Title: But, For My Own Part, It Was Greek to Me.
Author: thesewarmstars.
Rating: NC-17.
Warning: Character death (not Snape or Harry), EWE.
Prompt/Summary: Snape came out of hiding to find a cure for his mother, but he found something else entirely.
Author's Note: The title and Mark Antony's eulogy in the last scene are taken from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Many thanks to for beta reading.

Harry leaned against the examination table during the break between patients. Luna helped weed out the perfectly healthy ones (or worse, those whose injuries were self-inflicted) who came only to be treated by The Savior, but he was still busy enough to relish five minutes to himself.

Merlin, he needed a vacation. Soon.

Luna poked her head in the door. "Walk-in consultation."

Harry sagged. "Do I have to?"

"No," she answered placidly.

He sighed. "Send 'em in."

Luna opened the door wider and the patient came in.

"I require your services."

Harry's head snapped up. "You… ? You're alive! No, that's not… are you a… ?" He shook his head and checked the man again. Yep, still Snape. Still not a ghost. Still wholly inconceivable. Alive?

Luna was just standing there in the doorway, smiling serenely, like dead men walked into their office every day. "Shite, Luna! Give a bloke some warning, would you?"

"I did," she answered, then twirled around and left, shutting the door behind her.

"Well?" Snape snapped.

"Well what?" Harry had so many questions he couldn't even think straight. Was this a dream? Was he so overworked he'd nodded off?

Snape glared at him, and for a second Harry thought he might try to take points. Instead, he closed his eyes for a moment and breathed out sharply through his nose.

"I require your services."

"And what services would those be?"

Snape crossed his arms against his chest and glared. "You are a Healer, are you not?"

"Are you sick?" He didn't look sick.

"Do I look sick?"

Harry huffed. "Well then, why are you here? And, for Merlin's sake, why are you alive?"

"Sorry to disappoint you!"

"No, that isn't… ! I just… why didn't you tell anyone?"

"Why didn't I tell you, you mean. Never mind, I can see this was a bad idea."

"Hey, wait! I didn't mean… this is just so unexpected. You were awarded an Order of Merlin because I insisted, you know. A posthumous one, I might add."

Snape scowled. "If you expect to be repaid – "

"Of course not. Don't be stupid. You deserved it."

Snape opened his mouth and closed it again with a frustrated look.

Harry sighed. "Look, why don't you just tell me what the problem is, and I'll see if there's anything I can do?"

"My mother is ill."

"Well, you're either going to have to be much more specific or bring her in if you expect me to do anything about it."

The scowl was back, but at least this time it didn't seem to be directed at him.

"She won't come."

The idea that anyone would disobey Snape was funny, and the fact it was his own mother was hilarious. Harry held back his laugh. After all, if Snape was to be believed, the woman was sick.

"How am I supposed to help her, then?"

"She's been staying with me. I shall take you to her."

"I don't usually go home with a bloke on the first date."

Snape looked at him like he'd sprouted feathers, and Harry clapped a hand over his mouth. Had he lost his bleeding mind? Must not reveal personal information to Snape. Must not joke around with Snape. Must not, under any circumstances, no matter how bizarre, ever ever flirt with Snape!

"Will you treat her or not?"

"I, er, I'll have to figure out what's wrong with her before I can tell you if I'll be able to treat her. But I'll do my best. If you leave me Apparition coordinates or a Floo address, I can come by this evening."

Snape narrowed his eyes. "Why are you doing this?"

"I'm a Healer; it's my job."

"But why are you doing it for me?"

Harry found himself wanting to say something ridiculous and unacceptable, like 'I'd do anything for you.' Something was definitely wrong with his brain.

"I'm not doing it for you. Any Healer would do the same. Besides, it's your mum who's sick, not you."

Snape studied him for a moment and seemed to decide he was sincere enough. "Gryffindors," he muttered. "The place is under Fidelius, and my mother is the Secret Keeper. I'll have her send you an owl with the Floo address later today, and you can come tomorrow. If that is convenient," he added with obvious reluctance.

"Sure. Of course. I'll see you then."

Without so much as a thank you or a goodbye or a nod of the head, Snape left.

Harry scrubbed a hand over his face. He knew he could have handled the whole thing better. He knew he had been a tactful, somewhat poised, marginally articulate man before Severus Snape had shown up at his office.

Luna came in without knocking and sat on the floor.

"Why do I have to fall apart and become a twelve-year-old in front of him, of all people?"

"Why is his good opinion so important to you?"

Harry didn't have an answer for that. Instead, he said the thing that seemed most pressing. "He's alive."

"Quite."

"How did he survive? Why didn't he say anything?"

