Actions

Work Header

Cutis Fame Morbus

Work Text:

Part one: cuddle

After healing the wound on his neck, Madam Pomfrey cleans Snape’s face quickly, with a wet rag instead of magic. It strikes Harry as unusual, but in the frantic rush that is so different to the usual strict quietness of the Infirmary, with torn and hurting people all around, he doesn’t have much time – or energy – to question her.

She explains a few mind-boggling things with such certainty that Harry’s sure he’s just dreaming or hallucinating this whole thing. He looks around, searching for Hermione or Ron, but they are somewhere else, out of his range.

“Mr. Potter, he won’t survive without this.”

There is a spot of blood on Snape’s temple that the rag missed. Harry lies down on the bed next to the man, slides his hand on his skin, grips his pale arm, thinks about everything that has happened in the last twenty-four hours while staring at that tiny red drop.

*

He wakes in the same position an hour or two later. He is disoriented, but not too much. Seeing Snape so close scares him until he remembers what Pomfrey said. How is this a real thing? How can wizards have such stupid diseases? How come this never came up in any of our classes?

He tries peeking around with only lifting his head a little, but it seems someone has put a curtain around their bed, most likely for privacy’s sake. It’s not as though Harry wants to be seen ‘being in bodily contact’ with Snape, but he sure would have liked an update on how all the other things were going. The curtains block out most of everything, except for some of the light, and a muffled buzzing, as if someone used Muffliato on them. Harry glances suspiciously at Snape, but he is as unconscious as he was since Harry found him in the Shack.

He is so relieved he didn’t delay going back for him.

*

The convulsions rock Harry out of his thoughts about Snape’s memories of his mother. He was told to expect this, to look out for it, and still, he freezes for a second. He unlaces Snape’s hospital gown in the front, trying not to look too unprofessionally at his professor’s chest. He lays both of his hands on his skin, as close as he can to his heart. Snape relaxes almost immediately.

Harry feels guilty for a second, for not believing that this illness was real. Snape breathes evenly, and Harry tries to get used to the picture of him lying so close, so vulnerable. Of the sight of his skin touching his.

*
It quickly becomes uncomfortable to hold his arms in such a position, so Harry tries sitting up. Looking down on Snape is weird again. He never spent so much time observing the man, not like this, uninterrupted and quite unavoidable really: what is he supposed to pay attention to?

Snape is breathing slowly as if only sleeping. He is not snoring, although Harry would have expected him to, with his nose being the way it is.

*
After spending so much time staring at his profile, Harry can’t ignore that stupid urge anymore. He raises his left hand off Snape’s chest slowly, swearing to himself that if it causes any reactions, he’ll forget about the whole thing.

It doesn’t.

Harry flicks his nose with his index finger, feeling powerful, gleeful, ridiculous and scared shitless that the contact will make Snape open his eyes and shout at him.

It doesn’t.

Snape’s face twitches as if reacting to a fly.

Harry hates him, for a second, hates him with that same intensity that was in him until he got the explanation to why he killed Dumbledore.

Then, as Snape’s face rearranges, the feeling flies away too.

“This was for all the stupid shit you did, Snivellus.”

He flicks him once more, just because he can.

*
He remembers Remus and Tonks, and their little child who will grow up without them. He cries a bit, and his tears fall onto Snape’s stomach.

Hours pass and Harry thinks of the Weasleys. He thinks of Fred and Percy, of Ginny.
He saw Ginny kiss Luna and then kiss Neville in the aftermath. Whatever is going on with them, she will probably not want to go back to dating him again. He tries to feel resentful towards her, but he just feels tired.

He is mad he can’t just spell his hands to be stuck to Snape’s skin. The bloody menace, why can’t he just have a relative willing to save his life instead of putting him through this much trouble? He must have some, but they probably all hate him, no wonder too, with the personality he has. And just how come Madam Pomfrey can do magic on them but if Harry would do it it’d endanger their life? Stupid unlogical magical diseases.

He could lie down on Snape’s body, forcing his hands to stay on the older wizard’s chest by trapping them under his own, but like hell is he going to move into such an intimate position with his hated Potions Master.

*

Harry keeps blinking in and out of consciousness for hours. He’s still sitting up, hands on Snape’s chest, Snape breathing under him rhythmically, and Harry is shifting softly between dreaming and coming back to the present.
Running across the castle with Ron and Hermione becomes running from Nagini and Nagini becomes Snape, without the bite, right, he survived (so far), which becomes Voldemort laughing into his face, Snape! INFIRMARY. Breathe, Harry. Only a nightmare. Sirius and Remus and his parents around a lake, solid forms, taunting Snape, ghosts only, walking him to his death. Dumbledore and trains and Snape, sleeping so peacefully, looking so much more comfortable.

Harry lies down on him and arranges the blanket over them. He is asleep in seconds, barely registering the smell of Snape.

*

The second time he wakes up to find himself surrounded by Snape’s scent, it doesn’t feel weird anymore. His mind places the memory, Mrs. Pomfrey, the real despair in her voice, which somehow comes with the mental image of Hagrid carrying a person into the castle, tired, blood-soaked, smoky.

He smells of copper and most interestingly, dittany.

Madam Pomfrey left a note levitating in front of Harry to call for her when he wakes. He blushes. She checked on them, saw how he was sprawled out on top of Snape. God, how embarrassing. Even so, as long as Snape doesn’t know…

He whispers her name softly.

*

They bathe Snape in a small room adjacent to the main space of the infirmary. It’s very awkward for Harry as soon as he realises that Snape will be naked and he will see him like that, but Pomfrey turns the whole experience into a lesson in taking care of people when they’re sick, and her no-nonsense attitude affects Harry as well.

He asks her about the disease, and can’t help but be fascinated by the depths of her knowledge on the subject. Although the mediwitch makes it look as though Harry is there to help, she is the one who handles every intimate thing, like washing Snape all over, only requesting his help in lifting him in and out of the tub and holding his head above the water.

She explains that the small tremors that periodically race through Snape’s body from head to toe are the symptoms of Harry not having his hands close enough to his heart, so Harry tries supporting Snape’s head with one hand, laying the other into the now-familiar place on his chest.

He tells Pomfrey of Snape’s true alliances, and the mediwitch quietly listens to him. When Harry is finished, he is almost shocked to see the tears in her eyes. She dries her hands, cards her fingers gently into Snape’s hair.

“Severus,” she mutters sadly, and Harry waits for the rest of her sentence, but it doesn’t come.

Snape is given a fresh gown, and this time there is no blood on him anywhere.

They lay him down on his side, and Harry arranges himself, spooning him from behind. He smells clean, better than Harry despite the cleaning spell Pomfrey cast on him.

*
Harry wakes with his nose pressed to Snape’s very warm back. He blindly feels for his temple, which is equally hot. He shouts for Madam Pomfrey, who reassures him that it is normal, and it will pass, and to just keep holding on.

It’s stupid, but Harry is worried. He tries to go back to sleep, but can’t. He wishes he could talk to Ron and Hermione. Or perhaps his mother. He could ask if Snape was worth saving. (Of course, everyone was worth saving, but did Snape deserve it? Did she ever forgive him for calling her a Mudblood?)

It’s just a few more days, he thinks, and then I will have nothing more to do with Snape. We’ll be even.

