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"—doing what he could for us the entire time," Ginny finished, squeezing Harry's hand.

He sighed and squeezed back, looking up at the stars from their position on the Burrow's rooftop. "Can't believe how stupid I was, thinking Snape was . . . ."

"Why? I mean, why should you have felt any differently than the rest of us? He had to be horrible. It was his job."

Harry snorted. "I don't think it was all make-believe, but that's still no excuse to keep him prisoner at St Mungo's."

Ginny rolled over into Harry's body and stared into his eyes. "You've heard something?"

"Only that he's not under arrest, just 'protection', and he doesn't want to see anyone," Harry admitted, feeling confused for more than one reason as Ginny nestled her head against his neck.

He was glad they'd managed to find time alone. Ginny rarely asked him questions—at least, not ones that he didn't want to answer—and it was comfortable, being with her. Of course, there were still some things he hadn't been able to explain.

Where did they come from? he wondered, again, thinking of the glimpse of memories he'd received from Snape when he was "dying." The memories, he'd taken them; they hadn't been given. How? I'm pants at Legilimency.

"So," Ginny murmured sleepily, "are you ready to tell me, yet?"

Harry stopped breathing.

"Inhale."

Harry took a breath, sitting up abruptly as he did so. "Sorry," he said, turning to Ginny, who was pushing herself up. "How do you do that?"

"We're . . . friends. That's how."

Swallowing hard and looking at his feet, it occurred to Harry that Ginny's way of saying "friends" sounded very like how he felt when he considered his feelings for her: she was a friend, a good friend, just a friend—who he occasionally wanked to—but she wasn't, he'd begun to suspect, the sort of friend he wanted to marry.

Thinking about it made him feel sick, and before he could stop himself, he said, "I'm supposed to marry you."

Ginny's breath caught with the sound of a repressed sob, and when Harry looked at her again, there were tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. His chest tightened.

"You're . . . not supposed to do anything you don't want to do," Ginny whispered, drawing her knees into herself and hugging them.

"I don't know what I want to do," Harry admitted, blinking rapidly. "Everything's . . . it's all gone pear-shaped inside."

Ginny leant gently into him; Harry leant back. They didn't acknowledge their tears, but both of them took comfort from the press of shoulders and whatever kind of friendship they did have.

~*~

He'd shaken his hand. He'd looked him the eye without malice. They'd "talked"—Draco was full of news about Potter, endless, unwelcome, incomplete news.

How was he? Severus thought, glowering at the glowing boy as bitterness churned in his gut.

"—and Mother thinks that Father might eventually consent to have him to the manor for dinner, but I suppose that will take some persuasion on her part. It's good, though, isn't it? If Har—Potter would come, people might—"

"Mr Malfoy," Severus said, his voice issuing as a rasp, "whatever happened to Miss Parkinson?"

It hurt to say the words, and not just because of his wounds. Draco had been attentive and, for him, kind to Severus in recent weeks, reading to him, keeping him abreast of political news, and behaving more like a man than a spoilt brat. He couldn't deny that he'd grown to . . . grown used to Draco's company.

This was due in large part to Severus' understanding of just how much it had to irk Lucius to know that his son preferred the company of an invalid to his, but, of course, Severus didn't speak of this to Draco.

"What do you mean? Parkinson's fine."

"Yet you speak only of Potter."

Draco flushed and began to fidget. "That's not true."

"It might as well be," Severus replied, rolling slightly onto his side and away from the boy's fading smile. "I can't imagine that your girlfriend approves of your current 'fascination'."

Of his own, of course, Severus said nothing in favour of feigning sleep, and he was relieved when Draco left him: the offended silence, however brief, had been oppressive.

When Severus did achieve something akin to sleep, the nightmares returned at once: Lily, Potter—Potter's spawn—they appeared with myriad other faces and distorted, merged, broke apart again—always leaving him with a pair of shining green eyes gazing back.

But whose?

Albus had attempted to discuss it with him, only the once:

"Your fascination with James Potter seems to have . . . transferred to his son. Have you ever wondered—"

No, he had not, thank you very much, but that hadn't stopped Severus from later leading Albus to believe that his thoughts had only ever been of Lily.

Severus knew that he was, that he'd been, many things—but a poof wasn't one of them.

Shifting in frustration, sleep suddenly impossible, Severus rose shakily from his bed and stalked to the window to glare at the stars. There wasn't a soul under them who gave a true damn for him, and that was his fault—but it didn't mean that he had to plague himself with thoughts of Draco's finding a hero-worshipping happiness with Ha—with Lily's son.

"Lily."

How could he still mourn a . . . friendship that he'd killed, himself? Why couldn't he let her go?

What did he see?

~*~

"I haven't told him."

Ginny stood in Snape's room at St Mungo's and worried. He stared out his window, his back rigid, and said nothing.

Damn it, why are you even here? Ginny asked herself, again, as the answer rose in her mind.

It hadn't been intentional; she'd fled to the Astronomy Tower after near-discovery by Amycus Carrow. No one had ever wanted to be found out past curfew by either Carrow, but being found by Amycus had always been far worse for a female student. To her shock, Ginny had discovered Snape on the tower, shaking and murmuring apologies to someone as he clutched the wall.

Harry's Mum.

She'd hated Snape for murdering Headmaster Dumbledore, for being such a bastard, for going along with every cruel, hateful, frightening thing. No matter how Luna had defended him, Ginny had despised him, had wanted him to die—which was why it had surprised the hell out of her to have felt the pity that had washed over her as he'd sunk into a drunken heap to the stones, mumbling about someone else who hadn't been present.

