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It was during the Dark Times, as the period after the Great War came to be known, that Harry Potter disappeared.  Under Voldemort's rule, numerous Wizards of mixed-blood ancestry were rounded up and placed in labour camps, although the huge mortality rates these camps presented earned them various other names.(see Hocksby and Lowe, 2006)  Resistance groups sprung up, and the search for Harry Potter was intense, but unsuccessful.  The position from Voldemort’s supporters was that the boy was dead, but many protested otherwise; the price for such assertions was always death, but the rumours continued, as did the mythology surrounding the boy-hero.  Despite these assertions, however, for all intents and purposes Harry Potter was gone - vanished into the aftermath of the Great War like so much smoke and dust and sunlight.

 

- Callista E. MacIlwaine-Smythe

from Aftermath: The Great War, and its Survivors, Quietus Press, 2010.

 

 

 

"It's your move, you know."

Snape looks up from his hand of cards.  The boy is staring at him again, that violent green stare that makes the hair on his arms stand on end.  

"What?"

"Your move."

"Oh." Snape pauses for a moment, pressing his lips together. "Three of diamonds?"

"Go fish," Potter says quietly, but there is delight in it. He is still a child in too many ways to mention.  Snape, on the other hand, already has a back-ache from sitting on the stone floor.  He takes a card from the stack in front of him, and sneers at it.  This is ridiculous.

"This is ridiculous," he echoes himself.

"You're just unhappy because I'm winning.  Ace of hearts, by the way."

"Go bloody fish."

"Thank you, I shall."  The boy reaches between the cell bars with his slim wrist, and takes a card.  He triumphantly sets aside another pair.  

"I cannot comprehend why Muggle children are even amused by this."

"Well, they are children."

"There's absolutely no proficiency involved.  None whatsoever.  Plants could excel at this game."

"I myself prefer Exploding Snap."

Snape curls his lip.  "How completely shocking."

Harry Potter's mouth quirks in what is almost a smile, and in the lamplight his eyes are the colour of the dark parts of the forest (a green that has never seen sunlight.)  Snape will later realize that this was the moment it all started to go wrong.

*****

They tried drugs at first, but it did not work.  Well, Harry thought it worked bloody fantastically (he could only remember fragments from those days, brushstrokes of light and sound and colour) but apparently Voldemort disagreed.  He must have felt some remnants of the drugs within his own system, and after experimenting with various kinds, various doses (during a week that was at times extremely pleasant, and at times just the opposite) the treatment was soon discontinued.   

Restraining spells were out of the question, as the cell and surrounding area were heavily warded (Harry could cast a wandless, wordless spell without fluttering his eyelashes, could make it rain just by thinking about thunder.) They tried removing all dangerous objects from the cell - any material that could be shredded, any surface that could be sharpened - but he spent the day smashing his head repeatedly into the stone floor (it was not one of his finer moments, but desperate times, and all that.) If they bound his hands, he refused to eat.  If they forced food into his mouth, he held his breath until his eyes rolled back into his head, until his skin prickled and his body trembled and the guards had to run for help.  So it was agreed.  

He had to be watched.

*****

One card game per week is usually more than enough.  

"Why do you think they sent you?" the boy murmurs idly from his cell.

Snape looks up sharply from his book.  Potter is lying back against his small and shabby cot, staring at the ceiling.  His bare white feet are hanging off the foot of the bed.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I don't exactly take kindly to you.  You'd think maybe they'd want someone more anonymous.  Like the day bloke, Angus McSomething-something."

"I think, Mr. Potter, that this particular decision had less to do with you than it did with me."

Potter sits up at this, and meets Snape's eyes with his own.  Every day the boy seems slighter and paler; Snape wonders what they could possibly be feeding him.

"How's that then?" Potter murmurs, light falling on sharp cheekbones, and a long white throat.

"Aside from the fact that Lucius Malfoy no doubt thought it hilarious to have me spend the foreseeable future playing nanny to James Potter's son," Snape begins, teeth grinding together, "I was hardly doing anything productive with my time.  I outlived my - usefulness some time ago." He trails off for a moment, stares at the intricate texture of the rocks beneath his feet.  He decides to omit the fact that he cannot hold a wand in his damaged right hand.  He decides to omit the fact that he hasn't performed a successful spell in over eight months, that he can feel his magic bleeding and bleeding from him even as he sits and talks with Harry.  "And I am not an easy sleeper."

"Wow.  What a surprise, given your sunny disposition."

"Comedy, Mr. Potter, even pathetic attempts at it, will not be tolerated."

Potter grins, and brushes his shaggy hair out of his eyes.  They haven't yet cut it, but Snape supposes that no one is bothered about the boy's physical appearance.  Potter hasn't grown a beard, despite the lack of a razor for over six months, but has small patches of stubble on his jaw and upper lip.  His eyes are growing darker and darker every day, not nearly the furious green the world was used to, but a colour like the deeper parts of the ocean (a green that has no bottom).  The nails on both his index fingers are bitten nearly to the quick.  There is a bruise on the outside of his left wrist, a small and shallow blue.  Snape has noticed this (his right hand aches, it aches) - 

Snape has noticed many things.

*****

Harry flickers in between hysteria and despair.  Occasionally he veers more towards one than the other, but for the most part stays comfortably in the middle, the hysteria warping his mind enough to make tired conversation, enough to forget every now and then about the state of the world.  

Ginny is dead.  Harry knows this.  Remus is dead, struck down months ago by Greyback (he did not ask how it had happened, he did not want to hear it.)  Draco Malfoy is also dead, although Harry only knows this through Snape, and he doesn't trust the bastard as far as he could throw him.  Apparently Voldemort did not take kindly to the boy's failure against Dumbledore, and Lucius himself cast the Killing Curse.  Typical Malfoy family values.  Aside from these three, Harry does not know who is alive and who is dead, who is in hiding and who has been taken to the Camps.  His dreams are full of Weasleys, soot-streaked and grey-faced, standing in long rows behind barbed wire fences.

"Do try and keep the sighing to a minimum," Snape murmurs peevishly, "Some of us are trying to read."

Harry bites down on the inside of his cheek, too tired to spit out a retort.  The seasons must be changing; it is getting colder and colder everyday, even in his tiny cell.  He used to keep track of the days by pulling out a hair from his head every evening, but gave up on that some time ago.  Now he has no idea how long it has been.  It could be months.  Perhaps almost a year.  

The day guard, Angus, never speaks to him, aside from the occasional insult or lewd joke.  Harry spends his days moving around his cell, doing push-ups and sit-ups, just enough to keep his body from freezing up (more than enough to keep Angus perpetually uneasy, har bloody har.)  In the evenings he exchanges banter with Snape before falling into a restless sleep. His dreams are always tainted by the War, always running red or charred black or disfigured.  He'd much rather stay awake all night, but Snape would probably choke the life from him before the night was through.

It's funny, him and Snape.  He used to hate the bastard, hate him so much it would bleed through his teeth, hate him so much he'd have dreams about him - dreams about coming upon him unexpectedly in the woods or in the street, and jamming a wand through his eye, smashing the haughty expression from his face, pulling great handfuls of greasy hair from his greasy head.  It was terrifying and exhilarating, that hatred.  The kind of emotion that lets you know you're still alive.  Harry has long since forgotten it.  When Snape limps across the room, now, a mess of scars and skinny limbs and sarcasm, Harry's almost glad to see him.  When he hunches his narrow shoulders and hisses all manner of insults between his crooked teeth, Harry almost smiles.

He does not know when it all changed.  There was no exact moment, no sudden realization that the hate was gone.  There was only Snape (tucking a strand of black hair behind his ear, looking up uncertainly) and the words pulled tight from Harry's mouth.

"I don't want to kill you anymore."

Snape's expression remained completely neutral, but Harry sensed something in his eyes, something that sparkled almost like laughter.

"You cannot comprehend the weight you have lifted from my troubled mind."

"Oh piss off."

"As you wish, Mr. Potter, " Snape replied quietly, but the sparkle was in his eyes again, so dark and sharp and liquid Harry almost feels like he was drowning in it.

*****

Overall, Potter's accommodations are not entirely uncomfortable.  He has a fair amount of room inside his cell, and enough blankets and sheets to satisfy even Snape, who has a perpetual chill.  Indeed, Potter has a much more comfortable situation than his guard, who is reduced to spending his nights in a stiff, hard- backed chair.  He can read, if he wishes, but with only dim lamplight to guide him, Snape's eyes tire quickly.  He can vaguely make out the boy in his small bed, but intricate black type takes its toll.  

There is an intercom on the stone wall behind Snape.  In case of any complications.  No complications have arisen since the boy started to be supervised around the clock, but one can never be too careful.  He could choke on some food.  He could slip and fall and hit his head.  (Snape had to practice using the device several times before he could operate it successfully.  He is sure Potter would have been amused, if the boy had been speaking at the time.) 

"They tell me you have not been eating," Snape murmurs idly.  The last chapter of Magickal Maladies: A Compendium is progressing very slowly, and his eyes are starting to ache.

"Why Snape, I never knew you cared," Potter says harshly, lying on his bed.  

"Rest assured, Mr. Potter, I do not.  I only wish to point out that you have been this route before, and it did not serve you well." 

"Well that's bloody excellent.  Another spot-on piece of advice, thank you so much. I don't know how I survived this far without you."  Harry stretches slightly and Snape catches a short and violent glimpse of bare stomach, a white-hot half-moon sliver of bare stomach, before the boy's shirt settles back into place.

Within minutes Potter is snoring softly, his chest rising and falling like an easy sea.  Snape closes his book, and rubs the bridge of his nose (he will give his eyes fifteen minutes, and fifteen minutes only.)  Something tastes bitter, burnt, along the roof of Snape's mouth, and Harry Potter rolls over in his sleep, pulling the mass of filthy sheets and blankets down on top of him.  Snape feels like the worst kind of voyeur, as he often does, and tears his eyes away from the boy in his bed.  

It isn't the job he minds so much.  Much better than the outside world.  The War may be over, but the Dark Lord is surrounded by pieces in need of picking up; to be locked away in some remote underground cell is a blessing in itself, a brief respite from the endless chaos of "victory".  Not that Snape would be much good at anything else (in a few more months though, he thinks bitterly, remembering the words of the Death Eater physician, "a few months of rest and recovery, and you'll be right as rain.")

No, it isn't the job he minds.  It's the company that seems to be having the strange effects on him.  Seems to be keeping him up all hours of the day or night, seems to be slowly occupying more and more space in his small routines, and private rooms, and the rare occasions that he dreams.  

He is very tired.  

Sometimes Snape hears stories from the camps, hears other Death Eaters laughing about the death of that Mudblood or this, children he has taught, families he has known.  Sometimes Snape wanders through the extensive libraries, touching book after book, trying to recall its scent and texture.  Sometimes he locks himself in his room and stares at his right hand, willing it to twist, to clench, to tremble.

And sometimes he thinks of the boy inside his cell.  The boy with his dark hair and light eyes, lying alone on his shabby cot.   This sort of thinking changes nothing, and accomplishes even less.  But it is a distraction, and a pleasant one.  Much better than the scent of the dungeon that lingers on his body (the smell of something violent and unfamiliar: cold stone floors, and lamplit pages, and skin the colour of milk and winter.)

