Retreating into Muggle London cut him off from all things magical and provided him the much needed reprieve from a Wizarding World that was currently hunting him down.
Slumped in a couch of hideous colour—just like the rest of the décor in the run-down hotel room—Severus Snape conceded that giving up magic in exchange for temporary safety was a fair price to pay. Yes, he missed the freedom to spell a cup of tea hot or to summon items. But there was no tea for him to warm, and he had so little with him that Accio-ing something hardly ever crossed his mind.
Severus shook his head. Best not to think about what he didn't have.
The clock on the poor excuse of a night table chimed twelve. Severus stirred. He had fallen asleep on the couch. He was about to transfer himself onto the bed when he heard a faint pop, and something gold and glittery materialised from thin air.
It was… a package of chocolate frog.
Severus made no attempt to grab it. The first non-Muggle item he was encountering in months couldn't possibly be benevolent. But he detected no hidden spells or curses in the package, so he ignored the bobbing chocolate and dragged himself toward the bed.
The package of chocolate frog followed.
"Not now," Severus muttered. "Let me get some sleep first."
The chocolate frog obliged and rested itself on the night table.
When daytime came, the chocolate frog started following Severus around. In a space of no more than 10 square metres, it was downright annoying. He tried to occupy himself with the Muggle newspaper and with planning where he would go next (he had already stayed in this hotel for three nights), but his to-do list ended too soon and Severus found himself, in the middle of the afternoon, glaring at an airborne package of sweet.
"What do you want?" Dear Merlin, he was talking to bewitched food.
The chocolate frog floated down to Severus' hand. Severus imagined the package screaming "Take me!" had it been capable of speech.
He turned and walked away from the chocolate. He wasn't known as a paranoid stubborn git for no reason.
When Severus took dinner—he decided on Chinese take-away—the chocolate frog applied a new tactic. It circled around him. And around. And around. By the twentieth round, Severus had completely lost his appetite.
"Cease moving this instant!"
The chocolate frog stopped circling. Instead, it descended once again toward Severus' hand.
Severus weighed his options. It was unlikely that this mysterious package of chocolate frog would leave him alone anytime soon. He could play petty with it and risk ending up at St. Mungo's with a severe case of insanity, or he could capture it, rip its packaging apart, and bite the bloody sweet in half.
He sighed. The latter was a much more satisfying option.
He never got to the biting part, however. As soon as he tore open the golden wrapping –
"Ah! Severus, finally!"
Why was he not surprised that out of more than a hundred Famous Wizards and Witches cards, he got this one?
"Can't you rest in peace, Albus? This whole chocolate frog… thing… don't tell me it was entirely your doing."
The Dumbledore in the chocolate frog card beamed with pride. "Clever, isn't it? I charmed it myself."
Severus scowled. He was a heartbeat away from ripping that damnable card into many, many pieces. But at the exact moment when he brought his other hand up to tear the card, Dumbledore's eyes twinkled in a way that made his throat thick and his eyes prickly.
He missed that man.
Dumbledore's smile was gentle. "I miss you, Severus. That's why I spelled this to come to you after I died."
Severus almost spat at the card. "Don't you get it, Albus? You're dead because of me! I killed you!"
"I know." Albus' tone was far too cheery. "I charmed the chocolate frog after we discussed the possible repercussions of your Vow with Mrs. Malfoy."
"I killed you, Albus. I killed you." He brought a thumb to ghost over the tiny image of Dumbledore. "I killed you…"
"Severus," Dumbledore cut him short. "Do you know what today is?"
He glanced at that morning's issue of The Times. "January 9." It was his birthday. He had forgotten.
Blue eyes gazed earnestly up at Severus. "For your birthday, I grant you my complete absolution. Not that I think you need my forgiveness, but evidently you believe you do."
"But I killed…"
"I know, or the chocolate frog wouldn't have reached you."
Severus was silent.
Dumbledore raised his miniature arm and pressed it against Severus' thumb. "Forgive yourself, my dear boy." His image was fading from the chocolate frog card. The power of the spell was dissipating. "And Happy Birthday."
