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Dancing With Ghosts

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Old cottages nestle side-by-side, flanking the narrow path to the church. It’s a perfect winter’s evening: crisp and chilly, but clear enough that when Harry tips his head back he can see a blanket of stars dotting the night sky. An unexpectedly busy period at the Ministry pushed his usual late November visit to the grave back by a week and during that period the nights have become colder still. He’s glad of the fleece-lined jacket Hermione gave to him as an early present before wrapping her arms around him tightly, promising that she and Ron would be with Harry in spirit.

Hermione and Ron usually come to Godric’s Hollow with Harry, the trip a yearly ritual. Afterwards they go for a hot whiskey or mulled cider at the pub in nearby Lynmouth, toasting to absent friends and family and finishing the night with a fish and chip supper. It’s odd, being here by himself. Harry suspects that, with Hermione’s baby due any day now—hence the restriction on Apparition, Port Keys and flying—their time together will be even more limited in the coming months.

Harry doesn’t mind, of course. He’s happy for his friends and he’s as excited about meeting the new arrival as Molly. He wants only good for Hermione and Ron, but he can’t quell the strange ache that gathers in his chest whenever something reminds him of absent things. When he’s busy at work the minutes, hours and days fly past, but here in the still village where Harry lost so much, the ache intensifies. He’s lonely, not that he would ever admit it to anyone.

In moments like this, Harry feels the absence of a partner most acutely. Finding a connection like the one between his parents has proved elusive. For the most part he’s happy with his unshakable platonic relationships, he’s loves the company of his friends, the long nights in cosy pubs and the warmth of the Weasley family dinner table. Nevertheless, when he has too much time on his own, he yearns for a different kind of bond with someone. He’s struggled to maintain any serious romantic relationship since the war. He makes friends easily and he gets on well with his peers at work, but when it comes to romance nothing ever seems to stick.

Discovering his interest in wizards as well as witches—largely through magazines and a pissed-up conversation with Dean Thomas—took a while to get his head around, but Harry’s perfectly comfortable with it now. It settled within him, slowly at first. Surprise, excitement and a kick of nerves which soon faded away as he came out at work, to friends and the Weasleys. It was all largely uneventful and he’s sure his path has been easier than it is for some. Despite the positives, Harry still struggles to trust people who didn’t fight alongside him during the war. The media attention and the number of people that would want to do him harm because of his past or position as a high-profile Auror makes him guarded when strangers come into his life. That, plus long working hours, tend to drive possible partners away, witch or wizard.

Realising he’s attracted to wizards was liberating in a nerve-wracking sort of way, but Harry’s hardly had time to explore his burgeoning feelings. Work has been increasingly busy and after several months of dull dinner dates and stilted conversation, Harry gave up on finding a suitable match entirely. Most of his romance comes from daydreaming, his sexual pleasure from rare nights off when he has a moment to himself.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Harry reminds himself sternly. He cuts his thoughts off in their tracks and shakes his glum mood away. He picks up his pace and enters the graveyard, the small gate catching in the gentle breeze and clicking closed behind him.

As he approaches, he notices a lone figure at the grave of his parents. He stops, his breath catching in his throat. Moving back into the shadows, he extracts his wand and watches the stoop and bend of the figure, that straightens its back after touching the tombstone. The man is clad in slim black trousers and a dark jumper, the trim lines of his frame distinguishable even in the darkness. The absence of a coat means the man is almost certainly a wizard using charms to keep warm, but with the shadows, the all-black attire and Harry’s rubbish eyesight, it’s impossible to make out much more than the gender of the mysterious stranger.

“Stop skulking around in the shadows, Potter.” A familiar voice breaks the silence of the night, the words clearly enunciated. “I would have thought a man tipped for the position of Head Auror would be better able to conceal himself.”

“Snape?” With a huff of aggravation, Harry pushes his wand back into his pocket. He makes his way to the grave and finds himself confronted with a scowling Severus Snape. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Watch your language. You’re in a churchyard, you insolent child.” Snape's scowl deepens.

Harry folds his arms, studying Snape with a frown. After leaving Hogwarts last year to focus on independent study, Snape has been in and out of the Ministry consulting with various research teams. It’s not the first time Harry has seen Snape since the war. It’s just the first time he’s seen him with nobody else around.

“I’m surprised you don’t get hit by lightning hanging around a place like this,” Harry comments. “Or is this where you keep your coffin?”

“Vampire jokes.” Snape rolls his eyes. “How very droll. They must find you endlessly entertaining at the Ministry. What a multi-talented asset you are. An Auror and a stand-up comedian.”

“Shut up,” Harry mutters. He glances at the grave and notices a fresh bunch of lilies on the ground. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Isn’t it about time you found a new girlfriend?”

“I have no idea what you mean.” Snape’s lips tighten into a thin line and his wand hand twitches. “I held your mother in the highest esteem, as a friend. Not that I’m surprised you of all people would jump to the dullest conclusion.”

“You told Dumbledore you were in love with her,” Harry retorts. “Always.”

“I told him no such thing. Albus knew of my inclinations for years before his death.” Snape fixes his dark, intense stare on Harry, his mouth curled in displeasure. “I loved your mother, but not in the way you’re insinuating.”

“Yeah, right.” Harry glares at the lilies. A flicker of uncertainty passes through him as he recalls the gossip about Snape that sometimes finds its way into the Auror coffee area. Wizards, his brain supplies. Everyone reckons he likes wizards. The thought sends an unmistakable thrill down Harry’s spine, making him shiver. He pulls his jacket more tightly around his body, annoyed. It must be the frosty night. “I might have heard something on the grapevine.”

“Come, Potter. Don’t be so coy.” Snape’s voice is low and smooth. “I’m sure you’ve heard more salacious rumours than the one about me sleeping in coffins.”

“There’s always some gossip flying around. I was having an affair with Hermione the other month.” Harry ensures he keeps focused on Snape’s eyes, squaring his jaw and staying perfectly still. He doesn’t want to be caught staring at Snape’s crotch to get an eyeful of the thing Jeremy from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes wouldn’t stop banging on about on another of Harry’s terrible dates. “Those dickheads at the DMAC are some of the worst for it. I don’t believe everything I hear.”

“I’m not the only one certain members of that team gossips about.” Snape’s gives Harry a cool look. “You would do well to remember that.”

“I don’t give a Hippogriff’s hoof.” Harry pulls a face. “Jeremy—they can say what they like. It’s not like I’m giving anyone much to gossip about anyway. Unlike some people.”

“Poor, lovelorn Potter.” Snape’s lip twists into a mean smile. “Can’t find a witch or wizard to love.”

“Oh brilliant. Now you’re making fun of my sexuality, too.” Harry turns to face the grave, pointedly ignoring Snape. Any glimmer of curiosity he might have had is rapidly vanishing. “Bugger off and leave me alone.”

There’s a silence which Harry uses to catch his breath and draw his wand. He painstakingly Transfigures the frosty grass into a beautiful wreath that glimmers in the moonlight, the white leaves of the flowers shining like stars. He’s concentrating so hard he doesn’t notice Snape is still beside him until a quiet cough reminds him, he has company.

“I’m not making fun of your sexuality, you little idiot.” Snape sounds chagrined. “I’m making fun of your dire love life which by all accounts leaves much to be desired.”

“That makes me feel loads better, thanks.” Harry rolls his eyes before pushing himself back into a standing position. He swallows around the lump in his throat, studying his parents’ names on the tombstone and pursing his lips, determined not to break down in front of Snape who doesn’t appear to have any intention of leaving. He usually likes to talk to his mum and dad. He can’t very well do that with Snape and his huge bat ears—and the rest—lurking in the shadows. Eventually he turns and glares. “Would it kill you to give me a moment?”

“Do you expect me to wander around the churchyard like an abandoned Kneazle?” Snape sniffs disdainfully. “The churchyard is public property.”

Harry fishes two small birthday cake candles out of his pocket and Transfigures them into stout church candles. He places them by the grave and lights them with the tip of his wand, watching the flames flicker and wave in the breeze.

