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A Reason To Celebrate

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Harry sat back, eying the heaping pile of sandwiches Kreacher had left him. He'd already put a two-sandwich dent in it and was thinking about wrapping up the rest for later when the elf in question popped back into being next to his chair.

"Good evening, Master," Kreacher said, bowing low in his spotless tea towel.

"Uh, hello, Kreacher," Harry replied, still not used to being called Master despite the weeks he, Ron, and Hermione had spent in the house at Grimmauld Place. "Did you...did you do it?"

Kreacher looked up from his bow, his tiny worn face twisting, and for a moment, Harry was reminded of his former foul-tempered incarnation, pleased he'd got the sandwiches before Kreacher reverted back. Only instead of a snarl about serving unworthy half-bloods, Kreacher's huge eyes welled with tears. "I couldn't, Master!" he cried, and Harry was very glad they were alone in the Gryffindor common room. It was the only place he could think of to go to sort out the aftermath of defeating Voldemort. And eat a sandwich. Or two.

"Kreacher tried, he went to the place Master told him, but the...the body wasn't there!" The long spindly fingers tugged at one rather forlorn-looking ear in distress. "Kreacher looked everywhere in that old house but could find no trace of the departed."

"What?" Harry shook his head, certain he'd made some error in instructing Kreacher to go attend to Snape's body, not willing to take the others away from tending the wounded or their own dead, but not wanting to leave Snape just...lying there. "You must have gone to the wrong place," Harry said, pulling a face.

"No, Kreacher did just as young Master instructed. He found the marks in the dust where a mighty struggle had taken place. He found the..." The elf took a mighty swallow in his wrinkled throat. "He found the blood."

Harry sat back hard in the squashy armchair, sandwiches and even Voldemort forgotten, staring at the elf. Had Death Eaters, unaware that their master was dead, gotten to Snape first, and were they even now creating an Inferius out of his corpse? Suddenly Harry regretted that second sandwich.

Or had he just, Yoda-like, vanished like a ghost? Dudley had watched that film over and over on the telly and it had calmed Harry when he was young, believing his parents had died in a car accident. The idea of Snape talking in a squeaky high voice with backwards diction forced away the other, more unpleasant possibilities.

"Thank you, Kreacher," Harry said, remembering his manners. "Go on back home. I'll just have to find him for myself." Because he owed Snape that much. Or more, but he didn't want to think about that yet.

As the elf vanished, Harry felt more alone than ever. Where was he supposed to start looking? What did he know about Snape, really? Most of what Harry had thought he knew had been wiped out by what he had seen in Snape's memories in the Pensieve. Who was left who might know the truth?

That question did not make Harry's thoughts any more pleasant. The Malfoys might have known something, but Harry couldn't bear the thought of asking them for anything -- not even some small piece of information that might lead him to Snape. The Death Eaters, like Voldemort himself, could have had no idea about Snape's real loyalties. And that was true for the Order, too. Obviously McGonagall hadn't suspected.

They all owed it to Snape to give him a proper funeral. Snape had promised Dumbledore to keep the students safe, and Harry preferred to remember the hero, not the boy who had walked proudly to sit beside Lucius Malfoy at the Slytherin table while Lily Evans joined the Gryffindors. Surely Snape wouldn't have made a Horcrux -- that couldn't be why his body had vanished, could it? But Harry felt certain of nothing.

Again he thought back to the memories, wondering whether they held some clue. It hadn't seemed like the adult Snape still had family who might have come to claim him. And from where?

Suddenly he heard his Aunt Petunia's shrill voice, only as she had sounded when she was young, in Snape's memories. They live down Spinner's End by the river. That huge chimney dominating the skyline where both Harry's mother and Snape had grown up...where was it? Did Snape still have a home there? Might it hold some clue?

It was several days, however, before he could act on his lead. First he had to check out the Shrieking Shack for himself, not because he didn't trust Kreacher, well, okay, because he didn't fully trust the elf who'd betrayed Sirius for a bit of kindness from his enemy. The scene was just as grisly as he remembered it, a spray of blood cleaving the dusty floor, gleaming in the shuttered light. Harry knelt down, sending a little flurry of dust around the widest spatter. There were handprints, dragged along in the dust as Snape had...

Harry swallowed down his gorge. Snape was dead, wasn't he? He'd seen the light fading from his eyes himself. He'd seen enough death to know what it looked like. But Snape had been fighting to give Harry his memories, scrabbling along this dusty floor as if he wanted to shake Harry the way he always looked like he wanted to in class.

Harry pushed away the memories of Snape alive and whole and utterly malicious in his direction, getting to his feet and staring down at the site where he thought Snape had died. If Death Eaters had come for him, there would have been other footprints leading into the room besides his own, wouldn't there? Or would Death Eaters cover their tracks? It was all too confusing. His best bet was to find the childhood home of his mother, of Snape, and see what secrets, if any, it held.

"Do you know anything about Spinner's End?" he asked Hermione. If it was secretly a wizarding village, she was the person he knew who was most likely to know about it, and if it was a Muggle town, she was more likely to know about it than the Weasleys.

She shook her head. "What's that? Another story connected to the Deathly Hallows?" Harry had no idea what she was talking about. "Spinner's End," she added, seeing his confusion. "I thought maybe it was a variant of Sleeping Beauty, where she was supposed to prick her finger on a spindle and die."

"She didn't die. The prince woke her up," Harry replied automatically, even though this had nothing to do with what he wanted to know. Or maybe it did. If anyone knew a way to inoculate himself against snake venom, it was Snape, who must have known that Voldemort used the snake to kill his enemies. What if Snape had arranged it to look like he was dead when he was only asleep?

What if Snape hadn't died?

Hermione was looking at him with her brow furrowed. "Harry, are you all right? You've been so quiet since...since it happened." He wasn't sure which she meant: since he had killed Voldemort, or since Voldemort had killed him, sending him to that twilight state where Dumbledore had answered so many of his questions yet hadn't told him nearly enough.

Harry knew better than to lie to Hermione, so he only shrugged and smiled a bit. "My mum came from near a place called Spinner's End. Thought that since I've been to Godric's Hollow, maybe I should visit it."

"Well, if that's all, I've a very good atlas right here," Hermione said, digging into the bag in which she still had an entire library.

Of anyone he knew, Harry thought, Hermione was the most likely to have an atlas right on hand. He peered over her shoulder as her finger scrolled down the index.

"Spinner's End," she read off, as triumphantly as if it had been her own curiosity prompting the search. She flipped a few pages, heaving the large book open flat. They both studied the confusing array of county lines and bluish squiggles of rivers as Harry pinpointed the region. "Looks like it's north," she said, "Well, south of us." She turned her face up toward his, her bushy hair brushing his cheek. "Are you going to go?"

Harry straightened. "I've got to," he said, then at her startled expression at his adamant declaration, he amended, "I mean, I think I need to do this. Just like I needed to see Godric's Hollow." The memory of what had happened to them there was clearly visible in her expression. "Only with fewer deadly snakes."

"But...now?" she asked doubtfully. "I mean, there's so much to be done here...the Ministry is still expecting you to make a statement and Ginny thinks..."

"I know what everyone wants me to do," he interrupted her, more angry than he had meant to sound. The Ministry sent someone nearly every day to ask whether he needed anything, with a strong undercurrent of implication that they needed something from him. Ron had already promised his mother that he would return to Hogwarts to finish the next term, and Hermione was planning to come back as well, even though Harry suspected that she could pass her NEWTs without a single additional class. He had no idea what he wanted, himself, except this compulsion to find Snape and attempt to resolve whatever debt he owed to the man. "This is something I need to do, all right? For my mother, and for me."

"Do you want me to come with you?" she asked uneasily. Harry wasn't sure whether she was worried that he would refuse or accept.

"No," he said. "I need to do this alone."

Finding Spinner's End didn't look too difficult, but how was he going to figure out which house had been Snape's, let alone where his mother had grown up? He decided to try sneaking into Snape's rooms at Hogwarts to see whether Snape had left any clues -- he doubted that anyone had had time to clean them out -- but when he arrived, there was Filch, looking as if he'd expected someone to try to do just what Harry had planned.

And then Harry had an idea. "Mr. Filch! I've been looking all over for you," he said enthusiastically.

Filch glared at him with the same suspicion as always, which was rather refreshing. Boy Who Lived or not, Harry was never going to convince the caretaker that he wasn't up to no good. "What have you gone and done now, Potter?" Filch demanded while his cat rubbed sinuously against his legs.

"I remember how brilliant you were at filing detention records," enthused Harry. "You must know where every record at Hogwarts is filed. I'm trying to find some information about my mother -- her parents were Muggles, so the Ministry can't really help me." He paused for a moment. "There must be some sort of listing of students who received acceptance letters to Hogwarts, right? With their addresses. I was hoping you could help me find the records for my mum's year. It's very important -- Dumbledore thought she might have left something where she grew up."

That last might have been a lie, but Dumbledore's name still seemed to hold some status with Filch. "Dumbledore told you this, did he?" he demanded in the same suspicious voice, but he gestured to Harry to follow him. Soon they were in a records office that Harry had never seen before, and Filch pointed at a stack of boxes. Being a squib, he was unable to move them magically himself. "In there, boy. And don't try any funny business."

Trying to look worthy of fulfilling Dumbledore's mythical request, Harry knew he was probably only looking more suspicious but he sorted through the boxes, eying the faded writing on the outside. Luckily, during his detentions with Snape last year he'd got used to reading Filch's spidery scrawls.

The boxes were piled rather precariously, which suited Harry fine, as he was after more than the box with 'Evans' in it. "Seventy, seventy-one, oh here it is," he said, trying to keep the triumphant crow out of his voice. Deliberately he turned his body to shield his rifling fingers, finding the worn index card for his mum almost at once.

"Er, do you have something I can write this down on?" he asked, looking over his shoulder at the hovering Filch. As soon as the caretaker had turned away, Harry made a dive further back in the box. Slate, Smegger, Smatley, Snape! He yanked the card out and tucked it in his robes before turning back to face Filch with the brightest, most innocent smile he could muster.

"Thanks so much for helping me," he babbled, taking the quill and scrap of parchment and scribbling his mum's address down. "Really, couldn't have done this without you, thanks so much." He was backing away now, then realizing he held both his mother's card and the bit of parchment, leaned down to file the card away.

Now that he had a specific destination, he couldn't wait to be away. He had never before experienced such a sense of the walls of Hogwarts as confining, not even when Umbridge walked the halls. But he knew he couldn't get away without letting certain people know that he was leaving. McGonagall, Shacklebolt...Ginny.

"I do hope to see you at start of term, Mr. Potter," was all the headmistress said. She did not quite treat Harry as a peer, but since that night when they had fought the Carrows together, she no longer spoke to him as his professor, either. It would be strange to become her student again. Kingsley, too, thankfully did not ask questions, promising Harry to keep the Ministry from prying into his personal affairs. He had made friends in the Prime Minister's office, and wanted to say his own goodbyes before facing the shambles that was now the Ministry of Magic.

As he expected, things did not go so well with Ginny. "I don't understand why you can't take me with you," she objected. "You traveled for months with Ron and Hermione! And my parents have finally stopped treating me like a child. I could go with you, I could help you look..."

"I need to do this alone," Harry insisted, not meeting her eyes. He felt very strange -- now that he could see Ginny whenever he wanted, unencumbered by responsibilities or guilt, he no longer felt the same urge to lose himself in her kisses. In fact, he didn't much want to kiss her at all. He wondered whether being out of his body in that weird King's Cross version of the afterlife had changed something inside him. "Listen, I know almost nothing about my dad and even less about my mum. Your family is the closest thing to a family that I have, but they're still yours. I need to find out about mine. By myself."

Ginny didn't like it, but in the end she had no choice but to let him go. At least there were no tears.

He set off the way he always had, with just his mended wand, now working as well as it ever had, and his Invisibility Cloak. He patted his robe pocket where the index card with Snape's childhood address on it was hidden and Disapparated just beyond the boundaries of Hogwarts.

He realized several things at once. Spinners End was a gloomy depressing place, and if his mum had found any comfort in the childhood playmate that Snape had been, he could never blame her. And that all the houses looked deserted. Some even looked like they'd been abandoned for years. With a sense of urgency he couldn't explain he set off for Snape's address, wanting to leave his mum's childhood at rest a little longer until he'd figured a few things out for himself.

The house that matched the number on the card also looked quite deserted, standing alone at the end of a row of similarly grim houses. Harry stared at it a moment, trying to imagine growing up in a house like this, in a neighborhood as this one must have been twenty years ago. It made the oppressively middle-class neighborhood of Privet Drive look cheerful and normal by comparison.

He expected one of two things: that the house would be empty and its contents long since removed, or that wards to keep out strangers would prevent him from entering without a good number of anti-jinxes and charms. Yet when he aimed his wand at the doorknob and said "Alohomora," the knob turned and the door creaked open. Cautiously -- alert for anything from new owners to a Death Eater trap -- he swung his Invisibility Cloak over his head and nudged the door open wide enough to step inside.

Even inside the house, the stench of the river seemed to permeate the walls. Faded, dusty curtains kept out most of the light, but Harry could make out walls of books, hundreds of them, stacked sideways on top of the uneven rows on the shelves. All the furniture looked very old, not antique but merely decrepit, with a thinly-stretched blanket covering what were undoubtedly holes in the upholstery of the armchair.

Yet the smell of wax was fresh, as if someone had been burning candles only a few hours earlier. The house seemed neglected but not unused. Pausing when his feet caused a floorboard to creak, Harry looked around again, then stepped through the small parlor, looking for a door leading elsewhere in the house. He saw none.

Drawing his wand, he called out, "Finite Incantatem!" He didn't really expect any hidden doorways to appear, but at once a case of books swung aside, revealing a corridor and staircase behind it. Now, at least, he was getting somewhere. A quick glance at the titles confirmed that most of them had to do with some aspect of magic -- Potions, Transfiguration, subjects that revealed that a witch or wizard had lived here. Or still did.

The staircase was narrow, but not as dusty as he'd expect if it had been charmed into hiding years ago and never revealed. The smell of the river grew fainter, replaced by something subtler, more human, more ordinary, though his Aunt Petunia would have made Harry scrub every inch of a room that smelled like the landing he emerged onto at the top of the stairs.

There was a short corridor, with three closed doors, one to either side and one at the end of the hall. Harry listened for any noise, but hearing nothing but the muffled creaks of a ramshackle house, turned to the door on the right, testing the handle before pushing open the door.

Just inside the doorway there was a spot of something brown on the carpet, too aged to tell if it had been blood. Harry looked around the bedroom. The bed was made, if a bit untidily, the nightstand piled high with the same sort of books he'd passed on the way up here. Somehow he'd never expected Snape, if he was indeed in the right house, to have such an ordinary bedroom. Well, what had he expected--to find the man laid out on the bed with his arms crossed over his chest like a vampire?

One drawer was open slightly in the chest across from the bed. Harry crossed the room, his cloak slipping over his head as he pulled the drawer open. Whatever else he'd expected, it hadn't been Snape's underwear drawer.

For there was no doubt that it was Snape's. The fragment of Harry's mother's letter that Snape had taken from Grimmauld Place, the bit that said, "Lots of love, Lily," was lying with the signature facing up on top of a neat pile of folded white pants.

Which meant that Snape had been in this house since he had rejoined the Death Eaters. Which meant that the furniture and books and everything else Harry had seen downstairs were Snape's. And this...

Harry looked around the room, feeling vaguely like an intruder but reminding himself that Snape had searched Grimmauld Place and had taken the letter, which by rights should have belonged to Harry. Leaving the drawer open, he tugged at the door of the cabinet beside it. There were black robes and trousers, a long cloak, plus some clothes that looked Muggle, though they were also dark and nondescript.

There was a single white shirt that looked clean save for a dark stain spilling over the front. Lifting it from its hanger, Harry took it down and pressed it to his face.

"What on earth do you think you're doing?"

The voice startled Harry so much he dropped the shirt, dragging his loose cloak down with it, so that shirt and cloak muddled together, blurring where the splashes of red went invisible.

