Really Harry? You've been over there every day this week."
James dives, swooping dangerously low. The breeze blows Harry's hair back from his face. "James!" He shouts, but the boy is already high above them again and cannot hear.
"I swear, if that child doesn't learn some sense, I'm going to take his broom away."
"Give him a break," Ron says, stretching out on the grass beside him. "I saw you do far worse at his age."
Harry scowls. "That's not the point, I—"
"Enough," Hermione says, cutting him off. "He needs the practice. He's trying out for the team this year, isn't he?"
Harry glares at her. "Be careful. Hugo will begin imitating him one of these days. Then what will you say?"
Hermione looks to where Hugo is hovering six feet off the ground on his broom. She smiles. "I'll take my chances."
"Yeah," Ron agrees. "He's got too much of his mum in him." Hermione kicks at her husband where he's lying beside her, but her face is fond.
"Regardless," she says, "you're both changing the subject. Harry, what are you doing? He doesn't remember you. You're just going to end up hurt."
"That's ridiculous. I don't want anything from him."
Hermione raises an eyebrow at the lie in his voice.
"Well," he admits, "I want him to remember. He should know who he is. And his son, he belongs at Hogwarts."
"Of course he does," Hermione agrees, taking a sip from her water bottle. "But Professor Snape will make the decision that's best for his family. There's nothing more you can do."
Harry frowns, staring up at his sons flying lazy loops high above their heads. "But how can he make the best decision when he doesn't remember his past?"
"I don't know," she says, placing a hand on his shoulder. "But you need to protect yourself."
Harry looks at Ron, hoping he'll back him up.
"Sorry, mate, I'm with my wife on this one. Snape's no good for you, whether he remembers it or not."
Harry traces a line in the dirt with his trainer. A month ago he could have honestly said he hadn't thought about Snape in years, but now...
"Have you told Professor McGonagall?" Hermione asks.
"Told her what?"
"About Snape. That he's alive. That Harry Prince is his son."
Harry looks down. "No." He can't explain it, but he hasn't wanted to tell Minerva. Not yet. Not until he knows what's going to happen. Not until he's figured out how to get Snape's memories back.
"You need to talk to her," Hermione insists. "Perhaps she can help."
"That explains a few things," Minerva says thoughtfully, setting her teacup down. "His portrait for one." She waves a hand at the wall behind her, where Portrait Snape blows a raspberry at her.
Harry nods. "Yeah. There's always been something a bit, er, off about him."
"Drives me mad," Minerva agrees. "The other portraits too. Can't tell you how many times they've petitioned to have him removed to the dungeons."
Though he knows portraits are only facsimiles—mere shadows of their inhabitants' former selves—Snape's has always seemed…peculiar, to say the least. After his experience with Dumbledore's portrait, Harry learned not to expect much from a painting. Still, he always thought Snape would roll over in his grave if he knew that all Portrait Snape wanted to do was play Exploding Snap and tell lewd jokes all day.
Harry smiles, but then something occurs to him. "He really went to a lot of effort to disappear. He must have set the spells on the portrait to activate after the battle even though he wasn't dead. He arranged this entire other life..." He trails off, shaking his head. "He must have done so for a reason. What if he doesn't want to come back?"
"We can't know that, Harry. Not without understanding what happened." Minerva takes her spectacles off, cleans them with a tartan handkerchief. "And I think we owe it to Severus to see if he wants to come home."
Harry nods. "What should we do?"
"Perhaps returning to Hogwarts will do our Severus good." She smiles a bit sadly. "Besides, I imagine he might like to see his old rooms."
"His rooms? But they've been sealed off ever since the battle."
"I know. But I imagine the castle will make an exception, in this one particular case."
When Harry returns to the Princes' the following afternoon, the door is open. He finds Severus in the sitting room. He's on the sofa, elbows resting on his knees. Harry recognises the object in his hand immediately.
"Oh my gods," he says softly, "it's your wand."
Snape looks up. His hair is unwashed. It hangs in lank strands by his face. Dark circles purple his eyes. "I cancelled my classes today," he says. "I haven't done so in eleven years. Not since Harry was born."
"Where did you find it?" Harry asks, sitting down beside him. He thought for sure the wand had been lost or stolen all those year ago.
Severus frowns. "I've always had it. It was with my things when I woke up in hospital. And though I didn't know what it was, somehow, I knew I needed to keep it safe. It's been in my wardrobe. I got it out this morning." He turns to Harry then; his dark eyes are shadowed. "When I touch it..." he trails off, twisting the wand between his fingers.
"It's your magic." Harry can feel it, too. It clings to his hair, his skin like static. Slowly, he reaches out and curls his fingers around Snape's palm, his wand. Magic sparks between them, sharp and silver-edged. It tastes like copper on Harry's tongue.
