Severus takes a glass of champagne from the floating tray, just to have something in his hand so it won't itch for his wand. The Victory Gala is in full blast: cheers and laughter and music. What's he even doing here? These happy witches and wizards have no desire to see him on the day of their celebration, a regretfully live reminder of the ugliness of war. They frown and purse their lips if their eyes stop at his corner for more than a second, enough to recognise him in the shadows. He has no wish to be here either. Why didn't he stay away, like every other year before? He wants to blast this place to smithereens.

Potter is here as well, flanked by his two usual bodyguards, Weasley and Granger. Only it's Weasley and Weasley now, he supposes. Potter's own engagement fell apart soon after the last year's Gala, although the papers predict the 'Golden Couple's Reunion' any day now. Severus would never admit to reading that rubbish, denying anything other than occasional scan to keep up with the news, if pressed. He definitely doesn't have a folder of the Prophet articles dedicated to a certain boy wonder on the shelf behind the Great Algae Compendium in his living room. Some habits die hard, that's all there is to it.

The she-Weasley laughs too loudly on McLaggen's arm, throwing none-too-subtle glances at Potter across the hall. Her efforts are utterly wasted, as Potter is his usual oblivious self. He is half-listening to some lecture from Granger—Severus refuses to call her anything else—nodding at the appropriate places and fiddling with the hem of his open robes distractedly. The robes are forest green; not exactly the Slytherin shade, but still a bold choice for the Gryffindor Saviour. Severus allows his eyes to linger on the broad shoulders and trim waistline for a moment before downing the contents of his glass in disgust.

Kingsley Shacklebolt walks to the stage, commanding everyone's attention. Oh joy, speeches. The Minister pontificates about the sacrifices of the past and the road to a better future: the usual tripe. After a round of applause from the crowd eager to return to their evening's entertainment, he asks Potter to speak, which the boy does. His speech is surprisingly decent and mercifully short.

This cannot be said of the next speaker, Head Auror Dawlish. As the man blathers on self-importantly about the Ministry's achievements, Severus is reminded of a fungus specimen that used to adorn his office in Hogwarts, Sarcoscypha Magicae. If not for a smattering of hair fluffed in an overcomb, Dawlish's head has the exact same shape, colour, and thinking capacity.

Severus looks away and with no conscious thought, finds Potter across the hall again. The boy has rejoined his friends, looking mulish at something Weasley has said. He turns his head, and their eyes meet. Caught staring, Severus glares. He refocuses his attention on the speech, but Potter is already navigating the crowd to him, his expression determined.

What does he have to say to Severus after all these years? Demand that he leave this congregation of upstanding witches and wizards for he has no right to be here? No, this is not who Potter is. Potter spoke on his trial and, Severus suspects, threw his weight around after the war to keep him out of Azkaban. Severus was furious at him for that, burning every letter Potter kept sending him that entire first year of peace unopened. Does Potter expect to be thanked for that? He can wait until Merlin's next coming. Is he thankful himself? The last thing Severus wants is Potter's gratitude. Does he want to speak about Lily? Each option seems more exhausting than the other.

The boy reaches him, making a poor job of hiding his nervousness behind a rather foolish—and not the least bit attractive—smile.

"Hello, Professor."

"I'm not anyone's Professor anymore." Thank heavens for that.

"What should I call you, then?"

"I don't see why you'd need to call me anything at all," Severus says. "But Snape's fine."

Potter looks oddly disappointed for a brief moment, as if he is waiting for an invitation to call Severus by his first name. He recovers quickly, though, opening his mouth again. Severus braces himself.

Potter shifts his gaze to the stage where the Ministry's flunky prattles still. "Remember, you had that mushroom in the jar in your office? A bit like a human head?" he asks. "I can't help but think of it every time I look at Dawlish."

A spring coiled inside of Severus unwinds slightly. Still—

"How very typical of you to mock your superiors," he says with a perfunctory sneer.

