Title: The Plant.
Other pairings: Microscopic background Ron/Hermione, slightest suggestion of Rose/Scorpius, past Harry/Ginny.
Warning(s): None to speak of, unless I need to warn for epilogue-compliance.
Prompt from the snape_potter Snarry-a-thon: #8 - Neville Longbottom comes to Harry with a problem: the rare and extremely valuable Giftiger lautsprecher plant that he just discovered in Germany insists that it's Severus Snape.
Summary: Neville turns over a plant to Harry and explains that the plant told him it was Severus Snape. Harry probably should've listened.
A/N: The beta-reading wonderfulness and encouragement of atypicalsnowman was integral to the writing of this story. Many thanks, snow! Also, you can see a picture of the plant here - farm4(dot)static(dot)flickr(dot)com/3641/3524626848_b4624e85b3_o(dot)jpg (but with real dots, of course)
Harry was in his study, cradling an untouched tumbler of whiskey, when he heard a frantic voice from the other room.
"Harry! Harry? Are you there? It's Neville! Look, if you're home – "
"I'm here, I'm here," Harry called, rushing into the room. He knelt in front of the fireplace and scanned his friend's face as best he could through the flames. "What is it? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, but I need your help with something. I know it's late, but I don't think it can wait."
Harry nodded. "Of course. What can I do?"
"Can I pass something through?"
"Sure, go ahead," Harry said, backing up a bit to give him room.
The fire flared brighter for a brief moment, then something was deposited on the hearth. Harry snorted. Of course it would be a bloody plant. He slid it to the side so he could see Neville's face.
"I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't know who else to call! But I figure since you're an Auror, you'll know what to do."
"What to do with the plant?"
Neville nodded frantically, then shook his head. "I thought it was Giftiger lautsprecher at first, too, but this is no ordinary specimen!"
Harry stared blankly.
"I know what you're thinking – even ordinary G. lautsprecher isn't really ordinary – but this one said it was Professor Snape!"
Harry stared some more. Was it possible he'd actually drunk that glass of whiskey without realizing? Along with five or six more?
"So I'll just leave him with you then, shall I? And you'll get everything sorted out."
"Sure, Neville," Harry answered, finally deciding that Neville had chosen a very odd time to suddenly demonstrate a sense of humor. "Just leave it to me."
"Oh, thank Merlin! I was so worried, and I'm stuck here in Germany until the spring thaw at least, and I didn't know what to do! Thanks so much!"
"Of course," Harry muttered, but the flames had already gone orange.
He redirected his attention to the plant. It was small – only about six inches high – and had deep green, oblong leaves. It also sported some pretty scary looking spines along its more substantial shoots.
He picked up the pot and looked around for a better place to put it. Wandering into the kitchen, he found the perfect spot – the windowsill over the sink was wide and empty.
"There," he said, placing it in the window. "This is a good spot, don't you think? You'll get lots of light here. In the morning, the sun shines right on through."
Scratching his head absently, he wondered if he ought to water it, but decided Neville would never have given him a plant without seeing to its needs first. He would just go on to bed.
Halfway to the door, he turned back and muttered, "G'night, plant."
The next day was Saturday, so Harry had a bit of a lie in. He rolled out of bed still half-asleep at almost noon and stumbled to the loo. Now that he was alone in the house, he didn't bother with his dressing gown before going down to find some breakfast. Ginny had always insisted he put one on – or, better yet, actually get dressed – before leaving the bedroom, but she wasn't there to complain anymore.
It wasn't until he'd mechanically eaten four pieces of toast and knocked back two cups of tea that he remembered. He stood there at the sink, rinsing his cup under the tap, and squinted at it.
"Good morning, plant. Erm, afternoon, I mean."
He shuffled back to the table where the Prophet was waiting for him. He quickly found the Sports and tossed the rest in the bin.
"Don't know what got into Neville. Probably drunk, he was – never could hold his liquor."
He didn't usually sit about talking aloud in an empty house, but it wasn't like there was anyone around to ridicule him for it, so he decided it was probably all right.
"Nice to have you here, though. Livens the place up a bit."
Having gleaned all the information he cared to know from the paper, he went upstairs to get ready for his regular Quidditch game. On his way out, he paused by the kitchen door and called, "I'm off, then."
Harry groaned as he plopped into the kitchen chair the next morning. "Not so young as I used to be, am I?"
The game had lasted less than two hours, but he felt like he'd run a marathon. At nearly forty, he noticed aches in muscles he hadn't even known he had back in school.
"Still, we won, didn't we?"
After his first cup of tea, he turned back to the plant and smiled ruefully. "It's a pity you're not really Snape, you know. Always wished he hadn't died."
Later, after he rinsed the tea dregs out, he filled his teacup from the tap and tipped some water into the pot. "There you go, plant."
"She left me because of him, you know. She'll deny it if you ask her, but that's the reason. Never could understand why I admired him. Can you believe it? Bloody war hero, sacrificed his bloody life for us, and she thought I was barmy!"
