Oh, Just This Once
By Telanu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Prequel to "Your Horoscope For Today." How that unlikely union came about.
Categories: Um. Humor and a little angst? Maybe?
Notes: This is for Krissy. Thanks for everything.
Disclaimer: JKR, Warner Bros, and Scholastic Books, not me. Again, the horoscopes come from The Onion.
Warning: This story is Snape/Harry slash. If you don't like that, I suggest you go.
Capricorn: (Dec. 22—Jan. 19)
In a famous passage from Shakespeare, Polonius says, "To thine own self be true." In that sense, you are a Shakespearean fuck-up.
He was never going to get rid of him.
Standing in the Great Hall, glowering at Harry Potter from across the room, Severus Snape knew that. There were two weeks yet until the start of term, but the hall was bedecked as if it were the Starting Feast itself – all to welcome Harry Potter home. Home to Hogwarts, home to teach. But not home from a war, and not to teach anything useful, oh no.
Home from playing Quidditch for three years, Potter was poised to become Hogwarts' Assistant Quidditch Coach until Madam Hooch retired next year. And from the fuss being put up by Snape's fellow faculty members, you'd think it was that Second Coming the Muggles were always on about. When Snape had been hired, had he gotten a party? Had banners in the Slytherin colours been put up in his honour? He snorted. Not bloody likely.
Of course, he wasn't The Boy Who Lived. He hadn't defeated Voldemort almost singlehandedly. He wasn't a good-looking star athlete. And at the moment, he certainly wasn't surrounded by well-wishers, most of whom were at least twice Potter's age and yet treating him as if he deserved respect he hadn't earned through long years of toil.
Bloody hell. That boy was never going to leave him in peace for as long as he lived, was he?
At that moment, Potter glanced across the Hall to where his former Potions professor stood, glaring at him in the shadows. The eyes, green as ever, flashed before the boy turned away.
Snape felt a shiver snake down his spine. He brushed it off irritably and headed for the punch bowl.
All right. So the little slurm was attractive. In Potter's seventh year Snape had become rather painfully aware of that, but managed to ignore it as he would a troublesome fly, and when the brat finally graduated, victorious over Voldemort and off to try and recoup a normal life, the Potions Master assumed his troubles were over. And if life became a bit duller then, a bit grayer, well, that was all to the good. Dullness was most welcome after the chaos of the previous years, Snape thought.
It was just so irksome the way the boy kept showing up in the Daily Prophet every time Scotland won a victory – which was often, with Potter The Brilliant as Seeker. World Cup rumours had quickly begun circulating, and reached their culmination when Scotland won the title last year. The fact that Snape began reading the Sports page regularly around then had been an example of supremely bad timing, he decided grimly. It seemed hardly a week went by without a new photo of the Quidditch prodigy winking cheekily up at him, every time a little bit older, every time a little more of a man and less of a boy. Snape could hardly read his paper in peace anymore.
He reached the punch bowl, where Rolanda Hooch was helping herself to a cup of the decidedly purple concoction. Well, this could provide a bit of sport. "So," Snape said, in a voice he knew perfectly well made people want to slap him, "excited about your replacement? Got the cottage on the beach picked out already?"
Gold eyes cut a swathe through him. Hooch knew perfectly well Snape's history of denigrating the sport that made up her life, and had been known on occasion to make nasty remarks about useless little potions for people who couldn't do real magic. Mutual hatred was unavoidable.
Then she put on a sweet smile that Snape found decidedly disconcerting. "Of course I'm thrilled to see Mr. Potter within our walls again, Professor Snape," she said, her voice oozing. . .something unidentifiable. "It's like welcoming one of our own home, isn't it? We've talked a great deal, of course. He's so helpful, so glad to be back. . .so eager to please." The gold eyes gleamed. "Of course, no one would ever expect you to be excited about seeing him again."
Snape blinked, and then narrowed his eyes in what he hoped was a threatening sort of way. Hooch regarded him for a long moment.
"Of course not," she finished smugly, and sipped at her punch.
To cover his sudden confusion, and the fact that he was confused at being confused, Snape filled a cup with purple punch and took a big swallow. And almost choked to death.
It felt like fire was running down his throat. Madam Hooch pounded him comfortingly on the back until he almost fell on the floor. "Has a bit of a kick to it, eh?" she bellowed, loud enough for everyone in the Hall to hear – most effective, as they were all staring at him anyway.