“It might be public property, but this is my parents’ grave. I’m the one that comes here all the time and keeps it nice. Of all the bloody nights, why did you have to pick this one?”

“You usually visit in November,” Snape replies tightly. “How was I to know your plans had changed this year? I can assure you I had no desire for company either.”

“Sounds like you’re keeping a pretty close eye on what I’m doing,” Harry snaps. “Bit weird, if you ask me. I don’t need another stalker, not after the Eloise Billingham debacle.”

“I would sooner stalk a Mountain Troll than spend any time—” Snape is cut off by a loud crack to their left as the earlier gentle breeze whips into a frenzy.

In a flash both Snape and Harry have their wands drawn, immediately turning back-to-back to cover the entire graveyard that curves around them, sloping upwards into the darkness where the spires of the church make thin, pointed shadows in the sky.

Lumos!” It doesn’t escape Harry’s notice that Snape’s spell casts a dizzyingly powerful light around the small space. It also doesn’t escape his notice that the throb and pulse of Snape’s magic makes his skin tingle pleasantly, touching the most inconvenient places like a caress.

“It’s probably my dad’s ghost trying to drop a branch on your stupid head,” Harry mutters. He adjusts himself in his trousers. There’s a louder crack and the trees around them creak and groan as the wind begins to pick up around them. “Show yourself!”

“That should do the trick,” Severus says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Try saying please next time. Perhaps our mystery assailant will simply give themselves up, if you ask politely enough.”

“Will you shut up?” Harry hisses. He clutches his wand more tightly as he and Snape turn in a strange dance, their shoulders taut. Whatever magic Snape was using to keep warm lingers in the air around them, enveloping Harry and drawing him closer to Snape. The hard lines of Snape’s body and the curve of his arse against Harry’s own send an unexpected thrill down his spine. He swallows, attempting to focus on the task at hand. “Can you see anything?”

“No.” Snape’s voice has a peculiar, rough cadence to it. “Nothing at all. It’s simply the wind.”

Snape moves away from Harry, the loss of his proximity leaving a chill in the air. He pockets his wand, after looking around the graveyard once more. Harry takes a moment to sneak a proper look at him, with his nice jumper, the agility of his movements and the ease with which he harnesses his strong and strangely magnetic magic. Snape certainly isn’t handsome in a conventional way, but he’s something. He exudes a confidence that Harry assumes must come with age and not giving a flying fuck about other peoples’ opinions after a lifetime of hearing unpleasant things about himself.

The second thing that occurs to Harry, is how he and Snape have both lived in a way that means a rustle in the shadows can’t be easily dismissed. They both responded instinctively to something that didn’t sound quite right, without any direction or hesitation. On one particularly disastrous date, convinced he was being followed—intuition that turned out to be correct, as he later found out, wrestling on the floor of Knockturn Alley with an angry ghoul—Harry insisted on keeping his wand drawn, on high alert. His date couldn’t get away quickly enough, muttering something about Harry Potter having lost his marbles. There would be none of that with Snape. Not that Harry’s thinking about dating him, obviously. That would be horrible.

“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give you a little privacy if you wish.” Snape breaks the silence at last. He studies the surrounding area, his eyes narrowed in thought. “I should return home shortly in any event. I expect you’ll want to share news of your countless accolades with your parents.”

Harry shakes his head. The urge to crouch at the grave and talk to his parents has faded away. The strange sounds in the churchyard have unsettled Harry and, although he’s not the sort to be easily scared, he would prefer they stay together. It’s not the first time he’s seen and heard odd things when he’s visited his parents, but there’s never been anything like the loud cracking sound or the fierce winds that seem specifically concentrated on Harry and Snape. He’s reminded briefly of being yanked to the graveyard at Little Hangleton after the Triwizard Tournament and he shivers.

“Don’t leave,” Harry says at last. “We should stay together, just in case. I’m nearly finished.”

“As you wish.” Snape nods curtly and folds his hands in front of his body, mercifully keeping silent as they stand together and contemplate the tombstone.

It’s been a long time since Harry has wept at Godric’s Hollow. In time, the sharpness of post-war grief settled and now he looks forward to visiting the churchyard. The November trip is his ritual with Hermione and Ron, but he often comes to see his parents alone throughout the year. He picks bright, sunny days and tells them about work, about his life, his friends. He finds a comfort in chatting to them. When he lingers after sunset, he sometimes imagines he can hear them: a faint whisper of laughter on the breeze, the stomp of hooves and the bleating of a doe. Long ago he decided those things he couldn’t explain were beautiful ghosts, watching over him and keeping him safe.

Harry stretches out his hand, touching the warm petals of his Transfigured garland. As he brushes his fingertips against the petals, another soft sound filters through the air. It causes Snape to move closer, his long fingers wrapping around Harry’s wrist as they both keep perfectly still. It’s not the weather, that much is certain. It’s not the same loud creak from before, when Harry and Snape were arguing. Harry has heard this sound on other visits to Godric’s Hollow, the doe-like bleats carrying through the air towards the two men.

Snape loosens his grip on Harry’s wrist, taking in the churchyard quickly. His eyes settle on a spot nearby and without so much as a word to Harry, he takes off at a pace, striding towards the statue of Harry’s parents.

“Wait up!” Harry follows quickly, trying to hear the invisible animal again as the rising wind twists and howls around them. “Can you bloody well slow down?”

Snape stops at the statue of Harry’s parents and bends to pick up a bright flower, the colours shining brightly in the moonlight. It’s delicate, yet completely undisturbed by the wind which has whipped into a blustery gale. With long, dexterous fingers Snape carefully cradles the distinctive blossom of spring that has no place in an English churchyard on a frosty winter’s evening. He seems stunned into silence, his usually pale face even more drawn, angular and wan in the moon’s silvery glow.

“It’s like the one from your memories,” Harry whispers. It’s not just similar to the flower that scared Aunt Petunia half to death when Harry’s mum made it magically open and close in front of her as a child. It’s exactly the same. “These flowers don’t come out at this time of year.”

“I’m aware of that, Potter. I’m the country’s leading potions expert, my understanding of flora and fauna is unparalleled,” Snape snaps. “I’m not a total twit.”

“You’re modest, too,” Harry replies. “You should add that to your list. I’m right though, aren’t I? It’s the one from your memories.”

“I haven’t lost my marbles just yet. I can remember my own childhood perfectly adequately.” Severus glares. You also don’t need to explain this flower’s significance to me. They were my memories.”

“Yeah well, you gave them to me,” Harry mutters. He edges closer to Snape and peers at the flower. Without his wand or any incantation, he makes it open and close, remembering how he thought it looked like an odd oyster when he viewed Snape’s memories.

“Stop.” Snape’s voice is rough and his hand trembles. “Stop it at once.”

“Sorry.” Harry pulls back and the flower is still once more. He takes a glance at Snape’s face, caught in a peculiar expression, his hair hanging loosely and partially obscuring his features. “I didn’t think.”

“Shocking.” Snape closes his fingers gently around the flower. When he reveals his palm again, it is empty.

“Has this happened to you before?” Harry’s heart drums in his chest. He isn’t unaccustomed to strange happenings in Godric’s Hollow, but they only occur when he visits alone, never with Ron and Hermione. “I assume this isn’t your first visit.”

“No.” Snape’s voice is smooth, its previous sharp edge gone entirely. “I visit once a year, a week after your annual pilgrimage with Granger and Weasley.”

“I really buggered things up for you changing my plans this year, then.” Harry gives Snape a grin; he meets it with a huff of annoyance.

“I would say that’s an understatement.” They make their way out of the churchyard together and the wind settles once again to a gentle breeze.

“What do you think those noises were all about?” Harry asks. He looks at his feet, concentrating on not falling arse over tit on the slippery, frosted cobbles. “I thought it sounded like deer.”

“It was only the wind,” Snape murmurs.

“Then how do you explain the flower?” Harry looks up, folding his arms. “I’m not stupid, I’ve been an Auror long enough to know when there’s something weird going on. It’s got to mean something.”