Harry takes Snape's hand then and guides it in a very simple motion. The books on the coffee table rise six inches in the air; they hover briefly before shifting, twisting, and rearranging themselves on the glass-top surface once again. He's cast spells with Snape before; together they've done extraordinary magic, but nothing has ever felt as intimate as a simple Leviosa. It sends a shiver down his spine and pools like warmth in his stomach.
Snape gasps, a quick exhale of sound. "I asked you once, if we meant anything to one another. Tell me again that there was nothing between us."
"I…" but Harry can't finish the thought because Snape is kissing him.
The press of his lips is soft and dry. It is at once the most familiar and unfamiliar thing. Harry leans closer, soaks in the warmth of his body, and Snape sighs into the kiss, fingers on Harry's neck, curling into his hairline.
Snape pulls away, but the way he looks at him sends a tendril of heat through Harry's belly. It reminds Harry of the way he used to look at him when he thought he might be in love.
"Stop thinking," Harry says, climbing into Snape's lap. They're in Snape's dungeon rooms, in front of the fire. Dumbledore's found the location of the next Horcrux, and Snape's been researching for hours; he thinks there must be a way to unravel the protective magic surrounding Voldemort's enchantments without such grave risk.
Snape frowns but does not push him away. "There has to be a balance. I cannot believe that our world would permit the existence of such magic without a way to counter it, to undo it."
"There is. We know there is," Harry says, mouth sliding along Snape's throat. "Dumbledore destroyed the ring."
"I know," Snape says. "But look at the consequence. Albus Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards alive. If that kind of sacrifice is required for the destruction of a single Horcrux, then I am not sure it's a price we can afford to pay."
"Stop," Harry says again, fingers curling in Snape's hair. He licks at the corner of Snape's mouth, kisses him once. "We'll find a way. But not tonight."
Perhaps it's not right, having sex in front of the fire in Snape's rooms, but, at the same time, it's exactly what they both need. Harry undoes his trousers, pulls them down with his pants as Snape undoes his flies.
He rides him slowly, the silence of the dungeons swallowing up their moans as Snape's fingers dig into his shoulders and his heartbeat thumps steadily against Harry's chest.
There's a war going on. Tomorrow they'll have to deal with the realities, uncertainties, dangers, and risks.
But right now, nothing else matters save the thrust of Snape's hips and the slick press of skin on skin.
Harry comes back to the memory many times in the days and months and years that follow. He and Snape, together and happy before everything around them fell apart.
"Oh, wow," Harry Prince says, eyes wide, as Harry greets them at the door to the castle. Snape stands beside his son, hand on his shoulder. He's dressed plainly in dark slacks and a white dress shirt, yet he looks perfectly at home in Hogwarts's grand foyer.
"Welcome back," Harry says, and Snape smiles, though there's hesitancy in his eyes. "James, Al, why don't you show Harry around? We'll meet you at the Great Hall for lunch in two hours."
"Sounds good, Dad," Albus says, taking Harry's hand. They disappear in a flash, leaving Harry and Snape standing alone.
"So," Harry says, suddenly uncomfortable. "I thought I'd take you to your old rooms. See if it triggers any memories."
"All right," Snape says, looking around. Behind them, the staircases start to shift, and Snape gasps. "How…? That's not possible."
"Oh. No, they do that all the time. Come on," he says, placing a hand on Snape's shoulder. "We'll go this way."
They walk together through the halls, passing portraits and tapestries, and suits of armour. Snape doesn't speak and Harry desperately wants to know what he's thinking, but he doesn't ask. Peeves glides past, a stack of mixing bowls piled precariously on his head.
"Peeves," Harry calls, "the house-elves would appreciate if the kitchen utensils remained in the kitchen." The poltergeist ignores him, as usual, and is about to chuck a bowl in his direction for good measure when he spots Snape.
The man is standing a few feet back, staring in disbelief. "What the…?"
But Peeves cuts him off. "What devilry is this?" he shouts. "Professor Snape back and not dead either?" The mixing bowls clatter to the floor. "I'll be telling the Baron about this," he threatens, disappearing through the wall.
"What was that?" Snape manages a moment later.
"That's Peeves," Harry says, "our resident poltergeist."
"Poltergeist?" Snape stares at the wall Peeves slipped through in disbelief.
"Bloody nuisance is what he is. Never listens to me. You, on the other hand," Harry laughs, "you used to terrorise everyone. Even that blasted ghost would do what you told him." He turns down a narrow corridor. "This way." Snape follows him through the halls that lead to the dungeons.
An elderly witch dressed head to toe in furs slips into an empty picture frame as they pass. Snape stops, leaning close to poke at the canvas.
"Well, I've never…" the woman says, voice shrill as she clutches her stole tightly to her chest. "How rude." Snape pulls his hand back as though scalded, and Harry laughs.
"Don't mind her. She doesn't like anyone. Right, Agnes?"
