AN: Thank you to everyone who read, I hope you enjoyed the story! I had a lot of fun writing it. :)
The very first thing that came to Harry's mind as he started to wake up was that he could smell bacon. Not overly cooked, but just at the perfect temperature. In addition to the smell of bacon, he could also discern an underlying scent of baked banana cake.
"Mmm," Harry said to himself, as he slowly got up out of his army cot. He didn't bother changing out of pyjamas, but instead draped the knitted couch blanket over his shoulders like a cape.
"The sleeper awakes," Snape said, as Harry slowly walked into the kitchen. There was a plate of steaming hot banana muffins in the middle of the small kitchen table, and a pan of bacon on the stove.
"Sorry," Harry apologized, focused on the muffins and picking one closest to him. "Time's it?"
"Half two," Snape answered, sitting down and putting the bacon on the table.
"Oh," Harry said, catching the muffin crumbs with quick hands. "I meant to get up earlier."
"I suspect everyone will be out of sorts for a few days," Snape answered. He looked a lot more rested and awake than Harry felt, and his skin didn't have the same deathly paleness that it carried when they'd returned from the Shack.
"How's your neck?" Harry bluntly asked. He wasn't a student any longer, and he figured that Snape wouldn't mind the direct questioning. Harry got up to see to the kettle, which was chirping irritably at them. As he did, Snape wordlessly moved aside his collar, to display the slightly reddened skin.
"Oh, looks much better," Harry said, approvingly. "I think I could live the rest of my life without seeing you covered in blood like that again."
He brought two mugs to the table, where Snape already had the milk and sugar.
"I'm quite certain you have seen worse, throughout this war," Snape calmly said, stirring his milk and sugar into the tea. "In any event, I may require you to tend to the wound on my arm."
"All right," Harry said, grabbing some bacon. There wasn't an egg in sight, or toast for that matter, but Harry figured Snape had simply made the breakfast he wanted. Or late lunch, given the time.
"Most people that I saw were cursed cleanly," Harry said quietly, twisting the top part of another muffin off. "The worst I saw in this war was Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix, and you being attacked by that snake."
Snape gave him a studying look as he drank his tea, and Harry heard the slight clink of the spoon against ceramic as it was returned to the table. Harry didn't say anything further, not wanting to recall too much in detail the night that Bellatrix carved 'mudblood' into his best friend's arm.
"I have spoken to the Bloody Baron," Snape said, carefully peeling back the little paper cup around his muffin. "His memories of the past year match my own."
Harry looked up in dismay.
"Everyone that I saw seemed the same. People still died."
"People die in a war," Snape needlessly said.
"Yeah, but," Harry paused before reaching for more bacon. "Don't you feel cheated that after all we did, nothing changed?"
Snape gave him a twisted smile that was just short of a grimace.
"I've had practice with that for the last eighteen years," he replied.
After their odd breakfast, Snape left to find out what sort of damage the potions corridor, and his stores, had sustained. He also mentioned brewing a batch of pepper up and some sort of supplement potion. He'd given permission to Harry to discuss their different past with his two friends, but to swear them with secrecy if he did so. Harry sent his patronus off to find Ron and Hermione, and waited in Snape's office for them to arrive.
Both were surprised that Snape was nowhere in sight, and that Harry seemed to have free reign of Snape's office and flat. Leading them down the hallway to the living room, Harry quickly explained that he had a lot to tell both of them.
"Remember how there was about twenty minutes after I went to Voldemort that no one knew where I was?" Harry asked, watching his friends openly stare around the room.
"Yeah, mate," Ron said, checking out a wooden puzzle that Snape had on a side table. Harry stood by the bookcase, picking up the random forgotten tea mugs from the shelves and sending them back to the kitchen.
"We thought you'd died," Hermione carefully said, drifting toward the bookcases on the back wall.
"I didn't," Harry reassured them. "At least I don't think I did. I saw Professor Dumbledore, at Kings Cross, and had a chat with him. Then when I woke up, I wasn't in the forest with Voldemort. I was with Snape, and I was eleven again."