Harry stabbed at his dinner in remembered frustration. He was already on edge after a rough day at work, so it wasn't hard to find the energy for it. They'd had that argument so many times.
"'He was a bastard, you always hated him! Now you're obsessed!'" he whined in a bad approximation of his ex-wife's voice. "She just couldn't understand. I tried to get her to look at the memories, but she wouldn't. She would've seen how brave he was, how dedicated! All she had to do was look, but apparently that was too much to ask."
He methodically ate his peas, one at a time, and forced himself to calm down. No use getting upset over an issue that was totally moot.
"I have to give a training seminar for the rest of the week. Can you believe they actually want me to teach people? Mad, I know."
He sipped at his water, finished with his meal but reluctant to leave the room just yet.
"I'm nervous. I know, it's no big deal and they'll love me no matter what I say. But I still want to do it right, you know?" He dragged a hand through his hair. "Hermione says to just do it like in the DA, but that was ages ago. And these aren't just kids! Course, neither am I. It'll turn out all right," he said, giving his head a determined nod. "You'll see."
"Idiots, the lot of them!"
He paced along the kitchen counter, trying not to wave his hands too wildly.
"Every word I say – even if I'm just kidding, being sarcastic – they act like Merlin himself came back and delivered it as an edict! Don't they have any common sense?"
After three days of trying to pass on what he'd learned in his twenty years as an Auror, he was about ready to snap. The new recruits were such bloody children! Could he really have been that young when he'd joined the Corps? Merlin's sake, they were only a couple of years older than Jamie!
He collapsed into the wooden chair. "I'm just glad it's nearly over. If I ever seem like I'm about to agree to something like this again, hit me, would you?" He shot the plant a sideways glance. "Well. Stab me with one of your spines, or something."
Harry stomped into the kitchen with a tumbler and a bottle of whiskey he'd snagged from his study and dropped into the chair.
He glared at the plant. "I don't want to talk about it."
He drank the first glass quickly, then sipped the next while reminding himself that this had been the last day. It was over, and he didn't ever have to teach anyone anything again if he didn't want to.
"Bloody idiots, setting themselves on fire," he muttered.
He poured another glass.
If this was what teaching was always like, he could understand why Snape had always been such a bastard. It wasn't too many rounds of Cruciatus or unrequited love – he was simply trying to restrain himself from killing his idiotic students.
"Pretty sure he was in love with my mum, you know. Snape, I mean. Bloody disturbing, that is."
He gulped down the rest of his drink. He briefly considered just swigging from the bottle, but couldn't bring himself to do it. Not with the plant watching.
"Not that I mind him being in love with my mum. It's just, I finally figured out I was gay mostly because of him."
It registered somewhere in his brain that the alcohol was affecting his ability to properly articulate his thoughts. Rather than care, he just poured himself another.
"So it's a little weird. I wanted him, and he wanted my mum. 'Mione always said I acted like I was in love with him." He thought back to the memories Snape had given him, how he'd studied the man so closely. "Didn't watch them that much! It's been years, you know."
Even so, he could still remember the way his hair swung forward to cover his face. His long, tapered fingers, stained with Merlin knows what. His dark eyes, seemingly bottomless.
"Did you ever hear him talk?" He turned to look at the plant. "No, s'pose not. Your loss."
He spent a few minutes nursing his fourth, or possibly fifth, drink and fiddling with the tea cozy. It had been hand-knitted by Hermione. Honestly, he felt a bit sorry for the pot, having to wear it every day.
"That was maybe a little bit why my wife left me, too. Me being gay, I mean. But I'm pretty sure it was mostly because of Snape. The bastard."
Saturday morning, an owl came tapping on the window and Harry, still mostly asleep, automatically waved it open from his position slumped at the kitchen table.
Its indignant squawk drew his attention in time to see a greenish-yellow liquid squirt from one of the plant's spines and hit the owl on the leg it'd been holding out.
"Plant!" he admonished, rushing over to the window. "What did you do that for? He wasn't going to hurt you."
He turned to the tawny owl, which was now hopping about on one leg. "Come here, Galvin, there's a lad."
It seemed the liquid had landed mostly on feathers, which had to be better than skin. Still, the feathers did seem to be smoking a bit… "Tergeo," Harry incanted, siphoning the poison off.
Satisfied that all the liquid was gone and that Galvin was not much the worse for wear, Harry untied the scroll from his leg. The corner of the parchment had been dissolved, but it was still easily legible.
Once he'd finished reading and sent Galvin on his way, he turned back to the windowsill. "That was a nasty trick, plant. You can't just go 'round squirting venom, or whatever that was, on innocent owls. Suppose the children had been here! So no more squirting, got it?" He gave the plant a stern look, but amended, "Unless it's a bad guy."
He sat at the table, fingering Ron's letter. "Mione's preggers again!" had been the announcement.
It wasn't that he wasn't happy for them. "Of course I'm happy for them!"
