Genre(s): Hurt/Comfort and Humour
Warnings: See Snarry Games post for warnings.
Word Count: 18,000 +
A/N: As always, I prevailed on many people to beta-read this story. regan_v, stasia, lesyeuxverts00, rexluscus and sscrewdriver (who did two beta reads and a Britpick!). Any flaws in the story are mine. I got the bunny for this from the lovely gaycrow--I hope you like it!
Summary: "Harry rubbed his eyes. He felt quite a lot better for sleeping. 'You didn't forget again, did you?'
'No, I am in St Mungo's Hospital on the Spell-Damage Ward
with my prof--with Severus Snape.'
'Very good, Longbottom.'
'Ha bloody ha.' "
Harry woke from
his old dream of the green light and the high-pitched laughter into an
unfamiliar dark place. As always, his heart was thudding away as though he'd
been running. It wasn't the cupboard or his bed at Hogwarts--there was a
nightlight on somewhere, and he could see a little. Someone was standing over
him in the gloom, and he scrambled backward on the bed, squinting up at the
heavy, frowning eyebrows and the angry black eyes. Harry groped for his wand,
but it wasn’t under his pillow.
"Even these morons at St Mungo's aren't fools enough to let a wizard of your powers sleep with a wand, Potter."
Panting, Harry nodded. Professor Snape was standing over his bed in pale blue pyjamas, acting as though this were a perfectly ordinary thing for him to be doing. Harry was in St Mungo's with Snape for some reason. It made no sense.
Snape continued to glare down at him. "The war is over. You're awake. It was all just a bad dream. Everything is fine," he delivered in a bored monotone.
Harry mopped the sweat from the back of his neck with his pyjama collar. "Um," he said.
"You're all right," Snape continued.
"Why are we in a room in St Mungos?" Harry asked. "Why are you saying these things to me? Bit groggy, sorry."
"A bit groggy! You have recurrent and unpredictable memory loss, possibly due to spell damage. The only thing you seem to be able to remember is your antipathy for me. Every so often you inform me of it, with bellowed threats."
"Really?" Harry said to himself. "Good for me."
"You seem to be feeling better."
"How about you? What happened to you?"
"None of your business."
"Typical. Why do they have us sharing a room?"
"Because," Snape's voice went very low, "your uncontrolled bursts of magic at night are dangerous, and the staff here won't take the duty because of the risk."
"But you will," Harry yawned.
"As though I had a choice."
"Can I go back to sleep now, Professor?" Harry said, and yawned again, even wider. He lay back on the pillow, shut his eyes, and turned away from Snape.
"It worked," Snape said under his breath. "Fuck me, it actually worked. Four days of raving and breaking things, and all I had to do was talk to him."
When Harry woke again, the sun was up and sunlight was coming in the window over Snape's shoulder. It was a small hospital room with two beds, one on each wall, and a table against the wall between them, where Snape was sitting in a chair with a tray full of food. He was still in pyjamas.
"What time is it, Professor?" Harry asked.
Snape's eyebrows went down as he turned to face Harry. Snape reached for his wand, which wasn't there, of course.
"I know, I know, the war is over and everything is fine. What time is it?"
Snape dropped his fork. "Potter? You remember what I said last night?"
"Why wouldn't I?"
Snape pulled out a piece of parchment from the stack on the table and began taking notes with furious speed.
"Have you been trying to get me to remember things? Why isn't there a Healer doing it, if we're in hospital?"
"The Healers don't want to watch you at night because you keep making things explode at them in your sleep."
"I have had nightmares for years, Professor, there’s no way that--"
Snape gave him a disgusted look. "There's this thing called magic, Potter, ever hear of it?"
"That's mad. Is this the mental ward? Because that's utterly mad."
"What's the last thing you remember, right now?"
Harry's head began to throb. "Could I have a cup of tea, please? I’ve a bit of a headache."
Snape automatically poured him tea with milk, and handed it to him. "Thank you," Harry said.
They stared at each other for a moment over the rim of the tea mug.
A Healer came in, wearing orange robes with a "Trainee" badge. She was young, plump, and rather pretty, with rosy cheeks and a lot of bright yellow hair piled on her head, and she looked a bit frightened, but bustled cheerfully nonetheless. Harry had a feeling this was how the Healers all looked in the morning.
"Mr. Potter! How are we this morning?" She had the voice of a nursery school teacher, all high and businesslike.
Harry grimaced. "Fine, thank you." She continued into the room to open the blinds, and Snape stood next to Harry's bed.
"You have the same headache you have every morning," Snape pointed out in an undertone. "Why didn't you mention it? She usually gives you a potion for it."
"Oh, you'd like that," Harry said out of the side of his mouth. "How can they give me pain potions if they don't know why I've lost my memory?"
Snape's eyes widened and he let his mouth fall open a little.
"Why are you staring at me?"
"Because you're right. You're actually right."
"I did learn something in school."
"Something these dolts didn't, apparently."
"Don't get smug--I hardly learned that from you," Harry said in the same low voice. "I spent a lot of time in the infirmary."
The Healer looked up, and Snape grew quiet, his face closed. She had a large blue bottle tagged with Harry's name.
"No pain potion today, thanks," Harry told her.
Harry looked to Snape, trying to keep his own face smooth and blank. "Did I break anything last night, Professor?" he asked for the Healer's benefit.
"You did not."
Harry nodded. "You were wise to leave me with Professor Snape, miss. He's found quite a good method of stopping the wild bursts of magic I was experiencing."
He didn't look at Snape. He was assuming quite a lot--that Snape would side with him against the Healer. It was a risk, as all he could remember about Snape was that he hated Harry and gave him a hard time in class.
Snape nodded. "I found a new method," he confirmed.
The Healer looked alarmed. Apparently she couldn't force Harry to take the potion, or was afraid to try. "I'll need to discuss this with Healer Strout," she concluded. Snape set down the glass of potion he had in his hand as she left the room. Then, moving with obvious difficulty, he walked to the door and shut it after her.
"You think they're drugging you to keep you docile, and that it's impeding your recovery."
Harry shrugged. "Something like that. They might not be doing it on purpose. I've taken a lot of pain potion over the years, though. It makes me all groggy."
"Why did I go along with you?" Snape wondered, turning his head away.
"Dunno, but thank you for doing it. I thought you might want to follow the rules. You don't like to break rules."
"That's what you remember."
"Or you don't like me to break them."
"Which side was I on in the war?" Snape asked Harry. Harry's stomach sank, and his heart began to pound, as it had in his dream.
"You--you killed Dumbledore--" His head was splitting open. "But then you saved me--fuck--and you--" His head hurt. His head hurt. He clutched it.
Snape's foot dragged as he hobbled over. His face was panicked, but he recited, "It's all right, the war is over, it's all right, you're safe now," in a soft, monotonous voice.
"Worked last night," Snape said.
"You don't seem even slightly sympathetic." Harry's head still hurt and he felt like he might vomit. Basin he thought, and one flew across the room into his hand. It skimmed Snape's pyjamas, but didn't hit him. Harry retched into it, but there wasn't anything but tea in his stomach. It burnt coming up.
He panted for a minute, the nausea receding, the headache becoming more bearable. Two partial memories, and his head hurt like a bastard--no wonder they were dosing him with potions. They were terrible memories--Snape hexing Dumbledore, and then--Snape in front of him, arms outstretched, coming between Harry and someone's wandlight. He could see Snape stretched out and bleeding; it was clear and horrible. No wonder the memory made him sick.
Even having those two more memories felt like a relief, though. He would make sense of things, and get out of here.
"Snape, you bastard, did you really kill him? What happened on the Tower that night?"
Harry remembered Snape looking this angry before--screaming and spitting. Harry thrust an elbow in front of his face as he scooted backward. Snape's face went expressionless. His lips relaxed from their perpetual pursing, his eyebrows unscowled, and he looked unnaturally calm. It was creepy.
"Not going to talk about it, eh," Harry said to himself. He shuddered. "You have to talk to me about it, Snape."
"I don't have to do anything."
"You were on our side, weren't you? Why did you do it? Why?"
Snape didn't answer. Harry wanted to hit him. It was all he could do not to grab the man by his long, spidery arms and shake him. It helped that Snape was wearing the light blue striped pyjamas and not his teaching robes. He looked sallow, too thin, and vulnerable.
Harry squared his shoulders. He couldn't believe he was still in bed, with the sun coming through the hospital room window so brightly. He swung out of the bed and found the slippers on the floor. He needed the loo.
When had he Banished the basin? He finished washing his hands and thought about it. Well, it wasn't like someone was going to want a basin full of watery puke.
Snape was standing holding the bedstead, looking blank. "What happened to your leg?" Harry asked.
"War-related injury," Snape said.
"Of course it's a war-related injury!"
"I could have been hit by a car, Potter. Traffic accidents happen every day in Britain."
"Might have fallen off of a chair in my own home. I understand many of the most serious injuries are the result of household accidents."
"I didn't do it, did I?"
"Not everything is about you, Potter." Snape went back to the chair, pointedly not limping.
Harry sat in the chair opposite Snape and lifted the cover on his breakfast tray: a soft-boiled egg
and buttered toast, and some grapefruit.
He shrugged--he was sick, after all. "Is there more tea?"
"Yes, certainly," Snape said mechanically, and poured some more for Harry from the little pot. His table manners were impeccable, which was funny since he was such a rude bastard most of the time.
Snape had once threatened to put something in his tea, hadn't he? Veritaserum. When was that? Harry drank the tea--he wasn't worried. He'd been screaming in his sleep every night for the four days they'd been here together. Snape didn't need Veritaserum because he'd probably heard everything. Anyway, Snape knew more than he did about what had happened. If anyone should be taking truth potion, it was Snape.
When he'd finished eating, Harry wiped his mouth on the napkin self-consciously and looked up. "What do they do with us? Are there exercises? Therapy?"
Snape snorted. "As the staff is afraid of you, most of your therapy has been walking on the ward under armed guard."
"A walk would be good about now." Harry got up and stretched, looking out the door. Snape was still sitting at the table, taking notes on a stack of parchments. He looked up at Harry and frowned.
"But you have just remembered some things today that you hadn't recalled before, and you've retained the memory of who you are and where you are for a full twelve hours, and controlled your magic after a nightmare. We mustn't become sidetracked now."
Harry stared at him. "I'm your project, aren't I? This is how you were when you were at school. I had your textbook," Harry remembered. "You were really funny. I rather liked you. I thought maybe--I thought maybe the Half-Blood Prince was my dad, because--" Then his head gave a twinge. "Shit," he said under his breath.
"Head hurt?" Snape asked. He didn't sound sympathetic--perhaps he was incapable of it--but he wasn't taunting Harry, either.
Harry would have laughed if it hadn't hurt. "You sound like you want to take more notes."
"Just don't set them on fire again..."
"Just like Hermione--" Harry said, and then his head hurt more than he could bear, and he had to lie down and put the pillow on his head.
It was silent for a few minutes, and then Harry heard Snape not-hobbling across the room. The bed dipped a little as Snape sat down on the edge of it.
"Take the potion, Potter," Snape said.
"Are you mad? You just told me I haven't been lucid in four days. No potion."
"Does the light hurt your eyes?"
Harry grunted, but couldn't respond.
