AN: This a note to thank the absolute best beta and friend, Yen, for looking over this small piece and making it worth the read. So, no one has to sneak back in to see if there are any changes, because she has already worked her magic. ^-^
A Tradition Worth Keeping
Another Snowball Epilogue
Death stopped just outside of the misty gate and looked at the two wizards he was escorting.
They were smiling at each other, happy to be here from what he could tell. Both had greeted him with similar smiles when he had walked into their house over an hour ago. They had just finished doing the breakfast dishes and the shorter one had offered him tea, but the taller one had gently shaken his head and told the other that it wasn't going to be possible.
When they requested that he let them sit in their armchairs and hold their favorite books as their final earthly action, Death had granted it without a moment's hesitation. He could tell they had been prepared for this eventuality for some time and had put everything in order to ease the burden of grief on their surviving loved ones. The house and land would go to Violet's eldest since he had become a Potions Master and was already tending the gardens.
What had taken so much time in getting here to the misty gate that led to the afterlife they both deserved, was that he had first allowed them to walk their house and land one last time. He would never admit to harboring a sentimental wish of wanting another glimpse of their home decorated with his creations.
During this tour, Severus had started asking questions and Death answered each one. "You appear at the age that you want to be, the age you subconsciously wish to see yourself as."
Severus had tried to look at himself in the bedroom mirror then, but gave up when there was no reflection. He turned to face Harry. "You look as you did when you were in your thirties." He brushed his hand – noting that the wrinkles and prominent veins on it had disappeared - through the unruly mass of pure black hair before trailing his fingers over the wrinkle free cheek. Both felt as tangible as they had in real life, but the hair was springy again, the skin more supple. The only lines left on that beloved face now were laugh lines, but those green eyes still held the knowledge of the over hundred years they had lived through.
Harry leaned into the gentle touch before cupping his hand over the back of Severus', and searched his face, taking in the ink black hair and dark eyes. "You look to be in your forties, just like your mind-self." Holding Severus' hand tightly in his, Harry turned to Death. "What does it mean for us to be these ages? I know you said it is what we subconsciously wish to be, but it has to have other repercussions."
Death nodded and wrapped his skeletal fingers about the shaft of his scythe before he answered. "You will be influenced by your feelings and habits of that age. You will know all that you remember of your life, but the part of you that will control your behaviour is the you at the age you chose to be, for that is how you wish to remain more than anything else. The other memories will fall into a fog. You know them but they aren't important."
That was why he wasn't totally worried for them. They both had picked an age when they were content with the other. They were a solid couple, and he knew that they were going to need that strength that when they reached their next grand adventure.
Severus gazed deep into Harry's eyes, thinking back to what they had both been like at those respective ages. He knew why he had chosen his age; he was content. Everyone that meant anything to him and Harry had accepted them as a couple and their life had fallen into a quiet pattern. Not a rut. Not a boring "I wish we could do something different" pattern, but one that was normal, predictable. One that made him contented and happy.
His free hand carded through Harry's hair. Smiling at the thick volume his fingers encountered, he rested his palm on the curve of that neck, pulling the younger man towards him. The green eyes warmed and the soft lips parted. Accepting the invitation, Severus kissed him.
Harry savoured the kiss and felt a tingle of excitement going up his spine, knowing it was just a prelude of things to come. They were both young once again, back to an age where shagging was a regular and looked forward to event, not just a talked about fond memory. When Severus lifted his head, Harry looked into the black eyes that were no longer faded with age. He could see the welcome spark desire blooming in them, but that desire was tempered with the knowledge, understanding and love that they had achieved through their lifetime together.
Harry understood why he was in his thirties, it was the time his shop was finally settling into a good steady business, he and Severus were both already godfathers to Hermione and Ron's daughter, and he was perfectly happy with Severus. It was the first time he felt completely normal – just Harry Pope.
Letting Severus' hand go, Harry wrapped his lover in a tight hug, burying his head into the warm chest. He was happy to look and feel thirty five, but at the same time, he didn't want to lose all the knowledge he had gained in the years following this age. He appreciated the fact that he looked younger, moved better and felt stronger, but he still wanted to be himself, the one that had gone to bed last night with Severus and woken up beside him this morning.