Harry.

Snape had been afraid for him, it seemed, worried that he'd failed Harry in some way, and Ginny had decided that such anguish couldn't have been for show. She'd warded the door against Snape's discovery while he was vulnerable and waited, feeling terribly confused.

Luna was right about you.

Carrow had come looking for her not long after, and it had surprised Ginny to see how quickly Snape had moved—he'd taken a potion from his robes and drunk it before Carrow's curses had broken her ward, and then Snape had thrust her behind himself and directed his wand upon the door as Carrow had burst through it.

They'd argued, Snape admonishing Carrow against interfering with a pure-blood, and when Carrow had gone, Snape had turned on her, declaring: "Lily! You can't be here!"

Even without knowing the particulars, many things had become clear to Ginny then—especially after how Snape had reacted when she'd told him that she wasn't Lily.

Staring at Snape's cording back muscles, Ginny murmured, "And I'm not planning to tell him, but you might tell him that you . . . that you don't hate him."

The door slammed shut behind Ginny, and Snape spun about to face her, his expression dark, almost despairing.

"Whatever you believe," he said, his voice hoarse, "you're wrong."

"I don't think so," Ginny replied, watching Snape close his eyes.

Guilt. "It was just a kiss. You didn't take advan—"

"I did."

"If it pleases you to think that, then by all means do. . . . You look awful. Are you sleeping?"

Eyes snapping open into a glare, Snape practically snarled, "We're not friends."

Ginny sat down in the only chair in the room. "I'm aware of that. I just thought you might be concerned—"

"Potter is no concern of mine!"

Well, that's obviously not true, is it? "He'd like to see you, to thank you."

"No."

"But you'll see me."

"I . . . don't know why—"

"I think we've established that you didn't . . . fancy her half so much as you thought you did."

"Get out."

"I will not," Ginny replied, rising, "not until you tell me what you did to Harry."

Snape stared at her, his eyebrows raised. "What I did to Potter? I saved—"

"He has memories from you, he tells me, ones that he can't understand."

"Of course he has—"

"Ones that you didn't give him. Ones he took, or thinks he did."

Swallowing visibly, Snape turned away from her again. "That's not—"

"Possible? Because Harry's Occlumency lessons never went well and he's not a Legilimens? That's what he thought, too, but it seems—"

"What did he see?"

Ginny sighed and moved to stand next to Snape. "He won't tell me. He says . . . it's bad enough he's already violated your privacy the once."

"I won't see him, and you . . . shouldn't be here with me like this. It's not proper."

"I'll go," Ginny whispered, laying a hand on his arm, "but I remember what you said when you . . . I remember. You should probably talk to him."

As Ginny allowed her hand to slide down Snape's arm as she turned to leave, he caught her hand. "I won't. I won't tell him, either. My word."

Her sudden tears weren't a surprise. "That won't be much of an issue. Things . . . we're friends. That's all."

"I'm sorry. It was my fault, I should never—"

"Snape." Ginny's voice was harsher than she'd intended it to sound. "Don't be stupid. You know you didn't take advantage of me."

~*~

I hate redheads.

The cool, secluded gardens around St Mungo's did nothing to improve Severus' mood as he stalked through them. If Black could have seen him of late, the bastard would have been right to call him "Snivellus."

I don't cry. I'm not weak. I'm not in—not a poof!

Potter had taken memories from him, seen things that he'd never been meant to see. But what? Severus had to know, but he had no way of seeking an answer to his question without seeing the boy.

I can never see Potter again.

Oh, Severus knew exactly why the little shite had his memories: Potter's lack of Legilimentical expertise had been by design. That first Occlumency lesson, Potter had seen so deeply into his mind by virtue of sheer, dumb luck that Severus had Obliviated him without a thought. During the second lesson, the one he knew that Potter couldn't possibly remember for another Obliviation, he'd implanted the mental block under Albus' orders. It wouldn't have done for "the dear boy" to have attempted to make use of the connection between himself and the Dark Lord.

Of course, that didn't stop him, did it?

No matter Albus' reticence to discuss his fears with him—until it was rather too late, the betraying fuck—Severus had suspected just why the old man was so concerned.

Sodding prodigy.

Severus, winded, sighed and threw himself down upon a bench. He'd tried, he'd got Potter to look at him, but he'd been too weak, too horrified, at the time of his near-death to fully remove the barrier to Potter's ability to see into others' minds. At least, that is what he'd thought until Ginny Weasley's visit.

But whatever I did do was enough, and now the brat doesn't understand what happened to him, why he was able to

He knew it had been foolish to attempt to remove the block. It wasn't as if Potter would ever need to make use of Legilimency, was it? He'd be coddled as always, protected. Severus didn't believe for a moment that anyone would ever permit Potter to be put in harm's way again.

I shouldn't have brought those thoughts to mind, not then—not ever!

~*~

Harry arched up into his hand and came, hard, shuddering through the aftershocks of his pleasure as he imagined Snape's hand stroking his prick.

It was almost a memory.

"But . . . but not mine," he whispered shakily.

The scene changed. Sometimes, he was on the Astronomy Tower, and Snape was staring at him in confusion. Sometimes, they were arguing before . . . . Sometimes, he threw himself at Snape, striking him, until Snape subdued his anger with kisses—deep, searing kisses that—

Harry's cock twitched, and he groaned.

"This has to stop!"

~*~

"You're not serious, Potter."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Draco, about to say something sharp, thought again. If he wanted to keep Potter's friendship—and that's all he wanted from him, no matter what Snape might say—he couldn't go around insulting him all the time, even when it was called for.

