Fic: for prompt 'Snape is reincarnated as a magical creature' Title: Burning Day Author: Daughter_Moon Type: Fiction Length: About 7000 words Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Harry/Snape Warnings: None Series: No Rating: PG-13 Summary: When looking for a birthday present for Albus, Harry and Lily come across a phoenix, who Lily promptly names Severus. Notes: Information about phoenixes taken from ‘Magical Creatures and Where to Find Them’. A short paragraph contains some quotes from the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, but I’m sure you’d spot them anyway. Super-fast beta by the totally awesome lesyeuxverts. Thank you so much!
“Okay, James,” Harry said, giving in to his son’s incessant nagging. “But I want you to stay in the joke shop, all right? Don’t bother George when he’s busy and keep an eye on your brother.”
“Dad!” Albus protested. “I’m not a little kid anymore! I don’t need looking after.”
“All the same,” Harry said, “I don’t want either of you wandering off alone. I’ll see you in twenty minutes in George’s shop, alright?” As the boys ran off, Harry turned to face his daughter. “I guess we can find that birthday present for Al then, Lily,” he said with a smile.
Lily’s face transformed from a sullen pout at being left out to a wide grin. She clapped her hands.
“An owl!” she said, jumping up and down. “An owl would be perfect!” Harry’s smile wavered a little as he remembered Hedwig, his own first birthday present, before he pulled himself back together and showed some enthusiasm.
“Yes, I think that would be a lovely gift,” he replied. “Though don’t think I don’t know you just want something fluffy you can cuddle. Even baby owls don’t like to be hugged, you know.” Lily was plainly ignoring him, pulling Harry along the familiar road to Eeylops Owl Emporium. Outside the shop was the usual assortment of white and tawny owls and, unusually, a huge scarlet phoenix. Harry stared.
“Fawkes?” he breathed, oblivious to Lily’s continued chatter. Then he shook himself. Of course it wasn’t Fawkes. Fawkes had vanished after Dumbledore’s death, and what possible reason would he have to reappear now? This was a new one.
Harry was surprised. Phoenixes were so rarely domesticated and even those that were generally remained in India and China.
Suddenly, the hand clasped in his was gone, and little Lily was running towards the huge bird. She reached out a hand to stroke the scarlet plumage as the bird turned towards her. The flashing anger of its eyes looked out of place on such a commonly gentle creature.
“Lily, no!” Harry yelled, running towards his daughter and the phoenix that towered on its tall wooden perch. The phoenix turned its head to fix Harry with a look that seemed part annoyance and part amusement, then leaned down, spreading wide wings for balance, to let Lily stroke it gently. A few notes of sweet song escaped it as Lily smoothed down the golden crest feathers and it tugged gently on her long hair with its beak. Lily giggled.
“Dad, can we get him, please?” she asked. “It could be Al’s birthday present. He’s so pretty and he likes me already.”
“We’re not buying a present for you, Lily,” Harry teased her, trying not to be too obvious about his misgivings. “Besides, he’s an awfully big bird and he doesn’t seem very friendly to me.” The phoenix glared even more, and Harry was reminded of the look that Snape used to give him during potions class. “I don’t want to buy something dangerous.”
“Hagrid doesn’t think manticores are dangerous either,” Harry told her. “And even if phoenixes aren’t normally dangerous, they are still wild creatures. Perhaps it’s better not to cage them at all.”
“He wouldn’t be caged, he’d be in the kitchen like Errol when he comes to visit,” Lily said. “Maybe they’d be friends!”
Harry sighed. He could see already that this conversation was going nowhere and his daughter had become set on the phoenix. Well, they had wanted a special present for Al, considering that it was his first birthday before going off to Hogwarts. What could be more special than a mythical bird?
“I’ll ask the owner about him.” Harry said at last. Lily squealed with excitement.
The owner of Eeylops Owl Emporium was an energetic old man named Noah Grubbley-Plank, apparently the husband of the woman who had briefly covered for Hagrid way back in Harry’s fifth year. Despite not liking her too much, Harry immediately warmed to her husband, who treated all his owls with obvious affection.
“Wilhemina never liked owls as much as me,” Noah chuckled as he followed Harry back outside. “She taught you a while didn’t she? She’s still doing temporary work here and there, doesn’t like being cooped up here with all the birds. Now, which one did you want to look at?”
