*blush* Whoops, I didn't mean to post this without changing the preface. *cough* It's obviously time for me to go to bed.

I wrote this last night between 10 o'clock and two in the morning for the [livejournal.com profile] accio_is_love community. This is what happens when the muse listens to Renaissance choral music in the middle of the night.

Title: New Life
Pairing: sort of Snarryish? Some Harry/Ginny (sorry!)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] perverse_idyll
Rating: Gen
Word count: 2201
Summary: Severus finds it hard to let go.



Once a year Severus sought out Harry Potter.

He didn't come to haunt. He wasn't bent on revenge. The blood he'd spilled in the Shrieking Shack didn't bind him. No debt or last-minute sin forced him to return to the living world. It was entirely of his own free will that he paid the boy these spectral visits. No one but Severus knew of them, and when he departed each year he left no trace behind.

On the anniversary of his death, his spirit materialised inside the walls of Godric's Hollow. The dark of midnight lay over the house; to Severus it was the same as day. Once inside he moved as he had in life, gliding the halls. He scorned the theatricality of floating. Here, where his memories beckoned, he touched the earth. It was merely a matter of respect and self-control.

A soft whimper as he swept past the nursery provoked only a faint snort of dismissal. Severus was no longer obliged to care about the children of those he'd died for. The sunny, busy dreams emanating from the room didn't call to him in the slightest, and his presence skimmed over them like a crow's wing.

He walked as one still living, but there were limits to his observance of the old flesh-and-blood ways. Confronted with a bedroom door, he hesitated, smirked, then melted right through.

The intense desire to descend upon Potter faded, as always, and Severus stopped. He was here now. He never questioned the compulsion that blew him from one side of the veil to the other, pursuing him through overlapping layers of sorrow, fury, forbidden emotion. Every year he rushed forward until he fetched up inside these walls, staring down at these indistinguishable lumps lying side by side in an ordinary bed.

Potter. Harry. And his wife.

Harry. The name shivered inside him as if he still had a body, as if his bones were hollow, as if the name were a breath blowing through every moment that had led him here. The shadow representing his existence rippled as if their proximity to each other summoned a windstorm. An emotional dissonance that made him feel…alive.

He knew which side of the bed Potter favoured. As usual, having got this far, he hesitated to continue. His past had ceased paining him long ago, but he felt it stir every time he drew near the boy. But why was he here, if not to prove to himself, one last time, that Potter lived? He'd done what he promised to do. He'd helped save Lily's son.

No. He'd saved Harry. The last thing he'd seen as he died had been Harry. No wonder he kept coming back.

His obsessive focus on the wretched brat had brought him to the bedside. Sometimes he didn't need to move; a mere thought would suffice. Severus frowned. He could see the bed's occupants. To his eyes they emitted an unearthly radiance, brightest wherever he happened to be looking. He barely glanced at Harry's wife, although as ever the sight of her long ginger hair prompted fickle memories of Lily and fickler thoughts about Harry in bed with his mum. It didn't escape his notice that there were three people under the warm, rucked-up quilt, although one of them hardly qualified as a person.

Quick, owl the tabloids. Potter's spawning again!

That thought was like a flame burning through the last of his mortal tissue. He wanted to shake the boy. Every new life carried Harry farther away. From the past. From him. Each child changed him, as each year made him less the child Severus had once—

What? Protected? Yes, that was acceptable. Protected. It would do.

The day would come when it wouldn't be worth crossing over. On that day Severus might even forget he was dead.

He stood there, suffering Harry's presence—every second spent near the boy brought back another memory. Eventually he noticed he'd started to breathe. That was irritating. His incorporeal form was trying to imitate the hypnotic rise and fall of Harry's chest. Irresistible, as so much about the little bastard tended to be.

In the light generated by Severus' scrutiny, the boy lay exposed, slack-faced, a bit stubbly, his fringe curled and twisted upon the pillow. Without his glasses he looked— Severus cast about for words that wouldn't disgrace him or give him away. In that case, not 'innocent.' Not 'beautiful,' either. Potter beautiful? What a laugh. To think otherwise was simply not to be borne. Bad enough that he was temporarily too distracted to come up with a more suitable description.

