Author Notes: Hello and Happy Halloween to those who celebrate this day! The next chapter of my TMS continuation is proving really tricky so here's a small pre-Snarry one shot in the meantime. Enjoy!
Summary: Having defeated Voldemort, Harry is free to live his life the way he wants to. So is Severus, but it takes a beloved spirit to bring them together. SeverusxHarry.
Appreciation: My thanks to Schattengestalt for inspiring me with her adorable Halloween pre-Snarry one shot. Go read it, you won't be disappointed! :D
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the brainchild of JK Rowlings.
- Story Start -
"Oh, he looks sad, doesn't he?"
"That he does."
"That he is."
"Are you just going to agree with everything I say?"
"Well, you know how much I dislike discord amongst us friends."
A transparent eyebrow was raised, issuing a silent challenge. It was answered by a soft chuckle.
"You know me so well, Sir Nick."
"That I do, Friar," Sir Nick replied.
The Hufflepuff ghost raised an eyebrow when the other mimicked his speech, but he said nothing. In silent agreement, they turned to watch the object of their sympathetic scrutiny once more.
A boy. Almost a man and already an adult in the Wizarding World. Black hair that would never lie tamed, green eyes that would never be subdued, an indomitable spirit that could never be broken. That was in the past when Harry Potter walked with his head up and his shoulders back, dedicating his young life to fulfilling a prophecy, ignoring naysayers and doubters alike. A stalwart and determined soldier of the man who had loved his secrets and taken them to his grave - Albus Dumbledore.
Albus did not return a ghost; he had no reason to. He had had time to prepare for his demise, time to look over his chessboard and determine where the pieces should go so that the Light would still triumph without him. Even though he had died before Voldemort did, Albus had no reason to linger on as a ghost and every reason to hasten beyond the Veil where his beloved mother and sister waited.
He had already done what he needed to do; passed on the barest information and instruction to his two most loyal followers. He had placed a heavy burden on his favourite student and an even heavier one on his loyal spy, secure in his belief that both would see them through.
Indeed, they had risen to the occasion, came through magnificently. Those who knew of their physical and mental sufferings would agree these two persons had earned the right to peace and happiness now, to pursue whatever wishes and dreams they had had to put on hold, to enjoy what life had to offer.
No one would fault them.
No one would stop them.
But alas, only one returned to Hogwarts - Harry Potter, looking as if all vitality had been drained from him, with shoulders hunched and green eyes dull. Like many of his year mates who discounted last year's travesty of a syllabus, he had come back to complete his seventh year. Like all of them, he craved peace, a sense of normalcy and a direction in life. They all had matured in the hunt for horcruxes, living under the Carrows' regime and waiting in the Malfoy cellar.
"If he's going to look like that all the time, he might as well have died!"
The unexpected words caused the Fat Friar and Sir Nick to spin around in the air, almost tilting to the side in their haste.
"Sweet Helga! What did you say, child?" gasped the Fat Friar, a plump hand pressed against his chest.
Moaning Myrtle pouted, arms crossed over her chest and not looking at all repentant.
"If he'd died, then he could've come to live with me!"
Her plaintive explanation made the two male ghosts exchange dry looks with one another, their eyebrows heightened. Neither of them wanted to point out that although Harry was a self-sacrificing Gryffindor who often leapt before he looked, he was by no means an idiot.
Myrtle pressed her lips together when no agreement was forthcoming.
"And Professor Snape died, but he didn't come back either!" she declared with a self-righteous sniff.
"Who didn't come back?" Peeves bobbed towards them, having heard the tail end of Myrtle's words.
"Professor Snape," chorused the other two.
"He didn't deserve to die."
Peeves' quiet observation stunned all three ghosts. They gaped at him, not having heard anything from his mouth but rude remarks, even about themselves.
"Aye, that he didn't," agreed the Fat Friar after a moment, still blinking in surprise.
"He was a brave man indeed," concurred Sir Nick.
