The Playing Fields of Hogwarts
Author's Note: Again, I thank my betas for pointing out where I lost the plot of became too cryptic to follow, and of course, my horrible grammar and punctuation gave them all fits and starts. (Gotta keep these ladies on their toes, you know! Don't hit me, please, I'll be good, sort of!)
This is a short one, three parts only. And I really mean that this time… I think… I'm pretty sure. Problem being I have had a major case of writer's block on Renaissance and it's driving me insane. When I get writer's block I tend to write short stories rather than what I am supposed to be doing. I could also procrastinate for Australia… at Olympic level! Still…
Thanks a whole load for the reviews, love them as always. (Ego purring happily on the hearth as we speak.)
Professor Severus Snape presented himself to the Wizengamot for his hearing after some difficulty. At first, no one would believe he was Severus Snape, thinking he was a younger relation of the accused, and he was quite prepared to walk away before Shacklebolt arrived in the Ministry's Atrium and confirmed his identity. The assembled Wizengamot kept casting him disbelieving looks as he sat calmly on the bench and out-stared various members of the wizarding counsel who studied him very closely.
He tipped his head back and accepted the three drops of Veritaserum without fuss, confirming he had been a Death Eater with no remorse or regret. However, when his solicitor brought out Professor Dumbledore's portrait, it confirmed that Severus had been a spy in his employ and instrumental in sending the information necessary to make the defeat of Voldemort at Potter's hands possible.
Shacklebolt himself, from his position on the Wizengamot bench and as Head of the Magical Law Enforcement division, gave testimony that Severus Snape had indeed been on their side and was a respected member of the legendary Order of the Phoenix. He confirmed that Severus had been spying for the Order for most of both wars and that without his assistance and indeed his preparations and potions, Voldemort would have won the war and devastated the Wizarding world.
At a loss, the prosecution demanded that Harry Potter himself be called to give evidence. Of course, that was not possible. The necessary medical experts testified to his incapacitation and Snape's part in treating the magical separation the Boy-Who-Lived-to-Prevail had suffered in the final moments of the last Epic Battle. The defence counsel's speech was sheer rhetoric with a heavy helping of emotional blackmail and pure sentimentality. Enough verbal sugar to rot every tooth in the house, Severus thought cynically but managed to keep his mouth shut and his sarcastic comment to himself.
The final vote of the Wizengamot was a complete pardon for any crimes Snape might have had to commit in the course of his spying duties and half a million galleons compensation for back wages, and emotional and physical damage incurred in the fighting of the two wars. Amazingly, there were also a number of notes and later on owls asking him to meetings with various Wizengamot members.
Elders were intrigued by the new, younger version of Severus Snape. As many were entering their twelfth decade, they were beginning to look death in the face and attempting to backpedal frantically. Most of the invitations were to discuss the potions and spells necessary to knock a few years off their ages.
Narrowing his eyes, Severus sat back, his hands crossed over his stomach as he 'contemplated the infinity' for a long time, his mind working furiously to plan what he should offer these eager and exceedingly powerful men and women without losing his advantage. At last he turned his attention back to the assembled audience and smiled slightly.
"I have only made the potion once and it was purely experimental. Lucky it did not kill me rather than de-age me. It was expensive to make, especially considering the number of botched batches, and a teacher's wage is not adequate to make enough batches for experimentation. Nor does a teacher have enough spare time to make a proper job of the research needed to succeed within the next ten to twenty years…"
"What do you suggest?" Elder Marchbanks asked blandly, her hands palsied and liver-spotted.
"I have enough money to purchase a small cottage but I will need to have some land to cultivate ingredients; also working capital to purchase those parts that I cannot grow: dragon livers, phoenix tears, unicorn blood and the like. I do not guarantee results like mine." He rose and carefully did a slow spin, showing off taut young flesh and slim muscle showcased in Muggle jeans and a black t-shirt before sitting back down again and crossing long legs elegantly. "However, losing twenty years should make those initial movements first thing in the morning a lot easier to cope with."
"And how much do you plan to charge for this Elixir of Youth?" Elder Bones demanded cantankerously.
"How much is it worth to you? After all, I don't have to experiment with it or make it. I could just as easily open an apothecary with what I now have and settle back to make a comfortable living in Diagon Alley with absolutely no problem whatsoever."