He is very tired.

*****

Harry cannot remember the night they brought him in.  He can remember sitting in Grimmauld Place with the rest of the Order, when they received news of Voldemort's attack.  He can remember the feel of his broom in his hands as he sped through the air to the small Irish village the Death Eaters had targeted.  He remembers touching down outside the village, the smell of smoke and scorched earth, and the grass - wet and shining underneath his feet.  Kingsley, smiling at him from the corner of his eye.  Someone touching him on the back.  The taste of his bottom lip in his own mouth, as he bit down so fiercely he drew blood.  

This is where it leaves him.  The next thing he remembers is waking up behind bars.  After that, everything is clear; days spent in the cell are all laid out like clear little calendar-boxes.  But nothing in between.  Not even in his dreams.

He asks Snape.

Snape glances up warily from the pages of some book (it looks older than bloody Hogwarts, and Harry does not think it could possibly be interesting.)  Snape's eyes take on a strange, hunted quality, and he looks away quickly.

"What?  Why that look?"

Snape does not answer.  Harry realizes he should have expected as much; really, Snape barely tells him anything.  He clears his throat softly, but Snape does not even seem to notice.  Fine, then.

Harry flops back down on his bed, just as Snape starts to speak.

"I was not there.  That night.  I was not there."  

Harry sits sharply back up.  He notices Snape is rubbing his right hand, grimacing in discomfort.

"Where were you then?" Harry asks softly, afraid that any interruption will be long enough for Snape to change his mind.

"I - where I was is irrelevant.  But I have heard - details.  It was quite the event, Mr. Potter.  Even in defeat, you cause a sensation."

Harry would have rolled his eyes, were he not too nervous about what was going to follow.  Snape lets go of his ruined hand, and stares off into the distance.

"Lucius - Malfoy was there to witness your capture.  He was quite fond of the story, never missed an opportunity to recount it before he was Obliviated.  Although, as I'm sure you are aware, this particular storyteller is rather fond of embellishment."

“Could have told you that from his wardrobe.”

Snape seems momentarily shocked that Harry has spoken, and a tight frown briefly crosses his face.   It is a very strange expression - almost like pain, but not quite.  And then Harry realizes it; Snape was repressing a smile.  He had almost made Snape laugh.  The fact is so extraordinary that Harry briefly forgets what they are talking about.

"Quite," Snape replies, as if the word costs him something, "Malfoy had said that you - you were hurt."

"I'm sure I was."

"Your forces were failing.  All the Order members had been - were - badly injured." Harry knows instantly that Snape is lying. "The Death Eaters surrounded you, and the Dark Lord cast the Cruciatus."

Snape pauses for a moment, and Harry waits.  He has an infinite amount of patience, despite his age.   Getting information out of Snape is like coaxing a wild animal into your home; you must kneel, and beckon, and wait.

"And then you both fell.  You both started to scream, and thrash, and the Death Eaters looked on."

"And that's when they realized -"

"They might have realized it sooner.  You had been hurt badly in the battle, but the Dark Lord was similarly injured.  He may have mistaken your pain for his own."

Harry wets his lips.  He cannot remember any of this.

"So we both fell."

"Yes.  And when the effects had worn off, the Dark Lord raised his hand and shouted that no one was to touch you.  And no one did."

"Wow," Harry murmurs.  He notices Snape's hand is clenching his book so tightly that his knuckles have turned white.  "And then I was taken here?  That was it?"

"Yes," Snape says quietly, and then shifts his gaze slightly, "No.  No, you started to laugh."

"What?"

"Malfoy said that you - you started laughing.  Just after the Dark Lord spoke.  You started laughing, and no one said anything more.  Everyone else was silent, and you laughed until you lost consciousness."

For a second, Harry has a brief, dizzy spin of recollection; for a moment he can taste blood pulsing up into his mouth, and laughter so harsh and painful he may as well have been screaming.  It fades just as quickly as it came.

"No wonder Malfoy liked that story."

Snape nods, in awkward agreement.  He waits a moment longer, then turns his attention back to the book in his lap.  Harry lies back down again, and squeezes his eyes shut.  So Kingsley is probably dead.  And Tonks.  And Moody.  Either that, or something else too horrible to think on.  Either that, or -

"Snape," Harry says quietly, tilting his head upwards.

Snape meets his eyes from across the room, and Harry is surprised by how old the man looks.  Not that he ever thought Snape was a young, strapping thing - quite the contrary.  Something about the light, however, illuminates the creases in the man's face: the lines around his mouth, the darkness beneath his eyes.  His lips are so pale they are almost white.

"Thank you," Harry murmurs.

Snape opens his mouth to speak, and then rapidly closes it.  He shakes his head.

"Never thank me, Mr. Potter."

*****

The boy is asleep when Snape next arrives.

This does not happen often, but on occasion Snape is allowed a brief respite from awkward lines of questioning and card games meant for one-year olds.  It is blissful.  He spends these evenings reading, or writing, or occasionally being lulled by soft murmuring sounds, the steady breathing of the boy in his bed.  It is like rain against a roof.  Like waves on the shore.  Snape cannot remember the last time he listened to someone breathing as they slept, at least someone who had a choice in the matter.  It must have been years and years ago.  

Tonight the quiet sounds become a little much, and Snape is forced to retrieve a book from his robe pocket.  He reads for a short amount of time but finds his gaze repeatedly drawn to his prisoner.  He cannot make out any great detail in the dim light of the cell, except Potter's slightness.  The boy must be half-starved; he is nothing but a heap of limbs, a mess of sharp angles and straight lines.  At one point, Potter cries out softly, seemingly in the grips of a nightmare, but his breathing gradually returns to normal as the dream fades.  The night passes slowly, uncomfortably, as Snape turns and shifts on his stiff wooden chair (his hand aches) and tries to immerse himself in The Healing Properties of Arraroot: A Critical Introduction.  He is shockingly unsuccessful.  For the most part, he remains lost in his thoughts until the sound of footsteps on the stone staircase shakes him into awareness.  A short time later, the day guard arrives (Angus McSomething-something, as Potter so aptly puts it) and grunts his acknowledgement.

"Long night?" 

"Interminably."

The large man stares at Snape blankly, but Snape does not feel like clarifying.  Potter stirs at the conversation, and Snape turns to see the boy blinking sleepily, shaking the remnants of a dream from his soft gaze (Harry Potter's eyes are green beyond all reason.)  Snape turns away stiffly, gathers his belongings, and begins his long trek up the winding staircase that will bring him to the outside world.

Later, in his rooms, he clenches broken fingers around his wand.

He holds his wand outstretched in his hand (damn you) trying to calm his trembling.  He turns his wrist slowly, unsurprised to feel the familiar ache pulse through his arm.  He tries again (for god's sake) twisting purposefully, relaxing his fingers, relaxing his arm all the way up to his shoulder, breathing out fiercely through his nostrils.  

"Lumos," he whispers, barely a breath against the stone walls of his bed chamber.

His arm pulses again, this time with pain - sharp and fast and rust-coloured.  

"Lumos," he repeats himself, moving slowly, carefully.  Lumos, bloody fucking Lumos, goddamn it -

When he sleeps that afternoon, he dreams of candlelight - candlelight that springs forth at a word, that hangs at his lips and runs hot wax down his throat, while Harry Potter lays quiet and soft and (always, always) sleeping.

*****

They hose down his cell the next day.  Harry along with it.  There is a drain in the floor, and a bucket for Harry's daily business, but it is still rather pleasant to get rid of the smell that the walls and floor are starting to acquire.  He wonders if Voldemort can feel it when the blast of water hits his skin.  For the rest of the day, the floors are slick and wet, and Harry's body feels like one giant bruise.

"The scent in here is distinctly less offensive," Snape sneers when he arrives, "They must have let you bathe."

"Not hardly." Harry's skin is red and raw, and his hair stills hangs damply against his face.  "They washed the cell.  I got in the way."

Something in Snape's face changes at this piece of information, but Harry can't be bothered to wonder what it is.  

"The Dark Lord will not be pleased," Snape murmurs after a moment.  "I am certain it was something he did not enjoy."

"Yeah, well, I hope not," Harry spits, "I hope he felt every fucking second of it."

Snape is watching him carefully.  Harry feels inexplicably close to tears, and it isn't from the pain.  It's from the fact that Snape is looking at him with pity - Snape, Snape of all people, Snape the one who should be on the other side of these bars, Snape the Death Eater piece of shite that has been weak, and snivelling, and pitied his whole bloody life.  Snape pities him.  It's almost too much.  He can read the 'I hope so too' in the man's bloody eyes, he can see it there, plain as if Snape had said it out loud.  

Snape opens his mouth to speak.  Harry cannot bear it.

"Piss off," Harry says quickly, with not nearly enough heat as he would have liked.  At first Snape seems rather surprised, but then he rolls his eyes.

"Of course, Mr. Potter.  A pleasure, as always."  Snape turns to his book, and Harry collapses on his bed.  The rest of the night goes by much too slowly, and he does not sleep until morning.

*****

Snape decides to bring a bottle of wine.  It isn't as if he should spend the evening completely without entertainment.

At first, Potter just eyes the bottle suspiciously as Snape settles himself into the loathesome chair.  He searches his robe pocket for his current book ( An Annotated History of Wandless Magic, Vol. II) and in his peripheral vision notices Potter gradually start to sit up. 

"Bloody hell," he mutters from his bed, "What's the occasion?"

Snape ignores the boy, and produces a wine glass from his sleeve.  He hears Potter laugh softly at the sight.

"Magic," the boy murmurs, and something in Snape clenches tightly, like a fist.  He has to wait a moment before speaking, until the tightness subsides.  

"Not hardly," he finally replies, pouring himself a substantial glass.  It is a tolerable vintage, a bit sweet, but not bad.  He savours the slow burn of it sliding down his throat. He waits, unbearably conscious of the boy watching his every moment.  Bloody hell.  "Don't you have some sort of tin cup in that cell of yours?"

Potter stares at him for a moment.  "I do, in fact.  But you can't mean -"

"I can, in fact.  If you produce your cup, you can taste your first 1982  Bourdeaux.”

The boy almost laughs.  "1982.  Good year for wine."

"As if you would know, infant."  A tin cup skitters along the floor, to rest at Snape's feet.  He retrieves it, and pours Potter a generous amount, given the circumstances.  Snape kneels at the bars, and slides the cup through, resting it on the stone floor.

Sometimes Potter is like a strange, wild thing.  He waits until Snape has returned to his chair, before leaving the bed, and examining the cup slowly.

"You aren't trying to poison me, are you?"

Snape snorts.

"Because if you are, just let me know.  I don't know if it would be my preferred method of death, but it's a start."

"Oh for god's sake, Potter, drink your wine."

A sly smile slides across the boy's face, and he takes a hesitant sip. 

"Not bad," he murmurs, after a moment, "Not bad at all.  A bit sweet for my taste, but not bad."

"Your praise is overwhelming."

