Title: Every Wand I’ve Ever Sold
Genres: Romance + Hurt/Comfort
Summary: Ollivander is the only person who even knows Harry’s name any more, until Snape comes along.
Every day Harry flooed into
The fireplace he used was outside now, on one of the old walls behind the new building, so the first thing he’d see was the rubble. The outside of the back door was cracked and the paint chipped and faded. In contrast the inside was shiny and new, not just the door but the whole shop. When Harry had first visited Ollivander’s, back before his first year, it had been more like a storage cupboard than a shop. Everything so dusty, the space so cramped – nothing but shelves and shelves of wands.
Now it was clean. There wasn’t really any other word for the complete lack of atmosphere to the place. Mr Ollivander himself was much the same, still muttering in his creepy way, and Harry usually still felt as wary of him now as he had at their first meeting.
“Ah, Mr Potter!” Ollivander would say every morning as he came in. “Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry would reply, heading for the front door as fast as possible.
And Harry stopped, every day, waiting to see if that day things would be different.
“Sorry, but what’s curious?”
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter.” Harry would hold his breath. “Every wand I’ve ever sold. Every…”
Ollivander would go and perch on his (new, shiny) chair, and Harry would stare at him in despair. “No you don’t,” he would say, and then he would leave.
# # # # #
This wasn’t the only activity of Harry’s day. There was the mad, naked dash out of his front door, across the grass, straight into the deep stream that was always freezing even in the height of summer. There was the solemn moment when he looked in his fridge and spent well over an hour planning what to eat for each meal of the day. The ritual scrubbing of his entire kitchen, the muggle way. The careful grooming of his owl, who wasn’t Hedwig and who never brought him letters. The owl, whom Harry didn’t intend to name, went out every day to fetch him a paper since the official Prophet delivery owls seemed unable to locate his house. Each day Harry methodically tore the paper into strips and fed to the fire.
Occasionally he caught glimpses of the news before he tore it up. An outbreak of gnomes somewhere. The giants on the move. Some official or another resigning or involved in mundane scandal. A muggle having sighted a wizard.
On the days when he accidentally saw the news, Harry would go and get out the box under his bed, the one filled with old papers. Headlines of death, and Death Eaters, and Harry Potter, and You-Know-Who. He didn’t read the articles, he just stared at the spaces where the pictures should have been, where there was nothing now but empty white boxes.
# # # # # # # #
One day Harry didn’t get out of bed. He didn’t wash in the stream, he didn’t burn the paper, he didn’t eat, he didn’t clean, and he didn’t hear Ollivander’s speech to him within that dustless and soulless place.
The following day, he didn’t even poke his head out past the covers.
The day after that, he rose early in the morning, went into his wizarding shower and tinkered with it until he figured out how it worked. Then he went downstairs, read the paper whilst eating a piece of slightly stale toast, and left the kitchen untidy when he flooed out.
# # # # # # # #
Ollivander was looking cheerful that morning, just like his shop.
“Ah, Mr. Potter!” he said. “Holly and phoenix feather, eleven-” and Harry was out of the door
Diagon Alley was Harry’s favourite place in the world, above even Hogwarts. The look of the place, the noise, the crowds and the utterly bizarre things he could see just by standing still for five minutes. Normally he would stand still for a lot longer than five minutes, but today he walked swiftly, if not with purpose.
He walked up and down the street twice, not searching for anything so much as enjoying the urge to search for something, to do something. It was the first time he had felt like this in a long while. People got out of his way, but they didn’t stare at him, or point and gather around. He’d always hated his fame, growing up, but now he wished he had it back. Now that he’d done something worthy, he wished that people would remember it. Remember him.
Harry’s footsteps faltered for a second when he saw two familiar faces heading for the Leaky Cauldron. “Ron!” he called. “Hermione!” Their heads turned, and he smiled at the puzzled expressions he saw.
“Don’t you remember me?” he asked, careful to sound eager but not pushy. He’d found that worked best. “Didn’t you used to go to Hogwarts? I could have sworn I remembered you from there…”
Ron’s face relaxed, becoming friendly and open. “Yeah? Yeah, I think I remember seeing you around. Join us for a Butterbeer?”
“Sure?” Harry said casually.
In the Leaky Cauldron, he prompted them to talk about themselves. He learned what they’d been up to in the past week or so, since he’d seen them last, and how all the Weasleys were.
“How about you?” Hermione asked politely, but he just smiled and shook his head. It was pointless to tell them anything, they would just forget again by the following day. He’d tried, tried so very hard at first to get them to understand what was going on, to help him. But there was nothing to be done and the frustration had driven him out of his wits.
“Tell me what you remember about school,” Harry said instead, and listened to all the familiar names and familiar tales that didn’t include him or any of the dangers that had come attached to him.
They left, happy, and he sat and drank a while longer. He hadn’t been drunk in a while now, but he decided today wasn’t the day and got up to leave.
“Oh, hello there,” said Tom, as though he’d just noticed him. The old barman squinted at him for a moment, and Harry wondered how he looked to all these people. Slightly familiar maybe, someone that tickled at the edge of your subconscious memory, but nobody that you knew. “Have a nice day.”
He was back through the door of Ollivander’s shop long before closing.
“Ah, Mr Potter!” Ollivander said.
“Hello, Mr Ollivander.”
“Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple, if I remember correctly.”
“You do, sir.”
“May I see it?” This too was a familiar ritual now. Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and handed it over. There was a gleam in Ollivander’s eyes as he looked it over. “Scratched! Scratched and unpolished. You really ought to treat your wand better, it could save your life, you know.”
“Yes, Mr. Ollivander,” Harry said patiently.
“There’s something about this wand,” the old man muttered, stroking his fingers up and down it lovingly. “How curious, how very curious,” he mused.
“It’s the brother of the one you sold to Voldemort,” Harry said, and silver eyes whipped around to gaze at him eerily. “Tom Riddle. You-Know-Who. Yew, thirteen and a half inches.”
Harry still had that wand at home, sealed away under so many spells that not even an order member would be able to unravel them.
“Yew, thirteen and a half inches,” Ollivander breathed, and just for a second, for a second, Harry thought he might- “I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter,” the wizard snapped. “And that is not one of them.”
“No, of course not,” Harry murmured sadly, and went home.
# # # # # # # # #
Harry’s house was not at all what he’d envisaged himself ending up in. Not that he’d had much time for thinking much of his future, when he’d been so busy fighting the present. Still, in his more pleasant moments of fantasy, he’d imagined somewhere cosy, somewhere populated, sharing it with people, having friends, a family.
He had a small cottage in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but fields surrounding him, and the stream of course. Ironically, not even he knew where his house was – Dumbledore’s letter had been so particular about keeping its location a secret that the only way of reaching it was by floo. If Harry walked far enough out in any direction he would pass through a flicker of light and power, and wouldn’t be able to get back in again. The first time he’d done that, he tried walking until he found somewhere he could floo back from. But after trekking around in circles for half the night he gave up and apparated to London. The Leaky Cauldron always stayed open late for its more unusual customers and there was a floo there, but unfortunately the only floo his house connected to was the one he had to clamber over a half-demolished wall round the back of Ollivander’s to get to.
