AN: This is my fic from the Snarry Big Bang. Some of you may have already read it on DW, but I'm posting it here with the rest of my stories now that the exclusivity is over. This is a romance Snarry and not anything to do with the current WIP Far Beyond a Promise Kept, which will be updated on its usual schedule. :)
A Match of Wits
Later in the Summer
Their Muggle post was sent to the main post owl office by a Muggle-Wizard liaison, and then was delivered to a small stack of post boxes in the wall by the front of the flat building's door, just past one pm. It was delivered by a stocky post wizard who'd not seen the outside of Diagon Alley on his route in decades, and who preferred delivering after a tipple and bite at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry collected his curious bundle within minutes, navigating down the rickety sloping steps that reminded him of the Burrow. The building he lived at the very top of, Slanted Corner, housed The Knobby Wand pub on the ground floor, four flats above, and, like Harry, was slightly bent.
Harry loved it though, as Ron and Hermione lived below and his flat had the best view of this end of Diagon Alley. It was also a good place to hide out in when he was in a glum mood, as he had been for the past two weeks. It was central and very close to the grocers, and up high enough that Harry could scowl at the happy people in the streets below.
He nudged open his door, wincing as it scraped along the floor that was slightly uneven, and tossed the keys toward the wall to his left. An ornate hook shuddered to life as it reached out to snatch them in mid air. The hallway led to a bright and sunny living area, the cornered windows of the living room allowing shouts and laughter to slip through the small cracks in the crooked frames.
There was a fireplace in the far wall, with chunks of stone facade built up on a slanted angle to the ceiling. Hanging over the fireplace was a framed picture, of a small stone gargoyle facing the setting sun over Hogwarts. His small stony hand was raised, and his clawed talons were holding onto the extended finger of the man crouched next to him.
Thick dark crossbeams of wood intersected the ceiling from the fireplace to the kitchen area, adding character to the flat and providing Harry with a cosy sleeping loft above his galley kitchen. He tossed most of his mail on the long steel workbench that ran under the windows of the north wall, in both the kitchen and living room. On the bench also sat his computer, a plate with two mostly-eaten pears and some dirt smeared on it, and a small fleece-lined cat bed that contained the same gargoyle in the photograph.
"This is either a sign, or I'm seeing things," Harry muttered to himself, holding up a post card advert for a garden centre and inspecting it. He never received advertisements from garden centres, as though there was a greenhouse at the far end of Diagon Alley, there wasn't anything remotely close by on the Muggle side of the wall.
Passing the computer, Harry flicked it on so he could check for any emails over lunch, and look up the garden centre. He didn't have any other plans for the day, though Harry knew he'd have to do some laundry at some point.
Returning with his juice and sandwich, Harry plopped down at the desk part of the workbench and waited until his email had loaded. The best part about living so enclosed in central London was that unlike at Hogwarts, the Ministry had found a way to allow magic and technology to co-exist. Mostly–Harry's computer stubbornly insisted that the year was 2052.
Over by the bookcase Harry's clock stammered over one of the numbers, knocking itself out of synch before the mechanics of the clock managed to push the bent minute hand into the proper position. Harry smiled, recognizing the sound, absentmindedly reaching toward the cat bed and turning it slightly, to keep it in the sun. He was rewarded with a slow grumble, but no other sound.
"Oh Mr Weasley," Harry muttered, opening one of the six new emails he had. "Capslock isn't cruise control for cool."
Harry startled out of his nap from the sounds of loud thumping from below. He was on his stomach on the couch, and grimaced slightly as he gingerly stretched his back. Another three bangs and Harry rose shakily to his feet, scratching his head. Ron and Hermione must be home.
In the kitchen he could hear off-key humming, and looked over to find the cabinets open and a plate of half-eaten cheese on the counter.
"You'll make yourself sick with all that," Harry cautioned. His computer was blinking at him, more email messages, but his reprimand had at least not fallen on deaf ears. Out from behind the cabinet that housed molasses a small stony glare emerged. The ears of the face were uneven and pointed, the eyes a severe blue-grey, and the snout was turned up in disdain.
"I'm not the one that has to clean it."
"Grimace!" Harry warned, coming into the kitchen. The gargoyle hopped out of the cabinet, shaking some spice remnants off his leather wings and muttering as he walked back to the plate, where Harry could now see a small smattering of green moss amongst the cheese.
"Sorry Mister Potter," the gargoyle grumbled. He had a way of saying Mister that it sounded almost like master, and it made Harry's eye twitch. Harry suspected that Grimace enjoyed it. "We're out of moss now."
"I thought you didn't like the stuff I picked up last time?" Harry asked, getting a glass out of the cabinet.
"I was still hungry," Grimace reasoned.
"I'll see if I can find a different type. What are you going to do this evening, then?" Harry asked, opening the jar of molasses for Grimace and using a spell to make it run easier. He needn't have bothered, as Grimace merely speared the bits of cheese with his claws and dipped the pieces into the jar.
Grimace's wings fluttered happily as he ate the molasses cheese chunks, his cragged face twisted into a sort of smile as he did so.
"Ponder the meanings of life," Grimace replied. He was squatting on the counter with a bit of cheese in one paw and a speck of dirt on his face as he managed to eat the small piece of moss he had left without getting molasses everywhere.
Harry was leaning against the counter and gestured with his hand, which was holding a cup of chocolate milk.
"You mean you're going to bother Crookshanks again," Harry said. "You know Hermione won't stand for that."
Grimace had a funny gleam in his eyes, the blue-grey stone almost twinkling. The last time he'd gone after Crookshanks he'd climbed down the eaves trough outside the building to get into their window below.
Leaving Grimace to his dinner, Harry moved to the desk to sort the rest of the post, and see what bills needed to be paid. By the thumping, he knew Ron and Hermione would be up in a bit, and they'd likely go to The Knobby Wand for dinner.
The first thing he saw at the top of the pile was the post card he'd been studying earlier, from a garden centre, in Harrow. He'd meant to research it, but had put it off in a fit of nervous anticipation for a false positive. It had a gob of molasses on it, likely from Grimace, and was advertising a sale on lichens the following day.
"Be-Leaf," Harry read aloud with a roll of his eyes, his finger tapping on the shiny picture of plants on the front of the card. "Worth a shot, I suppose."
It was a smaller shop, in competition with the main Harrow Garden Centre, and one Harry hadn't heard of before. Grimace pretended to be quite picky about the mosses he would eat, and needing something to distract himself with, Harry made it a mission to find Grimace some of the more unusual varieties. This was the first time Grimace had shown any interest in where it came from though.
"All right, I'll go there tomorrow then," Harry stated, writing a small note to Neville, to see if his friend wanted to come along. Grimace was paying him no mind; a large pigeon was hovering about the slanted window in front of his cat bed and Grimace was on the hunt.
Be-Leaf was a tiny little shop off the main alleyway in town. It was overhung with spidery plants hanging from hooks in the ceiling, and had stacks upon stacks of perennials and annuals on carefully rigged display tables. It looked like the kind of shop one would wander into accidentally, and the elderly shop owner at the cash seemed more irritated than happy to see a customer. A small telly was buried somewhere under the papers and box lids on the counter, and Harry could hear an announcer shouting the results of today's footie match.
"Hullo," Harry said, nodding to the gentleman. He received the smallest of disinterested nods in return. Beside Harry, Neville was staring at the giant display of cacti on a rickety shelf. Harry looked around cautiously, as if he was expecting an additional part of the shop to reveal itself magically.
Leading them toward the back of the shop, Harry spotted another, much younger, employee. The man was watering a row of unusual plants, a green working apron tied firmly around his waist. He was standing stiffly, his head turned and slightly tilted upward so that he could listen for Harry's footsteps.
"He'll probably know about moss," Harry muttered, staring at the man's thin back and deliberately making enough noise that the man could judge how close Harry was.
Neville, who'd been inspecting some bright blue plant, stilled.
"Harry, that looks like Snape," Neville hissed, his hand still gently touching the leaf of the plant he'd been looking at.
"Nah, go on," Harry whispered back, his eyes never leaving the man. "You're taking the piss."
Harry approached cautiously, browsing like a normal customer while peering curiously at the employee. He certainly looked familiar, his severe black hair, thin body, and the way he held himself ramrod straight as he listened. The hair had been cut shorter into a fashionable haircut, but Neville was right, he did sort of look like Snape.
Taking a breath to calm himself, Harry straightened his shoulders and opened his mouth to ask about moss. He'd not spotted any, and refused to return home without it as the last time Grimace had gone on a moss-less run, he'd been absolutely impossible to live with.
"Er, sorry, sir?" Harry asked, noticing the man's flinch. "Do you sell any moss?"
The man turned around, hose in his hand, staring hard at Harry. Somewhere behind him, Harry heard Neville fumble the plant pot he was holding and a muttered 'shit, he's alive.'
"Mister…Potter," Snape said, staring at Harry with both a look of irritation and resignation. His fingers were clenched around the hose, his knuckles stained with soil.
Harry stared back, at a loss for words. It certainly sounded like the same grumpy Snape that had taught at Hogwarts, but wearing a dark green shop apron instead of his robes, and holding a Muggle water hose instead of a wand.
"It is you," Harry abruptly said, before shaking his head. "It's good to see you, sir. I'm here for some moss."
"I see," Snape replied, studying Harry. He was holding the hose much like he used to hold his wand when ready to duel, but he then seemed to make up his mind. "I hadn't expected to encounter a student here."
"I don't think any of us could imagine you working in a Muggle shop," Neville bluntly said.
Snape's head snapped to the side as if he'd only just noticed that Neville was there.
"There are potion ingredients to be found here, Mr Longbottom, if you had bothered to pay attention in class."
"I know," Neville immediately corrected, giving Snape a neutral look. "Herbology taught me that, actually."
Harry glanced at Neville, trying to hide his smirk. Neville had certainly grown a backbone in his years at Hogwarts.
Snape cocked his head slightly to the side, giving Neville a suspicious look.
"I don't remember you giving such cheek in class," Snape postulated, studying Neville to see what had changed. He didn't seem to notice the few healing scars on Neville's face from the Carrows and the Final Battle.
"I suppose you could say I've learned to stand up against bullies, sir," Neville deadpanned.
"Well, Hogwarts is bound to teach some lessons not explicitly writ in the plans," said Snape, his tone not quite as vindictive or nasty as it had ever been in class.
"Yeah, bravery came at a bit of a high cost," Harry said, rubbing his forehead. Neville scoffed his agreement, but Snape appeared perplexed at the statement.
"Bravery? What sort of…"
Before Snape could demand an explanation of what Harry had said, the shop owner dropped a box of seed packets at the front of the garden centre. The noise echoed through the small garden centre, making Harry jump, Neville to draw his wand, and Snape to instinctively squeeze the nozzle. Harry was soaked before he could utter a sound.
Snape immediately let go of the nozzle, glancing about the shop to confirm that the noise had been innocuous. Determining that it was just the seed packet box, and not an exploding cauldron, Snape's eyes focused on Harry again, and then he closed them.
"'s there a problem?" The older shop owner asked, squeezing his way past precariously stacked clay pots in the aisles.
Harry discreetly withdrew his wand and cast a drying spell on himself, out of view of the grouchy shop owner. Neville slipped his wand up his sleeve, still ready to cast an obliviate if needed.
"No, no," Harry said, keeping eye contact with Snape. Snape, who had been looking at the owner warily, as if he'd expected to be sacked.
"I was just asking about some moss," Harry lied, casually slipping the wand back into his pocket.
The old man, who had badly scratched spectacles and two old hearing aids on, stared between the three of them, his gaze harder as he sized up Snape.
"Hop to it then, Holdsworth," the man muttered, turning to make his way back to the front.
"Holdsworth?" Harry mouthed, staring quizzically at Snape.
"The moss is this way, sir," Snape said, his tone flat as he swiftly walked away from Harry and Neville to the far section of the shop, which wasn't that far away. His arrogant gait was the same, no matter that his robes were gone in favour of a shop smock that didn't quite have the same twirl effect. This shop had several different types of moss, and Snape stood silently in the aisle as Harry bagged a selection for Grimace to try. It all looked the same to him, but Grimace had mentioned different flavours, so Harry went for some variety.
"When does your shift finish?" Harry quietly asked, though the shop owner was back to watching telly at the front cash, and couldn't hear them. Neville gave Harry a puzzled look at the question, but said nothing.
"When it's finished," Snape answered, swiftly tagging Harry's bags. He seemed to have recovered from seeing his students, and had slipped back into an efficient work mode.
"I meant the time," Harry said, trying not to roll his eyes. "I'd like to treat you to a coffee, if that's okay."
Snape hesitated, just a second longer than what would have been a natural pause.
"Yeah," Harry repeated, taking back the bags. "And a chance to have a regular talk."
"I wasn't aware that I was such a favourite professor of yours," Snape said, his tone light and lacking any of the malice it had in school. Harry fought the urge to smile, and Neville was trying to hide his amusement as well.
"It's half four, do you finish at five?" Harry asked, ignoring Snape's comment. He received the slightest tilt of head at the question, which he took as confirmation.
"There's a little café up the street, I'll be waiting there. Coffee's on me, I promise," Harry said. He gave Snape a little half smile before they walked up to the cash, telling himself not to let Snape's lack of response bother him.
Harry stayed at the café for an hour, sharing coffee with Neville. Neville had stuck around, either to be nice to Harry, or because he was curious to know what had happened to Snape. The moss sat forgotten on the chair next to Harry as they discussed their encounter with the Professor. Neville had instantly picked out Snape's lack of malice, having experienced much of it the year before. He'd also noted that Snape had made no mention of the war, the battle, or being Headmaster.
Harry cradled his mug in his hands as he spoke softly, retelling the five minutes in the Shrieking Shack when he'd watched Snape be attacked by Nagini, and nearly bleed out on the floor. He also explained the panicked sharing of memories, after asking Neville not to share the details.
"They were just…leaking out. He was crying and exhaling memories. Maybe something was damaged, and he messed up his memory of the past year," Harry pondered, staring at the drip mark the coffee spoon had made on the table.
"That'd be interesting, wouldn't it Harry?" Neville joked, with a smile. "Professor Snape, the man who can't remember why he's angry."
Harry laughed, and stole a chocolate biscuit from Neville's plate. Conversation turned to less serious matters, and Harry asked if Neville had any opinions on the varied flavours of moss he'd picked up for Grimace.
At six-thirty, Harry reluctantly admitted that Snape wasn't coming. He slowly rose from his table, fumbling with his bags of moss and trying to look as if a man he'd once hated had not stood him up. Neville didn't look as disappointed, though he suggested that Harry go back to the garden centre the next day. Promising he'd see Harry for dinner later that week, Neville left the café for the apparition point around the corner. Shifting the bags of moss in his hand, Harry decided to go for a small walk before heading home.
Grimace had welcomed Harry home with an irritated scowl, which only abated once Harry had produced the bags of mosses. He'd pigged out on moss and molasses pears and cheese, and passed out in an indecent sprawl in his cat bed. Harry sat at his computer, ignoring his emails and planning when he'd next go back to the garden centre.
"Hmmph," Harry exhaled, sitting back in his chair. He wanted to go back to the gardening centre the next day, to see Snape again and to demand to know why he'd been stood up at the café. But he also wanted to show some self-restraint, and not act like the impulsive teenager he'd been at Hogwarts. It was difficult; as his experience in the war had taught him more to go for things he wanted, as second chances didn't come around all that often in real life.
Next time he wouldn't take Neville with him, though. While Snape had hated Harry at school, Neville had often also been on Snape's radar of ire, and perhaps he was the reason Snape hadn't come to the café.
"I'll go on Thursday," Harry decided, standing up and stretching. In the cat bed, Grimace grunted in his sleep and let out a grumbling snore. Harry stared down at him and shook his head. "Lazy bugger."
The sun was starting to set over the Alley, and casting sharp shadows in the nooks, crannies, and doorways of the shops below. Harry looked down through his slanted windows, watching people scurry about as they collected their last parcels and shopping of the evening. Darkness fell fast in London, the light blocked out by taller buildings and monuments.
Making his way to the kitchen, Harry gathered his ingredients from the fridge for dinner. Lee and George were stopping by later, and there was always the chance that Ron and Hermione would also pop in. He didn't know if it would be in time for dinner, but Harry always made extras. Whether for friends stopping by or just to ensure he had food for later, Harry rarely ever cooked just enough for one.
