Title: Mind Games
Rating: NC-17 for pr0n
Fandom/Pairing: HP, HP/SS
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling, Bloomsbury,
Scholastic and Warner Brothers, I have nothing to do with any of these entities
nor any rights to it whatsoever.
Summary: Occlumency lessons are revealing things.
For Amand_r, on the anniversary of her birth. *snerk* It's HP/SS
first-time. Um, that's about all I can say about it. Hope it hits that
"special place inside of you." Have a good birthday, luv.
The first time Severus touches Potter's mind the result is so unexpected he
nearly draws back. It is only years of experience at both casting about in
others' minds and having his own cast about in that keeps him from backing down.
As it is, he is shaken enough that Potter's weakly -- desperately -- cast
Stinging Hex catches him off guard and cuts the link between them.
Severus has heard the whisperings, of course he has, his life depends on his
ability to hear and see what others do not. Whisperings that Famous Harry Potter
was raised by Muggles who despised him. Severus has not given these one whit of
credit. Everything about the boy, his walk, his laugh, the way he holds his
quills, everything speaks of James Potter. The beloved James Potter.
It is too much to process, the picture of young Potter -- very young, eight,
maybe? -- up far too high in a tree, pursued by a growling dog, being laughed at
by the people who are supposed to be caring for him. Severus tries to focus on
what he can. The lesson is still happening. "Who owned the dog?"
Potter's eyes are on him, more hate than vision filling them. Severus pushes
it aside. Hatred is nothing new, particularly not from this boy.
Severus reminds himself that Legilimancy will bring forth painful memories.
It is possible that what he has just seen is something that only happened once.
The small corner of Severus's brain that he thinks of as his conscience and
actively hates reminds him how unlikely this is. Abuse, even of the neglectful
sort, is generally systemic.
The part of his brain that he trusts reminds Severus that this is James
Potter's son, and that perhaps all of this and more is deserved. Feeling more
settled, Severus gets ready to cast again.
Potter isn't listening at all, though, and the next cast is as hopeless as
the first. Only this time Severus finds himself staring into the eyes of a dead
student, a student whose death he is perhaps as guilty of as the Dark Lord. He
taught with a man using a potion to disguise himself for an entire year and knew
nothing of it until Hufflepuff's star (one of the few and far between) was lying
dead in the midst of a newly reformed circle of Death Eaters.
Severus's rage at being dragged into that memory only increases with Potter's
cry of, "NOOO!" The fool boy was the one who took Diggory with him to
that graveyard. Rationally, Severus knows that Potter had no idea -- that had
he, Potter would have never touched the Portkey either -- but the feel of
Diggory's empty seventeen year old eyes is still on him and he shouts,
"You're not trying!"
Potter shouts back, something about how he is, but Severus is having none of
it. Potter will never survive at this rate. What Severus wouldn't give to be
teaching a Slytherin this skill, even a Ravenclaw, someone who has already been
taught the danger of betraying any emotion outside of pity or disdain. But no,
he has Potter. Gryffindor Hero. Saviour of the World. Bloody Poor Excuse For A
Severus does what he does when it's obvious that things are heading to shit
quicker than an Apparating hummingbird. He yells at Potter.
Not even that makes him feel better.
For a moment, a bizarre and yet nice moment, Severus doesn't understand what
he's seeing when he comes back to find Potter bent over the table, head first in
Severus's pensieve. He doesn't understand because it is literally beyond his
ability to comprehend that even Potter would violate his privacy in that way.
Then the moment passes and all he can see is fury. Even the small voice that
says, "But you've been chipping at his most private memories" is
almost completely muted. Severus certainly doesn't hear it at the time, he's too
busy hearing himself scream.
Potter is gone so quickly that Severus is pretty sure he's still screaming
even after the deed has been accomplished. Severus strides to the pensieve and
takes his memories back, one after another after another. The one that comes
first is the one Potter has seen, he knows, and Severus grits his teeth,
wondering just how far the presumptuous child viewed.
Something is nagging at Severus, something that looks frighteningly similar
to the look on Potter's face when he fled, the look of complete horror that,
flatter himself as he may, Severus knows had nothing to do with his temper
tantrum. He pushes it away. He doesn't have to be concerned about Potter. The
only person he owes concern to is himself, and maybe, perhaps Albus.
Severus rubs at his temples. He knows why Albus has insisted that he be the
person conducting these lessons but it feels futile. It is true that Potter
fears him -- Severus allows himself a trill of pleasure at this thought -- and
that he is the only person in the school with that advantage, hence the ability
to minimally recreate what Potter will be dealing with when in the presence of
the Dark Lord. Nonetheless, to fall back on a truism, there has to be an easier
way of going about this.
Severus wonders idly how quick Potter will be to tell one person, two people,
three, about what he has seen. Severus is used to whispered comments about him,
particularly from the students although not limited to them. It is beyond
annoying, however -- Severus shies away from the word humiliating, it has become
overused in his life -- that an incident some nineteen, twenty years past is to
rear its ugly head as a form of torment once again.
Severus sometimes thinks that the gods have taken his atonement on as a
He picks up the pensieve, locks it in a cabinet and wonders if there's any
way to have Potter resume lessons without losing face in that area as well. The
Dark Lord is pillaging Potter's mind and Severus doesn't particularly want to be
the person responsible for the downfall of the Free Wizarding World As All
Currently Know It. Still, he's owed an apology. A sincere one.
Severus has lived his life long enough to know that he probably won’t get
The worst part about Potter's hastily (and clumsily) shouted message to
Severus is the hope in his eyes. The…trust. Severus looks for another word but
despite everything that has passed between them, despite the fact that he would
certainly not be Potter's first choice of saviour, despite the fact that Severus
hates Black, Potter trusts him to help.
Though the thought of helping his childhood tormenter rushes through his head
like poisoned Veritaserum, Severus knows that one expression has taken the
choice out of his hands. This is something he will do.
He has set things up carefully for times like these, times when he has to get
away from the school at a moment's notice. Luckily, Umbridge is obsessing over
Potter. It will keep her busy for awhile, he has no doubt.
He makes it to number 12 only to see Black (not the person he was looking
for) there. Severus has less than a second to think, "No," and then
he's talking, shouting, really, because Black won’t listen to anything else.
When he's done and Black, obviously in spite of his own wishes, is listening,
Severus asks, "Albus?"
Lupin goes to get him. Then Albus is there and he's making the plans and
that's much much better for Severus, because now he's only passively helping
Potter. It's easier.
In the end it doesn't matter. Well, perhaps it does. Potter is still alive
and that should be the only thing Severus cares about. Potter, although a
foolish and oftentimes stupid child, is their best hope. Severus would deny that
he knows anything about hope to anyone who asked, but he knows this. Severus
doesn't plan on letting anything that looks like hope get away from them. He
knows too much of what hopelessness looks like.
At the moment, ironically, it looks like Potter. Potter is mad. Well,
enraged. Extremely pissed off at anything, anyone, who had anything to do with
Black's death. Anyone but himself.
Severus also knows the stages of grief. So while he sneers at Potter's
insolence (the boy needs someone to treat him normally) he knows that it's only
so long before that fury is turned to the inside. Severus can only hope that it
waits a few months, when they can retrieve Potter from the Muggles. The last
thing Albus's camp needs is for Potter to have a psychotic break somewhere where
it can't be helped.
Severus sneers but his eyes watch Potter as he leaves. The summer is looking
to be a long one.
The summer is long, filled with meetings he would rather not attend and
people he would prefer to avoid. In September, though, Potter and his band of
Merry Making Dunderheads show looking only slightly worse for the wear. Severus
allows this fact to make just a little bit of sense out of the rest of his (less
than desirable) life.
Potter is withdrawn, the anger still hot and ill-stored below the surface of
his eyes, but it has been joined by a somberness that Severus thinks he should
be enjoying. To his disgust, he isn't. Mostly the whole thing is frustrating. If
Potter displays his emotions as though his eyes were a theater, open for anyone
willing to buy the ticket, the Dark Lord is going to be dancing on Potter's
grave before the year is out.
Then again, Severus reminds himself that he's been pretty sure of that for
what is about to be six years running. It's a slightly cheering thought. He'll
take what he can get.
Potter's gaze flashes up to him and Severus steels himself not to flinch at
what he sees there. The pure hatred at the end of the previous year was easier
to take than the conflicted desire for hatred swimming there
now. Severus can sympathize, which is angering. It's easy, though, so easy to
know exactly who an enemy is.
Potter has so many that perhaps it doesn't hurt that he sees them where they
aren't, or perhaps it hurts more than it would another person. Probably the
latter. Severus well knows that even amongst hundreds of enemies, it's always
one that tips the balance over and into disaster.
James Potter's son or no, Severus does not want to be that one enemy. Not
when there are so many others more worthy. Not when, in some sick twist of fate,
he's actually not Potter's enemy at all.
Severus turns to Albus who is at his right and risks whispering, "He
will need careful tending to."
Albus smiles, as though Severus has said something of great amusement, and
keeps his voice equally low. It is unlikely that anyone could hear them even at
full volume in the Hall at this moment but there's no point in taking
unnecessary risks. "He shakes off our offers of assistance."
"Then they will have to be given without his knowledge."
"His trust is already dangerously fractured."
"Better his trust than his mind."
"I'm not entirely sure the two are so separate as you would have them
Severus knows that "tough love" works, though. He knows because
Hogwarts has the highest percentage of successful Potions NEWTs on the
continent. He knows because he still comes home to Hogwarts after Death Eater
meetings, still tells what he saw despite the risks. "Give him credit for
the strength you want him to have."
"I'm…worried," Albus says. Severus thinks the word he was
searching for is "scared." Severus allows the small untruth. He may be
many things but a hypocrite is not one of them.
Severus tries another tactic. "It seems we do not have much to lose at
Albus' eyes sharpen at that, which is half of what Severus was looking for.
"Don't be such a pessimist, Severus."
Prove to me, once again, that there's no reason to be.
Severus looks out at Potter one last time. "What other course of action do
Severus only has a moment to wonder, "What exactly did I do to deserve
this?" before several answers spring to mind not the least of which are,
"Throw your lot in with a psychotic megalomaniac" and "Prowl the
corridors looking for students upon which to heap your wrath." Regardless
of how he got himself here, though, here he is, on the seventh floor corridor
with a completely hysterical Harry Potter who is throwing himself at the wall.
Severus likes to think that a little harsh scolding will get him everywhere
but he senses the only place it might get him right now is hexed six ways to
Sunday and chaperoning a transport Portkey with cargo bound for St. Mungo's
Psychiatric Ward. Instead of laying in immediately he chooses the relatively
mild, "What, if I may ask, Potter, did that wall ever do to offend you to
such an extent?"
