Chapter 1: Going Back
He did his best to block out Shacklebolt’s shout, but it wasn’t easy. If he would just leave Harry alone for five blessed minutes, he could get on with his plan.
Sometimes—not often, mind you, but sometimes—it paid to be the Boy Who Lived. All he’d had to do was whinge about missing Sirius and say he wanted to visit the Veil Room to ‘say a proper goodbye’. A plaintive plea for a moment’s privacy, and he was able to duck into the Time Room and snag the Time-Turner he was currently fiddling with.
There weren’t many left after the fiasco in fifth year, but he’d got the biggest one he saw. The one Hermione’d used before—or it’s twin brother, anyway—had been there, but he remembered that it only went back an hour for every turn. He was going to need a year at least. Hopefully more.
He slipped the chain around his neck and rummaged through the shrunken items in his pockets one last time to make sure he really had everything he needed.
Trunk packed with several changes of clothes. If he went back any significant amount of time he was definitely going shopping for something that fit, but he’d need some things for until then.
Moneybag. It contained every last galleon from the Potter and Black vaults, so it was a good thing it was much bigger inside than out. Otherwise he’d be driving a money dump truck around. And, as he didn’t exactly have the strength of a mountain troll, the built-in featherweight charm didn’t hurt.
And that was it, really. He’d considered bringing lots of other things, but he didn’t know what time he’d end up in exactly and he didn’t want to be caught with anything too incriminating. If all went well, no one would ever know he was from the future, or that he was really Harry Potter.
And it better work. It just had to work. The battle at Hogwarts had been over six months ago and they weren’t making any progress. The Great Grey Bastard had hidden Nagini away and no one knew where she was. And after Harry had died and come back to life and everything! Word had it that now that old Snakeface knew all his other Horcruxes were destroyed, he was planning a few new ones. If he started making more, they’d never win.
Besides, there had just been too many losses. Remus, Tonks, Luna, Hermione, Fred, Mr. Weasley, McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick, and even Snape had all died. Maybe if he went back far enough he could save Dumbledore, too. Maybe even Sirius.
“I said dinner’s ready. Harry!”
Shacklebolt was going to bust a lung if he kept yelling like that. At least he wasn’t coming upstairs yet.
Harry put his shrunken trunk and moneybag back in his pocket, checked to make sure his wand was still in its holster, and slipped his invisibility cloak on. He was assuming the Time-Turner would drop him in the same place he left from, and he couldn’t be sure that 12 Grimmauld Place would be secure in the new time.
He tip-toed down the stairs, slipped through the front door, and walked a couple of bocks toward Diagon Alley.
Pressing close to the building, he took out the Time-Turner. It was shaped like an hourglass, about six inches tall, and had a rod through the middle that it spun around.
Great, now he was getting nervous. He would just have to spin it has hard as he could to make sure he got back far enough. Somehow, he didn’t think he’d get a second try at this. He also knew that no matter how he spun it, it could only take him backward. There would be no coming back to this time except day by day like everyone else.
All right, deep breath. He reminded himself that he was a Gryffindor, for Merlin’s sake, and gave the hourglass a forceful spin.
After a dizzying whirlwind that seemed to go on for years, the world settled back down. It was a good thing he was leaning against the building, or he probably would have fallen over. The footpath was just as empty as it had been when he left, but it definitely wasn’t winter anymore. At least it was daytime.
He took off the cloak and shoved it in his pocket. He didn’t know what year it was yet, but he hoped the minor changes in his appearance would keep people from recognizing him. He’d taken a potion to speed hair growth, so his unruly mop was tumbling past his shoulders. Just the day before, he’d been to St. Mungo’s and had his eyes permanently fixed so he could dump the distinctive glasses. And, of course, there was the scar.
Or lack of it. Once he’d died and gotten rid of the creepy baby Horcrux thing at King’s Cross, it had disappeared. That, more than anything, gave him hope that his new identity would be believed.
He started off for Diagon Alley. It was about time he figured out when he was. He could tell from the cars driving by that he must have traveled at least a few years. He was beginning to wish he knew more about muggle automobiles so he could be more specific when he spotted a newspaper machine on the corner. He didn’t have any muggle money to buy one, but he’d probably be able to see the date through the plastic.
Oh. Oh, goodness.
Well. At least he didn’t have to worry about not having gone back far enough anymore. What with it being 1977 and all.
He flopped down on his bed at the Leaky Cauldron and basked in the fact that he’d made it through his first week.
So far, everyone had bought his new identity without question. Even Ollivander! He’d always thought the old man had a sixth sense about who people were and what kind of wand they had, but when he’d gone in to get a new one and explained that his name was Cameron Sage and his stupid cousin had broken his wand, Ollivander just nodded and started summoning boxes.
At first, he was worried about the holly and phoenix feather wand. If he bought it now, it wouldn’t be there when eleven-year-old Harry needed it. But it turned out not to be a problem, because Ollivander seemed pretty confident about the twelve-inch ash wand with a phoenix feather core. It made sense, he supposed. He’d done quite a bit of changing in the last seven years.
Once he had his new wand, he’d considered destroying the old one. It wouldn’t do for anyone to discover he had Harry’s Potter’s wand, now would it? But, in the end, he decided just to shrink it to the size of a match and Spellotape it to the inside of his moneybag.
The Ministry had believed him, too. Once he’d got his wand and spent a few fruitful if frustrating hours at Madam Malkin’s (the woman was a bloody menace with that tape measure), he’d presented himself at the Department of Magical Education to take his NEWTs. He figured it was good to establish who he was and get some credentials, since he was most likely going to be living with this identity for the rest of his life.
Frankly, he was amazed they’d bought his story. Not that he was complaining, of course. He was now officially Cameron Sage, who’d been raised by muggle relatives after his parents died and tutored by an old wizard who lived in his neighborhood. No, he didn’t have any identification and no, he couldn’t give them his relatives’ address because they didn’t approve of his living in the wizarding world and he’d run away. Since he was comfortably over the age of majority, they didn’t question him any further.
He’d spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday taking NEWTs with three other home-tutored kids—two witches and a wizard. He’d done what he considered the bare minimum in subjects: Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Supposedly he’d get the results by owl either today or tomorrow.
He had a new birthday and everything. It had been December when he left, and he counted the number of days it had been since he’d turned eighteen. Then, for his new birth date, he just counted back the same number of days from when he’d arrived. He just hoped he would remember to celebrate his nineteenth birthday on the second of February next year.
A ‘tap, tap, tap’ drew his attention to the window. He heaved himself up off the bed to let the barn owl in and untied the scroll he assumed contained his test results.
‘Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test official scores for Mr. Cameron Evan Sage are as follows:
Defense Against the Dark Arts: O
An official copy of this document has been filed in the Department of Records. Congratulations from the Department of Magical Education for the successful completion of your education.’
Well, that was a relief. He’d been pretty worried about Potions and Herbology, but it was over now and everything turned out fine.
He felt a little silly for using Evan as his middle name, but he had to have one and it felt good to keep just a little something from his past. It was a risk, but he could have chosen plenty of names that would have been much more conspicuous, so he wasn’t going to worry about it.
Besides, now that he had finished with the exams he had plenty of other things to worry about. Like what exactly he was going to do now.
His first thought when he’d seen the date was that he could save his parents, but he’d quickly discounted that idea. There was no way he’d be able to find and destroy all the Horcruxes in time and if he interfered, The Menace’s body might not be destroyed. It wasn’t worth it to risk the years of relative peace that had followed his parents’ deaths. Sacrificing them felt almost like he was murdering them himself, but he didn’t really have any other choice.
Then he thought that maybe he could just get to know them a little. But that had its own set of problems. It would be way too easy to mess things up with the Fidelius Charm or the Secret Keeper (bloody traitorous rat) or any number of things. Plus, it would only make it that much harder when they died if he made friends. And wouldn’t it be weird to be friends with his own parents? Besides, that was not what he’d gone back in time to do.
He figured the first Horcrux he should go after was the locket. He could let Regulus and Kreacher do the hard part and get it out of the cave, then he could take it and destroy it. Only, if he was doing his math right, Regulus was only fifteen or sixteen right now and wouldn’t be stealing any soul fragments from any dark lords any time soon. He’d have to wait a couple of years.
In the meantime, he planned to learn. He’d find a house somewhere where he could have some privacy and he’d learn. He’d read any pertinent books he could get his hands on and look up as many words as he needed to to really understand them. He’d travel anywhere he needed to and find experts in dueling and defense and dark artifacts and whatever else to teach him what he needed to know. He’d maybe make contacts with some choice individuals to keep track of what was going on with The Great Git and his merry band of Death Eaters.
Right. So what he needed now was a realtor.
Chapter 2: Learning
A History of Defense Against the Dark Arts Education was possibly the most boring book ever. Of the sixteen he’d gotten from Flourish and Blotts, it quite definitely was.
It was important, though. He figured it would be handy to know how His Nastiness had been taught DADA when he was at school, especially since the way he himself had learned (with six different professors, all but one of whom had tried to harm or kill him) was anything but traditional. And he was learning things from it that he knew would be useful.
It was just so badly written. And boring.
Giving up for the evening, he set the book and his notes aside and headed to the kitchen to fix dinner. Through experimentation with several cookbooks and prepackaged foods and an excruciating process of trial and error over the last two months, he’d finally figured out how to make a meal for one that was worth eating. Thank Merlin.
He set some water to boil for pasta and got the sauce he’d made two days ago out of the cold box. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was definitely edible. The Quick Boil setting on his magical stovetop meant it only took a few seconds for the water to start rolling, and he dropped in a handful of fettuccine.
Leaning against the counter, he reflected for the hundredth time that he loved this house. It was about fifteen miles out of a tiny village called Ettensby, which he was fairly certain no one who didn’t live there had ever heard of. With only four rooms (a standard two-up two-down—kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and a spare room he was turning into a study) plus the loo, it was fairly tiny. All the door hinges squeaked, the front garden was a complete mess, and the water only ran hot if you asked it ‘pretty please’ first. There were doxies in the attic, the fourth stair tried to trip him every time he passed it, and there was a hole in the wall that refused all manner of repairing spell. Buying it had barely made a dent in his pile of galleons, which he’d deposited in a brand new Gringott’s vault.
In short, it was a heap. But it was his heap and he loved it. He’d even sent the realtor a nice bunch of lovely blue daisies for finding him the perfect place.
He tried to focus only on his food as he ate, but it wasn’t working. He always kept his mind occupied as much as possible so he wouldn’t think about things too much, but sometimes the thoughts crept in.
He’d known when he first decided he was going back in time that his life would be different. He’d known he wouldn’t be able to forge the same relationships he’d had the first time around. But he didn’t count on ending up twenty-one years older than all his friends. He’d probably never get to speak to Ron or Hermione or Ginny again, and even if he did it would be a vastly different dynamic.
Maybe in a few years he could look up Remus Lupin, or even Shacklebolt. Maybe. For now, he’d essentially lost everyone he ever knew.
This was no good. He couldn’t sit around brooding. Once he finished with Britain’s most boring book, he’d leave. He wasn’t sure where he’d go yet, but it was time for him to get out and find some people who could help him.
“Get up! You call yourself a wizard? You are nothing but an insignificant, helpless, hopeless, little mealworm!”
Harry was beginning to regret this. Or the translation spell, at least. Without it, he wouldn’t have to hear all about how worthless he was and could just listen to the man rage in Mandarin while he knocked Harry’s arse from here to Sunday.
Slowly, he pulled himself to his feet and brandished his wand. He knew he was getting better. He must be, since it had taken Master Phan four hours to reduce him to this state, rather than the original thirty seconds.
He knew it, but he couldn’t feel it. In fact, about all he could feel at that point was the throbbing in his right leg, which was threatening to crumple under him again.
Wanting nothing other than for this duel to be over, he dodged Master Phan’s Bone Shattering Hex and hit him with Somnulus.
As soon as the Master fell into a sleeping heap on the floor, Harry summoned his wand and bound him. Only after healing his own injuries did he revive him.
“Very-” he huffed, “very good, Mr. Sage. Now unbind me.”
He did so and returned the Master’s wand.
“What now?” he asked.
“Now? Now you go away. I have nothing left to teach you.”
Harry blinked at him for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“I have taught you everything I know, and you have learned it well. Besides, I don’t think this body can take any more of your abuse. I am over ninety, you know.”
“But, but I…”
“We’ve been at this every day for five months, Mr. Sage. Frankly, you’ve progressed further than any of my previous students, even after years of study. I shouldn’t be surprised by this—you’ve an extraordinary amount of raw power.”
“Really?” Harry asked, but Master Phan continued without acknowledging him.
“Speaking of which, since you’re so insistent on learning everything under the sun, I believe you would benefit from the tutelage of an old acquaintance of mine. Mr. Kabbali is rather proficient in wandless and nonverbal magic, and I’m sure you could convince him to take you on. If he is…resistant, you may put his ego in its place by reminding him of my assistance in a matter involving a basilisk, enchanted gold dust, and his eldest daughter. Now go! Off with you!”
“Erm, thanks, Master Phan. I really appreciate all your help.”
“Nonsense. I may actually retire on the fee you’ve paid me. I’m getting too old for this gou shi,” he mumbled as he wandered off. Harry supposed he was glad he’d got out of range of the translation spell for that last bit.
Harry was enjoying a quiet stroll through Professor Kabbali’s rather extensive garden when he thought he heard a noise behind him.
The next thing he knew, he was kneeling over a bound and silenced twelve-year-old Simran with his wand pressing into her neck.
He sprang back and released her. “Sweet Merlin! You know better than to sneak up on people like that!”
She giggled. “Yes, I do. Still, it’s fun to see you go all defensive.”
“Fun!” he sputtered, “I could have killed you—you know that, right?”
“So you keep saying, Cam, but all you’ve done so far is bind me or stun me. I’m fine! Stop worrying,” Simran said, rolling her eyes.
She was right, but he was still concerned. He tried to cover it with a stern tone. “Whatever. Care to tell me what was so important you decided to risk your life? Your father would seal me in concrete if I ever hurt you, however much it may be your own fault.”
She beamed at him and held out a small package. “I just came to wish you a happy birthday!”
“A—what?” Sweet Merlin, he’d completely forgotten. “I, uh, didn’t think you knew.”
“Papa told me. It was in the contract you filled out, I think,” she explained and held the package out again.
After she left, he sat in the grass holding the little ivory Buddha statue. She’d charmed it to wink at him and he couldn’t help but grin. It was good to know that there were still people who cared about him, even if he didn’t have his old friends. He missed them terribly—so much that it hurt sometimes.
But he reminded himself that he was doing this for them. He was doing this so Hermione would live, so they could all live in a world without the Evil Prat hanging over them.
They’d just be doing it without him. Well, mostly. Young Harry would still be there. He supposed in a way, he was doing this for him, too, for his young self. If everything went well, maybe he’d have a chance to spend his school years being a relatively normal boy, instead of battling evil at every turn.
Speaking of Young Harry, he figured it was high time he stopped thinking of it like that—of himself as the real Harry and the other as Young Harry. The boy who would be born in a little over two years was the real Harry. Because now he was Cameron Sage, and it was past time for him to be thinking of himself that way.
He’d been surprised by his birthday today. He still thought of July 31st as his birthday and February 2nd as Cameron Sage’s. He knew he couldn’t go on like that—it was time to leave ‘Harry’ behind and embrace his new identity, to really become Cameron Sage.
He collapsed onto the sofa, so glad to finally be able to come home every night. He’d missed his house. After two months with Professor Kabbali and a brief stint in the Australian outback with a bloke who refused to tell Cameron his name, he was more than ready start studying for his DADA Mastery at the University of Edinburgh.
His choice had nothing to do with the fact that it was close enough to Apparate to every day. Well all right, maybe a bit, but it was still one of the oldest and most prestigious universities around.
He was lucky to be accepted at all, and it took quite a bit of cajoling to convince them to let him start in the summer term rather than waiting until September. He’d spent a lot of time and energy figuring out how to get close to Regulus Black, and finally decided (after seeing his appalling mark for his Defense OWL at the Department of Records) that he’d somehow become his tutor.
The first step was to start his Master’s studies. After all, what self-respecting parent would hire someone without some professional experience to teach their kid? It usually took about six years to earn the title of Master, but he hoped that after a year he’d be able to place an advert offering his tutoring services somewhere Orion and Walburga Balck would see it and, wanting their son to do well on his NEWT, hire him for the summer before Regulus’ seventh year.
He was hoping he’d be able to do this without ever encountering Sirius. It shouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as he’d been disowned and all. Either way, it was necessary. He knew that Regulus would die retrieving the locket from the cave and Kreacher would bring it back to Grimmauld place. He had to have some way of knowing exactly when Regulus went to the cave and getting the locket from his insane house elf.
He eschewed both the glass of whiskey he desperately wanted and the essay on the effects of a Patronus on lethifolds that was due in three days for his daily exercise regimen. Ever since his four weeks in Australia for what Mr. Mustache (as Cameron had taken to calling him, what with his refusal to introduce himself and the bushy, blond caterpillar perched on his upper lip) called ‘survival training’, he’d appreciated how important it was to be in good shape. There might actually be times when you needed to be able to run ten miles and still be standing at the end or lift a hundred pounds of debris off someone or defend yourself in a magic-dampening field.
He’d come to cherish his daily exercise. He was finding that ever since his classmate, Oswald Cucurbita, had started flirting with him he had rather a lot of excess energy. He was totally surprised by this—after all, he always thought he’d liked girls. But there was no denying the effect Oz had on his body when he leaned in close. At first, Cameron was horrified with himself, but after over two months of nearly constant arousal, he thought he was dealing with it rather well. Psychologically speaking, at least.
It wasn’t that he wanted a relationship. That was the last thing he needed right now. But he was getting to the point where he’d give his right arm to just get laid already, and he resolved that the next time Oz commented on his arse he was going to ask him to go for a drink.
Chapter 3: A Good Start
He could feel the build-up to what he could tell would be a rather wonderful orgasm and reached around to grasp his lover’s cock, pleading with his prick to just wait a few moments until he could bring Oz off first.
Yes! He luxuriated in the feel of Oz’s internal muscles clenching around him and managed one more thrust before spilling himself and collapsing, breathless.
He was still shuddering a bit when he heard Oz’s, “Cameron?” between pants.
“Yeah?” This was about the time one or the other of them (depending on whose bed they’d ended up in this time) gathered his clothes and said ‘until next time’.
“Cam, I met someone.”
He turned to face Oz. “Really?” It occurred to him that perhaps he should be upset, but he wasn’t. It wasn’t as if they really had a relationship or anything, even after four months of fucking.
“What’s his name?”
“Corvus Mallone. He’s in my Shielding Theory class.”
It was surprisingly comfortable to lay there in post-coital lassitude and discuss his lover’s crush. “I think I’ve met him—does he have sort of sandy-colored hair?”
“Yep. Isn’t his hair great? And he has this wonderful smile that does ridiculous things to my insides,” Oz said with a grin.
“Wow, you’ve got it bad. Does he know?”
“I’m not sure. He agreed to meet at the pub this Friday, but I couldn’t tell if he knew it was a date or not.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll go great. I take it this means I won’t be seeing you again?”
“Yeah, I think so. Nothing personal, I’m not going to see Nathan or Simon again either.”
“Whoa, Oswald Cucurbita is giving up all his fuck buddies? Are you sure he doesn’t have you under some kind of spell, or a potion maybe?” Cameron joked.
“Shut up, Cam. I know it’s a totally foreign sensation to me, but somehow it just seems like it would be wrong,” Oz explained, seeming almost embarrassed about it.
Cameron laughed. “Don’t worry, Oz, I promise I’ll always think you’re a jerk.”
“Thanks, that means a lot,” Oz shot back and starting gathering his clothing. “Seriously, though, we should still be friends if you’re comfortable with it.”
“Yeah, that’d be great. I’ll see you in class on Tuesday?”
“Sure, see you Tuesday.”
While he mourned for his libido as he watched Oz leave, he couldn’t help but be happy for the man.
Knowing that, if everything went as planned, he was about to be thrust into the presence of some very unsavory folk whom he’d rather not having rummaging around in his head, he had decided Occlumency lessons were in order.
He was amazed that after only a few weeks, he was making great progress. He had thrice weekly private lessons with Asphodel Whitt, Mistress of Mind Magics at the University. As she did this kind of thing all the time, they’d each signed her standard contract that kept anything learned in their lessons from being shared with any other parties.
And, for a sizable but not completely unreasonable additional fee, he’d got her to agree to Obliviation of anything they gleaned from the other’s mind in the course of their lessons when they were over.
Mistress Whitt seemed convinced that he would be sufficiently proficient within another two weeks, so he went ahead and placed his advert.
He’d decided on the Journal of Magical Artifacts for his advertisement, as he’d noticed at least two articles published by Orion Black in it and figured it was a good bet he read it regularly. He tried to word it so it seemed like he was the perfect answer to their problem, mentioning OWLs and NEWTs and kids who weren’t living up to their potential. He’d also decided to state his fee as an amount almost double the going rate for private tutors, knowing the Blacks could well afford it and hoping they would assume it meant he was worth it.
He was especially glad of charging so much when he started getting responses, as they were few. After turning down four others with the explanation that his schedule was already full, he received the owl he’d been waiting for.
He forced himself to wait two full days before responding so he didn’t make Black suspicious by seeming overeager.
So it happened that the first Monday after the Hogwarts school year ended, he had an appointment with the scion of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He’d tried to suggest to Black that they meet at a neutral location, but he insisted on hosting his son’s lessons in the family home. He had no desire to set foot inside 12 Grimmauld Place, but he was hoping that after a three years the memories would not be too painful.
After presenting himself at the front door, he was shown to the library by a brusque but formal Orion Black.
“I present my son, Regulus. Regulus, meet Mr. Sage. You are to follow his instructions to the letter and apply yourself to your studies. We’ve discussed the consequences if you should continue with your pathetic performance in this subject—I trust I do not need to remind you of them?”
Regulus scowled, but answered, “No, sir.”
“Good. Get to work, then,” Black said, and spun to leave the room at a brisk pace.
Cameron was glad to see the teenager slouched in his chair did not bear an overwhelming resemblance to his brother. They had the same eyes, but Regulus was much smaller and had a narrower face, which seemed to sport a constant scowl.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Black,” Cameron offered.
“Whatever,” replied Regulus, crossing his arms over his chest and kicking at the rug under his chair.
Well. This was going to be an utter joy, he could tell.
“This is stupid.”
“I did not ask for your opinion on the matter, and I’ll thank you not to share it. I expected you to have this spell mastered at our last lesson and you have yet to show any progress.” Cameron forced himself to stop before he said something nasty. There was no way he’d been this petulant at seventeen, was there?
“Can you tell me why you’re having such a problem with this? Did you practice it like I said?”
Regulus kicked at the rug.
“You didn’t, did you?”
The teen’s scowl increased. “I didn’t feel like it.”
Cameron sighed. “Am I going to have to resort to the Imperius Curse to get you to do your homework?”
At that moment, he sensed someone entering the library. After two months of twice weekly lessons, he no longer worried about keeping the entrance to the room in view so he couldn’t see who was there. He did, however, know that he couldn’t sense the magical signature of Orion or Walburga Black.
Mere seconds after first sensing the newcomer, he had him pinned to the ground, his knees straddling the thin chest, his left forearm against the pale throat, and his wand pressed between startled eyes.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “State your business.”
“In the name of the Founders, Sage, it’s just Severus. Let him up, why don’t you?” Regulus whinged.
Cameron blinked. Severus? As in, Severus Snape? He looked closer. Great Merlin, it really was him.
“That’s Mister Sage to you, Mr. Black. I said state your business.” As far as he knew, Snape was still loyal the Infernal Menace at that point, and though he lessened the pressure against his throat, he wasn’t about to let his guard down.
“I—I’m sorry, I just…I—”
Wow. This was by far the most discomfited he’d ever seen Severus Snape. Even at nineteen, he seemed fairly good at schooling his sharp features into a mask of indifference, but if Cameron didn’t know any better he’d say Snape almost looked scared. And that was positively ridiculous. Wasn’t it?
“I simply dropped by f-for tea,” Snape explained.
Regulus’ face lit up (first time Cameron had seen him do anything other than scowl, actually), and asked, “Really? With me?”
Cameron saw the fetal stages of a smile warring with the alarm on Snape’s face. “Yes, with you.”
“Please remember that your lesson is not over until five o’clock, Mr. Black,” Cameron reminded him, as it was only a bit after four. Snape seemed sincere enough about just stopping by to visit with his student (though he couldn’t imagine why, annoying twit that he was), so Cameron let him up.
Snape massaged his throat and sat up slowly, as if he was worried Cameron might attack him again at any moment.
Cameron held out a hand and helped him to his feet.
“My apologies, Mr. Snape,” he said, and immediately gave himself a mental kick. He didn’t think anyone had mentioned Snape’s surname, but luckily they didn’t seem to notice.
