|snarryhols (snarryhols) wrote in snarry_holidays,|
@ 2008-11-03 10:00:00
|Entry tags:||fic, giftee: drachenmina, rated: r|
Fic: Special Delivery
Title: Special Delivery
Word Count: ~ 9,050
Pairing: Snape/Harry is the only pairing onstage. Hints of Ginny/Dean and Albus Severus/Scorpius in the background.
Warnings: m/m slash
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Harry bequeaths an unusual act of kindness to Snape after his death. He doesn't expect it to become what it does (Harry is oblivious as ever, after all), but then again, what fun would it be if everything's the same boring old stuff?
Author's Notes: drachenmina requested, amoung other things: "A random act of kindness has consequences Harry could never have imagined; fiery relationship; to see them get together; slash." Thank you, H, for the beta! drachenmina, I tried to incorporate elements of as many of your requests as possible, and I hope I've succeeded at least in a small way with this humble offering. I've tried hard, but alas, the smut just wouldn't come. But our boys do have quite the chemistry with each other, even if they haven't always known what we knew all along. *g* Happy Snarry Holidays!
When Harry Potter died, he left the most unusual request in his will: to be buried under two headstones, both with nothing but "Dumbledore's Man, through and through" inscribed on it — no dates, no location, no name.
As everything Harry Potter-related went, his instructions were followed all the way to the last dot over the final word in his will: "...if you dont do this I will hount every singgle one of you forever." The dot hovered somewhere in between the first 'e' and the 'v', and the general consensus was that the hero of the Wizarding world possessed quite a decorative flair. It didn't cross anyone's mind that the 'flair' could also be interpreted as Harry Potter's woeful deficiency of brain cells and utter lack of spelling skills, for the only person who would stare such truths right in the eye had long departed, dead from a neck injury forty-odd years ago, body never found and no longer remembered by new generations of witches and wizards.
Said new generations of witches and wizards were taught as early as their first year in primary school about the great things Harry Potter had done — Harry Potter, The Saviour of the Wizarding World, Vanquisher of Voldemort, Mediator of Muggle-Magic Relations, Thrice Nominee of Minister of Magic (never accepted), etc., etc., etc. It was common practice that if a student could successfully recite Harry Potter's full thirty-eight-word epithet by the end of the 'Harry Potter' unit in school, he or she would receive a raise of two percentage points in their final grade. As a result of this practice, grade-obsessed parents were known to 'start 'em young,' composing Harry Potter's title into melodies and coaxing their babies into sleep with a variety of Harry Potter lullabies and nursery rhymes.
School trips to Harry Potter's final resting place were, of course, an expected part of a young witch or wizard's early education. It was rumoured that the fortune of the Malfoy family was restored by the good business sense of Scorpius Malfoy, who seized the opportunity to erect the Harry Potter Museum next to the Godric's Hollow graveyard, developing guided tours for school children and facilitating the prompt transfer of all offerings from grave to storage room (most items later used for resale) so there would always be room in front of Harry Potter's headstones for wide-eyed Muriel or awe-struck Galvin to offer their teddy bears and flowers to Mr. Harry Potter.
All in all, most would agree with, admire, and even adore Harry Potter's foresight before his untimely death at the young age of fifty-nine, struck by a stray curse as he broke up the last of the pro-Voldemort insurrection led by the ailing Rabastan Lestrange. Two headstones didn't give nearly enough space for everyone to offer Harry Potter their respects, but it was far better than just the narrow plot of land for one.
Harry squints at the big wooden door that screams 'Not welcome!' with its every bit of dried paint and splintered wood, careful not to lose his concentration in carrying a teetering tower of flowers, stuffed toys, and Chocolate Frogs as he silently sends a knocking spell toward the surface of the door. The good thing with death is, you get to keep all the magical power you've acquired in life. He likes his eighteen-year-old body just fine, but even he has to admit he was pathetic at nonverbal magic at that age.
The nonverbal spell works perfectly, sending three measured knocks against the door. He waits ten seconds before repeating the spell. When nothing happens after yet another ten seconds, he makes the door knock itself again. If today's a good day, then it shouldn't take another round...
"What is it, Potter? Haven't I told you never to show up unannounced –"
"Why, good morning to you too, Snape."
"– and especially not for the purpose of using my house for waste disposal?"
Harry rolls his eyes. Sometimes, he wonders if Snape operates on nothing but a predictable script of complaints, insults, and invectives. "Special delivery," he says as he shoulders past Snape and into the sitting room. "These were placed on your half of the grave."
Harry surveys the miserable hellhole that Snape calls home. The carpet is still a mouldy green colour, the armchair and sofa still lumpy, and the low table placed in between the two pieces of sitting furniture still wobbly with one leg an inch shorter than the other three. Sighing, Harry walks over to the armchair and dumps everything he's been carrying onto the faded maroon furniture. "Fourteen bouquets, three bears, one kneazle, one hippogriff, and seven Chocolate Frogs. There was another bouquet that fell exactly in between your grave and mine. I didn't think you'd appreciate bright pink carnations, so I kept that one."
"How considerate of you," Snape sneers.
"Yup, always trying to please," Harry sing-songs, trying his best to hold back the snicker that is threatening to turn into a full-belly laugh.
The laugh freezes in place as Harry turns around and meets the brewing storm on Snape's face.
Sweeping an arm in the most pretentious gesture Harry's seen since he died, Snape proceeds to spit kindness back through Harry's ears and into his heart. "For the thousandth time, I did not ask for a grave. My afterlife was perfectly fine before it started raining flowers and plushed toys from simpering Harry Potter fans."
