Title: Call Me Back or Say Good-Bye

Author: Piper Mackenzie (eurydice2584@yahoo.com)

Summary: Harry and Snape break their promise one night early.

Rating: R

Disclaimer: I am but a poor, lowly college student to whom nothing of the world of Harry Potter belongs. I am making no money off of my work. It is all J.K. Rowling's creation.

Category: Romance, Angst, Drama

Warning: SLASH

Notes: As I'm sure you'll be able to notice as you read, this story is a first for me on a lot of counts. First, this is my first venture into the realm of Harry/Snape slash. I have to admit that I had a lot of trouble pinning down Snape's voice here and my portrayal of him (or Harry, even) is probably not nearly as accurate as it should be. I would highly appreciate any advice anyone has on getting Snape to sound.well, more like Snape. Also, this is my first effort with a rating higher than a PG-13. Other stories I've posted never went beyond kissing. I wrote this story partly as a way to push myself because I know I have a habit of censoring myself in more sensitive areas and I'm trying to work myself slowly away from that. This is my first feeble attempt and, though I haven't worked myself up to anything terribly graphic yet (and probably won't for quite some time, if ever), I would still welcome any pointers anyone could offer. I feel like what I wrote it just a big fat paragraph and a half of clich├ęs.

Also, just some small sidenotes: this story was originally inspired by a song on the soundtrack to the musical Les Miserables called "Bring Him Home." The title comes from a line in a Robert Frost poem called "Acquainted With the Night."

Enjoy!

~*~*~*~

The graduation ceremony that year was plagued with a heavy grimness reminiscent of a funeral procession. The students, all dressed in caps and gowns coordinated to their house colors, sat slumped in their seats, listening to the various speeches as though they were eulogies for their childhood. Their grief was almost palpable as they contemplated the destiny they would be walking into once they left the protective walls of Hogwarts and entered into the real world beyond, where an increasingly hopeless war escalated with greater speed than anyone could have imagined. Livelihood became a lottery in wartime and it was unlikely that the majority of them would make it to their twentieth birthdays. Looking around, they knew they had probably already made their first sacrifice by the glaring absence of one Harry Potter. They knew by now that Harry had been called away by the Ministry a full day earlier than planned, his own graduation robes neatly laid out on a chair that sat beside a bed he had never gotten a chance to make. He had slipped away silently that morning and disappeared without a trace. Even the person he had spent the night with-Severus Snape--woke up surprised to be alone.

They had broken their promise one night early, something Snape couldn't find it in himself to regret as they had done it more out of necessity than a lack of self-control. The situation had changed on them and they no longer had the option of waiting until Harry's graduation night to further acknowledge whatever inappropriate feelings they harbored for each other. That was a plan they had made when they thought they could take it slowly, figure out if this was what they both really wanted. That was a plan they had made when they thought they would have the time.

But time had suddenly been taken away from them. The Ministry had been foaming at the mouth since the beginning of Harry's final year at the school and their impatience grew exponentially with each passing day. Compromises were made for Harry's benefit but the situation had finally become desperate enough (in their eyes) that there was no longer any choice in the matter. They had arrived bright and early the morning of the day before graduation, insisting that it would be safer for everyone if Harry were not in attendance at the ceremony. And Harry had believed them, to their great self-satisfaction, because he was their puppet and when they pulled strings like that, he couldn't help but twitch.

Snape had objected Harry's decision vehemently, as had all the teachers, but to no avail. It was not an easy decision for him to make and he had been under pressure to make it as fast as he could. In the end, puppets danced to the tune that was played for them and he had been spirited away in the early afternoon without a backward glance. Only to find himself, a few hours later, on the doorstep of one Severus Snape, an irritated look in his eyes as Snape answered the urgent knocking on his door, fearing that the worst had already found a way to happen.

"I'm not a puppet," he had said by way of greeting

"What are you doing here?" he nearly spat at the boy in his own greeting, unable to conceal his shock or bitterness at being left behind. "Aren't you supposed to be in London right now designing great plans on the defeat of the Dark Lord?"

"I'm here because I needed to tell you that you're wrong," Harry explained as though he were reciting the ingredients to an unremarkable potion. "I'm not a puppet. No matter what you think."

"And how do you know what I think?"

"You made it quite clear this afternoon."

"Did I?"

"Yes," he said. "In fact, I think your exact words were 'Potter, you stupid ass, how can you allow this walking personification of idiocy to use you as his puppet?' It was hard to miss your opinion on the matter."

