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Cool, Calm, Collected

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Title: Cool, Calm, Collected
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~1500
Pairing: Severus/Harry
Content: Non-magic AU, pre-slash
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to JKR.
A/N: Unbeta'd. Sequel to Two of a Kind, Falling Gently, Stumble and Fall, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back and A Break in the Clouds.

"Aren't you hot?" Harry asked breaking the companionable silence. He was sprawled on the sofa, in a plain white vest and a pair of loose boxers.

Severus looked back down at his book. "It is warm, yes."

Out of the corner of his eye Severus watched as Harry sat up and stretched his arms, the merest bit of flesh revealed near his navel.


The desire Severus was developing for Harry was so much worse now that the weather was warm and Harry wandered about half naked. He clenched his teeth together and told himself to relax.

Cool, calm, collected. That was his motto when presented with sinewy muscle and bare skin.

Cool was harder to manage in this heat wave though and Severus could feel the sweat running down the back of his neck. It was rare weather indeed and he'd never considered any sort of cooling unit. Having Harry around only made it more necessary.

When Harry stood and padded across the room to get a glass of water, Severus's eyes following the hint of his hipbone at the waist of his boxers, he rather wished he had a cold cupboard large enough to climb into.

"I was thinking," Harry said, setting his glass down. "And don't say what I think you're about to say." He wagged his finger at Severus and laughed.

"I wouldn't dream of it." Severus set his book down for good as he clearly wasn't going to be able to read it for some time. "Tell me. What were you thinking?"

"Well—" Harry paused and rubbed the back of his neck then looked back at Severus through his fringe. "—I thought we might go for a swim. To cool off."

Severus blinked then frowned. "You can't possibly want to swim in the river. I can smell it from here."

Harry came over and sat down at the table, his long legs stretched out in front of him. The muscle in his thigh flexed revealing just how toned he was.

Calm and collected. Right.

"I know a place. It's a small pond, really, but big enough for two."

"I'm not a swimmer."

Harry smiled and leaned in close, green eyes alive with mirth. "I'll teach you."

Severus sat back, feeling crowded and slightly breathless.

"I'm going." Harry slapped his hands on his thighs. "I'd love for you to come with me but I won't insist. I know you hate that." He stood and walked down the corridor to his bedroom, presumably to find some swimming trunks or at least a pair of shoes.

When Severus had told Harry he could move in, somehow he pictured they'd still lead rather separate lives, each with their own interests. Though he'd known that Harry was nearly as solitary as he was but he couldn't understand it then and he still didn't understand it now.

The way their lives had become completely entwined stunned him. If Harry didn't have work, he cooked. He brought home books from the library, seeming to understand that the thicker the tome, the happier Severus was no matter the subject.

Lost in his muddled thoughts, he looked up when Harry came back into the kitchen wearing cutoff shorts, a ratty T-shirt, and trainers with no socks.

He couldn't have looked more attractive even if he'd been wearing a dinner jacket.

"Last chance," Harry said, the note of hope in his voice impossible to ignore.

"Give me a moment." Severus refused to acknowledge Harry's blinding smile and walked by him to his own room. He didn't own proper swimming attire but found a pair of shorts he'd never worn in the bottom drawer. He figured he'd need them someday. He changed into them and pulled on an old shirt that was missing a button. Socks and work boots completed his utterly absurd attire. It reminded him vividly of the clothing his mother had got from the charity bin and he sat down heavily on the bed.

He felt like he had at ten years old. Funny how a person could be transported in time by a simple memory.

"Severus?" Harry's voice called out.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, Severus pushed the memory back down into a dark corner of his mind where it belonged. He was no longer that boy, no longer ashamed.

"Let's go before I change my mind," Severus said, grabbing his keys from the table beside the door.

They walked down the street away from the center of town and then Harry led him to the edge of the heath which surprised him.

"I've been to the ponds here before," Severus said, disappointed.

"Not this one." Harry kept walking through the shrubs until they reached a copse of trees. Thinking for sure they'd go around, Severus watched as Harry went off the path and straight in between them. It was cooler in the shade there and greener when they came out in a small clearing, a rather inviting pond in the center of it.

"How did you know about this place?" Severus asked, watching as Harry slipped off his shoes and shirt.

Hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his shorts, Harry pushed them down as he replied, "I needed somewhere to sleep once my aunt and uncle threw me out." Severus stood gobsmacked as he watched a very naked Harry walk into the water.

He vanished quickly, his head popping up near the middle a moment later. "Come in! It feels wonderful."

Severus slowly took off his boots and then his socks which he stuffed inside for safekeeping. He then slipped off his shirt and folded it, setting it on top of the boots. He looked up and saw Harry watching him and raised a brow.

"All right, all right," Harry said and turned away from him. "Let me know when you're in the water."

Severus hurriedly pushed his shorts down and strode toward the water, eyes darting to the trees around them but seeing no one.

The first step into the water made him gasp. It was cool and refreshing.

"Brilliant, isn't it?" Harry said though he hadn't turned around yet, thankfully.

Severus continued into the pond only pausing again when the cold water hit his bits. He took a shuddering breath and then sank in up to his neck.

"I must admit," he began and saw Harry's head slowly turn toward him a broad grin on his face when he saw Severus in the water, "this was not entirely a bad idea."

Harry ducked his head under and popped up again two feet in front of Severus. "That was a compliment."

Severus rolled his eyes. "Don't get used to it."

Harry stood and leapt backward before Severus could avert his eyes but the splash he created covered him quickly as he disappeared. He reappeared three times as far away, though even from that distance Severus could see the look of joy on Harry's face.

Severus was content to stay in more or less the same place, just lifting his feet off the bottom occasionally. He tipped his head back and turned his face to the sun, letting his hair fall more fully into the water. He picked his feet up and began to float, feeling freer than he had in years.

Some time later, a shadow fell across his face and he opened his eyes to see Harry standing beside him. He lifted his head out of the water and let his feet touch bottom.

"You looked so relaxed, like when you sleep."

Unsure what he could possibly say to that, he found himself staring instead at the body before him. Harry's hair was flat against his head, dripping down onto his shoulders, his skin pale and smooth over lean muscle. Severus's fingers ached to reach out and touch, to follow the trail of black hair beneath the surface of the water.

"We should go," he said, his voice hoarse. He turned and began walking to the shore when he felt Harry's hand on his shoulder.

"Severus…" Harry said softly.

His stomach leapt into his throat, his pulse racing. He knew if he faced Harry he would pull him into his arms and kiss him, plunge them both into the water and not leave until they were spent. He felt Harry's thumb brush his skin and that brought him back to reality, rather than the fantasy that was playing out in his mind.

"I can't—" he started and sagged, heart unbearably heavy, when Harry's hand fell away.

Walking to the shore, he suddenly wasn't concerned with his nakedness. He'd turned down something, he was sure, though he didn't even know what had been on offer. He pulled on his clothing and only after he was fully dressed did he realise that Harry had swam to the far end of the pond and was facing away from him.


It was for the best, he told himself as he walked home, alone. Unfortunately he knew a liar when he saw one.