Suddenly greedy, he ran his invisible fingers through Potter's fringe, thinking hair with unutterable scorn, hoping that, in the same way a thought could send him to the place he was thinking about, his opinion of the incorrigible Potter mop would allow him to…experience it…as he never had in life. A hopeless hope, a sign that he still wasn't able to let go.

Fuck it. His fingers strayed to the faded scar on Potter's forehead. It was stupid to stroke it—the boy wasn't a sodding cat—but he did so anyway, consoled by the fact that it didn't matter. He could no more detect the silky smoothness of skin than he could enjoy the crazy flutter of hair.

Harry's eyelids twitched. Severus froze, convinced that his uninvited touch and ethereal trespass had disturbed the boy's peace. But the glow around the bed actually brightened, and for a moment his whole hand was bathed, visible, his fingers delicate upon the symbol of Harry's childhood curse.

Moved by the sight, Severus bent as if to kiss the spot where his fingers rested. Wait, was he insane? Had he taken leave of his senses? But he stayed leaning over.

Beneath him Harry shifted, and against the backdrop of his own shadowy hair he saw the boy smile. So he kissed his sleeping lips instead.

Horrified, he straightened up. He'd felt it. Hadn't he? He was almost certain he had. Dear Merlin, what was he trying to do? The afterlife represented acceptance, release, the cessation of pain. Would he prefer an eternity of regret spent reliving his lost chances? Rubbish to that.

"Mm," Harry murmured, turning over and thrusting his blanketed arse toward the edge of the bed. Severus stood trembling, wishing now that he couldn't see, feeling his soul, his spirit, shaken once more by a terrible craving. Ginny Weasley—oh yes, he knew exactly who lay in Harry Potter's arms—rolled onto her back, and after a brief turbulence Harry's right arm fought free of the quilt and slung itself across her.

"Shhhh," he whispered, hand gentle on her belly. "It's all right. Go back to sleep."

Out of nowhere a cold wind rushed at Severus like a horde of Dementors. His already insubstantial grip on reality flapped like a scarecrow, but he refused to be shredded and cast out. Bugger that. He'd find himself back on the other side of the veil if he yielded now. Tumultuous in the darkness, his robes billowed violently but made no sound.

As he struggled, all he could think was: he's awake. Harry's awake. That had never happened before.

Clinging to the world with all his might, he bent lower. The light dazzled him as he dipped his face into it.

Harry's hand moved, a slow, steady caress. Hovering over him as if suspended above a Pensieve, Severus watched him pet his pregnant wife's belly.

Harry wanted this child. It was obvious. Obvious, and yet it had never occurred to Severus before: some parents love their children. Some parents love their children even before they're born. He stared unblinking as Harry's hand traced the swell of the quilt. He had to blink to break the spell. When he opened his eyes again he was staring at Harry's mouth.

"Hush," Harry said, warm and quiet in the middle of the night. "Be a good boy, Albus Severus. Let your mum catch some sleep."

There are thoughts that can move you from one place to another. But there are words that call to you as if you've been waiting for them all your life.

Severus would never dream of lying down on the bed. Good Lord, no. He wasn't here to fantasise about what might have been. He didn't climb atop the covers, didn't slide a knee along the mattress, didn't scramble into position. As far as he was concerned, he hadn't moved.

Yet there he was, lying full-length next to Harry. The mattress was under him. Or he was on top of it. Somehow he'd ended up stretched on his side, shielding Harry from behind, his head half on the pillow. Gobsmacked, he pulled his nose from the sleep-tousled nape of Harry's neck and wondered what the bloody hell had just happened and what the bloody fuck he was supposed to do now.

The wind that had tried to drive him from the world had died away, leaving him becalmed. His body, such as it was, knew exactly what it wanted to do, flowing into position around the living, blanketed boy.

