Pairing: future HP/SS (really, I promise!)
Rating: Oh, who cares. No smut yet.
Summary: Enter Snape! At last!
Notes: Erm. This is very silly and horrid in places. I've got less than two days. Give me a break. But look at all the words! Right. 5,000 more coming later tonight, with any luck.
Severus's life was really beginning to border on the surreal. He had honestly never thought that finding Harry Potter would be a reality, and yet here the reality was, staring up at him from a Muggle newspaper. He'd devoted the past year to the search for Harry, and he felt some resentment that the sense of purpose he'd gained from it would soon be gone. He knew how it would go once he got to America-- he'd try and he'd fail, and then return empty-handed to a life that seemed to hold little use. For had Harry Bloody Potter not been his purpose all these years? Severus hated to admit it to himself, but it was ture. The past eighteen years of his life amounted to no more than a few deaths, a few journal articles, and Harry Potter. Perhaps, he thought, once that purpose was well and truly put to rest, he could leave Hogwarts and move on. Move on where, though? He lacked the means to retire, and even still lacked the good name to make his living elsewhere. He was no stranger to his blemished record and its consequences, no more than he was to his left arm. The Mark would fade, as would the blight on his name, but there was no hope for permanent erasure of the past.
A knock at his door interrupted his reverie. "Enter," he snapped.
In walked Remus, in high spirits and waving an envelope. "I've got your papers, Severus!"
"Your Muggle passport and visa, courtesy of a connection of Kingsley's."
Severus took the proffered envelope and opened it to look at the passport. "Aidan O'Neill?" he said with a sneer. "And who the devil's this picture of?"
"Of Aidan O'Neill. He's not using it at the moment, as he's in St Mungo's and will be for some time. Quite fit, isn't he?"
Severus did have to admit that the photograph in the passport was a vast improvement over his own appearance. All except one thing… "Fine. But you're not touching my hair."
Remus snorted. "I wonder that you're so vain about it, as little care as you seem to take of that greasy mop of yours."
"It is not a greasy mop. It is my hair, and I like it the way it is. Turn it brown if you must, but leave the rest of it alone. Aidan O'Neill will just have to have long hair."
"Will he wash it, ever? Remus asked, the corners of his mouth twitching.
"Sorry, sorry," Remus said, holding up his hands. "You know how cute you are when you're annoyed."
"I hate you," Severus said, glaring. Bloody werewolf was in far too good of a mood to suit his taste. "And I am not cute."
"Oh, shut it and hold still so I can do your glamour."
Severus gave a put-upon sort of sigh, but allowed Remus to get to work. "You do know I have my own Muggle passport, don't you?" he said, wincing as Remus accidentally poked him in the eye with his wand. "I fail to see why I can't travel with that and disguise myself once I get there."
Remus was silent for a few minutes, apparently intent on the spells he was casting. Severus could have sworn the man was actually transfiguring his face. At last, he said, "To put it simply, Severus, I don't trust you to bother with the disguise and not just go storming into Harry's life as Severus Snape. Which is why," he said with a few final flicks of his wand, "I'm locking this glamour so you can't take it off."
"Really, Lupin, I'm not a child."
"Too late to argue, Severus. Even I can't take it off for three days now. And you'll be gone by then. Speaking of which, are you all packed?"
"Yes," Snape said irritably.
"Good. I forgot to tell you, your flight leaves in three hours. So we'd better be getting you to Heathrow."
"Please tell me I don't have to go on the bloody Underground."
"Even I'm not that cruel. Besides, there wouldn't be time now. There's a lovely toilet cubicle in the terminal area that I've set up a portkey to."
"Can't I just Apparate?"
"Afraid not. Can't have you going in on top of some poor chap trying to do his business, now can we? This portkey is space-sensitive. It won't activate if there's someone in the destination area."
"And remind me again why I can take a portkey to the Heathrow toilets, but not to America."
"Money. The permits are astronomical."
"I've committed worse crimes."
"I abhor flying."
