The soul of Albus Dumbledore -- or whatever part of Albus Dumbledore had been talking to Harry in his mind in the afterlife equivalent of King's Cross -- had not bothered to mention that Resurrection Stones, like Golden Snitches and wands, felt a connection with their masters. Or maybe the Resurrection Stone would have leapt into the air for anyone who had known enough to come into the clearing and say, "Accio Resurrection Stone!" But since only Harry, Ron, Hermione and the soul of Albus Dumbledore knew that the stone existed, and Ron and Hermione were far too busy living happily ever after to think of it, Harry was the only one who bothered to summon it.
He hadn't really been intending to use it, either. Just to see if it was still there, and maybe put it away somewhere safer than the Forbidden Forest where just about anyone could come across it. After all, he thought as he turned it over in his hand, it was a Peverell family heirloom just like the Cloak, right? And, in principle, a dangerous magical object that could be used to bring back the dead -- maybe not even intentionally, just to ask them a couple of questions and find out if they were all right -- ought not to be left unprotected.
"Potter! I was perfectly content to be dead. Why couldn't you leave me that way?"
Harry yelped. Amazing that, twenty years after he had last seen Severus Snape, the man could still make him feel like he was a wicked boy who'd stolen away in the middle of a Quidditch match to do something against the rules. Well, he had stolen away in the middle of a Quidditch match to do something of which no past or present Headmaster of Hogwarts would have approved, but what Xenophilus didn't know wouldn't hurt him and Ginny was cheering on Albus and Gryffindor loudly enough for two parents.
The spirit of Severus Snape -- or whatever part of Severus Snape stood glaring at Harry in the clearing -- crossed his arms and drew himself up to his full height. Even in death, he was wearing black robes with hundreds of buttons and his hair looked unkempt. "You haven't answered my question," Snape pointed out in the voice that usually had meant Harry was about to get detention. "What am I doing here, and what are you planning?" Leaning down, Snape glared directly into his face. "I always told Dumbledore that you were dangerously arrogant, reckless and likely as much a danger to the wizarding world as the Dark Lord himself."
Even in death, Snape hadn't changed a bit. "Voldemort's dead," Harry said defensively. "I killed him. With your help." He hoped that showing some appreciation might make Snape stop glowering at him, but Snape didn't look impressed. "I got your message," he added quickly. "You know...from your memories. About how I had to die." He decided not to mention all the other stuff he had seen; even though Snape was now dead, Harry was getting the distinct impression that he was still not the sort to let bygones be bygones. "And it worked, and I didn't die, and I defeated Vol..."
"Spare me your immodesty," Snape interrupted him. "You did not summon me from beyond the grave just to gloat about your triumphs."
"I didn't mean to summon you at all," Harry retorted somewhat irritably. "I found the Resurrection Stone, and I was thinking about the night I dropped it here, and the next thing I knew, there you were."
Moving even closer, Snape peered at the stone in Harry's hand and immediately made an unpleasant face. This did not surprise Harry, since the last time Snape had seen that stone, it had been part of the Horcrux that had made it necessary for Snape to end Dumbledore's life.
"Look, I'm sorry I, um, woke you, and you can go back now, all right?" It wasn't that Harry really wanted him to go back -- now that Snape was here, there were quite a few things Harry wanted to say -- but it seemed only polite to release him.
Nothing happened. Snape peered at him through narrowed eyes. Harry remembered how his parents and Sirius and Remus had vanished only after he had dropped the stone, and let it slip through his fingers into the long grass of the clearing.
Still, nothing happened. Maybe, thought Harry, he had to express some sort of gratitude for Snape to return to wherever he had come from. Swallowing, he tried, "Thank you. For everything you did, back then, for my mother and me." A small gust of wind made the leaves rustle in the forest but Snape did not budge. "I realize that you did it all for her, and you never really cared about me, but still, it was the only reason I was able to..."
With a faint noise of impatience, Snape rolled his eyes. "Is that why you have brought me back? It isn't enough that you proved yourself The Chosen One? You require that I grovel before you just like everyone else?"
"NO!" How was it possible that Snape could still reduce him to this? "I told you, I didn't mean to do it at all! I was thinking of a whole bunch of people but you're the only one who turned up. Why is that?" Snape did not deign to answer. "Sure you didn't want to come back and see how well I turned out? Even if you only did it because you were in love with my mother..."
