Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, much as I wish they did.

A/N: This story is complete, and will be posted in several parts over the next couple of weeks or so. For anyone who has been following Camerado for all these (many) years, I just want to let you know that I AM still working on it. I had a bit of writer's block when I started the newest chapter, and decided to take a break from it for a bit and write this little story, which has been rattling around in my head for awhile now.

However, in the meantime, I do have some gorgeous fan art for Camerado I'd love to share, by the very talented Proulxes. Hopefully this will help tide you all over until I can get the next chapter banged out! (Remove spaces from the links!)

proulxes dot deviantart dot com / art/ Camerado-Rough-New-Prizes-Part-2-369103006?q=gallery%3Aproulxes&qo=0

proulxes dot deviantart dot com /art /Camerado-Take-Your-Lovers-On-The-Road-With-You-370858161

proulxes dot deviantart dot com /# / art/ Camerado-Passionate-Kisses-of-Parting-part-2-372612295?hf=1

[Intercourse] between the living and the dead

Severus is floating when they arrive for his body just after dawn. The morning sun has just begun to thin the mist that settled net-like over the hills during the night, a night that Severus spent unmoored in every sense of the word. He watches as though through someone else's eyes as Hagrid stumps into the room, followed closely by Hermione Granger and -

Severus tries to inhale so swiftly that did he actually still have breath, he would have choked on it. For Harry Potter is edging into the room behind the others, his clothing singed and torn, his hair and skin filthy, his glasses askew. He looks exhausted and nervous and about ready to drop, but he is undeniably alive. He hangs slightly back, looking overwhelmed, while Hagrid shakes his great shaggy head and Granger reaches out as though to touch the body then pulls her hand back. Severus is startled to see tears coursing down her cheeks, and dumbfounded when he watches Hagrid carefully, almost tenderly, gather the body into his arms and cradle it against his beard. Together, the three of them leave the shack, never speaking a word, a solemn procession.

Severus feels a sort of phantom ache behind his eyes where tears he no longer has long to fall.

The first time Hermione sees Professor Snape's ghost after his death, she is not certain she's seen him at all; through her tears the whole world looks hazy, and he is but a wisp on the edges of her vision, a man-shaped patch of unseasonable fog. She has been running, following her feet and not her head in her desperation to get away, away, though why her feet should have brought her to this dreadful place, she doesn't know. Realizing where she is, she stumbles and falls, skidding on gravel, knees thumping against the ground and palms scraped raw. She stares up at the Shrieking Shack, at its weathered boards and roof missing shingles, and thinks she might be sick.

And then - then she sees him, just the flash of him through a broken window-pane, above the sagging boards that haphazardly cover it. And her heart starts beating faster - No - and she rises and brushes her palms on the sides of her robes, bits of gravel falling to ground around her feet.

Inside, the shack is much as she remembers it. She stands, hands balled into fists, heart thumping hard enough to hurt, and wills herself not to run. It's just a building, she thinks, but then, so is Hogwarts, and she wasn't strong enough to stay there for more than a few minutes without breaking down. She breathes deeply through her nose, staring at the window where she thinks she saw him-there is nothing there but the tattered remains of curtains faded to a nothing sort of color by the weak Scottish sunlight - and then focuses on the rest of the room, the thick grey dust coating everything, even the floor. Even the bloodstain on the floor. She lurches backward, out the door.

She saw him. She is sure of it.

She returns the following day, Apparating to the shack's doorstep. Her breathing is shallow as she pushes the door open with her fingertips, her muscles tense. It takes a great deal of determination not to turn around and sprint down the hill and not stop running until she has reached Hogsmeade.

It is a bright day, and inside the shack sunlight slants through the cracks between boards over the windows, dust motes dancing merrily in the beams of light. There is no sign of anyone else-alive or dead-in the room. Hermione keeps her eyes carefully off the dark brown stain on the floorboards.

The staircase creaks when she ascends. Before her is a door that sags on its hinges and swings open at the smallest nudge.

It, too, creaks.

There is something unsettling about the bedroom behind the door. Like the room below, the floorboards and walls here are scored with claw marks, but the musty smell of the place, the sight of the bed, narrow and metal-framed, the linens yellow and stiff, the counterpane thick with dust—and the pillow indented at its center, as though the shack's previous occupant had gotten up one morning and simply forgotten to return—makes Hermione shiver. The entire room is eerie.

But not as eerie as the figure in the corner, hovering three or four inches above the floor.

