by Acid and Sinick
Unedited version containing images can be read at walkingtheplankDOTorg / archive / viewstoryDOTphp?sid=2093
Early in the spring,
the dandelion has not yet blossomed.
The mind already sees its seeds
(davidsongalleriesDOTcom / artists / soo / sooDOThtml)
They got another Death Eater today in Knockturn. Killed resisting arrest. Shacklebolt and Tonks brought in what little was left. It was so charred, we couldn't even tell if it was a wizard or a witch.
But the wand was intact, more or less. Even under the scorching, the wood was dark. Maybe black. Maybe even ebony. It looked like Seve... Snape's. The wand looked a lot like Snape's wand.
I must've spent an hour literally sifting through the remains, trying to find something hidden among all that greasy ash, something more than charred scraps of clothing and bone. Yeah, there was a mask, but every Death Eater's got one, and they're all alike. And Snape knows better than to carry anything that can identify him.
It could've been him. But how could I tell? It might've been - that body. I'd never know for certain if it was.
The only thing I found was a phial, or its fragments, half-melted. They told me later it was Erumpent fluid. What a way to go. No one deserves that. Not even Death Eaters.
I don't think Snape would deliberately swallow Erumpent fluid.
I hope not.
But how would I know?
Fuck, I hated that greasy bastard after sixth year. I was going to hunt him down, and when I found him, I was going to kill him. As far as I was concerned, that was just what he deserved, for everything: for Dumbledore, for betraying the Order. For my parents.
When I finally found him - or when he let himself be found - it turned out, he'd led me straight to where the next horcrux was hidden. And then he showed me how to get it out of there, and even how to get myself out of there unharmed.
I was so bloody naive when I left Hogwarts. I thought I'd spend the summer - maybe autumn at most - getting rid of the horcruxes, then I'd kill Riddle and it'd all be over. Nice and neat, right in time for Christmas.
It's been a year since we destroyed the locket.
It took us two years just to break the curse. Ginny and Bill did it. I don't know how Bill survived. Maybe he was lucky. Or maybe part-werewolves've got a bit more stamina under curses.
The first time Snape and I actually talked was after Ginny was already gone.
I still don't want to think of her gone. I want to think of her smiling. I want to remember us the way we were at Hogwarts, when we'd sling our brooms over our shoulders after practice and walk from the pitch down to the lake, me with the Snitch and her with the Quaffle. Dandelions lined the sides of the footpath. One day, she made a wreath out of them and put it on my head. Said they matched the trim on my uniform. I don't much like flowers; what bloke does? But dandelions aren't really flowers, not like something you'd give a girl. They're just weeds, common as muck, so it was all right.
Snape said it doesn't get easier, but you learn to live with it. Then he said the Death Eaters were planning to attack the Department of Mysteries next Wednesday night, and then he Disapparated.
We stopped that attack. We couldn't stop the one that followed. And I'm still learning.
I wanted to go back to Hogwarts for Snape's book. But it was too risky. How would I explain having something like that around if anyone found it? Something owned by the Half-Blood Prince. He called himself that out loud, yelled it at me over the noise of battle the last time he left Hogwarts. Too many people might know.
I couldn't trust myself to have it. I already thought of him as Severus now and then, when I knew I shouldn't.
After the locket was gone, I wondered a lot about the rest of the horcruxes, and why they're so damn hard to find. Perhaps we weren't looking in the right place. And then I thought about my scar, and why exactly Riddle was killed when he tried to kill me as a baby, and how he tried to get to the sword of Gryffindor but couldn't because Dumbledore kept it safe. I wondered if Riddle ever found anything else that belonged to Godric Gryffindor and made a horcrux out of it. And only then it hit me: he did.
He found me. I'm the Gryffindor horcrux.
Snape laughed when I told him that theory: I didn't even know the git could laugh like that. "If you were a horcrux, I would've stood back and let you blow yourself up in first-year Potions." He shook his head and added, "Don't worry, ten years from now you'll probably look back on a pile of broken antiquities and laugh." Just like he was laughing then.
"'Ten years'? I don't even know if I'll live to see the end of this year."
