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Fifty Days ; snape/harry ; post-war
icon by dandelion, art by ursula vernon
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Title: Fifty Days
Prompt: Hostile Territory
Pairing: Snape/Harry
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Past character deaths alluded to.
Summary: When Snape is released from Azkaban, he finds that he has nowhere to turn.
Word Count: ~8000
Notes: Thanks to Amber for looking this over for me. Thanks to the mods, the rest of the Post-War team, and everyone everywhere for being awesome. Written for the snarry_games: team Post-War, with the genre of romance and a prompt of "hostile territory". Originally posted May 10, 2007.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine. Not really, at least.



Ministry of Magic
Official Decree


Severus Tobias Snape, alleged Death Eater,
Convicted of the murder of Albus Dumbledore,
Convicted of the attempted murder of countless others,
Convicted of aiding Tom Marvolo Riddle, a/k/a Lord Voldemort,
Convicted of aiding in the escape of countless Azkaban prisoners,
Convicted of various other crimes of war and against humanity, etc., etc., and so forth,
Has thus been granted a full pardon, having his record henceforth wholly expunged,
In result of newly discovered, irrefutable testimony given by one Harry James Potter,
As well as newly discovered, irrefutably accurate records kept by the late Albus Dumbledore.

He is thus to be released, effective immediately.
Further affiant sayeth not.
21 September 2002



Day One
They turned him out from Azkaban with remarkably little fanfare. That's just what he preferred, of course. The less publicity he faced, the better. On the day the jailers -- Dementors long ago being replaced by bored and ineffective humans -- unlocked his cell for the last time, they handed him a set of new robes and directed him to a private loo.

He took longer than he had anticipated in there, staring in abject horror at his reflection in the mirror. It was the first time since his trial that he'd seen his proper reflection, not just a glimpse of himself from the back of a spoon or the depths of a greasy metal bowl.

And what he saw horrified him, even more so than his reflection usually did. His beard grew in uneven patches (and he remembered immediately why he'd always preferred to be clean-shaven), his hair had begun to grey. His eyes were sunken, cheeks hollowed, and if it were possible to look even more like death warmed over, well, Snape did now.

Sighing in resignation - he was never particularly attractive in the first place; why he'd expected Azkaban's toll to be less harsh, he had no idea - he began the long process of making himself appear more human.

***


He hadn't expected anyone to meet him upon his release. He didn't think there was anyone left alive to come for him, at any rate.

He was given his wand back, though the Minister couldn't quite assure him that there would be no monitoring of his magic usage. (Okay, perhaps only a minimal amount of monitoring. Just to make the public happy, you know.) Snape had been given a portkey to an inn willing to put him up until he'd found more permanent lodging.

Lodging where, though, was a different story.

He didn't need any help. He wasn't incompetent before, and four-some years of sitting in Azkaban hadn't taken away all of his skills.

So, much to his surprise, after Snape was ushered out of the imposing gates of the new and improved Azkaban, he noticed a shadowy figure - billowing cloak and all - standing at the dock.

He gripped his wand tightly in his hand, savouring the feeling of the magic coursing through his body again. Snape was rather sure that it would be in poor form to hex someone immediately after being pardoned, but if the person ahead was a member of the press, or someone equally unsavoury, well. Snape decided that he couldn't be held responsible for his actions in that case. Temporary insanity and culture shock and all.

"You don't need that," called out the person (male, by the gruffness of his voice), who gestured at Snape's wand. "Just come to greet an old friend." The man paused. "Or foe, depending on how you look at it."

"I have no living friends," Snape said, keeping his wand at his side. "And I am still an enemy of nearly the entire wizarding world. I would suggest that you have the wrong former inmate," he said, rummaging in his pockets for the box containing the portkey.

"No, Snape, wait," said the man, who held out his hand, gesturing for Snape to wait. Snape dropped the box back into his pocket and scrutinized the man before him, who was lowering the hood of his cloak. "Just-- just wait a minute."

The man stepped forward, raising his wand and casting a silent lumos--

And Snape's heart dropped to his stomach, and his stomach jumped to his throat, and he had the immediate, overwhelming desire to punch something.

"No," he growled. "Absolutely not!" he snarled, dark eyes locking with the bright green eyes of one Harry James Potter.

Day Two
He'd taken the portkey, which turned out to be an absolutely dreadful idea. The inn put him up alright -- in a room with no door or running water or private loo. It was almost like the proprietor encouraged the public to come and gawk at the newly-released murderer.

After one night of being kept awake by the jeers and taunts of the passers by, Snape packed his bag and checked out of the inn.

Harry Potter was waiting for him in the lobby.

"I tried to warn you," he said, leaning up against the doorframe, blocking Snape's exit.

The older man scowled at Potter. "Are you going to stand there all day?" he asked coolly.

"There's a pub next door. Come have a drink with me," he said, stepping back slightly and pushing the door open behind him.

"I don't drink," Snape said flatly, trying to brush past his former student to reach the door.

