AN:This will be updated about once a week, and is a lighter hurt/comfort fic. It's got a happy ending, and there's only a few heavy bits. Many thanks to Pygmy for the idea help. This will be turning NC-17 later, and the more adult version of the chapter will be posted elsewhere. I'll point the link when it gets to that chapter. :) This is not a guardian fic, it's a Snarry romance.
Ch 1 - Postcards to the Farm
The first thing that Severus thinks when he wakes up is that the frost creeping through the attic rafters means that it's time to harvest his pumpkins. It is a Tuesday, and that means Tolstoy will be by that morning to help. As he rises out of bed, cracked heels and knobby toes planting on the cold wooden floor, he gives pause to his other thoughts. It has been four months since he has moved to this little cottage in western Scotland, and it is his mother's birthday. In celebration of this, Severus opens the new pack of undergarments in his rickety drawer, slipping them on fast enough to beat the goose bumps sliding over his pasty legs. It is not yet six-thirty in the morning, and the sun will not have warmed up his attic bedroom for another few hours yet.
Severus pulls on faded work pants and a light jumper, fishing out socks from the box on top of his dresser. He limps steadily to the ladder sticking up from the floor, a mere six steps from the dresser. The attic bedroom is tiny, and except for a small path around the bed and dresser Severus cannot stand straight without hitting his head. He prefers to sleep in enclosed spaces, and there are fewer nightmares to be found in the rafters.
Severus counts as he descends to the main floor. Not the steps that he takes (fourteen – that count was for another day a long time ago), but the time it takes him to get there. He knows with the first frost that it will be a painful day. His cane leans against the corner of the bookcase, an arm's reach away and just at the junction between the living room and front entry. The cottage is small enough though that Severus can navigate it in mere moments, scarred leg or no.
He sits at the kitchen table a few hours later, enjoying his morning tea break and ignoring the politicians screeching for his support on the radio. Does this town even have a mayor? A summer here, and he still doesn't know. The only person he really talks to is Tolstoy, and Tolstoy doesn't quite answer back. Severus stands, and using his cane, makes his way to the front hall. Two steps. And two knocks on the door, for it is ten straight up and Tolstoy does not know how to be late.
"Rus," Tolstoy says, drawing out the 'us'. He is eight or nine, Severus has never asked, and his dark brown hair seems not to quite match with the bright blue eyes.
"Rus," Tolstoy repeats, staring past Severus' shoulder.
"The pumpkins today, Tolstoy," Severus answers, looking up the garden path hill, to where he can see Tolstoy's grandfather watching, before leaving.
"Youuuuu have mail," Tolstoy says, refusing to move. The boy has an odd speech pattern, most often repetitive and robotic, but he seems to get stuck on the letter u. Perhaps it is his favourite.
Severus has no time to think of the intricacies of the human mind and speech, however, as he is busy staring at the postcard in Tolstoy's hand. Every Tuesday when Tolstoy comes, since the first time he'd come to visit after escaping his grandad's watch, he checks the unused muggle post box at the top of the hill where Severus' gate is. A pattern, his grandfather had explained, after the first Tuesday.
This is the first time there has ever been mail, and Tolstoy's lack of reaction is made up by Severus' astonishment.
The postcard is surprisingly tasteful, a warm picture of rolling green hills of southern Ireland, clouds crowning the sky.
A man's worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.
Severus wonders what kind of idiot would name a child of theirs 'ache'. Then again, his muggle neighbours had always wondered what kind of name Severus was for a boy. The last great Severus hadn't existed since Roman times. There is no other identifying feature on the card, merely a postmark from Cork. Severus squints to read the date, but the ink has become smudged in transit and so he doesn't know how long this card has been waiting to find him.
He will never forget the words of Salazaar Slytherin though, and he stares at them inscribed in regular muggle ink. He's been part of the magical world for thirty-nine years, and knows well enough that coincidences are never just so. No matter how much the ministry wants to sequester him away, someone knows he's here.
As Tolstoy moves to go outside, the routine down to the pumpkin patch as familiar to him as taking his afternoon tea, Severus hesitates for a moment. He stands over the rubbish bin in the kitchen, but at the last moment turns and attaches the postcard to the fridge with a small magnet. The postcard puzzles him, but it does much to cheer up his tiny home.
It is only an hour later, when Tolstoy is counting the pumpkins for the fourth time, that Severus realizes this is the first postcard he's ever received.
