He'd accepted a new master. One who, like his old master, thought of him with scorn. But at least he had less evidence of it. His new master had no need to mark him on his skin. They both knew he was marked; the mark he bore now was seared much deeper than the one on his arm.
Dumbledore vouched for him at the trial without betraying his secret. He'd spent a torturous week in Azkaban with the other Death Eaters. Then he'd given Dumbledore information. He knew, and Dumbledore knew, that the Dark Lord might have gone, but was not finished. His Mark was still there on his arm.
Both his marks were still there, but the outer one had stopped hurting.
He spent the next years distilling himself, refining himself, becoming, as the Dark Lord had named him, the potioneer.
Never again would anyone be allowed to suffer through becoming close to him. After all, it wasn't such a difficult thing to accomplish. His mirror told him every morning that no one would want him. Merely add biting sarcasm and cruelty to the teaching persona he'd crafted with McGonagall, and no one would come near. It wasn't as if he had friends to turn away, either.
And then, when Harry Potter arrived at Hogwarts, he had the perfect weapon to drive away the last two who would not let go. McGonagall doted on the boy, as did Dumbledore. Well, Severus Snape did not. The boy embodied everything he had laid to waste, so much so that Severus could hardly bear to look at him.
With enough goading, could the boy be made to fail Potions and take those eyes, Lily's sad, accusing eyes, away from his sight? Could the eyes, set in Potter's face, with the utterly un-Potterish expressions of confusion and hurt, shyness and hope, not be driven from his dungeon, from his sanctuary? Was there to be no easing of the torture, of the longing to save this boy pain, whilst needling and tormenting, belittling and deriding him? How could he watch Lily's eyes fill with sorrow, then with defiance and hate, without reliving the original moments he'd seen the same emotions fill the same eyes? The first years were the worst.
He hadn't understood, even then, how deep it all ran. Not until the Dementors were stationed at the school and he'd needed to call forth his Patronus one spring evening. When the doe had returned to him, he'd stood, eyes wide, longing to extend his hand. Knowing it would meet nothing but chill evening air. Knowing no one would be standing there if he turned. Knowing he still served her, he was hers, he would obey, and watch over the boy.
At the last, when he'd been betrayed by the Dark Lord, and had miraculously been able to complete Dumbledore's orders - how had the boy managed to appear at the right moment? It couldn't have just been the boy's luck, it must have been a little of his own - the memories had come flowing out of him. What need had he for memories? Where he was going, memories would only hinder and bind him, and he longed for release, finally. No more lords, no more masters; to be able to walk from this life free and unencumbered. Only one last request to ask from the boy, Lily's son. And the boy looked into his eyes, and Severus saw.
It was his desire to visit Lily's grave that gave him away. He'd had years of solitude, quiet, obscurity. He'd untangled his strained, knotted nerves, had submerged himself in study and contemplation. He was content, he told himself. The only thing he hadn't done was to visit Godric's Hollow. He felt it was time; enough time had passed. Many Death Eaters had been rounded up, some imprisoned by the boy as he became an Auror.
Severus, of course, was dead. Potter himself had vouched for his death, although no body had been found. He laughed whenever he read of Potter's attempts to clear his name. If he were dead, what did the boy imagine he would care for his reputation? And if the boy thought he wasn't dead, did he imagine Severus would care either?
In his Potions room, he paced, five strides to the wall, five strides to the door.
If it was a prison, it was a large one, with some illusion of freedom.
So, to see Godric's Hollow, visit the grave. He thought it should be safe now. He hadn't been outside, save for a few forays to deserted moors, deep woods, lonely meadows to collect plants. It should be safe enough. It was early on a weekday morning; no Muggles should trouble him. A brown traveling cloak and a mild Misfocusing charm would do it, he thought.
Apparating to the churchyard, to a spot between the yew tree and the wall, he noted with satisfaction that the place was silently swimming in a low spring mist. The dead were never clamorous. Just quietly insistent. He found Dumbledore's family stone first, pained briefly by the secrets the old man had hidden, walked on, and saw the white marble. Without needing to look, he knew this was the one. The two names, one hated, one loved, lay before his gaze, and with a start, he realised how much time had passed since he'd seen Lily. He had lived longer without her than she'd been alive. He dropped to his knees in front of the stone, staring as if he might read her thoughts, her forgiveness from it. But of course, there was no such solace to be had.
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death"
He wondered who had chosen the words - death seemed very little like an enemy to him, had done for a long time.