"You do so," Potter countered, moving to block the door once more. "I've seen you."

Snape sighed. "I don't drink with you," he clarified, reaching for his wand. "Now will you remove yourself from my presence? I'd rather not have to resort to actions that would send me back to Azkaban."

Potter looked at him for a moment, then stepped aside, gesturing dramatically at the door. Snape responded with a derisive snort and then pushed past the younger man, exiting the inn.

Day Five
Snape bounced from inn to progressively dodgier inn, leaving each one just as abruptly as the last. He'd gotten less-than-warm receptions at each of them, and he was convinced that somewhere, he could find somewhere to sleep that would just leave him well enough alone.

Each time he checked out, Harry Potter was there waiting for him.

"Come grab some food with me, Snape," he said, following the older man through alleys and side roads. "You need to eat, and I need to talk to you."

"No, I don't," he said, darting into a narrow alleyway.

"Where else are you going to go?" Potter asked, doggedly pursuing Snape. "Your home's been destroyed, going on three years now. Saw to it myself, y'know." He paused, halting in place when Snape fixed him with a practically deadly glare. "Sorry 'bout that," he said, ducking his chin. "Didn't know."

Snape rolled his eyes, turning to continue his escape.

"Where are you going to go?" Potter repeated, once more falling into step behind the former professor. "Home is gone, money'll be gone soon, all your friends are dead--"

"Shut up!" Snape snarled, quickening his pace.

"All your friends are dead," Potter persisted, "and there's not a soul alive in the wizarding world that doesn't know your face."

Snape halted then, whirling around to stare at Potter. "And whose fault, pray tell, is that?" he asked coldly. "Mine?" He laughed, then, a bitter sound escaping him. "I think not. You're the one who seeks notoriety, the spotlight. I just want to be left alone. By everyone." He jabbed Potter in the centre of the chest with one nearly skeletal finger. "And you, Potter, are included in the concept of everyone, in case you've forgotten."

Potter regarded Snape carefully then, barely flinching when the older man poked at him. "You can't sleep on the streets," he said finally. "It's not safe. Not for you, at least. You'll be out of money soon, and the way you're tearing through the inns, you'll run out of those soon, too."

"I am not your concern," he snapped. "You weren't interested in my welfare all these years when I was in Azkaban, were you? You didn't raise an ill-tempered little finger to ensure that the guards didn't abuse their power, did you? Were you concerned that I wasn't getting three square meals a day, or that the man in the cell three down from me tried to chew off his own fingers because the guards stopped feeding him? Were you too busy horsing about with your equally appalling and parasitic friends to bother bringing forward your irrefutable testimony until now?"

Potter flushed hotly, mouth open to retort, but he stopped for a moment, pressing his lips into a thin line before continuing. "All my friends are dead or gone, too, Snape," he said softly. "All of them."

A slow, malicious smile spread across Snape's face. "Good," he said, then promptly turned on his heel and stalked down the alley.

Day Eight
Snape hadn't seen Potter since that day in the alley.

He was quite pleased with this development.

Day Ten
True to Potter's prediction, Snape ran out of money fairly quickly. With all of his assets having been seized during the war, and with an eternal delay on the paying out of reparations, he had nothing left.

That night, he slept under a tree on the outskirts of town. It was far enough away that he'd thought he'd be left alone for the most part, but close enough that there would probably be witnesses to any commotion. It was a restless sleep -- for all the ways for Severus Snape to finally die, he was determined not to be murdered in his sleep. Every last little noise roused him -- owls hooting, woodland creatures scurrying, leaves rustling.

Only once, long after even the most chronic insomniac would have been fast asleep, it wasn't the patter of animals roaming that woke him; it was the eerie feeling of someone looming overhead.

Apparently, sometime during the war, Harry Potter had mastered the art of stealth.

He had the upper hand now; he'd already drawn his wand before Snape had even begun to struggle to sit up.

"Come on, Snape," he said, voice barely above a whisper. In the soft glow of the moonlight, Snape finally saw the dark circles under the younger man's eyes, the grim set to his expression, the dead look in his eyes. He too was a man haunted by the past.

"No," Snape said, cautiously pulling his wand from his sleeve. "Haven't you pestered me enough? Haven't you had your fun?" He didn't sound angry; he sounded resigned.

"Just a cup of tea, to warm you, at least. Just hear me out. Then you can go back to sleeping under trees and stealing food to survive, like a refugee rather than a war hero."

"I am no hero, Potter. You of all people should know that."

"Decree from the Ministry says otherwise," Potter said, shrugging. He held his own wand aloft, lighting the area immediately around the tree. "What I saw in Dumbledore's Pensieve says otherwise."

Snape sighed, leaning back against the tree. "What do I have to do to get you to leave me alone?" he asked, completely ignoring anything the younger man had just said.

"One cup of tea," he said, holding up his index finger. "And a chat."

"And that's it. You'll be out of my life forever."

"Something like that," Potter said. That was as close to a promise as Snape would get, probably.