"Dash of Ogden's Firewhiskey! Put it in myself. Best stuff in the worl'," Hagrid called from where he stood next to Potter, who was watching Snape straighten up. The boy had a considering expression on his face, and the faintest trace of a smile on his lips. He murmured something to Hagrid, presumably his excuses, and then seemed to look at Dumbledore in a significant sort of way before making his way over to Snape.
Snape couldn't stop himself from looking towards the door. But escape was an unworthy thought, especially since Dumbledore had casually moved to block the only exit while talking to Professor Sprout. And it would show a lack of spine in any case. Hah. The day he was wary of facing Potter, of all people – !
Potter had approached the punch bowl by now, and Snape steeled himself. Madam Hooch, smirking, patted Harry on the back (much more lightly than she'd patted Snape) and moved to chat up Professor McGonagall, who was watching the proceedings with a great deal of interest.
Snape braced himself for the sarcastic remark, the smirk, the knowing chuckle – anything that would give him the chance to go off on Potter as the boy so richly deserved.
Potter poured himself a cup of punch without even looking at Snape, downed it in one gulp, and wandered off without so much as a word.
What. . .?
Snape was shaking. Actually shaking with rage. Damn the boy, somewhere he'd learned that saying nothing could be the biggest insult of all. He might as well have said, "Can't hold your liquor, eh, Professor?" At least Snape could have given an answer to that, something to put him properly in his place.
Potter returned to Hagrid's side, smiling politely up at him, a slight flush blooming on his cheeks from the liquor he'd just ingested. It contrasted nicely with the soft paleness of the rest of his skin. Something hot curled in Snape's stomach that he preferred not to think about, and decided that maybe he could come up with a suitable answer after all. He refilled his cup and downed it in one go, refusing to sputter or choke or let tears come to his eyes, and then stalked back off to the corner.
Potter watched him go with a glare. And a few minutes later, he went back to the punchbowl for more.
That set the pattern for the evening. Potter mingled with the rest of the faculty, accepting their congratulations, greetings and conversation, and Snape stayed in his corner. And they would alternate in going to the punch bowl. Before long, Snape's vision of the room was swimming, and Potter's steps didn't seem quite so steady. Or that could just be Snape's vision of him swimming again.
Some vague amount of time passed. It wasn't so bad after the fourth cup.
He felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned carefully. When had Albus Dumbledore made his way to Snape's corner? Talk about an intrusion of privacy.
Those blue eyes were not twinkling, but stern, though it was difficult for Snape to tell. "I hope you're proud of yourself, Severus," Albus said.
Snape blinked at him. "Proud, Headmaster?" he asked, making sure to enunciate carefully.
"I must admit to some disappointment in you and Harry both. Getting into a pissing contest with another teacher is not what I would have expected of a new employee. Nor of a seasoned one."
Snape was too busy being astonished that Albus Dumbledore had used the phrase "pissing contest" to register anything else. He gaped.
Albus' steely gaze did not soften – much. "I am going to tolerate this behavior for tonight, Severus, and for tonight only. It may be excused as merry-making. But for the rest of Harry's and your time here, I expect a relationship of working professionals, if you cannot bring yourself to be friendly."
"I am not a friendly person," Snape pronounced, hoping it was loud enough for Albus to hear him. There was a rushing noise somewhere that seemed to make everything else seem quieter. Or maybe that was only in his own ears.
Apparently Albus heard him, because he winced. "I know. I know a great many things about you, Severus, that you have yet to discover for yourself. It is a pity that you are probably too inebriated to retain any of the advice I have just given you, but once more into the breach, I suppose." He yawned. "It's a bit late. I believe I shall go to bed now. Good night, Severus. I trust you will have better judgment in the morning – if nothing else, the hangover ought to teach you that."
Snape nodded solemnly, trying not to snicker. "Hangover," indeed. No Potions Master worth his salt didn't know how to whip up a hangover remedy in his sleep.
Then he glanced around the room after Albus left. To his surprise, it seemed to have emptied out while he wasn't looking. Only Hagrid and Potter remained, and the half-giant appeared to have fallen asleep in the corner. Potter was sitting on a chair, his eyes fixed firmly on Snape.
Hang Dumbledore anyway. Snape went and got another cup of punch. Really, it went down very easy once you got used to it.
