Written for the 2011 Snarry-a-thon. Thanks to lovetoseverus and roozetter for helping with this story. No real warnings to speak of, except the usual. To those wondering about Pains and Contradictions, I hope to finish the next chapter today. Cross your fingers for me.
Harry Apparated right into a small hole in the road and nearly pulled Snape to the ground as he tried to catch himself.
"Watch it, Potter!" Snape snarled, his actions betraying his irritation as he helped Harry keep his feet. "And for Merlin's sake, be quiet!" He turned and began to walk down the darkest street in Knockturn Alley. "Damn my miserable luck for getting stuck with you as a partner."
Harry had heard Snape complain about the same before. He frowned. "But aren't senior Aurors allowed to pick their own—"
His wand up and out, Harry followed Snape through the darkened alley and up the street, trying to keep his mind on what they were doing. There'd been a report of an illegal potions lab in the area, and Harry knew how important catching the wizards involved was to Snape.
And to the Ministry. And to Harry, too, of course.
His injured pride forced his thoughts back to the previous subject. When he'd first learned that Snape would be his partner, Harry had nearly turned in his badge. The idea of having to work with Snape in close quarters on a daily basis was nearly too much to bear. When his anger at the situation faded, he was forced to admit it had done something for his peace of mind. After all, he was far less likely to die if he was under Snape-watch.
But something had changed in the past few months. He wasn't sure what it was or what to call it, but Snape's barbs didn't hurt him as they once did. And the enmity they'd shared at Hogwarts had melted into something friendly, something amiable, something almost...affectionate. These days if someone were to ask Harry right out, he'd be forced to say that yes, Snape was his friend.
And sometimes, when Snape didn't think he was looking, Harry would catch him staring. There was something in that gaze that had made Harry's schoolboy hatred disappear, leaving something completely different in its wake. If only he could put his finger on what it had become.
"Potter!" Snape hissed, poking his head around a corner and motioning Harry to follow him.
There, in the doorway of an abandoned building, were three wizards talking softly. Slowly, one of them pulled out what was unmistakably a potions phial from his robes, accepting a package that made another unmistakable clink as it landed in the palm of his hand.
"That's all we need," Snape muttered, before stepping out from the shadows.
"Wait," Harry said, "we should wait for back-up..." But Snape was already halfway out of the alley, making his way to arrest the wizards. Harry barely had a moment to wonder when Snape had become the impulsive one when five more wizards stepped out of the abandoned building.
Harry watched as Snape hexed two of the wizards before the other six wizards knew what had happened. Running to catch up, Harry bound one of them, watching in horror as a powerful curse broke through Snape's shield.
The wizards left standing Apparated, and Harry felt his heart skip a beat as he watched Snape collapse to his knees.
"Snape!" Harry shouted, rushing to his side to catch him before he fell back to the ground. He reached a hand out to touch Snape's chest and felt a warm wetness. "Oh God, no," he whispered, before pulling his hand back, covered in blood.
"Harry..." Snape gasped, then slipped from Harry's hold, Harry only managing to catch his head before it hit the ground.
Forcing his happiest memory into the forefront of his mind, Harry cast his Patronus, hoping help would arrive in time.
"Just be still," he said, nearly panicking. This couldn't be happening. Snape couldn't be dying. Not when they were finally getting along after so many years of enmity, not when Harry was finally beginning to appreciate his friendship. Not when Harry's feeling had begun to change...
"Harry..." Snape said again, lifting a weak hand to grab the collar of Harry's robes.
"Oh, God," Harry whispered, sure that Snape would whisper some deathbed confession, something about his mother perhaps or some apology about being such an arse for the last ten years.
Harry didn't fight the slow pull of Snape's hand towards his face, but when he turned his ear towards Snape's mouth he only heard the words, "Look at me." He did and was so shocked he nearly dropped Snape's head.
Eyes that had only in the briefest of glances held anything but contempt were shining and expressing some emotion that Harry had never seen directed at him.
"Harry, I..." And then cold, slender fingers grasped at his hair until his head was pulled down for a kiss.
It was chaste and dry, and Harry felt his heart break at the pureness of it. When it ended, he looked back into Snape's eyes that seemed more at peace than they had been a moment ago.
"What— I mean—" Harry stuttered, not able to understand what was happening. What did this mean and why now?
"Harry," Snape whispered, his eyes falling shut, "I love you...you twit."
And then his head titled back, and the only sound in the quiet of the alley was Harry's screaming.
Harry paced the waiting room in St. Mungo's while the Healers dealt with Snape, absentmindedly running a finger over his lips for what was easily the tenth time in an hour.
Snape had kissed him. Snape said that he loved him, said it to him, Harry. Not some ghost of the past, not some hallucination that Snape's mind had supplied for him. Snape said he'd love him.
And now he might be dying. Harry paced the room, and prayed to gods he wasn't sure he believed in that Snape would live. He'd been confused before, but with this revelation, Harry could see it now. The stolen glances, the nearly-friendly banter, the way Snape continued to look out for him. He'd been a fool not to see it before.
