Hogwarts looms before him, and Snape wonders for the hundredth time if he’s made the right decision. His mouth feels dry and there’s a knot of tension in his stomach. After wanting to come back for so long, the school suddenly seems alien and foreboding.
He’d forgotten how vast the place was; it’s making the thought of being tucked up in his small hospital room seem almost appealing. He glances at Minerva who is at his side muttering about changes that have happened in his absence. His long absence; a coma for one year, practically bed bound for another.
“Your left side will have limited movement and a lot of pain. Gentle, regular exercise and it should improve. It will take some time. Still, it’s a miracle that you’re alive at all Professor.”
The mediwizard hadn’t been wrong and there is a constant, exhausting low thrum of pain present in all his movement. He can now walk without a stick and just about grip with his left hand but it has been a long slow progression.
It takes them a while to reach the great doors of the entrance hall. As they walk, the sun begins to set, casting the grounds in dull oranges and long shadows. Far below he can make out the white marble of Albus’ tomb. It looks like they’ve grown a garden around it. There’s a twist of smoke coming from the chimney of the game keeper's hut that he can smell on the breeze, and as they get closer to the castle it mingles with the smell of moss, of cold stone and dust and varnished wood.
They finally make their way to the doors which open automatically. He’s surprised to find people waiting for them, he’d assumed the place would be empty. Closer inspection reveals that it’s only Filch, Hagrid and – inexplicably – Potter. He glances at the boy then looks quickly away. He’s seen enough of Potter to last him more than a life time. His mind flashes to the last time he’d set eyes on him, standing solemn in the witness box.
His defender. The last fucking champion for Severus Snape.
Hagrid shakes his hand stiffly and nods. The colossal half-breed is evidently still unsure of him, despite the clearing of his name. Potter hovers next to him, looking uncomfortable. Filch is the only one that smiles. He offers to take Snape’s bags to his room and Snape follows him down, Minerva clucking at his side.
His chambers are pretty much how he left them, save for the absence of a few personal belongings he’d had moved to the hospital. It’s been cleaned recently and there’s a welcoming fire burning in the grate. The house elves have left tea and small cakes on the coffee table. He sinks into a high-backed armchair and tries to ignore how strange it feels to be home. He waits until Filch leaves, bowing as he exits the room, to ask about Potter.
“Did I not tell you?” Minerva sits down primly in the chair next to his and pours them both tea.
“No. It must have slipped your usually brilliant memory.”
She looks slightly abashed.
“The boy wanted to stay on after his N.E.W.T.s, I said he could. He helps Hagrid, does odd jobs for me.”
“So he’ll be living here?” Snape’s heart sinks. So much for a Potter-free Hogwarts.
“Yes he lives here. Now don’t look at me like that Severus. I don’t expect you to be friends, but I would like your word that you’ll be civil.”
“Hmph. I think I’m done with giving my word to Heads of this school.”
Her eyes soften, and she reaches for his hand. He doesn’t snatch it away. Minerva has been relentlessly loyal to him over the last few years and it is down to her that he’s back at Hogwarts at all.
“Why though? Why here?”
She sighs. “He’s just not ready.”
“He worked hard for your defence.”
“He owed me.”
“And we owe him, don’t we?”
Snape scowls but doesn’t argue. He’s too tired to battle with Minerva’s logic – it’s been a long day.
“I know you two have your history, but surely after everything that has happened you can’t still hate each other?”
Snape shrugs and stops listening; he barely notices when she finishes her tea and leaves. She’s right though, he doesn’t hate Potter. He just doesn’t want anything to do with him either, and he never imagined that he’d have to face the boy again, or at least not so soon. He was sure that they had finally gone their separate ways. The now-even-more-famous Harry Potter must have the entire wizarding world clamouring at his feet, and Snape hadn’t even considered the possibility that the boy would choose to stay here instead. He glances around his now empty chambers. Hogwarts and a bloody Potter. Nothing ever changes, he muses.
Dinner is a strange affair; he wonders why Minerva insists on them eating together. There’s only the five of them, all the rest have gone for the summer. The boy stays away, sitting the other side of Hagrid so that Snape can barely see him. Snape eats his Toad in the Hole in almost silence, occasionally giving monosyllabic answers to Minerva’s stream of questions and observations.
That night he has a familiar dream. He’s on the astronomy tower, Dumbledore’s there not dead or asking for death, but smiling at him – no, laughing at him. He steps aside and then there’s Potter, looking at him with piercing green eyes.
“What? What is it you want from me?” Snape bellows, but the boy just turns his head to the side and keeps on looking at him. Snape can’t bear it. He raises his wand and there’s a flash of green and he wakes with a shudder of breath and his heart beating fast.
When he passes the boy the next day he ignores the “Morning Professor” and pretends he can’t see him. He continues to ignore all of Potter’s other salutations and attempts to engage in conversation, until the boy stops looking expectant and starts looking carefully blank, like he used to in the old days. Well, what did he expect? They were never going to be friends, even the thick-skulled Potter must know that.
At least the boy keeps firmly to Snape's peripheries. He sees him in the day, digging and planting, putting up fences, no doubt for a menagerie of horrors a-la Hagrid.
Snape walks a lot. Spending so long inside and bedridden has left him with a great appetite for fresh air. He often talks to Albus as he slowly makes his way over the grounds, telling him small things.
“They’ve planted a garden by your tomb. There are those flowers you liked, Forget-Me-Nots.”
“Hagrid and his enthusiastic helper have made some benches. They’re what you’d call rustic.”
He often thinks about the portrait in the Headmistress's office, but doesn’t ask to go and see it. Silly to want to visit a portrait.
Instead, he spends a lot of time sitting in Dumbledore’s garden. From there Hogwarts can be seen standing high, the Forbidden Forest, the grounds. He can sit for hours doing nothing, thinking about it all and how he’s got here. After a lengthy trial they’d concluded that he was innocent of murder and dark crimes. He’s not a hero though, not like Potter or the rest of Dumbledore’s army. They’d kept most of it fairly quiet. His pensieve memories and all the finer details had been kept out of the Prophet, thankfully. He’s not bitter. He doesn’t want fame and glory; he doesn’t even want recognition, not any more. The battle was fought and won, that’s all that matters. There was some debate about letting him come back as a teacher to Hogwarts, especially since the rumours circling still from his brief spell as Headmaster. Minerva had been keen for him to return though and he let her fight her battle. Anyway, he realised, there isn’t anywhere else he could think of being.
Potter is often absent from the dinner table. Snape doesn’t ask why or where he is and no one tells him. On those evenings he feels like he can actually relax. When the boy’s there Snape can’t help being so aware of him. He can hear his voice over everyone else’s, hear his scrape of cutlery, knows exactly when the he’s finished and left the table. He tells himself that it will be different once term starts and Potter’s presence will be diluted in the hustle and bustle of students and professors.
“I’m sorry Severus, but it’s this or nothing.” Minerva’s lips are thin and she’s pulling her most firm expression.
“I am not a cripple! I do not require any assistance.”
“I’m not saying you are a cripple Severus, but I do not see how you are going to perform your usual teaching position unaided. You get tired walking the length of the Great Hall.”
“I have already conceded the position as Head of Slytherin. A normal teaching timetable will be perfectly manageable.”
“Five days a week, seven hours a day, plus weekend duties? Severus you are not well enough.”
“As I have already said, I will manage. I thank you kindly for the offer Minerva, but I am going to decline.”
Their eyes lock in stubborn challenge, and he remembers that Minerva is as strong willed as he is. Perhaps more these days.
“That is not an option.”
“And if I refuse?”
The headmistress lets out an exasperated breath.
“I will never fire you Severus, you know that. But until you are better, I cannot let you work without assistance.”
“And who exactly do you think is going to apply for the job of Severus-ex-death-eater-Snape’s assistant? What are you going to do, place an advert in the blasted Prophet?”
“There’s no need, we’ve already found someone.” Minerva looks uncharacteristically shifty. She’s suddenly found something interesting on the arm of the chair and won’t look him in the eye.
“Who?” He demands.
“Now Severus don’t be angry-”
“…Potter said he’d do it.”
Snape can’t speak. He stands and walks as quickly as he can to the door, giving it a good slam as leaves. Halfway down the corridor he remembers that it is his room that he’s just stormed out of and, after a brief stream of swear words, turns back.
“It will be good for the pair of you,” Minerva tells him from his doorway before she scuttles away.
That evening he paces in his chambers, kicking things with his good leg and ignoring the fact that he is acting like a sulking teenager. Is it too much to ask for his life to be free of Harry-fucking-Potter? The boy is a constant reminder of everything Snape wants to forget; everything he wants to move on from is there, embodied in that skinny frame, with his stupid messy hair and watchful eyes.
Their first lesson together is not what one would call a roaring success. Snape precedes it by pointedly setting up the cauldrons by himself with a couple of skilled flicks of his wand whilst Potter hovers about uselessly.
The class files in; a sea of unsure first year midgets – a mix of Slytherin and Gryffindor. How apt, Snape thinks. He gives them the usual spiel on the wonders of potions, slightly more self-consciously now that Potter is lurking behind him.
“And for entirely unfathomable reasons, we have Mister Potter joining us. Please feel free to disregard him entirely, but particularly anything he has to say about potion making.”
Potter only gives him a swift glance before turning and smiling to the class.
“Yes, that’s right I will be helping Professor Snape out. I will be leaving the potions to him however, and will be just assisting.”
Snape scoffs. “And just think, if you work really hard for seven years class, you too could get a job as a needless errand boy. Now-”
“I don’t think assisting you is needless Professor. Thankless maybe but-”
“I’d appreciate it if you did not interrupt my lessons Mister Potter. Suffering your ineptitude will be distracting enough for the students.”
Familiar indignation makes its way across the boy’s features and Snape pauses to see if it voices itself. He smirks when it does.
“I am merely here to aid you Professor. There is no need to be insulting.”
“It would aid me if you could manage to sit down and shut up.”
A still silence descends and Snape is aware that the rest of the class is as watchful for the response as he is. Potter remains standing, however.
“I am no longer your student,” he says quietly.
“Your point being?”
“That you cannot bully and intimidate me as if I were. It’s unprofessional.” He makes a gesture towards the class as if to remind Snape of their presence.
“But casting aspersions about my teaching methods in front of a class of new students is, is it?” He drawls, moving his hand in mock of Potter’s gesture. Potter pauses to think about this, his forehead puckered by a familiar scowl.
“Maybe not, but better to give them some warning of what they are likely to get out of potions lessons with you, Professor.”
“You mean superior knowledge and skill, I assume?” Despite the earlier reference to the full classroom, Snape feels as if it is just the two of them, like it often used to be when Potter was his student.
“And the rest,” Potter scoffs. Only now, Snape muses, Potter’s free to answer back, which is decidedly more fun.
He draws himself up to full looming height and lets his voice drop into its most dangerous, silky level. “Being what exactly?” Potter doesn’t even flinch.
“Oh I don’t know, degradation? Humiliation? Slytherin favouritism… should I continue?”
“No, that will do. As you can see Mister Potter here is bitter,” he says, turning to their audience. “I never fawned over his feeble potion making skills and he hasn’t quite forgotten it. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the Saviour here is merely petty. He has a host of other merits. Idiocy springs to mind.”
Some of the class actually gasp and Severus thinks he might really be beginning to enjoy himself.
“I’m also arrogant and attention-seeking, let’s not forget.”
“That is so apparent; I’d be wasting my breath in pointing it out."
“I’d rather be all those things than a vindictive –”
“If you’ve finished throwing childish insults at me Mister Potter, may I be permitted to teach my class?”
The boy visibly clenches his jaw.
“Of course Sir. Please continue.”
“Thank you. We will be brewing a boil cure potion today. The instructions are on the blackboard, the ingredients in the store cupboard. Any questions?”
He’s surprised when several hands shoot up. He nods to a freckle-faced boy in the front row.
“Mister Potter… Is it true about what they say? That you let You-Know-Who, you know… kill you?”
Snape crosses his arms and glares at Potter who looks satisfyingly embarrassed.
“Yes, that is kind of true but I think–”
“So did you die and then come back to life?” A different voice pitches in.
“What was it like?” And another.
“Are you invincible?”
“Is it true that you can turn into a snake?”
“Can you fly?”
The final straw for Potter is a request for his autograph and his bellow at the class is almost commendable. He shouts about respect and proper classroom conduct and inappropriate behaviour, and then makes some threats about detentions. Snape’s delighted to see him lose his rag so quickly, even if he is not the cause of it (well, not the sole cause of it), and isn’t even tempted to point out that Potter doesn’t have the power to authorise detentions.
The lesson continues in relative calm. Snape hobbles around the bubbling cauldrons, offering instruction in civil tones, if only to prove a point. He doesn’t even raise his voice when a lumpy looking Gryffindor up-ends his cauldron all over his feet.
His mood is blackened though, when near the end of the lesson a sulky-faced Slytherin’s potion explodes. Snape’s still fumbling for his wand with his bad hand when Potter steps forward and resolves the situation. He cleans everyone off with a flick of his wand, swiftly enough for them not to burn or breakout in boils.
Snape wants to punch the smug look off the insipid brat’s face, but settles for baiting him for the remainder of the day with injurious claims to the character of his dead relatives. By the end, Potter looks angry enough to vomit. Or cry. Either way, Snape feels he’s had a successful day.
Snape’s eyes flick from a cross Minerva to a snoozing Albus. He suspects that Albus is only feigning sleep. Minerva, however, is definitely cross.
“Reports of your lessons lead me to believe that you are both behaving in ways that are completely inappropriate and unprofessional.”