The old witch huffs and disappears again. Harry spots her three portraits down whispering to a table full of women playing bridge. They all glare as Harry and Snape pass by.
It's colder now that they're deeper in the castle. Snape wraps his arms around his chest, hands rubbing his elbows. "Are you all right?" Harry asks. He still doesn't know what Snape is thinking, and he worries it was a mistake to bring him here. But it's too late; there's no turning back now.
"I'm fine," Snape says softly, but Harry hears the lie in his voice.
"We're nearly to your old rooms. Once we're there, I'm sure…" but he doesn't finish the thought because he doesn't really know what will happen once they reach them. He doesn't know if Snape will remember. He doesn't even know if the rooms will let them in.
After the final battle, after Harry was released from St. Mungo's, after it was clear Snape wasn't going to return, Harry went down to his rooms, but he couldn't even get into his office. The wards sparked painfully against his hand when he put his palm to the door, and the lock remained firmly bolted. The magic felt off—it was different somehow. Harry assumed then it was because Snape was dead. And, for the first time since the end of the war, Harry had cried.
Hours later, Hermione found him there on the floor, head resting against Snape's office door. Together they tried every spell they could think of, but the magic wouldn't give. And, to Harry's knowledge, no one has been able to access the rooms since.
A new Potions office appeared in the following weeks, and Professor Winslow—the new Slytherin Head of House—found quarters waiting for her at the opposite end of the corridor, next to the entrance to the Slytherin Common Room. There'd never been rooms there before, but Hogwarts always adjusts to accommodate its residents.
A house-elf appears in front of them then, startling Harry out of his thoughts. Snape cries out in surprise, but the elf ignores him. "Master Harry, sir," she says, tugging at the ends of her tea towel; the Hogwarts crest is blazoned on its front. "Masters James and Albus, they is in the dormitories again, even though you is telling them just last week to stay out."
"Oh, yeah," Harry says, running a hand through his hair. "Thank you, Winky. You're right. But let's make an exception today, all right? They're showing a guest around."
Winky nods, large eyes wide. "Yes sir, Master Harry, but I is watching them closely or else they will be causing all kinds of messes."
"Okay, good. See that they stay out of trouble. Oh, and Winky," Harry says before she Disapparates, "please make sure they're in the Great Hall for lunch at one o'clock."
"Yes," she says, disappearing with a loud crack.
"Do I even want to know?" Snape says from behind Harry.
"Oh, that's Winky. She tries to be helpful. Let's go. Your old rooms are just around this corner." When they reach the office, Harry pauses. He hasn't thought about what he'll do if they can't get in; he can only cross his fingers and hope it works. He takes a deep breath and presses his hand to the door.
Nothing. No spark, no fizzle, no crackle of wards coming back to life after years and years of inaction. His heart sinks as he drops his hand away. He hasn't felt Snape's magic here in over a decade. There was a time when he used to come down here often, and, though he never tried to get in Snape's rooms again after his initial attempts and failure, he could still sense the man's magic, dark and subtle, in the dungeon corridors. After a time, however, that too faded away until there was nothing left.
"I'm sorry," he says after a moment. "I guess it isn't going to work."
Snape frowns but steps forward, eyeing the door curiously. Harry watches as he slowly raises a hand, slides his fingers down the worn grains in the dark wood. Then he presses his palm to the door's surface.
Suddenly the door glows blue, and Harry feels a faint pulse of magic in his bloodstream. It's devastatingly familiar, and it builds, growing stronger and stronger until it thrums in the air around them.
Snape steps back with a gasp, as the door's lock slides open with a heavy click. Harry reaches out and turns the handle. The door opens with a creak.
It's like stepping back in time.
Snape's office is exactly how he left it, but there is no dust, and the bin has been emptied. The house-elves must have continued to clean. Harry wonders how they managed to enter the room. Stacks of papers sit on the desk beside a pot of red ink. Harry's chest clenches as he sees the familiar scrawl of Snape's narrow handwriting, filling the margins of the essay on top of the pile, and Harry can almost hear the man's scathing commentary.
"Oh my gods," he says softly, sitting on the worn leather sofa. It feels like only yesterday that he fell asleep here, waiting for Snape to return home after yet another Death Eater meeting.
Snape walks around the small office. He doesn't touch anything, but his eyes scan the surface of the desk, the books lining the shelves, the rows of potions and various unsavoury items that fill the glass cabinet in the corner of the room.
"I used to work here," he says after a long moment, and Harry nods.
"This was your office for seventeen years."
"And my quarters?"
"Right through that door," Harry says, standing. He whispers the password he's remembered for twenty years, and the door opens before him. "You first," he says, stepping back so Snape can enter his old rooms.
Harry follows him, waving a hand at the hearth; a fire sparks and flickers, illuminating the room in a warm glow. Just like in the office, everything is exactly as Snape left it nearly two decades ago. Harry inhales deeply and tries to calm the pounding of his heart. "No one has been in here since the night you disappeared."
