The Last Dance
The Great Hall wasn't as quiet as he'd have liked it to be. The students were leaving in a few short hours, for the summer or never to return, and Severus watched quietly through the curtain of his hair. It hid his red, raw eyes and the tearstains that refused to go away completely. He picked at his porridge, using the spoon to squash raspberries against the side of the bowl. They left pinkish, bloodlike smears through the sickly mess.
He'd returned to his rooms sometime after four in the morning. There was mud on his shoes, and a gash on his left ankle that had made his sock stick to his leg, but he couldn't for the life of him remember where they'd come from. He remembered having a shower, and washing his hair for the third time in twenty-four hours, and curling up naked and sopping while the bedspread drank the water from his skin. Beyond that, the night after the crypt was a blank spot in his mind.
Severus scooped up a spoonful of porridge and let it dribble childishly into the bowl. Professor Flitwick noticed and nudged him. "Do you need to see Poppy, Severus?"
"I'm fine," he snapped. His fist dug into his cheek; his elbow ground into the table. His eyes darted around the room taking in the sombre faces and hunched spines at the Gryffindor table, the empty spots where several of his sixth and seventh year Slytherins had sat before their Dark Lord called them to be arrested or killed, the general air of malaise over the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. Ron Weasley in particular was deathly pale, staring at his plate with ringed, slightly manic eyes. Granger halfheartedly prodded him to eat; Severus noted she'd barely touched her kippers herself.
From down the high table, he heard a slight noise. Albus was standing up, probably to give some speech or other. He cleared his throat and opened his mouth, but whatever words were there didn't have a chance to escape.
The door to the Hall flew open with a bang. Severus scowled, then dropped his spoon, splashing his robe with specks of porridge. A small, skinny boy, maybe seventeen, staggered in, his dress robes creased and wrinkled, his hair a mess, his green eyes wide and panicky behind glasses set askew. He nearly fell to his knees, regained his balance, and looked around.
"What's going on?" he asked in a high, exasperated voice. "How'd I get down there?"
The dull roar of voices died. Every head in the room was fixed on him. Even Albus looked shocked, something Severus had never seen. Snape bit his lip, hard, in effort not to cry out.
"Harry?" came a voice from the Gryffindor table. "'S that you?" Weasley slowly pushed himself to his feet. He climbed over the bench, jaw slack, eyes bugging out of his head.
"Better be. How'd I get here? Last thing I remember is casting a Killing Curse on Vol--You-know-who."
Weasley danced on the spot a few feet from where Harry swayed on his feet. "What's my middle name?" he asked in a breaking voice. The rest of the Hall was sepulchrally silent.
"Er... Marcus." Harry squinted suspiciously. "Why are you asking me that?"
Weasley bit his lower lip. A bit more hesitantly, he asked, "What did I tell you when we were leaving the Three Broomsticks the other night before... you know...?"
Harry paused, and said something Severus couldn't hear. It caused some sob lodged in Weasley's throat to break free, though. Harry blinked and staggered. Weasley broke into a run and steadied him in a massive hug. The rest of the room (several teachers included) took it as a cue to break out in cheers, or sobs, or jump to their feet and surge, en masse, around Harry and Weasley. Granger skirted the mob and pressed through from the back. She put her own arms around Harry, resting her cheek against his chest, her silent tears a marked contrast to Weasley's hysterical sobs.
"How do you feel, Harry?" Severus saw her lips move. The roar in the Great Hall made it impossible to hear anything.
Harry paused, and said, "Like I've been dead for three days." Granger either laughed or sobbed, and Weasley gave him the most incredulous look Severus had ever seen before breaking down and bawling like a child.
Severus gripped the edge of the table until his fingers turned white. To let go would mean vaulting over, tearing across the Hall, forcing his way through the crowd with no regard for toes or skulls, and pulling Harry into the most vicious, perfect embrace he could manage. After what seemed a long time, he glanced around. The high table was empty save himself and Albus.
Albus stared at Harry, a sharp frown on his face, his eyes hard and dark. They darted to the side and met Severus' hidden ones. He swept down the table, leaning down for a moment and gripping Snape's shoulder. "Come with me," he hissed.
"This shouldn't be happening. I need to speak with you and Mister Potter as soon as possible."
"But, Albus, surely this--" Severus cringed at the intensity of the look he received.
Snape nodded. Slowly, he stood, giving his knees time to steady before taking a step. Minerva was hugging Harry now, Hagrid hugging both of them and spinning them high above the ground. He watched as Albus made his way through the crowd, tapped Hagrid on the arm, watched the looks of disbelief and loss creep across his and Minerva's faces. Weasley shook his head and grabbed his friend. Harry seemed too stunned to move. He sagged into Weasley's embrace, looking around in obvious confusion. His eyes only stopped when he saw Severus at the high table. He cocked his head questioningly. Severus nodded once and left the Great Hall through the side door.
Detentions continued, although Harry never again asked Severus to dance. They talked, and marked papers, and Snape's office and classroom probably hadn't been so clean even when the castle was first built. Now and then he would catch Harry glancing at him with a funny look in his eyes - it wasn't an unpleasant look; in fact it sent butterflies streaming through his innards. Harry always looked away before Severus could get his fill of it. That same comfort as before was present, although Severus didn't dare lay a finger on the brat again except in fleeting touches and brief, accidental brushes. They seemed to bump into each other quite a lot.
