Harry had placed a subtle monitoring spell on the front door of the house next door that Alasdair and Morag were due to live in come term time. It was technically illegal and morally dubious, but Harry had justified it to himself. He hadn't justified it to anyone else as he had sensibly kept it a secret. He imagined it was unlikely that anyone would notice, and if they did it was unlikely that it would be mentioned. There were some perks to being the Head Auror as well as the boy-who-lived. Besides, he reasoned, those were perfectly good reasons why he might want to be careful of the area surrounding his house. Anyone would agree that given his life and career thus far it would make sense for him to be a little paranoid. What was actually paranoid in his actions was the way in which he was carefully hiding anything he knew of Alasdair and Morag from everyone. Ginny he would have to casually mention it to, ideally once he had managed to engineer another meeting with them and have them round for tea. But no one else.
So he kept the spell up, monitoring. There had been a few false alarms, when it had alerted him and he'd rushed to look out the window only for it to be one of the other students. He had no interest in them. Even from a distance it was clear that they bore no resemblance to anyone from his past. He was tempted to probe them for more information about Alasdair and Morag, but he was older and wiser than he had once been. He was patient. He knew that he would get greater results from a more subtle approach. So he was waiting, frustrated and impatient, for the two of them to move in so he could coincidentally meet them on the street in front of the house and invite them in. Maybe he was acting like a stalker or even a serial killer, but he didn't care. He meant them no harm. He just needed, desperately needed, to know more about them. Seeing them, alive and so familiar, knowing they existed, that was a soothing balm on the wounds of his soul. It also filled him with a burning curiosity, a curiosity that he had missed. He solved mysteries professionally, of course. It was his job. But it was also his passion, and the day to day running of the Auror department, the minor irritations of criminals, somehow weren't as interesting. He had been poking his nose into places it didn't belong for about as long as he could remember. There was still something odd about being paid to poke his nose into other people's business, no longer doing it simply as a matter of course but actually being employed to do so. Somehow that was less exciting. He was still driven to investigate, preferring to do things alone, struggling with bureaucracy.
Waving goodbye to all his children with Ginny as they boarded the Hogwarts Express had been a melancholic affair. He knew they were heading into a world of magic that had so enchanted him at their ages. But it left the house feeling empty. It was lucky that the spark and the affection between him and Ginny was as strong as ever. It was something they rarely spoke of, but their shared experience of youthful encounters with Voldemort played a role. There were quite possibly no other people who could say that they'd had Voldemort literally inside their mind, especially not so young.
His determination paid off, eventually. The spell triggered, and he saw to his delight that the young couple were back in Leeds. He watched them carefully, grateful that Ginny was distracted by the Quidditch season. He knew she would worry about him if she noticed, so he took pains to make sure she wasn't aware of anything more than him being distracted and overly lost in his thoughts. He appreciated her gentle affection late at night, holding him in the present. For the students next door needed a perfect moment and eventually he found one. It felt like an eternity to him, but he knew it was only a handful of days really. As they walked back towards their house, Harry called out to them, as if he had coincidentally been in the yard in front of his house, rather than surreptitiously skulking there under an invisibility spell from the moment they'd headed out, waiting for their return home.
"Hello there," he said cheerfully, "Settling in nicely?"
They both smiled in a friendly, open fashion, leaning against his wall. He had always loved the gentle way his mother had smiled in the photographs he had of her, she seemed to exude a warm kindness. Morag smiled in the same way, as if the clouds had split open and the sun was shining down in all its radiant glory. Snape he had never really seen smile, he couldn't even quite imagine it, but Alasdair for all his gothic fashion sense had a pleasant smile. It was almost shy, a little self-conscious and crooked but at the same time held a calm sense of self. Harry found that he liked Alasdair's smile a lot, just as much as he liked Morag's. Her's reminded him fondly, if a little bittersweet, of his mother's great love. His gave him a hopeful vision of some alternative reality, a different life, where Severus Snape had lived a happy life.
"Hello," Morag said, leading the conversation as Harry had realised was common. Was it just him or had that not been similar between the young Severus and Lily, when they were childhood friends? He couldn't really know for sure, and even his views were liable to bias. All he knew of them were from the memories he had received and he had no way of being certain how typical they were for the relationship between the two. He had no way of ever knowing why Snape had, in his dying moments, chosen those exact memories to give him. He assumed Snape had chosen them, but even that he didn't know. He had tried to read books about Occlumency, Legimancy, Pensieves, all sorts of mind magics but they had all been fiendishly difficult and none of them had seemed to hold the answers he was looking for.
