Standard Disclaimer Type Statement: Harry Potter and all associated characters, places, and whatevers are property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, and AOHell Time Warner (boo, hiss). I make no profit from this, don't want to, and in fact spent about 83 cents worth of electricity writing this story. Fnord.
Note: The overall story is rated R; this part never goes beyond "bloody hell" level.
Part One: Small Talk
"Master Severus, there is someone here to see you." Dickons looked almost surprised, although the carefully schooled house elf would never let something as unexpected as an emotion cross his face.
"At this time of night? I'm busy. Tell whomever it might be to arrange an appointment tomorrow by owl." Severus scowled. He'd have to carefully ignore any and all owls tomorrow and the next day, and he was awaiting the delivery of fresh Mongolian pike gills to continue his research.
"Master, I am afraid the gentleman is Quite Insistent. I told him you were deep in research and could not be disturbed, but he bade me fetch you immediately," Dickons explained.
"What, did he use an Imperious spell on you? You know better than to bother me with trivia while I'm in the lab!" The vaguely ashamed look on Dickons' droopy face told Severus that indeed the elf had believed his Master's wrath was an acceptable risk. For a moment, he was convinced the Old Man was back from beyond, but…
"Very well, I can see that I will not finish here tonight. Show the alleged gentleman into the library and make him comfortable. I will be in as soon as possible."
Dickons bowed. "As you wish, Master."
Severus pushed the lock of hair back behind his ear as he passed a mirror. He wasn't one to note his looks, but he absent-mindedly wondered when the black had weakened to a steel gray. Sighing, he opened the doors to the library and hoped he could get this over with quickly. It had been a long day and a longer evening…
He stopped dead in his tracks, hand frozen to the latch.
The man turned and looked Severus full in the eyes.
"I could no longer live with my hatred."
The face was changed, older, sharper, the body filled, the hair almost neat, but the eyes…
…those green, green eyes…
"Why, Severus, why?"
The Potions Master trembled. "Harry…" he whispered. Then, louder, "Potter, just what exactly in the Nine Hells are you doing invading my house at this ghastly hour?"
"Why, Severus, what a way to greet an old friend. Aren't you going to offer me a drink?" This Harry was not the Harry of Severus' memories. This Harry was composed, mature, and obviously wanting something from him. Severus walked over to the cabinet, keeping his body in rigid check, and took two glasses from the shelf. He was inordinately proud that they did not clink together, and that the scotch poured smoothly from the decanter without a drop straying. He turned to Harry, who stood unreadable.
"Here's your drink. I could apologise a thousand times and it would mean nothing to you." Don't apologise. Don't even try. You can't. Not for this. Not ever. "So what do you want from me?" It had been too long since he played Bastard Professor.
"Thank you." Harry sipped the scotch. "Mmmmm. Forgot what good scotch tastes like. It's just a bit too dear some places I've been."
"And where was that?"
"Here, there, everywhere." Harry waved his hand vaguely, and sat in the well-worn chair. "Sit, please, Severus. I think you'll be a bit uncomfortable otherwise, for this won't be short."
Severus growled. "I don't take orders from you, Potter, and you're in my chair."
"Fine." Harry took out his wand and conjured a duplicate a few feet away. He looked thoughtful for a moment, and an ottoman appeared as well. Harry propped his feet up, took another sip, and said, "Please sit, Severus. I'm not here for revenge. Just an explanation."
"After twelve years? Your curiosity wasn't piqued before now?" He took a drink. It was amazing how much like iodine scotch really did taste.
"It was, when the anger faded. That took about five years. Then there was the pride issue. That was another five. Finally, indecision – did I really want to reopen old wounds? I was sitting in Washington Square yesterday when I made the decision. So here I am."
"Here you are. Were you in New York for long?"
"The better part of the past few years. Before that, I travelled all over the world, wizarding and muggle. Trying to make up for the years I spent locked up, either at the Dursley's or Hogwarts. Trying to put the war behind me for once and for all. Trying to forget you." Severus shifted. He told himself it was due to his age and his joints, not Harry's words. "And you? What prompted you to leave Hogwarts?"
"There was nothing left there for me but the endless frustration and agony of trying to teach a gaggle of dunderheads how not to kill themselves and everyone around them, let alone pounding into their thick skulls the merest level of competence in Potions. After Albus died- " his voice still caught on the word – "I felt it was time to find a suitable outlet for my talent." Time to grow up and leave the nest, you mean, Severus.
"And? Where did you go?"
"Impertinent whelp. Don't interrupt your elders." How easy to fall back into a pattern, Severus marvelled. "As I was saying, I felt it was time to move on. I was surprised by the number of offers that came to me once I let my availability be known." He sipped. "Former Death Eaters aren't usually viewed as suitable job applicants."
"It might be the unexcused absences due to raiding and pledging allegiance to Dark Lords that turn employers off," Harry pointed out dryly. "Sorry. Please continue," he smirked to Severus' glare.
"It took a bit of negotiation, but I finally found a suitable position with a Swiss firm that allowed me to conduct research in peace and quiet, meaning alone in my personal laboratory rather than at a workplace. I meet once a week with a liaison to report my progress, and aside from their blasted interoffice communication owls, they leave me alone. Since I've come up with a number of breakthroughs and patents, the arrangement works well for both sides." Severus glanced at Harry; he looked genuinely interested. "Have you heard of the Senectus Sapientia Potion?"