She scowls at them in turn.
“Well? Explain yourselves!”
“I think it’s inappropriate and unprofessional to have him in my lessons at all,” Snape snarls, glaring at Potter as he does so. “He consistently belittles me in front of my classes. How am I supposed to gain any respect from my students with him shadowing me and grinning at them like he wants to make friends.”
“Better than scaring them senseless. Expecting anyone to do well in that environment is ridiculous.”
“My classes have always done well, Potter. A few incompetent examples in every year. I’m referring to you by the way.”
“I got an Outstanding in my N.E.W.T. actually.”
“By yourself, or with help from a certain text book? Which I want back by the way.”
Potter gnashes his teeth by way of retort.
“Enough! You will both start acting your ages as of now. Do not make me have to call you in here again.”
Monday morning they don’t speak or look at each other: lessons go okay. Monday afternoon, there’s a little bit of sniping. On Tuesday Snape muses out loud on whether Potter could be deemed clinically retarded or not. By Wednesday things break down completely.
“You slimy snake-faced bastard-faced Slytherin bastard,” were the boys exact words as he stomped out of the dungeons. Rather poetic, Snape had thought.
Minerva looks like she’s sucking a lemon and her eyes have an about-to-pop out look to them. Snape gathers she is angry.
“I cannot believe I have had to call you in here again. And you appear to be getting worse, not better. Potter, I hear you called Professor Snape, amongst other things, an ‘over-grown bat who is festering in a black hole he calls a life.’”
She glares at the boy who fidgets in response.
“And you, Severus. A sixth year told me that you called Potter an ‘insolent four-eyed plebeian who was still holding on to the apron strings of an indulgent old bat.’”
Snape bites hard on the inside of his cheek. He doesn’t suppose sniggering would improve Minerva’s mood.
“Have you anything to say for yourselves?”
“Well…” Snape frowns and looks thoughtful. “Potter is insolent. And does wear glasses. And you do indulge him.”
“And Professor Snape is bat like,” Potter adds mildly.
For the briefest of moments, he catches the boy’s eye.
“Stop smirking! I fail to see what is amusing about two employees of the school squabbling like hormonal teenagers. Let me state very clearly that this behaviour will not continue, do you understand? Severus, Potter will be assisting you in lessons for the indefinite future. If you find you cannot work with him civilly and professionally then you will be relieved of your teaching duties. Harry, Professor Snape is your superior, treat him with respect, even if acts like he is not worthy of it. Or you will be finding a new home to reside in. Now get out!”
They hurry out the office and down the spiral staircase. Instead of rushing to get away from Snape as fast as his short legs will carry him, Potter pauses and looks at Snape like they’re comrades.
“Well, she’s more shouty than Dumbledore ever was,” Potter observes.
“I’d say shrieking, as in ‘shrieking harpy.’”
To his surprise, Potter chuckles. Maybe in this instance, they are comrades. The boy smiles at him before he toddles off and Snape stands in confusion watching him go. He feels like he’s missed something, something significant. In the ten years he has had the unfortunate pleasure of knowing Potter Junior, he has never once graced him with a smile before.
There’s more puzzlement later when the boy sidles up to him after dinner.
“The casserole was nice, wasn’t it?”
Snape looks at him blankly, then scowls: the boy’s smiling at him again.
“Yeah, so listen…”
He considers walking off, but the boy’s nervous lip chewing catches his attention. He narrows his eyes and waits for Potter to continue.
“Look, I’m sorry for being insolent or whatever it is you think I am.” Severus is momentarily bewildered by the frank apology, but masks it with a deeper scowl.
“I don’t mean to be, honest I don’t. And I was thinking, we have to work together and everything, so maybe we could, you know… call a truce?” He proffers a hand which Snape eyes then frowns at.
“At least publicly. I promise you can still insult me in private.”
He shakes the hand. “Deal,” he drawls.
Their next week of lessons goes better. Craftier insults and mock civility Snape finds he can work with.
“Mister Potter, would you kindly fetch me a pot of scarab beetles. They are shelved under ‘S’, as in saviour.”
“Certainly Sir… ‘S’ for sarcastic was it?” Potter looks pleased with himself, the silly tit.
“Indeed. Or simpleton. Now, who knows the most common use for scarab beetles?”
“I know that – it’s for wit-sharpening potions!” Potter says it with actual pride and looks at Snape like he wants a pat on the head.
“Not you Potter – them.”
There are titters amongst the class.
“Oh yeah, right. Sorry… It’s just – I knew the answer.” He shrugs apologetically.
“Not to worry Potter, this lesson can be dedicated to you and the much needed sharpening of your wit. If you’re a very good boy, I promise to give you a vial at the end of it.”
The class laughs and to his surprise, Potter laughs with them.
They’re clearing away at the end of the day. He’s put the boy to use cleaning and shelving the cauldrons. He’s even letting him use his wand.
“So I’m allowed to help these days, am I?”
“Finally, you’ve realised that my rare talents are not something to pass up.”
Snape gives him a withering look.
“You don’t have to thank me; it’s enough to know that you need me.”
“Do not push your luck Mister Potter. Even in my weakened state I could still hex you into next week, should the feeling take me.”
The boy rolls his eyes and smiles, and swings his legs from the desk he’s now sitting on, seemingly indifferent to Snape’s suspicious scowl.
He cannot deny it, the boy is an aid. His boundless energy is put to good use as he carries and fetches and scuttles around the classroom giving Severus the rest he needs. He’s getting more and more movement back in his hand and his limp is barely noticeable, but he does get tired quickly and even the simplest magic can sometimes feel like a strain. Potter seems to sense this and steps up, before Snape has to ask him to. He’ll never admit it to anyone, but he wouldn’t have been able to last a month without assistance, let alone the whole school year.
Potter also mediates between nervous student and grumpy professor, so when a stammering second year ballses up her potion, turning it to red goo instead of a slippery purple, Potter can translate for her.
“She only stirred it five times instead of six before she added the bat blood, how can she fix it?”
And Snape can give the answer without getting annoyed. He’s realised that glaring and shouting – and even cutting remarks – expend a considerable amount of energy.
It turns out that the boy's company is not completely intolerable either. The first time Potter sits next to him at dinner they eat in an almost companionable silence. The second time, Potter offers him the last of the liver and bacon and Snape accepts in very near civility. The third time is after the first Quidditch match of the season, in which Slytherin beat Ravenclaw by two-hundred points. When the Slytherin Captain and his brutal looking beaters enter the hall, Snape raises his glass and favours them with a wide smile. He turns to be faced with a cross-looking Potter who proceeds to talk at length on the atrocities carried out by the Slytherin team during Saturday's match. Snape finds himself welcoming the tirade: now that they are ‘playing nice’, he rarely gets to see Potter agitated anymore and he realises that he’s missed it.
“Yes, but Slytherins are cheaters, they can’t win unless they break the rules. How many fouls did they commit? And how many more unseen by Madame Hooch?”
“And this comes from someone who has never broken a rule in his life I suppose?”
“That’s different, that wasn’t about winning house points was it?”
“I wouldn’t know. Besides, cheating is valid in my opinion – it’s just another way of working hard for something. Harder than playing by the rules you could argue.”
“And how is that exactly?” Potter’s face is the picture of incredulous outrage and Snape has to fight the urge to pat him on the head and congratulate him on his moral fibre.
“Well, you have to make sure you don’t get caught. It adds a whole other dimension. Very stressful.”
“Oh whatever.” Potter shakes his head in hammy exasperation and takes a mouthful of rice pudding. “But it makes them very unpopular with the other houses,” he says thickly.
“It may surprise you to find that not everyone has the same regard for popularity.”
Potter tuts and rolls his eyes. “But popularity isn’t always a bad thing, surely it’s encouraging? And if it’s for the right reasons, like winning on merit rather then cheating, then isn’t that better for everyone?”
“No, it would be boring. Everyone likes to have someone to hate, as well you know.”
“But as well you know, encouraging hate and segregation is a dangerous game.”
Snape pauses to think about this. The boy may have a point.
“Are you suggesting that we abolish the school houses completely? And what would we have instead? Some sort of wishy-washy system built on the pretence that we all love each other really?”
“Would it be so bad?”
“Life is full of conflict and disappointment Mister Potter. The sooner that is realised the better.”
Another tut. “Always so gloom and doom. I’m just saying it is not fair that Slytherin cheat, and not just for the rest of the school, for the Slytherins too.”
“Maybe so, but when is the real world ever fair?”
A look passes between them that lasts longer than Severus is entirely comfortable with, before Potter resumes whinging about the house system. After that, pointless mealtime arguments become rather regular.
“Potter, why are you looking at me like that?” The boy’s got his arms crossed and is scowling over the top of his glasses.
“If you’re just going to stand there with a face like a slapped arse, then I’d rather you went somewhere else with it.”
Blank face, stony silence: a Potter sulk. Snape had forgotten quiet how immovable the boy can be.
“If this is about what I said to Dullington then you can relieve yourself of the task of his defender. He’s a big boy.”
“He’s obnoxious and useless.”
“He’s not! He’s just a kid.”
“He’s scared of you.”
“I know – it’s good isn’t it?”
The boy makes an exaggerated throaty noise and raises his eyebrows like he expects a different answer.
“Are you questioning my teaching methods again Potter?”
“Yes. You always decide not to like people for no good reasons.”
“I have plenty of good reasons for not liking Dullington.”
“A good teacher would keep them to himself.”
“A good Potter would mind his own business. Now run along and let me get on with my grown-up work.”
“You are the most infuriating man I’ve ever known.”
“Really?” Snape asks, genuinely pleased.
“Sometimes I want to curse your stubborn face.”
“Feel free to try, I could do with a laugh. And a week for you in the hospital ward would certainly give me a nice break.”
Potter scowls and goes back to muttering about gits and unfairness.
Just to prove that he can, Snape cuts the obnoxious Dullington the smallest amount of slack in their next lesson. To his utter dismay the sod’s performance improves instantly.
“Dullington, that potion is passable. Well…” Snape swallows. “…Done.” The effort makes him feel nauseous. Potter is beaming at him, witless halfwit that he is. And now Dullington is smiling too. At him. And gushing.
Idiots, the lot of them, he concludes.
Lessons go quickly, as do days and weeks, and suddenly it is Christmas already. The doors shut as the last students depart for home-bound holidays. Severus breathes in the silence. Even Potter has buggered off.
He starts walking the grounds again whilst the place remains free of idiot children. His limp is now only present when he gets tired and the pain has dulled somewhat over the term. Hogwarts is nearly as beautiful covered in snow as it is in summer, and he finds the cold pleasantly bracing to walk in.
Potter sends him a Christmas card. It’s got a miserable looking bear on it wearing a red jumper with a snowman on the front. If you press it the bear roars “Merry Christmas” in a threatening sort of way. Inside the boy has written ‘I saw this and I thought of you.’ The idiot child actually thinks he’s funny.
Snape sends one back of a drunken looking elf that grins and gurgles inanely whilst doing a strange dance. On the inside he puts ‘I’ve named him Harry the Halfwit’.
He spends Christmas day with Minerva and her sour-faced sister, who he bickers with for most of the afternoon. In the evening they drink an obscene amount of scotch and Griselda – the sister – tells him outrageous stories of Minerva in her younger days. She was, amongst other things, a singer in an all witch skiffle band that was big in Belgium. They talk Minerva into doing a rendition. Snape laughs until he cries.
Potter comes back looking morose. He mopes about in lessons and snaps at the children. Despite his mood, the boy insists on staying after classes to help Snape brew potions for Madam Pomfrey.
“Not dragon’s liver, Potter. Spleen – dragon’s spleen.”
“You can stop talking to me like I’m four years old.” The huffy halfwit kicks a stool over. It breaks.
“Reparo. Only when you stop acting like it.”
The boy’s eyes are cold and hard. Severus really doesn’t have time for this.
“Something tells me you’re in a bad mood Potter. What is it?”
“Nothing.” He slams the dragon’s spleen onto the desk and sits with his arms folded. Snape takes a deep breath.
Deep breathing isn’t enough however, when Potter adds ground cava root instead of ground cava seed and spoils the whole evening’s work load.
“Must you be so consistently useless all the time?”
“It was an accident. Sorry we can’t all be as perfect as Severus-fucking-Snape.”
“Oh piss off Potter. Go and find someone who will indulge your little tantrums.”
“You piss off, no-one indulges me.”
“So that’s why you’re sulking. Is poor little Potter not getting enough attention?”
“You’re such a bastard.”
“And your point is?”
“I think it’s pathetic.”
“I’m not the one hanging around in a school that I’ve outgrown, doing a job that’s been made-up especially so that I can pretend people actually need me. You’re a joke Potter, it’s embarrassing for everyone.”
The boy looks affronted, no worse – hurt.
“Sometimes I really, really hate you.”
“As always, the feeling is mutual.”
The boy storms out, kicking over a few more stools and slamming the door behind him, dramatic little twerp that he is.
Potter doesn’t deign speak to him for a whole week. In lessons he is obedient and silent, responding with solemn nods any time anything’s asked of him. At meal times the boy sits at the other end of the teacher’s table, favouring Severus with the occasional glower. It is peaceful. It is how it should be. It is not at all dull.
But the boy’s moping is far more irritating than his bitching, and it is Severus who gives in first.
“Potter… I have a batch of calming solutions to make for Madam Pomfrey. If you are not too busy… you could… help.”
“Do you want me to help?”
“Don’t fish, I asked you didn’t I?”
“You could just say sorry.”