"Why do you want to see him? He's not good company. I should know."

Potter laughed.

"What? Why are you laughing at me?"

"I'm not, you git. It's just funny."

"What is?"

"The idea that Snape might ever have been good company."

Draco frowned. "Then why do you—"

"To thank him. Someone should."

"The Ministry sent its thanks in a velvet box. He set it aflame."

"Yeah, like he'd have accepted that Order of Merlin, Second Class. Wankers."

Draco watched as Potter flushed and pushed his fringe back with one hand. Fidgety.

Despite the peaceful scene—they'd come to Hogwarts to look in on the repairs and were picnicking by the lake—Draco supposed that being back at the school might have recalled some unpleasant memories for Potter.

Fiendfyre, even, he thought, deciding not to dwell on that particular memory of his own.

Since the awards banquet at which Potter had refused to shake his father's hand and had shaken his, instead, Draco had done everything within his power to rehabilitate his family name through his tentative connection to Potter. He'd come into his own money—thanks to his mother and her family's habit of setting up trusts for their children as part of marital arrangements—and had donated a great deal of it towards repairing the damage that the Dark Lord had done. He'd selected the charities that Potter, himself, championed. That and Potter's gesture had helped his cause a great deal. The fact that things were obviously tense between Draco and his father had also encouraged the public to think some better of him.

Of course, the big stories were whatever involved Potter—and Severus Snape's love for and related heroism with regard to Lily Potter. Everyone wanted to talk to him, but he'd only see Draco.

And Ginny Weasley.

Now that was a fact that had Draco burning with curiosity, but he couldn't possibly bring it up. It wasn't as if Potter truly liked him enough to actually explain what he knew about it.

Too bad that idiot mediwizard I pay for information isn't more thorou

"Why are you staring at me like that?" Potter demanded suddenly.

Draco started. "Er, just wondering why your girlfriend isn't here. I've heard rumours—"

"You probably started them, you prat," Potter said, pushing himself up.

"Nonsense. Why would I—"

"If you must know, we broke up."

"And the Weasel let you live?"

"Belt up about Ron! He . . . doesn't know."

"Why would you have done something so stupid? Weaselette's probably as, I mean, she's a . . . well, why?"

The look of dark warning on Potter's face changed to confusion as he threw himself back onto the ground. "I don't know why everyone's so set on our being married. She was only my first real girlfriend!"

"And no doubt she could do far better than you."

Potter glared at Draco, and then, much to Draco's surprise, he began to laugh. "You're right. Is that . . . is that why Parkinson hasn't been seen with you?"

Now Draco glowered. "I don't want to talk about her."

"Of course not. She isn't good for anyone's reputation, least of all yours."

"Well, not so dim after all."

"Not enough to fail to see what you've been doing, no."

"What do you mean?" Draco asked, even though he knew exactly what Potter was implying.

"Look, Malfoy, cut the crap. You're 'currying' my friendship for your own ends, and I didn't need Hermione to tell me that to have noticed it, either. Thing is, I don't care. At least with you, I know what to expect—and I suppose you couldn't have helped some of what you did, given who your father is."

"Don't talk about my father."

"Don't talk about Ginny."

"It's not just that," Draco said, before he could stop himself. "I do . . . I mean, I'd like . . . ."

"To be friends? Yeah, I know, so stop being such a prat about your dad. He's a right bastard, and friends don't lie to each other about shit like that."

Draco sighed. "Fine, but that doesn't mean—"

"I won't mention him again."

"Good."

"And in the spirit of friendship, you are going to help me see Snape, right?"

"Blackmail? That's not very Gryffindor of you."

"I didn't say I'd stop being your friend if you didn't help me."

"You implied it."

Potter grinned. "Guess I did."

"I can't say I completely disapprove. It shows promise."

"That's just great, Draco."

He called me Draco, Draco thought, turning his attention to the picnic basket to hide his smile. He wouldn't have done that if he didn't mean he wanted to be friends . . . with me.

Selecting a sandwich, Draco couldn't remember anything ever tasting even half so good.

~*~

The kind of hunger that Harry was feeling left his stomach in knots as he approached the house.

Snape's house.

It was dark, but Draco had assured him, after Harry's disappointment at finding Snape no longer at St Mungo's and subsequent anger at Draco, that Snape would be home. It didn't mean that the man would let him in, of course, but Harry figured that between the Felix Felicis he'd drunk and his invisibility cloak, he'd gain entry to Spinner's End somehow.

Before he could make it to the door, however, it opened and a slightly built man with unruly, dark brown hair and glasses came sprawling out of it.

"Fuck!"

Harry watched the man pick himself up and do up his flies before stalking down the road in the other direction.

Well.

For a moment, he couldn't believe what he'd seen, which had been, he was almost sure, Snape kicking a male prostitute out of his house.

He looked like me.

Harry wasn't at all sure that the Felix Felicis had been brewed correctly for the sharp twinge and sour feeling in his stomach.

He definitely looked like me.

Perhaps he wasn't the only one who was confused.

Still, bothering him now might not be

The door opened again suddenly, and Snape stepped out of it, stalking towards Harry—who flinched before remembering that the cloak had him hidden. After Snape walked past him, Harry turned and followed him at a discreet distance, not entirely surprised when Snape entered a familiar-looking playground.

He'll sit on a swing, Harry thought, settling in the unmown grass to watch as Snape did so.

For a long time, neither of them moved, and then Snape pushed off and began to swing himself high, higher, until he was almost going over the bar. As the sound of boisterous, adolescent laughter rang through the air, Harry turned towards a group of boys approaching the playground. When he turned back, the swing, empty, had wrapped itself around one of the supports.

