Harry is sifting through the rubble in the seventh floor corridor when he sees it. There, partially buried in debris and covered with a thick layer of dust, is the Prince’s—Snape’s, he corrects himself—old Potions text.
He picks up the book and brushes off the cover. The memories Snape gave him the night of the final battle are still fresh in his mind, but seeing the textbook knocks the wind out of his lungs. He never expected to see it again; it feels as though a wound’s been ripped open. Harry takes a deep breath and realises his hands are shaking.
He hears footsteps behind him and quickly pulls his wand from his pocket. With a murmured incantation, the book disappears. It will be waiting for him in his trunk when he returns to the dormitory that evening.
Harry jumps at the hand on his shoulder and turns to see Arthur.
“Are you all right, Harry? You look as though you’ve had a fright.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” he manages, though he doesn’t feel fine at all.
Arthur nods, but Harry can see the concern in his eyes. “Well, we’re heading down for lunch now. We’re going to try to set the foundation spells beneath the North Tower afterwards, so you’ll need your strength.”
“Right,” Harry says, following Arthur down the hallway towards the stairs.
It’s nearly nine when Harry finally returns to his room. He’s achy and exhausted; they’ve worked nonstop for weeks trying to get repairs completed for start of term. After so much violence, suffering, and loss, Minerva remains resolute in her desire to have Hogwarts open and ready for students to return come fall as they have every other year.
Harry agrees. A bit of consistency, of normalcy, goes a long way as people work to rebuild their lives after the war.
He collapses onto his bed. He really should take a shower, but he can’t summon the energy.
It’s then that he remembers the old Potions text.
Harry rolls over, reaching off the end of the bed to his trunk. There, nestled in the folds of his father’s cloak, is the book. He picks it up carefully, half afraid it will fall apart in his hands. But, despite a fresh scorch mark on the cover, it appears no worse for wear. Perhaps Harry should be surprised the book survived at all, but they’ve found enough artefacts and items whilst sifting through the rubble to know that not everything hidden in the Room of Requirement was destroyed.
It makes sense. The Fiendfyre would have consumed itself once its caster was dead; that type of virulent magic needs magic to feed on, and the Room of Requirement has more than enough inherent power to ensure its own survival.
Harry leans back against his pillow clutching the book to his chest. He knows he should get some rest. They will start early again tomorrow and the work is backbreaking. Still, he can’t help but open the book. He’s surprised at the grief that washes over him at the sight of Snape’s cramped handwriting filling the margins. For months he idolized the Prince. Then, after casting Sectumsempra, he felt betrayed. Finding out that his Prince was actually Snape all along had been the final blow. But now, knowing what he does about the man he long thought to be the enemy, he finds it impossible to sort through his feelings. He only knows that Snape is a hero and he did not deserve to die the way he did.
Harry falls asleep rereading the Prince’s amended instructions to potions he’d memorised over a year before.
It’s several days before he has time to think about the textbook again.
The foundation work involves more than merely moving rock and repairing stone. Hogwarts’s magic is rooted in the very foundation of the castle, and that magic has been damaged as much as the castle’s towers and walls.
Harry never understood how complicated ward magic could be until he saw firsthand what went into the protections of Hogwarts. Not all of the wards were damaged in the battle, but many of those that weren’t had come unravelled with the deterioration of those surrounding them. They need to create new wards to replace the ones that were lost, weave the new magic to the existing spellwork of the castle, and then anchor it all once again to Hogwarts’s foundation.
Minerva understands the spellwork better than anyone and her magic is both precise and powerful. Flitwick’s knowledge of charms is vast and his talents lend themselves well to ward building. Arthur, Kingsley, and his team of Aurors bring expertise, strength, and a wealth of magical knowledge.
At first Harry had wondered why they asked for his help at all. He thought, perhaps, Minerva, Kingsley, and Arthur felt sorry for him. In the aftermath of the final battle, people did their best to return to their lives. Things would never be the same, of course, but his friends and classmates had families, had homes to return to. They knew, for the most part, what it meant to live a normal life.
For Harry, though, nothing would ever be normal. He had died and come back to defeat Voldemort. He simply couldn’t pick up and move on with his life as though nothing had happened. He’d barely managed to get used to the idea that he was still alive at all. And, at the moment, the press made it impossible to leave the castle grounds anyway. So he stayed and Minerva put him to work.
Soon it became clear, however, that whilst Harry lacked precision and technical knowledge, he had more raw power than the majority of the witches and wizards on the team of Aurors Kingsley had assembled to help with reconstruction.
The book is sitting on his bedside cabinet when he returns to the dorm that evening. He should be exhausted, but his magic is thrumming through his veins like an electrical current and he knows he won’t be able to sleep.
It’s comforting to flip through the dog-eared pages of the Prince’s old book. The spells are familiar now and he can almost hear Snape’s voice each time he finds a particularly scathing comment.
Towards the end, he comes across an entirely blank page. Harry frowns; he hadn’t noticed the misprint before. It’s in the middle of a chapter on advanced brewing techniques that they did not cover in Slughorn’s class.
He’s not sure what compels him to do it, but he summons a quill and a bottle of ink from his trunk. The ink is nearly empty and the quill battered, its feather worn and frayed, but it doesn’t matter. Ever since the battle, ever since watching Snape die and being entrusted with his memories, Harry has wanted desperately to talk to the man again. Nothing changes the fact that Snape was a bastard to Harry up until the very end, but it hits him hard knowing how wrong they all were.
He dips his quill in the ink, thinking about what to say. After a few moments, he takes a deep breath and begins to write.
Now that it’s all over, there’s so much I want to say. But I’ll start with, “I’m sorry.” We won. I finally killed him, and I couldn’t have done it without you.
Harry knows it means nothing. He’s writing words in an old book that Snape will never see or hear. Still, he’s flooded with a sense of cathartic relief that washes over him in waves and roils.
Suddenly, Harry feels a faint pulse of magic. It tugs at his spine and pricks in his bloodstream. The magic’s not threatening, per se, but it’s unexpected and unsettling, and that alone is enough to set him on edge, even before the ink on the page starts shimmering.
Harry’s got his wand out in an instant, but all he can do is watch as the words he’s written disappear completely, only to be replaced with a new message:
Who the hell are you? No, forget that. I don’t care who you are. What the hell did you do to my book?
Harry’s first thought is to chunk the book to the farthest corner of his room or, perhaps, banish it back to the no-longer-existent Room of Requirement. There was enough dark magic left over from the final battle to taint every object in the castle and, whilst they are slowly but surely working to eliminate it, there’s no telling what could be lingering on Snape’s old text.
The only other experience Harry’s had with a book that talked back did not end well. He shudders, thinking about Riddle’s diary, Ginny’s possession, and the basilisk. It feels like a lifetime ago, yet he remembers it like it was yesterday. Instead of magicking the book away, though, he gathers his focus and casts a series of detection spells. Between his year hunting Horcruxes and his recent experiences rebuilding the castle, he knows practically every sanctioned one and quite a few illicit ones too. But the spells all come back clean. There is latent magic in the textbook, but it’s neither sentient nor overtly dangerous.
Still, Harry knows he shouldn’t write anything else and, at the very least, he should have Minerva or Kingsley take a look. They’ve encountered a lot of strange things in the past few weeks. The kind of magic released during the battle—both offensive and defensive—combined with the existing magic in the castle has had unforeseen consequences.
Something about the words that appeared in place of his own, however, stops him from closing the book. It’s ridiculous of course, but the tone gives him pause.
He picks up the quill again. What do you mean, your book?
Again, the page shimmers and his writing fades away. After a moment, new words appear one by one, as though written by an invisible hand.
You’ve done something to my book. Obviously. You’re writing in it. So say whatever it is you want to say and leave me alone.
I haven’t done anything to your book. Harry frowns, then adds, Besides, it’s my book.
No... It’s my book. The response comes almost instantly. I paid for it. I’m holding it right now. My name’s on the damn cover.
You’re the Half-Blood Prince? Harry writes. It’s impossible to believe—that somehow he’s talking to, presumably, a school-aged Snape who’s still in possession of the old Potions text, but he can’t really think of another explanation either.
Of course I am. Why else would I have his book?
Harry doesn’t respond. He knows enough about the dangers of time paradoxes to realise that, if he’s truly talking to a past Snape, he must be very careful about what he says—if he says anything at all.
Still, the temptation is too strong. He’s wanted nothing more than to talk to Snape and, although he certainly can’t say all the things he wants to say to this Snape, he can’t not talk to the Half-Blood Prince either.
How is this possible? Harry writes.
How are you writing to me? What spell did you use?
What do you mean, ‘What spell did I use?’ You’re the one writing in my book.
I already told you, Harry writes, it’s my book. He knows it’s a childish response. Snape, no doubt, must be even more confused than he is. But he’s curious and somewhat terrified about the magic here. The magic that’s apparently opened a link to another time.
Right… Well, in that case, I’ll just leave you to it.
No, don’t go! Harry doesn’t know why the Prince would listen to him, but he has to try.
There’s a pause. Then, I don’t care what you say to me, you know. I’ve heard worse.
Harry frowns. He should put the book away. Whatever ripple or spell or curse caused this link to open can’t lead to anything good. At best, he’s probably being manipulated by some malevolent force left over from the battle. At worst, he could inadvertently say something to a very real Snape that could unravel everything they’ve fought to accomplish.