"What?" Ron asked, dropping down onto the couch. Harry tugged his blanket away to wrap around his shoulders.
"Snape and I were transported back to first year, to that night when I spied on him and Quirrell in the forest after the quidditch game."
"Have you had enough sleep, Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice full of concern. She had her finger on the spine of a thick book, but her attention was on him. "We destroyed all the time turners at the Ministry of Magic, remember?"
"I remember," Harry shrugged. "I don't know how we got there. But we found every horcrux again, except for Nagini, and we destroyed them."
"But they were still here," Hermione said. Her face was twisted slightly in confusion, and Harry knew she was trying to work out as quickly as possible what could have happened. "You couldn't have."
"We did," Harry asserted. "I just don't know how. Or why we went back."
"So," Ron started, sounding as if he was ready to strategize a chess game again. "Somehow you went back in the past and demolished the horcruxes. And you ended up back here."
"Yes," Harry said. "I know it sounds mad, but we really did. That's why Snape doesn't mind me being in his flat. I've been here a few times."
"Right," Ron agreed, looking around. "Doesn't look anything like a bat cave."
"Ron," Hermione admonished, with a roll of her eyes.
Harry ignored the jibe though, as he remembered being pleasantly surprised the first time he'd seen Snape's flat. It was small, and warm, and cosy with comfortable furniture. It was the kind of place that Harry would consider to be home.
Harry summoned Kreacher so they could get some tea and coffee, and then began summarizing their past seven years at Hogwarts. Everything he mentioned received a simple nod or a 'yes,' and with a sinking feeling, Harry realised that to Ron and Hermione, he must have sounded crazy to talk of going back in time.
"And you two, you went to the Chamber of Secrets to get extra Basilisk fangs?"
Ron put his hand on Hermione's knee, giving it a small squeeze.
"Yes. Nothing's changed, Harry," Hermione quietly said.
Harry slumped down into Snape's armchair, as Hermione leaned against Ron. He'd hoped that he'd just misunderstood something, that he'd been so tired going into the Great Hall that he'd just not noticed Remus, or Tonks, or Colin, or Fred.
"Fred's still gone," Harry said, dangling his hand uselessly off the side of the armchair.
Ron looked away, blinking rapidly. Hermione's hand was clutched tightly in his, and Harry knew it would be a long time before Ron got over the death of his brother.
"George has his portrait, at least," Ron gruffly said.
"They made portraits?" Harry asked, surprised. Usually portraits of people weren't made unless the subjects were rich, or very advanced in age.
"No one knew," Hermione replied. Ron still was staring at some spot on the wall. "They said they realised a little when you first came to school how dangerous things were going to be. And they've never done well when separated. So they've been painting portraits of themselves every year."
Harry had to smile at that, wondering if the first year portraits were painted well enough to actually work.
"They'll probably use the portrait to spy on people," Ron said, smiling through his sadness.
"Probably," Hermione groused. "Do you know how you ended up back there?"
"No," Harry said, twisting in the chair so he was more comfortable. "I was going to see Professor Dumbledore later to ask him."
"What exactly happened when you went back?" Ron asked.
"I saw Sirius again," Harry said, with a smile on his face. He spent the next near hour telling them all about his adventures back in first year. Ron had forgotten about being bitten by Norbert, and Hermione was embarrassed to remember how bossy she had been as a child. Harry told them about the Dursleys, and only very lightly touched on his Aunt's hateful truths. He did mention how well he and Snape had worked together, and how Snape had Muggle-baited the pub patrons in Little Hangleton.
At the end of his summary, Ron was shaking his head at the description of Harry saving Snape at the Gaunts' hovel, and Hermione was looking speculatively at Harry. Harry himself was feeling relaxed, and for the first time, like his trip back in time with Snape had been sometimes fun.
