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The Unexpected Side Effect of Draught No. 9

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It was well after nine o'clock on Thursday – Christmas Eve, in fact – when Severus was finally able to make his way back to his quarters after the impromptu offer of dinner from Headmistress McGonagall, Professors Flitwick and Sprout, and Madam Pomfrey. It had been pleasant enough, but now he merely wished to retreat to his quarters for the duration of the holiday and enjoy the solitude that winter break afforded him.

However, when he opened the door to his rooms, he was greeted by an unexpected sight: there, pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, was Harry. One hand was shoved in his pocket, the other was gripping a wrapped package with a red bow on top. If Severus didn't know better, he would have guessed Harry was nervous about something – though what that could be, he had no idea. Had it been anyone else, Severus' wand would have been drawn and mid-hex faster than one could say 'mistletoe'.

For want of something to do, Severus unbuttoned his outer robe and draped it over the back of the chair nearest to him. Turning slightly, he closed and warded the door.

"Sorry I didn't tell you I was coming," Harry said quickly. "I thought you'd be here, but when you weren't, I just decided to wait. Hope that's okay."

Severus nodded. "I expected you would be with the Weasleys, celebrating the holiday."

"Well, they did invite me, but… I wanted to give you this first." He held out the package so Severus could take it.

The silver paper shone in the soft light as he rotated the box to inspect the hastily-knotted, velvet bow. Receiving a gift was most unexpected, and Severus, rusty with the practice, felt suddenly discomfited. "I… thank you. I do not have—"

"That's okay," Harry interrupted. "I know we didn't discuss exchanging gifts or anything, I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me. And not just the last few months, but... well, for all of it, really. I—"

Severus raised a hand to forestall further gushing. "You are welcome." Harry bit his lip and nodded, then slowly raised his eyes, a question there Severus couldn't decipher.

"Would you like me to open this now?" he offered, trying to find his footing in this unprecedented exchange.

"No, you don't have to," Harry said, somewhat distracted. He seemed to be fidgeting back and forth on his feet and concern lanced through Severus.

"Is everything all right?"

"What? Oh. Yeah. I just wanted to see you. I've been trying to find a reason to stop over here for days, but I kept losing the nerve."

Severus' brows pinched together. "The nerve? Whatever for?" He ignored the way his heart began tapping itself against his chest. Harry took a step closer and everything seemed to narrow to that one point of focus before him: tousled hair, sparkling eyes, moistened lips.

Harry looked as though he was trying to discern something, mapping Severus' face with his eyes. Then he leaned up on his toes, pausing for one heightened moment. "For this."

The press of Harry's lips was tentative and light, but still Severus gasped – the temptation, the want, flared inside him instantly. Harry's mouth was the only thing that had actually made contact; his body was still hovering just out of range. It was maddening for Severus to be this close to him, to feel the warmth he radiated, yet not be able to grab and hold and take. He was long past the point where he had any self control where Harry was concerned. There were no more walls to rely on, no more defenses to erect, no more logic to dissuade him; he'd no more be able to resist this than a starving man would deny a scrap of food.

Yet theirs was not the sort of association where one party simply took liberties such as this. Then again, hadn't he done this very thing to Harry, after his sixth draught? And why? Was it because he'd been glad for Harry? Or had he just been glad for himself?

A slight movement against Severus' lips brought his mind back to the matter before him. He didn't know what this was, but one thing was for sure: he refused to play the fool. He pushed Harry back, ignoring the way Harry's lips parted in surprise. "I will not be your experiment."

Harry's eyes opened. "… My what?"

"I do not wish to be used as an experiment while you discover who, or what, it is you really want."

"Wait, that's not what this is." Harry sighed. "That's not what this is about."

"Oh?" Severus crossed his arms in front of his chest and cursed his beating heart, for he was sure its frantic thumping must be audible from outside his body by now.

"Just because I haven't been with a man before doesn't mean I don't know what I want."

Severus wanted to run, to scream, to claw his way out of this absurd reality he had somehow found himself in. This was not happening; could not be happening. Severus Snape was not the sort of man who got what he wanted in life. This was just some cruel daydream sent by his subconscious to taunt his foolishly-held desires. Someone must have slipped something into his soup at dinner. Yes, that made sense; certainly more sense than the fact Harry had actually come to him; had just kissed him.

"Convenience, Mr. Potter, that is all."

"Convenience?" Harry snorted, a hard edge to his voice. "You think this is about convenience? This is anything but convenient! If that's all I wanted, I could just go shag that Marcus guy, or all the other people you seem to think are lined up outside my door. But guess what? I don't want any of them, I want you! How fucking inconvenient for me!"

As Harry roughly pushed past him, several things assaulted Severus at once: an alluring cologne or aftershave, the scent of which was damn near edible; the realization that a dream-induced Harry wouldn't storm out on him, yet this one was about to; the absence of Harry's typical care-worn attire, something he'd swapped for an elegant look: black trousers, a tailored, button-down shirt and black leather shoes; the sense-memory of Harry's lips pressing against his own; the simple fact that it would be the height of stupidity to let Harry walk out that door – now, or ever again.

"Harry."

"Don't. I already feel like a first class idiot, okay? Can we just forget this happened, please?"

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Harry had already tightened his fingers around the knob when he heard it. The sound had an almost plaintive quality to it, as though Severus hadn't intended to say it out loud.

"No."

Harry froze, half-turning. "What?"

"No. Not this time."

Before Harry knew it, Severus was moving towards him; in a heartbeat it seemed like he was right there. Harry turned to face him but couldn't do anything except stand there, trapped by what he saw in that darkening gaze. The closer Severus got, the more Harry's pulse pounded against his ears, the less air there seemed to be in the room. Severus set the gift aside and then looked down into Harry's face. He was so, so close.

"Why are you doing this?"

Harry swallowed. "Doing what?"

Severus seemed unable to articulate his thoughts; a circumstance that might have been more unsettling if Harry's weren't spinning feverishly as well. "Initiating," Severus finally settled on. To Harry's own surprise, he had an answer ready.

"Because you never would have. I know that now."

"So this is merely pity, then?"

"No!" Harry said, his sigh a sharp exhale. "No. God, do you always have to be so bloody difficult?" As he stared at Severus, an idea began taking root. He quickly brought all his feelings, his intent, to the forefront of his mind. "If you don't believe me, look for yourself. My mind is open."

Severus turned his head, averting his eyes. "I will not intrude upon you like that."

"Then you will just have to trust me."

Harry knew Severus was waging an internal war with himself; it was evident in the way his body was turning in. This was probably one of those make-or-break moments, too, and Harry couldn't bear the thought of breaking it. Not when he was so close to finding out if there really was something between them. Harry put a hand against Severus' cheek to draw his attention back, and was relieved when he allowed it.

"And the Weasleys?" Severus asked, as though some part of him was still stalling. "Surely you do not want to deny them the pleasure of your company."

Harry slid his hands up Severus' forearms and stopped just above the elbow, feeling the warmth of the man's body through the fabric of his robes. Why had Severus always seemed so cold? Perhaps it was the forbidding and stern visage he so often wore that had made him seem so distant and inhuman at times. Just like the revelation of seeing Severus' bedroom, touching him now – albeit through his clothes – was reframing the Severus in Harry's mind as a hot-blooded, tempting male. The mere thought of that made him squirm, now more than ever wanting to peel away the layers of clothing and see what lie beneath them. "I'd much rather have the pleasure of yours," Harry said.

Their gazes met then, each likely asking the same question. Harry hoped to hell they came up with the same answer, too, because he wasn't prepared to deal with the alternative. Truth be told, he hadn't even considered there might be an alternative.

A slight puff of breath across Harry's cheek made him refocus on the face swimming before him. Severus was so close now he was filling Harry's entire field of vision. The anticipation of what might be next had every nerve in his body on high alert, attuned to the proximity of the man before him. There was no way he could back down from this now – he wanted to know. He had to know. He had been imagining this, waiting for this, for too long. He wanted to lean forward and complete the kiss himself, but knew it had to be Severus who decided this time.

That's when Severus' lips pressed against his own. It started innocently enough, a chaste touch, and Harry waited for Severus to deepen it. There was already something heady about being this close to him – the illicit thrill of it all, his former professor, his former nemesis. It should be taboo, it should be wrong, except that nothing before had ever felt this right. Something about those thin lips against his own, that nose pressing into his cheek, that light scratch of stubble against his chin. It was so… so sensory, so comfortable – everything he never imagined a real first kiss with Severus could be.

As Harry slowly pulled his head back, wanting to see the man's face, wanting to know this was real, Severus' mouth held Harry's bottom lip in between his own, releasing it gently while he seemed to surface from the moment himself. It was so painfully tender, the longing so evident in that simple gesture, that it made Harry's heart ache.

He immediately threw his arms around Severus' neck and leaned up and kissed so hard that neither one of them could breathe for a moment. In response, Severus' arms encircled Harry's back, holding their two bodies together, and Harry melted into the embrace. He managed to speak in the few spaces where his lips lifted from Severus'.

"I feel like… I've been waiting for this… for a long time."

"For a kiss?" Severus looked annoyed.

"No, for you." Maybe that wasn't a sufficient answer, but all Harry could think about was how much he wanted this man: smart and dangerous and sarcastic and sexy as hell. It was everything Harry wanted but never knew to look for. He leaned forward to kiss Severus again, but Severus pulled his head back.

"And how much time is that?"

Harry wrinkled his nose. "I don't know – a month maybe?"

"You have no concept of a long time."

Harry wanted to ask what Severus meant – rather, to confirm it meant what he thought it meant – but he didn't want questions to ruin whatever this was that was building between them. He didn't want to give Severus a chance to say no or get away. And he definitely didn't want to wait another second to experience what was next.

Unable to help himself, Harry rolled his hips against whatever part of Severus was nearest to him. That seemed to be their undoing, for Severus suddenly pressed his body back against Harry's, pushing them both against the door to his quarters. Cupping Harry's face, Severus slid his tongue into Harry's mouth, and the two battled for dominance, tasting each other at last.

Severus' kisses were intense and galvanic, and for the first time, Harry really felt the power of the man's magic. It thrummed just like his own but with a banked sort of control his had never had, as though it wasn't just memories Severus held in check with his mind. The longer they kissed, though, the more that barrier loosened, and their two energies began to mix. The potency of it prickled along Harry's skin and he whimpered, tightening his grip on Severus' arms, handfuls of wool robes in his fingers.

Already lost in a haze of sensation, Harry barely noticed when a firm thigh insinuated itself between his legs. It wasn't until two hands on his arse yanked him snug against it, guiding him to rub, that he understood. His trousers grew unbearably tight as he hardened against them, but he didn't care – it was so mind-blowing finally getting a chance to do this with Severus – something, anything – that all he could do was throw his head back and groan in appreciation.