Something warm--Snape's tentative hand--pressed him between the shoulder blades. Snape was patting his back.
At first, Harry tensed. As far as he could remember, Snape had never touched him before. Most people didn't touch Harry, and in any case, Snape had always hated him so much that he would have expected Snape to hit him rather than gently pat him, no matter how awkwardly. Harry was only human, though, and the feeling of the long hand touching him was soothing. After a few moments, he relaxed and the throbbing in his head eased. He took deep breaths.
"Why are you being kind to me?" Harry pulled the pillow off his head.
Snape sniffed. He looked scornful, annoyed and cold.
"Project." Harry said. He smiled to himself. "I could do worse than to be your personal project. At least this time you aren't trying to get me expelled from school. Maybe you'll invent a spell about me." He sat up; Snape stood quickly, and had to steady himself on the bedstead. "Let's see if they will let me take that walk. Should be interesting."
Harry walked to the door of the room. "Hello?" he called down the hall. "Anyone there?"
No one answered.
"You can't leave," Snape said. "There's a barrier to prevent your leaving--" But Harry had already walked through the doorway.
"I'll just walk up and down a bit," Harry said, "and then come back." He looked back as he walked and saw Snape looking after him, a little gobsmacked.
Harry came back to their room feeling a little better, though not completely satisfied. He itched for some activity. The hallways were dull. At least the portraits were willing to talk with him. All the people looked frightened. Of course the portraits were all a bit eccentric, as they were at Hogwarts, but at least they were friendly.
Snape was sitting at the little table in their room, which he had turned into a sort of desk. He had books and parchment and quills. As Harry walked in, Snape threw the book he was reading on the floor with a curse.
"Potions journal?" Harry guessed. "Going to write an irate letter to some dunderheads?"
Snape glared at the book on the floor.
"Muggle psychology. Idiots."
"What, you've just discovered you're a bit barmy?"
"No, just suspecting you might be." Snape smirked. "Not barmy, you hotheaded, unsubtle boy. Shellshocked. It's a much better explanation than a curse or hex."
"How do you get shellshock in a magical battle?"
"First I have to understand what it is. Now they seem to call it 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'. I don't understand how they mean one to treat it."
"Aren't wizarding potions better than Muggle drugs for healing people, anyway?"
"Some say to give drugs and some that there has to be some sort of therapy, and no one seems to agree on that bit either." He fumed to himself, seeming to forget that he was talking to Harry Potter, his arch annoyance. "When I read wizarding books, I can always tell what's a reasonable theory and what's a bit on the edge or cracked. In these journals, when they disagree, I'm at a dead loss."
"You're really the last person who should be giving me psychotherapy, Snape."
Snape's eyes bored into him. "Of course I am. Do you see anyone else? The St Mungo's staff is afraid of you, and they understand even less than I do about psychology. We can't take you out of here to a Muggle doctor, because the moment you tell people that you do magic, they'll lock you up and give you drugs. That could be disastrous if you keep firing off spells in your sleep." He clenched his teeth. "Your dreams were disturbing me."
"Yeah, with the screaming and the objects flying about."
"According to this article," Snape said, picking up the book from the floor, "PTSD happens when the patient has a certain lack of resilience to trauma. The authors have obviously never met you. You're like a bloody rubber ball--though you shouldn't be."
"Why shouldn't I be?"
"The Dark Lord killed your mother when you were at a critical stage of development. Her death--" Snape stopped, his eyes widening. He gasped for breath. Apparently Harry’s intense desire not to hear about his mother’s death again had stopped Snape from speaking.
"Go on!" Harry yelled. "Tell me more!" Snape's face was turning grey. "Apneo! Please breathe, please!"
"Thank you," Snape said, after he had taken a breath.
"Are you all right?"
"Bloody menace." Anyone else would have been afraid, but Snape merely looked annoyed.
"Didn't do it on purpose." Harry said. "Sorry, sir."
"Now he calls me 'sir'. You see why they've left me with this unenviable job."
"I remembered that spell." Harry mopped his brow with his fingers.
"I'm not even a Healer. I'm a patient!"
"Though I didn't have a wand, so I'm not--"
"You don't need a wand, Potter. That's why you're scaring the staff."
"I didn't always have this much magic, did I?"
"I don't know, Potter."
Harry swung his legs off the bed, and began to pace the floor. He suddenly had a lot of energy.
"Stop it. What are you doing?"
Harry nearly careened into Snape, who was unsteady on his feet. Harry grabbed his arms, just at the bicep. Snape drew in a breath, and Harry let him go.
"See what I mean about resilience? You returned to your obnoxious self with almost abnormal cheerfulness and energy, as though you were determined to be happy, even in spite of--" He cut himself off.
Harry looked at him. "You know something. There is some reason that I shouldn't be happy, isn't there? There always is. My head starts to hurt whenever I think about anyone I loved. I mean, any of my friends," Harry said. He felt his nose prickle a bit. "Are they all still, you know, alive?"
"No." Snape said with clinical precision. "Many people, including many young people from your year at Hogwarts, died in the war."
"Snape! You aren't going to just tell me?" A water glass shattered on the table suddenly, and Harry jumped.
"Clean that up, Potter," Snape directed in his quietest, most teacherly tone. "Illness is not an excuse to break crockery."
Harry cast a silent "Reparo" on the glass, and then wadded up a towel and mopped the floor. He looked up; Snape was sitting in one of the chairs, looking down at him with an impenetrable expression.
"Probably a spell for this part too, eh," Harry said.
"As you see, it is not a good idea for me to 'just tell you' who died. I suspect that your amnesia and nightmares and rage and wild magic are all a psychological reaction, and not the result of spell damage."
Harry shrugged. "Pot, kettle. Except I suppose you don't have amnesia or out of control magic."
"Very amusing, Potter. How old are you?"
"That was meant to be an insult, wasn't it? Not quite up to your usual standard, as of course I have no idea, because I don't know how much time I've lost." He looked at his hands. "How old am I?"
Harry looked at his hands. They looked strange--too large, the wrists too hairy, the knuckles too thin. He did remember that they looked like this, but it felt like time was slipping around.
At this moment, the doorway crackled with blue light and one of the Healers came in. "Mr. Potter!" she said briskly, "I am Healer Strout. I understand you haven't taken any potions today."
"Feeling a bit better," Harry said smiling. "Only one burst of wild magic today, as you see. I broke a glass--but I've cleaned it up."
"Two," Snape said in an undertone.
"Three," the Healer said. "We've been monitoring the room."
"Oh yes, the basin," Harry said. "Sorry."
"You seem quite a bit more lucid," the Healer admitted, "but I don't want you wandering the halls. Do you understand me?"
"All right, yeah," Harry said. He was tired. "Is this the longest I've been able to remember everything that happens? Do you know what happened to me?"
"This is almost certainly spell damage," the Healer told him.
Harry and Snape glared at each other.
"Professor Snape," Strout continued, "you are not responsible for Mr. Potter's treatment."
"Weren't you the Healer on the ward where they had Lockhart and the Longbottoms, the one who let in the Devil's Snare?" Harry said suddenly. "You were! We are on the mental ward!" Harry pounded his fist on the bed.
"The Janus Thickey ward is not--"
"Don't be ridiculous, Potter. It's not the mental ward because there is no branch of magical healing for emotional wounds or illnesses," Snape said crisply. "The closest the magical world comes to mental health diagnoses is to call people 'a bit barmy.' You would think wizards and witches didn't have brains at all. At least, some of them."
The Healer cut in, "Professor Snape, I don't think--"
"That's obvious," Snape said under his breath.
The Healer gave them both a lecture about the role of attitude in recovery from spell damage and the importance of taking prescribed medications. Harry did his best to keep from snickering at Snape's expression.
Eventually she nodded as though she had discharged her unpleasant duty, pulled her uniform cloak around herself and swirled out the door.
"Oh dear," Harry said, "I'm afraid we've offended her."
The corners of Snape's lips suggested a crooked smile.
"These people really are idiots, Snape. Professor Snape. Don't they know that an angry wizard who loses control of his magic is dangerous?"
"You aren't just any wizard."
"Yes, I know, I'm sure, I'm a dunderhead with no subtlety and abysmal control."
"Why should I even bother to speak when you can recite both parts of our conversation?"
"And yet somehow I never managed to learn anything in your classes. That seems a bit unfair, doesn't it? What does that tell you?"
"That you were a mediocre student with no subtlety and abysmal control." Snape looked pleased with himself.
"Ah, so it couldn't be a reflection on your teaching methods, with the, you know, taunting the students. You were a crap teacher."
"Oh thank heaven you are finally telling me what you think of my teaching. How have I lived so long without your expert pedagogical advice?"
"I've probably told you this before, twenty times in the last four days."
"No, usually you accuse me of murdering your parents and being a traitor. Getting to hear what a crap teacher I was is refreshing, especially as it's unlikely that I'll ever teach again."
"But you didn't like teaching--you never seemed to like any of the students."
"Really, Potter, you weren't in any position to know whom or what I liked or disliked."
"You liked Draco Malfoy."
Snape was silent just a beat too long.
"Is Draco dead?" Harry blurted, horrified.
Then Harry was quiet too. "I'm sorry," he said in a low voice.
"I'm sorry. You liked him; I'm sorry he's dead."
Snape just stared at him.
"I didn't--" Harry felt cold all over. "I didn't kill him, did I? That's not what I'm trying not to remember?"
"Thank God," Harry said under his breath. "I--but I came close, that time in the girls' loo, sixth year, with your spell."
"You're rubbing your head."
"Who else died?"
"I think it would be better for you to remember that on your own."
Harry walked up and down the room. Snape sat in one of the chairs. He did not look comfortable.
"So none of the Healers tried talking to me?"
"'How are we this morning, Mr. Potter?'" Snape mimicked. Harry snorted.
"And they didn't touch me, either?"
"When you patted my shoulder, before--it really helped." His face heated. He didn't want Snape to touch him, did he?
Snape looked up, interested.
"Oh, now you'll want to take more notes, and practice things."
"Where do you get that idea?"
"Always thought the Half-Blood Prince was like Hermione with a better sense of humour." Snape looked annoyed. He clearly didn't like being compared to Hermione--wonder how she'd like being compared to him? What would Ron have to say about it?
Harry took a step and then sick dread pressed on his throat. "Oh God," he said, and sank to the floor.
Snape rose and grabbed him by the elbows and hauled him to his feet. "Stop." Snape's voice was hoarse and sounded a long way off. In his mind's eye, Harry was seeing the back of Ron's head, and then blood on it, blood on his head.
"Stop it now," Snape shouted. He shook Harry. "You're making yourself bleed." It was true--there was blood running from Harry's forehead like sweat. He wanted to wipe it out of his eyes. It was getting between his glasses and his nose--just like sweat in the summer, but it was all red. Harry forced himself to focus on Snape's panicked face. He watched Snape's face grow intent.
Snape sat Harry on the edge of the bed and began to incant the healing spell he'd used on Draco Malfoy three years before--the one that sounded like singing. He had no wand, but waved his hands over Harry's head, reciting the words. The bleeding stopped
"You did that without a wand," Harry said.
"I'm surprised it worked. Why the bloody hell don't the Healers come?"
"Don't call them," Harry pleaded. "Tell me the truth. Ron is dead."