The headmaster's office was silent as Harry entered at four, but Harry wasn't foolish enough to think that none of the previous headmasters knew he was there. Ghosts and other creatures wandered the halls of Hogwarts, but doors didn't normally open on their own, specifically the headmaster's office door.
Slipping off the cloak, Harry drew his wand and lightly warded the office. McGonagall was busy in the Great Hall with students returning to the school, and Harry knew he had at least an hour of peace. Dumbledore was watching him, his eyes bright and curious as Harry carefully placed the cloak onto the desk.
"Headmaster," Harry said, nodding toward the portrait.
"Harry," Dumbledore said with a smile. "I hear many congratulations are in order. Well done, well done."
Dumbledore was sincere and proud as he looked at Harry, and Harry smiled back.
"Sometimes it's hard to believe it's over," Harry admitted. Dumbledore was beaming at him, and the other headmasters in the portraits were quietly applauding.
"Yes, well, I imagine it will continue to be so for a while," Dumbledore told him. "How is Severus holding up?"
Harry traced his fingers along the edges of the desk, working out how to best answer the question.
"He's almost healed. But I think he's worried about what the Ministry will do."
Dumbledore sighed, and Harry could tell that it was a subject that had been on his mind for quite a while.
"I don't think he expected to survive, sir," Harry continued.
"No, I don't suspect he did," Dumbledore mused. "How did you managed to keep him alive?"
"I…I don't know," Harry admitted. He turned the desk chair to face the portraits and sat down heavily in it. "That's what I came to ask you about."
"Ask away, my boy," Dumbledore kindly said, sweeping his hand open in invitation.
"I don't know how he survived. I don't know how I did either. I did exactly what I was supposed to, I walked into the forest and let him kill me," Harry said, rushing it out in a jumble of words. It all sounded so surreal, like the plot to a bad film. "I talked to you for a little, in between life and death, but instead of coming back here, I went back to 1991."
Bemusement immediately crossed Dumbledore's face, and the other portraits were deathly silent as they listened in.
"Most interesting," Dumbledore said. "The same date?"
"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "Sometime in February, after the quidditch match when Snape refereed. I was the same size as I was as a first year, but I remembered everything."
"Perhaps it was simply a glitch in time travel," Armando Dippet suggested.
"But nothing changed," Harry said, his shoulders slumping. "We went through the horcruxes again, destroyed them all, and the last one finally brought us back here. And it should have changed. Without the diary, the Chamber of Secrets wouldn't have been opened. Without the diadem, Crabbe would still be alive, and the locket, we'd have never had to go to that cave."
He looked up, blinking his eyes clear as he stared at Dumbledore.
"We destroyed the ring. If it had worked, you would still be alive."
"One can't be so certain, Harry," Dumbledore said in an apologetic tone. "The ring was also the resurrection stone, and I have never been good at resisting that sort of temptation."
Harry ran his fingers through his hair, agitating it and making his fringe stick up in random directions. It was a bad habit, and perhaps he'd ask Snape to give him a hair cut later.
"I guess we all have our weaknesses," Harry said, staring at his shoes. They were dirty and scuffed, but Harry didn't know if it was from the recent battle, or from the trip to the Gaunts' hovel.
"We certainly do," Dumbledore freely agreed. "But I'm far more interested in the extraordinary trip that you and Severus took, Harry. Much more so interested in that, than in my own shortcomings."
"I was somewhat hoping that you'd have known about it," Harry wryly said. "Or perhaps caused it."
Dumbledore appeared to give this serious consideration, before shaking his head.
"I'm afraid not even the dead can influence time as such. I suspect, though, what you undertook was not time travel at all."
Harry looked up at him and was rather glad to note that he wasn't the only one looking at Dumbledore like the man had gone off.
"I went back to first year," Harry slowly said. "Helped free Hagrid's dragon, fought against Quirrell, wrote all the exams."
"And destroyed horcruxes," one of the portrait headmasters chimed in. Harry nodded.
"And destroyed horcruxes. But it didn't change any thing."
"Oh, on the contrary Harry. I believe it did. Just perhaps not in this universe."
