Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.
Author's Notes: This was written as a thank you present for my fantastic beta bewarethesmirk - who is an absolute star!
This story contains SLASH so if you do not like it - or don't know what it is - then DO NOT READ. Thanks :o)
It also contains major spoilers for Deathly Hallows.
Dreams of Deliverance
Snape's bleeding corpse lying on the floor: his lifeblood staining the ground in a spreading pool of darkness.
Harry rushed forwards, almost touching, fingers outstretched.
And he awoke, screaming.
The door to his quarters flew open and a black robed figure strode in, silhouetted in the dying glow of the fire that barely lit the room.
"Potter," a familiar voice said waspishly, "you are going to wake the entire castle."
Harry blinked once and fell back against the pillows. He was drenched in sweat and his heart still thudded relentlessly in his chest. "S- Sorry," he gasped.
Severus Snape stopped beside his bed and glared, his features sharply outlined in the amber light. He looked uncharacteristically dishevelled as though he, himself, had been having the nightmare. "Indeed you should apologise," he agreed. "This is becoming a nightly occurrence. I rue the day I suggested Minerva site your quarters so close."
With remnants of dream still licking at the edges of his vision, Harry rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "I never asked you to."
"You were in no fit state to ask anything at the time," Snape said darkly. He pursed his lips when he noticed a stoppered bottle lying on Harry's bedside table. "Far too busy screaming then, as well, if I recall," he added distractedly, picking up the bottle and tilting it against the pale light. "May I ask why you seem incapable of taking the sleeping potion I spent hours preparing?"
"It makes me groggy," Harry replied, the fog in his head clearing somewhat. "If I take it then I'm in no state to teach."
Snape snorted. "I would not have thought anyone would notice the difference."
"Thanks very much." Harry scowled. "What are you doing in here anyway?"
An odd expression crossed the Potion Master's face. "Someone has to rouse you from your nightmares if you do not have the courtesy to place a Silencing charm on your rooms. The children have contended with enough these past few years, without hearing the night terrors of their hero echoing through the walls."
"Sorry," Harry said again. Then added belatedly, "But I'm not anyone's hero."
The black eyes narrowed and Snape folded his arms. "The Boy Who Defeated Voldemort? Who risked his life to save a traitorous Potions Professor? You are a hero to many, Potter, whether you like it or not."
Harry's face was reddening and he hoped the other man couldn't see. He felt uncomfortable lying in bed whilst Snape stood, towering above him, and he pushed the covers down, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and sitting up. Snape took a step back, and for a moment Harry thought he was going to leave – he didn't want that. "Tea?" he asked abruptly.
"Would you like some tea? Or a drink?" Harry offered. "I have some Firewhisky."
"I really should be going. As you mentioned, we have classes in the morning."
"Please…" Harry said quietly. "Stay." He didn't want to be alone: the dream was too fresh in his mind, and the professor's presence was strangely reassuring.
Snape considered the younger man. "Just one then," he said, inclining his head.
Harry smiled and pushed off the bed onto the floor, his bare feet sinking into the plush carpet. He still felt sticky from sweat and he pulled off his t-shirt in one swift motion, tossing it onto the end of the bed. Snape abruptly turned away, and Harry looked over, startled, thinking he was leaving, but Snape was only closing the door he'd left open in his haste to enter before going over to the fireplace and rekindling the fire.
Relieved, Harry picked up his wand from the bedside table and cast a Cleansing charm on himself, instantly feeling refreshed. He picked up his glasses and slid them on.
Bare-chested, he headed towards his chest of drawers and raked around inside the top one to pull free an almost full bottle of Firewhisky. Snape had already found a couple of clean glasses and was standing by the fireplace with them ready in his hands, waiting for Harry and the alcohol.
Harry walked over slowly and poured out two healthy measures, placing the bottle on the mantelpiece and taking one of the glasses from Snape's hand.
"Are you not going to put on a shirt?" Snape asked, deliberately keeping his eyes on Harry's face.
Harry frowned, looking down at his shirtless chest and the myriad of scars that criss-crossed the muscles of his abdomen. Scars he had earned fighting off a murderous snake, and her even more destructive keeper. Scars he had earned saving the man before him. "Does it make you uncomfortable?" he asked, sipping the whisky and making no move to comply with Snape's request.
"Yes," the older man answered, keeping his expression blank.
Snape was taken aback and didn't reply straight away. He took a mouthful of whisky and swallowed heavily. "I don't like to see what they did," he said finally, daring Harry with his gaze. "What you did. For me," he added with bitterness tarnishing the words. Another mouthful of whisky and the glass was empty, he looked down at it surprise.
Harry looked thoughtful. "I don't regret it, you know," he said. "I'd do it again."
Snape laid the glass on the mantelpiece and looked suddenly angry. "You could have died," he snapped. "You could have risked everything and lost because of some misguided notion of heroism. You can't save everyone, Potter."
"I saved you," Harry said, taking a step closer to Snape. "Why does that bother you so much?"
Snape stood his ground. "It bothers me, Potter, because you risked your life to save someone unimportant. You weren't ready to face him, and yet you did, when for once you should have waited and let events run their course."
"But I did kill him."
"Only through luck and blind ignorance; if I hadn't been there to resuscitate you… if the snake hadn't turned on her master…"
"But you were there and I did kill him," Harry repeated.
"Luck," Snape spat. "And foolishness."
Harry shrugged, looking at the glass in his hand and swirling the amber liquid. "Do you know what I dream about? What I've dreamt about every night for the past three years?" he asked.
"No," Snape replied. "But I imagine you are replaying the events of that night."