Sighing, he rose, and found a man, too thin for his height, studying him from the end of the row of stones. Sad green eyes, the man had, and untidy black hair.
"It was on this day I saw her last," he said conversationally.
"Don't be foolish, you are far too young to have known her," Severus snapped, realising it was Potter as he spoke, feeling as if he were in a dream.
"She walked with me, she and my dad, and Sirius and Lupin. They walked with me when I went to Voldemort to be killed," the man continued, in the same level, calm voice.
"But you aren't dead."
The morning mist rising between the tombstones, the silence, the strange conversation wasn't how Severus had imagined this.
"I thought you were dead, but you're not."
Of course, Potter would see through any disguise of his.
He had no idea how the day he'd nearly died had gone; he'd been thankful just to drag himself back to Spinner’s End to recover. And afterwards, well, any reporting was bound to be wildly inaccurate, so he'd never bothered to read it. He realised they'd been standing, staring at each other silently for several minutes. His brain appeared to be working very sluggishly.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?"
"To me? Nothing. I went home. I believe the dramatic part of the story is yours."
"But you died. I saw you die. And then, when I went back, you weren't there."
"Which should have led you to the conclusion that I hadn't actually died. Or that Nagini had returned for a snack."
Potter laughed, a cracked harsh laugh that didn't sound as if it was used much.
"But you disappeared."
"Yes. Did you think I would come skulking back to Hogwarts? I'm sure you can imagine the reception I would have got."
"But - I got your name cleared with the Ministry ..."
"Potter, the people who would want to exact their revenge on me wouldn't give a bent Knut for what the Ministry said. People on both sides."
"Yes, I guess. But it's been years now."
"Some people never forget."
The man gave him a long, sad look.
"And, I find I quite enjoy quiet and solitude."
"Do you? You don't look particularly happy."
"We are in a graveyard, Potter. Not many of the living look happy here. You don't look particularly happy, yourself."
"I'm alright," he said, looking anything but. "Look, Snape, I'd like to talk to you."
"You are talking to me."
"No, I mean, later. I - you need some time here on your own, and I do, too. I'll go now, and come back later. But will you meet up with me? Later? Please? I'd like to talk about my mother."
Anything else would have had Severus gone in an instant. But somehow, the chance to talk about Lily to - he kept wanting to call him a boy, but he wasn't, hadn't been for a long time.
"I am finished. Shall I give you an hour? I can meet you here."
"Yes. Are you sure -" he gestured, giving Severus the option.
Severus shook his head, stalked past to try to organise his thoughts. He Disapparated back to Spinner's End. The hour done, he paced the five strides to the wall, the five strides back in his Potions room, with no intention of returning.
It would be madness. There wasn't much Severus could do to shield himself from the world, and the world from himself, but not going back to meet Potter in the graveyard was something he could do. Bad enough that Potter now knew he was alive. He felt the tension rise in him, filling his mouth with a sour taste he'd forgotten. He had made himself vulnerable again. But he could still protect himself. He did not have to, he would not feel.
Of course, the boy had never known when to leave things alone. How could it be different now that he was a man? Potter appeared on his doorstep a week later. There was no escaping him - Severus knew that.
"You were going to meet me back in Godric's Hollow," Potter said calmly, gently, sorrowfully. It was how Lily had spoken to him when they'd had disagreements.
"I thought better of it."
"Why? Did you think I'd - what did you think I'd do?"
"This serves no purpose."
"I'd like to hear about my mother. You knew her; everyone told me about my father, everyone said how like him I was. No one said anything about my mother."
"You have her eyes."
"You speak like she did." Severus sighed, opened the door wider. There would be no peace for him until this was done.
They sat by the fireplace, a mean, small grate for a coal fire, tea things on the small side table between them, a mug for each of them.
"Did you not get enough of an idea from my memories? Must you bring it all back up again?"
"I need to know. I'm sorry if it hurts you."
"The hurt should be long gone, wouldn't you say?"
"But it's not."
The man extended a hand, placed it over Severus'. He flinched from the touch. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had reached out to willingly touch him. No, he did remember; Narcissa. He moved his hand away, straightened in the chair.
"I do not wish to be touched, Potter."
"All right. Have you never wanted to be?"
He glared. "Is this about me, or you?"
"Both of us, I think."
"No, Potter. Talk about yourself, ask questions if you must. I am not here to satisfy your prurient interest."