Under the half opened and watchful eye of Grimace, Harry hummed to himself as he chopped vegetables.
"You like this human," Grimace's low grumbly voice carried across the kitchen, implying that Harry's like was a little stronger than just a like.
Startled, Harry's hand slipped and he sliced his thumb.
"Shit," Harry muttered, holding his hand up. "Where would you get that idea?"
"You created me, Mister Potter," Grimace snidely answered. "I know you."
"You'd almost think you could read my mind, the way you prattle on about it," Harry complained, wiping off the cutting board.
"Hmmph," Grimace snorted. "A feat not so difficult. I am right though, you like him."
Harry didn't need to think to be able to answer honestly.
"Of course I do. He saved my life."
"Hey Harry!" Ron's voice called, as the door was knocked on and opened simultaneously.
"In the kitchen," Harry replied, concentrating as he removed dinner from the oven. The potpie was steaming and Harry's glasses temporarily blinded him. "Watch out for –"
"Fuckin' hell," Ron growled, his feet thumping strongly on the floor. Harry guessed he'd found the trap laid by Grimace.
"Sorry," Harry said, leaning over the counter to check that Ron was all right. "Grimace thought he heard an intruder this morning, so he set a booby-trap."
Ron gave a dark look to the little stone gargoyle, who was standing stock still on the thin mail table by the front door. He looked like a real statue, except sent a vulgar gesture Ron's way as Ron put his dessert down on the counter.
"Brought pie. Mum's garden berries, but I made the pie."
"She still angry that you won the pie contest in the summer?" Harry asked, with a grin.
"Maybe a little," Ron smirked back. "She claims I had an unfair advantage, being a pastry chef."
"You sort of do," Harry agreed. He withdrew his wand and waved it lazily toward the living room, where the coffee table grew steadily into a dining table. "It'd be like me duelling against Lockhart."
"Much easier to just hit him with a rock," Ron said, shaking his head. "Grimace, I can see you moving."
Grimace, who had been steadily creeping along the side table toward Ron, with a guilty look on his face, froze in place again.
"Why does he do that? Hermione and I know he's alive!"
"I don't know," Harry shrugged, picking up the stack of dinner plates. "Here, take these."
Ron took them and helped Harry set the table, righting the knives and forks (which Harry never remembered to place on the correct side).
"And always scowling," Ron continued, glancing at the gargoyle. "He's like Snape that way, always in a grouchy mood and out to get you."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, surveying the table to see what was missing. "Speaking of Snape, I saw him today."
"Did you really?" Ron asked, sitting down on the couch with a grin. "Hermione's holed up dealing with a firecall, so we've got time. What's the old git up to these days?"
"It was really strange," Harry said, watching for Ron's reaction. "It's like he's forgotten that we've been at war the past three years."
"Really?" Ron asked, his eyes narrowed.
"Yeah. It was if I were just another ex-student of his," Harry shrugged, not sure how else to put it. Like it or not, through the promise to his mother, and Voldemort's insistence on Harry being the Chosen One, Harry had been the driving force behind nearly every major action Snape had taken since fourth year.
"Huh," Ron said, taking a moment to ponder that. He relaxed back against the couch, his head on the back as he looked up at the ceiling.
"Maybe that's a good thing. Wouldn't you like to forget some of the stuff we've seen?"
Harry forced his eyes to stay open, anything to not see Nagini attacking Snape in his mind. He knew that Ron was still plagued by nightmares about Bellatrix torturing Hermione, and woke up hearing her screams.
"That, and forget some of the things I've had to do," Harry admitted. "Hopefully this war pardon act will do it."
"Hope so. I reckon even an old bugger like Snape deserves peace after the war, and if he's forgotten, sounds like he's maybe already got it."
Harry smiled, unseen by Ron.
"Yeah, I'd say so. Hopefully the Ministry of Magic will agree."
Ron tipped his head forward and focused on Harry again.
"Who cares what they think?"
"Well, I don't," Harry shrugged. "Not anymore. But I made some enquiries right after the war, you remember. They think he's dead."
"Ah," Ron said, following Harry's concern. "But you've found him now, and he'll be coming back to the wizarding community."
"I'm not going to force him back," Harry said, distractedly looking out the window. "But if he does return, there probably won't be many people happy to see him."
Ron, far more perceptive now than he'd ever been at school, gave a little grin.
"I dunno. You seem a bit happier, and you've been in a right grump for the past few weeks."
Harry rolled his eyes and ignored the barb.
"Can the Ministry do anything if he comes back?"
"They'll probably want to know why he can't remember everything that's happened," Ron shrugged. "But you cleared his name, didn't you?"
"I tried," Harry nodded, listening as light footsteps sounded outside his door.
"We'll ask her tomorrow," Ron declared, knowing as well as Harry that it was Hermione who was about to walk in.
"Yeah. She'll know what's best," Harry agreed.
Harry went back to the shop two days later, just before one in the afternoon. He took the chance that Snape's lunch break would be over by then, and smiled to himself as he saw the familiar looking young worker in the back. Snape's shorter hair still threw him off, but it was slowly growing on Harry as a good look.
Harry carefully made his way to the back, browsing at plants that he didn't particularly care about so as if not to seem like he was making a beeline for Snape. He was keeping a very clear line of sight on Snape, and noticed the slight twisting of the man's head so that he could track Harry's progress.
"'Scuse me, sir?" Harry asked, fully aware that Snape knew it was him.
"Mr Potter," Snape said, his voice gravelly and flat. He didn't turn to look at Harry, but instead continued to prune back whatever flowers he was working on. "More moss today?"
"Er, yeah. But also coffee, and maybe a pastry or two," Harry responded.
Snape's shoulders, which were tense and locked up around his neck, dropped a fraction.
"Where is Mr Longbottom?"
"I don't know. I didn't ask him to come," Harry answered. Snape gave a small nod at that and stuck the pruning shears in his apron pocket.
"Moss," he said, turning and walking toward the lichen section, and expecting Harry to follow.
"If you're using these to brew," Snape said, reaching under the table. "The moss you purchased last time was inadequate for any potion beyond a first year's level."
"I bought them more for taste," Harry distractedly answered, watching Snape drag a small box out from under the display table. He barely caught the disgusted look Snape gave him.
"Here," Snape said, pushing the box at Harry's chest. It was filled with bright green moss, little starbursts of green sprouts. "Hair cap moss, the most widely used moss in brewing."
"Thank you," Harry said, taking the box from Snape.
After a moment he quietly gave Harry an order.
"Five-thirty, Adie Café on Winder Lane."
Harry knew that there'd be no negotiating and no other offers. He shifted the box of moss in his hand and nodded.
"See you then."
Harry chose hot chocolate instead of tea or coffee, because it stayed warmer longer and some small part of him was afraid Snape wouldn't show up once again. He checked on the small petrified gargoyle in his pocket, smirking at the death glare Grimace was frozen in. Harry would have felt bad, but Grimace had insisted on coming along, and though frozen, Harry knew he'd eavesdrop on the conversation.
Adie Café was run by three witches and mostly hidden away from view, but the charms hadn't been renewed regularly and once in a while a Muggle paused in curiosity at its projected empty windows.
Harry raked his fingers through his hair again, pulling the stray strands to the side in some sort of order. He gave a quick glance to his watch, noting that it was still early.
"Here he comes," Harry murmured, dropping Grimace back into his jacket pocket. Snape walked into the café, quickly scanning the room to categorize exactly who was in there. Seemingly satisfied with the crowd, Snape weaved effortlessly through the crowded café to Harry's table.
He was wearing black trousers, a dark shirt, and a black Muggle dress jacket. The style was cut similarly to his Hogwarts suit jacket, but was far more modern. Coupled with his shorter hair and plain blue scarf, he looked as young as he'd been when Harry had first started at school.
"Hullo," Harry greeted, leaning back in his seat and spreading his legs slightly under the table, as he looked Snape up and down. Harry didn't know whether it was the hair or the change of clothes, but his cock was appreciating the view.
"What are you staring at, Mr Potter?" Snape quietly asked, turning his chair so that he could see the front door of the café. Before Harry could figure out an answer that wouldn't anger Snape, a cheery young witch appeared to take Snape's order.
"Just glad you came," Harry answered, grateful for the reprieve.
"I may have been remiss by skipping our earlier appointment," Snape grumbled, staring out the window of the café. Harry couldn't see who he was looking at though, as many people were walking quickly by on the street. The waitress came back quickly with Snape's plain coffee, and had barely turned away before Snape had cast a disillusionment spell over their table.
"What changed your mind?" Harry asked, curious and yet somewhat hesitant to know Snape's answer.
"I read the Daily Prophetfront to back yesterday," Snape replied, his eyes rolling as if this was some sort of blasphemous activity. "And was extremely surprised to find a photo of Mr Malfoy and Mr Finnegan together."
"Oh, that," Harry said, a smile on his face. "They've been a couple for a few months now. Malfoy likes shiny things, and Seamus likes to blow things up, so it seems to work."
"I see," Snape replied, his lips pressed together as if he did not want to know any further details of the strange coupling. "None of you take issue with this?"
"No," Harry said, giving Snape an unyielding look. "Why should we? After all we've lost, seems rather stupid to stay apart over house loyalties."
Snape had nothing to say to that, and a not-quite-uncomfortable silence descended upon the table. The waitress came to offer a menu, and Harry took one in the interest of having something to fiddle with.
"Not working today, Mr Potter?" Snape then asked, his hands encircling the hot mug; but not touching it.
"I haven't started looking for a job yet," Harry replied. "What do you remember about me?"
Harry casually stirred his drink, remixing the chocolate that had sunk to the bottom of the mug. Snape didn't need much time to answer.
"Mediocre student in potions, but you were much better when left alone to read instructions. You were on the quidditch team, a skilled seeker, despite your horrid eyesight. You were prone to waltzing about the castle past curfew," Snape dryly commented.
"I've never waltzed," Harry said, a small smile escaping. "Do you remember teaching me legilimency?"
Snape didn't answer him right away, instead checking out the windows again. Harry looked himself, following Snape's gaze. He thought he saw someone familiar, but then the door to the café opened and a crowd obscured it.
"No," Snape finally answered, turning to stare back at Harry. For thirty horrible seconds Harry expected the stabbing pain of a legilimency breach.
It never came, and Harry relaxed to take a sip of hot chocolate.
"What did you decide…"
"Severus Snape?" Pomona Sprout's voice was quieter than Harry had ever heard it before. He was accustomed to her strong commanding tone in the classroom, and tried to hide his annoyance at being interrupted.
Snape stiffened in his seat, and looked about with irritation.
"Severus, you're alive," Sprout continued, her hand touching his shoulder as if to check that he was really there.
"Of course I'm alive. I'd hardly be drinking coffee if I wasn't," Snape said, his confused tone only slightly masked by his exasperation.
"Well," Sprout huffed, caught by his sarcastic response. "We had all worried, after what poor Harry had told us in the battle."
She stepped backward, and looked around for a free seat.
Snape took a calm drink of his coffee, staring between the two of them before sharing his next thought.
"What 'poor Harry' told you in the battle? What, exactly, did he tell you? There hasn't been a battle since this boy was still in nappies."
Magical store or not, everyone stared when Sprout dropped a bag of startled mandrake pods and a round of wailing baby mandrakes echoed in the café.
Harry summoned a chair to their table for Sprout, and calmly spoke to Snape.
"Voldemort came back. We've just been through a second world war," Harry said. He watched as a few expressions passed over the man's face, before finally a curious confusion settled.
"You are very much mistaken," Snape snapped. "With my past rol – I would remember that."
"You played a huge part in it," Sprout commented. "Deep within the –"
Harry held up his hand, interrupting Professor Sprout. Snape was looking angry now, as if he was being accused of something that he hadn't done.
"Wait, wait. If he really can't remember, we shouldn't dump it all on him at once," Harry said, a slight pleading in his voice.
Sprout appeared very troubled, and was giving looks of pity toward Snape. He appeared to want nothing of it.
"Yes, I suppose you're right."
"Are you now going to argue over who knew me best?" Snape sarcastically asked, clutching his cup tightly.
"I've been teaching with you for nearly twenty years," Sprout immediately said, as if it were a stupid question to even consider.
"I hated you," Harry bluntly answered. "But I think you're the bravest man alive."
Snape's eyes snapped up at that and he seemed to be searching Harry for any hint of sarcasm or insincerity. Finding none, he gave a small nod.
"Potter then. A student with hatred will not hesitate to tell me the truth."
Sprout didn't appear to know whether to be insulted or feel complimented.
"What do you think happened in the past year, Severus?" Sprout asked, waving over a waitress so she could order a flavoured tea.
"I needn't think, Pomona. The memory of being made redundant is rather fresh in my mind, and an insult after teaching at Hogwarts for seventeen years," Snape grouchily said.
Harry, listening carefully and remembering Snape's fleeing form into the night from Hogwarts, gave a considering nod.
"I think it was more you deserting the post, actually," he commented.
"Don't be absurd," Snape immediately countered. "I have never once abandoned my duties."
Sprout gave him a fond look, before digging through her purse at the table. Harry thought it must have had the same sort of space-enhancing charms on it that Hermione used, as Sprout seemed to be shuffling through quite a lot of things. She finally pulled out a photograph, which still looked brand new despite the rough lodgings it had.
Harry was able to glance closely enough to see that it was of the three heads of house for Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff, standing together in the Great Hall on the morning after the battle. Rubble was piled around them, half of the wall was missing (and had sunlight pouring through the blast hole), and the dirty and slightly wounded students, staff, and parents all milled around behind Flitwick, McGonagall, and Sprout.
"What sorcery is this," Snape whispered, his face pale as he studied the picture. Harry understood the feeling – Hogwarts was his home and it hurt to see the place he loved so destroyed.
"That was taken when we won, Severus," Sprout gently said.
"I think I'll get us some stronger coffees," Harry added.
An unholy racket woke Harry early the next morning, and he blearily sat up in bed.
"The hell?" Harry mumbled, blinking fast. It took him two minutes to disentangle himself from his bed sheets, and make his way into the living room. Passing the clock in the hallway, Harry noticed that it was just past seven thirty.
He paused at the end of the hall, surveying the damage in the room. One pillow from the couch had a slash in it, and some feathers had escaped to flutter about the room. Four picture frames that had been on the bookcase had been knocked over, and a (thankfully unlit) candle had been half shoved under the living room throw rug. The kitchen looked like it had suffered a battle, and there were clumps of gardening dirt all over the countertops. The bag of moss Harry had brought home the day before was completely empty, and a jar of molasses had been tipped over by the stove. Two chunks of cheese had been left out by the open fridge door.
Grimace, who normally was not awake at this hour, was standing on the edge of the counter, completely focused on the rolled newspaper clutched in the hands of a bored looking barn owl. Grimace was puffed out, and had his wings completely spread, in an attempt to look intimidating. The owl merely looked like it wanted to be rid of the paper and be off.
"What have you done?" Harry asked, gobsmacked. He made no move to enter the kitchen, which was just as well as Grimace showed zero signs of having heard him.
"It is in the paper," Grimace cryptically said, extending his claws toward the owl. The owl was having none of it though, and having spotted Harry, gracefully flew toward him and dropped the Prophetin one swoop. Grimace attempted to thwart its exit, but he'd never really practiced flying with his wings, and thus he dropped like a brick seconds after jumping off the counter.
The front door clicked open, and Harry realised that both Ron and Hermione had likely been woken by the noise as well.
"Well I'm glad you're all right," Hermione said, still wearing her house robe as she walked up to stand beside Harry.
Grimace pulled himself up from the floor, his fist full of just-discovered moss as he shook it at the window the owl had flown out of.
"Next time," Grimace promised, already focused on the moss.
"Yeah, I'm all right. I'm not the one hell bent on attacking an owl," Harry answered. He flicked his wand toward the kettle, figuring if Hermione was up, she'd likely stay for tea.
"He's never done that before?" she asked, helping him right the two kitchen bar stools.
"Not an owl," Harry said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, he went after Crookshanks again yesterday, didn't he?"
"He tried," she answered. "So cats bother him, owls bother him…"
"Just the one," Harry muttered, getting out the teapot. Grimace had gone back to his cat bed, and was angling it for the proper sun exposure.
"But he's also broken two hour glasses, tried to eat three snitches, set off a decoy detonator in my bathroom, and insists on inspecting any post I get."
"Well, he's certainly lively," Hermione said, casting a look in Grimace's direction.
"It's like having a drunk midget in your home. I mean, like an absolute lush on a three year bender," Harry protested.