Hermione inhales sharply and ends up choking on dust, triggering an attack of coughing that has her doubled over, fist pressed to her mouth. When it finally eases, she raises her eyes very, very slowly to the corner, certain the apparition will have disappeared, but he is still there. His arms are crossed in front of his chest and his new vantage point makes it all the easier for him to look condescendingly at her down his great hooked nose.

Hermione's throat clicks several times as she tries to speak. "P-Professor Snape?" she finally whispers, and takes one step into the room.

He gazes at her for a moment longer before responding. "In the flesh," he says. His top lip curls into a sneer when she recoils from his words. "So to speak." He looms closer, close enough for her to see where the edges of the wound on his neck gape open, the surrounding skin pearly-white, the wound itself a deep silver, almost black.

She is breathing far too quickly, horror-struck and fascinated. "Oh. Yes. Sir, I thought I saw you yesterday," she says. She tries to keep her eyes on his face. "I was sure, but then you were gone…"

"I am a ghost, Miss Granger. I am more than capable of vanishing through walls or ceilings should I wish to."

The implication is surprising. "But you didn't wish to now?"


"Why not, sir?"

His expression of irritation is exactly as she remembers it from school. "Clearly," he says, disdain dripping from every syllable, "graduation has not cured you of your incessant need to ask questions."

Hermione opens her mouth, indignant words dancing on the tip of her tongue - Clearly death hasn't cured you of your propensity for being a berk - but she swallows them whole when Snape's ghost bares his teeth at her - Oh God, they're bloody, oh God - and she feels as though she has been thrown back to several months before, hearing her professor's screams, watching his body hit the Shack's dirty floor, his blood streaming from the wound in his throat, staining his shirt, his coat, his fingers where they scrabbled futilely against his throat. The silver rivulets of his memories pouring from his every orifice, his expression one of panic. He'd died, desperate and afraid and… She sees his body laid out beside the others in the Great Hall after the battle was finally - finally - over, his lips hanging open in rigor-mortis stiffness over his appalling teeth, which were speckled with blood. She feels, again, sickness and shame mingling, churning in her stomach.

"I haven't graduated," she blurts to fill the increasingly awkward silence. "I was supposed to take my NEWTs yesterday - Professor McGonagall offered them to anyone whose seventh year was interrupted by the war - but I… couldn't." She is staring at her trainers, her pulse a distracting staccato beat in her ears. "I panicked. I didn't expect… I haven't been back to the castle since the battle and I just couldn't…"

She waits for Snape to snarl at her, but when she glances up his translucent face is an utter blank but for the glitter of his impossibly dark eyes.

"I don't know if you've seen Hogwarts since… I just… so much is still in shambles and then the Great Hall is so different…" The Charmed ceiling is, in fact, no longer Charmed, and it was the sight of the heavy gray blocks of the stone ceiling, so much lower than the vastness of the sky it once portrayed, that finally sent Hermione racing, her mouth tasting of vomit, out of the school before she had even checked in for the exams for which she had been preparing since she was eleven years-old.

"Ah," Snape says, his tone distant. "Seeing Hogwarts would pose something of a challenge, now I am tethered to the place of my death."

The heat of mortification washes over Hermione's entire body. "Oh God, of course-I'm so sorry," she says. How could she be so very tactless?

Snape shrugs. He looks as though he would very much like to be elsewhere. Or for Hermione to be elsewhere. Or both.

"I did not elude you today for a reason," he says then, fixing his gaze somewhere over her shoulder. "I would prefer that my continued… existence, such as it is… remain a secret. I've no wish to spend eternity being bothered. Do not tell anyone." He cuts his eyes sharply in her direction. "Assuming, of course, that you have not already done so."

"No, sir," she says. She'd nearly Floo'd both Harry and Ron the previous night, but a mixture of grief and guilt and shame at her weakness, at having left before her exams even began, had stopped her. She blinks, feeling the sting of tears only seconds before they begin to fall, salty trails down her cheeks, leaking into the corners of her mouth. She stuffs her fingers into her mouth, childishly, and curls her shoulders as though she could pull herself into a shell, like a snail. The gasping sobs that emerge from between her fingers are loud in the otherwise silent room.

"I'm sorry, sir," she manages. "I just - this is so - I didn't expect to really find you - I'm so sorry you're dead, I'm so sorry -"

The metaphorical ghosts of all the war's dead have been haunting her for months, creeping into her dreams, stealing her breath at odd times during her waking moments. But all of the other deaths she witnessed only peripherally, while she was fighting for her own life. Snape's death was different-immediate and horrible.