Damn it!

Heedless of the boys' drunken exclamations about "one too many" and "blokes can't fly," Harry rose and began to run back to Spinner's End.

The door was open when he arrived.

~*~

"What do you want?" Severus snarled, thrusting Potter into the wall as he kicked his door closed.

He was drunk and angry and embarrassed—and a poof, it seemed, though one with better taste than he'd realised, given both of his reactions to the rentboy—and he couldn't decide which would please him more, smashing Potter's head in or fucking him into the wall.

"I vote for the fucking," Potter said, his eyes wide as he stopped struggling.

With a growl, Severus released him and practically fled through the bookcase that led to the kitchen. Of course, Potter followed him.

"How did I do that?"

Severus ignored the ridiculous question and grabbed the tea kettle.

"Look, you're the one who—"

"I did not ask you to come here. Or to follow me. Or to enter my home uninvited."

"Bollocks! You left your door op—"

"What do you want?" Severus demanded, slamming the kettle onto a burner.

"How? How did I do that? And why are you thinking of shagging me?"

The innocent act might work on other people, Severus decided, but it didn't work on him.

Turning, he lunged at Potter, grappling with him until he'd got him pinned to the floor. Thrusting his prick against Potter's, he hissed against his lips, "That's why, you imbecile," before sucking Potter's tongue into his mouth.

~*~

Harry's lips were sore. His back was stiff. His heart was pounding. In spite of all this, he felt rather gloriously boneless. Even sticky and cramping and a bit mortified by how fast he'd come against Snape's clothed body, he felt pretty good.

Snape had felt brilliant.

Harry was about to tell him so when Snape lifted himself up and went to take the shrieking kettle off the burner.

"Happy now?"

Harry blinked. "You seemed all right with it. What's wrong?"

"I have to move house."

That was the last thing Harry had been expecting to hear. "Why?"

"And you have to go."

"But, I mean, I thought—"

"Babbling is not attractive, Potter," Snape snapped, preparing a pot of tea.

Two cups.

"And you surely don't imagine that we've anything to say to each other. Sugar?"

"Did you just call me—"

"Don't be daft! Do you take sugar in your tea?"

"Er, yeah. Two spoon—"

"Here," Snape interrupted, slamming down a cup of tea on the table before taking his up and swallowing its contents in one gulp. "Damn it!"

Harry slowly picked himself up off the floor and cast a cleaning charm on himself before sitting down at the table by his cup, watching in confused amusement as Snape drank cupful after cupful of cold water. "You're a strange one."

Snape spun on Harry, flinging water everywhere. "What did you say?"

"Isn't sex supposed to be, er, calming?"

The cup barely missed Harry's head and smashed into the wall behind him.

"You did force me to the floor, so—"

"I did no such thing!"

"—I'm at a loss to understand all this," Harry finished, standing up. "You did, I mean, you do want me, don't you?"

"My entire neighbourhood saw me throw that . . . him out! They'll know! And then you. I have to move house," Snape said, leaving the room.

Harry's eyes widened. He's embarrassed about the pros—about me?

Taking a long swallow of his tea, Harry stood quietly in the kitchen, listening to the sounds of crashing books, at least, he thought that's what he was hearing, coming from the front room. He supposed it made sense: Snape had been in love with his mum—which wasn't something he really wanted to be considering, but given the circumstances, he supposed he had to—for a long time.

Except perhaps he wasn't, or he was, but just to keep from thinking about blokes.

Why else would the man be behaving so oddly?

Hermione would say he's repressed, er, was repressed, and now . . . .

And now, Harry didn't know; he was out of his depth. He just wanted to know what Snape tasted like—and why he had those memories.

I don't think he understands why he had those memories to show me.

Severus Snape, Harry realised then, was a right mess—but he still wanted to know what he tasted like.

~*~

The tear that rolled down his cheek and into his mouth tasted salty and bitter, and Severus inhaled a sob as he pulled books down from the shelves and tossed them into conjured cartons. He would not cry. He wasn't a—he would not cry!

"Hey."

Potter's voice was soft.

"Hey."

And too close. Severus shuddered to feel the hand on his shoulder, going rigid when an arm snaked around his waist.

"It's late. No one saw him, or me, I'm sure of it—and if they did," Potter continued, his embrace tightening, "you might as well make the most of it."

Severus didn't resist as Potter's fingers moved to his trouser buttons. He didn't react much at all as Potter shifted his position to kneel before him. But when those fingers grasped his prick and began stroking it to full hardness, when Potter's mouth closed over its head, when Potter sucked him, Severus gasped.

Didn't use a cleaning—oh, fuck!

Coming again, Severus fell to his knees, heedless of the pain this caused for the pleasure he was still feeling, and powerless to do anything but swear as Potter stripped his trousers and pushed his thighs apart.

Wha—oh, Merlin!

It was unhygienic as hell, what Potter was doing, but Severus didn't care, couldn't care, as Potter licked and jabbed at his arse with his tongue. He did stiffen, however, when he felt the finger.

"Shite, fuck, Merlin, don't! No! Don't . . . stop!" he ordered, when Potter began to withdraw his digit, and then, even though it was in no way possible that he should, he came again, harder than he could ever remember coming.

~*~

Harry was inordinately pleased with himself and couldn't stop grinning. Snape was a panting mess now, and he'd made him one! But he needed friction. Shifting until he found some against Snape's thigh, he frotted himself against him, closing his eyes.

So good, so

"No."

Harry almost whimpered, but he stopped.

