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Title: Fire Call
Author: Deirdre Riordan
Pairing: overtones/pre-slash of SSHP, could be read as gen.
Rated: PG for very mild swearing.
Summary: Harry's stuck in Grimmauld place. A little conversation can go a long way.
Disclaimer: Nope, still not mine. *Dusts off slightly soiled Snape and Harry and hands back to JKR* See, no harm done.
Notes: Written in 49 minutes for the [info]contrelamontre "fire" challenge.
Feedback: deirdre.riordan @ (remove spaces)

Fire Call
by Deirdre Riordan

The fireplace crackled to life and Harry half-lunged, half-fell out of his chair to kneel on the hearth. He'd been worrying about Remus for six days now, ever since he'd left on a mission for the Order. Despite Harry's pleas, he had not been permitted to go along. Albus and Minerva had all but put him under house arrest at Grimmauld Place, and his enforced confinement was a cruel and ironic reminder of what Sirius must have endured four years ago in this very house. Except this time, Harry did not even have the dubious companionship of Kreacher. He'd been pacing about the house, mumbling to himself and slamming things, occasionally getting into arguments with Mrs. Black's portrait just to have someone to talk to. Every thump and creak of the ancient walls and floorboards made him turn his head, his stomach soaring with hope that perhaps someone had come with news or at the very least a friendly hello. But there was nothing.

Nothing until now. And although it was certainly not Severus Snape's head he had expected to see in the flames, he'd never been happier to see the man in his life.

"Do you have news?" Harry asked, not bothering with pleasantries he was sure would be lost on the dour man anyway.

"Hello to you, too, Potter," said the Potions Master with only a hint of a sneer. "No, I have no news. None of us do. We're all waiting, the same as you are."

"At least you get to wait with other people," Harry fumed, "Why do I have to be shut up in here while everyone else gets to go on as normal?"

"I would have thought you'd know the answer to that by now, Potter." But there was no reproach in his tone.

And Harry did know the answer. It was always the same answer, had been the same answer for years. When Voldemort was out and about attacking like this, Harry had to be secreted away for his own protection, as the Order had not yet the means to defeat Voldemort. But this time, it seemed, Harry was being locked away for the protection of others as well.

"Albus merely requested that I check on you, to ensure that you are well and require nothing," Snape continued.

"Some human bloody contact would be nice," Harry muttered, clenching his jaw.

"I know it must be difficult for you, Potter, but do please try to endure it a little longer."

"Not like I have a choice, is it?"

Snape sighed, and for a moment it occurred to Harry that seeing the heads of your friends and colleagues engulfed by flames was a rather ironic way to communicate, considering Europe's old tradition of witch-burning. He wondered if it had been conceived as a sick joke at first.

"Shall I take your response to mean that you require nothing material?" Snape asked wearily.

"No, I've got all the material things I could ever need," Harry said. He wanted to yell at Snape, but his starvation for contact and outside news overshadowed his frustration. "How are things at Hogwarts?" he asked as civilly as he could manage. Hogwarts. Damn, but he missed that place.

"Quiet, fortunately," Snape said, indulging him. "Argus has just finished fertilising the Quidditch pitch, Hagrid is repairing the boats for the first years, and Poppy is pestering me about her potions stores."

Harry felt a pang at imagining life at Hogwarts just continuing as usual without him. "Do you think I'll be out of here in time for the start of term?" he asked softly.

"I should hope so. I'm far too old to be teaching two subjects at once. Although I will lament the loss of my peace and quiet."

Harry realised, with a small smile, that the quiet Snape had been referring to was not the absence of the students, but of Harry himself. "Don't suppose you could just pop in for a quick cup of tea?" Harry asked, surprising himself.

Snape appeared to almost smile, but shook his head. "Albus would have my head."

"We both know that isn't true."

Snape did not appear to contest the statement. "I couldn't come in any case, I've an appointment in Hogsmeade."

"Tomorrow, then?" Harry asked hopefully.

Snape's face was stern, but his mouth twitched at the corner. "We shall see."

With that, he disappeared and the fire died out to nothing, but Harry did not feel the loss of warmth in the room. He dusted his knees off and settled back into his chair, where he was content to smile at the ceiling in anticipation of tomorrow.

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© 2004 Deirdre Riordan

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