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The Apple Tree

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Harry slipped into the Leaky Cauldron and leant casually against the wall, as the door shut with a muffled thump beside him. The flavours of the wizarding world wrapped him in their familiarity as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. He savoured the rich, warm smell of wizard tobacco, the sharp, sour tang of old spilt ale, the odour of wizard bodies, their natural scents not disguised with chemicals, but enhanced with herbs and spices. He propped a leg nonchalantly against the wall, adjusting the sports bag on his shoulder as he ran a magical scan over the heaving mass of people. It was a reasonably new skill, and he made sure to use it at every opportunity – partly, because he liked that he could, and partly because he had become more cautious, and liked to know if there were any dangers present.

He felt the magical power levels of the wizards and witches present, his senses sliding quickly over the throng. Most were of low level power, a few middle level – his eyes now adjusted, he noted that Blaise Zabini had a good middle power level - and scanned along the booths lining the back walls, working methodically left to right.

Hold it.

He slid his eyes and senses back again. Interesting. A notice-me-not spell across the third booth in. Which had a good view of the door. He pushed away carefully, making his way calmly to the bar. He waited patiently to be served, the staff dealing as fast and as cheerfully as they could with the enthusiastic demands of the multitude. He leant a hip against the wood, turning as he waited to glance casually over at the booth. He delved through the spell. One person only in there. With an obscuration charm on! And incredibly strong magic. Tinged, as well. He felt his stomach tightening, adrenalin beginning to pump into his veins.

“Mr Johnson!” Tom, the barman, stood grinning at him as he quickly polished a glass ready to fill. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“Not at all, Tom,” Harry smiled. “Rushed off your feet, I see.”

“Well, the kids go back to Hogwarts tomorrow. Lots of families leave it till the last minute to come and get their supplies. Make an outing of it, really.”

Harry nodded.

Tom grimaced. “Actually, I’ve a favour to ask.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, his face open.

Tom gestured towards an elderly couple sitting at a small table not far from the bar, just finishing their dinner. “Old Bernard and Mathilda Franks. So many decades since they had anything to do with Hogwarts that it never entered their heads to think we might be a trifle busy this week,” he snorted.

“No room at the inn?” Harry murmured.

“Well, there is, but the thing is, Mrs Franks can’t manage more than one flight of stairs – “

“You want me to do a levitation charm?” Harry guessed.

“No, no. I offered that; don’t have any problem with that myself. But she insists they make her sick and her tummy is too delicate at her age –“

“You want my room.”

“I’ve got one on the third floor you can use,” Tom said hurriedly, “seeing as how you’re young and fit. It’s cheaper –“

“Sounds good to me,” smiled Harry.

“But only a single, though, and you have to share the bathroom,” Tom got out guiltily.

“Tom, it’s fine,” Harry soothed. “Want me to go and talk to them?”

“Would you? I told them I’d have to ask you, that there was no guarantee -”

“No problem. Tell me though, who’s hogging the third booth to themselves at the back there?”

“What?” Tom looked round at the back wall. “Oh, Severus Snape! I’d forgotten he was there! Put up a notice-me-not, has he? Damn cheek! In my pub! Taking that whole booth to himself when I’m so busy! And he’s barely ordered a thing all evening –“

Harry grinned. As soon as he knew the name, he could see the man. He was sitting there with his head in a book and an empty pint glass in front of him.

“I’ll go share his table in a minute. What’s he drinking?”

“Best ale.”

“Two of those then, Tom. Has he eaten yet?”

“You’re not going to buy him dinner?” Tom said, scandalised.

“Hate eating on my own in front of someone. Mrs Tom got any of that steak and Stilton pie on today?” Harry said hopefully.

“She always makes sure it’s on when you’re booked in,” Tom said with a smile. “Two, then?”

“Please.”

Harry strolled over to the elderly couple. Mathilda Franks was the tiniest, most wrinkled person he had ever seen. She had neat white hair scraped into a tight bun at the back of her head, piercing dark eyes and a prim mouth that she was just dabbing with her napkin. Harry hunkered down beside her and found himself at eye level.

“Mrs Franks? I’m Alex Johnson.” He gave her a friendly smile, and held out his hand.

She observed him with a beady eye.

“Mr Johnson?”