Amazingly, Potter turns in Severus's direction, obviously just realizing that
he has company. He snarls, "Get the fuck away from me."
Severus is tempted. Sorely. If Potter is found passed out with a concussion
whenever anyone next decides to traverse this hallway Severus can always claim
lack of knowledge. Nobody else has seen him up here.
Potter screams, "Get the fuck away!"
Then again, Severus likes a good challenge. He hasn't been a spy all these
years for nothing. "Answer the question and perhaps I will."
Childish but surprisingly effective as Potter turns to look at the wall with
mixed expressions of blinding anger and stunned betrayal. "It won't let me
It is only then that Severus realizes where they are. The tapestry that is
supposed to cover this spot has been swept back, held to the side with a spell
of some sort. The wall that Potter has been crashing into repeatedly is the
outlet for the Room of Requirement.
Potter begins to batter his fists against the walls. They are tearing within
no time, but Severus still does not think it the best idea to intervene.
Potter's suffered worse. Potter says, "I've tried everything, all the
spells, even stupid ones, like alohamora. I've tried!"
Severus doesn't know what's more alarming: that Potter is actually telling
him all of this, or that Potter's voice gives away the fact that he's crying.
The actual tears are completely silent and there are no sobs but Severus knows
what grief and pain sound like, and right now, they sound like Harry Potter.
Severus watches as Potter sinks to the floor, his fists dragging along the
door all the way down. When Potter's breathing has quieted, Severus says,
"The Room will only open if it can give the person trying to enter what
they truly need. Right now, it either can't, or your needs are so conflicting
that it is unsure of how best to serve them."
Severus cannot determine whether this was the right or wrong thing to say, as
Potter begins crying again, this time quite loudly. His body shakes so hard that
Severus imagines it must hurt. Severus has only ever cried like that once.
He leaves Potter to his grief, and in the morning, Gryffindor's House points
are the same as they were the evening before.
Perhaps Severus should prey on what he now knows about Potter's weaknesses,
perhaps he should betray what he has seen to Malfoy and his free-standing limbs.
He doesn't though, possibly for the same reason he doesn't take House points.
Severus knows there's only so much a person can take, and Potter has obviously
reached that place.
Severus is willing to be responsible for a lot of things, but the madness of
the wizarding world's Savior is not one of them.
Instead he treats Potter as he would normally treat him, with a thin veneer
over his contempt. If the taunts are slightly less personal than they used to
be, and he spreads his attentions more evenly out over the rest of the
Gryffindors, well, Severus supposes it's possible he's getting soft in his
At first Severus thinks he's safe, that Potter hasn't noticed.
He's proven wrong when Potter comes to his office one evening, steps inside
and says, "Don't start. I've something to say, and I plan on saying it
before you can get something out that just pisses me right off."
Severus wants to admonish Potter over his language but it strikes him that
the boy might have something to say that Severus wants to hear.
"I know you've been…trying to help, I suppose, in your own severely
This isn't near to enough to make Severus give anything up, so he merely
sneers, "Whatever would give you that idea, Potter?"
Potter rolls his eyes. "Look, you're not going to admit it, and I can't
explain how I know it, I just do. That's not the point. The point is that I
think-" Potter stops and takes a deep breath. "I've been feeling more…in
control since that night."
Potter eyes him meaningfully but Severus isn't that kind. "To what night
would you be referring?"
Potter's figured him out though, because he doesn't respond, just keeps
going. "I think it might be time to reconvene on the Occlumency lessons. If
you're willing." Potter shifts from one foot to the next, obviously
On the one hand, Severus really wants to draw this out, make Potter sweat. On
the other hand, Potter is where Albus has wanted him to be since, well, even
before Black's death. Severus decides not to gamble. Albus will kill him if he
screws this up. "I would have to know that you were actually going to
follow my instructions this time. I'm no good to you as an instructor if you are
merely going to ignore everything I say." The words are pointed and make
Severus feel slightly better about the lost opportunity.
"You could meet me half way and pretend that I'm competent and
able to follow those directions," Potter says snidely.
Severus snaps at that. "Do you honestly think, Headmaster or no, that I
would have agreed to teach you in the first place if I thought there was no hope
whatsoever? Do you take me for someone who has time to waste, Potter?"
"I've made it a point not to really think about who I take you for.
Every time I manage a conclusion, it's wrong."
Severus flinches at the brutal honesty that Potter has suddenly found it in
himself to dredge up. It is too much to take in with the child of his once
dearest enemy sitting across from him. "Potions review, eight in the
evening, Mondays and Thursdays."
Potter nods. "See you then."
It is odd, seeing Sirius Black the way Potter sees him. It's not all that
frequent, actually, that Severus can. Potter has become quite adept at wiping
his slate so blank it is hard noticing even lines that betray something was once
there. Every once in a while, though, when Potter is unusually stressed, or
exhausted beyond normal levels, Severus breaks through his walls and leaves him
pale-faced and shaking.
It is odd seeing Black that way not only because Potter loves him, which is
an emotion Severus has never been able to conjure in relation to Black, nor
imagine the conjuration of, but because Potter associates words like
"father" with Black. Severus has never associated that word with
anyone, least of all his actual father.
His actual father, Ignominus Snape, was Sir to his face, bastard, arse, and a
few less polite things behind his back. Never father.
It has not occurred to Severus before now that Potter might be mourning
something more than the loss of parents he never rightly knew. In the glimpses,
though, Severus knows that Potter is mourning the loss of a fledgling
understanding of what being cared for is actually about.
The pity of it all, muses Severus, is that Black was woefully in-equipped to
give anyone, let alone The Boy Who Lived, that type of guardianship. Despise the
werewolf as he does, Severus privately thinks that Potter has a much better
chance of getting what he needs from Lupin than he ever did from Black.
Severus is annoyed that he has thought any of this through at all; annoyed
that when he reaches past Potter's defenses it is no longer a point of malicious
glee so much as resignation that they are back at the beginning. In fact, it
feels disconcertingly familiar to how it feels for Potter. Severus puts it down
to them both having better things to be doing.
One afternoon, when Potter is panting with the exertion of keeping Severus
out but has managed for the entire time nonetheless, he asks, "Why are you
Severus is startled. Nonetheless, he's careful not to stop probing at
Potter's mind. "Us?"
"The Headmaster, me, I suppose. Our side."
It's an odd way to frame the question. Not, "why did you join the Death
Eaters?" Not, "why did you switch sides?" Rather, "why are
you on ours?"
There are a million answers to the question. Severus wouldn't have betrayed
the Dark Lord, set himself in a position of immense danger, for anything less.
There is the fact that "Albus" is the only word he's ever known with a
definition even close to "father." There's the fact that those who
lead him to the Dark Lord, desired him for his skills and knowledge, also
betrayed him, laughed at him once they had him where they wanted him. There's
the fact that deep under the unpleasantness that Severus uses to his advantage,
Severus knows right and wrong. He might ignore his awareness of those precepts
for short periods of time but never for long. "It provided more advantages
for me than loyally befriending the Dark Lord. The Light is generally more
likely to follow through on its promises."
Potter closes his eyes and suddenly the shields to his mind are gone but all
Severus can see is one image. Potter doesn't believe a word he's said.
Potter never presses his advantage. Never.
Severus finally asks, "You did receive the memorandum about us trying to
defeat the Dark Lord, yes? Because I can have it resent in the case of you
having accidentally tossed it."
Potter looks as though he's considering asking Severus to do just that.
Instead he tilts his head and says, "You're not my enemy. At least, I'm
told you're not supposed to be."
Severus wonders if he did something even worse in his previous life than the
things he has done in this one to deserve this moment. "If I were Ronald
Weasley standing right here, training you in this art, Mr. Potter, you would
still need to practice being on the offensive. Stop thinking like a Gryffindor
for two minutes, forget loyalty and morality, and play to win. There's a lot
more than a piddling cup at stake, may I remind you?"
It should infuriate Potter. A year earlier it would have. Instead he shifts
back and forth from one foot to the other for several seconds before asking,
"What good is my victory if it comes at the price of my morality? After
all, I think it's patently obvious that I'm not so far removed from who Tom
Severus wants to scoff at this statement, ridicule Potter for being a brash
incompetent. Unfortunately, the brash incompetent currently has a point.
"There is more to Occlumency and Legilimancy than blocking one's mind and
attacking another's. The true art of the practices is to split your mental
energies, to know at once who you truly are and who the mental projection you
have created is."
Potter considers this. "Was that something I was supposed to figure out
on my own?"
Now that Potter mentions it, Severus thinks he probably should have said
something earlier. Not that he has any plans to admit to that. Instead he offers
the advice, "It's easiest if you have both mentalities clearly pictured.
They should be rote by the time you put the knowledge into actual practice. The
shadow-self, the one that only you can see, should be so integral that it passes
into invisibility. Are you following?"
"It's a Patronus. A diversionary Charm."
"It is far more complicated even than that, I assure you Mr.
"I was speaking purely of theory."
"In that case, yes, they have their similarities. A
Patronus is a bit more glaring." Severus sneers,
"Flashy," wholeheartedly meaning it as a dig.
Potter ruins it by not really paying attention. "All right, let's have a
go then. See what I can come up with."
Potter fails the first time, and the second, and the third. On the fourth he
manages. Severus shivers at what he Sees. Potter is right. If Severus didn’t
know better, he might think he was currently sharing space with the Dark Lord
Potter doesn't come back for a while after that session. Severus thinks about
pursuing the matter, taking House Points as retribution for Potter's skipping
"Potions review," but the reprieve has given him time to work on
projects of his own and to settle in his own mind the sick wash of familiarity
that was Potter's projected self.
Also, and Severus would never admit this, not even under the threat of
insanity by way of the Cruciatus, the taking of House Points is likely to drive
Potter even further away and Severus is loathe to disturb the fragile truce
they've managed. Peace, even stilted peace, makes the imparting of Occlumency
skills considerably easier than full out aggression. Granted, Severus keeps the
latter in the wings for when he needs to truly trust Potter's ability.
Potter eventually finds his way into the dungeons on a Thursday evening two
nights after the Incident and says, "I'm sorry. I needed some space. I
should have sent a note."
Severus tries not to be taken off-guard by the casual apology. He waits until
he is quite certain he won't stutter to say, "Had enough time to
What Potter does then is not something Severus has been trained to understand
as part of a Gryffindor's genetic makeup. He attacks. Not with words or fists or
even wands but with his mind. Severus recovers quickly, throwing up mental wards
so thick he's not sure he'll be able to get through them when he next tries.
Potter has already taken things, though, snippets of Severus's father, of
Potter's father, of the Dark Lord.