He perches on the edge of Snape's old wingback chair while the man looks around. It's surreal, being back in here; honestly, Harry never thought he'd see the inside of these rooms again.
"But it's been cleaned," Snape says, running his fingers across the mantel.
"Yeah," Harry says. "I guess the elves could bypass the wards. Perhaps they always knew you'd be back someday."
Snape walks through the sitting room, trailing his hand along the back of the sofa, the shelves lining the wall. He looks at the books on the coffee table. There's Potions Journal from winter 1998 and a copy of the old NEWT-level Defence text. Students no longer use that version; Harry finally selected new books five years ago.
Snape picks up the single framed photograph on the side table.
"That's you and your mum," Harry says. "On your first day of Hogwarts."
Snape inspects the picture closely. Young Severus waves up at him, a small smile on his face. "It moves."
"Yeah," Harry says taking it from him. "Wizard photograph." He brushes a thumb across the picture's black and white surface as Eileen wraps an arm around her son.
Snape spends a few more minutes examining items in the sitting room before wandering into the kitchen. Harry hears him opening cabinets and drawers.
When Snape goes into his bedroom, Harry waits on the sofa. It doesn't seem right to follow him in there. It's too intimate, too private, and Harry doesn't feel like he belongs. After ten minutes, though, he knocks on the door.
Snape doesn't respond, and Harry pushes the door open slowly and peers into the room. A single lamp is on, casting a soft yellow light about the room. It looks just as Harry remembers it, and he tries not to focus on how it still smells like Snape. Cloves and spice and just a hint of bergamot from the aftershave he always used to wear.
Harry's breath catches at the memories that come flooding back as he stands there just inside the door. It leaves him reeling; he's not prepared for how good it feels to be back here, and how horrible at the same time. For the Snape sitting there on the edge of his bed is not his Snape. Not really. And Harry knows he might not ever be.
"You spent a lot of time here," Snape says, and Harry startles at the sound.
"I, er, what do you mean?"
Snape lifts up his hand. He's holding a pair of flannel sleep pants. They're covered in purple Hippogriffs; a faded t-shirt with the Weird Sisters logo on the front lies beside him on the coverlet. "I might not remember who I used to be," Snape says, "but, past or present, I know that I would never wear such ridiculous things."
Harry smiles, but his throat tightens as he remembers Snape's hands on his hips, sliding under that shirt, slipping down the front of those pants. He has to close his eyes. "Yeah, well…"
"You knew the password to my quarters," Snape cuts him off. "I was your teacher. I cannot imagine it was common practice to allow students entry into one's private rooms."
"No," Harry admits, looking down.
"I took advantage of you," Snape says. "I must have."
"What?" Harry's head shoots up again. "No. It wasn't like that at all."
"Then what was it like?" Snape asks, voice low. "I need to understand."
"There was a war. We worked together." He picks at the sleeve of his jumper and tries to keep his voice steady. "You really don't remember?"
Snape's eyes are shadowed when he looks up at Harry. "These rooms, this place, it is all familiar. Far more familiar than my apartment in Soho when I was first released from the hospital." He sighs. "But no. My memories have not returned."
Harry sits down beside him; he suddenly feels very tired. He knew this was a possibility, that Hogwarts might not unlock Snape's memories as simply as though using a key. Still, the disappointment clenches tightly at his chest, slips like ice water along his spine.
"What was required of us," Harry shakes his head. "No one should have been asked to do what we were expected to do. It was…" He reaches out, covers Snape's hand with his own. "It was always inevitable, I think. Us being together."
Snape is quiet for a long while. Finally, he shifts, turning to face Harry. He raises a hand, tentatively, slides a finger along Harry's cheek. "What will you do if my memories never return?"
Harry tries to smile, but his mouth won't cooperate. "I'll keep showing up at your flat. I'll try to persuade you to take me out to dinner, where I'll most likely talk incessantly about Hogwarts until I can convince you to allow Harry to attend."
Snape laughs. "After today, I doubt I'll have much choice in the matter."
"Yeah. James and Al are surprisingly good salesmen."
"Al. You said this was short for Albus?"
Harry nods. "Albus Dumbledore was headmaster of this school for a very long time. He was a brave man and an exceptionally powerful wizard."
"This man was important to you." It's not a question, but Harry answers anyway.
"Yes. He was my mentor." Harry pauses for a moment before adding, "Al's middle name is Severus."
"Severus?" Snape says, voice soft with disbelief.
"After another exceptionally brave man and powerful wizard."
Snape leans in, hands moving to Harry's waist. "We've done this before, haven't we?"
"I...yes," Harry says. He can't lie anymore. He's come entirely unspooled; everything is falling apart.