Harry was glad he was sitting down, because once again he found himself in the position of not having a bloody clue what Dumbledore was talking about. He wondered if he'd ever learn enough of the wizarding world to understand it.
"I don't understand, sir," Harry finally said. "The last time we used a time turner, everything we did had a consequence."
"Yes, of course," Dumbledore mused, standing up in his portrait and stretching his back. "Are you familiar with quantum theory?"
Harry felt his jaw go slack as he stared.
"Let's pretend I'm not," Harry said.
Dumbledore chuckled in his portrait, and ignored his colleague's curious stares. Evidentially they'd not heard of the theory either.
"Severus' sarcasm is infecting, it seems. Quantum theory, and multiverse theory, is a very fascinating branch of Muggle science. Neither of us would have enough time to properly discuss it, but imagine that there exists a universe for every possible state of being of an object."
Seeing that Harry had yet to say anything, and that the rest of his audience was silently listening, Dumbledore continued on.
"A universe where you were sorted into Slytherin, where your friend Ronald perhaps chose not to wear his Weasley jumper at Christmas, where Ms Granger did not manage to pass one of her examinations." He looked down at Harry, focused only on him, and quietly finished. "Even universes, multiple ones, in which your parents were still alive."
Harry closed his eyes, refusing to look at anyone until the bitterness from his forming tears wasn't as strong. Parallel universes where his mum and dad lived, and he knew that he'd still never get to them. It just wasn't in the cards for him.
"So, you're saying that Snape and I didn't go back in time, we just went to another universe," Harry said, his voice steady. He didn't cry when he'd faced Voldemort, and he certainly wasn't going to cry now. "Why that one? Why not one in the same time period, or one where Voldemort never existed at all?"
"I'm not entirely certain," Dumbledore said, unabashedly. Harry supposed though that if one was as smart as Dumbledore was, there wasn't any shame in admitting to sometimes not knowing the answer.
"Brilliant," Harry said, with a sarcastic huff. "So somehow Professor Snape and I went to another universe, spent five months there, destroyed a bunch of horcruxes, and came back here to find it wasn't worth anything."
"Wasn't it?" Dumbledore asked. "You left that world with all its horcruxes destroyed, and Voldemort indisposed?"
"Locked up in Gringotts," Harry mumbled.
"Then I believe you did a great many good deeds, Harry. That's not something to be taken lightly."
Harry's head snapped up as he glared at the portrait.
"I did work for another world!" Harry growled, still unsure of the full understanding of the topic. "Someone just…just called a time out, and yanked us back to another world so we could be the heroes there too! Like we were just toy soldiers for their use."
"Harry, I never meant to use you, if that's how you felt here. I wanted you to have a normal life, as normal as you could have before coming to Hogwarts."
"Have you met the Dursleys?" Harry muttered under his breath. He crossed his arms in the chair, sitting straight up against the back of it. He was feeling defensive, and annoyed.
"I have, and I regret that I was not able to provide a better home for you to grow up in. But it had to be done," Dumbledore said.
Harry gritted his teeth in anger.
"For my safety, or to make sure I'd grow up to play the hero?"
"You grew up to do what was right," Dumbledore immediately countered. "Even in a different universe, you knew to do what was right."
"For nothing!" Harry burst out, frustrated. "Five bloody months we were there. What was all that for if it meant everyone in this world still suffered from the war?"
"Can you think of nothing that has changed in the time that you left and returned?"
"No," Harry immediately answered, sounding every bit the sullen teenager he hadn't often had the chance to be. "There was only about twenty minutes between when we left and when we came back."
Dumbledore remained silent, the only noise from his portrait from the cellophane wrapper of the lemon drop he had in his hand.
"Well, when I left. I'm not sure about how long it took Snape to get there."
"I see," Dumbledore said. "Where did Severus come from?"
"From a similar place," Harry answered. He crossed his feet and threaded his fingers together in his lap. "I think he went to Spinner's End, and talked to my mum."