“I should not have startled you. You have rather…aggressive reflexes, Mr…what was it?”
“Sage. Cameron Sage.”
“Ah. Mr. Sage. Er, pleased to meet you, I suppose. You’re the tutor Reg mentioned?”
“I am. Though, thus far, it seems to have been an entirely fruitless endeavor.” Even if it was only by a year, it was downright weird being older than Snape. He hoped it wasn’t showing.
“Is that so?” Snape said, raising his eyebrow at Regulus. “I know as well as anyone that your DADA scores could stand some improvement. You should be taking advantage of Mr. Sage’s help while you can.”
Regulus’ smile faltered. “Well, I…I mean, I’m trying…”
Cameron followed their conversation with half an ear, trying to work out their relationship. Were they friends? Lovers? Perhaps toeing the line in between? Or was Snape just here to check on him for Snakeface and Regulus was pleased to be considered important enough for the attention?
“Can you…can you stay? Wait for me?” Regulus asked shyly. Not the last option, then.
Snape opened his mouth to answer, but Cameron cut him off. “I might be persuaded to end today’s lesson at four thirty if you can show me a proper Freezing Charm by that time.”
Regulus’ face seemed to be battling between its usual scowl and gratitude. “Really?”
“I could wait that long,” Snape said. “I look forward to seeing you in the parlor when you’re finished.”
Regulus flushed. “Right. Yes, me too. I mean, I…I’ll see you in a bit, then.”
Well, this was almost cute. Who knew Snape had friends, or that Regulus was capable of anything but whinging? Cameron very studiously did not laugh at them. He was certain, at least, that Regulus would finally put some energy into his Glacius.
Cameron slipped into the loo at Regulus’ wake. Well, it was sort of a wake, except without the body. Regulus had disappeared some six weeks previous, at the beginning of his Christmas break, and after searching high and low (and no doubt performing several locating spells of questionable legality), his parents had declared him dead and invited friends, family, and various others to Grimmauld Place to mourn him.
Cameron cast a Silencing Charm and called, “Kreacher?”
After a moment, he tried again. “Kreacher, I know I’m not your master, but it’s very important that I speak with you.”
Finally, Kreacher popped into the loo looking at him with a fair amount of suspicion.
“Hi, Kreacher. Do you remember me? I’m Cameron Sage, Regulus’ tutor?”
“Kreacher remembers,” replied the house elf.
“Good. Ah, I need to ask you something. I know about the trip you took with Regulus.”
Kreacher shook his head. “No one knows, Master Regulus said so.”
“Well, I know. He told me. I know that he brought you to that cave to retrieve the locket you put there. I also know that he ordered you to destroy it.”
Kreacher’s eyes were wide and frightened. “No,” he pleaded, “No one is to know!”
“It’s okay, Kreacher. I know you weren’t able to destroy it.” Kreacher started wringing his hands, upset by his inability to follow his master’s orders. “But I can help you—I know how to destroy it.”
“Cameron Sage can help Kreacher?”
“Yes. I can help. If you just give me the locket, I’ll take it and destroy it, just like Master Regulus wanted.” Kreacher looked skeptical, but then, for some unfathomable reason, seemed to decide that Cameron was good for his word and nodded. He disappeared for a moment, and returned with the locket.
“Cameron Sage will take good care of it? He will be doing Master’s wishes?”
“Yes, I’ll do exactly what he wanted,” Cameron answered, and Kreacher handed him the Horcrux. He tried not to shudder at the dark feel of it. “Master Regulus would be very pleased with you, Kreacher.”
Tears began to well in the house elf’s eyes, but he disappeared again.
Cameron sagged with relief. Finally, he was making some progress. Now he just had to make it out of there without anyone being the wiser.
He was only a few steps down the hallway when he encountered Snape. Great, just what he needed. He didn’t know how much Legilimency Snape knew at this age, and he was thankful that Occlumency had become second nature to him by now.
“Mr. Snape, hello.” He hesitated, then added, “I know he was your friend—I’m sorry for your loss.”
Snape’s expression remained carefully neutral. “Yes, well. Our…association, as it were, was rather brief. Though I thank you for the sentiment. He will be missed.”
Hmm. Perhaps the infatuation had been more one-sided than he’d thought? Or maybe they’d just grown apart since he saw them in August. He didn’t dwell on it for long, because Snape seemed to be studying his face. He hadn’t given himself away somehow, had he?
“May I ask you a question, Mr. Sage?”
“You may,” he answered warily.
“Are you, perchance, related to Lily Evans?”
Cameron’s heart stopped beating for a moment, the started back up double-time. He forced himself to be calm. There was no way Snape had figured out who he was. No way.
“I don’t believe so. I’ve never heard the name, that I recall. An acquaintance of yours?” It was at that point he remembered the memories Snape had given him about his mother as he lay dying. Hadn’t he loved her?
“Indeed, I’ve known her since childhood. She was like a sister to me, until…well. Suffice it to say we have not spoken in a long while,” he answered with a pained look. “You have the same eyes.”
“Indeed? Perhaps a long-lost cousin.” For some inexplicable reason, he was rather pleased that Snape thought of his mother as a sister.
“Unlikely, really. She was muggle-born.” Snape seemed to be waiting for his reaction to that revelation. He was careful to give none at all.
“Ah. Perhaps not, then. I suppose we’ll never know.”
Snape gave no response. He just stood there looking at Cameron.
“Was there anything else?” he asked with a touch of impatience, and that seemed to jog Snape out of his reverie.
“Nothing at all. Excuse me,” he said, and brushed past Cameron toward the loo.
Chapter 4: Finally, A Bit of Progress
After belatedly realizing he did not have access to Gryffindor’s sword or any basilisk venom, Cameron settled on the only other method he knew to destroy the Horcrux—Fiendfyre. He brought the locket to a meadow a few miles from his house, laid it on the ground, and cast the strongest containment spell he could muster around it.
After that, it was short work to start a Fiendfyre within the field and wait until it burned itself out. He had to reinforce his spell a couple of times, but the flames never breached the field.
All that was left when he cancelled the charm was a patch of burnt grass and a melted lump of metal. He left it where it lay.
Later that night, he nursed a glass of scotch as he considered his next step. The locket was taken care of, but he still needed to find and destroy the diary, the ring, Ravenclaw’s diadem, and Hufflepuff’s cup. At least he didn’t have to worry about Nagini yet, as the self-made King of Evil wouldn’t get around to making her into a Horcrux for another fourteen years or so.
The diadem was locked away in the Room of Requirement, to which he did not currently have access. The diary and the cup, he knew, would be entrusted to Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, respectively, some time before Halloween of next year when Harry’s parents would be murdered, but he had no way of knowing if they had them yet. They would have to wait until he could be sure.
The ring, on the other hand, was hiding in a box under an abandoned house, all alone and unguarded. It would have to be next, then. As long as he didn’t try to put it on (seriously, what had Dumbledore been thinking?), he should be fine.
The clock on the mantel struck twelve, and he whispered, “Happy twenty-first birthday, Cameron.” It was a silly ritual to keep up, especially when he knew he’d be meeting friends from university at the pub that night, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. It was tradition.
The clock on the wall said ‘Time for bed’, so he hauled himself up and started upstairs. He couldn’t help noticing that no owls had coming swooping through the window on the hour as they had during his school years, but it didn’t hurt nearly as much as he’d expected.
Cameron waited until Easter Break to retrieve the ring. It was right where it had been when Dumbledore had found it before Harry’s sixth year—tucked in a box under the floorboards. Just as in 1996, there were no wards on the property. He supposed the Mostly Soulless Bastard didn’t want any wizards noticing anything out of the ordinary.
Cameron could understand that, especially as the Riddle mansion was not so terribly far away and it wouldn’t do for any wayward Death Eaters to stumble across the run-down shack. Even if they had pledged their souls to him, Cameron knew he didn’t trust them. Except Bellatrix, maybe. That woman was positively insane and he could see them getting on very well.
He didn’t linger there. Just being so close to a place his nemesis could possibly, maybe be was making his temper flare and giving him the willies. Mindful of the mysterious curse that had maimed the Headmaster, took the whole box with him after wrapping it in his outer cloak and brought it to the meadow.
When he’d finished, he left behind a pair of scorch marks, one rather fresher than the other, and two misshapen masses of precious metal.
Convinced there was nothing he could do to further The Quest (as he had come to think of it) for a good while, he concentrated on school. After two years of study, it was getting to be time for him to settle on a research topic for his thesis. He was having trouble deciding if he should work on something directly related to The Quest, like Horcruxes or the Dark Mark, or if that would draw too much attention and he should stick with something innocuous. But that would take time and energy away from the Quest and felt like a bit of a waste.
Mostly in order to avoid making a decision, but also because he’d found he had a taste for traveling, he opted to spend the fall semester on a study abroad program in Texas. Of course, when he made the decision to go, he didn’t know the first thing about Texas other than it was in the States and everything was bigger there.
Well. He couldn’t speak for the rest of the state, but Houston turned not to be his favorite place ever. For one thing, it smelled bad and there was always a brownish tinge to the horizon that spoke of nearby petrochemical plants, and for another, its inhabitants were bloody insane. He wasn’t sure if it was all Americans who were crazy, or just the ones in and around the college.
Either way, all the people he’d met freaked out about his accent, wore odd items of clothing like boots or suede jackets with fringe, and seemed to be obsessed with a sports team called the Astros, which apparently had just signed some guy named Nolan Ryan. Evidently this guy, whoever he was, was a big deal. And they put ice in their tea. Yeah, they were all nuts.
Most of them, anyway. Cameron’s roommate and his girlfriend weren’t so bad and he hung out with them a lot. Aside from that, he spent most of his time there turning down invitations to rodeos and having sex with Maverick Anthony.
He was one of those with the boots and really big hats and belt buckles the size of a human hand, but somehow he made it sexy instead of ridiculous. Or maybe it was his arse in those tight jeans. Cameron considered that he liked that arse much better out of the jeans, so that probably wasn’t it.
Maverick was a sweet guy (almost too sweet, sometimes) with very gentlemanly manners, and Cameron made it clear from the start that he was headed back to the UK at the end of the semester and was not up to any sort of long-term relationship. While he sometimes hinted that he would be interested in something more, Maverick respected Cameron’s wishes and only shed a few tears at their parting.
He did learn a few things. He learned that how tall a horse is gets measured in hands, which is the same as four inches, and that he shouldn’t be surprised when the same people who knew that kind of thing also knew that the performance of Rigoletto last Thursday was particularly good. He learned to make apple pie and gumbo and enchiladas. He learned to say ‘fixin’ to’ and ‘ain’t’. He learned the fine art of rimming.
Overall, he counted it a success.
When the new semester started, his advisor sat him down for a talk.
“Look, Sage, it’s past time you settled on a topic.”
“I know, I know. I’ve been trying, honestly,” he explained.
Master O’Flannery sighed. “I’m sure you have. Why don’t you tell me what the problem is and I’ll see if I can help you out. It is my job, you know.”
Cameron bit his lip and decided to tell him the truth. Sort of. “Well, it’s like this. I do have an idea that I’d like to pursue, but I’m worried about what people will think.”
O’Flannery raised his eyebrows. “How bad can it be?”
“I want to study the Dark Mark.” O’Flannery’s jaw dropped. “See, this is what I mean! I don’t want people thinking I’m a Death Eater or planning to be the new Dark Lord or anything. I just think it’s an interesting phenomenon that bears careful study. Theoretical only, for obvious reasons.”
He could see his advisor calming himself down before he spoke. “You’re right, Sage. I’ve no right to judge you for your choice. When I did my thesis on lycanthropy, the first thing everyone did was assume that I’m a werewolf. Taboo subjects need to be studied just as much as everything else, if only to protect us against them.”
“So you’ll approve it, then?”
“Yes, if you can find enough material to do it justice. I’m sure a lot of people will have a problem with it, but we’ll try not to spread it around too much. I’m sure you’ll do a great job.”
When Cameron’s sort-of-boyfriend owled to ask if he’d like to accompany him to a holiday party at Malfoy Manor, he couldn’t believe his luck. He was beginning to despair of ever making any progress in The Quest, and this was just the thing to give it a jumpstart. Who knew, maybe he’d sidle into the library and find the diary filed right there in the ‘H’s between Horatio Bettleby’s Life, Death, and Afterlife and Horklumps, Jarveys, and Other Magical Garden Pests.
Well, it was possible, anyway. Malfoy had to have it by now, as the Half-Dead Git was currently, well, half-dead and had been for over a month.
Plus, he could use something to get his mind off the fact that he was surprisingly not upset about his parents having been killed and little Harry shipped off to the Dursleys’. It didn’t feel real to him, somehow. To make himself feel less guilty, he mused that he’d already had over twenty years to come to terms with their deaths.
So, despite the fact that he’d have to go out and buy dress robes and Rich was beginning to really grate on his nerves, Cameron accepted. He should probably also learn something about manners in high society. Or maybe not. Maybe just enough to keep Malfoy from challenging him to a duel for mortally offending him.
He was going to have to be very careful. He didn’t want anyone getting aggressive because he seemed too muggle-friendly, but he certainly didn’t want them to try to recruit him either. Best to shoot for perfectly average and just stay out of everybody’s way. Hopefully they’d all be too busy laying low after their erstwhile Master’s downfall to give it much thought.
It took him three ‘trips to the loo’ just to find the library, and when he saw the size of it he wanted to cry. On a whim, he tried incanting, “Accio Horcrux!” and “Accio Riddle’s diary!” but, of course, it didn’t work.
All four walls were filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, the ceiling being some three or four stories up. On closer inspection, there did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the arrangement, so he contented himself with wandering around and reading random titles for a while.
He was pulled out of his pursuit by a deep voice.
“Mr. Sage. Snooping, I see.”
He panicked for a moment before it occurred to him that the man was joking. Or trying to, anyway.
“Yes indeed, Mr. Snape. Are you here to apprehend me, or to join in the fun?”
The corner of Snape’s mouth twitched, and Cameron thought maybe he was trying to suppress a smile. “An impressive library, is it not? My favorite room in the Manor.”
“I can see why. Do you spend much time here?” he asked, wondering just how close he and Malfoy were.
“Some. I did not expect to see you here,” Snape countered in an obvious attempt to change the subject. Cameron decided to let him.
“My date received an invitation—I’m just along for the ride.”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “Date?”
“Mmm. Richard Rothfuss,” he answered, pressing his lips into thin line as if to apologize for his poor taste.
“I believe I met him,” Snape said, grimacing.
Cameron grinned. “Now you know why I’m in here snooping.” He was having a hell of a time equating this Snape with the Professor he remembered. This Snape hadn’t directly insulted him once. He actually wanted to talk to this Snape.
“That is not terribly charitable of you, Mr. Sage.”
“You’ll just have to forgive me, Mr. Snape. Or ignore it. I’ve had too many cups of eggnog to censor my opinion. And from whom, pray tell, are you trying to escape? Make a poor choice of escort, as well?”
Snape gave an amused snort. “Surely you do not imagine I’ve come here with a date. Do you think you’re funny, Mr. Sage?”
“Occasionally, though not at the moment. Why—don’t you date?” He cocked his head to the side, for some inexplicable reason very interested in the answer.
“Self-flagellation is not a hobby of mine. Shall we rejoin the party?”
Cameron gave the diary search up as a bad job and carefully avoided conversation with known Death Eaters for the rest of the evening. Except for Severus Snape, for the sole reason that he’d long since turned spy by that point. Absolutely the only reason.
Chapter 5: Enemies and Friends
The sight that greeted Cameron when he entered Gringott’s stopped him in his tracks. He blinked for a few interminable moments and rushed back outside to lean against the exterior of the building.
He’d been wearing a glamour, but Cameron saw through it and recognized him anyway. Sometimes, he was not at all thankful for his greater-than-average magical power.
The dirty, traitorous, sniveling little wretch of a rat!
Deep breaths. Murder is bad, he reminded himself. No murdering.
Would it really be so bad, though? He’d done the traitorous bit and revealed the Secret that got his parents murdered over a year ago. Sometime relatively soon, Cameron figured, he’d change to his all-too-appropriate animagus form and become Percy Weasley’s pet rat. This could be his only chance.
But what about later? What about when he helped his Master return to life? The first time around, Pettigrew had been the only one to seek his Master out, to help him survive. Surely, if Pettigrew didn’t do it, someone else would. But what about the timing? What about the business in the Shrieking Shack in third year, the Life Debt? He needed to be able to predict events. He needed to make sure all the Horcruxes stayed the same. How much would he be changing if he gave in right now?
Presumably, young Harry had a Horcrux in his scar just like the first time. If that was the case, Harry would need to sacrifice himself to get rid of it. Would he do that if his godfather hadn’t died? If Cameron were to out Pettigrew now and exonerate Sirius, who knew what might happen.
No. It was far too great a risk. He decided to go get an ice cream and come back to the bank later, when it was free of murderous Death Eating rodents.
The last of his year-mates had left fifteen minutes ago, but Cameron wasn’t ready to go home yet. He was at a lovely stage of drunkenness, and he wasn’t going to give it up so easily.
“Just you try and make me,” he challenged his napkin.
It may have been immediately after that, but it also may have been a half-hour later that he heard a familiar, “Mr. Sage.”
He looked up and grinned. “That’s Master Sage, if you please. After seven, I mean six, years of hard work, you may finally call me Master. Won’t you sit, Mr. Snape?”
“I’m afraid I must insist on Master Snape,” he drawled as he dropped into the seat across from Cameron.
“Yeah? Congratulations. Since when?”
“Last year! No fair!”
Snape smirked. “I don’t know why you’re so surprised. I took five years. Even if I was holding down a full-time job for the last two.”
“Oh, that’s right. I took a year off before I started. Wait, five years? And with a job? Wait. How old are you? How old am I?” he mumbled, thinking. “Twenty-five. That makes you only twenty-four. You must be pretty damn good.”
“Well. I think we’re familiar enough by now to drop the titles, don’t you?” Cameron proposed.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink, Sage,” Snape answered.
Not exactly what he’d had in mind, but he’d take it. Small steps. “And I think you haven’t had nearly enough, Snape.”
At that, Snape snatched the nearly full tumbler of scotch on the rocks Cameron was cradling and downed it in one. He smirked. Again. Cameron was beginning to really enjoy that smirk. “Better?”
“A bit, I suppose. Certainly can’t hurt,” Cameron replied.
“So, you’re out celebrating your Defense Against the Dark Arts Mastery? Do you always celebrate alone?”
He nodded. “I am. And I wasn’t. I mean, not alone. They just left already. It’s better here with you, anyway.” Snape raised an eyebrow. “And you’re—” he stopped himself before he could give it all away. “Your Mastery is what?”
“Potions, of course.”
There was an awkward silence. Cameron signaled the barkeep for another round, vowing to drink this one slowly. When the waitress brought their drinks, Snape tried to pay for his, but Cameron stopped him.
“This one’s on me. So, what are you doing here, anyway? Got something to celebrate?”
“Hardly,” Snape scoffed.
“Oh, I’m sorry! Are you meeting someone? I didn’t mean to keep you.”
“Who is it, precisely, you imagine would be meeting me?” Snape asked.
Cameron shrugged. “I dunno. A date? Your…girlfriend, boyfriend. Lover, whatever. Friends? Malfoy,” he offered though clenched teeth. He didn’t know why he should be so pissed off about Malfoy maybe hanging out with Snape, but he was. Maybe he really had had too much to drink.
Snape snorted, half amused and half disbelieving. “You cannot be serious,” he said, then narrowed his eyes and stiffened. “Are you mocking me?”
“What? What do you mean? You’re my friend, I wouldn’t do that.”
Wait. My friend?
Cameron chewed his lip. “Well, yeah. I mean, I think so. Right?” Was it possible he and Snape had become friends without him noticing? And why did he think of this as a good thing?
Snape was looking at him with quite a bit of suspicion. “You think of me as…as a friend?”
“Is that so hard to believe?”
Cameron sighed. Some things would never change, he supposed. “Do you dislike me so much?”
“What? No, of course not. Why should I dislike you?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out!” Conversation with Snape was like a bloody maze.
“I do not dislike you, Mi…Sage.”
“Then why can’t we be friends?”
“Don’t you dislike me?” Snape asked slowly, like Cameron was six years old and not all that bright.
“Huh? What makes you think I don’t like you?”
“Don’t be thick, Sage—no one likes me,” Snape answered, taking a long drink of scotch.
Snape looked up at him with wide eyes.
“Look, Snape,” Cameron proposed, “can’t we just agree that, for whatever reasons, I don’t dislike you and you don’t dislike me?”
“You’re so…nice. Charming. Powerful.”
Cameron gave him a lopsided smile. “You think I’m charming?”
Twin spots of color—not exactly pink, but not the parchment tone of the rest of his skin—appeared on Snape’s cheeks. “No.”
“Oh good,” Cameron answered, trying rather unsuccessfully not to grin like an idiot, “because I don’t think you are, either. Not appealing at all, really.”
Yep, the spots were definitely pink now. Who knew Snape blushed? Cameron decided to have mercy on the man.
“So what’s this job, then?”
Cameron’s breakfast was interrupted by a bird tapping on the window. He didn’t know offhand what kind it was, and it took off again immediately after he relieved it of its burden, so he resigned himself to eternal curiousity.
He couldn’t help but smile—he had been so sure Snape wouldn’t really write him, and he’d never been gladder to be wrong.
That night at the pub, Cameron had surprised both Snape and himself by saying, “We should do this again sometime,” on the way out.
First, Snape had nodded, then changed his mind. Apparently, he’d been planning to spend the summer gathering potion ingredients from various exotic locations and was due to leave soon. Cameron’s first impulse was to offer to go along. He managed to quell that rather frightening instinct and asked Snape to write while he was away.
He tried to push down the anticipation bubbling inside and unrolled his letter.
I am currently in the jungle in Bali, in search of a stellanfruit. There is not much to say about it, except that it’s bloody hot and the monkeys have no fear of humans whatsoever. That may not be true by the time I leave.
The local version of the Ministry—what little there is of one—is an absolute menace. Utter fools, questioning my permit to carry magical botanics out of the country. Ambiguous paperwork, indeed! If they’d learnt their translation spells properly, we wouldn’t be having this problem.
There, you’ve had your letter. Happy?
Master of Potions, HSWW
Cameron couldn’t seem to stop smiling. It was such a Snape letter. He could picture him so clearly—stomping around the tropics in his layers upon layers of black with a scowl, terrorizing monkeys and government officials.
He decided it was high time he got himself an owl. After all, if he was going to be keeping regular correspondence with Snape, he’d need one.
Two hours later, he sat down with quill and parchment to introduce Snape to his new owl, Fuzzball.
He was at a bit of a loss. He’d decided the only way to get his hands on the diary was to wait until the day Malfoy planted it on Ginny at Diagon Alley and nick it before she noticed she had it. And he couldn’t do that for another eight years.
Nagini still wasn’t a Horcrux. And once she was, the Grey Menace would keep her by his side at all times. He’d have to leave her until the last minute so she wouldn’t be replaced.
The cup was presumably already in the Lestrange vault, guarded by all manner of unsavory things, and he wasn’t sure he was prepared for that just yet. Especially not alone.
And the diadem was still in the Room of Requirement, which he still couldn’t get at. This was ten kinds of frustrating.
It had been three months since he’d graduated, and he’d run out of books to read. What was he supposed to do now? He supposed he could get a job. What does one do with a DADA Mastery? The DADA job at Hogwarts was cursed. Not that he didn’t think he could break it if he wanted to, but that would mess with the professors who should be there during Harry’s Hogwarts years. Couldn’t have that.
Maybe he could get a job curse-breaking, like Bill. He could go back to tutoring, but if all teenagers were like Regulus Black, he didn’t think he’d last very long.
He had to do something, though. He didn’t even have the blokes from class to go out to the pub with anymore. No matter how much money he might have, he couldn’t just sit around on him bum all day. It was boring.
Sorry to hear first-year has been cursed with two unmitigated disasters. Try not to kill them, won’t you? Not everyone can be a genius at Potions, you know.
Who’s this Kensington? Sounds like an arse—let me know so I can avoid him. And try not to kill him, either. I don’t care how incompetent he is, they’ll still send you to Azkaban.
I seem, completely by accident, to have become a freelance investigator of possible Dark artifacts. Just last week, I was asked to go through the Matton estate and remove curses from various items the old bat had stashed in her attic. There was a statue of Bast with a permanent, really powerful Confundus Charm on it—I tried to explain to the family that they only had to do the right counter-charm on themselves before handling it, but apparently that would be too much work and they just let me keep it. I don’t know what they think I’m going to do with it, but whatever.
I’m beginning to get fed up with my houseguests, by which I mean the doxies taking over my attic. One of the little buggers bit me yesterday! Do you brew Doxycide? The stuff I bought at the apothecary seems woefully inadequate. All it did was make them a bit woozy for a while, and I think they enjoyed it.
What are you doing for Christmas?
