Title: Presumed Clarity
Other pairings/threesome: None
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 7672
Warning(s): … Umm, some language, smart people, stubborn/idiotic males, explicit smexin'... that's about it?
Prompt: #80
Summary: Harry has got a thing for Severus. Particularly his intellect. Severus would have a thing for Harry if he weren't such a complete dunderhead.
A/N: Huge thanks to my super amazing beta! You know who you are! Without you, bb, this would be quite a chore to read! I owe it all to her, people! … Also, this is my first official fest participation, and I am excited to be entering this humble fic for your enjoyment. I hope it does the pairing justice!

Oh, oh! Any of the smart things that are talked about are purely made up by me, so don't think you've been lax on keeping up on your fandom magical theory! I don't even know what Severus talks about half the time, and I wrote it! XD Other than that, thank you prompter for such an awesomely fun prompt! I hope this is close to what you had envisioned!

...oOo...Part 1...oOo...

Severus ignored the door into the lounge opening and carried on with his conversation.

"That may be true, Madame, but time and again 'Knorr's Adaption to Magical Contamination' has shown that it's entirely possible to treat hex surfeit and not have to sacrifice the patient threshold. Potter, instead of standing in the doorway imitating a Bundimun, why don't you join us?" The twenty two-year-old finally blinked behind those hideous glasses of his and shut the door softly behind him as he walked hesitantly to take a seat close by the fire. He rested the volume he had brought with him on his lap and immediately buried his nose between in its pages.

Severus barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes at the newest edition to the teaching staff and turned back to Poppy. No doubt the imbecile had opted to waste his night on some frivolous quidditch rag.

Nevermind this room was traditionally the staff lounge, where they could gather and discuss the latest magical developments or merely come in search of a change of scenery from their own quarters.

The prickly ex-spy cut off his train of thought before he could truly work himself up to a temper. Despite his colleagues' collective acknowledgement that Potter had matured since he had last taught the 'saviour,' Severus had yet to see evidence of such a turnabout in Potter.

Besides the obvious, of course. Severus had no trouble admitting the brat was... handsome, but the fact was negligible. What use was a body like Potter's if the brain in charge was inconsequential?

"Severus, the threshold of any witch or wizard should never be approached no matter the assurance. It's simply too dangerous and risky to consider it!"

The argument continued in this vein for a while longer. Soon Severus found his gaze occasionally drifting to Potter as he spoke to the mediwitch. Merciful Merlin, the boy was fidgeting, and a sneer appeared on the potions master's face. Clearly his 'peers' were delusional to think Potter had achieved any sense of decorum.

"Have you anything to contribute, Potter?" The mess of black hair shot up almost violently to stare at Severus, a slightly dazed look in his green eyes. A single raised eyebrow seemed to snap the man-child from whatever had him so enthralled and he started to stammer a reply, at which point Severus collected his things and bid farewell to Poppy and delivered a smirking nod to the dumbfounded buffoon still trying to collect nonexistent thoughts.

...oOo...Part 2...oOo...

Harry currently found himself in quite a predicament.

The headmistress had called him to her office after a long morning of classes and had appealed to him to fetch Snape to her office. He had tried to protest, claiming the professor hadn't finished his class.

"By the time you arrive at the dungeons Professor Potter, your colleague will have finished his lessons. I'll see you at the high table for lunch." And faced with that resounding dismissal, Harry left feeling like a chastised first year.

His mind wandered as he made his way down the corridors and moving stairs and trusted his feet to take him through the ancient castle he had walked for nearly half his life. Invariably, his mind couldn't be trusted as his feet could and Harry found himself thinking of his current... obsession with Severus Snape.

Harry shook his head. He needed to get over this fast, before he embarrassed himself further. Time and again he had blushed and stumbled over himself and stuttered through implausible excuses. Snape must think him an utter pillock. At least, if he hadn't already. Harry had no doubt he did now.

He had tried to ignore the man, just let him be and go on with his (if not normal) regular life. He'd taken his NEWTs, spent a few years as an Auror trainee and decided it wasn't for him. He's still not sure why it surprised him that he couldn't stomach the fighting anymore.

After the uproar quitting the MLE had caused, Harry was eager to loaf around Grimmauld Place for a while. During that time he'd discovered why exactlyhe hadn't really hit it off with any girls. He was definitely and irrevocably gay and, after a period of adjustment, accepted this as another facet to his strange life.

Then Hogwarts happened, again, and being a professor with Severus Snape was slowly driving him around the bend.

A portrait's conversation snapped him out of his morose thoughts and he realized he had walked right past Snape's classroom. The lack of students in the corridors told him he had arrived early.

