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Cause and effect

Chapter Text

Harry swallowed as he gauged the austere-looking building rising above him. Spinner’s End was certainly no mansion, nor was it your average Wizarding establishment. The generic, soot-covered brickwork – repeated in the several neighbour buildings – alluded to every industrial Muggle town in Great Britain, many now in a steep socioeconomic decline. A shudder ran up Harry’s neck at the sheer cheerlessness of the place. He didn’t know if he should be surprised by Snape’s childhood conditions or not; Cokeworth was, after all, his mother’s childhood home as well. Yet, the thought did not inspire any great comfort.

Hesitantly knocking on the front door, Harry stood back and waited, anxiously. How was he to greet the man now – after everything? Did Snape still hate him?

For the past year, Harry had viewed Snape’s memories of his mother and the Marauders again and again, trying to come to terms with these new images of his parents and his former Professor, contrasting to everything he thought he knew. Even though he now understood much more of Snape’s motives before and during the war, he was still left with more questions than answers, he felt. And with the man who could provide the answers now alive and breathing, thanks to Harry’s own intervention, he had an apt excuse to seek him out.

Plus, Harry was, admittedly, worried about the man’s welfare.

Despite the rigorous Auror training programme, he had made sure to visit Snape as often as he could at St. Mungo’s to follow the progress of his slow recovery but was unfortunately called away when the former spy finally woke. Soon after, Snape’s hearing at the Wizangamot took place and Harry was adamant in his testimony on behalf of the man, presenting the memories as evidence for Snape’s motives. Of course, he also had to explain how he had had a hand in Snape’s survival, in the first place. Snape’s face had been one of shock and anger the moment it was revealed and Harry had desperately wished he could somehow have relayed the information to him beforehand and in private. However, there had been no time to smooth ruffled feathers; the sentence was announced: A year’s house arrest with limited magical accessibility. It caused an expectant outcry from everyone but Harry. He had been exuberant, in fact (anything was better than Azkaban or even exile) but the second he met the eyes of his former Professor, he didn’t know what to think of the man’s reaction to the verdict. Was he relieved? Sad? Angry? He only stared intensely at Harry with the same expression that made Harry think he could see right through him and yet, at the same time, seemed to search for something. What, Harry couldn’t tell, and he had responded with a questioning frown as they stared at each other in midst of the chaos of the courtroom. He never got an answer to his silent question; guards were already dragging a still severely feeble Snape through the frenzied crowd, trying to stave them off. The last Harry had seen before he too was swarmed by press and court officials was the piercing, black eyes of his former Professor staring unblinkingly at him as the doors swung close behind him.

In the months afterwards, Harry focused all of himself into his Auror training. Or, well, not all. McGonagall had been so kind to keep him sporadically updated on how everything fared at Hogwarts and at one point mentioned Snape turning down a position as DADA instructor when his house arrest was over. The offhand remark manifested itself in Harry’s subconsciousness and every so often his mind strayed to the fearsome wizard and how he was faring; cooped up in his childhood home with no magical allowances. Could he make potions? Could he even stand up or was he confined to his bed all the time?

Suddenly the door flew open, sending Harry crashing back into reality; where he was, in front of Spinner’s End, about to get reacquainted with the man who had haunted his dreams for a year now.

What met him was practically a shadow of the former spy (which was saying something, given the man had not been much to look at, in the first place). If the years as a double-spy under the duress of Voldemort and, yes, Dumbledore, had not done him in, the attack of Nagini certainly had. While he was standing upright, Snape’s willowy form hunched ever so slightly into a distrustful stance and his sallow, thin face and hooked nose stood out even starker against the blackness of his eyes and lanky hair. What struck Harry the most was the noticeable scar from Nagini’s bite marring the white flesh of the man’s throat. Fawkes’ tears may have been able to save his life but not quite enough to make the reminder of the attack vanish completely.

At first, the dark wizard seemed taken aback by the appearance of Harry, then he quickly masked his surprise and narrowed his eyes in suspicion, mouth pulled into a trademark sneer. “What do you want, Potter?”

