Severus Snape, normally stern and stoic Potion's Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was, uncharacteristically, flummoxed.
He had just left the headmaster's office after their usual and, in Snape's opinion, useless afternoon tea. The discussions never seemed to resolve any of their current troubles regarding a certain Dark Lord or ease any of Snape's personal problems which currently centered on a certain green-eyed mess of a Gryffindor. Of course, he never actually told Albus about those latter problems as how would he explain how a man like him, a professor no less, had finally realized how he felt about the young man who had changed so much after the loss of his Godfather? How would he explain to his mentor that not only had he decided that Harry was not an imbecile but was, in fact, a wonderful young man? More so amazing now that Albus had admitted that Harry's home life was less than ideal.
Today's tea wasn't useless for a change. It was actually rather eye-opening and shocking. Snape was furious at what he had learned; the boy had been neglected, starved, probably abused. He was stunned to learn that Albus had allowed it, even if he admitted he never knew (and still didn't) know the exact extent since Harry never spoke of it. It was only dumb luck they learned of it now. A school teacher had discussed a former student she believed to have been abused with Arabella Figg. She was recriminating herself for not doing more and was scared that the child seemed to have disappeared. When Arabella learned it was Harry that was being discussed, she reassured the teacher the child was well but had moved elsewhere and then promptly informed Albus who investigated the Dursleys on his own.
As he stormed off Snape blamed himself for adding to Harry's misery, for never noticing the signs that, now as he looked back on it, should have been obvious. Snape wondered if he would ever be able to forgive Albus for not monitoring Harry closer while in the muggle hovel. Indeed, remembering the ghastly pale of the headmaster's eyes throughout the morning, he wondered if the old man would ever forgive himself.
Snape didn't know what else to do. He thundered through the castle trying to shake off the rage he felt at the new knowledge and the source of that knowledge. He also felt slightly sickened for realizing an unbefore acknowledged affection for and yes, even admiration for the beautiful man that had begun to haunt his dreams. And he felt even sicker with himself as he reflected on those dreams. How could he ever think of using the boy, of wanting to hold him? NO – he knew he had to get these urges under control. He may not be evil, but he didn't trust himself to be good either and that young man deserved some good in his life.
It was late, but not after hours for the elder students. Many were wrapping up their studies in the library where Snape unknowingly neared in his desperate flight from the revelations and his own desires. At the sound of voices around the corner, he stopped suddenly. He knew Granger's voice after so many years of attempting to ignore her pleas to demonstrate her overabundance of brains in his classroom.
"So every night?" the young woman asked with a hesitant sound to her question, as if afraid to learn the answer.
"Yeah, we take turns though so none of us get too tired. Sometimes, he really takes it out of you." The Irish lilt was easily identified as Seamus Finnegan, fellow Gryffindor.
Snape realized he might learn something a little interesting about the very person he had been thinking about. He cast a 'Do Not Notice Me' charm on himself and hoped it stayed in place.
"So…um, who's with him tonight then?" the girl asked.
"Oh, I think Neville said he'd do it. Harry's kind of partial to him anyways. I think he likes the bigger guys like him and Ron. Not that he would say no to either Dean or I – it's just I think he likes feel of someone larger, someone who can really wrap themselves around him – someone who almost looms, you know?" Seamus answered.
Snape was holding his breath trying to make sense of what the little Irishman said. He got the 'Harry' part, but Neville? Liking Neville? Liking men? He was confused as he thought of the flashes of memories of Harry talking softly with a Ravenclaw whom Severus couldn't remember. Pensieve memories that had started those first stirring thoughts of kissing Harry. A surge of adrenaline shot through him, but he wasn't sure why yet.
"So, you really, you all sleep with him?" Hermione asked as if she couldn't really understand the concept.
"Well, he seems to need it. I was so surprised the first time he asked me to do it I about passed out on the floor. I sure wouldn't have been able to help him then!" The young man laughed. "But yeah, some nights he needs more than one of us so we share. He's tough to keep up with some nights!"
"Oh..oh…," she seemed at a loss for words. "I guess if he says he needs it…," she trailed off and they started wandering off.
"I have to admit I really enjoy it too which I was surprised at. I didn't really think I'd like being in bed with him but he's – you know - Harry."
Snape started to see red at the smirk he could hear in the irritating boy's voice as it trailed away. They were touching Harry? In bed with him? Harry let those idiots, those morons, touch him? Didn't they know how he had been treated, how he had been abused? How could they do that? Use him like that? He'd be broken if they kept it up, if he wasn't already that is.