"Fine," he snapped abruptly, standing up. "One cup of tea. You natter on for half an hour, and then you get out of my hair."

"Yeah," Potter said, turning and beginning the walk down the path to the village. He didn't check to see if Snape was behind him. He didn't need to.

Day Eleven
"No, absolutely not." Snape slammed his empty tea cup down on the table and pushed his chair back, standing up quickly.

"Just until you get back on your feet," Potter said, still seated. He deftly dabbed up the tea that had sloshed over the side of Snape's cup, completely unimpressed by the older man's outburst.

"I am on my feet," Snape retorted. "I don't need your help." He snatched his cloak up from his chair and pulled it on over his shoulders.

"You don't have anywhere else to go!" Potter exclaimed, raising his voice enough to attract the attention of the very bored looking barkeep.

"I don't care," the older man hissed, glaring at Potter. "I do not care if I have to beg for food, I will not lower myself to accepting your charity."

"Do you ever stop being such an arse?" Potter said, throwing his hands up in the air. "I'm just trying to help, you know. It's not like there's anyone else around who gives a damn about you. I don't like you, but I don't want to see you turn up dead on the streets, either, Snape."

Snape fastened his cloak at his neck and glowered at Potter. "I do not want your help," he growled, speaking slowly and deliberately. Perhaps if he went back to treating the younger man like a five-year-old, he'd get the hint.

"Fine," Potter sighed. "Have it your way."

"Good."

Day Thirteen

WAR CRIMINAL TURNED HERO SEVERUS SNAPE SHACKING UP WITH HARRY POTTER?
FORMER DEATH EATER ARRIVES AT POTTER'S FLAT IN THE EARLY HOURS OF THE MORNING


The staff here has been closely following the release of Severus Snape from Azkaban, after being fully pardoned by the Ministry of Magic, based on the discovery of previously un-revealed memories gathered from the Pensieve of Albus Dumbledore. Since his release, Snape has been seen frequenting a number of inns, only to leave soon after, for mysterious reasons. Higglebottom Oglethropp, owner of the Dancing Doxy Inn, reported that Snape was gruff, difficult to please, and frequently started up arguments with fellow patrons during his four-hour stay in the establishment.

Snape and Potter have been frequently spotted together since the former spy's release; most notably, they had a very public argument just a few days prior to this reporting. Now, with eyewitnesses claiming that Potter welcomed Snape into his home shortly after daybreak, tongues are wagging over the possible implications. Neither has left their apparent new home yet.

According to investigation, Potter has filed a motion with the Ministry to have his personal address recognised as Snape's home for future correspondence as well as Snape's mandated monthly meetings with a Ministry official. Potter and Snape have had quite the antagonistic relationship, our long-time readers may recall. The two have been enemies from the very day the Boy Who Lived set foot on the hallowed grounds of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. As you'll remember, Potter was crucial in the eventual capture and conviction of Snape during the War. However, it was Potter's intervention and appeal to the Ministry that recently secured the former convict's recent release from Azkaban.

So this intrepid reporter must wonder: what, then, were Potter's true motivations for assisting in gaining freedom for the notorious criminal? Our faithful readers will recall a recent series of articles and photo exposés trailing Potter through some of London's seediest pubs, several of which cater to alternative lifestyles. Could Potter be courting Snape? Could their enmity be a cover-up for deeper feelings? Or does Potter simply feel some sympathy for his former professor, who looks much worse for the wear since his stay in Azkaban.

Messages sent via owl to Potter's residence have received no response. Quite the mystery! We will cover this story until we find answers!


Day Fourteen
On the grass in front of the unassuming building that Harry Potter lived in sat a very large stack of the most recent issue of the piece of trash that passed for a newspaper these days.

They were in flames.

It wouldn't take a genius to determine who set them alight.

Because of the commotion, a small group of gawkers gathered across the street from Potter's flat. The curtains were drawn shut, and though there were frequent reports of explosions and unusual magical activity emanating from the place, no one ever left the building.

That, of course, only fuelled the rumours.

Day Fifteen
The scene inside the house was just as chaotic as the scene outside. Lines had, quite literally, been drawn.

Snape stood on one side of the sitting room, wand drawn; a line had been scorched into the hardwood floor, dividing the room in two.

"This is all your fault!" Snape raged, and the look on Potter's face said clearly that this wasn't the first time they'd had this argument. "If you hadn't been so... so arrogant as to presume that I wanted you to do anything to free me! If you hadn't assumed that I didn't have resources of my own, or that I couldn't have managed without your precious intervention. I didn't need your help!"

"Whatever, Snape," Potter said dismissively. He slumped in his armchair, idly sloshing tea about in his teacup. "You would have sat in Azkaban until you died if I hadn't lobbied the Ministry for your release. No one else was going to speak up for you, and the Minister was more than content to sweep Dumbledore's Pensieve away with all the other evidence they ignored in trying to uphold your conviction." He took a sip from his teacup and then balanced it carefully on his knee. "I've got enough deaths on my conscience; I just didn't want yours on there, too."