Although. . .now that he thought about it, perhaps that was enough for him, after all. The rushing noise in his ears was louder, and he couldn't seem to walk in a straight line. Back to the dungeons, perhaps? Yes, and then bed. His lonely, empty bad. Fighting off a suddenly tragic feeling, Snape decided glumly that was his best bet.
He made his way slowly out of the Great Hall's doors, looking straight ahead, his concentration absolute from one step to the next. Dignity, that was the key. If you carried yourself right, they'd never guess you were completely soused. Although the corridor outside was completely empty, so it seemed to be a waste of time. Still, you never knew if –
Snape stopped dead at the sound of Potter's voice and turned around slowly. Fine, so the corridor wasn't that empty anymore. Damn it. The boy was wavering slightly in the doorway of the Great Hall, cheeks flushed and eyes bright behind the glasses. The first few buttons on his collar were undone.
The thought was sudden (though not entirely unexpected) and shocked Snape from making any snarky remarks, or even asking what Potter was talking about. Which was okay, because Potter said so anyway.
"I had another cup after you left. One more than you. I won."
Snape was suddenly tired. Very, very tired. He could feel the weight sinking into his bones. "Bully for you," he said wearily. "Perhaps another time."
Because with the wanting had come the lack of having. And with the knowledge that the having would never come. Never. Snape turned to walk off again without a word, his throat suddenly full and his shoes feeling like they weighed a thousand pounds each.
A hand seized on to the back of his robe – Potter's, obviously – and then the boy swayed, threatening to bring them both crashing to the floor. Something Snape was determined not to let happen. "Where are you going?" Potter demanded.
"Away," Snape responded, a little nonplussed by the anger in his young enemy's brilliant eyes. "To bed, I suppose. As should you. Dumbledore," he was very proud when his thickened tongue didn't stumble over the name, "was not impressed by our behaviour."
To his surprise, Potter looked sad at that too. "I noticed. I hate disappointing him. He's a good man. He's the best man in the world," he added, staring earnestly up into Snape's eyes.
"Yes. Now let go of my robe."
"Why not?" Where had his wits gone? Surely he could come up with something better than 'why not?' when faced with a situation like this? Stupid Firewhiskey.
"Be-cause," Potter said clearly, "I won, and now you have to pay up."
"Pay up? I will not," Snape said in outrage. "We never made any terms. It wasn't even a real contest."
"Was too," Potter said stubbornly. "Now. . ."
"Let go, you stupid boy." There, that was better.
And it worked. Potter stepped back, hurt falling into his face. They stared at each other for a few seconds. Snape vaguely remembered that he was supposed to go back to the dungeons now. He thought they were somewhere to the left. So he should definitely –
"You always thought I was a stupid boy," Potter husked.
Well, that was unexpected. And Snape was pretty sure he didn't want to deal with the rest of whatever Potter took it into his head to say. "That's because you acted like one. And you still do. Now go away."
"I didn't mean to do this, you know," Potter suddenly announced, waving his left arm in a circular gesture that almost tipped him over. "It wasn't going to. . .I was going to wait. . .see if what you thought had changed, if you could ever. . .but then I went and ballsed it all up tonight. . ." a look of tragedy that would have done Shakespeare proud crossed his face. It occurred to Snape that Potter really couldn't hold his liquor. Snape might be functioning more slowly, and the world might be tilting a little, but he was functioning. Potter, on the other hand, appeared to be completely out of his mind.
"You're a lousy drunk, Mr. Potter," he said.
Potter glared at him. "Did you ever want to shag me?" he demanded.
Snape was shocked again into silence.
"Well? Did you?" Potter asked again, his slurred words harsh. " 'Cos. . .there were times, you know, in seventh year. . .when I thought. You were always watching me. But I was never sure. And I just wondered if you could ever. . .if you ever thought. . ." his voice trailed off. "Know what? I think you did."
Sober, Snape would have had no problems shrinking the boy's ego to the size of a termite and then stepping on it. Even if he was talking truth. But now all he could do was think, in utter dismay, Was I that obvious? If Potter noticed. . .
"But anyway," Potter rambled on, "I wondered. All those years, you know. While I was away. And I had sex," he added, his voice suddenly rising in volume. "Oh yeah. Lots of girls wanting to shag a Quidditch player. . .not to mention famous Harry Potter. . .but none of them ever really cared. . ."
He didn't want to hear this. Chest clenching, Snape turned again to leave. Only to feel that damned hand land again on his arm.
