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The dungeons are quiet. Preternaturally so. More so than usual. As quiet, perhaps, as Severus ever remembers them being.

It’s unsettling. Or, it would be, if Severus could actually think about it. If Severus could think about anything.

If he weren’t so bloody tired.

He blinks. Blinks again, as if registering his surroundings for the first time. He’s in front of the fire, but he’s shivery and cold. Shock, his brain supplies unhelpfully.

How long has he been standing here? Severus isn’t sure. Minutes maybe? Hours?

His rooms are as they always are. The walls haven’t caved in. He’s not surrounded by smouldering ruins or crumbling stone, even if it feels as though he should be.

It’s still dark outside. The lake is eerily still.

Severus looks down at his hands. They’re covered in blood. His shirt too—the white stained so dark it’s nearly black. His body aches and his throat… He tries not to think about his throat. But he is alive. He is alive.

He remembers the pain, the blinding, searing flash of it. And there was fear too, a fear that made his heart pound and his blood run cold—even if one expects to die, doing so is an entirely different matter all together. But there was also the sense of completion, of being…finished. He’d given his memories to the boy, accomplished Albus’s final, impossible task. And there was no one left to save.

Potter, after all, was beyond anyone’s reach.

But then there was the magic. Disorienting, soothing, and so fucking powerful, it was enough to make Severus forget that he was supposed to be bleeding out on that filthy floor.

Professor, you’re all right now. You’ll be all right. But I have to go now. I have to kill him… And in that moment, Severus wanted so desperately to believe him that he hadn’t contradicted him—couldn’t bring himself to tell him no, that’s not how it has to happen—before Potter stood and walked from the room, phial of memories clutched in his hand.

Severus shakes his head, shakes the thought away.

He should take a shower. He should go to bed. He should have let Poppy drug him into oblivion. He should be dead. He…

Severus feels him the moment he steps foot in the dungeons. Feels the press of Potter’s magic when he’s in front of his office.

Severus’s wards fall away as easy as breathing.

Potter does have the decency to knock when he reaches the door to his rooms, even though Severus knows he could dismantle the wards there, too.

“You’re here,” Potter says, when Severus opens his door. Severus can’t pretend he doesn’t see the relief in his expression and that, alone, is so unexpected that he doesn’t stop Potter as he slips past Severus into the room.

“When you weren’t in the hospital…” Potter is saying.

Severus looks at him; he feels dazed. But Potter only furrows his brow, narrows his eyes. “Did Pomfrey release you because—”

“I might have left against her orders.” Severus wants to add: Not that it’s any of your concern, but, at the look that crosses Potter’s face, he says instead, “I am fine. I promise you. I am fine.” And he is.

He’s so tired—more tired than he thinks he’s ever been. He’s hurting. Circe, his head, his throat. And he’ll be scarred. That can’t be helped. But he’s alive when he absolutely should not be. Potter’s magic is still pulsing through his veins, and he knows, despite everything, he’ll be all right. It’s an indescribable feeling. Knowing it’s over. Knowing he survived when he should not have done.

“Thank Merlin.” Potter shoves his hands in his pockets and looks around. Severus feels oddly on display. “It’s nice in here,” he concludes after a moment. “Are all the professors’ rooms like this?”

Severus shrugs. “Some. Not Minerva’s.”

“No,” Potter says. “I’ve been up there. When it was Dumbledore’s still.”

Severus nods. His brain feels foggy, as though he’s surfaced from a deep pool, spent too long without air. He’s not sure why Potter is here.

“You’re covered in blood,” Potter says.

Severus nods. It’s true. “Yes. And you.”

Potter looks down as though only just realising.

His jumper is torn, stained with gore and mud. A scorch mark spans his left shoulder, curves around to his back. Severus sees bloodied flesh beneath the split fabric there.

“Yeah. I could really use a shower.” Potter tugs the jumper over his head, drops it on the floor. The shirt beneath is also torn. It’s damp with sweat, caked with more dried blood.

Severus reaches out a hand, places it on Potter’s shoulder.

Potter winces at the rush of healing magic. “Thanks.”

“You should see Poppy.”

“No. She has enough on her plate right now. Besides, I’ll be all right.” He shakes his head. “Fuck, Snape. I was dead and now I’m not. I’m not sure there’s much Pomfrey could do for me anyhow.”

Severus isn’t certain of that, but he doesn’t know what else to say. “You are…”

“I’m not dead,” Potter says, stripping off his t-shirt, “and isn’t that the craziest thing?”

Severus can’t help the gasp. He can see exactly where the curse hit him. Potter’s skin is blistered and burned, a latticework of dark lines extends outwards from the centre of his chest, like fingers, like spider legs.

“Oh.” Potter looks down. “It’s all right, really.” He presses his palm to his chest. Closes his eyes and breathes out. The wound is still oozing and raw when he lowers his hand again, but the surrounding skin is mottled and bruised now. “I’m okay, but I’m cold and I’m tired, and a shower would be brilliant.”

“Gryffindor Tower?” Severus says because he still has no idea what Potter is doing here.

“The north and west towers didn’t fare too well. They’ll be rebuilt, I’m sure, but—” he looks down, bites his lip. “I can’t go to the Burrow.” His voice catches, then. “Not now, not with everything they’re dealing with, so…” He looks up again, and while Severus can feel the grief pouring off him in waves, his expression is oddly calm. “The Room of Requirement was destroyed, or I could—But here? You and me, I thought…” He trails off again, shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I’ll go.”

“No.” The word is out before Severus can stop himself.

Potter looks at him.

“No,” he says again. Then, “You actually did it. You let him kill you.”

“Yes.”

“You saved my life.”

Potter nods. “I wasn’t going to let you die, Snape. Surely you know me well enough by now to realise that.”

Severus’s thoughts are skipping like stones. “Even believing—”

“Even believing you were a traitorous arsehole who killed Dumbledore in cold blood and had been working for Voldemort all along?” He tilts his head to one side. “Yeah.” He’s watching Severus closely now, green eyes assessing. “Did anyone know?”

Severus shakes his head. Albus always insisted. Trust no one. Confide in no one.

“That fucking bastard,” Potter says, voice hard.

Something in Severus’s chest clenches.

“He made everyone think you were a murderer.”

“I am a murderer, Potter.”

“Yeah, me too. In case you hadn’t noticed. But you know what I mean. He wanted you to be alone, for all of us to think you were a loyal Death Eater.”

“It was necessary. I was a spy.” What he doesn’t say is that it was also penance. Penance for every mistake he ever made. For a lifetime of poor decisions. “I—”

“You didn’t deserve it.” The words are gentle, almost kind. Potter takes a step closer. “And you could have trusted me. We could have worked together. I might still have hated you, mind.” Potter’s lips curve slightly. “But trust is more important.”

Severus nods dumbly. He does not disagree with the assessment.

“Come on, Snape. You know I’m right. Tell me, how many people have you ever truly trusted?”

Severus frowns, turns to sit down on the sofa. He’s so damned tired. “Two.” He leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Albus. I trusted Albus. I hated him for what he asked of me—for what he made me do—but I trusted him.”

“And the other person?”

“Your mother.”

Potter moves to stand in front of him, but he does not sit down. “You loved her.”

“I did.”

Potter nods. “You’re in my head, Snape. I don’t know what happened, but those memories…”

Severus exhales. He feels shaky and out of focus. “I was dying.”

“I know.”

“I’m not even sure what all I showed you. They were unstable. Perhaps—”

“That’s not it.” He stops, fixes his eyes on Severus. “But I think you know that.”

“The Life Debt.”

“Maybe,” Potter concedes. “But I’ve had Life Debts before. Hell, we’ve had Life Debts to each other before. But this? This is different. There’s just too much magic between us.” Potter grimaces then, closing his eyes. He sways slightly on his feet. Severus stands, reaches a hand out to steady him.

“You’re in pain.”

“I’m fine.”

“Let me take you to Poppy…” he tries again.

But Potter is shaking his head. “No.”

“Come then.” Severus leads Potter down the narrow hallway to his bedroom. He doesn’t bother with the lights. The room is a mess. He steps around a pile of discarded robes and pushes the door open to the bath. It’s small and cramped, but he has clean towels and hot water. “Here,” he says, opening the cabinet above the toilet. He hands Potter a pain draught.

He takes it, swallows it down. “Thanks.”

“Sit,” Severus says, and Potter leans back against the countertop, as Severus washes his hands. He does not look at the blood, at the way the water runs red with it. The jar of Dittany is nearly empty. He’ll need to distil some more—assuming he has the dried herbs. And Poppy’s stores— Severus closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. These past months, he spent every spare moment he could in his lab. He did his best to assure her hospital was well-stocked. In case he was called away. In case something happened. In case…

Never in his endless string of contingencies did he imagine the castle would be attacked, that Hogwarts would become a war zone.

Perhaps he should have done.

After all, the Dark Lord had proven time and time again that he was capable of the unthinkable.

“You okay there?” Potter’s voice cuts through his thoughts.

“I…yes. Here.” He dips his fingers into the Dittany, smooths his fingers over the gash on Potter’s shoulder. His healing spell had knitted the skin back together, but it isn’t holding. He’s exhausted.

Potter shivers. Reaches up to trace the newly scarred skin.

Severus takes some more Dittany, holds his hand over Potter’s chest. “I’m not sure it can do anything for this.”

“You mean you haven’t tested your salve out on many Killing Curse wounds?” Potter smiles, a slight twist of pink lips. He quirks an eyebrow. It’s so unexpected that it pulls a laugh from Severus.

“I…no. Other injuries. Crucio. But no.”

Potter reaches out, takes Severus’s hand in his. He pulls it towards him, covering his fingers with his own as Severus smooths Dittany over Potter’s chest. He feels the thrum of Potter’s heart, beating too fast beneath his ribs. He feels Potter’s magic under his palm; it’s like a rush of blood in his ears.

Potter exhales.

“I’m all right,” he says then. “We’re all right.” He slips off the counter, stepping past Severus to turn on the shower.

“I’ll just, er…” But Severus isn’t sure what he’ll do. He feels as though he’s run a marathon—which, in honesty, isn’t far from the truth. He smells of sweat and blood and wants nothing more than to take off his soiled clothes, shower and go to bed. And he doesn’t want to leave Potter, either. Or for Potter to leave him, leave his rooms.

But Potter says, “You should stay,” taking a step closer. Then his fingers are undoing the buttons on Severus’s shirt.

“Potter… What are you—what are we doing?”

“There was so much blood,” he says in way of explanation. “Too much blood.” He pushes Severus’s shirt off his shoulders, lets it fall to the floor.

The room has filled with steam from the shower. Severus thinks he can still taste it—the cloying, metallic taste of blood as it spilled from his throat, clotted in his mouth, made it impossible to breathe.

“You should have told me,” Potter says softly.

“Told you what?”

“About my mother.”

“It wasn’t your business.”

Potter shrugs. “Maybe not. But if I’d known how you felt...”

“How I felt did not matter.”

Potter closes his eyes. Takes a breath. “No. But at least I would have understood.”

Severus feels off balance, but he cannot remember the last time he slept. He’s survived the Dark Lord and his murderous snake, the Boy Hero is half-naked in his bathroom and standing so close he can feel the warmth of his skin, smell the sweat, the lingering curse work that clings to the air around him. “Understood what?”

Potter looks at him again. Severus can tell he’s tired from the slope of his shoulders, the line of his spine. Still, his body hums with pent-up magic. It hangs around them like electricity. It makes him want to touch him. It’s harder than it should be to quell the impulse. He curls his hands into fists.

