Disclaimer: The characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
Warning: Slash. Alternate Universe. 'Out of Characterness'. HBP Spoilers.
Summary: The Spy who became an Artist. The Child who needed a home. The Recluse who became a Teacher and the Boy who saved the world. Sometimes, age is just a number and love can save the world.
Dedication: To Silverphoenix69 who kept me sane while I wrote this, and to Orionnaire for rescuing me and my French so many times.
NB: There will be FIVE parts to this. Harry's age changes in each 'part'. To avoid confusion, keep this in mind as you read!
Le Petit Chat
It was hard to fade into obscurity again. It was almost impossible to believe that having the strength to do it once was enough to give him the skills needed to disappear again. Having been a part of a world, lived and loved, it was a shock to be cut off from the people he knew.
But Severus was nothing if not a survivor.
Paris, France was luckily still a beautiful city to him. Maybe it didn't have the comfortable feel of Great Britain but it was enough to soothe his demons. And those he had in abundance. One did not run away from a situation unless it was unbearable. Two years ago, Severus' life had gotten to be excrutiatingly unbearable. When he left, he had left behind his heart and soul, but at least in Paris he was assured of never having to face the reality of what had happened.
He could still remember the night.
In that first year he had relived that night so many times. Random walks to the boulangerie had transformed from just a regular sidewalk of people and painters to a room of blood and screams. And he would be on his knees, torn between the man he loved and the man who loved him. The lion, the snake and the shield that protected them. If love was a painting it would have been a twisted mass of colors bathed in black and red or grey. How he had managed to keep them both alive was a feat for the gods, but he had done it. And then he fled, leaving them behind.
It was easier to flee than to fight for his virtue. He was no innocent in the matter and when the Aurors has shown up there was no time to think about what would become of them all. He could still hear the pops of apparition as pandemonium broke out and the Death Eaters, divided by the loss of their leader, had turned to plan B and apparated for their lives.
He had made sure that Draco knew to leave England as soon as the Healers had patched him up properly. If he had to apparate on the sidewalk outside of St. Mungo's then so be it. What got to Severus as he watched Draco being levitated away by the Aurors was that he would probably never know if his plan worked.
He could remember emerald eyes looking at him with a look of pure exhaustion and pain.
"Go," Harry had whispered.
In that moment Severus honestly knew that he could have marched down to Lucifer himself than to find the strength to leave this man again. He couldn't move away and amidst the sound of shouts and the flashes of spells he had needed only to pull the boy into his arms.
"Go," Harry whispered again, "I'll be okay."
But he hadn't been okay and they both knew it. When Severus had released him, his arms had been covered in blood and Harry had swayed dangerously. He had refused Severus' hold again though, pushing him away harder than his broken body should have allowed. He had shouted for Severus to go that last time, as Aurors converged around them.
Severus apparated as Harry crumbled to the ground. And that was the image he had taken with him. Two years in hiding. A war over. A Dark Lord dead. A hero mortally wounded. A demon escaping from the belly of hell. And death tainting the air between them.
Severus' life was different now, and maybe not as obscure as he planned. If he had changed, it was only because the world had changed him and he had no desire to fight for yet another cause. His life was quiet now. Colder now, without the warmth of life, but he had always trained himself to be a creature of solitude and that came in handy as he lived his life around his art now in the Muggle parts of grande Paris.
"Excusez moi monsieur, êtes-vous l'artiste?"
Standing in the middle of a gallery of his pieces never failed to pull Severus out of his reminiscence. Sometimes he could blend into the crowd just long enough to lose himself in the memories of that other life and that other Severus. But soon enough someone would approached him and he would be Severus the artist again and not Severus, the wizard, the Death Eater or the spy.
"Yes I am the artist."
The thin little French Muggle in a grey two piece suit holding a catalogue, beamed at Severus. Knowing what would come next Snape responded with a look that promised an awful death if the man dared to ask the question that was obvious. They were standing before one of the pieces afterall.
"How much is this painting?" The man's voice had gone softer, but no less determine as the French words rolled off his tongue.
Severus took a deep breath and silently recited all the different poisons he had at his disposal, before he gave a tight smile. "That piece is not for sale."
Five pieces. All for display purposes only.
Most people who saw the pieces could appreciate why they were not for sale. It was obvious that those pieces held something far beyond what the other paintings had. There was something about them that called to anyone who saw them, but the magical essence of them told that they were too valuable to be priced and sold. They were all of the same person. Even an idiot could see that, even if the young man in it was captured at different stages in life. And he was magical too. Perhaps this was why whenever Muggles saw them they were captivated.
