Pairing: girl!Harry Snarry
Warning (highlight to view): For AU.
Word Count: 2600
Summary: Mr Birdwell writes to his wife upon the occasion of his leaving her.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Written for girl_harry's Epistolary Challenge. Thank you, fodirteg and Shog, for beta'ing. This story has been translated into Chinese by Celia, who goes by "huangli" at the hosting site.
1 May 2008
Ten years ago today, I died. You were seventeen-years-old and left me, bleeding from the neck and oozing memories, to discover and complete the task Albus set for you. When I regained consciousness, I very nearly went after you; I didn't want you to die, not having surrendered so much to see you safe for so many years of my life. But Albus, for all his cold calculation, was right; there was no other way. When Fawkes came to me, I almost refused his aid, but phoenix song has a way of persuading one to live. Even though I knew my last link to Lily was about to be cut, I accepted Fawkes' tears and, healed in body, took myself off into the Forbidden Forest; I'd long had a cottage there, stocked and waiting for me, against the day of my release; I soon found, however, that it wasn't solitude for which I longed—or your mother.
Nine years ago today, I lied my way into a position with the Ministry, one which would allow me to follow your progress through Auror training. Eighteen, you still had little use for your studies, but you did as your sickly Potions master bade and managed to learn enough to get by. I saw your concern for me, then, and it infuriated me, but it was also welcome because no one else gave a damn. The lax security of the DMLE, the obstinate refusal of anyone to remain on their guard after the Dark Lord's defeat—these things disgusted me, but not enough to give up my charade, or the over-use of Polyjuice which had weakened my constitution considerably; your regard gave me strength.
Eight years ago today, I spied you in a corridor of the Ministry, the one in which they had reluctantly hung the plaque noting Severus Snape's heroism during the war. At Nineteen, you were entering the final year of your training and attempting to let Ronald Weasley down easily. "You care more about some awful dead sod than me!" he accused, when you rejected his proposal. I thought he would turn violent, which is why I interfered. I knew it wasn't necessary, but I couldn't help myself; I've never been able to stop myself from stepping in where you were concerned. It was on that day I knew that I wasn't merely concerned with you.
Seven years ago today, I stood silently behind you as you watched Weasley marry Granger. I heard you tell Mrs Ronald Weasley later that "Twenty isn't an old maid. I'm an Auror now, Hermione. I don't want to marry, and you know that it was never serious between Ron and I, don't you?" By then you'd admitted to Birdwell that the Hat had first wanted to Sort you into Slytherin, and I could see why; you convinced your friend that Weasley had never truly loved you, that he'd merely been afraid of his feelings for her. It was impressive. It was kind. It was why I didn't press my advantage with you later when you came crying to my office, but the embrace we shared that evening had little to do with comfort on my side.
Six years ago today, having given up my position with the DMLE in deference to my health and because you'd left training, I met you at the Leaky Cauldron for a drink. At twenty-one, you were shyer than you should have been while drinking with a man. I could see it, your obsession with him, with Snape, with someone I couldn't be for you, but I was enough like him to keep your interest even though you clearly assumed it wasn't returned. We spoke of my research and your career, and I counselled you to find someone your own age with whom to spend time. Embarrassed, you left me for the Ministry, and I found you back in that blasted corridor, your hand pressed to my memorial. All I could wish was that it were my face you were caressing. That was when I decided that Byron Birdwell had served his purpose and would have to go abroad.
Five years ago today, I sat, alone, in my cottage. The stack of letters you'd sent to my address at the Salem Institute were in my lap, well-worn but unopened. I hadn't wanted to read of Snape, or of your misguided attachment to Birdwell. I hadn't wanted to think of you at all and had spent the previous twelve months refining various potions and sending my results to a colleague at the Institute, who had been good enough to see my papers published. But Collins had written to inform me of your visit to Salem to ask after me, and, in spite of my better judgment, I finally read your letters. At twenty-two, you sounded far older than your years, war-worn and lonely.