Snape arches an eyebrow, which appears to be appeasing enough for the boy rolls up his sleeves and asks what he should fetch from the stock cupboard.
“You are going to have to leave here one day you know Potter,” Snape says later, when they’re clearing up.
The boy just nods his head and carries on wiping the desk.
The next term goes as swiftly as the last in a blur of O.W.L. and N.E.W.T preparations. Potter starts helping him with essay marking in the evenings, coming back to the dungeons after dinner. He’s too generous with his grades though, and Snape has to change each mark the boy gives to one lower. Sometimes he will stay a while after, drinking cocoa and making inane chat.
“The weather’s getting warmer.”
“Yes, a remarkable thing to happen in spring.”
“Which is good for me, I haven’t done much Quidditch practice lately.”
“Practice for what exactly?”
“I dunno. Just myself I guess. It’s good to stay fit.”
“Hermione’s been accepted by the Wizengamot. Her first case is coming up. She said I could come and watch, in the public gallery bit. Don’t think I will. Bit too busy here.”
“I’m sure Hogwarts won’t crumble if you were absent for a day or two.”
“I know, it’s not that. Just don’t fancy it.”
“Who do you think would win in a duel, McGonagall or Molly Weasley?”
“McGonagall. Not only does she have better knowledge and experience, she’s craftier too.”
“Ok, what about you and McGonagall?”
“Me, of course.”
“Even with your bad hand?”
“Yes. I’m craftiest.”
“In the whole of the Wizarding world?”
“I expect so. Else I doubt I would be sitting here.”
The boy nods sagely and gives Snape a wide eyed look from behind his mug of cocoa.
He’s not entirely sure why, but he doesn’t mind the boy’s blather. Snape avoids the rest of the faculty, as does Potter. The only one he has any real time for is Minerva. Some of the other long standing members of staff – Flitwick, Pomfrey, Hooch, Sprout – he can abide but only in short bursts. The few new ones he hasn’t even spoken to, save for a “How do you do?” on the first day of term. They seem too happy and too normal. He especially steers clear of Hanning, the new Russian Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He notices Potter gives him a wide berth also. He’s not surprised – that particular position holds complicated memories for them both.
The Easter break comes around quickly. To his surprise Potter remains at the school. When asked why he isn’t venturing off to see his little friends, the boy just shrugs and changes the subject. Snape doesn’t push it. They boy can be sensitive and snappy, and he finds a riled up Potter tiresome.
He’s enjoying tea and cake in Dumbledore’s garden, on a rare rain-free day when the boy ambles up and plonks himself next to him on the bench.
“Alright? Nice day, isn’t it?”
Snape makes a non-committal noise and takes a sip from his cup.
“I’m going to Diagon Alley tomorrow, want to come?”
Snape nearly chokes on his tea.
“What, together? With you?”
The boy tuts. “Don’t say it like I’ve asked you to go to the graduation ball with me. Yes together. With me.”
“I need some new robes, thinking about getting the new Firebolt. And you could do with getting out of Hogwarts. You haven’t set foot out of the grounds for nearly a year.”
The boy reaches for one of Snape’s cakes and puts it in his mouth whole.
“You’re one to talk.”
“I went to the Burrow at Christmas,” he says spraying crumbs down his robes.
“And came back in a monumental sulk.”
“Yeah well, I don’t want to talk about that. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Snape eyes him suspiciously but Potter merely grins back.
“If you think that’s a winning smile, then you’re sorely mistaken.”
“Come on, I’ll buy you lunch. And I’m sure there are things you need, supplies or whatever.”
“Well… I suppose a gander in Flourish and Blotts would do me no harm.” Which is true, he hasn’t had a new book in ages.
“Excellent. We’ll go after breakfast.” The boy happily goes back to stuffing his face with Snape’s cakes and helping himself to tea from Snape’s cup. Severus wonders how the child can ever be miserable, seeing how he’s so easily pleased.
“Mister Potter you are joking.”
“What? I need a disguise. Unless you want to be stopped every five minutes by my adoring public?”
“You look ridiculous. Like Morris the Monk.”
“I don’t know who that is.”
“He’s a bearded twerp from the fifteenth century. Believed to have invented Chemagirey.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
Snape sighs. “If we’re to stand about and list all the things you don’t know Potter, we may be here for a very long time.”
“Alright. Well I’m ready, let’s go.”
“And you’re really going to wear the beard?”
The day is actually sort of enjoyable. Potter seems to adopt a ‘jolly idiot’ demeanour as if he thinks that goes with his new facial hair.
“Morning Madame!” He bellows at an unsuspecting old lady who promptly overturns her shopping trolley, sending tins and bottles and packages everywhere.
After they retrieve all her items, Potter apologising loudly and repeatedly, Snape asks him why he’s acting like a lunatic.
“I’m not, I’m being jovial. Wearing a disguise is fun.”
“Yes. You can be anyone.”
“And you’ve chosen to be a bellowing idiot, with a beard?”
The boy just shrugs and calls out to a middle-aged couple about it being a glorious day.
With Potter grinning inanely at everyone and Snape scowling, they make an odd duo.
At least it draws attention away from Snape. No-one looks twice at him with Potter waving and guffawing at a disinterested public.
The boy buys a broomstick and an assortment of robes. Snape is surprised when he’s asked for his advice regarding colour choice. More so when the boy actually listens to it and buys some in a dark royal red (that Snape thinks accentuate the brilliant green of his eyes, though he doesn’t say it), rather than the garish colours he’d first picked out.
Afterwards Potter insists on an ice-cream from a street vendor that he proceeds to get all over his beard.
Snape hands him a handkerchief with a look of contempt.
In Flourish and Blotts they get into a bit of a fracas when the parent of a student starts bellowing about what a “disgrace” it is to let Snape teach at Hogwarts after his “sordid past.”
“I was thinking about taking my two out of there when I heard you was coming back.” The man jabs a finger at Snape’s chest. He’s balding and stocky. He reminds Snape of one of those ugly squat dogs he’s often seen Muggles with. He looks at the finger with growing disdain and peers down his nose at the man.
“I wouldn’t advise it. ‘Your two’ obviously need all the help they can get if you’re all they’ve had so far for guidance. Tell me, where you a born such a boor or is it something you’ve worked hard to achieve?”
The man goes a livid red colour and reaches for his wand but is nowhere near quick enough for Potter and Snape and there’s a loud bang as a combination of spells smack him in the chest.
A little man with a squeaky voice and a ‘manager’ badge comes to see what all the commotion is.
“Oh my!” He says when he sees the motionless man lying on the ground with a look of shocked fury on his frozen features.
“Oh my, oh my!” He squeaks, his eyes widening in recognition as he notices Severus Snape looming with his wand out. Potter steps in, shouting incoherently. He’s still bellowing when they are pushed out onto the street, the door of the shop closing firmly behind them.
Once outside, the boy doubles up in laughter and grips on to Snape’s arm.
“That was – you're so…Tell me, were you born such a boor… classic.”
Even Snape manages a smile.
“Lunch?” The boy asks, once he’s pulled himself together.
They eat in a small, quiet restaurant up a back street. Potter gripes throughout about the itchiness of his facial hair disguise.
“Not to mention how stupid you look,” Snape adds helpfully.
They stop in for a drink in the Leaky Cauldron on the way home, but Snape draws a lot of attention. It’s not all dirty looks: a well-wishing witch approaches their table and blathers on about what a hero Snape is. She works for the ministry, she explains. She even asks for his autograph. He doesn’t reply just looks at her stonily until she gets the hint and goes away, muttering about manners.
“We could go to a Muggle pub.”
“Because no one would know us there and I could take off this bloody beard.”
Potter leads the way. The pub they find themselves in is dingy and grimy and the few people that are in it are all old and white-haired. They give them a brief, unwelcoming look before going back to their drinks, seemingly unfazed by their attire. Snape decides he likes it.
Turns out he likes ‘bitter’ too. And Potter’s a tolerable drinking partner. They proceed to get blind drunk.
“Okay, okay. Filch, Lockheart and… Sirius.”
Snape pulls an appalled face.
“Interesting that they’re all men Potter. Sheds some light onto the youngest Weasley fiasco.”
“It wasn’t a fiasco, we’re better off as friends. Now answer the question.”
“Touchy subject? Alright, no need to look like that Potter. Okay… I would marry Lockheart, go on a cruise with Filch and – ”
“I wouldn’t ‘shag’ him as you call it, I would fuck him. Hard. Oh, stop laughing Potter, you’re turn. Right, Percy Weasley, Malfoy Junior and… Delores Umbridge.”
Potter spits his beer all over the table.
They eventually get kicked out when they forget where they are and try and to climb into the fireplace to get home. Satisfyingly, he has to chuck beer all over Potter to put out his burning robes.
Outside – once he’s reattached the ridiculous beard – Potter links arms with him like they’re old chums and smiles warmly up at him. Of course, it’s the alcohol that makes Severus hold his arm tightly and smile back. They get lost and wander around Muggle London for what seems like hours. Snape’s so drunk, he can barely walk straight and he’s thankful for Potter’s arm in his. The city seems to be made up of hazy bright lights, moving vehicles and other drunkards. They nearly get into a scrape with a group of what Snape assumes are ‘lager louts’ who start shouting at them from the other side of the road.
“What’ve you come as darling?”
“You’ve missed Halloween mate.”
“Fucking vampire freak.”
“Is that your boyfriend? He’s got a pretty beard.”
Snape reaches for his wand, but forgets about cursing the obnoxious twerps- he’s remembered he’s a wizard and can therefore Apparate them home. They land in a heap outside the Hogwarts’ gates. Climbing over is a bit of an ordeal – it takes several attempts and lots of falling down before they finally make it over. They must have tripped some alarm however, because as they stagger towards the castle they are met by Filch and Minerva, who is dressed in a long floral nightgown, her wand at the ready.
“Nice night for a stroll headmistress,” Snape slurs. “And I see you’ve got a date too. How lovely. Though that dress is an odd choice, even for you.”
Potter laughs so much that he falls over, taking Severus with him. From the ground Snape can see straight up Minerva’s disapproving nose.
“You both ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Really, rolling around the grounds covered in mud, smelling like a brewery.” The hint of amusement in her eye belies her stern face however and she clicks her tongue a few times before leaving them in Filch’s care. Once they’re upright and staggering again he claps the caretaker on the back.
“Argus old man, ever played a game called ‘Shag, Marry or Cruise’?”
Potter falls over laughing again.
Severus wakes with a dry throat, a sore head and a stiff neck. He squeezes one eye open. He’s scrunched in the corner of the couch in his study. And he’s not alone, there’s someone breathing near him. He opens his eyes to find Potter asleep against him, curled into his side like a kitten. Snape freezes when he notices that he’s got his hand on the boy’s hip. The skin is soft and warm under his palm and his fingers are tucked up under the boy’s t-shirt. He snatches it away and stands briskly, hurrying to his bathroom, ignoring the disgruntled, sleep-heavy noises coming from the boy.
His reflection in the mirror shows a messy sight: his hair is sticking up in places, adorned with leaves and bits of twigs, and he’s covered in mud. He disrobes and turns on the shower. Standing under the hot stream of water, bits of last night come back to him. Falling over the entrance gates, McGonagall, Filch. Then the boy’s insistence on visiting Hagrid. The game keeper’s baffled look as he let Snape, Filch and Potter into his hut. More whisky, lots more whisky. An argument about domesticated animals. Then an arm wrestling contest, that Hagrid won. Obviously. He’d beaten Potter at least. He can’t remember anything after that though so has no idea how he and the boy came to be so cozied up in his quarters.
When he re-enters his study sometime later, fully dressed and clean, the boy is still there, awake and nonchalantly eating a croissant like it’s the most natural thing in the world for them to wake up together.
“Morning,” he says brightly. “I got us some breakfast. Do you want some tea?”
Snape takes the proffered tea and scowls at the boy, who chuckles softly.
“I knew you wouldn’t be a morning person.”
“And it’s no surprise to me that you are. Would you mind turning down your bright mood just a bit? I’ve got a headache.”
“Not surprised, the amount you tucked away last night.”
“I believe I wasn’t the only one. How come you get to be so cheerful and I feel like death on toast.”
“I don’t know. Because I’m young and have youthful exuberance on my side?”
Snape scowls again. The boy slurps his tea and grins.
“Or more likely it’s because I got rid of my hangover by vomiting it up all night.”
“You were sick?”
“Yes, copiously. Don’t you remember?”
“No.” Snape says the word warily. What else can’t he remember?
“Oh. Well. I was. At Hagrid’s. Then outside Hagrid’s. Then most of the way to the castle. Then a few more times in your bathroom. You were very nice to me though.”
“I was?” Snape looks aghast. Potter chuckles.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”
“How was I nice to you?” Snape’s mouth has gone dry again.
“You kept saying it was your fault that I got so drunk, that you shouldn’t have let me drink whisky, that you forgot that I was practically a child. You also told me that I was an irritating tit that couldn’t hold his liquor, if it makes you feel any better.”
Snape nods – it does. “Anything else?”
“Well you kept making me drink water and rubbing my back and stuff. Then you said I should stay here with you. So I did.”
Severus isn’t sure if he’s imagining it, but the air around them suddenly feels tense. He can feel Potter looking at him, and for some reason he can’t quite meet his eye.
Finally the boy speaks.
“Anyway, it’s a lovely day out. I’m going to get some Quidditch practice in while it stays nice. Want to come?”
“Well for one, I could use some constructive criticism on my technique, and I know that criticising me is one of your favourite pastimes.”
Snape nods again; it’s a fair point.
“Secondly, you should get on a broom – it must have been ages now and the exercise will do you some good.”