Potter looks at Severus but instead of saying what Severus would at this
point, instead of picking at Severus' weaknesses, Potter asks, "What do you
"That the Dark Lord is more powerful than I, and harder to take off His
"Good that I'm not worried about doing that. I want him out of my head,
not to be let into his."
"You're assuming that admission into his won't be a necessary step to
Tellingly, Potter rubs at his scar. Severus can tell it doesn't hurt. He's
seen it when it's irritated, seen Potter's eyes when the throbbing starts.
"I try not to assume much of anything. I'm tired of getting proven
Severus isn't sure what Potter is referring to. If he were, he would
certainly find something suitably searing to say but he doesn't really have the
time or the inclination to poke around for context. "Legilimancy is
actually easier than Occlumency. Holding walls up is nearly always harder than
tearing them down."
"Then why leave this for after?"
"Because subtle Legilimancy, what you truly need, is every bit as hard
as Occlumency. You've already understood the basics, obviously, if you were able
to reach into my mind. You need to be able to slide in, though, sift through
things and slip out without my ever knowing."
"Start by clearing my mind?"
"It need be no less translucent than a pane of glass."
Potter takes a breath.
Potter comes back from Easter with the insight, "It's bit like having a
carefully worded conversation, Occlumency."
Severus awaits an explanation. Potter is almost always willing to talk more.
Now is no exception. "When you're training me to sort through someone
else's mind, when I breach yours, at first there's just what you're feeding me,
the things you want me to see. It's only when I find something I know you're
hiding that I've really succeeded."
"That is how we speak, isn't it? We only say what we've thought out. Or,
well, if we're doing what we should be we do. Then there's all the truth
underneath. That's what I need to know, how to 'lie.' Or at least, deal only in
Severus knows this. He's been biding his time until Potter came to understand
this. The skill is not worth teaching if the concept behind it hasn't come to
fruition in a pupil's mind. "It's a matter of knowing what you want Him to
think and editing your own thoughts to present a misleading front. After all,
nobody has nothing going on in their head at any point, not even Longbottom,
though I imagine it's a close thing for him most of the time."
Potter rolls his eyes. Severus considers taking points but is too busy
considering that he's missed all the signs of Potter's coming to relax around
him. He can't decide if this is a good or a bad thing. The indecision itself
"So, if I want Voldemort to think that I'm, say, going to Hogsmeade,
then I dig up memories of anticipation for that event and cover my shields with
"They need not seem like memories."
"Is there a trick to altering that?"
"Sheer mental discipline, if you're up to that. You must force your mind
to relay the thoughts as they happened at the time, rather than as replays of
Potter takes the bait, but only mildly. "Try me."
So Severus does. Several times over the course of the afternoon. At first
it's awkward, Severus can feel the shift of his thoughts, sense the masking,
touch at the gap between reality and fiction. Slowly Potter starts to mend this.
He wraps the thoughts more tightly over the surface of what he wants hidden
first. Then he embellishes on the fiction.
"I really would like to go to Hogsmeade," he says, his smile
slightly wistful, fully mischievous.
"I really would like for the time I have to spend on you be spent on
tasks for myself. We can't all have what we want, Potter."
Potter tilts his head. "Your version of carefully worded conversation is
so odd. You hide away all the things that other people use as cover. You live
your life inside out."
Severus dives into his mind and doesn't stop pulling out painful, wrenching
memories until Potter pushes him out, covering the memories with thoughts about
Severus's modus operandi. Aware that despite seeing Potter
beaten and humiliated by his cousin, Potter has won this round, Severus sneers,
Potter says, "Sure," and makes his way out of Severus's space
Severus does not miss Potter over the holidays. He's willing to admit that
the lessons have been challenging, something he has long missed in his many
years of teaching but that has nothing to do with Potter and everything to do
with the discipline. Severus wonders if he can get Albus to approve Mind Magics
as a course.
He then shakes his head and goes back to planning out the new Potions
curriculum. The last thing he needs to be doing is teaching every sixteen and
seventeen year old in this institution how to crawl into each another's mind.
Most would be unteachable, those who were would merely turn into menaces, and
oh, it would probably be a bit like giving the Dark Lord a trail of
Spell-protected bread crumbs to victory.
Maybe it is Potter that he misses. Just as a relief from the tedium of the
day to day. Potter, at the very least, is often amusing in his failures.
Severus pushes the admission into a tiny corner of his mind where he can be
proud that he was a big enough person to admit it but not have to deal with it
in any way. Potter is still James Potter's son. He's still the boy who was
blindly loyal to Black unto his death. He's still the child that considers Remus
Lupin all to be left of what was once a fairly nuclear family.
He's also, Severus realizes, the Dark Lord's biggest fear.
Severus is beginning to suspect, as he never thought he would, that said fear
might be well-grounded. The throwing off of the original killing curse was far
more Lily's work than her son's. Severus isn't now and never has been surprised
that she had the power for such an action. Lily, when she put her mind to
something, was an unstoppable force. The Dark Lord would have done well not to
discount her due to heritage.
Then again, the Dark Lord would do well to get himself a head doctor over at
Mungo's and see if he could straighten out a considerable amount of childhood
issues left to fester.
The Dark Lord makes Severus understand why Muggles have something in their
legal system called an "insanity plea." He also makes Severus glad
that wizards don't go in for that. Either a person did something or they didn't.
Motive is very rarely an issue. This backfires more often than not, particularly
in cases of self-defense, but in this situation it's deeply reassuring.
As is the fact that none of this is likely to ever get that far. Things will
either end with Potter, or they won't end at all. The thought sends a sharp
spike of pity for the boy through Severus. He promptly ignores ever having had
any such reaction.
The pompous little arsehole had better be keeping up with his practicing.
Severus will kill Potter with his two hands and face the Dark Lord himself if
Potter is wanking off rather than strengthening his mind control. This upsurge
of spite is calming, and for a while Severus is able to go back to his planning
for all the things that need to be done despite the fact that everything is
The peace lasts for all of ten minutes before the mention of an Armoring
Potion has Severus considering extra measures for any face off to come which
only leads him back to Potter.
Severus sighs, grabs an empty parchment, jots off, "You'd best be
practicing," and sends the school owl off with minimal instructions. Potter
will recognize Severus's handwriting, he's seen it smeared over too many of his
Potions assignments not to have visceral negative emotions attached to it.
Severus smiles and goes back to his work.
Severus casts his mind into Potter's mid-way through the Sorting Ceremony,
when he should be preoccupied. All that Severus gets, though, is what he
believes (perhaps believed, if he's being honest) Potter to be. The boy he reads
is too confident, too clean of the things Severus has glimpsed in his intrusions
Ever so slightly, Potter turns his eyes to Severus. Before he even realizes
what has happened there is an imprint of words on his mind. "Welcome back,
It's cocky as hell, and Severus wants to be infuriated but it's also exactly
what they've been working toward. The thought almost puts him in a good mood. It
would if the subject of his attentions were anyone other than Potter.
After the feast Severus sweeps back to his dungeons, intent on a few more
quiet hours before the morning, when first years will trip over themselves
getting into his classrooms, and second years will break things out of sheer
nerves upon returning. Severus doesn't even bother with a token thought for the
continuing disaster that always has been and will again this year be seventh
year Double Potions. Damn Albus for insisting that the Houses can cooperate if
given enough opportunity. Or at least, damn him for experimenting with the idea
on Severus's time.
His quiet is interrupted by a knock at his door and a simultaneous brush at
his mind. Severus throws back the door and takes a stance calculated to
intimidate. "Your friends already tired of you?"
Potter doesn’t cower or take the bait, merely asks, "Mind if I come
It occurs to Severus that he doesn't remember Potter having manners. The
thought takes up so much space in his head that he actually steps back to allow
the menace in his home. Potter says, "Did it work, earlier? It felt like it
worked but I've had nobody who would know to ask."
Severus gives lying serious thought. He rather likes his nose where it is
now, though, despite his interest in spiting his face at the moment. "It
worked. Could this not have waited until the resumption of your tutoring?"
"No, not really. I'd describe it like an itch except that's all wrong.
Being away from magic, really truly away from it, unable to talk about it or see
it or anything, it eats at me. And with you having me practice on my own…special
form of torture you could say." Potter eyes Severus. "Bet that thrills
Severus is busy being rather bothered by the fact that there was no response,
not even the tiniest trill of pleasure at Potter's pronouncement. "To no
"So, if it worked. I suppose…well, that means I shan't need tutoring
Potter doesn't sound happy over this prospect in the least. Severus is lost
as to what is required of him at this moment.
"Only, I was thinking. I mean, it's common rumor that you've always
wanted the Dark Arts position."
"Defense Against." Severus finds himself correcting Potter as a
matter of rote and wonders when exactly it was that he lost his edge and if
there's any way for him to go back and locate it.
"Of course. If you'd be willing then, I was wondering if we might just
change what you were teaching me in these sessions? I don't think anyone is
going to argue the fact that it's in my best interest to know everything
possible there is to know in reference to that subject."
Severus is surprised at the force with which he finds himself
wanting to do this. He presumed himself trained free of such
strong emotions. "Have you spoken to the headmaster?"
Potter frowns a small, inward frown. "No. I…wanted to ask you
It's odd and completely obvious that neither of them understands the impetus
behind the decision or the moment it has created but it makes Severus say,
"I'll notify him later." Then, "Five points from
Potter's cheeks redden slightly. "For what?"
Severus nods at the clock on his wall. "Being out after curfew."
Potter rolls his eyes and lets himself out. Severus is only mildly
discouraged at his nonchalance.
Potter picks up Defense much quicker then he did Occlumency. This isn't
entirely surprising to Severus. The boy has a very literal mind in some ways.
Severus assumes this comes from being raised by Muggles.
Regardless of the reason, it makes Potter's requested lessons much more…enjoyable
than the previous ones were. Not hard, considering that most of those sessions
would have been looked on in an unfavorable light even when put up against some
of Severus' meetings with the Dark Lord.
What Potter does have a talent for that Severus would have never predicted is
the minute altering of spells to serve his needs. Severus doesn't think that
Potter even realizes he does it, it's so intrinsic. Sometimes, however, when
Severus will throw a spell and Potter will react with a defensive maneuver that
Severus has taught him, the shield or counterattack or whatever it is will
mutate so as best to protect Potter. It is a useful skill to have if often
inexplicable to anyone who doesn't have it. The only reason Severus recognizes
it is that he's seen it elsewhere twice. Once in Dumbledore and once in the Dark
Severus asks, "What are you thinking when you throw those spells?"
Potter says, "Why don't you just look?"
