DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling.
NOTES: The sequel to 'The End of the World,' told from Harry's picture's POV, mostly because I was curious and I can. Mentions of character death—but not Snape or Harry. Set post-HBP (and post-war, as well).
BETAS: Kennahijja, Emphaticsiren, and help from Detefabula as well.
SUMMARY: Harry watches over himself, but he isn't the only one.
Sometimes Harry Potter stands at the window, staring out. I like it when he does that, because the breeze gets in, ruffling his hair and making my paper flutter. The wind feels nice. It feels…free.
It doesn't ruffle my hair, of course; it would take a great deal of magic to ruffle the hair of a photograph. I'm just a replication, a moment scooped out of his life and frozen in time. I've been tacked to this wall for far too long with nothing to look at. The flat is small and the landscape of this place, of this life, is barren. It is not a home; he just lives here. He just exists, just… continues, even if his heart really isn't in it.
Severus Snape broke that monotony. He visited us. He looked at me. He touched me. He spoke to Harry sternly, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. He told him to keep fighting—to stop the self-pity. I thought Harry might have listened, because after Snape left, he looked at me, and I saw something other than hatred. I saw… I wasn't sure what I saw. Something softer. He said he was going to buy a Monet. I hoped he would buy a Monet. I hoped that soon we'd be able to look one another in the eyes.
Then he came back with Magpie.
"Sodding fucker," he muttered furiously. "So glad to see you, Mister Potter. So pleased to have your patronage, Mister Potter. Should've gone to a Muggle store."
He dragged a step-stool out from the front cupboard and got out a hammer and nails. He put the print up right above the fireplace. I watched silently… not that I had much of a choice.
"There," he snapped when he'd finished. "Happy? Perfect setting, isn't it?" The first word that came to mind was bitter—bitterly cold. "Go on, then. Don't you want to try it out?"
I stared at him until he threw up his hands in disgust and went to bed.
Obviously, we still had problems.
The print was a pretty place, though, and not too bad if you didn't mind the cold. The magpie was another living being, and I'd been rather lonely. I would occasionally sit nearby with my hands tucked into my armpits. Although the magpie was indifferent to me, it was company of sorts.
I tried not to let him catch me there. Sometimes he'd just make a face at me. Sometimes he'd throw things. Sometimes he'd drink, and that's mostly when the darts would come out again. I stayed on my own paper then, no matter how much it hurt. The magpie hadn't done anything to deserve it, and anyway, when Harry was drunk, he often missed.
Snape came around once when Harry was in the cups. He let himself in—because he could, I suppose, and Harry couldn't stop him—and marched into the living room.
"What are you doing?" he sneered.
Harry was on the couch, his head lolled to one side, and he gave Snape a mean, upside-down smile. "I'm living it up—couldn't you tell?"
"Impertinent fool," the man snarled, grabbing Harry's arm and hauling him to his feet.
"Get your hands off me, you bastard!" Harry screamed, and threw a punch.
Luckily, he was very, very sloshed, so the blow went wide. Instead of casting a retaliatory curse, Snape merely pinned Harry's hands together. Harry struggled, but Snape held him firmly, his eyes hard. "That is enough, Mister Potter."
"I fucking—fucking hate you," Harry declared, voice breaking on a sob. He sagged, and only Snape's grip kept him from sinking to his knees. This, too, was a common occurrence. When he was really deep in the firewhisky, Harry Potter cried more than the world would like to know. It must have been humiliating to cry in front of Snape, though—it was hard to watch, but no worse than the darts.
Snape held him like that for a long time, murmuring, "I know you do," over and over.
He put Harry to bed in the other room. I couldn't see what happened, but Harry went quietly, and Snape left quickly.
The magpie was fluffed tensely on its rail; I think it was relieved it was over. To tell the truth, so was I.
Harry got up the next day, his eyes bloodshot and his hair a mess, but he was more composed than I'd seen him in a long time. He ate some cereal and read a bit of a Muggle newspaper. Suddenly he looked up at me, his face serious and thoughtful.
"Today we're going to St. Mungo's," he said. "I get to demonstrate my lack of magical ability and horrify everyone—convince them to be good little minions," he added bitterly. "But Neville's working there. I think—I think I'm going to try to talk to him. He hasn't given up. If I can—make him understand, somehow, that I haven't either…" he trailed off, looking back down at his paper.