Harry shot him an awkward smile (had he ever actually smiled at the man before?) and gestured with the box in his hand. “Um, I bring food... from Molly. Chicken soup. It’s good. Thought you might, um,” he gaze flicked briefly across Snape’s slumping, black-clad form, “need it. And don’t worry, it’s not poisoned,” he chuckled nervously, already regretting his wording by the look in his former Professor’s face.

Snape eyed the Tupperware with rampant disdain as if he took personal offence at the gesture of combined goodwill though the quiet flare of hunger underneath the dark stare didn’t escape Harry’s notice. He worried the man hadn’t had a decent meal since, well, forever, by the looks of him.

The black gaze zoomed in on him again, and Harry was immediately reminded of his school years under the man’s tutelage. He quietly suppressed the apprehensive shiver running down his spine. Merlin, had it been foolish to come?

Why are you here?” Snape droned pointedly, unconvinced by Harry’s cover and offer of food. Admittedly, it was a bit out of the blue and perhaps uncharacteristic but Harry had to try something to come in contact with him. Every other attempt of correspondence had seemed to fail.

Swallowing, Harry felt very much like a wayward schoolboy again and shifted on his feet; the movement caught by the sharp eyes of the former spy who only narrowed his eyes even more. “Um, actually, sir, I was hoping I could talk to you.”

Surveying him a beat longer, Snape replied crisply. “About what? I believe I’ve already stated my thanks for your intervention on my behalf. Not that I particularly asked to be saved,” Harry cringed and ducked his head, ouch, that one stung, “but since there’s little I can do about it now, I’d like to be left in peace. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. We’ve settled the score, Potter.”

At that, Harry snapped his eyes up to meet the dark, blazing stare glaring back at him. ‘Settled the score’? Did he actually think it was about that? Guilt? Well, it had been partly that, but Harry couldn’t rightly voice what had made him set out to retrieve the Time-Turner and Fawkes the minute he had reviewed Snape’s memories after the Battle of Hogwarts. Something else. Something urgent. The nagging thought wouldn’t seem to leave his mind. He couldn’t settle, couldn’t sleep properly. He became obsessed with the quest of saving Snape, so much that he’d even driven Ginny away. He couldn’t explain it; not to her, not to anybody. Hermione and Ron eventually gave up trying to understand their friend’s obsession with the former spy; they supported him the best they could, but even they had to throw in the towel. They had their own lives to live, after all.

But Harry couldn’t, wouldn’t, give up.

“I – ” Opening and closing his mouth, Harry was aware of how stupidly he probably looked. Snape merely observed him with a steady glower, a bare minimum of patience painted in his ashen face. Resigned, Harry shook his head. “I wasn’t trying to settle a score. I only wanted to help.”

“Yes,” Snape drawled bitingly. “And you seem to have succeeded immensely in that department. I commend you.” Harry winced again. It was certainly not meant as a compliment. “Now, would you kindly remove yourself from my property? I am in no mood to receive visitors as you may have surmised.”

He was already closing the door when Harry cried out, “Wait,” stumbling forward. He managed to hold back the door an inch, meeting the incensed gaze of the dark wizard.

“What part of ‘no’ is not penetrating that dunderheaded skull of yours, Potter?” Snape hissed. However, he didn’t try and force the door shut. For a second, the young wizard doubted he actually could. Auror training had provided Harry with a bit more muscle since the war, though he could likely never run from some of the more lasting effects of a malnourished childhood. But Snape... He might have been lean-muscled once under all those menacing teacher’s ropes, but now he looked like mere skin and bones up-close.

The notion didn’t sit well with Harry but, nonetheless, he stayed put. He had come this far and he took the unresisting door as a sign that he might be able to get through to the stubborn man. “I must speak with you, sir.” Besides body mass, Harry had gained a couple of inches and though he was by no means tall, Snape’s now less-than-ramrod stature allowed him to gaze almost directly into the dour man’s bottomless orbs. “Please,” he implored and was surprised to see the black eyes widen a fraction; turning into the very same look he had received across the courtroom a year ago. “I promise I won’t impose on your privacy for anymore than necessary,” Harry continued, his tone softening, “but since you haven’t responded to any of my letters or any other caller I’ve tried to get through to you, I had hoped you might be willing to meet me in person.”

