Title: The Other Potter
Other pairings/threesome: Past Severus/Bill, past Severus/OMC, past Harry/OMC
Warning(s): AR (Alternative Reality)
Prompt: #343 - What if Lily and James had twins? After that fateful Halloween night, one goes missing/kidnapped while Lily is out shopping never to be seen again and the remaining twin grows up spoiled.(Voldemort was vanquished for good that Halloween) Breaking hearts left and right, not caring who he hurts. Including his Potions Professor he has seduced during the last weeks of his 7th year. Three years later, the Missing Twin, Harry has appeared in London looking for his parents and brother. (say he was finally told what had happen all those years ago. A distraught woman stole him after loosing her own baby? And she's come clean) The first person Harry meets is Severus Snape at the school or in London at the Leaky Cauldron.
Summary: Severus decides he deserves happiness.
A/N: Huge thanks to my beta, Slashpine. This was my entry to this year's Snarry-a-thon.
It was not Potter.
The man was taller for one. Not much, but a little. The eyes were as green, but this face was thinner, paler. This Potter had long hair; no respectable Potter would ever be caught with long hair, Lily had told him when they were much younger. But this one had his long black hair done up in a high ponytail.
And his ears were pierced several times over.
But, no, that was not the most incriminating clue that this was not the right Potter. No, what spoke more clearly than anything else was that the accent with which he spoke very clearly did not belong in the UK.
He looked more like a misplaced Muggle than a proper wizard in any way. In fact, he looked misplaced even among the questionable and varied clientele that the Leaky Cauldron attracted. Quite a feat, if he did say so himself.
It was not Potter.
"Yeah, but look," he was saying to Tom, "I don't know anything about the Wizarding world in Europe. So I was just wondering where the bank was, sir." He looked momentarily stricken. "There is a bank, isn't there?"
"Aye, lad," Tom told him, giving one of his toothless grins. Oh, but Severus respected him as much as he respected anyone running a business such as this one. "At the end of the street."
"No…I just came from out there—"
"Not that one, it ain't. Diagon Ally. This way." And they disappeared.
When Tom returned, Severus ordered himself a glass of cognac.
There were not many Severus despised as much as he despised the Potters. Yes, he had loved Lily in his youth, but it was becoming harder and harder to find excuses for the way she had allowed her family to run wild. Especially her son, the one that had not been kidnapped as a baby. It did not, of course, excuse the fact that it was Severus who had allowed himself to be seduced by a student for the first time since William Weasley. But William Weasley had not done it to win a bet, play a prank and humiliate a teacher simply because he thought it fun and was bored out of his mind.
William Weasley had not set out to hurt him from the first moment he lingered after class. William Weasley had been staring for months before he stayed after. William Weasley had only said something, he had explained weeks later, because he had realised that he would likely never see Severus again after he graduated. He was correct, of course. Their liaison had lasted the summer. But it had been a mutually beneficial arrangement and they had both left it satisfied. And, yes, they had indeed met several more times after that over the years. It had always left him with that warm, satisfied knot in the middle of his stomach.
It had never left him cold, humiliated and furious.
It had never lost Gryffindor a point. Earned him five for proper motivation and acceptable use of foolhardy bravery, yes, but it had not lost them the House Cup.
Michael Potter was every bit the bastard his father was, and worse. Michael Potter was the sort of wretched human being who found it fun to torment and destroy. At least Potter Senior had only done it for his and his friends' enjoyment. It there, indeed, was any 'only' about it at all.
"Um, excuse me?"
Severus looked up. Green eyes looked back at him, kind, gentle and curious. It seemed the Potter who wasn't a Potter was back. The man had the gall to smile at him.
"I was just wondering if you were Severus Snape? Because I was reading this newspaper earlier, and you know how pictures look all, um, horrible in newspapers and books and papers, and—"
The man's smile widened. "It's you, then? I thought so, but, god, I'd never thought I'd get to meet you! I mean, I knew you were from England and all, but—"
"Who are you?"
The non-Potter blinked. "I. Um. Harry."
The lost Potter boy had been named Frank, if he remembered correctly, but he did not see why a kidnapper would keep a name when everything else was changed.
Harry nodded. From this side, Snape counted up to twelve individual piercings decorating the man's ears. He had never seen the supposed lure with metal bits and pieces in his ears, but he had also never denied that, yes, there were certain witches and wizards who carried it off. William Weasley was one. This Harry was another. He even suited the bit of silver he had in his nose.
"The Potions teacher at my school had, I think, the biggest fan-crush I've ever seen anyone have, I swear." Harry's smile grew. "She talked as though you were a god. Always citing your work."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Then I sincerely hope not a one failed the course."
"Well, there were those who'd rather fantasise about the Quidditch studs, you know."
"I was unaware equines participated in Quidditch, much less had the capacity to navigate brooms." Smirk. Harry blinked, then burst out laughing. "Might I enquire what business you have in London?"
"That obvious I'm not from around here?"
Harry pursed his lips. Moments later Tom placed a glass of white wine in front of the man.
"Thanks, Tom!" Harry called after the man. Taking a sip of his wine, he breathed out loudly in appreciation.
In profile, Severus could easily have made the mistake that this man was, in fact, Michael Potter. Provided his ears were covered, of course. And his hair.
"I got here just this morning. From Te Anau. Took, like, seven Portkeys. Somehow, I think it'd be easier to fly across Europe. I'm thinking of doing that when I go back."
So Harry had been brought up in New Zealand. It would, of course, explain why the man had not been found; it was after all where all the 'unwanted' of the Wizarding world had been sent. He suspected there were still Purebloods in this day and age who sent undesired Squib children down there. Positively barbaric.
"With London as your final destination."
Harry shrugged. He took a few sips of his wine. "I… Mama didn't say until just before she died, but…she said she'd found me here. That she wasn't my real Mum. I knew she wasn't. We didn't look anything like each other, so I knew that, yeah. But…I didn't exactly think she'd, um, kidnapped me. You know? I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm telling you all this—"
"It is because I am a god," Severus drawled. Harry's lips twitched, but this time there was no brilliant smile forthcoming. Pity, truly. It was a wonderful smile.
"Yeah, right," Harry snorted. "So I'm here because I couldn't forget what she said. I tried, you know, for about a year, I think, working and studying and, hell, I did everything I could so that I'd forget. She gave me an address, and all, but…"
"The truth is bitter and painful in that way."
"Ain't arguing with you, there."
Severus gave the man a derisive look for the improper use of English, but he did not comment on it. "And now you are in quest for a family you have never known."
"You might not like what you find, Harry."
"I…what?" Harry blinked.
"I heard you just fine… May I call you Severus, by the way?"
Severus hesitated, but then he lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug. "I do not see why you should not."
"Well, Severus?" Harry drew out his name in a languid drawl that was most pleasant to hear.
Severus took a measured sip of his cognac. When he looked at Harry, the man was frowning again, lines of worry on his forehead, at the corners by his eyes. Severus imagined that, somehow, the brilliance of his eyes was muted. "Do you know the tale of the Dark Lord Voldemort?"
Harry's frown deepened. "Well, just a bit. We heard of him, even down there, you know. It was just no one really cared. But, yeah, he got himself vanquished by some baby."
"Michael Potter," Severus sneered. Even the name tasted sour in his mouth. "They revered him as the Boy Who Lived."