Hermione stared at him, and she looked torn between whether to laugh or give Harry a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. Or both.
"Well," she finally said, surveying the destruction in the kitchen. "You did create him."
"At least he woke you up early enough to have a productive day," Hermione offered, trying to make light of the situation.
"Just because I don't have a job, doesn't mean I'm not productive," Harry parroted, opening the paper. He scanned the headlines slowly, rotating the page to read them all and find what had irritated Grimace. It didn't take long – there above the fold and swirling slightly, was the headline 'LAST WEEK TO APPLY FOR WAR PARDONS'.
"You did yours already, right?" Harry asked, pouring tea into the pot. Hermione glanced at the paper and nodded.
"As soon as the applications came out."
"I wasn't that fast, but mine's done," Harry said, with a smile. "I think I needed the pardon more than a lot of people."
The war pardon programme had come into effect not long after the final battle, during which witches and wizards could apply for a pardon for actions taken during the war. A small investigation was made, and most of the time, pardons were granted. Kingsley had placed Arthur Weasley, Bill Weasley, Ernie Macmillan, and Michael Corner at the forefront of the investigative committee, and so far the programme had run rather smoothly.
"Has Professor Snape submitted his?" Hermione asked, putting her hands down on the counter.
"No," Harry answered, pulling out two mugs. "I saw him again yesterday, and Professor Sprout ran into us at the café. She talked to him for a bit, and we both realised that he doesn't remember the war."
"At all?" she asked, startled. "You said he didn't remember Neville's part in Dumbledore's Army…"
"Any of it," Harry interrupted. "It's why he's been so, well not exactly nice, but tolerant."
Harry filled the two mugs from the teapot, grateful that he was facing the wall and therefore Hermione couldn't see the small smirk on his face. There'd not been many times Harry had witnessed her speechless, but he was most certainly counting this one.
"Is it from spell damage?" she finally asked, moving to the fridge to fetch milk. "I've never heard of that, but maybe someone obliviated him?"
"Obliviated the whole war? That'd take quite a bit of skill, wouldn't it?" Harry said, remembering that out of the three, Hermione was the only one that could cast a flawless obliviate.
"I suppose…" she pondered, accepting the hot mug from Harry. "What does he remember?"
"He thinks he's just been teaching potions for the last sixteen years. And that he was made redundant from Hogwarts in the spring, though he hasn't told me the reason."
"Nothing of the Death Eaters? Or the Order, or of Dumble –"
"Nothing," Harry firmly said.
They sat in peaceful silence for a few minutes, as Hermione contemplated the problem, and Harry watched out the window as clouds formed over Diagon Alley.
"How are we going to help him?" Hermione finally asked, quietly stirring her tea.
"We?" Harry asked, hoping that there wasn't any colour on his face. He'd expected much more of an argument, but then, part of him had known that Hermione wouldn't have hesitated.
"Of course, we," she answered, giving no justification to her reasoning, but cementing it all the same. "Ron's going to the Ministry today to have lunch with Mr Weasley, so he can bring back the pardon forms."
"Do you think he really needs them? I mean, if he can't remember what happened," Harry reasoned, feeling a warmth in his chest that had little to do with the tea he was drinking.
"Harry," Hermione said, shaking her head. "It's the Ministry of Magic. Even if Kingsley's in charge, it's still the Ministry. And Snape likely has a lot in his past to be pardoned for. It's better to have it and not need it, than not."
"I suppose so. Maybe once it gets out that he's alive, people will be sorry for him," Harry said, watching birds fly close to the window Grimace was sleeping in front of.
"Sorry for him?"
"Well, because he can't remember. I mean, if it was spell damage, that's bad, isn't it?" Harry mumbled.
"Yes. But even if he doesn't remember, a lot of people won't forget that he was Headmaster when Voldemort was in charge," Hermione reasoned. Before Harry could utter an objection, she spoke again.
"They also likely won't ever forget that wonderful speech in his favour that you gave during the battle in the Great Hall."
She had a smirk on her face and Harry resisted the urge to shove her shoulder a little.
"Thanks," Harry said.
Somehow, Hermione knew he was referring to her and Ron's help, and not the teasing.
"I've got a few books on healing downstairs, and one on curse damage. We'll find out what happened," she said, the determined researcher coming out in her tone.
"You will, you mean," Harry corrected, a sly smile on his face. "I don't know why you don't just open your own library."
She flustered a little, with the embarrassed and pleased look she had when someone complimented her.
"Because I'd likely hex anyone mistreating the books," Hermione admitted.
Harry laughed, loudly enough to disturb Grimace's sleep.
"Speaking of hexing, can you remember Snape ever using an Unforgivable? Even when we thought he was a full Death Eater?"
Hermione paused, her hand and the carton of milk hovering by the open fridge door.
"No, I can't," Hermione said, moments later.
"Right," Harry said, pleased with Hermione's thoughtful look. "I only know of him using one, once, and Dumbledore demanded it of him."
"You're right," Hermione slowly answered. "But you know how the public is…"
"They'll think he's the spawn of Voldemort, I know," Harry said, with a sigh. "He wants me to re-teach him everything he's forgotten."
"That sounds like Snape," Hermione shrugged. "Face the enemy with as much information as possible."
Harry opened the cabinet behind him and searched through the tins of soup to find a box of biscuits he knew he'd bought recently.
"Ah," Harry triumphantly said, pulling out the box. They were plain tea biscuits, ordinary to most, but his favourites. "Do you really think it's wise for me to tell him everything? At one point he's going to end up hexing me."
The biscuits made a small noise as they were dropped onto a small plate, and over by the window Grimace's ear twitched.
"Well, you always have Grimace to protect you," Hermione replied, smiling into her tea mug.
"He's more of a liability than a protector," Harry mused, absentmindedly dipping a biscuit into his tea.
"Maybe you're just getting used to him. You've only had him what, three weeks?" Hermione asked, looking over at Grimace.
"About that," Harry confirmed. Grimace let out a contented sigh and went to sleep in his cat bed, looking cute and innocent. "But there's not much to get used to. He's a stone carving."
"Are you sure? You've been moping about for a fortnight, Harry. He's not keeping you awake at all hours?"
"I have not been," Harry denied. "And no. He sleeps more than Scabbers used to."
"Even Ron's noticed," Hermione strongly continued, ignoring Harry's comment about Pettigrew. "And he noticed that last Tuesday you stopped looking like someone kicked….oh Harry."
Harry paused with his mug half way up to his mouth.
But Hermione wasn't listening; she'd slipped off the barstool and walked over to the pillar wall that supported the loft above the kitchen.
"Oh Harry what?" Harry asked again.
Hermione's finger traced along the calendar weeks.
"You're happier, now that Snape's been found."
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair and picked up another biscuit.
"I don't know if I'm happier," Harry slowly clarified. "I just didn't feel right, not getting everything sorted for him after the battle."
Hermione sat back down on the kitchen barstool with a thoughtful look on her face. Harry waited tensely, imagining her going to comment on him having a saving people thing, or his fascination with the Half Blood Prince, or him wanting to know more about his mother through Snape. Instead, she gave him a soft smile and it made him slightly more suspicious.
"I'll bet he looks a bit younger now," she said, catching Harry off guard. "Maybe not scowling or worried as much."
"Yeah," Harry slowly agreed, relaxing back onto the barstool. "He's cut his hair a bit shorter too."
Harry apparated directly to Spinner's End later that morning, stumbling slightly at the chipped concrete block of Snape's front step. It was still early in the day, but the sun was already warming up the air, and out of the corner of Harry's eye, he spotted one of Snape's neighbours spying at him through their front window.
"I know you're home," Harry muttered, knocking again on the door. Snape finally opened it and grunted a hello to Harry.
"This won't be a long visit," Snape said, giving a suspicious look to the sleepy street as Harry passed into the living room of the house.
"Oh? You've remembered everything?" Harry crossly asked, plopping himself down on the chesterfield. Snape had several different books on legilimency, occlumency, and memories, on the coffee table. "Sorry," Harry muttered, rubbing his one foot against the other.
"I believe I am being watched," Snape answered instead, summoning a crumpled bit of parchment from the small kitchen table. He handed it over to Harry and sat down in his tattered 1970's armchair and watched as Harry read the letter.
"A personal and exclusive interview to reassure the wizarding community of your loyalties?" Harry muttered to himself. The letter was from Rita Skeeter, advising Snape about the article that would appear in the Daily Prophetlater that week, and giving him the option to add to it. "Is this a threat?"
"Thinly veiled," Snape answered. He tossed the envelope Skeeter's letter had arrived in on the coffee table, and Harry saw that Snape's full address had been written out, even though it had been delivered by owl.
"And she knows exactly where you live," Harry continued. "And likely also that you can't remember the war."
Snape said nothing, but he inclined his head slightly in agreement.
"Well, that leaves you rather vulnerable," Harry said, putting the paper down. Snape gave him a raised eyebrow look.
"I am a grown wizard, Mr Potter. I assure you that I know how to protect myself against a group of vengeful students."
"It's not the students I'm worried about," Harry countered, remembering that quite a few Death Eaters had fled from Hogwarts during the final battle. "Have you seen anyone around the house?"
"A few people," Snape nonchalantly answered. "I only have water or coffee to offer."
"Neither, thanks. I'm a bit more concerned about your safety," Harry said, trying to not appear as worried as he felt.
"This is my only home, Potter," Snape said, waving his arm around the small book-covered room. "Memory issues or not, I haven't another to take shelter in."
"Live with me," Harry blurted. "I've a loft guest room, and it would make re-learning your memories easier."
"I don't believe that would be a good idea," Snape said, with a pointed look.
"No," Harry sighed. "I mean it as a serious offer. Just roommates."
"And the rumours would fly," Snape scoffed. "I didn't realise you hadn't learned this, Mr Potter. Even in the wizarding world, two men living together isn't just two men living together."
Harry had a few arguments for that, namely that they could easily excuse the move with Snape's reported memory loss.
"Is it going to bother you that much?" Harry asked, somehow conveying another question along with it.
Snape studied him for a moment before giving his simple answer. "No."
"Then we'll do that, then," Harry decided, trying to quieten the happy feeling inside. "You won't be stalked by vengeful Death Eaters, and maybe being seen with me will help ease your way back into the wizarding community."
"Ease my way? Are you saying I'm not liked?" Snape asked, a completely innocent look on his face.
Harry triple checked to make sure his living room was properly set up for tonight's meeting. Hermione had started a 'stitch and bitch' group, which Harry had finally worked out to be some sort of social knitting and gossiping club. He still wasn't exactly sure why he was part of it, but once a month, Hermione, Ginny, Cho, and Luna showed up to sit and chat with him for a few hours while they knitted house elf clothing.
So far, Harry figured his contribution to the group was the meeting place, and the model to test the clothes on. Harry, who'd refused to get a job directly after the war, had spent some of his time wandering about the Ministry of Magic during its renovations, and found the small house elf figure from the Fountain of Magical Brethren. Most of the fountain had been destroyed at the end of his fifth year, but by a stroke of luck, the dark wizards who'd replaced it with the Magic is Might atrocity had simply wrapped up the elf figure and tossed it in a storage hall. A new statue was standing proudly in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic, and no one had noticed Harry removing the house elf figure.
Checking the time, Harry poked Grimace awake and warned him that he only had fifteen minutes for a snack before the group arrived. Grimace gave an ugly yawn, and wandered into the kitchen with no small amount of grumbling.
"You could eat while they're here, you know," Harry said, putting several pairs of scissors on the coffee table. "I've told them you're alive."
There was no reply, as Harry expected. Grimace never explained why, and Harry didn't think it was due to shyness, but he never revealed himself as a living thing to anyone other than Ron and Hermione. Even they had only been by accident, as a drunken cooking incident had led to Harry nearly burning half his arm, which Grimace had shielded him from.
True to his form, Grimace parked himself on the fireplace mantel, hunkered down into his classic grouchy pose, and stilled perfectly. He had a low scowl on his face, and it didn't fade as Hermione knocked on the door and entered.
"Hi Harry," Hermione called, dumping her bag of knitting supplies on the couch.
"Be out in a moment!" Harry called.
"Hello Grimace," Hermione said, winking at the stony statue. She turned to walk to the kitchen, and just missed Grimace sticking his tongue out at her. The rest of the group arrived shortly after, and before long, Harry found himself sitting in his slightly crackling leather wingback chair, with his friends on the chesterfield, floor, and kitchen stool. Conversation was flowing, and while Harry was content to just listen, he knew he'd be the focus sooner or later. Sooner, as it turned out, rather than later.
"How are things going with Snape, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Complicated," Harry sighed, sinking further into his chair. Ginny, Cho, and Luna were listening intently, their fingers flying through the yarn by memory.
"He still doesn't remember anything of the war, nor how much he used to hate me."
"That's good, isn't it?" Ginny asked, with a smirk on her face. "Better that than how much he used to hate you."
"No, well…imagine how much he'll loathe me when he does remember," Harry said, nervously fidgeting in his chair. "He's already a bit paranoid because he's realised that something's happened to his memory, and he gets overwhelmed when I start to tell him more and more what happened when Voldemort returned."
"Do you know what's caused it?" Cho softly asked.
"We thought at first it was a curse," Hermione answered immediately, slipping into her research mode. "Professor Snape knew a lot of secrets in the war, and it would make sense that someone would want to silence him."
Harry scratched the side of his arm, where someone had kicked a bit of moss off the mantel and hit him with it.
"I don't think it was malicious," Harry said. He was focusing out the window, but knew he had the attention of everyone. "When he was dying he did his best to give me the memories he thought I needed. I think that somehow messed up the rest of them."
"Harry, I thought we'd crossed off that idea. He's the best legilimens alive…"
"He was dying, Hermione," Harry interrupted. "He was probably panicked and when he gave his memories to me, maybe something went wrong."
She didn't have anything else to say, and Harry felt slightly bad for interrupting, but he knew that Snape's legilimency skills were in top form unless the man lost his temper like in fifth year. Or had been bitten by a giant snake.
"Does he still want you to help him?" Luna asked. "I think you two are best suited for it, considering."
"He…does," Harry said, a slight hesitation in his voice. "He's actually coming to stay here tomorrow. In the loft."
Harry pointed up to the loft above the kitchen, where a few of his friends had crashed after a night of too much firewhiskey.
"Is he?" Cho asked, unrolling more of her yarn. "Is that such a good idea, Harry?"
"I'm not sure if two stubborn men are compatible enough to be roommates," Luna commented, picking at a knot she had with her wand.
Hermione looked like she was trying not to smile too much.
"It's for his safety, actually," Harry clarified. "Someone's told Rita Skeeter that he was alive and can't remember the war, and he's apparently had some people sneaking about at his house."
"It wasn't Neville," Ginny immediately said. "He hasn't spoken much abo – "
"I know it wasn't," Harry said, giving a small smile. "We think someone overheard at the café, when Professor Sprout was there."
"Or Professor Sprout," Cho said, but it was obvious she didn't believe it herself.
"It doesn't matter, anyway. The news is out, and he won't really be safe until he has all his memories back and knows what he's up against," Harry shrugged.
"I'm more worried about your safety, having Professor Snape in such close quarters with you," Ginny said, not even bothering to hide her amusement. "Ron's told you that you talk in your sleep, right?"
"I what?" Harry muttered, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"You really do," Hermione confirmed. "Usually in Parseltongue. But if Snape's in the loft, he won't hear it."
"Er, that's good?" Harry asked, feeling his face flush slightly.
"Well sure, Parseltongue might bring back some very bad memories," said Luna. "You Know Who spoke in it regularly at Malfoy Manor."
"I'd not thought of that," Harry said. Hermione had her shrewd academic expression on as well, and Harry wondered if she was thinking of a Parseltongue experiment.
"He won't be staying forever though, will he Harry? Otherwise you won't be able to bring anyone home," Cho said, giving him a wink.
"I can't right now anyway," Harry muttered. "Ever since the Daily Prophetouted me, they've been doing their damndest to catch me with anyone."
"Professor Snape should be able to scare them off for you," Ginny chirped. "The Daily Prophet, I mean. It's only fair that The Boy Who Lived has his privacy."
"Right," Harry coughed, gathering up the tea mugs to take back to the kitchen. "You lot can all go get stuffed."
"That's what we're trying to help you with!" called Ginny, her voice louder than the water splashing into the kettle.
"I don't need your help!" Harry answered back. "I'm perfectly fine on my own for now."