"We could have you arrested as a…"
"Death Eater? After you have just cleared me of all charges, admitted that I was a member of the Order of the Phoenix and have awarded me an Order of Merlin First Class with Cluster and Ribbon? Do you really think my friend Harry Potter would stand for such a blatant reversal of orders and a miscarriage of justice just because you wanted to blackmail me into making a potion for you? Do keep in mind that this interview is being recorded in its entirety and Pensieved in a private vault in Gringotts, just in case of… 'problems'."
"Why, you sneaky, underhanded…"
"The word you are looking for is Slytherin," Severus smirked as he rose. "Think about it, money and land to create an elixir of Youth, or renege on your word and die, one by one in the next few years without surcease of pains and experiencing the usual infirmities of advanced age." He dropped a contract on the table for them to peruse and stalked away, leaving them all to pounce on the parchment like vultures on the Serengeti.
He barely made it past the main entrance to the Atrium, where the renewed Fountain of Magical Brethren stood in all its cynical glory, when a Hogwarts owl bearing a message from Minerva McGonagall landed on his shoulder and bit him on the ear, making him yelp and slap out at it.
Grabbing the letter and chasing the annoying owl away, he read the missive and snorted in disgust. So they still hadn't discovered why Potter couldn't become an animagus or how to get him back into his still comatose body. Typical! If all else failed, call the bloody Slytherin to clean up the Gryffindor messes! Well, they would just have to wait! He had shopping to do, urgent shopping. He had only one pair of jeans and two t-shirts to his name and there was that new shop on Knockturn Alley that specialised in cow hide and Chamoise leather jackets, and other delightful treats for the discerning gentleman. He smiled and four ex-students turned tail and ran away.
When Severus arrived, both Hermione's and the young St Mungo's healer's eyes popped out. Gone was the prim and proper black-clad greasy bat. Instead came a well dressed, beautifully presented Goth, black clad yes, but in fashionable jeans and leather jacket with a red shirt underneath and frankly… sexy as hell, as Hermione later told Ginny.
"Good Merlin, Severus, I thought you got rid of the earring," Poppy exclaimed in surprise.
"I did, but I don't think anyone has designs on ripping it out this time around, do you? Lucius is safely dead and Draco is not getting within ten feet of me, even if he wasn't as straight as a ruler. Would be like bloody incest," he huffed indignantly, making Ron's ears glow like beacons at the implications. "So, have you figured it out yet?"
Minerva's lip tightened. "No. He should be able to change at will but he just can't seem to make the full transition. He gets half way there and then it just… falls apart."
Laughing, Severus let himself into the room and sauntered over to stare down at the body which was Harry Potter. His magic curled around Severus like a green and gold cloak but did not repulse him as it had everyone else who approached his body too closely. Reaching out carefully, Severus moved a strand of dark hair off the boy's forehead and studied the now faintly scarred forehead, a finger almost automatically checking the pulse at his jugular vein. Drawing his wand from a cunningly hidden holster in his new jacket, Snape took a few readings. He knocked a strand of magic aside when it investigated his backside too closely, trying to worm its way into his back pocket where his Muggle wallet was situated, then he sighed deeply, the magic echoing him.
"You're going to have to go back inside your body, Harry. The body is not going to last much longer." He sighed again and flopped down on the mattress, ignoring the agitated swirl from the magic as he leaned against the floating neo-corpse's side. The physical toll of being unconscious and magic vacant for so long was easy to see. As Potter had never had a fat day in his life, there were no reserves to keep him going for much longer. Any muscle he had built up had fallen away. "I honestly thought you would have worked it out for yourself already but obviously not, being a dunder-headed Gryffindor. You…" a hand stroked the green and gold magic surrounding them, making it purr and squirm like a kitten, "need to go back into your body or you will fade away and dissipate. Look, roaming around free like this is indeed liberating after the life you have led, but Harry, no magic can sustain itself forever in the freed state. No one's body can function independent of spirit and magic indefinitely without sustaining irreparable damage."