"Because I would prefer you explain it to me." Despite Severus's
rather rough approach to teaching Potter Occlumency, he makes it a general
policy not to prey on others' minds unless absolutely unavoidable. Of course, in
this case he actually wants Potter to work the words out for himself, in
addition to the moral issues that Severus may or may not hold in regards to mind
"Mostly that if I don’t block this or that it means I'm toast.
Possibly soggy toast, depending on the curse. Either way, not something I have a
desire to be. And then it always occurs to me, somewhere in my head that I
generally try and ignore that it isn’t always going to be you throwing these
curses, and that Voldemort will actually be after the whole burnt-bread ending,
whereas you're just trying to prove a point. I think it sends everything into
overload, that awareness, every spell just gets…augmented, I guess."
"Rational fear is a powerful tool. Magic responds to all strong emotions
but it responds best to those strong emotions that have some type of basis in
"Is that what this is, then? Rational fear working itself into my
"Something of that nature. It's actually more internal than that, even.
Your magic is fluid. It responds to your emotional needs which generally mirror
the physical ones."
"What happens if they don't?"
It's an interesting question. As Severus has never discussed this in depth
with either of the wizards who possess the skill, he's not entirely sure of the
answer. "My knowledge of the phenomenon is somewhat limited, as it's not
overwhelmingly common. However, I would have to venture that the emotional ones
would take precedence."
"Basically what you're saying then, is that while fighting Voldemort I
need to make sure that my emotions are sharply appropriate but also unavailable
"I see you're starting to understand that it actually takes
work to be a hero."
Potter's eyes darken. "Don't start, all right? Just don't."
It's like dangling gold in front of a Niffler and Severus starts to chew on
the bait when he catches another glimpse of Potter's eyes, unfathomable and
obviously expecting betrayal. Severus has betrayed enough people for one
lifetime. Before Potter can realize what Severus is doing, he flicks his wand
and throws a Burning Hex.
Potter's face fills with surprise for a second before he easily counters the
hex and laughs as more head his way.
Christmas arrives with shocking (and somewhat terrifying) rapidity. It takes
Potter all of a day into the hols to be knocking at Severus's door. Severus
opens it, highly unimpressed with whomever is seeing fit to disturb him. At
noticing Potter he immediately goes to shut the door. Potter is too quick,
though, sliding in the moment before he's crushed between wood and stone.
Severus takes a moment to fully experience his disappointment.
"I haven't anything near to the inclination to spend this afternoon
drilling you, Potter. Best run back to your dorm mates before I assign you some
type of grueling and yet pointless task."
"I'm not really in the mood to be drilled, either, Professor."
Potter slings his bag onto the floor and settles into a chair. "Christmas
is a time to strengthen bonds. I haven't the foggiest as to whether you have
other people to be strengthening those with, and if there are, and I'm intruding
on that, I'll leave. But most of my friends have gone home for the hols and it
strikes me that we're rather alike in our solitude during this time, so I
thought I'd brave your wrath, risk being thrown out on my arse, and see if you
were willing to provide a little season-of-joy cheer."
"Get out, Potter."
"Not unless given a good reason or metaphysically forced." The look
in his eyes is pure I-dare-you mentality.
"I'm expecting family."
"None of your business."
"Except it is, as I said good reason, and I know you
perfectly capable of lying. I should at least like to make you work for my
Potter blinks. "Professor… One of your memories was-" He shakes
his head and stands. "Nevermind, I'll leave."
Severus realizes what he's talking about. Potter's seen Severus's father kill
his mother, just as Severus saw when he was thirteen. He hadn't realized that
was one of the memories Potter had gained access to and the fact that Severus
never would have if not for this lie is somewhat eye-opening. "Potter.
Potter stands still, not saying a word, his back to Severus. Severus says,
"You're quite right. My mother is dead. My father died in Azkaban, sent
there for her murder, a fate rather thoroughly deserved. I have no siblings, and
while I do have extended family, my branch was looked upon somewhat poorly and
I'm not particularly close with any of them."
Potter turns slowly. "I'm sorry."
"All of these events are long past."
"Pain from familial conflict rarely vanishes," Potter says it
quietly but with confidence. "Fades, maybe." He seems doubtful.
"It does, Mr. Potter." Then, because his family has always caused
him far more pain than even the worst of his enemies, Severus offers,
Potter looks at Severus slightly askance. He says, "Yes, please."
"Sit down then, no use standing while it's brewing."
Potter goes back to where he was originally and makes himself comfortable
again. Severus concentrates on making the tea.
Severus isn't sure who figures everything out, and manages enough proof to
truly condemn him. He's quite certain he's been meticulously careful about not
allowing any kind of trail to accumulate around his less-than-loyal activities
so far as the Dark Lord is concerned.
Evidently, he hasn't been as careful as he's thought.
The part that upsets Severus the most about the entire situation -- aside
from the fact that he is surrounded by people who are quite convinced of his
treachery and eager to make him suffer for it -- is that he didn't notice
anything amiss leading up to it. Severus has always taken extra precautions to
monitor his conversations both with the Dark Lord and other Death Eaters. In the
past month, nothing has been out of the ordinary. In fact, it hasn't even been
so perfectly normal that the sheer normality would give rise to suspicion.
There's been nothing to suggest that something was about to go completely bloody
Regardless, it has, and there are twelve of them, (not counting one rather
irate Dark Lord) and one of him. The Dark Lord already has Severus's wand, and
while Severus can manage a modicum of wandless magic, it's nothing up to par
with what he needs in this situation.
He's already tried talking his way out of the situation but whoever was
gathering intel on him was thorough. The clincher, however, is that they've
suspected for quite some time. They've suspected since Harry bloody Potter began
Severus spins believable lies, of course, but there's very little with which
to work. The Dark Lord will know that Dumbledore was not coaching Potter, and
the number of accomplished Occlumens is miniscule. Several of the Death Eaters
have eyes in the Ministry and therefore fingers in the school. They will know
that no special tutors have been brought in to handle the boy.
In the end the true problem that Severus is faced with is that the Dark Lord
simply wants to believe in his treachery, has wanted to believe for a long
while. These days, it is one of the Dark Lord's biggest thrills. He brings the
fact of his Death Eaters who escaped imprisonment up time and again. Severus
knows that he is waiting for each and every one of them to make a slip. After
all, there will always be minions to replace them with, always.
That, and the Dark Lord is hungry for entertainment more fulfilling than
watching helpless Muggles scream. He graciously gives Severus over to Crabbe as
a starting course. This is not surprising. The Dark Lord often starts with his
goons, saving the wankers more likely to screw with a person's mind for last,
when the threshold of sanity has already been severely weakened.
Severus uses what wandless skills he has not to lash out but to cast what
protective spells he can, lessening the impact of Crabbe's Diffindios and
Cruciatuses. The walls hold all the way through Goyle and Pettigrew, and almost
through MacNair. Unfortunately, MacNair is more observant than most people give
him credit for and he recognizes what Severus is doing. At one complaint from
MacNair the Dark Lord puts a stop to that right quick, Blocking Severus from the
source of his magic.
The pain of the Block, like cutting off an arm, sends Severus into a shock
that he would probably be grateful for -- as it drowns most of the torture --
were he not infinitely aware that it could mean an irrecoverable loss of his
magic. Not that it will matter in a short while.
MacNair gives way to Rodulphus LeStrange, who hands Severus over to Nott, and
then Rookwood. Lucius has just begun in on him, a warm up to Bellatrix's loving
care when something manages to push itself all the way through the pain and
confusion that Severus is still struggling to keep at bay.
He's not sure, but the something feels a hell of a lot like…Potter.
Potter's mind, to be exact. He can't entirely understand what it means, although
he thinks it probably means he's completely delirious.
The fact that Lucius is using a cutting spell on the palm and finger pads of
his right hand, slowly destroying its nerve circuitry is more of a concern for
Severus at this precise moment, though, and the feel of Potter fades behind the
Severus awakes to the smell of wood and cold air and a Healing Potion so
intense that he only makes one bottle per year. Poppy rarely ever even manages
to make it through that one. Not even with Potter around.
He can't feel a thing which signifies that he's either dead or under the
influence of mad amounts of Numbing Potion, as the last thing Severus remembers
-- not clearly, but it is a memory all the same -- is Bellatrix's fingers
ghosting along his collar bone so, so gently.
A voice says, "He's awake," and the small sense of something
foreign in his mind disappears. Severus has the foresight to be afraid of
whoever this was poking around in his thoughts but it doesn’t sound like the
Dark Lord, and at this moment, Severus is willing to consider anything an
improvement over the situation that he was in previously.
The voice is evidently Potter's, as it is he who comes into Severus's vision
a second later. There are so many things Severus wants to ask. He tries to talk
and when he fails, starts with, "Water?" It's more a movement of his
lips but Potter seems to understand as he brings a glass over.
"I have to pick up your head but, um, you have torn ligaments
everywhere, so this might hurt a bit."
It probably would if Severus wasn't on so much of whatever he is on. When he
has taken several sips he lets his head fall back completely against Potter's
hand, and Potter guides it back to whatever is being used as a pillow. He says,
"We're in a forest. I don't know where. Ron's Apparated back to the school
to get help."
"Albus?" Severus thinks there's something wrong about his use of
the man's given name but he's too doped up to try and ride the thought through.
"He wasn't moving quickly enough. It's just the three of us. Hermione's
monitoring the Potions. She stole them from the infirmary. I hope she was right
about everything but honestly, she usually is."
Severus blinks, fighting the urge to fall back asleep. "Dark…Lord?"
"I um…did something to him."
"I…rearranged things inside of his head. He was a complete gibbering
mess and then he did some kind of spell and it. I don’t know how to explain.
He imploded, I guess."
"Pile of goo. Hermione bottled it up."
"Took care of them before we went in. Rearranged their minds too. Made
them jump each other. It was complete mayhem when we walked in, I don't know
that they even noticed us. By the time I had Voldemort where I wanted him,
namely making a mess on my shoes, half of them were dead and those that weren't
decided it might be a good time to get the bloody hell out of there."
There's something about all of this that Severus knows he's going to find
terrifying when he wakes up again but at the moment the terror is pleasantly
muted. He says, "Sleep."
Potter says, "We'll be back at Hogwarts when you wake up."
Severus mutters, "Home."
Potter puts a hand over Severus's chest. Severus can vaguely feel the
increased pressure. Potter whispers, "Home."
Poppy explains, "There's only so much I can do about that kind of
damage, Severus. You won't lose the hand but it's use is going to be
Of course it's his wand hand. Wand, writing, stirring, chopping,
everything-worth-mentioning hand. Lucius is such an asshole. Was such an
asshole. The change of tense allows Severus a fleeting moment of pleasure.
Whether his tormentor is dead or no, Severus is still left with a completely
useless hand. "I understand."