Another fair point.
“And thirdly, I get bored playing on my own.”
“Ever in need of an audience?”
The boy rolls his eyes.
“Whatever. Come if you want. I’m going to have a shower, get rid of some of this mud.” The boy laughs and gestures at the state of his clothes.
“I’ll be on the Quidditch pitch in half an hour, see you there?”
Snape surprises himself by agreeing.
For the second time in as many days, Snape realises he’s enjoying himself. He’d never dared tryout for Quidditch when he was a student, aware of his lack of easy grace on a broomstick and intimidated by the likes of Potter and Black and their effortless skill. Not that he’s foolish enough to think he’s any good, not really, but there’s satisfaction in holding a bat and walloping bludgers, particularly when Harry Potter is his target. And he gets to bellow criticism at the boy, which he really does enjoy.
That night, after dinner – and then an after dinner cocoa with Potter – Snape realises something: he no longer thinks of the boy as James Potter’s son. The boy had been encouraging on the Quidditch pitch, helping Severus get to grips with the bludger bat and holding on to his broom with his bad hand. He hadn’t laughed the first few times Severus’ weak attempts had barely shot the bludger a few metres. He didn’t show off or gloat, despite being really rather good, even Severus could admit that. He caught the snitch over and over again, managing to avoid shots from Snape and pull some spectacular moves.
Potter may be an irritating little cretin, but he’s an irritating cretin in his own right.
An irritating cretin who you like spending time with?
So what if he does? Potter lets himself be bossed around with humility. And he’s a good assistant. And sometimes, he can actually be quite amusing.
And he’s handsome. And lithe. With smooth pale skin that’s nice to touch.
Shut up, Snape tells himself.
More of their drunken evening has come back to him throughout the day. He can remember Harry slumped over the toilet bowl, Snape’s hand rubbing at his back, tracing his fingers under the boys t-shirt, stroking over the knobbles of spine under warm skin. Potter had reached a hand out, Snape had thought it was for more water but it wasn’t. He’d taken Snape’s hand and squeezed it before slowly uncurling his fingers and placing a kiss on its palm, his eyes never leaving Snape’s. They’d sat in the bathroom for quite a while, Snape rubbing his back, Potter gripping his hand until they were both sure that he wasn’t going to be sick anymore. Snape had pulled him to standing and wiped his face with a cold flannel.
“I think you should stay here, with me.” Snape had said.
The boy had smiled and said okay, almost eagerly putting his hand in Snape’s and letting himself be led to the couch. He remembers the boy curling up against his side, bringing Snape’s arm around him, pushing his face into the crook of Snape’s neck.
“You smell nice.” The words had tickled on his skin.
“Ummm.” Then the boy had kissed his neck and Snape had thought his heart was going to stop and he’d held Potter tighter and then they must have passed out.
It’s nothing, he tells himself. They were both inebriated, extremely inebriated. Everyone gets affectionate when they’re half-cut.
Then why can’t you stop thinking about it?
Snape sleeps fitfully that night, his sleep interspersed with strange dreams: He’s standing on a cliff edge surrounded by a crowd of people that he knows instinctively is made up of everyone he’s ever known. He can’t make out their faces, but he knows Albus is in there, so too his parents, the Malfoys, the whole staff of Hogwarts, Lily and James Potter, all the Weasleys, the rest of the Order. They are edging him closer and closer to the side of the cliff and he can’t seem to stop them. Over the cliff is a massive drop. It’s so high that he can’t see the bottom. When the crowd finally pushes him over, he begins to fall and then wakes with a start
If Potter thinks anything strange went on that night, then he doesn’t act like it. They spend the rest of Easter marking, Potter blathering on mindlessly as usual. Snape finds he is distracted, giving monosyllabic answers to the boy’s stream of words.
“I mean, Wood’s great, but the rest of their defence is shoddy.”
Potter’s got perfectly white teeth with a small gap between the front two.
“They’re still doing alright though. Better than the Cannons. They lost another match on Saturday, did you see?”
“Indeed.” His lips are a kind of cherry red and when he’s thinking, he worries the bottom one with his teeth.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that? Am I boring you?”
“What? Oh.” Oh. “Sorry I was just thinking Potter.”
“What about? You looked quite far away.”
“Nothing. It doesn’t matter. Have you finished the third year papers? Pass them over.” He tries to pretend he’s not blushing. The boy narrows his eyes and passes him the essays.
Maybe everything isn’t exactly the same because the boy seems to touch him a lot more than he used to. He’ll lean into Snape when they are sat drinking cocoa, or press against him to reach something when they are marking at the desk, a lingering hand pressed onto Snape’s back. And now, every time they say goodbye there’s a pause in which the boy smiles and reaches out to squeeze his hand. Snape can’t decide whether it’s unusual or not, or whether he’s seeing something that isn’t there.
Something that you want to be there?
He’s finding his own brain irritating. And Minerva, who keeps giving him smug smirks every time she sees him and the boy together. He purposely starts a row with Potter at dinner, the night before term starts just to shut her up.
“Do you have to scrape your plate with your cutlery so loudly? Didn’t those Muggles teach you any table manners? They seemed like such a respectable lot.”
The boy looks confused, Minerva narrows her eyes, Hagrid frowns and Snape smirks to himself.
“Respectable? And no they didn’t. I usually had to eat on my own.”
“My heart bleeds. I’m not surprised they wouldn’t let you eat with them, who can blame them? You eat like a pig.”
“Trust you to side with the Dursleys.” The boy rolls his eyes.
“I think I can understand how it must have been for them. You’ve always been troublesome, irksome, unmanageable.”
He knows he’s being unfair. The disastrous occlumency lessons had shown him that the boy’s aunt and uncle had treated him worse than they would a dog.
“Understandable that they should have to go to certain measures to keep you in line. In my opinion, you probably got off lightly. If anything, I expect you needed a firmer hand.”
Minerva’s glaring at him, so too is Hagrid. Potter’s looking at him quizzically, like he’s deciding whether to be offended or not. He’s surprised when the boy shrugs then twists his face into a grimace.
“I’m. So. Sorry. I. Offend. You.” The boy enunciates each word in a slow drawl. “Would. You. Prefer. I. Eat. Like. Thisss.” He brings his fork up to his mouth, his nose wrinkled in distaste then chews slowly, looking down his nose at the food on his plate.
There’s a boom of laughter from Hagrid and Minerva titters behind her hand, and everyone’s looking at him for his reaction.
“Yes. That. Would. Be. Pref-er-rab-el.” He drawls back – straight faced – and everyone laughs.
“Oh my god, Severus Snape actually taking the mickey out of himself. I might die of shock.”
He scowls at the boy who just gives him an impish smile and goes back to scraping the cutlery against his plate.
“Afternoon Professor, did you have a good Easter?” A handsome seventh year smiles at him as he passes. Snape nods at him, then frowns: he’s sure that boy is a Gryffindor.
“Afternoon Professor Snape.” And that one was a Hufflepuff.
Snape glares at a timid looking first year who startles and hurries past. That makes him feel better at least.
He has a few more half-hearted attempts at being nasty to the boy again once term starts but the boy just laughs or ignores him, and then doesn’t sit with him at dinner. Snape sulks for two days then asks the boy to have cocoa with him one night and everything goes back to normal. Or nearly normal – the hand squeezing is still going on.
There’s fewer lessons now that exams are coming up. Snape spends his free periods outside enjoying the warmer weather. He walks in the evening too but abstains from Quidditch practice with Potter to reserve his energy. He sometimes goes and watches though, shouting advice from the stands.
After a bizarre one-sided discussion with Albus one afternoon – one-sided because it happens entirely in his head – he decides to stop caring what other people will think of him being close to the boy. Mainly because he realises that no one else does care, it’s only him. So he stops. He still has the cliff dream but now they no longer push him off, they just stand around him looking at him with faceless faces as if they expect him to do something.
Finally the school year ends. Snape sleeps for practically two whole days. He hadn’t realised he was so tired. On the third day of the holidays he manages to get up by lunch time, which he eats sat on the stretch of grass overlooking Dumbledore’s garden. Potter spots him from outside Hagrid’s hut and waves before making his way over.
“You’re up then,” he states, sitting himself beside Snape.
“Good, I was considering breaking in to your chambers to make sure you were still alive.”
“Two days without my company too much to bear Potter?” His tone is taunting, but the boy just grins and shrugs and starts picking the petals off a daisy.
“It’s nice without the kids here.”
“You are a kid.”
“I’m twenty-two in a few weeks. You’d better stop calling me boy.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Boy. Idiot boy.”
The boy rolls his eyes.
“Good job I don’t really mind. I think you use it as a term of affection.”
Snape throws the crust of his sandwich at him, then lies down on the grass and closes his eyes. There’s fidgeting and then the feel of Potter’s body lying close to his.
“Haven’t you got work to do with your giant friend?”
“Yeah, I’m entitled to a lunch break though.”
Snape’s almost dozing off when the boy pipes up again.
“You know I said it was my birthday?”
“Well, I was thinking of having everyone here for a bit of a party.”
“Save Molly cooking, more room, you know.”
“For all your hundreds of friends?”
Potter clicks his tongue. “Shut up… if I do, if McGonagall lets me… will you come?”
Snape furrows his brow.
“What do you mean ‘why’?”
“One – why do you want me to come, two – why do you think I’d want to come?”
“Oh fine, don’t bother. I’ll have it at the Burrow, as far away from you as possible if you’d prefer. Just thought it might be nice, seeing as we’re friends now.”
He opens his eyes and squints at the boy.
“I don’t have friends Potter.”
Potter starts standing up, huffing and looking very much like a kicked puppy. Snape sighs.
“Oh don’t get your knickers in a twist. If it means that much to you, I’ll come to your sodding birthday party Potter.”
“Really?” How can this make him so happy?
“Yes, but I’m not promising to enjoy myself.”
“They’ll be whole host of Weasleys to insult. You’ll have a great time,” Potters says through a breath of slightly manic laughter.
“Fair point. But Potter?”
“Don’t expect me to get along with everyone like we’re all bosom buddies. Some people might not be happy to see me. I don’t like people, people don’t like me. I hope you’re not expecting miracles.”
“I like you.”
His eyes meet the boy’s and for a moment he’s lost for words. It’s true, the idiot boy likes him.
“Wonders will never cease,” Snape finally says quietly. “But we’ve already established many times that you are a simpleton. I believe you may be in the minority.”
Potter gives him a toothy smile and a shrug before wandering off.
There’s a strange fluttery feeling in the pit of Snape’s stomach and he feels like he could burst out laughing. He puts it down to indigestion and too much sugar in his tea and lies back down.
If Snape didn’t know himself better he’d think he was nervous. He looks in the mirror again, but it’s the same reflection that has always been there – sallow skin, long hair, an over-large nose. The only difference is that he’s not dressed in black. Instead he’s wearing the charcoal grey robes he and the boy had picked out on their excursion to Diagon Alley. They’re smart and flattering and aren’t too billowy. “Less bat like,” the boy had said. “But still impressive looking.”
He glances at the clock and pours himself a whisky to calm the nerves he knows he doesn’t have. It’s only quarter past seven, another forty-five minutes until the party starts. He thinks about changing his mind, and hiding in his room until it’s over but can’t think of a good reason for doing so. He has nothing to be scared of – it’s just a bunch of moronic people that he has no regard for. He pours another whisky.
He enters the Great Hall and everyone stops talking to look at him. Some of them look confused by his presence; others are glaring at him like he’s just trampled a kitten. The little tit must not have told them he was coming. Said ‘tit’ is nowhere to be seen. He could just walk back out again, but then he’s the one who’ll look like a tit. Does he care? Unfortunately so.
He makes a beeline for the table of drinks and gulps down some saccharine punch. They’re all there in their underwhelming glory: the Weasley herd, Granger, a few other forgettable faces. Also – inexplicably – there’s a small boy being held by the hand of Molly Weasley. It hasn’t got red hair; it can’t be one of her lots’. Not Potter’s? He wonders why he’s so aghast at the idea and is strangely relieved to realise that the child must be around four – too old to be Potter’s surely?
Time passes, he talks to no-one, no-one talks to him. He’s about to slip out when, finally, the witless wonder makes his entrance. There are actual cheers and hugs and other general unpleasantness. Snape wonders for the hundredth time what he’s doing there. Skulking in the corner at parties was something he’d thought he’d out grown decades ago.
Now Potter’s coming towards him, grinning like the cretin he is.
“You made it!”
“It wasn’t like I had far to travel. Nice of you to show up. Is this what they call fashionably late? Trying to build up anticipation before you grace us with your presence?”
The boy laughs. Snape is aware that they are being watched.
“No, I was talking to Neville, via floo. He isn’t coming tonight.”
“Longbottom actually making a sensible decision, wonders will never cease.”
“Glad to see you’re in the party spirit. I know, no need to scowl, I didn’t expect you to be dancing and making small talk.”
There’s some laughter. Snape glances at the room. Molly Weasley’s looking watchful, her youngest son’s got his mouth hanging open. The boy doesn’t seem to notice that they are being observed.
“You’re drinking punch.”
“Ten points to Gryffindor for observation.”
“Ha ha. I mean – why? There’s some ale, some of that Fiddler’s Finger that you like. I’ll get you some.” The boy scuttles off. Snape scowls at everyone until they look shiftily away and start chatting amongst themselves.
