Title: Forget Me Not
Other pairings: Ron/Hermione
Fic Rating: NC-17
Art Rating: PG-13
Word count: 36,560
Content/Warning(s): (highlight for spoilers) *EWE, some violence*
Summary: A story in which the world remembers Severus Snape, Severus remembers that he will never be free of Harry Potter, and Harry remembers pretty much nothing at all.
A/N: I have a lot of people to thank here. *g* Thank you to the mods for coordinating such an incredible fest. Thank you to accioslash and severa_snape for their invaluable suggestions and guidance on this story. Thank you to alisanne, who helped me on many of the details here and probably didn't even realize it. Surprise, bb! And of course, a lifetime of thanks to demicus (goodness, it feels wonderful to not be sneaky about your name!) for being there quite literally every step of the way, from when I was still debating which plot bunny I wanted to tackle, to the many times I got stuck and didn't know which direction to go, to finally reading the completed work and assuring me it did all actually match the initial story we discussed, and, what’s more, making it a million times better. There is no way I could have done this without your encouragement, guidance, and willingness to be there for when I needed an ear, a laugh, or a nice slap back to reality. This story is for you. ♥
A/N #2: This was a part of the snape_potter Big Bang, and vividescent created some absolutely GORGEOUS art for it. You can check out the art by clicking the links to the original post at the bottom of this story. Leave her some love!
It was a dark and stormy night – but then again, but most nights were dark and stormy these days so that really wasn’t saying much. Severus Snape sipped cautiously at his chamomile tea, wincing a bit when it burned his tongue.
He had lived a quiet, peaceful existence ever since Harry Potter managed to kill the Dark Lord ten years ago. Always one prepared for the worst, Severus had taken to wearing an amulet close to his heart that detected when his vitals were critically low and transported him to his bedroom at Spinner’s End. To be more specific, it transported him to a bed of his own creation, one with sheets imbued with so many healing spells it was like having a personal healer made entirely out of Egyptian cotton.
And Dumbledore had once teased him for his paranoia.
Once he had regained most of his health, Severus purchased a home hidden away in the mountains of northern Scotland, very safely in the middle of nowhere. After moving the few items he cherished from Spinner’s End (his books, a few cauldrons, and his mother’s quilt), he torched the place. He would never go back there, and he didn’t want anybody digging through his past. From what he read in the Prophet, investigators suspected arson on behalf of remaining Death Eater supporters, angry and seeking revenge after learning of his double agent role.
Severus had cancelled his subscription to the Prophet after hearing Potter had worked to clear his name but was encountering resistance regarding having him honoured with a posthumous Order of Merlin. He was content to forget the Wizarding world had even existed, as he was sure they would forget about him soon enough, if they hadn’t already. And it was no matter; he enjoyed his solitary life. Well, perhaps enjoyed wasn’t quite the right word, but he certainly found writing weekly literary reviews for a Muggle journal far preferable to risking his neck on a daily basis for one megalomaniac wizard or another.
Truthfully, Severus expected his quiet to be interrupted at any moment. Ten years of calm, undisturbed by a single soul making demands on him, save for his editor, was almost too good to be true. He took another slow sip of tea. In truth, he half expected a knock at his door at any second.
A knock sounded at his door.
Severus set down his cup. This was one time it was clearly his paranoia making him imagine things. In ten years exactly one visitor had graced his doorstep, a man seeking adventure in the highlands who found himself disastrously off-course. That was six years ago. The noise he was hearing was probably a tree branch coming down. He would see to it in the morning.
The knocks sounded again, louder and more frantic this time.
With a sigh, Severus rose and headed to the door. It probably was some fool on a hike who failed to check the weather forecast before he set out. The odds that it was somebody from his past life were slim to none. He opened the door.
Perhaps the odds were slightly higher than that.
“Hello,” said Harry Potter, damnable broom in hand and rucksack tossed over his shoulder. “Um, would you mind if I came in?”
“Potter,” Severus said, almost in disbelief. “How the hell did you find me?”
Potter’s eyebrows shot up. “You know me?”
“Of course I know you,” Severus snapped. “What I don’t know is why you’re standing on my doorstep.”
“I don’t quite know either, I’m afraid,” Potter said. “I don’t even know how I knew to find you, but I’m so relieved to see you.” He paused and seemed to sway a little. “Really, do you mind if I come in? I’ve been flying for four days nonstop and I think it’s starting to catch up to me.”
“Please,” Potter said. “You can shove me out the door in a minute. I think I just need –" His knees buckled and his broom clattered onto the stone steps.
Severus reached out and caught him just before he fell. He realised immediately he was unconscious. “Typical Potter,” he muttered as he hauled him up into his arms. “Typical reckless, foolish Potter.”
His first thought was to set Potter down on the couch, but after feeling how cold he was, he decided to draw him a hot bath instead. As the water filled the tub, he set about methodically removing Potter’s soaked clothes.
Potter was far too thin, that much was certain. He appeared to have gone far more than four days without eating. Clearly he hadn’t been taking care of himself over the years. His ribs practically jutted out through his skin. “Nearly thirty years old, and still in need of a keeper,” Severus muttered as he worked to pull down Potter’s trousers. He paused. “My, my, Mister Potter. Who would have known you’d be so blessed in this department?”
But he didn’t allow himself to linger at the sight at Potter’s admittedly lovely cock – one because it was rather lecherous, even for him, and two because he had no desire to have a nude Harry Potter dead from hypothermia on his hands. Somehow, he knew, that would most assuredly be traced back to him. He tested the water, and, finding it warm enough, carefully set Potter in the tub.
It just figured, Severus thought as he gingerly scrubbed Potter, checking for injuries at the same time, that of all the people who would arrive unannounced on his doorstep, it would be the Chosen One. And he couldn’t even be his normal self, shouting and sticking his noble Gryffindor nose in his business. No, he had to be drenched and ill and apparently with some sort of memory loss. It was a shame Severus’ magical bed had been sapped of its healing powers following his own convalescence. It could have served Potter well.
Potter stirred slightly. “Sir,” he moaned.
“Severus,” he replied instinctively. Really, there was something rather cringe-inducing about a naked man in a bath calling him sir, especially when he was just eyeing his prick a moment ago. He’d likely regret it when Potter was conscious, but he’d deal with that later.
“Severus,” Potter whispered. “Hurts.”
“What hurts, Mister Potter?”
“Head. Joints.” He vaguely waved his hand around in the air. Severus caught it, and for the first time realised “I AM HARRY POTTER” was scrawled in ink across the palm.
“Hmm, most likely because you’re severly dehydrated and malnourished.” Severus said, unnerved by his discovery. He finished washing away the soapy lather and reached for a towel. “Up.”
Potter stood shakily, reminding Severus greatly of a baby deer taking his first steps. Annoyed, he wrapped Potter in the towel and took him back in his arms. “I won’t have you cracking your skull on my watch.”
Ten minutes later, Potter was dry and dressed in an old set of Severus’ robes and sipping cautiously at the thin stew Severus had placed in front of him. Severus allowed Potter some time to digest his food, which in turn gave him some time to digest his thoughts. How had Potter managed to find him, he wondered as he went to fetch Potter's broom from the front step. What had spurred him to fly for four days in a torrential downpour? And why did he have a reminder of his own name written across his hand?
“Now that you’ve eaten me out of house and home,” Severus said when he finally lost his patience, which was admittedly before Potter had eaten much of anything, “would you mind telling me exactly what you are doing in my house?”
Potter set down his spoon. “I need your help,” he said surprisingly firmly, considering how weak and pale he still appeared. “Something’s really wrong.”
“I gathered that,” Severus said drily. “Would you mind telling me what?”
“I can’t remember anything,” Potter replied. “Hardly anything at all. It’s gotten a little better since I started flying, but still …” He sighed and thrust out his hand. “That’s the only reason I’ve been able to remember who I am. I had to keep repeating it to myself the entire time I was on my broom.”
“Just like when you were a student, you jump right into the middle of the story without first properly beginning with the exposition,” Severus retorted.
Potter frowned, a wrinkle forming between his brows. “You knew me when… oh, right. I think I knew that. But only because of that book.”
“What book?” Severus asked immediately.
“That one in my rucksack. I think I wrote it, because it looks like my handwriting.” He shrugged. “I just don’t remember writing it. But it’s all about you. Severus Snape.”
“Does the book have anything about how I died?” Severus knew he wasn’t helping matters, at least if he wanted to hear the full story of what exactly was going on with Potter sometime tonight, but some questions just seemed more pressing than others.
“You died?” Potter appeared to be genuinely shocked. “Then how are you here? Am I dead?”
“No, you’re not dead,” he snapped. “I’m not dead either. But the Wizarding world, to the best of my knowledge, believes me to be dead.”
“Hmm,” Potter said, his expression forlorn. “I suppose I forgot about that as well. You’re still alive in my book, but I haven’t finished reading it yet. Maybe you die later on.”
“When did all this happen?” Severus asked, finally attempting to get back to the main matter at hand. “Have you hit your head?”
“No,” Potter said. “It happened really slowly, starting a couple of weeks ago. It was small things, like forgetting where I set down my quill or my broom. Then I could barely remember anything that had happened the day before, and soon I couldn’t remember anything at all from my past. I’d get through the day and realise I had forgotten to eat. I feel like I’m just turning into nothing, that I’m vanishing into the air without a thought or memory of my own. And I wouldn’t even notice.”
“And how did you get here?” Severus asked, disturbed. He went to pour himself a glass of brandy. “None for you. You’re still dehydrated.”
“Wasn’t asking,” Potter said. “And I don’t really know how I got here. I woke up one morning and felt slightly better than I had the night before. I remembered at least that I was a good flyer, and I had gone to bed reading that book about what an incredible wizard you are. So as soon as I woke up, I set out to find you. And now here I am.”
A flicker of awed fear trickled through Severus’ body. He had always known Potter was a powerful wizard – that much had been clear from the first day he had walked into the Great Hall of Hogwarts. But there was a difference between Harry Potter, boy hero, and Harry Potter, the young man sitting before him. This Harry Potter, even if he could barely remember who he was, had enough magic coursing through his veins that he could track down a wizard deep in hiding simply by focusing on his name. All that raw, powerful intensity inside one young man who had never made it a point in his formative years to learn to control his magic.
Against the odds, it had worked to defeat the Dark Lord. But what else was this Potter capable of? Severus would have been unnerved under normal circumstances, but the fact that Potter possessed so much magic and had no memory, and therefore likely no discipline over it, terrified him.
And, in a peculiar way, excited him. He tucked that emotion away for the moment – that could very well be the most disturbing revelation in an already disturbing evening.
“Time for bed, I think,” Severus said. Indeed, Potter looked as if he was about to drop into a dead sleep right into his empty bowl. “Come. I’ve transfigured a chair in my study for you.”
Potter nodded and stood up. “Thanks. You know, you can read the book if you want. Since it’s about you and all.”
“Perhaps in the morning,” Severus said, and gently led Potter by the arm up the stairs. He still seemed rather unsteady on his feet. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day.”
“I feel better,” Potter said with a yawn as Severus tucked him into bed. “Now that I’m here. I don’t really know why, but when I’m around you I just know that I’m safe.”
The sleepy confession left Severus speechless. How often had he wished that Potter would just acknowledge that Severus was protecting him for his own good? To hear the words so freely and simply given awakened something in him that hadn’t been moved in years.
A soft snore indicated Potter had already fallen asleep. “Extraordinary,” Severus whispered. “Absolutely extraordinary.”
When Severus awoke to screams, he thought perhaps his nightmares had somehow trickled over to the waking world. Slowly, he realised that for whatever lucky reason, he hadn’t dreamed of killing Dumbledore or torturing Muggles that night, and once that fog lifted he remembered that an amnesiac Harry Potter had landed on his doorstep earlier that evening.
Pulling a dressing gown on over his pyjamas, he quickly made his way to his study. Potter had thrown the blanket to the floor and was tossing and turning in the bed. “Stop!” he shouted. “Stop it!”
Severus rested his hand on Potter’s forehead. He wasn’t feverish, at least. “Potter,” he said. “Wake up. You’re having a nightmare.”
Potter’s movements ceased, but he continued whimpering. A too-thin hand clutched at Severus’ robe. “Can’t you see me? I’m here.”
“I know you’re here, Potter. You woke me up with your histrionics.”
Potter’s eyes shot open. “Severus! You’re real.”
“Yes, I’m real. Now, will you be able to get back to sleep? It’s barely four. I could also give you a mild sleeping potion if you’d like.”
Potter shook his head. “I’m just so cold.”
“Well, that’s because you threw your blankets to the floor like a petulant child,” Severus said. He paused. Potter was shivering, and he was clearly a restless sleeper. He could do with a heavier blanket.
Merlin, he must have mellowed in his solitude. Once upon a time, being awoken by screams at this unholy hour would have had him snarling and deducting house points. Now it had him feeling sympathetic to the little brat.
“One moment,” he said, not allowing himself any longer to come to his senses. He left the room for a moment and returned with a heavy quilt. His mother’s quilt. “Here,” he said, tucking it around Potter carefully. “My mother made this. If you so much as drool or sweat or somehow otherwise defile it, I’ll have your head.”
Potter closed his eyes and relaxed into its warmth. Apparently the quilt had the same effect on Potter as it did on Severus – warm and all-encompassing, it made him feel safe, protected, and peaceful. “Thank you,” Potter murmured.
“Yes, well,” Severus said. “I’m off to bed. I shall see you in the morning.”
“Wait, don’t go!” Potter said. His eyes opened, albeit clearly with great effort. “Don’t leave me. I’m afraid I’ll wake up again and find out I’ve forgotten you too.”
Severus eyed the door longingly. His own bed was calling for him. There was no room to transfigure another bed in this study, and he certainly wasn’t about to climb into bed with Potter. But there wasn’t even a question in his mind that he would be spending the night in his study. For one, he had been idly contemplating it even before Potter had expressed his wish. Practically speaking, of course, he suspected Potter would have another nightmare if he left, and given his condition Severus really should have been sleeping in the room to monitor him in the first place. But there was another more pressing reason why Severus knew he’d spend the night here, one that was harder to define, but essentially boiled down to the sheer fact that he wanted to.
Resigned, Severus dragged his desk chair beside Potter’s bed. It was comfortable enough, and it wasn’t as if there were many hours left in the night anyway. As soon as he sat down, Potter reached out and grabbed his hand.
“Just holding on to make sure you don’t disappear,” Potter whispered. “Don’t go.”
Severus closed his eyes. “Where you’re concerned, Mister Potter, I’ve long learned I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”
Comfortable though the chair was, Severus was only able to drift in and out of sleep for the next several hours. Once the sun began to rise, he gave it up as a lost cause. He began to catalogue in his head the diagnostic spells he would have to test on Potter that morning. He would, of course, first have to make sure he was adequately nourished so he could be clear about which symptoms related to his memory-loss and which were merely the side-effects of being a reckless Gryffindor who flew for four days into a monsoon without even knowing his final destination.
The thought triggered something in Severus’ mind. Gently, he disentangled his hand from Potter’s grip. Potter whimpered slightly in protest but didn’t wake, and instead gripped more tightly at the quilt covering him. Severus couldn’t say that he blamed him – he himself had sought comfort on many a difficult night in that exact same position.
Careful not to make a sound, he began rummaging through Potter’s rucksack. The fool had clearly not taken much time to pack – it was filled only with a few apples, a loaf of bread, and a handful of coins. And, of course, the item he was searching for: Potter’s book.
It was fairly nondescript, simply a black, leather-bound book about the size of a large photo album. Severus cringed when he opened it. It was filled page after page with Potter’s handwriting, which clearly hadn’t improved much since his school days. But while as a student Potter had taken great pains to extend the width of his letters and the spacing between them to fill as much space with as few words as possible, it appeared now that he had found a topic that interested him, he was desperate to cram as many scribbles onto the limited space the page provided as he could. Severus leaned back in his chair and held the book up close to his face; he would likely need reading glasses by the time he was done with it.
To whom it may concern,
Once upon a time, I played a part in defeating the darkest wizard to ever walk this earth. Then, as a boy of seventeen, I was certain I knew everything. I knew who was my friend and who was my foe, and I guided my every thought to ensure that the side of the light always prevailed.
What I didn’t realise, and what I didn’t learn until it was
very nearlytoo late, was that sometimes heroes arrive wearing snarling faces and black robes, with insults on their lips and a hex waiting on the tip of their wand.
For so many years, I viewed Severus Snape as my enemy, second only to Lord Voldemort – both monsters I yearned to see dead. It was the attitude of a naïve schoolboy who couldn’t see the difference between a man who had no soul and a man who had no compulsion to be kind to his students. When I think of just how much Snape did for us, without any hope or thought of receiving recognition for his sacrifices, my heart shatters. What great strength of character it takes to go on fighting for what is right, even when those you are fighting for are ready to hurl an Avada Kedavra at your back.
As he very well should, Snape has already been cleared of the crimes he committed as a Death Eater. But that is not enough. Severus Snape is more worthy of the honour of Order of Merlin, First Class, than anybody else who was involved in the war. I swore years ago I would not rest until he received it, and I stand by that promise today.
I realise, and perhaps rightfully so, that some have claimed that I am using my status as The Boy Who Lived to lavish accolades on those whom I admire. This is unfortunate, but understandable. I am aware, although I truthfully do not enjoy it, that my opinion appears to matter a great deal to the Wizarding world, and I have made no secret of my desire to have Snape receive this award. But when Snape is bestowed the Order of Merlin, First Class for all his accomplishments, I don’t want there to be a shred of doubt in the public’s mind that he earned it, even without my influence. He deserves far more than to be known as my own pet hero.
And that is why I have begun this project. Over the years, I have interviewed as many people as I can who interacted with Severus Snape since he was a boy. I conversed with his family members and professors, his friends and his enemies, his colleagues and his students. And through it all, I have drawn the same portrait of Snape as I’ve seen since the truth was revealed to me at age 17, of a complex, passionate man desperate to atone for his failings at any cost and who, having lived through the depths of darkness, fought for the light.
As time goes on, it is only natural for people to forget about those who played a critical role in the past. I refuse to allow the world to forget Severus Snape. It is my hope by presenting his story to the world, that you too will demand that he finally receive what he so much deserves.
Harry J. Potter
January 9, 2003
Severus closed the book. “You need an honest editor, Potter,” he said. “Sentimental, saccharine drivel. You’ll get nowhere with it.”
He glanced over to the bed, where Potter was snoring softly. Potter had engaged in a one-man crusade to get him a medal? The very thought of it was ludicrous. Didn’t Potter have anything better to do with his time? His girlfriend, for one, would likely have objections to Potter dedicating his life to a man believed to be dead. Severus frowned. He assumed Potter was with that redheaded Weasley girl, but wouldn’t she be looking for him if he were?
He shook his head. Potter’s relationship status was the least of his concerns at the moment.
“What have you done to yourself, boy?” he asked, his voice little more than a whisper. “And what am I going to have to do this time to get you out of it?”
“I’m not sure I much like the idea of you slitting my wrists.”
“I said nothing of slitting your wrists,” Severus said with the slow smile he had perfected over years of dealing with dunderheaded students. “Only that I needed a sample of your blood for testing.”
Potter shrugged. “Well, when you’re coming at me with that knife…”
“The diagnostic potion requires your blood interact with an obsidian blade,” Severus said smoothly. “Come now. Where’s your Gryffindor courage?”
Potter frowned, his brow furrowed. “Gryffindor. That’s something to do with school, right? And Quidditch?”
Severus turned back to his cauldron and began ladling the potion into a set of fat glass phials. The comment had been par for the course for the day. He would make a reference to some commonplace event or term, only to have Potter look puzzled as he tried to sort it out in his brain. He should have grown more accustomed to it by now, but each one of Potter’s lapses left him more disturbed.
“Yes,” he finally replied. “It’s something to do with school. Hogwarts, to be precise.” Confident his neutral expression was restored, he turned back to Potter. “Now, I wouldn’t expect you to remember this even if you did have full control of your mental faculties, but I will instruct you again on the off chance it sticks the second time. You will notice there are four phials containing the same Detecting Draught base. Adding the final ingredient changes the element we are inspecting. Perhaps we won’t even need more than the first.”
Although he sincerely hoped they did. His preliminary tests on Potter before he awoke revealed no curses or hexes. A poison causing him to lose his memory could be more complicated to remedy, to be sure, but it was an area that he was comfortable investigating.
“Brace yourself, Potter,” he said, and cut a long mark on Potter’s palm, right over the life line. Then he held his hand over a phial and let the blood fall into the potion.
“Wow,” Potter breathed. His eyes were wide as he watched the potion bubble and hiss. “That’s brilliant. It looks almost like a liquid ruby.”
“It needs a moment to set,” Severus said. He took Potter’s hand and slathered it with an ointment he had brewed earlier that morning. “I can’t heal it with magic until we determine what’s ailing you.”
Potter nodded and allowed Severus to rub the ointment in and then wrap it in white bandages. “So, what do we want that potion to do?”
Severus glanced back at the phial. “If there were no foreign substances running through your veins, the potion would now resemble water.”
Potter frowned and tapped the glass. “And if it’s more of a putrid green?”
Severus sighed. “Then at least we’re one step closer to identifying the problem.” He opened his potions chest and removed the necessary ingredients. “Shrivelfig for digested potions,” he said, and added it to one of the phials. “Fluxweed for inhaled fumes, and powdered moonstone for infections.” He poured the green potion evenly among the remaining phials. “And now we wait.”