"Do you think Voldemort will feel it if I get pissed?" Potter asks, taking another, deeper drink of the wine.

Snape stares into his glass, presses his thin lips together.  Fuck it.

"There is one way to find out," he says quietly, and Potter laughs.  Really laughs.  It is the first real laugh he has given since being taken by the Dark Lord, the first laugh Snape has heard from his lips in years.  There is something important in that laugh, something important in the way it makes Snape feel instantly too drunk and much to sober.  He cannot imagine, however, what that 'something important' might be (you cannot say it, even to yourself.)  His chest constricts, and his throat burns, from what has to be the wine. 

*****

Harry starts to sleep more during the day.  For no particular reason.

"What would you be doing?" he murmurs from his bed, "If - things had turned out differently?"

"If what had turned out differently?" Snape drawls in his bored, superior tone.  Harry can hear him turning pages every so often, and occasionally taking a sip of wine (the bottle has nearly become a weekly occurrence.)

"You know.  This.  The War, and Voldemort, and - everything."

Snape takes a deep swallow of his drink, and grimaces.  "I would probably be begging for mercy at the hands of the Wizengamot.  And then I would be sentenced to Azkaban, where I would live out the short and painful remainder of my useless life."

"My, aren't you a ray of sunshine tonight?  Even with alcohol in your system, you're a downer."  Harry tosses the rest of his wine back in one motion.  He looks up to find Snape's eyes resting on him, before the man shifts them quickly away.  It is a strange, unfamiliar discovery.

"My apologies if my answer didn't suit your taste," Snape continues, seemingly unconcerned, "You were expecting something more along the lines of backpacking across Europe, the great American novel, that sort of thing?"

Harry pauses, but decides to let it go.  "More or less."

"Sorry to disappoint.  We can't all of us have the world on a string, like the great Harry Potter."

Sometimes Snape is so bloody ridiculous it's almost funny.  Harry's lips quirk, and Snape frowns.

"What?"

"You forget," Harry murmurs, "You won.  I no longer have the world on my string, as you so nicely put it.  I, in fact, am presumed dead by the greater part of the Wizarding world.  I, in fact, would have been killed long ago in ways too horrible to mention, had it not been for one teensy tiny little fact."

"Teensy?" Snape sneers, "And they had me believe that your mind had not yet gone."

Harry is momentarily stopped from ranting, and seconds later a quiet huff of laughter escapes his lips.  It is terribly embarrassing.  Snape does not seem to notice, because seconds later his face turns white and flinches with a sudden pain.  Harry stops laughing immediately, and watches as Snape clutches his right hand to his chest, his eyes fluttering shut for a brief moment.  Harry knows this look - know this expression and this gesture as if it were his own, as if he'd lived with it for years.  He waits until Snape has relaxed slightly, and is slowly rotating his wrist, before speaking.

"What happened?" 

Snape looks up blankly, as if he had forgotten he was not alone. 

"What?"

"To your hand."  Harry frowns, disappointed with himself for actually wanting to know. "You never talk about it."

Snape pauses, wets his lips.  "The War, I suppose.  I do not believe there is a person it did not leave its mark on."

"And who marked you?" Harry continues, surprised at his own daring.  Snape seems surprised as well, for his lips go very white and his right hand flinches again.

"That - Mr. Potter - is perhaps a question for another day."

Sometimes Harry wonder if he will be 'Mr. Potter' for the rest of his bloody life, no matter how old or ridiculous or hopeless his situation has become.  

"Isn't it just," he murmurs, without smiling.  Snape meets his gaze for one small second, and in that second the room seems to shift slightly.  Something tightens, or changes shape. Harry does not know what precisely.  But something changes.  

Snape looks away suddenly, and retrieves his book from the arm of his chair.  Harry waits for a few minutes, to see whether Snape will respond to this last comment.  When he does not, and instead continues with his reading, Harry slouches back in his bed.  He wonders, not for the first time, how far below the earth he really is.  He wonders how many people know that he is still alive, if any of his friends know, or anyone cares enough to come looking for him.  He wonders if Snape knows the answer to these questions.

It is a frightening thought process, this.  Out of sheer boredom, Harry starts to drift in and out of a restless sleep.  His dreams are usually the same - war and death and bloodshed - only this time there are a pair of wide dark eyes, that meet his gaze, then quickly look away.

*****

Snape takes to bringing a bottle of wine more and more often.  It makes for a much more interesting evening.

"Hello," the boy sighs quietly, after Snape has not even been seated for ten minutes.

"Are you this sociable to your other guardian, or am I the only lucky one?"

"No, just you.  But don't spread it around.  I don't want feelings to get hurt." The boy sits up, and shakes himself awake.  "Then again, you're the only one who brings me wine.  I feel as you've earned it."

"The wine is primarily for myself.  To make the company a little more bearable."

The boy chuckles.  "Decent wine glasses, or do I still have to drink from my begging cup?"

Snape rolls his eyes.  "The cup, if you would be so kind."

Harry retrieves the tin cup from the ground by his bed, and rolls it underneath the bars to Snape.  Snape twists the cork out of the slim bottle, and fills the glass, slipping it through the bars to Harry.  He is very careful not to let any part of their hands touch.

"I've decided what I would do," the boy murmurs, taking a sip from his glass.  "By the way, this is bloody marvelous.  Red's always been my favourite."

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"What I would do.  If things had turned out differently."

"Besides be a permanent feature in Witch Weekly."

"Well that kind of goes without saying.  Didn't really feel like bringing it up."

Snape takes a drink from his glass, and savours the slow burn.  "Do enlighten me, Mr. Potter.  I scarcely know how I will think of anything else."

"A Glamour."  The boy looks obscenely pleased with himself.

"A Glamour?"

"A permanent Glamour.  Or at least one that didn't have to be reapplied too often.  I know it can be done - well, I mean, I've heard of it."

"It can be done," Snape murmurs noncommitally, "A Glamour of whom, may I ask?"

"Of no one," Potter practically beams.  "That's just it.  Someone that no one would ever recognize.  Someone that didn't exist.  And I could tell my friends, maybe, but no one else would know.  And that'd be it.  No more Harry Potter."  

"Very clever."  Snape takes another swallow of wine. "What would you look like, do you think?  Some strapping young lad, I suppose, to win the heart of many a fair maid?"

"Now that sounds just like me, I don't think." Potter shakes his head. "No, nothing like that.  Someone completely ordinary.  John Smith, that sort of thing."

"John Smith is so inconspicuous, it's conspicuous."

"Well, John Smithers, then, if that makes you happier.  I doubt it will be something I'll have to worry about in the near future."

"I should say not."

Potter pauses and studies the metal cup in his hand.  The lamplight reflects dully off the thick metal.

"Do you think - do you think they'll be able to sever it soon?"

"Sever it?"

"This connection.  Whatever it is."

Snape frowns. "I could not say."

"Because they'll kill me then.  You know that."

"I do."

Potter pauses again.  This time there is much more meaning in it.  Snape finds he cannot meet the boy's eyes.

"I never knew whose side you were on, really," he says quietly, fluidly, "I guess I never will."

"I thought you'd have figured it out by now, given the position you're in," Snape hisses, and the words cost him something.  He doesn't realize this until they have already escaped his lips, and hang sharply in the dusty prison air.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you," Potter murmurs.  "But -"  

He does not finish his thought.  They do not speak for the rest of the night, and Snape finds himself drinking his wine more quickly than usual.  Nerves, he tells himself.  Always nerves.

*****

Some nights are better than others.

"No wine tonight?" Harry asks, looking casually up from his bed.

Snape shakes his head.  "No."  

There is something more to that answer, hiding just behind Snape's clenched teeth and frosty disposition, but Harry decides not to explore further.  He watches Snape settle uncomfortably into his chair, stretching his long legs out in front of him.  The man looks older every time Harry sees him.

"Been a long day?" Harry comments, and Snape winces.

"Don't you have anything to read?"

"Course not.  Might cut my wrists with a scrap of paper."

"Hmm."  Snape unfolds a thin paperback from his robe pockets.  Harry squints to make out the title, but it eludes him.  He has obviously lived too long in darkness.

"Good book?"

Snape sighs one of his famous, put-upon sighs, and glares in his general direction.  

"I am not yet sure.  Perhaps I could establish an answer were I given more than fifteen seconds of silence at a time."  He sounds angry, but there is no heat in it.  Harry lets him go back to his reading, for awhile at least.  He stares up at the ceiling, stretches out his stiff back.  He thinks about the colour of Ginny Weasley's hair, red gold and flashing in the sunlight.  He thinks about the way that he never loved her, and the way she always knew it.

Snape's hands are shaking.

Harry blinks his eyes and looks closer.  It's true, Snape's hands are shaking around the small book that they hold.  Harry lets his gaze travel to Snape's eyes, and he can read the pain in them, coming in short sporadic bursts, like pulses of blood through the heart.  Snape rolls his right shoulder and grimaces. 

"You okay?" Harry asks after a minute, despite himself.

"Quite," Snape hisses.  If the word had been metal, Harry's throat would have been slit.  He perseveres nevertheless (brains were never his strong suit.)

"It's your hand again, isn't it?"

"Oh for god's sake, Potter, it's always my hand.  Don't you have revenge plans to be hatching, or some equally ludicrous thing?"

Harry frowns, wets his lips.  "You know," he starts quietly, "I took a bit of mediwizardry.  While the war was still on."

"You must be very proud," Snape does not spare Harry a glance, but keeps his eyes focused on the page in front of him.

"And I studied some of that - whatsit - reflexology.  Actually.  You know, the bit about the pressure points and the pain relieving -"

"I am well aware of the meaning of the word.  This conversation is now at an end."

"Dammit, Snape, you are so bloody ridiculous.  All I was trying to do -"

"I know damn well what you were trying to do," Snape hisses, eyes suddenly flashing, book on the ground, "Damn well.  Offer your services to your poor crippled prison guard?  Try to ingratiate yourself into my twisted, dried up old heart?  Well it will not work.  I do not need anyone's pity, least of all yours.  You can spare me -"

"It's not pity," Harry retorts, suddenly furious.  And it wasn't pity, it really wasn't.  Snape was an absolute bastard; how could anyone pity the man?  And yet -

"It's not pity," he says again, "It's just - I thought I might help you.  Give your hand here."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Oh come on, Snape.  Don't be such a baby.  I promise not to offend your delicate sensibilities.  It's just your hand."

"As I said before, Mr. Potter, this conversation is finished."

"Snape," Harry murmurs.

Snape will not meet his eyes.  He stares at the floor, the walls, looks anywhere but into the cell.

"Snape," Harry repeats.

Snape looks very torn for one brief second, and then murmurs something under his breath.  Harry strains to listen, but cannot make the words out.

"What did you say?"

"I said if you promise to shut up about it."

Harry grins, pleased when Snape rolls his eyes yet again.  "Of course.  Come here."

He watches as Snape stiffly rises from the chair, and gets to his knees beside the bars of Harry's cell.  After a moment he shifts in a cross-legged seating position, his bony knees sticking sharply out beneath him.

"Let's see your hand."