"Simpering?!" Harry hates it whenever Snape says his name, pronouncing 'Harry' as if it's even less appealing than beetle dung. "No one in their right mind would 'simper' at two identical pieces of headstones. And before you question any of their mental capability, it's very possible that it's your grave they simper over. Besides—" Harry looks over Snape's shoulders to the portrait hanging on the wall. Yup, still there, sentimental bastard that Snape is. "—I didn't do this for you. It was for Dumbledore, in honour of his memory."
Snape's entire backside stiffens at hearing that name, the one person whom Harry thinks the git actually misses. Too bad Dumbledore was a man so keen on Death's Great Adventure. For all Harry knows, Dumbledore probably didn't waste any time buying his train ticket to the Great Beyond as soon as he'd got here.
Imagine how disappointed Snape must have been to arrive in the afterlife not only to the news that Lily Potter had taken the train, but also to learn that Dumbledore was gone, last seen boarding the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross Station.
Dumbledore. Hearing his namely clearly still hurts. "I wasn't Dumbledore's Man, through and through, Potter," Snape says in a low voice.
Shaking his head, Harry decides this isn't the time to talk about Dumbledore and train tickets. He turns his attention back on the pile of gifts on the armchair. "As I said, these landed on your side of the grave, so they're yours. Go haunt one of Malfoy's workers to confirm if you want. The ones in green uniforms only. They're responsible for moving the gifts. The orange folks stay indoor and sort them into piles, they won't know who placed what where."
"I'll find Scorpius and wring his neck," Snape mutters, and Harry allows a chuckle to escape his throat. He'd very much like to haunt Scorpius himself, if only to find out news about how Al is doing nowadays.
Like a giant bat, Snape stalks up to the armchair, eyeing the items suspiciously as if they would explode at any moment. He sniffs his disapproval at the simpering Harry Potter fans' horrid choice of floral offerings; he complains about receiving yet more Chocolate Frogs in such a half-hearted manner that leaves Harry suspecting Snape does have a sweet tooth after all. At length, after inspecting each of the three teddy bears (they've gained Snape's initial approval, for now), he points to the stuffed hippogriff. "What am I supposed to do with that? I don't recall seeing it on the barter list."
Harry shrugs. "Maybe you can try trading for more food with it. Prices are going up nowadays. You can't get a loaf of bread with three flowers anymore."
"You just brought me fourteen bouquets of flowers, Potter. It would buy me more than thirty breads even if I go to a stall that charges five flowers per loaf."
"You can always try the bank," Harry offers. "They usually give me twenty-four flowers per stuffed bear. Maybe they'll treat stuffed hippogriffs the same."
Without even looking fully at Snape, Harry knows he's the recipient of the famed Are you utterly deficient of brain cells? look. How Snape can convey idiot, naive, and hopeless all at the same time with just one look, Harry doesn't know.
"Goblins, Potter. These are deceased goblins we're dealing with at the central bank. I don't want my Gringotts account frozen because they think I'm trying to trick them with a different species of plushed nonsense."
"What about the Black Market then? Oh, piss off, you know I know you buy illegal potions ingredients from those Knockturn Alley-type folks. It's a decent-sized hippogriff. Maybe you can get some extra phoenix livers or dragon intestines or something gross like that."
"Phoenix claws and dragon gall stones," Snape corrects, and Harry rolls his eyes. "I, unlike you, do practice a trade by making potions. I earn my living." Snape sends Harry a pointed look, the unlike some hanging thick in the air, no need to be spoken.
"Hey, I do work! Was an Auror for forty years before I died." Harry walks up to the armchair and starts helping Snape sort the items into three piles: floral atrocities, stuffed horrors, and Chocolate Frogs. (Yes, Snape does have a soft spot for Chocolate Frogs.) He flings the sole plushed kneazle onto the sofa behind them, where the three teddy bears already lay. "And how long do you plan to stay here anyway? Forever? Last I recall, a train ticket from King's Cross Station costs five hundred pieces of gold. Who knows how much the price of gold will be by the time you make enough potions to feed yourself, let alone saving up extra flowers to exchange for gold pieces? People don't get sick as often in the afterlife, in case you haven't noticed."
Twin spots of red flush Snape's face as he smashes a bouquet of forget-me-nots onto twelve wine-coloured roses, sending crushed petals flying everywhere. "Did I not just mention I possess a Gringotts account? I already have several pieces of gold to my name, Potter."
That sounds like a piss poor excuse to Harry, though he knows better than to say anything. Snape's been here, what, forty years? Forty-five? Something like that, and all he's managed is to amass 'several pieces' of gold. Harry inwardly sighs. No wonder all those nameless soldiers never pass onto the next journey in Death. Without some sort of initial income in the form of mourning friends and relatives' flowers and gifts, it's really impossible to sustain an income-generating livelihood that can go toward the eventual purchase of the coveted train ticket. He bunches up all the Chocolate Frogs in his arms and walks them over to the kitchen table.
"They're having another train ticket raffle in two weeks, you know," Harry says.
Silence steals the friendly companionship Harry's been enjoying as the air in the house suddenly feels colder. "Snape?" he asks, peeking a head out of the kitchen in hope of catching Snape's hunched form working, sorting flowers by species. No answer. He leaves the Chocoate Frogs where they are. "Look, forget I said that, it was a stupid suggestion. I only thought since I saw you there last time –"
"You saw nothing!" Snape snarls, and as swiftly as a Dementor, stalks up against Harry, looming over him. His face is an ugly, blotchy red. "Consider it a misjudgment on my part to participate in that sham of a raffle two months ago. Lack of discretion. Scientific curiosity. Call it what you will. And perhaps you"—Snape pokes hard on Harry's clavicle; Harry winces—"should learn to keep your nose out of my business. You have no right spying on me, Potter."