"He's not my boss anymore; the fact that still cheers me up almost a year after I quit the Aurors."

"Living the life of a rich celebrity layabout?"

Potter laughs, as if Severus said something funny. Perhaps his antagonizing skills are a bit rusty without students and nosy colleagues around.

"God, no. It was a tempting idea for all of two weeks. I tend to get antsy without something to do."

"So what are you doing with yourself these days when not attending the Ministry parties, Potter?"

"I'm an apprentice Cursebreaker."

Severus knows that, of course; read every single editorial the Prophet had to offer on the topic. It would not behove him to show too much interest in Potter's life, though.

Dawlish finally shuts up, and the cheerful live music fills the Ministry hall again. The crowd disperses, gravitating towards the bar and tables with hors d'oeuvres.

After a moment of watching the people in a silence that is almost companionable, if not for the certain undercurrent of anticipation—of what, Severus isn't sure— Potter turns to him again. "How about we find someplace quiet to talk?"

Severus is about to refuse when his eyes catch sight of the Weasley girl manoeuvring closer to them, McLaggen in tow. If the Killing Curse could be cast with eyes alone, Severus would drop down dead here and now. He narrows his eyes at her over Potter's shoulder and nods.

They wind up in the Hog's Head. Aberforth gives them a disinterested glance as he serves their drinks and goes back to wiping the glasses. Potter is an engaging company, Severus is loath to admit. He's no longer a mouthy teenager glaring defiantly at him from under the mop of that preposterous hair. Well, Potter still hasn't discovered the purpose of a comb; that much remains unchanged. But the unruly locks have long since stopped reminding Severus of Potter's detestable father. Even if he tells himself otherwise when his stomach gives a lurch at the sight of this hair on the Prophet photos. It's an unpleasant lurch. A lurch of distaste.

Hands flying animatedly, Potter is telling him about his apprenticeship, and Severus allows himself to be drawn into a discussion of reverberatory curses. They order some fish and chips, and Severus watches Potter lick his fingers. Potter's thigh bumps into his under the bar counter, and stays. Severus supposes the wise decision would be to move away. The thing is, he has never been good at wise decisions. He presses back.

They leave soon after, tipping Aberforth generously. As soon as they are out under the starry Scottish sky, Potter is all over him. The kiss is frantic and open-mouthed. Pinning Potter to the pub's wall, Severus can feel the other man's erection straining his trousers; he must have been hard for some time now. Well, Potter is not the only one in this predicament.

A catcall from down the alley pierces the haze of lust, and Severus apparates them to his house. He is aiming for the living room, but the familiar surroundings of his bedroom greet them as he opens his eyes.

He chances a glance at Potter, concerned that the gesture might be considered overly presumptuous. But Potter only grins at him, pleased, and dives back to kissing. Potter's robe is already down one of his shoulders. Severus's fingers find their way under his shirt, caressing the taut stomach. Potter's breath hitches, and he tugs at Severus's own robe.

"So many buttons," he mutters, scrunching his face impatiently. The next moment, the robe disappears.

"It'd better not be magicked out of existence, Potter," Severus huffs.

"Sorry." Potter has the grace to blush.

In truth, Severus is not concerned about the robe; he bought it for the soirées in the Malfoy Manor almost a decade ago and would be glad to never lay his eyes on it again. But he feels far too exposed already without voluminous fabric to cover his skinniness, without a high collar snugly circling his neck.

Potter doesn't seem to be bothered, however, latching his lips to the scars on Severus's neck. They tip over and fall onto the bed, springs whining pitifully. Severus thanks the stars he had changed the sheets on this old creaky monstrosity. Potter straddles him, bringing their clothed cocks together and chasing all the external thoughts away for a moment of blissful friction.

