Snape didn't know every customer who wandered into the Baking Fame Cafe. It was a popular place, from locals who knew about his gourmet coffee that was always just the right temperature to the tourists who read about it in the most recent, "Explore Amish Country!" brochure.
He recognized a few faces, however—mostly the regulars who walked in yawning or tapping on their cell phones, but always managed to give him a smile as he handed them their order. It was soothing, comforting. There was something therapeutic about putting in a new batch of muffins, brewing the coffee that permeated the entire room and made his (rather prominent) nose twitch, mixing the batter together for the slices of cranberry cake, and repeating the entire process all over again in an hour.
The shop wasn’t large enough to afford too many employees and yes, okay, Snape had some control issues but after the last college student who had begged him for a job managed to set his muffins on fire (some kid named Widebottom or something similar), he didn’t think it was wrong to be a little protective. Among the employees he had kept, there was the pretty redhead named Lily, slinging half-caf double whipped soy milk lattes behind the counter when she wasn’t working on her homework for school, who had been around for three years now and had a deep and meaningful (almost magical) relationship with his espresso machine that even he considered sacrosanct. Then there was the morning man, Scorpius (his parents must have been on some bender when they were naming that one), who was snarky and insulted all of the customers, yet also knew exactly how much a dozen glazed doughnuts, two chocolate eclairs, three small coffees—one with extra cream and sugar—and a croquembouche cost without glancing at the pricing once.
It was just them: Snape the Baker, Lily the Barista, and Scorpius the Cashier against the Starbucks across the street trying to steal his business with their undercooked pastries and overpriced coffees.
And really? He was okay with that. It was like a really boring comic book, but Snape liked boring. He liked routine and simplicity and everything that one Harry Potter was not.
Harry Potter had wandered into his store one morning, leather jacket tossed over a long-sleeve t-shirt, and ordered a large coffee with fake cream--Philistine, Snape thought, rolling his eyes--and a dozen pumpkin cupcakes.
The cafe went quiet.
"I'm sorry?" Snape said, a dangerous growl in his voice that anyone else knew meant do not go there but apparently sailed over Harry's head and continued through Lake Erie, straight on into the Atlantic Ocean.
He blinked, confused, gave a little smile and repeated, "A dozen pumpkin cupcakes?"
Snape stared at him for a moment, unwrapped his, "Are you the cook? No? Then shut up!" apron, and turned to face Lily, whose face was caught somewhere between wanting to laugh out loud and take pity on the poor soul who didn't know any better.
"Explain to him the mortal sin he has committed," he said, jerking a finger toward the hapless Harry and making his way into the kitchen. The smell of pastries baking into light, fluffy bursts of mint and lemon and berry wafted to him and clung to his clothes. There were smudges of flour on the counters, a bag of opened sugar tucked into a corner, and a pile of dirty dishes to be washed in the sink. Through the swinging door, he could hear Lily's sympathetic voice explaining the situation to Harry.
As Snape rolled up his sleeves and dunked the dishes into nearly scalding water, he growled to himself. If bakers could have an arch enemy--and they could, Snape knew, they totally could--pumpkin cupcakes would be his. Of all the myriad cookies, cakes, pies, and exotic pastries he served up every day, with twists of lemon on this one and a sprinkling of powdered sugar on that one, each and every one of them was delicious. They were sheer perfection. He could bake anything, because he was a Baking God.
Except for pumpkin cupcakes.
It didn't matter the recipe, the time he put into it, the ways he modified it here and there, they always turned out as dry as sand and as flavorless, or a soggy mess in the middle and burnt on the outsides.
Most of the regulars made the mistake only once and no one ever asked for them again.
Until this guy.
The guy with the stupid hair and the stupid eyes and the stupid muscles and the stupid, stupid way he had asked for pumpkin cupcakes.
Lily poked her head in and glanced around. "Have you gotten over your tantrum yet?" she asked.
Snape waved her in with a soapy hand and resisted the urge to scratch his nose, which miraculously always decided to start itching whenever he started washing dishes. Lily smiled at him and walked over, scritching his nose for him without even asking.
