So this is my first fic. Yay! I was bored and since I love reading fanfiction, I thought I'd write one. Reviews are appreciated, but please be gentle. Set in sixth year. Canon up until OotP, but disregards HBP and DH.
Rating: T (for now; may become M in later chapters)
Pairings: Snape/OC (past), eventual Snape/Harry
Warnings: Eventual slash, OOCness. Don't like, don't read.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or make money from the writing of this fiction.
"Severus, you have a visitor," Dumbledore told him.
Severus Snape looked at him in disbelief. A visitor? That was impossible. He had no family to speak of- none, at least, that would bother taking the trouble visiting him at Hogwarts. The same could be said of his friends. "She's anxious to see you again."
She? Severus quirked an eyebrow. There was only one she still living that would bother coming to see him. And Severus wasn't quite sure he wanted to see her. "I have a detention to oversee tonight, Albus. I can't-"
The old man's eyes were understanding. "If you don't wish to see her, Severus, I'll ask her to leave. But I think you owe her at least to tell her that yourself."
"Owe her-!" But he was interrupted by a knock at his office door.
"Your detention, I presume?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes twinkling. "Well, we shouldn't keep Harry from his well-deserved punishment, I think. Anastasia will be staying in Hogsmeade for the next few days, in case you change your mind." He opened the door to find Harry Potter standing there, fist raised to knock again.
"Hello, Harry. Professor Snape is waiting for you." The old wizard rested a hand briefly on the boy's shoulder before exiting.
Harry stepped up to the Potions Master's desk, looking rather like someone walking to their own execution. Snape had a contemplative look on his face, and Harry wondered nervously if Snape was thinking up new and nasty ways of tormenting him. A few seconds passed with nothing happening, so Harry attempted a tentative, "Sir?"
Severus blinked as if just realizing that Harry was standing in front of him Then, unexpectedly, he sighed. "I want you to redo that fiasco from this afternoon, Potter. As many times as it takes you to get it right."
Harry blinked right back at him. "That's it?" he blurted. That was unexpectedly lenient.
"Minerva McGonagall cashed in a hefty favor getting you into my NEWT-level Potions class, Potter. If you can't brew this one potion, I'll have to kick you out of my class and then I shall still owe her." Severus sneered at him. "Of course, if you'd rather a harsher punishment…"
"Err, no sir. I'll just get started then, shall I?"
Severus allowed himself a smirk as Harry nearly sprinted into the adjoining classroom. Of course, his amusement was short-lived as his thoughts drifted back to the visitor Dumbledore had come to see him about. Anastasia was a woman he hadn't seen in years and actively tried not to think about in just as many. She had wronged him so completely that he still burned with embarrassment and anger when he thought of it, but he might have forgiven her, all those years ago, if she had just apologized. Instead, she stated over and over again that he had been overreacting and that she had done nothing wrong.
Severus sighed and tilted his head forward, letting his long hair curtain his face. Dumbledore was right, though. Severus owed Anastasia for a lot, and if she had come all this way just to talk to him face-to-face… she could have just sent an owl, for heaven's sake, she didn't have to go through all this trouble. Severus wasn't normally one to let bygones be bygones and all that other sentimental crap, but if Anastasia had just come to admit the truth, well, she had always been the exception.
Resolved, then, to go and see her the following day, Severus entered the classroom to see just how badly Potter was messing up this time
There was something different about Snape tonight, Harry thought contemplatively as he prepared the ingredients for his potion. It wasn't just the rather lenient detention- although that had been completely unexpected; Harry's potion from class that afternoon had been potentially dangerous, and Harry himself almost thought he deserved punishment- but there was something off about the Potions Master tonight. He hadn't been all that nasty, and Harry hadn't been subjected to the shouting match he'd expected.
Must have something to do with why Dumbledore was here, Harry decided, taking out the mint to chop. If that was the case, then Harry was likely never to know the cause of Snape's odd behavior. It wasn't that Harry cared all that much, but after everything that had happened, Harry craved familiarity. There was nothing more familiar than Snape hating him.
