To say that Harry Potter led a tragic life is yes, correct, but also relative to his life. After the war, Harry couldn't bear to think about the tragedy of his own life, let alone those he cared for. He did his best to smile, and while he wanted to put a brave face on and say with Hermione, "Yes, I will finish out my Hogwarts final year and earn my place in the world," he couldn't bring himself to do so.
Facing another year, another set of memories, walking the halls knowing that so many were lost... Harry couldn't bring himself to do it. Really there was only one time of the year Harry could really function, and that was summer. Summer, his entire life, may not have been wonderful, but there had been no death. There had been no pain, no torture, no screaming.
Summer. It was hot, and sticky, it was rather dull and sometimes pointless, but after everything that had happened, it was exactly what Harry craved. He hid away, renting a small flat in London, eating take away, watching television, keeping his wand locked up, ignoring owls from Ginny as she finished out her last year of school.
Then summer arrived. Summer arrived, and with it, his friends, the Weasley family, Ginny. The job offers poured in, magic resurfaced in his life, only potions kept the nightmares at bay.
It was summer when Harry snogged a strange bloke after getting completely pissed in a muggle pub one Tuesday night. The pub was nearly empty, it was hot, even for the evening hours, and Harry hadn't eaten a thing all day. He'd gotten into a rather sophisticated argument about Rugby with the bloke, a tall fellow with brown hair, blue eyes and rather broad shoulders.
Harry didn't know a thing about Rugby. He'd grown up in a muggle household but his knowledge of things outside of basic muggle appliances and reality tv was quite thin. Either way, the alcohol seemed to help grease the edges of what would have been a very sharp conversation, and the direct result was Harry having a rather fantastic snog in the alleyway after they'd been kicked out for being too loud.
It was the first time Harry ever really responded to anything sexual. Yes, snogging Ginny in the corridors at school had been great, forbidden, an amazing way to bide the time while knowing somewhere in the back of his mind he was going to have to murder someone, not quite a man, but still, it was taking a life.
Harry never really bothered to picture anything while he was having a wank, either. Not a man, not a woman. Blackness. It was blackness, silence, that allowed Harry to climax. So when this bloke caused Harry to nearly orgasm right there in that dark, dirty alley, Harry realized something really important, he'd been on the wrong team the entire time.
Of course, gay or straight, it hadn't really mattered for Harry. He'd been a bit caught up trying not to die, to destroy horcruxes, to watch his friends and family die, to worry about his sexuality. Now, however, he was shocked, and when he came home to find Ginny sleeping in his bed, her hair fanned out over the pillow, looking quite pretty, he felt like his own personal sort of Dark Lord.
He threw up for ten minutes straight before passing out on the floor, forehead pressed against the cool porcelain of the toilet. Ginny found him the next morning, irritated by his state, and said nothing to him until he showered and dressed.
Two weeks later, Harry found himself waking up in a strange bloke's flat. He remembered he had gotten the bloke's name, but in his drunken stupor, forgot what it was. He was sore, tired, hung over, and not a virgin anymore.
When Ginny asked him what was wrong, he doubled over and puked on her shoes.
That night she refused to let him go out. She was dressed in muggle clothes, tight, low-cut shirt and jeans. It hugged every curve just right. She didn't wear make-up, she didn't really need any. She was beautiful, Harry could never deny that.
"I'm not a virgin, you know," Ginny said to him. She had tried several ways of enticing him; kissing his neck, nibbling his ear, rubbing her foot along his thigh as they sat on the sofa.
Harry stared at her for a long time. "Dean?"
She shrugged. "I mean, it was stupid, and I wished it had been you, but I figured I should tell you."
"I'm not angry," Harry said. No he wasn't. He was guilty, and his stomach churned.
"Well I know you're a virgin," Ginny said. "I mean, the gossips are always saying how this girl or that girl had you, but I know better. The only one who might've come close is Cho, but..."
"I didn't have sex with Cho," Harry said. His voice still sounded dead. He was sweating, it was hot and the ceiling fan was doing nothing to combat the weather.
"So what about me, Harry? Don't you want me? I mean, it's like you're not even attracted to me anymore. Have I gotten fat? Ugly?" Ginny's voice betrayed her. She knew she was beautiful, that other men wanted her, that she didn't even really have to try if she didn't want to. She just wanted Harry to tell her.