"It's nothing like flying on a broom. And really, just because James hexed your broomstick back in third year should be no reason to--"
"Lupin. I am seriously considering killing you."
"But then you'd be stuck in that glamour forever, wouldn't you? It's really not half-bad. Maybe I won't take it off."
Severus rolled his eyes heavenward. "At least I don't have to be a woman," he grumbled under his breath.
"You almost were," Remus said, laughing when both of Snape's eyebrows shot up. "Poor Aidan didn't know where his passport was for a bit, but fortunately he remembered. You were very nearly a sweet old lady named Bess."
"Thank goodness for small favours," Severus muttered.
"Now really, Severus," Remus said in a more serious tone, sitting down across from him. "You were positively itching to go before. You wanted to find Harry more than I did. But now I couldn't even call you lukewarm on the subject. What changed?"
Severus sneered, having no intention whatsoever of explaining his personal struggle. "Perhaps I realised that he would have come back a long time ago if he had any plans to."
"You don't know that. You two are so alike, Severus. So horribly stubborn and proud. Now think about it, if you were in his place, would you come back even if you wanted to? Would you want to explain yourself to everyone?"
"I did it once," Severus said quietly.
"You know that's not what I'm talking about."
Severus nodded silently.
"I almost wonder if he's waiting for someone to come looking for him, if he won't come back unless he thinks we want him back."
"And how am I to impart that information like this?" he said, gesturing to his face.
"I think if you gain his trust, the rest will come."
"Gain his trust by lying to him. I see."
"Can you think of a better way?"
Severus very much wished he could, other than dragging the brat back across the ocean by his ear.
"Oh, we'll have to do something about that voice of yours," Remus said, the devilish grin back on his face. He pointed his wand at Snape's throat. "Alitanda."
"Lupin, what--" Severus stopped short at the sound coming out of his mouth. It wasn't high-pitched, no, but it wasn't his voice.
"Oh, come on. Harry would know your voice anywhere. It's bad enough we can't do anything about your accent. But maybe you two can bond as countrymen or something. Now, come on, get into your Muggle clothes. You've got to get going."
A few minutes later, Severus found himself in a toilet cubicle wearing Muggle clothing. He hated Muggle clothing. It made him feel so naked. He much preferred the billowing security of his regular robes. He took the privacy the cubicle provided as an opportunity to check the less… visible regions of himself to be sure Remus had done nothing untoward to them. He was relieved to find that everything was as it should be, though his skin was a shade or two darker to match his face. But his body was much as it had ever been, which was fine with him. It was a good body. He was used to it. He'd been half-afraid that the idiot werewolf had given him ridiculous muscles or something similar.
He righted his clothes again and stepped cautiously out of the cubicle. There was no one around. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and almost fell over. It hadn't occurred to him before to look in a mirror. How strange it was! The reflection staring back at him wasn't him, and yet it was. He stepped closer to the mirror and examined himself. Remus, true to his word, had left his hair long, but it was now a dark auburn. He looked at least ten years younger. Pale blue eyes stared back at him. And… well, he had to admit that he was quite attractive. It was a new phenomenon for him. He studied his face, smiling, frowning, squinting, glaring-- anyone who might have walked in at that moment would have been highly amused at the show of facial expressions he was putting on, and probably would have thought Severus rather strange. Well, perhaps this wasn't such a bad skin to be in after all. It might prove to be… liberating, he thought.
Many long hours later, Severus arrived in Nashville, exhausted. There'd be no searching for anyone tonight. He followed the directions Remus had given him from the Department of Magical Travel and Tourism, and soon found himself on the doorstep of the Dragon's Head, Nashville's wizarding inn, where he immediately collapsed after being shown to his room.
The next morning (well, afternoon-- Severus had slept uncharacteristically late) brought blazing, humid heat, coupled with the awful sticky feeling that comes with sleeping in one's clothes. Grumbling to himself, Severus rose and went to the shower. Looking in the bathroom mirror was still a jarring experience. He almost felt that he was watching a stranger undress, especially when he found that his glamoured face was given to blushing rather attractively at the thought. He really was going to have to murder Lupin.