I’m not playing a trick on you, he writes after a moment.
There’s no response.
You can believe whatever you want, of course. And I’m sorry people have been mean to you, but I wouldn’t do that. Harry’s gut twists at the thought of who, exactly, was so cruel to Snape.
I don’t care about other people, the Prince writes. I just don’t think they should go around writing in books that aren’t theirs.
Harry sits up against his pillows, thinking about what he can say. For some reason, it’s vital that this Snape believe him. That he keep him talking, even though he knows how risky a prospect that actually is. I got this book from Professor Slughorn, he writes after a moment. I didn’t have one at start of term, and he found it in a cupboard in the Potions classroom. The book was old, he adds. No one was using it.
Harry knows he should stop. He’s treading a very dangerous line, and he’s no doubt already said too much. But he can’t give up this chance, and he knows the Prince will stop writing and sever the connection if he thinks he’s the recipient of yet another cruel joke.
What do you mean, old book?
I think… Harry’s mind races as he tries to come up with the right thing to say. Maybe you owned this book before, but I have it now.
Now…like in my future?
It’s the only reasonable explanation.
There is nothing reasonable about that explanation.
Harry laughs. He can hear the Prince—and Snape—clearly in the words. Think about it. How else could I have a book that you obviously still have in your time if I weren’t in a different time than you?
Well, the words appear almost instantly, you could not have my book at all. It’s far more likely you’re just playing some idiot trick on me.
He chews on the end of his quill. The Prince has a good point, of course. I have your book, and I can prove it.
There are all these comments written in the margins of the book.
I couldn’t possibly know what they say unless I had your actual book. Harry grins, pleased with his plan, but there’s no response from the Prince. So ask me what they say, he prompts after a few minutes.
Harry waits, but no additional words appear. Soon it becomes clear that the Prince isn’t going to write anything else tonight. He wants to press, to force him to let him prove that he’s not lying, but he knows it’s not a good idea. If the Prince—if Snape—is going to listen, it will have to be on his own terms. Harry closes the book and secures it in his trunk. He needs to get some sleep.
The ward work is slow going, but they’re making progress. At lunch, Harry is eating his way through a platter of sandwiches and listening to Kingsley review their plans for the afternoon when there’s a flutter above them. He looks up to see Ron’s owl, Pig, swooping down from the open window, a letter as big as he is attached to his leg. “Hey, boy,” he says, as the tiny owl lands in front of him. Harry pulls a piece of chicken from his sandwich, and Pig nips at his finger affectionately before taking the meat.
He carefully takes the roll of parchment from Pig’s leg. Harry hasn’t heard from Ron in two weeks. He knows he’s been busy—as busy as he’s been here with reconstruction. Ron took Kingsley up on his offer to let any member of their class who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts join the Auror training programme. He’d wanted Harry to join as well, and Harry certainly considered it. For years he’d wanted nothing more than to become an Auror, and he always envisioned starting the programme after he graduated.
But then the war came and afterwards… Afterwards Harry wanted nothing more to do with dark wizards, or murder, or death. So he stayed at Hogwarts whilst his friend left to join the Ministry’s finest. He knows Ron still hopes he’ll change his mind, still hopes he’ll decide to become an Auror as they’d always planned, but Harry knows that’s not the life for him anymore.
The letter is short, but it makes Harry smile. Training is hard, but he’s learning loads of important things, and Ron is happy. Harry only hopes that someday he’ll be happy again too.
It’s been two days. Harry has checked the book each evening, but there haven’t been any messages from the Prince. Now, these two words are waiting for him when he returns to his room. It takes him a moment to understand, but then he quickly flips to the page.
It’s a blood-replenishing potion. Several of the instructions are struck through. Snape’s narrow handwriting fills the spaces in between lines of text. Quickly, Harry jots down the amended instructions, copying Snape’s additions word-for-word.
Harry remembers making the potion in Slughorn’s class. He’d done his best to follow the Prince’s directions but had been unable to fully do so. Snape’s altered instructions called for an ingredient not in the classroom’s stores. His final comment likely explains why.
“Costly, but worth it considering the alternative: DEATH.” He’d even drawn a miniature skull and crossbones to illustrate his point.
Death? Harry writes. That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?
You do know what a blood-replenishing potion does, don’t you?
Of course I do. I’ve taken Pomfrey’s loads of times. Never died either. Harry realises, of course, that Snape undoubtedly brewed the mediwitch’s potions Harry had taken, so surely they were up to his exacting standards, but of course he couldn’t tell the Prince that.
You’re lucky then, comes the response. Then, Pomfrey the matron? She’s here during my time as well.
Harry cringes, realising his mistake. He’s done his best not to say anything that could give away information about the future. Though, in the big scheme of things, he supposes this is a minor error. Pomfrey has worked at Hogwarts for decades. It’s not enough for Snape to be able to pinpoint his time.
The Prince doesn’t say anything else. Instead, he writes 106.
So Harry lets himself relax again as he transcribes more of the comments from the text’s margins. The Prince is clearly selecting the pages deliberately. After the potion, Harry finds himself copying a series of increasingly dirty jokes. He laughs out loud as he transcribes a particularly vulgar one about a priest and a vampire.
That’s a good one. I haven’t seen that one before.
The next page he’s directed to is covered with elaborately drawn genitalia. Harry’s pleased he did not encounter this particular gallery in class. It could have been awkward.
I’m sensing a theme, Harry writes, frowning at his last poorly rendered penis. Snape, apparently, had far more talent than he does at drawing cocks. Are you trying to make me uncomfortable?
No, it’s just part of the test.
If you don’t actually have my book to write in, then you now have parchment covered with lewd jokes and badly drawn pricks. Those are really bad, you know, he adds after a moment.
Yeah, Harry admits. And I’d just banish the parchment. It’s not like I’d tape it to my wall for all to see.
Do you really still not believe me? And after witnessing my clear skill at drawing genitalia?
Your clear lack of skill, you mean.
Harry smiles. It’s strange. The Prince is every bit as funny and smart and sarcastic as Harry always imagined him to be—before he cast that spell, and before he found out the Prince was actually Snape, of course.
The page shimmers again, and another cock appears, this one even more detailed than the ones drawn in the book. The testes are obscenely large, and the Prince has added a generous smattering of pubic hair. The cock is hard, too, and leaking pre-come. Harry feels his cheeks heat. Show off.
No more words appear for a while, and Harry thinks Snape might have put the book away for the evening. But then he feels a ripple of magic and looks down again.
If it’s true—if you’re really from another time—we probably shouldn’t talk anymore.
Surely you’re not so dense as to be ignorant of the dangers of messing with time.
No, Harry writes. He understands.
Then you know that in virtually every case a wizard has attempted to manipulate time, the results have been disastrous. It’s always tempting. And it’s always a horrible idea.
I know. But what if we don’t try to manipulate anything?
Harry sits up, curling his legs beneath him as he waits for the Prince’s response. He’s oddly nervous as he waits for whatever Snape is going to decide.
It doesn’t matter. You don’t know what you could say, what detail you might accidentally reveal that could change something. You won’t know until it’s too late.
Not if we’re careful, Harry insists. Besides, you have to admit, this is pretty cool.
Do you know anything about using potions to dissolve blood magic?
Harry hasn’t written to the Prince in two days. Every evening when he returns to the dorm, he checks to see if there’s anything waiting for him in the book, but there’s been nothing and, at this point, he doubts Snape is going to initiate any conversation. But they’ve been struggling with a few wards Dumbledore keyed to his own magic, his blood. They need to incorporate them into their new spellwork, but the wards have been uncooperative, to say the least.
Minerva is certain it’s because of Dumbledore’s blood, but unravelling that component of the magic has proven difficult. Harry’s not sure why he thinks to ask the Prince, but it’s worth a shot.
Harry refuses to acknowledge the thrill he feels when Snape responds. Just a project I’m working on. He knows he has to be vague.
Right… The page shimmers but no other words appear and, for a moment, Harry thinks he’s not going to talk to him after all, but then he feels the familiar ripple of magic. It’s summertime here. Is it where you are?
Yes. It’s 8 June, Harry answers, curious as to the line of questioning.
So they’re on the same day, just years apart.
Nothing can dissolve blood magic, the Prince writes then.
Except the blood of the caster. I take it you don’t have that?
Let’s just assume I don’t.
Of course not. Well, like I said, you can’t dissolve the magic, but you might be able to key it to someone else’s blood.
What do you mean? They’d been so focussed on unravelling Dumbledore’s magic that they hadn’t even considered trying to change it.
Do you know what a blood transfusion is?
Yes. Although it was used infrequently, thanks to magical alternatives such as Dittany and blood-replenishing potions, mediwizards were still known to employ the Muggle procedure at times, usually in particularly dire situations.
Okay, good. With Muggles, doctors must make sure the donor blood is the same type as the recipient’s, but wizards can just change the blood type to match.
Harry thinks he understands what the Prince is getting at. So rather than getting rid of the magic all together, you think we could change the blood to respond to someone else?
Perhaps. The potion they use to alter blood type is fairly simple. In your case, though, it would have to be a complete match. Type alone won’t be enough. But theoretically it’s possible.
“That might actually work,” Minerva says. They’re in the headmistress’s office. A silver orb, a remnant of Dumbledore’s time here, whirs and spins from its perch on the corner of the desk.