Snape stared back as if stunned, but Harry couldn’t read his expression. Perhaps it had been wrong to be so forward? Perhaps he shouldn’t have pushed? After all, the forbidding man was notoriously ill-tempered and aloof to a fault. And given their shaky history and Snape’s hatred for everything touching the name of Potter, dropping by in person was perhaps a bit too optimistic? Still, Harry had run out of options and he couldn’t let the man go just yet (as obsessive as that sounded). Perhaps it was a Gryffindor flaw of his, perhaps he had picked up one or two traits too many from Hermione’s work ethics. Perhaps he simply was on the path of redemption and Snape was the first person on that path. In any case, no explanation seemed satisfactory enough to explain why Harry had gone back in time to save the misanthropic (anti)hero and why he was standing here, in front of Snape’s childhood home and the owner himself, trying to reach beyond the impossible non-magic shield that was Snape’s persona.

He didn’t know why, but he had to try. He had to.

However, before Harry had had the chance to blink, the box of food was ripped from his grasp and the tall man had spun on his heel with his signature move and disappeared inside the house. What made Harry stand back, gaping stupidly at the empty doorframe, was the fact that the ex-spy had not immediately slammed the door in his face but apparently chosen to leave it open.

“Do you plan to stand there dawdling all day, Potter?” Snape snapped from somewhere within the narrow house, likely the kitchen given the noises of cutlery being pulled out and set aside. It roused Harry from his momentary stupor.

Had... Had Snape just– invited him in?

Gingerly, he took a step closer, poking his head inside. “Um, sir...”

“For Merlin’s sake,” rang the churlish voice from afar. “Do you need an actual invitation, Potter? Are you a vampire? Do come in and close the door behind you!”

Like a Pavlovian response, Harry ventured inside the house and closed the door behind him. He stood for a second, taking in his sombre surroundings of the entry hall, bathed in a sparse, unforgiving light, smelling faintly of spices and herbs and old wallpaper. Shuffling a bit on his feet, he wondered if he was supposed to wait someplace else, or whether Snape had any intent of returning anytime soon. Perhaps the dark man was presently gorging himself on Molly’s chicken soup in the kitchen? The image brought a small smile on Harry’s lips and he found that he didn’t mind so terribly to be the neglected house guest as long as Snape put on some flesh on his corpse-like body.

Deciding to risk it (either way, he’d probably get scolded for loitering), Harry stepped closer and peered into the adjacent living room. The furniture and decorations were scarce and pragmatic, suiting the owner of the house. Everything looked very old and used, and Harry got the impression that Snape had not grown up in a very wealthy home. His eyes caught sight of the dominant portraits hanging above the fireplace, displaying two severe figures bearing striking physical resemblance to Snape. Harry gathered those were his parents. While the man were staring at him with a hard-pinched expression of undiluted disgust (reminding Harry of Lucius Malfoy more than Snape), the woman had a melancholic countenance; her sunken eyes following him as he ventured inside the room the same way he remembered the portrait of Ariana Dumbledore had done. Snape must have put some kind of Silencing Charm on both because the portrait of the man was clearly muttering several colourful terms under his breath while the portrait of the woman seemed reluctant to speak at all and merely shook her head in sad resignation.

“Don’t pay any attention to them,” came the deep, succinct voice of his former Professor from the door to the kitchen and Harry spun around, heart in his throat. Huh. Still had that effect on people. Some things never changed.

He watched as Snape approached with a tea tray in his hands and put it on the table between the furniture. His posture had straightened a bit but seemed no less on guard, as if he suspected Harry to turn into a former escapee Death Eater colleague at any moment and hex his bony arse into oblivion. Harry snorted under his breath, unable to help himself, and Snape cast him a sizzling look. “Find something amusing, Potter?”

Harry’s face froze. “Er... No, sir. No, I wasn’t finding anything amusing.”