He snorted at that. "Idiots like you survive everything, because there's never a lack of even bigger idiots willing to do anything to keep you out of trouble."
"But you're helping me too," I grinned.
Snape just arched an eyebrow. "Precisely."
He kept picking all these strange places for our meetings. We even met in the Forbidden Forest once. It was spring, and what with all the burrs and the blackberry thorns running wild through the undergrowth, I felt like I'd gone a few rounds with the Whomping Willow. My cloak was more tatter than cloth by the time I broke out of the Forest and into the clearing.
After the thorn-choked darkness under the trees, the place was blinding. Sunny and open and covered with dandelions. A million golden snitches in a Quidditch pitch. Dandelions are like that: they spring up everywhere, and you can't get rid of them. And among all that light and colour, there he was, sticking out like a monolith and looking just as craggy.
Another time, we met in the middle of Muggle London, and even though we were surrounded by miles and miles of concrete and steel instead of trees, there was another dandelion, poking its head up from a crack in the gutter.
"The flower that lived." Snape smirked.
I asked him what he thought of Gryffindor dandelions.
Apparently he diced them and set them to boil for two hours in a low-simmering cauldron. For Babbling Beverage.
After that meeting, I got a promotion at work. For 'good service, quick thinking, natural strategic skills'. Basically for being the Man Who Kept On Living, and 'cause of the information I got from Snape. Ironic as hell, really. Of course I couldn't tell a soul where I got all those leads from, but they took my information and used it anyway, no questions asked. If I'd ever been mental enough to tell them I got it from Snape, they'd've checked me for Imperius.
At least the pay's better now. Then again, I didn't become an Auror for that.
The next time we met was in a Muggle hotel room. It was a good idea for a lot of reasons: privacy, anonymity, the room had a desk where he could spread out papers and maps, and the overnight booking gave us enough time to plan a detailed response to the Death Eaters' next attack.
By the time we'd finished our plans, it was late. We raided the room's minibar - I grabbed the scotch and Snape the gin - and wound up sharing the couch.
It felt good, knowing we had a solid, workable plan, that between us we'd see those bastards got what was coming to them. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had five minutes to take a break. It was great, toasting each other in those naff little bottles of booze. He even returned my grins.
He was warm, too. Bloody hotel couch had rotten springs though, seemed like I couldn't stop myself sliding in closer to him.
One of the problems with Muggle booze is it makes me chatty. That's why I don't drink on duty.
"S'been sixteen months," I found myself saying out of the blue, "Since Ginny..."
"We've been through this." His words were as harsh as ever, but his voice was soft. Warm, somehow, like his side and leg against mine. "Try not to dwell."
"M'not. S'just... How d'you find someone? Someone else. After they're dead." It's been a long time and I'm starting to wonder, what if I never find anyone at all. Oh, bollocks. Snape'd probably laugh at me if I told him that. "I mean, it's hard to meet anyone when there's a war on anyway. And maybe I never will again. How... How d'you manage, doing without?"
"Years? What d'you mean, 'years'?"
Snape gave me one of those 'do keep up' looks of his. "Of. Doing. Without."
He just arched an eyebrow.
Bloody hell! Before I'd even started thinking past the gobsmack, I was already turning toward him, leaning forward, getting right up close and personal. "You'd have to be gasping for it."
The other problem with Muggle booze is, it leaves my other head thinking faster than my usual one.
He growled, low enough I could almost feel the vibrations, "It looks as though I'm not the one gasping." He actually had the nerve to cop an eyeful of me. Yeah, I was up for it by then. The bugger had a voice on him that could make custard hard.
"Oh yeah?" It was all I could think of to say; by then most of my blood had gone south.
And when the only reply he bothered to give me was that smug little smirk of his, well, what else was a bloke to do? I'd show him who was gasping for it.
I slid my hand up his inner thigh, up under the hem of his coat, feeling for...
Holy fuck, he was hung. And hard. And hot as hell.
"Yeahhh..." I returned the smirk as I shifted round on the couch. But my smirk probably went a bit wonky the next moment, 'cause God that was his hand on me. He was turning toward me, that bloody smirk of his widening, and I wanted to punch it off or bite it off but his other hand was flicking open my belt and undoing my jeans and I wasn't about to do a damn thing that'd make him stop.
