Title: A New Leaf, a New Page, and the Beginning of Always.
Pairings: Severus/Harry, Ron/Hermione, past Harry/Charlie.
Word count: 14,921.
I've been writing Snarry for a while on Livejournal, and thought I'd bite the bullet and post something over here. I hope you enjoy it!
As the dark blue of the night sky slowly gave way to lighter hues, the only sound in the early morning hush was a symphony of bird song heralding a new day, a new year, and a new millennium. The clouds had cleared in the night so that when the sun finally peeped over the horizon, the tips of the trees were painted gold and the carpet of fresh snow on the frozen ground sparkled like millions of diamonds.
Harry lay awake in The Burrow, staring up at the ceiling in deep contemplation while Ron snored softly across the room. They had stayed up to see in the New Year, the whole Weasley clan, plus himself and Hermione of course, bidding goodbye to the last millennium and celebrating the birth of another. It had felt as if they were closing a difficult chapter in all of their lives, turning the page with a great deal of optimism. When conversation had inevitably turned to resolutions for the future, Harry had listened to the mixture of grand, and not so grand, plans of his family while he himself remained silent.
The last few years since Voldemort's demise had been about living, not planning. He'd still been busy, naturally. He, Ron, and Hermione had gone to Australia to find Hermione's parents and fix their memories and 12 Grimauld Place had been painstakingly restored to a proper home, not to mention the seemingly endless stream of events he'd had to attend as the guest of honour. He'd also had to give evidence at several trials of Death Eaters. But any questions about his future plans, and countless job offers, had been politely but firmly avoided.
Now it seemed he couldn't put it off any longer. Today was his chance to put everything behind him and start afresh; figure out exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, accept one of the waiting job offers, and, who knows, maybe settle down. He wasn't going to be shackled by the past any longer. The pain, the anger, the guilt… it was time to let all of it go.
Harry's eyes idly followed a Chudley Cannons Quidditch player zooming across the poster beside his bed. Maybe he should just take Professor McGonagall up on her offer. The Hogwarts Headmistress had seemed a little desperate for him to accept, after the unexpected resignation of a Professor on health grounds, and a severe shortage of suitable teaching staff. It was only for six months, after all, and it would give him time to sort out a permanent career path. Yes, that seemed like a good plan. God knows he owed McGonagall that much, and at least it would get Hermione off his back for a while. He loved her to death but, seriously, her nagging was driving him closer to the brink of insanity than even Voldemort had managed.
Exhausted, but content with his decision, Harry yawned and allowed his eyelids to close. If he was lucky, he might still be able to get a few more hours sleep before the morning madness ensued.
"Harry! Mum says breakfast's nearly ready!"
Blearily opening his eyes at the sound of Ron's voice, Harry reached for his glasses. By the time the room had come into focus, he was alone again. A quick glance at his watch told him it was past nine. Groaning, he heaved himself out of bed and grabbed his jeans; then, figuring he might as well set the ball rolling, snatched a spare piece of parchment from the desk and scribbled down a few lines before attaching the letter to a bouncing Pigwidgeon. He hadn't been able to face buying another owl of his own after Hedwig.
A sea of redheads greeted him from the table as he descended the stairs—Mr Weasley, George, Percy, Charlie, Ginny, and Ron (Bill had left with Fleur in the early hours)—Hermione's bushy brown hair standing out in stark contrast. Mrs Weasley was bustling around the kitchen as usual.
"Ah, Harry, there you are, dear. Would you like one egg or two?"
The question made Harry realize exactly how hungry he was, his stomach rumbling at the very thought. "Two please, Mrs Weasley." He heard her tut as he took the seat beside Ron.
"Less of the Mrs Weasley, Harry. You're just as much my son as the rest of this rabble."
"Hey," Ron said indignantly through a mouthful, spraying bits of sausage across the table. Hermione, on Ron's other side, gave him one of her disapproving looks.
"Better manners, too," Mrs Weasley added, turning back to the stove.
"Hey, Harry," George called from further along the table, "we're planning a Quidditch rematch later. You in?"