As the two wandered farther away, he overheard the chit saying, "Well, let Harry know I'd be happy to do it if he needs me."
Snape wanted to explode. The Granger girl?! A GIRL! Was she not smart enough to pick up on the fact Potter's obviously gay – and apparently a bit of a slut? It infuriated him. What had those relatives done to drive him to this kind of behavior? He churned at the thought that maybe there was more than regular physical abuse.
He stormed back to his dungeons and after emptying a bottle of whiskey, proceeded to break half the bottles in his lab and then decided he'd better check on the idiot. Who knows what those ignorant boys would be doing to his Harry? And yes, he was just drunk enough to admit he wanted the boy for himself, and a little too drunk to feel ashamed about it.
As a professor he had access to just about any part of the castle, except of course the teachers' private quarters and the headmaster's office, but all the dormitories were accessible to Heads of Houses. Most students thought only their own Head of House could enter, but in fact any of them could in case of emergency. He would however be sure Minerva never found out about this little excursion.
He was able to slip into their Common Room easily and was happy to find no students still awake. He hadn't really thought of an excuse and was fairly clumsy in his drunken state. He crept up to the 6th year Boys dormitory and stood in the doorway gaping at the two boys lying together.
Neville and Harry. Entwined. Breathing softly. Sleeping. Harry, on his side, nudged back against Neville's chest and Neville's arm lying around Harry's waist. The sheet had slipped down to Harry's waist and Snape could see the silhouette of his body in the soft shadows. Thankfully Neville seemed to keep his pajama top on as that was something Snape never wanted to see. Then a second thought occurred to him. How could Neville do that? Did he just use Harry with no thought? Just took his pants off and let the other man service him? He wanted to throw Neville off the bed and choke him. Actually he wanted to throw him out the window and then slide in beside Harry and show him he needed a man, not a boy and their painful fumblings. Did they even use a lubricant with the boy? Were they experienced enough to prepare him properly? Did they use protection for Merlin's sake?
After a moment Harry shifted and rolled onto his back, seemingly a little restless due to a dream. Snape was frozen, looking at how the sheet slid lower, almost exposing Harry's hipbones. 'God – he's so beautiful.' The thought romped through his mind as the moonlight from the window caressed all the lovely angles of Harry's face and body.
"Mnnn..no..please don't touch me ..mmm no," the slightly anguished murmurings increased in intensity as he began to toss and turn. Snape almost walked over to him until he noticed Neville's hand patting across Harry's stomach "Shh, Harry, it's ok." At the same time Dean stirred and muttered, "Did you not tire him out enough earlier, Neville?"
Neville glared sleepily at the bed next him. "Shut it Dean," he whispered harshly. "You know I did. Maybe I'm not as physically demanding as Ron, but you know I worked him out hard." Neville shifted his attention back to Harry and started petting him again. Harry shift closer into Neville and sighed softly and returned to sleep.
Snape made a hasty exit. He didn't know what to think. He was enraged, livid – jealous. He staggered back to his dungeons and destroyed the other half of the bottles and then passed out on the stone floor.
The next day went badly. Snape was angry and hung-over. Not only that, he had to deal with the cretins he knew was abusing the boy. His boy. In the light of day he cringed at that thought but if there was anything Severus Snape was, it was honest. And he was honest with himself that he wanted Harry. That he cared for Harry, and yes…he might even think he loved him a little. How things had changed for Snape over the last few months. Of course the idiot would never return that affection unless Snape did something about it. For now though, he decided to watch. And take out his frustrations on four hapless Gryffindors.
So Snape watched. He watched every interaction between the boys that we could see although he knew he missed a lot because of his schedule. Also, there were times the boy seemed to slip off the map so to speak. When Snape couldn't locate him, it left him in a state of sheer panic until he saw him again in the company of one of the boys. They didn't seem any different. The boys treated each other exactly the same. Treated Harry exactly the same. He saw no sign of a lover's affection from any of them. It puzzled him. Even Harry didn't seem to act different, but Snape knew the boy well. He was a good actor. No one would ever know if anything bothered him by his own actions.
