The knock on the door came at half past three.
It was as he expected one of the aurors he did not know: a small, gray-haired
man in a suit under his robes, clutching an attaché case. Others
were in the garden. Two at the back door, two at the front, three in the
summerhouse with its warded passageway. More were outside the grounds
and beyond his direct scying. It did not matter.
He had prepared. The fire was lit and the sconces dark. He himself was
seated in the high chair by the table, head leant against the back of
it where the carved black dragon rustled its claws against the rough traces
of his headache. Severus sat to his left, face in shadows, hands held
still among the long folds of his charcoal-gray robe.
On the threshold, the auror blinked, took a firmer hold on his papers,
and stepped forward.
"Harry James Potter?"
"Yes," Harry said.
He turned his head to the doorway, allowing the fire to pick out the scar
on his forehead. When the auror cleared his throat, Harry let the sound
of it echo across the flagstones and fade into the beams of the gallery.
"By order of the Wizengamot, set and witnessed this fifteenth of
March, and by the rights and responsibilities invested in me by Minister
Fudge, duly appointed representative.."
The fire flared.
The auror flinched, visibly.
"- of the wizarding community of Greater Britain, I require you,
Harry James Potter, to surrender without prejudice the person of Snape,
Severus, formally of Hogwarts in the county of Sutherland, said person
indicted for the crimes of-"
One by one, Harry lit the candelabra on the table. The candles burned
red, not gold. It was an effect he had perfected last night. Carefully
placed, light picked out the crystalware, the silver fruitbowl, the unblinking
eyes of the ebony dragon: it cast Severus' hands with their broken knuckles
into exact and cruel view and hid the man's face with their trailing shadows.
"Do go on," Harry said.
It took six minutes, this time, to list Severus' crimes. Fudge must have
had his people picking through the ruins of Voldemort's cellars. Harry
did not envy them the job. He could respect Fudge's obsession, even if
he could not, would not, concur to its intent.
Finished, the auror let the attaché case drop gently to the floor.
"There is no person here by the name of Severus Snape," Harry
Potter said. He did not drop his eyes: his hands were loosely clasped
and his gaze direct. "I would take veritiserum to prove it, but the
moment you stepped through the wards you entered a house under Candidus
Dictum. No lie can be told under my roof, Master Auror."
"This is-" The man's eyes were on Severus' face, turned to his
master's profile and unmoving. The auror could not know it, but Harry
knew without looking that Serverus' eyes were dull and black, the man
behind them so far gone in darkness he might as well have been absent.
Harry had done that, Harry and the aurors before him, and before them
Voldemort and perhaps even before them Dumbledore in his foolish, arrogant
"Go home," Harry said. "There is nothing for you here."
He had drawn no magic other than trace of Sonorous and the lighting
of candles. His wand lay on its stand ten feet away, by the fire: he burned
no herbs and his wards were legal and legally verifiable. Nevertheless
the auror shivered as he bent to the case.
"It may be that some person or persons unknown have concealed the
accused on these premises without your knowledge," The auror said.
"I have with me a limited-field homolocatus and an ecce nomus: if
you would be so kind..."
"According to the terms of your license," Harry said. "I
will, of course, allow my own presence to be registered, and those of
my two house elves."
"That is...most kind," the auror said. His hands shook, extracting
the homolocatus. Harry allowed the table to extend, silently, across the
floor, so the man could balance the counterweights and dials in comfort.
"Spare me the explanation, Master Auror. I have seen the apparatus
In silence, then, the auror set the gears in motion with a muttered charm.
Seconds ticked past as the hands of the dial whirred, spun, located first
Harry and then the presence of the elves in the kitchen. As they halted
the auror looked up again at the man seated next to Harry.
"Severus Snape," he said, and touched the machine again.
The hands spun into life, slowly, an irresolute action, wavering between
the fireplace and the kitchen door. One landed on Afghanistan, two on
Scotland, one on London, one on a terrace house outside Leeds. Others
scattered across the bounds of Harry's house: one at the fishpond, one
in the bedroom, one on the hearth.
"Meaningless," the auror said under his breath. He frowned,
and set the apparatus in motion once again. This time the results were
even less conclusive.
"Would you like time to calibrate the motion?" Harry said. "The
journey may have affected the gyroscope. You can never tell with traceless
"-It should be - the homolocatus is never wrong." Set in motion
again, the needles quivered, irresolute, over the dial.
"I don't understand," the auror said helplessly.
"It seems to me," Harry said slowly. "That Severus Snape
has either died or is beyond the reach of your apparatus. He is most definitely,"
said the golden boy of the wizarding world, Voldemort's destroyer. "Not
within this house or anywhere on my premises. I did notice," he added,
"that the machine is set for my London property and the Edinburgh
flat as well as here, which is, I believe, beyond the terms of your warrant,
but an error I will under the circumstances let pass. As you see, Snape,
in all true senses of the word...no longer exists."
Potter, Severus Snape and all associated characters from the Harry Potter
universe are the property of J.K. Rowling. The author, and the website
maintainers, is making no profit by this story or any of the site's contents.
Third and last in the Consanguinity arch, the first and second stories
of which are Humour and Melancholia.
I owe rather a lot of people for this story. Most particularly, I owe
my friend Maria, whose turn of phrase and profession Kate borrows, although
of course the errors are my own, and I owe my friend Vix for discussion
in a fandom she doesn't read.
Also, I don't normally dedicate my stories, but this one is for the people
in fandom who, in their own time, create websites, archives and livejournal
newsletters. I owe you. Thanks.
Beta, belated, by the incomparable and extraordinarily generous cordelia_v.
The dragon is called Oolong.
Plot summary: A few owls, some books, and rather a lot of cups of tea.
is golden, words are made of lead
In the alchemy of love you know some things are better left unsaid.
Michelle Shocked, Silent Ways
working hours were a wonderful thing.
Kate, on her journey to work, was able to indulge her imagination with
midmorning travelers rather than the suited business classes. She caught
the last late and harried commuters and the first of the day-trippers,
students heading home after a night out and mothers shopping. Today, a
gray, November day, she was accompanied by an elderly lady in a soft fur
hat who was ensconced in the Telegraph crossword. A large bag from Fortnum
and Mason sat by her seat - visiting a grandson at the university, Kate
guessed. There were two mothers with three toddlers and a baby between
them, out for lunch and shopping, far less interesting than the elderly
gentleman in tweed plus fours who gazed at the mist outside the windows
whilst his fingers played with a briarwood pipe. Belgian, Kate surmised.
An existentialist, up for a conference on...the excavation of meaning
in colloquial phraseology. She selected linguistics by the pattern of
his tweeds, complex, elderly and a little obscure. To her left was a young
woman with an impossible fall of platinum blonde hair, a burnished complexion
and a pair of red boots Kate both coveted and knew she would never wear.
In front of her was a gentleman in an old-fashioned bowler hat and an
ill-fitting black suit. His furled umbrella hung from the luggage rack.
Kate had him down as an extra from a Merchant Ivory film, and judging
by the nervousness with which he clutched his briefcase, a late and inexperienced
one as well. Beyond him a young man with a vivid, neat red mohican was
reading Nights at the Circus.
A mobile phone rang.
It belonged, incongruously, to the gentleman in the suit, who fumbled
it out of his pocket and laid it on the table, poking at the buttons with
some nervousness. From where she sat Kate could clearly see the green
call button blink, but it was the girl with the platinum hair who leaned
forward and pressed the dial with a crimson fingernail.
The voice on the end of the line was clearly audible.
Curiously, the man did not pick up the phone, but instead said to the
empty air, "My dear?"
There was a note of worry in his voice that alerted all Kate's instincts.
She turned her head and listened.
"Arthur. Have you seen the paper yet? I've sent Pigwig after you
- heaven knows when you'll get the Ministry copy. Where are you - are
you still on that Muggle contrivance?"
"I'm on a train," the man said, frowning. "Molly, I'm on
Ministry business - is it urgent? What have the twins done this time?"
"It's not the twins. It's Harry."
Kate, watching, saw the man's face loosen and tighten all at once; a man
relieved of one strain only for it to be replaced by another.
"Harry? It's not-"
"No. He's fine. But, Arthur, he's - he's married."
Kate's fellow commuter grimaced. His face had cleared.
"Well, that's good news, although I know you would have wanted to
be there. What did he do, run away with Hermione? Or was it Cho?"
"Arthur, I don't think you quite understand. He's been married for
The woman's voice was becoming louder. Platinum Blonde had clicked off
her own phone and was openly listening: the elderly lady had looked up
from the crossword.
Arthur's eyebrows rose, slowly, majestically.
"Snape? Molly, are you sure?"
"The newspaper has the license to prove it. Oh Arthur, it was a Muggle
wedding - and the first reporter called ten minutes ago and I'm sure I
saw Colin Creevy's ferret on the lawn - I know you're on official business,
dear, but really, the twins can't be here for two hours, and- I need you
"Yes Molly," Arthur said.
"And I know you've got that portkey in your knapsack, so it'll only
take a moment or two-"
The woman said, "Arthur. This is an emergency."
It was at that point that Kate's day departed from normal in a most unexpected
fashion. The man in the suit picked up his bowler hat and set it on his
head. He dropped the phone into his pocket, grasped his briefcase in one
hand and with the other, picked up his umbrella and spun it carefully
three turns clockwise.
Then he vanished.
Kate had time only to draw in a shocked breath before he reappeared, drew
a short black stick out of his briefcase and flicked it in the air, saying,
a quiet commute, a misty November day. Kate used the time to make some
notes for that afternoon's group meeting before indulging in her favourite
game of imagining stories for her fellow passengers. It was only as she
left the train that something highly unusual happened.
"It was an owl," she said, later, over lunch. "A tiny owl,
I'm sure, up in the rafters over the clock. And, you know, the weirdest
thing-" Kate paused for effect "- it was holding a newspaper."
"Kate," her friend Sarah said. "You , er, did remember
to take the red pills, not the blue...?"
Jonathan, hurrying up the Royal Mile from the Court of Session with an
urgent brief in his pocket, found himself delayed not by tourists - it
was winter - but by a heaving mass of reporters outside the High Court.
Clutching Stevenson v. Rigby, for it would never do to let the elderly
gentlemen fall, and unable to move for the press of bodies - "Over
here!" "He's in there!" "Do know, he said" "Isn't
that Rita? Rita! Rita! Here!" - he racked his brains for whoever
had drawn the vultures. Couldn't be MacCrimble, that wouldn't be 'til
Thursday, and anyway old Lewis would keep a bar on the case tighter than
a Fifer's wallet. The McConnell libel wasn't due for another week. Could
it be Brandon?
It wasn't until he'd almost fought his way to the bottom of the steps
that Jonathan realised the crowd centered, not on the court, but on one
of the little shops that lined the street above. It was the pharmacy,
the little dark one with the old-fashioned glass bottles in the window.
He could see the hunched, black-clad figure of the old proprietor struggling
with the door.
Jonathan had bought his old girlfriend a bottle of scent and some soap
there, last Christmas, which she had loved. Lorraine was long gone to
London, but the memory was good. It had been an elderly gentleman who
had served him, the man's voice dry and exact, although his face had hardly
been visible in the scented gloom of the shop. The advice had been good,
and Jonathan raised High Kirk and given to helping old ladies across the
Fourteen years of experience on the school bus, sharp elbows, and a noticeable
lack of conscience propelled him to the shop door, and he was limber enough
to bend and pick up the keys where the old man had dropped them. Strong
enough, too, to hold open the door and then to hold it closed whilst it
was locked from the inside.
Inside, it was astonishingly, eerily quiet. The noise of the reporters
faded to a murmur, and over it he could hear, in the half-dark, the rustle
of clothing and dry seed pods and his own breath. Then the old man lit
a lamp and he could see the shop, its shelves, the stone fireplace and
the tall-backed wooden chair, the marble counter. And the face of the
old man. It was forbidding, peaked, roman nosed and ascetic, the mouth
a thin line of distaste, but the hands that held the match were shaking
and Jonathan said unthinking -
"Are you all right? Can I make you tea?"
"No." The man's voice was low, rusty. There was a pause, and
he said, "I can manage myself. But thank you." He said it slowly,
as if he did not say it often, as if it meant something more than a piece
of throwaway courtesy. His hands still rested on the lamp, and with a
sudden movement he swung it up and onto its hook above the counter, the
motion flaring his coat sleeves. Shadows swung across the bottles and
packets, the pallid skin of his hands with their twisted knuckles. His
movements were surprisingly swift and exact. Jonathan, startled, reprised
his view of the man's age.
"But you are," the voice said, intent, "not-"
"Oh, I was a customer, last Christmas," Jonathan said. "I
was just passing."
There was a pause.
"My thanks again," the man said. Eventually. "I had thought...we
might have known each other, once."
"Well, we have met before," Jonathan said cheerfully. "Are
you sure you'll be all right?"
There was a snort of amusement, but no humour in the man's face. "It
does not appear to be my fate to be crucified today," he said. "Rescued
by Muggles, indeed, an entirely new brand of celebrity. There is a back
entrance they may not have found. Might I escort you there?"
Gently, inexorably, ushered through a passageway and a stiff bolted door,
left outside in the shadows of one of the Old Town's twisted medieval
wynds, Jonathan considered celebrity, and resolved to call back after
It was seven hours later when he knocked on the front door of the shop.
He'd meant to go to the back door, but had somehow missed the turning
for the wynd: he was flushed with the success of his closing speech, and
had shortbread and a half bottle of Macallan in his briefcase. The knot
of reporters had gone, although two men in long coats with photographer's
bags lingered on the steps to the High Court. Jonathan gave them a long,
steady appraisal before he ducked under the arches of the shop front.
The door was answered almost before he knocked. To his surprise, he found
himself propelled into the shop by a bony hand on his arm, the door slammed
shut behind him. He'd been expecting to talk his way in with the whiskey.