The magic suddenly swirled away, raising a riot of protesting colours as it ricocheted around the room, more energetic than it had been for a week. Severus watched it without expression until it came creeping back to curl up around Severus' shoulders and rub against his cheek, dripping shreds of grey like dry tears. Severus sighed deeply once more and stroked the insubstantial creature again.
"Much as I have enjoyed the show and gained a lot of entertainment from watching everyone flapping around like headless chickens trying to cater to your whims, now I have to ask you to get back together as fast as you can because, frankly, your body is dying and I really, really wouldn't want to lose you before we've even gotten a chance to know each other properly. Besides, don't you want to know what your Animagus form is? You can't have one without a body, which is what Minnie forgot in her zeal to train you. Raw magic can't sustain that level of concentration without a fleshly body to contain it. So, you've had your fun and a nice long break from the real world, now it's time to get yourself together and come live your real life. Deal?"
The magic swirled sullenly then slowly slid off the teacher's shoulders and began to contract into a tight green and gold ball over the body's chest. Severus laid a hand on the top of it and stroked gently, exerting the slightest downward pressure to encourage it.
Outside, the teachers and his friends held their breath as the magic slowly slid into the flesh and disappeared from view. Snape nodded encouragement then quickly pulled out half a dozen vials, pouring potions down the boy's throat as his body began to convulse. Madam Pomfrey burst in, her wand out and spells flying as she helped stabilise the magical rejoining; a rough one after so long. Hermione and Ron dashed in too, adding their strength to the Medi-witch's spells that sustained their friend until his breathing settled and he sank down onto the mattress for the first time in the month since the battle.
Severus stood up and allowed himself to be shuffled aside as the unruly crowd of assistants surrounded their star patient. Smiling wryly, he Accioed his used vials and silently slipped away, leaving the Hero to his accolades and acolytes.
The house at Spinner's End was a complete dump, that was a given. He had a feeling that the only way to fix it was to blast it out of existence, then start again. Opening the slightly warped front door for the first time since he had been forced to co-habit with Pettigrew, he coughed as a cloud of dust wafted up to choke him. The gloom was barely relieved by the sliver of light the closed, rotting curtains allowed in. When he pulled them open, they disintegrated in his hands, leaving grime coated and cobweb-festooned glass to let in a fraction of the dull grey afternoon light. Turning, he surveyed the mouse chewed and rotting furniture over the rag rug and unpolished floorboards. It was dim and grim and not worth keeping, even the memories of growing up here were dark and painful, his father's temper and drinking, his mother's whining and bitterness. If not for the few books he wanted to keep, he would never have returned.
He had almost forgotten his humble origins until a letter from the local real estate agent had caught up to him yesterday. There was a renewed interest in these old rowhouses, yuppies wanted to renovate the historically significant areas, although what they were significant to had Severus flummoxed. His was the last one in the row still in terrible condition. If he was agreeable, the estate agent had a buyer ready to take it off his hands for a very reasonable sum. Unable to believe anyone was interested in such a dismal area, Severus had gone out to investigate and discovered the house façades in his street had been blasted free of their layer of coal dust and grime. Fresh paint graced the replaced front doors and the doorsteps were newly cleaned. In some cases, doors had been lacquered, with wrought iron boot scrapers replaced or refurbished to black iron perfection.
Only his own house, perched on the end of the row, was still somewhat dismal and in original condition. A quick stop at the local pub where his father spent most of his time and money had gleaned information on how much the houses were actually fetching once they had been renovated, a much larger sum than the real estate agent had offered. Nodding determinedly, Severus had come to a decision and hoped it was not a bad one, which was why he was right here in the last place he wanted to be.
Sighing and trying not to inhale too much dust, Severus shrank all the books down and put them into a carton. Next he shrank the few personal possessions and keepsakes he wanted, sending that carton after the first one to the house he had bought in Trenton Mole, a small village in the Cotswolds, using his savings and the compensation money the Ministry had granted him for his part in the defeat of Voldemort. There wasn't much in the decrepit house he wanted, once the books were gone; a small gold chain from his mother's jewellery box and the clock his Grandmother Snape had left to him, a beautiful piece she had inherited from her grandmother. The only reason his father had not sold it for whiskey was because he thought it was a piece of junk, thanks to a small glamour Severus' mother had cast on it. Sighing deeply, he sent those back to the small cottage he had waiting for him.