The boy brings him back his drink and then gets swept off by the not-dead Weasley twin to meet his lacklustre girlfriend. Snape gulps down his ale. He sees Potter talking to the youngest Weasley. They’re laughing and she keeps touching his arm. Snape gets another drink. At the liquor table he has a reasonably interesting conversation with Granger about her cases at the Wizengamot. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Potter taking the little boy by the hand. Potter looks cross. So does Molly Weasley. Snape’s intrigued.
Minerva comes in, giving him a wave before going to talk to one of her ex-pupils. People start dancing, Snape watches with disdain. A loud bang of the doors marks Hagrid’s entrance. He lumbers over to Snape and shakes the bottle of scotch he’s got clutched in his hand at him, moving off to fetch glasses when Snape nods at him. The giant half-breed has stopped being fearful of him after the night they’d spent drinking in his hut. He’s now being chummy. Snape’s not sure if he’s entirely happy with this turn of events, but the man’s brought scotch so for tonight, he’s going to be chummy back.
A few Hagrid sized measures later and everything starts getting blurry. He makes some jokes but gets the feeling they don’t go down well. He says something to someone and the room goes a bit quiet and still and then Potter’s got him by the elbow and is marching him off to his quarters. He crashes on to his bed, faintly aware of Potter sniping at him in the background and then it all goes dark.
Snape wakes faced down on his bed, fully dressed, save for his shoes. There’s a blanket thrown over him. His head pounds as he lifts it and he lets out a groan.
“You’re awake then.” Potter’s voice is nauseatingly loud and there’s an edge to it. Snape twists around to look at him. The boys sat in a chair with his arms crossed and he’s glaring. Just what he needs – the hangover from hell and an angry Harry Potter. Why can’t all mornings be this pleasant?
“I wish I wasn’t. I feel like actual death. My head feels like it’s being crushed in a vice.”
“Poor. You.” He spits the words and Snape winces.
“Have I done something to upset you Potter or are you always this uncivil in the mornings?”
“You know what you did.”
“No actually, I don’t.”
The boy’s glare intensifies. He looks like he’s trying to do a wordless incendio on Snape’s face.
“Oh stop with the death stares, tell me what I’ve done to upset your delicate sensitivities.”
“My delicate – fuck off, you ruined my birthday!”
“Please keep the dramatics down to a dull roar, I’ve told you I’ve got a splitting headache. How exactly did I ruin your birthday?”
“By being nasty to all my friends!”
“Really? That doesn’t sound at all like me. I’m usually so affable.”
“Argh! You’re so infuriating! Aren’t you even going to apologise?”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t see that I’ve done anything for you to get so worked up about. I did warn you that my presence might not be received well, it was you who insisted I attend.”
“It wasn’t your presence. It was your disgusting mouth that was the problem!”
“Potter please calm down. I’m having trouble remembering the finer details about the evenings events… if you’d care to enlighten me?”
“You were horrible to everyone. Saying nasty things, going on and on about how Hermione was way out of Ron’s league and how it would only be a matter of time before it dawned on her.”
Snape tries not to smirk – he’s definitely right about that one.
“I’m sure Weasley will soon get over it. If I remember correctly, that boy is incredibly thick skinned.”
“It’s not funny! But that’s nothing compared with what you said to George about Fred being dead. Or what you said to Luna. Or Molly Weasley…” The boy trails off. He looks so anguished that it’s making Snape feel uneasy.
“Potter I honestly can’t remember what I said, but I’m sure you’re making too bigger deal out of this. And besides, if I remember correctly, your exact words were ‘there’ll be a whole host of Weasleys to insult’. You knew what would happen.”
Potter seems to have gotten too angry for words. He’s shaking his head and clenching his jaw. Worse still, he looks like he’s about to cry.
“Either tell me what it is I said that has upset you so much, or kindly take your tantrum out of my chambers.”
“You… you asked Molly Weasley who the child was with her because, and I think your exact words were, ‘there’s no way Arthur could still get it up, least of all over her repulsive fat, old carcass’.”
The boy puts his head in his hands. Snape senses something that feels uncomfortably like shame.
“Oh come on Potter, that’s not such a big deal. Molly’s a grown woman, I’m sure she took it in the way it was intended.” It sounds unconvincing, even to his own ears.
“She was mortified. You said it really loudly in the quiet part of a song. Everyone heard.”
Potter’s voice has gone quiet and flat and he’s wiping at his eyes.
“You’re not even going to say sorry, are you? I thought – after everything… I must have been stupid.”
“You thought what Potter? You know who I am. If it comes as a surprise to you, after ten years of knowing me that I’m unabashedly cruel, than you’re a bigger idiot than I thought.”
“Unabashed? You don’t even care, do you?”
Snape opens and closes his mouth, but all there is is stubborn silence.
“Oh you know what, forget it. Fuck you Snape. You’re right, I must be a fucking idiot.”
The boy leaves without slamming the door. Peace at last, Snape thinks and decides to go back to sleep. An hour of tossing and turning later, and he’s knocking tentatively at the boy’s door.
I must still be drunk, he tells himself. That’s why he cares that the boy is upset. And besides, it is unreasonable to let someone – even someone you don’t give a shed snake-skin about – be upset on their birthday.
Potter answers, surly faced, arms folded, and Snape has the urge to simply slap him and then go back downstairs. He doesn’t though.
“Potter… I’m sorry. I was drunk and… No excuses, I’m just plain sorry.”
The boy doesn’t smile, just nods.
“And you’ll apologise to everyone else?”
Oh for Merlin’s sake.
“Yes, yes fine. Whatever. Just don’t start shouting again. Or bawling for that matter.”
“I wasn’t crying.” Snape looks at his rid rimmed eyes but thinks better of pointing them out.
“You can write them letters. And send them something. Flowers, you can send them all flowers and letters.”
“Yes really! I’ll get you some paper shall I?”
He spends an hour writing at the boy’s desk. He thinks he must still be drunk because he actually finds it quite enjoyable. For Molly Weasley’s letter, he really outdoes himself, harping on about what a wonderful mother she is, and how she’s thought of as a positive matriarchal role model by all of those who know her. He even tells her that he’s always thought of her as a handsome woman and that Arthur’s a lucky man, and that was what why he thought the joke would be funny. Although it’s the sort of flowery bullshit he knows she’ll suck straight up, there is a small part of him that is genuinely sorry. Despite them not being his cup of tea, he can admit that the Weasley’s are undeserving of unnecessary hurts.
He puts his final letter into Potter’s hand. It’s addressed to him.
Snape unexpectedly feels bashful and mutters something about getting washed and dressed, leaving the boy alone to read his note. Under the stream of his shower, Snape suddenly feels sober and regrets giving Potter the letter. As someone who rarely apologises, he feels sick at the thought of doing so in writing. The rest of them, he couldn’t give a shit about, but Potter’s different.
In it he’d written:
To Harry Potter,
I am truly sorry that you found my antics last night so upsetting. As you know, I’m far from being what one would call sociable and find occasions that others deem pleasant hard to enjoy. Still, you and your acquaintances did not deserve the diatribe (that means the nasty things I said) that I thought amusing (although, only at the time I assure you) to impart on them. I acknowledge that it was done with bad grace and understand if you do not wish to accept my apology. I know I would not in your place, but am trusting in your superior (and foolishly forgiving) nature. Also, I have a birthday present for you.
From Severus Snape, Potions Master Extraordinaire
It’s just that he doesn’t want the boy to think he cares.
Thankfully, he doesn’t have long to wait until he sees the boy again. He’s barely dressed when there’s a knock at his door.
Potter stands there with his arms folded, looking stern although Severus can tell his heart’s no longer completely in it. He plays along though.
“So, am I forgiven?”
“Yes you’re forgiven. But because of my ‘superior nature’, not because I’m foolish.”
“Of course not.” They share a smile, and Snape ignores the relief that washes through him as he stands aside so Potter can enter.
“So, I hear you’ve got a present for me?”
“Yes. I don’t know what you’re grinning about – you don’t know what it is yet.”
Snape drags out the giving of his present until after he’s had several cups of tea and eaten something to appease his rumbling stomach. He’s not sure why, but he feels self-conscious about his gift.
“Albus gave it to me the first Christmas after I came back,” he explains to the boy as he hands over the neatly wrapped parcel. “It was given to him by his father, and passed down through generations. It’s very old. I don’t have a need for it anymore; I thought you might like it.”
The boy opens it. It is a telescope, inscribed with ancient and out dated magical language.
“When you are looking through it, you can ask it questions – what it is you are exactly looking at, how far away it is, how long it will take you to get there, that sort of thing. It can also hear for you from great distances, look through walls…” He trails off, the boy is looking at the telescope with awe.
“It must be priceless… Are you sure… I mean, you don’t want it anymore?”
“No, I don’t. It was given to me as an aid to my undercover duties. I don’t need it now. It’s just sitting here gathering dust. I thought you’d appreciate it more.” He leaves out the overwhelming sadness he feels every time he looks at the thing.
“Yes I will, I do. Thank you, Snape – Severus, it’s amazing.”
Snape feels his cheeks getting hot. Why does being nice always have to be so damned embarrassing?
The boy toddles off to play with his new toy and Snape goes back to bed for a nap.
When he gets back up, Potter is sprawled on his couch peering through the telescope that he’s got pointed at the ceiling.
“I really must start locking my door. Shove up.”
The boy twists his legs out the way so Snape can sit down next to him. He notes that there is half a birthday cake and two bottles of wine on the coffee table.
“This thing is amazing. You can go through each floor, one at a time, all the way to the sky. And earlier I could look all the way into Hogsmede from the astronomy tower. I could see Aberforth washing his socks in his kitchen sink. Amazing.”
“I know.” He says it offhand, but he’s happy the boy’s so pleased with it.
“It’s a lovely evening, I was thinking we could go and sit outside.”
The boy sighs impatiently
“Because it’s my birthday and I want to, and you owe me for last night. You could just graciously accept instead of asking ‘why?’ every time I make a suggestion. Repeat after me – it would be a pleasure Mister Potter.”
“It would be a pleasure Mister Potter. But- aren’t you seeing you friends tonight?”
“Well, to be honest, I saw enough of them last night… Not that I wasn’t happy to see them, it’s just that they’re…”
“Demanding? Expectant? Nosy?”
The boy laughs quietly.
“Yeah, all of the above. Anyway, come on, I’ve brought a picnic.”
Snape eyes the garish coloured icing and the jam oozing out of the middle of the cake and pulls a face.
Potter chuckles. “We could get other food I suppose, if this isn’t suitable enough for your refined palate.”
They take out blankets and pillows and some other non-sugar based food that Snape orders from the kitchen.
“Isn’t this all a bit,” Romantic? “…odd?” Snape asks as he eases himself down next to Potter.
“Well, surely as a young man who’s just turned twenty-two, you should be going to a disco or something? Rather than sitting on a lawn watching the sunset and drinking merlot with an aged git like me?”
“Nah. Discos give me headaches. And you’re hardly aged. And when you forget to be, you’re really not that gittish.”
Snape frowns at him and accepts the glass of wine Potter’s holding out to him.
A bottle and half later and Potter’s managed to wedge himself against Snape’s side. They’re watching the first stars come out and Potter’s explaining about the child who was at the party last night.
“He’s Remus’ and Tonk’s son, my godson. And I love him, I really, really do. It’s just that Molly thinks I should take him on, you know be his guardian. When they died, that was always the plan. But now, now that I’m old enough for him to come and live with me, I just… can’t face it.”
“Hence why you have never mentioned him?”
“Yeah I guess. I’ve been pretending like he doesn’t exist, do you think that’s horrible?”
“No. One could argue that it would be more horrible to let him come and live with you and then resent him for it.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I’d never thought about it like that.” The boy sits up and reaches his hand to rake through the grass. “I just don’t feel ready, for any of it. For anything. Everyone’s trying to make me decide what it is I want to be, and I don’t want to be anything really.
“But then I feel guilty, like I should be doing something worthwhile. Everyone else has always done something – The Order, or teaching, or being Headmaster, or an Auror. And Hermione’s a lawyer now, and Ron’s working for The Department of Magical Transportation. And what am I doing?”
“Potter, you are not a God. You don’t owe anyone anything. Find something you enjoy and do it, fuck what everyone else thinks.”
“But there isn’t anything I enjoy. Except for bickering with you and playing Quidditch.” He gives Snape a grin and goes back to fiddling with the grass.
“Unfortunately only one of those has a career behind it. Haven’t you answered your own question? Play Quidditch, get on one of those teams, Puddleduck United or whatever.”
“Puddlemere. And I don’t know. It would feel like a cop out. Isn’t it copping out?” He lies back against the pillows, a crinkle of frown above his glasses.
“No it isn’t. You really are not a God, I wasn’t lying when I said it before. Why on earth should you not do something you enjoy? You’ve done your bit for other people Potter.”
“What about you? You did your bit too, are you doing something you enjoy?”
Snape pauses to think about it. Happiness is something that he’s not sure he’s ever really tried to obtain. He’s just been existing, and working hard to carry on existing. But, here at Hogwarts, in the calm after the war he supposes there’s a sense of contentment.
“Yes. I think I enjoy what I do.”
“More than before?”
“Maybe. I enjoy the absence of constant terror of course, but I suppose there are certain things I miss.”
Potter nods thoughtfully and then reaches his fingers to touch the back of Snape’s hand.
“Yeah, I think I know what you mean. Still, there must be things you’re glad of now, things that weren’t here before?”
Snape nods and swallows, and wonders what Potter is driving at. His green eyes are piercing into him, like they used to in his dreams, and he’s still touching the back of Snape’s hand.
“I know there are things I’m glad of now.” Their faces are so close, he can smell the wine on the boys breath.
“Such as?” His voice is low and raspy and his heart has started beating fast.