There was a while that Harry hated Snape with such a passion that just the thought of the man made him see red. After all if Snape hadn't goaded Sirius-
Don't think about that! he thought suddenly, turning his thoughts violently away from his godfather.
-but as the summer passed, Harry quickly lost the strength to sustain that anger. Snape had just been the closest target for that anger, but he didn't deserve it. There were two people to be held responsible- Voldemort and Harry himself. Snape had simply done his best to help them without blowing his cover. Harry couldn't bring himself to hate the man anymore, and that was a disconcerting, alien feeling. He wanted everything to be as it was, and while he knew that wasn't possible, he should at least be able to hate Snape once again as soon as the man made some comment about his swollen ego or lack of intelligence.
But that was another thing. Snape had begun saving his insults for Harry's potions alone (although he might intimate at a Gryffindor lack of intelligence, he never insulted Harry personally), and couched inside the insults was exactly what Harry could do to improve his potion.
It's not fair! Harry thought, furiously chopping the mint leaves. If he had to pick out the one thing he could count on in his life, it was his and Snape's mutual hatred for each other. And yet- and yet!- their mutual hatred had somehow changed into a vague dislike, which made Harry furious.
Part of Harry knew that this was entirely illogical, that Snape not hating him was a good thing. But he couldn't help it; he was desperate for everything to go back to the way it was before. Snape's hatred of him was an essential part of that time, and that too seemed to have gone away, just like-
"I realize that the recipe calls for finely chopped mint leaves, Potter," a familiar cold drawl said from the door, "but they should still be visible to the naked eye."
Harry looked down at his chopping board, and realized that he could have stopped chopping a while ago. "I wasn't paying attention," Harry mumbled, keeping his eyes on the leaves. He didn't want to look the Potions Master in the eye, otherwise Snape might realize that Harry had intentionally left him an opening.
One long-fingered hand entered into Harry's field, as Snape sifted the chopped leaves through his fingers. "A common occurrence, I'm sure," Snape replied, though without the malice Harry would have expected. The fingers moved, spider-like, through the pile of leaves. "These are passable, Potter, but be sure to pay more attention to the rest of the potion. It can be extremely volatile when not prepared properly, as you learned this afternoon."
Harry flushed with embarrassment at the reminder. If Snape hadn't caught his mistake in time, he could have seriously injured a lot of people. He waited for the reprimand, the yelling, and the insults that he knew he deserved.
But they never came. "Are you waiting for an engraved invitation Potter? Or do you just enjoy my company so much that you wish to prolong your detention? Because, I can assure you, the feeling is not mutual, and I'd like this finished as soon as possible." When Harry looked up at him in surprise, Snape sneered. "The potion, Potter."
Harry looked down at the potions ingredients lined out in front of him, then back up at the professor. "Why don't you hate me any more?" he blurted out suddenly.
Snape gaped at him, and Harry clapped his hand over his mouth in mortification. He hadn't meant to say that- it had just slipped out-
"Potter-" Snape finally managed, but Harry turned away and busied himself with preparing the rest of his ingredients.
"I-I'll just get finished with this potion then, shall I?"
"Sorry for dawdling, professor, won't happen again-"
"Potter!" This time Snape grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to stop. "You're mangling that shrivelfig. Which, by the way, doesn't even belong in that potion."
There was a long moment of silence as Harry looked at the shrivelfig in his hands. (And truly, mangled was the best description for it) Snape's hands stayed on his shoulders. "It was never you that I hated." Snape's voice was so quiet Harry had to strain to hear it.
"You hated my dad. I know." Harry resisted the urge to stamp his foot impatiently.
"Molly accused Black," Harry winced, "of confusing you with James, but I was guilty of the same thing. Don't get me wrong, Potter, I still don't particularly like you, but I was- oh what do those Muggle quacks say- transferring my unresolved anger towards your father onto you."