Snape tilts his head, pressing their lips together, and Harry is lost. Just the touch sends tendrils of heat curling through his body. They twist in his stomach and slide hot like whisky down his spine.
Harry can hear his pulse pounding in his ears.
Snape pushes gently against his shoulder, and Harry leans back, parting his legs, letting Snape settle on top of him. He slides his hands up the man's chest. His skin is warm under the white linen of his shirt. Harry's fingers brush over the buttons as he slots his mouth to Snape's throat, above his collarbone.
Snape sighs, shifting his hips.
The press of his body against his feels achingly, devastatingly familiar, and it's almost more than Harry can take. He arches up, feels himself harden as he spreads his thighs wider, rocks against Snape above him.
Then the man's hand is between them, tugging at Harry's flies, until he's slipping his hand inside, curling his fingers around Harry's cock. Harry gasps as Snape strokes him, and he knows he'll come quickly. It's been too long, and only in his dreams did he imagine he'd be with Snape again.
"Is this… Do you want?" Snape asks, voice too breathless and rough.
"Yeah," he says, "I think there's some lube in the drawer." He sits up, leaning across Snape, and reaching to the side table. It's remarkable, how it feels like they've gone back in time. It's sixth year again, and he's just crept down from his dormitory to Snape's rooms for the night.
He rummages through the drawer, searching for the vial he knows is there.
Harry sees it then. A single Muggle snapshot half covered by scraps of parchment and a stack of old receipts. He picks it up gingerly, almost as though it will turn to dust in his hands.
Hermione got a Polaroid camera for Christmas sixth year. It was a novelty, really, because both Muggle and Wizarding cameras took much nicer photos. But it was fun to see the pictures develop instantly. Harry and Ron had dozens of them stuck to the wall in the dorm room between their beds. Ron could never get over the fact that they didn't move, no matter how long you looked at them.
One night, Harry had taken the camera down to the dungeons when he sneaked out to see Snape.
Severus had humoured him, allowed him to snap one quick shot. They're on the sofa by the fire. Harry took the picture, holding the camera out in front of them while leaning his head close to Severus's. You can see his arm extended in the picture. It was silly, of course, and he could have charmed the camera to hover by itself. But that didn't matter. He loved the picture because it was silly, because it captured one moment in the midst of it all when he was happy.
Severus is smiling too—and isn't that just the most incredible thing?
It was the only picture he ever took with himself and Severus, and Harry thought it was lost long ago. Never did he think that Severus had kept it, had tucked it away inside his bedside cabinet for safekeeping.
He must cry out because Snape puts a hand on his shoulder. "What is it?" he asks. "Are you all right?"
"I..." Harry doesn't know what to say. He holds the picture up so Snape can see it. The man looks at the photo for a long time. Then he frowns.
"This photograph... We were in love."
Harry's breath catches at the thought of the three little words neither of them ever managed to say. It would have been absurd, of course. Their relationship was never meant to last. They were both going to die.
"I think so, yes."
When Snape kisses him again, it almost hurts. There is too much going on in Harry's head. Conflicted thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The past conflated painfully with the present. And suddenly he knows he can't do this. Not when he doesn't understand what Snape wants, why he's here with Harry now.
He knows Snape doesn't remember, that this can never be the same as what they used to have. But he worries that Snape is only here, doing this now, because of some misguided allegiance to a past he doesn't even remember. And that alone is enough to make him pull away.
"What?" Snape asks, concern bleeding into his voice. "What's wrong?"
"I just, I don't think I can," he says weakly, scrubbing a hand across his face. "Not now. Not without knowing that this has nothing to do with our past."
Snape smiles, but there's something in his expression he can't read.
"I assure you, this has nothing to do with the past."
"Harry," he says, fingers brushing against his cheek, "I understand that this must be complicated for you, but the fact that I don't remember what we used to have should tell you that I want you for you, now. Nothing more."
Harry bites his lip. He wants to give in. To take what he's wanted, what he's missed from all those years ago. Snape's hand curls around his neck; he presses his forehead to Harry's. "It will be all right. If I get my memories back or not, know this is what I want."
He allows Snape to push him back then, so he's lying down, and Snape is on top of him again. Snape takes off his trousers and pants, pulling them down his legs and following the path with his lips. Harry gasps, mouth falling open as Snape's lips move down his body, pressing against his stomach, the hollow above his hip, to the soft spot between his thighs.
When he kisses his mouth again, Harry relaxes, lies back against the pillows, lets Snape position his hips, his legs.
Snape kisses him as he slicks his fingers, presses them inside, and he keeps kissing him when he's inside him, thrusting as deep as he can go. There's a knot in Harry's chest, but it loosens just a little as he clutches at Snape's shoulders, pulls him closer and closer until there is no space in between.
When he comes, he thinks, maybe, he sees stars.