That was Bernard. A wheezy voice. Probably have more trouble with the stairs than his wife. Maybe that’s why she was fussing, thought Harry.

“It’s your room?”

“No, it’s yours,” Harry assured him, standing up and swivelling round to the rather chubby little wizard with watery eyes and a rather fetching striped cap on his head. Dumbledore would like that cap, Harry decided with an inward chuckle.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Bernard Franks said anxiously.

“Truly, I don’t. You’re doing me a favour. Tom’s put me in a cheaper room. I didn’t know he had cheaper rooms! I’ll be sure to ask for one next time! Didn’t know he was ripping me off all this time!” Harry glanced over at the bar with a smile to see if Tom was listening, which he was.

“I only open the third floor when we’re really busy, Mr Johnson!” he denied the accusation.

Harry grinned at him. Tom slammed two pints down on the bar. “Dinner’ll take a little while. There’s a backlog,” he grunted.

Harry laughed.

Tom gave in and grinned back sheepishly. “It’s true.”

Harry nodded. He turned again to Mrs Franks, who had not yet said a word. “If there’s anything else I can do for you –“ he began politely, to be cut off by the old witch.

“It’ll work out for the best,” she said, in a clipped voice, as if coming to a decision.

“I’m sorry? “ Harry asked, brows raised in enquiry.

Mrs Franks just looked sharply at Harry and said crisply, “Thank you for the room, young man.”

Harry regarded her for a moment: “You’re very welcome,” he replied, and got up. He knew when he was being dismissed.

Adjusting the sports bag over his shoulder, Harry picked up the pint glasses from the bar and carried them carefully over to Snape’s table.

“I hope you don’t mind me joining you,” he said cheerfully, “but there’s no other seats to be had. The place is heaving, isn’t it?” and he bent his knees to slide the ale onto the table so that his bag didn’t jostle it as he did so.

Snape looked up from his book and glared his trademark glare, but Harry could sense his curiosity that Harry had seen through his notice-me-not spell and invaded his privacy regardless. His eyes swept the room, confirming that all the other tables were in fact occupied.

“It’s a public house,” he answered shortly; “You may sit where you wish.” And he returned his head to his book.

Harry pushed his bag along the bench seat and sat down beside it. He took out his wand and gave his glass a quick tap, cooling the beer, then took a welcome swig of his drink before sighing in pleasure. Really, butterbeer might warm you down to your toes, but on a hot night a chilled ale was delicious. Very unBritish, of course – but he had it at a perfect temperature where the ripe bitter flavours still came through, accentuating the cool wash across his tongue. He was aware that Snape had been watching him from the minute he had withdrawn his wand – indeed, Snape’s own was in his hand under the book, but Harry had made a point of using large slow movements that were clearly unthreatening.

He looked across at the man, meeting his eyes. “Want me to chill yours too?” he asked, pushing the second glass across the table towards Snape.

The black eyes narrowed in the sallow face. “I do not accept drinks from strangers,” he said quietly, his crisp diction slicing into Harry.

“It’s best ale - I asked Tom what you were drinking,” Harry explained.

“And why would you do that?” Snape answered in his silkiest voice.

Harry felt it tingle down his spine and resisted the impulse to shiver.

“’Cos I’m disturbing you?”

Snape looked at him as if he were a specimen in one of the glass jars lining his workroom. Harry felt the coldness of that gaze stroke over his skin, and he could no longer hold back the shudder that twitched through his muscles. He leant his head back and took another long quaff of the beer, letting himself give a further shudder as the cold liquid slid down the back of his throat, and hoping Snape thought that the first one was for the same reason. He pulled the glass from his lips just in time to realize that Snape was watching his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. He shivered again.

“It’s good cold, on a night like this,” he offered. “Sure you won’t try it?”

Snape returned his gaze to his book. “At the speed you are drinking I’m sure you’ll be able to manage the second one in no time at all,” he said, a hint of censure in his voice.

Harry had to bite back his instinctive desire to respond. Actually, though he didn’t know it, Snape had a point. Harry had already had a couple of pints with his workmates before leaving Brighton and apparating in to Diagon Alley, and he needed to slow down. The ale was much stronger than Muggle beer. He wiped his finger up the side of the glass, catching the chill condensation, and sucked his finger into his mouth. He loved the way it cleared a clean path on the glass. He looked across at Snape to realise that the man was watching him again, and thought maybe it wasn’t the best mannered thing to do. Snape bent his head again.

