Title: Hope Raises No Dust
Author: AbstractConcept (theconcept)
Notes: Written for Andreanna's lovely pic: in Tarie's Illustrated Ficcish Wish FulFillment Swap!
Betas: Much thanks to Djin7 and Jadzia
Summary: Post-HBP, Severus and Harry come together again, learn to cope, look toward the future, and to hope. Title taken from a quotation by Paul Eluard.
Hope Raises No Dust
It was cold and starless the night Severus Snape came crawling back into Harry Potter's life. He was a broken, defeated wreck of a man with nothing left to lose. Well, perhaps not entirely defeated. Not when the first words out of his mouth on seeing Harry standing at the door of Grimmauld Place were, "Come to finish me off, Potter? Go on, then. Prove you can do it."
All the same, Harry didn't think he'd ever get over it—seeing the blood, the way the man's face was lined with pain, the consequences of a life given to Voldemort. He'd wanted to punish Snape for Dumbledore's death, he'd felt so much pure rage and hatred for the man...
Then why did he have to look away? Why didn't he enjoy watching that battered body crawl toward him as if in supplication? Why did it merely make him sick?
He could have finished Snape off, he supposed, except for the fact that Avada Kedavra required real passion behind it, and all Harry felt anymore was tired.
So instead he helped Snape up, and assisted him indoors so McGonagall could be called. He ignored the expression of incredulity on the man's face, instead keeping his eyes cast down. Harry wouldn't remember that expression later. He didn't want to. All he'd remember was that Snape's tattered robes were covered in blood and dust.
It wasn't exactly forgiveness. It was kind of like a truce, Harry supposed. Voldemort was absolutely unchecked, killing when and where he would, with the Ministry helpless and worthless. With people dying all around him, Harry knew that whatever he felt for Snape, Voldemort was the foremost concern.
Sometimes, Harry felt something akin to pity, like when he tried to bait the man, asking where his chum Malfoy was, and why Snape had left him behind, and Snape had said, "Draco's dead," in a quiet voice.
"How do you know?"
"I was there. Now shut your mouth and hand me that boomslang skin."
And there didn't seem much else to add, and the man didn't want to talk further anyway, but it sort of eroded some of the hostility Harry felt.
Snape seemed to forgo hating Harry, as well. They worked together, looking for that one thing that would vanquish the Dark Lord forever. They'd hunted the Horcruxes down together, researched them together, and destroyed them together. It was not an enjoyable experience. There were fights, vitriol, accusations. A day never seemed to pass where Harry didn't remind Severus of what he'd done, and Severus never missed an opportunity to belittle Harry's skills.
Sometimes the fights turned physical. Harry wasn't in school anymore, and there was no one overseeing them, no damper for two men with explosive tempers. "Bloody traitor," Harry growled.
"Useless sod," Snape replied furiously.
Harry threw a vial of something at the man—something that ate away the man's shirt-sleeve and left blackened burns on his arm.
"You think that hurts? More than having the Dark Mark branded into my skin? Imbecile," the former Potions Master snapped.
The next day, they had an altercation that resulted in Harry being slapped. He carried the mark on his cheek for nearly a week.
"What happened to your face, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall demanded when she dropped by to check on them.
Harry, who could have used the opportunity to rid himself of Snape's company, exchanged an acrimonious glance with the man.
"Nothing," he told her shortly. He wanted to say that he hated Snape, that the man was a vicious, lying, back-stabbing beast, but he couldn't move his tongue, and the words turned to dust in his mouth.
It was weird to laugh with Snape. It would have seemed more natural to laugh at Snape. Harry certainly never would have expected the two of them to share a chuckle. But when they opened up the paper one morning to find the Ministry's latest incompetence, and discover that three more wizards had died because of it, they laughed themselves sick. It was a bitter laugh, to be sure, but shared all the same.
All that day, Harry found himself studying the man, watching the way he pushed his hair back behind his ear, the way he held himself as he hovered above a simmering potion, the way a line appeared between his eyebrows when he was thinking. Sometimes, when Harry looked up, Snape was looking back at him, dark eyes unfathomable.
Harry couldn't understand the way his insides seemed to roil and churn at that, in a not-entirely unpleasant way.
That evening after dinner, they sat on the steps outside. They didn't talk very much, but nothing seemed to need saying at the moment. They watched the sun sink, Snape sipping at a warm drink, Harry trailing his fingers in meaningless patterns in the dirt by the stoop.
When it was time to go in, Snape rose and said, "Goodnight, Mr. Potter."
