FIC: Knowing Jack
Title: Knowing Jack Author: bohemianspirit Type: Fiction (Gen, Het) Length: Short Story Pairings: Severus/Dora (OFC) Series: Sequel to Light Between the Cracks. Rating: PG-13
Summary: A little over a year after Severus' death, his widow has his remains moved to their hometown. Harry attends the funeral and gets a glimpse of the life Severus had kept hidden from the wizarding world.
Notes: Song lyrics quoted are from "The Water is Wide," a traditional folk song, and from "At My Funeral," by the Crash Test Dummies (on their 1991 album titled, appropriately enough, The Ghosts That Haunt Me). Also in this story: Spot the Hemingway allusion!
This sequel was not planned, it just sort of emerged... and there may be another, but probably not in time for this Fest. ;-)
"The water is wide and I cannot cross over, neither have I wings to fly..."
Up in the sunlit solitude of the headmistress' office over the lunch hour, a soft tenor wended its way through the stillness.
"Build me a boat that can carry two, and both shall row, my love and I."
The last note faded into silence. The circle of portraits burst into applause.
"Very nice, Severus."
"Thank you, Albus."
"You know, in all your years at Hogwarts I don't believe I ever once heard you sing."
"I used to sing all the time at home."
"Mm. Yes." Dumbledore's portrait coughed. "Yes, that was quite the surprise, Severus."
Severus smirked, crossing his arms over his chest.
The smirk broke into a grin. "Thank you, Phineas." Severus bowed, then glanced over at Dumbledore. "Poor Albus. I think he's feeling a bit disillusioned."
"Sing the rest of the song, Severus," urged Phineas Nigellus.
Severus shook his head. "The rest of the words don't fit."
"Then change the words."
"Hm." Severus shrugged. "Well, what else have I got to do? Certainly nobody needs the advice of a headmaster who didn't live to see forty, least of all--"
"Severus." Minerva McGonagall burst into the room. "You have a visitor."
"Already?" exclaimed Severus, brightening. "She was just--"
Severus stared back into Minerva's eyes.
"Ah," he said. Slowly he nodded. "Ah, yes. Speaking of disillusioned." He glanced around at the other portraits. "I think I'd better speak with Harry alone."
Minerva walked out, and the Potter boy walked in. He glanced up at Severus, then quickly looked away, surveying the circle of empty frames. He looked back at the door and closed it.
Severus watched the boy as he paced to the center of the room. Harry halted, turned, tipped back his head, looking Severus directly in the eye.
"You loved my mum," he said.
Severus met his gaze evenly. "Yes?"
Harry blinked. "Well? You did?"
A long sigh slipped out. "Your point, Potter?"
His mouth fell open, and his face darkened, heralding an all-too-familiar tirade of righteous indignation.
"I know, Potter," Severus said before the storm could burst forth. "You thought you had it all worked out: 'The Short, Unhappy Life of Severus Snape, Virgin and Martyr.' Alas, the virgin and martyr turns out to have been a happily married man who hated his work, did it anyway, and eventually got killed in the line of duty." Severus shook his head. "You must be terribly disappointed."
Outrage drained away, leaving befuddlement in its wake. "But--but--I saw--"
"I showed you what you needed to know, not my entire life story. Even had I been so inclined, the time I had available was rather limited--as you may recall."
Harry dropped his glance, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Um. Yeah." He shoved his hands into his pockets, then pulled them out again. "Sorry."
"There was nothing you could have done," Severus softly assured him.
Harry nodded, still staring at the floor.
"I'm not disappointed."
"I'm not disappointed, sir. Just... confused."
"Well. That's nothing new under the sun, Potter."
"Are you always going to hate me?"
Severus arched an eyebrow.
"You should go to my funeral," he said.
Harry frowned. "What?"
"My funeral." Quietly Severus began to sing: "Won't you come to my funeral when my days are done? Life's not long, and so I--"
"Snape, for God's sake, stop!"
Severus fell silent.
"That's..." Harry gaped at him, finally shaking his head. "Besides, I already went to your funeral. It's been over a year. Even you got the dignity of a decent burial."
"How very thoughtful."
"I am aware, Potter, that they did not leave my ravaged corpse to rot in that shack. But my wife--of whose existence you are now apprised--has requested to have my mortal remains relocated to the cemetery at home. Said relocation will include the proper rites of burial, and the usual dinner following. You should go."