Harry wondered why he hadn’t accepted the beer. He didn’t know it was Harry offering it and his own glass was empty. Most people would jump at a free pint.

Suddenly, he had an epiphany.

He looked hard at Snape and then glanced away, his eyes scanning unseeing over the smoky bar. Of course Snape hadn’t accepted the drink! He was a Potions Master: he must know of every drug or potion that could be masked by alcohol – beer especially probably – its bitter taste would disguise a number of herbs or poisons. And people hated him; people on both sides of the political divide, even old pupils might enjoy the opportunity to slip him something embarrassing, even if not lethal. Snape would never accept a drink from a stranger – would probably never be able to, whatever the outcome of the war: there would always be people posing a threat to him, seeking vengeance. The thought absolutely shook Harry; he had enjoyed clubbing and drinking in the pub with his friends and workmates over the last couple of years, and the sudden realisations of the restrictions and indeed, the loneliness of Snape’s life, hit him like a bludger.

He turned and looked at Snape again, seeing him as a man for the first time in his life. His eyes roamed over him, taking in the familiar sallow skin, the thin cheeks, the dark shadow along his chin. His hair was lank rather than greasy, and really, he wore it in such an unflattering way! He could tie it back or cut it short, either would look a helluva lot better.

“I don’t pick up stray men, either,” Snape said from his book, not bothering to look up.

Harry had just taken a mouthful of ale and consequently sprayed it over the table.

“You did that on purpose!” he gasped, getting his breath back.

“Told you I was not available?” Snape sneered.

“Chose your moment for maximum affect!” Harry choked, just getting his head round that Snape thought he was trying to pick him up.

“It is an art,” the older wizard said smugly.

Harry stared at him. A hint of humour? From Snape? Who thought that he was interested in him? Did Snape attract that sort of attention? His eyes started looking again, noting the long, rather delicate hands as the man flipped a page over. He looked at his body, searched his memory of the shape of Snape. All he could think of was the commanding swoop of Snape in his robes, swirling down the corridors or coming into class. The man had Presence with a capital P. But his body? Well, he was tall and slim, and really, Harry had never thought anything more of it. He eyed Snape’s shoulders and chest.

“Still not available,” the man murmured, eyes never leaving the page.

Harry flushed. He’d been so overwhelmed at the thought of anyone considering Snape as a potential sexual partner that he had been staring. And was Snape gay?

“Sorry,” he offered fairly, then added, “if it eases your anxieties, I don’t pick up stray men either. I prefer to know where they’ve been, myself.”

Snape’s eyes shot up at that. So, he’d just been trying to be obnoxious – he hadn’t realised that Harry was gay.

Then, to Harry’s discomfiture, Snape checked him out.

Openly.

Harry felt his cheeks redden and tried to stop his hand shaking as he raised his glass and took another small sip. Anything not to look back at the man. Snape! Giving him the once over! Holy shit!

“Getting shy now?” Snape said. Oh my god, Snape was teasing him.

Harry put his drink down and stared straight back at the other man. The black eyes looked assessingly into his. Harry’s heart was thumping and he felt heat surge through his body, bursting out of his pores. Snape looked away, burying himself in his book again dismissively. Shakily, Harry pulled a couple of magazines out of the side pocket of his bag and then decided, with sweat trickling down his spine, that now was the time to take off his hoodie. He tried to stand, but the bench seat did not allow him to get his legs straight, so he manoeuvred his back to the wall and with one knee on the bench reached down to the hem and began to peel it up his body.

Unfortunately the fabric clung like tacky weed to his tee shirt underneath, and he could feel both peeling up. His head was buried, his stomach exposed, and he felt ridiculous. He sucked in his breath to expand his chest to pull the damn thing over his head, and felt his loose jeans slip down his hips. Cursing to himself, he yanked both garments off, peeled the tee shirt from the top and whipped it back on quickly. Snape stared openly throughout, and Harry felt colour washing up his stomach. He pulled his jeans back up and wished he’d invested in a belt. Or underwear.

“Nope. Still not interested,” Snape commented. “Worst striptease I’ve ever seen.”

“And you’ve seen many?” Harry snarled back, red as a beetroot.

“None of that level of amateurishness, that’s for sure.”