I was a little shell-shocked, I think. He didn't often speak to me, other than to hurl wounding words when he'd run out of darts. It was rare to see him in such a mood. I bit my lip, unwilling to break the atmosphere of camaraderie.
After he'd left, I sat on the gate, and the magpie didn't fly away.
It was dark when Harry came home. He almost crept in, and left the light off. I could just make him out; he stood for a long moment with an ear to the door. His face was flushed and his breath came in quick bursts, but his eyes were very bright.
Eventually, he let out a long breath and relaxed a little. He came into the room, taking off the mittens he wore because he could no longer do warming charms. He set them down on a side table, shaking a little. He seemed to glow with manic energy, and as he stood in the centre of the room, he smiled.
"I think they'll come," he whispered. "I've been talking—just a little—just to a few—and I think they'll really come. We'll see."
I marvelled at this—it was jolly brave of him, trying to recruit a resistance to Voldemort after having had his magic taken away.
He glanced down at his hands. "Don't know if it'll work, though. Might just get them all killed."
I shrugged uneasily. In his sleep, he still sometimes screamed the names of the dead. But really, what difference would another name mean? He was already half-mad with regret.
But there wasn't anything I could say or do, so I just kept stroking the magpie's downy chest with my finger, and watching it blink drowsily at me. It seemed to like that. Harry watched us for a long time before he went to bed. I wondered if he was lonely, too.
It was a motley group that showed up, mostly young and all a bit on the timid side… But of course Voldemort wouldn't have let them live, otherwise. Someone brought curry. They sat, speaking in hushed voices.
"I wish McGonagall had made it—she would've had things organized in a snap," someone said.
"At least she'd lived a full life," Fred Weasley responded. "My sister didn't. My brothers didn't."
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Harry's face was blank. Perhaps only I knew how much grief it concealed. Fred had as much right to his feelings as anyone—he'd even lost George—but Harry would probably never forgive himself for failing to save Ron and Ginny.
I think he might have cracked, just then, but the door swung open, and Severus Snape stood in the doorway, scowling. "Quite the little to-do you've arranged, Mister Potter."
Everyone stared, and I could see the wheels turning. They'd blame Harry. They'd think it had been a trap all along. They'd kill him. Harry couldn't defend himself from a magic-wielding mob.
Snape closed the door. "Shall we get started? I've got some insights that might be of use."
"You want to help us?" Fred squawked indignantly. "That's rich!"
The man looked at him coldly. "I want only to help myself. I am currently shackled to a madman and his capricious nature. I want out. I want it as much as any of you." He paused. "I want it more than some."
"He's here, and he's staying," Harry said flatly.
There was a pause, then Fred sighed. "All right. If you really think we ought to let him ..."
Harry's fists uncurled, and he turned to give Snape a shaky smile. "Tell us what you know, and then let's put it to use."
Snape stayed later than any of the others. "You ought to have told me of the meeting," he chastised Harry. "Although I suppose that I can't blame you for not considering me the most trustworthy of allies," he conceded with a sigh.
Harry didn't say much of anything at all. He gathered the dishes, but before he could approach the kitchen, Snape's wand flicked.
"Let me do that," Snape offered, and everything was tidy.
Harry's lip curled unpleasantly. "Don't do that."
"What? Assist you? Perform magic in front of the poor, helpless cripple?"
Smug pleasure ghosted around the man's mouth. "The more things change…" he remarked.
"Go away," Harry responded. He sounded tired.
"Go to bed," Snape replied. "You'll need your rest." His dark voice was soft, capable of lulling unwary students into an agreeable stupor. Not Harry, though. Never Harry.
I expected a fight, because that's pretty much what Harry Potter does, even when he's just fighting himself. I was surprised when he rose, rubbing his eyes and stretching. "You'll lock the door, won't you?"
He went to bed. Snape stared after him, his face pensive, before he doused the lights and left.
All in all, the magpie and I considered the evening a success.
Severus Snape came to tea the next day, and brought biscuits. Harry ate like a bird, taking small bites as if uncomfortable under Snape's watchful, brooding gaze. When they'd finished eating, Snape cleared the table magically, and Harry's face twitched.
