|snarryhols (snarryhols) wrote in snarry_holidays,
@ 2007-11-18 14:25:00
|fic, post-dh: epilogue compliant, rated: nc-17
Echoes (1/2), for klynie1
Title: Echoes (1/2)
Word Count: 17500
Warnings: Canon compliant including the epilogue, so beware of DH spoilers.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter world and characters are the sole property of J.K. Rowling, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. I make no money from writing fanfiction.
Summary: Everyone has been given perfume for Christmas, odd things happen as a result and Harry finds himself juggling match-making children, senile household appliances and two very fraught relationships.
Prompts: "A mystery man enters Harry Potter's life. He seems familiar, but Snape is dead, isn't he?" and "If possible, I would love to see Albus Severus (and/or Scorpius, James or Teddy Lupin) worked into the story."
Hunching against the rain that dripped from the gutter of number 12, Grimmauld Place, Harry flung open the front door. The fire alarm went off.
“Fire! Help, fire, smoke, devastation, burning and despair! Flee for your lives! Save the valuables! Fetch water –” The cracked voice degenerated into a fit of coughing.
Harry stopped below the alarm carved above the doorway to the living room. Its wooden face was screwed up as it hacked and spluttered. Eventually it drew in a gasping breath, opened eyes that oozed sap-like tears, peered at him and croaked “Fire?”
Harry shook his head.
“Just a teeny little one?”
He shook his head again.
The alarm snuffled. “A house elf might have burned the toast?”
“Oh.” It blinked stickily. “False alarm, then.”
“Yes, I think it was a false alarm.”
“Sorry.” The alarm shut its eyes.
Harry glanced at the wall where the portrait of Mrs Black had once hung. Her place had been taken by a rather washy watercolour painting of Hogwarts castle. The perspective was skewed so that the turrets appeared about to fall forwards out of the frame. Tiny banners fluttered in the breeze and owls winged their way back and forth between the school and the Owlery.
As Harry watched, the sun sank behind the castle and a spot of yellow light came on in a window at the top of Gryffindor Tower. He smiled and swung his cloak from his shoulders. The hallstand shuffled forward to take the garment, waggling a hook in a hopeful manner.
“It’s damp,” Harry said, “raining cats and dogs out there.” The stand immediately extended its umbrella holder. “Sorry, no brolly today."
The stand moved back against the wall with a creak and an air of offended pride. Harry waved at the candles in their sconces and little yellow flames appeared, casting shadows across the heavy furniture. His footsteps and the squeak of old floorboards echoed loudly through the house. Small things shifted and danced in the uncertain candlelight: portraits rousing in their frames; furniture taking a step or two towards him like elderly pets hoping for a pat or a word; the ghosts of ancient house elves running cobweb dusters over long vanished ornaments.
Ginny had refused to live here. For Harry, 12 Grimmauld Place was a reminder of Sirius, of the war and of a darker side to magic. He also suspected that the house disliked Ginny just as much as she disliked it. He was glad, now, that he had not sold the place.
He opened the kitchen door and glanced around, looking for Kreacher. Someone sat at the table, nursing a mug of tea.
For a frozen moment, Harry stared at the hanging sweep of dark hair, the square masculine shoulders under their black robe and the curve of a cheek. The wizard raised his head, and the illusion was broken.
“Hi, Harry,” Teddy said, raising his mug. “I just made tea, want some?” He cocked his head, frowning slightly, and his hair changed colour from black to its usual brown. “Anything wrong?”
“You just reminded me of someone.”
“My dad?” Teddy waved at the teapot, which waddled across the table, curtsied and tilted, pouring tea into another mug. The milk jug scuttled in its wake like a crab.
“No, your hair was black when I came in and you looked like another wizard I once knew. He used to sit there to drink his tea.” Harry shook his head. “Odd, I haven’t even thought about him for years.”
Teddy nodded and sipped. Harry caught the sugar tongs before they added yet another cube of sugar to his tea and replaced them carefully in the bowl.
“Who was he?”
Harry had a feeling that Teddy did not really want to know, that he was speaking to fill the silence.
“The guy Albus Severus was named after?”
Harry nodded. “The Potions master, yes.”
“Funny,” Teddy said, “Neville was talking about him the other day, about what a right bastard he was.” He cocked an eyebrow at Harry. “Why on earth did you name your son after a bastard?”
“He was a very brave bastard,” Harry said, smiling at a memory. “He deserves to remembered for more than being a sarcastic sod of a teacher and dying from snake bite.”
“Snake bite?” Teddy beckoned to the biscuit barrel and it hopped across the table and doffed its lid. “A Potions master succumbed to snake bite? How weird. Ah-hah! Kreacher must have been baking again, looks like we’ve got ginger nuts.”
Harry accepted one of the crisp, spiced biscuits.
“I thought you were going to Hogsmeade for the weekend,” he said, keeping his voice mildly interested rather than accusatory.
“Victoire didn’t want me to go.” Teddy bit the words off sharply and dropped his uneaten biscuit onto the table.
“Ah,” Harry said, in what he hoped was an encouraging manner.
“I hope she’s not seeing some seventh year student or something, I hope she’s just busy studying for her NEWTs.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said after a long pause.
Teddy shrugged elaborately. “Doesn’t matter, does it? Not the end of the world. Not everyone gets to marry their childhood sweetheart, do they?”
Harry saw the colour washing across Teddy’s face as he replayed his own words in his head and realised what he had just said. The younger wizard looked completely mortified. “Oh god, Harry, I’m so sorry –”
“It’s okay,” Harry said quickly, “Honestly, it is. I wish people would just stop tip-toeing round me like I was going to collapse if anyone mentions Ginny’s name.”
Teddy looked down, fiddling with the buttons on the front of his robe. “Just don’t know what to say, really. It was – you were so happy!” Out of Teddy’s face, Remus Lupin’s gold-flecked hazel eyes pleaded with Harry to agree. “We all thought you were so happy.”
“We were,” Harry admitted. “But we were very young when we got together and we just grew apart, I guess.”
