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He kept to the shadows, carefully avoiding every pool of moon- or lamplight; he kept his collar turned up tight around his throat and measured his steps with quiet caution. Once or twice he paused, pressing against a dark wall to hide himself from a passing Muggle. More than once or twice, he seriously considered Disapparating and abandoning the whole mission.

*

"You remember what I told you?" That singsong voice, those laughter-filled eyes; the little tease daring him to admit that the finer details of his instructions had been lost in the throes of a spine-jarring orgasm ...

"There is nothing wrong with my memory. Thank you."

*

Snape dug his hand into a pocket, yanked out his money pouch and braved the glare of a street light so he could examine the coins that he tipped into his palm.

*

"How much was that worth, then?" Potter had begun placing cold Muggle coins on his bare chest. Hard to say whether Snape's sudden show of renewed arousal was the result of the evil smile on Potter's face, or the lasting effects of a certain stamina potion. Either way, the brat had it wrong. "You should've told me," he said, eyes taking in everything. Potter licked his lips and poured more small, fake-gold coins out of his tin. "You should've said that you like being paid." He spread a handful of the coins across Snape's twitching belly. "I don't mind."

"You couldn't afford me," Snape answered, calmly. "Brat."

"Snob."

"Ingrate."

"You're hard again."

"I had noticed."

The coins went everywhere.

*

The coins looked strange and felt light in his hand. With no sense of their practical value, he simply had to trust Potter's word. He had said that there would be enough.

Admittedly it had been a long while since he last paid attention, but Snape clearly recalled that Muggles had once placed their telephones in sturdy red boxes that were just large enough for a person to stand in. They had afforded some privacy to the caller. Telephones appeared to have changed rather a lot since the last time he looked. This one was attached to a silver pillar, sheltered under some kind of see-through half-bubble and open to the street. Snape considered looking for another, a red one with a door, but Potter's instructions, although poorly-timed, had been quite clear. This was the place and it was almost time. Snape looked quickly up and down the street, saw nobody, and stepped under the plastic hood for a closer look. There were numbered buttons in place of the dial and a great deal more information on the poster, but the principle seemed unchanged. Lift receiver. Insert coins. Press the numbers. Potter's numbers. Snape patiently inserted a handful of the small golden coins, then slowly pushed the buttons. Potter had demonstrated a sadistic streak in helping Snape to memorise the sequence; namely, withholding all relief or satisfaction until Snape could recite the number correctly and without hesitation, and with his voice somewhere in the correct octave. As innovative teaching methods went, it had much to recommend it.

Snape pressed the final digit and listened to the series of unfathomable clicks and ticks, followed by an odd sounding bell. Nothing like he remembered. It had proved fruitless, asking Potter to explain how the devices had changed since the last time Snape was forced to deal with one; the young man had been nothing but a smug glint in James Potter's eye the last time Snape had needed to use a telephone.

*

"So ..." Potter dipped a hand right down to the bottom of his money tin and brought out a brownish paper note. "Are you worth one of these?" He folded the paper along the length of his middle finger and trailed the edges across Snape's throat. "A ten. It'd buy you a book. Lots of cheap candles. A nice bottle of wine."

"Yes-"

"What does it buy me?"

"Oh, stop it-"

His eyes were watering. Something to do with Potter's toes nudging his balls, no doubt, or the way he looked, crouching over a victim and ready to strike. An edible predator.

"Come on. Play with me."

"Infant."

"Prick."

Potter kissed him again.

*

Potter answered. Snape simply refused to acknowledge that the quiet voice made various parts of his body tingle. It had only been two weeks. Nobody could get that hard up in two weeks.

"Hello?" Potter said again, quizzical this time. Snape cleared his throat, but got no further. "It's you. I thought you might not."

"We had an agreement."

"Yeah."

"I am a man of my word."

"Yeah." Potter's voice was momentarily swamped by the sound of vehicles in the background.

"Where are you?"

"Walking." A pause. "They make telephones like that, now. To go in your pocket. I'd better not say where I am."

"Of course," Snape answered dryly, once again glancing up and down the empty street. "Everybody in our world will be eavesdropping on this conversation."