The Occlumency lessons they had had the prior year had shown Snape so much. At the time he willfully misunderstood so much, but now he was taking his time and reviewing those memories in his pensieve. He understood the humiliations Harry had suffered under his relatives' so-called care. How neglected he was. How the wizarding world had put unrealistic expectations on a child and how all Harry wanted was to be loved. How easy it was for those boys to take advantage of him. Harry never knew what love was. Had never been touched by a hand that loved him. Snape wanted to be that man. He knew what those losses were like but also knew Harry and could love Harry for himself. He wondered if Harry would ever be able to forgive him. If he would ever see past, well, the past.
Over the next few weeks the 'Gryffindor Four' as Snape came to think of them were unsure exactly why they lost more points and got more detentions with Filch than they had the previous five years combined. And somehow no one noticed that Harry didn't lose points – for the first time ever, except Harry and he was confused. None of them ever noticed a dark shadow standing in their doorway late at night as Harry lay with each boy, sometimes more than one. None of them ever noticed how much more often those dark eyes followed every movement Harry made. How suddenly Snape wanted to personally instruct him, "Mr. Potter, seeing as you are unable to hold a knife correctly, let me take your hands and guide you through this as if I had nothing better to do." No one noticed how Snape leaned into Harry during his demonstrations and surreptitiously smelled his hair. No one but Harry. And that left Harry more confused.
When Albus called him to yet another tea, Snape attended warily. The last few teas had been strained seeing how Severus had a hard time accepting Albus' decisions regarding Harry. This seemed as if it would be the same.
With no preamble Albus started, "You need to resume Occlumency lessons with Harry."
Snape actually choked on his tea. Albus had to be joking. He couldn't. What if the boy saw his thoughts? He'd been too scrambled lately, too stressed and not just a little too attached to his alcohol all because he was trying to drown his inappropriate desires for a young man, 'BOY' (he told himself to push the thoughts away) because he couldn't figure out how to help him. Or even how to be near him without giving himself away. He knew he had become reckless.
Gathering his thoughts he simply squeaked out, "Why?"
"He needs to keep Voldemort out, simple as that. I need him to be involved in our plans, but he can't so long as he can't keep his mind closed, particularly when he sleeps."
"I didn't realize he was still having visions," Snape continued, forcing a calm he didn't feel.
"Mostly he's not. You may have noticed Harry has not been wandering the castle at night so much these lately."
"Hmmn…can't say that I have." Snape didn't want to say that he knew he wasn't because he didn't want to admit he knew exactly what Harry was doing. Of course by the time he arrived each night – Harry and his partner or partners were completely fagged out and sound asleep so he was certainly not wandering the castle anymore.
"It seems as if Harry as found an alternate method to keeping him out, but it really only works if other people are there to help," Albus stated bluntly.
"Help!?" Snape squeaked again. He wondered at Albus' calm acceptance at the Gryffindor nightly shenanigans. 'Help?' That's not what he'd call it. He'd call it plain and simple 'abuse' and yet again Albus permitted it.
"Well…it seems to work for him I suppose, but he won't always have someone there willing to do what those boys have done for him so he needs to learn how to manage on his own."
Snape was furious. The headmaster knew and he let those boys…erghh!
On the other hand, he finally had a way to get to Harry and save him. Just like he'd done since the boy had started at Hogwarts. This time though maybe he could get some reward for himself . SMACK 'I did not just think that.' Albus looked at Severus oddly as the Potion master slapped himself on the head.
Snape looked up and noticed Albus' quizzical look, "Bugger.. sorry…So Potter, Occlumency. Fine, whatever. Tell the brat to come to my office tonight at 8:00."
He stood and spun swiftly yet again impressing the headmaster with his mastery of the "Robe swish" as he called it.
Snape was nervous. Harry..Harry would be in his rooms tonight. How could he approach him, how would he approach him? The last time had been a disaster. He never felt so lost in his entire life. How could one small black haired boy completely mess his calm? How had he lost all control of himself? With resolve he decided he would confront the boy and be honest. He'd never lied to him and he wouldn't start now. Damn the consequences!
At one minute of eight, there was a soft knock at the door.
Snape opened the door to see a nervous young man stand nervously in the hallway.
Harry looked at his watched and Snape could tell he almost rolled his eyes and then stopped himself. "Um…oh – I didn't realize." Snape widened the door and stepped back to allow Harry in.
Snape shut the door. "Do you want some tea?" he offered.
Harry gawked at him – open mouthed surprise at the inexplicable offer. One he wouldn't turn down. Not trusting his mouth to form words, he nodded.
Snape gracefully prepared tea and some biscuits and offered them. For a few minutes there was quiet as they nibbled, each unsure how to start the evening.