“She didn’t have to do that to you.” Teddy’s voice was a low growl. “She could have – oh I don’t know, been gracious about it. She didn’t have to run off with some bloody Quidditch player!”
“I was a Quidditch player once, you know!” Harry grinned, although he did not really feel much like grinning. “She must have felt stifled. She was the youngest Weasley, always someone's daughter or little sister, then she was Harry Potter’s wife and then James, Albus and Lily’s mother. She never found out what she wanted to be for herself.”
“Some Quidditch twit’s trophy,” Teddy muttered. “Sorry, but she treated you like dirt.”
“I want you to be polite to her, please.”
Teddy grunted something vaguely uncomplimentary. “I suppose so.”
“I don’t want James, Al and Lily to feel they have to choose between us.”
Teddy nodded. Behind him, what had been a faint hissing noise suddenly rose to a crescendo of shrieking as the lid blew off the kettle, extinguishing the nearest lamp and filling the kitchen with billows of steam. Harry swore and tugged out his wand.
“Finite incantatem! That’s the second time this week. Bloody thing.”
“Harry,” Teddy said thoughtfully, “Do you think household appliances can go mad?”
The kettle shuffled around in a circle as if turning its back on them and plonked itself down on the range, hiccupping into silence.
- - -
Harry could identify all the perfect moments in his life. Hearing Hagrid telling him that he was a wizard was the first, then came choosing his wand, seeing Hogwarts Castle for the first time, catching the Snitch for Gryffindor, Christmas at the Burrow, knowing for sure that Voldemort was finally, irrevocably gone, watching his two best friends getting married and holding his newborn children. They were caught in the Pensieve of his memory like butterflies in amber, to be treasured when things turned bad. Some were perfect only because they were viewed through the filter of a child’s perceptions. Hogwarts, for example, held bad memories as well as good, but that first time was unclouded and pure, unsullied by Death Eaters or bullies, Voldemort or Umbridge.
He understood too late that Ginny had featured in none of those moments and he wasn't sure if this failing was hers or his own. He had loved the idea of marriage more than he had loved Ginny; he had longed for a wife and family more than he had wanted the woman herself. Now she was gone and he did not know how he felt or what to think.
The newspapers informed him that he was grief-stricken. His friends treated him as if Ginny had died tragically, leaving him bereaved.
He felt adrift and unsettled, unused to hours and days during which no other person made a single demand upon his time. He could read all evening uninterrupted, or spend his weekend watching Quidditch. He could go out with Ron, Neville, Seamus or George and come home drunk. He could adopt a stray Kneazle or buy a Crup, fill the attic with snowy owls in memory of Hedwig, take up riding flying horses and polish his broom on the dining table.
The only brake upon his increasingly outrageous daydreams was awareness of the effects upon his children and godchildren of any scandal. For their sakes, he would refrain from visiting dodgy bars or ogling the arses of the Quidditch players in their tight uniforms; for them, he would be the Harry Potter of legend, the Boy Who Lived Twice, squeaky clean and heroic.
- - -
"I told you I needed more lapis lazuli!" Lily's voice was clear and distinctive, Teddy's response a low baritone rumble. "That bloke in the apothecary's said I'd need at least two ounces and he was right. He was right about the black cohosh as well, wasn't he? You know, the one who said I'd got my grandmother's features."
She popped her head around the door to the library.
"Hi, Dad." She frowned. "Did you know the bureau is sucking your robe?"
Harry turned and stared. The heavy mahogany bureau opened its drawer a fraction, spat out the edge of the robe draped over the back of his chair and shuffled back into its accustomed place, a slightly sheepish tilt to its roll top.
"Did someone tell you that you've got your grandmother Lily's face?"
"Yeah. Funny, everyone else says I take after you except for my eyes, but this guy stared at me then told me I'd got her nose and mouth and hair and he sounded cross about it. He was weird."
"Who was he?"
"Some old guy in Slug and Jiggers. When Teddy took us to buy ingredients."
"Did you tell him who you were?"
She shook her head.
"He just seemed to know. Dad, the downstairs toilet has eaten all the loo roll again. Teddy says he put a roll in the holder yesterday and it's gone. And there were potato peelings in the wash-basin."
"Have a word with Kreacher, he's good with household appliances. You do know better than to talk to strangers alone, don't you?"
"It was in a crowded shop." Lily smiled at him fondly, looking far older than her eleven years. "I know. Hey, Al and James reckon we can fix you up with the new assistant Quidditch coach at Hogwarts, but don't tell them I said so!" She smiled sweetly and disappeared again. Harry shook his head.
- - -
“There’s this new perfume out for Christmas,” Lily’s voice held the lilt of the child who believes that she is dropping a casual hint. “Named after me.”
“Like someone’s going to name a perfume after an eleven-year-old,” James muttered. “Al, hold it still!”
“Do you really think we should do this?”
“Of course we should! Just keep the damn thing still.”
Albus Severus dug in his heels and tightened his grip on the dressing table. James sighted along his wand, scowled and exclaimed “Alohamora!”
The drawers shot across the room, slamming into the wall and showering them all with rolled-up socks, toilet rolls, bars of soap, a bath sponge and a dented soup tureen.
“Kreacher!” Lily called, “we’ve found your soup dish! James’ dressing table ate it.”
“There’s Dad’s underpants.” James picked up a pair of boxers bearing the Gryffindor crest.
“And mine!” Al pounced on the briefs with the Slytherin snake motif. “Jim, your furniture has an underwear fetish. Can’t you keep the thing in your room? It must spend the nights wandering round the house eating stuff.”
“Don’t you think I haven’t tried?” James shoved the now emptied drawers back into their slots. “I’ve locked the door, I’ve chained it to the bedpost, what more d’you want; I should sleep on top of it?”
“Let’s just chop it into firewood,” Lily said, scowling at the innocuous-seeming dressing table. “Or give it to someone we don’t like. D’you think Scorpius Malfoy would take it?”
“Hear that?” Al tapped the furniture with his wand. “One more transgression and you’re kindling.”