Harry did not answer. He seemed to be lost in thought--and oh, it was tempting to make a sardonic observation about the extraordinary sight of Potter thinking, but Severus restrained himself. Perhaps being reduced to an oil-and-canvas facsimile of himself had softened him.
Severus began to sing again. "If I should die before I wake up, I pray that the Lord my soul will take, but my body, my body--that's your job."
All of a sudden the boy's eyes were upon his. "Do you think--do you think you're with my mum? Now?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "Potter, I have no more insight into the next life than you or anyone else on this side of the veil. I am only a portrait; the real me is--" He waved a hand. "God knows where."
"I know that," said Harry. "But what do you think?"
"I think," he answered, "it's very likely that I have talked with your mother, and she with me, assuming that she has allowed me to do so. But if I have been given any choice in the matter--" Now there was a pleasant prospect, something he'd known far too little of in life. "--then I would guess I am spending most of my time--or timelessness, as may be--watching over my wife and children."
"Oh. Of course." Harry nodded, trying--and impressively failing--to conceal his disappointment.
"Potter." Severus surprised himself with the gentleness in his tone. "I moved on."
Harry nodded again, not looking at him. "It's just... well, I thought..."
"You saw my memories, and concluded from those selected fleeting glimpses that I spent my entire life pining chastely for a woman who rejected me when I was sixteen years old."
"For your information, Potter: Slytherins do not pine."
Harry looked up.
"Nor," added Severus, "are we much inclined to a life of celibacy. Granted, I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard, but I assure you that Dora and I more than made up for lost time."
Crimson flooded the boy's face.
Severus smirked. "I'm not maintaining my image very well, am I."
"I--" Harry cast about. "That was a bit more than I needed to know."
"Really, Potter. In spite of our limited time together, Dora and I managed to produce three--four children." Damn Potter, he missed so much else, but he would notice the catch in his voice. "Four children in eleven years. I think that bloody well speaks for itself."
"I suppose," Harry conceded, shrugging. His face was still rather red.
"Well, Potter, maybe you find it a more happy thought to mythologize me as a paragon of devoted chastity, but I quite prefer the reality I lived. Imperfect though it was."
"The reality you lived." Harry's eyes were upon him again. "Were you such a nasty bastard to your family as you were to us?"
Severus was certain that Potter was not expecting a smile--a real smile, not malicious but full of amusement. "Why don't you ask them?" he suggested.
Harry stared--no, glared at him for a long moment, then nodded. "Right," he said. "I have to go." He turned towards the door.
"Oh, and Potter: I don't hate you."
Hand on the door, Harry looked back over his shoulder, his mouth agape.
"I find you exceedingly annoying," Severus told him. "But I don't hate you. Now."
Harry closed his mouth. He continued to meet Severus' gaze.
"That's nice," he finally said.
Severus felt his mouth twitch.
"Go to my funeral," he said. "Have a good time."
Harry blinked, turned back to the door, and exited.
St. Giles' Catholic Church.
Snape had a religion. Harry tried to wrap his mind around it. Snape having a secret wife, fine. Made sense, even, if one thought about it. Snape having children, loving children--well, that was a bit of a stretch, but Harry supposed that things were different when the children were one's own. But Snape, praying...?
Harry shook his head. He wasn't ready for that one, yet.
He swung his legs out of the car and leaned forward, taking care not to bump his head as he emerged. He shut the door behind him and walked towards the church.
It was the first thing that caught his eye: a child who could have stepped directly out of the Pensieve--except that Junior was a girl, and appeared considerably more cared for than the boy in the memories ever had. And, upon closer examination, the contours of her face were slightly softer, just a shade more feminine, enough that, with luck and careful presentation, she might eventually be considered striking, if not conventionally attractive.
Too bad about the nose, though.
"Are you from the school?"
It was not a friendly question. Harry looked to the woman who'd spoken it. Snape's wife, had to be, with one of her hands now resting firmly on the shoulder of Snape Junior. She wasn't ugly like Snape, but she certainly wasn't the beauty his mum had been, not with that plain, soft face and drab hair hovering in the borderlands between blond and brown. Of course the question of what Snape had seen in her simply begged the greater question of what she had seen in Snape.
Her eyes narrowed. "At my school," she coldly intoned, "we teach manners. And respect."
"I--I'm sorry." Harry blinked, shaking his head. "Yes, ma'am. I was a student of his." Drawing an unsteady breath, he added, "I saw him die."