As Harry breathed, so did Severus. He felt no desire to pry himself off the bed. The other occupants evidently had no clue he was there, dark and dead and full of bitter yearning. Inside him something shivered, yet he lay still, moss on a log, fog around a lamppost, determined not to disturb the—stop saying 'boy,' you stupid arsehole, just look at that sturdy neck.

Ginny coughed and made a restless noise, and Harry said, "Shhh," his hand stroking gently. "Hush, Albus Severus, you'll wake your mum. I can't wait to see you, either, but it's not time yet, all right? Shush, little one. Be good and let her sleep."

Severus' nonexistent throat closed, nearly choking him. He wanted desperately to snicker. He wanted even more desperately to press his face into the crook of Harry's neck.

"Listen, I'll tell you what," Harry whispered. "I just want you to know," and his voice vibrated through Severus like someone brushing velvet backward, a static-electric strangeness blocking out everything else. "You'll always be loved. We'll never make you feel as if nobody wants you. We'll never make fun of you. Or call you names. We won't dress you in secondhand clothes or—or keep you from having friends. We'll always give you enough to eat. You'll have the—"

His voice hit a snag, and without a second thought Severus wrapped his entire existence around Harry like a coat. Harry swallowed, and Severus felt it all the way down his spine to the tips of his toes. "You'll have the childhood he never—that we—well, none of us ever had."

Experimentally Severus rested his face against Harry's hair, shrugging himself closer and reaching out to place his hand on top of Harry's. He wished with every nerve in his body that he could feel something.

Bugger the history books. Forget the Order of Merlin. Someone had named a child after him, and that was an honour far beyond anything the Ministry could even think of bestowing.

It was so entirely unexpected, so beyond belief, beyond the bounds of anything he'd ever experienced, that he couldn't bear the thought of having to let go.

And he felt something. Alarmed, Severus raised his head. He did. Dear Merlin. He felt the heartbeat of the little boy who would replace him. The child who had yet to be born.

He and Harry lay that way, hands joined, Severus' darkness diffused by the light around the bed, all four of them quiet and easy together.

But he didn't belong here. Not just here in this room, on this connubial bed, but here in this world. He had to leave.

To his surprise, when he pulled away Harry instantly scooted back, pressing against him, following the memory of being held, the loss of his ephemeral body. Confused, Severus caught him, and Harry wiggled his shoulders free of the blankets the better to snuggle into place. Severus' robes enclosed him; the rest of Severus could do no less.

Beside them Ginny stretched and sighed, and Harry's hand passed through his, reaching to be sure she was all right. A certain amount of groping about and shifting position rocked the bed. Then, to Severus' utter amazement, Harry's hand travelled up the hill of Ginny's middle and found him again, Harry's fingers meeting his and sliding home with quiet certainty, exactly as if Severus' hand were real.

He stayed where he was for the rest of the night, not moving, just holding Harry Potter, his hand quivering with the miniscule beat of a baby's heart. Near dawn, Severus tucked his face into Harry's messy hair and closed his eyes.

In the morning, when sunlight flamed over the bed and the baby kicked and his parents marvelled at their son's impatience to be born, it was as if no one else had ever been there at all.

From: [identity profile] loupgarou1750.livejournal.com


holy crap! You committed fic! You committed short fic! Holy Crap! You committed SHORT fic! Lovely, wonderful, sweet (so, sorry, but it is)and sad fic. Poor Snape and his longing...

From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


Yeah, I don't think I've ever written anything so, er, succinct before. It speaks well of sitting down and just plunging in. Also, knowing it had to be finished before I went to bed - while not starting until ten at night - helped pinch my ambitions. Sometimes it's good to be limited, yes?

I was feeling about as bittersweet as it was possible to get last night, so no wonder that found an outlet in the fic. Not quite what I'd had in mind for [livejournal.com profile] accioslash, but at two in the morning there was no time for second tries.

Oddly, this fic arose out of a long dissatisfaction I've felt about two things: that when Harry 'died,' Snape wasn't there at all, even in the background scowling and aloof, and the dismissive comment Dumbledore made along the lines of, "Oh well, poor Severus, pity the Elder Wand business didn't quite work out." If "Albus Severus" is the only honor Snape's allowed in the books, then I kind of wanted him to find out and (perhaps uncharacteristically) be more at peace for knowing it.