"Wait," Potter said pleadingly, turning him back around. And kissed him full on the mouth.
Snape held still, wondering if this weren't some kind of alcoholic hallucination. It wasn't great, as kisses went. They were both too drunk and sloppy to manage "great," although they did stumble back into the wall. And by the time they drew apart, Snape was more bewildered than anything else.
Potter blinked up at him again, the haunted look gone from his eyes. "What I was saying – I thought about you, all that time, and I wondered, and when I decided to come here I thought I'd. . .I mean, I wasn't planning to do this tonight. I was going to wait. I'm serious, you know. I don't want to hurt your feelings." Those huge eyes, so terribly open. "I don't want to hurt you. . .don't want to be hurt. . ."
What the hell was the boy rambling about, Snape wondered, as he watched the moistened lips move.
"But anyway, I've gone ahead and done it now, so, so." Potter finished, and took a deep breath. "Can I go back to your room with you?"
Could he what?
If Snape were sober. . .
. . .but he wasn't.
Never? No, perhaps not never. Perhaps just this once.
"All right," he said agreeably, and let Potter take his hand as he led them, unsteadily, towards the dungeons.
Aquarius: (Jan 20 – Feb 18)
You will astonish yourself and everyone you know when you leap without looking, but not without hesitating slightly first.
Some evil-minded house elf had stuck a dirty sock in his mouth while he slept.
That was the only explanation, Snape decided, for feeling as if his mouth had no moisture in it, and never had in his life. And his head. Oh, his head. Someone must have shoved a sock in there too.
He was lying in his bed, he decided, after a few painful moments of investigation that involved coercing joints into movement. His shirt was off, but his trousers were still on. So were his shoes.
There was water running in the bathroom.
Snape blinked. Had he left the tub on? Judging by the greasemop feeling of his hair, he hadn't bathed last night – but evidently he'd been drunk enough to turn on the tap and then wander off. Just as well; he might have drowned if he'd bathed. Still, the floor was probably flooded, and he should certainly go check it out.
He flopped back down on the bed and fought not to throw up.
The running water stopped, which would have caused him to raise his eyebrow if it hadn't been too painful to do so. A Pepper-Up Potion. That's what he needed. And he'd been right in thinking he could brew one in his sleep, but Snape soon discovered to his dismay that he couldn't brew one in a hangover. Because that would require getting out of bed. He closed his eyes and fought with his own body; his stomach finally settled down.
The bathroom door abruptly opened, and so did Snape's eyes.
Harry Potter, of all people, Harry Potter came through the door, wearing Snape's own bathrobe and apparently bare as the day he was born underneath. Snape suddenly reflected on his own lack of a shirt as hazy memories of last night came rushing back, along with a new wave of nausea. He could remember a clumsy kiss. . .he could remember stumbling down the dungeon stairs with a very determined Potter at his side. . .he could even, God help him, remember the soft sound of laughter as he tried to remember the spell to unlock his quarters. But it was a bit of a blur after that.
Oh God, had they really –
"Good morning, Severus," Potter said, chipper as you please. Without ceremony he dropped the robe and began hunting around on the floor, ostensibly for his own clothes. "Did I wake you? Sorry."
Out of the hundreds of questions milling in Snape's mind, only one of them made it to his mouth.
"Why don't you feel worse?" he rasped, then winced.
Potter's lips pursed attractively for a moment, and then his brow cleared. "Oh! I never get hangovers," he explained, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Hagrid told me once my dad never did either. I guess it's a hereditary thing. Lucky, eh? I seem to remember really tying one on last night. . ." he raked his eyes over Snape, lying pathetically in the bed. "But I guess you're not so lucky. You got any Pepper-Up in your stores?"
"I. . ." Snape gestured vaguely at the cabinet across the room, which he couldn't reach to save his life. "Um. . .top shelf. . ."
Potter, now wearing only his undershorts and nothing else, sauntered across the room, opened the cluttered cabinet and perused its contents for a few moments before finally selecting a small bottle from the top. "Here we go. Still good, I hope?" And he sauntered right back, setting the bottle gently on the bedside table before, to Snape's horror, sitting down on the mattress. "Anything else I can get you?" One slim white hand reached out to run lightly up and down Snape's arm.
Snape fought not to recoil. "No," he said, almost in a panic. He still had his trousers on, true, but the way Potter was acting – what the bloody hell had happened last night?