Snape thrusts inside of him slowly now, and Harry can finally breathe again. It's been twenty years, and it feels as good as it ever did. Snape comes with a moan, as Harry's knees dig into his ribs.
After, they curl together, Snape's body warm as it wraps around his. They have to meet the boys in half an hour, but for now, they can just lie here for a little while.
Harry has sex for the first time on a Tuesday; it's the week before winter hols his sixth year, and it's nothing like he pictured. But, then again, if you'd asked him a year ago how he expected to lose his virginity, he would have said with Ginny Weasley, perhaps in her bedroom at the Burrow. After all, he hated Snape. He certainly never thought he'd sleep with him.
They're in Severus's sitting room on a blanket by the fire. It's cold in the dungeons, but Snape's skin is warm against his, and when Harry shivers, it has nothing to do with the chill.
He arches his back and bites his lip. It's painful in a way that blooms with pleasure too, and Harry is so overcome by the sensations that he must close his eyes and press his forehead to Severus's shoulder so as not to be overwhelmed.
"Are you all right?" Severus asks, concern bleeding into his voice as his hips still.
"I, yeah…" Harry breathes, shifting a bit beneath him. Snape touches a spot inside that makes his vision go white, and he cries out, "Oh, gods, do that again. And Snape does, thrusting over and over again until Harry is coming slick and warm between them.
"What about the memories?"
Hermione looks up from the book that's open in front of her. They're on the floor in the Restricted Section, surrounded by stacks of research material. "I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner." She closes the book, sending a flurry of dust into the air.
"Think of what?" Harry rubs his eyes. He's tired. They've been in the library for hours. Madam Pince closed up long ago, leaving Harry with instructions to shut the lights off before they leave.
"The memories Professor Snape gave you in the Shrieking Shack. You still have them, don't you?"
"I…yeah, I do." Harry hasn't thought about the memories in years. There was a time, shortly after Snape disappeared, when he looked at them every day. He spent hours in the Pensieve because, when he was there, reliving Snape's thoughts, it was almost as though Snape were alive and with him again.
But it wasn't healthy. He knew that. So he locked the vial away with the Snitch Dumbledore left him and his father's old cloak, and he did his best to get on with his life.
"Well, I'm not certain it will work."
"Doctors encourage patients with amnesia to surround themselves with familiar objects. It's believed to trigger memory recall."
"I know. But that didn't work. We spent all day here. I showed him the Potions classrooms, the headmistress's office, the dungeons, his rooms. We—" He feels his cheeks, the tips of his ears heating, and he stops. "It didn't work."
"No," Hermione says, chewing on her lip, "but I'm not sure it would."
Harry frowns. "I don't understand."
"Think about it. Professor Snape was one of the most powerful Occlumens of our time. The same defences he used to block a Legilimens from seeing his thoughts could be shielding his own mind from lost memories now."
"But the memories he gave me?"
"Could trigger a chain reaction of sorts. His mind can fill in the blanks left in between the replaced memories."
"It's worth a shot," Harry says, stretching his arms above his head. His back pops with a satisfying crack.
"The risk, of course, is that he doesn't remember."
Harry shrugs. "So what then? He has a few extra memories from his old life."
Hermione frowns. "I'm afraid it's not as simple as that."
"What do you mean?"
She pushes a strand of hair back behind her ear. "Those memories will be so foreign, so at odds with his current frame of reference, it could cause significant damage."
"Such as?" Harry frowns. He's never known a Pensieve session or the replacement of stored memories to cause an adverse reaction.
"Dementia, for one," Hermione says, "if his mind can no longer perceive or make sense of what it believes to be real. And that can lead to psychosis, or complete loss of cognitive functions."
"You mean, if his mind rejects the memories?"
"Yes. As irrational, improbable, or simply impossible. It could result in a complete metal breakdown."
Harry closes his book and replaces it on the shelf. "Or, he could remember."
"Yes," Hermione says, crossing her legs Indian style. "Do you think that's a risk Professor Snape will be willing to take?"
"We'll find out."
"Before you do this, you must know," Harry says, "there are some things you won't thank me to remember."
Snape brushes a palm down Harry's arm. "We all have our demons. It's time I knew what I left behind twenty years ago."
They're in the headmistress's office. Dumbledore's old Pensieve sits on the desk. All the portraits look on with interest, though Snape's frame is conspicuously empty. Harry takes the small vial from his pocket; it's warm to the touch. The contents swirl up the insides of the glass, glowing a faint blue. He taps his wand to the wax seal, breaking it. Then he hands the vial to Snape. "You have to be the one to do it."
Carefully, Snape pours the memories into the bowl. Some stick together like taffy, others pool fluidly on the clear surface of the Pensieve, strands of thought, silver, gold, and blue. He watches as they swirl together, then go still.
"Now touch your wand to the liquid," Harry says. "Then to your temple like this." He demonstrates, bringing his own wand to the side of his head.