If he is really lucky, Snape will never even know. If he doesn’t wake up at all while he recovers, Harry will leave quietly and swear Madam Pomfrey to secrecy.

*
A while later, Snape whimpers.

Harry freezes and doesn’t dare to move, not even breathes for as long as he’s able to hold it. He listens raptly, but nothing else happens.

*
Pomfrey wakes him and they turn. She takes off Snape’s gown, says it will be some relief for the fever and easier when the sweating starts. She suggests Harry undresses as well, but the thought alone freaks Harry out. She tuts gently, reminding him of his duty of care, of how it’s natural to have bodies and Harry might filter out the rest of it because he will not be bare-chested while Snape is buck-naked and in bed with him. He would kill him if he found out.

Harry lies awake for some time, getting more and more uncomfortable. Why did he say yes to this? Bollocks that no one else was available to do it. Don’t they have nurses for these kinds of diseases in St. Mungo’s?

There is a mole on Snape’s back and a lot of scars. Harry thinks about tracing them with his fingers, but realises he can’t, because his hands are busy providing pain-relief on Snape’s chest.

*
The hotness wins, and Harry lets go of Snape to shrug off his T-shirt. The second he lets go, Snape lets out a painful moan. He only stops when Harry presses his knee to his arm in a desperate attempt to get rid of his robes quicker. His whole body is protesting the prolonged stiffness, but it’s nothing compared to the sounds Snape made (as if someone was breaking his bones), so Harry folds himself back to him as soon as he can.

It is not such a big deal, after all. The initial embarrassment passes slowly,
everyone has a body
everyone has a body,
everyone has a body ,

but Harry bet it would be much quicker if his brain wasn’t constantly reminding him that he knows how Snape’s cock looks.

*
Madam Pomfrey brings a small wash-basin and a clean flannel for Harry, which he drapes over Snape’s wrists.
He has turned again, and this time Harry chooses to remain as he was, to face him and see if his expressions change.
He scowls every time Harry rinses out the warm flannel and replaces a cold one on him, but it’s strangely comforting in its familiarity.

*

He starts sweating afterwards, and Harry is grateful to have an excuse to stop using the flannel. Madam Pomfrey only checks on them every three hours or so, to take care of Snape’s needs and to magic away the damp spot the excess water made on the sheets, but it’s still nice to deal with something else. It gives Harry a sense of progress. He asks how long has it’s been, and she says it was only three days and eight hours. It feels much longer, but he doesn’t complain.

*
Snape sweats and Harry cries. He cries for his parents. Wishes he could have done something for them. Cries for all the people lost in the war. Cries for how Dumbledore manipulated him and how he still felt his loss even now. How Sirius saw him as James the last seconds before he died.

His slick skin makes it difficult for Harry to keep his hands on his chest, so between one sob and the next, Harry lets go and goes to hug him tightly instead. He hides his tear-soaked face into Snape’s sweaty chest and digs his fingers into his shoulder blades tightly.

Snape doesn’t wake up but breathes softly, mournfully. Or perhaps that’s just something Harry imagines.

*
The next time Harry wakes, it’s night time. His eyes sting, but Snape stopped sweating, and there is a glass of water on the bedside table, close enough for Harry to reach. She changed the bedsheets, too. Snape’s skin is a comfortable temperature once again, thank god.

Harry snuggles into him and quietly tells him all of the nursery rhymes he remembers from his childhood. It’s not a lot, but it’s somewhat of a comfort to him, and it keeps his mind empty. He’s sure Snape would hate it, especially since he starts repeating them once he can’t recall any others.

*
“Potter?” It’s a raspy, surprised whimper, but Harry jolts awake as if it was shouted in his face. It’s still night time, but Snape’s eyes are open, dark as beetles, and he’s staring at him, clearly uncomprehending.

Harry stares back. Snape blinks, slowly, like an owl. Harry wets his mouth and Snape focuses in on the movement of his lips.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

His professor’s gaze shifts back to his eyes.

“Am I… dead?”

Harry swallows.

“No. You’re alright. You have Cutis Fame Morbus. But you’re almost healed now.”

Snape looks at him for a while more, and Harry, for lack of other things to do, returns his stare.

He watches Snape fall back asleep, which is an oddly soft process. Harry tells himself the word ‘cute’ would never be appropriate where Snape is concerned. (But it comes close.)

*
He wakes to someone grabbing his shoulders and shaking them, hard.

“What did you do with the phoenix?!” Snape demands in his worst tone ever, and Harry recoils automatically.

The second he lets go of him, Snape starts screaming.

Harry shoves his hands back on him at the same time as the curtain opens and Madam Pomfrey appears.

“It hurts, Ma,” Snape mutters, tapping his neck and mapping the scar there.

“The hallucinations have started,” she confirms. “This is the third stage, Mr. Potter. Not long now.”

“Can you give him some sedative?” Harry asks when Snape starts to push his hands away from his body. “Hey, stop that.”

The mediwitch hesitates.

“Well, it is not recommended…”

Snape starts growling at him. He slaps Harry’s arm, then face. Harry growls back threateningly. It seems like Snape might understand that better at the moment than words.

Madam Pomfrey sighs.

“I’ll bring something.”

*
Consciousness is important, she said.

It’s only a calming solution, or so Pomfrey assures him, but it makes Snape act like a five-year-old on drugs.

“You have stubble,” he says after he calmed down about being naked (that happened right before she made him swallow the potion). His first statement was: “It tastes green.”

To which Madam Pomfrey replied, fondly shaking her head:

“Some Potions Master you are.”

Now, and since he’s been alone with Harry, the comments just keep coming. He is talking slower than usual, dazed a bit.

“Maybe chess should have been more considerate of your beauty,” he says once, just as nonsensical as the rest, and Harry shouldn’t even think it’s addressed to him, but it makes him hot all the same. He doesn’t think he’s beautiful. He’s just all right.

Hours pass, and Snape chitchats about everything and nothing. Harry is almost sure he hears a botched-up attempt at teaching a class, and there is a solid five minutes when he just repeats ‘counter-clockwise’. Over and over and over. Harry figures it’s karma getting back at him for the nursery rhymes. Or perhaps the nose-flicking.

*

He calls for his mother in an increasingly alarmed tone. Begs his father not to hurt him. Sometimes her.

Harry’s heart breaks, painfully. The pieces of it start stinging when Snape starts to cry for Lily, when he whispers apologies to someone Harry can’t see.

He has erased every distance that there was between them the moment he started begging not to be punished. He took Snape’s frantically beating heart into one of his hands and put the other on the back of his neck, and told him that everything would be all right.

*

“Harry?” Severus murmurs once, later. Harry has sort of fallen asleep between deciding he’s witnessed too much of Snape to convincingly think of him as ‘Snape’ anymore, and between Severus murmuring about Hufflepuffs being too innocent for ice cream, whatever that meant.

“Do you recognise me?” Harry asks sleepily, opening one eye to check on him. It’s a wonder he still has a voice, after all that monologuing.

Severus closes his, as if in pain. Harry, alarmed, wakes promptly.

“Hey,” he breathes, shifting one of his palms up to cup Severus’s cheek. “You okay?”

“I’ve never been this mortified in my entire life,” Snape says quietly, but sounding like himself again, and Harry can’t help but chuckle a bit in relief.

“You know, that makes two of us.” He hums. “Sleep now. You can be mortified tomorrow.”