Snape opened and closed his mouth. "Yes."
"That was what I couldn't remember, and why everything seems like it will never be all right again." Snape's severed leg on the ground, Ron lying dead, Neville swinging the sword of Godric Gryffindor and crying "Up Hogwarts!" like the hero of an old fairy story. He saw blood--it was like that, in the battle, bleeding from his head like sweat--the scar cut off him and blood pouring forth when he needed to see.
"Stop, Potter. Stop it," Snape ordered. He pulled Harry close to him in an awkward hug. "I've got you. It's all right.
"You're pants at this sympathy business," Harry said.
Snape patted him gingerly on the shoulder.
"I wish you were someone else," Harry said.
"So do I."
"Wish I was someone else?"
"Wish we were both someone else," Snape said. "Aren't you going to cry?"
"In front of you? Are you joking?"
"It might be more effective than cutting yourself, or screaming in your sleep."
Harry disentangled himself. "Do you cry in front of other people?"
"Not for many years."
"But catharsis is essential to recovery--and weeping is an important part of the stages of grief--"
Harry started to laugh. "But people don't work that way."
Snape glared. "You're an idiot."
"Yeah, that's just why I'm so eager to have you be the person with me when I remember that my best friend is dead." Was he bleeding again? There was something wet on his face. No, he was crying. Ron is dead, Harry thought, Ron is dead. Grief was like something he had to cough up; sobs shook the body like coughs and made him feel sick with it. He stood in the middle of the room, and felt the space around him like he was somewhere cold.
Snape looked horrified and took an awkward step back. Then he seemed to remember that he wanted Harry to cry. "There, there," he said without inflection.
Harry pulled out of himself. "Oh just stop it," he said. "You aren't fooling anyone." He walked into the loo and shut the door. A minute later, he heard Snape knocking. "Potter!" he said, "I can't leave you alone. It's not safe."
Harry sat on the toilet seat and let himself cry. Just for a minute, he thought, Ron, Ron, how will anything be the same? No one to share things with, to just be with--I'm going to be all alone again. "Just give me a minute, for heaven's sake," Harry said. He blew his nose.
"Right," he said, emerging; he went to the basin to wash his face. He took off his glasses; behind him in the mirror, Snape was a grey and black blur.
"I'm not blowing anything up," Harry said.
"Not yourself either."
"Why do you care? You've never liked me."
"You are far too concerned with what I liked or disliked."
"You liked Dumbledore."
He could see Snape tense, even though his face was out of focus. "Shut--" and then he stopped himself.
"What about--" Harry blundered on, "I remembered that they cut off your leg, but it's not-- Oh."
"My leg has been reattached," Snape explained stiffly.
"I don't remember how that happened, I just recalled--the leg--"
Harry slid his glasses back on, and Snape's face came into focus in the mirror.
"Why are you doing this?" Harry asked the scowling reflected face. "Trying to help me. It's so weird. Why would you do that?"
"Habit. Potter. Leave it."
Snape was pale and looked tired. He pulled his shoulders back to carry himself as straight as he usually did as he walked back to his bed, but stumbled. Harry moved before he thought about it, bringing the man's arm around his shoulder, and helped him. Snape leaned back on the bed, and looked at him.
"Yes, okay, so I don't have to like you to want to help you," Harry said. "It's probably my fault that someone cut off your leg anyway."
Snape sighed and shut his eyes. "Just take responsibility for the things you did, not for all the things others did when you happened to be present."
"I still don't know what--"
"Don't whinge, Potter." He lay back. "Try not to hex me while I rest."
Harry began to pace the room.
"Potter," Snape said in a faint voice. "Sit. Read something. Write a letter. Stop pacing."
Snape shut his eyes, and so didn't see Harry's glare. After pacing up and down defiantly a few more times, Harry sat in the chair closer to Snape's bed and found parchment and a quill on the shelf over it. He picked up the quill and sat looking at the blank parchment. After a minute, Snape's breathing became deep and even, and then he started to snore.
Snape’s face looked younger, or maybe less unpleasant, in repose, perhaps because he wasn’t expressing scorn, coldness or anger. Under his heavy eyebrows he had surprisingly long eyelashes, like a girl’s. He looked different when he relaxed--not blank like when he was doing that--what was it called...Harry remembered Occlumency lessons. God, what a bastard Snape had been then. Was there ever a time when he wasn't? Yes, this face wasn't like Snape's blank Occlumency face.
Harry held his quill. He didn't know how badly injured Hermione was. Maybe she hadn't been to see him because she was unable to forgive him for Ron's death. Since he didn't know what had happened to Ron, it could have been Harry's fault. Perhaps when Ron died, Harry had blamed her. He must have done something wrong not to have Hermione there telling him what to do--not to have Ron there, making fun of her for it.
Finally he wrote, "I miss you Ron", and put down the quill.
Snape made a noise in his sleep, his lips contorted in pain. Why didn't the Healers give him more potion? Would it interfere with healing his leg? Reattaching a cursed-off leg didn't sound like something simple or painless. If Harry called for them, it would wake Snape, and he was sure to be nasty.
Good--let him suffer for what he did to Dumbledore. That was Harry's first thought, and then he was ashamed. He saw Snape's leg on the ground--they cut it from the hip--the blood--Snape had screamed, but still urged Harry to go--he was brave. If he had really been a traitor, he had changed his mind not caring about the cost. The next part of it was a blur. Harry remembered just flashes--Voldemort's red eyes-- He had to sit down, and breathe, and try not to remember, so that he wouldn't vomit.
Snape groaned, "No, no," in his sleep. Of course it hurt; his leg had been all the way off--he had seen it, lying on the ground. Someone had put it back on, but twisted, not quite right.
Harry want to make it right. It was on wrong. He had to fix it. He imagined all the joints and sinews in a leg, the miraculous way a human body went together. He breathed--he needed to move his magic into someone else's body.
Snape's face relaxed again. His breathing got slower and deeper. He turned over, so that he was facing the wall and his injured hip was facing Harry.
Harry put his hand out to touch the injured place through Snape's thin pyjamas. It looked straighter; had he really made it go back? Harry realized as soon as his hand stroked along the fault line where the leg had been cut that he was stroking his former teacher's buttock.
Snape's breathing changed. His eyes opened; he looked surprised. "Potter?"
Harry stepped back.
"I'm not--I was just--"
Snape swung his legs around with normal agility. "You did something," he said. "What did you do?"
"I wanted your leg not to hurt so much--I wanted to heal it."
"That was why you had your hand on my arse?"
Harry blustered for a moment and then asked, "Well, does it hurt less, or have I gone completely mental?"
Snape got out of bed and walked across the room. He turned suddenly and made his dressing gown billow like his school robes.
Then he astonished Harry by suddenly grabbing him about the waist and whirling him around the room, as though they were ballroom dancing. Harry was breathless; he wanted to laugh, but it was too serious. Snape put his hands on Harry's shoulders and looked into his eyes.
Harry wasn't used to Snape looking at him this way--no sneer, no Occlumency, no anger. "What you did was dangerous," Snape told him. "You don't know anything about healing spells. You could have done something quite different from what you intended." His gravity was undermined by the bubbling sound of relief in his voice.
"But you're happy."
"Perhaps," Snape said. "Mainly I'm astonished."
"I'm not--happy, I mean," Harry admitted. "I don't feel anything. Just numb and maybe sad because--there's no one left. Maybe Voldemort didn't win, but he beat me. I don't have anyone. I lost everyone."
"No," Snape said.
"What do you mean, no?"
"I will help you. I said I would, and I will."
"Said you would to whom?"
Snape was frowning.
"You told Dumbledore you'd help me, didn't you?" Snape didn't answer. "Was that why you killed him, because he made you swear to protect me?"
"None of your damned--"
"I release you. I don't want you. I don't want--
"I didn't say--"
"No one has to take care of me. I've lived enough of my life with hateful people Professor Dumbledore forced to take care of me. You don't have to--I release you."
"You can't release me, you didn't obligate me."
"Are all of your relationships based on obligation?"
Snape's face went red and his eyebrows did their bristly thing. Harry didn't care. Let him be angry.
"You weren't ever just friends with someone because you liked them?"
"You don't have to like someone to want to help him."
"I don't want your help, then. Get them to transfer you to another room. Or maybe you can leave, if your leg is better. Does it hurt at all?"
"I have to like you?" Snape said this as though it were the absolute wettest thing he'd ever heard.
Harry sighed. "You don't have to like me. I’m telling you that I’m not accepting help from you, from anyone, who does it because Dumbledore forced them to. I don't have to do that any longer. I don't have to be with anyone who doesn't-- Didn't you ever wonder why I wasn't any good at Potions? Besides being a dunderhead who lacked subtlety? Slughorn told me my mum was a natural at it. Why wasn't I?"
"I assumed you weren't paying attention or doing the homework."
"Why would I do homework for you when you hated me?"
"To learn the material?" Snape said snidely.
"I never did learn it," Harry admitted. "I learned a lot from your notes in your textbook, but I never understood Potions theory the way Hermione did. Slughorn didn't teach the theory the way you did--but I couldn't learn it from you, so I never learnt it."
"Oh yes, as you said, I'm a crap teacher. Lucky for you there was Horace Slughorn, he's completely impartial."
"Yeah, fine. You weren't a bad teacher, really. It should have been interesting. Your notes in the textbook were. I just can't learn from someone who hates me. Look--we won the fucking war, I shouldn't have to rely on people who hate me. I shouldn't live in a cupboard anymore." He had raised his voice to a shout. They stood there, glaring at each other. "This is stupid," Harry said.
"Does your head hurt?"
Harry nodded without moving his head very much.
"Shall I rub your head?"
It was a strange thing to ask in the middle of an argument. "I suppose as I've touched your bottom I shouldn't say no." He was still a little afraid to let Snape touch him, but there was no way he'd let the old bastard know that. He flinched as the warm hands touched his neck.
They sat on the edge of the bed, and Snape rubbed Harry's neck, and then the lower part of his skull, working his way toward the top. "Does this hurt?"
"No," Harry said, his voice sounding far away. It felt so good that Harry was afraid he might cry again.
"You don't have to--you don't have to--"
"I owe you," Snape's deep voice rumbled behind him. "Are you so uncomfortable?"
"So repulsed, that--"
"Not repulsed, no, I--" He was aware of the warmth of another body, of someone who wanted him to lean back. Finally he sighed, and relaxed backward against Snape's chest. With a soft grunt, Snape put his arms around Harry. Harry's head fell against Snape's collarbone.
"Is this--" Harry started to ask, and Snape hushed him. Harry curled against Snape's body, which smelt of soap. There was some faint stubble on his neck.
It was in this position, sitting curled into each other on Snape's bed, that Healer Strout found them.
"You don't monitor patients, do you?" Snape accused her in his patented quietly menacing tone. "Are you waiting for Potter to hysterically decapitate himself before you come see what the cutting spells are in this room?"
Snape didn't let go of him. Harry's eyelids were closing. He was tired. Snape continued to harangue the Healer.
"One of you did a Healing spell," Healer Strout interrupted. "Mr. Snape, I beg you to remember--"
"Potter did it, wordlessly, without a wand," Snape cut her off. "Unlike you, he can't bear to see people in pain, even people he despises."
"But without a wand--without a focus for the magic--it's dangerous!"