Things continued well enough until the end of lessons in June. Harry's class did unusually well - the Gryffindors, anyway - and even Longbottom earned reasonable marks. Harry's marks could have been better, but his scar had taken to hurting 'round the clock. Severus was running low on Headache Draught.
It was nearing eleven, five days after exams finished, only three days before the students would leave and take Harry with them, that Severus' Mark burned more vividly than he could ever remember. It went from red to black to white in a matter of seconds. Gritting his teeth, he went, only leaving word with Albus. Harry had been dragged to Hogsmeade by a herd of classmates that night and wasn't expected back until Rosmerta kicked the lot of them out.
Most of the night was a blur. He Disapparated, only to reappear barely a hundred metres away. Voldemort stood as close to the Hogwarts grounds as he could, grinning darkly, his scarlet eyes glittering in the light of wands. He was hooded and seemed little more than a face floating in the forest. He put a skeletal arm around Severus' shoulders and whispered, "The new world begins."
Severus had to fight very hard not to be ill in the grass.
The last clear, left field thought he had before the siege on Hogsmeade began was, If you get yourself killed, Harry, I'm bringing you back and killing you again myself.
Harry sat in the headmaster's office, back rigid, hands dropped into his lap. Behind his glasses he wore a confused look. "I'm... dead?"
"Until this morning, I'm afraid so, Harry."
Harry shook his head. "I don't remember any of it."
"I wouldn't expect you to." Albus leaned back in his chair, fidgeting slightly. "To say the least, this is exceedingly unorthodox."
Harry snorted and dragged a hand through his hair. "No kidding. I'm not going to... you know... rot, am I?"
"I don't expect so. I wish we knew who raised you. Necromancy is such a... rare art." Dumbledore looked at Severus. "You were the last person here to see Harry alive, and you were with him when he... fell. Did anyone take anything?"
"What sort of thing, Headmaster?"
"Blood, tears, anything liquid. From Harry, I mean."
Harry hid his face behind his hands. His blush was visible in the backs of them. "Please tell me I didn't wet myself," he said in a muffled voice. "It's bad enough to wake up dead without needing fresh pants, too."
Severus arched an eyebrow, giving him a sidelong look. "Believe me, Mister Potter, had you 'wet yourself' I wouldn't have carried your carcass back to the school." He bit his tongue immediately, wincing inwardly at the forced venom in his voice.
Harry hung his head. He glanced at Snape out the corner of his eye. "Oh." His eyes flickered between Severus and Albus. "Professor Dumbledore?"
"Er... is Voldemort...?"
Albus nodded sagely, eyes drooping behind his spectacles. "According to Severus, the moment you cast the curse on him, he died."
"Is that when I... you know...?"
Albus' mouth went hard. He gave a brief, quick nod.
"Oh. Shit." Harry drooped. He glared at Severus. "Told you."
"Is there something I've missed?" Albus looked between them mildly, tipping his head back to see through his glasses.
"No, Headmaster," Severus said quickly. "It was a private conversation."
"Ah, that's not so bad, then. I'm afraid old age has made a mockery of my memory at times." He winked, clearly letting them know he was as sharp as ever. "But back to the subject, Severus. Did you see anyone - one of his friends, perhaps - take anything of Harry's?"
"Could I speak with Professor Snape alone?" Harry said before Snape could even open his mouth.
Albus blinked. "I suppose. Severus? Is that all right with you?"
Severus nodded. His hair was still in his face.
"Very well." Albus stood and stretched. "I think I'll have a walk to the kitchens. Excitement is good for the soul but not terribly filling. Would either of you care for me to bring you anything back?"
Severus shook his head. Harry said, "Yes, please." His stomach gurgled pitifully in agreement.
Albus smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Very well. Would you prefer it if I sent up a house-elf? It would arrive much more quickly, I assure you."
"Please?" Harry smiled imploringly, trying to look cute.
"I'll send one up presently." He gave them a little bow, hurried out, and closed the door behind him.
Harry glanced after him, then at Severus. "Your hair's in your face."
"Really? I hadn't noticed." He pushed the limp black mess out of his eyes anyway, tucking it behind his ears. Harry peered, scowling.
"You've been crying?"
"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't spread stories like that around the school."
Tentatively, Harry reached out pale fingers. He touched the side of Severus' face. Severus tried to pull away, but he couldn't muster the effort. His rebellious body made him lean into the gentle touch.
"Did you do it?" Harry asked softly.
Severus' eyes flicked towards him. "It was an accident."
"I saved the tears running down your face when you died."
Harry shook his head. "Sorry, I don't follow."
Severus looked at him coolly. "Do I need to put you in a collar and lead?"
"I still don't... ohh." Harry cocked his head. "I think death's brain-damaged me."
"Really? I couldn't tell."
"Oh, shut up. And you can't take points anymore because I'm dead, so I'm not a student." He dropped his head and, much to Severus' regret, his hand. "Why'd you keep them?"
Snape blinked. "Because," he said softly, "I wanted something to remember."
Harry looked puzzled. It quickly changed to worry, lifting his brows and biting his lip. "Did you, er, get my letter?"
"You're not... upset, are you?"