“The phoenix,” Harry said patiently. “How long have you had him, what sort of temperament does he have and how much does he cost?”
“He’s not been here too long,” Noah replied. “He just flew in here about three weeks ago and settled himself down there. He seems to be waiting for a particular person to take him home because I’ve had tons of people try to buy him, only to have him fly away as soon as money exchanges hands. He always comes back though, and always sits on that perch. I’ve made it a package deal now; he won’t sit on any other.”
“Well, if we’re the people for him I’m sure he’ll be well behaved,” Harry said thoughtfully.
“Oh yes,” Noah added, warming up to his subject. “This one is a little bad tempered and doesn’t like being touched, but I think that’s just him trying to dissuade people from buying him. He certainly has taken to your little girl well enough.”
Harry turned to see the phoenix nuzzling his beak against Lily’s cheek again. Lily was laughing in delight, and threw her arms around the bird’s body, forcing his wings against his side. The bird made a sound like a sigh, but didn’t shake her off. That was encouraging.
“And how much does he cost?” Harry asked again. Noah named a price that made him turn pale and the phoenix looked unaccountably smug at having been awarded such great worth. Then Harry looked over at his daughter, who still had her arms wrapped tightly around her almost-pet, and caved.
“Can I bring him back if he gets violent or flies away?” he asked.
“Of course, sir,” Noah replied. “We do accept returns on unsuitable birds.”
“Then we’ll take him."
As promised, Al and James were waiting inside Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, pockets bulging with tricks and heads bent together, plotting.
“I hope you’re not planning to use any of that at home,” Harry said. They jumped.
“Of course not,” James said, affronted. “We’re going to use them on Filch.”
Harry considered a moment, then said, “That’ll be fine. Just don’t tell anyone I knew about it.”
James and Al beamed. “We won’t.”
Then they caught sight of the cage shaped, paper wrapped bundle in Harry’s arms.
“Is that my birthday present?” Al asked in delight. Before Harry could answer, Lily jumped in.
“He’s called Severus,” she announced. “So you remember he’s yours.”
Harry inwardly groaned. They hadn’t discussed names yet. This was exactly what Ron had warned him about, quoting the long-ago episode of Ginny and Pig the Owl as example.
“I suppose he does have a ‘Severus’ sort of look about him,” Harry agreed, hoping that Al would like the name they were now stuck with. “He keeps glaring at me, just like Snape did. Though if we’re going along that route, it’s probably best not to give the name of the former Head of Slytherin to a Gryffindor coloured bird.”
“Okay, we’ll call him Albus,” Lily said.
“No, Severus is fine,” Al told her. “I don’t want there to be two of us called Al. Can I see?”
“Not until we get home,” Harry said. “We should keep him under wraps until we can explain this particular impulse buy to your mother.”
“Where on Earth are we going to put a phoenix?” Ginny demanded. “He can’t stay in the kitchen, and he’ll never get through that little gap that leads into the loft.”
“He can stay in the library until we work something out,” Harry said. “As long as he doesn’t set anything on fire, it should be fine. There’s a big window for him to get out of and he might enjoy the peace. There’s also that fireplace for burning day.”
“Do you think somewhere with that many books is safe for a phoenix?” Ginny asked anxiously.
“Well, Fawkes always managed fine in Dumbledore’s office, and that place was smaller than the library.”
“Well, I’m glad we got that conversion done when we did,” Ginny said. “Otherwise we might have nowhere at all for him.”
“It’s just until Al goes off to Hogwarts,” Harry reminded her. “Then he won’t be here at all.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Ginny replied, smiling. “Go on then, all of you. Get him sorted and I’ll start dinner.”
The phoenix, now going by the name of Severus, looked around the library with interest. Harry grinned at the nonplussed look he was given.
“Surprised I have a library this big?” he asked. “Well, I like how quiet it is when everyone reads. It gives me time to think. Plus it keeps me and the kids out of Ginny’s way and it’s nice and warm in the winter.” He flung an arm out towards a wall of bookshelves. “Most of those are Defense books. I needed them for Auror training and I always found it interesting. I was kinda hoping to take over the Defence position when the year started up again but McGonagall said there were people more qualified as teachers (she can’t fault me in Defense qualifications).” The phoenix squawked something that sounded like laughter. “Perhaps it’s for the best anyway. I don’t know if the boys would want their Dad as a teacher. Just more opportunities to embarrass them, I suppose.” Severus nodded his crimson head sagely and Harry grinned at him.