The man looked long and sadly at him; he was strongly reminded of the last few conversations he'd had with Lily, when she'd been trying to explain how she felt about his - friends.
"No. You look too much like your mother. I will not do this."
"Please. There is no one else. Every time I've seen her, she's looked proudly, but sadly at me. Do you remember her looking happy? Just once?"
"Yes," the word was almost dragged from him. "We were friends for most of our Hogwarts years. Most of the first years were good - she was very alive, she loved -." He had to stop, it was too much, even now.
He shook his head, burying his nose in the mug of lukewarm tea.
"Was there never anyone you could talk to? About her, I mean?"
"Death Eaters are not noted for their sympathetic listening skills, Potter," he said dryly.
The man gave that harsh laugh again. "You know, I never got how funny you were before," he said, with a sort of wondering innocence.
"I'm glad you find me amusing."
"I don't find you amusing, just the things you say, how you say them. Did she like that about you? Did she laugh, too?"
"Then you know. I'm not laughing at you."
"You are too much like her."
"In what way? Is it that difficult for you to be reminded? No - please - I didn't mean to get personal."
The man half-rose, blocking Severus from standing, from storming out of the room. He completed uncoiling from his seat, stood, looking at Severus with those worn eyes.
"I'm sorry. I'm very tired - I still get nightmares. I'll go, but may I come back? To talk with you?"
"I can't stop you, can I?" Severus said quietly.
When he looked up, the green eyes were focused, intense. Severus looked away quickly.
"Thank you. I'm sorry it's hard for you."
Severus only looked up again as the door closed.
Potter left it a week before he came again, but Severus was unable to resume his quiet routine. He knew Potter would return, but not knowing when made for a disturbing week. He knew Potter hadn't set a time so he couldn't avoid the visit. He was not going to be driven out of his house by Potter, it was only a bit of conversation, and if he felt uncomfortable, well, he shouldn't allow it to affect him, after all this time.
They sat, as before, in the two chairs facing the fireplace. Potter didn't look much more rested this time.
"Are sleeping potions addictive?"
"How do you mean?"
"I'm trying to find something that will stop the dreams."
"Anything you take to keep you functioning normally is addictive. You did take advanced potions, did you not?"
The laugh was slightly less gravelly. "I did have some other concerns at the time."
"That is why you were never very good in the subject, Potter. No ability to focus."
"I wish you'd call me Harry. Whenever you say Potter, it sounds like you're spitting."
"And I suppose you would like to call me Severus?"
"It is your name. What did my mother call you?"
"You are not your mother."
"No. I'm not. Did she - were you two ever - "
Severus closed his eyes tightly, hating the question, the boy - no, man, the inevitability of having to admit -. He felt hands on his, cool, hard, dry. Shook his head, feeling the pain begin to draw, the hands tighten as his clutched hard. Felt soft hair on his hands. His eyes starting open, he took in the sight of Potter kneeling, his head bowed over their hands, dampness on their hands -
"What do you think you're doing, Potter?"
The man raised his tear-streaked face, eyes sorrowful.
"I don't need pity."
"I'm not crying for you."
He got to his feet slowly, looking somehow dignified as he wept. Severus hadn't seen a man, weeping, seem so strong.
"I never had a chance, either."
Confused, Severus muttered, "You mustn't - it does no good -"
"It does. It eases the pain. You should try it sometime."
"No - I - you mustn't; I can't - this is dangerous."
"What is dangerous?"
His gaze was mild, concerned.
"Is it dangerous to feel?"
He was entirely too like his mother. Severus rose, swept out of the room, managing not to run.
"I'll come again in a week, alright?" Potter called after him.
A week spent thinking as he moved around the house, ordering his orderly life, reading, writing, pacing. What did the man want of him? He was too tired to rebuff him, to fend him off as he might have done years before. His dreams seemed to blend into his waking hours, with half-remembered smiles, soft touches, green eyes sparkling with amusement or mischief. He didn't get much done that week.
Potter stood on his doorstep, looking worn out but softly smiling at him. He couldn't recall the last time anyone had looked at him like that.
"Do you not have anyone else you can bother, Potter?"
The man slid past him through the door, letting out a quiet sigh. His expression was, Severus was disturbed to see, peaceful.
"I brought lunch. You like fish. And some wine."
"Some of us have work to do this afternoon," Severus said irritably.
"Deadline? Clients chasing orders? Owls never stop?" Potter's voice was light, gentle. They both knew the lie.