Potter leaned back in his chair and examined his bandaged hand. “Thanks. For all of this. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Hmm.” Severus took a seat across from Potter. He was already feeling rather exhausted, and it wasn’t even half past three. “Frankly, I’m surprised you survived the past decade without me.”
Potter laughed. “From what I’ve read, it sounds like I was a bit of a berk. I’m sorry.”
“You were a child,” Severus said. “An obnoxious, arrogant, foolhardy child, but a child nonetheless.”
“Still,” Potter said. He paused. “Did I really think you had died?”
“Everybody did. A normal man would not have survived what I did.”
A slow smile spread over Potter’s face. “And you’re not a normal man, are you, sir?”
“Not by far,” Severus said with a snort. “Is your curiosity sated?”
“No,” Potter replied. “Was it Lord Voldemort who did it? Who tried to kill you?”
Severus flinched. Only Potter and Dumbledore had called the Dark Lord by his name, and he hadn’t seen either of them in more than a decade. It was still jarring how much the name affected him. “Do you remember him?” he asked.
“No, I just know what I kept reading in my book. Was it him?”
Severus sighed. “In a manner of speaking. It was his snake.”
“She bit your neck,” Potter said, looking startled to hear the words come out of his own mouth.
“Yes,” Severus said shortly. He glanced back at the potions. “Ah. Interesting.”
Potter peered over his shoulder at the phials. “Why’s that one orange?”
“Coral,” Severus corrected automatically. “You’ve tested positive for some sort of fume inhalation. You weren’t experimenting with any illegal recreational potions, were you?”
“I doubt it,” Potter said. “Not that I’d know for sure, anyway. But it just doesn’t feel right.”
“Nothing about this feels right,” Severus said. “But very well. I’ll begin researching today. We’ll likely have to pay a visit to your home at some point. You do remember where you live, correct?”
Potter nodded. “I remember almost everything since I left my house. It’s the longest my memory has lasted in a while. By the time I left, I couldn’t remember anything that had happened the day before.”
“Progress, then.” Severus corked the phial with the coral potion and banished the contents of the others. It was also likely a sign that whatever it was that caused Potter to lose his memory was located at Potter’s home. “As I said, this gives us something to go on. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat,” Potter said.
“Very well. I’ll join you in the kitchen in a moment. I only want to clean this up first.”
As Potter got up and walked out of the room, Severus fell back in his chair and heaved a sigh. What had happened to his peaceful, solitary existence? And, more extraordinarily, why didn’t he miss it as much as he thought he would? Was he so desperate for human companionship after being alone all these years that even Potter made an admirable houseguest?
He snorted. This wasn’t the real Potter. The second he got his memory back he’d be back to his usual cocky self and wouldn’t want to have a thing to do with him. Severus wouldn’t allow himself to become at all attached to Potter. He didn’t even want to. Not when he stopped to think about it.
No. He would work to find out what it was that caused Potter to lose his memory and ensure that it was eradicated. Then he would send Potter on his way, preferably with an Obliviate, and go back to writing his articles in peace. It was what he always did, protecting Potter even when it caused a kink in his own plans. Why would it be any different now that Potter was a rather handsome, casually charming young man?
No. It made no difference at all.
When I think of Severus Snape, I don’t think of him in his days as a professor, when we were colleagues. In my mind’s eye he is always a young boy, the boy he was when he first put the Sorting Hat on his head. He was a gangly lad in threadbare robes, and I remember thinking that it appeared that hat weighed four stone on top of his head. He looked so brave and determined but utterly terrified. Of course, nobody was surprised when he was sorted into Slytherin. His mother’s family, the Princes, had been sorted into that House for generations, for as long as anyone could remember. But I saw disappointment on Severus’ face as he looked over where Lily Evans, his first friend, was sitting with her new friends at the Gryffindor table. Quick as a flash, that expression turned to guilt – why should he envy a Gryffindor? – and then, just as suddenly, determination. He was, after all, a Slytherin, and as ambitious as Salazar himself. He would not allow the disappointment of being separated from his dear friend interfere with his end goal. He would be successful in school and bring honour to the Prince name. And you know, Potter, he never changed. When life handed Severus lemons, he did not make lemonade, as the Muggle saying goes. He sucked that lemon, enduring the bitterness and the pain as the acidic juice stung the scrapes in his mouth, but he did not let it prevent him from speaking. He forced himself to be accustomed to the pain so it would make him stronger, so that one day, when the sting finally subsided, I imagine he would stand even taller than rest of us.
Professor, colleague, and friend of Severus Snape
“I have several books I wish to examine,” Severus said as he cleared away the dishes from their meal. “In the meantime, I think it would be a good idea for you to write down the things you do remember so we can detect any patterns that might be forming. You’ll find writing materials in the top left drawer of my desk.”
“Okay,” Potter said, and drained the last of his juice. “I can – ”
A loud crack interrupted him. Severus was impressed; while Potter had clearly lost his memory of details in his life, he retained his reflexes. His wand was out and aimed at the intruders before Severus could even blink.
“Who the hell are you?” Potter shouted. “What are you doing here?”
“What are you talking about, Harry?” asked Ron Weasley. “Don’t you know who we are?”
Potter didn’t lower his wand. “Who are you?” he repeated.
Hermione Granger’s eyes widened. “You honestly don’t remember us?”
“They’re safe, Potter,” Severus said. “Although I might ask you to raise your wand later to give them a lesson in manners, as they both should know it’s terribly rude to Apparate directly into a man’s kitchen uninvited.”
Both Granger and Weasley whirled around, finally seeing whose house they had invaded. “Snape!” Granger exclaimed. “You’re alive!”
“You bastard,” Weasley snarled, brandishing his wand. “What did you do to him?”
“Don’t you touch him!” Potter shouted, raising his wand again. “He’s helping me.”
“He’s hurting you,” Weasley shot back, his wand still aimed at Severus. “First you disappear, then we find you in his house with no memory and your hand wrapped in bandages? Thank Merlin Hermione was able to work out a tracking charm in time so we could find you. You’d probably be dead in a week.”
“Ron,” Granger said quietly, resting a hand on his arm. “Stop a moment.”
“Yes, Weasley, listen to your little girlfriend,” Severus said. “You’ll find Wizarding law allows for the, ah, incapacitation of trespassers on private property, and I do have some spells I’ve just been itching to try on a human being after only having the occasional rat to experiment with.”
Weasley pocketed his wand but remained red-faced. “Wife, actually. And I don’t care what Harry’s said, Snape. I can read the signs.”
“Please tell me you’re not an Auror,” Severus said. At Weasley’s near growl, he sighed. “Oh, dear Merlin, you are.”
“Is somebody going to tell me who they are?” Potter asked.
“They’re your best friends from school,” Severus said. “I can understand your initial reaction. Unfortunately, there’s no accounting for taste among the young.”
“Shove it, Snape,” Weasley snapped. More softly, he said, “Harry, mate. It’s me, Ron. And Hermione. You were my best man at our wedding. You remember us, right?”
Potter shook his head. “I don’t remember much of anything. That’s why I came here. Severus is helping me.”
Weasley snorted, but Granger – well, he supposed she was a Weasley now, pity – looked concerned. “But we all thought Professor Snape was dead, Harry. How did you even think to try to find him?”
Potter shrugged. “I had my book. I just focused on that.”
“You had been acting oddly recently,” she said slowly. “But Sophie told us you were wrapped up in your book, and we thought you had just gone off on one of your writing sprees again.”
Something twisted in Severus’ gut. But for once, Potter’s amnesia was beneficial for something and he didn’t have to be the one to ask the question that was causing his heart to beat disturbingly loudly. Not that he would have, anyway.
“Your assistant,” Weasley said. “Sweet girl, a bit daft. Honestly, we nearly had to Stupefy her to go to your room when nobody had heard from you in a week. She just kept insisting you were writing and didn’t want to be disturbed.”
Severus frowned. Potter had an assistant who didn’t find it strange she hadn’t seen her boss in a week? “Does she live at Potter’s home?” he asked.
“Yes, but don’t get any ideas,” Weasley said. He still looked as if he expected Severus to hex him at any second, but at least his face was closer to its normal colour. “She really is that daft. Picture if Luna Lovegood and Marcus Flint had a baby. She wouldn’t have done anything to Harry. She spends most of her time picking flowers in Harry’s garden and then braiding them into her hair.”
“Well, at the moment she is our prime suspect,” Severus said.
“I think we’re several steps ahead of ourselves,” Granger – there was no way Severus would ever be able to think of her as Mrs Weasley – said primly. She reached into her bag and pulled out a scroll of parchment, quill, and pot of ink, then sat down at the kitchen table. “What do we know?”
Very little, as it turned out, although Granger still managed to fill up both the front and back of her parchment with tiny, cramped notes. Once they had exhausted the facts, she rolled it up and carefully placed it in her bag.
“Well, it’s a start,” she said. “Harry, obviously you can’t stay at your house until it’s been inspected. We have a guest room you can stay in. Heaven knows you’ve spent the night there before.”
Potter frowned. “Thanks, but I think I’ll stay here. If it’s okay with you, Severus.”
“You’ve already taken over my study,” Severus said. “And I may need to run more tests on you to determine what potion it was you inhaled. It makes sense for you to stay here.”
Potter nodded, but Weasley’s face was turning that alarming shade of tomato red again. “Harry, you can’t be serious. We’re your best friends. You can’t possibly want to stay here with Snape in the middle of nowhere.”
“We’ll take care of you, Harry,” Granger said, her voice more gentle. “We want you to get better.”
“Listen, I know you’re my best friends and all,” Potter said, rubbing the back of his neck. “But I just don’t remember you right now. And Severus has already helped me, and there’s that book …” He shrugged helplessly. “I just feel safe here. And after weeks of feeling like I was losing my mind, that’s a huge relief. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you.”
“You just don’t know us,” Granger said. Severus could see she was hurt, but he gave her credit for not raising as much of a fuss as her husband.
“You will return tomorrow,” Severus said. “Go to Potter’s home and gather some of his belongings. Use a Bubble-Head Charm, at the very least, in case the house is still contaminated. Make note if you see anything clearly out of the ordinary but do not conduct a thorough investigation yet. You should, however, be certain to observe this Sophie and see if she is exhibiting any of the same symptoms as Potter, although I highly doubt she will be. Make a list of everybody who might have a grudge against Potter, even if it’s only because he brushed against them too roughly in Diagon Alley. I will compose my own list. I’ll also need some copies of the Prophet.”
“We’re not your servants,” Weasley snapped. “Get your own damn paper.”
“I’ve been out of contact with the Wizarding world for a decade,” Severus continued over him. “I’m sure some of the people I would have on my list are deceased or out of the country. Unless you want me harassing you about the whereabouts of hundreds of wizards, I suggest you bring me the newspaper. I’d prefer a month’s worth, but a week will do.”
“Fine, we’ll get your bloody newspaper,” Weasley muttered. “Do you want a scone as well for your trouble?”
“When you have all those things, you may return and we will continue our discussion,” Severus said. “You will Apparate to the front step and you. Will. Knock. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Granger said immediately. Weasley scowled but nodded.
“Good. I’ll leave you with Potter for a moment, not that it will do much good, and then I trust you can find your way out?”
Not waiting for a reply, Severus exited the room and headed to his study-turned-Potter’s-bedroom. He should have known that where Potter went Weasley and Granger followed. It was the Gryffindor way – stick together through thick and thin and charge right into battle without first thinking of the consequences. That wasn’t likely to change any time soon. And now, somehow, after ten years away, he had found himself embroiled in the thick of the madness.
He had the strongest feeling that too would not change any time soon.
“Were we in a romantic relationship before I lost my memory?”
Severus spewed out the tea he had been drinking. “Where ever did you get that mad idea?”
Potter shrugged and perched himself on the arm of the sofa. “I just feel… strongly towards you, and it made me think that perhaps we either loved or hated each other, and it really doesn’t seem like you hate me. And, you know, there were some other things …”
Severus didn’t look at Potter as he quickly cleaned up the mess with his handkerchief. “What other things, exactly, Mister Potter?”
“You know,” Potter said, his cheeks flushing pink. He sounded remarkably bashful. “Things. Things you feel that make you wonder if perhaps you had a romantic relationship with someone.”
There were few things that surprised Severus, but Potter’s announcement certainly took him aback. Naturally Potter couldn’t remember whether or not he was in a relationship before he lost his memory, but sexual orientation was not something one could simply remember anyway. But had Potter realised he was attracted to men in his other life?
He nearly snorted. As if that was the biggest question here. Potter could be as queer as a three-galleon coin and still wouldn’t be attracted to him. Certainly, his diet had improved since the war ended and he no longer looked so much like a walking skeleton, and he had more time to take care of himself after retiring from teaching. But there was only so much a proper diet could accomplish. He still had the same hooked nose, the same beady black eyes, and, of course, the same entirely unpleasant personality. There was very little to appeal to somebody like Potter, who could have any man or woman he wanted. Not that he could remember that at the moment.
“There was never anything between us,” Severus finally forced himself to say. “I treated you horribly throughout your time at school, partly because you reminded me so much of your mother, who I loved and lost, and your father, who I detested, but mainly because I’m a spiteful bastard who wanted to tarnish the golden existence you were leading.”
“I don’t believe that,” Potter said.
“Which part? I assure you it’s all true.”
“One that you’re a spiteful bastard. Maybe you were then, or maybe you even think you still are now, but I don’t believe it’s true. And I don’t believe you loved my mother.”
Severus felt the scars on his neck throb, as they did so often when his emotions were on edge. “That, Potter, is the truest statement I’ve ever uttered. As usual, you prove you know nothing.”
“Sorry,” Potter said immediately. “But you truly cared for her as a lover?” He sounded annoyingly sceptical.
Severus picked up his cup of tea again and took a long, comforting sip. It was bizarre to be sitting here discussing his love for Lily with her son, particularly a son who remembered even less of her than he normally did. But somehow, that made it easier for him to speak the truth. “Perhaps. For the longest time she was the only love I had ever known, other than that of my mother. At that young age it’s difficult to know what true love is. But I certainly believed myself to be in love with her.”
Potter nodded. “I don’t think you were,” he said.
Severus arched a brow. “You barely remember your own name. How do you expect me to trust your opinion on this matter?”
Potter shrugged. “Don’t have to have much of a memory to notice the way you check out my arse when you think I’m not looking.”
Severus froze with his teacup in the air. “Potter…”
“It’s fine, I’m not offended or anything,” Potter said quickly. “Far from it. Obviously. Just figured I’d ask.”
“How is your assignment coming?” Severus asked, eager to change the subject. “Have you found writing down your memories useful?”
“Yeah,” Potter said. He stood up and stretched his arms over his head, revealing a patch of his toned stomach. “More details are coming back to me, even though they seem a bit random. I remembered purchasing my house and also living with the Dursleys. I’m hoping the memories will just continue to return on their own.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. That’s typically the case with an inhaled substance,” Severus said, nodding. “But we still need to determine how you inhaled it in the first place so it doesn’t happen again.”
“Right, right, I know.” Potter yawned and stretched again. “Think I’m going to take a quick nap and then get back to writing. Thanks again for everything.” He turned to walk out of the room but then shot a quick grin over his shoulder. “I promise to pretend I’m not looking if you want to check out my arse again.”
Severus congratulated himself for not hurling the teacup after him.
Progress was slow going. Memory potions that worked as vapours were rare, and most had a distinctive scent that Severus was sure even Harry “Which End of the Cauldron is Up?” Potter would have recognised. Until they were able to get to Potter’s house to investigate, he didn’t have much hope of determining the potion from a text. Hopefully the house didn’t conceal too many secrets.
Severus set down his book and stretched. Perhaps he would indulge himself in a large lunch today. A hearty stew with some of the bread he had left over from dinner the night before would be lovely.
A movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. “Potter, I know you’re there,” he said. “I don’t know why you’ve been tiptoeing around all day today, but kindly cease immediately. It irritates me.”
Potter slinked into the room, but he didn’t appear at all guilty to be caught out. Rather, he stared at Severus inquisitively, as if he were a cutting of Devil’s Snare he expected to latch onto him at any minute. “Hello,” he said. “I didn’t see you there.”
Severus rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe that for a second, Potter. Now why don’t you tell me what’s actually troubling your dear little head.”
Potter sighed and sat down in the chair across from Severus. “It’s nothing,” he said. “It’s just that … I remember.”
“Everything?” Severus asked.
Potter shook his head. “No. Just … you. You know. Killing him.”
“Ah.” Severus clamped his hands tightly in his lap, refusing to allow one to go up to rub the ugly scars on his neck. He would not allow Potter to see how the statement affected him.
“It’s okay,” Potter said quickly. “I remember … I remember why you did it. I know you didn’t want to, and that you were on our side. It’s just … it’s a lot to take in, you know?”
They sat together without saying a word for a long while, the only sound the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner. It was only when Severus coughed and Potter nearly jumped out of his seat that Severus stood up.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Potter, I’m not about to murder you. But if you’re so concerned about your welfare, you are free to take over this room as well. I’m about to make lunch.”
“I know,” Potter said, standing up to follow Severus. “I know you’d never hurt me. And I know you were protecting me all those years. But to just see you, and see Dumbledore, and one second he’s alive and breathing and the next you’re pointing your wand at him and he’s just not?” He grabbed Severus by the wrist and forced him to look at him. “Doesn’t that just seem mad? That you’re just waving this little stick around but you have so much power that you can kill a man? A man as great as Dumbledore?”
Severus yanked his arm out of Potter’s grasp. “Unlike you, Potter, I’ve had the unbridled joy of living with my memories for the past decade. I don’t care to relive them any more with you.”
“It’s just – ”
“Leave me BE!” Severus shouted. The side of his neck where Nagini bit him cried out in pain. “For fuck’s sake, Potter, drop it!”
Potter nodded his head, his eyes wide. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
Severus swept out of the room before he could utter another word.
To their credit, Weasley and Granger knocked at the front door when they arrived later that afternoon. Weasley set down a pile of newspapers on the kitchen table while Granger dug through her handbag for her quill and ink.
“You’re lucky Sophie doesn’t keep a clean house, Harry” Granger said as she unrolled a scroll of parchment. “She had the last three weeks’ worth of Prophets in your study.”
“She never touches anything in there,” Potter said. “One time she accidentally threw away an interview I had been working on because the parchment was a bit wrinkly. I had gotten almost no sleep before and might have overreacted a bit.” He paused, his eyes wide. “Wow. That’s something.”
Granger gave him an infuriatingly encouraging smile. “I’m glad to see you’re getting your memory back.”
Potter’s gaze flitted briefly to Severus before quickly darting back to the newspapers. “Yeah. It’s something, all right.”
“I’ll take the most recent paper,” Severus said, grabbing it from the pile on the table. “Let’s see what tripe the Prophet is masquerading as news these days.”
“It’s been pretty quiet recently,” Granger said, spreading out another edition of the paper. “The biggest news has been a campaign to legalize flying carpets.”
“Hmm, I see that.” Severus perused the front page of the paper. The headline (“Domestic Devil or Persecuted Pixie? Pansy Parkinson Investigates the Doxy”) forced him to roll his eyes. “Parkinson is working at the Prophet these days?”
“They’re trying to make her into the next Rita Skeeter,” Weasley said. “They just fired Padma Patil a few months ago. Said she wasn’t selling enough copies.”
“More like her writing was too intellectual to cater to the Prophet’s target audience of hare-brained idiots looking for gossip and fodder for conspiracies,” Granger said with a sniff.
Severus began flipping through the paper. “Narcissa Malfoy is being quoted in an article about building a new wing at St. Mungo’s. How is that family?”
“Quiet,” Granger said. “They do try to stay out of the limelight. Draco married Astoria Greengrass a few years ago and they had a baby almost immediately. Lucius and Narcissa sold their manor and live in Switzerland for most of the year.”
Severus snatched the parchment and quill from Granger’s hand and started a list. He didn’t care if the Malfoys were lying low – he didn’t trust them as far as he could throw them. “What ever happened to the Carrows?”
“Both died in Azkaban years ago,” Weasley said. “But don’t you think we’re focusing a bit too much on the Death Eaters? It could be any nutter who wanted to off Harry. Hermione, do you remember all those letters to the Prophet after the war implying he could have done more to save their relatives? Hell, it could even be some lovesick witch who thinks if Harry just loses his memory she’ll have a chance with him.”
Severus nodded in spite of himself. Perhaps, while he was hidden away in Scotland, Potter’s peers had matured slightly. Severus had seen in the notes Potter had been scrawling that he recalled Black of all people once telling him that the world was not split into good people and Death Eaters. Perhaps, more than a decade later, the lesson had finally sunk in for Potter and his friends.
“Very well. That expands our search exponentially, however.”
“True,” Weasley said. “So let’s get started, shall we?”
They developed a routine of sorts. Severus would write down the name of every witch and wizard mentioned in the Prophet, and their family tree if he knew it. Granger and Weasley would protest approximately every four out of seven names as being entirely unlikely to want to do Potter in and would demand Severus cross them out. Severus would do so, only to add them to a separate list on a smaller piece of parchment entitled “Likely Suspects Whom Naïve Gryffindor Dunderheads Insist are Innocent.” Potter scanned through the newspapers, only making an odd comment when something would stir his memory.
“Ugh, this woman looks awful. We knew her, didn’t we?”
Severus reached over and took the paper from Potter, ignoring the way he flinched when their hands brushed. What appeared to be a tea-stain had partially distorted the photograph in question, but there was no mistaking the woman. “I thought Dolores Umbridge was sentenced to life in Azkaban for her crimes against Muggle-borns. What is she doing heading a Ministry committee?”