"S-snape?" Harry stammered, quite unwilling, despite all the evidence he'd seen in the last few days, to believe that the figure standing before him was no specter.

Snape edged into the room, his wand drawn. Harry saw his eyes widen slightly at the sight of the blood-stained shirt at his feet. "What are you doing here?" he said sharply.

Harry's mouth was open, but his mouth pulled into a sheepish smile. "I was just about to ask you the same question."

Snape seemed not to know what to make of Harry's smile. "This is my home," he said pointedly. "In which you are trespassing..."

"The home of a dead man," Harry interrupted. Despite how happy he was to see Snape, a happiness that spread through his entire body in a way that would have unnerved him if he had had time to worry about it, he couldn't help being irritated. "You do know that everyone thinks you're dead? I thought you were dead for sure, I watched..."

Snape smirked. "Watched and never once lifted your wand to try to save me."

"I was in shock! Voldemort was right there, demanding my death, and I had no idea..." Harry closed his mouth. Snape was actually smiling.

"What a surprise, Harry Potter without a thought in his head for anyone but himself," Snape said, lowering his wand, flicking it once at Harry's feet. The white shirt disentangled itself from the cloak, drifting up like some live-action laundry detergent commercial as it hung itself back up and back into the cupboard.

"I thought," Harry began, "I mean, everyone thought -- Hermione was there too!" he protested, as if her presence was as good as having a coroner on the scene to pronounce Snape dead.

"By what stretch of reasoning did you not suppose I might have armed myself against any of the several means the Dark Lord had of dispatching those he was...displeased with?" Snape replied, as his wand vanished inside his robes.

"A bezoar," Harry said in wonder.

"And restorative potions and snake venom potions and an entire raft of methods to maintain life in the face of certain death." Snape's eyes went cold. "Now get out of my house."

Obviously, death -- or rather non-death -- hadn't changed Snape much. Not even Voldemort being dead seemed to have made a difference. Harry frowned; there was no way he was simply going to leave, not yet.

"I wanted...when I thought you were dead, I wanted to ask you about my mother," he said.

"I gave you my memories. More than you needed or deserved." Snape's voice was still clipped and unpleasant. "I have nothing else for you, Potter. And since you have invaded my home..."

"You were in Grimmauld Place!" Harry announced triumphantly. "You gave me that memory. That letter --" He pointed at his mother's handwriting, the affectionate note that had been meant for neither of them. "Sirius left it to me. That's mine."

They stared at each other across the tiny room until Snape's eyes narrowed and he said, "Arrogant as ever, I see," with a dismissive jerk of his chin that made Harry feel about twelve. No, make that ten.

"Look, I'm not --" He pressed his lips together, knowing he'd never been the one to get points for persuasive arguments. "Look, this is pointless. I'm trying to say, well, I'm not sure exactly what. Thank you?"

Snape's expression was openly suspicious, not that Harry could blame him. "You're trying to say thank you by breaking into my house and stealing my...what are you looking for, anyway?"

He didn't want to admit he'd come looking for Snape because that would lead to even more mistrust and Harry wasn't sure how to counter the -- even to his own mind, fairly justified -- suspicion. "My mum's letter."

Snape looked angry now, and even paler than when he'd first surprised Harry. "I left you all you deserved of that letter!"

Harry looked toward the drawer, easily visualizing the hurried scrawl of his mother's handwriting. "Not the signature. Not the love."

That seemed to enrage Snape even more. Striding over to the drawer, he seized the letter. "Are you going to collect every scrap that was hers, now?" he demanded, flinging the paper at Harry. "It isn't enough that she died for you?"

"Stop that!" Ignoring the paper that was floating slowly to the floor, Harry crossed the small room and grabbed Snape's arm. "Never mind, you can keep it. You deserve it more than I do. I didn't even know you were still alive!"

Snape wrenched his arm free. "I fulfilled my assigned role," he announced. "I told you what Dumbledore expected of you. I saw no reason to remain and risk death at the hands of both sides."

Harry's fingers were itching to grab Snape's arm again. That brief touch, the warm body through the fabric of Snape's clothing, had forced anew the recognition: He's alive. He's alive. Anything they were arguing about was trivial next to that fact. "I'm sorry," he said, meaning the words more than he ever had when it came to Snape. "I didn't mean to intrude, but I'm really happy to see you. Keep the letter -- you lov -- you knew her."

The bitterness on Snape's face was as sharp as his anger. The letter flew up, straightened itself magically and flew at Harry like a paper dragon, so quickly that he instinctively grabbed it like a Golden Snitch. "This was intended for neither of us," Snape said. "I require no additional sentimentality to remind me of my promise to keep her child safe. In the end it mattered very little anyway. Dumbledore was right -- you did what was required."

"I did what I had to do." Carefully Harry set the letter down on the chest of drawers, smoothing the creases. "Just as you did." He stared at Snape for a moment. "You don't want to remember her any more?"

"I do not need a stolen letter to remember her!"

Harry was already shaking his head, remembering the Pensieve memory he'd seen of Snape reading the letter, of taking just this part and tucking it almost tenderly into his pocket. "Neither do I. Thanks to you, I have your memories of her." He let out a heavy sigh, more tired after sparring with Snape than he'd been even after Voldemort. "You showed me more about her than I've ever known from anyone."

Snape made an impatient noise, as if once he'd decided Harry shouldn't be here, he was unsure why he hadn't left. "Surely your beloved godfather told you all about her?"

The admission made Harry feel embarrassed. He'd loved Sirius but hadn't, as Snape probably thought, been blind to his faults. "He liked to talk about stuff he did, you know, he and my dad. Nothing about my mum."

The set of Snape's jaw confirmed his low opinion of Harry's godfather but Harry wasn't sorry he'd admitted it. "Surely that aunt of yours then, her sister, told you about our...adventures as children?"

"Only to tell me how terrible my mum was for being careless enough to get herself killed in a car crash and leave me with her and my uncle," Harry admitted bitterly.

Snape made a face at the words "car crash," something akin to the outrage Hagrid had expressed when Harry had told him the story Petunia had told him, that his father's reckless driving had got his parents killed. "The Headmaster insisted that you would be protected with her and your uncle," he said in a disapproving voice.

"He was right, I guess. Voldemort couldn't kill me there." Harry scuffed his trainer in the worn carpet, unable as ever to summon gratitude. "That's about the only good thing about it."

It was sort of funny to see Snape glance around automatically at hearing Voldemort's name. Of anyone Harry wouldn't have expected to fear the name, it was Snape, but then Snape must have known of the tracking charm that had allowed the Death Eaters to find anyone who spoke it. "I hope you took better care to dispose of his body than you took with mine," he said irritably.

"He's dead. For good this time." Harry rubbed his forehead. He didn't particularly want to tell Snape about his conversation with Dumbledore in that place between life and death. "All the bits of his soul have gone. Even the one inside me."

"And with it, I suppose all your flaws have disappeared as well." Snape sneered as he looked appraisingly at Harry. "What are your plans now -- to become Minister of Magic, or Headmaster of Hogwarts? Did you attend your victory celebrations before you came here to pillage my things?"

"Haven't been to any victory celebrations." Harry scuffed the carpet again. "I haven't thought that far ahead, and I don't feel like celebrating much."

That seemed to surprise Snape. Sitting down on the bed, he gave Harry another vague look of annoyance. "Are you not receiving the accolades you expected for having cheated death and defeated the Dark Lord?"

Harry suddenly felt awkward standing but the bed was the room's only perch so he stayed where he was. "Accolades don't mean much when so many people...didn't make it." The bodies of Lupin and Tonks, so unnaturally still, filled his range of vision for just a moment.

The awkwardness of their positions seem to irritate Snape more. He gestured for Harry to sit on the corner of the bed furthest away from himself. "I heard that most of your friends survived. Nearly all of the children except--" He was looking at Harry very closely as he sat down stiffly on the corner indicated. "Only one of the Weasleys and the Creevey boy--the oldest..."

"Colin. His name was Colin. He was in my House. And Fred Weasley and Professor Lupin and Tonks..." His voice choked, full of emotion and the tears he always put off for later. He coughed to try to cover the moment.

Snape nodded absently. "I had thought it was the other twin," he murmured. Then he glanced sharply at Harry, seeming to realize he was on the verge of crying. "Potter. How many do you suppose would have died had you allowed the Dark Lord to win?"

"I don't know." Harry lowered his head into his hands, studying a spot on Snape's bedroom floor. "Maybe I should have been faster, not taken so long to surrender."

"If you had given yourself up before you understood what was expected of you, you might simply have died. Who knows what might have happened. It's past the time for 'if's -- if your parents had not trusted Pettigrew, if Dumbledore had not been willing to risk everyone in his quest to defeat Tom Riddle..."

Harry knew that Snape wasn't saying this to comfort him -- Snape still sounded angry -- but it felt better to hear it nevertheless. "You're right," he said, shaking his head to clear it. "It's done. But I still don't feel like celebrating. You won too, and you let everyone think you're dead!"

Suddenly Snape smirked. "Until today, I had won," he announced. His hand flew up, and a bottle shot across the room, followed by two glasses. "Ogden's Special Reserve," said Snape, gesturing for an astonished Harry to take one of the glasses. "Go on -- you're of age, aren't you?" Without waiting for an answer, he filled Harry's glass and his own, tossed back his entire glass in a single gulp, then refilled it.

It seemed so unreal, sitting on Snape's bed drinking with him, that Harry took a tentative sip. Instantly his eyes started to burn and his face felt warm. "Age, right," he coughed, trying to cover it up.

"Drink up. It will make you feel more like celebrating." Snape studied the liquid in his glass. "That's what it does."

Lowering his drink, Harry waited for the taste to fade. "I don't want to celebrate. I just want to get on with things," he admitted. "What I did wasn't worth celebrating."

Swallowing half of his second glass, Snape made a faint scoffing noise. "I won't be goaded into praising you like everyone else. What things do you want to get on with? Will you return to Hogwarts in triumph?"

Harry sighed, then took a second, slower sip. "Not sure yet. Haven't even had time to think about what being free of it all means."

Snape had worked his back against the headboard, still holding his glass as he stared up at the stained ceiling. "I had thought of ridding myself of this house. Seeing the world. Though I suppose things are the same everywhere." He took another swallow of the alcohol, his Adam's apple bobbing.

More slowly Harry took a sip of his own drink, getting used to the flavor spreading over his tongue. "I've never been anywhere," he said, though Snape probably knew that. His life was a distressingly open book.

"Nor have I. Isn't that reason enough to go?" Snape took another drink, slower this time while his head lowered to look at Harry, whose face grew hotter under the scrutiny. "Everyone really believes I'm dead?"

Nodding slowly, Harry looked away, hiding his gaze in the liquid in the glass. "I thought you were so I told everyone what you'd done." He took a drink too fast, trying to disguise his discomfort.

Snape made a disgusted noise. "What, precisely, did you tell them?"

The firewhisky was starting to taste better. "That you'd been protecting me all this time," Harry said, lifting his chin defiantly, trying to resist tacking a 'sir' onto the end.

The thin face seemed to swim slightly in Harry's vision, eyes narrowing but obviously striving to sound as if he didn't care. "Nothing about your mother or the prophecy?"

Harry shook his head, then regretted it at once at the room swayed a bit. "That's private."

Even dizzy, Harry could tell that Snape looked relieved. "Yes," he agreed as he had refused to do during Occlumency lessons, tossing back another entire glass in a single gulp. "May I count on your discretion, then?"

Was Snape actually treating him as an adult? "Of course, sir," Harry replied, the honorific falling more easily from his tongue than it ever had done when Snape was his professor. Indeed, Snape looked rather astonished as well. Harry took a longer sip of the alcohol, getting used to the taste. "Thank you for showing me those things."

As he refilled both their glasses, Snape's scowl was the one he had worn in the classroom when he was concentrating. "It was necessary to convince you that the memories were genuine," he said. "If you had doubted my conversations with Dumbledore, you might not have done what he believed necessary."

Nodding, Harry took another drink. "I know. I saw him myself, after Voldemort killed me." That sounded weird even to his own ears, and Snape stared at him, not comprehending.

"What? You saw who?"

"Dumbledore." Blinking, Harry looked up. "At King's Cross."

That seemed sufficient explanation to him, and he took another sip, noting that he could see the bottom of the glass this time. But Snape was still staring as though Harry had taken leave of his senses. "You saw Dumbledore?" he asked with the sort of suspicion that had once meant Harry should expect detention. "Did you see anyone else who was dead?"

"Just Voldemort's baby-thing." Wrinkling his nose, Harry shuddered, finished off his glass and held it out plaintively for more. Snape's expression suggested that he really did not want to know as he poured them each another glass. "Dumbledore explained things." It was amazing how good the whisky tasted now. "Sort of. You know how he is. Was." Giggling, he hiccupped.

"You know, perhaps, better than I," Snape insisted, glaring into his glass. "There were many things he never explained to me. The Elder Wand, for instance -- you obviously had a greater understanding of what it was and how it worked, or I would have attempted to remove and destroy it myself."

"All I knew was that it would do what I needed it to do. And that I never wanted it after it had." He tilted his face down, waiting to see whether Snape was going to ask him where the wand was now -- everyone who knew of its existence wanted that wand, it seemed, except Harry -- but Snape only watched him as he hid his face in his glass, taking a large gulp.

"I think that perhaps you have had enough."

Harry started to protest as his glass and the bottle flew across the room, but the room was pleasantly unfocused and he smiled muzzily at Snape. "You're right -- that stuff does make me feel like celebrating."

He could see that Snape was smirking, but it felt like there was something on his glasses as he peered through them. "It should. It's very fine whisky, taken from the Malfoys' cellar. I doubt the like exists anywhere else in England."

That shouldn't have been as funny as it was. Harry heard a giggle escaping his mouth. "You nicked it!" he said, delighted at the picture of Snape creeping down to the Malfoy cellar, perhaps passing a desiccated skeleton or two on the way, and tucking bottles of whisky under his robes.

Snape didn't look like he found this funny at all. "Lucius Malfoy owed me," he said indignantly. "I convinced Voldemort to spare his life during the raid on Azkaban."

The giggles evaporated. "We all owe you," he said dolefully, feeling, quite suddenly, the weight of that debt.

He was aware that Snape's attention was on him, and he was fairly certain he wasn't acting quite as normally as he ought to be but he didn't think the alcohol had affected him that much. Snape was peering at him as though he was about to take his temperature. "I had a private motive for everything I did," he said slowly, as if Harry might have trouble understanding it.

A wave of dizziness washed over Harry, and he didn't fight the urge to put his head down on his knees, not when had he pulled his legs all the way up on the bed anyway. "You loved my mum," he said with resignation.

Harry felt the bed shifting but didn't look up, waiting for the dizziness to pass. "It wasn't as simple as that," he heard Snape say.

There was too much light in the room. Harry rested his forehead on his hands, staring into the dark space beneath them and hoping it would make things stop spinning. "Nothing ever is simple with you, if you don't mind my saying so, sir."

As if from a great distance, he heard Snape saying, "That's the second time you've called me 'sir.' Don't delude yourself that I pined away in unrequited love for your mother. I would never have given either of your parents the satisfaction."

Though his stomach was now rebelling strongly against the whirling of the bed, Harry turned his face, still resting on arms, to see Snape's face. "I know that. I --" He swallowed hard against the thickness rising in his throat. "I think I'm going to be sick."

"Don't you dare!" Waving his hands like an orchestra conductor, Snape summoned a bowl from across the room and sent it flying to Harry's feet while with the other hand he rummaged in a drawer full of bottles, grabbing and unstoppering one. "Drink this. Now."

Though he doubted he could swallow the acrid taste in his throat, let alone anything else, Harry grabbed at the bottle like a lifeline and gulped it down. For another few moments he was certain that he was going to be sick anyway. Snape's fingers closed around his arm as he swayed. "Don't feel like celebrating any more."

"You should lie down." Snape's hand was not gentle as he pushed Harry back on the bed. Though the motion made him wince slightly, the potion was doing its job: Harry no longer felt as though he were going to be sick all over Snape's bedroom. "I should have known better than to keep refilling your glass."