Severus looked directly at him. Matter-of-factly, he said, "It upset me greatly, but I don't believe you have any reason to beat yourself up over it. I daresay you'd have been pleased."
Harry frowned at him. "Did you even read it? Why the Hell would I be happy you were ups--oh, god." His eyes went huge. Leaning weakly against the arm of the chair, he asked, "Do you...?"
Severus nodded. His hair fell in his face again.
"I'm not certain. I didn't realise until you'd rung down the curtain."
"So you..." Harry trailed off, gaping. His fingers had tightened around the arm of the chair until his knuckles turned sickly white.
"If you're asking if I fancy men as a rule, the answer is no. This is something of an anomaly."
"I was going to say, you saw me die and realised you loved me."
Severus pursed his mouth testily. "Not precisely. When I saw you die, I thought you'd merely lost consciousness. But I started to understand the... depth of affection at that time."
"Oh," Harry said as though he still hadn't grasped things fully. "Er... can--may I still call you Severus?"
"It would only be appropriate, given the circumstances."
Harry dropped his gaze to the floor. "Severus?"
Severus' eyes darted towards Harry. His breath hitched in his chest. Something fluttered in the hitch, like a panicked bird. Unsteadily, he leaned across the arm of his chair, lifting Harry's chin with his fingertips. "As you wish."
The door flew open. Harry jumped, and Severus jerked his hand back. A heavily laden silver tray scurried into the room at just about hip level, most likely propelled from beneath by a house-elf. The tray went to the top of the headmaster's desk, and the damnable elf scurried into Harry's chair and threw its arms around him.
"Dobby is missing Harry Potter!" it bawled. "Dobby is missing Harry Potter so much, but Harry Potter came back! Dobby is so happy he could shout it for the whole world to hear!"
"Hullo, Dobby." Harry hugged the hysterical elf, which only served to drive the little creature into even more of a state.
"Ah, Harry Potter, sir! You is really alive! You is here! You is never leaving again!"
"Don't plan to anytime soon."
Dobby sniffled and pulled back. He put his hands on Harry's cheeks. "Don't you ever get into fights again, Harry Potter! You is better than that!" Dobby peered. "You is sweating, Harry Potter."
"I am?" Harry wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "I am. Wonder how that happened?" His eyes darted towards Severus, and his mouth twitched.
"Is you wanting Dobby to turn down the fire? Is you wanting a lighter robe?" Dobby glanced towards the hearth. On the way his enormous eyes landed on Snape and grew even bigger. "Oh, Professor Snape!" he squeaked. "Dobby is not knowing you is here, too. Is you feeling better?"
"Better?" Severus snapped, squinting suspiciously. "Better than what?"
Dobby shrank a little. In a voice little stronger than a whisper, he said, "Better than you was yesterday. We house-elves was worried because you was crying for your Harry. You has your Harry back now, sir," he offered. "You is feeling better, then?"
Harry looked at Severus, pointing at Dobby. "What's he talking about?"
"Harry Potter, we was not thinking Professor Snape cared that you is dead, but after you was taken to the crypt he stayed in the Great Hall to cry for his Harry. We was not knowing what to think, we did not know he was even liking you, much less loving you."
"He said that?"
Dobby nodded. (Severus groaned, earning a look from the blasted little elf.) "He is calling out in his sleep, 'Harry, my love, wake up.' We is making sure no-one else could hear." He turned to Snape. "It was seeming a private thing, sir."
"I would say so!"
Dobby flinched, but a moment later his face lit up. "But now Harry Potter is alive and he and Professor Snape is together!"
"Complete with nosy house-elf," Severus muttered between his teeth. His face had long since gone fiery hot and he hid it behind a splayed hand.
Dobby squeaked. Harry frowned. "Be nice, you git."
"I'll be nice when I've been assured the details of my private life shan't be spread around the entire school."
"A house-elf does not speak his master's secrets, Professor Snape! Dobby is not speaking this to anyone. Many house-elves heard you calling for your Harry, but we is not telling anyone but you and your Harry."
"I certainly hope not!"
Dobby blinked mournfully. He gave Harry a last tight squeeze. "If you is needing anything, Harry Potter, Dobby is here. Dobby is so very, very glad you is back!" He hopped down from Harry's lap and glanced shyly at Severus. "You is taking good care of your Harry, yes, sir?"
"I haven't a clue what you're talking about."
The elf looked mournful. "Dobby thinks you do, sir, but Dobby is not wanting to anger you any more. Dobby is going, he will let Harry Potter get back to his sweating."
"Dobby!" Harry laughed.
Dobby gave him a sheepish look and scurried to the door. It closed softly. Harry looked at it, his face turned away from Severus.
Severus snorted in defeat. He touched Harry's hand gently. "Mister Potter?"
"Would you care to get back to your sweating?"
Harry's neck snapped as he turned it. "Are you joking?" He all but clambered over the arm of his chair, steadying himself tenuously on Severus'. Severus felt Harry's breath, warm and moist and thoroughly living, caress his cheek, cause a few strands of hair to tickle his chin, brush his mouth in short, eager puffs. Carefully, he laid his fingers against the back of the brat's neck, drawing him closer, touching their lips together tentatively. The touch was followed by a second, equally tentative kiss, then a longer one that sent sharp, hot sparks coursing through Severus' nerves. Harry's arm went around his shoulders, the other still being used for balance.