Snape waits a second before extending his right hand through the cell bars, white fingers unfurling slowly.  What was that saying, you could tell someone's age by looking at their hands?  If Harry had to judge by Snape's hands, he would guess the man was mid-twenties, tops.  Certainly not the hunched, dark-eyed wizard that sat before him.  Aside from the nails, slightly yellowed and bitten here and there, Snape's hands were - lovely.  Ugh, and that thought was enough to put hair on your chest.

"Shall I just continue my reading?" Snape interrupts sharply, and Harry realizes he had been staring into space.

"Oh.  No.  Here."  He grips Snape's hand in both of his, surprised at once by how cold his skin is.  He strokes upward with his thumbs and Snape makes a small sound under his breath, but does not take his hand away.  

"Did that hurt?" Harry asks.

"No more so than usual."

Slowly, Harry navigates his thumbs to the palm of Snape's hand.  He presses down there, in short strong pulses.  He hears Snape breathe out through his nose.

"If any of this feels too bad, you have to let me know."

Snape makes no answer, so Harry continues.  He rubs the joints of Snape's fingers, the knuckles.  He slides his hands up and presses on the tip of each finger, lightly.  Snape's hand twitches.

"You doing okay?"

"If I was not, you would certainly hear about it."

Harry laughs softly, and rubs the space between Snape's thumb and forefinger.  He trails his hands up to Snape's wrist, pushing the man's sleeve up slightly.  Harry rubs there for a few moments, enjoying the interplay of bone and tendon underneath his fingers.  He really had been good at this.  It's amazing how easily one forgets.

He looks up and Snape is staring at him.  Their eyes meet, and Snape wrenches his hand back as if burned.

"That will do, for this evening," he says quietly, already getting to his feet.  The older man sounds rather breathless.  Harry presses his lips together.

"Does it feel any better?"

Snape looks down at his hand, and flexes his fingers once.  "Um.  Yes.  A bit."

"Well, good then."

Snape nods brusquely, and sits back in his chair.  From time to time, he looks down at his hand, frowning.  He glances over at Harry and meets his gaze on more than one occasion.  After getting tired of whatever game is being played, Harry shuffles himself around, and leans back against the bars of his cell.  His meandering thoughts are immediately interrupted.

"My hand," Snape begins, his voice cutting through the silence,"my hand.  Bill Weasley."

"Bill?" Potter murmurs, the name long absent from his mouth.  It feels good to say it.  Harry can remember the days when he would say Bill's name three times before noon and not even think on it.

"Bill," Snape repeats himself, and then laughs.  It is a strange, burnt kind of laughter, and it spills bitterly out of Snape's throat.  "One of the final battles, I don't remember when.  It was in Kingsbury Park, I think, right outside that little town."

"I remember that one," Harry says softly.  (The Death Eaters lit an Auror on fire in Kingsbury Park, Harry can still hear the woman screaming.)  He turns his body back around to face the older man. "I was there."

"I know that." Snape pauses, bites down on his thin lips. "I was looking for you.  And then I had a run in with your Mr. Weasley, and -"

"You were looking for me? Why?"

"I - it does not matter. Bill Weasley found me first, and severed the tendons on the right side of my body."

Harry is silent for a moment, stomach clenching violently.  He has seen that Curse, once though, only once.  The victim in question was shredded from head to toe, head lolling to the side, ligaments pushing through bruised skin.  Harry pushes his fingers against his eyelids to block the image from his mind.  He listens to the sound of Snape's steady breathing, and waits a minute more before being able to speak again.

"I might have done worse," he whispers. 

"You might have tried," Snape replies.

Harry almost smiles at this comment, although there is no warmth in it.  "I wasn't very fond of you, just then."

"I can recall."

"The rest of you seems pretty much in tact.  Barely any scars, even.  Why does your hand -"

"They were able to heal most of my body.  But the tendons in the hand are very - complex.  The Healers fixed them as best they could, but it never fully recovered.  And it won't, I imagine."

"Can you brew?"

"No.  Neither can I use use my wand, for the most part."

"So what do you do?'

"This."

"Huh."  Harry wets his lips before speaking again.  "That's - that's awful Snape."

Snape eyes him sharply, before turning back to his reading.  "A shame the great Harry Potter wasn't there to save me."

Harry has no response to this.  He climbs back into his bed, and lies down.  He has almost gotten used to the rough blankets, the occasional drip of water, the smell of stale air and sweat and stone.  Except tonight the smell is different.  Something darker, almost sweeter.  Harry doesn't understand it, until he realizes that it's Snape - Snape that he's smelling, Snape whose scent has soaked into the pores of his hands, is running spider-legged up his arms and his neck.  It is not an entirely unpleasant scent, to be honest.  Disturbing, maybe, but not unpleasant.  Harry squeezes his eyes closed to stop himself from thinking about what this means.  He squeezes his eyes shut, but he does not sleep.

*****

Some nights are worse than others.

Snape has not even been there for five minutes before Potter is sitting bolt upright in bed, face flushed.

"What happened to the Weasleys?"

Snape feels the skin pull tight across his chest and neck.  Days ago they were exchanging bloody hand massages and now it's back to this.  This boy is unbalanced in his grief.

"I - do not know."

"You bloody well do too.  You bloody well know."

"Mr. Potter, I do not."

"It's not 'Mr. Potter' anymore, is it?  You fucking won, Snape.  You should get fucking used to it.  Now what happened to the Weasleys?"

"I have told you, I do not know."

"But you're lying!" Potter rises from his bed, and stands flush against the bars of his cell.  His hands are clenched so tightly they go white.

"I was under the impression that - the youngest one -"

"Yeah, well, you're bloody thick if you thought I didn't know about Ginny.  What about the others?  Did they wind up in some camp, or ditch, or what?"

"I do not know," Snape hisses.  But he does know.  He does.

"You fucking bastard!" Potter scoops up his tin cup in one easy motion, and fires it through the bars.  It doesn't come close to hitting Snape, but makes a metallic clanging sound when it collides against the rock floor.  "Do you think you're being kind?  That you're sparing me?  I tell you Snape, it's one million times worse not to know, than to hear all kinds of unimaginable details.  So don't do me any fucking favours."

"I will not be spoken to in that tone," Snape spits, rising from his chair, "You forget, Potter, that you are the prisoner here.  You are not in control, you have no say in -"

"How could I forget that?  How could I forget that?  You think because you bring me wine and cards I've started to think we're friends?  I've started to think 'hey, this isn't so bad, a bloke could get used to this, kind of like a vacation, and now that you mention it that Snape fellow sure is a stand-up mate, always there when you need him?'  You think there isn't one second, one bloody second, that I'm not completely aware that I'm buried below the earth, as good as dead to anyone that ever knew me, and being kept alive only by one random coincidence?"

"Apparently not -"

"These bars don't become just part of the view.  Okay?  So don't you ever say I don't know where I am.  I know where I fucking am.  I know it better than you."

Snape presses his lips together.  He will not indulge the boy by continuing this further.  He bends stiffly, and retrieves the metal cup from the ground.  Slowly, as if trying to calm a nervous animal, he holds the cup out in front of him, so that Potter can reach out for it if he so chooses.  The boy looks from Snape's hand, to his face, back to his hand again.  As he takes the cup, their fingers brush against each other -

Before Potter hurls the cup through the bars again.  It hits Snape squarely in the knee, and he hisses in displeasure.  

"Such a child, even now.  Your father would be so proud."

"I hate you," Potter spits, lips red and bitten, "I hate you so goddamned much."

He moves away from the cell bars, never taking his eyes off of Snape. Snape is not about to be bullied by some child, so he ignores Potter's glare, choosing instead to sit back and pretend to read his book.  He hears Potter climb into bed, making entirely too much noise (no doubt to display his displeasure), and is suddenly very tired.  It is a ridiculous situation.  And Harry Potter is a fool to think he can make Snape feel guilty, a fool to think his bravado and obscenity are the least bit intimidating, the least bit shocking or frightening or mature.

Nevertheless, Snape does not return the tin cup until the boy is breathing steadily, and it is nearly morning.  (When he returns to his rooms, his wand is cold and lifeless in his hand, and the candle will not light.)

*****

They play cards again, Crazy Eights this time.  Harry wins three times in a row, before Snape irritatedly tells him to go to bed (it is worth it though, just for the look on his face.)  Harry is rude, Snape is cruel, and Harry goes to bed.  Not an eventful evening, but better than many previous.  (Harry can't remember what a hand feels like on his skin, not even fingertips.  He traces his own hand over his sunken stomach when he is sure Snape is not looking, but it is not the same.)

He is woken the next morning by voices.

"- better watch yourself.  I've seen it, you know."

Harry's brain clears blurily.  For a few moments there seems to be a loud Scottish man shouting in his dream, until he suddenly remembers where he is.  Angus.  Or something.

"What on earth are you talking about?"  The lower, darker voice - obviously Snape's.  The man must just be leaving, which means it is much too early in the morning.  That is not a pleasant thought.  Harry squeezes his eyes shut, and buries his face in the pillow.

"He's not a bad looking lad, I'll give you that.  But just watch yourself, Snape, that's all I'm saying."

Harry's eyes open.

"You have no idea what you're talking about," Snape hisses, obviously attempting to keep the volume of the conversation down.

"Oh come off it.  You're old enough to be his bleeding father.  And I've had young men in my time, believe me, but -"  

Harry strains to hear, but Angus' voice becomes a low rumble, and he can't make out the words.  He hears Snape reply tersely, but can only make out snatches of what the man says.  He really hasn't the strength to try harder.  Eventually he hears footsteps climbing the stairs to the surface, and realizes Snape has left.  Angus moves around outside the cell, scraping the chair this direction and that, before finally seeming to get comfortable.

Harry lies absolutely still.

And then.

"Don't pretend you're not awake in there, boy," Angus shouts out, his voice rattling against the walls, "You just thank the stars that someone's taken a shine to you.  Might come in handy now and then."   He laughs loudly and wetly, eventually subsiding into a fit of choking coughs.  Harry pretends he did not hear him.  He pretends he is lying in bed in his own house, and it is Sunday morning.  And there is sunlight.  And tea (oh god, there is tea.)  And there are clean sheets and open windows and -

-and someone else.  A warm body, pressed all along the length of his.  A warm strange body, with long arms, and soft breath, and a face he does not recognize.

*****

Wine has not been strong enough lately.  Snape fills a flask of whisky, and has finished half of it by the time he arrives for his watch.  Instantly Harry bleeding Potter is sitting up in bed, watching him with unhappy eyes.  The boy can go hang, for all Snape cares.  He has bigger things on his mind than inches of white skin, and open mouths and - wait -

"You seem to be drinking a lot lately," the boy murmurs.

"How good of you to notice.  Perhaps there are some changes to my diet you would also like me to consider."

"Christ, Snape.  I'll just shut up, shall I?"

"Oh please, by all means."

Potter hisses his disapproval, and murmurs a few unflattering things under his breath, but otherwise remains silent.  Snape allows the brief absence of chatter to wash over him, spill over his hand and run through his hair.  It really is lovely.  It really is.  Even lovelier when drunk.