Holding back a sigh, he accepted that he would just have to cling onto those memories, make them part of his younger self. He had done far harder things. Raising his head, he smiled up at the questioning look on Severus' face. It was obvious that the man could read him as easily as he always had. "I don't want to forget all my time with you. I only had you for a bit more than a decade when I was in my thirties."
Severus pulled him closer and dropped a kiss on the top of his head. "We won't."
Death studied them for a moment, and believed that Severus was right. There were those who never allowed the memories that had occurred after their chosen age in real life to fade into barely graspable mists. Maybe these two souls' exposure to him on a constant basis would… help.
"We need to get moving if you wish to see the rest of your place before we leave." He had scheduled extra time for this particular pick up, but they were stretching it.
Harry pressed a lingering kiss that held a promise of more to come on Severus' lips before stepping back, firmly grasping his love's hand in his own. "Let's get this done. Death does have a tight schedule to keep."
Severus nodded in agreement and they continued the final tour of their home.
Death gestured towards the misty gates. "It is time for you to head on in."
He saw them look at each other and then the gate. Once they passed through it, he knew that their deal, their bargain, was concluded. There was a tiny part of his mind that expected the two men to go their separate ways as soon as they stepped past the gate. The deal that had been forged between the three of them had not given Harry or Severus a true moment alone in decades. The people waiting for them, people who had no idea of the deal or its results, would pull at them, some attempting to tear them apart on purpose, others just because they wanted to spend time with just one of them.
For the most part though, Death believed they would continue as they had for the last several decades. He found himself hoping their relationship would survive what was waiting. The worst part was that he would never know. 'That is why you should not get invested in the souls you bring.'
He said nothing when Severus opened the gate and walked through it with Harry. The latter gave him a wave and the former a nod, but Death still suffered a pang when neither men bid him goodbye.
Harry and Severus were glad when Death collected them on the morning of the twenty-fifth of October instead of six days later on Halloween. The last thing they wanted was anyone drawing parallels to the passing of Harry's parents, as unlikely as it was to happen.
Harry could tell that the Grim Reaper was affected by their parting as he left them at a set of misty gates. Since he and Severus were sure to hunt Death down later, he just gave him a tiny wave for now and walked through the barrier with Severus at his side, wondering who he would meet here first.
"Harry!" Lily and James Potter rushed forward only to come to a halt when their eyes landed on the person next to their son.
"Snape!" Sirius snarled, causing James and Lily to glance at him before looking back at their son.
"Harry, Severus." Remus nodded towards both of them, although his disapproval of them standing hand in hand was evident.
Harry stared at his reception party, amazed that they all looked far younger than he did, about seventeen, eighteen at the most. He had expected them to be in their early twenties at the very least. Not knowing what to say, he shifted his gaze to the handsome couple waiting just behind the other four. He could tell that they were related to Severus by the dark eyes and the distinctive bone structure. They looked to be in their late twenties. He looked back at the stunned faces of his parents. 'So young! They had to still be in Hogwarts at that age... I wasn't even thought of.'
Severus didn't respond to the name Sirius had snarled out at first; it had been over half a century since it had been his. He was staring at the two people behind Lily and the Marauders. Tobias and Eileen Snape. His parents. They looked quite young in appearance so he knew they must be reliving the earlier, happy years of their marriage. He felt a small blossom of warmth in his heart when he realized that he was present in their lives at the time they had chosen.
Forcing his gaze away, he looked at Harry's reception committee next, his eyes widening in surprise. His fingers tightened around Harry's hand when Death's explanation about chosen ages echoed through his mind. He could tell from the trembling fingers in his grasp that Harry had noticed James and Lily's youthful appearance and was likely drawing the conclusion that they had wanted to forget being his parents, that they wanted to remember the time before they had a son.
Severus looked back at his parents who were patiently waiting for the bratty teens to finish their greetings; he could almost see the rebuking words in the set of his father's shoulders and in the expression on his mother's face. Deciding to deal with the Marauders later - he knew they would go after him since they always had at that age - he tugged Harry over to meet the Snapes.