"Yeah, I read something about that, I think. You don't sound like you like him any."
"I do not." The cognac was not the first drink he had partaken that evening. He had enjoyed a pint of bitter stout earlier. And a brandy before that one. "I find him utterly repulsive. In fact, I may even hate him."
His stomach saw fit to remind him that, although he had been drinking, he had been remiss with the eating part. So it was only natural that they moved over to a table in the corner, enjoying a bowl of stew each and sharing a basket of bread. The conversation halted briefly. When it resumed, it did not centre in any way about why Harry was in London or why Severus hated the Potters so.
No, the conversation was absorbed completely around dragons. And a pint or two of bitter stout, the kind Severus enjoyed the best. And, it seemed, Harry also did, if his surprised delight was any indication at all.
That night, Severus fell asleep without problems for the first time in a long while. His sleep was deep, long and uninterrupted.
"He's a fucking idiot!" Harry told him exactly seven days later. He was once again at the Leaky Cauldron, enjoying a pint or two of the various bitter stouts Tom usually kept on stock.
"Yes, many are that way inclined."
Harry laughed, but he was soon serious again. "I meant my…my brother." (God, I have a brother, he whispered.) "He… He's a fucking arsehole."
"Ah, him. Yes, I do agree."
"And you know, Lily and James were so fucking happy to see me again. Fuck, Lily was crying. But Michael just… He said, 'don't go around thinking you're getting a Knut of my inheritance. Mum and Dad are my parents, you just bugger off!' I mean… No, I don't know what I mean. I don't even know what it was that I thought would happen."
"You were, I believe, looking for closure."
Harry blinked. He buried his hands in his hair and leaned his elbows on the table. "I guess."
His hair was not in a tie today. No, indeed, it was free and appeared no more tamed than Potter Senior's or his son's. But it suited this man, particularly the way it was cut in different lengths so that it framed his face. Very becoming, indeed. Especially when it fell in his eyes, just so, causing Severus' fingers to want to reach out and brush it out of the way.
He quenched the impulse.
Severus took a long drink from his beer. When he set it down, Harry was looking at him.
"I'm hungry," the man said.
"Yeah. You up for some greasies?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Harry blinked. "Yeah. You know, um, fish and chips? Greasies. You don't say that?"
Severus shook his head. "No."
"So, you're hungry?"
Severus thought it over for a few seconds, then nodded his assent. "I do not, however, desire 'greasies'. Pie will do, I believe."
And so he had pie, mushroom and chicken and onion and tomatoes, while Harry ate his fish and chips with relish. And drank cider.
They spent the rest of the night talking. Not of dragons, no, but of chameleons, absinthe and New Orleans. In fact, by the end of the night, Severus found himself craving the hallucinogenic beverage for the first time since he was nineteen. It was…most disturbing.
Harry's eyes were absinthe-green.
He slept well that night, dreaming of the Green Fairy and a sea of green.
"We should make a habit of this," Harry told him a week later, big smile on his face as he slid into the chair opposite his. He was, Severus noticed, holding a pint of bitter stout in each hand.
"I had not thought your duration to be of this length," Severus murmured, nodding in thanks as he accepted the pint. It had caused him more discomfort than he was ready to admit, that he would not see this not-Potter who was almost bearable.
"Lily wanted me to. Michael doesn't want me in the house, though, so she got James to let me stay in this little cottage the Potters have in Cambridge." A brief pause where Harry took a drink of his stout. "Michael doesn't want me there, either. He hasn't even been there. But he definitely doesn't want me staying there."
"I was always of the opinion Lily deserved better than Potter," Severus found himself saying. "Did you know, she used to loathe James Potter while still in school."
"I didn't know. She looks knackered, though."
Severus himself was too 'knackered' to come up with an answer to the half-question. But he did appreciate the bitter stout. Harry was the kind of person who was forever trying new brands. This one in particular was very smooth. A name worth taking note off.
"Actually," Harry said after the silence had permeated the space between them for quite some time, "I'm looking for a job."
Harry shrugged, shy smile tugging at his lips. "I like England."
"It has its charms," Severus murmured, smirking just a little bit.
"Yeah. So, I, um, was just wondering if you had any suggestions."
"That would indeed depend upon what skills you have, would it not?"
Harry's smile grew a little wider, but it was still shy. "I used to work in a flower shop back home. I liked it."
Harry shrugged. "Both. It's a lot more open down there. Less of a schism. Think it's because of the Maori, but also because of how many Squibs and whatnots were sent down there." He fiddled with the sleeves of his long-sleeved T-shirt.
"Listen, um, I was wondering if you wanted to go somewhere else to eat tonight."
"A restaurant?" Severus wanted to know, his traitorous heart beating just a little faster.
"Yeah." Harry smiled. "I found this Chinese restaurant over in Cambridge when I was talking a walk the other day. Thought to myself that it looked like a very nice place, but I'm not really the kind who's, well, comfortable going out to eat alone. So I thought I'd ask you." Another tiny little pause that was not really a pause. Merely a chance for Harry to wet his lips before finishing his trail of thought. "I like you."
"I see," Severus found himself saying again.
Harry's face lit up in a truly brilliant smile. "Really?"
"No." Severus smirked. "However."
"Yeah?" His eagerness was like that of a puppy, Severus noted in an offhand way.
"I am hungry."
Harry's smile grew a smidgeon calculated. "Aw, Severus, you weren't waiting for me, were you?"
Severus found he appreciated this kind of teasing much better than he had in a long while. Michael Potter's teasing ended only in his disgrace or humiliation or submission – whichever he had been looking for at that time. He could at least comfort himself with the fact that he had rarely, if ever, given in to the veiled teasing remarks. William Weasley was the oldest brother to a pair of mighty pranksters. Yes, he was spectacular at the act of teasing. Not the kind of teasing Harry was currently subjecting him to, no, but a welcome kind of teasing nonetheless.
Harry, he realised after giving him a look, eyebrow raised, and having the pleasure of seeing the absinthe-green eyes darken, was only looking to invite him out to a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge.
"One cannot help but wonder, then, Harry if you were wanting for me to be waiting so that the satisfaction of asking me out for a meal would, indeed, be yours."
"Oh, that's the most fucking gorgeous yes I've ever had!" Harry grinned, cheeks rosy. "C'me on, then. Let's go!"
Severus let out a put-upon sigh. "If you insist."
"Oh, but I do."
Severus rose, and Harry rose with him, still wearing that ridiculous, radiant smile.
"What is your surname, Harry?" he asked as they made their way out of the Leaky Cauldron and into Diagon Alley.
Harry shrugged. "Smith. Why?"
A hand was placed on his shoulder. "Ready?"
Severus nodded, and then they were in Cambridge, standing in the back garden of a cottage. The garden, despite its imperfections at the first glance, appeared to be well tended. There were no weeds in the flowerbeds or grass between the paving stones on the patio. The urns all looked to be thriving, too, holding herbs, spices and other plants Severus knew was mostly used in cooking. It was by no means a big garden, but it was adequate.
"I've done what I could to save it," Harry was saying, looking around the garden as well. "It was in shambles, you know, when I moved in a couple of weeks ago."
"It is not bad."
"Git," Harry laughed. "Shall we?"
Severus nodded. Harry, he noticed about halfway there, was walking that tiny bit closer to him than was really necessary. Whether he minded or not, he tried his best not contemplating. Why he didn't step away, he also did a very good job of not thinking about.