"And when, precisely, did you grow a conscience?" the older man spat, eyeing Potter contemptuously.

Potter ignored him and pressed on. "It's not like you've got a better plan, Snape. If you had one, you would have done something by now. Been out of here, gone off to Siberia or Budapest or -- or -- or the Bahamas, for all I care!"

"You've practically imprisoned me here, Potter!"

"I did no such thing!" Potter said, bending down to place his teacup carefully on the floor before straightening up and glowering at Snape from his chair. "I only--"

"You only interfered in my business with the Ministry! You filed paperwork -- paperwork! -- changing my official residence, without informing me, or seeking my approval, or doing anything other than being absolutely gleeful about ruining my life!" Snape gestured wildly at the younger man, who just simply appeared... tired.

"You did most of the hard work on that one yourself, Snape," Potter pointed out. "I didn't ruin your life, not by a long shot."

Snape kept ranting, ignoring Potter's jibe. "And then, then you allow the press to perch on your front step, spreading their gossip and their lies and their slander! You knew this would happen, and you've done nothing to stop their rumours!"

"I don't care about their stupid rumours, Snape," Potter said, getting up out of his chair, walking towards Snape's half of the room. "They've been following me around since the war ended, you know, since apparently they couldn't just move on and pick another person to harass. This is probably the best rumour they've started since they ran out of stories to run about how Voldemort was controlling me." Potter stepped lightly across the line Snape had scored in the floor. "At least this rumour has the decency of being at least part-way true."

Snape looked at him for a moment, as if he were considering how to respond. "You stay on your side," he growled, pointing at the line. Potter sighed and backed up a few paces.

It would turn out to be quite the pattern.

Day Eighteen
Eventually, things started to cool off, which shouldn't have been quite so much of a surprise to Potter. After all, he knew what Azkaban did to its inhabitants. It may have been shinier and more aesthetically pleasing now, without the Dementors and the overall menace, but it was still no place to call home. There was no fear of having your soul sucked away, but the psychological torture was enough to drive most people mad.

Snape, after spending the first few days raging, yelling, and being generally hostile towards Potter, suddenly seemed to just... relax.

He spent most of his time in the room Potter had given him, doing Merlin knows what all day long. Snape came out for meals, wherein he half-heartedly critiqued Potter's cooking skills, but still managed to eat the food. That was a start; the first two days, Potter was pretty sure that Snape might try a hunger strike.

While they weren't exactly friends, they did manage to be civil to one another. Potter asked after Snape's plans for the future, Snape's family, Snape's time at Hogwarts, Snape's time with the Death Eaters...

Snape asked after Potter's plans to kindly shut the hell up.

That was, at least, what passed for civil. Sometimes, though, he could muster up conversation that didn't incite an argument.

"Didn't you think I would hear the rumours eventually?" Snape asked that morning, perched warily on the edge of his chair, as though he was ready to flee at any moment. Conversation made him uncomfortable, but he couldn't deny his curiosity. He had another newspaper article clutched in his hands; this time, the Daily Prophet printed a long list of interviews with young, charming wizards who had sordid tales to tell about the Boy Who Lived.

Potter, who had read the article with a long-suffering, quite Snape-ian sigh, merely shrugged. "I didn't care if you knew, really. You'd find something to torment me with, no matter what." He tapped his fingers against his thigh, glancing up at his former professor. "My eating patterns, the way I prepare tea, the fact that I always leave the light on in the loo, the colour of the sofa, or who I like to sleep with. It's all the same in the end. Just cannon fodder for you, y'know? And really, would it have mattered? I pull you out of Azkaban, follow you around the city for a week, talk you into staying with me because I filled out a few forms to make it necessary..." He pushed his glasses up on his nose, then threaded his fingers through his hair awkwardly.

"You know," Potter continued, and Snape couldn't hold back an audible groan. "You know, aren't you at all curious as to why I was so determined to take you in?"

Snape shot him a scathing look. "No," he said flatly, launching himself out of his chair and heading towards the kitchen.

"Not at all?" Potter persisted, shouting down the hallway.

"Not even the slightest bit intrigued," Snape responded, then proceeded to drown Potter out with the sound of running water.

Day Twenty-One
There was one thing that Potter did know how to do well, even if he couldn't make good tea or if he turned all of Snape's clothes red with an errant spell. The boy -- man, still strange for Snape to think of him like that -- knew how to keep Snape out of his hair: give him a project. Potter had practically shoved Snape out of the kitchen, down a hallway and in front of a door which Snape was sure wasn't there the day before.

"I have something you might like to see," he said, one hand planted firmly between Snape's shoulder blades to keep him from bolting. Snape flinched at the touch, but held his ground. Potter leaned around the older man, who grumbled under his breath about his toast getting cold, and swung open the door.

"Oh," Snape said, peering inside the room, which was practically filled with books.

"It's my library," Potter said, letting his hand drop from Snape's back. He leaned up against the wall, watching the older man carefully. "Or, at least, it will be a library soon."