"I daresay he wouldn't have been a very good Potions Master or a very good spy if he didn't plan for such a likely scenario."

"No, I suppose not."

"He values his privacy."

"Yes. Being dead was probably a dream come true for him."

"So, what are you going to do?"

"Make a house call tomorrow night and see if I can help his mum."

"That isn't what I was talking about."

"What else is there?"

"There's him." She stood to leave. "You have an appointment in seven minutes."

Harry had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but he knew better than to ask.

XXX

The note, when it came, was terse: Severus Snape lives at 43 Willoughby Way. And I do not need a sodding Healer.

XXX

Harry stumbled out of the fireplace, hoping to Merlin that Snape was in another room and he'd be able to compose himself.

No such luck. In fact, both Snapes were sitting on the sofa, watching him with malicious amusement. As he brushed the ash off his robes, he studied Snape's mum. He didn't see any overt symptoms, but it was very clear where Snape had got his nose.

"Stop gaping, boy." She looked him up and down. "You killed Voldemort?"

And his penchant for insults, apparently.

"I'm twenty-seven years old – hardly a boy."

"That remains to be seen."

"Right. Well. What seems to be the problem, Mrs. Snape?" She didn't look particularly sick, but he could sense that something wasn't right with her. He was a Healer, she was his patient, and he was determined to be as professional as possible. Even if they were the rudest pair in Britain – he hadn't been offered tea, or even a seat!

"Other than my son interfering where he isn't wanted?"

At the other end of the sofa, Snape slouched further, glowering.

"So you don't think you're sick?"

"I didn't say that, boy. You should learn to listen properly." She turned to Snape. "However did he make it through seven years of Potions without blowing himself up?"

"By the skin of his teeth," he answered, glaring at Harry. "And using other people's notes without their permission."

Harry crossed his arms over his chest. It was hardly his fault which book Slughorn gave him! He needed to get out of here. "Look, why don't I just cast a few diagnostic spells, then I'll get out of your hair. I can analyze them back at the office and get back to you."

"Is that the only way to get rid of you?"

Harry saw Snape nod minutely at him and answered, "Yes, Mrs. Snape, I'm afraid so. This'll only take a moment."

They hadn't given him any symptoms to go on, so he used every diagnostic spell he could think of and directed the results to the storage ball in his pocket.

"Right. That's it. I'll owl you when I know something."

"You'll owl me," Snape corrected.

Harry looked to Mrs. Snape. He would need her permission to share medical information with anyone but her.

"Yes, fine. It's the only way to placate him. Sodding nuisance."

Harry covered his snicker with a cough and stepped into the fireplace.

XXX

"I still can't believe it."

Luna took a dainty sip of her drink. "You saw him yourself, talked to him. He's alive, and no amount of disbelief on your part will change it."

"She's right, you know," Hermione piped in. "You can stop harping on it now."

"Sorry."

Harry looked over at Ron, who was sitting at an adjacent table with George, Dean, and Ginny.

"It's been almost a year."

Hermione squeezed his hand. "I know, Harry. He'll come 'round. I think his biggest problem is that you kept it from him for so long."

Harry gave her a skeptical look.

"All right, he's not too happy with the other part, either."

"I don't get it! He knows his own brother's gay, too, right?"

"He's in denial about Charlie," Luna supplied.

"Whatever, let's talk about something else."

"Have you made a diagnosis yet?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded. "I think so."

"Have you owled him?"

"Not yet. I will. I don't know why he came to me with this, of all people."

"You're the quintessential Gryffindor," Luna explained. "He knew once he told you his mother was ill, you'd do everything you could, regardless of whatever your feelings about him might be."

"I s'pose."

Hermione bit her lip.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Spit it out."

"I just… What's he like?"

"He's… different, and somehow just the same."

"Make some sense, Harry."

"Well, he seems different. But I think it's just because I see him differently. He's not my professor anymore. And seeing him with his mum, in his own house… I don't know. He just seems…"

"Human?"

"Thanks, Luna. That's just it, he seems more human."

Hermione scrutinized him for a moment, then announced, "You're interested in him!"

"Well, of course I am. Aren't you?" And Harry was interested. He wanted to know what Snape had been up to for the last ten years. How did he make a living if he was pretending to be dead? What did he do in his spare time? Harry wanted to know everything.

"Not in the same way you are," Luna explained.

"You should go after him."

He usually had a hard time following Luna, but now he didn't know what either one of them was talking about. He thought back over the last hour and only remembered having three drinks.

"What are you on about?"

Hermione shook her head. "Honestly, Harry."

"She means you should pursue him romantically."

After he got past the decidedly odd juxtaposition of Snape and romance, he squeaked, "Romantically!"

They nodded.