Four years ago today, I surrendered to my own loneliness and moved to Hogsmeade. I'd perfected Polyjuice to the extent that it no longer had any debilitating effects and lasted, one dose, for a day; I never published on the topic, obviously, because my work on the potion had been conducted only as a way for me, for Birdwell, to see you. You didn't speak of Snape when you came to my house-warming, twenty-three and lovely, your long hair plaited neatly and piled atop your head. The blue dress you wore made your eyes shine more brightly than I'd ever seen them. I knew it was madness, but I let you see my desire.
Three years ago today, we fought. I accused you of being in love with Snape, and you couldn't look at me. If you had, I would have tested your Occlumency, even though I'd never attempted to enter your mind in all the months we'd been together. Disgusted with myself, I was regretting everything, and then you mumbled something about not having expected to find yourself pregnant at twenty-four. I wanted to tell you then, about me, about him, Snape, but I couldn't: I'd never expected to be a father at any age, and I had no intention of giving that up—or you, ever.
Two years ago today, I was giving a bottle to our three-month-old daughter, to our Lily Luna, while I watched you sleep. You seemed so much younger than twenty-five, almost too young, but that thought was a fleeting one because I was too happy to care about my lies; they'd secured you for me, they'd made you mine, and they'd given me a family. A family, a proper family—if you'd known who I truly was then, I doubt that you'd have believed a proper family was all I'd ever wanted, no matter your own, similar feelings.
One year ago today, you gave me a son, our Albus Severus, as you insisted he be called. I saw it then: at twenty-six, the obsession you'd nursed for Snape since you were at least sixteen was just as strong as it had ever been. I'd given you Birdwell, but you'd only ever settled for him because the man you'd wanted was dead. I knew then that you didn't want Birdwell, and it nearly broke me. No matter the joy I felt for our son, the disappointment at being your second choice made me hate the man I'd become so much more than I'd ever hated myself when I was Severus Snape. I hid all of this from you, of course, because my lies were responsible for everything, and because I was still convinced that, in some small but gratifying way, you were mine, no matter who I was.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Severus Snape, and you still carry him in your heart. I understand now that you've never been mine; if you had been, you wouldn't have continued making your pilgrimage to that blasted memorial of his, wouldn't have gone there just after dawn when you thought I was sleeping, wouldn't have stood, mute, and listened to every horrible thing I shouted at you this morning. For years, I've hoped that Birdwell would come to be enough for you. I've tried to make him a good man, a good husband, but his vibrant, twenty-seven-year-old wife, the mother of his children, would leave him without a thought if she could have the man she truly loves—even if that man is a fiction. Severus Snape as you imagine him never existed, and Byron Birdwell isn't someone behind whom I can continue to hide. My behavior of late notwithstanding, it isn't from you I've been "shrinking"; it's from myself, from the man I've been pretending to be. The truth will make you hate me, but I'm admitting it now because you demanded it and I've never been able to deny you anything—but I can't deny anymore that you love the idea of "some awful dead sod" more than you do me.
The truth is that I've wanted you for far longer than I've allowed myself to accept until this moment, Mrs Birdwell, and I don't regret the lies I've told so that I could love you. I just wish I could have found a way to have allowed you to love me as I am. My failure to do this I will regret until the end of my life, and I hope one day you'll believe me on that score. Even if you never do, for the sake of our children, I hope you'll not teach them to hate their father, or their name. Birdwell is a good name, even if the man who assumed it wasn't as good a one as he might have been.
I'll miss you and our family, Harry. Keep yourselves safe, and try to forgive me.