He tips more whisky down his throat.  The room swims with the slight rush of exhilaration that follows, and Snape leans back against his chair.  He can hear Potter thrashing around in his blankets and sheets, getting comfortable in an altogether violent manner. The boy is completely ridiculous.  The boy is - something else entirely.  He had been about to think something else, hadn't he?  He can't seem to put words to it now.  The ground lurches oddly under his feet.  (Harry Potter has eyes like the dark places of the forest, a green that has never seen sunlight.) 

Snape tips the bottle back again, and wipes away a slight trickle that escapes from the corner of his mouth.  In doing so, his right hand spasms uncomfortably, and he clenches his fingers.  He realizes that Potter is watching him from bed - he can't see the boy clearly, but he can feel that familiar green gaze upon him, scrutinizing his small movements.  It is a gaze he is becoming all too accustommed to.  

"Harry goddamned Potter," he slurs, enjoying the curves of the name against his tongue.

"Now you're the one talking to me, are you?  You must be pretty bloody drunk."

"Must be."

"I don't imagine Voldy would be too pleased about that, do you?  Supposed I were to try to hang myself right now.  Suppose I were to find something sharp.  You're hardly in the position to stop me."

Snape squeezes his eyes together to process this.  

"Don't," is all he can come up with.

"Don't?  'Course not.  Would hate my death to cause you any trouble."

Snape is silent.  There is always something to Potter's words that troubles him, even when he isn't in the usual state of intoxication.  Always another meaning behind the arrogance, or shy sarcasm.  Always something more, something hidden.  (Harry Potter has eyes the colour of the deeper parts of the sea, a green that has no bottom.)

That morning when Snape tries to lift his wand, his fingers spasm and refuse to close.  He flings it across the room in a small and petty act of vindication, and the candle remains unlit.

*****

"I know why you killed him."  

Harry pauses breathlessly after saying it, partly amazed that he was finally able to form the words.  Snape has been silent all evening (he reeked like alcohol the moment he bloody arrived) and Harry could not stomach it for much longer.

"I - beg your pardon?" Snape murmurs, glancing up viciously at him.  Harry feels that glare to the base of his spine, but steels himself against it.

"Don't pretend you don't know who I'm talking about.  I know why."

Snape seems to consider this.  He closes the book in his lap.  "And how long have you been waiting to have this little conversation?"

"My whole bloody life," Harry replies wryly.  He watches Snape wet his lips, and is unduly impressed with himself.

"Very well then," Snape begins, with only a hint of a slur in his words. "Why don't you tell me exactly what it is you think you know?"

Harry smiles then, and he can almost feel Snape tense.  He shouldn't be enjoying this as much as he is.  He really shouldn't.

"Albus left me his Pensieve."

Snape breathes out through his nose.  "No.  No, he did not."

"You're so certain of that?"

"It was destroyed.  The Dark Lord made sure of it.  It was -"

"Well, yes, it was.  But not before I got to it."

Snape does not break their shared gaze for even a second, and Harry finds himself strangely breathless with the intensity.  There are deep circles below Snape's eyes, so purple they could be bruises.

"What I don't understand," Harry continues, when he is able to speak, "is why you helped Albus - why you lived and breathed and died for the Order - and now you're my prison guard.  I mean - I just don't understand it.  Here's your chance, you could do something, you -"

"I could murder you, you mean."

Harry's mouth goes suddenly dry.  "Well, I guess - yeah - you could do that.  I was thinking more along the lines of letting me go.  But whatever works."

He is shocked by Snape's sudden bark of laughter.  It is a terrible kind of laughter, the same sort of sound Harry imagines he must have made while dying at Voldemort's feet.  Snape may as well be choking.

"You think - you think that I could let you go?  You honestly think that?"

It takes a moment for Harry to process this.

"What -"

"I have no magic.  Nothing.  None at all.  I cannot light so much as a bloody candle.  Your day guard, Angus, is a squib Potter, a bloody squib.  And I'm a cripple.  This is no accident."

"So - so you -"

"I am useless to you.  I am useless to you, just as I am useless to the Dark Lord."

Harry feels this piece of information like a fist in his belly, twisting and twisting against his stomach.  He tries to remain silent, but is unsuccessful.

"Fuck," he hisses, and a brief smile touches Snape's lips.

"Indeed."

Having nothing more to add, Harry lies back in bed.  Utter hopelessness must have exhausted him, for his eyes seem to be closing of their own volition.  He is pulled languidly between waking and sleeping, until something crosses his mind.  No matter how he tries, he can't let go of it, and his eyes flutter open once more.  He parts his lips, but remains lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.

"Whose side would you have been on if you had been there - the night that I was taken? What would you have done?"

He can nearly hear the whirring of Snape's mind, wheels and levers clicking and sliding into place, as the man processes this question.  He suddenly wants to see Snape's face, but is too self-conscious to sit up.  He lies awake, waiting for an answer.

"I would have died for you."

Harry closes his eyes, and tries to ignore the ache inside his chest, and the sudden, unexpected lurching of his tired heart.

*****

When Snape arrives, the boy is nearly asleep.  He rolls onto his back for a moment, and murmurs a weary greeting, before continuing to snore softly.  It is just as well.  Snape has a great deal of self-imposed study to carry out, and does not need another evening spent in memory of Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter laughs softly in his sleep.)

Snape stares at the page in front of him.  A headache flickers briefly, just behind his eyebrows.

The boy laughs again, moving restlessly in his sleep.  It does not sound like a nightmare.  Snape hopes the boy will at least be quiet.

And then Potter moans.  Snape realizes his knuckles have gone very white.  He relaxes his hold on the book in his hands, and Potter moans again, a low, deep, spine-curving moan.  It is evidently a very good dream.  Snape hears the boy twisting in his sleep, moving softly through sheets and blankets, and keeps his eyes firmly trained on the page in front of him. Greenwich root.  Blue asphodel.  The properties of -

"oh," Potter murmurs, the word curling and uncurling in the still air, "oh yes-"

Snape does not look up.  He will not look up.  And if the boy does not finish this indecent display soon, then he will rattle the bars until he wakes.  Give him a minute more. Just a minute more.

Potter moans again, and whispers something inaudible.  Perhaps it is a name.  Something in Snape tightens, and he wonders who is lucky enough to find themselves on the lips of Harry Potter's wet dream.  He wonders if that person is still alive, or has long since perished in the labour camps.  He wonders if the boy loved them, if he kissed them and fucked them and called them all kind of unmentionable names.  He wonders if the boy was loud during sex, if he liked to push and bite and push some more, or if he wanted to be held down, spat on, and kissed until his lips were swollen and rough.  Snape wonders -

"Oh," the boy exclaims suddenly, and Snape is suddenly very aware of where he is, and who he is listening to.  Just when it seems you can't go any lower, an inner voice hisses viciously, and Snape can only agree with it.  He will not listen to this any more.  He cannot do this.  He will not.

Snape rises from the chair, and is instantly paralysed by Harry bloody Potter.  Harry bloody-goddamn-him-he-will-NOT-do-this-to-me Potter.  Who is currently lying on his stomach, sheets and blankets fallen to reveal a back the colour of fresh milk, of new snow, and grinding into his mattress.  Grinding.  There is no other word for it.  Snape cannot see his face, but he can hear the soft, mewling delicious sounds that will not stop spilling from the boy's lips, will not stop whispering up against Snape's skin, or twining themselves between his fingers, or - or -

"Oh," Potter whispers, and Snape feels himself harden instantly, feels himself pulled so tight with wanting he must be sixteen again, and he tries to tamper the lust, tries to remind himself he is old and ugly and spoiled and there is a boy in that bed, but he can't manage to do it.  He can't disgust himself, not here, not now, and he can't stop the desire rising in his belly like a wave, moving up up up, reaching the cusp and almost spilling over.  

Harry Potter has a beautiful voice.

The thought makes Snape wish they had left some of the sharp objects in the room.

"-please, I -" the boy murmurs softly, and heat rises to Snape's face.  He puts his hand between his legs and presses, determined to stop this here, to let it go no further.  He is quite sure he will succeed, until Harry Potter rises slightly in the bed, and shudders.  He shudders and shakes and lets out a soft, almost pained gasp, and Snape presses into his hand more firmly, staving off the pleasure that is barrelling so rapidly towards him he can feel it in his teeth, the muscles of his calves oh god and suddenly he is coming, coming, with barely a hand to him.  The pleasure is so fierce his knees almost give beneath him, and he puts one hand on the cell bars to steady himself as each spasm ripples up his spine.  He tries to bite his tongue, the inside of his cheek, but it has been too long, oh god, so long -

" -ah - ah-" 

It's all that escapes his thin and bitten lips, but it is enough.  Potter is suddenly awake and wild-eyed, and staring at his professor (no, his jail-guard, Snape reminds himself) as he shakes himself to pieces, pressed up against his own hand.

Snape waits until the aftershocks have subsided, before he allows himself to be appropriately mortified.  Potter is still staring at him, lips parted, completely at a loss for words.  Severus cannot yet bring himself to move.  The longer he stays absolutely still, the longer he remains in this moment, the longer it will be until the next one takes place - the next one in which he has to deal with the repercussions of the first orgasm he has had in months.  A hideous fact in itself, made even more hideous by the current situation.  He can think of nothing remotely appropriate to say, save for several Unforgivables.  

Harry Potter stands slowly.  The sheets from his bed pool on the ground.  Snape does not move as Potter crosses the room, coming to stand directly in front of him.  Though Snape tries desperately to focus on the boy's face, his traitorous eyes keep scanning over thin prison garb hanging from a narrow frame, and the evident hardness that has not gone away.  There is a small wet spot on the front of Potter's nightclothes, and for a brief impulsive second Snape aches to trace it with his tongue.  Potter leans his head forward, until their foreheads touch.

"Would - would you -"

Snape cannot think for a moment.  His body moves of its own volition, however, and his good hand finds itself slipping past the waistband of Potter's pants and sliding against the soft skin underneath.  The boy is hard and eager, and curves perfectly into Snape's palm.  The only sound in the room is their simultaneous heavy breathing, and the wet slap of flesh on flesh as Snape jerks Potter to a trembling, shuddering orgasm (it is over much too quickly, Snape realizes he could have done that for days, could have spent hour upon hour with his hands on Potter's skin, and his mouth mapping each small detail of the boy's neck.)

When he removes his hand, he resists the urge to run his tongue against his fingers, to suck the taste of the boy from every crease on his palm.  Instead, he wipes his hand on the side of his trousers, and realizes that (against all lessons of biology) he is hard again.  It is completely unexpected.  Potter notices as well, for the boy's hands are quickly reaching for the buckle of his belt.  Snape takes a quick step back.

"No," he hisses once, heart-rate skittering out of control.  The boy narrows his eyes.

"Why?"

"Just - just no."  Snape fools himself into believing his conscience has not yet sunk so low, that he is above (slightly) excepting pitiful hand-jobs by prisoners under his care.  That lends the impression that Snape has some sort of moral backbone, which of course he does not.  He manages to make his legs work, and he slumps back into his chair.  It is uncomfortable enough, and even more so with the congealing mess inside his trousers.  This is too hideous to be borne.   Potter clears his throat, still standing unmoving by the bars.

