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The Center of the Labyrinth

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After the loud Weasley Christmas celebration Harry Floos in for, and the exchange of gifts, and children running so many places that Harry is amazed he doesn’t have a concussion from tripping over one of them…

After the Christmas feast where Minerva, drunk on catnip-laced wine, has declared her love for at least half the staff, and Hagrid has led in a Blast-Ended Skrewt on a leash and failed to get anyone to accept it as a gift, and toasts have been drunk to the memory of all those who perished in the Battle of Hogwarts…

After the quiet visit Harry made by himself to his parents’ graves at Godric’s Hollow and the headstone he’s set up for Sirius next to them, and Remus and Tonks’s grave at the Tonks house, and the visit to Teddy who laughs and changes his hair to some color Harry can’t even name when Harry gives him the complete set of books called The Adventures of William the Wonderful Wizard

After that, it’s time for Harry and Severus.


The snow is deeper than Severus has ever seen it. He stands on the battlements of the Astronomy Tower and shivers absently, drawing his scarf around himself. The scarf is black, without the silver and green he felt compelled to wear for so many long years. He is now simply the Potions brewer for the hospital wing. Not even the twinkling eyes of Albus’s portrait could make him accept a teaching position again.

But not even the memory of the destruction wrought by the Death Eaters in the year he played at Headmaster could drive him away from Hogwarts.

Someone casts a Warming Charm on him. Severus turns his head. Someone. He knows, by now, who it is. The only one who cares enough to do this, who cares enough to penetrate the labyrinth to the center of Severus’s being. Harry.

“The snow looks like it’s enameled the whole world,” Harry murmurs, leaning on the battlement next to him. A swish of his wand, and a box appears in his hand. “Here. You need warmth and sweets.”

Severus opens the box. There is chocolate there, of course. There always is. Harry appears to have researched every single Dark creature—not only Dementors—whose aftereffects can be cured by sweets. Severus highly suspects that some of the “benefits” only come from the means to soothe a crying eleven-year-old in Harry’s Defense classes.

But they are a different kind of benefit for Severus. Harry is the only one who offers him food because he wants to. “Thank you,” he says, and eats a piece—orange-flavored, with a soft sticky cream in the middle that he knows will flavor his kiss interestingly.

Harry gasps from the kiss afterwards, and takes Severus by the shoulder to steer him to their quarters.


And yes, they are their quarters, Defense professor and Potions brewer together, reachable by multiple hidden staircases throughout the castle, and located deep inside the thick, protecting walls. They sparkle with dark wood and the glass of Potions vials and the leather and gilt of ancient books. They smell of sweetness from the apple wood Harry likes to burn on the fire, and they sound, now and then, of startled curses when one of Severus’s experiments goes wrong.

Right now, they also glitter with fairy lights. Severus halts inside the near door and slowly lifts his eyebrows until Harry can see parts of his forehead he’s never seen before.

All of them?” he asks, presumably referring to how many different colors of the rainbow Harry has gathered here.

“Yes,” Harry says, and grins at Severus, tugging him further into the rooms. “I didn’t decorate your lab, so you can do whatever you want in there.”

“Or nothing,” Severus says, almost by reflex, Harry thinks so. He’s too busy tilting his head back to stare at the lights for it to be malicious.

“Of course,” Harry says soothingly, and sits Severus in the chair in front of the fireplace. “I’m going to bring out the sandwiches I made, and then we can open the gifts.”

Severus abruptly snaps his head around and stares hard at Harry. “Sandwiches you made. Not sandwiches the house-elves made.”

Harry smiles at him and reaches out to squeeze his shoulder. “I don’t feel as good about asking the elves to do that since Dobby’s gone now.” An old ache opens in the middle of his chest, but it’s less than it could have been, with Severus sitting there and gazing at him intently like that. “And I wanted to.”

Severus slowly sits back, but his gaze never leaves Harry, even as he enters the kitchen. He knows as much as Harry does why he makes most of their meals himself, or they eat in the Great Hall. Making food for others frequently reminds Harry of the Dursleys.

But Harry is determined not to let the Dursleys steal all his Christmases, and so he comes out with an enormous tray of small sandwiches, the kind of thing Petunia would never have let Harry make. Severus gravely studies the small squares of ham, cheese, pickles, tomatoes, and just a splattering of the delicious sauce that the elves have taught him to make.

“You must have spent a lot of effort on these.”

“Of course. They have to last the two of us most of the day.”

Severus stares at him again as he picks up a sandwich with cheese and pickles on it. Harry grins and shrugs back and starts eating. Statements like that let them skirt around the problem of the Dursleys, and other things that are awkward to talk about because Severus feels them so deeply.

This is one of the things Hermione fussed at him about, the one time Harry was unwise enough to mention it. She insisted that communication between couples should be direct and passionate and never silent. Harry is happy that that works for her and Ron, but they aren’t him and Severus.