Harry shook his head, not lifting his gaze. "No, not really." He exhaled. "I dream about what would have happened if I had done as you suggested. If I had waited…" He looked up and met Snape's shocked stare. "I see you lying in a pool of your own blood."
Snape swallowed. "Me?" he said. "You dream about me?"
A soft chuckle escaped Harry's lips. "Yeah, stupid isn't it?" He took another drink and found the glass empty. He reached out for the bottle only to find his wrist caught in Snape's calloused hand. "What?" he asked, looking up at the older man.
"Don't know really," Harry lied, feeling the warmth of the fire and the alcohol coursing through his veins. The fingers were pressing into his skin and he savoured the touch; Snape's eyes were boring into him, and for a second he wondered how the other man would react if he spoke the truth. Where was his Gryffindor courage when he needed it?
The crackling of the fire was the only sound in the room, Snape seemed to be waiting, but Harry didn't trust himself to say anything more. With a small sound of derision Snape let go of Harry's hand and pulled his cloak more firmly around himself. "I should go," he said. "It's late."
Harry's stomach plummeted. "Oh, okay." His voice sounded small, and he grabbed for the whisky bottle, pouring out another glassful and turning away.
Snape regarded his hunched back, much as a hawk would its prey. "If you intend to use alcohol to drown your sorrows, Potter, I can provide you with some potion to alleviate the after-affects."
"No, thanks," Harry said shortly, feeling an irrational burst of irritation.
"So you choose to suffer?"
"Yeah," Harry spun around and raised his glass in mock salute, "I choose to suffer." He took a drink and glared at Snape, whose lips were twitching in amusement.
"Ah, the infamous Harry Potter martyrdom," he sneered. "So befitting a hero."
Anger bubbled in Harry's chest at the sight of Snape's mockery and he snapped, "Fuck you. You don't have a clue what you're talking about."
This only served to amuse Snape more. "No? Well, I'm sorry. Shall I go and owl one of your little Gryffindor friends so they can pander to your tantrums? Tell you what a poor little boy you are and put you to bed. Would Granger serve to fulfil your nightly needs?" At Harry's darkening expression, Snape said nastily, "Or is Weasley more to your taste?"
Harry threw the glass across the room and it smashed against the wall. Two strides and he had a handful of Snape's robes in his hand and the man pressed against the wall by the fire. "Don't you talk about my friends like that; you have no right," Harry hissed.
"Don't I?" Snape challenged, not fighting Harry's hold. "Where were they when you were healing from your wounds? When you were screaming in pain from the poison coursing through you body? Were they up night after night applying lotions and trying to keep the fever at bay?" Snape bent his head closer and Harry could feel his whisky-scented breath ghosting over his face. "Where are they now when you scream out in the night?"
Harry was too close to Snape. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think. He could hear the words Snape was speaking but could only concentrate on the movement of the thin lips. "They… They…" he stuttered.
"Why do you dream about me?" Snape interrupted, the words softly spoken.
Harry closed his eyes, his hand loosening on the robes. "Because I want you," he answered honestly, and braced himself for the sneering response that was sure to come. What he didn't expect was the warm hand on his chest, roughened fingertips tracing the path of a scar. He flinched back, releasing his hand and opening his eyes.
"Wh… What are you doing?"
Snape was looked at him through hooded eyes, his hand still reaching out. The hand fell away. "I should have thought that was perfectly obvious," he said, but there was no malice in his tone.
"You aren't shocked?"
"No." Snape looked genuinely puzzled. "Should I be?"
"But you hate me."
A genuine look of amusement flitted across Snape's face. "No, Potter, there are many things I feel about you, but I can quite honestly say that hatred is not one of them."
"Really?" Harry's face was lit by the warm glow of the fire, and Snape was overwhelmed by the look of hope on the younger man's face.
"Really," he said dryly, taking a step forwards and closing the distance that Harry had put between them. He touched Harry's chest again and this time Harry did not back away, instead he pressed his body against Snape's hand. His own hands hung loosely by his sides and his breathing hitched. "You are permitted to touch me, you know," Snape observed and Harry gave him a look of such wide-eyed innocence – far too reminiscent of the years before Voldemort – that Snape almost backed away. But then Harry's face shifted, a sneaking grin creasing the age-lines in his features, and Snape felt his own breathing deepen.
Harry's fingers twisted in the folds of Snape's robes, but this time not threatening; this time he tugged Snape down, stretching his neck and tilting his head so he met Snape's descending lips with such force that Snape let out a gasp of surprise. And then Harry's tongue was thrusting in his mouth, past his teeth and fighting for dominance, his hands pushing Snape's robes off his shoulders and onto the floor, fingers fumbling for buttons and sliding under Snape's loosened shirt.
Snape's own hands, once freed from the confines of his robes, continued their sensuous quest across Harry's bare skin, almost reverently threading across the paths of Harry's painful sacrifice; a sacrifice made for him – for him. Years of watching this boy grow to be a man, of finding the hatred of his youth replaced by something so much more in light of this man's actions: his complete and utter unthinking bravery and fearlessness.
To find that Harry felt the same for him; Snape could almost imagine that this was a dream, but he did not have dreams of this. He did not dream of fingers threading through his hair, of the taste of whisky in his mouth and stubbled skin rubbing against his jaw, of scarred flesh shuddering against his touch.
He dreamt of blood and a snake's ripping bite, of speaking dying words to a bespectacled boy as his life flowed from his body.
As the fire crackled, two bodies pressed together in the darkness; hands and tongues and touch and taste pushing away the nightmares and replacing them with something so much more.