This fifth piece was the one that everyone stood enthralled beneath. The other four had just been teasers where no matter how far they twisted or craned their necks, the face of the special person had always been obscured. Not even 'The Shadow and the Star', the re-done piece with the winged demon, held as much emotions.
Yet, this one was just a portrait.
Just green eyes and the perfect cupid's bow of lips on a face that had a look that was far too wise for the youth that it portrayed. Shaggy black hair that looked permanently tussled cascaded over a forehead that hid a shape too faded to decifer. The eyes pierced the canvas, as if they were permanently searching the crowd that gazed at him, for one person. There were no tears, but he brought tears to the eyes of everyone who looked at him. There was an underlying sadness in those green eyes. He was permanently broken and so very lost, but there was hope too. Whoever he needed so desperately would return to him one day. No one could leave such an enchanting creature alone for long, afterall.
"You loved him." The words were soft and held an understanding that Severus did not expect. "Without him you are just broken."
Against his better judgement, Severus reached out to trace his fingers over the embossed letters of the title that hung below the piece. He couldn't stare at those eyes anymore. When he had sat alone and painted Harry the way he remembered him, it had been almost too painful. Hanging publicly for Muggles to look at in their ignorance, not knowing who this man was or what he was, seemed criminal. Severus wanted nothing more than to gather the pieces into his hands and hide them away from the prying Muggle eyes. But it was Harry's birthday today and every year so far he honored it with an artshow.
"He was just a muse," Severus finally responded softly, but the Muggle beside him did not look convinced.
He seemed to have more that he wished to say but Severus had enough of the conversation. He wasn't about to open up his past to a complete stranger. Especially a Muggle at that, who would never understand the sacrifices that had been made for their sake.
"He was just a muse," Severus repeated before turning away.
Standing in the middle of a gallery with far too many people than he could reasonably tolerate, Severus suddenly began feeling agoraphobic. He need a bit of fresh air from the images and sounds that had nothing to do with the Muggles around and more to do with the beautiful cat eyes that he had immortalized on canvas. He ran his fingers through his hair, pinched the bridge of his nose and felt like unleashing a wave of curses on everyone in his vicinity. He needed to calm himself.
"Everyone, get the hell out of my way!"
Luckily, rude, obnoxious artists were nothing new to the francophones. They merely gave him half amused smirks before parting like a sea before him. He stormed pass them not caring how much of a bastard he was being. It was Harry's birthday and he didn't like the way his insides hurt from missing Harry.
Halfway to the door there was an uproar.
People ducked, men and women gasped while children screamed as two owls flew over their heads and into the rooms. How they had made it to the fifth floor of the gallery was quite remarkable, but as they flew with their intimidating wing spans, no one doubted that anyone had risked their lives to stop them.
Severus stopped walking as soon as they perched on a marble half column. It was obvious that they were for him. He reached for the larger grey one with its black tipped beak and managed to extract the piece of cream colored parchment from its leg. He barely saw the Hogwarts seal as he ripped through it to begin to read the enclosed letter.
Perhaps I am the last person that you would hope to write to you. Or maybe these few years have helped you to forgive as even now I am realizing just how much I seek your forgiveness. It was wrong of me to accuse you and even worse for the Order to believe that you abandoned us. As your collegue for all those years I should have known better than to believe that you could so easily turn your back on what is right. I am not writing you to preach a message that you already know. I do not seek you out now to remind you of your pain. I know you enough, and should hope I still do, to recognize that you have stayed away because you do not feel ready to return to the life you led here in Wizarding Britain. I merely write to you now because I bring good news. I should hope that it is news you wish to hear as you have certainly waited long enough.
Your property has been restored to you Severus. As of today you are a free and innocent man. Many of the Death Eaters were not given such pardon and those who have lived are now locked where they belong in Azkaban. It is now safe for you to return, should you wish. I take this time to appreciate that this it may not be your wish. No doubt two years is a long enough time to form new bonds and plant new roots wherever you have fled to. I don't blame you for fleeing. I understand that you had no choice. It is because of this why I approach you with this letter today after these two year. Hogwarts is reopening again and as the new Headmistress I find that I am at a loss for both a Potions professor and a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. In fact, I have only just recently filled the space for a Transfigurations professor to which I am incredibly grateful. Either of these remaining positions can be yours if you desire. Both in fact, if you believe you can manage.