I shoved his coat open and fumbled with his trousers 'cause bugger if I was going to let him have it all his own way. I slipped my hand in and eased him out of his pants and it was the first time I'd ever had another bloke's cock in my hand and wasn't it just the story of my life that said cock had to not only be sexier than all hell, it had to belong to Severus Scary Sonofabitch Snape.
Mind you, it was tough to be scared of him just then, when he was hard and pushing up into my hand and I knew I'd got him that way.
And then it was just too bloody hard - or I was - to do any thinking at all, 'cause he'd shoved my jeans and pants down, and his hands were on me, cupping and kneading and stroking, so tight and so right I knew I was going to scream, so I fell against him and bit his shoulder instead, moaning and shaking and coming so hard and fast I was dizzy.
He was a hell of a lot less well padded than the couch, but I felt too comfortable to move after, so I stayed half-draped along his side, going back to a slow slide of my fist up and down. When I snuck my other hand between us, pressed my fingertips in, that was it. I closed my eyes and kept my face buried in his shoulder, enjoying his full-body shiver.
Gasping for it.
I reckon we both were.
The next time, I was waiting for him in an abandoned shop in Knockturn. It was bloody freezing, the coldest night of the year. I couldn't risk Warming Charms for fear of tripping magic-sensitive alarms. But I still had half a flask of Firewhisky left.
Then the door opened and there he was, and if I was cold before, it was nothing beside the chill I felt when I saw him. He was as pale as a vampire, limp as a corpse: he fell through the doorway and collapsed like he'd been AK'd.
I knelt and checked him for serious wounds, and when I didn't find any, I held his head up so he couldn't choke, and gave him a sip from my flask.
Thirsty sod grabbed it and drained it dry. Then he blinked up at me, and I wondered if I'd forgotten to Finite my disguise, 'cause he'd certainly never looked at me that way before.
Then he clutched at my head, as fast and greedy as he'd held the flask, and kissed me. Just like that.
Should've been weird, kissing a bloke, but when he grabbed me and lunged up and he was kissing me and licking my mouth, it just opened itself in a moan. That must've been an incredible batch of Firewhisky, 'cause all of a sudden I was hot all over. Reckon that was why I had to suck the taste of it right off his tongue.
His fingers were cold, even among my hair. I had to warm him up, like me. I shifted round till I was kneeling astride one of his legs. I let his head rest on the floor again, following him down all the way - hungry for more - even as I groped for my wand. A flick of a charm had my and his clothes undone, loosened, pushed aside, but not actually removed.
He wasn't smooth or sleek or pretty: all stringy muscle and gaunt bone, rough with chest hair and ridged with scars. Rough with goosebumps too at first, and colder than a Malfoy smile. But I pressed my chest to his, my thigh between his, rubbing against him. Warming him. Warming me.
Soon I could feel him getting hard, pushing along my thigh. Yeah. I think I panted it into his mouth: I could feel him smiling into the kiss that just went on and on as we rocked and slid and thrust against each other. The heat built between us, higher, wilder, till it was all too much and too good and not nearly enough still.
I swear I heard him moan, right at the end, as he arched and strained up into me. I know I felt each pulse roll through him, pressed tight between our bodies.
Afterwards, he tried to explain it all away: said it was 'cause he didn't expect me to be there at all. He'd been Apparating non-stop since yesterday, trying to lose the Aurors following him - me included, or so he thought - and it was the tiredness, and the Firewhisky on an empty stomach.
I knew better. When he left, he almost broke my ribs holding on, just before he stepped away and Disapparated.
I didn't see him after that till spring.
That spring and summer were like a Wronski feint. Living from meeting to meeting, and then more stolen kisses, fast furious fucks up against the wall. I began to worry that I might say 'Severus' in my sleep, or slip up and mention something about him I shouldn't know. I've learned too much about him. Things I can't justify knowing. His scars. His secrets. His humanity.
I didn't think he'd turn up that day.
Hey, I thought if I kept on telling myself that, I might even start believing it.