All things considered, though, it could have been his magic. Severus is ever
so glad it wasn't.
"The rest of the injuries that weren't immediately fixable should heal
within time. I imagine you'll have a bit of scarring on your thighs, the wounds
had already started to fester by the time you arrived, and there wasn't much I
could do for the cosmetic portion of the problem. I managed to take care of the
ones on your feet, chest and upper arms."
Severus looks at her. Despite the no-nonsense clip of her voice, her eyes are
shadowed and starting to redden. "I appreciate your efforts, Poppy."
She nods at him. "That is what they pay me for, Severus."
This is true and normally Severus wouldn’t even question the brush off.
Poppy, however, is one of the few people in the world who has never made him
answer for where his hurts came from, just treated them as she would any other
student's, person's, patient's. She turns to go back to her office. "Off
with you. If I catch you out of your rooms before three days are up, though, so
help me Merlin, Severus, I'll take care of the other hand for you."
Severus believes her. He's being a good boy, following orders that really
aren't so heinous -- his bed is quite soft and he's not yet ready to begin
training his weak hand at nearly forty years of age -- when there is a knock at
his door. Severus doesn't answer. There's nobody he particularly wants to speak
The knocking is insistent though, and Severus does want to
sleep. He makes his way to the door and answers it. "Potter," he
Potter rolls his eyes, insolent as ever. "Did you think I would just
decide you weren't in here? I checked with Madame Pomfrey, you know."
"Did it occur to you I was sleeping?"
"She said you left not five minutes ago, so no."
"Say whatever it is you need to say and get out."
"I stole into your head to find you."
"I didn't know where I was."
"No, but you remembered the Apparative jump."
"We go wherever He Calls us. It's not a recognized location."
"You went wherever he
called," Potter corrects, "and no, but once
coordinates assemble in your head they don’t exactly just disappear into
"Why are you telling me this? Do you wish for appreciation? Thank you
for saving my life, now if you wouldn't mind, would you allow me to go on
enjoying it? Without you?"
"I don’t need a thank you. I need forgiveness."
This brings Severus up a bit short. "Forgiveness?"
"It was like walking into your pensieve. Only worse. Much worse."
Potter is looking green around the corners of his mouth and the edges of his
eyes. Severus sighs. "You did what you had to. That's never something to
"If this is a new, different way of torturing me, professor-"
"I am tired. Can we have this conversation later?"
"Right. Er, sorry. Do you need anything?"
"You to show yourself out."
"I'll come back in a few days."
Severus doubts he'll be ready to deal with Potter then, either. It buys him
time, though, and right now, that's all Severus wants.
Severus has prepared himself for Potter's return. He's got his insults
perfectly planned and the timing for every emotional dig laid out. Only, instead
of returning, Potter sends an owl.
Severus looks into his fireplace and considers what type of
incendio is most appropriate for the missive. He's managed to
work his off-hand up to enough magic to manage simple fire spells. The letter
starts speaking before he can throw it, and Severus has to give it to Potter: he
thought this one through.
I know you won't listen to me if I come there. Not straight through,
leastways, which is what I need. Chances are you'll dispose of his before I even
reach the end but if you haven't noticed, I'm rather good at giving things my
Severus knows he'll listen to the rest at this point, merely to spite Potter.
It occurs to him that this was probably what Potter intended but his mind is
only willing to draw so many circles around itself.
I can't change the things my father did and I won't apologize for
them. It would mean nothing to either of us. I regret his arrogance and
childishness for the wedge it has driven between us but as I never knew my
father, I can't extrapolate on how his behavior might have affected me.
I will apologize for sneaking into memories that were yours by right. Again,
I do not regret the knowledge of those memories, although I did at the time.
They have given me insight that has allowed for certain fundamental changes in
the way I see things, changes that I believe were crucial to my defeat of
I will apologize for eavesdropping in on what Voldemort did to you. I should
have left immediately, as soon as I knew where you were. The thought of leaving
was awful, though, and I stayed until it was no longer safe for me to be there.
I saw things that I doubt you intended me to see, things that no one, not even
yourself, shall ever be privy to by way of me.
I will apologize for the undeserved insults and suspicions I have thrown your
way, although not for the deserved ones. You can be a complete prick, in case
nobody has reminded you of that yet today. If you're staying in your quarters as
you are supposed to, you might be missing hearing that fact by now.
Then again, so can I. Be a prick, that is. I think it's why, despite the
odds, I find you rather enjoyable most days, insults and all.
Most of all, I apologize for that. To you or to myself, I'm not sure. That
will depend on how this letter is received. As Voldemort is dead there is no
call for us to work together outside of classes anymore, and in a few short
months I will leave Hogwarts. I would like none of that to matter when it comes
to us. If you can say the same, at all, please respond. If not, well, the last
thing I will say to you is: thank you for everything.
Sincerely, Harry Potter.
When Potter's voice finishes "speaking" to Severus, Severus rereads
the letter, this time in his own -- less grating -- mental tones. Severus knows
a million ways to run and hide from things. He's done it all his life. He joined
the Death Eaters running. He'll no doubt spend the rest of his days hiding from
that decision in Hogwarts' dungeons.
The decision is easy. He shouldn't send the letter.
Of course, he shouldn't have approached Dumbledore for help, either. He
should have disappeared to some island where few people lived and fewer asked
questions. Severus isn't enormously fond of the word "should."
Severus accios a quill and parchment.
Your chances of passing the Potions NEWT would greatly increase should you
choose to spend some extra time with me in the evenings. This is completely
optional. Professor Snape.
He sends the owl and doesn't think about any opportunities he just threw
away. Voldemort is dead, and Severus suspects that maybe, just maybe, the world
might be changing. The only intelligent thing to do is change along with it.
Severus finds that if he thinks of Potter as Harry things get infinitely
easier. Harry still looks like his father but the cessation of being mentally
reminded of this fact by way of his surname lessens tensions considerably.
Harry shows up on a Wednesday night, the first after Severus has returned to
his classes. He has his Potions text under one arm, his wand gripped in his
other hand, and an uncertain expression on his face.
Severus asks, "Making friends with my doorway?"
Harry moves into the room, his relief palpable. "I wasn't sure you were
going to keep to your invitation once I showed up."
"They'll come after me with wands and werehounds if I'm the only thing
to inhibit the Great and Mighty Savior of all Things Good and True from becoming
Severus waves a hand. "They. The people who thought up that title."
"I believe that was you."
"I could be thinking of the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing."
Severus allows a smirk to pass his lips. "Your understanding of generic
bases needs work."
"Good of you to say that as though I may have somehow missed the fact
that I've yet to pass any assignment involving an explanation for those."
"Ever made soup?"
Harry looks suspicious, like he's checking for possible tricks in the
question. "Plain soup? As in, lunch food? A pre-course to a multi-dish
meal? That sort of soup?"
"No, the soup that Muggles theorize as one of the starting elements of
this planet. Yes, plain soup. Chicken or beef or vegetable or, I don't know,
chowder, if it pleases you."
"Sure, bunches of times."
"What's the basic ingredient in soup?"
"Depends on the soup."
"No," Severus shakes his head, "any soup. The basic,
Harry frowns. "Stock, then?"
"Yes, stock. Generic bases are to Potions as stock is to soup."
"It's not that simple, the generic bases change, even within Potions
they change if the Potion is to be given to, say, someone of a different sex, or
a child as opposed to an adult."
"But the theory is similar, and it's the theory that's your issue. Once
you begin to understand that, it's only details. If you're actually willing to
put some effort behind this, preposterous as that may sound, you can most likely
fit those into your head long enough to take one measly test."
Harry huffs at that description of a test that will determine his future
path. "I'm here, aren't I?"
"Let's neither of us pretend that your efforts to squander my time have
anything at all to do with your desire to succeed at this venture."
"It's a good thing I know you so well, otherwise I might be tempted to
think that your responding to my letter had been a fluke of poor judgment on
"And your knowledge of me is so extensive that you have decided
"You think everything through. Even your insults. It makes them that
"If you find yourself uncomfortable-"
"I can fight for the things I want every bit as hard as you can fight
against them," Harry says. "Now if you don't mind, I'm going to reread
this chapter, see if what you've said helps at all."
Harry's head drops over his book and Severus is left to stand there,
empty-handed and oddly sore.
Severus sees the scores of owls that fly over the Gryffindor table every
morning, hears tell of all the jobs being offered to Harry. Still Harry shows up
every night with his Potions book, sometimes pulling supplementary texts that
Severus has recommended off of Severus' shelves, sometimes not.
This goes on until Severus is forced to ask, "Why are you so set upon
being an Auror? There are a million jobs that could be yours with a simple
responsive missive. Why this one?"
"Perhaps I enjoy the struggle."
While Harry's tendency to make everything at least twice as hard as it
technically needs to be has not passed Severus's attention, the
"perhaps" in Harry's confession makes him doubt this is the truth.
"You don’t, though."
Privately, Severus thinks Harry might have good cause for this. He has
struggled more than the average seventeen year-old to reach this juncture in his
Harry is still pretending to concentrate on the book in front of him but
Severus has watched his eyes pass over the same sentence four times now. Severus
says, "Give me an answer I can believe and I'll show you an easy way of
remembering the order of credible substitutes when building any type of
Severus can see the debate between giving up a part of himself and having
necessary knowledge rage for a few moments behind Harry's eyes. In the end Harry
says, "I'd like to earn the title hero for once, rather than just have it
handed to me."
The preposterousness of this statement is so overwhelming to Severus that
he's not entirely sure where to begin explaining his incredulity. He decides on,
"And being an Auror is your way of going about
Harry glares. "Look, I know they're not your favorite people, and
probably for good reason, but they are the people that everyone in the wizarding
world looks to for protection. Tell me how that isn't a good place to go in
search of what I'm seeking."
"Your talent, Mr. Potter, and I will only tell you this once, lies in
doing what is not expected of you."
Harry laughs. "So I should, what? Become a wand-maker? A barkeep? Robe
"Do any of those sound like something you would enjoy?"
"I haven't the slightest- No."
"Have any of the offers?"
Harry's eyes slide to the side, where Severus's can't exactly follow. "I
haven't really been reading them."
"Why ever not?"
"They're made on the basis of my name."
"They're made on the basis of you having vanquished the Dark Lord twice.
Which, far be it from me to point out, might seem to some an act worthy of the
"I just wanted to get you away from him. And we're not even going to go
into the first time. We both know that has nothing to do with anything, least of
"Despite the proverb, most of the time it is not our intentions that
matter so much as our actions. You killed Him. Your ability to do so, your
defensive capabilities, all of these things make you an excellent candidate for
the Auror program, and should you decide to pursue such I have no doubt as to
your succeeding in that goal. I would read the letters, though. It never hurts
to be aware of one's options."
