Title: A Time to Forget
Author: Making a List and Checking it Twice...
Word Count: 24,796
Pairing:Harry/Severus (references to others)
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Harry had expected teaching at Hogwarts, even temporarily, would have complications -- his children, for instance. But when he goes exploring in the dungeons, the past moves inexorably into his present.
Author's Notes: Entrenous88: I didn't use any of your specific prompts, but I hope my attention to your desired subgenres makes up for it. Merry Christmas! To my beta readers: Thank you both for letting me know what worked for you and what didn't, and for putting up with a long fic on a short schedule.
A Time to Forget
Now that he was packing for a few months at Hogwarts, Harry was glad that he had been the one to keep the house when his marriage dissolved. He was certain that Ginny was better at this sort of thing than he was. She had managed to move out over the course of two weeks, and only occasionally Flooed to ask about items that she had forgotten -- her favorite spatula, for example. As he had no idea how one could have a favorite spatula, he had willingly invited her over to find the thing, and had got an unscheduled visit with Lily out of the deal.
"You've packed five blue shirts."
Hermione had actually pulled the offending items out of his trunk. Harry pushed his hands through his hair in frustration. "I like blue okay?" She was giving him that look. "And it's the last wash I did, so they were at the front. And it doesn't MATTER, because I'll be wearing professor's robes over whatever else I have on!"
"Oh, honestly, Harry!" Hermione dove into his wardrobe and began picking out shirts in a balanced assortment of colors and styles. He wanted to tell her to stop, but she was doing too good a job of it. "Aren't you supposed to get the hang of matching clothes when you start kissing men?"
He snorted. "Sorry. M'not bent enough for benefits, I suppose."
She giggled. "Don't ever look at your press in Willing Wands."
"Oh god! Did they--"
He blanched. "Don't tell Albus they mentioned me."
"Really, Harry! He's fourteen. No one would sell it to him."
"He's a Slytherin. He'd get it somehow." Harry suspected that he might enjoy it, too, in another year or two. He looked sidelong at Hermione. "You can read that one."
Gratifyingly, she squeaked. "I could not!"
"What? You have, apparently."
"We were visiting Charlie!"
"Ah." That made more sense than Hermione secretly buying gay mags, really. "But you decided to read it?"
"It was out on the table. You know how curious I get." Hermione cleared her throat. "Er, have you heard from Ginny? Since that article in Scene It?"
It was a transparent attempt to change the subject, but hardly one that Harry could ignore. He rolled his eyes. "Yeah. She's taking it okay. Between her Quidditch career and having been married to me, she's pretty used to this stuff. She and Diana have planned a few very public appearances, and she's hoping that will take care of any rumors that she wants me back. Of course, she did suggest that if I had a current interest, she'd be grateful if I did the same." He tossed a random pile of jeans to the floor by the trunk. They landed with a satisfying smack against the wood floor. "You'd think the weeklies would get used to seeing us together. What do they suppose 'we're still friends' means?"
"Not that you'd keep your arm around her like that, apparently."
"Good thing they don't know Diana has labeled me a 'permissible excursion' then."
Hermione frowned. "Occasional excursion, as I recall," she said warningly.
Harry laughed in a cursory huff of breath. "Hermione, that was 'occasional' when we were married. Doubt I'll be seeing more of her when we only need to trade off kids a few times a year." Sighing, he sat down on the bed, poking with bare toes at the open trunk. "Is it horrible of me to miss Lily more than Ginny?"
"Of course not!" Hermione left off sorting through the jeans and sat beside him, looping an arm over his shoulders. He slouched into it, accepting the comfort. "It's horrible, maybe, but not of you -- or her. Just -- sometimes things don't work out. No one blames you, Harry."
"Except the people who think I was faking with her all along," Harry countered. He gestured vaguely at the world beyond the window. "How can people think that AND think I'm having an affair with her?"
"I think it's different people, Harry," Hermione answered, smiling.
"I must be providing marvelous entertainment at garden parties. 'Harry Potter: inveterate poof, or cheating with his ex-wife?'"
Hermione laughed. "Yes, I'm afraid so. With a large number of people saying "WHAT LOVELY ROSES, DON'T YOU THINK SO, JANETTE?"
Somehow, that joke drove off the last of Harry's mood. He probably wasn't the only person irritated by Wizarding Britain's apparent obsession with his private life.
"Well, they won't be pestering me at Hogwarts, at least," he said cheerfully. "Minerva has it well warded against journalists ... and beetles."
Of course, that didn't protect him from the consequences of articles. Harry hadn't even unpacked or looked at the lesson plans that he was supposed to be covering before James showed up, with Lily in tow, asking how he was, and how his visit with Mum had been, and transparently hoping that a reconciliation was in the works. Harry discouraged him gently, and they didn't quite fight, although that, Harry thought, was largely due to Lily's presence. Fortunately, Quidditch season had started up again, so Harry asked about it, and his children responded with a wealth of opinion about the various house teams.
Albus, always more subtle, visited after dinner, offered to help with the unpacking, and asked politely how "everyone" was. If he was more interested in his mother's reaction to the article than in Aunt Hermione's research advancements, he didn't show it. It had taken having a Slytherin child, Harry thought, to teach him the advantages to it.
"How's Scorpius?" he asked, in a sudden burst of charity, and his younger son's habitual reserve dissolved into the beaming smile that made him question the boy's attachment to the young Malfoy in particular, and eventual romantic proclivities in general.
"Great! You can actually meet him, Dad -- I mean, since you'll be here. You can meet all my friends!"
Harry smiled at his enthusiasm. "I won't be able to not meet your friends -- unless some are N.E.W.T.-level students that dropped Defense against the Dark Arts."
"Oh!" Albus looked abashed. "Would you believe I hadn't thought of that?"
"Really? I thought you thought of everything."
"Well, I've been planning extensively how to ask Professor Wandwright for permission to invite you to the Slytherin common room."
Grinning, Harry reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. "All that effort for nothing! Though I'll come if you want it, and she says it's all right."
"Would you, Dad? That would be brilliant!"
It was only later, as he was relaxing in the bath, that it occurred to Harry that the entire conversation might have been engineered to finesse his acceptance of the invitation. He flopped back against the cushioned end of the bath and laughed.
Professor Blood's injuries were extensive, and not all purely physical. When Minerva had called Harry about stepping in as a substitute, she had told him that the post would run to two months, or possibly three. Initially, he had been surprised to be asked. He'd never taught children, after all, although he had given a few classes to Auror groups. Upon reflection, he had realized that he was probably the most qualified person that she could get on three days' notice. One way or another, people without regular jobs weren't usually ones that you wanted talking about Dark Arts to impressionable school children.
Harry spent hours poring over Blood's lesson plans, changing them into something he could teach with sincerity and interest, and expanding the details so he wouldn't get lost.
"Still here, Harry?"
Harry looked up to see Minerva McGonagall entering the staff room. He smiled. "And you're back."
"Only to retrieve my shawl. You, however...."
"Working on lesson plans."
The headmistress bent over his parchment, as if he were a student that she was supervising.
"These, Mr Potter, are lesson plans for next Thursday. As much as I admire your -- belated -- development of scholarly industry, these do not require burning the midnight oil."
"I thought if I could get through all of the next three months --"
"If you compose plans for the next three months in this level of detail, you will need constantly to revise them. An outline, Harry, not an essay, is what you need for lessons more than a week away."
She left her place behind his shoulder and sat, instead, in a nearby chair. "Harry. Tell me about your week."
"I..." He floundered in the space left by the gentle demand. "It was okay, I suppose. We didn't get much done the first two days. Everyone had to get over my name and my reputation -- or reputations, really, with the older classes -- and in my kids' classes, it was different, but just as much...." He shrugged. "Yeah. Being able to speak would help, wouldn't it?"
Her mouth quirked into a smile. "In my experience, you possess a simple but true eloquence when you are sure of your subject -- and Defense Against the Dark Arts was a subject that you taught as a child."
"That was -- I had to. And they didn't expect me to be like a real professor."
"Someone had to, yes. And you were willing to be the one who did. That's still true." She leaned forward. "There is no way to learn to be a professor but to do it. All of us felt this same insecurity when we first began to teach. From everything I have heard, however -- officially and unofficially -- your performance is more than adequate." With a light pat to his arm, she rose. "Falling asleep in lessons, however, may dim your lustre considerably. Good night, Professor."
With that, she sailed out of the room.
For a minute, Harry just sat and stared at his papers. Did other people really feel like this? Had she? Yes, he had made good progress, but the lessons were a full week behind Professor Blood's syllabus, and what if he never caught up?
Finally, he rubbed his eyes, and then shook his head. This was ridiculous. Minerva was right; obsessing over this wouldn't help him. Sighing, he cast a drying spell on his most recent notes, repacked his bag, and headed back to his rooms.
Once there, though, he found that he didn't want to go to bed. He was accustomed to an active life, and hours at a desk had left him restless. What he really wanted, he thought, was to go for a ramble, but it was the middle of the night. He couldn't go out on the grounds. He couldn't even go wandering around the corridors, like...
Like Snape used to. Harry took a long breath. He could. He was a professor, and there was no one to stop him from walking around the castle whatever the hour. After that, it took only moments to realize that he could also go to any part of the castle he wished, barring private rooms and dormitories. He turned slowly, imaging exploring at his leisure. He'd need the Marauder's Map, of course, and a spell to temporarily mark where he had been. He shook his head. "I can't believe I didn't pack the Map," he muttered. "Maybe fatherhood has made me a bit too responsible. I'll Floo home tomorrow. I need more socks anyway."
The next evening, Harry set off as soon as the children were all -- theoretically -- in their dormitories. He had decided that half an hour of exploring -- an hour at most -- would be a good way to end each evening. That should stretch out the activity through most of his stay at the school.
Intending to be methodical, he started at the top of one of the smaller towers and began to work his way down, opening every room that he could along the way. A spell on the map overlaid a transparent red line where he walked, so he wouldn't get confused and redo sections. Despite knowing that he had the right to walk where he wished, Harry couldn't help feeling uneasy. The dark corridors evoked memories of younger years, and he found himself listening for Filch's uneven gait, or the whisper of robes that had barely preceded Snape. It seemed almost unbelievable that his old professor was not haunting these halls, summoned by Harry's insolence in exploring after hours. Repeatedly, he set these thoughts out of his mind to open another door, on another dusty room. Many were empty, but a few had interesting -- or uninteresting -- contents.
He was just closing the door to a room full of bed ladders when he heard a thump. Whirling, he found his Lumos reflecting off the eyes of Squire Tom, successor to the line of Mrs. Norris. I have a right to be here. I can't get in trouble for it. Harry tried to bolster the thoughts by straightening up and putting his shoulders back. He had regained at least his outward dignity by the time Filch hobbled quickly around the corner.
"I've got you, y--" The old caretaker froze. "Professor, sir," he said, yanking off his hat and bobbing his head quickly down. "Begging your pardon. I thought it was some of those kids, trying a new spot."
Harry wanted to laugh. Filch's ridiculous deference made his fears seem absurd. It was like conjuring light and watching a mountain troll turn back into a laden hayrack.
"No problem," he said casually. "Just taking an evening walk."
"As you wish, Professor," Filch agreed quickly. "But you'd have better hunting in the Astronomy Tower or Gryffindor Tower, if you take my meaning."
Harry fixed him with the gaze he used on overly familiar politicians. "Hunting is not the objective. I wanted some exercise. Teaching doesn't match up to testing duels with Aurors." He knew he sounded stuffy, but he couldn't help it. This was Filch, bowing and scraping, but still being offensive.
Filch didn't take the hint.
"Eh, well if it's exercise you want, hunting is the thing, sir, mark my words. A man in your condition might be able to run down the little buggers."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'll keep it mind, Mr. Filch. Now if you don't mind...?"
Apologetically, Filch backed off. "I won't go taking any more of your time, Professor. Back to my duties, now." With that, he shuffled off around the corner. His cat stared for a moment longer, and then followed. Harry waited for the sound of footsteps going down the stairs before moving himself.
So much for the fear of Filch. I wonder if it's like this for other former students when they start teaching here. Snape must have had a time of it; he would have been scarcely out of school when he returned. Harry had never thought of it that way before. He could see Snape standing in his place, more vicious, but perhaps, at that age, no more natural in his assumed dignity. Did he want to explore, too? I always thought he was just about for the pleasure of catching us out -- hunting, as Filch said, but maybe he enjoyed the freedom? Having the castle to himself, like this? And students would have been doubly annoying, in that case.
He found himself wishing that he could ask, professor to professor, although possibly Snape wouldn't have answered, even so. He couldn't quite imagine it, even now that he was trying. If Snape had lived, if he was still a professor, if he were to encounter Harry late at night, walking in these empty corridors.... Would he still froth and rant, furious that he was unable to punish his former student, and would Harry still grow angry at the threat, or would they, possibly, have some more mature interaction, now?
The next night, Harry found himself turning down the stairs, rather than up, as if Snape's ghost might be waiting underground to appraise him. Unlike the towers, with their absolute boundaries, the corridors of the dungeons spread in a labyrinth of paths, turning rather than ending, changing rather than meeting, and he could never see a distinct section to call complete. He started at the lowest level, where the rooms moved beyond the bounds of the castle, as if the ancient building had sent out roots into the surrounding land. Harry had to zigzag and loop back to see everything. Every room he came to, he entered. Most, like those above, were empty, or contained only dusty furniture. Occasionally, they were locked with spells, which usually indicated a place in more active use. He found a student retreat with blankets on the floor, and another room with a covered cauldron, currently cold and empty. The latter he marked on the map for checking later -- if it was a student brewing unsupervised, it might bear watching.
He passed his half-hour, and then his upper limit of an hour. In the tower, he had stopped after finishing a floor, but here the floor went on and on, sometimes sloping down or up, so a staircase might start and end on the same arcing corridor. I want to stop at a point I can remember, he told himself, but it was more than that. The heady excitement of being beyond student rules was even stronger here than on the upper floors. Here, the damp stone smelled like a child's dangers, like trailing Malfoy, like evading Snape. It drew him on.
In a damp corridor, when he had seen nothing but mildew and dust for twenty rooms, he yawned. The yawn triggered another, and he cast a time charm, only to blink at the phantom clock face. "It's past two? Oh hell." Sighing, he rubbed his eyes and unfolded the map to see where he was.
The map showed his location, further away from the last set of stairs than he had expected. Confusingly, it also showed a room just beside him, with the door several paces behind. Am I tired enough to miss that? Harry turned. He couldn't see a door. Carefully, he put his hand lightly on the wall and began to walk back, keeping one eye on the map and feeling for the tingle of magic that might indicate that something had been disguised.
It was nothing so subtle. His touch moved from stone to wood.