"Found that personal shop in the Muggle district, did you?" Hermione asked, tossing a small pom-pom ball at Grimace. He didn't move to catch it, but gave her a strong glare.
"Hermione," Harry warned, leaning over the counter. "I haven't any idea what you're talking about."
"He's lying, isn't he, Grimace?" Ginny asked, giving the small gargoyle a wink.
"Grimace doesn't talk," Harry triumphantly said, plopping back down into his seat.
"He most certainly does," Hermione scoffed. "He caterwauls in the washroom and we can hear it in ours."
"Does Snape know you're queer, Harry?" Luna asked, holding up her creation. She'd made a cosy house elf jumper, with turnips on it.
"Maybe," Harry shrugged. "I haven't outright told him, but he's pretty good at reading body language, so he'll probably figure it out."
"You should tell him," Hermione said, shaking her head.
"He likely already knows, Hermione," Harry said. "He might not remember the war, but he's still suspicious of people and tries to study them. He almost acts as if the war could start up again at any moment."
"We all act that way, Harry," Cho said. "We will always be a little bit affected by our experiences in the wizarding war."
Harry didn't answer, because he was trying to think if he had any habits left over from his experiences. Nothing that wasn't outside the realm of being just cautious.
"Well, not always," Harry argued. "Luna, you're still as happy and optimistic as ever, and Ginny, you're moving to Holyhead soon for the quidditch season."
"I won't ride the train anymore," Luna admitted softly.
"Neville and I have emergency supplies hidden in a few places," Ginny said with a shrug, as if it were normal.
"Ron won't allow any small daggers into the house. And you have Grimace," Hermione softly said.
"Grimace isn't for protection," Harry denied. "I wanted to see if I could make a gargoyle, as a hobby."
Cho, and the rest of them, ignored his protests.
"Perhaps Snape remembers being an overly cautious person. He wasn't popular on either side, so it's probably just habit now, even if he can't remember the war." Cho said.
"No, he wasn't popular, but he'll work himself to an early grave if he thinks every shadow is out to get him," Harry countered.
"Well," Hermione started, and Harry knew from the look on her face that he wasn't going to like what she was going to say.
"Now you have someone to do your saving people thing with."
Snape's moving in was extremely uneventful. He showed up at The Knobby Wand at seven am on a Tuesday morning, irritated the doorknocker into telling him where the flat doors were, and went upstairs. Harry answered the door in his pyjamas and without a shirt, and with only one sock on.
"What a superb greeting," Snape dryly said, handing Harry his small trunk.
"I didn't sleep well," Harry said, yawning as he made his way to the kitchen. Snape eyed the flat with unhidden curiosity as he followed, inspecting the books on the small table behind the couch, looking at the photograph over the mantel, and glancing at Grimace in the cat bed. Grimace was sleeping with one wing extended, one foot in the air, his arm covering his eyes, and was snoring softly.
"Does he mimic his master?" Snape asked, pulling a bar stool out from the kitchen counter.
"Hah, he doesn't mimic anyone," Harry said, pouring two cups of hot coffee. "Paper'll come in a bit, if you want it."
Snape nodded in thanks and accepted the cup of coffee from Harry.
"Your friends are unperturbed by their former professor staying with you?" Snape asked, watching Harry splash some milk into his mug.
"Oh, they had questions," Harry answered, closing the fridge door and smiling. "But that's because they remember exactly what you were like."
"I suppose we should work on that today," Snape said.
"I'll let you unpack and relax a bit," Harry shrugged. "Tomorrow we'll go to the Ministry of Magic, and fill out a pardon application."
"That will be fine," Snape said, sipping his coffee. Harry flipped through the recipe book that had a permanent home on his kitchen counter, finally settling on a roasted chicken kebab recipe. He started to hum as he took stock of the cabinets to see if he needed to shop, before freezing.
"Oh, ah," Harry said, turning sheepishly to look at Snape. "I suppose I should warn you that some of my friends might stop by for dinner tonight. They usually do."
Snape raised his eyebrow, before putting his mug down on the counter and standing up.
"Checking in on you? Or on me?"
"Neither," Harry answered, scribbling something on a note pad. Over by the window Grimace let out an undignified snort in his sleep. "I don't like cooking just for myself, so they come for the leftovers."
Snape nodded at that, but didn't question Harry's statement.
"I shall unpack now, then," Snape amicably said. "I dislike living from a bag." He set a spell for his small trunk to follow him, and started up the metal spiral stairs to the loft above the kitchen.
"They'll be nice, I promise!" Harry called, turning back to his recipe. He had a smile on his face as he planned out dinner, as he was quite certain that before he'd turned to speak, Snape had been checking out his arse.
The only thing that surprised Harry about his friends showing up for dinner was that they all dressed up. Not Yule-Ball fancy, but both Neville and Ron were wearing ties, and Hermione and Ginny were in skirts.
"Visitors; what a lovely surprise," Harry said, flipping a tea towel over his shoulder as he opened the front door. Ron at least looked guilty for imposing.
"We brought you wine, Harry," Ginny said, holding out a bottle of something Harry didn't recognise.
"And treacle," Ron added, nodding to a tea towel-wrapped bundle in Hermione's arms. Harry smiled and walked back down to the kitchen, where dinner was almost ready. Ron's treacle tart was something to be celebrated, and he had anticipated the invasion anyway.
"So where's Snape?" Ron asked, having dumped his shoes at the door. Harry's flat was like a second home to Ron, and he helped himself to a drink.
"Upstairs, in the loft," Harry answered, tasting the sauce he'd almost finished with.
"All settled in?" Ginny asked, eyes raised to the open space above the kitchen as she fetched wine glasses.
"I think so," Harry answered. "He'll be down for supper in a bit, and you can ask him."
"That garden centre he works for is actually quite good," Neville said, inspecting the plants on the windowsill by Harry's computer. Harry could keep them alive long enough between visits, when Neville would boost them back to health.
"Is it?" Harry asked, his spoon skipping out of rhythm in the saucepan. "He's taken a leave of absence from there, until we get his memories sorted."
"That's understandable," Hermione commented. She was stretched out on the couch, relaxing after a long day's work at the Ministry.
"And safest," Harry added. He caught the shrewd look Ginny passed Hermione, but didn't comment on it.
Dinner was served in short order, and everyone had been polite when Snape had come downstairs, dressed in casual Muggle business clothes. Conversation had stayed mostly to daily work issues; Hermione's thoughts on the bias of the Ministry's laws, Ron's promotion at the bakery in Diagon Alley, and Ginny's internship at St Mungo's. Snape asked general and rather bland questions, quite obviously inviting his former students to volunteer as much information as possible. He didn't once mention Hermione's unwavering quest for answers and information within the Ministry's departments, Ron's less than comparable intelligence to Hermione's, Ginny's somewhat combative stubbornness, nor the fact that Neville was a permanent menace in his potions classes. Snape acted like a proper ex-professor, eating a meal with fairly unremarkable students that he barely remembered. And once he was finished and talk moved to more friendly conversations, he excused himself and went down the hall, toward Harry's washroom and the water-jet massage bathtub he had.
"All right," Harry said, listening for the washroom door to close. "I'm kicking you lot out in twenty. It's his first night here and I'm sure he'll want quiet."
"Yes sir," Ron joked, lifting his wand to help clean up.
"I think he trusts you," Hermione said, sitting back from the table as the plates, cups, and cutlery all floated back to the kitchen. "Even if he doesn't remember you fully, I think he knows you'll keep him safe."
"I don't…," Harry said, puzzled.
"You're a protector," Ginny explained. "You like to protect your friends, and Snape's realised that."
"Even if it means stunning them," Neville added, looking mock insulted.
"That was Hermione," Harry immediately countered, a sheepish grin on his face. "Not my idea at all."
"Hermione's still scary," Ron stage whispered to Neville, earning himself a smack.
"What I was trying to say," Hermione stated, ignoring Ron's exaggerated rubbing of his 'sore' arm. "Professor Snape kept glancing to you all evening. As if he was looking for reassurance."
Harry stared at his friend, trying to gauge if she was serious.
"Snape, looking to mefor reassurance?" Harry asked. "You're mad."
"I don't think so," Hermione knowingly replied. "He doesn't remember being a spy, and it's obviously mellowed him. I think he trusts you, and looks to you to make sure things are all right."
"Oh," Harry replied, looking thoughtful. They could hear the bathtub water running, and stood up to head for the door. Harry knew it wouldn't be long before any of them visited again, so it wasn't a drawn out goodbye.
"If he needs the support, it's the least I can do," Harry finally said, handing Neville and Ginny their coats.
"Maybe, but it'll seriously cut into your chances of having sex," Neville said, shrugging his coat on. Harry sputtered, and tried ineffectively to cover his cough.
"Or not," Ginny sweetly said, giving Harry a peck on the cheek goodbye. "Maybe that's why Snape kept looking at him over dinner."
Harry's coughing only got worse, despite the two thumps Ron gave him on his back.
"Perhaps," Hermione trailed off thoughtfully, "though it doesn't explain why Harry was looking as well."
"It's Snape!" Harry finally got out, looking between his two female best friends. "You know, our hated ex-professor?"
"Yes," Hermione said, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "But he was on our side in the end, and he isn't as nasty as he was."
"Exactly," Ginny said. "And you haven't been laid in, ever? So I think…"
"It's time for you to leave," Harry interrupted, with a raised eyebrow and exasperated smile.
"We're going," Neville said, pushing Ginny out the door.
"Good night, Harry," Hermione smiled, waving as she walked out the flat. "But if he starts to remember things from school, I want an apology for what he said about my teeth!"
"I didn't notice him giving you any eyes, mate," Ron confidently said. "The dinner was too good to notice anything else. Where's Grimace, by the way? Missed him scowling at me all night," Ron asked, glancing back down the hallway to the living room.
"I think he's investigating Snape's stuff," Harry grinned. "And thanks."
Ron waved as well, and headed down the stairs to his and Hermione's flat. Harry returned to the kitchen, cleaning up the rest of the dishes from their dinner and deep in thought. In the background he could faintly hear Snape in the washroom, splashing water. He played over the conversations in his mind, only slightly concerned at the making eyes comments. Harry's friends had been remarkably supportive of his coming out, and from the evening's talk, it sounded like they didn't even care if it was Snapeshowing interest in Harry, though it was likely because they knew Snape couldn't remember what a bastard he used to be.
Harry awoke to the stony blue-grey gaze of Grimace the next morning, inches from his face.
"The human closed the washroom door," Grimace said, staring at Harry.
"Jesus," Harry yelped, scooting to the side to get away from Grimace's bored glare. He clutched his chest and gulped air. "What have I told you about waking me up like that?"
"That it annoys you," Grimace bluntly answered, stretching out his leathery wings. "The human closed the washroom door."
"He's allowed his privacy, Grimace," Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes. "We have to go to the Ministry today, he's probably getting ready."
Grimace seemed to ponder that, watching Harry idly stretch in bed and give his morning wood a strong palming.
"Are you coming along, or staying here?"
Grimace wrapped his wings around himself, giving Harry a haughty look.
"I will come."
"You'll be in my pocket," Harry said, leisurely stroking himself.
"No," Grimace argued, his voice not much louder than a grunt. "Terrible acoustics; I will ride upon your shoulder."
"Hah, not a chance. My pocket or nothing; you can stay home and try to attack the post owl again."
Grimace huffed and jumped off the bed, heading toward the door. In the hallway Snape had opened the washroom door, and Harry knew Grimace was likely going to inspect the washroom.
"Your shoulder or nothing, I shall not protect you from your pocket!" Grimace growled, his fist raised as he walked into the hallway.
"Whatever," Harry muttered, knowing Grimace would much rather spend the day sunning in his cat bed. He slipped his hand under the sheets and sped up the stroking, enjoying how his bed sheets felt soft and silky against his skin.
"Why is the eight inch stone gargoyle cursing as he walks down the hall?"
"Agh!" Harry gasped, rolling to his side in an attempt to hide his erection. Snape didn't move from the doorway, nor did he appear to have even the slightest amount of embarrassment, unlike Harry.
"My apologies for interrupting," Snape said, giving Harry an appraising look before he left the room.
"Ugh," Harry moaned into the pillow. "Bad idea, Harry. Bad idea."
Harry's light black travelling robe hung comfortably over his regular shirt and trousers, the length of it just short enough to not get caught in the lift door as he and Snape entered. Though it was a Tuesday morning, the small lift was full of business witches and wizards headed for the Department of Regulations and Documents for various stamps, permits, and forms.
Harry nodded at several he knew, and pressed their level button as he and Snape turned to face the door. They were both dressed in simple dress robes, and had their war ribbon bars fastened over the left breast. Formal attire was not strictly required at the Ministry, but Harry knew it would get them seen to much faster.
The lift jerkily proceeded sideways and downwards as it deposited people, and Harry happened to glance to his left and notice Elphias Doge standing next to him, in a puce green robe with the same Order of the Phoenix ribbon pinned over his heart. Harry started to smile in greeting, before he noticed that Doge wasn't looking at him at all, but instead sneering at Snape as if the man were carrying an infectious disease.
Harry coughed rather loudly, catching the attention of everyone in the lift, and slowly adjusted his ribbon bar to ensure that it was dead straight. He spoke in a calm and rather deadly tone, not bothering to look at Doge.
"If you are ashamed to stand by your colours, Mr Doge, I suggest that you seek another flag."
"I am not ashamed of mycolours, Mr Potter," Dodge immediately countered, looking back and forth between Harry and Snape. He curled his lip up again upon focusing back on Snape, and Harry resisted the urge to jinx him.
"Only a fool need make the distinction between colours and colleagues," Harry snapped, his grip on the rope hand holds above his head nearly strangling as the lift lurched to a sudden stop.
Snape stood stiffly beside him, but didn't say anything as two people left the lift.
"I hope this doesn't take long," Harry said, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had taken over. "There's a pizza place the other side of the Leaky Gate that I want to try."
As it turned out, Snape's application for a war pardon was slightly more complicated than Harry's had been. Not by much, but when it came to the part of the form where Snape was to list the Unforgivables used, he left the section blank. Harry had told him about the night of the Astronomy Tower, about how he'd used the killing curse to end the Headmaster's life, but Snape's only reaction to that had been a curt 'I most certainly did not. As irritating as Albus Dumbledore was, I have yet to use an Unforgivable on anyone.'
That had led to Snape being taken for a private interview, as everyone and their mother knew that he had done it. Harry sat in the waiting room, flipping through several of the old magazines that were available to read. He wasn't worried, not about Snape. He'd never lied about his retelling of the past three years of war, and knew that Snape would tell the interviewer exactly what Harry had told him had happened. But when an Auror strode into the waiting room and to the hallway toward Snape's interview room, Harry sat up and paid attention. It wasn't an Auror that Harry had ever seen before, but Harry wondered if it wasn't a legilimency expert.
"Do you know how much longer this will take?" Harry asked aloud, startling the witch at the reception desk.
"You're free to leave whenever you like, Mr Potter," she answered, stacking her papers again.
"No, I came in with Professor Snape. I was wondering when we both could leave," Harry clarified, bouncing his foot slightly in boredom.
"He's in an interview right now," she replied, sounding sure. "He won't be able to leave until it is finished."
She happily went back to her work and Harry stared at her, mouth open. He couldn't figure out if she'd deliberately misunderstood him, or if she was honestly that oblivious. Harry was saved from having to ask though, as the door opened and Kingsley Shacklebolt entered.
"Hullo, Minister," Harry greeted, not rising from his chair.
"Formality with your Order colleagues, Harry?" Shacklebolt asked, nodding at Harry's Order ribbon bar.
Harry gave a small grin, still not quite comfortable being on such familiar terms with the people who worked so closely to keep him safe when he was just an awkward schoolboy. Shacklebolt passed through the office, giving the ditzy reception witch a flash of a smile, before stopping in the hallway doorframe.
"Harry, let's go," Shacklebolt called.
Harry jumped to his feet, feeling like he should already know what he was being called for.
Over breakfast that morning they had discussed a few of the possible outcomes of the application process; whether it would take as little time as Harry's, it would take longer but end in a favourable resolution, or if it would be denied. Legilimency had also been discussed, as Snape did have memory loss and Harry suggested they might try that avenue to confirm both his past and his current predicament.
They had not, however, expected that Harry would be the one asked to perform the legilimency, after the Auror had failed. The Auror that had come, who was an expert in legilimency, had had no success with unlocking Snape's missing memories using gentle legilimency techniques. Snape had offhandedly mentioned that he had seemingly taught Harry occlumency, and the Auror had called for the Minister.
