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The Next Big Adventure

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Chapter 1

Harry Potter Was At Peace! Now, that should be on the headlines in the Prophet. Instead of the stupid “The Boy Who Lived, Lives Again!” But who cared about what Rita Skeeter said. Here he was, happy as a lark and finally at peace! Never in his life had he felt so content. All his childhood was spent cowering and wondering why he was so unlovable; his teenage life was spent in fear that all around him would one day take a look at him and realize that he was no hero, but a freak. But here he was, a day after his 18th birthday, the most happy and content he had ever been. He could just fly, like Snape maybe - Out the window, like a wonderful dark shadow. Oh! What a gorgeous sight. Harry let out a happy sigh.

“Hey, mate what are you grinning about?” Ron asked, on spotting Harry sitting in the gardens of the Burrow smiling at nothing.

“Isn’t it a wonderful night, Ron?” Once more, Harry let out a happy sigh, his face glowing with contentment.

With a puzzled frown, Ron replied, “Sure. Are you ok? You have been acting quite strange since yesterday. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad you enjoyed your birthday and it’s great to see you happy and all, but you’ve been sighing and grinning all day. You’re starting to look like Lavender on one of her ‘I’m in love’ days.”

“Oh, but what is there to be sad about! I mean, yes, a lot of people died, but the balance has been restored and they are at peace. I know you and your family really miss Fred. But you shouldn’t. I’m telling you, George just needs time to grieve and Fred will be back. I mean he’ll be a ghost and all, but he will be with George till the end. He never would leave his twin all alone.”

Hearing this, Ron had gone pale. “What the hell is wrong with you!” he shouted. “Harry, do not talk like that. You know everyone is hanging on by a thread to their tears. How could you say something so insensitive! Just the day before you were saying how you did not want to celebrate your birthday, because you missed Fred and Remus so much. Merlin’s tits, we were all trying to cheer you up and now look at you. Grinning like a fool.”

“But Ron, I’m telling you there is really no need to be sad. Death is really the next big adventure. Those who died in the battle did not die in vain. The rift between the two worlds is healing. Peace has finally come. Can’t you feel it?” Harry stated. The confidence in his voice was startling.

Ron looked at Harry with shock. He said, “I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you hear what you’re saying!” With a disbelieving laugh, Ron shook his head and said, “Now you are starting to sound like bloody Trelawney. Look Harry, why don’t you come in. We’ll go to sleep and maybe tomorrow you’ll be back to yourself. But please don’t say any of this to Mum.”

Harry shook his head at Ron, his face still shining with calmness. “Oh, Ron, I just wish you would understand what I’m trying to tell you. I never meant to cause you any pain. I just want you all to be at peace, like I am. But I guess you still have to grieve some more.” Grinning once more, he said, “Besides I’m off to see Severus!”

“What!” Ron squawked. “It’s 10:00 pm! St. Mungo’s visiting hours are over. And besides, you’ve been at that greasy git’s side over the past month more than you’ve been home. And since when did you start calling the dungeon bat by his first name? You said…”

Ron abruptly cut off, for before him Harry looked ready to kill and was growling at him. His eyes were starting to glow an eerie green. Backing up, Ron now knew that something was seriously wrong with Harry. The wind started to pick up and what had been a pleasant summer night had turned frigid.

In a soft voice Ron said, “Harry, Calm down mate. I think there is something wrong. Come into the house where we can sort this out.”

Harry shook his head. “Do not talk about Severus that way! You hear me?” he bellowed.

Pacifying him, Ron said, “Ok…ok…I’m sorry. Now calm down.” The temperature abruptly was back to normal and Harry was once more grinning.

In a cheery voice he said, “No problem, as long as you don’t do it again.” Then, with a grin, he said, “I’m off now. Bye!” With a twirl and a crack he Apparated out of the garden, leaving behind a very worried Ron, who turned around and ran to the Burrow intent on Flooing Hermione. Their friend was once more in trouble.

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Chapter 2

Harry, in the meantime, was walking into St. Mungo’s. Feeling a tug towards the emergency room, he walked that way. He could see healers running around with potions and several aiming spells at a young man lying on a hospital bed. Harry looked on, puzzled. Didn’t they know there was no need for all that? Why, the young man was right now walking towards a wonderful warm light right behind his bed, being led by a women dressed in black robes. She had pale skin and long black hair. Suddenly she looked up and stared right at him, her blue eyes glowing. They widened in surprise. She continued to lead the young man towards the light and, once he stepped through, turned back and walked towards Harry. It was then that he noticed that she was carrying a rather scary-looking sickle. Around him the medi-witches and wizards were shaking their heads, and slowly one of them closed the eyes of the body before them. None of them looked at the woman who now stood before Harry.

“Well, well, well. I haven’t seen one like you in a long time,” she said in a soft voice. She looked ethereal, projecting both calmness and dread. Yet Harry liked her. She tilted her head and, after some time, grinned and said, “Hello, Reaper!”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know who that is,” Harry said in a puzzled tone. Holding out his hand, he said politely, “I’m Harry Potter. Pleasure to meet you.”