"How curious," Dumbledore said, tugging very lightly on his beard. "And then you appeared back in first year."
Harry nodded, looking around the room and noticing the little trinkets of Snape's in the room. A small cauldron paper weight, three tea mugs on various shelves, and a packet of chocolate biscuits on a side table.
Dumbledore gave him a kind look.
"Severus lived," he gently said, keeping his gaze steady as Harry's green eyes narrowed. "You destroyed them all, you went trough the tasks, and you came back. And everything was the same, except Severus lived."
Harry didn't say anything to that, instead fighting the image of Snape dying in the Shrieking Shack in his mind again.
"When I was a child, I didn't think twice about what his life turned out to be. But when I saw him there, with Nagini…" his voice trailed off as Harry searched around the room to see if he could see any other personal items of Snape's.
"I've always thought it was my greatest regret to never tell of Severus' great sacrifices for you. I do believe that he is the reason you travelled to another dimension."
"So I could bring him back alive?" Harry asked. He was ignoring the other portraits, and they were remaining silent to listen in to the conversation. "But why him? Why not Remus, or Sirius, or Fred, or…my parents?"
In the portrait, Dumbledore unwrapped another lemon sweet and popped it in his mouth.
"Not that I'm not happy he's alive," Harry hastily corrected.
"You were transported back to Hogwarts, on the eve of your second official quidditch match, in which Severus was the switch-in referee," Dumbledore summarized, not giving Harry any time to agree. "A task that he demanded, after having to save your life at the first match."
"Yeah," Harry said, blushing slightly as he remembered how he and Ron and Hermione had been convinced that Snape had been the one cursing the broom.
"How did he die, Harry?" Dumbledore softly asked.
"Nagini. She attacked him, right in front of us," Harry answered, his eyes unfocused as his mind recalled the image of Snape writhing, trying unsuccessfully to fend off the giant snake.
"And just before you returned here?"
"We were destroying the horcrux, in the Gaunt house. A big snake came out of the fireplace, I think it was an adder, and Snape didn't have time to move away. It lunged to attack and I didn't even think, I just grabbed him and tried to apparate."
"You saved his life," Dumbledore said, his voice warm with pride and satisfaction.
"I suppose so," Harry said, slightly uncomfortable. There were things one just had to do, and he'd never thought twice about trying to save Snape. It had nothing to do with pay back, or wanting to be a hero.
"War has casualties, Harry. We all lose, in the end, and you have certainly lost more than others. I suspect, however, that you have also gained something, an ally, and a powerful one at that."
Harry pressed his lips together in a small smile, remembering how Snape had been confused about Harry calling him Dad. It had been a heat of the moment reaction, but Harry knew he'd said it because Snape had acted like a father, like a real guardian to him. He'd always convinced himself that he was too old now to need a parent, that he was independent enough not to need the support, but after spending five months destroying horcruxes with Snape, Harry recognized that he enjoyed having someone watch out for him from the shadows.
"I think you may be right," Harry said, standing up from the chair and yawning. "At the very least, we mostly get along now."
There were a few titters of laughter, from the portraits who had either been privy to some of their volatile past, or had heard of it. Harry claimed exhaustion and said his farewells, heading toward the door before his allotted hour was up. The office still technically belonged to Headmaster Snape, but Harry wasn't sure if Professor McGonagall would be stopping in.
"Remember, Harry," Dumbledore called, just as Harry had gotten to the door. "Severus has had precious few people in his life willing to defend him. As the ministry is rebuilt, you may find yourself needing to fill that role."
Before Dumbledore could finish, and maybe admonish Harry not to let Snape down, Harry interrupted him.
"Don't worry. I will."
When Harry returned to the flat, Snape was in the washroom. Harry assumed he was having a bath, as light music could be heard through the door, but there was no sound of running water from the shower. He padded into the kitchen and got some juice from the fridge, before turning to look through the room.