He walked back quietly, as he was always compelled to when the halls were empty, and listened carefully at the seam of the door.

Dear Merlin, he's giving a lecture, was the only thought that went through Harry's brain. Immediately following that stunned realization was the certainty that all the blood which previously had been used for thinking had been sent straight to his cock. Despite knowing he needed to walk away and compose himself before any childrenfound him in this state Harry pressed himself closer to the doorway. A gentle stream of cold air hissed past his cheek as he listened and hardly dared to breathe.

"You must take the Floo Compound and cool it to 42°. You will then carefully ladle the mixture into a shallow, flat container like the cooking pans the house elves have generously donated for your use tomorrow. After several hours the potion will have solidified and is nearly ready for powdering."

Harry bit his lip to contain the desperate groan welling up at the back of his throat. It was completely unfair that Snape had a voice that sexy. Harry could imagine the professor pacing back and forth in front of his students: his long robes draped over wide shoulders and billowing gracefully about his boots.

"After the mixture has solidified completely, it is most effective to break apart the calcified potion into fragments with the pestle. Proceed to grind the fragments as you did the petrified cedar bark in your mortar. Mind that you have not cleansed the pestle; it was discovered in the 1864 Murton/Habernathy Study that the residue from the bark heightens the efficacy of the powder."

Harry pressed his forehead to the wall and slowly sank to his knees. He knew very well that at any moment a student could pass by or a ghost might slip right through him but, fucking hell, he couldn't resist loosening his trouser button and slipping his hand down to his aching-

"I say, Julianna, what is that young man doing?" Harry choked and tugged his hand back, hissing as he caught his knuckles on the zipper. He whipped his head to see a portrait occupied by two teenage girls dressed in Victorian style clothing staring curiously at him. They continued to whisper about him behind their white, gloved hands as Harry hastily re-buttoned his trousers and quickly stumbled to the nearest loo.


He waited for the fourth years to meander their way toward the staircases before he stepped through the door. Harry double-checked that his breathing was calm, his hair was only as messy as usual, his hands were clean and his face wasn't beet red. He doubted he looked presentable at all.

"Professor Potter. May I ask why you have consider it necessary to darken my doorstep?" The man was stooped over his desk and didn't bother to stop shuffling his papers long enough to look at Harry. That didn't prevent Harry from hearing the sneer in his tone. Instead of being saddened by this, he was relieved. This way Snape couldn't notice that maybe his eyes were a little glazed or that his cheekbones were still tinted pink or his hands were shaking badly enough to warrant them being stuffed into his pockets.

"The Headmistress would like to see you in her office, Sir."

"Very well, Potter. I look forward to your company at lunch."

Harry fled.

...oOo...Part 3...oOo...

Days after Potter had summoned him to Minerva's office the dull roar of the Great Hall was as cacophonous as always.

"There are certain absolutes in the world that can not be contested, Severus. What you are saying is simply not possible. Wouldn't you agree, Harry?"

Severus wished he had stayed locked in his quarters that night. He didn't recall how this pleasant conversation had turned into a magical theory debate on whether it was possible that the wizarding world hadn't seen all there was to be seen and discovered. Then that had turned into a debate on how wizards are the weakest members of the magical world. Thenit had turned to a topic he normally avoided at all costs. Severus inwardly scoffed at himself. This 'peace' business was throwing him off his game.

And then she just had to rope Potter into the conversation! The man most likely had a stupefied expression on his face, as if he were a troll facing the momentous decision of left or right. He couldn't see, fortunately, because Potter had been stuck between him and Sinistra this evening. Potter's brain must have caught up since he drew his shoulders out of that horrible slouch and straightened up to answer.

"I'd have to agree with Professor Snape," Potter said, sounding quite self-assured. "There are certain forces that occasionally interfere with the world. Just the sheer existence of magic proves that. We can't possibly be so arrogant as to assume to be able to control such a power. We may be able to access a tiny amount everyday, but magic itself is beyond our understanding." Potter talked with his hands, one of which still held his fork, waving erratically in the air as he spoke.

Well. How interesting.

Sinistra nodded her head as she conceded the point and returned her attention to the rest of her meal. Potter did so as well, but Severus saw him glance out the corner of his eye at him.

"Really, Potter?" He couldn't believe he was going to continue the conversation with this nitwit. "What other thoughts do you have on the subject?"

Severus saw a peculiar look cross Potter's face, emotions too fast to register individually, but he caught a sense of... hope and trepidation? Nevertheless, his voice was even as he replied.