"You want me to try to use legilimency on Professor Snape," Harry slowly repeated. Snape sat in a chair on the opposite side of the room, his arms crossed and a look of impatience on his face.
"Yes," the Auror said, sitting back down at his own chair. He wore a nametag that said 'Bilkes' on it. "It's been reported that you and Professor Snape had a rather strong working relationship, and that he taught you occlumency for a few months. We're hoping you are able to identify patterns in the Professor's occlumency shields and see through them."
Harry laughed, catching Bilkes and the interviewer off guard. Kingsley merely had a small smile on his face as he watched, apparently remembering just how strongly Snape and Harry had interacted.
"I've only broken through Professor Snape's shields once, and it's not something I ever want to do again," Harry said.
"I'm quite certain I would react in a particularly violent way should anyone attempt that," Snape commented, glaring at Bilkes.
"Oh, you did," Harry confirmed.
"But this is necessary," the original interviewer insisted. "In order for his application to be processed successfully, we need to know what his exact actions were during the war."
"But, he doesn't remember," Harry said, resisting rolling his eyes. "And I'm not going searching for his memories of being a spy amongst Death Eaters."
"Then we are at an impasse," the interviewer said, frustrated. "Mr Snape, you are being less than helpful."
"Professor," Harry corrected.
"I believe we had a fast track option for the applications of top Order members?" Kingsley asked, crossing his arms. "Unless, that is, you're implying that this man's years of service as a spy amongst You Know Who's inner circle doesn't earn him that right."
Snape twisted his head slightly, looking impressed at what Kingsley had described him as doing.
"No, no," Bilkes said. He stared for a moment at a useless Ministry pamphlet about legilimency and how it was nothing to fear. "Maybe we can clear this up with veritaserum."
"It doesn't work against a master occlumens," Harry immediately said, wondering if Bilkes had even read the pamphlet on Ministry-regulated potions.
"You seem to know a lot about memories and mind reading," Bilkes surly said, shrewdly watching to see if Harry would fluster.
"Legilimency isn't mind reading," Snape finally snapped. "It is a subtle and complex art of navigating through the many layers of human memories, and discerning which are real, which are deceitful; important, or absolutely useless."
His ending tone conveyed that he thought some of the people in the room rather useless as well.
"Professor Snape taught me occlumency in order to stop Voldemort from sending me visions and trying to possess my mind," Harry bluntly said. "Not only that, but he taught me about veritaserum and various poisons, because if I were to be captured by the Death Eaters, and I was, we all knew I'd likely be tortured."
The interviewer was looking distinctly uncomfortable at that point, Snape still had a cross scowl on his face, and Kingsley was amused.
Harry checked his watch, at the same time that his stomach let out an unhappy grumble.
"Look, I'll vouch for Professor Snape. He didn't use any Unforgivables in the final battle, because he was trying to survive being attacked by Voldemort's snake. He spent three years spying in Voldemort's camp, bringing the Order valuable information. And he's only used the killing curse once, for the greater good."
"Well," the interviewer sputtered. "We can't just let it go at that, unfortunately."
"I can," Kingsley said, shrugging.
"Yes, you can," Harry insisted, not speaking to Kinglsey. "Because if he hadn't done all that, and hadn't prepared me for what Voldemort would do, we would have lost everything."
There was silence in the room for a moment, before Harry rose out of his chair and nodded for Snape to follow. Kingsley, who'd been leaning against the back wall, clapped his hands together.
"Good job, gentlemen," Kingsley said, deliberately pretending that they'd all agreed on the pardon's approval. "Have that pardon to me by end of day for me to sign."
Harry tossed his keys to the hand hook by the door, sighing as he flicked on the lights in his flat. Despite the drying charms, today's fast moving thunderstorm had managed to soak his outer layers.
"So, now we know that it's a 70/30 split," Harry said, guessing at how many in the crowd had been actively muttering against Snape as they'd passed back through the Ministry toward the Floos. He walked down the hall to the kitchen, trying to spot Grimace. The window cat bed was empty.
"Did you mean what you said?" Snape asked, slowly following him into the kitchen. He'd taken his cloak off, and draped it over a barstool.
"You think it was more 80/20?" Harry asked, standing up on his toes to see atop the fridge, where Grimace also liked to hide.
"No. About everyone losing if I hadn't taught you," Snape corrected, his voice low. "And your willingness to vouch for my actions."
"I told you I would help you," Harry bluntly answered, taking a bottle of water from the fridge. He fidgeted slightly under Snape's strong gaze, his trousers shifting against his cock in a lovely manner as he tried to fight it. "And yes, I meant it."
"Perhaps the gargoyle has gone wandering," Snape finally said. He gave a small glance to the living room, which was gloomy from the dreary skies. It was also devoid of any small Napoleonic-complex-riddled gargoyles.
"He's probably hiding in my wardrobe," Harry said, stalking down the hallway to check. The last time Grimace had decided to nap in Harry's wardrobe, he'd taken a snack of molasses and moss with him, requiring Harry to do several loads of laundry. Molasses didn't clean well with magic.
Harry was aware of Snape following him into the room, but didn't pay him any mind. The room was dark and shadowy, as Harry had dark curtains and it was still raining out.
"There you are," Harry growled, spotting a half-extended leather wing from the top shelf of his wardrobe. More focused on getting Grimace down without ruining any of his clothing, Harry didn't notice what Snape was staring at.
Not until Snape had come to stand directly behind Harry, his hands resting very gently against the doors of the wardrobe.
"And what is that little collection, Mr Potter?" Snape asked, his voice very close to Harry's ear and completely buggering any control he had over his unruly erection.
"Quidditch robes?" Harry answered, looking straight ahead at his small collection of robes.
"Ah. While I recall your obsession for quidditch, I am far more interested in that bag there," Snape corrected.
"Oh hell," Harry answered, his face flushed in embarrassment. He tried to turn, but Snape had effectively boxed him in against the wardrobe.
"They're not…I bought them a while ago. When the war was over I didn't want people to have sex with me just because of who I was. This was safer."
By the end of his sentence, Harry had dropped his voice down to a mutter. They weren't overly fancy dildos, but there was no mistaking what they were.
"You didn't want a hero fuck?" Snape said, and the way the curse word rolled off his tongue made Harry close his eyes.
"What about an exercise of mutual respect?" Snape asked, stepping closer to stand directly behind Harry. His erection, covered by a few layers of cloth, became quite apparent. "Unless I misread your discomfort earlier."
"You know you didn't," Harry answered, his eyes still closed. He relaxed his body ever so slightly, resting against Snape's. "Don't do this," Harry whispered.
"Don't do what?" Snape asked, his very low voice grumbling across the back of Harry's neck and making shivers go down Harry's spine. His fingers moved off the wardrobe doors and down to Harry's hips, grasping gently.
"Don't play with me," Harry answered, his eyes still closed as if he were only imagining the contact.
"I have finished playing games for the rest of my life," Snape answered, closing the wardrobe doors to ensure that if Grimace woke up any time soon, he wouldn't be watching them.
Harry's eyes opened, and he stared at the dark wood grain in the wardrobe door in front of him.
"You've made up your –"
"I overheard your friends last night," Snape whispered, speaking into Harry's hair and silencing him.
"You did?" Harry asked, the surprise in his voice turning it into a near squeak. He tried to turn, and Snape relaxed just enough to allow it.
"Your hallway carries echoes," Snape muttered, and Harry knew it was only a half-truth. "I must admit, I am quite surprised at their lack of outrage over catching an ageing ex-professor ogling his former student."
Snape tentatively rubbed his hips forward and Harry hummed in appreciation.
"I'm not," Harry said, his eyes half-closed. "They knew I had a thing for the Half-Blood Prince, and I think they like you, now that you've forgotten what an arse you used to be."
Snape stilled, before clutching Harry's hips tighter. "The Half-Blood Prince…"
"Dark, mysterious men," Harry explained, a slight blush on his cheeks.
Snape's smile was crooked and soft, and his lips pressed thinly in the way that people's did when they wanted to hide their teeth. He moved his fingers until they were gently cupping Harry's cheek, and moved slowly enough that Harry could turn away if he wanted. Snape's lips were dry, but unhesitating as they pressed against Harry's. His glasses pressed up against his cheeks, but Harry didn't care as Snape moulded his body to Harry's and licked at Harry's lips. Their tongues met and someone hummed, though Harry didn't know whom. Finally, Snape stopped for air and closed his eyes as he leaned slightly back – almost as if he didn't want to see Harry's reaction.
"You've found the answer you were looking for?" Harry asked, ignoring the throbbing from his cock. Snape's eyes snapped open, and took on a predatory gleam.
"Yes, though I suspect this will still go pear shaped."
With a quick squeeze to Harry's hip, Snape spun out of the room and stalked down to the hall to the washroom. Harry watched him go, watching the even lift and drop of his arse as he walked. Harry's hand wandered down his front to rub himself, and he laughed once he realized Snape had stolen the washroom to bring himself off.
Finding someone to cut Harry's slightly bent flat key was a bit difficult, but Harry convinced the cobbler on the south side of Diagon Alley to give it a shot. The key worked, and Harry gave it to Snape even though he didn't actually go out much. He liked to go on walks though, and figured that Snape wouldn't always want to get dragged along. Snape was a solitary man, and liked to tinker with his books and carving hobby up in the sunny loft.
Harry returned home with takeaway on Thursday evening, struggling with the door as he fit his key in. He never remembered to have his wand out, as it would make things much easier. He froze at the sound of voices as he entered the flat, recognizing Professor Sprout's voice a few seconds later.
"I think you know the dungeons better than anyone at Hogwarts," Sprout was saying, sitting in the armchair by the fireplace. "Even those Weasley twins."
"Ah yes, the irritating Weasley twins. Rather intuitive brewers, with a creative twist. Where have they ended up now?" Snape asked, nodding at Harry.
Sprout's silence was a second too long, and he turned back to face her.
"Which one died?"
"How did you know?"
"It's written in your expression," Snape uncomfortably answered.
"Fred died," Harry quietly said, as he passed into the kitchen.
"That's not the one…?" Snape countered, watching Harry gather plates and cutlery.
"You cursed George. Took his ear clean off," Harry answered.
"It would seem I owe the family an apology," Snape finally said, shifting in the chair.
"Severus, it was a chaotic time. I'm sure you did what needed to be done," Sprout placated, gathering up the papers and photographs she'd brought over.
"Perhaps," Snape said, steeping his fingers as he leaned his elbows forward onto his knees. He tapped his interlaced fingers against his chin, and stared at the stilled form of Grimace on the coffee table. "When the dust settles however, that excuse is seen for just how flimsy it really is."
Taken aback by the statement, Sprout paused in her packing.
"Severus," she said, standing up. "If the more you begin to remember, the more you hate yourself, I think perhaps that we should stop with the memories."
"Professor, we're almost finished," Harry said, placing the Thai takeaway containers on the kitchen bar counter.
"Harry, he deserves to be happy," Sprout argued, coming to stand in the hallway between the kitchen and the living room.
"And I hope he will be," Harry gently said. "But he won't be safe if he doesn't know what happened, what people hate him for."
"He is still in the room," Snape said, still speaking into his fingers.
"Mr Potter…" Sprout trailed off, still unsure.
"Dinner's up," Harry said. "Professor Sprout, I know you mean well. But I also know what it's like to be in his shoes."
Snape swept up to his feet and startled Sprout. He ignored her though, in favour of the steaming hot dinner.
"When I was in fifth year, and being possessed by Voldemort, no one told me what was happening. No one told me why I thought I'd been a giant snake that attacked Arthur Weasley. I didn't know why the Weasleys, who were my family, were suddenly wary of me. It made me feel absolutely horrible."
Sprout's face softened, and Harry distracted himself by spooning out noodles onto his plate.
"These are the disastrous occlumency lessons?" Snape calmly asked, filling his own plate.
"Yes," Harry answered, keeping eye contact with Sprout. "I know it'd be easier to let Professor Snape live without the memories of the really bad things that have happened. But it's not fair to him."
"Yes, you're right," Sprout said, sighing. "Take care, the both of you. And Severus, don't hate him too much for telling the truth."
Harry saw her to the door, and on his way back paused to give Snape's shoulders a slight rub.
"Doyou hate me?" Harry asked, working on a particularly stubborn knot in Snape's left shoulder. Snape's head dropped forward, his hair coming dangerously close to his dinner.
"Not if you keep doing that."
Harry smiled, working harder on the massage. Later that night, when they went to bed, Harry led Snape down the hall to his own bedroom.
Snape watched him as he peeled off his clothes, stripping down and changing into a new pair of boxer shorts.
"I've never really shared a bed with anyone," Harry confessed, yanking back the covers and climbing in.
"You don't expect that I have," Snape answered, his voice somewhat incredulous. He slowly took his own clothes off, dropping them on the floor in a surprising show of indifference.
A smile slowly broke on Harry's face.
"Fresh pack of boxers in the wardrobe," he said, watching Snape's muscles pull and stretch as he walked about the room. "So that means you're going to kick and batter me all night."
A glare was levelled his way, but the smile didn't fade.
"Or maybe you'll cuddle around me like a teddy bear," Harry continued, as Snape slid into the bed next to him.
"I do not cuddle," Snape clarified, though Harry noticed that Snape's eyes refused to look anywhere else but up at the ceiling.
"Might get a bit nippy in the middle of the night," Harry said, yawning as he slid further down under the covers. Snape lay stiffly beside him, and Harry took a chance. He slipped his arm under Snape's pillow, and with his other hand, held up the duvet a little.
"Come here," Harry whispered into the dark.
After a few seconds, and without a word, Snape rolled onto his side and put his head onto Harry's shoulder. His large hand was warm and slightly ticklish where it rested on Harry's belly, but Harry didn't twist away.
"If your gargoyle wakes me before sunrise I am going to hex it," Snape finally muttered, throwing one of his legs over Harry's.
"You're welcome to try," Harry laughed, tightening his hold on Snape just a tiny bit further as he slipped off to sleep.
Harry had a bowtie hanging loosely around his neck as he whirled around in front of the fireplace. It was Friday, but he was anything but relaxed.
"Grimace! Where did you put the bloody order number?!" Harry yelled, looking in the general direction of the loft.
"Harry?" Ron asked, seconds after the door opened.
"Hi Ron," Harry exasperatedly said. The food was to be delivered by Floo in less than fifteen minutes, but if Harry didn't have the order number, the restaurant wouldn't deliver. And the damn paper hadn't even responded to an accio charm.
"Looking for this?" Ron asked, walking into the room with a crumpled ball of paper that looked to be covered in molasses.
"Wha…yes," Harry said, taking it off Ron and carefully unfolding it to read the number.
"He came down to bug Crookshanks again, I found it in the flower box on the window. Must have been stuck to him," Ron explained.
"Stupid gargoyle," Harry muttered. "Help me levitate the couch?"
"Sure," Ron said, "Going up to the loft?"
"Yeah," Harry answered. "It takes up too much room."
Harry had only invited around twenty-five people to come to Snape's welcome back party, but his flat wasn't the largest and he figured he'd need as much space as he could get.
"Where is the demented little thing?" Ron asked, as they carefully guided the couch up over the railing of the loft.
"I've no idea. Snape had a bit of a rough morning; he might have taken him to Spinner's End for a bit."
"Bad news from the Ministry?"
With the couch settled, Harry and Ron focused on tidying up the living room and setting up the kitchen bar counter to be a buffet.
"No, the pardon went through fine," Harry answered. "I told him the last of what had happened, the memories he gave me when he was dying."
"Oh," Ron replied. He looked thoughtful for a minute, and banished a few dust bunnies with his wand. "You didn't cause a black hole in time, did you? I mean, if that's how it buggered up his memory to begin with."
Harry broke into a laugh.
"That doesn't even make sense, you prat."
Ron held up his hands in defence and grinned.
"Think he'll be all right for the party? It's his welcome back, after all."
"I think so," Harry slowly replied. "Most people have been understanding."
The fireplace sputtered green flames, which warned of an incoming Floo call.
"Well, dating the Chosen One helps quite a bit too," Ron teased, headed for the door before Harry could hex him.
"We're not dating!" Harry sputtered.
"Not yet," Ron called back, as he left the flat.
"Mr Potter?" a young voice squeaked from the Floo.
"We're not dating yet," Harry repeated, to the head in the flames.