# # # # # # # # # #
He hadn’t seen Snape in months, so finding him in Ollivander’s was a bit of a surprise for Harry. In fact, finding anyone in Ollivander’s shop was a rare thing these days, apart from the rush of new school children before their first year.
The conversation went thus:
“Ah, Mr Potter! Holly and phoenix-”
“Snape!” Harry blurted, cutting the shop-keeper off mid-speech. Professor Snape turned, and Harry was struck again with the same impression of him that was burned into his memory – tall, black and menacing.
“Potter.” The man glared down at Harry over his great beak of a nose.
Snape looked and sounded so normal. It was almost like a moment from before the war. “What are you doing here?”
Snape looked at him disdainfully. “Tempted though I am to ask you the same question and listen to you stumble all over your idiotic reply,” he said with a twist of his lips, “I have no interest in knowing anything about your pathetic famous life.”
It had been said with honest scathing and vitriol. It had been said with memory. And Snape had called him Potter, not in the conditioned way that Ollivander did but because he knew who he was.
“Where have you been?” Harry whispered, at once exhilarated and terrified that this fragile thing would shatter and leave him back where he’d been.
“Were I inclined to share my life story, Mr. Potter, you would find it on a bookshelf earning money.” Snape collected his change. “Since I have no desire to do so, you will have to live in the same suspense as the rest of the world does.
“Thank you, Mr. Ollivander. And may I say that I think the place looks much improved.” Ollivander beamed. “Less like a haunted attic, at least.”
Snape swept out of the door. “Did you hear that?” Ollivander said delightedly, and set off another round of dusting charms. Harry sneezed, and dashed off after Snape.
“No!” he yelled. “Wait!”
What if Snape got infected by whatever it was that was affecting everybody else? Harry couldn’t lose this; that thirty second conversation had been the only real one Harry had had since the end of the war. He managed to find Snape in the crowd – his eyes were trained to pick up on certain motions and patterns of movement – and he ran after him as fast as he could.
Grabbing Snape’s robes was, however, perhaps not the most tactically sound move Harry had ever made.
“Get off me!” Snape roared, spinning around and knocking Harry to the ground. The wand pointed directly at Harry’s nose let off a couple of threatening sparks. “Honestly, Potter, one might have imagined that you would become marginally less imbecilic over the years, but I see that your stupidity has in fact increased exponentially.”
Harry grinned. “You remember me!”
Snape scowled, an expression Harry remembered fearing in the past. It didn’t seem to be having the intended effect upon him right now. “Yes, in spite of voluntary Obliviation and months of memory repression, it seems that I am to be stuck with your foul presence forever.”
“No,” Harry said, clambering to his feet. “It’s just that- that no one else does.”
Snape eyed him testily. “Oh for Merlin’s… Starting to get annoyed that people are moving on with their lives and can’t devote their every waking moment to worshipping you?
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Great Harry Potter. Saviour of the Wizarding World.”
Harry flinched away at the volume of Snape’s shout, as did the nearest wizards passing by. They got a few funny looks, but that was all.
Snape looked slightly surprised that his announcement hadn’t drawn the crowds Harry was used to. “What did you do to upset the public this time then, Mr. Potter? I haven’t been keeping up with wizarding news, so I confess I haven’t heard of your latest exploits.”
“I haven’t done anything Harry said, desperate for him to understand. “Where have you been?”
Perhaps there was such urgency in his tone that Snape stopped to consider him more closely. “Abroad. Italy, Bulgaria, and a number of countries of which I’m sure your lack of geographical knowledge has left you in ignorance. Now why are you kicking up all this blasted fuss?”
“I-” Harry stopped, not knowing how to explain it. Inspiration came in a flash, modelled upon Snape’s own example, and he reached out and grabbed the arm of the nearest passer-by.
“’Scuse me,” Harry said, not remorsefully enough by the woman’s expression. “Have you ever heard of Harry Potter?”
“No I have not!” The ire in her voice made Molly Weasley in a temper look like a kitten. “Now unhand me, young man, before I call the Aurors.”
“Sorry,” he said, going red.
She gave him a quick whack with her umbrella before hurrying away. Snape seemed darkly amused.
Harry quickly reached out for another person, just tapping them this time. “Excuse me, sir, but have you heard of Harry Potter?” This man paused for a moment, as if the name were familiar, then shook his head and started to pull away. “Are you sure? Harry Potter? Used to go to Hogwarts, and get in trouble a lot?”
“There was a James Potter,” the wizard said slowly. “Matches that description. I’m afraid that he passed away some time ago, though. I can’t help you.”
“Yeah,” Harry said quietly, and the man walked on. He wondered what his father would have said about this mess, if James Potter would have figured this out where he could not.
Snape was watching him curiously, and Harry shifted unhappily under the piercing gaze. For all that Harry wanted the company of someone who knew him, Snape was quite hard to take at the best of times. Harry felt uncomfortably vulnerable in exposing his problems, and he really wished it wasn’t Snape that was the only one able to remember him.
“So,” Harry muttered, shrugging. “No one knows who I am. Nobody even remembers I ever existed. Not Voldemort either.” He paused. “You do remember Voldemort, right?”
Snape glowered at him. “It would be hard not to.”
“Well everyone else doesn’t,” Harry said defensively. “I want to know what makes you different.”
For a long moment Snape stared at him, then: “If this is a prank of some kind, Potter-”
“It isn’t, sir, I swear it!”
“-then I shall remove all ability you may ever have to bear children in a horribly painful manner.”
Harry blanched. “It isn’t, though,” he repeated.
Snape nodded sharply. “Very well then.” He turned his back and started striding away.
“Wait!” Harry called. “Where are you going?” A surge of panic, greater than any emotional response he’d felt since the war, flooded through him. Surely Snape couldn’t just walk away from this?
“I am going to do research, Mr. Potter,” Snape said over his shoulder, Harry hurrying to catch up with him. “Research into this fascinating little phenomenon of yours.”
“Research which cannot occur if I am burdened with the presence of someone so infuriatingly distracting.”
“Right,” Harry said, and fell behind.
The black robes sliced a path through the masses and disappeared.
Harry went back to Ollivander’s. “What did you sell Professor Snape?” he asked.
“Hmmm?” Liquid sliver eyes blinked at him bemusedly.
“Professor Snape? You know, the man who was just in here?” A horrible feeling ran through Harry. What if no one remembered Snape either? “He used to teach at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, yes, Ebony, twelve inches, unusually stubborn.”
“Stubborn?” Harry wasn’t sure that he’d heard correctly. How could a wand be stubborn?
“Yes, the wood, you see?” Ollivander fetched the long block of wood which he’d been chipping away at for a couple of weeks now. “Most wood I carve has a shape to it, a personality if you will. The wand calls to me, and I bring it out. That particular wand refused to let me see its shape for a long time. We fought for years over it.”
“You… fought with a block of wood?” Harry asked uncertainly.
“Mmm. Then one day it just became clear to me. I finished it the day that Severus came in to a buy a wand.”
“Oh. Sounds like it was meant for him,” Harry ventured.
Harry moved to sit on the chair. Certainly this one was a lot more comfortable, but he somehow missed the old rickety one that had been there before Ollivander disappeared during the war.
“So what was he buying?”
Ollivander stopped his constant movement about the shop, and came to stand in front of Harry with sharp eyes. “Do I know you?” he asked.