Nodding, though the motion made him wince, Harry croaked, "Better now." Lying back on the bed, he draped an arm over his face. The light still hurt his eyes. "I'm sorry. Don't think I can Apparate right now. I'm an idiot, I know."

He felt rather than saw Snape shake his head slightly. Every movement felt like being on a rocking boat, though at least his stomach had settled down. "I suppose you haven't eaten anything all day, either," Snape huffed.

"Umm..." Harry couldn't think of the last thing he'd eaten. He lifted his arm. Snape had leaned over to examine him, taking in Harry's bony ribcage and narrow arms. It seemed to occur to them both simultaneously that they were practically lying on a bed -- Snape's bed -- together. "Do you have any food?" he asked, though he was instantly abashed by the question.

"I am not entirely destitute." Snape had leapt back quickly and was already moving across the room. Harry shut his eyes, discovering that he was, in fact, ravenously hungry -- no wonder he'd felt so dizzy. Just as quickly, it seemed, Snape was back, thrusting a plate of bread and not-very-fresh cheese at him.

He'd had worse. And all the time he'd been camping with Ron and Hermione there'd been days when he didn't even have this much. He broke off some of the bread and swallowed it. "I'm sorry," he said, "I'm an awful lot of trouble, aren't I?"

Snape didn't appear to have heard him or, more likely, to judge from the eye rolling that Harry could just make out, Snape was ignoring him. He was trying to decide whether to offer Snape anything, but couldn't decide if it was ruder to offer his host his own food or not, so he just mashed some bread around the least objectionable lump of cheese and crammed it into his mouth. "Thank you," he said when he was -- mostly -- finished chewing.

That, though, apparently was the wrong thing to say. "You may stop saying that," Snape said. He'd resumed sitting up against the headboard, arms crossed over his chest.

"Why?" Harry asked, making considerable inroads on the cheese now. "You could have just tossed me out on my arse.."

Snape looked like he still might, but what he said instead was, "If I had done that, you might have told whoever is currently in charge at the Ministry that I'm alive. I'm sure they can spare a Dementor or two."

Harry's mouth dropped open before he realized there was still cheese in it. "I'm not --" He chewed several times, swallowing dryly and said, "I'm not going to turn you in!"

There was an ironic twist to Snape's mouth as he smirked. Reaching over, he broke a piece of bread off for himself. "Thank you."

Certain that he was being made fun of, Harry narrowed his eyes. "You're a war hero now, whether you like it or not." Then he frowned. He had been the only witness to Snape's heroism, and Snape was much too proud to allow the details ever to become public. "You don't expect me to go back on that, do you? It's true."

Snape had risen momentarily and sat back down holding two glasses of pumpkin juice. "Potter, you haven't developed some absurd idea of my innate nobility or goodness, have you?" Harry felt his cheeks warming as Snape handed him a glass. He took a sip of juice to cool off before he replied, and Snape continued, "I gave you my memories. More of them than necessary. I was no saint."

"Not everyone who's good is perfect. Look at the headmaster." Harry shrugged, then cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Former headmaster, I mean. Dumbledore. He was good, but he really wasn't perfect."

Snape made a far less delicate coughing noise. "No, he really wasn't perfect." His fingers bumped Harry's as he lifted another piece of bread from the plate. "You haven't asked any of the obvious questions."

Again Harry had a mouthful of cheese at a critical moment. He swallowed hastily. "Will you answer them if I ask?"

"I suppose. Though I suppose that the answers no longer matter." Nodding, Harry passed him a hunk of cheese. His head was crowded with questions, but he didn't know where to start, and suddenly an enormous yawn overtook him.

Snape was studying the cheese, making a face at it as if he thought it might be cursed before taking a very small bite. Harry wondered whether Snape even remembered that it was his own cheese. He smiled, sliding down against the pillows, feeling too physically and emotionally worn out to move.

Snape chewed and swallowed, then glanced back at Harry with an expectant expression that turned puzzled as his eyes swept down Harry's relaxed body. Harry supposed that it was impolite to lie there as if he and not Snape owned the bed, but he could only summon a small, apologetic smile before another yawn forced him to cover his mouth. "Finished with this?" Snape asked, sending the plate floating off.

Nodding, Harry rubbed his face. "I should let you, well, do whatever important things you were doing before I turned up."

Snape glanced at him pensively. "I have nothing of consequence to do any longer."

"That's funny. Neither do I."

It shouldn't feel this good here, when his own position inside Snape's house was so precarious. But it did feel good, if a bit weird, to be comfortably full, still a bit woozy from the firewhisky, and stretched out beside a man he used to hate. He was glad Snape hadn't pressed him about asking all the burning questions he had, because he was very certain that he didn't want to know if Snape had ever kissed his mum, or ever done more than kiss her.

Snape was still looking at him as if he'd just climbed out of a spacecraft, but worked up a sneer while Harry watched. "I feel certain that a long career of speaking engagements lies before you. If you wish to play professional Quidditch, you have only to announce your intentions. And you must intend to produce another generation of Gryffindors -- Dumbledore's disinterest in bloodlines cannot have fooled you."

Harry felt his cheeks grow warm. It was all very well and good to tell Ron he'd broken up with his sister for her own protection and to think over the many times he'd tried to tell his best friend in other ways -- that he'd always thought of Hermione as his sister, that kissing Cho had been merely 'wet' and not the first kiss he'd fantasized about with someone whose cheeks were rough with stubble. "Not all that interested in breeding," he said, because somehow it was easier to tell someone whose contempt was certain than his best friend.

Snape's eyebrows had shot up into his hairline and the smirk was a natural one now. "Well. Don't tell the Weasleys. I felt so certain you had singled out that girl because she had red hair."

Harry could not control his blush now, and his words were tentative, certain that at any moment Snape would scoffingly declare aloud the suspicion that Harry was trying to muffle under other subjects. "I think Ginny does remind me of my mum...or what I think she might have looked like at my age," he said, seeing Snape press his lips tightly together. Likely Snape didn't think Ginny was as pretty as Lily had been, or maybe not as smart, and really, that was all right with Harry. "But I'm not...I don't..." In exasperation, he huffed at himself.

Snape was not sneering, but he did appear uneasy about what Harry was trying to say. "You're not...like your father?" he asked, dislike for James Potter strong in his tone, knowing that Harry had seen those memories of his father's cruelty. That wasn't the way in which Harry wasn't like his father that concerned Harry at the moment, however. And then Snape did articulate it. "I suppose you won't be chasing every skirt at Hogwarts before settling down, then."

Harry shook his head again. "Don't want anyone in a skirt," he replied. Then Snape's eyes widened, and Harry realized he must have been a little drunk, still. He still had trouble admitting that to himself -- surely he hadn't just gone and said it to Snape!

"Well, well." Snape's brows rose and lowered. "Not just a phase or a diversion, those things you didn't want me seeing during Occlumency lessons?"

Fuck. Harry had been so sure he'd kept all thoughts of sex submerged, except that one time Snape had managed to find out he hadn't much liked kissing Cho. He shook his head very tightly. "No, sir."

Snape's lips twitched, but he did not laugh. "Enough with the 'sir.' I wasn't planning to write an expose for the Daily Prophet."

The rush of relief left Harry feeling almost giddy. It wasn't really that he had expected Snape to tell -- Snape didn't want to tell anyone that he was alive, let alone that the Boy Who Lived was queer -- but he'd thought Snape would surely laugh at him, if not hex him right off the bed. "What should I call you?" he asked with a small smile.

Snape opened his mouth and shut it again. A rare grin distorted his features and he barked a laugh. "I expect 'Your Highness' is out of the question."

Harry couldn't help it; he dissolved into giggles. "No, Your Highness!"

Snape's mouth was still twitching. "I'm not calling you 'The Chosen One,' either, so I hope you left your arrogance at the door." He rubbed a hand over his thin lips. "I must be nearly as drunk as you."

Thinking about Snape being as woozy as Harry was -- or a good deal woozier to judge from the number of drinks he'd knocked back compared to Harry -- was odd. Harry himself felt as though everything had taken on a soft blur and wondered if Snape saw him now through the forgiving lens of alcohol. "I always hated that name -- worse than the Boy Who Lived. At least I have a chance of growing out of that one." He wrinkled his nose. "'The Chosen One' sounds like I'm being offered up on toast."

A noise suspiciously like a snicker came out of Snape's mouth. "With a good bottle of Beaujolais," he said, sliding down a bit on the headboard, his long legs stretching out beside Harry's.

That Snape didn't chide him or make fun of him further for having not one but two such ridiculous nicknames made Harry feel content. "You were right. That whisky did make me feel like celebrating, just not in the way I thought," he said, propping his head up on one hand now that he no longer felt like sicking up in Snape's bed.

"Oh? Shall I send out for a cake?" Snape said, voice dry as an ancient cauldron.

The giggles set upon Harry again. "Yes, Your Highness!"

Swinging his arm as if it held his wand, Snape called out, "Accio cake!" Nothing happened, and he sighed, "There hasn't been a bakery in this town since I was a small boy. Which is just as well, since you'd probably vomit cake on my bed."

Harry held up his hand as if swearing an oath. "I'm better! Really." He looked down at his tummy as if for confirmation. "If I'd kept that Elder Wand, I could conjure a cake. With ice cream."

"That wand is more trouble than it's worth."

"Couldn't wait to get rid of it. I don't suppose you have any ice cream, do you?"

Snape had turned on his side to peer at him, looking distinctly like he might be falling asleep. He shook his head, gesturing lazily. "Does it look to you as though I have been living in the lap of luxury?"

"It doesn't look that bad," Harry told him honestly, glancing around. "I've been living in a tent all year." Sighing at the lack of ice cream, he added, "We should celebrate somehow though. Voldemort being dead and both of us being alive..." Now that he was mostly sober, even though Snape was looking rather drunk, the foremost issue that had been on his mind burst out. "Say! How come you're alive? I thought you were a goner there."

Snape burst into quiet laughter. It was a sound Harry had never heard before, and it made him feel funny, in his chest but also lower, and he didn't want to think about that right now. "Potter, if it has taken you this long to come up with that question..."

"I can't help it -- you got me drunk!" Harry smiled sheepishly when Snape frowned at him. "Well, you kept pouring. I kept drinking. I got drunk. Tipsy, anyway." He took stock for a moment, now that he was no longer feeling sick. "I sort of...liked it.

"That is why people drink it." Snape's voice was slightly slurred. "I didn't realize you couldn't hold your liquor."

"No, I meant..." Harry cleared his throat. "I sort of liked you being, well, nice to me. You haven't thrown me out. Haven't hexed me, even."

"If you had been sick on my bed, I would have hexed you." Snape muffled a yawn. "Lucky for you that I brew the best anti-hangover potion in Britain. Are you well now?"

The yawn made Harry feel contrite. He knew he should go and leave Snape in peace. Swallowing, he nodded. "Maybe not to Apparate, but I can walk."

"You can't walk to Hogsmeade from here."

"I can find a hotel, or, um...summon a broom."

Snape had slid down fully onto the pillows. His eyes were closed. "If you can't Apparate, you certainly can't fly. And there are no hotels."

Harry took that as his cue to stretch out on the bed, his legs mere inches from Snape's own. "Or I could stay right here," he said knowing he was inviting a hex but hoping it wouldn't come. He darted a glance up. Snape had his eyes closed, the sooty lashes very dark against his pale cheeks.

"I still won't have any ice cream when you wake up," Snape warned without opening his eyes.

Under the pretext of getting more comfortable, Harry shifted over a little, his jeans nearly brushing Snape's black trousers. "This is better," he said, thinking of the cramped bed in the tent. He didn't mind so much that they were squeezed in together like this, not when Snape was so warm that Harry could feel him even though they weren't touching anywhere.

Snape did a bit of shifting on his own, pulling one of the thin pillows closer to his chest. "If you rob my house while I sleep, I will find you, dead or not."

Since Snape's eyes were still closed, Harry smiled. It sounded more like Snape was trying to be irritating than as if he bore Harry any real malice. "If I was going to take anything, I would have just taken my mother's letter and left ages ago." Trying deliberately not to hold his breath, Harry wiggled a bit closer, thinking, if he was asked, that he could say it might get cold later.

Snape didn't ask. "You could take the whisky," he said, voice low and drowsy.

Harry snorted softly. "Only if I could nick the potion too." His whole body felt heavy and warm.

A sleepy smirk tugged up the corners of Snape's mouth. "All gone. I'll have to teach you to brew it." Another shift and their hips were touching. "Later."

Later sounded good to Harry. It meant he might not get kicked out just yet. "Maybe I could just help you make it," he murmured. He'd probably get kicked out in the morning, would probably deserve it. But right now he couldn't be arsed to worry about it.

Chapter Text

Something was prodding along Severus's thigh into his groin. He'd fallen asleep with his wand in his pocket again, he thought blearily, shoving his hand at it. But the wand was tangled beneath the covers, and it wasn't his own wand, it was thicker and warmer and...

That wasn't a wand. Those weren't the covers. Very suddenly Severus's head cleared. Someone was in bed with him -- someone with an erection -- which meant that someone knew he was alive, which meant that he had taken someone to bed...

Potter. Now he remembered. The recollection was unfortunately accompanied by a rush of heat to his groin where Potter's stiff cock was nudging his own, which throbbed eagerly, unconcerned about such inconvenient details as the fact that it was lusting after an arrogant, self-absorbed boy. Who was Lily Evans's son. Who was the Boy Who Lived. Who was fast asleep and had no idea that his body's unconscious responses were giving Severus entirely inappropriate thoughts.

With a soft murmur, Potter shifted slightly. Was he awake? Severus cracked his eyes open, caught a glimpse of the side of the boy's face and his unruly hair, then shut his eyes firmly again. He would simply lie here until he regained control of himself or until Potter woke and flung himself away in horror.

Severus' hips jerked forward of their own accord. Potter... moaned.

How typical, he thought, to have given the vexing young man anything more than the time of day and to wind up like this, trapped in his own bed, with a frotting -- oh god, was Potter frotting against him?

Several spells turned themselves over in Severus's brain, each discarded for want of the wand lying, he was sure, just beyond his reach by the bed. This was ridiculous -- he should just wake Potter --

Only Potter's hand slid proprietarily over his chest as if he did it every day, as if he were clinging to Severus like he knew who he was and not some figure in an especially vivid erotic dream. There was nothing for it, he supposed, but to lie here and... rub back. No! Only his cock wasn't listening to him any better now than when he'd been Potter's age. It had been so long since anyone had touched him, incalculably long, enough to make Severus weak in the knees from this contact through layers of clothing, even though he was lying down.

Potter was fast asleep, wasn't he? What if he wasn't asleep at all, but this was all a scheme to humiliate his former professor? That confession about not liking girls, carefully constructed to draw out a reciprocal admission, feigning drunkenness as an excuse to share the bed, and now this...

But Potter wasn't that inventive, especially when he had to improvise. Severus remembered that ludicrous story he had been told about the Potions book, when he knew perfectly well that Potter had had his own hidden away somewhere. Potter wasn't devious enough to have concocted an elaborate plot that went back to Occlumency lessons he hadn't known enough to prepare for. The homosexual inclinations, at least, were probably genuine...

Potter was certainly rubbing deliberately, moaning softly in his sleep. Severus bit down on his own lip to avoid making a sound, arching his hips forward as much as he dared. His arm stretched accidentally, dropping onto Potter's waist, and the boy used this as an excuse to move even closer, burrowing as if he were cold. Again Severus opened one eye, shut it just as quickly, and whuffed out a breath, letting Potter press against him.

Merlin, that was good, the pressure of cocks and thighs and the warm sweet scent of Potter's hair beneath his nose. Severus turned his face toward the pillow so as not to whimper against Potter's skull. He was sorry they had gone to bed fully dressed, and just as sorry to have had that thought, because now he was picturing Potter completely naked and rubbing against him precisely the same way, but with his eyes open, deliberately trying to make him come...

With a muffled gasp Snape shifted again, trying to get his cock wedged between Potter's cock and thigh. The boy made a small noise in the back of his throat and shifted with him. How was he supposed to extricate himself from such a willing partner?

