"I'm starving," Harry complained, letting his feet bump sort of accidentally on purpose rather vigorously against the side of the desk. He'd been cooling his heels for over ten minutes, perched on the edge of Snape's desk, waiting for Snape to finish marking essays so that they could have tea together. All of a sudden he found himself four feet from the desk, sitting on a cushion in mid-air, his feet dangling.

"Revisiting our inner twelve-year-old boy are we? Think again. I knew you at twelve and you were an utter cretin. Another peevish display like that, Professor Potter, and you will be enjoying your tea by yourself. That great mountain of food you consumed at lunch didn't sate?"

"Obviously not, or I wouldn't be nearly chewing on the hem of my robes. It's past four," grumbled Harry.

"I am almost finished. I was detained. A small matter of House points to discuss with the Headmistress."

Harry said nothing. The "small" matter of House points was an extremely touchy subject at the best of times, ever since the Great Fight at the end of Harry's second year of teaching. Harry leaned in to watch Snape's merciless pen bloody a sixth year's apparently inept attempt to discuss the finer points of Wolfsbane.

"I have taken an additional ten points from Miss Bosworth," Snape murmured while writing: iA complete waste of ink and parchment. In the future, do not waste my time or yours. Hint: Wolfsbane does not contain silver. If you include it in this potion and feed it to your favorite werewolf, Madam Malkin's carries a wide assortment of black armbands./i

"An additional ten?" Harry raised his eyebrows. He'd already docked the offending pair thirty points each, a considerable sum so close to the end of the school year, ensuring that Ravenclaw would win the House Cup this year.

"I expect more out of Slytherin prefects." More red ink ate up the page. "The Astronomy Tower," he snorted. "I docked her five points for sheer stupidity—I can think of fifty locations in the Slytherin dungeons alone that offer much more privacy for the odd shag—and an additional five for her appalling lack of taste. Fothering-Hay?" Snape shuddered and held up the parchment he'd just been marking. It was a wash of red ink. "His latest stellar effort." With a slight smirk, Snape's quill ground into the parchment his final comment in large capital letters: WORTHLESS!.

"I never thought I'd see someone to equal the late Mr. Longbottom, but the fates have dealt me a cruel blow. Your Mr. Fothering-Hay is even more of an idiot. What were you thinking, suggesting he'd be a suitable Gryffindor prefect?"

An old argument. Fothering-Hay could have been Salazar Slytherin reincarnated and Snape would have despised him.

"He is not my Mr. Fothering-Hay, and he's quite brilliant in every other subject. As you well know." Harry wished he could bang his feet again. It's hard to make a point when you're hovering like a Snitch. "Just not Potions."

"Annoying pest. I was going to say annoying pest of a child, but his recent nocturnal activities render that epithet inaccurate. It's perfectly pathetic the way he constantly follows you around, trying to save you from the evil Potions master. Not that you want to be saved. Rather the reverse." Snape allowed himself a small smile and continued to mark, but the pen slowed its movement. "He has a crush on you."

"Bollocks. If you'd seen him shagging Bosworth as I did, you'd know how utterly ridiculous you're being."

The pen picked up its pace. "Just because he appreciates the fairer sex doesn't mean he doesn't have a predilection for..." and Snape finally raised his head for the first time since Harry came into the room and glanced in the direction of Harry's arse before returning to his essays, "all and sundry. Especially as your 'sundry' is quite fetching."

Harry laughed out loud. Where in the hell did Snape come up with this stuff?

"Only you would couch swinging both ways as 'all and sundry.' Think he likes to fuck boys, too? He sure likes to fuck girls, let me tell you." Based on the noises coming from Lavinia Bosworth, Fothering-Hay was a bit of all right in that department. "How many more?"

"You are whinging. Two more."

"God, I can't wait for the end of school. Nearly hexed Smyth this morning. I'm absolutely desperate to get to the cottage."

Continuing his march of criticisms down the page, Snape drawled, "When you've been teaching as long as I have, you will still be saying that to yourself come September first."

"Dobby's going over next week to set us up. Okay?"

"Vulgar Americanisms that you seem to inhale with the ease of breathing aside, yes."