Harry removed his wand from his pocket and waved it from side to side. The old man’s face split in a grin. “Mr. Potter! Holly and-”
“Yes,” Harry said impatiently, “But what was Snape buying? He can’t have needed a new wand.”
Ollivander shook his head. “No, but his wand was in a shocking state, you see. Much like yours, actually,” he said, peering closely at Harry’s wand. “Scratched and unpolished! At least Severus is doing something about it! Here, here,” he skittered over to one of the lower shelves and came back bearing a jar. “He made a very good selection. You would be wise to emulate him.”
Harry nodded, and got up. “Wait, take this,” Ollivander said quickly. “And for Merlin’s sake take care of that wand. Disgraceful!”
# # # # # # # # # # #
I cannot begin to understand the purpose of the prank you indulged in the day before yesterday. It was a remarkably obscure idea for a dunderheaded Gryffindor. Next time make sure all your supporting cast is well briefed – I clearly remember Mr. Ollivander referring to you by name as you entered the shop.
Do not contact me again.
# # # # # # # # # # # #
Harry seemed to be spending a large proportion of his time around this man running after him. Certainly Snape did not appear to want to be caught.
“Snape! Snape, please!” That got the professor’s attention; Snape halted and sent a cold glare in his direction. Harry jogged the last few steps to catch up.
“Cease your caterwauling, Mr. Potter. If you imagine that I have any desire to speak to you, you are very much mistaken.”
On the surface of things, Harry had to admit it looked bad. Snape thought he’d lied to him, and they had a long record of hating each other. “It’s not like you think,” he began, only to be cut off mid-sentence.
“Your brain is not capable of even a tenth of what I would call thought,” Snape said sharply. “Therefore I am not interested in anything you could ever have to say. Go and talk to an intellectual equal – a sea slug perhaps?”
Harry opened his mouth to make an angry retort, feeling his face go red, when he saw the satisfied glint in Snape’s eyes. “No,” he breathed to himself. Getting back into the familiar cycle of insults and yelling and smashing things would not help his case. “I know what you’re thinking – that it was all a joke or something. But it isn’t. I promise.”
Snape crossed his arms over his chest. “And yet the evidence-”
“Ollivander isn’t like the others,” Harry said quickly. “Because he remembers about wands, see. If someone comes into his shop, he knows who they are and their wand. Even if he doesn’t know anything about them.” Snape still looked sceptical. “Why don’t you go and see? It’s only a minute from here anyway.”
“Now that he’s been coached, you mean?” Despite the harshness of his tone, Snape was starting to look interested. His long fingers twitched against his robes.
“I don’t think Ollivander would get involved in something like that,” Harry said dubiously. For all that the wand-maker was a little flighty, and more than a little creepy, he was also very serious about some things.
Snape led the way to the shop; Harry was barely able to keep up with his long strides.
“Welcome to Ollivander’s! Severus, good to see you again, come for some more wand-wax, have you? Very useful stuff, and so very important to keep one’s wand in good condition. And Mr. Potter.” Silver eyes became slightly unfocussed. “Holly, eleven inches, nice wand that.”
“Yes,” Harry forced a smile. At one stage he had vented a lot of anger on Ollivander, but it felt like hurting a small child – the wand-maker didn’t understand and then didn’t remember. Harry always felt guilty when talking to him now, and tried his best to be relatively polite.
Snape impatiently ushered Harry further into the shop, his hand a heavy weight on Harry’s shoulder. “Perhaps you would be so good as to settle a small matter for us, Mr. Ollivander,” Snape asked.
“Of course, of course, always glad to be of help.” For all his proclaimed enthusiasm, Ollivander’s face remained entirely impassive. “What is the problem?”
“Could you give me a summary of what you know of Mr. Potter?” Dark eyes flickered to Harry, as though telling him not to speak.
“Mr. Potter?” Ollivander looked puzzled.
“Yes, Mr. Potter,” Snape said irritably. “The-Boy-Who-Lived.”
“Should I know him?”
“Everyone bloody well knows-”
“Mr. Ollivander,” Harry said loudly, and the wizard turned to him. “Look at this.” He drew out his wand and waved it a bit self-consciously.
“Oh!” Ollivander said delightedly. “Why, Harry Potter! Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple. Great things could be done with that wand.”
Harry glanced over at Snape, and found him analysing this strange behaviour. “What do you think it is?” he whispered.
“There’s something odd about it, though,” Ollivander continued. “Something I can’t quite place.”
“It’s certainly most unusual. I’ve never heard of such a thing happening before,” Snape mused.
“Though if it did, no one would remember it,” Harry muttered sarcastically.
“Where have I seen something like that before?” Humming in a puzzled manner, Ollivander turned to rifle through his shelves.
Snape turned his piercing eyes on Harry. “It’s just you he does this with? And nobody else knows your name at all?”
Harry shook his head. The best theory he’d been able to come up with was that it was the connection to his wand that allowed Ollivander to sort of recognise him. Which didn’t explain why Ollivander then didn’t remember Voldemort. He mentioned this to Snape. “Maybe because Voldemort is dead?”
“Dead.” Snape snorted. “Blasted to oblivion is more like it!” He rubbed his chin. “You didn’t do an entirely poor job on that, at least.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Harry smiled at the irony of a Death Eater complimenting him on the demise of Voldemort. Of Snape complimenting him at all, in however insulting a manner. Though he sometimes thought that despite persisting in mocking the stereotype of The-Boy-Who-Lived, Snape might understand him a good deal more than he was comfortable with.
They adjourned to the Leaky Cauldron. Snape said he would need a good deal of alcohol to lubricate his thought processes. Harry decided he would need a good deal of alcohol just to deal with Snape.
Several pints later, everything seemed less grim.
“So this started when you killed You-Know-Who?”
“Yes.” Harry nodded happily. “No. Not straight away. Right afterwards, everyone knew me. Then I was in the hospital for a few days – don’t know how many – and everyone came to visit me.”
“Not an immediate action then. Possibly not related to You-Know-Who? Hmmm.”
“Went home for a while. They told me to stay there, that it would be safer. No one came. After a week I got worried, and went out to find them, and that was it. All gone.” Harry sighed, his alcohol-induced good mood gone. “Can we talk about something else now?”
Snape put down his glass. “What exactly is it that you think we have to talk about, Mr. Potter. Your glory days? The war? Quidditch?” He sneered, and swept off to get another drink.
“Didn’t need to be so rude about it,” Harry mumbled to his drink. He had missed conversation; proper, intelligent conversation with somebody who knew him. He’d gotten carried away and forgotten that it was Snape. He hated Snape.
Apparently several other people did too, because the greasy man was involved in some kind of altercation at the bar. He came back grumbling angrily.
“That will be all for the evening, Mr. Potter. I will see you again in a few days.”
After several drinks, and a brief doze on the bar, Harry opened his eyes to no sign of Snape, the lights dimmed, and a really, really bad headache.
# # # # # # #
I cannot apparate to your house unless you tell the blasted wards to let me in
# # # # # # #
I don’t know how to do anything with the wards. The only way in is by floo. Meet you at Ollivander’s, at three o’ clock?
# # # # # # #
“Wait, you stupid boy, don’t-!” Snape thrust a hand towards him. Harry stood bewildered at the edge of the door, one foot about to cross the threshold.