There was no harm, he supposed, in taking what, even in sleep, Potter's body was offering him. He checked to make sure Potter was still asleep, and therefore less likely to realize what was going on and push Severus away. There seemed to be a quick movement of Potter's eye, as though he'd opened it and shut it again just as quickly, but Severus couldn't be certain. He was more likely to be hexed by Lily's ghost, hovering over the scene of her son's debauchery, willing to sacrifice her eternal rest for a chance to hex Severus's balls off.

Begone, he told that mythical specter as he rocked gingerly with each thrust of Potter's firm, strong young body, turning his face to the pillow, inhaling more of Potter's scent as he tried to muffle his own moans, having more invested now in being quiet and not waking the sleeping young man. Even the linens smelled of Potter, as though they'd been sleeping together for months and this was just one more sensual escapade.

Someone whimpered, though Severus was too far gone to wonder which of them it was, hoping it was Potter, who was probably a screamer when he was awake, and wouldn't it be good, so good to have him screaming out Severus's name, voice lisping slightly as if he'd slipped over into the language of snakes. Yessss... Severus rocked helplessly, balls tightening, panting into the pillow, sorry it was too late to cast a silencing charm on himself because he was going to explode the next time Potter moved and he thought he might scream himself.

There was no escape: Potter's fingers had clenched in his shirt, pinning Severus against him as his hips thrust inevitably forward. And then Potter hissed, not Parseltongue but a long sigh between clenched teeth, as his body spasmed and his cock jerked beneath his clothes...ahhfuck, coming in his pants, and Severus was too. Grunting deep in his throat because it was the only way to be certain that he would not utter Potter's name, he shuddered and spurted against Potter's thigh.

It was better than whisky, better than Amortentia... perhaps better than stumbling away from Hogsmeade to cries that Voldemort was dead, that Harry Potter had vanquished the Dark Lord. Severus did not dare open his eyes. His heart was pounding and Potter was sure to wake now, just as sweaty and breathless, to fling himself out of bed in revulsion when he understood what they had just done.

Potter gulped, loosened the fingers clutching at Severus's shirt, let out a soft sigh and went still. His breath returned to long, steady inhalations and exhalations. Had the boy actually fallen back asleep? Severus himself hardly dared to breathe. He could never remember having slept right through a nocturnal emission, but Potter was young and apparently shameless, and who knew what he had been dreaming about...

Forcing himself to concentrate, Severus performed the nonverbal charm for cleaning up such messes before one's dormitory mates could bring about one's humiliation. A moment later, his pants were no longer wet and sticky. Did he dare try the charm on Potter? Cracking one eye open, he peered at the sleeping face, as calm and unperturbed as if it had all, in fact, been a dream. Deciding that the charm was less dangerous than the possibility that Potter would wake up from the condition of his pants, Severus concentrated, closing his eyes. He saw no reason to reopen them afterward.

The next time Severus did lift his lids, light was filtering in across the blankets from the sagging shutters and Potter was wrapped around him like a second blanket. The stubbly chin cheek was very close to his looking as untroubled as it had when he'd --

Severus shut his eyes again and groaned. Oh god, had he really rubbed himself off on Potter? And allowed the sleeping young man to do the same to him? Beneath him, Potter stirred, hand moving beneath Severus's shirt where it had ridden up somewhere in the night. Severus opened his eyes again in time to see Potter's fluttering open as well. Something unguarded glinted in them for just a moment before it was replaced by wariness.

"Good morning, er, sir," Potter said, voice roughened and low with sleep.

Squinting at him, Severus tried to figure out why Potter was calling him sir. Perhaps he was misremembering things. They had both had too much whisky -- it seemed possible that Snape was misremembering the entire evening. "Did I get drunk?" he asked.

Why that thought should have been a disappointment, Severus could not have said. He had found a perfect opportunity to extricate himself from everything connected with Potter, Dumbledore and the rest... everyone had believed that he was dead, until Potter had turned up in his bedroom. "I -- I'm not sure." Potter offered him an uncertain smile. "Do you remember me getting tipsy and sicking up?"

"You didn't sick up!" Severus glanced around in disgust, seeing no evidence of vomit in his bed as he groped for his anti-intoxicant... empty. Bloody hell. His stomach growled. Perhaps he was merely extremely hungry.

"I felt like sicking up. Then we sort of fell asleep." Potter had withdrawn and was leaning on one elbow, making no move to leave Severus's bed. If what had transpired had not been an extremely erotic dream, evidently Potter did not remember, since he had not jumped out of bed and run away.

"I remember now. You wanted ice cream."

It was an imbecilic thing to say, yet it brought a smile to Potter's face, making Severus feel quite warm and strange. "Still do. I'd settle for more bread and cheese, if you've got it."

Greedy boy. That hadn't changed. Nodding, Severus rose from the bed, trying to remember what he actually did have. "Milk. And oatmeal -- no, that's gone." He glanced at what was left of the cheese, dry from sitting out for hours, and made a face.

Potter stretched and smiled at him again. He was very thin, yet the thigh muscles he had developed playing Quidditch were still visible through his jeans and... fuck. Severus turned around, glaring at the ceiling as Potter rose to follow him to the tiny kitchen. "Any eggs? I can cook them up."

"I think so, yes," Severus said, pulling out the carton.

"Here, let me," Potter said, still barefoot, still ador-- still dismayingly rumpled. "It's the least I can do for --" Severus watched his cheeks coloring inexplicably as he turned toward the stove. "For putting me up," he finished, staring at the stove as if he'd forgotten he could do magic until Severus set down the eggs. Then he pulled out his wand, rummaging around in the drawer under the stove for a suitable pan.

Severus thought he should probably say something, but couldn't think of anything that didn't involve the words 'what are you still doing here?' or 'were you awake in the middle of the night when you came on my leg?' So he bent over and got out the butter and salt.

Potter had started the stove by the time Severus found the pepper, and the smell of melting butter made his mouth water. He leaned against the counter while Potter cracked eggs into the pan.

"How do you like them?" he asked, fingers gliding over the selection of implements in the drawer beside the stove. Severus realized he was staring at Potter's fingers, wondering something that had no business at breakfast, no, make that no business at all in his head about what Potter's fingers would look like sliding down his chest, wrapping around his --

"How do I like what?" Severus asked blankly, forcing himself to look up.

Potter looked directly at him, smiling and looking quite pleased with himself. "Your eggs."

Heat burst across Severus's face. He leaned over to sniff at the butter to justify it. "Whatever you're having will be fine."

Fortunately, Potter had turned away without seeing the blush. He cracked more eggs, stirring the yolks into the pale whitish liquid. "Scrambled, then. My aunt always had me do them scrambled so I wouldn't mess up my uncle's breakfast."

"I'm not particular about eggs." Severus rose and fetched what was left of the cheese. It smelled acceptable, and he began to shred it to give his hands something to do. This was all terribly -- domestic -- and he felt that some casual disinterest might be beneficial. "I never did take to cooking."

"Isn't making potions a bit like cooking?" Potter looked up as he stirred the eggs, just as Severus reached around him to let the shredded cheese fall into the pan. So that was why Potter had been such a mediocre Potions student -- it reminded him of his Muggle relatives. Though he appeared content as he stirred the cheese into the eggs, nodding toward the cupboard. "Is there any tea?"

Setting down the plate that had held the cheese, Severus reached past Potter to retrieve the tea strainer. His chest pressed up against Potter's back. The younger man shivered -- there was no mistaking it.

What in the name of Merlin's pants did that mean?

"Excellent!" Potter said far too cheerfully. "It's not quite breakfast without tea." He tapped his wand on the stove, turning off the heat, and asked, "Plates?"

Potter hadn't moved. The plates were in the cupboard directly above his head. Thinking perhaps Potter would react negatively to a sudden nonverbal Levicorpus, Severus jerked his head at the cabinet just before he leaned closer, being careful not to touch. Not quite.

Not quite until Potter leaned back with some sort of soft noise coming out of his mouth just before he pulled away, almost guiltily, before Severus had quite realized what had happened. It was absurd to think he'd done it on purpose. More likely he'd become too warm close to the heat and stepped back, not realizing Severus was so close to him. There wasn't any way that Potter was interested in him, not the nearly forty-ish traitor who'd once worshiped his mother.

"Mugs," he murmured, "and plates." He set both down without looking to see what Potter was doing, turning and nearly colliding with him as they both reached for the silverware drawer. Potter, who seemed to be blushing at everything this morning, bent over the table, scraping eggs onto their plates before running water into the pan and joining Severus at the table.

"There," Potter said, with a smile that looked forced, though he ought to know from six years glowering at each other over breakfasts in the Great Hall that Severus wasn't about to smile back this early in the morning. "Not half bad," he continued, digging into his own breakfast.

Severus grunted, then supposed actual words might be called for. "Thank you," he said, trying not to sound grudging.

Potter flushed, giving him a real smile. "Thanks for last night," he said, then stammered. "For, um, putting me up, I mean."

Severus looked up sharply from his eggs, which were fairly tasty. Did Potter mean... no, of course not. "It would not have been safe to allow you to travel without being certain that you were sober."

"Why not?" asked Potter around a mouthful of eggs. He swallowed, wiped his mouth and added, "No one's out to get me anymore. I'd have been safe enough."

Even with overripe cheese, the eggs were really rather delicious. No one had cooked for Severus in longer than he could remember. "You could have been splinched!" he declared in between bites. "Or fallen off a broom."

"Good thing I stayed with you, then. Slept really well, too." Potter didn't meet his eyes.

Severus did not wish to dwell on just how well he had slept. Likely Potter intended to leave as soon as his belly was full. "If you aren't sleeping well, perhaps you have been pushing yourself too hard." Bloody hell -- Severus was trying to find words to tell the boy to slow down.

"Not any more. Not sure what I want to do next."

Taking a sip of tea, Potter made a face that might have suggested dissatisfaction with his options, but to be safe, Severus waved the sugar bowl over from the cupboard. He was embarrassed to see that it was almost empty. With a grateful smile, Potter dumped in a heaping teaspoonful, then pushed the container over to Severus. Sighing, he sipped the sweetened tea. "Just want to... not think about things, you know?"

"I know," he said, repressing the urge to ask what would be different if Potter were not thinking. He wasn't sure why he was biting back his sarcasm, except it was more difficult for his tongue to comply when his belly was full and there was tea in the offing. He pushed the sugar bowl back, waving his teaspoon around the kitchen.

Potter looked into the nearly empty bowl and added more sugar to his own cup, so focused on the action that he missed Severus's moue of disgust. "Maybe we could..." he began, stirring the tea with more concentration than was, perhaps, strictly necessary. "Maybe we could not think about things together, you know?"

Severus set down his own cup and looked at Potter sharply. "What do you mean?"

The young man's shrug was too casual. "Dunno," he said, finally setting down the spoon and looking up. "Just that neither of us needs to be anywhere anymore. Maybe we could do that together."

One eyebrow shot up as he studied Potter's face, trying to discern his true motive. It was elusive as the rest of his reasons for doing anything, for coming here, for refusing to accept his mother's letter back, for sleeping with Severus. "Are you looking for a place to hide, is that it?"

Potter was frowning. "No, are you?"

Perhaps a direct attack would yield more direct answers. "Tell me again why you came to my house," Severus challenged.

"I was looking -- you knew my mother, I never did -- I wanted, I don't know what, but something. Her letter." Sipping the tea as if it would shore him up for the conversation, Potter looked into Severus's face. "But that isn't really it. When I didn't find your body in the Shrieking Shack, I came looking for you."

"Obviously I didn't do a very good job of hiding." Severus felt cross, with himself as well as with Potter. The boy was only looking for some way to reconnect with his mother.

"You shouldn't have to." Potter smiled tremulously, sipping more tea. "Unless you wanted to, I mean." He set the cup down, looking again as if he was bracing himself for something unpleasant. "Do you want me to leave you alone?"

Severus glanced into his own cup. The tea leaves had formed an indecipherable pattern at the bottom of it. Divination was a preposterous discipline. "I suppose you had better get your questions about your mother out of the way or you'll only try to return."

For a moment Potter looked as if he longed to speak, but then he dropped his eyes. "I know you don't like to talk about stuff. Not any more than I do. I won't ask if you don't want me to."

Severus set down his own teacup. He considered that Potter would certainly leave if he refused to answer any questions. "I suppose it would depend on what you wanted to know," he said crossly.

"I know you..." The voice cracked with emotion. "You loved her. Did she --"

Trust Potter to go directly for the jugular! Severus managed not to flinch, mostly because he was angry. "You saw," he barked.

"I saw a bit. Not enough."

"You needed to see every quarrel she and I had, and hear every cruel word your father ever said to me?"

Potter shook his head vehemently. "No! No -- just... did she..." He pressed his lips together and dropped his voice. "Love you too?"

"Was it not obvious that she did not?" Severus's own voice was brittle. "Not as-- She was my best friend. Briefly. The only time I had such a friend."

Impulsively Potter reached over and put a hand on his arm. Severus felt as though he were being scalded, and bit his lip to repress a shudder. "No, it wasn't obvious. Maybe it seemed like she didn't to you, but to me it looked like she... cared for you."

"She had other friends."

Potter's fingers jerked off his arm as if he, too, had been burnt by the contact. "But only one as good as you."

Obviously Potter had some sort of exaggerated impression of what had transpired between Severus and Potter's mother. "From the moment she was sorted into Gryffindor it was apparent that that would change," he said. His arm felt cold without Potter's fingers on it.

The answer only made Potter look frustrated. "But you were friends even after that! I saw that! It was only when you insulted her that she stopped talking to you," he said, voice rising slightly.

Severus ground his own teeth together in frustration. Potter was both persistent and thick, qualities Severus found difficult to deal with even when he wasn't presumed dead. "We were friends. Briefly."

Potter abandoned his tea cup, rocking back on the wobbly chair, studying Severus. "More than that," he said slowly, "Before school. And after. And she cared about you. I know she did."

Severus suddenly guessed where all this was going, what Potter thought he knew and why it was so important to him to pursue it. He laughed out loud. "Potter, I never laid a finger on her."

Potter's mouth dropped open in astonishment and Severus was grateful they'd finished the meager breakfast. "I didn't mean it like -- I mean, she was my mum!"

Still amused, though also embarrassed, Severus shook his head. Potter might not have wanted the details but clearly he had expected confirmation for whatever perverse fantasies he might have conjured. "Your mother was not my -- what is the phrase -- homosexual exception." Potter's mouth closed with a snap. He was still staring, however, looking as if he no longer remembered how to speak. "I'm sorry, did you expect me to tell you that any man no matter how queer would have chased your mother to the ends of the earth?"

Shaking his head, Potter took a gulp of tea. He promptly coughed.

"There was a time," amended Severus, "when I would have followed your mother, perhaps even away from Hogwarts. But not for that. I was not a romantic suitor."

Potter took another drink of tea, more slowly, and wiped his eyes and mouth. "I thought you were straight!" he wheezed.

Now Severus stared at him. "Potter, didn't we have this conversation yesterday?"

"We did not." Potter shook his head emphatically. Severus felt his cheeks coloring.

"I thought. You said." He picked up his own teacup, which was regrettably empty. The remaining tea leaves at the bottom offered no additional clues.

"I meant me. I thought since you loved my mum you must be -- well -- not exactly bent." He leaned toward Severus slightly. "That's why, well, I, last night..."

Potter's words and his gestures seemed to contradict each other. "That's why... what?" snapped Severus. "That's why you felt safe sharing a bed with me?" Potter's face went scarlet and he coughed again, shaking his head. "Oh, I see. You would not have, if you had known."

"No!" Again Potter grabbed his arm. "That's not it at all. I never would have, well, I might have --" Potter closed his eyes. "Um, sort of rubbed off on you."

Fuck. Glaring at the teacup as though it were somehow responsible, Snape muttered, "I didn't believe you were awake."

Potter's head jerked up. "You knew!"

"I am not in the habit of casting Scourgify in my sleep."

A grin took over Potter's face, half sly, half sheepish. "I thought I dreamed that part," he said, releasing Severus's arm.

Severus looked down at the spot where Potter's fingers had been as if there should be a visible mark, then looked up at him, studying his face for the mockery he would have found on his father's. When he found none, he said, "I'm still puzzled. You -- did that because you thought I was straight?"