"He's a matriculated student from the pre-eminent magical school in Britain," Snape asserted. Harry could feel him pull up straight.
"He never took his NEWTS--how can he presume--apprenticeship--"
Their voices went on, Strout's growing louder, Snape's going deeper and more emphatic.
"You're on my side," Harry muttered, but he didn't hear Snape's response. The vice of pain around his head had released and he finally fell asleep.
He woke later, curled in the bed, alone. Snape was at the little table, taking notes.
"That silly cow," he growled when he saw Harry was awake. "She's not prepared to send anyone in to tend the murderers, but God forbid we should do anything to heal each other. I'll bet the Ministry put us here to kill each other--save the cost of a trial."
Harry rubbed his eyes. He felt quite a lot better for sleeping.
"You didn't forget again, did you?"
"No, I am in St Mungo's Hospital on the Spell-Damage Ward with my prof--with Severus Snape."
"Very good, Longbottom."
"Ha bloody ha." There was a meal on the table. Harry sat down and lifted the lid. He was hungry. "Have you eaten?" he asked Snape.
"Yes, I have, thank you."
Harry shook his head. "You're talking to me just like a normal person," he said.
"Don't worry, Potter, you're behaving strangely enough for both of us."
Harry ate the sandwich and crisps and juice that the hospital provided, and ignored Snape's ludicrous gloating over a minor insult. He hadn't changed at all since school.
"Now that your leg is better," Harry said, "will you come with me for a walk?"
Snape opened his mouth to protest, and then shut it again as Harry looked at the doorway.
"I'm not meant to be wandering the hallways on my own, but certainly under the supervision of a faculty member from the pre-eminent magical school in Britain--"
"Former faculty member."
"Fair enough." Harry stood up. His pyjama bottoms pulled down a bit, and he hitched them up before they could fall too far.
"You'll want to wear a dressing gown over that," Snape said, looking away.
"I don't know what your Head of House did," Snape said, "but I never permitted my students to wander in their pyjamas around draughty hallways--"
Harry smiled wider. "Here I thought you were trying to get me expelled for breaking the rules all those years, when really you were trying to keep me from catching cold."
"What an annoying little twit you were, Potter."
"You've managed to grow quite a bit taller."
Harry grasped Snape's arm above the elbow to walk through the door. Now that he knew there was a barrier, he was less confident he could get Snape through it. It was almost natural to touch Snape. Harry had another flash of memory, of Snape putting himself between Harry and another Death Eater, his arms in his robe sleeves like great black wings. He gripped Snape's bicep in his blue fluffy bathrobe just a bit tighter.
"There's a garden here," Harry said to calm his thudding pulse. "I saw it before. It's on one of the roofs. There are benches."
Snape nodded. They walked past the Healer's station, Snape glowering with scornful authority. As they passed the portraits, Snape looked down his nose. By the time they got to the door of the rooftop garden, Harry was having a difficult time not laughing.
"You put that on, don't you?"
"I don't know what you mean," Snape sniffed. Harry watched him walk across the little garden.
"Amazing," Harry said. "You're much better."
"If the Healers here weren't such pathetic wretches, I might say this would be a good career for you, Potter."
"Doesn't it require subtlety? And knowledge of Potions?"
"These dunderheads seem to have got through all right."
They sat in silence on the bench.
"I haven't thought much about the future," Harry admitted. "Have you?"
"I thought I'd be dead. I thought you would kill me."
"Me? Yeah, I suppose I was angry enough with you to kill you."
"No, you weren't--you tried to hurt me, but you didn't even think of killing me."
"Why did you do it? Why?" Sudden tears constricted Harry's throat. "I never thought--you--"
"He asked me to do it." Harry could hear his unverbalised "you moron."
"Would he have died anyway, from the poison that--" Harry had a flash to the moment in the cave of feeding poison to Dumbledore. Then a few more memories came to him--clutching Cedric's body--trying to get to Sirius as he fell--Snape's leg on the ground. "He told me to poison him. I poisoned him. Why did he make me do that?"
"To get the Horcrux."
"God. How did I just live through all of this, and keep going?"
Snape exhaled impatiently, and shifted in his seat. "Do you know, that night, the worst of it was--I hit a student. I hit you in the face. You goaded me and I lost my temper."
"You used an Unforgiveable on the Headmaster in front of me; that was possibly the worst moment of my life, and--did he set it up so that I would see that? Compared with that, I think it wasn't so bad that you hit me. You could have taken me to Voldemort."
Snape looked exhausted. Of course, he'd had a leg lopped off and reattached. The sun was beginning to set.
"We did what had to be done," Snape said softly. "Every awful thing that someone else couldn't bring himself to do."
They walked back to the room, past the Healers and the portraits and the other patients in their rooms.
"Why didn't they make sure that your leg was on straight when they reattached it?"
Snape looked at him strangely.
The Healer was waiting for them in the hospital room.
Harry smiled at her. "You're just the person I wanted to see," he said. "You seemed very sure that I'd suffered spell damage. Do you know what the spell was? I'm recovering memories--have been all day--and I'm wondering if I'm going to recover fully, and how soon."
Diverted from her evident desire to scold them for leaving the room, Healer Strout frowned. Harry waited, trying to look like a pleasant, patient, rational person, even though he wanted to shake her.
"I'm not--it's generally not usual to discuss spell damage with the patient. Usually it's the next of kin or a medical guardian."
"As you and everyone in the Wizarding World knows, the boy has no next of kin," Snape said. "Guardian indeed. No one has been allowed in to see him."
Harry felt the blood drain from his face, but he persisted. "I believe it would help me in my efforts to recover if you would share your professional insight with me."
Strout shook her head. "The Ministry--"
Blood rushed to Harry's head. "What about the Ministry?"
She shook her head again and Harry thought she looked regretful.
"But you healed Snape's leg--what's the difference between healing his leg and helping me with this spell damage?"
"We didn't do that, you did. It was one of the last spells in your wand."
"Do I know how to do that? No wonder it was such a crap job," he added under his breath.
"Potter," Snape said quietly, and subtly jerked his head in Strout's direction. Her eyes were wide.
"I think I am already a bit better," Harry said. "I've remembered things, and I'm not casting spells in my sleep. If it's spell damage, can't you do anything? Maybe someone could teach me to control my magic again--after all, we all had to learn that at school."
"It's not so simple," Strout began.
"I mean, if I keep getting better?"
"Potter," Snape said again, very quietly.
He just stood and waited. Strout looked apologetic.
"Perhaps we can discuss it again tomorrow," Harry said.
"Yes, certainly." Healer Strout left the room.
"Is it true, what you said? Has the hospital stopped people from visiting?"
"Probably. You have a lot of friends. None of them has been here."
Harry shrugged. "So you don't know. They probably just haven't been. I only ever counted on Ron and Hermione," he said. "If Ron is dead--I mean, if Hermione is wounded and can't come--why should anyone else be here? Sirius is dead."
"What about Longbottom, Lovegood, Lupin?"
"Are they all alive?"
Snape shrugged. "Longbottom is. I don't know about the others. Mrs. Weasley--"
Harry sprawled on the bed. "Let's not talk about it, all right? Don't worry, Snape, I don't need you. I've always managed on my own."
"It's not germane, whether you need--"
"You don't have to take care of me, no matter what Dumbledore said."
They glared at each other, again, and Harry felt stupid, again. At least he was only nineteen. Snape was supposedly a mature adult, and they couldn't get through a conversation without this stupid conflict.
"And no Legilimency," Harry snarled.
"I can't do it without a wand," Snape said defensively. "Does it not occur to you that I might be right?"
"About the Ministry putting us here together."
"No. If the war is over--no. You're just paranoid."
He picked up one of Snape's books and curled on the bed with it.
"I warn you, it's tripe," Snape said.
Tripe or not, it was awfully boring, and Harry was drowsy.
It was totally dark when Harry woke, his throat hoarse. Snape was standing over him, looking terrifying with his horrible eyebrows and trying to be soothing.
Harry sat up. "Was I calling for my mother?"
"I was, wasn't I?"
"It's a primal loss," Snape said. He reached out and touched Harry's hair. Harry covered his eyes with his hand and flopped down on the pillow.
"You're no good at this, and anyway you don't have to do it," Harry said. "Go away."
Snape didn't move. He sat down closer and kept petting Harry's head, until the shudders that Harry hadn't noticed at first had abated. Harry relaxed. Snape still stayed.
After a few minutes, Harry dozed off. He came to, suddenly, after minute, when Snape fell asleep with his hand still on Harry's head. His arm was heavy. He began to topple over, and shook himself awake.
Harry pulled back the covers. Snape sidled in next to him. Harry wrapped his arms around Snape's long thin body. Snape turned and lay on his back, and Harry burrowed his head into Snape's chest, even though they were nearly the same height and it made Harry's toes stick out from the covers. He knew he would feel ridiculous if he were less sleepy. Snape held him. Harry could feel the moment when Snape fell asleep, because he let the weight of his arms rest fully on Harry's body.
Then Harry was asleep too.
Sunrise was only a few hours later, and Harry woke in the grey light from the hospital window with his morning erection pressing into Snape's thigh. He was going to roll off and found that Snape was awake, and holding him tightly.
Snape's lips were on Harry's hair. Snape's lips were on Harry because Snape was kissing Harry's face. His breath was hot.
Harry realized he had never been really hard before. This was the definition of hard. He had a cock and Snape had a cock and Snape's thigh was thrust between Harry's legs on purpose, to feel how hard he was. Harry must never have experienced sexual arousal before this, since apparently sexual arousal was like being pulled under water by the tide. What he had felt before didn't seem to have anything to do with this overwhelming feeling.
Snape didn't speak or even open his eyes, but just kept kissing, damp little nibbles on Harry's cheek, and then his jaw, and then his neck. He seemed to have no problem touching Harry now. There was nothing awkward in the press of his hand on Harry's lower back, which pulled Harry up Snape's body so that their cocks touched. There was nothing diffident in his grasp of Harry's bare buttock. He pushed down Harry's pyjamas and just grabbed.
Snape's erection was poking up over the waistband of his pyjamas. The head of his penis felt slightly damp against Harry's belly where his shirt rode up. Harry leaned on his elbow, putting more of his weight into his thrusting pelvis. Harry's cock pushed against Snape's body.
Snape's eyes were shut and his heavy brows furrowed. He panted under Harry, his thin lips twisted into a grimace. His face was flushed.
He realised that Harry was looking at him and his eyes opened wide. He looked up, shocked, like a child caught eating a sweet--a combination of innocent hunger and guilty pleasure. Harry bent and kissed him on the mouth, and Snape grabbed at his head to hold him there. He kissed like he was starving, his tongue heavy, hot and everywhere.
They grunted and groped, not even touching each other's pricks, and it was only a few minutes until they were both coming. Snape came first, making more noise than Harry would have thought he would, and it was a good noise, a deep involuntary groan that went straight to Harry's balls. Then Harry was coming too, his whole body trembling.
Even though they were messy with come, and tangled in their pyjamas and the bedclothes, and even though he had averted his face from Harry's gaze, Snape held onto Harry. His breath came in gently hitching sighs. He wasn't crying? No, not Snape. Or maybe he was. Harry didn't look; he just held on for a bit. Snape was good at hugging, and he'd probably hex Harry if Harry saw him weeping, wand or no wand. Some things it was better not to know.