The effect was odd. The area under his hand looked like rough stone, but he could feel wood, in vertical boards, and his fingertips moved smoothly over it, in and out of the surface roughness of the stone that appeared to be there. He swept his hand back and forth, finding first the edges of the door and then, finally, the hard metal of a plate and ring. Only then, on the verge of pulling it open, did he remember to step back and check for hexes. There was one very simple protection on the door, and an even more standard locking spell. Harry undid them both, found the ring again, and pulled.
The room was small, but unlit. Across from the door was a dark sarcophagus, an effigy of a man atop it. Harry felt his blood chill at the sight. Was this the beginning of some area of tombs? Had early headmasters been buried down here, like bishops in their cathedral? He raised his wand high to cast a wider circle of light.
It wasn't an effigy. For one frozen moment, Harry was looking at Snape, hooked nose rising from a gaunt face, all as pale and lifeless as if carved from beeswax. Blood had aged to brown on his neck, and had pooled below his shoulder, and had dripped from the slab....
Harry jerked back into the corridor. He shoved the door closed and bound it shut with a spell that he hadn't known he had remembered. In seconds, he was running, pounding down the grim corridors for the comfort of the floors above.
In the Entrance Hall, Harry stopped, bending over to keep strained muscles from cramping as he gasped for breath. He had good endurance -- some of his jobs required it -- but the ungoverned run and the panic behind it had taxed him. He felt ridiculous at having fled from something that could not harm him. True danger he knew how to face, but this nightmare was another story. He saw it again -- Snape's waxy skin, the flakes of blood on his stone bed, the stain below where it had dripped down. Fiercely, he focused on the stairway, forcing himself to see the rising steps.
He needed to go to bed, he knew. Somehow, he doubted that he would sleep much. In the morning, he should tell Minerva that he had found the body. They would have another burial, and possibly a second memorial service, and the past would move just a little further away.
Harry woke feeling queasy, as if he had been drinking late. Memory, rather than drifting back, returned with hammering blows. He had been exploring, and he had found Severus Snape, laid out dead in his own blood.
Harry couldn't shake the feeling of wrongness that hung about the memory. He tried to shower, but he couldn't, not even with the curtain spelled transparent so he could see the room outside. He got out, dried off, and used spells to finish cleaning his skin and hair. It would make his hair stick up more, but who would notice, really?
With his hand hovering over his socks, he hesitated, instinct finally tipping into knowledge. It's been twenty-two years -- more. He should be decayed, shouldn't he? The room should smell. His face...Carefully and reluctantly, Harry pulled back the horrifying image. Except for the waxy pallor, Snape's face had looked normal. His lips had even covered his teeth. Unless I'm filling in with what I know he looked like, but I don't think I am. So someone must have arranged him afterwards, and put him under some sort of-- what? Preservation spell? Who? Why? Why not say where he was? Will they know someone entered the room?
There was no hope for it. He had to return and look again. Harry discarded the idea of leaving the second visit until he could bring Minerva. He couldn't bear the thought of admitting to Professor McGonagall that he had fled at a glimpse of the body. He also couldn't lead her into danger, and if the mysterious person who had left Snape's body there had also left monitoring charms, danger was a definite possibility.
After a couple of decades, what difference does another day make?
Harry went to his lessons and taught, trying not to let lack of sleep show. He was exhausted by the time of his last class, sixth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins. To his relief, they had a test, giving him time to think his own thoughts. At least it's Friday, so I can sleep late tomorrow, and catch up on work-- Harry groaned. He had a dinner scheduled with Ron and Hermione, and he couldn't just cancel, because Hermione had tickets to a show that Parvati was in, and it had been a couple of years since he had seen her last. Damn. How the hell can I mark seventy-two essays before Monday? Why did I say Friday for all of them?
He knew from experience that examining a body was best done during the day. Even if you were somewhere that you couldn't tell the sun was up, your mind seemed to know the difference on some animal level. He had certainly looked at enough of them, over the years; he just had to disassociate this one from Severus Snape, war hero and spy, whom he had watched die; and from Professor Snape, scourge of his school days, who had hated him and resented him, and even in death, still made him want to fight or run.
The thought of danger was cheering, really. If there were traps, or an ambush, then he had something to do. The worst thing about corpses -- well, non-animated ones -- is that you can't change anything. I hate feeling helpless.
Directly after lessons, he started down to the dungeons. Many students were doing the same, and it didn't take long before a small figure split off from his friends and galloped recklessly down the steps to catch up with him.
"Hey, Dad! Are you coming for a visit?"
A greeting from any of his children -- especially the teenagers -- was cheering, but Harry didn't want anyone following him on this.
"Business, I'm afraid." Briefly, he put a hand on Albus's shoulder. "But don't worry. Not Slytherin." If I'm lucky, Al will assume I have a meeting with the Potions instructor. Best to cut him off before he asks. "Shall I stop by on the way back?"
Albus hesitated. "Will you be long? We have Quidditch practice in an hour, and the walk...."
They had reached the end of the steps, and the other Slytherins were catching up.
"Oh, I'll see you there, then!" Harry exclaimed. That would be fun, and more likely to get Albus out of the way in the meantime. Albus wasn't as Quidditch-mad as his Gryffindor siblings, but he had flown all his life and was an excellent Seeker: small, sharp-eyed, and quick. The Slytherin team was always pleased to have their Seeker's famous father show up; despite his resolve to the contrary, Harry could never keep from giving them tips. Oh well, he thought. I'll just have to drop in on the other teams' practices as well -- or at least Gryffindor's -- to keep it fair.
A cluster of Slytherin boys passed them and slowed, shifting back and forth as if pretending they were moving at a normal speed. Scorpius Malfoy, his pale hair conspicuous in the dark corridor, looked back.
"Asp? Are you coming?"
Harry looked down at Albus. "Asp?" he asked incredulously. Albus blushed. Someone was thwapping Scorpius with a roll of parchment.
"Um ... initials," Albus explained. "Later?"
Albus -- Asp? -- ran off with his friends. Harry shook his head. Well, at least that spot of embarrassment makes him less likely to follow me. I obviously wasn't supposed to hear that nickname.
The element of domestic normality steadied him, and when he reached the door, his standard litany of trap-detecting and spy-detecting and curse-detecting spells calmed him still further. Harry re-entered the room in no mood to be shaken by something so harmless as a corpse.
He spotted a torch behind the platform and conjured fire to light it. Under that brighter light, he cast further spells. The room had no other exits. It was a small rectangle, and the structure that held the body did look like a sarcophagus. Another diagnostic spell told Harry that it was hollow, but empty. It didn't even show the tickle of spiders and mice. That in mind, he cast around the room. There was nothing alive in here at all, which would indicate that something was repelling the incidental creatures of the dungeons. He noted that as evidence of someone deliberately preparing the space. A small valise, of the sort often used to carry potions in the field, sat on the floor to one side.
Finding no threat, Harry allowed his attention to return to the body. Except for the rusty flaking crust of dried blood, Snape looked like he had died just minutes before. His lips were no thinner than they had been, and his eyes rounded up under the closed lids. That blood, though, had dried over the wound and the fabric below it. The shoulder of Snape's black robes had corroded to a rusty, uneven net of threads that looked like it would crumble away if Harry touched it.
Snape's hands looked perfect. The fingers were full, and gracefully curved, as if in rest. In the right, he held a capped potion vial with some brown stuff inside it.
Harry moved forward to look for a label. Glass crunched under his foot, and his hand went to the slab for support. Immediately, he jerked back. The stone had squished down under his touch.Transfiguration! Perhaps the body isn't so well preserved after all. Bracing himself for an unpleasant revelation, he cast spells to return a transfigured object to its true form. Nothing happened. Snape's face didn't shrink over his skull; the table didn't turn to a couch. Queasily, Harry tested the surface of the slab again, this time with a single finger. It felt familiar. An Elementi charm identified it as granite. He began to laugh, the sound echoing hysterically in the low-ceilinged room. A simple cushioning charm!
When he had calmed, he couldn't help wondering what the point was. Dead men did not need cushioning charms. For the sake of completeness, he cast a few diagnostic charms that he had learned in Auror training, but they told him only what he had expected. Snape's heart did not beat, even slowly. His blood was still.
Harry looked at the body laid out before him, and wished, as many times before, that he had been able to save the man. If he had known even the few first aid charms that he learned in Auror training, he might have been able to staunch the flow of blood and slow the poison to keep Snape alive until someone could go back for him. It weighed on him more heavily than the deaths that had happened in his absence. There was no way he could have saved Remus, he knew, but he had been close enough to save Snape, if only he had known what to do.
Then there were the memories that Snape had given him. It was painful to reach an understanding of someone when your differences were past mending. Harry would have liked to have taken that knowledge and tried to breach the wall between them -- to ask about his mother, or perhaps about his aunt, since Snape would have been likely to speak more freely of an enemy. A mutual enemy is a safe place to start. He traced his hand an inch above Snape's face, observing how death had softened, rather than deepened, the lines of care and anger there. He was young, really.
"I gave your name to my second son," he said quietly. "You would have hated that, when you were alive -- Severus bracketed by Albus and Potter. I chose to think you'd be wiser now, if you're anything at all -- too wise to see offense in gratitude and respect. I was all ready to like you, you know, that first day of lessons. You were impressive. And then you were horrible to me." He shrugged. "Anyway, Albus Severus Potter -- Malfoy's son calls him 'Asp', I just heard -- he's mine, but he's one of yours, too. Slytherin. And really, I'm okay with that. Though it helps that I think letting the Hat put him in Slytherin may have been braver than anything James has ever done. And my daughter is Lily, after my mum."
Sighing, Harry took a step back. "Goodbye, Severus. I'm sorry I didn't know what to do. Minerva added healing spells to the Charms curriculum, because so many of us said that after the battle -- that we hadn't known what to do. I'll bring her down this evening, and we'll have you buried properly."
Feeling better, but embarrassed for it, he backed out of the room and resealed it. Minerva could wait until dinner. For now, there was healing sunlight and a boisterous Quidditch practice waiting for him outside the castle.
Minerva was not at dinner. Harry asked Professor Durand for news.
"Edinburgh, to visit a friend," she answered. "She expects to be back on Sunday afternoon." Harry's face must have shown his distress. "Is it urgent?"
Harry shrugged. "No." A wry humor twisted his mouth. "It's about Severus Snape, and there's little less urgent than someone who's twenty-two years' dead."
"Nothing you'll regret telling his namesake, I hope?" Durand asked, leaning closer. Harry shot her a glare.
"No. You weren't his colleague, Constance; don't press."
She sat back. "As you wish. Now, Mr. Potter, I have a bone to pick with you! I've heard you were coaching the Slytherin Quidditch team this afternoon."
"Only incidentally. It's not my fault that Albus makes it a pleasure to visit."
"Deliberately, I expect," Durand said tartly. "James may have yet to learn that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but at least you know he's sincere."
Harry glared at her. "Albus is as well. Don't doubt that, just because he knows how to show it." Sighing, he sagged back. "But I will stop by the next Gryffindor practice as well. I'd already decided that I should."
"Good. Don't forget which house is your own."
"That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen."
Harry understood Ron's frustration, but he couldn't really agree. There had been a definite art to the play -- enough to leave him feeling queasy and depressed. He could hardly think of that, though, beyond the low-level panic left by the story's end. Automatically, he brushed ash from the Floo trip off his suit jacket.
"Ron!" Despite her exasperated tone, Hermione didn't pause in her filling of the kettle. "Romeo and Juliet is one of the great romances of the English language! What did you think, Harry?"
"I ... The costumes were amazing?"
She actually turned at that. "Harry! Help me out here!"
"What do you want me to say? I don't think the play was stupid, but the characters were, and I bet that's what Ron really means. I hate stories like that! I mean it's frustrating. They try, and they have a plan, and they're brave, and they're clever, but it all fails. What on earth makes you think I'd like that?"
"But it does some good, don't you see? Because their families realize they shouldn't feud."
"Yeah, right. Some little lines tacked on at the end. It's like some racy story about a prostitute, that ends with her dying horribly, so someone can say it's 'moral'. That's not what anyone remembers. I'll just remember them dying, and it will always make me feel upset."
Kettle on the fire, Hermione came back to sit at the table. "Harry? It really bothers you that much?"
"Yes!" Harry pushed his hands back through his hair and tried to calm down. "I'm not used to theatre. It's more real than a book, maybe." He took a deep breath. "Hermione ... are there really potions like that? Like Juliet took?"
She looked at him for a moment, and then smiled widely, belatedly covering it with her hand.
"What?" he demanded.
"Potter," she said, tossing her head, and still grinning. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
For a moment, Harry thought his heart had stopped. Snape. There was such a thing, and Snape knew how to brew it. "Draught of Living Death," he murmured. "Hell! Is it.... " Lessons caught up with him, and his chest loosened enough to draw a real breath. "That lasts only forty-eight hours."
"Well, yes. Harry? What's wrong?"
"Can you make it last longer?"
"Why would you want....?" Hermione looked really worried, now. "Harry? Is something wrong?"
"Just answer. Please."
"You can ..." The kettle whistled. Hermione brought it to the kitchen table with an impatient wave of her wand. "There is a formulation that lasts indefinitely, until the antidote. That's really dangerous, though, Harry--"
"Does the body decay? Starve?"
"No. It's like a stasis charm. Time doesn't exist. For a year and a day, at least. After that, there are-- Well, I don't know, exactly. That's as long as the sources say it should be used for. It was in the extra-credit reading, sixth year -- something about the soul getting confused." She reached out to lay a hand on his. "Harry? What's wrong? You're frightening me."
"I found Snape's body."
Ron, who had been pouring water from the kettle into the teapot, slopped some over the side and yelped. Harry went on.
"He was perfect. I mean, not ..." He laughed slightly. "Well, not decayed. Just as he had been. The blood was dried, but he--"
"Harry!" Hermione had leapt to her feet. "You didn't tell anyone? By now--"
"I AM. It was the night before last, okay? That I found him. In the dungeons. And Minerva went away before I could...."
She was staring at him in horrified astonishment. He rubbed his forehead anxiously. "It's been a long time," he said, unnecessarily. "A lot longer than a year and a day."
"Did you do anything? To the body, I mean."
"Nothing. Well, I checked for traps and curses. I was waiting for McGonagall to get back, which is supposed to be tomorrow. Hermione..."
For a moment, his voice failed him. Hermione moved back and took his hands in her own.
"We'll do what we can," she assured him. "He might be fine."
"He might be dead anyway," Ron said. He looked confused. "Anyway, what's the big deal? It's Snape! I mean, it's not like it's Professor Lupin, or Fr-- someone we might want to be alive."
"I want him to be alive," Harry retorted.
"Ron," Hermione chided, "they have unfinished business."
"Can you brew the antidote?" Harry asked, and she nodded.
"I'll need to run out for a few things in the morning, but it's a quick one, if I remember correctly."
"She does," Ron interjected, winning a fond snort of laughter from Hermione.
