DISCLAIMER:
This story is RATED R and includes Snape/Harry SLASH. It's an angsty, hopeful Halloween tale.
Warning: Ghosts, Character Death.

This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made by this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A Ghost of a Chance
by Daylyn

Harry's hair blew in the wind as he stood at the edge of the Astronomy Tower. He imagined that he could hear the din from the Halloween Feast below in the Great Hall, but he knew he was well and truly alone here. The wind blew harder.

"It's a long way down," he said aloud to no one.

Harry drew his cloak closer to him and stared at the ground. He knew he should go back to the Feast, at least to supervise the rambunctious students bouncing around on a sugar high. He knew that the Headmistress would definitely have a "talking to him" at the next staff meeting, reprimanding him for shirking his duties. He knew that the rest of the staff would be annoyed with the most recent DADA professor, looking at him with accusing eyes and muttering about how much work they were forced to endure tonight due to his absence.

Harry continued to look at the ground, the wind now whipping at his hair and cloak.

Harry's return to Hogwarts had been less than triumphant. A former Auror, he had been injured on a Death Eater raid during the Ministry ordered clean up of the "Voldemort problem". No Death Eater was to be left alive this time.

It made finding them a nasty affair.

When Harry was finally released from St. Mungo's, three months after admission, he sported new magical, never-healing scars and an addiction to pain killing potions. He was also unemployed.

Minerva offered the DADA position the next day. She thought that he would find purpose in teaching, a way to channel his pain and frustration and loss and to do good for the world. A way to help the next generation be prepared to combat dark magic.

Harry soon realized that he was actually training future killers like himself. He spent the day vomiting between classes.

And being back at Hogwarts wasn't helping. Everywhere were memories, and many of them painful and lonely.

"It's a long way down," he said again, this time leaning far over the edge of the Astronomy Tower. He thought he could almost see the spot where Dumbledore's body landed.

"Get away from there. You'll be the death of me yet."

Harry spun around and found himself face to face with the ghost of Severus Snape.

"The death of you?" Harry asked, slight amusement in his voice.

"So to speak," Snape sniffed seriously.

"Go away, Snape" Harry said, turning back and looking down again.

"Then step away from the edge."

"I should have known you'd show up. You're always around, aren't you? Even dead, I can't get rid of you."

"Do you want to?"

Harry ignored the question, because he knew the truth was no. At least having an annoying ghost around meant he wasn't alone. But sometimes, it was damn inconvenient, like when you were contemplating the ground from the top of the Astronomy Tower. "Can't you go haunt somebody else for a change?" he asked instead.

"Apparently not. It seems that my ectoplasmic existence is linked to you."

Harry spun back around. "What?" he exclaimed.

Snape smirked at him. Even dead, Harry still wanted to smack that look off his face.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, forcing himself to remain calm.

"Surely you've noticed that my hauntings all lead directly to you. From hospital stays to suicide attempts, I always find myself drawn to you."

"There haven't been any suicide attempts," Harry scoffed.

"And there won't be either. Step away from the edge."

"I'm not contemplating suicide. I'm just noticing how… er… far the ground is from here."

The ghost of Snape gave him a steady stare, clearly not believing him. Harry felt himself flush, and he stepped away from the edge.

The ghost before him gave an almost imperceptible sigh of relief.

"So why are you haunting me, Snape? It's not like we were ever friends or anything." Harry could actually hear sadness and bitterness in his voice at that thought, and it surprised him.

"It's my duty to keep you safe," Snape said stiffly.

"Why?"

"I made a vow, you ungrateful imbecile."

"To whom?" Harry asked, honestly curious.

"To you. I vowed to protect you, no matter the cost."

"You made a vow to me?" Harry scoffed. "I think I'd remember that."

"You may have been unconscious at the time," Snape said, very, very quietly.

"What?! Why would you do that?" Harry asked. "You don't even like me."

Snape looked away.