"Well, it's 'impossible' to bring the dead to life, it's 'impossible' to be truly invisible, it's 'impossible' to block a killing curse. I've, sort of... done all three. With a little assistance, of course." Potter was facing him now, his posture slightly rigid, a familiar arrogance plastered on his face. Severus could feel his temper beginning to boil. Potter's insolence obviously hadn't abated over the years and still knew no bounds.

"You mean to say you have defied magic's laws themselves? I can hardly believe you adequately teach your students enough to follow the Charms curriculum, let alone profess to have broken the foundations of magic itself."

Potter's expression clouded over in response, and Severus was abruptly very aware that this man had faced one of the most powerful dark wizards in recent history seven times and survived. His eyes had an ancient look to them for a moment, almost ageless... then the moment was gone. Severus watched the man shrug it off.

"I did say I had assistance. Do you know the legend of the three brothers?" He quickly made the connection to Potter's previous statement and his brow rose nearly of its own accord.

"You expect me to believe the Deathly Hallows are still present in the world?" Simply ridiculous; but Potter turned back to his plate and stabbed his ham testily.

"Maybe I'll tell you the story sometime." And wasn't that the most curious thing? Severus expected to be confronted with hot anger for being doubted, for that temper he was intimately familiar with to rear its ugly head, but instead was met by a quiet confidence. He made a quick decision.

"I look forward to it, Potter." His head shot up at Severus' words and met his eyes. Inexplicably his face turned red and he wasted no time excusing himself from the table.

Curious, indeed.

...oOo...Part 4...oOo...

"Despite the common belief that wand motions are necessary components to casting, it is a minority that understands wand movement limits the magic used in everyday casting. A personal study in which I compared two methods, the largely unknown Jules Method and the more widely used Wellington Method showed clearly the results I had theorized."

Someone sat opposite his armchair and Harry murmured a vague greeting in the midst of his reading.

"It quickly became clear to me that the Jules Method is the most useful for long-term, focused casting. The conservation of physical movement actually increases the potency of the spell, thus-"

"I found that article to be particularly gripping as well." Harry nearly fell out of his seat in surprise but fortunately caught himself on the arm of the chair. He hoisted himself up again and blinked at Severus. He didn't wear his usual sneer, which was certainly optimistic. Harry didn't want to bet on how long it would take for that to change.

"Good afternoon, Professor Snape."

"Is there a specific reason you have hidden yourself away in the most obscure section of the library?"

Harry felt a small grin appear on his face. "I couldn't stand the students following me around anymore, so I lost them and hid here."

"Ah, yes, the horrors of your adoring public. However shall you recover?" Severus seemed to be in a... less-than-confrontational mood today. Well, Harry would take mockery over scorn any day. Harry breathed an inward sigh and closed 'Modern Magical Conventions Vol. 249', his finger bookmarking his page.

"Well, I'm sure I'll survive. My third year class, however, will be the end of me by the time the Christmas Holidays come around."

"Would that be Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff, or..."

"Yeah, the Slytherin/Gryffindor students are bound and determined to have me pulling my hair in frustration. How do you deal with them all?"

Severus leaned to the side and rested his elbow on the arm of his chair. He crossed his leg over his knee at the ankle, and Harry had to swallow firmly against the lump in his throat at the sight of him so relaxed. It was a display he never thought he would be granted permission to see.

"I ask myself that very same question every day, Potter." Harry laughed, somewhat tensely, and when he looked at the man across from him, was treated to yet another rare sight: Severus' smile.

Quite suddenly, Harry was breathless for an entirely different reason. Truly the man was going to be the death of him.

They sobered and Harry sensed Severus had something on his mind. He watched him steadily for a moment, then decided to ask, "Was there something you wanted, Sir?"

The man frowned and nodded sharply. "I would like to continue our conversation from earlier."

Harry thought back through his confusion and then realised what Severus was referring to. He placed the journal on the side table face down so he could continue reading the article later on. Harry sat back and gave his colleague his undivided attention.

"Okay. What would you like to know?"

"What does that silly myth have to do with your role in the war?" Severus seemed particularly straight forward, so Harry explained. He was a little curious as to why Dumbledore never mentioned it to Severus, but dismissed the question as an impossible one to answer.

Through his careful phrasing of events long past, he observed Severus as the man absorbed the details. He most likely had already pieced together the whole scheme before this conversation, but he doubted the keystone to the story would be the Hallows. He listened to Harry's words with expressionless concentration. Thinking back to that confusing time, Harry thought it hard to believe himself, and he had been there. To have been the master of death, if only for a few moments, had changed something deep down inside of him.