"Stay here tonight, Harry. You shouldn't be alone in the middle of all this."
"All what?" Ron asked, perplexed.
"Thanks," Harry answered.
Hermione had completed the antidote by five in the afternoon. Armed with that, Blood Replenishing potion, and the always mysterious contents of Hermione's bag, Harry and Hermione left Ron with the youngest two Granger-Weasleys, and Apparated to just outside the Hogwarts grounds.
"Now you need to understand--"
"That you have no idea what effect twenty-two-plus years under the Draught of Living Death will have done to him, and he may die for real when you give him the antidote."
"I'm sorry, Harry. I just don't want to get your hopes up."
"And I don't want to be told the same thing a dozen times, all right? I understand. I'm not stupid."
Hermione huffed. It hadn't been close to a dozen; Harry knew that, really. For a minute, they walked in silence, Hermione offended, and Harry embarrassed at his temper.
"Why isn't this used medically?" he asked. "To stop damage, I mean, while you get someone to the hospital."
Hermione nodded approvingly. "Yes, you'd think it would be. But it has some unfortunate interactions with other substances, so there are several innocuous potions that it can make fatal. With Apparation an option--"
"Not the Blood Replenisher, though?"
"No. I cross-checked all the ingredients twice, and searched the literature I had available. It should be safe."
"Oh! There was an empty potion vial on the floor, that I stepped on -- I forgot about it. We should check what was in it, if we can repair it enough to read the label." He called up the scene in his mind. "It may have been the Draught itself."
Indeed, the label, when reconstructed, had an ouroboros around "Liv. Dth," which was clear enough, in context. That left the vial in Snape's hand, and Harry, shuddering, had to shift the cold fingers slightly to extract it.
"Whatever's in it has dried out. It just looks like more old blood."
Curiosity overcame squeamishness, and Hermione took the vial from him. "Bleh rep," she said.
"It's Blood Replenisher potion, see? B-L, then 'Rep.' So that's all right." She put down the vial, and rubbed her fingertips against the fabric of her trousers. "This is awful. It's so hard to believe he might be alive! If he does revive, though, we'll need to get him straight to St. Mungo's for the snake venom -- I have a Portkey we can use, although it will take us to Infants'--"
"Wouldn't he have taken that first?" Harry looked around. "Antivenin?"
She sighed. "You would think so. Maybe he took something there? I mean, it always bothered me that he hadn't been prepared for Voldemort's snake. Rather an obvious hazard, wasn't it?" The light flickered over her hands as they turned palms up in resignation. "When we revive him, we'll know. If he didn't do anything about the venom, I have an anti-convulsant that should give us time to get him to St. Mungo's." She bit her lip. "If the venom effects aren't severe, maybe we can take him to Madam Pomfrey instead of St. Mungo's."
"He'd be awkward to explain. I'd like to start with Minerva, myself."
"If," she said warningly, her doubt returning. She looked sidelong at him. "Minerva. You say that so naturally now."
He shrugged. "Yeah. If." The acknowledgement drew him back to the pale body lying in front of them. He could easily believe that Snape was really dead, if well preserved. "Can we cast the healing spells first?"
Hermione started to shake her head, but then stopped. "I know they won't work until the potion is countered, but it might be--."
"Or not," Harry countered, giving up on the idea. "Just stand ready, all right? This isn't an experiment."
"Everything is--" She cut off the irreverent reply. "Of course, Harry."
He thought that she might have insisted on administering the potion by herself, if that hadn't meant touching the body. Harry had to put himself in a crime scene mindset to do it, but he could. He might have lifted the head if it hadn't been for the wounds on the neck, but under the circumstances, he decided to use a standard Auror charm for administering a potion to an unconscious recipient.
"Would you pour, Hermione? I need to open his mouth, and then hold a charm to make it flow into his stomach, rather than his lungs."
"I.... Of course."
"Thanks." Harry uncapped the antidote and handed it to her. With his left hand, he tilted Snape's jaw open, and then cast the charm. Keeping his wand focused on Snape's throat, he nodded at Hermione, and she began to pour.
At first, there was no change. Harry waited and watched anxiously. As the first minute passed, his heart began to sink.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione whispered. "After two decades, I expect--"
"Look!" Harry was sure he had seen Snape's eyes twitch under the lids. A few seconds later, he wasn't as certain.
"I don't see--" Hermione stopped. "His neck!"
Blood was welling from the wound. Quickly, Harry cast sanitation, clotting, and healing spells. The openings scabbed over. Snape's lips parted in a moan.
"Blood Replenisher," Hermione whispered, and they repeated the routine they had used for the antidote. Snape, encouragingly, coughed, and his eyes fluttered.
"Damn you," he croaked. Harry wanted to cheer, or laugh with relief, but he settled for taking Hermione's hand and squeezing it tight.
"Warn Minerva?" he whispered, and she nodded.
"What--" Snape's eyes opened. "Potter!" he snarled, but then confusion overtook his anger. With a bit of a struggle, he managed to push himself up onto his elbows. After squinting at Harry, he blinked as if his vision was blurry, and then frowned. "Potter? You must be a Potter. Are you James Potter's father? An uncle?"
Harry hesitated. Something was obviously wrong with Snape's memory. He should probably be gentle, rather than pushing. He'd learned that with nightmares, from sitting with James, and Albus and Lily had only reinforced the lesson. At the door, Hermione hesitated, but at a jerk of his head, left. Harry looked down at Snape.
"I'm Harry," he said gently. "Don't you remember?"
Snape scowled. Something about it looked odd. "I've never met any of the adult Potters," he retorted. "You'd have heard from me about that conceited bully if I had."
"Ah." Harry knew he should be offended, but it was all he could do not to smile. He had indeed heard, many times. From Snape's wording, though, it seemed that he didn't think of himself as an adult, and that was worrying. "I think you may be talking about a different James."
Snape sat up, but only so he could fold his arms over his chest, curling his shoulders over in a blatant sulk. Fabric crumbled under the tight lines of his forearms and drifted down in blood-brown flakes. "Right. Or sorry, but wrong."
"Look," Harry tried, "you have met me. It's just ... you were wounded and took Draught of Living Death. It's affected your memory, I think."
Snape huffed. "I wouldn't be that stupid! It messes up healing. We learned that before we even brewed it."
Harry nodded. "I've heard it can. But there are few side effects as bad as dying, and that was your choice."
That made Snape look up. For a moment, he eyed Harry speculatively. He was refreshingly readable, this way. Harry could watch him calculate his position.
"You know me."
"Yes." Harry risked sitting on the end of the slab of stone. He had almost forgotten the cushioning charm. It was odd to have the rough granite feel soft beneath him. "I'd love to tell you we were friends, but we weren't. I respect you, though. A lot."
Snape raised his nose, but obviously didn't believe him. "Of course you do," he said scornfully.
Harry smiled. "I do."
Snape's eyes raked over him with almost palpable distrust. "Those robes. You're a teacher."
"For the moment."
"Why don't I know you? What do you teach?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"No you don't!"
"I'm standing in for the regular professor, who got himself messed up over the holidays."
"Typical. He was an idiot." Snape glared as he was sure Harry was worse. "And so much for respecting me."
Harry felt his eyebrows lift. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Those teachers always want me to shut up. Think I'll corrupt their 'better sort' of students."
"Ah." Harry shrugged. "I'm not afraid of knowledge. If you didn't waste too much class time, I'd let you say what you liked."
"Would?" Snape asked sharply. "Have I been sent down? Why don't you think--"
He moved as he spoke, twisting in his seat to bring his feet over the side of the slab as if he would stand up to confront Harry. The strained threads of his robes, the fabric eaten away by blood spilled over twenty-two years before, burst across his shoulder. The tattered fabric fell. Snape yelped and tried to pull it back up, but the fibers crumbled in his hands, and one of his fingertips went through the shirt beneath, tearing it in a long line that showed the dark rise of a nipple and the white line of a scar. Harry could see his face begin to darken.
"Here." Quickly, before Snape's humiliation could bring his anger to the boil, Harry shrugged out of his own robes. He was decently dressed beneath them, in clean grey trousers and a blue shirt, although he had ditched the tie after dinner. "You can borrow mine. Just cast a cleaning spell on yourself before you put them on, all right?"
"Too dirty for you, Potter, am I?" Snape sneered.
"Considering that your robes just fell apart from dried blood, yes."
That silenced him. Snape looked down at his ruined robes. Perhaps he hadn't realized that the brown was blood. He blanched almost to his previous beeswax pallor.
"I ... that was blood replenisher. The thick potion that you made me swallow."
"Yes." Harry took a deep breath. The moment to fight had come and gone -- now to convince his body of that. "You lost a lot of blood."
"Oh." Snape looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. "That explains why my head is swimming. Where am I?"
"A room in the dungeons. You hid down here. I found you a few days ago."
"I took the Draught of Living Death after I hid? Was I thinking at all?"
Harry thought about Snape convulsing on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, with the attack on Hogwarts still underway. "Yes. It was the safest thing to do, and you've always been clever." He proffered his robes to Snape, who stood to take them, but then had to catch on to the slab to keep from falling. "You're still dizzy. I'll cast the spell."
But Snape had already drawn his wand. He stared at it. "What's this? Where's MY wand?"
"That isn't yours?"
"No." Snape's eyes narrowed. "Why should I believe you about any of this? I don't know you. Anyone could get professor's robes. I'm not going anywhere but Slytherin."
"That won't do."
Snape's smile twisted. "Because it's not in with your plans?"
"Because you've been presumed dead for-- Look, I'll take you to Professor McGonagall. You remember her, don't you?"
"She's a Gryffindor. Slughorn or no one."
"He's not here. McGonagall is headmistress, now."
That stopped Snape short. "What happened to old Dumbledore?"
Snape drew in a breath. It came out in shaky puffs. "Well, good," he said, unconvincingly. "Not that McGonagall's any better." That was almost properly breezy. Harry tried not to smile.
"Robes, then," he said, deciding to pretend that he had won the argument. Snape was examining his wand again. Harry cast the cleaning spell, and several things happened. Snape snapped his hand up, pointing his wand at Harry as if responding to an attack, and his robes, deprived of dirt and blood, disintegrated still further. Snape screamed in anger and caught at the falling cloth, but except for his lower arms, he was bare nearly to the waist. His upper arms were wiry muscle, but his pale torso defined more by ribs.
"My robes," Harry said, holding them forward again. Snape, shaking, looked down.
"I'm wearing trousers," he said incredulously.
"You usually do."
Snape's brow furrowed. "Since when?"
Shrugging, Harry moved for the door. "I've no idea. Anyway, slip my robes on. They'll cover the lack of shirt."
Walking wasn't easy. They had to move slowly, because Snape was dizzy from blood loss, but he refused to let Harry transport him with a spell. He nearly fell on the stairs, and only then agreed to hold on to Harry's arm. Harry brought him to the nearer stairs, because he wanted to avoid the more commonly used corridors around Slytherin, and around the Entrance Hall, but Snape couldn't go up that many flights at once. At the top of the second one, Harry called a rest.
"I know where we are," Snape challenged, from his seat on a conjured chair.
"I know where the headmaster's office is, too. I'm not following you if you try to lead me somewhere else."
"That's fine." Harry looked askance at him. "You realize that I'm perfectly capable of overpowering you in your current condition? If I meant you any harm, you'd know it by now."
"You might be underestimating me."
Unconcerned, Harry shrugged. "Perhaps. It wouldn't be the first time."
They started down the corridor, rather than returning immediately to climbing. Around the first corner, to Harry's dismay, they encountered two students coming from the other direction. Worse yet, one of them was James, who halted abruptly. The other boy stopped and looked between them.
"Hello, Professor," he said politely to Harry.
"Good evening, Campbell." Harry nodded at his son. "Hi, James."
Snape scowled. This time, Harry realized what was wrong with that. His face was moving into the expression, rather than returning to it, as if his long sleep had erased years of habit in his muscles.
"Potter," Snape said icily. Suddenly, his eyes widened and his voice rose with tension. "You're not--"
He cut off there, but Harry knew that he had seen -- that this James wasn't his James. Harry hoped desperately that James would act mature and well-mannered. He didn't think he had been this anxious for his son to make a good impression since the first time that he and Ginny took their oldest child to a wedding. Of course, on that occasion, James had cried and shouted over the cake not being chocolate. As James looked resentfully at Snape, and then contemptuously at him, Harry found himself again thinking of how reasonable James usually was.
"I don't think you're supposed to have your men at school, Dad."
Harry jerked back. "James! You have no reason to think--! Just because I'm walking with a man--"
"Who's wearing your robes?" James asked bitingly. He looked angry enough to hit one of them.
"His were damaged."
"Oh, I'm sure." James scowled. "He looks just like that Snape git, too. And don't tell me that's not your type; I met Alfred, you know."
"James, this is not the time to be difficult. Professor McGonagall is expecting us."
"If you say so," James answered, clearly disbelieving him. "Come on, Gerard. Let's go."
They went around the corner, and Harry and Snape continued their slow progress forward. Harry was hot with anger and embarrassment. He desperately wanted to move fast, but once the corner was safely behind them, Snape lagged behind. Harry turned and found him leaning against a pillar along the wall, the pose more casual than weak.
"Do we have a 'history'?"
The question was accompanied by a sly, almost preening look. Harry was certain he had never seen anything like it from Snape before. His irritation at James turned to something closer to panic.
"Would you like to?"
Harry wasn't sure if the question was sincere or a taunt. He struggled for words, which was probably the worst response to either. Snape began to walk again.
"Afraid someone will find out you're perving on the students?" he asked airily over his shoulder. "Slytherins can be discreet, you know. Were you a Gryffindor, like your son is?"
Despite Harry's worry, a strangled laugh escaped him. He was fairly sure, by now, that Snape was just taunting him ... and possibly enjoying the idea of being desired. He definitely considered himself a student, though. "Yes, I was. And we don't do discreet. But anyway, that's not half of why it would be a bad idea. Now behave yourself."
Snape smirked over his shoulder, but said nothing further about it as they walked. He did, however, take Harry's arm without prompting at the next set of stairs, and this time he walked close enough to get good use of the support.
Minerva McGonagall was waiting for them in her office; she opened the door within a second of Harry's knock. When she saw them, her eyes dropped shut for a moment, before opening again, shining with tears.
"Severus," she croaked. "God be praised! Come in, come in."
"It's been a long walk for him, Minerva," Harry said warningly. "He seems to have counteracted the venom before taking the Living Death, but it takes time to regenerate blood."
"Time and food, of course," she said. She smiled at Severus. "The kitchens should be sending something up shortly. Please sit."
She gestured to a semicircle of chairs before the hearth, three empty and one occupied by Hermione, but Severus hung back. "Come on," Harry said, taking his arm again, and steering him towards the fire. "It's more dignified to sit than to collapse," he whispered, and Snape snorted and went along with the move. At the last minute, he stepped ahead to sit next to Hermione, tugging Harry towards the third chair. Clearly, he didn't want to be too close to Professor McGonagall.