Taking his hand in hers, she threw back her head and laughed. It made shivers go down Harry’s spine and he could see others backing away from the doorway where they stood.

Still grinning, she said, “Oh, aren’t you a polite one. I’m Areal. I see you’re new to this. Let me guess, you just turned 18?” Still holding Harry’s hand, she led him to one of the benches in the waiting room.

Puzzled, Harry followed her. Once they were seated, he said, “Yes, yesterday. How did you know?”

“Hmm…how do I put this?” she said; once more she tilted her head and stared at Harry with depthless eyes. Slowly she said, “Have you been feeling strange since your birthday?”

“Well, I am happy.” Harry paused. “Come to think about it, that is strange.”

Once more Areal let out her ghostly laughter. Smiling, she said, “It’s been a long time since we have had a human Reaper. The last one was Ignotus Peverell, an interesting chap. See, Death has this system in place—you witches and wizards call it the Deathly Hallows. Every once in a while, a rift appears between the plane of the living and the plane of the dead when some crazy person tries to escape Death. It is then that Death looks for a unique human to test. She looks for someone who can master the Deathly Hallows and yet not misuse them.”

Harry was feeling really puzzled. He tentatively said, “What happen to the person who passes the test?”

She shook her head. “Oh it’s not that simple. See, not only does this human have to master the Deathly Hallows and not use them for their own benefit, but also they need to be in a unique position. They should not like Life too much.” She said the word “life” as if she was referring to a person whom she did not like. Continuing with her explanation, she said, “Death needs someone whom Life has treated really badly, but who in spite of that continues to live. Not for themselves, but for others. From what I can see, you fit the bill. See, Life has been really bad to you from the get-go. He does that sometimes, but you persevered and you mastered the Deathly Hallows. So, congratulations on attaining your majority and becoming a human Reaper.”

Harry was glad he was sitting down. This was almost too much to take in. But he could not shake the feeling of contentment that had been with him since his birthday. Something that felt so right had to be good. So, tentatively, he asked, “What does that mean? Do I help people pass on to the other side or something?”

Areal shook her head and said, “No, no, that’s my and my fellow Reapers’ job. You, as a human Reaper, need to heal the rift that has formed between the worlds. Oh, don’t look so worried, you’ve already done the hard bit by getting rid of the crazy person trying to disturb the balance—Tom Riddle. Now, you just need to seal the rift. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. In the meantime, all you need to do is live. See, you are the embodiment of Death living in the plane of Life. By merely existing, you bring balance to both realties.”

Harry was about to demand more answers, because now he was really worried. How was he to heal some mythical rift! But before he could open his mouth, he felt a tug. It was stronger than the one he’d felt earlier.

Areal’s eyebrows shot up. “Well, aren’t you precocious! You’ve already found your mate.”

Harry was reaching the end of his ability to take in all this new information and stated, “My what?”

But before she could answer, he was off the bench, running towards the pull. He felt like he had to go, that when he found what was calling him he would finally be whole. He reached a door and, pushing it open, he saw Snape lying on the bed. There he was—the embodiment of all that was right in Harry’s world. Moving forward, Harry took Snape’s hand and was at peace. He looked up and was startled to see Areal standing before him.

Smiling, she said, “This, here, is your mate. We Reapers are creatures from two planes. We can’t exist without our mates to ground us. Your mate is a human who, very much like you, has got a raw deal from Life. Death says she likes him.”

Harry growled and said, “Well, she can’t have him!”

Areal laughed, “Oh don’t get your knickers in a twist. She was just complimenting your choice. He’s all yours. If Life was too lazy to give him anything good, Death is more than willing to reward Snape with you.”

“Hey, I’m not a trophy!” Harry said.

Giggling, Areal said, “I know. You are so much fun!” Sobering, she looked down at Snape and said, “He has sacrificed a lot to get rid of Tom Riddle. Keep him happy.”

Harry, too, looked down at Snape and said, “I will. I can’t wait for him to wake up so that we can start our lives together. I hope he gets well soon.”

“Oh, that’s easy; all you have to do is kiss him and he’ll be right as rain,” Areal said.

“Really!” Harry eagerly leant down. He tenderly brushed the hair off Snape’s face and tucked it behind his ear. Slowly, he brushed his lips against Snape’s. He felt a spark go through him and his magic seemed to be reaching out to Snape. Looking down at Snape, he saw the pallor in Snape’s face recede and be replaced by a healthy glow.

Areal cleared her throat and said, “Oh, by the way, he does not know that you are his mate. You need to convince him.”

“You never told me that!” Harry exclaimed.

Laughing, Areal said, “Oops, sorry,” and promptly disappeared.

“Mister Potter, cease your infernal racket,” said a weak voice.

Looking down, Harry saw that Snape’s eyes were fluttering open. Slowly, a frown appeared on Snape’s face and in a chilling voice he asked, “What is happening here? What did you do, Potter!”

Harry gulped. Just as he was about to turn around and flee, Ron and Hermione burst into the hospital room, followed by the whole Weasley family and a horde of healers. How did he always get into situations like this? Once more his world had been turned upside down and he was faced with an impossible task of convincing Severus Snape that his mate was Harry Bloody Potter—The Human Reaper!