“Okay,” he muttered, and waited. Snape was talking to Ollivander about something, and Harry felt his stomach lurch pleasantly. Had Snape figured it out?
“Right. Come here,” Snape commanded imperiously, and Harry went. Mr. Ollivander saw him, and greeted him as usual. “Now don’t say anything.” After a minute, Snape started questioning Ollivander about Harry again, detailed questions put many different ways. The old man couldn’t answer any of them. Then Snape took Harry’s wand, and, holding it cautiously in the very tips of his fingers, showed it to Ollivander.
Ollivander’s mouth opened, then he looked at Snape, puzzled, and closed it again. Snape waved the wand, put it down on the table and asked whom it belonged to, and actually told Ollivander all of its details, but it was only when Harry held it again that Ollivander could positively identify it once more.
“Some form of linking charm,” Snape said over a butterbeer afterwards. Or rather, Harry had a butterbeer. Snape ordered something more sophisticated out of a smoky blue bottle which Harry hadn’t caught the name of. “You were right, Potter, he recognises you because of your wand.”
Harry picked at the edge of the table. “So what does that tell us?” He wanted answers, but he’d grown too used to disappointment to expect-
“What is far more interesting is why I am not affected at all.”
Harry said something to the effect of ‘tough Death Eater bastard, curses just bounce off you.’ To which Snape said “Yes.”
“As you put it so very succinctly, I was a Death Eater. I still carry the dark mark. If what is affecting people’s memories about the war is in any way related to Voldemort, then it stands to reason that I would be immune to it.”
Harry stared at him. Then he burst out laughing. It seemed inordinately funny to him that the only people who would ever remember him again were Death Eaters! Seeing Snape glower, he tried to explain. “Only company I’ll ever have then. I’ll have to go sit in Azkaban and talk to them.” He could picture it easily, the dark cells, the pain of the dementors. The only real conversations he would be able to have. He kept laughing.
“Nonsense, Potter. They are all dead.”
“Oh.” Harry quieted, and had a disturbing urge to apologise. Snape must have known them well, spy or no. He’d thought that there were at least a few still down there, rotting, but Snape would know better than he. And he really was glad that they were dead, no matter whom they might have been to Snape.
There was a snort from the other man, as though he knew what Harry was thinking. “Do not imagine that I was friends with any of them. I am the last man who would mourn their loss. Death Eaters do not have friends.” The last sentence was uttered quietly, to himself. Harry instinctively reached out a hand and placed it on Snape’s forearm.
“Dammit!” Snape shook off the touch as though Harry were diseased. “Get off me!” His glare was hot and furious, and Harry momentarily felt as afraid of him as he used to be when he was younger, afraid and angry. He’d only been trying to be nice.
“Whatever,” he said sullenly, and downed his drink. “I’ll see you back here tomorrow then.”
# # # # # # # #
“This is a respectable house, Mr. Potter,” Snape said as they flooed in.
“You needn’t sound so surprised,” Harry replied snidely. He was still annoyed about the way Snape had spoken to him yesterday, and even more annoyed over the fact that he was annoyed about it in the first place. Damn Snape for always being able to push his buttons.
Snape looked at him coolly. “I meant no insult, and yet you are determined to find one. What does that say about you?”
Uncomfortable, Harry turned away. “I’ve taken out all the newspaper clippings I have of those last few months,” he said over his shoulder as he moved into the kitchen. The table was covered with them actually, and the chairs. He had to move some so that Snape could sit down. “Do you want a cup of tea?”
“That would be acceptable, thank you.”
Harry stared at Snape for a moment, long enough for the other man to notice. “Yes, Potter?”
Starting guiltily, Harry turned to the kettle. “No, nothing. It’s just that…” He rummaged in a cupboard.
“Just that what?” Snape said impatiently after Harry had located the mugs.
“I don’t know,” Harry muttered. “You were being all polite. It was weird.” He felt silly as soon as he said it, and felt his face go red.
“I see,” Snape said, sarcastically. Strangely Harry felt better at the annoyed tone than he had when Snape was calm. “I shall endeavour to conduct myself with an appropriate level of hostility at all times in the future.”
Harry hid a smile as he filled the cups. “Here you are then.”
They looked through the papers, and Snape brought out several books on curses and the like which had effects on memory and public perception. Several frustrating hours and cups of tea later, and still nothing seemed to fit.
Ironically Harry’s temper frayed before Snape’s did.
“What’s the point?” he yelled, throwing a book across the room. “We don’t know what it is, or how it started, and no one can help us because they can’t remember, and I’m so utterly screwed.”
“A Gryffindor being so defeatist, now there is something I thought I’d never see.” Snape eyed him for a moment then took Harry’s mug and refilled it without asking.
“Well I did what I was supposed to do, didn’t I?” Harry cried out. “I was stupid and heroic and saved the world, and now my friends don’t know me and I have nothing. It’s not fair! I’ve lost all this time.”
Snape stopped short of handing him the tea. He placed it down on the table with an audible thud and some of the liquid sloshed over the rim. “All this time,” he said slowly. “Tell me, Potter, what exactly have you been doing with yourself ‘all this time?’ Beyond finding out that nobody remembered you and going back to check that fact again and again and again? Did you take time to learn new things? Did you travel the world? Consult experts in this field? Actually spend time doing all of the tedious research we’ve been doing now? Or did you sit around feeling sorry for yourself for months?”
Harry gaped. “I-”
“Why are you even bothering now? Because you’ve found somebody else to solve the problem for you.”
“I’m wasting my time here,” Snape growled. “Why I’m trying to help a spoiled brat who doesn’t seem to care enough to try is beyond me.” He headed for the door, snatching his outer robes from where they were draped over a chair on the way.
“I do care!” Harry yelled, and Snape paused. “I want things to go back to the way they were. I just- I didn’t know what to do,” he ended softly. “I’m sorry if that isn’t good enough for you.” A note of bitterness crept into his voice, and he couldn’t stop it. “Nothing I did was ever good enough for you.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Potter,” said Snape, and swept out of the door.
Harry clenched his hands into fists and blinked fiercely. He would not let Snape affect him, he would not!
Snape stormed back in. For the tiniest second, Harry felt relief and almost happiness.
Then Snape said “Bloody wards,” and moved to the floo.
Harry sat back down at the table and stared at the stain the tea was leaving on the newspaper.
“Take them down, Potter; there are no more Death Eaters or reporters to come after you now.”
“I don’t know how.” Harry’s mouth twisted into a grimace. He didn’t have to look at Snape’s face to know the expression on it.
“That seems to stop you doing a lot of things, doesn’t it, Mr. Potter.” And then Snape was gone.
# # # # # # # # # # #
Harry went to the library. Not the public library in London, that wasn’t specific enough for his needs. The one in the Ministry was too hard to access – he’d tried a time or two. Hogwarts though was still accessible just using his invisibility cloak. If he got caught no one would remember that he’d been there.
He’d been up several times since all of this began. As he browsed through the restricted section he felt an urge to say ‘See, Snape, I did do something useful with my time, I came up here and read.’
Admittedly some of the books had been on Quidditch.
Hogwarts library wasn’t organised in the same way that Muggle libraries were. Books weren’t organised by category or author, but by how dangerous they were, what kind of care they needed (there were some that had to be watered every day, like plants!) and occasionally by height. Flitwick’s favourites were all on the bottom shelf. If Hagrid was the type to read books, his would have been on the top.