“I’m not buying any more hoodies,” Harry grumbled, embarrassed. He must have looked bloody ridiculous. And it was dangerous, that moment of having one’s head covered.

Snape actually laughed. Harry blinked, then gave a small smile in return.

“Nice tattoo though,” Snape said, bending to his book once more.

His trousers had dropped that low? Bloody hell!

“Thanks,” Harry managed to get out with an attempt at nonchalance. He picked up the Quidditch magazine which he had just collected from the seller outside the pub and started to read one of the articles. He hadn’t meant to pull the other journal out of his bag and slipped it back in the pocket. It was a potions periodical which he’d bought because Hermione had finally got her research published. She had used a ‘nom de plume’ as she didn’t expect that the thoughts of a Muggle schoolgirl would get much respect; they had had many a laugh over choosing her name in the Gryffindor Common Room late at night, and Harry felt immensely proud of ‘Herbert Greystoke’ which after many more hilarious options were discarded was chosen because it used Hermione’s initials and had a hint of elderly boring respectability about it. Harry was delighted to find that he actually understood the article, but that was mostly because Hermione had read them excerpts from her research books and discussed the matter with them endlessly over months and months. He had been interested to find that there was also a paper by Snape in ‘Practical Potions Monthly’, but it seemed to be a highly complex refinement of some previous work with a whole string of preceding papers referred to within it. Most of the other articles seemed overly wordy or incredibly boring, and he wondered whether Hermione’s clearly written piece would be hailed as a welcome relief by the readership or rejected as not dull enough.

“Mr Johnson!” said the landlady cheerfully, sliding the steaming plates in front of Harry and Snape. “How are you then, ducks?”

“Fine, thank you, Mrs Tom, and yourself?” Harry responded, shifting half to his feet in greeting. When Harry had first called her Mrs Tom, never having heard the landlord's surname or her first name, and hoping that he’d be enlightened, both halves of the married couple had been tickled by it, and ‘Mrs Tom’ she had remained.

“Ah, sweetheart, sit you down now and get tucked into that! I didn’t know you knew Professor Snape,” she added, glancing from one to another.

“Just sharing a table. You’re doing good trade tonight,” he smiled.

“Hogwarts’ return, isn’t it?” she agreed. “That why you’re here, Professor?” she continued.

“I had some business in town,” Snape said noncommittally. “There appears to have been a mistake, Madam, I did not order any dinner.”

“No dear, I know, Tom says, that nice Mr Johnson has ordered dinner for Professor Snape, just like that, would you believe it! It’s my special, he knows it’s good,” she said bending in conspiratorially towards Snape, giving a nod towards Harry. “Were you a student of his, dear?” she asked Harry. “Wanted to repay one of your teachers, eh? Very nice manners too,” she smiled, and bustled off, without waiting for an answer.

Harry looked at Snape. “Don’t eat it if you’d rather not,” he said quietly, “though it’s the steak and Stilton and it’s delicious. And I haven’t left this table so I can’t have poisoned it.”

“Why should you imagine anyone might want to poison me?” Snape said limpidly.

Oh! Dangerous ground!

“Well, you’re a Potions Master, I expect you’re always on the alert. I expected so after the beer, anyway,” Harry added.

“How do you know I am a Potions Master?” Snape asked, not picking up his knife and fork as Harry had done. “I’m quite certain you are not one of my ex-students – I have a very good memory for faces.”

Well, he certainly wasn’t an ex-student! “Your picture is in Practical Potions,” Harry said, indicating the magazine in his bag.

Snape glanced at it with surprise. “You’re interested in potions?” he asked, a mix of curiosity and wariness in his voice.

“I’m afraid I didn’t understand most of the articles,” Harry admitted. “Yours seemed predicated on so many earlier papers that I got rather lost.”

Snape snorted, looked hard at Harry again, slipped a bookmark into his book before laying it on the table, and took up his knife and fork.

Harry felt ridiculously pleased.

“God, this is delicious,” Harry moaned a few mouthfuls later. Mrs Tom’s pie was just out of this world. Rich gravy, the tang of melted Stilton, the flaky slip of the pastry on his tongue.

Snape looked up at him and smiled. “I have to concur. I have not had this before here and wonder how I could have missed it.”