If. . .if they had made lo – had se – done anything interesting, it would torment Snape for the rest of his life not to remember it. Because he was absolutely certain it would never happen again.
God damn it. He had to know.
"What – " he began, and then those green eyes looked into his own and his breath stuttered in his chest as his head began to pound again. This was quite possibly the most humiliating moment of his life, and considering his life that was saying something. "What happened?" he managed, shuttering his face into its most rigid, closed expression.
Potter, on the other hand, looked puzzled. "What do you mean?" Damn him. He knew what Snape meant! He had to know!
Snape gritted his teeth. If Potter didn't answer this time – well, fine. Just. . .just fine. "What – happened – last – night?" he hissed. "I – don't – remember."
Fortunately for his own safety, Potter's expression softened. "Nothing much," he replied quietly. "You can tell we got your shirt off, but not much else. I really must have had too much. . .I think I passed out." He looked suitably embarrassed at this. "At any rate, as far as one-night-stands go, it was by far the worst I've ever had, I don't mind telling you."
Snape could feel his face burning. "It's not my fault you can't hold your liquor, Potter," he snapped, and then regretted it as the sound of his own voice made his head hurt again. "Have a lot of these, do you?" Latest in a long line, am I? Oh, my God.
Potter only shrugged. "Some, these past few years. It's not like I've ever been in one place for a long time." Then he threw a surprisingly keen glance at Snape. "But as I was saying, as one-night-stands go, it was crap."
If Snape had had the energy, he would have strangled the brat.
"So we should definitely try it again," Potter continued, and Snape's desire to murder him faded into pure shock. "I'll come by again tonight, shall I?"
Snape's mouth opened and closed like a dying fish's. "You. . ." he managed, and then closed his eyes briefly. "Excuse me, are you saying. . ."
"We're going to have another one-night stand," Potter said briskly. "And this one is going to be better, I should hope. Here, drink your potion." Snape felt a cool glass bottle being pressed into his hand. "Now, I'm going to be very busy with Rolanda today," Potter continued. "I don't imagine I'll see you until tonight. And I'd kiss you goodbye, but from your breath I'm guessing that would be less than pleasant, so it can wait. What time should I come by?"
It took a moment for Snape to find his voice. When he did, it was worth it, even if what came out was a little disjointed. "What – you presumptuous little – I was drunk out of my – what makes you think I really wanted – " That horrid brat, his conceited head as swollen as his father's –
Why was Potter LOOKING at him like that?!
"Because of what you said," Potter replied gently. "That's why I know you'll let me come back."
. . .What?
Potter finished dressing while Snape stared at him, stunned again into silence. Then he made ready to leave. "Wait!" Snape yelped. "Wait! What – what are you talking about? What the blazes did I say?"
"I'll be down at eleven," Potter replied airily, and shut the door behind him.
Snape stared at the closed door. Then he stared up at the ceiling. Then he stared at the bottle of Pepper-Up Potion in his hand, wondered if he had enough strength to fling it at the wall, and finally gave up and downed the stuff.
It worked far too quickly. He'd started to enjoy being miserable.
The day crawled.
There was no other word for it. Well, unless you counted synonyms. Crawled, dragged, slithered, and at times seemed to grind to a dead stop altogether. Snape spent most of it in his office, shredding up pieces of parchment that he'd been trying to write on. Some of them had been letters to Potter.
Bugger off. Leave me alone. Why did you do this. What did I say last night.
In the end, of course, he sent none of them, because by God he wanted to have sex with Harry Potter that night and a nasty letter just might keep that from happening. He could be honest with himself about that at least.
Dear Merlin, he hoped the boy was a better kisser sober than he was drunk.
Snape stared down at another botched potion recipe and shredded that paper too.
Eleven o'clock came. About an hour and a half later, so did Harry Potter and Severus Snape.
Snape fell back on his back on the mattress, gasping wildly, Potter collapsing on top of his chest and shoving the remaining air right out. "Sorry," the boy – no, no, if Snape had learned anything tonight, it was that Potter was no boy – the man grunted, rolling over and lying at Snape's side.
"That was brilliant," he sighed in satisfaction.
Snape would have loved to say something sarcastic, but he could only nod in dumb agreement. It had been rather brilliant. Apparently sobriety made all the difference; Potter was nothing if not focused. And he was a good kisser. Fantastic, in fact.
