No one bothered to tell him how bad smoking was for him anymore. Any time anyone tried to mention smoking and how terrible it was, he would just reply, "I'm going to die in a year, anyway."

The funny part was, he'd been saying it for the last ten years, and though he hadn't died year after year, he said it with such belief, such conviction, even his closest friend sort of believed him. They would shake their heads when he'd clench the cigarette between his teeth and puff while his fingers danced across the piano keys, but they'd given up on trying to make him live a better life.

He had friends, though, good ones. He had friends who loved him, friends who would consider themselves family. When he sat down for his first ever interview, after refusing to do any until his first album had gone platinum, he talked about them a bit, though he did his best to keep them out of the spotlight.

"I love my friends, I really do. They're great. They got me through some seriously tough times. I know someone wrote some rubbish biography about my life, which confused me because I thought those things were supposed to wait until you were long dead, but they did it anyway, and they did get one thing right, my friends were the only sane things in my world of insanity.

"Being the child of some famous pop star who died before I could remember him was bad enough, having some psychotic killer after you because of who your parents were really did me in. I didn't really think I'd come out sane, if you ask me. Even as a teenager I thought to myself, 'I might survive this madman, but I probably won't survive much else.'

"What was that other question you asked? Oh, do I feel like a murderer. That's a really clever question, you know, really clever. I mean, was it self defense? Yeah it was, it was definitely self defense. The bastard had kidnapped one of my classmates when I was fourteen and offed him in front of me, so you bet your ass it was self defense. But there's no glory in gutting someone, even if it's to save your own sorry ass. Shit, if I could have held him off for another ten minutes the cops would have blown him to bits with their big, powerful guns, but at seventeen you don't really think of trying to hold off a madman with a knife to your throat, do you? You think, how do I not die. Well I killed him is how I didn't die, and so yeah, it kind of makes me feel like a killer sometimes. No one should have to know what it means to snuff the life out of someone."

He didn't really like to talk about his family much, but he did like to talk. Once he'd given in to interviews, he did them all the time. Maybe it was the sound of his own voice he liked the most, because he insisted that the interviews always be done by recording, never through email or post.

"My family was crap, honestly, my real family. I mean, everyone knows that my parents died when I was a baby, and that my aunt and uncle were rubbish. Extended family? Never really bothered to look them up. I mean there are hundreds, probably thousands of Potters all over the UK, and if they didn't want to find me before I was famous, why should I want to bother with them now.

"The hardest thing about life now? That's a laugh, isn't it. People probably think that it's because I haven't found love, but you know, I have. I love my music. I make love to music every night, whether I'm at a concert or in my flat just pounding away at my little piano, making my neighbors hate every moment of their evening. That's love enough for me. And yes, for the record, I am gay. Figured that out my first snog with a girl when I was fifteen. Brilliant girl, amazing friend, too squishy for me."

No one was surprised when he up and quit, either. He paid off his penalty fee for leaving his contract early without blinking an eye, and after a while, the photographers stopped following him. His friends still called once in a while, but he wanted to be left alone. That was around the time they really started believing him when he said he was going to die.

Every now and again he'd pop into some seedy piano bar in the heart of London, or sometimes Paris, if he had a mind to do the traveling, and he'd play. He'd just walk up to the piano and play, loudly and beautifully and he'd always shake the entire room by the time he was done. People always tried to talk to him afterward, but he'd just pretend he didn't hear them until they went away.

It was late December when he found himself in the streets of Paris. There had been a massive freeze just after rain and the streets were covered with a thick layer of ice. It had started snowing when he suddenly fancied a walk, and he found himself wrapped up in his wool coat and scarf, heading straight for a little bar he'd seen that had steam coming out of the smallest chimney at the top of the roof.

There weren't many people in the bar, just a handful of old men who had lived in Paris long enough to see the German Soldiers marched out of there following cheers and cries for those lost in the war. They wore their little cabbie hats and smoked their thin cigarettes and sipped their mushroom fermented wine at the scrubbed wooden tables.

The piano was what had drawn him into the bar in the first place. He'd seen it earlier in the day through the window. The piano called to him. Oh she was beautiful, too, black as pitch, polished and tuned. Such a piano shouldn't have existed in a disgusting little hole like that, but it did. It stood there, the Southern Belle of the ball, in all her glory, a faded spotlight giving her all the illumination she needed to shine brighter than the sun in his eyes.