For dinner, Severus pulls out his mother's recipe book from the bookcase in the kitchen and sets about to make her favourite meat pie. He knows the recipe by heart; it's more familiar to him than a calming draught or a forgetfulness potion. But he flips to the correct page anyway, and follows her familiar neat handwriting as if reading a letter from her. Autumn nights are chilly in his little dell, shielded by trees from the road above, but he rarely casts a warming charm. The fire is usually enough, and he doesn't like the ministry visits to last longer than they need. As it is, it already takes the uninvited auror ten minutes to check over the spell list on the house.
Severus stands to take the bottle of milk from the fridge and his eyes fall on the postcard again. He touches the corner of it, wondering if Ireland would cure him, if he knows what is broken.
Severus sleeps well that night, wrapped in his quilt from Hogwarts. The air carries peat on it, the scent of decaying leaves, and he dreams of a castle rebuilding itself.
Fridays are market days. The market in his village is open on Saturday as well, but Severus prefers to go on a Friday morning because there are less people, and at nine o'clock the auror comes for his weekly visit. Severus arrives back home at precisely nine, not because he is pressed for time, but because he knows it irritates the auror to be kept waiting. Severus walks down the path, his domineering stride diminished slightly by his cane and slight limp. He walks with presence though, like a man who is busy and has things to do.
He knows that he has limited options though, and the auror, a short spotty youth who likely graduated only a year before, doesn't remind him of it. It is left unspoken, but Severus knows that he will never be accepted back into proper wizarding society, not for a long time. Five years is the home arrest period imposed by the ministry. Five years of complex brewing restrictions, weekly check ups on his home and wand, and a four-hour window per week in which he can leave his property. An extra fifteen minutes on Fridays, as they know they are his market days. He is allowed to cast five spells from a restricted list per day, and any transfiguration magic reverts at midnight.
Severus doesn't know how long the public's damnation will last. Albus Dumbledore was a beloved old fool, even to those whom had long left Hogwarts. His death is not the one that shackles Severus.
He puts the groceries away as the auror bluntly looks around the cottage, skimming over his bookcases that crowd the small living room, poking his head up the ladder to his bedroom. The auror, whose name Severus refuses to learn, skims a print out of every new object or food that Severus has brought onto the property that week. Nothing seems to stand out and the list is filed into the folder the auror carries. Severus calmly puts the groceries into his cupboard, tins of tea next to the saltine crackers and raspberry jam. There is a disgusted look on the auror's face, partially hidden, that tells Severus the man cannot wait to leave.
"I need your receipts," the auror demands, and taps his foot while Severus draws little pieces of paper from his pocket. He smoothes them out on the table, taking his time to ensure they're flattened, before filing them in the muggle recipe tin he bought in town last winter. They're sorted by shop, and he hands the tin over.
"Have you done any wandless magic in the past week?" The auror asks, removing a little card from his robes. Severus has yet to figure out if the card just has a script on it, or if it does actually record his answers.
"Have you earned any income that you have not reported?" The voice is gruff and accusing, as if Severus is not worthy of earning money.
"No," Severus flicks his eyes towards the bookcase, to a hollowed out book that contains a few measly galleons. He does this every week, and the auror follows his gaze before relaxing and pre-emptively answering the rest of the questions on the card.
His real stash of galleons is nestled in an old hot chocolate tin, under the third floorboard in the pantry. It's right next to his mother's wand that he never uses.
"Have you been in contact with Harry Potter?"
This is a new question, and it startles Severus as he answers no immediately, and forgets that he's not lying. He's not seen Potter since May, since he'd been thrown out of St. Mungo's, and the last image he has of Potter is a rather unflattering one.
"Right. Done for this week, Snape," the auror barely looks at him as he storms out of the cottage, walking hurriedly up the garden path towards the gate. It's as if he can't stand being in Severus' sight any longer than absolutely necessary, yet it's still him who visits every week.
On his good days he wonders if this isn't just a farce, some sick joke that a demented student has decided on after the war. On his bad days he wonders if Tolstoy isn't an Unspeakable.
There is another small box of ingredients that the auror has left on his front step, dumped there to allow Severus to brew Potion º 22-942, what the ministry incorrectly labels as Wolfsbane. This is a new era for the wizarding world, and it is one of the only potions he's allowed to create. For some reason, the ministry wants to remain in the good graces of all its citizens. Severus has never asked what they're doing for the vampires.
Severus stands in the door, wondering whether to have hot apple cider or tea, when he notices that something is off with his mailbox. Taking his cane, Severus wanders up the path with a bit of trepidation, the last time any real mail had been sent and intended for him had been some rubbish from a local council inviting him to an afternoon tea committee. He'd used it as a fire starter that night.
Severus is not disappointed however, as he bats away an errant earwig and finds another postcard in the mailbox, this one from a place called Cobh.
Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure.