"Strange that he didn't come back, really," continued Peeves. "Would've made a fine wee ghostie, tons of unresolved issues in his soul."
Before the Fat Friar and Sir Nick could comment on the 'wee' bit, the 'unresolved issues' bit or even the 'soul' bit, Myrtle burst into noisy sobs.
"Sweet Helga, now what's the matter, child?"
"If he'd c-come back, he c-could have lived with me...!" Myrtle had to struggle to get the words out past her noisy sobs.
When repressive silence met her latest passionate wish, she looked up with a hiccough and a gulp.
"With you?" repeated the Fat Friar in a sceptical tone.
"I hardly think that a worthy enough reason to return," declared Sir Nick in a lofty voice.
"Who'd want to go live in a U-bend, let alone with you in it?" asked Peeves, with a swift return to his usual rude self.
Myrtle gaped around at them before clapping a translucent hand to her mouth. With a wail that could be heard on the other side of the Veil, she fled back to the castle, most likely to take refuge in her favourite U-bend in the girls' bathroom.
"Must you all tease her like that?" sighed Helena as she approached the others. "Besides, you know only the dead can become ghosts."
She gave a mysterious smile as her words were met with stunned silence.
- o -
It was almost an hour to midnight.
With the population of Godric's Hollow celebrating Halloween with loved ones and friends either at home or in the local pub, the local cemetery was deserted and silent. Marble tombstones shone silver under the moonlight, standing like straight backed sentinels in neat rows, as though guarding the dead.
A dark figure made its way past them. Even with the aid of a cane, his steps were slow and halting, but his sure sense of direction made up for that. He continued towards his destination, unaware - perhaps for just once in his life - of being shadowed by one even quieter.
The second figure trailed under a silvery, shimmery cloak, flitting from tombstone to tombstone without a sound. His young, drawn face was now flushed with a hint of the daring of old, hitherto dull green eyes burning with a strange need that transcended mere curiosity.
The first man stopped at two graves placed close together, belonging to James and Lily Potter. Together in life, together in death.
Kneeling down with a grunt of effort, he placed his cane on the ground. From within the folds of his robes, he drew out a bunch of lilies that he laid with care on one of the graves.
One name. Two syllables.
That was all it took to confirm Harry Potter's growing suspicions, shatter his world and rebuild it, all in one long, heart pounding, breath stealing moment. He pressed shaky fingers against pale lips, stifling the cry that wanted to escape.
"Forgive my tardiness this year. I almost didn't make it here."
Green eyes closed against a sudden and unstoppable rush of hot moisture, fingers of the other hand clutching at the folds of the invisibility cloak.
I never thought I would ever hear that voice again, save in my dreams...
"I had to threaten Abe with poison before he would let me leave my house. After six months as my jailer and my nurse, he probably considers it his now."
The soft, weary chuckle helped to mask the gasp Harry made.
His house... at Spinner's End! Oh God, all this time...!
Thin, pale fingers reached out to trace a beloved name carved in marble.
"You must know what happened, Lily. You must know how courageous Harry was. Did you see that final battle? How your son faced the Dark Lord not as a boy, but as a man?"
Already reeling from the proof that Snape had survived Nagini's venom, the unexpected words floored Harry. While they were all the more stunning coming from the last person he would have expected to utter them, it was the tone of that low voice that stole his breath, filled with hushed admiration and - again, for once - devoid of sarcasm or anger or coldness.
Heart starting to pound even faster, Harry remained half crouched behind a tall tombstone just eight feet away. He drank in the sight of Severus Snape from head to foot, taking in every tiny gesture and movement from the deprecating shake of that dark head to the soft, bitter chuckle.
"I was unconscious then. The most brilliant moment of Harry's life and I wasn't there to witness it. He had come by to see me earlier... with his friends. They all thought me dead... I don't blame them. If it hadn't been for Abe -"
Harry dipped his head and squeezed his stinging eyes shut, heedless of the warmth that escaped. He was filled with equal amounts of shame and guilt. Snape hadn't died... and exhausted, Harry hadn't returned to the Shrieking Shack to make sure.
