"Snape?" Harry groaned, looking at Ron, who looked too horrified to groan. "I'm doomed."
"We're doomed," squeaked Ron, burying his face in his hands. "Two years, two years we've sweated and spelled and never even asked you to cheat for us, Hermione, and now it's all wasted." He moaned into his fingers. "We'll never be Aurors now."
"Of course you will," Hermione said, looking at them as if they'd gone mad. "You're both being silly." She'd been in the kitchen of the flat they all shared when Harry and Ron had come home from yet another exhausting day of training. Harry had thought, two years ago, that practicing to catch dark wizards would be the easiest training in the world for him after what they'd gone through. What he and Ron had both found out was that, even with the Ministry in shambles, the Auror department -- which apparently considered the rise of the Dark Lord a personal affront -- took training the next generation of Aurors very seriously.
Harry and Ron exchanged a look that clearly bespoke that she just didn't understand. "Hermione, don't you see, it's Snape," Harry said with exaggerated patience, pulling out one of the kitchen chairs and sitting. "Don't you remember how much he hated us --"
"That was a long time ago," countered Hermione.
"Two years, not all that long ago," Ron countered. He'd practically collapsed into the chair beside Hermione's.
"-- how, well, nasty he was to all of us when all we did was try to see him in the hospital when we found out he hadn't..." Harry swallowed hard. It was still hard to think how close Snape had come to not making it. "Hadn't died."
"He was in hospital," Hermione defended. "Everyone is cranky when they don't feel well." She shook her head. "I'm sure he didn't mean all those things," she added, almost in an undertone.
"Well, he hasn't wanted to see us since, has he," Harry snapped more hotly than he'd intended. Both Ron and Hermione looked at him. "Maybe I forgot to mention that I tried to see him after that." They were still looking at him. "To, um apologize."
"Well, he's going to see you now," Hermione said. "Or at least you'll all be in the same room, along with about a hundred other Auror cadets and apprentice Healers, for his lectures. If you're intimidated by that, then perhaps you should look for another line of work." Having declared that she had no interest in being an Auror, Hermione had opted instead for teacher's training, and spent hours just as long at Hogwarts as those of her roommates at the Ministry, learning every subject from Care of Magical Creatures to Divination so that she could fill in as required. Harry secretly thought she was determined to become the youngest Headmistress in Hogwarts history.
Ron was already flushing, Harry more slowly. "Lectures, you say?" Harry said slowly.
Hermione was nodding. "A series of them, and you'll be tested at the end, and if you pass --"
"We won't pass," Ron said. "I wonder if that new ice cream shop is hiring. I like ice cream." He looked like he was seriously contemplating the life of a sundae maker.
"You have to pass," said Hermione, tapping a heavy book she had on her lap. "If it wasn't Snape, it would be some other wizard teaching you Forensic Potion Training, and you're both very lucky to have Snape, since he's the expert."
"Since when?" Harry demanded. "I mean I know he's good at Potions, but there's a big difference between teaching dunderheads --"
Ron and Hermione were looking at him again. "His word, not mine," he defended, "And teaching Aurors stuff their life may depend on." He waved a hand. "Knowing Snape, he'll tell us all the wrong stuff and get Ron and me killed."
"You are being silly," she said again, "both of you. The Ministry has approved his lectures as part of the training course. McGonagall told me they felt really lucky to have him, considering."
Harry and Ron exchanged a look but it was Ron who voiced the question. "Considering what?"
Rolling her eyes, Hermione held up the tome in her lap. The title was in silvery gray against the undecorated front cover. Forensic Potions, a Guide for Aurors. Harry tilted his head so he could see the back cover. There was a frame on it, and looked like it was supposed to have a photo of the author, but the frame was bare. Then he looked at the smaller lettering at the bottom of the front cover. Ron had seen it at the same time.
"What do you think he's been spending the last few years doing?" asked Hermione.
"Writing a book," Harry said, leaning back in his chair.
"That settles it," said Ron, getting wearily to his feet. According the chart Hermione had taped to the fridge, it was Ron's night to fix dinner. "I hope you like ice cream at mealtimes because I might as well get used to scooping it."
Harry lay awake that night with his arms crossed behind his head. Unlike Ron's joking -- at least Harry hoped it was a joke, Ron had eaten a lot of ice cream at dinner -- Harry had no intention of letting go of his dream of becoming an Auror. He had looked through the textbook Hermione had brought home and, despite himself, had been impressed at how well-organized it looked. He had a sudden flash to the time when he'd actually enjoyed learning Potions from the Half-Blood Prince. This text actually felt more like that -- as though someone who really wanted him to learn was teaching the essentials.
He rolled over in his bed, wishing he hadn't destroyed Snape's old Potions textbook. Not that he expected any points for trying to return it, but it would have been nice to have something Snape didn't hate him about. And he might have given him some help in the upcoming Forensic Potions lessons to come.
Either way, he'd been in Auror training for two years and had earned his position at the head of his class. No matter what happened, he would not be joining Ron at an ice cream stand. On impulse, he lifted up in the bed, pulling the Forensic Potions textbook closer so he could see it again. For just a moment, he thought he saw someone in the frame on the back, a shadow that darted out of sight before he could catch more than a glimpse.
* * * * *
The first day of Snape's class turned out to be precisely the sort of disaster that Harry had been expecting, though not for precisely the same reasons.
"Malfoy?" Ron demanded incredulously, staring at the all-too-familiar face behind the desk opposite. "How did a worthless git like you get in here?"
Draco Malfoy pressed his lips together, but in marked contrast to what Harry expected, he did not insult Ron in return. Instead, he nodded stiffly at both of them. "Weasley. Potter. I need the same training you do in advanced forensic potions," Malfoy said.
Harry could feel his eyebrows shooting up, but before he could say anything, Ron barked a laugh. "Don't tell me they let you into the Auror training program. Did you use the Imperius curse on someone? Or did your father bribe the Minister of Magic?"
"Are you insinuating that our new Minister is so easily bribed?" asked Draco. He was scowling, but otherwise he seemed determined not to let Ron get him angry. "As if I'd want to be an Auror and spend the rest of my life snooping around in other people's cellars. I've been working at St. Mungo's in the Antidote Department, and it was suggested that with a Forensic Potion Training course, I could become the head of the Potion and Plant Poisoning Floor once I finish training as a Healer."
This actually made a certain sort of sense, since Harry recalled that Draco had always been a rather good Potions student. He'd done well in Slughorn's class even though Slughorn had had no interest in including a Malfoy in the Slug Club.
Ron, however, threw back his head and laughed. "That's right -- your father was a big donor to St. Mungo's too, wasn't he? It's how you got invited to sit in Fudge's box at the Quidditch World Cup. How long are you going to let Daddy buy your way onto Quidditch teams and into jobs?"
"Ron," Harry warned quietly. He hadn't forgiven Draco for the dozens of things for which the Malfoys were responsible -- Draco probably knew all about poisons, he'd managed to procure that deadly bottle of mead intended for Dumbledore that had almost killed Ron -- but this wasn't the time or the place for a fight.
Draco thrust his hand into his pocket. Immediately both Ron and Harry did the same, but Draco did not pull out his wand. "Look," said Draco, showing them a slightly crumpled piece of paper bearing a Ministry seal. "I have as much right to be in this class as you do. So bugger off, Weasley."
Crossing his arms, Ron dropped back into his seat, and Harry breathed a small sigh of relief that this crisis had been averted. They had enough problems, not least of which was that Snape had just swept through the door in his characteristic manner like a large bat descending. But Ron wasn't paying attention. Fred's death had hit him very hard, and he still blamed everyone connected with Voldemort -- particularly the Malfoys.
"I still can't believe they let you in here," he hissed at Draco. "Did Snape take another Unbreakable Vow for you? Or did you offer him your worthless Death Eater arse?"
Draco had had enough. Pulling out his wand, he pointed it at Ron's chin. "I'm warning you, Weasley..."
"...or did you let Mummy do that for you, too?"
