1. Prizing highly
2. Having an affection or liking for
3. Foolishly tender or indulgent towards
Severus was… fond of Harry Potter. Yes, fond was definitely the most… appropriate word to use to describe Severus'… feelings when it came to the son of Lily and James Potter.
Severus supposed that in a different universe, in a different time, or even just in a different place, the limited affection he held for the boy might not exist. If Lily hadn't stayed his friend after that debacle in high school… if James had remained the bullying git he'd been in school… if Severus had taken Lucius Malfoy up on that one offer… the possibilities were mind-boggling. Severus didn't dwell on these imaginary situations very often. They only came up when he was drinking alone, but it seemed that once he started, it was impossible to stop until he fell into a fitful sleep full of disconcerting images.
It was entirely too easy for Severus to imagine a world where Harry Potter hated him, and he hated Harry Potter. Severus supposed it was because hate and love were so closely intertwined as emotions, and since it was so easy to love Harry Potter, it must obviously be easy to hate him as well.
When Severus was REALLY getting inebriated, (as he unfortunately was now) he occasionally entertained fantasies of Harry feeling something more than affectionate respect for him. Severus knew very well that the very idea was foolish. And yet… there were times when Harry smiled in just a way… Severus lived for those smiles.
It was entirely inappropriate, Severus knew. Oh, he knew very well. There were a million and one reasons why he should quash all desire for the boy. He was the same age as the boy's parents. He had acted as a mentor to the boy throughout his adolescence. He was a greasy old science teacher and Harry was a youth of unimaginable charm and beauty.
And yet… and yet…
Harry was sweet. Harry was kind. Harry always stood up for those who couldn't defend themselves. Yes, Severus had watched the child grow from infancy into adulthood, but it had been an enlightening nineteen, almost twenty years. Those years proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that nature always overcame nurture, and yet nurture was everything when it came to raising a child. Severus had watched the always-perfect Lily make horrendous mistakes when it came to her son, and yet the childish James had risen to the challenge of Fatherhood with a remarkable level of grace and understanding. Through it all Harry had proved that he would never be a carbon copy of either of his parents (despite his damn scary resemblance to his father). He wasn't even a bizarre blend of the both of them like some children Severus had seen. He was his own person, kind, wonderful, and altogether too much for Severus to ignore.
Severus glared into his whiskey. He really should know better than to drink alone. He only ever mooned over the Potter boy like this when he didn't have someone to distract him from is adolescent-esque pining.
"Severus?" Ah, speak of the devil, and he will appear. "Why are you drinking alone?"
If you're thinking that you need someone to distract you from thoughts of a specific person, and that person appears to distract you, does that mean you've summoned two devils?
"I am indulging, Mr. Potter. It is not something I do very often, but I do do it nonetheless, no matter what your dogfather might think."
"He just can't understand you."
"That's putting it mildly. Why are you here? I realize that my company his highly desirable, but you saw me a mere two hours ago. You do recall that abysmal 'Welcome home Harry' dinner your mother put on this evening, don't you? If you don't I'd like to take the liberty of checking you for drugs, if you don't mind." Harry laughed. It was a warm sound that had been appealing as an infant, and only grew more so as his voice deepened (apart from a small period of time when the boy's voice was cracking. Severus prefers to not think about that particular section of personal history).
"Yes, I remember it. It's actually why I'm here, in a roundabout way. After you all left, Mum rounded on Dad and started harping on him that it was his fault it went so badly. He said it was her fault for inviting the Dursley's, and then mum said it was all Sirius' fault. It slowly dissolved into an all-out war, and I decided that I didn't want to be there when it ended."
"Why not? Surely you can simply ensconce yourself in your bedroom?"
"I've figured out that when they fight like that, it isn't going to be resolved for at least a day, and until it is, they're both tense and snap at everything. It's better to be anywhere else when they row like this."
"Why didn't you go to your dogfather's? Surely he and his mate would be more entertaining."
"He had that look in his eye when he and Remus left. Don't want to be anywhere near them tonight."
"What look, exactly, are you referring to?"
"The one that says they're going to go at it like dog-rabbit hybrids." Severus had made the mistake of taking a sip right before Harry said this. After a painful, burning choking fit, Severus looked at Harry with a glare.
"How is it that you even aware that such looks exist?"
"Sev, I'm nineteen."
"No, I'm quite sure you're twelve."
"Sev, I know you know I'm nineteen. You're the one that handed me my voter's registration."