Perhaps one day, Professor.
Severus stares out the kitchen window as the kettle boils. The old man who'd lived at this house before had not been a professor. Severus, no matter what the ministry proclaims, knows the title is still his.
Severus almost burns his dinner that evening as he wonders who would be writing to him, and what sort of trickery they have planned.
The Daily Prophet is delivered to him free of charge, and Severus has a theory that it is done so he can feel jealous reading about a world he's no longer a part of. It doesn't work, as Severus misses very few things from his previous life, but he is a resourceful and so he accepts the free paper for its use as kindling or wrapping. This time before he throws it into the grate, he notices that the front-page story details a new flavour of Bertie Botts Beans, of all things. Victory Beans, bright poppy red that taste like happiness. Severus reads swiftly, he has always been a speed-reader and it is one of the things his father complimented him on. It has been four months since the Dark Lord was disposed of, and they are now introducing a new flavour of Bertie Botts Beans to celebrate this. Severus wonders why this is such a news breaker, but then he has been holed up in his cottage and therefore cannot gauge whether outrage is an appropriate reaction or not.
Severus is up early, it is a clear and cool day and he feels like a younger man. He finishes the paper quickly, along with his meager oatmeal breakfast. Severus purposefully avoids the mirror, instead taking sure-footed steps towards the small pantry cold-cellar where boxes of his produce are kept. He pulls his small cart out of the pantry and checks the calendar to see which boxes to include. It's just six am, and the man who takes Severus' wares to the market will be along shortly.
He finally packs a box of canned apple butter, another box of canned applesauce, and some pre-made tubs of apple pie filling. He could sell apples; Severus knows that it's the right time for the varieties that his small orchard offers, however he'd be competing with other apple sellers in the area and is aware that his creations fetch him rather more. Severus relies on muggles too busy or lazy to make their own, and his mother's excellent recipe book.
Severus meets Iain down at the end of the little walkway of his cottage, far beyond the muggle repelling charms that the ministry has placed on his property. Iain is a gentle old man who walks with a small hunch of his shoulders, kind brown eyes and few words. He reminds Severus of the Albus Dumbledore that cared without restraint for his students and teachers, a thought that Severus doesn't like to entertain much.
"Nae pie yet?" Iain asks, and he withdraws an old pipe from his pocket.
"Next week," Severus answers, rubbing the back of his neck. He's glad he's cut his hair short, the air is cool and refreshing on his skin.
He doesn't tell Iain that there was not enough muggle money this week to buy the lard needed for the piecrust. Only the aurors can exchange his galleons, and Severus has no desire to inform them of the stash he has in his pantry.
"I'll send the catch with the lad Tuesday," Iain nods towards the front of the van as they finish loading Severus' boxes. In the passenger seat Severus can see Tolstoy sleeping, just as he has done every Saturday since Iain started taking his wares to market. Tolstoy never fails to recount how Saturdays with his grandfather fare when he sits for tea with Severus.
"Don't forget a few pounds for yourself," Severus adds, though Iain never takes it.
On his way back to the house, Severus checks the mail out of suspicious curiosity. It's empty, as Severus figured it would be at twenty past six. He's not sure whether to be relieved or annoyed.
The next postcard comes on Sunday, and is distressingly accompanied by Harry Potter. Severus is having a good day pain wise, but walks slowly up the path towards the mail box, his line of sight beyond the front gate as if he cannot see the boy. The man. For as scruffy and malnourished as he appears, it's clear that Harry Potter has now become a man. His hair is still unruly and jet black, his eyes hidden behind ridiculously large glasses, but he's wrapped up in a stylish black pea coat that covers faded jeans and is topped off by a crimson and grey knit scarf. There is an old leather attaché case clutched in his arms, as if he doesn't want to chance the shoulder strap. Severus can't help but think that if Potter got rid of those foolish glasses, that he would pass as an attractive university student.
"Potter. Leave," Snape intones, manoeuvering around him to reach his post box.
"You do remember me," Potter breathes, his hands shoved further into his pockets.
"Of course I do, you pestilential twit," Severus snaps, slamming his post box shut. He turns to the gate and goes to walk back to his cottage, hoping that the ministry's wards will keep Potter out. He somehow knows they won't.
"Wait!" Potter calls to his back, stepping closer to the gate but not passing in. "Sir."
Severus stops, and turns his head slightly to his left shoulder. The last time Potter had called him sir had been at wandpoint in a courtroom.
"Do you remember that we were losing the battle? That we lost?"
Potter's voice is quiet, but it carries on the morning wind. His face is open, and Severus can see how worn down the boy is. His eyes are searching, almost pleading Severus to remember.
