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Miles to Go

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Lately Harry feels like he is losing touch with the man that he'd been before. Before the horcrux hunt, before the final battle. Before, when he had walked around with a piece of a madman's soul lodged inside his brain. He thinks he should feel more like himself now. More like the wizard who had friends and the admiration of the Wizarding world. But now that the inside of his head is filled with no one but himself, he is too wrapped up in himself to feel much of anything for anyone else. And too weak to do anything with the little he does feel. That is why Ginny left and why it would only be a matter of time before Snape would leave. He hadn't offered either of them anything to stay for.

Before it would have been no trouble at all to make excuses or give quiet reassurances. They had a war to fight, a world to save. Now, though...he is too tired. He is always tired, and he just doesn't want to do anything except go to bed even if all he can do there is count as the minutes slowly creep past. Sometimes, if he's lucky, he is able to doze. But mostly he just lies there, numb and frozen as the sun sets and casts new shadows in the gloom of Grimmauld Place.

***

Skin on skin is a devastating experience. Snape has hard bones that grate against his own with unforgiving strength. Their cocks are lined together; Snape's cock thrusting near the hollow of Harry’s navel. They kiss sloppily, filthily, teeth and spit, and the sweat from Snape's brow drips on his cheek. Snape's fingers are unmoving around his cock and Harry doesn't know if he is angry or grateful for it. Perhaps both.

Snape grinds down so hard that Harry is sure their bodies are going to blend any moment now, muscles and bones and tendons fusing together.

It's just so damn good. To feel pleasure again, when he'd never thought to feel it (sometimes he didn't expect to feel anything again, but real pleasure least of all). In a way it is the most terrifying feeling he can imagine. More terrifying even than dying. It makes him feel vulnerable — exposed and raw. It makes him realize just how much everything else hurts. What Snape is doing feels good. He expected there to be pain, had braced himself for the pain (he is always braced for pain). But he had not expected to feel pleasure. And that is suddenly overwhelming.

Harry turns his face into the linens where, if he lets a tear fall, no one will see.

Their coupling is not tender, not by a long shot. It's hard and the rhythm is off, slow deep pushes of Snape's hips followed by shallow, uneven thrusts. In and out and Harry's pushing back, trying for leverage on tangled bedclothes. Snape puts an arm under Harry's chest using lean, wiry muscle and raises him up and it becomes impossibly deep. It's too much and still Harry wants more, hooks his arms around Snape's and grinds down.

Ragged words, hoarse and indistinct, escape Snape's mouth and they break the silence.

Harry comes with a mute cry. Snape comes with a curse, trembling like he's in pain. They fall on the bed boneless but not sated, Snape's hand pinned by the weight of Harry’s body. There is still tension in Snape, an inability to relax that mirrors Harry's, they lie rigid and still but for Snape's lips moving softly at the base of his neck.

Harry tries very hard to let himself hear the words.

***

Snape's body while he dresses is a dark outline against the window and the streaks of filmy pre-dawn light. The silence settles heavily on Harry's skin, cools it down with the chill of words left unspoken.

"The next time you call, I won't come," Snape says before going. Harry watches him disappear further into the grainy darkness and hopes it's a lie.

***

"Snape," Harry finds himself saying when he hears the door handle being turned. He lifts his head from the pillow to look at Snape and sees Snape standing there with his back to him, the door open ajar. Mouth suddenly dry, Harry swallows and tries again. "Snape?"

For one terrifying eternity, Harry thinks Snape is just going to leave without turning back. He has before, but never like this. Like he really won't be coming back. But then he turns, slowly, precisely, and looks back at Harry, watching him, waiting expectantly, coldly, for whatever it is Harry wants to say.

Except Harry isn't sure what he wants to say. And the look on Snape's face is so remote, so callous that Harry feels like shrinking back into the bed covers, as far away from Snape as possible. He's eleven years old again and Snape his most hated teacher. Harry has been weighed and measured and found wanting by this man and nothing he can say will change this. Yet, watching Snape now, Harry knows he can't let Snape leave like this. He just can't. For all his sins, Snape has never lied to him. If Harry lets him leave, he won't come back. And that thought is too terrible to bear.

"I...." He swallows again and shifts himself on the bed so he's sitting up more. "Don't go."