"No, don't stop—just open them. I want . . . open your eyes.

Thank Merlin!

God, Snape looked hot, staring at him all wide-eyed, his mouth slack, his fringe matted with sweat to his forehead. It didn't take long.

"Yeah, oh, fuck!" he exclaimed, collapsing atop Snape.

"We haven't."

"Haven't . . . haven't what?"

"Fucked."

It was almost a whisper, and even as good as he felt, Harry instantly worried. "You're not . . . I mean, you did like—"

"Shut it, Potter," Snape ordered, wrapping his arms around him and pressing his lips to Harry's head.

Oh. "We haven't kissed, either."

Snape only stiffened a little at Harry's words.

~*~

"How odd to find you so unyielding," Hermione groused, as Ron ended his diatribe against Lucius Malfoy.

"You really disagree?"

"No, Ron. Malfoy was—isn't a good man, but surely you can understand, at least a little, why Draco—"

"I don't. I'm never going to understand—especially about Ginny."

Harry sighed, glancing around the table at the other Weasleys. "Look, Draco's not so bad, and he's certainly nothing like his dad. And Ginny likes him, so—"

"She liked you a hell of a lot longer!"

"Language, Ron!"

"Sorry, Mum."

"Could you not fight?" Hermione asked. "You haven't had a break in training in ages, and—"

"It doesn't matter that she liked Harry when she was at school, Ron. She likes young Malfoy now."

Harry wasn't alone in his surprise at these unexpected words. Everyone turned towards Arthur, who had been darkly silent on the subject of Ginny's boyfriend for months.

"Pass the potatoes."

Ron, gobsmacked it seemed, passed his father the potatoes.

Harry caught his eye, grimacing as visions of Malfoy's neck wrapped in Ron's hands followed. "Stop it, Ron. You know you wouldn't really throttle him."

"Stay out of my head!"

"Harry, we've talked about this," Hermione admonished, before launching into yet another lecture.

It was comforting.

If only Severus were here, it would be perfect.

~*~

"You've been what?" Draco asked, his eyebrows flying upward.

"You heard me."

"You're a poof?"

"You're surprised?"

"Why yes, I am. And Snape? You've been having it off with Snape? Truly?"

Harry glowered at Draco. "Ron took this much better, which is odd, when you think about it."

"You told him?"

"He's my best—" Shit.

"Well then, fine. I see how it is."

"You're acting like a ponce."

"Says the only ponce in the room!"

"Would you stop. I'm telling you, aren't I?"

Draco huffed. "Months after the fact. Merlin, Harry, why Snape of all people? You could have anyone."

Harry frowned.

"What is it, now?"

"I don't. I mean, I don't think I . . . have him."

"How shocking. Did you expect it would be easy, shagging someone who spied for both sides? Shagging someone who was in love with your own—oh. Oh, that doesn't bear thinking about. Well done, indeed."

"Fuck you," Harry spat, though he agreed.

So did Snape, apparently, because they'd never got 'round to having that particular discussion.

"I think not."

"Arse."

"I'm quite happy with my girlfriend, thank you very much. Ginny's—"

"Don't talk about Ginny! There are some things I don't want to know."

"You might have spared me, then, wanker."

"Well, there's a mood-killer," Ginny said, entering Grimmauld's kitchen.

"Er, what?" Draco asked.

"Your being rude to Harry."

"Gin, I didn't mean anything," Draco said, his tone gone wheedling.

Harry smirked. Ginny might be more understanding than most people, but she still enjoyed torturing Draco, and he loved watching her do it—even though he didn't allow himself to contemplate just what the two of them saw in each other beyond an incredibly strong love of Quidditch.

It's just Quidditch. Has to be, Harry thought, as Draco, visibly annoyed, snapped, "Granger's right. It's bad form to look into someone's mind uninvited," before stalking from the room.

"Drama queen."

Ginny laughed. "Harry, you really shouldn't be looking in Ron's mind. You might see more of Hermione than—"

Harry held up a hand. "Point taken."

"So," Ginny continued, sitting down, "the Legilimency lessons seem to be going well from what I heard, but what's wrong with you and Snape? What do you mean, you don't have him?"

"Eavesdropping. I should have known."

"You did know. You asked me to wait by the door when you told Draco."

"Yeah, well," Harry said, running a hand through his hair, "we don't do anything but shag and get into each other's heads—at least, he gets into mine. I can only ever see what he wants me to. He won't even let me call him by name."

"You didn't exactly settle on someone . . . whole, you know. I expect it will take time."

"You don't think it can work between us, do you?"

"I'm dating Draco Malfoy. It's pretty obvious to anyone that I believe in miracles."

"Point," Harry said, sighing.

Ginny took his hand. "Have you tried actually talking to the man?"

"Not lately."

"Sex too good?"

"Ginny."

"It's splendid, and I'll thank you not to discuss such things with her," Draco said, returning to the room. "We should go," he said to Ginny. "Goblin auctions are very rigidly run, and goblins don't care for tardiness."

Ginny rose, giving Harry's hand a squeeze as she did so. "Don't worry so much—and try talking to him again, all right?"

"Yeah," Harry muttered, as Draco and Ginny left, excitedly discussing antique broomsticks as they did so. "Sure."

~*~

The continued uncertainty Severus felt where Potter was concerned made him ill-tempered. He was positive that once the idiot realised he could have someone younger, more attractive, and less reclusive, Potter would bolt.

If the sex hadn't been so satisfying, Severus would have hastened Potter's departure, but then, he was, it seemed, quite the poof after all.