He frowned down at his drink. He knew he was interested in Snape, but was he interested that way? His mind flashed him an image of Snape's hands clenched on the couch cushion and a shiver went down his spine.

Luna gave him a knowing smile and turned to Hermione. "So, how are you and Mason getting along?"

Hermione blushed, and Harry embraced the new topic and the chance to make someone else squirm, for a change.

XXX

Harry was gathering his things to leave for the day when Snape burst in.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, waving a piece of parchment that Harry could only guess was the letter with his diagnosis.

He should have known Snape wouldn't take it well.

"I'm sorry, Snape. I wish there was a cure, but Lachlan's disease is an autoimmune disorder, and there – "

"I know that!"

"Then you also know that there's no way to cure it."

Snape let out a breath, and Harry could see all his angry bluster go with it. "But…"

If Harry had had any doubts about Snape's humanity, they went out the window when he saw the pain written on his face. Regardless of how prickly either of them seemed to him, it was still Snape's mum they were talking about here.

"I'm sorry."

"Isn't there anything you can do? You're Harry Potter, for Merlin's sake."

"You know better than anyone that that doesn't mean a thing."

Snape nodded glumly.

"There are a couple of treatments I could try to stave off the worst of the symptoms."

Snape looked hopeful for a moment before he blanked his features. "Really?"

"It won't change the inevitable, but it might… help."

Severus nodded. "Yes. Anything."

XXX

"You knew what was wrong," Severus accused.

"I guessed."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because I knew very well that nothing could be done. You'd have done the same."

"Well, you're wrong. Harry says – "

"Harry says? What happened to 'the Potter brat'?"

He contained a grimace. He had slipped up and thought of him as Harry a few times since their re-acquaintance, but he'd never said it out loud. He didn't know what was wrong with him, and that bothered him a great deal. He'd expected Potter to sugarcoat things and was immensely grateful that he hadn't, but even he knew that couldn't adequately explain the upheaval in his mind. He did know that whatever it was, it was Potter's fault. Bloody menace of a man.

"It is his name. He says there are treatments, that he may be able to alleviate some of the symptoms."

"It's a waste of time, Severus."
"It is not. Not if he can lessen your pain, even a little."

"There is nothing anyone can do – my immune system has decided to treat my magic as a foreign entity, and nothing will stop it attacking it until it's all gone. It's going to kill me, Severus."

"I bloody well know that! But there's no reason for you to be in pain if you don't have to."

"Language, son."

"Oh, be quiet."

XXX

Harry peeled the label from his bottle. Hermione, George, and Luna were talking, but Harry wasn't paying attention. He'd awoken from one of those dreams two nights ago and known Hermione was right. Apparently, he was interested in Snape that way. But where did he go from here?

"What do I do?"

He only realized he'd voiced his thoughts when George answered, "Jump him, mate."

Hermione scowled at him and George just grinned.

Luna ignored them both. "He strikes me as very traditional and very unused to relationships. You should court him."

Harry frowned. "Court him?"

"You know." Hermione waved her hand. "Send him gifts, take him places, woo him. As opposed to your usual 'jump into the sack, learn names later' approach."

"Hey!"

"She's got a point," George said with an apologetic look.

"Whatever." He couldn't even argue – he knew they were right. He just wished they wouldn't point it out.

He drained the rest of his drink. "What kind of gifts?"

XXX

"Owl for you."

"Who's it from?"

"Harry."

Blasted woman. She'd been mocking him about that for days.

Apparently Potter wasn't expecting a reply, because as soon as Eileen untied the package the owl took off.

She set the package on the kitchen table and he looked at it in horror. "Is that a box of chocolates?"

"According to the label."

"It's for me?"

She nodded.

"From him?"

She rolled her eyes and nodded again.

He cast a charm to check for poisons and found none. "What is he playing at?"

"Oh for…" She huffed and put her hands on her hips. "It's a very good brand. I'll eat them if you don't want – "

He snatched the box off the table. "I didn't say that."

XXX

"I want to try a different Immunosuppressant Charm."

"What's wrong with the one you're using now?"

"It isn't working." Harry tried to keep the frustration out of his voice. Snape hadn't said a word about the chocolates, so he wasn't going to either. After all, they were in the office, and they should keep it professional.

Still, Snape could've said something.

"Should have known you weren't competent."

"It's nothing to do with me. She needs a stronger charm."

"Fine then, try a new one."

"This one is quite a bit stronger. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with her living at home while she's on it."

Severus narrowed his eyes. "Why not?"

"It's not a sterile environment. With her immune system suppressed that much, she wouldn't be able to fight off even the simplest of infections. She should be in hospital."

"She'd never agree to that."

"I know."

"I can make my home sterile, as far as it is possible."