***

In all things, Snape disciplines himself to take half of what he wants and to expect even less. It’s a practice he learned at a tender age (through non-tender mercies) that helps stave off his many potential disappointments. Though not all of them. There are parts of himself that will be damned if they are not heard and dealt with and even with his rigid self-control he cannot quiet them. He feels them most strongly when he is distracted or tired or frustrated. With his usual defenses low he acts on impulses that would otherwise be kept in check.

And so he comes back inside the room.

He wants to scream at Harry, be furious that so many others are far worse off than he is. Wants to call him a spoiled brat and exceedingly arrogant and lazy and weak. He wants to ask if Harry is all right, if he needs anything, if there is anything — anything he can do. A potion, a spell. He is a genius and a powerful wizard, a master at his craft. He can bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death, but in this, this thing that matters, he is powerless (always powerless when it matters) and all his skill and study amounts to nothing at all. He bites his tongue as he watches Harry just sit there, silent and sullen. He knows what Harry will say. They've had this conversation before — I'm just...I'm tired. This isn’t getting any better. It's all useless. I can't do this anymore. And Snape is suddenly exhausted, too.

Severus in Latin means hard. And Severus has tried to live up to his name. But when it comes to Harry, Severus knows he is soft. He finally walks over to the bed and shrugs out of his clothes, tosses them on the floor and sits back down to toe off his boots.

***

Harry watches him strip silently and he can't begin to describe the overwhelming sense of relief he feels when Snape wordlessly climbs back into the bed.

Save for the weak rays of daylight streaming through the window, the room is dark. Without his glasses Harry can't see Snape properly, but he listens to Snape's breathing, steady and even. Lying here, listening to Snape's breathing and realising how close he came to Snape walking out on him, Harry feels torn between panic and infinite gratitude for the fact that Snape is still here.

He rolls onto his side so his back is turned toward Snape, his lips curled in a faint smile. It feels strange there, but not completely unfamiliar. Like finding a friend in a foreign land. Unexpected, but not unwelcome. Whatever this is between them is not over yet, has barely started, but at least Snape is here. At least Snape still needs him and wants him. And that's all that matters. It's the only thing that does.

***

Harry is asleep on his belly with one hand reaching out toward Severus. This small, unconscious connection between them makes the tight pressure in Snape's chest ease even as he slips away from it and out of bed. He feels his lungs expand and wonders how long it's been since he was able to breathe this freely. He stands beside Harry and watches him sleep, Harry's back rising and falling in one slow breath after another.

The room still smells of sweat and sex. His muscles are stiff and his body is littered with small bruises. He touches one and forces himself not to flinch. The bruises make him think of the times in his life where he has fought battles with both flesh and wand and emerged victorious. But the fighting never hurt as much as the healing afterwards. With adrenaline and anger gone he was left with bleeding cuts and sore muscles that even a bath at the most scalding temperatures couldn’t fix. Always an unnamed ache that chafed against black robes as protective as armour. It was always the healing that hurt the most.

He knows this is true for more than the wounds people can see.

***

Harry's eyes flutter open but almost immediately close again. He doesn't realize how tired he is until he feels sleep tugging at him. He hasn't had any real sleep in far too many days (weeks?) and with Snape still with him (always with him, never leave him) his breathing evens out and his body eventually goes slack as he falls deeply asleep. And he's completely unaware of Snape now back in bed and lying on his back and watching him wistfully. He's completely unaware of Snape shifting closer until their bodies are only just touching, and he's completely unaware of the delicate kiss Snape carefully places on a too-pale shoulder that should be tan from endless summer days spent outdoors on the latest model broomstick.

Perhaps, when Harry wakes up, he'll find Snape asleep on the other side of the bed, no knowledge or evidence of Snape ever being close. Or perhaps he'll wake up and find Snape asleep spooned behind him with his arm solid and secure over Harry's body and Snape's face tucked in against the back of his neck in a way that means "mine" and "never leave me" and "I'll never leave you" all at the same time.

Perhaps when he wakes up he'll find that he has finally broken whatever curse or spell has been weighing him down or perhaps he'll find that he has cast his own spell (wandless, but not wordless) to make Severus stay with him. Perhaps the old Harry Potter is gone forever and this new one is all that is left. Perhaps just knowing that Snape is still here is the very thing Harry has needed all along. But for now there is only comfort and peace and blissful sleep and tomorrow is a long way off.