From: [identity profile] schemingreader.livejournal.com


Wow, I love this one. I love it because you've made it possible for Snape to be part of Harry's family, someone he loves, without any compromise about everyone else they both also love. Beautiful and complicated!

From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


Oh, I'm so glad! I wanted this to be quiet and lovely and just a little bit painful. It's both an acceptance and an exorcism, as I imagine only love and belonging could lay Snape's ghost to rest.

From: [identity profile] albalark.livejournal.com


See? You can do short, and you do it beautifully. As usual. Gods, the images you've put in my head!!

his presence skimmed over it like a crow's wing. Oh, perfect! You, my dear, are master of the simile.

That thought was like a flame burning through the last of his mortal tissue. He wanted to shake the boy. Every new life carried Harry farther away. From the past. From him. Each child changed him, as each year made him less the child Severus had once—

What? Protected? Yes, that was acceptable. Protected. It would do.
So very Severus! His internal voice is just perfect throughout this whole, very soulful, piece.

Out of nowhere a cold wind rushed at Severus like a horde of Dementors. His already insubstantial grip on reality flapped like a scarecrow, but he refused to be shredded and cast out. Bugger that. He'd find himself back on the other side of the veil if he yielded now. Tumultuous in the darkness, his robes billowed violently but made no sound. I really see him and the this whole scene here!

There are thoughts that can move you from one place to another. But there are words that call to you as if you've been waiting for them all your life. Heartwringing.

Experimentally Severus rested his face against Harry's hair, shrugging himself closer and reaching out to place his hand on top of Harry's. He wished with every nerve in his body that he could feel something.

Bugger the history books. Forget the Order of Merlin. Someone had named a child after him, and that was an honour far beyond anything the Ministry could even think of bestowing.
Dammit. There's something in my eyes now. Stupid allergies.

And he felt something. Alarmed, Severus raised his head. He did. Dear Merlin. He felt the heartbeat of the little boy who would replace him. The child who had yet to be born.

He and Harry lay that way, hands joined, Severus' darkness diffused by the light around the bed, all four of them quiet and easy together.
This. Is. Beautiful. 'TIs.

Then, to Severus' utter amazement, Harry's hand travelled up the hill of Ginny's middle and found him again, Harry's fingers meeting his and sliding home with quiet certainty, exactly as if Severus' hand were real.

He stayed where he was for the rest of the night, not moving, just holding Harry Potter, his hand quivering with the miniscule beat of a baby's heart. Near dawn, Severus tucked his face into Harry's messy hair and closed his eyes.

In the morning, when sunlight flamed over the bed and the baby kicked and his parents marvelled at their son's impatience to be born, it was as if no one else had ever been there at all.
All I can think of are disjointed adjectives: elegiac, lyrical, sad and yet strangely uplifting . . . gorgeous. What an amazing ghost story on All Souls Night! I'll be thinking about this for a long time (and making room in my 'keeper' book for yet another of your works).

From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


Oh, Lark, this is such a generous review for such a small story. Thank you with all my heart. I had no idea what I was going to write when I opened a new document, but it travelled very quickly toward that image of Severus lying on the bed, saying farewell to Harry and holding his hand over the unborn child as if catching a last, astonishing, secondhand promise of love.

I think the fic found itself with the line about Someone had named a child after him and Harry's words You will always be loved and fed and clothed and no one will make fun of you, because I doubt Severus can even comprehend what such a life would be like.

I know he was a bitter, unforgiving sod, but I can't help feeling that such a desolate end, and the fact that no one mourned, would make it very hard for him to be at peace. It's certainly possible he'd feel nothing but scorn for Harry's attempt to honor him, but perhaps his terrible sacrifices and regrets would be lightened a little, knowing he'd be a part of something precious even though he was gone forever. I ache sometimes at the thought that the only way this character could be redeemed was through the loneliest possible death. So I keep striving to make something beautiful out of Snape's unhappy existence.