“What do you think, Poppy?” Kingsley asks. He’s standing by the portraits; Dumbledore’s is conspicuously empty. “Is it possible to change the composition of the blood Albus used in creating the wards?”
“In theory. I should have a draught or two of the potion used for matching blood type in the hospital’s stores. As for altering its purpose, well, that will be a challenge to say the least, but it should be possible.”
“Wonderful,” Minerva says, pouring another cup of tea, “because, Merlin knows, we haven’t any other ideas.”
“How did you think of it, Harry?” Arthur comes to Harry’s side and places a gentle hand on his shoulder. “It’s brilliant, really, but blood transfusions are rare practice among wizards. I can’t imagine how you’d come up with such an idea.”
Harry looks down. “I was flipping through my old Potions text last night. I didn’t think there was a way to actually dissolve blood magic, but I decided to check the chapters on blood potions just in case. That’s where I got the idea.”
“Well, good thinking, son,” Arthur says fondly. “At the very least, it will give us a place to start.”
“Yes,” Minerva says. “And Poppy, you might check Severus’s old collection of books.” She waves a hand to a bookshelf in the corner. It’s overstuffed with texts and scrolls. “The man knew far more than any of us do when it comes to things like this. Perhaps there’s something that can help you there.”
Poppy nods, and Minerva dismisses them for lunch. Harry desperately wants to look at the books Snape left behind in the headmaster’s office, but he knows it’s not his place. Instead, he stands and follows the others down the spiral staircase.
Who did you kill?
What? The question catches Harry entirely off guard.
Before you knew you were talking to me, you said you killed someone.
Harry runs a hand through his hair. He’s not sure how to respond. Honestly, he’d forgotten about what he’d first written in the book.
Another message appears before Harry decides what to say. That’s not the kind of thing you should go around telling people, by the way. Not if you want to stay out of Azkaban. And you certainly shouldn’t be writing confessions in random places without knowing who might be able to read them.
Oh? That’s your response? Not only am I talking to a murderer, but I’m talking to an idiot one at that.
Harry’s hesitant to say too much, for fear of giving the wrong thing away. Still, as foolish as it clearly is, he wants to keep talking to Snape and, regardless, it’s probably best he not think him a murderer.
Yeah, it’s all right, though. Everyone expected me to kill him.
That really clears things up. Thanks.
Harry laughs. Even through the pages of the book, the Prince’s words drip with sarcasm.
There was a battle and they attacked the school. I had to do it. I was the only one who could. It’s risky. He knows he shouldn’t say anything at all, but he can’t help himself and he doesn’t think it’s enough information to do any real harm.
The school… Someone attacked Hogwarts?
When there were children there?
Yes. We were able to get most of the younger students out safely. But many stayed to fight. Many died. Harry’s heart clenches remembering everyone they lost that night. Fred, Colin, and Lavender. Tonks and Lupin… The memories are still too fresh, the wound too new, too raw.
And that man, the one you were writing to, the one who helped you, he died too?
He doesn’t ask anything else, though Harry is certain he’d like to. They have a tacit agreement. They both know the dangers of Harry saying too much, so the Prince is careful not to pry.
After that, they talk nearly every day.
They talk about magic mostly. Harry knows that Snape was incredibly talented and very powerful, but he can’t help but be impressed by the sheer amount of magical knowledge he had even as a teenager.
When did you learn how to write spells? Harry asks. He’d never thought it possible to go about inventing magic until he saw the original spells written in the Prince’s textbook.
My mum created magic. I grew up learning that, if you wanted magic to do something and you could come up with the right words to channel it, then you could invent your own spells.
I never thought of it that way. He’s on the floor beneath the window, sitting in a warm square of afternoon sunlight. They stopped working early today. Kingsley and Arthur had to check in at the Ministry, and Minerva insisted that a bit of rest would do them all well. I’m usually able to make magic do what I want, but I’ve never thought to write my own spell.
What do you mean, you can make magic do what you want?
Harry dips his quill in the ink; it’s nearly empty. He needs to buy another pot. Just that. I can usually make magic do what I want it to, if I think about it hard enough and focus my power. I’ve never written my own spell, though.
You say that like it’s a bad thing.
I suppose when you “make magic do what you want,” you do so wordlessly? Most likely without your wand, as well?
Usually. Harry feels like he’s missing something. He knows the ability to perform wandless and wordless magic is quite rare. But he also knows that the adult Snape was more than capable of such, and he does not think his own abilities are any more impressive than writing one’s own spells.
No wonder they had you do it.
Kill him. Kill the man no one else could.
How does this work? Harry’s beyond curious. He’s even spent a few rare hours of free time in the library perusing the shelves for spells that could allow such a portal through time, but he’s found nothing.
This magic. Whatever’s letting me talk to you.
I honestly don’t know.
Initially, you thought I’d done something to your book but I haven’t, so it must be on your end.
Possibly. Magic that can transcend time, though, is exceptionally rare. I certainly didn’t do anything deliberately.
Did you do anything to your book at all? Harry asks.
Aside from charm it to remember my notes, no.
Pick a page and tap your wand to it, saying, Aparecium. My notes should appear, if Slughorn said anything worth writing down, that is.
Harry turns to a page at random and tries the spell. Sure enough. The page flickers for a moment before the text disappears, to be replaced by Snape’s handwritten notes. Harry taps his wand again. The printed text reappears. Wow. That’s brilliant.
It’s easier than keeping track of a separate stack of notes, the Prince writes in way of explanation.
Do you think the charm’s allowing us to talk now?
Haven’t a clue. I do know that space and time matter in magic, though. Somehow both of us writing in the same space at different times created a link. Not sure how or why. Was the book exposed to any unusual magic on your end?
Harry thinks back to the battle and what happened to the Room of Requirement. You could say so.
Right. You probably shouldn’t tell me. Especially if it has anything to do with that battle.
Yeah, you’re probably right.
I usually am.
If it’s summertime, why are you still at Hogwarts? Harry’s been meaning to ask the Prince this question for days now. Though Harry understands, now, why he had to return to the Dursleys’ each summer, he would have given anything to have been able to stay at Hogwarts. He was under the impression, though, that Dumbledore never allowed it. He wonders if that hasn’t always been the case.
I could ask the same of you. Are you a sixth year?
This book is a sixth year text.
Before Harry can say anything else, more words appear. Do you routinely confess to murder by way of writing apology letters in your old textbooks?
He smiles at that. Maybe it should be strange how comfortable he feels talking to the Prince, but it feels as if he’s known him for years. Though, Harry supposes that’s not far from the truth. Still, as strange as the notion is, he likes to think they’d be friends were they in the same time and place. No, he writes. He can’t tell the truth about this book, about Snape, of course. Just this one.
Do you like Potions? the Prince asks.
Yet you’re choosing to spend your evenings hanging out with your old Potions book.
I’m choosing to spend my evenings hanging out with you. He’s not admitting any more than the obvious, but the words still feel like a confession. Harry realises then how much he likes talking to this Snape, how much he wants this Snape to like talking to him. You didn’t answer my question, he writes when the Prince doesn’t say anything else. Why are you still at Hogwarts? Are you a sixth year?
No, I’ve left school.
So they’re the same age.
Me too, Harry responds. It’s not exactly true, but it would be had he not spent his seventh year hunting Horcruxes and fighting Voldemort.
And yet you’re also still at the castle. Does Dumbledore allow that in your time?
Harry’s heart clenches at the mention of Dumbledore. Some wounds never heal. No, he answers truthfully. To Harry’s knowledge, Dumbledore never allowed students to remain at the school over summer hols. I’m working here.
You’re working at Hogwarts? They hire new graduates for teaching positions? Or, don’t tell me, you’re the assistant Quidditch coach or something.
No and no. Harry doesn’t mention that he’s actually considered asking Minerva if he can stay on as Hooch’s assistant after repairs are complete, but he doesn’t think she’ll allow it. She’s dropped enough hints that she fully expects Harry to pick a suitable career path to pursue once the work at Hogwarts is done. The castle was damaged during the battle, he writes. I’m working on the repairs. With the information Harry has already shared, he doesn’t think it’s a dangerous revelation.
After a few minutes, Harry feels the faint pulse of magic against his skin as the Prince responds. I’m starting a masters programme for Potions this fall. They accepted me based on the prospectus for my research but said if I were able to submit any actual results, they’d provide a scholarship. There’s a pause. I could use the money.
Harry understands. Graduate programmes are expensive. Between the money his parents left him, and Sirius’s inheritance, he won’t ever have to worry about finances. But he knows most people aren’t so lucky. And, from the bits and pieces he knows about Snape’s childhood, Harry knows he wasn’t well off. And Dumbledore’s allowing you to stay in the castle to work? That’s...generous of him.
Yes... The word appears slowly. My father isn’t too keen on magic, so this was my only option for getting started on my research. But I think Dumbledore wanted to keep an eye on me anyway.
The words are cryptic, to say the least, but Harry doesn’t press. He can’t. Not without possibly revealing information about the Prince—about Snape—he shouldn’t know.
It hasn’t come up of course, but Harry knows this Snape will soon—if he hasn’t already—join Riddle and his Death Eaters. Harry doesn’t like to think about that certainty. It’s enough to make him ill, and he’ll never truly understand what could drive someone to Voldemort. But every so often the Prince will say something, make some comment in passing that speaks to the insecurity, the prejudice, the desire for recognition and for power that Harry knows Voldemort would have capitalised on. And those same traits that draw Harry to the Prince—his intelligence and creativity, his potential and his magic—would have made him a valuable asset to the Death Eaters. And though Harry knows Snape’s course is set, he understands why Dumbledore might have made an exception, might have allowed Snape to stay on at the castle for a while longer, under the hope that he wouldn’t be Marked.