If Severus didn’t know better, he would have sworn Granger had growled. “Not for much longer, if Kingsley has anything to say about it,” she said. “That entire affair is an embarrassment.”
“They released her a year ago,” Weasley said, his face wrinkled in disgust. “Something about how she had sincerely repented and wanted to turn her life around and help others. Load of shite. Technically she’s out on probation, but one requirement is that she create this committee to honour heroes and victims of the last Wizarding war.”
“She seems mostly harmless at the moment,” Granger said. “Just an occasional parade or statue. She speaks at events from time to time and you can tell she’s lying through her teeth. But she has a friend at the Ministry who managed to find a loophole so Kingsley can’t get rid of her easily. Last we spoke with him he said he was waiting for her to commit an offense that would be grounds for terminating her position.”
“Hmm,” Severus said. “And I’m assuming he’s hoping for a large enough offense that it would send her back to Azkaban.”
“Ideally, but she’s been annoyingly well-behaved,” Granger said. She squinted at the edition in her hands. “Harry, honestly, you could stand to be a little neater with your breakfast. I can barely read this article it’s so covered with tea stains and jam.”
Harry shrugged. “Nothing like a proper English Breakfast and the Daily Prophet,” he said. “Just part of my normal routine. Can’t teach an old Crup new tricks.”
Granger reached over and grabbed his wrist excitedly. “Harry, did you remember that? That’s huge. If you’re starting to remember your daily schedule…”
Potter gave her a rueful grin and gestured to the article he was reading. Severus could see a photographic Harry waving at him with an equally sheepish smile. “Read it in the Prophet. Doesn’t look like they ask the most thought-provoking questions in their interviews.”
“You’re right on that, mate,” Weasley said with a snort. “You’re always complaining about the asinine questions they ask you. What’s a typical day in the life of the saviour of the Wizarding world? What spell do you think is most symbolic of your personality? If you were an Animagus, what shape would you take?”
“It’s comforting to know some things never change over the years,” Severus said drily. “The sun rises in the east, Potter is the celebrity darling of the Wizarding world, and the Prophet is a pile of rubbish.”
To his surprise, Weasley chortled. “Yeah, that’s about right.”
It was only when Potter started to begin every sentence with a yawn and Granger developed a line between her brows from squinting her eyes together that Severus realised they had worked well into the late hours of the evening.
“This is enough to start off with,” he said, gathering the scrolls of parchment they had written on. “Tomorrow morning I plan on conducting a thorough investigation of Potter’s home. I’ll report to you both the following day on our findings.”
Granger nodded and slung her bag over her shoulder. “Let us know if you need anything. Ron and I can be there any time.”
Severus glanced over at Harry, who was resolutely staring down at the newspapers in front of him. “Potter,” he said, “If you feel more comfortable going with your friends now that your memories are beginning to return, I assure you I would not take offense. Any tests I might have to run can be conducted elsewhere.”
Potter raised his head and looked straight at Severus. There was some anxiety in his gaze, but it was far outweighed by determination. “I’m staying right here,” he said. “Quit trying to get rid of me.”
Severus rolled his eyes and went to escort Granger and Weasley to the door. He’d see if Potter was still so determined to be a martyr once all of his memories returned.
There is not a doubt in my mind that if it weren’t for Severus Snape, I wouldn’t have survived the war. I know there will be those who will say that should be held against him, rather than qualifying him for the Order of Merlin, but I digress.
Severus Snape has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. He terrified me as a child. My first memory of him is showing him a toy I had received for my birthday. My family and all the houseguests were fawning over me and were terribly impressed with my general existence, but Severus simply raised a brow and said, “Indeed, Mister Malfoy.”
He always was the master of understatement.
My teenage years were … difficult. I could go on about that, but this is Severus’ story, not mine. But what’s important is that not only did Severus save my life, for I know the Death Eaters would have murdered me in a heartbeat, if not the Dark Lord himself, but that he saved my soul. That sounds terribly melodramatic, but I cannot put it any more plainly. I was entrusted with a task that, had I carried it out, would have landed me in Azkaban if I didn’t have the good fortune to be killed first. But Severus… he carried it out for me. He…
I’m sorry. Can you scratch that?
What I mean to say is that Severus committed a terrible act so that I would not have to carry that burden myself.
I asked him about it, once, after it was done and we were in hiding. I’ll never forget how he looked at me and said, “The world is already filled with enough damned souls without adding another one. My soul is already tainted beyond repair. I’d rather darken mine more than have you carry that particular hell with you for the rest of your days.”
He never let me bring it up again. Whenever I tried he would give me that look, and say, “It is done, Mister Malfoy.”
Severus would never consider himself a hero. I think to him, a hero was somebody who managed to save the world without inflicting a speck of damage, not a human life, not a single charred tree. Utterly absurd. Those types of heroes don’t exist in the real world. Not even you, Potter. I see you nodding. I know some of the things you did in the war were just as awful as the ones I committed on the Dark Lord’s orders, and somehow the public adores you and spits upon me. I digress again. Severus had to make terrible choices and commit heinous acts, but it was a means to an end. He would say it wasn’t a choice for him; it was something he simply had to do. But he didn’t. He always had a choice. And I’d be willing to wager he never factored his own happiness into the equation.
That’s the Severus Snape I know.
Student and friend of Severus Snape
Severus knew right away he was dreaming. His footsteps up the stairs to the tower were unnaturally loud, and yet he couldn’t feel his own heartbeat. And that’s what he remembered the most from that night – the way his heart was pounding against his chest as he walked to the room where his death sentence, by way of Dumbledore’s death, would be decreed.
He saw Dumbledore before him, practically glowing in his righteousness, looking as healthy and serene as Severus had ever seen him.
“I can’t,” Severus whispered. “Don’t make me.”
“But you must,” Dumbledore intoned, his voice low and melodic. “You promised.”
“I can’t,” Severus pleaded, but he raised his wand.
“What’s one more, my friend?” Dumbledore asked, a smile playing at his lips. “One more for the greater good. It is all I ask.”
“I’ve never –” Severus rasped, but it didn’t matter. That was a lie. So he had never aimed his wand at another man with intent to kill. That didn’t change what he had done.
Severus stared straight ahead, but Dumbledore was still beaming beatifically. Horrified, he realised the cry was coming from above. There, suspended from the stars that hadn’t been shining that night, was Charity Burbage.
“Severus!” she screamed. “Severus!”
Severus turned to escape down the stairs, for while that hadn’t happened in reality, this was his dream, damn it, and he could escape if he wanted to. But the door had disappeared. He was trapped, trapped with his sins and his nightmare.
A strong arm clasped his shoulder. He fought it off.
“Severus, please! Wake up!”
Slowly, Severus came to. He opened his eyes. Harry Potter, of course Harry Potter, was standing beside him, all green eyes and concern and for Merlin knows what reason hope. Severus rolled away, not ready to confront that last emotion that was far safer in unconsciousness than in reality.
“Hey. Come on,” Potter said quietly. He placed a hesitant hand on Severus’ shoulder. “You must have been having quite the nightmare. You frightened me.”
“I apologize for offending your tender sensibilities,” Severus barked. “Now get out.”
To his horror, Potter instead climbed into bed with him. It was only then that Severus realised he had his mother’s quilt wrapped around his shoulders, which he then spread out over the two of them.
“I always hate being alone after a nightmare,” Potter whispered. “I can leave if you want. I just thought you might like some company for a little while.”
Severus was about to bite out a harsh reply, but the second he felt the blanket’s warmth envelop him he was lost. He let out a shuddering sigh and, much to his surprise, didn’t object when Potter curled up against him and wrapped an arm across his belly.
It was oddly comforting.
“We don’t have to talk about it,” Potter said, his voice tickling Severus’ ear. “But I’m here.”
Severus nodded, and allowed the warmth of both his mother’s quilt and Potter’s embrace lull him back to sleep.
Severus rolled over in bed and stretched. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this well rested. He’d likely slept past his usual wake up time of seven. Hopefully Potter hadn’t destroyed the house while making breakfast.
He frowned as memories from the previous night slowly filled his consciousness. Potter had come into his room last night. And what’s more, he had …
Severus opened his eyes. There, next to him, was Harry Potter, quietly snoring as he loosely held on to the quilt covering them.
It was just the damndest thing. Severus knew he should be irritated to wake up to Potter taking up good space in his bed, but instead he felt only a soft fondness. He knew it was foolish, but he couldn’t resist reaching over to card his fingers through Potter’s hair. Potter made a quiet, pleased noise, not unlike a cat purring. Severus almost tore his hand back, but the feeling of Potter’s thick hair between his fingers was intoxicating.
He hadn’t had many moments like this in his life. Of course, he’d had his share of sexual partners, and a few of them had even spent the night. But he couldn’t remember the last time he shared a bed with somebody without there being any sort of sexual congress, no expectations and no anxiety. It was just two men sharing a bed and getting a damn good night’s sleep.
Of course, if Severus were being entirely honest with himself, he would admit he wouldn’t mind getting a little less sleep with Potter.
But still, there was something nice about this. Gentle. Peaceful. Comfortable.
At least, it would be until Potter entirely regained his memory and remembered what an utter bastard Severus was.
Potter rolled over on his side, and Severus immediately dropped his hand so it would appear he was simply extending his arm.
“Mmm, morning,” Potter murmured, smacking his lips. “What time is it?”
Severus glanced up at the clock hanging on the wall. “Just after ten,” he said with some surprise. “We slept late.”
“I love sleeping in,” Potter said with a yawn. He pulled the quilt up around him more closely. “I also love this quilt.”
“Well, don’t get too attached to it,” Severus snapped. “It’s not yours to keep.”
“I know,” Potter said. He rolled over on his side to look at Severus. It was a surprisingly intimate position, with Severus’ arm nestled just over Potter’s head and Potter’s body nearly perfectly parallel with Severus’ own. “You said your mum made it?”
“Yes,” Severus said. He wanted to move his arm, bring it closer to his body where it was safe, but that would make Potter think he was uncomfortable and that was also unacceptable. “It was a present for my twelfth birthday. She was … quite ill at that point. It was the last thing she gave me.”
Potter stretched his arm across Severus’ chest to rest his hand on his shoulder. It was almost as if he were attempting to give him a hug while lying down. Severus tried not to stiffen at the touch. “I’m sorry. You didn’t have a happy childhood, did you?”
“You remember that, do you?” Severus asked. Seemingly on its own volition, his arm curled around Potter.
“Bits and pieces,” Potter said. “Nothing really concrete. Should I remember more?”
“No,” Severus said.
Potter’s thumb rubbed a circular pattern on Severus’ chest. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not particularly,” Severus said. Really, what else was he supposed to say? He couldn’t very well tell Potter about how disappointed he had been that his mother’s birthday present to him that year had been a quilt stitched together from his old, outgrown clothes instead of the book of hexes he had been eyeing. He couldn’t bring himself to say how guilty he felt when he stashed it away in his trunk, avoiding his mother’s hopeful eyes, and how he carefully hid it away from his housemates so they wouldn’t see the proof of how very poor the Snapes were, that they had to rely on the less threadbare patches of old clothing sewn together to keep warm. And of course he couldn’t share how terrified he had been when he learned his mother was ill and wouldn’t survive the year and he would be left alone with his bastard of a father. And then, how when she had passed, how Severus slept covered with the quilt every night. He was always careful to cover it with the Slytherin blankets so his housemates wouldn’t see, and the elves graciously always made the bed with the quilt hidden from view. Potter could never understand how what had once been the symbol of Severus’ shame had transformed into the one object that made him feel safe.
“Okay,” Potter said. He ran his fingers through Severus’ hair. Severus had no idea why; his own hair was nowhere near as soft as Potter’s. “Well, if you change your mind … “
Suddenly, it was all too much. Severus shook himself from Potter’s loose embrace and jumped out of bed. “It’s late,” he said. “And we need to get to your house sometime today. You may have the first shower. I’ll make breakfast and wash up after.”
Potter frowned and reached for his glasses. “Severus? Did I do something wrong?”
Merlin, the man would drive him mad. “Just get ready, Potter,” Severus said. He left the room before he could be any more tempted by the sight of Harry Potter relaxing in his bed.
Severus couldn’t help but roll his eyes when he arrived at Potter’s home. The cottage in Devon was so quaint and peaceful and so utterly Potter it was practically nauseating. Hidden away on acres of wooded lands, the cottage sat on a lake that even had a rustic wooden bridge that looked as if it belonged in a Monet painting.
“Are those swans?” Severus asked incredulously.
“Lancelot and Guinevere had cygnets last spring,” Potter said proudly. His eyes widened. “Wow, that’s a new one.”
“Indeed,” Severus said. A heron perched on the handrail of the bridge eyed him contemptuously.
“I like to write out here when the weather’s nice,” Potter said. “There are all kinds of animals here. Rabbits, badgers, foxes … oh, and owls, of course.”
“Of course,” Severus said.
Potter stuck his hands in his pockets. “Well, do you see anything suspicious out here?”
“I doubt it’s something outdoors,” Severus said. “It’s possible, of course, but it’s far more likely to be inside. The vapours diffuse much more easily outside, so it would be surprising if they were able to affect you so strongly if it were something found out here.”
“True,” Potter said. “Well, inside then?”
Severus was just about to follow him into the house when a petite, blonde woman with a primrose tucked behind her ear rushed out and threw her arms around Potter. Severus resisted the urge to hex her.
“Oh, Harry!” she cried. “Are you all right? I’ve missed you terribly!”
Potter looked stiff, but he managed to pat her rather awkwardly on the back. “Um, hello,” he said. “Sophie, is it?”
The woman pulled away and looked up at Potter. “Harry, you don’t remember me? But we’ve always been the best of friends!”
Potter smiled, but to Severus it seemed rather forced. “I’m sorry, Sophie. I’ve been rather ill. Severus here has been trying to figure out what’s wrong.”
Sophie looked over at Severus and frowned, her upturned nose wrinkling. “Severus? Are you the same Severus as in Harry’s book?”
Potter’s eyes darted towards him. “Severus Snape is dead, Sophie. You know that.”
Sophie clasped her hands to her rather ample bosom and giggled. “Oh, how silly of me. It’s only that Severus isn’t that common of a name.”
“Regardless, it is mine, Miss …”
“Selwyn,” she supplied.
Severus frowned. He would have to investigate that name further when he got home. Sylvia Selwyn had joined the Death Eaters shortly after he had killed Dumbledore. As far as he knew she was in Azkaban, but she could of course have family out for revenge.
“What’s wrong with you, Harry?” Sophie asked.
“Just have some memory issues,” Potter said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Oh, is that all?” she asked. “My mum always brewed me forget-me-not tea when I was growing up. She said it would keep the Lethe nymphs from nibbling at my memory nodes. You should have some! We have plenty of forget-me-nots in the garden.”
Potter laughed. “Really, Sophie? That seems a little – ”
“Brilliant, of course,” Severus interjected. “Miss Selwyn, won’t you go pick Mister Potter a large bouquet of the flowers? We’ll take them with us. The more you can find, the better.”
“Of course!” she said, clapping her hands. “I’ll only be a moment.”
“Take as many moments as you need,” Severus called after her. Once she was safely out of earshot, he turned towards Potter, who was looking at him with an inquisitive gaze. “That will get rid of her for a few hours. I’d prefer she not be underfoot when I’m investigating.”
“Smart,” Potter said. He gestured towards the house. “Well, shall we?”
“One moment.” Severus quickly cast a Bubble-head Charm over both of them and then nodded. “After you.”
Potter’s house was just as charming on the inside as out. The rooms were spacious and offered wide views of the lake, and the furniture was obviously high quality without being overly pretentious. It was cosy and comfortable, and Severus could see in his mind’s eye Potter lounging on the couch in front of the fire or making eggs in the bright kitchen.
“It’s not much,” Potter said. “Just a living room, kitchen, and dining room on this floor.” He frowned. “And I want to say Sophie’s room is down here as well. My bedroom is upstairs.”
“I will have to examine that room,” Severus said. When Potter’s face turned bright red, he clarified, “It is very likely that’s the room the vapour was in, given that you likely spent a great deal of time there. Your sleeping hours alone – ”
“Oh, right,” Potter mumbled. “Sorry.”
“It’s no matter,” Severus said. He ran his fingers over the fireplace on the pretence of examining the thin layer of dust covering it. Honestly, he was more curious about the framed photographs on the mantel. He quickly turned away from the photographs of Lily and Potter senior on their wedding day, as well as the one of Black laughing. He paid slightly more attention to the photo of who he assumed was Teddy Lupin, who was holding a broom and beaming up at Potter. Then there was one of Potter with Weasley and Granger that appeared to be taken at Hogwarts. They were all laughing and looked like they hadn’t a care in the world. Severus wondered when it had been shot.
He tried not to notice how there was no photograph to indicate Potter had any sort of romantic interest, and, more importantly, how relieved he felt at that realisation.
“There’s not much in the way of decoration,” Potter said. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked rather embarrassed. It was strangely charming.
“I’m not here to critique your interior decorating skills,” Severus said. He drew his wand. “I came to find what it was in here that caused you to lose your memory.”
“Right,” Potter said. “Can I help?”
“You should walk around the house,” Severus said. “See if there’s anything that triggers your memory. And if you ever feel ill or even get an unsettling feeling, get me immediately.”
“Right,” Potter said. “Well, I guess I’ll get started in my room then. Call if you need anything.”
Severus cast aside thoughts of Potter and instead focused on his house. He methodically checked each room, keeping a careful eye out for any powders or liquids that might be about. And yet there was nothing he could find out of the ordinary. For all intents and purposes, it appeared as though Potter had a perfectly normal house.
Of course, he hadn’t been to Potter’s bedroom yet. The thought of that alone made him feel warm. He would annoyingly need a moment or two to prepare himself before heading upstairs.
But he had one final stop downstairs before he did that: Miss Selwyn’s room.
“Oh, Merlin,” Severus said when he opened the door. It was an assault on the eyes. The walls were painted in a garish pink and covered with dozens of framed photographs of fluffy kittens.
He moved immediately towards her desk, a white monstrosity covered in painted roses. The first drawer revealed only a collection of scented inks – foul, but harmless. The second revealed some letters from Gringotts – apparently she was rather in debt. Severus couldn’t say he was surprised. He was about to open the third drawer when an envelope fell into his hands. It had likely gotten trapped in the side of one of the drawers. There was something oddly familiar about the handwriting. He carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the letter.
My dearest Sophie,
How are you? I do hope that Potter brat isn’t torturing you too much. I know what a trial it can be to work with such megalomaniacs. Fortunately you have some benefits that I never had.
It has been weeks since I’ve seen you. How would you like to have tea with your dear auntie? I’m sure Potter wouldn’t even notice if you took an afternoon off. How about this Tuesday at three?
Do let me know. I look forward to seeing you! We have much to discuss.
All my love,
Severus carefully refolded the letter and returned it to its place. So Sophie was related to that Umbridge cow. That all but settled it in Severus’ mind. Umbridge was up to something, he was sure of it. And with that insipid twit at her disposal, conveniently planted in Potter’s home, she really could do anything.
He continued his search of Sophie’s room, but found nothing more incriminating than some truly garish robes. He knew he had to spend some time in Potter’s room, and so, after steeling his nerves, he headed upstairs.
Severus wasn’t quite sure what he had expected Potter’s rooms to look like. At one point he would have thought it would be adorned with posters of Quidditch players or attractive buxom models. But instead the room rather matched the rest of the house. The walls were painted in a warm, neutral shade and were mostly unadorned, save for a clock and a mirror hanging on the wall. A large bed with a navy duvet was placed in the centre of the room, and a messy desk in the corner gave a perfect view of the lake outside. Quaint, cosy, and charming. Utterly unreal.
“I think I spent a lot of time at my desk,” Potter said when he noticed Severus standing there. “It just felt very natural for me to sit there.”
“Understandable, if you were working on your book,” Severus said. Something on the desk caught his eye. “Where in Merlin’s name did you get that photograph of me?”
Potter shrugged. “Memory loss, remember? But I like it. It’s a good picture.”
Severus frowned and picked up the frame. The photograph had been taken many years ago, most likely in one of his first years of teaching. He was seated by the Great Lake and appeared to be deep in thought. Every so often he turned to face the camera and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, as though daring the viewer to speak. “I can’t believe you had a framed photograph of me in your bedroom. All your other photographs are downstairs.”
“Well, I was writing about you in here. It makes sense I’d want some inspiration.”
“In your bedr – ” Severus cut himself off. This was encroaching upon dangerous territory.
“Well, I thought you were dead, didn’t I?” Potter said. “I doubt I was … you know.”
A sudden vision flashed through Severus’ head of Potter sprawled across that navy duvet, his prick in one hand and that photograph in the other. A jolt of arousal surged through his body. Merlin, he needed to get out of here. He set the photograph facedown on the desk.
“Anyway, did you find anything?” Potter asked. “See anything suspicious?”
“Yes,” Severus said. “But I don’t want to discuss it here. We should leave now and return tomorrow morning.”
Potter nodded and righted the photograph. His fingers lingered on the frame. When he thought Severus wasn’t looking, he grabbed it and shoved it into his robes. “Great. Let’s go.”
Sophie was just coming in the front door when they reached the bottom of the stairs. Her arms were entirely filled with flowers. “Oh, there you are!” she said. “I brought you loads of forget-me-nots.” She frowned. “What’s wrong with your heads? Did a Booble Beastie bite you?”
Much to Severus’ consternation, Potter took them with a smile. “Just trying something out. Thanks for the flowers, Sophie.”