"I don't think you understand. This isn't something that would be undone. If it works, she'll need to have it renewed regularly for the rest of her life."

"But it would lessen the pain?"

"It should. But eventually, she will get an infection and, with this charm, it will kill her."

"Better than having her magic slowly eaten away by her own body."

There was no denying that. Lachlan's disease was immensely painful – Harry didn't know how she managed to make it through the day, and it was only going to get worse. And once all her magic was gone, if that didn't kill her in itself, her immune system would find other things to attack. "Yes."

XXX

"Get away from that bloody owl! Are you being deliberately stupid?" He rushed to take it from her, but she had the package untied before he got there.

"Off with you. Shoo!" He waved his arms until the owl was well away from the house.

"You look like an idiot," she needlessly pointed out.

"Thank you."

"It's for you again. From Harry."

He renewed the antibacterial charms on the room and took the package from her. "What's the blasted boy up to now?"

"As he so helpfully reminded us, he is no longer a boy."

True enough, he supposed. Still, he didn't know what that had to do with anything, so he forewent a response in favor of opening the package. Inside was a delicately wrought silver cloak pin bearing the Prince family coat of arms. He checked it for hexes and found none. It wasn't a Portkey either.

"What in Merlin's name?" he muttered.

"It's very nice. Why don't you read the note?"

He hadn't noticed the folded slip of parchment before, but he read it now.

Once he'd finished, he read it again, then stared at it for a while. He knew all the words, but it made no sense.

"Why should he want to bring me to the theater?"

He looked up and found his mother bearing an uncharacteristically soft expression. He frowned.

"Severus, do you truly not know?"

He hated to admit it, but he didn't. Harry didn't seem the type for practical jokes, but maybe he'd been right all those years, saying he and James were so much alike. Maybe. "I cannot even guess."

She reached out and covered his forearm with her small hand. "He's courting you."

He jerked out of her grasp. "Stop it."

"Stop what?"

"Mocking me. I realize you must take your pleasure where you can find it these days, but it – "

"I am perfectly serious!"

And she did seem earnest. Maybe she knew something he didn't, because he was definitely at a loss.

"I don't understand."

She leaned forward and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear like she used to do when he was a child. It was embarrassing, to be sure, but strangely comforting.

"I know you don't. But, honestly, he's sending you gifts and inviting you out. And I've seen the way he looks at you. What else could he be doing?"

He hadn't been aware that Harry looked at him any particular way, or that he looked at him at all. He was man enough to admit that he'd been growing more tolerant of the brat in the last couple of weeks, but the idea of a relationship hadn't even crossed his mind.

He was feeling slightly panicky. Assuming his mother was right and they did explore a relationship, surely the boy would have expectations. Just as surely, Severus knew, he would be disappointed. Would the momentary comfort be worth it when he was left all alone again? He had no idea.

"What do I do?"

"Severus, I know that you haven't… that you don't have much experience in this kind of – "

He bristled. "And just what is it you think you know?" Just because she was right didn't mean he had to admit it.

"I know, son."

She said it softly and with such sadness that he knew with certainty she was telling the truth. For a moment, it felt like he was crumbling inside. He wanted to hide.

"How, how could you know that?"

"I've had a monitoring charm on you since you were four days old." She raised a hand to forestall his indignant protests. "Many parents use them. It doesn't involve real-time information unless you are in mortal danger – it simply gives a list of vital statistics when I ask for it."

He glared. "What kind of statistics?"

"I would have removed it when you graduated, but with the kind of things you were involved in… I just needed to know you were safe."

"What kind of statistics!"

She scowled at him. "Heart rate, blood pressure, magic levels, nutrient levels, that kind of thing. It also says whether you've any broken bones or sprains or malignant spells on you." She looked away. "Whether you've sworn any oaths or been kissed or had an orgasm while in contact with another person or – "

"Stop! Just stop." Merlin, it was mortifying enough without her throwing it back in his face like this.

"I should have removed it when you reached your majority, but it was for your own good!"

"Damn right, you should have!" He clenched his fists at his sides to keep from slamming them into a wall. He wanted to run away.

"All I'm trying to say is that there's nothing to be afraid of."

"I am not afraid. And you are hardly one to be giving relationship advice!"

She ignored him. "He doesn't strike me as the kind of man to mock you or think less of you for your lack of experience."

He swallowed past the lump in his throat. He couldn't believe he was having this conversation – it was like a bad dream, or something. He couldn't take it anymore.

"I am no longer a child, and I'll thank you to leave me the hell alone. I can take care of myself!"

He stormed out of the kitchen and hid in his room for the rest of the day.

XXX

"Why so glum?"

"It's been four days, Hermione."