"I just want to take it slow," Harry said. What he really wanted was a way to find the courage to tell her he didn't fancy her at all. And it wasn't her, it was him, and this was one time that phrase could be used with utter sincerity.
"What, like wait until we get married?" Ginny asked with wide eyes.
"Yeah," Harry said. He knew it would never happen, and it bought him some time. He was only eighteen after all.
It shouldn't have surprised him at the end of summer when Molly Weasley pulled him aside and gave him a small box. Inside was a beautiful, intricate ring. It was a gemstone he didn't recognize, looked like a diamond on fire, and it was set in platinum. The designs were Celtic and amazing and Harry was terrified to be holding it.
"Ginny told me you were going to propose," Molly said, her eyes filling with tears of happiness. "I wanted to give this to you before you went and spent money on a ring. This ring has been in our family for generations, waiting for a little girl to be born, to fall in love and get married. It would be my greatest honor to give it to you, to place on her finger." Molly did cry then, and she hugged Harry fiercely and whispered about how much she loved him.
Harry wanted to cry. Instead he took the ring and put it into his pocket. Molly then announced that Harry had something to say. He went through the motions, he got down on one knee and pulled out the ring. Ginny shouted yes before he even asked the question. He put the ring on her finger, and he seemed to float above his body.
Who was this kid, this scrawny kid, not even a grown man yet, holding this girl's hand, smiling like he meant it, accepting the congratulations, and hugs from well wishers. Grinning at his best mate when Ron said, "Brothers now, eh? I always knew you'd end up a Weasley."
It was the last day of summer when he finally told her. They were alone in his flat, and she was flipping through magazines for brides. She wanted a mixture of muggle and magic for her wedding, and she was going on and on about their future, their children, their home they'd have in the country.
It was when she asked, "Do you think we should to traditional names, after family members, or should we come up with something on our own?" that Harry snapped.
He stood up, his eyes squinting, his hands in his hair and he shouted, "I'm gay, Ginny!"
She froze, staring up at him, and quirked a half smile. "That's not even funny, you git."
Harry let out a breath, rubbed his face and plopped down on the sofa, his face dropping into his hands. "I know it's not funny. It's not a joke."
"Don't tell me you're gay," Ginny snapped, her voice dangerously tense, "you don't even know what you like. You're a virgin." She meant the word virgin as an insult, a cruel one.
Harry's cheeks were pink when he looked at her and he licked his lips. "I'm not, Ginny. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I didn't tell you before. I was trying, and then your mum gave me that ring and sort of announced what I was going to do and... and... I'm sorry."
Rage, would be the only proper word to describe Ginny's reaction. Fiery rage. She screamed, she cried, she broke things. She hit Harry, in the face and the stomach, and she left, only to return and hit him some more.
By the time she was done, his eye was black, his lip was bleeding, his telly was broken and there were six holes in the wall. She begged after the rage, begged him to just stop. To go back to the way things were. To love her.
"Do you realize what this means for me, Harry, do you? Do you realize what I will be from this moment forward? The woman who turned Harry Potter pouf. The woman who couldn't do it for the boy who lived. Everyone is expecting our babies, Harry. Everyone is expecting this marriage, this life, this future. Don't do this to me, please. PLEASE!"
Harry wasn't sure what made him agree to go forward with the wedding. He wasn't sure what made him stand up at the altar and say I do, and kiss her and dance and smile like this day meant the world to him. But he did it, and Ginny smiled like she had won.
But it wasn't all hearts and flowers, because when Harry agreed to try and sleep with Ginny, he failed. Nothing she did, nothing he did, could make him perform, and a year passed and people were starting to ask when they were going to have a baby. Molly constantly sent books about getting pregnant and starting a family, letters were exchanged between Hermione and Ron who had married, and Hermione was finally expecting her first.
Hermione had a miscarriage just before summer, and that's when Ginny panicked. "They're all expecting this, Harry! Don't you understand that? Don't you? I don't care how you do it, but you get me pregnant or I will make your life hell! We have to have a baby first, okay. Figure it out."