"God," Harry whispered against his lips, "that's better than sex."
"And how would you know what is or isn't better than sex?" Severus murmured back.
"By having sex."
Severus brushed his lips back and forth against Harry's. "My, my, my, so the perfect Harry Potter failed to die a virgin?"
Harry snorted. "I'd say so. Otherwise, I want to know what I was doing with my girlfriends."
"Fumbling in the dark, I daresay."
"Hmm. And you'd know all about that."
"Indeed I would. I was a randy teenager once."
"Probably not randy enough to think about doing your Potions master, though."
"Ah, no. No, I can definitely say I never considered 'doing' my Potions master." Severus pulled back a little, gazing at Harry, at his eyes wide and dilated, at the sheen of sweat covering his skin. A drop ran down from underneath his hair and traced the rough surface of his scar. Severus brushed it away with a thumb before it could be lost in his eyebrow. "So what now?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know, reckon I might move into the dungeons--"
"I don't live here in summer, you know. I have a home on the other side of Hogsmeade."
"You do?" Harry asked with obvious surprise. "I've never seen it."
"And rightly so! You don't think I'm going to simply hand my home address out to every student who passes by, do you? I'd have a pile of rubble instead of a house."
Harry's snort was both infuriating and expected. "I reckon Neville'd be happy to send you one of his potions."
"So," Harry said, "that mean I can move in? It's not as if I've got anywhere else to go."
"Actually, I expect your idiot godfather will offer to put you up."
Harry blinked. "Sirius is free?"
"Wormtail's body was removed from the scene of carnage. I believe Weasley was the one who sent him to his fate."
"It certainly wasn't his sister. While you were playing with your old friend Voldemort, your peers were busying themselves with rounding up the Death Eaters. Mister Longbottom was most surprised to learn that I do, in fact, fall prey to most common hexes. I think he was rather pleased with himself when I sprouted leaves."
"He did a remarkably good job at casting a Foliatus Hex. Unfortunately, I think he had intended to cast a Folliculus Curse, which would have trapped me rather than give me a pleasantly green set of foliage."
Harry sniggered. "I won't tell him if you won't."
"I don't intend to. It seems the average Death Eater goes into a bit of a panic upon resembling a large water oak."
Harry smiled softly. "So... er... what's going to happen now?" He moved to lean his head against Severus' shoulder, paused, drew back, moved forward again. He settled for balancing across the arm of the chair, one hand gripping the mahogany leather, the other resting lightly on Severus' knee.
"I wouldn't want to say." Snape glanced at the door. "Somehow, I think Albus is going to have a few words for us."
"What do we tell him about... you know...?"
Severus gnawed at his thin upper lip. "We tell him the truth, of course. He'd guess anyway. Beyond that... it's up to him. I expect he'll want you to stay here until the teachers leave tomorrow, and then stay with your godfather."
"I want to stay with you."
Severus tried, but found he couldn't look the young man in the eye. "That... may be easier said than done."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that there are factors to take into account. You're legally a minor, your guardian has final say over what happens to you--"
"He can't stop me," Harry said firmly. Much more quietly, he added, "If you want me, I mean."
Severus touched his cheek with two fingertips. "We'll discuss it once we hear what Albus has to say on the matter. I..." he took a breath and let it out in a long shuddering go. "I don't know a great deal about necromancy," he said quickly. Those first three words left a thick pain in his throat. "There may be... complications."
Severus pushed the fringe out of Harry's eyes. "Sometimes magic fades."
The faint flush in Harry's cheeks drained away, leaving him as pale as the corpse he'd been. He shrank. "I don't want to die again."
"I don't want you to die again."
Harry fell back into his own chair. He drew his knees up to his thin chest and hugged them. "It can't happen," he said in a loud voice. The faintest quiver undercut its resolve. "I won't let it!"
"Nor will I. If I can stop it." Severus reached across and touched Harry's sleeve. The flesh beneath was warm and solid, and no matter how he tried he couldn't find the slightest chill of death.
The combination of foliage and panicking Death Eaters allowed Severus to slip away from the fray mostly unnoticed. He doubted Longbottom had recognised him when he threw the hex, but the softly snarled, "I'm telling your grandmother about this," most certainly gave him away. That identification may have also been what allowed him to slip away so easily. He'd heard Weasley order one of his impromptu troops not to follow.
He left the sounds of the scuffle, the yelps of the Death Eaters caught entirely by surprise by a collection of schoolchildren hiding like guerillas in the forest. When Harry had been taken - by Remote Apparation, a highly dangerous, short-range, and illegal technique certainly not taught at Hogwarts but probably listed in one of Granger's books - they'd been stunned, confused, borderline panicked... and then Weasley pulled himself together, declared that nobody was going to take his best friend like that, and ordered the lot of them into position like a grand master placing his chessmen. (That was how Granger would describe it the next day, at least, when Weasley had been taken to the hospital wing in shock.)
Not far away, he heard the sounds of a different sort of scuffle, a much smaller one. There was a burst of light on the edge of his perception and a catastrophic cracking sound as one of the huge elms of the Forbidden Forest splintered and crashed. High-pitched laughter saturated the air, maniacal and murderous. Severus willed his feet to move faster.