The shop itself was a little brighter - was that a stuffed crocodile?
It was - and a teapot stood steaming on the counter. The old man looked
steadier than he had in the morning if still pale, his hand, loosened
from Jonathan's coat, gestured to an old-fashioned upright stool.
"You are a solicitor?" The man said. "An officer of the
court of law?"
"Yes," Jonathan said. The china was mismatched, but the tea
fragrant and the stool surprisingly comfortable.
"Then I believe we may have cause for conversation," said the
elderly gentleman. "You may call me Snape."
It was Paul Granger, visiting his uncle for the Autumn half-term and thus
currently the smallest child at Hogwarts, who saw the owls first. Racing
to the breakfast table after a solitary early-morning run round the Quidditch
pitch, he'd shuddered to a stop at the hall door when a great winged beast
swooped low over his head. Its wing feathers brushed his cheek soft as
snow, but the wind of its passing was cold. It was an owl. There had been
no owls in the great hall since Hogwarts' newest Headmaster came to take
his seat. Howlers and exploding valentines, food parcels and Christmas
cards at the breakfast table were a myth of the older years told over
buttered toast in dormitories. Owls came and went tidily from the roost.
Letters arrived neatly packaged and were delivered by one's prefect during
But this morning there were owls on the rafters and on the chair backs
and a kestrel on Professor Binn's chair. There were owls with bells and
trailing notes hooting from the round chandeliers. Paul, amazed, gaped
upwards in wonder, and only realised there was someone behind him when
he turned, watching a massive eagle owl glide to the Headmaster's chair.
It was a tall someone, robed in crimson velvet, solid and reassuring,
someone he had known since birth.
"Well," the Headmaster said. "Well."
"Uncle Harry?" Paul said, feeling very small. "Uh, I mean,
"Well," Uncle Harry said, amused. "Let's go and see what
all the fuss is about his time, shall we?"
And then, of course, it was not frightening at all, but it could be, really,
could be, the start of an awfully big adventure. Paul, taking big steps
behind the shadow of the Headmaster's robes, looked up and smiled.
"I live an exceedingly retired life," Snape said.
"Yes, but to forget you were married!" Jonathan said. "In
fact, still are married!"
Snape wrapped his hands around the teacup. "The marriage was never
more than one of convenience." He said. "And was enacted at
a period in my life when...I believe I was not entirely sane." He
let the cup gently down into its saucer. China sang. "I am, of course,
entirely compos mentis at this moment in time." His voice was dry.
Jonathan frowned. "So I can assume an undefended case?"
"I would assume so myself," Snape said. "Although I cannot
speak for the other party involved, I believe Mr Potter would be as amenable
to a speedy dissolution of the marital bond as myself."
"That makes things much simpler," Jonathan said. He had taken
out his notepad and held the pen poised in his hand.
"This is your first divorce?" he asked.
"In that case," Jonathan said, slipping easily into the familiar
forms of the law. "I'll explain what happens. Very briefly. You need
first to engage a legal officer - a solicitor - to represent your best
interests. Your partner, Mr Potter, will also do so. You and I will discuss
how you want to end the marriage and what you want from any settlement.
That is, the arrangements to be made for the care of any children, and
also any financial matters outstanding between you and your partner. It
is my job to translate this into the appropriate legal terminology. Once
both of us - and Mr Potter and his representative - are clear on where
we stand, we will meet to formalise the arrangements for divorce. Providing
all parties agree, dates for the primary court hearing can be arranged
at that point. Please note," Jonathan said. "That in the normal
run of affairs I would have asked you to make an appointment at my office,
but given...your unusual circumstances - I have no objections to a home
His ethics course had hardly covered rampaging photographers, and the
tea was just how he liked it.
"Understood," Snape said.
His face was abnormally still. Jonathan, accustomed at this point to anger,
fear, grief and triumph, thought the man still in shock. He refilled Snape's
teacup just in case, and continued. The steady words of his own voice
sounded just as if he were sitting at the desk in his light New Town office,
rather than perched on a stool in the half-dark of the shop.
"As the term of the marriage is over four years in length, and you
and Mr Potter have not been resident in the same house for any of that
period, we can almost certainly obtain your divorce on grounds of desertion.
It is an easier case to make than, say, irreconcilable differences, and
should avoid either of you having to make more than a brief statement
in court. I am assuming you would prefer this to be the case?"
"Indeed," Snape said. "I am strongly in favour of obtaining
this divorce as quickly as possible. Preferably without encountering Mr
Potter or his surrounding lackeys."
There was an undercurrent of dislike in his voice. Strong dislike. Jonathan
was reminded, vividly, of the press of photographers. The name Harry Potter
was not familiar: he resolved to check up on the man before starting to
draw up any documentation. It would be wise to know with whom he was dealing.
"Although it is impossible to assume the outcome of any court case,"
he continued. "I can assure you that, from the information you provided,
your divorce should be one of the easiest I've ever undertaken. I would
suggest a time frame of six months at the outside."
"Six months!" Snape snorted. He drew back from the table, arms
folded, all the lines of his face hardened into arrogance. "Six months!
"I can assure you the process will be completed as quickly as possible,"
Jonathan said, a little stiffly.
Snape glared down the impressive line of his nose. "I should certainly
hope so." Then, "I am sure you will do your best."
Uncomfortably reminded of his primary seven French teacher, Jonathan hurried
on. "You could assist the process," he added. "If you would
be so kind as to make a full disclosure of your financial status."
"Is this really necessary?" Snape asked. "I can promise
you I want nothing more of my association with Mr Potter than freedom
from this...appalling legal entanglement. Muggle marriage! I have no idea
what the boy thought he was doing..."
"Muggle?" Jonathan asked.
Snape hesitated. "Secular." Then he added, "I will have
the documentation on your desk by Friday. If you would be so good as to
furnish your address?"
"I've got a card in my pocket," Jonathan said. Snape was standing:
he gathered the consultation was over.
"Thank you. You will be able to contact me through the shop."
They were already halfway to the door.
"Your telephone number?" Jonathan's fingers tangled with two
spare biros, a tie-pin, and a small lego figure belonging to one of his
nephews before closing round the card case.
"I have none," Snape said. The door was open, the card held
between his long fingers. "Quickly now."
Jonathan, slightly bemused, took himself off down the mile. If he'd though
to look behind him, he would have been more bemused by the sight of Snape
trying to lure an owl from a lamppost with shortbread, perhaps even more
so by the unexpected glitter in the man's eyes.
"Paul," Uncle Harry said. "I think we need to go and see
They had retired, before the other professors arrived for breakfast, to
the Headmaster's study.
"But she's at work," Paul said. When Paul was at Hogwarts, there
were work times when Mum was not to be disturbed unless for dire emergencies
(like the time Paul decided to find the Basilisk and got lost) and home
times when Paul could floo.
Uncle Harry looked at him across the desk, which was scattered with toast
crumbs and newspapers and opened letters, some of them still fluttering
weakly despite the Quietus charm.
"I think this is a little more important than work today," Uncle
Harry said. "Have you got your cloak?"
Mum's housekeeper had taught him the spell one afternoon. "Accio
"Well done," said Uncle Harry, but he was not really paying
attention. He was collecting the letters and stuffing them into a large
black bag. Some of the letters were making dark mutterings as they fell,
but Uncle Harry didn't stop until the table was clear. Then he accio'd
his own big winter cloak, put it on, and held out his hand. "Let's
go," he said.
Paul had the sneaking suspicion his uncle was going to enjoy disturbing
his mother at work. He was looking forward to seeing the security witch's
face when Uncle Harry arrived - everyone knew Uncle Harry.
It didn't quite happen that way. When they arrived at Mum's work, apparating
right into the big marble lobby - which Paul had never done before - Mum
was waiting for them. She looked worried, with her hair all messy despite
the smart suit she had on. She gave Paul a big hug, but they hurried into
the lift, and she was holding very tightly to his hand. He could tell
Mum and Uncle Harry wanted to have a grown-up conversation: they kept
looking at each other over the top of his head. He wasn't at all surprised
when Mum gave him juice and biscuits and sat him down at her big desk
with a drawing pad, on his own. Mum and Uncle Harry went over to the coach
by the window.
Whilst it was rude to eavesdrop, Tonks did it all the time and Remus only
laughed. And Mum hadn't said don't. Paul doodled little werewolves, his
"-seven years!" Mum was saying. "Harry, you never said
a word." She was annoyed, Paul could tell.
"It was straight after the war," Uncle Harry said. "Fudge
was still Minister. It was the only thing I could think of."
"But Muggle marriage! Harry, you can't just say I divorce you and
end this one. And then to let yourself get found out, and by Rita, of
"I didn't know the records were public," said Uncle Harry. "If
it wasn't for that blasted biography no-one would ever know. I'm not even
certain if Snape remembers. He was even more out of it than I was."
Mum was probably playing with her rings. She did, when she was worried.
"But why on earth did you do it in the first place? And Snape, of
all people - what did he do to deserve this?"
Uncle Harry laughed. "Isn't that the wrong way round?" he said.
Then - "It was the only way to protect him at the time. The Ministry
was out for his blood. He didn't have a hope as Severus Snape."
"But as Severus Potter.."
"Yes," said Uncle Harry.
"Harry. You stood up in front of Fudge and said you wanted to kill
the man. That first year, when he disappeared, and you were...I thought
you had." Mum's voice was flat.
"Almost," Uncle Harry said. His voice faded a bit, he must be
walking to the window. "I kept him a bit, you know. He wasn't very
well. Things changed."
"I don't think I really want to know," Mum said primly, like
she did when Paul did something really stupid.
"It wasn't like that. I mean, if this was a wizarding marriage, I'd
just go for non-consummation and that'd be it. What I mean is, he - just
wasn't himself and I wasn't really very good at being me, so...Look, Hermione,
what's done is done. I married the man, and though I wish now I'd done
something about it six years ago, I can still get a divorce. All I need
is a lawyer."
There was a pause.
"I don't do divorce law, Harry. And it's been ten years since I practiced
"But you could."
Paul could hear Mum's heels clicking on the floor. Her voice was fainter.
"Please, Hermione," Uncle Harry said.
At home, Jonathan drew the curtains and made himself a smoked salmon sandwich,
taking it over to the desk. The notes on his first consultation with his
new client could wait, he'd write them up tomorrow and bill for the time.
His own curiousity was more pressing. He looked up Snape's shop first
and was surprised to find that the man had a web-site; somehow he'd thought
not. From the look of things, though, Snape had a well-established trade
in alternative medicines and natural cosmetics that boded well for his
fee. It was not, however, sufficient to explain the press coverage. Snape
might be well known in certain circles, but he was not front-page fodder.
Which left his client's spouse. Mr. Harry Potter.
Who turned out to be the headmaster of a private secondary school in Sutherland.
A very exclusive school. A very expensive school. Jonathan who was himself
as so many middle class Scottish children, the product of a minor public
school, whistled through his teeth when he checked the term prices on
the Hogwarts web-site. Strange he'd never heard of the place.
Even so, mild press interest, perhaps a paragraph or two in the Herald,
would have seemed reasonable. Not the scrimmage he'd seen in the morning.
Interest piqued, Jonathan checked the Scotsman and the Evening News.
And found nothing.
Nor was there anything on any of the UK papers.
Maybe tomorrow. He turned the computer off, and poured himself a glass
of Macallan to go to bed on.
Paul knew what being married meant. It was like Grandma and Grandpa Weasley,
who weren't really his grandparents but loved him enough to pretend, or
like Neville and Luna, who'd had a really big party with lots of ice-cream
the year Paul was six. It meant not like Remus and Tonks who were living
in merry and glorious sin - according to Tonks, anyway. It meant a certificate,
and living in the same house, and sleeping in the same bed.
Uncle Harry's house was Hogwarts, and he slept alone, because in the holidays
when Paul was staying he and his uncle would have breakfast in bed together,
never mind the crumbs Dobby likes having something to do.
"Mum," Paul said.
Mum was eating the cherries first. Paul always saved the fruit until last,
but Mum liked the chocolate chips best. That was why Paul's knickerbockerglory
went pineapple-aniseed-cherry and Mum's was cherry-vanilla-chocolate,
which meant five different flavours and an umbrella for Paul's, for enterprise.
"Is Uncle Harry married?"
Mum looked up. Her face was serious.
"Yes," Mum said. Then she frowned at him, which would have worked
better if she wasn't still holding the spoon with a cherry on it.
"Paul, do you understand how to keep a secret?"
Secrets were Christmas and Birthdays and not telling people that the Headmaster
was really Uncle Harry who gave rides on his Firebolt when he wasn't in
"Yes," he said.
"Then you need to understand that Uncle Harry getting married is
a secret, and Uncle Harry getting divorced is a really big secret. Paul,
I want you to promise me that you won't say a word about it to anyone
except Harry and me. Can you do that?"
Mum really was serious. She'd stopped eating.
"Yes Mum," Paul said.
His mum gave him a really hard look, like she could see all the way through
him, and Paul squirmed a bit, but not much 'cos Mum really did know everything
and she knew he was telling the truth.
"Uncle Harry married a long time ago, before you were born,"
Mum said. "In fact, just before you were born. He kept it a secret
because...there were some nasty men who would have hurt him if they knew.
It wasn't getting married like Neville and Luna getting married. Uncle
Harry wanted to...oh, the idiot boy," Mum said. "I don't know
why he did it. But now he wants to get unmarried, and we're going to help."
"Okay," Paul said. He thought about it, finishing his ice-cream.
Mum sighed, and thought. Eventually she said, "Professor Severus
Snape was one of the teachers at Hogwarts, when Harry and I were young."
"Was he your teacher?" Paul asked.
"And Harry's. And Luna's. He taught all of us," Mum said.
