Common Ground

An HP Halloween story

This story was written in response to a challenge over at Potions and Snitches made by Romanticide.


A Library of Memories

After about ten minutes of staring at the charmed ceiling with its floating jack-o-lanterns and fluttering illusionary bats while pushing about his nearly untouched plate of food, Harry had had enough of the Halloween feast. He couldn't eat because of the knot in his stomach and couldn't enjoy the company of his Housemates and friends, who were all bug-eyed over the decorations and the festive atmosphere because his mind was full of memories. Dreadful memories that he kept reliving every night when Halloween came around. Memories of a red-haired woman screaming, then a green flash of light, and her lifeless body lying on the floor inches from his tiny hand. And above them, hovering like a specter of the night, the black-cloaked form of her murderer, laughing mockingly as he pointed his wand at small Harry, who was still bawling for his mother.

"Mummy! Mummy!"

"Don't cry, little one." The cold voice hissed. "Soon you shall join her, and know the embrace of eternal death together. AVADA KEDAVRA!"

A green light had shot out from Voldemort's wand, striking the toddler in the forehead and he fell down and down into darkness, pain ripping through him . . .

"Harry! Hey, mate, where'd you go?" Ron asked, shaking his shoulder. "You looked like you were a million kilometers away."

Harry blinked, feeling his scar throb. More like a lifetime away. "I was just . . ." he began, trying to formulate an excuse in his head, for he never discussed those memories with anyone. Suddenly he felt his stomach clench and he couldn't bear being among the students in the hall anymore, watching them carelessly celebrating the holiday, stuffing their faces with treats and laughing . . .laughing when this was the night his mother had sacrificed herself for him . . .the night when Voldemort had cost him his life and the family that should have been his.

He pushed back his chair.

"Harry, where are you going?" Hermione inquired, looking up from her Charms text.

"I . . .don't feel good," he said quickly, and wrapped his arms about his stomach. "I'm going back to the tower to lie down."

He turned and hurried out of the hall.

"Too many sweets," Hermione said knowingly, frowning at Ron, who continued to stuff his face. "How much did you eat before the feast?"

Ron shrugged. He couldn't remember. "I dunno. Who cares? It's Halloween. Live a little, Hermione!"

The doors to the Great Hall shut with a snap, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief, inhaling the fresh cold air of the Entrance Hall. It had grown unbearably stuffy in the hall, a fact which he only realized now. Taking a few more deep breaths to clear his head, he turned and climbed the stairs, not to Gryffindor Tower, for he knew he would find no solace there, but instead he made his way to the library.

He knew that most students avoided the library like the plague, unless forced to go there and do research for an assignment, or were known bookworms, like Hermione or the Ravenclaws. But the library was Harry's oldest and best friend. In primary school, he had gone there to hide among the stacks of books from Dudley and his gang, knowing they wouldn't dare set foot inside the library, where old Miss Dillon ruled with an iron fist. There he could always count on losing himself for an hour or two in a book, and going far away from Surrey and his dreary miserable life. Back in the day, books were his best friends. Even now, they still were. Unknown to Ron and the rest of the boys in his dorm, Harry still enjoyed a good book, and would often slip away before dinner or just after it to read in secret in one of the study nooks. It was not something he wished to be known, lest he be made fun of the way the other kids did Hermione.

He read all kinds of wizarding history books and a few basic potions texts as well. He felt very inadequate when compared to most of the other students here, who knew all about the wizarding world, and he had never even known magic existed growing up with the Dursleys. He didn't like being ignorant, back home he had been forced to play the dunce, and act like he was stupid so Dudley could out perform him in school, otherwise he'd be in trouble with his aunt and uncle, who thought Dudley was perfect and liked to brag about their "brilliant boy" and if anyone ever asked about Harry, he was their "dull delinquent nephew".

Harry also didn't like how Snape had made him feel stupid that first day of class, and he was determined to prove the snarky professor wrong. He wasn't a boy who lived on his fame, matter of fact he hated being famous, and despite the professor's caustic attitude, he admired the other man for his skill at potions. Harry had always liked mixing solutions and playing with chemistry sets, he had rescued one that Dudley had gotten for a birthday present from the rubbish bin last year and spent hours hidden away in the toolshed concocting experiments. When he had gotten his school books, he would have liked to spend the whole train ride reading the potions text, but the arrival of Ron and Hermione had nixed that idea. He didn't want his new friends to think he was a nerd.

He also studied potions, in spite of pretending to Ron that he hated that class. He actually found it fascinating, and had been ashamed that he hadn't known the answers to the questions Snape had asked the first day of class. He should have known them, Miss Dillon had warned him that when you went to secondary school, the teachers there would test you in the beginning of class to see if you'd read the books and were ready to learn their subjects. He had failed Snape's quiz, though so had most of the class, save for perhaps Hermione. Still, he knew it didn't matter how the rest of the class did, only how he did. And he knew that now Snape thought of him as someone who just wanted to get by, just a typical student. Harry found he didn't want that reputation, he wanted to succeed in mastering potions, and so he studied the texts he found in the library, though much of what he read was difficult to grasp and used terms he was unfamiliar with. Still, he persevered, hoping to one day impress, or at least shock the pants off of, his strict professor.