"There are so many, I'm afraid that if I start reading them-"
"There will be many that you'll be able to throw away without a
backwards glance and rather few that end up on the list of things to consider. A
list is always a nice thing to have, though."
"What if I choose something that I'm incapable of actually doing?"
"The world will be scandalized at the sight of Harry Potter being sacked
and you'll apply for entry into another job of your choice."
"I." Harry met Severus's gaze. "I hate being a
"We all have to do things we don’t enjoy at some point. There's no
guarantee of that outcome, either. It's merely a possibility. Everything in life
has unsavory possibilities."
Harry nods slightly, withdrawing into his thoughts. After several long
moments of silence he says, "Shortcut to remembering the order of credible
substitutes in soporific building."
Severus delivers on his promise.
Harry comes to Severus' quarters after the Potions NEWT. He says, "I
know I've no excuse for being here anymore. I just…thought you might want to
know that I think I managed. Well enough, at least."
Severus says, "Congratulations are in order then, I suppose."
Harry smiles an off smile. "Right. Well, thanks."
Harry's walking away when Severus calls, "Did you read the
Harry turns back. "Yes. They're, ah, still coming."
Severus has noticed. "Was there anything in them that you wanted to
Luckily, Harry has somewhere along the way developed a necessary cleverness
and recognizes the excuse for what it is. Severus is infinitely relieved. He
doesn't have it in him to just invite the boy into his space and privacy.
Harry makes his way quickly into Severus' rooms. When he's there he sits in
his usual spot, although not with his normal sprawl. He is fastidious tonight,
his posture ramrod straight, his breathing measured. Severus summons tea.
"Found options you hadn't thought of before?"
Harry pours himself and Severus a cup of tea. He blows over the surface of
his. "Gringotts has made me an offer. Curse-breaking. I've always thought
what Bill Weasley did was interesting but. Well, I'm not sure I'm ready to be
half-way across the world from everyone I know."
"An interest then, but one with definite drawbacks."
Harry nods. "Then there was an offer from a private firm called
Severus is impressed. Lancelot is a private security company. They deal
almost strictly with creating devices, wards or otherwise, to protect structures
or items. They contract out with magical museums, the Ministry and other high
profile organizations. "They feel you could be talented at ward creation
"They feel, er, it was something like 'you have an innate understanding
of the Dark and measures with which it can be countered.'"
Severus can see where that might be attractive to them. "What is holding
you back on that? I can only imagine the pay is quite generous."
"Ridiculously so, only, last I checked doing something like that took
quite a bit of knowledge in both Arithmancy and Runes, neither of which I've
ever even cracked a book for."
"If they are wanting to have you on board, they will be willing to
extend any effort to see that you have the tools necessary to do what they ask
of you. Your school records are not closed, Mr. Potter, it is unlikely that they
are not aware of this lack."
"They mentioned assistance, only, what if I find those subjects
something I simply don’t understand?"
"You part from Lancelot amicably. I seem to remember us having this
conversation at a point prior to this evening."
Harry pours himself some more tea. "The challenge of it all is
Severus can't imagine how it couldn't be. "The offer has been made for a
reason, Mr. Potter. Lancelot, Inc., has neither the time, the money, nor the
prestige to waste when it comes to hiring people who are incompetent. If they
have made the request that you join them, then while I have no doubt that your
name and your former deeds are certainly attractive to them, they also feel you
have skills and talents which will suit them well. It is now up to you to prove
"That frightens me."
Severus blinks. "You're a Gryffindor."
Harry takes another sip of tea. "Right, thanks for the reminder."
Severus is forced to admire Hedwig's resourcefulness when she finds him at
one of the more obscure Snape family holdings, a cottage in the Dense Forest.
The Dense Forest is one of six magical forests in the isles (including the
Forbidden.) It is appropriately named, and the cottage is hard to find merely
for the covering of the trees. In addition, Severus's great-great uncle, who
built the cottage, had a paranoia streak that makes Alastor Moody look
happy-go-lucky. As such, it is warded and charmed to the teeth, making it nearly
impossible for anyone (or anything) but the owner to find it.
Nonetheless, Hedwig manages.
Admittedly, Severus has spent several years trying to undo some of the
protective measures. He believes in solitude but there is a limit. After all, he
didn't want the- Voldemort being able to access him via the Mark and Albus to
have no way of contacting him. The wards disallowing outside communication were
the first to go. Which is probably how Hedwig has managed to find the place: on
Given all the trouble inherent in such a feat (and it was trouble, Severus
can tell by the disgruntled way Hedwig has settled herself on a window perch,
very obviously not going anywhere for a bit) Severus expects the letter to be
something of great import. He breaks open the seal and gets to reading,
wondering why Harry wouldn't have thought to floo Albus. Severus never neglects
to tell Albus where he's going. Not even when he really wants to.
The answer comes a second later as Severus reads the contents of the letter.
Hope your summer's going well. Should be less busy at least, with Voldemort
I started at Lancelot two weeks ago. I really like it so far. You were right
when you suggested that they knew what they were looking for. The things they
want me to do are the things I'm best at. They have me in tutorials for both
Arithmancy and Runes. I'm decent at Runes and horrid at Arithmancy but they
don't seem to be worried so I've chosen not to be either.
I'm mostly writing because I've gotten used to talking to you and it feels
pretty bizarre not to have that option six floors down from me at any given
time. Also, I wanted to say thank you for forcing me to think for myself about
the whole job thing, even if I should've known to do that on my own.
Send a letter back with Hedwig?
Severus walks to the bread box and pulls out a scone. He feeds it to Hedwig
piece by piece as he thinks about this newest development between him and his
most pseudo-hated student of all time. He should just not respond. Send Hedwig
off after replenishing her -- after all, it's hardly her fault her owner's a
prat -- with nothing to show for her trip.
Really, though, it's not as though he's got much to do while he's out here.
That's why he comes. To read and sleep more than any decent person has a right
to. To remember what it sounds like in his own head without the demands of
countless others being heaped upon him. Harry has no right to intrude upon this
Only, Harry really hasn't. He's sent a letter. There's a request for a
response, sure, but that's all it is: a request.
Severus finds some parchment and a quill. His ability to write is still
shaky, so he places a Dictation Charm on the quill. He thinks for several long
seconds and then begins his reply with the word,
Thanks for your letter. I'm getting along fine and all but with Hermione
working all hours at the Ministry, and Ron acclimating to France -- he accepted
the Defence position at Beauxbatons, I'm not sure I told you that -- things are
a bit lonely. Neville's in Botswana harvesting some type of malevolent weed,
Dean's in America visiting distant cousins, and Seamus is in Auror training.
My coworkers are the friendly sort, only, well I suppose it takes a while to
get to know anyone, of course.
The project I'm working on now is fascinating. I'm jumping to tell you but I
think I'd best wait until I get clearance. I'd really rather not get sacked.
Severus can read between the lines. Harry's coworkers are still in the period
of "shock and awe" that most of their kind go through when meeting the
Boy Who Lived Repeatedly.
Now on his fourth reply to Harry -- who still hasn't taken it in to his head
to take for granted Severus's compliance in the pen pal schematic, as he thanks
Severus for every letter received -- Severus has come along far enough in
training his off-hand so as to actually write out Harry's and his own name
neatly. The rest still has to be handled by dictation.
No doubt you are enjoying the adulation of your coworkers, mumbles of protest
to the contrary.
Merlin help the poor generations of French witches and wizards that shall be
tutored in Defence by a Weasley. Granger is at the Ministry? Wreaking terror on
our law and way of life, I'd imagine. Perhaps you could drag her out to your
side, save the British wizarding world and alleviate your loneliness in one
action. After all, you are the Boy Who Keeps Saving the Bloody World, Regardless
Vector has informed me of an Arithmancy text called Easy as 1, 2,
3. She suggests you give it a try as it covers many of the areas you
are experiencing difficulty in from a different angle than most wizards are
For my part, I'm having a lovely summer, interrupted only by the steady
stream of your correspondence. Thank you for asking.
Thanks for writing. Inquiring into your life is to no purpose. Either you
will tell me about yourself or you won't.
Hermione, since you ask so sweetly, is working with Kingsley rewriting the
bylaws of Auror domain. In other words -- in case the implications are too
subtle for you -- she's trying to make it so that the Aurors of your day can no
longer legally exist.
I've found a coworker of Muggle background who was raised in Singapore. We
get along famously as she has very little idea of who I am or even who Voldemort
was. Anonymity is one of the more beautiful words in the English language,
wouldn't you agree?
Tell Vector thank you for the recommendation. My employers' sighs of relief
can be heard throughout the entire complex.
I think Hedwig prefers your treats, she's gotten rather insistent that I
hurry with my letters.
Your creature likes the scones with a dab of creamed butter on them.
Is anonymity a synonym for "she's actually willing to engage in
intercourse with me" in Harry-speak?
I'll relay the message to Vector, I'm quite sure she has nothing better to do
than wait around to hear whether her suggestions have eased the way for you.
Amazing, Granger may have very well found the one way to make her
overbearingness a useful trait. Poor Shacklebolt, perhaps I shall send him a
Tension-Relieving Potion. After all, it wouldn't do to have him murder her until
after she's done her Good Works, now would it?
Good to hear from you.
My coworker actually finds me quite fit and has alluded to her willingness to
take our relationship outside of the office on more than one occasion. However,
as she is female, this does me little to no good, more's the pity. I could well
use a shag.
Be careful what you snipe at, you might get more information than you wanted.
Also, Hermione and Kingsley have been dating for over a month now, so while
they might be in need of one or two potions, I seriously doubt the one you're
offering up would be of any help to them. At all. But I'll inform them of your
generosity, I've no question that they'll appreciate it.
Thanks for getting back to Vector for me. It's good to know that I make her
long days less boring.
Snape reads the letter over twice. He sets it down and walks away. Some care
is required in his response.
Severus always waits until the last minute to return to Hogwarts at the end
of those summer terms when he actually manages to get away, few though they are
(at least, used to be, Severus has a feeling that freedom from Voldemort might
be more than just an abstract concept that he's long carefully not thought
about.) It's not that he doesn't like Hogwarts. Hogwarts, after all, is his
It's that coming back always engenders an endless round of questions from his
colleagues. On a normal basis, he has a sort of understanding with the men and
women who have taught with him for years upon years. For the most part they
leave him alone and he pretty much returns the favor. There are, of course,
matters of House and curriculum that sometimes have to be discussed but
overwhelmingly he sees no need for small talk or companionship among the people
who have a similar job as him in the same place. Other than Albus, everyone
Except at the end of summer.