The Daily Prophet had been delivered, but so had the Quibbler, oddly. Of all periodicals, Harry never expected Snape to read the Quibbler. Upon reflection, and Harry glancing at the special one page battle edition of the newspaper, he realised that Snape would have wanted access to any and all sources of information in the war.
Already there were articles heralding the fighters and defenders of Hogwarts, and Harry's speech had also been quoted and misquoted. The Daily Prophet's headlines were no less sensational, but were focused more on the events and major players in the battle. Harry's speech was mentioned again, along with quotes (both positive and negative) of participants, on their reactions to Snape's ultimate role.
Fully awake and paying attention, Harry spread the paper out on the table and read every article about the battle he could find. Most still had wild inaccuracies, and Harry figured tomorrow morning's would be much more detailed. He was able to pick out a few themes though, that the Hogwarts defenders had done what they could, that the Ministry was driving to beef up their security to prevent another such infiltration, and that a massive and very thorough hunt for any remaining Voldemort supporters would be launched, to prevent another uprising.
Having been on the wrong side of public opinion more than a few times, Harry was very wary of the hunt. Like most policies, it sounded good on paper, but Harry could see it easily slipping into the Ministry's version of the snatchers.
Remembering Dumbledore's parting warning, Harry entertained an idea in his mind that he'd thought of just before falling asleep earlier that morning, twisting it slightly to better fit their situation.
Harry had just summoned Kreacher and quietly asked him to fetch some forms when the door to the washroom finally opened. Snape strode out, in his regular trousers and white dress shirt. It wasn't fully buttoned up, and he had an eyedropper of something in his hand.
"Any sales at Slug and Jiggers?" Snape asked, nodding at the paper.
"Er, no," Harry answered, glancing down at the paper. "Just a lot of rubbish about the battle and going on a hunt for Voldemort supporters."
Snape sat carefully in his favourite armchair, easing his shoulder out of the shirt. His upper bicep was bruised purple and black, with two bite imprints from the Gaunt's house snake. It looked extremely sore.
"Hmm," Snape said, a noise he made when he was considering something. "Not a hunt for Death Eaters."
"No," Harry answered. He stood up and walked over to the chair, holding out his hand for the eyedropper. "Specifically a hunt for lingering Voldemort supporters."
"Directly on the wound, three drops," Snape instructed, holding his arm still.
"All right," Harry replied. "I think Kingsley will be pushed for Minister. If he is, we won't have a problem."
"Perhaps," Snape agreed, wincing. The potion in the dropper was working, but it looked to be tightening the tender muscles of Snape's arm. "In my experience, the Ministry tends to ask questions only after it has acted."
Harry handed back the dropper and summoned a clean linen wrap to cover the sensitive bites.
"I might have an idea for that, Dad."
Snape's arm tensed, and he looked at Harry with a guarded glare.
"If you tell me you plan to run for Minister of Magic, I will personally have you committed."
It wasn't anywhere near what Harry expected Snape to say, and he gave a little huff of surprised laughter.
"I'd probably commit myself. My idea, actually, is for you to…well. Adopt me."
He steadfastly did not look at Snape, instead taking his time to ensure the linen was firmly wrapped around the bite wounds. The silence stretched on until Harry fastened the wrap, and Snape finally answered in a low tone.
"You are surely a bit old for adoption."
It wasn't a no, and Harry took that as a very good sign. In the pub in Little Hangleton Snape had been perfectly happy to pretend Harry was his son, and Harry suspected he'd viewed their relationship as such since he'd first arrived at Hogwarts. Except perhaps more like an irritating stepson.
"Maybe," Harry said, as neutrally as he could. "So it would be more of a symbolic adoption. But I think it'd make people less likely to go after you in this Voldemort hunt, and I – I like that in the past five months you've been there and haven't had to hate me. It'd be nice to have someone tell me if I was making the wrong decision with something."
"I hadn't ever planned to stop telling you that," Snape answered, ignoring Harry's rolled eyes. He deftly did the buttons of his shirt back up and pulled the collar forward to hide his injuries.