“Sometimes—rarely—magic is not made to be understood. It simply is.” Snape’s expression turns serious. “It’s unwise to spend one’s life searching for ways to bring back the dead. You understand that better than most.”

“I know,” Harry agrees. “I’m not going to start looking for ghosts.”

“Considering your tendency to poke your nose absolutely everywhere it isn’t wanted, forgive me for not being convinced about your ability to let the matter rest,” Snape replies.

He frowns at Harry, which isn’t unusual. Instead of looking cross however, there’s a flicker of concern behind his eyes. He’s worried, Harry thinks. Severus Snape is worrying about you. The thought makes his chest tight, a warmth settling on his skin despite the chill in the air. His eyes drift down before he yanks them up, heat rising in his cheeks. He’s certain that Snape clocked him staring. His lips twitch and one eyebrow arches in question.

“I’m okay.” Harry stuffs his hands into his pockets. “I’m not going to come back here alone and start investigating.”

“I have your word?” For some reason Snape seems very fixated on making sure Harry doesn’t become immersed in the supernatural.

“You do, if you need it.” Harry tips his head to the side, contemplating Snape. “Why does it bother you so much?”

“Because death can be seductive.” Snape doesn’t elaborate or share his own experiences. “You would do better to find the things you need in the living than the dead.”

“I understand.” Harry gives Snape a small smile. “I think you underestimate how far I’ve come since the war, Professor. My parents have been gone for a long time. I’ve been to the places they grew up and I’ve grieved for them. I’ve been coming to Godric’s Hollow for years. It isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Daffodils in October, red and yellow Chrysanthemums growing in soil that shouldn’t be able to keep anything alive. Animals I can hear but can’t see.”

“And you have never been curious to find out if there’s a logical explanation?” Snape purses his lips, thinking.

“No.” Harry shrugs. “It’s like you said. Sometimes things are better left unexplained. I’ll let it rest.”

“Good.” Snape sighs with relief, the tension in his shoulders easing. “I think that’s wise.”

“I do believe in signs though,” Harry continues. “And I’ve never seen a storm blow up like that and then just disappear. Whatever it was didn’t seem to like us fighting much.”

“No,” Snape agrees. He gives Harry a careful look, his lips twitching. “Although civility can get awfully dull.”

“We don’t have to be civil all the time.” Harry laughs and extends his hand. “But maybe it’s time we found new things to argue about.”

“This doesn’t mean we can simply erase the past, Potter.” Snape takes Harry’s hand, despite his words. His fingers are sure and warm, his handshake firm.

“I know.” Harry grins. “Let’s start with this Potter business. You should call me Harry and I can’t keep calling you Professor Snape now I’m in my twenties.”

Snape winces, as if he would very much prefer Harry continue to address him as Professor Snape. Eventually he capitulates, with a reluctant sigh.

“Very well.” Snape rolls his eyes. “You can call me Severus, if you must. Please don’t abuse the privilege.”

“Circe, no. As if I would.” Harry falls into step beside Snape—Severus—as they amble into the village, leaving the churchyard behind.

“It wouldn’t do much for my love life if I started ghost-hunting,” Harry points out, conversationally. “My dates think I’m weird enough as it is. Taking up Necromancy would really be the icing on the cake.”

Snape looks down his nose at Harry, opening his mouth to as if he wants to make a remark about his dire love life. In the end he appears to think better of it, pressing his lips into a tight line and looking around the quiet village street when they come to a stop.

“I usually go for a pint in Lynmouth after visiting the grave,” Harry says. “It’s a tradition”

“Very well.” Severus scans the area, checking if it’s safe to Apparate. “Enjoy your evening.”

“I was actually asking you to join me,” Harry replies, amused. “Unless you have plans, of course.”

“I have a potion at home under a Stasis Charm.” Severus gives Harry a strange look, as if he’s trying to establish how to respond to the offer of a pint after their tentative truce. “I’m confident it will hold for an hour or two, but I’ve already spent longer than planned away from the house.”

“Maybe next time then.” Harry deflates, but he tries not to look too disappointed. He zips his coat up and pulls out his flying gloves, pulling them on to get ready for the long journey back to Islington. He’s freezing, but he hates Apparating and the flight should chase the strange night from his mind. “I’ll see you around then, once I find my broom.”

Harry rummages around in his pocket, trying to find the Firebolt he shrank to the size of a matchstick. He pulls out a pile of tissues and a few knuts, cursing under his breath. He really should keep his broom in a better place. Knowing his luck, he probably dropped it by the grave and he really doesn’t fancy returning to the churchyard alone.

“Are you going to attempt to fly home in this weather?”

“I’ve flown in worse. I tracked a group of Giants in Siberia earlier this year. You’d never do that on foot, they take massive steps. The best way is to fly, but you have to keep casting heating charms so the broom doesn’t take on too much ice.”

“Why am I not surprised this is how you would choose to spend your working days?” Severus shakes his head with a low chuckle of laughter.

“Comes with the territory.” Distracted, Harry nudges his glasses higher on his nose and meets Snape’s amused gaze with a frown. “Don’t worry, it’s here somewhere.”

“What happened to Lynmouth?” Severus’ voice is surprisingly gentle. “I thought you had a tradition.”

“There’s always next year.” Harry finally finds his broom and lets out a sigh of relief. It could have been worse. He might have accidentally used it as a toothpick. “I don’t like drinking on my own.”

“Very wise,” Severus murmurs. He puts a warm hand over Harry’s gloved one before he can unshrink his broom. “I can’t accompany you to the pub on this occasion, but I have a bottle of elven wine from Minerva if you wish to join me for a nightcap.”

“Really?” Harry’s certain there’s something weird in the air. The night still has an electric quality and even Severus looks mildly shocked by the offer, despite it being his own. “You’re inviting me to come home with you?”

“I am inviting you for a nightcap.” Severus’ jaw works as he considers Harry. “I prefer plain speaking to riddles and euphemisms. I have no ulterior motive.”

“Ulterior…?” Harry trails off, understanding dawning. He swallows, a surge of heat rising in his cheeks, his eyes dropping to Severus’ crotch again. Flustered, he searches desperately for a response before things get more awkward than they already are. “I didn’t think you were asking me back for sex or anything. I’m just surprised you want me in your bed—house, I mean house, around the potions—”

“Please for the love of Merlin stop talking.” Severus pinches the bridge of his nose. “Perhaps this was a bad idea…”

“No!” Harry tries to halt his racing thoughts wondering if he really said sex and in your bed to Severus Snape. Within earshot of his mum and dad, who if the peculiar events of tonight are anything to go by are probably listening. Fucking hell. How embarrassing. “No, I want to come. Back to your house I mean, not…”

Harry trails off, miserably. This is terrible. It’s no wonder he can’t find anybody to go out with him.

“I understand.” Severus turns his laugh into a polite cough, doing a woeful job of masking his amusement. He’s standing awfully close. “I suggest we Apparate. It would take far too long to fly and unlike you I don’t enjoy the thrill of de-icing myself.”

“Yeah.” Harry beams up at Severus. “I’d prefer to Side-Along. I hate Apparating.”

In a swift moment, Severus’ wraps his arms around Harry. There’s really no need to be so close, but Harry isn’t complaining. Snape’s body is warm and firm, the rich, musky scent of his cologne deliciously enticing. His breath is warm on Harry’s cheek and if he tipped his head just a little—

Before Harry can think of anything further, the tug of Apparition whirls him off his feet.

He closes his eyes and holds onto Severus tighter than is strictly necessary, but there’s really nothing he hates more than Apparition.

That’s the only reason he’s clutching on so hard, he tells himself.

What other reason could there possibly be?

*

After taking a minute to recover from the wave of nausea that tends to follow Apparition, Harry unlaces his trainers and takes them off, following Severus’ lead. He puts his coat on a rack by the door and places his trainers beside the boots Severus removes, straightening and looking around.

