Back From The Dead
Title: Back From The Dead Author: Rakina Beta: hel_bee Word Count: 500 – 5000; 4,279 words. Rating: PG13 for slashy overtones. Pairing: Severus Snape/Harry Potter Prompt: by gingertart50: "Snape can fly!" I'm sure this isn't what you meant by it, but this is what it spawned in my pea-like brain, so here you are. Warnings: DH spoilers. Highlight for further warnings:</b> * Possible overuse of the word 'crap', one use of the word 'cock' *g*.* Author's Notes: Written for the phoenix_flies fest, to celebrate the themes of rebirth and renewal following the move to our new journaling homes. Also to fix the annoying failure of canon to treat Snape fairly in Deathly Hallows (hope that's not counted as a spoiler). Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter, its characters and settings are the copyrighted works of J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., her publishing companies and affiliates. No profit was made from the writing of this story.
Back From The Dead By Rakina
Ill news hath wings, and with the wind doth go, Comfort's a cripple and comes ever slow. Michael Drayton, 1563 – 1631.
It was not unexpected, the sensation of flying. Many wizards believed the soul took wings on its journey to the beyond. Snape hadn't really believed it, but he had to believe it now as he soared upwards, the air moving past his face. Flying wasn't new to him; like the Dark Lord he'd mastered this most difficult of magical skills: flying unsupported by anything but his magic, levitation taken to the ultimate degree. But this wasn't the same, for now he had wings. His soul had wings. It was headed upwards, and Snape thought that rather surprising, for his soul was so burdened with old guilt and misery that it would surely sink to those regions below. But no, he was definitely flying. He looked down and saw his body lying bloodied beneath him, so pale where it wasn't coated in gore, and looking so empty. He saw those who'd been present at his death hurrying away, still occupied with the urgent tasks of the living.
His soul hovered, birdlike. Snape wondered at it; shouldn't it be heading somewhere? He had no idea where, but he felt his soul ought to know, that death should automatically lead to something else. He had to flap his wings now to maintain height near the roof of the shack. Nothing else was happening; it seemed he had to make the choice himself. So he flew, his wings stretching out comfortably as he headed out of the window and into the countryside near Hogsmeade. It looked the same as it always had if you ignored the frantic activity in the little town and the sounds of battle from the direction of Hogwarts. Unsure what to do, Snape headed for the nearest tree and perched. Now he could think.
He'd been there awhile, watching and trying to work out what should happen next. No wiser, he began to notice a sensation he'd certainly not been expecting in the afterlife. He was hungry. He turned his birdlike head and sought food. His black eyes saw movement below and he swooped down, pecking at the ground. His beak caught a fat caterpillar and he tossed it back, feeling it wriggle down his throat as he swallowed. Good!
Wait! Good? A caterpillar? What was happening? Was this reincarnation? Had he really been so evil he'd instantly returned as a bird to eat insects for evermore? It made some sort of cosmic sense, he supposed, and he was still hungry, so he strutted along the ground, pecking at the leaf litter, seeking other prey. And he found it, lots of it. There were plenty more caterpillars – the hairy ones tickled on the way down – along with woodlice, millipedes and bugs of all kinds. And they all seemed rather good to him, fat, juicy and full of flavour, something like Hogwarts' breakfast sausages, which was weird. Snape remembered he had worked with all sorts of awful things in his Potions career, but he'd never eaten them. Not while they were alive and unprocessed, anyway. He was feeling better for his feast though. Fuller. He suddenly realised it was already twilight; the sun was setting, it would be dark soon. He didn't feel safe down here where anything could trip over him, maybe even eat him! He flapped up into the tree again and settled on the branch. His eyes closed. He crapped contentedly, and then he slept.
He spent the next day thinking some more on his favourite branch, in between strutting around looking for food and watching scornfully the pitiful attempts of a red squirrel to attract the interest of a decidedly disinterested female. He really missed the ability to snort – beaks just weren't cut out for it. Twilight fell rather suddenly again, catching him unawares. He'd meant to make some kind of plan, to go on from here. He couldn't spend the rest of his life in this clearing. But he'd got sidetracked by the woodland, and now there was nothing else for it but to settle on his branch and go to sleep. He had slept remarkably well last night and looked forward to doing so again tonight. Rooks, it seemed, even rooks that had once been wizards, did not have nightmares.