"And your work? Is no one keeping track of how you spend your afternoons? Of course not."
Severus snorted as Potter handed him a glass of wine. The little self-mocking smile was back on Potter's mouth.
"I think they're glad to see the back of me for a few hours, to be honest."
"Surely not. So I get the pleasure of your company instead."
"There, you see? I thought you'd get used to it," he said with a small laugh.
"Get used to what, Potter?"
"This. Talking. A little company."
Severus looked at the man, calculating. "You know, you could have been mine."
Potter's head jerked round so fast, Severus heard the crack.
"Oh? How's that?"
"Well, if Lily hadn't taken precautions -"
Potter smiled gently at him.
"But you didn't."
"Oh? And you know this how?"
"You told me." the man said softly, laying out the lunch on the small table. Potter sat down and stretched his legs out, letting a contented sigh escape. The food looked better than Severus' usual fare, and fish had been his favourite at Hogwarts. Severus took his seat, started on his plate.
"Where did my mum live?"
"About ten minutes from here, up the hill."
"Will you show me later? Were the houses here all lived in then?"
"Did she ever come here?"
Potter sat up, pouring more wine into Snape's glass.
"What I don't understand is, why did she marry him? I know you can't answer that, but I can't help wondering."
"I wouldn't even begin to guess, Potter."
"You know I don't sleep well - I just can't stop those thoughts going round and round my head. How different things could have been."
"You need to practice the exercises you learnt, when you were studying Occlumency."
"Hmm. I finally got it, you know. When we were on the run - it works differently for me."
Severus, feeling somewhat lazy after a good meal, looked over and tried pushing at Potter's thoughts. Without any change of expression, Potter fed him a gentle background buzz of Quidditch and cooking.
"You prepared the fish?"
"You may make someone a good wife one day."
"All I have to do is find the right person."
"Witches must be queueing up for you to choose. What happened to Miss Granger?"
"Ron married her."
"Hm. What about Miss Weasley? Miss Chang?"
"Didn't work out."
"What's the matter, Potter? None of them good enough for you?"
"Wrong sex, I found out."
"Ah. Well, I don't suppose there's a lack of young wizards willing to keep the Boy Who Defeated The Dark Lord company either?"
"No, there wasn't."
"Still not good enough for The Chosen One?"
"Snape - Severus, why do you stay here by yourself, letting everyone think you're dead?"
"I enjoy the company."
"No one else understands you."
"And I suppose you are going to tell me you do."
"No, but I probably have a better idea than most."
Severus said nothing, finishing off his wine, a dreadful premonition ticking in his head.
"Just as you have a better idea about me than anyone else."
"And your point is -?"
"It's just - I feel more at ease here, with you. I don't have to live up to anything, I don't have to prove anything."
"No, Mr. Potter. I am old enough to be your father."
"But you are not my father."
Severus stood up quickly.
"Come on, I'll show you where your mother lived."
Potter followed him out. They were silent going up the hill, and when Severus pointed out the run down house where Lily had lived, Potter stayed quiet.
"I will leave you," Severus said, and moved off.
Several hours later, the knocking on the door disturbed him as he sat before the hearth with book and glass in hand.
"Twice in one day?"
"I just - do you have any firewhiskey?"
Severus looked closer - the man did look in need of something. The glass was emptied in one long draught, and some of the colour came back to Potter's face.
Severus was filling the glass as the man nodded.
"Was that why Petunia was so snobbish? Was it so derelict then?"
"No. This was the poor end of town. Up the hill was respectable."
Potter looked at him, taking longer to drink this glass.
"Snape. Severus. Didn't you want to get out of here?"
"But you're here. Now."
Potter frowned, as though trying to puzzle it out.
"But you could go anywhere."
"I find one place is very like another now."
"But - it's like you've given up."
"Perhaps I have."
"Is there nothing you would live for? Fight for?"
"My fighting days are over, Potter. I've seen too much - been responsible for too much destruction. I'd rather not participate any more."
"You don't have to destroy."
"No? I think my talents lie more in that direction, though."
"Do they? Have you ever tried anything else, or were you just stuck in that path -"
"It's a path I chose. You are deluding yourself if you are imagining I fell into bad company, or that I was deceived."
"And then, you chose a different path. Dumbledore -"
"Yes. Dumbledore, who I murdered."
"By his order."
Severus' mouth twisted in disgust.