"I don't throw tantrums," he sulked. "Also, you're amazing," he told her honestly as she managed to scratch just the right spot.
"All part of the service," she chirped cheerfully, swinging herself up onto one of the counters. "I got rid of him for you."
"Double amazing. Do I pay you enough?"
"No, but I don't take it personally. You couldn't afford what I'm really worth."
This was, in all probability, very true.
She was looking at him speculatively. "So... that guy."
"Yes?" he growled.
"Veeeery cute," she said grinning. It had taken her approximately two minutes of working with him to figure out he was as gay as a Pride Parade, another minute to discover he was single, and about .34 seconds after that for her matchmaking instincts to kick in.
He pointed a finger at her, which was not very intimidating as a lone soap bubble flew off the tip and popped mid-air. "Don't even think about it, yenta."
"I'm just saying!" She held up her hands in front of her, but the sly grin was stuck in place.
Scorpius shoved his head into the door and wrinkled his nose. "Your buns are burning," he said deadpan to Snape, who cursed and dug out some oven-mitts to pull them out. Scorpius turned his attention to Lily. "And your not-so-secret admirer is here."
She rolled her eyes. "I'll be out in a minute."
Snape looked up from the pan, eyes alarmed. "Is that guy still bothering you? Do I need to go chase him off?"
"Take it easy, Dad," she said playfully, swinging herself from the counter gracefully. "I got this one."
Despite his grumbling and general grouchiness for his employees, he felt a weird protectiveness for them. They were hard workers, even if they did bitch and complain when he put them on sweeping and wiping down the tables duty, and Lily especially attracted customers from miles around who ogled her and generally made Snape's hand itch for the broom to shoo them away from her.
That said, Lily was more than capable of handling them herself.
He peeked his head out and watched her turn her mega-watt smile on the latest Romeo-to-be, a tall man with dark hair and a smarmy smile that looked like it sold snake oil for a living. His name was James, or Jamie, or something similar, Snape remembered. He watched Lily give a peppy, "Hi, what can I get for you today?" to the man.
He leaned on the counter with one elbow. "How about your phone number, gorgeous?"
"Ooh, I'm afraid we don't have that," Lily replied, smile still firmly in place.
"I'd settle for a date."
Lily widened her eyes. "Fresh out of that, too! Have you tried the gentleman's club downtown? They might have something you can afford."
Snape stifled his laughter in his apron.
James/Jamie looked affronted and muttered, "Just give me a latte, please, with soy milk. I'm very lactose intolerant."
"Coming right up," Lily said cheerfully, and Snape pretended not to notice when she added regular milk and handed it to the guy. "Have a nice day!"
She waited until he was almost gone before shouting loudly, "And good luck finding a date!"
"Well done," Scorpius gave a slow clap. Lily curtsied.
"Thank you. That man gives me the creeps." She shuddered. "He's not half as charming as he thinks he is."
"They never are," Snape said mournfully. Lily's smile melted and her eyes got warm and soft. Snape held up his hands. "No. No. Don't even think it."
He paused, seeing both Lily and Scorpius staring at him speculatively. Great. Just what he needed, his employees to join the "Get Snape Laid Union." Colleagues in cahoots is not what he wanted in his bakery, thank you very much.
"Get back to work!"
“I’m giving baking lessons?” Snape repeated, eyebrows disappearing behind the veil of limp (from the bakery fumes, dammit. It was not greasy!) hair. It was greasier (limp, dammit!) and more tangled than its usual wont, as he had spent another sleepless night experimenting with pumpkin cupcakes—dammit, dammit, dammit--and ended up with a counter full of something that was emphatically not pumpkin cupcakes and may not have even been food. It was composed of food ingredients, but could definitely make a strong case of plausible deniability if someone ever accused it of being edible.
“You’re giving baking lessons,” Lily confirmed as she tacked another flyer up on the window. He trailed after her to the counter, watching as she put up another one of the neon green signs in his window.
“Why am I giving baking lessons?”