Her eyebrows lifted. After an age of looking stoically into his eyes, she jerked her head towards the church. "You're early," she said. "You can pray for him while you're waiting."
Harry found himself moving towards the church entrance. He walked in, looked around, wondered what he was supposed to do. On a small table behind the last row of pews lay a pile of printed cards: Harry took one and slid into a pew three rows from the back.
He read the card: Name of the deceased, date of birth, date of death, and a short prayer for the eternal rest of the departed man's soul. At the top of the card was a photograph, black and white: Snape, in Muggle clothing. That was to be expected. Not moving, of course, but that, too, was to be expected.
Something else about the photograph looked a bit off--besides the fact that Snape wasn't sneering. In the midst of pondering the improbability of a pleasant Snape, Harry realized: Snape's hair looked clean.
That was almost as weird as the idea of Snape praying.
Or was it? Because, now that he thought about it, Snape hadn't always been a greasy git. Well, at least not greasy. Harry began to recall multiple instances in which he'd seen the man with hair clean enough not to draw his attention to it, and he realized that even Snape must have washed his hair sometimes. Just not as often as he should have, thought Harry.
Stupid git. Why didn't he? He could have spared himself so much grief, spared himself the lifelong label of greasy git...
Well. That was all behind him, now, wasn't it. Harry's eyes settled upon the coffin at the front of the church. Closed this time, thank God. It had been bad enough right after his death; no amount of patchwork had been able to drive from Harry's mind the memory of the torn and bleeding flesh...
He shook himself.
Snape. Snape was in that box. The man he had known, the man he had hated, the man who had probably done more for Harry than anyone else Harry had known: Whatever was left of him was lying in that polished wooden box. Did he have any hair left, after a year? Or was hair one of the first things to decompose? For someone who had been proclaimed a Master of Death, Harry realized there was a hell of a lot he still did not know about death.
But he did not want to know. He did not want to think about the contents of the coffin. He looked again at the photograph on the funeral card. He wanted to remember the man like that. He wished he had known the man like that.
The weather, at least, was pleasant.
Harry barely heard the prayers over the grave. The final resting place. Snape, to be moved no more.
Keeping his head bowed, Harry glanced around at the circle of mourners. Friends, neighbors, more people than Harry would have expected, given that the man they were mourning had spent more time away than in town. At the head of the group, standing near the priest, were Snape's wife and the children. Snape Junior stared beyond the priest, her face an impassive mask. Leaning against Snape's wife was a boy, slightly younger than Snape Junior; he looked very much like his mother, but with enough of Snape in him to see a resemblance--particularly when he looked up and saw Harry staring at him.
Harry quickly lowered his gaze.
The little one Snape's wife held in her arm, she couldn't have been more than two. And her sister, standing obediently by her mother's side but distracted by butterflies and breezes and passing clouds, she probably didn't remember at all--
Pressing his eyes closed, Harry folded his hands in front of him and waited.
He will be missed.
Harry threw in his handful of dirt and moved on.
Someone, or likely several someones, had gone to great care to prepare a solid home-cooked meal. It all looked as if it should be quite good, but Harry wasn't really hungry. He ate enough to be polite, then got up and wandered through the dining hall.
He stopped in front of a small display of photographs, mounted on a sheet of thin cardboard which was propped upon an easel. He couldn't believe that Snape would have been careless enough to allow himself to be photographed, here, in this town, in this life, if he had otherwise gone to such pains to conceal that life. Then again, reflected Harry, they probably were all family photographs, a collection kept privately by his wife until privacy mattered no more.
It was strange seeing Snape wearing something other than black robes.
A couple of the pictures did show him in his robes. Perhaps he'd been on his way back to Hogwarts, or had just dropped in at home en route to an assignment for the Order. The townspeople probably thought he was wearing a costume. Most of the photographs showed Snape in a plain black T-shirt and an old pair of blue jeans. Sometimes--presumably during cold weather--Snape also wore a dark flannel shirt, untucked and unbuttoned, over the T-shirt.
In all of the photographs, it struck Harry, Snape looked... happy. More than happy: content. And not so horrible, somehow. He'd never be handsome--except maybe to his wife--but without the scowl and the sneer and the snarling demeanor, he didn't look so ugly, either.
Harry studied one photograph: Snape, sitting at a table with other men, playing cards. And laughing. Not a cruel, vindictive, fifty-points-from-Gryffindor sort of laugh, but a relaxed, full-bodied, thoroughly-enjoying-himself kind of laugh. The kind of laugh that lit the eyes from within; Harry had never considered that Snape's eyes might ever look anything but cold and empty.
