AN: Thank you for reading, and sticking with the odd story line. I had fun running with it, and distracted as usual doing research into the dark past of London. Cheers!
Ch 5 - On Even Ground
The train, a mid-morning non-commuter one, wasn't filled to capacity. Harry and Snape managed to find a section of four empty seats together, and settled themselves down on one bench. Snape smirked at getting the window seat, and Harry grumbled as he discreetly spelled the seat divider away. A spare jacket was placed between them, and the conjoinment was hidden.
"Are you sure we'll have luck there?" Harry asked, unfolding the Daily Telegraph and wincing at an unfortunate photograph of Prince Philip.
Snape had his own small journal out, in which he was writing notes. He had his right foot propped up on the heat register against the train carriage wall.
"Yes. The hea…he moved to your birth town as a boy. I believe for security's sake that any keepsakes were left in his own town of origin."
"This would have been a lot easier if he'd left us a map while he was alive," Harry grumbled.
The train pulled out of Paddington station, and Harry watched London speed by as Snape read the notes from McGonagall of Dumbledore's passing. They were detailed in her neat cursive writing, and they confirmed that when Dumbledore had died, his wand had not been with him. That detail had not been made public, but it didn't help Harry or Snape figure out where the wand had been hidden.
"So once we get there and find Du – his keepsake, we'll be able to just pop back to London, right?" asked Harry, focusing on the empty seat in front of him. Watching the houses go by too fast had made him feel slightly ill.
"Correct. Once cannot pop anywhere without co-ordinates or prior knowledge of said place," Snape answered.
The businessman sitting in the four-seater section across from them gave them an odd look, but then returned to his paper at Snape's glare.
"You know," Harry said after a few minute's silence, " I had no idea that his family lived in Godric's Hollow with my parents."
"Well, he didn't live with your parents," Snape snidely said. He sounded a bit put out that his family was not from the same eminent town as so many notable wizards, and Harry was surprised.
"Are you actually jealous that your family isn't from the same town that Godric Gryffindor is from?" Harry asked, incredulous.
"Drop it, Potter," Snape warned. "Put your brain to use. We need to find the two hallows yet."
Harry spent the next fifteen minutes of the train ride writing out every possible place he figured the headmaster would hide his wand. Snape thought that an advanced displacement spell had been used, which activated itself as Dumbledore died.
Harry heard the train announcer calling for the first stop at Reading, and hastily scribbled down 'sock drawer' before hiding the sheet under Snape's newspaper. Harry stared out the window at the people hovering around the platform, some wandering aimlessly, some looking for relatives, and some trying to push their way through to get on the train before it left.
He looked back towards the aisle in their compartment at the precise moment the train whistled, and dropped his pencil. Two sections of seats ahead stood a portly and cross-looking woman, dressed in a garish purple dress and carrying large flower-patterned luggage. Her eyes scanned the carriage as she scowled at its occupants, before spotting the empty bench across from Harry and Snape. Her face lit up into an ugly, cold smile as she recognized Harry.
"Well, well, I didn't know they allowed mongrel like you on the train, boy," Marge said, maneuvering herself and her luggage into the seat in an undignified way that even Snape couldn't help but watch.
Harry was suddenly grateful that he'd started dressing in a more respectable manner, like Snape did.
"Good morning, Aunt Marge," Harry said, not bothering to respond to her remark.
"Marge?" Snape asked, his own eyes narrowed maliciously. "As in a tub of margarine?"
Marge stopped fiddling with the collar of her dress and gave Snape a withering look. She seemed to be cataloguing his appearance, attire, and closeness to Harry.
"You watch your mouth around your elders, you nosy parker," Marge huffed.
"No one asked you to sit here," Snape said, looking down his considerable nose at her. "And yet, like an ill-mannered boar, you have crashed in uninvited nonetheless."
"Another one that needs a proper thrashing, just like this brat," Marge hmphed, her fingers clutched white around her purse handles.
Harry raised an eyebrow at her, happy to find himself no longer cowered by her. Whether it was the absence of the dogs, or the fact that he'd spent three days attached to the rather moody Severus Snape, he found Marge's insults and red-faced spittle rather pathetic.