"I suppose I can spare enough tea even for you," Severus finally says, leaving the gate open and walking down towards the cottage. He doesn't need to look back to know Potter is following.
Potter hangs his coat up on the hook on the wall next to the door, overtop of Severus' thick black cloak, and drops his attaché case against the wall. It is silent in the small kitchen as the pot on the stove boils – Severus busies himself measuring tea leaves into the rinsed out tea pot and Potter lets his eyes roam over the stone kitchen. The cupboards, though small, are painted a clean olive colour and the wood countertop gives false warmth to the room. Severus has few pots, pans, and crockery, but there is a rather large apple grinder in the corner and a well-used steel candy thermometer sits in the cutlery tin.
"Are you really under house arrest?"
Severus doesn't grant this stupid question a glare.
"Of course not, Potter. Poverty and a dilapidated cottage in the Orkneys is what I'd always dreamt of for retirement."
"Well, but how are you allowed visitors?" Potter asks, deliberately not mentioning that he chose to visit.
"I am not," Severus says, roughly placing the tea mug down on the wooden table. "Are you a fugitive, Mr. Potter?"
Potter has the nerve to look at him with a faint smile and his head cocked up to the side.
"I should be."
Before Severus can ask just what the hell the boy is doing there, Potter interrupts him.
"Why am I able to be here, then?"
Severus gives him a shrewd look over his shoulder and yanks open the cupboards, looking for tea biscuits. It's not exactly bare, but he is meticulously organized and the small amount of food is noticeable.
"No doubt I've insulted some god or another in a past life," Severus closes the cupboard with a huff.
Potter laughs at this and sits back. "I meant the wards, Professor."
"You shouldn't be," Severus sighs as he sits down and nods towards the box on the table near Potter. Severus has placed it there due to lack of space, and he has yet to work up the energy to sift through what the ministry has sent.
"Check in there for biscuits. How you passed beyond the repelling wards on the front door is beyond me."
"I can resist the imperius curse," Potter says seriously, sipping his tea.
Severus blinks at him.
"Have you escaped from the asylum?" Severus leans back and places his mug on the table with satisfaction.
"No," and this time Potter's pained expression has no trace of humour whatsoever. "I was released three months ago."
There's silence in the kitchen as they both eye the grinder on the counter. Potter scratching the back of his hand as if to fight something invisible, Severus trying to remember everything he's seen in the Daily Prophet about the Boy Who Lived after the war.
"They sent you Victory Beans," Potter finally says, holding up a bright red box. "Taste the victory, from the tip of your tongue to your very toes," Potter mocks.
Severus gives him a look of disgust.
"Cheap sugar tokens to distract simple minds. Trash them, Potter. I don't want the damn candy and I don't want the damn reminder."
"Of the battle?" Harry asks, and he looks almost hopeful.
"Of the last twenty years," Severus glares. "I've wasted half my life teaching dunderhead children and coddling the egos of some highly demented individuals. I'm now stuck under house arrest for the next five years, and I still have to put up with the likes of you."
Harry makes a fist and comes within inches of slamming it down on the table. Severus meets his stare, but he's surprised to find it's harder than it was before to stare down Potter.
"Oh grow the fuck up, Severus Snape," Harry growls. "You martyred yourself, just like I did. Neither of us had much choice in how we were played, but the war is over now. You're stuck here for five years. You can go it alone, or you can have my company once in a while. Your choice."
Potter is tense, his arm muscles strung tight and his jaw set firm. His demand is not unreasonable, and to any normal person in Severus' position it seems like an easy answer. But Severus hasn't had to guard himself from anyone in four months, and he can already tell that this Potter is not the smart-arse boy of last year.
"Why did you ask if I remember the battle, Potter?" Severus finally questions.
"Because it seems I was at a different fight than everyone else."
The answer is quick coming, and though it sounds scripted, Severus knows it's not. Before he realizes it, Potter is up and taking his mug to the sink.
"What are you blathering about?"
"After Nagini attacked you there was a break in the battle. A bunch of us stormed the forest, because we realized that Voldemort wasn't fighting. He'd sent his death eaters to do the dirty work," Harry answers, flipping on the kettle. "Out of that whole group, no one remembers what happened once we went into the forest."
Harry brings him a hot cup of tea a few moments later, and his battered attaché case. Severus notes that there are several full sheets of muggle notepaper filled with scribbles. Potter has begun his research of the battle participants, and spreads out his sheets on the kitchen table. He's written out a timeline, from just before the battle to this week, though it's not extremely detailed. Severus has always enjoyed a good mystery novel, and finds himself reading over the notes.