And it wasn't that he envied them. Well, he didn't envy their impending new addition, anyway. "Three is quite enough for me, thank you. It's just, everyone seems to be moving along with their lives." He waved his hand in a vague 'forward' motion to illustrate. "Feels like mine's been standing still for a while, now – since the divorce, I imagine. Unless you count those six months I spent fucking everything with two legs and a cock, which I don't. I just wish…"
He sighed and shook his head. It was no use wishing for things that could never be. "Even if he was alive, he'd loathe me. Always did. Besides, Hermione keeps telling me I've romanticized him, thinking about those memories all these years, and I know she's right. She must be, she always is."
Harry held his breath as the barn owl stepped cautiously along the windowsill and hopped down to the countertop.
"I'm proud of you, plant. See, I told you those little owls weren't going to hurt you!" He shook his head in fond exasperation while he unfurled the parchment. The owl picked a bit of food from Harry's plate, but he didn't mind.
"Oh, a letter from Lily!" He read it eagerly, pointing out the important bits. "She says her marks are improving in Astronomy. Al's still having it out with that Snyder boy every other day. Jamie may or may not be dating a nameless Ravenclaw. She's looking forward to the holiday."
He scanned it again, just to be sure he hadn't missed anything. "Looks like all's well. The kids are s'posed to be here for Easter break, you know – Ginny had 'em for most of Christmas. Not sure they'll come, though. Gin's been teaching them to dislike me, and you know how Gryffindors can be about anyone 'different'." He illustrated with air quotes and rolled his eyes, regardless of the fact no one was there to see. Most days he believed it when he told himself they were his children and as long as he loved them with all his heart, they'd love him back.
"Lily will probably come, though. She'd tell you it's her Hufflepuff loyalty, or some rot. Really, she just enjoys rebelling against her mum. Always has, ever since she was a tiny little thing. She's a second year now, you know," he added with a rueful smile. How it was his baby had managed to grow up so quickly, he'd never know.
"Yeah. I'm sure she'll be here. Don't worry, you'll like her. And she'll love you."
His Sunday lunch – all right, breakfast, whatever – was interrupted by a knock on the door.
He Summoned a shirt from upstairs and took a moment to be grateful he already had on trousers.
"Yeah?" he called, popping his head out through the neck hole of his tee shirt.
"It's me! Hermione."
Harry flung the door open. "Hey! What the hell are you doing here?" he asked with a smile and pulled her into a brief hug.
"Oh, it's nothing, really," she answered, following him into the kitchen. "Actually, I'm a bit emba – oh my goodness! Is that a Giftiger lautsprecher in your window? It is! Wherever did you get one?"
She moved in for a closer look and Harry started to warn her, but she seemed to know about the poison squirting and kept a respectful distance.
"Oh, it's beautiful!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Giftiger lautsprecher. The common name is Poison Tongue. Of course, that isn't a direct translation from the German, which would be closer to – "
Harry held a hand up, amused at her enthusiasm but unwilling to have it inflicted upon him. "Whoa, whoa. Poison Tongue, got it. And Neville gave it to me."
"Of course, I should have guessed that. Has it spoken to you?"
"Oh, I didn't think so. Only really skilled Herbologists can understand G. lautsprecher. I wonder if Neville was able to communicate with it before he passed it along!"
"The plant talks?"
She nodded vigorously, practically bouncing with excitement. "That's what I've read. Didn't Neville say anything about it?"
"He said…" Harry knew he'd said something. But what? Whatever it was, it'd been weird. He furrowed his brow, trying to reconstruct their conversation. Neville had said he needed help. He'd told Harry the plant said… the plant said… "Oh, bugger," he muttered.
"What was that?"
"Erm, nothing. He, er, didn't say anything like that."
Harry's head was spinning. Surely Neville hadn't been serious about that? Harry had been sure Neville was sloshed or kidding or both. Delusional maybe, but nothing too serious. But if the plant really did talk…
"Look, I've gotta be somewhere. Soon. Sorry I can't offer you tea," Harry mumbled, steering Hermione back to the front door.
"Harry, what – "
"Congratulations, by the way. Tell Ron I said hullo. See you soon!" And with that, he shoved her out the door.
"Bloody buggery fuck."
Harry had been through every book about plants he could get his hands on, which must have numbered in the thousands. Okay, thirty at least. Maybe even forty.
He'd found several mentions of G. lautsprecher, mostly about how rare it was and how it had no known uses in potions, which was apparently almost unheard of for a magical plant. There were also plenty of cautions concerning the thorns, as the poison was caustic.
Harry assumed this had something to do with making owl feathers smoke, and was glad he'd managed to avoid being squirted.
Three different books had mentioned the plant talking. Unfortunately, they had all said something along the lines of, "Really talented Herbology Masters – which is about three people in the world at any given time – can commune with this plant. It speaks to them."
And that just sounded like old Trelawney, raving about her inner eye.
Neville was a pretty spectacular Herbologist, though. He'd been teaching the subject at Hogwarts for the past ten years – he'd also been head of Gryffindor for the last four, which didn't have any bearing on the current situation, but Harry was still proud of him – so if any of this rot was true, he'd surely be one of the three.
Come to think of it, what was Neville doing in Germany in the first place? Maybe he'd finally taken that sabbatical he'd been on about for so long. Harry thought he remembered Hannah saying something about a working holiday.
