This was written for Bernice Russell, for making me believe this pairing was possible.|
With thanks to Luthien for the speedy beta
by Beth H
(c) December 2003
He could have apparated.
The anti-apparation wards which had protected the school and its grounds during the years Harry was a student had been removed shortly after the fall of Voldemort. It still wasn't possible to apparate directly into the castle, of course, but it was possible to apparate mere feet away from the front doors, especially for someone like Harry who - apart from one spectacularly embarrassing splinching incident during his training - used apparation as his principal mode of travel.
But apparating onto the grounds of Hogwarts still felt wrong, somehow, so when Headmistress McGonagall requested a meeting with a representative from the Department of Mysteries to discuss a timetable for abolishing a set of outmoded directives, Harry jumped at the chance to visit his old school and his former Transfiguration teacher, but he popped home first to get his old Firebolt down from the attic. The association of Hogwarts and his Quidditch broom was too strong to ignore.
It had just gone seven when Harry guided his Firebolt in for a landing on the stretch of lawn between the castle and the lake. The early autumn shadows were already lengthening, but Harry stood for a moment, his hands and face tingling with cold from flying through the September evening sky without a warming spell. Tilting his head back, he could still clearly see the tops of the castle towers.
For a moment, it was as if Harry had been transported back to his first glimpse of Hogwarts. The wizarding world was all so new to him then, but as Hagrid guided the First Years' boats over the lake and near enough for the children to see the castle for the first time, Harry had felt as if he had come home.
He shook his head and smiled. So many years had passed since that night. So many changes for Harry and his friends. But this place - his real home - had never changed.
Harry tucked his broom under his arm and set off for the castle doors, but paused when he came to the fork in the path. Professor McGonagall wasn't expecting him for at least another half hour. That left him with plenty of time to pop 'round to Hagrid's hut and pay him a surprise visit. After all, it had been . . . Harry wasn't sure how long it had been since the last time he'd sat down for a chat with Hagrid.
He was no more than thirty feet from the front door of the cottage when he started to get the feeling that something was very, very wrong. The front door of Hagrid's home was wide open, and while this wasn't cause for concern in and of itself, there was no sign of Hagrid.
By the time Harry had taken two more steps, he was glad he'd stifled his impulse to just call out a greeting like he used to do. He watched as an unfamiliar, black-robed figure walked slowly through the open door and approached the cauldron bubbling over the fire.
Still no sign of Hagrid anywhere in the vicinity.
Slipping into the shadows of a nearby stand of oaks, Harry propped his Firebolt up against the nearest tree, then covered himself with his invisibility cloak. Mindful not to make a noise, Harry walked toward the cottage's open door and drew out his wand. He held his breath as the man in the black robes turned swiftly toward the open door, then slowly exhaled when the man merely frowned and turned back toward the fire.
Of all the unwelcome faces in the world, that man's face was the most unwelcome.
A few new lines had been etched into that face, and the long black hair framing it was now liberally streaked with grey, but there was no mistaking the owner of that hooked nose or that sneering expression.
What in the world was Snape doing in this cottage when Hagrid wasn't around? Hadn't he left his teaching position - left Hogwarts - years ago?
Silently, Harry watched as Snape reached into the folds of his robe and pulled out a packet of what appeared to be some kind of desiccated root. Snape paused to look over his shoulder once more, then shook a handful of the dried substance into the palm of his hand and scattered it over the bubbling liquid.
Whatever Snape was up to, Harry wasn't about to risk letting it go on any longer. That Snape had worked with the Order of the Phoenix was true, but even then, Harry had never quite trusted him, no matter what the headmaster said. The former Potions Master was a nasty, cruel, and dangerous man when Harry was eleven, and there was nothing to suggest he was anything other than a nasty, cruel, and dangerous man now. Like Ron had always said: a Slytherin can't shed its skin.
Harry crept closer and watched as Snape added yet another horrid looking substance to the cauldron. Harry couldn't think of any reason Snape would have to poison Hagrid, but he wasn't going to ignore evidence when it was right in front of his own eyes, and when Snape reached over for a long wooden . . . no, once he'd used his wand, it would be too late, and Harry had learned, over the years, not to take any chances.
"Expelliarmus!" he yelled, throwing back his invisibility cloak. "Accio!"
He felt a familiar slap of wood in his left hand, then saw Snape drop to his knees and brace himself with his hands spread flat on the rough-hewn floor boards. Harry tucked Snape's wand into a robe pocket and pointed his own wand at Snape's head.
"Don't even think about getting up, you bastard."
Snape turned his head slightly. "Potter. I should have known it would be you. What in the name of Merlin are you playing at? Have you lost your few remaining brain cells?"
"What am I playing at? You're hardly in any position to demand answers to anything at the moment, Snape. In fact, I'd suggest you not say a word until you're given permission."
Snape raised his chin and started to glare at Harry, but before the glare could reach the magnitude of his best efforts from his days in the classroom, he winced and dropped his gaze.