The delivery wizard looked blessedly confused, and there was silence for a few seconds before Harry remembered to hand over the order number.
The party only started to wind down near midnight, with most of the guests divided into two groups—the first of older people: professors from Hogwarts and members of the Order; and the second of younger witches and wizards Harry's age. Harry tried to intermingle with people, and once in a while went to talk to Snape, but there wasn't an uncomfortable distance between the two groups so he eventually stopped trying to break them up.
"A very successful party, Harry," Mrs Weasley said, coming to stand beside him. Harry looked out over his chatting friends and acquaintances, his smile lingering just slightly longer on Snape. Snape, who was talking animatedly, well arguing really, with Minerva McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt over something.
"Yeah? Good. He's been through too much to not be accepted after the war," Harry said, glancing up at Grimace. Grimace had chosen to hunker down between the railings of the loft balcony, glaring down at everyone with a scowl. Harry didn't mind him being there, as long as he had nothing to drop on the party guests.
"Sometimes the air just needs to be cleared before we can all see things for how they really are," Mrs Weasley lightly said, with a smile. "Now, I suspect you'll be wanting us out rather soon."
"I wouldn't kick you out," Harry protested, fighting a yawn.
"Well, it is rather late," Mr Weasley chimed in, clapping Harry on the shoulders and startling him. "Severus going to stay on here for a bit, now that he's all restored?"
"Ah," Harry stammered. "I guess so. He doesn't have to leave, and we haven't actually talked about it."
"Probably for the best then," Mr Weasley proclaimed. "Safer that way."
Before Harry could respond to that, the clock on the mantel started to chime for midnight.
"Severus!" Arthur called, holding up his drink. "Welcome back."
There was a round of murmured cheers, and various drinks were raised to Snape. Harry bit his lip not to smile, amused at the uncomfortable look on Snape's face.
"Thank you," Snape answered, raising his glass very slightly, before taking a drink.
Once the final toast was completed, it wasn't long before the guests started to leave. Most left by Floo, but Ron and Hermione shepherded Ginny and Neville out the door, for a nightcap at the pub downstairs.
Looking at the empty flat, Harry tiredly scratched the hair at the back of his head.
"Do we have to clean this up now?"
Snape, who had been closing the Floo connection, rolled his eyes.
"You're a wizard, Potter."
Harry smirked and, just to show off, wandlessly set all the cups and plates to float toward the kitchen.
"I think it's time you called me Harry. On a regular basis," Harry said, watching Snape move about the room.
"I knew you'd be smug," Snape said, coming to stand behind Harry and turning him toward the mantel. They both stared at the picture of Grimace above it.
"It has nothing to do with being smug," Harry protested, lifting his arms slightly as Snape's slithered around his waist.
"Just because your plan worked perfectly…" Snape started, pulling Harry back against his chest. "Painting me as a victim to be nursed back into society."
"It wasa good plan," Harry confirmed, nodding his head slightly.
"Smug, Mr Potter," Snape interrupted, resting his chin against the top half of Harry's head.
"Pleased, Severus. Not smug," Harry corrected.
"Ah, of course," Snape said. They stood quietly for a moment, looking at the picture of Hogwarts and Grimace. The castle shone in the setting sun, light bursting through the gaps of the stone façade left by design or residual battle damage. Grimace's claw, extended and tiny, clutched onto a finger as the little gargoyle faced the fields and castle.
"I can't believe no one has noticed that that is my finger Grimace is holding in the picture," Snape said. "Your friends have abysmal observational skills."
Harry snorted and lifted up one of Snape's hands to look at.
"Well," Harry said, with a lazy smirk. "It's not like my friends have studied my hands that closely."
"What an odd fascination that would be," Snape commented, his voice low and vibrating.
"I dunno. I've looked at yours often enough," Harry said, still holding Snape's hand up. "One thing I haven't figured out though, is who told Rita Skeeter where you were."
The man behind him remained silent, and that was all the answer Harry needed.
"That was your way of choosing."
"I don't like to admit when I'm wrong, Harry," Snape said, so quietly that Harry almost missed it.
"Sod the cleaning," Harry said, squeezing Snape's hand. "You can apologise in bed."
Snape's laughter followed them down the hall, as Harry led them with determined footsteps. Had Ron and Hermione been home, they likely would have had no question as to what Harry was up to, but thankfully they were still at the pub. Hopefully.
The room was dark, the walls a blue grey that Harry had seen in the sky over Hogwarts when the battle had been won. His sheets were white with a blue striped pattern, and other than a wardrobe, bedside cabinets, and a small bookshelf, there was nothing else in the room. Over the bed was another photograph that had been blown up, a close up of four broken toy soldiers standing on a white shelf.
"Why is there –" Snape started, his focus on the photo.
"Another day," Harry shook his head, before leaning up to kiss Snape. It worked as distraction, and when Harry pulled away a moment later, his teeth gently tugged on Snape's lower lip. Snape's eyes were dark, a fierce colour with an intensity that Harry had only seen before when Snape was angry. Snape wasn't angry now though, and his movements were determined as he shoved Harry back onto the bed.
"Hey!" Harry said, his protest lacking any barb. He undid his buttons and belt, just in time for Snape to pull off his trousers and pants in one go, leaving him shivering in anticipation on the bed. Harry's cock wavered over his stomach as he watched Snape, a small dribble of pre-come connected to his belly.
"You now," Harry said, stroking softly and enjoying the slow burn the moment had turned into.
"I am hardly fascinating to watch," Snape said, unbuttoning his shirt in a calm manner as his penis strained against his trousers. His eyes were dark and focused though, staring at Harry's groin.
Harry smiled, his eyes darting about as Snape's skin was slowly revealed and his one scar shifted with the light in the room.
"You think this is fake?" Harry asked, slowly stroking himself.
"I think you're a horny teenager," Snape murmured, slipping onto the bed and gathering Harry against him. They were in a spooning position, and Snape wasted no time in mouthing and nibbling the back of Harry's neck. "Are you bottoming?"
Snape had his one arm over Harry's side, tight against his chest, where his fingers were teasing Harry's nipples. It was completely distracting, and Harry suspected that Snape knew that.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah," Harry finally answered, stretching his legs out to rub against Snape's.
"You've been using your toys?" Snape asked, his fingers tracing a trail up the back of Harry's thigh.
"It's been a bit," Harry muttered, his cheeks hot. A small turquoise bottle of lube floated toward him, and he opened the cap. Snape offered his fingers, and Harry tried his best not to spill any onto the bedspread. He was prepared sufficiently and methodically, with the precision he expected from a high-ranking Potions Master like Snape.
"Good," Snape replied, nipping at Harry's earlobe as his cock pushed against Harry. It was slow going for a few minutes, a calm in and out that had Harry stretched with the most delicious anticipation. They both groaned when Snape finally pressed in completely, and in no time Snape had set up a slow rhythm.
"You've definitely not forgotten how to do this," Harry muttered into his pillow, allowing himself to be rolled half way onto his stomach. Snape's forearms slithered under his own, and Harry suddenly felt that there was no space between them at all.
"Glad to meet your approval," Snape half grunted, his slow but hard thrusts pushing Harry down against the bed. Harry was going to reply, but Snape angled his hips just so and suddenly the ability to speak didn't seem that important anymore. He could still moan though, and whimpered to show his utter approval for Snape's actions. And when the man's roughened fingers slipped down Harry's stomach, grasping for his cock and giving a squeezing tug, Harry bucked back toward Snape with a grunt. Harry's orgasm blindsided him, and he muttered nonsense as Snape redoubled his efforts to push himself over.
"I knew it'd be worth it," Harry said, his eyes closed as he talked into his pillow with a smile.
His legs jumped as Snape slapped him on the rump. A cleaning charm followed seconds later, and then Snape covered them both with the duvet.
"I knew you'd be smug."
The Beginning of June
A dreary English Tuesday
Harry checked himself out in the mirror, wincing as he tried to flex his wrist. It was already slightly blue, the bruise wrapping around his thumb from where he'd landed hard on the brickwork of the park. His wand hand, too, and he'd never quite perfected personal healing spells. Hermione could do it in a flash, but Harry didn't particularly feel like listening through a lecture.
He didn't have time for one, either.
After a month of sorting out his affairs after the final battle, Harry had received a surprise patronus message from Snape. Meet him at Spinner's End, and come alone. And bring a jar of mandrake paste.
"Episkey," Harry muttered, wavering his wand with his left hand. The bruising faded a bit, but the skin was still swollen and there were still some bits of dirt and rock in the cut on his palm. No doubt Snape would have something sarcastic to say about it.
"Punctual and following instructions, Mr Potter? My, what a change," Snape said, slowly opening the door and glaring down at Harry. A strong scent of freshly made bread wafted out from the house, and Harry's stomach gave an appreciative grumble.
"Good to see you too, Professor," Harry muttered, waiting for Snape to invite him in. Snape didn't move however, remaining square in the doorframe as he studied Harry.
"You are no longer my student," Snape finally said, his arms crossed over his chest. "Hogwarts has passed, and I have zero desire to continue on the antagonism that was shared there."
Harry blinked, and shifted the plastic sack handle in his fingers.
"Uh, me either, actually."
It was the right answer, as Snape gave a firm nod and stepped back into the hallway. Harry squeezed past the narrow old door, squinting as his eyes adjusted to the dreary interior of Snape's home. He carried a plastic shopping sack with the mandrake paste that Snape had requested and followed Snape into a tiny and cluttered sitting room that was clean, despite the number of books and knickknacks filling it. Snape pointed Harry to the couch, while he snatched the bag out of Harry's hand.
"It's supposed to be fresh," Harry said, relaxing back into the couch and looking around the room in unhidden curiosity.
"It will do," Snape finally said, his voice low and grumbly. "Thank you for your speed in delivery."
Harry nodded in acknowledgement but kept his mouth shut, unsure of what to say to Snape. His entire years at Hogwarts, he'd known Snape to be a nasty and vindictive man, looking to make any students' lives hell. Even though the war was over, Harry doubted that Snape had completely flipped to a mellow man. There was no doubt that Snape was brilliant, but there was no escaping his personality either.
But here, Harry sat on the couch with a quiet Snape, in a room filled with a variety of new and old books, magazines stacked on the floor with the little renewal papers stuck in as bookmarks. There was a row of unidentifiable seedlings in eggshells on the window ledge, a stack of paint chip samples on the coffee table, and next to the paint chips was a lamp that had been pulled apart. A hand-held soldering iron was next to it, and it appeared as if Snape was in the middle of fixing the wiring.
"You're welcome," Harry finally said, crossing his feet as he relaxed. Harry realised that Snape felt as awkward as he did, now that neither of them could muster the same hatred that they had in school. The staring was merely looks of wariness instead of loathing. After a moment, Harry smiled and decided to move forward.
"All right, I know you're brilliant and all, but how did you do it? How did you survive?"
Snape gave Harry the first non-malicious smirk that Harry had ever seen, and summoned two chipped mugs of coffee.
"When I survived the re-meeting with the Dark Lord in your fourth year, I knew I needed to start planning for his attempt to murder me," Snape started, settled into his easy chair. He was wearing his traditional black trousers, but instead of his severe boots, plain black socks covered his feet. He wore a regular Muggle dress shirt, with the top button at the neck undone, and the fading red scarring from the snake stood out plainly against his pale skin. His hands were held loosely in his lap, a wrist watch peeking out from one sleeve and his wand lying innocently on the small side table to his right. Snape looked young and alive again.
The Tuesday Next
"Hello?" Harry knocked somewhat gently on Snape's door, figuring Snape would know he was there. The door was likely fortified magically, but it did look rather fragile.
After a moment, the door opened to reveal a puzzled looking Snape.
"I have not run out of ingredients," Snape said, his hand rhythmically drying the inside of a mug with a red dishtowel.
"Didn't think you had," Harry said, holding up a small paper bag. "Have you ever tried a French Press?"
Snape continued to dry the mug, giving him a sceptical look. His gaze moved down the rest of Harry, seeming to note the torn sleeve and the scraped up arm. Harry wasn't sure if he'd seen the hole in the knee of his jeans.
"I am beginning to suspect you have balance issues," Snape commented, turning to walk back into the house.
"I'm trying a new sport," Harry answered, his voice low as he was still rather hesitant to share what he was training for. He already knew Hermione and Ron would think him crazy for doing it.
Snape had returned to the kitchen, and apparently confident that Harry had followed, nodded at the Daily Propheton the table.
"Do you have anything to do with that?"
Harry glanced down at the copy and saw a picture of Kingsley standing in the Atrium, under the headline of 'War Pardon Applications To Start June 1st.'
"Ah, I may have," Harry admitted.
"Haven't you done enough in the war?'
"Well. I think the goblins are still a bit peeved I broke into Gringotts. I'll be rather grateful for the pass."
Snape gave him a curious look, pulling the plug from the sink and letting the water drain.
"Won't you apply?" Harry asked, trying to think of a polite way to ask if Snape had committed vile acts in the name of war. He assumed from Snape's request for the potions ingredients that Snape wasn't going out in wizarding public. "You'd be free to walk around Diagon Alley without worrying anyone would be after you, even go back to school and teach if you wanted to."
Snape shook his head, drying the last of his dishes and placing the two plates back in the dreary looking cabinets.
"Potter, you may have been Enemy Number One during the Dark Lord's reign, but I assure you I was quite likely Number Two."
Harry, feeling a bit useless standing in Snape's kitchen, and watching him doing chores, busied himself with washing and filling the French Press he'd brought. It was the exact same version of the one he had at home, and he knew he could brew a good cup with it.
"That was your role, though," Harry pointed out, dumping a scoop of coffee grounds in.
"A minor and much overlooked detail," Snape corrected. He was standing against the counter, with his arms crossed as he watched Harry. "No piece of paper or Ministry decree will change the public's opinion of me."
"Is that why you've asked me to get the ingredients?"
Snape paused, tracking Harry's movements around the kitchen.
"Partially. I am also trading on your name to get a better price," Snape deadpanned, retrieving his carton of milk from the fridge to give to Harry.
"At least someone is," Harry said, handing over Snape's cup. "As you won't go out, what else do you do other than brewing potions?"
The Third Tuesday
Snape didn't answer the door this time – instead he used magic to allow Harry entrance. The house was very dark, and Harry noticed that not a single window was uncovered. The day's dishes; two plates, a bowl, a mug, and some cutlery, were stacked by the sink, and the radio had been silenced. Snape sat in his chair, wearing his customary dark trousers, but overtop of his Muggle dress shirt was a faded green ribbed jumper.
Harry hadn't found it that cold out, in fact it was a rather nice early summer day, but the inside of the house had a bit of a chill.
"I won't be much company today," Snape said, his voice low. He held his head in his hands, his hair draping forward to cover his face.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked, moving to the kitchen to put the fanged fennelwort he'd brought into the fridge. Snape hadn't mentioned any issues with the snake bite, but Harry figured he likely wouldn't share if it wasn't going well enough.
"Migraine," Snape grunted in answer.
Harry slowed down the unpacking, making less noise with the plastic sack. He felt a flash of justice, remembering his fifth year and the painful headaches Snape had caused during his legilimency lessons. Snape had certainly been relentless and vicious then, and uncaring about the pain he was causing Harry.
But then, Snape was going through his own personal hell too, and perhaps it had simply been too dangerous for Snape to show any sign of leniency.
"You should be in bed," Harry finally said, turning to look at Snape. He looked worn, his face chalky and a slight tremor in his arms.
"I would be," Snape dryly said, keeping himself as steady as he could, "if I didn't become dizzy every time I stood."
"Oh. Right," Harry answered. He pulled his wand out of his pocket, considering, before putting it back. Levitation would likely make the problem much worse, and end in a painful hexing.
"Come on," Harry finally said, holding out his hand.
Ten minutes later (and after one close call and a hastily conjured bucket), Snape was up in his bedroom. It was a sign of how painful the migraine must have been that he neither threatened Harry for being in the room, nor protested when Harry helped him take his jumper off, and covered him with a blanket.
It was slightly strange, Harry thought, to be taking care of Snape after years of being the man's student. Years in which he consistently thought of Snape as this imposing, untouchable presence. Yet here he was, lying on a standard bed in a plain-looking room, light blue paint on the walls, covered in a misshapen knitted blanket. He looked very human, nothing at all like the fierce wizard who had singlehandedly betrayed Voldemort.