He also discovered that there was apparently no such thing as a 'Plantimagus', so if it was a person turned into a plant, it probably wasn't voluntary.
Either way, all he'd learned was that maybe the plant did talk, but it wasn't going to talk to him. He'd tried to find out if the plant could understand people, but none of the books said anything about two-way conversation.
Regardless, he walked over to the plant, hands on his hips. "Can you hear me, plant?"
There was no response.
"Look, there's a very slight possibility that you're Severus Snape. There's also a possibility that Neville's insane, which I'm not prepared to dismiss just yet. So if you could maybe give a little rustle or something, that would be great. Just so I know Neville's not mad."
The plant was perfectly still.
"Are you not moving because you're not Snape, or because you don't understand me? Give us a little wiggle if you can hear me."
The plant remained motionless.
Harry huffed. "Fine, all right. I'm just trying to help you out here, you know. I mean, if you really are Snape… erm, Professor Snape, then I've got to get you out of there. Or, you know, change you back. Or whatever."
He paced alongside the counter, waving his hands for emphasis.
"If you are Snape, I don't know where you've been all these years. I mean, you're supposed to be dead! That didn't come out right. I meant everyone thinks you're dead. It would be brilliant if you're really alive, though. I just hope you haven't been stuck in a plant for the last… what, twenty-two years? That would be… yeah, bad.
"So maybe you were hiding out. Maybe you didn't know you were posthumously pardoned. I tried to get them to give you an Order of Merlin, but they only give them to live people. I think they would have, though, if they could. I know you always wanted one, and you really deserved it."
Suddenly, a horrifying thought occurred to him. "Oh, bollocks. I didn't mean any of that stuff I said before, about, you know. I mean, I did mean it, but I didn't mean for you to hear. I… erm, sorry 'bout that. If you're in there.
"I still think you're bloody sexy, and noble and good and all that, but I never would have told you. So please don't hex me."
Harry leaned his elbows on the counter and dropped his head into his hands. "If it's you, I really hope I can figure a way to bring you back. I just don't know if I'll be able to look you in the eye when I do."
Harry walked into the kitchen and almost started screaming.
Lily was too close, she would get stuck, she'd get squirted and her skin would start smoking, she was going to get hurt, she was…
…she was stroking the plant's leaves, cooing to it was if it were a kitten.
"There's a good plant, that's right. Aren't you a pretty little plant? Yes, you are, you're a lovely plant. A very sweet plant, keeping your poison all to yourself," she murmured in a smooth, lilting tone.
She turned her head, still petting the plant, and spoke in an even timbre. "Hey, Dad. You didn't tell me you got one of these!"
Did everyone recognize the species on sight but him? "Yeah, Neville – erm, Professor Longbottom, that is, gave it to me a couple of months back. I didn't know you were so good in Herbology, Lils."
She shrugged. "I'm not, really. This one's just easy. Al's the one who pays attention in the greenhouses. Says he can't wait 'til Professor Longbottom gets back."
"Speaking of, is he still getting into tussles with that other kid?"
"Yeah. I think they might've wanted to ask the same girl out to Hogsmeade, or something like that." She rolled her eyes, still too young to really understand.
"Well, if he keeps it up, you've my full permission to pull his hair and call him 'Albus Severus', all right?"
Lily grinned. "Yeah." She giggled. "I've never seen a boy who obsesses about his hair as much as Al. Well, maybe Scorpius, but they're neck and neck."
Harry smiled with her for a moment, then turned to more serious conversation. "Have you heard from the boys since break?"
"No. They're Gryffindors – they've got more exciting things to do, yeah?"
She walked over and gave him a little hug. "Don't worry, Dad. They're just a little upset. They need to be angry with someone about you and Mum splitting, and it's easier with you. They'll get over it."
"I'm sure they will." He ruffled her hair and she squirmed, but didn't move away. "I'm glad you're here, princess."
Two days before she was due to leave, Harry came upon her talking to the plant again. He restrained himself from telling her to get away from it, but he wanted to keep watch in case something happened.
"Pretty plant, yes you are. Do you have a name? I heard Daddy saying maybe you were Professor Snape. Are you Snape, is that your name?" she asked in that soft, cooing voice.
"He's talked about you ever since I can remember. Yes, you're such a nice plant. He thinks ever so highly of you – he says you were the bravest man he ever knew, and that's why Al got his name. Such lovely leaves, so green. I hope if you become a man again you'll be nice to him. He'd be ever so sad if you still didn't like him, like when he was in school. He's matured a lot since then – that's what Aunt Hermione says."
She hummed to it for a little while, still stroking its leaves constantly. "Yes, you have very nice spines as well. Very thorny, such lovely thorns. Do try not to hurt his feelings, won't you?"
Harry backed away from the kitchen, stepping lightly. He didn't know if he should be proud he had such a thoughtful, caring daughter, or embarrassed that an adolescent Hufflepuff felt the need to protect him.
Harry awoke with a gasp and his hand around his prick. He pulled it away as if it had been burned.