It would have been impossible to find anything without the aid of the librarian except that Hermione had taught Harry a few nifty charms in third year that helped in summoning books. They could locate a certain author, title, or, as in this case, all books with certain words in the title.
A selection of volumes on the shelves glowed faintly when he cast the spell, and he set about collecting the ones which looked most useful.
‘Wards for Protection,’ ‘101 Restricted Warding spells,’ ‘Warding your Hoarding’ and so on and so forth.
He stayed up all night and read until his eyes felt like they were popping out of their sockets. None of the wards described fit the abilities of the one set up around his house; none of them were anywhere near as advanced as the ones he thought he was dealing with. He did find a few general dispelling spells for wards though, and tried them when he got home.
None of them worked.
Well, he’d tried. Why was he even bothering? Should he just give up? Snape’s words echoed back in his head “Why are you even bothering now?”
Even the idea of trying to prove himself to Snape made him feel tired.
# # # # # # # #
Which is why the next time he saw Snape it made no sense that the first words out of his mouth were “I couldn’t do it.”
Snape stopped in the street, and raised an eyebrow. “Couldn’t do what, Mr. Potter.”
“The wards,” Harry all but shouted, irritated. “I couldn’t work out how to take down the wards, and I read all the books on it at Hogwarts and none of them helped and maybe I’m just being incredibly dumb, but if you think I should work this out myself then maybe you could at least point me in the right direction.” He ran out of breath, his voice far too emotional for his own liking, and noticed that people were staring at him.
“Are you quite finished, Mr. Potter?” Snape asked, calm and collected, and boy was Harry regretting his outburst now.
“Yes,” he said quietly.
“Well then.” Snape paused and then sighed. “Harry, it wasn’t about the wards. Leave them up, it doesn’t matter.”
“No,” Harry said stubbornly. “It does. They’re really annoying me now. I hate always having to go through Ollivander’s and hearing him say the same thing every single day.” He felt his control slip and looked away for a moment to draw in a shaky breath. “I want them gone.”
Snape nodded, tapping long fingers against his side. “Well, it would help if you remembered how you warded it in the first place.”
Harry shrugged. “I didn’t do it.”
“You didn’t…” Snape grabbed one of his arms. “Please do not tell me you were moronic enough to move into a house warded by somebody you didn’t know.”
“No,” Harry said. He shifted slightly, not knowing whether to remove his arm from Snape’s grasp or not. The warmth of the contact felt strange, but Snape didn’t seem in a hurry to let go. “It was Dumbledore.”
“Dumbledore,” Snape repeated flatly, and this was probably a really touchy subject.
“Yeah,” Harry pulled his arm away. “He left me a vault with lots of stuff in it, and there was the floo address of this house. He said I should go there after I left my Aunt and Uncle’s, that it would keep me hidden from Voldemort. That it would be the only place I would be safe,” he whispered.
Snape opened his mouth, then closed it again and appeared in deep thought. “Hidden from Voldemort,” he muttered.
“That’s what he said.” Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to fidget.
“Take me back to your house,” Snape said abruptly, and off they went.
# # # # # # # # #
It was the wards.
The stupid, annoying wards which had been stopping him from apparating out, and anyone from apparating in. The ones protecting him from Voldemort. Keeping him ‘hidden’ from Voldemort.
Except that Voldemort was dead, and there was no big bad evil to keep him hidden from anymore.
Snape said that the death of Voldemort had somehow accidentally short-circuited the wards, causing a kind of feedback loop, and as soon as Harry had re-entered the house after killing him the magic had locked onto him and adapted its focus. To keep him hidden. But now it was hiding him, and all knowledge of Voldemort, from the rest of the world. Keeping him safe by ensuring nobody recognised him or remembered the events of the war. Making him effectively invisible.
“Ingenious,” Snape said. Upon seeing the look on Harry’s face he added “And obviously incredibly badly thought out.”
“So Ollivander-” Harry started
“Ollivander was able to make some connection when your wand was present, and outside the wards.”
“Which doesn’t explain why he doesn’t remember Voldemort.” Harry said stubbornly.
“He only remembers your name when you yourself are present.” Which made sense. Voldemort himself had certainly never gone into the wand maker’s shop recently. “Where is Voldemort’s wand, incidentally?”
“I have it upstairs.”
“Inside the wards, you mean?” Snape said dryly.
Snape said he thought there might be a way of taking them down. Dumbledore had bequeathed a lot of books to him in his will. He went home to fetch them, and the whole time he was gone Harry was so nervous that he felt like he was going to throw up.
When Snape returned the next morning he looked slightly dishevelled, greasy hair more tangled than usual and a flush to his sallow cheeks that made him look ill. He came in and looked at Harry and said “Yes,” and Harry almost felt his knees go out from under him.
“Okay then,” he said instead of ignominiously collapsing. “What do we need?”
It was incredibly anticlimactic, in the end, with no candles or strange herbs or invoking of various deities as Harry had been half imagining. Snape strode round the inside edge of the wards three times, chanting in Latin, and then there was a flash of light and they vanished.
Holding his breath, Harry walked out and then in again. Nothing stopped him, there was no barrier there.
Still barely believing it, he stared at Snape and asked “It’s done?”
“Yes, Potter, it is.”
Harry apparated out immediately, only just catching Snape’s “Ungrateful-” on the wind.
# # # # # # # # # #
“Ron!” Harry bounded up to his friend and clapped him hard on the back. “How are you doing, mate?”
“What?” Eyes he knew almost better than his own stared at him with the same look of blank surprise that had been there before. There was no recognition there at all.
“It’s me. You know, Harry?” Harry’s stomach was sinking faster than a plane with no engines.
“Sorry mate, I think you’ve got the wrong person.” Ron gave a quick you-may-be-crazy-but-I-won’t-hold-it-aga
“Ron Weasley, right?” Harry said, feeling depression sweep over him as he automatically started his usual routine. “We went to Hogwarts together? You probably don’t remember me, but I saw you and wanted to say hi.”
As always, Ron’s smile became more genuine. “Of course,” he said, still as bad a liar as he ever was. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. You’re…”
“Harry,” Harry said quickly, not wanting to deal with the awkward silence that arose if he didn’t get in there before Ron had to fumble for a name. “Harry Potter.”
“Yeah. Hermione,” Hermione turned from the people she’d been talking to a few metres away. “This is Harry, from Hogwarts. Thought maybe we could go get a drink or something.”
Harry’s smile felt stiff on his face. “Let me buy you both a butterbeer,” he said, and it all went exactly as it always had before.
He stayed with them for a few hours, just to make sure. Then he tried other people. Ollivander. He went to Hogwarts and tried the professors, the ghosts, the house elves. When all options were exhausted he went up to the old Gyffindor dorm and curled up on a dusty couch for the night. The tower was creepy, deserted like this, but it had been abandoned as a dormitory for a more suitable location elsewhere in the castle.
The next day he thought about going and trying with everybody all over again.
Beyond finding out that nobody remembered you and going back to check that fact again and again and again?
He didn’t. He gave up. He went home, he listened to bad music on a muggle radio, which it had taken him ages to get to work, and he went for a very long walk in the countryside that he could get home from now because the wards were gone.
The wards were gone but nothing had changed.