Severus took immediate advantage, his mouth everywhere: trailing along Harry's jaw, licking the column of his neck, nipping the spot just behind his ear. Then he shifted his hands, one holding Harry's back, the other still clutching an arse cheek, and ground their bodies together.

That was all it took.

Harry stiffened in the embrace, clenching Severus' upper arms tight enough to leave bruises, and came with a ragged moan. Severus all but devoured the sound from Harry's mouth, still holding Harry's body tight against his own, letting their movement together slow, and finally stop.

When they finally broke for air, Harry just stood there panting, his face buried in Severus' neck, until Severus stepped back.

Harry looked down at his trousers and the wet spot that covered the area to the left of his zip, and rubbed at it ineffectually. "Ugh, shit… sorry," he said, suddenly wishing for the ground to swallow him whole. All he could think was that he had just come in his trousers, his new trousers, in Severus' quarters, while rubbing himself off against the man's thigh. He pulled out his wand to cast a Scourgify, but a warm hand closed around his wrist, stopping him.

"It is not a problem," Severus said. There was satisfaction underlining his voice – satisfaction and something that sounded like smoky heat; a catch Harry hadn't heard before. Surprised, he looked up at Severus. There, unmistakeable even in those dark eyes, was desire.

Severus shifted his body slightly until something firm was pressing against Harry's abdomen; a development Harry had missed in his haze of getting off: Severus was hard. Electricity shot through Harry, renewing his body's interest, and he pressed his lips against Severus' mouth, letting his relief show, asking a question, making another apology – he wasn't sure.

"Perhaps we should just take them off," Severus said, and he sounded so reasonable that for a moment, Harry didn't register the long, deft fingers closing around him, outlining the shape of his cock through his trousers. Harry's breath hitched. There was no mistaking that intent and he understood the invitation for what it was. He also knew if he accepted it, there would be no going back.

Harry ran his mind over what had just happened, and what had brought him here, and if he still wanted to proceed. He had to make sure it wasn't just his prick saying yes, yes, yes. He cared too much for Severus to mess around with him (as if he was even that kind of person, anyway) on the off chance Severus had been right about Harry just wanting some experience and Severus was, by proximity, the most convenient or safest choice.

But then Harry remembered that amazing kiss and how he felt about what just happened and could feel a swell of emotion in his chest. This man – this fragile, acerbic man – was who he wanted to be with; was who he wanted to have more than a quick shag with. Maybe a lifetime of shags – no, not just shags. More. Maybe everything more. The visual of dinners and anniversaries and shared laughter played through his mind's eye again. He saw them as more than just two men. He saw them as a couple; as a family.

Harry reached down and took Severus' hand. It was warm and a little clammy, and in fascination, he turned it over and trailed a fingertip along each of Severus' fingers, feeling a slight tremble when he reached the palm (though he didn't dare remark on that). It was the first time he'd ever touched Severus like this, with intent and interest and something more than functional utility, and he found it both comforting and arousing. Suddenly, he couldn't wait to feel those hands in other places; he wanted Severus to touch him, to feel him. Everywhere.

Harry looked up to see Severus watching him in return, the fight or flight response openly warring in his eyes. Harry guessed Severus was way out of his element and, despite his obvious interest, was looking for a way to escape the discomfort of his vulnerability. But Harry was determined to see it through, and to protect whatever this was between them. He may not have a special potion to offer, but he was damned well going to make sure this would always be more than just a victory shag between two comrades on the Christmas after Voldemort fell.

Decision made, Harry took a step back towards the bedroom and pulled Severus with him.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

The wall sconces flared to life, along with the fireplace near the foot of the bed, once they entered Severus' bedroom. Somehow the large, four-poster bed, with its ornate columns and stately headboard, looked different than the other times Harry had seen it. The whole room felt different somehow. Perhaps it was because his dynamic with Severus had changed – or was about to change – that Harry no longer felt like an intruder in this room.

He did note the black duvet was still the same, as were the green velvet curtains drawn back on either side with silver tassels. Now more than ever Harry wanted to feel the bedding; wanted to luxuriate in it. He commented on the softness of it as he trailed his fingers along the edge. "I didn't expect it to be so… nice."

For Severus' part, he merely looked confused for a moment, until Harry's meaning sank in. "Ah. You were assuming a coffin, then, provided that rumor still persists."

Harry smiled, trying not to look as guilty as he felt. "Yeah, I might have heard that one." The truth was, Harry had been surprised about a great many things when it came to Severus, not the least of which was the reality of his personal quarters: cozy, well-appointed and masculine, if not a bit simple. Though that said more about Severus' tastes than it did about what the school could actually offer. Still, it was vastly better than Harry's dreary rooms at Grimmauld, and those weren't even in a castle dungeon.

"Head of House does afford one certain privileges," Severus remarked, "although the comforts hardly negate the fact that one must also teach adolescents." He said it so deadpan that Harry almost didn't realize it was a joke. He laughed, though it grew a little more nervous-sounding when the moment passed with increasing silence.

It was such a strange thing to see Severus like this, so subdued, the uncertainty stamped all over him. They were both standing on the cusp of something new, something Harry doubted they could come back from if it went sideways, yet both still wanting to try. It wasn't about convenience, it was about so much more. Something that had been developing beneath Harry's nose for the better part of a year, something he could only appreciate now for what it was. And seeing that look on Severus' face, his expression as uneasy as Harry had ever seen it, he knew Severus felt it, too.

"So, um…" Harry cleared his throat. "How should we…" He knew he was gesturing uselessly, but having Severus standing several paces from him, neither moving nor talking, was not helping to ease the tension.

"Have you done this before?"

"I'm not a virgin," Harry protested, earning him a slightly irritated look from Severus.

"Have you ever been with a man?"

Harry thought briefly about Charlie but decided it was probably not what Severus was referring to. "Well, no."

"Then you are in this."

"I'm not a complete idiot, though," Harry said, squaring his jaw. "I get the concept, at least."

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Severus allowed himself a moment to consider the youthful defiance Harry was exhibiting. It was both charming and sobering, reminding him that Harry had had little in the way of a proper growing up. Harry had always seemed eleven-going-on-thirty; then again, being forced from a downtrodden and neglectful childhood right into the spotlight, the sole target of Wizarding Britain's most dangerous megalomaniac in an age, had forced him to grow up rather quickly. At least in some ways. In this – sex – Harry still seemed like any other eighteen-year-old with scant few notches in the bedpost, and little in the way of experience aside from his own hand.

As it was, Harry was already so amped with nerves and anticipation he was practically vibrating, and it was all Severus could do not to give in and take what was being offered, right there against the wall, or over the chair in the corner, or any of the other inappropriate but titillating places his cock told him would work just fine. But just as he'd done countless times before, Severus was intent on protecting him in this; on giving Harry the first time he deserved.

But Harry didn't seem to idle well, and clearly wanted his soiled clothes off. He kicked off his shoes, unbuckled his belt, slid his trousers down, and had almost got them free of his legs when he looked up at Severus and stopped. He must have read the directive in Severus' eyes.

"Should I put them back on?"

"No," Severus murmured. "But if I may, I should like to do the rest."

Harry nodded, his cheeks pinking, and Severus wondered if he knew how irresistible he was when he blushed. He was obviously a little shy about the notion of being undressed, but Severus was not deterred. He intended to go as slow as he liked, revealing his good fortune one layer at a time.

Severus removed the round metal glasses, setting them on the nightstand. Harry's eyes looked like gleaming emeralds in the firelight, an effect that was enhanced by the dark eggplant shirt he was wearing (as if he needed his eyes to be any more obvious).

Harry's body went taut when Severus brought his fingers to Harry's collar and slipped the first pearl button free. "There are a lot of buttons on this shirt," he observed, hoping a bit of humor might ease some of the the anticipatory tension he'd created. It seemed to have worked when Harry smiled and gave Severus' waistcoat a pointed look.

"You are one to talk."

Severus let a smirk curl the corner of his mouth as he slipped the shirt off Harry's shoulders, followed by the white undershirt and black socks, until all that was left were fitted boxer-briefs. They were the same deep purple as his shirt. Severus took his time with those, sliding them down with both hands skimming Harry's hips and thighs, the lingering traces of soap and cologne and the salty-sweet musk of sex filling his nose. It was intoxicating.

Severus finally let his eyes look their fill. The lean muscle on Harry's compact, five-foot-eight frame made Severus silently thank Quidditch, a sport for which he had previously held no esteem.

The scrutiny, admiring though it had been, seemed to have quelled Harry's arousal a bit, so when Severus gave him a gentle push to lay back on the bed, Harry's cock merely lay heavy against his thigh.

No longer a boy, no – Harry was every inch a young man. Practically everything about him was begging to be worshipped. It was the sweetest sort of torture that existed, resisting the urge to touch him, to pleasure him, to consume him, when every part of Severus' body wanted nothing more than to oblige. He was no longer surprised by how painfully he desired it. Seeing Harry like this, sprawled across his bed like a veritable buffet of tantalizing flesh, he knew it was worth whatever wait he had endured.

Severus moved a few paces away from the bed under the guise of collecting something from his cabinet, but in truth he just needed to take a deep breath. Or twenty.

"Now you," Harry said, though his voice was not as sure as his command.

Severus looked over and saw Harry palming himself gently, his eyes glowing with arousal as they tracked Severus' movement across the room.

"Stop that," Severus managed, his voice a bit thick even to his own ears.

"Sorry, I…" Harry laid his arm down next to him on the bed, a flush spreading across his chest and neck. "I can't help it, I've never felt like this before. It's like… it's like I can't contain it!" He squirmed, clearly finding it hard not to touch himself. "I'm so bloody horny right now!"

Severus smirked to himself. "I am afraid that will only get worse before it gets better," he said aloud. He moved back to the bed and leaned over Harry, dropping a kiss on that beckoning mouth. Harry was a surprisingly good kisser – responsive and passionate, he arched up into the contact and tried to pull Severus down on top of him.

But Severus held off and pushed Harry back down against the duvet, one hand on his shoulder. "Let's get you cleaned up a bit first, shall we?"

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Before Harry knew it, he was being pulled towards the edge of the bed with Severus' hands around his waist. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a fluttering motion under Severus' fingers, and knew instinctively it was the wings of his phoenix. He'd almost forgotten it was there. Severus must have noticed the same thing, for he abruptly released his grip, his eyes wide.

"Wait, do that again," Harry said.

"Do what?"

"Touch my tattoo."

For a brief moment, Severus looked uncertain, as though doing so would only result in an undesirable outcome for him. "Why, what will happen?"

"I'm not sure." Harry felt a little breathless with excitement, realizing he had been wondering this very thing for a while now, ever since he'd first tested the tattoo's reactions with his friends. But what if, this time, it didn't do what George said it should?

What if it did?