"So?" Harry risked looking up into Snape's face. "It's been that way for five years. What changed?"
Snape looked surprised at the question. "I suppose I did." He let go of Harry's shoulders and headed back towards his office. Harry assumed the strange and uncomfortable conversation was over and turned his attention back to his potion ingredients. He almost missed what Snape said next. "I went to an art gallery."
Harry looked up at Snape, but the man was already gone. An art gallery? Harry thought incredulously. He couldn't have heard that right. Convinced that he had just imagined it, Harry turned back to his potion, this time giving it his full attention.
The night passed without any further awkward conversations, for which Severus was extremely grateful. Potter actually managed to do a halfway decent job with the potion, and so his detention ended quickly. Severus gave the boy back half-credit from that day's class, and he turned to grading papers from his second year classes. But, as per usual, the papers were unimaginative, uninsightful, done with just enough effort to get them a passing grade. They were hardly enough to keep Severus' attention, and he thought back to what he had told Potter.
I went to an art gallery.
He should have known something would change when he visited that art gallery. All the major decisions and changes in Severus' life could be attributed to art in some way. And that was all because of her. Anastasia.
He hadn't planned to visit that art gallery, but Severus couldn't really fool himself. He'd seen the advertisement for her exhibit in the Daily Prophet, and the fact that he'd just happened to be walking down the street where the only wizarding gallery in London was located, a street he rarely- if ever- walked, well, obviously his subconscious had decided he should make the trip.
He didn't know if he'd been hoping to see her there, but of course he hadn't. If he closed his eyes, he could still see her little biography plaque, complete with a picture.
Anastasia King. Best known for her piece, The Art of Potions. The artist focuses mostly on portraiture, using a combination of Muggle painting techniques and spellcraft. Critics applaud King for her innovation and for allowing the viewer to see 'the truest portrait of the soul.'
The bio picture had smiled up at him with that mysterious smile he knew so well. Anastasia's smile always seemed to be full of secrets.
Severus had spent the rest of the day wandering her exhibit. Anastasia didn't bother with realism; she never had. Severus could guess that most of her subjects barely shared a passing resemblance to their portrait. But that wasn't what made Anastasia the artist she was. She painted the flaws. Every flaw. From the smallest birthmark to the deepest, darkest secret of their soul. Severus had always thought that that was the reason why none of the portraits looked like their subjects. You never got the full picture of someone if you only saw their bad qualities, no matter what the critics said. Anastasia knew that, but as she had said, she painted 'the side people always look for first.' And the worse someone was, the fewer redeeming qualities they had, the more they had looked like their portraits.
Severus paused at one of the portraits, a smaller one. Most of the room had ignored it. The full-sized painting, Ministerial Fool, had captured their attention, bowler hat in hand and exuding terrible insecurity. But there was something about this smaller one that had caught his eye, a familiarity. Maybe it was the portrait of someone he knew.
Anastasia's portraits couldn't talk like the conventional wizarding portraits, and they could move but little. But this one seemed to desperately want to move out of his sight.
As Severus studied it, he could see the intentional cruelty of this man, the arrogance of him, and the fierce loyalty unto the point of stupidity. Severus blinked. The Anastasia he'd once known would have admired that trait, not painted it as a flaw. She must have known this man personally. Severus looked at the title of the painting- she wouldn't have named him, of course, but the title might give him some clue.
The Prisoner of Azkaban
Severus looked back at the figure. Lank hair. Hints of insanity and desperation. Thoughts of revenge. It was Black.
Severus backed away from the portrait even as the mangled form of Black stared back at him with hatred.
Part of Severus thought he should be rejoicing. Here, here was proof that Black had always been what Severus had said. Here, for the entire wizarding world to see. But…
It didn't look like Black.