Harry doesn't remember how it happened, just that the next thing he knows, he finds himself outside of Snape's house, the creaky old door slammed hard against his face. He doesn't think Snape's neighbors care to look anymore; he's been ejected so many times that surreptitious glances and whispered gossips have ceased many months ago.
"I'll deliver more stuff next week!" Harry shouts at the door. Snape hears him, he knows. He always hears.
Harry buys a raffle ticket on behalf of Snape, five teddy bears' worth of flowers for two minutes' hope of winning the impossible. When the train takes an ecstatic Mrs. Ellis away on her Death's Great Adventure, Harry wishes he could still use his influence as The Boy Who Lived (and Died) to rig the raffle, to force the train to take more passengers, to make something happen so dozens of people wouldn't be sent away poorer and so much more hopeless of ever reaching the Great Beyond.
"Bugger off," Snape greets as he throws open the door, good-natured as usual. But a stray glance at one of the pentagon-shaped boxes (which Harry has the foresight to place at the top of the pile) betrays that Snape doesn't want him to bugger off just quite yet, not when there are Chocolate Frogs on offer.
"Move aside," Harry complains. "These things are very heavy."
"And you are a wizard. Have you never heard of Levitation?"
Harry glares as he storms inside the house with as much dignity as someone holding a wobbling tower of assorted goods can be, choosing to stay mum lest he accidentally confesses that, no, it has in fact never occurred to him that he could levitate his weekly delivery and spare himself many a night of sore arm muscles.
"Honeydukes must be having a chocolate sale," he says by way of changing the subject, dumping his load unceremoniously onto the armchair. "Even got a box of Honeydukes' best chocolate this week. Too bad for you, it fell on my side of the grave."
"I suppose beggars can't be choosers," Snape says in his smooth voice. He strolls forward and plucks an orange teddy bear from the pile, scrunching up his nose in disdain as he does so. "This one comes from a Muggle."
"Friend Bear. Dudley used to have her. Part of the Care Bears series, he had all of them. I heard they shoot beams out of their stomachs."
Snape raises a sardonic eyebrow. "Really? And does Friend Bear come with any accessories so I may trade it in for thirty-six flowers?"
"Dunno. There's a heart on her butt though. Power of love and all that."
"Power of love my arse," Snape mutters.
"That's exactly what I said! Of course, it earned me a sound beating from Dudley, still has the scar to prove it—" Harry tugs the neckline of his jumper as far down as he can, exposing the top of his right shoulder blade. "—here."
"Enlightening," Snape says, in a tone that screams 'I could care less.' What he does care about, he attends to quickly. Flinging Friend Bear aside, Snape tackles the section of his weekly goods that has the highest concentration of pentagon-shaped boxes. Harry smiles as he takes in the sight of Snape counting in a meticulous top-to-bottom, right-to-left fashion. There are twenty-seven Chocolate Frogs this week; he's already counted.
"Twenty-seven," Snape declares, pleased with his loot.
As Harry invites himself to settle onto the lumpy sofa, Snape proceeds to gather all the Chocolate Frogs into three neat stacks of nine boxes each, waving his hand in a lazy gesture to send the columns flying toward the kitchen to store themselves into the pantry. Sorting the plushed animals into their own pile takes two minutes. Counting and separating flowers by species takes seven.
"So are you going to pay a visit to the bank this week?" Harry asks once Snape finishes with his tasks. "I'm going to, I think, either Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesday if the bear-to-gold exchange rate dips below twenty to one. It's been hovering between the high teens and the low twenties these past few days."
"You're losing to the rates by changing flowers into bears first. Direct flower-to-gold rates normally don't go beyond four hundred to one. You'd save six bouquets' worth of flowers in bypassing the bear stage."
"Don't care, bears are much easier to carry in bulk."
"Magic, Potter. One usually solves the problem of heavy luggage by shrinking the offending items."
"I like bears better, okay?" Harry argues, waving a hand at the piles of bears and flowers still to be stored away. Seeing the gifts makes him laugh. "Can you believe it, everyone here talking about bears and flowers as if they're perfectly normal conversation topics? I'll turn your one bear into thirty flowers. Professor McGonagall would be appalled at all the pseudo-transfiguration talk."
"There are a lot of unbelievable things in death," Snape says. He looks pointedly at Harry. "For example, Harry Potter sitting in my home while we make conversation. Dumbledore would be so disappointed. I'm of the opinion that he secretly enjoys watching us blow up at each other."
Harry looks over to Dumbledore's portrait on the wall. The Headmaster looks embarrassed and is trying very hard to pretend he's reading an ancient tomb on Properties of Dragon Scales, upside down.
Harry stands. "Well, the next time I feel like screaming at someone, I'll be sure to pay you a visit." He walks over to the door. It is always better to leave before he overstays his welcome. Much less humiliating than getting kicked out. "So... trip to the bank on Tuesday if the rate is good, otherwise on Wednesday?"
"Just get out and leave me in peace."
Harry laughs. He's been doing that a lot lately, laughing, around Snape.
There's no science to splitting the goods he receives from the two graves. Count up everything and then dividing by two usually does the trick. Sometimes oversized plushed toys like the ones Dudley used to win from carnivals would fall somewhere in the middle of the two graves, and Harry would keep the giant Mickeys and Hungarian Horntails for himself while giving Snape extra flowers for that week. All in all, by the time Friday comes around, Harry would have a good estimate of how many pieces of gold both he and Snape would generate from the week's bounty.
Chocolate Frogs are icing on the cake. Harry suspects he receives them because it was well known when he was alive how much he liked them. In death, he gives all the Chocolate Frogs to Snape. He ends up eating back his share of it anyway, given how much time he's been spending at Snape's lately and how the clock hand that now says 'Harry' keeps pointing to 'Hungry' on the clock. Snape never believes him when he insists that he clock is wrong.