Chapter 6: Here and There
Cameron was unaccountably nervous. All day, he’d been running around the house straightening things that weren’t crooked and casting Dusting Charms on surfaces that didn’t actually have any dust on them. He’d already showered twice and gone through every set of robes he owned.
Get a grip, he told himself, you’re not fourteen. Nor are you a fucking girl.
Plus, it wasn’t like it was a date or anything. Just tea with a mate on Boxing Day. That’s all.
Beyond frustrated, he closed his eyes and plunged a hand into the pile of robes on his bed. Whatever he came up with, he was wearing it.
He found himself holding his green dress robes edged with golden embroidery. Well, thank the Founders for that. He’d have hated to go back on his word.
Finally, he was clothed and his hair tied back. He fretted over which teacups to use for a while before he remembered that he only had one set and the issue was entirely moot. The clock on the mantel chimed four, and he threw himself into an armchair in the sitting room and snatched up a book in an attempt to feign nonchalance. He was slightly out of breath, but maybe that wouldn’t show.
Moments later, Snape stepped gracefully out of the fireplace, not a speck of ash on him.
“How do you do that?”
Snape raised an eyebrow in question.
“Come out all spotless and dapper?”
“A simple Repelling Charm takes care of the soot. The rest, I fear, is down to natural poise. I suppose that means you’re in for a life of stumbling out of floos.”
“Ha bloody ha,” Cameron replied and gestured to the other chair. “Please, have a seat.”
He busied himself pouring tea and inquiring about additives for a few moments, then they lapsed into silence. Snape seemed perfectly content to sip his tea and stare.
Cameron couldn’t help noticing that he was better dressed than usual. His black, form-fitting robes were trimmed with burgundy velvet and his hair was so shiny. He wondered what it would feel li—
“So,” he ventured, cutting off his thoughts before they got too ridiculous, “how was your Christmas?”
Cameron sipped his tea and tried, once again, to decide if he was going to give Snape his present or not. He didn’t want to seem forward or make Snape uncomfortable for not getting him anything in return, but he still wanted to give it to him. Maybe later.
“Working on anything interesting, now that you’ve a break from the dunderheads?”
“Not particularly. The infirmary needed restocking.”
Silence. Again. This was not going nearly as well as he’d hoped. Still, Snape was there, and that was something. Wasn’t it?
“Why did you ask me here?” Snape asked abruptly.
Why, indeed? He had no idea. Then he had a sudden thought.
“I have an ulterior motive, of course,” he answered, smiling.
“Are you planning to inform me, or shall I have to guess?”
“I was hoping you’d return the favor. I’ve heard so much about how beautiful Hogwarts is, and I’ve never been there. I’d love to see the castle sometime.” If he could get Snape to invite him there, he’d be able to make a detour to the Room of Requirement and get the diadem. Not to mention he’d get to see Snape again. He didn’t delve into why that seemed so important.
“Perhaps I shall consider it—if I like your gift well enough,” Snape answered with a smirk.
“Wha—how did you know?”
“Sage, I can feel you fretting about it from here. Out with it; I’ve brought a small something for you as well.”
Warmth suffused his chest and he couldn’t hold back his grin. He held out a hand and Summoned the present.
Snape’s jaw dropped. “Did you just…was that…?”
What was Snape going on about? He inspected the package, but other than the wrapping being a bit, well, garish, there was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Where’s your wand, Sage?”
Oh. Well, shit. This was what he got for being distracted. “I, er. I think it’s on my bedside table. No big deal. Don’t you want your gift?” he asked, holding out the package.
Snape just looked at him incredulously. “ ‘No big deal’? Are you daft? Nonverbal and wandless? How long have you been able to do that?”
“Since I was nineteen.” He held the box out again. “Do you want it or not?”
“I…I—yes. Yes. Here’s yours,” he finally answered, fishing a small package out of his robes and enlarging it.
They exchanged gifts, his guest looking at him warily all the while. Snape opened his present without taking his eyes off Cameron, but finally tore his gaze away to see what it was.
He held up the plaque, which read ‘Master at Play’ and quirked an eyebrow.
“To hang outside your lab,” Cameron explained.
“You realize this is liable to send the students into fits.”
“Yes, that’s part of its charm.”
Snape looked like he wanted to be amused, but was still too worried Cameron might do…something. He sighed and opened his present. Nestled in folds of tissue, he found a Sneak-o-scope.
“Thanks, this is great!”
“To, er, aid you in your…snooping.”
Cameron laughed, but Snape still looked guarded, like he was waiting for Cameron to use his quick reflexes and overabundant power to do something unspeakable to him.
“Oh, take a deep breath. I’m not the bloody Dark Lord.”
Snape’s eyes went impossibly wide and he jerked his left arm up against his abdomen. “You—you couldn’t possibly…Are you…?”
Cameron sighed. He really needed to learn to control his tongue better when he was upset. It was kind of entertaining how easy it was to get Snape out of sorts, but he didn’t want the man scared. He told Snape the truth—or part of it, anyway.
“No, I’m not a Death Eater. But I know that you were—I can sense the Mark on you.”
Snape seemed to be paralyzed with fear or shock or some other unsavory emotion. After several minutes of silence, Snape sprang to his feet. “I’ll just—I should…,” he mumbled, heading for the floo.
“No, wait! Don’t go, please,” Cameron begged, grabbing Snape by the arm.
He turned back with a pained look. “How could you possibly want me to stay, knowing what you know about me?”
“Because I know more about you than just that. I know you’re a good man. Tell me—did you enjoy what you did when you were a Death Eater?”
He opened his mouth, but didn’t say anything.
“You can tell me anything, Snape. I’ll keep your secrets. I’ll even swear an Oath, if you like.” It was a bit drastic—he’d lose his magic if he broke a Wizard’s Oath—but he knew he’d never betray Snape’s confidence.
“Merlin, you’re serious, aren’t you? No, you don’t need to do that.”
“Sit back down,” Cameron entreated, “Talk to me.”
“I—this is very personal. I don’t…”
“I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me anything, of course. Only if you want to.”
“I—I joined him of my own free will. But before he fell, I defected, became a spy for the other side. I never enjoyed it. It was—That’s all I’ll say.” He looked as if even that little bit cost him a great deal.
“That’s more than enough, Snape,” he assured the man, who still seemed a bit skittish. He held up the teapot. “Another cuppa?”
“What do you mean, you hope there’s a curse in here? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone who wanted a hexed bedroom.”
He studied the man in front of him, wondering if this job had been a good idea after all. He didn’t look mentally unstable.
“It’s just—,” Marks started. “It’s very personal, you see…”
“Mr. Marks, you can rely on my discretion,” he said, hoping to put the man at ease so they could get this over with already.
“Right. It’s like this—every time I bring someone in here, they change their mind and leave.”
“I…see.” He didn’t see at all. He was here, and he didn’t want to leave. Well, not so much that he suspected a curse, anyway.
“Women, I mean.”
“Oh. Oh. I think I understand.”
Marks sighed in relief. “Good. Do you…do you think you can help me?” he pleaded with a hopeful look.
“I’ll certainly try. Give me a few hours in here and we’ll know.”
Less than an hour later, he found Marks in his sitting room.
He looked up from his book in surprise. “Did you find it already?”
“I think so,” Cameron answered. “Tell me, do you recognize this magical signature?” He performed a complex bit of magic that exponentially amplified the signature he’d found on one of the knobs of Marks dresser.
Marks’ eyes widened. “Miranda!” he gasped. “I—I never thought she’d do something like that. I suppose I did sort of deserve it…”
“I removed the curse, but you might want to apologize to her. That was a very strong Revulsion Hex—I wouldn’t want to be on that witch’s bad side.” Cameron wasn’t sure it was such a good idea, really. She’d probably caught him in bed with someone else. Well, maybe he’d get another job out of it when she cast an Impotence Curse on him or something.
Marks seemed to be thinking something similar. “I…I’ll think about it.”
It wasn’t until school had let out for the summer that one of Snape’s letters mentioned a Hogwarts visit. He couldn’t blame him, really. It wouldn’t do for any students to see him visiting the feared Potions Master and start to think he was human.
When he presented himself at the gates, Snape was there to meet him. It was their first meeting since Christmas, and he found he had to force himself to look away from the man and exclaim over the forest and the lake and the castle.
Once they were inside, Snape showed him to the Great Hall, and he acted like he was struggling not to be impressed by the enchanted ceiling. It was a rather impressive bit of spell-work, after all.
To his horror, they ran into Dumbledore on the way out of the Hall. His first instinct was to fling his arms around him and tell him how much he’d missed him. But the Headmaster had never met Cameron Sage. Luckily, Dumbledore was looking at Snape and didn’t see the longing he knew must have shown on his face for a moment.
Once he’d gotten himself under control, he noticed that Snape seemed rather uneasy. Dumbledore just looked amused, and a bit curious.
“Headmaster, may I present Cameron Sage?”
Cameron stuck out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Professor Dumbledore.”
“You as well, Mr. Sage. I see my reputation precedes me.”
Cameron mentally kicked himself, but, really, who didn’t know who Dumbledore was? He was glad to note that no one seemed the least bit suspicious.
“What brings you to Hogwarts, Mr. Sage?” Dumbledore asked. Snape looked even more nervous at that, and shifted his gaze to the stone wall.
“My friend here was kind enough to invite me for a visit. I’ve heard so much about the castle over the years, I just had to see it for myself.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrow at Snape. “Your friend, hmm? And how long have the two of you been friends?”
Snape narrowed his eyes. “Leave me alone, Albus. You’re just upset that you’re not omniscient, after all. I’ve a right to a private life.”
“Of course you do, my boy—I would never suggest otherwise. I’m simply pleased for you. Enjoy your visit, Mr. Sage,” he added, and wandered off.
“Barmy old codger. Go choke on a lemon drop,” Snape muttered and Cameron couldn’t help laughing.
“Is he always like that?” he asked, knowing full well that he was.
“Worse, usually. He doesn’t like to be caught unawares and it threw him off his stride. I could use a drink—join me?”
At his first glace of Snape’s personal quarters, he decided they must have come furnished. The furniture matched that of his old dorm and common room, and from what little he had seen, the Slytherin common room as well. He knew Snape had been living there for three years, but the only remotely personal items were the books crammed into the bookcase.
“Brandy?” Snape offered. “I’m afraid I don’t have any scotch.”
Cameron nodded. For some reason, it warmed him that Snape had remembered his drink of choice, even if he couldn’t offer it.
Once they were settled on the sofa with their drinks, he asked, “So are you planning another ingredient-gathering expedition this summer?”
Snape shook his head. “Nothing so exciting. I’ll be here at the castle. What about you—any plans for the summer?”
“Well, a client recently purchased a house in South Africa and he’s engaged me to check it for curses, but that should only take about a week. I might hang around there for a while though, do some sightseeing or something. I don’t really know yet.”
“Hm. Sounds interesting. I saw your article in last month’s Dark Artifacts. It turned out rather less tedious than it might have.”
Two hours and three glasses of brandy later, Cameron reluctantly stood up and made his excuses. If he stayed much longer, he’d probably get too drunk to do what he needed to. After convincing Snape that he’d be able to find his own way out, he headed to the door.
“I though perhaps we could…meet for a drink sometime. When you’re back from Africa. If you like,” Snape hesitantly proposed.
Cameron couldn’t help smiling at how nervous Snape seemed. “Of course. That would be great.”
Snape let out a breath in obvious relief. Was he really so unsure Cameron would want to talk to him or spend time with him?
“You’ll write while you’re gone?”
“You know me. Expect an annoying letter at least once a week.”
Snape’s lip twitched in one of those almost-smiles and they said good night.
He had been a bit worried about running into someone, especially Dumbledore, on his way to the seventh floor, but the corridors were completely deserted. In no time at all, he had the diadem concealed under his cloak and made his way to the gates to Apparate home.
Chapter 7: Modifications
After leaving yet another scorched patch in the meadow, this one encircling a somewhat opalescent lump from the tiara’s gems melting and blending with the metal, he headed south.
The house took almost two weeks to rid of curses. Obviously, the previous owners had had too much time on their hands, in addition to being a little bit nuts and rather enamored of the Dark Arts.
On the third day, he’d been surprised by a man entering the house and pinned him to the ground, only to learn that he was the next-door-neighbor and had noticed activity in the long-abandoned house. After he convinced the man that he had a legitimate reason to be there and let him up, they shared a look of mutual appraisal.
The sex had been good, but for some reason it didn’t feel quite right and Cameron didn’t seek him out again. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but it was definitely something.
And, after the longer than expected job on the house, he didn’t feel like hanging around anymore. He just wanted to get back to Britain. He knew Snape had much more free time in the summer, and he wanted to take advantage of it before school started up again.
How’s the new truth serum coming? Have you thought of a name for it yet? It sounds intriguing, but it also scares me to death. I’m sure you know what I mean.
My garden finally looks like a garden. I’ve been working on it since I moved in eight years ago, but I really put my back into it the last few months. I might actually make use of the stone bench out there, now that it isn’t such an eyesore.
I leave for Switzerland next week—September third. I’m really looking forward to the symposium. Bolton Schendry himself is giving a workshop on curse detection. Can you believe it? There’s also a dueling workshop I’m really excited about. It’s too bad school is starting—I think you’d really enjoy it.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back. The symposium lasts a month, but I’ll probably stick around there for a while. Never been to Switzerland before.
Congratulation on being appointed Head of House, I guess. You didn’t seem particularly pleased about it, but I’m sure you’ll do a great job. Just try not to make any of them cry.
Time to go. I’ve got a ton of packing to do.
He rolled his letter whistled. The owl alighted on the kitchen table and he instructed, “This is for Snape, of course. He’ll probably be at Hogwarts,” as he secured it. “Off you go then, Fuzzball.”
Once the owl had taken off through the window, he got out his suitcase and wondered what the weather was like in Switzerland.
It was February before he made it back to the UK. The symposium had been every bit as interesting as he’d been hoping. He’d learned a lot, but he’d surprised himself somewhat by not sleeping with any of the wizards he met there. He didn’t quite understand his sudden lack of interest in sexual liaisons, but decided it wasn’t really anything to worry about and ignored it.
He’d spent the next several months in a rented chalet, working his way through all the references brought up at the symposium that he hadn’t yet read and learning how to snow ski. By the time he left, he could make it all the way through a run without falling down, but only just. He decided that perhaps skiing wasn’t really for him.
He resolved to accept the next invitation he received to join a pick-up Quidditch match. It was much more his speed.
He was a bit sad that he and Snape wouldn’t be able to resume meeting for drinks every other weekend like they had in the summer. He missed their conversations. Letters were all well and good, but it just wasn’t the same. But Snape had Head of House duties now, and he couldn’t really leave school grounds except in extraordinary circumstances. Maybe they’d be able to start again once summer rolled around.
It was the last week of August, and the last time they’d be able to do this for a while. As a result, they’d gotten a bit drunker than usual.
He had to stop himself from begging Snape to stay just a little longer when he said it was high time he got back to the castle. They settled their tabs and stumbled toward the door.
“Are you okay to Apparate, Snape?” he asked once they were outside.
Snape smirked. “I’ve Apparated with no less than eight, no nine broken bones and quite a bit of blood loss before—a bit of Scotch isn’t going to stop me.”
Cameron stopped himself from asking if Snape was all right—it had happened a long time ago, and he was obviously just fine.
“Until we meet again, then.”
“Yes,” Snape said, “Perhaps at Christmas?”
But Cameron couldn’t answer right away because Snape had raised a hand and gently stroked his knuckles across Cameron’s cheek. What was he doing? Why was Snape touching him? And why couldn’t he seem to breathe properly anymore?
“Sage? Christmas?” Snape asked again, lowering the distracting hand.
“Christmas. Yes, perhaps,” he answered, still wondering what in the name of the Founders was going on.
Snape sighed, seeming a bit disappointed for no reason that Cameron could fathom, then said goodnight and Disapparated.
He’d invited Snape for Boxing Day tea again, but he’d seemed distracted the entire time. When he rubbed his arm for the third time, Cameron gave up pretending not to notice.
“Snape, is something wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t mean to pry, but is your Mark bothering you?”
Snape pressed his lips into a thin line and looked away. “It—it’s like it itches,” he admitted with extreme reluctance.
“Has it ever done that before?”
“Off and on for the last few weeks.”
“You know what that means, don’t you?” he asked. Cameron, of course, knew exactly what it meant. Even if he hadn’t known it for a fact, he’d learned enough researching for his Master’s thesis to guess. The Supreme Prat’s spirit was gathering strength.
“I have a guess. I hope to Merlin I’m wrong.”
“But you know you’re right.”
“What would you know about it?” Snape snapped.
“Calm down, would you? I did my thesis on the Dark Mark—I probably know more about it than anyone save the monster who put it there.”
“Ah.” Snape studied his lap for a moment, then abruptly looked up at Cameron with a expression of unmasked hope. “Do you know how to remove it?”
“Oh. Er, not as such. There isn’t a counter-curse—it wasn’t meant to be removed.” Snape’s face fell. “But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Would you mind…?” he asked, gesturing at Snape’s arm.
“I suppose not,” he answered and rolled his sleeve up to the elbow. It was obvious that he had to force himself to turn his arm over, that he was waiting for Cameron’s recriminations.
Cameron kept his face carefully neutral, knowing that Snape would think the disgust he felt for the one who’d done the branding was directed at him. He placed a hand over the Mark and closed his eyes, feeling for the dark magic inside his friend.
“Wow,” he said without opening his eyes, “does it hurt all the time?”
“Less so since he’s been…gone, but yes. It does.” No wonder Snape was always so cranky. Well, the pain definitely couldn’t be helping, anyway.
Cameron sifted through the magic he found, focusing until he could separate it into distinct threads. “This is even more complex than I expected,” he commented, mostly to himself, then asked, “When he…when he did it, did he say the incantation in Parseltongue? Any part of it?”
“No, he didn’t say anything at all. It was all nonverbal.”
“Good.” Cameron had been hoping he wouldn’t have to reveal his ability to Snape. It would be rather difficult to explain.
After what felt like only a few minutes to him, but was probably almost an hour, he removed his hand and looked up. “I’m not sure if I can remove it or not. I think it’s possible, but I wouldn’t know until I tried. Are you sure you want me to do that? You won’t be able to spy anymore when he comes back.”
“You’re so certain that he will?”
“You know it’s the only explanation. He’s out there somewhere, gathering strength, and as soon as he’s able he’ll pick up right where he left off.”
Snape looked away, considering. “I suppose not, then. It isn’t worth the loss of intelligence.”
“It’s your choice, of course, but your safety and mental well-being seems more than worth it to me.”
Snape’s eyebrows went up. “I—thank you for that. But I have to do what I can. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. Let me do this little bit for you, though,” he said and leaned forward to take Snape’s arm again.
When he was finished, Snape looked at him warily. “What did you do?”
“Does it still hurt?” Cameron asked.
Snape looked down at his arm in surprise. “No. How…?”
“It’s complicated. I’m not sure I could really explain it. I just know that I made it so he can’t use it to hurt you anymore. You’ll still know if he calls, but it won’t be painful. Did you know he could have killed you through it if he wanted to?”
“No, he neglected to mention that. It isn’t exactly a shock, though.”
“Yeah, not really an open and honest sort of guy, is he? Now that I’ve poked around with it a bit, I’m sure I could remove it completely. I can’t guarantee it won’t hurt, but I could do it.”
“Are you…are you certain?”
Cameron nodded. “Completely. If you change your mind, let me know, okay?” He sincerely hoped Snape would. Thinking about him walking willingly into the viper pit made Cameron shudder.
“You’ll be the first.”
The conversation about Snape’s Mark brought The Quest forcibly back to the forefront of his mind. He still couldn’t get at the diary, but he knew exactly where Hufflepuff’s cup was, and waiting wasn’t going to make getting it any easier.
His biggest concern was retrieving it undetected. If Bellatrix was alerted after she managed to escape Azkaban that her vault had been robbed, she might tell her beloved Master and that would not be good. There was always the possibility that she’d keep it to herself, fearing punishment, but he couldn’t count on that. It would be nice if he could use Gryffindor’s sword as a bargaining chip again, but there was no way he would be able to get his hands on it without arousing suspicion. Or getting arrested.
After months of fretting, the answer came to him in the form of an accident.
He was stumbling home through the floo after having a few too many (somehow it seemed healthier to drink alone at the pub rather than alone at home, but that obviously wasn’t taking travel into account) when he reached up to the mantel for balance. He couldn’t remember anything after that when he awoke on the floor the next morning. At first, he thought it was just the alcohol fogging is memory, but then he saw the statue he’d knocked to the floor in his struggle to stay upright.
The cursed statue of Bast.
After raiding his stock of store-bought potions for a hangover remedy, it all seemed so simple. He’d bring the statue with him to Gringott’s, acting like he wanted to add it to his vault, and once he was alone with his goblin escort, use it to Confund him into thinking he was allowed access to the Lestrange vault even without a key, and leave without anyone being the wiser. He’d just have to be sure not to actually touch anything in the vault. Or let the goblin get the drop on him. Or anger the dragon.
It didn’t go quite as smoothly as he’d hoped—he had a bit (maybe more than a bit) of a burn on his right arm from the blasted dragon—but by July, he’d added one more to the collection of burnt patches in the meadow.
Chapter 8: The Agony of Standing Still
“What the devil is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” he answered, shifting his burned arm, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt.
“I’m not stupid, Sage. No doubt, you know this already. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that you don’t trust me.”
“No! I just—it’s just a burn.” His arm jolted at his vigorous protest and he gasped in pain.
“Let me see,” Snape demanded, getting up, rounding the booth, and sliding into the seat next to Cameron.
Cameron sighed and started to roll up his sleeve. Bloody single-minded git.
Snape’s eyes widened in alarm. “What have you been doing playing with dragons? Have you an active death wish?” he hissed.
Cameron almost smiled. He probably would have if he’d been able to muster one.
“I got away mostly unscathed.”
“Unsca—half your right arm has been breathed on by a dragon! Are you out of your bleeding mind? Please tell me you at least had good reason for it.”
“I did. It was guarding an artifact I needed,” he prevaricated.
“That is not a good enough reason!” Snape’s level of concern was pretty cute, but he needed to stop shouting.
“Calm down, would you, mate? It was days ago, and I’m obviously not dying. I got what I needed. I conquered the dragon. I promise not to do it again.”
“Not without me, you’re not. And I’m sending you an appropriate salve as soon as I get back to Hogwarts.”
Cameron couldn’t hold back his smile at that. “Fine. Now will you drink your bloody Scotch? The ice is melting.”
Snape drank his Scotch, grumbling, and did not return to his seat for the rest of the evening. Cameron drank his Scotch and pretended not to notice.
He was restless. It was still five years until he had a chance to get his hands on the diary, and that was all that was left. Or all that wouldn’t need to be left until the last minute.
What was he supposed to do for five bloody years?
He spent a good bit of his time checking objects for dark magic and removing hexes, but it wasn’t enough. Every evening when he went home, he felt utterly useless.
There were a couple of regulars at the pub he talked to, and every now and then he went to the pub near the university and chatted with old classmates. But he still had to come home, with nothing better to do than sit there and wait. It was maddening.
The most exciting thing I have to say about Siberia is that it’s bloody fucking cold. I’m almost certain the thing I’m out here digging for doesn’t even exist, much less here, but the pay is good and I plan to drag it out as long as possible. The people are few and far between, which I’m sure you can appreciate.
Draco is Lucius Malfoy’s kid, right? What are you, his personal apothecary? Just tell him to buy his Dragon Pox remedy at the store like everyone else if it pisses you off so much. Of course, the fact that you haven’t done so already tells me you don’t actually mind. That, or you’re in his debt. I wonder.
Stop your huffing, I’m not going to ask.
There’s a white rabbit that keeps coming round the house I’m staying in. Well, shack, whatever. I think he likes the heat. He’s fairly entertaining, at any rate.
Missed you at Christmas.
There is a second blasted Weasley in my classes. I hear there are more in the wings. Am I never to have peace?
Sprout is now Head of Hufflepuff. She’s not quite as incompetent as her predecessor, though she is unceasingly happy. It’s enough to give the most patient of wizards a headache. Imagine the size of my migraine.
What in the Founders’ names are you doing in New Zealand? I thought you were in Hong Kong. Were there not enough pretty men there to hold your attention?
Master of Potions, HSWW
He was never going to get all these infuriating spines out of his leg. Bloody cactuses. Cacti. Whatever. He hated them all.
He gritted his teeth as he finally, finally, pulled the last one out. He was never going near a cactus again. He’d steer clear of deserts in general, in fact, just for good measure. In an effort to forget the throbbing pain in his calf and the humiliation of stumbling right into the fucking thing, he pulled out parchment, quill, and ink.
I hate cacti. Every last one of them.
Did I mention I’m in Mexico now? They’ve got great food here. The scenery’s nice too, as long as you stay away from the bloody cacti.