He could still feel a remnant of that strength sometimes: the immeasurable power that had flowed through his being, his soul feeling like a sodden towel with the weight of his sacrifice, walking forward with the inevitable knowledge of his own impending death looming over him.

He had never, not once, regretted scattering the Hallows.

"Potter." Harry blinked to shake off his memories. Severus came back into focus, leaning forward slightly. Harry realized he had finished his tale some time ago and quirked his mouth into a half smile.

"So there you have it. I have no doubt you can put all the pieces together now." It seemed Severus intended to speak, but was interrupted by the lunch bell. Harry gathered all his Gryffindor courage and ploughed ahead.

"Why don't you join me for dinner tonight in my quarters, Sir? I'm sure the both of us could do with more time away from the students, especially after the classes I have this afternoon." Severus appeared to consider his offer, and if that didn't get Harry's hopes up, nothing would.

"That would be acceptable, Potter." Severus rose and Harry jumped up as well.

"Great! Then I'll see you this evening." Before either of them left the little corner of the library Harry turned to Severus and said, mischief gleaming in his eyes, "You know, I don't know what everyone complains about; your company isn't at all off-putting!"

He quickly retreated before Severus could hex his arse off.

...oOo...Part 5...oOo...

Severus stomped his to the ruddy irritating man's quarters. Potter's parting taunt had tempted Severus to curse him into next week, if only he wasn't so damned agile. So much for his so-called infamous Gryffindor courage.

He fumed until he arrived at the new charms professor's chambers, then got a hold of himself; it would not do to show how much Potter had affected him, that would exhibit a vulnerability that Severus would never in a million years willingly reveal. Not that Potter affected him in any way, it was the principle of the thing.

Severus knocked sharply, then more impatiently when there was no response. Had the empty-headed fool really forgotten his own invitation? After five minutes and no Potter, Severus tried turning the handle. He immediately felt the wards, but more curiously, felt them shudder and melt away as he turned the knob. The door creaked slightly as if to warn the owner of intruders in place of the already dismantled wards.

One careful step into the main room and he froze, stunned at the display in front of him. Lying across every surface, hanging from every available space, propped against various pieces of furniture and stacks of books were... toys.

Wooden trains beautifully detailed and stained to perfection, puffing steam and following tracks along the walls, delicate sparrows with wings made of rice paper and exposed nickel gears flapped gently through the air, some chasing the lazy trains. A large basin had been set up and was teaming with steamboats and crystal hippocampi diving and jumping through the water's surface. The sides of the faux lake's container were spelled clear to showcase the small merpeople settlement below, the inhabitants apparently pursuing their daily lives.

He stepped further into the room and let the door swing shut behind him. Severus's eyes were drawn to another display. Perhaps a dozen animated porcelain sculptures milled through a peaceful picnic scene: children chasing each other in an endless game of tag, parents looking on fondly, dogs barking soundlessly up at unseen squirrels in the trees. Turning again he noticed stuffed toys of, it seemed, every species, magical and otherwise: lions, elephants, dragons, hippopotami, bears, rabbits, dolphins, unicorns, hippogriffs, snakes, and many others were shelved below the chugging locomotives.


The stunned head of house whirled in quite an unseemly fashion and stared at Potter, who stared right back. He had apparently just got out of the shower, which explained why he hadn't answered the door. He was dripping wet and a towel was slung precariously low around his hips, held there only by the edge tucked against his skin. His hands were occupied by drying his unruly hair with a second smaller towel.

The scene appeared frozen in time with the exception of the displays' periodically repeated lives. Then air seemed to rush back into the room and Potter uttered a strangled squeak and dashed through the door next to the one he had appeared from. Severus heard a yelped "Sorry!" before the door slammed shut.

Severus discreetly cleared his throat and shifted his stance. Potter was certainly... fit... these days. A light tan and firm musculature had immediately caught Severus' attention, and if he had been prone to self-pity he would have called the situation 'unfair.'

Since he wasn't, he supposed he would just have to admire the view.

Severus circled the room, perusing the toys more closely. The animals were wholly non-magical and perfectly stationary. A few steps to the right and the hippocampi seemed to notice him. They performed choreographed dances and stunts, jumping and diving over and across each other, seeming to compete against each other. Severus glanced up as he heard the train whistle as it steamed noisily by.

He heard steps behind him and found his attention drawn to a hand that reached past him to pluck a passing bird from the air. Potter gripped the body of the toy between his thumb and fore-finger gently.