He opened his suitcase to take out fresh clothes, and found something unexpected on top. Potter's invisibility cloak. Pinned to it was a note from Remus.
Thought this might come in useful. Good luck, and be careful.
P.S. Be nice!
Severus snorted. But he had to admit that the cloak might prove very useful indeed. As he dressed, he worked out a plan. He'd go to Harry's restaurant, since it was an address that was public information, and one that no one would find out of the ordinary to hear an apparent tourist asking about. Then he'd lurk invisibly until Harry went home, and follow him there. Once he knew where to go, perhaps he could come up with some excuse for knocking on the door. Or… no, that wouldn't work, would it? Severus certainly wouldn't be inclined to befriend anyone who showed up on his doorstep selling something, and he therefore highly doubted Harry would either. Yes, he'd just follow him for a couple of days. Surely the man must have a social life of some sort. Perhaps there could be some sort of "chance" encounter.
Resolved, he went to get directions to the restaurant from the innkeeper, who smiled proudly when he learned where Severus wanted to go. "He stayed here his first night in town," the innkeeper said. "You a friend of his?"
"You… might say that." So the wizarding folk knew Harry was one of them. That could prove invaluable.
When Severus arrived at Giacomo's, he was first struck by how busy the place was, given the fact that it was neither lunchtime nor dinnertime. The hostess at the front informed him that all the tables were booked, but that he was welcome to find a seat in the bar and be served there. He made his way to the bar and nearly fell off the stool as soon as he sat down. There he was, standing at the opposite end of the bar, conversing animatedly with someone. Really, was it necessary to make himself look that much like Black? Was it even him? He looked more closely, glancing surreptitiously over the top if his menu. Yes, it was him, all right. It was unmistakable to someone who had seen as much of Harry as he had over the years. The face may have been that of his boyhood tormentor, but the mannerisms were all his. The way he ran his hand through his hair, the way he looked down when he laughed, the way he nervously crossed and uncrossed one foot behind the other as he stood and talked. If Julian Jameson wasn't Harry Potter under a glamour, he was most certainly a long-lost brother.
The food was delicious. Severus had to admit that it displayed true talent. And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there was Harry, standing across the bar from him. His heart skipped a beat.
"Everything good, sir?" he asked with a disarming grin.
It took Severus a moment to find words that weren't I've found you or there you are, you impertinent brat. "Yes, very good," Severus said at last, feigning that he'd been chewing all this time. Right. If he was going to build up any sort of rapport, there was no time like the present. "You're English, aren't you?" he said.
Harry smiled again, but Severus couldn't help but think it looked more forced this time. "Yes," he said. "You must be as well. Where are you from?"
Oh, bloody hell. What did it say on his passport? Glasgow. Fuck! Bloody O'Neill was Scottish! "I live in Glasgow now, but I'm originally from London." London was nice and safe. Everyone was from London. And it would make up for his having a Glasgow address while not sounding the least bit Scottish. Not that Harry would be checking his passport, he suddenly realised. He could have just told the truth. But he didn't have a Yorkshire accent, either. He'd worked his entire life to remove any trace of it from his speech.
"Oh, I was at school in Scotland," Harry said. That statement seemed to roll off his tongue so easily that it was clear to Snape it was a lie he'd told many times. Half-truth, rather. Severus wondered idly if this little chat they were having was genuine interest, or if it was just Harry's idea of making his customers feel welcomed.
"Really? Where? Perhaps I know it." Oh, good going, Severus. Make him lie to you some more.
But Harry seemed unperturbed. "I doubt it. It was quite small, rather out in no-man's land. St. Brutus's," he said without missing a beat.
Severus couldn't pretend to know the place, because he was positive it didn't exist, so any pretended knowledge of it would be extremely suspicious. "No, I've not heard of it. But I don't often venture into no-man's land." Good lord, had he just made a joke?
