Chapter 19 – Lay Me Down
"Where's the cake?"
"You know…the wedding cake."
"Sage, for Merlin's sake. How many times today am I going to have to remind you that this is a bonding, not a wedding?"
"Right. Sorry. I don't know why I have all these ridiculous ideas about how this is supposed to be. Obviously I've never been to a bonding, but I've never been to a wedding either! How did this stuff get into my head?"
"I ask myself that question nearly every day."
Cameron feigned a scowl and Snape steered him toward the bar. Yes, alcohol was more than welcome.
Snape pressed a glass of watery whiskey into his hand. Cameron knocked it back and held it out to the barkeep for a refill. They moved back to their position on the periphery, where Cameron leaned against the wall to watch the crowd and Snape acted as if no one else were present and had eyes only for his shoes.
Cameron determined that the few Hogwarts professors he'd seen earlier must have left directly after the ceremony so there was no one there he knew. He also noted that, while everyone seemed a bit tipsy, no one was drunk enough to do anything truly interesting.
"So, have you been to a bonding before?"
"Two. I have attended one wedding as well, and I must say they're remarkably similar."
"The officiant speaks about the meaning and importance of a bonding or marriage, the couple makes vows of eternal affection and fidelity, then afterward everyone gets as drunk as propriety will allow. There's awkward dancing, insincere congratulations, and an overabundance of flowers. Remarkably similar."
"Except for the cake."
Snape inclined his head. "Except for the cake. And the blessings bestowed by the attendants. And, of course, the fact that half of marriages end in divorce."
"Wizards and witches tend to stay together, then?"
"They have no choice. There is no divorce in the magical world."
"There are certain instances, such as one spouse receiving a life sentence to Azkaban or falling into a permanent magical coma, in which a bonding can be declared void, but it is rare. As you might imagine, bondings are not entered into lightly."
"No, I should think not."
Cameron sipped his drink. The idea of being bound to another person for life, of it being irreversible, should have been terrifying. It was the kind of thing that would have made him shudder in the past. He didn't know when things had turned upside down in his head, but now the idea just seemed… well, comforting.
He imagined it as something akin to enjoying a perfect cup of tea in the morning—wrapping his hands around the hot cup, feeling the steam on his face, savoring the familiar taste—even if he didn't usually notice it as he hovered in the hazy land between dreams and true waking.
A sharp, familiar voice jerked him from his thoughts.
"Pro-Professor Kabbali. Oh. Er, hullo. Congratulations. To, er, Simran, that is. I mean, I'm sure you must be happy, but probably not too happy…" What was it about the man that reduced Cameron to an incoherent teenager?
"I see your articulacy remains as ever." The professor flicked his eyes to Snape. "Shall I introduce myself, then?"
"Oh! Sorry. Professor, this is Severus Snape, my… er, well, he's the Potions Master at Hogwarts. Snape, meet Professor Kabbali."
"Snape. I've read some of your work." His tone was flat, as per usual, and no one, except perhaps for Simran, would have known if he meant to praise Snape or deride him.
"Likewise," Snape answered.
They did not shake hands.
"So… how long are you in town?"
"I return to India this evening."
Professor Kabbali studied Snape and Cameron fidgeted.
"Severus Snape, your… what, precisely?" the professor asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh. Well, he's my—I mean we're—I'm… That is to say—"
Cameron felt Snape's arm snake around his waist and thought his heart just might melt at the unprecedented gesture. Just about everyone at Hogwarts knew about their relationship, he was sure, but they never openly acknowledged it.
"His lover." Snape narrowed his eyes. "As I'm certain you well know."
The professor pressed his lips into a thin line, but did not comment. "You're Hogwarts' Defense Master. Put my daughter out a job, did you, Mr. Sage?"
"What! No, of course not. I didn't start 'til two years later!"
"With the training you received, I'd have expected you to advance far beyond teaching twelve-year-olds by now. Tell me, do you deny your potential and cling to your mediocrity just for… him?"
Cameron clenched his teeth and reminded himself how much he'd learned from this man.
"Papa, are you terrorizing the guests?" Simran planted a kiss on her father's cheek. "Oh! It's you two."
