Snarry-a-Thon20: FIC: White Feathers Title: White Feathers Author:MagicaDraconia16 Other pairings/threesome: None Rating: Teen Word count: 1880-ish Content/Warning(s): Period-typical attitudes, period-typical language, disabled character Prompt: Historical!AU romance (can be magical or non-magical). Time period is up to you. Elizabeth I's court, French Revolution, WWI, etc. Summary: With the Order of the White Feather gaining prominence and ‘gifting’ feathers to young men all across the country, someone seems to have decided that Harry Potter is a coward. And they’re determined that he know it. A/N: I had the idea for this story years ago but never got around to doing anything about it. It recently crossed my mind again, so I was thrilled to find this prompt in the list! Additional notes at the end. Also written for: TropesAndFandoms20:Regular square, trope Wartime Romance Harry Potter Bingo:square R/N3 – Free square and Trope Bingo Round 14:square B4 – AU: Historical
“What was that?” a voice called from the living room. “There’s no post on Sundays; is someone at the door? Don’t keep them waiting, Potter!”
Having frozen in the kitchen at the first metallic clatter, Harry Potter jumped at the demand. He scrambled for the doorway, even knowing that the other occupant of the bungalow wouldn’t be able to see the front door, let alone reach it, before he could get there.
He winced once he could see the front door himself. Sure enough, as he’d dreaded, lying harmlessly on the mat were three feathers.
Now I’m not even safe in my own home? he thought, miserably, as he scooped up the feathers and stuffed them into the pocket of a coat hanging on the hooks. Someone had apparently followed him. He darted a quick glance out of one of the windows on either side of the front door but couldn’t see anybody waiting around.
“Well, Potter?” the voice called again. “Who is it?”
“Nobody,” Harry called back as he peered harder at the surroundings. “Must have been the wind.” There was a disgruntled huff as he finally conceded that there really was nobody there and returned to the kitchen. Thankfully, the chicken he’d been cooking hadn’t burnt but was merely a bit singed around the edges.
“Funny sort of wind,” said the bungalow’s other occupant as Harry carried their plates into the living room. “Strong enough to rattle our letterbox, yet without even touching the leaves on the trees.” He cast a pointed glance out of the window to where the big tree was casting a shadow over the lane.
For a brief insane moment, Harry wondered if the other man would forget the subject if Harry dumped his dinner in his lap. Luckily, common sense reasserted itself in the nick of time. The subject of the letterbox might be forgotten, but the new subject of the wasted dinner would be brought up ad nauseam for weeks on end.
Instead, he placed his own plate on the seat of his chair and handed the other one over. “Maybe it was just kids then,” he suggested. “You know how the Weasley boys are, Sev; always playing pranks.” About to turn away to his own armchair, Harry caught sight of the glare the other man was giving him and sighed. “What now?” he asked, resigned.
“You know what! I’ve said to you, time and time again, don’t call me that where someone could hear you! Call me Snape!”
Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m not calling you Snape in our own home!” he protested.
“Then call me Severus, if you absolutely must,” said Severus, firmly. “I’ve told you, Potter. It’s good practice. Even if we save the propriety just for outside these four walls, if we get too comfortable using the familiarity inside then we’re more likely to slip outside.”
Harry picked up his own plate and dropped into the armchair. “Severus,” he said, pointedly, “people won’t find it strange that I address you by your Christian name. We live in the same house; I take care of you!”
Severus banged his hand down onto the arm of the wheelchair he sat in, almost upending his plate from his lap. “Damn it, that is precisely the point!” he insisted. “You are a young man in the prime of your life – you should be out looking for a wife to settle down with, not looking after a broken war veteran!”
Blindly putting his plate aside again – perhaps too blindly; he vaguely heard the clatter as it fell to the floor – Harry surged from his chair and fell to his knees beside Severus’ chair, gripping the other man’s arm. “I don’t want a wife!” he said. “All I want is you, Severus. And you are not broken!”
Severus’ gaze flickered over Harry and then away again. The fight abruptly seemed to go out of him, and he slumped in the chair. “You are a fool,” he said, softly.
“But I’m your fool,” Harry said, squeezing Severus’ arm before getting to his feet. “Now eat your dinner. Then we’ll call it an early night, and I’ll show you just how broken you aren’t.”
Harry wondered whether it was possible for him to turn Severus’ chair around and dash them back home, but even as the thought crossed his mind, the young woman in the market square up ahead had spotted them. Her head went up, and Harry had the distinct impression that she was a predator, spotting her prey.
Which, unfortunately, was them.
“Yoo-hoo!” she called, and waved at them.
Reluctantly, Harry brought the wheelchair to a halt. Even without looking, he knew Severus would be scowling at the girl. The Order of the White Feather had gained particular prevalence in London, and had spread to the outskirts of it, including where they lived in Surrey. The Order weren’t popular, but that never stopped any of them.
Harry also couldn’t help but wonder if this was the one who’d posted the white feathers through their letterbox a couple of days previously.
“I told you we should have gone the other way,” Severus muttered to him.
“I know. I’m sorry,” Harry apologised. “I’ll take your advice next time.”
Severus turned to glare at Harry over his shoulder and opened his mouth for what would no doubt have been a blistering retort but was interrupted by the arrival of the young woman in front of them. The satchel slung across her body was obviously only half full; she’d apparently been busy.