Raising a seasoned eyebrow, Snape jeered, “Indeed,” and proceeded to take seat in a black, high-backed, winged leather chair that suited his persona to such a magnitude that Harry felt the snicker bubbling up in his throat again and promptly pressed his lips together, trying to appear just as serious. It helped little.

With a concise but elegant wave of his hand, Snape gestured for Harry to take place in the opposite seat, this one chubby, brown and undistinguished in appearance. It looked like it had been well-used many years ago but hadn’t been seated in since. Once again, a myriad of questions popped up in Harry’s mind but he refrained from instinctively glancing up at the gloomy portraits hanging above the small fireplace. It would be too impertinent, too soon, to dive into such personal questions (however, was it likely he ever got the chance to ask again?).

Rubbing his forehead, feeling the start of a headache coming on, Harry leaned back into the chair with a small sigh. He sensed Snape observing him from the opposite chair and as if reading his thoughts, his former Professor finally spoke in that carefully measured voice of his, neither curt nor polite. “Have some tea.” The teapot rose in the air and started pouring the most heavenly, amber-coloured tea Harry had ever smelled into two cups. Nodding when he wanted sugar and milk, the finished cup flowed into his hands, and Harry couldn’t help being secretly impressed by the beautiful elegance of the small display of nonverbal and wandless magic that one of the most formidable wizards he had ever come across had just performed.

“Now,” the solemn man started, having taken a couple of sips from his own cup before putting it back on the table, and leaned back with his fingers steepled. “Since you seem to have persistently forced your way into my living quarters, what is this pressing matter that you feel such need to discuss, Potter?”

Ignoring the man’s bite, Harry pursed his lips in thought. How to begin indeed? Mulling it over some more, he eventually decided to go for a peace offering. “I am aware that you bear no general fondness for me, sir,” he began and heard the concurrent snort from the man across from him, “but I hope, despite and because of the past history between us, that we can somehow bury the hatchet and come to some sort of truce.”

Snape perused him above his steepled fingers and raised a fine-tuned jet-black eyebrow. “That is your pressing concern for coming here, Potter? Some misconstrued, sentimental notion of extending an olive branch?”

Harry tried not to pull his mouth into a frown at the man’s blatant mistrust. Why was it so hard to believe? Wasn’t saving his bloody life proof enough in the first place? Calming his breathing, Harry looked straight at him and countered in a clear, levelled voice. “I am sincere, sir. I want to make peace in order to move forward.”

Carefully scrutinizing him, Snape’s hard, sceptical expression hadn’t budged one inch. “What do you expect, Potter? That we suddenly sit down and braid friendship bracelets together?”

In any other setting, Harry’s lips would have quirked into a smile at the phrasing. Yet, Snape’s contemptuous tone was unmistakable. Expelling a low sigh, he rubbed his brow once more and shook his head. “No, sir. I don’t expect anything, I guess. I– I only wanted to see you; to see if you were well.”

That got a reaction from the rigid man. His black eyes widened a tick and something flashed in them before they quickly glanced away. “I see,” he mumbled before steeling his voice into unforgiving flint. “Well, as you can see, I am still recuperating in this miserable, godsforsaken place,” he made a careless, outward gesture. “I am watched 24/7 and have no magical accessibility of any significance, no thanks to you,” his words dripped with acidic poignancy, hard gaze boring into Harry, making him wince. Apparently, he wasn’t grateful for the outcome of the verdict. Did he mean to say he preferred the horrid conditions of Azkaban compared to his current confinement?

“I – uh...” Harry hedged, unsure how to respond. Should he apologize?

Snape’s thin mouth was pressed into a taught line as he glared back. “Spare me your maudlin excuses. I am sure you got it exactly as you imagined.”

Harry gawked. “Excuse me?”

Sneering maliciously, Snape continued in his scathing tone. “You wanted this, didn’t you, Potter? When you testified on my behalf? You wanted to see me in this humiliated condition, confined in my wretched childhood home, begging for scraps and gestures of,” his lip curled in distaste, “goodwill. Only so you could feel better about yourself; so you could sleep peacefully at night. I imagine that is the true reason why you are here, now; to appease your own guilt. Had I ended up in Azkaban, your conscience would have weighed you down, wouldn’t it?”