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Chapter 3

It had been a month since that day in the hospital. In the confusion caused by Snape’s miraculous recovery, no one had questioned Harry too much. Ron and Hermione had tried to take him aside and talk to him, but thanks to the Ministry’s suddenly scheduling Snape’s trial, there had been no time. Apparently it was easy for them to ignore a Death Eater on the verge of death, but not one who was hale and hearty. Harry was not going to let them lock Snape up in Azkaban. He would rip this world apart before he let that happen and, strangely enough, he had a feeling that, with his new-found powers, he could actually do it. But it had not been necessary, as in a startling show of fair-mindedness the Wizengamot had actually called witnesses. Many from the Order had come forth to defend Snape, including Harry. Dumbledore had also left proof to exonerate Snape. It had been delivered to the court by Fawkes. Snape had been cleared of all charges and was once more appointed headmaster of Hogwarts.

All was right with Harry’s world and he was at peace. He once again felt that wonderful contentment, but had learned to hide it. Apparently, the world was not prepared for a happy Harry Potter. Well, he had hidden abuse, sadness and even depression; it was no hardship hiding happiness and the small fact that he was a Reaper. The only thorn in his side was that he had not yet figured out a way to woo Snape. Harry giggled silently at having used the term—woo! But that is what he wanted to do. But how do you go about convincing a person who could not stand the sight of you that they were the centre of your whole world?

Well, at least one problem would be solved tomorrow. He would once more be near his beloved. They were all going back to Hogwarts to complete their final year. The castle itself was not ready, but temporary structures had been constructed on the grounds to both hold classes and house the students. Apparently, the castle was refusing to corporate with the reconstruction efforts; rebuilt walls would not stay up and the whole structure was still in shambles. But Snape as headmaster had refused to close the school and was opening as usual at the beginning of September.

His bags were packed and ready. They would all leave for King’s Cross Station tomorrow morning. Tonight they were having a family dinner at the Burrow.

“Harry! Mum’s calling you down for dinner!” Ron bellowed from downstairs.

Harry hurried down and he could hear Molly scolding Ron for shouting. As he entered the kitchen, he saw that everyone was already seated. There was an empty seat for Fred, but nobody thought to remove it. The meal started and slowly the noise level rose. Arthur was talking to Percy about the Ministry. Molly was asking Charlie when he was planning to go back to Romania and Ron, Ginny, Bill and Fleur were engaged in a heated argument about Quidditch. Only George remained silent, but as Harry caught his eye he smiled and Harry could see that he was finally healing.

At the end of the meal, George cleared his throat and stood up, saying, “I have an announcement to make.” Everyone fell silent and looked at him. “I was thinking that I should close the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, down, but I decided against it. Fred loved that place and it was our dream.” His voice broke a little and tears were in his eyes, but he continued, ”I don’t know how I am going to run it without him, but I am going to try. I am going to open it tomorrow and see how it goes from there. He was the heart of the shop and …”

“Well little brother, glad to see you finally acknowledge that I am the mastermind of WWW,” Fred cackled, hovering on the chair that had been left empty for him.

Pandemonium broke out. Molly fainted, but Arthur caught her. All the Weasley siblings rushed towards Fred, who flew up to the ceiling and circled them, laughing all the way.

George stood frozen, staring up at the ghost of his brother. Harry walked to him and, gently laying a hand on his shoulder, whispered in his ear, “He would never leave you alone. He loves you too much. He will remain by your side till the day you die, just like he promised. His body may be dead, but his love for you sustains his spirit.”

George turned tear-filled eyes towards Harry and hugged him. He started to sob, but this time they were happy tears. As Harry looked up, he found Ron looking at him and realised that he had some explaining to do.

Things finally calmed down. Molly had been revived and the whole family was in awe of what had happened. Everyone had settled in for the night and Fred’s ghost had happily twirled his way around George and gone off with him.

It was when Harry and Ron entered the room they shared that Ron finally confronted him. In an awe-filled voice, Ron said, “You told me this would happen. That night after your birthday, out in the gardens. How did you know?”

Harry, deciding they needed to be seated for this conversation, led them to one of the beds. He was so scared that, after this, Ron was finally going to turn around and call him a freak. Wondering where to start, he decided that the best way was to be direct. “I’m a Reaper.”

“You’re a what?” Ron asked.

Clarifying, Harry said, “Well, that night I went to see Snape, I was told by another Reaper that I was a human Reaper, because of the Deathly Hallows. That’s how I knew about Fred.”

“So what does that mean? Do you have special powers or a special task or something?” Ron asked with a curious look on his face.

Harry was relieved that this was going better than he thought and, without thinking, said, “Not really. Apparently, I’ve already done what I had to by defeating Voldemort. I might in the future need to heal a rift, whatever that means. But my biggest task right now is to find a way to get Snape to fall in love with me.”