"Severus?" Harry's voice trembled just a touch.
"I've met your parents, it is time for you to meet mine." Severus almost smiled when Harry quickened his pace to walk beside him. Their shoulders brushed as they always did when they walked side by side, helping to ground him. He hoped it helped Harry as well.
Tobias watched as Severus and an unknown man walked towards him. A quiet relief filled him. No matter what age he appeared to be now, he had clung to the horrors he had done after he had passed this happy age. He hadn't thought himself worthy of forgiveness, especially as both Eileen and Severus were sure to choose a different age to be. He had wandered close to the Forest that surrounded the Here-after that he had come to, part of him thinking he should enter there, to be lost and forgotten. He felt he deserved it. Then Eileen had found him, walking towards him with a smile of relief filling her face, her long dark hair trailing down her back. Her dark eyes were glowing with the happiness he could remember just like yesterday when he wasn't clinging to his other painful memories. Her forgiveness had been a soothing balm that healed his heart and mind, and he had left the Forest's edge without a moment's hesitation to follow her.
Now, the one other person who could grant him the rest of the forgiveness he craved, that he needed before he could sink into the congenial life here and forget the passage of time, was walking towards them. Tobias Snape wasn't going to make another mistake this time. He moved towards Severus and the other man, Eileen falling into step beside him. "Severus, I am glad it took you this long to make it here."
Severus saw a smile slip onto Harry's face and let a small one grace his own. "It is due to Harry here. He made sure that the living world suffered with my presence longer than they or I expected."
Harry turned to him, chuckling in delight. "I'm not sure they would call it suffering. There are many people who were glad you were still around to develop the cures that they needed. Violet, Marcus, and the other little ones were also quite happy to have a bit of advanced potions training before they went to school. Not to mention growing immune to the glares and scolding of their teachers. No one can top you in that."
"Yes, and because of that last part, those teachers were made to suffer."
Severus turned back to his parents, he had to hurry since he knew the Marauders would stop being shell shocked in a moment. "Mother, Father, I would like to introduce you to Harry Pope, my life partner."
Eileen held out her hand, a small smile on her face. This man had made her son happy, she could tell it from the age Severus appeared and the almost teasing tones he used when talking to Harry. "It is nice to meet you, Mr. Pope."
Harry shook her hand and then Tobias', grinning broadly. "Harry, please. It is my pleasure to meet you two."
"Thank you for making Severus' later years pleasant." Tobias shifted his penetrating look back to Severus. "So, where did the two of you meet, and when?"
Severus glanced at Harry to check on what he wanted revealed and received a small nod. 'He trusts me to know what to say. Then they get as much of the truth as I can tell them. Death's Bargain is to remain our secret. I'm sure that Molly and Arthur have not mentioned it.' "I was his Potions Professor at Hogwarts, so we officially met when he was eleven."
Eileen's eyes widened. "You and a student? I cannot..."
Harry's laughter cut her off, making her look uncertain. "We didn't become a couple until I was out of school for three years, Mrs. Snape. During school there were no improprieties or even any hint that there might be something between us."
Severus smirked at that. "Except a lot of tension and passion."
Harry folded his arms and glared at Severus while the two Snapes gaped at them. "We glowered, argued, yelled, as well as tried not to hex one another every time we saw each other. I hated you then."
"The feeling was mutual, and it led to the tension and passion." Severus met the glare and felt the urge to kiss the expression off of Harry's face. Flushed cheeks, half lidded eyes and well kissed lips in an almost goofy smile was a much more fitting expression to be there. Tobias' voice stopped him from doing so.
"You hated each other during Harry's school years, but formed a relationship three years afterwards?" The idea that Severus could forgive someone he hated and learn to love them gave him hope.
"He saved my life – it is hard to hate someone who did that and removed the biggest menace to the Wizarding World when he was seventeen. Safer not to hate someone that powerful."
Harry's laughter at that old, familiar line was drowned out by Sirius' growl. Tobias and Eileen moved just enough to block Severus from the teenagers that came up behind them.