But tonight he was not seeking knowledge, but solace from his terrible memories. He knew that many people would be shocked that he recalled so vividly his mother's death. He had, after all, only been fifteen months old. But that awful scene was emblazoned upon his brain, and he would never forget it as long as he lived. Especially not tonight, the anniversary of her death.

So he headed into the library, his sanctuary, and crept into the back of the library, to his usual spot. He pulled out the potions book he had hidden in the drawer of the desk, he had placed it there so he would not have to go and find it again when he came the next night. So long as it was in the library, the magical catalogue wouldn't register it as being borrowed, and so Harry's secret was safe. But he found that he couldn't study, he was too overwhelmed with pain and anguish, as well as feeling resentful towards everyone, especially Dumbledore, for celebrating Halloween as if nothing had ever happened. Did no one remember that this was the anniversary of Lily and James Potter's deaths? That he had become an orphan on this very night?

It appeared not. Even the staff had been celebrating. The only one who cared was himself.

He shut his eyes as he heard the clock strike nine, but that did not prevent the memory from coming and overwhelming him. He shook, feeling icy cold and as he heard his mother's last cry echo through his head, he lowered his head and began to cry.

Severus Snape had always hated the Halloween feast. To him there was no reason to celebrate after Lily was gone. Once he had enjoyed Halloween, when he was a boy and had gone trick-or-treating with Lily. Once he had looked forward to dressing up and getting sweets and watching scary movies on his best friend's telly. No longer. Since Lily's death, Halloween had become, for him, a day of mourning. Actually, since her death, his whole life had become a day of mourning. It was why he wore unrelieved black every day, though he knew most of the staff thought it was to save himself the bother of using Cleaning Charms on his clothing, or to better intimidate the insolent brats he taught.

Ever since that night, when he had found her corpse lying still and unresponsive in the wreckage of the cottage at Godric's Hollow, Halloween had become intolerable to him. He came to the feast to satisfy Dumbledore, who insisted he not shut himself away for the holiday, but he only stayed for an hour before departing. He normally spent the rest of the night in his quarters, looking at the photo album he had kept of himself and Lily and getting maudlin while drinking a single glass of Firkin's Firewhiskey. This Halloween, however, he had been thinking about the time he and Lily had been studying for midterms in fourth year, and she had spontaneously kissed him in the middle of a Charms incantation. It was then that he had dared to allow himself to dream that someday they could be together, could fall in love, get married, become a family.

Filled with a bitter nostalgia, he came to the library, the place where he and Lily had spent so many hours together, studying, joking around, simply being together, unafraid of censor from Marauder or Slytherin. He paused among the rows of books, perusing them leisurely, his hands gliding along the spines reverently. Here were many old friends, their pages bent and worn, but filled with invaluable knowledge or exciting stories that would transport him to another time and place, allowing him to forget how one ill-fated decision had cost him everything he had ever loved.

He made his way to the table all the way in the back of the library, which was where he and Lily used to study. It was quiet there in the shadows, and no one could sneak upon them unawares, it was where Lily had shared her hopes and dreams with him and later had kissed him breathless. Regret and guilt tore his soul to ribbons. Lily, forgive me. It was my fault that you died, and I shall never be able to make amends. Never.

His eyes prickled with unshed tears and he hastily swiped them away. All he needed was a few minutes alone, a few minutes to allow himself to grieve, and then he would compose himself and return to the feast for a half-an-hour. He hurried silently down the row and rounded a bookshelf, his black cloak billowing.

Only to come to a halt as he found someone else was in his favorite spot. His eyes narrowed and he swore softly to himself. Why was it that he could never find a moment of peace and quiet? Even on this night, he was doomed to run into Goddamned students. And not just any student, but the bloody Boy-Who-Lived himself!

He opened his mouth to demand why Potter was not at the feast with his Gryffindor companions, enjoying the party. But the words died on his tongue as he realized that the boy was huddled in the chair behind the desk, knees pulled into his chest, head in his hands, crying his heart out. The slender shoulders shook beneath the black robe with the force of raw emotions, making Snape take an involuntary step back.

This was not the first time he had encountered a student weeping in the library, but those times it was usually a Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff crying over a bad mark or an insensitive boyfriend. He had usually tossed them a handkerchief and told them to pull themselves together, that salt water wasn't good for parchment. A few of them had been so shocked by his dry wit that they had actually stopped crying. But this . . .this grief was too deep for a witty comment to stem the tide. Severus knew because he too had once wept this way . . .on the night he had found his beloved Lily still and cold on the nursery floor, beside the empty overturned crib.

His foot struck the side of a bookshelf, making him stumble and collide with the endcap, knocking some books on charms to the floor with a loud thump.

Harry jerked up at the loud noise, glancing about fearfully, his face streaked with tears.

His eyes met those of the Potions professor and he felt himself grow hot with embarrassment. Bloody hell, this was all he needed, to have Snape catch him crying like a primary school baby.

"Professor Snape!" he blurted, wishing he could drop through a hole in the floor. Could this night get any worse?

Hope you enjoyed the beginning. What do you think Severus will say to Harry?