"Yeah, sure," Harry replied, smiling gratefully at Mrs Weasley as she deposited a plateful of food in front of him. They'd only won the last match by a narrow margin, Harry letting everyone have a turn with his Firebolt to make it fairer. Since Percy had refused to play, they'd convinced a reluctant Hermione to join in to even up the sides. Her expression had been constantly torn between terror at being on a broomstick and gritty determination to win the game. Hermione was nothing if not competitive.
"Ah, looks like we have our First Footer," Mr Weasley said cheerfully, glancing out of the kitchen window. As everyone simultaneously turned to look, Mr Weasley folded his newspaper and got up from the table.
"Snape?" Ron looked aghast. "That's got to be a bad omen, right?"
"He was cleared by the Ministry, Ron," Hermione reminded him sternly, looking over to where Mr Weasley was talking in low tones with their visitor.
"Yeah, but he's still a git," Ron muttered under his breath.
Unfortunately Mrs Weasley heard him. "Ronald Weasley!"
Harry wasn't really paying attention, too busy watching the two men thoughtfully while chewing. Snape seemed the same as ever, his expression severe and his presence imposing; although, as Harry studied him, he thought Snape looked somehow younger without the burden of war and duty weighing heavily upon him. Or it could just be the fact that he was standing in sunlight, rather than the gloomy, oppressive interior of the Hogwarts dungeons.
Harry hadn't seen his ex-professor since he'd given exculpatory evidence at Snape's trial. Upon being cleared of all charges, Snape had merely glanced briefly in his direction and left without a word. Harry couldn't really have cared less—he'd done what he'd meant to do, what was right—but now he realized that, if he was to properly start afresh, he would have to let go of the longest-running grudge he'd ever nurtured. Sure, the man had made his teenage years a misery, but hadn't Snape also protected him and risked his life to help him defeat Voldemort? Now was Harry's chance to build bridges and maybe get to know the man to whom he owed so much.
Finishing his last few mouthfuls quickly, Harry gathered his courage and got up, ignoring Ron's questioning look. As he headed towards the familiar black-robed figure, he could just make out what Mr Weasley was saying. He seemed to be winding up their conversation.
"Oh, good. Thanks for that, Severus. Let me just go and get that sample for you."
Snape was left standing rigidly by the door, and Harry quickly seized the opportunity.
Dark eyes swept in his direction, and Snape inclined his head slightly. "Mr Potter."
"How are you?"
Snape looked a little suspicious by the attempt at conversation, his eyes narrowing slightly. "I am…
very well… thank you."
If Harry had looked around at that point he would have seen an array of gobsmacked faces staring in their direction, but he simply nodded. "Well, I'll be seeing you at Hogwarts when term starts."
The quirk of an eyebrow displayed Snape's surprise, tinged with a certain amount of trepidation. "I was under the impression that you had completed your education."
"Oh, I have," Harry replied, with a small smile. "Professor McGonagall has asked me to take over teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts until the end of the school year."
"Is that so?"
Harry could tell that Snape was not best pleased with this news—his lips had formed an ominously thin line. Apparently the headmistress had not consulted him on the matter. For obvious reasons, Harry thought. Before he could say anything more, however, Mr Weasley returned and Harry took his leave with a polite nod.
"What was that?" Ron asked weakly, as Harry rejoined them.
Harry shrugged. "I was just being polite."
"You need your head checked, mate."
"Well, I think it was a nice gesture," Hermione said with a smile, linking arms with Harry as the three of them climbed the stairs. "So you're taking Professor McGonagall up on her offer then?"
"Yeah. Just until the summer."
She beamed at him, clearly pleased that he was doing something proactive. "That's great. You're making the right decision, Harry."
The memory of Snape's thin pursed lips flashed to the front of Harry's mind. "I hope so."
It had been easier than he'd imagined, coming back. Hogwarts had been restored to its former glory, banishing the painful memories of the final battle, and the corridors were once again filled with the carefree laughter of its many students. Professor McGonagall had been delighted by his acceptance of the DADA post and, judging by the reactions of the students as he entered the Great Hall at the welcome feast, she wasn't the only one. Harry's cheeks had flushed slightly at the tumultuous applause, accompanied by more than a few wolf whistles, that greeted him as he made his way to the staff table. While all of the other teachers had joined in with the applause, particularly enthusiastically in Hagrid's case, Snape had merely sat in silence, looking deeply unimpressed.