Potter shook his head vehemently enough to send his glasses askew. He righted them automatically, already protesting, "No! I didn't mean to at all. I woke up and felt --" Really, Potter blushed more easily than his sire ever had. "Well, I thought you might not mind if you thought it was a wet dream and you smelled so good and felt so warm and..." He dropped his head, the very picture of misery, and even Potter Senior at his most faux-contrite had never looked so sincere. "I'm sorry, it sounds stupid and thoughtless when I explain it like this," he said, his voice trailing off.

Severus's lips curved wryly, impulsively reaching over to tilt the boy's chin back up. "Wet dreams are the single form of sexual release of which I have not been deprived," he said, releasing Potter's chin.

The hope that bloomed in Potter's face was almost painful to watch. "You don't mind?" he said, voice catching almost breathlessly.

Severus tried to ignore the breathless little catch in his own chest. "Did you have the sense that I minded? I thought I was taking advantage of you."

Potter shook his head again, less violently this time. "You didn't. I started it; I woke up first and you felt so good, I, well --"

Severus cleared his throat to keep Potter from apologizing again, then realized he had no idea how to respond in a situation like this, never having had the son of his former enemy and romantic rival apologizing for rubbing off on him. "Well then," he said, wishing he hadn't drunk his tea so quickly. "We can dismiss it as alcohol and exhaustion if you wish."

Frowning, Potter scraped a bit of egg off the table. "Is that all it was?"

Instantly Severus was wary again. "What did you think it was?" When Potter continued to scowl at the tabletop, he had an unnerving thought. "I'm certain you have had plenty of opportunities. The Chosen One surely gets more than his share of offers."

Potter shrugged. "Been a bit busy lately." He wore an expression of nonchalance, and Severus could not decide whether to be relieved or disappointed at this confirmation that indeed Potter was no virgin. "Alcohol, exhaustion, and opportunity, then, if you say so." He shoved his teacup away.

Clearly they had dwelt on this topic long enough. "More tea?" Without waiting for a reply, Severus poured for both of them, then watched as Potter dumped the rest of the sugar into his cup and stirred it without so much as a word of thanks. Irritated at the silent treatment, since it hardly seemed fair for Potter to have decided after the fact that he had been taken advantage of, Severus demanded, "Were you expecting me to apologize?"

"Apologize? For having me humping your leg?" Potter snorted.

That was not precisely how Severus recalled the proceedings. Potter had rolled against him, and he had... Severus felt his cock perk up and blushed. "That was not my perception," he muttered. He hoped that Potter did not have some absurd sense of propriety that would require him to report the incident. Then he recalled that he had bigger problems where Potter was concerned. "Are you under an obligation to report that I am alive?"

Though he looked startled by the question, Potter snorted faintly. "None at all. As far as the world is concerned, you died a hero's death."

Severus curved his lips maliciously. "It's better than I expected."

Potter, unsurprisingly, looked confused. "Which? Being a hero? Or being dead?"

Severus snorted faintly. "I fully expected to be dead and I did not expect..." He studied Potter curiously. "What precisely did you tell them? I am still the man who told Voldemort of the prophecy. And still Albus Dumbledore's killer."

"I told the truth," Potter said, straightening rather more than the rickety chair was capable of handling. Yet both of them persevered as he went on. "That you acted on his orders in order to keep me safe so I could sacrifice myself." It was odd to hear something so bitter from Potter, as though his mouth had been taken over by someone else, someone older.

"That hardly makes me a hero," Severus said dismissively, narrowing his eyes at Potter. "Are you angry with me, or with him?"

Potter finally gave up on the chair, bounding up as though he couldn't stand to be still another moment. "Him!" he said, whirling and pacing a few steps. "He used me. He used us both."

From long years of study, Severus knew Potter's anger would blow off unless fed and he didn't feel like feeding it, not this morning. "He did not use me in any way to which I did not consent. And I would prefer to believe that he knew you would be safe."

Already the soft confusion was back. "I know neither of you could have told me but that didn't make living through it any easier." He flung himself back in the chair, ignoring the creak of protest, staring into his hands.

"I could not have told you because I knew only what he chose to share with me. And he could not have told you because the Dark Lord would have known, since you refused to apply yourself to Occlumency. Is it not enough to have survived and triumphed?"

Potter let out a small sigh. "I suppose it'll have to be. To be free to do, well, whatever I can figure out that I want to do." He glanced in the direction of the window, leaving Severus with a surge of envy -- Potter was indeed free to see as much of the world as he wished. "What about you? You're as free as I am now, aren't you?"

"Utterly free," Severus replied dryly.

"Of course you are." The look Potter gave him was just as envious, which startled him. "No Voldemort, no students to teach, no reckless Gryffindor to protect."

"No job, no family, no colleagues... no home. I presume you mentioned to at least one of your friends where you were going?" He watched as Potter bit his lip and nodded. "Then you won't be the last to come looking here." Severus had taken for granted that he would have to leave Spinner's End, but now an idea was forming. "Perhaps I could send you back with my will. May I leave the property to you? I presume you wouldn't want to use it, and no one else will trespass on what's yours..."

All the blood had drained out of Potter's face. "Stop talking like that! You aren't going to kill yourself after all that! Are you?"

Once again Potter had leaped to an absurd conclusion. "I hadn't planned to at the moment," Severus told him, repressing a snicker, "but it would be convenient to establish my death legally. The Ministry will likely impound this property otherwise."

He might as well not have spoken. Potter clenched his hand as if to hold him back from flinging himself out the window. "I won't let you! You risked your life to help me, because of her. I'd be betraying her again if I let you kill yourself."

This was very nearly amusing. "Do you plan to become my keeper?"

"If I have to." Potter's jaw set stubbornly.

Really there was no greater fun than goading Gryffindors when they'd gone all noble and tedious. "What would you do, if you were me, Potter? Take up with my old friends the Malfoys and the Goyles?" He knew he shouldn't indulge Potter's penchant for self-sacrifice. A thought struck him that was too entertaining not to deliver, though he did try to choke it back with a cough. "Return to Hogwarts and terrorize children?"

Potter obviously did not see the humor in that. His jaw was set in a woefully stubborn angle. "You can do whatever you like now. You don't need to take orders from anyone anymore," he said, as though Severus were a butterfly he was trying to set free.

Severus stopped goading him. For now. "You didn't answer the question."

For a moment Potter looked like he'd lost the thread of the conversation, drumming his fingers on the table. "I'd take some time off," he said finally. "Travel. Meet normal people. Maybe shag normal blokes." He said the last bit almost defiantly.

Severus burst out laughing. Potter snatched his fingers off the table in alarm. "That would be impossible," Severus said, trying to quell the bitter laughter, "any bloke who would shag me, as you so delicately put it, and there haven't been many, would not be a 'normal bloke.'"

Potter's expression was hard to define, but held traces of the tediously noble about it that boded ill for Severus's answer. "I don't suppose you think I'm normal then?" he asked a bit defensively.

"It isn't enough to be the Chosen One?" Severus asked.

Huffing, Potter said, "You know I never asked for that. I can't help what people thought."

"And you resent that because it may prevent you from shagging normal blokes?" Severus asked, with a shake of his head.

"I resent it because you think I'm arrogant and spoiled, when I never did anything to deserve it except be the right baby in the right place," Potter said, looking a bit petulant, like a teenager at last.

Severus tilted his head, because he could never resist a puzzle, even though he knew his curiosity had gotten him in trouble before. "Why should it matter to you what I think of you?" he asked.

Potter blinked at him. "I'm here, aren't I?"

"For your mother's letter." Severus waved a hand dismissively.

"If that was true, I'd have left before crawling into bed with you." Potter blushed, shaking his head. "Can't you give me the chance to prove I might be more like my mum and less like my dad than you think?"

Severus had far too much pride to admit that that was precisely what he feared. Even if Potter was not as spoiled and arrogant as his father had been, he would likely marry someone spoiled and arrogant and never spare a kind word for Snape. "Your mother was a human being, not a goddess. She had little inclination to let bygones be bygones. I was never good enough for her," he muttered. "If your beloved godfather and your favorite werewolf couldn't tell you charming stories about your mother, I assure you that there is very little to be wrung out of me."

"You don't get it, do you! She was what, fifteen, when you had that argument?" Potter ran a hand through his hair. "People aren't always the same way when they're fifteen as when they're supposedly adults. I know she was a human being, but she also died young -- she died to save me. We're the only two left standing, the only two left alive to try to find a little human comfort and all you can do is still hold grudges!"

This puzzle was becoming quite tiresome, as was being shouted at in his own kitchen. "Have your passel of Weasleys run away, and Granger, and the Lovegoods, and Longbottom and his gran, and the entire faculty of Hogwarts?" sneered Severus, unsure precisely what it was that he wanted Potter to say. "Slughorn knew your mother as a student, you know. I imagine McGonagall did as well." He pressed his fingers between his eyes. "Yes, I can see that I've been very selfish, hoarding your mother all to myself. Though I don't see that I'm the only one here with a grudge."

"It's not --" Potter sat down hard, shaking his head. "It's not them I wanted to talk to. It's you. Thanks to you, I have my whole life to talk to them." Severus glanced at him, still feeling very tired. "I'm not being very clear. I don't hate you anymore. Do you -- do you still hate me?"

The "anymore" had made Severus smile involuntarily. "Would it disappoint you very much to learn that I never hated you?" he asked.

"You loathed me," snorted Potter.

"I found you arrogant and reckless like your father. I resented having to give Malfoy that little extra push every single time so that when his father asked me whether he was outshining you, I could say yes. I'm well aware that you never practiced Occlumency." It didn't add up to loathing, precisely.

"Then..." Potter gulped. "You don't hate me now?"

Severus called on years of training to withstand the impulse to roll his eyes. "Do I seem to you like a man who would indulge in furtive late night groping and lengthy breakfast arguments with people I hate?"

Something dreadfully like a cheeky smile tugged at the corners of Potter's mouth. "It was good furtive late night groping, wasn't it?" he said, allowing some of the smile to show.

Severus took a sip of his now-cold tea and made a face, hoping his cheeks didn't look as red as they felt. "You may be disappointed to learn that I have little experience of furtive late night groping, particularly in recent decades. It seemed enjoyable to me," he said dismissively, but Potter's smile still tried to peek out.

"Maybe we could try it again sometime," he said, with a casualness that would not have fooled a troll. "See if we get any better at it."

Severus's cock gave a hopeful leap, though whether at the suggestion or the smile he couldn't be certain. "Sometime?"

Potter was still attempting to be suave, or what probably passed for suavity among hopeless Gryffindors. He scooted his chair over closer to Severus's. "Sometime soon."

A mild jolt of panic went through him as he realized that "sometime soon" might translate into "now". Desperate for some sort of distraction, he looked pointedly at the empty plates. "Have you had enough breakfast?" he asked, then braced himself for some sort of lurid double entendre.

Either Potter was just being polite about the "soon" part or he thought more with his stomach than his cock. He followed Severus's gaze to empty plates and nodded, as if trying to read the egg scraps like tea leaves for Severus's meaning. Severus himself was no better at being suave, never having cultivated it as a quality he might need as a spy, no matter what Muggle literature said, and had no idea how to make "sometime soon" become "how about now?"

"If you, ah. I'm going to the loo," he said abruptly, rising more decisively than he felt. Potter would either take the hint and meet him in the bed or he'd be gone and Severus wouldn't have to face him. He took some time in the loo, ignoring the image staring back at him from the faded mirror. No amount of soap was going to make his hair look less greasy, nor his teeth less yellow and crooked, nor the lines in his face disappear. He heard noises from the kitchen -- Potter piling plates and cups in the sink and running water over them. Then silence while Severus finished up what he had come in there to do. Bracing himself for disappointment, while trying to tell himself it wasn't disappointment at all, Severus opened the bathroom door.

Potter was in his bed. Not lying on top of the covers, as they had slept the night before, but under them, though apparently still dressed as Severus saw no evidence of his clothing elsewhere. Trying not to look both terribly relieved and extremely over-eager, Severus lifted the covers from the opposite corner, sat, and slid his legs beneath.

This had been much easier the night before with alcohol still in his blood. Even without touching Potter, the tension was palpable. "If you don't want this..."

Flinging himself forward, Potter wrapped his arms around Severus, holding tightly. "I do! I just don't know what..." He made a small, frustrated noise. "I'll do anything. Just touch me."

It would have been easier to be rejected before breakfast than once Potter discovered precisely how inept Severus was at all this. He might as well not wait... bending his head, he kissed Potter firmly on the mouth. With a quiet moan, Potter kissed back. He wasn't bad -- in fact he was quite good -- obviously he had been practicing, likely with the Weasley girl.

And surely he was drawing comparisons as well, for Severus was aware of being clumsy, kissing too hard. He had already given up trying to hide his erection. Potter's leg wrapped around him, nudging an equally stiff prick into Severus's hip. Desperate for more contact, Severus slid his mouth down Potter's neck, then up to his ear -- he wanted to taste everything, he couldn't stop moaning, he felt very exposed despite being fully clothed.

Shivering, Potter rocked against him, far more shamelessly than he had done the night before when they had both pretended to be asleep. Severus slid his fingers across Potter's back, then lower, moving them under his shirt. "Tell me if this isn't what you want," he muttered, knowing that this was his last opportunity to stop himself.

"Want more -- please -- want you!" Potter was practically begging. It was the most arousing thing Severus had ever heard. Groaning in relief, he pushed the shirt up and wrestled it over Potter's head. The young body was quite thin but muscular and Severus could not keep his mouth off it, licking the nipples, licking the chest, thinking that he would like to bury his nose in Potter's armpit if he were not afraid of scaring Potter right out of the bed.

He settled for sliding his hands downward, over the bulge in Potter's trousers, just feeling the satisfying shape of it before asking, "May I --?"

Potter had gasped the moment Severus had touched the outside of his jeans. He drew in an obviously shaky breath, nodding. "God, please, anything," he said, still with that breathless catch in his voice. Severus decided to take this invitation at face value, working trousers off first, in case Potter decided suddenly that he was the shy type. Now his cock was clearly outlined against the thin fabric, a dark stain just above the tip. Slowly Severus leaned toward it, rubbing his face against the shape of it, inhaling to memorize the scent. His tongue flicked out to taste that damp spot. With a start he felt Potter thread fingers into his hair.

When Severus looked up, Potter's mouth was open soundlessly, back arched as if his whole body was straining toward him. Severus wanted to oblige this wordless need, but wasn't sure whether to yank down the pants and simply take Potter into his mouth. A tremor went through the flesh under his lips as Potter's fingers tightened, then, contrite, released the hank of hair he'd grabbed while Severus mouthed the length of cock through his pants. "Can you -- god, I'm going to explode like this," came the plaintive moan from overhead. Had Severus not been so close to exploding himself, right here against Potter's leg, he might have smirked.

Instead he slid the thin underpants down, kicking them aside. Potter's cock lost nothing for not being confined, rising dusky and damp from curls as black as Severus's own. He tried to give Potter a moment to object, though Severus had nearly lost sight of any objections, not when Potter's eyes fluttered open, hips already pushing toward Severus as he lowered his mouth. Potter's fingers were clenching the bedcovers as he bucked up between Severus's lips. "God, yes, ohhh..." He was panting before Severus quite got his mouth fully around his cock, seed already spurting over Severus's tongue. It was just as well, because Severus was not particularly more skilled at this than he was at kissing, though no one had ever complained. He was pushing himself against Potter's leg, trying to swallow and hoping that Potter was too distracted by orgasm to notice that Severus had drooled out nearly as much as he had gulped down.

Panting, Potter flopped back against the bed. "Want you to come! Let me do something too!" Severus made a needy, pathetic noise, crawling up the prone body, thrusting against every part that he passed on the way. Potter's hand found his trouser fastenings, yanking them open with shaking fingers... fuck, rolling to the side and bending double, burying his mouth against Severus's pants as soon as they were exposed.

At that moment Severus realized that he was not going to last long enough even to let Potter do to him what he had done to a boy half his age, yet he couldn't even spare a thought for how humiliated he should feel, he only wanted to come. Immediately. "Potter, Harry, can't... going to..." The boy clawed at his pants, somehow pulling the waist back, getting his mouth around Severus's cock...