*

Harry wakes earlier, at the sensation of Madam Pomfrey performing the usual bladder and rectum-emptying, then stomach-filling spells on them.

“Morning,” he says to her, strangely content. “He woke up yesterday.”

“Properly?” she questions.

“I think so.”

“Good.”

Harry doesn’t ask how long it will be, still. He sort of forgot that he had a life before this.

He didn’t expect how peaceful it would be. By now, their breathing matched up completely. Harry feels as even if he tried, he couldn’t change his rhythm that follows Snape’s completely. The Infirmary is a low buzz behind the curtains, as familiar as Severus’s face or naked chest.

Ron is out there somewhere cuddling Hermione. Perhaps not in a life-saving way, more of a general comfort-blanket thing way, to keep thoughts of the war and deaths and concerns of her parents out. Maybe it’s the other way around.

Snape may still need this all to stay alive. Harry discovers he needs this to keep sane for a little more time. No interviews, no funerals, just the warmth of a body that’s throbbing with life. It’s a few more days where he can feel useful, where it helps that he does this. When this is over, he will have to start thinking about what to do. Now that he survived and the last pieces of Voldemort are gone, it’s time to start living.

What stays of Harry? What is truly his after giving this away? Who is he? Who will he become? What sort of person does he want to be?

Thanks to Snape, though, he has time before those questions crowd him even closer, strangling him for an answer. They quietly lap at Harry’s feet yet, like waves of calming water after a storm.

He is not afraid of Snape waking up anymore. He will not hide with this. A lot of things happened, and he will not fake that it didn’t change him profoundly.

*
The body in his hold turns ice-cold. Becomes clammy. Snape goes back to grumbling nonsense and taking points from every house, several teachers too. Madam Pomfrey giggles when she hears, but Snape obviously recognises her voice subconsciously and tells her she needs to go to detention.

She brings a bucket next to their bed and tells Harry it has a self-emptying charm and levitating spell on it.

Harry hopes its merely a precaution.

*
Severus convulses in his hands, then Harry wakes to being vomited on.

“Gah,” he gags, calling for the bucket, while Snape vomits again, this time barely missing him. On the third convulsion, which Harry feels on his hands that lie on Snape’s stomach—Snape, whom he deeply empathises with even while being grossed out because of the overwhelmingly nasty smell—he manages to aim for the bucket. “I know you don’t like me, but this is a bit excessive.”

Snape is breathing hard and spits into the bucket a few times. Harry feels horrible, but seeing Severus’s white face and pinched expression makes it even harder to bear the whole thing.

A second later, the smell disappears, and everything is clean again. Harry looks up, confused, but the curtain is still in place.

“That was you?”

Severus nods. He has fallen back into the bed, and with his eyes closed and hair sweaty, he looks like a weird painting.

“Thanks.”

“If you bothered to learn anything in your sixth year, you’d be able to do the same,” Snape grumbles exhaustedly.

“Prick,” Harry mutters back, and it sounds like an endearment.

*
Severus demands underwear and a ‘proper robe’ after he calls for Poppy. He gets a pair of boxers and a gown. Putting them on exhausts him so much he falls asleep immediately after.

*
They are awake half an hour later, Snape throwing up again. This time, Harry coaxes him into sitting up properly, and he moves behind him to hold his hair back as much as he can with one hand. His other hand rests on the middle of Severus’s back.

In between being sick, Snape rests his head on the edge of the bucket, while his arms circle it around as if it was a teddy-bear. He pretends to ignore Harry stroking his back soothingly. Or maybe he just ignores it. One or the other.

“Why are you playing nursemaid again?” he jabs, voice dripping with frustration.

Harry answers quietly:

“Because otherwise, you would be dead.”

A brief silence, then:

“You are annoyingly heroic, Potter, this is--” he can’t finish, because the urge comes again. He only retches this time, nothing left in his stomach.

After his insides seem to quiet down, Severus seethes morosely:

“I hate this.”

Harry nods against his back. He doesn’t remember when he started resting his head against him, but he would probably tell him if it was out of line.

“It’s not long now. Almost over.”

*

The next day, they are allowed to eat properly again, and they are promised they can try to walk to the toilet. Harry supposes that will be another challenge, but he doesn’t mind too much, because Severus is a very entertaining patient. He snarls at everything, ripping it to pieces with his sarcasm, and now that Harry is not the focus of any of it, it’s pretty funny.

He wonders how (and why?) that happened, but after he starts abusing his newfound power, Severus tells him to shut up a few times, and once even clonks him in the head to get his point across.

Ron and Hermione sneak behind the curtains in the evening and Harry tells Severus he’s not allowed to bully them and he just makes the most dramatic noise and falls face down into his pillow. He almost breaks Harry’s wrist in the process, but hey, at least he complied.

His friends give them some very bewildered glances and, more important, updates on the general proceedings of things. They tell him McGonagall has claimed the headmistress title, having been named as the heir in Snape’s will, since he is believed to be on his deathbed. They also tell him about her fight with reporters and Ministry officials alike to keep anyone getting to Harry (and incidentally, to Snape) without his consent.

Harry is overwhelmingly grateful for that.

*
“That is extremely nice of McGonagall,” he whispers to Severus after his friends leave, and they arrange themselves into a more comfortable position: facing each other, lying on their sides.

“She was always a very resourceful person,” Severus shares, and just like that, they are talking. They talk about what happened, who died, who lived, Voldemort, what the future may bring. Severus says things that make Harry laugh, and he seems so confused when Harry does that, but as the hours pass, he starts smiling back, uncertain, as if not remembering how to.

After their voices start to give out and the dawn steadily approaches, their conversation slows. Harry is almost asleep when he hears a raspy, hesitant:

“Harry?”

Harry purrs back, not really trying for real words. Those are beyond him now.

“You never let go of me, not when your friends came. Not even when I threw up on you.”

That’s true, Harry muses, as he slips into sleep.

*
Harry wakes to a painful hissing sound and watches from under his half-raised eyelids as Snape tries to let go of him to get out of bed. He thinks, this stupid, proud bastard.

“Come back,” he orders him after his heart hurt enough from Snape clearly being in pain. “You’re not healed yet.”

Severus’s head snaps up, and their gazes meet.

“I don’t want to--” he snarls, but Harry interrupts:

“I know. But it’s only a few more days, and afterwards, you can go back to never seeing me again.” Even as he says it, he knows it’s a lie.

Something strange happens to Snape’s face too. As if it… shut down.

“I’m kidding.” Harry back-pedals, swallowing around the lump in his throat. Why is his heart beating so loudly? “You can pretend you’re never meeting me again, but we will have tea at least weekly. In secret, if you want. But you are my friend now. No take-backs.”

He feels foolish and relieved all at once. It took some nerve, and Severus might laugh into his face and mock him horribly, but at least it’s out.

Severus looks down into his lap, probably to hide his blush, which Harry thinks is terribly unattractive and the sweetest thing he’s ever seen all at once.

“Thank you,” Snape says so quietly it’s barely more than a very, very quiet breath. Perhaps it was only thought in his direction, Harry wonders, feeling touched.

Madam Pomfrey appears a minute later, and Snape starts arguing with her immediately.

Harry smiles down at their hands gripping each other’s arms tightly.


Part two: tea

“Tea, weekly.”