“I would have understood why you helped me, why you were always fucking there for me. Even when I thought you hated me.”

“I did hate you.”

At that Potter laughs. “I hated you too, Snape. But I don’t hate you now. Not anymore.” Potter takes a phial from his pocket and sets it on the countertop beside the sink. He takes off his glasses and puts them down beside it, then he turns his back to Severus, pushes his jeans, his pants down and kicks them aside. He steps into the narrow shower, pulls the glass door shut behind him.

Severus swallows, his mouth dry. “It was more than that, though,” he manages after a few moments. “More than your mother.”

Potter stands under the spray, lets it run over his shoulders, down his back. “I know that now too. Turns out you’re a good man, Professor. Despite what you wanted everyone to think.”

Severus wants to say no. That he is not, nor has he ever been a good man. But he can’t seem to form the words. He takes a deep breath instead. He should close his eyes. He should turn away. But Potter is naked and he is beautiful.

He’ll never be tall, and he’s still slender, boyish. But he’s strong. Severus can see the shape of the man he’s becoming, lean muscle beginning to fill out his build. His shoulders are broad, hips narrow…

“Aren’t you getting in?” Potter says, and Severus finds himself undoing his belt, pulling it from his trousers. He rolls it into a coil, sets it aside. He pauses, tries to clear his head. “I—”

“It’s not the Life Debt, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“No…” Because Severus has lived with Life Debts. He has had Life Debts owed to him. And, while there is some degree of compulsion—you cannot ignore them; Debts are repaid regardless of intention or desire—the magic is inherently amoral. And forced intimacy, sexual impulse, desire, coercion is undoubtedly wrong. This type of old magic recognises that, would never have him, standing half-dressed in his own bath, contemplating getting into his shower with, well, with anyone—least of all Harry Potter—unless, of course, he wanted to.

Potter is also acting on his own volition. Severus might not be certain of much right now, but he is certain of this.

“You don’t have to,” Potter says. He’s not looking at Severus; his face is turned up towards the water, and, for the first time, he sounds unsure. Severus finds this odd, considering the deliberate choice he made to come down to Severus’s rooms tonight when he would be welcome anywhere. After all, he’s just come back from the dead to save the goddamned world.

But there’s no compulsion here. Severus just wants… “It is the magic, though,” he says, taking his trousers down anyway. They’re filthy. He drops them in the corner, and turns back to Potter, but the boy only hums and ducks his head under the spray. He’s running his fingers through his hair, wetting it down. Severus tries to ignore how the water pooling at his feet is still tinged pink.

“Likely so,” Potter says. “But there’s always been something between us. You know that. It didn’t take this battle, or your memories in my head, or us both surviving.”

Severus isn’t sure what to say to that, but he joins Potter in his shower. The small space is just big enough for two—something Severus has never considered before—and it occurs to him that he should feel self-conscious, standing here naked before Potter. His body is thin and pale and scarred. He has never been an attractive man. But Potter is looking at him. His green eyes are unfocussed without his glasses, but he is clearly, blatantly, eagerly looking at him, and there is no revulsion, no disdain there. Only inexplicable, shameless…interest. And despite how extraordinarily, achingly tired he is, Severus’s prick is swelling and it’s all he can do to stand there, to not move forward and take Potter into his arms, to not reach out and press his palms against the flatness of his stomach, to feel the slickness of his skin.

“So we’re doing this, then?” Potter says with a soft laugh. And Severus nods, though he’s not certain he knows what this is. This temporary madness, this momentary lapse of reason, this…insanity.

Potter moves so the water hits Severus too. It’s hot, nearly as hot as he can stand, and it feels amazing.

“It is a tad weird that you loved my mother,” Potter says, reaching past Severus for the soap. He pours some into his palm, sudsing it between his hands. “But you never wanted her. Not really. Not the way you want me.”

Severus does not deny it, cannot. Potter would know the lie.

Potter washes methodically, first soaping his hair, the back of his neck, his shoulders. Severus watches as he scrubs the grime off his forearms, his elbows—the caked mud, soot, and dried blood.

Severus knows this is wrong, standing here, watching Potter this way. He should feel guilty and ashamed. But Severus has lived a lifetime doing what others commanded of him—Potter has too, for that matter—and tonight he doesn’t care what he should or should not do.

“And my magic,” Potter continues, shaking his head; water droplets splatter against the tile, against the glass door. “My magic has always—”

“Attracted me?”

Potter snorts. “I was going to say interested you, but yeah, that.” He hesitates then, looking down at his bruised and bloodied chest, and Severus takes the soap.

“Here, let me,” he says, hoping Potter can’t hear the breathless sound of his voice beneath the rushing of the water. Severus runs a soapy hand gently over his chest. The wound is no longer open, raw. The Dittany, the healing magic has worked and, though Potter will have a scar, his newly healed skin is soft and smooth beneath Severus’s fingers as he washes it clean. He lets his thumbnail scrape across one of Potter’s dark nipples, enjoys the way he holds his breath as Severus’s hand slides lower, over the flatness of his belly. He traces the jut of a hipbone with his fingertip.

Potter’s prick is half-hard, stiffened just enough to stand out from his thigh and Severus wants to take it in his soap-slick hand, see if Potter would arch against him as he stroked him off.

Instead, he closes his eyes, steps to the side to stand beneath the water. He holds his breath, tenses as it run down his neck, over his throat. But it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t sting. Potter touches Severus then, crowding even closer in the narrow space, as his hands settle on Severus’s hips. “It’s all right, you know. This. This is all right.”

Severus opens his eyes again. Potter is still watching him, and there is something in his expression, something in the way he seems to peer into Severus’s very thoughts, as though he knows far more than he should. Far more than he’s letting on.

“My turn now,” Potter says, taking the soap again.

Poppy cleaned the gash at Severus’s throat. But there is still blood. Potter’s hands are gentle as they wash it from his neck, his shoulders, his chest. Then he reaches up, runs his fingers through Severus’s wet hair. “There’s blood here too.”

“Yes.”

Severus ducks his head, lets Potter massage his scalp, wash his hair clean. And then Potter is crowding him back against the shower wall, and kissing him.

The kiss is hesitant, stilted, as though Potter hasn’t done this before, or as though he’s remembering how it’s done. But his mouth is soft as it opens against Severus’s and his skin… His skin is wet and warm as Severus slides his hands down his back to rest on his hips, to tug him closer against his body. Potter bites at Severus’s bottom lip, presses his tongue against it, licks at his mouth, and Severus opens to him, sucks on Potter’s tongue until he’s gasping against him.

Potter is fully hard now. Severus can feel his cock pressed against his thigh, and Potter shifts, rocks against him with a moan.

“Fuck, Snape,” Potter says, pulling back abruptly, “you’re going to have to touch me.”

“We should…” Severus says, breathless and shaking, “we should go to bed.” Because he wants to be dry and comfortable and, when Potter comes, he wants to feel it on his skin. If this is a one-off thing, he wants evidence on his sheets, in his bed. He doesn’t want it washed away, like their sweat, like their blood.

Potter tenses and, for a moment, Severus worries he’s going to refuse, that he’s realised how absurd this is, that they should not be together here in this way. But Potter nods and turns the water off. He opens the shower door to take a towel from the hook, hands a second one to Severus.

Severus dries his hair, drags a hand through it, slicking it back from his face, watches as Potter rubs his towel over his own head, dries himself off.

Potter tosses the towel on the floor and looks at Severus. “Yeah?”

He nods once and Potter turns. Severus follows him to his bedroom. The man’s arse is glorious.

Potter stops by his bed, runs a hand up Severus’s arm and leans in to kiss his neck, lips feather-light against the newly healed skin of his throat. He shivers, cups Potter’s cheek with his hand.

Severus strokes his thumb along Potter’s jaw. “You are certain you wish to be here with me?”

“I think that’s rather obvious.” Potter goes to reach down, touch himself, but Severus catches his wrist in his hand.

“I still need to hear you say it.”

“Yes, you fucking bastard,” Potter says, but then he frowns. “Unless you don’t want to because, if you’d asked me a few hours ago if I’d be down here with you now? Well—” he laughs, a short, harsh sound— “but I still feel your magic and I’ve had your thoughts in my head so—”

“Yes,” Severus says simply, and Potter stops. Looks at him for a long moment.

“Then get in bed with me.”

Severus doesn’t need to reach out with his magic, his mind to know that Potter is serious, that he wants this right now, no matter how incomprehensible the idea still is.

Severus’s bed is clean and warm. Potter presses the length of his body against Severus’s. “If you’ll just…” he says, rocking his hips. His prick is already leaking; it leaves a wet smear across Severus’s hip, makes him ache and want.

“What?” Severus asks, mouth against Potter’s shoulder. “Tell me what you want.”

“Get me off, Snape. I want you to make me come.”

He kisses Potter, rough and needy and not at all gentle. But Potter moans and thrusts against him, and Severus reaches out, runs his fingers along the underside of his cock, pushes his foreskin back with his thumb.

“Oh,” Potter says, head falling back, eyes closing for a moment. “Yes.”

He strokes him slowly, hand around his prick, wrist twisting, as his palm slides over the slickness of Potter’s cockhead. When Potter looks at him again, his gaze is soft, pupils blown, and he moves his hips along with Severus’s movements. They find a rhythm, Potter rocking into him, biting his lip, trying to be quiet.

“No one can hear you down here,” Severus says.

“You can.”

I want to hear you.”

“Fuck,” Potter groans, “what you do to me…” Severus’s own cock throbs as Potter arches into his stroke, grips Severus’s hip, blunt fingernails pressing into his skin.

“Tell me.” Severus drags his mouth over Potter’s jaw, feels the rough bite of stubble beneath his lips.

“You fucking arsehole,” Potter gasps, fingers clenching harder against Severus’s hip. He’ll be bruised. He wants to be bruised. “I used to hate you. What you did… fuck I thought—” He breaks off breathlessly. Severus tightens his grip, moves his hand faster. Potter is close, and that realisation is so arousing that Severus thinks he might come just from doing this. From tugging Potter’s cock, from feeling his body pressed against him in his bed.

“But you saved us,” Potter is saying. “And your magic. Merlin, your magic…” He inhales sharply, then he is gasping and shaking and coming over Severus’s hand. He continues stroking him, gently now, until Potter winces, pushes him away.

He must be going mad. Because Severus has done a lot of idiotic things, but this…this is— Potter’s dragging his hand up and down Severus’s arm, feather-light touches that distract him from his thought. It occurs to him then that it could all be a hallucination—a vision sparked by his brain as he lies dying in that shack. But Potter is kissing him again, his come smearing across Severus’s stomach, his hard prick. And Severus realises he doesn’t care.

Potter slides down the bed, stops, hand resting on Severus’s hip. “This okay?” he asks, looking up the line of Severus’s body. He curls his fingers around Severus’s prick but does not move his hand. His palm is calloused and warm.

Severus nods. “Yes.” His voice is raw.

Potter smiles. Severus notices the dimples that form on either side of his mouth. “Good.” He strokes him slowly, eyes fixed on Severus’s face. “Because I know it’s the magic and the memories and, well, everything really. Everything that happened tonight and in the last week, the last year…but fuck that felt brilliant and I want this.”

Severus shivers as Potter tightens his grip, breathes out a warm gust of air on the head of his cock. “Just want to keep feeling and not think.”

Severus understands. He groans, lying back against the pillows as Potter licks a line down his prick, then he takes him in his mouth, the slick slide of his lips and tongue following the path of his hand down and up again.