And I couldn't hope to do better. I don't deserve

"Hey."

"Must you sneak up on me like that?"

"Sorry. What's in the cauldron?"

"A base, nothing more."

"Ah. That's why it looks like molten gold, then. You haven't really been taking that, have you?"

Severus sighed. "The Felix Felicis isn't for me. I'm attempting to mitigate the effects of its overuse by developing a weakened form of it to serve as a base for . . . Lucky Lollies."

"George's project? Really?"

"Ronald Weasley asked me to assist his brother," Severus replied, turning away from Potter to hide his eyes.

"No wonder Ron's been so reasonable about you, er, about us, I mean."

"'Us'?" Severus asked, stirring the cauldron.

When he looked up, Potter was gone.

"Damn it." Severus set aside his stirring rod and went to the kitchen, where he was relieved to find Potter sitting down to a sandwich. "What now?"

"I have a key. You're teaching me Legilimency. We shag as often as possible. But you won't . . . you don't seem to want—"

"You just said we shag as often as possible. Think you could do better?"

"That's not what I was going to say!"

Severus crossed his arms and leant against a counter to study the floor. He'd been dreading this conversation. He didn't want to have it. He hated talking. And he was in no mood to hear Potter make a list of his shortcomings.

"I just meant that it would be nice to . . . . You know, Mrs Weasley said it would be okay—nice, I mean—if you came 'round to the Burrow with me sometime."

"Why," Severus said, looking up to glare at Potter, "would I do that?"

Harry set down his sandwich. "There are some people who wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with me, you know."

Ah, of course. He does want to see other men. "Then I suggest you find one of them, you ungrateful prat," Severus said, storming from the kitchen.

~*~

"No, you prick, I won't do that!" Harry shouted, on the other side of Severus' laboratory door. "I don't want to shag anyone else. Damn it, Severus, open this door!"

The door slammed open so hard that its upper hinge came loose. "I never said that you could—"

Harry threw himself at Severus, and fought with him until he had the slightly taller bastard pinned to the unwieldy door and was kissing him. He knew that getting Severus hard would make him more inclined to talk, and he wasn't wrong. When Severus' hands slid down his back and grabbed his arse, Harry pulled away.

"Not yet. Not before we talk."

"Cock-tease."

"No, I'm not. I'm just tired of being treated like . . . like your boyfriend without actually getting to call you that! What's wrong with you, you berk? Why am I not good enough for—"

Harry stopped speaking as he locked eyes with Severus. He didn't need to be a Legilimens to understand the fear in his lover's eyes.

"Oh, for fuck's sake! You can't really still think I don't want to be here! Severus. Severus," Harry repeated, as Severus attempted to turn away, "I like being with you. I wouldn't be here if I didn't. Why can't you believe that?"

"This is . . . wrong. We shouldn't—"

"Because of Mum?"

Severus shook his head.

"Because you're older than me?"

"No."

"Because you fucked with my head after you were ordered to?"

"Don't you ever wonder?"

"What?"

"Whether I'm not still doing that?"

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Tell me you don't really think you're doing it. Please."

"Why wouldn't I? Look at yourself. You're . . . anyone would want you. Why wouldn't I take whatever advantage I could?"

"I'm not that much to look at."

Severus glared at him. "Spare me the modesty act, Potter."

"Harry! Call me Harry, damn you!"

"It doesn't suit you."

"It's my name!"

"I meant your modesty—"

"And that isn't an act! Merlin, Severus. Yeah, Severus," Harry said emphatically, moving to grab Severus' shoulders. "I get to call you that. I fuck you. You let me inside your mind. We practically live together. I get to call you that, and think of you that way, and enjoy being with you—and I want you to start acting like you enjoy me, too, or I can't keep doing this."

Out of breath, Harry stood, grasping Severus and panting, waiting for his reply.

When it came, it was physical, but Harry supposed that there was only so much talking a bloke could manage in a night.

~*~

Severus sat alone in his laboratory, staring at his perfected, weakened form of Felix Felicis Minimus. The Board of Governors hadn't seen fit to cancel his pension, so he was free to take on whatever projects interested him without fear of starving; he suspected that Harry had been instrumental in this, and, in spite of the fact that his savings would have been enough to sustain him, he felt grateful.

You might tell Harry that, he thought, listening to the silence of the house, or not.

If he started thanking Harry for things, he'd never stop.

I miss you.

Moving to bottle the draft, Severus decided that he'd take it to George Weasley, himself. He was tired of being maudlin alone, and George's quiet company was easy to bear since that first meeting Ronald Weasley had arranged, during which he and George had resolved the matter of his missing ear.

Reviewing new Wheezes wasn't such a chore, and at least George hadn't insisted that Severus do any product-testing with brats.

And if I go, Harry can't possibly harangue me about being anti-social.

His being "anti-social" was the accusation that Harry always hurled at Severus when he refused to attend a dinner at the Burrow.

I'm not ready for a houseful of Weasleys, Severus thought, reaching for the Floo powder.

Severus didn't linger long in the Leaky Cauldron, walking briskly through the back and into Diagon Alley, his glamour securely in place. He had no patience with his "admirers." When he arrived at the Wheezes, he found it empty.

"That you, Snape?"

"It is."

"I'm in back. Lock up for me?"

"Get a house elf," Severus called, locking the door.

"You going to pay for it?"

"What are you brewing?" Severus asked, wrinkling his nose at the noxious odour emanating from George's cooker as he entered the back room.

"Dinner. Never was much of a cook."

"Is it supposed to be stew?"

George laughed, much to Severus' astonishment.