“You’re very easy to talk to, you know that?” he asked rhetorically. “I think I’ll like having you around.” Harry spread sheets beneath the perch as he talked, ignoring Severus’ insulted expression.
“Don’t give me that look,” he scolded. “I don’t know if you’re house-trained and Ginny will have my head if you go on the rug. I’ll leave the window open in case you want to get out.” Job done, he dropped a pile of Owl treats on the little tray beneath the perch and left to get his own dinner. As he shut the door behind him, he saw Severus nudge the Owl treats with his beak before turning away in utter disgust.
It was an emotional day when Al finally left for Hogwarts. Even though James had already started and they still had Lily, it felt as though a little piece of Harry’s family was slipping away day by day.
“What if I’m in Slytherin?” Harry’s youngest boy whispered softly and fearfully.
“Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny and the preening phoenix in his gilded cage could hear, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” Severus let out a few notes of phoenix song, as if in agreement. Albus still looked dubious.
“But just say --“
“Then Slytherin house will have gained an excellent student…” Harry broke off as doors started slamming along the train. “Better get on board,” he said. Albus clambered quickly on and Harry handed over the cage containing Severus. The bird made an annoyed sound as he was jostled. The other children gathered around to pet the magnificent feathers and Severus settled down with a look of extreme suffering in his black eyes. Albus leaned out of the window to wave to his parents.
“Bye!” he called, as the train sped away.
“Bye!” Harry called back, as the last of the smoke cleared from the autumnal air. “Bye!”
“He’ll be alright,” murmured Ginny. Harry rubbed absently at his scar.
“I know he will.”
Almost a week later, Harry stormed up to his library, slamming the door violently behind him.
“Why does she have to nag so much?” he snarled to himself. “Why can’t she just accept that sometimes I feel a bit down, and it’s nothing to do with Voldemort or the scar or any of the people who died or are still recovering. Maybe sometimes it’s just me, maybe sometimes I just miss Al and James! Did she ever think of that?”
He threw himself into his chair and waved his wand, perhaps a bit more drastically than he would normally have done, summoning a pot of tea from the kitchen. The phoenix on the perch beside him twittered in amusement.
“Don’t you start,” Harry warned him, jabbing his wand at the bird. Then he stopped and lowered his wand.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. The phoenix held out its right leg in answer and waited patiently as Harry removed the parchment. “Thank you,” Harry said. The phoenix made an uninterested noise and leaned over on its perch to stick its beak in Harry’s tea. Harry shook his head. He had never come across a phoenix who drank tea before. Even Fawkes had never drunk any himself, at least as far as Harry had known. Then again, Fawkes had been seen helping himself to sherbet lemons, according to McGonagall, so perhaps it was just taste. Harry unrolled Al’s letter.
Dear Mum and Dad, I was sorted into Gryffindor! So was Rose, so we’re still together (Uncle Ron will be pleased). The Professors seem quite nice, and Professor Longbottom isn’t really any different here than at home. He’s just a bit for formal and calls me Mr. Potter instead, which is funny.
Can you please look after Severus for me, Professor McGonagall says that only owls or smallish birds are allowed as pets. She just got grumpy when I said that Dumbledore had a phoenix, and she told me that since he was Headmaster he could do what he liked. Dumbledore’s portrait came to the Gryffindor Common Room to say hi and agreed with her. He thinks Severus wouldn’t like the owlery because it would be too cramped and then said he thought Dad might want a chance to get to know him better. He’s good to listen to when he’s being quiet, apparently. Anyway, would you mind?
I hope everything is okay at home. Lots of love,
P.S. James told me that every full moon the portrait of Sir Cadogan goes mad, climbs out of his frame and kills first years. That’s not true, is it?
Harry chuckled a little at the last line and summoned a clean sheet of parchment to reply, leaving Severus to finish off his tea. By the time he had finished, reassuring Albus that, yes, he would take care of Severus and, no, Sir Cadogan did not try to kill first years, he had cooled off considerably and was ready to attempt normal conversation with his wife.
The marriage had become strained over the last few years. As Ginny grew more irritated with Harry’s continuing and unpredictable bouts of depression, and as the children began to leave home leaving her with little to do, she became more and more unhappy. She spent long periods of time with Molly and Hermione, only to come back more dissatisfied with her seemingly empty life.