"I'm twenty years old," he says softly.

Snape tears his eyes away from the boy.  After a moment more of silence, he hears rustling blankets as Potter lies back down.  

Somewhere, far off in the distance, someone is laughing softly.

"I'm twenty years old," Potter whispers from bed, "and you're the most sex I've ever had."

Snape realizes it is the boy who is laughing.  The laughter is changing however, to something much more painful.  Snape does not wish to hear it.   He does not.  He does not wish to sit there, still shaking from pleasure and humiliation, and listen to the soft sound of Harry Potter's breathing.  He wishes to be anywhere, anywhere but here, where the air smells like sweat and come and the soap Potter uses when he is allowed to bathe.  

Snape has made many wishes in his life.  He should be used to them going unanswered.  

He really should be.

*****

Harry does not say anything, at first.  He thinks he can wait for Snape to make the first move.  Snape however, has not spoken for three hours, and Harry has had all day to plan.  He should know better than to rely on Snape for anything (Snape sits hunched over his book, cheeks still slightly flushed, refusing to make eye contact.  He's like a child, really.)

"Snape," he begins, trying the word out in the silence.  It fits the room, just as it fits his mouth.

Snape says nothing.

"Snape, bloody hell -"

"I have nothing to say to you."

Well he should have expected that.  Harry ruffles his hair, and tries again.

"Snape -"

"What Potter?" the man spits, the words flecking like acid from his tongue.

Harry stares for a long moment at the man in front of him, the man who staunchly refuses to meet his eyes.

"What - are you reading?"

Snape looks up at this.  He glances from Harry to the book in his hands, and back to Harry once more.

"The Oxford Anthology of 20th Century Poetry," he says quietly.

Harry blinks.  "Oh - well."

"Is that surprising for some reason?"

"No - no, I just - I didn't know you could read anything other than, you know, Wizarding books.  About herbs and potions and such."

Snape snorts derisively.  "There has yet to be a great Wizard poet."

Harry presses his lips together.  He can remember the pressure of a smooth white hand as if it were still grasping at him, and the dizzy recollection makes heat bloom like an orchid in his stomach.  

"Would you - would you read one to me?" he asks nervously, and prepares himself for Snape to make the obvious scathing retort.

Snape, however, appears to be considering it.  He tilts his head slightly to the side, with an expression of concern that is instantly endearing.  He then glances back toward the book in his lap.  

"The message of the tree is this," Snape begins quietly, his low voice pooling through the room like wine. "Aloneness is the only bliss.  Self adoration is not in it.  Narcissus tried but could not win it."

Though Harry isn't usually much for poetry, he does like the sound of Snape's voice, the way it hugs the curves and cadence of each word.  He cannot believe he hasn't asked the man to read out loud before.

"The fire in the farthest hills is where I'd burn myself to bone," Snape continues.  "Clad in the armour of the sun, I'd stand anew, alone."

"That's very sad," Harry comments, when Snape pauses for breath.

"You think so?"

"Yes.  But lovely."

"So glad you approve," Snape murmurs but there is a softness in his voice.  He reads until Harry falls asleep, and his dreams are full of quiet baritone, and metaphors about flying.

*****

Angus breaks a glass in the cell, the next morning.  

Snape hears no end of outrage from the guards at the stairs, all of whom spent the entire day picking up every possible shard.  Snape refuses to feel bad about his own occasional wine glass in Harry Potter's company.  He, as opposed to Angus, is not a complete idiot.

Harry is standing at the cell bars when Snape arrives.

"I understand you have had quite the stimulating day."

Harry almost smiles, and Snape feels it in his ribs. "Yeah.  I hardly know how I'll be able to sleep tonight.  All the colour and sound and excitement - better than Christmas."

Snape snorts, and takes a seat.  He keeps his eyes on Harry Potter (as if he had any choice in the matter.)

"I want you to know something," Harry says quietly, "But first I want you to come here."

"Why?" Snape is instantly on guard.  

"Come here."

"If you batter me with that cup of yours, it will be the end of you."

Harry laughs and Snape rises from his chair, drawn weightlessly across the room.  He stands in front of the bars, and Potter looks at him.  He opens his mouth to speak, and then closes it again.  He smiles, and then looks away.  If Snape had been younger and tolerable looking, he might have mistaken this for flirting.  As it is the ground reels uncomfortably below his feet, and Harry reaches through the cell bars, taking hold of his collar.

"What -"

"Stay," Harry whispers, still clutching Snape's collar between small white fingers.  Snape feels the boy's pressure in the hollow of his throat, and catches his breath.  

"What are you doing?" he manages, through a throat intent on closing up.

"Stay," Harry says again, moving his hand down the long row of buttons on Snape's shirt.  Snape shudders and tries to take a step back, but the boy keeps a tight hold on the fabric.  Of course, Snape could easily twist Potter's hand and remove himself from the situation; he could have the boy gasping and on his knees with two motions.  He can't exactly recall what those motions are now, especially not with Harry Potter moving the palm of a hand against Snape's own flat stomach.

"Stop," he hisses, as Potter's hands move to the buckle on his belt.

"No," the boy murmurs, sliding leather against brass, turning his attention to the button of Snape's trousers.  Snape notices the boy's hands are shaking, and there's that want again - the want that seems to gather on Potter's upper lip, hang like a jewel around the boy's throat, and Snape tries to tell him to stop once again, but the word dies on his lips, slides off his tongue in an anguished hiss.

He has not been touched for twelve years.

"I want this," the boy says softly, moving gracelessly to his knees, "Let me have this."  He slides Snape's zipper down, and his trousers fall awkwardly to his knees.

"I do not -" Snape cannot continue any farther, since the boy has placed his hand over the hardness in Snape's pants, tracing the outline of his cock with unsteady fingers.  Snape resists the urge to push, resists the urge to close Potter's fingers around him and thrust and thrust and thrust until the boy's hand goes numb.  Instead, he breathes out shakily, and bites the inside of his cheek.

"I like the way you feel," Potter murmurs, and Snape watches the smile that curls across the boy's lips.  Thin fingers trace the waistband of his underwear, pale hands start to ease it past his hips.

"Stop," Snape says again, but cannot bring himself to mean it.  Potter must realize this, for he pays no mind to the directive, slipping the pants lower until Snape's cock springs free, hard and needy in the cool air.  Snape watches him, mouth opened slightly, and his ribs contract around his heart when the boy's brow furrows in concentration.  Without warning, Potter bends and takes the head fully in his mouth. 

"oh - OH - fuck -"

The sensation is so powerful and so sudden that Snape has to cry out, and he does, the air is rent with his broken cry.  The boy has no finesse, no technique at all, but his greedy enthusiasm makes Snape harder than all the finesse in the world; the boy sucks hungrily on him, and Snape has to clench the cell bars to keep from sinking to the ground.  His throat is dry, and his tongue tastes bitter and rusty, but he cannot stop gasping, he cannot stop making small ridiculous noises, and he finally has to bite down on the inside of his cheek just to silence himself.  It only works briefly.

"Your - please your- hand -"

Potter obliges, wrapping his hand around the base of Snape's cock while Snape thrusts in and out of the boy's perfect mouth. It is unpracticed, but there is a kind of wonder in the lack of practice - a sort of delicious, trembling, pulsing kind of pleasure, a longing that has no name (only colours, only shapes.)  He is so so close, balanced on the razor’s edge of pain and bliss, and when Harry Potter raises shy fingers to the juncture of his thighs and pushes just just there, Snape is suddenly coming in a rush - so violently he feels lightheaded, nearly doubles over.  Potter swallows and swallows with his unpracticed mouth, choking only once.  A small trickle of come runs from the corner of his lips, and Snape reaches down to wipe it away.

The boy draws his mouth back with a messy wet sound, and presses feverish kisses up the length of Snape's inner thighs.

"Thank you," the boy murmurs breathlessly, and Snape cannot yet find air enough to speak.  He does not understand what has just happened, has not yet recovered sufficiently.  Give him a few minutes, and he will be mortified beyond belief, give him a few more, and he will be his vitriolic self again.  Just not right now.  He sinks gracelessly to the ground, and does not move.

After a moment, cold hands tip Snape's head back, and smooth the hair from his face.  Potter's lips loom in his line of vision, and for a moment Snape feels the pull of those lips on his own, wants permission into that small mouth, wants to lash out with teeth until Harry Potter is coming and coming all over his hands -

"I just want you to know," the boy says quietly, "I would have done things differently.  For you.  I would - I would have made things better.  If I could have."

Snape's post-orgasmic stupor has not yet lifted. They wait a minute more in silence, until Snape's legs stop shaking, his heart stops beating in a continuous desperate patter, like rain against a tin roof.  Potter helps him to his feet, and pulls his pants back into place.  He does buttons, buckles his belt, with an efficiency that is almost startling.

"I like  you, Snape," the boy continues, "Isn't that ridiculous?"

"What's going on?" Snape asks quietly, something cold starting to move through his blood stream.

"I like you," Potter says again.  "I really do."

He laughs quietly, and Snape sees something sparkle on the ground at the boy's feet.  The boy is crouching down before Snape even has time to process this discovery.

"Harry -" he shouts instantly - unaware that he is shouting, unaware that this is the first time he has ever called the boy by his ridiculous first name -

"Sorry," the boy says quietly, meeting Snape's eyes for just a moment.  Potter is on his hands and knees on the ground, and Snape stumbles backwards, feeling blindly for the intercom  -

"Sorry," the boy murmurs again, and Snape looks up to see him draw the small sparkling shard in one jagged movement against his throat.  It is only a tiny sliver of glass but the damage is unimaginable; at once the perfect white throat is bisected with red, red pulsing and gushing and Snape immediately feels his own blood drain from his body, feels each beat of Potter's struggling heart as it if were his own.

"Help!" he shouts into the small metal box, "Someone!"

He tears off his shirt, heedless of the buttons that go flying.  The boy is gurgling on the floor, one white hand curling and uncurling, and Snape reaches through the bars and holds the fabric against slick red skin, pressing harder and harder, goddamn him, so much blood -

"Help!" he shouts again, as the boy's eyes flicker and shut ( it's your move, you know ) "help" as the boy's lips part weakly, ( I might have done worse ) "help" as his shirt grow heavier and damper, and Harry Potter lies dying in his arms.

*****

Nights pass.

*****

Harry does not see Snape for two weeks, until he is moved back into his cell.  The day guard is someone new; Harry does not want to think about what happened to Angus.  He lies on his bed for the majority of the day, and does not speak.  When Snape arrives, Harry can feel it without even looking up.  He closes his eyes, and listens as the man slowly approaches the cell bars.  He closes his eyes, and tries to speak.

"What happened to the Weasleys?" he asks, his voice like ripped paper.

Snape takes a sharp breath in, but says nothing.

"I know you know."

"Look at me," Snape says softly, and Harry does.  The older man's eyes rest violently on his throat, the scar which must still be raw and pink and shining, like the inside of a fish.  Harry is not embarrassed by the way he looks, only by the fact that he is still breathing.  Snape looks as if he might fall down.