There actually haven’t been any men, pretty or otherwise, lately. Don’t know what’s up with me. I’ve decided not to dwell on it.
I’m pretty sure I could avoid your hex, but in the interests of self-preservation I’ll not inquire after your love life. Much as I’m dying to know.
It’s bloody well hot here. It’s the middle of summer in the desert, after all, but still. I think I’ll go somewhere more temperate next. Perhaps the Mediterranean? Do you suppose the Parthenon has curses in need of removal?
“Fuzzy? Where’d you get to? Fuzzball! I’ve got a job for you!” he called. Several minutes later, the lazy good-for-nothing perched on his shoulder and gave him a nip.
“So you finally came back. Couldn’t quite believe it until I stepped out of the floo.”
“Oh, shut up, Snape. Happy Christmas to you, too.”
Cameron fairly drank in the sight of him after so long. Snape sat and they busied themselves with tea and biscuits for a few minutes.
“I take it you enjoyed your many and various adventures?”
Cameron gave a small smile. “As I’m sure you enjoyed spewing vitriol to a captive audience?”
“Indubitably. It is, as you know, what I live for.”
Snape kept his straight face, but Cameron didn’t. “Oh, screw the tea. You want a drink?”
“Only if it’s a large one.”
They’d made it through three glasses of Scotch apiece before Cameron remembered about presents.
“Almost forgot. Here you go. I found it in an Aztec temple,” he said, levitating the package to his guest.
After it was unwrapped, Snape stared at it for a while.
“This a catalogue of potions used by the Aztecs.”
Cameron nodded. “Yes.”
“It’s thousands of years old. Sage, this book is…is invaluable.”
“Fairly likely, yes.”
“And you’re just…giving it to me.”
Cameron’s smile was bemused. “Well, yeah. That’s how Christmas presents work. We’ve done this before, you remember.”
“…lost your mind,” he heard Snape mumble while digging Cameron’s present out of his robes.
“Is this a joke?” he asked once he’d got it open.
“Er, yes. It is.”
Cameron read the title one more time—The Idiot’s Guide to Dragon-Slaying—and burst out laughing.
When he saw Snape’s smile—his smile, who knew he could smile (really smile), and who knew it would do such strange things to Cameron’s insides—his breath caught in his throat and the laughter died an undignified coughing, sputtering death. What was that about? Well. He wasn’t going to think about it.
Once he’d recovered somewhat, he refilled his glass and raised the bottle. “Another?”
By the time he helped Snape to the fireplace, he’d lost count of how many they’d had. He was at that point where absolutely everything was funny and it was difficult to walk and if he had one more he’d be sick.
Snape made a grab for the floo powder, missed, and got it on the second try. He turned and, with his powder-free hand, thankfully, reached up to tuck the hair behind Cameron’s ear. Only he didn’t move his hand when he finished, and suddenly everything wasn’t so funny anymore. He just brushed his thumb over the sensitive skin on Cameron’s neck.
And then Snape was leaning forward and closing his eyes and Cameron could smell him he was so close and didn’t he smell wonderful…
And then Snape took a step backward, until he hit the mantel. “Wow,” he said, looking somewhere off to the left, “Sorry about that.”
Sorry? Sorry? Cameron opened and closed his mouth a few times, but no sound came out.
“I—I’ve had too much to drink,” Snape said to the air next to Cameron, “and so have you. It—I—my ap-apologies.”
And then, in a flurry of robes, Cameron still trying to work out why he felt slighted, Snape was gone.
He spent the next several days thinking, sometimes with the aid of Scotch, sometimes without. Mostly with.
Snape was sorry? Was he sorry he’d started or sorry he’d stopped? Maybe he was just sorry he’d drunk so much.
He knew enough to realize which part he himself was sorry about. He could kick himself for not reaching out, pulling Snape closer, keeping him there. Kissing him breathless.
But what if Snape hadn’t really meant it? Who knew if Snape even really liked men that way. What if it was just the Scotch, like he’d said? And since when was that what Cameron wanted?
Well, he didn’t know when things had changed, but it was undoubtedly what he wanted. He found himself daydreaming about comfortably commandeering Snape’s dressing gown (did he even use a dressing gown?), showering with Snape (maybe he preferred baths?), waking up in Snape’s arms (falling asleep in the same), fighting over sections of the Prophet (did Snape have a subscription?). He fantasized sex, too, but he’d fantasized sex with plenty of men. The cozy domesticity part was new and it was freaking him out a bit.
He ran through dozens of scenarios in which he’d confront Snape and tell him how he felt (how exactly did he feel?) or pin him against the wall with the full length of his body. While some ended spectacularly, the majority ended in disaster.
And then he was back to the ‘sorry’. What if that wasn’t what Snape wanted? Or what if it was just lust he felt, just sex he wanted? What if he acted rashly and lost the best friend he’d ever had?
Even the possibility made him grimace.
Plus, Cameron had never wanted more than just sex with anyone before, and he didn’t really know how that worked. He took a wild guess that Snape didn’t, either. How did you go from ‘casual fucking’ to ‘I want to spend my life with you’?
Bloody fuck. His life? Was that really what he wanted?
The answer was a resounding (if surprising) ‘yes’ and he thought maybe he’d found a word to pin on how he felt, after all.
Stunned, he resolved to lay off the Scotch for at least the next twenty-four hours and see if it went away. He had his doubts, but a man could hope.
His first instinct upon stepping out of the house on the first Friday after term ended was to Apparate…somewhere far away. Australia had been nice. Instead, he forced himself to focus on the pub.
The thing he’d figured out had not gone away upon sobering up as he’d hoped and they’d both carefully avoided mentioning anything about ‘the Christmas incident’ in their letters, but there was a surprising lack of awkwardness. Had Snape been so drunk that he didn’t even remember? He wasn’t sure if that would be good or bad.
An hour later, when he licked a drop of Scotch off his bottom lip and that bit of not-quite-pink color crept into Snapes cheeks, he gave an inner shout of triumph. He was proud of himself for continuing his rant on the Minister’s latest stupid speech without breaking stride.
“Fudge is a charlatan,” Snape agreed, “I can only assume the public experienced some sort of shared moment of insanity brought on by the Dark Lord’s fall. They never did anything quite that stupid while they were afraid for their lives. And now we’ve got to live with it for—how long has it been?—nine more years. Terms are too bloody long, fifteen bloody years…”
Cameron smiled as Snape trailed off, grumbling. What he wouldn’t give to be able to talk to this man like this every single day. It probably wouldn’t be very good for his blood pressure, but he couldn’t imagine anything better. He did his best to put it out of his mind.
That lasted until he found himself standing in the exact spot outside the pub where Snape had reached up and touched his cheek that time. How could he have dismissed that? It had been three whole years, and he’d forgotten all about it until that moment.
“All right there, Sage?” Snape asked, and he realized he must have been standing there reminiscing for too long.
“Not really,” he answered and looped a hand around Snape’s neck, pulling him down to compensate for the two-inch height difference. He brushed his lips across Snape’s, and it was so much sweeter than he’d imagined… “Severus,” he breathed, surprised that it came out that way.
“Say it again, say my name.”
Cameron’s lips curled against Snape’s. “Severus,” he said, a bit more firmly, and crushed his mouth against Snape’s, drowning in the rightness of it.
Unfortunately, that seemed to bring Snape back to reality and he slowly pushed Cameron away by the shoulders, ending the all-too-brief moment of bliss.
“I—should I be apologizing for that?” Cameron asked.
“Is that what you want to do?”
“Not really.” He tried really hard not to think about what exactly he did want to do.
“We’ve had too much to drink. Again.”
“Probably so. Have you ever…considered doing something like this when you were sober?”
Snape’s mouth opened, then closed, and he looked away.
“I have.” Cameron bit his lip, then asked, “Does that bother you?”
“I can’t decide if I’m too drunk or too sober to have this conversation with you.”
Cameron was rapidly beginning to wish he’d never gotten out of bed this morning. “Just tell me one thing, then. Are you—can we—will I see you again?” he asked, trying not to sound too desperate, praying that he hadn’t ruined everything.
He let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. “Maybe firecall me when you’re sober? Or drunker—whichever.” At the careful non-expression on Snape’s face, he added, “Or I’ll just see you in two weeks.
Snape nodded curtly and Disapparated with a louder than usual crack. Cameron tried not to feel as if the world was coming down around his ears.
Chapter 9: Getting Closer
He spent the next two weeks waiting for a call that never came. The house seemed to sense his morose mood and all the windows were dark. The stairs even left off trying to trip him. He forced himself not to drink, so Snape wouldn’t be able to use it as an excuse again. He didn’t leave the house once, just in case he missed it. But was all for naught.
It was with no small amount of trepidation that he closed his eyes at seven o’clock and Apparated to the pub. Would Snape even come?
He jumped when a hand landed on his shoulder.
“Sage? Is something wrong? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone succeed in sneaking up on you before.”
“Snape, hi.” Cameron looked everywhere but at the man standing next to him, berating himself for letting his guard down and waiting for Snape to say something. Was something wrong? Was he just going to pretend nothing had happened? They sat at their regular booth and waited for their drinks without speaking.
He stared into his glass, trying not to think about it. It wasn’t working. Then a horrible thought occurred to him. Snape never would talk about…
“Oh god. You’re not seeing someone else, are you? I didn’t…you never said—”
Snape looked at him incredulously. “Sage, are you serious? Even if it were possible that I had a…a l-lover, I could never have kept that from you. You’re my onl—my best friend.”
Cameron’s heart sank. “So it’s just me, then. I—just please tell me we can still be friends? I don’t think I could—” This was just too hard. How could he have been so wrong? He’d truly thought Snape was receptive before. He tried to focus on the fact that Snape had called him his best friend, but it wasn’t enough to drown the overwhelming sense of loss that was stealing his breath. How could he be mourning something he’d never really had? He’d been rejected before, but it had never felt like this. Nothing had ever felt like this.
“—you all right?”
He forced himself to pay attention. “Oh, I…of course, I’m fine,” he answered, and finally looked over at Snape. He looked frustrated, and he was fidgeting. Snape never fidgeted.
“Sage, I—” he broke off and muttered, “Get a grip on yourself, man,” then looked back up, visibly steeling himself. “I apologize if I’ve given the wrong impression. If you’re still…interested, I would like to—to attempt a—to be with…” Snape’s hand gripped his glass so tightly Cameron was worried it might break. More so, he was concerned about his heart breaking free of his ribcage.
“You’d like to give it a go, you mean? With me?”
Snape nodded curtly. “If you’re amenable,” he said to his Scotch.
“I’ll show you amenable,” Cameron mumbled as he clambered to his feet and slid into the seat next to Snape. “Kiss me, Severus.”
Snape’s eyes were wide and he looked terrified, but he did.
Oh, did he ever. He was hesitant at first, but when Cameron slid past his slightly parted lips and licked his teeth he moaned and melted against Cameron.
Snape jerked away when the bartender set the next round on their table. “About time you boys got down to it,” he said and started walking away, “Nearly five damn years you been comin’ in ‘ere, lookin’ all ga-ga at each other…”
Snape’s cheeks colored and Cameron smiled. “Do you want to take this some place more private?” he asked, “We could—”
“No!” Snape interrupted, with rather more force than Cameron considered absolutely necessary.
“That’s fine, no problem,” he said in what he hoped was a soothing tone of voice. “We can stay here. Shall I go back to my side?” Please say no, please say no…
“No. Unless you want to. It’s just, I’ve never…there’ve been a few women, but I never thought…I-I’ve never…done this before…with a m-man.” Snape’s cheeks were beyond pink now and he looked like he was considering crawling under the table.
Well no wonder he was being so hesitant! “Thank Merlin!”
Snape’s eyes narrowed into a defensive glare. “What?”
“No! I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just glad to know you were unsure because I’m male, instead of because of me personally. Don’t worry, we’ll take it slow. Just drinks and a goodnight kiss tonight, all right?” he promised, but he couldn’t bring himself to return to his seat. After all, Snape had said he could stay.
He pressed his thigh against Snape’s and heard his gasp. Valiantly ignoring the effect that had on his libido, he resolved to stop pushing and ventured, “What about Regulus? I mean, I understand if you don’t want to tell me, but I sort of thought the two of you…?”
“Oh. Well, I…no. He had just been recruited, and it was my job to discover his talents, his strengths and weaknesses.”
“I see. He didn’t know that, did he?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I could tell that he was…drawn to me—more so than any of the women I ever bedded, honestly—but I wasn’t attracted to him. Besides, he was so…”
“He was rather immature, wasn’t he? I nearly resorted to Unforgivables to get him to stop whinging at me.”
Snape’s half-smile was sad. “I feel somewhat responsible for getting him involved in all of that.”
Cameron bit his lip, wondering how much to say. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. He saw the truth before the end.”
Snape turned to look at him. “You’re certain? I had heard that the Dark Lord killed him for betraying him, but no one knew for sure.”
“I am. The Dark Lord didn’t kill him, but he died doing what he believed was right, fighting against the evil bastard in the only way he knew.”
“You’re not going to tell me how you know that, are you?”
“I—no, I’m not. Maybe one day.”
To his surprise, Snape didn’t seem upset by that. He just nodded, sipped his drink, and said, “Thank you for sharing what you could.”
Cameron supposed that if anyone would understand about the necessity of keeping secrets, it would be the spy sitting next to him.
Cameron spent the rest of the summer taking Snape to plays and dinners and symphonies. Neither of them, he was certain, had known much of romance or wooing, and he was determined to make Snape understand how important he was to him.
It was the last weekend before school started, and as they walked toward the nearest apparition point to the opera house, Snape seemed nervous. Cameron was about to give him the traditional kiss goodnight when he spoke.
“Would you…perhaps we could…a nightcap?”
Cameron ran the words through his head a couple of times and nodded. “Where?”
“Oh, I, er…”
Cameron sincerely hoped he was right about Snape’s motivations, here. “Some place more private, maybe?”
Snape nodded, not making eye contact.
“Is my place all right?” Snape nodded again and he could barely contain his elation as he wrapped his arms around the thin frame and Apparated right through his wards into the sitting room.
“Do you really want a drink?”
“Not really, no. Unless you do.” Cameron shook his head. “Ah. I don’t really, I mean…”
“It’s all right. Slow, remember? Sit with me,” he said, tugging Snape down until they were side-by-side on the sofa. He was just as nervous as Snape, but somebody was going to have to take some action and he knew it wasn’t going to be Snape, not yet.
He reached over to brush the hair off Snape’s face. “Just relax,” he pleaded, guiding Snape’s mouth closer.
Snape was used to the kissing, by then, and it was just as amazing as ever. Soft (if thin) lips, chin with barely any stubble (even though it was almost midnight), bony but strong fingers gripping his shoulders, somewhat oversized nose (if he was being generous) pressing into his cheek. He drew Snape’s lower lip into his mouth, biting and sucking, and Snape’s groan seemed to come straight from his chest.
Then Snape was leaning against him, pressing him back onto the couch, covering his body with his own, and Cameron hissed, “Yes…” and slid a hand down Snape’s back to gather him closer. When their erections brushed against one another, Snape gasped.
“Is this—is this all right?” he asked, unsure.
“You’re doing great,” Cameron assured him, “perfect,” and inched his hand onto Snape’s arse to increase the pressure as they writhed against each other. He nibbled his way down Snape’s pale neck and used his free hand to undo the topmost buttons so he could get at more of that lovely skin.
“Ah…Sage…I can’t, I’m going to…”
“Yes, yes,” he mouthed against Snape’s collarbone, increasing the pace until he felt Snape stiffen above him. A few more uncoordinated thrusts and he was falling over the edge, too.
It took him a while to get his breath back. The dead weight on his chest wasn’t helping, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. His silent Cleansing Charm brought Snape out of his stupor.
“Nngh. That was…Merlin. I think I may actually be homosexual.”
Cameron chuckled. “Is that so bad?” he murmured into Snape’s hair.
“Well, no. I just thought I would have noticed sooner.”
“Better late than never, eh?”
“Yes,” Snape said, pressing his face into Cameron’s neck. “Oh, I’m sorry. I must be crushing you.” He started to shift, but Cameron held him in place.
“No. Well, yes. But I’m enjoying it.”
Snape lifted his head and looked at Cameron. “Are you really? You aren’t…disappointed?”
“Are you insane? That was incredible! You are incredible.”
“No one’s ever…everything was always a game, a power-play, even sex. Especially sex. No one ever just wanted…me.”
“Well, I do. I want you, and I’m keeping you as long as you’ll let me,” Cameron insisted, running his fingers through Snape’s hair.
“Merlin help me, but I believe you,” Snape whispered, and leaned down to kiss him softly.
Maybe it was maudlin of him, but Cameron thought of it as sealing a promise.
He was listless once school started back. He told himself to get a grip—here he was, thirty years old, and moping around like a lovesick teenager!
He learned to speak Gobbledegook and French fluently. He had designs on Chinese, but that was just too bloody difficult and he stuck to the swear words and insults. He took a short course in gourmet cooking at the church in Ettensby. He reworked all his wards.
He spent some time considering The Quest. As far as he knew, it was the incident with the diary and the Chamber of Secrets that tipped Dumbledore off to the existence of the Horcruxes. If things went as Cameron planned, that wouldn’t happen and the Headmaster might never guess the truth. That was all well and good, except for one thing. Harry’s scar.
Already, things were a bit precarious in that department. If he had anything to say about it, there would be no deathbed bequeathing of memories in the Shrieking Shack to nudge Harry into sacrificing himself. Dumbledore would still be alive to instruct him, but he wouldn’t know what he needed to do.
Somehow, though, Cameron had a suspicion it wouldn’t come to that. He couldn’t say why, but he wasn’t at all certain that Harry’s scar actually contained a Horcrux this time around. He’d have to get close to him to be sure though, so there was no sense dwelling on it now.
Eventually, though, he ran out of things with which to occupy himself. And it wasn’t even Halloween yet.
He wasn’t sure that Snape’s fireplace was connected to the floo network—he flooed over at Christmas, but Cameron didn’t know from where—but he decided to check. He tossed in a handful of powder and said, “Severus Snape’s quarters, Hogwarts.”
The fire flashed green. Success! He thrust his head into the fire and called, “Snape! Are you there?”
“Sage? Is that you?”
“Yeah. Are you, um, busy?” he asked, suddenly unsure of his welcome. Snape might not want him there during the school year, even if it was the weekend.
“Not particularly. Would you like to come through?”
Cameron nodded and a few moments later stumbled out into Snape’s sitting room.
“Hello there,” Snape said and reached out like he wanted to touch him, but stopped himself. That was more than enough invitation for Cameron.
He launched himself at Snape and ravished his mouth. “Gods, I missed you,” he whispered as he worked at the buttons of Snape’s trousers. Thank the Founders he wasn’t wearing his teaching robes.
Before Snape had time to protest, Cameron dropped to his knees and buried his face in Snape’s crotch and breathed him in. He heard an indistinct “Guhn” from above when he took Snape’s burgeoning erection into his mouth.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but it didn’t seem like long—his jaw wasn’t even sore yet—when he felt fingers tighten in his hair—when had those got there?—and heard a wonderful keening sound as his mouth was flooded. Snape collapsed into a heap on the sofa, which was luckily right behind him, and Cameron rested his head on Snape’s knee while he caught his breath.
“Feels like…I’ve been waiting to…do that…for years,” he got out between pants.
“That was amazing. I’d like to…but I don’t think I can…I’m not—”
“It’s all right, you don’t have to do anything.” Cameron pulled himself up onto the couch and leaned against Snape.
“Nonsense. I want to do something,” he insisted and started undoing Cameron’s trousers.
“Are you sure?”
Snape looked a little nervous, but he nodded. And then Snape had Cameron’s cock in his hand and he couldn’t bring himself to care anymore, as long as he kept doing that.
Several minutes later, when he could get his eyes open again, he found Snape studying the semen glistening on his hand. He brought his hand to his nose, sniffed, took a tentative lick, then sucked his fingertip into his mouth.
“Oh sweet Merlin. If you keep doing that, I’m going to have to jump you again.”
Snape looked up, obviously unaware he’d been observed, and blushed. He grabbed his wand and muttered a Cleansing Charm.
“So,” Cameron asked, “how was your day?”
Chapter 10: Protection and Possession
There is beautiful art inspired by the last scene of this chapter! Go look at Stay by my side, love... by Blackhair85. It's here at WTP. It's so, so lovely. I'm not exactly certain what the artist had in mind, but to me this is after the end of the chapter when Harry says, “Come to bed, let me hold you.”
Check out Severus' scars. And his shoulders, and their hair and... *hyperventilates* Right, it's amazing.
“This is getting to be a habit.”
“I think most people would call it a tradition,” Cameron countered.
“Nonsense. I do not have holiday traditions,” Snape sneered, as if it were somehow a weakness, and he was above such things.
Cameron chuckled. “Far be it from me to contradict you. I’ll just let the situation speak for itself,” he said, summoning Snape’s gift. “Here. Shut your mouth and give me my present.”
Snape rolled his eyes, but Cameron was soon ripping the paper off Garden Your Way to Eden: From Paltry to Paradise. “Hey! Are you casting aspersions on my garden? I’ll have you know I’ve worked quite hard on it,” he said as Snape lifted his gift out of the box. “No, I think I’ll have that back. I’m not sure you deserve it anymore.”
“Too late,” Snape answered, slapping his hand away, “I shall be keeping this—” he broke off for a moment to study the item “—dressing gown for myself. A dressing gown?”
Cameron fought not to blush, but from the look on Snape’s face he figured it wasn’t working. Honestly, how was he supposed to fulfill his fantasy of lounging about Snape’s quarters in nothing but the man’s dressing gown if he didn’t even have one?
“Never mind that. Come upstairs with me?”
He stood and held out a hand to Snape, who stammered, “Oh, I, er…sure,” before following him silently to the bedroom.
Snape stood stiffly in the middle of the room, eyes darting about, so Cameron took it upon himself to remove their clothes. When he tugged Snape’s undershirt over his head, Snape wrapped his arms around himself and said, “It’s the middle of the afternoon.”
“Well spotted. Is that a problem?” Cameron asked, bemused, as he shucked his trousers.
“It’s just so…bright in here.”
“Yes. I’ve been wanting to get a good look at you.” He tugged on Snape’s arms and held them away from his body by the wrists. His skin was sallow and sported several scars, new and old. His shoulders were well-muscled, but Cameron could plainly see his ribcage. “Have I told you how beautiful you are?”
Snape’s face hardened and he jerked away.
“Wow. Did anybody ever tell you you’re really bad at taking compliments?” Cameron took hold of Snape’s shoulders and walked him back toward the bed. “Calm down,” he pleaded and distracted Snape with a hard, demanding kiss while he unfastened his trousers and tugged them down his legs.
Cameron laid him back on the bed, determined to make this last. Before, it had always been fumbling, quick and dirty. He had a craving for Snape’s body that was unlike anything he’d ever felt before, and he was definitely planning to indulge. After all, it was Christmas. He licked across a nipple, traced the surprisingly soft hair on Snape’s belly, sucked on his toes, breathed in the scent of his arousal. He fed on the little noises Snape was trying and failing to hold back.
“Roll over for me.”
Snape tensed. “You’re not…I don’t…”
“Don’t worry. We won’t do that tonight. Trust me—I’m fairly sure you’ll like this.”
He complied, but he was far from relaxed. Cameron spent a few minutes kneading his way down Snape’s back until the muscles loosened somewhat. He considered issuing a warning before he moved on, but decided it was probably best not to give Snape too much time to freak out.
He spread the soft, pasty cheeks and licked over the dusky pucker.
Snape jerked. “Oh my—what are you…? Nnngh…” Cameron smiled as much as he could at his reaction, but kept on. If Snape had wanted him to stop, he reasoned, he’d have told him in no uncertain terms. That, and he probably wouldn’t be pushing his arse back into Cameron’s face quite so enthusiastically.
He decided this was something he wanted to do every day, if possible. Reduce Severus Snape to incoherency. It was a terrible turn-on, and combined with the feel of the soft skin and straining muscles of his hips under Cameron’s fingers and the taste and scent of his most intimate place invading his senses, Cameron thought he might just lose his mind. It would be no great loss, he reasoned, if he could keep doing this.
Snape’s hips started moving more insistently, and he was murmuring, “Cameron, Cameron, Cameron,” over and over. It was the first time he’d ever heard his first name on those lips. Even if he considered this the most odious task in the world, that would have made it worth it. As he was rather enjoying it, it seemed like icing on the cake.
“Cameron, Cam—aaahh.” Snape stiffened under him and his muscles clenched around Cameron’s tongue. If he could, Cameron would have shouted. Instead, he laid his head on Snape’s thigh for a few minutes and recovered his breath before moving up to lie beside him.
“So, what did you think?” he asked.
Snape lifted his head from the pillow and slowly opened his eyes. “That was…I didn’t know…Oh! I should—” he gestured toward Cameron’s groin.