She put her teacup down. "Ah. No answer, yet?"

"No, and there probably won't be. He still hates me. I don't know why I thought he'd ever agree to go out with me."

"It's not just 'going out', Harry. Courtship is a very serious thing – I'm sure he's just taking some time to consider."

Something about the way she said it set alarm bells ringing in his head. "What does that mean? How, precisely, is it not just going out?"

She huffed. "Well, the point is to get him to accept your suit."

"My suit."

She looked at him askance. "Yes, your suit. The intended culmination of a courtship is an engagement."

"An engagement! You couldn't have told me that a month ago?"

"It's what you want, isn't it? It's obvious you're falling in love with him."

He gaped. In love? With Snape? Was that even possible?

"Don't even try to deny it, Harry."

He opened his mouth to do just that when an owl swooped through the open window and landed on the table in front of him. He held his breath and unrolled the scroll.

Meet you there at eight. Do not be late.

Call me Severus.

He looked up at Hermione, grinning, and she grinned back.

"He said yes?"

"He said yes."

XXX

Severus stood on the footpath, compulsively smoothing imaginary wrinkles from his suit. He compared his attire with that of the other men loitering outside, and he seemed appropriately dressed, just as his mother had first assured him then yelled at him as she shoved him out the door.

He had only arrived a couple of minutes early, but it felt like he had been waiting hours. Where was Harry? Was he even going to come? He'd known this was too good to be true.

"Severus! Hullo. Hope you haven't been waiting long."

He whipped his head around to look at Harry and had to struggle to contain a gasp. Formalwear definitely suited him. And the way the smile lit up his –

"Your punctuality remains as ever, I see."

"Er, sorry."

He was only about thirty seconds late, and Severus was surprised he didn't get defensive. Apparently, he'd grown up.

"You look really good." Harry swept his eyes down Severus' body, and when they got back up to his face there was a slight blush. Harry offered his elbow. "Shall we?"

"I am perfectly able to walk on my own!"

Severus turned and started stalking toward the steps, but Harry caught up to him and took his hand. Severus stopped and stared down at their joined hands. He didn't jerk out of his grasp, though, and Harry looked pleased about it.

"Of course you can. It was just an excuse to touch you."

Severus' head snapped up, his eyes wide. "You – what? Why?"

Harry shrugged. "I wanted to." He tugged on Severus' hand to get him moving again and led him into the theater.

XXX

He could tell by Hermione's face that he wasn't going to like the next thing out of her mouth.

"So, have you two… you know?"

"Have we… ?"

She rolled her eyes. "You know."

"What! Hermione, we've only been on three dates! Weren't you the one who told me not to jump into bed with him?"

Her cheeks tinged pink. "I was just checking."

"Are you enjoying getting to know him?" Luna asked, as if they weren't just talking about sex.

Harry smiled. "Yeah. He's been surprisingly good about answering questions. Only called me impertinent twice."

"What did you learn?" Hermione asked.

"He wasn't nearly as upset about the Prophet article as I expected. I thought he'd want to dismember me or something, but he seemed okay with it. I think it helped that they seem to accept he was a good guy and didn't make a huge deal out of it. Or not as big as they could have, anyway. I think he stayed dead because he thought everyone would hate him."

Hermione nodded. "That makes sense. So what does he do?"

"He's an editor."

Luna cocked her head to the side. "Like for a newspaper?"

Harry shook his head. "For a Muggle book publisher. They send him stuff, he edits it and sends it back."

"I always thought he must spend an inordinate amount of time on marking."

"Does he still brew?"

"Not professionally, but he has a lab in the basement for personal stuff."

Hermione nodded. "So, do you think he's interested in you?"

Harry shrugged. Trust Hermione to ask all the embarrassing questions. "I… maybe. It's hard to tell. He didn't curse me when I kissed him."

"You kissed him!" Hermione shrieked.

"I'd say that's a good sign," Luna said thoughtfully.

"Was it good?"

"It was… Yeah, it was good. It was bloody well amazing."

Hermione clapped her hands, Harry blushed, and Luna ordered another round.

XXX

"It's pneumonia."

"No."

"I'm sorry."

Severus made a fist, but did not slam it on the table. "No!"

"I can start her on a course of antibiotics, and it will help. I can't guarantee that they'll knock out the infection, but there's a chance."

"It's too soon."

"Sooner is better than later. She still has a small amount of function in her immune system."

"So there's a chance?"

"A small one."

Severus gulped. "All right then."

"She's not gone yet, Severus."

"I know, I know that. Just do what you can."

XXX

Severus didn't know what was happening to him. His mother was dying, actually dying, and Harry Potter seemed to be courting him. It was all just so fantastic.