“You’re welcome,” she said with a wide smile. “Now remember, you just brew a tea with them. You’ll have your memory back in no time!”
“Do not do a thing with them until I have a chance to test them,” Severus said under his breath. “Or, better yet, toss them the second we’re outside.”
Potter frowned. “They’re flowers, Severus.”
“Not a thing,” Severus hissed.
Potter rolled his eyes. “Fine. Sophie, we’ll be back tomorrow, probably around ten.”
“Oh, you’re not staying?” Sophie asked with a pout. “I was so looking forward to having you back. I’ve been collecting all your mail! Although your friends were here the other day and took all your newspapers. I told them you wouldn’t like it but they refused to listen.”
“It’s fine,” Potter said. “I’m staying with Severus for the time being. You just keep the house safe.”
“Oh, I will, Harry!” she exclaimed.
Really, it was nauseating. Severus didn’t know why he didn’t see the resemblance to Umbridge earlier. He jerked open the door and coughed pointedly.
“Right,” Potter said, and followed Severus out the door. “We have to get going. Sophie, see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll Apparate us,” Severus said, and linked arms with Potter.
“How do you think you make a tea out of flowers?” Potter asked.
Severus rolled his eyes. Ridiculous. Even if Sophie wasn’t their culprit, which Severus very much doubted, she was dangerous enough in that her inanity apparently rubbed off on Potter.
Severus decided it was past the point of denying that he cared.
I’ll have to admit that I never truly knew Severus Snape. He was always an immensely private man. Of course, there was the face he presented to the world – bitter, arrogant, contemptuous, spiteful. But he kept so much to himself that I always wondered if there was something he was trying to hide. At the time, naturally I suspected the worst. I didn’t understand how Dumbledore could trust him, when he had all the signs of being a Death Eater.
Now that I know the truth, I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering what was going through his mind then. What must it have felt like to be entirely alone, to be charged with a task that he knew would put him in grave danger? For us, it was simple: the Order stood for the light, and the Death Eaters were the enemy. But for Severus, it was not so clear-cut: the Order was the friend who treated him as the enemy, and the Death Eaters were the enemy who treated him as a wary friend but would become his enemy as well if they ever caught a whiff of the truth.
It had to be a terrifying, isolating time.
And that’s how I know there had to be more to Severus Snape. No man puts himself through that kind of anguish without having some inner reserve of strength, some motivation that kept him going even when he knew his life was in peril. I’ve had my suspicions of what that might be, and Harry, I know you know some of it as well. But whatever it was, I suspect Severus never wanted anybody to find out. Even if it could have provided him some comfort in his time of need, he wouldn’t risk exposing that side of him that was vulnerable.
A terribly brave man, that Severus Snape.
-Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic
Colleague of Severus Snape
“Please tell me you’re drinking a proper English tea and not that forget-me-not rubbish,” Severus said, helping himself to some of the porridge Potter had sitting out on the cooker.
Potter shrugged. “You said yourself they’re not poisonous.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re going to restore your memory,” Severus said, and joined him at the table.
Potter grunted and stabbed at his porridge with his spoon. He stared down at his bowl, very deliberately avoiding eye contact with Severus.
“What’s wrong with you this morning?” Severus asked. “I haven’t seen you this cantankerous since your fifth year.”
“Nothing,” Potter muttered. He took a long sip of tea and winced.
“Something’s bothering you,” Severus said. “Now are you going to tell me or do I have to drag it out of you? I assure you I will be far less annoyed if you just tell me outright.”
“You let me think you were fucking dead, you bloody bastard!” Potter said, slamming down his spoon and shoving his bowl away from him. “All these fucking years of me feeling guilty that I hadn’t managed to save your life and you were just hiding out here on holiday.”
Severus frowned. “What are you going on about? You’ve known I was presumed to be dead.”
“Yeah, but now I remember it!” Potter said. “Damn it, I remember watching you die and even before I knew anything feeling awful about it. And then once I did know I ran back to the Shack and you were already gone and I assumed the Death Eaters had gotten your body and burned or desecrated it or something. Do you have any idea how guilty I felt? Do you know how many nightmares I had of you dying, and then of Death Eaters cutting up your corpse to let some hideous beast devour it? And you couldn’t even be arsed to send a note? ‘Dear world, just wanted to let you know I’m still alive, just leave me alone. Signed, Severus Snape.’ Would that be so bloody difficult?”
“Oh, of course,” Severus laughed. “Tell them I’m alive and then have the Aurors descend upon me and throw me into Azkaban? That sounds like a brilliant plan.”
“I cleared your name!” Potter shouted. “I wouldn’t have let them.”
“The Aurors arrest first and ask questions later,” Severus said. “Even the great Harry Potter wouldn’t be able to avoid that.”
“Then why didn’t you at least write me?” Potter asked. “Why couldn’t you at least let me know you were alive?”
“I owe you nothing,” Severus hissed. “I nearly got myself bloody killed for you, you ungrateful brat. And now you’re upset I didn’t send you an owl? What a spoiled, presumptuous, entitled child you are. You haven’t changed at all.”
“You haven’t changed!” Potter exclaimed. “Christ, I can’t believe how much I built you up in my head. But you only care about yourself, don’t you? You’re still just a self-centred little coward who can’t stand to face the consequences of his actions, even if they affect others.”
Severus stilled. “What did you call me?”
Potter’s eyes widened. “Oh, hell. Severus, I – ”
“GET OUT!” Severus shouted. “Get the fuck out of my house. I take you in when you’re ill, I give up my sanctuary to wipe your bloody arse, I spend my days and nights trying to restore your memory and this is how you repay me? Get out, Potter!”
“Severus, I’m sorry,” Potter said. “I never should have said that. My head’s just been such a mess since I woke up today.”
“I don’t give a fuck about your head,” Severus spat. “I want you out of my house.”
“Severus, please.” Potter reached over and grabbed Severus’ hand. “I’m sorry. I got carried away. It’s all just a jumbled mess in my head. I feel like I’ve gotten more memories but they’re all out of order and I’m just trying to make sense of it all. You know I don’t think you’re a coward.”
Severus wanted to yank his hand away – or, even better, yank Potter away and throw him out the door – but there was something oddly calming about feeling Potter’s thumb trace small patterns over his palm. He was still livid, to be sure, but he felt some of the tension slowly melt away.
“You certainly felt free throwing around the word for somebody who doesn’t think it,” he said, annoyed that he didn’t sound nearly as spiteful as he intended.
The side of Potter’s lips quirked upwards in a sad smile. “I wrote a whole book about it, didn’t I? Do you think I would do that if you weren’t the bravest man I’ve ever known?”
“That’s not exactly what you were spouting a moment ago,” Severus said.
“I know,” Potter said. “It’s a bit of a delayed reaction, I think. I wager if I had my memory when I first found out you were alive, that’s how I would have reacted. I’m sorry, Severus. Truly. I know there’s probably no other word I can say that would be as much of an insult to you. And I understand. I was just in a mood, and stupid, and -”
“Shut up, Potter,” Severus said.
Potter smiled warily. It was unnervingly charming, and Severus resisted the urge to kiss those hopeful lips. “So, does this mean I can stay?”
“I don’t understand why you’d want to,” Severus said, tearing his gaze away. “It’s clear you’re regaining your memory.”
“I like it here,” Potter said simply.
“Well, then stay if you must,” Severus said. “I’m not in the mood to restore my study at the moment, so you might as well occupy it.”
“Brilliant,” Potter said. He pulled his hand away so he could take another spoonful of porridge. “Still up to head back to my house?”
Severus glanced at the clock. It was already ten. “Yes, but your little episode has set our schedule back a bit. I have a few things I need to take care of in the house first, and you haven’t even showered. How about we aim to leave at noon?”
“Fine with me,” Potter said. “Although I still can’t believe you think Sophie had anything to do with it. I still don’t remember much about her, but she seems so sweet and harmless.”
“And stupid,” Severus added. “A little stupidity goes a long way, particularly with the relations she has.”
“Umbridge, right,” Potter said, wrinkling his nose. “I’m starting to remember more about her as well. Sadistic cow.”
“Sadistic cow who is essentially a Death Eater walking about free. I doubt her opinions have changed any after her time in Azkaban. She has every reason to want to do you harm.”
“Perhaps,” Potter said. He took one last spoonful of porridge and stood up. “All right then, I’m off to shower. See you at noon?”
Severus nodded. “Noon.”
“And Severus, again, really, I’m sorry.”
“Go, Potter,” Severus said, and glared at him until he obeyed.
He finished his porridge and then turned to the parlour, where he had left the letter Granger had sent him on Sophie Selwyn last night. He had to admit, Selwyn had done little to cast suspicion on her. She had only completed her education at Hogwarts the year before. A Hufflepuff, she was known to get nearly daily detentions from Filch for leaving trails of flowers behind her nearly everywhere she went, but there was nothing more serious than a lost library book on her record. But she was, without a doubt, the niece of Dolores Umbridge.
Of course, there was still the question of how she was accomplishing it. Was Umbridge merely influencing her niece, or did she have her under Imperius? Or was Sophie smarter than she appeared and was working all on her own? And beyond that, Severus still didn’t know what it was that had even caused Potter to lose his memory in the first place. While Potter appeared to be doing better, and was regaining more of his memories by the day, it was still important to determine the root cause in case there were any lingering, currently dormant side effects.
He was deep into the third chapter of The World’s Most Mysterious Potions, a text he had entirely forgotten about before coming across it that morning, when his fireplace burst to life.
“Harry! Harry, are you there? Harry!”
Severus stood and kneeled by the fire. Granger looked frantic. “Granger, what ever is the matter?”
“Where’s Harry?” she asked immediately.
“I believe he just got out of the shower,” Severus said. “The water is no longer running. Why?”
She sighed in relief and rubbed a hand over her face. “Oh, thank God. I was so worried.”
Severus frowned. “Why? What happened?”
She handed him a newspaper through the fire. “That happened. I still can’t believe it.”
Severus grabbed the paper. It was a special edition of the Prophet but was rather thick. He had only a second to be surprised by that before he saw the headline and his jaw dropped. HARRY POTTER’S HOUSE DESTROYED BY FIRE! POTTER PRESUMED DEAD!
“His house burned down?” he asked. “How the hell did that happen?”
“Oh, it’s unquestionably arson,” Granger said. “Of course the Prophet isn’t going to say that.”
Severus opened up the paper fully and began to read. Shock quickly gave way to both anger and relief as the details clicked into place.
In a tragic turn of events, Harry Potter’s house in Devon has burned to the ground. Potter, widely known as the Boy Who Lived, who defeated He Who Must Not Be Named once and for all ten years ago, is believed to have been killed in the fire.
“It’s just awful,” says Sophie Selwyn, Potter’s personal assistant who resided with him at the house. “I was in the garden picking flowers when I looked up and saw the entire house was in flames.”
What is perhaps the most heartbreaking is that had the fire taken place just a few hours earlier, Potter may have been saved.
“He didn’t spend the night here last night,” Selwyn says, fighting back tears. “But he told me he would be back around ten. I was in the garden after I dropped off Harry’s edition of the Prophet in his room; it was such a lovely day that I wanted to have my breakfast out here. But Harry is always here when he tells me he will be.”
The fire began just after eleven today. Attempts to track down Potter have been unsuccessful.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Potter was twenty-seven when he died. After spending two years as an Auror, he devoted his life to a personal campaign to honour former Death Eater Severus Snape with a posthumous Order of Merlin, an effort that has caused outrage amongst many. Most recently, he had been collecting interviews about Snape to publish in a book. There is no word if the manuscript survived the fire.
Severus’ hands were shaking by the time he finished the article. “That evil little bitch,” he hissed. “She knew we were going to be there at ten. She waited until she knew Potter would be there and then ensured the fire started.”
“I just can’t believe it,” Granger said. “I know you’re concerned about her relatives, but Sophie has always been so sweet. Daft, of course, but sweet.”
“Don’t you find it a little convenient that she just happened to be safely out in the gardens when the fire began?” Severus asked.
“Of course!” she said. “I’m just trying to wrap my mind around it.”
“Obscene,” Severus said, thumbing through the rest of the paper. It was packed with stories and anecdotes about Potter, as well as several pages of photographs taken throughout the years. Clearly the Prophet had been prepared for his death. “A bunch of vultures over there. I bet they’re wetting themselves with glee. This paper will sell millions.”
Severus turned to see Potter standing in the parlour, rubbing his wet hair with a towel. “See for yourself,” Severus said, and handed him the newspaper. “I’m afraid it isn’t good news.”
Potter’s eyes widened. “My house?” he asked.
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Granger said. Indeed, she looked as though she had tears in her eyes. “I know how much you loved that house.”
Potter shrugged. “It’s just a house. I can get another one.” He paused. “Of course, I might feel differently when I get my memory back entirely.”
“You do realise this was an attempt on your life,” Severus said.
“I caught on to that, yes,” Potter said. “But really, is it that much of a surprise? We already knew somebody had it out for me. I guess they just decided waiting for me to completely lose my mind was too passive and chose to take a more direct approach.”
“Well, they weren’t successful,” Granger said. “Thank God.”
“You think it’s Sophie, don’t you?” Potter asked Severus.
“Of course I do,” Severus said. “Either her or her aunt acting through her. I don’t understand why you don’t seem to think it’s her.”
“I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like it’s her,” Potter said. He paused. “So this is what it feels like to have the world think you’re dead. It’s interesting. I could do anything I want, no obligations. Or I could continue hiding away with you for the rest of my life, Severus.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Severus said, ignoring the way his heart fluttered a bit at Potter’s last statement. He was just joking, and he certainly didn’t mean it the way that Severus had taken it. Not that he had any reason to take it that way. “Although I do think it’s for the best for you to remain here until we confirm who the perpetrator is. You could count the number of people who know about this house on one hand.”
“I agree,” Granger said. “I wasn’t sure at first, but I think it’s for the best. Everybody knows where Ron and I live, and whoever is after you would likely assume you’d hide with us.”
“That’s true,” Potter said. “And they’re likely going to be pretty peeved when they learn I wasn’t even in the house when it caught fire.”
“Well, you’re not going to tell them, are you?” Granger asked. “If they think you’re dead, they’re not going to continue trying to kill you. This is perfect. You can stay safe here.”
“If they think I’m dead, they’ll give up trying to kill me, yes,” Potter said. “But that’s the only way we’re going to be able to catch them. We need them to make a mistake and do something stupid. If anything, I should be going out in public more often.”
“Harry, you can’t be serious!” Granger exclaimed. “I thought you grew out of this phase of needlessly putting yourself in danger.”
“I won’t be in danger,” Potter said. “I’ll be careful. I’m sure Severus has ideas of precautions I could take.”
“Snape, you can’t let him do this!” Granger said. “Tell him he’s being an idiot.”
“I’ll do nothing of the sort,” Severus said. “Potter’s right. We’ll never be able to prove anything if he stays hidden away.”
“See!” Potter said smugly.
“And as for precautions, I will be escorting Potter everywhere he goes. He will be perfectly safe. I will make certain of it.”
“Exactly,” Potter said. “Wait. You’re coming with me? You’re going to let people know you’re alive?”
“Of course not,” Severus said. “I’ll be in disguise. Nobody will know a thing. And it’s thoroughly reasonable for Harry Potter to walk around with some additional protection, especially after a recent attack on his life.”
“Well, I suppose if you’re insisting on this, Snape is your best bet,” Granger conceded. “I’ve already had Pansy Parkinson at my Floo asking for a statement. I’ll let her know I’ve spoken with you and you’re in a safe place. Although I doubt the Prophet would accept that. Death sells much more papers.”
Potter smiled. “Thanks, Hermione.”
She reached through the fire and took Potter’s hand. “I’m just so glad you’re all right. Even though realistically I knew the odds were you weren’t there, just seeing it in print was terrifying. Ron and I will stop by later tonight if that’s okay.”
Potter glanced over at him. Severus gave a tight nod. He would never enjoy having Granger and Weasley in his home, but they were proving themselves to be useful. What’s more, Severus found himself unable to deny Potter anything that would make him happy. To be sure, Potter still didn’t completely register that Granger and Weasley were his best friends. But Severus had no doubt the day would come when Potter fully regained his memory, and he didn’t want him to look back and think that Severus had treated him or his friends unfairly.
It didn’t matter, in the long run. As soon as Potter remembered his relationship with his old friends, he would also remember why he’d want nothing to do with Severus, and it wouldn’t matter who Severus did and didn’t allow into his home. But Severus wouldn’t dwell on that now.
“That sounds great, Hermione,” Potter said. “We’ll see you both tonight.”
The Floo connection closed, Potter looked back at Severus and sighed. He looked exhausted. “This isn’t quite what I was expecting,” Potter said.
“No,” Severus said. “Would you care to lie down?”
“Maybe,” Potter said. “It’s just a lot to take in. Would you mind?”
Severus shook his head. Truth be told, he wouldn’t mind lying down either. It had been one thing when Potter was losing his memory due to a potion. That was something easily avoided. It was quite another to see somebody set fire to his home. Had Potter not been staying with him, he would have been killed. What’s more, had Potter not come seeking him for help in the first place, Severus likely wouldn’t have even known that Potter was dead. That alone made his blood run cold. He supposed if he didn’t know Potter was dead it likely wouldn’t have affected him, but knowing Potter as he did now, it was unsettling.
It also made Severus’ head hurt.
“All right then,” Potter said. “I’ll be upstairs.”
Severus nodded and returned to the kitchen to brew himself a pot of tea. Really, he wanted something far stronger, but given the hour in the day he would settle for the hot beverage.
How exactly had his quiet life come to this? He had enjoyed being alone and having some peace for once in his life. And yet, he didn’t entirely mind. Certainly, he didn’t want Potter to be killed, and he’d prefer that was out of the way. But having some companionship, some purpose in his daily routine? The fact that somebody was relying on him, a somebody that was none other than Harry Potter?
Once they apprehended Sophie and Umbridge, or whoever it was who was after Potter, would he leave? Would Severus mind? What would it be like to go back to his life of solitude?
Severus sat down on the couch with his tea, as well as The World’s Most Mysterious Potions. He reopened the book to where he left off, but couldn’t bring himself to read the words on the page.
“I changed my mind.”
Severus looked up. Potter was standing at the entrance of the room, back in his pyjamas and wrapped in the quilt.
“I don’t really want to be alone right now,” Potter said. “Do you mind?”
Severus shook his head. Potter gave him a crooked smile and joined him on the couch. To Severus’ surprise, instead of sitting on the far end, he sat right next to him and leaned up against his shoulder.
“Thanks,” Potter said.
It was only because Severus couldn’t deny giving Potter a bit of comfort after an attempt on his life, and because sitting there with Potter pressing against him was a bit awkward. Most assuredly, that was the only reason Severus reached up and wrapped an arm around Potter. It was because it was more comfortable for him. And comfortable because of the arm position. Not comfortable in the way Severus felt a little bit safer with his arm around Potter, a little more in control of the universe. Not comfortable as if by wrapping his arm around Potter, the quilt that was embracing Potter was also keeping him warm by extension.
Severus closed his book. For now all he wanted to do was sit with the man beside him in front of the fire.
Proving to the world that Potter was indeed alive apparently required an interview. Severus couldn’t say he was surprised. An interview with the hero presumed to be dead was likely the only way the Prophet could top the sales of the issue announcing his death, while also allowing the hasty reporters to devise a way to save face.
Great care had gone into coordinating the interview. Granger had arranged for it to be with Pansy Parkinson at a popular café in Hogsmeade, well in the public view. The theory was Potter being out and about might attract the attention of whoever it was who was trying to kill him, and they might end up revealing themselves. Even if they weren’t in Hogsmeade that day, they would at least be aware that Potter wasn’t hiding anymore, and, more than that, that the attempt to make him lose his memory had failed. Severus knew that Potter could present an intimidating face when he wanted to, and this was certainly a time they wanted to take advantage of that.
As for Severus, he had brewed a cauldron of Polyjuice and was prepared to accompany Potter under the persona of Augustus Quinn.
“You know,” Potter said as they prepared to head out to the interview, “Augustus Quinn is quite the attractive man.”
Severus examined his reflection in the mirror. Potter wasn’t joking. Augustus Quinn was tall, blond, and fit, with periwinkle blue eyes. Severus had trouble taking himself seriously. “Please refrain from ogling me while we’re out. It would destroy our cover.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Potter said. “Besides, Augustus isn’t really my type.”
“Oh, no?” Severus asked. He self-consciously tousled his hair. Quinn had a volume to his hair that Severus was not accustomed to.
“No,” Potter said. “His features are too bland. I like my men a little more … interesting.”
“No tall, dark, and handsome for you, then?”
Potter’s lips quirked upwards. “Well, I didn’t say that. I enjoy tall and dark, and, well, handsome is rather subjective, wouldn’t you say?”
Severus felt his face burn. Potter had grown much more forward over the past week, and Severus was afraid he wouldn’t be able to resist much longer. When he was alone, he could think of scores of reasons why he and Potter should never be involved, most of them surrounding how highly unethical it would be to seduce a man who was missing a great number of his most crucial memories. But when Potter was standing before him, or curled up next to him, and was shamelessly flirting and hinting that he would like something more, it became that much harder for Severus to remember those reasons.
“You know, Augustus blushes,” Potter noted.
Enough was enough. Severus whirled around and grabbed Potter’s arm. “It’s time to go.”
Pansy Parkinson did not write with a Quick-Quotes Quill, but Severus had no doubt the long, black quill she was using to take notes on her conversation with Potter was just as scathing.