The rook cracked open one eye and glowered, in a rook-like manner, around at the world. It was another new day, the sun was rising over the horizon and he had to make some choices. He could stay here, alternately perching in this tree – it was a very good tree for perching – and poking around on the ground for food. It seemed a perfectly good existence for a rook. But of course, Snape knew he wasn't really a rook. He was a Potions master and staying in avian form was not to be contemplated. Surely there was an answer to this. Because it was now obvious, very obvious, he thought with an annoyed 'caw!', that this wasn't his soul-form. He was a rook. A real, strutting, crapping, bug-eating rook. Something odd had happened, and it was obviously down to magic, and he needed help.
Who to go to? Potter had his memories; if the brat had survived, Snape's name could be cleared. He could only hope that if someone managed to transform him back into his human form, they wouldn't immediately blast him to the other side which he'd so obviously failed to reach at this attempt. There were several people who were good with animals: Hagrid, who would immediately take to him, but knew relatively little about magic; Grubbly-Plank was another who knew plenty about caring for creatures but little about more unusual magics; and Minerva, who was an animagus – a bloody cat, rook-Snape thought, shuddering – and had long studied the transformation magics. Yes, Minerva was the ideal person to help him. Which meant he needed to return to Hogwarts. Time to find out what remained, who'd won, and whether his future would be bug-filled or rather richer.
Snape launched himself from his perch; he was a black, flapping, feathery thing with a prominent beak. It wasn't completely unlike the way he'd proceeded along Hogwarts' corridors in his previous life.
He found Minerva in the rubble-strewn Great Hall, sitting and eating breakfast with determined sang-froid, obviously intending to continue the traditions of the ancient school even in a time of crisis. Snape flapped along the length of the hall, largely unnoticed. Rooks weren't the usual postal birds, but nor was an obviously unnatural bird an unusual sight in a school of magic. He landed rather heavily on the High Table, his feet sliding across its polished wooden surface, scrabbling to keep his balance. His slide was halted by his impact with the porridge tureen which he met with a dull clang from the silver vessel and an annoyed squawk from himself.
Looking up into a huge, red, black-bearded face he was greeted by a sound similar in effect to thunder: "'Oo are yeh, then, little mate? An' what d'yeh want?"
Snape hurried to waddle away from Hagrid, whose voice had rattled his eardrums, and along to Minerva, who sat in the Headmistress' chair watching him with suspicion. "I've not seen that bird before, Hagrid," she said.
Snape stood in front of her and said: "Cark!"
Minerva looked rather shocked, then she looked more closely. "It could be an animagus, though I know of no rooks," she pondered.
Snape hopped from leg to leg excitedly, encouraging this line of thought. Minerva nodded. "Very well then. Let's see who you are." She cast the spell to force an animagus back into human form, "Restoro Hominum!" Snape hopped from leg to leg a bit more and flapped his wings to hurry it up. Then he flapped some more and gave his opinion: "Cark-cark-cark!"
"Well, it's no use shouting. You're not an animagus, whatever you are."
Snape shook his sharp-beaked head, more annoyed than he could find means to express in this form. Of course he must be an animagus! What else could he be? Souls weren't visible, even if they took rook form, and everyone here could see him quite plainly.
"What'll we do with it?" Hagrid asked.
"Well, I don't want it, nor do I have anywhere to keep it," Minerva said, looking disgusted as Snape's angry, bug-digesting bowels shamed him.
"I'll take 'im then!" Hagrid sounded quite excited. "'e looks like quite a character. Fer a rook."
"Please do, and as soon as you like," Minerva agreed with a revolted expression on her face, as she used her napkin to mop up the rather pungent bird-plop which Snape had deposited in front of her plate.
With surprising speed, Hagrid scooped up the irritated bird in his giant hand. Some of Snape's glossy black feathers poked out from between his fingers. Snape would have squawked, and loudly, but the darkness of his new berth was making him feel sleepy. He closed his eyes as the world began to rock as Hagrid started walking.
When light returned, Snape was plonked rather abruptly onto a perch. He instinctively gripped the structure which was like part of a tree, his strong, scaly feet restoring stability to his world. Blinking, he looked around to see where he was, and instantly knew the place. He'd known Hagrid for years, since his own schooldays, and he felt comfortable here inside the man's hut. He wondered if Hagrid would complain about him crapping indoors, but glancing down Snape saw that a sheet made up of pages of the Daily Prophet was covering the floor under the perch. He clicked his beak in amusement – it was an appropriate use for all the rubbish they had published, to soak up Snape's crap.