"It's not that none of your comrades forget the battle, Potter," Severus starts, holding Potter's observations from speaking with Longbottom.
"I know," Harry interrupts, running a hand under the collar of his shirt and absentmindedly rubbing his clavicle. "When the aurors took memories for the investigations, they did just that. They took them."
"Precisely," Severus agrees, skimming through the notes on George Weasley. Everyone has the same fuzzy memories of that particular part of the battle, because the memory is missing and they can only remember references to it. Everyone except Potter.
"Why were your memories not removed?"
Harry looks at him and blushes a bit as he smiles.
"I didn't want anyone to know that my scar had been a horcrux. And it occurred to me that I was still trying to put myself back together, and I didn't want any pieces missing."
"The ministry collected the memories of all of you on a summons. And you somehow managed to avoid the four aurors that were likely there to collect it?"
Harry shuffled his papers and grinned. "Rita Skeeter was trying to get an interview, and pissed off the nurses. They let me slip out the back door to go home, as I may have insinuated I'd been released."
"Once again, Harry Potter proves that no amount of planning will ever replace sheer dumb luck," Severus grumbles, but there's no real malice to it.
"You must admit, I keep life interesting," Potter laughs. He stands and gathers up his papers.
"See you tomorrow, Professor."
"Potter," Severus commands, stopping Harry at the front door. "You don't want my help. Do not come back."
"Of course not, Professor," Harry answers, opening the door. "I just figured you could use the company."
Potter leaves Severus sitting at his kitchen table with a cold mug of tea. He knows without a doubt that Potter will return tomorrow, and that tonight he will not be able to sleep. Tonight his thoughts will be filled with the night that he'd give anything to forget.
It is raining the next day, and Severus throws a cracked plate at Potter when the boy pounds on his cottage door. A plate is not as life threatening as a jar of cockroaches, apparently, as Potter lets himself in instead of running. Severus sets Potter to work coring apples. There is a large box of apples in the centre of the kitchen table, and a smaller bucket between them that is collecting the cored and quartered apples. Severus is sipping hot chocolate and waiting for his muggle painkiller to kick in when he chooses his next words carefully.
"How many of us remember the entire battle of Hogwarts?"
It is the right thing to ask, as Potter gives him a wary smile.
"Properly? You and I. Perhaps an Unspeakable or two. The Minister of Magic, and McGonagall."
"If memory serves correctly, I believe there were slightly more people present at the time," Severus comments, and he watches calloused hands quarter apples with precision. When has the boy cultured such dexterity?
"An event not to be missed," Harry agrees harshly, nearly slicing his finger. "Though this investigation is of the battle and things leading up to it as well." His tone turns mocking, and Severus can see a gleam of revulsion in Harry's eyes near the end of the sentence.
"Of course it is," Severus mutters. "I find it very hard to believe you've not run these memory concerns past Granger yet."
"She's a bit distracted with Ron. He was cursed deaf near the end there. The Burrow…well the Burrow was never a quiet home to grow up in. And now Ron has silence twenty four hours a day, seven days a week."
During his time with the Order of the Phoenix, Severus had only the misfortune of being at the Burrow twice. He doesn't need more than ten seconds to imagine how sudden silence could be driving the Weasley boy crazy.
"Potter. What exactly is the ministry investigating?"
"You know. How deep their infiltration was, how badly the aurors screwed up, why so many kids ended up fighting," Harry answers, refusing to make eye contact. "They started right after the battle, while we were still in the hospital being checked over."
"They're still saying Voldemort lost, correct?" Severus asks wryly.
"Yes, but you should hear the rumours," Potter laughs. "Did you know you almost died in the Shrieking Shack, of all places? Apparently I left you there to die after Nagini bit you."
"Did you now?" Severus glares as he unconsciously runs his fingers over the scars on his thigh, the ones that are sending a dull pulsing throb down to his thighbone.
"Yeah. Fatal bite wound to the neck, spurting blood, no one to save you, no bezoar, no potions." The mood in the kitchen has lightened considerably, despite the topic of conversation.
Severus scoffs at this and stabs an apple viciously. Potter looks up at him and blinks.
"Hey, you're alive," he sounds surprised at this. "Congratulations."
Severus doesn't know whether to hex him or laugh at him.
Later on that evening, Severus glances at the fridge on the way to the washroom and curses. The two bright postcards are still stuck to the fridge door, and he now knows how Potter was able to find him. Ache was never the word, merely a phonetic spelling of the boy's first initial. He's still not exactly sure why Potter has appeared, though he has to admit to himself that the boy had grown up in the last year since they'd fully interacted. Severus doesn't count the time at the hospital in May, when aurors had arrived to arrest him and Potter had gone into a tirade about equal rights and trial regulations.