Severus was hovering a finger just above Harry's skin, his expression a mix of wariness and curiosity. "Like this?"

"No, your whole hand, the palm."

Severus looked into Harry's eyes, as though seeking one last confirmation, and then curled his hand around that smooth, firm side.

Harry's heart began to beat faster as he waited and watched… but nothing was happening. George had said other features were embedded in the tattoo, though Harry hadn't experienced any of them yet, aside from the tattoo relocating itself and changing color.

That's when he felt it: a warmth that spiraled out underneath his skin, everywhere, like a slow, smoldering fire simmering just below the surface. Harry gasped sharply and Severus yanked his hand away again, but Harry reached out and grabbed his wrist. "No, it's okay, I just… I didn't expect that." He pressed Severus' hand back against his body and leaned up on his elbows to see what was happening.

The warm tingling sensation returned, quicker this time, and Harry shivered as it sent ripples of electricity up his body. "God…" he breathed, closing his eyes. When next he opened them, the phoenix was rippling under Severus' touch, and Severus was watching it with rapt fascination. Sliding his palm across Harry's chest and abdomen, they both marveled at the way the bird followed his touch, the aura of flames that surrounded the wings now glowing and pulsing in a halo of searing colors. It was setting Harry's senses alight as nothing had ever done before.

"Is this all right?" Severus asked, and Harry nodded.

"Yeah, it's good." He grinned, more out of relief than surprise, now that he was of mind to think about it. "Very good."

Harry wondered if the tattoo was mirroring his internal thoughts. He reached up and put his arms around Severus' shoulders, pulling him close for a kiss – a spontaneous one he hadn't intended to initiate but just felt like the right thing to do – while the warmth continued to spread out underneath his skin. When Severus' body made contact with Harry's, the phoenix effectively trapped between them, Harry's breath hitched, stolen for a moment by a wave of arousal that tingled the tips of his fingers and toes.

He didn't know how the tattoo was doing that, but it felt good and he suddenly wanted more of it, more of Severus, more of everything.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Severus marveled at his ability to incite such a response in Harry – including the tattoo's reaction. He vaguely remembered what Marcus had said about it – that it had practically disappeared, skirting his touch. Severus still wasn't sure what that meant exactly, but figured that a glowing, pulsing tattoo following his every move was bound to mean the opposite, or at least something good, and decided he was pleased with the reaction.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

It was surreal – and unbearably arousing – for Harry to see this particular man standing in the vee of his legs, bent over him, his cock disappearing into that thin-lipped mouth. His professor... only not. How long had it been since Harry had thought of him like that? Months, probably. Now he was just… Severus. His friend, his mentor, his… lover? What was this thing they were embarking upon? Was it even a thing?

A firm tongue laving at the head of his cock, mapping every contour and crevice, told him maybe he didn't care right now, and he dropped his head back and sighed in pleasure. Harry had suspected Severus would be as meticulous and thorough in this as he was in everything else.

He was not disappointed.

Nor, it seemed, was he going to be allowed to come again. Severus repeatedly brought him to the edge, teetering him there for what felt like days, with his maddeningly slow licks and low hums of satisfaction, before moving off to nip and kiss his abdomen or the tops of his thighs – anywhere except where Harry most wanted that mouth.

Then suddenly, it all stopped. Harry opened his eyes just as Severus knelt up on the bed, prowling over him.

Oh. Oh. Harry swallowed, nervous excitement lancing through him. It was time. "Is that your own?" he asked, for want of a small distraction, nodding at the bottle of lube that had appeared in Severus' hand.

"Of course."

"What makes it so good?"

"That it was I who made it."

Harry laughed, but it quickly dissolved into a gasp when he felt his arse become thoroughly slicked. "Oh! I was expecting that to be really cold!" he said, to which Severus only quirked a brow, looking smug.

Severus removed his finger and then generously coated himself with the lube. Harry's first glimpse revealed Severus' cock was long and lean, much like the man himself, though that knowledge did little to calm his nerves. What if he didn't end up liking this? What if Severus' cock was too big to fit?

Grasping Harry's legs, Severus draped them over his thighs and moved closer to position himself.

"Wait, don't you have to... prepare me or something?"

"I will. There is more than one way to do it, and I thought you might enjoy this method for your first time."

Harry tried to concentrate on the word 'enjoy' but he couldn't help himself. "Will it hurt?"

"It shouldn't if it is done slowly. Uncomfortable, yes, perhaps odd. But you will know the moment that changes."

Harry nodded, biting his lip, but soon found himself sucking in a breath as something warm and rigid nudged his opening.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

As Severus felt the head of his prick breach Harry, he went slowly, assessing Harry's reaction: the sharp inhale of breath, the fingers clenching the sheets, the line that formed between his brows. Another small push and Harry panted, his eyes open wide, his body taut as a bow.

"Wait, I don't think it's going to—" Harry clenched around the intrusion, one hand moving to grip Severus' forearm so tight he'd undoubtedly leave marks.

Severus pressed a palm flat against his chest. "Relax, Harry. Take a deep breath. It will pass in a minute, just breathe through it. If it helps, bear down against me."

"I'm trying…"

"Do you want me to stop?"

"No, it's just…"

"I know. Just breathe."

Harry nodded and took several long, measured breaths. Severus pulled back slowly and pushed in to the same spot as before. A small grunt escaped Harry's lips. Severus repeated the movement, several very shallow thrusts, just enough to encircle the head of his cock and nothing else. He continued doing that for a few minutes, each time pushing in a tiny bit further, and then a tiny bit further, and then a tiny bit further still – ever so patiently – until finally, Harry's eyes hooded with desire.

It was a moment Severus would not soon forget: the way that tense expression melted into a frisson of raw sensation, the way those once-gritted teeth parted so he could exhale a low moan, the way those eyes momentarily rolled into the back of his head. It was exquisite to watch.

"Wow," Harry whispered, his eyes opening and immediately seeking out Severus.

"Indeed," Severus agreed. He looked down at the face below him, awash in golds and reds from the firelight, the glint in those green eyes not quite so innocent anymore. The uncertainty was gone, and in its place was determination, desire, need.

Severus obliged and pushed in further, just as slowly as before, his hands cupping Harry's hips. Before Harry had a chance to react, Severus slid out and back in again, only slightly deeper strokes, forcing himself to concentrate on Harry's pleasure and preparation instead of who he was with or the fact this was actually happening. He certainly didn't want it to be over too soon, especially if this was going to be his only chance to be with Harry.

Severus leaned over and wrapped his mouth around one of Harry's nipples, feeling it pebble under the flick of his tongue, and then blew a puff of air across it. Harry inhaled sharply and looked down, as though he hadn't realized something as inconsequential as a nipple could possibly hold that much sensation. It was as though no one had ever taken him to this place before – and, Severus realized belatedly, it was quite likely that no one ever had.

Bracing himself on his elbows, the two of them chest to chest, Severus slowly buried himself deep in the furnace of Harry's body. It had been a long time since he had done this, and even longer since he'd felt… regard for the person he was doing it with. For so many years, sex had simply been a way to take the edge off; a paid rendezvous that was as discreet as it was disappointing, with nothing more than base physical release on offer.

But with Harry… well, it was always going to be different with Harry, wasn't it?

Severus' fingers worked their way into that wild nest of raven hair, discovering it was even softer than he had imagined. Clutching it in his grasp, he cradled Harry's head, keeping his hips moving in a smooth, steady slide, in and out, focusing on both their pleasure, Harry's melody of softly-exerted moans his reward.

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Harry was surprised at how open and calm his mind felt as he absorbed every detail of their encounter. Their bodies felt so in sync, as though they were communicating through magic, this hypnotic and magnetic pulse between them. He became hyper-aware of things like the texture of Severus' skin, the light ridges of old scars, the dewy flesh on his lower back, the play of muscle in his shoulders, the individual knobs of his spine. Harry smoothed over all of it reverently, reading Severus' body with his fingers.

He thought it should be weird, being with Severus like this, yet it wasn't weird at all. In some ways, it felt like they'd been doing this for years. Was it because he had got to know the man? Or was it because there had always been this thing – something – in between them?

So far the night had already exceeded Harry's wildest imagination (but not his wildest fantasies…) and he relished the fact that Severus' dark, brooding personality translated to a focused and intense lover in bed.

But quiet.

Harry could see him struggling to remain so, seemingly unwilling to let any emotion or reactions show. He cupped Severus' face with his hands. "It's okay to moan, you know, I won't think less of you for it."

Severus merely stared at him for a moment, then turned his head and sucked one of Harry's fingers into his mouth. Harry gasped, squirming against the body fluidly penetrating his own, and Severus looked satisfied, a little smile on his face – an expression more open and private than anything he'd ever shown before.

Close enough, Harry thought.

He wanted to see more, though, to see Severus unravel when he came, and wondered what else he could do to continue erasing that impenetrable mask from Severus' face.

Experimentally, Harry squeezed himself around Severus, and avidly watched for a reaction. Severus grunted and his eyes shot open, quickly finding Harry and fixing him with a weak glare. Harry chuckled, glad he could call at least one shot while sprawled underneath Severus, being subjected to the most glorious sensations he'd ever experienced.

"Potter, if you do that again, your fun will be over before it has even begun."

Harry chuckled again, this time almost a giggle, unaware that doing so meant he was likely squeezing down on Severus again. In response, Severus grabbed Harry's hips, hard enough to make soft furrows in his skin, and began to pound into him mercilessly.

Harry's grin quickly dissolved, his mouth opening in a silent cry of delight.

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Harry's hands sought out Severus, smoothing up his chest, snaking around his shoulders, beckoning his face closer. When he obliged, Harry attached his lips, moaning into Severus' mouth while trying to hang on through the thrusts that rocked his body. Harry curled his legs around Severus and held on tighter, nearly lifting off the bed.

Severus plunged deeper, somehow unable to stop himself and his better sense from taking it slow anymore. Harry didn't seem to be minding either way, his legs tightening around Severus' hips, locking together at the ankle and pulling himself even closer. Instinctively Harry arched his back, pushing himself onto Severus' cock with each in-stroke, his moans growing ever more desperate.

"Ungh… ohgodohgod… don't stop…" he panted near Severus' ear.

Severus reached down between their bodies and palmed Harry's shaft, giving him several swift tugs. That was all it took before Severus' hand was covered in wet heat, Harry's muscles clenching in tune to the pulses, yanking Severus' orgasm from him without warning. Holding tightly to Harry's hips, he buried himself as deep as he could go, milking every ounce of feeling from their coupling, Harry moaning and moving back against him the entire time.

Of course Harry would be an enthusiastic lover; he did everything with gusto.

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Severus woke to an unusual situation: he was not alone in his bed. It was a circumstance that had occurred only a handful of other times in his thirty-eight years.

He was also hard. Achingly hard. It was likely what woke him, he realized.