The hallway is narrow, and the flickering candles don’t cast much light, but the house has a different feel to place Harry saw in Snape’s memories. He briefly visited Spinner’s End on a quest to find the places his mum and dad grew up, after the war. As they move out of the hall and into the living room, Harry can tell this isn’t one of the neat, narrow terraced houses that occupied that street. It feels more like Godric’s Hollow, a small, stout cottage with higgledy-piggledy walls and low ceilings. There’s hardly any noise from outside, which also leads Harry to suspect they’re nowhere near a city. Even in his quiet residential street in Islington, traffic still winds down the streets and people chat and laugh as they walk past the living room window.

“Where are we?” Harry pulls back the curtain in the living room, trying to get a sense for what’s outside. Aside from a bustling little pub far enough away that none of the noise carries, the only things he can make out are looming hills and what appear to be sheep grazing nearby. “This isn’t Spinner’s End—I went there once to see where mum grew up.”

“No, it isn’t.” Severus pushes up his jumper sleeves and pokes at the embers of the fire. He reaches for a couple of logs and throws them in, getting it going properly with a flick of his wand. “I sold that house for a modest sum after leaving Hogwarts and decided I needed a change of scenery, ideally somewhere sheep outnumber people. We’re in the North Yorkshire Moors.”

“It’s quiet.” Harry stares at the dark, shadowy faces of the hills. “Like we’re on top of the world.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Severus laughs, the unexpected sound rich and warm. “We are, however, high up. Your Auror intuition serves you well.”

“Yeah, it comes in handy when Robards hands us Port Keys without bothering to let us know where they’re taking us.”

“I’m sure it does. Stop peering out of the window like a nosy neighbour and make yourself useful.” Severus hands Harry a bottle of wine. “I need to tend to my potion. You can open this and ensure the fire doesn’t go out. The poker and kindling will suffice. Please refrain from casting Incendio next to my books.

“I think I can be trusted not to burn your house down if you leave me on my own for five minutes.” Harry rolls his eyes. “Go and do what you need to. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Very well.” Severus leaves the room and after opening the wine, Harry takes the opportunity to have a proper look around.

The living room is cosy and neat, a two-seater sofa covered in a colourful crocheted blanket next to a worn leather armchair with a couple of cushions. The shelves are filled with books and on a small table next to the sofa there’s a completed crossword—Muggle, not magical—with a quill and reading glasses resting on the folded newspaper. A black and white photograph of Snape’s mother and a carriage clock take centre stage on the mantelpiece, together with a handful of cards.

Harry looks over his shoulder to check for Severus, but there’s no sign of him. Taking the opportunity to be nosy, Harry has a quick peek at the names inside the cards. There’s one from Minerva and other Hogwarts staff members. There’s an official Ministry card and a few from people whose names Harry doesn’t recognise. He’s particularly pleased to see there’s nothing from Jeremy. Ha! He personally hopes Jeremy gets a bag of mouldy brussel sprouts for Christmas.

He pauses when he reaches the end of the mantlepiece. Right in the middle of the tidy row of cards, is Harry’s own face, smiling back at him. With a grin, Harry picks up the Weasley family holiday card, peering at the picture. He remembers that Christmas the year before, when Molly insisted Harry be part of the photograph too. They’re all wearing small, fluffy Sorting Hats in Gryffindor red and their new knitted jumpers, waving and laughing at the camera. The idea of Severus displaying a card like that is unexpected to say the least. Most surprising of all, however, is the card with a festive Spiky Bush on the front, that Harry recognises instantly. He received one himself from Neville and Hannah Longbottom.

“If you’re quite finished poking around,” Severus comments drily.

“Sorry.” Harry jumps, sheepishly putting the card from Neville back on the mantlepiece. “You’ve got a card from the Weasleys.”

“Indeed.” Severus glances at the card. “Seeing you all sporting your festive jumpers is the highlight of my year.”

“I bet.” Harry sits on the sofa, the room lovely and toasty as the heat from the fire starts to spread. “Jeremy didn’t send you a card this year, then?”

“If he did, I would have used it for kindling.” Severus hands a glass to Harry and reaches for the bottle, pouring a generous measure for them both. “Is there something you wish to ask me?”

“No,” Harry lies. He can feel Severus’ beady eyes on him, and he pulls a face. “He made it sound like you two had a thing. Seemed dead proud of it. It put Ron right off his chocolate hob-nobs.”

“I see.” Severus sounds amused. “I didn’t sleep with him, if that’s what you’re getting at. We had a drink, he made some advances and I rejected them. There was no thing.”

“Oh.” A flush of pleasure courses through Harry. “I went out with him once. Bit of a dickhead.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Severus replies easily. He settles in the armchair with a contented sigh. “Did he have more success with you?”

“No.” Heat rises in Harry’s cheeks and he avoids Severus’ gaze. “He didn’t even try anything with me.”

“More fool him,” Severus murmurs. “The man is clearly an idiot.”

Harry looks up and meets Severus’ eyes. There’s a warmth behind them that makes Harry’s heart kick.

Harry gestures to the card from Neville, changing the subject before the charged silence becomes awkward. “I didn’t know you two were friends.”

“Longbottom? I doubt he would consider me a friend, but we worked together for many years after the war.”

“He used to be terrified of you.” Harry takes a sip of his wine, which is delicious. He doesn’t usually drink wine, but this must be a good one. “It’s surprising.”

“No more surprising than you, sitting in my home,” Severus points out. “Longbottom is a fine Herbology professor and I continue to get many of my ingredients from him. We had an opportunity to discuss matters after his appointment and had an amicable working relationship by the time I retired from teaching.”

“Do you have a laboratory here?” Harry looks at the door Severus disappeared through. It doesn’t feel as though there would be space for a proper brewing area in the cottage. Knowing Severus, Harry wouldn’t be surprised if he has cauldrons on the hob in the kitchen.

“Not exactly.” Severus shakes his head. “I have a shed I converted into a work and study space, charmed to look like a greenhouse to the Muggle eye. It gets regular sunlight and keeps the more noxious fumes outside the cottage. It’s a good research space and it suffices for small brews. For large batches and volatile potions, I use the Ministry facilities.”

“I thought you might have cauldrons in the kitchen.”

“Only when particularly ill-mannered guests come over,” Severus replies.

“It’s a good job I’ve got excellent manners then.” Harry grins at Severus, who’s clearly itching to say something to the contrary. “Do you have many guests over?”

“Not as a rule.” Severus arches an eyebrow at Harry, his lips twitching. “It would be unwise for a man with my past to make a habit of bringing casual acquaintances into my home.”

“What am I, then?” Harry holds his breath, eager for a response.

“Time will tell,” Severus replies. He has a sip of his wine. “You’re difficult to pin down at the Ministry of late.”

“Have you been trying?” Startled, Harry studies Severus who makes a noncommittal sound in response. “I never see you at work.”

“No,” Severus agrees. “You don’t. I suppose the Ministry is a big place and Aurors do tend to travel in packs, basking in their own superiority.”

“That’s a load of rubbish.” Harry laughs. “We’re friendly to everyone. Well, Robards isn’t. But I am.”

“How generous of you, socialising with the peasants.” Despite his words, Severus’ voice has a teasing note to it. “In any event, I was under the impression you rarely work in London now. I visited your office the other day and I was informed you had taken a job in China, single-handedly combatting the illegal Abraxan wing trade.”

“You came to my office?” Harry has a feeling Severus has been paying more attention to his movements than he would let on. The thought makes his cheeks heat. “All my plants are dead.”

“How very depressing for you.” Severus has another sip of his wine. “I could probably help you revive them in the new year, if you wish.”

“Yeah.” Harry beams, not least because he now has the perfect excuse to pester Severus at work. “Thanks.”

Severus studies his hand, not looking at Harry. “It strikes me that you take the lion’s share of the DMLE’s international work.”

“I might as well take the jobs nobody else wants to do.” Harry shrugs. “It doesn’t work for everyone to travel so much.”

“It works for you, however?” Severus sounds genuinely interested, studying Harry curiously.