At the end of Harry's first proper week of teaching, which he was finding surprisingly enjoyable, he decided to move one of his resolutions a little further along. And so it was that he found himself walking a very familiar route, one he'd taken countless times as a student, although this time his feelings of dread were for entirely different reasons.
He could hear Professor Snape's severe voice echoing along the corridor long before he reached the classroom—it sounded as if one of the students was paying dearly for a lack of concentration. It brought back vivid memories, and Harry was once again thankful that his own school days were over.
Five minutes later the class of second years filed out, pale and quiet, and Harry gave them a sympathetic smile as they passed him. One of the students paused, looking quite serious, and said, "I really wouldn't, sir," before hurrying to catch up with her classmates.
Once they were out of sight, their murmur of conversation fading away, Harry moved towards the door and then paused with his hand raised, suddenly wondering what the hell he was doing. Before he could come to any conclusions, the door abruptly swung open.
"Is there any particular reason why you're loitering outside my classroom, Potter?"
Harry glanced at his frozen hand, still hanging in mid-air, and quickly dropped it. His mind had helpfully emptied itself of everything he had planned to say. "Erm… no, I mean yes."
There was a glint of amusement in the black eyes. "I see you haven't lost your gift for language. Care to decide on one of your answers?"
Feeling like a student again, Harry gathered his thoughts and took a deep breath. "Yes, there is a reason. I was wondering if you'd like to join me for a drink this evening."
This was obviously the last thing that Snape was expecting, but his surprise only showed for a second before the cool mask covered it. "To what end, Professor?" The last word was said with a hint of distaste.
Harry shrugged. "We're colleagues now; we should at least try to get along… you know, put the past behind us." When Snape merely stood silently in the doorway, looking impassive, Harry held up his hands. "Okay, it was only a suggestion. Have a good evening, Professor." He was halfway back along the corridor when Snape's voice made him pause mid-step.
"It is customary to provide a time and a place."
Hiding a victorious grin, Harry looked back. "I was thinking seven thirty at The Three Broomsticks."
Snape nodded once. "I expect you to be prompt."
"Of course." Turning away again, Harry headed back up for dinner with a sense of satisfied accomplishment.
Anxious not to be late, Harry left the castle earlier than necessary. He had considered suggesting they meet in the entrance hall, but that would have meant a lot of curious looks from the students (and a long walk together without the distraction of alcohol). Harry had already spent more time than he'd care to admit on his choice of attire; he didn't want to look like he'd made too much of an effort but, equally, he didn't want to look shabby either. He'd always felt an inexplicable need for the man's approval.
The Three Broomsticks was fairly busy, but there were still several free tables scattered throughout. Keeping his head down, Harry made his way to one tucked away in the corner by the crackling fire, wary of attracting unwanted attention. He slipped his coat and gloves off, raising his numb hands towards the flames to warm them. The combination of delicious warmth and flickering light was almost hypnotic and he visibly jumped when a tall figure slid into the chair opposite several minutes later.
"You were expecting me, were you not?"
Snape was eyeing him with a degree of amusement, dressed in his customary black. Harry pulled himself together and smiled a little awkwardly. "Of course. I was just warming up a bit."
"You should be more vigilant. Did Moody teach you nothing?"
Alastor Moody's voice immediately filled Harry's head. Constant vigilance!
"I can take care of myself."
Snape looked rather unconvinced but didn't comment. Harry knew that Snape attributed Harry's survival to luck rather than superior skill, which, he had to concede, was true up to a point. But Harry was still confident that he could take most wizards down in a duel if he had to.
"What'll it be, gentlemen?"
Rosmerta, the landlady, was smiling genially down at them, her gaze flitting from one to the other questioningly.
Deciding he was going to need a strong shot of alcohol, Harry smiled back and said, "I'll have a Firewhisky, please."
Snape raised an eyebrow at his choice, his eyes boring into Harry before flicking to Rosmerta's face. "Make that two, Rosmerta."
"Coming right up."
As she bustled off, Harry fished around for something to say to break the silence that descended with her departure. Snape was studying him again, and Harry found the scrutiny very off-putting. "So, how was your first week of term?"
Harry waited, but no further information seemed forthcoming. "Just tolerable?" he prompted.
"That word is sufficient."