Finally, using spells he had learned for this very purpose, he gutted the place, Banishing everything but the plasterboard on the walls; dust, furnishings, carpets and all were condemned to appear at the local rubbish tip. Once the place was completely empty and sterile, he pulled out the pictures he had copied from various home decorating books as a reference, deciding on a simple theme. A household charm caused the plasterboard to be painted a fresh pale green, 'hardwearing and permanent', the incantation from 101 Household Decorating Spells promised. The floorboards were stained a deep mahogany in contrast and varnished to a glossy shine, looking better than they had since they were laid nearly one hundred years before. Of course, the wood, despite the lack of care and maintenance was very good quality hardwood and now unmarred by any signs of wear and tear. The paint on the window frames and doors was a fresh white as was the ceilings and handrail leading to the second floor.
The last touches were added by the appearance of a very Muggle water blasting crew which firm Severus had found in the phonebook and contacted for an appointment. A slight touch of the Imperius curse ensured the crew turned up the next day to do the work, despite the usual three month wait for an appointment. A Muggle carpenter came and fitted a refurbished front door while Severus very discretely repaired and prepared the window frames and cleaned out the back yard with magic.
Twenty-four hours later the place was completely renovated and ready of occupancy, a place card announcing its availability for rent. Since old houses in the small town had recently become quite fashionable, he had little doubt that it would indeed be leased out to some yuppie couple very quickly. Satisfied with his handiwork, Severus Apparated away, leaving the fate of the row house in the local realtors' hands.
He appeared in the front room of Merton Cottage, his new home, and dropped to the floor, his wand leaping into his hand when he realised there was someone in his living room. The small, thin person turned, all too familiar green eyes widening at the sight of the wand levelled at his middle.
"Ugh, er, sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you," Harry stammered, holding up both hands.
"Bloody Hell, Potter, you nearly gave me a heart attack, you idiot! I'm not as young as I look, you know!"
Harry sniggered as he held out a hand and pulled Severus to his feet, but didn't let go so that they were almost face to face. Or face to chest, Harry noted in resignation as Severus stiffened at Potter's proximity. "Sorry," he murmured as he stepped back and glanced up with a faint smile. Yep, Hermione had been right, this new look Snape is one hot number!
"What do you want?" Severus asked gruffly, putting his wand away, while attempting to control his breathing and his hormones. His new body was a lot more active than his old one had been and it had no inhibitions about noticing how sexy Harry Potter was, or how good he smelled.
"I-I guess I came to say thanks; thanks for bringing me back and putting me together again. I… remember a lot of it… well, some of it but I remember my Dark Grumpy teasing and tormenting me, making me… live, I guess, and not give up. So… so, I guess… thanks." Harry took a deep breath and began to turn away, unsure of what to say next. Approaching a man, especially this man, when you had only just realised you were more interested in men than women was definitely a challenge.
"You want a drink?" Severus asked, not sure how to detain this version of his… comrade in arms, definitely no longer student or boy but rather a very attractive young man, and knowing he would like to. Smalltalk and flirting had never been his forte but he had to try and exert his small expertise, starting with a crooked smile.
Harry's face lit up and he nodded eagerly. "Yeah, that would be…nice."
Severus smiled more genuinely, leading the way to the kitchen. "Tea or butterbeer?"
"Butterbeer is good. This place is really neat, Sev, nice house, nice village. What are you planning to do with your life now that the worst is over? I heard you got a contract to experiment with de-aging potions for the Wizengamot. Is that really a good idea? Giving them an extended life so they can hang around even longer and interfere with the destiny of the wizarding world? That may not be such a great plan."
"Oh yes, great plan but who is to say the research will ever pay off?" Severus smirked, then chuckled. "I'll give them what they want, a few extra years of pain free life but not a whole lot more, certainly not enough to cause a problem for the Wizarding world. All I have to do is make it cumulative and self limiting, not exactly a difficult thing to accomplish if I add a compulsion charm to the mix and a curse if anyone tries to use an analysis spell on it. As long as I patent the formula, then any charms, curses or jinxes I choose to include will be perfectly legal while being safe from plagarists."
"Yeah? But that's not all you want to do for the next fifty years, is it?" Harry persisted following him into the kitchen.