"I have no recollection of that event occurring. You are twelve, and should not have any idea that that thing between your legs does more than expel urine from your body." It would be better if Harry were still twelve. Severus hadn't been in love with the boy when he was twelve.
Harry gave a warm chuckle. "You're amusing when you're drunk Sev."
"I'm not drunk, I'm inebriated. And when did I give you permission to call me Sev?"
"When I was five and discovered the power of the puppy-dog eyes."
"Ugh… don't remind me of that horrible time. That was a horrible stage in your development."
"You only say that because Mum always yelled at you when you gave me sweets."
"I'm a science teacher! I teach anatomy and health! I should know better than to give a five year old candy!"
"No one can resist the eyes Sev."
"As you prove time and time again with that horrible nickname."
"I'm pretty sure you secretly like it."
"No such thing."
"Sure Sev, sure."
Severus did quite like it. It gave their interactions a flavor of intimacy that he wouldn't give up for anything in the world.
"I do hope you were intelligent enough to bring a change of clothes."
"Yup! And a toothbrush."
"How clever of you. I am retiring. You may stay up if you wish, but I'm sure you know by now to not rifle through my personal belongings."
"Of course, Sev. I think I just might watch a bit of telly before turning in."
"I hope you can make do with just netflix. I've canceled the cable."
"Aw, why?" Severus gave Harry a long look.
"For the past nine months I haven't had a brat coming over insisting to watch cartoons. I wasn't watching it, and I saw no point in paying for a service I didn't use." Harry turned away from Severus' intense gaze.
"If it makes a difference Sev, those nine months were hard for me. I missed being able to escape from the world on your couch."
It did make a difference.
"You know where the extra bedding is. Feel free to escape once more."
"How come I can't sleep with you in your bed like I did as a kid?" Severus gave the boy a hard look.
"If you can't figure that out on your own I have failed as a teacher and mentor."
Harry just sighed, and turned on the television. Severus left the room, wishing more than anything he had the courage to invite Harry to join him in his bedroom.
"Where were you last night, mate? I called your cell, but you wouldn't pick up, and when I called your house, your mother said you weren't at home, and she didn't know where you were."
"Stop being nosey Ronald. Maybe Harry found out about the new gay club that opened while he was away. Maybe he went and had a good time, and then found a nice gentleman to go home with."
" 'Mione, this is Harry we're talking about, not Malfoy."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"No offence mate, but you're not really the club type."
"How do you know Ronald? He's been at Slytherin for the past year, (where Draco Malfoy also attends, I might add). Maybe he's changed. Maybe he likes the club scene now."
"Not bloody likely. Harry's still Harry, and no slimy Slytherin can change that."
"Watch what you say mate, I'm one of those Slytherins now."
"Whatever. Back to the question, where were you last night?"
"What did you say?"
"I was at Severus'."
"See, he's still Harry. Still spending too much time with that bat."
"Oh Ronald, you really shouldn't call him that."
"Why not? It suits him. He's batty. Bat-like. Bat-esque. That last one actually sounds pretty fancy."
"Ron, stop it. He's a respected member of the community. Plus you're upsetting Harry."
"Come on mate, it's all in good fun."
"Ron, I really like and admire him. Hearing you say mean things about him makes me sad."
"That's cheating Harry. You're not allowed to make me feel guilty even when you're not that upset."
"How do you know I'm not upset?"
"When you're really upset you get all quiet. If you're still talking to me it obviously means you don't really care what I'm saying."
"You're right. I don't really care. I can admit that he's a right git to most of his students. He's a right git to me most of the time."
"That brings up a question I've been meaning to ask for a while now. Whose bright idea was it to make Snape a high school teacher?"
"There's another one! Who decided that hiring someone that barmy as a high school principle was a good idea?"
"I'm pretty sure it was Fudge."
"And yet another! Who the hell decided that an idiot like that would make a decent superintendent?"
"Well," Hermione began. "I'm pretty sure it's all Mayor Malfoy's doing. Even as mayor, there's only so much power he can wield. By installing a superintendent that could be lead by the nose, Mayor Malfoy by default has almost complete control over the school district. I suspect it's the same reason Umbridge is the head of the Chamber of Commerce."
"Very good Ms. Granger." Lucius Malfoy said as he made himself comfortable in the spare chair at their table. "You've figured it all out. How on earth is an immoral man supposed to blackmail his way through the city with such clever citizens on the lookout?"
"Oh, I'm sure you're clever enough to have at least one escape plan for every situation."