Cameron grinned. “No need.”
“You mean you…?”
“Came just from the sound and the feel and the taste of you?” he asked, watching Snape’s face get pinker and pinker. “Yes,” he concluded and leaned in for a kiss.
He was considering abandoning his brandy in favor of the Potions Master, when a head unexpectedly popped into the fireplace and called, “Snape! Snape, are you there?”
“Is that—?” Cameron started, but Snape cut him off with a gesture and moved to kneel on the hearth.
“What do you want, Malfoy?”
“I thought you might be interested to know—oh. Am I interrupting something?”
Cameron could hear him smirking from the sofa.
“You are. What was it you wanted?”
“Nothing of consequence. We can discuss this some other time. Enjoy your evening,” he said, and then he was gone.
“What in Merlin’s name was that about?” Cameron asked, peeved. “Does he make a habit of dropping in to discuss things of no consequence?”
Snape’s look was amused. “Are you jealous?”
“I—no, of course not,” Cameron answered, then a moment later— “Should I be?”
“Of Lucius Malfoy?” Snape snorted. “Do you think so poorly of me?”
“No! I just…he’s just so…”
“Pretty?” Cameron nodded. “Pretty isn’t everything. I’d wager he was calling to see if I had any potions on hand that he might enjoy using to torture some hapless plaything of his.”
“Ah.” Cameron felt like an idiot.
“Take me to bed, Sage.”
Well, that got his attention. “Thought you’d never ask,” he replied, following Snape into the bedroom. He’d had a hell of a time keeping himself in check the last couple of months. At times, he wanted nothing more than to find out what Snape’s face would look like when Cameron’s cock stroked over his prostate or to kiss him within an inch of his life and beg Snape to fuck him, slow and hard.
For some reason, though, that seemed off-limits like it never had with anyone else. It felt like it would be wrong, somehow, and there was a niggling feeling of guilt lurking in a dimly lit corner of his mind. He wasn’t sure where it was coming from, but he didn’t want to examine it too closely. Instead, he focused on the wet warmth of Snape’s mouth around his prick and the tickling brush of Snape’s hair against his skin, trying to forget the revelation he’d come to over a year ago and had yet to share with his lover.
When he flooed into Snape’s quarters, he expected to find his lover marking papers at his desk as usual. Instead, he was sitting on the sofa, staring blankly at his hands fisted in his lap. He didn’t even look up when Cameron tripped over the hearthrug. What was going on?
“Snape, are you all right?” he asked, resting a hand on Snape’s forearm.
He raised his head slowly. “I—no. Yes, I…I…”
Cameron was worried. He’d never seen Snape look so lost. He noticed a piece of parchment crumpled in Snape’s fist. “Tell me what’s wrong,” he cajoled, sitting next to Snape and guiding his head to rest on his shoulder. “Please, tell me.”
“My mother—she’s dead.”
“Oh—I’m so sorry. Were you…were you close?”
“When I was a child, but we hadn’t spoken for over ten years. When I—she didn’t approve of my…choices.”
So she’d stopped associating with her son when he became a Death Eater. “What happened? How did she die?”
“I thought—isn’t that usually cured fairly easily?” Cameron asked cautiously.
“It’s been a long time since she used magic. She didn’t go to St. Mungo’s.”
“I don’t understand. Why not?”
“I don’t really know. When I was growing up, she never would…defend herself. Not with magic. She’d fight back, sometimes, but it just fueled his rage. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think she did it for me. She took the brunt of it, let him…do those things to her, to keep him from doing it to me. I was so angry with her for letting him get away with it! And I never told her…I never thanked her…” Snape trailed off and buried his face in Cameron’s shoulder.
“Forgive me,” he whispered, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Shh,” Cameron murmured, petting Snape’s hair. “I’ve got you, it’s all right.” He rocked them gently, wondering what exactly Snape’s father had done to his wife and child.
“Is he still alive, your father?”
Snape shook his head. “No, he was killed in a brawl several years ago.”
Well, that was one less thing to worry about.
“I never understood why she wouldn’t leave him. I hated her for not taking me away from there, but I never stood up him either. It just seemed like that was the way things were supposed to be.”
“Believe me, I know what you mean. But you understand now that whatever he did to you, you didn’t deserve it, right? None of it was your fault.”
“I—I know you’re right. But I can’t help wondering sometimes. You know what I am, the things I’ve done—maybe I did deserve it,” he said in a small voice and Cameron wondered if he realized he was still speaking aloud.
“Listen to me, Severus. You were a child, and no child deserves anything but love from his parents. Nothing you could have done would be justification, nothing. Is that why you joined him, because you thought that was all you were good for?”
Snape didn’t answer, which was answer enough in itself.
“What did he do to you?” he wondered aloud.
“It was nothing, really. Mum got the worst of it.”
“It doesn’t sound like it was nothing. You can talk to me—I’d never think less of you for it. When I was small, my relatives kept me locked in a cupboard with no food for days at a time. Do you think I deserved it? Does that make me less of a man?”
Snape shook his head. After a long moment of silence, just when Cameron was about to say something to ease the tension, Snape started speaking so softly that Cameron had to strain to hear him.
“It was just talk, mostly. He drank a lot. He was unpleasant at the best of times, but when he drank he was so angry and he liked to tell us just what he thought of us. The things he said… But the worst was when he dragged Mum upstairs and I could hear her pleading with him to stop, to slow down, that he was hurting her. When she was…was away, or he got too rough and knocked her unconscious, he’d come for me.”
“Oh, Merlin,” Cameron whimpered.
“It only happened a couple of times—three times. It was awful, but it was better than listening to him with my mother.”
“Gods, Severus. Did he…?”
“You needn’t coddle me, it was a long time ago. And he didn’t—he never…went that far.”
“But he did other things.”
“He told me that I’d better enjoy it, because no one would ever want to touch me, that he could barely stand to look at me. That no one could—could want me, love me.”
It was clear that, consciously or not, he’d taken the words to heart and, gods, he wanted nothing more than to tell him over and over again how much he loved him. But he’d never said it before, and he knew if he did now Snape would think he was just placating him. He’d wait until Snape could believe him.
It was a good thing Tobias Snape was dead already. If he hadn’t been, Cameron would have had to leave right then to hunt him down and there were more important things he needed to do right then.
“Come on, Severus,” Cameron said, blinking through his tears, “Come to bed, let me hold you.”
Snape was trying to glare at him, but it wasn’t really working and he followed easily.
Chapter 11: Truth and Consequence
He sat curled on the couch, thankful school was finally out and they didn’t have to worry about interruptions from panicky Slytherins. His gaze fell onto the man seated beside him, seemingly absorbed in his periodical, and he let the warmth that bubbled up suffuse his body. He thought that maybe even if this whole trip back in time turned out to be a colossal mistake that had the Great Grey Menace ruling the wizarding world, it would be worth it just to get this time with Snape.
He would never have guessed that the nasty git he remembered from his school days was even human, much less this amazing man who was becoming his day and night. For a long while, though, Harry Potter’s memories had felt like something from another lifetime and he’d stopped trying to reconcile them. At that moment, a dreadful cold crept in and chased away the warm, fuzzy feeling. He really, really didn’t want to, but he realized abruptly what he needed to do.
“Snape? There’s something I need to tell you.”
Snape set his journal aside and looked over. “That sounds ominous.”
“I need you to promise me something first, though.”
“An Oath?” Snape asked warily.
“No. Just your word.”
Cameron took a deep breath. “Two things. First, you can’t repeat any of what I’m about to tell you to anyone. Ever. And second, I want you to hear me out. Try to listen to everything before you make any judgments. Your word?”
Snape nodded. “You have it.”
“All right. First off, I want you to know that I’ve never lied to you about anything I didn’t absolutely have to. I’ve never lied about…about us, that’s all been utterly real.”
He could see Snape’s expression shutter, could practically hear him thinking, ‘So what have you lied to me about, then?”
Just get it out there, he told himself. “I’m not from this time. I used a Time-Turner to travel back, to make things better.”
Snape’s jaw dropped. “You what?”
“It needed to be done!” he defended, “We were never going to defeat him. Things were falling apart, and I had the means to set them right.”
“Him…the Dark Lord?”
“Your name’s not really Cameron Sage, is it?”
“It is now. It has been for a long time. This is who I am.”
Snape looked skeptical, but he didn’t protest. Cameron fervently prayed that this wouldn’t be the last time he’d ever see the man.
“So, what have you been doing to ‘set things right’ for the last…?”
“Thirteen years. Did you know the Dark Lord made six Horcruxes?”
“I don’t know why I’m surprised by that,” Snape said with a horrified expression. “Six?”
“Yes. Last time, he found out they were being destroyed before we had a chance to kill him. There was nothing to stop him making more, no way to know how many or where and what they’d be. There was no way we could keep up.”
“So you went back in time to try again.”
“Yes, exactly.” He sincerely hoped Snape was taking this as well as he seemed to be. “I’ve already got rid of four of them.”
“You don’t miss your life? Friends, family?”
“This is my life. I can’t go back, and I wouldn’t even if I could.”
Snape’s expression relaxed a bit when he heard that. “You’re from the future. You’re not messing with me?”
“No, this is too important for that.”
“If the Ministry found out about this, they’d have you in Azkaban. I can tell you it isn’t exactly pleasant there—you should be guarding this secret with your life. Why are you even telling me?”
Cameron bit his lip. “Because…because I’m in love with you, and I couldn’t stand keeping it from you anymore.”
Snape’s eyes widened and he was leaning forward slightly, giving him a very intense look. “Say it again.”
“What, I love you? I love you.”
Snape stood and pulled Cameron up from the couch. “Again.”
“I love you, Severus.”
And then Snape was devouring him, claiming his mouth for his own, hands clenching in Cameron’s hair, crushing their lips together. He was giddy with relief, beyond thankful that Snape wasn’t pushing him away with everything he had.
“Thank Merlin, oh thank you, thank you,” he whispered when Snape pulled away and started heading toward the bedroom. “Make love to me, Snape. Please—I want to feel you moving inside me.”
Snape answered with smoldering eyes and a hand tugging him through the doorway and one of the few truly happy smiles Cameron had ever seen on him.
He couldn’t remember ever feeling so fortunate. And to think, he’d been so sure this conversation would end with him cursed six ways from Sunday.
“What kept you?” he asked when Snape, finally, stepped out of the floo.
“Malfoy wanted me to look at some bloody book for him. It had some fairly dark magic associated with it, but it was completely blank—I can’t imagine what he wanted it for,” he complained as he lowered himself to the sofa.
“What! Why didn’t you firecall me?”
Snape looked at him in disbelief. “I’ll have you know I am considered somewhat of an expert in the Dark Arts. You’re not the only wizard capable of detecting curses. Really, does your ego know no bounds?” He scowled and started back toward the fireplace. “Just because you’re a mite more powerful than the rest of us does not give you leave to disparage the talents of others.”
Cameron nearly smiled. So irascible. “Calm down, Snape. I didn’t mean that the way it came out,” he insisted, pulling him back toward the couch. “I know what that book is.”
“Oh.” He sat back down and looked like he was wondering if he was expected to apologize. “Well then.”
“Do you still have it?”
“Why does it matter to you? It’s just—oh, sweet…Merlin’s beard. Oh gods,” he said, looking down at his hands in alarm as if horrified that they might have held a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul.
“Do you still have it?” Cameron repeated.
“What?” Snape looked up from his hands and shook his head. “No. I could probably get it back, though.”
For the next couple of hours, they discussed what was to be done. It could wait two years, like Cameron had been planning, but this seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up—he couldn’t guarantee the original plan would be successful, and it was unfair to put Ginny through that if it could be avoided. Somehow, they needed to destroy it in such a way that Malfoy wouldn’t report the loss to his Evilness or, if he did, that he never suspected their true motivations and replaced it. After all, he presumably had known about the Chamber of Secrets fiasco and, as far as Cameron knew, had never done a thing about it.
If was eventually decided, after Cameron realized he was being a prat trying to keep Snape completely uninvolved, that Snape would contact Malfoy in a few days. He’d say that he’d done some research and had a few ideas about the book. Then, in the process of testing his theories, it would be accidentally destroyed.
Snape assured him that he could take whatever vitriol Malfoy wanted to spew at him, and Cameron could only hope his ire would be confined to the verbal.
He walked back to the house, anxious to see how things had gone with Malfoy. Cameron had convinced Snape, after lengthy discussion—“Yes, of course I trust your Occlumency, but let’s not take any chances we don’t have to, yeah?”—to go explain the accident while he took care of the diary alone.
He was unnerved to find that Snape wasn’t back yet, but it really hadn’t been all that long. He told himself to give it another half-hour before he really worried. Besides, what was he going to do? He couldn’t just barge into Malfoy Manor and give everything away. He decided to floo to Snape’s quarters, just in case.
But he wasn’t there, either.
Cameron was pacing in Snape’s sitting room, trying to talk himself down from storming the Manor, when Snape tumbled out of the fireplace onto the hearthrug.
“Where’ve you been!” he blurted, then got a good look at the man lying in a heap on the floor. “Oh no. No, no. no. What did he do? Do we need to go to the hospital wing?”
Snape groaned and shook his head. “But I don’t know the first thing about healing! Tell me what happened.”
“Tendon Snapping Hex,” Snape mumbled, clutching at his right leg.
“All of them.”
“What! Every tendon in your leg?” he asked, kneeling next to Snape, hands hovering over his body, afraid to touch and cause pain.
“That’s it, we’re getting you to the hospital wing.” He’d known this was a bad idea. He kept wanting to say, ‘I should never have let you go,’ and barely stopped himself by considering how that sounded…let him go? Snape was old enough to make his own decisions. He knew better than anything what Malfoy was capable of.
He still felt like kicking himself, though.
“And what exactly are we going to say happened?”
Oh. Well, he hadn’t thought of that yet. “Does it matter? You need medical attention.”
Snape groaned. “Fine. Let’s floo to St. Mungo’s—they won’t ask as many questions. Hopefully the Headmaster won’t get wind of it. Meddlesome coot.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Blast it all, it wasn’t your fault! It wasn’t your fault last week when I told you so, and it isn’t now. Would you stop it?” Snape entreated, knocking back the rest of his drink.
“I know, I’m trying. It’s just so hard seeing you hurting.”
“It doesn’t hurt anymore, as I’m certain I’ve mentioned. The mediwitch said I’d probably limp the rest of my life—it doesn’t mean I’m in pain.”
Cameron knew this was true. He knew that there wasn’t some easy potion to fix ligaments, like Skele-Gro for bones. Not that they needed regrowing; no, they were still there, they’d just been damaged. Rather extensively. The healer in the curse damage ward had done her best reattaching them where they were supposed to be, but no amount of precision could make Snape’s leg exactly like it was before.
He knew it, but no matter how many times he told himself, he couldn’t quite believe it. It hurt him to see the strong, proud man limping.
“Maybe if we got a second opinion. I’m sure somewhere—”
“The witch who treated me is the foremost expert in this type of injury, and you know it. I’m aware I’ve never been particularly pleasant to look at, but if I am not…whole enough for you, if it bothers you so much—”
“What!” Cameron gasped. “No, no. I’m sorry you thought that. I guess it’s just hard for me to understand how it isn’t bothering you. Nothing can change the fact that I love you. And besides,” he smirked, “you know I find you patently irresistible.”
Snape looked into his glass and said with feigned nonchalance, “Do I? You haven’t touched me in weeks, not since…”
“I was afraid to hurt you.” Cameron got up and slid into the other side of the booth. “And I…I thought you must be angry with me. I thought you wouldn’t want me touching you,” he said, slipping an arm around Snape’s back.
“Hmph. I’ve borne it thus far, I could probably stand it still.”
He smiled against Snape’s shoulder. “You want to skip the drinks? I’m feeling an overwhelming urge to ravish you right now.”
“I don’t suppose I can stop you,” Snape said as they stood to leave. “What with being a cripple, and all that. Your place or mine?”
“Does Malfoy love his son?”
Snape rolled over and looked at him incredulously. True, this wasn’t their usual post-coital conversation topic. Still, Cameron needed to know.
“Is he a good father?”
“What are you on about?”
“I don’t want to punish Draco for his father’s sins, but if it wouldn’t be that much of a hardship for him…”
“You’ll what?” Snape asked pointedly when Cameron trailed off.
“That man is a monster. You know it. I know it. The only ones who don’t know it are the Wizengamot, and they hear galleons louder than anything else.”
“I won’t be responsible for your petty revenge.”
“No, I will be. And it isn’t petty. Nor is it revenge so much as justice, and the assurance that he’ll never be able to hurt anyone again,” he pointed out. He would sleep much better knowing Malfoy couldn’t ever hurt Snape again.
“I admit that Draco would be better off without him. Narcissa, too. I certainly won’t try and stop you.”
Cameron nodded and snuggled into Snape’s shoulder. “Right, that’s settled then.”
“What are you going to do?” Snape ran his fingers through Cameron’s hair and he leaned into the touch.
“Haven’t decided yet. I’ll think of something.” Feeling a bit better for having made the beginnings of a decision, he drifted to sleep.
Chapter 12: Opening Up, As a Reluctant Clam
“Wow, is that really you? You…you grew up!” This was certainly the last person he expected to see wandering through the corridors. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m the new Defense teacher,” she said, grinning, looking like she was trying to decide if it was all right to hug him.
“Are you kidding me? How old are you?” This was so bizarre—to think, if he’d been just a year older Simran would have been his professor!
She rolled her eyes and, apparently having abandoned the idea of a hug, punched his shoulder. “I’m twenty-three—stop looking at me like that. What are you doing here?”
He suddenly remembered Snape standing next to him. “Oh! I’m just visiting. How long have you been here? Have you two met yet?”
“I just got here yesterday.”
“Oh, well this is Severus Snape. He’s the Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House. And this is Simran Kabbali.” Snape didn’t say anything, but he shook her hand when she offered it and didn’t snipe at her when she said hello.
“I’d love to chat, Cam, but I’m supposed to be in the Headmaster’s office.”
“Yeah, of course. We’ll catch up later. Professor.” She blushed and continued down the corridor.
“So how do you and Professor Kabbali know one another?” Snape asked when they got back to his quarters. There was something in his voice Cameron couldn’t quite identify and he looked up to search his face. If he didn’t know any better…
“Are you serious? Eww, she was twelve the last time I saw her!” The mere thought made him shudder. “Besides, she’s very…”
“Female?” Snape supplied.
“Yes, quite. Not to mention, her father would have literally skinned me alive if I’d so much as looked at her.”
He turned his attention to pouring himself a snifter of brandy. He’d almost forgotten Snape’s ridiculous insinuation when another frightening thought occurred to him.
“You weren’t…looking at her, were you?”
“Looking at…? Who, Professor Kabbali?”
“She’s powerful, and very magically skilled. Pretty, smart…feminine.”
“What are you on about? Why would you even think that? I didn’t even speak to her.”
True enough. “I just worry sometimes that I’m not…what you really want. You’ve always been straight, you said so yourself.”
“After which I changed my mind, if you’ll recall. Have I ever given the impression that I’m anything but wholly enthusiastic about our sex life?”
Well, now he felt stupid for even thinking it. “Sorry.”
“Come on,” Snape said with a heated look, “You can make it up to me by fucking me through the mattress. I’m sure I’ll scream loud enough to allay any fears you may have about my enthusiasm.”
That definitely sounded like a good solution. He couldn’t really remember what the problem had been once Snape started sucking on his neck, but with a solution like that, it didn’t stand a chance.
“What did you tell Dumbledore about your leg?”
“Nothing. I haven’t seen him since it happened.”
“Really? It’s been almost a month.” He was rather surprised by that. He’d always thought Snape and Dumbledore were very close friends. It occurred to him that perhaps his friendship with Snape had changed that this time around. Was that good or bad? Maybe if he hadn’t loved Albus so dearly, Snape wouldn’t have let him talk him into killing him. Either way, there was likely nothing he could do about it now.
“I rarely eat in the Great Hall in the summer, so I haven’t been missed.”
“Well, what do you plan to tell him?”
Snape shrugged. “That I got on the wrong side of Malfoy. He won’t ask for details—he rarely does about that kind of thing.”
Cameron scowled. Strange that the Headmaster would only consider Snape’s suffering personal enough to leave alone and pry into everything else. “What kind of thing is that?”
“The kind he assumes I’ve brought upon myself.”
“That…that…!” He took a deep breath and forced his anger away. There wasn’t anything to be done about it. What was he going to do, corner Dumbledore and berate him for being so damn insensitive? No. He gave his head a shake.
“Come to bed?” He had some frustration to work off.
Snape nodded and followed him up the stairs, slowly and carefully. At least they didn’t actively try to trip him up any more. What with Snape’s injured leg, Cameron had tried much harder and finally got the fourth step to give up its pranks.
“What would you like?” he asked once they were in the bedroom and sans most of their clothing.
“I don’t know,” Snape answered. “I’m tired.”
“Would you rather not?”
“That isn’t what I meant.” Snape traced a finger along his jaw.
“I see. You just don’t want to do any of the work. Very well,” he answered, pushing Snape back onto the bed, “I think I’ll manage.”
He looked at Snape splayed out, eager and waiting for him, and wondered again how he’d gotten so lucky. Sometimes he felt like he could never get enough of that body, those arms wrapped around him, those little breathy sounds Snape couldn’t hold back…well, if he used a very liberal interpretation of ‘sometimes’.
“Gods, I want you so much.”
“Have me.” Snape spread his legs wider.
Cameron held back a whimper. So, so tempting. “I’ve something else in mind, if that’s all right.” Snape nodded and Cameron covered his body with his own.
For several minutes, Cameron just held him, feathering light kisses on his face and throat, luxuriating in the feel of Snape’s bare skin against his. He relished the sore spots where Snape’s bony frame pressed into him and the sound of Snape’s quickened breath in his ear and the slide of Snape’s foot along his calf.
He moved down his lover’s body, kissing and nibbling, letting Snape’s heat sear his lips and his fingers. He considered drawing it out, teasing Snape to incoherence, but when he reached the jutting erection he gave in. Slowly but thoroughly, he tongued around the head, then down to the base. Taking the tip into his mouth, he suckled languidly.
Snape’s hips were rocking slowly, making tiny thrusting movements, and he let them. Snape’s hands on his shoulders held him tight, but not nearly as tight as they sometimes did, and that was good too. He snaked a hand up to Snape’s mouth, pausing to tweak a nipple on the way, and pressed two fingers against his lips. Taking the hint, Snape drew them in a laved them with his tongue. Once they were thoroughly coated, he took them back.
Hips canted to the side, thrusting into the tight space between Snape’s knee and the mattress, he slid his slick fingers behind Snape’s bollocks and searched. He heard a low moan, almost more of a vibration than a sound, when he brushed across Snape’s entrance followed by a gasp when he pressed a fingertip inside.
He let it build slowly, his lover’s arousal and his own, his mouth working over the head of Snape’s cock, his hand carding through the soft curls gathered around its base, and two fingers moving languorously in and out, brushing over the hard nub inside every so often. His own hips moved insistently, searching for pressure against Snape’s soft, warm skin and the cool sheets.
Snape’s orgasm came softly, peacefully, filling Cameron’s mouth with bitter warmth, his back arched and mouth open in a soundless cry. He almost didn’t notice his own release, focused as he was on cleaning all the stickiness from Snape’s softening prick, and it was only after Snape reached down and gathered him into his arms that he thought to direct a cleaning spell toward his groin and Snape’s leg.
“Gods, I love it when you do that,” Snape murmured.
“Do what? Suck you? I should hope so.”
He felt Snape’s head shake minutely. “When you treat me like I’m important to you, something to be cherished, when…” Snape stopped and turned his head away. “Sorry. The blood has yet to return to my brain.”
“Severus. I do cherish you. You’re very precious to me. Have I told you today that I love you?” He threw one leg over Snape’s and reached a hand up to thread through his long locks.
“You have, now.”
A few minutes later, he felt Snape starting to move. He tightened his grip. “Stay, will you stay?” Snape stilled, deciding what to do. They very rarely slept together after sex, and then it was only because they fell asleep before they could get out of bed and it didn’t usually last all night. They’d never actually done it on purpose before.
At length, Snape spoke. “You want me to?”
He stopped himself from saying what he really wanted to—that he’d like nothing better than to wrap himself around this man every night while they dreamt and he’d been working up the courage to ask for way too long—and settled for, “Yes. If you want to.”
Snape didn’t answer, but Cameron could feel him relax against him. He reached down and drew the blanket over them. He was exhausted, but his heart was beating too fast to let him sleep. He was too happy that Snape had decided he’d stay, so he lay awake for a while trying to convince himself that it didn’t really mean anything. It was just sleeping.
He had almost gotten himself to believe it when he heard Snape whisper, “Thank you, my love.”