"So that was how it happened! I always knew you were attracted to power, Snivellus." James yanked Harry away from Severus and tucked him into the group that was behind him. He missed the narrowing of Tobias' eyes at his action since he wanted to see Snape's reaction.
Severus' gut reaction was to blast the elder Potter away, and pull Harry back to his side. No one took his Harry from him. Even as he moved to pull his wand, he met the green eyes he knew best. The ice in them stopped him and made him realise it was better to just stand back and watch this confrontation. James Potter had made a mistake and he was about to pay for it.
Glancing at his own parents, Severus recognized the set of Tobias' shoulders. This might prove more interesting than he had thought since it was an unusual experience for him to be protected by his father's anger.
"His name is Severus," Tobias ground out in a voice that were eerily reminiscent of Severus' old classroom one. "If you have problems saying that, then you can try for a little bit of respect for your elders and call him Master Snape."
Harry's tone matched the coldness in his eyes. "I agree, but I think you should stick to Master Pope, since none of you are that close to him."
Lily looked between her son, the little boy she felt vaguely protective of, and the man who had once been her best friend until he turned bad. "Harry?"
Harry looked over at Lily, belatedly realizing she looked the same as when he had used the Resurrection Stone in the Forbidden Forest. He hadn't realized then that she had appeared as a teenager, his mind occupied by the more pressing fact that he was walking to his doom at that time. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, since he wouldn't have understood what it meant. For now, he just raised an eyebrow at her in a silent query.
"Harry... what happened? Why are you with Severus? You shouldn't be. You need to be with someone who will keep you safe and take care of you." Lily looked between the two men, puzzlement in her words and expression.
"Lily's right! Snape doesn't care about anyone but himself!" James said angrily, taking a menacing step towards Snape.
Taking advantage of James' distraction, Harry slipped out of the Marauder's circle, grateful for his regained agility. Remus tried to grab him, but missed when Eileen stepped forward to block him.
"I grew up and learned that life sometimes makes thing happen for a reason. That forgiveness is something that can be granted and accepted even after horrors had been done. That love can be hiding right in front of your eyes," Harry said, his fingers entwined with Severus' once again.
"But why that cold git? He always had the worst out for you. He only wants you for your power, he said so himself!" "You said you hated him, and I know you did. This makes no sense!" Sirius and Remus' voices tumbled over each other.
A quick glance at Severus showed Harry that the cold and indifferent mask that had vanished so long ago was back in place. He straightened his shoulders, green eyes steady. "You each came here to greet me, thinking you were meeting the boy you last saw. You didn't consider the fact that I might have changed, and none of you are prepared to accept that change."
James stepped forward. "That's not true!"
"James, it has been over a hundred years since you last talked to me, and you were dead at that time." Harry's gaze swept over the others. "It has been the same amount of time for each of you. You do not know me."
Taking a deep breath, he continued, "None of you know me the way Severus does. He has been with me for longer than all of you put together. He was there to protect, guide, and support me when I needed it."
Turning, he nodded towards the Snapes. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Snape, but Severus and I have an old coot to go give a long talking to and then a pair of redheads to track down. We might see you around."
Severus stepped towards his parents, his eyes telling them thank you louder and more sincerely than his voice could have. Holding out his hand, he shook his father's. "Thank you for helping."
Tobias searched the dark eyes of his son for a moment before pulling the older looking man into a hug. The forgiveness he needed was there. "You are welcome. Your Harry is worth protecting, you chose him."
Eileen slipped into the hug as the words were murmured so softly she was sure that Harry didn't even hear them.
"I did and he is," Severus replied, tightening his free arm around his mother's shoulders. "We must be going. I have an old coot to find, as Harry said."
When Harry tugged on Severus' hand the same way the Potions Master had pulled on his earlier, Severus allowed him to pull him away from their greeters, a small ball of happiness glowing deep in him. He hadn't doubted Harry. He knew just what was there between them, but it had been very satisfying all the same to hear Harry put his old nemeses in their place.
Perhaps he would talk to him later about mending those bridges just in case Harry wanted to know more about his parents and godfather.