"These were the first I made. In between quitting the DMLE and being employed at Hogwarts I sat around Grimmauld Place being bored out of my mind. One day I found a piece of the old stair railing lying in a corner while cleaning up, maybe a week after the major reconstruction began.

"I didn't know anything about carving wood: what tools I needed or how to bring it to life, so I went to the kitchen, grabbed the biggest knife I could find and started chipping away at this poor scrap of junk wood. Got quite a few cuts to remember that by, let me tell you." Potter was petting the bird softly around the gears, joints and artificial tendons, and the small plaything seemed to preen under the attention. Severus looked at Potter and saw a tender expression on his face, and he thought maybe Potter had forgotten his presence altogether.

"The first was quite pitiful, but I didn't have the heart to throw it away, with its twisted tail and too big head and tiny wings. It was eventually the first of many, and for two years I did nothing but research woodworking, welding and manycharms and transfigurations. I even got into clay, pottery and porcelain. Magic certainly helped with the detail there!" Potter had grown excited and yet he gently launched the bird into the air to let it join its flock to fly about the room in an endless cycle.

Severus did notstare as the other began to passionately wave his hands at the different objects surrounding them. Not even when Potter began to sound semi-intelligent in his explanations. Perish the thought.

"I needed magic to create the detailing of the Picnic Scene, especially when I painted their faces and clothing. Oh, and the unbreakable charm is practically impossible to apply after the figurines have been in the kiln. I had to go through many others to realise that it's most effective when it's cast on the dried, raw material, in their case it was a mix of clay and silica. The glaze was put on with a brush, and then magically evened out over the figures. I found that to be the most efficient way to make sure the little edges and dips in the figurines were covered as well.

"Oh, and the merpeople! They were a particular challenge when I found that my enchantments didn't hold up nearly as well under the underwater. I had to actually invent a whole new string of spells to help them stand up to resist the wear and tear. Magic is different in the water and erosion happens a lot faster when they are in perpetual motion. The glaze wears down at least four times as quickly!"

Potter kept on: about his trains, which ran on a magically charged crystal sitting in the engine; his animals, and he confessed they had been the simpler to work out, since he had previously known how to stitch at the very least. Then Potter led him to a work table that had seen its share of the work load. Nicks, gouges and stains covered the entire rough surface.

"And this is my work-in-progress." Indeed it was; Severus could see a music box, halfway assembled, next to it was a circular base that appeared to be sculptured alabaster embedded with a jade forest. Lying beside that was another clay miniature that had not been painted or glazed yet but was very recognizable as Hogwarts Castle.

"A snow globe, see? I wanted to do something a little bit more complicated since I had access to the library here, and I wanted to find the clay and silica from around the lake and quidditch pitch..." At this point, Severus tuned him out and surrendered to the thought that had been creeping up on him as he stood here in Potter's room.

He was... veryimpressed with the craftsmanship he had seen here. He didn't doubt that the man could bring in a pretty knut for any of these masterful creations, especially the porcelain work. Severus was no slouch in his charms; in fact he made sure to keep his wand skills sharp at all times. These water charms though... Potter had said he had invented some of these charms himself, and the fact that they hadn't exploded in his face in the past half hour he had been here showed Severus that Potter knew what he was doing. He was probably a Master in his own right.

The charms professor's speech was interrupted by the pop of house elf apparition. Dinner had arrived, and Severus realized another thought had pushed its way through the wall of old prejudices: Potter could be someone he wanted to know if he was as intelligent as this and actually used his head, maybe he could even become a friend.

And with that body... The memory of that dripping wet body sent a sharp jolt of arousal down his spine. Perhaps, with some careful manoeuvring, he could be more.


Severus spent a few weeks observing Potter, and he noticed certain things about the man that he would not have noticed with his customary distaste marring his focus.

First and foremost, he found Potter to be just as handsome as he had been at the start of term. Although, if Severus was forced to comment under threat of torture, he would have to admit that Potter looked... very fine indeed. He felt no guilt when he watched the way Harry walked through the halls or noticed how his eyes brightened when he spoke of a subject that he was passionate about.

He also saw that if he hid himself away and did not announce his presence when Potter was holding his own discussions that the charms professor not only knew his field, but had apparently studied with regards to Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts and even Astronomy. Severus' scholarly spirit itched to discuss charmed potions with the man.

He also discovered that he had been unconscionably blind to the now apparent reason that sent Potter running from a room; he had thought the man was bored out of his mind and was escaping the debates, but Severus had become aware of the blushes and tension by now and his awkward gait certainly gave him away.