Severus stares at himself in the bathroom mirror, the small crack in the bottom right corner fitting right over the reflection of his shoulder blade. He'd gotten his hair cut the second day he'd been at the cottage, and now it just reaches the top of his neck at the back, and is cut around his ears on the side. Severus is rather pleased at the look, as it makes him appear younger than he actually is, and the shorter hair somehow doesn't draw attention to his sallow skin and hollow cheeks. It also makes him feel less like a wizard, less dependant on the magic that has been severely restricted for him. Severus finishes brushing his teeth and splashes cold water on his face, shivering as it hits him. The towel rack is to his immediate right in the tiny washroom, and he wastes no time in drying off before the cold chills him too much.
Severus takes the day's paper to the fireplace to be used as starter the next morning, and notices the article about Harry Potter. Diagon Alley is coming back to life, but the hero of the day has yet to be spotted there. Severus is not surprised at this, as he is well aware of how uncomfortable the fame makes Potter feel. It was a sore point in school, and a target Severus hit often.
Though he's often wondered where Potter gets his idiotic facts on some things, Severus remembers how dogged Potter was in his sixth year to uncover what Draco Malfoy had been up to. That sort of tenacity is an annoying Gryffindor trait, but with Potter it's usually with merit that he becomes concerned about something, likely inbred from Albus Dumbledore's habit of keeping his soldiers in the dark.
Severus climbs his ladder and rolls himself into bed, arranging the blankets so he can prop his leg up. The old iron wrought bed was supposed to be a slight against him, he figures, as the aurors who'd moved him to the cottage had seen the grand wooden furniture that Hogwarts favoured. Severus however, quite likes his bed here, and has found an extra use for the tall bed frame. He's tied a sling to the top of the railing, and slips the foot of his bad leg into it, relaxing back in bed. The elevation helps some.
Sinking his head down into his feather pillow, he refuses to admit aloud how comforting it is to have another talkative person in the cottage. Even if it's Potter who is the one visiting him, Severus still gets the satisfaction of knowing that to some people he still exists.
The cottage Severus has been hidden away in is a muggle constructed one. It is outfitted with electric wiring (the bill of which is paid for by the ministry), it has the proper facilities, and it has a muggle washing machine in the outshed. In addition to this, it has an un-insulated attic bedroom, a washroom with the window in the shower, a kitchen with a slanting floor, a hodge-podge of muggle furniture that is in various states of disrepair and no neighbours for a mile. His property does have a sufficient amount of land though, and the snide auror who was part of the team that moved him had asked Severus what two vegetables or fruits he hated most. With suspicious foresight that hadn't steered Severus wrong in fifteen years, he named his two favourites. This worked out to his advantage, as the orchard seems to produce an unrealistic amount of apples and pumpkins.
Potter returns the next day, just before Tolstoy has left for the afternoon. There are twelve volleyball-sized pumpkins in Severus' kitchen, and he is placing two halves of one in the oven to bake when there is a rather large boom from the front yard. Out the kitchen window he sees a dark figure land hard on the rocky hill that separates the apple orchard from the garden proper.
Tolstoy laughs and pretends to flap his arms like a bird. Severus offers the small boy a smirk before going to investigate the damage.
"Potter, what have you done now?" Severus says, stalking quickly up to where the young man lay groaning.
"I forgot the potatoes."
Severus sweeps his eyes over the man, noting the wince as Harry moves to sit up. He appears to have hit his hip against a rock rather painfully.
"Would you care to explain how forgetting potatoes equals you learning how to fly?"
"I went to apparate to the store," Harry shrugs, though he looks like he's in a bit of pain.
"Idiot," Severus mutters. "There are complex wards here."
He stands back as Harry pulls himself up and wipes his dirty hands on his jeans.
"You cannot apparate on this property. Does the concept of house arrest mean nothing to you?" Severus asks gruffly, walking slowly as Harry limps back towards the cottage.
"Of course it does," Harry grumbles, swinging a bag towards Severus. "Take the bag, I brought dinner."
Severus takes it gingerly and glances at it, closing his eyes at the sight of the fresh cut of steak wrapped up inside.
"I hope you have the receipt," he says wistfully. It's been a long time since he's had good steak.
Harry nearly trips over a gnarled tree root that has snaked up by the stoop of the front door.
"I might. Why do I need one?" Harry asks, curiously.
Severus opens the door and notes that Tolstoy is still sitting quietly at the kitchen table, playing with the bucket of pumpkin seeds that he helped scoop out earlier.