Fuck.

Potter is... young. He is only seventeen, and he used to be Severus’s student. But he is the most powerful wizard alive; they asked more of him than anyone had a right to ask, and he has accomplished the impossible.

If this is how he wants to spend his night after he saved the bloody world? Severus isn’t one to object.

He twists his fingers in the sheets. His other hand settles on Potter’s head; his hair is still damp from the shower.

Potter swallows, throat working, and Severus groans, rocks up. His cock slides deeper into Potter’s throat; he sputters, gags a bit.

Severus stills. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” Potter says, pulling back; Severus’s cock slides out of his mouth, slick and heavy. “I like it.” Potter ducks his head again, his lips pushing against Severus’s foreskin, tongue slipping across the slit. Potter grips Severus’s hip, encourages him to thrust up into his mouth.

Jesus,” Severus says, struggling to keep his movements short and controlled. He’s already close, but Potter looks fantastic with his lips spread around his cock, and nothing has felt this good in a very long time. “Potter, I’ll come…”

He tugs at the boy’s hair, but Potter only sucks harder, tongue wet and hard against him as he bobs his head, slides his mouth up and down again. Severus watches as Potter takes him in, nearly to the base of his cock, and that’s it. He shudders through his orgasm as Potter swallows around him. Severus exhales shakily, pulse pounding in his ears. He’s flushed and sticky and breathing hard. Potter wipes his mouth, scoots up to curl beside him.

Severus feels limp and spent; he rests a hand on Potter’s shoulder, waits for his heart settle back into a normal rhythm.

Potter casts a quick cleaning charm on both of them. “You okay?”

“Yes,” Severus manages. “Tired.”

“I know. I think we’ve both earned a good night’s sleep.”

***

But Severus can’t sleep. Instead he lies there, listening to the sound of Potter’s breathing, watching the steady rise and fall of his chest, and thinking about the day, the night before.

After everything, after it was over, and Severus was—miraculously—still alive, he was content to let them drag him away. Content to sit back and take the Kiss. Or let them throw him in Azkaban and banish the key.

He was tired, after all. So bloody tired.

But Potter stepped in front of him, as Kingsley with his remaining band of Aurors had come forward, Incarcerous on the tip of his tongue, as they arrested the few Death Eaters that survived, that hadn’t fled.

“Stop,” Potter said. “He’s on our side. He has been all along. I can prove it. Not tonight. I’m too fucking tired. But I will. And I won’t let you take him. He needs medical care and not at Azkaban.”

“Harry...” Kingsley had said, soft, coaxing. “Just let us do our job. We can sort everything out in the morning.”

“No. I just killed Voldemort. And I will not let you take him.” He stared at him, his eyes cold, determined. “Just try me.”

Harry Potter, seventeen, saviour of the world. And it was the Head Auror who first looked away.

Potter’s magic flared and, while Severus could feel his exhaustion—Merlin the boy had done extraordinary things that night—it was enough to rattle the windows in the Great Hall, enough to make the Aurors take a step back. For Kingsley to nod. To turn and order his men to secure their prisoners for transport.

He turns his head to the side, presses his nose, his mouth to the crook of Potter’s neck. He breathes in the scent of him. Of warmth and sex, of clean sweat and his own soap.

He sucks at the spot behind Potter’s ear.

Potter murmurs softly in his sleep.

He half wonders if Poppy will make good on her threat. If she’ll Floo down in the middle of the night to check on him. And what would she think? Finding a naked Saviour snoring softly in his bed? Would she call Minerva immediately? Have him turned over to the Ministry?

Severus wonders briefly if this is something Potter has done before. If this is something he does. Initiate ill-advised sexual encounters, fall into bed with people he absolutely shouldn’t.

And Potter did initiate it, didn’t he? Severus’s tired mind reviews the details because this...this part is important. But yes, it was Potter. Severus is sure if it—as absurd as that may be. And while there are undoubtedly a dozen things wrong with this scenario, a dozen places both of them should rather be (dead, his mind suggests—he should be dead), it feels right to be here with Potter now.

Severus must fall asleep because, at some point later, he wakes to Potter’s mouth on his skin, Potter’s hips rocking gently against him. He feels the line of Potter’s erection pressed hard to his side, and Severus shifts, turning towards him.

“How are you?” Potter asks, voice soft and slurred by sleep. His hands find Severus’s waist, hold him close.

“Hard.”

“I know. That’s good.”

Potter begins moving then, lining their pricks up so they slide together. Severus can’t help but gasp as Potter moves against him. His cock is throbbing. Potter presses himself impossibly closer, dragging his teeth along the angle of Severus’s jaw. His pulse is pounding in his ears. He’s already close and Potter’s done no more than rut against him half asleep.

Fuck…

“We can do that if you want. But I’m about to come.”

Severus kisses him, mouth open, and Potter lifts his hips, shuddering with each slide of their cocks.

“This is—shit—I can’t…” Potter closes his eyes, throws a leg over Severus’s.

Severus can’t hold back much longer. He reaches one hand between them to hold their cocks together, hard and hot between his palm and Potter’s flat, muscled belly. It’s enough to send Potter over the edge. He cries out, spunk spurting between them, and Severus’s own body tenses. Potter’s hands are now gripping his shoulders tightly, one heel pressed against his calves, and Severus shudders and comes against Potter’s stomach.

***

When Severus wakes again, Potter is gone. He tells himself he isn’t disappointed and, for a moment, he thinks it might have all been a dream. That would make more sense than Potter in his bed. But the room smells of sex and come, and he can still feel the boy’s magic clinging to the air. It’s nearly suffocating.

He sits up slowly, expecting a wave of vertigo, expecting nausea or pain, expecting…something. But he feels fine.

He’s tired, of course. But he’s always tired. Severus has been tired for years.

He reaches up tentatively, touches his fingers to his throat. But there is no blood. No gash, no open wound. Just a thick, ropy scar, smooth and slick and oddly sensitive.

Potter’s magic lingers there too. It thrums subtly beneath his skin, intoxicatingly, suffused with dark, and devastatingly soothing.

A knock at the door tugs him from his thoughts.

That’s it, then, Severus thinks. The Aurors.

He pulls on a pair of clean trousers, a white shirt.

There’s a second knock.

After a moment’s thought, he places his wand in his bedside drawer, wards it shut. Then he goes into his bath for the phial of memories. He doesn’t intend to put them back in his head. He doesn’t want them. But he knows they could prove exculpatory and he realises he doesn’t actually want to rot away in Azkaban for the rest of his life.

In the sitting room, he notices Potter’s jumper on the floor where he discarded it the night before. Despite everything, it sends a tendril of warmth curling in his stomach.

He leaves the jumper there.

But when he opens the door, there are no Aurors, armed and ready to take him into custody. Just Minerva and Filius, a tad worse for wear, but alive and not looking as though they still wish to murder him.

“Severus,” Minerva says. She takes him into her arms.

***

It’s months before he sees Potter again.

He’s been back to Hogwarts. Severus knows this. Knows this as surely as he knows the ingredients in his labs. But Potter does not come down to the dungeons, and Severus does not seek him out.

He must be helping with reconstruction. Severus can feel Potter’s magic lingering in the corridors; he feels it in the castle’s walls. He has always been adept at parsing magical signatures, and now he can read Potter’s even more clearly. He does not want to think about what that might mean.

It’s not a bond. Not in the traditional sense, at least. Severus is sure of this. In the days following the final battle, he runs tests. There is no magic tied to his blood or to his bone. Soul bonds are a different matter. Harder to detect. But they require time to settle. And nothing that happened between him and Potter in that shack could have resulted in a desired…attachment mere hours later. Even had he felt some compulsion to be with him—which he did not.

Still, he asks Poppy to screen for any soul magic. She is not pleased he left the hospital against her wishes and insists upon evaluating him. Severus understands. After all, he was nearly eaten by a large, venomous snake; it wouldn’t do to have him drop dead in his dungeons after he miraculously managed to survive. But that doesn’t mean he has to be pleasant about it. Poppy’s detection magic, however, is strong and more directed, more precise than his spells can be on his own person.

He does not mention Potter. Nor does he tell her about the Horcruxes. Poppy was a member of the Order, was always on their side, but he is not certain which details will be shared, the extent to which Potter’s…connection with the Dark Lord should be revealed, so he hedges. Tells her of Voldemort’s experimental magic, of his concerns that Nagini was more than a mere familiar. Poppy always appreciates caution and is happy to look for residual magic, bonding spells or otherwise.

Severus’s scans all come back clean.

***

Another day passes. And then another.

Severus knows they are preparing for trials. It will be Nuremberg all over again.

Yet, there are still no Aurors. Severus is not arrested. He is not taken into custody and hauled off to some Ministry holding cell to await his fate.

Minerva asks nothing of him. No apology or explanations. No pledge to help with reconstruction or commitment to resume teaching—though he has every intention of doing so once students return come September.

“If you‘d like, Severus, you should retain the post of Headmaster. It is your position, after all. You deserve it, and it was what Albus wanted.”

But Severus declines.

He has done a great many things for Hogwarts. He will continue to do what he can. But he cannot, will not step foot in that office as Headmaster again. Nor will he ever teach another class of Defence.

Minerva understands.

So he will take over his old position as Potions Master. He has never particularly cared for teaching, but the castle is his home. He enjoys his labs and his research, and it will give him something to do to fill the time and keep him from remembering things he’d prefer to forget.

Severus goes about his days.

He spends hours in the Forbidden Forest collecting native plants, replenishing the castle’s stores.

He makes lists upon lists. Sends out for those ingredients he can get via owl. Asks responsible house-elves to venture out for those ingredients he cannot.

He brews. Poppy’s stores are beyond depleted. His own supply closet is bare. It keeps him occupied and Severus tells himself it’s far better than the alternative.

Still, there is something lurking around the edges, something that clouds Severus’s head while he lies in bed at night. He still hasn’t spoken to Potter, but Severus feels the potential there, hovering in the spaces in his mind, his magic.

And he thinks that, were he to ask, he could be with Potter again.

***

It’s mid-September when Severus receives a court date—an official summons to appear before the Wizengamot on 12 October. Someone will need to cover his classes. He’ll talk to Minerva. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be…indisposed. And he doesn’t know what will happen after.

But he is not taken into custody. Severus sees this as a good sign. He knows the Ministry holding cells are full of Death Eaters awaiting trial.

Severus also knows that Potter has spoken on his behalf, has apparently convinced Shacklebolt, at least, that he was on their side all along. Minerva has told him as much. Though he still has not seen or heard from Potter since, well, since that night he had him in his rooms and in his bed.

He has the memories. The ones he entrusted to Potter the night of the battle. The night he did not die. They are warded and secure in his bedside cabinet.

Albus left memories, too. Meticulously arranged, scrupulously recorded and preserved in the event Severus somehow survived the war.

Severus has not looked at them, does not want to. But he knows where they are, left behind in Albus’s—in his former office. He will ask Minerva to send them on to Kingsley. There is no reason, after all, to sabotage his own defence, despite the intrusive thoughts he can’t help but hear—that he deserves to rot away in Azkaban for what he’s done.

He tries not to think about the trial. Tries not to think about Potter, either. But on the morning of his court date, he is nervous. It’s not a feeling Severus is used to, and he doesn’t like it.

As he dresses, he wonders if Potter will be there. He thinks, most likely, he will be. Potter has always had a saviour complex. He won’t miss the opportunity to come running to Severus’s aid merely because…because of what, precisely? Because he made him come? Because Potter had Severus’s cock in his mouth? Because he’s been avoiding him?