"Flattery will get you everywhere Ms. Granger. How would you like a seat on the city council?"
"I think I'd have a hard time balancing it with my schoolwork."
"You'd manage, I'm sure. Think about it. Potter." He said suddenly, turning his attention to Harry. "Did you notice anything suspicious going on with my son during the school year?"
"Not really. Why do you ask?"
"He was acting twitchy at dinner last night. His mother claims it was because her sister was there, and Bella's always made Draco nervous, but I'm almost certain there's something else."
"I did see him having a rather intense conversation with Blaise Zabini towards the end of term, but I don't know that that has anything to do with it."
"Malfoy's always been twitchy." Ron announced flippantly.
"Indeed, but he was more twitchy than usual. My resources informed me that Draco and the Zabini boy were engaged in a friends-with-benefits relationship, but it supposedly ended just after winter break."
"And that wouldn't explain why he's being twitchy at home. Unless Zabini is blackmailing Draco and he's getting nervous… but Draco's too clever to let himself be blackmailed. I would think it's more likely there's some secret that Draco's hiding from you."
"That is the most logical answer isn't it? Well, Draco has never been able to keep secrets for long, so I suppose I'll just have to wait for him to reveal all. Good day to you, Ms. Granger, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Potter."
Hermione let out a soft sigh as he left. "Oh, if only there were more men like him in the world."
Ron gave her a disgusted look. "You could do so much better than Malfoy 'Mione."
"Possibly. And you can do better than Lavender, and yet I don't see you calling the engagement off in a hurry."
"We make each other happy. That's enough for me."
"Whatever you say Won-won."
"Severus?" Harry called out as he entered the man's apartment.
"In the kitchen." Severus called back. Harry gave the man a warm smile in greeting as he entered the room.
"Is there enough for one more?" He asked, indicating the sausages frying on the stove.
"When have you ever known me to make only one portion?"
"When you're really mad at me." Severus remained silent. Those periods were dark ones in his mind.
"Hey, do you have any idea what's wrong with Malfoy?" Harry asked suddenly.
"You'll have to be more specific. There are three Malfoys currently, and a whole host of things that could be wrong, in every sense of the word."
"Malfoy the younger. Our esteemed mayor seems to think he was being twitchy last night."
"Ah. Well, I can easily come up with a couple theories, but the most readily obvious is Draco's uncertainty as to how to tell his father he's a closet heterosexual."
"What? I thought he was the gayest of the gay. The fluffiest of the fluff."
"Oh no. I received a panicked email halfway through the fall semester asking if it was normal for a gay man to be so opposed to having a penis near his mouth."
"Really… but why would it be a problem for Malfoy junior to reveal his sexuality? Shouldn't Malfoy senior be overjoyed? It means he may actually get the heirs he wants."
"Harry, what do you recall of Draco's supposed 'outing'?"
"Just that it was all over the city newspaper."
"Precisely. Lucius caught Draco experimenting with another boy, and instead of doing the normal thing for a father to do (which would be to assume it's a phase and hope it goes away), he used it as a popularity booster. By 'accepting' his apparently gay son, he won the liberal votes he needed to stay in office, even with opposing the much-loved Arthur Weasley in the election."
"But why couldn't Draco just say "hey, I'm not gay" after he was done with the phase?"
"By making it so public Lucius made it impossible for Draco to ever leave the phase. He effectively put a label on his son that managed to stay attached for four years. I can only thank every non-existent deity that Draco was smart enough to go off to Slytherin. If he had decided that Gryffindor was good enough he would have never been free to experiment and discover." Harry was silent for a moment.
"Why are you so invested in Malfoy junior's sexual experiments?"
"I am his godfather. It's my duty to be interested in his well-being, and repressing his latent heterosexuality isn't healthy."
"I see." There was a tense silence as Severus put the food on plates and they sat down.
"Harry, if there's something bothering you, just say so. I should hope that you know better than to brood in my presence."
"I have to wonder… if my father had pulled something similar, would you care as much?"
"Harry, I wouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place. I have remained silent while your parents make some horrendous mistakes in regard to your development, but that is one thing I wouldn't have allowed to slip by."
"Oh." They ate in silence. During clean up, Harry asked suddenly, "What would it take to make you hate me?"
"What's to say I don't already hate you?"
"Severus…" Harry had this, longing, hurt, hopeful puppy-dog look on his face. It was the same expression he had worn when he was four and asked the question, 'Do you love me Sev'rus?' at the age of four. Severus sighed.