"But it's not my decision to make, so it doesn't matter," Snape said, moving to close the door in the boy's face. "You don't owe any explanation to me, Potter, so you may as well just save your breath and leave. You're wasting precious time, you know."

"Nobody knows better than me how precious the next twelve hours or so are going to be," Harry had said back, a look of pure earnestness in his green eyes. "They're all I have left and, if you don't mind, I'd like to spend them with you."

"Arguing," he said. "You'd rather stand here and argue with me than go off and be the hero that everyone's always wanted you to think you are at long last?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" Harry replied, gesturing vaguely to their dismal surroundings in the dungeons of the school.

Snape sighed, seeing that there was no way to get the insufferable boy to see reason, and stood aside, gesturing for Harry to enter. He confidently stepped into the rooms in which he had jokingly planned out a future with Snape that both of them must have known in the back of their minds somewhere would never come to pass. He seated himself in an armchair closest to the fireplace, his favorite place in the room even when there was no call for a fire. He sat back as Snape sat in another armchair across from him, waiting patiently while he gathered his thoughts.

After a few moments he said, "Cornelius Fudge is quite persuasive."

"He's a politician," Snape replied. "Of course he's persuasive. It's his job to know what strings to pull to get you to respond."

Harry nodded with a sigh. "And I'm perfectly aware that that's what he's doing, in case you didn't know," he said back. "And I'm kind of insulted that you would think I was stupid enough to not realize it."

"No, you're a Gryffindor," Snape said, "which exempts you from stupidity. I think in your house it is called 'valor.'"

Harry snorted. "I'm not particularly valiant," he said. "I know I'm only doing what I'm being told to do and I don't think that's a quality I share with many people who can be properly classified as valiant."

"I think I'm starting to see why you were never captain of the debate team," Snape replied, sitting back comfortably in his own chair.

"There's no debate team at Hogwarts," Harry said, confused.

Snape rolled his eyes. "I know that, you stupid prat," he said. "I was just trying to indicate that your argument doesn't seem to be going too well so far."

"I'm getting there," Harry said peevishly before taking a deep breath. Gazing into the empty fireplace, he cleared his throat and said, in a voice whose strength resonated off the stonewalls of the chambers, "'First think to yourself what would be and then do what you have to do.'" He paused to gage Snape's reaction to this.

"Epictetus," Snape said.

Harry nodded and seemed to be about to say no more.

"What? Is that your whole explanation? Because if it is, I'm still not convinced."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Have you never heard of a dramatic pause?"

"Yes, I have and they're usually only a few beats long, if I recall correctly," Snape said. "That was not a dramatic pause, that was a stall in the conversation. You're losing my interest by this point."

Harry sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands.

"I guess all I'm trying to say is that I'm not doing this for Cornelius Fudge or anybody else in the Ministry," he said. "I'm not even doing it for myself, really. The only reason I'm allowing the Ministry to use me like this at all is because I know what I have to do. I've known that from the moment Hagrid told me about who I was before we even stepped foot onto the grounds of Hogwarts. Before I knew how famous my scar was or just how much Voldemort had it in for me. It's become so much a part of me. I know what I have to do.it's just that I don't know how to go about doing it. So I'm letting the Ministry guide me. It won't always be this way. I'm not their puppet."

Snape nodded carefully, then asked, "Who, then? Who are you doing this for?"

Harry sighed and scratched his nose. "I'm doing it for you," he said.

Snape's eyebrows reached his hairline and he opened his mouth to protest, but Harry got there first.

"Because," he continued, "I'm arrogant enough to believe that this whole Voldemort thing isn't going to go away unless I do something about it. I'm not the hero who's going to save everybody-I know that. But I am the catalyst. And I'm perfectly willing to be the martyr if it means that, after I'm gone, you'll be free from that." He gestured in disgust at the Snape's left arm which, even on this warm day, was covered by a long black sleeve. "And I'm also doing it for Ron and Hermione, if they don't get their fool selves killed in this war as soon as I'm gone because I want the kids they have with whoever they marry to grow up in a better place than the one we got. Without fear. And I want Dumbledore to be able to live an entire day without worrying. And I want Sirius's name to be cleared. And I want McGonagall to stop being overly protective because she thinks she has to be. And I want Professor Trelawney to stop scaring people with her horrible predictions because crap like that doesn't affect people as much when they live in a happier place. And if I have to be a puppet for a little while to achieve that, then I will be. Because I know who I'm doing this for."