Harry too was growing tired of the struggle to make the marriage work. He often wanted to be alone, sitting in his library with just the crackling fire for company and wishing that someone unrelated to all this would come along and let him unburden himself. Hermione was too much of a friend to Ginny, Ron was her brother, and all the older men he used to turn to were gone. Just thinking about it brought the rush of grief and the memories, almost like ghosts around him, of Dumbledore and Remus and Sirius all flooding back.
And the unhappier they both became, the less the partnership worked. Harry wanted something… someone more.
“Dad!” Lily pushed open the door and jumped into his arms.
“Hello Lily,” Harry said. Now here was something worth fighting for, a reason to keep trying. Their children, who didn’t deserve to be caught up in messy divorce proceedings.
“Severus is back,” Lily said, wriggling round on Harry’s lap so she could stroke the glossy feathers. Severus nudged her fingers with his golden beak, making her laugh. “Did Al send a letter?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “He says we need to look after Severus for him because he’s not allowed at school.”
“Oh,” Lily said. “But won’t Al miss him? How will he send us letters?”
“He can always use a school owl,” Harry pointed out. “And I’m sure he won’t be too lonely. He probably has lots of new friends to talk to.”
“Okay,” Lily said. “I can’t wait to go next year. Are you excited?”
“Of course,” Harry said, trying to ignore the horrible churning sensation that arose whenever he thought of the house being left to just Ginny and himself for most of the year. “I can’t wait to turn your bedroom into a miniature indoor Quidditch pitch.”
“Dad!” Lily scolded him. “Don’t be silly.” She hopped off his lap and ran to the door. “Anyway, Mum says it’s time for dinner. Come on.”
“I’ll be down in a minute,” Harry called after her. He pulled a packet of bird food from a bookcase and poured some into the dish beneath Severus’ perch. “I hope it gets better soon,” he murmured, watching the bird dig happily into his own dinner. “I just want everything to stay happy and normal. Just this one thing.”
Severus looked up sharply as the library door slammed yet again behind his furious owner. Harry stormed to his chair, throwing a locking charm behind him. Severus could hear Ginny’s angry, high-pitched voice only slightly muffled by the door and the bangs as she pounded against the thick wood. A few bright flashes beneath the frame showed that Harry’s spouse was resorting to a whole range of different spells in an attempt to gain entrance.
Harry fell into his chair with a soft thump and sighed, one hand reaching up automatically to pet his son’s phoenix.
“I need to get out of here, Severus,” he said. “I can’t take all the yelling. I don’t even know what’s wrong, but neither of us are happy. The kids are all at school now, it won’t matter so much if I’m not around here, and Ginny will be happier. I might not have the nerve to leave if I don’t do it now.”
On the other side of the door, the shouting had ceased. When Harry quietly slipped out, returning barely twenty minutes later with a bag, there was no disturbance, no renewed shouting, and none of the sobbing expected from the breaking of a long marriage. Harry held out the cage, its door swinging wide.
“Are you coming with me?” he asked the bird. He was unsure why he asked, but he had spent many long evenings sitting in this library, hiding from Ginny, and spilling his soul out to his quiet friend. “You’ll still be back in time for Al to get home, and I won’t keep you locked away anywhere. I’d just like to keep you around to talk to. You listen far better than anyone else does at the moment.”
The phoenix who had once glared so balefully at him gave him a sympathetic look and stepped gracefully from perch to cage. Harry sagged a little under the weight, before casting a featherlight charm and shouldering his bag.
“Let’s be off, then,” he said. “I’m sure Mrs. Tonks won’t mind if we crash at Grimmauld Place for a few days until I find a flat for the two of us. You don’t mind that, do you?” The phoenix gave no discernible reply, but busied itself with preening its glossy feathers.
“Okay then,” Harry said, feeling more cheerful and decisive than he had in a long time. “Let’s get out of here.”
Andromeda welcomed them with open arms, and immediately employed Harry with keeping an eye on Teddy while she ran various errands. Harry didn’t mind. Teddy was a sweet boy and reminded him strongly of Remus, even when he had purple hair. Harry suspected it would have been how Remus had looked after a Slytherin prank.