“Such as- Hagrid.”
“Such as Hagrid?”
“No- look. Hey Hagrid!”
Snape jumps and pulls back his hand, noting how quickly the boy moves away from his side.
“Yeah, I’m ok.”
“Good-o. Didn’t expect to find you two together, not after last night.” He gives Snape a bushy frown.
“Oh, yeah. Its all sorted now. Amends made and all that.” Potter’s fiddling with his hair the way he does when he’s nervous. Snape gives Hagrid a grimace and receives a nod in return, and then the gamekeeper plonks himself heavily on a corner of the blanket.
“Saw you two from my hut. Nice night, so I thought I’d come and join you.”
“Yeah, ok. Good I mean.” Potter’s eyes flick to Snape as he sits back on the cushions, a noticeable distance now separating them.
They end up playing eye-spy – of all things – but Snape doesn’t mind, it saves him from having to think about what it was exactly Hagrid had just interrupted.
He’s still puzzling it over that night in bed, although is getting no answers. That he and Potter are friends (because they are, he can no longer deny it), is unbelievable in itself, but that they keep having odd, charged moments is something he cannot work out at all. He can’t even decide if they’re significant or not.
That night he dreams he’s on the cliff again. The crowd are there, turned to him with the same blank faces. This time though, Potter is there too, trying to get through all the people. Snape stands motionless watching him make his way, unsure if he is willing him on or hoping they keep him back. When he finally does make it through, he smiles up at Snape triumphantly and reaches for his hand.
“Come on,” he says gesturing to the cliff edge and laughing when Snape shakes his head.
“Come on, it’s not so bad. Jump.” But Snape won’t and he turns and runs as fast he can, but every time he looks to see if he’s got away, there Potter is, holding his hand and smiling up at him.
“Teddy’s coming to stay,” Potter announces over breakfast one day, watching Snape for his reaction as he takes a bite of toast. The fact that they’ve taken to having breakfast together (and lunch, and dinner and spending all of almost everyday in each others company), Snape has chosen not to pass comment on. Besides, he likes morning Potter: he’s less energetic and his eyes look pretty with sleep and he shuffles about in oversized night robes and rubs sleepily at his hair.
“That will be nice for you.”
“Yes. Well I hope so. Will you help?”
“Help? How exactly? It might have escaped your notice but children and I are not famous for getting on.”
“That was the old you. The new you is practically cuddly.”
“I am not.”
“Are. Well, I always want to give you a cuddle.”
“He’ll be scared of me no doubt,” Snape replies, choosing to ignore the remark and the cheeky grin that goes with it.
“Haven’t you heard? You’re not scary any more.”
“Rubbish. According to whom?”
“According to your students. They like you these days. In fact, I’d go as far to say that you’re popular.”
“It’s true. There’s been talk, I’ve heard it.”
“Talk? Such as what?”
“Such as you’re funny, and a good teacher… and handsome, and swarthy... Shall I continue?”
“Please don’t.” He’s blushing; he can tell he’s blushing. Damn Potter, how can the little tit always make him feel so far out of his sodding depth?
“You should learn to take compliments better. It won’t be much, with Teddy, just watching him for a few hours here and there.”
“Why? Where will you be?”
“I’ve got try-outs haven’t I? On your sage advice, no less.”
“Why can’t Minerva do it? Or Hagrid?”
“Because I’m asking you.” He says it with a pointed look, like he expects Snape to understand what it means. Not for the first time, Snape concludes that life with Harry Potter is entirely confusing.
“He’s Remus Lupin’s son,” he states lamely.
“And? I’m James Potter’s son in case you’d forgotten and it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t let it. And besides, Remus Lupin was a good man.”
“Pft. Oh fine, fine, don’t look at me like that Potter, I’ll watch the poor sod. But don’t blame me if it ends in tears.”
Teddy Lupin is mousey haired and freckly and fairly solemn. He looks at Potter blankly when he suggests they play some bright plastic board game and instead requests to be read a book by Severus. Snape approves of him immediately. After several stories and some warm milk, the child is dozy and content. Potter on the other hand looks rather wired.
“You’re trying too hard Potter.” Snape says when Teddy finally falls asleep.
“What do you mean?”
“Children can see through pretence. Cut out the weird infantile voice and over-enthusiasm and you might find he becomes less wary of you.”
“Yeah, maybe. He likes you.”
“He has good taste.”
Potter manages to tone it down and over the next few days Teddy becomes more cheerful, although he often catches Snape’s eye when Potter is being particularly idiotic.
Two weeks go in a blur. They spend hours playing games, Potter insisting on Snape’s participation – “We need three people” – or, if Hagrid’s playing too, “We definitely need four.”
They have an epic game of hide-and-seek inside the castle that ends in near disaster when they lose Teddy for the best part of four hours. They eventually find him curled up and asleep in a cupboard in a disused classroom and Potter actually cries with relief, the emotional berk, and puzzlingly insists that Teddy be fed ice-cream and cakes, which he eats willingly, although he is bemused by all the fuss.
They invent a new game, in which Snape and Harry take it in turns to fly Teddy from one end of a stretch of grass to another without Hagrid grabbing them. It’s a bit frightening, having Hagrid roar and lunge at you whilst deftly avoiding him on a broom and Teddy screams with delighted fear throughout. Snape is surprised to find how much he enjoys it – making Teddy laugh.
When Potter goes to Quidditch try-outs, Snape takes Teddy for walks over the school grounds. He winds up telling him stories about his father, about Remus and the things he got up to at school (leaving out his own part in Lupin’s school days), and Teddy listens with eager attention. He’s surprised to find himself able to talk with an absence of bitterness. Lupin, Black and Potter Senior finally seem far away in an unreachable past that he no longer has to feel, well, anything about. Besides, they’re all dead, and he’s not.
“He’s a surprisingly charming child, considering his parentage.” Snape tells Potter that evening, but only gets a sour look in return.
On the last day he’s collected by his grandmother and there are watery goodbyes and a cuddle for Snape (accompanied by an I-told-you-so look from Potter), and then the castle feels quiet and empty.
“Thank Merlin for that. Peace at last.”
Potter clicks his tongue. “You can’t fool me; I know you had a good time with him. I actually saw you laugh, and more than once. I only wish I had a camera.”
“As always, I don’t know what you’re talking about Mister Potter.”
“Yeah you do. You can admit it you know, the sky won’t fall on your head if you say you find something enjoyable. Or that you like someone.”
Potter eyes him, another pointed look that leaves Snape feeling flustered.
“Drink? I think we deserve one after all that wholesome good fun. I’ve got some fire-whisky here somewhere.”
He locates the bottle and some glasses and pours them each a drink, settling back down beside Potter on the sofa. Potter looks wiped out, and is fiddling with his hair again. As happy as he was to have Teddy stay (which is true, even if he can’t admit it out loud), Snape’s glad to be just the two of them again. He lets out a relaxed sigh and eases back, giving Potter a rare contented smile as he does so. He’s slightly puzzled when Potter doesn’t smile back, but instead frowns and begins chewing on his lip.
“Snape, there’s something you should know… I’ve been accepted, by Puddlemere United. Well, by several others too, but I’ve said yes to Puddlemere.”
“Really..? Oh. But – you never said.”
“I only got the letter yesterday. Sent my reply this morning.”
“Well that’s… that’s – well done, I mean. Congratulations Potter.”
He holds his drink up and smiles, but it feels like the bottom has fallen out of his body. Not that he’s surprised, Potter would have got in to any team, regardless of his skill as a seeker; no one in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to have Harry-the-saviour-Potter play for them. Its just he hadn’t thought it would happen so soon.
“Thank you. For everything I mean, for telling me to go for it.”
Snape just nods.
“They’ve given me an apartment, a massive one in London. And the salary! It’s insane how much Quidditch players get. I’ll think I’ll put most of it aside for Teddy though.”
“And when? When do you start?” “
“September. About three weeks. Haven’t told McGonagall yet.”
“So I’ll finally have my classroom back to myself will I?”
“Yeah I guess.”
For a celebratory occasion, Snape can’t help but notice how sombre the atmosphere is. He pours them more drinks.
“You’ll be shot of me at last.”
“Yes, the end is finally in sight.”
Neither of them is smiling; it feels awkward. Potter’s looking at him like he’s announced the Dark Lord is back, rather than that he’s simply got a new job. Silly sod. Snape sighs and stretches his arm along the back of the sofa, which Potter takes as an invitation to shuffle closer, and then closer still so that he ends up tucked against Snape, his head resting against the outstretched arm. Snape has the perplexing urge to clutch the boy to him. He doesn’t though, settling for picking a bit of lint from the boy’s shoulder instead.
“I have no doubt that you will enjoy this new venture Potter, no matter how daunting it may seem.”
“I know. But – I can still come and visit you, right?”
Snape chuckles, and is baffled by how relieved he is.
“If you must.”
“Then you will I suppose.”
The boy laughs and wriggles closer. He’s got his face tilted towards Severus, so close and relaxed and more than that – so open. Severus can see the underlying anxiety about his new Quidditch position, can see the effect of the swiftly drunk glass of whisky, can see the obvious affection in his eyes as he gazes up at him.
He watches as sleep slowly claims the boy, slackening his jaw, causing his eyes to droop and then close. He yawns and feels his own exhaustion reaching for him too.
Snape wakes with a crick in his neck and Potter still lying against him. This time he does not move though, just watches the boy sleep for a while until he awakes and starts mumbling about breakfast and then the day carries on as if nothing has happened.
There’s a goodbye feast, of course. Although why all Potter’s witless friends have to come, Snape can’t fathom – they’re not the ones he’s leaving. He’s on his best behaviour though, smiling (yes, actually smiling at people) and making polite conversation. Potter gets drunk and Snape watches jealously as he talks and laughs with everyone else, and then decides to go to bed early.
Potter turns up, much later and even more inebriated.
“I thought we better have one more drink for the road,” he says loudly, staggering in to Snape’s quarters and laughing as he trips over thin air.
“I think you’ve had quite enough for one night Mister Potter.”
“Oh don’t Mister Potter me, Mister Snape,” he drawls as he collapses onto the sofa. “And don’t be such a sour-puss, I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“I know, a time for rejoicing if ever there was one.”
“It’s late, you should go to bed.”
“But I only just got here.”
“I know but it’s late and you need your rest for your first big day tomorrow.” If Potter notices the scorn, he doesn’t acknowledge it. He instead eyes Snape quizzically from behind his glasses, like a little drunk owl.
“I could stay,” he says quietly.
“I know, but I could still stay.”
“Goodnight Mister Potter.”
“Oh fine. But give me a hand will you?”
Snape pulls him up by the arms and helps him to the door.
“I will one day you know.”
“Yes,” and he leans to give Snape a wet kiss on the cheek before he staggers off.
“This won’t be the last you’ll see of me Severus-erus Snape,” he calls behind him.
Snape shuts the door and pretends that he doesn’t feel completely giddy.
Of course, it’s the cliff dream again that night. This time he doesn’t run, just spends a lot of time looking tentatively over the edge.
“It’s the only way down,” Potter keeps telling him.
When he wakes, he can’t remember if he jumped or not.
So Potter leaves, and it’s back to solitary walks for Snape, although they stop being as pleasurable as he remembered them. He finds himself calling on Hagrid frequently and getting blind drunk and arguing pointless arguments pointlessly. Hagrid isn’t much fun to row with though; he’s too sensitive and when he gets really angry has a tendency to accidentally break things, drawing Snape’s attention to his size and strength.
Another school year starts, and with it a black mood that doesn’t seem to lift. To add to his displeasure (and despite several heated arguments with Minerva) he gets appointed a new assistant, a fastidious little twit called Buntley. That he has spectacles and is short are the only traits he shares with Potter. He’s irritatingly earnest and makes squeaky noises when Snape gets exasperated. The children don’t like him either and generally pretend he doesn’t exist when he starts trying to interfere with their potions. Snape realises that Potter was right, his students do like him, and odder still, that this pleases him. They’re all grateful for Buntley as a thing to direct his bad mood at. A new game emerges that involves sending him on quests for mythical potions ingredients. Snape starts giving out house points for students who can come up with an ingredient that means he’s gone for the longest amounts of time, and the poor sod spends three days on a mission to find the teeth of a Spurious lizard before someone tells him that they did not exist.
Still, Minerva gives him his position back as Head of Slytherin in exchange for promising to never, ever hex Buntley.
Puddlemere United do increasingly well and Potter is back on the front pages. Snape sneers at the moving photographs and then keeps them all. He and Potter write to each other, almost daily, Potter’s letters always ending with ‘see you soon’ but he doesn’t come and visit. Although, he’s only been gone a month, Snape supposes.
He’s just dropping off to sleep one Friday night when there is the whoosh of floo from his study followed by thumping noises and the sound of Potter calling his name.
He rises to find Potter in a sorry state. He’s on his knees, covered in mud and blood, talking incoherently about Ron and other things he can’t quite make out. Worse still, he’s crying, great heaving sobs that shudder through him.
Snape cleans him up in silence, fetching fresh robes and a warm flannel to wash his face and hands with. He’s not entirely clear, but what he gathers from Potter is that there was some sort of fight with Weasley, possibly about Quidditch, or Ginny, or Teddy, or maybe even all three. He’s not injured; it’s just a nosebleed that Snape fixes with a simple incantation, Potter thanking him repeatedly, his sweet, boozey breath brushing Snape’s face.
Once Potter’s finally mess-free and the bawling has ceased, Snape asks him if wants a cocoa, which is apparently the wrong thing to do because Potter starts crying again, and then, inexplicably, lunges himself at Snape.