Unable to wait any longer, for Potter's youthful eagerness must be catching, Severus reaches for his wand and vanishes the rest of their clothes. Potter laughs; an unreserved, happy sound. What a perfect specimen of manhood, Severus thinks as he runs his hands over the strong thighs that were teasing him in the pub so insolently, up to the pert arse: it seems those Quidditch and Auror drills paid off quite nicely. He wishes for more light in the room so he could commit every inch of that golden skin to his memory. But lighting the candles would mean exposing his own imperfections, so Severus has to settle for the moon, round and bright outside the window.

With a last thrust of his cock against Severus's, Potter briefly returns to Severus's neck, sure to leave marks this time, and shimmers down his body, leaving a trail of kisses and nips.

"I've thought about this," Potter says as he settles between Severus's legs.

Severus has thought about this too, although he doesn't say so. His hard cock gives an impatient twitch, and Potter grins at him crookedly before taking his cock in his hand and swirling his tongue around the tip.

Thankfully, the teasing doesn't last long, and soon Potter's head is bobbing rhythmically. He's clearly done this before, but not enough to know how to avoid choking on Severus's not inconsiderable length. Severus cards his fingers through the rebel hair soothingly.

"Come here," he says, urging Potter upward.

Severus reaches to the bedside table and fishes a jar of lubricant out of the drawer. He had thought about this before, too. Taking Potter hard and fast, fucking him into the mattress with punishing thrusts. Perhaps slap his arse for good measure, to teach the impertinent boy a lesson.

He thrusts the jar to Potter and rolls over to his stomach. His teaching days are over.

There's no movement behind him, and Severus turns his head on the pillow.

"Well?" He glares at Potter over his shoulder. "Are you waiting for an engraved invitation?"

This gets Potter moving. He puts a pillow under Severus's hips, running his hands along them, outside and then inside. Severus shivers. The magic of the preparation spell washes over him, warm and teasing. Potter takes off the lid and brings the jar to his nose.

"M-mm, treacle."

Severus is glad Potter cannot see his cheeks heating up. He doesn't need to know why Severus chose this particular scent for his lube.

Potter's finger is gentle but not unsure as it circles and finally breaches his entrance, dispelling the doubts and regret clawing their way up Severus's spine a moment before. Soon, it is joined by another, and Severus welcomes the slight burn that comes with it. It's been years since he last did this. Decades. Well, he can't allow a random one-night-stand to fuck him, can he? Severus pointedly doesn't think of why Potter is different, for he's sure to be gone in the morning. Sooner, in all probability.

The fingers find his prostate, and Severus can't think again, busy stifling a moan of pure pleasure. It's truly been too long. Potter adds another finger, and soon Severus is canting his hips, meeting the thrusts.

"Yes," he hisses. "Right here."

Potter groans behind him. "You're so hot."

Twisting his head, Severus flashes him a disbelieving look. Potter's sight without those glasses must be even worse than he thought.

Potter rubs his erection against Severus's thigh helplessly, sending a thrill down Severus's spine.

"Enough of the preparation," he says. 'I'm not a blushing virgin. Do it."

The fingers withdraw, and Severus rises to his knees and elbows while Potter slathers lube over his cock. It's a vulnerable position, and Severus feels exposed and anxious at not being able to see what Potter is doing all the time—a need to be constantly in control of his surroundings ingrained by the years of spying—but turning over is an equally bad idea. He doesn't want to watch Potter close his eyes, thinking about someone else. He doesn't want to know how Potter looks when he comes, because knowing this would be one memory too many to bury after he leaves in a couple of hours, never to return to this bed again. And Severus doesn't want Potter to watch his own face as he fucks him. Potter might be blind as a bat, and Severus is a master Occlumens, but he isn't going to chance Potter seeing any of these thoughts on his face.

Severus feels the red-hot tip of Potter's cock at his entrance, moving with infuriating slowness. He adjusts to the feeling of fullness as Potter strokes his back. Potter is much bigger than his three fingers, but he's oh so careful not to cause any undue pain. Severus almost wishes that he did.

"Move," Severus urges as Potter bottoms out and stills completely.