Severus had to admit she’d grown rather attractive over the years. She wore her short hair sleek and parted to the side, and had applied her make up with the most extraordinary care. She was dressed in short, formfitting robes that clearly showed off her ample cleavage.
Had Severus not been entirely convinced Potter was not interested in women, he would have felt quite wary of leaving him with her.
But he had a job to do. After leaving Potter at his table with Parkinson, Severus found a spot in the back of the café that afforded him an unobstructed view of the entire room. It wasn’t as crowded as he had expected, which was certainly a happy surprise.
It was a little surreal to be standing here, back out in the world he had left behind, hidden in plain view. To see all the people he had left behind, but now ten years older … Severus was aware that he himself had aged, and he had recently realised that Potter had matured as well, but somehow his other peers were still frozen in time in his mind.
But there was Septima Vector, furiously scribbling notes and only occasionally remembering she had a salad in front of her. One of the Patil twins was there as well, most likely Padma, from the way she was glaring daggers at Parkinson and her hand was twitching as though it was dying to write the interview of the century that Parkinson had managed to obtain. And then, at a table in the window, was Astoria Malfoy, whom he wouldn’t have recognised had she not been wiping away the tears from a little boy who was the spitting image of Draco as a toddler.
Merlin. How much more had he missed?
He took another swig of Polyjuice and looked back over at the table where Potter and Parkinson were seated. Potter was not enjoying himself, although that might not be clear to the casual passerby. Only a tightness around his lips and a slight furrow of his brows gave him away. He wasn’t speaking loudly enough for Severus to discern what he was saying, but given the way he was emphatically shaking his head and gesturing with his hands, Severus would hazard a guess that Parkinson had voiced some particularly asinine opinion.
He glanced at his watch. Potter had been with Parkinson for just under an hour, which was all the time Granger had agreed to when coordinating the interview. Severus certainly had no desire to stay here any longer, and he no longer cared if Potter were as queer as a three Galleon coin; Parkinson’s breasts were threatening to burst free of her bodice, and he didn’t want Potter to be around to witness that.
“My apologies, but Mister Potter has another appointment,” Severus said to Parkinson. “You may send any follow up questions care of Hermione Granger Weasley.”
“Thank you, Augustus,” Potter said. To Severus’ ears, he sounded relieved, but Parkinson would never be able to accuse him of being rude. “Pansy, it was lovely seeing you again, as always. You do the Prophet proud.”
Parkinson took Potter’s hand. Her own looked rather like a claw with scarlet talons. “Thank you, Potter. I’ll be sure to send you an advance of the article, care of Hermione Weasley Granger, of course.”
“Great,” Potter said. “Ready, Augustus?”
To his credit, Potter waited until they were several shops down from the café before slapping his hand to his forehead and groaning. “Seriously, if my brain weren’t already addled, that interview would have done it. How the Prophet managed to hire a reporter more idiotic than Skeeter is beyond me.”
“You didn’t enjoy your time with Parkinson’s breasts?” Severus couldn’t help but ask.
“What?” Potter stopped in his tracks. “You can’t be serious.”
Severus shrugged. “She certainly wasn’t shy. You could have had a nipple with your tea.”
Potter snorted and nudged Severus with his shoulder. “Stop it. You know that’s not what I’m interested in.”
“Careful, Potter,” Severus said. “We’ll attract even more attention if somebody tells the Prophet you’re having an affair with the man hired to protect you. No sense in starting rumours right now”
“Well, it is within our power to make that rumour true, and then perhaps the Prophet can actually report some facts for once,” Potter said. “Not that you’ve been hired, of course, just – ”
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Potter said. “I think I’m just a little giddy to be out and about again. It’s making me right stupid in the head.”
“Shut up for a minute,” Severus hissed, and gripped Potter’s arm. Years as a spy had honed his senses, and there was no more distinctive sensation that that of knowing one was being watched. Surreptitiously, he reached for his wand. “Act natural.”
“What’s going on?” Potter whispered. “Is somebody – ”
The din of the crowd around them died down. Severus knew he shouldn’t be able to hear it, and more than once, Dumbledore had laughed indulgently when Severus had described the sensation to him. But there was a malicious whisper in the air, a thin jet of energy that was burning through the air towards them …
Severus threw Potter down to the ground and covered him with his body. A second later an explosion sounded and stones came hurling at them from above. Severus quickly cast a protective shield over them both, but not trusting that, he kept his arms wrapped around Potter’s head and neck.
He was only dimly aware of the chaos around them. Once the rubble had stopped raining down on them, he turned Potter towards him. “Are you all right?” he asked. He wiped at a gash on Potter’s cheek. “You’re bleeding.”
Potter’s face was white. “Yeah,” he said. “Fucking hell.”
Severus exhaled. “Indeed.” He grabbed Potter by the hands and helped him up.
“That statue just exploded! Can you imagine if the spell had hit someone?”
“Who was it? Did you see?”
“Was that Harry Potter?”
“We’ve been caught out,” Potter said apologetically as a crowd milled about them. “Did you see who did it?”
Severus shook his head. “We’ll never find them in this crowd.”
“Harry? Are you all right?”
Severus immediately recognised Neville Longbottom. He had gained some muscle over the years, and his face had lost some of its chubbiness, but he was still unmistakably a Longbottom.
Unfortunately, Potter did not.
“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks for asking,” Potter said before turning back to Severus.
Longbottom grabbed Potter by the shoulder. “Harry. Do you not recognise me? You hit your head pretty hard.”
Potter’s eyes darted to Severus. “Um, no, of course I know you. We’ve known each other for years.”
Longbottom frowned. “You don’t sound right, mate. I’m taking you to St. Mungo’s.”
“That’s not necessary,” Potter insisted. “Really, I’m fine. Just a bit shaken.”
“You’re just lucky this man was here,” Longbottom said, nodding towards Severus. “If he hadn’t pushed you down, that spell would have hit you for sure.”
“He’s right,” said a woman behind Longbottom. She was vaguely familiar but Severus couldn’t place her, other than she was a Ravenclaw. “You saved Harry Potter’s life. You deserve an Order of Merlin for that. I’m writing Minister Shacklebolt as soon as I get home.”
A general sound of assent rose around them. Severus suppressed the desire to shout at them all in aggravation. Undoubtedly there were members in this very crowd who were outraged at Potter’s campaign to recognise “that evil Death Eater murderer” with the same award they were now demanding he, or rather, the handsome Augustus, receive for saving the Chosen One. He had saved Potter far more times with his greasy hair and sallow skin than he ever had in this ridiculous getup. The irony was so thick Severus nearly felt smothered by it.
“Come on, Harry,” Longbottom said. “Just humour me. I’ll sleep much better if I know you’re okay.”
Potter turned to Severus. “What should I do?” he whispered.
“You should go to St. Mungo’s,” Severus admitted. “I only hope the Polyjuice will last that long.”
“You didn’t bring more?” Potter hissed. “Why not?”
“I did,” Severus said. “Only it’s currently leaking down my leg.”
Annoyingly, Potter snorted. “You could likely do with a bath. I’d rather join you.”
“Potter,” Severus warned, pulling him as far away from the crowd as he could without raising questions, “we have an audience.”
“Right. You go home. I’m sure I can be in and out of there quickly. I’ll come home as soon as I can.”
“I do hope you’re joking,” Severus said. “You can’t go there unescorted.”
“I’m going to a hospital,” Potter said. “I’ll be fine. And we practiced Apparating, remember? I’ll be fine. Just brew me some forget-me-not tea for when I get home.”
“I don’t like this,” Severus said, glancing at the curious crowd around them. “I should go with you.”
“I won’t have you give up your disguise,” Potter said. “Not for me. Not for this. Now get out of here.”
Potter squeezed his hand. “It’ll be fine. I’ll be in and out and back home in an hour. Won’t it be nice to have sixty minutes of peace and quiet after all of this?”
No. No, it wouldn't. Right now, more than anything, he wanted to take Potter away from all of this and hold him, listen to his heartbeat and be certain that he truly was unharmed. He burned at the thought of some St. Mungo’s healer assessing first what he so wanted to do for himself, and in a far more personal, intimate way. The very last thing he wanted was to be away from Potter at this moment.
Potter smiled up at him. “Go. Take care of yourself. Or don’t. I wouldn’t mind taking care of you myself when I get home.”
Severus sighed. “If you’re not back in one hour I’m coming after you. I have plenty more Polyjuice in my workroom.”
“Deal,” said Potter with a laugh. “I’ll see you soon.”
Severus nodded and turned back to Longbottom. “I’m entrusting Mister Potter in your care. If you bollocks this up, I assure you the consequences will be severe.”
Longbottom’s eyes widened and he swallowed visibly. “Yes, sir,” he mumbled.
Not trusting himself to look at Potter a moment longer, Severus turned and strode away quickly from the crowd. He had to admit, there was something pleasing in knowing that even in this absurd, prissy body, he still possessed the same powers of intimidation as he did in his own skin.
Severus took Potter’s suggestion and drew himself a hot bath, but he found soaking in the tub made him tenser rather than relaxing him. He needed to be moving, and the water was far too restricting. After quickly ensuring he had no Polyjuice caked on behind his knees, he stood and began to towel himself off.
He donned a dressing gown and debated between pacing in his bedroom and pacing in his workroom before settling on pacing in Potter’s room. There wasn’t much room to pace there, to be sure, but it was at least calming to be in a room that just screamed Potter. It was a mess, strewn about with clothes and papers in every which way, but somehow Severus found comfort in the chaos.
He sat on Potter’s bed, allowing his fingers to splay over the quilt. Even the blanket seemed different. Before Severus had associated it with the warmth and protection of his mother. But now when he looked at it all he saw was Potter walking about the house with it wrapped across his shoulders, or Potter curled up in bed with it tight between his fingers, or even Potter lounging on top of it on his stomach, his legs kicking in the air as he read a book. It was just Potter.
Severus looked up. He hadn’t even realised he had spoken out loud, but there Potter was, standing in the entrance to the room. He seemed taller, somehow, more in control of his surroundings than Severus had grown accustomed to seeing him ever since he landed on his doorstep.
“Potter,” Severus said. “You look well. I trust you’ve been given a clean bill of health?”
“Harry,” Potter repeated. “And yes. Nothing more than a few scratches. The Healer told Longbottom I was likely just shaken.”
“Hmph,” Severus said, standing. “Well, I’m glad to see you survived another day.”
“Wait,” Potter said. He moved to the side of the bed and pushed gently on Severus’ shoulders so he was sitting again. “Stay.”
Severus nodded. Potter didn't remove his hands, which gave Severus the option of staring at Potter's abdomen or his face. The second option was unduly frightening. This was just Potter, for Merlin's sake. He had nothing to be afraid of. Defiantly, he looked up and met Potter's eyes.
And suddenly understood.
Potter was his very centre of gravity. For years Severus had told himself that he was protecting Potter in order to atone for his role in Lily’s death, but now he saw that it went far deeper than that. He was protecting Potter because he was Potter and there would be no life without him. Looking back on his decade of solitude, Severus wasn’t sure how he had lived. Perhaps the answer was that he hadn’t – he had existed, to be sure, but what had he done? He could barely remember.
His life, his purpose, his entire essence of being was hopelessly intertwined with all that was Potter. So much so that when Severus looked up at Potter, who was still staring so intently at him, he felt as though he were looking at his soul in another body.
“I was afraid I’d lost you today,” Potter said.
Severus snorted. “A giant demonic snake couldn’t kill me. You think a bit of gravel would do me in?”
“It could have,” Potter said. “Especially with you covering me like you did. Fuck, Severus, do you know how terrified I was before I felt you move? What would I do without you?”
Severus shrugged. “You’ve done just fine without me for years. I imagine you would do just fine again.”
“No,” Potter said, shaking his head. “Never again. Not now that I know … I just couldn’t.”
“What do you suggest then, Potter?” Severus asked. “Do you want me to just throw you to the wolves and sit home practicing my needlepoint while you go out and about with a lunatic after your head?”
“No, of course not,” Potter said. “But while I was at St. Mungo’s, I had some time to think. And I realised if we’re going to continue on like this – ”
“Like how?” Severus interrupted.
“Being in dangerous situations and caring if the other one lives or dies … you can’t dispute that, Severus,” Potter said. He pushed some of Severus’ hair behind his ears. “But anyway, I decided that if we’re continuing on with this, and I don’t think we really have a choice in that matter, I want three things.”
“Oh?” Severus swallowed. It sounded very loud to him. “And what’s that?”
“For one, I want you to call me by my first name. It’s ridiculous that I keep calling you Severus and all you’ll say is Potter. My name is Harry and I want to hear you say it.”
“Very well, Harry.” The name sounded deliciously forbidden on his tongue, and a slow fission of arousal coursed through his body. Severus knew he’d never be able to deny thinking of him as anything other than Harry from then on. “What else?”
One of Harry’s hands dipped down and pressed against Severus’ bare chest. “I want to feel this,” he said. “I was so afraid you had been killed that for a moment by own heart stopped. I’ve wanted to do this ever since that explosion.”
“Well, now you’ve felt it. Are you satisfied?” Severus’ heart was practically beating out of his chest, a fact of which he was sure Harry was aware.
“For now,” Harry said. “Until we get to the third thing I want.”
“And what is that?” Severus asked. From the way Harry was looking at him, he had an idea, but he wouldn’t voice it on his own.
“I want you,” Harry said. “I’m tired of us dancing around each other, pretending there isn’t something between us or that it’s all a big joke. It’s not, Severus. The way I feel about you is so strong, it frightens me sometimes. And you wouldn’t look at me the way you do, or do the things you do for me, if you didn’t feel the same way. And it’s just so fucking stupid for us not to do anything about it. So, please, Severus. Can’t we just … just be?”
Severus reached out to move his hands lazily up and down Harry’s sides. The constant motion, as light as it was, both comforted him and thrilled him. “You do realise that’s the most clichéd reason to have sex in the world, don’t you? We might die, so we might as well shag?”
“It’s not just a shag I want,” Harry said. “I want a future, with you. I’ve never felt this way about somebody before, and I don’t want to ever let you go.”
Later, Severus was certain he would dissect that statement and find a million things wrong with it. He could think of several off the top of his head. But with Harry so damn close to him, and his hand caressing Severus’ cheek, Severus couldn’t focus on them right now. He reached up and gently took Harry’s face in his hands and then, with a reverence he had never reserved for any of his other lovers, he kissed him softly on the lips.
Harry pulled away with a light gasp. “Is that a yes?”
Severus pulled Harry into his lap. This was madness. He couldn’t make any sort of promises like this. Once Harry regained his memory, they would be on an entirely different playing field. There was no way they could have a future together then. But now, feeling Harry in his arms, after nearly losing him when he was right beside him, there was only one word Severus seemed to be able to speak. “Yes,” he whispered.
Kissing Harry was like blazing through an inferno. It was all heat and passion and hurtling through space, clinging to the one person who would be able to see him through to the other side. Severus felt his dressing gown fall from his shoulders and made quick moves to remove Harry’s clothing, desperate to feel his skin flush with his own.
“Fuck, Severus,” Harry breathed. “You feel incredible.”
Severus grunted and twisted their bodies so Harry was underneath him. He felt a frantic need to touch every part of Harry, whether it be with his lips, hands, or, oh Merlin, his prick. He groaned and reached a hand between their bodies to grab Harry’s hard cock.
Harry moaned and bucked beneath him. “Fuck, Severus, don’t. I’ll come.”
“Well, we can’t have that,” Severus said. “Unless, of course, you’d prefer to come in my hand.”
Harry shook his head. “Some other time. But this time I just want to come with you inside of me.”
Severus leaned down and pressed another searing kiss to Harry’s lips. He loved the way Harry arched up with his entire body to receive it. “I don’t suppose you have anything in this room?”
“I’m a 27-year-old man, what do you think? Accio lubricant.” A small phial floated out of Harry’s rucksack in the corner and landed beside them on the bed.
Severus snorted. “You come here with no memory and pack only the most essential items, and one of them is lubricant?”
“Har bloody har. I picked it up at the house while we were investigating. Now, are you going to complain or are you going to fuck me?”
Severus unscrewed the lid of the phial and paused. Some of his old concerns were bubbling back to the surface. Harry didn’t even have all of his memories intact. What would happen when he regained them and realised what he had done with Severus? And, even more horrifying, what if it was his first time?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Harry said. “And I’m not a virgin. And I want you. More than anything. So please, just fuck me before I scream in frustration.”
Severus arched a brow. “And just how do you remember that? Might I remind you that not very long ago you couldn’t remember your own name?”
“A bloke just knows these things.” Harry spread his legs. “And I’m hoping in a few minutes you’ll make me forget my name all over again. So Severus, come on. Do it.”
Severus slicked his fingers with the lubricant and carefully inserted one into Harry’s puckered entrance. He nearly gasped at the feeling of it clenching upon him. “Now, that would be rather counterproductive to all our hard work, wouldn’t it?”
“Don’t care. Ahh! God, Severus, there!”
Severus smirked and continued stretching Harry with his fingers. Harry might not be a virgin, but he was gloriously tight and incredibly responsive. His gasps and groans went straight to Severus’ cock. He knew neither of them would last long tonight, but he looked forward to exploring all venues of pleasure with Harry in the very near future.
When Harry was nearly whimpering with need, Severus removed his fingers and coated his own cock with the lubricant. It took all his willpower to enter Harry slowly when all of his instincts were crying out to pound into his heat.
“Fuck, yes,” Harry hissed. “God, Severus, you feel so fucking good.”
That was an understatement. When he was inside Harry, Severus felt whole. He didn’t feel as one body thrusting into another. Harry was simply a more powerful, more exquisite extension of himself. Severus wanted to melt into him.
“Merlin, Harry,” Severus whispered. “So tight.”
Harry gasped and gripped Severus’ shoulders. Severus was certain there would be scratches on his back later, but he didn’t care. It was exhilarating.
“Harder, Severus,” Harry said. “Come on, I’m so close. Need you.”
Severus increased the tempo of his thrusts. He could tell from Harry’s sharp gasps that he was managing to hit his prostate. “What do you need, Harry?”
“You!” Harry panted. “Fuck, just you.”
“Me to do what? You’ll need to be specific.”
“Want your cock,” Harry said. “I want you pounding into me so hard I’m going to feel it in the morning. I want to feel you come in my arse. I want to hear …” Harry’s voice trailed off into a low groan.
“Hear what?” Severus asked. “Hear me tell you how exquisitely tight your arse is? Hear how much I love fucking you? Hear me cry out your name with my release?”
“Yes!” Harry said.
“Stroke your cock, Harry,” Severus demanded. “Stroke it for me.”
Harry immediately began to fist his cock. “Fuck, Severus. I’m going to come. I’m going to – ”
“Come for me, Harry,” Severus said. “Come on your chest. I want to lick it up off of you, taste your come … “
“Severus!” Harry shouted, and came with a cry.
Severus captured Harry’s mouth with his lips and slammed into him once more. He felt his balls tighten, and a second later he was spilling his release into Harry’s arse.
“Fuck, yes,” Harry whispered. “Merlin, Severus.”
Severus carefully slipped out of Harry. He almost regretted it ending so soon, but he was fairly confident there would be a repeat performance soon enough. He straddled Harry’s hips and leaned down to lick the mess up off his chest. To his surprise, Harry began to snicker.
“What is it?” Severus asked, looking up. He didn’t think Harry would have regrets quite this soon.
“Nothing,” Harry said. “I’m just thinking about how my first night here you said you’d have my head if I defiled your quilt. Think we rather did that together, don’t you?”
Severus rolled his eyes and continued licking Harry’s chest clean. “Shut up, Potter.”
“Harry,” he corrected happily. He pulled Severus up and tucked his head into his shoulder. “You feel nice, you know? Not just when you’re fucking me. But I like just being next to you like this.”
“Cuddling, you mean?” Severus asked drily.
“You said it, not me,” Harry said, and kissed Severus’ cheek.
Severus had to admit, Harry had a point. There was something immensely blissful about relaxing in Harry’s arms after spending himself in his arse. He realised part of it was simply a biological reaction, but there was something special about this afterglow. Severus was fairly certain Umbridge could have burst into the room and he couldn’t be arsed to move. His contentment simply ran too deep.
They drifted in and out of sleep. At some point Harry had draped the quilt over them, and they both huddled into its warmth. But each time they woke up, they were still somehow touching. Certainly, sometimes it was more direct than others. But whether Severus was draped over Harry’s chest, or Harry had entirely entangled himself with Severus’ body, or their hands were just lightly touching, Severus never had any doubt that Harry was there. He had never felt so together with anyone else in his life.
“You want it, don’t you?” Harry asked one of the times they were both awake.
“Want what, exactly?” Severus asked. He stroked Harry’s hair. It was a bit sweaty, but he still enjoyed the feel of it.
“The Order of Merlin. You never said anything before. But it’s something you really want, isn’t it?”
Severus sighed. “It’s the highest honour the Wizarding world can bestow. Of course I would like one.”
“But it’s more than that to you,” Harry insisted. “It’s not just because it’s an honour that anybody would want. You want one for yourself.”
Severus stared at the strands between his fingers. “I have long dreamed of receiving the Order of Merlin,” he finally admitted. “But I have also accepted that this dream will remain precisely that: a dream.”
“You deserve it more than anybody,” Harry said. “You risked your life in both wars. Especially the second … you had to know there was no chance. And you still did it.”
“The Wizarding world will never accept me,” Severus said. “Not after the crimes I committed. And I wouldn’t expect them to. I certainly wouldn’t accept somebody as heinous as I.”