Harry's second warning came too late. A faint glow lit the tip of Draco's wand -- a new one, from what Harry could tell, slightly longer and more ornately carved than the one Harry had taken from him -- and though Ron's mouth kept moving, only a strange guttural sound came out.
"What is going on here?" barked Snape, striding over to them, looking every bit as furious and intimidating as Harry remembered.
"Draco used a silencing charm on Ron," he explained.
Draco had gone white, probably expecting to be dismissed from class before the first lecture. But Ron looked just as pale, gesturing wildly at his mouth. "Finite Incantatem!" barked Snape, pointing his own wand, but Ron still couldn't speak. "What did you do, Malfoy?"
"It was Weasley's fault! He insulted my mother!"
Snape yanked on Ron's chin and peered inside his mouth. "You've cut out his tongue!" he spat furiously at Draco.
There was a gasp from the group of Auror and Healer trainees that had gathered on the other side of the room, staring at the Chosen One. Harry cast a desperate glance in their direction, hoping one of them might have some experience with such a curse, but they all looked as young and terrified as he felt. Ron let out a guttural cry.
"Get help," Snape ordered Harry, whose first instinct was to summon a broom and fly to St. Mungo's. But that wasn't the quickest way to bring assistance.
Pulling out his own wand, and wondering why Snape hadn't already used the charm, he uttered, "Expecto Patronum!" Moments later, though it seemed like much longer, the emergency medi-wizards appeared.
* * * * *
Hermione was furious that evening. Ron had been taken at once to St. Mungo's, where he'd had his tongue reattached. He'd been sent home with specific instructions on things not to do with his newly healed tongue...a list he'd read at the hospital, blushed, and pointedly not shared with Harry.
"What were you thinking?" she asked, pacing up and down the flat's kitchen. She was not, as Harry had hoped when explaining what had happened, furious at Draco Malfoy for cursing Ron. Instead she was angry at Ron for getting himself cursed.
"Mmmmmaaa mmma mo," Ron said, making faces as the words came out nearly incomprehensible. Harry noticed that his speech had gotten a lot worse since they'd arrived home and been confronted with a vibratingly angry Hermione.
"We all know Malfoy is a perfect git, but he had a perfect right to be there and you --" She huffed, looking at the pair of them. "Why didn't you stop him?" she said abruptly, shifting her anger to Harry. Harry knew it was because it was nearly impossible to argue with a man whose tongue was swollen from being reattached, but he still looked to Ron for help.
"Me?" he sputtered. "What did I do?"
"Mmmma my mee," Ron said, putting a hand on her arm. "Mot Marry's malt," he added, casting his eyes down and looking so pitiable that even Harry, who had been there and seen what an arse Ron had made of himself, felt sorry for him.
Snape, to Harry's amazement, had calmly but quickly explained the situation to the pair of Healers who'd Appararated in, always alert for a call from the Auror training department. Then, after Ron had been taken away on a conjured stretcher, Snape had given Malfoy an official reprimand. Malfoy looked liked he'd expected much worse and kept quiet during the lecture. He'd hurried away as soon as it was over.
Harry had been torn between saying something to Snape and going to collect Ron, but he wasn't sure how to say thanks for not being a prat -- plus Snape had given them nearly a hundred pages to read for homework -- so he went and found Ron at St. Mungo's. To their surprise, Hermione had already learned about the incident. The hospital had notified her and she'd been on her way to fetch Ron herself when he and Harry had arrived home.
Now she looked as though she'd like to hex them both, but realized that it wouldn't improve matters. She glanced at Harry, rolling her eyes. "Just don't let him needle you, all right," she demanded, relenting.
Apparently Ron knew deliverance when he saw it. He nodded eagerly, wincing at the sudden motion. Harry decided he probably wasn't faking that, though he did wonder to which of them Hermione had been speaking, and whether she'd meant Draco or Snape.
* * * * *
Thankfully, after their first disastrous lesson, the next few forensic potions lectures went well. Since it wasn't a practical -- Snape was teaching them the theory behind the potions they would be using in the line of work and applications for the field -- Harry found himself understanding it. To his own amazement, he raised his hand in class to answer questions. To his even greater astonishment, Snape actually called on him.
It was perhaps to Snape's astonishment that Harry got the questions right. In fact, things were going so well that Harry was surprised when, after their third lesson, Snape called out to him as he was standing to leave.
"Potter, a word, please."
Harry, who'd been about to say something to Ron, turned slowly. Snape didn't look like he was about to curse Harry for something he'd done while at Hogwarts, but as usual Harry hadn't a clue about what Snape was thinking. He said a reassuring word to Ron, then made his way up to Snape's lectern as the classroom emptied out.
"Sir?" Harry asked, trying to look like what he was, a dedicated Auror in training and not a nervous eleven year old, which Snape had the power to still make him feel like.
Something flickered through Snape's expression and Harry realized that when he'd been at Hogwarts he'd never willingly called Snape sir. The moment vanished quickly as Snape fastened his usual sneer on his face. "I cannot help noticing that you have somehow got to the top of the training classes --"
Harry braced himself, marshaling arguments for whatever flaw of his Snape felt obliged to point out.
"-- without properly mastering a non-verbal spell."
Harry deflated. He looked down at his hands. Then at his trainers. Then at Snape's desk. Finally, when Snape didn't say anything else, he looked at Snape again. "No, sir."
Snape's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "No defense?"
Wordlessly Harry shook his head. "I never took N.E.W.T.s and I never technically finished school. I took the merit test to get into the training program. And I never mastered a really good non-verbal spell."
Frowning, Snape surveyed him. "I had thought there was a non-verbal requirement for that test." Harry mumbled something. "What was that, Potter?"
"I faked it."
For the briefest of moments Harry had the satisfaction of seeing Snape utterly speechless. "You --" Snape began, as if collecting his thoughts.
"Faked it, right." Harry nearly grinned at seeing Snape flummoxed. Then he remembered that this was Snape and his near-smile faded. "All I've ever wanted to be is an Auror," he said, trying not to sound defensive. "Are you going to report me?" He was already thinking of ways he could get past any such report. He was not going to let Snape get him thrown out of the program.
Snape was silent for a moment. That peculiar expression was back on his face. "Tell me how you faked it."
Harry was suddenly reminded of the young man he'd seen in the memories he'd collected that fateful day, or of the student who'd invented spells in his Potions text. Instead of explaining, he took out his wand. "Give me a spell."
Harry pointed his wand at Snape's lecture notes, and they flew into his hand.
"Your lips moved," Snape pointed out. "That is how I noticed you are very uneven in your spellwork for this class."
"That's not all," Harry admitted. "I'll do it louder." He pointed his wand at the quill on the desk, hissed the Summoning Charm in Parseltongue, which barely made his lips move, and it flew into his hand.
"You faked it!" Snape said, suddenly enlightened.
"I know," Harry said, putting back both quill and notes as he tucked his wand away. "Are you going to report me?"
Neatening the notes, Snape said, "I should. Performing non-verbal spells is central to Auror training."
Well, Harry had known Snape was the same prick who'd always had it out for him in school. He'd been a fool to trust him with the work-around he'd discovered for the merit test. He even regretted calling him 'sir'. He opened his mouth to protest when Snape continued.
"You will have to have remedial lessons."
Harry gaped. This was better than he had hoped for, though it still posed problems if it meant that someone else would have to be told of his deficiency. Maybe Snape knew someone who wasn't in the Ministry -- someone from Hogwarts, even. "With whom?" he asked, hoping Snape wasn't about to suggest Draco, who'd seemed to be quite good at non-verbal spells when he'd attacked Ron.
Snape gave Harry the familiar look suggesting that Harry was particularly dim. "With me," he said slowly, as if expecting Harry to need extra time to understand. Apparently Snape did have it in for him. "You will need to master a full range of non-verbal spells before progress in the training program. You will not always have time to speak a word to use a Shield Charm or to summon your Patronus."