"I will consider it, Harry," Snape said, plucking one of the newspaper pages from the table. "It is admittedly quite satisfying to see that the child I vowed to protect has grown into a reasonable and less irksome adult."
"Thanks," Harry said, with a quirk of his head. "I think."
They were at an awkward time of the day, just past five, when it should technically be close to dinnertime. But neither were overly hungry, and were rather lethargic from the long morning's nap. Snape had picked a thin book about gardening from his shelves to read, and had a hot cup of tea by his side. Harry had been told to entertain himself, and was browsing through a clothing catalogue on the couch. The war was over now, and he supposed it was time to get some grown up clothes.
By unspoken agreement, both Harry and Snape were hiding in the dungeons. Upstairs there were students, parents, professors, and other witches and wizards wandering about the castle, along with members of the press and Aurors. The Aurors were there to question whomever they encountered, to ensure the castle's inhabitants remained safe. Harry knew that Snape would likely be in for a long interview with them, but today wasn't the day for it. Neither of them were focused enough for inquisitions.
"Attention all students and staff."
Harry perked up on the couch, staring wildly around the room. Snape looked up over the rim of his reading glasses, his finger tapping the top of his page.
"The speaker is in the fire alarm," Snape said, unconcerned about the burst of Professor McGonagall's voice into the room.
"A full congratulatory feast will be served in the Great Hall in half an hour. All are welcomed to attend, press excluded."
Harry's stomach rumbled, and as much as he didn't want to go out in public, in the last year of camping he'd actually dreamed of Hogwarts' feasts and endless amounts of food.
"I suspect if we do not appear that a search party will be sent out," Snape huffed, flipping through his book.
"Probably," Harry said, with a small grin. "Maybe they'll have shepherd's pie, like at yesterday's pub."
Snape walked with his head held high as they went upstairs. Harry was sticking quite close to his side, smiling and greeting his schoolmates as they passed. Snape was on alert, expecting jeers and perhaps an errant hex, but whether Harry's presence beside him prevented it or not, nothing happened. He'd always had a bit of an overly pessimistic imagination, though it had served him well on the few surprise attacks he'd experienced as a younger Death Eater.
Snape hesitated slightly just before entering the Hall, his hand on the door tapping it softly. No matter public opinion, he was still Headmaster of the school, and still in charge of both the students and staff. It seemed like decades ago since he was last in the position, but Snape knew he needed to take charge, and not appear weak. He also knew, however, that the war was over and there was no longer a cause he could sacrifice to to keep in good opinion.
The Great Hall had certainly sustained a large amount of damage during the battle, but much like the rest of the school, was quietly healing itself as the minutes passed. Bricks slipped back into place, wooden beams creaked and whispered as they grew back together, and broken glass bits clinked as they reassembled themselves. The reconstruction would certainly go faster with the help of witches and wizards, but the castle could take care of itself until the morning.
The house tables were scattered amongst the rubble, rivalries forgotten for the greater good. More than enough room was cleared for people to sit and converse, and the tables had been set for a large feast of a dinner. It was reminiscent of the Leaving Feast held every June, though with a slightly darker undertone.
When both he and Harry entered, Snape was hyperaware of the silence that descended on the room. All heads turned to look at them, and a hurried wave of whispers carried through the tables. Snape pulled his sleeves down to cover his wrists, and equally met every stare.
Unexpectedly, movement started from a table to his left, where a group of students he'd not seen in a long time were sitting. Neville Longbottom, a boy he'd antagonised since his very first potions class, stood on slightly unsteady feet. He was wearing a tattered cardigan, of course the boy had gone to war in a cardigan, and had a bloodied and bruised face. Snape was certain the rest of Longbottom's body had not fared much better. Nonetheless, Longbottom easily sidestepped the broken bricks on the floor and approached Snape, his expression one of victory. Holding out a bandaged hand, Longbottom stood steady and fearless as he looked Snape in the eye.
"Thank you," Longbottom said.