"Professor, I owe you an apology," Harry said softly.
"Hmnn? For what?" For a moment Snape had forgotten about their last lesson, lost as he was admiring Harry's hands. He wasn't sure why he liked them. They were square and blunt unlike his own long graceful fingers, but somehow they seemed both strong and fragile at the same time. Much like the boy they belonged to. Remembering he said, "Oh that. Yes. Can I assume we won't have a repeat of that incident?"
"No. I promise. And I never told anyone. About it. I mean about what I saw. I..I thought you should know."
Snape nodded. He assumed as much since no rumors had ever made it back to his ears, but he was grateful after all to know for sure. "Accepted."
"I appreciate" –'I think we should," they both started at the same time. Harry smiled sweetly, or so Snape thought, as Harry gave him the floor. For a moment Snape hoped that someday he would have the 1,000 watt smile that Harry sometimes had turned on others. But he would take what he could get for now.
"Thank you, Potter. Now as you know Dumbledore wants to resume these lessons and I think he's right. But I think we also need to talk first. Have you been having visions?"
"Ummn…no, not really. I mean sometimes I think they start, but they kind of fade away."
"Why do you think that is?" Snape was hoping to get Harry to admit to the problem. He had to realize that his behavior wasn't healthy (as if a professor with a thing for his student was, even if he was of age, but Snape wasn't going to quibble on that one). "Have you been 'clearing' your mind at night?" He asked a leading question, curious to the response.
"Um…kind of. I found a method that works for the most part." Harry admitted to that so Snape pressed on.
"So, if it works, why do you think Albus believes you need this training."
"Because I can't do it on my own." Snape almost snorted thinking of Harry doing 'it' on his own and then quickly swooshed his robe more fully over his slightly misbehaving lap and ignored the delicious visions dancing in his head.
"So – you- uh need someone else – for this method? Who has been, um, helping you?" Snape was irritated by the sound of his own hesitance.
Harry smiled again, "All the guys. They've been really good about it too. I mean, sometimes I'm so bad I keep them up half the night. Lately though it's been better."
Snape almost bit through his lip at Harry's careless confession about those boys that use him. He squeaked out, "And why do you think it has been better lately?" He really needed to figure out if he'd swallowed a mouse recently with all the squeaking he'd been doing.
"I'm not sure. I mean, I don't think anything's changed. The guys all still take their turns and it's always helped, but it's never completely worked, but somehow lately it feels as if someone else is there. Some angel guarding me." Snape half spit out a bit of biscuit. Harry laughed, "I know that sounds really stupid."
Snape attempted to compose himself. "Well…maybe it's just your subconscious telling you there's a better method. It's telling that what the 'boys'," he tried hard not to sneer, "do is not the answer." Inside he was cheering. "Maybe they're not the right ones to "help you" anymore."
"I think it would be relief to most of them if I could find another way to handle my problem. I'm not even sure they like doing it, but they care about me so they do what they can. I can't believe they would make such a fuss over me."
Snape snapped. "Care about you?! How can you say that?!" At this point he had lost it. He stood up and loomed over Harry for a moment, red faced. "That is not what people who care about you do!" Snape registered the look of fear and confusion on Harry's face and settled himself. He knelt down at Harry's knees ignoring the wincing pain in his left knee that told him it would be a mistake to try to stand again too soon.
"I, uh…what do you mean?" Harry tried to concentrate but the fact remained that Professor Snape was on his knees in front of him, his face only a foot away. A small adrenaline rush headed unexpectedly to his groin. He quickly clasped his hands over his lap and then regretted it as soon as Snape took a hold of his hands.
"Harry, people who care for you wouldn't sleep with you like that." Snape began stroking Harry's hands with his thumb sort of numb to the fact he was doing this. He stared at their joined hands trying to avoid looking Harry in the eye.
"They wouldn't?" Harry stared at potion stained hands covering his, the shock preventing him from registering the words.
"So you admit you sleep with them? To find comfort away from the Dark Lord?" Snape finally looked at Harry's green eyes, finding insecurity there. He would reassure him, even if he could never do more than hold his hands like this, Harry would know he was cared for.
"Well – yeah – it's the only thing that kept the nightmares at bay. I couldn't use the dreamless sleep anymore. It's too uh…"
"Addicting, I know," Snape reassured him. He was proud that Harry had been able to give that up himself, but he had traded one addiction for another.