Harry nodded, not looking up. It was odd to be so embarrassed by the generic civility, but Harry couldn't think of anything to say, so he just sat there, staring at his hands, pretending to be absorbed by the markings he'd made in the dust.
Harry supposed they hadn't meant to kiss. It was just another fight, another pointless argument, where Harry was angry that Snape never explained things to him, and Snape insisted that Harry was too ignorant to understand the potion being brewed.
Someone moved quickly, and Harry'd thought Snape was going to hit him again, and raised his hand to ward off the blow, and—
everything went wrong. Went right. Or—Harry wasn't sure. There were lips on his, hot and hungry and parted just a little, so that if he'd wanted to, he could—
and that was even better. There were thin fingers threading through Harry's hair, pulling at it, rough and gentle at the same time, and Harry was tugging at Snape's robes, because there was too much cloth in the way, and then there were teeth on Harry's neck and a thick moan in the air and it was Harry's voice and he didn't even recognize it, and it was heat and it was urgency and it was now now now, please, let me just—
and it was anything but kind; it was actually rather angry. It was years of pent-up emotions all being let out at once, and though it wasn't exactly sadistic, it wasn't at all soft or sweet. It was Harry up on the counter with his legs wrapped around the man's waist, and it was jarring and tearing and fingernails digging so deeply into Harry's hip that there was blood—
and then there were curls of smoke, and a great rumbling explosion.
And it was blood that did it—Harry's blood—in the potion made to kill Voldemort, made to undo him, undo his magic, the very fabric of his existence.
The force of the blast threw them to the floor, and Snape looked over at him, questioning if he was all right. "I've never been fucked like that before," Harry said, and the man smiled his crooked smile, then looked up at the potion and his smile stretched even further. And Harry didn't understand, but then realized that maybe he didn't need to, so he merely stood, brushing off the dust.
Snape hadn't told him what the potion would do. He never told Harry much of anything, if he could help it. At first, it had annoyed Harry, but Snape never did anything without reason, and it was better that Harry didn't know, since he still hadn't grasped Occlumency.
If Snape had told him about the potion, Harry never would have agreed to try it. They weren't exactly madly in love. They didn't bring each other roses. There were no romantic evenings with wine and candlelight. But there were kisses, tentative and awkward, touches, quiet moments together, and occasionally capitulations. There were discussions, disagreements, dinners for two, nights that ended with Harry asleep in Severus' bed, his head resting on the man's hip. Maybe there wasn't love, exactly...but there was something.
The potion worked very well. It had been something of a trick to get it into the Dark Lord's bloodstream, but Harry knew there had to be a way, and that only he could get close enough. He took up the sword of Gryffindor and went out to that chilly graveyard once again, went to face the man, went to face his destiny, leaving Severus behind and safe.
So he thought.
The poison worked the way it should, rotting the man from the blood out, his bones, his muscles, his very frame deteriorating before Harry's eyes. It was gruesome.
But before he'd finished falling, there were other screams in the air, and the Death Eaters in attendance began suffering the same fate, clawing at their skin, shrieking in pain. The magic Voldemort had imbued in the mark was now taking its toll—touched by death, death was now claiming the Death Eaters.
And all Harry could think of was Severus, who'd made the potion, who'd brewed his own destruction. Harry wept and cursed as he ran through the graveyard, away from his enemies, who were wailing all around him, dying, failing, crumbling to dust.
In the doorway.
Harry fell into his arms, and the man staggered under the weight as Harry nuzzled against his chest.
"What the devil is wrong with you?"
Harry nearly couldn't speak, he was welling with such fierce happiness. "I thought you'd gone," was all he could say.
"You thought I'd concoct a poison which killed me, in the most spectacularly hideous way possible? I'm a touch more talented with potions than all that. I've said it before and I'll likely say it again; you are an utter, utter twit."
Harry noticed how one of the man's hands settled on his head, briefly, and that it trembled. It slipped down to his shoulder, squeezed a bit. "Yeah."
"The others will be here, soon. To congratulate you," Severus remarked. "I should be gone by then." Harry noticed that the man didn't move away, didn't remove his hand.
"Where will you go?"
"Away," was all Severus replied with a slight shrug.
Harry nodded. "Away sounds good. I'd like to go away."
Severus was very, very still. Then, "You'd leave this? Your triumph? Your friends? For…what? For me?"
Harry turned the man's hand over, softly kissing his palm. "Yes," he said quietly. He looked out over London, the houses that cluttered his view, and thought about the fame, the obligations, and the future, and what he wanted from it. And for the first time, he knew what he wanted from it. They could get along without him now, anyway. He'd done his bit. "Yes," he repeated. "I'd leave them in the dust."