He touched the side as he walked by, feeling the faint grains under all the black paint, and he grinned. There was a small bar area, with six stools, and the furthest stool held a man, not much to look at with his long black hair and wickedly hooked nose. His fingers were practically black as he scribbled away with a lump of graphite on a sketchbook. His shirt and wrists were stained with paints of every color, and he seemed to notice absolutely nothing in the room at all.

"Scotch, warmest you've got," Harry said in English.

The bartender, an old woman with graying red hair, nodded to him and poured him the scotch in a glass that couldn't quite be described as clean, but he took it anyway. "Thanks," he said and slapped a credit card her way. He tossed the drink back and signaled for another.

He was properly pissed in about ten minutes, and he gave his knuckles a good crack before walking up to the piano and having a seat. "Do you mind?" he asked the bartender.

She hesitated but that hesitation was enough of an okay for Harry to begin, which he did, with a fury and passion no man truly shared. His fingers danced along the keys, hot and frantic as they pounded out note after note.

He sang, too, his voice rising above the din of the small crowd, and one by one, people stopped talking and started listening. Music like the bar had never heard before filled the air and he sang and sang, of love and loss, torment and a future he never really believed he'd have.

But music was about hope, wasn't it? It was about storytelling, but mostly it was about hope. Even music about death is about hope that there's something grander, something more beautiful and full waiting on the other side.

Harry felt full then, as he sang and played and wept. He was drunk, he was tired and he was lonely, and the piano was telling the world all about it, and the piano was making perfect strangers care. He ignored the applause when he stopped, and the cries that he play another.

Asking for a second drink, he sat one stool closer to the drawing man, who in all the commotion, had looked up just before Harry's song had ended. Harry noticed as the man stared at him, his eyes were perfectly black. It wasn't that the pupils were too large, or that the brown was too dark. The man's eyes were actually black.

"Evening," Harry said.

The man stared at him and then went back to his drawing, doing nothing else until he had finished his deep red wine in the very large glass. Harry watched as the man tucked away the sketchbook and graphite with such care, and Harry knew then, that the man didn't treat anything else in his world with that kind of love and attention.

Harry understood that with an absoluteness many people didn't share. The man pulled on a thick coat and pulled the collar up high around his neck. He stared at Harry for another moment and then turned to leave the pub.

As he went, Harry saw a piece of the sketchpad fall from the man's bag. "Oy you dropped something!" Harry cried.

The man didn't pause in step, so Harry grabbed the fallen paper, wondering if the man even spoke English, and darted out into the street. The man was preparing to cross, staring down at his shoes, and as the man set foot onto the ice, Harry saw a lorry hurtling towards them, clearly unable to stop on the ice.

"Look out!" Harry cried but the man didn't appear to hear him.

Throwing all caution to the wind, Harry jammed the paper into his pocket and raced forward, grabbing the man by the coat and hauled him out and straight into a puddle of wet slush, just out of reach from the truck. The man watched from the ice as the lorry hurtled by, regaining control just moments after it would have collided with him.

The man turned and stared at Harry who was fully emerged in the puddle of icy water. After a second, he held out a hand and helped Harry, who was now trembling with cold, to his feet.

"You alright there, mate?" Harry asked. The man said nothing to him, but continued to stare, his expression unreadable. "You speak English? Because I don't speak any French. At all."

After what seemed like the longest moment in the universe, the man nodded and then beckoned Harry along to the flats a few buildings down from the bar. Harry had his hands inside of his coat, but it seemed like every single part of him was wet and freezing.

The man opened up the door with a rather ancient looking key, and Harry felt instant relief when the hot air from a furnace blasted him in the face. He was still dripping, but felt remarkably better as he followed the stranger up the stairs and to a door at the end of the first floor.

Inside, the flat was sparsely lit, and smelled thickly of an artist's home, oil and acrylic paints, brushes, cleaning supplies, varnish. It was warm, too, almost suffocatingly so. Harry immediately shed his dripping coat and the jumper beneath it, dismayed to see that his plain t-shirt had been soaked through as well.