Out of the corner of his eye Harry caught movement. He glanced sidelong; the girl, Snape Junior, now stood next to him. She stared at the display, and eventually reached out to touch a photograph of a younger Snape sitting in an armchair, cradling a black-haired baby in one arm and a Potions journal in the other.
"I didn't know he had a family."
It was a lame opening, and the child at his side wasn't child enough to miss it.
"He was a spy," she retorted disdainfully. "You weren't supposed to know."
"Of course." Harry nodded. He glanced again at the girl; her eyes were still fixed on the photograph. "You look a lot like him," said Harry.
She rolled her eyes. "I know that."
"Of course," said Harry again.
Suddenly those eyes were on him, and for a moment he thought the dead had come to life, especially when a familiar sneer twisted the familiar face.
"You're not the brightest light on the Christmas tree," she softly intoned. "Are you?"
Harry stared back. "You are your father's daughter."
The girl's face went pale, suddenly stricken. Her lip trembled, just a little. She turned away and darted out of the room.
"Don't worry." A hand clapped gently on Harry's shoulder. "She remembers him best, of all the children. It's bound to hit her hard."
Harry turned to look at the man; he'd been in the photograph of the card game. "I seem to have a knack for putting my foot in it, when it comes to Snapes," Harry said ruefully. "He was my teacher."
The man nodded. "Come sit with us a while," he invited, leading Harry towards a table around which a small cluster of men were seated.
"This is Harry," said the man to the others as Harry sat down. "He had Jack for a teacher."
"Oh, Lord," exclaimed one man, with feeling. "That must have been something."
Harry blinked. "Well. Yes."
"How'd you ever live through that wicked sense of humor?" asked another.
Harry blinked again. "I--"
"That Jack. Never met a pun he didn't like."
"He was a good teacher," blurted Harry, surprising himself.
"I wouldn't doubt it. Sharp man, Jack was."
"I wasn't doubting it."
"Didn't say you were."
"He was strict," said Harry. That was a nice way of putting it. "But he did care."
"He was strict because he cared," opined one of the men.
"Always watching over the children, Jack was."
"Yeah. Just ask Matt, here." The man who'd spoken grinned and rumpled the hair of a young man about Harry's age, maybe a little older.
"Dad." The young man pulled away, wrinkling his nose, while the other men chuckled.
"Don't you 'Dad' me. Jack, there, kept you out of mischief on more than one occasion."
"Scared the hell out of me, sneaking up like that--"
"Probably what made him a good spy."
"You should've seen it," Matt said to Harry. "There I'd be, minding my own business--"
A snort from Matt's father.
"--and then, there he was, looming over me, looking like the cat who'd caught the canary."
"Making sure the careless canary didn't come to a bad end," interjected his father. "And he was good to you, too--when you weren't up to no good."
Matt shrugged, and, eventually, nodded. "Yeah. He was. I guess."
"You guess. Who was it, used to bring you his mum's folk remedy whenever you took ill?"
"Ugh! It tasted awful!"
"But it made you well."
"You know what would make me well?" declaimed one of the men. "Coffee's well and good, but I could do with something stronger, about now."
"There's ale in the kitchen."
"I'll get it," offered Harry, nearly leaping to his feet.
"Now, you don't have to--"
"No. It's all right. Keep talking." He darted into the kitchen and almost collided with the priest.
"Ale," said Harry. "For the table."
The priest nodded. "I'll help you carry it."
Shortly Harry returned, with the priest, bearing bottles of ale. There was a general scuffing and scraping as chairs were moved to make room for the priest. The conversation, apparently, had meanwhile gone on unabated.
"That's what Jack's doing right now, how much you want to bet: a guardian angel, looking out for the little ones even as we speak."
"Unless he's burning in hell."
"What was it Jack said? Something about heaven being big enough for hell--?"
"No, no. 'I'm sure heaven is big enough to avoid the people you can't abide.'"
"Yeah. That's it."
"That and, 'God is not an arse.'"
All of the men--except for the priest--chuckled. The priest merely shook his head and muttered something about "cafeteria Catholics."
"That's right," piped up one man. "Cafeteria Catholics sitting at the heavenly banquet. Pass the potatoes."
"Potatoes, hell! Pass the ale!"
"Ask, and it shall be given."