"Why do you keep doing that?" he growled.
"Because I can, and because it saves time. You know that there is little enough you can do to stop me."
Harry's hand flashed, and Snape winced as the blow struck his cheek, but he did not rise from his seat, nor did he draw his wand. "If you don't like the way I do things, why don't you just leave?" Harry asked, chest heaving.
"If you're through with the grandstanding, I'll thank you to sit and finish the tea with which I so thoughtfully provided you," the man returned coolly.
Shaking, Harry stood for a moment longer before sitting again, trying to regain his composure. "Why—why didn't—"
"Why haven't I retaliated? I'd like to, believe me. And I might, in time. I would find it extremely gratifying to give you a good thump round the ear. But I'm not going to hex you, if that's your concern."
"Why not? I'm helpless. As—as helpless as he was," Harry added venomously.
Snape trembled with fury, lips drawing back from his yellow teeth. "And that is something you will never bring up again, is that clear?"
They glared at one another, the moment taut with hostility.
"Fine," Harry managed through gritted teeth. "So long as you ask my permission before using magic here. It's my flat."
"It's the Dark Lord's flat. It might as well be your cage. You can't even leave it without his knowledge." Harry bristled, but before he could speak, Snape held up a hand tiredly. "All right. Let's just move on. How do we wish to handle proceedings from here? I'd like to train them up a bit. If they're going to buy you the time you need, they'll need to be prepared. We can't have them go off half-cocked, desperate for bloodshed."
Harry lowered his eyes. "There's nothing I can teach them."
"Nonsense. You were a good fighter. You still know the words, the theory, the moves."
"But the moves don't mean anything," Harry protested.
"Not to you, perhaps, but it would be very meaningful to them. You… were always top of your class at Defence. All you have to do is guide them."
Harry didn't say anything for a long time. "We'll see."
"They did really well," Harry said with a half-smile, shutting the door behind Neville.
Snape looked at him inscrutably, still seated on the couch. "Yes. Very well."
Harry came back in and sat across from him, flattening his fly-away hair. The magpie and I watched, bemused. Harry only smoothes his hair when he's nervous about something.
"But what about me?"
"Fishing for compliments to feed your overlarge ego? No—never mind," Snape relented. "Old habit. You were excellent."
Harry's cheeks pinked. "I—thank you—but that isn't what I meant. I mean… what can I do? When the time comes? They'll take on the Death Eaters, but what about me?"
"You'll face the Dark Lord, just as it was always intended." Snape took a sip of his drink with utter equanimity.
"Don't be stupid! I can't! I'm completely useless!"
"You're not useless," Snape responded.
"What are you saying? It doesn't take magic? I don't need magic?"
The man's lip curved upward. "You will need magic. You will use magic." He looked over at me, pinning me with his dark eyes. "It simply won't be your magic."
"I don't think that I can do this," Harry gasped.
"It needs doing," Snape replied flatly.
Harry quivered, a drop of sweat trickling down his brow. The candlestick before them popped with a sudden flame. "I did it!"
Snape sagged, his face pale. "Good, very good."
"Are you… did it hurt?"
"No. It merely required a good deal of energy on my part," Snape told him. "But you've done it once, so it should come easier in the future."
"But how is it supposed to work?" Harry demanded, sounding frustrated. "I mean, he took away my magic, and I didn't die."
"God forbid you should have picked anything up from your schooling. You didn't die because you are more than magic, Harry. He isn't. Not anymore. He drank the blood of a unicorn. He was resurrected by virtue of the spells Pettigrew cast in the cemetery—the only thing holding him together is magic."
"Oh. I see." They sat in awkward silence for several long moments before Harry said anything more. "I ought to get to sleep. I'll contact you tomorrow, after I've got word to Arthur, all right?" He got to his feet, leading the way to the door.
Harry looked back at Snape. "I will."
"It's still so difficult," Harry complained.
Snape gave him a bleak look. "You have a block."
"It's Occlumency all over again. You've blasted well decided not to let it happen. You need to—to open. To receive. You don't even have to ruddy well do anything, boy! All you need do is take!"
Harry gave a breathless chuckle. "Yeah, that's really not my thing," he admitted. "I can't help it. I don't want your help. Besides, it's—so passive."