The man held up a long, thin finger and disappeared, returning with a fresh pair of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt that Harry would probably swim in. Either way, Harry grabbed the clothes and rushed to the loo to change.

He found a towel in the washroom and came out into the living room, toweling his hair a bit and smiling. "Nice place. Thanks for the clothes, I thought I was going to freeze to death."

"Thank you," the man said very quietly after a moment. His voice was thick and his accent was strange. "You saved my life."

"Where are you from?" Harry asked, staring at the man. "And you're welcome."

"I'm from London," the man said.

"But you-"

"I can't hear," the man said, matter of factly. "Why did you follow me?"

"Oh!" Harry said, filing away that the man was deaf, and grabbed his coat, pulling the soaked, crumpled paper from his pocket. "You dropped this in the bar. You never know what's really important to people."

The man took the paper and opened it. Harry couldn't see what was on the other side of it, and the man put it face down on the counter. "Thank you, but I could have drawn it again."

"If I hadn't tried to give it back to you, you'd probably be dead," Harry said.

"I already thanked you," the man bit. "Do you want a reward?"

Harry sputtered. "What? A reward? Don't be daft! I don't even need a thank you. I was fucking scared, mate. I plan to live the rest of my life without seeing another person die."

"You've seen a man die?" His voice was full of sincere curiosity, and clearly he didn't know Harry at all.

"What's your name?" Harry asked.

"Severus," he said.

"Harry," he replied, offering his hand.

After a moment of hesitation, Severus took Harry's hand and pumped it up and down only once. "You can keep the clothes if you like, since yours are wet."

"Do you have any tea?" Harry asked.

Severus let out the smallest sigh and then beckoned Harry into his kitchen where he put a kettle on. "Black is all I have."

"Black is great," Harry replied with gusto. "It's hard to find good tea here. The French and their damned coffee."

"I prefer coffee," Severus said.

"If you can't hear, how the hell do you understand a word I'm saying?"

"I hear some," Severus said. "I'm the only deaf person in my entire family, so I had to adjust." His voice was flat, sounding a lot like Harry's when he was asked to talk about his family.

"Do you know that, you know, sign language stuff?" Harry asked, wiggling his fingers in the air.

Severus glared at him. "Of course. What an idiotic question to ask of a deaf person."

"What's idiotic is that anyone would assume all deaf people sign," Harry defended without much fire, because it really was a stupid question.

Severus turned his back to Harry and began to fix the tea. Harry took the offered cup, declining sugar or milk, and he situated himself on one of Severus' kitchen chairs.

"Brilliant, thank you," Harry gushed after a few drinks of the hot brew. "Thanks for not dying, Severus."

"What would it matter to you. I'm a stranger."

"Because watching someone die sucks," Harry replied. "I'm pretty shaken up, though I think I'm hiding it well."

Severus snorted with laughter. "Hardly. You look like a scared child. What can I do for you that will make you get out of my flat?"

"Why are you so unfriendly?" Harry asked.

"What do you want from me?" Severus asked again.

"Did you- could you- you know, hear me when I was playing the bar?"

"The sounds of piano are not really within my hearing range, though the fact that you were playing that damned thing quite roughly helped. It was vibrating through the entire room. Are you a professional musician?"

"I was," Harry said. "I quit."


"Why not?" Harry retorted. "Why bother doing one thing forever and ever."

"Did you love it?"

"Always will," Harry said. He gulped the rest of the tea and set the mug down on the counter. "Are there any instruments you can hear?"

"Strings," Severus said with a shrug. "Drums. Rubbish teenage pop music. I don't care for any of it, really."

"Pity," Harry said. "Music is pretty great."

"I'll take your word on it. Do you need an escort home?"

"I don't live here. In Paris, that is. Got a room round the corner, though, but I think I can manage just fine. I was drunk until your attempt at dying a painful, bloody death."

"I feel like I should follow you," Severus said.

Harry was staring at him for a long time. Severus' hair was long, and he was trying to peer through the locks to see if he wore hearing aids. "Can you hear when a car is honking at you?"

"Sometimes," Severus said. He pulled his hair back after realizing what Harry was staring at. Only one ear had the device on it. "My other one is out for repair, and it only helps sometimes, usually when it's quiet."