“Because tuition went up and I need a raise. Also, you need new aprons.”
Snape put his hands protectively on the knot of his favorite apron, a beige one with the “Periodic Bagel” on it. “There’s nothing wrong with my aprons. I hate giving baking lessons. If I teach people to bake, they won’t buy my baked goods anymore. Are you sure you’ve thought this through? This is a terrible plan.”
“It’s a great plan,” Lily corrected. Scorpius nodded in agreement behind her, munching on a slice of coffee cake and reading the latest Terry Pratchett novel. She beamed at him. “See, Scorpius agrees!”
“Scorpius just doesn’t want me to shout at him for eating the treats made for the customers only,” he shouted pointedly, somehow not surprised when Scorpius ignored him. He got no respect around here. He turned to face Lily again. “Remember how I used to be the Greasy Bat of the Kitchens? And you all respected and feared me? Weren’t those good times? Can’t we go back to those times?”
“There was never such a time,” Lily said with a pitying look on her face. She patted his cheek. “Cheer up! It’ll be fun, I promise. And you don’t have to teach them to bake well, just give them the basics. How about teaching people to make eclairs?”
“Most people don't even know what eclairs are. They keep calling them 'long johns', the dunderheads. I’m not teaching a class full of people who microwave their dinners how to bake them.”
“Fine, how about those raspberry tarts you like so well?”
He thought about it. They weren’t that complicated, and it took a lot of skill to fold them just right, which meant he would have more opportunities to give a fake smile and pat them on the head and tell them, “Good job!” the way parents praise their spawn’s latest attempts at drawing a realistic dog. It was one of his few pleasures in life, really, making fun of people who didn’t know what they were doing in the kitchen.
“Fine,” he said with a sigh. “But only because you’ll nag me incessantly if I don’t.”
Lily smiled at him like he was a dog who had just learned a new trick. “You’re learning!”
The important thing that Lily entirely neglected to mention was that only one person had signed up for the class—a cute young guy with big green eyes and, “Oh, for God’s sakes, what are you doing here?”
“Uh, baking class?” Harry asked, holding up a flyer. “Your barista threatened to cut off my coffee supply unless I signed up for it.”
Which pretty much confirmed what Snape had always suspected: Lily was a secret genius. All this time he thought she was one of his, the Bakers and Coffee maker, holding out against the world with him, when really she was a traitor just waiting to sink the knife into his back. He should have known when she insisted on only wearing the black apron. Only villains wore black.
“Will you excuse me for one moment?”
Without waiting for an answer, he fled into the main room, where Lily was sneaking out the door, just like a supervillainess would.
“Halt!” he said in a commanding voice. Lily’s hand froze on the handle. He stalked toward her. “Why is there only one man in my baking class? The one who ordered the Cupcakes Which Shall Not Be Named and the one you said was cute?”
Lily turned around, her expression appallingly not guilty. “You would make a cute couple,” she shrugged. “Scorpius and I talked about it and this seemed like a great way to get you together. Think about it. You two alone, you holding him in your arms to show him how to fold the dough just right so that the raspberry filling oozes out—”
Snape held up a hand. “No! There will be no talk of oozing!” He grabbed her arm and led her further away, hissing, “You don’t even know he’s gay!”
“Oh, he’s gay,” she said, with a knowing look that implied she did, in fact, know he was gay and probably could name all of his favorite songs, his previous partners, and what he did on the weekends to relax. She probably could. Lily had strange and mystical powers which were not meant for the minds of men to know. “He’s definitely gay. And what are you doing out here?” She checked her watch and pushed him toward the door. “He’s waiting for you. He’s going to think you don’t like him! Go forth and make wild, passionate bat-like love!”
“I don’t think bats make wild, passionate love!” he shouted back at her through the door. He turned to see Harry still sitting at a counter, his expression vaguely trapped.
“Uh,” Harry said intelligently.
“That made sense in context, I assure you,” Snape assured him.
“That’s kind of what I was afraid of,” Harry said, but it was with a smile, so Snape figured he was okay and not wondering if the tall baker with the unwashed hair was going to kidnap him or something.