But then he hasn’t been, not really. And Potter’s been at the castle since then. He could have sought Severus out. Could have found him in his rooms or in his labs. Or even in the Great Hall.

Severus tries not to think about what it means that he has not.

***

The Ministry is the same as it’s ever been. Though, Severus does notice that the Fountain of Magical Brethren has been restored to its previous gaudy splendour. A good choice, no doubt, but, to be honest, Severus had a bit of a soft spot for the Magic is Might atrocity. Not that he agreed with the message, mind. But he had to hand it to the Dark Lord and his Ministry lackeys for their absolute brazenness in erecting that monstrosity. Voldemort was never known for his subtlety but, still, Severus appreciates the sheer audacity.

The trial is, as expected, miserable.

Severus is unarmed, obviously; he is vulnerable and on display. And a detached portion of his brain keeps reminding him that he’s standing trial for his life.

And while he knew the charges in advance, hearing them read aloud as one might read an ingredients list is…troubling. One more nightmare in a lifetime of nightmarish things. And Severus is guilty—regardless of Albus’s machinations, Severus’s true loyalties, and Shacklebolt’s recent edicts on use of wartime Unforgivables. He is guilty of everything.

He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes.

Severus knows when Potter enters the room. He can’t help but look up, turn his head. Potter stops just inside the double doors at the back of the courtroom. He stands there, arms folded across his chest, face cool, deliberately focussed. But he catches Severus’s eye, holds his gaze for a moment before looking back to the Chief Warlock as he continues to review the extensive details of the prosecution.

Severus refuses to acknowledge how Potter’s mere presence seems to soothe him. Or how much he missed the press of his magic. Instead he keeps his back straight and his mind closed while he awaits the judgement.

All in all, the trial takes less than four hours. And, while the Chief Warlock—an irritating and pompous little man—seems to feel the prosecution’s case is cut and dried, Potter and Shacklebolt’s statements are compelling. The memories, both his own, and Albus’s are committed to evidence. And, in the end, he is found not guilty by a vote of 38 to 12.

Potter is waiting in the corridor leading to the lifts. Severus has his wand. The appropriate papers have all been filed with the Department of Records. And he is free to go.

“Hullo,” he says, as Severus approaches, pushing away from the wall he’s been leaning against. For a moment, Severus thinks he might reach out, might touch him, and he desperately wants him to and doesn’t at the same time. But Potter stops a foot or so away and slides his hands in his pockets, looking down.

People are walking past. The Wizengamot members have their own private exit out the rear of the courtroom. But there are clerks and scribes and court reporters. Spectators, too. Not many, but a few, no doubt doing the rounds so they can tell their children, their friends they witnessed the notorious Death Eater trials.

They notice Potter, of course. Some give curious glances as they move past. Others can’t hide their disapproval. Whether for Potter or himself, Severus can’t tell. It was an unpopular decision, to be sure, speaking up in Severus’s defence. Not that Potter cares. Severus knows him well enough now to know that he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of him. He will not admit that he finds the trait charming.

A squat-looking witch in magenta robes is dawdling nearby, clearly trying to overhear their conversation. Potter gives her a glare that would rival one of Severus’s own. The witch huffs, “Well, I never…,” but moves along towards the lifts.

Severus would be impressed, were he not so off balance, so disarmed by Potter’s mere presence beside him. “I suppose I should say thank you,” he manages after a moment, “for…” but he trails off. After all, he already owes Potter his life.

But Potter only smiles. “I wouldn’t let you die, remember? Do you think I’d go to all the trouble only to let you end up in Azkaban?”

“I…no.” The hallway is nearly empty now, but Severus is mindful of a few reporters lurking down at the opposite end. He doesn’t need Legilimency to know they’re dying to know what the Boy Hero and the Death Eater responsible for Albus Dumbledore’s death could be discussing here. “You were at the castle?” he asks, voice low.

“Yeah, so…” Potter drags a hand through his hair. “About that. I didn’t want to intrude. I wasn’t sure—”

“You don’t have to explain,” Severus says quickly because he doesn’t need to hear Potter say it was a mistake, doesn’t need to be rejected now, months later. “We were both under considerable stress. Most certainly shock. There is no need to—”

“God, Severus, no.” Potter cuts him off. “Stop. I wanted you then and I still…” He stops suddenly, eyes flicking to the end of the corridor where a cluster of wizards still stands. At Potter’s look, they all turn away. Severus nearly laughs. Could they be more obvious?

Potter takes something from his pocket, then—a scrap of parchment with an address scrawled on it. “Look,” he says, handing it to Severus. “We can’t talk here, but I’d like to. Talk that is—if you want. I’ll be at this address tonight. Tomorrow night, too. If you want to find me.” With that he turns, casts one last glare at the cohort of eavesdroppers still gathered at the end of the hall, and slips into the waiting lift.

***

The address turns out to be a dive bar in Soho.

Severus looks around, wondering at Potter’s choice of meeting spots. But if pressed, Severus would grudgingly admit that The Hog’s Head is his preferred establishment, so he decides he hasn’t much room for judgement.

Potter is already here. Severus can feel his magic. Thinks if he were to press his thoughts out he could feel his heartbeat, the rush of air from his lungs.

He doesn’t.

The inside is dimly lit. Trendy in its purposeful shabbiness. A long bar runs down the length of one side. The shelves behind are lined with liquor bottles and illuminated by the various neon signs hung along the mirrored wall.

An old jukebox sits in one corner. The Clash is playing, the stuttering, punk-ska sounds of “Rudie Can’t Fail” echo off the stone floor. He sees Potter across the room, talking to a couple seated at one of the small tables. The girl’s hair is a shocking pink; her partner’s is cropped close to his head on the sides, but kept long on the top and styled in a purposely dishevelled way. Severus would roll his eyes, but Potter’s spotted him. The boy grins, holding up a hand in hello. He’s wearing tight, dark jeans, and a vintage Johnny Cash t-shirt. He’s got an apron slung low around his hips, a ballpoint pen tucked behind his ear.

He works here.

Perhaps this should not surprise Severus, but it does. He realises he has no idea what Potter’s been up to in the months since the war ended—aside from helping out around the castle and keeping him out of prison, of course.

Severus knew Potter had not gone into the Auror Training Programme. The Prophet dedicated a full month’s coverage to the ‘unexpected’ and ‘controversial’ decision.

Severus doesn’t blame him. He can’t imagine why anyone would want to join the Corps, and Potter has certainly earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants with his life. He just hadn’t imagined that he might be serving drinks at some ridiculously hipster bar in London.

Severus takes a seat at the end of the bar.

The barkeep doesn’t look up from the novel he’s reading. “Can I help you?”

“I, yes,” Severus says. “Whisky, please. Neat.”

The man turns the page in his book, then sets it down on the counter behind him and pours Severus’s drink. He’s wearing a flannel shirt unbuttoned over a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Wish You Were Here, Severus notes. Not Dark Side of the Moon. Which Severus reluctantly gives him credit for. He’s seen a handful of Floyd shirts around the Slytherin common room. And Dark Side always seems the popular choice when his students care more about their sartorial image than actually listening to the music.

Severus wonders if a retro band shirt and tight jeans is the required dress for staff in the bar. He wouldn’t be surprised.

The man sets the whisky down and goes back to his book without a word. Severus glances over his shoulder, eyes searching out Potter, but trying not to be obvious about it.

He’s wiping down a table; he’s got a stack of empty pint glasses balanced in his other hand.

When he’s done, he comes over to the bar, leans against the countertop beside where Severus sits. The barkeep takes the dirty glasses and puts them in the dish tub he’s got there.

“You came,” Potter says.

“Yes.” Severus takes a sip of his drink, tries to act as though his heart isn’t racing. He does not say that he could not stay away, that he’s missed Potter, because that would be absurd. Still, his fingers itch to reach out, to touch him, to see if Potter’s skin still feels like magic. He tightens his hand around his glass.

“You work here,” he says after a moment.

“I do,” Potter says carefully. “Pay is decent enough and it gives me something to do.”

“But you’re not…” Severus stops, not sure what he was going to say.

“Not well on my way to becoming one of the “Ministry’s finest?” Potter laughs, but there’s bitterness there. “No. Can’t say I wanted to sign up to be Kingsley’s permanent poster boy.”

“I understand.”

“Yeah?” Potter asks, as though he expected something else. Criticism, perhaps, or disapproval.

“Yes.”

Potter nods. The door to the bar opens, and a man around Potter’s age enters. Severus notices the way Potter’s brow furrows slightly, the corners of his mouth turning down. But then he forces a tight smile and excuses himself to go take his order.

Severus watches out of the corner of his eye. “Harry, mate,” the man greets Potter with a familiar clap on the back, and Potter talks to him for a few moments, voice pitched too low for Severus to overhear. But the man leans close, laughs obnoxiously at something Potter’s said. Potter smiles, though Severus doesn’t think it reaches his eyes.

Severus hates the twist of jealousy in his gut. He takes another sip of whisky and tries to ignore it. It’s foolish, of course. He has no claim to Potter. Until yesterday, he hadn’t seen him in months. And even then, they’d what? Spent one night together? A night where they’d never have ended up together had it not been for a war and death and magic and a dozen other remarkable things that led Potter down to the dungeons. Besides, Potter is doing his job, Severus imagines patrons flirt with him all the time.

He doesn’t like the idea.

Potter comes back to the bar to get the drink order—some pretentious looking IPA in a fancy bottle. Severus tries not to scowl as Potter stands beside him, pouring the beer into a glass. He thinks he can feel the warmth, the magic from Potter’s body close to his. Potter turns away again to deliver the drink. His arm brushes against Severus’s; it’s barely a touch, but it sends a shiver down Severus’s spine.

Severus finishes his drink. The jukebox is playing Blondie now. Potter returns a few minutes later.

“So it’s slow tonight,” he says, glancing back over his shoulder at the man he’s just served. Severus does not look at Potter; he presses his palm flat to the bartop’s cool surface. It’s poured concrete, polished smooth. Edgy and industrial and carefully contrived like everything else in this place.

“My boss said I could cut out early, if you’d like to grab something to eat? There’s a pizza place just down the street.”

Severus’s throat suddenly feels dry. “Yes, I’d like that.”

“All right.” He looks around once more. “So I need about ten minutes to finish up. If you’ll wait? You can have another drink if you like.”

Severus nods, and Potter heads off to clear another table, check in on his few customers.

“You want one more?” the bartender asks, and Severus realises he must have been listening. But he nods. He could use another drink.

His whisky is nearly gone when Potter appears again. “Ready?” he asks, placing a hand on Severus’s shoulder. He pulls away again too quickly, but Severus feels an echo of heat against his skin. He drains the last swallow of his drink.

“G’night Clyde,” Potter tells the man behind the bar.

He’s back to reading his book but brings a hand to his forehead in mock salute. “Have fun, mate. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Potter laughs, but his cheeks pink slightly. Severus thinks he’s embarrassed, which doesn’t make sense. They’re just going to dinner. He follows Potter out of the establishment, noting how the man with the expensive IPA watches them as they go.

The night is cool and overcast. Potter took off his apron before they left the bar and pulled on a grey canvas jacket over his t-shirt. Now he looks both ways before darting across the zebra crossing. Severus follows, careful to avoid stepping in the murky water pooling against the kerb.

There are people about. Music spills out the open doors of pubs and restaurants. Potter rounds a corner, walks around a group of uni students waiting to get into some club.