"How many times have you almost been hit by a car?"

"This would be my first. Congratulations English stranger, for being there for it. Now, if you're finished with your tea, I'll show you to the door."

Harry sighed and looked into his empty mug before setting it down on the counter and taking up his pile of wet clothes. "Luckily it's a short walk, because it's bloody freezing outside. I'll see you round?"

"Don't bet on it," Severus said and shut the door in Harry's face.

Harry wasn't one to let things go, and after dreaming repeatedly about the incident in the street, Harry woke feeling exhausted, like he had been running a marathon. It honestly felt like he had spent the night saving that man over and over, and he was angry about it, truth be told.

It was well past sunrise when he finally ventured out of the hotel, and grabbed some coffee and a crepe from a nearby vendor on the street. He stuffed his face with the overly sweet dough and wished he had tea as he poured the molten hot, bitter brew down his throat. It was helping, though, and he wanted to be alert. He planned to stalk that man, as soon as he could find him. He figured that by the state of Severus' flat, the man probably had a studio somewhere and all Harry had to do was find it.

Sparing all the details, he did, of course, find the studio, and in minimal time. It was barely noon when he finally ran into someone who spoke proper English enough to direct him to the deaf British artist's studio.

The studio was in the opposite direction from where Harry had started looking, but delightfully close to his hotel, and to Severus' flat. It was a rather nice building, newer looking, obviously renovated and had tall windows that stretched from the ground to the ceiling of the first floor.

There was a sign on the door which Harry stopped only to read the name Severus Snape, and he chuckled a little at the absurd sound the man's name made when said aloud. "Severus Snape, what bastard parents did he have?"

He pushed the door open and found himself standing in an empty show room. There were hooks and stands and nails all over the place, but the room was utterly devoid of all art. Even a few shelves that had obviously held sculpture were empty, just a ring of dust betraying their earlier contents.

Harry took a deep breath, smelling fresh paint, and he knew Severus was probably in the building somewhere. "Hello?" Harry called out, and then smacked himself for being a total moron. He paused anyway, waiting to see if anyone heard him, which no one had, so he decided to venture forward.

He found a broom closet, a wash room, a toilet and what looked like a small kitchen with one burner, enough to make tea, or Severus' disgusting coffee, and a mini fridge which he didn't explore, though he was sorely tempted to.

Eventually he found the stairs which were hidden behind a suspiciously thin door which didn't look like a door at all. He went straight up and found himself in a room with Severus and another tall, blonde man standing with their backs to him.

The blonde man was painting, and Severus was standing beside him, occasionally making gestures with his hands, and the man would reply with his own gestures on his hand that wasn't clenching a paintbrush so tightly that his wrist trembled.

Harry cleared his throat, but realized both men were deaf, and he felt like a total prat for just standing there staring at them. Eventually he sucked in his stomach, walked right over and tapped Severus on the shoulder.

The man wasn't surprised to feel the tap, but his eyebrows rose up nearly to his hairline at the sight of Harry. "What the hell are you doing here?"

The blonde man who looked to be right around Harry's age, stared at Harry and put the brush down, signing rapidly, looking utterly offended by Harry's very presence. Severus waved him off with an impatient gesture and looked at Harry expectantly.

"Oh right," Harry said, tearing his eyes off of the blonde. "I was stalking you."

"Stalking me? Are you having me on?" Severus asked with wide eyes.

"Nope," Harry said with a laugh and a shrug. "I'm a little nuts, you know. I probably didn't tell you that last night. I had dreams for hours about saving your damn life and so I figured I'd you know.. check on you. Make sure you didn't up and die on me after all."

Severus turned to the blond and signed at him for a moment. The blond stared at Harry, his silvery eyes narrow and angry. He set his panting down off of the easel, resting it against the wall and walked out.

"Who was that?" Harry asked, turning his back to Severus and watching the other man leave. Harry turned to Severus, eyebrows raised.

"If you asked me a question, I should remind you I actually need to see your face. I'm deaf, remember."

"Sorry, I forgot," Harry said, waving his hand dismissively. "I asked who that was."

"How is that your business?"

"It's not, really," Harry said. "What kind of last name is Snape, anyway?"