Yes, he had, because Harry was laughing. "Can't say that I blame you. It was a bit desolate, really. Beautiful country, but not much to do besides get into trouble."
Such understatements, Potter.
"Are you just on holiday here?" Harry asked.
"Yes and no," Severus said. "I came looking for a… an old friend of mine, but it seems he's moved on," he said. Not quite a lie. But not the truth.
Harry nodded. "I actually first came here looking for some relatives of mine, but they don't actually appear to exist."
Severus looked him unabashedly in the eye. "What made you decide to stay?" Hah! There, now he looked uncomfortable. Severus, you bastard, you're not here to make him squirm!
"Didn't much want to go back, is all," Harry said much less cheerily. There was no question. It had to be him. He paused for a moment. "Well, listen, I hate to run off, but I've got a meeting in a minute. It was nice talking to you. And I hope you enjoy Nashville," he said with a winning smile.
Severus absently muttered some parting pleasantries, and Harry vanished into what appeared to be the kitchen. As Severus was paying his tab, the man Harry had been talking to appeared at his side. "I think he fancies you," the man said in what could only be described as a conspiratorial tone.
"I beg your pardon!" Snape said, slipping back into his regular persona, but finding it highly ineffective without the aid of his voice.
"Your man there, Julian. He owns this place, you know." The man had a thick Irish accent, and just who on earth did he think he was? He must have seen the affronted look on Severus's face, because his manner quickly turned apologetic. "Oh, bollocks-- I mean, bother… I'm sorry, you must think I'm such a plank. I must've misjudged… I thought I saw you looking, and well, I'm a bit pissed, you see, and…"
Severus thought he'd been in ridiculous situations before, but this one took the bloody cake! Fancied him? And well, yes, he'd been looking, of course, but certainly not for the reason this intoxicated boor seemed to think. It was the middle of the afternoon! What business did anyone have being drunk at this hour? But on the other hand, whoever this person was, he seemed to know Harry. Perhaps he was at least worth talking to, despite his offensiveness. Be nice. He could almost hear the blasted werewolf admonishing him. Severus sighed. Nice. "Why don't we start over," he said, and put out his hand. "Hello, I'm Aidan O'Neill."
The Irishman looked at him, seemingly relieved to have been stopped talking, and shook his hand. "Liam Kennedy. Look, I'm sorry about all that. I don't always think before I speak when I've been drinking."
"It's all right," Severus said. No, it was most certainly not all right. But that was neither here nor there.
"Anyway, I'd better be going before I say anything else I shouldn't. But if I was right, and I'm not saying I was, but if I was, we'll be drinking at the Séanachie tonight starting around nine or so, and I'm sure he'd be happy to see you."
And Liam Kennedy stumbled off through the same door that Harry had. What in the name of Salazar Slytherin's maiden aunt had just happened? Severus felt like shouting and cursing and taking house points from everyone in the bar, but he could certainly do no such thing. And… fancied him?
The barman must have seen his confusion. "Don't mind Liam," he said. "He's really harmless. He's the owner's best friend, so he sort of gets the run of the place."
"Clearly," Severus said, still a bit shocked.
"Can I offer you a drink on the house or anything?"
"No, thank you. I have to go."
Severus left the bar and ducked into the gents', where he enlarged the invisibility cloak and put it on. He followed a waiter through the door behind the bar, which did indeed lead to the kitchen. Harry was nowhere to be seen, but he saw Liam walking across the kitchen. He picked up his pace and followed him, into what seemed to be Harry's office. Severus got into the room and out of the way just in time for Liam to close the door behind him.
"All right, Liam?" Harry said, looking up from whatever paperwork he was doing.
"Jule, you're going to kill me."
Harry fixed the Irishman with a glare that reminded Snape eerily of himself. "What did you do?"
"Er… well, your man there, Aidan? Who you were talking to in the bar?"
"I didn't catch his name. What about him?"
"You fancy him, right?"
"Liam!" He didn't sound genuinely angry, though.