"The wards around the perimeter of the property allow that any profit to be made by growth upon this land shall be mine. I can make use of any material thereabouts as well. Conversely, as I am a prisoner, the only freestanding items that may be brought onto the property are ones that have been paid for," Severus answers.
He shoves Harry onto the uncomfortable couch and ignores the confused look. Instead, he rummages through the icebox until he can find a freezer package of peas, and hands it over to Harry.
"Did they give you a rule book or something? That sounds rather convoluted."
Harry has closed his eyes, but he still appears to be in a bit of pain. The icepack has been wedged between the chesterfield arm and Harry's hip, and Severus does not miss the grimace on Harry's face as the coldness starts to work.
"What makes you think the rule book will be any simpler to understand?" Severus asks, a smirk on his face. He remembers now why he enjoyed riling Potter up so much at Hogwarts. There was something oddly pleasing about seeing the vein twitch under the boy's right eye.
Tolstoy has wandered into the living room, offering his watch up for inspection. He has washed the pumpkin guck off his hands and pays absolutely no mind to Harry's staring eyes as he tells Severus exactly what he's done there today.
"Very well done," Severus judges, and he gives Tolstoy an approving look. "I shall inform your grandfather you've earned five shortbread cookies."
Severus leads Tolstoy out of the house and away from Potter, walking up the uneven garden path to the road. Iain is just walking up the road to collect his grandson, his limp slighter today than usual.
When Severus returns, he stops at the front corner of his house, where two large French doors run along almost the entire width of his small living room. Potter sits at the chesterfield still, in a pair of nice jeans, a knit jumper, and a collared shirt underneath. He dresses well, and Severus admits to himself that it's not the normal grungy fashion sense of a teenaged wizard. Potter is poring over the incarceration papers, and next to him is his silly attaché case with his own mystery inside. Making up his mind, Severus strides to the front door and enters. He will find out why Potter insists on visiting him.
"Still the silent guardian of damaged boys?" Harry asks, his voice emotionless yet measured as Severus walks past the entry and towards the kitchen.
Severus gives him a shrewd look. "There is nothing wrong with Tolstoy."
Harry looks up and doesn't break eye contact. "My mistake. His name isn't really Tolstoy, is it?"
"Of course not," Severus scoffs. He leans against the wall that separates the washroom from the living room and nods to the bookcase near Harry. "He spent his first day here thumbing through only my Tolstoy volumes."
"A rather logical course of action for a nickname," Harry smiles. It temporarily throws Severus off guard, as he is not accustomed to the boy smiling at him.
"Yes, well. As it appears you are going to be invading my household for a while longer, you may see to dinner. I expect it at six," Severus orders, before stalking off for the table.
Potter spends the next hour and a half in the kitchen, reading over the thirty-page document the ministry provided Severus regarding his incarceration. He alternates this reading with cooking dinner, chopping and peeling vegetables with abandon Severus hasn't seen since he taught the boy potions in fifth year.
Severus has a peaceful time of scooping pumpkin pulp out of the baked halves and using a muggle mixer to turn it into mash. Severus eyes his carefully marked off Agatha Christie's Poirot calendar, even though he already knows what is on the schedule for this week's market produce. He's got the leftover applesauce and frozen apple pies from last week he can sell, as well as some fresh pumpkin pies he'll make tomorrow.
Severus notes, as he walks to the pantry room to check on his stock, that Harry is now pacing in the living room. Not quite with the same angry strides that Severus had used upon his first night at the cottage, but similar nonetheless. The house smells delicious, the stew that Potter has made is simmering in the pot and there is fresh bread baking.
In the pantry there is a clipboard hanging from a crooked nail in the wall to his immediate right, and Severus grabs it out of habit as he walks in. The pantry has been set up much like the potions storage cupboard at Hogwarts was, ingredients sorted by their scientific classification. Severus allows that this is perhaps an over kill for a pantry stocked with flour, lard, several types of sugar, baking soda, and other dried goods, but habits are both comforting and hard to break.
The living room is silent, and Severus ponders Potter's presence as he goes through his checklist. Butter needs replenishing soon. He doesn't remember much of the final battle, as Voldemort had dispatched Nagini on him rather early in the evening. Severus rubs his thigh absentmindedly as he checks the bags of piecrust weights. Not enough to be sufficient, but perhaps he can pick up a cheap package of dry beans.
From what Severus can remember, Potter had been the one to ensure the Black family house elf was there to attend to any need of his that arrived. There had been a tense and very short conversation between them when Potter had removed his invisibility cloak, and Severus had been prepared to argue with Potter over what Dumbledore wanted him to know. He remembers the mass confusion and fighting in the castle as students tried to fend off death eaters, and he remembers that Nagini appeared in the headmaster's office not long after. Severus shivers, but he's not convinced that the cold evening's air is not partially responsible. The sun must be setting, as Severus has come to realize that once it does, the evenings in his little dell get chilly very fast. The list in his hand is neatly marked off with ingredients, and a cost estimation is hastily calculated at the bottom. He should come in well under budget.
