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A Solstice Task

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It was fitting that it was raining, Harry thought. A wet and gloomy day. Snow would be too bright, too clean.

He stood next to the tree, under the invisibility cloak. He waited.

Harry heard them before he saw anything. Rumbling voices, footsteps careless about where they landed. Branches cracked and bushes were shoved gracelessly out of the way.

"Had to be fucking done today," a male voice grumbled. "Couldn't wait for the weather to clear. Fucking stupid."

"It's paying fair enough," the second male voice replied. "Shut up and keep moving."

"I'm moving, I'm moving," the first voice shot back.

They trundled into Harry's view. Two roughly dressed working men, one pushing and the other pulling a hand cart that was heavily laden - the wet ground made for hard going. They panted and swore as one wheel dropped into a soggy hole.

"Fuck it," the taller of the two men said. "Good thing we're almost there."

"Ain't carrying this sucker any further than I have to," the other man ordered. "Put your back into it!"

They both grunted as they manhandled the cart out of the hole and closer to its destination. It took the two of them to swing the cart around and when it was in position, tipped it up to slide the load to the waiting hole.

"Rain's going to make it a bitch to level the thing," the taller man said.

"Tell me something I don't know," the second man replied. "But McGee will whip us mute if we don't do it right. I need this job so you're not going anywhere until it's done."

The taller man ended up holding the object upright while the other man worked at the base. There was plenty of swearing before they were done. But they both finally stood back and looked at their work.

"Hope the fuck this was worth it," the taller man said.

"Yer getting paid, ain't you?" the other man replied. "And more with the promise of a bonus if it's finished just going on nightfall on the winter Solstice." He looked up into the gloom. "Which it is."

"Better be a fucking huge bonus, all I can say," the taller man groused.

"Looks like we're done," the other man said. "Come on, we have time to get a pint before I has to be home to the missus."

They went off into the gloom, darkness falling around them.

Harry waited to make sure they were truly gone. He didn't think they'd come back but he wasn't going to take any risks, either. Not at this point.

When he decided he had waited long enough, he cast a low level general detection spell around the area, to double check that no one else would see him. He needed to check but he used minimal power to make sure he didn't leave a magical signature that could be tracked back to him. Satisfied that he was alone, he slowly took off the cloak and stepped out into the open.

The headstone shone in the gloom. The other headstones in the cemetery were covered with moss or ivy, as would this be some day. But tonight, it shone brightly.

Harry read the text on the headstone, although he already knew it by heart.

Severus Snape
9 January 1960 – 2 May 1998
This is my beloved, this is my friend

Harry bowed his head and remembered Severus Snape. A hard, cruel man who had worked to overthrow Voldemort, who had been unjustly 'convicted' by the Wizengamot of being a Death Eater and sentenced to be Kissed. If he had survived Nagini's bite the night of the Final Battle, that is.

"You were a git and I hated you, but you deserved better," Harry murmured. "Rest in peace."

Turning on the spot, Harry Apparated to his home.

"It's done," he announced his arrival, hanging his wet cloak on a hook in the hall.

"An unnecessary task," a gravelly voice answered.

"Whatever," Harry shrugged. "It can't hurt."

"If someone traces it back to you..."

"And if they do, it's not going to make any difference," Harry defended. A discussion they had had multiple times before. Harry had not as much won as just done what he wanted to.

Harry stepped into the warm library, the fire was going and a glass of scotch was waiting for him. He sat in his usual chair and took a sip of the drink. "Thank you, I needed this."

"You're welcome," the man who was not Severus Snape replied.

For Severus Snape had not survived the night of the Final Battle. Or at least the persona of Severus Snape had died. After Harry had rescued Severus from the Shrieking Shack, and he and Poppy Pomfrey had nursed him back to health, they were determined not to lose him again.

Harry hated with a passion the adulation that came his way at the end of the war. And the Ministry of Magic was no better, fawning over him and offering him ridiculous positions, most of which he was not even faintly qualified for but the Ministry would give him anything if he would publically align with them. Rather than fight a losing battle, Harry simply walked away.

Along with Grimmauld Place, it turned out there was a Black Family home in France. Harry had simply packed himself and Severus up and left Britain behind.

Placing a headstone on an empty grave in a Muggle cemetery would keep those who were frustrated that there had been no body in the Shrieking Shack busy for years. Harry did not resist the impulse to add to the mystery with the sentiment on the headstone.

"It's true, you know," Harry reminded Dafydd. Harry now lived quietly with Dafydd Brian Black, a wrong-side-of-the-blanket distant cousin of Sirius'. Not that legitimacy was important but since Dafydd's mother was Muggle, he never existed as far as the pure-blood-minded Black family was concerned. Officially, he 'came with the house.'

If Dafydd Black looked anything like Severus Snape, that was an interesting coincidence.

"What is true?" Dafydd asked.

"You are my friend," Harry replied. And my beloved was unsaid but hung between them.

"You didn't need to have anything put on the headstone," Dafydd replied. "Much less that treacle laden phrase."

"It is the Solstice, there is power in tasks completed today and, in many ways it is our personal new year," Harry said solemnly. "From today on, we are Harry and Dafydd and no one can say otherwise."

Dafydd lifted his drink in agreement.

Harry stood and placed a hand on Dafydd's shoulder. "I'm going to bed, coming?"

"Yes," he smiled. "I think I will."