The Apprentice and the Necromancer by JunoMagic
All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here
â€˜What?” Severus bit out irritably.
â€˜The cloak. The Invisibility Cloak. I think we should wear it. Just in case Dumbledore was wrong and there’s not just another plane of existenceâ€¦orâ€¦ uhâ€¦non-existence, I guess, behind that Veil, but also some guy who guards it.â€™ Harry was aware that he sounded remarkably stupid, but he still held out the cloak to Severus. Since the Potions Master was the taller man, he’d have to wear the cloak while Harry stayed close enough to his side to be covered as well.
â€˜Very well.â€™ Snape grabbed the cloak and threw it over his head. The air shimmered for a moment around him, then he was gone. A second later, Harry heard the faint rustle of fabric and the air split apart, revealing a part of Severus again, namely his left arm and side.
â€˜Great,â€™ Harry said. â€˜We’d better get going.â€™
â€˜Nervous?â€™ He could detect a faint note of amusement in Severus’ voice.
Harry bit his tongue and took the older man’s hand. Snape’s long fingers curled around his in an iron grip. His skin was cold and clammy. As Harry ducked under the Invisibility Cloak, huddling next to Severus, he grinned. He was not the only one who was nervous.
â€˜So where does it say â€œAll hope abandon, ye who enter hereâ€?â€™ Harry quipped, desperately clinging to some gallows humour. His voice sounded muffled under the cloak. It was quite warm and he noticed a spicy fragrance that seemed to cling to the man next to him. Snape used an eau de toilette? But that was impossibleâ€”the man was the greasy git!
â€˜â€œA fair request should be followed by the deed in silenceâ€,â€™ Snape drawled. â€˜Kindly shut up and follow me.â€™
The Veil was soft around them as they stepped through. For a moment Harry thought there were hands reaching for him, a gentle caress, a silken embrace, and that there were voices whispering into his ears, many voices, both old and young. But if they used words of love or hate, he couldn’t tell.
As the frayed seam of the Veil slid across his shoulder, it shimmered just like his Invisibility Cloak. His heart beat heavily. It seemed that Flamel had been rightâ€”this must be the same fabric. Was his cloak the reason that the Veil in the Death Chamber was so tattered and torn?
On the other side, they stopped dead.
Harry inhaled a shuddering breath. He was still able to breathe. And his heart was racing. He cleared his throat awkwardly. â€˜Iâ€¦uhâ€¦I don’t feel dead. Ummâ€¦ Do you?â€™
He stared straight ahead and swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to face a Severus reduced to the pearly glow of a ghostly existence. A thought struck himâ€”they were still holding hands, and Snape’s hand didn’t feel any different. Still cool, but firm. Firm. Very tangible.
â€˜Not quite yet,â€™ was the sour response. â€˜But if you don’t loosen that death grip of yours around my hand, that may happen yet. If you don’t mind, refrain from breaking my fingers.â€™
â€˜Right.â€™ Harry took another deep breath and forced himself to relax his hand a little. Then he looked to his right. In the dim twilight that surrounded them, Severus loomed at his side like a black shadow. But he did feel the warmth of Severus’ body. And he could still smell that eau de toilette or whatever that scent was. â€˜Right.â€™ They had passed beyond the Veil. And they were not precisely dead. Now what?
Harry dared to glance back at the Veil, looking over his right shoulderâ€”and gasped. â€˜Sevâ€”â€™ He coughed. â€˜Severus, the Veil! It’s gone!â€™
Snape spun around, unceremoniously dragging Harry along with him. Harry stumbled, scrambled, then they stood next to each other again and staredâ€”at a large gate set in an archway of smooth black stone.
Unsurprisingly, the doors of the gate were locked.
â€˜Shit,â€™ Snape cursed softly.
â€˜No shit!â€™ exclaimed Harry, when he caught the gleam of metal out of the corner of his eye. â€˜Look at your wands! I think that Sempiternal potion-spellâ€¦connectionâ€¦thing actually worked!â€™
Severus stared at his wandsâ€”or rather, at his wand.
He was holding only one wand now, his right wand, yew with dragon heartstring. His other wand, birch with a sphinx feather at the core, had turned into a large golden skeleton key with an elaborate bow and tooth.
Rebirth. Birch for rebirth and new beginnings. And now, the key to the gates between Life and Death.
â€˜That is certainly unexpected,â€™ he said softly.
â€˜That’s fairly awesome, I’d say. Wait until we get to tell Hermione about that!â€™ Relief coloured the youthful enthusiasm of Harry’s voice. Strangely, Severus didn’t feel annoyed at the young man’s reaction. Instead he felt his heart-beat more heavily for a breath or two. Maybe he would see her again, after all.
He stood in silence for a moment, studying the key. It was heavy in his hand, the cold metal of its shaft slowly warming in his grasp. He thought he recognised ancient Greek symbols in the pattern of bow and tooth, but now was not the time to examine it more closely. Severus took a deep breath and tucked the key securely into the inner pocket of his frock coat.
â€˜Well, Harry,â€™ he said gruffly. â€˜Since you have just demonstrated an astonishing talent for observation and deduction by coming to the accurate conclusion that we are not deadâ€¦yet, how would you like to turn around now and set about accomplishing our task?â€™
Harry’s fingers tightened around his. Severus looked down at the young auror. The unruly spikes of Harry’s black hair reached just above Severus’ shoulder. Harry was a bit taller than Hermione; but not much.
Harry snorted. â€˜Fine with me, sir.â€™
Together, they turned. Empty grey plains stretched out before them until they faded into blurred mists in the distance.
â€˜Now what?â€™ asked Harry.