Then there are the occasional Harry Potter action figures, as if Harry doesn't know what he looks like and needs to be reminded of it by plastic figurines, now new and improved with five changeable costume sets and thirteen articulation points. He's got a collection consisting of all his friends — of even Hedwig and Dobby, and the Limited Edition of Voldemort (complete with mask, wand, nine articulation points, and three generic Death Eater cronies) — but no Severus Snape. He wonders how long it will take for the Wizarding world's youngsters to stop harbouring an irrational fear of Snape. Probably never, if rumours of the foul-tempered Portrait Snape ripping to shreds any student who dares sneak into the Headmaster's office contain even an ounce of truth.
Items of clothing and food he donates to the local soup kitchen. Public assistance houses don't accept flowers or bears. Harry's tried passing a stuffed kneazle as a legitimate donation once. It got him banned from the soup kitchen for two weeks.
All in all, Harry has collected 114,702 flowers; 2,063 stuffed toys; 50 Madam Malkin's robes; 239 scarves (200 Gryffindor, 27 Ravenclaw, 12 Hufflepuff, 0 Slytherin); and 821 Chocolate Frogs — all for Snape and himself during the half a year he's been here. Without even trying, he's already looking to purchase a train ticket to the Great Beyond within the next three years. He hopes that when the time comes, Snape will decide to do the same.
"I didn't get a Weasley jumper this year. I was so sure Ron would drop me one for Christmas at my grave," Harry says, sulking on Snape's lumpy sofa. Moping requires company, he's found, or it'd be pointless.
"Witness my disappointment," Snape says as he levitates thirty-one Chocolate Frogs into the kitchen, clearly pleased at this week's bounty and not at all paying attention to Harry's bad news of the week. Harry sighs and looks to the one-eyed teddy bear next to him for comfort. The bear glares back, its single eye mocking at how pathetic Harry sounds even to his own ears.
It looks like a Rufus, Harry decides. Rufus the One Eyed, whose glare could easily rival that of Snape's.
He buries Rufus face-down into the cushion. "Can't a man sulk in dignity?" he mumbles, unaware of the floating teacup in front of him until he pushes into it and its content splashes onto Harry's jeans. He scowls. "Apparently not," he answers himself.
"Indeed," Snape says as he walks over and sits in the maroon couch across from Harry, crossing his legs elegantly in one smooth gesture. "I believe you have something to confess."
Harry frowns. Why is it that he still can't hide a single thing from Snape, after all this time?
"Your bloody teacup spilled tea on me and I wanted to blast it to pieces. There. My confession."
A Chocolate Frog flies from the kitchen toward Harry and lands onto his lap. A prize or an incentive to get him to say more, he can't quite decide.
Harry opens the box, grabs the frog before it escapes, and bites off its head. He peeks inside the packaging. Yet another Harry Potter Famous Wizards card.
"Bloody hell. I've been seeing more cards of myself than of Dumbledore lately. Don't they make any other ones anymore?"
"Stay on topic, Mr. Potter."
Harry grumbles. "We didn't have a topic."
"Potter, you've been visiting me weekly for over a year. I do believe I've become a good judge of when you are hiding something from me."
Harry ignores Snape and shoves the rest of the frog into his mouth, though his mind can't help but dwell on the 'over a year' part. He's stopped keeping tabs of time once he realises he has eternity to spend for the rest of, well, eternity. It has been that long, hasn't it? The annual calendar on Snape's wall has changed multiple times, seasoning first through the last page of the Death Eater Posters Edition, then the Potiones Ingredientes Edition, and — to Harry's embarrassment of late — now features the newly purchased Harry Potter Collectible Edition. A Quidditch uniform-donned version of himself winks at him from the current month's calendar image. Harry shudders at the thought of how many times his photograph self must do this to Snape.
"Finished with admiring yourself?" Snape's voice brings Harry back to the present. He snaps his eyes away from the calendar and finds himself face-to-face with Interrogator Snape.
"Ha, ha. Very funny." Harry glares at his calendar doppelganger, who now looks confused at his sudden hostility.
Snape waits. He can be bloody patient when he chooses to be annoying.
Sighing, Harry decides it's best to get it over with. "Ginny wrote me yesterday," he begins, "placed the letter on my grave. Your grave, actually, but it's pretty obvious that it was for me. She's, er, decided to move on. With Dean. Wanted my blessing 'cause the media's treating her like shite. With Dean! I mean, I understand it's been five years since I died. But with Dean? They broke up fifty years ago!"
The rest of his words come easier now that he's started. "So then you know what I spent the next twenty-four hours thinking after I read the letter? How one day she and Dean will arrive here and both of them will choose to look like their sixteen-year-old selves, and it'll be as if me and her had never happened. And don't — stop what you think you're about to say. I know they will. I know they were happy together at Hogwarts. I was there, remember? So if I choose to look like I'm eighteen because I was happiest the year after Voldemort was defeated, and if you choose to look forty because in some twisted way the day you died was your happiest when you were finally free from Voldemort, then I'm positive Ginny and Dean are going to show up here together looking like when they started dating the first time around.
"I don't know why, but the thought of them... it's unsettling." He sighs, feeling lame for such schoolyard antics of past love and jealousy.
"And?" Snape prompts.
"Fine!" He really hates Snape sometimes, especially when he's being his perceptive, ruthless (and correct) self. "Maybe I'm jealous. Maybe I'm a little angry. Or a lot. I've just died not too long ago, and she's already found a lover? A husband? Dammit, Snape, I feel like I'm being replaced!"