The pizza place is only a few blocks away. It’s tiny, wedged between a corner shop and a record store. There are only a handful of tables inside.

They order at the counter. The girl behind the till snaps her gum and hardly looks up from the tabloid she’s thumbing through as she rings them up. Potter orders pepperoni and sausage. Severus asks for black olives with peppers.

Potter sits at the table closest to the window and Severus takes the seat beside him, glancing around. The paint on the walls is peeling, the linoleum floor cracked and stained. But they have beer. Potter looks back to the girl at the counter; she’s still looking down at her magazine. He waves a hand, popping the caps, before handing one bottle to Severus. The after-effect of his spell ripples between them. And, when their pizza arrives—grease already seeping through the paper plates—it’s surprisingly decent.

Severus finds he doesn’t care about any of this, though, because the table is small and when his knee knocks against Potter’s, Potter shifts closer. Their thighs are nearly touching now. It makes Severus’s stomach tighten. He takes a sip of beer. He doesn’t need it; his head is already pleasantly light with alcohol. But Potter is looking at him, and Severus needs the distraction.

“So,” Potter says after a moment, mouth full of pizza, “how’ve you been?” He takes another bite. Melted cheese strings from the pizza; he pulls it off with his fingers, sucks them into his mouth.

“All right,” Severus says. “Better now.” It’s not much, but the words feel like a confession.

Potter’s eyes widen, but then he says, “Oh, right. The verdict.” He frowns. “I’m sorry about that. I told Kingsley you shouldn’t be tried. You’re a goddamned war hero, for fuck’s sake.”

He looks around, but the restaurant is empty. The girl must be on break or back in the kitchen. “I murdered Albus Dumbledore. Did you truly think they could merely ignore that?”

Potter takes a sip of his beer. “Doesn’t make it right.”

“Perhaps,” he concedes, “but it’s over now.

Potter picks a pepperoni off his pizza. He’s watching Severus, expression unreadable. It’s disconcerting. Severus wants to reach out with his mind, to know what he’s thinking, but he’s certain Potter would know, would feel the magic between them.

“You could have owled,” Potter says then. “After.”

“I wasn’t sure that would have been welcome,” Severus says honestly.

“Seriously?” Potter says, “because we were both there and…” he shakes his head, looks down, but not before Severus sees the way his cheeks colour.

“You were gone in the morning,” Severus says. He feels self-conscious, unaccustomed to these types of conversations. “You didn’t stay.”

“Yeah, I know. And I’m sorry about that. I wanted to, but I figured people would be looking for me. Didn’t think it wise to be caught in your bed.” He twists his beer bottle between his hands, chews on his lip. “Not that it should have mattered. No one’s bloody business what two consenting adults decide to do together. But I didn’t want to make things harder on you, yeah?”

Severus understands. As much as he hates the thought, Potter is right. Yet another thing general wizarding society would love to crucify him for. “You’re seventeen.”

“Eighteen now.”

“Right. But I, we…” He takes a deep breath. “What happened, what we did—I need you to know—that is not something I had ever—”

“You’d never slept with a student before?” Potter says, saving him from saying the words.

“No.”

“Me neither. Well, never slept with a professor before, in my case, but yeah.” He takes a long swig of his beer. “Not that you were actually my professor at the time,” Potter raises an eyebrow. “Because, apparently, you need to hear that. Since you’ve been beating yourself up over it.”

“I have not,” Severus says.

And Potter laughs, a clear bell-like sound. “Of course not.”

They finish their beers. Potter folds his paper napkin in half. Folds it again.

“You know, sometimes I can’t believe it actually happened, that I had the nerve to come down there. Of all the things I did that night, it almost feels like that was the hardest.”

“It happened.”

“I know. And I want it to happen again.”

***

“You’re back,” Harry says, as Severus takes the seat at the end of the bar. Severus does not think he’ll ever get used to Harry Potter smiling at him. He’s leaning against the counter, a battered paperback novel open in front of him. The bar is quiet tonight. Severus takes the book from his hand. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“Clyde lent it to me,” Potter says. “It’s good. Funny.”

“I know.”

“You’ve read it?” Potter’s smile is like a key; it twists like warmth in Severus’s chest.

“Yes.”

“Drink?” The bartender—Clyde—comes over to ask.

“Whisky.”

“I’ll take a water, too, while you’re at it,” Potter adds.

Clyde merely grunts and goes to pour Severus’s drink. But when he returns with Severus’s drink, he’s got a tall glass of ice water as well. Potter grins before taking a long swig, chugging more than half the water in one go. He sets the glass down with a loud sigh, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Miscreant,” Severus says, but his word lacks bite. Potter just smiles and leans over, bumping his shoulder against Severus’s. He ignores the way the mere contact makes his stomach flip. Clyde rolls his eyes, turns to walk back to the other end of the bar.

“It’s not a bond,” Severus says then because he has to get it out, has to make sure Potter knows this.

Potter looks at him as though he’s lost his mind. “Of course it’s not.”

Severus opens his mouth, closes it again.

“Wait, you didn’t actually think we were bonded?” Potter asks, incredulous. He frowns. “Merlin, you did, didn’t you?”

Severus glances around, but there’s no one around to overhear. “The magic…”

“Right, the magic. But it’s not a bond.” Potter speaks slowly, as Severus might to a particularly dense first year. “Exceptional magic has exceptional consequences. And what happened between us was exceptional.”

Severus nods. Once again, Potter has him off balance. He knows he’s absurdly powerful, but his grasp of magical theory is advanced as well. Had he only applied himself more—Severus shakes his head. That’s ridiculous, of course. Potter spent half his school years trying not to get himself killed. Even Severus had begrudgingly acknowledged his resilience in face of, well, everything.

“Powerful magic requires a balance,” Potter continues. “Our world doesn’t allow for dark magic without means of countering it, without means of unravelling it.”

“And good magic?”

Potter shrugs.

“You saved my life.”

“I did. And you saved mine countless times before that. Fuck, Snape,” Potter laughs, “we saved the goddamned world. Of course there’d be some sort of consequence.”

“An after effect,” Severus considers.

“Or an echo, a reverberation,” Potter says. “Call it whatever you like. But I think our magic will always…make sense together.” He looks down, slides his thumb down the side of his glass, tracing a line in the condensation there. “And I think that’s all right.” The last words are spoken so quietly, Severus isn’t certain he hears. But then he says it again: “It will be all right.”

“Yes,” Severus agrees. “It will be all right.”

***

“Fuck, Snape,” Potter says. His fingers are hooked on Severus’s belt, mouth trailing along his jaw. “I wanted to talk some more, yeah?” He licks at a spot behind Severus’s ear, makes him gasp. “Really I did. But having you here. Seeing you these past few nights...”

Severus’s hands slide down Potter’s back, his muscles shifting beneath Severus’s palms. It feels amazing to touch him again. They’re in the storeroom/office at the bar. Potter practically dragged him in here when Severus arrived.

“Hey, I just went on break if you want to…” But he hadn’t finished the thought because he was warding the door behind them and kissing him.

The room is small, barely larger than a supply cupboard. There’s a folding table crammed in one corner, it’s surface littered with papers. The opposite wall is lined with cases of beer. Potter’s magic is all around them, it’s enough to make Severus feel drugged, enough to make him slip his fingertips beneath the waistband of Potter’s jeans, run them over the curve of Potter’s arse.

Potter’s gaze flicks down between them, and Severus knows he can see the half-swell in his trousers. Potter licks his lips. “Do you think about it? What we did? How it felt when you made me come?”

“Yes,” Severus says, throat dry. Because he falls asleep at night remembering Potter in his bed, his hands on his skin. “And I think about how you looked with your mouth around my cock.”

“Yeah?” Potter moves even closer. “Say that again.” Potter’s breath is warm against Severus’s cheek. He reaches up, trails a finger down his throat, tracing the scar there. The light touch makes Severus shudder.

“What? That I still get hard thinking about how you sucked me off?”

“Christ.” Potter swears and rocks forward, his cock hot and firm through the tight denim of his trousers. He’s tugging at the buttons on Severus’s shirt, pulling it open. His hands shake as he presses his palms to Severus’s bare chest. Severus should stop him, they shouldn’t be doing this here, now, but Potter ducks his head, licks at one of Severus’s nipples. His hand drops lower, sliding over the flat of Severus’s belly until his fingers are trailing over the bulge of Severus’s prick. He can’t help but thrust his hips forward, seeking more contact, more pressure.

“I only have a few more minutes,” Potter says, pressing his palm down; Severus can barely breathe. “Do you think, if I took your cock out, I could get you off before I have to go back?” He tightens his grip, stroking him over the fabric of his trousers.

He curses under his breath, tries to keep from crying out. But Potter’s wards are good; he can feel them. They won’t be heard.

“Or maybe,” Potter says, “I wouldn’t even have to.” He walks them a step backward until Severus’s back is pressed up against the door. He kisses Severus, mouth open, wet, as his hips move against his, a slow, teasing grind that has them both gasping. Potter’s teeth scrape along Severus’s lip, and Potter moans—a truly indecent sound—when their cocks slide together just right, and Severus knows knows he could come from this.

Potter digs his nails into Severus’s shoulders, arches his back, and drags his hips against his again harder. Severus’s hand finds the small of his back, holds him there, encourages him to push and push and push.

“Oh Merlin—fuck—Snape,” Potter gasps, “I can’t,” and he steps away. He’s breathing hard, cheeks flushed, pupils dilated behind his glasses. “Fuck,” he says, again, running a hand through his hair. “My boss will murder me if she thinks we fucked in here, and…god,” he takes a deep breath, “it can’t fucking smell like come…”

Severus nearly mentions the effectiveness of cleaning charms but stops himself before the words are out. Because this is Potter’s place of employment and Severus doesn’t do this. He is not the type of man who engages in one-offs or quick fumbles in loos or storeroom cupboards. Though, he didn’t think he was the type of man to take students to bed either, or spend months pining after them.

Still, Potter takes a step back, hands on Severus’s shoulders as though bracing himself. He takes a few deep breaths. Severus’s own heart is pounding in his ears.

“Shit,” Potter finally says. He laughs, rubs at the back of his neck. His glasses are fogged, temples damp with sweat. “Shit.”

Severus’s cock is throbbing. He reaches down to adjust himself. Potter’s eyes follow the movement. “Tonight.” He licks his lips. “Tonight you’ll come home with me, yeah?”

“Yes.”

“Thank god.” Potter exhales, dragging his hand across his own crotch. The line of his cock is clearly visible, pressing against his zip. “Because it’s going to be a long two hours until my shift ends.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure how you can even get an erection in those jeans. They seem to restrict blood flow.”

Potter laughs. “You’re an arsehole, you know? But, Merlin, do I want you to fuck me.” He slips out of the room, then, wards falling as the door shuts behind him.

Severus does up the buttons of his shirt, attempts to smooth the wrinkles in his trousers. Then he waits another moment before stepping out of the storeroom, Potter’s words ringing in his ears.

Clyde raises an eyebrow. Gives a knowing smirk. Severus glares. It’s a good glare, the type he effectively used on Death Eaters and Gryffindors alike. But it doesn’t seem to work. The man just laughs, holds up his hands in placation. “Hey, no judgement here, mate.” He turns back to the bar, pours Severus another drink without asking.

Severus takes it with a grunt. “Sod off,” he says, but there’s no bite to the words. Potter has him completely off kilter. Clyde just laughs again, before walking off to serve another customer.