For now, they had their true reception committee to hunt down.
Harry ran a fine blade down the long piece of wood he was meticulously carving. He was finally back to the point he had been before Death came to collect him and Severus almost two months ago. He hadn't been sure he would succeed in recreating the long scythe handle in time for the tradition the two of them had agreed to honor. The intricate runes that wove their way up the handle were hard to duplicate. 'We started it, it would be churlish to stop just because we are now on this side.'
When they tracked down the people who should have been the first to greet them, they found that Molly and Arthur had thought it would best for Harry to be met by his real parents and ditto for Severus. They were waiting with Albus and all three had been contrite when they heard what had happened. Harry was thrilled when Albus accepted his and Severus' relationship with just a brighter twinkle in his eye and a congratulatory statement. A quiet word with the Weasleys ensured that his and Severus' secret was still just that.
It was on their way to the new house that Albus, Molly and Arthur had prepared for them that Harry and Severus discussed continuing the tradition of exchanging presents with Death. They didn't expect Death to have anything for them, but that would be the same as the first year when they had been alive. Harry had bemoaned the loss of the handles he had carved over the summer, and Severus the polish he had perfected that autumn.
They both stopped when they caught their first glimpse of the house waiting on them. They were relieved to know that Arthur and Molly had picked it out; it wasn't quite up to Albus' level of eccentricities.
As they took in the sight of the handsome, two story pitch roofed house, a white spot in the sky swooped down. Harry knew his eyes and mouth had to have been comically wide as he gasped in shock and then started laughing. Hedwig skimmed over the roof of the house before flying three circles about his head, hooting loud enough to deafen him. She landed on his shoulder and gave Severus a long, considering look before grooming Harry's hair, hooting nonstop to her master all the while as if berating him for making her wait so long. The flick of one snowy white wing beckoned at Severus from behind Harry's head, telling him to come closer. When his shoulder touched Harry's, Hedwig moved onto his shoulder and started grooming his hair instead.
Right at that moment, a small figure came barreling out of the house, squealing loudly. Dobby slammed into Harry's legs and hugged him about the knees. Severus had to grip Harry's arm to keep him upright while Hedwig flapped her wings at the commotion, hooting in annoyance. After the initial embrace, Dobby then captured Harry's hand and kissed it over and over, saying that although he was still a free elf here, he would be overjoyed to work for Master Harry Potter - sorry, Pope, forever, and Potions Master Sna - Pope too, of course.
Dobby's happiness seemed complete,, his tennis ball eyes overflowing with tears, when Harry dropped to his knees, hugged him and said that he had been sorely missed. Severus had stood to one side with a calmed Hedwig on his shoulder and a smile on his face as the excited little elf - still dressed in mismatched clothing – promised to take complete care of both of them.
After Harry finally succeeded in calming Dobby down, they went on a tour of their new house. The Weasleys had remembered to put in two workrooms for them, side by side and fully equipped with what they each would need. It wasn't until Severus and Harry reached the bedroom that they realized the large and comfortable looking bed prominently positioned there could be used for far more than just... sleeping. The kiss that came next was started by both of them and had led to activities that they hadn't been able to enjoy for some years.
Smiling at that particular memory and then at many others they had made since that morning, Harry ran a sandpaper with a fine grain over the wood. He looked out the window to see Severus walking down the path towards their house. The slight spring in the man's step told him that all their preparations would not be wasted.
"You found him," Harry stated the moment Severus came into his workroom. He didn't even bother making it a question.
Severus came closer and ran his fingers through Hedwig's feathers. She turned her golden eyes on him and pecked affectionately at his fingers but didn't move from her perch on the back of Harry's chair. Harry smiled at them before looking down at his work again.
Severus sank onto the stool next to him. "I did. It will take us some time to walk there, but we can get to him."
"So we head out early Christmas Morning?"
"Yes, we do. When we get back we will go over to Molly and Arthur's. Albus said he and Minerva were going to be there. Filius too. He hinted at a few surprises, so I would expect to see even more of the people from our Hogwarts days."
Harry smiled. It was going to be a fun Christmas.