Harry sighed and glanced towards the bar to see if the drinks were coming any time soon. It was going to be a long evening.
The next hour or so passed in much the same way. Harry kept attempting to engage him in a conversation, asking a variety of questions, while Snape merely sat there in silence, except for the occasional one-word answer. Finally Harry gave up and called him on it, after downing a third glass of Firewhisky for courage.
"You know, a conversation needs to be a two-way thing to work."
Snape smirked, raising his own glass to his lips. "You asked me to join you for a drink. Talking was not specified."
Harry suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. He should have known that Snape would be purposefully difficult. Never one to back down from a challenge, though, he simply settled back in his chair with a mischievous smile. "Fine. I'll talk, and you can listen."
What followed was an intimate, detailed, examination of the lives of each and every Weasley family member since the war ended. Harry had to hide his amusement at Snape's ever darkening expression as he talked. By the time Harry got to Percy's ministry job, Snape had developed a noticeable twitch under his left eye and his lips were stretched so thin as to be almost invisible. It was only when Harry enthusiastically launched into the details of Ron and Hermione's forthcoming nuptials that Snape forcefully interrupted, slamming his glass down.
Harry had to fight to keep his expression neutral. "Is there a problem, Professor?"
The glare he got in response could have melted steel. "I will answer one of your questions, Potter."
Buoyed by his success, Harry shifted forwards and leant his elbows on the table, propping his chin upon his clasped hands. "Why did you join him?"
Snape didn't need to ask who Harry was referring to, but looked momentarily surprised by the choice of question. He took another sip of his drink before answering, his tone deceptively light.
"As a Slytherin, it was almost expected. I was young and naïve, seduced by powerful friends and empty promises… and I had little else in my life." His mouth twisted in a sneer. "Of course, I wouldn't expect 'The Chosen One' to understand such things."
"Don't." Harry's face had hardened, all trace of amusement gone. "I never asked for any of that, and my childhood was anything but privileged. You know that better than anyone."
Snape studied Harry over the rim of his glass for a moment, his expression unrepentant. "I saw only flashes of your memories. There was nothing substantial enough from which to draw any conclusions about your upbringing, and certainly nothing in your behaviour which suggested anything untoward."
Harry clenched his jaw and looked away, focusing instead on the dying embers of the fire. "You saw what you wanted to see."
Harry's eyes shot back up. He was genuinely surprised by the acknowledgment, expecting either dismissal or denial.
"But remember that you have me at a disadvantage," Snape continued silkily. "You saw a great deal more of my memories than I yours."
Blowing out a deep breath, Harry sank back against his chair, his anger draining away. Snape had a point. He'd given his memories to Harry willingly, and by doing so given him the means to destroy Voldemort for good. That fact could not easily be overlooked.
"Perhaps we should leave the past where it belongs, Mr Potter. There is nothing to be gained from dwelling on that which we cannot change. That is why we are here, is it not?"
Harry met his gaze steadily, feeling like they had at last reached some small modicum of understanding. "Yes. It is."
As midnight approached, they began walking back up to the school together. After all, there would be no students around to see them—unless, as Snape pointed out with a twisted smile, they were the next generation of Gryffindor rule breakers.
The wet snow stuck heavily to their boots, and Harry had to keep stamping his feet to clear them and restore some feeling to his numb toes. His situation was made infinitely worse when he accidentally stepped off the road and into a four-foot snow drift which came up to his chest. His curses caused an owl to fly off from a nearby tree, hooting indignantly.
"I see that age has not afforded you a better grasp on your temper," Snape mused, as Harry's feet found the road again and he brushed himself off.
"And I see that it hasn't managed to improve your people skills," Harry countered irritably, burying his frozen hands deep within his pockets, his teeth now chattering loudly.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Potter," Snape said, his tone clearly exasperated. "Are you not a wizard?"
Withdrawing his wand from his robes he pointed it at Harry, and the next moment Harry felt warmth rise up from the tips of his toes to the top of his messy black hair, very effectively banishing the damp chill from the snow. He smiled a little awkwardly as Snape stowed his wand.
"I was only thinking of Minerva. She'd hate to have to find yet another Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Much to Snape's obvious astonishment, Harry burst out laughing. The sound echoed in the frozen air around them. "Fair enough."