And his ghost - his ghost is real.

"I'm so sorry," she whispers again, and then it is as though whatever fragile hold Snape's ghost had on his self-control has snapped, and he is surging toward her, coming so near that Hermione is suddenly awash with a sensation of cold.

"Get out!" he screams. His eyes, so blank a moment earlier, are utterly mad; he is a hundred times more terrifying than he ever was when he was their teacher, and Hermione stumbles back, Snape's ghost whooshing after her until she finds herself at the top of the stairs. She nearly falls backward but catches hold of the railing at the last minute, and then she is running, mindlessly running, down the steps and out the door and through the grass. She is halfway to Hogsmeade before she stops, lungs straining for air, listening for the thud of footfalls behind her before realizing - Idiot - that even if Snape were able to follow her this far, she would never hear him coming.

Every Hogwarts student knows from their first Welcome Feast that ghosts are real and that they continue to exist after their hearts have stopped beating because they chose to do so. As a Firstie, Severus decided quite early on that such an existence was not only cowardly but stupid; he had experienced enough ugliness already to be quite baffled by anyone choosing to remain behind if they had the chance to go on.

So the irony of finding himself a ghost is not lost on Severus. He remembers the pain of the blasted snake's fangs tearing through his throat; remembers his own desperation, knowing he had not fulfilled his promise, and the sight of Lily's eyes hovering blurrily above him behind thick glasses. He does not remember making a conscious choice to stay behind as his body died, only that suddenly, like the sensation of falling just as you hit sleep, he was disoriented, unreal, viewing his own body from above.

It takes him longer than perhaps it should to recognize that he is more alone than he had ever been in his life. It is one thing, he realizes, to intentionally distance oneself from others when one still has the benefit of living at a boarding school, with regular daily interactions, however impersonal, with its other residents. It is quite another when solitude is not a decision, but an immutable fact.

Thus, Severus regrets his outburst within moments, but of course by then Miss Granger is long gone and there is no possible way to pursue her, even had his pride allowed it. Her sobs have left him feeling - feeling - shaky and shocked with the knowledge that somehow, somehow he was not so reviled by the living as he had thought, that he had not imagined the care she and Potter and Hagrid took with his body all those weeks earlier. His new non-body can show none of the outward symptoms of emotional upheaval that he had been accustomed to, however, and it is disconcerting, this lack of physical sensation; he imagined that his fingers ought to be trembling, his breath to be moving raggedly in and out. But there is nothing, nothing at all, nothing but too many feelings building up inside of him and with no outlet until it all became too much and he opened his mouth and it all came out in a scream. A purging.

He floats now beside the window, impotent and insubstantial.

Hermione doesn't tell Harry and Ron about Snape's ghost, but it's a near thing. For months, really, after he chased her out of the shack she finds herself thinking about him at odd times, like when she is meant to be studying for the NEWTs she will - will, dammit - be sitting in only a few months' time, or when she is waiting in line for her Portkey to Australia, or when she is lying sleepless in bed because her first day at her new job is starting tomorrow and she is scared witless.

She even thinks of Professor Snape after Ron takes her out to dinner on the first anniversary of the Hogwarts battle, takes her someplace quiet because she said she couldn't possibly face merriment or even one of Harry's nervous speeches at the Ministry 'do, clasps her hands in his big square ones across the table and asks her, looking endearingly half-cocky, half-terrified, to marry him. And then, after he has slipped the modest ring over her knuckle and she has smiled until she feels her face might crack with the force of it, Hermione blinks and sees, of all things, Snape's ghost in the millisecond between closing her eyes and opening them again, sees the bleakness of his expression, the defeated slump of his body. She blinks again, but the image remains in her mind's eye. Why? Why? Ron is tracing the lines of her palm, saying something, smiling, but she can't hear him.

Hermione has trouble sleeping that night, plagued by thoughts of Snape alone in the cold, empty shack, by the contrast between her relatively happy life and his miserable after-death. She sits up with a cup of tea long after she would normally be asleep and wonders whether ghosts sleep, and if they dream, and what they do all day. She has research to do.

At last, she crawls into bed beside Ron, snoring softly into his pillow. He barely shifts when she tucks herself up close behind him, throwing an arm over his ribs and a leg over his hip, trying to claim some of his warmth, trying to stop her body's shaking.