"It's Norse, I think, in origin," Severus said, sounding very annoyed. "Eventually, in my family's case, it became Scottish. And that was a student of mine."

"You teach?"

"I... instruct, sort of," Severus said.

Harry looked around for a chair, and when he found none, the floor was a suitable substitute and he crouched down against the wall. "I never would have guessed. You don't have a lot of patience."

"I'm selective with my students."

"Would you give me a lesson?"


"Why not?" Harry asked, crossing his arms. "I'll make you a deal. I'll give you a music lesson, and you give me an art lesson."

"I'm deaf, you idiot, what would I want with a music lesson?"

"Beethoven was deaf and look at what he accomplished."

Severus' cheeks pinked. "He became deaf after he was a musician."

"So you were born this way?"

Severus shook his head. "Illness at four took my hearing, not that it matters. Is there something I can help you with?"

"Art lesson," Harry said.

"You didn't come here for an art lesson. You didn't even know I taught art, you moron," Severus snapped, his patience clearly growing thin.

"Well initially I came here by way of stalking, to make sure you were alive, mostly. Now I'd like an art lesson. I'm willing to do the exchange. I play cello along with piano, if that helps."

"How would that help?" Severus asked. He paused the conversation by looking away from Harry, lifting his sleeve and checking his watch. "I have to go."

"I'll come with," Harry said, jumping to his feet. "You understand me really well."

"You're surprisingly easy to read," Severus said and sounded like he genuinely meant it. "You're not coming with me, however."

"Sure I am. I'll buy you one of your disgusting coffees."

"You're like a stray dog, boy," Severus said as he led the way down the stairs.

"That's the second or third time you've called me boy," Harry pointed out when Severus was looking at him again. "I'm not a boy. I'm thirty-four."

"Well I'm fifty-four, so to me you're a boy."

"You're daft," Harry said, but trotted along side Severus as the older man started his brisk pace down the street.

Severus looked over at Harry and sighed. "I'm not going to paying attention to you while I'm walking, so please don't try and converse. I'd rather not have to have you save my life a second time. One life debt to you is quite enough, I'm coming to realize."

Harry chuckled and threw his arm around Severus suddenly, giving the man a squeeze. He let go before Severus could punch him, or worse, and kept pace with Severus until they reached a building with words in French Harry couldn't read.

When they got in, Severus began signing to the woman at the desk. The woman signed back, and Severus took a seat in one of the empty chairs, gesturing for Harry to do the same.

"If you won't give me an art lesson, will you at least teach me to sign?"

Severus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Signing takes more than just an evening to master, you realize. It's an entire language."

"Well sure but... maybe just the dirty bits."

"I've known you all of eighteen hours and already I think I hate you," Severus said.

"Now say that in sign!" Harry said excitedly.

Severus ignored him, and a few minutes later he was being fitted for a new hearing aid. The appointment lasted only a few minutes and was conducted solely in the silent language, though Harry heard the doctor speaking in rapid French to the receptionist, so he knew not everyone there was deaf.

When they got back into the streets, Severus stopped and made some adjustments with his hearing aid.

"Is that better?" Harry asked.

"Indeed. To think, if I'd had my repair done on time I would have not been nearly run down and would have never met you. I believe God does hate me."

"I'm not that bad, for a crazy person," Harry insisted. He reached out and grabbed Severus' arm, pulling him into the cafe they were standing in front of. They grabbed a table outside, and Severus didn't protest when Harry ordered a couple sandwiches and a coffee for the older man.

"Why do you say you're crazy?" Severus asked.

Harry reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, but didn't light it. "I just am. I've always been a bit mad. I think it's because some nutter spent most of my childhood trying to kill me. I killed him, you know, the man who tried to kill me. I was seventeen. That's bound to drive someone round the twist after a while."

Severus was staring hard at Harry's mouth, making sure he read every single word correctly. "You're not making that up, are you." It was a statement, not a question.

"Not this time," Harry said. He lit the cigarette but before he could take a drag from it, Severus snatched it from his mouth, threw it on the ground and crushed it with the toe of his shoe. "What the hell?"

"Those things really will kill you, you idiot," Severus said snappishly.

"Who cares, I'm going to die in a year anyway," Harry said sincerely.