"'ere, have some breakfas'," Hagrid said, attaching a dish to one end of the perch.
Snape side-stepped over to the dish and peered inside, poking among it with his large beak. Bacon and bread crusts. Very acceptable. He cocked his head at Hagrid, looking up at the huge man through beady black eyes, and gave him a grateful, "Cark!" If he had to remain a bloody bird, no doubt as some warped form of penance for his sins, some weird wizardly purgatory, he could do worse than live with Hagrid. At least it would be entertaining.
It turned out to be less entertaining than he'd originally thought. Hagrid worked outside a lot, and allowed the rook to accompany him, perched on his shoulder like a pirate's pet parrot. Once Hagrid started work, Snape would find a perch nearby to watch him, or rummage on the ground for insects. He found lots of those in the animal enclosures, where the beasts' droppings attracted the little wrigglers. It was a pleasant enough existence, but it lacked intellectual stimulation, and although he was now a rook, Snape still craved books, research and potions. There was a decided lack of all of those in Hagrid's life. But Minerva wouldn't allow him back into the castle any more. He'd tried flying to the library one day, only to be swiftly Banished by Madam Pince's wand, which had been a most unpleasant experience. He'd lost a couple of tail feathers, which smarted, and he'd left a trail of bird crap along the library corridor, which had resulted in his permanent ban. "That bird is incontinent!" Minerva had exclaimed in disgust, "and I'll not have it inside Hogwarts. I've never known such behaviour from the owls!" No, well, the owls weren't on the receiving end of sharp, stinging spells that shot them at gale force along corridors, were they. Snape was pretty sure they'd lose control of their bowels in the same situation! Especially if their recent diet had been largely insectivorous. It irked him to be spoken of as 'that blasted, incontinent rook'.
Time passed. Snape was bored of hanging around the magical school waiting for someone to recognise him, and so the tiniest diversion was welcome. When a knock came on Hagrid's door one evening, Snape looked up in hope of distraction.
"Oh, hello, Harry," Hagrid said, letting the Pest Who Lived in. "Come and have some tea."
Tea. How original, Snape thought, letting out a dismissive cark.
"Thanks, Hagrid," Potter said, sitting. Hagrid bustled around brewing a huge pot of tea and Potter just sat there in his chair.
"Cark!" Snape said, to get the brat's attention.
Potter looked up, eyes widening when he saw the rook. "What's this, Hagrid? A new lame duck?"
Snape shuffled his feet and glared at Potter from his perch, but without eyebrows it didn't work very well.
"Oh, yeah. He flew inter the Great hall, coupla days after the battle. Minerva gave him to me. 'e's good company."
Harry stood up and went over to the perch. He extended a finger to stroke the bird's chest, and the rook glared as powerfully as he could, but without effect. When Harry stroked his breast feathers, Snape felt himself calming down, somewhat against his will. Being a bird was weird, if Potter had touched his chest as a student, Snape would have vaporised him. He cocked his head at Potter, examining the young man's face. Really, Potter looked peaky. He had dark circles under his eyes and his hair was messier than ever, as if he'd run his hands through it repeatedly.
"So, are yeh all righ'?" Hagrid asked.
"I suppose so," Potter said quietly, continuing to stroke the bird's glossy black feathers. They felt sleek and shiny, and the bird obviously enjoyed his attentions. The action was making Harry feel better, too.
"You don' sound very sure. I thought you were away getting' married."
"Well, I thought so, I mean… yeah, I was. It's just. I don't know," Harry trailed off lamely.
"Ah, second thoughts then," Hagrid said wisely. "Best hold yer fire. If yeh go inter marriage like tha', it's a recipe fer disaster. Seen it loads of times."
"Really? You think I should wait?"
"I do. You need to really, really want it, to get married and make a go of it." Hagrid was sure of that, even though the situation had never arisen in his own life, he'd seen it often enough in others.
Snape was interested in this. So Potter was having problems with the pushy Miss Weasley. He wasn't surprised; it was obvious to him the girl was attracted to Potter's fame and wanted to marry him while they'd still make the front page. He snorted derisively – which he still hadn't worked out how to do with a beak – and a strange, coughing noise emerged. Harry looked up at him and Snape, following an odd impulse, flew over to him and perched on the arm of his chair.
"'E likes yeh!" Hagrid declared happily. "Wants some more fuss."