Severus was having much less fun. Andromeda’s Kneazle had taken a liking to his glossy crest and spent long hours climbing up tall things; lamps, curtains, anything that was taller than the perch, and then jumping off of them with his paws outstretched towards the tall feathers. Severus was obviously getting tired of ducking and snapping at the determined feline, and by the second week, Severus was flying into Harry’s room at night and keeping him awake with hair-raising shrieks. Harry finally relented and told Andromeda they were moving out.
“Where do you plan we go, then?” Harry asked. “There aren’t any reasonably priced flats around here that will let me bring a bird, and I can hardly leave you behind. I can’t stay with Ron and Hermione – I’ve moved out because of Ginny, for Merlin’s sake. So if you’re so keen on going somewhere else, you show me somewhere to stay.”
In reply, Severus swooped in and seized the back of Harry’s shirt in his golden talons. With a single thrust of his powerful wings through the air, he lifted both himself and his panicked burden into the air. Harry yelped, then tried to hold as still as possible, hoping desperately that Severus wouldn’t drop him. He had forgotten just how strong phoenixes were.
This was nothing at all like riding a broomstick, or a hippogriff or thestral, or even like holding onto Fawkes in his second year. This time, he had no control over where they went, or any idea where they were headed. All he could do was trust in his son’s pet and hope they landed in one piece.
After what felt like hours of uncomfortable travelling, Severus finally set Harry down in front of a dilapidated house. It looked as if no one had done any repair work or even visited this place in years. A worn sign on a wall nearby read “Spinner’s End”.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Harry muttered.
Severus, who had settled atop a dingy lamppost, took flight again and pulled none-too-gently on Harry’s shirt.
“All right, all right,” Harry said. “I don’t know what’s got into you. You weren’t this pushy at home.” Satisfied, Severus alighted back on his lamppost and waited while Harry shoved without success on the door. Giving up, the wizard pulled out his wand and aimed carefully at the rusty lock.
“Alohamora,” he said. A jet of white light shot from the tip of his wand, to no effect. Harry tried again, then worked his way through his limited repertoire of unlocking spells. Finally, at a loss, he tried one last spell.
“Reducto!” The wooden door splintered, causing Severus to let out an undignified squawk, though Harry did not know if he sounded shocked or angry. Pushing aside the broken slats, Harry went inside the house. Severus squeezed in after him and settled on the banister of the staircase just inside the hall, preening his ruffled feathers.
“This place looks horrible.” Harry groaned. “It’s dirty and dark and smells. Why on earth are you so hung up on this place.” The phoenix offered only silence, and Harry mentally berated himself for expecting an answer from a bird. Sure, he’d spent a lot of time talking to Severus while Al was at Hogwarts, and Severus was the most opinionated bird he’d ever come across, but that didn’t mean he should expect any sort of reply to his question. He wasn’t even certain if Severus understood what he was saying.
Harry gingerly opened the first door he came to. When nothing happened -- no screaming portraits, no colony of bats, no surprise boggart -- Harry ventured further in. It was a sitting room, or had been once. Every available space along the walls was covered in books. Two ancient armchairs, their green upholstery covered in a fine layer of dust, stood either side of a scratched oak coffee table, upon which a dirty white teacup and saucer stood beside an unlit candle. Taking his wand from his sleeve, Harry cast Incendio and watched the candle flare unsteadily to life. The new light revealed nothing more, so Harry blew out the candle and left the room to its silent vigil.
The next door revealed, much to Harry’s relief, a kitchen. Harry was starving after the day’s travelling, and he hadn’t had much time for food since breakfast that morning. He eagerly opened the cupboard, dislodging a few cobwebs and their occupants from the handles and hinges, only to groan in dismay. It was not that the cupboards were empty, indeed there was enough food to last a few days. The problem was that the whole lot was rotten to the core. Vegetables, cereal, brown bread. All of it lay in a stinking heap of inedible waste. This stuff was better off as compost than as food. Harry opened the other cupboards, but with no better luck.
“Well, I hope you’re happy,” he snapped at Severus, storming back into the hall. “There’s no food, I have no idea where we are, and I’ve only found one candle.” Stomping back into the sitting room, he yanked the candle stub from its hard pool of drippings and lit it. Ignoring the phoenix, he followed the candle’s flickering light up the dark stairway, hoping desperately the bed at least was useable.
The next day, light peeked in through the curtains and woke Harry in his dusty bed. The bed had been fine, if a bit creaky, and Harry felt slightly better after a good night’s rest. He came downstairs to find Severus asleep, still perched on the same rounded banister knob where Harry had left him the night before.