"The anti-dementia potion for elderly wizards? Of course! What a breakthrough! That was you?"
"Don't sound so surprised, Potter. For the most part. Their research wizards refined the ingredient list a bit, but I discovered the basic formula while I was working on a short term memory enhancer."
"Wow, Severus, I'm really impressed. That potion has revolutionized the lives of witches and wizards around the world. I recently did an interview with the Speaker of the American Assembly –"
"You're a journalist, after the way the press treated you here in Britain?" Severus interrupted Harry.
"Not a journalist, more like a freelance writer. I research and write about things that interest me, people, places, events all over the world, but mostly in America the past few years. Both wizarding and muggle publications pick me up; I've a steady column with both Metro Magic Monthly and the Village Voice in New York. Under a nom de plume, of course."
"Which is? And would you like a refill?" This was almost too comfortable, Severus thought.
"Yes, and Harry Evans. A common enough name."
"Indeed." Severus flicked his wand, and the decanter floated over and poured two more drinks, then settled onto the nearby table. Should he make the admission? The alcohol must have had its usual effect, for he felt not nearly as on edge as he should have been with Harry in the room. "Yet, I seem to recall I've seen mention of Famous Harry Potter pop up here and there in the Daily Prophet. You caused quite a panic when you disappeared."
"I didn't know you cared, Severus." Those damn green eyes weren't twinkling, were they?
"I didn't. More like I was endlessly annoyed and disturbed by those idiots who tenaciously clung to the misguided belief I was your babysitter and kept track of your whims. Especially irritating were your cohorts."
Harry sighed and took a deep drink. "I know I wasn't exactly fair to all of them when I left suddenly, but I couldn't stay in England another minute." And you know why, those eyes accused Severus silently. "I arrange to be seen in public or to give a quote every once in a while, so I can be left alone the rest of the time."
"A wise course of action."
"I knew you'd sympathise. I didn't see you at Albus' service, did I?"
Severus winced. He hadn't expected this to be a society tea, but did Harry have to choose his targets so very carefully? "No. You didn't. I prefer to do my…remembering…in private. Minerva and the other staff understood."
"I take it you do manage to keep in touch with Miss Granger and by extension, Hogwarts?"
"Of course, though not nearly as often as they would like. It's how I found out you had left." Admission matched. "Hermione is doing fine; she's been made Assistant Headmaster this past term. She and Hassan – do you know him?"
"He started teaching Ancient Runes my last year."
"Ah, good. Yes, she and Hassan are going to be married someday soon. And Minerva tells me she hasn't yet found a decent Potions Instructor since you 'walked out', her words."
"I wouldn't expect she could. When did you talk to her?"
"About five hours ago, trying to find you."
Severus abruptly stood and strode over to the fireplace. "Why now, after all these years?" The flames flickered in the slight draft, casting strange black shadows in the corners of his eyesight. Always the black shadows of his past.
"I told you."
"No, you told me you couldn't live with your hatred any longer. You told me you wanted an explanation. You didn't tell me why you needed to track me down in person," Severus snarled. "In case you haven't noticed, Potter, I've done my best to live quietly and do something decent with my life, and stay out of yours. So why now?"
Harry put his drink down, rose, and came to stand by Severus. His eyes had the faintest of wrinkles in the corners, and Severus noticed for the first time a hidden strand of gray in the defiant lock that came down over his forehead, over the scar –
"Where the bloody hell is your scar?!?"
"Muggles have this wonderful invention called makeup. It does in thirty seconds what no charm or potion seems to be able to achieve. The scar's still there, Severus, under the layers of makeup." Harry reached out and touched Severus' left arm. "We all have our scars, hidden as they may be." Severus hoped Harry would continue to politely ignore his tremble. "And that's why I'm here, now. I want to heal."
"I'm not a healer, Potter."
"Harry." Severus turned to the fire. "I cannot change what happened between us." The heat of the flames must have been causing his eyes to burn and water.
"No, you can't. But you can explain."
"What do you want to hear?"
"Why you loved my father, after everything. Maybe then…" Harry's voice trailed into a whisper.
"Maybe what?" Snape wasn't aware he was holding his breath.
"Then I'll know why I still love you."
To Be Continued…
Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Snape and Harry stories. I sincerely hope this one doesn't resemble any of those too very closely, although the idea is, has been, and will probably be done to death by the time I finish with my version. So, therefore:
The line "I could no longer live with my hatred" is taken from a 1950's historical romance novel, Katherine, by Anya Seton. Entirely different circumstances, however.
Severus' recurring opinion of Harry's "green, green eyes" is from a fanfic I read around Christmas 2002 and haven't been able to find again. I do recall it had Harry spending a lot of time alone in a hospital bed and plenty of Sev angst.
Senectus Sapientiais directly out of Cassell's Latin Dictionary and the entries for Old Age and Wisdom. (I believe Severus began his work on this potion as his own tribute to Albus Dumbledore, but won't tell anyone the truth.) I didn't have a chance to learn Latin while I was in school, so I want to publicly thank J.K. Rowling and Sushi (must read) for inspiring me to attempt to learn it now.
Metro Magic Monthlyis entirely my creation. Everyone needs self-affirmation once in a while.
Part Two is under construction. There will be a few small spoilers for OotP, but nothing that should ruin the book for anyone. I'll make sure to notate appropriately at the beginning of the story.
Want it? You're welcome to archive my stories (I'm ever the optimist) anywhere, just mention that I wrote them.