Many thanks to LPanther for being a wonderful beta!
The Astronomy Tower
The grounds of Hogwarts are almost empty at this time of year. The students have already boarded the Hogwarts Express with tear-filled goodbyes and anxious anticipation of the summer.
He had watched them go.
It felt odd, strange to be back here. This year had been his first in almost twenty years away from Hogwarts. Things did not feel the same. Things would never be the same.
He felt responsible for all the changes that had come about. Albus would never have let Hogwarts become nothing more than an old castle made of crumbling stones and ancient arches, even in the darkest of times.
The smell of death lingers in the air as he climbs the steps of the Astronomy Tower. He remembers how he could see the Dark Mark burning the sky, even from miles away on that night. Albus' death was regrettable, of course. It was always in the back of his mind.
He remembers the look in Albus' eyes; the look that Albus knew reminded him so much of someone else. (If things had taken a different turn that night, he knows Albus would have enjoyed the gentle irony and blatant symbolism of it all.)
When Severus looks in the mirror, he never sees himself. He always sees those obnoxious green eyes looking back at him.
In the end, the two of them were alike. Quite disgusting, Severus thinks.
Severus had seen in himself what he hated in Harry Potter. It is a slight reassurance to him that somewhere, probably miles away, Potter sees Severus Snape whenever he looks at his reflection. The two of them were one from that moment on. Albus must have planned it all, Severus thinks as he reinforces the scowl on his face.
The steps are endless as he continues to climb, noting how he should probably admire all the students who have climbed these steps for nothing more than a simple night-time snog.
As he reaches the top of the stairs, he gives an inward groan as he sees a delicate figure looking through one of the windows into the grotesque sunshine pouring over the landscape. The sounds of his footsteps announce his presence and the figure turns around to face him.
Severus Snape looks into the eyes of Harry Potter.
He is almost as skinny as he had been when he arrived as a first year.
"Snape," Potter says, acknowledging him.
"Yes, Mr. Potter," he responds. Ignoring all better judgment, which was telling him to make a run for it and get the hell out of there, Severus takes a step forward to cast a curious look over the landscape that Potter had been so engrossed in before.
Potter begins speaking about how much Hogwarts has changed since the end of his sixth year. Severus bites back the urge to take points off Gryffindor for speaking when not spoken to.
Severus, instead, does not respond. The two of them stand in silence until Potter blurts out, "I can't get you off my mind."
He bites back an urge to laugh at Potter's statement. His heart rate increases slightly as he is cornered by the fact that the same is true for himself, too. Yet another thing he ought to curse Albus for.
Severus raises an eyebrow. "And what do you mean by that ?" he pauses. "Does it mean that you are having lurid fantasies about me or that you are traumatized by some event in the past regarding me?"
A flush paints itself on Potter's cheeks.
"I just meant, you know, I've been thinking about everything that's happened…" Potter trails off. His voice becomes a whisper, "I never thought you would have come through in the end. I thought that you had finally shown your true allegiance as a Death Eater and that was it."
"I never had a chance to thank you for saving my life." Severus watches the words spill from Harry's lips with a faint sense of triumph. Potter takes a step closer to him.
Severus curses himself as he can't find the words to say.
"You didn't need me to save you, Mr. Potter. I believe you've proven that numerous times throughout your adventures," he spits the last word out with shallow loathing.
"Everyone needs to be saved sometimes."
"Are you sure about that? I, for one, do not," Severus replies.
"Yes," Potter looks him in the eyes, "I am certain."
A scowl spreads across Severus' face as he looks the smaller boy over. "Really now? And do you think you will be able to save me, Potter?"
Potter says, "No, I believe that you have already saved yourself, Professor."
The answer is not what Severus had expected. A sigh drips from his lips as he prepares an explanation for Potter.
"One lesson it seems that you have not learned yet, is that some people do not want to be saved," Severus says. The sound of his voice is hoarse.
"Like who?" asks Potter, no doubt trying to be obnoxious. The sarcasm sounds odd coming from the boy. It is one art that Severus always says no Gryffindor will ever be able to pull off perfectly.
Severus thinks and then responds, "Your Godfather, for one," Harry's expression tenses briefly as he continues, "and his brother, too. It seems to be a rule that Blacks are stubborn and tend to insist on being self-sufficient. Hmmm, Draco Malfoy allowed himself to be damned the moment he agreed to kill Dumbledore. Theodore Nott simply decided that the entire concept of saving was pointless and refused both the Light and the Dark's advances to save him. Would you like me to continue?"
"No," Potter says. "I think it's funny how everyone on your list was in Slytherin though, minus Sirius."
"Well, I must confess that I do not know much about the personal lives of my students aside from the ones in my own house," he retorts.
"Yeah," Potter says, "I never really knew anyone outside from my own house very well. I knew a few Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, but never any Slytherins until this past year. It's kind of sad how you can miss out on knowing a great person just because of the house they were sorted into."
Severus digests this and then responds, "It seems that you have grown up a bit after all, Mr. Potter."
"Yeah, I guess I have. Things have changed. I've changed and… so have you. We've changed."
Severus now notices how close Potter is standing next to him when he feels warm breath against his neck. "I…" Potter begins.
Severus hates himself for not being able to control the flush that creeps onto his cheeks, the fast beating of his heart or the rush of adrenaline that makes him want to behave in an entirely Gryffindor way.
"Potter, this can't happen," Severus says.
"Why not? I'm not your student anymore and I haven't been a child in quite some time," Potter moves closer and Severus feels the green eyes dissecting him. Potter continues, "I don't want anything big right now… I just want, you know, to be with you and to get to know you. We're the same, Severus, and I think you know it."
Instinctively, he wants to take points off Gryffindor for having the audacity to call him by his first name. He contemplates what Potter is asking and says, "I don't know why you seem to think we are the same. Our roles were set out for us from the start. I am the villain and you are the hero. I am a cutthroat and you are a martyr."
The fact that he disagrees is obvious from the boy's expression. "It's not like that anymore. The entire Wizarding World knows what you did for us after the trial. There are no secrets about that anymore. You're a hero to them too, a war veteran. I don't understand why you insist on denying what's right in front of you."
Severus bites his lip and turns to face Potter. "I have every right to deny what I feel like if I want too. I don't want to be a hero."
Potter lowers his voice and whispers, "Neither do I."
Silence follows as the two of them continue to stare at each other. Severus, with a mask of indifference and Harry, with his eyes filled to the brim with Gryffindor stubbornness. Harry brushes his fingertips against Severus' and wraps his fingers into a loose grip. To his surprise, Severus tightens the hold and the two of them stand there awkwardly.
"I… I just don't want you to deny yourself this," Harry says to him. "You deserve it after all you've done for us and for me." He adds, "It might seem totally selfish, too, but I don't want you to deny yourself this because I want you."
Severus carefully says, "Harry," pauses, and then murmurs into Harry's ear, "believe me. I've been denying myself this, a relationship of any kind with you, since you first arrived at Hogwarts. I'm quite sick of it."
Harry blushes, and Severus begins to twirl a strand of Harry's hair around his finger. Severus leans down to lightly brush his lips against Harry's only to be met by a forceful kiss as the boy's arms wrap around his neck and he slides his tongue into Severus' mouth.
"Some things are just worth waiting for," Harry says after they finally break apart. Harry pulls on his hand and begins to lead him down the steps of the Astronomy Tower.
As they walk, Severus thinks about how, at the moment, he is no better than the anxious students who have descended this staircase after snogging in the tower.
He swears that Albus must have planned all of this. After all, Severus can still sense his presence in every crumbling stone and ancient arch.