"Did he teach Dad too?"
"Yes," Mum said.
"Was he a good teacher?"
"Yes, in a way," Mum said, and sounded surprised. She looked
round. "Do you want my last chocolate chips? Eat them quickly, I
don't think we've been to the National Portrait Gallery for a while."
They raced through Kings and Queens of England with only the briefest
pause for Elizabeth I and Richard II, Mum's favourite and Paul's. At the
end of the gallery, Mum took his hand to slide through the pillars, and
then they were in the wizarding hall. This time, they hurried past Salazar
and Godric with only the briefest wave, and past Dumbledore without even
that. The bearded wizard was dozing in the corner of the frame, anyway,
although Paul was sure he knew they were there. They went straight to
the little sideroom Mum had always hustled him past, Figures from the
Second Great War. They stopped in the doorway, and Mum, who hadn't
let go of Paul's hand, squeezed it even tighter.
"Ready?" She asked, smiling down at him.
"Don't look left," Mum said.
They stopped in front of a very small, dark painting. It looked a bit
like the Dutch one Luna had in her library, and Paul had to look at it
a long time before he made anything out. There was a long table, and shelves
with all sorts of bottles and jars. No window, no mirror, just a single
lit candle. There was a knife on the tabletop, and a bowl of something
that looked awfully like Granddad Granger's breakfast prunes. Behind them
there was a black shape that just might be a person. Paul peered harder
at the painting. A tall man, in black robes. He had a very large nose,
and pale skin, and his eyes - Paul gasped. His eyes were fierce and bright
under his eyebrows, so vividly himself that Paul almost opened his mouth
to say hello. But the man reached out his hand and snuffed out the candle.
The painting went dark, although Paul knew the man was just waiting for
them to go away.
"That's Professor Snape," Mum said.
Paul looked round. They were alone. "That's Uncle Harry's husband?"
"Mmm," Mum said.
They waited for a bit longer, but the painting stayed dark.
"Come on then," Mum said. "Let's go and visit Dumbledore."
Mum always wanted to get lots of stuff done at once, and it was no use
arguing. But Paul glanced back as they were walking away. Professor Snape
had relit the candle, and he was leaning forward, watching them go, and
he was frowning. Paul gave him a little smile, the kind he gave to people
he didn't know but thought he might like.
Then they turned the corner and Dumbledore was waiting.
"Very good oatcakes," Jonathan said, his mouth full.
Snape bent his head, very slightly. "My own recipe."
The shop seemed lighter today, and there had only been one photographer
outside. Jonathan could see the rosewood shelving with the neatly labeled
bottles and jars, and the stacks of hand cut soap and bowls of bath crystals
in deep colours. Above his head bunches of lavender and honesty hung down
from the rafters: the smell was dry and sweet, a desiccated summer. Behind
the marble counter Snape had been packaging up little blown-glass vials
and brown-paper packets. Jonathan thought of the web-site.
"I was just passing by," he'd said.
Snape had provided him with a cup of oolong tea and passed across a famille
rose plate with the dry biscuits and a very good Stilton. There was a
saucer of quince jelly.
"I checked up on your Mr. Potter last night."
Snape glanced up. His eyebrows arched, his glare was formidable.
"I was surprised to discover he's a teacher," Jonathan added.
"Is that why the photographers?"
"He is the Headmaster of Hogwarts," Snape said. "Which
is not quite the same as being a teacher. He is also popular...in certain
circles. One could almost say notorious." His mouth closed on the
"You don't like him."
"I find him intolerable."
Jonathan ate another oatcake. Really, they were very good.
"I have a list for you."
Jonathan didn't see the man's hand move, but, quite suddenly, a rolled-up
piece of paper appeared in front of him. There was a red sealing-wax stamp
holding the paper in place, just like his degree certificate should have
looked like but didn't.
"Thanks," he said, surprised. The paper was heavy, rough, it
could almost be handmade. He put the roll of it in his briefcase.
"I would do more to speed the process along," Snape said.
"I'll keep you informed," Jonathan promised. "I've already
written to Mr Potter's solicitor - a Ms Granger. She's-"
"The Granger child?" Snape's eyes were sharp.
"You know her?"
"She has a reputation for honest dealing," Jonathan said. "And
although she's based in London, she was called to the bar in Edinburgh.
Specialises in Human Rights Law."
"That's no surprise," Snape said. "She and Potter have
been friends since childhood. Be careful-" He stopped.
"He can be very charming," Snape's tone was damning.
"With luck, the only time you'll meet again is in court," Jonathan
He was starting to become very curious indeed about the circumstances
of his client's marriage.
was indeed doing well from the web-site. He owned the freehold of the
Royal Mile shop and a cottage on the coast, just north of Ullapool. The
shop was turning over a clear half million a year, and the web-site double
that: after costs and tax, the man was making more than Jonathan could
hope to retire on. With an income like that, Jonathan thought idly, why
doesn't he do the place up?
What Snape was making, however, was little compared to his spouse's income,
once Jonathan had untangled the various trusts, stocks and surprisingly
obscure foreign bank accounts in which it resided. Ms Granger had sent
the documentation through with admirable haste, indexed, summarised and
with helpful footnotes. Jonathan could only hope that she'd found his
own paperwork up to standard.
What was very interesting was that, like he, Ms Granger had clearly re-typed
her client's paperwork. There was a photocopy of the original attached
- Appendix III. And that photocopy, lying on Jonathan's desk, looked astonishingly
similar to the unrolled scroll from Snape.
What was even more interesting was that his client's spouse had suggested
a financial settlement of such generous proportions Jonathan had had to
count the zeros twice. He was beginning to have a suspicion about the
presence of the press. It wasn't every day that millions of pounds changed
hands in the divorce courts.
He wondered if the case would make legal history. It was certainly more
complicated than he had assumed: they would need to meet, he and Granger
and quite possibly their clients as well, at least once...
Then he wondered what Snape would think.
Snape was turning the hotel's pen in his fingers. In front of him the
notepad was carefully adjusted, neatly blocked and pristine. There was
a tumbler of water, untouched, by his left elbow, and a round glass paperweight
serving to hold down his copy of Potter's tally of goods and chattels.
"Offer him the whiskey when he arrives."
"He is generally more tolerant when leavened with alcohol."
"You speak from experience?" Jonathan said carefully.
Snape was still twisting the pen in his hands. "Our acquaintance
has had its interesting moments," he said. "This may be one
Jonathan's first impression was, quite simply, of energy. Snape's husband
was younger than he had surmised, his presence compelling. He was not
a tall man, but solid, there were muscles under his shot-silk suit and
a vital intelligence in the green eyes that surveyed the room, acknowledged
Jonathan, and swept on to study Snape's bowed head.
"Hello. Mr Mears? Jonathan?"
It was the woman with Mr Potter who had spoken. It must be Ms Granger;
she had a stack of files in her arms and an oversized leather bag on over
her shoulder. Her hair was caught up in a severe knot, already straggling,
but her legs were magnificent. A businesslike woman, but friendly. Jonathan
knew with a sense of relief that they would work well together.
It wasn't until they had sorted out the files to Ms Granger's satisfaction
- appellant licenses here, Professor (Professor?) Snape's financial details,
and Harry's - that was a good job you did on that transcript, thank you,
oh, and do call me Hermione, you don't mind if I chair? - that he realised
Mr Potter, Harry Potter, hadn't said a word. Neither had he moved. He
was still in the doorway, hands thrust in his trouser pockets, looking
at Snape. There was a frown between his eyes and an expression on his
face that could almost be interpreted as concern.
Hermione turned round.
"Harry?" Her voice was impatient, indulgent, and Jonathan remembered
Snape saying they had known each other as children. Indeed, Snape-
Was sitting with his head bent, his face almost hidden by the untidy,
tangled locks of black hair. His hands still gripped the pen: blood under
the scars coloured his skin in uneven patterns, white and red, and his
fingers were clenched.
"- Professor?" Potter's voice was light, carefully even.
Snape stood. Although the sleeves of his long coat, the folds of it, flared
as dramatically as ever, although Snape's ascetic face was unchanged,
Jonathan felt his client almost diminished, threatened. Snape seemed near
Then he said, "Potter." His voice was lower and harsher than
Jonathan had ever heard it, as if the word itself was a challenge flung
across the table. He almost flinched himself and Hermione, beside him,
drew her breath in sharply.
Harry Potter said, "You look well."
Snape undid the document case. He withdrew a newspaper, folded, and slammed
it down on the table, where it lay in front of his husband.
"I have been better," He said.
"Now, come on," Harry Potter said. "If you think I am in
any way responsible-"
"You are responsible simply by being." Snape said. He did not
shout. "Were it not for you and your carelessness, your ceaseless
appetite for adulation at any cost-"
"It's not Harry's fault," Hermione said quickly. "Professor,
"-your astonishing ability to mishandle any given situation-"
"-at least try to-"
"-your complete disregard for anybody's wishes but your own-"
"I believe I am communicating, Ms Granger," Snape's face was
white, but for the patches of red over his cheekbones. "And I believe
your client has communicated far too much already. Whatever possessed
you to consent to a biography? Did you honestly imagine Rita Skeeter -
Rita, of all people - would let this pass?"
"How was I to know she'd look in the Muggle archives?" Harry
Potter said, evenly. He had remained noticeably uncowed. "Don't forget,
Professor, it was your life on the line."
Snape drew a breath, hissing. "Am I supposed to discount - this-"
he flicked a finger at the newspaper - simply because-"
"So it's not the marriage you're objecting to," Harry Potter
said. His eyes were gleaming, his mouth had begun to curve. "but
the publicity. Snape, forget the divorce, we'll issue a public interest
disclaimer instead. Hermione'll do it for us."
"What?" Snape's voice had risen.
Harry Potter's voice was completely reasonable. "We can walk out
of here right now, Snape. No discussion, no divorce, no more photographers
outside your front door. Sorted."
"Idiot! Do you think it's so easy? This isn't Hogwarts, you can't
snap your fingers and make everything as you will-"
"-Then sit down with me and sort it out," Harry Potter said.
He walked forward, took the chair opposite Snape and sat himself down
in it, planting his elbows on the table and disregarding the newspaper.
"Sit down." His voice had softened.
Snape looked down his nose. His face was flushed, his eyes sparkling,
and for the first time Jonathan was suddenly aware that Snape was younger
than he had supposed, forceful, not attractive but...a sexual creature.
Hermione had resumed sorting papers.
Snape spun round. He stalked to the small table at the side of the room
with its flasks of hot water, tea, coffee, and the bottle of Talisker,
poured himself a glass - not small - and tossed it off. Poured another.
After a moment he took another glass and another measure of the whiskey.
He brought both back to the table, sat down, and pushed one across to
"There's nothing in it," he said, and folded his arms.
"Thank you. But not now," Harry Potter said. "Hermione?"
"Oh, right, yes-"
Hermione, at the head of the table, had finally sorted her paperwork.
She was surrounded by neat stacks of files, a little pile of scrolls,
and at least three leather-bound law books Jonathan was convinced could
not have fitted into her bag. In front of her was a short typewritten
list, and a pen was ready in her hand.
"I think - oh, hang on, Professor, you've got a rememberall, haven't
Snape inclined his head.
"Harry says he's happy with that and a pensieve record, if you are?"
"Yes," Snape said.
"Jonathan, that means you'll get a transcript of the proceedings
late tomorrow. Now. Can I remind you that those of us who are..English."
Hermione said carefully. "Are not familiar with the Scottish law
pertaining to divorce? As the marriage was enacted in Scotland, so it
will be dissolved in Scotland, but I have the utmost trust in my colleague,
Professor Snape's lawyer Jonathan Mears. Jonathan has already provided
me with a very useful synopsis - Harry, I went through it with you on
Saturday night - and between the four of us I'm sure we can achieve a
satisfactory result as quickly as possible. Given," Hermione said,
looking at Snape and then at Harry, "No unforeseen circumstances."
She paused. "Agreed? Then we can commence with the financial settlement.
Professor, Harry, you have both stated that neither of you wish to make
a claim on each other's estate. Does that stand?"
"Yes," Harry Potter said, his voice echoing Snape's.
"There is the matter of the Marauder's map-?"
"Is that a request?" Snape asked.
"Professor, you wouldn't have offered if you intended to retain possession.
Harry would be really pleased to have it back. That's a please."
Snape said, "Jonathan?"
From the pile of notes in front of him Jonathan extracted the plastic
case his client had produced that morning. He passed it across the table
to Harry, who touched the case, lightly.
"Thank you," he said.
Snape inclined his head again.
"In addition, there is the matter of the annuity-"
"Refused," Snape said.
"My client would like it to be known-"
"I don't see how you can stop me," Harry Potter said. "Snape,
if it hadn't been for you-"
"I do not want anything of yours."
Harry Potter paled. His fingers tightened on the map. "Fine. Agreed."
Snape had already taken a breath for the next retort: he let it out slowly,
"Agreed," he said.
Hermione waited a moment, poised, and then ticked the point off on Jonathan's
summary. "Gentleman, I assuming you will both sign an agreement detailing
that point. I believe we can pass over children," she said seriously,
ticking off another point. "As you have been living apart for over
four years and neither residence can be considered the marital home, possession
will be adequately covered by the financial settlement." Another
point ticked. "Which leaves us with the question of timing. Jonathan,
you've applied for a date for the initial hearing?"
"I heard this morning," Jonathan said. "We were lucky:
two weeks this Monday, the twenty-fourth, at ten o'clock. I tried for
nine, but it's MacLeod sitting and he's none so young as he used to be."
"Are there likely to be any problems we should know about?"
"He's one of the old school," Jonathan said. "Doesn't believe
in quickie divorces - won't allow them in his courtroom. But with your
client and mine separated for over seven years, no financial settlement,"
in a legal sense, he was slightly disappointed about that, "no children,
no third parties involved - I think we'll be fine."