"It is stew. I've just been playing with the spices. It smells worse than it tastes. Want some?"

"You're as bad as Ha—no."

"You let Harry cook? Brave man."

Severus set the phial down before George. "That should work for your purposes, I believe."

"I'm not much for small talk, either, really," George said, picking up the potion.

Feeling rather awkward, Severus replied, "I suppose if you try it first," nodding at the pot of stew.

"A suspicious man with bad aim."

"Pardon?"

"That's why I like you, Snape," George answered, handing Severus a bowl. Taking one for himself, he sipped from it, crossed his eyes, and fell over.

"Weasley."

George didn't move.

"I'm not fooled."

George twitched, and a thin trickle of blood oozed from one corner of his mouth.

Severus kicked the sole of one of George's shoes; he didn't move. "Weasley?" Alarmed, Severus set his bowl on the cooker and knelt by George, feeling for his pulse.

He didn't have one.

Fuck. Severus' eyes darted from George's upturned bowl to the foul-smelling pot on the stove. He's poisoned himself.

He was just fishing in the pocket of his robes for a bezoar when a sudden flush tinged George's skin from scalp to throat, and he began retching violently. Severus turned George on his side, waited until the little shite had sicked up the last of whatever additive he'd employed in his cookery, and then he seized George by the collar, hauling him to his feet before punching him squarely in the nose.

"You little bas—"

"It worked!" George exclaimed, pulling away from Severus and whooping. "Hurrah! It really worked! I fooled you! You should see your face!"

Severus, his fists clenched, glared.

"Oh, come on! I told you I was developing Instant Death Dots. They're brilliant!"

"You are an irresponsible, horrible little—"

Severus stopped his tirade as it became clear that George wasn't listening.

"Got to write this down—the sicking up wasn't supposed to happen. Can't think why it did," George went on, scrawling notes on a sheet of parchment. "I only used the tiniest bit of scopolamine, you know."

"You want to incorporate Devil's Breath into a sweet? Are you mad?"

Abruptly, George stopped laughing. "A bit, yeah—but it works! The kids'll love—"

"No! You're not selling anything so dangerous!"

"I rather think I will," George replied, setting his chin.

"Not after your mother hears about—"

"Ha! Like you'd take yourself into Ottery St Catchpole to tell her."

"Ha to you, you imbecile," Severus replied, storming from the shop.

~*~

The door open and slammed shut, and then it was silent. "Well?"

Harry, pulling off his invisibility cloak, grinned. "You were brilliant."

~*~

"—don't approve!" Molly lectured George, as Severus, feeling smug, ate another mouthful of potatoes.

"Mum, it's only a little poi—"

"I don't care. I won't have it."

"Well then, there you are," Arthur replied. "I think you should thank Severus, George. Really, what an idea! And Harry, surely you don't approve of this new product line?"

"Er, no, of course not. Sorry, George."

Severus was raising a forkful of potatoes to his mouth but stopped to see the look that passed between Harry and George, and the one that passed between Draco and Ginny. Bugger.

He'd been had by a pair of sodding Gryffindors—one half of which was spending entirely too much time with Slytherins.

And one who might as well have been Sorted into my house.

Harry, at least, he could make pay for it.

~*~

"—can't, no more! Please, Severus. Please, let me come!"

"No," Severus replied, reflecting on just how magnificent a poof he was to have rendered Harry into a writhing, bound mass of need.

Leather strips when applied judiciously to a needy cock were wondrous things, indeed.

"I like seeing you like this, tied to the bed, unable to come, struggling against the barest touch," he whispered, drawing a feather over Harry's bollocks.

Harry gasped out something inarticulate, and Severus took a deep breath. He wasn't certain that he could wait much longer. With this in mind, he dropped the feather and moved to straddle Harry's head, beginning to caress his own prick with sure, quick strokes.

Harry tried to raise his head and thrust out his tongue.

"You want something?"

"Let me . . . suck. I'll—"

"Lie there and watch . . . fuck, watch me come all over those cock-sucking lips of yours."

"Nnngh."

"Or perhaps not."

It took all his willpower to stop wanking himself—the idea of coming on Harry's face was oddly appealing—but he wanted to fuck Harry more.

"Yes, yes," Harry said, relief evident on his face as he divined Severus' intention. "Fuck me!"

Without teasing him further, Severus moved into position between Harry's legs, released him from his bonds with an unspoken spell, and thrust himself into Harry's already prepared arse.

"Take off the strings, God, please!"

"No, no, nnno!" Severus exclaimed, his orgasm shaking through him as he held Harry's wrists firmly against the mattress.

When his hips had stopped thrusting uncontrollably, Severus pushed himself down the bed until his mouth was hovering over Harry's bound cock.

"Please."

Severus licked at the leaking head, his eyes never leaving Harry's, as he began loosening the leather.

"Mmmore, please, Severus—mo—oh!"

Even with Harry's freed prick thrusting into the back of his throat, Severus couldn't take it all; Harry just kept coming, so Severus wrapped his lips around Harry's shaft and slid slowly off it, giving his glans one last, hard suck as he pulled away.

"Harry?"

When he looked up, Severus saw that Harry had lost consciousness.

Smug couldn't begin to describe how he felt.

~*~

Harry was shuddering when he awoke to find his legs over Severus' shoulders and Severus pounding into him again. His arse felt incredibly tight around Severus' prick, and it was tingling. His own prick tingled like fire, as well, as Severus began stroking it. He would have moved to shove him off, the pleasure was so intense, but for finding his arms bound above his head once more.