Snape nods. He holds his wand awkwardly, as though he's unsure. It's strange. Snape's magic always came naturally, beautifully. Slowly, he lowers his wand into the Pensieve. Memories pulse then rush upwards, clinging to the tip of his wand.
"It can be overwhelming, dear," Madam Pomfrey says. "Why don't you sit down?" Minerva insisted that the Mediwitch be present while they attempted to recover Snape's memories, and Harry is glad she is here now, a calming force by his side.
Snape sits and takes a deep breath, looking briefly to Harry. He smiles reassuringly, though his stomach is in knots.
He closes his eyes as Snape lifts his wand to his temple. He hears the man gasp and looks up again. Everything seems to happen in slow motion. Snape's body stiffens as his eyes roll back in his head. He goes pale, breaths coming in short gasps, before shuddering and going deathly still.
Harry steps toward him, but Pomfrey puts a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. She runs her wand up and down over Snape's body, murmuring softly. "His vitals are fine," she says after a moment.
"Then what's wrong with him?" Harry says. He hates the frantic sound to his voice, but he can't help it. Snape's eyes are open but blank and unresponsive. He's still too pale.
"Just give him a moment," Pomfrey says. "His mind is working to reconcile forty years of memories."
Despite her reassurance, Harry's thoughts are still flooded with panic; his stomach churns.
Minerva summons a pot of tea. She pours a cup for Harry; he clutches it between his hands but does not drink.
They sit beside Snape for over an hour. Harry's tea goes cold, and he bites his thumb until it's bloodied. He is so consumed by his thoughts, so fearful that Snape will never be right again, that he hardly notices when Snape blinks.
"Oh, gods," he manages once his mouth will form words. "Severus." The name is scratchy and foreign on his tongue.
Snape turns to look at him, and his face is so flooded with emotion that Harry knows instantly it worked. He's back. "Oh, gods," he says again.
Harry's on his feet immediately, leaning over Snape, cupping his face in his hands. But Snape recoils from his touch, expression hard. Harry steps back as if stung. "Severus?"
But the man is standing up, knocking his chair back with a loud scrape.
"Do you remember?"
"Yes," he says simply. "I remember everything." He looks at Harry then, and his eyes are cold. Harry's chest constricts. Suddenly it's hard to breathe.
"I have to go," Snape says abruptly. And he strides to the door.
"Wait," Harry says, voice choked. "Please stay."
But Snape slips through the door without looking back. It slams shut behind him.
Harry moves to follow him, but Minerva stops him. "Give him some time, Harry. He has decades of memory to sort through. He just needs time."
The water is clear like glass, like the memories that never fail to surface whenever he's out here. They sit on the sandy beach. Harry's taken his shoes off, rolled his trousers up his calves. Severus stares out across the lake and does not look at him.
"I never thought I'd survive the war; still, it seemed prudent to take precautions nonetheless."
Harry doesn't say anything; he digs his fingers into the ground, feels the cool sand and grit beneath his fingernails. They haven't talked about what happened. Severus has been distant, removed since he got his memories back, and Harry hasn't wanted to press him. Merlin knows there's a lot to process. It's been nineteen years, but to Snape, the memories are fresh, an old wound ripped open once again. He can't imagine how he feels. And though he's always felt off balance around the man, he's even more uncertain now.
"I'd seen more than one of the Dark Lord's enemies dispatched by that blasted snake. I'd taken to keeping an antidote on hand. Nagini's venom was deadly." Severus's voice is calm, steady, but there's a haunted quality to it that sends chills down Harry's spine. He shivers despite the warmth of the afternoon.
"I also knew that, if I managed to survive, it would, no doubt, be best if I disappeared."
"Why?" Harry snaps; he can't help himself. Snape never mentioned his plan to him, and, even after all these years, he's hurt that he hadn't trusted him enough with the information. "You'd done nothing wrong. You were on our side all along. We could have proved it."
Severus sighs. "You've always been such the idealist. I was far from innocent."
"That's not true, you—"
"Harry," Severus cuts him off, "I murdered Albus Dumbledore."
"On his orders!"
He laughs, but there's no humour there. "Do you honestly think that would have mattered?"
"But it did." Harry feels sick to his stomach again, like he did for all those months when he first believed he'd lost Severus. "It did. You were cleared of all charges. I made sure of it."
"And I am grateful for that," Severus says, skipping a small stone out over the water. It skids three times before disappearing below the surface. "It is far more than I deserved."
"No," Harry says, shaking his head.
"I was a Death Eater." Harry hears the loathing in Severus's voice, and it twists in his chest like a knife. "I did some truly heinous things. You know this. And I murdered the most beloved wizard of our time. I was believed to be dead. It is far easier to pardon the dead than to forgive the living."