He huddled under the covers with his eyes squeezed shut, trying desperately not to remember his dream.
It wasn't working. All he could think about was the weird caresses of oblong leaves that had somehow turned into long, tapered fingers, the soft rustling that had given way to heavy breathing, and the tiny pinpricks from spines that had changed to teeth nipping at his skin.
Eventually, his confusion and embarrassment led to the deflation of his wayward cock. He was inordinately grateful for that – he didn't think he could handle tossing off to thoughts of a potted plant, no matter who might be hidden inside it.
"Sit down, would you?" Harry pleaded, hands hovering protectively around Hermione. "I can do the tea! It is my house, you know." The subtle curve of her belly was just showing, but you could never be too careful.
Hermione rolled her eyes and finally sat at the table. "If you insist."
"I do. Now, which biscuits do you want?"
She pouted. "I can't have both?"
"Course you can!" Harry chuckled and set out the tea things. "There we go."
"Now why in the world did you suddenly invite me over for tea?"
Harry choked on his tea. "Oh! I, er. Well, you wanted to talk about something last time you were here, didn't you?"
"Ah. Well. Yes." Hermione cleared her throat and set to examining the plate of biscuits. "What do you know about Scorpius Malfoy?"
"Erm. Well, he's, er, sort of smart and a little snooty and apparently has an obsession with his hair to rival Albus Severus'. Why?"
Hermione scrunched her face up and looked away. "Rose has been talking about him quite a bit lately. I think she may be… interested in him."
"Oh." Harry snorted. "Is that all?"
She scowled at him. "Well, how would you feel if it was Lily interested in him?"
"Well that's…" He left off 'different' when he saw the furious look on Hermione's face. "Yeah, all right. I don't think he's really a bad sort, though. The Malfoys do seem to improve a bit each generation, you know. And Rosie's a smart girl – she won't do anything too terrible."
Her expression softened into a reluctant smile. "Yes, I suppose."
Harry was on the verge of making a comment about the ways Rose might improve the next generation, but thought better of it.
"So, why did you really ask me here?"
"Erm, what do you mean?"
Hermione huffed. "How is it possible you're able to interrogate suspects when you're such rubbish as prevarication?"
"Well, that's not really my area."
"I should hope not. So?"
Harry squirmed. He still hadn't been sure he really wanted to bring Hermione in on this when he'd invited her, but it looked like he might not have a choice anymore.
"I had a question… about a case."
"Yeah. Do you, erm, know if it's possible to turn someone into a plant? Or, you know, maybe put them in the plant? Like, their mind?"
"Is this about the Poison Tongue?" she asked, nodding toward the little potted plant.
He started. "How did you…?" She was looking at him incredulously. "Right. Never mind."
"So, do you know anything?"
"It's not exactly a magical creature, is it?"
"Well, I know that, but you're Hermione! You know everything, not just stuff you're s'posed to know."
She sipped her tea. "Thanks for that, I suppose, but I really don't have an answer for you." She held up a hand to forestall his protests. "But I'll see what I can find, all right?"
Harry sagged in relief. "Yeah, all right."
"A case, huh?" she asked skeptically. "You're not going to tell me any more about it, are you?"
He shook his head. "Not just yet. I'm sorry, I just…"
"It's okay. You'll tell me when you're ready."
Harry started from sleep and sat up abruptly, wand in hand, blinking into the darkness.
"Harry! Harry, get down here this instant!" he heard from downstairs. He recognized Hermione's voice and was instantly concerned, but he didn't really think she sounded upset.
"Bloody buggery hell," he muttered as he stumbled down the stairs. "This better be good."
He knelt in front of the hearth. "What do you want? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"It's…" She turned around for a moment. "It's 4:13. Buck up, you'll be fine."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes, fine. I found that information you wanted!"
Harry rubbed his eyes. "Information?"
"About the plant?"
"Oh, right," he answered, instantly more alert. "Well?"
"Ungrateful," she mumbled. "I found a curse that transfigures a person into a plant. The curse is non-specific as to species, and seems to choose based on characteristics of the person being transfigured. The spell is fairly advanced and could probably only be performed by a mature witch or wizard. The wand movement – "
She clicked her teeth shut, seemingly just remembering Harry was even there. "Yes?"
"Is there a countercurse?"
She grinned. "Yes."
Harry stared at the plant on the windowsill, raised his wand, then lowered it again. He moved the plant to the kitchen table and resumed his stance.
"No, that won't do either." He shook his head and carried the plant out of the kitchen. "Aha!" he called triumphantly, and gingerly placed the plant in the middle of the couch.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, considering. He decided to be prepared for many eventualities and Summoned whiskey, spare robes, a blanket, and tea service with an assortment of biscuits.
Reminding himself that even if it turned out the plant really was a wizard, it might not be Snape, he assumed a defensive posture.
"I really hope you're Snape, plant. If you are, you'll probably start shouting at me or just leave as soon as I turn you back, so I want to say a couple of things. You're welcome to stay here for a while, if you like. Erm, you've been officially pardoned, just so you know. Wait, I think I told you that already."