The first week is incredibly awkward.

*

The second is even worse.

*

Severus pretends to forget about the third and, when Harry arrives at his quarters an hour later, they have a huge fight about it. It ends with Harry storming out and shouting at him to ‘not make fucking excuses’ before slamming the door behind himself.

*

They meet next week and Severus rips Harry apart so thoroughly he starts crying in his rage. Severus tells him that’s pathetic too, then leaves.

*

After a week of contemplation and some fuming, Severus goes back to apologise. Harry tells him he wishes he had never been born. It sort of escalates into a duel.

*

Severus brings a salve for Harry’s injuries, which is met with a, “Hermione already brewed one for me,” and the following exchange of words does not end up well.

*
Next week, Harry arrives with a list of rules consisting of 37 points. Severus laughs in his face after reading the third.

*
They spend three weeks discussing number 15 in increasingly snappy ways. A teacup breaks.

*
Snape brings a pack of biscuits next week. They undo the spell Moody put on Grimmauld Place so he can step into the house without either of them getting a heart attack.

*
Harry tentatively proposes renovating the house.

“I’m not here to play house-elf to you, Potter,” Severus grumbles.

The rest of the night, they’re cleaning.

*
Six weeks later, they are sort of done with the attic. Snape has some dirt on his nose and Harry wants to wipe it off. They haven’t touched since that morning when they let go in the Infirmary, and Madam Pomfrey was satisfied with Severus’s health. Harry longs for that contact every time, but it will – surely – go away once he gets himself a girlfriend.

*
They move onto the top floor’s rooms afterwards. Snape knows so many spells.

*
Harry mentions he’s thinking of dating muggle girls. Severus tells him he doesn’t care.

*
Harry casually brings up Sarah, whom he kissed and has another date with tomorrow. Snape accidentally breaks a lamp, but they agree that it was too hideous to be mended.

*
Harry doesn’t tell Severus about having sex with Sarah. It would be weird. Severus seems on edge anyhow, and they fight again about one of the beds in the upstairs salon.

*
Next week, Harry is a few minutes late because he had a date with Sarah. Snape is in his kitchen already, making tea, cursing at the electric kettle. Harry wants to hug him or something. He doesn’t.

*
Harry carefully brings up that he would like to introduce Sarah to Severus. Severus looks as if he wants to say no, desperately, but he says ‘sure’ in that awful neutral tone Harry came to associate with pain. But it will be fine, has to be.

*
Sarah and Severus meet. Severus is almost pleasant, if very awkward. No insults. Harry’s stomach hurts. Sarah mentions that she thought Severus to be younger. They exchange a look over her head and Severus excuses himself shortly thereafter.

*
Harry and Sarah fight and Harry is slightly baffled when the next day Sarah breaks up with him. He doesn’t want to share the news with Severus immediately, because, well, he just doesn’t.
Snape doesn’t ask about her.

*
The next time they fight and Harry is waiting for the other shoe to drop afterwards, nervously sending owls to Severus for a week, which stop when the man fire-calls him to tell him to cut it out.
“I am rather busy, and the faculty is starting to gossip.”
He stays for a cup of tea, and sort of agrees when Harry mentions this does not qualify as their weekly meet-up, so that’s still on. Severus nods at him when he leaves.

*
Harry falls asleep imagining Severus next to him, bare-chested, relaxed. His memories are hazy and sharp in turns. Sometimes he can’t believe it all happened, sometimes he can recall every little detail. He misses the feeling of being so close to someone. He misses the casual way he could touch Severus.

*
The next time he hands Severus the cup, he makes sure to position his fingers so it brushes over the other wizard’s. He must be really obvious about it, because Snape’s eyebrows snap up, but at least he doesn’t say anything.

*
There is a gala organised by the ministry, and Harry gets a golden envelope. They ask him for a 15 minutes speech too, and Harry is just about to panic when Professor McGonagall calls him to casually mention that Severus also got a letter, citing him to appear in front of the Wizengamot.

A fire-call to the dungeons later they spend the evening together plotting Snape’s defence on the carpet of the salon. Harry never could have imagined Severus sitting on the carpet before, but it’s a lovely homey feeling. He even takes his shoes and outer robes off to get comfortable, after a few hours.
It’s the best evening Harry’s had since he broke up with Sarah.

*
Snape comes over the next day too, bringing Minerva and Poppy with him (they both insist Harry should call them as such, despite the fact that he’s not sure if he’ll go back to Hogwarts for one more year).

Together they go over the speech Severus and Harry prepared last evening. After a lot of revisions (you can’t use that word in front of your elders, Harry!), they settle on a second draft.
Harry doesn’t want to tell them he’ll most likely go off script as soon as someone says something moderately rude about Snape, but he’d feel like an arsehole for ruining their eager excitement over training him to be appropriate in a High Wizarding Court. (Harry doesn’t tell them how it’s too late for that, especially if the judges are the same ones who’d seen him after the Dementor attack.)

Severus is the last one to use the fireplace that evening, and he says before departing:
“Mr. Potter? Thank you.”

Harry hopes it’s the last time he calls him that, ever. They’ve been gradually shifting to “Harry,” but there are slip-ups, still.

*
The trial goes… interestingly. But ultimately, well. Sort of. Severus thanks him quietly, but it doesn’t sound too enthusiastic.
They miss tea because Severus insists he needs a good 16-hour sleep. Harry agrees and doesn’t judge, then he spends the whole evening snappy because he misses the arsehole. Figures.

*
The next time, Severus eyes him suspiciously from the first time he sets foot on his overdone Persian carpet in the dungeons. Harry takes it for a while, but after the second tea, he loses his patience.

“What?”

Severus doesn’t give him a direct answer, and Harry gets tired of forcing the issue.

*
“You should go on a holiday,” Severus says the next week. “Or just… explore the world. It’d do you good. Get a bit of colour.”

Harry gapes at him.

“I’m much browner than you are!” he argues, thrusting his arm under Snape’s very white (never seen the sun) nose.

Severus rolls his eyes and pushes his hand away. Harry tries not to pay too much attention to the touch.

“That’s genetics, you idiot.”

“Hey now. Rule number six.”

“Oversensitive brat.”

“Number six!”
Severus drops it afterwards, but Harry can tell he’s annoyed. He can’t figure out why though, even if he thinks about all week.

*
“Why do you want me to go away?”

Severus acts as if he didn’t hear the question. Harry asks louder.

“I don’t care where you are,” Severus protests. “Do you think I have any preference in where you meet me for tea? You can Apparate from anywhere.”

He has bright pink spots on his face and he looks as though he just bit into his tongue to stop speaking. Harry missed this look on him.

“I broke up with Sarah.”

Severus stiffens, then relaxes back just as quickly. Which is to say, not much. The last time Severus was truly relaxed in his presence, he’d been unconscious. It’s also weird, as reactions go. He waits for some verbal feedback.

“You’re not going to ask me why?”

Severus looks annoyed.

“No, you obviously want to tell me anyway, so my contribution is totally unnecessary.”

“Prick. Fine, doesn’t matter.”

“Rule six.”

They stare at each other for a while, and it grows a bit more heated than it should. Perhaps.

“You are dying to know, admit it.”

“That was just foolish, wording that as a challenge,” Severus says, sniffing. “Now I’ll never ask.”

“Fine! Then I won’t tell you!”