"He shouldn't have asked that of you."
"There was no one else. He played the game to its fullest."
"Were you really so angry about me?"
Severus filled both their glasses again.
"For him to have asked that of an adult would have been bad enough."
"But who else could have done it? I talked to him, too, when Voldemort killed me."
"You keep saying that you died, were killed."
"Yes. Voldemort killed me. I was dead, I don't know for how long, for several minutes, at least."
"Then I was alive again. I'm not sure, but I think Voldemort was dead for that time, too."
"But of course, he couldn't die then."
"No, he still had one last horcrux then, Nagini. But it removed the bit of him that was in me. I saw Dumbledore, and we talked."
Severus looked at the man who had been so much closer to the Dark Lord than any of his minions.
"I had that in me for so long, and I didn't know that it wasn't me. The Parseltongue, the dreams, the anger - I still get the headaches and dreams, though."
"You can get remedies for that," Severus said, looking away, shaking his head.
"They don't work. The first couple of times, then they stop working."
"You don't want the dreams to stop."
"No - that was the Dementors. I'd hear my mum screaming, dying, whenever they came close. But it was the first time I'd heard her. I didn't want to lose that." Potter exhaled heavily, taking a long drink.
"It's - odd. Having something inside your head for so long, and then, suddenly, it's gone. I don't want him back -" Harry said quickly, forestalling Severus, "It's just - what's your arm like now?"
He took Severus's arm, pushed up the sleeve before Severus could stop him. The Mark was a dull, discoloured brown, like a birthmark, like a very old bruise that would not go. Harry traced the thing with a finger. Severus shivered in his grip, before pulling away, pushing the sleeve back down.
"I thought I told you, I do not wish to be touched."
"What happens? When you're touched?"
Suddenly Harry was kneeling in front of Severus, and he could not pull his eyes away from the intense green.
"No - no - no -" kept running through Severus's mind; how could he have allowed the boy to stay, to become so comfortable, to get so close?
Then Harry was standing, moving away, saying, "It's all right. But you know it isn't normal?"
"Normal, Potter? What would you know about - " he didn't really want to finish the sentence.
A glass of firewhiskey was thrust into his hand, and as he drank it, his heartbeat eased. Potter sat down again letting out a long-held breath.
"Snape? Severus? You know - well, you've seen what happened at the Dursleys. I - I had several years when all I wanted was for someone - anyone - to touch me. It was horrible – no - it wasn't, but I was. After awhile, I hated myself. "
Severus turned to look at the man; he was staring into the cold hearth, slumped forward in the chair. He pressed his lips thinner, to stop the rejoinder that sprang so easily to his mind, got up and fetched another bottle, filling the man's glass.
"I am not the best recipient of your confidences, Potter -"
"You are the only recipient, as you so kindly put it," Potter burst out, interrupting.
"Who else am I going to tell? Who else has any idea? Who else would have the faintest idea of what I was talking about, of what I felt?"
Staring at the man, trying to find his feet in the sudden avalanche of emotion, Severus carefully said, "Felt, Potter? Do you imagine I have feelings?"
Potter's eyes flashed, glaring warning signals, danger, fire at Severus. "Oh, you have feelings, Severus Snape! You have emotions, for all you shove them down, underneath the hearthrug, like they were something to be ashamed of!"
"You have no idea what you are talking about. You have no -"
"Don't I? Don't I know what it feels like to think I'm toxic, that no one should come near me, that I'm contaminated, that I would contaminate anyone who has anything to do with me? Do you really think I don't know that?"
Severus was sitting, staring at his hands, shaking his head.
"It wasn't you. You weren't responsible."
"I didn't know that. No one told me. I didn't find out until you gave me your memories, I thought it was me," the man's voice had gone quiet, sad, tired.
Severus felt Potter's hands on his arms, hauling him to his feet. He was still shaking his head, even as Potter's hand slid along the side of his face, pushing the curtain of hair back.
"Snape - Severus. Are you really worried about contaminating me? Do you truly think you would damage me? More than Voldemort?"
"No - Potter - don't."
"Why?" Potter's hand kept sliding along the side of his face, and he couldn't stop the shivers coursing through him, couldn't stop the hand touching him, couldn't stop the faint tendril of hope.
"Tell me," Potter's voice was low, soft. "Tell me you don't want this."
"I - can't - I've never - "
The eyes wouldn't stop looking at him, even though he could not meet them.