Minerva took the final chair, but she was studying her guest now.
"Mr Snape," she said formally. "Madam Weasley tells me that you that you did not recognize Harry when you revived. Is he more familiar now?"
Snape shot Harry an amused look before assuming a formal expression for McGonagall. "No, Professor," he said politely.
"I see." Harry couldn't blame her for being confused; Snape's manner towards him was blatantly familiar. Certainly it wouldn't be if he did remember, though, and she must know that. McGonagall cleared her throat. "Well then. What is the last thing that you do remember?"
Snape looked down. Harry's cleaning spells had apparently had an effect on his hair as well as the remains of his clothes. Rather than clumping, it fell in an even sheet that obscured his face more completely than the stringy locks that Harry remembered. "I was in the library," he said quietly. His voice shook slightly. "Kennison and Brown said sixth years didn't need to study, and that they had N.E.W.T.s, and they forced me away from the table and dumped my books on the floor and told me to get some fresh air." He looked up, black eyes suddenly flashing with anger and defiance. "So I did."
Minerva stared. Hermione drew in a breath. For a long moment after that, the only sound was the crackling of the fire. "I ... see," the headmistress said finally. "So you don't remember any of, er, your seventh year?" Her eyes met Harry's, the look urgent and unmistakable -- Don't interfere.
"No." Snape shuddered. "I gathered that I started it, but.... Have I already left school?"
The question was ludicrous, coming as it did from a man his age, but he was clearly serious.
"I'm afraid -- yes, Severus. There appears to be some damage to your memories."
"I passed the 'year and a day' mark, didn't I? I must have." He looked wildly among them before his attention latched on to Harry. "And Harry -- I knew him outside of school, because you asked if I remembered Harry, not if I remembered Professor Potter."
Smiling slightly, Minerva nodded. "Very good, Severus. Your reasoning seems unimpaired."
"I--" Again, Snape's attention flickered nervously, in a manner most unlike his adult self, taking in the decor of the room. He focused on the crossed claymores hung over the mantel. "I may have-- There's more than that wrong."
"Oh?" She inclined her head. "For example?"
"We ran into James on the way here," Severus explained. "But he wasn't quite right. He didn't look right. And he must be several years younger than me. He should be my age."
"I see. So what do you think might explain that?"
Severus swallowed hard. "I ..." his voice dropped to a whisper. "Evan and I might have messed something up in the past. We were planning to try this spell he had found in order to talk to his grandfather." He looked desperately at McGonagall. "It wasn't necromancy, but it was ... a window onto the past. We'd discussed the dangers and decided to prepare a script of things to say that were safe and to not say anything that wasn't on it, but if something happened, and one of us improvised ... we might have changed the past. I don't think this is the world I remember."
Harry knew Minerva well enough to know when she was assuming a look of censure that she didn't really feel. It was something to the wrinkles around her eyes as she fought to maintain a frown.
"And since you -- and Rosier, therefore -- are no longer students, you believe you are above the law in interfering with history?"
"Well, technically, if I'm right, the Rosier here didn't do it, and you'd have difficulty prosecuting me for something I'm not sure I ever did. This is entirely speculation."
"True." A bit of her smile leaked out, but at that moment, a small table, bearing broth and toast and a steaming jug, appeared in the space between them and the fire. "Please eat, Mr Snape. I can turn my questions to your rescuers for a moment. Professor Potter, Madam Weasley?" She rose and gestured for them to follow.
"Direct your attention outside, please," she instructed, as they joined her at the window. She cast a privacy spell. "I do not know when Severus mastered the art of lip-reading, but I do not want to take any chances."
"What are we going to do?" Hermione asked desperately. "Do we take him to St. Mungo's?"
"I see no need for that. On the contrary, I suspect that it will be healthier for the memories to return organically -- not only memories," she added severely, "but understanding. He has created a story to explain anomalies in the world around him; I suggest we allow him his fantasy while he readjusts. After all, it will be a considerable shock to find himself in his thirties and over forty years into the future, and if we force either realization on him before he is ready, it may harm his mind."
Thirties, Harry thought incredulously. He was -- is -- younger than I am now. He seemed so old to me then. "Rather hard to hide, isn't it?" he asked pointedly. "Will you assign someone to keep him away from mirrors?"
"No need, Harry," she replied placidly. "In fact, when he can look in a mirror and see himself as he is, that will be a good sign that his mind is recovering. At that point, we may discuss telling him more." She cleared her throat. "Do try, however, to keep him away from the papers. Mind damage will not keep him from reading a dateline."
"We can't keep him locked up!" Hermione protested.
Minerva nodded. "He needs socialization, especially if his memory does not return. Severus at seventeen--"
"As of his last memory, he would be recently seventeen, I believe. Regardless, he was, at that age, a frighteningly unstable boy."
"On the verge of becoming a Death Eater," Harry said flatly. "Or was he already?"
"On the verge, I believe. Fortunately, the current environment is less likely to foster his particular resentments into further bigotry."
Harry studied her for a moment. He had the impression that she was seeing Severus as the boy he thought he was, as if this time was a brief second chance for him to move into adulthood with some better direction. He shook his head.
"Minerva. People will tell him things."
Her chin came up. "I intend to keep him here at Hogwarts-- he will want to repeat his seventh year studies and N.E.W.T.s, of course, if he cannot remember them -- and within these walls and these grounds, my power is at its peak. I believe I can modify a simple Can't Tell jinx to prevent any student or staff member from telling him about himself."
Harry looked over at Hermione. For once, she seemed no more informed than he was. "A Can't Tell jinx?" he asked.
"You don't -- oh, of course you don't know! It's a three person jinx that is used for children's games. Person one --usually an older relative -- jinxes person two to keep a secret from person three -- for example, 'You can't tell Harry where I hid his shoe until he says...." and then there is a Key -- a secret word -- that the Keyholder -- the person that the secret is being kept from -- doesn't know. The person jinxed cannot tell the Keyholder the secret word. Sometimes the Keyholder gets to ask a certain number of questions to discover the word he must say. As a game jinx, it is very simple and usually cast lightly. I believe that with true focus I can cast it on groups of a people -- a class at a time, perhaps -- and make it powerful enough to cover Severus Snape's personal history."
From the speculative look on Hermione's face, Harry suspected that she was already planning a research project into the Can't Tell jinx. "Picking a Key will be tricky," she said pensively.
Minerva's mouth twitched. "I had already decided on one -- 'please.' That should keep the secret safe for quite some time."
Harry snorted. Pity did not make Minerva keep her claws in. "Have a point to make, do you?"
She looked unconcerned. "The simpler the key, the more powerful the jinx. Frequently it's someone's middle name or an overdone honorific. A common word is even more powerful. If I limit his contact with students to public areas -- which will be necessary for common safety and decency anyway -- I believe it will do."
"You're not expecting to keep this up past Easter, I hope? When the kids go home, they'll talk."
She nodded. "Severus is currently coherent and capable of reason, and he was a remarkably clever man. I expect this to be resolved long before then. If it is not, we will try other methods."
"Where will he live in the meantime?" Harry glanced back at Severus. "You've just said he can't be with students, but he shouldn't be alone, not when there's a chance his memory could suddenly come back -- or worse, just the next year or two."
"Leaving us with a suspicious young Death Eater?" Minerva said wryly. "Yes. I absolutely concur. I'm afraid, Harry, that I'm putting him with you."
"Consider. You know his history as well as anyone except a few other staff members, you have shown a remarkable aptitude at dealing with difficult teenagers, and he appears already to trust you more than I ever saw him trust any adult, at that age."
"Yeah, well, I expect that's James's fault, for assuming Severus was my lover."
McGonagall blinked. "Excuse me?"
"We ran into James coming up here, and he noticed right off that the man with me was wearing my robes, and did a truly spectacular job of leaping to unwarranted conclusions. So Severus thinks I'm hot for him, because of course my son would know, right? James even said that he looked like Snape." Harry sighed, and Hermione covered a laugh. "I can't live with him, Minerva! He's nearly propositioned me already."
"I trust you can turn him down gently, Mr Potter," Minerva chided. "You are the logical person to help him. The classroom next to your quarters can be furnished for his use. I'll just have the elves move the door around to open onto your sitting room."
Harry rubbed his forehead. "Yeah. Fine. Is he eating with me, too?"
"For the next three meals, yes. You and I will let him try our seventh year lessons, and I hope that after that, he will be able to eat at the Slytherin table."
"I could have Albus introduce him to people," Harry suggested. "If he'll agree to be led around by a fourteen-year-old."
"He should realize a fourth year in Slytherin is better than no one at all," she said. Her mouth quirked. "Or you could threaten him with a Gryffindor."
"What about newspapers?" Hermione objected. "They arrive at breakfast."
"Thank you, Hermione," Minerva said. "Perhaps, Harry, the two of you could have breakfast in your rooms?"
Harry frowned. "But what about my paper?"
"Redirect your subscription to me, and I will send it to your classroom."
"All right." Harry gestured at Severus. "Should I take him now, then?"
"After," she chided, "I've applied the jinx."
The new bedroom was decorated with what Harry knew to be standard Slytherin student furniture. He recognized the serpent-twined bedposts and green and silver drapes from Albus's excursions into photography. Severus watched silently as the door slithered around the corner from one wall to the next. It was still strange to see his face -- so entirely familiar in form -- used in ways that Harry had never seen before. He was clearly worried. Harry wondered if Severus would look more like himself if there was someone present whom he thought of as a peer. Remembering the scowl with which he had greeted James, Harry nodded to himself.
Once the door had settled, they went through it, and while Harry adjusted the position of a small table, Minerva outlined tomorrow's schedule to Severus, promising to add lessons as appropriate. After admonishing him to rest and recover, she made her farewells. The door to the corridor shut behind her.
"Well." Harry turned to his unlikely guest. Severus looked sullenly back at him.
"Do you have any questions?" Harry tried.
Black eyes flashed as Severus looked up. After a moment, he huffed out a cold laugh. "Did you ask for me, or did she just do it?"
"She just did it, I'm afraid."
"Would she change her mind if I told her what your son said?"
"No," Harry answered, grinning. "I already have."
Severus twitched, and then went very still. Afraid he was having some sort of fit, Harry reached out to him. "Severus?" The shoulder beneath his hand was tight.
"Yes, sir," Severus said miserably. "You'll have to tell me...." his voice failed, but then he swallowed and looked up. "Sorry. I did mean-- I won't mind, really, unless you're worse than I think, but she doesn't know that, and I don't think my Professor McGonagall was quite that ruthless, no matter how much she hated me."
"What?" Harry stared at him. Did Severus have some memory of disliking him, after all? "What's so terrible about it? She thought we were getting along well, and that I'd take good care of you. She didn't choose me as a punishment."
"I'm welcome to stay away from you then?" Severus asked pointedly, stepping back.
"No, I'm supposed to--" Harry suddenly realized what Severus meant. "Good God, Snape, she didn't give you to me as a ... a toy. She'd have me out on my ear if I took advantage of you when you couldn't remember anything! I'm supposed to look after you, that's all."
"But she did this after you told her that James--"
"I was objecting!" Harry protested. He shook his hair back and took a deep breath. "James is paranoid. Just as he turned old enough to notice that I have lovers, his mother left me for one of hers. So as soon as he sees me with anyone, he's afraid they're a disaster about to happen."
"But he mentioned me," Severus said stubbornly.
Harry sighed. "I have no idea why, really. I didn't think Alfred looked that much like you." He shrugged. "Black hair and a nose like a hawk, I suppose, but he was always laughing and teasing and showing off. He reminded me of Sirius, if anyone."
Severus tensed. "Black." His expression hardened to a familiar sneer. "I won't have that bastard here. I won't."
"Severus," Harry warned, "stop. I won't have you calling him names." He sighed. "Sirius is dead, okay? You'll never have to see him again. Tell yourself you won if you like, but let it go."
"Dead?" Shock overshadowed any pleasure Severus might have felt. "How?"
"Ah." Severus raised his head. "He moved against the Dark Lord."
"Yes," Harry said tightly, angered by the silky satisfaction in those words. "And he is also dead."
Severus flinched back. "That's not possible."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Oh, really? I assure you, it's true. Voldemort is gone."
Severus looked queasy, and Harry almost regretted the vicious triumph of his voice. His Snape, no doubt, would have shared it, but at seventeen, he had thought Voldemort would be his escape. Not only was he upset, but there was now the danger that he would never realize how false that hope had been.
Severus had wrapped his arms tight about his chest, pulling in Harry's too-short robe close to his body. "I ... I don't know anything about this world."
"Sorry. I'll help with that, but I probably shouldn't tell you too much at once. I just hit you with two big ones, didn't I?"
"You'll tell me about my life, though? I mean, if I already took my N.E.W.T.s, I must be nineteen, at least, because it's spring; I saw the buds from her window."
Older than that, Harry wanted to say, but he couldn't. "Sorry," he said again, "Minerva jinxed me to silence. She's planning on doing it to everyone, I believe."
"You are not," Severus said scornfully, "silent."
Harry sighed. "Specifically, I can't tell you anything that you don't already know about your life."
Severus gaped for a moment before his eyes narrowed. "And the point to this is?"
"She thinks it will be better for you if you remember on your own."
"Was the time I lost that traumatic?"
Harry wasn't sure what he would have said if he could have forced out a reply. He shrugged. "I can't say, of course. Anyway, Hermione was there. Being Hermione, I expect she'll bring me a full report on memory loss and the worth of this treatment method by tomorrow evening. If she decides it's crap, we'll try to talk Minerva out of it."
Severus studied him. It didn't make him look like the professor Harry remembered; this regard was wary, rather than scornful. Harry realized, suddenly, that Severus had no power, here, and that was unlike all their previous interactions.
"Minerva," Severus repeated, rallying.
"I do work with her, you know. And it's not the first time I have." Although he would not, he realized, have called her that in front of an actual student.
Severus stalked toward him. "And us, Harry? Did we work together, or was it something else?"
"I can't tell you, now, can I? What makes you think we did anything together?"
"I call you 'Harry'. She as good as said so."
"Ah." You didn't, really, but you knew me that way. Frustrated at being unable to provide information, Harry sought for an answer that at least meant something. "Perhaps we could try to be friends."
Severus looked like he had suggested they grow tails and swing from trees. "Friends? You must be forty."
Considering that Severus was nearly as old, this didn't have the sting that it might have. Harry grinned. "Exactly, but why let that stop you? An hour ago, you were suggesting we might be lovers."
Severus looked scornful. "But you'd be in charge, then."