Snape looked rather startled at this. "Yes, that would be your problem, wouldn't it? For heaven's sake, you're simply going to have to get used to it. There is no other way. I don't care if it's not in your nature!"
"Well, you could be nicer about it!"
"Nicer won't keep you alive!"
With an effort, Harry mastered himself. "All right. All right. Let's just—try it again."
Snape let out a breath. "Sit in front of me and tilt your head back. You're going to move the roof. Just a little! A metre or two. The magic you take from me will need somewhere to go, or you'll explode. All you need to do is close your eyes—and take."
"I don't want to steal all of your magic," Harry protested weakly.
"I'll let you know when to stop."
Harry stiffened when Snape put his hands on Harry's arms. "What are you doing?"
"Relax. Physical contact assists the energy flow, and it will take less concentration on my part to direct it. Now… breathe deeply, and simply let it come." Harry was already beginning to shiver, and I could see small sparks of light dancing on Snape's fingertips. "You need to be more receptive."
"I'm trying," Harry protested. "I—it's hard. I'm scared," he said in a small voice.
Snape's hands tightened. "Of me?"
"It isn't going to hurt."
"I'm not afraid of that."
"Then damn you, boy—what are you afraid of?"
A lone tear made it past Harry's eyelash. "I'm afraid that I'll enjoy it," he whispered.
I was rather glad he couldn't see Snape's expression, because I think it would have bothered him. "Then so you shall," Snape hissed.
An orange light flickered, warm and bright, and curled its way down Harry's neck, causing him to moan. "Please stop."
"No. We haven't time for your nonsense. I'm here to teach you, and for once in your life, you are going to learn." Snape's hand slipped under Harry's, directing the wand upward, his long fingers folded around Harry's wrist. Harry keened, and then he was writhing, writhing, in pain, or pleasure, or some heady mixture of the two.
"I can't—" he breathed. "It's too much!" He was gulping for air, as if drowning.
"You can—and you will! You can take more. Relax, for Merlin's sake! Let it flow into you. You can take it. It's there. It's a part of you, Potter. Accept it. When it becomes too much, redirect it to the roof."
Harry shuddered, one hand coming up to clasp over Snape's. "Oh!" he gasped, slumping back against the man, and Snape barely caught him. The magic was in Harry's body now, and he glowed with energy, his skin moon-bright and pale, a flush of exertion building on his cheeks. Snape held him tightly.
"Good boy," he said hoarsely. "Now—use it!"
Harry weakly raised his hand, Snape's wand clutched in his fingers, and he looked up. I could see the torrent of power swirling in his eyes. "Evanesco!"
Both men stared. "You idiot! I said to move it, not remove it!" Snape snatched his wand back, quickly restoring the roof, blocking out the cold, starlit sky. "You'd better bloody hope that no one noticed!"
Harry didn't look the least bit chagrined. His eyes shimmered. "I think I can do it."
"I know you can. Idiot!" Snape heaved a great sigh. "I should go." He tried to stand, but swayed on his feet.
Harry's eyes widened. "You are worn out," he said.
"It shouldn't be any great shock—it was my magic you used up, you cretin."
"Yes—you're right—I'm sorry," Harry told him. "Here, sit back down. Stay."
"You can stay—the night. I have a blanket and a comfortable couch." His eyes seemed fresher, more green somehow.
Snape looked down at the couch. "I suppose you have."
He stayed, and the magpie and I kept watch.
The night before the revolution was not a happy one. Neville looked sick with fear. "Will you show me again, Harry? Show me how to hold my wand when deflecting a hex?"
Harry did, and maybe it was a good thing, because Neville was keeping his mind off of things.
"We should all go and get some sleep," Fred finally said. "We've a big day tomorrow."
"Good luck, Fred," Harry said. Fred clapped him on the back.
"Take care, Harry," Colin murmured, giving Harry a hug. Harry wasn't much the touchy-feely sort, but he managed to awkwardly pat Colin's shoulder.
Eventually, Harry and Snape were the only ones left.
"Would you care to practice, one last time?" Snape asked.
"No, thanks," Harry replied, stepping very close. "I—don't think I'm so afraid anymore. Besides, all I have to do is steal his magic, and keep on stealing it, right? I'm going to be fine."