"Let me up, Potter," he said gruffly, and still not looking at Harry, he made for the bathroom. The shower started up. Harry lay there on the bed, dozing, until Snape came out, and then got up to wash himself.
They were both clean and wearing fresh pyjamas. Why couldn't they have proper clothing? He tried to transfigure his dressing gown into a wizard's robe, but the cloth remained stubbornly made of terry towelling.
"McGonagall would be ashamed," Snape said. "You weren't so bad in her course."
"No," Harry said. "Don't have a wand, though. You try it."
Snape's dressing gown went all black. They smirked at each other.
Harry said, "You realise that we could walk out of the hospital at any time. There's nothing to stop us. If you're really better, I mean."
"Nothing to stop you, Potter. I can't even get through the door. In any case, I have nowhere left to go."
"You can come with me."
"I thought you didn't want me to help you. I thought I was paranoid."
"I thought you hated me."
"I do hate you," Snape said. "I loathe you."
"But you're on my side."
"Don't grin at me like an idiot." Snape did not say anything about their early morning slap and tickle. Harry thought he wouldn't, not even to tell Harry what it didn't mean. Well, Snape could pretend it never happened. Harry was going to find out what it meant.
"Come with me. I have to find Hermione. They aren't going to treat me here, or you either."
"In pyjamas, with no money."
"Yes. You're willing to bleed to death to defeat Voldemort, willing to kill and die, and afraid to be out in public in pyjamas?"
"Oh shut it, Potter. At least you could figure out a way to keep your trousers up."
Harry looked away so that Snape wouldn't see his smile this time.
He took Snape's arm to go through the door.
"Wait, I'll want my notes--" He grabbed them off the table and shoved them into his dressing gown pocket.
"Our wands, but I think they're at the Ministry."
"Let's try to get all the way out before we Summon them," Harry whispered. "If they're here, it's a sure tip-off that we're leaving for good, not just taking a walk."
He grasped Snape's arm again, and they walked out into the corridor. Harry nudged Snape, and Snape began his customary authoritarian sneering. The Healers quailed. Harry didn't know if they were afraid of Snape or of him. It was a little like when people at school found out he was a Parselmouth. Just as he had back then, he felt it unjust that they were afraid of him when he couldn't remember what it was that he had done. Then as now it was also oddly convenient.
Snape was perhaps the bravest person he'd ever met. Or perhaps he wasn't the bravest--Harry couldn't remember everything that had happened. Maybe it would work out to be someone else who was bravest, like Ron, or Hermione. Harry would never think of himself as brave again, whatever he'd done in that battle, since he was afraid to even remember it.
They walked down a narrow stairway and to the front entryway. Harry followed Snape, who was glowering and billowing in a grand style. Then they were out in the street, in bedroom slippers.
Snape strode, decisive, angry, and purposeful in his black dressing gown and hospital pyjamas. There were people on the street--presumably they were all Muggles--and no one gave him a second look. They wouldn't dare. Harry ran along after him. They wove through narrow and wider streets.
"This city is beautiful," Harry said. God was he a berk, but it was good to be outside finally. He could see the sky between the buildings, which were all white brick and ornate, with sort of 19th-century-looking sculptures and fancy windows. They were on a sort of high street in the business district. Cars and people bustled everywhere. Harry took a deep breath--exhaust.
"We're in our pyjamas," Snape complained. "We have no money and nowhere to go. If I weren't more afraid of the Wizengamot than of your out-of-control--"
"Magic?" Harry completed.
"Gryffindor House optimism--"
"I wouldn't be in this lunatic situation. We look like we've escaped the mental ward."
"We don't even have wands."
"I do," Harry said. "They had mine at the hospital. I Summoned it on the way out."
"What about money?"
"We could go to Gringotts. They'll give me my money even if the rest of the Wizarding World thinks I'm mad."
"I wouldn't be surprised if they do think so."
Harry shrugged. "It's happened before. The difference is this time I am a little--"
"I thought you were sure it was shellshock."
"I said I suspected Post-Traumatic Stress syndrome. Really, Potter--"
"I know, lack of subtlety, don't you know what the word 'hypothesis' means, we learnt it in first year..."
"I don't have patience for this."
"You won't like this part, either."
"I don't know how to Apparate us to Diagon Alley."
"Well, we can't walk in these slippers. It's too far."
"We'll take the Tube."
Snape's look of dismay was not funny, and Harry was not going to laugh. "I've done it before," Harry explained. "You buy a sort of ticket. "
"I know how to ride the Underground, you imbecile," Snape said. "I just don't generally do it in my pyjamas, without any Muggle money."
Harry thought for a minute. "Accio money."
"Potter, no!" It was too late. Snape put his hands over his face as five pound notes flew out of pockets, wallets and handbags toward them.
"Apparently I just stole a lot of money," Harry said, looking at the wad of cash in his hand. "I suppose I'll have to give it back."
"Why didn't we learn about this at school?"
"Oh yes, blame Hogwarts. It's all our fault that we didn't tell you not to Summon other people's money."
"There must be a spell to put it back."
"Most people don't accidentally steal--how much is it?"
Harry counted. "Sixty quid--not bad." He thought a moment. "We'll take the Underground, and once we have money from Gringotts, we'll give this lot to charity."
"Why is it all in five pound notes, Robin Hood?"
Harry shrugged. He'd envisioned five pound notes rather than anything higher, because he'd never had much Muggle money at one time.
"With any luck they won't even notice," Snape said as they made their way to the Underground station. "If they do, we're sure to have the Ministry on our trail."
Harry paid for the Travelcards, and they walked through. "We have to change trains at Leicester Square," he said.
"What are you so happy about?"
Harry couldn't stop smiling. He remembered his first trip on the Underground, with Hagrid.
"It's a little like a dream," Harry said.
"Yes, because we're in our pyjamas," Snape said.
They managed to change trains and get to Charing Cross station. Snape unerringly brought them to the Leaky Cauldron. He looked extremely apprehensive.
"I'm going to Disillusion us," Harry told him. Snape's jaw was clenched. "Because they know us here, all right?"
"We should have--"
"Fine, all right." He took Snape's hand and led him through the crowd of people in the Leaky. They were all still celebrating the end of the war, a week after it was over.
"To Harry Potter!" a voice cried, and there were calls of "hear, hear!" and the sound of glasses thumping on the table.
Someone else said, "Shame about the spell damage, poor lad. I hear he's gone round the twist."
Harry grinned at Snape.
They made their way out of the Leaky and through the boisterous street, to Gringotts. The goblins had no trouble seeing them.
"Do you have the key to your vault, Mr. Potter?" Griphook asked.
"No--yes." Harry put his hand in the pocket of his dressing gown, and there was the gold key. He was confused; had the goblin put the key there for him?
He got into the cart with Snape and they bumped along the twisty tracks to his vault. Griphook didn't say a word; he merely grinned.
Harry took several bags of galleons from the vault. "That should be enough for now," Harry said. "We can live on this for at least two years."
"You can," Snape said.
"It's not my money," Snape insisted.
"That's right, it's mine, and I'm sharing with you," Harry said. He'd had this argument so many times with Ron.
Snape lifted his chin. "For now."
They came up out of the vaults and into the bank. Harry decided to have some of the money changed to Muggle money. "We can open a Muggle account as well," he told Snape in an undertone, "just in case. Goblins don't believe in ATMs."
"No, we don't. The bank that owns the automatic teller machine can charge a hefty fee," Griphook said, his eyes twinkling beadily. "Or so I hear. Humans are greedy."
Harry smiled. "Thank you for your assistance."
They walked out into the sunlight. "Should we get you a wand?" Harry asked.
"If I were an Auror and I knew that Severus Snape had walked out of St Mungo's, I would be waiting at Ollivander's."
"Why would the Aurors be looking for you?"
Snape gestured to a news rack in front of the bank. The Daily Prophet headline read, "Mad Harry Potter Kidnapped from Hospital by Possible Death Eater Spy."
"Shit," Harry said, skimming the story. "This isn't funny. We'll have to hide. How are you at passing as a Muggle?"
"Clothing, Potter," Snape grumbled. They walked through the inn to the other side of the wall.
"We'll go to Marks and Sparks," Harry said. "We can buy some clothing there that's not pyjamas."
Snape made a face.
"They're just clothes. We won't stick out so much." Car horns blared as they crossed the road to the department store.
It didn't take long for them to find what they needed. Harry practically had to push Snape through the store. Everything Snape picked out was black or grey. Harry was not surprised.
Harry picked out a knapsack and put the pyjamas and dressing gowns in it, and some extra underwear. He paid for everything. Snape emerged in a suit and tie with polished black shoes.
"What now?" Snape asked.
"Let's get some food, and then I suppose we'll have to find a way back to Hogwarts." They made their way to a snack bar with yellow counters. Harry ordered them both tea and sandwiches.
"Why?" Snape looked belligerent yet tremendously fatigued, as he had in hospital. Magic or no magic, he'd had a leg reattached.
"So we can see Madam Pomfrey, of course, and Hermione if she's there. You need someone to check that leg. "
"She's going to hate me as much as the healers in St Mungo's. I was a Death Eater."
"You bloody well were not!"
"Language." Snape all but growled. "Do you not understand the concept of 'double agent', Potter?"
"Was this something we were meant to cover in first-year Potions?" Luckily Snape couldn't kill with a look, though if any look could kill, it was that one. "Fine, yes, I know, everyone hates you, but that's just because--"
"Even after they know, they'll hate me."
"I need to know that your leg is all right."
"You need to know."
"Because it's my fault."
"It most certainly is not your fault and not your responsibility. Stop being such a child."
If Harry laughed at this, he might not be able to stop. He felt on the edge of hysteria. "Snape! He chopped off your leg! For God's sake, let me at least take you to a Muggle doctor. I just can't believe that they let me heal that at St Mungo's. What if I did it wrong?"
"My leg is fine. I don't need a wand to beat the shit out of you if you try to take me to the National Health Service. You're not my student anymore and I wouldn't feel a twinge of guilt."
Harry said, slowly, "You do feel guilty, though."
Snape looked away.
"You were a bastard, Snape, but don't you think you've paid?"
"You don't know anything about it. I made mistakes and other people died for them--other people you loved."
"People you loved, as well."
"Shut up. Shut up." Snape leaned his elbow on the table and rested his forehead on his open hand.
"If you can't forgive yourself, how can I ever forgive myself?"
"You didn't use an Unforgiveable curse."
"No, but I did feed Dumbledore poison because he asked me to do it. I was Dumbledore's man, you see."
"So was I." Snape's voice was bitter.
"I know. I know that now." Everything Harry could remember told him to stay far away from a person who was as angry as Snape. He would never have touched his aunt or uncle in this mood. Now he reached across the table and put his hand on Snape's shoulder.
Snape didn't shrug him off. He put his own hand over Harry's, muttering, "You stupid, arrogant boy."
Snape wanted to take the train, but Harry persuaded him that they would be safer from Ministry interference in a rental car. Snape insisted that he would drive, as he had a driver's license and Harry did not.
"It's a long drive," Harry pointed out once they had the car and the map. "It takes a whole day at least, and we're starting at six in the evening. We won't get all the way there." Snape ignored him.