"That is, of course, if there are no third parties involved,"
Snape said. "Potter, tell me you won't produce another encumbrance
Harry Potter's eyes flicked up. "You were glad enough at the time."
"I hardly think so. Come now, Potter, a simple statement: no nasty
scenes, no rejected lovers-"
"Why me? When was the last time you were seeing someone, Snape? Can
you promise me as much?"
"I can promise you no disturbed paramours appearing in court, in
my defense or otherwise. Have I touched a nerve? Can it be-"
"After all, I can hardly cite Lucius as co-respondant-"
Snape stood up. " Perhaps you remain incapable?" he said, cold,
Harry Potter slammed his hand down on the table. His eyes blazed green.
"Want me to prove it to you? I know what you look like on your knees."
It was almost a hiss.
Snape held that gaze for longer than Jonathan thought possible. For a
moment, he honestly thought it was all over. Harry looked ready to lay
Snape across the table, papers, Granger, divorce, irrelevant. Snape...looked
almost as if he might consent. But it was the older man than broke, quite
suddenly. The pen in his hand snapped, his head was thrown back, nostrils
"This conference is over," he said. "Potter, I'll see you
"I can't wait," Harry Potter said, but he said it to Snape's
The door slammed hard behind him. Jonathan took a deep breath.
It was Hermione that broke the silence, sotto voice.
"I have never known a man who can make quite such an effective exit."
Jonathan looked across the table, an unwilling and inappropriate grin
tugging at his mouth, and found his amusement met and matched.
"They should be on stage," Hermione said. "You should have
seen them in the classroom. Fireworks."
Harry Potter said, "I am still here."
"I know," Hermione said. "Look, Harry-"
"Don't say it. I know."
"Oh, fuck, I don't know," Harry Potter said. "He rubs me
up the wrong way, always has."
Hermione said, "Consider what he was like eight years ago."
Harry said, "I am. I do. Don't you think, " he said, "I
don't think of it-"
There was a tension in the air that hung in Snape's wake, bitter with
memories Jonathan had no part of. He stood and made himself coffee, looking
out the plate glass at the view of Carlton Hill and North Bridge. He could
hear Hermione shifting papers.
"I take it," she said at last. "That there will be no difficulty
with...Jonathan's last point?"
"No," said Harry Potter.
"My client will concur," Jonathan said.
"He could have been shagging half of Edinburgh, for all-"
"My client is currently single," Jonathan said. The houses were
registered to a single owner. Snape's dress was disheveled, and he did
not have the air of a man preoccupied by a lover.
"As if anyone would have him," Harry said.
"Remember Paris?" asked Hermione.
There was a very long silence.
"I was drunk."
"We are not having this conversation. Jonathan. Do you think you
could bring yourself to discuss the paperwork with Hermione now, because
I honestly don't think I can bear to stay in this room for much longer...?"
Paul liked the library. It was the largest room in the house, with tall
windows that opened into the conservatory, so in summer he could play
in the garden and look in to see Mum at her desk. In winter they would
light the fire and roast chestnuts, surrounded by the friendly, familiar
smell of leather and paper, light glinting on the cracked gilt bindings
of the books. The sofa was the best piece of furniture in the house, tall
backed, firm. It had been a carriage, a galleon with a Jolly Roger, the
control desk of a spaceship. At the moment it was nothing more than itself,
with the damask cover cool under his cheek and the cashmere throw tucked
over his feet. He'd been reading Darren Shan, whom some of the boys at
his Muggle school really liked, but Paul knew some vampires and none of
them were like Mr Shan's. He'd put the book carefully on the carpet and
was dreaming of when he'd be old enough to play Quidditch. Uncle Harry
had promised -
The front door opened. It was his uncle's voice.
"- don't think he'll do anything-"
"Don't be stupid." Mum. "He wants this as much as you do.
Would you want to be married to you?" Paul could hear Uncle Harry's
footsteps on the tiles of the hall, and Mum's. Mum still had her work
"You never wanted to be."
"That was different."
"It would have been easier. Hermione, why - "
"Why what?" Mum's voice was sharp.
"Nothing," Uncle Harry's voice was louder, and the handle on
the library door began to turn. It had a distinctive click-clack that
reminded Paul of playing Jacks with Hagrid.
"I've blown it, haven't I? I'll never know -"
"Not in front of Paul."
"It's all right, he's asleep." Someone tucked the blanket up
to his chin. "Don't worry about what your Uncle Harry says, Paul,
he's only a little bit mad."
Paul wasn't worried. All his favourite people were together, and there
might be drop scones for breakfast. He fell asleep.
Jonathan put the newspaper down on the counter. He didn't need to look
at it, the pictures, of a scowling Snape and a much younger Harry Potter,
were vivid in his mind.
"Is there something you should be telling me?"
The headline read, 'Harry Potter married to Death Eater'.
"I was never convicted," Snape said. His head bent, he was bottling
something again. Jonathan could smell lavender. The vial looked fragile
against Snape's scarred hands.
"The pictures move."
Then Snape did look up. "Oh," he said, setting the flask down,
his eyebrows rising. "Perhaps," he said slowly. "You'd
better sit down."
the first meeting and the hearing, Jonathan took to arriving at the shop
after hours, bringing his increasingly voluminous correspondence with
Hermione Granger and the occasional malt. Snape provided tea and sparse
conversation of occasionally surreal emphasis.
"Don't stand under the crocodile, it bites."
Jonathan learned to gage his client's mood by the tenor of the shop. Half
dark was comfortable, murky black, and he passed by. Towards the end of
the second week, he arrived as Snape was decanting a thick liquid, clear,
into a small glass bottle: the light was almost cheerful. For the first
time he could see the details of the painted ceiling above his head, acanthus
leaves and green men leering amongst the branches.
"Eddison was in a good mood today," he said, settling himself
down at the counter. No matter what time he arrived, the tea was always
brewed to perfection. "Traquair is almost closed: they got a date
for probate today. Four years work."
Snape shot him a glance across the marble. "I trust our own case
will not occupy a similar timeframe. Charming as I find your company,
the prospect of spending every evening discussing the intricacies of estate
law and entitlement leaves me unenthused."
Jonathan grinned. "But invisible ink! I would never have thought
the old man-"
"A spies trick. The spaces on that will would have indicated as much
to any man of experience," Snape said dismissively. "Ah, beautiful."
The vial steamed gently, full.
"What is that?"
The corner of Snape's mouth rose, the nearest gesture towards a smile
Jonathan had seen him make. "That, Mr Mears, is our secret weapon."
He slid the cork into the bottle and reached for the sealing wax.
"Painless? Yes. Life threatening? No. The end will, I trust, justify
"I have no idea. To which law would you be referring?"
day of the court case Snape and his lawyer met, by prior arrangement,
outside the police station three blocks down from the magistrate's court.
Jonathan, who had never seen his client out of robes, had been worried,
but Snape turned out to have a suit of black superfine and an abercrombie
coat his grandfather would have approved. Even the man's hair was neatly
brushed. There was an air of quiet triumphalism about him, unlike any
other client Jonathan had escorted to a divorce hearing. Snape seemed
There were reporters outside the court, more even than there had been
outside Snape's shop the morning they had met. They were an uneven, humming
hive of cameras, women and men shifting restlessly over the pavement.
With eyes to see, Jonathan picked out the robes amongst the duffle coats
and puffer jackets, and the dispatch owls on the roof tree opposite.
"I suppose it would be too much to ask the boy who lived if he'd
consider a news blackout." Snape said, but his tone was resigned
rather than angry.
"We could slip round the back."
"No need. There, I suspect, is Mr Potter."
A large black coach limousine had nosed its way round the corner. Shouts
went up from the reporters, who surged forward in a sudden storm of flying
robes and sprung camera shutters.
"Timely for once in his life," Snape muttered, as they walked
quickly and unaccosted up the steps to the court.
Jonathan had expected the courtroom to be empty, for MacLeod was notoriously
harsh on reporters, but the place was crowded. Women were chatting in
the aisle, two red-headed toddlers were clambering over the rear row of
seats, and a harassed court usher was attempting, almost inaudible under
the noise of half a hundred voices, to create order. Jonathan could feel
Snape tense beside him. The man pulled on arrogance like a cloak, scanning
the crowd, his head held high and his eyes glittering.
"Table to the left-"
Snape's eyes had hardened. His anger was unmistakable.
An old woman, knitting.
in court." Jonathan said automatically. He walked forward, but was
stopped two strides up the aisle by an elegant woman in a Chanel jacket,
her hair a crisp white chignon. "Mr Mears, we've never met, but I
must tell you-"
Snape had progressed two metres further before a woman in robes with a
tartan trim had grasped him firmly by the sleeve of his robe. "Severus.
It's been far too long-"
Snape looked bored. "Not now."
There was a gasp. Heads turned. Jonathan looked round. Standing in the
doorway was his client's husband, unscathed if clearly unhappy, and his
client's husband's solicitor with her hair already untidy. He cleaned
up well, Mr Potter, his hair cut short, his suit bespoke, his shoes handmade.
His eyes were fixed on Snape, and his mouth was set in a straight line.
He walked forward, weight on his toes like a football player. The crowd
was ignored with such breathtaking aplomb that Jonathan wondered if public
attention was normal for the man...he'd once dealt with an actress who
had the same ability. The man brushed past him with an unseeing nod and
came to a halt by Snape. Side by side, they were striking. Snape, taller,
slightly stooped, his back forming a graceful curve. His hair was tucked
tidily behind his ears, so the blank stare he sent down the long line
of his nose was visible, although the dark gleaming locks of it falling
forward hid his mouth. Harry Potter was shorter, solid, his back braced,
the line of his hips and shoulders somehow echoing Snape's. His eyes were
bright green and narrowed, matching glare for glare.
"You have something planned," Harry Potter said. "I know
From behind, Jonathan could see the slight narrowing of Snape's eyes,
no more. But he could see Potter's face, all the fierce determination
in it unleashed and bent on his client.
"I want this as much as you do, Snape," Harry Potter said.
Snape's eyebrows arched.
"I believe we pursue the same goal, Potter."
But Snape was the first of the two to turn away, his coat snapping around
his ankles as he strode to his seat. For a moment Harry Potter stood looking
after him. The man's shoulders had slumped, his poise suddenly irresolute.
Jonathan could hear Hermione Granger's soft indrawn breath.
Then the man moved and the moment passed. They seated themselves. The
usher rang the bell. Someone passed a note to Hermione: the woman in the
tartan trim, behind Snape, said "Silencio." under her
breath and the noise was wiped silent in an instant. Snape's eyes were
fixed on the Magistrate's bench, his hands folded in front of him. Only
Jonathan could see the white of his knuckles: he had never thought to
ask if his client had been in court before.
Even the shuffling of feet was almost soundless.
Someone had once told him MacLeod wore trews under his robes. It would
not be unfitting. The man was small, shrewd, and bright eyed: he still
carried the soft traces of his Highland youth in his voice. At parties
he had been known to advocate both devolution and land reform.
His papers were in order, his client prepared, the case as straightforward
as he could make it.
The usher stood up.
"My Lord, in the case of Potter v. Potter-"
Snape had argued the point to no avail. His legal name - his Muggle name,
said with as much distaste as the man could manage - was Potter.
No matter how confident his clients, there was always a point when reality
hit hard. This was where dreams end, not with fire, but in the dry voice
of a court official and under the gravel of the judge. Beside him Snape
was strung as tight as piano wire. His right hand was twitching.
At the other table Harry Potter seemed uncomfortable, uneasy in his seat
and rubbing his fingers as if they cramped.
'Oh god,' Jonathan thought. 'Let Ms Granger have talked him out of it.'
Snape went first. He spoke clearly, deliberately, dispassionately, glossed
over the circumstances of his marriage and dwelled briefly on the length
of separation and the financial independence of both parties. He mentioned
the word irrelevant, which Jonathan had questioned - "MacLeod is
a traditionalist, don't risk putting the institution down." But not
"The boy is an idiot." Which Jonathan had vetoed. He did not
sneer. He did not look anywhere except at the judge.
It was a textbook performance, smooth and impenetrable as Jura obsidian.
Yet during the course of it Jonathan became more and more uneasy. It wasn't
Snape. Something was going on at the Granger Potter table, something which
involved vehement note making, frowns, shaken heads and a glare at the
back of Snape's head that would willing have incinerated the man, given
The judge asked a question. Snape paused before answering, his words,
when they came, clear and measured. Another question. More note-passing
at the Granger table. Snape was dismissed.
Ms Granger, violating tradition, stood up and asked for an adjournment.
"Due to circumstances outside her client's control."
Asked for consultation.
Granted. The Judge rose, shook out his robes, and stepped smartly into
his office with the tense Ms Granger. The woman behind Snape sighed -
"Finite Incartum." Voices rang out, and above them all
Harry Potter's, the man pushing the table back, standing, striding forwards
"Snape! You-" He looked round and lowered his voice. His hands
were gripping the far side of the table: Jonathan's client faced him down
with an equanimity that Jonathan, faced with the force of that glare,
could not have managed.
"You've done it again, you bastard. How did you do it? Was it in
the coffee? The milk?"
"Tut tut, Mr Potter, that you should be so trusting in a public environment.
It is a timed dose, no more: you have, by my estimation, a mere three
"In court! Snape-"
"This is a Muggle court, not the Wizengamot. Lying will not serve
any cause under this roof. If you wish to embarrass yourself with a description
of the trials of a very brief and thoroughly unpleasant association with
your former teacher, be my guest. The greater your righteous disgust,
Mr Potter, the more likely our divorce."
Snape leaned back in his chair, arms folded. "I will not leave this
Harry Potter stood back from the table. Looking down, for a moment his
face seemed strangely young, defenceless, hurt.