“Fine! Was that enough for tonight, or do you want to spend more time shouting at me like a four-year-old?”

Harry does, but nowadays sometimes he knows when to let things go. Besides, he wants to go until the tension behind them burns up completely, until it pushes them into that something that’s sometimes there but Harry can’t quite name what is it or call it anything specific. He just knows that perhaps if they spend enough time shouting at each other… maybe one day it gets there. To Snape pushing him against a wall or a door and holding him tightly to his body, and- and--

*
Harry finds doxies in his curtains. He calls Severus over, two days before their usual tea.

Severus comes. He isn’t even grumpy about it. He teaches Harry the spell that makes the curtains dance until all the doxies fall out, and they duel with the things, trying to get the other to fall on his face.

It’s about the third, fourth and fifth time that he makes Severus laugh, and it’s worth every damn bruise on his knees.

*
Severus gifts him a kettle, one that looks old, barely works and is clearly of Muggle origin.

Harry squints at it, wondering how to fake polite enthusiasm when Severus adds:

“I got it from your mother. I thought you’d like to have it.”

Harry tears up, and he hugs Snape tightly.

“I love it! Thank you! Does it work still?”

It does, and Severus shows him the exact way to use it. It’s not empty know-it-all-ism, the kettle needs that old-one-owner touch that in no proved way is magic. Harry grins all the way through tea, and even Severus’s lips are suspiciously up-tilted.

*
The next week Severus cancels. When Harry turns up anyway and bangs on his door, he comes out obviously cold and stuff-nosed and Harry has to remind him that he has seen him vomit up half his guts to get inside. Even then, it’s like he’s pulling his teeth. Harry talks him into drinking a Pepperup (which was prepared on the side-table already, so it’s not as if it’s a real win). He promises not to laugh at the steam shooting out of his ears and mostly manages.

Hours later, they somehow end up on the couch, and between one sniff and the next somehow the carefully kept separation that persisted for agonising months breaks and what feels like just seconds later, Severus’s head is in Harry’s lap and he’s combing through his locks, stroking the side of his face slowly, gently.

“You don’t have to pretend in front of me,” Harry whispers to him when he thinks Snape’s already on the verge of sleep and he can get away with sappy things, “I like you as you are.”

Severus gives him a weak huff of a wannabe scolding reply, but it gets lost in the way he snuggles into Harry’s careful hands and falls asleep.

Harry pets him until the utter contentment that envelops them lulls him to sleep too.

He wakes to Snape shuddering awake.
“Everything’s fine,” he croaks hurriedly. “It’s just you and me, and we’re fine.”

“Harry?”

“Yeah. Sleep, darling.” The word just slips out, unbidden, and Harry himself puts meaning behind them somewhat belatedly. By the time he decides that yes, maybe this is the sort of Freudian slip one should be freaking out about, Snape’s breathing has evened out again, and there’s not much to do besides enjoying the rare opportunity to be really close to him.

*
The next time Harry wakes Severus is gone, only a page ripped out of a notebook notifying him that he won’t be back until evening and that he’ll see Harry next week and he will not tolerate any snooping around. Harry wasn’t even thinking of checking out the place before it was mentioned, but now he kinda weighs his options. It’s not as if he’s less insanely curious about Snape’s private affairs than he’s ever been, but the overall direction of it has shifted. Into the ‘accidentally called you darling while cuddling all night’ category. Into the ‘my neck and back are going to murder me for sleeping in such an uncomfortable position all night but fuck I’d do it again if it meant holding you close.’ That’s a bit concerning, no?

Harry goes home to think and doesn’t snoop around.

*
By next week, a sort of horrible idea has appeared and won’t leave Harry’s head. What’s worse, he can’t imagine any possibilities where he won’t blurt it out somehow.

Severus, bless his damn personality, pretends that nothing happened. Of course, Harry has no way of knowing if he remembers being called… a real endearment instead of the usual (kind of insulting) ones, but the whole cuddling episode is incriminating enough on its own. Perhaps it was just an after-thing of the whole “I cured you of a pretty deadly disease.” Or perhaps Harry needed more time thinking about it. Anyway, in absolutely no way would it have been okay to bring it up with Snape when he didn’t know how he felt about it. (Him.)

“We should have a new rule.”

Severus gives him an unimpressed glance. Considering his reactions to the previous rules, this is sort of encouraging.

“I propose we always tell each other if we feel bad. No sneaking around or lying about it.”

Snape curses.

“Sure! Let’s add sleepovers to the list too, while we’re at it? ‘Find a perfect time each month to do our nails!’ Do you want me to include you in my will too, Potter?”

Harry, as always when Severus mocks him, becomes quickly temperamental in turn.

“I doubt you could have any cool thing I’d want to get after your death. And it’s HARRY. Not that difficult to remember.”

Snape snarls and proceeds to spit “Harry” towards him in the most disdainful way he has ever heard his name spoken. Fine, two can play this game.

“All right, Severus, I agree wholeheartedly. Such a good suggestion I have no idea how we didn’t think of it sooner! I will arrange for my will to be changed too, I’m free to do our nails on Wednesday, and I really loved the sleepover, so that’s definitely happening again.”

Severus bites out, between clenched teeth:

“I know for a fact that you are not four, Harry . You understand sarcasm.”

Harry beams at him, and it is only 80% faked.

“When I decide to, yes.”

Snape pales as if he just suddenly realised he’d contacted the deadliest disease of all time: friendship .

“I—I’m not--” he sputters. His hands are clenched next to his body. Harry wants to hold them until they are relaxed.

It’s not that easy to stay annoyed with him when he wishes so hard to touch him, to comfort and make him happy. So Harry softens his voice:

“I wasn’t completely taking the piss before. I mean I don’t feel strongly about the nails either way, but I did enjoy sleeping with you.” Oh fuck no that sounded exactly as it shouldn't. Merlin just keep talking maybe he won’t notice. “You know I never even had a nightmare on your sofa? Maybe your sofa is magic but it’s more likely that it’s your presence?”

Snape looks just as awkward as he does, but he still has the gall to ask back:

“My presence is magical?”

“Guh, fuckyouknowwhatImeant,” Harry rushes, laughing a little after Severus looks surprised.

They take a much-needed break for jammy dodgers and custard creams with tea, and when the last of the biscuits are gone, Severus quietly remarks:

“I’m not very rich,” Harry looks at him with only uncomprehension, and he slyly adds: “If you still wish to be included in my will, it might be of some importance to know that.”

“Piss off,” Harry laughs. Sobers, but not enough to get rid of the huge smirk on his face. “I am filthy rich though. I should probably include you then, make it worth your while.”

Severus stiffens and starts growling so suddenly that Harry almost drops his cup.

“I did not come here to be mocked.” His tone is icy, and he stands up so fast Harry thinks he got whiplash just from watching, “Good night.”

“Wh-- Wait!”

But Snape has already stepped into the fireplace, and when Harry tries to go after him, his fireplace is closed.

Harry smacks himself on the forehead. Fuck. This is gonna need a bigger apology.