James sat on the bed and pulled a roll of parchment from his robe pocket.
“Anyone had any bright idea what to get Dad?” He spread the list out on the counterpane. “I got Uncle Ron’s Quidditch calendar and Aunt Hermione’s Businesswitch diary.”
“I found the book Rose wanted,” Lily said, “And we could probably get something in Uncle George’s shop for Hugo.”
“Great.” James groped for a quill and scribbled against two names on the list. “But what about Dad?”
“I saw an advert in Slug and Jiggers for a new aftershave,” Lily remarked, far too innocently. “Next to the perfumes.” Her brothers rolled their eyes and she stuck out her tongue.
“Very ladylike,” Al commented.
“It was expensive, but it’s called ‘Seeker’ and it comes in a bottle with a tiny snitch for a stopper. It was next to –”
“The perfumes, yes, we heard you the first time.”
The bedroom door opened and Harry stuck his head in, looking irritated.
“Do you really think I don’t know when someone uses magic in this house? Who was it this time?”
“The dressing table ate my socks, your boxers, the soup tureen and all the soap!”
“I don’t care. You ask me, Kreacher or Teddy to sort it, okay? Next thing, you’ll be dragged in front of the Wizengamot for the use of underage magic.”
“They’re not bothered about a little charm like ‘Alohamora’!”
“Really?” Harry frowned. “How odd. I distinctly remember being threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts by the Wizengamot for a levitation spell but maybe I was mistaken. Maybe it was some other Harry Potter. Don’t do it, okay?” He shut the door with rather more force than necessary.
“Told you.” Al folded his arms, smirking at his brother. He was not entirely surprised to be pelted with rolled up socks and underpants.
- - -
Lily was the sort of child who took her time unwrapping her presents, savouring the moment of anticipation as she carefully unwound the ribbons, peeled off the paper and opened the boxes. She beamed with delight as she opened a package from Slug and Jiggers and took out a bar of soap, a bottle of bath foam and a little vial of perfume. The bottles were facetted glass, the contents tinted pale green and the labels read “Lily” in a flowing script.
“Oh terrific! Thanks, that’s just what I wanted!”
“There’s a surprise,” Al muttered although he grinned at her.
Lily carefully prised the stopper from the perfume and inhaled. She looked slightly puzzled for a moment and then smiled.
“It’s great!” She dashed around the room, waving the bottle under the nose of anyone prepared to stay still long enough.
Harry sniffed warily.
Rather than the heavy, floral scent he had expected, the perfume was delicate; maybe based on lily of the valley. It stirred a memory; a vision of a young woman sitting on a fence as the sun turned her wayward auburn hair into a glorious blaze. She threw back her head and laughed, her green eyes dancing with amusement. Then she was gone, and Harry felt a chill. The memory was not his own, yet he knew her. She smiled at him out of wizarding photographs on a shelf in his bedroom. Somewhere, he still owned a sealed flask of memories that featured her. She was Lily Evans, his mother.
“Dad?” Lily touched his arm. “You okay?”
“Fine.” He handed the bottle back to his daughter. “It’s lovely. It made me think of another Lily.”
“Yeah,” she said, “me too! I bet she used to wear perfume like this. It’s really wicked.”
Her brothers made the expected disparaging noises and Lily knelt down beside the Christmas tree, carefully sorting through the pile of gaudily wrapped gifts.
Harry felt Ginny’s absence keenly and he knew that his children must miss her. She was always the one to distribute the presents, cook the lunch, heat mulled wine and offer mince pies. Missing her was like missing a tooth, thinking of her was as irritating as running his tongue over the gap again and again. He kept wanting to say things to her, small inconsequential remarks, trivia that he knew she would understand. No doubt she was thinking of her children, maybe him too, as she shared her first Christmas with her new partner.
Harry was determined to be civilised, however angry he was at her betrayal. They had exchanged owl messages; he had agreed that the children would spend Christmas with him and New Year with Ginny.
“There you are, Dad.” Lily dropped a brightly wrapped box onto Harry’s lap. “Happy Christmas!”
Harry peeled off the red and gold paper and extracted a glass bottle nested in tissue paper. 'Seeker Aftershave' declared the label in the same flowing script as on Lily’s perfume. For some reason, stylised as it was, the writing appeared vaguely familiar. “‘Fragrances for the discerning witch and wizard,’” Harry read from the box. “‘The ‘Echoes’ collection created by T. Spellman.’ Never heard of him.”
“Or it could be a ‘her’,” Lily said importantly. “Go on, Dad, try it!”
Harry eased the Snitch-shaped stopper from the bottle.
He could smell the newly mown grass from the Quidditch pitch and the loam and the pines of the forest, the weedy-watery freshness of the lake and the crystalline chill that was Scottish mountain air. Around him, the crowd collectively gasped as the Seeker, clad in Gryffindor red robes, plunged towards the ground in a spectacular dive and swooped up again, snitch struggling between finger and thumb. The Slytherin seeker flashed past, face contorted in a scowl of frustration.
Harry blinked and came back to the present and the eager faces of his children. He thought that he remembered that match but it was hard to be sure. He had experienced it for real when he played for Gryffindor; now his recollection was overlaid by a new one, in which he had watched from the stands. That a scent could trigger his own memories, he could understand. Smells were powerfully connected to memories, more strongly than sight or hearing. He could never smell cinnamon and oranges without reliving Christmas at the Burrow; certain flowers always made him think of Sprout’s greenhouses (now overseen by Neville, of course) and the scent of potions took him straight back to the dungeons at Hogwarts. So how did these fragrances make him relive someone else’s memories, memories which were so intimately linked to his own life?
“That’s unusual,” he said, replacing the cap on the bottle.
“Did you like it?”
He looked at Lily’s eager face and smiled.
“Yes, it reminded me of playing Quidditch at Hogwarts.”
“It made me think of flying over the Quidditch pitch!” Al enthused. “Bloody clever, because it isn’t exactly like that, you haven’t got the smell from Hagrid’s animal pens for a start, you’ve only got the good bits, and yet it smells like an aftershave as well.”