Snape closed his eyes and fought hard to imprint every moment on his memory. Potter entering his quarters after a perfunctory rap on the door, and then fairly knocking Snape over with a very enthusiastic snog. And after that – desire raging as if someone had set an Incendius charm on them both, cloth literally tearing as they fought to shed it from their bodies, twisting, panting manoeuvres of the flesh. The taste of Potter's mouth, unsullied at the start and later salty with Snape's own come. All of it.
He had to remember all of it.
Another soft kiss landed on his lips. "I've thought about this for years," Potter whispered softly, startling Snape into an unplanned "So have I" that made him want to cut his own tongue out. But Potter said nothing, merely hummed softly and kissed him again.
The time after orgasm always seemed open and relaxed; Snape used the atmosphere to broach a dangerous question. "Ah – you mentioned this morning – er – what did I say last night?"
He waited in agonized suspense, until he was answered with a soft snore.
The next morning was as awkward as mornings-after tended to be – for Snape, at least. Potter seemed perfectly at home, getting dressed again under Snape's wary eye. "What time shall I come by tonight?" he asked casually.
Snape's eyes widened. "I thought you said this would be a one-night stand," he sputtered, half screaming at himself and half unable to believe that Potter wasn't playing him for a fool.
Potter paused to consider that. "I did," he mused. "But. . .it was brilliant, wasn't it? So let's make it a two-night stand then, eh? Unless," he added, with the first traces of uncertainty he'd shown since that drunken evening, "you'd prefer not. . .?"
Snape found himself nodding. "Eleven is. . .fine. . ."
Potter beamed. Snape's stomach lurched.
He supposed it was too late for his life to start making sense now, after all.
The two-night stand quickly became a three-night stand. And then four. And then five. Six. Seven. A week-long stand.
Snape was naturally discreet, but Potter didn't seem to bother with keeping secrets – asking at the dinner table, "Same time tonight, Severus?" and watching Minerva choke on her soup. Albus raised an eyebrow – but his blue eyes weren't stern anymore. Snape still couldn't meet them for very long. He felt rather like a child caught doing something naughty. At any rate, no condemnation came from the upper levels.
Another week passed. The school year began. Two months into it, Snape found Potter's toothbrush hanging in his bathroom. A month later some of Potter's clothes were hanging in his closet. Snape never saw Potter bringing the things in; certainly he never smuggled them along during his nightly visits. They just seemed to. . .arrive.
Potter started sitting next to him at meals and Quidditch matches. The students whispered. Snape told himself none of this was going to last.
"Pot. . .Harry. Really. I want to know. What did I say to you that night, for the love of Merlin?"
"Zzzzz. . ."
"Oh, not again. . ."
He was going to have to get up enough guts to ask Potter in broad daylight, when the man couldn't possibly pretend to sleep through it. Unless he suddenly became adept at feigning narcoleptic fits, which Snape wouldn't put past him for an instant. He wouldn't put a lot of things past Potter. In fact –
"I didn't say anything at all, did I?" Snape demanded one day in a low voice, during lunch in the Great Hall. Potter blinked at him over his treacle tart.
"Say what? When?"
"That first night," Snape growled. "You said that I said something that made you realise I'd let you come back. What was it?" He could feel his underarms become damp with sweat. Five months later and he was only now asking this question? How pathetic was. . .?
But Potter was smiling softly at him. "You don't remember?"
"If I remembered, I wouldn't be asking you, idiot," Snape snarled. How like Potter, really, to make him suffer –
And suffer he did when Potter just shrugged. "Well, what do you imagine you said? What sorts of things do you usually say when you're drunk and in bed with somebody?"
"I'm usually not. Stop PLAYING with me," Snape hissed under his breath. "You know something, Potter? I'm beginning to think you made all this up. I'm beginning to think I didn't say anything at all. You did say you passed out, didn't you? Load of bollocks, I think, all of it." He sneered. "What were you planning to tell me? That I declared my undying love or some similar rubbish?"
Potter only looked a little sad, although he smiled. "No. You wouldn't say that, Severus. Not even drunk."
"I know that," Snape snapped, causing some of the other teachers to look askance at him, and he lowered his voice again. "Tell me. Now."
"Not now," Potter whispered, and brushed his hand over Snape's knee, under the cover of the table. "Later. Tonight. I promise, Severus. And call me Harry, would you?"
"You promise," Snape growled.
"Yes. I do."