"You never know." It was hard to tell whether Potter sounded weary or wounded. "Have you put enough money in?"

"All you gave me," Snape answered, after feeling the empty pouch in his pocket. "Will the paper ones go in?" It looked like they might fit into one of the slots, if you folded them in half.

"No." Now he was smiling, the patronising little- "But you could ask somebody for change."

"There's nobody here."

"Nobody?" More traffic noise, amplified and unpleasant. For a moment Snape suspected that Potter had gone. "-ith this thing. Bugger."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said I don't think magic agrees with this thing," Potter half shouted. "I'm wearing the Cloak."

"Of course you are." That bloody thing. James Potter's genes and James Potter's Invisibility Cloak. As if there had been a moment's doubt about how that was going to turn out. "You're walking along a Muggle street talking to a pocket telephone while invisible?"

"Yes."

"The Ministry would have something to say about that."

"I bet." Bitter, now. That was the tone that twisted the knife under Snape's ribs. The one that needed silencing with lips and a tongue, or even-

*

"Don't stop." The dark head bobbing vigorously at his crotch, the paper money pressed against his chest by one, sweaty hand. "Don't stop."

*

"- okay?"

"What?" Snape loosened his collar. Damned Muggle clothes, never let the body breathe.

"I said 'are you okay?'"

"Oh. Yes." Snape became absorbed with watching the little grey box that showed his money decreasing with the passage of time. Decreasing fast. "When are you returning?" That one question needed to be answered before the coins ran out.

"Miss me?"

"A simple question that requires a simple answer, Potter."

"Harry."

"... Harry." The brat could bargain for hours on that point alone. Best to concede, for now.

"Maybe a month. When things are quiet." A month. Snape shifted his weight, forced to admit that his discomfort was not entirely the fault of the Muggle-made clothing. "I'd kiss you if I was there."

"What?"

"I said-"

"I heard you."

"I'd have my hands on you. Are you wearing those same old robes?" Snape bristled on behalf of his immaculate robes, which were replaced every six months without fail, by none other than Madam Malkin herself.

"Of course I'm not. This ridiculous outing called for some discretion. From one of us."

"Muggle clothes, then?" Snape parted the telephone receiver briefly from his ear and gave it the look that he presently wished to give Potter. "Zip instead of buttons. That's good." Brat sounded like he was describing the merits of a fine wine. "A belt?"

"... yes." They had been acquainted long enough and intimately enough that Snape was beginning to sense a trap.

"What's underneath?"

"Potter, stop being perverse."

"Oh, go on. Are you telling me you wouldn't be interested if it was just my birthday suit under this Cloak?"

"I should like to know where you keep the pocket telephone," Snape answered, tartly. "And if you can remember how to brew the cure for pneumonia." That seemed to have put an end to the nonsense. "Are you well?"

"Or if my hand was on my dick?" Potter continued as if there had been no interruption.

"Potter-" The numbers in the box were getting very low. Snape found himself smiling. Nastily. "The money will be gone soon. I told you that you couldn't afford me."

"Damn." Damn Potter if he didn't actually sound disappointed. "Still nobody you can ask for change?"

"Fortunately not."

"Damn. Well ... how are you? And everybody? I really miss getting owls." The box began flashing, clearly demanding more money. "Imagine if that got out. That I miss you. Damn." The telephone had started bleeping in Snape's ear. "At least tell me what you're wearing underneath, so I've got something to think about tonight," Potter pleaded.

*

"Let me stay." Potter kissed him between the snatched breaths and the words. "Sleep with you."

"Why?" Snape could hardly manage the one word.

"So we can do it again in the morning, before I go."

*

"I don't know why I tolerate this juvenile behaviour," Snape informed him, speaking loudly over the demanding bleeps.

"Because you lov-" A click and then the quiet purr of the dead line. Snape regarded the ear-piece for a while, until his heart resumed a normal enough rhythm. Then he placed the receiver slowly back into the metal cradle.

"Yes, perhaps," he murmured. He glanced up and down the street once more, then slipped across into the shadow of the nearest wall and prepared to Disapparate. Perhaps he ought to consider obtaining a pocket telephone of his own. Just for emergencies. "Perhaps."