Harry wasn't sure how he found himself overseas, but there he was, in America, where it was hotter and muggier than England could ever get. It was for work, international relations, his boss told him. He had his wand strapped to his calf under his jeans.
They were in meetings all day and he was bored and hot, but he was just happy to be away from home. He broke off from the group to explore on his own. No one really ever questioned Harry Potter. He found a little wizarding area in the town they were in, some place in the southwest, a name he didn't bother to remember.
He recognized Severus Snape instantly, the man behind the counter at one of the shops there. He should have been shocked. He should have been terrified, or elated, or something... anything other than merely curious to see what Snape's reaction to him would be.
He entered the shop and Snape merely rolled his eyes. "Fuck off," was his reply.
"Alive then, are you?" Harry asked.
"What do you want?"
Harry could have said anything, literally. He could have been snarky, he could have been nice, he could have just said, how did you survive. Instead he said, "Do you have potions here?"
Snape quirked an eyebrow. "This is an apothecary, you stupid fool. If you're here to waste my time, I suggest you leave now before you leave disfigured."
"I need a potion to help me have sex with my wife," Harry blurted and then blushed a furious red.
Snape smirked, as though Christmas had come early, and his pressed his palms together, touching his chin. "Dare I ask you to repeat that question?"
"I'm gay, and she wants babies, and for some reason I'm standing here in this shop, and if you don't have anything, just say so, but if you do, could you please, for the love of god, sell me something?" Harry talked fast and quiet, but sincerely.
"What if I sell your stories to the papers?" Snape asked, crossing his arms.
"You won't, because if you wanted to sell any story to any paper you could have done so. Instead you're hiding out in the States running some bullshit apothecary so no one will know who you are," Harry said.
Snape's red face let Harry know he was right. Instead of being cursed, however, Snape took out a small case, extracted a potion and then charged Harry way too much money for it. Harry slipped it into his pocket and said, "Thanks."
Snape said nothing in return, but watched with dark, angry eyes and Harry exited the shop and disappeared around the corner.
Harry went home, took the potion and before long, Ginny was pushing out a strapping baby boy with black hair and wide eyes. Harry thought maybe a child would change him, change things. He thought maybe he'd be ecstatic to be a parent, to give his children something that he never had when he was growing up.
Instead he felt resentful. Ginny called the boy James. She saw Harry's immediate detachment and hoped that calling the boy after Harry's father would help. It didn't. Harry didn't get up at nights, he worked long hours, he wasn't present for James' first birthday.
The summer following James' birthday, Harry found himself sitting in a cafe, a bottle of potion once again in his pocket, only this time Snape was sitting across from him, looking at a photograph of the young child.
"He looks like a Weasley," Snape remarked.
"Bit like Ron, eh?" Harry asked.
Snape took a drink of his coffee. "Pity."
"He's alright for a baby," Harry said. "I don't really see him a lot."
"Not a surprise," Snape said. "Being a closet pouf and all, I expect you have better things to do. Trolling dark alleys for a dirty shag up the arse before your wife calls you home."
"I've only had sex with a bloke once," Harry admitted. "Before I married Ginny. I don't know why I keep this up."
"Because you love being a martyr, Potter. You love it. You're going to die young and miserable and everyone is going to remember you for the lie you lived. Pathetic."
Harry went home and before long, Albus Severus arrived. Harry insisted on the name, though Ginny hated it, but she let him because she thought maybe this time he would care a bit more. He did, though only a bit. Al looked like Harry, a lot, and he was quiet and smart and didn't cry the way James often did.
"I can't keep this up forever," Harry said one night after the kids were asleep. Ginny was talking to Harry about having a girl, and Harry was just so tired. He was hearing Snape's words echoed in his head over and over and he just couldn't shake the feeling that Snape was right. And Harry didn't want to die young, alone and miserable. He had never really let himself be happy before, and maybe it was time to give that a try.
"Keep up what?" Ginny snapped at him. "I mean honestly, Harry, you don't do a lot. You work, you come home, you ignore me and the boys. You go to the pub, you make your little trips to the States. Your life isn't exactly hard."
"I'm talking about this lie, Ginny," Harry said, tugging on his ring, but not taking it off. "I can't... I'm just not... not cut out for this."