Harry could barely believe what he was hearing! Did the resentful old codger actually think Harry wanted this?! That it was some part of self-involved scheme to calm his own conscience?

Yes, perhaps Harry hadn’t slept restfully at the thought of Snape spending the rest of his life in Azkaban, but the notion had been no less true in regards to the case of Draco Malfoy whom Harry had also testified on behalf of. He knew of the duress both men had endured during Voldemort’s reign and he forgave them. They might both be unpleasant individuals but that was no excuse to wish them ill-harm for the rest of their lives.

To think that Snape in fact carried such searing, false assumptions of Harry’s motives for his testimony and for coming here today was, frankly, disheartening. But perhaps not surprising? It was Snape, after all. Harry didn’t think the man had trusted a single soul in his entire life, especially not after Lily’s rejection of him.

Worrying his lower lip, Harry acquiesced to the fact that his quest to break down the dark wizard’s prickly walls and reach the good man he knew hid in there somewhere would take longer than expected. (How had he ever imagined otherwise..?).

“I understand your wariness to my coming here,” Harry sighed, scratching his neck, but remained steadfast. “Even your mistrust towards the reasons of my testimony; I’ve never really done anything to deserve your trust before I saved your life in the Shack,” he stated this matter-of-factly, detecting the small bob along Snape’s scarred throat from the corner of his eye. “I may have wanted to make up for the sacrifices other people made on my behalf. Call it a hero complex or not. But I never asked for it, not any of it. I never wanted people to die for me. If I could I would have saved everyone that night.” He forcibly held back the clogging of his throat. “I know you don’t believe me. But I did not want to see you suffer in any way possible. That’s why I testified. Because you showed me,” he spoke emphatically, referring to the memories and knew, without looking, that Snape understood. “In either case, I haven’t slept very restfully since then, if you must know,” Harry shrugged dejectedly, knowing his self-pitiful state was shining through. His sleepless nights didn’t so much have to do with Snape but with his life in general, however he was not about to dive into that right now. He had already said too much to the embittered man who was currently observing him with a blank, unreadable look.

The latter didn’t seem to have let go of his distrustful demeanour but something in his attitude had changed if the constriction of his sharp jaw was anything to go by. For some reason, the anger didn’t seem to be directed towards Harry or anything in particular. Perhaps himself?

That didn’t sit well with Harry either. He didn’t want the self-effacing man to turn the blame inwards anymore than he probably already did.

Trying to deflect the Snape’s gloomy thoughts, Harry started again. “Sir, I –” The sharp, penetrating gaze honed in on him and he gulped visibly. “I hope you don’t think I come here as some sort of PR-stunt,” Merlin, that sounded even worse, and he quickly rephrased. “If not for anything else then trust me when I say I truly wanted to see you, sir.” He implored once more, not at all sure it worked like it did the first time. Though his motives were sincere, the latent doubt in Snape’s eyes began to slowly trickle into his subconsciousness and anchor itself to Harry’s insecurity. Godric, no matter how much he wanted to make amends face-to-face, he truly loathed being scrutinized by the man!

Unable to bear the brunt of his stare any longer, Harry did the cowardly thing and scrunched his eyes shut; quietly praying to the higher powers that Snape would not throw him out on his arse.

“I suppose I can show you some amount of leniency,” Snape’s deep voice rang out in the glum atmosphere of the room. Harry blinked his eyes open and gawked at the dark wizard who merely continued to observe him gravely.

“Oh. Um, that’s good... I guess?” Harry replied, mildly stunned. It was good, wasn’t it? He could never tell with his former Professor.

The dry snort from the other side of the room seemed to reassure his ongoing doubts. “Have no fear, Potter. I currently possess no measures to enforce any deserved punishment, other than, of course, by mere chance, spilling hot tea into your lap, but I doubt that will get me much satisfaction since it will only extend my house arrest indefinitely.” His droll tone could have fooled Harry to believe he actually took pleasure in conveying that little fact, seeing as Harry immediately blanched and his hands protectively twitched towards his own crotch area.