"I know. Come on. We are going to sleep. Maybe - maybe I can sleep more than a couple of hours here."
"No - " He looked up, only to meet the tired green eyes.
He felt too weary, too drunk to protest further, and allowed Potter to steer him up the stairs. They fell onto the bed, Potter pulling off his own shoes, then Severus's. As his head spun, he thought that was the final indignity. The blanket settled over his shoulders, and he dropped into darkness.
He awoke to a hard hand delicately stroking his face. Early morning light struggled through the dirty windows. Potter's green eyes were unfocused, gazing at him. Potter's hand was stroking him like one gentles a nervous horse. As Severus started to frown, Potter suddenly focused on him.
"No - wait."
The eyes were pulling him down, draining his sense of self, his instinct for self-preservation.
"Listen. I slept. Last night. So did you. When was the last time you slept through the night?"
"Potter. It was the whiskey. On top of wine. It's not anything - it doesn't mean anything - don't make it into - "
But the hand was still stroking him, still moving on his cheek, and somehow, he couldn't summon the energy to get angry, to snap, to rise out of the seductive warmth of the bed, his bed which had always been cold and hard without anyone else in it. Managing at least to turn away from the gaze of those eyes, he settled, to find the other body pressed against him in a warm curve, an arm around him, warm breath on the back of his neck. His last thought before sleeping again was that it was rather comfortable.
He woke with the sun high, alone in the bed. Stifling the faint pang of disappointment, he told himself, good, the man had come to his senses. He wandered downstairs, feeling aimless, uncertain, very unlike himself. After a cup of tea, he thought perhaps going somewhere, anywhere would be better than to have Potter return, or not return. He couldn't quite decide which would be worse.
He suddenly remembered the fifth year, before Lily had finally had enough of his friends, before Potter had produced the prank that had shamed him in front of her, before she'd started to spend her breaks with girlfriends. He remembered they'd been studying, he couldn't recall what, but they'd been sitting close together, heads bent over the book, and she'd touched his arm. Not just once, but several times, making points about the book, drawing his attention to a paragraph, gazing into his eyes. He recalled he'd gotten quite irritated with her. He squeezed his eyes shut again.
Thinking about the way Potter had behaved yesterday, he knew he had to run. He'd gathered his valuable ingredients in the travelling case, and was just sorting out his notes, when with a knock at the door, Potter walked in. He took in Severus's preparations in one glance, and was there by him, holding onto him.
"No - you mustn't. I'm sorry, I had a meeting. I had to go. I should have told you. Please don't -"
Severus found himself backed to the wall, Potter still holding on to him, looking earnestly up at him.
"Why are you back? I need to leave. You must let me go -"
"No, please. It's all right. It's OK. Calm down. You need to stay."
Those gentling strokes to the side of his face again, but the feeling running through his veins was not gentle or calm.
"Come on, sit down, it's alright."
Potter was pulling him down onto something that was now a settee, but had been his chair - . Potter's arms went round him, holding him, stroking along his shoulder and arm, shoulder and arm, shoulder and arm, slowly, hypnotically, until his breathing slowed, his heart rate slowed.
"There, that's better. Now, was it really that awful to get a proper night's sleep for once? I slept better than I have for years. I'm betting you did, too."
Severus relaxed a bit in the warmth of the arms, the chest, but the back of his brain was enumerating, Avery, Mulciber, Carrow, Nott ; Avery, Mulciber, Carrow, Nott ...
"Snape? Severus? Was it really that awful waking up with me?"
Severus found the hand was stroking the side of his face again, and that he was lying mostly on top of Potter. He drew back to get a look at the man, to gauge his intentions, to snap something repulsing - the bright green eyes searched his for a moment, then he felt himself pulled down to be kissed - lightly, Potter was just brushing his lips, soft, gentle touches.
"What are you doing?" he asked, puzzled.
"I'm kissing you. I intend to continue kissing you for some time."
And really, Severus couldn't think why he should object to this at the moment.
In amongst the soft kisses, Potter shifted them until Severus was definitely lying on top of him. The arms stayed around him, the lips kept coming up to meet his, until it seemed silly to keep his head reared back away from Potter, and he let it relax, to fall forward onto Potter's shoulder.
"Mmm," Potter's murmur sounded near his ear as the lips explored his neck, the side of his face. The hands were now running in soothing paths up and down his back, finding the knobs of his spine, the corrugated sides of his ribs. The stroking, kissing were mesmerising, Severus had never been touched like this.