"Don't do this to me, Harry. Please." She sounded petrified, close to hysterical. "You promised."
"I never promised anything, Ginny," Harry said.
"Our wedding vows..."
"Weren't unbreakable vows," Harry answered her. "I just don't think I can keep this up much longer. Every time I have to sleep with you, I hate myself a little. It's not fair to you."
Ginny wept. She wept and begged and screamed. She wanted to know why he just couldn't love her like she loved him, and he didn't really have an answer for that. She asked him for a girl, and he told her that he would give that to her, this one last time, but then it had to be over.
"You're seeing someone in the States, aren't you?" she asked as he packed to leave. "The person giving you the potions."
"Yes," Harry said. He wasn't quite sure why he said it. I mean it was Snape for god's sake, but... but then Harry realized that the only thing he ever looked forward to were those visits. The quite chats, the conversations without expectation. Even though Snape hated him, Harry knew that it was at least genuine.
Ginny asked who but Harry didn't answer her. He didn't look back at her crying face as he boarded the muggle airplane and left.
The summer there was so unforgiving, where Snape lived. The sky was a fierce blue, not a stray cloud to cross the sun's unforgiving rays. The trees looked half-dead, though someone explained to him that they always looked like that. They said it hardly ever rained, and Harry felt a sort of connection to that. Just drops of life-giving water in that place, much like Harry's own life. Just drops, he realized.
Snape seemed to be waiting for him when he entered the shop. He looked down at Harry's hand and realized Harry wasn't wearing his ring. "Am I mistaken?" Snape asked as he started to put the potion back in the case.
"No," Harry said with a sigh. He pocketed the vial, and produced the ring on a chain. "I can't bear to wear it anymore. This is my last trip here."
"Pity," Snape said. "You were helping me pay my mortgage quite nicely."
Harry smiled. "Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"No," Snape said.
Harry winced. "Right. I'll be on my way."
"Is it true you named your child for Albus and myself?" Snape asked.
"Yes," Harry said. He didn't give any further details on the matter.
Snape said nothing, so Harry started to leave, and then he heard Snape call out, "Dinner. Six o'clock. If you're a minute late, I won't be here."
Harry grinned and went back to his hotel to wait. He was at the shop at five-fifty, and Snape was waiting for him. He was wearing black trousers and a collared shirt. His hair was tidy, though even without robes he looked terrifying. His pitch-black eyes seemed to see through everything.
Snape took them to a muggle restaurant that served a passable curry and they ate in near silence. Harry drank a lot, and Snape just watched him.
"Do you have a picture?" Snape asked as they picked at a small bowl of Gulab Jamun at the end of the meal.
Harry sipped a bit of the rosewater syrup and then reached into his pocket for his wallet. He had a small picture of Al, a muggle picture that didn't move. Snape took it and snorted. "A potter. Of course my namesake would look like a Potter."
"Would you rather him look like a Weasley?" Harry asked.
"I'd rather him look like a bloody Snape," he growled and shoved the photo back. "Or at least an Evans."
Harry slipped the photo back into his wallet and tucked it away. "I'm going to leave Ginny."
"Are you?" Snape asked, his crooked grin showing that he didn't believe Harry at all.
"I can't live like this, despite how much you don't believe me."
"And those brats of yours? What of them?"
"I don't know," Harry confessed. "They tell you it's different when the kids are yours, when you say you don't like kids. They say the bond is natural, that no matter what, you feel that bond. I don't. I try and care but, my God Snape, I just can't stand my life."
"That's always been obvious, Potter. What isn't obvious is why you're such a spineless waste of space. You never stood up for anything you really wanted. The only time you ever stood up was to save your arse, and for what? So you could continue doing the bidding of other people. For fuck's sake, you're a gay man in a straight marriage paying your old potion's professor to concoct you drugs so you can get it up for your spouse. That, Potter, is the most pathetic thing I have ever heard."
Harry couldn't argue, because he was right. Harry, instead, paid the bill and left Snape sitting at the table. He went straight to his hotel suite shut the door and stood there, right in the middle of the room, staring at the wall. He didn't know what he was doing anymore. The weight of the potion was heavy in his pocket and the idea of using it now made him sicker than ever.
