Chapter 31 – The Truth Will Out
Ron had concluded he would never ever, ever forget that particular morning edition of the Daily Prophet.
It wasn't so much the announcement that his old school friend was gay, (though that had been a big surprise in itself) it was who the newspaper claimed him to be snogging that was the problem.
The moment he'd put two and two together, Ron had started, swore, and dropped his mouth-destined triangle of toast butter-side down onto the carpet.
Hermione had looked up crossly. "Merlin's sakes Ron, it's your turn to do a cleaning charm on that! Honestly, I'd have thought you'd've stopped being surprised about the Cannons losing by now..."
"It's not the Cannons Mione!" He'd spluttered, snatching the paper up and thrusting it at her in exasperation. "Look!"
Hermione glanced at the paper and rolled her eyes. "We know Harry's gay Ron, it was only a matter of time before the Prophet got hold of the gossip-"
"No...Not that bit – this!" Ron interjected, jabbing his finger at the paper.
...encounter with a tall dark Slytherin, rumoured to be Adrian Pucey...
Hermione pursed her lips. "Oh." She said.
"It's got to be a bloody mistake," ranted her fiancée, "Harry should have a go at suing them for libel or something-"
"-I mean, that's bloody Snape that is – it's gross, I know Harry wouldn't go near him with a shitty stick!"
"-Whoever sold that to the papers should get hexed into next week, if I find them I swear-"
Hermione took a steadying breath. "It's...it's not libel."
Ron squinted. "Pardon?"
"It's not libel; it's true, I think. Well, the Harry and Snape bit, I should think the encounter is a bit embellished though..."
Ron gripped the edge of the breakfast bar for support. "Hermione...what are you saying?"
The young witch licked her lips nervously. "Harry told me he and Snape were...had a fling. Harry fancies Snape and I think-"
"Hang on a sec...Harry FANCIES Snape?"
Hermione's gaze had darted around the room then, anywhere but at Ron's reddening face. She gave a small sigh. "Yes. And I've got increasing suspicion it might be mutual."
No; Ron would most certainly not forget that edition of the Prophet in a hurry.
On the other side of London, Harry had groaned as he saw the front page of the morning's Prophet smirking back at him under its mercilessly unequivocal headline. Sodding papers. Whether it was a good day to be outed or not...well...it wasn't as if he could do a thing about it now.
He had decided at that point it probably would be best not mentioning it to Snape during his morning visit, unless he'd seen the paper and mentioned it first, of course. Fortunately he had not mentioned it, and for that Harry was secretly grateful. The past few mornings had been the most peaceful hours he had ever spent with Severus Snape in his life, but he wasn't such an optimist to expect that the peace he had would last...
It did not. The afternoon brought curious stares from various witches and wizards he passed, then, when he'd got back home, a pale-faced Hermione, a sullen doorstep-kicking Ron, and a copy of the offending newspaper tossed flippantly onto his dining table.
Ron, predictably, had been a tad emotional. No doubt also that Ginny, or at very least Arthur and Molly had already read the article, though perhaps they might still be assuming it to be untrue, that their honorary son was batting for another team AND seeing a Slytherin to boot might seem too far-fetched. Harry had pleaded with Ron and Ginny not to tell them; he hadn't been too sure whether he could deal with the rest of the Weasley family at this point. Tackling an upset Ron had been enough...
"You French-kissed the git? In front of a load of students?" The red-headed Gryffindor had asked, looking more than a little sickened. "Tell me that's not true?!"
"It's not true." Reassured Harry. At his friend's look of relief he'd added, "Well I mean the bit about the students isn't. There was definitely French-kissing going on outside..."
Harry had sworn he'd seen the corner of Hermione's mouth twitch upwards after he'd said that.
"Ron...I...haven't forgotten the past, I know who he was, and he's changed."
"He's not changed mate, he's using you 'cause he fancied your mother. He's getting off on that, he doesn't care for you one bit!"
"Ron!" Hermione scowled.
Ron turned defiant eyes on his fiancée. "I know you've been thinking it too 'mione, why else would Snape do anything like this?"
There was a nasty silence. Harry dragged a hand through his hair.