He would have been angrier with himself if not for the fact that Potter was apparently attracted to him, or at least his intellect. Perhaps a return dinner invitation was in order. Severus was inordinately pleased with himself: he couldn't be planning with any more Slytherin cunning than if he were Salazar Slytherin himself.

...oOo...Part 6...oOo...

"I'll see you for dinner tonight, Potter?"

"Of course, Sir. Have a good afternoon."

Harry took a step to the side and watched Severus turn before he did the same. He headed toward his last lesson of the afternoon thinking of how different things had been this past week. Severus had seemed downright sociable around him. All the sidelong glances and soft smirks had put Harry's heart (and cock) on high alert and he didn't know if he could stand much more. Hope had lodged itself firmly in his chest and he knew he would do something stupid if his situation stayed stagnant for long.

Dinner with the older man had been superb, to say the least. When Harry had received the first invitation delivered to him after his first class, he'd needed to double check that the note was really, truly addressed to him. When the possibilities had presented themselves before him, his heart had nearly jumped out of his chest in one impressive thump.

This afternoon's lesson could not be over soon enough.


Now, here he was, standing outside Severus' door for the second time. He raised his fist to knock on the oak door, but before he could, it swung wide open of its own accord. Harry jumped a little and illogically looked both ways, like he was participating in an illicit affair and was afraid he would be caught. He inwardly smacked himself and stepped through, calling out "Professor?" as he entered the vaguely familiar living room.

"In here. Dinner has already been delivered." The voice drifted through to Harry and he followed, finding Severus seated at the dining table sipping red wine from a fragile looking glass. Harry took his seat hurriedly and tried to appear confident when he felt the exact opposite. It struck Harry how awkward he must look as he stood and how self-assured Severus was as he sat there.

Harry could tell something was different tonight as he sat across from his former professor. He had a suspicion that Severus was up to something, because really, when wasn't he? A subtle tension was in the air tonight, and another clue was set before him as Severus took another sip of his wine.

Harry watched his throat contract as he swallowed and how sensual Severus looked when he tipped his head back to finish off the glass. A cunning spark glinted in the other man's eyes and caught Harry's attention as Severus brought his head back down. Harry had, on frequent occasion been called thick-headed, but he wasn't dim enough to miss that Severus had something in mind for tonight. It occurred to Harry quite suddenly that Severus was apparently having all the fun. A wicked thought popped into his head.

"The meal looks lovely, Sir-"

"Call me Severus, Harry, I think we could dispense with the formalities in such... intimate quarters."

Harry tried to be subtle about swallowing the lump in his throat and immediately made an effort to hold onto his suddenly rattled plan.

"Of course, Severus. I'm curious to know whether this meal is being served in the Great Hall this evening. It seems lavish." Harry tried to recall every etiquette technique he had observed so long ago at the Dursleys' and the more recent Ministry functions he had been forced to attend. He raised his fork and knife to cut a piece from the chicken breast that had been extravagantly doused in a delicious hollandaise sauce.

He raised the piece slowly to his mouth which opened with a small lick to his lips and let the chicken just brush past his lips: his excuse to collect the sauce with a slow lick and a, hopefully, sexy moan of enjoyment. A quick look across the table confirmed that Severus was staring.

Harry felt his cheeks warm slightly, but his success spurred him into new levels of confidence.

"How were your lessons today, Severus?" Harry's voice seemed to shake him back into motion and he reached for his own utensils. Perfectly in control, as always.

"Just fine, Harry. There were no incidents of any permanent consequence." Harry hummed a response and then they were quiet apart from the soft sounds of glasses being lifted and set down, knives lightly scraping against the china and the fabric of their sleeves brushing against the tablecloth. Harry tried to coax another reaction from him throughout the meal but Severus, besides that initial show of interest, smoothly replied and continued eating.

If not for that first telling response, Harry might have conceded defeat, but he knewthat beneath his iron control Severus was just as affected as Harry was. Severus, damn him, didn't even have to try.

Not too much time later, the meal had been removed and both men stood from the table.

"Perhaps you would care to join me for a game of chess?" Severus was already moving toward the living area furnished with tasteful cherry wood tables and a chocolate brown leather sofa with matching armchairs sitting by the marble fireplace.

Harry couldn't bring himself to refuse. "I must warn you, I'm dreadful at this game. I don't think I've won in months." They walked further into the room and Severus went to retrieve a beautiful mahogany chess set from its place on the shelf and brought it to the table by the fireplace. They turned the armchairs to face each other and sat down.

"Have you not had an adequate instructor?" Despite being quite clueless, Harry was paying complete attention tonight and Severus' tone seemed to suggest he was alluding to more than what his words were saying. Harry wracked his brain for a suitable response.