"I think that's called child abuse now, isn't it Severus?" Harry asked, looking troubled.
"Spare the rod, spoil the child," Marge snapped. She didn't notice that she had the audience of a few other train riders, but Snape's sudden bark of laughter caught her attention.
"Your uncle is the same size as this behemoth, correct?" asked Snape, his eyes glittering.
"Yup," Harry answered cheerfully.
"Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled," Snape tsked, shaking his head and sitting forward. "I think we'd need a rod as big as a tree trunk to unspoil you by this point."
Marge's eyes widened and Harry bit his lip to stop from smiling.
"Well, I never!"
The train had pulled out of the station ten minutes earlier, and their compartment was rather full. Marge seemed to have originally been looking forward to spending her trip sniping at Harry, but she'd not expected Snape's vitriol.
"I'd like you to meet my brother, Aunt Marge," Harry smiled sweetly, noticing her eyes widen.
"Vernon never mentioned you having a brother, you little leech!" Marge hissed, keeping her voice down to not attract the attention of the rest of the train. "Where did he go then, when your parents were dumb enough to kill themselves?"
Harry felt Snape's body tense, and saw him reach for his hidden wand pocket.
"You've a funny definition of leeching, Aunt Marge. Cast-offs, cupboards, and leftover scraps," Harry said coolly, trying to keep himself calm.
A National Rail employee entered the compartment and started checking tickets. Beside Harry, Snape was looking pissed off.
"It was better than you deserved," Marge haughtily replied. "Coming from such bad stock that you did." She looked between both of them with a snobbish air, as if she was much further up the class scale that they could ever hope to be.
Snape leaned forward and mumbled something in Latin just as the ticket collector arrived at their seats. Harry had theirs ready, and handed them over. The collector barely glanced at him, but zeroed in on Marge.
"Madame, this ticket was for yesterday," the collector said, tapping the ticket against his machine.
Marge sputtered and snapped her purse shut in protest.
"Impossible! I purchased it at Reading before stepping on!"
Harry leaned back in his seat and mostly closed his eyes, pretending to be polite enough to not listen in on the entire conversation taking place right in front of him. Snape didn't keep the same reservation, a nasty smile on his face as Marge protested and claimed innocence.
"Sirs?" The collector asked, turning his attention to them. "This woman states she knows you. Can you verify if she purchased the ticket today?"
"I have never met her before in my life," Snape said, sounding mock troubled.
Marge was led off the train at the next station, Swindon, and they spent the rest of the trip trying to guess where the resurrection stone and the elder wand were. Harry argued that Dumbledore likely didn't have the stone, as if he had, he would have given it to Harry to help him defeat Voldemort.
"And how would that have helped, Potter? You would have thrown the stone at him?" Snape scoffed, leading them down a smaller lane in Cheltenham. Dumbledore's old home was only a ten-minute walk from the train station, if Snape's directions were correct.
"I don't…I would have asked my parents questions, or seen Sirius again," Harry responded weakly.
"That's exactly why he wouldn't have given it to you," said Snape, leading them to the front door of the home. "We need a soldier, not a sniveling, distracted child."
He held a key up to the door, one that Dumbledore had left in his desk at Hogwarts, and pushed them into the house.
"You're a real fucking arse, Snape," Harry finally said, swinging his arm down and punching Snape hard in the thigh.
Snape grunted and caught Harry's wrist before he could punch again.
"Of course I am Potter, it's called survival of the fittest."
The downstairs of the home was searched, and Harry even tried summoning the wand. It was a tiny cottage that the Dumbledores had lived in, and it appeared to have been kept up in memory by the headmaster for all the years that the family hadn't lived there. Harry thought the bedroom of Dumbledore's sister seemed to be set up more like a shrine than a regular room, but Snape moved him past before he could inspect it.
The headmaster's boyhood room was small, with a simple single bed, a dresser, a nightstand, and a large bookcase. A checkers set and a spinning top lay on one of the bookcases, and there was a first edition of A History of Magic on the nightstand.
Harry, who'd not spoken a word to Snape since punching him, flipped through the book.