He bit his lip and tried to think if there was anything else. "I'm sorry I didn't do this sooner. And… erm, please don't hex me."
With that, he brandished his wand and chanted the incantation, careful to use the exact wand movement he had practiced with Hermione.
When he finished, nothing happened. He stomped his foot and was just about ready to shout about the general unfairness of life when the little plant shuddered.
He closed his mouth with a click of his teeth and watched with rapt attention.
One more shudder and the space around the plant went a bit hazy for a moment, and then he found himself staring at the huddled form of a wizard.
He was clothed, thank Merlin, in tattered and dirty black robes.
The wizard slowly shifted from his hunched up heap to a sitting position.
"Buggery fuck. It really is you!"
There were smudges of dirt on his face and his hair, now streaked with steel grey, was rather more unkempt than Harry had ever seen it, but it was unmistakable.
Snape stood and gave Harry a contemplative look. He then scowled, opened his mouth as if to speak, and promptly collapsed onto the floor.
"Professor? Snape, are you okay?" Harry shook his shoulder one more time. "Snape?"
A hand shot up and grabbed his wrist in a forceful grip. "Unha – " Snape coughed and started again. "Unhand me."
Harry fell back onto his bottom in his haste to comply. "Sorry."
Snape shifted himself until he was sitting up, leaning against the sofa, eyeing Harry warily all the while.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked finally. "How do you feel?"
"Stiff. Dirty. Hungry."
Harry blinked. "Oh."
He waved at the tea service on the coffee table. "Biscuit?"
Snape inclined his head and reached for the plate.
Harry observed him as he ate. His untidy hair barely brushed his shoulders and his eyes were bloodshot. He kept eyeing the hand holding the sweet with disgust and rubbing his fingers against each other as if to clean the grime off.
"You're welcome to the loo, of course," Harry offered, waving his hand in the direction of the bathroom. "And I've a clean robe here, Professor, if you'd like to use it."
Snape finished off his second biscuit, this one chocolate. "I… yes. I believe a shower would be most… welcome." He stood carefully, then headed toward the loo. "And you may call me Severus."
That night, Harry could not sleep. He couldn't stop thinking about Severus.
He shivered just thinking that name, delighted with the knowledge that he was allowed to use it.
Severus had told him he'd been cursed almost seven years ago. Seven years! Harry couldn't imagine what spending seven years as a plant must be like, and wasn't sure he wanted to try. He'd asked Severus about it, but he hadn't been inclined to discuss it.
The man who'd cursed him was a customer, a native German wizard, come to pick up a customized potion. He'd cursed Severus so he wouldn't have to pay him, then cleaned out his supplies and bolted. And that was really all the information Harry had been able to get before Severus claimed exhaustion and retreated to Harry's guest room for the night.
Now, Harry couldn't get him out of his head. He'd been older than Harry had expected. Harry had been stupidly picturing the Severus Snape of twenty-two years ago this whole time, but found he didn't mind the older version as much as he would have thought. In fact, the steel grey hair was a really good look for him.
He hadn't been as contemptuous as Harry remembered either, but then he hadn't really said much at all. They'd had a short (thoroughly pleasant, in Harry's opinion) conversation over dinner, during which Severus had made several barbed comments, but none of them had really been directed at Harry. So maybe he was saving all the real venom for tomorrow, for when he felt more himself.
Harry had found it very difficult to keep from staring at him. Aside from his initial difficulties, he moved with the same fluid grace Harry remembered. And he might have been imagining it, but he thought he caught Severus' eyes on him quite a bit, too. It seemed like he was looking at Harry like they'd never met, or like he was reevaluating everything he thought he knew about him. Harry could only hope he wasn't plotting the best route to revenge.
And he hadn't hexed him yet, so that was good.
The next day was Saturday, but Harry was up early after his restless night. Still, he came down to find Severus already sitting at the kitchen table.
"Morning," Harry mumbled, and set to making tea and toast.
They ate in silence, which Harry supposed was better than rowing, but he wished Severus would talk to him.
After he rinsed out his teacup, Harry caught himself refilling it to give the plant a drink and rolled his eyes at his silliness. Leaving the cup in the sink, he turned around and bit his lip, unsure of what to do now.
Severus looked up at him, his expression unreadable. "You say I was pardoned?"
Harry started. "I… Well, yes, but…" He gulped. "You heard that, then?"
Severus nodded slowly and answered Harry's unasked question. "I heard everything."
"Oh, fucking hell," Harry muttered under his breath.
"Your daughter is very… kind."
"Er, what?" Harry shook his head. "I mean thanks." He took a step toward the table. "She's a great kid."
Severus nodded. "And Al?" He swallowed thickly. "Albus Severus?"
"He's a good kid, too. They all are, mostly."
"I wasn't in love with your mother," Severus said suddenly. "We were just friends."
"I'm glad to – I mean… I'm glad you were friends."
He nodded again, looking down at his empty plate. He seemed so very lost, and Harry fought the urge to reach out to him.