Severus reached across the table suddenly, grabbing Harry by the chin. He turned Harry's head from left to right, up and then down. He peered into Harry's bright green eyes and then said softly, "You're not going to die until you're so old you'll be begging the universe to kill you. You're going to be the man who survives it all, Harry. You're going to watch all of your friends and family die before you, and the reason you tell people you're going to die is because you know this, and if you think you tell them this lie it'll hurt less when they all go before you."

Harry felt his hands tremble as Severus let him go. He sat back and stared at the crushed cigarette on the ground, fighting the urge to grab another. "Liar," he whispered eventually.

Severus laughed loudly, a thick, rich baritone sound. "I don't lie, Harry."

"Yes you do," Harry said. "You told me you didn't want a music lesson, but that's a lie."

"I never said I didn't want one," Severus pointed out. "I asked what you thought I could possibly do with one."

Harry felt a rush from his stomach to his face, coloring his cheeks. The food arrived and both men fell into a silence of sandwiches and coffee. Harry paid the bill and walked slightly behind Severus as they made their way back to his studio.

"Why's it so empty?" Harry asked when they finally stepped inside.

"I'm preparing for my latest art showing. That's why my flat was covered in so much crap," Severus said with a shrug. He stared at Harry for another moment and then said, "Come up stairs."

Harry followed Severus up the small, narrow staircase and into the room with all the windows. Severus went to a supply cupboard and pulled out a blank canvas and a slew of paints and a large brush. He set it all up at the spot the blonde man had been painting before and pressed the brush into Harry's hand.

"Painting isn't hard," he said in Harry's ear, standing directly behind him. "It's all about expression. It's about putting your feelings, your thoughts into colors and brush strokes. It's about telling a story, even if you're the only one who knows how to tell it. Reveal a secret no one was ever meant to know. I imagine music is much the same. Others enjoy it, but you sing of your pain, you play from your soul, no one else's. If you can do it on a piano, you don't need some aging old, angry artist to teach you how to tell that story on a canvas."

Harry turned to say something to Severus, but the man had backed up, and was standing with his back to Harry, his arms folded across his chest. From the reflection in the side window, Harry could see that Severus' eyes were closed, and he began very subtly rocking to music only he could hear.

Harry turned away from Severus and looked down at the pallet of colors the man had given him. The brush was huge, wide bristled and begging. He dipped the brush in the paint and began. His hand holding the brush flew over the canvas, sending a zing up his arm as he felt the bristles trail over the slightly bumpy surface. He painted and painted, and when he finished, he realized that he was crying.

Severus was staring at him now, and Harry, embarrassed, wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand and saw that an hour had gone by. He looked over at Severus and then at the canvas and shuddered. It wasn't great, a school boy could have done better. Most of the canvas was black, curved a bit at the top to look like a hood. It was just smeared all over, except for the center of the hood where two red eyes sat. Two red, angry eyes.

"Is that him?" Severus asked.

Harry sighed and realizing he couldn't quite speak yet, he nodded.

"Are you still frightened of him?"

Harry dropped the palette and brush to the floor, wincing at the sound they made in the empty room. "No," he eventually said. "The thing is, I was never really scared. The thing is, I sort of felt really great, really powerful when I killed him. This man had been tormenting me since I was eleven. This man had killed my parents right in front of me when I was a baby. He overpowered my father, who played professional football, and brutally murdered my mother, and he couldn't take me on. I was just some scrawny musician, some boy in glasses, and I killed him."

"You're afraid of yourself."

Harry nodded and wiped at his face again, though he knew it was dry. "What if I hurt someone else? My friends? My friends who have become my family. Stabbing him, this tormentor, this angry, sick man, felt good. What if all killings feel good."

"They don't," Severus said knowingly.

Harry didn't ask, but he did look at Severus for a very long time. "I like you. I have to go."

He started to walk away, but Severus caught his arm before he reached the door. "Have you ever been in love, Harry?"


"Liar," Severus said.

Harry pulled his arm away. "I'm sorry I bothered you, Severus. I shouldn't have come here. Thanks for the art lesson, and really we can call it even on the whole saving your life thing. Take care."