Severus stood staring at the empty-framed chocolate frog card for a long time.
It was March, and Harry Potter thought he had finally tracked Snape down. The same tall, lanky profile wrapped in a black robe, the same curtain of oily hair draped unceremoniously across the man's shoulders. The same proud walk, even when the wizard in sight was supposed to be on the run.
But this couldn't possibly be Severus Snape. Not in a million years would Harry believe Snape capable of owning a familiar, let alone a… chocolate frog?
Harry squinted. He wasn't seeing things. There was a chocolate frog hopping enthusiastically—no, bouncing enthusiastically—on Snape's right shoulder. The frog looked… happy.
As the Snape look-alike disappeared into the crowd, headlines of The Daily Prophet flashed across Harry's mind: "Death Eater On-the-Run Caught with Bouncing Chocolate Frog on Shoulder," "Severus Snape: Murderer, Chocoholic, and Off the Rocker?" "Tear Jerking Moment of Death Eater Arrest: chocolate frog melted by its own tears while pried from ex-Hogwarts professor."
A voice behind him broke him from his reverie. "If you're quite done gawking, Mr. Potter."
Harry whirled around. And blurted out the first thing that came to mind: "I thought chocolate frogs stopped jumping after ten seconds!"
"It appears that your area of aptitude applies to food as well as Quidditch," Snape said, clearly amused. He raised an open palm to his shoulder, and the chocolate frog jumped onto it as if landing on a flesh-coloured lily pad. Snape extended both hand and frog toward Harry. "This particular frog is charmed to be perpetually lifelike."
Harry lifted a hand. "Can I… touch it?"
The chocolate frog felt smooth, not sticky like normal chocolate. It leaned into Harry's stroking fingers, giving a gurgled ribbit when its chin was tickled. It suddenly jumped onto a startled Harry's arm.
"It has taken a liking to you," Snape said, his tone becoming quiet. "I suppose I can go with you then."
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't pretend, Potter! You're here to capture me, to bring me back into the Wizarding World as traitor and murderer of Albus Dumbledore."
Oh God! No one had bothered to tell Snape anything… "You think I'm here to… wait, you want to be captured? Is that why you started talking to me?"
Snape looked away. "I have reconciled myself with the past. I'm ready for closure, in whatever form it takes."
The chocolate frog was nibbling frantically at Harry's jumper, protesting, wanting to protect its owner. Harry placed a hand over its panicking body and held it still. "Snape." No response. "Snape!" Black eyes met his.
"I'm… yes, I'm here to arrest you, but, you see, it's not what you think…" Harry swallowed. "It's over. The war, I mean. He's gone. And… er… they sort of made me the honourary head of the Wizengamot."
A raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, I know, I don't qualify, I'm stupid, impulsive, reckless… but they don't see that, the public. Only you ever tell me that, and though I hate to admit it, it's kind of true."
"So it's going to be okay, your trial. Dumbledore left memories, we have testimonies from Malfoy. You won't be convicted. Well, you will, for being a Death Eater to begin with. But you won't get the Kiss or Azkaban. I'll see to that."
When Snape spoke, his voice was such a low purr that Harry found his heart racing. "Has it occurred to you, your honour, that bargaining favours with the defendant outside of court is itself a crime?"
"I… no. No, sir."
"Kindly remove your hand from my frog and go back to your adoring public. Come back when you have sorted out your thoughts."
Harry gave back the chocolate frog, which promptly retook its place on Snape's shoulder. But he didn't quite want to end the encounter just yet. "Don't the Muggles give you weird looks for having a jumping frog with you?" he asked.
Snape sneered, "Muggles don't see a thing."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're still such an arrogant bastard."
Snape tipped his head in a mock bow. "Wouldn't want to disappoint, Mr. Potter."
Harry laughed. For the first time ever, he was sharing an amused moment with Snape, and enjoyed it. Yes, he would definitely go back and think things over. Snape was clearly no longer a threat to society—he was the owner of a pet chocolate frog, for Merlin's sake! He would think of a way to protect Snape legally.
"Until next time, then." Harry held out a hand, and grinned when Snape's larger hand took his.