They got into the red Ford Fiesta that the rental agency had given them. "This car is ugly," Snape said. "We should have requested an Italian one. A Ferarri." He raced the motor for a few seconds before he pulled out of the parking lot.
"Seatbelt," Harry said, groping for it. Snape's route to the M1 motorway seemed a bit unusual. There were a few alleys that didn't seem to be on the route that the car rental agent had mapped. Snape grimaced as he avoided cars and other obstacles in their path.
Harry should have been reassured once they reached the motorway, but Snape drove a lot faster than he expected.
"Where did you learn to drive?" Harry asked, he hoped casually.
"Special Death Eater driving lessons," Snape drawled. Harry raised his eyebrows. "My dad taught me."
Snape's dad was a Muggle, of course. "Nervous, Potter?" Snape asked innocently. "Wait until we get to the traffic outside of Birmingham. You'll be begging me to let you take a train."
He pulled into the outside lane and pressed down on the accelerator.
"I'm a bit worried about what driving will do to your leg," Harry said.
"You healed my leg. All better," Snape smirked, “you pansy."
"I am not a pansy. You drive like a maniac!" Harry responded, outraged. "Can I listen to the radio?"
"Want to know if we made the Muggle news as well wandering around London in our nightclothes and picking the pockets of a dozen hapless people?"
"No, I want to listen to some music."
Snape pushed the on button on the radio and started to flip through the stations. "I'll do that," Harry said. "Pay attention to the road."
"I don't want to listen to your bubblegum pop, Potter," Snape warned. "What is that awful Europop shite?"
"Vengaboys," Harry said. Snape made a face. He spun the dial. "Who's that?" Harry asked.
"The Clash," Snape said. He cranked up the volume and rolled down the window. "It's always tease, tease, tease!” he sang along. "You're happy when I'm on my knees!" He knew all the words. He'd found a radio station that played music from when he was a teenager.
They drove fast. Snape sang most of the way, looking over at Harry periodically. At first Harry thought Snape was singing to annoy him, but then he realised Snape was using that as a pretext. He was happy.
Snape was right about Birmingham, though not for the reason he had thought. It was seven in the evening and they were in the maze of complicated twists and turns it took to get from the M1 to the M6. Traffic slowed to a crawl and Harry was idly looking out the window to see the other drivers and passengers.
"Those men have to be wizards, Professor."
Harry jerked his head and Snape looked. There was a hideous blue Skoda with two uncomfortable men sitting bolt upright in the front, and another in back. Three people in the car, and all dressed in the same suit, each with a blue shirt and a yellow tie.
There was no exhaust coming from the back of the car.
"Shit," Snape enunciated clearly. "Hang on."
"We can't use magic, can we?"
"Potter, they know we're here. Use magic."
The traffic opened in the lane next to them, and Snape drove into it. "Like that?" Harry asked.
Snape nodded grimly at the windscreen. Harry looked into the rear view mirror. "They're following us."
They wove back and forth in the stream of cars. The wizards behind them were giving chase. Their jaws were set. They all resembled Rufus Scrimgeour in repose: handsome men with ugly expressions.
"Aurors or Death Eaters?" Harry asked. "I think Aurors."
"I wouldn't know," Snape said. "The Dark Lord didn't like us to see each other's faces."
"Do they have a certain look?"
Snape looked in the rear view. "Aurors," he said. "Though as you must know, the two categories aren't mutually exclusive."
"You mean they could be both? Of course they could."
"I don't care. They aren't going to catch us. It might be a good thing if the engine on the Skoda would stop working just now."
Harry rested his hand on his wand and thought about spells that made things catch fire. Nothing. Then he thought about the grinding sound an engine might make if all the parts that slide against each other became just slightly too large and started to rub, instead. The Skoda bonnet began to smoke. The wizards in the car had open mouths; their smoking car was pulling off the road. Muggle police were there almost immediately.
"Aurors," Snape said. "If they were Death Eaters, they wouldn't have cared if the Muggles knew what they were doing." He pulled the car into the outside lane again, and they roared away.
They only stopped once all the way from London to Manchester. Snape pulled off at a large road services, where they bought snacks and coffee and a few CDs of the Clash and Iggy Pop. By the time they got to Lancaster, Snape looked exhausted.
"Let's stop, Professor," Harry said quietly.
Snape's triumphant smirk didn't hide his grey-green pallor and tired eyes. They pulled off the road and drove into the city. It was northern and industrial, but as they drove along the river, it sparkled in the lights from the buildings. Harry felt like he'd never seen anything before. England was a magical place.
They chose the first large hotel, part of a chain, and parked the car.
"You're in luck," the desk clerk chirped. "We've got a single available--with a view." She looked at them warily; two men together might not take a single. "There's a king-sized bed, and the sofa folds out as well."
"Yeah, all right, " Harry agreed. "A single is fine." Snape stared straight ahead at the clocks on the wall behind the front desk, as though they were fascinating examples of the art of clockmaking, or as though he were studying the time in Tokyo and Los Angeles.
"Would it be all right if we ordered room service right here, from the desk, so that we get the food right away?" She handed him a menu and the house phone, and he ordered steak and chips for both of them.
"Order vegetables," Snape said in a low voice. "You're still growing."
"Am not," Harry retorted, but he ordered salads as well.
In the lift, Snape looked up at the floor numbers as they lit. In the hallway, he scrutinized the room numbers. Once they had entered the hotel room, he looked at Harry.
"No Legilimency--" Harry began, but Snape had something else in mind. He crossed the room, grabbed Harry decisively, and kissed him.
They stood that way, snogging in the middle of the room, for a minute, and then there was a knock at the door and a voice saying, "Room Service." Harry broke away from Snape, and tried to adjust himself. He was very hard.
"Wand out, Potter," Snape said. He stood behind the door, holding a paperweight.
Harry drew his wand, letting it drop into his sleeve, but it really was the hotel room service with the dinner he'd ordered, and not a Death Eater or an Auror. So that was all right.
They sat down to eat in silence, as though they hadn't just kissed passionately. They ate well. Snape looked much better. They put the dishes outside for room service. Snape got up and took a shower, and then Harry did, and they put on their pyjamas, and lay down on the bed side by side. Harry wanted to kiss Snape with a desperate want for about two minutes, and then he was asleep.
"Harry. Harry!" The voice was urgent. His throat hurt. It was dark outside. He had been dreaming. Surrounded by people in masks, holding the Sword of Gryffindor. Really it had been Neville who held it, after Harry had killed the snake. Nagini? No, the basilisk--or was it the snake from Brazil? He had liked that snake.
Ron was with him, and singing songs by the Clash. No, that was Snape, and that had been today. Ron was dead. No, Snape was dead; Harry had seen his leg on the ground. No, that wasn't it either--he had been angry to see Snape dying and had forced him to live. He even said it: "I'll make you live, you bastard--enough people are dying, that's enough!" There was blood coming out of Harry's head, and Snape's leg, or where it had been, and Ron. Hermione's hair turned to snakes and they all said "Thankssss amigo!" and bit Voldemort whose eyes were leaking blood and there were spiders too but he wasn't afraid of them.
And then he wasn't facing Voldemort at his parents' house, he was back at the Dursleys' and he'd lost the thread of the narrative and Ron was in his cupboard with him and holding his hand because he was scared of spiders. Harry was saying, "It's all right, Ron, don't be scared, just a little spider." They were little, or maybe not so little, and they were floating, and it was spooky, he was saving Ron from the Mermen but really he didn't save him, did he? Hanging onto someone's lifeless body, no that was Cedric, no it was Ron. Swim to the surface, Harry, swim swim swim and the sunlight--
And then he was awake, and gasping, and frightened that it wasn't going to be a dream, since some of it wasn't. Snape was holding him and saying, "Harry."
"Ron died!" Harry gasped. "He was there with me and then Voldemort killed him!"
"I know, I'm sorry, I know."
"I'm cold, I'm really cold, I want my mum."
Snape was shuddering. "It's 1999, you're nineteen years old, the war is over, you had a bad dream." He took another breath.
Harry breathed too. "You're alive and I'm alive," he said. "We've had a few curses and injuries, and we ran away from St Mungo's, and we're going to get some help." He breathed again. "We'll go to Hogwarts and everything will be all right."
"I hate those dreams," Harry admitted. "I've always had them but they seem worse now, because so many bad things have happened."
"Can I stay with you?" He looked around. "Oh right, yeah, we were in bed anyway. I know you think I'm stupid, but--"
Snape hushed him.
"Or crazy. I might be a little mad. I really wanted to have sex with you, when we went to bed." He yawned.
Harry held onto him tightly and they went back to sleep.
It was relatively late when they woke again; the sun was out. Snape's body was spooned around Harry's, and his hard cock was pressing into Harry's arse. He was kissing Harry's neck.
Harry pushed his body back against Snape's erection and they both groaned. Snape began unbuttoning Harry's pyjama top. He ran his hands over Harry's torso.
"Have you ever done this before?" Snape said low in his ear.
"I still don't remember everything--I don't think so, but--"
Snape had his hands on Harry's cock, and Harry couldn't speak. Snape's cock was against Harry's bare buttocks and Snape was fondling Harry's penis.
"Do you want to--" Harry choked, "uh, oh, put it in, uh, penetrate, um..."
"I want to fuck you, Harry," Snape grunted.
He turned his head and Snape kissed him. "Okay, good idea," Harry gasped. Snape was touching him between his arse cheeks. Harry squirmed.
Snape got up and went across the room. In the pocket of his suit jacket, he had a packet of condoms and a bottle of lubricant.
"When did you get that?"
"One of the times we stopped on the motorway. When I bought the toothbrushes."
"You never." Harry grinned; he knew he was blushing. "You wanted to then?"
"Lie on your belly," Snape told him, and Harry did. Snape knelt between his legs. He began to knead Harry's buttocks. It pushed Harry's erection into the bed. He pushed a finger, wet with lube, into Harry's arsehole. He was slow, inexorable, and Harry was panting.
Snape pulled on Harry's hips to bring him up on his knees. He bit Harry's arse. He slid two fingers into Harry's hole, and moved them.
"Please," Harry said, "unh, you have to start because--I'm going to come just from this--" He grabbed one of the condoms that had spilled on the bed and started to open it.
Snape stopped. "I'll do it," and he had the condom on and slicked with lube very quickly. "Push back," and he began to slide his cock into Harry's arse.
Snape took his time, breathing through his nose as he let his cock rest inside Harry's body. Finally Harry stopped feeling like he was going to split open. Harry rocked back and forth experimentally. He couldn't believe he hadn't done this before, because it felt really good.
Snape did everything Harry wanted, whether he had thought of it or not. He fucked Harry slowly, and then faster, and then harder. He leaned forward so that his belly lay on Harry's back and caressed Harry's nipples, using his nails a little so that it was almost unbearable teasing. He pulled Harry's hair, and licked his neck and his ear. He wanked Harry's cock with a lube-slicked hand, holding him hard and tight.
But the best thing Snape did was to lose control, groaning, and finally pushing him flat down onto the bed. The sounds he made were intense and beautiful, grunts deep in his throat that he couldn't help. Harry came first. He turned his head to kiss Snape and Snape came too, rigid and shaking against his back.
