|snarryhols (snarryhols) wrote in snarry_holidays,|
@ 2007-12-04 09:13:00
Changes (1/2), for treewishes
Word Count: 10,287
Warnings: Shifting POV's, drama, AU, smattering of UST and then the hawt mansecks
Disclaimer: No money is being made here. If it were, I'd be rich and blonde and British.
Summary: What if Snape's death was really a way for him to truly begin his life?
Author's Notes: Written for the 2007 snarry_hols exchange for treewishes who wanted: I like clever and subversive canon-compliance, and that definitely applies to the epilogue. I also love AUs that make odd sense and make you think. A gender change, either overt or covert, and what happens next, especially when it's reversed. And/or a change to a vampire/werewolf/veela/animal/hermaphrod
Thanks so much loves, for beta reading this monster. I couldn't have done it without you.
When Severus woke, his first thought was 'Yes, apparently you do dream when you're dead'. His second was, 'I also apparently still breathe'. It took him several long minutes to realize that no, he wasn't dead and that yes, he really was breathing. He hadn't time to wonder at it, or at the blank spot in his mind as immediately following his last thought was a sense of danger that he immediately paid heed to. Every instinct in his body was screaming and every single piece of fur covering his flesh was standing on edge.
Severus didn't have time to puzzle that out as the next sound that reached his ears was rather loud and sounded suspiciously like one of those bizarre hunting rifles his father had owned. The sound came once more and he was even more convinced of what it was. His body sprang into action immediately, following the scent of sulfur and gunpowder and human and fear.
Fear? Why do I smell fear?
He bounded through the brush and headed towards where the scent of fear was greatest and dropped into a crouch at the sound of approaching hooves. He forced his mind to ignore the mystery for right now and tilted his head to get a better view through the brush he was crouched behind. Deer. Stag specifically, two of them both running for their lives. It was from them the scent of fear emanated. Behind them were dogs and humans, mounted on horses, weapons raised and poised to fire.
Severus didn't even think, he simply leapt, causing one of the horses to rear and throw its human rider off. The other horse bolted, its rider holding on for dear life. Severus padded to the fallen human – nearly smirking when the horse ran off – and rested a large black paw on the man's chest. He meant to tell him to leave the deer be, but what came out instead was a roar that startled him as much as it apparently startled the human who wet himself. Severus blinked, stared at the man for a moment, and then loped off.
"Harry, have you heard?" Hermione asked as she pushed open the door of the room in Grimmauld Harry had taken to hiding in. It was – of all places – the library, a room Hermione was more than comfortable in. Not that Harry had allowed much of anyone access to the room since the end of the war and discovering Snape's body was nowhere to be found.
Harry looked up from the book he was reading on the effects of Naga venom – the family of snake he believed Nagini to have been descended from – and said, "Heard what?" His voice was sharp as he'd made a point of telling everyone he didn't want to be disturbed, but he did his best to soften the scowl he knew was on his face.
"There's been a beast – a cougar or panther of some kind - terrorizing the hunters in Cornwall. They're calling it the Beast of Bodmin," Hermione replied as she settled herself into a chair next to Harry.
"And I would have heard of this why?" asked Harry.
Hermione raised a brow and ignored his tone. "Because it's been protecting and defending every stag the hunters went after. Quite viciously at times as well. Also, it's been close enough to tear at the men, but aside from a paw in the chest has done them no damage."
Harry blinked. "That isn't normal is it? I mean, don't those sorts of animals normally kill deer? And humans?"
Hermione nodded. "They do. Which is why the hunters are so terrified of this one. It won't allow them near the deer, especially the stags, and they don't know what to make of it. It's gone all over the moors in Cornwall protecting the deer."
Harry fell silent after that, not quite certain what to make of the news. "Why tell me?" he finally asked.
Hermione arched an eyebrow then said quietly, "I know what you're doing Harry. You've been this way since Snape's body disappeared. If you're looking for a reason why, I thought this might be of interest, given what you've told me his Patronus was, and what yours is. This is an animal known for hunting deer, not protecting them. And it's apparently particular about the stags. It protects them first."
"How did you know?" Harry asked quietly.
"Harry," Hermione began gently, "I know how you feel about him, even if you don't. I know why thing didn't work with Ginny. It's because she was never the one who held your attention. Of everyone, - even Malfoy – the only person you have always reacted strongest to was Severus Snape. If that weren't enough, there have been many times in the past where anyone would have expected you to seek Ginny out and you never did. Not when we first returned to Hogwarts, not after the battle, not when you discovered Snape's body was missing. You always came to us. Those weren't the actions of a person in love."
