LIFE GOES ON: A HARRY POTTER FAN-FICTION STORY
By Becca Sarna (alias Chuksha)
Word Count: 2,172
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: Harry Potter has finished his final year at Hogwarts and he goes on one last walk to say his goodbyes. As a result, he finds himself at the top of the Astronomy Tower with none other than Professor Snape.
Harry stared out across the grounds from his high perch in the Astronomy Tower, feeling mawkish. It had taken him eight years to reach this point. A free man, with no prophecy or expectation except that in six weeks his exam results would arrive by owl post. Just like every other Hogwarts student.
He’d had a few offers; he had returned to Quidditch this year, but it hadn’t been as joyful. It felt like a chore. No. He wouldn’t be accepting any of the invitations to Quidditch try-outs, no matter how much the Cannons were offering for a starting salary or Ron tried to talk him into it. He’d turned down the Aurors flat; the idea of spending his life chasing dark wizards had given him nightmares for a week…
He’d discovered a penchant for charms and applied to a few universities, only because everyone else was. Minerva had been patient and kind; she seemed to understand that even a year after the fact, Harry still couldn’t get used to the idea that he had a life to live.
He wasn’t sure why he’d come up here to the Tower. It was the last place anyone would look; when he’d returned, he’d rather pointedly dropped Astronomy as a class and no one had argued. He’d been shocked when Snape returned to Potions; he knew Minerva had been struggling to fill the defence post, so Kingsley had stepped in at the last minute. Snape was a different teacher without the war hanging over his head, and Harry was quietly confident of at least an E in Potions when his results came through.
“One would think…”
Startled by the voice, Harry jumped and whipped around, wand in hand, before he relaxed on catching sight of the Potions Master.
“…that a young Gryffindor such as yourself would be out celebrating with your friends.”
Harry lowered his wand and stuck it back up his sleeve. He sighed and leaned on the railing, looking out over the lake.
“Your father left quite the lasting… impression…on his final day here,” Snape continued.
Harry laughed bitterly. He could just imagine. “My father wasn’t already a murderer and war veteran. He had the luxury of a childhood.”
Snape didn’t respond with platitudes; he knew better. “And you have the luxury of a life,” he said softly. “Do not waste it living in the past.”
Harry looked up. He almost called Snape a hypocrite. Almost. He realised that he’d managed to go the year without saying a word to the man outside of a classroom and the odd perfunctory greeting. “I didn’t think anyone would come up here today.”
Snape fixed him with a sharp look. “You are not as mysterious as you think you are, Mr. Potter.”
“Harry,” the young wizard said softly.
“What?” Snape seemed genuinely surprised.
“My name, my name’s Harry, not Mr. Potter.”
Snape didn’t answer verbally. His nod was enough. Then he said, “He would have been very proud today, to see your cohort thriving.” Given where they stood, Harry didn’t have to ask who Snape meant. “You in particular.”
Harry let out a short burst of air from his nostrils. It was something like a bittersweet laugh. No one else seemed to have even noticed the date, and Harry had found it strangely fitting that today was the last day for those old enough to walk to the gate and apparate away. Quietly he admitted, “This is the first time I have been back up here since…”
“I am aware.”
No judgment in the tone, and Harry wondered if Snape had been back since, but he had more sense than to ask. “I kept reliving it.” Not just nightmares, but actually reliving it in his mind. “Chasing you down there, you could have killed me in a heartbeat. I was completely blindsided and I still didn’t see the truth.”
Snape shot him a look of confusion, and perhaps distaste, at the turn the conversation had taken. “You came here to reminisce?”
Harry snorted. “No,” he admitted, “I came to atone.” No one else seemed to understand the guilt, soul crushing, all because he hadn’t been watching properly. “It seems a fitting spot for saying goodbye.”
“You have nothing to atone for.”
Harry turned with a sigh and looked into the centre of the room, his eyes tracing the trajectory Dumbledore’s body had taken that night. “I didn’t see it; it was right here in front of me and I completely missed it.”
“You were never meant to,” Snape revealed. “He was a very good liar.”
Harry blinked and looked up slowly. A strange thing for the spy to say.
“One presumes you have heard enough of your mother’s eyes and your father’s face.”
Harry choked slightly on the air that caught in the back of his throat. He hadn’t expected anything like that, not from Snape.
“Lies,” said the Potions Master.
Harry felt frozen, stuck like he couldn’t properly process what he was hearing.
“Her eyes were never so old, his face never so worn.”
Now Harry thought he understood why Snape had come to find him today. “Did Professor McGonagall put you up to this, sir?” He knew she worried about him. She’d spent enough time this year trying to make him see more than the dreaded unknown when he looked to the future.
Harry blinked. “Excuse me?”
“My name is Severus. You have earned the right to use it this year.”
It felt like a weight lifted off Harry’s shoulders. This year. Not last year. Not in the war. He’d done it by being like every other kid and getting through school. He’d earned this man’s respect, not with acts of blind heroism in the heat of war but by beginning to rebuild a life after the fact. He’d done it with the choices he’d made, not the prophecy he’d fulfilled.
“We did not expect you to return.”
Harry had not fully expected it, himself; it had taken everything he had to come back here in September like any other student. Softly, carefully, he explained, “Too many people gave, sacrificed, and risked too much for me to throw it back in their faces by not getting the education they fought for me and people like me to have. Including you.”