That was what had alerted Snape, Harry realized. With his best friend suffering, he'd had to pause and speak the words to summon the stag instead of doing it silently and instinctively, the way Tonks had done it to send a message when she'd alerted Hogwarts that she'd found Harry after Draco broke his nose.
It suddenly seemed very unfair that Draco, who'd been a bully and a Death Eater, would be able to advance in his chosen profession because he could do non-verbal spells while Harry, who'd saved even Draco from Voldemort, might be kept back. "All right, then, show me how to summon a Patronus non-verbally," he said rather hotly to Snape.
Snape's lips pinched together and his face reddened, probably with anger at Harry's tone. "The Patronus charm is advanced magic," he said. "We shall start with simpler spells."
"But aren't the defensive spells going to be the most important for an Auror?" He thought back to his final struggle with Voldemort.
"If you cannot master a simple non-verbal summoning charm, you are not ready to attempt complicated defensive spells." Snape's face was still flushed as he set the lecture notes back on the desk. "Concentration and discipline are the keys to mastering the non-verbal spell, as you know. Now, try again."
Concentrating, Harry focused on the pile of papers on the desk. He felt his muscles tense and his face contort as if he had swallowed an overdose of U-No-Poo. The papers seemed to shiver and shift as if a gust of wind had blown over them, but they did not lift off the desk and fly into Harry's hand.
Snape's brows lowered. "I shall see you every day for an hour after class," he told Harry, who sighed inwardly, hoping that none of the other trainees would notice him hanging about after the lectures.
* * * * *
It wasn't as bad as Harry had feared. The would-be Healers mostly kept in a group to themselves, and Draco was so afraid of another confrontation with Ron -- since another reprimand would have meant expulsion -- that he fled the room without trying to speak to Snape whenever Ron was in his way, which was nearly every day after Harry asked Ron for his help. Though Ron had left Hogwarts at the same time as Harry, non-verbal spells came more easily to him, which pleased Ron greatly and wouldn't have bothered Harry if mastering them weren't critical to his own advancement. He wondered whether Hermione had been secretly coaching Ron, but when he guessed at the nature of the spells the two of them would likely have been practicing while alone, he fervently never wanted to know about them.
Hermione would have practiced simple spells at home with Harry, but oddly, Harry had an easier time learning this particular skill from Snape. She might have been the most gifted witch of Harry's year, but Hermione wasn't yet trained as a teacher and often she didn't have the words to explain how to focus his energy or turn his will outward.
To Harry's surprise, Snape was actually more patient with him than Hermione, and he didn't insult Harry as he had done at Hogwarts when Harry failed to master what he was being taught right away. "How come you were never this patient with me during Occlumency lessons?" he burst out one afternoon.
Snape narrowed his eyes. "You were arrogant and rude during Occlumency lessons, and I had concerns of my own."
"Meaning, you didn't want me getting too good at it and at reading your mind," guessed Harry. He didn't know what to make of Snape's flushed face. "Honestly, I don't see how it would have changed anything if I'd known that you loved my mother." He felt an odd pang as he said it. Of course, the only reason Snape was likely helping him now was because it was what Lily would have wanted, not because Snape really cared whether Harry succeeded or failed as an Auror.
Snape scowled at him. "Back to work. You need to think of the wand as an extension of your mind, Potter, not as an extension of your arm. Your thoughts should flow to the wand without words, the way you don't need to tell your hand aloud to pick up a quill."
Trying to get the wand to cooperate without words was more like trying to give orders to his prick than to his hand, though Harry didn't tell Snape that. His prick was even less cooperative; it had been so disinterested in Ginny that they'd agreed to see other people shortly before Harry had started Auror training, and now it had an unfortunate habit of waking up whenever Snape stood too close to him or murmured suggestions that he focus.
Maybe his prick was on to something. Raising his wand, Harry tried to concentrate not on the action of the Lumos spell but on the moment of illumination just afterward, when light shone from his wand tip like a torch. He pictured his wand alight, and suddenly it was.
Snape's eyes squinted in the newly-bright room. "What did you do differently?" he demanded, sounding cross.
"Thought about sex." The reply was worth it just to see the shock on Snape's face.
"What aspect in particular?" Snape asked, trying to look as though the shock had simply been part of his teaching mien.
Harry doused his wand, ineffably pleased by the result. "You asked me to focus," he replied, flicking his wand and concentrating again. "That's something that's easy for me to focus on without really, er, thinking about it."
"No doubt the young witches appreciate your dedication," Snape said gruffly when Harry's wand lit up again.
Once more Harry doused his wand, eager to apply this new-found technique to more complex spells. "If I was thinking about witches, I wouldn't have been able to do it." It was a shame how much he enjoyed shocking Snape, yet he seemed to be unable to help it. "Much easier to focus on a fit wizard."
For a moment, Harry -- who was practicing with his wand -- didn't realize Snape had gone silent. He looked up and caught Snape staring at him with something more complicated than shock on his face. "I think that's enough for today," Snape said, looking away as if he'd been caught out.
"But I'm just getting the hang of it," Harry protested, stepping closer to Snape, who instinctively moved away. He tried something he'd never dreamed of trying at Hogwarts. "Please?" Harry gestured toward the classroom clock. "It hasn't been nearly an hour and I'm afraid I'll forget how I did it if I don't keep going."
Snape's face settled back into its usual sneer. "I have no doubt your sex life will provide you ample opportunity to practice in future," he said.
Harry made a noise of disbelief. "Do you have any idea how much work is involved in Auror training?" he demanded, keeping his wand out since it looked like Snape was wavering. "Please?" he asked again, trying to look plaintive and not pathetic. "I won't think about sex if it bothers you."
"Why should your -- oh, very well," Snape said, sounding irritated, but then he nearly always did, so Harry didn't mind as long as he got to practice more. Snape had him try Summoning Charms, which Harry knew he was very good at verbally, but had rarely managed non-verbally. It was indeed trickier, and his new technique did not work at first because Snape had moved away and Harry wasn't feeling quite as keenly able to focus on the moment of arousal as he had been a few moments before.
Summoning Charms were of course more complex magic, and Harry had had a sort of block against them when he'd first learned them. He let his mind focus on Snape's hand clenched around his own wand, thought about pulling the hand closer, and the thing that had clicked before clicked again as the sheaf of papers on Snape's desk lifted and flew into his fingers.
"Ha!" Harry said, as excited as if he'd just done the spell for the first time. He replaced the sheaf and looked up at Snape, amazed to see that he actually looked, well, not pleased exactly, but not sour. "I did it!"
"Sex again?" Snape inquired and Harry actually found himself flushing, though he would have known if Snape had been using Legilimency on him.
"It helps me focus," Harry said, not sure whether he should be defensive about his discovery as he summoned a quill, then an inkstand, from Snape's desk.
"Like every trick to get around true mastery of the technique, this one might fail you at a critical moment," Snape informed him.
That sobered Harry. He let his wand arm go slack, replacing the quill and the inkstand and considering this. Snape crossed his arms over his chest, looking at him, which didn't help Harry think clearly at all. "But everyone focuses when they use non-verbal spells, right?" Harry said, working it out aloud. Snape nodded and Harry had one of those bursts of inspiration that if he had paused to think about, usually got him in trouble. "Well, what do you think about, then?"
Snape had his wand in his hand in an instant, aiming at the inkstand, which flew into his hand with the speed of thought. The quill followed. Then, before he could protest, Harry's wand.
"Hey!" Harry yelped, feeling immediately vulnerable. It wasn't as if he'd never been disarmed before -- that was practically the first thing he'd been taught in Auror training -- but to have Snape holding his wand and looking smug, even for Snape, made Harry wish he'd thought his question through a bit first. "Not sex, then?" Harry reasoned out. Snape shook his head. Harry sat down on the edge of the desk as Snape handed him back his wand. "You focus on the spell itself," Harry went on, "That's why you're so fast. I'm fast too, verbally and when I use Parseltongue." He scratched one cheek with his wand.
"It may be easy now to divert your focus, but what happens when you have more pressing things on your mind?" Snape countered. "What happens if you break your Auror-training induced streak of celibacy?" Though his face had a its customary sneer, his tone was curious.