"Harry-" Hermione began. "Don't take Ron's words to-"
Harry held up his hand. "It's okay Hermione, I know what he's saying, I was kind of scared of that too, way back in my mind... But then he – he told me he had the same fear. He was feeling guilty."
"I told you!" Ron's eyes shone in triumph. "The greasy old-"
Harry struck the bar with his fist, hard enough to make the crockery clatter. "Enough!"
Ron flinched, the embittered words dying on his lips. His dark-haired friend's face lost its storm, then flashed with momentary guilt. He hung his head.
"I want to hope there's more to this than...my mother..." said Harry wistfully. "Can't you just let me have five minutes of something like peace, to have a little bit of hope? I went from thinking I loved Ginny, to getting all these other feelings about blokes that were ten times stronger and after that, after that I doubted everything." He gave a bitter sigh. "Don't get me wrong, I love Ginny, but...I don't..not in that way..."
"Plenty more...blokes... in the sea though," muttered Ron. "Why him? Why did you have to..."
Harry gave a helpless shrug. "I can't say. I just...care..."
"Oh Hell! To choose love by another's eyes," whispered Hermione.
"It's Shakespeare, Harry."
"It means 'what hell to have your love life determined by someone else," she explained patiently to the young wizards. "And I think, Ron, that our opinions – and prejudices - are just that. It's none of our business what Harry wants to do, is it?"
Ron scowled, but finally managed a grudging, "I suppose not."
So that was Harry's afternoon. After that, he'd felt decidedly shaken by Ron's words, and in need of some reassurance. His thoughts sprang to Hogwart's, Dumbledore's portrait coming to his defence. If there was anyone who had known Snape as an adult so personally, it was that man. And that man seemed okay with his choice.
Of course there were misgivings...Dumbledore wasn't flawless, he'd played on people's weaknesses, played them like pawns in his chess game. However, after all was done, he had allowed himself to be taken, leaving himself, Harry, his closest friends, and Snape, still on the board.
Above all, however, was his own judgement. Did he trust Snape actions now? He searched his thoughts through the rest of the afternoon, and into the evening, and after all things repeatedly were stripped back to the bare fibre only one answer remained.
The very late evening found him loitering at the top of the dungeon stairwell, staring into its greenish, decidedly serpentine throat. As ever, the flickering torches led Harry downward though the corridors, to what he had chosen. As a teenager, his heart used to sink with every step downwards, now it was swooping with excitement, pattering with silent tension.
The faintest of candlelight was spilling from beneath the door. He knocked, feeling decidedly bolder than the last time he'd stood in this same spot.
After a moment, the door cracked open and one wary, sea-blue eye came into view. "Rather late for a social visit, is it not, Mister Gryffindor?"
The corner of Harry's mouth upturned. "Late for who? I'm certainly not tired."
Snape's one visible eye narrowed. "My wards did not detect your approach; you must have used charms to obliterate the sound of your footsteps."
"Did I ever tell you the hat wanted to put me in Slytherin?"
Snape's eyebrow rose in surprise. Then lowered. "Did I ever tell you the hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw?"
"Oh really? Not Gryffindor?" Harry's smile had turned faintly mischievous.
The door opened wider. "Are you suggesting, Mister Potter, that I am rash, insufferable and prone to fits of self-righteousness?"
Harry stepped forward, over the threshold. "Nope...that's just me," he said, leaning in to kiss the Slytherin.
Just before they touched lips, however, Snape brought both hands up and stopped him. Harry's breath caught in his throat.
Snape saw a look of uncertainty and fear flash in Harry's eyes and looked away. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it again.
"What?" Whispered the Gryffindor.
Snape's lips twisted in indiscernible emotion. "It's...been a rather...eventful day..."
"Care to share?"
The Slytherin coloured, it looked as if he was about to say something disparaging, but had then caught himself. "Not...not at the moment," he replied evasively. "Tomorrow. After..."
"After what?" Harry prompted, almost desperate for the man to turn back and meet his eyes.
Then he did.
"After...I finish with you..." he finished softly, eyes glittering.