*
He graciously votes Snape one whole day to calm down (while he whips himself into a frenzy, he can’t believe he ruined everything, how could anyone be so insensitive, he should have known this was an issue Severus was more touchy about), and actually gets dressed elegantly for his apology. He is going to stick to simple but heartfelt, mostly because he’s so nervous he can’t hold a train of thought long enough to prepare something more complicated. He dreamt about asking Snape to marry him and the man leaving with a few devastating words. He couldn’t summon it in him to try to make the whole scenario into a joke after he woke, knowing the truth to be more devastating. He cared about Snape. Perhaps ‘in love’ was a bit too much at this point, but there was definitely something else there. People didn’t have elaborate fantasies about spending time together with people they weren’t at least somewhat attracted to. (Especially not the naked and hot fantasies Harry had. Yeah.) To have Severus wallow in hurt feelings any more was unthinkable.

So Harry sets out and knocks on the door of his personal quarters, on the office door, glances into the classrooms, goes back to stand in front of the quarters, and finally checks the map. Snape is standing on the other side of the door, the bastard. Harry knocks again. Nothing.

Fun games always consisted of out-stubborning each other, right?

“I came to apologise,” he tells the door. He knocks again. Severus doesn’t budge, but at least he doesn’t go away either. “Severus. Could I come in, please?”

Severus makes him wait another twenty minutes or so. It feels similar to that, but Harry doesn’t pull up a tempus in fear of his ex-professor being able to observe it from the other side of the door. He does lean his forehead against the stone, and maybe that’s what finally convinces Snape: he doesn’t want him to get a cold. (Knows very well that he’d be the one to end up brewing a get-better solution for him.)

When he finally opens his door, Harry expects him to be angry, but he isn’t. At least, not at first glance. You could never be too careful with underestimating Snape’s moods, but he seems… empty, resigned.

“I made a very stupid joke and I think it might have hurt your feelings, which was not my intention at all. I’m very sorry,” Harry says, forcing himself to be slow and articulate. He sort of just wants to get on his knees and snuggle under Snape’s legs. He could pretend to be his furniture for a few days, and he honestly wouldn’t mind if it got him back to the point where they were.

“It’s fine,” Snape snaps.

“It’s not,” Harry disagrees quietly. “I don’t want to lose you over this, though. So if you’ll allow me, I’ll try to explain why I said what I said.”

“I don’t care, Potter.” Severus even looks away, gaze shifting around the room as if he’d try to find an excuse to do something else than listen to Harry.

Harry takes a deep breath.

“That’s okay. But I do care. A lot.” He can’t stand Snape’s searing gaze for more than a few seconds though. “You are my friend. And I want to make you as happy and as comfortable as I am able to.”

“Even if that means financing me?”

Okay, that he probably deserved.

“Severus, I know you are capable of taking care of yourself. I just--”

“Do you, though?” Snape looks as though he wants to take his words back, but it is already too late. “Barely a week ago, you insisted on playing nurse and putting me to sleep. I barely had a cold.”

Harry feels himself flushing, and Snape, blast him, notices immediately.

“I stayed because I feel good when I’m close to you.” And Merlin that is heavier than he thought it would feel. He continues quickly, doesn’t want to give time to Severus to be able to react to that just yet. “I know you’re capable of curing yourself, but just because you can do something alone doesn’t mean that you should .”

Severus shakes his head.

“I don’t need… anything. I was fine before you insisted on the weekly tea. I was… fine.”

They share a look, and Harry is forced to think about how accurate that statement is regarding him. He doesn’t know how much Severus is lying to himself, but he has a fairly certain hunch that no one who is ‘fine’ behaves like that in company. Meanwhile, he can probably dig himself into a deeper hole. That would be… just fine, actually.

“When I was sitting there with your head in my lap, that’s the most peaceful I felt since… Since we were in the Infirmary.”

He doesn’t mention the evenings. He falls asleep every night thinking of Snape being in his arms, as if that eight days changed the structure of his bones, as if he was whole with Severus there and lost a part of his self without it. It’s so stupid, and so, so depressingly lonely, he can almost feel his heart bleeding in his chest. Figuratively, mostly, but it is true all the same.

Severus stares at him, and there is something very much like anger in his eyes.

“What am I supposed to do with that?”

Harry jerks back. That tone hurts, just a bit.

“I dunno,” he mutters. “But you could try to be not a cock about it.”

“Rule--” Snape bites the rest of it back, and pinches the top of his nose. “Forget it, it’s stupid. Go away.”

“But…!”

“No, we’ll have tea next week, and the week after that, and on and on until the rest of our lives. There you go. It’ll be… splendid .” Severus's voice drips with sarcasm, and it’s so much like he used to be that it makes Harry desperate. And that makes him angry.

“Well, what would you have me do?” He means, “ How else do I get to keep you in my life?

Severus’s face colours; he looks away immediately and shrugs irritably.

“Let’s stop with this farce. You go on your merry way, I go on mine. If I accidentally see you somewhere, I will greet you.”

It’s like a physical blow to Harry. Not just the words, but the closed-off tone, too. As if this doesn’t tear as much at Severus as it destroys him.

“What is your problem with me? We get on well, don’t we?” He flicks his hair away from his eye and goes to stand toe to toe with this ridiculous bastard. “Are you really this afraid of feeling anything at all?”

“You have no idea what I feel!” Severus shouts. He seems more afraid than angry though. “How could you? You are just a child, pretending to be an adult! Go back to your muggle girlfriends, Potter, I am not… I am not...” He is breathing hard, and his face is so red.

“You’re not what?” Harry demands. His heart races. That line, that elastic, that something between them, perhaps just one more breath and it breaks.

“I am not what you want right now,” Snape says, suddenly sounding calm and collected. “You need to be with your own age group, with people who are not so implicated with the war and the Dark Side. With people--”

“Which part of me standing here trying really hard to get you to forgive me and keep you in my life looks like ‘I don’t want you’?”

He doesn’t care anymore. He can’t spend his days quietly yearning after Severus.

“Potter,” Snape growls, “you have no experience of the emotions, the struggles it takes to--”

“Why is my age worse than you never admitting you have feelings?”

“You have no idea how I feel!”

Oh.
There, there. Something in Harry sings an utterly terrified, triumphant melody.

Severus's eyes are panicked as if he’s just now realising what he let slip out.

“Why don’t you tell me then?” Harry breathes out, not wanting to frighten him.

Severus cannot look him in the eye at all, it seems, and then… just looks at him for an uncomfortably long time, as if he can’t help it. Harry’s heart races. It will never, ever calm. Severus sighs.

“Yes, why not,” he mutters, and his voice is wretched, full of darkness. “If nothing else will get you to leave, I might as well.” He starts pacing, gaze passing away from Harry then back again. “You know, if you dare to speak about this to anyone, what Miss Granger did to Miss Edgecombe will be nothing compared to my wrath?”

Harry actually laughs, much more out of relief than real mirth, but ‘casually making threats with a straight face – Snape,’ he is more than familiar with.

“Jeez, thanks so much for your trust. Should I make a blood pact too? Spit in a jar?”

Snape shoots him a glance that Harry is sure is meant to come across as ‘annoyed,’ but there is a bit of light in his eyes as well, meaning he’s a tiny amount entertained by his words.

“No need. You probably won’t want to talk about it to anyone. I--”

Harry waits, and it takes him three or four times of Snape opening and closing his mouth, and finally his eyes, to get the gist that Severus is almost paralysed with fear. That nervous? Embarrassed, even. He looks so helpless, as if he wants to be everywhere but under Harry’s gaze. Harry doesn’t even know if he should dare to hope, or not.