“Right. Well, there will be no further talk of bats, because this is Baking 101,” he barked. He rolled up his sleeves, not at all showing off the toned muscles of his forearms from years of kneading stiff dough, and tied his apron securely around him. “You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of baking. Today we make raspberry tarts.”
“I thought you were showing how to make eclairs?” Harry wrinkled his nose. “That’s what your barista said.”
“She lied. She does that a lot. I’ve been trying to beat it out of her, but she refuses to be cowed.”
“Raspberry tarts: what do you know about them. Go.”
“Uh, they’re… good?”
Snape stared at him, appalled. “Good? That’s it? You can’t even muster up an adjective better than ‘good’?”
Harry shrugged. “Delicious?”
“Better,” Snape admitted grudgingly. “A little prosaic, but definitely an improvement over ‘good’.”
“I’ll bring my thesaurus next time,” Harry said, and Snape was forced to re-evaluate his former assumption that the man was all sugar and may actually have a little bit of spice to him. He mentally slapped himself for entertaining the thought. Bad baker, he told himself sternly, do not listen to Lily. She is clearly evil, remember?
“Have you ever baked before?” he asked to distract himself, pulling out the assorted ingredients needed. Harry watched him with fascination as he unerringly discovered the grater tucked away behind a stash of mixing bowls, the spices that were organized by an arcane system known only to Snape, and the essentials needed for the dough and filling.
“My mom and I used to make cookies and stuff sometimes.”
“Was she any good?”
“The best,” Harry said with a smile that faded as he looked at the counter. “She passed away recently.”
“Oh,” Snape shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Cancer, you know?” Harry looked up at him again. “Honestly, even if your barista hadn’t threatened me, I probably would have signed up for this class. Plus, she’s, um, kind of scary.”
“Your barista,” Harry corrected.
Snape nodded. “Yes, well, don’t worry about it. She does that to everybody. You don't get used to it."
An hour later, Snape was surprised to find himself actually enjoying Harry’s company. The man had a wicked sense of humor underneath that butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth façade and when Snape snapped at him for doing something wrong, he gave as good as he got. It was… kind of hot, honestly, and he wasn’t talking about the ovens preheating.
He peered over the shoulder of his only student, who was delicately folding the dough into a criss-cross pattern on top.
“That’s pretty good,” he grudgingly admitted. “Though you want to make sure to tuck the ends in so that it doesn’t come apart in the oven.”
He tried not to stare as Harry bit his lip in concentration, agile fingers deftly tucking the soft dough into position. Harry sighed. “Can you show me? I can’t seem to get that part right.”
Steadfastly ignoring his inner Lily voice, which was cackling in glee right now, Snape stepped behind Harry and guided his hands. He had made these so many times that it was second-nature to him by now, but slowing it down and showing Harry how to get them just right so that the presentation was pretty and functional, Harry's hands held loosely in Snape's own, his warm body leaning against Snape’s chest, his ass pressed tight against his--
He coughed and took a step back. “Looks like you got it.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, and he did something weird with his eyelashes. Was that a smolder? He had never seen one up close, only read about them, but Snape could swear that was a smolder. It looked just as hot as those cheap paperback romances that Lily occasionally left and Snape most certainly did not read made it out to be.
Snape panicked. It wasn’t something he did often, but like a smolder, apparently he knew it when he saw it. “I, um. I was wondering if you’d like,” and dammit, why was this so hard to get out? “I was wondering if you’d like to get some coffee.”
“Uh, sure, I’d love some,” Harry replied, looking somewhat confused. Snape could have slapped himself. Coffee? Really? At a coffee house? Way to go, Snape!
“I’ll just go get some,” he fled the scene to gather his thoughts. As the coffee machine bubbled cheerfully, completely ignorant of his current plight, he lightly banged his head on the wall beside him.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid. So much for the universal pseudo-date pick-up line. Buck up, Snape. Ask him out on a proper date.”