Even the Ministerial Fool painting had looked more like Fudge than this looked like Black. If he had been right about Anastasia's paintings-
This painting showed nothing more than what Severus had always seen in Black. But that meant there was more. There was more to Black than Severus had always seen.
Black had been a better person than Severus had always assumed.
He'd left the gallery feeling a bit sick. It was after that Severus had decided to no longer waste his energy on childhood prejudices. Black and James Potter, his two main tormentors, were both dead. Lupin had never participated and had always managed to be civil. As for Harry Potter, well, he'd done the exact opposite of what his father would have done. If James Potter had been in his son's position, and had seen that memory in the pensieve, he wouldn't have wasted any time in spreading it around school. If Harry had been as much like James as Severus had always thought, his students would have been calling him 'Snivellus' the very next day.
That was the reason why he no longer hated Harry. He realized that Harry was not James and was probably less like James than even Black had thought.
Now, in his office, and brooding about that day, Severus figured he'd been doing a pretty good job at shelving his prejudice towards Potter since the boy had been prompted to ask, why don't you hate me? But…
Severus tapped a finger against his desk. Had it just been his imagination, or had there been a note of desperation in Potter's voice when he'd asked that?
Severus shook his head. Why would that be so? Why would Potter want Severus to hate him?
Because it's familiar. Potter had just lost the closest thing he'd ever known to a father. He probably didn't want any other aspect of his life to change, and that was impossible with the Dark Lord at large. Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd been trying to do right by Potter- and it had been nothing close to easy- but had he just made it harder for the boy?
Severus leaned back with a sigh. Potter would just have to deal with it, dammit. With some reluctance, he turned back to the pile of papers. Anastasia always managed to twist him into knots. He wanted to get these out of the way because he had a feeling he wouldn't be able to do anything else tomorrow.
She had barely changed, Severus thought when the door opened to his knock. "Ms. King," he greeted her stiffly. Anastasia would never be considered a great beauty- her features bordered on the plain- but she had a vibrancy and a mystery about her that was no less alluring.
"Don't be like that, Sev," Anastasia said, with a bit of a pout. "I know we ended on bad terms, but we were friends once. Please, come in. I have something for you."
Severus followed her in to the small sitting area of her inn room. The place was nice, but not nearly the nicest she could afford. She never did like anything too flashy.
Severus sat when she gestured him to, back stiff. She seemed completely at ease, but he felt decidedly uncomfortable. "Wait here, I'll go get it."
She stepped just inside the bedroom, leaving the door open. Severus watched her. Her clothes were so familiar- that odd mix of Muggle and witch, much like her paintings, that was so much her. A dark blue corset, black wide sleeved blouse, denim pants and tall, heeled boots, her cloak hanging on the coat rack.
"Here," she held out a thin, rectangular package. "This has always belonged to you."
The breath stuck in his throat. "Is this-?"
"The reason you stopped talking to me?" Anastasia finished with a half smile. "Yeah, it is. I still stand by my work, Sev, but I should have asked you first, and I'm sorry."
Severus clutched the package hard, and he could feel the detail of the frame through the brown paper. "Anastasia… this is… it's worth…" he felt like he was floundering. The apology he'd been waiting for all these years, and now this. The painting he held in his hands was worth more than all of the potions ingredients in his stores put together. And he had some very rare ingredients.
"Sev, it's your's." She crouched down so she looked him straight in the eyes. "You can keep it, sell it, burn it, whatever." She straightened up and conjured a pot of tea, pouring them both cups. "I was wrong and you were right."
"A few years ago. But I didn't think you'd see me. I wasn't sure you'd see me now."
He took the teacup. No milk and just a bit of sugar. Just as he'd always taken it. He couldn't believe she remembered. "But why now?"
"I saw your name in my guest book." At his confused look, she added, "From the exhibit. I figured you couldn't hate me too much if you went."
"Anastasia…" he started, but the words died on his tongue.
"I know, Sev," she said quietly, smiling her mysterious smile. "I missed you, too."