When he pulled out of Harry's body, Snape's face looked vulnerable, like he was afraid of what Harry would say. Harry didn't say anything. He turned and kissed Snape's mouth and then waited while Snape got out of bed and disposed of the condom in the wastebasket. Then Harry got up and went to where Snape was standing, looking lost. Harry pulled him close and held him tight for a few minutes.
Back in the car, Snape turned on the radio. They listened to the news. Things in the Muggle world seemed to be improving already. There were several ceasefires in different parts of the world, and news of peace talks, and a long drought had broken. Some flowers that hadn't been seen in years were blooming in Wales.
As usual, they got caught in traffic. It seemed there was a snarl every hundred miles or so. Snape usually practiced Occlumency in heavy traffic, probably to keep himself from hexing the other drivers. This time, he had a purposeful look.
"Potter," Snape said as he switched off the radio, "about this morning--"
Harry braced himself. "What?"
Snape was silent.
"You don't want to keep--keep doing that with me--it was a one off," Harry guessed.
"Is that what you want?"
"Stop putting words in my mouth, then. What do you want?"
Harry didn't say anything.
"Can't imagine that it's me," Snape said.
"Oh, shut up," Harry said under his breath. "Of course you assume the worst about me, always..."
"What? What?" Snape took his eyes off the road for an instant to look at him, and then focused on driving again, his mouth a grim line.
"Wouldn't it be good," Harry said in a normal voice, "wouldn't it be just so good to be on the same side, for once?"
"We are on the same side, Potter. We always were, even when you were too--even when you didn't know it."
"Because you're just so--"
"So what? So damaged? So incapable of love? So emotionally cruel?" Snape bit off the words.
"So good at everything you do," Harry said.
Snape smirked to himself.
"Git," Harry said.
"You enjoyed it."
"Oh, what gave that away? The screaming orgasm?" Harry couldn't help smiling like a fool. He hoped Snape couldn't see him in his peripheral vision. "So what were you going to say?"
"Yeah, well, of course it does. You're hung like a bleeding hippogriff."
Snape seemed to be suppressing a smile.
"It was fun, though, wasn't it?" Harry said softly.
Snape pressed the accelerator to pass an Italian sportscar. He popped the Clash into the CD player. He took a pair of sunglasses out of his shirt pocket and put them on.
He looked smug.
They took a detour, going east toward York, and pulled off the road in a little town called Spinner's End, way up north.
"This is my house," Snape said abruptly. It was on the end of a row of grotty terraces on a council estate in an exceptionally beaten-up part of town. "No, I wasn't raised with money, for all that I was sorted into Slytherin."
Harry shrugged. "I don't think about things like that."
"No, because you have money."
"Oh, don't be stu--" He cut himself off. Snape's eyelids were pulled back and his nostrils flared with rage. Calling Snape stupid was not a good idea. Harry put a hand on his arm. "You were in my memories, and you saw how I was raised."
They walked into Snape's house. "I hate this place," Snape said.
"Couldn't someone have just tampered with my memory at the battle? Or even in hospital." Harry was thinking about all the memory magic he knew.
"Yes, that is another possibility. Since we suspect the Ministry was keeping you in St Mungo's for some reason, that's entirely possible. Now we have several hypotheses."
Harry couldn't help feeling a bit pleased. "I like it when you act like I'm not stupid." Snape did not dignify this with a response. "All right, I know, you like it when I act like I'm not stupid, too."
"I think Pettigrew died in my walls," Snape said. "It smells dreadful." The smell in the house was like vomit, only worse. Harry breathed through his mouth.
"Why was Wormtail here?"
"The Dark Lord made him live with me, or made me live with him," Snape said. "Punishment for one of us--probably for me."
"So he wasn't at the final battle?"
"He was, but he Apparated somewhere," Snape said. "Here--" They came into Snape's living room. He reached behind a bookcase and pulled out a wand. "Ah. Accio Pettigrew's corpse." He pointed to the floor in front of him.
Harry gagged. The corpse of a large rat had appeared.
"Why is he still a rat?"
"The real question is, why is he still a rat in my house?"
"Always did," Snape said. "Well, not always a stench like this, but he was a piece of work." He Banished the corpse.
"Where did you put it?"
"Back garden," Snape said. "God, I hated him. I hated him the worst of all of them."
"All of whom?"
"All the other Death Eaters, all the Gryffindor bullies, all your father's toadying friends, take your pick--he was such a little shit. Can't believe he came back here to die."
"Do you think he died in your house just to annoy you?"
"No, of course not," Snape said. "Not even he could be that manipulative."
"How do you know it's him?"
Snape thought. "I Summoned his corpse," he said. "In any case we'll have to take him to Hogwarts. I have plastic bags that seal so that he won't stink too badly. We'll put him in the trunk, and I'll put a charm on him so he won't decompose anymore."
"Why did you hate him so much?"
"Hundreds of reasons, Potter. He betrayed your parents when we all thought it was Black. He resurrected the Dark Lord. He was a whinging, annoying, pain in the arse little rat spy living in my house."
"You really thought Sirius was the traitor, didn't you?"
"Of course. He betrayed Lupin when we were sixteen, didn't he?" Harry had never thought of it that way. He was stunned. "Of course you trusted and liked him. He was pretty and charming--not like me."
Harry didn't contradict Snape and tell him that he had liked Sirius because of how much Sirius had liked him. Snape had seen the damaged Sirius Black that Harry had known, but he still thought of Sirius as the handsome, charming boy of their schooldays.
They walked through the house, Snape picking up objects and shoving them into his backpack. He grabbed jars of potions, clothing, books, but it all fit because he'd done some kind of expansion spell on the Muggle backpack so that it worked like Harry's Hogwarts trunk. "So many betrayals," Snape said, "so much intrigue, and so little sex. If only I'd never seen those James Bond movies. Severus Snape, international double agent and man of mystery. Damnit. Good, that's everything, let's get out of here."
He ran down the stairs and out the front door, Harry following hard on his heels. As soon as Harry was standing with him on the sidewalk, Snape cast several spells Harry had never heard that made sigils of light appear in the air.
"Could we fly the rest of the way there?" Harry asked.
"What, in the car?
Harry grinned. "If you aren't worried about Aurors finding us--"
"But that was in my house, with all the wards up. This is different."
"You just want to drive."
Snape put on his sunglasses again. "What's your point?"
They got to the outskirts of Hogsmeade around 5 pm, and Harry insisted that they return the car. He went into a shop and bought two brooms so they could fly across the lake. Snape looked great in his suit on a broom, the tie flipping backward in the wind.
They landed and Snape pulled out his wand.
"Put it away, Severus," Remus Lupin's voice sounded. "We aren't going to attack you. You're a hero."
Harry felt his heart lift; Lupin was alive. The quiet man stepped out of the shadows under the front portico where he had been standing.
"Just what I've always wanted--the approval of the last of the Gryffindor four--the lycanthropic prat." Snape curled his lip and snapped out the words, but he also blushed and looked away. He did want Lupin's approval, Harry saw.
"Dumbledore left his Pensieve and a scroll vindicating you," Lupin continued. "I could never have done what you did."
"I wish I hadn't, though," Snape said, looking down at the flagstones. Lupin's face was full of sympathy. Then he saw Harry.
"Harry," Lupin said, and for once, let his guard down and hugged him. He reached out and clapped Snape on the shoulder. Snape got redder. "Sorry I didn't come to St Mungo's, but there are new regulations--"
Harry shrugged awkwardly. "Where's Hermione?" he asked.
"She's here," Lupin said. "St Mungo's won't allow Muggle relatives to visit any longer, either, so Hermione chose to stay here in the hospital wing. Her parents came across the lake in a rowboat."
Harry began to run up the steps, and realised that Snape was just standing there at the bottom. "Come on," he said. Snape was still, and glaring. Harry took his elbow. "Come on, Severus."
Lupin was staring at them. Snape visibly pulled himself together. "Potter," he said, in the closest to a gentle tone of voice that he was capable of producing. They walked up the front steps to Hogwarts together.
It took ages to get to Hermione. She was sitting up in bed, looking like she'd just got over a bad flu. "Harry!" she exclaimed, and immediately began to weep.
He went to her and hugged her, leaning forward stiffly from the waist. She clung to him unselfconsciously.
"Hermione, something happened to me in that last battle, and I've had big holes in my memory ever since. I don't even know how you were wounded, and I can't remember major things from this last year. I remember Bill and Fleur's wedding, and going to my parents' house at Godric's Hollow--"
"You Obliviated yourself after the battle."
"Yes, and I've been worrying about it. It's quite dangerous. You don't totally lose the memories that way, and you can damage your ability to create new memories."
"I have been having a lot of headaches."
"You cut the scar off of your head with the Sword of Gryffindor."
"I did? God, that sounds utterly mental of me. I didn't want you to start worrying about me, you know, I just wanted you to remind me what happened to you so that I can--"
Hermione put up her hand. "I've put my memories of the battle in a Pensieve for you."
She stood. Her arms were marked with what looked like long knife cuts, red weals on her pale skin. "Oh, Hermione," Harry heard himself say, but she put a finger to his lips.
"You don't remember. I took the Sword from Bellatrix Lestrange."
She rose from the bed and walked to the door, motioning for him to follow. She, too, was limping a little. Harry ran his hands over her arms, and watched the scars lighten and smooth.
"What did you do?" Hermione looked shocked.
Harry shrugged. "I've lost control of my magic a bit."
Snape was standing in the doorway with his arms folded. His eyebrows beetled and his lips were twisted.
"Professor!" Hermione said. "You're alive."
"You seem glad of it, Miss Granger."
"Of course," she said, smiling, and wept a little more. Snape looked uncomfortable.
"I want you to see my memories as soon as possible, Harry." She took his hand and motioned for him to follow her.
"Come with me," Harry said to Snape, surprising them both.
Snape didn't say anything, but followed Harry.
The Pensieve was in Snape's old office. Harry felt a little queasy at the sight of it there.
"The Headmaster must have hidden it here from Professor McGonagall," Hermione explained. Harry must have looked bewildered. "Because she was a traitor," she explained. Her voice caught. "I admired her so much, you know."
Snape mouth opened, and then shut. "You didn't know either," Harry said.
"I don't know if I can do this," Harry told Hermione, "I don't know if I can bear to know how Ron died."
"Harry, " Hermione said, "you must accept his death."
"Why?" Harry asked, "Why must I accept it? I've already accepted, I've already--"
"Because you can't honour the courage of your fallen friend until you understand that he is dead," Snape said.
Hermione's eyes filled with tears again. "He was very brave," she said.
"Of course he was," Harry said angrily. He stepped up to the side of the basin and leaned in.
He saw himself, wand out, Ron at his side. It was Hermione's memory, but he saw her, too. He never understood that about the Pensieve. They were walking in the corridor of the Department of Mysteries.
Neville Apparated in front of them. "I'm here," he said. Ron clapped him on the shoulder. Then more and more of their schoolmates from all four houses came out of the elevator.
"Why did you call them?" Pensieve-Harry asked Hermione. "You only put them in danger."
"We need them," she said, and Ron nodded. The place was nearly empty.
"Don't worry," Luna said on his left, "Voldemort will be here."
Vincent Crabbe piled out of the elevator. Pensieve-Harry looked at him. "My father is dead," he said. "Goyle is dead. Draco Malfoy is dead by his own hand. I'm with you, Potter."