With so much stimulation overwhelming his senses, all Harry could do was clench and unclench in rhythmic undulation and think, I knew he'd take to topping.

~*~

"You know, don't you?" Harry whispered, hours later, luxuriating in the feeling of having been well and truly fucked more times than he could count.

The advantages of having a Potions master for a boyfriend he'd quickly learnt.

"That you manipulated me into attending Molly's dinner? Of course I do. You're not subtle."

"You aren't, either, you prat," Harry murmured, sleepily adjusting himself more firmly against Severus' body.

"Mmm."

"Like it, too."

"You, yes. Not your manipulative ways."

"Can't complain about yours."

"You'd better not."

Harry laughed. "Party on Friday, at the Novitiate."

"Is there."

"Thought you might come with me."

"I'm not fucking you enough, it seems."

Harry snorted. He hadn't thought that Severus would go, but he supposed he could live without him.

For a few hours at least, he thought, beginning to drift off to sleep. "Love you."

~*~

The new Aurors swanned proudly around the Novitiate, with Harry and Ron looking on in annoyance.

"It's all right. We can be arses next year, I s'pose. Show offs."

Harry sighed. "Yeah, I guess. . . . Nice of everyone's family to come."

"Hey, the entire Weasley clan'll come for us, you know that, right?"

"Of course I do, but . . . ." I didn't really say it, did I? Harry wondered, worry making him frown.

He'd been so careful not to push things with Severus.

And now I may have ruined everything.

"It's Snape, isn't it?"

"Or not," Harry said, taking a swallow of punch to disguise his start.

"I thought things were going well there."

"They are, but . . . well, he didn't come to Ginny and Draco's engagement party. He's hardly going to come and see me receive my Auror's license."

"You sure about that?" Ron asked, nudging Harry's arm and nodding towards the door.

Severus.

As if he heard Harry's thought, Severus turned towards Harry and locked eyes with him.

"I'd say that's promising for next year," Ron said, leaving Harry's side.

Severus was by it in an instant. "Why do you look like a fish in need of water?" he snapped, grabbing a glass of punch off a nearby levitating tray.

"You came."

"You should know. You were there," Severus replied, taking a sip from his cup while Harry's face flamed.

Before he could say anything, however, one of the lads in his first year of training approached them, stammering out a greeting to Severus. Harry knew that Harold near-worshipped Severus and hoped that Severus wouldn't be too harsh with him because of it. To his shock, Severus merely shook Harold's hand and began quizzing him about his training.

Harry didn't get to say more than two words to Severus the rest of the evening for similar interruptions.

~*~

"And that," Severus declared later, as he and Harry were preparing for bed, "is why I despise being social."

Harry grinned. "You were fantastic! Everyone thought so."

"Not everyone."

"Instructor Carstairs doesn't like me, either. Don't take it personally."

"That's not why he couldn't be civil to me, and you know it."

"Yeah, all right, but you came! Why? I know that you hate—"

"Because of you, Harry. I have little love for anyone, but for you—"

It was the first time that Severus had put "love" and his own name so closely together in speech, and Harry was overjoyed.

"Impatient," Severus murmured, when Harry finally broke their embrace.

"For you? Always."

~*~

"Told you so."

Harry grinned at Ginny and smoothed down his dress robes. It was probably bad form to wear his official Auror robes to a bonding ceremony, but at least he'd charmed them green.

"Draco still refusing to attend?"

Smirking, Ginny shook her head. "I persuaded him that it was in his best interest to come, and I don't think he actually meant not to, you know."

"Bollocks."

"That was part of it, yes."

"No more," Harry protested, swallowing hard as he realised that it was almost time.

"Don't be nervous. This is what you've wanted for ages."

"Yeah, but I didn't write my own—"

"All right, then, Harry?" Arthur asked, sticking his head into the room.

"Er, I guess so, Mr Weasley."

"You'll be fine. You look splendid. I'm so proud of you, my boy—now hurry!"

Ginny laughed. "He sounds like Mum. But are you?"

"Ready?"

"Yes."

"Yeah, I really am, Gin."

"Good," she said, spit-taming Harry's hair, or attempting to. "Don't worry. When the officiant asks you why you've come, just tell the truth. You don't need any fancy vows. Really," she said, leaning up to kiss his cheek and whispering, "because you wouldn't want to go on like Draco did, now would you?"

Merlin, no.

~*~

"—and of your free will, unencumbered by any other obligations?"

"Yes," Severus said, his eyes on Harry's as he answered the officiant.

In fits and starts, they'd progressed to this point. Severus could still barely believe it. His luck had never been good, not even with the aid of potions. And what luck it was: Harry, looking gloriously fit in his tight robes, stood calmly—and how he could be calm, getting stuck with him, Severus didn't know—before him, his eyes wide and warm.

Everything I ever wanted, even before I knew.

"Mr Snape?" the officiant prompted.

"What?"

A titter of laughter rippled through the crowd at his sharpness.

"I asked you why you've come before this gathering of friends to bond with Harry James Potter," the man replied, his tone of voice betraying no annoyance.

Severus took a deep breath. This was the moment, his moment—Harry's.

For Harry, he told himself.

For Harry, he knew now that he'd do anything, in spite of his every contrary inclination.

My Harry.

"Because I love him," Severus replied firmly, his voice carrying strongly to all corners of the hall.

Harry's eyes widened and he stepped forward in surprise. "Severus."

"Harry," Severus murmured, meeting him with a kiss.

"Gentlemen," the officiant admonished, to the amusement of their guests, "you are not yet bonded!"

Fits and starts, Severus thought, his tongue dancing with Harry's, and this is a good one.