Rolling his head to the left, he spotted the probable cause of his arousal: Harry Potter was in his bed. Willingly. Had even initiated the interlude, incredible as that still seemed. And asked if he could stay – as much as one can ask as they're falling into a lassitude-induced slumber, anyway.

Severus glanced over at the clock on his nightstand. It was nearing three.

The fire in the hearth had gone down, but Harry's skin still shone golden, the soft, flickering light tickling along every contour of his shoulders and back. He was lying on his stomach, his arms folded underneath his head. The pillow was pushed up against the headboard and his face was turned towards the center of the room, away from Severus. Harry's breathing was even and quiet, reminiscent of a deep sleep.

Sliding the sheet off, Severus admired Harry's naked form: the curve of his buttocks, the play of lean muscle in his back and shoulders, the two dimples above his pelvis that positively begged for a tongue. For a long while Severus resisted the urge to touch him, somehow fearing that doing so would end the mirage.

Severus thought about how many others would love nothing more than to have Harry in this position in their beds, enjoying the taste of his lips, the warm weight of his cock, the firm planes of his flesh. Severus had had that, once so far. And if this was to be his only chance to be with Harry, he wanted to have it again. To touch him, to feel him, to invoke those wicked little sounds he makes. Harry's body was addictive, his pleasure a drug.

Severus made his decision (or rather his body made it for him) and he leaned over Harry, lightly trailing his nose along the sleep-warmed body, the slight tang of sweat and sex and something altogether Harry filling his nostrils. On his second pass, he switched to his mouth, relishing the earthy chemistry on his tongue. He had always loved the taste of a man. (And, as he was quickly discovering, the taste of this young man in particular.)

Draping himself lightly over Harry's body, he let his cock nestle in between Harry's legs. Harry stirred just as Severus leaned forward and nipped lightly at his neck and shoulders, a muffled gasp escaping as Severus pressed both of their hips into the mattress.

Then Severus leaned off to the side to slide a finger in between Harry's cheeks and found his prone, sated form still relaxed and pliant. Harry squeaked in a soft, sleepy tone and turned his head, blinking in the scant light. He was still mostly asleep, but was clearly surfacing from the fog of slumber as Severus' finger breached him.

Severus hadn't really asked the question, but Harry answered readily: he pushed back against Severus' hand, making it clear what he wanted Severus to be getting on with. "Yes," came the whispered plea.

Severus almost came untouched.

Reaching over to grab the lube, he slicked up his cock and then mounted Harry, settling himself at the junction of thigh and buttock, his knees to the outside of Harry's hips. He nudged the head of his cock against Harry's entrance and paused as Harry tensed, his fingers drawing the sheets around him into a clutch. He seemed rather awake now.

Severus' hands cupped and kneaded Harry's arse as he slowly pressed in, moving in slow, shallow strokes until he could be sure it was comfortable. He braced himself against Harry's hips and watched his cock disappear and reappear between the smooth, firm globes of Harry's arse. That visual alone was almost more than he could handle, so he shut his eyes to savor the feeling instead. He was not going to last long either way.

Then Harry bucked his hips up in counterpoint, squeezing around Severus' cock, and the last shreds of control were undone. Severus' body grew taut and he buried himself to the hilt, coming deep in Harry's arse, grunting out Harry's name before collapsing forward onto the warm body below him, breathing hard. Below him, Harry merely gave a sleepy grin, trying to look at Severus from over his shoulder.

Once Severus' awareness returned to him, he slowly lifted himself off and then tried to roll Harry over onto his back. Met with an immovable resistance, he slipped a hand underneath Harry instead, circling his fingers around Harry's half-hard cock and giving it an experimental pull. Harry gasped but shifted out of Severus' grasp.

"To'rrow," he slurred, reaching out for Severus' arm and tugging it to indicate Severus should lay down next to him. "Mm'sleep."

Severus gazed down at him even though Harry had already turned his head away. "Soon," he answered, barely above a whisper. "Soon." Leaning back over the half-slumbering form, he let his long, nimble fingers lightly massage the warm flesh of Harry's back. Harry made a quiet, pleased noise, almost a purr, but started to drift off before long. That's when Severus remembered something.

"Harry," he whispered, rocking him gently.

"Mm," came the drowsy response.

"I have not opened your gift yet."

"S'kay…" Harry murmured.

"What did you get me?"

"Can't tell… you open… see…" Harry tried, but faded quicker this time, and was asleep before he had even finished his sentence.

Curiosity had already got the best of Severus so he went into his antechamber in search of the gift. He found it on the floor near the front door. The dance of yellow flames from the fireplace was reflected in the silver paper, and the red bow on top looked a little more squished than when it had been presented, but it was otherwise intact. He thought again about leaving it there until morning, when Harry could present it to him properly, but instead he picked it up and cradled it in his hands for a moment.

Harry brought me a gift. That it was such an unusual experience – receiving gifts from others – made him frown. He wondered what Harry had selected for him. The box wasn't big enough for a Quidditch broom, he thought with a snort.

Taking a seat on his sofa, Severus put the gift on his lap and gently pulled the corner of the bow, watching as the velvet unraveled itself. Slipping a finger underneath the taped edge of the paper, Severus tore at it gently until it was unwrapped. The box itself was black and shiny, but otherwise had no visible markings. After a pause, he lifted the lid and peered inside, and let out a small gasp of recognition.

Set amidst some scrunched tissue paper was a delicate arrangement of Pavé du Faubourg. It was the most decadent, dark chocolate ganache, lightly infused with fine, fragrant herbs. It had been Severus' favorite indulgence since he was a child, when he'd traveled to Paris with his mother on one of their rare – if only – trips.

How in Merlin's name had Harry known?

Unable to resist, Severus reached in to select one. With his fingers trembling slightly, he pressed his lips around one end and bit off a small portion. The burst of flavor and smooth, rich chocolate trickled over his tongue, and he sighed with a soft moan, closing his eyes. He had so few indulgences in life, but this was one.

Harry was rapidly becoming the second, though Severus knew it would not do to become accustomed to either. Harry was eighteen and craving new experiences, which included exploration of his newfound sexual awakening. It's not that Severus didn't want to believe him, it's just that… he couldn't. His was not the kind of life that was measured by its pleasures, and it would be futile to wish otherwise.

He replaced the lid on the box while he savored the remaining part, licking where it had melted slightly against his fingers.

When he came back to bed, he couldn't resist leaning over and kissing Harry. He hadn't intended on waking him, only to say a silent thank you (and, if he were honest, to steal another kiss while he still could) but Harry stirred at the contact and looked up at Severus blearily.

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"You taste like chocolate," Harry murmured, a tongue running over his lips. Then he froze, blinking, his eyes suddenly going wide. He leaned up on an elbow. "You taste like chocolate! You opened my gift! Do you like them?" he asked eagerly, though his expression was still lax from sleep.

"As if you need to ask."

Harry grinned. "Have you eaten them all yet?"

"Of course not, they must be savored," Severus admonished, looking slightly scandalized. "Eight pieces should last me quite a while."

Harry snorted with a small shake of his head. "Only you. I can get more, you know. Just enjoy them! Actually, go get them, I've been dying to try one."

Severus hesitated, as though reluctant to share, but then went to fetch the box. When he returned, Harry selected a piece with a delicate white criss-crossing pattern across the top. Biting off a corner, Harry let the chocolate ooze over his tongue, the bouquet of flavors following swiftly behind. "Mmm," he murmured. "These are good!" He popped the other part into his mouth and leaned back on the bed, closing his eyes to savor the rich taste, his tongue tracing across his teeth to capture it all. When he opened his eyes again, it was to see Severus watching him, hunger in that dark gaze.

Harry stared back for a moment, then slid his tongue slowly and deliberately across his lips. "Did you want a taste?"

Severus moved so fast Harry barely saw it happen. One moment he was standing next to the bed, the next he was prowling over Harry. He leaned down and captured Harry's mouth in a kiss, his tongue seeming to taste and probe every inch of it. Harry relished the sensation of being consumed in such a way, of sharing Severus' gift with him in such an unexpected manner. He also decided if this was the outcome, he might just have to add these chocolates to his favorites list as well.

And order a crate of them next time.

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Harry woke the following morning to a soft light filtering into the room, visible beyond his closed eyes. He knew it was morning but was too content enjoying the warmth and comfort of the bed he was in that he didn't want to spoil it by waking fully. He rolled over and tucked the blankets back underneath his chin, stretching out his legs, a lazy smile on his face.

Then it suddenly occurred to him exactly whose bed he was in and his eyes shot open. Sitting up, he looked around, but the other half of the bed was empty and Severus was nowhere to be seen. Harry couldn't hear anything going on outside the bedroom door, either, and wondered if the man was even in his quarters at all.

Pushing back the duvet, Harry swung his legs around to get up, but yelped when his toes touched the stone floor. Sure enough, there was no fire going in the hearth, so the room was probably back to its typical frigid dungeon temperature. Harry was half-tempted to crawl back under the covers and stay there until Severus came to fetch him, but in the end, his curiosity won out. Where had Severus gone? Was this… it?

Reaching over to grab his glasses, Harry noticed a small, folded note on the nightstand. He picked it up and read the now-familiar scrawl:

Feel free to use the bath if you wish.

Well, that seemed promising. Or at least more promising than being asked to leave in some unceremonious fashion, without even getting to say Good morning, or Thank you, that was the most amazing night of my life.

With a hopeful little kick in his step, Harry padded quickly across the icy floor and into the bathroom.

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The cool, dry air of the dungeons proved to be no deterrent for Harry, who emerged from his hot shower, wrapped a towel around his waist, and braved the jarring temperature to go in search of Severus. He didn't have to look long – Harry found him in the antechamber, seated at a small, makeshift table. What looked like a full English was laid out before him, and he was sipping coffee.

"There is breakfast here if you wish," Severus said, his attention on a newspaper that lay half-folded in front of him. Something about his voice sounded oddly formal and distant, and Harry frowned.

Was this how it was going to be? An anomaly they'd enjoyed but now it was back to just being friends – or whatever it was they were doing before?

Seeing Severus sitting there in his trousers and button-down shirt, and thinking about what had transpired between them in the last twelve hours, stirred something within Harry (and in more than just his groin). He didn't want to leave yet, but they hadn't discussed what came next. He had no idea what the proper etiquette was, and besides, this was Severus. Those rules probably wouldn't apply anyway.

Still, Harry needed to know. He didn't want this to just be a one-off, a curiosity on both their parts. No one else had ever made him feel like this – in or out of bed. Admittedly, the 'in bed' side of his list was short, but that didn't matter. He wanted to see where this could lead with Severus first.

He knew conversation would be a bad idea; he'd probably say something stupid, muck it all up, and be out on his arse in the hallway – wearing only a towel – before he could even finish his sentence. Instead, he decided to try something Severus might appreciate. Something a little more… Slytherin.