There was nothing he could say to that really, so Harry nodded and closed his book. Hermione knew him far too well for him to bother denying any of it, including the fact that he'd been searching for anything that would prove Snape might be alive, no matter how farfetched. He had to check this out, see what it was about. Even if only to prove to himself that it had nothing to do with Snape, that it was another in a series of false leads to the man's whereabouts. "I'll be gone for a few days," he said. "Tell everyone for me?'
Hermione nodded. "I thought you'd say that, so I've already told them you're gone."
Harry smiled gratefully and Disapparated.
Had anyone been looking at the huge panther standing in the brush at the edge of town they would have sworn the cat was smirking. Anyone who knew Severus Snape would have known that was exactly what he was doing. He'd managed to chase off yet another group of hunters – faster this time – and had put the fear of the Beast of Bodmin into them. It had looked as though they were specifically looking for him and hadn't been prepared when they found him.
Unlike his usual paw in the chest, this one had received harsher treatment as he'd nearly gotten the doe and young stag in the herd he protected, and a vision from his past had flashed before his eyes. His mind's eye had replayed the scene the night of Lily's death; Lily standing in front of Harry and utterly determined to protect her son.
He'd risen from his crouch in the grass with the speed and viciousness of a hunting wolf and knocked the hunter right from his horse; opening his jaw wide as he leaned close to the hunters face and roared – long and loud – before jumping clear when he saw movement at the corner of his eye.
One of the other hunters had gone for his weapon and attempted to shoot Severus. The next second he was flying through the air – looking for the entire world as though he had been pushed – and the rest of the men were scrambling to get away as fast as possible. Severus followed them to the edge of their village – just to be certain the threat was truly gone – before finally he turned and headed back to his new home, a satisfied look on his face.
Harry had been tracking the activities of the 'Beast of Bodmin' for well over a week now and he was certain the wildcat was Snape. What he couldn't quite figure out was how. So he'd left – being just as careful to conceal the evidence of his leaving as he had been of his presence – and found a safe place to Apparate back to the alley by Grimmauld.
The house was dark, so Harry made his way inside as quietly as he knew how, sneaked up the stairs and into his bedroom, only to stop short at seeing Hermione reading by candlelight in the chair next to his bed.
"Hermione, what are you doing here?" he whispered as he shed his robes and boots.
"Waiting to see what you've found out," she said quietly.
Knowing she wouldn't leave until she knew, Harry sighed and dropped gratefully unto his bed. Sleeping in the woods – even with a tent – wasn't his idea of a good time, especially not when he was hiding from Snape.
"I think it's him. I just don't understand how or why."
Hermione nodded. From what she'd read in reports of the beast, it acted nothing at all as it should regarding its natural prey. Nothing like a normal non-magical animal at least. She stood, gave Harry a gentle kiss on the cheek and said, "Get some sleep Harry. We can talk in the morning."
Harry nodded and smiled. By the time Hermione quietly closed his door he was already asleep.
When Harry ventured downstairs the next morning, everything was quiet. None of the usual morning sounds filled Grimmauld, and it was only after he'd made himself something to eat and ventured into the library that he realized it was well past noon. He wasn't at all surprised to Hermione at the table with books all around her, notes scratched on various pieces of parchment.
"Harry," she said when he sat down. "I've found the most unusual thing," she went on, shoving a book at him as well as several pieces of parchment. "There's a rare sort of magical were – originally from either India or South East Asia, no one's quite certain – that doesn't transform until after its first death. It's a bit like a magical failsafe, to keep their powers from manifesting too early or from being abused, it's not really clear," she began to explain before Harry could even read the notes she'd provided. "Basically, even though Nagini apparently killed Snape, what she did was to actually awaken that part of him."
Harry blinked. "What?"
"Nagini, if our research is correct, is descended of a being considered a god called the Naga. It's believed that the Naga are an ancient race of semi divine serpent creature beings first depicted in ancient Vedic Hindu mythology and oral folklore from at least 5000 B.C. According to this," she said as she tapped the book she'd pushed at Harry, "Nagas are said to take various forms. In many legends they are most often described as giant serpents with multiple heads or humanoid beings with the lower bodies of vast snakes. They were touted as extremely gifted shape-shifters, able to assume any appearance that suited their needs. It fits Harry, it all fits," she said excitedly.