"Didn't even know you could read, Potter," Snape said, moving to stand in the doorway. It wasn't a library so much as a hodgepodge of books crammed into every available space. Rare, ancient texts sat alongside Muggle novels, which rested precariously on top of a stack of back issues of Witch Weekly from the 1960s.

Potter looked at his former professor for a while, who seemed just as in his element here, surrounded by books, as he did hunched over a cauldron. "After everyone was killed," he said slowly, gazed fixed firmly on his shoes, "or went off to the States, or the mainland, or whatnot, I found out that I had a lot of spare time." He wandered into the room, pushing gently past Snape, and let his gaze rest on the books.

"You know, after Dumbledore--" He glanced back at Snape, then rapidly looked away. "He left a lot of stuff to me, I found out. I didn't really care about any of it at the time, unless I thought it could help me kill Voldemort." Potter trailed his fingers over the spines of the books as he walked about. "These books were all his. I -- I haven't really read many, and it took me a year to unpack them all, because you know how tricky he was about things like that. Merlin only knows what he actually had in here. There were books shrunk down and stuck inside other books, boxes that were actually transfigured books, books that were actually boxes..." He sighed, leaning up against a sturdy pile of books. "Anyway. Until the Ministry decides if you're allowed to work -- sorry about that, I guess I didn't tick the right box on one of the forms -- uh." He wrung his hands awkwardly in front of him. "Would you like to help me catalogue them?"

Snape blinked at his former student, catching his gaze and holding it. That wasn't what he was expecting Potter to say. "On one condition," he drawled, uncuffing his shirtsleeves and meticulously rolling them to his elbows.

Potter looked at him expectantly.

"Don't speak."

Day Twenty-Two
"You're staring," Snape said that morning over tea. "Don't. It's uncouth."

Potter merely raised his eyebrows, a practiced gesture that he'd picked up from Snape. "Am not," he retorted, dropping some sugar into his teacup.

After that, they sat in silence for a while, Snape pushing his eggs half-heartedly around on his plate, Potter frowning at another likely defamatory article in the Prophet. After scanning the last page, Potter methodically folded the paper in half, sliding it across the table to the older man.

That was something Potter had learned from Snape. For the first week, he'd merely haphazardly tossed the misshapen lump of newspaper at Snape. That habit didn't last long, though, after Potter's meals started containing suspicious quantities of newspaper.

Snape spoke, though, something which took Potter aback immediately. He never initiated conversation unless it was to criticize the younger man. "Why did you insist on taking me in?" he asked quietly. He almost appeared to care what Potter's answer was.

Potter looked at him for a little while before responding. "I think I finally understand you," the younger man said simply, honestly.

Snape merely snorted and got up to pour himself another cup of tea.

Day Twenty-Five
Snape thought that Potter was wrong about the books. He was convinced that they were actually quite simple to organize.

That is, they'd be quite simple to organize if Potter would ever stop talking and would just alphabetise instead.

"Did you see the paper today?" Potter asked, sorting through a stack of books.

"Yes," Snape grunted, working on pulling out all the rare, one-of-a-kind books before Potter could get his sticky little fingers all over them. "You insisted on reading it aloud over breakfast."

"Oh. Right, forgot about that." Potter tossed another battered copy of Quidditch through the Ages -- the seventeenth he'd found so far that morning -- into a pile near Snape. "Did you look outside? The weather's right lovely."

"That's nice," Snape said, and he couldn't possibly have projected more of an I don't care tone.

Potter pursed his lips, watching Snape work. He looked practically presentable these days. That's what twenty-odd days of three square meals and mostly uninterrupted sleep did for a man, Potter supposed. Snape looked well-rested, well-groomed, well-put-together, and most certainly not nearly as insane as he'd looked the first few days after his release from Azkaban.

"How about a picnic?" Potter suggested absently, glancing over from the stack of books he was supposed to be organising.

"Hm?" Snape looked back at Potter, eyebrows raised as if he wasn't sure he'd heard quite right. "No thanks," he muttered finally, shaking his head before turning back to his work.

"You know, you are allowed to go outside. Minister hasn't restricted you from fresh air, last time I checked."

"I know that," Snape replied, tone a little sharper than it'd been in a while. "I don't want to."

Potter sighed. "Merlin, you're stubborn," he muttered under his breath.

Day Twenty-Six
"You know, for October, it isn't half bad outside," Potter said as he passed Snape the morning paper.

"Hm," Snape responded, snatching the paper away.

"Want to go out for dinner tonight? There's a review that says the new tavern by the Dancing Doxy is pretty good."

"No thank you," Snape said, flipping the paper open and proceeding to hide behind it.

Day Twenty-Seven
"Ever been to the Muggle cinema?" Potter asked while clearing away the dishes from dinner.

"No," Snape said, rising from the table to store away the leftovers.

"Want to go? It's pretty fun, and I heard there are some good films playing." Potter turned around, glancing over his shoulder at Snape.