Ron’s face went pale and he did a very credible imitation of Molly and fainted. Luckily, he was on the bed and a quick Aguamenti revived him. Slowly regaining consciousness, he sat up and stared at Harry. In a shocked voice, he said, “You’re serious.”

Gulping, Harry said, “Yeah. He is my mate. The one I love.” Harry looked down, waiting for Ron to storm off.

Ron was silent for a long time and then said, “You love him?”

Looking up, Harry replied in a pleading voice, “I know that this is sudden. But Ron, in my heart—no, in my very soul—I can feel that he is the one. Viewing his memories made me realise that the two of us are so alike. We both have had terrible childhoods and have been manipulated by powerful wizards for so long. But it is not this shared pain that draws me to him, but the fact that he will understand me. He will not think me a freak for wanting to finally be a child or for being fascinated by the Dark Arts. There are so many contradictions in me —I want to be free and yet belong; I want a home, but I do not want to feel tied down; I want love, but I have no idea how to love. The only person I know who will ever understand this is Snape. I know you must think me such a freak for being a Reaper and for knowing that Snape is my mate, but please don’t hate me because of this.”

Ron stood up all of a sudden and Harry feared the worst. Ron bellowed, “Don’t you dare say that. After all we have been through, you really think I could hate you! Harry, you are my family regardless of whether you are a human or not. And you are not a freak! I admit that I think that you can do better than Snape...” He was interrupted by a growl from Harry, whose eyes went wide; Harry slapped a hand over his mouth to keep it in, but Ron could still hear the growl. Surprisingly, it made Ron laugh.

In an amused voice, Ron continued, “Ok, got it, no poor remarks about your boyfriend. So what’s all this about making him love you? Surely, he knows he is your mate?”

“Nope. He has no idea. I have to convince him!” Harry said, relieved that he could finally talk to someone about it.

Ron shook his head and said, “Mate, you really know how to pick impossible tasks, don’t you?”

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Chapter 4

The train ride to Hogwarts was uneventful. They caught up with Hermione, who filled them in on how she had returned her parents’ memories and, though they were angry with her, they were glad to have her back. When they arrived at Hogwarts, there were tents dotting the grounds. They had names flashing above them reading Dorms: Gryffindor; Great Hall; Transfiguration classroom, and so on. The ruins of the castle stood in the background, looking desolate and bleak, a stark reminder of the war and all that they had lost.

They all trooped into the one named the Great Hall, and it was marvelous inside. The tiny tent held an exact replica of the original Great Hall. Inside there were house tables, candles and even the ghosts. Once they were seated, it was clear that Hogwarts was going to be more crowded than ever. A large number of students were Sorted and all the tables were filled to the brim and people were happily catching up.

Snape stood up and a hush fell over the hall. In a sober tone, he began the welcome speech. “We all here are survivors of a war, and if that war taught you…dun...students…nothing else, it should have at least made you comprehend the fact that contention between houses is a perilous strategy. So strive to do better than those before you, though I do not expect that you will succeed. Moving on to more practical things: You have been placed in various tents. The house prefects have been briefed and will guide you over the next few days. The returning eighth year students will be merged with the current final years.”

Staring menacingly down his nose at everyone, he continued in an ominous voice, “You will adhere to the school rules: the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds and anybody caught anywhere near the ruins of the castle will have detention with me! I repeat, do not go anywhere near the old castle.” With a precise swish of his wand, the food appeared and the meal began.

Looking up at Snape, Harry was flooded with doubt. His love was never going to see him as anything but a student. A morose Harry picked at his meal and then retired with the rest of the students to their respective tents. But sleep would not come. Feeling restless, Harry got up and made his way out of the tent.

It was a beautiful full moon night, but Harry was surprised that the feeling of contentment had deserted him; instead, he felt sad and he was sure that he could hear the sound of someone crying out in pain. He looked up and was drawn to the ruins of the castle. As he made his way over, a shadow fell over him.

Snape stood before him with a frown on his face and, in a soft and deadly voice, said, “Mr. Potter, our returning celebrity. The fame really has gone to your head if you think the rules do not apply to you. You are blatantly ignoring instructions given to you not less than two hours ago! Your arrogance…”

Snape’s rant was abruptly cut off when Harry grabbed his hand.

Shouting, Snape said, “Unhand me this instant, Potter!”

But Harry was no longer listening to him; the pull from the castle had become stronger and he was sure that the cry of pain was coming from Hogwarts herself.

Still looking at the ruins of the castle, Harry said, “Can’t you hear it? She is crying.”

Looking at Snape with desperate eyes, he said, “We have to help her!” He then turned and ran towards the castle, pulling a surprised Snape with him.

Finally recovering, Snape pulled them to a stop, but they had already entered the main doors that were hanging drunkenly on their hinges.

“Mr. Potter, you will stop this instant. Your contentious behaviour will no longer be tolerated,” Snape said in a cold voice.

Harry turned to him, and Snape was shocked to see that his eyes were glowing and the green looked as deadly as the Killing Curse. Snape had been in the presence of death often enough to know for sure that standing before him was something that was very close to the real thing. The hair on his arms stood up and the back of his neck prickled.