"It was weeks later before I recovered enough to see the moment he defeated Voldemort. Thanks again to Abe. He borrowed the Pensieve from Minerva. I saw that last battle, Lily. It was like I was there. Harry... how he looked... every word he said..."
As if overcome, a slow breath was inhaled and then exhaled.
"I... I was never prouder of him than in that moment."
Harry opened his eyes and blinked away his tears. He stared in amazement at the stark longing painted on that thin face that he had last seen ashen and drained of life.
Revelation hit him with the force of a thunderclap. He understood now.
He understood why he had returned to Hogwarts after discharging his burdens and seeing too much death.
He understood what it was he had been searching for all this while, and why he hadn't found it with Cho or with Ginny.
He understood why, although he had found some peace within the magical, beloved walls of Hogwarts and contentment at his best friends' happiness, he had found none for himself.
That gnawing ache inside his stomach... that hollow space inside his chest... feeling adrift and without purpose for the past few months, as though he had lost something precious he hadn't even known... it all made sense now. He knew what that loss was, or rather... who it was.
Severus Snape, his old Potions Professor.
Without the mask of dislike or the cruel sneer, without the veneer of scorn or the cloak of arrogance. Without all that... only the man himself was left.
A cynic might have commented that what was left wasn't worth seeing. They might even be right. It didn't matter to Harry. The only thing he cared about was his chance at happiness. The chance to live his life the way he wanted to. It was his now, wholly his, and this man in front of him was the final missing piece.
A tide of emotion grew inside Harry, rising up from his toes to envelop his body in tingling warmth, feeling alive for the first time in so many months. He felt hyper aware, cheeks flushed hot, skin prickling with goose bumps, nursing an inexplicable longing for this thin man kneeling at his mother's grave.
Severus Snape, the bane of his life for the past seven years.
"Severus," Harry mouthed the name silently, testing it on his tongue and giving a tiny shiver of acute awareness.
For a moment, Harry thought he had articulated the name aloud, but the voice was female and soft. His gasp was lost under the lower register of the Potions Master's as they both stared at the ghostly form of Lily Potter, standing next to her tombstone and smiling down at Snape.
"Lily? Lily! How...?"
"Halloween, Sev. I know you visit me each year, but I couldn't appear before. Until now."
She smiled down at Snape whose throat worked as he swallowed, his head raised to hers, his expression both awed and disbelieving.
"I know Harry's a brave young man," she told him. "As brave as you are."
Snape shook his head.
"I'm a coward, Lily," he choked out. "Otherwise I would have - have..."
"Gone to see him? Told him how you felt?"
Snape averted his head to the side in a sudden, sharp movement, as if to hide a heated blush from searching eyes.
"You know," he whispered. Then he looked back at her and bit his lower lip, a gesture Harry had never, ever seen him make.
"You must think me mad," Snape whispered, his face stricken and shoulders hunched. He dipped his head again. "To transfer my affections to your son..."
It was just as well Harry had a hand clamped over his own mouth. He could only stare with wide eyes as slender, ghostly fingers reached out to touch Snape's chin, encouraging him to lift his head once more.
"My dear Sev, where is it written that a mother would not want her child to be loved? And by the one who has cared for him and protected him for so long, risking his own life again and again?"
Another tear slipped down Harry's cheek. The heartfelt words were rendered unbelievably beautiful by Lily's smile and her unshakable belief in the inherent goodness of one man. Harry trembled with the force of it, his eyes brimming anew. If anyone deserved closure and happiness after doing their duty to Dumbledore and the Wizarding World, it was the two of them.
A tear slipped down Snape's face as well, but his expression remained stark and bereft in his anguish.
"But I have been so cruel to him."
Those words succeeded in chasing away Lily's loving smile when the previous ones didn't, giving her a stern expression. When Snape's head dipped under the weight of that censuring stare, those same ghostly fingers tipped it up again.