“You said ‘bloody’!” Lily chanted.
“Uncle Ron says it all the time.”
“Uncle Ron is a law unto himself,” Harry said. “I would prefer it if you didn’t imitate him in everything.”
“You sound like Professor McGonagall, Dad.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, thinking that there were worse people to sound like. “Is that the lot? Because you need to get changed to go to the Burrow.”
“Do I have to change?” Lily was wearing her Weasley Christmas jumper with Muggle jeans and trainers.
“You know you wear your smart robes to Christmas dinner, go on please.”
“Is Mum going to be there?” James’ voice betrayed him, trembling slightly.
“No, I believe your Mum and Hector are spending Christmas with his family.”
Harry raised his eyebrows as all three sighed with varying degrees of relief.
“Are you going to duel him, Dad?” Al asked suddenly.
“Don’t be silly, of course I’m not! Go and get changed please, and don’t forget to clean your teeth if you haven’t already done them. Go on.”
“I’m going to wear my new perfume,” Lily stated.
“Hope you’re going to wear some clothes as well, otherwise we won’t want any dinner...”
They went upstairs, bickering amiably, and woke the fire alarm.
- - -
For once, tradition, logic and style in the shapes of Molly, Hermione and Fleur, agreed on something. Harry found them huddled together in the kitchen.
“I don’t see what’s wrong with good old lavender water or rose water anyway,” Molly declared.
“It has to be more than just a perfume.” Hermione was holding a tiny teardrop shaped bottle up to the light.
“Eet is typical of ze Eenglish to think about the dreadful weath-air,” grumbled Fleur, “Even eef eet is vairy sophisticated.”
“What’s that?” Harry enquired.
“Happy Christmas, Harry, dear!” Molly enveloped him in a hug. “How are you?” She stroked the hair back from his forehead as if checking for fever, or new world-threatening scars.
“I’m fine.” Harry returned the embrace then put her firmly aside to hug Hermione and have his cheek kissed by Fleur.
“Ginny bought us all a bottle of this new perfume for Christmas,” Hermione explained, ignoring Molly’s slight sniff. “It’s called ‘Rain’ and it is lovely but a bit spooky in a way.”
“Another from the ‘Echoes’ collection by T. Spellman?” Harry asked.
“Ah, you’ve met it already?”
“Lily demanded ‘Lily’ cologne and bath foam for Christmas and the kids gave me ‘Seeker’ aftershave. What does this one do?”
Hermione handed over the bottle. Harry opened it and sniffed.
He was standing at one of the smaller doorways at Hogwarts, watching the summer rain fall on the flowerbeds. He could smell wet grass, the faintest hint of sweet herbs and flowers, as if someone has brushed against a rosemary bush and disturbed the honeysuckle. A young woman was walking towards him, droplets of water glistening in her bright hair, sparkling on her nose and eyelashes as she smiled. She held out a fragrant bunch of ferns, lavender and roses and then vanished, gone like a bursting bubble, leaving behind nothing but the perfume of the flowers, fresh in the passing summer shower.
“Did you see her?” Hermione asked. “The witch?”
“Ask Lily if you can smell her cologne, you can see her when you smell that, too.”
“Does she remind you...?” Hermione sounded wary, unsure of his reaction.
“It’s my Mum, yes. Fleur, did you see anyone?”
Fleur raised her eyebrows.
“An Eenglish witch wiz zat Eenglish red ’air.”
“And her eyes?” Hermione asked.
“Zey were – ah, zey looked like ’Arry’s eyes, mais oui?”
“Lily Evans, my mother.”
“Zat ees not possible, she ees dead, ees she not?”
“It must be someone who looks like her,” Molly said comfortingly.
“It’s Lily,” Hermione said in a low voice, “I saw Snape’s memories too, Harry. That was Lily. This is very sophisticated magic, to plant specific memories in the minds of people like Fleur who’ve never even seen Lily, and to do it through a scent alone. The memory must be tied to the scent in some way, absorbed through the nasal mucosa like a potion...”
“’Ow unromantic you are, ’Ermione!”
“But why should they choose someone who’s been dead for such a long time?” Molly looked uncomfortable. “And you say these are Snape’s memories?”
“I still have those,” Harry said quickly. “They’re locked away in my desk at Grimmauld Place.”
“You’re sure no one has had access to them?” Although she did not say so, Hermione was obviously thinking of Ginny.
“That desk’s a carnivore, the furniture never liked Ginny and she hardly ever set foot in the place. Besides,” Harry frowned, “I don’t recall ever seeing these particular scenes. They were all new to me, even the Quidditch match.” He touched his cheek, where he had applied the aftershave at Lily’s insistence. “Smell here, there might be enough left to trigger it.”
Hermione sniffed deeply and stood still, her eyes slightly glazed.
“That’s the view from the staff stand, and that’s you and Malfoy, the seekers.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“How very odd. It’s as if Snape gave other memories to someone else before he died.”
“Why should ’ee do zat?”
The back door was thrown open and the kitchen was suddenly filled with boisterous redheads as a gang of Weasleys came in, insisting that Harry join them for an impromptu game of garden Quidditch.
“Wrap up warm,” Molly called, “Dinner in around two hours, don’t break anything and no hexes!”
“No hexes,” Ron muttered, “With George, Bill and Charlie playing? Mum, you’re in cloud cuckoo land. Hi, Teddy! Happy Christmas; d’you want to play Beater with Bill?”
- - -
“I’m interested in your range of fragrances.” The young witch behind the counter stared at Harry, swallowed and whispered something inaudible. She tried again.
“Yes, Mr Potter. Is it for a lady?” Then she blushed beet red.
“I’d like to know who manufactures them,” Harry said, refraining from rolling his eyes with an effort.
“Spellman, yes. Do you buy them directly from him, are they made by a company or does he produce them in his back kitchen?”
“I don’t know. I’ll get Mr Jiggers.” She disappeared into the back room. There was the murmur of voices and then the elderly, rotund little Mr Jiggers came hurrying through the door.