“Stop it,” Harry said. He gripped Severus tightly. “They just don’t know all you’ve done.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Severus said. “Even before I was a Death Eater, I’ve known what it’s like not to be accepted. I’ve grown accustomed to it.”
“I’m going to get you that Order of Merlin,” Harry said, as resolutely as if he were making a vow. “You deserve it. You’ve done so much.”
“That’s not always enough, Harry,” Severus said. “But even with the support of the Chosen One, the odds that I’ll ever receive that award are slim to none.”
“But – ”
“Harry, why are you so hell-bent on this? It’s a piece of metal.”
“But it’s a piece of metal that you have a right to, and that you want,” Harry said. “I just want you to finally get something that you want.”
Severus gently stroked Harry’s hair until his breathing slowed. When he finally heard Harry begin to softly snore, he kissed his forehead. “Oh, but Harry, one can’t be greedy,” he whispered. “I already have.”
Severus … I was wondering when you were going to come here to speak to me about him, Harry. I thought you might have questions, of course, and Minerva mentioned you were working on a book ... I've spent many a night rehearsing what I would say to you when you came. And yet, today I still find myself without words. I like to think I would be more successful if I were flesh and blood rather than a mere portrait, but perhaps that is not the case.
It's an interesting sensation, being a portrait. What you sacrifice in losing a dimension you gain in a new, rich perspective. Flat against this wall, I've found myself examining my memories in a way I hadn't been able to when I was hindered by my physical body. Memories seem clearer now, somehow more defined and straightforward. I believe I now fully understand why they decided to hang portraits of former headmasters here. The men and women on these walls were all brilliant. But the mind of a portrait is different than the mind of a human being, and lends itself perfectly to counsel.
Yes, I see you're growing impatient. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about Severus.
When I was alive, I always said that I had seen Severus at his best and at his worst. His best was when he first entered Hogwarts, a troubled boy, to be sure, but one who was hopelessly devoted to his friend and still held close to him the hope of love. He had so much potential, young Severus. A brilliant mind, so passionate. And his worst? His worst was when he joined the men and women who would become Death Eaters. I’ve long believed that anybody who signs his or her life away to Voldemort loses a small piece of his soul, and Severus was no exception. He was cold, arrogant, prideful, thinking only of how he could rise through the ranks. He was all the worst pieces of himself brought to the surface.
I realise now that I never gave Severus the proper credit for all he did for our side. I suppose in my mind, since he pledged his loyalty to me due to Lily, I never viewed it as his own personal decision. And so, when I asked him to kill me, I didn’t so much as flinch. It was purely a tactical move, you see, one that he should have no trouble making. And to be sure, I kept him safe. I thanked him. But throughout it all, I still viewed him as a terrible man who had done a great thing, rather than a human being who had made a grievous error and wanted to fix it because he was a good man. And what’s worse, I was one of the only people who treated Severus kindly. If this is how I viewed him, how must he view himself?
I’ve wondered often what would have happened had I never forced Severus to declare his loyalty to me. I’ve wondered if the outcome would be the same, if he still would have risked his life to defeat Voldemort. Harry, after ten years of reflecting in this canvas, I have to say … I believe he would have.
And that, Harry, is what I think is the greatest tragedy of all. Severus demonstrated at a young age that he was capable of love. And instead of nurturing that, I treated him as the soulless Death Eater I always assumed him to be, even as I required him to do my bidding. Severus never allowed himself to love again. He did so much without that emotion … I wonder what he would have been capable if he’d possessed it.
With you, Harry … ah, but perhaps that is not appropriate for your book. Another time?
-Albus Dumbledore, Former Headmaster of Hogwarts
Friend Acquaintance Colleague Peer Mentor Friend??? of Severus Snape
Severus was pouring his and Harry’s tea (a proper English breakfast for himself, that abysmal forget-me-not tea for Harry) when he heard a steady tap at his window.
“Blasted imbeciles,” he muttered. “Harry wouldn’t allow them to come over last night and now they’ve taken to stalking us by owl. Don’t they realise the bird could be tracked?”
He opened the window and let the owl in. To his surprise, it didn’t carry a letter or a Howler, but a newspaper. He frowned and unrolled the paper – it was today’s edition.
The bird nipped at his fingers impatiently. “I didn’t ask you to come here,” he snapped. “You’ll get nothing from me.”
“I got plenty from you last night.”
Satisfied that the bird was leaving, Severus turned to face Harry. “So glad you decided to grace the world with your presence today.”
“Well, I don’t have much of an interest in the world right now,” Harry said, wrapping his arms around Severus’ waist. “But I did certainly want to see you.”
Severus pressed his lips against Harry’s. He was growing rapidly addicted to touching Harry. It was only when he was certain there was no way he’d be able to obtain yet another erection without some magical aid that he managed to summon the willpower to get out of bed.
“Breakfast smells amazing,” Harry murmured into Severus’ neck. “Is that raspberry jam?”
“I found some in the cupboard,” Severus said. He gave Harry another kiss before reaching for the Prophet. “Do you know why this was delivered here this morning?”
Harry glanced down and shook his head. “Perhaps Sophie had it rerouted? But she doesn’t have our address.”
“She likely doesn’t need one,” Severus said. “All she would need to do is notify the Prophet you are seeking alternative lodging since the destruction of your home and to send the paper to you directly.”
“They can do that?” Harry asked. “Seems a bit dodgy.”
“It is,” Severus said. “Back in Umbridge’s heyday, she made the Prophet require all its subscribers to agree to a tracking charm. Ostensibly it was so anybody who was on holiday could still easily retain access to their favourite newspaper, but everybody knew it was so she could keep tabs on key individuals. I’m sure she was rather disappointed to know you weren’t subscribed to the Prophet yet.”
Harry frowned. “And nobody ever tossed out that little caveat?”
Severus shook his head. “It was a good business practice for the Prophet, and theoretically nobody would abuse the privilege. Clearly that’s not the case.”
Harry frowned. “Does that mean somebody at the Prophet can figure out where I’m staying?”
“With a little curiosity and determination, yes,” Severus said. “The Prophet has so many subscribers I’m sure they don’t pay attention to most activity. But you being Harry Potter … ”
“I’ll get in touch with them first thing this morning,” Harry said. “Well, perhaps third thing. First I want to suck you. And then I want to enjoy this jam.”
Severus smirked and dropped the paper to the table so he could pull Harry closer to him. He could already feel Harry’s prick hard against his thigh. “How about we think creatively and combine those first and second items?”
“I’d like that,” Harry said. He pushed Severus back until he was nearly seated on the table. “Two of my favourite things.”
Severus wrapped his legs around Harry, all thoughts of the newspaper forgotten. Harry’s enthusiasm was highly arousing. Severus couldn’t remember ever having a lover who was quite this eager and seemed to not only enjoy exploring Severus’ body, but seemed to make it his own personal mission to memorize every square inch.
Harry pushed Severus’ dressing gown off his shoulders. “Not sure why you bothered putting this on today. I warned you I was going to expect another go as soon as I recovered.”
“At least one of us has to keep up appearances,” Severus said. He gasped when Harry’s hands found his prick. “Damn it, Harry.”
Harry smiled and slowly stroked his cock. “You look incredible like this, you realise. Like a hedonist’s feast.”
“You need your eyes checked,” Severus said.
Harry leaned down and captured Severus’ mouth in a rough kiss. Taken aback by the sudden weight, Severus stumbled backwards. Harry fell with him onto the table, not letting the minor disturbance interrupt him. Severus heard a teacup shatter and hot liquid seep into his skin, but even that didn’t bother him. An armful of Harry was not to be missed over something as trivial as spilt tea.
“Mmm, Severus,” Harry groaned.
Severus grabbed Harry by the back of his head, needing to get even closer to him. Harry’s kisses were intoxicating, and even lying down, he felt dizzy. Harry was his anchor and he would latch on with all of his might.
But oddly, Harry’s lips froze and he jerked away. “Severus,” he said. “Severus Severus Severus Severus.”
Severus sat up and grabbed Harry’s hands. The blood rush to his head was intense and had he not been so focused on Harry, he likely would have fallen back to the table. “Harry, what is it?”
“Harry,” he repeated, panic rising in his voice. “I’m Harry. Harry Potter. You’re Severus. My … Severus. In my book.”
Severus immediately found wand and cast a Bubble-Head Charm on Harry. “Yes, you’re Harry Potter,” he said. He led Harry out of the room and into the parlour. “I’m Severus. Do you remember?”
Harry nodded. His face was white and his eyes darted about, as if he were trying to take in all of his surroundings at once. “I remember,” he said. “I just feel like my memory is a balloon that’s been left untied at the end and everything is just going to fly away at any second.”
Damn it. “Harry, I’m going to go investigate the kitchen. I’ll be back in five minutes. If you need anything, or if you feel even a hair worse, you call for me immediately. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Severus,” Harry said. Severus had the impression he said his name to give him one more excuse to practice saying it.
Severus hurried back into the kitchen, wand at the ready. He knew this had to be a result of the newspaper. It was the only foreign object in the house, and the fact that the first day it arrived the mysterious vapour appeared as well was far too much of a coincidence.
He carefully picked up the newspaper and held it a safe distance from him. It was sopping wet from the spilled cup of tea. He cautiously sniffed the ink that had dripped onto his fingers. There was a certain tartness to it, so subtle that Severus likely would have thought he had simply had some jam from breakfast remaining on his fingers.
“One of the Seven Sublimes,” Severus breathed. A rare type of potion that lay dormant in one form but when combined with water produced powerful, nearly odourless vapours. They were advanced even for NEWTS students and required the utmost …
“Where was I?”
Shaking his head, Severus quickly conjured a glass box and set the newspaper inside of it, sealing it shut. He would need to run tests on it later to confirm his suspicions, but it would be counterproductive to keep it out in the open while he was trying to remember which of his texts featured the Sublimes.
Once he was certain the newspaper was secure and there were no traces of the ink lingering anywhere in the kitchen, he went to get Harry. He found him sitting in front of the fire, frantically scribbling on a piece of parchment.
“How are you feeling?” Severus asked.
Harry jumped, startled. “All right, I guess,” he said. He crumbled up the parchment and shoved it into his pocket. “I don’t think I forgot too much else, if anything. It was just a shock.”
“Understandable,” said Severus. “What was that you were writing?”
“Just some things I wanted to make sure I remembered. I might have panicked a bit,” Harry said. “It’s not important.”
Severus nodded. “Well, I believe I’ve identified the source. I only need to consult my texts. And I’ll need you to write Granger and Weasley. We will likely need their assistance as well if we want to do this quickly. Upstairs.”
Harry jumped up and followed Severus up the stairs. “What is it? And can I get rid of this Bubble-Head?”
Severus waited until they were in Harry’s room before removing the charm. “The newspaper,” he said. “The ink was imbued with a potion that lies dormant until it reacts with a liquid.”
“So my tea,” Harry said. “And I did have that interview with the Prophet where I said I always ate breakfast while reading the paper … anybody could have read that and assumed I’d spill at least a little liquid on the paper occasionally. And I did.”
“Yes,” Severus said. He began scanning his shelves, looking for a small, navy text. It was filled with potions so rare and dangerous few authors were willing to attach their names to them for fear of being shunned by Wizarding society for knowing too much about them. Severus himself had only managed to come across the book by nicking it from Slughorn his fifth year. “Although it’s far more likely it’s somebody who works at the Prophet and could easily ensure your copy was printed with different ink than the rest of the subscribers. Ah! Found it.”
“What is it?” Harry asked.
Severus opened the book and quickly scanned the contents. His relief that he had finally identified the potion was tainted by the bleak description on the page. “The Third Sublime,” Severus said. “Oblivion. A slow-acting poison that is absorbed through the lungs. A single exposure is not especially dangerous, but frequent inhalation can be deadly.”
“How does it kill you?” Harry asked.
“Eventually you forget every aspect of your identity,” Severus said. “First you forget small details, then you forget entire days, then your own name, and soon enough that you are even a human being who requires food and water. Theoretically you would even forget you need to breathe and your heart needs to beat, but humans rarely get to that point before they die of starvation.”
“Hell,” Harry breathed. “I was nearly there, wasn’t I?”
Severus didn’t say anything. The truth was, Harry had likely been days away from death when he arrived at Severus’ doorstep. He had been so thin then, it was clear he hadn’t been eating properly. It wouldn’t have taken much longer. The thought chilled Severus to the bone.
“What’s the prognosis?” Harry asked. “Is there a cure?”
“No,” Severus said. “Although you will regain all of your memories naturally over time, so long as you are not exposed to it again. You will likely have a sensitivity to it for the rest of your life, however. Should somebody ever pull this stunt again, you will likely become far worse far more quickly.”
To his surprise, Harry broke out into a wide grin. “Well, that’s brilliant,” he said.
Severus arched a brow. “Did you listen to a word I just said?”
“I did,” Harry replied. “And it might be the best news I’ve heard all day. So I just need to stay away from this potion and I’m fine? Why shouldn’t I be happy about that?”
“Perhaps because we still don’t know who it was who sent the newspaper to you?” Severus said. “Even if we block the Prophet from reaching you, there are still other ways they could target you. Arson and rogue spells in public areas, being two examples.”
“Do you still think it’s Sophie?” Harry asked.
“I’m no longer convinced,” Severus admitted. “I won’t rule her out just yet, but I don’t believe she has strong connections to the Prophet where she would be in the position to be able to poison you through it. Although it is possible she wasn’t working alone.”
“I’ll write Ron and Hermione,” Harry said. “I’m sure Hermione would be able to have a full list of all the Prophet’s employees in an hour.”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” Severus said. “Of course, then there’s the matter of actually catching them. That will be decidedly more difficult.”
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “Trouble usually finds me. I’m sure within a month whoever it was will be waving their wand right in front of me.”
“This is not the time for jokes,” Severus snapped. “Perhaps you aren’t taking this seriously, but I’ll have you know I have – ”
Harry wrapped his arms around Severus’ waist and tucked his head onto his shoulder. “I’m taking this plenty seriously, Severus,” he said. “Don’t worry.”
“I don’t understand how you can take such a blithe attitude towards some lunatic making an attempt on your life,” Severus said. “They have been planning this for months, and they clearly want to kill you. Does this not worry you at all?”
“It does,” Harry said. “But you just told me that soon enough I’ll be back to my old self. So we just have to off this nutter, and then we can just go on with it all without any distractions or fears I’m suddenly going to lose my mind.”
Severus frowned. “What do you mean by ‘going on with it all?’”
“Well, you and me, of course,” Harry said.
Severus tore himself away from Harry’s embrace. “You don’t even have all of your memories back yet,” he spat. “What right do you have to speak of a future?”
Harry frowned. “I may not have them all back, but I think I have enough. And even if I did, it wouldn’t change anything.”
“Of course you say that all now,” Severus said. “But once you remember the way I treated you in school? When you remember all of the things I did? I sliced off one of your friend’s ears. Do you remember that?”
“I do, actually,” Harry snapped. “But I also remember you did so to keep your cover for the Death Eaters without actually killing him. Why are you trying to get me to hate you?”
“Because for years you did hate me,” Severus retorted. “That was the real you, with all your memories intact. That is who you’ll revert back to once you regain them.”
“For Merlin’s … I can’t believe this,” Harry said, throwing his hands into the air. “I know you’ve been reading my book. I know you think I’m always sleeping when you read it but I’ve seen you. You know I haven’t hated you for years.”
“I know you’ve thought I’ve deserved a medal for years,” Severus corrected. “That’s hardly the same thing.”
“Do you have to be so bloody thick?” Harry shouted. “Fine, yes, I thought you deserved a medal for years. But it was only when I moved here that I began to love you.”
“You don’t love me,” Severus said immediately. “You can’t.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine. I don’t love you. We can save that argument for another time. But will you at least accept that I like you, and I have romantic feelings towards you?”
“Ridiculous,” Severus muttered. It was as much of a concession as he would make.
“Well, when you like somebody that way, don’t you want to see it continue?” Harry asked. “You don’t just stop because all of a sudden the danger’s gone. That’s when you should actually be able to enjoy being together without the worrying.”
“And just how do you think it’s going to continue?” Severus asked. “You do recall that most of the Wizarding world thinks I was killed years ago. How do you expect to carry on a relationship with a dead man?”
Harry paused. “I hadn’t really thought about that,” he admitted. Some of the fight had clearly gone out of him. He sat on the edge of the bed and crossed his hands in his lap. “I guess I just kind of assumed we’d continue doing what we were doing.”
Severus sighed. Harry looked so dejected it was impossible to stay angry. He set aside the book and joined Harry on the bed. “I have come to enjoy having you here. However, I cannot in good conscience have you remain here once the threat has passed. You need time to regain your memories away from all of this.”
“But I want to be here!” Harry said. “I want to be with you. And I thought you did, too. At least, that’s what you said.”
“I was caught up in the moment. And while I don’t regret it,” he said, raising his voice to cover Harry’s objection, “I’m also a realistic man. And I won’t have you regretting your decision years from now,” Severus said firmly.
“How long?” asked Harry. His voice sounded hollow. “How long do I have to stay away until you decide I’m able to make the decision on my own?”
“I don’t know,” Severus said. “At least until you’ve had your memories back long enough to be sure. I honestly don’t see it being much of an issue.”
Harry sighed. “Severus, I – ”
“I know how you feel,” Severus interrupted. “But the fact remains that we are simply in different places. You can’t stay hidden away from the world like I have. And I’m simply not ready to re-enter it.”
“Not even for me?” asked Harry.
Severus closed his eyes. It was tempting, to be certain. Now that he had lived with Harry, he couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to have him in his home. What’s more, his brief taste of something more with him had been incredible. But still, the thought of exposing himself to that world again, of making himself vulnerable to their attacks and scorn, of having to earn a living among the very wizards who had shunned him before … it was just too overwhelming. And while he might have Harry to hold his hand in the beginning, who’s to say Harry would stay for long? Severus simply had no desire to live in that world alone. At least if he stayed hidden away in this house he had his routine. Harry being here had broken him out of it, but he was sure he would be accustomed to solitude again quickly.
“It’s okay, I shouldn’t have asked,” Harry said. He placed his hand over Severus’. “But for now? Can we just be together for now?”
Severus felt his heart grip tightly. He laced his and Harry’s fingers together and squeezed his hand. “For now.”
Harry stretched his arms out and yawned. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can go on much longer.”
Weasley let out an audible sigh of relief. “Thank Merlin. I’ve been about to fall asleep for the past two hours.”
Severus glanced down at the parchment in front of him. They had made admirable progress that day. Just as Harry had predicted, Granger had been able to make a list of not only everybody who worked at the Prophet, but their spouses, family members, and anybody else who might have access to the newspaper headquarters. The list was formidable, but between the four of them, they had been able to whittle it down to a more manageable list of about a hundred individuals.
“We’ll be back tomorrow around lunch to go through this again,” Granger said. “I really think if we can cut it in half we can focus our energy more efficiently.”
“Sounds good,” Harry said. He stood up and looked at Severus. “Ready for bed?”
Both Granger and Weasley flushed red, but while Granger looked delicately down at her hands, Weasley jumped up and grabbed Harry by the arm.
“Listen, mate,” he said. “We didn’t say a word all night, not when you were sitting there with your hand on his thigh or when Snape asked you to join him in the kitchen to get your forget-me-not tea and you stayed there for thirty minutes and came out with no tea and your hair looking like you just hopped off your broom. But now you’re talking about going to bed together?”
“Actually, he only asked if I was ready for bed,” Severus noted. “There was no mention of whether we were going to bed together.”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Snape!” Weasley said. “Although now that you mention it, I don’t much like you taking advantage of Harry when he’s in this condition.”
“For fuck’s sake, Ron, I’m not some innocent virgin,” Harry said exasperatedly. “And I have most of my memories back anyway. It’s just a little fuzzy around the details.”
“Your history with Snape is a pretty big detail to be fuzzy on,” Weasley said.
“Ron, stop it,” Granger said, placing a hand on his arm. “It’s none of our business.”
“Thank you, Hermione,” Harry said. “Merlin. I didn’t even say anything and you’re acting like this.”
“Well, to be honest, you didn’t really have to say anything,” Granger said. “It’s been pretty obvious that something was happening between the two of you.”
“Regardless, it is Harry’s and my business what we do on our own time, and whether he chooses to tell you what we are or are not doing is up to him,” Severus said.
“Right,” said Harry. “And if I remember correctly, and you two are my very best friends, then you’ll be fine with it and just want me to be happy.”
“Of course we want you to be happy,” Granger sighed. “It’s only that it’s a shock, that’s all.”
“And that it’s Snape,” Weasley muttered.
“That can’t be a surprise to you,” Harry said. “You know I’ve been writing that book – ”
“It’s one thing to write a book about him,” Weasley interrupted. “It’s rather another to be shagging him.”
“Ronald!” Granger said. “Harry, I’m sorry.”
“I think it’s time for you to leave,” Severus said. “I won’t stand for this in my own house.”
“Harry, it’s only because we’re exhausted,” Hermione said. “Ron always says stupid things when he’s tired.”
“Severus is right,” Harry said. He crossed his arms over his chest. “I think you should leave. You can come back tomorrow if you stop acting like idiots.”
Hermione sighed but tugged Ron towards the fireplace. “We’ll be back tomorrow. I’ll make sure this one gets a good night’s rest. He’ll be on his best behaviour tomorrow.”
“Well, that was a disaster,” Harry said once they were gone. “And it’s not like I even said we were doing anything.”