There seemed to be no end to the time Potter was going to spend, lying here beneath him, making waves of feeling wash over him.
"Good, that's very good. You're almost relaxed."
At that point, Severus became aware that one part of him had definitely not relaxed, and struggled to disentangle himself, to get off of Potter.
"Easy, take it easy. It's all right. Calm down. You don't need to worry."
Potter would not let him go, and he didn't feel like he had the strength to wrench free. If the man was not worried, perhaps Severus wouldn't worry either. Maybe it would be alright.
Potter kept them on the settee for most of the day, inducing an almost drugged daze of stroking and kisses. Severus knew he'd never experienced anything like that before, and when Potter kept drawing him into his arms for more of the kissing, more touching while he made food, he found he didn't object. Severus wasn't left alone to eat, either, Potter insisted they sit together and kept the barrage of sensation up, so Severus never had a chance to withdraw. And now Severus was quite certain what Potter intended for them, the worry and fear kept washing through the miasma of sensuality he'd been wrapped in.
"You're worrying again. It'll be alright. Nothing horrible is going to happen."
It was obvious to Severus that Potter knew what he was doing, but how was he going to tell him -.
And how did Potter know, Potter, so direct, so unsubtle, how did he know?
But he was not given a moment, an instant to draw back, collect himself, to let the wariness and fear reclaim him.
They were still on that transfigured settee - and how had Potter managed that, wandless magic, but with a negligent ease, little concentration - and he realised Potter had removed his own shirt, and the buttons of Severus' shirt were being opened one by one, slowly, the other man's hand moving in slow patterns on his bare chest between the small actions of the nimble fingers and his breath hitched and came unevenly, heavily, and after all, the sensation of skin on skin was, perhaps, worth the edge of terror that lurked like a shadow in his mind.
"There, that's all right, you're safe, you're safe, nothing dreadful is going to happen," Potter's soothing words spun on and on in a low, soft background buzz, pulling Severus further into the fog of feeling.
He had a worried pang about the unloveliness of his scrawny, scarred body next to Potter's youthful skin, but Potter appeared to have no such doubts, sliding his fingertips repeatedly, tenderly over each knotted, twisted, scarred inch until he felt Potter was somehow learning each bit of his skin, each line of old pain and injury, each slight and hurt, and somehow salving them, wherever they had been inflicted, for whatever transgression earnt.
He sighed deeply, letting his body relax into the cushions, into Potter's surrounding arms, his warm body.
"Good. That's good."
Severus tentatively moved his own hand, let it slide along the warm side, let his fingers feel the soft tiny hairs on Potter's muscled back. The dip of Potter's spine seemed endlessly fascinating, dividing, yet centering the man, and he let his fingertips slide up and down that knobbly line, until Potter burrowed his head into the curve between Severus's neck and shoulder, gasped out, "Do you have any idea what you're doing to me?" and brought his hips up so that Severus felt the echo of his hardness pressing against him. He would have pulled back then, let go, scrambled away, but he was not allowed.
"No - god, no, stay - please, I want -" and Potter moved himself back and forth, their heat sliding together, grinding against each other in an old, instinctive dance, until Severus could hold back no more, and he let go, his teeth finding Potter's shoulder to clamp on, to stifle his cry. Potter jerked against him as he bit down, let out a moan, and clung to him.
"Oh, god, I bit you," Severus muttered, pulling back to look at the teethmarks.
"Ssshh. It's alright, it's alright. You - the stroking you were doing, and then, the bite, that was perfect. That was right. I wanted that. Couldn't you tell?"
Potter's hands were still moving on him, still not letting him come out of the confusion of sensation, but were pulling him up, to stand. He groaned, his body just wanting to slide bonelessly back to horizontal, but Potter was moving them both, they were stumbling up the stairs and to the bedroom before he was allowed to let go and stop trying to think.
The rest of his clothes disappeared without him being able to raise much more than a shiver over his ugliness being bared to view, a warm wet cloth cleaned him, then the blankets and Potter's warm body caressed him and he slid away into sleep.
He awoke sometime towards dawn with those hands sliding up and down his back, enclosed in Potter's arms, his nose buried in Potter's tangled hair, feeling better than he had in years, a warm lassitude making him give himself over to whatever Potter had in mind. The man seemed to have endless patience in this area, and none of what they'd done bore any resemblance to any of his admittedly very limited experience. He let his own hands tentatively move over Potter's shoulder and what he belatedly realised was Potter's ass. His flinch away was met by a groan, and Potter's hand firmly moving his hand back.