After his pep talk, he poured the coffee into two mugs and returned. He set one of them down and was about to clarify his previously botched attempt at romance when Harry took a deep, appreciative sniff of the coffee and let out a tiny little moan that did horrible, wonderful things to Snape’s insides.
He did not whimper, but he would have liked to.
“My partner and I love your place,” Harry said with a smile. “He’s going to be bugging me to make these all the time now.”
Partner, Snape’s mind repeated, like he hadn’t heard it clearly the first time, thank you, brain.
“Oh,” he said, trying to keep his disappointment out of his voice. “Is he—”
What was he going to finish that sentence with? “Is he okay with you sleeping with the baker of the place?” He could feel himself starting to panic again, and like his one aborted attempt at chocolate dipped lemon drops, disappointment and panic really didn’t mix.
Harry finished for him, thankfully. “Ron? You’ve probably seen him. He’s about this tall,” he gestured somewhere several inches above his own head, “comes in and orders the sweetest thing off the menu?”
Snape remembered. The man was handsome, with a cheery voice that sounded as sweet as the chocolate-covered confections he favored. They probably looked great together, Ron’s arm wrapped around Harry’s waist, his smooth voice mixing with Harry’s softer one. Snape didn’t have a snowcone's chance in an oven.
“Yeah,” he said dully. “I remember him. Well, cooking class is over, so I guess you’d better get home.”
Harry looked confused at being rushed out, and honestly, Snape felt a tiny bit of a heel for doing it, but seriously, he couldn’t take waiting around for the cutesy “how they met” stories coming out and when their anniversary was and at what bed and breakfast they were going to celebrate. He hated that stuff from normal couples, much less a guy who he had nearly made an ass out of himself to just a few minutes ago.
He looked expectantly at Harry, who gathered up his things and left, shooting him odd looks as he went.
Staring at the mess they had created while laughing and doing what Snape was reasonably sure could be called flirting, he felt an overwhelming apathy toward cleaning it all up. Morose, he washed one of the mixing bowls and found a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes in one of his cookbooks.
If he was going to be disappointed, he might as well be disappointed at something he actually had a shot at.
“What’s wrong?” Lily said immediately, entering the shop to the merry little tinkle of the bell that Snape seriously considered ripping out of its socket and stomping on every time the door opened. He didn’t know who had installed the stupid thing in the first place. Probably Scorpius, if only for the ironic value of a surly baker’s shop having a cheerful bell. Stupid little hipster.
“How do you know something’s wrong?” Snape snarled, handing a frightened patron their wrapped lemon tart. The patron fled. Curiously, the bistro tables with tile mosaic tops and plush chairs were all empty today, save for one oblivious student with headphones jammed firmly in his ears.
Lily looked at him before doing a meaningful sweep of the empty café with her eyes. Snape sighed. “That’s it?”
“Well, that and you’re wearing the ‘I stole this apron!’ apron. You hate that one. Plus, I saw the debris in the kitchen. Did your date not go well?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but no, my date did not go well, because it wasn’t really a date. It was a set-up by a nefarious employee who needs to recalibrate her gaydar.”
“He isn’t gay?” Lily sounded surprised.
“No, he is,” Snape said brightly. “He’s also very much taken."
Lily held up her hand for him to stop. “Seriously? I honestly thought—oh, sweetie,” she cooed, and Snape braced himself for a hug. It came as expected, complete with the little petting motions women made when other women were upset. It felt kind of nice, actually, though he’d never admit it. “I’ll make you some of your favorite tea and a bagel with cream cheese, okay?”
Sometimes Snape wondered why he kept Lily around, but it was at times like these that he remembered: she was awesome. Even if she did make a mistake and try to set him up with a guy who was cute, funny, and so very not available. She spent the rest of the day coddling him, shooing him into his kitchen haven and dealing with customers herself, handling all of them with that same scary efficiency that made him nervous, because she could clearly run the entire shop by herself if she wanted. It was kind of nice to be pampered, sometimes. A cup of warm tea and a poppy-seed bagel slathered in herbed cream cheese worked twenty times better at calming him down than any of those meditation techniques his yoga teacher encouraged them to practice.