"Potter. How did you know the cloak went back to the Peverells?" Snape asked, standing beside Harry and checking in the nightstand drawer.
"Looked it up," Harry shrugged. "This book has a family tree of some of the most famous wizarding families."
Harry put the book back down on the dresser and flipped through to the family tree page. It was a fold out page that was stitched together, and had a gnarled forest portrayed, with several prominent families listed.
"The Potters are at the very bottom of this tree," Harry said, pointing his finger at the bottom of the Peverell tree. He traced his fingers up through the branches; some broken where information was missing or the line died out, and traced it back up to Ignotus Peverell.
"Cor…" Harry exhaled, his finger landing on the small Peverell crest on the top of the tree.
"What?" Snape asked, distracted by a stack of books under the bed. He straightened up immediately when Harry stuck his hand in Snape's outer jacket.
"Remove your hand, before I do it for you."
"Where's the stone? I know you brought it," said Harry, ignoring Snape's threat. His hand was slapped away and Snape slowly withdrew the stone from another pocket.
Harry snatched it and held it up to the light, instantly finding the crest inlaid in the stone. Even with the jagged crack down the middle, there was no mistaking that the crest matched the one in the book.
"This is the damned resurrection stone."
Snape's eyes widened slightly, before he was able to school his features into nonchalance. He couldn't conceal the thrumming of his body however, and he grabbed for the stone before Harry could stop him.
"Let go, Potter! God knows what you'll summon holding it."
"No! I figured it out, I'll hold it!" Harry grunted, wrestling with Snape's arm. He was using his right to Snape's left, and for once had the upper hand. Snape stomped on his foot, though, and they twisted together and fell back onto the bed.
Harry managed to elbow Snape in the gut, causing the professor to curse and gasp for air. He was about to go for a second hit when a female voice sounded out and stopped them dead.
"Boys, I think that's enough."
They shot up on the bed, and Harry dragged them back against the wall. Somewhere in the fight he must have turned over the stone a few times and activated it. That was the only reason he could think of to explain why his mother was now standing in front of him.
It was clear she was a ghost, as her skin was very pale and her eyes didn't shimmer. She was dressed in a simple pair of slacks and a long sleeved shirt, with a plain necklace. Her hair was down, and Harry was taken back by his own features he could see in her. Everyone told him he always looked like his father, but Harry thought that he had his mum's ears, and maybe her forehead too.
"Lily," said Snape, frozen beside him.
"Hello, Severus," Lily said, giving Snape a kind and genuine smile. She turned to Harry and gave him a very fond look.
"Hello, my little star."
"Mum?" Harry asked, feeling his eyes start to sting.
"I don't have much time, Harry," Lily explained softly, moving closer to them and putting her hand out to stroke Harry's cheek.
"You have been incredibly brave through all of this, and I could not be any prouder of you than I am."
She turned to look at Snape, giving Harry enough time to blink away the tears that had formed.
"And you, Severus. You could lighten up, but you have done a wonderful job of protecting Harry," she said, half teasing.
Snape didn't say anything, but he held his hand up to Lily's and Harry suddenly got the feeling that he was intruding into a very private moment. He felt a little saddened, at the realization that Snape had known his mother far better than he ever had.
"You have been a wonderful best friend, Severus. You are worth every argument we had, though I forgave you long ago."
Lily turned back to her son, and gave a cold, chilly kiss on top of Harry's head. It didn't feel like when one of the Hogwarts ghosts flew through him though, and Harry now had a memory of his mum kissing him.
"Remember, my star. Choose wisely today, and you will reach equality of one of man's greatest fears."
She stepped back towards the bookcase, and waved goodbye.
"I love you both, and I will be watching over you."
Lily Potter disappeared into the dusty air and Harry dropped the stone onto the bed. The room had taken on a surreal, depressed mood, and Harry felt lost.
He'd grown up not remembering his parents, and that was somehow less painful than getting a moment's glance and having his mother leave again.
"Aren't you going to ask why she speaks so fondly of me?" Snape asked, sounding very defensive.