He wandered the house casting random antibacterial and antiviral charms. Generally he dealt with things that unnerved him by either eradicating or ignoring them, but no amount of disbelief could shield him from his mother's hacking coughs and, try as he might, there was no getting rid of her disease.

As far as Harry went, the ignoring seemed to be working fairly well up until recently. That was the only solution he dared, as eliminating the irksome brat from his life got him much more upset than his presence. He had decided not to think about why that might be just yet.

But ignoring the situation was getting less and less effective. Honestly, when the boy pressed his mouth against Severus' and licked his upper lip, how was he supposed to ignore that? Moans and gasps and awkward movements of his lips and hands escaped him unbidden.

From a relatively young age, he'd resigned himself to a life devoid of sexual exploits and assumed he wasn't missing anything special. He didn't know if it was because it was all so new to him or if it was to do with Harry, but it was something special. He'd thought his infrequent and perfunctory masturbation made him feel good, but Harry's kisses did things to his insides he'd never felt before.

And then there was the rest. There were the casual touches and the smiles and the conversation. There was the way Harry asked for his opinion like it really mattered to him, like he respected it. There was the way Harry always asked what he wanted, like he somehow knew how much it had bothered Severus over the years to have so little say in his own life.

Somehow, when he wasn't paying attention, he seemed to have developed some sort of dependency, a craving for these gestures from Harry. Normally, he loathed giving up even an iota of his independence, but in this instance it was inexplicably comforting. He knew that sooner or later, Harry would tire of him and move on. He knew that when that happened, it would feel like a hole was being torn in his chest.

He didn't know if he could survive that, but he did know that the way Harry was making him feel in the meantime was worth it.

XXX

"How are you feeling?"

She scowled. "Magnificent."

"You'd feel better if you'd do as I say. Severus said you were down in the kitchen yesterday! What part of stay in bed don't you understand?" He didn't wait for her to answer, since he knew she wouldn't. "And I thought I told you to limit your magic use. You're just making it harder for yourself."

"Allow an old woman to spend her last days as she sees fit, you twit."

"You're eighty-nine, that's hardly old."

"Certainly feels old."

"If you followed my instructions, you wouldn't feel so old."

"Stop arguing with me. We all know I haven't got much time left."

Harry sighed. She was right; his charms could only do so much for her lungs. "It would be easier on Severus if you would be a little more cooperative." He had owls from the man at least twice a day, wondering if this or that was safe.

"What Severus needs, only you can give him."

"Pardon?"

"Don't play coy with me, you know precisely what I mean," she snapped.

"I'm afraid I don't. Dunderhead, and all that. Why don't you explain it to me, using small words, so I can understand properly?"

"Insolent whelp. You, he needs you. He needs you to need him and want him and love him. He needs you to say you'll be with him always and actually do it. He needs you to convince him he's someone, that he's desirable and that he's a good man."

Harry shook his head, stunned. "He doesn't need me for that."

"Who else does he have?"

"He doesn't need anyone for that – he is a good man."

She waved her hand in mock defeat. "As you say."

He bit his lip and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He knew by now that he needed Severus as much as she seemed to think Severus needed him. "Do you think he'd have me?" he asked quietly.

She grinned evilly. "There's only one way to find out, isn't there?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Right. Take your potion at eight, get some rest, and stop wandering around." Before he closed the bedroom door, he turned back. "And try to stop being so bloody infuriating."

XXX

Harry looked at the next table over the rim of his glass.

"He'll come 'round, Harry," Hermione insisted. She said it often, but with a little less conviction each time.

"I might say that was possible, if it weren't for Severus. Can you imagine Ron's face if he saw us together?"

"Yes, well." Hermione pursed her lips. "Do you miss him?"

"Of course. But I've got used to not having him around. I think I'm all right with it, honestly. You? Isn't it weird running into him as the Ministry?" He appreciated her support, but it bothered him that she had grown apart from Ron over it.

"A bit. But I'm getting used to it, too. We just treat each other like any other indifferent co-worker." She smiled. "Mason keeps me pretty occupied, anyway."

Luna came back with the next round of drinks and asked, "Glumbumble in your bonnet?"

Harry shook his head. "Flew away. So when are you going to find yourself a nice bloke and settle down?"

"Or woman," Hermione added and sipped her drink.

"I have no desire for romantic entanglements."

"At all?" No matter how many times she said it, Harry just couldn't quite believe her.

"I have a very nice vibrator."

Hermione laughed and Harry choked on his whiskey.

Luna ignored them both. "Are you planning to ask him soon?"

Harry fought to stop coughing. "I – what?"

"It's been over three months. When are you going to ask Severus to bond with you?"

"You don't think that's rushing things a bit?"