And she means well, but Harry can’t talk to her about things like this, just the two of them sitting in front of the fire, and Severus darting covetous looks he obviously can’t stop at the huge pile of gifts under the tree near the fireplace. It’s for him and Severus, no one else. Harry does make sure that he eats three of the sandwiches before he reaches for the nearest gift and hands it to Severus.

It’s just a flicker of dark eyes, but Harry knows what it means. Just like Severus knows what cooking for other people means to Harry.


Mine. Part of Severus still can’t believe that he’s sitting here and getting gifts and eating food made for him—partially for him—by someone he loves.

His childhood never had this. His adolescence had it a few times, when Lily made a gift for him or coaxed him to eat something in the kitchens. But Lily is long gone, and Severus resigned himself to never having anything like this again almost the moment she was.

He should not have. He understands that now, and he knows from the warning glint in Harry’s eyes that he won’t listen to attempts to deny the gift or protest that it’s too much.

Luckily, two years of living with Harry, of loving him, have taught Severus how to clasp tight hold of someone without apologizing for it. He rips open the dark green paper on the gift that shimmers in the low light of their fire.

It is…

Severus stares at it. Honestly, it looks like a block of black wood that someone has embedded silver vials in. He twists it around, wondering if it’s a small shelf, and why Harry would get that for him when, between their quarters and the Hogwarts hospital wing, he has more than adequate space.

Harry grins. “I suppose I should have realized that you wouldn’t have seen one before.” He can say that in a way that Severus does not bristle and resent him for, which is a bloody miracle. Harry takes the block of wood away from Severus and sets it down in the middle of the drawing room floor, taking a prudent step back from it as he does so. When he waves his wand, the block abruptly springs to life and spreads out.

Severus can only stare again. The wood is formed as a desk along an L-shaped base. A cauldron is set into the desk, and there is much more storage space for vials than he imagined, along with the ones he could see already there. There is a small, attached wooden floor at the bottom of the desk, making the whole thing square.

“A portable potions lab.” Harry nods to him. “For when we have to go somewhere like that utterly tedious afternoon at the Ministry last week. You can set it up in an empty room and brew to your heart’s content.”

Severus stands up. He’s shaking. He steps across and embraces Harry, holding him close and tight, because he knows he will embarrass the both of them if he tries to speak.

Harry understands. He understands that Severus wants to come with him but abhors waiting. And Severus can already think of other places he can use this, at least with a few Warming and Disillusionment Charms. He can visit the Burrow with Harry but amuse himself when the conversation—inevitably—leaves him out. He can be with Harry, hidden, in a classroom when Harry approaches a student that might have latent Death Eater sympathies. He can be together but apart from him in almost any situation.

It is about who he is.

Severus steps back and finally nods to the large red gift under the tree that he has been saving for Harry. “Yours,” he says, and croaks, and he knows Harry hears it, but he only gives Severus a sweet smile and goes to open his gift.


Harry’s fingers sing with magic as he brushes the paper. He opens it almost giddy with anticipation. He knows Severus will get him something wonderful, because he always understands Harry that well.

And he has.

The gift is a large book that Harry doesn’t recognize until he opens it. The plush red covers denote a photo album. But the photos inside are all of Severus, and all glittering with magic that means the figures pause to stare or sneer or smile or wave at him, demanding on when the pictures were taken.

There are small and huddled child-Severuses, staring at someone just out of frame who might be Lily, or hiding in a corner of the Slytherin common room with books they can barely hold. There are young adults, standing with a Dark Mark proudly displayed on their arms, then hiding it with shame and creeping through Hogwarts in their first years as Potions masters. There is a picture Harry knows cannot have been taken, of Severus looming over him in his first class with the man when he was eleven and sneering down. As an adult, Harry can recognize how desperately that Severus is trying not to break.

He looks up. “How—”

“There is a spell that transforms memories into images.” Severus is glancing away. “I wanted—you to see me as I am.”

And it is also a gesture of utmost vulnerability, although Harry knows Severus would never be able to phrase it like that. This is Severus in unflattering images, haunting ones, ones that make him look stupid. Harry flips ahead a few pages, and yes, there are blank pages where he might put his own snapshot memories.

He can put anything he wants there, and the book will take them. Severus knew that, and he gave Harry the book anyway.

Harry swallows and shuts the book slowly, his fingers sliding over the cover. He wants to look at it in more detail later, but for now, he’s simply overwhelmed by the trust this book represents—the ultimate center of the labyrinth that is Severus Snape’s soul and heart. “Thank you,” he breathes.

Severus shrugs without looking at him. Harry goes over to hold him and kiss him, and gradually Severus starts to smile and eat some more of the sandwiches that Harry made and deposited on a plate next to him.

Even our Christmas together is full of sharp edges, Harry thinks, but that’s the way he expected it, the way he wants it. Anything else wouldn’t be him and Severus.

He sits down on the couch next to the man he chose, the man he’s come so far beside, and they finish off the sandwiches and the hot chocolate Severus heats with a simple Warming Charm, and they watch each other, and feel each other leaning close.

The End.