He could feel the disappointment and stress easing out of him with every tray of cookies he put in the oven, each delicate icing flower he piped onto the petit fours, and the fact that though he never caught sight of Lily once, his mug of tea remained mysteriously filled the entire day.
When six o’clock hit and the doors closed, he almost felt relaxed again. Lily wandered in, a sympathetic look on her face. “Now are you ready to tell me about what happened?”
“Can we skip the gory details?” Snape pleaded with her. Unfortunately, his unmovable object proved to be incredibly mobile when faced with Lily’s irresistible force. It was a losing battle, but one he always fought anyway, because it was the principle of the thing. If he let the employees think they’d won, he’d never win their (occasional) respect again.
“Spill,” Lily demanded, dragging over a stool and watching him work. He sighed, brushing off the flour from the counter and wiping it down with a clean wet rag.
“Fine. It was going great, we were laughing, he smoldered at me—”
“Smoldered?” Lily’s eyebrows were as high as her voice.
“Are you sure it was a smolder?”
“It was definitely a smolder,” Snape confirmed. “I was just about to ask him out when he mentioned his partner.”
Lily winced. “Ouch. What a jackass, leading you on like that!” Snape, being somewhat fond of his head where it was, as opposed to somewhere else not attached to his neck, wisely did not point out that it was more Lily’s fault for trying to set him up with a man who was taken. “I am so sorry, honey, I wouldn’t have done it if I had known.”
Great, now he felt like an ass.
He waved off her apology. “It’s fine. You lose some, you lose some.”
“I think the phrase is, ‘You win some, you lose some,’” Lily said with a sad smile.
“Not in my experience,” Snape muttered as he viciously wrung out his cleaning rag over the sink.
Snape was possessive of his kitchen. Somewhat territorial, in fact. Even Lily and Scorpius, who were the closest things he had to friends, weren’t allowed to touch anything more complicated than oven mitts when they were in the back room. If he could claim to have a sanctum of any sort, it was his kitchen, the small, cozy mess that felt like home and smelled like cookies. For the next week, he retreated back there and licked his wounds, feeling a little silly because seriously, he had known the guy for an hour, and unlike some Disney princesses he could name, he did not fall in love in an hour.
Annoyed with himself and his newfound teenage girl impulses, he donned his camouflage apron, which was the manliest apron he owned, and was tackling the newest batch of peppermint biscotti that he was mere moments from getting right when he heard it: Harry’s voice, talking in quiet tones on the other side of the door.
Daring a peek outside, he saw Lily giving Harry one of her frostiest glares. He looked mostly confused.
“Sorry, no coffee today.”
“Uh, how can a coffee house not have coffee?” Harry asked, not unreasonably, Snape thought.
“We just are. If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do, so move along?”
She was positively icy toward him, and although Snape wanted to be the better man and would completely tell her not to actively drive away anyone who may or may not have led Snape on, he couldn’t help but feel a thrill of vindictive pleasure at the way she was handling things. That was loyalty, right there.
“Good girl,” he whispered, disappearing back into the kitchen.
He heard them continuing their conversation and was just checking the biscotti when he heard Lily let out a squawk. 3…2…1… She banged through the door, righteous anger all over her face. Without missing a step, she walked over and slapped him upside the head.
“Ow!” Snape yelled. “What the hell was that in aid of?”
Scorpius poked his head in to see what all the commotion was about.
“You idiot!” she hissed. “He’s a cop!”
“What? Okay? So?”
He could feel her resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “So? So he’s single, you moron! His partner was his cop partner! And you ran him out of here like a—Argh! I spent all day coddling you, you gigantic moron!”
Somewhere along the way, Lily’s handslap and mad rantings and the words ‘single’ pinged in Snape’s brain, and his jaw dropped. “Wait, wait, he’s—and I—so he’s probably—“
“Really confused about why the guy he was obviously hitting on chased him out suddenly? Thinks you’re homophobic or something? Yeah, all of that.”