"No," the older man responded, only briefly meeting Potter's eyes.

Day Twenty-Eight
Harry Potter had a mission.

It'd been quite some time since he'd had anything to be this determined about. He kind of liked it, having a purpose again.

"Want to go to the market? I heard Ollinthrope's got a new supply of shrivelfigs in."

"I have plenty," Snape responded, cramming the most recent issue of International Potions Quarterly into its final home on a shelf. He turned to look at Potter, who had hardly done any work in the library yet that day. Surprise, surprise.

"But still," Potter said, resting his elbows on the table. "'s a lovely day for a walk, isn't it?"

"No, it's not," Snape said, pushing a stray lock of hair away from his face.

Day Twenty-Nine
"Hey, Snape. D'ya want to--"

"No, Potter."

Day Thirty
"Heard there's a potions conference in town later this week."

Snape nearly fumbled the book he was holding, startled either by Potter's sudden appearance, or his surprise announcement. "Really," he said, tone feigning complete disinterest.

"Wanna go?" Potter rummaged in the pockets of his trousers, pulling out two entry passes to the meetings, which he proceeded to wave in front of Snape's face.

"How did you get those?" he asked, snatching the tickets out of Potter's hand.

"I'm Harry Potter," he said with a shrug. "Still have some perks associated with the name."

"Why are there two?" Snape asked absently as he tapped the tickets with his wand, looking to ensure that they weren't counterfeit.

"I'm coming, too."

Snape put down his wand with a scowl, turning to look at Potter. "You don't even like potions," he said flatly. "You don't understand them. You-- you--"

"Have changed a lot since I was sixteen," Potter cut in with. "You do remember the potion I had to make for the whole defeating Voldemort thing, yeah?"

Snape sighed. "I like to try to ignore that."

"There are a lot of things you like to try to ignore, Snape," he said. Potter stepped forward, snatching the passes back out of Snape's hands. "C'mon, it'll be fun. You can mock me for being stupid. It'll be just like the old days."

Snape snorted, watching Potter like a hawk as the younger man slid the passes back into his pocket.

Day Thirty-Three

POTTER AND SNAPE SPOTTED TOGETHER IN PUBLIC!
COVERT COUPLE ATTENDS INTERNATIONAL POTIONS SYMPOSIUM


Well, faithful readers, you wouldn't even believe this if you saw it with your own eyes! (That's why we've helpfully provided a photo spread; see pages A3 through A10.) Famed war criminal-turned-hero Severus Snape has finally been spotted outside of the walls of his new home -- and he was spotted with none other than Harry Potter!

We've been speculating for nearly the past month that the two former adversaries have actually shacked up, but we've been lacking the hard evidence needed to really convince you, the astute reader. But now, we've seen it with our own eyes!

The International Potions Symposium was held here in London recently, and two surprise guests showed up for the series of lectures. Snape and Potter sat in the back of the hall for all of the lectures, and while several presenters were speaking on topics that we know Snape would have had plenty to say on, the pair was quiet and respectful. Several people commented to our intrepid reporters that they hadn't imagined that Snape could possibly keep quiet during a gathering of this sort.

Perhaps this is an example of the positive change that Potter has instilled in the notoriously angry former professor.

Have you spotted the wizarding world's new power couple out and about? Owl us your stories and photos! If we like them, we'll print them in our next issue.


Day Thirty-Four
Snape wasn't as angry over this article as he was about the previous ones.

This time, he only insisted that Potter buy all of the copies from the store at the end of the block so that he could torch them. Usually, he made Potter go to every store in the neighbourhood

This? This was progress.

Day Thirty-Seven
The library was actually starting to take shape rather well. Snape, of course, would say that it was all his doing.

"Potter," he drawled, hands on his hips as he stood before one of the last shelves to be organised. "Did they not teach you the alphabet in your Muggle school? Or did you conveniently choose to forget it just to spite me?" He jerked a book from the shelf and held it aloft. "Saint-Alleyne comes before Saint-Jean, and they both come before Schotz." He waved one of the offending texts at Potter before crouching down to put it in its correct place.

"Sorry," Potter mumbled, glancing up from the book he was repairing. "Must have been distracted."

"Of course you were." Snape stepped back from the shelf then, eyes scanning diligently for any other misplaced books. "You've got an attention span to rival a first years'. Can't say I'm surprised."

Potter sighed, shutting his newly rebound book and setting his wand on top of it. "Do you ever give up?" he asked, exasperation plain on his face.

Snape's expression, very clearly, said no.

"I mean, haven't I proven to you that I'm not a complete and utter twat? I-- I've been respectful, hard-working; I've tried to learn about stuff you're interested in, I've changed what I eat and when I sleep and how loudly I walk so as to not damage your precious, ancient eardrums."

"If you're trying to court me," Snape interrupted, holding up his hand to silence the younger man, "you're doing a piss-poor job of it." He folded his arms across his chest and stared down his nose at Potter, who turned an unfortunate shade of red.