"Are you feeling all right?" he asked instead.
"Are you sure?"
He sounded so uncertain that Harry knelt down by his chair. "It's all right if you're not, you know."
"Harry." Severus furrowed his brow in a pained expression.
"What? Anything you need, whatever it is." All he wanted was to make the man happy, to take away the distress in his face. "Please, tell me what I can do!"
Severus made a sound that was somewhere between a whimper and a sob. Leaning down, he slipped a hand behind Harry's head and brought their mouths together.
The kiss was soft and chaste. Harry sighed against Severus' lips and pressed against him more firmly. He couldn't believe this was actually happening, but he resolved to enjoy it as much as possible in case it was his only chance.
Severus tightened his hand in Harry's hair and parted his lips. When his tongue snuck out to slip across Harry's lower lip, he responded with fervor and the kiss turned passionate, eager and hard.
Harry groaned, lost in the sensation of Severus' mouth moving against his and the sharp pain at the nape of his neck where Severus was pulling his hair and the pressure of Severus' nose against his cheek. It was everything he'd ever imagined, but it was so much better!
He blinked in confusion when Severus abruptly pulled away.
"I'm sorry," he said, leaning as far back in his chair as he could.
"I couldn't help… I didn't mean – Surely, you must realize…? I know I am not the man you imagined all these years."
"What, you think I don't… er, like you anymore now that you're here?"
"I know the reality does not live up to whatever fantasy you've been harboring."
Harry frowned. "You think I'm disappointed?"
"Aren't you?" Severus asked, wrapping his arms around his chest.
Severus tilted his head to the side in confusion. "No?"
He shook his head emphatically. "No." Harry reached out and placed a hand on Severus' knee. "Look, I realize this is all a bit… quick, but I want it like I've never wanted anything else. If you want it, too, I don't see what the problem is."
Severus did not answer immediately and Harry started to get worried. "Do you? Want it, I mean?"
Severus opened his mouth, but closed it again without speaking. He looked down at Harry's hand on his knee then settled his gaze on the tabletop.
Harry was about to tell him it was okay, that he didn't have to worry about hurting his feelings if the answer was no, but then he thought about the fact that this was Severus Snape and he'd have no qualms telling him if that were the case. He kept his mouth shut and waited as patiently as he could.
Eventually, Severus spoke. "Harry, I've lived as a plant for seven years. I never… thought about you this way before. I fear my time in Kingdom Plantae has… changed me."
Harry bit his lip. "I think you just need some time to recover. It had to have been a traumatic experience."
"You think I'm traumatized?"
He shrugged. "A bit, surely. You were without any real human contact for seven years."
"Then how do you know I'm not just making up for that with the first human I stumbled upon?"
Harry sagged. "You probably are. It's not like I really have anything to offer."
Severus huffed and rolled his eyes. "Dunderhead."
"See? Good as new!" Harry said, trying to sound cheerful.
"You think me so enamored of human contact that I'd latch onto just anyone? I have quite a history of avoiding other human beings as much as possible."
One side of Harry's mouth quirked up. "We seem to have switched sides in this argument."
"I am simply pointing out the facts."
"If you say so. And, by the way, unless you're in the habit of lusting after schoolboys, I'm not surprised you didn't think about me that way before. Maybe you haven't changed at all."
Severus pursed his lips, considering. "You were rather young, I suppose."
Harry nodded. "Seventeen. Sixteen, actually, the last time I had any real contact with you."
"You hated me then."
"I didn't really know you then." Harry shrugged. "You hated me, too."
"I hated my idea of you. And you don't know me now, either."
"I know a bit. I'd like to know more."
"Would you?" Severus asked, seeming genuinely confused. "I have no idea why."
"Does there have to be a reason? Wouldn't you like to know me better?"
"Well yes, but…"
Harry shook his head. "It's exactly the same." He stood and leaned over Severus' chair. "Can I kiss you again?"
Severus swallowed audibly. "No one has ever wanted me before," he whispered.
"Someone does now."
He tilted his head up and searched Harry's face. Slowly, deliberately, he nodded. "If you must."
And so he did, claiming Severus' mouth in a fierce kiss. He let himself float on the heady feeling of Severus responding to him so readily and reveled in the breathy gasps and moans that escaped his lips.
He just about growled in frustration when Severus pulled away again, but he didn't seem upset this time. Severus just sat there panting, looking at Harry in wonder.
Harry cupped his jaw in the palm of his hand and brushed his thumb over his cheek. "Should we move this… elsewhere?"
Severus' mouth dropped open, but he closed it quickly. "Certainly."
With a smile, Harry grabbed his wrist and headed for his bedroom, pulling Severus along behind him.
Only when the backs of his legs were pressed up against the bed did Harry stop. He ran his hands down Severus' chest.
"Can I take these off?" he asked, tugging at his robes.
Severus did not protest, so Harry started in on the fastenings.
Just as Harry was about to push them off his shoulders, Severus spoke. "I'm sixty years old, Harry. Don't expect… much."