"I suppose I've received more of a learn-by-the-seat-of-your-pants education than anything." Harry retrieved his pieces from an identical drawer he could see Severus had pulled out on his side and arranged them on the board.

"It seems a pity that such potential has been squandered for an opponent's personal victories. I would be happy to remedy your sorely lacking instruction in this matter."

Oh, shit.

"Um," Harry laughed nervously, his throat strangely constricted. "I hardly think right now is the time to start lecturing me, Professor."

"Nonsense, Harry. When else would you have such ample opportunity to learn?" Harry stared at the board and felt like he was one of Severus' experiments, stared at and judged incompetent by those beautiful black eyes. He cleared his throat and observed Severus first move, a pawn two squares forward.

"It's really quite simple despite the seemingly complicated rules. The game revolves around three basic principles: you must be able to judge the consequences of every move, observe the whole playing field and not just the individual battles, and cautiously plan your strategy. This is the main reason the game was used to teach war strategy in the early 15th century.

"Now movement comes into play. Pawns may move two squares ahead in the opening move. You may choose to move a pawn or a knight, which is the only other piece that may be played because of its ability to leap over the other pieces."

Harry knew this, Ron had taught him in their first year, but he couldn't for the life of him make his jaw move to tell Severus this. He had no choice but to let the man continue. He moved a pawn to try to take his mind off his straining erection and took a slow, shuddering breath.

Severus' lingering looks and calculated words no longer carried the playfulness they had at dinner. As they continued playing the game Harry nearly lost his already strained control when all the clues came together and he finally realized that Severus knew precisely what effect he had on Harry when he started showcasing his intelligence like this. He knew exactlywhat he was doing to him!

Harry would have jumped up and left, offering some ham-fisted and half-arsed excuse, if not for the humiliation he would have suffered at his obviously aroused state. His face burned and his chest constricted, amplifying his feeling of distress. Clearly the man was playing with him, but the game wasn't as innocent as chess. As it was, he moved his rook to follow his pawn.

Hope and bitterness and most of all confusion fought inside him. Harry couldn't figure out why Severus had such a sudden increase of interest in him, despite the recent developments in their 'friendship.'

The game progressed through Harry's uselessly spinning thoughts, relentlessly coiling arousal and Severus' persistent voice explaining the subtle nuances of the game. Soon it became apparent that he was, only too predictably, losing again. A glance at the clock revealed that it had been a mere hour since the game had started. The playing field was crowded with ivory and Harry was tempted to just concede defeat and run, but Severus would never let him go with his dignity intact. His attention was brought back to the game when Severus moved two pieces at once.

"Wait, what was that?"

Severus looked at him and smirked lightly. "You are paying attention again, I see. This move is called castling; the only other move besides the promotion in which two pieces can be moved simultaneously. Various requirements must be met in order to make this move: the king and rook used must not be previously moved, the king must not be currently in check or put itself in check, they must be in the same rank and they may not move through any squares that are threatened by other pieces." Harry nodded vaguely, then changed the movement into one of confusion.

"I don't get it, why can't the king move across if it's in danger?" His voice sounded a million kilometres away, but he could hear Severus clearer than ever. Severus got up from his chair and moved to stand beside Harry. He quickly turned the board so the white pieces were now Harry's, replaced his pieces and then moved behind his chair.

"It is said in the basic rules that 'one cannot castle out of, through, or into check.' See here," and Severus leaned over Harry's shoulder to reach the board. His hair brushed Harry's ear and the younger man's entire body trembled. Severus' left hand was moving the king to various squares demonstrating where the danger was. Harry could only concentrate on the way he could feel that voice resonate through him when he was so close and how earthy Severus smelled once Harry remembered how to breathe.

Sometime through the explanation Harry felt Severus' other hand rest on his shoulder and he couldn't help but reach up with his right hand and grasp it tightly. He couldn't believe how turned on he was, he had completely forgotten what Severus had been trying to teach him. All he was aware of now was the deliciously warm hand on his shoulder and the silky, rich, intense voice so close to him.

"And here..." The pieces were abandoned but Severus kept talking and Harry was lost in a haze of lust. Severus apparently required his full attention, however, and he received it immediately when Harry sensed the man lean even further over him. A quiet rustle of cloth against him and strong, lean, exquisite fingers abruptly cupped his constrained prick. Harry groaned loudly and simultaneously pushed back into his very supportive chair, thrust up into that fantastically warm hand, and clung harder to the one on his shoulder. He felt lips tracing his neck and his knee jerked into the chess set, scattering the pieces everywhere.