"Do you mean, you think once I'm not, er, needy, I'll have a harder time focusing?" asked Harry, looking up hopefully. "Don't suppose you'd want to help me break it and find out?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "An afternoon's diversion might have little effect, but eventually you may --" He cleared his throat. "Fall in love. Which can be dangerously distracting to any wizard."
Harry wanted to argue that Dumbledore had always said love was the most important thing in the world, the basis of the strongest protective magic, but what came out was, "It wouldn't have to be just an afternoon's distraction."
Again Snape gave Harry a withering look. "Clearly, you are no longer concentrating. This lesson is at an end."
"I'm sorry. I am concentrating." Quickly, Harry aimed his wand at a large copper cauldron on a shelf across the room. Being worried that Snape might want to leave distracted him at first, but when he let himself think about what he would have done if Snape hadn't ignored his suggestions, he felt a surge of power and the cauldron floated in a wobbly path toward them.
"Careful..." Snape began sharply, then apparently decided that distracting Harry any further might not be wise as the cauldron dipped sharply toward the floor. Undoubtedly it was heavy, though Harry knew that when using a Summoning Charm, the size of the object shouldn't matter.
Anyway, Snape might have ignored Harry's suggestions, but he hadn't actually said he didn't want to. Snape had been the one talking about afternoon diversions and falling in love. And he was watching Harry as intently as ever, his lips half-parted. Harry wondered what it would be like to kiss them --
He couldn't have said which reached his consciousness first: the terrible realization that his wand was no longer obeying him, the horrible crunching sound as the cauldron fell, or the wave of agony that crashed over his foot. He cried out, unaware of anything for a few moments except the pain. Clearly thinking about sex was going to be useless in conjuring a counter-spell to the Cruciatus Curse...
The weight lifted abruptly, yet the pain remained. Snape had levitated the cauldron away from Harry with a spell, but it was immediately apparent to them both, as they looked down at the torn leather of Harry's shoe, that his foot was broken.
A ribbon of light burst from the end of Snape's wand, coalescing into an animal with four legs that raced across the room and disappeared. There was something odd about it, but Harry's thoughts were hazy with pain and distracted by fear, both about what he'd done to his foot and about whether Snape was going to declare him useless and call off their lessons.
He realized what he'd seen only after the emergency Medi-wizards had arrived, whisked him off to St. Mungo's, and repaired his foot with a series of spells that hurt nearly as much as the cauldron falling had done. The deer Patronus that Snape had conjured hadn't been the doe that Harry had seen in Snape's memories and in the forest when it had led him to the Sword of Gryffindor. Rather, like his own, it had had antlers.
"Where's Professor Snape?" he croaked to a Healer who had arrived to rub some sort of potion onto his foot. To Harry's irritation, Draco was with her, probably as part of his training.
"Hold still," the Healer ordered.
"But I need to..."
"You need to rest." She gestured to Draco, who pushed a cup into Harry's hand. Meekly, he took a sip, realizing only afterward that it probably contained a potion to sedate him. "An owl has already been sent to your home informing your next of kin that you will need to remain here overnight."
That meant Ron and Hermione were both going to find out and demand to know how it had happened. Knowing Hermione, she might even try to contact Snape. Harry knew that he'd be lucky not to be tossed out of the Auror Training Program by morning. He looked beseechingly at Draco. "Will you just help me --"
"Hold still, or I'll have my trainee immobilize you," the Healer snapped. Whatever they had given him to drink was making Harry drowsy, and holding still didn't seem like such a bad idea, except that he desperately needed to talk to Snape. Whose Patronus had, apparently, grown antlers. Like Harry's. Unless Harry had been in so much pain that he hadn't been seeing straight.
"Does pain cause hallucinations?" he mumbled to the Healer.
"Occasionally." She exchanged a look with Draco. "Has it happened to you before?"
"No." When Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange had used Crucio on Harry, it had never made him see things that weren't there. He certainly hadn't cast that Patronus in Snape's classroom to summon the emergency medi-wizards -- he'd been too busy shouting, and there was no way he could have done it non-verbally.
Which meant that Snape had, indeed, produced a stag Patronus.
"I need my wand," he muttered indistinctly. "I need to talk to Snape."
"Tomorrow." The Healer released Harry's foot, which thankfully was no longer hurting. Not that he could really feel it. Not that he could really feel anything, not even anxiety, just a kind of fuzzy happy sort of sense that something good might have happened, if only he could remember...
* * * * *
"Oi! Get up, or we're going to be late!"
A flustered Ron Weasley was standing at the foot of Harry's unfamiliar bed, shaking Harry's foot, which sent sharp pains shooting up his leg. "Ow!"
"Oh -- sorry! I forgot about the foot." Ron looked sheepish. He pulled a miniature suitcase out of his bag, aimed his wand at it, and -- non-verbally -- inflated it to full size. "I brought you clean clothes and they said you'd need shoes. How did you manage to rip your shoe?"
"Dropped a cauldron on my foot." Harry sat up slowly, stretching, wincing a bit. "I was trying to Summon it."
"And Snape didn't help you? That bastard. When I tell him..."
"Don't tell him anything!" yelped Harry. Ron stared at him. "It was my own fault. Snape warned me." Reaching for the suitcase, Harry began to struggle out of his shirt, pausing with it halfway over his head. "Wait. You mean Snape didn't have me removed from the program?"
Ron shook his head. "Not that I know of. Didn't you see him? He was coming out when I got here."
"I must've been asleep." Harry absorbed this news while pulling on the clean clothes. He wanted to cast a deodorizing charm on his armpits, but he knew he'd have to speak out loud and he didn't want to do that with Ron in the room. "You go on ahead if you want. I need the loo."
"I'll wait, but if we're late, you get to tell Snape that it wasn't my fault."
Ron sat down on the bed as Harry took a couple of tentative steps. His foot felt all right.
"What were you doing with a cauldron anyway, trying to chuck it at Snape's head?" Ron asked through the door of the loo.
"Of course not," Harry replied, poking his head through the crack in the door and scowling at Ron. He closed the door firmly, wiggling his toes again just to make sure the healing spell had finished doing its work. He did a quick deodorizing charm, then ran a hand over his stubbly chin as he looked in the mirror. Renewing his depilatory charm, he checked his now-smooth face and opened the door again. "Why would I do that?"
Ron shrugged, sliding off the edge of the bed while Harry got his shoes and socks on, testing his weight again before standing up fully. Harry started to inspect himself in the room's smaller mirror when Ron made an impatient noise. "Come on, we'll be late. You look fine," Ron said, handing Harry his bag. "I'm sure Snape will think you're gorgeous."
Harry went still, his hand on the latch of the bag. "What did you say?"
Without answering, Ron grabbed his arm so that they were at least moving toward the door. Harry adjusted his bag onto his shoulder, glad that Ron had shrunk his suitcase down again so it would fit inside. They hurried to the nurse, who gave Harry a discharge slip and, more importantly, clearance to Apparate.
"What were you talking about?" Harry demanded once they had arrived outside the classroom with a few moments to spare.
Ron, being the friend that he was, looked around to make sure he couldn't be overheard. Then his expression took on the same one he'd had when he and Harry had first discussed getting a flat for all three of them, one with two bedrooms. "Come on, surely you've noticed," Ron said silkily.
Harry felt his features turn stony. "Noticed what?"
"Look, Snape hasn't killed us yet, right?" Ron said, as if just noticing that they were not deceased.
"Thanks for pointing that out, Ron," Harry said, relaxing a bit.
Ron punched him lightly on the shoulder. "I mean aside from chucking a cauldron at you --"
"He didn't --" Harry hissed, but realized Ron was joking. "You're a git."
"I might be," Ron conceded, "But Snape keeps his eye on you. And not just in that creepy, 'wish I had a magical eye to see what you're up to' way."
Harry's mouth dropped open, but before he could figure out anything to say to that, Snape swept down the corridor and opened the classroom. He did not even glance at Harry as he swept by them.