Severus' robes pooled on the floor around his feet, leaving him bare but for his pants. Harry took in his greying chest hair and the very slight paunch in his belly. His arms were well muscled, but he was pretty scrawny everywhere else. He hoped that was a reflection on the state of Severus' body before the curse, rather than inadequate nourishment on Harry's part. "Hush, Severus. You're perfect."
"Let me see you," Severus entreated.
Harry quickly slipped out of his own robes, suddenly glad his job entailed chasing after people on a near-daily basis.
"Mmm," Severus hummed reaching out to draw him closer. He tilted his head down and pulled Harry into another kiss. "You're taller than I thought."
"Is that good?"
"It is," Severus replied, and kissed him again.
Harry ran his hands down Severus' sides to rest at the elastic of his pants. "Off?"
In answer, Severus reached for Harry's smalls and tugged them down.
Once they were fully naked, Harry crawled onto the bed and pulled Severus down after him.
Severus settled in along Harry's side, half on top of him, and Harry felt his erection pressing against his hip.
"What do you want?" Harry purred.
"I don't… It's been quite a while. Longer than just the seven years."
"That's okay," Harry assured him. "Don't worry."
He Summoned a pot of lube from his bedside table and scooped a dollop onto his finger. He rolled them so he was on top, the full length of his body stretched out over Severus'. "Just relax," he murmured, reaching between them to spread the lube along both their cocks.
Severus gasped and bucked his hips.
"Yes, that's it." Harry started thrusting his cock alongside Severus'. Propping himself up on his elbows, he looked down at Severus' face, slack with pleasure. "Mm, you look so good like this."
Severus just moaned and brought his hands to Harry's hips, encouraging him to thrust harder.
"Fuck, I've wanted this for so long." Harry dropped his head onto Severus' shoulder and snaked a hand between them. He fisted the length of Severus' cock once, twice, then reached his slick fingers down between his legs.
Severus groaned and spread his thighs.
Harry fought to keep his pace steady as he slipped his hand behind Severus' bollocks and circled his tight pucker with a fingertip.
Severus' entire body shuddered.
Harry started frotting faster. He panted into Severus' shoulder and pressed the tip of a finger into his opening. The strangled gasp Severus gave at that action reverberated through Harry's body and settled deep in the pit of his belly.
Feeling the tense muscles twitch around his finger and hearing the harsh, uneven breaths coming from the man beneath him and smelling the sweat on that heaving chest had Harry thanking Merlin he wasn't a teenager anymore, as he'd have lost it twice over by now if he were.
Even so, he didn't think he was going to last much longer.
"Severus," he gasped, wrapping his free hand around his upper arm and digging in his fingers for leverage. "I'm so close!"
He decided it was reasonable to interpret the tightening of the hands on his hips and the way Severus was pressing his arse against Harry's hand and the pained expression on his face as 'Me, too.'
"Yes, come with me, Severus!" He slipped another finger into Severus' entrance, thrusting them as steadily as he could. "Please!"
"Oh, my… oh…!"
Harry felt his release begin to overwhelm him and stretched up to press an openmouthed kiss against Severus' lips. He tried to keep his fingers and hips moving through his orgasm, determined to bring Severus with him.
Through the haze of his own pleasure, he felt Severus' body shiver and tense as he joined him. He might have heard a choked "Harry!", but it could have just been wishful thinking.
His body sagged against Severus' and they lay together gasping.
"Well," Severus ventured, "That was… unexpected."
Harry couldn't tell if that was good or bad. "Oh?"
"I hadn't thought it would be so… enjoyable."
"Well, I'm glad it was."
Severus brought a hand up to rest on Harry's back. "And for you?"
"Amazing," he answered, nuzzling into Severus' neck. "Can hardly wait 'til next time."
"Next time?" Severus asked carefully.
Harry tensed. "Unless you'd rather not."
"No, it's not…"
"What, then? Are you mad because it took me so long to catch on and change you back?"
"No. Well, yes – that was rather stupid of you. But that's not what I meant."
Harry pressed a kiss to Severus' collarbone. "Sorry."
"What is it, Severus?"
His hand stroked over Harry's back. "I had… gotten the impression…" Severus shook his head. "What is it you want from me?"
"Erm, well." Harry swallowed and reminded himself that he'd spent over three months baring his soul to this man, even if he hadn't known it the whole time. "I'd like very much if we could be, you know, together. But I'm willing to accept whatever you want to give me."
"I suppose I could stay, then. Mind, I won't be very good at it."
Harry closed his eyes and tried to keep his heart from beating out of his chest. "You're not anxious to get back to Germany?"
"Certainly not," Severus scoffed. "Last time I was there, someone cursed me."
Harry laughed. He'd been dreaming for so long; finally, he felt he could allow himself to hope. "Lily will be so excited to meet you. Al and James, too, of course."
Severus groaned. "Merlin, what have I gotten myself into?"
"Oh, hush." Harry pulled the blanket over them and snuggled against Severus, settling in for a nap. "Remind me to owl Neville and say thanks, would you?"
As he drifted to sleep, he felt Severus press a kiss to his forehead and whisper, "Me, as well."