His hips snapped, bucking, spurting into that heat, fingers clenching in something soft because it was the only thing to hold as the room flared out of his vision. When the explosion faded and he could begin to breathe again, he found that he was clutching Harry's hair. Likely he had shoved Harry's head down and held him there, and when Harry managed to break free, he would be angry and disgusted...

Harry was licking him. His cock, and the hair around it, and the sweaty crease where the leg met the torso that probably smelled like Severus hadn't washed in a day, since he hadn't. It made Severus tremble. Pausing for a breath, Harry rubbed his mouth around the sides of his trousers, making certain to clean him up thoroughly before looking up. Smiling uncertainly, Harry said, "See, we're already getting better."

This struck Severus as one of the most amusing things he had ever heard. Obviously all the blood had left his brain for lower parts. He laughed aloud, looked at Harry and laughed again, unable to pull in the smile stretching his face. "I've improved from a T to a D."

Grinning back widely, Harry gave his cock a showy lick. "Then we'll have to keep practicing until we get an O."

Again Severus burst out laughing. Perhaps dementia had begun to set in. "I'll give you an O."

Harry looked half bemused, half delighted. He smiled back. "I think you just did," he said, a bit sheepishly while Severus released his hair.

Severus watched him a moment then said, "This is what you wanted?"

Harry pulled himself up close beside Severus, nodding, still looking diffident. There was a bit of come on the side of his mouth so Severus leaned over and licked it off. Harry made a breathless noise that made Severus want to lick his mouth again, but he was fairly spotless now so Severus leaned back and cupped his chin.

"Kiss me again?" Harry said, looking hopeful and a little delectable. Severus pulled him close, trying to do it properly this time. Harry's hand went around the back of his head, pulling himself closer too, and the moan between them was as much his as Harry's.

This was, despite the fact that he was sated, having had more sex in the last few hours than in the last few years, quite arousing. Not quite enough to get him hard again -- not even magic could do that -- but kissing and wanting to be kissed were quite different from his usual experiences. His heart was hammering so hard he was certain Harry could feel it when one hand slid over his chest. He paused in between kisses, feeling Harry's lips moving, seeking his when he pulled away to catch his breath. Fingers pulled at the bits of clothing still hanging from Severus's body.

"Can I --?" Harry pulled back enough to look at him, wigging quickly out of his own clothing before looking back at Severus for his answer.

"I'm not --" Severus began, feeling his cheeks redden. "I'm quite scarred."

Harry studied his face somewhat anxiously, biting his bottom lip. "I still want to see. If we're going to keep doing this, I don't want to always have to wait for nightfall."

If they were going to keep doing this... Severus decided that he would rather face rejection now than later. Hastily he unbuttoned and peeled off his shirt. Harry -- fuck, it was Harry now -- watched with his expression a careful mask, but he did not appear revolted by Severus's scars and lack of muscle tone, nor by the grey hairs among the black. He rubbed his hands, then his cheek, over Severus's chest.

A small sigh of relief escaped Severus's nose. He slid his fingers into Harry's hair, hoping the younger man did not expect him to have an erection again so soon; if Harry was accustomed to boys his own age, Severus would be a great disappointment.

Shivering under his hands, Harry stretched out, keeping as much skin pressed against Severus as seemed physically possible. One of Harry's feet draped across his ankles. He felt boneless as Harry tilted his face, kissed his chin and sighed happily. "I know we just woke up, but I'm sleepy again," he murmured.

Severus let his own head fall back against the pillow. He wasn't certain whether he was sleepy, exactly, but his body had no desire to move. "Is anyone waiting for you? Someone you need to tell where you've gone?" he asked.

Against his chest, Harry's head shook back and forth. "I told Ron and Hermione I had to get away for a while." Severus could feel the lips tug up in a smile. "If you let me stay for supper, I'll bake us that cake."

Severus hummed. "If you want to bake a cake, we will need more sugar."

"If we get sugar, we could also get ice cream." There was a hopeful pause.

"If you are going to bake us a cake, I suppose I could be persuaded to buy you ice cream."

Harry sighed happily again. "If you get ice cream, I may never leave."

This talk of ice cream had made Severus chilly. He tugged the covers up over both of them. "If you never leave, I will need to buy more cheese. And tea. And eggs," he muttered.

Harry's arm had slid across his waist. "If we keep doing this, I'll need it." His eyelids were drooping.

"If we keep doing this, I'll need it too." Harry murmured something in reply, but his weight did not shift and after a moment Severus realized that he was already asleep again. His own eyes felt heavy and it occurred to him that he could close them, though he did consider first whether to use a locking spell to keep Harry inside.

But Severus was a spy of many years' training, and he was quite certain that he would awaken if Harry tried to get away. Besides, he had promised him ice cream. That last made him nod in satisfaction as his eyes fell shut.

Chapter Text

Everything was normal about the way Harry woke up. He was hungry. He was horny. Severus was humping his leg. Wait. That wasn't exactly normal, was it?

His eyes shot open. "Wha-?" Oh right. Not normal, then, better than normal. Brilliant in fact.

Beside him he felt Severus stir, saw his eyes flutter open, then cloud with embarrassment. "I'm sorry -- I --"

"Don't stop!" Harry said, shifting to take better advantage of the already aroused cock.

Severus looked confused but his cock didn't seem to be at all, moving against Harry's now that he'd brought both of them together. "I don't... do this," he said, voice still rough from sleep.

Harry wasn't exactly sure what "this" was, but he liked the way it felt and draped one leg over Severus's with a moan. "Why not?"

Severus was arching up, pressing back into him, though Harry realized he was holding him down on the bed. Severus didn't seem to mind though. "Haven't been... many people... ohh, that's, yes..." He groaned deeply in his throat in place of actual words.

Harry was ridiculously pleased by this, both the confession and the humping. "Good," he said, grabbing at Severus frantically, anywhere he could reach that would pull him closer.

Apparently deciding that there was no point in resisting further since he was, in fact, doing this, Severus reached down and stroked both their cocks together with his hand. Ohh, yes indeed... Harry groaned helplessly, rubbing his leg over Severus's longer one, probably moving too fast against him but there was nothing he could do about that.

Severus had tilted his head forward to watch himself wanking (ahhfuck, wanking) both of them. His hair fell over his face, hiding his expression from Harry. "You don't... even like me..." he muttered.

Was that all that was bothering Severus? "You don't like me much either!" Harry reminded him, trying to tilt his face up.

Discovering his mouth nearby, Severus kissed him urgently, hand and cock moving hard and fast against Harry's. "You're... terrible... Legilimens..." Severus muttered.

Snorting against his lips, Harry replied, "Had... world's... worst... teacher..." There was some other point he knew he should be arguing, but he couldn't remember what the point was, not with his balls tightening.

Grabbing the lank dark hair to pull the head closer, he kissed Severus again, rubbing very sloppily against him. Severus was probably going to think he had premature ejaculation problems but at the moment he didn't care -- he had forgotten everything, how to do anything but come, even how to kiss. "God, Sna-Prof-fuck, Severus!"

Even as the words burst from his lips, he felt a warm jet spurting onto his skin. Fuck, that felt good! Shuddering, Harry shouted and exploded, clamping a hand onto Severus in case he had any thought of pulling away.

When he could breathe again, he panted, "Maybe I... like you. A little." Severus's face was pressed in his hair, which Harry knew was sweaty and unkempt. They both had breath that smelled of stale eggs. He felt his cheeks warming -- maybe he had spoken too quickly. "Is that... all right?"

Severus's fingers unclenched from his slowly. "It is more than I deserve."

Harry could only see close up without his glasses, so he tilted his face to look into Severus's. "Why do you say that?"

The hand that had been clenching him so fiercely rubbed up and down Harry's back, making him feel like a large kitten. "Why should you like me at all?" Severus said, as if unaware of what his hand was doing.

Shrugging, Harry settled against Severus's body, hip to hip, though his toes didn't quite reach Severus's feet. "Can't help it. I know you probably won't ever like me... that way." It was nicer lying here tucked together than he expected. The hand on his back had strayed into his hair.

"What way?" Severus asked, his tone, even to Harry's ears, carefully neutral.

Harry shrugged again, his toe making circles in the short hair on Severus's leg. "Like a, well, more than just a convenient fuck." Even the words sounded ugly on his tongue.

Severus pulled back to look at him, keeping one hand on Harry's arm, though his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "A convenient fuck?"

"That's all I am, isn't it?" Harry's cheeks were burning, and Severus looked like he couldn't decide whether to yell at him or... yell at him.

Finally Severus huffed, "Potter, weren't you listening to me? I don't do this."

Forcing himself to take a breath, Harry dropped his eyes, wondering where his clothes had got to. "I was afraid of that. I -- I'll go."

He would have, too, only Severus was still petting his hair. After a moment it seemed to occur to Severus, too, that neither of them had made a move to untangle themselves. "Right now?" Severus asked, sounding annoyed.

Harry squinted at him. Without his glasses, it was even harder than usual to read Snape's expression. "Isn't this your way of getting rid of me?"

"You're the one who's leaving." Severus made a scoffing noise. "Did the dead man fail to meet your expectations?"

"No! I loved it!" Harry peered at him shyly. "I know I'm not very good though."

It was sort of hard to tell, but he thought Severus was blushing again. "If we. That is. Once we became accustomed to each other I am certain it would not be so... messy."

From Severus, whom Harry had been expecting to kick him out, that sounded practically like a proposal of marriage. He felt himself beaming. "You don't mind me staying around a bit? When you started talking about how you don't do this sort of thing, I thought you were hinting that you wanted some peace and quiet."

Apparently Severus found something very interesting about Harry's chest hair, since that was where his eyes were focused. "I don't do -- what did you say? Convenient fucking."

Sleeping with Severus, assuming he let Harry come back once Harry had to leave, was going to be fraught with challenge. For one thing, Harry found himself jealous of whomever Severus had done this with before, even though he knew that was ridiculous and unreasonable. "It's not -- it's more than that, isn't it? Even if we aren't quite sure what it is yet?" he asked hopefully.

That seemed to pull Severus's gaze from whatever was so fascinating about his chest. "You want it to be more than that?" The black eyes flickered over his then skittered away again. "I am the same man you despised."

Harry let his whole body shrug, to be sure Severus felt it. "I'm still the son of the man you hated," he countered, hoping it wouldn't stand between them.

He thought maybe from Severus's automatic, "He hated me too," that he was hoping the past wouldn't play into what could be their future. Assuming Harry didn't screw this up.

"Does that mean that, because he's dead," Harry said carefully, "you should go on hating him?"

Warning bells went off in Harry's head. Yeah, Severus looked irritated. "I tried to save him. He was betrayed by one of his best friends. If your staying here is conditional on my pretending to have liked him..."

"No!" In case Severus was planning to get up and stalk away, Harry tugged him close again. "I just meant that I don't have any grudges against you any more. But if you can only see my father in me, then this probably won't work."

"If I only saw your father, we would not be in my bed." Severus's fingers stopped stroking his hair, shifted, and started moving again across his back.

Harry sighed in relief. Impulsively he turned around to give Severus better access, making a pleased noise. He felt both of Severus's hands slide over his shoulders, pushing down, kneading the muscles that Harry hadn't quite realized had knotted when he'd thought there was going to be a row.

"I think maybe..." It was easier to speak now that he was not looking directly at Severus. "Maybe I like you more than a little."

A warm breath ruffled his hair from behind as Severus leaned close, rubbing his cheek in it. "Are you only saying that because I promised you ice cream?"

Harry giggled, thinking he should be horrified to make such a girlish noise -- but thinking things that would have horrified him once didn't so much any more, not now that he'd spent a year being horrified by Voldemort. "I mean it, but I still want you to lick ice cream off me," he said with a happy sigh, turning and tilting his face to try to get it closer to Severus's.

A snort sounded in his ear. "I don't do that either," Severus said. "I don't think."

Hearing Severus laugh, even the mocking sort at himself, was better than having anyone else kiss him, not that Harry had had too much of that. "If you aren't sure, you should try it at least once. That way I'll know if I don't like it too," he said, managing only to brush his nose somewhere in the vicinity of Severus's chin.

"You've never done that?" Severus asked, sounding genuinely curious.

"Didn't have a lot of ice cream while we were hiding out, or anyone I'd want to lick it off of," Harry said, wriggling his shoulders because Severus had stopped rubbing him. "I've never done anything much, either then or before that."

Slowly Severus's hands resumed their movements. "Neither have I," he said quietly. "Not for many years, and not -- " Abruptly he silenced himself, though his fingers drifted slowly down Harry's back, pressing on either side of his spine.

With a quiet, happy sigh, Harry agreed, "Then we'll have to try all sorts of stuff to see whether we like it." He hoped this made more sense to Severus than the ice cream plan.

"Not convenient fucking?"

"Just ordinary 'I like you' sort of fucking." This was probably the moment to state explicitly that he had never done that, either. Severus was nodding, chin moving against Harry's hair, and because he was feeling warm and lazy and satisfied, Harry confessed, "I've had as much experience in this bed as anywhere else."

"I suppose we had better start with vanilla then," Severus said with satisfaction in his voice, and when Harry glanced back at him, added, "Ice cream."

Harry knew he must have been referring to something sexual, but he didn't want to remove all doubt about his lack of experience by asking for an explanation. "I like vanilla," he said, thinking that sounded safe enough.

"Gryffindors always do," Severus said, half under his breath, but when Harry stared at him, trying to work out what he'd missed, he looked perfectly innocent. Or as innocent as Severus ever looked, which wasn't much, though he still looked kissable to Harry.

He leaned back and craned his neck over his shoulder and did it. Severus kissed back as if he might prefer to eat Harry than ice cream, but when they broke apart, he smirked.

"Do you wish to accompany me on this grocery expedition?"

"Yes. I have money." Harry had brought Galleons to offer bribes, if necessary, to track down Snape's home; he had not been expecting to shop for cheese and sugar, but he certainly had enough.

Severus was laughing at him. "Oh? You have Muggle pounds?"

Harry's face fell. "No, just Galleons," he admitted. He didn't suppose Severus would be keen on going into Gringotts. "Is there somewhere we can change them?" he asked, wishing for about the millionth time that he'd been raised in a wizarding family and knew this stuff.

Still smirking, Severus said, "I have Muggle money. The Swiss are not as resourceful as goblins but they are as discreet." Oh, yeah -- Harry knew that from the bad spy movies Dudley had watched, where the villains always kept their money in numbered Swiss accounts.

He was surprised that Severus had thought of that, however. Not because he wouldn't know about the accounts -- his father had been a Muggle -- but because it suggested that Severus had planned, or at least hoped, to disappear after the war all along. "You were going to live as a Muggle?" he asked, incredulous.

"Why shouldn't I?" Severus said, sounding irritated. Belatedly Harry remembered the Muggle clothes in the wardrobe he'd spotted while snooping.

"No reason," Harry said quickly. "You'll let me come?" Then he flushed as the double meaning hit him. "To the store, I mean," he added. His aunt had never taken him along with her, since even taking Harry to the store was considered an outing he didn't deserve. "I've, er, never actually been."

"Never been to the grocer?" Severus asked sharply, as if Harry surely must be lying.

"No. Aunt Petunia wouldn't take me. Probably afraid I'd knock over a stack of cabbages and she'd have to pay for them or something like that." Sitting up, he slid to the edge of the bed, looking for his clothes. He hoped Severus would let him take a shower later, or better yet, shower with him.

Severus swung his legs off the side of the bed and went to the wardrobe. All his clothes were faded and nondescript, as if he wanted to make them difficult to describe; there was nothing that stood out. "We should alter your appearance," he told Harry.

"Sure," Harry said. He'd gotten used to looking like someone else when he'd been on posters across the country as Undesirable #1. He grinned up at Snape once he was dressed. "Maybe I could Polyjuice into you and we could go as twins."