Severus spends a great deal of time attempting to breathe. When he had a body he never appreciated it, did not understand the fundamental glory of physicality. His own body, unlovely and unloved, was more bother than anything with its propensity for accumulating dirt and its demands for sustenance and release.

Now he misses his body, misses touching things, manipulating objects. He longs to hold a fork and knife, to taste even something as mundane as porridge. He is desperate to feel beetle eyes slipping against the pads of his fingers; the powdery softness of dried broom moss; the weight of a moonstone settled heavily in the hollow of his palm. His entire bodiless being now passes through walls as though they, and not he, are not there. Severus aches inwardly to make contact, to feel something, anything solid beneath his hands or feet. He wishes fervently that when next he floats upwards to the shack's dingy upstairs, his head will impact the ceiling with a fatal thump.

But strangely, strangely, most of all he misses the sensation of air moving in and out through his nostrils, the brief fullness in his chest when his lungs filled completely. The inability to inhale so much as the smallest breath leaves him feeling wrong in some fundamental way.

He opens his mouth wide, wide, wide, almost expecting to feel a protesting crack from the hinges of his jaw, trying to gulp in a yawn; but his chest remains hollow.

Most of the time, Ron doesn't mind when Hermione spends her days off work at the Ministry library. It gives him the chance to play games of pick-up Quidditch with his mates or sit around their flat watching bad telly with no nagging wife to push his smelly feet off the coffee table or ask him not to leave crumbs all over the counter when he makes himself a sandwich. And besides, he understands, or thinks he does, the importance her research has to her. Hermione feels knots of guilt in her stomach whenever he asks her, as he always does when she gets home, "Had a breakthrough today then, love?", but she makes herself smile and shake her head. Besides, she does always do a little research into memory charms, though the futility of the effort makes it hard to drag air into her lungs, sometimes. So she's not really lying to Ron.

And anyway, she gave her word she wouldn't tell anyone about Snape, and she can't think of any other plausible explanation to give Ron if she were to confess she spends her days off learning everything she can about ghosts. It shouldn't feel so… illicit, this research, but it does. She has piles of notes that she keeps stashed among her work things where she knows he'll never stumble across them.

There are thirty-three floorboards in the shack's downstairs room. Some days, Severus spends hours studying the grain of the wood, finger hovering above knots and whorls as though he can actually feel them. His favorite board has a crack in it that looks, if he squints, rather like a downturned mouth, above which are two small knots like lopsided eyes. The board's grain flows downward from the crack, and sometimes Severus fancies it is Dumbledore's face above the fall of his ridiculous beard, Dumbledore trapped here in this hell with him.

"This is your fault, you bastard," he hisses. Dumbledore-in-the-floorboard looks back at him with maddening impassivity, just as the man himself had done in life.

He counts the days out loud with each sunrise, repeating the morning's number five times in order to cement it in his head until the morrow.

He'd like to scratch tick marks into the walls, neat little rows of groups of five, but he can't grip anything, he can't mark anything. His fingernails are insubstantial as air. He longs to smash, to crush, to feel something shatter under his hands. Instead, he screams and screams, an enraged, agonized wailing that, in his more lucid moments, Severus supposes must be doing wonders for the shack's haunted reputation.

He can venture outside, but only for a radius of ten or so feet. He hovers above the grass and looks up at the sky, and he can see Hogsmeade in the distance, a jumble of rooftops. In the beginning he tried daily to break through whatever it was that held him here, but it was futile; there is no physical barrier, at least not one that he can feel. He simply cannot move beyond a certain point.

The shack itself is a place of nightmares. Mostly, he is able to ignore his surroundings, though it takes a great deal of concentration to simply not see the way the walls and floors and furniture are scored with claw marks; to forget standing at the end of a tunnel, squinting, uncomprehending, at the dark, canine form before him. To not remember the sour taste of fear; to not see, each time he exited the shack, that same dark shape looming above him, imagine its breath against his face. To always keep his eyes resolutely away from the dark brown stain on the floorboards and never remember the hot, unstoppable pulse of his blood and memories leaving his body.

Sometimes, he can see people walking about, little dark specks. He can't remember a time when he didn't want to keep away from people.

One day, Severus loses count. He opens his mouth to say the day's number and all that comes out is a strangled sort of noise. His eyes widen and he imagines he can feel his heart thumping madly in his chest, and he opens his mouth again, determined not to panic, and says in a voice that is grimly clear, "Three years, eight months, three weeks and…"

He must stop, because he cannot remember the number of days. He has no idea. Four days? Five? He casts his mind back frantically, uselessly.