"You grew up in the same town as her, didn't you?" Harry shrugged, wiping the tears off his cheeks with his shirtsleeve.
"How on earth would you know that?" Snape asked, surprised.
"There's a picture of you in Aunt Petunia's boxes in the attic. I had to clean it once; it was some summer picture my grandparents took. Mum's back is to the camera, but I always wondered who the dark scowling boy was."
Snape pocketed the stone, putting it away carefully in a handkerchief.
"And I am to believe you never mentioned this once at school?" said Snape, disbelief in his voice.
"I didn't know it was you at first," Harry said. "I only suspected it after I saw, er, mum coming to your rescue in that memory."
Snape was silent, staring at the History of Magic book still open on the dresser. He picked it up and leafed through it, lost in thought. Harry kept staring at the spot in the room where his mum had stood, staring and thinking 'she was there just two minutes ago.' He was grateful for once that Snape was stuck to him, as if he'd been here by himself he would have lost it when his mother left.
"We should go," said Snape, too distracted to keep searching. They struggled to sit up together, and Snape moved to return the book to the bookshelf. A slim object dropped out of the spine crease and clattered to the floor by his foot. Both Harry and Snape looked down, staring in disbelief at the familiar thin piece of wood.
"You have to be shitting me," Snape cursed.
Harry had cast a spell to levitate himself at the worktable, where Snape was standing with the elder wand and the petri dish of liver bits. Harry had his eyes closed as he hovered, reliving the memory of talking to his mum, and re-seeing the only other memory he had of her: the night she died. Snape was stalling their meeting with death, something rather uncharacteristic of him, but Harry didn't actually mind. He was fully expecting having to make a deal with death, and was working out just what he was willing to give up.
"We have to do this tonight," Harry said, not opening his eyes. He felt calm and unafraid. If he ended up losing, and dying, he'd still get to see his family in the end.
"We do not. There is no set appointment with death," Snape said, stabbing the liver with a mercury thermometer.
"What are you afraid of, Severus?" asked Harry, opening his eyes and dropping his feet to the floor. Snape grabbed him roughly and poked a finger in his chest.
"I am not afraid of anything."
Harry looked at his fierce dark eyes, and realized that Snape was mostly telling the truth. The man was a spy, and had been a spy for sixteen years in the camp of one of the most evil wizards in history. Snape had walked a similarly dangerous path as Harry, but far many more times than Harry had.
"Don't you want your freedom, then?" asked Harry.
Snape leveled him a dark look, before returning to the liver and a sickly yellow potion he had just made.
"That is what I'm working on. Figure out your little plan, Potter, and quit bothering me."
"I don't work with plans," Harry said, poking his finger at some slimy algae Snape had used in the potion. He ignored Snape's snort.
"And look, I know you're stalling because we've finally got all the pieces together and it's like, the one last step before a big project is done and you just don't want to do anything more. But you knew Voldemort wasn't gone, and so do the other death eaters, right?"
Snape put down the scalpel he was holding and stared straight ahead.
"Yes, they will know. The Mark is still very active."
Harry nodded and placed the resurrection stone on the table.
"We need to do it this evening. Mum even said, tonight is the night."
Snape sighed and cast some spells on his work. He looked around the table and seemed satisfied with how the experiment was progressing.
"Potter, the streets are filled with muggles right now. Do you really want to bring a showdown between death, us, and the Dark Lord into the mix?"
Chastised, Harry felt his face heat up.
"Er, right. Bad idea."
Snape opened up a jar of fermented tapeworms and slowly pulled one out with tweezers. Harry gagged for a minute before he remembered he could do a bubble-head charm for fresh air.
Snape shook his head and stretched out the tapeworm on the cutting board.
"One last day in which my survival depends on you."
Snape apparated them to Hyde Park a little after six in the evening, to check out the vantage points and weaknesses. It was a hot, sticky evening, and a few families were picnicking in the park. There was a small crowd outside the Odeon cinema, waiting to buy tickets, and an impatient line of cabs waited on Bayswater Road to ferry people home or out for the night.
They walked to the cross walk and ended up on the little pedestrian island splitting Edgeware Road, Harry's toe sliding along the edge of the round stone plaque that was embedded there.