"Congrats, again. The ceremony was beautiful."
"But the drinks were weak, right?" She grinned. "Having fun? You know, before Mr. Prickly here came over and poked you?"
"Oh no, we were just… catching up."
Snape snorted and Simran elbowed her father. "Yeah, okay. Anyway, Miles' parents want to speak with Papa, though I can't imagine why. Later, yeah?" she shot over her shoulder as she dragged her father away.
"Well, that was… interesting."
Cameron wished he had another drink. "Yeah."
"Is he always like that?"
"That has been my experience." He felt sorry for Marks and his folks. At least he and Snape would never have in-laws to worry—
"Can we get out of here?" he asked abruptly, cursing his unruly thoughts.
"As you wish," Snape answered, and in no time at all they were standing at the Apparition point.
Cameron was surprised by how much he wanted to be anywhere but there, and it wasn't all to do with Professor Kabbali. He was never going to another wedding—bonding, he reminded himself—unless it was his own.
He looked to Snape with a tight smile. "Meet you at the gates?"
The closer he came to the day he went back in time, the more apprehensive Cameron became. He'd told Snape he didn't think anything bad was going to happen, and he'd believed it at the time. He still sort of did, somewhere deep down.
But the fact that he had no real reason, no proof for his conclusion… that made him nervous. It wasn't enough to think he probably wouldn't just up and disappear. And that wasn't even the worst that could happen! What if he woke up that day with his consciousness inside seventeen-year-old Harry Potter's body? Well, he'd be eighteen by that time, but that was hardly any consolation.
He would much rather watch over Snape from the afterlife (would he even have an afterlife?) than to be twenty years younger and have Snape hate him. Granted, Snape's hatred for Harry didn't seem to be quite so vehement this time, but any amount of hatred would be too much for him.
Not to mention, if things kept going like they were he'd probably be engaged to Ginny by then, and wouldn't that be awkward. No, he'd been Harry Potter once already and he'd be damned if he was going to do it again.
He thought and researched and thought some more about ways he could prevent that from happening, but he hadn't found anything yet. Not that he was giving up; a few sleepless nights were a small price to pay, and he'd be able to recharge a bit over Easter break. His students were probably suffering for it too, but it was better than them coming back from Christmas to find their professor had gone missing.
"… any attention at all?"
"You've been staring at the wall for twenty minutes. What is the matter with you?"
"Nothing? You haven't talked to me in weeks, and—"
"I have, too!"
"Pardon me, I wasn't including 'I have a detention tonight,' or 'Pass the sugar.' Have I done something? I've been over and over my actions, and I cannot fathom what could have offended you so. If you are through with me, please just say so—I can't take this much longer."
Snape looked anguished and Cameron had to fight to keep from crying. He had done this.
"No, Snape. I couldn't do without you." He scooted down the couch and wrapped his arms around Snape. "I'm sorry I've been so distant lately. It's nothing to do with you, I swear."
He guided Snape's chin around and kissed him.
Snape kept his eyes closed when they pulled apart. "You still love me," he whispered.
It wasn't a question, but Cameron answered anyway. "Yes. Always."
He'd been tense, practically shaking, all night. He hadn't slept a wink, but he had lain in bed for several hours. He wondered what the rest to sleep conversion factor was.
He was terrified to go to sleep. What if he didn't wake up? It was nearly dawn, though. Surely if something was going to happen, it would have done so by now. After all, it was twelve hours since he'd used the Time-Turner. Or hadn't. Whatever.
But if nothing awful happened, there was the potential for things to be amazing. Of course, there was also the potential for disaster, but he preferred to worry about one thing at a time, and he wasn't done worrying about becoming nonexistent yet. What if the magic was just waiting for him to nod off? He fell asleep arguing in circles with himself.
It was less than ten minutes later he felt Snape stir and jerked awake.
Oh, sweet Merlin. He'd done it. He'd fallen asleep and actually woken up! He raised a hand to his face and felt his morning stubble and the smooth area on his forehead where he didn't have a scar.
Yes! He'd woken up, and he was still thirty-nine.