"It's that important to you," Snape said, looking at his fingernails.

"Yes."

"Even though you realize there are no guarantees."

"Right."

Snape sighed. "Even more important to you than whatever future we could have had?" he asked.

Harry looked down at his hands. "Ultimately it has to be," he said. "Not that I'm choosing this over you because my feelings aren't sufficient enough to keep me here. I'm choosing this because my feelings for you are so much bigger than I could ever even begin to explain. I love you enough that I want to give this to you."

"I'd rather have you here with me," Snape finally admitted. "I've seen the horrors that Voldemort can bring on, Harry. Hell, I've instigated a few of them. You say you think you know what you're getting into. I don't think you have a clue. I think you're just a self-absorbed, egocentric kid with delusions of grandeur looking to get himself killed because of the overwhelming guilt you still feel over Cedric Diggory's death and every other horrible thing Voldemort has done since he came back a few years ago. I don't think you're being brave or valiant. I think you're being selfish and thoughtless." His voice was even, almost indifferent even as he grew nearly hysterical on the inside. He had already lost Harry once that day. Why did the boy feel the need to come back and torture him one last time?

Snape's words must have struck a chord with Harry for at that moment, the brave front he had been trying to put up melted away and something a little more honest was revealed. He became a boy again, frightened. Sad. But determined just the same. What Snape saw in those eyes in that moment broke his heart more than any words Harry could have possibly said.

Except for maybe the next five he spoke.

"Then ask me to stay," Harry said, his voice cracking on the last word. "Because I will," he added. He had to swallow hard before he could get out his next words. "If you ask me."

Snape leaned over, caressing Harry's cheek with the back of his hand, oddly touched by these words, though he couldn't conceal his shock at the abrupt change. Harry caught Snape's hand in his own and held it for a moment, squeezing it tightly before lowering it to his chest, placing it directly over his heart. He looked into Snape's eyes then and, despite the pleas that he saw there, Snape couldn't bring himself to doubt that Harry had been telling the truth before. He knew what he was doing and he knew why he was doing it. He just wanted to be convinced that he was doing the right thing by the only person in the world he could depend upon for an honest opinion no matter what.

Instead of answering right away, Snape leaned in, capturing Harry's mouth with his own. Harry gasped in surprise at what was, for them, such an unusual act. Through the course of their relationship (if it could be called that), displays of affection, though not completely off-limits, were kept to a minimum with the knowledge that if they were too overt, the consequences would be quick and devastating. It didn't mean that they didn't steal a quick peck every now and then or that Snape hadn't squeezed Harry's hand the numerous times he had landed himself in the infirmary for various injuries and illnesses but these were usually quiet gestures. Easy to miss for someone who wasn't looking for them. It was incredibly frustrating but they got through it, knowing that someday they wouldn't have to hide themselves like that.

So while they waited for that day to come, they contented themselves by living in a fantasy world mostly of Harry's making, inventing a life for themselves in a future they both knew in the back of their minds would never come to pass. They would make love for the first time under the stars on a clear, crisp autumn night. Exchange vows bare-foot on a beach somewhere as the sun was setting behind them, their closest friends in attendance. Snape would continue to teach while Harry traveled as a seeker with a professional Quidditch team before settling down at Hogwarts. They would buy a house in Scotland where they would spend their summers, idle and content. They would grow old together. (Well, older Snape couldn't help but add in the privacy of his own mind.)

But that was in a different world. A world where they had the time. A world that didn't exist.

With that knowledge in mind, their kiss deepened and grew more passionate, ending only when the need for air became too great to ignore and they parted, gasping for breath. Harry buried his face in Snape's shoulder for a minute while Snape continued to kiss him in places other than his lips: the top of his head, the back of his neck, anywhere he could reach. After a long moment, Harry looked up and into Snape's eyes, his glasses comically askew, though this hardly took away from the serious look on his face.

He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again, swallowing. Snape rubbed his back patiently, waiting for the thoughts in Harry's head to properly translate themselves into words.

Finally, they came out.

"Make love to me," Harry said. "Please."

Snape nodded and stroked Harry's unruly hair back from where it had moved to cover parts of his face. He didn't waste time with more useless words, just stood with Harry in his arms and walked them both into the bedroom, laying Harry gently on the bed.