"Not really," Hermione said. "The usual engagement lasts a year, so you've got plenty of time. Besides, it was rather obvious at dinner last weekend how you two feel about each other."

"It was?"

Luna nodded. "Quite."

Bloody girls. He still wasn't sure exactly how he felt, and he had absolutely no idea how Severus felt, but these two seemed to have it all figured out.

"He was polite to both of us, and George too," Hermione pointed out. "He did that for you."

"I was impressed he came at all."

"Me, too. I'm glad, though. It's good to know my life won't be split down the middle."

"And you still haven't…?"

"Hermione! How's the sex with Mason, then?"

"Wonderful, thanks. He's rather uninhibited."

Harry dropped his head onto his hand. "You weren't meant to answer that, you know."

XXX

Harry stopped him outside the door and pulled him close. "I had a good time tonight," he murmured, mouth moving against Severus' neck.

"I did, too," Severus answered. And he had – dinner had been delicious and the symphony spectacular. He wondered if he was supposed to wrap his arms around Harry.

Before he could decide, Harry started nibbling his neck. Harry threaded a hand into his hair and moved his lips along his jaw line, finally reaching his mouth. His kiss was intense, almost fierce, and Severus gasped.

He raised his hands to Harry's shoulders, wanting to pull him closer but he didn't dare.

Harry had no such qualms. He splayed a hand across Severus' lower back and pressed their bodies together.

That worried Severus a bit, and he was nervous about Harry feeling his erection. What worried him more, though, was the desperation he was feeling. He wanted, no, needed something more, anything, but damned if he knew what.

Harry thrust his hips forward, and Severus felt the hard, shockingly hot length of his erection press against his thigh. It sent a thrill down his spine, but he had no idea what to do with it. He pulled away.

"We should go inside. Check on Mother."

"Severus?" Harry raised a hand to touch his cheek, but Severus caught it before it reached him.

"We should go inside."

Harry looked down, but nodded. "After you."

Severus knocked on his mother's door, but there was no answer. There never was. He opened it and peered into the room. The light was still on. He heard Harry walk up behind him.

"She's dead."

Harry cast a spell to be absolutely certain. "Yes. She looks so serene."

"First time for everything, I suppose. About bloody time." He couldn't seem to make his eyes look anywhere but at her. Her body. "You said the antibiotic charms would help."

"I said they might. They weren't enough, with her immune system compromised."

"And whose fault is that?" Severus snapped. He regretted it immediately, but Harry didn't react to his tone. In his line of work, Severus supposed, he was probably used to people lashing out at him.

"I explained the risks to both of you. I know it's difficult – I'm so sorry."

Severus nodded. "Was she – what happened exactly? Did it – ?"

Harry flicked his wand. "She was asleep. She didn't feel any pain."

Painless was good. Still, he couldn't help thinking she would have been disappointed. "Pity. She would have liked to have fought it, I think."

"She'd done a lot of fighting already."

"Yes."

"All right?"

He could see Harry's fingers touching his arm out of the corner of his eye, but he couldn't feel them. "Fine."

"I'm going to make a Floo call. Are you staying here?"

"Thank you for – for – the charms, and – "

"I was glad to do it. Are you staying?"

"I – no. I'm coming." He let Harry lead him down the hall. By the time Harry had made all the arrangements and extinguished the fire, Severus could once again feel the weight of Harry's hand, which had never left his forearm, and knew everything would be just fine. Probably.

XXX

The sunlight was beating down like a physical presence. The sky was clear, butterflies were flitting about, and it was bloody well hot. In short, it was all wrong.

It should have been dark out. The weak light of a quarter moon should have been glinting off the casket and bathing the landscape in shadow. His mother probably would have appreciated a few bats darting around, startling the mourners.

Severus stood perfectly still throughout the funeral with a blank expression sculpted onto his face and his arms crossed over his chest, every muscle tense. Harry stood next to him, close enough that his shoulder pressed against Severus', just letting him know he was there.

Not that he was planning on telling the brat, but it was probably the only thing keeping him from screaming.

Some priest-looking fellow Severus had never met, and whom he was fairly certain his mother had never met either, blathered about her many good qualities and how much they would all miss her. Severus could picture perfectly the look of utter contempt on his mother's face if she were there to hear it.

There were white lilies on her casket, already wilting in the midday heat. Who, he wondered incredulously, had decided to order symbols of purity to drape over the body of Eileen Snape? Fools, the lot of them. She would have wasted no time telling them so.

Once the eulogizing was done, Severus was peripherally aware of mourners filing past him. He was certain most of them stopped and spoke to him, but he didn't hear a word. He stared straight ahead and the warmth of Harry's shoulder against his never wavered.