They sit in silence for a long time after that. Term starts in less than a week, but the castle and grounds are quiet now. A tentacle breaks the surface of the water in the centre of the lake, splashes, then sinks out of view again.
"Tell me what happened...after the Shack. I need to know."
Severus sighs. He sounds tired, older than his fifty-seven years. "As I said, I had taken an antidote. It was enough to combat the venom of the bite, but not without...consequence."
"But there was so much blood." Harry closes his eyes as the memory rushes to the forefront of his mind. Severus's blood, sticky and warm. His hands, his knees wet with it. He shudders. "I thought you were dead."
Severus reaches out, touches him for the first time. The weight of his palm is warm against the small of his back. "I nearly was. If it hadn't been for that bit of Dittany you put on my neck...well, who knows?"
"I'm so sorry, Severus." And Harry hates that his voice shakes.
The man glares at him. "It's been twenty years. Do you intend to beat yourself up for another twenty?"
He frowns, "I just..."
"Enough." Severus holds up his hand. "That bit of Dittany was sufficient to keep me alive. I came to long enough to Apparate to a Muggle hospital."
"A Muggle hospital? But why not St. Mungo's"
Severus rolls his eyes. "Harry, think about it. I was a Death Eater. A Death Eater guilty of murdering Albus Dumbledore. Do you think I would have received adequate care?"
"I..." Harry shakes his head. "No."
"Muggle hospital was best. I'd lost a great deal of blood, and their healing methods are…" he brings his fingertips up to his neck, "barbaric at best, but I lived."
"But your memories?" Harry asks. "Why couldn't you remember?"
"I knew it was a possibility. And you were right, if I survived, I was planning to disappear."
"But why?" Harry's lungs feel tight. Severus's words sting. It's ridiculous, of course, but Harry feels as though he's been rejected. "I still don't understand. I thought we were happy."
Severus looks at him, but Harry can't read his expression. "We were not…unhappy."
"Then why?" Harry repeats.
Severus traces a line in the sand with his fingertip. When he finally speaks, his voice is soft, low. "There was never a future for us. You know that."
"I was a Death Eater turned spy, and you…" he smiles, "you were a hero. Tell me, would anyone have accepted our relationship?"
"It wouldn't have mattered."
"Of course it mattered." His voice is sharp. "You were meant to be with the girl, not your cantankerous, old professor who was twice your age and, for all intents and purposes, the enemy."
Harry stares out across the lake. Part of him knows Severus is right, but he won't admit it.
"You were meant to marry Ginevra. You have three beautiful children. And I…I was meant to marry Cecily." He takes a deep breath. "Everything was as it should be."
Harry digs his toes into the sand and doesn't say anything. He wouldn't give up James, Al, or Lily for anything, but that doesn't mean he never wonders what might have been. "Your memories. You haven't told me what happened to your memories." Harry's voice is cold, but that's the only way he keeps it from shaking.
Snape exhales. "Nagini's venom had psychotic properties. Many poisonous snakebites cause a degree of psychosis, and with her size…" he shrugs. "It was inevitable."
Harry frowns. "But psychosis…that's temporary. And it doesn't cause memory loss."
"No, but when combined with the properties of the anti-venom antidote? I was lucky to have any mental faculties left at all."
Harry bites his lip. "And yet you took it?"
"What alternative did I have? And I was prepared. I had a new identity, lodgings, a job waiting for me."
"But as a Muggle?"
Snape nods. "It was safer. And I knew, if I did, indeed, lose my memories, I wouldn't miss my magic."
Harry understands. "You can't miss what you never knew you had."
They sit quietly for a long time after that. The water laps gently on the shore, but Harry's thoughts are tumultuous. Finally, he asks the question he's wanted to ask for a while. "So, what will you do now?"
"Now," Snape says, picking up another stone, twisting it between his fingers, "now I'll return to my flat. Term starts in two weeks."
"Term? You mean at Imperial?"
"Of course. I have tenure. Obligations."
"But we'll hire you back!" Harry says quickly. "I mean, Professor Winslow is great with the younger students, but she'll happily give you her OWL and NEWT classes. They need a proper Potions Master. And, if you want, I'll give you a year or two of Defence. I have enough duties as deputy head. I could—"
"No, Harry," Severus stops him. "I like my life. I enjoy teaching uni students. And that flat—Harry grew up there. He'll need somewhere to come home to on holiday."
"Oh." Harry can't hide the disappointment in his voice. "Of course."
"But," Severus says, reaching out to curl his fingers around Harry's. "I'm thinking of installing a Floo."
"Really?" Harry says, lips curving into a smile.
"Yes. You see, my son will be attending Hogwarts this year, and I think I might need to check up on him some."
"I imagine. And, you know, I have rooms. In case you ever want to stay for dinner…or the night."
Severus doesn't respond, but Harry sees the corner of his mouth twist—a hint of a smile—as his fingers tighten around his.