What are you researching?
An improved formula for Wolfsbane.
Harry exhales sharply. Snape always brewed Remus’s monthly potion, even when people questioned why he’d depend on an alleged Death Eater for such an important task. But Remus always trusted Snape, and Snape provided the Wolfsbane without fail. The potion is painstaking and difficult to make. Only the most skilled brewers are capable, and Remus had said the formula was Snape’s own. Harry now wonders how many years Snape spent developing the recipe. Why Wolfsbane? he asks, genuinely curious.
I had a bad experience with a werewolf once.
? Harry’s not sure why he presses for more information. He’s certain he already knows what the Prince will say. The sinking feeling in his gut only intensifies as the words appear on the page.
He was a student here. He spent full moons in the Shrieking Shack. No one knew at the time except for a few of his friends, and they thought it would be fun to play a joke on me. There’s a long pause, but Harry’s hands are shaking too much for him to write anything. Finally, three more words appear. I nearly died.
Harry feels cold all over. He loves his father and he doesn’t want to believe him capable of such rash cruelty, but he knows it’s true. I’m sorry. He really is.
It’s okay. I lived.
And you’re now spending your time trying to help werewolves?
Someone has to do it. Besides, it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t know.
For some reason, this surprises Harry. He always assumed Snape blamed the Marauders indiscriminately. You do it, you know.
Improve the potion.
How do you know that?
Harry freezes, horrified he’s said too much. Well, someone does, he writes quickly. I assume it’s you, since you're clearly brilliant and you’re working on it. But anyway, the formula is quite advanced now. It controls the change completely. Apparently it still tastes like shit though.
A small price to pay for not murdering small children every full moon.
That night, Harry dreams of the Prince.
They’re huddled together behind the curtains of Harry’s bed. The book is open between them, but Harry isn’t paying attention to whatever Severus is trying to explain. Rather, he’s watching him. Watching the way his fingers, slender and pale, trail along the page. Watching the way his dark hair falls into his face before he brushes it away.
“You’re not paying attention to me at all.”
“What? No, I am.”
“You might be paying attention to me, but not to what I’m saying…”
Harry hears the implication there, feels his cheeks heat.
“It’s okay, you know.” Severus’s voice is low, rough. “I like it when you look at me.”
His fingers are soft and warm against Harry’s skin, and when he leans in, presses his mouth to the curve of Harry’s jaw, Harry’s breath catches and his cock hardens. But when Harry reaches up, cups Severus’s face in his hands, he feels wetness beneath his fingers.
Harry looks down and gasps. Blood spills from Severus’s throat. Harry presses his palm to the wound, but it’s no use. There’s too much blood. Snape—older now and dying—grasps his hand, eyes wide.
“Look at me.”
Harry wakes with a cry. His heart is racing. The sheets are twisted round his legs. Afterwards, he stares at the ceiling, watches the shadows play across the wall, and listens to the inhalation and exhalation of his breathing.
It’s a long time before he falls back to sleep.
Harry doesn’t hear from the Prince that weekend. He checks the book several times each evening and refuses to admit how disappointed he is when all he finds is a blank page.
Minerva asks Harry to her office the following afternoon.
The reconstruction work is going well. The structural repairs are nearly complete and they’re finally making headway on the wards. They are on schedule to have the castle ready for students at the start of term.
“Harry,” Minerva says, gesturing for him to sit down across from her. Harry does, taking the cup of tea she offers. “Biscuit? The chocolate ones with the raspberry jam are lovely.”
Harry takes one. Crumbs scatter across the desktop when he bites into it. He wipes them away quickly.
“So,” Minerva says after a moment, “have you given any more thought to your plans for after the work here is complete?”
“Well, I thought once the castle repairs were finished, I’d stay on to help with the grounds work. The greenhouses will need to be rebuilt, and then there’s the Quidditch pitch…”
But Minerva is already shaking her head. “Harry, no—don’t get me wrong, your work thus far has been absolutely invaluable—I already have a grounds keeper and I will not permit you to remain at Hogwarts as some sort of handyman.”
Harry picks up his teacup but does not drink. Instead he stares down into the dark liquid. He’s not surprised. He hadn’t actually expected Minerva to agree. Still, he can’t help but feel disappointed.
“You need to find something to do with your life,” Minerva's voice is softer now, “something that will make you happy.”
He knows she’s right, that she’s just looking out for him, but the words still sour in his stomach. He sets his teacup down a bit too roughly. Liquid sloshes over the brim. “And what if nothing makes me happy?” The words come out more harshly than he intends, but he can’t help it. He doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, and the prospect of leaving Hogwarts fills him with dread.
“Harry,” Minerva says again; she’s regarding him kindly over the rims of her spectacles. “You deserve to be happy. For a long time you wanted to be an Auror. Kingsley would be delighted if you decided to join the training programme.”
Harry scowls but Minerva continues before he can say anything.
“But you don’t want to be an Auror anymore, do you?” Her voice is gentle, understanding. There is no judgement there.
“No.” He shakes his head.
“And what about graduate studies? The deadlines for most programmes have elapsed, but I’m certain they’d make an exception if you submitted an application.”
Harry doesn’t say anything. He picks up another chocolate biscuit, turns it over in between his fingers.
“There are advanced defence studies,” Minerva prompts quietly. “Or you’d do magnificently at charms. Perhaps you have a future in ward working?”
Harry nods abruptly. “I'll think about it. I promise.”
“All right.” She smiles. “And you’ll let me know if you need anything. I’ll happily write you a recommendation letter if you decide on a graduate programme.”
That evening, a message from the Prince finally appears. Harry’s definitely not staring at the book. Rather, he’s lying on his bed reading an old issue of Quidditch Weekly. The textbook just happens to be open beside him.
The words are innocuous enough. What are you doing?
Harry considers not responding. He’s angry, though he’s not sure he has any right to be. And that only makes him angrier. He reaches over and grabs the ink well and quill from his bedside drawer. Where have you been? he demands.
Hogsmeade... Something cold trickles down Harry’s spine to settle in his stomach, and he wonders if this was it. If this was the weekend Snape was called away to participate in some junior Death Eater activity. He wonders if he’s been Marked. Of course it’s inevitable. It has to be. But the thought still sets him on edge.
You were gone all weekend. You could have told me. Harry regrets the words almost as soon as he’s written them. He sounds childish. It’s not as though they had an arrangement or anything. The Prince doesn’t owe him an explanation.
I didn’t realise I was supposed to check in with you before I went somewhere.
Harry sighs. You’re not. Ink splatters across the page when he presses too hard with the quill.
Wait, did you miss me? The words appear after several moments.
He scowls down at the page, feeling pathetic. Still, he quickly scrawls the word, Maybe.
When the Prince doesn’t write anything else, Harry finally asks, What were you doing there? He thinks, perhaps, after his concession, it’s not too inappropriate a question.
But there’s no response and, for a while, Harry is certain he won’t answer. After all, why should he? But then the page shimmers and Harry watches as a line of new words appears. I was seeing someone.
Harry frowns. That’s not what he was expecting. Though, of course, if Snape were meeting with Riddle or his Death Eaters, it’s not as though he’d say so. And, frankly, those words could mean anything.
You were seeing someone? Like on a date?
Sure. You could say that.
Harry half considers closing the book.
I just didn't realise you had a girlfriend, is all. Rationally, Harry knows it shouldn’t bother him. It’s ridiculous, really. Severus Snape is dead. And even if he weren’t, they are in a completely different time. He will never have a chance with the Prince. Yet, just the thought of the Prince spending an entire weekend with some girl makes Harry horridly jealous.
Would that bother you? If I had a girlfriend?
No, of course not, Harry answers too quickly. He hates how perceptive the Prince is.
It’s okay if it does.
Harry doesn’t know what to say to that and he’s trying to decide how to change the subject when more words appear.
I don't have a girlfriend.
We’re not really together. Not anymore, at least.
What do you mean?
We were together. Last year. But now, it’s not the same. And I’m not sure there was ever anything between us anyway.
You were gone all weekend.
The response comes slowly. I was.
I don’t think I’ll be seeing them again, though.
Okay… Harry could go flying. It’s been weeks since he’s been on his broom, and flying always helps him blow off steam, helps him calm down. But then the page shimmers again, and Harry can’t look away.
It wasn’t a girl, you know.
Harry frowns, unsure at first as to what he means.
Last weekend. Does it bother you to know I was with another boy? That I don’t like girls that way?
Harry stares down at the words for a long time. He can’t say he’s ever thought one way or another about Snape’s sexual preferences, but it never occurred to him that the man was gay. He loved his mother or, at least, Harry thought he did.
?? The question marks appear, shaking Harry from his thoughts.
No, he writes quickly. That doesn’t bother me.
Yes. Harry doesn’t know if the confession makes him more or less jealous, but he knows it doesn’t bother him. The Prince doesn’t write anything else, and Harry rolls over on to his back to stare up at the ceiling. It means nothing, yet he can’t help but thrill at the thought that the Prince prefers men.