Severus isn't sure if it's the months away that makes people forget, or the
time among their families, with whom communication is no doubt different. He
doesn't know if they're hoping for change to have come over him in the time he
was gone. He just knows that the end of summer obliterates boundaries that he
has carefully built up over time.
As such, he always waits until the last minute, so as to give everyone
precious few days to get their newly social demeanor out of their system before
the children return and all his concentration must be spent dealing with new and
The end of this summer is no different, with Filius inquiring
enthusiastically after what Severus did, Xiomara pestering him for details,
Poppy checking up on his continued health (as though being left to his own
devices for a few months on end might do him in after an on-again off-again
twenty-two year career as a spy), and Albus offering comfits and scones in
exchange for information.
It's all the more annoying that Albus always has the best comfits and scones,
and Severus is willing to trade.
Which is most likely how Minerva finds out about Severus's continued
association with Harry. It must be, as Severus knows he hasn't told anyone else.
Surprisingly, her, "Severus, might I've a moment?" is less grating
than the others' immediate questions about sun and sand and other such
"It's come to my attention that Harry Potter has been in communication
"A few posts is all." It bothers Severus that he doesn't know why
he's lying. Harry's letters nearly overtook the cottage by the end of the
summer, regardless of Severus reusing the parchment and Evaporating it when it
was no longer of use.
"I should like to know how he's doing, is all."
When Albus hadn't seemed surprised at Severus receiving letters from
Everyone's Favorite Eighteen Year-Old, Severus had just assumed that Harry was
writing several people. Harry did admit to being lonely, after all. Minerva's
question makes it clear that this is not exactly the case. She was Harry's Head
of House, a perfectly logical person to write to so far as Severus is concerned.
Which he isn't, not particularly. Then again, Harry has never shown a great
skill for logic.
Still, this new fact doesn't seem to want to sit quietly in Severus's mind.
It is probably this that accounts for the fact of him giving Minerva far more
information than he would regularly see fit. "He seems quite intrigued by
his new job, is making friends with at least one of his coworkers, and since
Margot recommended some texts to help in his Arithmancy sessions he confesses to
coming along quite well in that area."
"Lancelot has surreptitiously mentioned him in nearly every press
release they've made since his hiring. It would seem they are also pleased with
Severus already knows this but he would rather be forced to sing while under
Cruciatus than admit that he's paid attention to anything that might in some way
reveal his concern for Harry. "They've no reason not to, his name alone
will no doubt boost their contract numbers."
Minerva makes a small sound in her throat. "Odd that Harry would only
keep relations with the one man in this school who thinks nothing of him
whatsoever, don't you think?"
She's down the hall before Severus can answer, which is just as well. There
is some level of decorum to be observed with her. She is technically his
Severus hates coming back to Hogwarts in the fall.
Severus hears the whisperings but ignores them. Of course Harry's not back at
the school. Severus received a letter from him not two days ago, had Harry
planned on visiting for Halloween, he would have mentioned something.
Despite this fact, quite a few of the students seem to think he's about. The
sixth and seventh years are buzzed about their friend returning. The first years
are nearly peeing themselves with excitement at meeting the Esteemed Messr.
Severus wonders who's actually at the school that's causing all the
He finds out when he escapes to his quarters for lunch, unwilling to deal
with the mounting festivities down in the Great Hall. Harry's waiting there for
him, despite the fact that Severus redid his passwords and his wards at the
beginning of the year.
"Surprise," Harry says. He's looking terribly nonchalant but
Severus has spent too much time inside his head not to see the slight worry.
Harry stands to greet him. "Hope you don't mind my waiting here. I did it
the old-fashioned way, no asking Dumbledore. Took me bloody forever to get
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
Harry shrugs. "Didn't precisely know until yesterday. Su convinced me to
actually go somewhere, what with having the holiday off anyway. Only, I mean,
it's not like there are a ton of places for me to go."
Severus agrees with Su, Harry's Singaporean coworker friend (whose name is
actually much longer than that, Harry once wrote it out and Severus promptly
forgot it), that it's high time Harry took a small vacation. He's been working
somewhat non-stop since his hiring in June. He doesn't agree with Harry, seeing
as how Severus can think of at least two people and one family that would
immediately take him in should he show up at the door. Severus is pretty sure
that Harry actually knows this and therefore has chosen to intrude on Severus's
space, just as he has chosen to communicate with Severus and few others.
Memories begin to click into place for Severus and he's disappointed in
himself for not noticing earlier. There were a million hints, thoughts that
Severus interpreted incorrectly or just neglected to think through at all, coded
word patterns in letters, touches than went unfinished. "You're a bit old
for a schoolboy crush."
"As such I like the words 'mature infatuation' much better. They sound
The last time Severus traded innuendo with anyone, even bad, completely
unsubtle innuendo, was ten years earlier at a conference on the etymology of
Latin as a magical language and the possibilities for evolution in its use. The
man he'd traded with had obviously been locked behind a school's wall every bit
as long as Severus. Not that it hadn't been good, it had, just highly tinged of
desperation. After that it was back to the Death Eater crowd, and they weren't
so much for any kind of talking as getting to the point. Severus always found it
slightly boorish but was also firmly of the opinion that were he to reside in
Rome he was most certainly going to make like the Romans. Well, until his
not-quite-catamite Boy Saviour came and turned the emperor into goo.
Severus is out of practice and slightly overwhelmed by the awkwardly
handsome, ridiculously sought-after man who's attempting to banter with him. Not
that he plans on letting on to either of those facts. "Promises are
something only Gryffindors keep."
That's not true, Severus knows for a fact that Hufflepuffs are pretty damn
reliable as well. As a hallmark shame to Slytherin, Severus has been known to
keep quite a few of his own. None of that is the point.
"Lucky one of us is one, then." Harry moves in, faster than Severus
could ever have predicted, and runs his tongue over Severus's lower lip in a
quick swipe. Then he's gone, moving fluidly past Severus, all hips and legs and
undulation, out the door. Right before the door closes of its own accord behind
Harry, Severus hears, "Later. That's a promise."
Severus doesn't even see Harry for the rest of the day. Whatever Harry is up
to, it's something that takes him far away from the dungeons. Severus catches a
couple of glimpses of him during the Feast; he's roaming around the student
tables visiting with students in the classes immediately below him.
Unsurprisingly, he ends up next to Miss Weasley at the Gryffindor table.
Severus, as he does for most meals but most especially for festive ones, eats
and runs. He settles into his quarters behind the fourth years' essays and
prepares himself for a long night of marking. Trying to slog through their
drivel is easier than thinking about whether he wants Harry to keep his promise
or not, about what it means if he does want that.
Harry shows up at near to midnight, when Severus is considering going to bed
and leaving the rest of the scrolls to deal with in the morning. He doesn't have
a class until one. Harry's lips are on Severus's before Severus is even entirely
aware of his presence.
One quick kiss and Harry draws back. "I'll take it since you didn't
change the wards that you were actually somewhat expecting me."
"Testing you, perhaps. Seeing if that bloody Gryffindor reputation you
wear with the scarf would prove to be of any truth." Harry's mouth tastes
of lemon tea and sugared biscuits. "Been visiting with the
"Been listening to a light and rather disguised scold on not breaking
your heart is more like it." Harry looks amused. Severus supposes it's good
that one of them is.
Severus stands. "I don't have a heart, and even where I to come across
one, you would be among the last people that I would give it over to."
"Among the last? That means there's hope, right?"
"It's a raging debate between you and the rather loquacious ghost who
keeps flooding the girls's upstairs bathroom."
"Myrtle's a sweetheart, all right. I suppose I can give you the need for
Severus kisses Harry, more out of a desire to shut him up than to taste
second-hand tea again. At least, that's what the dialogue in Severus's mind
seems to think. Harry's a surprisingly good kisser, though, very attuned to his
partner's needs, and Severus doesn't pull away. If anything, he steps into
Harry pushes at the outer robe that Severus wears largely because the
dungeons are consistently drafty, even in the summertime. Although it's
presumptuous, and Severus shouldn’t allow it, Severus rolls his shoulders back
to make it easier for the covering to slip to the floor.
Harry pulls his mouth back, sucking his lower lip in and under his teeth. He
rests his forehead against Severus's. "Pretend, all right?"
Severus doesn't know what Harry's been told about sex, but…
"That you'd give me your heart. If you had one, that is." Harry's
voice is soft and just clear of pleading. He straightens his head so as to meet
Severus hasn't had anyone look at him like that since he was a sixth year
dating Silas Rookwood, a fourth year. Silas's expression was always a
combination of hero-worship and honest affection. Severus could never figure out
where it came from and was almost relieved when one too many attempts to drive
it out of Silas finally succeeded.
As many faults as Severus has though, he knows how to learn from his
mistakes. Severus pulls Harry's glasses from his face and sets them on the desk.
He soothes a thumb down one side of Harry's face. He tries to push back some of
the famously unruly hair from Harry's forehead. For the first time since he met
Harry, Severus notices just how fragile every part of Harry is, despite the fact
that it adds up to something enormously powerful, nearly indestructible, when
put together. Severus often feels that way himself.
Severus puts his lips to the corner of Harry's eye and kisses his way down to
Harry's ear. "I'm brilliant at pretense."
Severus recognizes Harry's actions. Harry has planned this. Every move Harry
makes has been thought out beforehand, possibly even written down on a list of
some kind. Severus would laugh at him, really wants to laugh at him, but
remembers being barely an adult and wanting to seem like his skin already fit.
Not that Harry's bad. He's obviously practiced with somebody, maybe several
somebody's. Severus doubts there was any lack of volunteers.
Harry's fingers are sure, if frustrated by Severus' buttons. Harry himself is
wearing only an over robe with trousers and a jumper underneath. Severus has
gotten the better deal, he's quite sure, but Harry seems rather happy unpeeling
layer after layer, exploring what is revealed after each one.
Severus for his part slides his hands up underneath the jumper which fits to
Harry's skin. He rests his palms against Harry's chest and lets the warmth
generated by Harry's body and the proximity of the cotton-wool blend seep into
his hands. He's allowed a few seconds before Harry tugs at his arms in order to
roll Severus's undershirt up and over his head.
Harry fingers a few of the scars that are now visible, sighs a soft,
"Ow," then allows himself to be distracted by the fact of Severus's
pants still residing on his legs. As Harry is bending down, Severus grabs hold
of both sides of the jumper and uses the oppositional movement to draw it off of
Harry takes Severus's trousers off with his teeth and it's obvious from the
way he looks up expectantly that he's showing off. Severus knows all the tricks
though, and Harry's going to have to do better than that if he wants to make an
impression. Harry sighs, rolling down the underpants as well and lifting
Severus' feet one at a time to make him step out of apparel. As Severus,
economical man that he is, started with Harry's robe and pants, they are now
both completely nude.