Harry wants to keep screaming, wants to rage at the world for the absurd notion that is Ginny and Dean. He wants Snape to sneer at him, to tell him he's an emotion- and hormone-driven idiot who can't take rejection in stride. He wants to feel something different — guilty, numb, hostile — anything as long as he's not feeing like used goods that's now been replaced with something that isn't even better.
He wants, he wants, he wants.
In a blur of shuffling black robe, Snape stands up and walks toward his bedroom, beckoning Harry with a tilt of his head that he should follow. By the time Harry drags his legs through the door into the room, Snape has already transfigured it into open space, bed and other large pieces of furniture changed into floor mats and padding on the walls. A Stinging Hex hits Harry on his left cheek. Snape flicks his wand-holding hand for a second time. A jet of purple light comes his way.
"Let it out, Potter. Pretend I'm Mr. Thomas if you need."
Harry casts jinxes and curses and hexes, blasting Leg-Locking spells and Tickling charms toward Snape, sending countercurses against jets of light flying toward him, expunging anger and frustration and shame and fear and insecurity and an entire day's worth of exasperation, purging them all away. They're a much better match now, Snape the veteran survivor and Harry an experienced Auror. They dance like duelists around the room; they create fireworks with each set of colliding spells; they sweat, they scream (mostly Harry), they draw on all their magical reserve to keep pace one with the other. By the end of the hour, they sit slumped on the floor, breathing heavily, wand hands loosening their grips, exhausted.
Harry laughs, a hysteric laugh that sounds almost like crying. He doesn't care if Snape mocks him — strangely, Snape doesn't. As he laughs and heaves and cries and screams, Harry feels better. It doesn't make sense, but fighting the imaginary Dean Thomas was like fighting against his own demons and now, Harry is ready to move on. He sobs and sniffles, but he's also smiling.
He stands up on wobbly legs and tries to look for Snape. All he finds is a bottle of Dreamless Sleep potion, and a note indicating that Harry may stay overnight and sleep on the sofa, if he so chooses.
He accepts both offerings.
By way of thank-you for what Snape's done for him last week (and also curiosity for what Snape's reaction would be like), Harry delivers a life-size plushed Crumpled Horned Snorkack — or at least that's what the tag around the strange-looking creature claims — to Snape during the middle of the week. The glare he receives would send away any First Year crying, which only makes Harry grin wider. Abandoning Harry to fend for himself inside the house, Snape takes the giant toy into the Black Market and reemerges later that afternoon, three gold pieces richer and a bottle of scotch in hand.
By way of saying you're welcome, Snape shares the bottle with Harry and allows him to spend the night on his lumpy sofa for a second time. Unlike last time, Snape doesn't serve breakfast the next day.
Harry has taken to visiting Snape everyday, splitting his gifts into seven parts so he has an excuse to make daily trips to the rundown house with a creaking door and bad carpet. Some days he would show up with a bosomful of gifts, other days with an armful of Chocolate Frogs. Today, Harry walks over with just a single bouquet of flowers that technically belongs on Harry's side of the grave, but he wants to give it to Snape anyway.
Snape's face flushes furiously at the sight of Harry holding out twelve Earwiggy Flowers toward him. But he doesn't slam the door on Harry, and better yet, takes the flowers and levitates them into a vase-shaped container that he insists is a potions container, absolutely not for flowers under any other circumstances.
Harry laughs as Snape's face gets even redder.
"What do you mean, I'm eating all of your Chocolate Frogs? I just brought you twelve of them today and I haven't even had one yet!"
"My supply is most certainly dwindling. Go see it for yourself if you don't believe me."
Harry races into the kitchen and, bending over, starts raiding the bottommost storage shelf. "I see tons of Chocolate Frogs in here. Stacks of five per column, and there are at least three... four... seven, seven columns!"
Thinking he hasn't been heard, Harry pulls his head out of the shelving unit. To his surprise, Snape is standing right behind him, looking at... a certain part of his jean-clod anatomy.
"Oh my God, Snape. Tell me you didn't set this all up just to, um..."
Snape's face looks rather flushed. "Answers, Potter, I want answers to the mystery of my Chocolate Frog disappearances."
Harry thinks for a second that Snape's story is only a cover-up. But that can't be right. Who would like him that way?
"I'll bring you more Chocolate Frogs tomorrow," Harry promises. To his relief, Snape accepts his proposed solution.
"There's no more food in your ice box," Harry calls out from the kitchen. "Maybe we should order take-away."
"I despise take-away." Snape sniffs. "The food changes taste after being inside container boxes."
"So what do you suggest, that we eat chocolate for dinner? 'Cause that's all you have here. I don't think it's too healthy." Harry shrugs. "Then again, it doesn't matter in the afterlife, does it?"
He's about to go into the kitchen to grab Chocolate Frogs when Snape stops him. "I know of a restaurant nearby," he says.
"But I thought you said you don't like take-aways."
"I... it's still early. I believe we have time to walk over for dine-in."
Harry fixes Snape a gaze, trying to figure out why he all of a sudden wants to go out for dinner. "Okay..."
"I will pay for us."
"Oh, I'm not worried about money. I'm just trying to figure out why –"
"Shall we, Potter?" Snape snaps, sounding irritated. He usually only gets irritated when a best-made plan doesn't go his way...
"Yes, yes! Let's go. It's not like it's a date, right?" he jokes, but Snape doesn't respond.
Harry gives up on the losing battle and lets his eyelids fall. He can't pretend to be reading anymore, not when he's read the entire issue of Quidditch Weekly: afterlife edition three times, cover-to-cover, and Snape hasn't even made a dent in his Potente Potiones Tombe III yet.