“You are only 18 years old,” Severus settles on. It’s a shameful whisper.

“So? Am I too young to decide if I wanna be friends with someone?”

Snape closes his eyes again, shakes his head and sighs. Harry notices that his hands are behind his very stiff back. He has stopped pacing.

“No.” He wets his lips. “Do you really have no idea what I--? See, this is why it’s so wrong-- you don’t even...”

Harry catches his gaze. He looks like a deer in headlights- perhaps that is the true reason behind his Patronus. Maybe, possibly, Severus Snape is just as human as they come. Harry remembers that he likes him so much his internal organs are shivering with it and lets some of that love show on his face.

“Severus, why don’t you just tell me?” he offers kindly, getting up and pulling Snape to join him on the sofa where he’s been sitting. He swallows and braves a smile. “And leave the worrying about my own reaction to me.”

Snape slams his hands into his own thighs.

“I am attracted to you,” he says quickly, standing up again and moving even further away from him - and Harry thinks he misheard him. Was it just wishful thinking, or did he really say… Yeah. He swallows.

There is a fire burning in Harry’s stomach, with a certainty that hasn’t been there before, and behind his heart and behind his eyes, and his lungs must be so affected by all that smoke that he can’t remember how to breathe at all. He imagines himself going over to Severus, putting a gentle hand on his face and kissing him on the mouth – and to know that he wouldn’t be shoved away or cursed to pieces... just accepted. Because Severus-- Severus feels the same.

“Just go, please,” Severus says, pleading, barely louder than the wind in early spring. He is standing a few steps away from the door, and as far from the sofa - where Harry tries to get his shaking limbs to cooperate - as possible. Harry is sure he hasn’t looked at him once since his confession and finds it heartbreaking how hunched his back is – as of someone cowering from an expected beating.

Harry stands, his legs shaking. Maybe his whole body is doing it too? Snape is stiff as a board, but he trembles twice with the two steps Harry takes toward him and the door. He knows they’d never survive if he left now, so it’s a good thing Harry never really gave it a proper thought anyway.

His mouth is incredibly dry, but he whispers:

“I’m staying.”

Severus whips his head up and stares at him, and whatever he sees in Harry’s face must make him even more frozen and miserable, because he pales even further and twitches violently.

“No,” he murmurs as Harry gets close enough to step into his space, and they both breathe out hard at the sudden proximity.

Harry raises his hand, and it doesn’t matter that it’s shaking, because Severus is shaking too.

“Please think about this bef--,” Severus begs, chocking on a sigh. Harry licks his lips in response.

“I have.”

His hand brushes up against Snape’s face, and the man’s eyes flutter just for just a second, his breath leaving him in a rush.

“Severus,” Harry says, and tips forward on his toes to kiss him. Their lips meet and it’s chaste and barely lasts a second before Severus pulls away.

His eyes are so dark, his gaze so deep. His expression pinched as if presented with a complex potion problem. Or perhaps it’s just the misery of knowing he won’t be able to walk away.

“CanIkissyou?” Harry rushes through the words before he loses his nerve forever. Severus blinks at him, and his face is so flushed. He stares down into Harry’s eyes along his unattractive nose, and all Harry can think about is how much he missed seeing his dear face up close. He can’t wait for the moment he can touch and kiss and explore with permission and without this nervous tightening in his stomach. He’s not sure he’s going to be all right if Severus says no.

Severus says:

“No.” And Harry’s stomach sort of drops out of his body and he loses feeling in his hands -“I want you to go home and think about this before--”

“If you want to think of me as an adult, treat me as one,” Harry interrupts hotly. “I have thought about this. Believe it or not, there’s little else I think about but us.”

Maybe it’s a risky confession, or maybe he shouldn’t press this, because Severus's eyes go round in a way that would be really funny if Harry wouldn’t be just one huge ball of anxiety.

Severus is quiet for a long time (long compared to how often and quickly he corrects Harry when he thinks he’s wrong, short compared to the time Harry needs contemplating if he can die from the tension in his stomach alone), and forces out after:

“And?”

Harry faces him seriously. Takes his hands. His soul sings at the touch.

“It won’t be easy, but I want it anyway.”

“It will be bloody difficult,” Snape mutters disbelievingly.

Harry nods. He doesn’t care.

“Remember when we were in the Infirmary and talked through… almost the whole night?

Severus rolls his eyes, but his face softens in a way Harry can’t help but adore.

“Of course.”

Harry smiles at him.

“I think if we get only one evening like that out of it, it’s already worth it.”

Severus nods again, uncertain and with clear yearning on his face. Harry is sure he looks much the same.

“All right,” he whispers and leans forward. He’s so slow, his eyes fluttering closed, his face so serious that it takes Harry a moment to understand. When he does, he swallows, leans forward and fits their lips against each other’s again.

It is soft as birds wings fluttering, but it suits them just fine.

A few feather-light kisses later they both pull away to breathe. Harry isn’t sure who starts grinning, but a few seconds later they just stand there, beaming at each other stupidly.

“Thank you for being honest,” Harry tells him, besotted. “And quite brave too, I must say.”

“Do not tell my Slytherins,” Severus scoffs, but his face still holds the remnants of a smile, and he continues much more softly: “Thank you for staying.”

Harry kisses him again.

*
They both agree that it’s better for Harry to go home after that, and Harry tries not to vibrate out of his skin with happiness after they kiss each other goodnight at the door. As he gets home, the first thing he does is write Severus a note to ask if they can meet the next day, and doesn’t hesitate to send it right back into the fireplace he just came out of.
He tries to pen a letter to Hermione and Ron as well, but it doesn’t come out as easily. After some contemplation, he decides to just write them a note about wanting to talk – after all, who knows how long it takes them to locate Hermione’s parents in Australia. They’ve been gone for months now, only sending Patronuses every few days to keep Harry up to date.

By the time he is done with that message, Severus's note arrives. It’s a single yes, but it makes Harry punch the air as if he won the house cup.

*

Harry tells himself that his nerves are fine, that his stomach is fine, that his knees are absolutely gonna hold him up, as he knocks on the door to Severus Snape’s private quarters.

Snape opens almost immediately, and he looks… well, horrid.

“God, what happened?” Harry asks, taking in the bags under his eyes, the slightly manic sparkle in his eyes, the dishevelled state of his clothes.

Severus, who seemed calm until that question, suddenly stiffens. Harry realises he fucked up. Merlin, so early on, he wasn’t even invited in yet.

“Come in,” Severus orders, but somehow it has a questioning tilt. As if he wasn’t sure that Harry’s foolish enough to do so.

Of course, he steps inside.

Snape starts pacing as soon as he’s closed the door behind them.

“I have been thinking --” he starts, and Harry can’t help but voice his revelation:

“And you didn’t sleep!” Which does make Severus stop, but only for a snarl of… agreement?

“Yes, but as I was saying-”

“No!” Harry interrupts, very loudly, surprising even himself.

Snape doesn’t snap at him for it, though. In fact, he deflates. Seems relieved. Takes a few more steps, but not closer to Harry, but away from… the door.

“I’m not going,” Harry murmurs, feeling that this will be something they have to spend some time talking over. Repeatedly.“I just. Can I have a request?

Severus nods silently, without much hesitation. Harry thinks he might be biting his cheek from the inside, but he can’t tell for sure.