They were discussing herbs, kinds used in cooking as well as various potions, for a very long time that night.
Severus Floo'd home that night, using the fireplace in Harry's cottage. It was early in the morning when he finally stumbled into bed, stomach full, his head a little dizzy from the excellent wine Harry had offered him when he had invited Severus in. He'd been there, in Harry's cottage, for three hours.
They'd talked, drank wine and played cards.
Severus had smiled. He was quite certain he had smiled twice. Both times, Harry had smiled back at him.
Needless to say, he slept very well what was left of the night. In fact, he didn't wake until almost noon. He had not slept in that late since he was nineteen.
It was another week later. Severus was sipping a class of cognac and reading a book. It was a very good book. It was, in fact, a book about Muggle folklore in the UK.
Harry made his presence known by giving his shoulder a light squeeze before sitting down on the chair next to Severus'.
"Is it good?" he asked, in a hushed whisper.
Harry sat a great deal closer than necessary, but Severus found he didn't mind.
Ever since he had been little a pet peeve of his was when people, both those he knew and those he didn't, insisted on reading over his shoulder. He did, in truth, dislike it so much that he had a tendency to become extremely aggravated, in a most vocal manner.
Harry was reading over his shoulder. Irritation gnawed in his stomach, and his knuckles grew white.
But Harry was also almost resting his head on Severus' shoulder, nestled in close and near, warm and comfortable and warm. Severus' stomach was doing a whole different kind of gnawing because of that. It took only a few sips of the red wine in his hand before Harry's head was resting on Severus' shoulder for real.
It had strange effects on his stomach.
They reached the end of a particular long chapter about various myths and legends centring on trolls.
"Are you hungry?" Harry asked when Severus closed the book.
A short pause, then Harry moved away from where he was leaning against Severus. "D'you wanna try that Greek restaurant we passed on the way back last time?"
"I see no reason to object, Mr Smith," he murmured, feeling oddly dissatisfied with the distance Harry had put between them.
"Delightful, I'm sure, Mr Snape."
Severus' lips twitched in response.
And Harry smiled.
That night Severus stopped himself from kissing Harry a grand total of seven times. Harry touched him a grand total of nine times, two of those being instances when he reached out to squeeze Severus' hand in passing and did not let go for long minutes. Severus did not refuse the offer for tea, the game of cards or the tour of the cottage (sitting room, kitchen, bathroom on the ground floor, bedroom on the first floor – the room did not cover the same area as the ground floor had. There was a basement, too, complete with a fireplace, sofa and several bookshelves full of books). It was a perfect cottage for one person, he thought, but still big enough for one person more to live there. Because the rooms were not overly large or full of empty space. Another man – not Severus Snape – might have called it 'cosy'.
They stood, looking at each other in front of the fireplace for many long minutes until Severus cleared his throat and said, "Goodnight, then, Harry."
Harry smiled. "Yeah, g'night."
"Yes." He reached for the Floo powder. He was just about to throw it down at the dancing flames when Harry touched him, fingers light and warm at his elbow.
"Can…can I Floo you, sometime, maybe?"
It did not, Severus realise, require any sort of contemplation on his part to say, "Yes. I believe I would…like that."
"Great." Harry smiled. Then he let go and stepped back.
"Spinner's End!" Severus called, and stepped through the fire.
That night he dreamt of Harry seeing his house. It was not quite dread coiling at the bottom of his stomach when he woke up.
It was not a week later when Severus saw Harry's face in his fireplace.
"Good day, Harry."
Harry grinned at him. "Listen, um, I was wondering if you'd like to come over for dinner on Friday."
"You can utilise your kitchen, then, I take it?"
"I'm an excellent cook," Harry boasted, but still sounded very young and modest. "But I was thinking of making something outside. You know, barbie. Not the doll," he hastened to add, "but, you know, barbecue."
"Barbecue." Severus tested out the unfamiliar word. It was not, he believed, something wizards and witches ever did.
"Yeah." Harry nodded. "It's delicious. Promise. So?"
Harry looked very nervous, though Severus could not possibly fathom why. "I would be amenable," he murmured.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "That remains to be seen, does it not?"
Harry laughed. "Yeah, suppose."
There was a moment of indecision, when Severus was not sure what to say, and Harry seemed to be hesitating over something. It was, not unsurprisingly, Harry who overcame his dilemma first.
"I don't suppose you feel like an ice-cream?"
He was not, he realised, particularly averse to it. The day had been humid and hot, promising a thunderstorm come twilight. But for now the sun was up, and Severus was heartily tired of it. The promise of something cool was a very welcome distraction.
"Where shall we meet?"
"Don't suppose I could just Floo over?"
Severus hesitated, but then he nodded. "Certainly," he said and stepped back.
Harry emerged wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He looked rather delectable; his biceps were pale, lean but fit. His shorts, thankfully, reached below his knees. Severus found himself feeling quite unsure whether he would have been able to deal with the pale, firm perfection that he was certain Harry's thighs were.
His sitting room was dusty. He had neglected to clean for over a week and he had books in ever growing piles on the floor, his sofa, the table and one of the armchairs.
"Wow," Harry said, "I've never seen this many books in one place!" He sounded awed and jealous. It did wonders for Severus' pride and for a moment he felt smug.
"My bookshelves look so empty compared to yours."
Severus smirked and busied himself with buttoning his waistcoat. He might concede to much, but he would never concede to appear without a waistcoat over his shirt, at the very least. It did not matter that they were likely to only see Muggles this afternoon. It was a matter of principle.
And Harry appeared to like it.
"I know just where to go," Harry informed him, his voice just a notch or two shy of a whisper. Heartbeats later he had Apparated them away to a beach, cliffs lush with bushes and flowers behind them and open stretches of blue ocean in front of them. The sun was low on the sky which accounted for the scant number of Muggles still about. Harry's hand lingered on Severus' arm.
When it moved, it was not to move away.
Severus was not quite certain where, exactly, they were. The beach was as unfamiliar as the hill and yet Harry seemed to be very much at home here.
"You can surf here," Harry said, grinning at him. As if that would explain why Harry would know the existence of such a place.
A moment later Severus murmured, "Surf?"
"You glide on the waves with a board. A bit like flying on the water, I think. Did it all the time back home."
Severus felt thankful that there were so few Muggles about. It made it easier for him to properly appreciate the setting sun and the warm, sweaty hand in his. It was not until they neared their destination that Severus let go of Harry's hand. Harry gave him a look, to which Severus merely arched an eyebrow.
"You promised me ice-cream," he murmured.
Harry grinned. "That I did."
Harry led him to a kiosk next to a restaurant Severus would not have minded trying out. Today, however, he was not hungry. Besides, he hardly had brought the funds for it. It looked rather expensive, located by the beech as it was in the centre of what he assumed had to be an area frequented by tourists.
"Chocolate," he said, not feeling inclined to experience whatever surprises Muggles might have created flavour-wise.
When Harry returned he carried two brightly coloured bowls. "They called them Chocolate Decadence."
Chocolate decadence, indeed, Severus mused. Three scoops of different chocolate ice-creams, warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It was, he decided, not too unbearably sweet and quite acceptable. He could not readily recall the last time he had ordered anything other than two simple scoops of Florean Fortescue's ice-cream. He might have changed the flavour of them on occasion, but never had he ordered himself one of the larger sundaes.