He wakes up on the lumpy sofa the next morning, his back aching from the wretched piece of furniture. He wraps the cover tighter around himself, belatedly realising that Snape has placed it over him at some point during the night.
Harry steps through the door to a near-empty house, and to Snape methodically shrinking bouquets and bears before packing them away.
"You know where the Chocolate Frogs are stored. I'm leaving them for you. Do me a favour and arrange for the sale of this place. You may directly sell it to the bank. I doubt anyone other than goblins would like to take over ownership of this poor excuse of a house."
Harry blinks several times, startled, just to make sure he's not dreaming. "You're... leaving?"
Snape sends Harry a bitter glare. "That's one way of putting it. Yes, I'm leaving. Now drop your latest delivery so I may pick out the flowers and the plushed toys to take with me."
Harry wordlessly hands over the four new teddy bears to Snape. There are seventeen bouquets in today's batch, which Harry promptly shrinks and places them next to the other ones sitting on the table, waiting to be bagged.
He steps as closely as he dares to Snape's hunched form. "Severus? Um, can I ask why?"
A piece of paper comes flying toward Harry, its razor-thin edge nicking his right cheek before it splats itself into Harry's hand. "Ow!" Harry yelps. He points the tip of his wand over the cut skin and casts a quick Healing Charm. During this short interplay of wound-and-mend, Snape has already finished packing all his bears into a medium-sized suitcase.
"Mr. Snape," Harry reads the letter aloud. "Your presence at the King's Cross Train Station is required at noon the following day upon receipt of this letter. Failure to appear at the appointed time will result in the stripping of all your rights, including your right to a trial upon reaching Station 3425 and, should you request it, your right to legal representation (charge based on a per diem rate). What the hell? Why are they summoning you to go take the train? And what trial? I mean, trains are good and all, but this is so... militaristic!"
"Not militaristic, Potter. Fate. Karma. Kismet. The Final Judgment — call it what you may. I'm being shipped off to the afterlife's equivalent of Azkaban." Snape spits, his body shaking with what can be either anger or fear — Harry's not sure. "I can't say I haven't been expecting it."
"That's... that's not fair!"
"Oh, it's very fair, in their eyes. I've had close to fifty years to attempt to buy my way out of certain doom. Can't say my former colleagues have had the same opportunity, the lot of them being taken straight to the train station as soon as they arrived, just like they did with the Dark Lord. Now get out of my way. I still have the shrunken flowers to pack."
Harry steps in front of Snape, blocking his path. "We'll go to the bank right now and I'll transfer all of my gold pieces into your account. Between the two of us, we might have enough to buy you a ticket to the Great Beyond."
Snape shakes his head. "It's no use. They would have already frozen my account by now, and most likely notified all the train station personnel to not let me board any other train except the one that goes to Station 3425. I... appreciate your offer, Harry."
Damn the bastard, choosing this moment to call him Harry.
"I was never meant to have amassed as much personal wealth as I have, to live as comfortable an afterlife. Your posthumous gesture toward me was very generous." Snape pauses, as if trying to find the right words. "Thank you."
He raises a hand, hesitant at first, to touch Harry's face. Snape's face and nose and mouth are so close that all Harry has to do is tilt his head up and lean in... but are they like that with each other? The rough knuckles brushing against Harry's cheek feels good, so un-Snapelike but in some strange logic that makes perfect sense to Harry, so very much Severus-like. Those black eyes, as usual, are unreadable, though now they are flashing with a hint of something Harry has never seen before. Some sort of fire, a determination that he would fight for himself in this losing battle, down to the last currency of flower and bear that he owns.
Harry knows that feeling. He's felt the exact same way that night, marching as bravely as he could to his death, determined to die if it meant taking Voldemort down with him.
He feels the same surge of determination rising inside him.
Deciding quickly but with more certainty than ever, Harry leans forward and meets Snape's lips with his own. He'd like to remember this as a longer kiss, but given the circumstances, he can only indulge for a singe swipe of his tongue over chapped but warm lips before tightening his grip on Snape's summons paper, thinking hard to pool his magic into his abdomen, and Disapparating directly into King's Cross Station.
Since everyone knows he isn't Severus Snape, or more precisely, since everyone knows who he is, Harry receives royal treatment all the way from King's Cross Station to Station 3425.
He insists on writing a cheque to the lady pushing the trolley so she can get reimbursed for the free sweets she lavishes on him. But she says no, because it is an honour to serve Harry Potter, that he can't possibly know the types of people that pass through this train line, that Harry Potter is such a gentleman and an absolute breath of fresh air, and so in conclusion (her words) Harry Potter must have some free Chocolate Frogs because Chocolate Frogs are Harry Potter's favourite sweets.
She sounds like a house elf.
Harry waits until she goes off with her trolley before tearing open the packaging and peering inside — yup, another Harry Potter Famous Wizards card. He must have close to a thousand of them now, after two years of posthumous Chocolate Frog-eating. He bites off the frog's head, his mind drifting off to how Snape likes to criticise the way he eats, how he likes to go on a tirade about Harry's complete lack of manner, pointing out Harry's overinflated ego which compels him to hunt down every single Harry Potter card ever produced by the Chocolate Frog factory.
This frog tastes differently in his mouth, not as sweet as the ones he's shared with Snape. And it's too quiet here. No velvet-smooth voice purring insults into his ears, no Rufus to throw at Snape in Harry's mock anger. He sticks his head out of his compartment and finds empty seats all around him, the security guards that were meant to guard Snape sneaking off to do their own things once they deemed Harry a 'prisoner' of zero threat. Everything feels off, different, wrong.
It's only been an hour, and already he misses Snape.