I think I like boys too. The words come easily. Though he knows, theoretically, his sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, he’s never felt comfortable broadcasting it either. For as long as Harry remembers, he’s carried the weight of the wizarding world’s expectations on his shoulders.
Be the hero. Defeat Voldemort. Become an Auror. Marry the girl.
Though he’s known for a while that he’ll never be what everyone thinks he should be, he can’t escape the feeling that he’ll be a disappointment. But between the Horcruxes and the war, his sexuality was pretty low on the priority list. And he could ignore the looming question of What next?
Now, he finds it simple to write the words he hasn’t been able to say to Ginny, to Ron and Hermione, to anyone.
You think you like boys?
But you don’t know?
I think I know. But I haven’t had the chance to test it yet. Harry thinks the admission should embarrass him, but it doesn’t.
I had a girlfriend, Harry continues, not entirely sure why he’s telling the Prince this. He hasn’t really talked to anyone about Ginny.
Excuse me whilst I notify The Prophet.
Harry laughs. It’s exactly the type of thing he expects Snape to say. We’re not together anymore, though I think she’d like to be.
You don’t like her?
No. That’s the thing. I like her very much. Just not like that.
Did you sleep with her?
Did you want to?
Harry bites his lip. The question shouldn’t be difficult to answer, but it is. Yes, I think so, he writes finally. I mean, I know I wanted to want to. I was supposed to want to, and I’m pretty sure she wanted to but—
But you never did.
No. It never felt right.
And you think, perhaps, with another guy it would?
The next night, Harry goes to Hogsmeade with Kingsley and a few of the other Aurors. He refuses to think about the Prince going there alone with some unknown guy, about what they undoubtedly spent the weekend doing. Instead, he drinks too much Firewhisky, loses badly at darts, and spends the better part of an hour arguing the merits of various detection spells with Gawain Scott, a third year Auror in the restricted and illicit substances division.
There is no message from the Prince when he gets back, but he takes his quill out anyway. He’s drunk and he really should just go to bed, but he can’t help himself.
I was jealous, he writes.
? The Prince’s response comes quickly.
When you told me you’d been to Hogsmeade all weekend with some guy.
Yes. You fucked him, didn’t you? Or you let him fuck you. The alcohol makes it easy to say things he’d never otherwise say.
Harry nods. He assumed as much. I wanted it to be me. The admission makes him nervous and excites him all at once.
There’s no response, and Harry worries he’s gone too far. But then the page shimmers and the Prince’s words appear slowly, deliberately. If you were here, I’d like that too.
What do you want to do after you finish your masters programme?
Teach? Really? Harry knows Snape started teaching at Hogwarts when he was still very young, but he never seemed to like it very much, and Harry’s wondered whether it was ever something he actually wanted to do.
Why? Do you even like children?
No one likes children.
Harry laughs. Fair point.
But potions are important. And students need to learn the basics if they expect to become mediwizards or Aurors or curse breakers or any of a number of jobs that are actually crucial to society. Far too many witches and wizards are graduating without proper fundamentals.
Harry can hear the passion in the words. It makes him smile.
And it will afford me time and resources to do research.
Which is really what you want to do? That makes sense to Harry.
Maybe. Besides, I think I'll be good at it.
Harry feels a pang of sadness remembering how miserable Snape always seemed. He knows now everything he was asked to do, and he cannot begin to imagine how difficult his life must have been. Always acting a part. Always playing the spy. Dumbledore demanded more from Snape than anyone ever should. And Harry cringes to think what Voldemort must have required of his most trusted followers.
You will be, Harry writes. As long as you don’t favour your Slytherins too much.
How did you know—
Harry smacks his own forehead. He needs to be more careful.
But then the Prince writes, Is it that obvious?
Harry relaxes again with a smile. Yes.
Well, someone has to stick up for them. No one else does.
Harry frowns. He never thought of it that way.
And let me guess, you’re a Gryffindor?
Harry laughs. Of course Snape would know. Got it in one.
Harry’s birthday comes and goes with very little fanfare. Ron sends him a box of chocolate frogs, a maintenance kit for his broom, and a hastily scrawled note written on the back of one of his Auror training guides. Harry prefers to think that his friend simply forgot to buy a card, rather than see it as yet another thinly veiled attempt to encourage Harry to join the force.
Hermione gives him an interesting book chronicling Defence training and teaching methods over time. It’s thoughtful, and Harry knows he will enjoy reading it. Still, it serves as another reminder that summer is winding down and he has yet to make any decisions about his future plans.
The house elves serve cake with dinner. Harry tries not to think too hard about the fact that he would rather spend his evening alone in his room with a book than downstairs celebrating with his colleagues.
I want to suck you off.
Harry nearly drops his quill. Just the words are enough to make him hard. Yeah?
You’d like that, right?
Harry swallows thickly and leans back against his pillows, adjusting himself. Yes.
I dreamed about it last night. What it would feel like. How hard you’d be.
“God…” Maybe he should be used to it by now, the dirty words the Prince writes, but he’s not sure he’ll ever be. Even though it’s just a story the Prince weaves for them at night, it feels incredibly, intoxicatingly real.
I’d tease you first, though. Make you beg for it…
Harry groans, reaching down to stroke himself through the fabric of his jeans, whilst the words continue to spill across the page, across his mind. He imagines the Prince’s hands on his hips, his thighs, his breath soft on his skin. Please, Harry writes, hand unsteady.
You’d be so hard. It wouldn’t take long. Especially the first time.
“Fuck…” Harry groans out loud. His prick is throbbing. He presses on it, tries to still the sudden rush of pleasure, but it’s too late. He cries out, cock pulsing against his palm as he comes. “Fuck,” he says again. His heart is pounding so hard he can hear the whoosh of blood in his ears. He lies there for a few minutes, chest heaving, spunk seeping through the denim under his fingers.
Finally he looks back at the book. Are you touching yourself? The Prince’s question waits for him.
Too late. I already came.
Shit. The word is smudged, and Harry imagines the Prince in his own bed, his hand on his cock.
Good, Harry writes. Make yourself come.
What do you plan to do after term starts?
You said you were staying at Hogwarts during summer hols to help with reconstruction since the castle was damaged. So what do you plan to do once the work’s done and school starts again? You can’t just go on hanging about forever.
He’s right of course. Harry knows this. But he’s tried not to think about what will happen when the rebuilding is done. When he’ll be forced to do something, to move on with his life.
I’m not sure.
Well, what do you want to do?
I used to want to be an Auror.
But not any more?
Why not? You’d probably be good at it, especially seeing as how you’ve already managed to kill a dark wizard.
Harry knows the Prince is fascinated by what happened at the final battle, by the fact that Harry’s killed someone. He doesn’t push for more information, though, even though Harry’s sure he wants to. He’s too smart. He understands magic far too well and knows the consequences involved should he learn too much about the future. Harry respects his control. Most teenagers—or anyone for that matter—wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation, especially considering the power that could come with knowing the future. But Snape has always been both calculating and restrained. He wouldn’t have survived two decades of playing the spy had he been otherwise.
That’s not something I want to be good at.
What does it feel like? It’s well past midnight. Harry should be asleep, but he’s been talking to the Prince for the past two hours and, really, there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
What? Fucking or being fucked?
It’s brilliant. Being fucked hurts a bit at first. But it’s worth it. It’s so intense. And when you come, it’s better than any orgasm you've ever had.
Harry shifts. He’s hard just thinking about it.
And fucking is fantastic, the Prince continues. You’ve never felt anything like it.
I wish we could do it.
I think it would be all right if we told each other when we are.
The words are waiting for him when he returns from dinner, and Harry still can’t help the thrill of excitement he feels each time he sees Snape’s familiar script on the page. What?
You have my book, right?
But I’ve kept it so long, so I know you can’t be a student here at Hogwarts during my present because you’d have to have it already. So, assuming I leave the book here—which I’m still not convinced I’d ever do, by the way—I highly doubt we know each other.
His reasoning is sound. But, of course, it usually is.
Perhaps you leave the book because you know I’ll end up with it. Harry’s thought about it, and that actually makes sense. He knows Snape desperately wants to know who he is. He understands. Were their positions reversed, he’d want to know too. And he feels rather guilty that he obviously knows far more about the Half-Blood Prince than he can ever let on. But it can’t be helped. If you didn’t leave the book, we’d never be able to talk.
I suppose that makes sense, he writes after a moment. But my point’s the same. You’re obviously in my future. And I’m nearly certain we don’t know each other, so I can’t see any harm in knowing how far in my future you are.
We might not know each other in your present, Harry writes. But what about mine?
Snape doesn’t respond right away and Harry knows it’s because he’s thinking. He’s pleased to have come up with something the Prince hasn’t, for once. Though, of course, he has the considerable advantage of foresight.
You think we might know each other in my future? Snape finally writes.
It’s possible, Harry hedges.
Then we can’t tell each other who we are. Before Harry can say anything else, he writes, 1978.
Harry sighs. He feels poised at a very high precipice, but he’s not sure he has any other option but to tumble over the edge. 1998.
Oh. You’re farther away than I thought.
Harry frowns. He hadn’t really considered when Snape might have assumed he was. Honestly, he hasn’t thought much about it at all because, of course, he’s always known exactly how far apart in time they actually are. Sometimes he forgets that Snape knows virtually nothing about their situation or relationship.
That would mean I’m practically forty in your time...assuming I’m even alive, of course.