"Yeah. Anyways one night I woke screaming and Ron took me by the hand and worked me out hard and then collapsed with me." Harry blushed lightly at this. "I hadn't slept so well in a long time and I realized why. Knowing Ron would never have the stamina to keep up with me every night, we asked the other guys to help. The four of them worked out a schedule that would help me but not tax them too much."
Snape was almost feint with shock as the casual way Harry spoke of his voracious appetites, but knew he had potions that could allow himself to handle it, to keep up with Harry's demands. His groin begged to begin that immediately.
Ignoring his own desires, Snape urged, "Harry, let me help you. It's not healthy sharing yourself with all those people. I can handle it myself every night. I will teach you to do this on your own, but in the meantime let me take their place. I will care for you. I do care for you."
Harry sat back in surprise. 'You…you care for me? When did that..how did?" Harry was flummoxed.
Snape leaned back and admitted, "I guess it would be surprise." He decided at that moment – he was already in for knut, may as well be in for a galleon. "Harry, I've learned so much about you and I've been so wrong. I've come to respect you, to care for you, to like you," Snape cringed a moment. 'Oh dear god have I escaped from a Jane Austin novel? How pathetic am I?' "Would you…would you give me a chance?"
Harry was trying to absorb these confessions, but he had one of his own.
"Oh – OK. I, um, I have kinda thought you were, um, attractive lately." Seemingly thinking hard he continued "And you, um, have saved me a lot…so I could try. It just seems so sudden." Harry blinked a moment. "You really want to sleep with me?" he suddenly asked looking Snape firmly in the eye.
"Yes my Harry, yes." Snape reached up and stroked his cheek softly.
Harry tilted his head and nodded. "Ok – so then do want to workout now or do the lesson?"
Snape leaned back quizzically and squinted, "Workout?" The idea dawning, "Oh well, Harry, I wouldn't call it working out like the euphemism the boys might use. I am a man and I will be making love to you. I will be having sex with you."
Harry suddenly stood up straight. "SEX! What are you talking about?" he shouted, completely shocked.
Snape stood up too. "What?! What about…You said you slept with…," Snape shouted back.
"I'm a virgin!" Harry exclaimed.
"A virgin? Nooo.. No way… I heard , I saw…You slept with those boys! Weasley, Finnegan, Thomas. You SLEPT with Longbottom!" Snape rushed in.
"Slept yes! I had nightmares except if someone actually slept –meaning sleep, meaning closing our eyes and experiencing R.E.M.!"
Snape turned beet red and retreated to the other side of the room - half in anger at Harry's denial, half in embarrassment "Your workouts? I heard Neville say he worked you out hard.." he trailed off finally having the truth begin to dawn on him.
"Yes, Neville likes to run with me. Ron takes me out flying. Seamus and Dean set up a gym in the Room of Requirement for workouts. Real workouts. So I would be exhausted before attempting to sleep." Harry flopped back down on the chair and started laughing.
Snape, mortified, suddenly felt ill "Oh, Oh my god I am…" He turned his back to Harry not knowing what else to do.
Harry stopped laughing realizing the Snape thought he was laughing at him. He stood and bravely walked to the looming thunder cloud on the other side of the room. He'd never been so scared as he realized how much he could hurt Snape right that minute.
He reached out and lifted Snape's head from looking at the floor and stared into his eyes, refusing Snape's attempt to look away.
"Did you mean it? You really care for me? Because if you did, then I say I'd like that." Harry said softly and smiling at the older man.
Snape looked up searching Harry's face for any sign of ridicule. Finding none he just nodded, unable to speak.
"No one has ever done that for me, Severus." Snape looked surprised at Harry's use of his first name. He liked how it sounded coming from those cherry red lips. "And yes I'd like to sleep with you. And I think I wouldn't mind if the rest came later."
Snape nodded again. 'The rest can come later," he whispered. And Snape realized that was ok with him when Harry hugged him lightly.
"I should go back to my dorms tonight though. I will sleep alone until I come here if you can give me a few bottles of dreamless sleep for the next couple of nights until we situate things. I imagine you'll need to talk to Dumbledore."
Snape nodded, unable to speak but busily went and gathered the bottle for Harry, his heart pounding badly. Somehow yet again Snape had jumped to conclusions and landed badly. Yet somehow it seems he would stand again with the help of the young man he was so enamored with.
At the door, Harry tucked the bottled in a pocket and kissed Snape on the cheek while chuckling, "I still can't believe you think I had sex with Neville!"