He arrived at the splintered chest-high trunk just in time to see Voldemort positioning his wand, Harry panting and disheveled and covered with black smears, crouched on the tree, groping for his wand in the grass. Voldemort started to speak, and Severus cried out.
Voldemort's head snapped towards him. In that instant, Harry grasped the wand, aimed it at his nemesis' heart, and screamed in harsh succession, "AVADA KEVADRA! AVADA KEDAVRA! AVADA KEDAVRA!"
The green light that burst from the end of his wand was no normal Killing Curse. It grew, pulsing and rising, forging itself into some shape too brilliant to see. The power charged for the Dark Lord who saw it in time to flinch. It crashed into him with as much force as the tree had into the ground only moments before. He staggered, once, and fell. His body made a thud when it hit the ground.
Severus jumped. He barely paused to see the red eyes glittering in empty confusion before turning his attention to Harry.
Harry, whose legs seemed to be failing him.
Harry, who lurched and toppled face-first onto the fallen tree, sliding off and coming to rest with one arm flung over the trunk. His wand still dangled from his fingers. It slipped... and made a soft noise in the grass.
Something in Severus' chest collapsed. Nearly staggering himself, he moved towards Harry's unconscious body as quickly as he could. Falling to his knees and taking the boy's limp form into his arms, he murmured, "Wake up, Harry. Did you hit your head? Wake up, my love--" he froze. Those particular words hadn't come out of his mouth... had they?
Swallowing, he brushed the hair from Harry's forehead. The glint of tears started to blossom in the corners of Harry's half-open eyes. He lay a hand on that thin chest, rubbing gently. "Wake up, Harry. Harry? Harry, are you breathing?" He dropped his head, pressing his ear against Harry's breastbone. He heard nothing, no sounds of air rushing through cartilaginous tubes, no steady lub-dub of his heart. Severus' lower lip involuntarily twitched. "Harry?"
Severus threw him on the ground, opening his warm mouth, sitting across his hips. He forced air into those empty lungs, listened for it to hiss away, did it again, pressed his hands together and put his entire body of strength into crushing life into a still heart. He breathed again, breathed for both of them, once again attempted to force the chambered muscle to contract. The tears at the corners of Harry's eyes swelled and threatened to drip.
And, yet, he refused to move.
"Harry, love, breathe. I know you can do it. Wake up. Please? Merlin, please wake up, I'm begging you, please." He pressed his mouth against Harry's slack lips, muttering frantically. The fingers he twined with his were limp, and beginning to grow cool. "Harry, please, wake up." Severus kissed him desperately, probingly, trying for all he was worth to entice any remaining shards of life to surface. "Harry, please... please... oh, god, please..." he trailed off. A lone tear fell and splashed on Harry's glasses. It triggered one of the two swelling there to slide into the creases at the corners of his young eyes.
Shuddering, biting his lip until he tasted iron, Severus pulled the tiniest of phials from his pocket. He carried them with him just in case he ever found a use for the things. This one held a gram at most, and he caught Harry's tears as they slid down his temples towards his hair. It simply felt like the right thing to do. He told himself they might be useful in case Harry was only ill and in need of analysis; he knew it was because he needed something, and this was one thing for which nobody would look. Several fell over a period of minutes - the bottle was nearly full by the time they ceased to run - by which point the body was far too cool and growing stiff.
Forcing his shriek to stay inside, Severus glanced over at the other body in the clearing. "You monster," he spat, sneering at the cloudy grey trails drying on Voldemort's pallid skin. "Was it your mission to take away everything I ever loved?"
There was no answer. The Dark Lord was dead.
Severus thrust his wand into the air and sent up a shower of red sparks. They hovered over the clearing, lighting the place where the Dark Lord's body could be found. For good measure, he snapped Voldemort's wand, and cast an un-crossable circle around the corpse; it would allow exit by neither foot nor magical means until someone came to take the bastard away.
Very carefully, shedding his hated mask and cloak in the grass, Severus took Harry's limp body and cradled it against his chest. Hogwarts was close, and that was where they went. He no longer spoke to the boy, simply held him tight, trying to keep the last of his living warmth from slipping away.
Albus stared at him. Severus shifted in his seat, feeling very much like the third year who'd been brought to the headmaster's office for turning James Potter's hair into snakes. It did nothing to break the steady, soul-stripping gaze of those freakishly pale blue eyes.
"So there was nobody else with him."
"What did you collect, Severus?"
Severus glanced between the headmaster, and the son of his worst enemy. "Tears, sir. They leaked out when he died."
Albus pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. "Oh, dear. I knew you'd given him a great deal of detention this year, but--"
"It was nothing like that, sir," Harry said, eyes narrowed, leaning forward with his arms loosely folded on his knees. "They were proper detentions."
"You're sure, Harry."
"'Course I'm sure. Otherwise, I wouldn't have said it. You can go have a look at the Potions classroom if you don't believe me. Certainly had to clean it enough times." He gave Severus a sidelong glare than melted wickedly as soon as it had begun.
Severus arched an eyebrow in return before saying, eyes still on Harry, "I don't understand why the fact that I took Ha--Potter's tears would indicate anything dubious between us." Harry's eyes narrowed; Severus narrowed his back until both of them broke into twitching, ghostly smirks.