Swept away in her enthusiasm, Harry began to read. According to the text, Nagas were children of Kadru, the granddaughter of the god Brahma, and her husband, Rishi or sage, Kasyapa, the son of Marichi. Kashyapa was said to have had by his twelve wives other diverse progeny including reptiles, large cats, birds, and all sorts of living beings. It was the reference to large cats that caught and held Harry's attention. It completely meshed with Hermione's theory, particularly given Snape's current form.
The text also went on to state that the Naga by nature were protectors and guardians, and were known to develop feelings of great intensity for certain humans that inspired tender feelings. Much like humans, Nagas were said to show wisdom and concern for others but also cowardice and injustice. Naga were associated with water and fluid energy, and also with persons having powerful animal-like qualities or an impressive animal with human qualities.
Those things all struck home to Harry as far as Severus was concerned, but what cinched it for him was the information found in the last few paragraphs on Nagas. The Naga were purported to separate into four different types; The Heavenly, the Divine, the Earthly and the Hidden. The first vigilantly warded the palaces of heaven, the second brought fertility to the world by summoning the life giving rains, and the third took it upon themselves to preserve the natural balance of the earth, whether it be mineral or animal, often protecting both from the hands of greedy humans.
Some of them were water-dwellers, living in rivers or the ocean; others were earth-dwellers, living in heavily forested areas or underground caverns. Female Nagas, were called Nagis or Naginis, often refusing to grant their true names to those that bound them against their will. They were said to carry the elixir of life and immortality, using their powerful jaws and poison to transfer their gift and powers to those they deemed worthy by causing what the Hindi called 'the first death'.
It fit. It all fit perfectly. Harry looked up at Hermione, unsure what his face was telegraphing.
Hermione reached across the table and squeezed his hand. "I know. It's a bit overwhelming isn't it? There's more," she warned, nodding at the books she still had in front of her, "mostly about how to approach someone that's been granted the naga's gift and helping them reconnect to their humanity, but I'll make notes and you can read them later."
Harry nodded gratefully, then stood and left the library. He wasn't certain where he was going, but he needed to think, and he didn't trust his room to give him the privacy he sought, particularly not once everyone had returned.
Severus dreamt of bright green eyes. Green eyes, a shock of black hair and a lightning shaped scar. Images played through his mind – memories – of the being with the emerald eyes. Often in danger, often with Severus coming to the rescue. The big panther twitched in its sleep and shimmered. When Severus awoke, he was once more a man.
He'd found his new form uncomfortable, and he'd stayed in the cave he claimed for himself. He didn't venture out for a full two days, and when he did, he was vastly dismayed to find that most of the herd he'd been protecting ran in terror at his appearance. He sighed, the sound odd to his ears, and wandered around until he found something he could eat in this form – first mostly as he was now too slow to catch what it was he craved – and then made his way back to his cave.
Each time he slept he dreamt of green eyes and black hair, and slowly a face began to form in his mind. It was someone he knew, he was certain of it, someone important. It wasn't until the third night when he slept once more that his dreams became disturbing enough to wake him. He couldn't shake the feeling that there was danger – not to him but to the face in his dreams – and it was a long time until he slept once more. The next time he awoke, he was once more covered in fur.
Harry didn't return to Grimmauld for two days. He'd gone to Spinner's End, wanting to be close to the essence of Severus, and had made his decision there. Severus protected the deer; he would return in his Animagus form – ironically enough, a serval – and hope that Severus didn't kill him before he could get close to him. Somehow, he doubted the panther that was Severus would take well to another male cat in his territory. He could only hope the fact that his animal form preferred a diet excluding large game such as deer would be a determining factor in his favour.
When he entered the house, it was completely empty, so he left a note for Hermione – charmed to open only at her touch – explaining what he planned to do and that he didn't know how long he'd be gone. Included in the note was a set of instructions, and a smaller sealed envelope. Satisfied with his preparations, he'd taken all the notes she'd left for him and returned to Spinner's End, where he spent the next three days studying them and committing them to memory. Once he was satisfied that he would remember it all if he needed it, he'd Apparated to Cornwall, changed into his animagus form and began haunting the area Severus had claimed for his own.