Harry, in a voice filled with confidence, said, “Severus, she is calling us. We need to go.”

And he pulled an unresisting Snape deeper into the castle. They finally reached what should have been the Great Hall, but was now just a dark room filled with rubble. Harry moved to one side and placed Snape’s hand, which he was still holding, against one of the walls. Suddenly, a wail filled the dark and beneath it, in a whisper, they could hear a chant:

Life and death, lovers entwined, torn asunder by greed and malice

The rift shall be sealed by daring, ambition, wisdom and loyalty

Go back….back to the beginning…go back my children, back to the beginning…go back…

The silence that slowly returned was broken by Harry swearing, “Oh Merlin’s balls, the bloody rift!”

Snape was furious, and bellowed, “Mr. Potter, can’t you be satisfied with a normal life? What have you got me into now!”

Harry turned guiltily to Snape and said, “So…guess what, I’m a Reaper.” Waving his hands in what he hoped was a reassuring manner, he said, “Don’t worry, I’m still human, I think. It’s just that, because I’ve got the Deathly Hallows, I’m not so much the Master of Death, but more like her helper. I’ve got to seal the rift that has appeared between the two worlds because of Voldemort and, if I understood that chant right, sealing the rift will also bring Hogwarts back.”

Snape threateningly approached Harry and said, “How?”

Stuttering, Harry said, “Err… I don’t know.” Seeing the vein throbbing in Snape’s forehead, he hurriedly continued, “But I’m sure I can figure it out! Hogwarts said ‘go back to the beginning’. Maybe that means go back to how Hogwarts was formed. If there is one person who will know how, it will be Hermione. She knows Hogwarts: A History by heart.”

Snape said in a deadly whisper, “And how do you know this? Maybe all this is a prank set up so that you can once more have an excuse to break rules. Just like your father. Do not think for one second, Potter, that you can make a fool of me!”

Drawing near to Harry till his nose almost touched Harry’s, Snape spat out, “This gibberish about being a Reaper is farfetched enough, but you had to go and try to bring the ruins of Hogwarts into it.”

Harry could not explain why he got so angry, but it was always like this with Snape. He knew how to push Harry to the edge of all reason. Pushing Snape back, he shouted, “Why would I make this up! All I want is a normal life, but I know I am a Reaper. I’ve accepted it, but you never believe me.”

Harry’s eyes started to glow and an aura of menace emitted from him. Slowly backing Snape into the wall he said, “Well, I’ll give you proof, my mate.”

Harry ran a finger slowly and gently down Snape’s face, and the hair at the back of Snape’s neck stood on end. A chill went through him. Standing near Snape so that they were almost touching, Harry leaned forward and blew slowly on Snape’s ear. Snape felt as if someone had walked across his grave but, instead of terrifying him, it brought him a feeling of peace. Snape had always been fascinated with death. As a child, when his father hit him, the only thing that could make him bear it was that if it went on too long at least he would die. He had always felt that Death would welcome him. Death was always equated with happiness and peace in his mind. He held on to this feeling all through his terrible school days and through the torture of serving Voldemort. When he had joined Voldemort, he had loved the idea of being a ‘Death Eater’. It would mean that he would be closer to death and, hopefully, at peace. But it never happened; like everything that Tom Riddle had promised him, that, too, had been a lie.

But standing here in the middle of Hogwarts ruins, with Harry Potter leaning into him, Snape finally felt he was near that craved feeling of peace. He felt that what he had been longing for and seeking all his life was finally at hand. Without thinking about it, he jerked Harry forward and sealed his mouth over his.

Harry moaned as Snape kissed him. This was everything he thought a kiss would be. His heart raced and, as Snape licked the seam of his lips and his tongue entered to explore Harry’s mouth, Harry felt his toes curl.

Snape could not get enough of the taste of Harry’s mouth. It felt so right, and nothing in Snape’s life had ever felt right. Reversing their positions, he pushed Harry against the wall, lifting him a little to push his leg between Harry’s thighs so that he could finally press his hard-on against Harry’s hip. Feeling an answering hardness, he started to rock into Harry.

Desperate with desire, Harry let his hands find purchase on Snape’s shoulders, and he gyrated his cock against Snape’s thigh. Harry broke the kiss and threw his head back. His body was flooded with sensations. He had never craved anything like the way he craved Snape at that moment. Looking up into Snape’s eyes, Harry felt so wanted and happy. Unable to contain it any longer, he came, calling Snape’s name: “Severus!”

Looking down into Harry’s face, Snape could not believe how happy Harry looked. No one had ever looked at him with such love and passion. Hearing his name on Harry’s lips pushed him over the edge and he came.

They slowly came down from their post-orgasmic high. Harry, feeling content and at peace once more, cuddled into Snape and hugged him. With a whispered Scourgify, he cleaned them both and sighed with contentment. His mate was finally by his side—but even as he thought it, he felt Snape go rigid in his embrace. Looking up, he saw Snape’s face drain of what little colour it had.