"Oh, g- Severus, w-what are you-?" Harry gasped loudly as the man shifted his grip to be able to maneuver more smoothly and he couldn't prevent his unoccupied hand from darting to grasp Severus forearm. He dug his nails in and begged himself not to let this end too quickly because Harry was quickly losing himself to this man.

"It seems quite obvious to me, Harry." One quick nip at his neck and Harry was exposing his neck to give better access. Severus' hand firmly rubbed back and forth across his cock and the rough friction of the movement sent sparks of pleasure coursing through his body. Harry tried to breathe steadily in the hopes that the effort would stave off his release as long as possible, but Severus seemed to be aiming for the exact opposite. He repeated his strokes and Harry shivered violently when nails pulled at the fabric and caused the denim to bunch and then release with a quick snap against his aching cock.

"Please, Severus," Harry begged, but he lost track of his words as Severus quickly attacked the fastenings. When he finallygot the hindering clothing open Harry could barely breathe as relief took overwhelmed his senses. Severus ran his palm over the head of Harry's cock and dragged over his prick with slick precision making Harry stop breathing altogether. He could feel the telltale tension coiling in his gut like the snakes Severus so admired and tried to warn him, but found it impossible to form a coherent thought let alone speak.

Severus quickened his pace and tightened his fist and Harry would have arched into that marvelous hand except he was held down by the one on his shoulder. The voice softly spoke into his neck, those lips (god, how Harry wanted to taste those lips!) brushed his over-sensitized skin sending little shock waves to his cock.

"Need more, Severus, please, need you," Harry sensed more than felt Severus raise his mouth to whisper relentlessly in his ear and his words set his heart pounding a hundred times faster than ever.

"You cannot imagine how glorious you look, begging, moaning and writhing for me. Do you know I have marked you now, so everyone may see? Do you realize that with every shudder and sigh, you give more of yourself to me? And I will steal every desperate moan and trembling scream from you, Harry, until there is nothing left to give. And then you will be mine."

Severus shifted and their lips crashed together in a wild blur of passion and with a pleasantly painful scrape of a nail against his cock Harry was shouting his release into Severus' neck, a series of sounds pulled from him as the man demanded everything Harry could give. He was sure the only thing keeping him from utterly falling to pieces was Severus arm, which had wrapped tightly around his chest without Harry noticing.

Some time passed while Harry caught his breath and he could hear the crackling of the fireplace and the steady ticking of a clock, somewhere nearby. They stayed motionless until Harry pressed his hand against Severus arm, since he suspected the man's back wouldn't forgive him unless he straightened. Severus accepted that and stood straight. Aftershocks rippled through his body as the man released him. Harry hastily dug out his wand and cast his usual charm, fixed his clothing and then stood to face the still silent professor, who had just given him the best hand-job he'd ever had, and had told him quite unexpectedly that his own desires were returned. But...

Harry's hand gripped his elbow and he gathered his courage. "You know, it's not just a- a kink, right? Why would you, I mean- you don't even like me!" And just like that, his confusion and hidden vulnerability and utter mortification wanted to claw up his throat and jab at the man until he looked just as raw and exposed as he felt. Merlin, why him? It had been going so well! No doubt the man just wanted to prove how stupid he really w-.

"Do refrain from the needless histrionics, Harry. I realize this has not been a simple one-off. Despite my unfortunate attitude these past weeks, I have seen you, Harry. I have seen your courage and fortitude and your skill with a... wand." Harry choked out a laugh. Really, at a time like this Severus was going for the cliché approach? But he felt himself calm down and he listened through his surprise. Was Severus admitting he... admired him?

"Most of all, I see a man that I could easily become addicted to. Before I had, shall we say, an epiphany, I had thought you crass and without a thought in your head, but I see you now. I am not certain this will become anything- more, but I would certainly enjoy finding out." Harry was back to breathing quickly, hardly able to believe this was happening. Severus was actually confessing his feelingsto him!

More words followed but Harry was too busy tackling him to take much notice. He wrapped his arms around the man and eventually he felt Severus do the same.

"So what happens now?" His voice rumbled through his chest and Harry savored the feeling. His aimless thoughts paused and he considered Severus' words. It sounded innocent enough, but his question suggested a deeper meaning. Harry lifted his head from the man's shoulder and let his hands run through Severus' hair. With only a little effort he drew Severus down for a brief chaste kiss, heard him sigh and felt his arms tighten around him, which made Harry smile and prompted him to speak.

"Whatever we want to happen, I guess."