Suspecting a trick, Harry drew his wand back, intending to cast a binding spell, but before he could say the words, a big hand came down heavily on his shoulder.
"All right then, Harry?"
Harry kept his eyes fixed on Snape, but he turned a bit.
"Hello, Hagrid. Sorry that you had to come home to this."
He could see Hagrid nodding out of the corner of his eye. "I didn't want to ask, Harry."
Snape made a sound halfway between a growl and a cough, but he didn't speak.
"Don't worry about it, Hagrid. I'll have him out of here in a minute and turned over to . . . . "
"Harry, if yeh don' think it would be too much trouble, d'yeh think maybe yeh could let Professor Snape up off the floor? Only Fang came over a little sick last night, and well . . . yeh know how he used to get."
"Perfect place for him, then," Harry muttered.
"Now, Harry. Let's not have any of that kind of talk. I'm sure Professor Snape . . . "
"Was trying to poison you," Harry interrupted. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way, Hagrid, but . . . "
"Oh, I don' think he'd have cause to do somethin' like that. Would yeh . . . Professor?"
He reached past Harry and yanked Snape to his feet. He started to straighten Snape's robes, but Snape pulled back from Hagrid's grasp.
"Get your hands off me," he snarled. "I need no assistance in grooming from a man with a flea-bitten hedgehog tucked in his pocket.."
"No, I don't suppose you do," Hagrid said, chuckling a bit. Then he rubbed at his beard and wiped the smile off his face. "I reckon . . . maybe it'd be better if Harry and me talked alone for a bit."
Snape drew his robes tightly around him and glared at Hagrid. "Do as you wish. I'll return when this touching reunion has come to an end."
"Planning on coming back to finish what you started, Snape?" Harry snapped. "You may have Hagrid fooled, but I'm not leaving until you . . . ."
"Finish cooking supper?"
Snape glanced at the bubbling cauldron, then turned back to Harry. "Supper, you imbecile. I was preparing supper."
"You weren't," Harry said hotly, reaching into his left pocket. "You had your wand in your . . . oh." He looked in dismay at the wooden spoon he held in his hand.
"Yes, 'oh.' Very good, Potter. I'm sure you'll have little problem with consonants after you've finished mastering vowels. And now if you'll excuse me, I believe I had best take my leave before I do something the Headmistress would regret."
Hagrid just watched as Snape stalked out the door, then turned slowly back to Harry and shook his head. For a moment, the chastening look on his face rivaled Dumbledore at his most disappointed, but almost immediately it was replaced with Hagrid's more familiar benign and friendly expression.
"Sorry, Hagrid," Harry said, putting the spoon back on the table and feeling himself flush. "I think working for the Department of Mysteries has made me overly cautious. I didn't mean to get Snape angry with you."
"Oh, that's all right, Harry. I'm sure the professor'll know yeh didn't mean nothin' by it . . . well, after he's had a bit of time, that is." Hagrid pulled a comfortable chair out from the table and waved Harry into it, then sat himself down on the threadbare sofa. "Now . . . what brings you back to old Hogwarts after all this time?"
Harry looked over at the simmering cauldron and frowned. "Hagrid, are you absolutely sure you should trust Snape? He doesn't even work here any more, and . . . ."
"Don't you be worryin' about that, Harry. The professor's not teachin' here anymore - you got that right enough. But he's . . . well, you needn't worry, is all."
Still not entirely convinced, Harry just nodded. He should have known better than to think Hagrid would even question the actions of anyone who'd ever taught at Hogwarts. No, he'd better let McGonagall know that he'd seen Snape sneaking into Hagrid's cottage. He was sure she'd want to know.
Harry sat back and started to tell Hagrid what he'd been doing for the past few years, and before he knew it, the time had come for him to be heading off for his appointment. He stood up and put on his cloak.
"I didn't even get a chance to ask what you're doing these days, Hagrid."
"No, yeh didn't, did yeh." Hagrid smiled down at him. "You run along now. You don't want to be late for yer meeting, do yeh?"
He looked up at Hagrid, noting with surprise how much greyer the giant's beard was since the last time he saw him.
"I've missed you, Hagrid."
"Missed you too. Don't be such a stranger 'round here, all righ'?"
Hagrid leaned down and gave Harry a quick hug. "Off yeh go then, Harry."
It had been years since Harry had felt like such a child. Oh, not during the discussions about the antiquated departmental directives. He'd listened to the points the Headmistress raised, presented his department's requirements, and between them, they'd sorted everything out in fifteen minutes.
But then Professor McGonagall had pulled out a bottle of single malt, poured each of them a drink, and asked how he'd been getting on since leaving school . . . and all of a sudden it was as if he was eleven years old again.
Although . . . the truth was that McGonagall didn't start looking at him as if he were a little boy until he shared his information that Snape had been sneaking around Hagrid's place.
For a moment, she just looked at him, her lips pursed. Then she shook her head and leaned forward in her chair. "Did Rubeus express any particular concern about this matter?"