Yes, you're quite right, I wanted the dominant chord to be elegiac. But I also wanted the sense that this visit gave Severus something he'd never expected, never dreamed of, and although on the one hand it could never be enough, on the other it's more than he ever had in life.

You're also right that I was influenced by All Souls Night. I was in that quiet, autumnal, slightly uncanny mood, and it flowed out of the wistful, almost tender emotion autumn sometimes inspires, and shaped the fic into a kind of final embrace.

Thank you again for taking the time and finding the words to give me such wonderful feedback. I deeply appreciate it.

From: [identity profile] therealsnape.livejournal.com


Beautiful story. So heart-wrenchingly IC for Snape.

Forget the Order of Merlin. Someone had named a child after him, and that was an honour far beyond anything the Ministry could even think of bestowing.
Great!


From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


When I think about what Snape has to look forward to in death, all I see are might-have-beens and a bittersweet sense of acceptance.

I'm very glad the line you quoted doesn't seem OOC, because I want the reader to believe Snape could actually feel this way and wasn't sure I'd pulled it off.

Thank so much for the lovely comment!

From: [identity profile] rinsbane.livejournal.com


Aww, B, I never thought about how Snape would feel - as someone who really died - having Harry name his son after him. I love the way you handle that.

And dude - there is some serious frickin brevity going on here. *poke*

From: [identity profile] enname.livejournal.com


Now returning, at work, to finish my other comment. Possibly with 100% more coherence.

I think everyone has already made very insightful comments about the denouement, as well as the final paragraph. None of which I would articulate well. Instead, I wanted to say that the opening is really quite evocative. The somewhat wry manner (scorning theatricality my foot - he makes it all he more so) in which he fails to behave like a traditional ghost, or even how he is traditionally portrayed as a ghost. I love the contrast between heat, light and warmth - all gold and shiny, red and fiery - with the cool dark, the shadows and blackness not only of his normal clothes, but the distance between life and death. Yet of course without one there is no other. It all comes together beautifully in those last couple of paragraphs.


From: [identity profile] kellychambliss.livejournal.com


Excellent. Such an imaginative use of the possibilities of spiritual return, both thematically and in just in terms of the logistics of it (as in this line, for instance: Here, where his memories beckoned, he touched the earth. It was merely a matter of respect and self-control.

Your Severus voice, as usual, is spot-on (He scorned the theatricality of floating-- ha!) and you frankly own the art of the simile (or pwn, as netspeak would have it.)

The evidence:
his presence skimmed over them like a crow's wing.

as if the name were a breath blowing through every moment that had led him here.

His already insubstantial grip on reality flapped like a scarecrow

yet he lay still, moss on a log, fog around a lamppost

Severus wrapped his entire existence around Harry like a coat

From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


Thank you, Kelly. Considering you're pretty amazing at imagery yourself, this is high praise indeed. Although I have to admit, I'm not terribly satisfied with this fic. To fall back on metaphors just this once *cough*, the melody's there but it's not scored for harmony yet, and I miss my chord changes. It probably needed another pass or two to get it right, but this was a last-minute sort of deal.

Severus. Such an odd addiction to have. It's gotten to the point that if I write a story without Snape in it, I actually miss his voice. *eyeroll*

From: [identity profile] audreytiphaine.livejournal.com


oh, my god. You got me right where I live, I cried so hard. Just. This was sweet and bitter, and so so good.

From: [identity profile] perverse-idyll.livejournal.com


Oh, I'm sorry I made you cry. I wrote this so quickly that I can't help but have doubts about it, so I'm glad it touches you. The other night, after coming across a flister's call for HP podfics, I thought I'd try reading this one aloud to myself as an experiment, since it's the shortest of my fics by far. The idea of recording it kind of appeals to me. To my astonishment, I hit a certain part of the fic and teared up and couldn't keep going. It took me five different tries to read all the way through to the end without choking up. Needless to say, I'm too embarrassed to record it now.
.

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