On the way back to the secluded spot Harry had first Apparated them to, Harry reached for his hand again.
Severus was quite certain he had never tasted an ice-cream in his life before that had tasted better than the one he had eaten that early evening together with Harry.
Friday three days later was a week. He found himself standing in front of Harry's door, carrying a bottle of wine, stomach churning in a way that was frightening and yet not uncomfortable. Indeed, he was not even sure if the feeling was unwanted.
It took Harry precisely five seconds – Severus found himself counting – to reach the door and open it.
Harry grinned at him. "Come in."
He stepped up to the door. Harry did not move away.
Severus presented Harry with the wine. He leaned down and gave Harry a chaste kiss on his left cheek, placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and turned him around enough to the side that he could step past.
Harry's smile threatened to split his face in two when Severus turned around, eyebrow raised, to enquire whether or not Harry truly planned on cooking in the doorway. Smirk.
"I take it the wine is to your satisfaction?" he drawled.
"Oh. Oh, yeah," Harry murmured. "It's this way." And Harry led him out in the garden at the back of the house. The door leading out was in the kitchen. He imagined Harry spent most of his cooking time with that door open. He seemed like the kind of person who delighted in the outdoors and fresh weather.
The barbecue was lit. There was a large pan already standing on the grill, containing small, round potatoes. The table on the patio was filled with kitchen equipment. He helped himself to a glass of wine and watched as Harry took bunches of coriander and oregano and even plucked a green chilli from a little bushy plant that had several more to offer from the various urns on the patio. Severus watched Harry tear the coriander and oregano into small pieces with his hands, chop the chilli and garlic and place everything in separate bowls.
"I hope you like salmon." Harry gave him a quick, shy smile as he went over to the grill. In almost no time, he was back at the cutting board, using a sharp knife to cut the salmon in small slices, mix together the spices with oil and vinegar and drizzle it over the salmon. Chimichurri, he called it.
It did look delectable, indeed.
"Wanna get the plates? The potatoes should be done by now, I think."
Severus did and located them easily. And the potatoes were ready, as was the salmon and the grilled asparagus Harry had been hiding behind the pan.
Half of the table was cleared for them to sit and eat, drinking more wine and eating the delicious food.
"So was I right?"
Severus smirked. "It is, indeed, delectable."
Harry's smile widened. "I've got dessert, too."
"Yeah. A sweet pie with lots of berries and ice-cream."
"I can hardly wait," Severus told him with a smirk, contemplating if he could truly fit the last bit of salmon left on his plate in his stomach. Harry had eaten several slices, too, so there was truly not much to speak of in the way of leftovers.
"Aw, don't be like that, Severus!" Harry laughed. His eyes looked particularly green this evening.
"And what would 'like that' be?"
"You know. All pretending to be condescending and aloof when you're being sarcastic. Like when you're teasing me. You tease me a lot, I think."
"Yeah, you do." Harry grinned. "Yeah, I like it."
"You like me, as well, I seem to recall."
His heart need not pound the way it did, he reasoned. It was thoroughly disconcerting and distracting. Harry's smile was shy and sweet.
"I do. I like you a lot, Severus."
"Then it is fortunate that I do not find myself repulsed by you, is it not?" he murmured, but there was a smile threatening to momentarily take over his lips.
"Yeah, it is, isn't it?"
They helped each other move the leftover food and used plates and bowls inside, then they moved back outside. It was a magnificent night. Still light and warm, it was not nearly as much of a chore to sit outside like Severus normally thought. Not with someone like Harry opposite him.
"D'you know how to play backgammon?"
The word was familiar, but only barely so. "No, I do not believe so."
"Wanna learn? I think you'd be good at it."
Three rounds later, Severus was indeed very good at it. Good enough that Harry was alternating between laughing in delight, and pouting with his delectable lips that Severus had spent far too much time observing. He was acting like he were half his age. It was most unbecoming. He was too old for games of this kind.
It was not the backgammon he was referring to.
"Okay, you win!" Harry laughed. "2-1 to you, yeah, and we'll call that the end."
Severus smirked. "Oh, but do you not wish to try out mah-jong, as well? I assure you, I am quite accomplished at that game."
"I'm not surprised," Harry told him, still laughing. "We played it for fun, sometimes, but not often. In school, I mean. We used to have game nights on the weekends. The teachers said it'd help us unwind so we could focus better on classes. Think it worked."
"It did not serve to make you even more unruly?"
Harry shook his head. "No, 'cause we always knew that we'd get to play all those different board games, or go hiking or, well, there was so much to choose between. It helped me focus better. I wasn't all that keen on school. I did my best, but, well. I always learned more when I could do it on my own terms. They were always trying to improve the school's policy and the classes so that it'd be easier to learn. School, they said, shouldn't be pure torture. Learning can be fun and they tried their hardest to make it fun."
"And was it?"
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, most of the time. I mean, there's just no way to make magical theory fun. It's dead boring no matter what you do, but they could make it interesting and they did."
Dismissing Binns, Severus thought, would certainly do wonders for Magical History. He did not see why Albus Dumbledore insisted on keeping him.
"Were you a slacker, Harry?" Severus asked.
Harry shook his head. "Not in the classes I liked."
"And what did you like?"
Harry sat back, a contemplating expression on his face. "I liked Potions, to tell the truth. I was lousy at it, but I liked it. I really liked the hiking and the gardening parts. I liked Charms, Arts and Crafts, Magical Protection, Lore, and the Magical Animals classes. It was fun. I bet you were a total geek for potions, though," Harry teased, wicked smile playing about his lips.
Practical excursions in potions classes? Severus definitely approved of that.
"Hrmm, yes." Severus cleared his throat. "I was rather submerged in the subject, yes."
Harry laughed again. "I bet you were totally cute, too."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I assure you, my nose was no less large when I was in school. Besides, I abhor the word." Harry just laughed, much to his dislike. But it was not a laugh meant to humiliate.
It was a laugh of pleasure. Joy. Sheer…abandonment that sounded absolutely beautiful coming from Harry.
"I was thinking of opening a shop," Harry told him, quite some time later after the laughter was gone and the sun was almost as well. Harry had lit candles, Severus had Conjured glowing lights to float above their heads.
"Yeah. I mean, I know how to work in one, so I think I'd manage to run one, too."
"A flower shop, was it?"
Harr nodded. "Yeah. There's a magical quarter here in Cambridge. Thought of maybe opening something up where the Muggles go, too. On the outskirts. But, I…well. Um. What do you do? I mean it's got something to do with potions, I know that, but—"
"I am a professor at Hogwarts," Severus murmured. "I am…heartily tired of it."
"So do something new."
Severus snorted. "You make it sound so simple."
"'Cause it is, you know."
Harry nodded. "Yeah. You look around for a new job, then you resign." Then green eyes lit up. "Oh! Like, at Cambridge they were advertising for a new potions professor. One who was, um, specialised with some kind of research. Can't remember which, sorry. But you could look that up, couldn't you?"
Severus felt something akin to a glimmer of hope in his heart. Cambridge held one of the two universities for Wizarding kind in the British Isles. The other was located in Ireland. Both were well respected and a position at either of them was something many scholars coveted. Severus was not ashamed to admit he had been one of them, before he realised that he was growing stagnant at Hogwarts. He despised children as a rule, but especially those who did not care to learn. There had been a few students over the years that had drawn his attention. They were, he believed, all working with Potions in some manner. There had been a time when Albus Dumbledore had been most reluctant to let him go, in the beginning. As the years went by, one by one, he had, for a time, lost himself in the repetitious teaching. Now, he was uncertain why he was still at Hogwarts.