"Harry, it would take you changing your very nature to make me hate you. If you became like your dogfather, or your father as he was as a student, or even like Draco or Lucius, I might be able to hate you. But as you are now, the world would have to end before I could hate you."
"What if I told you that I'd figured out that my relationship with Ginny didn't work because I'm gay?"
"I would say congratulations for getting away from the harpies of this world and kill whomever helped you figure it out."
"What if I said it was Draco? Would you kill him?"
"Maybe not kill. Maim, maybe."
"What if I said it was Zabini?"
"Him I would definitely kill. The world will be no worse for having one less Italian in it."
"Your racism aside, what if I said it was you who helped me figure it out?"
Severus looked at Harry, startled.
"How could I possibly have helped you figure it out? We have had no significant conversations or encounters that I can recall."
Harry carefully didn't look at Severus. He stared into the soapy water and said quietly, "I told you yesterday that I missed escaping on your couch. Well, what I really missed was… you. The way you never judged me based on my actions or what my parents were like. You've never treated me like I was more or less special than I really am. You've never pretended to be something you're not, and you've never asked me to be something I'm not. I realized just before winter break that women weren't for me, and then during the break you were the same person you'd always been, and I realized that's what I've been looking for. More and more as the year continued I thought, 'if only Severus was here. He'd make everything look a bit brighter'." Severus snorted. Harry darted a quick grin at him. "I know it doesn't make sense considering your personality, but it began to seem like my life was incomplete without you there to make snarky comments about my hair or how people fawned over me because I was the son of the great James Potter, champion of rugby. All this made me realize…" Harry looked deep into Severus' eyes then. "I love you, Severus."
Severus was sure his heart had stopped. When it restarted, it was beating at a rate far above what was surely healthy.
"What makes you so certain?" He asked cautiously.
"The way I couldn't stop thinking about you, and how despite knowing you my whole life, I'm always nervous and excited to be around you."
"They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps in the time you've been away you've created a fantasy version of me that my true self cannot possibly live up to."
Harry frowned at this. "How would we be able to tell?"
If Severus was a fangirl, he might have been tempted to squeal at how adorable Harry was. As it was, he said simply, "A trial, of sorts. We will spend time together, as we would have even without your shocking revelation, and if, at the end of the summer you find your infatuation with me has not passed, we can consider a possible relationship."
"Would we consider spending time together dating?" Harry asked hopefully.
"If you must."
"Would I be allowed to kiss you?"
"Possibly, if your timing was right." Severus said, turning to drain the now tepid water from the sink. Suddenly he found his chin was being grabbed and brought down to a comfortable level for Harry to kiss him. The kiss itself was unremarkable, but the emotion behind it overwhelmed Severus. When Harry pulled away, Severus said simply, "Your technique needs work."
"Well, you'll have to teach me, won't you?"
The beginning of August found Harry and Severus making a rare trip to the coast. Severus sat on a piece of driftwood while he watched Harry make a sand castle, play in the ocean, and chase after seagulls. If anyone had cared to look, they might have seen one of Severus' more pleasant smiles at his young beau's actions.
When Harry was done with his playing, they walked along the shore, holding hands at Harry's insistence (Though Severus would have been disappointed if they hadn't). Just as the sun was setting, they found a nice rock to lean against, and Severus somehow found himself with a lapful of Harry.
"You knew I'd be going off to school again at the end of summer."
"Why did we have to wait to have an actual relationship until now then?"
"So I could resist the temptation to keep you all to myself and not let you go back."
"I wish you wouldn't resist. It'd be nice to be kept your prisoner."
"What makes you say that? I would be a horrible jailor, keeping you away from all other human contact."
"Yes, but you'd be there, and I know you'd feed me."
"Mm." There was a moment of content silence, and Severus took advantage of Harry's preoccupation with the (admittedly gorgeous) sunset to slip a simple silver band on his left ring finger.
"What's that for?" Harry asked, holding it up to get a good look at it.
"To remind you who you belong to. I won't have you experimenting with some pretty frat boy and leaving me to moon after you." Harry raised himself enough to give Severus a tender kiss.
"Okay, but you have to promise me that you won't decide halfway through the year that you don't want someone so young and foolish."
"Your youth and folly are what make you so attractive to me. Who else would deserve such mockery from me?"
"You like to mock me do you?"
"Well mock this." Harry shifted his weight to pin Severus down on the sand. Severus couldn't say he minded.
Severus was… fond of Harry Potter. There were many other words that could be used, but fond seemed to fit the bill quite nicely.