“Here you are, sir!” she said, loudly, holding out a large white feather towards Harry. “A white feather, just for you!”
Harry didn’t take it.
A retort of “So you’ll be taking over Mr Snape’s care as of now, then? Make sure you wash all of him very carefully!” was burning his throat, but he swallowed it down. He’d tried arguing his position before; it never worked.
When it became obvious that Harry wasn’t going to accept the feather, the woman dropped her gaze to Severus. “And how about you, sir?” she asked, bending down as though he were hard of hearing. “Would you like a white feather?” She held the feather closer to Severus.
Severus, rather unexpectedly, didn’t immediately explode at her. Instead, he turned his gaze to scan the gathering crowd. “Potter, see if you can find someone who’s looking panicked,” he said, calmly but loud enough for those surrounding them to hear. “It appears that a chaperone’s lost their charge.”
“What?” The woman snapped upright, scowling indignantly. “Excuse you, sir, but it is nineteen fifteen! Women are allowed to go out without chaperones!”
“Oh, I beg your pardon, madam.” Severus met her gaze head on. “I was under the impression that you were blind or a poor imbecile, and that you had escaped your guardian.”
“What?!” the young lady screeched. Her face was beginning to turn an alarming shade of red. Harry bit his tongue to avoid giving in to the urge to laugh; several of the people in the crowd weren’t so gracious and had begun to laugh uproariously.
Severus merely tilted his head slightly. “Well, you were trying to ‘shame’ me into going and signing up to the army,” he pointed out. “And yet, surely, it should be perfectly obvious why that won’t be happening.”
“Because you’re a coward?” spat the woman.
“Because I don’t have any legs to walk on,” said Severus, calmly, and he waved a hand at where his legs ended below the knees. “Out of curiosity, just how do you expect me to fight in the trenches in a wheelchair?”
The young lady gaped at him, the colour draining out of her face almost as fast as it had flooded in. Most of the crowd now was pointing and jeering at her, laughing unkindly at seeing someone get one over on one of the Order. Without another word to anyone, she turned and fled, the odd feather drifting out of the bag as she ran.
“Well,” said Severus, dusting his hands together. “I think that deserves a drink, don’t you?”
Speechless, Harry could only nod in agreement.
When Severus finally managed to wheel himself into the living room, after a torturous twenty minutes spent trying to manoeuvre himself into his chair without accidentally sending it rolling across the bedroom, he discovered Harry sitting slumped on the floor in front of the front door.
“Harry?” he asked, cautiously. Had Harry had a telegram bearing bad news?
“Am I a coward?” Harry asked. He didn’t move an inch from his spot, not even to look round at Severus. “Am I just making excuses for myself because I’m a coward?”
Severus blinked at the back of his head. “What? What on earth are you on about, Potter?” he demanded.
Seeming to shrink even further into himself, Harry shuffled sideways, allowing Severus to see past him. The front mat was covered in white feathers, hundreds of them, in a layer that had to be at least three inches deep.
“Oh, Harry,” Severus sighed. He carefully edged his chair through the doorway and down the short hall towards Harry. He came to a stop beside the other man, and reached out to place a hand on his head. “You are not a coward, Harry,” he said, softly but firmly. “It is not a moral failing if a man does not wish to throw themselves headfirst into blood and death and agony.” He carded his fingers through Harry’s hair. “These women – girls – are only trying to make themselves look superior. All they do is make themselves look foolish. You are one of the bravest young men I know.”
Harry made a sound somewhere between a gasp and a sob, and turned to bury his face against Severus’ leg. “I just—” he gasped out. “I was heading for the kitchen, and I saw them all… There are so many—”
“I suspect,” said Severus, “that this is the handiwork of the girl that tried to present us with feathers yesterday, in retaliation for the way we refused to be humiliated and turned the tables on her. Rather than worry about what a nameless girl who knows nothing of us thinks, why don’t you go and make a cup of tea, and then we’ll gather all these feathers and take them down the lane to Mrs Weasley. She can use them to make a couple of pillows for us.”
Harry snorted, and raised his head. “And a quilt?” he suggested, his mouth turning up into a smile.
Severus rolled his eyes. “Yes, love, and a quilt,” he agreed, in exasperated amusement. He slid his hand down to cup the back of Harry’s neck. “Feeling better?” he asked.
Harry bounced up onto his feet, and then leant over again to place a smacking kiss on Severus’ cheek, ducking the other man’s swipe at him. “Yes, I believe I am,” he said. He grinned down at Severus. “And of course I’m one of the bravest men you know; I began a relationship with you, didn’t I?”
And before Severus could do anything other than gape in astonishment at him, Harry had darted away into the kitchen, laughing hysterically.
Notes: The Order of the White Feather was founded in August 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and author Mrs Humphrey Ward for the purpose of shaming young men into joining the army to fight in WW1 via young women presenting them with white feathers. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t popular with most people, especially soldiers home on leave not allowed to wear uniform and civil servants who could all find themselves presented with one – or several. It got so bad that in September 1916, the government had to create a badge for the civil servants and discharged soldiers.
The term ‘imbecile’ was an actual psychiatric/medical term that was in use in the early 1900s, and was specifically for those with an IQ of 26-50 (between ‘idiot’ at 0-25 and ‘moron’ at 51-70).
It’s not mentioned, but just in case anyone’s interested, Severus was injured in the second Boer War, which took place between 1899 and 1902.