“Yeah of course.” Harry stops.

It does suit him to work away when the opportunity arises, but not because he loves travelling. If anything, he’s been feeling increasingly untethered lately. He can’t make a home when he’s never there and his office is full of piles of paperwork that need filing and dead plants nobody bothers to water.

“You don’t sound so sure,” Severus muses.

“I dunno.” With a frown, Harry continues. “I like being busy. It’s not as if there’s anyone to come home to, so I take the weird jobs no one else wants to keep myself from going stir crazy in the house by myself.”

“I see.” Severus doesn’t sound at all shocked by Harry’s revelation. “Did it ever occur to you that being away for such long periods of time might be part of the reason you’re struggling to find a partner? I assume from your earlier comments that’s what you’re looking for.”

“I am.” Harry nods vigorously. “It’s what I’ve wanted for ages, but most of my dates are a disaster. I haven’t been out with anyone in months. I might as well give up.”

“Nonsense.” Severus snorts. “You’re an attractive man in your early twenties, with a strong moral compass and a record of loyalty. You’re popular and well-respected by your peers and professional colleagues with a good job and a very smart London home.”

“Then what’s the catch?” Harry asks. “If I’m so brilliant.”

“I didn’t say you were brilliant.” Snape rolls his eyes. “The catch is you’re a fool with a flair for the melodramatic. The Harry Potter I knew wouldn’t give up on anything and yet here you are, throwing in the towel after a few bad experiences with witches—or wizards—that were undoubtedly appalling choices on your part.”

“They weren’t appalling, thanks.” Harry glares at Severus. “There’s nothing wrong with Ginny, she’s my mate.”

“Oh please.” Severus tuts under his breath. “I’m certain if everything was right with Miss Weasley, I would currently be making an excuse to avoid attending your nuptials.”

“I thought that’s where we’d end up.” Harry stares at his wine. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity to really think about where things have been going wrong with his love life. He’s not one for introspection so he tends not to think about it at all. “It just never worked out that way. We’re better as friends.”

“Indeed.” Severus contemplates Harry. “For someone so full of it in other areas, I’m surprised you would consider any relationship that lacked passion.”

“There was passion,” Harry replies, sullenly. As aggravating as it is to admit it, he knows Severus is right. The things people talk about, the irresistible, magnetic pull is something Harry isn’t sure he’s ever felt.

“If you say so.” Severus doesn’t sound as though he believes Harry.

“Does it bother you that I like men and women?” Harry looks up at last, meeting Severus’ dark gaze.

Severus looks momentarily surprised at the question, then his face settles into its usual implacable mask.

“Why on earth would the possible gender of people on the receiving end of your fumbling attempts at romance bother me?”

“Fumbling attempts at—” Harry splutters with laughter. “You’re such a prick.”

“So I’m led to believe.” Severus smirks.

“I had a date that didn’t like it much.” Harry pulls a face. “He said he couldn’t trust my wandering eye.”

“Is that so?” A dark expression flickers across Severus’ face. “I believe we’ve already established you have very poor taste in potential suitors.”

“It’s not the kind of thing that would bother you, then?” Harry aims for casual and isn’t sure he manages it.

“Of course not.” Severus makes a derisory sound in the back of his throat. “I have lived far longer than you, Potter. I’ve been with many different people over the course of my life. I concern myself less with who my partners may potentially be interested in and more on keeping them interested in me.”

“Do you have a partner at the minute?” Harry looks around the room, searching for signs of somebody else. The whole place has such an air of Snape about it, he can’t imagine there’s a regular visitor, but he would appreciate the confirmation all the same.

“Not at this precise minute, no,” Severus says in a low purr. “However, the night is still young. Who’s to say what might happen in the next hour?”

Before Harry can respond, Severus stands abruptly. He tops up their glasses and makes his way out of the room to check on his potion without another word.

Harry takes a steadying gulp of the delicious elven wine and sits back in the sofa, his head spinning.

He has the distinct impression Severus Snape is flirting with him.

Even more baffling is Harry’s realisation he enjoys it.

*

When Severus returns, he puts music on a small record player in the corner of the room. It’s quiet enough so as not to interrupt the conversation but having some background noise is welcome. Although Harry can’t quite make out the lyrics, he thinks it’s Muggle. Severus doesn’t seem in any hurry to get Harry to leave, settling back in his armchair with a contented sigh.

“The remainder of my work should keep until the morning.” Severus has a sip of his wine and places the glass down next to the armchair.

“Do you always work this late?” Harry asks.

“Says the man who recently took a holiday to Romania, to wrangle Hungarian Horntails.”

Harry laughs, his eyes flicking to the card from the Weasleys. “Did Molly and Arthur tell you that?”

“No.” Severus shakes his head. “Kingsley Shacklebolt is a good friend of mine.”

“Of course.” The knut finally drops. Harry has grown far closer to Kingsley over the years and his friendship with Severus explains how he knows about Harry’s working habits and his trips to Godric’s Hollow. “I’ll be sorry when he retires.”

“As will I.” Severus doesn’t elaborate further, leaning back in the armchair and stretching his legs out. “He speaks very highly of you.”

“He does?” Harry is a little distracted by the way Severus seems so at ease, his long fingers curled around his wine glass and a light dusting of hair on his forearms.

Harry can’t believe he ever thought of Severus as unattractive. Sitting here with him now, a flush of heat courses through Harry at the thought of his power, his experience. Despite his fumbling attempts at romance as Severus would put it, Harry has had little success with wizards. His relationships have been with women and as much as he fancies men, he’s had precious little opportunity to do anything about it. The idea of being with Severus settles hot and persistent deep in his belly, a tug of desire making him pull his lip between his teeth.

There’s more to it than powerful magic and the likelihood that Severus has some idea what he’s doing. Harry recalls the way Severus responded to the strange noises in Godric’s Hollow, the way they both instinctively anticipated a battle. There are things you just can’t explain to people, things someone like Severus already understands. Emboldened by the elven wine and the comfortable companionship of the moment, Harry decides to ask Severus about something that’s been weighing on him, something he never talks about.

“Do you ever feel haunted?” Harry asks in a rush.

Harry clutches his wine glass tightly, hoping Severus doesn’t dismiss his question as stupid. He knows full well he’s not stupid—no matter how much Severus says so—but this question matters. He doesn’t want Severus to scoff or dismiss it. He wants him to understand. Mercifully, Severus doesn’t laugh. He simply narrows his eyes and takes a moment before answering.

“Are you asking if I have poltergeists in my home or if I hear things that go bump in the night?”

“No.” Harry shakes his head. “That’s not what I’m asking.”

“Ah.” Severus turns his wine in his glass. “Then yes. I have had many years to exorcise the worst of my demons, but it would be difficult for a man with my past to feel anything but at times. I imagine my ghosts are very different to yours.”

“Not all of them,” Harry replies. He thinks of the strange, out of place blossom blooming on the ground by his parents’ statue at Godric’s Hollow. “Some are the same.”

“Indeed.” A smile quirks at Severus’ lips. “Then perhaps they simply haunt us differently.”

Harry’s brain whirs, a kick of something unfamiliar making his heart quicken. It’s the kind of question he rarely dwells on, the sort of thing he refuses to voice out loud. To sit with someone who understands—instinctively—what he means, leaves his body warm.

“I’ve never told anybody I feel like that sometimes. It’s like the air gets heavy with them.” Harry is startled by hot tears pricking at the back of his eyes and he swipes the back of his hand across them with a huff of aggravation, taking a moment to swallow back the unexpected, forceful rush of emotion. “I don’t know if they’re ghosts or angels.”

“I see.” Severus watches Harry with a piercing, dark stare. “I would say some of mine are not so benevolent.”

“Not all of mine are, either.” Harry shakes his head. Another wave of emotion crashes over him, stealing the breath from his lungs. When he speaks again his voice wobbles. “Some are, though. I can feel them beside me when things get difficult. They shine like stars.”