***

Potter closes the door behind them and snaps his fingers. A lamp illuminates the small entryway. He sets his keys on the tiny table there. The flat is small and spare. The entry opens onto the main living space, flanked by a galley kitchen. Potter’s bed occupies one corner of the room and beside it sits an antique bureau. Both pieces are of a heavy stained walnut and clearly came from Black’s old home. There’s a small sitting space with a worn leather sofa facing a nice-looking Muggle TV.

Potter’s got his hands in his pockets and he’s watching Severus closely. “I’ve kept Grimmauld Place, you know,” he says. “I can stay there. But Kreacher’s a shit housemate and there are too many memories, anyhow.” He shrugs. “It’s nice to be able to walk to work.”

Severus nods. He realises he doesn’t know how people do this. How they come together, intentionally to… But Potter’s stepping towards him, placing his palms against his chest.

“So this is happening, then?”

Severus’s mouth is dry. He licks his lips. “Yes.” He thinks Potter must be able to feel the pounding of his heart.

“Good.” Potter exhales; Severus skin tingles with the warmth.

Potter tugs Severus’s shirttails from his trousers and starts on his buttons. He undoes them slowly, flingers slipping each through its buttonhole. He trails his thumb down Severus’s chest, following the path of newly bared skin. Severus’s breath catches.

His whole body aches. He’s always been aware of Potter, but now, now he can hardly breathe. Then Potter is kissing him. His hand cups Severus’s cheek, fingertip stroking small circles on his jaw.

“You have no idea,” Severus says into the kiss, “what I’ve been thinking about doing to you.”

“Oh?” Potter says, tongue licking at his lip. “Tell me.”

Severus’s teeth scrape against Potter’s skin; his hand clenches at his hip, holding him close. “Sitting there at that bar. Wanting you. Watching you flirt with other men.”

Potter laughs, before leaning back in for another rough, eager kiss. “I only do it for the tips, you know. They like that sort of thing. Thinking they could have me, but it doesn’t mean anything.”

Severus isn’t sure about that. He sees the way people look at Potter. Doesn’t have to read their thoughts to know the interest there. “They can’t,” Severus says fiercely, “have you, that is.” He wants to say You’re mine, but stops himself before the words are out. Instead, he slips a hand down, over Potter’s stomach and belt buckle until he finds Potter’s cock. He rubs at it through the thick fabric of his jeans. Potter groans, thrusting against the press of his hand. “It was all I could do not to take you back into the storeroom, fuck you over that table.”

“Thank Merlin,” Potter gasps, still rutting against Severus’s hand. “So you do that? You’ll fuck me?”

“Yes.”

Potter takes a step back and toes off his trainers before tugging his t-shirt—The Ramones, tonight—over his head.

Severus looks at him. He’s gorgeous—lanky and strong with pale golden skin. Severus wants to put his mouth all over him. Instead, he reaches out, traces his finger along the raised scar on his chest. “You’ve healed well.”

Potter shrugs. “Thanks to you.”

He takes Severus’s hand in his then, and leads him towards the bed. “You’re overdressed,” he says.

“So are you.”

Potter pushes Severus’s shirt off his shoulders, then pulls at his zip. Severus is already hard, prick aching. He curses when Potter slips his hand into his pants, wraps his fingers around his cock.

“You like that, don’t you?” Potter says, stroking him gently. The wet head of his cock slips through Potter’s fingers. “Are you thinking about what it will feel like to come in me?”

Christ, what he does to him. “Won’t make it that long,” he manages, “if you keep that up.”

Potter laughs and takes a step back, fingers sliding off him. “I’ve been wanking to fantasies of this for weeks now,” Potter says, undoing his belt. “Your cock in my arse.”

His thumb flicks open the buttons of his flies, then he’s shoving his jeans and pants down together. He kicks them aside and is standing fully naked in front of Severus. “So what were we saying about too many clothes?”

He leans back against the bed, fingers stroking the length of his cock, tugging at his foreskin. “Come on, then,” he says and Severus bends to take off his shoes. Then he pushes his trousers down and tosses them aside where his shirt is. He should feel self-conscious, but the way Potter is looking at him makes his stomach tighten and his cock twitch.

“You have lube?”

Potter nods, reaches into the bedside cabinet for a slender phial. It’s wizard-made, Severus notes, not the vile cack you get at Muggle chemist’s shops.

Potter lies back on his bed, one arm behind his head. He’s beautiful, confident and comfortable in his body in a way Severus never could be, and for a moment Severus feels paralysed by looking. But Potter’s cock is thick and hard against his belly, the head swollen and shiny with precome, and Severus knows he wants him. So he sits on the edge of the bed beside him and slides a hand down the inside of one of Potter’s thighs, watching the way goosebumps rise on his pale flesh. Potter shivers, then tugs him down beside him. Severus loves the slide of naked skin against naked skin, the feel of Potter pressed against him. He closes his eyes, exhales a unsteady breath. When he opens his eyes again, Potter is looking at him.

“Have you done this before,” Severus asks, and Potter shrugs.

“Once or twice. You?”

“Yes,” Severus admits, “but not in a long time.”

“Good,” Potter says simply. “This will be better. Get me ready now?”

Severus takes the phial of lubricant Potter’s tossed aside, and Potter flips over, lifting his arse up for Severus. God but he’s gorgeous. Severus wants to put his mouth on him, wants to push his cock inside him, wants, wants, wants.

Severus used to think this type of want was dangerous and, in truth, it was. Severus has so rarely allowed himself to get close to anyone. To allow himself to be vulnerable and exposed. But here, now, he wants nothing more than to surrender to it, to Potter.

The oil is slick between Severus’s fingers. He drags his thumb down Potter’s crease, feels the pucker of his hole. Potter hisses, lifts his hips up into the touch.

“Come on,” Potter says, breath catching. He shifts his hips.

Severus’s heart is pounding. He presses a slick finger to his hole and works it in. Potter is hot and tight. Severus has to bite the inside of his cheek, has to focus on keeping his breaths even. He tries not to watch the sight of his finger sliding in and out of Potter’s arse. Tries not to think about what he’ll feel like around his cock. He takes his time, pressing and twisting, crooking his knuckle until Potter is gasping, fucking himself against Severus’s hand.

“More?” he asks, and Potter nods, turning his face to press against the pillow.

“Yes, fuck, yes.”

He adds a second slick finger, stretching him open. With his other hand, he strokes the small of Potter’s back; his skin is warm beneath his palm.

By the time Severus gets a third finger into Potter, his own prick is throbbing. “Ready?” he asks, and he sounds absolutely wrecked.

“Yes,” Potter says, clenching around him; he’s trembling. “Merlin, I want to make you come.”

Severus didn’t think his prick could get any harder.

He slips his fingers out of Potter. “You are sure?” he asks.

“That I want your cock in me? Yeah, I’m fucking sure.”

“Turn over,” Severus says because he has to look at him, and Potter rolls onto his back, tugs a pillow beneath his hips. Severus slicks some oil along his cock, then slides his fingers down Potter’s crease again, feels him shiver and twist against him.

“Now, Severus,” Potter says, and hearing his given name is almost too much. He grips his cock tightly, forcing the sensation away.

Potter’s looking at him, lips quirked in a half-smile. “You like that, huh? When I call you Severus?”

Severus nods. He slides his fingers lightly up and down his prick; even that touch is nearly too much.

“You should call me Harry, then. I’d like that, too.”

“Harry…” Severus says slowly, weighing the word on his tongue.

“Good,” Potter—Harry says. “Now fuck me.”

He leans forward, presses a kiss to Harry’s jaw. He lets his cock slide along Harry’s. They’re both so hard. He thinks, if he were to rut against him, it would only take a minute or so and they’d both be coming.

But that’s not what he wants (needs) and Harry plants his feet on the mattress, lifting his knees as Severus positions himself between them, the wet head of his prick pressing against Harry’s hole. Harry is already flushed, a pretty pink spreading down his throat his chest; his breathing is rough. Severus pushes in, doing his best to keep his movements slow, controlled.

But Harry grips his forearm, rocks in the press of Severus’s cock, forces him further into that wet heat. “More. I can take it.”

Severus thrusts in deeper, groaning at the tightness of Harry all around him. It’s maddening. And then Harry lifts his hips again, and Severus’s cock sinks in even more until he’s nearly entirely inside him.

“Fuck,” Harry says, voice tight. His fingers clench at Severus’s hip.

“All right?” Severus asks, holding himself still. It’s all he can do not pull out and thrust in again. Hard.

“Yeah, just give me a sec.” Harry shifts beneath him, spreading his legs wider, relaxing against the fullness of Severus’s prick inside him. Then he moves, pressing up, pressing back against him and Severus pulls out slowly, withdrawing just enough to thrust back in again. Harry groans, “Severus…” he says, and Severus leans forward to press a kiss to Harry’s shoulder blade. “Please.”

Severus looks down between them, watching as he slides his cock out, thrusts in again. “Merlin, but that’s…”

“Hot?” Harry supplies, with a laugh. “Yeah. It is. Now fuck me.”

Severus does. He tries to go slow, savouring the measured slide of his cock in Harry’s arse, but it’s good—too good—and he can’t help but move faster, fucking in quick, short thrusts, arms braced on either side of Harry’s head. His entire body feels as though it’s on fire. He’s not going to last. It’s too much. Better than he even imagined. There is magic here, of course. The same intoxicating pull. Harry’s always saturated in it; he seems to throw it off like a bloody beacon. But there is something more here in the way their bodies seem to fit perfectly together. And fuck but Severus is getting maudlin now that he’s allowed himself to have this—to have Harry Potter.

“I can feel that, you know,” Harry says. His voice is low, strained. But there’s a gentleness there that takes the air from Severus’s lungs. “You’re projecting. But you’re right. This…” he rolls his hips, punctuating the word, “is right.”

Harry is absolutely devastating.

He hooks a leg around Severus’s, forcing him to move faster, harder. And Harry’s hands are on his shoulders, gripping tight. There’ll be marks—the scrape of his nails, the press of his fingertips—and Severus wants there to be. Evidence that this is happening. That this is something real.

“Oh...god, yes,” Harry cries out, throwing his head back. His dark hair is mussed, temples damp with sweat. “Fuck, like that—Severus—yes, harder.”

Severus is trembling. His hips jerk forward again. Harry’s cock is swollen and hard between them. “Touch yourself,” Severus manages, voice rough, raw. “I want…I need you to…”

Harry does, hand bumping against Severus’s stomach as he fists himself. His heels press into the mattress, pushing his hips up, as Severus thrusts into him again and again. Severus has never felt anything like this and, fuck, but he is beautiful, spread out and gasping beneath him. He’s close, closer with each slide of Harry’s arse around his cock. And then Harry clenches around him. “Do it,” he says, sucking in a ragged breath. “Come in me. I want you to.”

Severus cries out, body tense, and he shudders, cock pulsing deep and hard inside Harry.

Harry groans then, and Severus feels him tensing, spasm around his softening cock as spunk spills over his hand, across Severus’s stomach as he collapses on top of him. Severus’s heart is pounding against his ribs; he feels Harry’s chest heaving beneath him. Their bodies are warm, slick with sweat.

“Fuck, that was good,” Harry says, still breathless. He winces as Severus slides out of him. Harry traces a finger along Severus’s hip, smearing come there. Severus rolls onto his back beside Harry, and they lie there together, waiting as their heartbeats, their breaths even out again. Harry turns his head, kisses the scar at Severus’s throat; he shivers at the warm slide of Harry’s lips against sensitive skin.