There was nothing else to do. He and Snape had been really thorough when they’d been looking at curses and other options, and there hadn’t been anything that could have been the cause. The wards were the only thing that made sense. But obviously the effects were permanent.
Sitting on the bank of the stream, Harry wrapped his arms around his knees and rested his head on them. All this time, and he hadn’t broken down. He’d had the bad days, where he didn’t get out of bed, but they always passed. He’d always had the vague hope that it could be fixed, that once the cause was removed things would go back to the way they were. That his friends would love him again and he would be able to do something normal with his life. Without that what was he living for?
His eyes were probably suspiciously red when Snape found him, so he refused to lift his head from where it was buried in his sleeve. The warm hand on his shoulder was familiar and comforting, but also made him acutely aware of what an idiot he must look like. He rubbed his eyes and took several deep, shuddering breaths, then pulled his head up and stared fixedly at the rapidly flowing water.
“It didn’t work,” he finally trusted his voice enough to say, and the hand on his shoulder tightened and then let go. He found he missed it once it was gone, and reached up to rub the spot where it had been.
“I’m sorry,” Snape said softly, almost kindly. The idea of being so pathetic that Snape felt he had to be kind to him made Harry laugh, but it came out choked and wrong sounding. “We’ll try-”
“No,” Harry said wearily. “No.”
“Just because this didn’t work doesn’t mean that there isn’t something else we can try.” Harry could feel Snape watching him, feel the weight of his gaze, and it was almost unbearable for reasons he didn’t understand at all.
“Yes it does.” Snape tried to interrupt him but he carried on regardless. “We did research. There was nothing else. You know there wasn’t.”
“We can still try.”
“I can’t.” And there went his voice. He cleared his throat, but it still came out hoarse. “I can’t try anymore. I know you think I did nothing that whole time by myself, but that’s not true. I did try. Even if it was just talking to people again and again. I kept going back, and I kept trying, and I kept looking and it hurt.” His throat hurt, his chest hurt, the tears were back and he didn’t want to be saying these words, not to Snape, not to anyone but he couldn’t stop. “It hurt every single time, and every single day, every blank look and every time Ollivander called me by my name but didn’t know who I was. And I just kept going back for more.”
Harry stopped. The weight on his chest got worse, and he couldn’t breathe. He was gasping for air and couldn’t breathe. The patterns the water made swum past his eyes, even though they were closed, and all he could hear was the sound of his own heartbeat, thumping like Dudley walking down the stairs.
“Harry. Harry.” The hand on his shoulder was back, sliding around him. It was a point of warmth in a world that was suddenly cold and he leaned into it unconsciously. A quick, sharp pain burst across his cheek and he opened his eyes to see Snape lowering his hand. “You were hyperventilating,” Snape said, looking uneasy.
“Sorry.” Harry felt abruptly self-conscious and tried to move away, but Snape’s arm held on tightly and he found he didn’t really want to fight anymore. “Anyway,” he said awkwardly, “I didn’t mean to… I was just saying. I really can’t anymore.”
“All right,” Snape said. “All right.”
## # # # # # # # # #
After a while he went inside and closed the door behind him. Snape left, after inquiring if Harry would be all right on his own. “Of course,” Harry had said, and almost meant it.
He didn’t get any sleep that night at all, just sat up thinking about his future. All of this time he’d been drifting, waiting for some solution to the problem. Now that there wasn’t one, he had to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Maybe travel, like Snape had suggested. Maybe go wherever Snape was going. Although he supposed it wouldn’t be very flattering to ask Snape if he could hang around just because Snape was the only person who knew who Harry was. Not that that was his only reason.
The next day he flooed into London again instead of apparating.
“Ah, Mr. Potter,” Ollivander said, and Harry smiled sadly. This was his life. “Eleven inches, Holly, yes?”
“Yes,” Harry answered, and sat perched on the windowsill, in no hurry to be anywhere.
“Now, what was it you were in here asking questions about a couple of days ago?” The thin wizard hummed and idly tapped his wand against his hand. “Hogwarts, that was it. I’m sorry that I couldn’t help you, but-“
“What?” Harry whispered, his heart feeling like it slowly being released from a vice. “Questions?”
“Yes.” Ollivander squinted at him. “That was you, wasn’t it? I never forget a face. Or a wand.” He glanced at Harry’s wand and his face lit up. “Ah, Harry Potter.”
“Yes,” Harry said, “Harry Potter.” He paused for a second, revelling in the hope that was rushing through him, then put his wand in his pocket and browsed the shelves. He timed himself, counting every second, and after five minutes caught Ollivander’s attention again. “Excuse me?”
“Hello there, young man.” Ollivander smiled at him, and put down the box he’d been working on. “How may I help you? Are you looking for a wand?”
“No, thank you. I was wondering if you know who I am?”
Silver eyes measured him as if thinking he might be playing a trick. “Well, you came in the day before yesterday asking about Hogwarts, and I talked to you not five minutes ago,” Ollivander said dryly. “I don’t forget someone that quickly, you know.”
“Do you know my name?”
Ollivander frowned. “No, sorry. Why, have you lost it?”
Harry’s mouth tasted bitter, bitter, but still, there was something different to the way things had been before. “Yes,” he answered, and left the shop.
He found Ron at the Leaky Cauldron at the usual hour, during his lunch break.
“Hello,” he said, and sat down at the bar a little way off, ordering a drink and a snack.
“Hello,” Ron said, with a friendly smile. “How did it go with the repairs?”
“Okay, thanks,” Harry said, mouth running on automatic while his brain froze as though someone had cast a freezing hex on it. “Hard work, but at least it’s nearly finished.”
Ron nodded. “It’s a pain, doing up old houses. Ours got in a bad way a while ago.” Harry remembered the battle at The Burrow, the holes blasted in the walls. “Took us an age to fix it up again. Not as easy as you’d think it would be, with magic.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed numbly, and carried on talking about the fictional repairs he had mentioned two days ago that he was carrying out on his house.
“Bye, Harry,” Ron called out as they parted. “Hope I bump into you again.” Harry eavesdropped for a minute afterwards, and heard him say “Nice chap, that Harry. Went to Hogwarts. I’d completely forgotten him until I bumped into him a couple of days ago.”
### # # # #
Harry walked around in a daze for over an hour. What did this mean? People still didn’t remember who he was from the past, and when he’d casually dropped the name ‘Voldemort’ into the conversation there had been no reaction at all. But they remembered him talking to them the day before yesterday, after the wards had dropped.
People remembered him after the wards dropped. People could start remembering him now. People could remember him because the wards had stopped working! Harry felt very proud of his amazing deductive logic, and immediately wanted to find Snape and tell him what had happened.
Snape was at home. Harry had never been to Snape’s house before, but felt confident that he’d apparated to the right place when he saw the eloquently worded and entirely vicious version of a ‘keep out’ sign hung on the property wall. Ignoring it completely, he rushed up to the door and knocked on it loudly.
No one answered.
“Snape,” he called. “Snape, it’s Harry.”
There was a thud somewhere in the house, then sounds of movement. Harry shifted from foot to foot on the doorstep, twitching and unable to keep still. He felt a broad smile stretching across his face, and reached out to impatiently knock again.