They walked on for another few minutes, the silence between them now slightly more comfortable, and then Harry felt the tingle of magic as they passed through the invisible wards at the castle gates. He glanced sideways at the man walking on his left. Despite his misgivings, the evening had gone a lot better than expected and he was beginning to think that they actually could have a relationship based on something other than mutual loathing and distrust. It was certainly an interesting prospect.
Before they stepped inside the castle and went their separate ways, Harry felt the need to address the possibility. "Well, it was an interesting evening, Professor. Same time next Friday?"
Snape stopped on the threshold of the Entrance Hall and turned, giving Harry a slightly incredulous look. "You wish to repeat that, Potter?"
Harry shrugged. "Why not? I only got to ask one question, after all… and please stop calling me Potter. I'm not your student any longer. Harry will do fine."
"Indeed," said Snape, his eyes glittering in the moonlight. He paused, and then added, "And you may address me as Professor Snape."
Harry had to suppress his laughter this time, wary of waking someone. "So is that a yes?"
"Perhaps, if I have nothing to better occupy my time."
Harry snorted and headed inside but, as they started to part ways, something suddenly occurred to him.
"You thought I was going to ask about my mum, didn't you?"
Snape paused and turned, looking resigned to continuing the conversation. "It seemed a more logical choice."
"Well, you'll find that I'm full of surprises," Harry said brightly. "Goodnight, Professor."
Harry took the steps two at a time, leaving Snape to stare after him.
Despite Professor Snape's continued feigned indifference, he slid into the chair opposite Harry in The Three Broomsticks the following Friday at precisely seven thirty, and again the week after that. Soon it became habitual. With each meeting the conversation became a little easier, both opening up a little more, although Snape would still only deign to answer one question. It took a month before Harry finally convinced Snape to call him by his first name, and another month before Snape consented to Harry doing the same. Harry actually considered this one of his greatest achievements. Of course, there was no discernible difference in his behaviour within Hogwarts but Friday evenings were enough for now.
As March became April, heralding the approach of Easter, Harry received the wedding invitation he'd been expecting from Ron and Hermione, accompanied by a short note asking if they could visit the following Saturday. Grinning, he'd quickly sent a reply with one of the school owls to say yes. He hadn't seen either of them since the beginning of the year, and was missing their constant company. Although he now considered Severus a friend, even a good one, he could not replace Harry's two best friends in the world. Imagining their reactions when he told them of his new friendship was certainly a source of amusement over the course of that week.
"I always assumed that you would become a proper Weasley yourself."
Harry had just finished telling Severus about the invitation he'd received and Ron and Hermione's forthcoming visit; they were both sitting at what had become their customary table in the corner of The Three Broomsticks by the crackling fire, half empty glasses in front of them.
Harry blinked at him, and then smiled. "You mean Ginny?" At Severus' nod, Harry's smile widened. "No. That experiment didn't work out at all; she was always more like a sister to me." His hand closed around his glass and he took a sip, hesitating before recklessly plunging on. "Besides, she doesn't have the right equipment."
Severus' eyebrows rose to meet his hairline. "I assume you are not just talking about Miss Weasley in particular."
"No," Harry chuckled, swirling the remaining liquid in his glass. "Women in general. I figured that out pretty quickly." He looked back up. "Only a handful of people are aware of that, though. I'm not ready for the whole wizarding world to know just yet."
Severus inclined his head. "Then I am suitably honoured to be included in that handful." He raised his glass to his lips and then paused, smirking. "You'll crush the hopes of simpering teenage girls everywhere."
"I can live with that," Harry grinned. He was beyond relieved that the older man had taken it so well. Even though he had learned that homosexuality was accepted much more readily by the wizarding community, compared to the Muggle world, it was still a test of their new found friendship and Severus hadn't faltered.
"It will certainly make my task easier. I had to deduct house points from two third year Hufflepuffs today for loudly discussing the allure of your eyes instead of concentrating on their shrinking potion."
Harry snorted softly. "I'm surprised you didn't give them both detention."
"I couldn't fault their judgement on that particular topic," Severus replied matter-of-factly, draining his drink.
Harry's surprise was only momentary before his mind flashed back to the shrieking shack, and what he had believed to be Severus' final words. Look at me. His mother. The thought caused a strange sinking feeling somewhere in the region of his stomach.