"You should see the other guy," Harry murmurs, but Snape does not smile.

"They - cut your hair," he says quietly, and Harry self-consciously tugs on a short curl. 

"Yeah.  And shaved my scruff away.  Better than a weekend at the spa."

Snape does not move, and does not seem able to take his eyes away from Harry's throat.  Harry raises his fingers to his neck, and traces the delicate skin there.

"You shouldn't have saved me."

Snape's lips press into a thin, straight line. "Don't be ridiculous."

"It would have been over, Snape.  He would have died.  Just like that - one tiny broken piece of glass, one tiny movement of my left hand.  Poof.  Gone."  He waves his hand vacantly, something fading into darkness. "Like magic."

"Like magic," Snape shakes his head, anger building in his smooth voice,  "And then what, Potter?  Then what?  Who rises to take his place?  Lucius bloody Malfoy?  Someone else?  Whatever you think, the world does not begin and end with the death of one man."

"Don't you think I know that?" Outraged, Harry rises from his bed, moving to stand closer to the bars, "Don't you think I bloody know that?  I'm twenty years old, Snape, don't speak to me like I'm a goddamn child.”

"I will speak to you like a goddamn child whenever I damn well please,” Snape hisses, their faces so close together Harry thinks for a moment that the man will bite him.

"Why, because you think you have some sort of responsibility for me?  You don't even know me, Snape, you can't even bloody stand me, and one blow job does not create some sort of bond -"

"Oh for god's sake -"

"And speaking of acting like a child, maybe you can tell me what happened to the Weasleys?  Since we're each being so honest and mature and -"

This is as far as Harry gets before Snape grabs his nightclothes and pulls him flush against the cell bars.  Their noses almost touch, and his collar digs painfully into the newly healed scar, but he is too surprised to say or do anything.

Snape stares at him, face contorted in anger, two spots of red appearing on his normally pale skin.  Harry thinks for a moment that Snape might hit him, and cannot suppress the flinch that shudders through him.  Snape sees this, and his face softens, but he does not release his hold on Harry's shirt.

"This will never happen again," he says quietly, eyes riveted on Harry's throat, "Do you understand me?"

Harry says nothing.

"Ron Weasley is alive, last I heard.  Molly Weasley and one of the twins as well, though I do not know which one.  The second oldest boy is missing.  The rest have been killed."

It seems unbelievable for a moment, and Harry cannot move.  Then his knees give out and he nearly slides to the ground.  Snape's hands on his collar are the only force keeping him upright.  

Ron is alive.  Ron is alive.  Ron is alive.

"Fuck, Snape," he whispers, instantly mortified by the way his voice cracks and breaks, mortified by the way he has to squeeze his eyes together to stop from weeping or screaming or dying then and there.  When he opens his eyes again, Snape is staring down at him.

"This will never happen again," Snape repeats.  

Harry looks up at him, gaze foggy.

"Then you had better do something to stop me."

Snape's eyes shine then, in a way Harry has never seen before.  It is as if someone has struck a match and held it beneath Snape's skin, pressed close against the surface.

"Rest assured Mr. Potter," he murmurs quietly, "I will."

*****

Things continue much as they had been.  Snape is very careful not to touch the boy.

"Can I ask you a question?" Potter  asks, and then pauses.  Snape does not look up at him.  He refuses to take his gaze away from Medieval Alchemy and YOU for even a moment, but he can still hear the sound of the boy chewing softly on his bottom lip.  The image of that lip flashes unbidden across Snape's mind, and he bites down hard on the inside of his cheek.

Obviously taking a lack of response for acquiescence, Harry continues. 

"Are you happy?"

This causes Snape's attention to wander.  He fixes his birdblack eyes on Harry Potter, with an expression he previously reserved only for particularly difficult First Years.  The boy is, therefore, no stranger to it.

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Are you happy - here?"

Snape scowls.  "No.  Not at all.  Not at this particular minute, with some mindless idiot in a cell, continuously chattering away at me -"

"That's not what I meant." 

"What -" Snape swallows drily, "did you mean?"

"I meant - doing this.  Is this the way you imagined your life would be?"

"Don't be absurd.  I don't see what my happiness has to do with anything, it's a ridiculous -"

"Because you don't sound happy.  You don't look happy."

"I am perfectly aware of the way I look, Mr. Potter."

Potter is silent.  Snape gnashes his teeth, and stares at his book until the words tremble and converge.  He cannot seem to comprehend a word of it.

"You look fine," the boy says after a moment, so quietly it is nearly obscene.

Snape refuses to look up.  "But not happy," he says finally, and the boy sighs.

"No.  Not happy at all."

Neither man speaks again that night.  When Snape returns to his room, he takes his wand in hand.  He holds it out in front of him, and closes his eyes (his hand aches, it aches.)  He thinks of Harry Potter, the long pale expanse of his back, the calligraphy curl of his perfect shoulders, and lights his sheets on fire.

*****

Something is different, and Harry does not know what.

"Catherine says that it might be any day now," he tells Snape softly.  Catherine is the new day watch, a tall woman with a scar across one eye.

"What might be?" Snape comments idly.

"That they - they'll be able to break the connection.  Between me and Voldemort.  She says they're making progress."  And won't we have fun with you then, my pet?  Harry shudders at the thought of the woman's soft sinister voice, the puckering of pink skin against her eyelid.

"I had not heard," Snape replies nonchalantly, but Harry notices his right hand twitch.  "I suggest you pay little mind to Catherine Townsley.  She is not high in the Dark Lord's confidence."

Harry is not convinced, but let's it go.  He watches Snape's hands move, turning pages, lifting occasionally to brush back a lock of hair, or rub the bridge of his hooked nose.  He can barely remember the feeling of such hands against his skin, and he would like to.  Something uncurls slowly in his chest, a warm heat spreading up his neck and across his shoulders.

"Snape -"

Snape looks up, and Harry sees a mirror of himself, a reflection of the same hesitance and longing and loneliness.  It hurts to look at, it hurts to see.  He rises shakily from his bed.

" - touch me."

Snape does.

*****

He is surprised by how easy it is.

A brief feverish thought about the shape of Potter's mouth, and the guards are Immobilized.  Fifteen seconds later, Snape has the keys in his pocket and is heading down the stone staircase.  Thirty seconds after that he has opened the cell door and is shaking the boy awake.

"Wha - what is it?"

Snape relishes the feeling of the small shoulder under his hand for slightly longer than appropriate.  His stomach twists.

"You have to go.  They think they can sever the bond."

Potter's eyes blink rapidly, trying to focus.

"The - the bond -"

"And then he will kill you, Harry, he will kill you -"

"Snape, what are you doing -"

"I'm letting you go, you have to get up.  You have to leave.  Now."

Harry meets Snape's gaze, and presses his lips together.  For a moment, neither man says anything.

"Wait - how did you get in here?"

"I discovered - quite unexpectedly - that I have not lost all of my magic," Snape raises an eyebrow, feeling slightly devilish.  He has not had the opportunity to feel devilish for quite some time.  "But I cannot help you Apparate.  I am certain I cannot.  Your wand -"

"I don't need it," Harry answers softly.

"Even after so long without -"

"Even after so long."  Harry pauses, stares unblinkingly into Snape's eyes.  Snape feels his knees weaken predictably, and hates himself.

"You need to go, Potter," he hisses, to cover his discomfort, "What are you waiting for?  You need to leave, immediately."

"I know."  Harry rises from the bed, straightening his robes with shaking hands.  Snape turns away to leave the cell, but is stopped when a hand suddenly catches his, and pulls him violently against a younger, stronger body.

"What are you doing?" he growls, trying to push Harry Potter away, trying not to let his eyes stray to the expanse of skin that shows between the boy's hairline and the back of his ear, trying to resist following that curve of skin with his fingers, with his tongue -

"Where are the guards?"

"They've been Immobilized.  They won't pose much difficulty for at least a few hours."

"Then I want you to fuck me."

It takes a moment for the words to register, and a few more to realize that the young man is unbuttoning his shirt.

"No," is wrenched from Snape's throat before he can stop it, "No.  How could you possibly - this is not the time -"

"This is exactly the time," Harry whispers sharply, "Because there won't be another time, will there Snape?  There won't be another time."  The boy's pressure on Snape's hand is becoming painfully tight, and Potter must realize this because he lets go immediately.  "I know you aren't coming with me."

Snape says nothing.

"I'm right, aren't I?  What was the reason going to be, I wonder?  It's too dangerous, they'll use you to find me, you aren't strong enough -"

Snape looks away, the knot of guilt tightening in his stomach.  "All of it.  Everything.”

An awful choking sound escapes from Potter's perfect mouth.  "Then let me touch you," he says quietly, "Please - please, I -"

"No."

"Yes," Potter bites out, and Snape finds a hot, sucking presence at his neck, and hands clenching in the fabric of his shirt.  Instantly, his spine arches, and his hands flutter uselessly, pushing the boy away and yet somehow bringing him closer.  He sways.  Harry Potter leans up to bite sharply at the edge of his jaw, and Snape's hands suddenly find a purpose (clenching the boy's shoulders so hard there will be bruises.)

"Fuck me," Harry whispers, and Snape shakes his head in denial.  There are hands at his belt now, hands weaving leather through brass, hands undoing buttons, sliding down zippers.  There are fingers on his hip bones, and Snape reaches down to push those fingers away.

"I - I don't -" is all he manages before his trousers fall gracelessly from his narrow hips, and Harry Potter places his small, warm hand along the full and blessed length of him.  

Snape does not move.  Harry does not move, just keeps his hand still, keeps the pressure constant.  Snape does not know how he will bear it, and he does not know how he can possibly deny this boy again.  Potter is sweating slightly now - his forehead shining like sunlight, hair hanging darkly over his eyes.  He moves his thumb, gently tracing the shape of Snape's cock, and Snape feels like he may combust.  He lifts one hand to the boy's shoulder, and another to his own mouth where he sinks teeth fiercely into his wrist.  But he wants this boy, he does, wants him filling his mouth and filling his hands - he wants Potter burning the ends of his hair, and singeing his eyelashes, and pulling his head back and biting his throat - he wants him like he has never wanted anything, like he never thought he could want anything - this fiercely, and this violently, and this fucking, fucking fucking -

With an anguished moan, Snape pushes Potter away.  Potter stands, gasping in front of him, and Snape grabs him again roughly, pinning the boy against the wall.  Instantly Harry spreads his legs to allow Snape's thigh access between them, and they rub viciously against each other, Snape placing fierce, biting kisses against the boy's neck, pulling his collar wide to lick his collar bones, the hollow of his throat.  Harry goes boneless, hips moving and thrusting in a mindless, animal sort of way. 

Snape pulls him away from the wall, throwing him onto the bed.  He steps out of his own trousers and underwear, and roughly pulls Harry's pants from his body, rolling them past his knees, over his ankles, and tossing them in a heap on the floor.  The boy's cock is hard and thick and perfect, and Snape cannot believe he has not yet learned the taste of it (he wants it so badly his mouth waters.)  Bending quickly, he sucks the boy into his mouth, - not gently at all, but hard and fast and vulgar, the kind of sex you have in filthy alleyways or cheap motels.  