Harry stayed there with him until well after everyone else had gone. Eventually, though, Severus felt it was time for them to leave.

"I'm finished here," he said simply.

Harry nodded, wrapped his arms around Severus, and Apparated them to Willoughby Way.

Harry opened the front door, and Severus took a deep breath. She was gone, and she wasn't coming back. No sense dwelling on it. He reminded himself that he had lived in this house alone much longer than with her, and that if she were here now she'd be prodding him in the back with a long, bony finger and telling him that grief was unbecoming.

Severus shut the door behind him and sagged against it. "I don't want to think about this anymore."

Harry nodded. "Fair enough. Think about this, then. Hermione says the point of a courtship is an engagement."

Severus stiffened, but did not look up. "What are you saying, Harry?"

"I guess I'm asking you to bond with me."

He forced his words out through clenched teeth. "We've never even… How do you know that…"

"Relationships are not all about sex, you know. I love you, and I think you might love me, too."

Severus did not protest, and Harry seemed to take that as an affirmation.

He pulled Severus away from the wall and kissed him. "Let me show you how good it could be between us."

Severus looked at him with wide eyes, hoping his fear didn't show.

"Nothing too heavy," Harry promised. He stroked his fingers down Severus' cheek and he leaned into the touch. "Let me, please."

Severus nodded minutely and Harry smiled.

He pushed Severus down onto the couch and knelt between his feet. There was a very promising hitch in his breath and a bulge in his trousers. Harry paused in his task to open the buttons and looked up. "Talk to me."

"Talk? About what?"

"Anything. I don't care." He went back to the buttons. "Just talk."

"Why?"

Harry licked his lips when he got the fly open and found that Severus had on no pants. "Because your voice is like aural sex. Just talk."

"Right." What was he to say? Surely people didn't just chat during sex. Harry licked the head of his penis and he gasped.

"Please," Harry entreated, then went back to the licking.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen… Lend me your – ah! – ears." There were only so many things he could recite with just ten percent of his normal brain function, and it was this or potions recipes. "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives aahhh-after them, the good is oft' interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar. Oh, Merlin."

Harry wrapped one hand around the base of his cock and brought the other up to cup his balls. Why, why hadn't he ever thought to do both at the same time?

"The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If it… if it… if it were so, it was a grievous fault and grievously hath Caesar answered it."

Harry had the head of Severus' cock in his mouth. He pressed his tongue against the slit and Severus fought for breath.

"Here under leave from Brutus and the rest – for Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men – come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. Oh yes, just like that! He was my friend, faithful and just to me. But Brutus says he was – Merlin, Harry – he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. He hath brought many ca-captives home to Rome, whose ransoms did the general coffers – nnngh! – fill. Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?"

He only realized his eyes were shut when Harry slid his mouth down his prick and they flew open. Without him meaning to at all, his hips thrust forward into that wet heat. "Sorry! When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept." He threaded his fingers through Harry's hair and tried to keep himself still. "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff."

Harry was bobbing his head up and down now, and Severus didn't think he could last much longer.

"Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man."

It took all his strength to keep from grabbing Harry by the ears and shoving into him until his nose pressed against Severus' belly. He wasn't going to make it to the end if he didn't hurry it up.

He muttered the next bit in one breath. "You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse. Was this am-aaaaahh-mbition?"

Harry stopped massaging Severus' balls and moved his fingers behind them.

"But – oh, fuck!" Harry pressed against his perineum and Severus almost lost it. "But Brutus says he was ambitious, and sure, he is an honorable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, but hear I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him… love… oh!… love him once, not without cause. What cause withho – oh, oh my, oh! – withholds you then to mourn for him? Oh, judgement! Thou… thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost… lost their… lost their – Harry!"

He was coming down Harry's throat, and it was glorious. He'd never actually come inside something before. "Ahh, their reason!" He hoped he wasn't tearing Harry's hair out.

He opened his eyes when he felt pressure against his side. Harry had climbed up onto the couch and leaned against him. He seemed awfully pleased with himself. Severus watched Harry point his wand at his semen-covered hand and mutter a cleaning charm.

"Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause 'til it come back to me."

There. He'd finished it. Or got to a reasonable stopping point, anyway.

Harry grinned. "Only you would recite a eulogy during sex."

Severus scowled.

"It's okay though, because only you could make it so unbearably hot that I hardly had to touch myself to come."

Now that his hand was clean, Harry threaded it through Severus' hair and pulled him around into a slow, searching kiss.

Severus couldn't help himself – he groaned.

Breaking the kiss, Harry rested his cheek against Severus' and whispered, "So, is that a yes?"

"If you cannot figure that out for yourself, then you're even thicker than I thought," Severus answered, and kissed him again.