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Exposure

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The night before the final battle, Severus Snape fell in love with Harry Potter.

Of course, being Severus Snape, he did not recognize the emotion at the time; in fact, it was doubtful whether he did even now. But nevertheless, fall in love with the damned boy he did, and all because Potter took off his spectacles.

Perhaps it was a combination of factors, since Snape had certainly seen Potter without his glasses on numerous occasions, usually when Potter was cooped up in the Infirmary after one mishap or another. At any rate, Snape recalled with crystal clarity that it had just gone midnight—not that there were any functioning clocks left in Hogwarts to note the time—and Potter was sitting there, in the ruins of the Hogwarts library, his glasses folded neatly on the ground beside him. When Snape walked in, that impossibly green gaze locked with his own, stopping him in his tracks as surely as a killing curse. He remembered feeling completely exposed, as though the removal of that thin barrier of glass was all it took to strip him of defences he had built over the course of decades.

“H’lo,” Potter said, infuriatingly oblivious to the damage he was causing.

Snape opened his mouth. After a few moments, he managed to produce speech. “You should be asleep,” he said, in a tone he hoped was censorious rather than caring.

“So should you,” Potter returned crisply. The brat had long since given up the pretence of student-teacher politeness, but oddly enough a real, grudging respect for Snape seemed to have sprouted from the barren soil of the war. “Did you eat?”

“I wasn’t aware that Pomfrey passed on her mother-hen mantle to you before she…” He sighed before he could complete the sentence; he was too weary even for that. “No.”

“I’ve some oatcakes and a few Chocolate Frogs in my bag,” the boy offered. He bent his head and rummaged in the canvas sack; freed from the prison of those eyes, Snape sagged against the nearest crumbling column.

“Here.” Snape looked up to see Potter standing before him, holding out an oatcake. This close, the intensity of his gaze was excruciating.

“I’d prefer the chocolate,” he said.

Potter’s eyes widened, and a maddeningly smug smile danced about his lips. “They’re not hopping any longer, but I suppose you won’t mind that much.” He dug out two packages and handed them to him. Snape sucked in a breath as their fingers brushed, then was appalled at his display of weakness.

“He’ll make his move tomorrow,” Potter said shortly.

“How do you know?” Snape muttered around his mouthful of chocolate. He’d never admit it to the boy, but he’d long been convinced that when Potter said something was going to happen, it would happen.

He wondered how the poor bastard managed to keep from going mad. But then perhaps they all were by now.

Potter shrugged, eyes peering myopically at something across the room he doubtless could not see. “Because tomorrow—or today, rather—is my birthday.”

“Proving my initial hypothesis about your megalomania correct?” Snape sneered, trying to deny the rather horrifying and undeniable fact that he was moments from taking the lad in his arms. Wouldn’t that just be the perfect end to his miserable bloody life.

Potter chuckled; his voice had deepened over the past year. “I suppose so. It’s hubris of a sort. Only it’s also the kind of thing Voldemort would consider suitably poetic, isn’t it?” Snape could only stare at him. “What?”

Snape blinked. “Nothing. I’m only reeling from the shock that you are familiar with the word hubris.”

“Sod off,” Potter said, laughing. After a moment, his gaze returned to Snape. “I think I might die tomorrow. I’m not sure of that bit.”

“Don’t say that,” Snape ground out.

“What? That I might die, or that I’m not sure?”

“Either. Both. Oh, bloody hell, Potter. Go to sleep.”

Potter regarded him for a long, endless moment, then produced another Chocolate Frog from his bag. The thing hopped lamely in his hand, once, and he closed his fingers around it gently.

“Whoops. Bit of life left in him yet,” Harry said before popping it into his mouth. Helplessly, Snape watched him chew and swallow, held that too-knowing gaze until he thought he might scream or cry or kiss the blasted brat until they both forgot, forgot everything.

“Going to sleep now, sir,” Harry said quietly, finally showing mercy by turning away and tucking himself into his bedroll. When his eyes closed, Snape slid slowly down the column and buried his face in his hands.


*~*~*~*~*~*

There were days when Snape believed that dying in the war would have been preferable to rebuilding Hogwarts alongside Minerva McGonagall.

Being a Scotswoman she considered herself a natural engineer, though this was emphatically not the case, as was proven the day the entire east wing collapsed. It was a pity the incident hadn’t claimed at least one casualty, he reflected as he watched Minerva striding across the Quidditch pitch in her loudest tartan, another, taller figure at her side. Snape squinted into the sun, trying to determine the identity of the other—

Merlin. He should have been the casualty. Perhaps there was a Time-Turner lying somewhere hereabouts…

“Ah, Severus,” McGonagall said as she climbed the stone steps, “I believe you are acquainted with the newest addition to our staff?”

Snape assumed his haughtiest expression, and opened his mouth to offer a suitably cutting response.

“What happened to your glasses?” he demanded.

All three of them hesitated for a moment. Snape blinked.

Potter recovered first. A small, private smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he said, “I had an operation at St. Mungo’s. The glasses were as much a trademark as the bloody scar, and when that went away, I figured I might as well plump for the whole transformation.”

McGonagall, damn her, had a matching smirk on her face. “He’s also grown three inches since we saw him last, if you’re interested.”

Snape rolled his eyes. “Kindly do not tell me that this is our new architect.”

“No, that’s Hermione’s job,” Potter said cheerily. “She arrives tomorrow.”

“Harry is our new Care of Magical Creatures instructor,” McGonagall simpered.

“Fascinating,” Snape drawled, while inside his head a small voice started screaming. “Of course, I’m sure he’ll be moving on to greener pastures in no time.”

“I don’t think so,” Harry said. “You know what they say. Hubris goeth before a fall.”

“Oh, to be buried under tons of rubble,” Snape muttered, turning smartly on his heel and walking up the steps.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Potter showed up at Snape’s doorstep that night with a box full of Chocolate Frogs. He’d brought his eyes as well, damn him.

“I’ve spelled them not to hop,” Potter said. “Care to invite me in?”

“Not particularly,” Snape said, though he stood aside to allow Potter to pass. His new rooms were not as spacious as his old ones had been, but then he’d only managed to salvage about one-tenth of his library.

“The thing is,” Potter said, standing in the middle of Snape’s rug, legs spread slightly as though preparing for a duel, “I’m in love with you. I’m not sure if this is a temporary condition or a permanent one, but I suspect it might be the latter.”

“Don’t say that.”

“What? That I’m in love with you, or that I—”

“Don’t start that again,” Snape gritted. “You’ve obviously gone round the twist.”

“So have you,” Potter said, stepping closer. Snape tried to take a matching step back but found his feet rooted to the spot, because Potter’s gaze was locked with his and he’d suddenly forgotten how to operate his limbs. “I saw the look in your eyes that last night.”

“How could you see a blasted thing? You were seventeen—”

“Just gone eighteen, thank you.”

“—and completely myopic.”

“Nevertheless.”

“What the bloody hell does that mean?”

“I’m shocked at your lack of vocabulary,” Potter said, and kissed him.

“You’re infuriating,” Snape gasped, when he could wrench himself away from Potter’s surprisingly talented mouth.

Harry cocked his head. “Permanent, I should think,” he said brightly, wrapping his arms around Snape’s neck and dragging him down. “After all, we have so much in common.”