He was certain Snape thought he was asleep and fought not to react. Snape had never told Cameron he loved him. He showed it with his actions and sometimes implied it with his words, and Cameron had thought that was enough for him to feel it, to believe it. And really, he still hadn’t said it explicitly, but it was more than enough to make Cameron’s throat constrict and send him soaring. He also suspected it was more than Snape would ever allow himself to say when he thought Cameron was awake to hear.
He was surprised that Snape never asked him about the future. He’d been expecting questions about Snape’s life, about Cameron’s, about the war and the Horcruxes, what had gone wrong and what had gone right. He’d formulated a few answers, careful not because he was worried about affecting the course of events or creating a paradox but to avoid causing Snape pain.
But the questions never came. Even when there was a clear opening, when he talked about the Horcruxes or said ‘Last time it happened this way’, Snape didn’t take it. It confused him. He knew Snape was an intensely curious person who couldn’t stand when there was knowledge out there about something and he didn’t have it. If their roles had been reversed, Cameron was sure he’d ask.
Snape wasn’t one to dance around issues like this, or avoid something because it was taboo or might cause offense. He could only conclude that Snape truly didn’t want to know.
Maybe he was concerned about changing things too much. It was possible, but Cameron didn’t think that could be all of it. After all, Snape had helped him with the diary, and even when he’d come right out and said he was trying to change the course of the future, Snape didn’t question it. He’d been expecting a lecture about paradoxes and the dangers of time travel, but Snape didn’t seem to be worried about it.
Maybe he didn’t think Cameron could tell him anything he wanted to know. After all, he had no reason to think they had known each other or interacted in any way. For all he knew, Cameron had never heard of Severus Snape before they met at Grimmauld Place. But he had to know that Cameron had been involved with the Order, given how much he knew about the Horcruxes and the fight.
Maybe he thought Cameron was changing the future enough that whatever he could have told him wouldn’t matter because everything would be so different. That made a bit of sense, he supposed, but it would still be interesting to know how things had worked out the first time around.
Cameron thought it more likely that Snape expected anything Cameron could tell him to be bad, and he’d just rather not hear it. He could understand how Snape might be better off not knowing all about his master’s resurrection and all the people who’d died and what a closed-off, vindictive bastard he’d been.
Or so it had seemed to Harry, anyway. He knew it made sense that Snape’s students would have a much different perspective on him, but he really thought Snape was different now. How much of that was due to events that hadn’t happened yet—evil getting a new body, going back to spying, being confronted with constant reminders of his childhood misery, murdering his mentor—versus things that had happened differently, like their relationship, he couldn’t say.
Even if Snape did change as events unfolded, he knew it wouldn’t change how he felt. He’d done the hard part—gotten behind Snape’s walls, gotten to know him, and fallen in love—and nothing short of death could tear him away now.
Either way, he’d never asked about the future before. So Cameron knew it must be very important to him when, out of the blue, he asked, “What do you think will happen when you get back to the day you used the Time-Turner?”
He shrugged. “If things go as planned, my younger self isn’t going to feel the need to go back in time, that’s for sure. Beyond that? I suppose it’s possible that when the younger me doesn’t use the Time-Turner, I’ll just wink out of existence. It doesn’t make much sense, though. I mean, if things worked that way, then when I didn’t go back the Horcruxes wouldn’t be destroyed and…well. Thinking about that makes my brain hurt.”
Snape didn’t seem the slightest bit satisfied with that non-answer.
“I exist, there’s no denying that. There isn’t any reason to assume I’ll suddenly cease to do so on that day. I really don’t think that will happen.”
“Are you sure?” Snape asked, and Cameron was surprised to hear the fear in his voice.
“I can’t be completely sure, of course, but I have a feeling.” He tilted Snape’s face toward him and kissed him softly. “I do know that I will never leave you if I can possibly help it. I know that beyond doubt.”
Snape’s mouth moved in the almost-smile that was generally all he allowed himself to show and drew him into a fierce embrace.
Chapter 13: House of Snakes
He was feeling a bit useless again. With the diary reduced to a tiny pile of ash, he was at a loss. As far as The Quest went, all that was left was to destroy Nagini and then the Infernal Prat himself. It didn’t help that he wasn’t at all certain when the snake had been made into a Horcrux. And, of course, he needed to be sure about the Harry Horcrux.
He had no idea why—he was certainly no Seer—but, just like what he’d told Snape about not blinking out of existence, he had a feeling about this. Perhaps it was to do with the fact that Cameron was there and had already sacrificed himself to destroy the Horcrux when the Menace to end all Menaces tried to kill baby Harry, or maybe there was only ever the most infinitesimal chance of a soul fragment lodging in the lightning bolt scar and it just hadn’t happened this time.
If he was right about this, he didn’t think he’d ever be able to adequately explain it. Not that he’d need to, since no one but him would know to question it. He would just have to learn to live with the question.
Either way, he didn’t think Harry was carrying around a Horcrux in his head. To be sure, though, he would need to get close to him. He was hoping that, just like with the other Horcruxes, he’d be able to feel the darkness in Harry’s scar. Unfortunately, no one had ever said anything about sensing dark magic in Harry, not even Dumbledore, so it wasn’t a sure bet. Maybe people had felt it and just not mentioned it, though that didn’t seem likely.
The wards at number four Privet Drive were not going to allow anyone magical inside, of course, so he’d have to find another way. Even if that hadn’t been the case, it wasn’t the way he’d choose to do it. If at all possible, he was hoping to avoid ever meeting his younger self. Besides, he had no desire to return to that house or speak to his relatives again.
He could wait until Harry started school and hope to run into him while visiting Snape, but that had its own set of problems, not the least of which was that Snape wouldn’t like it. He was always adamant that no students know he was there. Besides, anyone trying to get close to the Boy Who Lived would draw attention and suspicion from the staff, which he certainly did not want directed at himself. No, it would be best to try before he entered the wizarding world and was constantly surrounded by prying eyes.
The problem was that the Dursleys generally didn’t take Harry anywhere, and they definitely didn’t let him go anywhere alone. There was school, but the teachers would be wary of a stranger. Maybe he could stop by Mrs. Figg’s house with a copy of The Watchtower when he knew Harry would be there.
Thinking of staying with Mrs. Figg made him think of the time he hadn’t been able to and he grinned.
He was going to the zoo.
He’d been wandering around the reptile house trying to tune out the snakes’ complaints for over an hour when they finally came in. Relieved to have something else to focus on—not that he blamed the snakes, of course—he stepped a bit closer.
Harry started talking to the python just like before, but this time the snake didn’t talk back. Oh, it talked all right, but it didn’t answer Harry’s questions and Harry didn’t respond to anything it said either. Cameron couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought to check for that. If the Horcrux had allowed him the ability to be a Parselmouth, of course young Harry wouldn’t have it if he wasn’t a Horcrux.
His magic in general didn’t seem affected—he still accidentally made the glass disappear and trapped Dudley inside. Cameron tried not to laugh.
He remembered being worried his unique ability would disappear once the Horcrux was gone, but apparently learning to use it had done something for him and he could still speak Parseltongue. This would be an unexpected advantage as far as keeping his identity a secret—Cameron Sage was a Parselmouth and Harry Potter wasn’t.
That difference alone had him almost completely convinced his theory had been correct, but just in case, he contrived to bump into Harry on his way out.
“Pardon me,” he said, keeping his face averted while steadying him with a hand on his shoulder. He left the zoo feeling much better. He hadn’t felt even a twinge of dark magic from the boy, and it pleased him. No one should be expected to sacrifice his life for this cause, least of all a child who was already expected to commit murder.
Of course, he couldn’t be one hundred percent certain his deduction was correct, and there was always the possibility that when someone got around to trying to kill the Stupid Prat he wouldn’t die and Cameron would be proven wrong, but he was sanguine nonetheless.
“Why do you even keep in contact with him?” he asked when Snape returned from tea at Malfoy Manor. He looked weary.
“It’s expected of me.”
“Expected by whom?”
“Albus,” he answered, lowering himself to the sofa.
“Even after what he did?” he asked, looking pointedly at Snape’s bad leg.
Snape snorted. “That’s not the worst thing he’s done to me.”
Cameron scowled. It was really high time he brought Malfoy to task for his actions. “Still.”
“It’s my job to keep myself apprised of his and his associates’ activities. Besides, I need to be in good standing with them when the Dark Lord returns if I’m to be an effective spy.”
“No, it’s your job to teach kids Potions. As far as I know, risking your health and sanity is not part of your contract.”
“Don’t be purposefully obtuse,” Snape replied, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the sofa. “I have to do it. It’s my duty.”
“You think you still have to atone,” Cameron realized. “You can’t keep doing that forever. It’s no way to live. Besides, I think you’ve more than paid your dues.”
“What would you know about it?” Snape snapped.
“I know more than you might think.” And he did. He’d seen what the Death Eaters got up to through the visions he’d had. He also knew Snape well enough to guess what it had done to him to keep doing those things in the hope of gathering information after he changed his allegiance. Not to mention the risk to him personally—Cruciatus was never easy to bear, no matter how noble one’s intentions.
“Perhaps you do,” Snape conceded. “Nevertheless, it is my choice.”
“If you insist.” He stood and held out a hand to Snape. “Shall I distract you from whatever aggravation he’s caused you, which I’ve no doubt exacerbated?”
“The Potter brat will be the death of me.”
Cameron carefully tamped down his initial reaction to mild curiosity. “Oh?”
“He was chasing trolls around on Halloween! Imbecilic child.”
He feigned shock. It was a damn good thing he’d mastered Occlumency so well. “There were trolls in the school? How did that happen?”
Snape poured himself a drink. “Just the one, actually. I’m sure that Quirrell brought it in as a distraction to get at—never mind that. But Albus refuses to do anything about it without absolute proof. He’s endangering the students, it’s unconscionable!”
“Doesn’t sound like Potter needs much help endangering himself, if he’s chasing after trolls.”
“Perhaps ‘chasing’ is a small exaggeration. Either way, he is an infuriating whelp who believes himself capable of anything. He’ll be fighting dragons next, mark my words.”
He fought not to snicker. Would Snape remember that statement in three years when the Triwizard Tournament rolled around?
Now that he thought about it, though, he was certain Nagini was made into a Horcrux before then. Maybe if he could get rid of her…but no. He didn’t know where the Bodiless Bastard was going to hide out after he vacated Quirrell. The graveyard after the Tournament was the next place Cameron knew he’d be, so he couldn’t mess with it.
“Forget about him. Do you have marking to do?”
“Yes, actually.” He spread out a stack of essays on his desk.
“Hmph,” Cameron pouted. “I think you need a new job—one that doesn’t follow you home at the end of the day.”
Snape narrowed his eyes. “Oh you do, do you?”
“I’m just kidding. I know this position is important to you, and I respect that. I just miss you during the school year.”
“Well. That’s all right then, I suppose.”
Cameron rolled his eyes. “Thanks a lot. What can I do to persuade you to put it off until tomorrow?”
Snape put down his quill. “It wouldn’t take much. I have been wanting to fuck you all week.”
His heart started beating faster. “Well, that works out rather nicely for me, doesn’t it?”
Snape pulled him up off the sofa into a kiss.
“Me, as well.”
“Er, what’s in the box?”
“I come over at Christmas, and you ask ‘what’s in the box’? How dense are you, exactly?”
“Well, it’s just you usually have my present shrunk in a pocket.”
Snape put the box on the sofa. “This one cannot be shrunk without damage.”
“Well, when you put it like that,” Cameron said, eyeing the box, “who needs tea? I don’t think I can wait—here’s yours, let’s get started.” He drew the package out of his pocket and tossed it to Snape, resizing it in the air.
“Show-off,” Snape grumbled while he opened it.
He arched an eyebrow. “Multiple Choice Exams as an Effective Teaching Tool. Are you trying to tell me something?”
“Well, yeah.” Cameron grinned. “How could you tell?” Snape declined to answer, unless an exasperated look counted, so Cameron focused his attention on his gift.
“Oh, my. This is a surprise,” he said, peering into the box. “Where did you get it?” When he didn’t get an answer, he looked up.
“Snape?” His lover was staring at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
“Was that—? You’re a Parselmouth?” Ah, that explained it. He really needed to work on controlling which language he was speaking in the presence of a snake. He nodded carefully. Surely the Head of Slytherin House wouldn’t censure him for this?
“Say something else,” Snape demanded.
It was better than being assumed evil, he supposed. “Hello there. I’m Cameron; what’s your name?” he asked the snake.
“I am called Thessa, if you must know.”
“Nice to meet you, Thessa. Would you like to stay with me, be my friend?”
She looked at him askance. “You seem pleasant enough, I suppose.”
He looked back up at Snape, who was still gaping at him in wonder. “Her name’s Thessa. I think she likes me against her better judgment.” Snape didn’t reply. “So, since you obviously didn’t know I’d be able to talk to her, what made you think to get me a snake?”
Snape blinked several times, and finally spoke. “You have several rather deplorable Gryffindor tendencies, but I think you would have made a passable Slytherin.”
That made Cameron smile. “Really?” Thessa wasn’t exactly the quintessential Slytherin snake—she was a small, Kelly green, grass snake. Utterly harmless. She did have the attitude, though.
“I only said ‘passable’.”
“High praise, coming from you.” He held Snape’s face in both hands and kissed him. “Thank you.”
Chapter 14: Distractions and Distractions
“Mr. Sage? What are you doing here?”
“Visiting your Potions Master. How are you, Headmaster?”
Dumbledore looked totally flummoxed. It wasn’t a good look for him, probably because he wore it so seldom. “I had no idea the two of you were still friends.”
“Seriously?” He had been sure Dumbledore would be aware of the floo activating when he visited. He was still struggling with the fact that he wasn’t aware of everything ever, full stop.
Dumbledore recovered quickly. “Not that it surprises me, of course.”
“Of course.” What was going on here?
“Enjoy your visit, Mr. Sage.”
He was still a little confused when he knocked on Snape’s door. After a moment, the door was flung open forcefully.
“What is i—Sage? What are you…? Get in here,” he said, and pulled Cameron into his quarters. “Did anyone see you?”
“I ran into the Headmaster. It was strange, he had no idea I’d been visiting you.”
“Of course he didn’t,” Snape snapped. “Why were you even out there? Why didn’t you use the floo?”
Scowling, he reached into his sleeve and extricated Thessa from her position wrapped around his wrist. “I didn’t want to take her through the floo network. She wanted to see you, though I can’t imagine why.”
“Did you tell him why you were here?”
“What’s his problem?” Thessa hissed. Good question.
“I just said I was visiting you. What is your problem?”
“Nothing, I just—none of the students saw you?”
And then it suddenly hit him, like a well-placed Freezing Charm. Snape was ashamed of him, ashamed to be seen with him. He didn’t know how he’d never noticed it before. Aside from that first time when he showed Cameron the castle, he was always insistent that no one see him there. Even then, he’d waited until school was out and the castle was nearly deserted. Snape had told him early on that he’d thought of himself as straight all his life—he couldn’t possibly be completely comfortable with the world seeing him as homosexual. He hoped that was it, anyway. It would be much worse if it was about him, personally.
“Wait a minute. You never cared when I took you out! We saw all those shows, and the dinners, and you were fine with it.” It made no sense. Of course, almost all of the places they’d gone had been muggle. Maybe he only cared about people he actually knew, that he had to see every day. He could understand that, in a way.
“What are you talking about? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” He wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have made things so much easier.
Snape looked at him with a furrowed brow. “Tell you what?”
“That you didn’t—that you weren’t…comfortable…being seen with me. I would have understood. I know a lot of people don’t accept…alternative lifestyles, and—”
Snape’s face contorted, and Cameron wondered just how angry he was.
And then he laughed.
“Is he all right?” Thessa asked derisively.
Cameron failed to see how it was funny.
“You thought that I was ashamed to be associated with you?”
Cameron scowled. He wasn’t sure what was going on anymore, but he knew Snape was laughing at him. “Well, what am I supposed to think when you don’t want anyone from the wizarding world seeing us together?”
“Sage, you know there are children of Death Eaters at this school.”
“Yeah. So what?”
“They report back to their parents. They watch me very closely.” He knew all of this, but he couldn’t see where Snape was going with it until he added, “I don’t want you to become a target.”
Cameron gaped. He had to be joking. “You’re hiding our relationship to protect me?”
“Seems you had the wrong end of the stick. I thought you were supposed to intelligent? Defense Master and all that.”
“Shut up, you,” he snapped at her.
Snape looked away, seemingly embarrassed, and nodded. Well, he ought to be embarrassed!
“How many wizards or witches do you know who are more magically powerful than I am? What is it you imagine they could do to me?” he asked, torn between amusement and indignation.
Snape looked chagrined, as well he should. “I didn’t think…”
“Didn’t think about that, did you? You just decided to protect me from the big, bad Death Eaters and let me believe you weren’t comfortable with us.”
“This is serious, Sage! They’re dangerous people.”
“I know that very well. Probably better than you think,” he said in a tone he hoped brooked no refusal. “And I’d be honored if you would accompany me to dinner in Hogsmeade tonight. What do you say?” Snape was still a very private man, and he hoped he wasn’t pushing things too far.
“It would be my pleasure,” Snape answered, contrite. “I’m still amazed you want to be seen with me. Sometimes I don’t know how you put up with me.”
“Me neither. I think it’s a symptom of being in love.”
“It must be. I certainly can’t explain my unnatural forbearance of you any other way.”
When they simultaneously realized the implications of Snape’s words, Cameron’s grin lit up the room and Snape tried to hide his blush.
“Can I go, too?”
He contrived to be at Hogwarts on the fourth of June, even though it was the middle of the week. He didn’t plan to do anything—who knew what effect untimely interference might have?—but he wanted to be there just the same as Harry, Ron, and Hermione put their heads together to save the stone.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Snape asked when he stepped into the sitting room.
“Thought you might want to celebrate the last day of exams. I know you still have grading, but you’re free of the little buggers for a while.”
Snape raised an eyebrow at him. “Depends on what you mean by ‘celebrate’.”
“Anything you like,” he answered with what he hoped was a come-hither look.
“Anything at all?”
“Of course. Always.”
“Even if I wanted to…spank you, then tie you up and have my wicked way with you?”
Cameron faltered a bit at that. “Well, I…I’m not…I mean, if that’s what you want to do. Really, whatever you want. Any time.”
Snape cocked his head to the side. “You really would, wouldn’t you? Even though you’re obviously uncomfortable with the idea.”
“Of course. I’ll give you whatever you need. I hope you know that.”
“Relax, Sage, I was joking.”
Cameron gave a nervous chuckle. “Well, I can’t say I’m not glad to hear that. Seriously, though. What would you like?”
Snape considered for a moment. “Well, I’ve been supervising Potions practicals all day and haven’t had a chance to clean up. Have a shower with me?”
He felt his cock give a hopeful twitch. “Oh, yes.” That sounded like a great idea.
Ten minutes later, he stood admiring the lines of Snape’s body as he rinsed his hair. With his head tilted back into the spray, his neck looked particularly inviting. They hadn’t actually done the whole showering together thing before, and he wasn’t sure if Snape would want to take things further or head back to the bedroom now that they were clean.
It was strange. In all his previous relationships, he took things like that for granted. With anyone else, if he had a hankering for shower sex and a wet body within reach, he’d grab it. He always felt comfortable going for whatever he wanted, sure that if his partner wasn’t in the mood he’d say so and they’d leave it for another time, no hard feelings. By the same token, he never worried about refusing a partner something, like when that guy in Algeria had asked him to wear a corset. He’d said no, the guy shrugged, and they went straight to the sex.
But it was different with Snape. He didn’t want to refuse the man anything. Likewise, he knew it would hurt if he tried to initiate something and was rebuffed, so he usually made sure of his welcome before he did. Although, a lot of the time he got the impression that Snape was so starved for affection he’d never tell Cameron no, even if he wasn’t in the mood. He didn’t want that, either.
For the first time, he had something to lose. He didn’t want to mess up this thing with Snape.
He was just about to reach out for him when Snape stepped out from under the water and gave him a considering look. “Can you cast a wandless Featherweight on yourself?”
“Good. Legs around my waist.”
After a brief moment of shock, he pounced and wrapped himself around Snape, who turned and pressed him against the tiles. Oh, this was going to be good.
“Merlin, yes. Fuck me, Severus.”
“Summon the lube.”
Cameron shook his head. “No need, I can do a charm. It’s done, go ahead.”
“Gods, you didn’t even blink. Do you have any idea what it does to me when you do that?”
Cameron reached down and palmed his hard prick. “I’ve a notion. Are you going to do something about it?”
With a moan, Snape slid two fingers into his entrance, but Cameron was impatient.
“That’s enough, it’s enough…fuck me, Severus, I want to feel you.”
Snape looked like he might protest for a moment, but then Cameron felt the fingers leave him to be replaced by something more substantial.
“Oh, yes,” he breathed as Snape slid into him in one smooth move. It felt so full, almost uncomfortable. Just right.
“Cameron,” Snape whimpered and Cameron pulled him into a kiss. It was open-mouthed, wet, and clumsy. It was perfect.
“Now,” he mouthed against Snape’s lips, “Now, please.”
Snape nodded and began to thrust. Then they were rocking together, and it felt like they’d been doing this forever, and he never ever wanted it to stop.
“Oh,” Snape moaned, “I’m not going to last.” Cameron knew he wasn’t either, so he clenched around him and Snape was coming, filling him with heat, then he was coming too and he couldn’t see and he couldn’t breathe and everything was bliss.
But then, before Snape’s softened prick had even slipped out of him, Snape screamed and they both fell to the floor.
Chapter 15: The End, But not Really
With a stray thought, he turned the shower off and dried them both.
“What is it, are you all right?” Snape was still screaming, curled on the shower floor, so he wasn’t even sure he heard him. Not that it mattered much—he was very clearly not all right. Cameron was frantic; Snape was obviously in excruciating pain, and he had no idea why.
He saw red trickling toward the drain and followed it back to Snape’s arm. He was scratching and tearing at the Dark Mark. What in the name of the Founders was going on?
Snape’s screams tapered off just long enough for him to whimper, “Bind me,” so Cameron wasted no time Petrifying him. He agreed that it was the only way to keep him from clawing all the skin off his arm. Plus, this way he wouldn’t be able to scream his throat raw any more than he already had.
Cameron cleaned the blood from his arm and levitated him to the bed. After a few minutes, he relaxed the hex to give Snape control of his facial muscles so he could see if things were any better.
“Are you all right?”
“Hurts,” Snape whispered.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do to make it stop,” he said, looking around the room like a solution might step forward and present itself. “Has anything like this ever happened before?”
“Close. Not this bad.”
Ten years ago? Ten years ago, Harry’s parents had been killed. Ten years ago, the Evil Git had fallen.
Of course. Why hadn’t he considered this before? How could he be so stupid?
He watched the tension go out of Snape’s body and breathed a sigh of relief. Releasing the full body bind entirely, he chanced a look at his left arm and his suspicions were as good as confirmed.
“It’s gone,” Snape whispered in awe. “I—I never…” His breath hitched and Cameron looked up at him to see tears streaming down his face. He crawled up the bed next to Snape and pulled his trembling body against him.
“You all right?”
“And this isn’t like before, when it faded?”
Snape shook his head. “I can’t feel it at all. It’s gone. It’s gone,” he repeated, and Cameron wondered which of them he was trying to convince.
“We should get you to the hospital wing.” He preempted the inevitable protest, adding, “Besides, we need to find out what happened.”
Snape sighed and wiped a hand across his face. “I suppose you’re right. Let’s get dressed, then.”
They made their way to the infirmary slowly, Snape limping more heavily than usual and clutching Cameron’s arm the whole way. Cameron didn’t think he was even aware of it, so he tried not to draw attention to the fact and embarrass his normally reserved lover.
As they walked, he tried to piece together what must have happened.
He had never been sure when Nagini was made into a Horcrux—no one had, as far as he knew. If he and Snape were right in assuming His Evilness was well and truly dead, then it must have been after he fled Quirrell’s dying body. That would mean all the extant Horcruxes had been destroyed, so when Harry had touched Quirrell’s skin and the love from Lily’s sacrifice killed him, his parasitic companion had died, too.
He felt like an absolute idiot for never considering this possibility before, but regardless of how much sense it made and how obvious it seemed at that point, it still felt too good to be true.
“When you talk to the Headmaster, make sure to find out if Potter saw any type of spirit or mist leaving Quirrell’s body.”
“Leaving Quirrell? What do you mean?” he asked, his voice still hoarse from before.
“The Dark Lord’s been possessing him all year, and he died tonight trying to steal the stone. The first time this happened, the Horcruxes were still intact, so his spirit survived. This time, I think they were all destroyed beforehand.”
“I’m not really sure when the last one was created. But with what happened to your Mark, it must have been later. I think he’s really gone.”
“We’ll know soon enough.”
As soon as they walked into the hospital wing, Cameron knew he was right. There was Harry, flanked by Hermione and Ron, perched on the edge of a bed and perfectly conscious, if a little shaken. There had been no evil spirit to swoop through his body and leave him sleeping it off for three days.