“I’m going to buy some food,” Harry told the sleeping bird. “If you’re awake when I get back, we can have some breakfast. If you’re not, I’ll just eat without you. This is your fault in the first place.” As Harry shut the door behind him, Severus opened one sleepy eye, shifted, then went back to sleep.
Harry returned almost an hour later with bread, butter, milk, teabags and a large bar of chocolate. Going to the kitchen, he tried and failed to find a toaster, burned his toast with another Incendio, made a pot of tea using a cauldron he found in one cupboard hung over the tiny fireplace, and then sat down for a very unsatisfying breakfast. When Severus eventually deigned to join him, perching on the back of a chair and dipping his beak blearily into a cup of tea Harry poured for him, he looked even more bedraggled than Harry.
“This place isn’t good for you either, huh?” Harry asked, pouring another cup as Severus finished off the first in record time. Severus just looked miserable, huddling into himself and fluffing up his feathers.
“I’ll keep looking for a place, we don’t have to stay here long,” Harry said comfortingly, patting the phoenix. His hand came away filled with scarlet feathers. Harry stared. What could be wrong with Severus that happened overnight? He was fine yesterday. Perhaps it was just some sort of phoenix flu or something. Did such a thing even exist? Were there wizarding vets?
“I’ll get you some bread,” Harry said worriedly. Severus did not reply.
The mysterious illness went on for three weeks. Every day Severus looked sicker and ate less. His feathers were falling out so rapidly that he soon began to resemble a half-plucked chicken. However, as morning dawned on the fourth week since they had moved in, Harry began to suspect what was wrong. Drawing from memories of his time with Dumbledore, he questioned the bird as they ate a companionable breakfast of cornflakes with milk.
“Is it your burning day soon?” Harry asked. “I have no idea how old you are, and you have the same sort of look Fawkes did the first time I met him.” Severus shrugged, or made a movement close to a shrug, hampered as he was by his wings.
“I guess there’s not much to worry about then,” Harry said, relieved. He picked up his paper, unfolded it to the first page, and promptly spat out a mouthful of tea.
“What the hell?” he yelled. Severus gave him a look of disgust and preened tea off his remaining feathers. Furious, Harry read through the article.
Where is Harry Potter?, the headline screamed. An inside look at the marriage and disappearance of the Man-Who-Lived. Harry growled. Ginny had given them an interview. An interview! About their marriage, their children, their ‘problems’. About how Harry had stormed out, taking their son’s pet with him in the hopes of stealing away Ginny’s children. Harry fumed.
“I’m going over there right now!” He declared, rising from the table so violently the rickety wooden chair crashed to the floor. “This marriage is over. Of course I love my kids, of course I’m not trying to steal them. How dare she?”
As Harry reached the door, however, a muffled shriek made him turn, and he saw Severus fall to the floor. Rushing forward, Harry was unprepared despite his suspicions as Severus was engulfed in flame. Harry leapt back, and stood as far away as he could manage in the cramped confines of the kitchen as the fire roared. Harry waited long moments before the flames finally died down.
Instead of a baby phoenix, however, the pyre left something very different in its wake. A tall, thin, naked human body.
Harry gaped at the body for a few moments, and then rushed forward as the man groaned painfully. Rolling the other man onto his back, Harry pushed the dark hair out of the way and leaned over, checking for a pulse and breathing. He seemed in good health, if a bit worn from the burning. Having sorted out the important stuff, Harry finally looked up at the man’s face, and started in shock.
“Snape?” he asked.
Snape groaned again and his eyes slitted, staring down at his keeper. “I believe I was Severus a few minutes ago.”
Harry stared at him. “That was my son’s pet. You are supposed to be dead.”
Snape didn’t even bother with a glare. “I was dead, idiot boy. Has the concept of reincarnation never occurred to you? What did you think the headmaster meant by ‘Death is the next great adventure’?”
“I thought he was talking about some sort of afterlife.”
“He was. It turns out the afterlife is remarkably similar to the life I just left. Though why I was reincarnated as a fancy chicken in Gryffindor colours, I have no idea, and why I have just received my old body even less.”
“So where is Dumbledore?” Harry asked, as he slid an arm under Snape’s back, lifting him into a sitting position.
“I believe he was sent back as a goat, who was taken in by his brother Aberforth. Aberforth has no idea, of course, but Albus is very happy.”
