HP - 'tis not mine, alas.

Dedicated to Nimbirosa, because it'll likely irritate the bejeebers out of her. Evil grin.

Why did I write this? Because I've been overflowing with het fics, and needed to get back in touch with my slashy roots.

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I've always reached for the impossible.

When I was younger, stuck in my cupboard, I'd dream about a long-lost relative of some sort showing up to take me away from the Dursleys. Sometimes, if I was angry, I'd imagine that relative punishing my aunt and uncle for how they'd treated me. But no one ever came to save me, not until Hagrid - and by then, it was too late. By then, I'd given up on dreaming.

I think that's why I loved being a Seeker so much. Just me and the wind, chasing down what I wanted - and actually managing to catch it. In Quidditch, I always got what I wanted. In Quidditch, I didn't have to dream.

After Sirius died, flying lost all its attraction. What was the point of catching the bloody snitch when my godfather was dead?

So I stopped.

I stopped playing Quidditch; I stopped laughing with my friends; I stopped trying to be the hero everyone seemed to want me to be. I stopped feeling. I stopped living.

Merlin only knows how I'd have ended up if it weren't for Severus. If it weren't for Professor Snape. And even now it feels so odd, remembering how we hated each other, remembering how hate softened to dislike, how dislike became tolerance, how tolerance became affection, how affection became-

I'm getting ahead of myself again. Where was I?

Right. So I'd stopped trying, basically. I'd given up.

Snape - I wasn't taking his class anymore, despite the fact that I'd managed to get an Outstanding on my Potions OWL - stopped me in the hall one day and gave me a detention for having my shoelaces untied. Part of me was furious, but the rest of me - the detached part, the numb part - didn't care. Snape was just a big-nosed greasy git, after all, and why bother worrying about him and his stupid prejudices?

I arrived at his classroom five minutes late. I didn't care. Snape did.

He closed the door, told me to sit down, and proceeded to snarl at me and berate me for a good five minutes. I tuned him out - after all, I'd heard it all before. Blah blah incompetent brat blah blah just like your father blah blah as bad as your dogfather blah.

Snape's not stupid, even if he is a petty, short-sighted bastard. He knew I wasn't listening, and he knew why. He knew I'd stopped caring.

So he ended his scolding rather abruptly, eying me with a disdain that made my jaw clench and my hand twitch towards my wand. "Tell me, Mister Potter," he said in that oil-slick voice of his, "just what do you think cowardice is?"

I looked at him blankly, wondering what the hell was going on.

"What?" I demanded, certain I'd misheard him.

"Cowardice, Potter," Snape said irritably. "Define it for me."

"Letting your fears rule you," I said after a moment, remembering something I'd read back in my muggle elementary school.

Snape snorted. "A typically Gryffindor answer," he sneered. "Cowardice, Potter, is giving up. Nothing more, nothing less."

For a moment, all I could do was stare at him. And then came the rage - the suffocating fury that I'd become so familiar with over the last few years. "What are you saying?" I asked heatedly, halfway out of my seat.

"Sit back down, Potter," he ordered coldly. "Now."

I obeyed, though I remained tense and ready to fight or flee.

"I have, Potter, credited you with many failings during your time at our esteemed school," he drawled, and I was certain there was some sort of mockery in his statement, though I couldn't figure out why or what for. "But never before have I thought you a coward."

"How - how dare you," I growled, and I'd never been so angry as I was then. I literally saw red - I imagine if I'd tried to cast the cruciatus then, it would have worked. Cowardice was something I associated with Pettigrew and the like - hearing someone, especially Snape, suggest that I was in any way lacking bravery...

A beaker, thankfully empty, cracked down the middle. Snape was singularly unimpressed.

"Control, Potter," he rebuked me almost lazily.

"Fuck you," I replied, my hand wrapped around the handle of my holstered wand.

"I'm afraid my tastes don't run to children, Potter, and if they did, I certainly wouldn't care to engage in sexual activity with a scrawny, half-blind, scarred, insolent twit such as yourself."

There comes a point when you go beyond anger, and suddenly everything seems bright and sharp and clear. I reached that point, and it was like passing through fire to reach ice.

"I hate you," I said calmly and with complete sincerity.

"The feeling is more than mutual, Mister Potter."

"Then why the hell am I here?" I erupted, ice melted away and replaced once more with flame. "If you hate me so much, why did you give me a detention to be served with you?"

His gaze inscrutable - though I learned soon enough how to read his various emotions - he said, with his face twisted in distaste, "Because, Potter, lamentable as it seems, you may very well be the wizarding world's only hope against the Dark Lord. I'm not about to stand by and watch you waste yourself while you still have a war to fight."

I laughed. To this day, I'm not certain why - nothing he'd said was amusing in the least, and if anyone else had spoken those words, I likely would have burst into noisy and humiliating tears. That's how tightly I was wound those days

"Be silent," Snape snapped, but that just made me laugh harder, until there were tears running down my face, and suddenly nothing seemed funny at all.

Oh God, I thought, I'm crying. I'm crying in front of Snape.

Who looked less than pleased to be witnessing a loathed student's complete mental breakdown.

"Pathetic," he muttered, and crack, there went another beaker.

I thought, rather wildly, two down and three hundred to go. It's beyond weird, the kind of things you think of when you're pushed to the edge and a second from snapping.