THE SITE OF THE TYBURN TREE.
It had been cracked at some point, and someone had plastered the stone back together before it was set into the ground again.
"It's rather open here, I don't like it," said Harry. There were a few trees to the west of them, but nothing good enough for a shield.
"Loathe as I am to say this, I agree with you."
Snape eyes were darting around the intersection, indexing possible ambush points as people walked around him. He'd cast a notice-me-not spell on them before they left the flat, to avoid muggles staring and pointing out their twin situation.
Harry looked off above the park, watching some kites flying in the distance.
"Why did you join the death eaters?" Harry asked softly, expecting to be hexed.
Snape didn't quite flinch, but Harry could tell he wasn't pleased with the question at all. His hand twitched beside Harry's, and he kept his gaze on some busses waiting at the light in front of them.
"My mother always fought with my father regarding me," Snape finally said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"His family was working class; blue collar, sports, and a roast dinner on Sunday," Snape muttered, accepting the cigarette Harry handed him, and lighting it. "As a child and teenager, I enjoyed writing as a hobby much more than any sport. My father thought me worthless for that, amongst other things."
"You can't be worthless at sixteen," Harry said, watching the amber glow of the end of Snape's cigarette.
Harry figured Snape was talking mostly to himself, but he did answer Harry.
"Depends who your judge is. It was either join the death eaters and become powerful, or," and Snape laughed coldly as he tapped the Tyburn Tree flagstone with his foot, "hang myself."
Harry's stomach clenched and he felt genuinely sorry for Snape. Harry had at least known his parents loved him.
"You didn't…you wouldn't have, would you?" Harry asked, thinking how much his life would have changed if Snape had died. He was surprised to find that he suddenly was grateful it hadn't happened
Snape regarded him with dark eyes again, the same intense gaze he had often shown during occlumency lessons.
"Yes. I wrote a final letter as well. I was prepared."
Shrieks were heard in the park as some kids took off running after a kite shaped like a turtle.
"Wow. I wonder what your father would have said to that," Harry said, slipping his cold hands into his trouser pockets.
Snape watched the kite fly over as well, and responded casually.
"'This is the only thing he wrote worth reading,' most likely."
A gust of air whipped up in the street and people laughed as newspapers fluttered through the crowds. Harry found himself speechless, but it didn't last long.
"You didn't come to me, however. Some Slytherins are braver than they let on."
The voice was normal sounding enough that it caught Harry completely by surprise. Across Bayswater Road, just past the sidewalk and on the grass, a thin man sat in a wooden garden chair. He was dressed in old-fashioned wizarding clothes, with a long black cloak and an elegant top hat. He didn't have a cane, but a wand was in his hand and he held it up like a conductor controlling traffic.
Snape grabbed Harry's wrist, keeping him still. Around them, the noise of the streets faded to an odd tunnel-echo.
"No. I saw no reason to."
"And yet, you are here now," said death, rising up from his seat and walking through the traffic to approach them.
Harry stiffened, standing as tall as he could and feeling blindsided. All around them muggles were passing through, completely oblivious to Harry, Snape, and death.
"Er, how's your cricket team doing?" Harry blurted, earning a curious look from death and a glare from Snape.
"They're fine, young Mr Potter," death answered. "Thank you for asking."
He had at first glance seemed to be an older person, a little spindly and frail. Harry could see now that death was spry and agile.
"But I believe we have business to discuss, gentlemen. Regarding the very person this location belongs to."
"Yes," Snape spoke up. Harry kept his mouth shut, as Snape was the much stronger verbal negotiator.
"Were you aware that Tom Riddle had duplicated the token you gave him?" asked Snape, talking to death as if he were a colleague at Hogwarts.
Harry had no idea how Snape managed to keep his voice calm and collected. As far as he was concerned, staring at death in the middle of a busy London intersection was worse than facing the basilisk in a forgotten chamber.
"Very good, Mr Snape," death replied, sounding completely unbothered by the fact. "If I am correct, which at last check, I was, he has made six versions of it."