The research he managed to cram into every available free hour… That was why he stayed at Hogwarts. The school provided him with so much he would never otherwise be able to afford. At first it might have been because he had been openly revealed as a spy among the Death Eater – the side he had been on had been, as far as the public was concerned, of no importance. That, however, was twenty-three years ago. Surely people had move on by now?
"Perhaps I shall," he murmured.
"You do that. I bet you'd be great." Harry gave him another smile. "You ready for dessert, now? I'll just pop the pie in the oven."
"You do that," Severus gave him his words back.
The pie was delicious, of course. And the plain vanilla ice-cream did it a great justice. They had tea to drink with it, and talked about…
Truly, it was not that important, was it, if he could not recall what they had spent one or two hours discussing? Harry's laughter flowed and his eyes sparkled. Severus murmured, voice low but clear, and smirked whenever Harry would accuse him of teasing. But he could truly not recall what topics they had covered.
"How about we go inside?" Harry suggested when the deepening night brought a light chill with it. Severus nodded and levitated the plates and glasses and cups after him, much to Harry's delight.
Severus had just lowered the dirty dishes into the sink when he turned around and found Harry standing much too close to him. He could feel Harry's warmth, feel his breath upon his face. Harry's eyes looked much darker in this light, his lips much more full and inviting.
His heart was beating so hard, so fast that he feared it would burst free of his chest.
"I feel like an adolescent half my age," he murmured to a Harry who was standing much too still, staring at him with eyes much too green, "It is most unbecoming. I am far too old for games of this nature."
"I think you're absolutely marvellous the way you are, actually," Harry whispered, his voice husky. But he was much closer now. "Sexy and dark."
"Dark, I would attest to."
Harry smiled. "Oh, definitely sexy, too."
"You are mad," Severus told him.
Harry's kiss told him that he disagreed with Severus' assessment. It told him much more, of course, but that would have to wait until he was home, alone, to contemplate. Harry's kiss was warm, hot and deep. There was a hint of tongue, most welcome, and hands on his shoulders.
It was delicious.
When Harry stepped back, he was grinning like a delinquent. Much to his horror, Severus felt that he was smiling also, albeit in a much more subdued manner, and that he could not stop.
"Not mad," he declared.
"I am…not convinced."
"Is that a challenge I hear, Severus Snape?"
Severus managed to transform his smile into a proper smirk. "Indeed, it might be."
There were a grand total of three kisses before he decided it was really much too late and that he should head home. All were as wonderful and delicious as the first, each one a little more daring. He left with a light step and a hopeful heart.
But he was Severus Snape and he had never been allowed neither happiness nor hope without a cost.
His sleep that night was not as deep as he would have liked.
Harry's head was in his fireplace two days later.
"Mr Smith," Severus murmured.
"I miss you."
Severus raised an eyebrow, but his heart was rejoicing. "It has been two days. You normally manage a week, not, of course, counting last week's extra excursion."
Harry smiled. "I bet you missed me, too." He had. He had immersed himself with research and planning. It had always been said that optical nerves could not be repaired or restored. Severus wanted to know why. And he had done as Harry said. He had sent an owl to Cambridge.
He did not expect anything to come of it.
"Then it would be most remiss of me to admit it, would it not?"
Harry's smile grew. "You're a silly Potions Master, all right. But I like you anyway."
It was truly pathetic, it was, how easily his heart succumbed to kind words and beautiful smiles and absinthe-green eyes. "Do you want to come over?" he found himself asking, not aware beforehand that he was about to make the offer.
"I'd love to."
They had tea and sandwiches and Harry did not comment upon the rundown state of the house. If anything, he seemed very much at home in Severus' kitchen, sitting on a rickety chair, sipping tea from a chipped cup and eating sandwiches that were almost stale.
When Harry rose from the table to leave a mere two hours later – their shortest encounter by far – they spent an inordinate amount of time kissing in front of the fireplace.
It was not until a full seven days later that Severus saw Harry again.
"God, Severus!" Harry cried out when he knocked, unannounced, on the door of his cottage. "I thought you were sick of me or something," he murmured against his throat, hugging him tight.
"Nothing so dire, Harry."
"I missed you."
"Yes, well." Severus cleared his throat. He ran a finger down Harry's cheek, then kissed the chapped lips when Harry tilted his head back.
"I called you almost every day on the Floo."
Severus nodded. It was not as distracting as he had feared, fingers in his hair and a head resting on his shoulder. "I decided to take your advice with regard to the open position at Cambridge."
"Told you," Harry muttered. "So? Did they hire you?"
Severus swallowed, once. "They…did. It took four days to properly resign from Hogwarts and pack my belongings." Albus Dumbledore had been most reluctant to let him go. Minerva McGonagall had been an unexpected voice of support in his defence. The Board of Governors had, after a review of his position at Hogwarts, let him go with little fuss. He suspected it had something to do with the dean of the Faculty of Potions. "I have since then been in meetings with the dean of my Faculty at the university. Thank you. For—"
"S'okay, Severus. Now come inside. I need to kiss you at least seven times."
"'Cause I didn't get a kiss for a whole week, now. And I like you, you know, and I missed you. God, I was so worried that you'd got sick of me when I couldn't get hold of you—"
Severus kissed him. Seven times. Then seven more, just for good measure. He urged Harry backwards, then kicked the door shut behind him. He spent the next few kisses with his back pressed up to the door and an eager, warm and gorgeous Harry pressed up to his front, kissing him senseless.
They had Greek again that night. Then, afterwards, they took a much longer route than necessary to reach Harry's home. It was an excuse on his behalf to remain in this not-Potter's company for as long as he could possibly justify. But he had an early meeting in the morrow and could not afford to linger for too long.
"I have to leave now."
Harry looked stricken. "But it's hardly gone ten!"
"I have an early morning. I am meeting with the dean at six thirty. I need my sleep if I am to have my wits about me." She was a very sharp woman, the dean. There were Potions Masters who preferred to work into the late hours of the night. Then there were those who preferred to work in the early mornings of dawn. The dean was one of those persons.
"I do, however, believe I will be done by two."
Harry's face lit up in a brilliant smile. "I can have a late lunch ready! Or—"
"There is a lunch break, you know." Harry looked absolutely stricken again, but the grin was back soon enough. "However, I am sure I can…come over. If you wish. It is not far." He would much rather lunch with Harry than at the university, given half an option.
"That's great!" Harry laughed. Then he hugged him and Severus had to kiss him.
It took him some time before he made it home, and by default into bed.
He had never before been of the opinion that a one-hour lunch break was by far too short. He spent the last two and a half hours before he could once again go to Harry's cottage completely unable to focus on the task in front of him. He was sure he had never had such problems filling in the forms of the terms and conditions for his employment. It was…unprecedented.
No, he decided, as he walked the twenty minutes it took him to get to Harry's cottage, he truly disliked emulating aa love-struck fool half his age. He thought he might start to blame it on Harry's smile and his absinthe-green eyes. There were, of course, other parts of Harry's anatomy that were worth taking note of, too. He realised this as he stepped up to the open gate leading up to Harry's cottage. He was sure it was not the first time.