“Put it out of your mind for now,” Severus advised. “Why don’t you go upstairs and prepare for bed. I’ll brew you some more of your damn tea.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, leaning up for a kiss.
“You’re welcome,” Severus replied. He lightly swatted Harry’s bum. “Now get upstairs. I’ll join you in a minute.”
Severus walked into the kitchen and set about brewing Harry his damn tea. There was no way the beverage was doing anything to return the rest of Harry’s memories, but Harry still insisted on drinking it several times a day. Severus supposed it was in order to make him feel he had at least a small amount of control over his condition. They were nearing the end of their supply of flowers, however. Severus made a mental note to have Granger purchase some from a local florist.
A moment later, with Harry’s tea in one hand and a sensible glass of water for himself in the other, Severus left the kitchen to head back upstairs. The moment he set foot in the front hallway, however, he froze. All of his senses were on high alert, the same sensation he developed whenever he knew he was being watched. Somebody was in his home.
He barely had time to set down the drinks to draw his wand when he saw a dark flash of movement in the parlour.
Severus struggled against the ropes binding his limbs together, only just managing not to lose his balance. Normally Severus could break free of this spell with relative ease, but these ropes were surprisingly strong.
“Professor! My, my, isn’t this a surprise?”
Severus couldn’t say he was all that surprised. That made him want to hit himself even more. “Miss Parkinson. I didn’t realise you were going to pay me a visit. I would have worn my formal robes.”
“Not to worry. I didn’t realise I’d find you here either,” Parkinson said. She moved towards Severus, each step of her high heels clicking like a Muggle bomb about to detonate. “Although I must say, it makes a vast improvement on my day. I almost wish I had worn my formal robes for such a special occasion.”
Severus prayed Harry would stay upstairs and not notice it was taking him quite a while to brew his tea. Parkinson had the same cold, half-mad look in her eyes as Bellatrix had in her youth. If he were lucky, she would be so distracted with him she wouldn’t even try to find Harry. Perhaps she didn’t even know he was here.
“Isn’t this sweet,” Parkinson said, and caressed Severus’ cheek. “It’s like expecting a lobster dish and getting a surprise extra side of caviar along with it.” Her touch no longer soft, she grabbed Severus by the jaw and forced him to look at her. “Where is he, Snape?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Severus said. “I’ve lived here alone for years.”
“Well, that might be so,” Parkinson said. “But I know lately Harry Potter has viewed this house as his home, or else his Prophet wouldn’t have been redirected here. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how easy it is to put a tracking charm on a newspaper, do I?”
“Have you truly not grown up at all, Miss Parkinson?” Severus asked. “Will you not let schoolgirl grudges die? Surely you and Potter haven’t had much interaction over the years to warrant you wanting to do him harm.”
“Oh, it’s not Potter himself I mind,” Parkinson said. She let go of Severus’ face in disgust. “It’s his obsession with you. You, a filthy traitor. You abandoned your House, your students, all so you could be on the winning side. And now Potter wants you to be rewarded with the Order of Merlin?”
“Potter is a sentimental Gryffindor,” Severus scoffed. “The rest of the world realises that. He never would have succeeded in that attempt.”
“The world is filled with sentimental types these days,” Parkinson said. “Do you know how many publishers I had to blackmail, how many editorials under false names I had to send in to the Prophet denouncing his efforts? I was being crushed under a tidal wave of idiotic romantics who seemed to think you did something noble rather than pathetic.”
“And so you decided to make Potter forget all about his little project,” Severus said. He didn’t truly need her confirmation. Parkinson had always been one of his coldest students. He’d had little hope for her turning away from the Dark Lord, and it was clear she had years to build her obsession. But so long as she kept talking, he could continue plotting how he was going to get out of this nightmare.
“His project, then himself, yes,” Parkinson said. “But only in my wildest fantasies did I imagine I’d be able to find you as well! Do you know how many nights I sat there hating that the Dark Lord had offed you himself? I found myself envious of that damn snake.” She let out a shrill laugh. “If only I had known!”
Severus tested his bonds. He hadn’t managed to disintegrate the ropes, but he had been able to loosen them. He tightened his grip on his wand and raised his arm.
“Stupe – ”
Severus gasped as he felt the scars on his neck reopen and begin spouting blood. The pain was even more intense now than when Nagini had first torn through his skin; it felt as though every muscle and tendon was being ripped through the small holes in the sensitive flesh. He clutched at his neck, attempting desperately to staunch the flow of the blood that spilled over his fingers.
“I had wished I had been able to witness this,” Parkinson whispered. “It’s more beautiful than I could have imagined.”
“No,” he groaned.
“You’ve forgotten your roots, Professor,” she said. “But don’t you worry. I could never forget about you.”
“Harry? Snape? I’m so sorry, it’s only I forgot my bag and it has … Snape! Ron, hurry! The Floo!”
Severus was dimly aware of Granger and Weasley hurtling through the Floo, but he was mostly attempting to maintain consciousness. He felt his legs buckle beneath him and he crumbled to the floor.
“Severus? What’s going on?”
He closed his eyes. It was the last thing he had wanted. Harry needed to stay upstairs, damn it.
A bright flash erupted in the room, and then a sickening thud. Severus forced one eye open to examine the scene before him. Harry had his hand extended towards Parkinson, who was slammed against the wall near the ceiling. She kicked her legs helplessly.
“Harry,” Severus whispered.
Harry was beside him in an instant, cradling his head in his lap and covering Severus’ bloody fingers with his own. “No, Severus. Not again. I’ve got you.”
Severus attempted to clasp Harry’s hand, but his own hand felt so flimsy that he could do barely more than flap it around uselessly. Tears filled his eyes. He had been so close. To die on the dusty floor of the Shack, to die in the parlour of his own home, but each time with Harry …
“Harry,” he managed to bite out. “Look. At. Me.”
Harry held him closer and forced his head up. “I’m looking at you, Severus,” he said. His voice sounded very loud to Severus. “And I’m not letting you die this time.”
Severus fought to keep his eyes open, if only so he could see Harry stare down at him with that look of something fiercer than compassion and more personal than determination. If they had been somewhere else, if he had been somebody else, Severus might have even been tempted to call it love. But when Harry began singing in a low tone, words Severus could barely make out but knew had meaning, Severus felt himself slip out of consciousness.
When he came to, Harry was still holding him in his lap and stroking his hair while Granger was tilting a potion down his throat. “What’s. That?” he gasped.
“A blood restorative draught,” Harry said. He gently kissed Severus’ forehead. “Now don’t talk just yet. You scared me to death.”
“That should do it,” Granger said. “Although he really should rest. Do you need help getting him to bed?”
Harry shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Do you think you’ll be able to handle Parkinson?”
“She’s was already unconscious, we Stunned her, and she’s bound in magical ropes,” Granger said. “I don’t think she has a chance to escape.”
“What will you tell them?” Harry asked. Severus clutched his hand.
Weasley came into view for the first time since Severus regained consciousness. “I imagine I can cover it up. I’ll say you were staying with us and Parkinson broke in. If she says anything, I’ll just say she hit her head so hard she likely doesn’t even know what she’s saying. Nobody needs to know about Snape.”
“Thank you,” Severus croaked.
“Shh, Severus,” Harry said. But he turned to Ron and repeated his words of thanks.
“Well, we’d better get going,” Weasley said. “Don’t want to stare at this little bitch any longer than I have to.”
They both looked expectantly at Harry, who shrugged apologetically. “I love you two. I’ll give you a proper hug tomorrow when I’m not covered in blood.”
Granger smiled and leaned down to kiss the top of Harry’s head. “We’ll see you tomorrow. Get some rest.”
Weasley clapped Harry on the shoulder. “Good one, mate.”
Once they were gone, Severus closed his eyes once more. “I don’t think I could move even if Parkinson, Umbridge, and a whole horde of Manticores came trampling into the room.”
Harry laughed and adjusted Severus in his lap so he was nearly seated upright. “Me neither.” He gently tucked some of Severus’ hair behind his ear and stroked his cheek. “Severus,” he breathed.
Severus buried his face in the crook of Harry’s neck. He felt safe there, in Harry’s arms, pressed up against the spot where he himself would always be marred but on Harry was still whole and perfect. “It’s over,” he whispered.
Harry’s hand suddenly stopped stroking Severus’ hair. “Does it have to be over just yet?” he asked, his voice cracking. “This? Just yet?”
Severus hadn’t even meant it in the way Harry was wondering. He was only speaking of the relief that the threat to Harry’s life – or, if he were to be totally honest, since this was Harry Potter after all, the most immediate threat – was removed from the picture. He had told Harry that they would need to part ways once that event happened, but Severus hadn’t realised it would be so soon. He wasn’t ready for that just yet.
“No,” he said. “Not just yet.”
Severus? Well, I first met him when he came to Hogwarts, naturally. A pale, gangly thing. I tried to help him, discreetly, of course, by giving him some soap and things, but he didn’t take to it. Children that age are so sensitive about those things, and I’m afraid Severus never really had anybody to teach him otherwise.
I suppose the memory that sticks out the most is after … Harry, how much are you revealing in this book? It’s only … well, you can edit it if you so choose. But I always think of the time when he spent the night in the Hospital Wing after that awful prank. He didn’t come to much physical harm, only a few scrapes and bumps. I mainly kept him overnight to monitor the psychological damage. It would be a terrifying incident for anybody, let alone a young teenager.
But what struck me the most was how nobody came for him. Oh, Lily said hello to him, but it was only when she was on her way to visit James, and she spent but a minute with him. She likely assumed he would soon be surrounded by those students who would eventually become Death Eaters. But she was wrong. Nobody came for him that night, and nobody greeted him in the morning. Nobody even realised he hadn’t spent the night in the Slytherin dormitories. He put on a brave face, that Severus, and made it seem as though it didn’t bother him. But I saw the way he looked at your father and his friends just a few beds over. He was yearning for somebody to be by his side as well.
When he left, I told him he could come by any time he wanted, even if he only wanted somebody to talk to. He never did. Severus was always fiercely independent and needed to prove to everybody, including himself, that he needed to rely on no one.
I’ve always wondered what would have happened had Severus had somebody in to his life to whom to turn. There is no better medicine I’ve found than genuine companionship. I’ve seen so many patients come back from the brink of death only because they knew they had somebody who cared for them waiting.
Severus did come back to us, I know, and I believe it was for love. But still, that’s what I’ve always wondered. How would it have been different had Severus had somebody to heal with?
Colleague of Severus Snape
True to his word, Harry didn’t leave. Severus hadn’t truly expected him to, at least not right away. After all, his memories hadn’t returned in their entirety simply because Parkinson was in Azkaban. But still, Severus felt an unexpected thrill every time he looked over and saw Harry standing beside him.
Their routine varied marginally. Harry still drank his damn forget-me-not tea with every meal. They spent most of their time together, even if they weren’t speaking. Most of the day they lounged in front of the fire, Severus reading a novel so his editor would stop sending angry letters threatening to discontinue his services after not turning in a review for weeks, and Harry frantically scribbling notes in his own project. And at night, or really whenever one of them happened to cast a certain look at the other, they would fall into each other’s arms and shag like randy teenagers.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad life.
Still, Severus wouldn’t allow himself to grow accustomed to it. Harry would have to leave eventually. Severus couldn’t even resent him for it. It was one thing for an aging, solitary man who spent most of his life as a spy to want to enjoy a quiet retirement away from the rest of the world. It was quite another for a young, celebrated man such as Harry Potter who had all the friends in the world to be content living in a small house in the hills of Scotland.
He wasn’t sure how to broach the subject with Harry. While he knew the day had to come when Harry left, he had no desire to have it come sooner than it needed to. And so he simply waited for the moment to arrive, trusting that when the time was right, it would be clear.
That time came about a week later, during one of their evenings writing in front of the fire.
“It’s done,” Harry said, setting down his quill and ink. “I think it’s finally done.”
Severus carefully marked his page in his book. “Congratulations.”
“I’m going to have Hermione take a look at it first, but I think I’m happy with it.” Harry picked up his quill again and made a quick note in the book and then closed it once more. “Well, there will probably still be a couple of rounds of edits. But I think I made my point well.”
Severus took Harry’s hand. “I suppose I should expect a knock at my door any day now with my Order of Merlin. Perhaps I should begin brushing my hair in the morning.”
“Joke all you want,” Harry said. “You’re going to get that medal.”
“Hmm. You’ll need to find somebody to publish it first.”
“About that.” Harry positioned himself on the couch so he was looking directly at Severus. “Hermione thinks she’s found a publisher. She’s been in touch with an agent at Phoenix Publishing House.”
“A very reputable company,” Severus noted.
“It is,” Harry said. “And it would be a really great contract. Not that it’s really about the money, of course. I just want people to read the book. But as long as people are buying it … anyway, I was going to set it up so all proceeds go to a charity. I have a couple in mind already.”
“It sounds like all the pieces are falling into place,” Severus said. He paused, taking a moment to choose his words very carefully. “Although I imagine it would be difficult to coordinate all of that with you here.”
Harry closed his eyes and squeezed Severus’ hand. When he finally opened them again, he looked deeply pained. “I don’t want to leave,” he said, his voice breaking slightly. “I don’t. I want to be with you. But I also need to get this published.”
“I understand,” Severus said. “You do remember I’ve been saying all along you would need to leave here soon.”
“I know, but you always made it seem like I would want to leave you,” Harry said. “It’s not that. I just need to see this through, and I think it would be hard to do hidden away from here. I need to meet with my agent, make sure it’s being promoted properly. But as soon as the book’s published, as soon as I get you that Order of Merlin, I’m coming right back.”
“Harry, I’m flattered,” Severus said. “But even now you still don’t have all of your memories.”
“I have most of them!” Harry insisted. “It’s just the odd detail every now and then.”
“Regardless,” Severus said, “you are recovering from a rather traumatic event. It is natural for somebody in that situation to become attached to the one who was caring for him.”
“And what’s your excuse?” Harry asked. “You weren’t ill!”
“Harry, this is for your own good,” Severus said. “I would never want you to feel trapped here or obligated to remain.”
“I know,” Harry said. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I know you’ve said all this. I just don’t like it.”
“Give it time,” Severus said. “Publish your book. Do what you need to do. Should you wish to continue this, you know where to find me. Although I find it far more likely you’ll forget all about me.”
“I could never forget about you, Severus,” Harry said.
“But you can forget about this … this infatuation,” Severus replied.
“Never,” Harry repeated. “Although I suppose once I get this book published, your queue of admirers will be much longer and I might get shoved to the back. Then you’ll be the one to forget all about me.”
Severus snorted. “You would never allow me to forget about you.”
Harry leaned against Severus and rested his head on his shoulder. “Do you think you’ll ever return to the Wizarding world? Not even fully, just enough so it’s at least common knowledge you’re still alive?”
“I don’t know,” Severus said honestly. “But even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. I won’t allow you to have your decision hinge upon that.”
They sat in silence for a long time. Severus realised these were the moments he was going to miss the most when Harry was gone. Before Harry arrived, he spent many days and nights in complete silence. But even quiet was different with Harry. They might not be speaking, but that didn’t mean they weren’t communicating. With Harry’s every breath, with the way he leaned up against him so he could be as close to him as possible, with the way he held his hand loosely but kept moving his fingers as though needing to trace every bone and tendon in his hand, Severus knew Harry was devoted to him. It was a heady, addictive feeling, to know that while Harry might not be actively focused on him, he was still never far from his mind. With Harry by his side, there was a low buzz thrumming between the two of them, an attachment and awareness that never entirely disappeared.
The silence would be much louder with Harry gone.
“It’s going to work out,” Harry finally said. “Everything. I just need to get you the Order of Merlin and then I’m coming back here and we’re working this out.”
“I hope so,” Severus admitted. “But as I said – ”
“I know, I know. No promises.”
“Indeed.” Severus glanced down at where their hands were still joined together. “When will you leave?”
“Tomorrow, probably,” Harry said. “If I wait any longer I’m afraid I’ll lose my will to do it. And besides, the quicker I get this book published, the quicker I can get you your medal and the quicker we can be together.”
“In an ideal world,” Severus said. “Need I remind you the circumstances in both of our lives have been somewhat less than wonderful on numerous occasions?”
“Point.” Harry lifted one hand to begin rubbing small circles on Severus’ chest. “You know, if I don’t leave until tomorrow … we still have tonight.”
Severus felt his stomach tighten. It all seemed so final. Granted, it was on his word, and he knew this day was coming, but he didn’t expect this feeling of complete closure. It was highly unsettling.
And so he did what he had recently learned worked wonders whenever he was troubled or overwhelmed: he reached for Harry.
“Yes,” he said, working his hand down the front of Harry’s trousers. “We still have tonight.”
Severus forced himself to eat another piece of chicken and then pushed his plate aside. He’d spent ten years cooking only for himself, then a couple of weeks of cooking for two and suddenly he forgot how to cook single portions. He had enough meat and vegetables for several more days – Harry always ate at least twice as much as he did.
He knew better by now than to assume it would be an easy transition to revert back to a life without Harry. When Severus found himself distracted while writing his reviews, he wasn’t surprised. When he woke up, hard and aching, and still found no relief with his right hand, he didn’t wonder why. And when he reached an arm out on the couch while reading, it took him only a split second to remember that Harry wouldn’t be there to wrap it around.
But that didn’t mean he had to like it.
He knew what he had told Harry to do, and he still stood by that. But he still found himself wondering how Harry was spending his time. Did he rebuild his house or purchase a new one? Was he still working on the final edits of his book? Had it been published? Had he gone to a local pub, either to drown his sorrows at Severus having kicked him out or to celebrate his book’s debut, and ended up in the bed of another young, attractive man? Severus had never been so tempted to renew his role as spy. Finding the crumbled piece of parchment Harry had scribbled on after being overcome by fumes in Severus’ home had almost been his undoing – seeing the words “I am Harry Potter, he is Severus Snape, I love him, he loves me, he saved me, he’ll save me, trust him” scrawled over and over again made him physically ache for Harry’s embrace. It had taken nearly all his willpower to hide the note away under a heavy planter in the parlour.
Severus brought his dishes to the sink and began to methodically scrub them. Perhaps he would skip his evening reading tonight and simply call it an early night. Boredom had set in with nothing in the future to brighten his outlook.
A tapping at the window caught his attention. Severus frowned. The owl didn’t even appear to be carrying a letter. Cautiously, he opened the window. The bird flew in, dropped its delivery in Severus’ hand, gave him an oddly affectionate peck on the cheek, and immediately flew into the night. Severus glanced down at his hands.
Severus brought the flowers up to his nose. They didn’t have much of a scent, but there was something peculiarly powerful about these. When Severus sniffed them, he felt he was being carried away to another time, and the memory played vividly in his head.
“I’ll miss you,” Harry said. He wrapped his arms even tighter around Severus’ waist. “I didn’t think it would be this hard.”
“You’ll be fine,” Severus said, but he too was compulsively stroking every part of Harry’s body he could reach – his back, his arms, his hair. “I have no doubt.”
“I promised you I wouldn’t write, but you have to know I’ll be thinking of you every day.”
“I’ll know no such thing,” Severus sniffed.
“I’ll just have to find a way to convince you, then” Harry said.
Severus leaned down and captured Harry’s mouth in a kiss. He knew it would likely be the last one he shared with Harry, for a long time, if not ever. It felt like he was on a broom diving down towards earth, clutching on tightly for dear life and praying he would make it out alive.
“I hope you do,” Severus whispered. He didn’t mean to say it out loud, and he prayed Harry didn’t hear.
Harry clearly had heard.
“Very Slytherin of you, Mister Potter,” Severus said. “Charming a flower with a memory as a way to keep your promise not to write. Leave it to you to find a way to compose a love letter without words.”
He found he didn’t truly mind. Setting aside thoughts of the dishes for the moment, Severus cast an Everlasting Charm on the flower and transfigured a cup into a bud vase. Then he carried his new decoration up to his bedroom, wrapped himself in his quilt, and remembered.
The weeks became slightly more tolerable after that. Each Sunday evening Severus would receive a sprig of forget-me-nots charmed with a pleasant memory from a rather demonstrative owl. Severus kept them all in the vase by his bed. It was ridiculously sentimental, to be sure, but they brought him great comfort. On some mornings, when he found it difficult to get out of bed, he would pick a flower at random and hold it close, allowing the memory to wash over him like a burst of fresh spring air.
At one point Severus had done all he could to forget the past, finding it to be too painful and filled with bitter memories. But Harry had given him quite the gift – the realisation that remembering could be the sweetest of luxuries.
There were a dozen flowers in Severus’ bouquet when the owl returned along with a friend, carrying a large package between the two of them. They both nipped affectionately at his ears before flying off into the night.
Severus tore into the package eagerly, paying no mind to preserving the paper covering it. When he saw what was inside, he couldn’t help a sharp intake of breath.
“Oh, Harry,” he murmured. “You’ve done it.”
The book was bound in hunter green leather, so dark it almost appeared to be black. Silver letters embossed on the front cover read, “Remembrances of Severus Snape, Compiled and edited by H. J. Potter.”
Severus ran his fingers over the words. He knew Harry was determined, and there was no doubt he could see this project through if he wanted to. But to see the actual proof of Harry’s labours, all so Severus would have a chance of winning a medal, was overwhelming. Severus nearly felt faint from the multitude of emotions that washed over him.
He had already read most of the book, having sneaked glances at Harry’s manuscript nearly every night while he was staying with him. Still, he couldn’t help but be curious to see what the final product was like. After pouring himself a glass of wine, he took his book to the parlour.