"You have," she agreed. "But Harry has his whole life ahead of him and so have you. Start by making amends."
"He... hates me."
"No, he doesn't."
"He won't... forgive me."
"Yes, he will. He will, Sev."
The wonder that dawned on Snape's face had to be the same one Harry felt. Was Snape thinking the same thing he was, the possibility of something he - they - had never before considered?
"I... I'll try, Lily. I'll go to Hogwarts. Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Lily laughed then, a bright ribbon of mirth that did much to lighten the regret burdening both men's hearts.
"Now, Sev. He's here. He's here right now."
With a smile brighter than the full moon that shone down on her, Lily turned her head and held out a hand.
Dropping the cloak and ignoring the numbing sensation of pins and needles in his feet, Harry stumbled out from behind the tombstone. He stood there with trembling hands that fisted and unfisted at his sides, eyes bright with tears and his heart overflowing with longing.
No longer the Chosen One or the Boy Who Lived, he was just Harry Potter, gazing at the man he now knew he wanted more than anything in the whole world.
Speechless, mouth open in shock, torn between chagrin, uncertainty and hope, Severus rose on unsteady legs without the aid of his cane.
Who moved first? Was it Severus with his arms opening wide in a sudden, unmistakable gesture of both surrender and invitation? Or was it Harry as he lurched forward with a glad cry spilling from his lips?
All they knew was they were finally in each other's arms, lightheaded at the shock of sudden, physical contact and clinging arms and that tight, warm embrace.
"Oh God, Severus!"
With clasped hands and bright eyes, Lily watched her son in her best friend's arms, rejoicing to see their thin faces looking alive and joyful at last. The two men swayed as they embraced, their one witness loathe to disturb them even though the witching hour was almost at its end.
It was Harry who lifted his head first and waited for Severus to do the same. They moved at the same time in perfect tandem, eyelids drifting shut as parted lips met in a heated first kiss.
A first kiss that lasted and lasted until a peal of delighted laughter broke it, and them apart. Blushing in unison, Severus and Harry turned as one to see Lily beaming at them, hands still clasped in front of her.
"Mum," Harry whispered shyly, "I... I think I love him."
Lily smiled at him, her green eyes like stars. "I'm not surprised, my son."
"Lily," Severus said, his voice husky and raw. "I swear I will love your son for the rest of my life."
Lily smiled at him in turn. "That's all I need to know."
With that, Severus turned Harry to him and kissed him again. Neither saw the figure shimmering into being next to Lily, a tall and bespectacled man who placed an arm around her shoulders, his lips twisted in a wry look.
"Snape, Lils? I mean, really?"
Lily leaned against his shoulder, one hand coming up to thread with her husband's.
"Really, James. Trust me."
The church clock began to strike midnight. Breaking their fifth - or sixth - kiss, Severus and Harry turned in time to see the ghostly figures of James and Lily Potter start to fade, their hands lifted in farewell.
"We love you, Harry, and we are proud of you," James smiled at his son. "Teach Snape to love."
Then he turned to his former rival, eyes gleaming in challenge. "Cherish him, Snape."
"Shh, James," Lily admonished. "You know he will."
With his arm around the now smiling Harry's shoulders, Snape returned James' look with a steady and confident gaze. "Indeed I will."
A final wave, and James and Lily faded from view.
Harry sighed as he slipped his arm around Severus' waist, the tightness in his chest a little bittersweet, but so much easier to bear than the stony weight of before.
Smiling, he turned to see Severus looking at him, the dark eyes a little less confident now.
"Will you teach me? To forgive, to forget and to love?"
Harry reached up to kiss him soundly.
"I will, Severus. And I know you'll be a much better student than I ever was at Potions!"
Their laughter rang out in the quiet cemetery, bright and untroubled. Stopping only to pick up Harry's cloak, they left the cemetery hand in hand.
It was time to start a new chapter in their lives, one free of the burdens of the past, one filled with happiness and love.
- Story End -
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