Taking their seats, Harry nudged Ron as if to say I told you so. Under cover of taking out his notes, Ron leaned over and said, "It's not the quantity of the times he looks at you, mate, it's how much he puts into it when he does."
Just then Snape turned to face them, his gaze flicking just slightly in Harry's direction, holding there for a moment while Harry's breath caught in his throat. Ron was right. How was it possible that Ron of all people could be right?
Harry stayed after class as usual, but Snape was gathering up his notes as if to leave. "I won't require you to resume our studies so soon after your injury, Potter," Snape said, and the glance he flicked at Harry was still just as loaded as the one earlier.
"I want to, sir," Harry said quickly, "but that's not why I stayed."
Putting on an air of great impatience, Snape sighed expressively and crossed his arms over his chest.
"I -- I was wondering, sir, about your Patronus," Harry said, not even knowing how to bring up the subject that had occupied his mind ever since he'd seen that flash of silver last night.
"I have it on good authority that you've been able to cast the Patronus charm for many years now," Snape replied, looking even more impatient.
"I have, yes," Harry said, wondering if he ought to have had Ron stay with him, since Ron had become the expert on Snape lately. "I don't need you to teach it to me. What I was wondering was, is it, has it --" Increasingly frustrated with himself he ran a hand through his hair and blurted out, "Is your Patronus a stag like mine?"
Snape's lips thinned. "No."
Harry sagged, thinking he was going to chuck a cauldron at Ron very soon. "Oh." He started to turn, then, thinking better on it, turned back. "Only, it looked like --"
"It's a doe. It's always been a doe, ever since I learned the spell." Snape wasn't looking at Harry. He was looking down at the desk, at his notes.
"I've seen the doe," Harry refuted. "This was larger, and it had antlers." He had the ridiculous urge to hold his hands up to the top of his head and wiggle his fingers to make them look like antlers.
"You saw a doe!" Snape said with such vehemence that Harry nearly dropped his bag. Snape brushed past him so quickly that Harry barely had time to reach out and grab his sleeve. Snape jerked angrily, looking down at his hand.
"I know what I saw. That wasn't a doe."
"You were half-blind with pain." Yanking his arm free, Snape drew himself up to his full height. "Perhaps you were imagining your own Patronus to make yourself feel safe."
"I was in pain, but I've had worse -- that cauldron was nothing compared to Voldemort's Cruciatus curse." Snape whipped his wand in front of them so quickly that Harry thought Snape still expected Death Eaters to appear at any mention of Voldemort's name, but instead Snape made the door of the room slam shut. Quickly, before Snape could refute him again, he added, "I wasn't hallucinating, but if you want to prove me wrong, go ahead. Cast the charm."
"I have nothing to prove to you, Potter," Snape said haughtily.
"You're my teacher, and I can't do that spell non-verbally." Crossing his arms, Harry leaned back against the desk. "Show me how it's done. Don't make me drop another cauldron on my foot."
Snape's eyebrows shot up. "You did that deliberately?" he demanded sharply.
"No, of course not. I had no reason to want to look at your Patronus until I did look at it and realized it had changed." Snape's expression darkened, but this time he didn't refute what Harry knew he had seen. "I thought I could get the cauldron all the way to your desk, but I got distracted."
Snape's alarmed expression faded into something like smugness. "Thinking about sex failed you at the critical moment? I warned you that it would. You must learn to concentrate on the spell itself."
"I know that, now. But I wasn't thinking about sex." Harry tried to remember what he had been thinking about. "You said love was distracting, and I was going to tell you off because Dumbledore always said love was the most powerful sort of protective magic. That's what I always feel when I summon my Patronus. I think about my parents, or Sirius, or my friends. That's why the Order used the Patronus charm, isn't it?"
Snape's lip had curled when Harry had mentioned Sirius Black, but he did not take the opportunity to insult Harry's father and godfather as he had done so often in the past. "The fact that love is powerful does not mean it isn't distracting," Snape pointed out.
"And sex can be very distracting, particularly mixed up with love," agreed Harry, which seemed to surprise Snape. "But back to the Patronus charm. Its form reflects what we care about, doesn't it? Dumbledore's was a phoenix, and he had Fawkes with him all those years. Umbridge's is a cat. Tonks's turned into a wolf when she fell in love with Lupin. Mine is a stag, which was my dad's form as an Animagus."
Harry pulled out his wand, feeling an unlikely surge of confidence. If Snape's Patronus had turned into a stag, it certainly wasn't out of affection for James Potter. Which could only mean one thing.
Harry didn't even have to whisper the spell. Light surged from the tip of his wand, coalescing, forming into the familiar horned shape that he had sent to bring help for Ron on their first day in this classroom. "Yes!" he said exultantly, grabbing Snape's arm again and squeezing it in his enthusiasm. "I did it!"
"Congratulations." Snape's voice was anything but enthusiastic. "You see, Potter, when you concentrate on the spell itself, you can control the results. You need to keep practicing, and I need to go meet with members of the..."
"Hold on a minute." Harry hadn't let go of Snape's arm. "Your Patronus was a doe because of my mother, right?"
Snape looked mortified, but he nodded stiffly. "She was my first true friend. My only friend for many years."
"And I have her eyes. Is that why your Patronus turned into mine?" The silvery stag shimmered for a moment, turning its soulful eyes on them, then vanished.
Snape looked like he was torn between correcting Harry and denying that his Patronus had changed. Finally, the urge to set Harry straight apparently won out. "It takes more than something as superficial as a preference for eye color to affect someone's magic that profoundly," he said. Bright spots of color had appeared in his cheeks.
"What does it take?" Harry asked, himself torn between the desire to see if Snape was truly blushing or just heating up to rant at Harry. "The only time I've ever heard of it happening was with Tonks and that was because she was in love --" He stopped and stared at Snape, wishing his Patronus hadn't vanished, because he really felt like he needed support from some quarter and Snape wasn't about to offer it. The spots of color in his cheeks hadn't gone away. "She was in love," Harry said slowly.
"With a wastrel," Snape said, gamely attempting a sneer that was not one of his better efforts.
"Who are you in love with?" Harry asked, using the light grip he had on Snape's sleeve to turn, bringing himself and Snape face to face. Or what would have been if Snape would look at him.
"Don't be ridiculous," Snape said, "Any strong emotion, hatred or loathing --"
But Harry was shaking his head. "No. I might have gone for that explanation when I was still in school, but Hermione managed to drill enough magical theory into my head to know that's not how it works. A Patronus charm is positive magic -- it can only be conjured by a happy memory. Even that cow Umbridge could do it because she positively loved torturing people." He tried to dip his face so that Snape would at least look at him, but Snape looked away from Harry. "So it stands to reason that only the most positive emotion of all, love, can change them." There, Hermione would be proud of his reasoning. She was always telling him magic was rational and that despite his refusal to learn Arithmancy, he could reason out the properties when he put his mind to it.
"I don't love you," Snape said, looking up at last, his words like cold water down Harry's back. "Perhaps you're projecting. Malfoy tells me you were asking for me while they were healing your foot."
"Is that why you came to St. Mungo's to see whether I was all right?" Harry shot back, delighted by the uncertainty he saw in Snape's eyes. "Your Patronus thinks you love me."
"Perhaps my Patronus never learned magical theory," Snape growled. His gaze flickered to Harry's mouth and seemed not to be able to move away.
"Perhaps you should kiss me and make sure," Harry said, his voice lowering. Snape made a startled noise, but he didn't turn his head when Harry's mouth met his. Harry groaned softly, pressing in, feeling Snape's mouth yield just for a moment before Snape pulled away.
"You don't love me," Snape said, eyes coming back into focus.
"Wait," Harry grabbed his sleeve again before Snape could whirl away like a bat. "Wait," he said again, because he hadn't been sure what he was going to say, only that he'd liked that brief teasing kiss and wanted another. Maybe a lot of others. "I never knew even liking you was an option. I always thought you hated me." Harry let his fingers slide over the solid flesh of Snape's arm beneath the sleeve, not quite letting him go. "You made quite sure I believed it -- you wouldn't even see me when you were recovering."