Harry quietly closed the curtains, his eyes catching a small red tin on Snape's bedside cabinet. It was an old pipe tobacco tin, cleaned and filled with some folded pieces of paper. Harry was tempted, his fingers reaching as he saw the word 'kindness.' Remembering his horrid breach of Snape's privacy from fifth year, at the very last moment, Harry withdrew his hand and backed away from the tin.
Using his wand, Harry conjured a flannel cloth from a tissue taken from the box on Snape's bedside cabinet. Another quick spell dampened the cloth with cool water, and he put it carefully on Snape's brow. A cold shiver went through the man, and one eye cracked open in an attempt at a glare.
"I'll be downstairs," Harry needlessly said. Snape didn't answer, merely shutting his eye again and letting his body shudder strongly as he pulled the blanket up closer. Harry left the door open just in case he was called, and went off in search of a pain potion. Surely there were stores in the kitchen or washroom.
Neither held any pain potion, so Harry scribbled a small reminder note and stuck it to the fridge with a charm. He did find a small collection of stones on the side counter of the kitchen, hidden away behind some towels and paper bags. Some chisels and a small hammer were in a bag beside the stones, along with a large piece of leather.
Harry wasn't entirely sure what Snape was making, but as he washed up the dishes, he couldn't help but think that half a face was staring at him from the main chunk of stone.
The Fourth Tuesday
Harry kicked his shoes off at the front door, draping his rain jacket on the row of hooks by the staircase.
"Hullo," Harry called, walking into the living room. He stopped short, newspaper in hand as he made to throw it onto the chesterfield, and stared. Snape was standing by the far wall, dressed down as much as Harry had ever seen him, painting a light linen colour on the wall.
"If you're visiting today, you're painting as well," Snape said. He was carefully covering the wall he was working on, and when he turned, Harry saw that he had little specks of paint on his hands.
"You knew I'd be visiting today, it's a Tuesday," Harry mock protested, as he rolled up his sleeves.
"How fortunate for me," Snape said, and Harry could hear the amusement in his voice.
"Imagine that. Have you seen the Prophet today?" Harry asked, itching to unload his irritation.
"I believe it's covering my lamp," Snape answered, not pausing his brush once.
Unsure if Snape had read the paper first or not, Harry reached for a brush so he could start working on the trim.
"Someone took a picture of me leaving a Muggle bookshop, and now there's a small article of speculation and lies about me."
"How outrageous," said Snape, stepping back to check that he'd not missed any spots. "To think someone would follow you on such a mundane and regular task and take your photo."
"Well, it wasn't quite regular," Harry grumbled, focusing on the ceiling he was trying not to paint.
"I see," Snape commented, with a small smirk. "I'm certainly relieved to hear that a sex shop is not a regular stop in your daily errands."
"It was a bookshop," Harry sputtered, turning to glare at Snape. In the process, he managed to flick two droplets of paint onto the drop sheet.
"Clean that up," Snape ordered, pointing at the floor. "You cannot tell me that you are surprised your presence at a queer bookshop drew attention from the Daily Prophet."
"No," Harry admitted, mumbling a cleaning charm as well. "I guess I just thought that now that the war was done, that I could be a normal wizard."
Loading up his tray, Snape turned to work on another wall.
"Homosexuality does not make one abnormal, Potter," Snape said, in a clipped tone that made Harry instantly feel like he'd somehow insulted Snape.
Chastised, Harry focused on painting around the window. He was irritated that the Daily Prophethad photographed him, and annoyed that they'd considered the implications to be scandalous enough to print. But he was losing steam fast, trying to backpedal out of unintentionally insulting Snape.
"Does it bother you that I might be queer?" Harry asked, not looking at Snape. "Do you want me to stop visiting?"
Harry heard Snape sigh, and his curiosity got the better of him. He paused in his painting to look at Snape, who was staring at him.
"If you start criticising my home decoration choices, I will toss you out on your arse," Snape said. "You are certainly not the only homosexual wizard to exist, Potter. Act with complete indifference over the article and the public will lose interest."
Snape sounded as if he was speaking from experience, and Harry looked away from Snape's stare first.
The Fifth Tuesday
"Potter," Snape proclaimed, opening his front door and giving Harry an irritated look. "Have you been self-harming since the battle? And must I hold an intervention?"
"I'm not self harming," Harry answered, with a roll of his eyes. "But you could heal my wrist."
He held up his mangled right wrist, and winced as Snape's healing spell drew all the gravel and dirt out of the cuts. The crack in his bone healed with an odd spongy feeling, and within seconds Harry could freely move his wrist again.
"Thanks!" Harry said, pushing by Snape to walk into the living room.
"No," Snape said, following him in and cornering him by the bookcase. His eyes were dark and piercing, and Harry became uncomfortably warm under the intense gaze. "I promised to protect you, and it seems I must continue to do so even after the Dark Lord has been vanquished."
Crossing his arms, Snape waited for Harry's explanation.
"Protecting me still? I should say the same for you – when is the last time you went out in public?"
"Yesterday I went for milk," Snape immediately answered, still glaring at him. "How are you injuring yourself?"
"It's a new hobby I have," Harry said, sighing a little. He was trying to think of how to answer Snape's question without sounding crazy. "It's called parkour, it's a sort of urban gymnastics."
Snape didn't budge, and he didn't look like he believed a word of what Harry had said.
"It's free running, jumping, vaulting, that sort of thing, over urban obstacles like walls and buildings and such. Like a giant obstacle course in the city," Harry explained further. Snape was close enough to him that Harry could catch a whiff of his aftershave, and he was resisting the urge to move closer for a better sniff.
"That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard," Snape finally said, stepping back and making his way over to his small worktable by the fireplace. It was actually just a television tray table, but Snape had his stones on it, and the leather bits that Harry had seen in his kitchen before.
"It's not dumb. It was used in both World Wars, and is taught in military training," Harry defended.
"To soldiers with some form of co-ordination, no doubt. Sit," Snape ordered, summoning another tray table from a cupboard in the hallway, and setting it in front of Harry. He passed over a large-ish piece of stone, and pointed at it.
"Whatever. What are you making?"
"A jarvey," Snape responded, pointing his wand at the stone he was holding and tracing it in a pattern only he could see. The chunk of stone he'd drawn out fell off as soon as he lifted his wand, and Harry could see the beginnings of a thin arm taking shape. "I have moles in my garden."
"Why don't you just get a real jarvey then?" Harry asked, picking up his own chunk of stone and twisting it in his hands. Try as he might, he couldn't see any shape in it other than the basic grey stone it was.
"Because I have no need for a foul tempered and foul mouthed beast in my garden," Snape answered, slicing off another chunk of stone. "And this is a hobby, without chance of injury."
Snape gave Harry a pointed look, and Harry shrugged. He didn't have a garden, so a jarvey wasn't really necessary, but it was rather interesting to watch Snape carve the stone into something lifelike. The only problem Harry had was that he had very little talent for art. Maybe he could produce something, if he had a picture to copy.
"Do you have any books on gargoyles?" Harry finally asked.
The Sixth Tuesday
Harry arrived through the fireplace, coughing and sputtering as years worth of old ash and Floo powder swirled around his head. He dropped the cloth bag in his hand and bent over, coughing violently.
"Must you make such a racket?" Snape said, coming into the room from the hallway.
"Can't you clean your Floo?" Harry demanded back, glaring.
"A dirty Floo is a natural deterrent," Snape commented. He'd already moved over to the bag, and began pulling out the groceries that were in it. "What is this?"
He held up a box of instant oatmeal, giving it a dubious look.
"It's porridge. You just add hot water to it, and it comes in a few flavours," Harry said, his shoulders dropping as he saw the scepticism on Snape's face.
"I eat plain oatmeal, Potter. Not this monstrosity."
Stung, Harry reached to yank the box out of Snape's hands.
"Maybe you should come to the store next time then."
"You know I do not like to leave the house, Potter," Snape snapped, hoisting the bag up as he spun and went to the kitchen. He showed a fair amount of strength doing so, and Harry suspected he had mostly healed from Nagini's attack.
"Why not?" Harry pressed, angry that Snape didn't seem to appreciate Harry running his errands. "Voldemort's dead and nearly everyone else thinks you've disappeared."
Harry yanked open one of the cabinets, unfortunately choosing the one with Snape's small collection of mismatched mugs, and banged the box of multi-flavoured porridge sideways on top of the mugs.
"I don't expect you to understand, Potter," Snape growled, angrily stacking cans of soup.
"Oh, I understand," Harry said, crossing his arms as he leaned against the counter. "You're afraid to go out and you like having me as your little errand boy."
Snape stiffened and turned to face Harry. The kitchen of his house was tiny, so they ended up nearly chest-to-chest.
"I am not afraid," Snape said, his strong presence behind his words. The vein in his neck, which ran precariously close to the scars from Nagini, pulsed steadily as Snape kept his cool.
"Then why won't you go out?" Harry challenged, feeling slightly less sure as he faced Snape. He'd not seen that level of intensity in Snape's gaze before, not without a sense of maliciousness.
"Two reasons," Snape immediately replied, holding up two fingers. "I have no desire to be hexed in public, and even if I am pardoned, I shall be."
Harry kept contact with Snape's eyes, slightly surprised at how warm and lively they were, even when he was angry.
Snape didn't move, but his expression changed slightly to one that Harry couldn't quite read.
"And you running errands for me requires that you return each Tuesday."
Harry's eyebrows raised in incredulity as he processed that.
"You likewhen I visit? But…why? I always thought you were just tolerating me."
"Because you are surprisingly interesting to look at, and far less offensive now that I no longer need teach you," Snape bluntly answered, though he still seemed to be uncomfortable.
"Oh," Harry uselessly answered. Snape seemed to think that was sufficient, and reached around Harry to continue putting away groceries. The milk and eggs made it to the fridge before Harry spoke again. "Interesting as in odd, or interestinginteresting?"
There was a small twitch of a smile on Snape's face as he picked up a bag of carrots.
"You're short, scrawny, and near sighted with ugly spectacles," Snape proclaimed, giving Harry only a split second to feel disappointed. "But interesting in a way that I anticipate your visits."
"Er, well," Harry said, blushing as he picked up the bunch of bananas to hand over to Snape. "That's good."
Snape studied Harry's expression as he slowly, and rather obscenely, pulled the bananas out of Harry's hands.
Harry smiled, feeling his anger lessen.
"All you want are visits?"
"Potter. I have a place to call my own, I no longer answer to anyone, and I have no daily obligations. This is all I've ever wanted from life."
Distracted, Harry considered for a second all the things he'd dreamed about for himself while he was fighting the war.
"That's all? No grand plans to travel or run your own potions shop?"
Snape twisted his head up and folded up the shopping bags.
"I don't need fame or extravagance to be happy."
He left Harry in the kitchen, walking the few steps into the living room to sit at his craft table again. There were still tools littered across the table from Harry's last visit, but it didn't seem to have been worked on. The large leather piece was stretched out over the table, and the jarvey's body was lying on top.
Harry followed, taking out the wing sketch he'd brought with him.
"I used to dream of great things to do after the war. Turns out, I just look forward to coming here every Tuesday," Harry said, figuring it was a safe statement to start with. "And you've always been interesting to look at, believe me."
"Trying to let me down gently, Potter?" Snape asked with amusement, searching through his box of tool bits.
"No," Harry quickly answered, his cheeks red. "I just don't think I've considered you that way. It's something to think about."
"Don't overexert yourself," Snape dryly said. "Here is next week's list."
"That's it?" Harry asked, taking the list.
"I still have ingredients from last week," Snape explained, moving to the kitchen.
"No," Harry huffed. "I meant about the liking thing."
"There's nothing to think about, Potter," Snape said, managing not to roll his eyes. He was rummaging in a box from atop the fridge, where he kept coins. "Continue to visit every Tuesday, and I shall continue to somewhat enjoy your visits and not throw you out upon first sight."
Harry snapped his mouth shut at that, taking a few moments to figure out if he had been insulted or not.
The Seventh Tuesday
"I think I've found a way to get you accepted back into society," Harry said, bursting through the front door. He received no reply though, just silence.
"Snape?" Harry asked, walking into the living room. It was empty and so was the kitchen. Suddenly from upstairs he heard the loo flush, and blinked. Right. Professor Severus Snape, spy Death Eater, Potions Master genius, wizard Harry looked up to, used the loo like everyone else. Harry felt his world tilting a little.
"Why are you giving me such a dumb look?" Snape asked, entering the living room.
"I'm not," Harry countered, shaking his head to right everything. "No, wait, I have an idea."
"Do you?" Snape said, sitting down on the chesterfield Harry always sat on. "I am surprised you returned."
Harry, slightly thrown by Snape's seating choice, gave him a confused look. "Why?"
He shoved his hands in his pockets, standing awkwardly by Snape's bookcase and looking down at the man. There was no way he was going to sit in Snape's armchair, as that was Snape's Armchair with a capital A and just not to be done.
Snape relaxed back against the chesterfield, an amused smile on his face from Harry's awkwardness.
"Last week your most hated professor insinuated that he enjoyed your presence," Snape dryly said. "Insinuated in a homosexual manner."
"My most hate – do you not remember Umbridge at all?" Harry sputtered. "You may have been a total arse, but she actually tried to use an Unforgivable on me."
"Ah, there were many times I wanted to," Snape confessed with a relaxed exhalation of breath.
"Hah," Harry said, finally giving up and flopping down on the chesterfield next to Snape. "I can say the same about you. But no, I'm not afraid of what you said last week."
Snape raised his eyebrow and Harry felt his face flush.
"Maybe a little off kilter, but not afraid. A little curious," Harry corrected. "Anyway. My idea was that we bring you back into public, but not as yourself."
"I am not wearing a disguise," Snape sneered, his voice firm.
"Not a disguise," Harry said, holding his hand up. "But when you thought you were dying, when you were dying actually, you gave me a bunch of your memories to help me defeat Voldemort. What if something had gone wrong with the transfer?"
He had Snape's attention, and Harry could tell that Snape was thinking of the possibilities, but was still sceptical.
"I know you're a master legilimens, but things happen when people are attacked by giant snakes. Which everyone knows happened to you, thanks to the Daily Prophet. But it's never been reported where you disappeared to, nor why you did, after I gave that speech in the Great Hall."
"For privacy, of course," Snape immediately said. "I wouldn't tell that rag where to get lost, for fear of what they'd print."
"That was one of my best speeches," Harry said, remembering the energy that had coursed through him at the time. "And yes, the Prophet'srubbish. But when you're found and brought back into the wizarding world, and you can't remember anything about the war, maybe they'll not be so quick to judge you."
Harry twisted himself so he was sitting with his back against the armrest, and had his foot up on the seat. He was almost touching Snape's outer thigh with his knee, and could feel the man's body heat.
"Nothing of the war?" Snape asked, focusing on Harry.
"Of the Second Wizarding War. You remember the first," Harry said. "But you think nothing has happened since then."
"Memory loss," Snape pondered, tapping his fingers against the side of the chesterfield. "Rather similar to the first war, and claims from some Death Eaters that they'd been under the imperius."
"Right, and if Malfoy can get away with it, you certainly can. After all, you actually were on the right side during the war."
"That's hardly the point. The public will still want me to go to Azkaban, for torturing their children," Snape said dismissively. He still hadn't said no though, which Harry took as a good sign.
"But the Carrows did that, Neville told me. And he told me that you just gave cleaning detentions instead of actual physical punishment," Harry said.
"It matters not, I was the headmaster," Snape shook his head. He didn't sound defeated about this, but rather cautious. Snape was a man who had grown up to expect the worst.
"You were, but you did your best," Harry said. "And you'll have the hero of the wizarding world helping you regain your memories."
He'd scrunched up his face as he said it, hating the nickname. Snape eyed him, still examining the idea.
"I see. You'll be the one that finds me," Snape said.
"Yeah. Well, with someone else, as well. So it'll look like an actual coincidence."
Snape nodded, tapping his fingers on his thigh as he thought over what Harry had come up with.
"I will consider it," Snape finally proclaimed, standing up from the couch. He moved to the TV tray where Harry's gargoyle carving was, and rested his hand on the face. "I believe it is time we brought your gargoyle to life."
"What?" Harry asked, springing off the couch and unwilling to let his brilliant idea drop. "But what about the plan? You realise you could change yourself drastically and people would believe it?"
He was standing close to Snape, and was pleased to see that he'd grown enough to no longer be dwarfed by the man.
"Potter, I said I would consider it," Snape said, and his tone signalled the end of any further discussion about it.