"I-- what-- I don't-- I mean, that is to say--" Potter wrung his hands nervously, staring up at Snape in absolute slack-jawed amazement.

"Potter," he said, sliding down into a chair. "Rumours aside, you've not stopped trying to find new and interesting ways of getting in my space since we started working on your little library project."

"Friends spend time with each other!"

Snape raised an eyebrow in question. "You make my bed and do my laundry. You give me the better part of the roast with dinner. You make book recommendations for me. You keep insisting on a night on the town. You find creative ways of having physical contact with me."

"Friends do--"

"You insisted on sleeping on a cot in my room because I said I noticed a mouse. Did you forget that the Ministry hasn't prohibited me from vanquishing vermin?"

"I was just--"

"You spent a week trying to convince me to do some sort of activity that would routinely qualify as a date."

"You're lonely!" Potter squeaked.

"I am used to being lonely, Potter," he pointed out. "You seem to be trying to replace all of your old friends with me. And I assure you, I am not friendly."

"Now that's a lie, Snape. That is such a lie. You have conversations with me! You ask me about the books I'm cataloguing. Even your insults are getting weak."

Snape shrugged. "Maybe I've stopped caring."

"Oh, and I'm the bloody Queen of England," the younger man snapped, pushing his chair away from the table. He stood abruptly, threading his fingers through his unruly hair, and began pacing around the table. "And, you know, so what if I want to do things with you? So what if I want to go see a film, or go to a museum, or go out to eat? You're not half bad, you know. Better than the blokes I meet in the pubs, who just want a go with me because I'm famous. At least you're honest; if I'm being stupid, you'll tell me. I don't expect sunshine and roses and fucking strolls along the shore."

Snape, who watched Potter with an almost predatory interest as he paced around, let a small smile tug at the corners of his lips. "So. Are you courting me or not, Potter?"

"No. Yes. No. I-- " Potter covered his face with his hands and groaned. "Sure," he said finally. "Why the hell not?"

Day Thirty-Eight
Breakfast was quite possibly the most awkward affair between the two men since Snape had first moved in.

And perhaps the most awkward bit of all was the fact that Snape seemed entirely uninterested in Potter's new bumbling and stammering act.

"Pass the toast," said Snape, who held out his hand expectantly for the plate. Potter picked up the eggs instead, handing them over to Snape. "Toast, Potter. Doesn't come from a hen," he said, barely concealing his smirk as he passed the eggs back.

Day Forty
Snape sat in the makeshift library, forehead pressed into his hand as he scribbled down notes for his latest alteration to the instructions for making Wolfsbane. Lupin may have been gone for a few years now, but Snape felt almost as though he owed it to his former ally (or adversary, depending on how you see things) to improve the concoction for any other werewolves with whom he may cross paths.

Ever since their discussion, Potter had been either embarrassingly cloying or frighteningly distant. That wasn't much of a surprise to Snape.

He had just turned over his parchment, jotting down notes for his ideas on a new reheating technique, when he heard footsteps crossing the threshold into the room. Barely glancing up, he dipped his quill into his inkwell, then went back to writing.

It wasn't long before Potter slid into the chair across from Snape. "You know," he said, propping his chin in his hands, elbows planted firmly on the table. "Somehow, I made a reservation for two for dinner tonight." He smirked at Snape, a hint of his old mischievous nature creeping into his eyes. "Rather than going through the hassle of firecalling and cancelling, why don't--"

"Yes, I'll go," Snape said, meeting Potter's gaze for just a second.

Day Forty-One

POTTER AND SNAPE SPOTTED AT LOCAL EATERY
ALL THE PHOTOS YOU COULD EVER POSSIBLY NEED


Well, readers, if you possibly needed any additional proof that famed wizard Harry Potter and former convict Severus Snape are more than just friends, their intimate little dinner last night at wizarding London's newest hotspot is just the evidence you may need.

Potter and Snape dined together at a candlelit table in the rear of The Magic Caterpillar Garden, sitting close together, eating from one another's plates, and being generally very friendly with one another. Witnesses say that they even saw the dour former professor smile and laugh during his evening out with Potter.

And if that wasn't enough, our photo spread clearly shows the two holding hands and staring deep into one another's eyes!1 These two are quite clearly a couple, folks!

Which begs the question: why? While we don't mean to question Potter's choices, seeing as he truly is a hero in our world, we can't help but wonder what exactly he sees in Snape. Perhaps there is more to the man than meets the eye! We assure you, faithful readers, that we will spend a considerable amount of time investigating this issue. Who is Severus Snape, and why has he captured the attentions of the premiere bachelor of the wizarding world? Answers next issue!

1. Photographs may have been manipulated through spells, charms, and other convenient methods. Photographs may not all accurately represent the actual events of the evening.


Day Forty-Two
Snape only set one copy of the paper ablaze this time.

And then he used it to light a fire under his cauldron. Waste not, want not.

Day Forty-Four
Potter lounged on the sofa, taking up every inch of available space. His head lolled over the armrest, and his knuckles dragged across the floor. He looked a little queasy.