Without comment, Severus stands and moves to the record player. He turns the music up a little and approaches Harry, holding out a hand. He doesn’t say dance with me but the invitation is clear.

“I can’t dance.” Harry laughs but stands anyway, his heart beating a restless tune. “I’ve got two left feet, I danced with Hermione at a Yule Ball once and nearly kicked her in the shin trying to do the Cornish Pixie Hop.”

“Then allow me to teach you,” Severus murmurs. His voice is low and rich, his breath warm on Harry’s skin. “I seem to recall you having a knack for picking new ventures up quickly.”

“Okay.” Harry’s voice falters and he presses against Severus. There’s no longer much of a height difference between them and they can stand nearly cheek to cheek. Severus is warm, solid and he smells so good. “This is better than the Cornish Pixie Hop.”

“Nothing so energetic.” Severus tightens his arms around Harry. “There’s no point in exhausting ourselves so early in the evening.”

Harry gulps at the suggestion of more energetic activities to come, heat travelling through his body and leaving his skin tingling. He closes his eyes and in a moment of boldness, rests his head in the crook of Severus’ neck. He doesn’t have to think about footwork or treading on anyone’s toes. All he needs to do is trust the reassuring hand on the base of his spine, move closer and follow the steady sway as the music ebbs and falls. They slot together perfectly, and Harry’s body responds eagerly to the proximity and the delicious, dizzying scent of cologne. The way Severus holds Harry with firm ease leaves his head spinning.

“Severus?” Harry pulls back just a little and meets Severus’ dark gaze. The intensity behind his stare is enough to make Harry weak at the knees. “What else will you teach me?”

Severus wets his lips, a flicker of surprise crossing his features followed by an unmistakable hunger.

“That very much depends.” Severus’ voice is rough, his finger a light touch on Harry’s jaw, his eyes dropping to his lips. “What would you like to learn?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“I was under the impression—?”

“No,” Harry interrupts. Heat rises in his cheeks, even though he knows he has no reason to be embarrassed about his inexperience. “There hasn’t been anything like that. Not with another man. Just a few rubbish dates and a fight with a ghoul in Knockturn. My date scarpered before I could even get the ghoul in handcuffs.”

“How dull.” Severus laughs under his breath. “There are some men who might consider such a thing excellent foreplay.”

“Some men?” Harry grins, because only Severus would get off on fighting a ghoul. Boldly he presses closer, so there’s no mistaking his interest. “What else do you consider foreplay?”

“Several things,” Severus murmurs. He uses his fingers to tip Harry’s head a little and brushes his lips against his neck. “Encounters with the supernatural. A glass of wine and good conversation by an open fire…”

“Mmm.” Harry gives Severus better access to his neck, his breathing jagged. “Yeah, those work for me.”

“Slow dancing.” Severus moves his lips along Harry’s jaw, his breath hot. “This.”

Severus pushes a hand into Harry’s hair and brings their lips together. Despite the soft kisses to Harry’s jaw and neck, there’s nothing gentle about the way Severus kisses when their lips finally connect. The brilliant, searching force of it makes Harry groan. He’s reminded of the conversation about passion and he knows with absolute certainty he’s experiencing it now. His whole body is alive and energised, the despondency he felt at the beginning of the evening chased away entirely by the smooth slide of Severus’ tongue against his own. He never wants to stop kissing and the same time he’s in a rush to do everything he possibly can with Severus, his cock hard in his jeans.

In his eagerness, Harry fists his hands into Severus’ jumper, yanking him closer. The movement nearly sends them toppling back on the sofa before they both right themselves, pulling apart. It’s peculiar seeing Severus like this, his eyes searching Harry’s face for a sign that they should continue.

I kissed Severus Snape, Harry thinks. I kissed Severus Snape.

The pulse of desire deep in his bones leaves Harry in no doubt that he wants to do so again. He wishes he was more experienced. He doesn’t want to fumble around or have Severus wish for a more practiced partner. His brain whirs as he tries to recall how this goes in the films he watches, the only real experience he has of men fucking. In response to the way Severus raises his eyebrow in question, Harry sinks to his knees until he’s eye-to-crotch level. It appears he’s not the only one impacted by the kiss, the tantalising bulge in Severus’ trousers making Harry’s mouth water. He slides shaking hands up Severus’ thighs, moving to open the buckle of his belt.

“Harry.” Severus stills his movements, his voice amused but not cruel. “Come back up here you foolish boy.”

“Did I do something wrong?” With a frown, Harry gets back on his feet. “They like it in all the pornos.”

“I’m sure they do.” Severus brings their lips together again. It’s a deep, bone-melting kiss that travels through Harry’s entire body. Severus really knows how to use his mouth and tongue in a way that makes a simple kiss feel more pornographic than anything Harry’s watched. “You and I, however, are not in a porno.”

“It’s all I know,” Harry says with a breathless laugh. “You’re going to have to help me out here if I’m not supposed to strip off and bend over when you come over to fix the plumbing.”

“Should we ever find ourselves in such a position, please don’t remain clothed on my account,” Severus replies. His voice has the same magnetic quality as his magic. “Tonight, however, I have a perfectly serviceable bed and plans that require more space than a two-seater sofa.”

The thought of Severus’ plans sends a shiver of pleasure down the length of Harry’s spine. He’ll be lucky if he manages to make it to the bedroom without coming if Severus keeps talking.

“Where’s the bedroom?” Harry reluctantly puts a little distance between them, finally finding his voice again.

“This way.” Severus puts a hand on the small of Harry’s back and points towards the door. “And Potter?”

“Yeah?” Harry turns to meet Severus’ amused gaze.

“Please don’t assume for one moment that this means I have no interest in revisiting your first idea at some stage. You’re rather captivating on your knees.”

With a gulp, Harry follows the directions to the bedroom as quickly as he can manage with a hard-on.

*

Severus’ bedroom is tidy, with a large bed in the centre. Unlike the living room, which was bursting with books, ornaments and the odd photograph, the bedroom is sparsely decorated. It still has a very Snape-like quality to it, from the book and a second pair of reading glasses on the bedside cabinet to the black robes hanging on the wardrobe door. A couple of obscure plants bring a bit of colour to the room’s neutral palette, one particularly vibrant one curling its neon leaves and turning as if it doesn’t want to become an unwitting voyeur. Despite its plain nature, the room is cosy and intimate. Just standing inside the doorway makes Harry’s stomach flip with anticipation.

He doesn’t have long to wait as Severus closes the door and presses Harry’s back against it, kissing him soundly.

“Do you mind if we leave the magic tricks for another time?” Severus asks.

“No.” Harry shakes his head, his heart singing at the promise of another time. He frowns and shakes his head to clear his muddled thoughts. “Wait, what magic tricks?”

“Tricks to get you naked.” Severus slides a hand underneath Harry’s jumper, his fingers skimming Harry’s belly. He slides open the buckle of Harry’s jeans, his knuckles grazing the bulge of Harry’s cock beneath the thick denim. “Tricks that make a manual touch unnecessary.”

“Severus.” Harry’s head falls back against the door with a thud, his breath chased from his lungs by the slow slide of his jeans being opened. “I’ve got no fucking idea what you’re on about. You’re in charge. If I don’t like something, I’ll Bat-Bogey Hex you.”

“Or we could communicate through words, instead of hexes.” Severus looks amused. “Brat.”

“Just—” Harry bites back a groan at the brat, the light stroke of Severus’ fingers over his cock through the cotton of his pants making him curl his hands into fists. “Just do something, will you? I’m going to come before you’ve got my pants off at this rate.”

“That would never do.” Severus sounds smug, his tone implying it would do very nicely. “Well, then. I suppose we should probably take the edge off.”

Harry is about to ask whether he should move onto the big bed Severus has all these plans for, when Severus sinks to his knees, shoves Harry’s jeans and pants down to his knees and takes him into his mouth.

With a desperate nngh, Harry fists his hand into Severus’ hair and tries to keep upright. His body pulses with arousal his pleasure almost overwhelming. He bucks forward and groans when Severus uses a free hand to keep him effectively pinned against the door. It turns out Severus can use his mouth for a lot more than kissing, the hot, wet channel of it driving Harry to distraction.