"Would I?" The thought of that sort of relationship hadn't occurred to Harry. It spilled over into distracting ideas now. "And let you call me Harry?" he mused. "Wouldn't I insist on 'sir' or something?" Master,he thought, but he couldn't say that, even lightly. He wrenched his mind back from an uncomfortable image of Severus on his knees, not in Death Eater robes, but shirtless, with firelight on his bare skin. "Or for your other idea, we could try to work on a project," he said quickly. "You could see if anything about that seems familiar." It wouldn't be, of course, but Harry was warming to the idea. He thought he saw where Minerva was going with this. If they could accustom Severus to new experiences and new relationships before he got his memories back, he would have something to counter all that bitter, aloof distrust. Perhaps he could even see Harry as Harry, rather than as James's son. Or maybe he'll just curse us all for mocking him, and then storm off.
"As you wish sir," Severus said formally. "May I go to bed now?"
"Bath first," Harry said, almost absently. Startled by his own words, he looked up, catching Severus with his mouth open and brow furrowed. It must have been the mention of bedtime. I just went into parental mode, and he may have been trying to flirt, with that 'sir', and if he was, it didn't work at all.
"I don't want a bath," Severus managed finally. "After that overpowered cleaning spell of yours, why would I need one?"
"Too bad. My rooms, my rules. Bath." Harry grinned at the sullen look he was getting back. "If you act like a child, you'll be treated as one."
Slowly, the sullen resentment changed to something slyer. "Will you come and help, then, Professor?" Severus asked. "Perhaps I require instruction."
"No!" Harry returned, horrified. Severus recoiled and fled.
After breakfast, Harry nabbed James outside the Great Hall and drew him aside.
"Has McGonagall spoken to your class?"
"About Severus Snape?" James qualified. "Yeah." He laughed. "I can't believe I said he looked like himself!"
"I can't believe you implied I was interested in him. Now he believes it."
"Yeah, 'oh.' And McGonagall has given him a room with mine, by the way, and assigned me to keep an eye on him, so don't assume anything if you see him coming out of my door."
"Um, sorry? But he was in your robes...." James sniggered.
"You know, given a couple of decades, blood does a job on fabric. His shirt fell apart around the wound."
"Brilliant!" James caught himself. "Um, well, you know. Sort of. Academically, of course."
Harry shook his head, amused. "James...."
"Hey, what's going on?" asked a new voice, as Albus trotted up to them. "Is this about Snape?"
"Tangentially," Harry answered. "Al, I'd like you to introduce Severus around his former house at dinner, but you should meet him first, and there are a few things we need to discuss. Would you come and see me after lessons?"
"Of course," Albus said brightly. "Professor McGonagall did tell us about his memory, though."
"Good. That's a start. He's reasoned out that he must be at least nineteen...."
"Shouldn't he be in his sixties?" James interrupted. "Oh, wait! He won't have aged since the Battle of Hogwarts."
"Right. So he's about my age." Harry shook his head. "And that's odd enough, believe me, without him acting like an especially distrustful teenager. Anyway, I expect he could use some friends."
"I'll do what I can. I don't know, though," Albus said pensively. "It will be hard for people to see him as, you know, not your age."
"Oh, you'd be surprised at how easy that is. Of course, I knew him when he acted that age. But--"
"Professor Potter!" The headmistress strode up, a severe look on her face. "This is not a family reunion. If you would kindly let your sons get to their lessons? And I believe that you have a lesson of your own to attend to."
"Race you to the second floor, Al!" James called, and was off, his younger brother in hot pursuit.
"Hermione," Harry complained, "I don't know what to do! I thought I'd convinced him that I wasn't interested, but sometime during the morning, he went back to it. Over lunch he was, I don't know, offering. Repeatedly."
It was nearly time for his first afternoon class, and he had not planned on Flooing Hermione before the end of the day, but the meal had been unnerving.
"Well, you did say that James implied--"
"And I've told him James is paranoid!"
"Is he pushy?"
Harry had to think about that. "Not really. I mean, it's just offers, but they're getting broader, I think. I can have him any way I might like, clearly, including kinks that have never occurred to me. And from something I said last night, he apparently imagines that I had Sirius, which considering that Sirius was his age, and he's decided that he's nineteen or twenty, but Sirius would have had to have been a while ago, what he thinks I might like is rather strange."
Hermione digested this for a moment. "I'm not sure I got all of that, but I gather he thinks you're into kids? Or, well, teens?"
"More or less. The thing is, he doesn't seem to care. It's all 'I can do that.' I don't think he wants any of it."
"Oh!" Hermione smiled. "Oh, well, that makes perfect sense, then!"
"Look, think about Snape -- our Snape. You've described him with Voldemort, and we both saw him with Fudge. You are the person with power, now, and he thinks he might have an in -- more with you than with McGonagall. Of course he'll let you know that he's willing to serve you however you think best."
"I don't think he likes people having power over him."
"No, but as a survival method, it's worked for him. Pick the person you'll get the most from and try to become a favorite. It decreases the number of people with power over him."
That seemed irritatingly likely. "So what do I do?"
"Come up with something that you want him to do, and then make it clear that he has your favor. If he doesn't need to get you into bed for that, he'll stop trying. You said yourself that he wasn't really interested."
Harry wanted to argue with that -- he hadn't been certain Severus wasn't interested -- but there wasn't any point. "Thanks, Hermione," he said sincerely. "I'll think of something, and let you know how it goes."
"Great. Oh, just so you know, I figured out the memory problem."
Harry lurched forward. "What? And you're just mentioning it?"
"No, not the solution, just the problem," she explained. "I checked all the dates. He was under the effects of the potion for twenty-two years and nine months, and he's regressed twenty-one years. I think the 'year and a day' restriction must be because that's how long you have before this problem starts."
"Oh." Harry sat back. "Well, that's good to know. Any idea if he'll get over it?"
"Not yet." She smiled encouragingly. "I'll keep looking, Harry. I know how much this means to you."
Harry, however, was not sure how much it meant to him, or why. His last lesson of the day was seventh years of all houses. Annette, a Gryffindor prefect, brought Severus from Transfiguration. Severus shot away from her as soon as they entered the door, and took a table by himself at the back of the class. Harry tried to meet his eye, but couldn't, as Severus seemed determined to be absorbed in spreading out the meager writing supplies that Harry had found for him that morning. Other people were still trailing in, so Harry walked over to him.
"Trying to occupy the entire desk?"
Severus looked up. "If we need to double up, I will."
"Not really, though a partner might help you." Harry leaned against the wall, so he wasn't as far above Severus. "It just made me wonder if you had a bad experience in Transfiguration.
Severus adjusted his parchment again. "Transfiguration was fine."
Harry shrugged. "Okay. Have you met anyone from your house?"
"How would I do that?" Severus muttered furiously.
"Let them sit with you, maybe?"
Severus looked up again at that, burning resentment bringing his face to a familiar sneer. It wasn't a particularly adult expression, but Harry realized now that it never had been.
"McGonagall assigned me to that Gryffindor twit." His voice didn't rise above a whisper, but it was fierce. Harry sighed.
"Well, seating in my lessons is free, unless you cause trouble. And I've got someone coming by after the lesson who can introduce you around Slytherin."
As most of the students had settled down, Harry returned to the front of the classroom. "Good afternoon, everyone. This is the last lesson of the day. I'll do my best to make it interesting, if you do your best to stay focused. Review first. Corey, what are the five curses that cannot be blocked by a standard shield?"
"Er." The blond boy looked up from whispering to his companion, a dark-haired Hufflepuff, and swallowed hard. Around him, hands began to come up.
"Give him a moment," Harry soothed. "Corey? Curses and hexes that cannot be blocked by a Shield spell."
"The Killing Curse," he said quickly. A table away, two Ravenclaws were squirming with impatience. Two further back, Severus slowly raised his hand. "Um, the Cacophony hex, and Boudicca's Terror hex. Is that it?"
"That's not all five, but all of those are correct. Severus?"
The Ravenclaws glared. Severus, rather than straightening, slouched further down behind his table. "If you're counting the Cacophony hex, then Light Blind would qualify as well, although technically it's not that they aren't blocked -- the spell effects are simply on the environment rather than the target. The spell doesn't need to go through the shield, because the results do."
"Very good. We did discuss that distinction last week, just so you know. Grant?" He pointed at one of the Ravenclaws. "The fifth?"
"The Piercing Mote hex, although the shield does lessen its power, and sometimes alters its trajectory."
"Very good. Now charms. Laura? Name one."
"The Identification charm."
He kept the review to five minutes, just long enough to wake everyone up from previous hours of lessons, and then launched into new material.
At the end of the lesson, there were, as always, students who lingered to ask questions. The first week, they had all been Ravenclaws, but that had slowly changed. While Harry was discussing the ethics of curse reversion with a particularly earnest Hufflepuff, Albus slipped through the doorway, took stock of the room, and went and sat one table over from Severus, who was waiting in rigorous boredom. Without a glance at the man, Albus pulled a magazine from his school bag and settled in to reading it.
The next time he was demonstrating a combat move, Harry used the opportunity to maneuver closer. Severus had already stood and was walking over to sit across from Albus.
"That's a girls' magazine."
Harry could hear Severus quite clearly. He pretended not to notice and summoned his target mat to its place in front of the window. "Now you try, Laura."
"Think that if you like." Albus was saying airily. "It's a celebrity rag. I read all of them."
"So you'll know Stubby Boardman's favorite flavor of Bernie Bott's Beans?" Severus asked scornfully.
"So I know what people are saying about Dad -- Mum too, but mostly Dad."
Laura's casting worked, if weakly. Harry gestured for her to try again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Albus had looked up from the pages of his magazine. "Someone has to, and it can't be him or James. Gryffindors don't have the temperament for it. If he followed everything they said about him, he'd just blow up and make things worse, or fret until he worried himself sick. I make sure they both know about the things they need to know."
"Excellent work, Laura!" Harry said heartily. "That's not a hex to practice on your own, but you're welcome to stop by during my office hours."
"Thank you, Professor!" Laura was practically floating as she left the classroom. "I did it!" she said to someone outside the door, as Harry grabbed a chair and joined Albus and Severus at the table.
"Hi, Dad!" Albus said brightly, stuffing the magazine carelessly back into his bag.
"Hi, yourself," Harry said cheerfully. "Any potential libel suits?"
"Not this week. Anonymous Hogwarts students report that you are 'hot', 'dreamy', 'brilliant', and 'difficult'.
Harry shook his head. "After careful coaching, no doubt."
Severus was watching them in turn, his eyes narrowed and his lips a tight line. Harry nodded at him. "Severus, this is my son Albus--"
"He's a Slytherin."
"Well, yes. That's why I thought he could introduce you--"
"James has a brother? In Slytherin?"
"And a sister in Gryffindor. Is that a problem?"
"Isn't it?" Severus turned to Albus. "What does he do to you? He must be horrible."
"James is my brother," Albus said fiercely. "It's not a problem."
"Right, and Regulus was Black Major's brother, and that just made it worse, because he couldn't have anyone thinking that meant more than his house."
"That does mean more than our houses," Albus retorted. His expression lightened. "Well, except during Quidditch matches."
Severus glared at Harry. "He says you're famous."
Harry shrugged. "Not in any important way. I mean, I'm not the Minister, or anything, it's just that some people want to know every ridiculous detail about my personal affairs."
Albus smiled. "Oh, you might have done a significant thing or two in your life, Dad. And it's not like they only talk about your romances -- you got a lot of solid coverage over that murder case last winter. Everyone knows Mr. Shacklebolt pulls you in when the Aurors are stonewalled."
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "Some idiots just break when they're talking to Harry Potter."
"So you say," Albus countered, with obvious pride, "but Uncle Ron says you just know when you smell a rat."
Harry followed Albus and Severus around at what he hoped was an inoffensive distance, while Albus introduced Severus to some of his housemates. Severus sat at the Slytherin table for dinner, and seemed to be tentatively accepted within the group. He looked odd, sitting among children. Even it had been all seventh-years, he would still have looked out of place, but Albus stayed beside him, and Albus always had friends along with him, and a thirty-seven-year-old man looked even odder among fourth-year students.
After dinner, Severus returned to Harry's room. He seemed pensive, but not sullen.
"Did you enjoy meeting the Slytherins?" Harry asked.
Severus shrugged. "In a way. Except ..." He pulled at his hair. "I don't know any of them. Everyone can't be different! I recognized a family name, here and there, but that was all." He scowled. "And they're all whispering about me."
Harry poured himself a glass of port, and then, considering the situation, transfigured a paperweight into a second glass. Severus knew he was old enough to drink, after all, and he wasn't really a student. "You can't really blame them for talking. After all, you lost your memory. That's worthy of discussion. Port?"
"Do I like port?"
"I can honestly say that I don't know. I have recently taken to it as an evening drink. It's sort of alcohol as dessert." He poured a small portion and handed it to Severus, who took it with some hesitation.
"It seems too stuffy for you."
"Well, yes. By reputation, at least." Severus tasted the port and made a face. "Ugh, that's sweet! Oh." Cautiously, he took another sip. "But intense. It might be acceptable." Sighing, he walked over to the fire, and then, after looking at it for a moment, sat in the armchair by the hearth. "May I ask you some questions?"
"Of course." Shrugging, Harry settled on the near end of the sofa. "I might not be able to answer them."
"I was thinking of being nosier than that," Severus said archly. "Since you said we could be friends, and that's sort of a friend thing." He took another sip of his drink and made a face. "You know, I don't think I drank port."
"Do you like it?"
"I haven't decided yet. Anyway, do you have other children?"
"One daughter, in Gryffindor. She's in her second year." Harry decided to avoid mentioning Lily's name, if he could. That would be weird when he couldn't explain it.
"I gathered that you are in law enforcement. Is that correct?"
"Not really." Harry looked around at the cozy sitting room. "I trained to be an Auror, but I didn't last long at it. I'm not good at following rules."
"That seems right."
"Does it?" Harry wondered if Severus was remembering him.
"Well, you're James's father, aren't you? And you let people go off on tangents in your lesson." Severus frowned. "And you liked Black," he muttered.
"Ah. I see. Well, when I was leaving, my supervisor -- and mentor -- encouraged me to apply for certification to work with Ministry departments as a private investigator. I already had the security clearance, so it wasn't too difficult."
"But do you need to work? I had thought James was born into money."
"He was. I wasn't." Oddly, that worked for both versions of James.
"Strange. You don't.... I'd have expected his father to be more snooty."
Harry shrugged. Considering the opinions on blood that Severus seemed to have had at seventeen, he thought it too soon to mention Muggles, especially in a negative context, so he didn't want to talk about his upbringing.
"Do you have any contact with their mother?"
Harry glanced at him. "Curious question."
"Well, I expect you are married to her, as they call you 'Dad' so easily, but you didn't use that to try to dissuade me, and James knows you have male lovers. Under those circumstances, I was curious as to the exact circumstances. Does she ignore your indiscretions in return for shopping sprees on the continent?"
The idea of Ginny behaving that way was so ludicrous that Harry burst out laughing. Severus immediately drew himself up in offence, and Harry waved an apology while he caught his breath.