Harry stroked the bird's feathers as he talked through his problems with Hagrid. He began to feel better when he realised his own impulse to put the wedding off for now was the best thing that could happen. It would be awful telling Ginny, but he'd do it, because deep down he knew it was the right thing to do. Hagrid had helped him decide. He stood up, and the bird's head turned, sharp eyes following him. "Cark!"
"'E's really taken to yeh," Hagrid said. "Why don' yeh take him with yeh? 'E's good company, e'd cheer yeh up."
"You think so? Well, he's quite nice," Harry admitted. There was something interesting about the rook, something compelling. The black bird flapped up from the chair-arm and settled on Harry's shoulder, which clinched it.
Harry settled the bird into his flat, setting up a perch arrangement like he'd seen at Hagrid's. The rook was easy to feed and loved everything Harry ate, except porridge, which he turned his beak up at. Harry would talk to him, and the rook would listen, laying his head on one side and watching through his glittering, black eyes. Harry called the bird 'Sooty', which annoyed it, as it would cark loudly each time Harry used the name, but that merely amused him. "I swear you know every word I'm saying," Harry told it, aware he sounded like every other pet owner on the planet.
Apart from his relationship with the rook, everything else in Harry's life was making him depressed. Ginny was getting frustrated by his constant stalling when all she wanted to do was talk about wedding arrangements. The Weasleys were dissatisfied when they saw how upset their daughter was becoming. Ron kept asking him what the matter was, but Harry could no more tell Ron he didn't want to marry his sister than he could come out with it and tell Ginny. Hermione was exasperated with him. She had realised what the matter was, or at least part of it, and she felt bad for Ginny, who was her close friend, as well as for Harry. Hermione didn't seem to know what to do for once.
Then there was the Wizarding society at large. From the Minister down to the smallest child, everyone wanted a part of 'Harry Potter'. The Harry Potter they imagined, that was, rather than the real person. Harry was fed up with it; he could hardly walk outside without being mobbed. The only exception was Hogwarts, and more specifically, Hagrid's. So he spent most of his time indoors, except when he braved his fame to help worthwhile causes.
He returned late one evening after a charity dinner and dance and fell through his Floo and onto his sofa, sighing. The rook flapped over and perched beside him, prodding him gently with its beak. Harry raised his hand and stroked it. "I'm so fed up with my life, Sooty."
"Cark! Cark! Cark!" The rook waddled from side to side, glaring as best he could.
Harry chuckled. "Except for finding you and visiting Hagrid, it's all gone to pot. What do they all expect from me? Well, I know what Ginny expects, but she's not going to get it. I've never been good with crying girls…" Harry remembered his first girlfriend; Cho had been all 'wet' too. Why couldn't girls be more like blokes? "I'm off to bed. See you tomorrow."
A morose Harry left for the bathroom, and Snape watched him go, thinking the stupid prat needed to tell a few people to fuck off and leave him alone. Then Harry needed to decide what he wanted and go for it. He could have whatever he liked, but he needed to learn to be a little selfish or he was destined to be miserable. Snape could have told him that, but the rook could not. He gave a soft, regret-laden caw.
It was light, and he was lying on the floor. He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling, wondering why this should be. Had he fallen off his perch? He flapped, his wings moving in vain. Was he injured? His feathers… no… they weren't feathers, that was cloth, flapped around his skinny arms. Arms? Yes… blast it! He had arms. He had legs – he kicked them inside his black robe to demonstrate – and even better, he had a cock! He was human again! He had finished his time as a rook, then, penance over, punishment done. He was – he stood up and peered into Harry's sitting room mirror – Severus Snape again. He grinned, which was an unusual expression to see on that face, but he recognised himself.
There was a crash and the sound of breaking china. Snape whirled with a familiar, impressive swirl of black robes. Harry's hands were still stretched out in front of him where he'd been carrying his tea and a plate of toast. Those hands looked limp. The china and toast now adorned the carpet. Harry's mouth was agape and he was making incoherent noises, making less sense than the rook could have done. Snape huffed.
"Yes, Potter, I know it's a shock. And yes, it's really me."
"But… but… you're dead!"
"I thought so too. But apparently, and very oddly, I have survived." Again, he thought sourly.
"I… I… Oh Merlin!" Potter said, and sank into a chair.
"I don't know what you're bothered about. I'm the one they'll arrest," Snape said sourly.
"Arrest?" Harry's head snapped up and he looked at Snape in surprise. Well, more surprise. "Why should they arrest you?"