Snape slowly untangled them and, with gentleness that left Harry craving to be back in his arms again, he set Harry’s clothes right. Snape’s hand shook as he pushed Harry away from him and, in a voice filled with pain, Snape said, “I am extremely apologetic, Harry. There is no justification I can offer for what I have done. You are my student and I violated your trust. I cannot ask for your forgiveness, but I shall ensure that it never happens again. I shall resign immediately.”

“No!” Harry cried. ”Please stop. Listen to me. This is my fault. See, that Reaper thing I was telling you about, there is more. I get a mate. My one and only. Someone who completes me. And that is you, Severus. You are my mate. Mine!”

If possible, Snape became even paler and started to back away. In a stronger voice, he said, “That is not possible, Potter. You are young, handsome and innocent. You are not going to find a mate in a relic like me. All that aside, I am still your teacher and what I did was wrong.”

Harry once more interrupted him. “Not if we are mates. I looked it up: as long as I have reached majority, and I have, no matter the position each of the parties are in, they may be together if they are mates and one party has a creature inheritance. You know I’m right. It applies to veelas, vampires and all creatures that have destined mates. So it should apply to us as well. When it comes to being innocent, you know that I never have had the opportunity to be so. We both have been through so much, Severus. Let this be our reward. We belong together.”

But Snape was shaking his head. “No, Mr. Potter.” And without saying anything else, he turned and walked away. Standing in the middle of the ruins of Hogwarts, Harry felt his heart break.

************

Chapter 5

The next day, it took all of Harry’s courage to walk into the Great Hall tent. He was so scared that he had ruined Snape’s life and he would be forced resign. On entering, Harry was overcome with relief on seeing Snape seated in the headmaster’s chair.

Harry had made a decision last night: he would never again put Snape in such a position. Snape had more than enough reason to not want to be with Harry. He was the son of Snape’s childhood tormentor and a freak who had already caused Snape so much hardship. Further, Snape had been bound and left without choice for so long because of both Voldemort and Dumbledore. Harry loved Snape too much to ever do that to him again. Snape might be Harry’s mate, but that did not mean Snape had to be with him. Harry knew it was the right decision, but it still hurt so much to know that he would never again feel the oneness and rightness that he had last night in Snape’s arms.

Harry sat down and tried to eat. Hermione immediately picked up that something was wrong and asked, “Harry, are you all right? You look drawn.”

Harry looked up and, on seeing Ron also look at him with concern, he said, “Not here. I’ll meet you both when we have a free period.” Looking at the timetable that had appeared near his plate that morning, he said, “I’ve got fourth period free; what about both of you?”

“We do, too,” Hermione answered. “Shall we meet by the lake?”

“Alright,” Harry agreed.

That afternoon, Harry waited for his two friends to join him. He realised he had forgotten all about what Hogwarts had said last night and that he needed to ask Hermione about the creation of Hogwarts.

“Hi, Harry!” Hermione called out as both she and Ron approached him.

Once they were seated by the lake, Ron asked in a concerned voice, “Harry, is this about your …you know… Snape situation?”

“What Snape situation? Harry, please don’t tell me you got detention on the first day of school!” Hermione said, looking extremely annoyed.

Harry took a deep breath and proceeded to tell her everything that happened since his eighteenth birthday, till last night. He only left out the bit of frottage that took place, for that was private. He ended saying that Snape had rejected him once he had told him about being his mate. Once he was done, both Ron and Hermione hugged him and, huddled between them, he thanked the stars for giving him such good friends who did not reject him, no matter what.

Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “Don’t worry, Harry. It will work out. You’ll see. We will come up with a plan, and how can Snape stand against a plan devised by the Golden Trio!”

Hearing that silly title given to them by Rita Skeeter, they all burst out laughing. The tension was broken and Harry asked, “So, Hermione, do you know how Hogwarts was created?”

“Of course I do. If only you would read Hogwarts: A History! It is fascinating.” Both Harry and Ron rolled their eyes and got a swat on their heads for the effort.

“Anyway,” Hermione continued, “the castle was not made the traditional way. The four founders decided not to use builder giants or construction elves. Instead, they created Hogwarts with their magic.”

Ron’s mouth dropped open, and he said, “Is that even possible? It would require a huge amount of magic to just manifest rocks and walls out of nothing.”

Hermione agreed. “It would. But that is the reason Hogwarts is sentient. A little bit of them remains in her forever. But except for that, there is no real advantage to creating the castle out of only magic. It was a much harder option and would have drained them tremendously. No one knows why they decided to build her in such a way.”

Harry looked thoughtful and answered, “I think I might know the reason. What if that is the only way to seal a rift between worlds? Areal the Reaper said that my task was to heal the rift. Maybe the creation of the castle by magic actually does that. It would make sense. Hogwarts is one of the most magical places in the magic world. Maybe it is because she sits on the rift. It would also explain Voldemort’s fascination with this place and the reason for his bringing the final battle to the school, instead of the Ministry of Magic.”

“You know what this means?” said Hermione, and both Harry and Ron groaned and said in unison, “The library!”

They made their to the library tent and, on stepping in, Harry was once more astounded by the use of wizard space. All the stacks were arranged in the same way they had been in the original version. Quite familiar with the setup, they made their way to the section on other worlds and alternative realities and stopped short upon seeing Snape browsing through the same shelf.