With that, Harry was gone. He pulled his coat tightly around his body and did his best to blend in with the crowds as he made his way back to his small hotel. He thought he might order dinner up to his room, but chose to lay face down on the bed instead, hating himself. Hating himself for even thinking about Tom Riddle. Hating himself because damn it, he really liked Severus Snape. Hating himself because his first instinct was to lie, to everyone, about everything. He hated Severus a little because for the first time someone actually listened to him, listened to the things he was saying behind his fancy words.

"A deaf man, at that," Harry said with a bitter chuckle. He needed to leave. He picked up his phone and ordered a plane ticket, phoning the front desk next to arrange for a cab to take him to the airport first thing in the morning.

He wanted to shower after that, but there was a knock at the door and he figured it was someone from the front desk. He was absolutely not prepared to see Severus Snape standing there in front of him.

"May I come in?" Severus asked.

Harry stepped aside and switched on a few more lamps in the room to compensate for the sun which was now being covered in heavy clouds as it dipped lower into the sky. He shut the door after that, and sat down on the bed.

"What are you doing here?"

"You promised an exchange, music for art," Severus said. "There was no agreement that an art lesson would free up the debt between us in regards to saving my life."

Harry looked at the corner of the room where his cello lay against the piano he had specifically hired for his trip to Paris. "Er... alright."

"I have never touched an instrument in my life, Harry," Severus said. "I do request that you play for me first."

"You didn't paint for me first," Harry argued.

"I didn't need to," Severus replied with a simple shrug. "Did I?"

Harry sighed and then marched over to the piano. He sat down and launched into the song that had been most popular before he'd quit music. A song about love, which was something he had only watched from afar. It was a sad song, a song that still made his chest ache if he allowed himself to think even for a moment on his desperate loneliness.

When he stopped, Severus was standing by the piano, his hands stretched out on top of the wood and he was staring at Harry.

"Could you hear it?"

"I could feel it," Severus said with another shrug. "In my hands, in my chest. Describe it."

"Describe what?" Harry asked, a little annoyed, nerves frayed by his raw feelings for his past, and for this man.

"Music," Severus said. He leaned over the piano and stared at Harry, hard. "Describe music."

"I don't know how," Harry complained.

He tried to stand up but Severus, with his impossibly long arms, shoved him back down onto the bench. "Try."

Harry swallowed thickly. "It's um... it's loud. It's tones, different tones going from high to low. They sort of vibrate through you, the deeper the sound, the more intense it hits you. You have to marry them together, to make music, these tones. You have to pair them, notes from each side of the spectrum, the dark and the light, and they have to fit, to sound good. Sometimes they fall flat and ugly and the sound hurts. Sometimes the sounds pierce something so deep that you can't help but cry."

"Did you realize you're crying now?" Severus asked.

Harry hadn't. He wiped the tears from his cheeks angrily. "Fuck! That's twice in one day, man! I haven't cried in bloody years and here I am weeping like a hormonal teenaged girl. What the hell is wrong with me?"

"Nothing," Severus said. "Sometimes I don't cry for years. Sometimes my tears go into my paintings and they tell their story that way. Sometimes, though, the pain is overwhelming and it pours out before I have time to turn it into a story. Sometimes I cry and I'm certain that even though I can't her them, my tears are so loud they deafen those around me, just for a moment. Not often, but sometimes."

Harry stood up and stood directly in front of Severus. "Why are you here?"

"For the same reason you found me this afternoon," he replied.

"How did you find me?"

"You left a trail."

"What do you want from me, Severus? What do you want?"

"The same thing you wanted from me, you idiot," Severus said, and then he grabbed Harry by the sides of his face and kissed him, hard and fierce and desperate he kissed him.

Harry felt his body nearly give way, supported only by Severus' arms that weren't, under any circumstances, letting him go. He clung on to warmth and mouth and hair for dear life, fearing if he did let go, this time he would die, this time his predictions for his own demise would absolutely come true.

"I booked a plane," Harry said, pulling away for the man to see his mouth as Severus tugged him to the bed, pulling at his shirt and the buckle on his trousers. "For tomorrow."

"So? Don't go. It's not a difficult decision," Severus said from behind his kisses. "Do you want to stay?"

Harry didn't have to say yes. Yes was unnecessary. With this heat, this absolute heat, this absolute wanting, and this absolute feeling of belonging, the yes was absolutely not needed.