"Oh, I don't know, murder, perhaps?"
"But you're a hero!" Harry said. "I mean, everyone knows what you did. I told them. Even the Prophet treated you well. There's no question of arrest."
"What? Are you deluded?"
"Snape, they awarded you an Order of Merlin. First Class."
"They did?" Snape looked excited at this. Perhaps it wasn't so bad being alive again after all. He'd always wanted an Order of Merlin. And First Class… even better than the one they were going to give him for capturing Black. He smiled.
Harry was amazed. Snape's face changed when he smiled. He'd never seen Snape smile before, not like this. A demented, manic grin, yes, but never this kind of genuine, happy smile. Harry's heart thudded hard, a 'whump' inside his chest, as if it was giving him a good kick. He grinned back and got to his feet. "I'll make some more tea. You'll have some?"
"Tea. Yessss…." Severus realised that tea was a bloody brilliant idea. He hadn't fancied it when he'd been a rook, but now… he followed Harry into the kitchen.
Harry bustled about making tea, shooting little glances at the tall, dark man who had invaded his kitchen. Snape, who'd have thought it. And he looked good… better than before somehow. Perhaps because he looked… happy. Unworried, that was it. Harry envied him that.
Severus saw the emotions on the boy's face. Potter had always been an open book. "Look, Potter, you know what you've got to do. Just get on and tell the bint you don't want to marry her."
Harry's eyes met Snape's. "I know." He still looked sad.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," Snape said, exasperated at the whipped-puppy look the brat was wearing. He pulled Harry towards him and engulfed him in a black-robed hug, resting his lips against the famous, scarred forehead. "Come on, Potter, it's not like you to be so defeated. What's the worst that can happen?"
"I don't want to let her down," Harry mumbled into the wool of Snape's clothing. It was warm, comforting and very nice being here.
"It's best done now. Later, it will be worse. Don't you realise, you foolish boy, that girls aren't what you want?"
Harry looked up, green eyes locked with glittering, intense black. "I…?"
Snape decided the only way to explain was to kiss him. So he did. Harry immediately melted into Snape's kiss, and the realisation finally sank in. The kiss became rather intense, both men making realisations as their blood pounded through their veins at increased speed, thundering in their ears. Neither heard the soft whoosh from the Floo, but both heard the enraged shout from the kitchen door.
"You bastard!" Ginny shrieked.
Severus pulled back, not sure who that was aimed at.
"With Snape! And isn't he supposed to be dead? How could you?"
"Necromancy, Miss Weasley," Snape sneered. "Which is what you would have to employ if you wished to continue your ridiculous relationship with Harry."
"You think I'd want him back now he's snogged you, you bastard?" Ginny yelled, grabbing her engagement ring and yanking it off her finger. Severus was quite surprised she hadn't taken the flesh with it, so fierce was the action. "I knew he was dragging his heels, but I thought he was just being shy! And all the while he's had you shacked up here. Gods! You must have been laughing at me all along."
"No, Gin-" Harry began, but he was silenced by the ring hitting him on his cheek, leaving a bloody mark where it broke the skin.
"Just fuck off!" Ginny yelled and hurried back to the Floo. By the time Harry straightened, the retrieved emerald ring in his outstretched hand, she had gone.
Silence. Severus wasn't sure what to say. He'd probably already said enough. Silence in which Harry came to terms with several things: he'd got out of his engagement, if not very tidily, and buggered if Snape wasn't right – he preferred men! How could he not have known that? He looked up at Snape who was standing quietly over the other side of the room. He stepped toward him, ring extended. "I should have given this to you, Severus," he said softly. "You've been more faithful, more supportive, all these years, and I never knew it. I was too stupid to see it. Just as I was too stupid to see I preferred men." Harry shook his head, lamenting his own ignorance.
"You spent your school years living up to Dumbledore's expectations, and the expectations of your housemates. Things have changed now. It's time for you to be a little selfish, Harry. Do what you want for a change."
Harry leaned into Snape's arms, taking the comfort he offered. Snape, back again. Being nice to him. "You weren't nice to me."
"I couldn't be. We were both playing the roles handed to us."
Harry nodded. "Yeah. But I'm not going to do that any more. I just want to live my own life." Severus continued to hold him, quietly, supportively. "And I'm starting now. Will you stay with me, Severus?"
And Severus, facing a hopeful future he'd never expected to see, just said, "Yes."