I had to keep reminding myself there'd been a couple of times before when he couldn't make it to a meeting. So I waited all night, and then cast a glamour so Hermione wouldn't notice the rings around my eyes when I went to work in the morning. I'd survived without sleep before. That time was no different.
Only it was. 'Cause when I got home that evening, Hedwig met me by the door. She didn't have a letter with her, just a phial of Dreamless Sleep. Tested out harmless. A lot better than harmless, actually. I'd built up a tolerance to the usual apothecary muck, but that stuff had me sleeping like a baby.
The git never really apologises, but sometimes he comes close.
On the first anniversary of Ginny's death, I went back to Hogwarts. There were still dandelions on the path to the lake, but I couldn't make a proper wreath. I just gathered them instead and brought them to the garden at the Burrow. The Burrow's got its own dandelions, but it's not the same.
I kept one and left it on my window sill. It wilted and dried up after two days. The yellow head had turned white with half-formed seeds. Even without water and roots it somehow had enough strength to transform, to try and create the next generation.
My job's important, protecting other people, but I don't think I want children of my own. I used to, with Ginny. Now, I don't think it'd be fair on a wife, on children, to have to wait for me to come home; knowing all the time that I might never make it home again.
I reckon I'm just not cut out for a family.
Last time I saw him, as he left I finally gave in, and told him to be careful.
He said he always is; it's his job.
Why am I doing this to myself: living a cliffhanger? Yes, Ginny's gone, but I could always find someone else. Someone normal. Someone I could talk about with Ron and Hermione. Someone who isn't Marked. Someone who'd be around when I wanted them. Someone who couldn't get killed any day, without my ever knowing.
If I had someone normal, I wouldn't have to worry. Wouldn't have that horrible sinking feeling every time I hear about another Death Eater killed or caught, wondering if it might be him. Wouldn't have to go and stare at mangled corpses, in case I can make out his face in whatever's left on the skulls. Wouldn't have to try and stop myself every time I think 'Severus' instead of 'Snape', in case someday I start thinking out loud.
I probably could've stopped, back in the beginning. Not now. I'm in too deep now. Anyway, I've never backed down from anything, and I'm not about to start. I'm just worried about him.
Oh, who the hell am I kidding? May as well admit it to myself. I don't want him to die.
I want him to be here, for the next thirty minutes or two hours - doesn't matter. Though what I wouldn't give for a whole night with him!
I saw him at Hogwarts for six years, day after day, and I used to dread every class of his I ever had, and hate just being in the same room with him on detention. Now it could be months till I see him again, and I don't think I can last another day.
I wonder how long he can last.
It's the right hotel, right room, I know it is. But there's no sign of Snape. He's late. Five hours late. It's not like him.
I can't help thinking back to this morning. I was on my way out here, and I could just overhear Dawlish talking as I left the office. Another Death Eater killed, late last night. Middle-aged male.
I didn't stop 'cause I knew I'd be late for our meeting.
Now I can't help wondering.
Maybe he's all right and I'm worried for nothing. Last week a report came in: someone'd seen him in Dover, casting Morsmordre. I wished he hadn't risked getting caught like that, just to let me know he was still alive.
But God I was glad to hear it.
I'm lucky I don't need to leave him signs like that, I'd cock it up for sure. But he knows I'm alive. Somehow he keeps track.
Eight hours late. I can't stand it. I have to know. I'm going back there.
By the time I got back to the office I was too late to check last night's body. They'd already given up on the ID and buried him. All I could do was look at the file photos. They're always too small for details, but what I could see made me wish they were smaller still. Thin build. Pale skin. Black hair.
I probably shouldn't've even come back to the hotel. It's half a day after we were supposed to meet. He won't be here now. There's no point. But I don't know where else to go. I don't want to go home, just yet. Going home would mean I've given up. And I don't want to give up on him. He wouldn't give up on me.
What'd be the point in going home, anyway? Hedwig won't be waiting for me there with a Dreamless Sleep potion this time.
He must've hated to think he'd end up like that: just one more corpse in a mass grave, like most of the Death Eaters. Dumped in a Potter's Field.
Sometimes I hate my name.
I hate that we're all so useless. It took us years just to hunt down the locket. How many more horcruxes are still out there, unnoticed and unbroken? How many more people will still have to suffer, till we get them all?