A look of sadness crossed Snape’s face as soon as he saw Harry, but it was gone so fast that Harry was sure that he imagined it.

Staring them down, Snape said, “Miss Granger, Mister Weasley and …Mister Potter. What are three young Gryffindors doing in the library on the first day of school? You should be careful or someone might think you are up to something.”

Harry, emboldened by seeing Snape there, said, “The same thing as you, I think, sir. We are looking for spells on how to seal a rift between planes of existence.” He was so glad that Snape had believed him enough to research the topic.

Snape stared them down for a minute and then the fight went out of him. He said, “I looked up what you said last night. I think what you are looking for is here.” He held out a book.

They carried the heavy tome to one of the tables. On the page Snape had indicated, they found a spell of sealing. In the animated illustration that was below the spell, they saw what looked like a figure in a dark cloak, with a sickle in its hand, point a wand towards the sky. Behind the figure stood another, with its arms around the former. As the animation continued, they saw beams of magic streaming in from four directions towards the two figures and, in a flash, a castle appeared before them.

The three students were excited. Their theory was right. This was how Hogwarts was created! Their excitement lasted till a dry voice spoke from behind them. “It is impossible,” Snape intoned. “Nobody in our generation possesses the power wielded by the founding four. We may have a …Reaper,” his eyes flicked towards Harry before he looked away, “but we do not have anyone as powerful as even one of the founders of Hogwarts.”

Hermione, with her head bent over the book, examined the spell and said, “We may not need anyone as powerful as they were.” Pointing to the spell, she said, “It says here we need a Reaper and its mate, and the two will need to source the powers of daring, ambition, wisdom and loyalty; these stand for the four houses – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. It does not say that it needs to be sourced from only one person for each. What if we call together the alumni and the current students? That will be more than enough power.”

Harry looked at her in awe and said, “Hermione you are brilliant! But we can’t tell them that we are sealing a rift. They may not believe us.”

Ron, in an excited voice, said, “But we don’t have to. Everyone knows that Hogwarts is resisting all attempts at reconstruction. We can say it is to bring her back to her former glory. Everyone loves the castle. Thousands will come.”

Snape cleared his throat and said, “That is a credible idea, Miss Granger and Mister Wesley. I shall speak to the board of governors and we shall attempt it at the earliest possible time.” Hermione and Ron were shocked by the compliment, and all they could do was nod.

As Snape walked away, Harry rushed after him and caught up with him outside the tent. Harry called out, “Professor Snape. Please wait.”

Slowly turning, Snape looked at Harry and said, “Yes, Mr. Potter.”

Not knowing how to bring the topic up, Harry rubbed the back of his neck and said, “I know the spell said that the mate of the Reaper has to be there, but you don’t have to.”

A look of hurt flashed across Snape’s face, but was immediately covered by anger. “Replaced me so soon, Mr. Potter?” he said in a nasty voice.

Shaking his head in denial, Harry said, “No. Never. When I said you are my mate. I meant it. It’s you and only you—forever. But that does not mean that you have to accept it. I would never force you. You have had too many choices taken away from you in the name of the greater good. There will be other ways to seal the rift and get Hogwarts back and, even if they aren’t, I don’t care. I refuse to put you in that position again. You made your choice clear, that you do not want me as your mate. I will not force you, not in the name of the greater good or for anything else!”

Snape stepped closer to Harry and, in a low voice, said, “And when did I make it clear that I did not want you? When I was rubbing you off or when I stuck my tongue down your throat! I want you, know that. But I will not tie you down to an old and used man. We will do the spell, Mr. Potter, and then you are free to find your true mate. He or she is out there, but believe me when I say it isn’t I.” In a flurry of robes, he walked away, once more leaving Harry speechless, but this time hope bloomed in his chest. Harry could not believe what Snape said; he wanted Harry. Well, Harry was going to make sure that Snape got him.

************

Chapter 6

Preparations for the resurrection of Hogwarts were swift. Everyone wanted their beloved castle back. The board of governors and the Ministry of Magic gave their approval. Invitations to all the alumni of Hogwarts had gone out, and almost a thousand people had agreed to come and lend their magic for the spell. The incantation was set to take place on the winter solstice. Given that it was marked by the shortest day and the longest night, Hermione assumed that the power of Death should be at its strongest, as darkness was always used to represent Death. Harry should be able to use his Reaper powers to close the rift between the worlds.

The only problem was that Harry had no idea what these so-called Reaper powers were. He had the words of the spell memorised and the wand movement down. Hermione had taken to making him repeat it every day for the past three and a half months! But whether it would actually work was still a huge question. The biggest logistical problem they were facing was—how to hide Harry’s role in the whole spell. He did not want anyone to know that they were sealing the rift, but people would question why he was at the centre, and not just Snape, to anchor the spell. Ron was the one who finally pointed out that, with all the rubble, it would be easy for Snape and Harry to remain inside, unseen. All the assembled students and ex-students could be arranged outside the castle proper and be told to aim the spell at the Great Hall. The rest could be left to the two of them.