It all sank in and sat there, like a brick of bread that refused to rise deep in his stomach. He sagged down onto a chair and buried his face in his apron, moaning a little. “Fuck.”
There was a brief silence, then Lily sighed and sat down next to him, patting his back. He could hear Scorpius snickering. “Okay, here’s what you do. You go, you apologize, you tell him that you’re an idiot, and you ask him out.”
“Also, bring him something sweet,” Scorpius chimed in. They both looked at him and he shrugged. “It’d work with me. Fastest way to a man’s heart and all that.”
“Okay, that’s actually not a bad plan,” Snape said, thinking about it. He stood, black buttondown shirt covered with flour and smelling faintly of peppermint extract, camo apron firmly tied around his waist, and hair destroyed by his hands carding through it. “Shoo. I have baking to do!”
Through a little “creative computering,” as Scorpius called it, and what the rest of the world probably referred to when they said “hacking”, and Lily’s own esoteric skills, they managed to dig up Harry’s address. Lily was fussing over Snape’s clothes, surreptitiously trying to replace the stained hoodie with a plain jacket, while Snape panicked.
“You are certain this is okay? Cops are paranoid. All that constant vigilance. He’ll probably shoot me as soon as he sees me.”
“He won’t shoot you,” Lily scolded him. She gave the black hoodie, one of his favorites, a considering glance. “Actually, if you wear that, he might.”
“Just go,” Scorpius said, shoving him out the door. “It’ll be fine, we promise.”
“That’s… actually supportive.” Snape paused. “I didn’t know you could do supportive.”
“Of course I can. Also, dibs on the cake when this doesn’t work.”
Snape gathered all the dignity he could while wearing a tie from 1976 and driving a VW Bus. He found himself utterly alone standing in front of a well-kept, modest house in an older neighborhood. It was landscaped fetchingly, with little rosebushes along the sides and the lawn was neatly manicured. He raised his hand to knock when the door swung open, revealing Harry wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt, hair mussed as if he had fallen asleep on the couch while watching television. He perked up when he saw Snape, then wrinkled his brow.
“Snape?” he asked, glancing around outside, as if he expected someone else to be standing there.
“Here,” Snape said, shoving a wrapped loaf of bread into Harry’s hands. “I brought you Icelandic Christmas cake.”
“It’s not Christmas,” said Harry bemusedly.
He rolled his eyes. “It’s not Iceland, either. A courteous host would invite a guest inside.”
“Um, yeah,” Harry held the door open for him, leading him into the entryway. The house had wood flooring, plush leather couches, and the minimal decorating style that screamed bachelor. None of the knick-knacks accumulated from two people living together cluttered up the place, no pictures of a happy couple smiling at the camera with happy expressions. Unless you counted the clearly recent picture of Harry's partner in an ill-fitting rented tuxedo with his arms wrapped around a sweet-looking brunette in a wedding gown. He felt something inside him ease. “Do you want a beer?”
“That would be acceptable, thank you.”
Harry passed him a bottle and arched his eyebrow. “So what brings you over this late at night?”
“Is it late? Fuck, this is why I need a clock in my kitchen,” Snape cursed, realizing what time it was. “I apologize, I’ll just—”
“No, really, it’s fine,” Harry said with a smile. “Seriously, I was just watching a game. What’s up?”
Snape fidgeted with the hem of his jacket. “Listen, the other night, at the baking lesson, um, were you—you were flirting with me, correct?”
Harry’s beer paused halfway to his mouth. He carefully lowered it, rolling it between his palms and carefully not looking at Snape. “That… kind of depends.” He laughed self-consciously, looking up at Snape through his (criminally long, in Snape's opinion) lashes. “Would you mind if I were?”
Snape gaped at him. “Seriously?” he managed. He flailed incoherently at Harry for a moment. “Look at you! It’s pretty much like some cheesy fairy tale where the handsome prince walks into the surly baker’s shop and the baker falls madly in love with him!”
Harry looked amused. “Madly in love?”
“In like,” Snape said immediately. “I meant madly in like.”