Early Christmas morning found Harry and Severus walking through the tall forest that was a short distance from their house. Dobby had made them a hearty breakfast before they headed out and Hedwig had flown over their heads but sheered off once they had entered the forest.
Everything about the place seemed silent and uninviting. The colors were pale, washed out grays, the leaves were thin and mottled, and the air itself - cold, heavy and stale - seemed not to want them there.
Harry looked over at Severus, his eyes showing the same amount of resolve as his partner's. They both knew how it felt not to be wanted, even if it was an old memory. They were both stubborn enough not to let that keep them from doing what they wanted to do. Holding his present tightly, Harry pressed on with Severus at his side.
As they walked, the cold wind seemed to whisper to them, telling them of horrible deeds that were not their own. Shadows, some looking eerily familiar, drifted among the trees as if bereft of purpose and direction. At one point, Severus was sure one of them resembled the form of Voldemort before he had been resurrected during Harry's fourth year, but he refused to peer any closer, not wanting his suspicions to be confirmed.
They eventually passed out of the oppressive forest and stepped into a misty field. The mist reminded Severus of the gates Death had delivered them to. "He doesn't enter here. He isn't welcome in the afterlife."
They took a couple of minutes to regain their bearings. Harry's eyes widened as his gaze landed on a small house, almost a shack. The walls looked like thin clapboard and the door was barely hanging onto its hinges. There were no windows, which – given the scenery - was understandable since there wasn't anything to look at out here. Not another building or tree was evident – not even the forest they had left behind was visible through the white mist.
Walking up the two steps, Severus and Harry stopped on the stoop and knocked gently on the worn-looking door.
Death knew that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were two of the busiest days in the year for him so he started planning his route beforehand, making sure he scheduled time to stop by Snowball before he remembered that he wouldn't need to. 'That stop will never be part of my Christmas Morning route again.'
A small sigh left him as his bony shoulders slumped. Part of him wished that he never had to deliver those two, but he had known all along that it would happen one day. Looking about, he took in the wooden brackets that were holding his scythes and the empty as well as almost empty polish jars. His gaze then landed on the table and the blanket he had knitted over the summer when he had a light time period. It was made up of numerous small white and gray squares, joined together with black wool with a dark gray scalloped edge around the border.
Now, there was no one to give it to.
Exactly two months had passed since he led Severus and Harry to the misty gate. A part of him had started to believe that they had split up and were living their own lives, free from his constraint. The other part doubted that they had separated, and he clung to that one part, hoping it might be true.
Shaking his head at his wandering thoughts, he picked up his scythe, checked the blade and headed out the door. He had a long day ahead of him.
It was at seven in the morning on Christmas Day when he finally made it back home. His scythe was replaced in its holder behind the door and he sank into his leather armchair, allowing the fire to warm his bones. 'This would be the time I would go to Snowball to exchange gifts with those two. That is why I have nothing to do right now. I still made room for it in my schedule, even after I knew not to.'
Staring into the flames, he refused to look at the folded blanket on the table, mocking him. The quiet knock that sounded made him stare harder, sure that it was a log falling in the fireplace.
When the second knock came, he wondered if he was hearing things. No one would be at his door, it had never happened before.
It was the third knock that pulled him out of his chair to find out what was going on. Flinging open the thin wooden barrier, he glared the intruders before taking a step back in surprise. There, on his stoop, were the two men he had been thinking about all morning.
"How did you get here?" Death knew that it was an inane question, but it was the best he could come up with, as shocked as he was.
Harry grinned. "Severus found your place, and since it is Christmas morning, we knew we had to visit."
"It wouldn't be Christmas without see you at one point," Severus added with a gentle smile.
They had come to him. They had to have walked through the Forest of the Lost to get here, but here they were – just because it was Christmas.
Stepping back, Death swept one skeletal hand, inviting them in. "Welcome to my home, Harry, Severus."
They walked in and looked around, Severus spotting their presents on the walls that held a multitude of different types of scythes. There was one black armchair and a table close to a fireplace, but nothing else. "Thank you."