Station 3425 opens right into a court room, a big room that can hold the full Wizengamot, but is currently occupied by just one person. An old man sits in his throne of a chair behind a large table in the middle of the dimly lit room, smiling at Harry.
"Harry Potter, I presume? Please, have a seat."
So this is the Final Judgment before he is sent to eternal prison on behalf of Snape. Harry perches on the very edge of the chair, his toes barely touching the floor and his back taut with tension. He eyes the old man across from him: he looks about ninety, with hair more silver than white, and is dressed in the finest robe that Harry has ever seen, something not even Madam Malkin's special orders could compare. The old man leans back into the large chair as he looks at Harry, his posture relaxed and his brown eyes twinkling in an all-too-familiar way. They must make an odd sight sitting here, Harry and the old man, crossing paths only because Harry happened to have visited Snape at 11:50 instead of noon today.
The old man begins, "Some people call me a god, though I am just an old man in charge of administrative bookkeeping of the souls that pass through Station 3425." He pauses to let Harry take in his words before continuing. "And you, Harry Potter? Do you respond when others call you Saviour, Boy-Who-Lived, Defeater of Evil, Vanquisher of Voldemort?"
Not the best way to begin talking to someone with the powers of Death and God, even if he's only admin. Harry takes a deep breath and tries again: "Er, I'm aware I have these titles, yes. But to be honest, I don't even know what my full thirty-eight-word title is supposed to be." He frowns. "I'm Harry. I've always just been Harry. Or Potter, I answer to that too, especially when – oh wait!"
"You can say his name here, Harry. Doing so will not endanger him."
Harry tries to read the old man's face, wondering if he's just been told a lie. Calm brown eyes look back at him, reminding him of Dumbledore, which is no help whatsoever in determining the old man's trustworthiness.
But since they're here to talk about Snape...
"Yeah, Severus. Severus Snape. He likes to call me Potter most of the time. I know he's mean-spirited and petty and all, but once you get to know him, he's not so bad."
The old man scribbles something down onto the notepad in front of him. "So you like to be called Harry. Excellent. Now tell me, what do you like to do?"
"Me? I like Quidditch, I like to duel, I love my kids — they're all grown up now, all three of them. What else? Let's see... I like to walk around the town I'm in and get to know the people living there. There's a really nice lady who sells me bread at a discounted price. There are some very kind-hearted people down by the soup kitchen. I like spending time with them."
The old man makes more scribbles. "Anything else?"
Well, Harry also likes spending time with Snape at his house, sorting flowers from bears from Chocolate Frogs, and sometimes sharing a bottle of good scotch after which Snape might be persuaded to let him sleep over.
"I like going over to Severus's house." He adds quickly, "Just to deliver items for him. Very normal."
"Yes, very normal," the old man says, stretching out the words, reading each syllable as he writes them down. "Next question. What's your favourite food?"
Harry's quick to answer this one. "I like Chocolate Frogs, but it's not my favourite food. I don't know why everyone thinks that. I get hundreds of Chocolate Frogs every week from all the people paying respects over my grave. I've got so many, I don't even count them anymore. I just give them all to Severus –" He catches himself again. Why is it that every answer he gives leads him back to Snape? He breathes deeply to collect his composure. "I-I like Indian, curry especially. Um, shepherd's pie, anything that Mrs. Weasley makes, and a good steak from time to time."
"Seems like we share similar food preferences." The old man nods. "Now, how about books? What do you like to read?"
"Books?" What is this interview supposed to be, trying to figure out what things to deliver to his prison cell? Even as he tries to come up with an answer, Harry can feel his cheeks heating up into a full-blown blush. He doesn't read much, falls asleep on his reading more often than not; Snape's insults have made him very much aware of the fact. Sure, he reads the occasional newspaper or magazine article, but books — particularly those with no pictures that he's not required to read them as bedside stories to his children — Harry honestly can't remember which was the last book he's read.
"Not much of a reader, I take it?"
Too embarrassed to speak, Harry shakes his head.
"Curious. Not even Quidditch Weekly?"
"I read that!" Harry answers quickly, grabbing onto the lifeline thrown to him. "In fact, I still read it, the Quidditch Weekly afterlife edition. I know some people"—such as Snape, for example—"might not think it's intellectual enough, but I'm reading words on the page just like he does, so why can't it be the same thing?"
The old man chuckles, his silver hair swaying slightly around his head, revealing patches of hair pure white at the root near his temples. He looks smart, the bookish kind that reminds Harry of Hogwarts professors, which probably means Harry didn't manage to persuade him that reading about Quidditch is just as good as reading about the seventy uses of phoenix tears.
"No need to worry, Harry, you're doing just fine."
"Your face is quite an open book," the old points out, voice amused. "No pun intended, we're done with talking about books." He straightens his back and pushes the chair away from the table. "I have one more question for you, but first let us take a stroll, shall we?"
The old man's words broach no disobedience. Harry hurries to stand and follows him toward the far wall of the room. The old man isn't walking fast, six or seven steps are enough to close the distance between them. The room gets a bit brighter as they near the far wall. Harry looks ahead of him and sees for the first time a faint outline of a door in the middle of the wall — an old metal door that looks like it hasn't been used in years. He sucks in a sharp breath. So this is it, his last few steps of freedom before reaching the door, before he's shut away in prison forever.
They stop a few paces away from the door. The old man holds out his right hand.
"It's an honour meeting you, Harry Potter. I wish you all the best in the future."
Harry doesn't think his future is as pleasant as the old man makes it out to be, but he shakes the old man's hand just the same. Whatever is on the other side of the door can't be as bad as standing here, poised on the threshold to the Abyss, not knowing what lies ahead. Harry wants to jump in headfirst, wand in hand, if only to see what's there. Snape would probably call it foolhardy, but Harry's not a Gryffindor for nothing. Besides, he can't die again, right? So Snape...