He didn't want to outright hack the other man off, so he took great care to not disturb any of the panther's scrapes, scratches or tracks. He did spray his scent in several areas – he wanted Severus to know he was there – and wasn't surprised when he went back the next day to see that Severus had added his scent slightly on top of Harry's. If he'd been able to grin, he would have done so. After several days of this, Harry finally made his way toward the place he believed to be Severus' lair, his heart a conflicted mass of hope, fear and anticipation.
Severus had found himself both annoyed and intrigued for the last four days. There was another cat about, one who had taken great care not to impinge on his territory. It was as though the other cat were merely announcing his presence; not attempting to take over. At first he'd worried over the safety of his herd, but none of them were missing, nor had they been attacked.
He wasn't certain what sort of feline this new presence was. He knew it was male from its scent, and likely not a big game eater. He knew from its behaviour it wasn't attempting to move in on his territory, more than likely just passing through. The thing that had Severus confused was the sense of knowing that he got from the scent. There was a familiarity he couldn't account for as he had no memory of meeting another wildcat. It was driving him mad.
When he scented the other cat near his lair he was almost grateful.
Harry approached Severus' lair cautiously. He didn't think he was up to being challenged by the other cat, especially since he hadn't really allowed himself to sleep. He stopped several feet from the mouth of the lair, close to a tree and waited.
Severus stepped carefully from his lair, emitting a low warning growl to the other cat. He stopped and observed the bold male who had not only entered his territory, but seemed inclined to stay. The cat was smaller than he was, with tawny fur and a white underbelly with solid black spots all over its body. Its tail was ringed in black and its ears and feet were most noticeable because of there length. Its eyes, however, were a vivid, familiar shade of green.
Harry watched as Severus regarded him and then began to stalk aggressively towards him. It was all he could do to fight his current forms instincts and not drop into a defensive crouch and growl in return, but he managed.
The fact that the other feline hadn't responded in a defensive manner gave Severus pause. Clearly, the other male had no intent on fighting, or even posturing. Something in the green eyed cat struck that chord of familiarity once more and Severus gave a purr, and then turned for his lair; neither he nor his herd were in danger, he was sure of it. He had nearly entered the cave before he swung his head around to regard Harry with a look that clearly said, 'Are you coming or not?'
If Harry had been able, he'd have been grinning. Instead he simply followed Severus into the cave and settled down a reasonable distance away from him, then began to clean himself. He was tired, and filthy, and before long, he was fast asleep.
Despite his confidence the other cat posed no danger, Severus found himself keeping a cautious eye turned in its direction. When it fell asleep, Severus cautiously approached until he could sniff the other male, and then found himself licking at its head and ears, cleaning the spots it had missed.
Harry opened one eye lazily, gave a small purr of contentment, and went back to sleep.
Satisfied, Severus finished his self-appointed task, then settled close to the other cat and went to sleep. That night, Severus dreamed once more. His dreams were far more detailed than they had been, with many other figures that seemed familiar. There was a female with a mass of uncontrollable, curly brown hair, a redheaded male, and a thin, pointy nosed blond male. He twitched in his sleep, unintentionally shifting closer to warmth he could feel at his side, and then settled into a deeper sleep.
When Harry awoke, it was to find he was curled protectively against the nude form of Severus Snape. If he'd been in any other form, he would have flushed, and he found himself grateful he was still in serval form. Merlin only knew how his body would have reacted if he hadn't been. He sniffed his former professor, nudging at him gently, then rested his head on a paw so he could watch the man he'd been positive hadn't died sleep.
As Severus slept, Harry thought back to the days after the Battle of Hogwarts. He'd returned to the Shack with the intent of retrieving Snape's body, only to find it missing. He'd stood there for long moments in shock, attempting to wrap his brain around what he saw before him – a large patch of congealed blood, empty blood crusted robes and no corpse – before he'd run back to the castle to locate Ron and Hermione.
Neither of them had been able to think of a reason for Snape's robes to remain behind, while his body has disappeared, except that someone or something had taken it. Then, a full month later when Snape's portrait still hadn't appeared in the headmaster's office, Harry had been convinced that Snape was indeed still alive. He'd even argued with Ginny about it, and that had been the straw that broke the camels back for Harry. She'd been very clear about her hope that the 'greasy bastard was dead'.
Things had been strained between them before that, what with her constantly pressuring him about their relationship, and after all Harry had learned of Snape, it had been too much. He'd told her quite baldly that if she couldn't open her eyes to see the person and not just the attitude or reputation he doubted she knew who he was either, and he'd rather be alone for the rest of his life than with someone who cared more for his reputation than him.