“I- I will be sure to keep that in mind.” He swallowed thickly.

Ducking his head, Snape continued with a professorial demeanour, his tone deceptively unaffected by the small, unusual exchange. “Now, if you are done making excuses for being here, I would prefer to get to the matter at hand. I presume you have questions about,” he paused for the briefest of seconds, “the past that you want to ask?”

How could he forget how intelligent the man was? Harry blinked and stuttered. “Er, yes, as a matter of fact, I have.” Great, Harry. If you could sound a little less dense, that would be great. He silently berated himself. “Right, um, I was only wondering, that is, I wouldn’t want to open up any old wounds –”

“Merlin’s beard!” Snape’s terse voice cut through Harry’s fumbling words like a knife. “Get to the point while we’re still young!”

“Oh, er, well,” Harry finally managed to stutter through a sentence, “I was merely hoping you could tell me a bit more about my parents, especially my mother... I mean, since you seemed to know her so well...?” He hardly even dared look over at his former Professor. When he finally did, in the roaring silence that followed, he saw that Snape’s composure had suddenly turned stiff and from the looks of his averted stare, he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the question.

It was odd imagining the former spy being put on the spot given how he had endured years of torture and mental attacks from Voldemort, never once blowing his cover. Still, Voldemort didn’t know about what Harry’s mother had meant to Snape; the singular reason for his continuous fight for everything good in this world, even if it meant taking down Voldemort with him.

Harry swallowed as he took in the tense wizard across from him. He was so relieved to know Snape was alive to experience what a difference his bravery had made to the Wizarding world and yet he secretly prayed the man didn’t still bear any resentment towards his former student for saving him. Because... Snape didn’t still have a death wish.

...Did he?

It wasn’t like it was a foreign subject to Harry. In fact, he was intimately familiar with it. But that was all in the past now. He had learned to move on, thanks to the support of his friends and acquaintances. Everybody who had ever stood up for him, fought for him.

Yet, as far as he knew, nobody had ever stood up for or fought for Snape. Not when it mattered. Only Harry. And maybe not even enough to earn his trust.

“I don’t mean to pressure you, sir,” he started carefully, afraid to rouse the man’s temper. His chosen silence didn’t bear well. “I know it cannot be easy to dig up the past like that, considering how painful it was, and the fact that you were in, um, love with my mother while my father treated you so–”

“By Salazar!” Snape exhaled harshly, making Harry flinch, and pinched the bridge of his long nose. “Where did you get that idea, Potter? You of all should be able to grasp that the love of friendship can be just as strong, if not stronger, than romantic love!” He berated him like he used to berate him for not knowing the difference between powdered Mandrake Root and Root of aconite in Potions class.

Harry blinked, utterly stunned. “You- You mean to say, you weren’t in love with my mother?”

Sighing, Snape bowed his head, the black hair obscuring his face. “I loved her, yes,” his voice seemed mileages from the persona Harry was used to witnessing, “but I wasn’t anymore in love with her than you are with Miss Granger.”

Grimacing slightly at the thought, Harry generally grasped his meaning. This certainly put a new perspective on things. Or not? Wholly confused, he raked a hand through his hair, aware of the observant black gaze fixed on him again. Blushing lightly (why, he didn’t know), it was his turn to duck his head. “I see, Professor.”

The dark wizard harrumphed from the other side. “If you’re going to indulge in any further personal questions of that kind, you should consider addressing me differently, Potter. I am not your teacher anymore.”

Harry looked up and met the indecipherable but not entirely dismissive gaze. “Um, what should I call you then, Pro- uh, sir?”

Rolling his eyes, the man weighed the options with deadly calm that crept under Harry’s skin in an odd manner. “’Sir’ seems a bit too formal for our relationship by now, doesn’t it?” He cast him a knowing glance which made Harry frown.