Potter’s mouth is warm and sweet tasting, Snape notes in the few seconds before he roughly shoves him off. He lands in heap on the floor, looking as mortified as Snape feels.
“Oh God, I’m sorry Severus. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to – it’s just… I can’t do this any longer. I’m sorry, but I just – oh god.”
Snape just watches him with his mouth open, too stunned for anything else, whilst Potter continues to make less and less sense.
“Severus, I’ve got to tell you this, I didn't know before, not until I left but now I do and I’ve got to say it – I’m in love with you, and I think you love me too and–”
“Enough.” Snape stands and pulls him briskly to his feet.
“But I need to say this, Severus–”
“No, you need to get some sleep. You’re drunk and– have apparently lost your mind.” He marches him into his bedroom, Potter’s feet scrabbling uselessly on the floor.
“Wait Severus, I–”
“Bed Potter.” He lifts up the covers and firmly places the boy beneath them.
“Severus, please, I –”
He looks like he’s about to argue, then swiftly passes out with his mouth open. Snape slips the glasses off the boy’s nose, folding them neatly and placing them on the bedside cabinet, and breathes a long drawn out sigh of relief. He extinguishes the bedside lamp, pulls up a chair and tries to calm his racing mind.
So Potter thinks he’s in love, does he? Snape had guessed that something had been brewing and yes, the boy had often displayed peculiar affection, but still, love? The absurdity of it almost makes him laugh. He and Harry Potter in love? And any minute now Minerva and Granger are going to march in here and announce their civil partnership. He scoffs, even that is more believable. No, he and Potter are friends, sure, but that is all they are. And yes, he’s often been overcome with a strange urge to reach out and touch Potter, to kiss him even, once or twice, but that’s entirely natural when you spend time with someone as charismatic as the boy is. And as for Potter himself, it’s not to be unexpected that he’s got his feelings mixed up over Severus. He probably feels like he owes him something, for the sacrifices he’d made, the work he’d put in to keep the boy alive. No, this was definitely not love. Not at all. The boy’s just latched on to all that has been available to him the last year. He’s a hormonal young man, he’s bound to have crushes and that’s all it is, a crush, perfectly natural given the circumstances.
The boy makes some whimpering noise in his sleep and rolls over. There are the lines of a frown on his forehead and Snape has the urge to smooth his fingers over them. Despite the dramatics, the drunken declarations of love and the occupation of his bed, Snape’s glad the boy is here. He wonders if he’ll have to leave early tomorrow or if he’ll be able to stay a while. He might stay for dinner. Tomorrow’s menu is bangers and mash, one of Potter’s favourites. He always drowns it in gravy and ketchup and then laughs when Snape looks disgusted.
Meal times had become boring affairs since Potter left. And lessons for that matter too. And his evenings. A disturbing twist of realisation coils in Snape’s stomach as he thinks of how much he’d longed for Potter’s company in the last month. No, not longed for, that was too much like love. He’d just missed him is all, which is, again, entirely natural when you spend all your time with one person. When you spend nearly every minute of everyday with the same person for a year, even if that person was irritating and imbecilic, one couldn’t help but be sorry that they left. It was entirely reasonable for Snape to feel sad, miserable even, with the return of his solitary life, especially when the last year had been spent in the companionship as someone that made him as happy as Potter did. Another twist is his stomach: Potter made him happy. Being without Potter made him miserable.
“Fuck,” he says, in a tone of utter dismay.
And the truth suddenly hits him like a hard cold slap in the face. For a man of such superior intelligence Severus can’t help but feel completely aware of how utterly stupid he’s been. The possessiveness at Potter’s birthday, the jealousy of him talking to the Weasley girl, the surge of hope every time they’d shared a look or a touch of hands, the satisfying warmth of Potter pressing into his side, the crushing grief when Potter said he was leaving…
And he realises that the irritating, cretinous, idiotic, beautiful creature asleep now in Severus’s bed is right. Snape fucking loves him. Loves him to distraction, loves every annoying habit, loves that ridiculous hair, loves that silly, silly boy-man with every fibre of his being.
Severus thinks he might be sick. He stands up and starts pacing, panic rising in his chest like the surge of a wave he can’t get run away from fast enough. It’s too late his feet are wet and it’s sucking him under. What should he do, what should he do?
He looks at the clock, it’s a quarter past six in the morning, he’s been thinking and reeling and pacing for the best part of five hours, now its time for action. And a quarter past six in the morning is not an unreasonable time to eject someone from one’s rooms; it’s no longer night time after all. He grabs Harry by the shoulders and shakes him roughly.
“Potter! Potter, wake up!”
Potter scrunches his face up and squeezes one eye open.
“Severus, what is it? What’s happened? Stop shaking me, I’m awake, I’m awake.” Snape lets go and backs off, hitting against the wall with a thump.
“You’ve got to get out, you’ve got to go. Now!”
“Why? What an earth are you talking about?”
“You’ve got to leave!”
“Because…” Snape swallows thickly. “Because you’re right.”
“I’m… I’m,” he braces himself to say the words, “in love with you.” And says love like it’s a particularly sour word.
“What? You’re in love with me, so I’ve got to get out?” Potter sits up and reaches for his glasses, putting them on and settling back on the pillows without the slightest suggestion of going anywhere.
“Yes. Please don’t make it difficult. You have to go!” Severus is aware of the desperation in his voice and that he is acting like a crazed man, but he can’t stop himself. This, whatever it is, is all far, far too much for him.
“Severus, please, calm down. Here have a drink,” he pours him a glass of brandy from the bottle on the night stand and pushes it into his hand. “Now sit.”
Severus finds himself sitting on the bed, perched at the side by the end of Potter’s curled up legs. He forces a glug of brandy down his throat and just about manages to look into Potter’s face.
“How did this happen?” He asks in a hoarse, desperate whisper.
Potter chuckles. “I dunno,” he says with half a shrug and a small smile.
“But- we hate each other.”
“Yeah… or so we thought.”
“But- you’re Harry Potter.”
Potter chuckles again. “I know, and you’re Severus Snape. Here, get more comfortable.”
He gestures for Severus to move over, and Snape lets himself be guided so that he’s resting on the pillows, next to Potter, the half-drunk glass of brandy still clutched in his hand.
“But I-. It… But-. I… fuck."
Potter lets out a puff of breath. “Exactly,” he says. His green eyes are fixed on Severus’ and he’s clutching the brandy bottle as tightly as Severus is holding his glass. It dawns on Snape that Potter is as unsure and nervous as he is and worse, is waiting for him to take the lead on this, whatever in Merlin’s name this is.
“I’ve never… Not in a long while have I… I don’t…” Potter’s looking at him expectantly like he’s waiting him to actually finish a sentence and another wave of panic courses through Severus’ chest. He doesn’t do love. He does pain, and anger and sorrow that he never lets himself feel properly, let alone express. He does anguish, and yearning and cold hard words and unspoken feelings and always, always huge amounts of self control. He doesn’t do calmly sitting in bed with someone, someone lovely and precious, casually discussing the fact that they are apparently in love.
“No good can come of this!” He suddenly barks. Potter looks momentarily shocked, before a smile creeps across his face. And then the little bastard as the audacity to laugh. And laugh and laugh, so much so that he has to drop the brandy bottle so he can hold on to his stomach as he doubles over in mirth.
Snape waits it out with raised eyebrows and the crossing of his arms in what he hopes is a stern manner.
“When you’ve quite finished,” he drawls.
“I’m sorry,” Potter manages to gasp, not quite getting a grip on his laughter. “I’m sorry, it’s just that was so… so dramatic.” Snape waits whilst Potter is seized by another bout of giggling.
“I’m sorry. And you’re wrong anyway,” he says suddenly pulling himself together. “No good can come of this. Good has already come of this, you silly sod.”
“Don’t insult me in my own bed, I can still throw you out you know.”
“Well, you are being a silly sod. Look at you, you look like you’ve just found out that Voldermort’s back and wants to take you on a romantic cruise for two rather than… rather than… you know.”
“Forgive me, but finding out that I’m in love with Harry-bloody-Potter is not what I consider a reason for celebration.” Potter takes a while to digest the statement, delivered in one of Snape’s iciest tones and accompanied with a cold hard glare. To his annoyance, Potter smiles roguishly.
“So you definitely love me then?”
Snape lets out an exasperated sigh and elbows Potter in the ribs.
“Oi!” Potter says, with a laugh, and grabs hold of the elbow, unfolding it and tucking himself underneath so that he’s resting his head on Snape’s shoulder, his fingers splayed tentatively on Snape’s chest.
“Hello,” he says quietly.
“Hello,” Snape says back, and then surprises them both by bending his head down and kissing Potter firmly on the mouth. Potter is delightfully squirmy and gaspy, and Snape is just getting in to the swing of things, when his brain kicks back into thinking mode.
“Wait,” he gasps into Potter’s mouth. “Wait.”
Potter looks slightly put-out but he manages to stop writhing and look at Severus with artfully composed patience.
“Potter, I- ”
“Alright, Harry. Harry, I want to know… I mean I understand if… What I’m trying to say is…”
Potter looks at him with raised eyebrows and a slight smirk, until it’s apparent that no more half-sentences are going to come out of Snape, and then he takes a deep breath.
“Severus I love you, completely and utterly. Maybe I haven’t always, but even when I hated you, even when I’d have done anything to see you die a horrible, excruciatingly painful and humiliating death – don’t look like that, as if you haven’t wished the same on me – even then, I still fancied the absolute pants off you.”
Snape looks aghast and Potter chuckles.
“I know, strange isn’t it? I think it was your…” He watches as Potter screws his face up, searching for the word. “Your presence. Always so overpowering, consuming even. It used to confuse me, how I felt about you. And your hands, your beautiful hands… and the way you swoop into a room… and the way your eyes glitter when you’re pleased with something… and your voice, God your voice… …”
Potter’s got an appalling dreamy expression on his face that Snape really can’t abide. He elbows Potter again to snap him out of it.
“Ouch! Sorry, I lost my train of thought. What was I saying?”
“I believe you were trying to convince me why this,” he gestures at the two of them, “isn’t a completely ludicrous and terrible idea.”
“Oh yeah. How am I doing?”
“The jury’s still out.
Potter grins at him. “Ok, well I haven’t finished yet. Where was I? Oh yeah-" he clears his throat, "and yes, I know you’re older than me, and yes, I know we have a complicated history and, yes I know that some people won’t understand and yes, there will be talk and what-not, but I also know that you don’t give a fuck what people think. And this really is no one else’s business but our own.” He pauses to give Snape a pointed look, full of characteristic determination, and takes another breath.
“And I meant what I said earlier, good has already come of it Severus because I’m happy, happier than I’ve probably ever been. How about you? And I know you’re a bit of git who's prone to brooding and being damn right unpleasant – don’t you dare look affronted when you know it’s true – and I know I can be idiotic and simplistic and naïve and that sometimes I get right on your nerves, but Severus we workand you know it… And so I think you should stop thinking and just enjoy this… Because we both deserve it.”
Snape eyes him coolly, watching Potter catch his breath until the silence becomes just the right amount of uncomfortable.
“And how long have you been practising that little speech for?”
Potter’s smile is bashful and relieved. “About a month or so. Didn’t quite know if I’d ever have the balls to say it mind. How did it sound?”
“Ha ha. You know what I mean, what do you think?”
Snape sighs heavily.
“I think that I’m tired. I think that it’s now seven o’clock in the morning and I would like to get some sleep… I think I want you to stay, but only on the condition that you stop talking.”
“Deal,” Potter says simply and nestles his head down on Snape’s chest. They fidget until they get comfy, Potter scrabbling his glasses off and chucking them onto the night stand. Snape runs his hand through Potter’s hair as if it’s something he’s always done, and doesn’t protest when sleepy, gentle kisses are intermittently pressed against his mouth.
“I also think that you may be right,” he murmurs, a little later when the kissing has ceased and he doesn’t feel burdened by scrutinizing green eyes. “Apart from the bit about me being unpleasant, of course… You’re not quite as gormless as you look, are you?”
“Is that a compliment?"
“That depends on how you feel about looking gormless.”
“Hmph… I thought you said no talking?”
“My bed, my rules.”
“…You’re going to be a right pain in the neck aren’t you?”
“You have no idea.”
If it’s possible, Potter snuggles closer against him.
“One thing I would like to know though, what was all that bloody mess about earlier?”
“Oh nothing, sorry about that. Got drunk and had an argument with Ron, it got out of hand.”
“And he hit you?”
“No, no. I pushed him and he pushed me back. I fell flat on my face. But thanks.”
“Your concern,” Potter says, through a yawn.
“Night night Severus.”
“Night night Potter.”
“Harry then… And Harry?”
“You do know that this is all completely insane, don’t you?”
Potter’s chuckle vibrates through his chest. “You say that like anything has ever been normal.”
And so it begins, although what ‘it’ is exactly remains elusive. Potter turns up most evenings, sometimes early enough to have dinner with him, which they eat in Snape’s chambers rather than the Great Hall. Afterwards Potter curls up against him and distracts him from his marking or lesson plans.
“I like your handwriting. I like the way you do your ‘S’s.”
“Look, one of my thumbs is shorter than the other.”
“How can I reach your mouth with all this bloody parchment in the way?”
Snape still finds it all terribly confusing and often wonders out loud what it all means and what it is exactly that they're doing together. Potter always responds the same: with a fierce embrace and requests for him to stop thinking so much.