“Mr Potter!” He spoke more loudly than necessary. “How good to see you again! What can we do for you today?”
“I’m interested in your new fragrance range.”
“Oh yes, aren’t they splendid? A new venture for us, and a very intriguing blend of Muggle technology, potions and magic.”
“Who makes them?”
“Mr Spellman.” Jiggers eyes opened wide. “As stated on the packaging, Mr T. Spellman.”
“Is he an individual or are they produced by a company?”
“Well, as to that, I couldn’t say. Mr Spellman is a rather reclusive gentleman, he isn’t very free with information – trade secrets, of course – but he does deliver the goods in person. We are currently the only outlet in London, although I believe that the apothecary in Hogsmeade also stock a limited range.” His tone suggested that a limited range was all they could be trusted with.
“I’d like to meet Mr Spellman.”
“I can’t really help you there, sir, he appears when he appears, we never know when that’ll be.”
“What if you run out of stock?”
“I owl him, he arrives some time within the following week with more.”
“Could you ask him if I might meet him?”
“I’ll ask, sir, certainly. As it’s you, he might make an exception, but I can’t guarantee it.”
Harry walked out into Diagon Alley, bowing his head and casting a repelling charm against the January sleet. Someone else had got hold of Snape’s memories and Harry was intrigued, almost against his own better judgement.
- - -
Harry opened the door and stared at the red-haired witch on the doorstep.
“Hello, Harry.” Ginny offered a slightly tremulous smile. “Have you got a moment?”
“Yeah, sure.” He stood back and shut the door as she came in. The hallstand creaked and shifted uneasily. “What’s the problem, is it one of the kids?”
“Oh no, nothing like that.” She looked up at him, eyes wide and soulful in her pale face. She was wearing a new perfume, something low and rich, like chocolate and spices. “Harry, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happened and I... I think I made a mistake.”
“Did you?” Harry walked towards the living room and she followed, avoiding a hall table that sneaked out a leg into her path.
“I shouldn’t have left.”
“Has he got tired of you already?”
“I suppose I deserved that. I miss you and I miss the children.”
“Well, they’re all at Hogwarts now and Teddy’s got a new job, so there’s only me.”
“You know what I mean, Harry.”
“Yeah, I think so.” He turned to face her. “Look, I’ve had time to think and I don’t want to just go back to the way we were.” Her face fell and he held up a hand. “I’m not saying I’m ending everything but I want time to sort myself out a bit. You left me. I want to deal with that in my own way.”
“But I want to come back.”
“No you don’t, you hate it here.”
“To the cottage, I mean.”
“I’m not stopping you. It’s your home as well as mine. Just don’t take him there and don’t stop the children or Teddy regarding it as home, either.”
“Aren’t you coming back too?”
“No.” Harry forced a smile. “I rather like Grimmauld Place. You can Floo or owl me here whenever you like.”
“Harry...” Ginny placed a hand on his arm. She was still beautiful, with her long, red hair and her dusting of golden freckles. She had retained her slim, boyish shape even after three children; she was a witch, after all. Her perfume rose up in a warm cloud and he had a quick vision of creamy skin, a body spread out on a wide bed, waiting for him. His groin twitched.
“No, please go.” He steered her gently but firmly towards the door. “I’m still too angry for this.”
“You don’t sound angry to me.”
“I’ll speak to you again soon, okay?”
“Harry, please don’t –”
He shut the door and leaned back against it. What he felt was injured pride and sadness at the end of something that had been good, and was now tainted with betrayal. Seeing her again was strange, as if he ought to feel more than he really did. She would never belong in a perfect moment.
- - -
The owl scrambled in through the owl flap above the kitchen window, shook its feathers back into place and squawked as the largest saucepan snapped its lid and almost caught its tail. Kreacher grabbed the pan and thrust it into a cupboard, muttering dark threats involving a blowtorch.
“Master Harry, there’s an owl for you.”
“Oh, great, is it from Ron?”
“No, not Pigwidgeon.”
Harry yawned and groped for an owl treat in the dish.
Kreacher lifted the lid from the butter dish, to reveal a handful of owl treats, a piece of Stilton and Harry's pocket watch. Harry sighed and retrieved the watch.
“I wondered where that went. Okay, owl, what have you got for me?”
The owl ignored the slightly greasy treat that Harry offered in exchange for the rolled-up message. It flew away as soon as he had removed the scroll from its leg.
“Dear Mr Potter,
I am informed that you wish to meet me. I cannot imagine what we could possibly have to talk about. However Jiggers assures me that your patronage would only be good for my small perfume business so, as I shall be in London next Tuesday, I will meet you in the Green Wyvern at midday. Do not be late.
Harry placed the piece of parchment on the table and smoothed it out flat.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” he remarked. “I have a lunch date with a perfumer with an attitude.”
- - -
The publican directed Harry to a thin individual with that oddly bland, nondescript air that Harry recognised immediately as an all-purpose glamour; more of a notice-me-not charm than a change in appearance. Harry had used them himself. They were far easier to maintain in a fight or flight situation than a true glamour, which took a lot of concentration.
Spellman was seated in a booth with a pint of bitter and a lunch menu. He did not look up as Harry slid onto the opposite bench.
“You’re three minutes late, Mr Potter.”
Harry closed his eyes. That dark velvet voice made cold sweat prickle his skin, as if he had walked through a ghost, and something in his chest that he had not realised had been wound tight, loosened again.
“I didn’t want you to think I was easy.” The words came unbidden, and he blushed when he realised what he had said. “How are you, sir?”
The wizard snorted softly.
“I am as I ever was.”
Harry laughed, the kind of laughter generated not by amusement, but by the lifting of a weight from the heart.
“Hardly. You’ve won your freedom and I’m so glad, I never expected to hear your voice again.” His own voice wobbled alarmingly and he coughed to cover his embarrassment. “May I buy your lunch?”
“I thought that was why we were here. I shall have the roast beef.”
Harry nodded and went to bar, gave the order and returned with his own pint of beer.