Harry held out his present, the scythe handle he had created as fast as he could while maintaining the same quality he expected his work to have. It was wrapped so gaily that Albus would have loved it. "Merry Christmas."
Death accepted the present and ignored the wrapping with practiced ease; Harry had always wrapped his gifts in bright shades, as if he thought Death needed a bit of color in his life. Taking his time, he worked the paper off the long package and then opened the box. Inside was a handle for one of his taller scythes.
Reaching in, he picked up the handle and held it in its bony hand, feeling it sing to him of the world beyond the gate - the promise of peace and happiness. The things he wanted all the souls entrusted to him to find. This handle would increase the power of his scythes, making it likelier for the soul it reaped to achieve those things. "Thank you, Mr. Potter."
"Pope. Surely you remember, you renamed us." Harry's rebuttal was gentle but firm.
Death was glad that one part of him had been right, they had survived the furor that had awaited them beyond the gate. "Of course. I am glad that you two decided to keep that name."
Severus held out an elegantly wrapped package as he spoke, "It was with us longer than the ones we were born with."
Death placed the handle into its box and put it on the table before accepted his other gift. With as much care as he had shown Harry's wrapping, he opened Severus' present. Inside the padded box were two jars, one didn't need a label, but he lifted out the other to read the spidery handwriting. Wood Polish. He was surprised, he hadn't thought of polishing the wood. Now he had the ability to do that as well as continue with his scythes. He had wondered where he was going to get scythe polish. It was nice to know that that wouldn't be an issue anymore. Like the handle, the jars also sang of the contentment found beyond the gate. "Thank you, Master Pope."
Severus nodded. "You are welcome, Death. Are you busy today as normal?"
Death nodded as well. "I am about to head back out. I do thank you for coming. Can you find your way back?"
He watched them, hoping to have his suspicions confirmed that they had indeed passed through the Forest of the Lost.
Harry looked at Severus. "We can. Can you pass through the Forest? If so, you are welcome to stop by our place on occasion. We are in a small piece of land not far across from the forest. I'm sure you would recognize it - there is a potions garden up front."
Death considered the two men for a long moment, head tilted to one side. Never before had he had a reason to push through those trees, but now he did. Placing the jar of polish back in its box, he set it down on the table and picked up the folded blanket. He handed it Severus, wishing he had wrapped it before allowing the warm feeling that had been trying to envelope him do so. They had not forgotten him. "I can. So, next year I will meet you at your place?"
Severus felt the familiar soft wool in his arms. They had to leave the last blanket that Death had made them at Snowball. He was glad to have another one to take its place. 'No wonder I felt a bit uncomfortable with that bright patchwork quilt Molly had put on the bed. I've grown too used to the muted colors of our old house, thanks to Death's presents over the years.'
He looked over at Harry and brushed a fingertip across the familiar knit pattern. This one was fancier than the last one Death had given them. It included a pretty border reminiscent of the first blanket they had been gifted with.
Harry smiled at Severus as he fingered the knit of the blanket in Severus' arms. "Thank you. You can come over whenever you like. But, yes, next year Christmas is at our place, and then the year after that, here. We'll alternate between our two homes."
With a bit of sadness, Death felt time move on. He had to go back to work. He went to the wall and selected a shorter handled scythe, pleased to note that the two men were once again staring at their presents over the years, Harry taking note of the wooden stand behind the door. "I fear it is time for me to head back out. I will see you sometime."
Severus clasped the blanket to his chest as they headed towards the door, Harry's arm linked through his. "Thank you for such a wonderful gift. The colors in the house are a bit brighter than we are used to now."
As he closed the door behind him, Death watched the two wizards walking towards the Forest. Making a mental note to acquire two more comfortable chairs and perhaps a tea service, he headed back to work.
Harry folded the colorful quilt and stored it on the top shelf of the cupboard. Shaking out the new wool blanket, he spread it over their bed and admired the white and gray design. He had grown used to the feel of soft wool against his skin and knew Severus had as well although the man would never admit it.
With a light heart, Harry went downstairs to meet Severus. It felt good to have a bit of Death's knitting in the house this Christmas and he knew their collection would grow once again.