Snape slowly extended his own hand and shook, well aware of how it appeared to the rest of the room. Longbottom was the leader of Dumbledore's Army all throughout the year before, and from what Harry had mentioned of the final battle, one of the bravest defenders.
"We all fought equally," Snape said, in response.
"Maybe, but the food packages we found certainly helped," Longbottom answered, with a cheeky grin on his face. Snape reflected that had he and Potter been working together during their seventh year, the Carrows never would have stood a chance.
Snape nodded at that, the only admission he would give that he had anything to do with it. Annoyed with the crowd continuing to stare at them, Snape raised his hand and snapped his fingers, causing the food waiting below to be instantly delivered to the tables. A rush of chatter started again as people started serving themselves. One of the first things he'd learned as a Headmaster was that the snap of his fingers worked just as well to summon the meal as a speech.
His name was called in a half laugh, half admonishment, and Snape was for a second wary of attack. It was Minerva though, Minerva smiling at him and touching his shoulder softly as if she was truly glad to see him again.
A table at the front was filled with a large collection of redheads, Potter's best friends, and a few members of the Order.
"See you after dinner," Harry distractedly said. He trotted off from beside Snape, enveloped quickly within the large group of Weasleys. Snape watched him go, before being lead to a seat next to Minerva's.
The platters of food were steaming and giving off hundreds of enticing scents. Goblets of pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and other juices were scattered throughout the tables, and some dessert platters were already sneaking up amongst the roast and mashed potatoes. Snape reflected that the Hall, while broken, hadn't looked this alive in more than a year.
"I wish you could have told us," Minerva said. "You played your part so well that some people still don't believe what Harry told us."
And it was certainly obvious. He's wrapped the bite marks on his neck to prevent people from staring, but they were anyway. Some in open curiosity, some in disdain.
"I believe testimony will be given by Albus, should it be needed," Snape answered.
"It'll be a start," Minerva said, pouring herself some sherry. She, like Snape, remembered that the Ministry of Magic didn't exactly embrace Dumbledore with open arms.
"Potter wants me to adopt him," Snape said, neatly spearing a piece of roast.
Beside him, Filius Flitwick started choking on a piece of ham.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Legally become the guardian of Harry Potter," Snape rephrased. He had underestimated how hungry he was, or perhaps forgotten how well the house elves cooked, and put more candied yams on his plate.
"He's an adult," Minerva said, hesitantly as if she were trying to figure out the reasoning behind it. "He doesn't need a legal guardian."
Snape was about to answer, but Filius beat him to it.
"Maybe not a legal one, but the boy could use a family of his own. And it would put you in very good standing, being the guardian of the Boy Who Lived."
Snape smiled to himself. The Sorting Hat had certainly placed Filius in the correct house as a boy; he was usually the first to see through the motivations for a plan.
"I quite agree. It seems I have underestimated his skills as a strategist," Snape calmly replied.
Snape returned to his flat late in the evening, after spending two hours in conversation with Albus Dumbledore. That he could freely speak, now that the war was over, was a novel concept and it was like lifting weights off his shoulders as he and Albus finally were able to talk without playing a game of shadows.
Feeling much younger and more refreshed than he had been in years, Snape returned to his darkened flat. It had been tidied, but there were a stack of papers on the coffee table and the knit blanket from the couch was missing. Snape picked up the papers and skimmed them, only slightly surprised to find that the bundle was actually an application to adopt an individual. Harry hadn't filled any of it out though; as if he wasn't sure Snape would want him.
Looking around the room, Snape saw that Harry's jacket was hanging on the back of Snape's desk chair, and that his shoes were haphazardly tucked against the wall near the door. Peering around the back of the couch, Snape saw a messy head of black hair on a white pillow. Harry was scrunched up on his red army cot, with the blankets pulled up around his shoulders and his glasses resting on the little stool by the wall.
"This will be a disaster in the making," Snape murmured, noticing that Harry was drooling on his pillow.
Papers still in hand, he turned to go to his own room, picking up a quill from the desk along the way.