“For Merlin’s sake, control yourself and-”
“It worked,” Harry announced jubilantly, and pushed his way past Snape into the hallway. “I mean, not completely, but sort of, and I talked to Ron and he remembered me from after the wards were down, and I couldn’t believe it, but he even remembered that I told him that my name was Harry, and you have no idea how good it felt to hear that again.”
Snape was looking completely bewildered. Harry laughed, and kissed him.
Somewhere between the moment when it seemed like a really good idea to kiss Snape, and the moment where his lips made contact, his brain unfroze, ran from the moment in the bar with Ron and caught up to him, and said no, no, no, no. He was kissing Snape. Who was standing absolutely still.
Harry pulled back. Snape looked like someone had just hit him, and his eyebrows were slowly pulling downwards into a frown.
Not the reaction you want to see in someone you just kissed. Not that Harry had meant to kiss him or anything, it had been an accident.
“Sorry,” Harry said swiftly. “I don’t know what – sorry. Crazy. I’m crazy. Lack of sleep. Don’t know what I was thinking.” Snape said nothing. Harry really didn’t want him to. “I’ll just go now then. Thank you.” And he dashed out of the door.
# # # # # # # # # # #
Harry ‘bumped into’ Ron several more times in the next couple of weeks. He was slowly introduced to several of his old school friends by Ron, and found they all seemed to like him. For himself, not as Harry Potter. It was hard to admit to himself how much he’d always wondered about that.
It was awkward lying to them though, about what he’d been up to and what he was doing now, so he decided to go out and get a job. It was surprisingly easy.
The first person he’d asked about a job was Ollivander. He felt some kind of loyalty and commitment to the older wizard that he couldn’t shake off. Ollivander didn’t need anybody though, which wasn’t a surprise to Harry. He’d been watching Ollivander’s routines for some time now, after all, and knew that most of the day was spent reorganising boxes or quietly making wands. Not really anything an extra hand would be needed for.
So he’d wandered around Diagon Alley, calling in all of the shops and making himself known, and after a couple of days one of the shopkeepers came out as he was passing and mentioned someone looking for a helper.
When asked about his qualifications, Harry said he’d been at Hogwarts, and gave a list of his grades, and the man who ran the shop just accepted his word without asking for any proof. It was more than a little uncanny, and Harry rather thought it to be a leftover of the wards’ effects.
Helping out with the owls at Eeylops wasn’t anything like Harry had imagined it would be. For one thing, they produced an astonishing amount of mess, and it was Harry’s job to clean them up. Sure, he could use magic, but it still wasn’t fun. Then he had to learn to handle them, and having a four-pound weight impact suddenly onto your arm took a bit of getting used to.
But he loved it.
He liked taking them home with him too. The shopkeeper, Harold, explained that ‘it wasn’t really fair to the poor featherbrains to keep them locked up all the time,’ so they got taken back with him, and now with Harry, on a rotation system. So Harry always had three or four owls with him at home, except for one particular snowy owl who’d been in the shop long enough to merit a name. ‘Hellhound’ had to be taken on his own, as he wouldn’t tolerate any other owls in his vicinity. He didn’t really tolerate Harry either, and spent his time either nipping at his fingers and ears or flying screeching at the cage where Harry’s own owl had been put for the duration of Hellhound’s stay.
A couple of his owls came with him to The Burrow when he was invited, and everybody oohed and aahed and loved what a cool job he had. Even the twins seemed to think it was neat.
# # # # # # # # #
Two of Harry’s owls for the night had to be severely reprimanded when they tried to mob a small incoming tawny. It wasn’t an owl Harry recognised, and it flew off before he could examine it or offer it anything.
The letter was on plain parchment, with very recognisable handwriting.
I invite you to dinner on the twentieth of this month, at the hour of seven in the evening, at the establishment Provere’s House. Please inform me if you should you be unable to attend. Otherwise I shall look forward to your inestimable company.
Harry thought it sounded - actually he wasn’t sure how it sounded. Extremely formal, but then Snape was probably freaked out about Harry kissing him and didn’t know what to say. Why did he want to talk to him then? Probably to castigate him personally and in public.
He shouldn’t go. He knew the whole affair would be agonising.
Harry wrote back saying that he was really sorry, but he wouldn’t be able to make it.
# # # # # # # # #
A second letter came, specifying a different date. Snape must really have wanted to chew him out.
Harry refused again, and no third letter came.
# # # # # # # # #
When he ‘accidentally’ walked past the restaurant Snape had specified at seven o’ clock on the date in the second letter, he told himself it was just to get a look at the type of place Snape would frequent. There was nothing more to it.
And he absolutely didn’t panic when a shape moved out of the darkness, took his arm, and said “Mr. Potter. Shall we go in?”
“Yes,” he croaked, “I’m sorry if I’m late.” How had Snape known he’d be here at all?
“Not at all,” Snape replied smoothly. “You are entirely punctual.”
Well, Snape wasn’t shouting at him yet. That was good, right?
It was a small place, designed in an L-shape with partitions in between tables to give a sense of privacy. The lighting was too hard and bright to call it cosy though, and Harry though it suited Snape very well.
They sat in silence, Snape studying his menu and Harry studying the tablecloth. He supposed he should apologise again, perhaps a bit more coherently this time, and opened his mouth to say something.
“We’ll have the house red,” said Snape to the waiter who had almost magically appeared at his elbow. Harry shut his mouth again. “And I will have the liver pate followed by the leg of lamb.”
The waiter looked at Harry. “Ummm.” Harry flipped his menu open hurriedly and picked the first things he saw. “The prawn cocktail and then the steak, please.”
“And how would sir like the steak prepared?”
Harry’s mind went blank for a moment and he couldn’t think of an answer. “Raw,” he blurted out, and then stuttered, “I mean, rare, please.”
The waiter collected their menus as Harry tried not to let Snape’s smirk make his own face go even more red.
Over their starters Snape asked about Harry’s friends. At first Harry answered feeling as though an axe were about to fall, watching Snape’s every expression for an indication that the man was about to lay into him. After the first glass of wine, however, he began to relax a little, and told Snape all about his job.
It occurred to him as he cut into his steak, and they’d really taken his ‘raw’ comment to heart, that he’d never asked what Snape was doing here, or why he’d been away.
“You will, I’m sure, be astonished to learn that I am working on potions,” Snape said dryly.
Harry smiled. “The Defence Against the Dark Arts thing didn’t stick, then?”
“Well I certainly wasn’t planning on remaining a teacher.” Snape took a sip of wine. “But in the broader spectrum of things, no. While I was travelling I did some work in the area – consulting and a little hunting.”
“Sort of like a private detective but with Aurors,” Harry said.
Snape didn’t look like he knew what a private detective was. “Indeed,” he said. “And I found that I didn’t want to be involved in the matters of any more dark creatures, or wizards, if I could possibly avoid it. Thus,” he gestured with his fork, “Potions.”
“And the name of Voldemort never came up?” Harry asked curiously.
“Astonishingly I wasn’t keen to raise the subject,” Snape drawled. “I had no desire to ever speak his name again, or to hear it.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. He had once felt like that, right up to the time when he never did hear it. Voldemort’s name was so inextricably linked with his that you couldn’t seem to have one without the other. He was unwittingly reminded of the prophecy ‘neither can live while the other survives.’
“Why did you come back here? Why now?” he asked.