If either of them have the time, they go for long walks at the weekends, Apparating themselves to the Hebrides or Cotswolds. Potter takes with him his telescope and keeps up an informative commentary on the names – including the Latin – for the passing wildlife. It’s rather grown-up, Snape thinks, for both of them, even if Potter does laugh at the rude-sounding bird names.
Night times are frequently spent in a shared bed, with long – and almost too sweet – kisses, and the tentative trace of fingers on skin, but that is all.
“Never thought you’d be such a prude,” Potter grumbles as, once again, Snape takes his arm by the wrist and moves it away from the uncomfortable bulge in his underwear.
“Some things are worth savouring,” he answers, pulling Potter against his chest tightly. “And patience is a virtue Mister Potter.”
“Hmph.” Is all he gets by way of reply, but Potter snuggles against him despite his dissatisfaction.
When Potter gets time off for Christmas he moves back to Hogwarts, although they let Minerva believe that he’s still residing in his old quarters.
At dinner one night Snape forgets where he is and reaches to wipe a smear of chocolate pudding from Potter’s chin.
“Such a messy little urchin.”
“That’s why you love me.”
“I’d love you more if you could improve on your table manners.”
Silence really can be deafening, he thinks as he looks around at the expressions of shock on his dining companions. Minerva’s frozen with a spoonful of pudding halfway to her open mouth. He looks at Potter who just grins and carries on eating his dessert. Everyone else soon follows suite and the moment passes. Potter squeezes his leg under the table.
“See, no one died,” he whispers.
Later that night, when Potter’s lying draped over him on the sofa, Snape takes his chin, tilts his head back and kisses him slowly. Potter melts into him, opening his mouth so he can slide their tongues together. He can feel Potter’s heart beating rapidly against his chest, feel his breath on his face and the grip of his fingers on his robes.
He reaches to unfasten Potter’s robes and pulls down the front of t-shirt underneath so he can access the soft skin of his throat. Potter gasps obscenely as Snape sucks and licks the crook of his neck. He feels hands scrabbling up his chest and hurriedly – and unsuccessfully – fiddling with the buttons of his undershirt.
He chuckles as Potter makes an impatient noise, and he pulls away to help him undo the buttons at his neck. A weaker man would cow under the intensity of Potter’s look as he watches Snape slowly reveal the flesh of his chest. Snape’s glad he’s made of sterner stuff, letting out a low growl as Potter’s mouth lunges for him.
He can feel Potter’s hardness grinding against his leg and twists the boy sideward so he can reach his hand to the front of Potter’s trousers. He strokes down the outline of erect cock, grinning as Potter bucks and gasps, “Christ.” He undoes the fly and eases the boy’s trousers and pants down.
Potter’s cock is silky and hard, and he groans encouragement as Snape strokes it. It doesn’t take long before he’s keening his head and coming all over their disarrayed clothes, smiling a sheepish grateful smile, his cheeks flushes, his hair practically standing on end. Snape doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything sexier.
“God, you’re right. Some things are worth waiting for.”
And then Potter’s kissing him again, nipping at his bottom lip and swirling his tongue into his mouth, his hand snaking down between them to clutch, almost painfully, at Snape’s chest and hips and thighs. He feels hands deftly undoing the front of his trousers, and slip inside his underwear. The first feel of Potter’s hand gripping his shaft is almost enough to make Snape come there and then. He manages to hold on for a little longer though, coming with a hiss of “Yesssss,” as Potter scrapes his teeth against his neck.
They spend Christmas together, Weasley and Teddy duties held off until Boxing Day. He gets Potter an assortment of books, some new robes and a dresser to put them in.
“So you can keep more of your things here.” He says bashfully whilst Potter grins at him manically.
He receives in return a beautiful leather bound diary, some dainty antique potion-ware and a half naked Potter sat in his lap for most of the morning.
“Good presents?” Potter murmurs in his ear.
“Mmmm, although if I could just try out that last one for a bit longer?”
There’s quite a crowd in the Great Hall this year, Minerva extending invitations to staff family and friends, and there’s the usual handful of students staying on for the holidays. Griselda, Minerva’s sister, takes one look at the two of them hurrying in – late and dishevelled – and gives Snape a wink and a knowing smile. He can’t stop himself from smirking back. She’s on good form, interrupting Minerva’s long speech on goodwill with “Sit down woman and have a drink. We’re hungry.” She picks on the children throughout the meal and antagonises Hagrid with hunting stories, holding up her dragon hide handbag for the room to admire. The gamekeeper looks like he might cry and Snape thinks if things don’t work out with Potter, he might ask Griselda to marry him.
Potter plays footsie with him all through the meal and holds his hand under the table and Snape lets him. He’s surprised to find himself having rather a good time – Christmas is generally his least favourite time of year, coming second only to his birthday, but this year he feels like he comprehends, finally, why people make such a fuss about it. Not that he’s what you’d call jolly, he still keeps up a level of severity, even with Potter pawing at him, but as he looks around the room he has the odd sensation of being completely content. Minerva’s wearing a wonky paper crown and her spectacles are slightly askew. Filch is lovingly feeding Mrs Norris scraps of turkey from his hand, Hagrid is reading jokes from the crackers and laughing so much he has tears streaming down his face. He even feels a warmth for Buntley, currently cowering away from Griselda who appears to have taken a fancy to him. And of course, Potter is by his side, grinning and happy, and it dawns on Severus that he is somewhere that he actually wants to be, somewhere he belongs.
“I love you,” he suddenly blurts out. Only Potter hears, thank Merlin, the others too busy with the appearance of the dessert course. Potter laughs at the look of surprise on Snape’s face and squeezes his hand.
“I know,” he says with a grin.
A break in tradition – solely down to Minerva drinking too much eggnog and relinquishing control of proceedings – means that everyone just carries on drinking and eating (and arguing with Griselda) late into the evening.
Hagrid leads them in a booming rendition of Jingle Bells and then, not to be outdone, Griselda insists on teaching everyone a complicated dance routine to ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, that results in a spate of furniture breakages and a weedy second year having to be escorted to the hospital wing, and Minerva calling an end to the festivities.
“That was a surprisingly good Christmas,” Potter says later when they’re lying on their backs on Snape’s bed. “It was never that mental when I was a student here.”
“Minerva usually keeps her personality under wraps, but it can be coaxed out with enough brandy. Come here,” He purrs, and pulls at Potter’s arm to roll him over, so that he’s lying on top of him, and bends his head to kiss him.
His hand eases its way under Potter’s clothes to stroke at his back. The skin there is exquisitely warm and soft and he groans into Potter’s mouth.
“Off.” He says, tugging at the boy’s robe. Potter sits up and slips it off his shoulders, removing the t-shirt he’s wearing underneath
“Your turn.” He says, reaching for Snape’s buttons.
Maybe it’s the relaxing affect of all the alcohol he consumed at dinner, or maybe it’s the way Potter’s looking at him, but Snape feels remarkably comfortable disrobing. Once they’re both naked, he reclines and pulls Potter's mouth back to his, his hands moving to hold him firmly by the hips.
Snape slides his hands down the curve of warm spine and grabs a handful of arse, savouring the low moan that hums into his mouth. His fingers dip between the cheeks, and Potter squirms against him. Snape can feel a small slick of precome as Potter presses his erection against his stomach. He breaks the kiss, lifting Potter easily off him so that he’s now sat upright, his legs either side of Snape’s waist. Potter’s face is flushed, his eye lids heavy. Snape takes his time to admire the view, slowly his inching his hand up Potter’s thigh, slowly curling his fingers around Potter’s cock.
Snape pumps his hand and Potter rocks gracefully into the motion, letting out a throaty groan. Snape lets go, giving a soft chuckle at Potter’s disappointed “Oh,” then grins as he takes the boy firmly by the arse, and guides him up and forwards, his stiff cock pointing right at his mouth. He gives it a slow lick, over the head and down the shaft, and then envelopes it in his mouth completely. One of Potter’s hands finds itself into Snape’s hair, clutching at the side of his head, the other's on the wall behind the bed, holding his weight. Potter gasps and moans and bucks into Snape’s mouth in a steady rhythm. When he comes, it is with a long drawn out hiss of “Severusssss.”
Snape's cock is swollen and thick between them, Potter’s warm body settling once more over it. He looks in Snape’s eyes as he rubs himself against it. Snape holds his breath when Potter silently grins, impish and wicked, before he slides gracefully between his legs. Severus gasps at the feel of warm breath against him. He opens his legs wider and shifts his weight to gain a better view. With the slide of his cock into Potter’s hot tight, pretty, pretty mouth Snape knows he will never, ever want of anything for rest of his life.
Potter works him with a pleasing finesse, until Snape’s grabbing handfuls of blanket and coming hard down Potter’s throat. Potters swallows around him, and then climbs back up, murmuring love and thanks and promises into Snape’s ear as he nuzzles against him.
It’s still night when he wakes to green eyes peering at him in the dark, and the feel of an erection prodding at his bare leg.
“Well, aren’t you the eager beaver Potter,” Snape murmurs.
Potter laughs and grinds himself further against Snape.
“I can’t help it,” he murmurs into Snape’s ear, his hands already roving over his body.
Snape rolls over with a growl and finds Potter’s mouth in the darkness, both their hands clamouring to grope at each other’s bare flesh. He’s surprised when Potter pulls away, turning to lie on his front. Comprehension clicks at the rather unsubtle wiggling of the boy's bare arse.
“Are you sure?” Snape asks breathlessly.
“I’ve never been surer,” Potter says into the bedding, which is encouragement enough for Snape to summon some lubricant and hoist the boy to kneeling.
Potter’s bottom is smooth and well-rounded, Snape notes as he kneads the cheeks of it in his hands. He reaches forward to nip his teeth on the back of the boy’s neck, and gently pushes a slickened finger against the boy's arsehole.
He slowly pushes in, his other hand coming round to grip Potter’s cock and the boy squirms and bucks against him.
“Nice?” He growls into his ear.
“Yeah. Yes. Oh god Severus.”
Snape chuckles, and places the head of his cock between Potter's cheeks, gently easing his way inside.
Fucking Potter is slower than he imagined – and yes, he as imagined it. In his fantasies it was always hurried and desperate, flinging the boy across his desk or up against a wall, hard and fast like every other sexual encounter Snape's ever had. Never like this, never so slow and gentle and tender. The sweetness of it is almost too much to bear, and it’s a relief when Potter relaxes and starts pushing back against him. It doesn't take long before Snape is slamming into him, barely able to reach around and grasp at Potter's cock. Almost instantly Potter clenches around him and comes into his hand, and Snape’s own climax washes over him, in what feels like endless, endless glorious waves.
Later, when they are lying in sated, dozy tangle, Potter lifts his head to look at him.
“I was thinking…”
“Ha ha. I was thinking that I would like, you know, to tell people. About us.”
Snape narrows his eyes. “What people?”
“Well… everyone really.”
Snape sighs by way of answer.
“Would you mind?”
“Would I mind? I’m not the feted darling of the Wizarding world. It’s your reputation on the line.”
“Don’t be daft.”
“As long as you’re not expecting congratulations or anything. I can see Molly Weasley’s livid face now.” He shudders at the image.
Potter yawns and shrugs and puts his head back down on Snape’s chest.
“I’m not scared,” he says sleepily.
“Foolish brave Gryffindor.” Snape mutters into his ear.
“Maybe,” he says through a yawn. “And after that, not right now, but in the future… One day… how would you feel about making an honest man of me?”
Snape lets out a bark of laughter, and then another when Potter raises his head and looks affronted.
“Potter, are you asking me to marry you?”
“Harry. And yeah, maybe.” In the near-darkness green eyes are squinting at him solemnly.
Snape lets out another sigh. “Give it a year, months even, and then we’ll see if you still want me to make an honest man of you.”
He can feel the curve of a smile from where Potter’s resting his chin against him.
“That’s okay,” he whispers. “I can wait.” And he presses a kiss to Severus’ chest before laying his head down and falling promptly asleep.
Teddy’s hair has gone grey around the sides and there are deep set smile lines in the corners of his eyes, Harry notices, although today his eyes look grey and solemn.
“You look like your father,” Harry tells him, clutching his hands. “Like Remus.”
A smile find its way into Teddy’s sad eyes. “Are you coming now?” He asks gesturing to the crowd that is slowly apparating away.
“No you go on, take the children to get something to eat. Ginny and Hermione have laid on quite a spread I believe. I'll catch up in a bit.”
Teddy nods and squeezes his hand before joining the others. Now left alone, Harry eases himself down slowly to the ground, his old knees creaky and stiff from many years of Quidditch and teaching. He watches Teddy reach the crowd and put his arms around his two girls. Not really children now, Harry thinks.
One by one everyone disappears with a pop, until Harry is the only figure under the grey cloud of sky. In a nearby tree he can hear the chatter of small birds, but apart from that the air is quiet and still.
“There was a time when you’d have turned in your grave to have so many do-gooders come to your funeral,” he says out loud, his hand reaching for a handful of grass to fiddle with. “Now I think you’d be happy, proud even, though I’d doubt you’d ever voice it. Probably not even to me. You probably did turn in your grave, hearing the things I said about you...” Harry buries his face in his hands. It’s a while before he lifts his head, wiping his face on the sleeve of his black robes. He takes a deep breath, snaking his hand through the grass and on to the mound of earth he can’t quite look at.
“Meant every word though, Severus. It was and always will be, only you. But you knew that didn’t you?” He pauses as if waiting for an answer, then lightly pats the ground.
As he heaves himself to standing the clouds disperse slightly and a few rays break through, illuminating patches of grass and graves indiscriminately. Harry walks away, in the direction that the others went. Behind him the birds keep up their chatter.