I don't know if this will sway your decision and I can only hope that it does not deter you, but Harry Potter has agreed to fill in either of the positions if you refuse any. I don't know the nature of your relationship with him. He has changed from the boy we knew as a student. He fought very hard to have you released and it is by his words that you are free, as he refused to budge on his belief in your innocence. He believed in Draco Malfoy's innocence too. Something which shocked both me and the rest of the Wizarding world. Perhaps this news will sway you. Draco is also free. In fact he plans to marry soon. As both his parents are dead he has inherited quite a fortune. And you know young Malfoy. He now acts as if he is a prince among paupers. But if you come I have no doubt that you can reign his arrogance in.
I have said all this Severus, in supplication. It has been two years. The war is finally well and truly over for those of us who fought in the front lines. There are those who lived who should never have and there is one who died who perhaps deserved to see this victory but sacrificed himself to bring about an end. These are things of the past, even now. Perhaps what we should learn is that the these things we need to leave behind. The future awaits us.
I await your response.
Severus glared at the paper in hopes that it would spotaneously ignite. He had finally managed to recreate himself and find some semblance of normalcy and now he was faced with this. Well at least this time it had only taken two years. Strange, since he had been the one to deliver Potter over to Voldemort. There had been no warning and no plan so it was amazing that the boy had pulled off the impossible and managed to keep a clear head. The result of which was that the Dark Lord had died and Potter had probably fought the entire Wizengamot to make Severus seem like the hero. Well if McGonagall or anyone else thought that he was just going to uproot himself at her beck and call without first drinking half a glass of scotch and having a good moment to think - a private moment not ruined by the whispers of people pretending to truly understand his art - she was in for a nasty shock.
Still in an annoyed state of mind he reached out to the other owl.
It was white with big brown eyes that seemed strangely intelligent and more than a little bit judgemental as it waited for Severus to extract the letter from its leg. Severus could only imagine that it was an owl from the ministry that was delivering to him the news of his verdict. He prepared himself to read empty words that filled the paper with useless information, of which he couldn't care more or less about, than where to go to fill out the documents that stood between him and his property. He had to be careful on unscrolling the piece of parchment. Aurors were picky in the way that they got annoyed if there was even a spot on the official letter and should he decide to go back to Engand it wouldn't do any good to infuriate the Aurors.
He was in for a surprise when he finally got the letter open. On looking for the usual sparkling letterhead proclaiming the 'Ministry of Magic' and its address, it was very easy to see that no such heading existed. There were only six words written on the paper. Handwritten. They could have only been from one person. Staring at the words, Severus felt the world fade away and the people around him were just background noise and mild distractions. There were only the words. And they made Severus' chest hurt uncomfortably to read them so simply written. He stared at them until they blurred into a mass of confusing lines and all Severus could think was that this was the one thing that could possibly convince him to return to his old life. There was just one wizard, and this letter was the one request he could accept.
Come home. Please. Peniwynth misses you.
Peniwynth at winter was dark and enchanting.
Light snow fell like a curtain and the blanket of white covered everything in the courtyard. The manor was a beacon, with the background of the night illuminating it in a way that could only be magical. Severus stood before the front doors and ran his fingers against one of gargoyles that protected the entrance. The hideous stone creature shifted under the caress as if it could not get enough of the warmth of his master's fingertips.
It had been too long, Severus agreed silently with the gargoyle. He had stayed for longer than he thought he would have, but now he was home again.
"Is he here?" he asked softly. "Or did I lose him again?"
The gargoyle didn't have an answer for him this time. Instead it hung its grey head into the position of its twin. Severus' fingers slipped from the cold marble slowly. The gargoyle's action could only mean a denial. Severus' expression hardened at the thought that Harry had not waited for him. He had returned to nothing, but no matter, he needed no one to survive and this time was no different.
His thoughts ran to the letter he had sent back to McGonagall in response to her owl to him.
Time, they say, heals all wounds. I find that, as I disagree with most men's words, I disagree with these also. Time has never been my friend. Through time I have lost everything, gained only darkness and become only a shell of the wizard I was at the beginning. I'd like to think that I am smart enough not to want to start this process all over again.
My time at Hogwarts have long passed. Perhaps I feel that there is nothing left for me to teach and those who wait for me to impart knowledge only waste their time. If this war has taught us anything it is that time is unfaithful for it loves some men more than others. No Minerva, I will not subject myself to a task I can no longer carry out in good faith. I will return to Britain when I no longer feel the burn of time. If I can face my past then may I learn to accept my future.
I will endeavour to keep in contact but I request only that for whatever I choose to do with what time I have, you will not ask me again to return to Hogwarts. One day I will, but not while my memories and my regrets are strong.