Severus admittedly was at a quandary regarding his body. On the one hand it was his body, his previous corporeal self for almost forty years of his life... On the other it was a scarred, blemished frame, less energetic than the one he'd now found himself in, and branded with the Dark Mark.
Still...it was his body.
He could, potentially, have it exhumed following the funeral but... He stopped his thoughts in their tracks, nose wrinkling in distaste. What was he, a necromancer? What business had he exactly with it now...?
That and Harry would be disgusted. Only Death Eaters fooled around with the dead.
Since when did he care about what Harry thought?
Since when had the boy...man become Harry?
Snape sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Mister Potter...Mister Blasted Potter.
There was no denying it though; he liked Mister Potter, and increasingly. Every time the whelp arrived to see him now he'd felt electric tingle through his veins and a flush of heat rising through his body. The young man was beginning to symbolise new life and hope for him, and he was increasingly giving in to the pleasantness of it.
Would this have happened to him in his old body? The scary thing was that he was beginning to forget how that had used to feel, he wasn't even sure if his attraction to men was recent, or whether there had always been some undercurrent...
He frowned slightly as he recalled Lucius Malfoy, and how he'd secretly held him in some quiet awe back when he was a scrawny teenager. There was no denying the white-blond teen had been eye-catching – not to say attractive or striking - to him since his early teens, that his words had captured him. Was that innocent awe, what else would it have been?
A sharp rap at the door disrupted his disquiet. None of his wards had chimed to alert him...what the deuce?
Wand in fist, he rose from his armchair and went to the door, one peek into the sneak-glass revealed Harry Potter's head looming just on the other side of it.
He opened the door, just enough. Potter gave a genuine smile. Pleased to be in the dungeons indeed...Black would be twisting in his grave if he were buried in one...
"Rather late for a social visit, is it not, Mister Gryffindor?"
He watched the corners of Harry's mouth quirk upwards. "Late for who? I'm certainly not tired."
Snape felt suspicious, curious, he wasn't sure which. "My wards did not detect your approach; you must have used charms to obliterate the sound of your footsteps."
"Did I ever tell you the hat wanted to put me in Slytherin?" The Gryffindor returned coolly.
Snape found the fact did not surprise him as much as the Gryffindor's cool admission of it. "Did I ever tell you the hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw?" He returned, allowing a hint of amusement into his voice.
"Oh really? Not Gryffindor?" It was said in mock surprise, but Snape tried his best to disregard the mischievous twinkle that had appeared in the young man's eyes as he'd said it. He would not allow himself to be piqued by teasing alone...
Even so, he felt the slow, unmistakable heat of excitement beginning to build. He opened the door a little more. "Are you suggesting, Mister Potter, that I am rash, insufferable and prone to fits of self-righteousness?"
Harry stepped forward, over the threshold. "Nope...that's just me," he said cheekily.
Snape's heart stalled as the man drew in to kiss him, and he put his hands up just in time.
He saw a look of uncertainty and fear flash in Harry's eyes and looked away. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it again.
"What?" Whispered the Gryffindor.
Snape's lips thinned as the memory of the Will and that unsavoury dilemma returned to haunt him. Then...somehow...the disconcerting thoughts about Lucius as a teenager, his confusion, fascination, all dredged up from a long-locked-in, forbidden compartment in his mind...
A visual of Lucius in the changing rooms emerging from the showers, towel slung over his shoulder, every move full of the nonchalant arrogance of the rich, entitled pure blood...and stark bollock naked in his ice-pale skin.
"It's...been a rather...eventful day..." He managed to put out, hoping by Salazar the guilty flush wasn't too obvious on his face, (and that Harry had not noticed anything damning going on down in his trouser area...)
Harry's expression grew almost doe-eyed with concern. "Care to share?"
"Not...not at the moment," he replied evasively, becoming only too aware of the rising heat caused by the Gryffindor's proximity - his knowledge that he'd already seen this man bollock naked also - and the way the thought of it was fast obliterating all sensible, practical thought. That could wait til... "Tomorrow. After..."
"After what?" Harry prompted, looking a bit confused.
Snape heard his heart hammering in his chest. "After...I finish with you..."