He pulled it out and let it fall to the carpet. The liquid inside was a violent blue, shimmering and fierce. It would give him an insatiable urge to have sex, to spill his seed inside of his wife, and it would get her pregnant, and the cycle would start all over again.
He pressed his foot onto the vial and heard it start to give way. Before it cracked, there was a knock at the hotel door. Harry pulled back, composed himself and answered it. This time he was surprised to see Snape standing there.
The taller man stared at Harry, and then without warning, grabbed his face and kissed him. He kissed him hard, fierce, tongue and teeth ramming against his. Harry managed to pull Snape into the room and close the door before Snape slammed him against the wall, shoved his hand roughly down the front of Harry's jeans, and without any romance, or gentle touches, tossed him off.
Harry cried out, loud and fierce against Snape's shoulder, allowing Snape to all-but hold him up as Harry shuddered with the aftereffects of what had just happened. He felt sticky and disgusting and cold when Snape slowly pulled his hand away.
"Don't go," Harry said as Snape backed away.
Snape picked up the potion vial and pressed it into Harry's hands. "You want to do the right thing, Potter?"
Harry swallowed and choked out, "Yes."
"Go home and give your wife that baby. Give her that baby and then do whatever you need to do to stop this nonsense. Divorce her, kill her, whatever. But raise your children. Be a fucking man and raise your children and get to know the people you've created. You're what, twenty?"
"Twenty-one," Harry managed. He was still out of breath and his head was spinning. Snape was still pressing the vial into Harry's hand, and all Harry really wanted was the feel of Snape's skin on his.
"You're a baby. Grow up, Potter. Grow up and figure your life out and when you finally do that, come and find me."
"What if you... I mean... what if you meet someone else? What if I do?" Harry asked.
"That's a child's way of thinking, Potter, and it's a risk you're going to have to take. Don't bother to show up on my door until you're ready. If you show up even a second too early, that will be it. Do you understand me?"
Harry bit down on his lip and nodded. What else could he say? What else could he do?
He cried on the flight home, and dreamed of Snape touching him. He took the potion and provided his wife with the thing she begged for. When her pregnancy test came out positive he told her he wanted a divorce.
She begged and cried and threatened. He got a flat near her house and he helped with the kids. He learned that James was clever and smart, and definitely liked trouble. Al was quiet, a genius though no one really knew it because the boy barely said two words a day. He couldn't wait for school and he was desperate to please his father.
The baby Ginny called Lily, in hopes Harry would drop the divorce case. He didn't, and Lily was born. She was a lot like her mum, loud and brave and brash. She was a walking disaster and had the vocabulary of a child twice her age.
James was sorted into Gryffindor when it was time, and Al into Slytherin. Lily was a Ravenclaw, though McGonagall often commented that Lily should be in a house of her own. Harry was proud of his children, and although the Weasleys never really forgave him for what he did, for the lies he told, they never shut him out.
Harry had a few boyfriends over the years, nothing that lasted over a few months. Every now and again Harry would receive an anonymous owl with a note, hand written in spidery scrawl, Nearly Time, it would read. He'd smile and dream of Snape.
Several times he thought about giving up, about not going back to Snape, just letting it go. He had almost decided that when Al, who was about to take his last year at Hogwarts, clapped his dad on the back and said very quietly so no one else would hear, "Isn't it time for you to be happy, too?"
It was summer, blisteringly hot, but raining at the same time, when Harry approached the apothecary. It was closed, the sign said, but the door wasn't locked. Harry went into the back and Snape was there, writing at his desk.
Snape looked older, and a little more tired. His hair was still black, but a few specks of grey at the temples betrayed his age. He didn't look surprised to see Harry standing there, wearing his jeans and his t-shirt, his hands in his pockets awkwardly.
"Got a bit fat there," Snape said.
"You got a bit old," Harry replied.
"What brings you by?" Snape asked. He rose from his desk before Harry could answer and kissed Harry so hard, Harry's glasses fell off.
Harry chuckled against Snape's mouth, his hands twisting into the back of Snape's robes. He pressed his forehead to Snape's and then said very quietly, "A smart kid told me yesterday that it was time for me to be happy. I agreed with him."