"May I ask if you'll be staying at Hogwarts for the holidays?"
The question roused Harry from his stupor, making him blink. "Probably. I have a ton of marking to do." He paused, downing the last of his drink. "Will you stay?"
Severus' black eyes glinted. "I believe that you've already asked your question for tonight."
Harry frowned, casting his mind back over the conversation. "No, I haven't—" His brain screeched to a sudden halt, his own words returning to him. 'You mean Ginny?' He looked back up at the smug man before him. "That doesn't count."
"A question is a question, Harry. Choose your words more carefully in future."
Scowling, Harry ordered another drink. He didn't let himself ponder the fact that he was finding the smooth, deep, timbre of Severus' voice increasingly appealing.
"Don't you think you're taking this thing a bit far?"
Harry let out a bark of laughter. "It's a few drinks once a week, Ron. We're not getting married."
The three of them were stretched out beside the lake, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. With the majority of the students gone for the holidays or studying hard for forthcoming exams, there was an air of peaceful tranquillity. Ron's face, however, was currently fixed in a frown.
"Once a month should be enough for anyone," he muttered, picking at the grass.
Hermione bumped Ron's arm in silent admonishment and smiled at Harry. "Just ignore him. I think it's wonderful that you and Professor Snape are finally getting along. How's your teaching going?"
"Great," Harry said, grinning. He went on to explain all about his different classes, told them about particular students who'd come to his attention (either for good or bad reasons), and Ron became perfectly cheerful once more. He was now helping George out with Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes in Diagon Alley. They had an interesting discussion about some of the new products George and Ron were working on, and Harry wondered how many he'd have to confiscate in his classes. Hermione then filled him in on her progress as an apprentice healer at St Mungo's, where she'd been working for the last year or so. She was, predictably, well ahead of her fellow apprentices.
Of course, the conversation then moved on to wedding plans and the constant battle to reign in Mrs Weasley's grand ideas. The sound of their laughter frequently echoed out across the lake as the hours passed.
When the sun began to dip towards the horizon, the three of them got to their feet and brushed the grass from their clothes.
"It feels strange to be back here again," Hermione said, gazing up at the castle as they began to walk back. "But it's lovely to see Hogwarts just as it was before the war."
Yeah, ready for the next generation of Weasleys," Ron smiled, wrapping an arm around her.
"Not quite yet, Ronald."
Ron's smile suddenly faltered. "Oh, great." Harry and Hermione both followed his gaze, spotting a familiar black clad figure emerging from the forest.
"Professor Snape!" Hermione called in greeting, ignoring Ron's moaned protest.
Severus didn't look any happier about this than Ron—Harry got the distinct impression that he was fighting the urge to turn around and disappear back into the forest—but nevertheless he continued to walk towards them.
"Miss Granger, Mr Weasley." He nodded curtly. "I believe congratulations are in order."
While Ron attempted a polite smile, which came out more like a grimace, Hermione beamed and took it as encouragement to engage in conversation. Ten minutes later, after an in-depth discussion on a certain potion that she was using to treat one of her patients, Ron decided that enough was enough.
"Well, we should be getting back. It was great to see you, mate."
Trying not to laugh at Severus' relieved expression, Harry said, "You too. Good luck with the wedding plans."
"Thanks. Oh, you'll be my best man, right?"
"Of course I will," Harry grinned, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Brilliant," said Ron, grinning back. "You know, you should come back to The Burrow when you have a free day. It would be good to distract mum for a bit, and Charlie keeps asking after you." Lowering his voice, he nudged Harry's arm and added, "We might still get you married to a Weasley yet."
Laughing, Harry replied, "Tell them I'll visit soon." Turning to Hermione, he noticed that Severus' eyes were trained on him intently. It caused an odd sensation, which had come and gone before he could analyse it.
"Take care of yourself, Harry," she smiled, her eyes flitting to Severus briefly before she pulled Harry into a hug. "We'll see you soon."
"They haven't changed, I see," Severus commented, as they both stood watching the couple walk away towards the gates where they could Apparate.
"Oh, they have," Harry replied softly, his eyes fixed on their retreating backs. "We've all changed."
Severus turned his head a fraction to look at him again. "Indeed."