"I was not in love with your mother!" Snape's expression had gone from haughty to revolted. "I hated to see her wasting herself on those little Gryffindor bastards who strutted around torturing not only Slytherins they suspected of having any interest in the Dark Arts, never mind that they had a werewolf among their number, but anyone else who was odd to their eyes, bookish or secretive or queer..."
"You were queer?" Harry blurted out before he could help himself. Really, he'd always suspected that Snape must have been gay, which made it that much more strange when he learned that Snape had been in love with his mother. Except that Snape claimed he hadn't been in love with Lily Potter, despite the things he'd told Dumbledore. "What about the doe? Your Patronus?"
"Sharing a Patronus can indicate magical connection, not only romantic love," snapped Snape, clearly irritated. "Do you and your wife have the same Patronus?"
Blushing faintly, Harry shook his head, causing Snape to smirk. The smirk irritated Harry, and against his better judgment, he snapped back, "I get my Patronus from my Dad. It's a stag..."
At precisely that moment, Harry realized that while his Patronus might have reflected his father's Animagus form, it was in fact the mate not of Ginny's Patronus but of Snape's. He raised his voice to cover the fact that he was blushing even more. "All right, then, if you weren't in love with my mother, why did you keep spying for Dumbledore all those years? Was he right that you secretly liked me or something?"
As Snape looked away, studying something very interesting on the ground that Harry couldn't quite make out, he realized that Snape's body didn't really look like the bodies of Sirius and Remus and his parents when he had brought them back with the Resurrection Stone. Snape was far more substantial -- if Harry had not seen him die and brought him back himself, he might have guessed that Snape had been hiding in the forest all this time.
"Dumbledore said that it would be wrong to use the stone to bring back those who were at peace," Harry said slowly, remembering the words from long ago. Funny how he still felt like a slow student around Snape, even though he was practically as old as Snape had been when Snape died. "Are you at peace...Severus?"
No, Snape certainly did not look like a dead man -- whether ghost or Inferius or Resurrection Stone spirit, Harry had never known any dead man to turn red and splutter. It was very wrong, wasn't it, that he wanted to touch Snape, to see just how solid he was? Not that he thought Ginny would mind, really. After wondering for a long time whether Ginny missed dating all the dozens of boys she'd had when they were younger, he had caught her sending secret messages via Patronus to Cho, even though Ginny claimed that they were just pretending to be Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff and it was all a bit of harmless fun. But there was still all that business about Snape and loving Harry's mother and hating Harry's father and what was Snape doing here, anyway?
"Remember how you tried to teach me Occlumency?" asked Harry.
Snape let out an indelicate snort. "I have tried to forget."
"Just as well, probably, because I never got any good at it," Harry admitted. "So if you tried to read my mind, you'd probably succeed."
"I no longer have a wand," Snape pointed out. Then he met Harry's eyes with his dark, unreadable ones. "Do I need a wand?"
As tempting as it was to make a wand joke, Harry reminded himself that this was still the Snape he remembered...the Snape he remembered, only who had not hated him after all and apparently was not altogether sorry to have been summoned from beyond the grave. "I don't really know how this works," he admitted. "I only ever used the Resurrection Stone once before, and then I thought I was going to die, so I didn't need them to be fully here. I didn't try to..."
Would they have disappeared if he had touched them? Would Snape? There was only one way to find out.
He only meant to place his hand on Snape's chest, to see whether he could feel a heartbeat beneath the familiar black robes, but before he could stop them, his fingers had closed around the fabric and pulled Snape practically on top of him. Close enough to feel that the fabric was stiff and cool, but Snape's body was warm beneath it. Close enough to know that indeed Snape had a heartbeat, and his breathing was erratic, and his mouth...
"I didn't mean to do that," he said, half-apologetically, when finally Snape pulled his lips away from Harry's so he could breathe. It was nothing like kissing Ginny but still like a long stretch of golden summer. The lips were once again smirking.
"Didn't you?" Apparently Snape was still a Legilimens. Or maybe all dead people were -- his parents and Dumbledore had known exactly what he needed to hear. At the moment, however, Harry was not in the mood for analyzing the magical elements that were likely involved; Hermione would do that later, anyway. "Is this what you summoned me for, Potter?"
No reason to lie anymore. "What if it was? You said you were content to be dead. Did you mean it, or do you want this, too?"
"As if I would give you the satisfaction of an answer," Snape muttered, still smirking. Harry smiled back. Perhaps he had been wrong; perhaps death had mellowed Snape, who had not, after all, tried to take any House points even though Harry had kissed him. Fingers still twisted in the fabric of the black robes, he leaned up and did it again.