It wasn't nearly as romantic as a night under the stars. In fact, it was quite clumsy considering Harry's lack of experience (which Snape didn't comment on though Harry often blushed and murmured incoherent apologies when he fumbled) but there was an understated perfection to the moment as they discovered each other for the first and (probably) last time. It was slow and comfortable because, for this moment at least, time was theirs. Clothes were slowly peeled off and discarded. Erogenous zones were found and dwelled upon, eliciting vocal cries from Harry and passionate moans from Snape. Kisses were exchanged and eyes were gazed into. The process of becoming one was treated with caution and patience. Trepidation met reassurance and finally it happened. They moved together like they had been made for each other and the accumulation of feelings that had built up over the last two years spilled forth in screams and tears.

And when it was over, they moved away from each other, covering themselves with blankets. Snape put his arms around Harry and kissed the top of his sweaty forehead, commenting,

"You're shaking like a leaf. Did I hurt you?"

"No," Harry whispered. "No, you didn't hurt me."

He buried his face once again in the shoulder of his lover and, for a moment, Snape was sure that Harry had fallen asleep. That was, until he moved away to yawn hugely and then say,

"How could we have waited that long?"

"You know why we had to wait," Snape said.

"It was illegal, I know," Harry said, moving his hands in circles over Snape's bare chest. Snape watched this in fascination before saying,

"Technically, it still is until you become an official alumnus of this school," he said.

"Well, then it's a good thing Dumbledore gave me my diploma before I left earlier," Harry said.

"Oh," Snape said, having not been informed of this event. He found himself absently smoothing back the hair from Harry's forehead, revealing the hated scar. He stared at it openly, tracing his finger along it, wishing he could make it disappear. Wishing he could make everything disappear except for this moment.

"Ask me to stay," Harry said, taking Snape's hand away from his forehead and holding it in his own.

Snape placed a kiss on his young lover's scar before replacing the hair that had concealed it from view all this time. He caressed his cheek once more and gazed into those green eyes, for once uncovered by thick lenses and wire frames.

He opened his mouth expecting to say one thing. In the end, he said quite another,

"You know I can't do that," he said.

There was no flash of hurt in those eyes, as he had expected. Instead, just resigned understanding. This was the only answer Snape could have given. The only one Harry had expected. He had only come back to convince himself he was doing the right thing and the only way he could do that was if Snape told him so. Something Snape would have done even if he hadn't gotten the whole speech about puppets that could be destroyed without remorse in the hands of a temperamental child but remembered fondly just the same.

"The wizarding world needs you more than I do," he added.

"Figures," Harry said after a minute of thoughtful silence.

"What does?"

"The one argument you let me win had to be this one."

Snape chuckled and kissed Harry again.

"I love you," Harry had said once his lover had pulled away.

"I love you too," Snape had responded, the words utterly unfamiliar in his own voice.

"But don't expect me to be here when you wake up in the morning."

He had merely nodded, not really believing it until he had woken up alone in the dungeon the next morning with only the residual stickiness and traces of Harry's unique scent as proof that the night had not been a dream.

Now Severus Snape sat stiffly among his colleagues in the special section set aside for staff and faculty. He tugged at the uncomfortable robes he had to wear to signify his status as both Potions master and Head of Slytherin House. He was too numb to regret what he had done as he watched the students line up to receive their diplomas to the absent clapping of their family members in the audience. It was a sad day for everyone.

"Harry James Potter," Albus Dumbledore announced somewhere near the end of the list, "not present."

He set aside an empty folder with the school insignia emblazoned on it. The piece of meaningless paper that should have been inside was tucked safely away in a drawer in Snape's desk. Harry had left it there that morning when he had left as he had said he would.

A few more names were read before the class was officially presented. Everybody rose as the former students made their exit but Snape stayed sitting. Minerva McGonagall, who had sat next to him during the entire thing, placed her hand on his shoulder and gave him a sympathetic look. He didn't acknowledge it, just looked out the window to the incongruity of the bright, sunny day outside, thinking about where Harry was right now. What he was doing. What he was about to do. All he had to do now was wait for the other shoe to drop. Wait for things to turn out the way everyone had always expected them to.

Still, he couldn't deny the shred of baseless hope that shimmered in him somewhere, a gift his quasi-relationship with Harry had given him. He turned back just in time to see the empty space in the line of students as an acknowledgement of their absent friend. He closed his eyes against it and a single thought floated across his mind.

Bring him home.

~*~*~*~