The memory of Harry clasped Crabbe's meaty hand.
"You believe him?" Ron asked. "Yeah," Harry said at the same time as his Pensieve-self, and felt that he was crying. Now he knew how Draco Malfoy had died without violating the terms of Snape's Unbreakable Vow. Harry felt ill, thinking of how Voldemort might have driven Draco to suicide.
In the memory, he and Ron and Hermione had their wands out and were going into the Time Room. The others followed them. At the end of the rows of desks crammed with Time Turners was Voldemort, flanked by twelve masked Death Eaters.
"I am here," Harry said.
Voldemort laughed his high, cruel laugh. "What an obvious, banal greeting from the Chosen One!"
The Death Eaters did not laugh.
"Aren't they all supposed to laugh when you say things like that?"
Harry laughed at his own weak witticism, and then noticed that no one else had, not even Ron. They were all on edge, ready for battle.
"They aren't laughing because we're speaking Parseltongue, fool," Voldemort hissed. It was true that he was more snakelike than he'd ever been--his eyes less human, his skin slightly greener. Harry had meant to speak English.
"Why did you want to meet me here?"
"I know what you have done, boy. I have my spies, too. I know about the Horcruxes."
Harry stood, ready. "Then why did you ask me here?"
"There is one piece of magic that can restore me, and you can perform it."
Harry and Hermione's memory of Harry both guffawed in disbelief. "Why would I do that? I want revenge on you for all the lives you've destroyed."
Voldemort pushed one of the Death Eaters in front of him. "Explain it, Snape."
The masked figure was pushed to his knees. "Only love can open the door behind us, Potter," he said in his bored, classroom drawl. Then Voldemort whispered "Crucio" and Snape writhed before them on the floor while Harry stood, bewildered.
Voldemort stopped the spell, leaving Snape panting.
"Ah, dear Severus," Voldemort hissed in English, "You told the truth. The boy really does hate you. How clever you are, to make this boy you love hate you so much. You think you can protect him. But I know your feelings, you soft wet baby, you pervert."
Snape said nothing. The Death Eater at Voldemort's right bent forward to laugh at Snape, and then straightened and her hood fell back. It was Bellatrix Lestrange. Hatred boiled up in Harry. Hermione gave a small warning movement and suddenly ravens appeared in the air, pecking at Bella's head. Hermione had conjured them just like the canaries in sixth year, only black and deadly and going for the woman's eyes.
All hell broke loose. Hermione's arms were up, protecting her face as something cut her arms repeatedly, but she kept advancing on Bellatrix. Luna's voice was in his ear, "Yes, Hermione, we can get it now," and the Sword of Gryffindor, the ruby in its pommel like a drop of blood, skidded across the floor toward them.
"Take it, Harry," Ron urged. "It's the last one." Harry grabbed the hilt. It seemed lighter than it had when he was only twelve.
Voldemort laughed, high and cold, and Snape gasped from the ground, "No, it's not the sword." Voldemort advanced on Harry, wand drawn, and Snape rose to his feet and threw himself between them, his black sleeves billowing.
Voldemort's wand flashed down green sparks and Harry watched it cut Snape's leg from under him. Snape crumpled, blood spurting everywhere.
"You're killing him!" Hermione cried. She spoke the only spell she knew to stop bleeding. Snape called from the ground, "The scar! The last horcrux is the scar. Dumbledore protected the sword--"
He locked eyes with Harry and whispered Legilimens. Harry watched as the understanding dawned on the other Harry's face in Hermione's memory. Memory Harry grasped the sword by the blade, because it was too large to use on himself holding the hilt, and with the edge, sliced the scar off his forehead. Like picking a scab, he thought, just picking at a scab, but blood gushed from the wound over the lenses of his glasses so that he couldn't see.
"You can kill him now," Snape said. "Go, go, you know what to do--" He had so little strength left and still was urging Harry forward.
But then Ron made the smallest sound, so small that no one should have heard it. If Harry hadn't had Ron and Hermione right next to him, he would never have heard the tiny sound of Ron's life being taken with the Killing Curse. Memory Harry was shouting, "No!" and Harry saw that the blood on the back of Ron's head in his memory had been Harry's blood. He wept and the Harry in the memory wept, and Hermione shrieked.
Ron had thrown himself between Harry and Voldemort's wand.
Snape said, "Now, open the door now and take him through!"
Since that was what Voldemort wanted, it made no sense. Harry in the memory said, "Fuck you, Snape, I'm not going to let you die, you tricky bastard," and with a savage motion of his wand at Snape's body, joined his leg back to his hip. Snape's eyes shut; he had passed out from the pain.
It was then that Neville picked up the sword and called "Up Hogwarts! Up Hogwarts!" and swung it through the air, slicing off Bellatrix Lestrange's head, which thudded sickeningly on the ground and grinned up at them. There was a shout behind them and the young witches and wizards surged forward.
"Go, Harry," Hermione said, "Go, he's right, the door."
The floor was sticky with blood and watching himself, Harry was sick and faint and the clocks all around them ticked and chimed and it was time.
He reached, unafraid, for Voldemort's hand, and Voldemort, hissing and writhing, took it. What had he been thinking? He didn't know, but he looked at Voldemort with compassion.
Then he opened the door to the Locked Room, and all the clocks stopped. The teenagers and the adult Dark wizards were still struggling--wand light flashing everywhere and people still groaning in pain.
Harry watched himself lead Voldemort, barely human and loathsome, into the Locked Room. It took a minute for anyone to notice, and then the fighting stopped and everyone looked at the door. Harry emerged alone.
"Is he dead?" someone asked, but Harry shook his head. He was weeping. He held his wand to his head and said, "Obliviate."
Then the elevator doors opened and Aurors poured out--more Aurors than Harry had known existed. Tonks was with them.
The memory ended there. Hermione must have blacked out from loss of blood.
"Is Voldemort dead?" Harry asked.
Snape shook his head, but Harry didn't know if that meant no or that he'd asked the wrong question.
Hermione said, "Dead or not, he can't come back."
"Minerva," Snape said. "I can't believe it."
"Are you all right?" Hermione asked Harry.
"Well, no, probably not," he said. "I'll just have to manage." They looked at each other. "I remembered a lot. Not enough about Ron, though. I wish I had found a way to save everything of him. To save him."
Hermione was crying, of course. Harry was, too. "Memories aren't ever enough, " she said. "I wanted to make a book for his parents, but--"
"They must blame me," Harry said. She shook her head.
"No, Harry, I don't think they'll blame you," Hermione said. "But they will want everything we can remember about him--just to have as a memorial." Harry felt his mouth twist around the bitter words he couldn't say. Magic could preserve memories, which was the perfect memorial. Who wanted a perfect memorial? He wanted his imperfect friend. He had failed. He had lost.
He looked at Snape. "Christ, you were brave. I hope I didn't fail you," he said.
"No, you didn't."
Warmed as though by praise, as though by a declaration of undying devotion, Harry slid his hand into Snape's warm dry one.
"Why haven't the Aurors been able to get into the castle?" Snape asked Hermione. They had made their way back up to the hospital wing, where she was looking at her arms, a bit bemused.
"There is the lake, you know," she said. "Professor Lupin has been patrolling the front gate."
"In other words, we have to run or we'll be caught."
"Severus," Harry said, "your leg."
"Since when do I allow you to call me by my first name?" Snape asked rhetorically.
Poppy Pomfrey emerged from behind a screen. "Hermione tells me that your leg was amputated and reattached at the final battle."
Snape looked impatient. "It's fine now, Poppy," he grumbled.
"Oh yes, if what you mean by fine is 'reattached at random by a non-Healer who never took his NEWTS,' then it's fine." Harry said.
"Oh please, you're the most powerful wizard alive right now," Snape said. "Why do you think the Ministry is so afraid of you?"
"I am not," Harry protested. "Don't be ridiculous. All I did was--"
"Please be quiet a moment, gentlemen, I need to concentrate," Madame Pomfrey interrupted. She was checking Snape's leg with her wand. A blue aura appeared around it. "Right, I can see that you've been injured, but that is magical residue only. The tissue seems to have healed."
"But what about--why is he so exhausted?" Harry asked her.
"It’s trauma, Harry," Pomfrey said. "It's not just something you shrug off once the physical symptoms are gone."
"Can you take a potion for that?"
"So naïve, it's just incredible--" Snape grumbled.
"We made love potions and a good luck potion, why not one to reduce trauma?"
"We would have given it to you," Pomfrey said, "if such a thing had existed."
Hermione laughed. Her mother, who had come to sit at her elbow, patted her hair.
"Mummy, this is Professor Snape. He taught one of my favourite subjects, Potions. Professor Snape, this is my mother, Caroline Granger."
"Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Dr. Granger." Snape shook her hand. "Your daughter was an excellent student. Always prepared."
Harry stared at him.
"What now, Potter?" Snape said out of the side of his mouth.
"Do you know where you are going after this, Professor Snape?" Hermione's mother asked politely. "I should like to invite you both to join us on holiday. We have a large home in the south of France that could accommodate us all without--without crowding."
"Oh Mummy, what a wonderful idea!"
"Miss Granger," Snape began severely, "do you understand that I am under suspicion by the Ministry? Potter could certainly go, though perhaps he'd need some disguise…"
"Afterward, Tony and I have travel plans to do volunteer work for a year with Dentists Without Borders, and we were hoping that Hermione would come with us. See a bit of the world."
"You're worried, aren't you, Mummy," Hermione said. She stroked her mother's hand.
"Let's at least go with them to France," Harry said.
"We'll need to write to Ron's mum," Hermione said.
"I need to clear my name," Snape said. "Only you and Lupin have seen the documents that exonerate me from killing Albus."
"No," Harry said, "no, I don't trust the Ministry. I'm afraid they will do something to you--no."
"Since when is it your affair, Potter?"
They squared off again, glaring.
"You haven't changed, have you, Severus?" Poppy Pomfrey said. "You always want everything the most difficult way possible. You saved the Wizarding World, you recovered from a horrifying injury, you finally found someone to lo--well, you and Harry found each oth--anyway, you've saved the world and you've been offered a free holiday in the South of France. For Merlin's sake, take it."
Snape looked at her, his lips pursed. "That's your opinion, is it?"
"Yes. I've known you for years, mind."
"Let's take a walk, Potter.
They walked out into the corridor, and made their way down the staircases.
"She likes you."
"What can I say, Potter, some people do." They walked out onto the grounds. It was the first place Harry had ever felt that he belonged. The lake was shimmering in the sun, like an ordinary lake, and the woods were green and fragrant, as though they weren't full of dangerous mythical creatures.
"Do you miss Hogwarts?"
Snape stopped. "I haven't let myself miss anything or anyone for years. I couldn't afford it. I had too much to lose, too much leave behind."
"If you leave me, will you miss me?" Harry skimmed a rock over the surface of the lake. It skipped eight times before it fell in.
"I told you, I'm not leaving you. In any case don't flatter yourself. Stop grinning at me." Snape's voice was irritable, but he pulled Harry to him and kissed him. It was slow and gentle and really good. Harry sighed and pushed his glasses back up. He leaned his head on Snape's shoulder and embraced him. "Idiot," Snape said.
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