He seemed to consider it for a moment. "Fancy's a bit of a strong word. Not bad looking, though. Could fancy, perhaps, if given time." A look of realisation passed over his face. "Wait, what did you say to him?" He looked a bit worried now.
Severus expected some sort of angry outburst, but Harry only pinched the bridge of his nose. "Liam!" he groaned.
"I'm sorry! Really, I'm sorry! I apologised to him, though, and he was quite nice about the whole thing."
"I wish you wouldn't bother the customers," he said, clearly exasperated. "I'm going to have to stop letting you drink here if you can't behave yourself."
"I said I was sorry!" Liam whined.
Harry sighed. "At least you apologised, I suppose. What possessed you to say something like that, anyway?"
"I saw him looking at you, and you were looking at him, and then when you were talking to him it seemed like you were getting on rather well and…"
"And you decided you'd play matchmaker."
"I just thought that after Nick, you could do with a bit of fun."
"You know me better than that," Harry said. Severus thought he could detect a note of sadness in his tone. "I don't go in much for bits of fun."
"Well, more than a bit of fun, then?"
"What, don't you like him?"
"I don't even know him!" he said, throwing up his hands. Yes, that was a frustrated Harry Potter if Severus had ever seen one. Harry narrowed his eyes at his friend. "What is it you're leaving out? There's something you're not telling me here."
"I…well, I might have said where we'd be tonight, and I might have said you'd be happy to see him if he were to turn up."
Harry closed his eyes, laughing. "Liam, you utter bastard. You complete. Bloody. Fucking. Wanker," he said, throwing various objects at his friend to punctuate his words.
"Ow! Jule, did you have to throw the stapler?" Liam said, rubbing his shoulder where the thing had hit him.
"I should throw the fucking desk," Harry said, but he was laughing. "What if he's not even gay?"
"I suppose we'll find out tonight, won't we?"
Harry seemed to be about to throw something else, but there was a knock on the office door. "Come in!" he called.
A nervous-looking waitress entered, followed by two men in black suits. "Um, Julian, these two gentlemen are here to see you," she said.
Harry's countenance had instantly gone sober, Severus noticed. "Thank you, Camille," he said. "Liam, do you mind?"
"Right," Liam said, popping up out of his chair. "I'll see you tonight," he said, waving cheerfully.
Severus almost followed Liam out, but something made him stay.
"Are you still willing to cooperate with us, Mr Jameson?" one of the men asked without prelude.
Harry nodded. "I told you I would if you keep my name out of it. Are you still willing to cooperate with me?" Severus was at once intrigued by what was going on, and surprised at the complete shift Harry had made from playful and friendly to what could only be described as shrewd.
"We'll keep your name out of it," said the other of the two.
"Right, then. What do I need to do?"
The man who had spoken first held up a briefcase. "The devices are in here. They're very small. We need you to hide one in the flower arrangement on every table. They can't record more than a few hours at a time, so they'll have to be reset every night." He opened the briefcase and pulled out something thin and cylindrical. "This red button resets it. The recording is voice-activated."
"I hope they're waterproof," Harry said, crossing his arms. "Those flowers aren't silk, you know."
"They're waterproof. Just make sure you've got the buttons pointing up. Now if Gabanella comes in, you need to collect the recorder from his table as soon as he leaves, and call us. Hopefully our informant will be wearing a wire, but it may not be possible, so we have to depend on you for backup."
"Just Gabanella? No one else?"
"Anyone you think is connected with him, too, if you can manage it. But Gabanella's the one we want, and only recordings with our informant on them will stand up in court."
"If we get Gabanella, we get the rest of them," said the other man. "Unless you can give us Abramosi."
Harry glared at them. "Don't push your luck. I've got nothing on Nick anyway. He didn't really talk to me about that kind of thing. I know where he lives, but I'm sure you gentlemen know that as well."
"You're not in contact with him anymore?" said the man with the recording devices.