“Whatever you want to say to me… Could we lie down? On your bed, or, umm, carpet in front of the fire is fine for me actually, umm, I...”

Severus doesn’t laugh at him for his embarrassment. He asks, quietly:

“Would you be more comfortable on the carpet?”

Harry feels his cheeks burn from the inside.

“No,” he says, not knowing whether to swallow or cough, he just wants that thing from his throat to go away. “I just thought... you might not want me inviting myself to your bed.”

Severus's shoulders lower a bit.

“Well…” he starts, and Harry breathes out at his tone because he knows he’s going to joke, “that’s kind of what started all of this.”

“Hey, I had a legitimate medical reason to be there,” he replies, thinking back to their bed in the Infirmary with the smile that breaks out on his face whenever he’s reminded of those days. Simpler times.

Severus looks at him for a long time, and Harry wonders how it is that he feels both comfortable and uncomfortable under his gaze.

“And now you have an invitation,” he says solemnly before breaking his gaze away from Harry’s eyes and going towards one of his doors – inside his quarters. Harry’s heart rate quickens when it turns out to be the bedroom – with the bed at the side at the wall, a cupboard and a bookcase opposite it.

There is not a lot of time to explore, because four steps in they are standing in front of the bed. The whole place is neat and tidy, there are even covers on the bed, a stark difference to how Harry’s bedroom looks.

There is only the light coming in from Snape’s salon, and when he flicks his wand over to the fireplace, Harry puts a hand up.

“Maybe… like this is fine?”

Severus sighs, and climbs on the bed awkwardly, taking the space closer to the wall. He has grey socks on. Harry realises he’s yet to take off his shoes, and he apologises distractedly as he toes them off.

“Did you mean like this?” Severus asks, clearly very uncomfortable on the bed alone, personifying a very self-conscious log.

“Yeah,” Harry tells him softly, climbing next to him, bringing their faces in line together, reaching for Severus's hand immediately, because when they are lying down like this, it makes no sense not to touch.

They stare at each other, just like a few minutes ago in the living room, but the shadows and the closeness make it completely different. Harry thinks they have a fighting chance now when Snape tells him how they shouldn’t do this at all.

“So?” he prompts gently.

“I have been thinking about it all night,” Snape confesses in a rush. “Why it will never work. We fight constantly. We could topple into intimacy too quickly and completely burn each other out. You are too young! You should have gone away for a good five, ten years and got experienced and then when you’d come back you’d realise right away that I’m not good enough for you so I cannot let you go. You shouldn’t hand anything over to me, I’ve never--- I was never good with precious things, never could hold onto anything valuable, I’ll break your heart and can’t give you anything not broken in return, and Merlin, what would everyone say? I’d be constantly under attack for being with you and you’d be treated horribly for---”

Harry concentrates on the way his thumb is smoothing over Severus's hand. It feels good, content, happy, warm and safe.

“Severus,” he whispers, not knowing how he can calm him down, but wanting to say his name all the same.

“Yes?” Severus whispers back, and his pupils are so big Harry can clearly see the hurt, the churning inside him, the tension and the fear.

“I want to…” Gods, it’s hard to think in complete sentences when he has so little experience of putting emotions into words. Harry wishes for a sheet of paper, or a dictionary, or even better, Hermione. He forces his thoughts back on track, telling himself he just has to be honest. “All I know is that I want to kiss you, and hug you, and share so much with you, and it’s… it’s so overwhelmingly nice to be this close to you again, I just feel… right.”

Severus stares back at him, looking lost and tired. Harry takes another deep breath.

“I don’t know how to answer to any of what you just said. But maybe, maybe if you could give me some time to think, and-- sleep a bit, perhaps? Hermione always says that maybe problems won’t seem that big in the morning.”

“And who would argue with Miss Granger’s absolute wisdom? - Oww!”

Harry gives him the stink-eye.

“I get that you are tense, but make fun of my friends again, and I’ll pinch you even harder.”

“It goes against rule number two anyway,” Snape mutters sullenly, seeming to lose track of thought when Harry goes back to caressing his hand. When he speaks again, his voice is much thinner. “Are you sure?”

Harry nods readily while Severus blinks at him in the dark.

“Yeah! We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Can make up a few new rules or something, that seems to be working for us… to some degree. Anyway…” he cannot help a smile when Severus yawns. “I kinda just want to hold you in my arms tonight.” It transforms into a warmer ache in his belly when Severus’s mouth drops a bit open at those words. “and maybe kiss you goodnight too?”

Severus swallows, stares at him.

“Maybe not,” he decides, but upon seeing Harry’s fallen face, explains, “If you kiss me, the reasons will go away. No. NO, stop smiling too.”

Harry bites his lips, trying his damnedest not to laugh now.

“You are devastatingly adorable when you are half-unconscious, just saying,” he teases, and Severus falls asleep between slurring some answer to that and burrowing his face into Harry’s chest.

Harry tries to think about his reasons, as he promised, tries to imagine him being anywhere else than here, with Snape vulnerable and pliant in his arms. With the honesty and rawness and care they have with each other in the dark. Compared to that, what is the rest of the world?

He doesn’t want anything else. He can stubborn his way through this, if nothing else.
He falls asleep thinking about how very telling it is that Severus doesn’t deem himself worthy of having a relationship with him.

*
He wakes to the same feeling of the world being right. Severus is still asleep, and they don’t seem to have moved around a lot in the night. He kisses him on the temple, the side of his face. The corner of his open mouth. His breath smells bad (nowhere near as horrible than the time he threw up at him though), but Harry’s sure his does too. He can only see the edges of his scar on his neck, but he wants to touch that too. But what he’s doing is becoming very close to fondling, and with the erection in his pants being very interested in the proceedings, Harry decides to cool it a little. He comes to the conclusion of it being platonic enough to swipe Snape’s hair off his forehead and watch as it falls back, so he does that and pets the revealed skin for a few minutes before the other man gasps awake.

“Harry?”

“Yeah. And before you ask, it’s too early to worry. I want sex now. Please. If you agree.”

Severus sits up in the bed with admirable speed, sliding away from Harry.

“We are definitely not having sex until you turn nineteen. If you want me to be able to live with myself… nay, live in general because as soon as Minerva or Molly Weasley finds out about this--”

Harry takes one look at him, then flops back down on the bed to moan his distaste.

“That’s four more months!”

“It’s only four months,” Severus argues in a clear tone,” I should never even have said anything until you are of legal age.”

“But I am of legal age!” Harry huffs. “Seventeen is the wizarding standard, and don’t get me started on the bloody Americans--”

“Nineteen for muggles,” Severus says and raises his voice when he sees Harry wanting to object. “Same for same-sex couples.”

“That’s a really shitty double standard,” Harry points out with a frown.
Snape shrugs.

“Be that as it may, I’d rather not risk Azkaban again .”

Harry remembers the stress of the trial, bare months ago.

“Okay. Hugs and kisses and holding hands it is.” He grins at the look Severus gives him. “That’s fine by me. I find it very romantic, in fact,” he adds, just to see the next expression on that beloved face. Laughs at it, too. They bicker for a while about that, and it feels glorious.

“So...” Harry asks soon after they grew tired of holding back their grins. “Wanna get breakfast?”

Severus nods and takes his hand on the way to his kitchen.