They lapsed into another silence. Snape didn’t ask what Harry thought people like him were. Muggle raised, muggle born, half-blood; it hung in the air between them, unsaid but acknowledged all the same. The ministry was still up in arms trying to establish real education reform, but no one knew yet what that meant. The best idea so far had been a magical primary school, but that was fraught with difficulty and unlikely to come to fruition.
“The Italian universities are renowned for their charms courses, the French for their transfiguration…”
Harry didn’t look up. Of course Snape knew he’d applied to a few European schools as well. Harry was going to be having words with the headmistress about student confidentiality…
“An academic reference from Filius…”
Harry’s heart skipped a beat that Snape knew he’d pick charms…
“…which I am led to believe you have at your disposal…”
Harry had asked and had been pleased to find that Professor Flitwick had put him through his paces before he’d agree…
“…and the undoubtedly excellent exam scores your studies will produce…”
Was that a compliment? From Snape? Harry didn’t interrupt.
“…would suffice in convincing the Professor Sposito…”
Harry didn’t ask how Snape knew who the head of the department for charms at Sapienza was…
“…of your suitability to study there, despite your presumably appalling grasp of the Italian language.”
Harry couldn’t hide his surprise. Everyone had been pushing him towards transfiguration. He could become an animagus; he’d definitely be something winged they had speculated. He was powerful enough, they had insisted. Harry had baulked at the idea; he didn’t want to be powerful.
“You are not your father.”
Those words from Snape nearly knocked his legs out from under Harry. He wondered how long Snape had taken to come to that particular realisation. He swallowed the lump in his throat, but didn’t know what to say. Somehow Snape knew exactly why Harry had decided that transfiguration wasn’t for him. Harry wanted to leave the past in the past not spend his life trying to emulate a man he never knew.
Eventually he said with a smile, “I’ve been studying Italian on my own. I visited a campus a few months back. It’s beautiful.” One of the Charms professors had been very kind and had given him a lot of advice. Harry hadn’t gotten very far with the language, but he could probably survive a long weekend in the Italian capital during the summer with what he’d managed to teach himself.
“Do explore Rome whilst you are there… Harry. You will find you are not the first young soldier to find a home within its walls.”
Harry had caught glimpses of Rome; the place was scarred and aged by war, time, and the movement of people. It had been nice to walk busy streets and not be recognised. To see what a bustling tourist city looked like.
Sighing softly, he said, “I always considered this place home, then a prison, sanctuary, battlefield… never really saw it as a school. Too many memories. I suppose.”
Snape let him wallow for a minute before he spoke again. “Filius plans to retire. It took Minerva rather a lot of effort to convince him to return at all.” Harry wasn’t sure why Snape was telling him this. “He will wait until there is a sufficiently qualified professor to replace him, but no longer.”
“Like you’re waiting for Malfoy?” Harry asked flippantly.
Snape’s eyes bore into him. “Draco Malfoy will never be a professor; he hasn’t the temperament.” Snape smirked at Harry’s look, for with his history they both knew he had a lot of nerve judging anyone else’s ability to be a teacher. “No, perhaps even your children will pass through my classroom, in time.”
So Snape had no intention of leaving, and somehow that was a comfort to Harry. To know the school was in safe hands. He felt stupidly attached to this place, duty bound to stay close and defend it. If Snape was here he could neglect that duty, for Snape would lay down his life before he let this school fall. Apparently, he was willing enough to do it.
“If they are ever born,” Harry said, “I’ll make sure to teach them Victorian flower language before their first potions class.”
Snape looked appalled, and then half nodded as if to himself. Harry had waited eight years to let the man know he understood that message.
“Perhaps… do not keep Filius waiting too long. He has indicated a thirst for travel in his retirement.”
Harry considered it. That was the first idea someone had given him for a career that didn’t fill him with dread. “This school deserves a charms professor who knows what they’re doing,” he conceded. “Five years is a long time.” That was how long it would take him to qualify to be a professor, to study his craft and master it, to build an academic reputation worthy of the school. If Minerva would even take him on at such a young age.
“I have a handful of galleons on you achieving the certificate in four years,” Snape revealed. Harry was humbled by the vote of confidence. “And returning in the fifth.”
“Who even took that bet?” Harry asked, eyebrow raised in surprise.
“Sybil’s tea leaves advise that you’ll do it in three.”
Harry laughed at the notion and Snape’s quiet insistence that Harry might be The Saviour, but he still wasn’t that good. Snape was one of only two professors who had treated him like every other student this year and he appreciated it.
Years later, on his first day as a teacher, Harry laughed again when he watched Severus scowl as he handed a smirking Sybil Trelawney several galleons in the Hogwarts staff room. The fact that the man had led the toast welcoming Harry to the staff had taken the edge from that scowl and formed the foundations of a working friendship as time passed. Although, it did become something of a standing joke that after seven years of house Quidditch wagers with Minerva, Severus ought to have learned not to bet his galleons against Harry Potter every time the young head of house took the cup to his office. Harry didn’t mind; he usually spent the winnings on fire whisky for the end of term staff party anyway, or Severus did, depending on what colours the hall had been decorated that year, and as usual, Minerva and Sybil drank most of it between them.