As with most of Harry's impulsive acts, he'd never been really sure until the very last second whether buying the cottage was a brilliant idea or completely foolhardy. Three months into the Great Fight, Harry had bought a cottage on the coast of Cornwall, sight unseen. Its sole selling point was the location: two miles from any other dwelling and a mere stone's throw away from the beach.

And it was all Nigel Fothering-Hay's fault. Sort of.

Ever since his school days, the issue of points had always rankled with Harry, and he was damned if he was going to stand by and watch Snape terrorize another student the way he'd been terrorized. Whether he was sharing Snape's bed or not. So when Snape docked the hapless Mr. Fothering-Hay twenty points apparently only because his heart continued to beat despite Snape's best efforts to kill him through intimidation, Harry retaliated by docking one of Snape's Slytherin pets an equal number of points for a minor infraction. A furious awarding of points and docking of points followed next, culminating in Snape docking the entire Gryffindor House three hundred points because their ties weren't knotted correctly, which resulted in a public shouting match between the two of them in the Great Hall. In response to Harry's yelling at him that, "I see that you're continuing your fine, illustrious career of punishing for the sheer hell of it those who are at your mercy, a subject on which I could write volumes," Snape replied, "Oh really, Professor Potter. And I see that your rapacious courting of sniveling sycophants continues with yet a new generation. And twenty points from Gryffindor, Professor Potter, for language."

At which point they both turned to the hourglass, and Harry noted with a great deal of satisfaction that Snape couldn't, apparently, dock house points from other professors. Harry's smirk only lasted as long as it took Snape to utter in Lethal Voice No. 1, "Twenty points from Gryffindor, Mr. Fothering-Hay. Your…" Snape paused, "shoelaces aren't regulation."

For three months, they refused to speak to each other. Harry abandoned his seat next to Snape, spending his meals sitting next to Madam Hooch instead. Ostensibly he switched to discuss Quidditch and the like, but the reality was he spent every meal watching Snape stare at his food.

One week before term ended, Snape rose up from the table to make his way to out of the Great Hall, and even in those voluminous robes Snape favored, Harry could see how thin he'd gotten. Harry had lost weight, too, but Snape must have dropped a stone or more. That was it. The next day he owled his solicitor with a query about purchasing a remote cottage on the shore. As long as it was standing upright, had a few sticks of furniture, and a fairly decent roof, it'd do. He received word that such a cottage existed just outside of St. Ives. He instructed Gringotts to wire the money; within three days, he was a homeowner. It could hardly be worse than that dilapidated shack in the North Sea, he reasoned.

The minute term was done, broom in hand, Harry knocked on the door to Snape's room. Not waiting for an answer, he strode in. Snape stood in front of the fire despite the fact it was June, his arms hugging himself in a tight, almost cruel grip; the fabric of Snape's robes strained at the armpits. At the sound of Harry's footsteps, Snape arms fell to his side, and he brought himself up to his normal flawless posture.

"Get out," he barked.

"I've bought a cottage—" Harry began.

"Bully for you. Get out," Snape ordered in Lethal Voice No. 1. Typical. Going for the gold right off the bat.

"I heard. I've bought a cottage near the sea. Haven't actually seen it yet, but it's right on the shore. We'll be able to hear the ocean from our bed. And I owled Flourish and Blotts and bought every book ever written by Dickens, Hardy, Austen, Bronte, Thackeray, and Elliot. They promised me they'd deliver them by tomorrow. No telling what's going to greet us when we Floo in, but I figured we'd make do. All we need is for you to get your CD player and what CDs you want, and we can be off. Dobby's agreed to do for us for the summer."

Snape narrowed his eyes. Combined with the lethal voice factor, a bad sign. "And you think, Professor Potter, that this will mend...us?"

Oh Christ, still Lethal Voice No. 1.

Wasn't any chance now... The end of... What the fuck was this? It wasn't a relationship like anyone else he knew. It was, well, what Snape and Harry did together.