That was it. It was done.
“I still can’t believe the prophecy was true.”
“Does it really matter?”
Most of the fuss had died down in the weeks since ‘the confrontation’ (as the media referred to it), and Cameron was more than ready to forget all about it.
“I suppose not. I just never put much stock in divination. I was the one who told the Dark Lord about the prophecy—I couldn’t believe it would matter. But it was the reason he targeted the Potters. It was my fault they died.”
“I know you reported it, but that doesn’t make what he did your fault. Think of it this way—if he’d never gone after them, he wouldn’t have fallen ten years ago and Lily’s sacrifice would never have happened so Potter could kill him for good.”
“That doesn’t make what I did right.”
“No, but it doesn’t make the Dark Lord’s actions your responsibility either.”
Snape nodded and they spent a few minutes nursing their tea in easy silence.
“So did everything turn out the way you were hoping?”
“Much better, actually,” he answered. In fact, he couldn’t believe how well everything had worked out. “Last time, he acquired a new body and gathered his Death Eaters again. He was active for several years and caused quite a lot of pain and suffering. This time, we’re able to avoid all that. He won’t be breaking any criminals out of Azakaban or murdering innocent children or taking over Hogwarts. And hopefully the Potter boy will be able to pass his school years without psychopaths trying to kill him at every turn.”
“He summoned the Death Eaters again, you said?” Snape asked, uncharacteristically hesitant. “Did I…?”
Cameron nodded. “You went back to spying. It was very hard on you, and I can’t express how thankful I am you don’t have to do that this time.” He tried not to think about Dumbledore’s death and what that would have done to the man he loved.
“Yes. It is certainly a welcome turn.”
“Don’t dwell on it. It’s over now.”
All the talk about the prophecy got him thinking about the other one Trelawney had made, the one about Pettigrew. There was now no reason not to see justice done, if he could just figure out how to go about it without drawing attention to himself.
As an added bonus, if he could exonerate Sirius and get him out of Azkaban, he probably wouldn’t need to worry about Snape holding his own against a werewolf with no Wolfsbane.
At the time, he had been livid with Snape for outing Remus, but looking back he could sort of understand it. What kind of responsible adult failed to take his potion in a school full of innocent children? No amount of long-lost friends escaped from prison could make that acceptable behavior. As things stood, he was the only one who could prevent it.
So, the next time they met, he asked Snape, “Do you know about Peter Pettigrew’s animagus form?”
“Something small and furry, I think. Why are you asking about him, of all people?”
“Because he isn’t dead.”
“What? How do you know?”
Cameron raised an eyebrow.
“Oh. Right,” Snape said sheepishly.
“Quite so. If I tell you that he’s masquerading as Ron Weasley’s pet rat, could you contrive to recognize him and hold him long enough for the aurors to take him into custody?”
"Did someone say rat?"
“I’m sure I could come up with something. Why is it so important?”
"No one ever listens to me."
“Trust me, it’ll save you and everyone else and a lot of pain and grief.” Snape probably wouldn’t be too happy about inadvertently getting Sirius Black cleared of all charges and released, but at least he wouldn’t be forced to interact with him via the Order this time.
By October, Sirius had been escorted from Azkaban and was in possession of everything the Ministry had confiscated and then some. Harry went to the Dursleys’ one more time to retrieve his belongings and moved into 12 Grimmauld Place.
“The man is a bumbling idiot!”
“Are we talking about Lockhart again?”
“I told you about what happened with his ill-conceived little dueling club, didn’t I?”
Cameron remembered it well. “No, what happened?”
“He made a complete fool of himself. Not that he had to try very hard, mind.”
“I’m sure. Did he do something in particular?”
“Other than try to use a made-up spell to get rid of Draco’s snake, enabling it to very nearly bite some unwitting Hufflepuff? I had to clean up his mess, of course.”
“So, I take it the Hufflepuff kid is all right?”
Snape huffed. “Of course. I reversed the spell as quickly as I could, after Lockhart’s idiocy dropped it right in front of him.”
So Harry really wasn’t a Parselmouth. There was no way Snape wouldn’t have mentioned it if the boy had suddenly started talking to the snake. He’d been fairly certain of it already, but it was good to have confirmation.
“The worst part is now that the Dark Lord is dead, the position is no longer cursed. Unless the Headmaster finds someone better and fires him, he could be here indefinitely!”
That was a rather disturbing thought. He couldn’t believe he’d completely forgotten about the curse. He thought about Remus maybe getting the job next year, but he didn’t really think he’d apply. From what he could discern from gossip and the Prophet, he hardly left Sirius’ side. If he hadn’t married Tonks last time, Cameron would be seriously wondering about those two.
“Why don’t you apply?” he asked Snape, remembering the rumor that he’d always wanted the job. “You’d be a fair sight better than the last two, that’s for certain.”
“Of course I would. But it would take more incentive than that for me to give up Potions.” Apparently, it had just been a rumor, after all. “Why don’t you apply for the position?”
“You are a Master of Defense with no steady employment, are you not?”
“Well, when you put it like that… You wouldn’t mind working with me? I wouldn’t…get under your skin?”
“Of course not,” Snape answered, then looked away. “Would such proximity be a problem for you?” he asked quietly.
Cameron couldn’t believe he was nervous about that. “No, I think that’d be the best part,” he answered honestly. “I suppose I’d better write to Dumbledore soon, then.”
Snape nodded. “But not now.” He stood and held out a hand. “Come to bed.”
“Yes, it’s getting late.” Not that he really intended on sleeping all that soon.
He collapsed onto the couch in an exhausted heap. “Why didn’t you tell me how annoying the little buggers are?” By far, the weirdest part was having his younger self in class, but he wasn’t about to say it out loud. It helped that Harry was living with Sirius and having completely different experiences than Cameron remembered.
“I’m certain I mentioned it on more than one occasion.”
Well, that was true. “Apparently you didn’t put quite enough emphasis on the fact.”
“It’s hardly my fault if you didn’t believe me.”
“Hmph. I still say it’s your fault. You were the one who first mentioned me applying for the job, you know.”
Snape chuckled. “If you insist. Why don’t you come to bed and let me make it up to you?”
Maybe he wasn’t that exhausted, after all.
“Come on. You can punish me for it by fucking me. Hard.”
“I’m not convinced you’d see that as punishment,” he said as they passed into the bedroom.
Snape shrugged and gave him a smile—that’s how he always though of it when Snape smiled at him; a gift. “Perhaps not. Either way, it’ll make you feel better.”
Cameron pulled him into a heated kiss. “Don’t worry, you don’t need to convince me.”
Chapter 16: Parenting Habits of the Guilty and Innocent
“Earl Grey is traditional!”
“But English Breakfast is a much more robust brew, and it’s high time for a change!”
“We’ve had Earl Grey for the last two hundred forty-three years.”
“My point exactly!” She slammed her palm onto the table and the teapot squeaked.
Cameron followed the argument with ill-concealed mirth. He leaned toward Snape. “Are they always like this?” He didn’t remember anyone coming to blows over tea at the staff meeting last term, but with it being his first he was understandably distracted.
“Not really. I think they’re making their own war, now they know the Dark Lord is gone for good.”
“We cannot simply deprive all those who have come to love the usual staff room tea.”
“What about the ones who are sick and tired of it? Did you think about them? Did you?”
The more time he spent around the Head of Gryffindor, the more he realized what a child he’d been before he went back in time. He’d always thought of her in the same age group as Dumbledore—at least a hundred. But looking at her now, her cheeks flushed with anger, her lips pressed into a thin line (when she wasn’t shouting), he was certain she wasn’t a day over seventy. Barely middle-aged.
“You’re doing this on purpose! I don’t know what makes you think you can always have your way, but it’s high time you learned to compromise—even five-year-olds know they can’t have their way all the time!”
He didn’t think he’d ever heard his old Head of House scream quite so loud. Dumbledore was still speaking in a normal tone of voice, but it was clear he was upset. If this went on much longer, he was afraid McGonagall might shift to her animagus form and claw her boss’ eyes out.
He decided to speak up before any blood was shed or the teapot got so distressed it fell right off the table. “Er, is there any reason we can’t have both?”
They both turned and looked at him like they were surprised to see him there. They were so caught up, they probably forgot where they were completely. They each looked around the room at all the other professors eyeing them with amusement and concern.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and tried to smile. “Yes, well. I’m sure that would be an agreeable solution. Isn’t that right, Minerva?”
“Hmph. I daresay I must agree. But not because you said so!”
“Of course not,” Dumbledore answered, twinkling at her.
Her eyes flashed with indignation and Cameron cut her off before they could get going again. “When did you say the first Hogsmeade weekend is? I’m afraid I didn’t write it down.”
“Spoilsport,” Snape mumbled.
He sat curled on the sofa with his lesson plans and a cup of tea, but he was spending most of his time watching Snape. His lover sat at his desk with a pile of essays, but, like Cameron, his attention seemed to be on other things. He mostly stared unseeing at his inkpot.
“Snape, what’s wrong?” Snape opened his mouth and Cameron cut in, “Don’t say nothing. There’s obviously something on your mind.”
Snape seemed to be about to object again, then thought better of it and blurted, “Why don’t you ever invite me to your rooms?”
Well, that was unexpected. “Um, I don’t know. I never really thought about it.” Surely Snape wasn’t upset with him for spending so much time in the dungeons.
Snape looked down and addressed his quill. “I don’t understand. You seemed to welcome me into your house easily enough.”
Oh. “I hate my quarters. I don’t like being there—it doesn’t feel like home.”
“And your house does?”
“My house…and here.”
“Ah,” Snape responded with careful nonchalance, but Cameron could see the ghost of a smile playing around his lips as he turned back to his marking.
His first plan was to see justice served and get Malfoy sentenced to life in prison. Unfortunately, with the Wizengamot in his pocket, it seemed the man could do no wrong. He’d already been acquitted for any actions before the Great Git fell by claiming to have been Imperiused, and Cameron didn’t have any actual proof of crimes he’d committed afterward.
The hex he’d used on Snape was more than just a little illegal, but then they’d have to explain about the diary, and that wouldn’t turn out well. He could try drawing Malfoy into doing something he shouldn’t, but there was no guarantee Cameron wouldn’t be arrested right alongside him. He didn’t have savior-of-the-wizarding-world status to trade on anymore.
He was so frustrated! He knew good and well that Malfoy was the worst kind of man, but all the crimes he had personal knowledge of had happened in the other timeline. With the way things had changed, none of those things would be taking place this time.
He was close to giving it up as a bad job when Draco came back from summer break wearing a glamour. No one else seemed to notice, but the red-rimmed eyes and haunted look were obvious to him. Who knew what injuries were concealed under his robes.
He stopped the boy on his way out of the Great Hall. “Mr. Malfoy. I’m afraid I must insist you visit Madam Pomfrey before you return to your dormitory.”
Draco shot him a suspicious look. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need the hospital wing.”
“Unless you want me to start asking questions, I suggest you do as you’re told. You can count on Madam Pomfrey’s discretion, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I told you, I’m fine!” he insisted, trying to cover his fear and shame with anger.
“Don’t make me take house points, Mr. Malfoy. Now, shall I escort you, or do you think you can find it on your own?”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’ll know if you don’t keep your word. Now off with you.”
“Yes, Professor,” Draco ground out through clenched teeth and turned to stalk to the hospital wing.
Cameron resolved to do whatever it took to see Lucius Malfoy answer for his crimes, whether through official channels or not.
As Harry got a bit older, Cameron became more and more concerned that someone (namely Snape) would make the connection between them. The scar and the Parselmouth business helped, along with the fact that no one besides Snape had any reason to suspect he’d traveled back in time, but he still worried.
If Harry ever decided to grow his hair out or get rid of the glasses, he might be in trouble.
He wasn’t certain—it was, after all, rather difficult to get a sense of one’s own magical signature—but he thought his and Harry’s magic were rather different. It made sense, seeing as Cameron had housed a Horcrux and Harry had not. He just hoped it was enough of a difference to divert any suspicions.
Finally, the anxiety got to him and he couldn’t take it anymore.
“You’ve never asked me about what my name used to be.”
“No, and I shan’t.”
Well, thank the Founders for that, at least. “Why not? Aren’t you curious?”
“I thought about asking, at first. But imagine how awkward it would be if I ever met your younger self—assuming you’ve even been born yet. I think I would be hard pressed to behave normally.”
It did make sense. Trust Snape to be the most logical person ever. “You’re right. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t resent me or anything for not telling you.”
Snape shrugged. “Like I said, I was a bit curious. But it’s nothing to do with us.”
Cameron smiled in relief. “You’re right, it isn’t.”
He rounded the fourth floor corridor and thought he was experiencing déjà vu. The scene was eerily familiar—Harry had his wand trained on Draco, who was dangling upside down in midair, Ron was beside himself with laughter in between taunts and insults, and Hermione just stood there biting her lip, knowing it was wrong and not doing anything. At least Draco was wearing trousers under his robes.
“What in the name of Merlin do you think you’re doing?”
Harry whipped around to face him and lost control of his spell, but Cameron was quick to levitate Draco and lower him gently to the ground.
“Are you injured, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco shook his head.
“Fine. Off with you, then.”
Draco hastily left he vicinity. “Now then. Someone care to tell me what possessed you to gang up on a classmate?”
Ron was red in the face and Harry looked torn between shame and righteous indignation. Cameron decided on a different tack.
“Who taught you that spell? Never mind, I know very well who it was. You may tell your godfather, Mr. Potter, that it is high time he grew up and began setting the kind of example James would have wanted rather than reliving his cruel teenage pranks. I will not tolerate any more behavior in this vein from you—nor you, Mr. Weasley.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Cameron wasn’t finished. “Thirty points from Gryffindor each for Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley, and detention the rest of this week with Mr. Filch. Miss Granger, ten points for you. Next time something like this happens, I expect you to call in reinforcements if you don’t think you can handle the situation yourself.”
The boys looked like they wanted to defend themselves, but Hermione said, “Yes, Professor Sage,” grabbed them each by an arm, hissed, “Shush, we got off easy,” and dragged them away.
When they were out of sight, Cameron slumped against the wall. What was happening to Harry? Surely Sirius wasn’t entirely to blame, though he certainly wasn’t helping. He hadn’t considered what sort of effect the absence of several life-changing experiences might have on young Harry.
He could picture the two of them in Grimmauld Place, maybe Remus was there too, but probably not. Sirius would be feeling a bit at sea, still new at parenting a teenager. The last thing he’d remember clearly would be being twenty-one years old and James Potter’s best friend. He’d miss James and see him in Harry, whether he was really there or not. They’d sit about in the evenings with Sirius telling stories of his glory days with the father Harry had no memory of and congratulating him for killing Voldemort. He could sort of understand Harry wanting to emulate the things he heard about his father, but surely he was smart enough to know that wasn’t exactly proper behavior. Surely he was mature enough to understand that just because his father acted that way when he was at school didn’t make it right.
He’d assumed Harry would turn out the same way he had. Maybe, in the end, he would. Cameron hadn’t thought he’d ever be grateful for all the awful things that happened to him and the people he loved, but it seemed they weren’t without their advantages.
He was expecting it, of course, but the relief he felt was palpable when no fourth name came flying out of the Goblet of Fire. He was actually able to enjoy watching the tasks, secure in the knowledge that a portkey to a graveyard full of masked villains and death wasn’t waiting for the champion.
He managed not to show his surprise when Viktor Krum won the tournament. Somehow, he’d assumed that Cedric would come out on top. But, with Krum free of any Unforgivables during the third task and without Harry there to inform Cedric about the dragons and give him time to prepare, Krum prevailed.
He was a little annoyed with Cedric for being so put out about coming in second place, but he reminded himself that the boy didn’t know to be grateful he was still alive. He was just a seventeen-year-old kid who’d let his classmates down.
Cameron knew it was a small price to pay, even if Cedric didn’t. Besides, he knew the Hufflepuffs wouldn’t hold it against him for long. It went quite against their nature to carry grudges.
Chapter 17: Taking Care of Malfoy
“Do I know you?”
“Likely not. I attended a Christmas party of yours once, but I’m afraid we didn’t have much opportunity for conversation.”
“I see.” Malfoy seemed vexed, and rightly so, though he was doing his best not to show it. If someone had waltzed right through Cameron’s wards, he’d have been more than a little put out. Unlike his own, which he’d placed himself, the wards on Malfoy Manor were probably centuries old and, judging by the pinched look on Malfoy’s face, had never been breached before.
Malfoy looked like he was trying to decide whether to offer Cameron tea or brandish his wand and like he was wondering if it was foolhardy to chastise Cameron for his breach in etiquette when he was so obviously more powerful than Malfoy. “Is there something I can do for you, Mr…?”
“Sage. And, yes, there is something you can do for me.”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes. “I’ve seen you somewhere else besides the Manor.”
Cameron gave him some time and could see the moment he remembered finding him in Snape’s sitting room.
“Yes, you have, Mr. Malfoy. You caused irreparable damage to someone very dear to me.”
Malfoy scoffed. “Snape? That man is dear to no one. He got what he deserved.”
Cameron consciously held himself in place. “You’d best watch your tongue if you want to keep it. Severus is the most important thing in the world to me, and you’ll do well to remember it. And he most certainly did not deserve what you did to him.”
The blond faltered and tried to regain his customary contemptuous and pompous expression. “He damaged my property.”
“You and I both know that book was not your property and you shouldn’t have been playing with it.” He could see that Malfoy was reeling, trying to figure out how much Cameron knew and how he might have found out.
“I ask you again, what is it you want from me?”
“Turn yourself in. Confess to your crimes. You have one week—if I don’t see headlines by next Wednesday, I’m coming for you. Trust me when I say you’ll prefer the Dementors’ methods to mine.”
And with that, he Disapparated right through the anti-Apparition wards he’d been silently deconstructing during their conversation.
“Snape? Snape! You here?”
Odd. He’d checked the lab and office on the way down and, as he’d expected, they were empty. He hadn’t been to the classroom, but it was well after normal detention hours. It was Friday—Snape didn’t have patrol this evening.
So where the hell was he?
“He’s not here. Stop shouting.”
“Well, where is he, then?”
“You’re awfully anxious to find him.” He wondered if snakes could leer.
“Just tell me where he went. Please.”
“Through the fire. Some man needed a favor, though I can’t see as it’s any of your business.”
Who would Snape have gone to do a favor for? And why did it give him such a queasy feeling?
“Did the man say who he was? Did you recognize him? Or hear the floo direction when Snape left?”
“What’s in it for me if I tell you?”
Bloody fucking snake. “How about I refrain from strangling you and feeding your infuriating corpse to Fuzzy as a treat?”
“You’re no fun. Malfoy Manor,” Thessa answered, and Cameron’s stomach clenched as he lunged for the floo powder.
The moment he stepped out of the fire, he fell to the ground. He had a brief moment to berate himself for not Apparating or at least erecting a personal shield prior to flooing into hostile territory before he lost consciousness.
His first awareness was of a blinding headache. Or maybe the blindness was only due to the utter darkness of his location. The air was damp and stale and he could feel cold stone under his fingers. Dungeon?
The next thing he noticed was the sound of labored breathing. Someone was hurt. Someone…Snape?
Other than the already fading headache, which was an unpleasant side-effect of the Stupification he’d been subjected to upon arrival, he seemed to be uninjured. He rolled to his knees and crawled toward the person he both wished and hoped was not Snape. It’d be nice to know where he was, but all things considered, he’d rather not know he was hurt and being held in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor.
He touched painfully familiar hair and followed it to stroke over a clammy cheek.
“Snape? You awake?”
Snape groaned and pressed his face into Cameron’s hand. He took that as a yes.
“Where does it hurt?”
Snape took his hand and pressed it against his throat then his abdomen.
“I’ve got you now,” he murmured. He concentrated on gathering his magic to heal his lover, but it was like slogging through wet cement. Magic-dampening field. Great. He concentrated harder, and was able to fix Snape’s throat enough that he could speak and heal the cracks in his ribs to hairline fractures.
He was sweaty, panting, and shaky when he finished. It would have to be enough for now.
This was all his fault. He should have told Snape what he was doing with Malfoy. If he had, Snape never would’ve come here to do his ‘favor’. He’d thought he was protecting him. More fool he.
He was just about to ask Snape what had happened when the door was flung open. He blinked against the sudden brightness.
Malfoy, silhouetted against the light, twirled his ridiculous cane. Cameron wanted to rip him limb from limb. He hadn’t been foolish enough to think Malfoy would actually go to the authorities, but he’d felt obliged to give him the chance. This he should have seen coming, and it rankled that he hadn’t.
He stood, placing himself between Malfoy and Snape, and let his eyes adjust.
Malfoy smirked. “You’ve noticed the field, I presume.” The bastard was in his element, sure he had them at his non-existent mercy.
He forcibly restrained himself from rolling his eyes. True, he wouldn’t be able to use magic against Malfoy here. It took too much concentration and too much time to circumvent the field. But he, unlike Malfoy, knew magic was not the be-all and end-all of existence. Silently, he thanked Mr. Mustache for the daily exercise regimen and ‘survival skills’ he’d hammered into Cameron’s brain. Luckily for him, Mr. Mustache’s idea of ‘survival’ had been ‘get the other guy before he gets you’.
In less than ten seconds, Malfoy was pinned against the stone floor with his own cane pressed hard under his jaw and his wand across the room. His eyes were wide with surprise and he clawed ineffectually at Cameron’s hands. His aristocratic complexion blanched even further when Cameron gave him an evil smile.
“Where have you been?”
“Oh hush, it hasn’t been that long. The healers would’ve kicked me out for most of it, anyway. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine. Where were you?” Snape was trying to look imposing from his hospital bed, but it wasn’t really working.
“Had to take care of Malfoy, of course.”
“Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by ‘take care of Malfoy’?”
“Are you sure you’re all right? You’re still sounding a bit hoarse.”
“I’m told it will pass. Don’t fret—the mediwizard said whoever did the initial healing was amateur but adequate about the job, as far as it went.”
Thank the Founders for that. He hadn’t thought much about it at the time, but afterward he’d been terrified his clumsy attempt at healing might have caused permanent damage.
“Now are you going to answer my question? Or is it too likely you’ll be tossed in Azkaban forthwith if someone overhears?”
Cameron cast an Imperturbable on the room and sat on the bed with Snape. “I didn’t do nearly as much as I wanted to. Apparently I don’t have the stomach for torture, which I suppose is a good thing. But don’t worry, he’s been punished and he’s not going to be able to hurt you again. If he does somehow manage to, I certainly won’t have any qualms about ripping his legs off and feeding them to him whole, queasiness be damned.”
“Sage, just tell me what you did.”
“Right. Well, I thought it would be fun to take the things he loved most away from him. Not terribly original, but poetic and all that. So first I drained his magic.”
Snape made a strangled noise that sounded like an aborted whimper. “You can do that?”
“So it would seem. Wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Anyway, next I gave him a very pretty scar across his pretty face. The kind that makes people grimace and turn away shuddering when they see it. Most of his left ear is gone, in fact. Then I gave him a painful, pronounced limp so he could actually use that cane he’s so fond of. And then I castrated him.”
Snape flinched. “Really?”
“Yep. I dumped him outside his wards. They were tuned to his magical signature, so he won’t be able to get back in unless someone invites him, and I don’t think that’s likely. He doesn’t have any muggle assets, so best case scenario he can’t afford food and dies of starvation within the week.”
“I think he’s much more likely to kill himself. He’d think death far preferable to being a muggle.”
Cameron shrugged. “That works, too.” He ran his fingers through Snape’s hair in the silence, reassuring himself that Snape was alive and whole. Finally, though, he couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“I’m so sorry about what happened. I should have told you what was going on, then you never would’ve…And I should have found you sooner—how long were you there? It was all my fault…”
“Sage, stop babbling. Yes, you probably should have informed me of your plans. Come to think of it, it all would’ve been avoided if I’d done the same. You didn’t and I didn’t, and what’s done is done. Your oversight does not make you responsible for anything Malfoy did. Besides, I’ve always been quite aware of taking my life into my own hands every time I do that man a favor.” Snape pulled him down so his head was resting on Snape’s chest.
“I s’pose. What did he do? Will you tell me?”
“He firecalled around six—”
“He had you for four sodding hours! Oh gods, I’m sorry—”
“Hush. It wasn’t that bad. He used the Cruciatus a few times, hit me with his cane, crushed my throat under his boot heel. Then he tossed me in the cell where I hit my head and promptly lost consciousness.”
“Not that bad! You say it like it’s a potions recipe or something. He hit you with that cane hard enough to break several ribs, you know. And I’ve felt the Cruciatus enough times to know it’s no fucking picnic!”
Snape tightened his arms around Cameron’s shoulders. “You’ve…? I didn’t know.”
“I have. So forgive me if I think being Crucio-ed ‘a few times’ is sort of a big deal.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t have tried to downplay it. But it didn’t last as long as it might’ve, and I spent most of the recovery period unconscious. And when I woke up you were there. I could smell you and feel your hands and hear your voice. You took most of the pain away. You had come for me, and I knew everything was going to be all right.”