"I'm sorry. My wife -- ex-wife -- isn't like that at all. I realize that it's not uncommon among certain pureblood women in arranged marriages, but I can't even imagine...." He shook his head. "For one thing, she makes more money than I do. She's a highly successful professional Quidditch player -- though when she turns forty, next year, she's considering a move into coaching. For another ... well, she can enjoy shopping, but she doesn't consider it a sport."
"But you're divorced."
Harry took another swallow of port. He was surprised to find that he had nearly finished the glass. Usually, one lasted him most of an hour. "The thing about playing Quidditch is that she was away a lot. For six months of the year, I'd barely see her -- seven when the team did well. So it hardly made sense to insist on no other lovers, but she couldn't take me even looking at other women, and, well, I felt the same way when I saw her flirting with men."
"But other men...?"
"Exactly. One night, back before we were married, we were out late, and it seems I was eyeing this bloke -- I must have been good and drunk, considering how afraid of that I was, back then -- and she said that if I wanted to try him, she wouldn't mind. And I knew she had-- well, snogged, at least, maybe more -- with a girl in her year, after I'd left school, so we settled on that -- same-sex lovers were okay, over the summer. She took a few years off to have the boys, but when she went back, I found men to keep me company, now and then. And L- our daughter was born in the spring, and Gin-- my wife -- only stayed out one season for her. After that, I'd take care of the kids from March to October, and then she'd take over that, and while she was home, I'd accept jobs."
"So you might as well have been separated."
"Not quite. I did live with her in the winter." Harry shook his head. "Though, depending on the case.... Yeah. Sometimes I was gone for days at a time. So it was good for the kids, and all about the kids, but...." He shrugged. "Not so much about us. Finally, she got involved with one of the Chasers on her team, and well, we all liked her, but...."
"Yeah. Diana was more her lover than I was. So we made it official. And that was less than a year ago, which is why James is unreasonable. He'll get over it."
Severus took another sip of the port and stared moodily at it. "Albus is protective of you."
They were quiet for a minute.
"Albus -- is he named after Professor Dumbledore?"
Harry knew he could answer in several ways. It would be true to say Dumbledore had been his mentor, for example. But he wanted an answer that would hold true for his son's middle name, as well, when Severus discovered that. "To show people that I believed in him and honored him, even if he wasn't perfect. He did a lot for me, and more for the country. Sometimes he was wrong and made things worse, but I still respect his goals and his sacrifices."
Severus considered that. "You said he died. How?"
Harry couldn't shake how strange it was to have Snape ask him that, especially in such a mild, studious manner.
"He was killed by an ally -- a friend."
"It was necessary." Harry looked away. "Severus ... I've told you a number of personal things, this evening. I don't want to talk about this one."
"Okay." Severus drained his glass and stood. "Thank you, Harry. For ... For treating me as an adult."
"You are an adult."
"I know." The shy smile that followed that was foreign on Severus's face. "But it's like seventh-year spells. I need to learn it again."
Over the next week, Harry and Severus talked in the evenings. Harry tried Severus on drinks, of which he seemed to find wine and firewhisky the most familiar. From the time he spent tasting each burning mouthful of Harry's merely acceptable firewhisky, Harry thought he ought to ask Minerva what label Severus had favored. During these evenings, Severus no longer offered sexual favors -- Harry suspected that Albus had discreetly steered him away from that, in some manner -- but Harry occasionally caught Severus looking him over. He couldn't help thinking of that as more significant than the previous advances. It gave him an uncomfortable energy each time he saw that appraising look, familiar except for its source, but since he wasn't supposed to notice, he didn't need to respond.
Since Snape had hated him, he knew he could honorably only decline.
On the other hand, sometimes evenings in conversation felt as much like taking advantage as having sex would have been. Snape wouldn't have wanted to do this with him either -- to sip a glass of whatever Harry had handed him that evening, and talk about how easy Potions was, and to confide that Kevin Mulciber was reasonable company, but all the students seemed terribly young to him, somehow. Severus hadn't recovered any concrete memories, as of yet, but that tidbit was one of several that Harry thought to be a good sign. Each morning, they had breakfast together in Harry's sitting room, but during lunch and dinner, Harry watched from the high table as Severus ate with the Slytherins. He was waiting for trouble, and that weekend, he saw it.
"How was lunch?"
Severus looked up suspiciously from unpacking his school bag. "Why are you asking?"
"Because I could see there was trouble, of course."
Severus lifted his chin and looked away, the motion both haughty and evasive.
"Albus is my own child, Severus. I know him well enough to know when he's upset."
"He likes Muggleborns!" Severus exclaimed indignantly.
"So?" And there it is, finally. No wonder Albus was offended. "You liked your Lily, didn't you?"
"How do you know about that?" Severus demanded. He curled over himself protectively. "This world doesn't make any sense! I've gone mad, I think, and it's all in my head, a muddle of real people." In a sharp motion, he looked up at Harry. "Are you a Legilimens?"
Harry raised an eyebrow at the question. It was a clever way for Severus to stay with his original erroneous theory. "Of a sort," he replied. "I'm not trained in it."
Severus unrolled to study him. "You see," he said, "you know too much about me. Am I much older than nineteen?"
Harry looked up. An eager 'yes' caught on his tongue. "You know I can't answer that."
Harry cast around for an answer the spell allowed. Perhaps a question? "Why do you think that?" he managed, and felt a slow swell of power. Perhaps that was the key -- like directing an interrogation.
"I can't see myself in the mirror," Severus confessed. "Not really. It's as if I was under a bad glamor, but there's nothing to dispel. And you treat me like a real adult, not someone who just got out of school. And if it was more than a year and a day, that could explain the memory loss."
Harry couldn't say "very clever," or "good job," but he could smile.
"And the attitudes are different, here," Severus added.
Severus nodded jerkily. "Yes. And no one seems to mind that I'm a half-blood. I confessed that to Albus, because he was so angry with me! I didn't know he had a Muggleborn aunt. You never told me."
"Hermione. You've met her. She brewed the antidote that revived you."
Severus scowled, but then looked away. "Lily was good with potions too."
"Right. So no talking nonsense about blood."
Severus seemed to shrink into himself. "I had thought.... I mean, it's Slytherin...." He shrugged helplessly.
Harry wanted to tell him that the friends he had gained that way had not helped him any, in the long run, but the spell wouldn't let him. He thought about questions. Was there a way to lead Severus there? Carefully, he chose a path.
"Did James -- your James -- control you? Did Sirius?"
Severus twisted to snarl at him. "No!"
"So, is bullying power?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, affronted.
"When they pushed you around, it didn't give them any more power over you after the incident, did it?"
This time, Severus studied him for a moment. "No," he said deliberately.
"Less, I'd say. So it's not very Slytherin, is it, wasting resources?"
Severus bristled. "It is not bullying! Blood matters! The point is to protect Wizarding society from--"
"No," Harry said sternly. "If that was the point, you'd want cultural education. The point was to have people who were automatically less than you, and that is bullying."
"I didn't want her to be less than me," Severus complained. He looked away. "I... That is, what some of them... Sometimes, there are other people to impress, or at least to mollify."
"But no one was, this time."
Severus snorted. "No one I wanted to impress, certainly."
Harry wasn't surprised that Albus showed up an hour later. He led his son into his room and cast a privacy charm. Albus barely waited for him to finish the incantation.
"I can't believe you named me after that ... that ... that arsehole! He's horrible!"
"Is he?" Harry asked mildly, taking a seat. "I find him rather nicer than the man I remember."
"He was complaining about Annette not knowing containment charms, and Kevin said she was from a Muggle family, and he said he should have known she was a --" Albus bit his lip. "Something I won'trepeat, and that her sort shouldn't be allowed without a sponsor. And he would have gone on, if I hadn't stopped him and said my favorite aunt had never heard of the Wizarding world until she got her Hogwarts letter, and he couldn't say that about Muggleborns." Albus set his chin down in a stubborn manner that Harry almost never saw from him. "And you're just sitting there like this is normal."
Harry sighed. "Al. He was a Death Eater. You knew that."
"But he switched sides. You said he regretted it!" Albus swallowed. In a small voice, he added, "Oh. That would be later, wouldn't it?"
"Right. The last thing he remembers, he was a sixth-year student during the first Voldemort war, and his friends were all Voldemort supporters. I doubt he had become a Death Eater yet, and I know he was years away from regretting it."
"But he's a half-blood! He told me so, as if that made it all right, instead of just more f-- messed up."
"Yes, he's a half-blood, and his Muggle parent was abusive. And his alliances in Slytherin probably depended on renouncing his Muggle background often and emphatically. I was surprised, really, that it took this long to come up." He looked away. "Blood politics must be assiduously avoided as a conversational topic in the Slytherin of your generation."
"Dad!" Albus protested. "It's not something people go on about, you know."
"Really?" Harry asked pointedly. "Malfoy's father went on about it constantly."
"Well, Scorpius doesn't!" Albus snapped.
"Because he doesn't care, or because he thinks it's vulgar?" Harry challenged.
Albus quirked a smile at that. "Well, it is vulgar," he demurred.
"To you, yeah," Harry agreed. "Now. Forty-five years ago, when he was your age, things were different. Hell, when I was your age, it was different. Severus thought he would be fortifying his position, not weakening it. And he was miserable, Albus, when we talked about it ... but he was also confused that anyone took offense."
"I'm just not sure I--" Looking rather miserable himself, Albus shrugged. "He has said it."
"And at least one person was pleased with him."
Albus scowled. "Gawain."
"And which do you think would be more useful: continuing to include him, or leaving him to bolster his wounded pride with Gawain?"
Albus hunched over. "All right," he said sulkily. "You're right. It's just-- it's disappointing."
"I know," Harry said. "I hadn't expected you to have to deal with him, obviously, when I gave you the name. But I want to be careful with him, Albus. He gave up on Voldemort because of something emotionally devastating that he felt very guilty about. If everything just goes along easily, he may never understand that it was the wrong choice." His voice tightened. "But on the other hand, if he could get there in some less awful way, he could be a much better, more whole person than the bitter man that I knew."
Albus bit his lip for a moment, pulling it under his teeth as he thought.
"You like him, Dad, don't you?"
"Yeah, I suppose I do. Or maybe I just feel guilty." Uneasy, Harry stood. "Or ... no. Guilt is where it started. So, yeah, I like him." Looking back at Albus, he shrugged apologetically. "You know how I am about people I protect."
Albus nodded solemnly. "I know." He tucked his hands in his sleeves. "Um, so, thanks for talking to me?"
"Not something I really need to be thanked for." Harry squeezed his son's shoulder for a moment. "Thanks for believing me."
After Albus had gone, Harry left Severus studying and finally went to Minerva to ask her about firewhisky. From her office, he Flooed to the Three Broomsticks to ask Rosmerta if she had an extra bottle in her stock. He walked back to the school, trying to plan for the evening. One dangerous matter, at least, was out in the open, if hardly resolved. He should continue the discussion, talking about Hermione a little more, and if he could, steering the conversation to Lily. He didn't feel it was time yet to say he wasn't a pureblood, which his grandfather Potter had certainly been, but that didn't mean he couldn't make his feelings on blood prejudice clear.
He remembered the brief images he had of Severus's father, from their Legilimency battle. He should also make it clear that he didn't think being a Muggle excused anything.
It was strange to be so drawn into caring for someone who had been as much of an enemy as an ally. Well, that will be short-lived, he thought ruefully. When he gets his memory back, he's likely to hate me more for the kindnesses than he would for any attack. Of course, it's possible it will never come back, in which case he might as well get a better start to life beyond Hogwarts. Though if that happens, Minerva will probably make me explain everything, which will be awful.
Though going back to Professor Snape will be worse.
Harry pulled the cork out of the firewhisky, and carefully splashed a portion into each of two prepared snifters. The firewhisky had a subtle ripple of flame when poured, but then lay, as quiescent and placid as a disk of amber.
"Here," he said, handing a glass to Severus. "I have a special selection tonight."
Severus frowned at the drink. "I am forgiven for this afternoon's faux pas? Or you do not disagree as much as your son believes?"
Harry tensed. "I may disagree more than my son believes, but I was a good deal less surprised. I also thought it was time for something pleasant."
Severus eyed his glass suspiciously. "Taste yours first," he demanded.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Honestly, Severus! Slytherins." Deliberately, he raised his glass and took a sip of the liquid. Heat filled his mouth and flowed pleasantly down his throat. The taste was marvelous on several layers. "Tested," he said, surprised when a pale mist came out with the word. There was no scent to it, or taste beyond a faint hint of peat fumes. Harry thought it must be an illusion.
He waited, watching carefully, while Snape sampled the whisky in his turn. As he rolled it on his tongue, his eyes widened, and then closed. Slowly he swallowed. Without comment, he took another sip of it, and with the liquid still in his mouth, breathed out a thin but distinct cloud of nearly white smoke.
"I've had this before," he said softly.
"So it would seem."
Severus glared at him, but it lasted only a second. "Oh. Of course. You knew, but couldn't tell me. Well, now I know, so you can."
"Yes." Harry took another drink of the stuff. It was nice, although too expensive for regular consumption, at least on a professor's salary. He wondered if Professor Snape had sold potions on the side. "How is it?"
"Good," Severus answered. "Though it makes me feel...." He shrank into himself slightly. "Lonely, somehow?" He looked nervously down at his hands, twisting the long fingers together. "Perhaps there is someone that I expect to be with me?"
Harry looked back at him, stricken. He had another interpretation of that feeling.
"Not that you're not good company," Severus added hastily, and Harry chuckled.
"Of course, you could be better company..."
And there was the play, but it seemed, this time, to be offered in good sport. If they had been meeting at a party somewhere, Harry might have made almost innocent-sounding suggestions back and let the matter build. The thought was disturbing. He had never, he was sure, been attracted to his old Potions professor -- although he had been, perhaps, to the Half-Blood Prince -- but Severus this way was different. It was not just age, although that was definitely part of it. The slyness that had come across in text was still there, but the bite softened. Here and now, he was someone who might smile, if fleetingly. As it was, however, he was not to be considered, so Harry rolled his eyes, and Severus smirked for a second, perhaps at his hesitation.
"But since you have such excellent taste in whisky," he said smoothly. "I'll forgive you."
Harry chuckled. "Thanks, but that may mean you need to forgive Professor McGonagall."
"Did she recommend it?"
Severus frowned. "That would mean she knew me, then. After school."
"That would follow." Harry laughed. "Either that or she had spies on you!"
"Are you hinting?" Severus asked, horrified.
"No, not really."
"Well, the two ideas are almost equally alarming."
Harry poured them both more whisky. They didn't usually have seconds, but he had been sparse on the trial glasses. And it was Saturday, after all. "Here," he said. "Cheers."