"oh fuck - oh fuck - OH fuck -" becomes Harry's litany, a constant murmur like the drumbeat of Snape's heart.  Snape wants this cock in his mouth and in his hands and inside him, until he is so full that it hurts.  He wants to pin the boy down and do all sorts of nameless, unspeakable things to him.  He wants to be the name on the lips of Potter's wet dreams, the face and hands that make the boy cry out softly in the night.

Suddenly the boy tugs urgently at Snape's hair, urging the older man upwards.  Snape wants nothing better than to let the boy spend himself down his throat, but a sudden thought makes him stop momentarily.  He meets Potter's eyes, and the boy thrusts mindlessly into the air at the loss of sensation.

"oh - god, oh -" Harry moans, taking deep, gasping breaths, "You have to fuck me.  Please, oh please -"

Snape is certain he could make the boy come simply by pressing down on his stomach, or delivering a particularly sharp bite to his nipple.  He resists the urge, but grinds himself slightly into the mattress.

"Tell me - you have done this before."

Harry moans and arches his back, thighs beginning to tremble.

"Tell me -" Snape repeats, and the boy cries out softly, reaching out desperately for Snape's hand.  It is enough of an answer, and something in Snape burns even hotter at the knowledge that he is the first person to leave marks against this skin.  Not wanting to torment the boy too much, he closes his left hand tightly around the boy's straining, sweat-slicked cock.  He only needs to squeeze once and the boy is coming, pulsing with thick white spurts into his fist ("oh - oh - OH -")

Snape wants to fuck him, suddenly more than he has ever wanted anything.  He crawls up the length of Potter's body, and kisses the edge of his jaw.  The boy looks dazedly up at him, mouth opening and closing.  

"I want -" the boy whispers, "I want to feel you in my teeth.  In my ribs.  When I try to walk tomorrow.  I want you to take me - and - and -“

With trembling hands, Snape pushes one of Potter's legs up against his chest.  Snape’s fingers are still slick with come, and as Potter gasps and writhes beneath him, he breaches the boy with one long finger.

"oh - fuck -"  Harry hisses.

"Is that - all right?"

Harry nods breathlessly.  "I can - it's not too -"  The boy cries out as Snape adds another finger, and tries to lower his leg.  Snape bites down on his ear lobe, and traces the soft skin with his tongue.

"Relax," he breathes, hot air ghosting against the boy's neck, "Relax."

Harry breathes deeply and Snape tentatively curls his two fingers, pushing in harder, seeking something -

"Oh!" the boy cries out, and arches his back when Snape reaches it, "oh - that's -"

"I know," Snape hisses, pushing his fingers in again, softly stroking the small gland.  The boy flails and gasps and mouths wildly at Snape's neck.

"Good boy," Snape murmurs, and receives a sharp bite to his jawline.

"I'm not - a puppy,” Potter gasps, insufferable to the very end.  Snape takes revenge by adding a third finger, and the boy arches violently off the bed.  Snape notices that Potter's cock is beginning to harden again, shyly curving up to meet him, and the urge to take it in his mouth is almost overwhelming.  He resists however, when the boy thrusts his hips down, taking all three fingers fully inside him.

"It's - I can take - oh god, you, please, you -"

"You haven't had sufficient - preparation," Snape manages through gritted teeth, "You need more time or I'll - I'll hurt you -"

"Oh god, oh god -" the boy cries, "Need you, please, need -"

Snape is not a saint.  Shaking, he removes his fingers from the boy, and slicks his cock, careful not to linger on himself too long for fear that the end will come too soon.  Harry spreads his shaking legs, and pulls his shirt off over his head.  His face and neck are flushed, and it is almost too appealing.  Snape does not know how he will manage to last.

"You have to - push back," he whispers, centring his cock at the juncture of the boy's thighs.  The boy nods breathlessly, and Snape moves forward just slightly, and suddenly is inside, is inside the sweet aching tightness of this man, and Harry is still pushing downwards, taking more and more of Snape inside him and making the most obscene noises -

"Stop - don't go so fast -" Snape hisses, more for his own sake than the boy's.  He stays absolutely still for a few moments, trying to let Potter adjust, trying to calm the pulsing in his own body.  He places a hesitant kiss on Potter's damp hairline, and it feels almost heartbreakingly intimate.

His hips suddenly thrust forward of their own volition, and Harry cries out underneath him.  

"Was it - did I -"

"Again," the boy pleads, rocking his body against Snape's.  Potter's cock is fully hard now, curving up against the boy's stomach.  

He thrusts again, and the boy pushes back.  Heat clenches around Snape, and the pleasure is so fierce he has to close his eyes.  He pulls Potter's hands up over his head, pinning them above him, and for some reason this makes Snape even harder.  Harry shakes his head desperately, so Snape pins the boy's wrists with his right hand, and reaches down to stroke his cock with the left.

"no -" the boy cries out desperately, "no - oh, Severus!"

He is coming again violently, come arching up in a stream above him.  The sound and the sight is almost too much for Snape, and as the boy clenches and trembles around him, Snape feels his orgasm ripped from him, shaking out of him with a choked groan, and a pleasure so fierce it is nearly pain.  He thrusts a few more times, working himself through the aftershocks, and then collapses with a gasp.  Oh god.  Oh.

Snape closes his eyes.  A trickle of sweat runs down his forehead.

Harry blinks foggily up at him.

"Damn," he whispers, a wry smile curling up his mouth.

Snape feels the laugh catch in his throat, and transform into some combination of a cough and choke and sob.  He bites his lips, to stop the sound from emerging.

"Indeed," he manages, after a moment.

Harry reaches up and brushes Snape's damp hair from his eyes.  

"I like you," he says quietly, eyebrows pulling together.

Snape's mouth quirks.  "I -" he begins, and then stops. (You cannot say it, even to yourself.)  "I should hope so."

Harry's smile softens, and the two men lie together until their heartbeats gradually slow.  Snape feels like his may stop altogether.

They dress in silence, without touching.  Snape climbs the stairs, shaking, in front of the boy, unable to look back at him.  When Potter finally steps out into the dim starlight he has to cover his eyes against the shock.

The guards are still frozen in place, unable even to blink.  Snape walks past them, heedless.

"I thought I was in a castle," Potter murmurs, looking up at the wide black sky.  "I didn't know - I didn't know we'd be outside."

Snape says nothing (there is no name for this kind of longing) and they both stand for a moment in silence, staring up at the wide path of stars above them.  Shyly, Harry reaches over and takes his hand.

"I think I will spend the rest of my life outside," Harry says quietly, and almost laughs.

"You have to go," Snape replies, and something inside him flowers and dies.  

"Come with me."

"I won't."

"Why not?" Harry's voice is steady, but his hand is shaking against Snape's.

"Because - he will feel it.  He will be able to find you if I follow.  I will not let that happen."

"Then - then don't come with me.  We'll both leave, and we'll go to different places but we'll meet in a few months, we'll choose a location and we'll -"

"No, Harry.  He will feel it if I run.  The longer I stay here, the more time you will have, the longer you will have to get away.  You have to believe me.  If I could come with you - if I could -"

Behind them the guards sit like frozen statues.  Harry takes one desperate look around.

"They'll kill you."

Snape forces a wry smile to curl across his face, forces his eyes to remain controlled and focused.  He lets go of Harry's hand, and the sensation of it slipping from his is more painful than he could have possibly anticipated.

"They might try," he murmurs, and Harry squeezes his eyes shut.

"This is so fucked up," he laughs after a moment, and Snape can do nothing in that moment but kiss him.

They have not kissed before.  It seems odd, given the way Harry's body moulds perfectly to his, the way Harry's lips part instantly, granting Snape access inside.  Given the way that Snape is rendered incoherent at the first taste of the boy's red lips - incoherent, and dizzy and dry-mouthed with lust.  

It is Harry who finally breaks away, after it becomes apparent that Snape never will.

"I'm going to start another war, Snape," the boy says, and it seems wrong to hear those words from lips so swollen and damp and young.

"You called me Severus before."

The boy laughs again, softly, and shakes his head.  "Severus, then.  I would have made things better for you."

"I know that," Snape whispers, and he does.  Harry looks just like an uncaged bird, so much more at ease beneath the wide sky.

"I'm going to come back for you."

"I know that too," Snape lies.  The wind suddenly picks up, blowing wild and warm through Snape's hair.

"Seems pretty warm for the evening," Harry comments idly, "What month is it?"

"August."

"What a beautiful word."  Harry takes a few steps away from Snape, who feels each crunch of dry grass under his fingernails, beneath his eyelids.  For perhaps the first time in his life, he must admit that Harry Potter was right; this is so fucked up. The boy continues to trudge slowly away, and Snape admires his long profile as he walks.  And he needs to say something.

"Harry -" he calls out, and the boy turns to look over his shoulder, shy smile curling across his face.

(There is no name for this kind of longing.  There are no words for this kind of want.  There are only shapes and colours - round holes that are burned into you, slices of pieces cut from your hands or your face, and deep red, the kind of red that is nearly black, the kind of red you get drunk off of - not a joyous drunk, no, but a drunk where you claw and hiss and throw all manner of delicate objects against the floor. That is the colour.  That is the shape. )

"They found the second Weasley boy.  Alive," he continues, nearly choking.

Something shines briefly in Potter's half-starved face, something hot as naked flame, deep as honey.  I could love you, Snape thinks to himself, feeling the words as if they were chiselled into his very bones, I could love you.  The boy nods once, and his lips move as if he is whispering something under his breath.  Snape does not know if he should be disappointed or grateful not to hear it.  He waits, and the wind picks up once more, running smooth fingers against his skin.  Seconds later, Harry Potter disappears.

"Goodbye," Snape murmurs to the open air, and the petrified guards somewhere behind him.  "Goodbye."  Above him, a star soars across the midnight sky before burning into dust and ashes.  Snape sits down on the ground, relishing the feeling of fresh earth and new grass beneath his fingers.  It really is a lovely night. (The wind rushes past him, singing softly.)  He does not know why he hasn't come out here more often.

(You cannot say it, even to yourself.)

*****

Though he has spoken rarely about his time between the two Great Wizarding Wars, Potter never ceased his praise of Severus Noah Snape, the man Potter claimed was responsible for his escape.  A critical history of Severus Snape can and has filled numerous tomes, and is not the purpose of this paper; however, it is crucial to remark that Snape played a great role in Harry Potter's life, and this role was only magnified by Snape's untimely death.  Though no conclusive evidence was ever gathered on the cause of this death (due primarily to the absence of a body) it was this event that ultimately ended Potter's time in the spotlight.  In the years to come, he and his companion, the unremarkable John August Smithers, would spend a great deal of time abroad, frequently hidden from the public eye.  However, there are many scholars who suggest that Severus Snape was never absent from Potter's thoughts, and that it was this man for whom the boy hero spent the rest of his life in search of, with Smithers ever by his side.

 

- Angelo D'Antonio, "Severus Snape and the Homoerotic," from Fragments: Harry Potter and the Discourse of Heroism, ed. Diana P. Stevens, 2022.