Cameron blinked. “That was…remarkably sappy.”
Snape shifted uncomfortably. “Hmph. See if I ever try to make you feel better again.”
Cameron tilted Snape’s face back toward him and kissed the scowl off his lips. “Don’t be embarrassed. It was sweet. That’s how I feel every morning when I wake up with you. I feel your warm body pressed against me and hear your breathing, and I smile because I know as long as you’re there with me, everything will be fine.”
Snape’s face twisted in the way that meant he was suppressing a smile. “Right. Are we through with sappy now?”
Cameron nodded. “Quite.”
“Good. Now go run down a healer and get me released from this infernal place. Use the Imperius Curse, if you have to.”
Chapter 18: Light of my Life
“Cam? Hey, Cam!”
He knew that voice. Flourish and Blotts and the search for new textbook possibilities forgotten, he paused in his stroll down Diagon Alley to search the faces in the crowd.
“How are you? I heard you’ve got my old job.”
“I have. It’s going fairly well. What are you doing now? I didn’t know you’d stayed in the UK.”
“I’m working for Gringotts. Papa wanted me closer to home, but I decided to stay after Miles made me a lantern.” She gestured to the man standing next to her and Cameron noticed him for the first time.
Her brow furrowed. “Oh, you two know each other?”
He had no idea how much it was all right to say. “Er, in a way.”
Marks cut in, “Not to worry, I told her all about it. Just didn’t know to mention your name.”
Simran laughed. “That was you? You were the crackerjack curse-breaker?”
“Yeah. Wait a minute—did you say he made you a lantern?” He turned toward Marks. “Hobby of yours?”
Simran put her hands on her hips. “You can’t be serious.”
Clearly, he was missing something here. She was looking insulted, and he had no idea how he’d put his foot in it. “Muggle-raised,” he reminded her, raising a hand and waving his fingers at her.
She had the grace to look sheepish. “Right. Well, er, it’s what wizards or witches do when they, you know, when they want to—” She waved her hand, indicating Marks and herself. Cameron looked back and forth between them. He didn’t know what he was supposed to be seeing.
“When they want to bond,” Marks explained. “I proposed. In the magical world, when someone wants to propose bonding, they present their intended with a lantern.”
Well, of course. That made…no sense at all. “A lantern.”
“It’s a very old tradition. Something about being the light in each other’s lives. Usually, there are scenes from the courtship or hopes and dreams about the future relationship drawn or painted on the shade.”
“Miles’ was just beautiful.”
“I see.” He didn’t really, not exactly, but he was resolved to get himself a detailed book on wizarding rituals and traditions, and that was near enough for now. “Wait. You’re getting married?”
“Oh. Well, congratulations then.”
“Thanks,” she beamed. “Expect an invite in the next few months.”
He saw the announcement in the morning’s Prophet, on page seven near the bottom.
Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks were to be bonded Saturday next in a small, private ceremony officiated by Headmaster Dumbledore.
His first incredulous thought was to wonder what in the Founders’ names qualified Albus Dumbledore to go ‘round marrying people. Maybe in the wizarding world, the celebrant didn’t need to be a minister or anything like that. Maybe ‘ancient’ or ‘nosy’ or ‘blithely serene’ were top selling points in officiants for bondings.
Then he paused to think about who had done the lantern-making, but not for long. It had to have been Tonks. There was absolutely no way Remus would think enough of himself to propose tying Tonks to himself for eternity. He wondered what Tonks’ lantern had looked like. The book he’d read said that magic helped shape the making of the lantern, particularly the shade, with memories and emotions and intent. What would it be like to receive something like that from someone, knowing they couldn’t lie about their feelings or intentions? Personally, he would be terrified of making one. What if the magic knew him better than he knew himself? Who knew what the pictures might show.
Next, he felt like an idiot for his assumptions about Remus and Sirius. Still, they seemed awfully close and he refused to apologize for it.
After that, he wanted to know what was with all the marriages. Almost immediately, though, he realized it was only the two and that led him to wonder what could be going on in his head to make it strike him that way.
Then he remembered Teddy. That was the important thing, and he was a bit angry at himself for taking so long to arrive there. Maybe this time, Teddy could grow up with his father and mother and grandfather all alive and there to love and care for him. He would be surrounded by family, like a child should be.
He didn’t think he’d ever been so glad that he went back in time.
“Remember, that’s eighteen inches on vampires and the myths surrounding them by Tuesday. I’ll see you then. Have a nice weekend!” He shouted the last bit in the vain hope the students pushing through the door were still paying him the slightest bit of attention. Not that he blamed them, in all honesty. He was not so old that he couldn’t remember what it was like to sit through the last class of the day on a Friday.
Hell, he still felt that way most of the time.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were the last ones out. Unlike most of their classmates, they were in no hurry to put their things away as they chatted about Hogsmeade tomorrow. Apparently, Sirius and Remus were meeting them and buying them all lunch.
He saw Harry duck down to pick up the best quill that money could buy. He recognized it instantly and he knew Harry had to as well. Everyone knew that quill.
“Malfoy left his quill.”
Ron made a face like he’d swallowed a slug, then grinned. “What should we do with it?”
Harry frowned. “Give it back to him. What else would we do with it?”
He saw Ron’s eyes dart toward him and back to Harry. “Right, of course. Why don’t I just hold onto it, then?” He extended his hand, but Harry made no move to give it over.
“Ron, I know you’ve seen him with this quill. It’s obviously very important to him.” Harry held the quill close to his face and examined it.
“Well, that’s the point, innit?” Ron asked in what he obviously thought was a whisper. Cameron continued arranging the papers on his desk.
“What is it?” Hermione asked between disapproving glances at Ron.
Harry held the quill toward her, but kept hold of it. “Read it.”
“ ‘To Draco with highest esteem, from your Father on the occasion of your twelfth birthday’. Wow. I’m sure this is very precious to him. Lucius Malfoy went missing over the summer, you know.”
Ron huffed. “Yes, we know. The whole world knows.”
Just then, Draco shot into the classroom and skidded to a halt. He was breathing hard, his eyes darting about. When he caught sight of Harry holding his quill, he took an abortive step forward then froze. Did he think Harry was holding the quill hostage, or something? Malfoys were a paranoid bunch, but he supposed they had reason.
“I found this under your desk,” Harry said, holding the quill out. “Thought you might like it back.”
Draco’s eyes narrowed and he looked at each of the three in turn. When no demands were forthcoming, he ventured, “Why?”
“Well, er…I could tell it means a lot to you.”
“Of course it does! Why are you just giving it back to me?”
“Because it’s yours.” Harry thrust the quill into Draco’s hand. “I’m sorry about your father,” he muttered, then snatched up his bag and scurried out of the room. Hermione and Ron were right on his heels.
Draco looked after them for a moment, bewildered, then blinked and gave his head a slight shake. He stroked the quill before sliding it carefully into its case, nodded to Cameron, and left with his usual poise.
Once he was sure no one would overhear, he whispered, “Five points from Gryffindor for being an arse, Mr. Weasley. Mr. Potter, ten points to Gryffindor for showing compassion and doing the right thing, despite the influence of your peers and infantile guardian. And five points to Slytherin for keeping your head, Mr. Malfoy.”
“What’s all this?”
“You made it?”
“I did. Well, mostly. You’re a bit earlier than usual—it should be done in a few minutes. I hope you’re hungry.”
“So, it’s food?” Snape asked as he removed his outer robes.
Cameron spun around with the ladle in his hand. “Of course it’s food.”
“What possessed you to cook? And what, precisely, is gumbo?”
“You don’t have to say it with that tone of voice. I just…felt like doing something for you. I thought you might enjoy it.” He shrugged and turned back to the pot. He didn’t know why he’d decided to cook. He just liked the idea of the two of them sitting down to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day. He’d pictured Snape closing his eyes in appreciation…and now he was just embarrassed.
“You, er, still haven’t told me what it is.”
“It’s a type of soup popular in the Gulf Coast region of the States. It’s served over rice; there’s stock, roux—”
“And roux is…?”
Cameron sighed. “Do you really need the recipe? It’s good. I think you’ll like it. Can’t that be enough?”
He only realized how vigorously he was stirring when a hand landed on his and stilled the ladle. “Sage, what’s wrong? I didn’t mean to interrogate you. I was simply trying to make conversation.”
He leaned back into warmth behind him. “I’m sorry. I don’t know. I had this ridiculous vision of dinner tonight, and…I don’t know. I’m being silly.”
“Yes, you are. Now, is dinner ready?”
Dinner was ready, and they ate mostly in companionable silence. It wasn’t the fantasy of utopian domesticity he had pictured, but it was good. Snape remarked on the flavor of the food, and tried to guess all the spices. It didn’t take him nearly as long as Cameron would have liked, but it was amusing.
After dinner was better. The dishes were left for the house elves, and Snape seemed to be feeling apologetic. Or maybe he was just in an odd mood. Either way, Cameron was very appreciative of the careful attention Snape paid his body, and didn’t hesitate to express it.
Or at least until he was rendered speechless by the searing tongue and inquisitive fingers caressing him all over, which took a pathetically short amount of time. He wasn’t too concerned about his incoherency, though, since his mouth was soon occupied with more important things.
And, oh, how he loved kissing Snape. Sometimes, it seemed like the most intimate thing they did. With anyone else, Cameron had never been terribly taken with the kissing—it seemed a prelude to other, better things—but with Snape he wanted it to go on forever. The nipping and licking and sucking, the feel of Snape’s nose pressing into him and the hint of a rasp on his chin and the long, coarse hair under his fingers, the indescribable taste, the bony hands fisted in his hair and clutching at his shoulders and leaving bruises on his arms…
“Sage,” Snape whispered against his lips, running a fingertip down Cameron’s chest, “I want to feel you inside me.”
The world shifted and Snape was underneath him. He couldn’t hold back a moan. The lube slapped into his outstretched hand as he nibbled down the pale column of throat before him.
“Like this?” he asked.
Snape answered by pulling his knees back and groaning. Cameron wasted no time getting the jar open and slicking his erection. He brushed his slippery fingers over the puckered entrance and Snape whimpered.
“Not necessary, you know that.”
He did know it, but he liked touching his lover.
“Now, I want you now. Cameron, please.”
There was no resisting that look or that tone. Not that he was trying especially hard. He cupped Snape’s face for a kiss with one hand and aligned his cock with the other. He swallowed Snape’s sigh when he pushed inside.
“Gods, you feel so good.”
Cameron would have liked to answer, but he didn’t think he could speak just yet. He was still reveling in the sensation when Snape's legs wrapped around him and his heels pressed into Cameron’s back, urging him to move.
“Please,” Snape repeated when he didn’t comply quickly enough.
Cameron began to thrust. He couldn’t have held still at that point even if he wanted to. He opened his eyes and found Snape’s dark, penetrating gaze studying his face, drinking him in.
“I am so lucky,” he muttered to himself and started to move faster.
“Yes! Oh Merlin, yes. There!”
Snape was writhing beneath him, mouth half open and eyes hooded. He was utterly irresistible at the best of times, but when he was like this Cameron wanted to swallow him whole. He snaked a hand between their sweat-slick bodies to grasp Snape’s throbbing erection.
“So incredible. I can’t…I’m going to…”
“Yes,” Snape entreated, arching up toward him, “Yes!”
A few more erratic thrusts and he was lost, moaning, “Oh, Severus, Sev—Oh!” and the world went white.
The next thing he noticed was Snape’s tongue licking the semen off Cameron’s hand. He must have looked as dazed as he felt, because when Snape released his hand, he smirked.
Snape ignored his comment. “It’s early yet. I still have marking to do. Will you join me?”
“In a moment.”
When Cameron came out of the loo into the sitting room, he found Snape tucked into the corner of the sofa with a pile of parchment on his lap. He looked up with the half-smile that was downright cheerful for him, and Cameron noticed that the dressing gown Snape was wearing was his.
His mind reeled. Incredulous, all he could think was, ‘Snape is wearing my dressing gown.’
“What is it?”
“I, er…nothing.” He sat beside Snape and threaded a hand through his hair. “Have I told you how much I love you today?”
“Actually, I believe you have.”
There was no way he could explain the utter perfection of the evening. And it just kept getting better.
“I just….I really, really love you. You know that, right? You believe me.”
Snape put his quill down and looked at Cameron as if trying to diagnose him. “Yes. Is something wrong?”
“No. It’s just…sometimes I am so in love with you that it hurts. Do you know what I mean?”
For an eternal, excruciating moment, Snape said and did nothing. Then, he stroked his thumb over Cameron’s bottom lip. “I…yes. I do.” Snape’s kiss was soft and gentle and lingering, and Cameron wondered why they ever spoke at all when they could communicate like this.
Then, Snape pulled back and picked his quill up again.
Chapter 19: Lay Me Down
“Where’s the cake?”
“You know…the wedding cake.”
“Sage, for Merlin’s sake. How many times today am I going to have to remind you that this is a bonding, not a wedding?”
“Right. Sorry. I don’t know why I have all these ridiculous ideas about how this is supposed to be. Obviously I’ve never been to a bonding, but I’ve never been to a wedding either! How did this stuff get into my head?”
“I ask myself that question nearly every day.”
Cameron feigned a scowl and Snape steered him toward the bar. Yes, alcohol was more than welcome.
Snape pressed a glass of watery whiskey into his hand. Cameron knocked it back and held it out to the barkeep for a refill. They moved back to their position on the periphery, where Cameron leaned against the wall to watch the crowd and Snape acted as if no one else were present and had eyes only for his shoes.
Cameron determined that the few Hogwarts professors he’d seen earlier must have left directly after the ceremony so there was no one there he knew. He also noted that, while everyone seemed a bit tipsy, no one was drunk enough to do anything truly interesting.
“So, have you been to a bonding before?”
“Two. I have attended one wedding as well, and I must say they’re remarkably similar.”
“The officiant speaks about the meaning and importance of a bonding or marriage, the couple makes vows of eternal affection and fidelity, then afterward everyone gets as drunk as propriety will allow. There’s awkward dancing, insincere congratulations, and an overabundance of flowers. Remarkably similar.”
“Except for the cake.”
Snape inclined his head. “Except for the cake. And the blessings bestowed by the attendants. And, of course, the fact that half of marriages end in divorce.”
“Wizards and witches tend to stay together, then?”
“They have no choice. There is no divorce in the magical world.”
“There are certain instances, such as one spouse receiving a life sentence to Azkaban or falling into a permanent magical coma, in which a bonding can be declared void, but it is rare. As you might imagine, bondings are not entered into lightly.”
“No, I should think not.”
Cameron sipped his drink. The idea of being bound to another person for life, of it being irreversible, should have been terrifying. It was the kind of thing that would have made him shudder in the past. He didn’t know when things had turned upside down in his head, but now the idea just seemed… well, comforting.
He imagined it as something akin to enjoying a perfect cup of tea in the morning—wrapping his hands around the hot cup, feeling the steam on his face, savoring the familiar taste—even if he didn’t usually notice it as he hovered in the hazy land between dreams and true waking.
A sharp, familiar voice jerked him from his thoughts.
“Pro-Professor Kabbali. Oh. Er, hullo. Congratulations. To, er, Simran, that is. I mean, I’m sure you must be happy, but probably not too happy…” What was it about the man that reduced Cameron to an incoherent teenager?
“I see your articulacy remains as ever.” The professor flicked his eyes to Snape. “Shall I introduce myself, then?”
“Oh! Sorry. Professor, this is Severus Snape, my… er, well, he’s the Potions Master at Hogwarts. Snape, meet Professor Kabbali.”
“Snape. I’ve read some of your work.” His tone was flat, as per usual, and no one, except perhaps for Simran, would have known if he meant to praise Snape or deride him.
“Likewise,” Snape answered.
They did not shake hands.
“So… how long are you in town?”
“I return to India this evening.”
Professor Kabbali studied Snape and Cameron fidgeted.
“Severus Snape, your… what, precisely?” the professor asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh. Well, he’s my—I mean we’re—I’m… That is to say—”
Cameron felt Snape’s arm snake around his waist and thought his heart just might melt at the unprecedented gesture. Just about everyone at Hogwarts knew about their relationship, he was sure, but they never openly acknowledged it.
“His lover.” Snape narrowed his eyes. “As I’m certain you well know.”
The professor pressed his lips into a thin line, but did not comment. “You’re Hogwarts’ Defense Master. Put my daughter out a job, did you, Mr. Sage?”
“What! No, of course not. I didn’t start ‘til two years later!”
“With the training you received, I’d have expected you to advance far beyond teaching twelve-year-olds by now. Tell me, do you deny your potential and cling to your mediocrity just for… him?”
Cameron clenched his teeth and reminded himself how much he’d learned from this man.
“Papa, are you terrorizing the guests?” Simran planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. “Oh! It’s you two.”
“Congrats, again. The ceremony was beautiful.”
“But the drinks were weak, right?” She grinned. “Having fun? You know, before Mr. Prickly here came over and poked you?”
“Oh no, we were just… catching up.”
Snape snorted and Simran elbowed her father. “Yeah, okay. Anyway, Miles’ parents want to speak with Papa, though I can’t imagine why. Later, yeah?” she shot over her shoulder as she dragged her father away.
“Well, that was… interesting.”
Cameron wished he had another drink. “Yeah.”
“Is he always like that?”
“That has been my experience.” He felt sorry for Marks and his folks. At least he and Snape would never have in-laws to worry—
“Can we get out of here?” he asked abruptly, cursing his unruly thoughts.
“As you wish,” Snape answered, and in no time at all they were standing at the Apparition point.
Cameron was surprised by how much he wanted to be anywhere but there, and it wasn’t all to do with Professor Kabbali. He was never going to another wedding—bonding, he reminded himself—unless it was his own.
He looked to Snape with a tight smile. “Meet you at the gates?”
The closer he came to the day he went back in time, the more apprehensive Cameron became. He’d told Snape he didn’t think anything bad was going to happen, and he’d believed it at the time. He still sort of did, somewhere deep down.
But the fact that he had no real reason, no proof for his conclusion… that made him nervous. It wasn’t enough to think he probably wouldn’t just up and disappear. And that wasn’t even the worst that could happen! What if he woke up that day with his consciousness inside seventeen-year-old Harry Potter’s body? Well, he’d be eighteen by that time, but that was hardly any consolation.
He would much rather watch over Snape from the afterlife (would he even have an afterlife?) than to be twenty years younger and have Snape hate him. Granted, Snape’s hatred for Harry didn’t seem to be quite so vehement this time, but any amount of hatred would be too much for him.
Not to mention, if things kept going like they were he’d probably be engaged to Ginny by then, and wouldn’t that be awkward. No, he’d been Harry Potter once already and he’d be damned if he was going to do it again.
He thought and researched and thought some more about ways he could prevent that from happening, but he hadn’t found anything yet. Not that he was giving up; a few sleepless nights were a small price to pay, and he’d be able to recharge a bit over Easter break. His students were probably suffering for it too, but it was better than them coming back from Christmas to find their professor had gone missing.
“… any attention at all?”
“You’ve been staring at the wall for twenty minutes. What is the matter with you?”
“Nothing? You haven’t talked to me in weeks, and—”
“I have, too!”
“Pardon me, I wasn’t including ‘I have a detention tonight,’ or ‘Pass the sugar.’ Have I done something? I’ve been over and over my actions, and I cannot fathom what could have offended you so. If you are through with me, please just say so—I can’t take this much longer.”
Snape looked anguished and Cameron had to fight to keep from crying. He had done this.
“No, Snape. I couldn’t do without you.” He scooted down the couch and wrapped his arms around Snape. “I’m sorry I’ve been so distant lately. It’s nothing to do with you, I swear.”
He guided Snape’s chin around and kissed him.
Snape kept his eyes closed when they pulled apart. “You still love me,” he whispered.
It wasn’t a question, but Cameron answered anyway. “Yes. Always.”
He’d been tense, practically shaking, all night. He hadn’t slept a wink, but he had lain in bed for several hours. He wondered what the rest to sleep conversion factor was.
He was terrified to go to sleep. What if he didn’t wake up? It was nearly dawn, though. Surely if something was going to happen, it would have done so by now. After all, it was twelve hours since he’d used the Time-Turner. Or hadn’t. Whatever.
But if nothing awful happened, there was the potential for things to be amazing. Of course, there was also the potential for disaster, but he preferred to worry about one thing at a time, and he wasn’t done worrying about becoming nonexistent yet. What if the magic was just waiting for him to nod off? He fell asleep arguing in circles with himself.
It was less than ten minutes later he felt Snape stir and jerked awake.
Oh, sweet Merlin. He’d done it. He’d fallen asleep and actually woken up! He raised a hand to his face and felt his morning stubble and the smooth area on his forehead where he didn’t have a scar.
Yes! He’d woken up, and he was still thirty-nine.
“S’matter with you?” Snape mumbled, and Cameron realized he was grinning like a loon.
“I have something to tell you. And then I have something to ask you. Don’t let me forget.”
Snape gave him a sleepy, confused look, and Cameron leaned over and kissed him. He was alive, he was himself, and he still had Snape. Life was good.
“You’re quite… energetic,” Snape muttered against his mouth when they paused for breath.
“Yes,” he answered, rolling on top of his lover.
“I think I like it.”
Cameron was never so thankful that they slept naked most of the time. He could feel Snape’s warm skin under him and his rapidly hardening prick pressed against his hip. Snape’s hands were making sleepy, uncoordinated movements on his back and it was glorious.
He kissed his way down Snape’s throat to suck on the soft spot where his neck and shoulder met.
Snape moaned and thrust his hips up.
“What do you want?” Cameron whispered in his ear.
“You, just you.”
Cameron’s brain knew that could be interpreted any number of ways, but his libido could make only one translation. Without so much as a conscious thought, he charmed lubrication onto Snape’s cock and heard him gasp.
Cameron swallowed any other noise he might have made with a kiss, knelt up, and reached behind himself to guide Snape’s prick to his entrance. He lowered himself slowly, and he could feel Snape fighting with himself to stay still.
He stopped only when he was completely filled. He rested his forehead on Snape’s shoulder and panted. He wanted to stay that way forever, but he knew there were better things to come. Bracing his hands on Snape’s chest, he raised himself up.
“Cameron,” Snape whimpered.
Cameron let go, letting his weight bring him down fast and hard. He repeated the process, squirming around until the angle was just right.
His thighs and arms were trembling with the effort of moving his weight up and down. Snape’s fingers were clamped onto his hips; there’d be bruises there later. They would go nicely with the scratch marks he was leaving on Snape’s chest. Snape was thrusting up to meet him. His head was thrown back, his mouth slack, gasping.
Cameron felt the pressure building inside and welcomed it with glee.
“Severus, Severus, Sev—ah!—oh, Merlin. I love you, I lo—nngh… !”
He fought to keep himself from collapsing for a few moments until Snape reached his peak with a hissed breath and clenched teeth, then fell to the bed.
When he could move again, he shifted off Snape to lie beside him. He was so glad it was Christmas break. He could really do with a kip.
Snape rolled to his side and propped his head on his hand to look at Cameron. “What was it you wanted to say?”
Why, why had he asked Snape to remind him? All the worry he’d allocated to time paradoxes shifted to this. Just stay calm, he told himself.
It didn’t work.
“I need to—to tell you… I don’t… ” Oh Merlin, this was so much harder than he’d expected. “I don’t know how to… to… ” He knew as soon as he told Snape that he used to be Harry Potter, he’d be out the door and lucky if he still had all his parts. Not that that would matter, when Snape was in here and he was out there. “I used to—my name was… oh gods, I—you don’t know, I have to tell you… ”
“You’re wrong, Sage. I do know.”
Cameron started breathing faster and his heart sped up. His whole body felt too hot. He felt like he was about to die. Considering what he was sure was happening, death seemed like a welcome alternative.
“How, how could I not have known? I’ve loved you for fourteen years, of course I know.” Snape trailed the back of his index finger down Cameron’s cheek.
A caress? Surely caressing meant Snape was not about to extract his heart through his navel and tear it into tiny, jagged pieces. Or he was lulling him into a false sense of security. That must be it.
“You’re not angry?”
“Do I seem angry?”
Cameron had to admit that, if anything, Snape seemed amused. He had no idea how long Snape had known. Long enough to come to terms with it, apparently.
“You said you needed to ask me something.”
Right. Yes, he had. Why had he said that? Now he had to do it. He should have slept when he had the chance. He exhaled slowly. “Yes.” Cameron sat up and turned to the bedside table to remove the Concealment Charm from the lantern.
There was an eternal moment of stillness and excruciating silence, then: “Holy fucking Merlin.”
Cameron was unsure if that uncharacteristic foray into swearing was good or bad until Snape tackled him to the bed and pressed so close it was like he was trying to get under Cameron’s skin and crawl inside him, at which point he decided to take it as a ‘yes’.