I cannot change my past, but I will not become a slave to the future.
The doors opened with a firm touch of Severus' palms against the giant spider shaped knockers.
Severus stepped into the Hall slowly. Candles flared from being magically lit and the diamonds that hung from the chandeliers sparkled in the light of the new flames. Above, the magical ceiling reflected the gentle fall of snow from a sky that was fast approaching the darkness of night. The black and white marble columns and cross beams stood like sentries and swords, in remembrance of a time when they had been able to share their unique perspective with a child.
It was home, and Severus had missed it more than he was willing to admit. The silence would be his blanket and the shadows would be his muse. Perhaps he could learn to love his solitude again.
"You made me wait four months."
The quiet voice shattered the silence, and echoed in a way that only one who had diligently practised could achieve.
Severus briefly closed his eyes, refusing to accept that he was wrong. He refused to accept that he had ached to hear that voice again. He did not deserve the wizard who spoke them. Yet there was Harry, waiting for him. On the staircase of gold and marble, he looked taller that Severus remembered. His mop of black hair was tamed into a length that hid the faded scar on his forehead and lightly brushed the collar of his shirt in the back. With his arms crossed and his face set in a fairly convincing scowl, Severus saw only the emerald green eyes on a face blessed by the gods.
There was a part of him that had always loved this wizard. The child, the boy, the man, the hero had been his anchor in those times of his life when doubt had run rampant and difficult decisions had to be made.
"This has always been your story," Harry said softly when he was only a few feet away from Severus. "I'll always be waiting for you it seems."
Severus reached out to him and marvelled silently when Harry didn't hesitate to embrace him. Arms wrapped tightly around each other, Severus kissed the column of flesh at the side of Harry's neck. He buried his face in the soft strands of Harry's hair and inhaled the scent that was unique only to Harry.
"What did I do to deserve you?" Severus asked, for the first time in his life allowing his words to convey everything he was feeling. "You are perfect and I..."
"You make me into perfection. Without you I am just broken." Harry smiled slowly as his words sank in. He drew out of the tight embrace enough to watch the play of emotions on Severus' face as everything began to fall into place.
When he opened his mouth to speak, Harry stopped him with fingers against his lips.
"No. No words." Harry's fingers caressed Severus' lips slowly. "I just wanted to see you. I couldn't stop myself."
Severus retracted one arm from around Harry's waist to captured the fingers that teased his lips. He kissed the light pink palm and then kissed each fingertip slowly, never removing his gaze from the sparkling green eyes that gazed back at him. He wanted to kiss Harry's lips until the other wizard was breathless. He wanted to hold him, fuse their bodies together, and never forget that this man was a gift he would never know how to repay.
"Je tu désire." Severus leaned across to whisper softly into Harry's ear. "Permets-moi de te prendre."
He heard the sharp intake of breath that Harry took and he felt the shiver that ran through Harry's body at his words. Harry's arms tightened around Severus' waist as he tilted his head onto Severus' shoulder. Severus held him tighter as he awaited the acceptance or denial to his request. Let me have you, he had said but he was afraid that he had already taken too much from this man.
"Bien sûr," Harry finally responded softly, "I have always been yours to take."
Their love making was different this time from the last. This time there was no unresolved tension between them, no war to fight and no worries about allegiances and betrayal.
Severus tried to erase all the sadness and grief that he had ever caused in the wizard that laid so forgivingly before him on his bed. Silk sheets of dark grey contrasted with the golden skin as dark green eyes invited him to have his way. He kissed every line and curve of Harry's body, listening to the moans and whimpers that they procured. He savored the sound of each of them, using them to purge himself like no other could do for him.
"You are so..." and words failed him for the first time in a long time.
Harry smiled, reaching out to him.
Fingers became tangled in the curtain of black hair that formed as Severus gazed into those green eyes. He could feel the pad of Harry's thumb as it traced circles across his cheekbone, along his jawline and across his cheek. The emerald eyes searched his gaze in a look that was a combination of innocence and experience all mixed together in this one wizard. He was so brave and so beautiful, but Severus couldn't seem to get the words past his lips as he held on to the light in Harry's eyes.
Buried deeply within him such that their bodies seemed to be an extension of each other, Severus wondered if he couldn't feel Harry's soul through their joined bodies. Or in the tips of his fingers as this time he traced the contours of Harry's face. Or in the sweet bliss of Harry's lips as he brought their mouths together in a kiss that would imprint itself in his memory.