Severus looked highly amused. "You can't believe that I leave this house with this recognizable face," he said. "Muggles are easy enough to fool with a Disillusionment Charm, though any competent wizard could detect the presence of the spell if not the identity of the subject." So that was why Snape had always seemed to sense Harry's presence even beneath the Invisibility Cloak. "Twins always seem notable to Muggles. We must appear as uninteresting as possible." He smirked again. "Perhaps you should come as my sister."

"Your sister!" Harry protested. He couldn't tell if Severus was joking and looked down at his chest as if he'd already sprouted breasts. "A girl?" he said in distaste, not because he disliked girls -- several of them had, after all, risked their lives to Polyjuice into him last year. But he'd just spent several memorable hours sleeping with a man and was enjoying his expanded knowledge of being male just now. Severus looked like he was waiting for an answer, and he did probably know what he was doing when it came to staying hidden. "I -- I guess," Harry said, looking down at his chest again as if bidding farewell to his masculinity. "As long as we take the spell off before we, you know, do stuff again." Because there was no way he was going to lose his virginity as a woman first.

Severus snorted as though he hadn't expected to be taken seriously. "I presume that you have never actually disguised yourself as a woman? You'd have to practice the walk, the voice..." His nose wrinkled. Harry hoped it was because Severus really had no desire to see him as a girl. "I was being sarcastic, as I would expect you of all people to realize. We should appear as drab-looking middle-aged men whom no one would notice."

Harry brightened, feeling both sheepish and relieved at once. "You? Sarcastic?" He rolled his eyes expressively and started rummaging through the wardrobe while Severus got dressed. Severus really did have some boring stuff in there. "What are we going to use? Polyjuice?"

"It is, regrettably, the most effective disguise among both wizards and Muggles," Snape pointed out. "No amount of experimenting has improved the taste of the potion, however. I keep it brewing constantly in the cellar in case I should need to make a swift escape. While we are among the shoppers, be alert for any opportunity to collect stray hairs -- but only from nondescript people who keep to themselves." Harry supposed that Snape had to vary his destinations in order to avoid running into anyone who might know the person whose face he was wearing. "Take my arm, we shall need to Apparate within the vicinity of the shops."

It felt very comfortable to take Severus's arm -- to be making plans, even mundane ones -- when it meant they could come back here and have dinner, or maybe several dinners, for as long as Severus would allow him to stay. "Ready," he said with a nod.

"Not until you drink this." Severus handed him a stoppered glass tube labeled with a date and a number. Making a small face, Harry swallowed the Polyjuice Potion, and after a moment he felt his body changing. It felt like he was growing taller. Snape's clothes would probably fit him now.

Severus, too, had gulped down a vial, wearing an expression as if he had swallowed a toad. Harry smiled to discover that he had made himself a sandy-haired, slightly younger man with a rather flat nose, though not an overly handsome one; Severus wouldn't want to be noticed by any ladies in the shop. "What do I look like?" he asked, craning around Severus to try to see the tiny mirror over the dresser.

He could tell by Severus's expression that he wasn't a candidate for Witch Weekly's Most Handsome anything. "A bit like me," Severus said, tilting his face as if scrutinizing a painting in a gallery, "Without all the luxury of upbringing and privilege."

Harry peered into the small mirror. The face that looked back at him did have the worn look of an older man, or one aged before his time. His hair was short and dark, cut like Severus's but much shorter. Inching closer, he saw his nose was larger and had clearly been broken at some point in the past and reset rather more haphazardly than medical science called for. He rubbed at it and turned back to Severus. "Definitely not as hot as you though," he said with a grin that he was sure revealed bad teeth.

Snape made a face that was probably a doubtful one, but with his new features, it was harder to tell. With dull grey eyes and light brown hair, Severus wasn't nearly as interesting to look at, and Harry was surprised to discover how much he missed the hawk-nosed, lanky-haired man with the familiar dark eyes. "Let's get this little expedition over with," Severus said, linking his arm through Harry's again, and a moment later he felt the familiar discomfort of Apparition, finding his footing again in a narrow alley beside a large brick building.

He had seen such supermarkets before, of course, from the window of Uncle Vernon's car, but he had never been inside one. Harry had supposed it to be a large grocery and was astonished to find CDs, clothing, computer software, and cosmetics just inside the doors that opened as if by magic when they approached. During the months they had spent in hiding, Hermione had sneaked into a few stores in search of food, but Harry had never risked going with her and now he was glad: he would have been entirely too distracted. "Come on," Severus said irritably, elbowing him past a table of electronic games. "The potion won't last all day."

"Right, right," Harry said, trying to rein in his curiosity. They turned away from the distracting displays, securing hand baskets along the way, one for each of them. As far as he could tell no one spared them a second glance, in the endless Muggle pursuit of consumer goods.

Severus kept them on track, producing a list from one pocket and keeping an eye on Harry as he divvied up the items. Harry had to force himself not to linger in the dairy aisle -- he had never seen so much cheese in one place. When Severus found him ten minutes later, Harry's nose was plastered to the front of the ice cream freezer. "I want to try them all," he said as a hand squeezed his shoulder.

"Pick two," Severus said very sternly. Two cases over, a harried-looking mother was shouting at her son that he could have chocolate or cherry vanilla but not both, and Harry grinned.

"The caramel swirl one and the chocolate coconut one." Severus rolled his eyes slightly but removed the tubs from the freezer and placed them in Harry's basket. They were satisfyingly heavy. "Is that everything?"

"Did you find the crackers and the... what's this?" Reaching into the basket, Severus held up the double-sized chocolate bar Harry had tried to hide under a package of nuts.

"Must've fallen in by accident," Harry explained. The little boy who had wanted two kinds of ice cream was pouting at him from the shopping cart ahead. Harry saw the indecision flicker across Severus's face. "I can pay you back," he said quickly, his voice gruffer than his usual one. "When I get my Galleons changed over."

Severus snorted. "I was merely wondering if the fat content was suitable for melting for erotic purposes," he said, turning away so quickly that Harry couldn't tell if he was joking or not. He hurried to catch up, the unfamiliar legs longer but also more difficult to get used to.

Even with his face Polyjuiced, Severus scowled deeply in the checkout line, so that the clerk's friendly greeting faltered and there was no conversation. Remembering that he was supposed to keep an eye open for potential potion ingredients, Harry noticed a few hairs among the dandruff on the sleeve of the man bagging his groceries ahead of them. He was short and stocky, sufficiently nondescript. Moving to help bag their own groceries, Harry arranged to bump into him, apologizing and grabbing at the hairs while pretending to keep the man from stumbling.

Outside, Snape collected bags from the cart and shook his head slightly at Harry as they rounded the corner. "This is ludicrous. The hero of the wizarding world wants to eat caramel ice cream with me."

"Wants to eat caramel ice cream off you," Harry corrected in a low voice, gratified by the warmth suffusing Severus's cheeks. He held out the hairs. "Do you have anything we can put these in?"

Severus looked at the wisps of hair then back at Harry. "Perhaps you are not quite as impossible as I thought," he said, shifting the bag to Harry's other arm. From within his robes he drew out a stoppered vial, sliding the hairs into them while they huddled together on the sidewalk.

Once the vial was safely tucked away in Severus's robes, Harry said, "We'd better get home," he said, hoping Severus wouldn't argue about Harry calling what was technically Severus's house home. "I think the ice cream is melting without us."

"There is such a thing as a cooling charm," Severus pointed out, though without the disapproval Harry would have expected when he was a student. "Take my arm."

The pressure of Apparition swallowed Harry again, but there was a sort of exhilaration about doing it with Severus. Harry had certainly never imagined that he would be traveling this way with a man whom reason had told him was dead. Impulsively he threw his arms around Severus, who stumbled in the parlor of his house, nearly dropping the bag with the eggs. "What's the matter now?" he demanded.

"Nothing." Harry could feel himself grinning. "Just happy to be back here. Can we put a cooling charm on the food and sort it out later, and go back to bed?"

For just a moment, Harry thought Severus was about to refuse, not because he didn't want to, but because he was used to refusing Harry, and his own pleasures. Then the thin lips twitched and the black eyes darkened with arousal. He shifted the bag between them and dropped his other arm around Harry's waist. "As long as we can have ice cream for dessert," he said. The bag crackled as he leaned forward to kiss Harry.

Severus's face had mostly returned to its usual appearance, and Harry was glad -- he didn't want to be kissing someone with the face of a stranger, even if he knew it was Snape. Nor did he want Severus kissing anyone else. It was strange to think how much more attractive he found Severus now than he had just a day earlier, and how the nondescript face he had put on had been far less interesting.

"I'm looking forward to the ice cream. Hope it's melting," he grinned.

Harry felt his own features settling back to their normal lines, his body shrinking slightly in Severus's embrace. At least Severus didn't look displeased when he returned to normal, sending the bag winging into the kitchen with the flick of his wand. "Ice cream and sex," Severus said, with the air of one much put upon, "Is that all you ever think about?"

Harry pulled him down for another kiss, satisfied that both their bodies had returned completely. "Pretty much, yeah," he said, "Now that all that business with Voldemort is settled."

Severus looked startled and Harry remembered the recent taboo against using the Dark Lord's name. "'That business'?" Severus said, and it was Harry's turn to be startled, at the warmth buried in Severus's eyes. "You mean the life and death struggle with the most notorious dark wizard of the last few centuries?"

"Oh -- you heard about it?" Harry said, but instead of answering Severus was kissing him again, pushing him back against the wall.

"I heard something about it," Severus muttered between kisses, tugging at Harry's clothes. "Prophecy about a prat with a scar on his forehead." He reached up and pushed Harry's hair out of his eyes, inspecting the mark that no longer felt painful and had faded like an old injury. It made Harry shiver, remembering all the times Snape had looked at him with such loathing. Then Severus leaned forward and licked it. The sensation was so unexpectedly powerful that Harry let out a keening moan, and Severus pulled back, startled. "Was that..."

"Do it again!" Oh god, that really shouldn't have been as arousing as it was. His fingers clenched into the Muggle shirt, pulling Severus against him, tilting his face up. Slowly Severus lowered his face, nuzzling over the uneven skin with just his lips. Harry was grateful for the support when Severus's tongue flicked over the scar. "That's --" He cleared his throat and tried again, "Really good."

Severus cupped his chin and stared down at him. "There is no trace of --" He peered at the jagged line on Harry's forehead, "Of what lay inside it before?"

The memory of that dreamy time at King's Cross flashed into Harry's mind, but he was sure there was nothing inside him any more that he hadn't been born with. Wordlessly, he shook his head.

"Interesting," Severus said, lips brushing lightly again over Harry's forehead.

Harry heard a ripping sound, then a surprised snort. With chagrin he realized that he had torn the sleeve of Severus's flimsy shirt away from the shoulder. "Sorry," he muttered, blushing, and heard Severus laugh once more.

"Trying to tear off my clothes, Potter?"

Harry laughed too. "Since you'd rather stand around talking about Dark Lords than ice cream and sex, I didn't really have a choice."

"Talking wasn't what I had in mind at all," Severus growled in a low voice, returning his tongue to Harry's face, flicking it over his ear. Fuck, that tickled. He giggled helplessly, turning it into a groan when he felt Severus's teeth close around his earlobe. Without thinking his thrust his hips against Severus's.

Something hard met his thrust and Harry moved against it, feeling and hearing the groan that roiled out of Severus's throat. He wasn't sure they would make it upstairs at this rate, though no part of him seemed to mind. Not when Severus was kissing parts of Harry that had been overlooked in all his previous sexual experience. Which, considering that had been limited to erratic frotting and fumbling, seemed a shameful if unsurprising oversight.

Following Severus's lead, Harry leaned forward, rubbing his mouth over the bit of shoulder peeking through the ripped sleeve. Warm skin met his mouth and Harry immediately wanted more, tugging the trailing white fabric to get more of his mouth against more of Severus.

"If you keep that up, I'll have you over the kitchen table," growled Severus. Which sounded really good to Harry, if perhaps not the most comfortable way to lose his virginity, but a moment later Severus tore himself away and caught a flying tub of ice cream out of midair where he had summoned it. His other hand reached out and caught a vial of something that Harry guessed to be lube. "Upstairs," he growled.

As it had done the day before, the staircase appeared magically at the back of the parlor. Harry practically dragged Severus to it, hoping Severus had done whatever kind of charm the food required to stay fresh because Harry couldn't be bothered to ask about it now. With a grin, he summoned a spoon.

He left bits of the Muggle clothes all over Severus's bedroom. His trousers by the chair, his socks, god, who knew as he lifted the shirt over his head. He flung himself onto the bed, not worried that he felt more at home in this bed that he'd shared with Severus for the last two nights than he had in the camp bed he'd occupied alone all this year. "What flavor did you bring?" he asked, shoving the unmade blankets and sheets aside so Severus could join him.

"The white one." Severus looked entirely uninterested in the ice cream, though he was gazing hungrily at Harry as he approached the bed. His cock was sticking out, stiff and red in contrast to his pale skin and black, wiry hair. "Though you are welcome to fetch the other. Since you are the one so insistent upon having ice cream, I believe that you should eat it first." With a significant look he handed Harry the tub and lay down beside him.

Harry had never shrunk from a challenge in his life, and wasn't about to start, not when this one held the promise of such erotic results. He unwrapped the lid and crossed his legs so he was sitting next to Severus's hip. The ice cream was satisfactorily melty around the edges so Harry started there, scooping up a spoonful, studying the open canvas of Severus's belly. He let the ice cream slip off just over the dip of his navel.

"Are you daft?" Severus said, looking down as if Harry had branded him with another evil tattoo.

"Don't think so," Harry said, leaning over, licking all around the edges, slurping the rest out of his bellybutton, tongue playing with the goose-pimpled flesh around it.

"That is... surprisingly pleasant," Severus said. Harry saw, between licks, one finger go into the carton, and come up full of ice cream. He lifted his own mouth, wordlessly asking to share. Severus tasted the finger, made a curious face, then offered the remainder to Harry. Surely Severus had eaten caramel before?

The base was sweet, creamy vanilla, and Harry slid his mouth down to the second knuckle, sucking the finger clean. He could taste the salt of Severus's skin by the time he had finished, and Severus's breath was heavier. "Mmm... s'good."

Immediately Severus dipped his finger back into the tub and held it out again. Grinning, Harry licked more slowly up the palm, catching the ice cream where it dripped, before taking the finger back into his mouth and sucking with shameless noises of pleasure. He heard Severus groan as well and released the finger with a popping noise. "Did you want to eat some?"

A moment later he found himself sprawled on his back awkwardly across the center of the bed as Severus dove forward, pressing his shoulders down. Harry let out a small cry as something cold dripped alongside his cock, and then another cry: Severus was licking it off. Caught between shuddering and giggling, Harry carded his fingers through Severus's hair, thrusting up helplessly into his mouth. But Severus was having none of it, avoiding Harry's needy erection in favor of catching the rivulet of ice cream melting into the fan of hair in which Harry's prick nested.

"Oh, fuck," Harry groaned, not certain how much longer he could stand the delicious torture.

"Mm, yes, I think that's somewhere on the agenda," came the husky voice from below his hips as Severus licked his way back up Harry's cock.

Shivering, and not only because the ice cream was cold, Harry tried to look at Severus, but the older man's head was bent over his cock. "You know I'm... I've never..." he stuttered uneasily.

Snape lifted his head wearing a smile that looked entirely satisfied at the implication. "In that case, I expect you to take extra care," he said.

"You'll -- I mean, you'll go slowly, right?"

The dark eyes widened slightly. "You want me to top?" he asked, sounding surprised.

"I -- yes," Harry said, liking the feeling of having pleased Severus somehow; he'd half expected him to be disappointed that Harry didn't know very much. "If you don't mind, that is," he added as that warm tongue licked a stripe down his cock possessively.

"Mind? That I must once again become your teacher?" Harry decided on the spot he liked that husky growl that had crept into Severus's voice, liked what it did to his cock, not that that needed much prompting after being worked over with ice cream and Severus's mouth. He arched up hopefully, but Severus leaned back, scooping a fingerful of ice cream into his mouth before bending back over Harry and licking him once more.

The contrast of the cold and the tongue made Harry cry out. "Oh fuck!" His cock shoved forward into Severus's mouth, seeking the warmth of his throat, and Severus made an odd noise. "Oh god, I'm sorry," Harry promptly amended, but a moment later he realized that Severus had snickered.