Harry shook his head. "Haven't even talked to him in a few weeks. But shouldn't you know that already? You knew where I lived without Gabanella's help, and you clearly knew what was going on long before I did. Thanks for that, by the way," he spat. "Not telling me till the last minute that I'd been taking financial backing from the bloody mafia? Very professional of you, protecting the common good and all."
"Mr Jameson, you must understand our position," said one of the men, but his tone wasn't at all pleading or apologetic. "It's very delicate. We informed you as soon as we believed we could."
"Right," Harry said shortly. "If you'd just leave your recording devices here and be on your way, I'd appreciate it. I do have a business to run."
They were out the door and Liam was back in before Severus could make an escape, but at this point his mind was reeling so far and so fast that his feet felt glued to the ground, and he hardly heard their conversation. Instead, he tried to make sense of the enormous jumble of discoveries he'd made in the past hour. Thing one: Julian Jameson was very definitely Harry Potter. Thing two: Harry Potter was gay, or at least liked men, and seemed to fancy Aidan O'Neill. Thing three: Harry Potter had recently broken off a relationship with someone called Nick. Thing four: This someone called Nick was presumably the same Nick that Harry Potter had spoken of to the… police inspectors, or whatever they were. Thing five: Harry Potter was helping said police inspectors or whatever they were to incriminate someone called Gabanella. Thing six: Gabanella was in the mafia, and apparently so was the man called Nick Abramosi. Conclusion: If Harry Potter was actually dealing with the mafia, then the rest of Rita Skeeter's article was probably true as well, at least somewhat, which meant there were probably Death Eaters involved in some fashion, whether or not Harry knew it.
Severus suddenly did not feel very well at all, and very much wished to go home. Or at least to get out of this office. He did manage to make it out the door this time when Liam left. The sweltering heat outside only made him feel sicker. He ducked down a lane to remove the cloak, which wasn't helping matters. He now rather wished he'd taken the barman up on that drink offer. He walked back to the gateway into the wizarding section of town as quickly as he could, and back to the Dragon's Head, where he went straight into the bar and ordered a glass of water and a firewhiskey. The witch serving him seemed highly amused that he drank the water first. He tried to sneer at her, but it only set her to blushing and giggling girlishly. Damn it, he couldn't even intimidate anyone with this face, much less cow them into doing what he wanted. It was going to be a long… well, however long it took, he thought, gulping down the whiskey. He'd hoped it would be a matter of days, but he was realising now that it could be weeks. Months, even.
He went back up to his room to change out of the sweaty clothes he was wearing. The few Muggle clothes he owned were all here in this suitcase, and he was quite clearly going to run out of clean ones very soon. Cleaning charms were useful, yes, but they couldn't do everything. He was either going to have to buy some new clothes, or find out what sort of laundry services the inn had. If his previous experience was any indication, it might be nearly as expensive to have his washing done as it would to simply buy new clothes. Not that he wanted to do either, but given that he had only three clean shirts left, it was probably going to be necessary unless he worked some sort of miracle on Harry tonight. He was horribly apprehensive about turning up in the midst of Harry drinking with his mates, but it was really the only way. And after all, he had been invited. Sort of. If a drunk Irishman giving him a place and a time counted as an invitation. Severus wasn't sure-- he hadn't really been invited very many places in his life, and certainly not so informally.
Having changed into clean clothes (which were only slightly different from the ones he'd been wearing previously), he looked at the time and saw that it was still far too early for Harry to be going down the pub. He did think it best to get there first so it would be Harry who got to make the choice of whether to join him or not. But if Harry didn't join him, he had no idea of how he was ever going to be able to approach him later. But it didn't matter, did it? He could make as much of an arse of himself as he wanted to, and it wouldn't matter, because he wasn't anyone at all just now. His image had been created from a grainy photograph, and he very much doubted that he even bore any great resemblance to the real Aidan O'Neill. Severus Snape would bear none of the repercussions of anything he did here. That knowledge felt oddly freeing. He could be… well, not exactly himself, but he could, perhaps, try his hand at being the sort of person he'd always meant to be, before… Well, just before.