"And you let him?" Harry asked, surprised. He had always figured that death would be rather vindictive about being cheated.
"Contrary to what he may believe, duplicating a token neither lengthens his contract time nor makes it any harder to kill him," death answered. He looked pleased about something however, and Harry continued on.
"Doesn't make it any harder? Are you kidding?" Harry asked, incredulous. He hardly believed that Voldemort just hadn't choked on the right chicken bone all these years.
"He bargained for power, Mr Potter. You cannot expect the fight to be easy," death replied, sounding amused.
"Easy or not," Snape said, clearing his throat, "we have had enough. I formally request that you call in his contract, and destroy the token."
"Do you now?" death asked, smiling at them. "I would have rather thought you'd barter for separation than the death of one man."
"He isn't a man," Harry growled, his lips thin. "He's a murderer."
"And we are not making that sort of deal," Snape finished.
They'd been carrying the hallows with them as they were collected, and Harry pulled out the stone and cloak, as Snape brandished the wand. The effect was immediate; the temperature around them dropped a few degrees, a small spittle of rain started, and death appeared slightly humbled.
"So mote it be," death said, staring at his items and giving a barely perceptible bow to Harry and Snape.
He snapped his wand to the air, and Harry looked up in time to see a black swirling mist hurtling through the air towards him. Harry made to take a step back, but Snape's arm across his shoulders kept him still. It looked exactly like a death eater flying towards them, but there was no mistaking Voldemort when he landed.
He appeared human, or as human as he got. Instead of the snake-like Voldemort of the train station, this one was weaker looking, and aged to a very rough 70 something. His hair was dark and stringy, and he had age spots around his mouth and nose. His eyes were duller than usual, and he had a hunch in his back from stooping over. Parts of his skin were almost translucent, as if he were a hologram.
He also appeared to be unable to curse them, for the amount of hexing he was trying.
"The real Tom Riddle," death said, waving his hand towards Voldemort, who snarled at them. It seemed to take him a minute to recognize where he was, and once he did, he started twisting and fighting against the invisible box he seemed to be stuck in.
Both Snape and Harry had immediately drawn their wands in defense, but Voldemort was magic-less in his confines. Harry supposed it made sense, as his body had been destroyed at the train station and death had been the one to call him.
"When you destroy him," Snape said, his wand never wavering from its target of Voldemort's head, "ensure that he can never return."
"Consider for a moment, if you will, that Mr Riddle has reconstituted himself with Mr Potter's blood. You could harvest his organs and separate yourselves," death said, ignoring Voldemort's hisses.
"Ugh, no," Harry shuddered. He couldn't imagine ever living with Voldemort's kidney or another vital organ inside himself.
"As you wish," said death.
Nothing happened for a moment, and Voldemort began to look smug. Harry kept a tight grip on his wand and the hallows, trying to think of what to do as a back up plan if death refused to do as asked. He needn't have worried, however, as a moment later he saw death take a step back from their conversation. A kite flew overhead, a small heron-shaped kite with trailing string that had gotten loose from whatever child had been flying it.
Harry only glanced up for a millisecond to watch it, when he heard a strangled grunt. Looking down, Harry saw that the string had deftly looped itself around Voldemort's throat, much like a noose would have. Death watched on like a puppet-master, his long and thin fingers twirling and the kite rope mimicking his movements.
Harry watched with morbid fascination as Voldemort tried to pull the strings away from his throat, his fingers slipping through the braided knot. He kicked his feet as death rose him slightly off the pavement. Muggles kept bumping into Voldemort, nudging of each other's shoulders, unable to see him struggling.
Death held up his hand and a malicious smile lit up his face. He gave one final tug of his fingers, and Voldemort's struggles abruptly ceased.
Harry let out a huge gulp of air, staring at the spot where Voldemort's body was slowly crumbling into the stones of the pedestrian island. Snape's wand hand wavered as he watched the same thing, but neither of them released the hallows they were clutching.
"Thank you," said Harry, raising his hand automatically to feel for the familiar scar on his forehead. It was still there, but it didn't feel pained or raised.