Harry reaches over the side of the bed, fumbles for a discarded t-shirt, wipes at his hand, his prick, his thighs, then drops the shirt on Severus’s stomach with a grunt. They’ll be sticky, but Severus is too sated, too tired to care. And he likes Harry’s come on his skin.

Harry curls against him, head resting on Severus’s shoulder, breath warm against his chest. “This is good, right?” he asks after a long moment. “We’re good.”

“Yes,” Severus says. “We’re good.”

***

“So,” Clyde says, “Harry tells me you were his professor? At some military academy in Scotland?”

“Is that what he told you?”

Clyde shrugs. “You don’t look military.”

Severus takes a sip of water, crunches a sliver of ice between his back teeth.

“Then again,” he continues, “neither does Harry.”

Severus turns around on his barstool. Harry’s waiting on a large group. Investor types in spotless pressed white shirts and expensive Italian shoes. They’ve shoved several small tables together and are talking loudly over the music. One particularly pompous-looking blond reaches out as Harry walks by, puts his hand on his hip. He’s got his shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows, his silk tie loosed. His no-doubt bespoke suit jacket is draped over the back of his chair. Harry doesn’t pull away, doesn’t take a step back. Rather he smiles at whatever imbecilic thing the prat’s said and leans a tad closer as he grabs two empty pint glasses from the table. Severus turns back around.

“Can’t imagine they approved,” Clyde says, wiping down the bartop with a dishtowel.

“Approved of what?”

“You and Harry. That sort of thing is frowned upon, innit?”

Severus raises an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting that I was fucking him whilst he was still my student?”

“Weren’t you?”

Severus glares, but Clyde only takes a bottle of Jameson from beneath the counter and pours himself a small splash of whisky. He downs it and sets the glass down again. “Look, I know Harry only just got out of that school of yours and, judging from the way you two act around each other?” He bends to put the bottle back on the shelf below the bar. “Sorry if I assumed but, fuck, mate, the way he looks at you? You too, mind, when you don’t think he notices. There’s no way whatever’s going on between you two hasn’t been going on for some time.”

Severus turns his glass around between his hands. “We fought together. I taught him…chemistry and self-defence.”

Clyde stops, looks at Severus. “Fought? As in armed combat?”

Severus realises his misstep, but there’s always Obliviate. “Yes, armed combat.”

“Fuck.” Clyde looks at Severus. “Harry’s eighteen.”

“He is. And he has extensive combat experience.”

Clyde takes a deep breath, then nods. “And you? That scar on your neck?”

Severus can’t stop himself from reaching up, from tracing the ropy lines down his throat. “A knife,” he says. Giant snake, after all, is clearly an inappropriate response. “We were at war. Harry saved my life.”

***

Office hours are nearly over when Harry knocks at the door, slips into his office. Severus sets down his quill. “I wasn’t expecting you tonight. Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“I’m off tonight. Can I stay with you?”

Severus nods and Harry curls up on the end of his sofa. He’s got a book—Vonnegut this time. He summons a cup of tea from Merlin knows where and begins to read.

After half an hour, Severus stands and wards his office door. Harry follows him into his rooms. “I still have some work to do. Do you need anything?”

“No.” Harry sits by the fire while Severus sets his stack of unmarked essays on his desk, rummages about for a new bottle of red ink. He tries to focus on his grading—on his fifth years’ analyses of mind altering versus mind controlling potions—and not the soothing wash of Harry’s magic pressing at the edges of his awareness, filling the spaces in between them.

When he’s done with the last essay, Severus looks up to see Harry watching him. He’s set his book aside, is sitting cross-legged in the chair. “Are you finished now?”

“I am.”

“Good.” He stands, twisting from side to side; he stretches his arms above his head. Severus’s eyes fall to the thin strip of skin exposed on his stomach.

Harry walks around Severus’s desk. He stands there for a moment just looking. His eyes are bright and there’s something in his expression that makes Severus’s stomach, his groin warm. Harry steps forward.

“Budge back a tad.”

Severus pushes his chair back enough for Harry to step between him and the desk. Then Harry leans in, rests his palms on Severus’s thighs.

Severus’s cock twitches. Harry damned near just has to look at him and he’s ready to go. It would be embarrassing if, well, if he cared about these things anymore. But Harry’s finger is pressing just below the swell in his trousers, and Severus knows Harry can feel…can see his prick hardening.

“I’d like to suck you off, Professor,” Harry says, leaning closer still. He runs his mouth along Severus’s jaw.

“All right.”

Harry takes his glasses off, sets them on the desktop behind him. He kneels down between Severus’s legs, undoing his belt, his flies. He works his hand into Severus’s trousers to take his swelling cock from his pants.

“I like you hard,” Harry says, softly, warm breath gusting over the head of Severus’s prick. Slickness wells from the tip, and Harry runs his thumb across it, closes his fingers around him. Severus’s hips buck up and he bites back a moan.

“Remember, no one can hear you down here,” Harry smiles, lips mere millimetres from Severus’s cock, and Severus curses when he tightens his grip, strokes along the length of Severus’s prick a few times, before tugging at his foreskin.

His legs are fucking shaking, and Harry laughs, tongue flicking out to sweep across his slit.

“Circe, I love this,” Harry says, sliding his other hand along the inside of Severus’s thigh.

“What you do to me?” Severus asks, refusing to be embarrassed by how breathless he already sounds.

“Yes. And how it feels when we’re together.”

Harry’s mouth is on him then, sucking him in deeply. It’s so warm, wet, that Severus groans, nearly thrusts his hips up. He rests a hand on Harry’s shoulder and leans back against the chair, watching him. Harry bobs his head down, lips chasing the slide of his hand, before pulling back. Severus is mesmerised by the sight—Harry’s lips stretched wide around him—as Severus’s cock slides out bit by bit before Harry takes him in again.

“I won’t last,” Severus manages because, fuck, this feels amazing, and Harry’s sucking even harder now, cheeks hollowed out, tongue pressed against his shaft.

Harry lets Severus’s cock slip wetly from his mouth. “I know.” His lips are red, swollen, gorgeous, and Severus thinks he might still come even without Harry touching him. But Harry licks his lips and opens his mouth around him again, dark hair falling forward to brush against Harry’s stupidly perfect cheekbones. Then his hand is beneath Severus, fingers brushing against his bollocks, sliding behind them to stroke between his arsecheeks, and that’s all it takes. Severus does cry out as orgasm hits hard, Harry swallowing, swallowing around him.

When it’s done, Harry stands and unbuttons his jeans. He takes his cock out and wanks while Severus watches.

Severus spreads his legs wider, lets Harry crowd close as his fist moves in quick sure tugs.

When he comes, spunk splatters across Severus’s shirt, the placket of his trousers, his softening prick, and Harry leans down to kiss him, soft and slow. There’s a faint scratch of stubble against his lips, and Severus cups the back of Harry’s skull in his hand, threads his fingers through his hair, holds him close.

***

Sometimes Severus wonders what the hell he’s doing.

He is 39 years old. Ex-Death Eater, ex-war criminal, ex-spy. And he spends more nights than he should sitting in this obnoxiously trendy bar, drinking over-priced drinks, and waiting for Harry so they can go back to Harry’s flat and make each other come.

Harry, his ex-student turned Saviour turned...lover.

Lover.

Because—regardless of what they may or may not mean to one another—Harry is, right now at least, that.

But Harry is young enough to be his son. Could do anything, have anyone he wants. And sometimes Severus can’t help but think that he is merely a placeholder, that Harry is biding his time until something, someone better comes along.

And, despite what he feels—what he knows about the time they spend together when everyone else is asleep (Severus does not roam the halls after curfew nearly so much anymore)—it is still difficult to accept that Harry would like him at all.

They’re sitting beside one another at the bar. It’s past closing time. Harry’s asked Severus—these weekday nights—how he manages his early classes, but Severus is sleeping more (and better) than he has in years. After all, there were times during the war, times when he was headmaster that he did not sleep at all.

“So, this weekend,” Harry says. He’s chewing on his thumbnail; he does not look at Severus. “I don’t know if you were going to stop in, but I took Friday and Saturday off. I have other plans.”

Severus ignores the coldness that pools in his gut. He is glad, at least, that Harry pretends not to know that, yes, of course Severus intended to be here this weekend. He is here every weekend. “We have no formal arrangement.”

“Yeah, no, I know. That’s not—”

“Are you seeing someone else?” Severus has his cocktail napkin clenched in his hand. He thinks the words cost him something to say, but he tells himself it will be all right. It has to be all right—when Potter laughs, when he tells him not to be ridiculous or sentimental. That, he’s happy to share his bed but—

“I’m sorry?” Harry is gaping at him.

“I’d...I’d just like to know,” he manages. “If you—if there is someone...”

Harry puts a hand on his arm. The pulse of his magic is like a drug. “There’s no one else, Severus.” The words are low, spoken under his breath. “There hasn’t been anyone since—” he laughs. “Well, since you, really.”

Severus looks up; he’s sure the disbelief is clear on his face because he’s seen the way men look at him, the way Harry sometimes looks back.

“Not really,” Potter amends. “Nothing more than a few snogs. And nothing since the trial, since...” He stops, twisting his hands together. “I tried,” Harry finally says. “Please don’t be upset. But I did. Not that I really wanted anything, mind. But I thought...I thought that maybe, maybe it would weaken the pull...the connection I have to you.”

“And?” Severus says, throat dry.

“Nothing. It’s you, Severus. It’s only you.”

Severus takes a deep breath, wonders if Clyde will pour him another whisky despite the hour.

But Harry pops off his stool to slip around the bar. He bends down, rummages beneath the counter and emerges with a bottle of— “That can’t be Ogden’s, Mr. Potter,” Severus says, eyebrow raised.

Harry only grins, pours two glasses. “The charm doesn’t work on Muggles, yeah? Besides, Clyde tried some once. Told me I had shit taste in alcohol. Hasn’t touched it since.”

“Your tastes do leave something to be desired.”

Harry smiles, blows at the plume of smoke unfurling above his Firewhisky. “But this weekend...”

Severus stares down into his glass, at the bartop, anywhere but Harry, until Harry reaches out, places a hand on his arm.

“Ron’s asked Hermione to marry him, yeah? We’re having a bit of a stag party. Seamus wants strippers.” He snorts. “But you shouldn’t worry. They don’t, er, typically have the right equipment for me.”

“Oh?” Severus won’t smile. He takes another sip of his drink; the alcohol is pleasantly warm in his stomach.

“No,” Harry says. He quirks an eyebrow, glances down at Severus’s lap. “Not so much.”

***

The year passes much as it ever did—before everything was upended by intrigue and Death Eaters and war, and then upended again by Harry bloody Potter.

Severus brews potions and teaches his classes. He marks essays and reluctantly attends staff meetings. He has drinks at The Hog’s Head with Filius and Argus and sometimes Pomona or Rubeus.

He spends far too much time at a bar in Soho, and tries to ignore the fact that he must be falling in love.

Clyde has a thing for American basketball. Once had sex with two women at the same time. And is the proud owner of a toy poodle named Tim.

Severus, on the other hand, allegedly teaches chemistry at some exclusive military institute, has fought in not one but two wars (which wars Severus leaves it up to Clyde to decide—the man doesn’t ask questions), and somehow manages to get down to London from the Scottish Highlands several nights a week to fuck his former student. Again, Severus appreciates that Clyde doesn’t ask many questions.

“Hey,” Harry says, brushing a hand across Severus’s back. He leans against the bar, elbows resting on its smooth surface. “I need two more ciders,” he tells Clyde. “And a martini—dirty, extra olives.”

