Kingsley has meant to find his way to Severus Snape's door for nearly a year. He has known where he was the whole time, of course he has. Kingsley is in charge of keeping tabs on all the exiled Death Eaters; those Death Eaters whose crimes were not quite large enough to merit death or imprisonment, and not quite small enough to allow for pardon.
Severus is not one of those Death Eaters. He is the Death Eater that nobody knows what to do with. He is the Death Eater who defies binaries and paradigms, and things that people find comforting.
It is because Kingsley argued for Severus' exile that he was put in charge of the Death Eater Diaspora, as it is called around the office. The charge is meant to be punishment. Some days, maybe even most days, it is.
There are a few perks, however, and the uncomprehending stare that Severus levels at Kingsley after opening the door to his house and finding the Auror on his stoop is certainly one of them. Kingsley says, "Hello."
Severus says, "I haven't broken any of the conditions of my exile."
"Not here in my official capacity," Kingsley tells him, fully expecting to be told to go away.
Severus, rather than giving him a thirty second warning, or something equally melodramatic and expected, steps outside his house, and closes the door behind him. "In what capacity are you here, then?"
Kingsley shrugs. "Thought I'd check up on an old. . .fighting buddy."
Not a thing about Severus' facial expression changes, but his eyes worry at Kingsley, like maybe he's speaking to an imbalanced and dangerous man. A man who has a wand. "After a year."
Kingsley learned early on never to be apologetic when facing Severus down. "Better late than never."
"Plenty of people."
"I do not know a one."
Silently, eloquently, Kingsley looks at the house behind him, set on an English hillside at least three miles from the next house, and devoid of any magical traveling devices. Kingsley knows; he swept for them.
Severus grunts. "You've done your good deed. Now go."
The second time Severus answers the door because five minutes of caustic, cautious, cold conversation is better than the days and days and days which he spends trying to find something, anything with which to occupy his mind.
Kingsley comes bearing a gift the second time. The owl in his hands is tiny, barely hatched, and has the capability of becoming a familiar. It is utterly, entirely against the rules that he helped to draw up.
Severus looks at it, horrified. "What is that?"
Kingsley can see how he wouldn't know. The thing is fairly mangled, hardly breathing. "Owl."
"You should give it some hemlock."
"Have you any?"
Severus does not say anything. Potions ingredients are against those very same rules.
Kingsley says, "You saved four of the owls at Hogwarts after a freak thestral attack your first year as Potions professor. You have a knack." Kingsley's seventh year. He'd been totally, heartbreakingly enamoured.
Kingsley is the one to stay silent this time. Severus plays by the rules when they suit him.
"Why are you still on my doorstep?"
"Because I've yet to convince you that I'm not here in my official capacity," Kingsley says, and gently transfers the owl into Severus' open palm. He walks away, leaving the man to his own decisions.
The third time, Severus opens the door because Fuga won't stop hooting until he does.
"How is she?" Kingsley asks.
Severus steps back from the door. "I suppose you might as well see for yourself."
Kingsley can hear the bitterness in the statement. "She isn't a trick, Severus."
Severus closes the door behind him. "She isn't a gift either."
Kingsley doesn't know about that so much. He knows, "I didn't want her to die."
"There are others-"
"I'd seen you do it."
"Seventeen. And a Hufflepuff. We tend to go unnoticed. It can, at times, be useful."
"Odd thing to remember."
"I suppose," Kingsley says, stroking gently at the owl's head. "Did you name her?"
"Flight," Kingsley whispers.
Severus stiffens at his side. "Most wizards never bother to actually learn the language they spew with impunity."
"I promise not to read anything into it."
"She's a bird."
"Yes," Kingsley says. Now that Severus has healed her, she almost looks like one, too.
"Get out," Severus says. Kingsley thinks it sounds sort of half-hearted, but decides he'd rather go now and find welcome later than fight for welcome now and find rejection later.
The fourth time, Severus has absolutely no reason for opening the door. He just does.
Kingsley says, "How's Fuga?"
Severus says, "Are you here to check on the bird?"
"I thought it would make polite conversation."
"I'm not a polite man."
"You could try."
Severus looks at Kingsley.
Kingsley shrugs. "The bird? How is she?"
"Eating by herself. I'm sure she'll fly off any day now, rest assured."
"Familiars don't fly from their owners. Particularly not owners who have bonded them with the animagic equivalent of a Life Debt."
"They'd strip your title and position from you if they knew."
"And I'd have someone else watching me. I suppose you intend that to keep me silent."
"I find that when you're involved, I intend very little."
"Fantastic," Severus bites off. Fuga, waking, hoots.
The fifth time Severus opens the door because Kingsley is holding a package in his hands, and despite himself, Severus sort of likes Kingsley's presents.
Kingsley hands him the package, which Severus opens slowly, methodically. His hand soothes over the leather binding, the gilt letters of the title once before he snaps back into his usual defensive stance.
Kingsley says, "Took me a while to find the reference, but I did. I see Fuga can make it quite some distance. She should grow into a pretty powerful little thing."
"She's a great grey, there will be nothing little about her."
Kingsley steals his offering back from Severus, opening it and flipping through the pages to find the right poem. Six days earlier he had received a note, carried across the country side in Fuga's beak. It said simply,
. . .
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
— if you could call it a lip —
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
Kingsley was largely unfamiliar with Muggle literature, up to and including poetry, and it was only by chance that after three days of struggling to find the reference, Luna stopped by his office to talk with him about an exclusive on an operation that Kingsley was entirely sure did not exist. Instead of trying to convince her of this, he promised to get her in with the Department for Control of Magical Pests. He was pretty sure the person who dealt with public relations in that department had a crush on her, so it would stop her from making something out of nothing on his turf and wouldn't earn him permanent enemies within the Ministry.
She'd seen the note lying on his desk--Severus had disguised his handwriting, so Kingsley was hardly going to worry that someone would connect the dots--and asked, "You like Elizabeth Bishop, do you?"
Kingsley had said, "I'm beginning to appreciate her," and went out to find the rest of the poem.
He finds the right page, now, finds it and reads to Severus, " I stared and stared/
and victory filled up/ the little rented boat,/ from the pool of bilge/ where oil had spread a rainbow/ around the rusted engine/ to the bailer rusted orange,/ the sun-cracked thwarts,/ the oarlocks on their strings,/ the gunnels — until everything/ was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!/ And I let the fish go."
"You haven't the power," Severus sneers.
"I do what I can," Kingsley says. It is not an apology. It is the truth.
"I am still caught," Severus tells him.
"Yes," Kingsley says, and goes without waiting to be told to do so.
The sixth time, Severus opens the door because he wants to, because he is glad to see Kingsley on the other side.
Kingsley says, "How's Fuga?"
"Out and about," Severus says.
"How are you?"
"Here," Severus says, and belies the hopelessness of that one word, following it up with a kiss.
Kingsley can taste the salt on his lips.