Harry felt like he’d stepped onto another planet. Snape! Smiled! Again! In six years he had never seen the man smile! Which was an appalling thought, when he came to think about it. Dumbledore smiled. Professor Flitwick was always chuckling at the high table over something, though it was never possible to hear what. Madam Hooch often grinned in excitement on the quidditch pitch, and even laughed at some of the rude locker room jokes. Even Madam Pomfrey liked a bit of a laugh when she had stopped worrying over her patients. But Snape. Snape always looked sour. Well, he didn’t appear to have a lot to laugh about in his life, did he? Harry wondered how he coped with the constant fear that spying must bring: he couldn’t imagine doing it himself. Living every day in fear of discovery; never knowing when he was summoned if he would come back alive or unharmed. Having to do whatever disgusting things he did have to do for Voldemort.

No, it was good to see Snape smile. Harry wondered where his loathing of the man had gone. In truth, it had dissipated over the last year. Here, meeting him as a man and not the cruel tormentor of his past, he was ready to start with a clean slate; here he was not the hated Harry Potter, and it was interesting to see how the other man reacted to a stranger. So far, it was very interesting indeed.

Snape finished everything on his plate, and sat back, elegant and replete. Harry wiped up the last traces of gravy with his bread, not willing to waste a delicious morsel.

“Thank you,” Snape murmured.

Harry grinned.

“Glad you liked it. I hate eating in front of someone who isn’t. Makes you too conscious of yourself.”

Snape looked him over, but didn’t comment. Pushing his plate to the side, he returned to his book. A young girl appeared and picked up the plates, saying conspiratorially, “Mrs Tom said to tell you that she’s made sticky toffee pudding.”

“Oh god! Yes please! With ice cream.” He looked across at Snape, who was watching him indulgently. “You’ve got to have it. It’s orgasmic.”

The girl giggled, and Snape raised a haughty eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry, been living around Muggles too much. Muggle expression,” he apologised. “Apt though,” he added.

“Indeed.” Snape intoned. “Nevertheless, I will forgo the pleasure.”

“Not into public orgasms?” Harry said, the words slipping out seemingly of their own volition. Had he really just said that to Snape?!

The girl choked back another giggle; Harry apologised to her again, and she swept away.

“Sorry,” Harry said to Snape. “You’re really missing a heavenly experience though.”

“Perhaps I prefer to keep my body in shape for more earthly pleasures,” Snape said so mildly before burying his head in his book that Harry almost didn’t catch the full meaning, and when he did he was horrified to find that his prick jerked interestedly. Well, Snape did have a sinful voice. Impossible not to have noticed that over the years. Even more sinful saying things like that!

“I can’t believe you have to watch what you eat: you’re incredibly thin as it is,” Harry responded, thinking the response very tactful until he realised that it made pretty clear that he had given Snape a good looking over. Which he hadn’t, had he? Snape always looked like a thin column. Though looking at him now, with just his upper body exposed across the table top, Harry was surprised to realise that the man was much wider in the shoulder than he would have thought.

Snape stood up, and Harry wondered if he had taken offence and was leaving.

“I’m getting another drink. I’d offer you one as you’ve bought me dinner but you still have one in hand,” Snape said, motioning towards the still untouched pint on the table. “A firewhiskey, perhaps?”

“No, I’m fine,” Harry murmured, picking up the pint. “Cheers.” He watched Snape move to the bar, and then turned quickly back to the table as he realised he was trying to decipher the man’s body shape through his robes. He glanced at the book Snape had left on the table, and almost choked with laughter as he realised that it was one of the more obscure texts that Hermione had cited as a reference in her article. He couldn’t wait to tell her!

Next moment, his pudding arrived, steaming, the toffee sauce glistening richly on the top. Several scoops of ice-cream were beginning to melt into the sauce at the side of it. Harry leant forward and breathed deeply. The scent was out of this world, and made his mouth salivate just to smell it.

At the bar, Snape had turned to watch his table companion whilst his pint was being pulled. He observed the sniff, watching the man’s appreciation, then saw him select a careful spoonful which he lifted to his mouth and almost sucked off the spoon, not taking the whole into his mouth but sliding his lips over it and then tilting his head back, eyes almost shut as he savoured it. The man was in a world of his own with the dessert, shut in pleasure, and Snape, to his surprise, felt himself begin to harden at the sight. The man seemed an utter sensualist, smelling, tasting, looking. As a man for whom the senses were an incredibly important part of his work, for whom the exact shade of a potion meant the difference between success or agony, who checked ingredients by sight and scent and touch, he knew how rare such a trait was. So many seemed to see the world in half-colours as it were, pastel shades rather than the full gamut of rich magentas and crimsons and smalt and verdigris. He strolled back to the table, and slid into his seat.