Popping the tops off two cold butterbeers, Severus leaned against the counter and studied the young man before him as he sipped his drink. "Not teach, no way, no how!" They both laughed in agreement. "I think I am going to be a freelance potions brewer. There's enough land attached to the house to start a fairly comprehensive garden and I'm in the process of negotiating to have a cellar added to the place as a lab. I need it for the Wizengamot contract and they are more than happy to pay for it, so why not!"
"Oh, hey, if you want a hand with creating a cellar, I'm good for brute power. Seems having your magic floating free for the best part of a month gives you a lot of raw strength. If I don't use it, it gets restless and slips out of my control, which can be… messy." Harry hung his head as Severus laughed, not cruelly but in real amusement.
"Hurricane Harry strikes at random, then?"
"You have no idea! It scared the crap out of the Ministry representative who came to question me about my part in the defeat of Tom Riddle. He made me mad and I lost it; blew the side wall clean out of the Infirmary, then grabbed all the various bits and reassembled them before they could fall on the people below. I have to admit, I even impressed myself with that one.' Harry sipped his drink and watched as Severus burst out laughing, head thrown back, long throat exposed. He was definitely much better looking now than he had been as a forty-year-old.
"Still, I'm good for heavy lifting and construction," Harry continued, pleased to have amused the man he was here to impress. "I've been doing a lot of reconstruction work around Hogwarts and the places in Hogsmeade, fixing war damage and stuff. I even managed to completely rebuild the Three Broomsticks for Rosemerta in a couple of days. I'm pretty good at it, if I say so myself."
"I thought you had ambitions to be an Auror?" Severus prodded gently, not terribly surprised at the sick look that crossed his companion's face.
"No. I couldn't face any more blood and dark curses, had enough to last me a lifetime, I think. No, building is much more satisfying and flying on the weekends. Did you know I have sort of made friends with Draco? Yeah, helped him shore up one wing of Malfoy Manor. We sort of got to be friends after hurling dirt at each other and playing one-on-one Seeker Quidditch, besides doing the construction job. He's not a bad person, really."
"Oh my God, the world will end soon! Potter and Malfoy are speaking civilly! Whatever next?" Severus grabbed his chest and faked a faint.
"Drama Queen!" Harry snorted, nearly choking on his butterbeer when he realised what he had said.
"Kettle, meet Pot-ter," Severus retorted, enjoying the sight of the sparkling-eyed youth leaning against his counter, drinking his butterbeer, and laughing at his jokes and conversation. It was wonderful. This was flirting at its finest and he was amazed how easy it was with the right man. "So what was your final form when you did get the animagus transformation right, you never did say? Or did you even manage it after all?"
"Of course I did it, and you know it! I managed the Animagus transformation, just like you said I could."
"Oh yes? And what wonderful animal did you manage to turn into then? A mutt or a fluffy little kitten?" Severus teased, knowing it would stir a reaction in the young man before him.
Very deliberately, Potter put his bottle down, grinned at his ex-Potions Professor and sauntered over, hips swinging suggestively. Winding his arms around Severus' long neck, he smiled up, then… melted.
Snape dropped his beer bottle, both arms wrapping around the long, sinuous creature he now held against his chest, two large colourful wings curving around his shoulders. A muscular tail wrapped around his waist and Snape stared as a forked tongue flickered out to touch his lips in a reptilian kiss before the wings stroked downward and the creature hovered effortlessly in front of him, opalescent scales flashing in the morning sunlight. Snape's mouth was still hanging open as the reverse transformation left a laughing Harry Potter standing with his hands on his hips, a grin from ear to ear.
"Best of both worlds, Sev, snakes and flying and access to my magic even when in my alternate form."
"Only you could, Potter, only you could. A…"
"…Quetzalcoatl, legendary Snake God of the South Americas, neat, huh?"
Snape burst out laughing. "Impossible! But then, you always were."
There you have it, folks. Yes, only one little reptilian kiss and nothing more. Sorry Zarathustra, Muahahahahah! No shocking the socks off the population. Thank you all for your reviews and comments, always lovely to hear from you, even nicer to hear from return reviewers. I do answer reviews personally so I don't list names here, sorry, but to everyone, thanks again and enjoy.