Harry took a few more steps into the room – enough that Severus finally looked up, those obsidian eyes widening as they took in Harry's half-naked form. It seemed Harry had rendered him speechless, at least for the moment. Upping the ante, Harry undid the towel and let it fall to the floor. Even from several paces away, Harry could see the way Severus' throat bobbed. Bolstered by that small success, Harry closed the distance between them and insinuated himself across Severus' lap, straddling those black-clad thighs. Before Severus could say anything, Harry leaned in and kissed him. He tasted of coffee and eggs and… tomatoes? No matter, Harry wanted it all.

Cupping Severus' head, Harry took control. He loved the feel of Severus' hair between his fingers, especially now, when it was still a little wet from the shower, and last night, when it had curtained their faces any time Severus leaned over him. It made Harry feel like there was nothing else in the world except the two of them.

That notion of solitude was short lived, however, when the Floo suddenly went off.

"Severus? Are you there?" It was Minerva. Fortunately, they were seated just outside the range of vision of the fireplace, or she would have got an eyeful.

"Yes, Headmistress?"

"Oh, thank goodness, you are there! I didn't see you at breakfast!"

"I had a bit of a lie-in today. Hardly cause for concern, is it?"

She chuckled. "Of course not. And I should say, good for you! It has always been my failing to look after you, Severus, even though I know you are a grown man and don't need my coddling. I had simply wondered if you would like to share some cider on this fine morning, to ring in the holiday. Shall I come through?"

Harry was unperturbed about the interruption and leaned forward to press his nose to Severus' neck, absently wondering if he would be able to bask in the underlying aroma that was there; the scent that he had come to know as distinctly Severus. It was there, he discovered, but subtle, as though it had only just started to mature on the skin. Perhaps standing all day above a simmering cauldron cemented it. It was also mixed with the lingering tang of soap Severus used. It smelled good enough to lick.

"I will be finishing up here soon—" Severus coughed as Harry's tongue slid along his neck. "Might I join you in your office instead?"

"Certainly, if that suits you. I shall meet you there, then." She closed the call without waiting for a response.

"Potter…" Severus warned, weak though was its delivery. "You are insatiable."

Harry couldn't help but press his hips against Severus' abdomen, rejoicing a bit at the fact that he hadn't been thrown out yet; that Severus still seemed to be interested even if he was presently resisting Harry's unsubtle advances. "I think it's just the effect you have on me." He grinned, but it was the truth as far as he knew. Granted he had only had sex with Ginny prior to this, but still – he could not remember ever feeling this way before.

Instead of scratching an itch, being around Severus had only seemed to breed more itches. Harry thought of all the things he could try with Severus, finally getting to experience the stuff in those magazines Fred and George had given him years ago – the ones with the nude wizards fondling their pricks, fondling each other's, penetrating each other, filling every available orifice, their ambitious positions, both with the assistance of magic and without… Harry squirmed at the remembered visuals. At the time he had innocently assumed wizard porn was always about men, but now realized Fred and George may have known something about him that had taken him a while to realize about himself.

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"When did you get so uninhibited?" Severus asked, thinking back to the way Harry walked in, naked except for a towel, followed by the brazen act of dropping it and then situating himself across Severus' lap.

"I didn't say I'd never done anything, just… not with a man." Harry sat back to look at Severus' face. "Is it a problem?"

The only 'problem' is that I can't keep my prick buried in you twenty-four hours a day. "Not as such, no."

Frustrated, yet feeling that his body had already started to respond, Severus threaded a hand through Harry's wet hair and pulled back, exposing a shower-damp neck. Severus dove in and began sucking and nipping his teeth along Harry's flesh, especially that spot right behind his ear, which – yes, there we go – caused Harry's hips to wriggle most effectively across Severus' lap.

Not surprisingly, the little incubus was already hard.

Severus couldn't remember wanting of something – or someone – this much before. Harry had been having this effect on him for some time, this inability to focus and think with reason, but now having tasted of his desire, Harry had become like a drug that had somehow worked his way under Severus' skin – this need to be near him, to pleasure him, it was almost too much to bear. It was sexual chemistry unlike he had ever experienced before, like two ends of a circuit igniting to form an intense and irreversible charge.

However, he'd just promised to go meet Minerva. If he delayed, she'd only check on him again. Meddling old witch. Reluctantly, he shooed a pouting Harry off his lap, waited for him to dress and hop into the Floo, and then headed upstairs to the Headmistress' office.

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For what felt like the hundredth time, Severus refocused his eyes on Minerva. She was talking about… actually, he had no idea what she was talking about. He was finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the conversation. No matter where he looked or how hard he tried to focus, visuals of his night (and morning) with Harry kept assaulting his mind's eye. It didn't help that everything in Minerva's office seemed to remind him of Harry: the Quidditch broom leaning by the door, the Gryffindor afghan draped over the wingback in the corner, even the bloody book about Scottish Pottery on her desk. He heaved a sigh.

"Severus…?"

"My apologies, Minerva. I am afraid there is something I must attend to. Would you mind reconvening at a later time?"

The Headmistress set down her cup of cider, a concerned look on her face. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, nothing to worry about. I've just remembered something I neglected to do this morning."

"Very well. Shall I owl for you later?"

"That would be fine," Severus answered with a nod. He strode to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder. "Number twelve, Grimmauld Place!" he stated as he tossed it in. He found he was wholly unconcerned about stating his destination aloud, about whether or not Minerva might put two and two together, and about what Harry might think of the unannounced visit.

When Severus arrived, Harry was curled up on the divan in the library, flipping through a Quidditch magazine. Startled, he looked up, watching Severus stride out of the fireplace towards him (his eyes widening with each step closer), no doubt taken aback by the look of hunger in Severus' eyes and the way he was being advanced upon like prey. The magazine dropped to the floor, seemingly forgotten.

"Fuck…" Harry breathed.

"That is the general idea, yes," Severus growled.

He grabbed Harry by his t-shirt and dragged him to his feet, instantly thrusting his tongue into that surprised, open mouth. At Harry's whimper, Severus deepened the kiss even more, somehow feeling that even possessing him right now would not be enough.

Hastily, Severus leaned over and swept all the books off the table in the library, deftly lifting Harry and placing him on top of it. With a push, Harry was on his back and Severus had already unbuttoned the denims, pulling them off the lithe frame in an impressively efficient manner. He cursed under his breath at the sight that presented itself: Harry had opted to forgo underwear of any sort and his clearly-interested cock sprang to attention.

Severus all but dove onto him then, capturing the soft glans in his mouth. He swiped a wet tongue through the slit and sucked tightly around the head, causing Harry to arch off the table in a gasp of expletives.

As Severus worked his mouth around Harry's cock, he undid his own trousers and coaxed himself to full hardness. It did not take long.

"Do you have any lube in this Godforsaken house?" he asked, switching to stroke Harry with his hand instead.

"Yea… ye… yes," Harry finally managed. "Bedroom."

With a tidy flick of Severus' wand, an object could be heard banging itself through a doorway somewhere above them and then down the stairs, finally smacking itself into Severus' palm. He moved his wand to Harry's arse and pointed the tip near his entrance, whispering a standard muscle relaxant spell. By the look on Harry's face, he'd felt exactly what Severus had done.

Liberally coating his cock with the clear, viscous gel, Severus stepped closer, pulling Harry towards him by his legs. It had the effect of nearly pushing his cock in without any assistance of his own.

"Driving me to distraction," Severus started, his voice very near a growl.

"Wha—"

"Can't even enjoy my favorite cider—"

Harry gasped as Severus thrust inside, his fingers scrabbling for purchase along the wood surface of the table.

"—without constantly thinking about—" Severus' groin pressed firm against the warm curve of Harry's arse, drawing a soft groan out of him. "—fucking you." Severus leaned down and nipped at Harry's jaw and earlobe, pausing for only a moment. "Am I hurting you?"

"N-n-no…" Harry managed.

"Good. Hold onto me."

Severus quickly found his rhythm, anchoring one hand on Harry's hip and using the other to pull Harry's cock in tune to his thrusts. Harry's grip was going white where he held the table and Severus was sure his own hands were leaving bruises in Harry's skin.

"Oh… oh… oh… oh… ohmygod… Severussss…" Harry hissed between clenched teeth, dragging out the sibilants until it almost sounded like Parseltongue. Perhaps it was.

Unashamed by how much that turned him on, Severus decided to reward Harry, and canted his hips downward, looking for the correct angle. He felt Harry's reaction more than heard it, the barely-there nails on Harry's fingers scraping broad runnels across his back.

"Ungh! What was… what was that?" he asked between pants.

"Pros—tate," Severus said while switching to smooth, forceful stokes.

It was rough and frantic and uncontrollable and absolutely glorious. Harry screamed his release, pulling at Severus' back, obviously trying to hold them together, closer, seeking more contact as the pleasure soared through him. Severus followed almost immediately, pulsing in tune to the clenches around his cock, the visual of a flush and sweaty Harry with ribbons of come streaked across his chest burning itself into his retinas.

It took some time, but eventually they both regained enough awareness to move, relocating themselves to the worn, patterned divan in the corner. They laid there in silence for a long while, nothing more than a tangle of sweaty limbs and the slow evening of breath.

It was then that Severus knew – knew it as sure as he knew his own name: he was ruined.

Three times with Harry would never be enough. A lifetime might never be enough. Severus had seen Providence and tasted of its forbidden bounty. He knew better than to hang his hat on such fantasy, for Harry was the spoil of kings, not mortals. But, ridiculous fool that he was, Severus had no choice but to follow it, tragic end or not. Down, down, down he fell, into those verdant eyes, into that trusting heart and perfect arse, into the unbelievable rightness of being by Harry's side. Always.

The only thing he could hope for, futile as it may be, was that Harry would be there to catch him as he fell.

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The first thing Severus noted upon waking was that someone had started a fire for them. The room felt cozy and languid, or perhaps that was just the young man curled up in his arms.

Harry chose that moment to yawn and stretch. "Hi," he said. He looked sated and adorably debauched, a lopsided – and almost shy – grin set on his face.

For some reason, the look of awe in Harry's eyes made Severus uncomfortable. He sat up more abruptly than he intended, but then carefully untangled himself and stood. Harry seemed to take that as his cue to go find where his denims had gone off to, and Severus did up his own trousers and tucked his shirt back in. Once they had both righted themselves, Harry walked over to stand in front of Severus.

"Um… would you… I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to, but I was just wondering…"

"We should make lunch."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Kreacher can make us lunch. Kreacher!" he called to the room at large. Within moments, the curmudgeonly old elf appeared in the middle of the library and left soon after, tasked with Harry's instructions.

"I've sort of lost track of the date. What day is it?" Harry asked.

"Friday. Christmas, in fact."