Harry hadn't been able to explain to himself why he'd become so obsessed with finding the man, and it wasn't until that conversation with Hermione where she told him about the Beast of Bodmin that it occurred to Harry that he cared about Snape, and far more deeply than he'd suspected. He'd known he respected him after seeing his memories, had been grateful and stunned by how much Snape had sacrificed for him – even if it had been for his mother's sake – but he had no idea when all that had become love. Now he looked at the object of his affection and wondered if he'd ever have a chance to win the other man for himself.
His thoughts were interrupted as Snape groaned in his sleep, becoming more restless, and Harry transformed and stretched a gentle hand to pet Snape's hair as he muttered whatever words of comfort that came to mind. He lifted his hand and shifted away as Snape woke, watching the other man carefully.
Severus sat up slowly, a shiver wracking his body and started as he heard the soft sound of another's voice before something soft settled around his shoulders. Instinctively, he wrapped the cloak around him and scooted backwards, raising his eyes to meet shocking green. There was no way of describing what happened then; one moment Snape was looking into familiar green eyes and the next he gave a sharp cry and slumped to the floor. When he came to, Potter was bending over him, staring at him anxiously and he gasped as the last time he'd been this close to Potter flashed in his memory.
"I died," he said softly, voice rusty with disuse, black burning into the brilliant green he'd seen consistently in his dreams, eyes he'd last seen before this morning as he'd lay dying.
Harry conjured a glass, Apparated to the nearest water source, filled it, then Apparated back and handed it to Severus. "You did," he confirmed quietly.
Severus had been surprised by Potter's abrupt disappearance, but found himself grateful for the chance to pull himself together. "What happened?" he demanded once he'd swallowed half the water. "After I died?" He rather doubted Potter would have a clue, but on the off chance he did, Severus had to ask.
"That's rather a long story, Sir," Harry said respectfully if tiredly. Suddenly his exhaustion seemed to have caught up with him; there had been many sleepless nights during his search for Severus, and one night of sleep out of four hadn't helped any. "Perhaps we could discuss this elsewhere?" he suggested. "After we've both had a bit of a rest and some food?"
Severus thought carefully, manfully ignoring the swirling mix of feline and human memories in his head. He had many questions, but doubtless his mind would be sharper – not to mention more organised – after proper rest and food. For the sound of Potter's voice he would hardly get anything further from the brat, however there was one thing he had to know. "The Dark Lord?"
"Dead," Harry replied flatly.
Severus blinked, and then smothered the spontaneous smile that wanted to claim his face and the overwhelming relief that flooded his body. He was free! He frowned as it occurred to him that being free of the Dark Lord did not equal freedom in general, and he looked suspiciously at Harry. "Why are you here? Come to take me to the Ministry?" he mocked.
"Actually Sir, even if I were to take you there, they'd hardly do more than require you to stand in a public ceremony while they awarded you the Order of Merlin. Your name has been cleared."
Severus regarded Potter suspiciously for several long moments before he finally nodded. "Where do you suggest we go? I have no wand, and I can hardly go about unclothed."
Harry flushed, looked about the cave and transfigured a pile of leaves into a set of robes, then stood. "I'll wait for you outside," he said quietly. "If you've no objections, I thought perhaps we'd go to Grimmauld." Harry waited long enough to see Snape nod, then stepped outside the cave. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief and turned as he heard soft footsteps approaching him. He held out his arm and said, "I'm afraid you'll need to hold on."
"I am well aware of that, Potter," Snape snapped. "I am not an imbecile."
Harry couldn't help but smile slightly at that, and nodded once more. "Hold on," he said as Snape took a firm hold of his arm and he Apparated them to the alley in London. They made their way silently inside, and Harry was grateful the house once more appeared to be empty save for Kreacher. "Would you like something to eat, or would you prefer to rest first?" he asked politely.
"Rest," Severus replied, eyes raking over Potter's features. "It is doubtful you will remain standing long enough to answer my questions, and I will have what passes for your full attention when next we speak.” That said, he turned with his usual flair and mounted the stairs, heading directly to the room he always used whenever he was forced to stay at Grimmauld.
Sighing quietly, Harry followed, closing the door of his room behind him with a small sigh. While he was elated that Snape seemed himself, he was far too tired to actually appreciate the fact the man was truly alive and as irascible as ever, and he was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
Go on to part two