Harry breathes over the tip of Severus's erection, a quick stream of warm
air. Severus has long taught himself to control his reactions and he's not
giving Harry anything until Harry has damn well worked for it. Which doesn't
mean that he doesn't want to moan low in his throat. He does.
Harry takes the tip of the cock into his mouth, firmly running his tongue
over the head. Severus takes a deep breath. Harry slides his mouth upward until
his nose is pressed against the skin of Severus's groin, the head of Severus's
cock wedged snugly in Harry's throat. Severus decides that deserves a moan.
Harry grins or laughs or does something to express his joy at coaxing this
from Severus and the result is another moan. Harry draws back, all the way. His
teeth scrape ever so lightly along a scant inch of the stalk and then withdraw
back into hiding. Severus works to control his breathing. He hasn't the
slightest desire to pass out during what may be the best blow job of his life.
He has no idea how he's going to pay Harry back. Severus has never quite managed
the art of deep-throating.
Harry repeats the pattern a few more times before sliding back onto his
heels, inches away from Severus's cock. He looks upward but his eyes are
curiously unexpectant, and Severus is not the type to beg. Harry says, "I'd
like, er. Well, it's that-"
Harry is going to ruin the mood if Severus allows this to continue. All the
same, he's not quite willing to offer what he thinks Harry wants, not yet. There
are some things even Severus can respect as worth waiting for. "This won't
be the last time we do this, Harry."
"First off, you're a Slytherin who's openly admitted we're pretending,
so forgive me if I have cause to doubt, and secondly, I know what I want, all
Harry's eyes are still shining like Silas' did, only with an added pinch of
determination and frustration. Severus asks, "How come you were never this
focused as a student?"
"Maybe you should have offered me the chance to have your cock up my
Severus can't help it, he laughs. "Because that wouldn't have ended in
Howlers containing the Killing Curse To Go."
Harry laughs too, and it's not sexy at all, really, but amazingly the mood
hasn’t been killed. Harry holds out his hands and Severus pulls him up by
them. Harry cajoles, "This is my favorite part, promise."
Harry extends a hand, and if he says the words that bring the small jar of
lube to him, Severus doesn't hear it. Harry offers the jar up. Severus takes it.
He gets out of the way so as to bend Harry over the desk. It takes pushing
several essays aside, and the organizational freak in Severus cringes but Harry
Potter is arse-upwards over his desk, miles of toned muscle and bronzed skin
being offered up to him. Severus sets the jar next to Harry's hip and takes
advantage of Harry's position. He runs his hands from the rounded bones of the
pelvis up over the spinal chord and to where his hands meet over Harry's neck.
He massages at the shoulders and the shoulder blades, runs his tongue along the
crevice of the spine. He follows the indentation all the way up and then back
down again, continuing past where it stops until he reaches Harry's arse.
Harry screams at the contact of Severus' tongue on his hole. He pants as
Severus bites lightly at the rim and then sucks. When Harry's regained enough
breath, Severus sticks his tongue inside the hole and wrings another scream from
him. Severus stays a bit longer, seeing what types of sounds he can pull from
Harry before straightening up and dipping two fingers in the ointment. Harry's
so relaxed from the treatment that Severus hasn't a problem sliding both in at
once. He doesn’t waste time, searching out Harry's prostate and giving it a
good tweak before withdrawing to spread lube over his cock.
He sinks into Harry swiftly, pressing until he feels the edge of the desk
impeding both him and Harry. Harry is moaning, one hand holding desperately to
the desk, the other curled awkwardly backward, scrabbling at the skin of
Severus thrusts shortly several times in succession, moving just enough to
scrape at Harry's prostate but not much else. Harry is whimpering and Severus
thinks there are words escaping his mouth, words like, "shit," and
"please," and "brilliant."
Severus withdraws until he's just barely inside Harry and proceeds to drive
back inside of him. He's not rough but he's certainly not gentle, banging
Harry's thin hips into the edge of the desk, holding back words of his own,
contradicting words about how beautiful Harry is, about what a slut Harry is,
about how Severus doesn't want to stop.
He does eventually, long after he's wrapped his hand around Harry's cock and
wanked until his hand was covered in Harry's cum. He even waits for a bit after
he's come, slumping over onto Harry, careless of how his weight feels on top of
Harry, exulting in the frantic breaths that Severus can feel radiating from
below him through his sternum.
Eventually, though, Severus stands, drawing himself from Harry. Harry murmurs
something then, something Severus doesn't understand but it must be a Cleansing
Spell, as Severus immediately feels less sticky. When it becomes evident that
Harry doesn't plan on moving of his own accord, Severus drags him up from the
desk, slinging one of Harry's arms over his shoulders. He's still taller than
Harry, and Harry's side is stretched, long and silky against that of Severus's.
Severus throws Harry into his bed, yanking the covers from beneath him so
that Severus can draw them up over himself. Exertions or no, Severus is cold.
Harry rouses himself enough to climb under the blankets and settle next to
Severus in a firm line of unmovable flesh.
Severus doesn't mind horribly. Harry's quite warm.
Severus awakes to an empty bed and the smell of breakfast. He
accios a dressing robe and heads toward the small table he
uses when dining in his quarters. Sure enough, the table is completely covered
in all sorts of breakfast delights, Harry sitting in one chair with a look torn
between childish glee and bewilderment.
"You told the House Elves you were hungry, didn't you?" Severus
Harry looks guilty. "I forgot about, um, their tendency to overdo
Severus takes the other seat. He finds an empty plate among all the filled
ones and begins serving himself. Harry follows suit. Severus looks around to
find a teapot and pours himself a cup. "Tea?"
Harry shakes his head. "Never got used to it in the mornings. Too much
of a jolt."
Severus hands over the carafe of milk. "I'll assume this is for you,
Harry drinks straight from the carafe. Severus sneers, "Mature."
Harry's grin is irrepressibly boyish and Severus gets the feeling Harry knows
it. "I've never slept with anyone who much cared about my eating
"Yes, I can just imagine who my illustrious predecessors were."
"I've already told you once to be careful where your curiosity leads
"And I've already ignored that warning quite easily."
Harry smiles. "You're lucky then, that there are some secrets I'm above
"Even to the people whose cocks you've had up your arse?"
Harry chews thoughtfully on a muffin. "That depends on what follows said
cock, I suppose. At the moment, I'm less than impressed. However, the way we've
related has never followed normal patterns so I'm more than willing to
"If you're expecting something more significant than an act of buggery
to pass between us, you'll be waiting a damn long time. The word forever comes
Harry twists one edge of his lips before straightening his mouth carefully.
"I don't believe you."
Severus reinforces his mental wards. Harry's eyes blink in surprise and
narrow in hurt. "I wasn't poking around. I wouldn't. Not without your
permission. Voldemort gave me the use of parseltongue and a scar, he didn't give
me his arrogance or his ability to harm."
"No, those were transferred previously by your genetic
"Actually, I've heard my mother was quite lovely."
"Has nothing to do with this," Harry says, as though he is
discussing whether it will rain later or not, "which you well know. So now
we're just playing word games. I'd rather eat, if that's all right with
Severus isn't hungry. "I don't lie. There's no reason for you not to
"You lie more than anyone I know. The only difference being that you
tell yourself the lie before you tell it to anyone else. Makes it much harder to
catch but I <I>have caught it. Whether you are willing to tell
me or no, you are not the type to have sex wherein there could be strings
attached if unwilling to follow through on where those strings lead. You're too
smart, and you are far and away too self-defensive."
"These 'strings', as you call them, lead nowhere."
"Have the bollocks to find out with me."
It's a Gryffindor's challenge, Harry's stance firm, his lips set, fingers
clasped around his knife and his fork ever-so-securely. Severus should answer it
with a Slytherin let-down. In the same place that he knew he had to defy
Voldemort, the same place where he knew he had to return to Hogwarts, in that
place, however, he knows that he can't. Severus, for all wishes that he
couldn't, has always been able to see possibility and has never been able to
turn from it completely. "This is ridiculous."
Harry must hear the surrender, because his laughter is soft and pleased.
"I don’t want to leave," Harry says, because Harry is quite good
at saying things that open him up to scorn and ridicule on Severus's part.
Severus has no pressing desire for Harry to leave either. "It'll be a
blessing to have my space back."
Harry nods. "If you're worried about the ensuing loneliness, I can
always send Hedwig to keep you company. She seems to like your grumpy arse.
Lucky that I found the one bird in the world likely to enjoy putting up with
you, eh? Otherwise this might have been difficult."
"Otherwise indeed." Sometimes Severus thinks that Harry screwed up
something more than just Voldemort's and the Death Eaters' neural synapses the
day of his rescue.
"Although, if I left her here, I'd have to trust you to send the first
letter, and while I may trust you with my life, the initiation of communication
is something entirely else."
"I have been a flawless correspondent." Severus is a little miffed
that Harry would think to intimate that it hasn't been so, when Severus has been
diligent in not allowing himself to push Harry's -- often times trivial --
"When given something to respond to, I agree completely. I just wouldn't
want to leave the responsibility of starting a conversation up to you. You're
not even that skilled at it when we're in the same room."
"Untrue. I can always find something wrong with you to make a point of;
I just rarely voice such thoughts. The situation is easily rectifiable."
Harry grins. "I wouldn't want you going out of your way for me."
"It's no trouble, I assure you. Leave the bird and you will see."
Severus thinks he's just petitioned for something which he had no desire for in
the first place, and that somehow Harry has maneuvered all of this but the words
have been said and there's no backing out now. Harry is only merciful at random
intervals, and Severus has never been able to determine a pattern for when those
Harry holds out his arm, waiting as the snowy owl flutters to him and settles
on the curved bicep. "What d'you think, Hedwig, you want to stay here for a
Hedwig hoots softly, nosing her beak in Harry's hair. As messy as it is, it
manages to fluff some against the curve of her beak. Harry says, "That's
settled then. Yours she is. At least till you get that first letter off. Even if
it's not to me, I warn you that's where she'll return. Joking aside she's a
total Hufflepuff owl, loyal to the core and with a surprising array of tricks if
one just cares enough to find out."
"The essence of a familiar is its loyalty, Harry."
"I'm not really one to take things for granted." Harry doesn't look
at the owl as he says it. He looks at Severus.
Severus holds his arm out, and though Hedwig hesitates, at a slight lift of
Harry's arm she's off and on Severus's, her claws carefully held over the skin
so as to rest lightly rather than gouge. "You'll get your letter."
Harry's eyes shine softly with cautious belief. "I look forward to