"Oh. Happy Christmas, then." Harry smiled. "So, um…"

"Come, Potter – show me the kitchen," Severus said, before Harry could spit out whatever amorously misguided thing he was undoubtedly preparing to say.

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After lunch, as they sat in the Grimmauld kitchen, Harry held a mug of hot cocoa with both hands, sitting with his knees up before him. He grimaced slightly, sore in places he didn't even realize he had. It was a pleasant ache, but still, he may have to rethink these wooden chairs.

Severus must have seen something on Harry's face, for he finally broke the silence. "What?"

"I didn't know it could be like that."

"Like what?" Severus asked, somewhat guarded.

"I dunno," Harry started, unsure of what he even wanted to say about it. "It wasn't like that with Gin–" He paused. "It was never like that before. Not rough, exactly, but…"

"I believe 'primal' is the word you are searching for."

"Yeah. Primal." Harry scrubbed a hand over his face and sighed, looking down into his mug. "It was really intense. Amazing," he added quickly, just in case Severus would think he hadn't enjoyed it. "I've just never experienced anything like that before."

"I apologize if I hurt you."

Harry looked up. "No, I liked it. More than liked it." He felt his cheeks heat. "In fact, now I think I understand what Hermione meant. She said you and I would be like fire on fire – that we'd be brilliant if we would just…" He bit his lip.

"Fuck?"

Harry let out a nervous chuckle, though his cock twitched at hearing that word from Severus' mouth. "Well, I was going to say get together, but yeah, I suppose that was somewhere in there, too."

"That girl was always far too clever for her own good," Severus said, the faintest sneer ghosting his features, and Harry grinned.

"You're just sour because it means she's usually a step ahead of you!"

He laughed at Severus' scowl.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Harry put down the fork he had been fiddling with and broke the silence once again. "So, um… would you like to stay the night?"

Severus looked around the kitchen for a brief moment, as though only just remembering they were at Grimmauld Place and not Hogwarts.

"I must return to Hogwarts. My responsibilities to the school are not diminished simply because it is Christmas."

"Oh." Harry let that sink in for a minute, then furrowed his brow. "But it's a holiday. Don't you get any time off?"

"I do," Severus said cryptically. Then he folded his napkin and stood, making his way to the fireplace in the corner. He briefly searched for something before turning to address Harry, agitation evident in his tone. "I do not see your Floo powder."

Harry pointed to a drawer to the left of the iron grate. He watched as Severus extracted a small box, removed the lid, and reached inside to grab a handful of the glittery, silver dust.

"Wait," Harry said suddenly, hopping up and moving over to the fireplace as well. "Is this… are you leaving because of Grimmauld – because it reminds you too much of the war? Or Sirius?"

Severus stared at him for a moment, his gaze mapping Harry's face. There was a certain melancholy behind his eyes that Harry didn't understand. Then, softly, "No."

"So…" Harry took another step forward, sensing he had to grab for what he wanted lest things get left at some indecipherable stage, or worse, dissolve entirely. "Do you mind… can I come back to Hogwarts with you? To stay the night?" The churning and knotting of his stomach was offset only by the pounding of his heart.

By way of an answer, Severus merely placed the box of Floo powder in Harry's hand, arched a brow, and then disappeared in a whirl of green flames.

Harry stood there a moment, watching the empty fireplace, before deciding to take that as a 'yes'.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

After a glass of wine (which Harry discovered he liked much better than scotch) and a surprisingly long and animated discussion that spanned Muggle television shows, House rivalries, and Roman history, Harry watched as Severus left the antechamber for the bedroom. He wasn't sure what tonight's protocol should be. The last time they'd been in Severus' bedroom, it was under decidedly different circumstances. He didn't want Severus to feel like all of their interactions in there had to be about sex, but he figured asking for clarification would just make things awkward. Or was he supposed to sleep on the sofa? Distracted with his line of thought, he didn't even notice Severus standing in the doorway, staring at him.

"Were you still planning to join me?" Severus asked, some of his earlier agitation back.

Harry's head shot up. "Oh. Yeah!" he said, slightly embarrassed at the speed with which he jumped out of his chair. He slowed his pace to something more casual as he walked by Severus and into the bedroom.

Once there, Harry was treated to a cozy and inviting sight: the lamps on either side of the bed were on, the blankets were turned down, and a small fire was crackling quietly beyond the hearth. Harry felt like he was at home, or at least somewhere he'd want to call home, but quickly stamped it down. As much as he may have wanted it, he knew he was getting ahead of himself. This was only his second night with Severus. He still didn't know how things would go, and if the invitation would extend itself to Saturday night, too. Or any other night, for that matter.

When Severus closed himself in the bathroom, Harry took that as his cue to undress. In a fit of optimism, he removed everything. Stashing his clothes on a nearby chair, he slipped naked into bed on the side nearest to the center of the room. It was where he had awoken that morning, so he figured it was a safe bet. Sure enough, once Severus re-emerged (wearing a nightshirt, Harry noted), he slipped into bed on the other side. With the lights still on, the two laid in silence like that for a few minutes, the tension in the room seeming to increase with each second that ticked by.

Finally, Harry said, "Can I kiss you goodnight?"

Severus turned his head to look at Harry and something passed through their gazes – an understanding, a release, a plea. Suddenly, the tension was gone and they were back on familiar ground. Wasting no time, Harry slid across the bed on his stomach, leaned up and settled his lips against Severus'.

They kissed like that for awhile, in long, lazy strokes, each mapping the shape of the other's mouth. Neither of them seemed in a hurry to finish or move on to something else, despite Harry's cock already pressing insistently into the mattress. He paid it no mind. Instead, he thought about Devon and Potter and how they had simply indulged in kissing for kissing's sake. For some reason, that's all Harry wanted this to be, too. But with one modification.

Harry pulled gently at Severus' nightshirt. "Can you take this off? I want to feel you. Just your skin," he added hastily, so Severus wouldn't think he was after more than what they were already doing. To his surprise, Severus pulled it off over his head and let it fall to the floor without comment. Harry grinned.

Prior to yesterday, he had never slept in a bed with anyone, especially not naked, but the feel of warm skin pressing against warm skin was something he was rapidly growing accustomed to – the intimate proximity, the intertwined limbs, even the luxurious black duvet. He didn't want to give any of it up. In fact, he was having a hard time imagining ever going back to his cold, lonely bed at Grimmauld.

He leaned his head down for another drugging kiss, but lifted it again after a short time. "God."

"What?"

"I never thought kissing could be like this. I didn't really like it before. It was okay but it never felt like this."

"Clearly you were kissing the wrong person." Severus' pleasant baritone sent shivers down Harry's spine. It was almost as though he could feel the vibration of it as much as he could hear the sound. If that was what happened to Severus' voice when it was compromised by lust, Harry never wanted him to stop talking.

When he moved to get comfortable again, resting his chest against Severus', he caught a flash of something on the inside of Severus' left arm. Harry knew what it was without having to ask: the Dark Mark. Suddenly curious, he held Severus' arm out and looked his fill, eventually tracing the shape of the Mark with his finger.

Severus obviously found both actions unsettling, for he pulled his arm out of Harry's grasp and folded it tightly against his chest.

"Just let me look, will you?" Harry said, reaching for the arm again. But Severus wouldn't budge. Unfazed, Harry moved further up Severus' body and licked the indent of his throat instead, just below his Adam's apple, before eyeing the jagged scar that ran diagonally up that pale neck. Severus made a little moue of distress when Harry's tongue made contact with it, licking across its ridge.

"They're just scars," Harry said. "Haven't you ever been curious about mine?" He lifted the hair off his forehead to let Severus see his lightning bolt.

"No," Severus said, pushing Harry's hair back down to cover it. "They are things best left to the dregs of history annals and dusty memories, ideally forgotten."

"Why? They're just something that's a part of us now – something we didn't ask for."

"Not quite," Severus muttered, indicating his arm. "I chose this one."

"So? That was a long time ago. How long are you going to beat yourself up over it?" At first Harry worried that he had gone too far, but Severus must have heard the good-natured exasperation in his question, for he responded in kind.

"Probably until I'm old and gray and wrinkled beyond recognition. Well, older and grayer, anyway."

"You're not old and gray!" Harry said, smoothing his hands over Severus' hair. "Or wrinkled." His hands moved to caress the sides of Severus' face. "And anyways, those things would just look distinguished on you."

Severus snorted.

"I'm serious!" Harry affirmed. He looked down into Severus' face, admiring those once-severe features for a moment, then returned his attention to Severus' arm. "This doesn't matter to me. It's a mark of something that happened in your life, but it isn't who you are."

"How would you know?"

Harry knew the question was intended to sound mysterious, or perhaps menacing, but all he heard was the insecurity behind it. "A Death Eater wouldn't secretly protect me my entire life, or share memories that would give me an advantage in the war, or offer me Evochi – at least not without adding poison to it first. Besides, the fact that you had to ask the question means you're bluffing, so you can stop trying to scare me away – it's not going to work." He smiled at the glower on Severus' face.

Harry re-situated himself, settling his chin on top of Severus' bent arm. "So, will you let me see it?"

Severus closed his eyes and sighed, but eventually lifted his arm away from his chest. Harry smiled. Grasping it, he leaned forwards and placed a series of soft kisses along the underside, most of them intentionally over the Dark Mark. He could tell it was taking everything in Severus not to jerk his arm away again, but the longer Harry kissed, the more it seemed to smooth the pained expression on Severus' face. Harry guessed this intimacy was something that Severus had never granted another single living person, and something inside of Harry thrilled at that.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Sunlight began streaming through the charmed window of Severus' dungeon quarters, its artificial rays peppering the bed in a soft light. It was Saturday morning, but still early yet. Severus blinked and took a deep breath before rolling onto his side… only to see that Harry was already awake and lying on his side, staring back. Harry's eyes looked luminous in the dim light, but began to darken as they stared at one another. The air prickled between them.

Severus rolled onto his back. "Come here."

Harry edged over to him, looking down into his face with a questioning expression. Severus slid a hand between Harry's thighs and gently pulled one leg up so that it would land astride him on the bed. Harry caught on quickly and straddled himself more comfortably across Severus' abdomen. After propping his head up with another pillow, Severus smirked.

"You will have to slide closer if you expect me to fellate you."

A small gasp escaped from Harry's throat as he realized what Severus intended to do. He inched himself upwards, Severus' arms to the outsides of his thighs, until Harry stopped just short of Severus' chin.

Severus guided one of Harry's hands back to grasp his cock. "Pretend it's your own," he instructed.

"Oh, God," Harry uttered, the arousal evident in his voice.

With two hands cupping Harry's arse, Severus pulled him closer until Harry's cock was pressed against his lips.

"How am I supposed to concentrate while you're doing that?" Harry whined, trying to angle himself for a better grip on his task.