Snape gazed down at him, expressionless. "Good." Harry's finger traced his jaw, and Snape's face softened.
Harry tilted his head up, and Snape leaned down, kissing him hungrily. Harry's hands threaded through the man's hair, and they stumbled to the sofa, falling, their legs entwined. Through all the gasps and muffled moans, they never said a word.
The magpie and I tactfully looked away.
It was past dawn when they returned. Harry was crying. His face was nearly black with soot, and there was a large gash in his arm, but other than that, he seemed unharmed. Snape was upright—that was the best that could be said for him. But they came back.
They were alive.
The magpie took flight, buzzing in giddy circles in its frame, and I laughed, laughed like I hadn't done in years.
"I didn't think it would work," Harry coughed.
"Neither did I."
"It was your plan!"
"Yes, but… he was so very powerful. The idea that anyone could drain him dry… steal his vitality away… " He trailed off with a shrug.
"Then why did you suggest it?" Harry dropped onto the couch, looking up at the man. Snape wobbled over and sat beside him.
"Because we had to do something, and I knew—I knew him. I knew that he'd never give up. Stop using his power? It simply wouldn't occur to him."
"Yes. He would have killed me, if I hadn't known how to redirect the energy."
"Thank you, Mister Potter."
Harry smiled wearily. "Just Harry."
Harry opened his arms to Snape with a soft laugh. "Never thought I'd hear you say that."
"I never thought I'd have the occasion to," Snape responded, wrapping himself around Harry. Once again, they fell asleep on the couch, too exhausted to move.
Harry took me off the wall and started to roll me up when Snape came in, stepping over the few boxes in the front hall. "What are you doing?"
"Going somewhere?" He arched an eyebrow.
"Yes. Somewhere far away. To live with Muggles, probably."
"Because I am a Muggle, now."
"You're not. You simply haven't any magic."
"Isn't that the same thing?"
"No. You know what magic is. You've used it. You're—inherently magical, even if you're never able to wield a wand again."
Harry gave him a wry smile. "Thank you, but I think I'm doing the right thing. I want to find somewhere I can be useful."
Snape's long fingers took hold of Harry's shoulder, turning him. "You're very useful—to me."
"I can't—give you anything. I can't even protect myself. I can't fly. I can't clean up a simple spill. I can't—"
Snape cut him off. "Let's focus on what you can do; you can breathe. You can sing, although I'd appreciate it if you didn't, because you do it very badly. You can think, even if you choose not to do so. You can live. You can kiss," he whispered, running a finger over Harry's lower lip.
"Are those things enough to make me worth your while?" Harry asked.
"They've been enough so far," Snape replied. "You're a fool if you think I want some super mage who goes about killing Dark Lords. I wouldn't dare turn my back on him. I don't want that. I don't want perfection. I want you. I want Harry Potter."
Harry buried his head in Snape's shoulder. "Thank you," he murmured. "But I'd still like to go elsewhere. This flat—this isn't the place for me."
Snape smiled. "Then we'll go somewhere else. Perhaps we'll go home."
Harry sometimes says Hogwarts isn't what it was, but he's trying hard to rebuild it with his own hands. They have a small staff, but it's enough. There are a lot of portraits. The magpie gets on with all of them.
When it's feeling especially sociable, it'll sit on my shoulder.
I can go anywhere I want, and I like that, but I spend most of my time in the dungeons. I've been restored. They were able to get rid of all the holes. I even have a nice gold frame. Severus says it's garish. Harry likes it. Sometimes he even smiles when he looks at me.
I think we're going to be all right.
I come downstairs early, tired and sore. The others can levitate rocks, but I have to lift them, and sometimes it's a real pain. It keeps me in very good shape, though, and Snape likes that.
I sneak into the bedroom, my own picture watching me curiously. "You wouldn't believe how hard it was to get this," I tell my image. "He hates having his picture taken almost as much as I do."
I set the photo of Snape in a sterling frame by my bedside, and he gives my own photo a rather surly look. My picture flushes. I'm sure they'll be thick as thieves in no time. Over the bed is The Beach at Sainte-Adresse, and I can imagine the two of them walking along it, hand in hand, picture-perfect.