The shorts Harry was wearing were obscenely short.
Harry had a lovely posterior. He was bent over one of the flowerboxes he had attached in front of the windows to the front walls of the cottage, weeding and removing dead leaves and flowers. Pity he had already done so on the urns standing on the ground. Surely, his backside must look even better the further down he bent?
He found himself leaning against the fence, arms crossed, observing this not-Potter doing something so mundane that he was certain no Potter had ever done it before. Those buttocks were the perfection of buttocks, he was sure. And, yes, Potter's thighs were fit and firm and pale. He could not quite decide which part of Harry's lower half he enjoyed observing the most.
Harr was wearing gardening gloves. He was wearing a vest and gardening gloves. Why was that suddenly so…sexually enticing?
Severus was certain no Potter had ever been this fit.
"Severus!" Harry exclaimed. Severus refocused his gaze and smirked. Harry looked flushed and sweaty. Delicious. "God, you startled me!"
"Not my intention, I assure you."
Harry mock-glared. "I don't think I believe you."
"Yeah. You like being scary."
"That I cannot deny."
Harry chuckled. He had, Severus realised, crossed the distance between them. His nose was red from the sun, and he was sweaty and dirty, a streak of dirt across one cheek. Dust on his arms. Hair sticking to the sides of his face, dark with sweat.
Severus was quite sure he had never seen anything more gorgeous before in his life.
"Were you checking out my arse, Severus?" Harry whispered in his ear, pressed up close to Severus' chest. So close he could almost imagine he felt Harry's stiff nipples through the thin, thin material of his vest.
"It is lovely," he informed Harry. He rested his hands on Harry's sharp hipbones.
"Yeah?" Harry grinned at him. "Yours ain't too bad, either, you know," Harry declared even as he leaned in and kissed him.
They only stopped kissing when the neighbours on the left side of Harry's house arrived at their house in a car.
"Let's go inside," Harry said.
Severus found no reason to object.
"Five days this time Severus, you're getting better," Harry said, after he had done his very best to bring Severus into madness by the sheer force of his kisses alone. It struck him as odd that, over the weeks of their liaison, they had yet to bring it to a more sexual level. He did, however, in his selfishness appreciate it.
It was only after his paramours had seen him undressed that they decided they had better, more worthy and handsome engagements.
That was one reason. There was another reason.
Harry was not a proper Potter, no, but he did look very much like Michael Potter. He cared less for Michael Potter than pebbles that stuck in the soles of his shoes. The pebbles were, at the very least, an annoyance and an inconvenience. Michael Potter was less than nothing.
"Yes, well. I believe I am almost settled in. Soon, the rest of the summer will be mine to spend at my discretion until we convene again on the fourteenth of August." Severus handed Harry a paper bag.
"Strawberries. I thought we might eat them."
"You, Severus, are a star. With cream?"
"If you wish," he murmured.
He decided to kiss Harry's flaking nose, burned by the sun, just because he could. Harry gave him a wry smile. He reached down and twined their fingers together before he led Severus to the back garden, only stopping long enough in the kitchen to pluck a flask of cream from the Cold Cupboard.
Severus Summoned the spoons and the bowls and the sugar.
"Lily…Lily wants me to come to her birthday party," Harry said after a while. "She was here the other day. I like her. I think she likes me, too."
"Indeed?" He watched as Harry bit down on a strawberry, ripe and plumb, teeth and lips and tongue stained red.
"I want you to come with me."
Severus did not drop the spoon, no, his hand merely twitched and caused the strawberry on his spoon to fall back down in his bowl. Harry, of course, noticed.
"I…severely dislike your brother," he heard himself say, then he shook his head and took control. "I have no wish to see him ever again."
"Yeah, well, I don't like him either. But it's Lily's birthday and I want you to come with me, so I'll at least have one person I know. Please? She said I could bring someone and I got the feeling you knew her—"
"I did. Then she married Potter."
Harry's face took on a sudden and very sly and calculating facet. "Just how well did you know her?"
"How well?" he repeated, quizzical.
"I can't help but notice she's very beautiful, you know," Harry said quietly.
"She is," Severus agreed. "And maybe once I did. It becomes harder every year to remember one's teenage infatuations. They varied to the extreme," he drawled. Harry's lips twitched into a smile.
"Yeah, I guess. It's just…she's my, um, my biological mother. And—"
"Your brother is partial to playing games. Particularly with people. I have no wish to see him ever again."
Harry blinked. "And…what?"
Severus closed his mouth, lips pursed the tiniest bit as he thought. He was not certain why he was telling Harry this. Then again, there so much else he was not certain about, either, where Harry was concerned. Was this when they discussed past failings and, what?
He hated Michael Potter.
He hated himself for giving Michael Potter even that much attention. Even now, three years later. No.
Especially now, three years later.
"What did he do, Severus?" Harry's voice was so very serious. His eyes, unless Severus was misreading them, were…concerned.
He hoped it was for him. His fool of a heart wanted it to be for him.
"I believe," he said very carefully, "that he and his cronies had decided to…see how queer their greasy git of a Potions Master truly was."
Severus said, "William Weasley and I enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement for some years. The Weasleys are a very large family. I do not think it unlikely that, through some means or other, Ronald Weasley - he is your age," he added for Harry's benefit - "would have been made aware of it. He is…not what one might call open-minded."
William Weasley had mentioned it more than once. In fact, Ronald Weasley appeared to have put an end to at least two of his relationships over the years, if he had interpreted William Weasley's words correctly.
"What happened?" Harry's voice was careful. Moderated.
He reached for Severus' hands across the table. But he did not hold them, no. Severus would have found that condescending and a form of suffocation. Harry merely rested his own callused hands atop Severus'.
It felt inexplicably…pleasant.
"I have found over the years that a student harbouring a crush on a teacher will, when graduation draws near, either act upon it or decide it is not worth acting upon, and simply wish to keep the memories."
Harry's slightly sheepish smile told him that, yes, even Harry had suffered through infatuations with his teachers.
"Yes, quite," he murmured. "So. Michael Potter."
"What did he do?" Harry asked again.
"His father and his cronies once thought it amusing to lure me into a house with a werewolf. I am not certain why I had expected his son to be of better…material." Harry was very tense and pale. "Michael Potter asked to remain after class. He told me, as bluntly as one can, that he would like to try out a relationship of some kind."
"Of course not. I sent him out and gave him a detention with Argus Filch, an individual much disliked by the students. But he came back. Every Thursday for some months. Even I am not paranoid enough to believe that a student would have that kind of determination and motivation, Potter or otherwise, just to see a…prank through. Most remiss of me."
"But…why? When we were bored at school, we went surfing or we got permission to borrow horses so we could ride and explore. I just. I mean… Lily said we were twins, and I can see that, yeah, but—"
"The Potters are rich. They lost a child, you; it is no great mystery that the remaining child was…spoiled beyond redemption." Severus' jaw tightened. "One would think they could, at the very least, have taught him what we like to call consequences. I do not see why you should be at all similar."
Harry was silent for some time, a frown marring his features as he thought it over. It was rather distracting that he also decided he needed to nibble on his lower lip, yes, quite like that, the entire time. Severus would much rather prefer to do that himself.
"I…I don't think I need the details, do I?"
"I doubt it," Severus said, voice tight and dry.