"Snape!" he hollered. "You don't have Pepperup Potion sitting around, do you?"

Snape wandered into the room, brandishing a small glass vial. "Not for you I don't," he said before slipping it back into his pocket.

Day Forty-Seven
Snape looked at this whole thing as something akin to an experiment. He counted the times he caught Potter looking at him, the number of inane reasons Potter came up with for needing to visit Snape's room after he had already retired for the night. The number of times Potter touched him, the number of times Potter started to reach for him, but stopped short.

He added, subtracted, multiplied, divided. He twisted it all up in his head, manipulating the numbers like they were pieces on a chessboard, and they still didn't make any sense.

Snape resolved to call Potter by his first name when everything finally made sense.

Day Fifty
There was still something Snape wasn't quite used to: the feeling of strong, warm arms wrapped around his waist. But that was what he found himself surprised with one day as he hunched over a cauldron.

"Whatcha making?" came Potter's voice from somewhere south of Snape's right ear. The younger man's breath was hot on Snape's neck, and he couldn't help but lean back into Potter's embrace.

"Replenishing my supply of Veritaserum," Snape said, reaching out to stir the concoction. Three times counter-clockwise, one clockwise, three more times counter. He could practically do it in his sleep.

Potter raised up on his tiptoe behind Snape, peering into the cauldron. "No, you're not. Veritaserum's three clockwise, two counter, repeat twice."

Snape set down his stirring spoon and slowly turned within the circle of Potter's arms to face the younger man. "What did you say?"

"Three clockwise, two counter, repeat twice," Potter recited, not even a hint of nervousness in his voice. "And it's the wrong colour, anyhow. It should be clear, if you're at the point where you're stirring."

A surprised smile crossed Snape's face for just a fraction of a second. "Very good, Potter," he said. Potter grinned up at the older man, satisfaction evident on his face.

He didn't realise it, perhaps it was all subconscious, but somehow, his arms were around Potter's waist, and they were close. Very close.

Snape looked down at their bodies, pressed together, then back at Potter's face. The young man's expression was a jumble of emotions: pride, fear, intrigue, nervousness, and maybe, just maybe, lust.

"Why me, Potter?" he asked, letting the conversation veer to where it had needed to go for a while now.

"Why not you?"

"Give me a real answer or I'll leave you here until you figure out what's really in the cauldron."

Potter smirked. "One of the things I got from Dumbledore was his Pensieve, you know that already. And during the War, all I wanted it for was to gather hints on how to find the horcruxes, how to destroy them. Anything that wasn't directly related to that, I ignored." He paused, eyelids flickering shut for a moment, before he continued. "But afterwards, with everyone gone, I... I didn't have too much to do, so I kind of ... got lost in the Pensieve for a while." Potter slowly let go of Snape's waist, resting his hands flat on the other man's chest instead.

"He put almost every memory he had of you in there, you know? It's like he wanted to erase you before he died, so it was easier. Or harder. Or more authentic, maybe." Potter shook his head, then continued. "I went in looking to learn about Dumbledore, or about my parents, or something. Instead, I wound up learning about you. How much he trusted you, about how he saw you. And, well. After I understood what happened in sixth year..." He sighed, trying to collect his words. "The more I learned, the more I found that I had all this respect for you, and the more I had in common with you. And the more I wanted to understand you, to find you, to make things right." He swallowed heavily. "And somewhere in there, I started seeing you as something other than a madman. I saw you as ... as you, as someone who was flawed, twisted, human. You were real, finally, when I put everything together. You were real, and I wanted that."

Snape was silent for a long while, looking at the younger man, expression impossible to read, as always. Finally, he let one hand slide up from Potter's waist, grasping one of the younger man's hands in his own. "I don't pretend to understand your motivation," he murmured, bringing Potter's hand to his mouth, lips brushing across knuckles. "And if you regret--"

"I don't--"

Snape shushed him. "If you regret this, I--" He closed his eyes, trying to summon the part of him that still had actual feelings, not what was left of him after years of hiding. "I would understand."

"Severus, I--"

Snape silenced Potter again. "Just-- listen. You know I can't be anyone other than who I am, that I--"

"Oh, shut up," Potter insisted, and he pulled his hand loose from Snape's grasp, placing both of his hands on Snape's shoulders instead. "Just shut up."

And with that, he leaned forward, pressing his lips to Snape's for the first time. Their lips, their bodies came together like they were meant to be, and it was good. It was electric, it was insane, it was teeth and lips and tongues battling; hands roaming, exploring, knocking down walls and barriers with furious speed.

When they broke the kiss, both men were wide-eyed and short of breath. They stared at each other for a long while, Potter's cheek cradled in Snape's hand, Snape's hair tangled in Potter's fingers.

Potter grinned, an impish twist to his lips. "That was--"

"Oh, do shut up. Harry." Snape said, a slight smile gracing his face before leaning to capture the younger man's lips in a kiss.

Somehow, Snape always wound up with the upper hand. Some things never change.