"I was weak," Snape said, drawing his lips together as if preventing them from doing what they'd much rather be doing. "Vulnerable."
Nodding, Harry searched his face, trying to not misread what was there. "Let's cast them together -- our Patronuses, I mean."
"What do you think that will prove?" demanded Snape, though again without his usual venom.
"Maybe nothing. At least I'll get to see you perform the spell non-verbally. Maybe I'll learn something." He smiled a bit. "Or maybe your Patronus will charge at mine and toss it across the room by the antlers, and that will be that."
Snape sighed impatiently. "Then will you leave me in peace and rest your foot?"
"My foot feels fine. But if that's what you want, yes." Harry had expected Snape to argue further. He raised his wand before Snape could find an excuse to put him off. "Ready?"
Snape pulled out his wand, then looked at Harry, right into Harry's eyes. His expression wasn't as angry or guarded as it usually was. Harry started to smile when light burst from Snape's wand, coalescing in front of them into a large four-legged animal that definitely had antlers.
Harry didn't have to concentrate. It was like the first time he'd conjured a full Patronus, when he'd been filled with confidence that he could perform the spell because he knew from the Time-Turner that he had already done so. Energy seemed to flow directly from his mind through his wand, forming into the familiar shape of the stag.
Snape's Patronus, though slightly larger, did not charge at Harry's. The two circled each other in the cramped space at the front of the lecture hall, their legs disappearing and reappearing as they passed through the legs of the desks. Then, as Harry held his breath, they moved closer together, sniffing at each other's faces, their antlers seeming to touch without getting caught together.
Harry realized that his free hand was still clutching at Snape's sleeve. He rubbed up and down Snape's arm again. "Look," he whispered, glancing up at Snape's face. Snape was still flushed, though he also had that peculiar unguarded expression, part curiosity and part something else. Harry realized that he had never seen Snape happy, at least not outside of memories -- gleeful, yes, and gloating, but not comfortable or content. "That's a good sign, right?" Harry asked.
"A good sign of what?" Snape looked right at him, and Harry realized that he had never seen him nervous, either. He slid his hand up Snape's arm, catching Snape's shoulder, and Snape didn't resist when Harry pulled him down for another kiss -- a longer one this time, with quite a bit of meandering of lips and a bit of tongue involved.
When he pulled back to breathe, the two ghostly deer were standing side by side as if uncertain why they had been summoned. Harry moved his wand arm to the side and they raced away together, bounding around the room before leaping through the closed door and disappearing.
"Whatever you think this means..." began Snape.
"I don't know what it means," Harry interrupted him. "But I know I want to do that again."
"You want to conjure our Patronuses together?" Snape asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"You know what I mean!" As Harry pressed his mouth to Snape's again, he realized that Snape was laughing. "What's funny?"
"You don't find this a bit perverse? I'm old enough to be your father. Your father, who loathed me."
"I'm not my father," Harry said impatiently.
"As you said, your Patronus takes his Animagus form."
"Maybe my Patronus is a stag because yours was a doe, and it has nothing to do with my father."
"Then it doesn't make sense that mine would have changed." Snape sounded rather cross, not at Harry, but as if he'd been asked a question to which he couldn't figure out the answer. "None of this makes sense."
"Only because you don't want it to. If we agree that our feelings about each other might have changed, then it makes sense that your Patronus would change too, wouldn't it?"
Snape looked like he wanted to agree -- he was looking at Harry's mouth again and now that Harry knew what Snape's mouth felt like on his, he could not repress a slight breathy sound.
"I admit I may have been mistaken in some of your motivations," Snape said, and something in the air lightened between them, as though one or the other of them had cast an oxygen spell.
"And I was mistaken in all of yours," Harry said, letting Snape look his fill before kissing his chin. "Until I saw your memories."
"I'm not a hero," Snape insisted.
"You are to me," said Harry, shaking his head. Something about his insistence looked like it was troubling Snape. "I wish I'd known sooner or learned Occlumency like I was supposed to so you could trust me."
"It wouldn't have mattered. It was already too much for you. Lesser men have broken under the onus of what was expected of you, and you were just a boy." Snape still looked troubled.
"I'm not a boy now," Harry said, wanting another kiss but wanting more too, somewhere less public than a classroom in the Ministry of Magic. "Could we...could we go back to my flat and --" Fuck. "Talk?"
"Is that really what you want to do?" asked an openly skeptical Snape.
It was Harry's turn to laugh. "You must know it isn't."
"You've always been reckless," Snape said, which, Harry noticed, was not a refusal. Indeed it sounded more affectionate than reproving. Snape cast a look toward the door where their Patronuses had disappeared.
"Right now they're probably doing what we'll be doing soon," Harry guessed with a small laugh that didn't disguise the huskiness in his voice.
"I don't think incorporeal beings --" Snape began but Harry cut him off with a kiss that was more urgent than the ones before it. "You said something about your flat?" Snape said, when their mouths broke apart.
"Let me Apparate us. I don't want to run into Ron and Hermione," said Harry, gathering his bag as Snape picked up his, then wrapping his arms around him and Apparating them directly into his bedroom. He had the sense of mind -- and Auror training--to take out his wand and perform a locking spell on his door.
Any worries that the burgeoning passion between them might have faded in transit were lost when Snape reached for him. They were kissing again, but it felt very different in the cool gloom of Harry's bedroom rather than the brightly lit classroom at the Ministry.
Harry pressed himself into Snape's robes. "Please. I want to do everything."
He felt Snape press back, though more cautiously. "I presume you have experience with 'everything'?" Snape asked him. Blushing, Harry shrugged a bit, though he knew at once from Snape's smirk that Snape had misinterpreted the gesture. "Oh, I see. You weren't entirely dutiful and celibate while you were saving the world." Harry tried to distract Snape by reaching to unfasten his collar, but Snape raised an eyebrow. "What's that, Potter? It's not like you to be shy about bragging about your exploits."
Groaning, Harry reached for him with trembling fingers. "I didn't have time. Between my training and..." He swallowed. "You know, before."
"You didn't have time to be shy?" Snape's expression was puzzled, though he was flicking Harry's buttons open one at a time with a wave of his finger and a silent spell. He pushed his hand inside Harry's shirt, then paused, his eyes widening. "Or you haven't had time for...this?"
"For this." Harry sagged a bit, fingers splaying over Snape's shirt. "For anything, really." He could feel Snape starting to withdraw his fingers and pressed closer. "I've done enough to know I want it."
"I'm not surprised that a young man your age wants sex." Snape was looking not at Harry's face but at his own fingers disappearing inside Harry's shirt. "But it makes no sense that you would want it for the first time with a man old enough to be your father, whom you recently despised."
"It might not make sense, but I'm attracted to you." Snape's nose wrinkled as though he suspected an elaborate joke, so Harry pressed on quickly, "You saw our Patronuses. There's something between us -- they prove that."
"The only thing they prove, as you pointed out, is that my Patronus has been -- affected -- by you." Now Snape's face had reddened. "Your Patronus didn't change. What changed is that you now believe you have power over me."
"If there's anyone who has power here, it's you." Harry gripped Snape's fingers convulsively.
"You mean because I can perform non-verbal spells?"
"Because you've done all sorts of things and I haven't." Biting his lip, Harry slid his hand over Snape's in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.
"I haven't done as many of 'all sorts of things' as you may be imagining." Snape laughed mirthlessly. "And not in many years."
He could tell that Snape was ashamed of this admission, but for Harry it came as a relief -- it meant that maybe Snape wouldn't think he was completely incompetent. "Perhaps we were meant to learn together," he said a bit shyly.
Snape was still blushing, but he let his fingers slide back inside Harry's shirt. "You'll be disappointed," he warned.
"I doubt that." Puffing his chest out a bit, Harry arched toward the wandering fingers. "You might be disappointed in me. I'm virtually...untried. I'd like to try anything you'd like with me. Even if you just want to kiss." He grinned. "Or talk."