“If I weren’t on, I’d kiss you now,” Harry says, voice low. “Bet you taste like whisky. Cigarettes too.”

Severus grunts and shifts in his seat, presses his thigh against Harry’s hip. He doesn’t smoke often. But he has done recently, leaning against the wall, outside of Harry’s bar. Passing time, he tells himself. “Nice shirt,” he says, and Harry laughs, glancing down at the faded Weird Sisters logo printed across his chest.

“Wouldn’t think I’d get away with it, yeah? But people just assume it’s some obscure underground punk band or something they’ve never heard of. Nobody asks in case it turns out they’re the only person who doesn’t know who the Weird Sisters or Ghoulish Grindylows are.”

“Of course not,” Severus says, hiding a smile behind the lip of his glass.

“So I’m off tomorrow,” Harry says, as Clyde returns. “Thought I could come back to the castle with you tonight?”

Severus isn’t certain when it happened—when he became so comfortable being in Harry’s space, so comfortable having Harry in his own—but the answer comes easily now.

“Yes.”

Harry grins and goes off to deliver his drinks.

***

It’s still dark when Severus wakes. The green-tinged blackness of the lake is not yet suffused with pale morning light. Harry murmurs something in his sleep, shifts closer. The warm weight of his body beside Severus is comforting.

He rolls over, attempts to slip from the bed without waking Harry. But his eyes blink open, and he reaches out, catches Severus’s arm in his hand.

“Stay. It’s early.”

“Classes begin early. Surely even you remember this.” But Severus lies down again, allows Harry to stretch against him.

Harry hmms and rolls over, so he’s lying half atop Severus, one leg settling between his thighs. He shifts his hips, the length of his cock presses to Severus’s stomach. “I think you should help me with this, first,” Harry says, rocking slowly against him.

Severus laughs, slips a hand between them to curl loosely around Harry’s prick. He drags his thumb across the head; it’s damp, already leaking. Fuck but he’ll be late. Severus forces himself to take his hand away. “I’m confident you can handle it by yourself.”

“It’s better when you do it.”

Severus laughs, kisses his shoulder. “I know. Now get off me, you oaf. Not everyone can lie about all day.”

Harry grumbles as Severus pushes him off him and sits up. But Severus sees him smiling, cheek pressed against the pillow, as Severus gets out of bed.

In the bathroom, he takes a moment to will his own erection away so he can piss. Then he washes his hands, cleans his teeth, and splashes some water on his face. He’ll need coffee before he can tolerate his third year Hufflepuffs this morning.

He returns to his bedroom to dress. Harry’s on his stomach, sprawled across the bed. He looks up as Severus takes trousers, a clean shirt from his wardrobe.

“Do you work tonight?”

“No. I’m off again.”

“Stay then. Today. Tonight.”

“Yeah?” Harry smiles. “I’d like that. Maybe I’ll pop round the Quidditch pitch, see if Madam Hooch will let me run some drills with whomever’s practicing.”

Severus rolls his eyes and finds his teaching robes. They still smell of smoke from yesterday’s Gryffindor/Slytherin…experience, but they’ll have to do. “I’m sure Rolanda will be happy to oblige you.”

Harry flops back against the mattress, closes his eyes again as Severus sits to lace his shoes. He’s nearly out the door when Harry speaks. “Severus?”

He stops, turns back.

“I love you.”

“I…I know.”

***

Ron Weasley’s red hair is starkly visible across the crowded room; the man is sitting in Severus’s usual spot at the end of the bar.

Severus stops just inside the door, considers turning around and leaving again. But Harry’s leaning against the counter by the till clearly watching for him, and he smiles, waving a hand.

Weasley turns, following Harry’s gaze. To his credit, he doesn’t scowl or frown. Only raises an eyebrow as Severus makes his way through the cluster of cocktail tables before turning back to his drink.

“Usual?” Clyde asks as Severus takes the barstool beside Weasley.

“Yes.”

“Hi.” Harry leans in, brushes the faintest of kisses against Severus’s cheek before taking the two waiting cocktails Clyde’s set on the bartop for him. “Be nice to Ron, yeah?”

Severus scowls, but Weasley only laughs.

“How’ve you been, Professor?” Weasley asks, once Harry takes the drinks to one of the tables.

“Tolerable.” Clyde returns with his whisky and he nods in thanks. “You are in Auror training?” Weasley’s filled out since Severus has last seen him. His shoulders are broad, muscles visible beneath the soft knit of his jumper.

“Yeah.” He takes a sip of the dark beer he’s drinking. “’Bout to finish my first year.”

“Good.” Severus knows Weasley was upset with Harry for not entering the training programme with him. But Harry hasn’t mentioned it lately, and Severus thinks, perhaps, Weasley has come to terms with it. He glances over his shoulder. Harry’s chatting with a group of regulars sitting at one of the booths. A bloke with dark hair tied back in an ostentatious knot laughs at something Harry’s said, puts a hand at his waist. Weeks, months ago, Severus would have been jealous, angry even. But now he doesn’t care. Now he knows he’s the only one who gets to take Harry home.

“Is he happy?”

Weasley’s voice pulls Severus from his thoughts. He turns back to the bar. He can feel the wash of Harry’s magic, wonders that the entire bar can’t feel the enthralling thrum of it. “I think so, yes.”

Weasley looks at him for a long moment, pale eyes considering. “And are you happy?”

Severus frowns, twists his glass between his palms. He can’t remember the last time anyone—save Harry—has asked him this.

“Professor,” Weasley says, voice gentle, kind. “It’s not a trick question. Are you happy?”

“I...” Severus thinks of the things they’ve done and the things they’ve said. He thinks of the plans they’ve made and the way he feels whenever he sees, touches Harry... “Yes, I am,” he says finally.

Weasley nods, taking the last swig of his beer.

Clyde asks if he wants another, but he shakes his head. “I’m not going to say it isn’t weird—you and him—because it bloody well is. But I think Harry’s always had a bit of a thing for you—even when we hated you. And now...” he runs a hand through his hair. It’s longer than when he was in school. “Well, I can’t say I’ll ever understand what you and Harry have, but I know it means something to him. That it’s important.”

Severus nods. “It is.” It’s difficult to explain the way he feels, the way they’re tied together, the way they just...belong. And Severus wouldn’t want to, anyhow. But Weasley matters to Harry. So it’s important, Severus realises, that Weasley knows Harry matters to him. “We are happy.”

Weasley’s not looking at him, he’s staring straight ahead, at the bottles lining the shelves behind the bar. “I’m glad,” he says after a few moments. “That’s good.”

***

Later that night, they lie in Severus’s bed together. Harry’s got his head on Severus’s chest; He cards his fingers through Harry’s thick hair.

“You should move in.”

Harry turns, pushes himself on his elbow to look down at Severus. “What?”

“Move in. Here with me. I know you couldn’t walk to work but—”

“I’m good at Apparition,” Harry says, cutting him off. Then: “Do people do that?” He tilts his head; a strand of dark hair falls into his eyes. Severus reaches up to brush it away. “Move in here? If you’re not faculty or staff?”

“You act as though you’re some random Muggle I picked up off the street corner.”

Harry snorts. “I’ve just never known any professor to have their partner live at the castle, that’s all. I wouldn’t have to be, er, junior caretaker or assistant Quidditch coach, or something?”

Severus tugs him towards him again, presses a kiss to his collarbone, his jaw. “Caretaker? I think the kitchens would have you long before Argus would. You do know how to serve a drink.”

Harry pushes at his shoulder, smiles. “You know what I mean.”

Hmmm… It’s true married professors often choose to live away from the castle. Septima, Irma...”

“Madam Pince is married?”

“Yes, and she Floos in most mornings. Her husband works for Gringotts. They have a house in London I believe. But Pomona’s husband lives in the castle. And Madame Maxime, when she is not required at Beauxbatons, stays with Rubeus.” He runs a hand along Harry’s side. “There have been others, as well.”

“And you want me to live here too…with you?” Harry speaks slowly, as though trying to make sense of what Severus has said.

“I do.”

Severus does not read Harry’s mind—he never does on principle. But now? Now he doesn’t need to. Now he feels the rush of happiness, of want, of…love.

“Okay,” Harry says.

“Yes?”

Harry kisses him. “Yes.”

***

Harry squeezes in beside Severus at the Head Table. He leans over, presses a quick kiss to Severus’s cheek. “Hullo,” he says, pulling back.

Severus feels his face warm, looks down, but not before he sees Pomona smiling from behind the lip of her teacup. Nosy old witch. The students have likely noticed too. Severus glares out across the Great Hall for good measure, but it does no good. Several of his Slytherin girls are looking up at him, fond expressions on their faces. Bloody hell. The majority of the student body knows, of course—that he’s…involved with Harry Potter. It’s been impossible to avoid and has, much to Severus’s perpetual annoyance, only served to improve his reputation. Potter’s fame is exhausting.

Harry’s oblivious, as always. He reaches for the platter of boiled potatoes.

Severus frowns. While it’s not unheard of for Harry to join Severus for dinner here, it’s rare he does so. He works most nights, heading out right around when Severus returns to their rooms from office hours to get ready for dinner. And, when Harry covers a daytime shift at the bar, it’s typically past dinnertime once he’s made it back to Hogwarts. He has some nights off, of course. But he’s usually exhausted and prefers to grab something from the kitchens to eat in their rooms. Sometimes Severus joins him and they eat soup and sandwiches together on the rug by the fire. Minerva doesn’t mind. Severus is present at most meals.

But today is Thursday, and Harry always works Thursdays.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” Severus asks.

“Yeah, about that,” Harry says, not looking at him. He’s thrown on an old school robe over his jeans and t-shirt. Sex Pistols tonight, Severus thinks, judging by the yellow neckline he sees above the robe’s collar. He smiles. Not a choice Minerva would approve of for dinner. Harry takes the carafe of pumpkin juice and fills his glass. The appalling beverage only seems to appear at the Head Table when he’s here.

“So I told my boss I’d be cutting my hours.”

“Oh?” Severus keeps his tone neutral. Harry doesn’t need the money. He’s got heaps of it. He’d never have to work another day in his life, should he so decide. And Severus has savings too. Enough for them both to be comfortable. But Harry needs to stay occupied. He gets restless when he’s nothing to do.

“Yeah, so it’s official…” Harry’s takes a sip of his juice. “You’re sitting beside Hogwarts’s new Assistant Quidditch Coach.”

Severus nearly sputters on his own drink. “Quidditch?”

Harry laughs softly. “I know we were joking that night—when you asked me to move in with you. But it got me thinking. Madam Hooch isn’t getting any younger and, between a full course-load of flying classes for the younger students, sponsoring the House teams, and refereeing matches? Well, she could use the help. And Minerva found room in the budget, so...”

Severus looks down the table at Rolanda, but her head is turned; she’s busy talking to Rubeus about something.

“I can still take some weekend shifts at the bar,” Harry says. “That’s where the good tips are, anyhow.” He grins. “And I know how much you enjoy chatting with Clyde.”

“I most certainly do not.” But Harry only laughs and Severus can’t help but smile. He takes a bite of his stew.

“So, this is good, right?” Harry asks after a few moments, and his voice hesitant, uncertain.

“Yes,” Severus assures him, reaching out to cover his hand with his own. He finds he doesn’t give a damn who’s watching them. “This is good.”

There are three words that Severus doesn’t say very often. But now, he pushes them out with his magic, feels them brush Harry’s mind.

Harry smiles, a soft upturn of his lips. “Yeah,” he says softly. “I know.”