"It's a decent house," she continued, still smiling easily.
"Convenient," Alasdair added. Harry wondered if it was just his imagination or had Alasdair always had two lip piercings? He had thought it was just the one, but he could easily be wrong. Now there was a dark ring on each side of his lower lip, reminding Harry somewhat of a snake's fangs. Remembering the way Nagini had struck Snape in the Shrieking Shack, tearing his throat out, made him shiver slightly. He doubted he would ever forget that moment. He had seen a lot of death, far too much, but that one stayed with him far more than the rest. Maybe in part it was because Snape had been someone he'd known for such a long time. His relationship with Dumbledore had, on the face of it, been much more affectionate, but his relationship with Snape had been deeper in a way. It had been a bloodier death than most that he'd witnesses, clearly painful but even then Snape had focused on carrying out his mission. At least Dumbledore's death had been quick and presumably painless. He knew now that it had served a purpose, both putting the old wizard out of his misery and cementing Snape's position in a way that ultimately led to Voldemort's defeat. But Snape's death had served no purpose. Even the wand that Voldemort sought to claim ownership of hadn't even recognised Snape as it's owner. He had died a futile, painful, lonely death. Even though Harry had been there with him, he still felt that it had been lonely.
"Yes, it is," Harry said, happy to hear their voices. They were distorted somewhat by the strong Scottish lilt, but the tones and intonation still sounded like the voices he had listened to over and over again in his Pensieve. He would now be able to add these new memories to his Pensieve, to listen over and over again to the mundane sentences and glory in their existence.
"Close to town and campus, near the park, it's a good area," he continued, glad that he and Ginny had chosen that house to live in, not so much for the surroundings but for the coincidence that had meant the two students who seemed to be ghosts from his past had moved in next door.
"It is," Alasdair agreed, "Quiet too," suggesting that he probably wasn't a wild party animal. It was relatively quiet, for all that there were a good number of students living in the houses nearby. There would be the occasional house party, but even those managed to be mostly relatively conscientious and any antisocial activity was kept to a minimum. It was one of the nice things about the city in general, the way that the permanent population and the temporary student population lived side by side, existing in the same space.
"You should come round this weekend for a cup of tea and some cake," Harry offered, "It'd be lovely to get to know my neighbours a little bit and some tea and cake is really the least I can do for your kindness to Lily,"
He mentioned Lily's name deliberately, as he finally managed to make his invitation. He didn't know what he would do if they refused, but he knew that it would be hard for them if he pressed them with a time and date. He watched closely as well for any reaction to the name of Lily, any hint that would connect it in some way to Morag or Alasdair, and hint that it was a name that meant something to either of them. To both his mother and his teacher it had had a significant meaning, but there was nothing, just a slightly shy shuffling and grinning in response to his suggestion.
"I… We wouldn't want to impose," Morag said hesitantly, "It's really very kind of you though,"
"Not at all," Harry said, smiling and trying his best to appear utterly harmless and unthreatening, something that was contrary to reality and his job description, "It would be my pleasure, please. Are you free Saturday afternoon?"
They nodded, sharing a glance with each other. There was something in the way they looked at each other, the way that the slight twitch of Alasdair's eyebrow seemed to have meaning to Morag, which implied they had known each other a long time. Had they grown up together, as childhood friends, just like his mother and Snape had, he wondered, thinking almost affectionately of the two children innocently playing in Cokeworth decades ago, unaware of the future that awaited them.
"Say, 2pm?" he suggested, gaining some more nods of affirmation.
"OK," Alasdair said, seeming somewhat uncertain by Harry's determined hospitality, "We can pop round for a bit then, if you insist,"
"Great," Harry enthused, restraining himself as best he could from celebrating visibly, "I'll look forward to seeing you then,"
They smiled, still uncertain at his friendliness, but willing to try visiting his house at the weekend. He let them go, allowing the brief conversation to finish now that he had what he wanted, feeling no need to keep them outside clutching their bags full of books. Clearly they had come from campus, presumably the library or class, maybe a combination of both. Thinking of them combined with books made him nostalgic for Snape's old Advanced Potions book, with all the scrawling notes that covered it. He would have to get it out later and reread those comments again.
He watched them walk up to their front door, unlocking it and entering. He continued for a while to potter about in the yard, cleaning it in a vague pretence that he had been doing so when they happened to come home, before also returning to the warmth of the indoors, both eagerly impatient and horrifically nervous for Saturday.