"What would you like to talk about?" A finger brushed over Harry's nipple, making Harry shiver. He groaned softly, feeling bolder, and kissed Snape tentatively, tugging on his lower lip.
"Actually, I had something more non-verbal in mind." Snape didn't resist when Harry slid his hand around his waist, so Harry tilted his face and kissed along Snape's jaw. "I think I'm ready for advanced non-verbal lessons."
"I didn't have a lesson plan in mind." Groaning softly, Snape slid his fingers into Harry's hair, which Harry liked very much and reached up to do the same, pleased at his own boldness. "We'll have to improvise. Why don't you show me what you like best?"
All eagerness again, Harry smiled, tugging on Snape's arm as he moved around to sit on the bed. "I think I'm going to like everything."
Snape sat down a bit awkwardly, pushing off his shoes with his toes. "Do you have more experience with women than men?" he asked.
Harry felt his face warming again and knew that he looked sheepish. "It took me a few tries to realize girls weren't really...doing it for me," he said.
Snape smiled a bit at his phrasing. "Do your friends know? Or will I be accused of perverting the Chosen One if I am discovered?"
"The ones who are really my friends know, Hermione, of course, and Ron, and..." Harry blushed again. "Ron's sister."
Snape's expression turned a bit sour. "The rumor at Hogwarts was that she was your girlfriend."
"She was, for a while." Harry slid his hand along Snape's arm, watching his own fingers. "We decided we were better friends than anything else." He felt Snape shiver and hoped it was from what his fingers were doing rather than revulsion at the thought of Harry touching Ginny, which Harry didn't like to dwell on, either. "We never had sex, but what we did do felt wrong. I tried to tell myself at first that it was because she was my best friend's sister and maybe I was supposed to be thinking of her like a sister too, but it felt just as wrong with every other girl I kissed."
He glanced up, wondering whether Snape would mock him for not being able to enjoy whatever women had to offer him -- Harry had had the impression that some of the Slytherin boys would take sex anywhere they could find it, as long as it wasn't with Muggles -- but Snape nodded in understanding. "I expect you to tell me if this feels wrong to you." Snape gestured at the bed.
"This already feels more right than anything I've ever done." Harry slid back on the bed, hoping he looked tempting and not ridiculous. "Though it felt better before when we were kissing." Snape stared at him as if he didn't quite dare to move. "But I'll be sure to tell you if anything feels wrong."
Leaning down, Snape brushed a kiss over Harry's mouth. Moaning and nodding vigorously, Harry leaned up, trying to deepen the kiss. "That's -- very nice," murmured Snape.
"Just very nice? I'll have to try harder." Shifting, Harry climbed into Snape's lap, straddling his legs so he could hold his face and kiss him again.
Snape shuddered softly, arching up against him. "You never had to try."
Those words startled Harry, yet pleased him. He rubbed his mouth over Snape's. "I want to make you feel the same way you're doing to me."
"What makes you think you aren't?" Snape kissed him back, moving his arms further around him.
"Because I could never read you. Not when you tried to teach me, not when I thought you were dying, not now."
That gave Snape pause. "There must have been some reason you didn't simply finish the job when you thought I was dying," he muttered.
Harry couldn't keep the horror from his face. "Is that what you thought I would do?"
"I thought you might, yes. You had no reason to believe I wasn't a loyal Death Eater. I knew that you intended to make me pay for Dumbledore's death."
Harry's fingers clenched involuntarily into Snape's face. "You were bleeding. Helpless. Dying, or so I thought. I know I told my friends that I wanted to make you pay, but I meant hexing you -- even that night when I tried to use the Cruciatus curse and you stopped me, I never thought about using the other. I'd never..." He shook his head.
Snape was studying him. "I murdered him," he said slowly. "You witnessed it. You didn't know whether there were extenuating circumstances at the time. Even if you didn't use the curse, you must have wanted to kill me."
"I thought I did." Harry looked up bleakly. "I dreamed about it. But I couldn't have done it. If we'd met during the battle, I might have tried it..."
Oddly enough, Snape smiled, as though Harry's words finally made sense. "I made certain that we never met in any circumstance in which I would have had to duel you properly."
"That was clever of you." Harry's grip on Snape's face relaxed as understanding dawned. "I thought you might try to hex me when I found out I had to take your class."
Snape rolled his eyes. "Why do you think I agreed to teach the class?"
Reaching up to stroke his face, Harry said, "I've learned more than I expected, even how to do non-verbal spells."
This seemed to surprise Snape. "You doubted my ability to teach you?"
Harry rubbed his shoulder against Snape's. "I never learned very much in Potions until I used your old textbook. As an adult you always made me --" He made a vague gesture. "Nervous and edgy. Incompetent."
This was rebutted by a brush of lips over his own. "You don't seem nervous or incompetent now," Snape said, his voice an arousing whisper.
Groaning, Harry arched toward him. "I'm not trying to learn Potions now. I just want to learn what you like." He moved his hand down Snape's chest, undoing buttons.
Devoting his attention to Harry's shirt, Snape pushed it off his shoulders. "You'll tell me if it's too much?"
Harry could not resist squaring his shoulders, showing off his physique a bit. Auror training had erased any traces of his boyish body and given him the lean body of a fully grown man. "I want as much as you'll give me," he said.
Fingers were teasing Harry's nipple. "Surely not all at once."
Heat rose in Harry's cheeks. "I wasn't sure," he panted, "you'd want repeat lessons."
He knew at once he'd said the wrong thing. Snape's fingers froze, as did the man himself, withdrawing behind an icy curtain. "Oh. You just want --" He waved an arm vaguely. "To get this over with, with me."
Horrified by this misunderstanding, Harry clenched the edges of Snape's shirt, knowing he was helpless if Snape chose to Apparate away. "That's not what I want at all. I just wasn't sure I'd be..." He felt his cheeks warming again, but he finished with determination, "...good enough to hold your interest."
Snape snorted faintly. "You are young and attractive. I haven't done any of this in years. What makes you believe I'll be good enough to hold yours?"
Harry couldn't believe he was even asking this. He relaxed his fingers when he realized Snape wasn't trying to get away. "I told you this was already better than anything." He slid one hand into the opened front of Snape's shirt. "Anything I imagined."
"I don't believe you," Snape said, and Harry's heart sank. But Snape was brushing a kiss over the palm of Harry's other hand. "Tell me what you imagined."
Harry watched Snape's lips trailing over his hand, feeling a tremble go through his arm. "I imagined kissing you," he admitted, "and being able to see what you've got under your robes, to kiss any part of you I wanted." His voice faltered because Snape was looking at him avidly. "To be able to say things to you in the dark that I've never told anyone else."
He heard Snape moan, softly as though he could not help himself. "Things like what?"
They were leaning into each other, not quite pressed full length but close enough to feel each other's warmth. "Things like I never thought I had a chance with you because I never thought you'd be able to look at me without seeing my father. How I wanted to say I'm sorry for never trusting you even though everyone told me I should." He found himself leaning forward without thinking about it, hoping for a kiss, hoping Snape didn't pull back.
Snape didn't. Instead he kissed back, sliding his fingers behind Harry's neck pulling off his glasses, setting them aside. "You look less like your father as you get older," he said, "You owe me no apologies."
Harry pressed closer. "Apologizing isn't what I want to do right now," he said, finally getting Snape's shirt off his shoulders and closing the distance between their chests.
"You must have thought about other things in the dark," Snape said, his voice so low and sexy that Harry wondered how he could ever have heard a sneer or coldness in it.
"All the time," Harry said, knowing he sounded eager and probably naive. "What your prick looks like. What you'd sound like when you --" He glanced down at the places their bodies were touching. "When you come."
Even though they were kissing, Harry could feel the blush creeping into Snape's face. "Very imaginative," Snape said, with a soft moan.
"My imagination is all I've had," Harry said, touching his fingers wonderingly to his cheek. "You look good when you blush." So close, he could see clearly even with his glasses off. He shifted, trying to maneuver them back onto the bed so he could touch more bare skin.