"Do you?" Harry asked.

Snape wouldn't meet his eyes.

Harry started, a physical reaction to the ideas now spinning in his head. He took a step toward the ghost. "Snape… Severus, why did you throw yourself in front of Malfoy's killing curse? I had already gotten rid of Voldemort. My destiny was done."

"You know why," was the whispered reply.

"No, I don't."

Severus just lifted his head and looked directly at Harry. Harry gave a little gasp at the direct look of pain and sorrow and… longing. "Yes, you do," Severus insisted.

Harry nodded. He did know. He remembered the six months of working together, of the intense training that Snape put him through to prepare for the final battle. It had been difficult at first, since Harry really didn't believe that Snape was on their side, despite Dumbledore's pensieve memories to the contrary. There was constant fighting, and bickering, and exhaustion – constant, grueling exhaustion.

There were six months of being inside each other's minds, memories. Six months of slow, grudging respect. Six months of learning to move together, to act in concert, to act as necessary to defeat a common enemy.

They had six months – six months to fall in love. Somehow, Harry had stupidly missed it.

Harry gasped at the realization. "Merlin, I'm mourning you, aren't I?"

Severus cocked his head. "You're mourning the loss of your former life. I'm just part of that."

"No, it's more than that. I'm mourning you."

Severus closed his eyes, but not before Harry could see the pain of loss.

"Why are you here, Severus?" Harry asked quietly.

"You need to live your life. Until you do, I cannot go on. I cannot let you go."

"I don't know how to do that."

"I know. I'm here to help with that."

"How?"

"It's Halloween night, Harry. The one night that the dead can walk again, provided they have a significant purpose." Severus moved closer. He seemed more solid, more real. "I'd say this is significant."

Harry gasped as Severus reached out his hand and touched his face. Harry could see the desire, the longing, and the fear of rejection in the other's eyes. He couldn't stop himself, didn't even want to try. He leaned up and kissed Severus Snape for the first time.

A muffled moan was his only response.

And then they were frantic, desperate. Tongues and teeth and lips and touches. Severus gently stroked Harry's scars, driving him almost to tears with sheer joy and sadness. And then he pulled Severus closer, holding on, holding on, not letting go. He would never remember the spells they used to disrobe, or even to make their lovemaking easier. But then suddenly Severus was inside him, filling him, loving him, making him feel whole. He gasped and cried and loved, truly loved, for the very first, wanting Severus, needing him, desperate for him.

When they were done, their movements less frantic, they kissed, and held on to each other, and kissed some more, entangled, not ever wanting to part.

Finally they just lay facing each other, hands entwined, just looking into each other's gaze.

"When does this end," Harry whispered, needing to know, dreading the answer.

"At dawn," Severus whispered back, and pulled him into another kiss.

As the night drew to an end, they parted, and stood, and awaited the rising sun.

"I won't see you again, will I?" Harry asked sadly, the sense of longing palpable.

"No," Severus said. "I was granted this one boon, for one time. I will not be allowed to linger."

"I don't know what to do."

Severus grabbed him one last time, for one last kiss. "Live, Harry Potter. Live. Get out of Hogwarts – let the curse of the one year DADA position take you too. There are too many memories and horrors for you here. Get out in the world, and live."

"It will be difficult without you, knowing now what I do now. Missing you. Wishing it was different."

"We had one night. More than we would have had. Never forget that. And you are the epitome of Gryffindor courage, Harry. You will go on. You will find fulfillment. You will find happiness. You must. I can't watch over you anymore."

"I…"

"Promise me," Snape said, desperately.

"I can deny you nothing, now. I promise."

Severus smiled, and touched Harry's face almost reverently. Then the first rays of sunlight broke across the horizon, and he was gone.

Harry allowed one tear to streak down his cheek as he watched the rising sun. The wind blew around him. Then he squared his shoulders and headed back inside the castle. He had a letter of resignation to write, and a life to live.