"Because tears are the necromantic humour of love and great passion. Only some mutual bond of the heart would have allowed resurrection through tears. Blood I could have understood, possibly even perspiration, but this... needless to say, you've quite surprised me."
"Er... so you mean that it wouldn't have worked if Se--Professor Snape and I didn't... you know..."
"Love each other?"
Harry hunched between his shoulders, nodding. His cheeks had gone quite crimson.
Albus sighed weakly and leaned back in his chair. He pressed his fingertips together and let his hands rest against his chest. They made a steep contrast to his acid green robe. "Harry, the number of necromancers in this world can be counted on one hand. They have studied their art in secret. The fact that Severus even stumbled onto their tricks is perhaps the most concrete proof of his remarkable talent I've ever witnessed. Or sheer dumb luck. The fact that this particular form is what he stumbled across... had I not seen you standing there this morning, I would never have believed it.
"As I said, tears are the necromantic humour of love. They are also seldom successfully used, and the most lasting. Saliva is the weakest, and represents apathy. At best it produces a short-lived, semi-conscious zombie, at worst a rotting, walking automaton. Blood is the most common, if necromancy can be called common at all. It represents most other strong emotions, hatred, anger, rage. It's most often been used on a necromancer's enemies in order to make them suffer. Blood is also used in cases of familial and Platonic love, although the fitting irony fails to reach some people. Perspiration is similar, but closer to frustration than hatred. The... ah, sexual fluids are lust, of course. Bile is greed, stomach acid is pity, the list is a bit longer but you probably don't need to hear it all. The necessary factors are that the necromancer and the necromanced have the same feelings for each other, and the proper humour, shed in death, is applied. I must tell you, also, that there are certain other stipulations."
Severus arched an eyebrow. "Such as?"
Albus took a deep breath. His eyes dropped to the surface of his desk. Quietly, he said, "In this particular case, the necromanced may only be killed by the necromancer. Otherwise, he or she is effectively immortal." He glanced up at Harry's dropped jaw, and Severus' pinched and stunned expression.
"So... I can't die?"
"No, Harry, you can't."
"So I could, say, cast a Killing Curse on myself and nothing would happen."
"I imagine you would be in a great deal of pain, but, yes, you would walk away."
Harry leaned back in his chair, face a mask of shock. His hands twitched in his lap. "Bloody Hell," he whispered.
Without really thinking, Severus reached over and placed a hand on the arm of Harry's chair. Harry grabbed it and rubbed a finger over the back of it. "I'm not going to die," he said. "I'm never going to die again."
"So all I have to do if something happens to Severus is collect his tears and do whatever he did with them and we can stay together forever."
"Harry, it's more--"
"I've got a family that can never die," Harry said in awe. He clutched Severus' hand, chest shaking in laughter or trapped sobs. Suddenly, his face broke into a beaming smile that crinkled his eyes; he threw his head back and laughed.
"Harry! The situation is far, far more complicated than that!"
"I can learn necromancy, sir--"
"You died at the same instant as Lord Voldemort." Albus shook his head. His eyes shifted and shimmered momentarily, in frustration as much as sadness. "You have no idea how much it pains me to even mention this possibility, child, but there is every chance that he awoke at the same instant you did."
Severus stiffened. "Albus--"
"Don't even say that," Harry growled. He gripped Severus' hand until the blood ceased to move. Snape gently flexed his wrist until Harry eased. Short, blunt nails still dug into his skin. "Voldemort is dead."
"I wish it were that simple, Harry, I truly do. We cannot discount the possibility, though." Dumbledore's eyes flickered towards Severus. "If he suspects it was you who brought Harry back, you are in great danger, my friend."
Severus frowned. He settled back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap. "Of course, Headmaster. I understand."
Harry glanced between them. "But--"
"Mister Potter, I would like to keep you here on school grounds for at least a few days, only until we know if Voldemort has awoken or not. I shall contact the Ministry of Magic immediately - they have custody of his body at this time," he said with a trace of disgust.
"What about Severus?" Harry asked softly.
"If he is willing, I'd like him to stay as well. Most of the staff will be leaving, but I shall remain, as will Mister Filch and the house-elves. Not the most pleasant of company, mind, but I shall do my best to make it amicable. And Hagrid will be here, of course, so you'll have at least one close friend among the hangers-on." Dumbledore smiled softly, but it didn't push away all the worry in his eyes.
"I'll stay," Severus muttered.
"Thank you, Severus. Well," Albus pushed himself away from the desk and stood, "Harry, I suspect you'd like to see your friends while you can. Severus, if you'll come with me, we can contact the Ministry, and arrange rooms for Mister Potter."
"Can I stay with Se--Professor Snape?"
Dumbledore arched an eyebrow. "Officially, no, you will be assigned rooms. However, I will not restrict your movements within the castle. Where you spend your time is up to you."
Harry sighed, frowning. "I understand."
Dumbledore nodded to him, closing his eyes for a moment. "I believe there is a House full of students eager to see you, Harry." He motioned to the door.
Harry pushed himself to his feet. He held out a hand to Severus and inclined his head. "Come on," he said softly. "I'll see you in a little while."