Severus half-expected Harry to break his promise of no written communication and leave a note on one of the pages. However, Harry had stayed true to his word, leaving only his calling card of treasured memories. Pressed into the page that declared the book was dedicated “to Severus Snape, the bravest man I’ve ever known,” was a sprig of forget-me-nots. Severus gingerly picked them up and held them under his nose.
Harry, looking as handsome as ever but rather tired, sat at a desk scribbling frantically on a piece of parchment. From the way he was hunched over, all Severus could see were the words “Dear Severus, I know I promised I wouldn’t write, but I just miss you so damn much.” After a moment, Harry paused, stared at the parchment, and ripped it up into a thousand little pieces.
Harry sighed and picked up a picture frame on his desk. Severus could see it was the portrait of himself he had seen on Harry’s desk at his old house. Harry carefully traced Severus’ profile with his finger.
“Soon,” Harry whispered. Finally setting aside the photograph, he pulled out a package wrapped in brown paper. He whistled, and two owls flew towards him. Harry gestured towards the package, and they immediately grabbed it with their talons. “To Severus Snape.”
Severus shook himself free of the memory. “You always were one to toe the line of propriety, weren’t you?” he said. Not that he truly minded. He had thought he’d been satisfied with the memories of their shared past Harry had been sending, but after seeing how Harry looked that very day, Severus realised how desperate he was to see Harry as he was now. Harry’s memory had been so vivid Severus had felt he could just reach out and touch him. Sitting here alone, holding only a heavy book, Severus’ hands felt uncomfortably empty.
Carefully setting aside the flowers, Severus opened the book and settled in for a long night of reading. There weren’t many changes to the drafts Severus had read. An editor had clearly gone through Harry’s writing to correct for spelling and grammar, and a few of Harry’s observations that preceded and followed the interviews had been pared down. Harry always did have a tendency to ramble. Severus still found some of the writing to be uncomfortably sentimental, and Harry seemed to be determined to portray him as the greatest wizard since Merlin but infinitely more interesting given his checkered past. It was ridiculous and unnecessary, but Severus couldn’t suppress the warmth that spread through his chest to know that Harry had gone through all the trouble to do this.
The sun was starting to come up by the time Severus finished. He likely wouldn’t be able to do anything productive that day. His editor would be furious, but Severus didn’t give a damn at the moment.
Instead he scrawled a quick note to give to Harry’s owl when it came again the following Sunday. It went against his own rule of no contact between them, but Severus felt that all things considered, a two-word note of “thank you” would not go amiss.
The day Severus had to finally spell his vase to be larger in order to hold all of the flowers, Harry’s owl returned carrying a scroll tied with a scarlet ribbon. Severus unrolled it hastily, tossing the ribbon aside.
He read the scroll’s contents, rubbed his eyes, and read it again. Then he collapsed in a chair and read it a third time. Miraculously, the words remained the same.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic,
Requests the pleasure of your company
As he presents Severus Snape the Order of Merlin, First Class,
For his critical role in defeating Voldemort,
Saturday, the fifteenth of November
At seven in the evening
Great Hall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
And then, in Harry’s familiar messy handwriting, “I don’t expect you to come, but I wanted to make sure you knew. I’ll accept the award on your behalf, but I’ll make sure it ends up in your possession. Congratulations!”
Overwhelmed, Severus leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Harry had done it. He had actually done it. Of course he knew Harry was determined and wouldn’t stop until he had succeeded, but he didn’t expect it to be so soon. Severus nearly felt dizzy from the thought of it.
It shouldn’t matter as much as it did. He knew what he had done in both wars. It wasn’t as if he really gave a damn what anybody thought of him, and he certainly didn’t have anybody he wanted to impress. It was just a piece of metal with his name inscribed in it. It shouldn’t matter.
But Severus couldn’t help but feel humbled at the thought of it. At long last, he had gained the respect and recognition of his peers. His name would go down in history books not as an infamous traitor, but as somebody who made terrible mistakes and was prepared to give up his life to atone for them. A hero.
He, Severus Snape. A hero. One who would be on the same list of revered wizards as Albus Dumbledore, Nostradamus, and, of course, Harry Potter. Harry Potter, who had ensured Severus received the honour he was due.
Severus had never wanted to snog somebody senseless so badly in his life.
He shakily rose from his seat, carefully rolling up the scroll. He would have to find a safe place for it. There was no way he could attend the ceremony, of course. At such a high-profile Ministry event, there was bound to be security so he wouldn’t be able to use one of his usual disguises.
But he couldn’t help but think, now that Harry had completed what he had set out to do, Severus would be seeing him very soon.
The day of the ceremony, Severus dressed in his formal robes. He wouldn’t be attending, of course, but he still felt he should mark the occasion at least in some minor way.
The house seemed especially quiet that day. Perhaps it was the formal robes. After all, it was fairly ludicrous to be walking about in heavy silk robes when the highlight of the day was mailing off a completed review. Severus did feel slightly ridiculous, which was ridiculous in itself since there was nobody around who would see him indulge himself with this bit of unnecessary finery. But he kept them on regardless.
Severus hadn’t heard from Harry since receiving the invitation. Of course, that was to be expected. Harry only sent forget-me-nots on Sundays, so Severus wasn’t due to expect another one until the day after the ceremony. Severus presumed it would be a memory of Harry accepting the award. He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t excited to view it.
He treated himself to a more elaborate dinner than he was accustomed to, making a hearty dish of spicy linguine with clams and mussels. He would likely be eating pasta for a week, but he didn’t give that a care for the moment. It was his day and he would eat what he wanted, damn it.
But still, the whole experience felt rather empty. Here he was, on the night when he would finally be recognised for all of his achievements, and he was sitting by himself eating a dish with enough crushed red pepper in it to bring tears to his eyes. It wasn’t that he cared about being with people, of course. He didn’t give a damn about the majority of the guests he expected would be at the ceremony.
It felt wrong to celebrate without Harry. After all, had it not been for him, Severus never would have received the Order of Merlin. And beyond that …
Severus simply wanted to celebrate with Harry.
With a resigned sigh, Severus set about cleaning up his supper. Perhaps, when Harry sent his flower tomorrow, Severus would send a letter back to him inviting him to visit, if he was interested, of course. Perhaps Severus would even have time to bake a cake for the occasion, and then he and Harry could …
He snorted. Ridiculous.
No longer in the mood for this facade of reverie, Severus headed upstairs to his bedroom and sat on his bed. Perhaps he’d find the handful of flowers that contained some of Harry’s more lascivious memories and indulge himself in a solitary wank. That, at least, seemed appropriate.
He took a whiff of the first flower he picked up out of the vase.
“I know how you feel,” Severus said. “But the fact remains that we are simply in different places. You can’t stay hidden away from the world like I have. And I’m simply not ready to re-enter it.”
“Not even for me?” asked Harry.
Severus closed his eyes. “Harry …”
“It’s okay, I shouldn’t have asked,” Harry said. He placed his hand over Severus’. “But for now? Can we just be together for now?”
Severus laced his and Harry’s fingers together and squeezed his hand. “For now.”
Severus glanced down at the flower in his hand. He hadn’t realised he was grabbing it so tightly the stem was in danger of snapping. With the utmost care, he set it back in the vase with the other flowers. Then he held his head in his hands.
For now. That was all he could offer Harry at the moment with the life he was currently leading. So what if Harry came that week and they reignited whatever sort of relationship they had? It would all end eventually. There would come a time when Harry would tire of keeping his relationship a secret. All of the sneaking around and hiding away from the world would grow tedious. And for what? So Severus could continue living the life of a hermit, taking pleasure in that he was hidden away from it all?
The realisation hit him like a ton of bricks. Severus wanted more than for now. He wanted … well, forever seemed a bit melodramatic, but he certainly wanted to be with Harry for as long as possible. And what kind of idiot would want for as long as possible and then limit himself to a finite amount of time because he didn’t want to face the rest of the idiots in the world?
Severus stood up.
Harry had insisted Severus was the bravest man he ever knew. It was high time he did something to deserve that honour.
Severus felt slightly nauseated after Apparating to the gates of Hogwarts. He hadn’t been there since the night of his would-be murder, and the year before that hadn’t been especially pleasant either. Severus self-consciously pulled up his robes to more fully cover his neck. He felt horribly exposed walking into the school. There wasn’t a single person walking in the corridors, but he could hear the portraits whispering as he made his way to the Great Hall.
This castle had been both his sanctuary and his prison. It had been his battlefield. And now it was a place he needed to conquer. He had earned the right to walk through these halls, and he would accept his award.
He faltered, however, when he heard voices coming from inside the Great Hall. He paused, a hand on each of the doors. They felt impossibly heavy. He heard laughter from within, and then loud applause.
This was absurd. He didn’t want all this pomp and circumstance. He just wanted –
There was a familiar voice. That voice was what gave Severus the courage to open the doors and step inside the Great Hall.
Harry looked magnificent standing on the dais in the front of the room, dressed in formal green robes that made his eyes shine even more than they normally did. He commanded the attention of the entire room and was fairly radiating with power and authority, and yet looked just as at ease as if he were simply grabbing a drink with somebody after work.
And Severus wanted him more than anything else in the world, even more than that damn Order of Merlin.
“It brings me great pleasure to be able to accept this Order of Merlin on behalf of Severus Snape today,” Harry said, his voice magically amplified. “As some of you know, I’ve made it my little project over the years to ensure he received the honour he so deserved.” The crowd laughed politely. “But I like to think that even without my help, Severus would have received this award eventually. Because he earned it, and that’s clear for anybody to see.” Harry paused and looked down at his hands, shaking his head. A moment later he looked back at the audience with a smile on his face, but it looked shaky to Severus. “Sorry. I was only thinking how much I – ”
Severus cleared his throat.
Harry immediately looked in his direction. His eyes widened and then his mouth broke into a genuine smile. “Severus,” he mouthed. Severus nodded tightly, pain starting to tickle his neck when hundreds of faces turned towards him and began whispering excitedly among themselves.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Harry said more loudly, not even needing the Sonorus, “I am thrilled to present to you at long last, Severus Snape!”
Harry began applauding, and the crowd followed obediently along, although many of them appeared to be too stunned to move. Severus walked resolutely up the centre of the room, keeping his eyes on Harry the entire time. This wasn’t so bad. If he only remained focused on the one piece of this affair that actually mattered, he’d be able to pull through it all with relative ease.
When Severus reached the dais, Harry threw his arms around him in a warm hug. “I can’t believe you came,” Harry whispered. “I can’t believe you came.”
“Sentimental, saccharine drivel,” Severus murmured against Harry’s ear. “You’ll get nowhere with it.”
Harry laughed. “You won’t disappear, will you?”
“Not right away, at least.”
Harry stepped back and grabbed a plum velvet case from off the podium and opened it with a slight pop. Severus watched, as though behind a gossamer veil, as Harry removed the Order of Merlin from the box and solemnly placed it around his neck.
“Congratulations, Severus,” Harry whispered. With a final squeeze of Severus’ hands, he went to claim a seat in the audience.
Severus clutched at the medal around his neck. He ran his fingers over the sharp edges and rubbed his thumb underneath, where he could feel his name engraved in it. It all didn’t seem real. If he hadn't been able to see Harry sitting in the front row, beaming from ear to ear, he might have thought it was all a dream.
On second thought, perhaps that sight should have been what assured him it was a dream.
He forced himself to drop the medal and face the crowd before him. Shacklebolt, of course, was seated next to Harry. He had a slight frown on his face, but his eyes seemed kind. On the other side of Harry were Granger and Weasley, both of whom were grinning from ear to ear and patting Harry on the back. A row behind them was Draco with his wife and child, and then Lucius and Narcissa beside them.
There were more faces he recognised, and others that he felt he could place if he thought on it for a few minutes. His former colleagues, his adversaries, his professors, his students and his students’ children, even those he would have called his friends if he ever truly had any of those … all sitting in one room, staring up at him with varying degrees of disbelief. Oh, except for that Sophie twit who was seated a few rows behind Harry. She was busy picking petals off a pink flower in her hands and didn’t even appear to have noticed his arrival.
Severus took a deep breath. Like any hot-blooded young man, he dreamed of what he would say should he ever reach this moment. When Fudge had promised him a medal for capturing Black, Severus had even jotted down a few notes. And now he was standing here with the Order of Merlin around his neck, and he had not a damn clue what to say.
It was tempting to treat the audience to a diatribe similar to the ones he had delivered in his lectures all those years ago. Severus could rail on, rather truthfully, about how he had deserved this for years, and it was about time they recognised what he had done for all of them. He could have berated them for their prejudices and blamed them for making somebody who had risked his neck on a daily basis for them to feel he needed to hide away from the general population just to feel a moment’s peace.
But then he caught Harry’s eyes, and all of that melted away.
Severus removed the medal from his neck and held it up. It shone brilliantly, a beacon of hope for all to see.
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”
He was vaguely aware of everybody in the room rising to their feet and applauding. The din was certainly loud enough. Even as he stepped away from the podium, a crowd converged upon him. It was not anybody he particularly wanted to see. After living alone for so long, it was rather overwhelming to suddenly be the man of the hour.
But when he looked over the head of whatever Ministry official was shaking his hand and saw Harry smiling at him, looking as excited as a child on Christmas morning but with all the poise and assurance of a man, he knew it had all been worth it.
It didn’t take long before Severus began to wonder if perhaps he should have started with a more small-scale debut back to the Wizarding world. Everywhere he turned, there was somebody else who was apparently dying to speak with him or had to congratulate him or, on several occasions, just stare at him with their mouths opening and closing like a landed cod.
He caught glimpses of Harry from time to time, but they were always separated by a small crowd of people, and by the time he caught his attention, somebody else had approached one of them. It was entirely frustrating.
After finally freeing his hand from the sweaty grip of some Ministry fool, Severus decided he’d had enough and it was time for him to leave. He had made his point. The Wizarding world knew he existed, and if Harry were interested, it opened the door for them to have a more normal relationship. Perhaps he would send a response with the flower and memory Harry sent tomorrow evening. Or perhaps he would even write in the morning. After tonight, there was really no sense in keep up their former pretences.
He turned to leave. And of course, Harry was standing right behind him.
Harry gave him a wide grin. “Hello,” he said. “Were you going to leave? The reception’s about to start.”
Severus fought the urge to reach out and grab Harry. It had been so long since he’d seen him, and now to have him up close, so handsome and happy and full of life it was nearly impossible to resist. And yet he couldn’t just yet. He wasn’t even entirely certain Harry would want to continue on where their relationship had left off. To pose that question in front of so many people was entirely out of the question. Instead he reached for the Order of Merlin in his pocket. When it was not possible to hold on to Harry, the reminder of his dedication served as an adequate substitute anchor.
“I’m not one for dancing,” he said.
Harry moved closer and clasped his hand around Severus’ wrist. “Just one dance?” he whispered.
Severus closed his eyes. “Harry …”
“I remember everything now,” Harry said urgently. Severus opened his eyes. “Well, every so often a detail will escape me, but they’re so small and infrequent that I don’t even think it counts.”
Severus nodded. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“And I’ve had time away,” Harry said. “Time to think.”
Severus swallowed tightly. “And?”
“I want you,” Harry said simply. “More than anything I’ve wanted in my entire life. I’ve seen all sides of you, Severus, and there is not a single person out there who can compare.” He paused. “Have your feelings changed?”
Severus glanced around him. A band had just begun to play, which afforded them a bit more privacy as the crowd paid more attention to whatever singer was crooning. “You didn’t quite play by the rules, Harry,” he finally said. “I believe I said no contact.”
“You said not to write or Fire-call,” Harry said. “There was nothing about sharing memories. But you didn’t answer my question.”
Severus looked down at where Harry was clasping his wrist. “I was hoping I’d be able to forget what it was like to be with you,” he finally said. “And you forced me to remember every moment.”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “Would you have rather I not done it?”
“I should have realised,” Severus continued, “that even without the memory aids, you are impossible to forget.”
A wide grin spread over Harry’s face and he stepped forward, taking Severus’ hand with one hand and wrapping the other around his waist. “Dance with me.”
“People will talk,” Severus said, but he pulled Harry closer to him. “They’ll know we’re involved. They might think you only embarked on this campaign because you … ” Severus’ voice trailed off as he managed to catch himself before saying the words.
“Because I love you?” Harry asked. He pulled Severus’ face down until they were barely an eyelash-width away from each other. “Let them talk.”
Severus wasn’t even aware of the conscious act of Harry kissing him. It was only that one second their lips weren’t touching, and the next they were. It was like being reunited with an old friend, or, Severus realised, an old love. The rest of the room faded away as Severus focused on the extraordinary feeling of having Harry back in his arms at last.
Harry tore his lips away with a gasp. “I’ll stay here as long as you want,” he said. “I wouldn’t take you away from this. But the second you’re ready to leave, I’m taking you out of here and sucking you dry. I’ve missed you so goddamn much.”
“Then let’s leave,” Severus said. He gripped Harry’s hand tightly. “I already have what I came for.”
Harry opened his mouth to say something, then snickered. “Is that an Order of Merlin in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
Severus snorted and kissed Harry again. “Crude though your statement is, the answer is both. Thanks to you.”
“You did the hard part,” Harry said. “I just made people see it.”
“Still, some would argue that you still had the hard part to accomplish,” Severus said. “Myself included.”
“Can we stop arguing about hardness and do something about it?” Harry asked with a distinct whinge.
Severus laughed. “Yes.” And then, holding onto Harry tightly, he Disapparated them both to his home.
Having Harry in his bed was even more exquisite than Severus had remembered.
Harry’s tongue was like wildfire, setting Severus’ entire body aflame with his kisses. He moaned when Severus took his cock in his mouth. He gasped, panted, and cried out Severus’ name. And when Severus slowly entered him, he shuddered and held onto him so tightly Severus almost forgot to breathe.
“Yes, Severus,” Harry gasped, pulled Severus down for a fierce kiss. “Fuck, I missed this. Missed you. You always felt so incredible inside me.”
Severus growled and thrust into Harry. It took all of his control not to pound into him and have it end too soon. “Your arse was made for my cock,” he said. “So tight.”
“I could do this forever,” Harry breathed. “Fuck, Severus. You’re not getting rid of me again, you hear? I can’t, ah! Right there. I can’t do that again.”
“You’ll never leave this bed again if I have any say in the matter,” Severus grunted.
Harry laughed. “No objections here. God, Severus. Fuck me.”
“Stroke yourself,” Severus said, moving faster. “I want to see your hand on your cock.” Harry immediately obeyed, and Severus moaned at the sight. “Do you know how sinful you look? One day I’m going to fuck you in front of the mirror and you’ll see the erotic picture you make, lying under me, fisting your hard cock.”
“Fuck, Severus, if you keep talking I’m going to come.”
“Then come,” Severus said. “Come for me, Harry.”
“Ah, Severus! Harder! Just … Severus!”
Seeing Harry shoot his release, Severus increased the tempo of his thrusts. He felt his hips snapping as his bollocks slapped against Harry’s bum. A moment later he felt his climax take over him. Harry held him through his orgasm, kissing his arms, his chest, his neck, and any other part of skin he could reach.
A quick cleaning charm later and they were nestled in each other’s arms, breathing heavily but entirely sated and content. Severus ran his fingers through the sweaty strands of Harry’s hair. He hadn’t realised how much he missed doing that. It was comforting, rather like petting a particularly fluffy cat. But, of course, he thought as he remembered the way Harry had arched underneath him, infinitely more rewarding.
“I’m serious, you know,” Harry said sleepily. “I have my memory back. I’ve had time away. I know I want you. There are no excuses for you to toss me out again.” He paused. “Unless, of course, you changed your mind and you don’t want me. I’d never force you to – ”
Severus cut Harry off with a kiss. “I haven’t changed my mind. When I have a man such as yourself willing to be my lover, I am certainly not about to object.”
Harry smiled and buried his head in Severus’ shoulder. “I was so surprised to see you there. I had dreamed about you showing up, but I never thought you’d actually do it.”
“I didn’t think I would either,” Severus admitted. “But that was your moment as much as mine. It seemed wrong not to share it with you.”
“And now everybody knows you’re alive,” Harry said. “I thought you said you weren’t ready to face the real world?”
“I want to be with you,” Severus said simply. “And I knew that this was the only way I could have any sort of a future with you. When I think of that, having to deal with the idiots who make up the Wizarding world is a small sacrifice to make.”
A very long, heated kiss later, Severus was once again stroking Harry’s hair as his head rested on his chest. “Harry,” he said. “I do need to thank you. Your faith in me and your dedication has been … humbling. Receiving the Order of Merlin is an honour I have dreamed of for most of my life, but it is made all the more powerful by knowing what lengths you went through so I could hold it in my hand.”
“It was nothing,” Harry said. “Like I said, you did the hard part. You earned that medal.”
“It was everything,” Severus corrected. “You didn’t simply give me an award. You gave me hope. A belief in something better. A prayer for a future. A chance for love.”
Harry took Severus’ hand and pressed his lips to it. “You deserve all of that, Severus. I’m happy I was able to bring those things to you, especially if it means you’ll accept me into your life. But it’s not just me. Just remember that you deserve all of those things, just because it’s you, and not because I brought them about.”
Severus nodded and pulled Harry closer to him. They had a long road ahead of them. He harboured no illusions of how he would be as a lover. It would take time for him to be accustomed once more to interacting with others on a regular basis, and he was certain he would face challenges with the general public knowing he was in a relationship with the Chosen One. But with Harry in his arms, he knew he had something special.
And that was one thing he could never forget.
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