After Voldemort's death, Harry returned to Hogwarts that fall and began teaching DADA, with the hope that the defeat of Voldemort had broken the curse. They didn't start a relationship so much as they just didn't end the one they had begun at the end of the war. There weren't any declarations of love. They just continued. Harry muddled through his first year of teaching, acknowledging grudgingly that it wasn't as easy as it looked. They continued to share a drink at night. Some nights Snape would read out loud, then they'd fuck. Some nights they'd mark papers together, then they'd fuck. Some nights they'd just listen to music, drink Scotch, and then they'd fuck. Some nights they'd just fuck. They fucked a lot, even by Harry's relatively youthful standards. Not that Harry was complaining; he'd lie in bed, twitching in post-coital bliss from another shattering orgasm, often stifling an insane urge to giggle. Who knew? Severus Snape. Sex on a stick.

They didn't talk much because once you've bared your soul to someone, a Y-cut to the chest and laid it all out there, what was there left to say?

Things were going so well between them that he insisted Snape accompany him to Christmas dinner at the Burrow that year. By the starter, Snape had transformed the twins into matching Yorkies and by dessert he still hadn't transformed them back, despite increasingly frantic yips. When Molly began to get hysterical, demanding that Snape return her sons to their normal state, Ron pulled Harry out into the garden and launched into a litany of evils Snape had inflicted on them all, and, by the way, had Harry lost his fucking mind?

"What in the hell are you doing, Harry? He's got my brothers in there doing somersaults for biscuits. Don't tell me you love him, just don't. And if you say he's a genius in the sack, I'm going to throw up my plum pudding."

Harry wrenched his arm away from Ron. What was the point? He couldn't explain it to Ron because he couldn't explain it to himself. It just iwas/i what it was. Before he reached the doorway, Ron called out, "Harry, please. What is it you see in him? Just tell me one thing, and I'll shut up forever. I know he saved your life, but it doesn't mean you have to fuck him. Buy him a potted plant. Oh wait, he lives in a dungeon. Buy him a plastic potted plant. I just need one thing that I can hang my hat on, mate, because every time I see you with him, I want to wring his fucking neck."

Harry paused and leaned on the doorjamb, his hands running over the weathered wood, searching out for little nicks and imperfections because if he didn't do something with his hands, he was going to haul back and pound Ron into the ground.

"It has nothing and everything to do with him saving all our fucking lives, you prat. And even if he hadn't, even if he wasn't the bravest and most fearless person I've ever met, the simple fact is that he brings out the best in me. And I bring out the best in him."

By the time he'd returned to the lounge, the twins had been Transfigured back, and Snape had their cloaks in hand. Thankfully, they'd left off opening presents to each other until later. Harry had given Snape a pair of season tickets to the London Symphony, and Snape had given Harry a photograph of his parents.

"Where?" Harry shook his head in amazement.

"I called in a favor," was all Snape would say.

Lily Evans and James Potter were standing on the steps of Hogwarts together. This wasn't the cocksure, arrogant James Potter of Snape's memory. His father was staring up at his mother, a pensive crunch to his eyebrows, giving Harry the impression that his father wasn't sure of his mother's reaction to his staring but that James couldn't help himself. She was chatting to someone else in the distance, and as she turned around, she gave Harry's father a rather sly smile. The sort of smile a woman sports, even a young, innocent woman, when she knows someone likes her and she's a little flush with her power. A quick look around and then she dipped her head to give James a quick brush of the lips; the picture started all over again.

Harry said a silent "fuck you," to Ron and nearly toppled Snape over from the force of his embrace.

And that had been enough until now. They idid/i bring out the best in each other. Unfortunately, the opposite was true as well. They knew each other's weaknesses and soft spots, and what to say so that the knife went in for the near-fatal cut. What was the point of bringing out the best in each other if it also meant that they could also bring out the worst without half as much effort?

He grabbed Snape by the shoulders and locked eyes with him.

"I don't know. I don't know." He knew he was babbling but he couldn't stop himself. "But, uh, maybe... we... We could just... Maybe, it's a start. Listen to the waves together. Watch the moon through the windows. Fuck each other across the kitchen table. Like, like before. Like... Just a start. A maybe."

By the end of this semi-hysterical muddle, Harry realized he'd been violently shaking Snape the entire time, punctuating his words with increasingly frantic jerks. He dropped his hands in horror.