Harry grinned. It sounded like exactly the sort of move that would appeal to both Dumbledores. Snape interrupted his musings.
“As charming as it is to sit here on the floor, could we perhaps move somewhere more comfortable? Or could you at least supply me with some clothes? I don’t remember you excavating my wardrobe quite yet.”
“Is this your house?” Harry asked in surprise.
“Of course it is,” Snape said in a tone that suggested his long-ago first impression of Harry’s idiocy was still holding true. “Why do you think I brought you here? Not for the décor, certainly. I wanted to be back somewhere remotely familiar while you bungled your divorce proceedings.”
“Hey!” Harry snapped, starting to feel less charitable. “Why do you think I’ll fail? We parted in mutual irritation, it’s not like she can claim I cheated on her.”
“Oh no?” Snape said. “You mean all those evenings in the library, telling me how you could see the appeal in the newest seeker for Puddlemere, or wishing you were back in the dorms with your friends was totally innocent?”
“Of course. What else could it be?” Harry had a look of such innocent confusion on his face that Snape snorted inelegantly through his hooked nose.
“Really, Potter. You were much more intelligent when I was a bird.”
“Can you knock off the criticism, please?” Harry asked. “I think I preferred you as a bird too.”
Snape paused. “Potter, I am tired and sore. Transfer me to a bed and we will continue this discussion at a later date, perhaps when the shock wears off.”
Harry glared at him, but acquiesced and carefully helped Snape to his feet. Half-carrying him upstairs, he got the other man settled and then pulled the ragged curtains across, blocking out the dim light from outside. “You should get some sleep,” he said. “But this conversation isn’t over, Snape. I’ll be back.”
Snape met his gaze squarely, and Harry saw some unfamiliar emotion burn there for a moment, but Snape just said, “Later,” and laid his head back, falling quickly into sleep.
“I’ll spell it out slowly,” Snape said, as he sat facing Harry across the worn kitchen table. “You are homosexual. Gay. Queer. Your marriage failed because you are incapable of a healthy relationship with a woman, loving or sexual. Your children may have resulted from your marriage, but they were not the product of love, just of the image of family life you wanted to have.”
Snape paused as a stricken expression crossed Harry’s face, and continued more gently. “You love your children, Potter. I could see that you did. But love for your children does not equal love for your wife. You must accept this and move on. Anything else will hurt you more.”
Harry wrapped his hands around the delicate teacup and stared into the murky depths of his tea. After he and Snape had finished their obligatory fight about everything and anything that had ever occurred between them, they had both come to peace with their respective pasts. Now, Severus was just as easy to talk to as he had been as a phoenix. Harry wondered if he should have fallen back into the usual pattern of “how would you know, you greasy git?” but decided he had neither the energy nor the inclination. Severus was right.
“What do you suggest I do about it?” he asked instead.
“Get a divorce, work out custody for your children and then find a lover. And buy a new bird for your son. He is a surprisingly gentle child, given your capacity for chaos and your other son--"
“James,” Harry said.
Severus rolled his eyes. “Of course, James’s carelessness. It was not an insult, Potter,” he added quickly as Harry opened his mouth, outraged. “I find myself less inclined to insult you, given what I have learned of you over the last couple of months.”
Harry gave him a contemplative look, but thankfully dropped the glare. “Do you… maybe…”
“Spit it out, Potter.”
“Do you like me?” Harry stuttered at last.
“I tolerate you,” Severus replied, but Harry thought the slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth said otherwise.
“D’you want to stay here, until you’re healed up, that is?” asked Harry, for lack of other things to say.
Severus gave him an amused look. “This is my house, Potter.”
Harry flushed at the rebuke, but did not take it to heart as he once might have, despite the too familiar ‘Potter’. It sounded almost fond.
“However,” Severus continued, “Since you have housed me the last year, I feel it is only appropriate I extend the same courtesy to you.”
“Thanks,” said Harry. “That means I can stay, right?”
The thin lips twitched upwards a little more. “Yes.”
“Can you call me Harry, then? I call you Severus, or at least, I have been doing. I still can, can’t I?”
“That is acceptable,” Snape replied, picking up his tea. “It will be nice to have a slave of sorts around until I’m better, at least. Making the dinner, picking up the paper.”
“Hey,” Harry laughed. “I’m not here to be your slave!”
“Oh no? Then what are you, Harry?”