Snitches flew around in Snape's stomach all day, which was plainly ridiculous. Whatever Pot. . .Harry said could very likely be a lie, even if he thought it was true. He had been very, very drunk. He could have imagined it.
Or he could not have. Snape had been drunk too. He could have said. . .good Lord, he could have said anything.
And tonight he was going to find out what.
He drifted round the dungeons for an unusually long time after dinner, strangely reluctant to go back and face his quarters, waiting for Harry to come. At half-past eight he finally steeled himself and returned to his rooms.
He stopped dead in the doorway.
His. . .things. All moved around. There was another dresser standing next to his, and his closet door was hanging open, with his robes on one side and what looked like all of Harry's on the other, plus some Quidditch gear. Three open suitcases lay on the floor. On the mantle, the World Cup trophy stood next to Snape's old ormulu clock that he'd long ago stopped to keep it from ticking loudly all the time.
Sounds of bustling came from the bathroom. Snape stared at Harry in a daze as his. . .dalliance? lover?. . .came out, carrying a fourth, emptied suitcase.
"Oh, you're back early," Harry said.
"I am?" Snape asked faintly. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Just moving a few things in," Harry said casually. "You don't mind, do you? I mean, you didn't object to the other things, so I thought this would be okay. . ."
Harry shrugged. "These rooms are huge. Lots of empty space. Felt a bit. . .hollow, you know? And this way, my clothes don't get mixed up with yours and. . .you know. Smell like potions and stuff."
Snape stiffened. "Smell like – "
"Hey. . .do you mind the trophy on the mantle?"
"What are you DOING?" Snape yelled, his voice rising to a hysterical shriek on the last word.
Harry stared at him. "Are you feeling okay?" he asked after a few moments.
"Am I. . .am I. . .I need a drink. No, don't get me one." That was how this whole mess had started. "Just sit down, tell me what you came to tell me, and. . ."
"I came to tell you that I'm moving in," Harry said cheerfully.
The word "leave" froze on Snape's tongue. "You are?" he said instead, too weakly. This couldn't be happening. Harry. Here to. . .stay? What the hell kind of twisted mind game. . .?
"I mean, if you don't mind. I spend every night here anyway, obviously, and I'm never inside in the daytime. . .I'd not be in your way, would I, Severus?" Harry added, looking anxious for the first time, as if it had only now occurred to him that he might be imposing somewhat beyond the bounds of hospitality.
Your LIFE is in my way! But he didn't say that out loud. Instead he went and sat down on the mattress of the bed, since the two chairs in the room were covered with various items of Harry's.
It turned out to be a tactical error.
Harry was on him in an instant, kissing him so enthusiastically that they fell over. "I missed you," his young lover whispered, and then chewed on an earlobe. Snape gasped and found his arms going up and around Harry before he could really stop himself. And it seemed pointless to remove them after that.
Nobody ever missed him.
"You did," he murmured, unable to come up with anything better than that.
Harry pulled back and looked at him seriously. "For years," he said. "After I graduated. I never expected that, you know? And then I came back and I knew I wanted to be here. Not just at Hogwarts, but. . ." he shrugged, "here."
Snape considered this. "That makes no sense at all," he said finally.
"My life has never made sense," Harry replied. "I'm dealing with it."
They stared at each other for a long moment. "Please," Snape said finally, quietly, and rather humiliated that he'd said 'please,' "tell me what I said that night."
Harry bent down and whispered softly in his ear.
"I said that? Really?"
Harry nodded. "You did."
"You're sure you didn't. . .imagine. . ."
Harry just looked insulted. "Yes."
"Oh." Snape considered again. "Well."
Harry bit his lip. "So. . .I can stay."
"It would be. . .inconsistent of me to say otherwise," Snape replied carefully.
Harry gave him a tiny smile, far more restrained than the beam that invariably turned Snape's guts to jelly. "Whatever else you've been, you're always consistent."
"Say that for me," Snape agreed.
Harry kissed him again, and began undoing his shirt buttons. Before he got thoroughly distracted, Snape paused for a moment to wonder how, in the face of all that had gone before, and other things that were sure to come, this could possibly work. Another slow, hot kiss.
They'd managed five months. Maybe they'd manage five more. It was all in how you looked at it, really. And if. . .you wanted something enough, wasn't it worth a little effort on your part?
So he'd try it. Just this once.
(Feb. 19—March 20)
You will find yourself watching hour after hour of The Weather Channel next Friday, hoping to find out how the whole thing ends.
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