Severus worked his mouth up and down Harry's cock, letting the ice cream melt, swallowing it before he pulled back with a sticky pop. "Such impatience, Potter," he scolded, though it sounded more pleased than disapproving. "You wouldn't want me to be so hasty with my prick, would you?"

Actually, right then, Harry was thinking that having Severus press him down and fuck him would be the hottest thing ever, but he knew reality wouldn't match the fantasy if it was like that, so he shook his head breathlessly. "No, sir."

Severus's eyes narrowed as if checking to see if Harry was mocking him, but something in Harry's face, which must be, if anything, flushed with arousal, convinced him. "If you haven't availed yourself of your previous opportunities to rid yourself of your virginity, then at least give me the chance to do it properly."

Right now, 'properly' sounded so good, Harry thought his prick would explode, especially when Severus punctuated it with another dollop of ice cream just at the base of his cock. His balls shifted as soon as the cold hit them, tightened almost as if he were ready to come already. "There haven't been that many opportunities to do this," he said, feeling a bit defensive, and a bit shy about having waited.

Severus gave him a look that usually meant he was going to say something about the ineptitude of Gryffindors and Harry in particular but seemed to distract himself with licking up the ice cream that was already making a sticky mess of the base of Harry's cock. Harry was whimpering by the time he had finished, stopping himself from coming through willpower alone, which mostly meant trying to imagine how he'd feel if Severus told him he was an idiot and threw him out right now.

"I think," Severus murmured in a low, dangerous voice, "that this will all go more easily if you relax." His tongue slid up, leaving a damp stripe along Harry's cock, and then his mouth engulfed the entire head and he was sucking and his head was bobbing up and down and...

"Bloody hell, oh fuck, oh god!" Harry's hips wrenched up off the bed, thrusting into Severus's eager mouth which didn't let up even the least little bit. "God, Severus, please..."

It was all he got out before orgasm overwhelmed him, making him levitate practically off the bed, arching to keep his cock between those amazing lips. Severus made a small noise of satisfaction through his nose, swallowing around the head of Harry's cock, and did not release it until Harry had collapsed against the mattress as if every bit of tension he had ever felt had just been sucked out of him.

"That's better. Now you will be able to pay attention when I prepare you for my prick," Severus said, and Harry's spent cock gave a feeble little twitch.

Harry eyed the prick in question, eager to see what it felt like inside him. "Should I, er, be doing anything?" he asked as Severus set the ice cream aside, tapping it with his wand, presumably to keep it from melting further. "To help, I mean," he went on when Severus rolled his eyes.

"Aside from lying there like sex personified, giving yourself to the world's most unlikely candidate for relieving you of your virginity?" he said, picking up the vial he had summoned earlier. "After having come at my touch?" Severus pushed him back into the pillows. "No, I don't think you need do more than that just yet."

Had Snape just complimented him? That was hard for Harry to wrap his brain around, and would have been even had he not been distracted by Severus moving Harry's legs, spreading them, bending the knees and planting his feet on the mattress. He continued to watch as Severus took the vial, opened it and drizzled something slippery and warm across the inside of one of Harry's thighs and ran his fingers into the small pool he'd made there.

Instinctively Harry raised his knees, holding them apart with his hands. He could no longer see what Severus was doing, but he felt the fingers brush over his thighs and around his balls. It felt good, and his cock twitched again, though he wondered belatedly whether he looked too needy or greedy or... well, clean enough. "Um... should I go to the loo before we do this?" he asked awkwardly.

Severus pulled his fingers back in a hurry. "Do you need to?" he asked sternly.

Harry shook his head, blushing again. "I just thought... I don't know if you'd rather I wash, or..."

Wordlessly Severus picked up his wand in his clean hand. For a terrifying, thrilling moment Harry thought he was actually going to put the wand inside him... but he only aimed it, still wordlessly, and Harry felt a cool tingle inside and outside his arse. Setting the wand aside, Severus said, "The spell is Perpurgo. I suggest that you learn to perform it nonverbally for your future partners."

Harry felt his stomach clench. He didn't want "future partners" -- he almost said so, but then it occurred to him that of course Severus didn't want him sticking around here forever, even if he let Harry stay for a while. Severus had planned to run away from everyone and everything. Trying to hide his disappointment, he said, "Oh. I'll -- I'll practice."

Severus gave him a sharp look, as if he too wanted to say something more. Instead his fingers stroked almost absently until he looked away from Harry's face. Then his hand moved to cup Harry's balls, the slick finger sliding down behind them until it could trace small circles around the dusky hole just beyond. "See that you do," Severus said, without looking at him.

Harry felt the odd distance suddenly between them but wasn't sure what to do about it. They seemed to communicate best without words, so he slid the side of his foot along Severus's leg. "Of course, you may have to teach me loads of times," he said, trying to tilt his face toward Severus's and catch his eye. "You know what a bad student I always was."

That seemed to satisfy Severus, who smirked faintly and pressed the finger down. Harry gasped slightly as it penetrated him, feeling strange rather than arousing until Severus brushed his thumb over the underside of Harry's balls. "You need to tell me if you are uncomfortable," he chided in a tone akin to his teaching voice, only thick with what Harry now realized was desire. "Don't presume that I will know which whimpers and sighs indicate excitement and which express discomfort."

"I will," Harry promised, pressing down against the finger. Whatever spell Snape had used on his arse, it seemed to have left him open and a bit slick in addition to clean, but after a moment Snape paused and retrieved the vial of clear potion which he spilled across several fingers, then rubbed over Harry's arse again. It felt good to be touched so intimately, even if the sensations were a bit unexpected, especially when Snape cupped his balls and rolled them in his palm.

"Have you touched yourself here often?" The question, combined with Snape's finger sliding in deeper, made Harry blush.

"Define often," Harry said, wishing just once he could sound worldly instead of like an untutored child. Instead of replying, Severus seemed to be focusing on moving his fingers a certain way, swinging his face around to watch Harry's, until, just as Harry was going to ask him again, his longest finger brushed against something inside him that made Harry nearly arch off the bed. "God, oh fuck," he gasped, when his vision had cleared.

"Not often, then," Severus said, pushing in again. Even prepared for it -- sort of -- Harry bucked up again, mewling, writhing, anything to get more of that spark of pleasure where he never expected it.

He didn't want to tell Severus that "not often" might be a bit of an overstatement. He'd never done more than rub the surface and wriggle a fingertip in, and that had felt strange as well as good; it was nothing like what Severus was doing, stroking until Harry thought he would turn inside out with pleasure.

"Another," said Severus in a voice that held both warning and promise, a moment before Harry felt himself pushed open much more widely. Severus was using two fingers now, so slick that they moved almost effortlessly, though the stretch was much more marked now. "Am I hurting you?"

"N-no," Harry stuttered, though he clenched up momentarily. Severus withdrew the fingers, rubbing more oil around Harry's hole. "Just, I'm not really used to it." He didn't want to ask whether it would hurt having a cock in there, but he suspected that it must.

"If you are tense, you won't enjoy it," Severus said in a voice Harry had never heard him use before. It was coaxing, encouraging... if he had ever spoken to Harry that way in Potions class, it might have been Harry's best subject.

"Really," Harry said, leaning up on his elbows, because watching what Snape was doing was quite arousing by itself, "I'm feeling more relaxed by the moment."

Severus replied with another slow slide of fingers inside him, making sure to brush over the sensitive spot within, rocking Harry slightly with each push. The hot pleasure inside him was so intense he thought he might come just from that, but before he could test the theory, Severus withdrew his fingers. Harry's eyes widened as he reached for the vial again, coating the already glistening fingers.

"Tell me at once if it's too..." Severus's cheeks pinked up slightly. "If it's too much."

He lowered his hand to his cock, stroking, leaving gleaming streaks up the shaft until the whole thing was shiny. Watching that was even more arousing than watching Severus with his fingers in Harry's arse, and Harry moaned quietly again. "Should I -- would it be better if I rolled over?" He didn't really want to -- he wanted to be able to watch what Severus was doing -- but he wasn't really sure how this worked, between men.

Severus appeared momentarily indecisive. "It might be more comfortable," he conceded. "Though you will need to tell me in words whether I am moving too quickly..."

"Will you be able to tell from looking at me, otherwise?" That idea excited Harry -- that Severus would be watching him that closely -- though it was also intimidating, to be sharing something so intimate. Well, he probably had no business having sex with Severus if he wasn't willing to share like that. "Let's try it this way then instead."

"Very well. Lift your legs," Severus said, nodding and looking as eager as Harry had yet seen him.

Scrambling to obey, Harry lifted his legs, feeling rather awkward until Severus slid his hands under Harry's calves and settled them around his waist. He stared down a moment, and Harry, already feeling self conscious, tugged on his bottom lip. "What -- what is it?" he asked worriedly. He wasn't sure he could bear it if Severus had changed his mind now.

"You look very... pleasing like this," Severus said, dropping his fingers around his cock as if to distract himself. Harry found himself holding his breath, then remembered the part about being relaxed and exhaled slowly, squeezing his legs around Severus's body.

"I -- thank you," Harry gasped as the head of Severus's cock nudged against him. "You look really hot doing that," he added with a grin. He could have sworn that Severus was blushing, but a moment later he was completely distracted from thinking about it as he felt Severus push forward, stretching Harry open with his cock as he moved.

God, it felt enormous, and Harry almost said so but then he was afraid he'd sound either like an inexperienced idiot or like he thought he had to babble compliments, so he bit his lip again. Severus was still looking down at him, studying his expression. "All right?" he asked in that thick, aroused voice.

"Yes -- oh fuck -- don't stop moving," Harry gasped, shifting his hips and finding that the burning ache faded into raw sensation as he pressed down. Severus obeyed him, smirking faintly, though he didn't seem to be able to close his mouth as Harry trembled and moaned softly.

"Tell me if it's too fast," said Severus, and began to slide out and in.

Harry shook his head in eager confirmation. "Not too fast," Harry said, wrapping his hand around his own cock. Severus's motion was nearly enough to speed his hand along it -- nearly. He saw Severus's eyes widen slightly as he took himself in hand, and the sharp arousal when he gave his cock a firm stroke. "Do I look--" He tried to remember exactly what Severus had said at the sight of him, spread out and open, but it was hard to remember anything but the need to rub and touch, and oh yes, right there -- "Pleasing like this?"

Severus grunted softly, and for a moment Harry thought the question had been a mistake -- this was still Snape, after all, who hadn't said one nice word to Harry in six years at Hogwarts. But Snape's nostrils flared as he thrust, and his eyes were dark and hungry when he spoke: "Very pleasing. I won't -- it's been a long -- "

Then Severus shuddered, slamming in so hard that the room went out of focus, and Harry heard him grunt again urgently, jerking forward in little frantic movements. I made him come, Harry realized, gloating and more excited than he had ever been, tugging hard on his cock, pulling himself over with just a few hard strokes while he felt Severus continuing to twitch in his arse. "Oh fuck, yes!" he blurted when he could breathe again, wondering whether he sounded as self-satisfied to Severus's ears as he did to his own.

He wanted to leave his eyes open, to savor the knowledge that Severus had come inside him, was even now shaking with the release that was still slamming through Harry. Pleasure swept him away, relentless, surrounded by other sensations besides sight -- the hot moans that passed between them, the sharp tang of semen, the smell of sex-sweaty bodies. When Harry finally got his eyes back open Severus was looking at him, almost as if he expected to take something back.

"That was good," he said, panting a bit to put some vehemence in it. "Really, really good," he went on, and Severus's face relaxed somewhat.

"No doubt you'll want ice cream every time we make -- have sex," he said, voice still roughened, and to Harry, still arousing.

"No doubt," Harry replied. "As long as we get to do that again. A lot."

Severus shifted back, letting his cock slide out of Harry's body, a loss and relief both. He was a bit sore and felt stretched in places he never had before, but he also felt very lazy and content, and he smiled at Severus.

"At my age, 'a lot' may be asking for more than I can promise," Severus grumbled.

"I don't mean a lot at once... we can spread it out over a lot of months," Harry told him.

Severus didn't look like he was going to object, either to the idea of Harry staying, or when Harry crawled up beside him, though he had to practically tug Severus's hand over him.

"And how are we going to finance this romantic idyll you have planned?" Severus said, though the question wasn't as sharp as it might have been pre-coitally.

"I've got money," Harry said, happy when Severus didn't pull away when he wiggled one leg in between his. "For a while. Enough for ice cream at least," he added cheekily, hopefully letting Severus know he didn't intend to sponge on his hospitality forever.

"Enough to keep me hidden away while the Ministry debates whether I deserve Azkaban for my crimes?" Severus spoke in a rather lazy drawl, but Harry could hear the bite beneath the words. "You can't possibly believe that I can simply return."

"Actually, I do believe that. The Ministry is in shambles. It looks like Kingsley is going to end up in charge, and I'm sure he'll..."

"You can't be certain. It would be wisest for me to leave the country at once."

"Then I'll go with you," Harry said defiantly.

"You can't possibly believe --" Severus began with a snort, then compressed his lips firmly. "I see you're just as naive and untutored as ever," he said, though he hadn't moved away.

"Why not?" Harry said, liking the idea of it more and more. "I've never been anywhere -- well, not anywhere that wasn't cold and damp -- and you've never been anywhere."

"Why do you suppose that I would want --" Severus tried again and a stab of pain hit Harry. Severus really was going to kick him out, despite all they'd done, all he still wanted to do. Then Severus blew out a soft sigh, staring down at Harry as if working out a new spell. "Would want to go someplace that wasn't cold and damp?"

"All right, then, we can go to Leeds or York or something." Harry offered what he hoped was a winning smile. "Or if you want to leave England, I hear Moscow is cold and damp."

Severus smirked again, but he still had that curiously wistful expression on his face. "Why would you wish to travel with me? I am hardly a tourist. You could go with someone nearer your own age, who isn't an accused murderer -- a more cheerful travel companion."

"I want to go with you," Harry said stubbornly, squeezing Severus around the waist for emphasis. "I know I'm naive and untutored -- I don't want to have to pretend to be The Chosen One with someone. And you and I hardly know each other, really. Do you..." He took a breath. "Don't you want to go with me?"

Severus pressed his lips together as if he wasn't going to answer the question, or was trying to keep from kissing Harry -- Harry couldn't quite be sure. "What I want isn't the issue," he said after a pause.

Harry made a face. "Why isn't it?" he asked, not sure whether he should keep holding onto Severus's waist or let go. Holding on felt better so he held tight.

"I don't want to make plans with you and then have you go back to your friends and worshippers and I'm--" He blew out a breath the ruffled through Harry's hair.

"I'll still want to see them," Harry argued softly, "but I want to be with you."

He thought Severus would protest further, but though a frown still creased the pale face, Severus did not reply. "You know things about me that none of them do," Harry continued. "I felt like I was suffocating back at Hogwarts, after it all ended; all I wanted to do was try to find you. I don't -- you don't think I actually have worshippers?" At the half-ironic, half-repelled twist of Severus's lips, Harry shook his head slightly. "Well, if I do, they don't know me any better than the all the people who wanted to meet the Boy Who Lived. I don't care what they think."

"And since when have you cared what I thought?" countered Snape.

Harry wiggled his hips suggestively and said, "Since we started doing this. Though actually I think --" He paused, trying to answer more seriously. "I think," he said again more thoughtfully, "I've cared longer than I realized." He ran a finger down the center of Severus's chest then looked up.

Severus took the finger and lifted it to his mouth, kissing it. "I still find it hard to believe that you came to find me," he said, voice full of quiet wonder.

"I had to," Harry said, flinging himself into Severus's chest. "I can't explain it; I just knew it's what I had to do."

"And you want to throw away all the opportunities you will have, now that you have defeated the Dark Lord, to be with me?" Severus's arms tightened around him.

"Not throwing away anything I really want. I want this." Harry rubbed his cheek against the hairy skin.

Severus sighed softly, but there was no longer any despair in the sound. "Very well, then, I suppose I had better fetch another bottle of whisky. I suppose we do have something to celebrate after all."