Severus gazed at his hand. Eyes flickering towards Dumbledore, he took it and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "I should hope so. I'd hate to have gone to all the trouble of raising you from the dead only to have you avoid me."
Harry snorted. Much to Severus' surprise and Albus' poorly cloaked delight, he went up on his toes and kissed a pallid cheek. "Love you," he whispered.
For a brief, shining instant, the world made sense.
Fang's cataclysmic bark met Severus as he stalked onto the grounds. He'd forced his face into a cold, dispassionate mask, and with much the same effort he forced Harry's body into Hagrid's arms as he walked past. "Lord Voldemort is dead," he said coldly as he stalked towards his dungeons. Behind him, he heard Hagrid's deep, coarse voice peak and crack and finally shatter into a thousand choking sobs.
There finally came a knock at the door well after noon; it was long after the Ministry lackey Albus had spoken to swore blind that Voldemort was still dead, bound in a protective ring unbreakable without a wand and awaiting slow, careful disintegration. Severus dropped his snifter and bolted for the door. It swung open to reveal a somewhat red-eyed Harry. "Have you been crying, Potter?"
Harry shrugged and slinked in. "A little, maybe." His voice could have been significantly steadier. "Feel like I've just," he took a shuddering breath, "like I've just said goodbye to my best friends for the last time."
Severus closed and locked the door. Hesitantly, he touched Harry's shoulder. "You heard Albus, you can't die. I certainly won't kill you - not right now, at least."
Harry snorted bitterly. "Prat," he muttered. "And I know I can't die. Doesn't mean they can't, though."
"Ah." Snape lay his other hand on Harry's other shoulder. Harry grabbed them and wrapped Severus' long, slender arms around his chest.
"God, this is so fucked up," Harry muttered under his breath.
Severus buried the lower half of his face in Harry's scruffy hair. It was slightly coarse, beautifully masculine and stubborn. Inhaling, he smelled the spicy school-issue shampoo, underlain with something warm and faintly sweet. He smiled softly; he'd never before smelled Harry. It was radically different from the scent of every woman he'd been with, every woman he'd fancied himself to have feelings for back in the days when he fell for every girl who looked his way.
Not that anyone knew about that. He'd been, of course, only a teenager then. Severus shoved the obvious conclusions aside.
"'Course, they don't have to stay dead," Harry whispered almost too low to hear. Severus stiffened.
"Harry, you're talking about something that shouldn't be done."
"You did it."
"Without intending to."
Harry shook him off violently. "Regretting it already, then?" With a vicious sneer over his shoulder, he stormed across the room and curled up in one of the chairs in front of the fire. "Sure you don't want to off me again now and get it over with?"
"Simply because something is done accidentally doesn't mean it's unwanted." Severus glowered coolly and fetched his brandy from the table. He sipped quietly, staring at the bowed head in his guest chair.
"I don't want to live forever if it means everyone around me has to die. Again." Harry stared into the fire, his knees pressed up underneath his chin. The flames popped, sending a shower of red sparks glinting on his glasses.
"I could always feed you a slow-acting poison and give you a short-term antidote each morning. Surely, in the event of my death, that would count as my murdering you."
Harry glanced up. "Can you do that?"
"Very probably, but I said it to illustrate a point. You may be immortal, but only as long as I say so. Annoy me too much, and I am eminently capable of returning you to the crypts."
"But you won't."
They stared at each other for a long moment, Severus as blankly as he was able, Harry with a little scowl of anger or confusion. Harry licked his lips. "So," he said slowly, "whatever you say goes."
"I am simply saying that you are not necessarily the most powerful piece on the board right now. I'd prefer not to be your Lord and Master - Merlin knows I understand what a hideous existence that would be for you - but you have to understand that I am your vulnerability. Anyone who wanted to kill you would merely need to cast an Imperius Curse on me, give me a wand or a knife, and you would be back in the crypts."
"You're so optimistic," Harry grumbled.
"Optimism is overrated, Mister Potter. I long ago discovered the advantage of being a realist."
Severus took a thoughtful sip, swirling his brandy absently. "One is less likely to be disappointed."
Harry blinked at him. "I think I'd rather be disappointed sometimes than give up hope."
"And that, Harry, is why you will always suffer disappointment in great quantity. However," he drained the glass and dropped it on the table, "you will also feel your triumphs more greatly, when they occur."
"Thanks for the clause. 'When they occur'?"
Severus glanced at him and swept into his chair. "Life is, inevitably, more disappointment than triumph."
Harry snorted. "Good thing I'm not alive, then."
"I think you'll find that you are. I have no interest in necrophilia, and if you decide that you are, in fact, dead, we may have some issues."
"Oh." Harry pulled off his glasses and polished them on his sleeve. "Reckon I'd better be alive, then. Just in case."
"Hmm. I thought you might say that." Severus glanced at him as he slid his glasses back into place. "Have you given any consideration to where you would like to stay tonight?"
Harry's brow furrowed sharply. "Here. I thought you knew that. Or do you want me to go away?"
"The grave has certainly made you petulant."
"I'm taking the piss, Harry. I only... have you considered the reality of the situation?"
Harry nodded. He shoved the hair out of his face. "'Course I have."
"And your conclusions are?"
Harry shrugged. He dropped his head and mumbled, "Nothing I haven't done before. I love you."