Harry’s experienced blowjobs before, but not for a long time and none have been as enthusiastic as this. The combination of Severus’ practiced touch and the way he keeps Harry firmly in place leaves his knees weak. It’s so different to being alone and seeking new highs in a way that draws the long and lonely night out. Every stroke of Severus’ tongue over the head of his cock and the way he takes Harry deep into his throat is mind-melting. His body surges forward unbidden, pushed back into place by Severus in a way that leaves Harry scrabbling at the door. Instead of his usual quick climax his orgasm creeps through him, spreading and stretching over his skin, his body thrumming with desire.

In the end it’s the press of Severus’ long fingers into the fleshy globes of Harry’s backside that tips him over the edge. He makes a mumbled comment about close, close but Severus doesn’t pull away. With a startled cry, Harry’s orgasm catches him suddenly in a white-hot moment of blinding intensity. With a sharp spike of pleasure, he spills himself into Severus’ mouth. As the heat of his climax dissipates, Harry lets out a low, ragged moan and blinks, trying to catch his breath. It takes all his strength to keep himself upright instead of sinking bonelessly to the floor.

When Severus stands, Harry kicks off his jeans and pants and walks on wobbly legs to collapse on the bed. When he’s fully recovered, he pulls himself up and meets Severus’ amused gaze.

“I thought you said we’re not in a porno,” Harry murmurs.

“I suppose I should take your suggestion that we are as a compliment.” Severus pulls off his jumper and socks, leaving his trousers on and joining Harry on the bed. “Can you take this off or is it time for magic?” Severus nudges the base of Harry’s jumper.

“Magic,” Harry mumbles. He rests his head on the pillow and watches as Severus casts a disrobing charm with an easy wave of his hand. The cool air against Harry’s skin makes his nipples harden, the hum of the now familiar magic settling on his skin like butterfly kisses. “C’mere.”

Harry reaches for Severus and pulls him down, sinking into another delicious kiss. He can feel the hardness of Severus against his naked thigh—the rumours are definitely true. He lingers over the kiss, tasting the saltiness of his climax on Severus’ lips. The combination is almost enough to get him ready to go again, despite the fact he’s certain his cock has other ideas at least for now.

“Sleepy?” Severus pulls back and brushes Harry’s fringe back from his forehead, where it sticks to his damp skin.

“A bit.” Harry nods, yawning. He pulls a face. “I’m not usually this useless.”

“Rest, if you wish.” Severus lifts the duvet and encourages Harry to get underneath it before settling on the top of the sheets and stretching out his arm, so Harry can nestle in the crook of it. “We have the whole night.”

“Do we have more than just tonight?” Harry asks, hopefully.

Harry isn’t sure if he’s awake or dreaming when Severus finally replies.

I’m yours for as long as you’ll have me.

*

Around an hour later, Harry opens his eyes and finds Severus reading beside him. He blinks and watches the way his lips quirk in a smile, taking in the reading glasses perched on his nose and the angular line of his jaw.

“Is your energy fully restored?” Without looking up, Severus turns the page and reaches for his bookmark.

“I’d say so.” Harry presses his lips to Severus’ chest, a little embarrassed by his inability to stay awake. “It’s been a long week and I was knackered. I don’t usually sleep much.”

“I have no complaints.” Severus closes his book after marking the page. He slips off his glasses and places both on the side. He turns to face Harry. “There will be other nights, if you wish.”

“I do.” Harry swallows, studying Severus. “What about tonight?”

“There’s tonight, too.” Severus nods. “You look as though you’re dying to ask me something.”

No.” Harry frowns. He rolls onto his back with a sigh. “Maybe. Are you going to ask me to leave before the morning?”

“No, of course not. Should I be concerned you might turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes twelve?”

“I hope not.” Harry laughs under his breath. He turns and settles his hand on Severus’ chest, the physical contact making everything feel more tethered. “One of my dates told me how it goes. Fuck, make excuses about going to feed your Niffler, leave before they wake up and never contact them again.”

“I do hate to be judgemental.” Severus raises a particularly judgemental eyebrow. “But I have never met anyone with such woeful taste in possible suitors as you.”

Harry grins. “Says the potential suitor in bed with me.”

“Perhaps that says more about my woeful taste than yours.” Severus smirks. “I already know you didn’t take this date up on his generous offer to fuck and run, but I would love to know your response.”

“I pretended I needed the loo, Disapparated from the toilets and left him with the bill.” Harry grins. “I’m a pretty rubbish date myself.”

“Again, I have no complaints so far.” Severus’ tone is warm, and he doesn’t sound like he’s taking the piss.

“Are we on a date?” Harry runs his fingers down Severus’ chest and doesn’t miss the way his breath hitches. “You might have told me. I’d have worn better trainers.”

“Insolent brat.” Severus stops Harry’s wandering hand in its tracks. “I’m glad you’re sufficiently revived to make a nuisance of yourself again.”

“I’d say so.” Harry gives Severus what he hopes is a very sexy look, although from the twitch of Severus’ lips he’s not sure it’s wholly successful. “That nap did just the trick.”

“I’m delighted to hear it.” Severus pushes Harry back with a light jab of his fingers when he leans in for a kiss. “Before we proceed allow me to be clear. I don’t own a Niffler and nor would I ever suffer the indignity of pretending to own one. I do not fuck and make excuses. If I see no potential with someone outside of the bedroom, I would prefer not to fuck at all.”

“Me too.” Harry shivers happily at the way Severus says fuck in that smooth, filthy voice of his. He starts his exploration of Severus’ chest again, tracing a zig-zag path downwards. “I’ve never been good at playing it cool.”

“Of course not, you’re a Gryffindor.” Severus stills Harry’s hand before he can go below belly-button level. “Your desire to dive into things headfirst is—in this context at least—one of your charms. You do realise I have been flirting with you all evening, I hope?”

“I’m starting to get it.” Harry stretches out on the bed with a contented sigh. “I’m naked under here, Severus.”

“It hadn’t escaped my notice.” Severus stands and unbuckles his belt. “It seems only fair to join you.”

Harry nods, his mouth watering. “Please.”

“Are you just going to stare?” Severus pauses as he opens his trousers.

“Absolutely.” Harry props himself up to get the best view. “I want to see for myself if the rumours are true.”

“I’m not a piece of meat, Potter.” Severus rolls his eyes and mutters something under his breath before quickly removing his trousers and pants.

Harry’s still getting used to the finding Severus Snape sexy thing, as well as the being around naked men thing and as such the fierce, hungry bolt of desire catches him totally off-guard. Based on his tastes in porn and the way Severus’ long, thick cock makes his arse clench in anticipation, Harry’s starting to suspect he may be something of a size queen.

“Now, where were we?” Severus extracts something from the bedside cabinet before pulling Harry close.

Despite the fact they’re both naked, there’s something tender about the kiss, a promise of more. Harry’s stomach flips with the same anticipation he felt when he walked into Severus’ room. This is what he’s wanted to find for so long. Someone to fuck long into the night, who knows almost every aspect of Harry’s history. Someone who knows about more than the best way to get Harry off, who instinctively stands alongside him, ready to fight, when strange ghosts move in the shadows.

Severus would probably call him a sentimental twit, but Harry has never been more convinced that everything that happened tonight was meant to be. From the loud noise that stopped them from fighting and showed Harry the kind of man Severus Snape is, to the signs that speak to a past and provide hope for the future. Everything seemed to point solidly in the same direction.

Severus sucks a hot, open-mouthed kiss onto Harry’s neck, and it chases all thoughts away as arousal overwhelms him again. With a low groan, Harry surges as close to Severus as he can. The kisses become filthier, hotter and more demanding as they roll together in bed, their bodies moving and grinding together in perfect understanding. While he’s still able to speak, Harry pulls back reluctantly and blinks as Severus whose eyes hold an unspoken hunger that makes Harry’s cock pulse eagerly.