Severus. Just yesterday, they were squabbling over the value of a stuffed unicorn while splitting a bottle of Firewhisky. Today, Harry didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.
He forces out a smile. "So, the last question?"
"Ah, the last question." The old man's eyes twinkle, and Harry doesn't have a good feeling about this. "Answer this only to yourself, and only when you are certain of the truth." He waves a hand and the metal door opens. Harry looks out and finds that they are on the other side of Station 3425. A train is waiting on this side of the platform, steam rolling and whistle singing, destination King's Cross Station.
The old man walks Harry to the train and holds open the door for him to board. Stunned and in disbelief, Harry goes through the motion of putting one foot in front of the other, not really understanding why he's been set free. When he's inside the train, he turns around to thank the old man, who lifts a hand to stop whatever Harry is going to say.
"We shall meet again, Harry, so no need to say goodbye. The paperwork you will receive inside the train will explain everything. So that leaves my final question:
"Harry, do you love him back?"
The old man slams the door shut as soon as he asked the question, damn elderly wizards with twinkling eyes. They're all the same, the lot of them, all manipulative bastards.
It takes Harry all of one minute to be certain of his answer. He's glad he gets to go back to Severus to tell him.
It is a common misconception amoung Muggles that the Department of Afterlife Soul Services for Holistic and Orderly Lawbreaker Evaluation and Sentencing (which herein shall be notated as "Dept. of A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S.", with each letter of the acronym pronounced individually) is the realisation of hell, and amoung Wizard kind, that it is the afterlife counterpart of Azkaban. While both perceptions hold some truth when applied to the gravest of criminals, who are indeed quarantined indefinitely in holding cells, lesser lawbreakers summoned to the Dept. of A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S. are merely required to be subjected to an interrogation...
...case of Severus Snape (which herein shall be referred to as "Lawbreaker") is closed. The Interviewer has deemed the Lawbreaker duly reformed from his erstwhile errant ways. (See Exhibit A: S. Snape donating teddy bears to an elderly lady for her train ticket fund; Exhibit B: S. Snape providing Wolfsbane Potion for werewolf, waiving all costs; Exhibits C through P: S. Snape seen with H. Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, etc., etc., etc.)...
...Interviewer has also found the odds of the Lawbreaker returning to his former way as equal to or less than 2.549354%, an acceptable range for the granting of full pardons, set to be at or below 6.283%. The main contributing factor to the determination of the quotient was based on the Lawbreaker's constant association with Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, etc., etc., etc. The Interviewer has ascertained the relationship between the Lawbreaker and Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, etc., etc., etc. as genuine and not as an attempt of the Lawbreaker to obtain pardon through the falsification of an amiable rapport with Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, etc., etc., etc...
Harry falls asleep somewhere around page 10 of the report. All he's needed to know was that Snape is now free, and he's gleaned as much from reading the first few paragraphs. After all, there are only so many "Saviour of the Wizarding World, etc., etc., etc." that he could take before he feels like plucking his own eyeballs out.
Week 100, five hours later
The door opens to Harry's loud: "Surprise!" In an uncharacteristic gesture, Severus pulls Harry into an embrace, action speaking louder than words in conveying that he's extremely glad Harry has been released from Station 3425.
The affection is short-lived. At least Severus has the foresight to cast a quick Silencing Spell before commencing to scream at Harry for leaving him. Not for the first time, Harry is called a 'half-hearted nitwit who never learns the value of finishing what you started.' Harry is quick to prove Severus wrong; the kiss that he initiates this time is carried out in full, in a very detailed fashion.
Harry finds the time in between more kisses to show the report to Severus. Severus pretends to read the whole thing, but Harry can tell that he, too, stops paying attention somewhere around page 10. Harry doesn't mind in the slightest. Severus spending less time reading means they have more time for kisses, and as far as Harry is concerned, that's a much better way to pass time than suffering through a boring report.
He tells Severus later that night.
"I love you."
He doesn't demand Severus to tell him back; he already knows Severus's answer. But Severus tells him anyway, leaning in for another kiss, as if he can't get enough of Harry after an anxiety-filled day of separation. Harry kisses back, instinct taking over as he explores Severus's mouth with his tongue, guided by sensation alone.
Severus whispers something in his ear. Harry can't quite make out all the words, but knows he heard something along the line of 'sentiments may in fact be reciprocated.' Harry turns his head and smiles into Severus's mouth.
"Wordy bastard. Next time, just say 'me too.'"
"Everything good with the buyer?" Harry asks, flashing Severus a grin as he steps into Harry's house, their house.
"If you're asking whether it was horrific, then no, it wasn't and by your questionable logic, everything went well."
Harry laughs. "Ten thousand gold pieces is a lot of money for that run-down house of yours! Even after we're done with renovating this place, we're probably still going to have a few hundreds or a thousand left."
"I hear properties are cheaper at the Great Beyond," Snape says.
"I know, but I can't leave yet, remember? You know I'm waiting, Severus, not for Ginny anymore, no, but for other people. I want to see James and Al and Lily and Ron and Hermione and others when they arrive. I want to make sure they have enough money to buy their own tickets when they get here, or help them out if they don't. I want to see what physical age they choose to remain for the rest of eternity. I want them to see a familiar face when they arrive, in case they will be facing traumatic deaths. I want—" Harry gestures back and forth between himself and Snape. "—I want to show them what I have here. What we have here."
Harry wraps his arms around Severus and gives him a quick peck on the cheek.
"Wait with me for the others to come? Wait for me, Severus, until I'm ready?"
Severus doesn't say anything; he doesn't need to.
They'll be here together until the others come.