Harry flashed a smile. "I'm James Potter's son, too, you know."
"Yes," Severus agreed, his heart tight this time. "But you are not a Potter."
Harry was not Potter. Not in that sense, no. The likeness to Lily, however, was strong. It was not merely the eyes, as it had been with Michael Potter, but rather the spirit as well. The spirit he had long since thought gone in Lily Potter was very much alive in Harry.
Harry grinned. It was one of his radiant grins that, on first glance, threatened to outshine the sun. "No, I'm not, am I?"
"Indeed not," Severus agreed.
The green eyes sparkled. The flaking nose was scrunched up, his grin was that wide, and the bit of silver in the left nostril glinted at him. His wild hair was loose and tucked behind his ears. More silver glinted there.
"So," Harry murmured, pitching his voice lower, "You wanna see my tattoo?"
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You have one?"
"Yeah." Harry's grin shifted into dangerous. "It's in that hollow, you know, down by my left hip."
Severus' throat was suddenly much too dry.
"So…you wanna see it?"
No, this Harry was very clearly not Potter, either James or Michael, but a new entity altogether but still very much the same. This time, however, it was obvious that the proverbial apple had, indeed, fallen far from the tree.
"I believe I shall have to." And he smirked.
He used his wand long enough only to cast enough magic to ensure they would not be either disturbed or seen by the Muggles who lived nearby.
Harry was in his lap by the time he put it down, hands in his hair and tongue in his mouth. Very much where he wanted him, indeed. He brought his hands to the perfection that was Harry's posterior and squeezed.
He had the pleasure of hearing Harry grunt softly in pleasure.
It was his turn to voice pleasure when the hips as a direct result twitched forward.
"You have any tattoos?" Harry rasped in his ear, biting the lobe.
Severus considered the question before his mind turned too hazy with sexual desire. "No," he murmured in the end. "Not anymore."
"Discuss it later?"
"Yes," Severus agreed and slipped one hand up under Harry's vest, fingers trailing the knobbly spine.
This was not Potter.
There were promising to be long and numerous laters with not-Potters.
It was two weeks later. Severus was not amused per se, but he found himself not completely disagreeable, either. Because before the laters was an obstruction of sorts – as he should have known very well; Lily had always been inordinately stubborn; of course Harry would be as well – there was a highly uncomfortable…event to survive. Harry, it seemed, was rather adamant that Severus attend this celebration with him. Harry was, in fact, so adamant that he had invited himself over yesterday and simply never left.
Which was why Severus now knew that yes, Harry wore glasses. Just like James Potter and Michael Potter. It was rather distracting of Harry to watch him over the brim of said spectacles while he dried himself with a wave of his wand after a most refreshing shower – which he had indulged in alone. He bent over to pull on a clean pair of pants when he heard Harry rise from the bed.
"Contact lenses. Been wearing them since I was fifteen," Harry told him. He appeared strangely self-conscious while wearing the glasses. As if, not having worn them daily for years, he was now no longer comfortable with them.
"Yes. Quite," Severus muttered. He selected a pair of black linen trousers to wear.
"You only have black clothes?" Harry was standing behind him, peeking over his shoulder at the contents of Severus' closet where, indeed, most items were black.
"I like black."
Severus snorted even as he reached for a shirt. Harry was helpful – quite distracting, rather – enough to button it for him, select an appropriate tie, and then proceeded to select which waistcoat to wear over that and which robe as well.
Summertime was too hot by far to wear the additional jacket.
Harry himself was still delectably naked apart from the glasses he was currently giving Severus a most sultry look over. "You are," Harry told him, very matter of fact. "Big nose and all."
Harry nodded. He appeared to hesitate, wetting his lips with the tip of his tongue, before saying, just a touch shy of casual, "Noticed you just spelled your hair dry. Thought maybe it was that you were one of those who don't believe in shampoo or are allergic to it, you know?" Harry touched his own hair, then fingered Severus'.
"I am not a Muggle, Harry," Severus snapped.
Severus gave Harry a glare. "So, if I were allergic I could easily brew a remedy."
"You don't use shampoo?"
Severus snorted. "I am a Potions Master; of course I use suitable cleansers. Unfortunately, save for using ethyl hydrate based shampoo—"
"—it'll always be really oily because of the fumes. Think I knew that," Harry said. "My Potions teacher was always wearing hairnets and hats."
"If it bothers you," he began, very stiffly.
"Nah, just curious," Harry was quick to say, that easy grin once again in place.
He was somewhat less impressed with the kiss Harry bestowed upon the very tip of his nose.
"Are you intending to attend your mother's birthday party naked?"
Harry appeared suddenly shy. "D'you think she'd want me to call her that? Mum?"
"Do you want to?"
"I…I don't know," Harry admitted even as he was bending down to see where his pants might have ended up the night before. Shapely buttocks, indeed. "I mean, kidnapped or not, Annabelle's always gonna be Mama. James and Lily… I mean," he said again, now on his knees and reaching under Severus' bed for something, presumably his pants. "I'm twenty-three, I don't need parents the same way I did when I was thirteen or three, y'know?"
Severus admired the view. "Regardless, the knowledge that there is parental guidance to be obtained can sometimes lift a burden from your shoulders."
"True." A pause where Harry did not move, closely followed by a great sigh. "I'm thinking of taking the name."
"Yeah. Never much liked Smith, to tell you the truth."
"I was never overly fond of Potter."
Harry smiled at him. "You're fond of me."
"You are an anomaly amongst Potters."
"Is that so?"
"Quite," Severus muttered. "Now get dressed."
"Yes, sir!" Harry gave him a cheeky salute and did as told.
It had been three years, Severus was certain, since he had last laid eyes on Lily Potter. Harry had been correct, it seemed: she looked exhausted. She had never been a large woman. Petite, he believed, it was called, but now she looked worn down to the very edges of her bones.
"'Lo, Lily," Harry was greeting her, drawing her into an embrace.
Severus was feeling extremely uncomfortable and by each passing second exceedingly more convinced that accompanying Harry here was a mistake in the extreme.
"How have you been? I haven't heard from you lately."
"Yeah, sorry about that," Harry was saying, "I was, um, you know. With that, um, man of mine." He sounded uncertain, as if he did not know whether Lily would react favourably to this.
Lily looked up over Harry's shoulder – most remiss of her that she had not done so sooner – and looked straight into his eyes.
"Lily," he said.
She appeared utterly flabbergasted. "Sev…"
He had, much to his own dismay, never been able to get her to call him by any other name. Even when they were not on speaking terms, she would still call him by that abbreviation of his name.
"I…" She shook herself. The smile that emerged was as sunny as the sun. In a way, it lent the appearance of temporarily taking away the tiredness from her face. "It's good to see you again, Sev."
"Likewise," he found it within himself to say, and mean. "I believe congratulations are in order?"
"Yeah, um, happy birthday, Lily," Harry chimed in. He handed her the wrapped gift he had antagonised over for days before finally buying. "Severus said you'd like this. I hope it's—"
"I'm sure it's fine, Harry." Harry calmed, marginally. "Sev always had good taste. You should know," she teased and received an – dare he say it? – endearing smile from Harry.
"My…Mama never liked my boyfriends," Harry said. Lily winced a little at the mention of the woman who had caused her so much pain. "But…you like him? It's okay, I mean? That it's a boyfriend—"
"She has been aware of my proclivities for years, Harry." Severus placed a hand at the small of Harry's back, feeling the tense muscles and the nervousness jittering under the skin. "I dare say she will not care."