"You hold the hallows," death reminded them. He seemed to be waiting for something, almost if he believed Snape and Harry wanted someone else killed.
"About that," Harry started, taking the wand out of Snape's grasp. Snape growled, but he didn't move to reclaim it.
"I believe these are yours."
Harry returned the wand and stone to death, offering them up but not actually touching death's outstretched hands.
"Powerful bartering, Mr Potter," death purred, stowing the wand and stone in his cloak. "I wonder what you might possibly want in exchange for such important objects."
"Nothing," Harry firmly said. He'd talked to Snape on the train about the hallows, and been relieved when they both agreed that they were nothing but trouble.
"No deals, no bargains, no favours," Snape said, eyebrow raised to make his point.
"And yet, you are not returning the cloak," death contended.
"No," Harry acknowledged, running his fingers through the material, like he had the very first Christmas he'd received it. "This has been in my family since you gave it to Ignotus Peverell. I want to pass it on, to keep my children safe like it has kept me."
Death regarded Harry, scrutinizing him and judging him with piercing blue eyes. Harry had absolutely no doubt that death was some sort of legilimens, but he seemed to be satisfied with what he saw.
"And you, Severus Snape? You do not wish to keep any of the hallows?"
Snape lifted his head, looking down his nose slightly a death.
"I am wisest to be without such temptations," Snape finally said.
"A most astute decision," death conceded. "Gentlemen." He tipped his top hat towards Harry and Snape, turning to leave. The kite trailed after him overhead, and death stood calmly as he waited for the crosswalk light to change.
Harry and Snape turned for just half a minute, just long enough to prepare for apparition, when death hit them from behind with a dizzying spell that rendered Harry unconscious as they disappeared.
Harry had taken to shopping in muggle shops for the rest of the summer, having found himself hounded by wizards and witches every time he went out. When the news had broken that Voldemort had originally survived, and then been defeated again, there was a party to rival Mardi Gras held in Diagon Alley.
The hallows were never mentioned, nor was the fact that Harry and Snape had been conjoined. Whether it was out of gratitude for the return of the wand and stone, or the fact that they'd not been greedy enough to demand anything else, death had seen fit to heal and separate them.
Of course, landing separately in Snape's flat had been catastrophic, and Harry had had a black eye and bruised body for a solid week. He'd somehow managed to land on the worktable, while Snape crashed to the open floor below. Several medical charms and tests later, including some very inquisitive poking by Hanna Prewett and Molly Weasley, and they had been successfully proclaimed healed.
Snape had kicked everyone out of his flat and not been seen since, though Harry suspected the wards would still allow him entrance.
He returned his attention to the shop he was in, nodding politely to the sales lady as she handed him his bag of books on the history of London crime. He moved towards the exit, and huffed at seeing the downpour that had started.
Harry watched out the window from the shop as a man, just half an inch taller than him, stepped off the front step of the café next door and into the rain. It was a nasty grey sky that hung about London, and the man was bundled up in a high collared frock coat and held a pointed black umbrella. One hand was shoved in his pocket, and Harry had no doubt that the one holding the umbrella was being kept warm by a spell.
Harry pulled a mobile out of his pocket and dialed a number, still staring out the window at the figure that kept his head down, lighting a cigarette.
"Hermione? Hi. Yeah, yeah I'm good. No, I'm fine, honestly. I'm ringing to say I can't make it to your place for dinner. What? No, I've got plans. Yeah. I'm going to spend time with my brother. No…shut up. Cheers, Hermione."
Harry shoved the phone back into his pocket and hurried out the shop, pulling the collar of his similar coat up and flicking open his brolly.
The black figure flinched, as if expecting something malevolent to come his way, only relaxing once he'd recognized Harry.
"Yes?" Snape asked, tilting his head up inquiringly.
"Let's go get Uncle Silas drunk and play cards, yeah?" Harry said, falling closely into step on Severus' left side.
He received a twitch of Snape's thin lips, and a glint of amusement in the dark eyes.
"No strip poker."
Harry laughed as the light flashed for them to walk, and they stepped off the curb together. The rain poured harder as their footsteps synchronized, heading up the Strand to the tube.