"Just like that, Severus, just keep doing that," he breathed, moving, pressing his groin rhythmically against Severus's hip, a sensation he realised he'd been feeling for some time, as well as the gathering heat in his own groin, rocking against Potter. From Potter's - Harry's responses, sliding his fingers along the divide between his cheeks was a good thing, reinforced by the jolt of hot sensation as Harry slid his fingers along the same path on him. The feather light touches were torment, turning his insides to liquid, shutting down his mind in a wave of desperate need that Potter's sudden stilling his fingers and withdrawing his hip from the pressure shocked.
"What - " the word snarled out as he became aware of his heavy breathing, the sounds he'd been making - he cringed within himself to feel so exposed, but Potter's hand was smoothing Severus' side, stroking his chest, as he whispered,
"Shhh - this'll be better - I promise - shhh."
He felt Potter's silk-skinned hardness slide against his, and Potter's hand, slick and hot, wrap around both. The double sensation made him let out a wordless shout, nearly made him come, but he managed to stop himself, curious somewhere in what was left of his brain to see what the man was going to do. The slide of both their shafts together had him adding his hand, to wrap round Potter's and press tighter, but Potter's fingers, slippery and agile, sliding between his cheeks, stroking over his hole, returning over and over to slide on the sensitive skin stopped any thought, any curiosity, and pushed him into orgasm.
He was vaguely aware that Potter was still moving, and he tightened his hand to pull the man over into bliss. A moment later, the warm cloth was cleaning them both, and Potter settled against his chest, pulling his arm around him.
The morning sunlight found Severus's erection cradled between Potter's - Harry's arsecheeks, a slow minute tensing firming him, arousing him further.
"Do you never stop, Potter?" sounded much less sarcastic, and more fond than he had meant it to.
"I might ask you the same question," Potter answered sleepily, reaching for a small pot from the bedside table.
Squirming round, he pulled Severus's face down to his for more of the brain melting kisses. Wriggled under him, sliding a slippery hand over Severus's length, positioned him, and Severus found he was sinking into velvety tightness, sensation overwhelming him again. Wanting to make this last, he pressed in slowly, then stopped. Potter's hand settled on his lower back, calming him, stilling him. He had a nagging unease still that when Potter looked at him properly in the morning light, he would come to his senses, and go. Best to make the most of this, then. Drawing back, he slid further in and stilled again. Potter - Harry bent one leg up to his chest and held it, allowing him more access. He looked down at the face, the green eyes out of focus, dazed, and resumed the sliding, intoxicating kisses.
Pulling back, this time the slide in ended with his belly, his balls pressed firmly against Potter, and he couldn't stop himself giving a twisting grind, fully seated. Potter yelled, and grabbed his bottom with both hands, driving him still further in. He couldn't stop then, the motion instinctive, his mouth and teeth kissing, sucking, biting over Potter's neck and shoulders, Harry holding on to him, arching up, meeting Severus' fierceness with his own. As Harry came, the clenching around him brought Severus to crashing completion, driving deep in to the other man. They both collapsed, tangled together in the bedclothes.
When he awoke again, he knew Potter had done something; a spell, a curse, a hex. His first thought was to move against the warmth sharing his bed, and he knew this was something he would never ordinarily have thought. He looked at the face his hand had risen automatically to stroke, the chin blue with stubble, the green eyes sleepily blinking at him.
"What did you do, Potter?" came out in a wondering tone he'd not heard in his own voice for many years.
The man was powerful; the wandless magic, his battles with the Dark Lord were evidence enough of that. Potter - Harry sighed softly, pulling Severus down to kiss him again.
"Muggle magic. I made love to you. I need you to believe it. You don't yet, do you?"
Severus lightly pushed at Potter's mind, found no barrier, just a wash of that feeling, the sensation he'd felt before, undermining his barriers.
"But why? You have no need to be with me?"
"I have every need to be with you, Severus. I told you, you understand about Voldemort."
"So any Death Eater -"
"Any Death Eater who had also been doing Dumbledore's bidding, any Death Eater who had saved my life more times than I know, any Death Eater who I need to convince again and again to stay and allow himself to feel and be touched and loved. That one."
And Severus let himself be pulled down into the warmth of Harry's embrace, not yet believing, but willing to suspend judgement for awhile.