“I’ve got to ask,” Harry said as he returned to his seat.
“No doubt. Do you deserve the answers?”
“If you hadn’t wanted to tell me anything, you would never have agreed to meet for lunch, surely? How did you survive?”
“I could ask the same of you.”
“In my case, it was being prepared to sacrifice everything including my own life; plus love.”
“You have just answered your own question, have you not?” The other man’s face was a blur, like an oil painting smudged before the paint was dry. Harry lifted up his wand, cast a series of silencing and privacy charms over the booth and watched as Snape dispelled his camouflage.
Here was Snape in peacetime, no longer forced into a job he resented or torn between two implacable masters. He was still recognisably himself, still as sharp as a raptor, with his hooked nose and shrewd black eyes. His skin was no less pale, although his teeth and hair looked cleaner than Harry recalled, as if he now took a little pride in his appearance, and he had gained some weight. There were a few strands of grey at his temples and a few extra lines around his eyes. He lifted an eyebrow and stared at Harry as if daring him to comment.
“How did you live?” Harry whispered. “Hermione and I watched you die.”
“Without lifting a finger to help me, if I remember rightly.”
Harry was blushing more than he had since he was a teenager.
“We were seventeen, we had just watched Voldemort destroy you, we had no medical training or experience and I’ve regretted not trying to save you, ever since.”
“Easy for you to say that now.”
“You’re the Legilimens, Professor, you know if I'm speaking the truth.”
Snape nodded an acknowledgement and lifted his pint, sipping fastidiously.
“You bled to death,” Harry whispered.
“I cast a very convincing glamour.”
“You were bitten by a poisonous snake.”
“Mr Potter, in your very first lesson, I asked you what a bezoar was and for what it may be used. Did I not inform you that I could put a stopper in death?”
“We buried your corpse.”
“You buried a bundle of blood-soaked robes, transfigured to resemble my body. The blood was real enough; I was dangerously weakened before I could stop the bleeding. However, it gave a strong magical signature and scent to the transfigured body. At that stage, I had no idea who would prevail and it made sense to prevent anyone coming after me, by giving them a corpse. I also had no idea that you would so effectively clear my name.” His black eyes glittered.
“But perfumes, Professor Snape?”
“A digression.” Snape waved a hand, dismissing the question. Harry took a drink of beer, unable to stop smiling. Snape had no more power over him now than had Dumbledore or Voldemort; Snape was just another survivor who had fought with courage and cunning and who deserved to find peace.
“And my mother?” Harry asked, keeping his voice casual. “One perfume named after her and another that conjures up a vision of her walking in the rain?”
Snape shrugged. The gesture, a slow rolling of his shoulders, was just a little too elaborate to be true.
“I utilise what comes to hand, or in this case, to mind.” Then the black eyes were fixed on Harry’s face and the silky voice dropped a little, into a deep purr. “But what of you, Potter? I hear that life is no longer quite so golden for the golden boy of Gryffindor.”
What would have seemed to a child, to be a comment designed to enrage him, was a minor irritant to an adult. Harry gazed back at Snape, understanding at last that the man’s resentment was oddly impersonal; it was a part of Snape’s nature to be jealous of those whom he perceived to have happiness or success.
“No, I found my red-haired witch and lost her again.”
“Very careless of you, Potter.”
“It wasn't my fault.”
“So the Prophet proclaimed, at nauseating length. Did she not run off with a Quidditch star?”
Luckily, the waitress approached with a tray and Snape quickly reapplied his disguising charm as Harry lowered his privacy wards. After she had placed the platters on the table and brought cutlery and horseradish sauce, Harry replaced the charms and remarked “What about your love-life, Professor, gained or lost any lovers lately?”
The angry flush that rose to Snape’s face was really quite unbecoming.
“You always were a nosy brat, poking your nose where you’re unwelcome.”
“So why are you allowed to say what you like about my marriage?”
“Your doings are a matter of public record and interest.”
“Really? Did I ask for that?” Harry sliced into his beef, his hand shaking fractionally as he forced his voice into an approximation of casual unconcern. Now he remembered why he used to hate Snape. “If I announced to the Prophet and the Quibbler that you were back, your doings would be a matter of public interest, too, professor.”
Snape slammed his knife down on the table.
“What are you playing at, Potter?”
“I am attempting to make polite conversation with my old Potions professor. You see, we’re really quite alike. We survived against the odds, we both want our privacy, except that you have yours and appear to think that I shouldn’t have mine. Of course...” he frowned, thinking back, “You were tolerably polite until I mentioned my mother. Does it still hurt so much after all this time?”
Snape glared and the years seemed to fall away for a moment, like a vision called up by a magical perfume. This was the Snape of Harry’s childhood, prejudiced and unpredictable.
“That is none of your business.”
“Then I suggest that my marriage is none of yours, professor.”
Snape screwed up his napkin and gripped the edge of the table, obviously ready to get to his feet and storm out. The attitude was so quintessentially Snape, so purely true to the teacher Harry had known, that his anger melted away in a twisted sense of relief that the man was still alive, still here to be as prickly and snide as ever. Harry reached over and touched his fingertips to the back of Snape’s hand. “Please, don’t go. You might as well eat your lunch, since it’s paid for, and I promise to avoid the subjects of my parents, Dumbledore, Voldemort and the war.” He stopped short of apologising; he had a feeling that he had done nothing to apologise for.
Snape subsided, suspicion in the dark, shuttered eyes.
“You haven’t changed, Potter.”
“I have grown up,” Harry pointed out. He wondered if Snape had a sense of humour at all. “I have three children at Hogwarts now.”
“More Weasleys,” Snape muttered, picking up his knife and fork.
“And there are Ron and Hermione’s two, Bill’s three and Charlie’s daughter. Oh, and Neville Longbottom is the Herbology Professor.”
“I was aware of that. Heaven knows what Minerva was thinking.”
“How about ‘I know someone so brilliant at Herbology that he ought to be teaching here? Shame he’s not so good at Potions but we can’t have everything.’ By the way, there’s no portrait of you in the Headmistress’ office, so why hasn’t anyone guessed you’re alive?”