Snape didn't blink, didn't move, he was still as only Snape could be still, almost like he was cheating time. Was the man even breathing? And then with a flick of his wand, the fire went out. With another flick, the cabinet holding his precious CDs was reduced to the size of a pill box and shoved into his pocket. With a few quick steps across the room, Snape grabbed the magicked CD player and then turned to Harry.

"Do you think it wise to trust Dobby with the Scotch?"

It hadn't been an easy summer, but they'd hashed out the issue of house points and not compromising each other's authority in a style very reminiscent of their initial meetings to discuss war strategies; lots of loud arguing and sniping and eventual accord, with the additional bonus of great, nearly constant sex.

In a different time, a different place, he'd never have picked Snape, but Snape fit his post-war self. There still weren't any passionate declarations of love, but they fucked almost as much as they had in the beginning, they fought a hell of a lot less, they spent their holidays together at the cottage, they occasionally traveled together (the trip to the United States an unmitigated disaster, the trip to Japan a rousing success), and they taught together. It worked. He needed Snape and Snape needed him and that was all there was to it.

An exceptionally snarky cough—how did he do that?—brought Harry around. He jumped off the cushion. Finally. He brought a hand to stifle the rumbling of his stomach.

The now-corrected essays sat in a neat pile on the corner of his desk. Snape stood up and glared at Harry's stomach. "It astonishes me that you are hungry again. You shoveled in enough food at luncheon to feed the entire village of Hogsmeade for a week. I don't know where—" With a strangled cry, Snape gripped the edges of his desk in obvious pain.

Oh fuck. Harry leaped up and began an intricate healing charm, trying to close his ears to Snape's whimpers. The aftereffects of Voldemort's last Cruciatus lived in Snape's bone marrow forever. No potions or charms could remove it, and flare ups like this were commonplace toward the end of term.

"Good, Harry. That is sufficient," Snape said in a low voice and stood up straight, leaned on his chair for a second, and then pushed it in. "A cup of strong tea spiked with the addition of a very generous dollop of French brandy would suit right now. Shall we?"

Snape's pallor, so pale that Harry could see a vein throbbing on the edge of Snape's forehead, belied the cool tone of his voice.

Seven years later and still. Still.

"You get these goddamn attacks. I get nightmares at least three nights a week. We'll never be free, will we?" Harry railed.

Snape put a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Think, Mr. Potter. Most of the Weasleys are still intact. The Weasley-Grangers are about to have a third child. I get these attacks only intermittently, usually at the end of term. You could be experiencing nightmares seven nights out of seven. And there is us," Snape raised one eyebrow. "Considering the potential alternatives, I think we've done very well."

Harry laughed and drew Snape so close that the silk of Snape's robes brushed his cheek.

"That sound you hear is hell freezing over. When did you become the optimist in this relationship?" Harry murmured.

"Let's see. Somewhere between your Black offering me up as Lupin's Blue Plate Special, your school years as a first-rate hooligan, the death of Albus, your penchant for men with a kink for giving love bites, my realization that you have one of the most attractive bums in all of Britain, your drinking the potion that would most certainly kill you—the most astonishingly brave act I've ever personally witnessed—and hearing, 'Fucking hell' on your lips when you woke up again. I think that about covers it."

Harry laughed and hugged him even tighter.

"I still can't believe that you'd think I'd let you drink that potion if I wasn't dead sure I could bring you back."

Snape leaned back just a little so that they were facing each other.

"You know what a dunderhead I am. That all-powerful, evil dark lord business," Harry murmured, trying not to smile.

"I've said it once and I'll say it again. Oh ye of little faith," Snape whispered and kissed him on his fading scar. "Come, I could use that tea," he said and broke their embrace. "Do not indulge in your usual stroll down the hallway, or we won't have time for tea and, if I have the energy, a fuck before dinner."

"Your legs are much longer than mine. I have to take two steps for your one," Harry complained.

"Nonsense. Your legs are perfectly adequate. A poor craftsman blames his tools. You lolly-gag, sauntering everywhere."

Harry looked around: no students. "How about I saunter my mouth over your cock?" Snape ducked his head to hide a smile. "I'll take that as a yes."

Snape had such a great laugh.

Fin