We might never find them all. Even with Snape's help. No one can be that lucky or live that long without making a mistake. And if he finally has... well, I don't think I'll want to go on trying without him. At all.
I'm no good at this without him. Every damn horcrux I've ever found, I only found because of him.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was so happy this morning that I'd finally get to see him again, I had to hide my smile from everyone, even Hermione, and put on a sour face, like he used to do at school, to keep people from asking questions.
We'd have this room to ourselves, locked and warded. The counterstrike planning'd only take a couple of hours, and then... I was going to talk him out of his disguise... and his clothes. I'd have this bed, and all night in it, with Severus.
Now night's fallen, and I'm in the bed. But it doesn't matter. It's all over. 'Cause he's not with me, and he never will be.
I know curling up here and not moving won't help, but I don't care. It's warm here. And I'm so tired. So fucking tired of everything. I want it to stop.
With my eyes closed, I can imagine he's lying right next to me. I can almost smell him.
Now I don't want to open my eyes ever again.
I don't want to see an empty room. I don't want to know I'm alone. Not when I can imagine I'm breathing his scent, and feel the bed beside me and pretend he's lying just out of reach.
What's that? Something crinkles under my hand. It wasn't there before. Under the covers.
...Bibulous Tun's Liquors & Libations - 53
DANDELION WINE The author collects
2 quarts dandelion flowers wine paraphernalia
3 pounds sugar
1/2 ounce yeast
1 gallon boiling water
Pick the dandelion flower heads on a fine day when the flowers are open. Clean the flowers of insects, dust etc., then gently pluck the petals, carefully removing all green matter. Place the petals in a bowl iwth thinly sliced lemon and orange. Pour the water over the dandelion flowers and fruit and stir well. Cover the bowl and let it stand for ten days.
After ten days, strain the liquid and stir in the sugar. Spread the yeast on a slice of toast and float the toast on top. Cover the bowl and let it stand for another three days.
After three days, remove the toast and strain the liquid again. Put into bottles but do not cork yet...
Paper. A note? A page torn out of a book. A drawing of a dandelion, Dandelion Wine, why that? Anyone could've... There!
YES! I'd know that handwriting anywhere!
I snatch my glasses off, knuckle my eyes, scrub my glasses on the sheet, shove them back on, try to stop my damn hands shaking and hold the paper steady. Yes! God yes, right next to the list of ingredients: just a few words but right now they're the best thing I've seen in my life! No signature, but I don't need one.
He's alive! He has to be! He wrote this.
It takes me a moment before it sinks in what he actually wrote. The author collects wine paraphernalia.
Wine paraphernalia? What, barrels, bottles, corks, glasses...? Oh. The cup! It has to be! Severus, you sneaky sod, you've found me another horcrux!
Out of all the days of that miserable war, I remember that one the most. Three thousand, six hundred and fifty endless days (give or take a hundred) and that one was the longest of the lot. But it ended well, after all. He was delayed, of course, and turned up at the hotel while I was back at the office. We missed each other. But in the end that didn't matter: the only thing that mattered was I knew he was still alive, and I'd see him again someday.
That day might seem a strange one for me to remember so well. It wasn't the day everyone else remembers: when the war was finally won. It wasn't even the day we destroyed the last horcrux. But that was the only day I almost gave up, and it was the day I found the hope for the future - the prospect of seeing him again - that kept me going through everything. That was the day I realised that hope's like a dandelion: it can spring up in the most unexpected place. That day I found my hope, in the most unlikely person.
It's spring now, and for miles round our house, the fields are covered in dandelions. It's been ten years: worrying and waiting from one hasty meeting to the next, till the war was over for good. Too long. Still, just a day would've been too long to wait for a chance to see Severus again, the way I can see him now.
His body's more scarred than it was, but his hair's still almost all black. Just goes to show that things like age don't matter. My hair turned white years ago, back before the end of the war. It still sticks out in all directions, and it's still impossible to tame. But I don't mind, especially when Severus nuzzles into it, or blows softly through the strands.
He calls it wishing on his own personal dandelion.
I know we've already got our wish.
Soundtrack: Alan Parsons Project: You Won't Be There