1 May 2008
You're off your game and have been for years. "Birdwell" was hardly subtle, not when I went back as soon as I could for you and found the feathers. And setting yourself up as a DMLE Potions master wasn't particularly imaginative, either. I didn't say as much nine years ago because I thought you needed your privacy, that you were healing, but I knew you as soon as I stepped into your classroom—you never bothered changing any of Snape's mannerisms, you git, and they're distinctive. More than that, selecting your hair donor from among the patients in Ward 49, when one of my closest friends works there, was idiotic at best. Luna thought perhaps Mr Carson had a twin, but it was easy enough to discover that he didn't. She never confronted you about it because your volunteering to brew the more complicated Healing potions made her believe you harmless, especially after I told her who you were. "Oh, he's come back for you, then, has he?" That's what she said, after.
There was never anything between Ron and I; that scene in the corridor eight years ago was for you. I had hoped that a year was enough time for you to admit who you were but soon realised you'd never involve yourself with a trainee.
After Ron married Hermione (and she and I talked), I hoped that you'd give in to your own feelings—and you'll forgive me, but our "embrace" seven years ago wasn't comforting on either side. When I met you at the Leaky six years ago, I almost told you that I knew out of sheer, desperate frustration, but I couldn't do it. I'd begun to doubt myself, and I was furious with you.
I never did find your fucking cottage, but my trip to see Master Collins five years ago was my way of drawing you out—and at your house-warming four years ago, I thought I'd die of happiness, seeing the way you looked at me. Two months later, I sort of did, didn't I?
Three years ago, I really thought you'd admit everything after I told you I was pregnant; when you didn't, Luna said that I ought to be grateful that I had you, since I wanted you as much as I did, no matter what you looked like. If you'd tried Occlumency, it might have been for the best; I wasn't hiding my thoughts from you. I never hid my thoughts from you after we were engaged.
Watching you give Lily her bottle, watching how gentle you were with her, watching you behave so unlike the Snape I'd always known—that was beautiful and terrible at once because I realised, two years ago, how very much you had to hate yourself to continue to hide as you did. But otherwise I was so happy, we were so happy, that I couldn't bring myself to say anything that might make you leave. And I had begun to think it wasn't me you wanted after all. I'd begun to think it was my mother, so I didn't say a word. I wanted you too much to say anything.
Last year when Albus Severus was born, I thought you'd break, but no matter that you think you did, I don't believe it. Oh, I could see how restless you'd become, I noticed your growing distance—but you never stopped touching me, you were never long out of my sight, and you were almost ferocious in bed once I'd got over childbirth. When I bit you back, drew your blood, it was my way of claiming you the way you'd been claiming me, and anger kept me silent, even if I couldn't hide the fact that it was Snape I wanted. I let you see that. I goaded you in so many ways, because I wanted you to tell me.
That's why, today, I went back to your memorial. You've no idea the noise I had to make in order to wake you so that you would follow me the way you always have. When we fought, I almost drew my wand on you, but, given how angry I was, I was sure I'd kill you if I did. I was so tired of the lies. I couldn't say anything because I couldn't believe how stupid and cowardly we've both been. This is madness, and it's our doing, not just yours. For my part, I'm tired of Birdwell. It's you I see when I look at my husband—and our children—and it's you I want to touch. I love you, Severus. I don't know for how long I have, just that I do. Why is that wrong? Why is it a failure that we've made a family together, a life together? Why can't we love each other as we are without the lies? Why?
And fuck, yes! I called us cowardly—and you're a coward if you stay away. If you want my hatred, staying away is how you'll earn it, and if you truly abandon your children, I'll find you, you melodramatic arse, I'll find you and give you that death you seem to be waiting for—I know just the wand for the job, and don't think for a moment that I won't pry it out of Albus' cold dead fingers. I don't care if you can't be Birdwell anymore. I never wanted him. You stay away, and it'll be Widow Birdwell. Come home, and we'll figure out how to be the Snapes. It's possible, anything is, we just have to want it enough.
Come home, Severus. Come home so that we can fight properly. Come home so that I can finally fuck the man I married. Just come home, you great awful sod. We need you.