A spasm shoots through his leg, fire hot jolts through the twisted muscle of his thigh that the venom destroyed. Severus crashes to the floor, grunting and clenching his leg. He sucks back air through his teeth in an effort to not cry out, and scrunches his eyes shut. He remembers a terrible pain in his leg, blinding and dizzying. The demented house elf appearing immediately and killing the damn snake. In the background noise he can hear Voldemort taunting Potter, something about hostages and people dying. He can feel blood, warm blood over his fingers as he tries to hold his leg. Voldemort's taunts going unanswered, in what Severus has been told is the time that Harry has chosen to sacrifice himself.
Severus looks to his left and decides that he should purchase additional baking paper as well. The door to the pantry is pushed open wider and Potter stands there, hands flailing uselessly at his sides before he leans over and helps Severus to his feet again. Severus slaps him away and summons his cane, adding the spell to his mental list for the day. Potter leads him to the kitchen, where the steak stew has found its way to the table. He still cannot figure out why Potter has come to him, as Severus' memories of the final battle are rather useless.
The stew is surprisingly palatable. Potter, in a fit of common decency, doesn't ask how his leg is and doesn't mention the cane.
"Potter," Severus starts, after swallowing a mouthful of hot stew. "Explain your presence at my cottage."
"I made dinner," Potter answers, and there is a small glint in his eyes.
"My magic may be limited, but I am not above bodily throwing you off my property," Severus threatens in a low voice, pointing his spoon at Harry as if it's a dagger.
Potter laughs, and it's a deep, rich laugh. It reminds Severus of October ten years earlier, when Potter has not yet come to Hogwarts, and Severus still enjoys dinners in the hall with his colleagues.
"Fine," Potter says, holding up his hands in peace. "I need to know why no one remembers what really happened. I need to know why I let Voldemort kill me, why I gave up everything to end the war, if people were going to pretend it was nothing."
"You want validation?" Severus asks, his eyebrows taught with confusion.
Severus sips his stew as he waits for Potter to put his thoughts together. At Hogwarts he would have demanded answers from the boy immediately, but his Hogwarts has been destroyed and Severus finds himself oddly hesitant to push Potter out of his company this early in the evening.
"Two weeks ago some bloke from the Diagon Alley Shop Keeper's Association invited me to the unveiling of a statue they'd had put up in the middle of the market. It's some hideous thing in bronze, me with a phoenix perched on my shoulder, striking down a much smaller man cowering before me with my wand. It's bloody ugly," Harry asserts, at the grimace on Severus' face.
"The man is supposed to be Voldemort, but it looks nothing like him. There's going to be a plaque there too, a memorial for those who died in the final battle. The man told me there'd be pamphlets and speeches of my great heroism."
"They're salesmen, Potter. What else did you expect?" Severus asks, ripping apart some bread. Steam rises from the inside, and the butter he spreads on it melts immediately.
"Not to hear that everyone who died at the battle was apparently killed by the killing curse. Rather nice and neat, don't you think? They still won't say Voldemort's name, and the man mentioned that if I'd come and say something, they'd give me a 30% discount for life at any shop there. "
"Society moves on fast," Severus says, but he's staring out the window and not at Potter. A bit faster than he'd expected, but nonetheless.
"Haven't they ever heard the saying that you are doomed to repeat history if you ignore it? If everyone thinks this battle ended without the appalling mess of war, how quickly do you think they'll come to action if another dark wizard rises up?"
Potter is interesting to watch when he gets bent out of shape by something. His eyes turn darker, and his hair seems to spark with injustice.
"You can rant about this all you want, Potter, but it still sounds as if you want recognition," Severus warns him, as he stands and puts his bowl in the sink.
"I don't," Potter exhales, and puts his own plate in the sink. He turns on the water and takes over the cleaning task. "I just want to know that I didn't offer myself up to die for a waste. I want people to remember my friends, what they suffered for our freedom. I want people to know that I'm…I'm not a hero. That's why I'm here, Snape. I belong under lock up too."
"That's rubbish," Severus immediately scoffs. "I've pretended to be a loyal death eater for almost twenty years. What on earth could you have done to necessitate imprisonment?"
"I killed fourteen people," Harry deadpans, never taking his eyes off the sink. Severus can tell, however, from the tension across his back that the discussion is over.