"Thank you," Severus said, lifting his glass. After a longer swallow than before, he shifted nervously. "I wonder-- I know you can't answer, but..." He looked down, hiding his face in hair and shadow. "I wonder if I was in love with you?"
Harry was speechless. He managed a strangled sound that caused Severus to look up. He looked alarmed.
"Or it may just be your eyes," Severus said. "You have eyes as green as Lily's. Sometimes when we're talking, it feels so intense that I think there must have been something between us, but it could be just that I remember her."
Other signs of memory had encouraged Harry. This revelation settled in his chest like lead. Severus might be remembering something intense, but it wasn't love.
"Tell me about Lily," he said, and Severus immediately looked away.
"You didn't want to talk about Dumbledore," he said flatly. "I don't want to talk about her."
"All right." Harry shifted uneasily. He hoped that had derailed the topic entirely. "How are lessons?" he asked.
Severus tensed. He looked all too familiar now, except for the student robes and nearly clean hair. Harry could see Professor Snape on the verge of attacking, or of whirling and stalking away. Severus, he realized, had taken the change of subject as a rejection.
"Look," Harry said, "I can't talk about it. For once, I don't want to listen to you speculate."
Slowly, Severus's shoulders came down. He hunched forward. "Would you tell me? If you could?"
"As soon as I can," Harry promised, "I will."
Severus nodded. "Lessons," he said. "Your class is the best, of course, although most of them seem increasingly familiar...."
Harry nodded. "You're remembering things, I think," he said.
"Which would be useful," Severus replied, sneering, "if such memories came with context."
Harry shrugged. "I suspect some things are useful on their own, context or not."
"Potions are," Severus agreed, but he followed it with an unpleasant face. "Though I may want to drop that lesson."
"Potions?" Harry asked, astounded. "Why? Isn't that your best subject?"
Severus scowled. "It would be," he said, "if Professor Boot didn't hate me for some reason."
Harry couldn't help it. He laughed.
"I am not exaggerating," Severus said coldly. "He's entirely unreasonable. And it is distinctly targeted at me."
"Oh, I believe you," Harry said, continuing to snigger despite himself.
"It is not funny!" Severus hissed, but after a moment, he paused. Slowly, he straightened his shoulders. "Or is it? You are not inclined to laugh at cruelty."
"Sorry," Harry managed. "I can't tell you."
"Ah." Severus sat back, his manner glum. "So he has some reason."
Harry, finally, managed to catch his breath. "Is it really a problem?"
That got a look Harry recognized. He was almost expecting to be called an imbecile. For some reason, this was also funny, although he managed not to laugh again.
"I am considering," Severus ground out, "dropping potions."
Severus sunk back into the chair. "I already remember more than he teaches. If I thought I could adequately demonstrate my knowledge on the N.E.W.T. without recent practical work...." He sighed.
"You know, I think this whisky suits you."
"You are very odd."
"The way you speak. It's--" Harry couldn't continue. Severus stared at him, his eyes narrowing.
"More what you expect," he stated.
Harry couldn't even nod, but he smiled as he shrugged. Severus nodded and with a twitch of his head, flicked his hair back from his face.
"All of which helps me not at all with Professor Boot," he observed.
"Perhaps you could drop lessons, but still get brewing time, somehow?" Harry suggested. "I think Boot's the only one we've got who's qualified to supervise, though."
"No." Harry took another swallow of whisky to hide his smile. "I'm hopeless at potions."
Black eyes glittered as Severus looked up sharply. "I find that unlikely."
"Well ... not instructor material anyway." Harry thought. "Maybe you could work on projects when Boot has detentions?"
"That still leaves me with him."
"Mm." Harry bit his lip. "I could ask Hermione. She might be willing to supervise, once a week, and I'm sure Professor McGonagall would approve that." He studied Severus. "If you could be respectful to her."
Severus didn't miss the reference. "I could be," he said. "Would she do that for me?"
"She'd do it for me."
Severus inclined his head. "I understand. I would be ... grateful."
Although keeping Severus in his rooms for breakfast kept him away from the arrival of the papers and the bulk of mail, there were always a few deliveries that arrived later in the day. It was Sunday at lunch, and from the staff table, Harry watched a few diurnal owls, most with packages, coast down to the student tables. Albus received a magazine and unrolled it, and Harry glanced around, noting who else had received what looked like the same publication. He sighed. It was probably Scene It! This was one thing that he did not find easier about Albus. The magazines that James subscribed to were both about Quidditch, and largely understandable, even if Ginny did sometimes show up in the "Players in the News" column of the weekly.
As he watched, Severus leaned over, and Albus switched the magazine to his far hand to hold it away. Of course, Severus was much taller, and in a moment, he was using the full length of his adult body to try to grab it back. Harry pushed away his toffee pudding and prepared to stand.
Albus tossed the magazine to Scorpius, who passed it to Brutus Bulstrode, a gargantuan sixth-year. Severus jumped to his feet, his face dark with anger, and after shouting at Albus and Scorpius, stormed out of the hall. Harry decided not to follow him immediately. Instead, he went down to the Slytherin table, where Scorpius was passing the magazine back to Albus with an elegant flourish.
"Asp!" someone warned at an audible whisper. "Your dad."
Albus looked up, but didn't try to hide the publication.
"May I?" Harry asked.
"Course." Al leaned to the side to let him look.
Harry wasn't surprised to see himself on the page. The photo had been taken the previous Saturday, when he, George, and Katie had met Oliver for dinner, because their former captain was in town for a few weeks and feeling nostalgic. He was wearing jeans and a jacket, and Oliver was in casual robes that had Puddlemere United emblazoned down one sleeve. They were on the street -- waiting for Katie, as he recalled -- and he nudged Oliver, who shouldered him back hard enough to make him stagger. They were both laughing. Old Friend or Old Flame? the headline read. Except for that, it was a decent enough picture. Oliver slung an arm around Harry's shoulders and leaned on him heavily, teasing Harry about how small he was, but Harry didn't mind that, and Oliver hadn't meant it badly. Seekers were supposed to be small.
"I told him it was crap," Albus said. "Everyone knows Oliver's straight as an arrow anyway."
Tatiana, an overly made-up seventh-year, giggled. "Severus is jealous!" she whispered dramatically.
"Is he, Dad?"
"He certainly doesn't have any reason to be." Harry reddened as he suddenly realized that did not deny a relationship. "We're not involved."
"You and Oliver, or you and Sev?" Scorpius asked cheekily.
Harry ignored him. "Excuse me," he said to Albus. "I think I need to talk to someone."
Severus was waiting in the sitting room. He had taken firewhisky without asking, but was just sitting and looking into it when Harry arrived.
"It was just a picture," Harry began. He stopped there at Severus's glare.
"I hate people like that," Severus said furiously. "That coarse look that some people have the idiocy to consider wholesome, as if it was honest to be stupid. He was all over you." Severus set his whisky aside and got to his feet. "He practically shoved you over, and you just thought it was funny."
"Oliver is an old friend, Severus," Harry said patiently, motioning him to sit again. Severus was radiating jealousy, and along with it, an anger that Harry couldn't make sense of. "Not that it would be your business if he was more," he added belatedly, feeling that he should keep that clear.
Severus snarled and stepped away. "Well if that's how you touch your friends, I'm clearly not even that!" he shouted.
Harry lunged to catch his arm before he reached the door. "Severus. Calm down."
Severus whirled and pulled, something like panic in the way he twisted under Harry's hold, though his voice was pure rage. "Let go of me! What do you think you're doing?"
"Er, touching you?" Harry couldn't help smiling at the startled look that he got in response to that. He released the grip he had on Severus, but then deliberately reached out to stroke a hand from his shoulder down his back, as if he were soothing a hippogriff. "You know, whether or not I touch someone has a lot to do with whether or not I think they'll like it. I've always assumed you wouldn't."
"I've invited you into my BED!"
"That's different. That's sex. Not...." Harry sighed, and looked back at the couch. Perhaps he should touch Severus more. It wasn't taking advantage if it wasn't sexual, right? And the man ought to learn that there were other kinds of touch than sex and violence. "Here," he said, deliberately brushing down Severus's arm. "Come and sit on the sofa with me."
Tentatively, Severus did, but he held himself very stiff, and left over a foot of space between them.
"Not like that," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Here. Up against me. I'll tell you about my friends, and which I touch and which I don't." He set an arm along the back of the couch to make the invitation plainer. Severus moved into the space as if he were going to his execution.
"Oh, that won't work, will it?" Harry said, after he felt the strain in his shoulders. "You're too much taller than me. Taller than Oliver, even. Here." He scooted back into the corner of sofa back and arm. "Turn away a little, and lean back against me."
"This is ridiculous," Severus fumed.
"Is it?" Harry asked. "This is how I sit with Hermione, sometimes, when we're having a private conversation, or George, if he's feeling down and is just a bit drunk." Severus had consented to move into reach, and Harry settled an arm over his arm, encouraging him to lean back. Wrapping it across his chest would have been more natural, but he thought Severus might flee if he tried that. He kept talking, as much to soothe as to inform. "I touch Hermione like this, because she's a girl, and girls like that -- well, as long as you are truly that close, and the sex thing is clear, yes or no. I wouldn't touch Ron like this, even though we're just as close. I can sling an arm around his shoulders, as long as it's briefly, or bump into him while we're walking, like I did with Oliver, or do anything that's just a little bit rough, but this --" Harry squeezed Severus lightly. "He'd find this too queer.
"Now you.... I wouldn't expect you to take rough. I don't think you've ever known it as friendly. If I bumped into you, you'd think of it as an attack, like you did when I grabbed your arm. But gentle ... that's riskier, right? I have an idea that you want me, and we can't. You could take this as sexual, and I don't want to lead you on." He brought his free hand to Severus's hair and brushed it back from the side of his face. The tenderness of his own touch frightened him. Surely it couldn't be healthy to feel like this? Could he really say this wasn't sexual when he could barely breathe? Severus stiffened still more at the brush of his fingers. "And you're not comfortable."
Deliberately, he moved his hand back to the sofa. "I think I've made this too intimate. I'll rub your back; how would that be?"
Severus's head moved in a nod. Smiling privately, Harry extracted himself. He wasn't surprised when Severus turned his face toward the sofa. Whatever might be showing there, he didn't want Harry to see it.
"Stay where you are. There will be a little motion; I'm going to widen the sofa a bit. I'm good enough at Transfiguration that you don't need to get up. You should probably take off your robes, though."
"I thought you said this wasn't sexual," Severus complained into the cushions.
"Do you have clothes on under them?"
"Then why would it be?"
Snape was silent for a minute. "I have only an undershirt."
"I don't usually wear robes in my rooms," Harry reminded him, shrugging out of his own. "And I often wear t-shirts, which are about the same." Snape was silent. Harry looked at the tight set of his shoulder, and the way he had pulled one arm nearly under his torso. The left. The Marks left scars, when Voldemort died. "I know what I'll see on your arm," he said quietly.
Severus whipped over onto his back, his face wild. "How can you know?"
"I knew you. Before. You know that."
"But you fought against him. You destroyed him, Scorpius said. Why would you let me be with your son, and why would you LIKE me?"
Harry sat on the end of the still unexpanded sofa. "How old do you think you were? When you got that, I mean."
Severus raked fingers down through his hair, pulling it in front of his eyes. "Seventeen, probably."
"Which was how long ago?"
"A ... a few years, at least? Probably at least five, because you're the first person I've recognized in Asp's damn magazines -- not that I look at them, usually." He swallowed. "You're saying that I regretted it."
"Would that explain a few things?" Harry asked. It was the closest he could come to an affirmation.
"Yes, I suppose it would. That you like me, and that Professor McGonagall seemed glad to see me, and that Albus was so shocked when I said--" He cut himself off. "Yes."
Nervously, his hands moved to the front of his student robes, unhooking the simple clasps to reveal grey trousers and a plain, rumpled undershirt... "Are you sure this couldn't be sexual? Because I'm obviously old enough, even by Muggle standards, and from the way you hold your breath when you catch me looking, I think you might want me back. It's not like I'm really a student, either."
"Severus," Harry said softly. He couldn't deny it, really, not when he wanted to lean forward and kiss the man until he relaxed. "It wouldn't be fair of me. You don't remember."
"Why does it matter?"
"You--" Harry couldn't say that Severus would never have wanted even this much intimacy with him. "I don't want to make you unhappy," he said lamely
"Why would I be unhappy?"
"I can't tell you, can I?" Harry snarled.
With an angry hiss, Severus shoved up from the couch, turned on his heel, and stalked off. At least, he started to. At Harry's desk, he paused, looking down.
But Severus had spotted the Daily Prophet on the desk, not yet covered by student essays. Harry lunged for him, but was too late. Severus was holding the paper and scanning the headlines.
"What is it you don't want me to see?" Severus snarled. "What could you and McGonagall possibly-- " He stopped. "Two thousand and TWENTY-ONE? It's two thousand and fucking twenty-one?"
"I'm sure that's a shock," Harry began soothingly. Severus whirled, wide-eyed, and stared at him.
"How long was I --?" He snarled. "You can't tell me, I know. Did you even know me? Who are you?" He looked frantic.
"I'm Harry Potter." Harry was struck by a sudden thought. He couldn't tell Severus anything about his life, but perhaps he could talk about his own, and let Severus guess, just like he did from questions. "My father was James Potter." The words came out easily. Severus was staring. "My mother was Lily Evans."
"Did I...." Severus swallowed. His hands were shaking. His legs folded. Harry was on his knees beside him in an instant.
Severus tried to sit still, but Harry could still see the tremors in the fingers he had twisted tightly together. "Can you tell me now? Was that it? The year?"
"Sorry, no." Harry set a hand on his back. "I just realized that the jinx doesn't keep me from talking about myself."
Severus shivered. "James Potter's son."
"And Lily's son."
"Yes." He looked over. "That's why you have those beautiful eyes." Lifting his hands, he rubbed at his face. "More. Tell me more."
"My parents died when I was a baby. They were protecting me, because Voldemort had heard part of a prophecy that implied I could destroy him. There was a particular Death Eater who--" Harry's throat clogged up. He coughed. "Damn Minerva! I can't even say that."
"A 'particular Death Eater.' Me, you mean."
"Idiocy!" Severus snarled. "Of course you can! If it's true, and I know it, you can." He stopped, panting, as he brought himself under control. "I've seen the ghost of the Mark on my arm," he said.
"Yes. So you know you were a Death Eater. I still can't tell you what you did."
"I didn't kill Lily." His face was drawn and pale with desperate need. "I would not have killed Lily, not even for Him," he insisted.
"Voldemort killed Lily and James himself."
Severus nodded. He eyes closed. "Thank you," he whispered.
Harry reached out to Severus and set a hand on the back of his neck. "It was long ago," he said softly.
"Not to me." Severus rocked closer. His hands closed to fists inside Harry's robes and he pulled, hiding his face against the dark fabric. He was completely silent and still except for the heaving of his shoulders from his desperate, forced breaths. Harry thought another man might be crying. He suspected that, like him, Severus had learned young not to cry.