Snape looked pensively into his glass. “After it was over I decided to wash my hands of it all. To go away. To hide, if you will. I did not care what people might think of me, or if the Ministry might suspect I had run away because of guilt.”
“At least that won’t be a problem now,” Harry said. Snape looked up at him, startled, as though he had never considered the ramifications of Harry’s problems. If people didn’t remember Voldemort, or Death Eaters, then Snape was free.
“A clean slate,” Snape murmured. “It seems I have something else to thank you for then. Although I think I might have felt better facing the consequences of my actions.”
Harry stayed quiet for a minute and then questioned “Is that why you came back?”
Snape didn’t answer for a long time. “It is one thing to be condemned by society, or to be forgiven by it, Potter. To be condemned by oneself is a hard burden to bear.”
Harry nodded uncertainly, not really sure what to say, and went back to eating his food.
# # # # # #
Considering how (relatively) well things were going, it was only right that Harry should put his foot in it before dessert.
“I just want to say-” He knew he shouldn’t bring it up, knew it, knew that he shouldn’t say anything if Snape didn’t, but it was burning on his tongue and he really needed to get it out so that Snape wouldn’t think he was ignoring the whole incident. “I’m really sorry about that whole thing before. I know you must be angry, but I didn’t mean to offend you. It just happened. I didn’t mean anything by it, and I’m really sorry.”
Snape glared at him. “I believe you mentioned that before.”
“Yeah, well, sorry.” Harry poked at his cutlery, and wished for the waiter to come and collect their plates and save him from the pit he was digging himself into. “It’s not like I wanted to kiss you or anything.”
“What exactly did you think my motive for inviting you here this evening was?” Snape asked cuttingly. “Did you believe I went to all of this effort just to chastise you for your lack of manners? Is it not at all possible,” Snape said, rising from the table and crossing round to loom over Harry, “That a wizard, having been kissed – clumsily I might add – by another wizard, who invites said other wizard out to dinner, might be assigned some motive other than malice?”
Harry just started at him, stunned. He felt very small. About a foot high and shrinking.
“Oh you infuriating boy,” said Snape, and leaned over and kissed him. The pressure of Snape’s mouth pushed Harry’s head back, and the angle was really uncomfortable, and Holy Fuck Snape was kissing him.
Of course, by the time Harry had processed all of this Snape was pulling back, and looking down at him coolly. “As you will, Mr. Potter,” Snape said, and turned on his heel and walked out.
Harry was glued to his chair. He’d put down roots into it, that was how hard it was to move, but he did, falling off the chair in an awkward stumble that allowed him to launch into a full out run. The waiter yelled at him as he dashed past, but all Harry cared about was catching up to Snape.
Who was waiting for him outside. Harry nearly ran into him before he came to an ungraceful halt.
“Snape,” he breathed, and didn’t know what else to say. He wanted this man, suddenly, fiercely, in a way so completely unexpected that it left him almost incapacitated. Luckily Snape didn’t seem to be suffering from the same problem, as he pulled him in close and apparated both of them away.
# # # # # # # # #
Afterwards they lay on opposite sides of the bed, not touching at all. Snape (Severus) had fallen asleep straight away with one hand outstretched casually in Harry’s direction, and was snoring faintly.
Harry couldn’t sleep.
In fact, he’d never technically slept with anybody before, not all night in the same bed, and he couldn’t relax. Every little noise or shift from Snape (Severus) jerked him into a state of heightened alertness, as though he were expecting an attack. Harry felt itchy and hot, unable to move and get comfortable for fear of waking the other man.
What he really wanted to do was leave.
Not leave, even, but run away. Go back to his house, or one of the quiet back rooms of the owl emporium, or hide amidst Ollivander’s clean shelves. Sit down and process everything that had happened and try and deal with the emotional fallout that was ripping his head apart. He couldn’t deal with this, this panic that came from having a warm body belonging to a person who actually seemed to care for him in some fashion only two feet away. He could reach out and touch Snape (Severus. Snape. Whatever.) if he wanted.
He wanted to run away, but what would he do then? What would happen when Snape awoke and he wasn’t there? Almost more important to his decision than his flight instinct was this new, fragile desire not to disappoint Snape. Almost.
Sitting up carefully in the bed, Harry contemplated the rumpled sheets. The sex had been good. Not as fantastic as in his daydreams, perhaps, but then he had spent the entire time petrified that Snape would figure out from his clumsiness that he’d never been with a man before, which in turn only caused him to be even more clumsy.
There had been a spark there though, which had ignited with every touch. Now that Harry was willing to admit what the feeling was, he also had to admit that it had been there a while. Ever since he’d seen Snape again, in Ollivander’s shop. A really, really hot spark. Harry knew that the sex would get better. Much better.
If he stayed.
If this was what he wanted.
If this even meant anything to Snape.
He quietly got up, found his robes on the floor in the darkness and went downstairs. He tripped over a chair in the kitchen as he struggled to dress himself, and froze for a moment, ears straining to pick up any sounds of movement. There was nothing. Harry didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed – he half wanted Snape to catch him and coax him back to bed. Not that coaxing was something Snape would do.
Did he even want Snape, or just some fantasy he’d attached to the man, now that Snape was the only one who remembered his past?
Harry thought of all Snape’s pettiness, his sarcasm and jibes and scowl. His wit, his fingers, his ability to make Harry smile at the oddest times. He remembered hating Snape in school, forgiving him, without even realising it for a long time, for Dumbledore, and trusting him during the last few battles even as Snape fought (scarily convincingly) for the other side.
He sat in a chair and remembered how Snape had helped him with this problem, had stuck by him, had kissed him – possessive and fierce and as though oxygen wasn’t the necessity for him that it was for everyone else.
There was Snape. Then there was Harry’s empty house, or Eeylops or Ollivander’s. Harry realised that the difference between his options were that the last three were undemanding upon him in any way, and the former certainly wasn’t. That was what he was afraid of, that Snape would have demands upon him, his time, his patience – gods, the man would probably want to rewrite his personality.
Harry had never really committed himself to anything like this before, never had more than a few awkward dates in school and a few one night stands after it. He didn’t know if this was worth the risk. Maybe he was too much of a coward after all. He couldn’t go back upstairs, and lie in that bed as though he were perfectly fine with all of this, as though he were prepared for this and a normal, well-adjusted wizard. But he couldn’t leave either, couldn’t give this up.
The shadows moved slowly over the wall in the moonlight, and then, when Harry next opened his eyes, in the first rays of dawn. He’d dozed off without realising it, and the noise that had awoken him was growing louder.
Snape’s tread on the stairs was heavy, and when Harry saw his face through the doorway he saw weariness and then surprise. The surprise disappeared instantly, but the weariness stayed. Maybe Snape hadn’t had much sleep last night either. What if he’d been awake when Harry left?
Snape moved past him without saying anything, and stood by the sink, leaning his arms on the counter and staring out of the window.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” Snape asked eventually, making no move towards the kettle.
Harry’s fingers dug into his thighs and he made himself look at Snape, look at the long arch of his back and the head bowed slightly in a defeated pose. His voice cracked when he started to speak, so he cleared the tightness from his throat and tried again. “Yes,” he said, and that was entirely inadequate. “Yes, I’d love a cup of tea.” And he got up and filled the kettle with water, and, when Snape came up behind him and touched him, he didn’t pull away.
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