He drifts through the wall, stares blankly at the distant hills, burnished gently gold by the rising sun, and feels a great fear fill him as it hits him, with the force of a thousand rounds of Cruciatus, that he is here forever and marking time was never going to change that, anyway.

Ginny talks Ron and Hermione into going to Hogwarts for a memorial dedication.

"It would mean a lot to Harry if you two were there," she says in a hissed whisper one morning over brunch at Grimmauld Place. Harry is upstairs, changing James' nappy. "I know you hate these things, I know they're hard but - please. He had so much to do with this one-"

Ron looks at Hermione, eyebrows raised. He hasn't fought her in the past when she said she wouldn't, couldn't go to any of the events memorializing the war, despite the fact that he is the one whose brother numbers among the dead. It's all so ghastly, the politicians and their overblown speeches - she reads the articles that come out the next day, scowls at the moving photographs capturing insincere smiles and Harry, always Harry, looking uncomfortable and out of place but determined. Harry has gone to every single event in the last six years, but he has never been involved in planning one before. The Hogwarts memorial is different, she knows.

Harry returns, little James cradled against his shoulder. Hermione smiles at her friend; he looks tired and happy and all at once, it feels selfish to say no this time, yet again. So she says yes.

"If I had a hatchet," Severus tells Dumbledore-in-the-floorboard one day; then he pauses. He cocks his head at the floor, lips twisted. "If I had a hatchet," he begins again, "and the ability to wield it, I would use it to chop off your ridiculous beard." He closes his eyes, imagines the heavy waves of white hair folding in upon themselves, dropping silently to the ground. Then he looks down again.

"And then," he says, "I would take the hatchet and bury it between your eyes."

Hermione Granger returns one day while Severus is busy (Ha!) mentally plaiting the strands of soft, long grass that covers the hillside on which the shack stands. It is an exercise in which he has indulged more and more often of late, whenever he feels as though he might be going a touch mad, as though his mind is trying to escape into the ether and he might be able to tether it to this dreary place along with the rest of him by focussing very firmly.

He is drawn from his focus by a flicker of movement at the edges of his vision, a flicker which sends the twisted strands of grass he had been so deliberately constructing to unraveling inside his head. Turning his head, Severus sees a figure making its way up the hill from Hogsmeade, a small figure with enormous hair and a determined stride. Severus stares for a moment, finding it difficult to believe that he is seeing what, or rather who, he thinks he is seeing, and then, in a flash of pure panic, he disappears.

Severus discovered very early in his new existence that in addition to floating and slipping without effort through walls and ceilings, he can blur and fade into the background whenever he does not wish to be seen. It was, he found, surprisingly easy to navigate the world in his new, incorporeal form, rather as though the ability to move about while hovering seven inches off the floor was somehow innate. Had he given the matter any thought while he was still alive, Severus would have assumed that ghosts had to learn to exist as ghosts much as children needed to learn to walk and talk and write and harness their magic. In any event, he has had very few opportunities to put his new skills into practice.

He watches, wishing he had the ability to take deep breaths because when he was alive that was the only bloody thing that kept him reasonably calm in the face of danger, as Hermione Granger makes her way to the top of the hill and stands gazing pensively at the shack, shielding her eyes with one hand against the sun. She looks older - How much older, how much? - with small lines about her eyes and something in the way she walks, the way she's dressed, that says woman rather than girl. He watches as she goes into the shack and calls his name, looking tentative; follows behind her and looks on as she opens the beaded handbag dangling from her wrist and removes an impossible number of books (Undetectable Extension Charm, he thinks automatically) and explains, in a too-loud voice, turning in a small circle in the center of the room as she speaks, why she brought them and how to use them and says she will return to collect them and hopes he is actually still here. "Or not," she says then, and shakes her head, looking… lost for a moment. "Or not," she repeats, more firmly this time; "I don't know if you'd prefer to be here or… not… so. Yes, well."

Severus floats backward, slowly, as she exits the shack, still without seeing him, and Apparates away. He waits for several minutes to make sure she is not coming back. Then, scarcely allowing himself to believe they are real, drifts into the shack and stares at the books she laid out in a semi-circle. His eyes flit from one cover to the next - books on Potions, predictably enough, but there is also fiction, and Ancient Runes, and Muggle philosophy.

If Severus had a body, it would be shaking as he finally gathers the courage to whisper the title of the first book, and then, "Page one."