"I know," he said, softly stroking black hair. "I won't say something stupid, like it's okay."
They stayed that way for several minutes, Harry stroking Severus's hair and back, while Severus recovered. Finally, he raised his head. He was still close, so close that his breath made Harry's collar waver against his neck. "Why did you like me? Did I try to make it up to you?"
Harry choked on a caught laugh. He wished he could explain. He wanted to kiss Severus right now, and he knew it would be insane to kiss someone who didn't know they had hated each other.
"I'll assume not, then," Severus said dryly, and he brought a hand up along Harry's cheek. His mouth drifted closer. "Why did you like me?"
Selfishly, Harry took the kiss. It was a little thing. It could hardly make the upcoming disaster worse. After their lips parted, though, he resisted the next little tug to resume.
"Has anyone claimed I liked you?" he asked gently.
Severus froze. His neck and arm went hard under Harry's touch. "Elaborate revenge for a Gryffindor," he sneered, his voice uneven.
"Hush." Harry wouldn't let him pull away. "I may not be able to tell you about your past, but I can tell you about right now. I like you, Severus. I swear I do."
Slowly, Severus relaxed. They kissed again, softly and in the present, lips first brushing, and then pressing. Harry let out a little moan at the first pass of tongue, and forced himself back.
"We can't do this."
Severus looked at him with hard satisfaction. "You keep saying that, yet we go a little further every time."
"And that needs to stop. I mean it."
"You want me."
"Yes, but you don't know what you're doing."
"And I DON'T CARE." Severus sat back, snarling. "I don't remember. Maybe I never will! You want me; don't even try to deny it. Why won't you go ahead and do it?"
"Severus. You--" Hated me. "When your memory--"
"SO? Are you a GRYFFINDOR or aren't you? What's the bloody point of the house of lions if you don't even have the nerve to even SNOG?"
"It's not a matter of nerve; it's a matter of conscience! I know you think you want this, but you're not competent to say. It would be taking advantage of your injury."
Severus lunged forward, pushing Harry back on his hands, and Harry had to tighten his control on himself not to draw his wand. Severus was almost like he remembered now -- face tight with rage and frustration. The hatred, at least, was still not there.
"I," he hissed, "am a Slytherin."
"And?" Harry asked, eyebrows rising.
"And I have no respect for people who do not take advantage of their opportunities. Our opportunities, Potter. So I might not be pleased when I remember you, if you fucked me. Do you think I'll be any more pleased to know that I asked? That I argued? By your account, I can't be happy then, but I damn well could be now."
It was a good argument. It was a perfect argument -- an argument to do what he wanted. Harry straightened. He could feel a twist of dread and excitement forming in his heart. He was going to do this, and sooner or later, it was going to hurt. "Severus...."
But Severus had taken his closeness and the lift of his head as the assent that it was, and he descended on Harry with a kiss that blocked anything Harry might have compelled himself to say. His hands went to Harry's waist and settled uncertainly there. Harry shifted his legs to the side, and responded with a fuller embrace to show how it was done. The position was awkward, but he soon felt hands on his back, in a mirror of his own touch, and then, in bolder venture, descending to cup his buttocks.
He pulled free of the kiss. "Ah yeah. Like the way you touch."
"Good," Severus said fiercely. He hauled Harry closer, until the only logical move was for Harry to shift into his lap. He twisted his mouth clear.
"You were in love with my mother."
"Does it matter?"
"I don't care if you don't."
They went back to kissing. Harry raised his hand to Severus's chest, touching through the thin undershirt, and in hesitant twitches, Severus moved his hand forward, until he was undoing Harry's robes.
"God," Harry scrabbled to help him. "Want this so much. I've been trying not to notice how much." The heavy fabric came off his shoulders and crumpled down behind him, freeing his hands to tug at Severus's shirt. He wanted the hem clear so he could slide his hands under it. "This is mad."
Severus was too occupied with biting his neck to reply. Harry gave up on pulling his shirt free and undid his trousers instead, sighing as he finally reached skin. Severus lifted his mouth long enough for Harry to push the undershirt off of him.
"Yeah." Harry stroked his chest, before descending to run his tongue over one dark nipple. His hands preceded him, slipping below the open waistband of Severus's trousers, and Severus squirmed under him, trying to push the tip of his cock -- Harry could see it, purple and glistening in the open v of fabric -- closer to Harry's fingers.
"Mm." He pushed back off Severus's lap, so he could bring his face lower. His fingers slipped lightly across the inviting shine of liquid, while he brushed his cheek across the sparse hair that darkened Severus's abdomen.
"Oh." Severus tumbled back onto his bum, letting his legs unfold, and Harry crawled forward over him, pausing to lick and suck at one white thigh.
"Harry," Severus moaned, trying to squirm down under Harry's mouth. Harry pinned his hips and continued his attentions to the flat skin two inches away from his true objective. Slowly, he edged over to that tempting length.
"Please," Severus begged.
Harry froze and swallowed hard. He could feel Minerva's jix swirl through him and lift. "Damn it!"
"What is your problem?" Severus shouted back. He came up on his elbows to glare. "Don't you dare say it would be wrong."
"I...." Harry gasped for breath. "That was it. The Key. 'Please.' I can tell you anything you like, now."
"Please?" Severus stared at him. "What sort of ridiculous, juvenile ... I had thought it might be Albus's middle name."
"You don't know that?"
"No one will tell me."
"Oh. It's 'Severus.'"
Severus struggled for breath. "Oh."
"So which do you want first, your history, or your cock sucked?"
Severus settled back on the carpet, his expression changing entirely. "Cock. Show me what all those celebrity muckrakers are fantasizing about."
Harry let go of the tight rein he had on his libido. "They don't have a clue," he said, and then gave up on talking, and also on any teasing delay. He descended with a broad lick, bollocks to head, and shivered at the rising cry that Severus made in response. His mouth watered as he brought it down around the full thing, and he had to pause and swallow before starting up a rhythm -- pulling up long and slow and tight to the tip, sucking, and then sliding down faster and looser. Severus made marvelous noises -- deep, quiet moans and shuddering, half-caught gasps.
"Yes," he said, finally, and it turned into a whispered chant -- "yes, yes, yes, yes." His hands dug into Harry's hair. "Please," he said, and laughed self-consciously.
Harry let himself chuckle in response, knowing how that would feel to Severus, how it would vibrate around his cock, and he received a startled cry back. At some point, too excited to notice, he had started rubbing against Severus's leg. Now he let up on sucking to work with his tongue -- trailing it up the long vein, and running it around the head -- while he fumbled with his own trousers, getting them open, and then down, so he could rub skin to skin.
"Harry," Severus said, as Harry's hand came back up to grip around his cock, so Harry could pump that while using his tongue and lips more precisely. "So good. I think they may have a clue after all. Know how brilliant you are... Oh, there, I'm going to come, so soon." His body arched as he tried to push deeper. "Want it in your mouth, in you, in...."
The flow of words ended as quickly as it started, turning into a long roar as Severus came in spurts, flooding Harry's mouth as quickly as he could swallow. Harry pumped against him frantically, not even realizing that he was doing it until Severus yanked him up and closed a hand around his cock. Those long fingers wrapped and clutched as tight as arse, and the friction burned so much it hurt, but not more than it was good, not more than it was perfect, and Harry buried his face between neck and hair and screamed as the pleasure shot over the top and left him shuddering.
"Oh." He wasn't sure how long they had lain silent. "Hell."
"Hell?" Severus huffed.
"I hope that wasn't a one-off." Harry pushed back enough to look at him. "What I want to do next is rapidly turning into a ten-inch list."
Satisfied, Severus smirked. "It can't be the only time. After the last three weeks, I think I deserve arse, at least once." He looked thoughtful. "Both ways, I think."
"Both what? Roles? I like at least four positions."
"Well, there. That's eight times more, right off." Severus laughed. "Though I can't think of four positions. I'm sure I'm not a virgin, but that's the first sex that I remember."
"Oh!" Harry's eyes widened. "I'm sorry! I would have at least got you to the bed, if I'd thought--"
"You're an idiot, Harry," Severus replied, rolling his eyes. "That's not a reason to apologize."
"Okay." Harry sat up. "It was kind of quick and desperate, though. Very student-like, I think, though I didn't do those things in school."
"No? Most of the seventh-years I knew claimed to."
"I didn't have a seventh year."
"What? But you're teaching!"
"It was because of the war. I had tutoring for my N.E.W.T.s. It wasn't unusual, that year."
Now the past had come up between them again. Harry held a hand out to Severus. "I suppose it's time for me to talk. Want to move to my bed, or would you rather get dressed and sit by the fire?
Severus hesitated. "Before I choose, tell me what's had you dragging your heels."
"We hated each other."
Severus blinked. "That's all?"
"Truly hated each other. You thought I was an idiot -- of course, I was seventeen the last time you saw me -- and I once tried to hit you with the Cruciatus curse--"
"You what? And you're not in Azkaban?"
"I'd just watched you kill someone, so you weren't in a position to go pressing charges, and I was hardly sane, at that moment."
Severus shuddered. "Bed," he said faintly.
"All right." Harry stood, pulling Severus up after him. "Come on."
They met under the blankets, Harry looping a leg over Severus to keep him close, and for a while, they just kissed. It was Severus who finally leaned away. "All right," he said. "First, how many years? How old am I -- that is, was I?"
Harry took a deep breath. "You were thirty-seven. Are thirty-seven. It was over twenty-two years -- closer to twenty-three."
"You don't seem surprised."
"Once I saw the date...." Severus shrugged, the motion tight and miserable.
"Yeah." Harry thought. "I think you'll get your memory back, considering the progress that you've made in less than a month."
"Yes," Severus agreed, but he sounded subdued. "Do I want it?"
"You should probably know, but all at once might be a little rough." Harry hesitated. "When you were dying -- or not -- you gave me memories. I'll let you have those back, but I don't think you should start with them. They're ones that I needed, or that you wanted me to have, but I think they may be some of your worst ones. It would be like vindaloo on an empty stomach."
Severus didn't even smile. "Why did I leave the Dark Lord's service?"
Harry bit his lip. "From something you told him, he decided I had to die."
"And Lily died instead."
Severus closed his eyes. For several seconds, he was silent. When he spoke again, his voice was ragged. "You saw me kill someone."
"Yes. Dumbledore. The last words from his mouth were 'Severus, please,' and he had trusted you. It was another year before I understood that was 'please kill me; you promised.'"
"Did you try to stop me?"
"I was Petrified and hidden. Dumbledore was trying to keep me out of trouble, but it left me having to watch."
Severus tensed, his lips forming a thin line. "His machinations were always bigger than his alleged kindness or honor."
Harry nodded. "I won't argue. He said he loved me and he still set me up to die. But maybe every movement needs someone like that -- someone who values the goal above anything. After all, why should my life be worth more than anyone else's?"
Severus shook his head. "You named your son after that man? And after me?"
"Do you want the official line? What I told the reporters who asked?"
"That might be edifying."
Grinning at the dry tone, Harry recited it. "My eldest is James Sirius, after my fathers -- my real father and my godfather; the second is Albus Severus, after my school years' protectors and mentors."
Harry did his best to recall what he had said about Albus's first name. "To show the world that I respected you," he answered boldly. "You weren't always right, and you were never kind, but you did a lot for me, and for the nation." He hesitated. "And you were as brave, or braver, than any Gryffindor."
"Was I? What did I do that was good, then? You told me I got Lily killed, and I murdered your other 'protector and mentor'."
"You spied on Voldemort for years. You protected people from him as best you could while still convincing him that you served him."
Severus hesitated. "Was I insane? I can't imagine getting through a month of that."
Harry laughed. "There were times when you weren't entirely stable. Of course, that's probably true of me, at that time."
"It was prophesied that I could destroy him."
"Also enough to induce madness."
They talked for hours. When the time came for dinner, they agreed that they didn't want to leave the room. Harry Flooed the kitchens and had food sent up, and they ate in the sitting room, in robes with nothing under them, and after that, went back to bed.
Harry woke in the morning to Snape leaning over him.
The deep, hard tone reverberated along his spine in an invisible frisson of fear. He kept his eyes half-shut. "Yes, Professor?" he answered, trying for his best 'fuck me' purr.
"Still a Gryffindor, I see," Severus sneered, as he ran the narrow edge of one nail from Harry's jugular down to his sternum. "Never show fear."
Harry let the breath fall out of his mouth as he leaned his head back. "Oh? By that measure, you're as much of a Gryffindor as I am."
The finger stopped and rocked from nail to pad in subtle uncertainty. "Really," Severus said sarcastically.
"Really. I mean, you don't ever show it, do you? Fury, yes, or hatred, or scorn, but never, ever, fear." With that, Harry met his eyes. "How much do you remember?"
"You don't believe it's everything?"
"No, I don't. You're bluffing." Harry adjusted his position and smirked up at Snape. "And you haven't yet once called me an imbecile, never mind throwing me out of bed, so you can't be too angry."
"I believe it is your bed."
"Point. But you haven't left, either."
Severus scowled. "Why did you do it? The truth, Harry."
Harry, Harry thought triumphantly. Not Potter. "Take care of you, you mean? At the start, because I wanted to protect you emotionally, like you had protected me physically."
In a sudden surge, Severus rocked on top of him, pinning him down against the mattress. "This isn't protection."
"Yeah, but you know I could never keep my heart out of anything." Afraid at how much he had said, Harry pressed up. "Fuck me. Make it angry if you like, but make it good. I want you close and sweaty and shoving into me hard."
"Do you," Severus said.
"What do you remember?"
"It's good that you told me about the Cruciatus curse. I remember that. How hatred contorted your face."
"I was messed up, then."
"Enough to remind me of me." Severus had got lubricant on his fingers somehow; now he pushed inside. Harry arched back and floated on it. "It's pieces," Snape continued. "Intense ones. The most intense ones, possibly."
"And me?" Harry had to ask.
"Harry Potter is in many of them, but as an irritating, unruly child. He's more like your son than like you."
"You didn't secretly want me."
"No. Oh. More. Need it wider, fuller."
"You little brat," Severus said, but his voice was full with lust now. Harry reached for his cock and was pleased to find it swollen and thick.
"An opportunity," Harry reminded him shakily. "I'd love to have that inside me, and think you'd like it there, too."
"Oh yes," Severus murmured, his voice rumbling against Harry's neck. "That and more. And you can explain the gossip columns to James."
Which would never exist, Harry thought, if 'more' didn't continue beyond Hogwarts. They would have to be seen together -- having dinner in Diagon Alley, attending Parvati's latest performance ... wasn't there a younger Slytherin alumnus in that troop? They could argue about relative talent. Pulling Severus closer, he arched back invitingly. "You're a Slytherin. Make it worthwhile."
"I will," Severus said fiercely. "I will."
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