"Anyway, Jack Smith--"
"Snape. Right. Jack Snape was the truest friend you could ever hope to have. Loyal."
"A big man, Jack was."
"And how would you know that?"
"Did you ever hear Dora complain?"
More laughter. The priest rolled his eyes.
"A shame, though, about the baby."
"Never got to see her, did he?"
"Didn't even know she was on the way, I heard."
"No. Died without knowing he had another little one."
The men fell into a somber silence, staring at the table.
"Ah, Jack, Jack," sighed one, looking up. "Heaven's not good enough for you."
"Hear, hear." The men, including the priest, lifted their drinks, tapping them together.
Shortly after toasting the lamentable insufficiency of heaven to harbor the blessed soul of Jack Snape, Harry rose again from the table and drifted. He looked again at the photographs, thought of the children, thought of the friends. He wondered if Snape had been good at cards. He looked about the room, at all of the people gathered to remember a man whose participation in town life had been sporadic but had left a lasting impression nonetheless.
He looked at what appeared to be a wedding photograph, Snape and his wife, hands clasped and gazing into each other's eyes. And Harry wished he might have seen him once, just once, looking that way--unguarded, at peace, utterly content--when he had known him at Hogwarts. He wondered if it might have made a difference, if he had known.
Harry glanced over to a table in one corner. Snape's wife sat alone, for the moment, lost in thought. She caught his eye, nodded towards an empty chair. Harry made his way over to the table and seated himself. He looked around the room, wondering what he should say. He looked back and saw Snape's wife staring intently at him.
"He was loved and respected," she said. "I expect that brought out a different side of him than you were accustomed to seeing."
Harry glanced down. A half-sipped mug of coffee sat in front of Snape's wife. Absently she tapped one finger on the side of the cup.
"If Jack were here," she mused, "I'd have him teach them at home. But..." She stared into her coffee, her hands cupped around the mug. "Sending my Edie to that school, where--oh, they call him a hero now, now he's gone and can't hear them, but all the while he was there--no." She looked up sharply, her eyes fixed on Harry's.
"I'm sorry," he said.
She looked back at him silently, her eyes soft and brown as a doe's.
Harry blinked. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I forgot--what was your name?"
Dora. Dora. He resolved to remember. He really shouldn't keep thinking of her only as "Snape's wife."
"Mrs. Snape," he said, at which her mouth twitched. "I promise--I swear--I'm not on staff, I can't watch over her constantly, but I promise, I'll do all I can to see that your daughter--that all of your children are treated well. For Professor Snape."
Dora nodded. "Thank you," she quietly said. She relaxed her grip on the coffee mug.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Your attention, please!"
"Oh, Lord." Dora rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "Jack, Jack..."
"At this time we'd like to take a minute or two to honor Jack's memory with a song--"
"Maudlin," muttered Dora, leaning towards Harry. "Some ridiculous, maudlin song he insisted--"
"--he specially requested to be sung at his funeral--"
"--I was hoping they'd forget--"
"--but Father Tom, there, wouldn't allow us to tamper with tradition--"
"--but that's Jack for you--you should see the odd bits of music he collected over the years--"
"--so we'll have to settle for singing it here at the dinner, instead. I'm sure Jack, God rest his soul, would understand."
"Even if I don't," concluded Dora in a sardonic undertone that marked her forever in Harry's memory as Snape's wife.
Someone brought forth a fiddle; another, a drum. The drum began a solemn dirge-like beat, and when the fiddle played the tune once through, Harry groaned.
Dora's eyebrows rose. "His portrait?" she whispered.
"His portrait," said Harry.
"Oh, Lord," sighed Dora, rolling her eyes again.
I'm still young, But I know my days are numbered, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and so on; But a time will come When these numbers have all ended And all I've ever seen will be forgotten.
What else could he do? Harry threw his hands into the air and, along with Dora, joined in the chorus:
Won't you come To my funeral When my days are done? Life's not long And so I hope When I am finally dead and gone That you'll gather round When I am lowered into the ground.
And here he was, as expected. Severus did not bother sending the other portraits away this time.
He arched one eyebrow. "Well, Potter?"
"Yes. I went to your funeral. We sang your stupid song."
Severus couldn't help grinning.
"Did you have a good time?" he inquired.
"It was..." Potter stared back at him, studying him, scrutinizing his portrait in search of answers to questions he'd never thought to ask of the man. "I felt like I never really knew you."
Severus let his gaze rest upon Albus Dumbledore before looking back to Harry.