"Well . . . no, he didn't. But you know what Hagrid's like - always . . . ."
"Then, Mr. Potter," she'd said. "I would advise you to go about your business and let Hagrid handle his own . . . affairs."
Harry briefly considered arguing the point, but he took a look at his former Head of House's stern expression and on the off chance that house points could be taken away retroactively, he just nodded and collected his cloak.
"Yes, ma'am," he said.
By the time Harry walked across the dark grounds and returned to the stand of trees where he'd left his broom, he was beginning to admit to himself that maybe Hagrid and McGonagall were right - at least a little. After all, it wasn't as if Professor McGonagall wasn't a powerful witch in her own right, and Hagrid had been taking care of himself for a long time, hadn't he? Anyway, now that they both knew to keep an eye on Snape, Harry shouldn't need to worry.
Except . . . he did.
Hogwarts might not be his home anymore, but he still thought of the people there as his family, even though he didn't see them very often. He couldn't help worrying. Surely it wouldn't hurt to stop by Hagrid's once more before before leaving, just to make sure everything was really okay.
As he neared the cottage, Harry could hear the sound of someone shouting. Snape! It was a damned good thing he'd decided to ignore McGonagall's naive advice. Hagrid might be physically strong, but he was no match for that bastard Snape where the Dark Arts were concerned.
He reached the window and took a quick glance inside before throwing open the door, and sure enough, it was Snape who was screeching like a banshee, but Hagrid . . . Hagrid was just sitting down in his armchair by the fire, and he was smiling.
That didn't make any sense.
He frowned and crept closer to the window.
" . . . down, Severus. You're gonna give yerself apolexus or summat."
"That's apoplexy, you cretin!" Snape snarled.
"Whatever it calls itself, all I'm sayin' is that yeh shouldn't oughta carry on like yer doin'. Not over somethin' that don't matter."
"That don't mat . . . oh, Merlin's beard; now you've got me speaking like a comic relief rustic!" Snape glared at Hagrid. "It doesn't matter? It doesn't matter that after years of blissful absence, that idiot Potter swans in as if he owns the place, and within seconds has me sprawled out on the floor at wand point?"
Hagrid leaned forward in his chair and looked at Snape with concern. "That didn't hurt yer bad leg none, did it? I was meanin' to ask."
Snape frowned, then rubbed at his left thigh. "What? No. It seems to be all right. It's . . . that's not the point, you dunderhead!"
"Well then, why don't yeh . . . ."
"You said nothing!" Snape screeched. "He had me on the floor and you . . .you . . . ."
Snape whirled around, picked up the whiskey bottle that sat on the end table, and smashed it against the stones of the fireplace.
Breathing heavily and shaking with anger, Snape reached out for the blue vase on the mantle, but before it could meet the same fate as the whiskey bottle, Hagrid stretched out one long arm and pulled Snape toward him.
Harry watched, wide-eyed, as Snape, still glaring and rigid with tension, did nothing to strike out at the man, but instead allowed Hagrid to pull him onto his lap!
What the hell?
Hagrid settled Snape firmly against his chest, then started to brush the wizard's lank hair back from his face with one hand, still holding him with his other arm. For a long moment, neither man said a word, then Snape turned to face Hagrid.
"You said nothing," he repeated, so quietly this time that Harry could hardly hear the words
Hagrid shook his head. "No, yeh got that right enough. I would've, but . . . ."
"I should have expected this," Snape said, his voice cold and sharp. "Circe forbid the hero of the wizarding world should discover that you . . . ."
"Wait one minute there, Severus." Hagrid frowned. "I didn't say nothin' to young Harry cause I know yeh like to keep things all private like. Harry . . . he's a good lad - "
"- but yeh couldn't rightly say he's been around much these past few years, could yeh?"
Snape narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, but he made no attempt to leave Hagrid's embrace. "And that's the only reason?"
"Only one there could be," Hagrid huffed indignantly. Then his voice gentled. "I swear, sometimes yer as touchy as a ruddy hippogriff. If it were up teh me, Severus Snape, I'd shout it from the rooftops. Yeh gotta know that by now."
Snape rolled his eyes, then Harry looked on, fascinated, as a blush appeared on Snape's sallow cheeks.
"Sentimental idiot," he muttered
Hagrid grinned. "I love yeh."
"Oh, shut up, you great lummox," Snape said.
When Hagrid bent his shaggy head over and began to kiss the former Potions master, Harry slid down the outside wall and - broom grasped firmly in his hand - crept away from the cottage.
Snape and Hagrid.
It was . . . unbelievable.
And yet, it appeared to be true.
Harry mounted his broom and flew up high into the night sky. He looked down at the castle that had been his home for so many years.
Was he the only person who hadn't known? What else had changed since he'd left school?
He circled Hogwarts once - then once more - trying as hard as he could to see it with something other than the eyes of his childhood self.
Then Harry turned his old Firebolt due south and headed in the direction of home.