“I’m not giving up this experience for anyone,” Harry groaned. “Read your book and don’t look at me. This is too pleasurable for words,” and sucked another spoonful slowly into his mouth, shutting his eyes to concentrate on the pleasure of the taste.

Snape watched him. The actions were definitely sexy, if not sexual, yet it wasn’t a come-on: “It’s like watching someone masturbating,” Snape said, his voice gravelly. He was fascinated.

“Oh god. Don’t add your voice to it too or I’ll go over the top.” Harry was on sensual overload, the taste of the pudding with its crumbly moist texture, the contrast of the heat of the pudding and the cold ice-cream, the smooth slide of the sauce, the rich sweet smell. And Snape, purring.

“Are you hard?” Snape asked, absolutely curious. Could someone get hard over a pudding?

“Am now,” Harry gulped, Snape’s question shooting right to his groin. He opened his eyes, spoon just coming out of his mouth, could almost feel his pupils dilating.

“Sure you don’t want a taste?”

Snape looked at the young man, mouth slightly open, eyes dark, cheeks flushed, and forced himself not to shift and reveal his discomfort.

“I’ve already said no,” he murmured, but his eyes were drawn to that mouth.

Harry blinked, and suddenly realised that his subconscious was slipping in more than he’d intended. Wasn’t it? “I meant the pudding,” he blushed.

Snape looked down at the half-eaten bowl-full, the brown and white swirling together as the ice cream melted. “I don’t have a sweet tooth,” he commented, “I prefer tangy, salty flavours.”

He was winding him up! Harry felt his erection get impossibly hard. Thoughts of Snape tasting him shot into his head and were so shocking, shocking because they were Snape and him and bare flesh and salty skin and come and shocking because he was aroused and not horrified by the thoughts.

He suddenly couldn’t eat another mouthful, and put the spoon down with a clatter, then straightened it in the bowl, not looking at Snape. The heady tension was enticing and odd and delicious and wrong.

He shifted on the seat and put his back to the wall at the back of the booth, pulling his magazine out again and shifting one leg onto the bench, murmuring a quick cleaning spell on his boots. He didn’t know what to make of the situation. He had no intention of picking Snape up, and the other man had said he wasn’t interested. But that last comment, and the tone of the conversation….

“I apologise,” Snape said quietly, and Harry’s head jerked up.

“That last remark was uncalled for,” Snape continued. “I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable. I’ve never seen anyone enjoy food so much, and let my tongue run away with me.”

Harry gulped again. Do not think about Snape’s tongue… “Sorry too. I shouldn’t have started it by saying it was orgasmic. Let’s forget about it. I don’t think Noble is the best reference, if you’re thinking about Herbert Greystoke’s article. I thought Hudson had more relevance.”

Snape’s eyes lit up, and to Harry’s surprise the next half hour passed in peace with an in depth discussion of the article and the ramifications. Harry felt on firm ground and actually enjoyed the discussion. In Potions class they never questioned or discussed anything in this manner, and it was intriguing to follow Snape’s arguments and thought patterns. Eventually Snape asked about another article, that Harry had found immensely boring. He said so. Snape laughed, and agreed. They had coffee, and it was with a sense of reluctance that they realised that the hour was getting late, the pub had cleared considerably, and that it was time to call a halt.

Snape stood up. “I’ve enjoyed this evening, Mr Johnson. Thank you for my dinner,” Snape said, surprise with a hint of warmth to soften it in his voice.

“Alex,” Harry said. “It’s Alex. And I’ve enjoyed it too. Surprise to me as well,” he commented, “never knew potions could be interesting until recently.”

Snape laughed again. “Perhaps you should have paid more attention in school, Alex.”

Harry smiled. “Perhaps.”

He stood as well, and began to head towards the bar. “I need to pick up my key from Tom. I’ve swapped with an elderly couple and Tom’s put me on the third floor. Didn’t know there was one till tonight.”