"Not my problem," Severus said, and proceeded to swallow Harry whole. He watched the planes of Harry's belly contract as the air rushed from his lungs, enjoying the exquisitely close view of the body spread across his chest. He once again mapped the shape and texture of Harry's cock as it lay heavy against his tongue, and then laved at the warm, nuzzly texture of his balls.

Harry hissed in pleasure, his eyes pinched shut, but still managed to do an admirable job with his own task, pulling Severus' cock in counterpoint to the ministrations on his own (though Severus would have understood had he not been successful, as fine-tuned attention to one's cock does nothing to improve one's motor skills and concentration). What turned him on most, though, was having Harry in his mouth like this – so willing, so responsive, so exposed. It was a heady feeling.

And unfortunately short lived. After only a scant few minutes, Harry's rhythm stuttered and he froze, sending hot spurts down Severus' throat. Severus licked him clean while he took his own cock in hand, deftly finishing the task he knew Harry would no longer have mind to complete.

Afterwards, Harry lay panting by Severus' side, one arm dangling off the edge of the bed. A sloppy grin stole across his face.

"God, what a way to wake up."

Severus snorted, finding he couldn't agree more. What he did ignore was the lingering pang of dread that had been trying its damnedest to steal his fleeting contentment ever since Harry had first appeared in his quarters on Christmas Eve. He knew he shouldn't have gone down this path, shouldn't have indulged himself, for there was no way he was ever going to be able to go back to the way things were before. And it was too much to hope he wouldn't have to.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

It had been strange spending the day without Harry.

Actually, it had been rather appalling. Appalling how quickly he'd adapted to having Harry in his midst, appalling how acutely he'd felt Harry's absence once he was gone, appalling how much attention he'd been giving the clock since then and why wouldn't the bloody thing just move faster for once?

Severus sighed and, for the fifth time in nearly as many minutes, tried to refocus on the cauldron bubbling away before him. It contained an experimental potion, one he'd slated for the holidays since he had uninterrupted time to work on it – that is, until Harry had shown up two days prior and made quick work of that so-called uninterrupted time.

Not that Severus was complaining… exactly.

He just wasn't used to feeling so off-kilter, though that had been happening a lot ever since Harry had become a regular fixture in his life. Yet this was different. Severus couldn't seem to concentrate, or think about anything else aside from the feel of Harry in his arms, the way he breathed, moved, moaned, smiled; the fabric of his shirt that first night, cotton sateen against smooth, unmarred flesh, the firm body underneath that was so warm, so alive, so eager to experience; the feeling of being the one surrounding him, tasting him, giving him pleasure, keeping him safe.

Severus remembered the undisguised relief on Harry's face just before he'd left that morning, right after they'd had their short but necessary conversation.

"I was afraid you were going to say no, that's why I kept asking. So… I can stay again tonight?"

"Yes." Stay forever.

Severus hoped he hadn't said that last bit out loud, but he may as well have. Harry's expression had lit with such happiness – tinged with a shyness that was most becoming – before hopping into the fireplace and taking all the warmth in the room with him.

He'd gone off to visit the Weasleys, presumably before they sent out a search party for him, since he'd skipped the family's Christmas Eve celebration in favor of spending it with his ex-professor. And not just spending it, but spending it in flagrante delicto. Severus still found himself smirking slightly at that, though he couldn't imagine news of it would have gone over well, had they all known.

Nor with the haughty public. They'd have demanded Severus' head once they'd learned he'd defiled their precious hero. Never mind that Harry was the one who'd instigated it. They wouldn't want to hear how prettily he'd moaned when Severus swallowed his cock, or how he'd begged to be taken, eyes dark and lustful, searching out his Potions Master. No. They, like so many before them, would simply assume the worst: Severus must have put him under some spell, for how could Harry, so desirous and eligible and revered, ever see fit to hold company with a Death Eater, especially one like Severus?

(Admittedly, Severus never could understand what they meant by that. Especially one like him? Clearly they hadn't met many Death Eaters – he had been positively charming by comparison.)

Severus cast a stasis charm on the potion before him, resisting the temptation to levitate it against the wall in a fit of pique. What the fuck was he playing at, taking what Harry offered? It was madness; something that would unquestionably end in the same spectacular fashion as the concoction before him, had he indeed sent it flying. Harry was eighteen, and it was common knowledge eighteen-year-olds only thought with their pricks. How could he possibly be discerning right now, and truly know what he wants or needs?

You were eighteen once, too. It was the year you took the Mark.

Yes, case in point, Severus sneered at himself.

Yet in the end, he knew none of that mattered. Whatever resolve he could muster up in the time Harry was out would simply dissolve the moment Harry came back, for Severus had already gone and opened Pandora's box. And thrown away the lid.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Sure enough, Severus' afternoon mood was shoved to distant memory the minute Harry stepped out of the Floo and into his quarters again, just as he'd known it would. Appalling. No – doubly appalling.

He was actually surprised to see Harry back so soon – he assumed Harry would stay with the Weasleys through dinner, or possibly even late into the evening. Before Severus could remark on it, Harry asked him if he'd like to eat in the Great Hall, saying the Headmistress had extended an invite to them both.

Severus didn't want to think about how she'd known to invite them together; then again, he couldn't honestly pretend it was any great mystery. Minerva was a bright and observant woman. Seeing Harry in the castle when the students were away meant he was probably visiting a member of the staff. And then there was the fact that Severus had abruptly ended his meeting with her the day before and traveled directly to Harry's house. With the Order no longer in place, there wasn't an obvious reason for him to be there. Aside from the one reason, that is: Harry.

Speaking of only thinking with one's prick… Severus sighed. He was starting to feel like he was eighteen himself.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Two hours later (and pleasantly full from the delicious Hogwarts meal – the elves always outdid themselves for the few staff and students who remained over the holidays), Severus put down the book he was reading and turned to Harry. They were lying in bed and he'd felt those green eyes on him repeatedly over the last ten minutes.

Harry stared back, and must have understood the cue in Severus' gaze, for he finally voiced whatever it was that had had him so distracted. "Can I ask you something… um, personal? Well, it's sort of personal."

Severus met the question with only the arch of an eyebrow and Harry swallowed, seeming to steel himself. "I think by now you are aware I was using your old Potions textbook during my sixth year, right?"

Severus' expression sobered. "Yes."

"Well, my friends thought it was a bad influence on me because of what I did to Draco. And I know that was really stupid, but I… I had got really attached to that book, and to the idea of the—" He paused, clearing his throat quietly. "I didn't want to give it up, but they told me I had to, so we put it in the Room of Requirement." Harry looked at Severus cautiously. "I really wanted to go back and get it, but during the battle, that room sort of went up in flames. I'm sorry."

"Your sentiment is unnecessary, as the book is currently in my possession."

Harry blinked. "What? How is that possible?"

"You are familiar with Accio, are you not?"

"Yeah, but that doesn't make sense. How did you even know it was there? And you can't Accio things from the Room of Requirement, I tried that with Ravenclaw's diadem and it didn't work!"

"And you were the rightful owner of the diadem, were you?"

Harry opened his mouth to speak, then closed it with a snap. His eyebrows drew together. "Well, no. But I've used Accio before to get things that weren't mine."

"Most assuredly you have, though I assume those objects were not property of the Room of Requirement at the time." He watched the realization bloom on Harry's face, and was not disappointed when Harry's eyes widened, his mouth forming the rough approximation of an 'o'.

"Of course!" Harry breathed. "That's all part of the specific magic of the castle, isn't it?"

"Ten points to Gryffindor," Severus deadpanned.

"Piss off," Harry said, though a small bark of laughter revealed his amusement. "All this time I've wanted nothing more than for you to have your book back, but I thought it was destroyed. And here I come to find that you've had it the whole time! How did you even know where to find it?"

Severus tapped Harry's forehead with a finger.

"You bloody sneak, you read it from my mind, didn't you?"

"Miss Weasley's, actually. During one of her charming oppositions to me as Headmaster."

"Did she know you were doing it? Reading her mind?"

"Doubtful, given that my intrusion lasted only a few seconds. She was brandishing the knowledge so close to surface of her mind that she may as well have been yelling it at me. It took very little effort to retrieve it."

Harry grinned. "Accio the Half-Blood Prince's Potions textbook," he called into the room. Within moments, a tatty, gray book flew through the door and smacked into his outstretched hand. Severus scowled.

Reverently, Harry traced a finger over the spine and cover before opening it, perusing its long-familiar pages. Severus leaned closer to him on the bed and looked over his shoulder.

"Be gentle with it. You almost destroyed it once."

"I didn't 'almost destroy' it, it was removed from my possession. And it wasn't me who set the Fiendfyre, that was one of your Slytherins."

"Be that as it may," Severus muttered irritably, "I would appreciate it if you did not paw at my textbook."

Harry closed it with a light snap and moved his arm away so the book was out of Severus' reach. "Or what?"

"Incarcerous."

Without warning, Harry's arms flew above his head and were secured together at the wrist by a silken rope. The abrupt motion caused him to drop the book, which lay on the pillow next to his ear. Somewhat wild-eyed, he looked up at Severus, who had since gently set the book aside and was settling himself over Harry's body, one leg on either side of his hips. One more elegant hand motion and Harry's boxer-briefs were gone, too.

"Wait, that was – you just did that wandless!"

"You are naked and prone, tied to the bed, vulnerable to my every whim – and all you can think of is that it was wandless?"

"Well, yeah." Harry blushed. "Wandless magic is hot." As he tugged at his restraints, they both looked down to see that Harry's cock definitely agreed.

"What do we have here?" Severus murmured, trailing a lone finger down Harry's bare chest. "Seems that Mr. Potter has a kink for bondage."

"I'm not the only one," Harry retorted, letting his eyes sweep Severus' body. "And let's not forget about my tattoo. I've seen how you look at it." He grinned triumphantly.

"Mmm, true. Such a beautiful design, and an even more tempting canvas." Severus smoothed his palms up the sides of Harry's torso, his left hand passing over the phoenix. When his fingers made contact with it, the entire bird rippled and began to coil around his touch. "And so responsive, too." As he stroked his hand around Harry's chest, the phoenix followed him, nearly snake-like in its ability to slither and undulate across all that smooth, golden flesh.

"I wonder…" Severus mused before leaning over and flicking his tongue at the inked feathers, tracing the contours of Harry's abdomen in the process. Harry whimpered and thrust his hips up, but Severus remained purposefully out of reach, watching as the tattoo pulsed a fiery, red-orange glow wherever it was wet under his tongue. "Yes, definitely intriguing," he observed.

Severus mouthed along the head and neck of the bird, his approach unhurried, carefully lavishing his attention to both flesh and ink alike. Pausing to see the effect it was having, he watched the phoenix pulse again, chasing his fingers down the side of Harry's body, still suffused in that same red-orange glow as though a trail of liquid fire had gone along with it.