Why wouldn’t you be alive? Harry asks, though his stomach turns sickly at the reality.
Loads of reasons, really. The least of which being the war you’ve said yourself is going to happen.
I got hard in the library today.
Oh? Harry suppresses a shudder at the thought. Over the past few days, their conversations have become increasingly sexual. Harry can’t deny that he enjoys it, despite how strange the concept might be.
Yes. Just the sight of this damn textbook turns me on.
Harry laughs. I know you’re obsessed with your potions and all, but don’t you think that’s taking it a bit too far?
It wasn’t the potions, you dolt.
Of course not. I couldn’t help but remember our...conversation from last night. I had to go to the loo to relieve myself, or I'd never have gotten anything done.
You jerked off in the lavatory?
Yes. I couldn’t very well do it in the library, now could I?
I can’t imagine you doing it in the loo, either.
Yes you can. I know you’re imagining it right now, the Prince counters. He’s intuitive to a fault. Turns you on, doesn’t it? He pauses.
Harry shifts uncomfortably. He’s hard in his trousers.
It wasn’t like there was anyone in there, though. No one’s at the castle right now.
I'd like to see you do that, Harry finally writes.
We could meet, you know. We could be together in your time.
Harry’s gut twists at the words. He knows, of course, that it can never happen, and he hates himself just a little for how much he desperately wishes it could. More than anything, he wishes Snape were alive, that he would want Harry like his teenage self did. Would you want to? Harry asks, knowing it doesn’t matter.
But you’ll be an adult. You’ll probably think I’m just a stupid kid by then. His chest aches at how right he is.
No, I won’t. And I’ll wait for you. If you want me to, that is.
You’d do that?
For just a little while, Harry lets himself pretend that the words are true.
Harry spends the following morning in the library. Summer is fast drawing to a close, and that means he needs to make a decision. Minerva had been more than happy to give him the day off when he told her he wanted to research possible graduate programmes and perhaps get started on his application.
The library has an entire section dedicated to continued education, advanced studies, and masters degrees.
There’s an overwhelming amount of information and it takes him a while just to sort through it all. Not for the first time, he misses Hermione. She would know exactly what to look for, what programmes would be best for him. But Harry knows this is something he needs to do for himself.
After two hours, he’s set aside one stack of course packets and informational brochures.
To earn his Master of Defence, he’ll need to complete two years of study, as well as one additional semester of practical work in the field. Now he just needs to decide where he’d most like to go and write his admissions essay.
For the longest time, Harry imagined himself travelling and seeing the world. But now, when faced with the opportunity to do just that, he realises that he doesn’t really want to after all. He’s had enough change and excitement to last a lifetime, and the thought of moving away from everyone and everything he knows—even for a short time—fills him with apprehension and dread.
He takes the London programme’s brochure from the top of the stack. Its ratings are high and the track record for job placements is excellent. Besides, Harry will be close to Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasleys.
He takes out his wand and makes a duplicate of the application form, and then he begins to write.
Would you have sex with me? Harry is sitting on his bed, knees pulled up to his chest. It’s strange, for all he and the Prince have said, for everything they’ve written, he hasn’t felt comfortable asking that question. Not yet. Not until tonight.
Of course I would. I’ve told you that.
No. I mean here, now. Like this.
There’s a long pause before the Prince writes, You’d want to do that?
Yes. Maybe it’s silly. It’s just words written on a page, after all. But something feels very final, very real about this choice. And Harry knows it means more than a mere masturbatory fantasy. I want you to be my first, and since that can’t happen—not right now, at least—I want to do this. I want to do this with you.
The Prince writes about how he’d kiss him, and Harry imagines his mouth on his lips, his throat, his fingers, his chest.
They undress together. Harry lies naked on top of his coverlet, thinking about the other boy in his bed a lifetime away.
We’ll go slow, the Prince writes. I won’t hurt you.
Do you have any lube?
Good, I want you to touch yourself.
Harry rolls over and reaches to his bedside cabinet for the vial of lubricant there. Okay, he writes, tell me what to do.
Use a lot. I want you really wet for me. Have you fingered yourself before?
Not really, Harry admits.
Good. Start with one finger. You’ll be tight.
It’s awkward at first and it takes a while to get the angle right, but eventually he gets the hang of it. The sensation is strange, painful yet arousing all at once. He thinks about the Prince’s fingers on him, in him. Okay, he writes after a few minutes, I’m ready. I want you.
I’ll be on top of you. I want you to think about how hard I’ll be, what it’ll feel like when I push into you. I’ll touch you too. Stroke your cock. Make you come whilst I’m inside you.
Harry lies on his stomach and watches as the words the Prince writes fill the page. His cock is hard beneath him, and he shifts his hips, thrusting against the bed. The pressure, the friction feels good, and Harry knows he’s not going to last long. He pictures the Prince above him, his skin pressed to his, his chest against his back, his hands on Harry’s hips, between his thighs. He wants to know what it would feel like to have the other boy’s cock inside him as he moves.
He slips a hand beneath him, thrusts between his fist and the mattress. His cock is hard and damp as he closes his eyes, imagines himself in the Prince’s bed with him.
“Oh, God,” Harry cries out, biting his lip, grinding his hips down once more before he comes, his cock spurting hot and wet over his fingers, into the blankets. After a few minutes, he sits up again, spunk smearing against his stomach, his thighs. He feels shaky and out of focus, and he tries to think about what to say, how to put his feelings into words. He doesn’t have to though, because the Prince is writing again.
Did I make you come?
It feels good, doesn’t it?
Yes, very. Harry is surprised his hand forms the words. He can barely put a coherent thought together.
Now just imagine what it will be like when we do it for real.
I think it’s time we knew each other’s names.
Something clenches in Harry’s chest, but he knows the Prince is right. It’s only fair, after all. He knows, were he in Snape’s position, he’d have demanded to know his name weeks before, time paradoxes be damned. Part of him feels guilty, as though he’s violated the man’s trust in concealing his knowledge of Snape’s identity from him.
My name is Harry, he writes, hand shaking only slightly. And I already know who you are.
Harry feels sick, like a stone’s been plunged into his stomach, but it’s now or never. He takes a deep breath and continues to write. I’ve always known it was you…since before we even started to write. It was you I was talking to, that first night.
After several moments, the Prince’s response appears. Prove it.
It’s exactly the kind of thing he would expect him to say. Despite everything, Harry smiles, though he feels like he might cry. Your name is Severus Snape. Your mother was Eileen Prince and you’re the Half-Blood Prince because your father was a Muggle... It’s okay, he continues when Snape doesn’t respond. I’m a half-blood too.
How do you know this? Snape finally asks.
You told me.
I told you?
Harry takes a deep breath. He’s been thinking about this for weeks. What he’ll say. How he can explain enough without giving everything away. There was a battle. I told you that. I didn’t know at the time that you were really on our side. You were a spy, you see. And a good one. Harry feels wetness prick at his eyes. He wipes at them roughly. No one ever knew.
Harry can’t begin to imagine what Snape is feeling right now. But he has to finish. Now that he’s started, he has to finish what he set out to say. But I used some of your spells against you...or tried to at least. He bites his lip, remembering that night vividly. You just laughed and deflected them as easily as if I were a first year casting his first offensive spell. But I knew then. I knew the boy I’d idolized because of his comments in a book was the professor I’d hated since the moment I arrived at Hogwarts.
You hated me?
Harry realizes his mistake but it’s too late. No... He backpedals, but the damage has been done.
All this time I thought you cared for me. I thought we were friends. Snape’s words come fast now and Harry can sense the vehemence in his handwriting. I loved you.
Those three words hit Harry like a Bludger to the gut.
I loved you…
I don’t hate you, Harry tries. I did. That’s true. But not anymore. I haven’t for a while now. I wouldn't have started taking to you if I did. Remember, I wanted to apologise. I knew how wrong I’d been. I just didn’t know the real you. He stops writing. His face is hot and streaked with tears. I understand now. You were brilliant and brave and a right bastard at times. But you were a hero, and you didn’t deserve to die…
So it’s true then?
I do join him, his Death Eaters.
Harry feels coldness seeping down his spine to pool in his stomach. Time is a strange thing, but he refuses to consider the idea that he might somehow be responsible for Snape’s ultimate decision. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Regardless of everything, the course is set. Harry knows what has to happen.
And I die?
Yes. The page goes blank and Harry worries that’s it, that the Prince isn’t going to say anything else, so he writes, But it doesn’t have to be that way. His heart is racing at the reality of what he’s about to do, but he made the decision weeks ago, really, and there’s no turning back.
Of course it does. You know the future is set, Snape finally writes.
I know it is, but we can change this.
No we can’t. You know the risks of interfering with time. It’s not worth it. It’s never worth it.
I know, believe me, I do. And I understand the ramifications perhaps better than anyone because I know everything we went through—everything I went through—to make sure my present turned out exactly the way it did. There’s too much at stake, and I wouldn’t risk that for anything.
Yet you’re talking about doing just that.
No, I’m not. Really. What I mean to change wouldn't change anything at all. Just hear me out, okay?
Harry doesn’t sleep that night. He’s not sure what he’s waiting for, exactly, but he knows it’s coming.
It’s nearly two in the morning when he feels it. It’s subtle at first. The magic feels like nothing more than a heartbeat, a faint rush of blood. But then it intensifies until it must be reverberating throughout the entire castle. Harry feels it in the soles of his feet, the palms of his hands.