Harry smiled at his dour former professor, his enemy, his pet. “A friend.”
Severus clinked his cup with Harry’s, leaving a soft ringing sound hovering in the air. “To friendship, then, and whatever it may bring.”
The divorce was as messy as Severus had predicted. Ginny made nothing easy, making some ridiculous claims in her irrational, unexplained anger. Harry lost a good deal of his money trying to sort out the whole mess, and was very upset to see so much of his library disappearing before his eyes.
Worst of all, though, was that Ginny kept the kids. He did not begrudge their choice, really. He wanted them to decide, so no resentment could grow between them, and considering the conditions Harry shared with Severus, it was probably for the best. Still, the house was a bit brighter now, with two people sharing the space instead of one man and his bird. He had apologised to Al and bought a peace offering in the form of a small green garden snake, which Al enthusiastically cared for, despite his mother’s renewed screaming.
So all was reasonably settled again. Severus had been a great help in getting back at least some of what was his. All his previous belongings were returned to him, including his broom and clothes, which was a relief. He was tired of wearing the same sets of robes over and over. But the final settlement had been signed today and Harry felt he could relax.
Flopping down onto Severus’ bed upstairs, Harry listened idly to the sound of the shower through the wall. He felt immensely tired. It was late now, and his senses had been blurred a little from the celebratory drink he had shared with Ron in The Three Broomsticks.
“Don’t blame you, mate,” Ron had said. “Ginny’s always been a bit yelly, y’know? Too…” Ron waved his arms about randomly as he searched for the word he wanted. “Rigid. Up,” he hiccuped, “tight. Needs to relax.”
Harry had finished the last of his drink then, and gazed blearily out at the darkening window. “’S late,” he said. “Should get back now. Coming?”
“Nah,” Ron said, waving his glass around and slopping beer everywhere in his exuberant goodbye. “Herm – hic – Herm – hic – ‘Mione will come get me. See ‘ou later.”
“Bye,” Harry said replied, before setting out into the night.
Harry lay back with a silly grin on his face, thinking about it. It had been good to be back among friends. He had felt cut off from Ron for too long because of his pressured marriage. Perhaps that was why he had started feeling so resentful: Ginny had taken away the outlet for his worry and frustration. Ah well, over now.
Severus’ face suddenly appeared over Harry’s, wet hair dripping over Harry’s nose.
“Harry, what are you doing on my bed?” he asked, calm and collected as ever.
“Sleepin’,” Harry mumbled back. “Too tired to go over there.” He waved his arms randomly in the direction of his own bed, shoved under the window. “Comfy here. Come lie down with me?”
Severus perched on the edge of the bed, still staring down at the man flopped across his mattress. “Why?” he asked.
Harry giggled drunkenly as a few more drops of water landed on his nose. He tried to lick them off and giggled more. He gazed up at Severus, trying to remember why it was a good idea for the other man to get into bed with him, but Severus was no help. He seemed to have become fixated on Harry’s tongue. Harry wiggled it about experimentally. He still couldn’t get the water off. Severus groaned.
“Fine,” Severus agreed at last. He rubbed a black towel quickly through his hair, drying it to the point where it was just slightly damp, and then folded his dressing gown over the bottom of his bed. Clambering up in only his boxers, he carefully divested Harry of his own clothes. Harry wriggled at the tickling sensation as Severus’ delicate touch slid over his skin, pulling trousers down and shirt up. At last, they were both left in just their boxers.
“We’ll both regret this tomorrow,” Severus warned as he lay down and moved into a more comfortable position in the overcrowded single bed, but Harry was already asleep. Severus sighed, wrapped Harry in his arms, and wondered, as he drifted off to sleep, if he could claim drunkenness too.
The next morning, Harry woke up with warm arms wrapped around his middle, a hard chest pressed against his naked back, and the vaguely fuzzy feeling of having been drunk. Glancing over his shoulder, he recognised Severus’ long black hair and beaky nose.
It wasn’t even a shock, Harry thought with an inward sigh. Doubtless Severus would be angry or embarrassed or panicked when he woke, or perhaps even all three, but the fact remained that cuddling with Ginny had never felt this good.
Today, Harry had freedom and friends and a potions master in his bed (or perhaps it was him in the potions master’s bed, but that didn’t matter). Next week his children were visiting and there were introductions to be made, but for today, Harry decided, he would make this work. Whatever else stood in their path.