Ms Granger was flustered, MacLeod impassive.
"Adjournment dismissed. Please call-"
Mr Potter walked slowly to the witness stand, clutching a piece of paper.
He was less composed than Snape, reading his statement: his voice broke
on a couple of words and he left one sentence unfinished. Ms Granger,
Hermione, watching, had a frown between her eyes. He did not look ill.
He did glance to the door, as a man would with an urgent message requiring
He stopped. The paper stayed in his hands, open.
Snape's breathing had quickened.
MacLeod looked over the rail. "It is your opinion, then, Mr Potter,
that the marriage has irretrievably broken down?"
"After four weeks living in the same house-"
"In your own words, Mr Potter."
The sentence had been taken verbatim from the statement.
"You could hardly say it had a chance to start," Harry Potter
said, the words tumbling out, emphatic. He clapped a hand over his mouth
and glanced at his lawyer, but MacLeod, intrigued, was leaning forwards.
"What do you mean by that?"
"We were married for only four weeks before I sent Severus away.
He wasn't well, you know, the war had hollowed him out, and then coping
with me as well, and Draco's death, that hit him hard - oh, lord, tell
me to shut up."
Ms Granger said "Shut up." Potter did. MacLeod banged his gravel
on the desk.
"Any more from you, young lady-"
Potter's eyes were wild, flicking round the room.
"You sent him away, Mr Potter?"
"To Umbria. I have a friend with a farm in the hills. I thought he'd
be safe there, as safe as he could be, and if he felt safe maybe he'd
be...more like himself. He never spoke, you know, not once, not during
all those months, not even that time he - he-" It looked as if Mr
Potter was trying to bite his tongue. When he opened his mouth again the
words spilled from it, faster and faster - "Never trusted him, but
seeing him like that, a proud man begging, and I had so little left, and
I don't think I was exactly sane myself, I was drinking myself to sleep
"It would be fair to say that the marriage was troubled, but you
cared for your husband?"
"Yes," Harry Potter said, and bit the word off, looking horrified.
"I don't know!"
Snape had half risen from his seat. He was staring at Harry Potter as
if he could silence the man by mere force of will.
"Was there physical abuse involved in the marriage? Would you consider
either of you to be at risk from the other?"
"Of course we hurt each other." Harry Potter said. "But
he never laid a finger on me. Snape saved my life," he said, eyebrows
twisted. "More than once. And I didn't understand, I hurt him, and
then I thought, if I send him away, he might get better, and then he vanished-"
"Potter!" Snape said. His voice carried a command.
"Oh God, I love your voice," Harry Potter said helplessly, and
again stopped his mouth with his own hand. Jonathan could hear Snape's
indrawn breath, the tension of the man, he was near to explosion.
MacLeod was fascinated, his eyes sparkling.
"Would it be fair to say that your feelings about your spouse are
"Yes," Harry Potter said. His mouth worked. "He can be
an absolute bastard. He's gorgeous. He can cut me to ribbons with his
tongue. I hurt him. He hurt me. We'll never be friends. I want his respect-"
It was Jonathan, this time, who with a giddy sense of inevitability stood
up and said "Mr Potter." His client's husband, silenced, shot
him a grateful look.
MacLeod leant back. He was smiling.
'Oh god,' Jonathan thought.
MacLeod shuffled his notes as Harry Potter retreated to sit by his lawyer.
He didn't look at Snape: his hands were clenched.
"In the case of Potter v. Potter. Gentlemen, there are clearly outstanding
issues with this marriage that would benefit from resolution. I don't
want to see you in my courtroom again until you have both completed six
- no, make that eight - sessions with an appointed counselor. Case adjourned."
The gravel went down. Snape stood up. Potter stood up, his mouth open.
"Or I dismiss the plea entirely for contempt of court. Is that clear?"
Jonathan tugged on Snape's coat, bringing the man down. Hermione Granger,
less formal, had her hand over her client's mouth, where it remained until
the judge and the officials had filed away.
Snape's head dropped into his hands.
Harry Potter made a break for the door, Ms Granger, papers flying, after
"Oh good lord," Jonathan said. He could have laughed.
Someone behind him cleared her throat.
"Well. Severus," she said.
Jonathan looked back: it was the woman who'd cast the silencing spell,
the one in tartan trim.
"It's good to know you haven't lost your touch with veritaserum."
She knew it was going to be bad when they didn't look at each other. Court
referrals could be a bitch. Most often, it was money: Kate had already
resolved, when she married, if she married, that even if she was head-over-heels
in love with an earthly paragon, they'd have the finances settled before
the banns were read. This particular one - no paperwork, no assessment
sheet, and two men who so clearly loathed one another that she wouldn't
have been surprised if the pot plant between them chose to whither rather
than sit out the antagonism - this one she could do without.
"Hi," she said, smiling. "I'm Kate. You must be Harry."
The younger of the two nodded. Tanned, well dressed. Minor public school,
at a guess, (looking for affirmation?) no lack of money. No jewelry. No
watch. Comfortable trousers and a casual shirt. Quietly confident, sitting
back in his chair.
A brief nod. Not so relaxed, although giving a good impression of it:
scarred hands on the arms of the chair (accident? PTSD?) heavy, loose
locks of black hair tumbling over his face. Pale. (body image problem?)
Older than her, could be an issue.
Should she mention the missing notes? Not yet. At the moment she needed
the power balance to swing her way.
"Given that this is your first session with me, I'd like you to explain
in your own words why you're here. After that we'll discuss our mutual
expectations of these sessions - what you can expect and what we can work
towards. For now - Harry?"
His voice was clear, unaccented.
don't think either of us would choose to be here," he said. His eyes
slid sideways to Severus' impassive face, but the man did not look back.
(Reassurance? Looking for a father figure?) "But the judge ordered
us to see a counselor before he'd allow the divorce." He shrugged.
"So here we are."
"Can I ask how long you were married?" Kate said. She directed
the question between the pair of them, but it was Harry who answered.
"Seven years," he said. He opened his mouth again, and Kate
waited, but he said nothing more.
"A long time," she prompted.
"It was a brief marriage. Very brief. Expedient. Neither of us-"
Severus shifted in his chair: Harry stopped speaking.
Interesting, Kate thought. "Neither of you -?"
Harry said, "It wasn't a hearts and flowers moment."
His face looked almost haunted. It would a point to come back to.
"So you've lived apart-" better phraseology than separated "-
for, what, most of that time?"
"Why get a divorce now?"
Both of them reacted. Harry rearranged his legs, glanced out the window.
Severus' hands tightened on the arms of the chair. She was going to have
to get the man to say something.
"The circumstances of the marriage became public," Harry said
slowly. She waited. He said nothing else, glancing again at Severus who
remained stony faced.
"To be married to me," Harry said, "Places Snape in an
unendurable position. I live my life in the public eye, and he has every
reason to avoid publicity. These last few weeks...well, let's say I've
given up reading the newspapers. I don't know what it's been like for
"Add to that, of course, the fact that we really do detest each other."
Harry grinned: it was a charming grin, mischievous, sure of itself. He
seemed more confident of the last sentence than he had of anything else
"Severus, would you agree?"
The man nodded once. Ridiculous.
"Perhaps you could describe the state of your marriage as it stands,
Severus. How do you feel about where you and Harry are?"
He could not avoid a direct question, surely.
Then for the first time Severus looked at her. His eyes were almost black,
fierce, challenging. Kate restrained a shiver.
"I am doing my best to ignore the whole situation," Severus
said. "Given that one cannot simply...magic the bond away."
Harry snorted. Inappropriate laughter?
"I find myself, perforce, obliged to participate in the rituals surrounding
Oh. "Okay." She was slightly lost for words.
"What he means is, he doesn't want to be here - which is fair enough,
I don't want to be here either! - but as the only way we can get the divorce
is to come to the sessions, he'll cooperate. Right?'
"Thank you for that, Mr Potter," Severus said.
"No worries, mate," Harry said, with an undercurrent of laughter
in his voice. "It wasn't me who got us into this position."
"If you hadn't said-"
"And the only reason I did-"
"How should I have known-"
"It was only a thought, Snape! Haven't you ever-"
For the first time they were looking at each other, glaring, really, leaning
across the small table. Kate was sure she could see the pot plant shiver.
Both of them shut up like schoolboys.
"I'm not interested in the process of recriminations," Kate
said. "Not in this room. I'd rather look at moving all of us forward.
Court ordered or not, why waste your time and mine in argument? We have
twenty minutes left of this session. Severus, maybe you could tell me,
very quickly, about this brief marriage. Harry, if you could outline the
position with the divorce? Then we all know where we are: we can look
at moving on from that point. Severus?"
His face had closed up again.
"I don't...I don't remember." He was looking out the window.
She had let the pause go on too long.
Harry said, gently, "We married in May. It was raining. The registrar
was nervous - this was seven years ago, and it was the first same-sex
marriage she'd done. The clerk witnessed for us, and a man who'd arrived
early for his friend's wedding. I'd forgotten the ring. I had to...make
one out of a sweet wrapper. I was terrified."
Snape was looking at Harry. He'd lost his anger and looked nothing more
"You did not have to-"
"It was the only thing I could think of."
They were talking to each other now.
"I had so little left."
"I was nothing."
"Did you think yours was the only betrayal? We were all guilty, Snape."
Harry laughed, uncomfortable. "We are blood stept in so far...Talk
about the divorce."
She was holding her breath. Avoidance. Danger: issues so deep she could
mire herself in them and these two with her.
"What's to say?" Snape paused. The corner of his mouth tilted:
his eyes narrowed, looked sideways. "A consummation devoutly to be
"Oh," Harry said smiling. "You...you. You're well."
They were still looking at each other. Five minutes to go. She said, quietly,
It was Harry who looked at her first. For a moment, Severus' eyes followed
the younger man's profile, his own face softened.
"For the next session. Can I give you homework?"
Harry was grinning again.
"I'd like you to bring a wish list of what you want from the divorce.
Think about it: I don't just mean the financial side. Do you think it
will give you the opportunity to make a new start? What do you expect?"
She paused. "Is that reasonable?"
Harry said under his breath, "Back to the tea-leaves, then,"
and something that was almost a smirk passed across his partner's face.
"Same time next week?"
"We'll be here," Harry said "Thank you."
Severus was already walking to the door.
"Thank you," Kate said. She waited until the door had closed
before she allowed herself to relax and run a hand through her hair. It
was too long again, it would need cutting soon. Two sessions down, today,
and three to go: she must text Laura and ask her to go for a drink after
On the pad in front of her she'd written, sometime during the last hour,
'Are we in an adult place here?' and doodled flowers around the words.
Harry who arrived first for the next session. He brought a box of chocolate
biscuits that he put on the small table between the chairs.
Kate smiled and said, "Hi."
Severus slid into the room a moment later, but his absent nod at Harry
suggested the two had not coincided in the waiting room. Harry held a
folded piece of paper in his hands: Severus looked preoccupied.
"Good morning," Kate said. She checked the clock, already three
minutes into the session. "Last time we met we discussed your marriage.
Today we're going to look at the divorce, and I asked you to make a list
of what you wanted as a result. How did you feel about that? Was it easy?"
"It was harder than I thought," Harry said. He was sitting back
in his chair, relaxed, again. "I kept thinking of things I want to
do that are nothing to do with the divorce." He looked at Severus.
"My current chemistry teacher's a prat," he added.
Severus' hands were folded onto his coat, which he had not removed: he
looked as if he was, in his own mind, on the edge of his chair and ready
"Mountjoy? The man couldn't keep order in a monastery. Why you hired
him in the first place is beyond my comprehension."
"Temporary contract," Harry said. He smiled. "I don't suppose...No.
Have a chocolate biscuit, and tell me what you came up with ." He
held the box under Severus' nose.
Shook it. The smell of chocolate was rich and deep. Severus, provoked,
took the box. There was a moment when Kate thought he might fling it to
the floor, but she was wrong: he extracted a single biscuit and held it
delicately between thumb and forefinger. His nostrils flared.
"Marrons glacé. Potter, since when did you acquire sophistication?"
"Seven years, Snape. Give Kate the biscuits and spill."
A flick of Severus' wrist and the box landed sedately on Kate's desk,
within reach. Severus said, "Peace."
"Pax corporeus or pax anima?" Harry asked. He reached over and
took a chocolate finger: Kate had discovered the ginger snaps and had
her mouth full.
Severus shrugged. "Both. It's impossible." He bit into his biscuit,
his eyes closed. "Go on then, boy."
Harry unfolded his list. There was a great deal of writing on it, crossed
and re-crossed, in a couple of colours.
"One. I want the world to stop being interested in my private life,"
he said. Severus snorted. Harry shot him an artificially wounded look.
"Don't say anything, it's my list. Two. I want you to crawl out from
under your rock and at least be contactable every so often. I had a plague
of - O.K. Three. I need to know you're all right. Four. I want Rita Skeeter
to stop writing the bloody book. Five. I want people to stop matching
me up to every eligible woman in the country. Six. I don't really want
to be tied to this piece of paper for the rest of my life. Seven-"
"Whoa!" Kate said. "I'm sure you've got a few more valid
points, and I promise we'll get to them later, but six is enough for now.
We'll discuss them in a moment, but, Severus, you started, what did you
mean by peace? Harry said, pax anima, pax..?'
"Pax anima is peace of the soul," Severus said slowly. "Pax
corporeas, peace of the body, freedom from earthly demands. Or more particularly,
a strong inclination to have this mellaisance over and done with. I assume
Latin is no longer a curriculum requirement?"
"No. This is not impossible, then," Kate said, stung. "Another,
what, eight sessions with me, and you will be back in court in four months
or so. Attainable."
Snape shrugged. "Perhaps."
"And peace of mind? What would give you peace of mind?"