He gets out of bed.
There’s a light on in Snape’s office. Harry sees it spilling beneath the door in a long thin strip. He stops outside. His heart is pounding against his ribs so hard he’s certain it must be audible down the hall, but there’s nothing he can do to calm his nerves, his breathing.
“Come in Harry.”
At the sound of the voice, Harry’s heart stops pounding. In fact, it seems to stop beating all together. He inhales, clutches the book more tightly to his chest, and pushes the door open. He feels the wash of Snape’s magic—dark, familiar, and comfortable now—as the wards part to let him in.
And then he’s standing in front of Snape’s desk, and the man is sitting there, alive and not bleeding and…alive, alive.
Harry can’t stop staring. Snape is pale—paler than usual, and Harry can see the lines on his face, at the corners of his mouth, his eyes. The man looks exhausted. He looks older than his thirty-eight years. Yet he looks fantastic. There’s a bandage at Snape’s throat and Harry shudders to think what the wound must look like underneath, but Nagini’s bite wasn’t fatal this time.
“Are you satisfied now?” Snape says after a long moment, and his voice… It’s raspier now, his vocal cords no doubt irrevocably damaged by that blasted snake, but it still washes over Harry like melted wax. He never thought he’d hear it again.
“You’re alive,” he manages finally, and Snape actually laughs, a warm bark of sound.
“As are you, it would seem.”
Harry smiles at that, but then he looks down, suddenly uncomfortable to be standing there in his faded jeans and worn Weasley jumper. He’s not sure what to say. He only ever dreamed he’d find himself here, in front of the man who used to be the boy he loved.
“And Voldemort?” Snape asks.
Harry looks up again. “Still dead.”
“Oh, thank God.” Harry sees the relief flood Snape’s face.
“It worked,” he says, not entirely sure what he even means by it. Killing Voldemort. Saving Snape. Changing the past just enough to make all the difference but to not really change anything at all.
“Yes,” Snape says slowly, carefully. “It would seem that, for once, you haven’t done something truly and irreversibly idiotic.”
Harry sets the textbook down on Snape’s desk.
He hears Snape exhale sharply, but he does not reach out to take the book.
“You’re alive,” Harry repeats, more to himself than to Snape.
The man looks at him for a long moment. Harry sees none of the antagonism he might have expected. There’s only exhaustion lining his pale face and darkening his eyes.
“I believe we’ve established that.”
“And what of...before?” Harry asks, sliding the book across the man’s desk. Snape regards it steadily for a long moment but Harry cannot read his expression. Finally the man brushes his fingers across the worn cover and says, “Before you...befriended my former self and risked ruining everything to save me from the Dark Lord's snake?”
Harry nods. He won’t apologise for what he’s done. Voldemort is still dead and Snape is alive and that’s all that matters.
“Time is a funny thing. I know what would have happened had you not intervened. Had you not told my boyhood self information that you should have never, in a million years, told a burgeoning Death Eater.”
Harry bristles at the man’s rebuke but says nothing. Snape is right, after all.
“But that course of events never came to fruition,” Snape continues after a moment. “I was able to craft an antidote to Nagini's venom that I would not have been able to do otherwise.”
“How did you do it?”
“I’d suspected as much before,” he says, “that the snake was a Horcrux. It made sense, and then when Voldemort began keeping her close, not sending her out on errands alone as he’d always done in the past, my beliefs were confirmed. But it was too late. I didn’t have time to do anything about it.”
“And this time?” Harry prompts.
The revulsion must show on Harry’s face because Snape laughs. “And that didn't kill you?”
“It was...unpleasant,” Snape says, fingers trailing along the bandage at his neck briefly, “but Nagini's venom undoubtedly would have killed me so it was a risk I was willing to take.”
“But basilisk powder is poisonous,” Harry challenges, “fatally so.”
“Typically, yes. But chemistry is a fascinating thing.” Snape opens his desk drawer and removes a small shaker of salt. He slides it back and forth between his palms whilst Harry waits for him to continue. “What is the chemical compound for salt, Harry?”
“Sodium chloride,” he answers quickly, unsure how the question has anything to do with Horcruxes and basilisk fang.
“Right. And individually, each element is hazardous. Sodium is highly reactive and chlorine is deadly. But together...” He pours a measure of salt out on the desktop, traces his finger through it. “Together they form an innocuous compound that we ingest with nearly every meal we eat.”
“You rendered the basilisk harmless by combining it with another ingredient,” Harry says, understanding.
“Not harmless, exactly, but no longer deadly.”
“And it worked.”
“Whilst considerably more unpleasant than consuming table salt, yes, it worked.”
Snape brushes the salt off his desk, returns the shaker to the drawer, and looks at Harry for a long moment. His gaze is unnerving, but Harry forces himself not to look away.
“You’ve changed everything...yet,” Snape drums his pale fingers against the desk, “you haven’t changed anything at all. Outside of this room, that is. And for that, I thank you.”
The words aren’t forced. They’re genuine. And such a thing coming from Snape’s lips is staggering. “How does this end?” Harry asks then, even though he really wants to ask, ‘What happens to us now?’ but he can’t. Not now. He’s not sure he’ll ever be able to.
Snape pushes the textbook back towards him. “Tomorrow night you’ll write to me one more time.”
“One more time…” Harry repeats slowly. “So it has to end, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” Snape says simply, but there’s something in his voice Harry can’t read.
“What do I say?” Harry asks because he can’t imagine telling the Prince goodbye.
“You’ll know,” Snape assures. “It will be easy.”
Harry isn’t so sure.
The following night, the Prince is waiting for him when he climbs into bed, takes the book from the nightstand. Perhaps it should feel strange, how easy it is for them to talk, for Snape to tell him what he wants to do to him, what he wants Harry to do in return.
And, for a while, it’s nice to ignore the inevitable and focus on the feeling of his hand on his cock as Snape writes about how he’d finger him open, fuck him until he comes all over himself.
For the first time though, Harry finds his thoughts drifting away from the shadowy image of what he envisions the Prince to look like to a very real picture of the older Snape. The man whose life Harry saved after he’d already saved Harry countless times before. The man who could have sent him away, who could have greeted him with all the spiteful vindictiveness Harry was accustomed to as a schoolboy, but didn’t.
His orgasm hits hard and leaves him breathless and shaking. After a few minutes, he rolls over, muttering a cleaning charm, and tugs the book towards him again.
Was it good for you? The Prince’s words are waiting for him.
They’re both quiet for a while. Eventually, Harry’s heart stops pounding, his breath evens out again, and once again he thinks about what he has to do, what he has to say. But then he feels the familiar whisper of magic that tells him the Prince is writing. He opens his eyes.
So, I’m leaving Hogwarts tomorrow.
Harry sits up, confused. What? Term doesn’t start for two weeks.
I know. But there’s something I have to do first.
Coldness floods Harry’s stomach as he realises, with sickening clarity, exactly what Snape means. You’re going to him—to Riddle. You mean to be Marked. Is it time? Harry is surprised his hand doesn’t shake.
Harry knows it was inevitable. He’s always known that. It has to happen. There is no other way. Snape has to become a Death Eater so he can return to Dumbledore as a spy, so everything set in motion twenty years ago can come to pass. Still, it makes him want to vomit. Okay. He forces himself to write the word.
You’re not going to try to stop me?
No. It’s what you have to do.
You’re not going to take the book with you, are you? Harry is certain he already knows the answer.
It takes a few minutes for a response to appear. Harry takes a deep breath, loosens the death grip he has on his quill.
No. I’ll leave it in the cupboard in the Potions classroom. I figured out a pretty cool ward. It should be safe until you’re ready for it.
Okay. Again, Harry knows it has to end this way. Snape has to leave the book behind, or he’d never have got it in the first place. And now he knows that Snape will survive, that everything turns out all right in the end. Still, the words feel achingly final, and he didn’t expect it to hurt quite like this.
The weight of goodbye rests painfully in his lungs. It makes his chest hurt, his throat tight.
It’s not safe, Harry. Harry hadn’t noticed that the Prince had continued to write. You know that. If the Dark Lord found out that I somehow had a link to the future… The words trail off, but more appear before Harry can respond. Well, imagine what he would do for that kind of power.
I know. It’s just— he stops. He won’t say it, can’t say it. You’ll remember what I told you about the snake? he writes instead.
That’s not the kind of thing I’m likely to forget, is it?
Despite everything, Harry laughs. The Prince is right, as usual. And proof that he doesn’t forget it is sitting down in Snape’s office right now. Okay. Be careful.
Now what fun would that be?
Harry has to smile because that sounds exactly like the boy he’s grown to know and love over the past two months.
But it will be all right, the Prince says. Things will be different now.
I know. But whilst Snape will live, Harry still recognises the truth. After all, he knows his own past has not been altered significantly. His Snape will still hate the child he was because of his parents. His mother has already turned her back on their friendship, leaving Snape for a man who’s been nothing but cruel, a man who nearly killed Snape for a childish prank. Harry sighs. None of that matters now, though. What’s done is done. So this is it? he writes because he doesn’t know what else to say.
I’ll miss you.
The page flickers and his Prince’s words disappear. Harry stares at the book for a long time, but it’s as if they were never there at all and Harry knows he’s gone.