“They probably have.” Snape cut a piece of beef and popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “I have no doubt that Dumbledore’s portrait and Minerva have discussed the matter at length, although Minerva and I parted on bad terms so I doubt she’d be overjoyed to see me.”
“I don’t know, she’s had plenty of time to think and to talk to the portraits. I bet Dumbledore’s portrait told her why you had to kill him.”
“I thought we agreed not to discuss this?” Snape’s eyebrow quirked in a manner that suggested he was no longer incensed.
“I don’t think we can keep away from something that dominated our lives for so long, but if you want to change the subject, tell me what you’ve been doing for the last twenty-two years.”
“I went to France and obtained work in a large apothecary in the Wizarding quarter in Paris, brewing basic remedies since my French was not up to serving in the shop. When they found that I was capable of brewing Wolfsbane and other complex potions, and that I could provide my own superior variants for many of them, I was offered a permanent position in charge of their brewing facility. I suggested that if they allowed me a small research budget, I might be able to continue refining and improving their products and keep them ahead of the competition. This was indeed the case. The ‘Echoes’ perfume range came out of that research.”
“So why did you give that up and come back to Britain?”
Snape’s shrug held a hint of Gallic insouciance.
“I missed my home and I was ready for another challenge. I have made enough money to buy a small house and set up in business on my own, the perfumes already sell enough to pay the bills. I may consider taking on an assistant shortly.”
Snape’s eyebrow flicked in his direction.
“And what have you made of your life, Mr Potter?”
“That’s a matter of public record,” Harry said, suspecting that his choices would not necessarily meet with Snape's stringent approval.
“Become the hero, slay the monster, undertake Auror training, marriage to a nice little witch, produce three children. Bravo, Mr Potter, you did what everyone expected you to.”
“That’s what Gryffindors do.” Harry could equal Snape’s emotionless delivery.
Snape nodded, his trademark smirk in place.
“But what now?”
“We’ll have to see,” Harry said quietly. “Like you, I think I need a change of direction.”
Snape nodded and they concentrated on their meal. The food was good and the beer excellent. Harry realised that even the company was unexpectedly pleasant when Snape did not have his feathers ruffled. “We’ll have to do this again soon,” Harry said. He surprised himself a little, although not as much as he startled Snape. Maybe the man had got out of the habit of Occlumency and spying, or maybe he, too, felt relaxed enough to allow his feelings to show.
“I have another large order to bring to Slug and Jiggers next week,” Snape remarked. “I shall be in town on Wednesday.”
“Lunch, then. Have you tried the restaurant opposite Gringotts? Chinese wizarding cuisine, they do terrific dim sum.”
“No,” Snape said, smirking faintly, “I shall meet you there at twelve-thirty. Try not to be late, Mr Potter.”
“I’ll see you there.” Harry went to the bar to settle the bill, and when he turned around, Snape had gone. He walked home to Grimmauld Place with a sense of satisfaction caused by more than just a good meal. He identified it as the feeling he got when he had put something right, something that had been wrong for a very long time.
- - -
At first, he had intended to tell his friends that Snape was alive; after all, Gryffindors were open about their feelings and did not keep secrets unless they must. Then he imagined Gryffindors telling other Gryffindors, who would tell Ravenclaws and Luna at the Quibbler would get hold of the news that Severus Snape was back, and he knew exactly what Snape would have to say about that. If Slug and Jiggers then decided that they did not want to do business with an ex-Death Eater, that would be Snape’s new enterprise in ruins. Harry kept his mouth shut.
He had booked a table by owl, arrived early and ordered a bottle of chilled Chardonnay and the lunch for two. Although the owner recognised him, Harry was a fairly regular customer and the novelty had worn off, so he was left in peace to watch the rain falling on Diagon Alley. He caught the slight ripple in the air as Snape came in, notice-me-not charm solidly in place, and smiled as the man took the seat on the opposite side of the table.
“I ordered mixed dim sum, I hope that’s okay?” Harry lifted the bottle of wine and Snape gave a little dip of his head. He looked sleek in tailored black robes, a business wizard lunching with an associate. “How did your transaction go?”
“I have the contract for the Wolfsbane potion,” Snape said with satisfaction. “The perfumes are seasonal and unpredictable, Wolfsbane is on fixed contract.” He held out his glass for Harry to fill.
“That’s excellent news, Professor!”
“I would prefer you not to call me by a title to which I no longer have any right.”
“What does the ‘T’ stand for in ‘T. Spellman’?” Harry asked. “Was it your father’s name?”
Snape’s expression of mild satisfaction turned to a frown in a fraction of a second.
“Certainly not. It stands for Tarquinius, if anyone needs to know, but I am ‘Mr Spellman’ to everyone.” He unfolded his serviette with a flick and spread it over his lap.
“Even your friends?” The answering glare indicated that Harry was being a thoughtless Gryffindor again. Did Snape have any friends? “Does Draco Malfoy know that you’re back?” Snape’s expression softened and Harry let out a breath that he had not realised he had been holding.
“No. I have considered contacting him.”
“You should,” Harry said, “He’d be delighted to know you survived, and so would the other Slytherins.”
“Those who remember me.” Snape’s tone was dry, acerbic.
“The Parkinsons, Bulstrodes, Zabinis, Malfoys and Professor Sinistra all mourned you, you know. Lots of people came to your funeral. We all went.”
“The Order, all the Weasleys, Kingsley and some of the other Aurors, the Hogwarts staff and Dumbledore’s Army, all went. Arthur Weasley read the lesson, Kingsley said a few words about your work for the Order, Minerva spoke about your teaching and your care for Slytherin House and I spoke about how you had worked against Voldemort for so long and how you helped me at the end.”
Snape stared at Harry with an expression that was almost puzzled, as if Harry had been speaking in Parseltongue and Snape needed to work out what he meant from his tone and the context.
“You spoke at the funeral of a man whom you had hated since the age of eleven?”