“I want you to fuck me.” Harry’s voice is gruff. “Will you?”

“If you wish.” Severus nudges Harry onto his back and reaches for a glass phial, slicking his fingers. He rubs them into the crease between Harry’s buttocks, his gaze unwavering. “Tell me if—”

“I will.” Harry bites back a moan and reaches for Severus. “Please.”

Without another word, Severus nudges a slick finger inside Harry, up to the knuckle. It’s a peculiar, unfamiliar sensation but it isn’t unpleasant exactly. Severus gives Harry a moment to adjust before sliding his finger in deeper. He’s the perfect combination of firm and careful, and the urgent need for something more builds inside Harry. Completely unabashed he urges Severus deeper, grinding back and making encouraging noises until there are two fingers deep inside his body.

The kisses that follow are messy and uncoordinated, Harry’s body slick with perspiration. He catches Severus’ lips with his own, pulls his earlobe gently between his teeth, tastes the sweat on his neck, the curl of his scar. He runs his tongue over every inch of Severus he can reach, tracing his skin with curious fingers and letting out a low cry when Severus’ fingers really begin to work their magic inside him. Pleasure curls through Harry and he pushes a hand into Severus’ hair, murmuring against his lips.

“Now. Fuck me now. Gods, I want you so much. You feel so—” Harry breaks off with a strangled cry as Severus rubs over a spot inside him. “Yes.”

Severus gentles Harry, slipping his fingers slowly out of his body and leaving Harry aching with the loss. He arranges Harry’s leg over his shoulder, moving over him after murmuring another lubrication charm. He reaches down between them and positions the blunt head of his cock. He pauses, looks deep into Harry’s eyes and seems satisfied by what he sees there.

“Come on then,” Harry manages, just to confirm he really does want this. “I’m not going to—Fuck.” His words are cut off by Severus nudging inside Harry before sinking into him in one deep thrust.

“I rather think you are going to fuck,” Severus murmurs. His voice is rough and throaty, his eyes dark and glittering with amusement.

Severus catches Harry’s lips in a kiss that leaves him breathless. After a moment, he pulls back a little and then pushes into Harry again, deep, hard and slow. The movement makes Harry arch and gasp, his mouth parting as he clutches the sheets.

The angle Severus finds as he adjusts their positions a little leaves Harry crying out for more. It spurs Severus on, and he moves into Harry with firm strokes that leave him stretched wide. There’s something so filthy and intimate about being taken like this, with Severus’ long hair tickling Harry’s cheeks and his face caught in an almost reverential expression. Harry doesn’t miss the way Severus still finds time to focus on the response to his movements, the careful way he studies Harry’s face, bites down on his neck and holds him in place with his large, confident hands. There’s a safety in the unspoken words, the way they gravitate together and seek out mutual pleasure through touch. The force of Harry’s desire combines with his flourishing hope, the realisation that whatever he was looking for might have been under his nose the whole time. Severus came looking for you before tonight, his brain dizzily reminds him. He’s been looking out for you, just as he always has. The thought makes Harry as happy and horny as he’s felt in a long time. With a quiet unf of pleasure, he fists his hands in the sheets and loses himself in the moment until Severus comes with a grunt.

Harry whimpers when Severus slips out of him. He was so close, and everything is so empty. He already misses the stretch and ache in his most intimate places. He blinks lazily, watching Severus move down the bed. It doesn’t take long before Severus’ plan is revealed, two freshly slick fingers pushing inside Harry’s body, his mouth sliding over Harry’s aching prick. Within minutes the combined pleasure pushes Harry over the edge as he comes with Severus’ name on his lips.

With a groan, Severus rolls off Harry and lies on his back to catch his breath.

“I think I’m a size queen,” Harry informs him. He props himself up on his side and watches the smile that tilts at the corner of Severus’ mouth. He leans in and kisses the curve of it, moving to Severus’ neck and savouring the saltiness of light perspiration on his lips. He’s really dead romantic when he wants to be.

“Flattery will get you everywhere, Potter,” Severus murmurs. He sounds knackered. “I have potions if you’re in any discomfort. I can—”

“No,” Harry interrupts. “No discomfort. You should sleep. You look properly shagged out.”

“Funny that.” Severus sounds amused, his voice heavy with sleep.

Harry slips out of bed and grabs the duvet they discarded on the floor at some point. He tugs it back onto the bed and places it loosely over Severus. Even though his pale skin is flushed with heat, it’s a cold night and the chill of the frosty evening is already creeping into the room. Harry slips under the duvet and watches Severus sleep, his heart kicking in his chest.

When he’s quite sure Severus isn’t awake, Harry runs his finger gently along the angle of Severus’ cheek, his chest tight and his heart full enough to burst.

“I’m yours for as long as you’ll have me too,” he whispers.

Severus responds with a grumble, a snore and a smile.

*

“You kept it.” Harry looks up from the flower they found at Godric’s Hollow when Severus wanders downstairs after his shower, pleasingly only half-dressed in silk pyjama bottoms. It nestles in the palm of his hand, opening and closing.

“Yes.” Severus approaches Harry and gives him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I sincerely hope you made coffee.”

“Massive pot of it. I used this big saucepan to make my latte.” Harry gestures to a cauldron on the side and grins when Severus visibly blanches. “I’m kidding. I found your cafetiere. It’s on the table.”

“Thank Merlin for that.” Severus pours a full mug without adding milk or sugar. He takes a long drink of his coffee and sighs. “Much better.”

“Why did you keep it?” Harry puts the flower gently back on the table and reaches for one of the slices of hot buttered toast he made when Severus was in the shower.

“A reminder.” Severus lifts his mug of coffee to his lips, pausing. “Of several things, before you ask me to be more specific.”

“Tell me one of them.” Harry takes a generous bite of his toast. “Then I’ll stop interrogating you.”

Fine.” Severus drinks more coffee and puts his mug down, folding his hands and taking a moment before answering. “I’m a difficult man, Harry. It does no harm to remind myself how easily good things can be lost.”

“I see.” Harry plucks a petal from the flower, gently so as not to disturb the others. He extracts his wand and uses the petal to create an identical bloom. “Now I have one too.”

“Yes.” Severus gives Harry a long, warm look. “You do.”

“I’m not easy either you know.” Harry continues, quietly. “I work too hard. I have bad days and worse nights. I can be a grumpy little shit when something goes wrong at the Ministry. No one’s ever stuck around for long enough to see the bad stuff.”

“That’s not entirely true.” Severus gestures to the flowers in the centre of the table. “I also have a card on my mantelpiece which suggests plenty of the living have stuck around, too.”

Harry stares at Severus, his heart clenching. He’s can’t say he’s in love—even Harry wouldn’t be daft enough to do that after one night of brilliant sex—but there’s something hopeful about the morning. A quiet confidence that settles within him, an anchor keeping him tethered. It’s warm and brilliant, like the glow of the winter sun. He likes Severus so much. So much.

“I don’t want to work away as much,” Harry blurts out. “I’ve got to paint my house.”

“Ah, yes.” Severus blows on his coffee, a small smile playing over his lips. “And call a plumber, perhaps?”

“Circe.” Harry flicks his wand to send the flowers off to Severus’ living room. He’s pretty sure it’s not how things work but he doesn’t want anyone from the great beyond looking at what he’s about to do. He stands and moves to Severus, kneeling on the floor between his spread legs. “If you’re going to come to my assistance in Islington, perhaps I should service you first?”

Severus laughs and runs his fingers through Harry’s hair, giving it a light tug.

“Stop watching porn, Potter. You can come up with better lines than that.”

Harry grins. He’ll have to think of some good ones later. For now he simply wants to focus on making Severus feel good enough that he’ll want to drag Harry back to bed and keep him there for the rest of the day.

His plan works tremendously well. The day turns to night as the sun sets on the small cottage in the North Yorkshire Moors and Harry and Severus sleep curled around one another.

Far away in the West Country, the first flakes of snow begin to fall in Godric’s Hollow.