“I’ll go up and use the bathroom then,” Snape said.

Harry raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“Tom put me there too, as I asked not to be on the same floor as any of schoolchildren. There’s only one bathroom.”

“Righto, thanks,” Harry said, trying hard not to think of Snape in the bathroom. In the same bathroom that he was going to use. Snape naked in the shower. He turned away quickly, and startled, Snape headed off.

Harry’s alternative accommodation was basic but comfortable, a narrow single bed in a small room in the eaves. He lay on the bed waiting for Snape to come out of the bathroom. Not having heard anything for a while, he picked up his towel and headed along the corridor just as Snape opened the bathroom door and came out of it.

Harry couldn’t help it. A billow of steam flurried in the air, Snape’s hair was clean and washed, and he could smell the most delicious fragrance – lemon balm, and something else. Snape was wearing black silk pyjama bottoms under a towelling robe. Both men stopped in front of each other. Tension, hot and sexual, sprang to life faster than a curse at a Death Eater meeting. The moment seemed forever and as brief as a blink, before Snape stepped around Harry, murmuring, ”Sorry if I kept you,” then strode off to his bedroom without waiting for a response.

Harry shut himself in the bathroom, leant against the sink and took great gulps of air.

 

Harry leapt out of the bed, wand instantly into his hand, his body in defensive pose, his heart hammering in his chest, before he even realised what had awoken him. His senses quickly judging that the danger was not in the room, he realised that a loud – very loud - noise in another part of the inn was responsible. He checked his muggle wristwatch. 2am. Pulling on his jeans, he padded barefoot to the door and opened it quietly. Peering outside, and finding the corridor empty, he slipped out, re-warding the room with a brief wave of his hand. He stole quietly towards the stairs, then jerked round quickly as Snape’s door opened just as he’d passed it. His eyes quickly took in the older man – wand at the ready, pyjama top open all the way down the front, barefoot like himself. The dark hair pulled back in a neat plait. There was a mutual acknowledgement, then Harry crept forward, Snape right behind him. It felt good to have the man at his back. Quietly, they tiptoed down the edge of the staircase, round the dogleg.

Raised voices could be heard, muffled by the thick pine door at the bottom of the staircase. Harry crept quietly towards it, and carefully turned the knob. Snape’s hand grasped his shoulder, holding it back. Harry had to resist a shiver at the touch of the warm hand on his naked flesh. He could feel the bony fingers forcing their control on him. He stood quietly, waiting, listening through the sliver of gap, conscious of the heat of Snape on the step behind him.

Soon, his shoulders began to shake with suppressed laughter. He turned his head, to look at Snape over his shoulder, to see a similar wry amusement on his face.

Blaise Zabini had apparently sneaked into a girl’s room; their exertions had led to the sudden collapse of the bed, the noise of which having then alerted the girl’s parents...there was a right hullabaloo going on, with the parents shouting, the girl squawking, Blaise’s voice almost absent, and Tom casting spells to repair the bed in a very disgruntled voice.

Carefully pulling the door to, a big grin across his face, Harry turned, and found his nose almost buried in the hair on Severus Snape’s chest.

He inhaled sharply.

Snape smelt fantastic.

He felt the older man take a deep breath –the movement pushed his chest closer to Harry: the tension of desire rose between them instantly. Harry wanted to rub his face over that hair, feel it against his lips, touch his tongue...

He moved his head swiftly to the side. His nose inadvertently brushed a tight nipple, and he felt Snape recoil, as if reality had suddenly hit him, and Snape stepped back onto the higher step behind him. Harry, with the door right behind him, couldn’t move. He looked up at Snape, but in the shadows of the stairwell it was hard to make out his expression.

The older man turned and walked up the stairs. Harry couldn’t help but look, but the loose, unfastened pyjama jacket gave nothing away. Snape turned at the top and stared down at him. Harry wasn’t quite sure what to make of that look.

And then Snape was gone.

Breathing deeply, Harry’s hand slipped automatically into his jeans to adjust himself. Letting out the breath slowly, he had to admit that Snape was hot. He couldn’t remember ever having such a visceral reaction to anyone before.

He walked slowly up the stairs, and rounded the corner at the top. The corridor stretched in front of him.

Snape’s door was ajar.

 

 

Author's note: My thanks to Samayel for the excellent "notice-me-not" spell.