Was Snape referring to the incident in fifth year when he had been a bit brazen with the term? “Sir, I – back then, I wasn’t trying to be impertinent. I –”

“Oh, yes, you were.” This time there was a definite gleam in the man’s eyes and the smallest upturn of one corner of his mouth.

Harry must have fallen down the chair, face first.

Had he– Had he just made Severus Snape smile?

No, that couldn’t be.

But... there wasn’t anything malicious about the glint appearing ever so briefly in the former Professor’s dark, glum eyes.

Blinking owlishly, Harry picked up his jaw and he was almost positive this too amused Snape greatly, though his expression was once more obscured by the curtain of lanky hair. Quietly, Harry noticed tiny streaks of grey in all the black and wondered if it felt as course and greasy as it looked, or if it was soft and fine like–

Shaking himself free of this strange train of thought, his eyes caught sight of the clock on the mantelpiece behind Snape’s head, realizing he’d be late to the appointment he had with Ginny. It had taken time and patience, but he had finally been able to catch hold of her in an attempt to appease their broken relationship. He didn’t believe they could repair enough to get back together. In fact, he wasn’t at all sure he was feeling what he once thought he felt for her (with Snape’s account of the difference between friendship and romantic love still fresh in mind). However, he desperately hoped they’d be able to mend their friendship, at least. As much as he wanted to stay and continue his conversation with Snape, considering it had taken a more positive turn, he couldn’t abandon Ginny this time.

“I’m sorry, Pro– I mean, sir, I’m sorry, but I really have to go. I have an appointment with Ginny and I’m already late,” he excused himself and stood. Snape’s head snapped up and for a brief second Harry thought he detected a note of uncertainty in his gaze but it was gone just as quickly again.

“I see,” the wizard noted neutrally and then said no more. Harry shifted on his feet, trying to bridge the awkward atmosphere while making sense of the chaos of confusing feelings roaming within him. He really didn’t want to squander this opportunity with Snape.

“If...” he started and then bit his lip nervously, ending up sticking his hands down his jeans pockets.

“Yes?” Snape drawled, not unkindly.

“Um, I’d like to finish our conversation; I mean, only if you want to? Or we can just to talk or, I don’t know, play chess. I don’t mind. In any case, you can just Owl me... sir.” Harry couldn’t help the small smile at their little mutual joke and when he observed Snape’s response, he found himself pleasantly surprised by the fraction of a wry smirk appearing on the man’s thin lips as he ducked his head, a habit of his it seemed.

“Ah. Yes, it would seem fitting then that you call me by my name.” Once again, Snape managed to utterly floor Harry. The reticent man was no less guarded and unreadable, but considering this was still Snape we were talking about, the man demonstrated an unforeseen amount of leniency towards his former object of hatred.

“Uh, so ‘Snape’ then?” Harry put forward tentatively.

Closing his eyes, the raven-haired man quelled any mild irritation towards the boy and concurred as he rose from his chair. “Yes, Potter, that’ll do.”

“Excellent!” Harry felt ecstatic. “And, honestly, you can just call me Harry then, si- I mean, Snape.”

Unsmiling, Snape gave a minuscule nod. “Very well... Harry.”

Harry grinned and turned towards the small entrance hall. Snape followed him out. “Thanks again for the tea. I think it was the best I’d ever had.”

Expelling a low huff, Snape came to a halt and held the front door open. “I know it was,” he retorted flatly like it was a gods-given fact that a Potions Master brewed only the most perfect tea.

Merely grinning again, Harry slipped out of the house and skipped down the steps to the pavement. “See you around, Snape.” He waved an arm above his head; quite sure the dour man had already closed the door behind him as he walked on, head chock-full of new information and even more questions. Oddly, he was already looking forward to the next visit (granted there’d be one, of course. But, oh, he hoped so!).

What Harry missed, distracted as he was, was the fact that the former spy remained standing in the open doorframe, watching the young war hero stroll down Snape’s abandoned childhood lane, filled with so many conflicting memories, and wondering if a streak of light had finally found its way through the smog-filled clouds and shun down on Spinner’s End for the first time since Lily Evans disappeared from his life.