Snape was looking out the window again. How far dare she push?
Too far. The man stood, pulled out of his chair, unfolding with anger.
"Absolution. Redemption. My own-" He broke off., breathing hard.
"The dead to walk again amongst the living. Which is not unattainable,
given," his hands had clawed, his face drawn into lines of grief
and rage. "Such mastery as I once owned."
She was shocked, and not a little frightened. The power of the man's voice
was emphatic, undeniable, as if he could do as he said.
"Snape. No," Harry Potter said, low.
The eyes he turned on Harry were wild. "And who are you-" he
stopped, abruptly. "I cannot-" And was gone, so quickly Kate
barely caught the swirl of his long coat or the click of the door.
'Oh. My. God,' Kate thought. She took a deep breath.
Harry said, "He had a bad war. Here, have another chocolate biscuit,
it'll help, honest. Shall I make tea?"
time she scheduled the session for her paperwork afternoon. She wouldn't
have been surprised if Severus hadn't turned up, but he was seated, glowering,
in the office before Kate herself opened the door. Hesitation caught her
in the doorway.
Severus said, stiffly, "I apologise for my outburst of the previous
week. It was nothing to do with you."
He was not the only one capable of being magnanimous. "I pushed too
hard about matters which are nothing to do with your divorce," Kate
said. "Difficult as the process may be, I do intend it to have some
worth for you. I'm sorry."
She'd surprised him, she thought, an eyebrow lifted.
"Accepted. I believe we were looking at Harry's list...?"
"Slightly less comprehensive than your own," Kate said, smiling.
She pulled her chair from behind the desk "Do you mind..?"
"No," Severus said.
His head turned to the door moments before Harry arrived. A formal suit,
this time, formidable. For the first time Kate could imagine the man as
a power broker.
"Sorry I'm late. Another meeting."
Studying his fingernails, Severus said, "The school?"
"Still standing," Harry said. "The Ministry.."
"Mildly emasculated, I gather, by the infamous Grand Council of 2009.
That was well done."
"Oh, you think?" Harry sounded both pleased and surprised. "Really?"
"Am I likely to offer praise where it is not due? I will not repeat
myself, Potter, but your actions were both considered and timely."
"Thanks," Harry said. He was, clearly, trying rather hard to
suppress a Cheshire cat grin.
They were late starting again.
Kate said, "We halted the last session before discussing your list,
Harry. Would you mind repeating that the first point for us?"
"Of course," Harry said, and felt in his pocket. "I haven't.."
Severus passed a folded slip of paper over the table between them. He
didn't look at Harry, who unfolded it in silence, glanced up once, and
read the first point in a flattened voice.
"I want the world to stop being interested in my private life."
"There is always," Severus said, "the option of not having
Harry laughed. "Snape, I haven't had one since I took on Hogwarts.
It doesn't stop the speculation, believe me."
"Then get married," Severus said. "Almost every sin can
be concealed under the cloak of a respectable marriage: look at the Malfoys."
"Snape. I am married."
For a moment Severus seemed almost shocked.
"Not that it's a bad idea. Know anyone willing?'
"I'm sure the choice is limitless," Severus said, snide.
"Ah, but I'm picky," Harry said. "Shall we shelve this
one? What's next? Oh yes, I want to be able to get in touch with you if
I have to. Or want to. Achievable, Professor?'
"Maybe," Severus said.
Harry waited, but the man only stared down at his folded arms, impassive.
"I can live with that," Harry said, eventually. "And, next,
you - look, I won't talk about the money, though I wish you'd take it
- I owe you that and more, but I'd like to know you're okay. Is that too
much to ask?"
"See point two," Severus said. "Potter, you have managed
most of your adult life without me. I fail to see -"
"It's not a question of dependence, Snape."
"Nor are you responsible for my welfare."
"Shall we move on?" Kate suggested. "We can come back to
this later. There was something about a book..?"
"Rita Skeeter's biography. Of me. It was Rita that turned up the
marriage certificate and started this whole thing off. I've tried everything
I can think of, the woman's born of piranhas."
Severus said, "I think you might find Rita has other fish to fry."
"Narcissa Malfoy has a small chateaux just outside Rheims. She paints
Sevrés china and breeds Pekinese: she has an attic full of the
more incriminating of the Malfoy papers. One can hardly say that the Lestranges
are known for their better judgment, and Narcissa has more than one quarrel
to pick with current members of our ruling government. She has the teeth
to do so effectively. Her sexual misadventures," Snape said, "were
legendary in certain circles. Rita's time will, I believe, cease to belong
to herself, although the woman may not realise quite what she has taken
"I may have indirectly arranged for the pair to meet. I do not care
for the idea of Rita writing any part of my life. Mr Potter."
"I should have brought more chocolate," Harry said, eventually.
"Next time. Your next issue, however, is beyond my control. If you
must remain such an eligible bachelor-"
"It's got better, you know, since this happened," Harry said.
"I think marrying you was such a-"
"Misjudgment?" Severus was amused.
"Surprise," Harry said firmly. "It's a pretty spectacular
way of coming out, you know, kinky as fuck."
"I'm very flexible," Harry offered.
"I can hardly claim to have considered the matter in depth, Mr Potter,"
Snape answered. Definitely amused.
"And linking myself with the romantic, notorious.."
"You really haven't read your press, have you? I may not be able
to deal with Rita, but Hogwarts does have a PR agency. I can't stop the
news, but I can spin it. The world loves a good villain," Harry said,
"What have you done?"
"It's been seven years, Snape. People are more intrigued than horrified.
I've had more than a couple of invitations with your name attached. If
there was ever anything I thought you'd be interested in...?"
"Pah," Severus said. "I am not a performing monkey, even
if I do appear to be a successful chaperon in absentia. An unexpected
"-Astronomy tower?" Harry said, inexplicably.
Severus snorted. " The fulfillment of my professorial duties alone,
I assure you."
"I always thought there was an element of voyeurism-"
"Pure self protection. Can you envisage explaining to Mrs Longbottom
just how her beloved Neville managed to impregnate one of the Parkinson
"Urgh." Harry paused. "Should I be putting bromide in the
"Not unless you wish to identify your pupils by the colour of their
skin. I assume you employ a caretaker? Add it to the list of evening duties.
It helps to mention the fact occasionally."
"I will," Harry said. "Speaking of which.."
"Four months," Snape said. "And not a moment too soon."
talking," Kate said later, over the double vodka that had become
a symbol of afternoons with the Potters. "It's a miracle."
feel," Kate said, looking at her coffee mug. "That you're not
really engaged with the counseling process. Don't get me wrong, I'm not
asking you to emote, I know you're an intensely private person - what
I'm trying to say is, that's ok, but I'd like you to feel that this is
going to be personally useful for you." She looked up, but Severus
was staring out the window.
"I'm well aware that there are issues in your history and Harry's
that are no-go zones. I'm not interested in looking backwards. But is
there anything it would be useful to discuss in terms of your own future?
Are you interested in pursuing a relationship with anyone else? Do you
feel ready to move forward?"
Kate picked up her coffee mug. "We've fifty minutes left," she
said. "How do you take your coffee?"
"Black," Severus said.
It was the only thing he did say for what was the most uncomfortable hour
of Kate's career to date.
was happy in his professional life. He had no outstanding issues. He was
content, if impatient, with the progress of his divorce. He was practically
sprawled in the chair where Severus, the week before, had sat ramrod straight
"Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?" Kate asked.
"Would you like more coffee?" Harry asked.
There was a small working surface in the corner of the room, with a sink
and a kettle. When he had made them both coffee, Harry took his mug and
walked to the window, looking out. Severus too had done that, looking
away from the room with all its untold secrets.
"He was my teacher," Harry said. His hands were wrapped around
the mug. The back of one hand was rough with scar tissue. "Years
ago. Sometimes it feels like another lifetime."
"I'd like him to like me," Harry Potter said. He took a sip
of coffee. The mug was one of her favourites, it said, in large red letters,
Happiness Is A Toasted Tea-cake. There was a seagull perched on the roof
of the flats opposite.
preened a wing, feathers stretched awkwardly against the pale blue of
"Hell," Harry Potter said. "I'd like to get him with his
back to the wall. On his knees. Or me. And-"
He took another sip of coffee.
"Wanting it. Wanting me. I'd like to hear him laugh."
He spun away from the window and put the coffee cup down on Kate's desk,
looking her straight in the eyes.
"Where do I start?"
session, by agreement, they discussed the next court session, with courtesy.
Severus was icily polite: Harry accommodating. Kate described the structure
of her report. It was quite deliberately the last session of the day,
and the light was already low when Kate called time. Harry was the first
to leave, walking to the door with his coat in his arms. He stopped, on
the threshold, and looked round.
"Hermione has a guest this week," He said. "Professor Bahktin,
of the St Petersberg Lycee. He's here for the Flamel lecture. His English
is excellent, but some of the speech is quite technical and Hermione's
struggling with the translation. She wondered if you would be willing
to drop by and run through it with her?"
Harry's face, so carefully blank. Polite interest.
"I'm not sure..." Severus sounded oddly uncertain.
"It's only Hermione," Harry said. "And at least Professor
Bahktin'll be able to get you up to date on the current gossip - research.
You know it's hardly my field. It'll not take long - twenty minutes? -
she'll be really chuffed."
"Did Ms Granger suggest this afternoon?"
"I said I'd try. We can go straight to the library."
Severus' eyebrows drew together. "Is it possible..?"
"She keeps up to date with all the periodicals. Ask - she won't mind."
Gathering up his own coat, Severus was still frowning. "I have commitments."
"Twenty minutes. Come on, I'll owe you: might come in handy some
day. Look on it as a transaction, not a favour."
That tipped the balance. Severus nodded, inclined his head in farewell
to Kate, and followed Harry out the door.
Kate thought about professional ethics, wincing, and rubbed her fingers
futilely at the root of an incipient migraine.
Paul woke, suddenly, into darkness. The streetlight outside his window
had gone out, and his room was full of strange shadows. There was a bulky
shape by the wardrobe that he didn't recognise, and - he held his breath
- something, someone, it felt like - 'There's something under the bed,'
he thought, horrifically certain. It was four steps from the bed to the
door. He took his courage in both hands and ran. The landing at least
was lit, but he barely noticed, fumbling the door closed as quietly as
he could, to keep ...whatever it was..inside. He could go and sleep in
Mum's bed, she wouldn't mind. And it was cold. He wore only his pajamas,
and wished he'd got his dressing gown, but it was hung on the other side
of the door and unreachable.
He padded down the hallway in his bare feet. It couldn't be that late,
for the house lights were on and there were voices in from the library,
and Uncle Harry's cloak hung on its peg in the hall. Paul could hear his
mum laugh, familiar and warm. Silently, he went down the stairs and eased
open the dining room door, and from here, he could just slip into the
conservatory and lean against the big library windows. It wasn't really
eavesdropping. It was warm in the conservatory. He liked the sound of
Mum's voice, with its confidant, exact tones.
There was a way to open the door just far enough, so it wouldn't creak.
Paul did it. And although the conservatory was in darkness, the warmth
of the heater in the corner was familiar, and the palm tree that was as
tall as he was, and the spiked ferns along the paving. There was a bench
by the window. If he fell asleep there, Mum would know where to find him.
He stopped, two steps away from the window.
There was someone sitting on his bench.
It was someone big, and black. Someone who was smoking, silently and without
the acrid smell of tobacco: all Paul could see was the red ember tip of
the cigarette, glowing. It was someone who smelt odd, at bit like the
books Mum kept in the glass cabinet, a bit like the potions room at Hogwarts,
a bit like nothing Paul had ever smelt before.
For a moment Paul thought, with a delicious chill, because this wasn't
an unseen monster under the bed, this was real - could it be Voldemort?
But Voldemort was dead, Uncle Harry had promised. This was someone who
felt almost familiar, as if Paul should know who he was, but he wasn't
Professor Bahktin who was small and spry and smelt of borscht. 'Dad?'
Paul thought, knowing he was wrong.
The red ember moved. The man inhaled, briefly, and the cigarette - it
was thin and black - flared. In its light Paul caught a glimpse of a stern
face, dark eyes, and a big hooked nose. He knew that face. It was the
face from the portrait gallery, Professor Snape.
Paul took the last two steps to the bench. He curled up in the corner,
his spot, and tucked his cold feet into the hem of his pajama bottoms.
"Hello," he said quietly. "I'm Paul. You're Professor Snape."
He was quite sure of it.
The end of the cigarette glowed again.
It was a deep voice, deeper than Uncle Harry's or Remus' or any of the
Weasleys. Paul could feel it shiver against his skin.
"You taught my father," he said.
There was a very long silence. Paul, without knowing why, shivered. Then
Professor Snape said, slowly, reluctantly, "I expect I did."
Paul shuffled along the bench. He wanted to ask - hundreds of things.
He wasn't going to. He took hold of a bit of the Professor's cloak, instead.
"I'm cold," he said, proud of how steady his voice was.
Fabric rustled. He was enveloped in cloth, warm wool, a grown up cloak.
Someone patted him on the shoulder, very lightly.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"In a minute," Paul said. He could hear Mum's voice, and Uncle
Harry's, he wasn't sleepy. He wanted to sit here for a bit, with a man
who had known his Dad.
He woke up eight hours later, in his own room. It was Mum who put him
to bed. He asked.
It was the seventh session when it all fell apart.
Harry was late, distracted and jumpy. There was trouble at the Ministry,
he said. They were all idiots and blind into the bargain. He didn't want
to talk about it, he slammed his briefcase down on the little table and
stripped off his suit jacket with jerky movements, moving from window
to chair to window, anger rising off from his skin in almost visible waves.