Luckily Snape was distracted, reaching for Harry's trouser buttons. "I don't look like the boys you've seen in the Quidditch changing room," he warned.
"I could have had that if I'd wanted," Harry said, not meaning to boast, but assuming Snape would think even worse if he didn't admit it.
The sound of Snape's laughter was a delight. "Thank you very much for reminding me," he said, making sure there was no sting in the words by rubbing his foot up Harry's leg. Even over the cloth of his jeans that felt good.
"I'd rather have this," Harry said, making significant strides in getting Snape's trousers off. He pushed his own trousers off his ankles, kicking them over the side of his bed with one foot.
"Tell me what 'this' means," Snape said, joining in Harry's efforts to get clothing out of the way. "I've told you, Legilimency is not mind reading." He was pressing himself against Harry, making it difficult to think, or even to process what Harry wanted besides more of this.
"Would you make love with me?" Harry asked breathlessly.
He was afraid again that he'd said the wrong thing. Snape went still, though it was quite a different experience now that they were both naked. "We haven't even had a proper --" He lifted a hand off Harry long enough to wave vaguely. "There are preliminaries."
A grin spread over Harry's face. "See, I told you, I don't know anything." He rubbed himself shamelessly against Snape's chest. "Show me the preliminaries."
Snape was smiling back, Harry could tell. "None of your women ever --" He didn't finish the question, instead sliding his fingers up Harry's thigh to his prick.
Moaning, Harry flushed again. "I couldn't --" He did not want to remember this mortification now. "Couldn't keep it up long enough."
Even barely touching him, Snape's fingers were more arousing than any of Ginny's efforts had been. "Do you want me to...?" he began.
"Fuck. Yes. Please." Harry nodded eagerly as Snape wrapped a hand around his cock and slid it up. "Oh God, yes," groaned Harry, pushing helplessly into the moving fingers.
"Doesn't feel like you're having trouble keeping it up." Snape kissed his jaw.
"I'm having trouble not going off right now." Moaning, Harry clutched at Snape's arm. "Especially if you keep doing that." Snape's mouth had moved to his throat, where it found and sucked on a spot of skin. Shuddering, Harry groped for Snape's prick. "At least let me..."
Snape bucked into his hand, though he was shifting, and for a moment Harry thought he might be trying to pull away. "I could put my mouth on you," he murmured.
It took Harry a moment to realize what Snape meant, then he groaned and nodded urgently. "Yes! If you let me -- I mean, I know I probably won't be any good but I'd like to try."
Chuckling, Snape shifted fully around, breath blowing over Harry's prick when he spoke. "It doesn't take expertise. Other than being careful where you put your teeth." He rubbed his nose up and down Harry's prick and Harry realized there were some unsung advantages of having a prominent nose.
He licked experimentally, tasting the warm salty skin of Snape's prick, and did it again when Snape moaned in encouragement. Hesitating, making sure to fold his lips over his teeth, he pressed his mouth down over the head.
Snape quivered, sliding his own mouth slowly up and down on Harry as if he could tell that Harry would go off like an Erumpent horn if he did otherwise. "Good," he encouraged Harry, possibly the first time he had ever so readily praised anything Harry was attempting in his presence.
Harry felt his own eyes flutter shut in pleasure as he licked over the head of Snape's prick. "Like this?" he asked.
"Yes, oh..." Groaning, Snape slid a hand around Harry's balls, which Harry attempted to emulate, trying to move his mouth as expertly as Snape seemed to be doing. He felt Snape's thighs move further apart to encourage him and Snape's hand wrap around the base of his prick.
Emboldened by the thought that he didn't have to try to swallow the whole thing -- the nose wasn't the only prominent feature that Snape had -- Harry moved his mouth up and down on the head, stroking from the base toward the lowest point he could get his lips to reach before his throat felt funny. He could hear Snape humming approval and the humming made his own prick vibrate as Snape's mouth plunged up and down with greater ease. At least Harry could pick up his rhythm, though he could tell that Snape was trying not to thrust in too deeply the way Harry was pushing himself helplessly into Snape's mouth.
"I can't --" Harry shuddered as his free hand clenched Snape's thigh.
"Can't what?" Snape was stroking him and rubbing his balls, and Harry would have sworn that he was purring as his mouth lowered again.
"Can't last --" Though Harry tried to muffle his groan around Snape's prick, he knew it was hopeless. Shuddering, he arched toward Snape's mouth. "Fuck!" Bucking wildly, he felt himself erupt into the welcoming heat that stayed around his prick while he came and came.
Snape's groan brought him back to where he was and what he was supposed to be doing, though Snape had generously stilled his own hips while Harry was senseless with pleasure. With a whimper, he dove back onto Snape's prick, sucking and stroking it.
"Careful," Snape groaned. "Not going to last either..." Despite Harry's inexpert sucking, Snape seemed to be telling the truth. His fingers clutched at Harry's shoulder. "Careful..." he warned again.
There was no way that Harry was going to miss this opportunity to make Snape come in his mouth. Bobbing his head, he swiped his tongue through the slit and moved his fingers over Snape's now-tight balls. "Potter," Snape groaned, hips jerking, prick shoving in, and a moment later Harry felt hot liquid spurt out over his tongue. Had his mouth not been busy, he would have cried out in triumph.
Snape was panting, slowly unclenching his fingers from Harry's shoulder. "Was that...acceptable?" he asked Harry breathlessly.
"That was so far past acceptable I don't think there's a word for it." Sighing happily, Harry leaned his head against Snape's thigh, rubbing his cheek against the wiry hair. "Though I wish you'd call me Harry."
Stroking through his hair, Snape chuckled softly. "Harry. You learn quickly."
"You never thought that before." He felt Snape twist to look at him and grinned to make sure Snape knew he was joking. "You're a good teacher. There are other things I want you to teach me."
Snape shivered softly as Harry moved a finger along his leg, smiling up at him. "I am no expert in the more advanced aspects of this field. I haven't studied it seriously since I was around your age."
Harry had hoped that was the case, since he didn't like to think that Snape might have been shagging other Hogwarts teachers or, worse, Death Eaters. "You could stay here tonight. We could have another lesson," he suggested, still smiling.
Snape glanced around the room as if noticing it for the first time. "Don't you share this house with Weasley and Granger?" he asked. "Won't they be wondering what's become of you?"
"Their room is on the other side of the flat for a reason." Grinning, Harry wiggled up beside him, snuggling in close when Snape did not object. "Do you have any idea the sorts of noises --" Giving a mock shudder, Harry pressed his face against Snape's shoulder.
"If there is one field besides potions in which I have become an expert, it is in being very discreet," Snape reminded him, chuckling ruefully.
Harry decided that he loved the sound of Snape's laugh. "We can put an Imperturbable charm on the door. Ron always forgets," he said.
He felt Snape grope around for his wand, bending to retrieve it when he realized that, like his trousers, it was lying on the floor beside the bed. "Do you think you can do it non-verbally?" Snape asked him. "You did claim that sex would be good for your concentration."
Squinting, Harry took the wand, holding it out awkwardly. "But I can barely see the door without my glasses."
"You don't need to see the door." Snape's arm slid over Harry's, and Harry could feel Snape's breath warm against his cheek. "Focus on the spell."
"You're distracting me." Harry closed his eyes, trying to concentrate. "You were right, thinking about sex doesn't always help. Now I'm thinking of you and everything I want to do with you."
He felt Snape hum. "Now take that energy and channel it through your arm." Harry nodded, trying to focus. At first he only made the wand sputter sparks out the tip, but then he felt his hand tingle and saw the door glow briefly.
"I did it!" He turned to Snape with a grin, kissing him impetuously.
"I knew you'd learn, eventually." Even without his glasses, Harry could tell that Snape was smirking. "You've become a much more cooperative student."
"I told you, you're a good teacher." Harry stroked his cheek. "And a much sexier one."
"It's the antlers," Snape said very earnestly, making Harry giggle.