"S'matter with you?" Snape mumbled, and Cameron realized he was grinning like a loon.
"I have something to tell you. And then I have something to ask you. Don't let me forget."
Snape gave him a sleepy, confused look, and Cameron leaned over and kissed him. He was alive, he was himself, and he still had Snape. Life was good.
"You're quite… energetic," Snape muttered against his mouth when they paused for breath.
"Yes," he answered, rolling on top of his lover.
"I think I like it."
Cameron was never so thankful that they slept naked most of the time. He could feel Snape's warm skin under him and his rapidly hardening prick pressed against his hip. Snape's hands were making sleepy, uncoordinated movements on his back and it was glorious.
He kissed his way down Snape's throat to suck on the soft spot where his neck and shoulder met.
Snape moaned and thrust his hips up.
"What do you want?" Cameron whispered in his ear.
"You, just you."
Cameron's brain knew that could be interpreted any number of ways, but his libido could make only one translation. Without so much as a conscious thought, he charmed lubrication onto Snape's cock and heard him gasp.
Cameron swallowed any other noise he might have made with a kiss, knelt up, and reached behind himself to guide Snape's prick to his entrance. He lowered himself slowly, and he could feel Snape fighting with himself to stay still.
He stopped only when he was completely filled. He rested his forehead on Snape's shoulder and panted. He wanted to stay that way forever, but he knew there were better things to come. Bracing his hands on Snape's chest, he raised himself up.
"Cameron," Snape whimpered.
Cameron let go, letting his weight bring him down fast and hard. He repeated the process, squirming around until the angle was just right.
His thighs and arms were trembling with the effort of moving his weight up and down. Snape's fingers were clamped onto his hips; there'd be bruises there later. They would go nicely with the scratch marks he was leaving on Snape's chest. Snape was thrusting up to meet him. His head was thrown back, his mouth slack, gasping.
Cameron felt the pressure building inside and welcomed it with glee.
"Severus, Severus, Sev—ah!—oh, Merlin. I love you, I lo—nngh… !"
He fought to keep himself from collapsing for a few moments until Snape reached his peak with a hissed breath and clenched teeth, then fell to the bed.
When he could move again, he shifted off Snape to lie beside him. He was so glad it was Christmas break. He could really do with a kip.
Snape rolled to his side and propped his head on his hand to look at Cameron. "What was it you wanted to say?"
Why, why had he asked Snape to remind him? All the worry he'd allocated to time paradoxes shifted to this. Just stay calm, he told himself.
It didn't work.
"I need to—to tell you… I don't… " Oh Merlin, this was so much harder than he'd expected. "I don't know how to… to… " He knew as soon as he told Snape that he used to be Harry Potter, he'd be out the door and lucky if he still had all his parts. Not that that would matter, when Snape was in here and he was out there. "I used to—my name was… oh gods, I—you don't know, I have to tell you… "
"You're wrong, Sage. I do know."
Cameron started breathing faster and his heart sped up. His whole body felt too hot. He felt like he was about to die. Considering what he was sure was happening, death seemed like a welcome alternative.
"How, how could I not have known? I've loved you for fourteen years, of course I know."
Snape trailed the back of his index finger down Cameron's cheek. A caress? Surely caressing meant Snape was not about to extract his heart through his navel and tear into tiny, jagged pieces. Or he was lulling him into a false sense of security. That must be it.
"You're not angry?"
"Do I seem angry?"
Cameron had to admit that, if anything, Snape seemed amused. He had no idea how long Snape had known. Long enough to come to terms with it, apparently.
"You said you needed to ask me something."
Right. Yes, he had. Why had he said that? Now he had to do it. He should have slept when he had the chance. He exhaled slowly. "Yes." Cameron sat up and turned to the bedside table to remove the Concealment Charm from the lantern.
There was an eternal moment of stillness and excruciating silence, then: "Holy fucking Merlin."
Cameron was unsure if that uncharacteristic foray into swearing was good or bad until Snape tackled him to the bed and pressed so close it was like he was trying to get under Cameron's skin and crawl inside him, at which point he decided to take it as a 'yes'.