“How are you feeling?” Harry twists the teacup between his hands. The porcelain is warm against his palms. It’s awkward here, sitting across the desk from Snape, and Harry isn’t entirely sure what to say, or that he can say anything at all without sounding like a complete idiot. But he’s back in Snape’s office because the Prince is gone, and he’s not sure what else to do.
“I feel like I was nearly eaten by a giant snake. An exceptionally venomous giant snake,” Snape says.
“Right.” Harry looks down. “I suppose that’s to be expected.”
“But I am recovering,” Snape says. “Thanks to you.”
Harry looks up again. Snape is watching him closely, his expression unreadable.
“Poppy said I should even be well enough to help with the reconstruction soon, assuming I would want to do such a thing.”
“And what about the Wizengamot?” He hasn’t thought too much about the logistics involved in Snape’s survival, but he knows there will be ramifications. Though the man was pardoned unconditionally after his death, Harry’s fairly certain the wizarding world won’t be as forgiving now that he’s alive and well.
Snape sighs. “Albus left a full testimony that will be admissible by Pensieve. That, in combination with your statements, should be enough to mitigate the worst of my punishment.”
“But you shouldn't be punished at all!” Harry says, voice harsh, though he knows there is truth to Snape’s words.
“Harry, I murdered the most beloved wizard of our time. That...transgression cannot go overlooked.”
“But it was on his orders,” Harry tries. He hates that his voice shakes.
“Yes. But I still cast the spell. He did not force my hand.”
“I know but—”
“And that murder was only one of many,” Snape cuts him off. “All committed in the name of one master or another, but committed nonetheless.”
“I killed people too. Others. Not just Riddle.”
“Yes, but there was a war.”
Harry glares. “That excuse can’t work for me if it doesn’t for you.”
“Perhaps not. But remember, it is far easier to forgive a hero than to pardon a spy.” Snape looks down, traces a line across the worn surface of his desktop. “Especially a spy with such questionable loyalties as my own.”
“I seem to recall that you were considering applying for a graduate studies programme in Defence.”
Harry is, once again, back in the dungeons. Each evening, when he arrives at Snape’s door, he half expects to be sent away. Yet, the man only sighs, as though resigned to the inevitable, and summons an additional teacup while Harry takes the seat across from him.
“Have you completed your essay?”
“Yeah. I’m not sure if it’s any good though.”
Severus refills his teacup before pouring Harry another cup as well. “You are the saviour of the wizarding world. I am certain whatever you have to say will impress the admissions committee.”
Harry frowns and takes a sip of his tea. It’s hot and bitter against his tongue. “I don’t want to be admitted because I’m Harry Potter. I want to be admitted because I’m a good candidate.”
“I think,” Snape says, dark eyes fixed on his face, “those two things go hand in hand.” He brings his cup to his mouth to drink. His mouth is wet when he lowers it again. “You will always be Harry Potter. But now you have earned the recognition you receive. You are no longer merely the Boy Who Lived. You are the wizard who defeated Voldemort. And that accomplishment cannot be taken lightly. Your resume, at this point, is impressive not because of who you are, but because of what you’ve done.”
Harry nods. He wants to believe Snape, but he’s been famous for his name for far too long. It’s difficult to accept that he now, perhaps, has the resume to back up the perpetual accolades he’s received.
“I would be happy to look over your essay, if you’d like.”
“Yeah,” Harry says with a smile. “That would be great.”
“You told me once that you wished we could meet...and not as two teenagers somehow transported to the same time, but in my present.” He takes a deep breath. He spent the better part of the day rehearsing what he wants to say. Now, standing here in Snape’s shabby office, the man regarding him impassively from behind his desk, it’s all Harry can do to make his mouth form the words. But, the repair work is finally done, Harry has been accepted into the Defence programme in London, and there are things he needs tell Snape first. “Before you knew that I knew you, you wanted me despite our age difference. Despite everything that was clearly between us.”
For a moment Snape doesn’t react. Then he says, “I was a teenager,” and Harry can hear the distaste there, as though Snape hates the boy he once was. “I was infatuated with you. You had—” he shakes his head, “you have so much magic. I thought I was in love with you, and I wanted to fuck you.”
Hearing that word from Snape’s mouth makes Harry shiver, and he feels his face heat. The way Snape is looking at him throws him entirely off kilter.
“And you wanted me too,” Snape continues, and Harry hears something like awe mixed with the self-loathing in his voice. “Do you know how that feels?”
“Yes,” Harry says because surely Snape knows that he felt the same. “I still want you, you know.”
Snape looks at him then, face critical, impassive. “That was years ago.”
“Not for me.”
“No,” Snape admits. “But I am not the boy you used to talk to. I’ve lived a lifetime since then.”
“I know.” And Harry does. That he’s even here, having this conversation, is beyond surreal. “But, if anything, that lifetime has made us even more similar than we were before.”
Snape sighs but doesn’t dismiss his comment immediately. “As discomforting as it is to admit, I think, perhaps, you’re right.”
Harry opens his mouth, but Snape holds up a hand before Harry can say anything. “But that doesn’t mean anything. There is nothing for us now. You know that. I am twice your age. And our past, despite your recent liaison with my former self, has not changed.”
“Are you seeing someone?” If someone had told Harry two months ago that he’d be standing here now asking Snape that question, he would have thought he was crazy. He might still be, but it’s the kind of thing he talked to the Prince about easily. And now, the words fall from his lips before he can stop them.
But Snape doesn’t yell or offer any of a thousand scathing remarks. He just looks a bit startled before smoothing his expression again. “Not that it’s any of your concern, but no. My life as of late has not been exactly...conducive to relationships.”
“Okay,” Harry says, more relieved than he has any right to be. He knows, of course, that, simply because Snape isn’t involved with someone, doesn’t mean anything will change between them, but it’s better than the alternative. “Would you mind if I came by again tomorrow?”
Snape regards him for a long moment before nodding once. “You’ve been haunting my doorstep for the past week, though, and never thought to seek my permission before. What’s changed this evening?”
“I just thought…” Harry shrugs, looking down. “I didn’t want you to be uncomfortable, now.”
“Now that you’ve admitted to harbouring entirely inappropriate feelings towards me?”
Harry flushes but forces himself to meet Snape’s eye. “Yes.”
“Minerva said you were strengthening the structural wards surrounding the Great Hall tomorrow morning. That should take you until lunchtime at least. Why don't you stop by after? Assuming, of course, you don’t have something far better to do with your time.”
“I don’t,” he assures with a smile. He turns and leaves before Snape can change his mind.
“I wanted to say goodbye, sir,” Harry says. He looks down, suddenly uncomfortable, and shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Term starts in three days and he has loads to do in London before then.
“So you’re finally off, then?” Snape looks up from his copy of The Daily Prophet. “What will Minerva do without you?”
“She’ll manage. And it’s not like I’ll be far.”
“No. Have you secured a place to stay?”
Harry shakes his head. “Not yet. But Ron says I can crash on his sofa for a bit until I get my bearings about me.” He could always return to Grimmauld Place, but there are memories there he doesn’t want to revisit at present.
“Well, that sounds delightful,” Snape says, voice laced with sarcasm.
Harry grins. “It does actually. And now that—”
“That he’s stopped pestering you to join the force?”
“Yes. Now that everyone’s satisfied I’m not content to waste my life away, I think everything will be okay.”
“You deserve to be happy.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Harry says, “but I’m going to try anyway.”
Snape stands then and walks around his desk, but he stops a few feet from him, looking oddly uncomfortable, as though he’s not sure what else to say.
Harry hesitates for one moment and then steps forward quickly before he can stop himself, before he can change his mind. His fingers curl in the fabric of Snape’s robe, and he leans up, presses his mouth to Snape’s.
At first the man stills, mouth open in surprise. And while he doesn’t respond, doesn’t move at all, he doesn’t push Harry away either.
Harry takes that as the best invitation he’s likely to receive and, shifting closer, moves his lips. Snape smells of cloves and spice, and his lips are warm and dry as Harry kisses him.
Then Snape relaxes just a bit, and sighs, bringing his hands up to rest against the small of his back. He opens his mouth, leans down into the kiss. Harry gasps, slipping his tongue between Snape’s lips to brush against his tongue before pulling away again, breathless and half-hard.
“Harry, I—we can’t.”
“That’s okay,” he says, stopping him. “I don’t expect anything. Really, I don’t,” he assures Snape at his look. “I just… You always said you wanted to be my first real kiss, and now you are.”
“Now I am…” Snape ducks his head, brushing a strand of dark hair back behind his ear. It’s an uncharacteristically unsettled gesture, and Harry finds it endearing.
Snape looks at him for a long time before nodding once. “Good luck with your programme. I’m sure you’ll be back here in no time begging Minerva for a position.”
Harry smiles. “Yeah, maybe, but I’ve got some time to figure that out.”
At that, Snape’s cheeks flush, and Harry realises the implications of the statement. “I didn’t mean—”
“It’s all right,” Snape says quickly, sparing him any explanation. “Besides, you’ll be in London, not Liberia. It’s an easy Apparition stop away. And, from what I hear, plans to begin rebuilding the Quidditch pitch are underway. I’m sure your vast expertise will be needed at some point.”
Harry laughs. “I’m sure you’re right. So, I’ll see you around, then?”
“It would seem so, Mr. Potter. It would seem so.”
This time, goodbye doesn’t feel like goodbye at all. It feels like a new beginning. It feels like a fresh start.