But that was not Harry’s main worry. Over the past few months, school had gone on as usual. Harry, finally being able to concentrate only on his schoolwork, without a madman trying to kill him, was excelling. Quidditch was fun and Harry still played Seeker. But none of that made up for the fact that Snape was avoiding him. Hermione and Ron had tried to help Harry devise strategies to get near Snape. But nothing had worked.

If Harry got caught out after hours, he always had to serve detention with Filch and Mrs. Norris. Attempts to catch Snape exiting the headmaster’s tent never worked, as Snape always exited from another door—though how that was possible in such a small tent, Harry did not know. In desperation, Harry had even tried to stumble into Snape while exiting Potions class. However, Snape had calmly levitated him out of the way. Saying Harry was frustrated was an understatement. How was he supposed to convince Snape that Harry loved him and only him, if he never got a chance to be alone with him!

The only chance he was going to get was when the two of them were alone in the ruins of the Great Hall before the spell. Harry was therefore glad that the day had finally arrived.

By sunset, all the alumni and students had been sorted into houses and took their place at the cardinal points that were marked out: Gryffindor to the east, Slytherin in the west, Ravenclaw was placed in the north and Hufflepuff in the south. The chant for each group was being led by their respective house teachers—Minerva McGonagall for Gryffindor, Horace Slughorn for Slytherin, Filius Flitwick for Ravenclaw and Pomona Sprout for the Hufflepuffs. When darkness fell, each teacher let out a spark of red from their wand that illuminated the words of the spell in the night sky.

We as one, we as four, we as Hogwarts’ precious children

We lend to you our daring – to tread where angels fear

We give to you our ambition – to achieve what no one else can

We give to you our wisdom – to think before we act

We give to you our loyalty – to believe when others doubt

But most of all we give to you our love

Pars magicae.

From within the ruins, Harry and Snape could hear the chant begin, and took their place. Standing at the centre of the Great Hall, which was at the heart of the castle, Harry took his place in Snape’s arms and lifted his wand. Slowly, Snape embraced him from behind and pulled Harry flush against him.

Once they were in position, Harry said, “Snape, you have to understand…”

“Shh.” Snape cut him off, “Concentrate on the spell, Mr. Potter.”

“But...” Harry started to say.

Once more Snape interrupted him. “It’s time, Harry. Begin.”

Hearing his first name on Snape’s lips, Harry took heart and began the spell:

Love, strong as Death, shall live

Come life to her bed,

Among the dying flowers, a green turf in his tread

A castle of stone brings, the joining of two as one

Let Life live and Death die as one.

A surge of magic descended on them, and it pushed them together till Snape felt that they could not get any closer even if they merged into one skin. All of a sudden, Harry turned in his arms and faced him. Harry’s eyes glowed a terrifying green, but they beckoned Snape to fall into them and, unable to resist, with a whispered Legilimens, Snape fell.

The minute he entered Harry’s mind he felt at home. Harry welcomed him and, in that minute, Snape felt more loved than he ever had before. For the first time in his life, Snape felt like he belonged. Searching for the memory of the night they kissed, Snape relived it from Harry’s point of view and he could feel the sheer happiness and contentment Harry did when Snape had got him off. Not to mention the passion that burned high. In Harry’s mind’s eye, Snape did not look ugly or old, he looked beautiful. His skin was still pale and hair lank, but for some reason Harry thought he was perfect.

Snape pulled himself out of Harry’s mind. The room glowed with a tremendous amount of magic, but all Snape could see was Harry looking up at him with happiness and want.

In a reverent voice, Snape whispered, “You really do love me?”

Harry answered in a tender voice, “I love you, Severus Snape. With all my heart. Will you be my mate?”

Snape, looking down at the man in his arms, said, “Be careful what you ask for, Harry. Once I say that you are mine, I will never let you go. I have no idea how to love in moderation. I will hold on to you till death and beyond.”

Harry laughed and replied, “I could not ask for anything else.”

With a smile on his face, Snape said, “Then you have me, Harry Potter. I would be a fool not to take what you offer. I will love you from now till ever more. My love is a fierce one, and I hope in Merlin’s name you don’t come to regret it.”

“Never,” Harry swore and, hooting in happiness, he pulled Snape towards him and kissed him.

Around them the castle started to grow. Fallen walls stood upright, stairs wound their way up as floors started to appear. Gargoyles hopped onto the appearing roof. The suits of armour dusted themselves off and stood erect. The paintings started to appear in their frames and, with a loud bang, Hogwarts once more stood proud and tall before the assembled crowd outside. The throng burst out into cheers, but inside, in the middle of a beautiful Great Hall, stood two figures entwined around each other. Lost in their love for each other and in their disbelief that finally there was someone who loved them, they did not see the shadowed figures above them. A beautiful lady in a hooded cloak and sickle in her hand reached out to a man dressed in a white sarong with a wreath on his head and vines around his body. They embraced and kissed. Looking down at the two figures below them, they smiled and blew a kiss and disappeared. And Snape and Harry lived happily ever after.

 

-The End-