Harry gasped and writhed beneath him. "Oh God, what is it do—" but cut himself off when warm, wet heat suddenly engulfed his cock. "Ohfuck! Severus!"

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

"What a decadent life you lead, Mr. Potter. We have not moved from this bed since eight o'clock the evening prior, if memory serves. Are you planning to get up any time today?"

Harry turned the page of his comic without looking up. "I don't exactly see you rushing to get up, and it's your bed."

Severus made a gruff noise and snapped the newspaper back up before him. Harry grinned and leaned over, resting his head against Severus' shoulder.

"What are you reading?" Severus asked.

Harry tilted his head up and then turned the comic so Severus could see the cover. "February Men. George introduced me. It's about a Squib named Bastien Capper, but everyone just calls him Cap. And no one knows he's a Squib except his partner, Valentine Pips, who's a wizard. He's the one who does all the magic so no one will find out about Cap. They're curse breakers, see, so it's their job to save Wizopolis from the evil-doers."

"Valentine?"

"Out of everything I just said, that's what you take out of it?" Harry shook his head, but chuckled in spite of himself. "His real name's Adam, but he goes by Valentine. Or Vale, for short."

"I see. And I presume there is a story behind the nickname?"

"There is."

"But not one I would be interested to know?"

"Probably not." Harry grinned. "Though the best part about this series is that all the action sequences in each issue are animated. And any panels where they kiss."

Severus squinted at the page. "They're gay?"

"Yeah. That's part of the appeal – well, at least for me. But they're also really funny and Cap is brilliant at figuring out puzzles. That's why he does curse breaking even though he can't do magic. And Vale couldn't deduce his way out of a telephone box, but he's amazing at dismantling magical traps." Harry paused, sneaking a glance at Severus. Then, in what he obviously thought was an off-hand manner, added, "They're… good together."

Severus hummed – a distracted sort of noise that was not quite disinterest and not quite confirmation – and went back to his paper, though the letters were so fuzzy and indistinct now that it was merely texture for his thoughts. He felt more than heard Harry's quiet sigh, and waited until Harry went back to his comic before refocusing on the article before him.

A while later, Harry turned to him again, back to his usual chipper self. "Does anyone ever call you 'Sevvie'?" he asked.

"None that would live to admit it."

Harry laughed. "Okay, I'll take that as a 'no'. Don't you have any nicknames?"

Severus lowered his newspaper and turned his head to regard Harry. "Do you find 'Severus' so troubling to remember?"

"No, but I was just thinking if I shouted your name in the heat of passion or something, what I would be allowed to say."

Severus pursed his lips and then folded his paper primly. "If such a circumstance were to occur, you may call me 'sir' or 'master'."

Harry immediately lost himself in a fit of laughter and the conversation only devolved from there, with Severus trying his damnedest to stave off the chuckle that threatened. Curses. He couldn't believe he was actually enjoying himself, having a playful conversation, being moderately domestic, laughing

Severus almost felt normal, or what he supposed normal ought to feel like. It reminded him once again there was life outside these walls; that there might yet be some purpose to his existence beyond felling Voldemort and absolving his many transgressions. It wasn't that he thought himself a martyr; rather, he'd just never had a compelling reason to consider that other options might be open to him.

Until, perhaps, now.

Harry seemed to think they were good together, based on his unsubtle allusion to the men in the comic. But good how? Physically? It was true, the sex was incredible, but that could continue even without the trappings of a romantic entanglement. Yet even as Severus had asked the question, he knew the futility of it. There was no 'how' question to ask because he already knew the answer: Harry thought they were good everything. As someone ruled by his heart, he didn't know how to give except with his whole self. He would also be expecting that in return. And he should have it – he deserved that.

Severus just wasn't sure if he was the right person to give it to him.

Then again, how many others could? It was a rare person indeed who truly understood what it meant to be with Harry; the sacrifices they'd be making to their own personal lives by choosing to be with him.

Luckily for Severus, he didn't care about that, or the other external social endeavors to which most of the world subscribed. He was ideally suited for a life in the background – preferred it, actually – content to remain the protector, buffering the advances of the Wizarding world in regards to Harry's fame (and his own infamy). One might even argue that, having done precisely that job for the last seven years, he was uniquely qualified.

Except being with Harry was not a job. It was a privilege. Which meant the only question Severus really needed to ask was: do I deserve it? Sometimes having options was a precarious thing.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Harry was really starting to understand the appeal of the dungeons. The temperature was manageable with magic and fireplaces; for the rest, it felt like a safe, protected bubble where the rest of the world couldn't intrude: quiet, peaceful and secluded. Or maybe that was just anywhere Severus was.

"I can't believe it's already Sunday," Harry lamented. "I mean, I know the students are still on holiday for another week, but you said you need that time to prepare the second term, so it just feels like…" He trailed off. "Anyway, I wish the weekend could go on for longer, that's all. Can we stay in today?"

"Potter, we have scarcely left my quarters as it is."

"I know, it's just…" I'm afraid if I leave, I'll break whatever spell this is; that reality will re-emerge and you'll change your mind. I don't want to risk it.

Harry was charmed when Severus sat down across from him and unpacked the chess board, just like they used to do while sharing a room at St. Mungo's. It didn't end up being a long distraction, though – it only took seventeen moves for Severus to win.

"I see your chess skills have not improved."

"No, I'm still as hopeless as ever," Harry agreed with a grin. "You'll have to play Ron sometime if you ever want a proper opponent." He folded up the board and then poked a bishop, two pawns and a rook so they'd get back into their fitted slots. They grumbled slightly, but eventually settled in, and Harry closed the box. He turned back to Severus.

"What did you usually do on Sundays before you started helping me?"

"Graded essays."

"Oh, that sounds exciting. Live a little. Let's do my version of a Sunday."

Severus rolled his eyes. "Dare I ask what stimulating and juvenile activities that might entail?"

"Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it!" Harry grinned. "I, um, eat pizza and ice cream and watch old films."

"Potter, how you are not laid up in hospital with any number of dietary-related conditions is beyond me," Severus remarked, to which Harry let out an amused snort.

"I'm eighteen, remember?"

Indeed, that was one of the things Severus constantly forgot about his young paramour, for even during his Hogwarts years, Harry always seemed so separate from his contemporaries. Then again, he had seen and experienced things that most adults could scarcely have imagined, let alone other students. "Very well. Assuming I agree to this, exactly how do you propose we conduct these charming activities?"

"Leave it to me." Harry's grin curled into a smirk as he hopped into the Floo and was whisked out of sight by a brief roar of green flames. Severus could only sit there, shaking his head, wondering what he'd got himself into this time.

When Harry returned some forty minutes later, arms laden with food and entertainment, the light behind his eyes was as bright as Severus had ever seen it. He remembered thinking he'd do whatever he could to keep that there, too, so if it meant indulging Harry in a little Muggle therapy, he would make every effort to enjoy the ridiculous endeavor.

That he ended up having one of the best days of his life – a fact which continued to occupy his thoughts, even days later – was completely beside the point.

SSHP-SSHP-SSHP

Harry's eyelids drooped and he smiled slightly. "Can I stay until morning?" he asked through a yawn, curling up against Severus. They had just enjoyed a particularly athletic bout of sex and, as seemed Harry's habit, he started to fall asleep almost immediately. "Want to… stay…"

Severus gently brushed the hair off Harry's forehead, admiring the beautiful, sated face, his heart feeling more at peace than he could remember in recent years, perhaps ever. It had been the most amazing four days of his life and he wished it never to end. But, Christmas or not, and despite Harry's continual requests to stay, he refused to indulge thoughts of where it might go.

He had already been weak giving in to his desires, in saying yes, in spending that time with Harry as though they were an item, partners, more than just two friends. And doing what, taking the edge off? Seeking physical comfort in one another? Making the holidays a little less lonely?

In seven days, the students would return from their holiday break to start the new term. Then what? Severus would be back to teaching classes, deducting House points and grading insufferable essays, but what would happen when Harry went home? Should they talk about what happened this weekend? Or about what's next? Was there even a next? Severus was ill-suited for this type of conversation, and wasn't keen to conduct one with Harry, of all people.

There were times Severus wasn't sure his weary, inexperienced heart was up to the challenge of being with Harry; other times Severus knew it would simply wither away to nothing without him. He'd been right: nothing had ever prepared him to deal with Harry, but he supposed if he were allowed to, he'd be happy spending the rest of his life trying to figure it out.

Severus gently rubbed his thumb over that infamous scar, thinking he now understood what Harry had been on about. They were just marks on skin. That little lightning bolt, symbolic though it may be to others, didn't define who Harry was, or what was possible for him. It didn't limit him any more than the various marks and scars adorning Severus' body should for his own life.

The fact was, his involvement with the Dark Lord – that delicate precipice he had danced upon for so many years – had eventually revealed itself to be a crucial and highly valuable role. One that had made all the difference in the end, especially for Harry. From that perspective alone, how could he ever consider his decision to become a Death Eater a mistake? Choices weren't always easy, and they were rarely without sacrifice, but it was what it was. It was war.

Laying down on his side, Severus moved in close behind Harry and curled around his back. He ignored the way Harry snuggled back against him – he was asleep, it didn't mean anything. It's just what people did when you wrapped your arms around them.

Severus laid like that a long time – minutes, perhaps hours – refusing his body the sleep it was so desperately trying to take from him. Somewhere inside his mind, a small voice kept chiding him: It's just a dream! You'll wake up tomorrow and you'll find it was all just a dream.

Instinctively, he clutched Harry tighter. It felt real, but then didn't the best dreams always feel that way?

When his eyelids began to droop mercilessly, sleep finally overruling him, he briefly considered a Pepper-Up potion before deciding to just succumb to the slumber. He would have to sleep eventually; perhaps it was best to get the disappointment out of the way now.

Tucking his head close to Harry's, Severus buried his nose in the soft nest of raven hair and inhaled the scent, committing it to memory for all time. If this was only to be real for this moment, then so be it. At least he would have the memory.

"Harry," he whispered, his benediction, his plea, his hope.

Reaching down for the bedding, Severus indulged a final whim and let his hand trail down the side of Harry's body, enjoying the way the phoenix fluttered at his touch. It wasn't until he was pulling the duvet up over them that he noticed the tattoo had moved to the front of Harry's chest.

Surprised, Severus leaned over the sleeping form beside him and watched as it began circling the area over Harry's heart. Gradually, the crease between Harry's brows relaxed and a tiny smile appeared on his lips, though he did not otherwise stir. Around and around the phoenix went, slowly and with mesmerizing fluidity, until Severus could resist no more and pressed his hand over Harry's heart. The bird stopped moving instantly and opened its wings in a majestic arc, framing Severus' hand, the entire thing infused with the glow of a familiar, indigo hue.

And wasn't that a curious thing.