"All right," Harry finally said, running his fingers through his hair. "But you'll tell me?"
"I will give you my decision shortly," Snape confirmed. He held up the gargoyle and inspected it, noting one or two uneven surfaces.
"It gives him character," Harry explained, his cheeks warming. "I don't like things that are perfect, no one is perfect."
Snape raised his eyebrow at that, but made no response. He did stiffen though, when Harry put his hand at the bottom of Snape's back.
"What are you doing?" Snape murmured, turning the gargoyle over and ensuring the wings were attached properly.
"I wasn't afraid to come back here," Harry said. "When you said you liked me."
Snape put the gargoyle down and Harry saw the slightest twitch of a smile on his lips. Snape stepped to the side though, moving just enough to dislodge Harry's hand.
"I said I liked your presence," Snape clarified. "Which could have just meant your physical appearance."
Harry twisted his head slightly. "But it didn't, did it? You like…me, too."
"Perhaps," Snape calmly said. "Though your focus is still sadly short."
"Shut up," Harry said, without rancour. "All right, how do we Frankenstein this thing?"
Snape huffed and Harry hid his smile, knowing that he'd irked the man.
"Weslice your finger, and when enough blood has dropped, you will cast the spell to reanimate the gargoyle."
"Oh," said Harry, stepping back from the table and looking between Snape and the carving. "Uh, it doesn't need to come alive, on second thought."
Snape turned and moved away to fetch something from the bookcase, but he had an amused look on his face and Harry could hear the light tease in his voice.
"Afraid of giving a little blood?"
"It's not my favourite thing to do, considering the last person I brought to life with it," Harry quietly answered; any arousal he'd been feeling earlier from touching Snape having died a quick death. Feeling suddenly chilled, Harry hugged himself and looked down at the worn wooden floor.
He didn't look up, but he could hear Snape quiet footsteps as the man stood behind him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to kill the mood," Harry mumbled. "I actually wanted to kiss you," he said, giving a dejected puff of laughter.
He didn't see Snape's hand at first, but felt it as Snape reached out and squeezed Harry's shoulder once. Like a strong form of grounding, Snape left his hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Very few people have ever wanted to kiss me," Snape said, speaking as if Harry were daft. Before Harry could respond and protest that statement, Snape spoke again.
"I have always felt that Albus had never fully understood what atrocities and cruelties you would face," Snape spoke, softly as he looked down at the gargoyle carving in front of them. "It's something I have never forgiven him for."
Slightly mollified, Harry took a calming breath. He'd never fully spoken of what he'd been through to his friends, partially because he didn't just want pity, and partially because he felt they wouldn't fully understand. But Snape would. Snape had served Voldemort, seen the horrors that Voldemort inflicted.
"I was pinned to a grave," Harry said, his focus straight ahead at the tiny window looking out over the pavement at the back of Snape's house. "And then he tried to kill me, just…just because of a stupid prophecy that only became true because he wanted it to." He felt incredibly embarrassed to be stuck on it, but he'd not spoken about that night in years, and it had scared him so much as a fourteen year old, facing a murderer who was targeting him just because of who he was.
Snape's hand squeezed his shoulder again, and Harry could feel the heat of Snape's body, and smell the slight rainy scent of whatever Snape laundered his clothes with.
"I watched you sleep that night," Snape said, his fingertips drumming once against Harry's t-shirt covered skin. "After I had returned from meeting the Dark Lord, and apprised the Headmaster of the meeting."
"You did?" Harry asked, moving slightly to the side so he could turn to look up at Snape. "I don't…"
"You were under dreamless sleep," Snape explained, two hints of colour on his cheeks. "When I was at the graveyard, I felt the last remnants of your presence there. Your fear. As such, when I returned, I spent the night in the hospital wing sitting beside you."
Harry said nothing, unsure that his voice wouldn't break over the simple words of 'thank you.' He nodded though, and hoped that Snape understood. He seemed to, as he squeezed Harry's shoulder a final third time, and turned back to the gargoyle carving. Harry, wanting to change the topic to something less serious, made light of his next question.
"So, if we bring this to life, it won't try to kill me?" Harry asked, tapping his fingers against the sharp talons he'd given the gargoyle.
Snape smirked, and picked up his wand.
"It shouldn't. Though you have managed to carve him with a rather severe scowl, so I cannot promise it won't be on the nasty side."
Harry tried to hide his grin, knowing Snape would not appreciate the knowledge of who the gargoyle had been modelled after.
"Okay. We'll try it," Harry said, holding out his left hand. True to his word, Snape only took a few drops, pressing them out of the cut he'd made on Harry's hand with his wand. Placing Harry's hand down onto the stone gargoyle, he motioned for Harry to cast the spell.
Fascinated, Harry kept his hand on the stone as it began to shift and shudder beneath his grip.
"What will you name it?" Snape asked, watching just as intently.
"I've no idea," Harry said, removing his hand as the gargoyle struggled to sit up.
"What?" the gargoyle grumpily demanded, evidently not pleased with them staring at it. He managed to stand on the table and test his wings, before curling them back up and standing with an ugly look on his face. "What are you looking at?"
"Nice to meet you too," Harry said. "Just trying to think of a good name for you. You know, one that isn't 'Fluffy'."
The gargoyle grimaced at that, his face scrunching up into an absolutely ugly look as his eyes glared at Harry.
"Grimace it is, then," Harry said, grinning. He'd actually created his own stone gargoyle.
"Hmmph," Grimace huffed, twitching his stone ears and giving an experimental stretch to his limbs. "Acceptable. And what is your name, master?"
"Harry Potter," Harry answered. "But please, don't call me master. Just Harry is fine."
"Mister Potter," Grimace repeated, managing to make mister sound very similar to master.
"…Harry," Harry insisted, ignoring the amused look on Snape's face and glaring down at the gargoyle.
"Mister Harry Potter," Grimace said, scratching his chin with his taloned claws. He turned his stony blue gaze toward Snape, and gave him a speculative look.
"Do you have any cheese, human?"
"Human?" Snape softly repeated, all humour lost as his voice took on a dangerous tone. The gargoyle ignored the threat completely, likely because it was made of stone and didn't have the intelligence to be afraid.
Grimace had already climbed down from the table though, and was sniffing the air to likely search for food.
"It's just a stone statue, Master Snape," Harry teased, feeling much better than he had been only ten minutes earlier.
"Insolent. Justlike its creator," Snape growled, his arms crossed as both he and Harry watched the gargoyle try to open the fridge.
The Eighth Tuesday
Harry brought Grimace back to Snape's the following week, with a bag of moss to snack on. After an interesting question and answer round, Harry had learned that Grimace liked molasses, cheese, moss, pears, sleeping in the sun, and was extremely nosy. He also referred to Snape solely as 'the human', implying that Harry wasn't.
After a light supper of fish and salad, Harry was surprised when Snape stood up and fetched his camera from the bookcase shelves.
"Come Potter, we're going out."
Harry nearly dropped the dishrag he was holding.
"Pardon? You're leaving the house?"
Snape huffed in irritation as he put the camera in a space-enhanced bag.
"I have been out many times."
"The corner shops don't count," Harry said dismissively, waving his hand and spraying soap bubbles across the kitchen.
Snape glared at Harry, and picked Grimace up by the back of his neck.
"If you would rather do the washing up…"
"No! I'm coming," Harry said, dropping the cloth and wiping his damp hands on his trousers. Snape stood serenely in the middle of his living room as Harry put his shoes on and pocketed his wand. He could hear Grimace muttering as he stepped up to Snape, grasping strongly onto the man's offered forearm and taking an only slightly nervous breath as Snape apparated them to the unknown.
Harry was slightly disappointed to find himself at Hogwarts. They'd landed at the quidditch pitch, far enough away that no one in the castle should have been able to see them. It wasn't an issue regardless, as the castle was nearly empty on a warm July evening near sunset.
Harry followed Snape as the man walked a little toward the castle, the silence stretching comfortably between them as the sun sunk lower in the sky. Snape stopped at a gathering of a few large rocks, and placed Grimace atop one. Harry watched as Snape knelt, speaking to Grimace and positioning the little gargoyle with Hogwarts in the background, in order to take a few photographs.
Snape was only wearing his trousers and a light stylish waistcoat over his dress shirt. His sleeves were unbuttoned, and Harry was drawn to Snape's slender wrists. They moved fluidly as Snape moved Grimace about, poking him and avoiding being clawed, barely giving away the strength and steadiness they commanded when Snape was brewing or duelling.
"Potter," Snape suddenly said, causing Harry to blink. "Take a photograph, so that I may have evidence that I have left the confines of my home."
Harry rolled his eyes, but took the camera from Snape. He squatted down, holding the camera steady as he brought both Snape and Grimace into focus. Because the sun was setting behind Hogwarts, neither Grimace nor Snape could be made out in strong detail. He took a few snaps, and changed his angle so that the shadows weren't as dark.
"Hold his hand, Grimace," Harry suggested, mostly as a joke. He caught Snape's minute flinch as Grimace reached up, his sharp talons gently capturing Snape's finger. At a loss for words at the image it presented, Harry took as many photos as he could, hoping one would turn out perfectly. Grimace lost interest after less than a minute and wandered off, apparently not as enthralled at the healing form of Hogwarts in front of him.
"This was my first home," Harry said, coming to stand beside Snape.
Snape glanced at him, and then back at Hogwarts. Harry noticed that Snape wasn't looking at the grand towers, or even the archway of the courtyard. He was looking at the bottom of the castle, where one of the towers sunk into the rocks – likely where his office was.
"Your first home was in Godric's Hollow," Snape corrected, though there was no malice in his voice.
Harry swallowed thickly and moved closer, taking Snape's hand in his.
"Was it? The only time I remember there was the night my parents were killed."
Snape stared down between them, at their joined hands.
"I assure you that I most certainly do not only have happy memories of Spinner's End, but it has always been my home."
"Is it going to be your gaol, as well?" Harry asked, squeezing Snape's hand. "Or will you leave it and come back to the wizarding world with me?"
"Not like this, Potter," Snape said, his voice low and emotionless as he let go of Harry's hand.
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, surprised and slightly hurt. "I thought…weren't we getting on now? And you said…"
"What I say, and what I do, are sometimes very different things," Snape vaguely replied. He was standing stiffly, with his back to the far distant Hogsmeade village.
"And what's changed?" Harry demanded, crossing his arms. "Two weeks ago you said I was attractive, were you lying?"
Snape looked insulted, and he opened his mouth to no doubt deliver a scathing response. Harry wasn't finished though.
"Or last week, when you, you comforted me. Was that part of some trick?"
"I don't play tricks," Snape hissed, pressing forward to crowd into Harry's space.
"I did not lie about my attraction to you, nor did I have any secondary motivation to comforting you last week," Snape snapped, his eyes dark and hard to read. "But if I return to the wizarding world, I cannot have you."
Still feeling slightly hurt, but mollified now that Snape's refusal wasn't from his lack of interest, Harry resisted the urge to blurt out that he wasn't something to be owned.
"I don't understand," Harry said, his hands wanting to reach out and grasp Snape. "Why would anyone care if we decided to have a go at things?"
"Potter, you are twenty years my junior, you told half of the school that I was in love with your mother, and once we leave the idyllic little fantasy world that is Tuesdays at my flat, we'll likely end up killing each other," Snape exasperatedly said, turning to pack up his camera, likely so he wouldn't have to make eye contact.
"That's rubbish," Harry insisted. "There was more than ten years between Remus and Tonks, and they still got together. As for my mother – you don't honestly think that you can only love one person in your entire life?"
Snape looked up and sneered.
"I don't love you, Potter."
"Stop fucking calling me that!" Harry yelled, panting slightly. He was pretty sure that Snape was intentionally riling him up, as a defense mechanism. "You don't get to do this. You don't get to be nice to me, and make me think you like me, and make me go home and dream about what it would be like to be with you, and…"
"There is no way I could be with you, Harry, and return to the wizarding world," Snape interrupted, speaking as if Harry was the idiot for not following his convoluted reasoning. "No matter how well thought out your cunning little plan is to bring me back."
"Stop being such a coward," Harry huffed, choosing his words carefully. Just as the meaning came across, and Snape's face started to twist in anger, Harry stepped forward and ran his fingers through Snape's hair. The kiss started gentle, a tentative press of Harry's lips on Snape's pursed ones, before growing heated and consuming. Harry cheered internally that Snape kissed back with just as much desperation.
"Why can't we have this?" Harry asked, moving to kiss the underside of Snape's chin. "You've been with other men before?"
"Yes," Snape answered, gently pushing Harry back from himself. "Long ago, and meaning nothing more than sex. Which is what everyone will think this is. The wizarding world is still not very forgiving toward homosexuals, Harry. It is a hard life to live."
"I think that's my choice to make," Harry gruffly said, standing back and crossing his arms. His eyes were getting damp, and his idea of how the evening was going to play out had twisted horribly off course. "To live it or not."
"I have been watching out for your idiotic mistakes for seven years, and I shall continue to do so, even to my own personal detriment," Snape said, straightening his waistcoat. His expression softened slightly as he looked up at Harry, but it was hard to see. "I want to return, Mr Potter. I wish to brew potions and continue on with my life. You should do the same, with a much better suited partner."
Harry took another step back, shaking his head.
"I want the Tuesdays back," Harry said, strongly so his voice wouldn't break. "I want the Tuesdays, with you, but at my flat too. Or a café."
"Harry," Snape started, sighing. "I hadn't planned to give up the Tuesdays."
"I don't understand then," Harry said, frustrated. "You want to keep seeing me every week, you like having me around, you think I'm attractive, but you don't want to try for anything more than friends?"
Snape's features somehow softened in the waning sunlight, and Harry could see his Adam's apple dip as he swallowed. He'd given up on his sarcasm and biting responses, and Harry knew that he was now getting to the truth about Snape's decision.
"I should have never told you," Snape started, his hands awkwardly clenching at his side, and reminding Harry very much of the gangly fifteen year old he'd seen memories of.
"That you liked me?" Harry asked, blinking. "You never would have told me?"
"It cannot have escaped your notice how few friends I have," Snape quietly said. This time there was no underlying malice in his soft tones, but no self-deprecation either. Just a truth Snape had accepted long ago. "It was not worth the risk."
Harry's shoulder's dropped a fraction and he resisted the strong urge to hold Snape's hand again, or clasp his shoulder, do anything to show the man that he wasn't an unwanted human being.
"Is that all you want?" Harry finally asked, nervously rolling his wand in his fingers. He felt inexplicably hurt, even though he and Snape had never actually had anything. "Just a friend?"
"My last attempt at wanting anything more ended rather spectacularly," Snape replied, and this time his tiny smile showed a bit of the low self-esteem Harry now recognised in Snape.
"What if I don't just want to be friends?" Harry asked, reaching down to pick up Grimace. The gargoyle had been sitting on the rock the entire time, shamelessly eavesdropping on the conversation. "Don't I get a choice?"
Snape said nothing, just stood there with a blank look on his face and his arms crossed tightly in front of himself. Harry wanted to grab his arms and shake him. Finally, Snape spoke.
"I destroyed every acquaintance I had during the war. I shall not do so again."
Harry felt like he'd had the wind knocked out of him at the statement. Not only because Snape was right, and the man had to give up every friend he'd had, but because he felt Harry was worth keeping as one.
"I understand that you may no longer wish to carry out your plan," Snape continued in Harry's silence, but stopped once Harry waved his hand in the air.
"I'll still help," Harry said, blinking rapidly. "And I'll still visit you every bloody Tuesday."
Snape arched his eyebrow, expecting, as always, a catch.
"But only if you don't turn away the possibility permanently," Harry predictably continued. "If you come back and the wizarding community likes you, and my friends, and anyone else that matters, you must promise to give me a chance."
"Must?" Snape replied, standing still.
"Yes," Harry nodded. "I will help you as soon as you ask. But you have to be willing to consider us."
He put Grimace in his pocket and looked around. They'd not brought anything though, and Harry was starting to feel a chill that had nothing to do with the incoming night. Snape was silent, just continuing to watch him, and Harry drew his wand to apparate.
"I guess I'll give you time, to decide."
Snape, his expression shuttered, nodded and then pointed to a patch of tall weeds to their left.
"That is the apparition point."
Harry took a few steps forward, wondering what had turned so wrong, and if Snape had planned it the whole time.
"Let me know what you choose, then," Harry said, catching the minute lifting of Snape's head before he apparated away.