“I understood by then, didn’t I? I’d seen your memories. Oh...” Harry took a sip of wine and said carefully “I can let you have them back, if you want them.”
“You still have my memories?” Snape paused while the waitress brought a little bamboo steamer to the table and set out dishes of sauces. “How very Gryffindor of you, Potter.”
“Yeah, I’m a sentimental git like that.” Harry lifted the lid of the steamer and scooped out a little dumpling. “You’re welcome to take them back.”
“I’ve managed this long without them. Is that sweet chilli sauce?”
“Smells like it. This one’s soy. Damn, I always struggle with chopsticks...”
Snape lifted his chopsticks in one pale hand and proceeded to dip his dumplings into the sauces and eat them delicately and neatly, while smirking at Harry’s messy attempts to do the same.
“I sometimes wonder how we dared let you loose with a table knife, never mind a wand and a sword,” he remarked, as Harry dropped a prawn into the soy sauce with a splash.
“Well, I’m magic on a broom to make up for it.”
Snape quirked a black eyebrow.
“So modest, Potter. Do you still play Quidditch?”
“Only for fun, I’m in an amateur team of minor celebrities who play to raise money for charity. We’re building a new centre for the training and rehabilitation of werewolves at the moment – another reason I’m delighted that you’re making the Wolfsbane for Slug and Jiggers.”
“One would have hoped that Greyback’s death would have reduced the number of people being turned.”
“We had another rogue around five years ago; she attacked and turned eight people before we took her down, plus the remnants of the feral pack that Greyback used to control. The new legislation allows them to get jobs, as long as they live in a situation where they’re given the Wolfsbane and monitored to ensure that they take it. The centre is near a Muggle wolf sanctuary, so people just assume that the wolves are restless if they hear howling. Sorry, I doubt that you want to hear me waffling on about my pet projects.”
“Let me guess, you called it the Remus Lupin centre?”
“Us Gryffindors are obvious, aren’t we? Yes, we did.”
“And a Sirius Black home for stray animagi?”
“No, not even a Peter Pettigrew shop for pet rats.”
They ate in silence for a while. Harry realised that Snape had once again been testing boundaries, and it no longer hurt that he spoke the names of Sirius and Remus with that little curl of the lip. Maybe time had softened the sense of loss, or Harry was adult enough to disregard Snape’s carping about old enemies, but he suspected that the old vitriol was no longer there. Snape had mellowed.
“You still haven’t told me what I can call you,” Harry remarked. “I’d like it if you could bring yourself to call me ‘Harry’ but I’ll understand if that goes against your sensibilities and the habits of a lifetime.”
Snape gave a little snort, perhaps of amusement.
“Under no circumstances do I allow myself to be called ‘Sev’.”
Harry nodded. Lily Evans had called him ‘Sev’, but that was a long time ago and Snape had been a teenager, desperate for affection and friendship. This self-contained, aloof wizard was another person entirely.
“May I call you ‘Severus’, then?”
“If you insist, and only when others cannot overhear. The name is too uncommon and I prefer to remain ‘Spellman’ for now.”
“Thank you.” Harry raised his glass. “I’m honoured.”
Again, there was the slight widening of the dark eyes, a flicker of suspicion; as if Snape assumed that he was being made fun of even when all the instincts of a Legilimens told him otherwise. Then he inclined his head.
“You’re welcome. Harry.”
- - -
An owl was waiting for Harry in the kitchen, ruffled and sulking after an altercation with the predatory saucepans.
“Kreacher, I think we need to replace the kitchen equipment.” Harry took the message from the owl’s leg and fed it a piece of ham as compensation. Kreacher’s ears drooped.
“But I like this cookware, Master Harry; I know its little quirks. I can’t cook as well with new-fangled cheap modern pans.” He shuffled slowly to the larder, the picture of misery. Harry sighed and opened the note.
Hogwarts is planning a grand party to celebrate the spring equinox. All proceeds will go to the Dumbledore Foundation for the support of Muggleborn and orphaned students. I would be so grateful if you would agree to open the event and say a few words of welcome to our guests and students.
Minerva McGonagall BMag, OoM 2nd Class (Headmistress)'
Harry sighed, summoned quill and parchment and scribbled his acceptance.
- - -
The party was not quite as awful as he had expected. He was able to catch up with Professors Sprout, Slughorn, Vector and Flitwick, all now retired from teaching. Hagrid, Neville and Hooch were always good for a chat even if Minerva was too busy, and of course Ron, Hermione, Bill and Fleur were invited as parents of current pupils. Harry gave a little speech (jokes courtesy of Ron, facts about the Dumbledore Foundation from Hermione) and had the satisfaction of knowing that his own children were hugely embarrassed, although not so much that they were unable to sidle up to him afterwards.
“Someone you ought to meet, Dad,” Lily muttered, nudging him and indicating a very attractive blonde witch in a red robe. She was laughing at a story Hagrid was telling her, which was a big point in her favour.
“Who is she?” Harry accepted a glass of punch from a house elf who winked at him rather disturbingly.
“Madam Palinka, Madam Hooch’s new assistant. Madam Hooch is retiring next year and she’s going to take over.”
Harry allowed himself to be dragged over and introduced to the Quidditch coach. She blushed prettily but at least was not reduced to incoherence by his presence. She informed him that she had been educated at Durmstrang, played Quidditch for five years professionally and now wanted to settle down in Britain. They chatted about the Quidditch league for a very satisfactory half an hour before Minerva interrupted them, needing Harry to speak to someone about the administration of the Foundation.
Harry realised that Hermione and Ron, their children and his own offspring were all watching him with fond expressions, as if they could hardly wait for him to replace Ginny with another pretty witch. He had a brief surge of annoyance, that they would not leave him to arrange his own life how he wished, then he squashed his anger. They loved him. They thought that he could only be happy if he had a witch in his bed again. It occurred to him then that not only did he not have any great desire for Madam Palinka but that he was indeed happy with life. He also had a feeling that something was moving forward, that there was much to look forward to, and it did not involve witches at all.