Severus was later. It was almost ten minutes past the hour when he arrived,
and he arrived, for the first time, with force: the door slammed open,
the man dressed in a massive black coat that billowed round his boots
and flared at his elbows, austerely dramatic. He held a newspaper in his
hands. He was, quite clearly, furious.
"What, exactly, is the meaning of this, Potter?"
There was real power in the man's voice. Kate, who should be standing
up, who should be - it was her office - found herself pinned to her chair
"When I agreed to assist Granger - and any half-competent translation
charm could have done as much - I did not expect to lay myself open to
this intrusive, ridiculous - have you seen this?" Severus said, and
flung the newspaper down on Kate's desk with a vicious flick of his wrist.
"I read it," Harry Potter said.
The headline ran, 'Severus Snape, Dark Arts Practitioner, a re-evaluation.'
"That fool Bahktin - did you not instruct him that my name was not
to be mentioned? If you hadn't - if he hadn't - this is the very last
thing I need. What were you thinking, you stupid boy?"
Anger flared the man's nostrils, lit his eyes, made the veins on his neck
stand out. A pulse beat at his temple.
"It's really nothing to do with me," Harry said evenly. He'd
pushed his hands into his trouser pockets and stood squarely by the window,
looking at Severus with a disturbingly blank face.
"How can it not be? It's always about you! If it wasn't for you,
he'd still-" Severus stopped on a gasp. Quite suddenly, his face
whitened, the flesh of appearing starker, older. His eyes looked, in his
pale face, as bleak as wet granite.
"He'd still be alive?" Harry Potter said. He walked forward.
Unlike Severus, colour blazed on his cheeks. "Who are we talking
about, Snape? My father, my mother? Sirius? Dumbledore? Your lord Voldemort?
Your lover Lucius? My friend Ron? Draco - you nearly died for him. Was
he your lover as well? Do the same ghosts walk in your dreams that walk
in mine, Professor? Do you think I don't wonder about you- if it wasn't
for you, how many of them would be living? At least I can say I never
killed a friend, Snape - how many of yours knew your face as the last
thing they saw? What do you think Dumbledore thought, the moment he died?"
Harry stopped. He was only two feet away from Severus, his whole body
braced and trembling.
"This is where it ends," Severus said. His hand slashed down
between the pair of them, his voice low and hard. "Unless you have
walked in my shoes, Potter, don't expect to understand what I did. I paid
my dues years ago. I paid them kneeling at your feet, if you recall, if
you were sober enough to remember. I will no longer countenance this farce
of friendship - do you think I can't see what you are trying to do? I
won't dance on the end of your chain, Harry Potter, you need to find someone
more broken than I to so share your desire for power-"
"It's not like that-"
"-You and your life, your friends, your son, your attempt to fill
the shoes of the greatest wizard that ever lived-"
nothing - do you hear me, Potter? - Nothing to do with me."
meet in court, Mr Potter," Severus said, and slammed out the door.
later, Harry Potter vanished.
minutes later, a very polite, dark suited gentleman knocked on the door
of Kate's office, apologetic. He'd come to check the water.
Kate couldn't remember much about the eighth session, but of course, it
had gone well. Although the counseling process had been amiable, both
men led separate lives. There was no question of reconciliation. She summarised
her conclusions neatly, signed her name, folded the report, and put it
into the out tray. She had a headache again, and - could that be something
"Two weeks?" Snape said. He was squinting over a steaming basin,
protective glasses pushed up his forehead.
"It was the earliest date I could get," Jonathan said. He still
wore his formal court robes, he'd come straight from the High Court. It
had been the final hearing in the Traquair case, a resolution that would
never have occurred were it not for the man in front of him.
"There are circumstances-" Snape reached for a pipette that
lay on a silver tray, near to hand. "Must I attend?"
He sounded weary.
"Yes." Jonathan said. "This is the last of it. I forwarded
the counselor's report a month ago and Hermione's cleared her diary."
He took a sip of tea, strong and black, just the way he liked it. The
man had never asked.
"Is it possible-" Snape's head snapped up, seconds before the
shop bell rang. Jonathan looked up. It was seven o'clock, well past closing
time, although the sun had not yet set and the first tourists of the season
were still wandering down the Mile.
On the doorstep, hesitating, stood a boy in a T-shirt and jeans. He was
a small boy, around seven, Jonathan guessed, judging by his sister's sons.
He was slight, fine boned, with a shock of white-blonde that caught the
evening sunshine: his eyes were dark.
Snape dropped the pipette.
The boy came carefully down the steps into the shop. He didn't look round,
he didn't notice the barrels, or the glass jars, or the stuffed crocodile
hanging from the ceiling. He walked forward, slowly, to stand in front
Who said nothing. His face was as white as a sheet.
The boy said distinctly, "Professor Snape?"
Snape shivered, visibly. Very slowly he dropped to his knees, as if his
legs had lost the power to hold him upright: his right hand, shaking,
cramping, touched the boy's hair, smoothed it over and over again.
"I didn't know," Snape said, very quietly. "I didn't know."
"Professor Snape?" The boy said again. He did not seem disconcerted,
merely polite, a well brought up child.
Snape said nothing. His face had softened, and held something almost of
"Severus?" Jonathan said.
"You're Paul," Snape said, his voice uneven.
"Yes," the boy said.
"You're Draco's son."
"Yes. You knew my Dad."
"I did," Snape said. He took his hand from Paul's hair and looked
at it: a single blond hair lay across the scars on his fingers.
"I would have saved him for you if I could," he said.
"I never knew him," Paul said. "But you did."
Jonathan put his cup down, carefully, on the saucer. He walked to the
shop door and locked it. There were shadows under the boy's eyes and his
T-shirt was grubby. "Severus," he said. "Paul's mother?"
"How did you get here?" Snape asked. He was levering himself
from the floor, his hand gripping the countertop. "Does your mother
"I came on the knight bus," Paul said. "They gave me a
blanket. But I'm hungry."
It was the cry of small boys everywhere. Jonathan went to find the shortbread,
hearing Snape's voice say, sharper,
"Did you tell your mother?"
at a conference," Paul said. "I was meant to go to Uncle Harry's,
but...I wanted to see you."
Snape groaned, a groan that was half laughter. "That boy - Here,"
he said. The fire lit with a whoosh, suddenly, sparks shooting up the
chimney. Jonathan nearly dropped the shortbread.
"Sit down. This is Jonathan. He's my lawyer. He's going to get you
biscuits and...hot chocolate. Is that acceptable?"
"Then he'll get in touch with your Uncle Harry. It was very ingenious
of you to get here," Snape said. "But you could have covered
your tracks a little better. We will discuss it. Jonathan?"
"Yes," Jonathan said.
He had to go next door to borrow the phone, leaving Paul on the hearth
rug with sandwiches and biscuits and hot chocolate - they'd been ready
in the kitchen and he had no idea where they'd come from - and Snape sitting
in the great carved chair next to him. He had to phone his secretary at
home to get the Hogwarts number and it took ten minutes more to get an
answer from the school, though when he did it was Harry Potter himself.
The man was frantic and businesslike all at once - "He's okay? It'll
be twenty minutes - how did he get to you? Are you sure he's okay? I need
to tell Hermione now-" It was a verbal whirlwind, and Jonathan put
the phone down, five minutes later, with some relief. He was almost reluctant
to go back to the shop, for it felt as though he was intruding on something
unutterably private. He hesitated on the step and opened the door as quietly
as he could.
Paul was talking, hands shaping something in the air. "And then he
Snape was smiling.
Jonathan got his briefcase, said something about tomorrow, and let himself
Tiredness hit Paul between one word and the next. He stopped, abruptly,
felt his eyelids close and forced them open. He still had a chocolate
biscuit in his hand, he put it back on the plate, carefully. Professor
Snape's face was a little fuzzy, leant back against the carved back of
the chair that was almost the same as Uncle Harry's. The lines of his
face were relaxed into curved shapes, like a friendly gargoyle. Paul felt...happy.
Safe. Very safe, as if nothing or no one, not Voldemort nor Peeves nor
any monster under the bed could harm him whilst he was here, with this
man. He tried to stand up, a little shakily, and fell against Snape's
legs. A hand came down. Paul took hold and clambered up the man's legs
as he would do Mum's. Professor Snape was bonier, but his robe was soft
and comfortable. Paul took a firm grip of the lapel, black velvet, and
closed his eyes. Arms held him tight.
to Uncle Harry's voice.
Uncle Harry was saying, "-was so worried, she was nearly beside herself.
I hope he wasn't any trouble?"
Professor Snape's hand was stroking his hair, tiny, light strokes, as
if Paul was something infinitely fragile.
"I need to take him home," Uncle Harry said. The voice was nearer.
The hand hesitated.
"I could," Uncle Harry swallowed, Paul could hear the sound
of it - "He could come back sometime, if you both wanted?"
Under his check the black velvet shivered: all of Professor Snape shivered,
and his arms tightened. He said, his voice low and grumbly in Paul's ear,
"You would let him?"
"I would trust you with my life," Uncle Harry said. The sound
of the words was even nearer. Paul cracked open an eye and looked up.
Uncle Harry was really close, close enough that Paul could have reached
out a hand and touched his robes.
It wasn't Paul that reached out. It was Uncle Harry, who laid his hand,
very gently, along Professor Snape's face, curved round the shape of his
cheekbones and the line of his jaw.
"Allow yourself this," Uncle Harry said.
Squinting upwards, too sleepy to be surprised, Paul saw Professor Snape
close his eyes. The heartbeat under his ear thudded once, and again, faster:
Professor Snape tilted his head into Uncle Harry's touch. He'd never seen
a grown-up look like that before, exhausted and worried and happy all
at once. Professor Snape's face and Uncle Harry's were almost touching.
They stayed that way for a long time. Then Professor Snape said, very
low, "He's awake."
"I should get him home," Uncle Harry said, but he didn't move
his hand from the Professor's face. Paul thought, they're going to kiss,
which should have been very wrong but blurred through tiredness was actually
okay. But he was wrong. Professor Snape stood up, really quickly. Paul
squeaked, and found himself bundled into his uncle's arms.
"I should like to - I am free on Wednesdays, Potter," Professor
"We'll see you on Wednesday," Uncle Harry said. "But this
time - I think we'll apparate, infant, don't you?"
There was the familiar silent black rush of apparating with Uncle Harry.
It was okay. He was going to be in huge trouble, but he was going to see
Professor Snape again, Uncle Harry had said so, and Uncle Harry kept his
Court finished early on Wednesdays. It was the old Edinburgh half-day
that the Law courts and the University and some of the older shops still
kept: Jonathan was not surprised to see the closed sign up outside Snape's
shop, although the door opened to his touch. The lighting was bright again,
and the fire lit, a tray of tea-things was steaming on the counter, and
Snape sat on the hearth rug, a pool of black robes, with a stack of boxes
and photographs and a small blonde boy. He raised a hand in greeting,
but appeared to be absorbed in the critical analysis of a sporting maneuver.
Jonathan pulled a stool up to the counter and extracted MacIverson v.
Reilly from his case. It was only when he was opening the file with tea
to hand that he realised there was someone else at the counter. Half-hidden
behind the silver samovar and also with paperwork spread out in front
of him, a pen in one hand and another behind his ear, his client's husband
appeared perfectly at home,
"Hello," Jonathan said, startled.
Mr Potter nodded, distracted, and pushed across a plate of fudge in companionable
"She doesn't want him left alone at the moment," the man said
quietly. "It won't be for long." There was a stack of papers
in front of him even bigger than the one in front of Jonathan: he nodded,
smiled and took out his own pen.
The voices from the hearth were a gentle and occasionally surreal accompaniment.
Jonathan wrote, "Summary of clauses pertaining to .."
Snape said: "The Department of Magic Games and Sports made this maneuver
offside in 1976, but it was still practiced in private games up to-"
He stopped. "This is your father. The gentlemen with the quaffle
is Crabbe senior."
Paul said, doubtfully, "It looks a little bit difficult."
Snape's voice: "It was the year before your father went to Hogwarts,
he was a bit older than you are now."
Jonathan wrote: "Given the precedent of Regina v. Chorley, the defining
law governing private statutes should-"
Snape was talking about a garden party. "This is your great-grandmother
Ariadne Malfoy, in the very large hat, and this is your grandfather with
the croquet mallet."
Paul said, "That's you!"
Jonathan wrote, "gives clear guidance," and ran out of ink.
He looked up. Opposite him, Harry Potter was not writing. He was looking
at the two figures by the hearth, utterly absorbed. His face was wistful,
proud, his eyes soft and his mouth turned under and held still. It was
not Paul he was looking at.
Snape's voice: "What perfectly appalling fashions.."
Jonathan thought, My god, he's in love. The realisation washed over him,
cold. He was staring, but Harry hadn't noticed. My God, he thought again,
and apropos of nothing, I must ring Lorraine. He reached for another pen
as quietly as he could, but Harry caught the movement, shook himself,
sent another smile across the counter and picked up the next essay. Jonathan
couldn't remember writing anything for the next half-hour, his thought
running around his head - does Snape know? Does Harry? How long? Have
they ever - but they were not lovers, had never been lovers, he would
swear to it, and what about the divorce? His fingers were gripping the
pen so tightly they hurt. Should he say anything? To Severus? To Harry?
It was a relief when the man opposite pulled out an old-fashioned fob
watch, checked it, and began to clear his papers. "Paul, it's time
"We'll be back next Wednesday," Harry Potter said. "Say
goodbye to Professor Snape."
When they had gone, Snape sat still on the hearth, surrounded by photographs,
watching the dying fire.
Jonathan gathered up his papers and left.
He did call Lorraine. She had missed him. She wasn't really happy in London.
She might be coming home.
Jonathan dropped by the shop at lunchtime with a slice of his aunt's fruitcake.