"Auror Potter?" a voice said, tearing Harry from his thoughts.
"How is he?" Harry asked, holding his breath.
"Not out of the woods yet, but...we believe with time he'll recover."
Closing his eyes, Harry let out a deep breath, and nearly had to grasp the wall for support. Snape was alive, it wasn't too late. He allowed the thought to sink in for a moment, giving his shattered nerves a much-needed breather.
"Thank you," he said, before opening his eyes and realizing the Healer had left.
He sat down in a chair, determined to wait until he could see Snape for himself. And then when he woke up Harry would...
Oh, God, he thought. Running a hand over his face, he considered how different everything seemed compared to a few hours ago. Now that he knew how Snape felt, there was no going back. And though Harry felt a fondness for Snape, did that mean that he returned the kind of love that Snape felt for him?
With a groan, Harry went to get a snack from downstairs. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Exhausted, Harry made his way to Snape's room again, two weeks after the incident. He'd made this trip thirteen times before, always flirting with the medi-witches to stay just a little bit after visiting hours ended, only to make his way back the next morning. He absentmindedly wondered how long he could take advantage of Kingsley's good graces as he approached the now-familiar door. Just as he'd done every morning of Snape's convalescence, Harry held his breath before opening it, hoping that today would be the day for the most awkward conversation any man had ever had. Ever.
Slowly, he pushed the door open, then let out an uneven breath. Snape was awake and laid back against his pillows, still looking so weak.
He minutely turned his head towards the door, and Harry saw him flinch before he rasped, "Get out."
"Good morning," Harry said, walking into the room, wishing he'd thought to bring something. "I'm so glad you're awake."
"Are you deaf, Potter? I said get out."
"You called me Harry...before," he said. He'd prepared for this, he told himself even as his heart began to beat frantically in his chest. For two weeks straight he did nothing but think of this conversation over and over again, thinking up Snape-like possibilities in his head and ways he'd get around them. He'd thought of every argument Snape could make to get him tossed out, and had come up with the perfect statements against each one.
But standing there in the sterile white room, all higher thought seemed to abandon him as he stood like a man facing a firing squad.
"I'll be putting in a request to change partners as soon as I recover," Snape said, and it was only Harry's newfound knowledge that made the pain in his statement apparent. "Now get out."
"So..." Harry said, feeling brave and taking a step closer to the bed. "You did choose me to be your partner, then?"
The scowl on Snape's face deepened, and he turned to Harry. "Have you come to mock me, Potter? Finally reverted to type, kicking a man when he's down just like your father?"
Ignoring the jibe on his parentage, Harry smiled to himself as his mind began working again. Snape wouldn't be so hurt if he didn't still care.
Apparently his smile provided Snape with a different assumption. "Of course," he said under his breath, his tone deadly. "Say whatever you came to say and leave. Prove every assumption I ever made about you correct."
"You told me you loved me," Harry said, trying to put some warmth in his tone. "Do you really believe I'd mock anyone who felt that way about me, whether I returned their feelings or not?"
"I was delusional," Snape said, either not hearing or choosing to ignore Harry's implication.
"You were dying," Harry said, taking another step closer. "And you said my name. Called me a twit even, so I knew you were talking to me." He smiled then, and sat in a chair by the bed, slowly taking Snape's hand in his own.
Dark eyes slowly moved from a dead stare at the wall down to the hand covering his own. "Don't, Potter," Snape said in a whisper. "Even your father wasn't this cruel to—"
"I'm not my father," Harry said, leaning closer to Snape. Snape stared at him with a look that would have sent anyone else running, but Harry could sense the cautious optimism he couldn't hide. "And you've been asleep for two weeks. Gave me some time to sort out my own feelings."
Snape scoffed then, but the hand under Harry's didn't move. Snape didn't move. After a moment, it became apparent that he wasn't going to say anything. What happened next would completely depend on Harry.
Harry slowly closed the space between them, Snape's eyes widening minutely as he leaned down for a kiss. It was just as chaste and just dry as their first, but then Harry opened his lips and Snape responded, a soft moan torn from his throat. That was all the response Harry needed before he ran a hand through Snape's hair, putting a hand on his cheek. He sighed to himself, thinking this was much better than their last kiss: a beginning instead of a goodbye.
When it ended, Harry pulled his face back, but kept the hand on Snape's cheek. Snape's look of muted astonishment pulled another smile from him.
"You didn't have to wait until you thought you were dying to tell me, you know?" Harry said, trying to push past some of the awkwardness.
"As I told you before, Potter, I was delusional," Snape said, but still kept hold of Harry's hand. Harry wondered if Snape knew how hard he was squeezing it.
"You called me something else before," he said with a smile, sliding off the chair and carefully into the bed.
"That I did," Snape said, rubbing his thumb along Harry's hand, "twit."