"I think I'm right in saying there are certain things neither of us has done before. I shan't push you to do anything you don't want, but for all intents and purposes I feel we should each consider ourselves to be virgins."
"I'm not a virgin."
"Tell me, Mister Potter, have you slept with many men before?"
Harry paled. "No," he said sharply. Shaking his head, he said towards the wall, "You're the only one I've ever wanted to... you know... with."
"And why is that?"
"Because I love you. You know that."
"And how did a decidedly heterosexual young man like yourself come to the conclusion that he loves one of the most hated masculine creatures in his realm of existence?"
Harry's narrowed eyes met Severus' from behind a hunched shoulder. "I could talk to you. And you didn't get upset with me when I got cranky. And... I don't know... it happened. Feels different than it did with Cho and Hannah and Ginny."
Harry shrugged. "Solid, I suppose. Like you're not going to try to change me into some big hero I don't want to be. And you do things that I know would have gotten you into loads of trouble if anyone found out."
"The brandy? And teaching me to dance. I don't think Professor Dumbledore would have been too keen on that."
"Actually, when I was at school he insisted that all the students senior enough to attend a Yule Ball learn to dance. I spent many an hour having my toes stepped on by the staff my fifth year when my sister and I taught them so they could teach the students. It was one of Albus' shorter-lived ideas."
Harry's scowl broke into a look of utter shock. "You taught the teachers to dance?"
"A very long time ago, yes. I've forgotten almost every speck of it since my mother died. Although," his mouth twisted into a wry smirk, "I can still remember the look on Professor McGonagall's face when Professor Finch - my old Head of House - accidentally threw her across the room and she ended up arse-over-tit with her knickers showing."
Harry bit his lip. His face went red, and a slow, faintly whistling sound tried to stay in his nose. "Minerva McGonagall?"
Severus nodded. "Before you ask, blue cotton, buttons up the side, ridiculously conservative. They were at the time, anyway, and I see no reason for her to have changed. The style, I mean."
Harry keened. Tears swelled in his eyes. One dripped, and he plunged his face into his arm, using it to stifle his howls. "Agh! I'm never going to be able to look at her again!"
Severus gave a dry snort. "Give it time. It was worse twenty-five years ago. Minerva was a fetching thing in those days, I couldn't look at her for a solid month without nature taking its course."
Harry glanced up. One of his eyes was squinted, the other trying to pop out of his head. "I think that's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard."
"To you, perhaps."
"She's my Head of House!"
"Which is why I say 'to you'. Although, your father fancied her for a time as well. He even got up the nerve to ask her to dance that year."
"Madam Pomfrey had to fix two of her toes, and your father spent the evening in the corner. As I recall, your mother did as well, and that, my dear Harry, is how you eventually came to be."
Harry blinked. "What were you doing?"
"Getting flushed out of the rosebushes with Eloise Abernathy."
Harry went quiet for a moment. He looked pensive, lower lip caught between his teeth and eyes lowered. "Um, what's your sister doing now?"
Severus pursed his lips. "The same thing as my mother."
"Oh. I'm... sorry."
"Water under the bridge."
Harry scratched the back of his head. "Er... what about your father?"
"My father was killed in a cauldron explosion when I was five. His assistant had failed to clean some ingredients properly, and the resulting substance was both exceedingly flammable and persistently sticky. If you have any further questions as to my strictness during lessons, I suggest you go back to the crypt and try to find where you left your brain."
Harry drooped. "Brilliant. Now I feel guilty for shouting at you all last year." Tentatively, he reached across the small table and stroked Severus' forearm with the tips of his fingers. Severus grabbed his wrist, lifted his hand away, and clasped it in one of his own.
"You had no way of knowing. I certainly wouldn't have presented this information to you when you were still a student - and I trust you not to pass it along to anyone I shall have to teach next year," he added sharply.
Harry nodded, his eyes still focused on his lap. "Um," he asked, "what about your mother? What happened to her? If you want to tell me."
Severus snorted softly. Reflexively, he squeezed Harry's hand. "She and my sister were killed by Lord Voldemort. They were both wholeheartedly devoted to his destruction."
"They didn't know."
A bitter smile twisted Severus' mouth. "I was an idiot in my youth."
"But you distracted Voldemort so I could kill him."
"Anyone might have done that. The flighty bastard never could keep his mind on one thing." Severus sniffed, and rubbed the end of his beaky nose. "I joined him because my girlfriend at the time did and I wanted to go with her."
"What happened to her?"
"She went from Adelle Marconi to Adelle LeStrange. Which is just another reason never to listen solely to your gonads."
It was Harry's turn to squeeze his hand now. "You've been screwed over a lot, haven't you?"
Severus arched an eyebrow at him. "Really? I hadn't noticed." He leaned his head against the back of the chair, eyes fixed on the corner where stone wall met rough-hewn granite ceiling. "Now do you understand why I prefer realism to optimism?"
Harry didn't respond. A moment later, however, Severus felt a warm, tentative weight on his knee. Harry wriggled halfway onto his lap, resting his head against one thin shoulder. Severus sighed softly and wrapped his arms around Harry's comfortable warmth. Perhaps for now I ought to become an optimist. "As I said," he murmured, "it simply makes one feel moments of triumph so much more greatly."
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