On Friday he arrived, late and not entirely sober, for a cup of tea before
bed. On Saturday he asked Snape's opinion on his new ipod; the man was
amused. On Sunday the excuse was the Rangers game and he brought a radio.
On Monday Snape said, gently, that although he appreciated the company
surely Jonathan had other friends who - and Jonathan, taking the hint,
did not return until Wednesday.
They were due in court the next day.
He was late, due to a long conversation with Lorraine about the construction
of her resignation letter, but when he arrived Snape still had guests.
The light was low, the fire lit, and on the hearth rug Snape was sitting
cross-legged and upright. Harry Potter, next to him, was sprawled on his
stomach with his glasses glinting in the firelight, and Paul was standing
with something in his hands. As Jonathan came down the steps he let it
go. It glittered gold, rising, whizzed once or twice and spun round, circled
the nose of the stuffed crocodile - who took a lazy snap at it and missed
- bounced up and down in mid air emitting green sparks, shrieked, and
finally explored in a shower of little, winged, silver balls.
"Cool," Paul said.
"Indoor fireworks," Harry Potter said. The hearth rug was littered
with glitter, little boxes with silver stars and red beading and something
that looked like tinsel but probably wasn't, scraps of paper and glue
and scissors and a bowl with gray powder set well away from the fire.
Harry's face was as gleeful as Paul's, there was a smear of something
shiny on his forehead and his glasses were crooked.
"That was beautiful," Jonathan said.
"You should see what Professor Snape can do with gunpowder,"
Paul said. "Make the volcano again, please." He pleaded, his
face bright in the firelight.
Snape looked at Jonathan and cleared a space on the rug, but what he said
was, "Is it is not time for tea?"
Paul's groan chimed with Harry's voice. "We're on holiday,"
the man said firmly. "Pre-trial leave."
After a moment Jonathan laughed. So, after a moment, did Snape, rusty
It was the most bizarre pre-court evening Jonathan had ever spent. Snape's
indoor volcano was indeed spectacular, and after it he made a flight of
bright pink vultures who sang, lugubriously, Lady Marmalade, as they can-canned
across the ceiling. Paul was entranced with making rockets, tiny, explosive
creatures that screamed as they rebounded, in slow motion, across the
room, streaked like tropical fish. Harry made Catherine wheels and helped
Jonathan make a Roman candle that lasted ten minutes and burnt through
all the colours of the rainbow.
Jonathan forgot he was going to talk about statements, final summations,
the wearing of suits, and was this really what Snape wanted to do? In
fact, he didn't remember any of these things until he woke up the next
morning and sat up in bed, and by then he was out of time.
have glitter in your hair," Snape said, sternly.
"You remembered the statement?" Jonathan answered, distracted.
The man was wearing his suit again, which was good: they were on time
and seated, and Snape had dealt with the reporters in silence and with
patience, which was also good. Hermione and Harry were sitting, talking
quietly, at the other table. The woman in tartan trim was here again.
The court usher was coming in the door.
"Professor," Jonathan said. "Are you sure-"
"Silence in court!" said the usher.
Hermione made a brief statement. Jonathan had nothing to add. The counselor's
report was read for the court record. Snape made a brief statement, dispassionate.
Harry Potter made an even briefer statement, looking pale. MacLeod frowned,
re-sorted his paperwork, and finally granted the case. The gravel went
It was a complete anticlimax.
When the court officials had gone and the rising tide of conversation
begun behind him, Jonathan turned to his client and shock hands, awkwardly.
"Congratulations," he said.
"Thank you," Snape replied.
Across the aisle, Harry and Hermione were getting up to leave. Jonathan
said, "I'll still drop by, if that's all right?"
Snape said, "I have no objections so far." His voice was dry.
"Okay," Jonathan said. He stood, and pushed the papers into
his briefcase awkwardly, feeling a little lost as he always did at the
end of a case. The woman in tartan, behind Snape, was frowning at her
fingernails and did not look happy.
Snape pulled his coat on, his shoulders hunched. It seemed to Jonathan
that he might have sighed before walking towards the exit. It was crowded,
but people moved for Snape, and Jonathan found himself on the court steps
before he knew what to say. He couldn't even see Harry or Hermione for
the flashbulbs, he could barely see - Snape had gone. He looked round.
No Snape. Where-
Someone tapped him on the shoulder: he spun round. It was Hermione Granger.
"Harry and I wondered," she said diffidently, "If you'd
like to come to tea at Hogwarts?"
magic. Quite literally, magic, from the portkey Hermione pulled out of
her briefcase to the entranceway with its gargoyles stretched out in the
afternoon sunshine, from the moving staircases to the Great Hall with
its star-studded ceiling and the house elves with china tea and Bakewell
tart and little cucumber sandwiches. Jonathan was enchanted, bewitched:
it was a whole new thing and he loved it, bewildered, happy.
"Amazing, isn't it," Hermione said, learning back in her chair
with a cup of tea in her hand. "A wizarding institution." She
smiled at Harry, tense and curled up in the carved chair by the fire,
a black wooden dragon twitching its tail across his left shoulder.
"Sometimes I can hardly believe.." She sighed, and put the cup
back in its saucer. "There was something I wanted to discuss with
you. There's a piece of legislation in the new private member's bill,
Lawson's, on sustainability? - that I thought might be applicable to-"
Harry stood up. He did not look happy. "There's something I need
to check," he said, and vanished.
"Oh!" Jonathan said, surprised, and then, "Is he all right?"
He would prefer, on the whole, that his cases did not become notorious
for the ending of them.
"I don't know," Hermione said slowly. She looked at her tea.
"It would help if - this can be a lonely place."
"It is big," Jonathan said.
"It needs to be. When the students are here - there's a yearly intake
of about fifty, now, and four houses, did Harry ever mention this? No?
Four houses, then, Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Gryffindor
is the house both Harry and I belong to, we're known for-"
There was a bang. A loud bang, wood on stone.
Hermione stood up.
"I didn't think he'd take it quietly," she said.
A house elf darted from the buttery door and stood, wringing its hands,
at Hermione's shoulder. Another.
"It's okay," Hermione said. She was watching the door.
"What-" Jonathan began.
But then Snape appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in robes, disheveled,
windblown: his hair had quite obviously been raked into shreds, his eyes
blazing, his face fined down and stark with temper. He was holding a scroll:
he was waving a scroll, its seals snapping against the parchment.
The man's voice was abrupt and harsh. He was so furious Jonathan would
not have been surprised to see the paper burst into flames.
"Where is he?"
"Nice to see you back, Professor Snape," Hermione said, head
on one side. She was smiling, faint but evident. "I think you might
find him in the dungeons."
Snape's eyebrows lowered. He glared, for a full thirty seconds, across
the hall: Jonathan held his breath. Then he turned on his heel and stalked,
there was no other word for it - out of the hall.
"Come on," Hermione said. "We'd better follow, just in
She'd already set off. Jonathan took a shaky breath and followed. He didn't
think magic as a cause of death was covered under his life insurance policy,
but he did have a responsibility to his client.
The staircases had stopped moving. They were actually shivering. Little
red sparks of magic came climbing up the treads as Hermione and Jonathan
went down, flight after flight, until Jonathan thought they must be far
underground and the only reason he kept walking was because Hermione was.
And then there was a light in front of them, a doorway, and Snape stood
Hermione's hand on his arm stopped them both.
Snape seemed frozen in place.
He stood like that for so long Jonathan began to wonder if he really had
frozen, or been frozen, perhaps, he had no idea what the limitations of
Then Snape walked forward. Not as he had done, stalking across the Great
Hall, but softly, uncertain, almost slumped.
Hermione's hand urged him forward. They crept up to the doorway, one on
either side, and peered in.
It was a classroom. A classroom with old-fashioned wooden desks and chairs,
with a workbench along one side, a classroom lined with shelves that held
cauldrons and jars and bottles. It smelt of plant matter and chemicals,
and was lit by a window where no window should be. It had a blackboard
and a massive desk at the head of it, pitted and scarred with age: it
had Harry Potter, leaning against the workbench, and it had Snape, walking
between the desks, the scroll in his hand forgotten.
"You kept it," he was saying.
His hands trailed over the wood of the desks, touched a seat back. "Lovegood's
seat." Snape said, gently. "And Wood's before her, and one of
the Weasley cousins -"
He'd reached the teacher's desk: his hands traced the edge of it. Went
to the blackboard, chalk dust falling and hanging in sunlight. "And
He was walking past the cupboards, fingers running over the curve of a
demijohn, checking the crystal stopper of a flask. He straightened the
pile of cauldrons in passing and tightened the tap at the sink: he ran
his hands along the edge of the workbench, touched the sleeve of Harry's
robe and recoiled.
"I can't believe it," he said.
He was walking between the desks again, fingers tapping at the stains
- "That was Longbottom, Potter, do you remember?" Walking in
tighter and tighter circles, workbench, desks, Harry's robes, he grasped
the edge of the bench and Harry's sleeve, looked at the stained ceiling,
ran his touch over a chair back and across Harry's shoulder, patted a
kilna jar in which something moved, tucked a stray chair behind a desk.
"My classroom," he said. The tone of his voice was absolutely
amazed. "My desk." He was looking at it. "That's even.."
His hand grasped Harry's shoulder. Harry did not move. "That's my
wand," he said.
It was lying in its case on the workbench.
"That's my wand." He had turned, and his hands rested on Harry's
His voice was cracked. He had dropped the scroll, it was rolling towards
the door. One of his hands cupped Harry's face, fingers tracing his eyebrows,
the scar on his forehead, the shape of his mouth: Snape was shaking and
Harry's hands on the workbench were white at the knuckles.
"Harry," Snape said again, almost a groan. They were inches
apart, both his hands, now, holding Harry's face as a man might hold something
And quite suddenly, they were kissing. Snape like the strike of a snake,
sudden and absolute, Harry open-mouthed and wanting and desperate with
it, his arms straining at Snape's back. They clung to each other and rolled
against the bench: Snape's eyes were closed. His hands were frantic on
Harry, shoulders, back, hair. Their bodies strove and strained against
each other: they rolled again, sending cauldrons crashing onto the floor,
stumbled and a desk crashed over. Harry's robe was half off his shoulders,
Snape's flying loose. A bottle on the other side of the room exploded.
They had to break for air but Snape's face was buried in the bare crook
of Harry's neck and the man had his head back, shuddering: his hands were
buried in Snape's hair and the noise he was making was little more than
a wail. His robes slipped from his shoulder: Snape's fingernails had scored
fine red lines in his back. He was saying - "Oh god. Oh god. Yes."
Snape's hands tightened on his back and lifted, they were rolling across
the workbench, robes tangled, kissing over and over again. Harry's foot,
flailing, knocked the wand case to the floor: Snape pinned him to the
woodwork, arched and urgent. A windowpane broke, sparks ran across the
shelves, plaster fell from the ceiling, cloth tore and buttons showered
down from the workbench, spilling across the floor-
Hermione's hands pulled him away from the door. "Come on, "she
said. "Come away."
The noise of explosions followed them up the stairs.
until they were both seated, slightly shaken, back in the Great Hall that
Jonathan realised Hermione was holding the scroll. He took a deep breath
"What is it?"
"The scroll?" Hermione turned it in her hands. There was a flush
on her cheekbones that matched the colour of Jonathan's embarrassment.
"It's a Pardon Majure - a full pardon. Harry's been working on it
for months now."
"Yes. He did something in the war - well, we all did things in the
war we'd like to forget, but Professor Snape - Severus was on the wrong
side," Hermione said. "Some of the time."
She ran a finger along the seals. "You see, as soon as Professor
Snape became, legally, himself again - as soon as the divorce as granted
- he became visible to the Ministry and liable for his outstanding....crimes,"
Hermione said, with distaste. "Hence this."
"I had no idea," Jonathan said, bewildered.
"It was Harry who thought of it. He's always been into saving people,"
Hermione said. She looked reflective. "But then, so has Professor
Although Jonathan walked past the shop every evening after work, it was
a week before the lights went back on. He hesitated, hand on the doorknob,
thought, well, they could always lock the door, and went in.
Harry Potter, in bare feet and a green velvet dressing gown battered and
too big for him, was making tea. There were three cups: he smiled, and
pushed one across the counter.
"Hello," he said. His hair was a mess and there was a button
hanging from the gown, but there was a smile he could not conceal hiding
in the upturned curve of his mouth.
"Evening," Jonathan said, and smiled. "Thanks." He
took a sip of the tea, strong and black. "Snape?" He could hear
the amusement in his voice.
"Is well." It was Snape's voice. Jonathan looked up. The Professor
was fully dressed, pristine, booted, his hair combed. He should have looked
as he had done every other evening, but Snape, clearly, could do nothing
about his face. He looked ten years younger. He looked happy.
Jonathan blinked, and took another sip of tea. The Professor walked forward
and helped himself to the third cup, his hand lingering on the velvet
of Harry's robe as he did.
"Come and sit by the fire," he said. There were two chairs,
now, by the fire, and a settle. There was also a model aeroplane kicked
under the table and a monopoly set.
Jonathan said, abruptly - best get it out now - "I have your scroll.
"Give it to Hermione," Snape said. Feet stretched out to the
fire, he had seated himself in the corner of the settle. He looked endearingly
awkward: Harry was curled up like a cat under his arm, blinking sleepily.
"No. I assume you have the usual storage dispositions? Keep it yourself.
I'm sure I can find a use for a permanent solicitor."
"I'm not certain you needed one anyway," Jonathan said.
For a moment he thought he'd stretched a fragile friendship, but Harry
Potter laughed, gently, and said, "You know, I think getting divorced...was
one of my better decisions."
His voice deepened, he was looking up at Snape. "I don't need any
promises," he said. "Do you?"
The Professor's eyes glinted. He ran a hand over Harry's hair, his thumb
resting at the scar on the man's forehead.
"No," Snape said. "Only live."