And still I was crying, snot running out of my nose and tears covering my face and my eyes swollen and red...and in abject horror at the situation I'd found myself in, I scrubbed my sleeves over my face, giving off little hiccoughing sobs as I tried to go back to my previous numb, uncaring state.

"If you are quite done?"

Flushed crimson - go on, Harry, show off those Gryffindor colors - I nodded miserably and tried desperately to become one with my chair. It didn't work.

"You are dismissed."

I stared at him. He glared back.

What the hell? Here I'd gone and sobbed my heart out in front of him like a bloody Hufflepuff with a toothache, and not only was he not taunting me, but he was also cutting short my detention?

Being an idiot, I decided to pry that gift horse's jaws open and have a staring contest with its tonsils.

"My detention isn't supposed to be over for another hour and a half," I pointed out, sniffling as my mucous tried to make a break for freedom. Not today, suckers, an insane part of my brain crowed.

"You've already wasted quite enough of my time with your histrionics, Potter, and I have no desire to witness this frankly disgusting display any longer. Leave."

I didn't move. Because while the words and the tone were as sharp and cutting as ever, the actions just didn't match up. Snape wouldn't let me go - he wouldn't hold back from tormenting me about my weakness...not unless-

"I don't need your pity," I snarled, my fingernails digging into the handle of my wand. Pity from Snape. The very idea made me feel sick to my stomach.

Something sparked briefly in Snape's eyes, and I got the distinct impression that he hadn't been expecting those words at all.

He watched me through narrowed eyes - which, by the way, only made his nose look bigger and his face narrower. In my completely unbiased opinion, he was as ugly as sin. Hell, I still think he's ugly as sin - but I also think he's beautiful at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Shit, I'm getting ahead of myself again.

"So you don't want my pity, Potter," he asked with a nasty smile that bared his crooked, stained teeth. He glided over to my desk, leaning in so closely that I could smell the grease in his hair.

"No," I said, stubbornly refusing to back down, while a part of me wondered at the fact that I'd shown more emotion in the last ten minutes than I had throughout the previous four months.

"I'll cease pitying you when you no longer pity yourself." He straightened back up but didn't step away, and there was a blatant challenge gleaming in his eyes. "Now. You - are - dismissed."

I left that time, my mind racing, my heart thudding as loudly as Neville falling down the dormitory stairs - again.

It's not an easy thing for a teenager to admit that an adult might be correct and that he might be wrong - especially when the teenager in question is proud and independent and the adult is a complete arse-licking ghoul-faced bat from hell.

So it took me a few days to come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, Snape had a point. That maybe I had been acting like a bit of a coward, and that maybe I was wallowing in self-pity.

I went back a week later, about an hour before dinner. Ron and Hermione hadn't been best pleased when I'd waved them off, but they were treating me like I was made of glass and weren't about to pressure me.

I think I hated them a little for that. I could have dealt with Hermione's bossy impatience and Ron's awkward fumbling, but the way they tip-toed around me as if they were afraid I was about to crack like one of Snape's beakers... Well, it pissed me off.

Snape, on the other hand, didn't coddle me. He just waved me in, his expression a little less unreadable than it had been before.

"Well?" he said impatiently. "Are you here for a reason, or are you just wasting my time"

Isn't it amazing, how Snape can make you go from being nervous to murderous in three seconds flat?

I took a deep breath. Then I took another one because, frankly, you can never be too careful when dealing with Slytherins. I'm pretty sure it's a secret House mandate that all Slytherins have to do their utmost to piss off a Gryffindor at least once a week.

Slimy bastards.

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry," I said. I was in physical pain, having to apologize to Snape. "And that you were right about me being less than brave."

He didn't say anything. He didn't even blink, and I wasn't quite sure he was breathing. Oh God, did he die of shock? Dumbledore will kill me!

"Er...Professor?"

Finally, movement. Snape blinked once, then stared hard at me, as if awaiting the punch-line of a particularly unfunny joke. I swallowed but met his gaze head-on.

"I see."

Snape definitely wasn't acting like his normal self. He should have been mercilessly deriding me; he should have been scoffing at my admittedly pathetic apology and telling me just where to put my thanks.

"I still hate you," I said quickly, but we both knew I was lying.

As for why I didn't hate Snape - I didn't know. He hadn't changed, after all.

But maybe I had. And maybe that was enough.

"You may go," Snape said, and I was almost angry, except that I knew nothing with Snape was ever simple.

Besides, you may go is, at least with Snape, a far cry from you are dismissed.

The year passed and we grew more comfortable around each other. By the end of my seventh year, we were friends of a sort, even if we still spent more time screaming at each other than anything else. And by the time I'd completed auror training and returned to Hogwarts to teach...well, we were definitely more than friends.

The first time we kissed...it was awkward. His nose got in the way, and so did my glasses, and I had to pee and he had a headache. His potion boiled over a few moments after our lips touched, and we both ended up in the hospital wing with burns all over.

But it was still perfect, and that was when I knew I was hopelessly in love. And this time, I hadn't had to chase after anything, because Severus had come to me first - he was the one to approach me, even if it was to give me a detention for unruly shoelaces, and he'd been the one to save me from myself. Not quite the same as my dreams of escaping the cupboard...but he'd done more than anyone else had ever bothered to do.

The rest, as they say, is history.

And no, I'm not giving you any details on our sex life. Perverts.