He moved his hips, marvelling when Harry moved with him
Severus tried to take mental pictures of Harry's face as it contorted with pleasure and desire. He wanted to remember that he had the power to provide this hero with a reprieve. Harry was twenty-one now, but he had been forced to become so much already. Tilting his head upon Harry's forehead to bring their lips together again, being inside of him, connected so intimately and moving in almost a perfect syncrony, Severus swore to the gods and whoever else was listening that he would never again give up this man without a fight.
"Forgive me mon petit chat," Severus whispered very softly into Harry's ear, "But it seems that...I am still in love with you."
Harry's eyes widened in surprise at the confession. He murmured Severus' name in a broken whisper before he brought their lips crashing together again. He tightened his hold on the other wizard, pulling him deeper now with every thrust. He fought back tears as if he was suddenly afraid that he would make a fool of himself by crying.
Not that Severus cared as he felt Harry's body shudder beneath him. He watched as the green eyes became clouded with abandonment. Deep inside of Harry he felt the wave of Harry's release and it called to him until his own body followed suit. And no matter what he wanted, he couldn't fight his own reaction, because suddenly he was spilling hot liquid into the cave of Harry's body. He wished that he could make the moment last a lifetime.
When it was over and their breathing returned to normal, Severus slipped out of Harry and called his wand to him. A quick wave and a spell cleaned them. Harry moved into his arms again, resting his head on Severus' chest as one hand traced light fingertips along the clear pale flesh of the inner part of Severus' left arm.
"You don't know how long I wanted for you to say that." Harry broke the silence with the softly spoken words. "Is it wrong that I have loved you forever? I think I loved you even when I was five and you were the first person to be so kind to me that I couldn't forget you. It only became something more complex and deeper as I got older."
Severus cradled Harry's head through the mop of black hair. He tried not to focus on the way the candles in the room gave Harry an almost etheral glow that didn't actually work as well with his own pale flesh. He tried not to trace the lines of long scars on Harry's back that two years had not been able to fully fade away. He wanted to remember the beauty of Harry and not the pain he had caused him. He would never hurt this man again, he swore to himself.
"I don't believe I told you thank you," he said aloud instead.
Harry raised his head to rest his chin on Severus' chest. "What for?"
"For saving the world. For convincing the Wizengamot of my innocence," Severus responded softly. "For forgiving me of my betrayal."
"You never betrayed me."
"And I suppose you ended up in Voldemort's presence all by yourself?" Severus raised an eyebrow in a perfect arch.
Harry blushed. "I trusted you. I still trust you. Besides, that's all in the past now. I don't want to think about it any more. There is so much left in the world to do but I want to forget it all. I gave up everything I could for a long time. I think it's right that I get what I want after all this time."
Severus traced Harry's nose from the faded lightning bolt scar to the slight upturned tip. Then he tried in vain to smudge the perfect cupid's bow of Harry's lips with his thumb. He wondered if he could ever bottle the glowing emerald shade of Harry's eyes or the perfect blend of peach and pink and cream that was Harry's complexion.
"Tell me what you want and I will give it to you," he whispered. "Show me what to do and I will do it for you. And ask me anything and I will walk to eternity to please you."
Harry chuckled. "I don't need a servant. I don't need to be worshipped by you or any one else for anything that I did. I just need for you to love me for as long as you can."
Severus, hooked a finger beneath Harry's chin and he mock glared at the wizard who was purity incarnate.
"Then you're way too easy to please Potter," he responded lightly. "My heart is already yours for as long as you want it."
Harry beamed at him, before shuffling enough that he was lying against Severus' chest again. His fingers played on the smooth paleness of Severus' skin. His caress was light, like feathers against Severus' flesh before they finally slowed as Harry drifted asleep in Severus' arms.
Severus held on to him, holding him as tightly as he had not dared to do before. He savored the moment and the miracle of being able to just be there holding his little cat in his arms once again. Soon he would rise from the bed to get his wand from where it had once again fallen to the floor and he would call his paints and brushes and canvas to himself. Soon he could give into his artistic side and draw Harry asleep, draped in silk and naked in his bed. Soon. But until then he caressed the smooth cheeks and tried to tame the wild black hair.
"He is mine," Severus whispered aloud into the darkness to the broken demons and the smiling angels that always seemed to hover over them. "He is mine and I will be there to protect him. Always."
A/N – If you found it frustrating that there are no French translations in this fic, please read the explanation on this page (coeur-de-ma-vie . livejournal . com/71980 . html). After which, if you'd still like to review I will still be very happy to hear from you.