Lily nodded and smiled. "Of course I don't mind, Harry. I'm sure you'll be very happy together."
Harry just grinned.
"Aren't you going to open it?" he asked moments later, when Lily had made no move to do so. "Severus said you'd like it but I just don't know and—" Harry babbled, repeating himself. It was a side of Harry Severus had never encountered before, this nervous Harry who desperately wanted to be accepted and liked by the family he had never known.
"It's fine, Harry," she laughed.
Harry was about to comment that she couldn't possibly know that, Severus was sure, when someone else called out for Harry. Someone Severus was quite sure he did not want to see. He had, of course, known that before he reluctantly agreed, yes, but agreeing did not in any way translate into liking. He was certain the rest of James Potter's friends were invited also.
But Harry had asked, and so here he was.
"Harry! Back again?"
This time, it was Severus who tensed.
"James! Hi. Of course I'm here again, it's Lily's birthday. Wouldn't miss it." Lily had received a hug, James a handshake.
Severus? A quite familiar glare. He returned it, of course. After all, he never had and never would, like James Potter. Nor would he ever forgive him. "Potter."
"Haven't you done enough, Snape?" Potter snapped.
"He's my boyfriend, James," Harry snapped back, nervousness and the desire to be accepted temporarily forgotten. "I know you don't like him, but I do."
Potter blinked, glanced at Lily then at Harry. "What lie did you tell him, Snape?"
"The one with the shack and the werewolf," Severus drawled. Lily flinched while Potter's glare turned weary. It was a strange expression on a man he had severely disliked since childhood. Somehow, you never envisioned your adversaries and bullies as human. Harry stepped closer, making it much easier for Severus to slip his arm the whole way round Harry's waist. The discomfort he had felt at the thought of Muggles seeing him with Harry like this was absent when Severus would have expected it to be doubly intense in a setting such as this one.
It struck him as almost comical at that moment that he was in essence meeting the parents. Their relationship might be new, and Harry might still be too uncertain about his role in a new, strange family but the fact was that James and Lily Potter were Harry's parents.
There was essentially only one more person in this…motley family.
"Must you fight?" Lily intervened, much as she had in their schooldays. "On today of all days?"
The tired lines around her eyes, the shadows in them, were back.
Severus backed down. Harry smiled when James Potter did the same and turned to Lily, once again urging her to open the gift with something akin childlike enthusiasm.
As the evening wore on, he had found himself conversing with William Weasley several times. It had been some years since they last spoke face to face, and though strange, he found he had missed this one Weasley. It had, after all, been the very first Weasley he'd had the dubious…pleasureof teaching. It appeared he had finally settled down with a wife and was happy. It was through said wife that William was invited in the first place. She and Lily appeared to be rather good friends, working together as they had been for quite some years.
Severus was cautiously letting himself be happy, as well, in his still new relationship with Harry.
It was when he was returning from a visit to the loo that he found Michael Potter waiting for him. It was the first time he saw him that evening. If he was correct in his assumption, Michael Potter had not even returned home for his own mother's birthday until just now. That much was obvious from just one glance at Lily.
"Heard you're shagging my so called brother now, Snape."
Severus arched an eyebrow.
"That desperate for me, are you, that you go running straight to my—"
"I was never desperate for you, Potter," Severus drawled. "I loathed you then, I loathe you now. Whatever misconceptions you were suffering under—" He hated how his heart was pounding so fast and how his hands were sweaty and unsteady.
"Oh, no, Snape," Potter murmured, malicious, ugly glint in his eyes as he stepped closer, "you loved me."
"I did not." Because he had not. Whatever may have been or may not have been, that much he was certain of. Fascinated, yes. Infatuated, yes. Foolish, no doubt about it. But in love? Most assuredly not. "I might have loved the idea of buggering the son of James Potter, but never you." The lie tasted sour in his mouth. Sourer still when he caught sight of Harry's horror-struck face in the doorway behind Michael Potter. "You, I loathed."
"You wouldn't have taken all those points if you didn't—"
"Didn't what? Care?" Severus scoffed. "You were a child. A spoiled, horrible child!" he spat. "Did you think I was unaware of the potions you thought you were oh, so cleverly lifting from my supplies? I assure you, I was very aware." A misdemeanour, yes. Enough to cost him the House Cup? Probably not. At the time, and even now, Severus found that he did not care.
It had hurt to be mocked, to be laughed at. To be played as a fool for a foolish child's entertainment. Severus was nothing if not petty.
It had hurt to realise that Michael Potter had never been interested in him in any other way than to see him humiliated. The nagging doubt that he would never be good enough for anyone had taken firm root in him, then.
It was only now beginning to let up. Slowly.
"You're still the one who's taking it up the arse like some Knockturn Alley whore, Snape!" Potter hissed. "Didn't hesitate to bend over for me. Did my brother say that he liked you, and you bent over for him, too? You know, I often wondered if you did the same for my father, you're so easy. Do you think of me when Harry buggers you? Wishing it were me, like the sick bastard you are? Merlin, you're so ugly I don't get how anyone would want you, let alone touch you!"
Before he could reply, Harry grabbed his brother by the shoulder, twisted him around and socked Michael Potter straight on the nose, fist landing with a satisfying crunch that caused Michael Potter to grunt with pain.
"You're the sick one!" Harry spat. "You're five hours late to your own mother's party and the first fucking thing you do is harass my fucking boyfriend that you fucking humiliated 'cause you were fucking bored! Fuck that!" he cried, sounding absolutely furious. Severus thought he could detect an undertone of hurt, but he was not sure.
"I told you—"
"I don't care!" Harry shouted. "I don't care about money or inheritance or your fucking family tapestries! I care about getting to know James and Lily, I care about finding out what kind of family I could have had, I care about making them happy by showing up in time and I fucking well care about Severus! You? I don't care for. But I care about Lily and James and so I won't play your stupid games."
And Harry turned around, gave him a look that was both stubborn and wounded, grabbed him by the elbow and marched them straight back into the loo.
Severus found himself shoved up against the door with Harry pressing close. "You don't do it because of what he said about James, do you?" Harry whispered in his ear, hugging him so tight it was almost hard to breathe. "And you aren't with me because you want him, are you? It's me you want, right? Me?"
"Try not to succumb to the hereditary stupidity of the Potters," Severus whispered back and had the delight of coaxing a weak laugh from Harry.
"But I'm one," Harry protested. "Sort of."
"Sort of," Severus agreed.
Harry was silent for a little while. "But…it's me, right?"
Severus hesitated only for a little while before answering. "Despite my better judgment, yes. I find that…"
"That?" Harry urged.
"That I quite like you."
"I like you, too," Harry whispered in his ear again, then tugged at his earlobe with his teeth in a most pleasing way. "Maybe next summer, we can go to New Zealand, and I'll show you where I grew up."
Severus found himself smiling and glad that no one was there to witness it. There were long and numerous laters with not-Potters, yes, but also with the Potters that were like Harry.
"I would like that."
"Me, too, Tell me about your tattoo?"
For a moment, Severus did not understand what Harry was talking about. Then he remembered. "I do not have it any more."
"Tell me anyway. I'll tell you about something I used to have that I don't any more."