Potter does, leaning forward and catching his lips in what could barely be called a kiss. The angle is awkward, but Severus strains his neck to meet Potter's mouth. Their laboured breaths mix until Severus drops his head on his elbows and thrust back.

"Harder," he groans as Potter is setting a maddeningly slow pace. "Put your back into it, damn it."

"Oh God, Severus," Potter moans. Apparently, being in Severus's arse puts them on the first-name basis in Potter's book. "I can do harder. Harder is good."

Putter pulls all stops then, sliding in and out of him in a primal rhythm. Fingers grip his hips with a bruising force before letting them go to move over his own hands, twining them together. Putter's cock hits his prostate with each thrust, and damn it all. Severus gives up on stiffing the sounds he is making.

"Severus, I've been thinking"—Potter snaps his hips hard—"dreaming about you for months. And then you... appear at the Gala, even though you never come to any events... So gorgeous in those dress robes... And now this, like every fantasy come true," he babbles, punctuating each impossible statement with a thrust and reaching to take Severus's cock in his hand.

It's the words rather than the fingers that bring Severus over the edge, and he is glad that Potter cannot see his face—or would be glad if there was still a place for conscious thought left in his mind in that one blissful moment. He hears someone roar and is dimly aware that it must be him, as Potter is still talking.

With a couple more frantic thrusts, Potter comes as well. He rests his forehead in the crook of Severus's neck, breath still coming out in harsh gasps. He stays like that for a moment before pulling out his cock and rolling off him onto the bed. Severus already feels the absence acutely.

Severus lowers himself as well and waves his hand to clean them both; one of the few spells he can manage wandlessly. He's showing off, but Potter seems impressed, his eyes shining in wonder.

"Can I stay?" Potter asks tentatively.

Instead of a verbal answer, for he doesn't trust himself with words, Severus reaches for the blanket to throw over them both. With a contented sigh, Potter snuggles closer. Severus harrumphs and closes his eyes deliberately lest Potter decides on pillow talk, but sneaks a furtive hand over his waist all the same.

The other side of the bed is empty in the morning, and Severus tries to convince himself that the feeling constricting his chest like Devil's Snare is that of a mild disappointment. Before he can dive into the murky waters of self-pity, however, there's a gurgle of the ancient pipes and muffled curses coming from the bathroom.

"The house itself doesn't have any hot water," he shouts. "You have to reapply the heating spells."

"Well, fuck. I left my wand in the bedroom."

Severus tsks, getting up and summoning his bathrobe. Shuffling it on, he crosses the hall, his feet shivering on the cold floor. He's got so used to the ruin that is Spinner's End that he stopped noticing its many deficiencies years ago. Yet with Potter as a house guest, the bathroom's shabby fixtures and the walls peeling with the damp stand out anew.

"I apologize for the inconvenience. I'm planning a renovation," Severus says stiffly. It's a blatant lie, of course. He distracts himself from the familiar feeling of shame by following the droplets of water running down Potter's nude form with his eyes.

Potter doesn't seem to mind the decor, greeting him with a sunny smile, unashamed of his wetness and nakedness. "I won the battle with the Grimmauld's plumbing, so I have some experience. I can help you, if you decide to give us a chance."

A blush spreads from his face down to his chest. He looks awfully earnest and hopeful, tugging at the belt Severus has just tied a moment ago.

Severus forces himself to look straight at Potter as his bathrobe slides down to the floor, exposing him under the harsh electric light. But Potter doesn't look put-off, staring at his body with a hungry expression.

"A good plumber is hard to find," Severus says, words flowing out smoothly even when everything inside him screams in panic. "I suppose I should keep you."

Potter beams at him, making Severus question his sanity. A relationship with him is not a prospect any sane man should desire. Still, he is not going to look a gift unicorn in the mouth.

He draws Potter closer and lets himself be kissed for a moment before taking over the initiative, thrusting his tongue past those readily opening lips, licking and using his teeth liberally. Without breaking the kiss, he taps the faucet with his wand to heat the water and crowds Potter back to the shower stall.