consanguinity: prologue


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.

"Mr Potter?"

"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 wisdom.

"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.

"You may-"

"Spare me the explanation, Master Auror. I have seen the apparatus before."

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 apparition."

"-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."

 

 


Harry 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.

 

consanguinity

jay tryfanstone
October 2005


Silence is golden, words are made of lead
In the alchemy of love you know some things are better left unsaid.

Michelle Shocked, Silent Ways



Kate

Flexible 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.

"Arthur? Arthur?"

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 seven years!"

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.

"To Snape!"

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 here."

"Yes Molly," Arthur said.

"And I know you've got that portkey in your knapsack, so it'll only take a moment or two-"

"Molly."

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, "Obli-"


It was 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



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 road.

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 work.



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."

 

Paul


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 prep.

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, Headmaster-"

"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.



Jonathan




"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.

"Yes."

"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 consultation."

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! Ridiculous."

"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



"Paul," Uncle Harry said. "I think we need to go and see your mother."

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 Paul's cloak!"

"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 head bent.

"-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 all people-"

"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 in Scotland."

"But you could."

Paul could hear Mum's heels clicking on the floor. Her voice was fainter.

"Harry.."

"Please, Hermione," Uncle Harry said.

 

Jonathan


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




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.

"Yes?"

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 meetings.

"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. "Who's Snape?"

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.

Paul nodded.

"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.

 

Jonathan



"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 word, thinned.

"You don't like him."

"I find him intolerable."

Jonathan ate another oatcake. Really, they were very good.

"Have you-'

"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?"

"We've...met."

"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.

"What?"

"He can be very charming," Snape's tone was damning.

"With luck, the only time you'll meet again is in court," Jonathan said.

He was starting to become very curious indeed about the circumstances of his client's marriage.

 

Snape 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.



"What?"

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."

"What? Why?"

"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 of them."

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 uncertainty.

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, can't we-"

"-your astonishing ability to mishandle any given situation-"

"-at least try to-"

"-your complete disregard for anybody's wishes but your own-"

"-communicate-"

"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 his spouse.

"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 you?"

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-"

"No."

"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, blinked.

"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 in court."

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, exact.

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 flared.

"This conference is over," he said. "Potter, I'll see you in court."

"I can't wait," Harry Potter said, but he said it to Snape's retreating back.

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."

"Then why-"

"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-"

"Harry!"

"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."

"And?"

"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



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 shoes on.

"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




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."


Between 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.

"Is it-?"

"Painless? Yes. Life threatening? No. The end will, I trust, justify the means."

"- legal?'

"I have no idea. To which law would you be referring?"


On the 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 almost...cheerful.

"Ready?"

"Indeed."

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.

"Not 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 that look."

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.

"All rise."

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.

"Be seated."

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.

"-marital home-"

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.

"-financial settlement-"

'Oh god,' Jonathan thought. 'Let Ms Granger have talked him out of it.'

"-brief statement-"

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 tinder.

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."

Dismissed.

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 hours-"

"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 to chance."

Harry Potter stood back from the table. Looking down, for a moment his face seemed strangely young, defenceless, hurt.

"All rise!"

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 his presence.

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 every night-"

"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 somewhat conflicted?"

"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.

Dismissed.

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 him.

"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."

 

Kate



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.

"And Severus?"

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.

"Well, gentlemen."

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.

"I 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?"

"Yes." Harry.

"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.

"And..?"

"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 you...?"

No reaction.

"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 he'd said.

"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 dissolution."

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.

"Gentlemen!"

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.

"Severus?"

"I don't...I don't remember." He was looking out the window.

What?

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 than surprised.

"You did not have to-"

"It was the only thing I could think of."

They were talking to each other now.

"But, why?"

"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 wished?"

"Oh," Harry said smiling. "You...you. You're well."

"Indeed. Yourself?'

"Yes."

They were still looking at each other. Five minutes to go. She said, quietly, "Gentlemen?"

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?"

Severus nodded.

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 work.

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.


It was 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 to leave.

"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.

"Potter-"

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?

"Severus?"

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?"


Next 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 one."

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."

"No, but-"

"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."

"What?"

"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 on."

"You-"

"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."

Speaking silence.

"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.."

"Romantic!"

"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, grinning.

"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 career move."

"-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 twins?'

"Urgh." Harry paused. "Should I be putting bromide in the pumpkin juice?"

"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."

"Agreed."


"They're talking," Kate said later, over the double vodka that had become a symbol of afternoons with the Potters. "It's a miracle."


"I 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.

Kate sighed.

"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?"

Silence.

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.


Harry 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 and motionless.

"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."

Kate waited.

"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.

"Absurd."

The seagull preened a wing, feathers stretched awkwardly against the pale blue of the sky.

"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?"


The sixth 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



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.

"Yes."

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.

 

Kate




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 and silenced.

"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-"

"What?-"

"Are nothing - do you hear me, Potter? - Nothing to do with me."

"Snape-"

"We'll meet in court, Mr Potter," Severus said, and slammed out the door.

A moment later, Harry Potter vanished.

Two 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 smoldering?

 

Jonathan


.
"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 of Snape.

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 wonderment.

"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 know?"

"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?"

"She's 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?"

Paul nodded.

"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 said-"

Snape was smiling.

Jonathan got his briefcase, said something about tomorrow, and let himself out.

 

Paul



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.


He woke 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 Snape said.

"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 promises.

 

Jonathan



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 conspiracy.

"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 for tea."

"Must I?"

"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.


On Thursday, 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.

"What the-?"

"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 and creaking.

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.


"You have glitter in your hair," Snape said, sternly.

"You remembered the statement?" Jonathan answered, distracted.

"Of course."

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 down.

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?"


It was 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.

"This is..."

"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.

"Where's Potter?"

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 case."

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 in it.

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 magic were.

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 the stores."

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 shoulders. "Harry."

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 infinitely precious.

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.


It wasn't 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 and asked,

"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."

"For Snape?"

"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 Snape."

 

consanguinity: epilogue

Jonathan



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. Your pardon."

"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."

 

Finished. Really.