Title: "What We Were (or This Mess We're In)"
Other pairings/threesome: Implied Harry/Ginny
Word count: 17,200
Warning(s): Infidelity (not between Harry and Severus); rimming; explicit male/male sex; miscarriage; general angst and drama.
a/n: Written for Secret Snarry Swap 2012. My gift recipient requested "strong romantic/emotional connections, 'everyday' romance (aka: subtle gestures, not overly lovey/fluffy things), infidelity/divorce, angst that eventually gets resolved, slow burn to the romance and/or sexual tension, HEA or HFN endings, snogging just for the sake of snogging, heavy foreplay with rimming and fingering and touching, etc." But most of all, she wanted romance and emotion.
Especial thanks to ICMezzo for the super-last-minute, emergency beta. All remaining mistakes are my own.
"I'm getting married."
Something sharp twists inside Severus's chest at the words, but he manages to keep his face impassive. "I cannot imagine, Mr. Potter, why you believe I would care."
Potter frowns, the lines at the corners of his mouth deepening. "I wanted you to know. Before it hits the papers and all."
Severus doesn't respond. The tick of the ancient clock on the wall fills the silence. It was his grandmother's and one of the few items he kept from the house at Spinner's End. He looks down at the ledger on his desk, but the narrow lines of numbers all blur together. When he looks up again, Potter is still standing there, fingers curled in the hem of his worn jumper.
At least the boy looks miserable. Severus feels a brief pang of satisfaction at that. Potter's eyes are weary, red-rimmed, and lined by dark circles. He hasn't been sleeping—not that he ever did, much, even when they were—
Severus cuts the thought off. It's been nearly a year, and he still misses the boy in his bed. Though he hadn't argued when Potter walked away. It was for the best.
Saviours of the world don't belong with cantankerous ex-spies.
Still, regret presses at the corners of his mind, and he must work to push it away.
"I just thought..." Potter bites his lip. "Never mind. I shouldn't have come." Severus hears the resignation in Potter's voice, and it cuts like a blade beneath his ribs, but he nods curtly.
Potter sighs and turns to go. Severus knows that, if he lets him walk out of his shop, he won't see him again. He tells himself he should be pleased, but he's not.
"Is she pregnant?"
Potter turns back, eyes wide. "What? No. Gods, no."
Severus isn't sure why he asked the question. It's none of his concern, of course. But the look of horror on Potter's face is almost worth the nausea that churns in his gut at the thought.
"We haven't..." Potter looks down at his shoes, dark hair falling into his face. "Not yet."
That Severus takes comfort in knowing Potter hasn't slept with the Weasley girl is ridiculous. He knows this. After all, Potter is going to marry the chit.
"I still miss you, you know." Potter looks up again. There's a thumbprint smudge on his glasses. Severus looks at this to avoid looking at the colour of his eyes. They're always so damned green.
Severus lifts his chin and refuses to acknowledge the rapid stutter of his pulse. "You ended it." His voice does not shake.
"I know." Potter takes a step forwards and, for one horrifying moment, Severus thinks he might actually touch him.
Despite the counter between them, Severus steps back, shoulders hitting the shelf behind him. Potter frowns and holds up his hands.
Severus can see the callouses on his palms, and he hates that he remembers the way Potter's hands felt on his hips.
"This isn't how I imagined things would turn out."
The words are like acid on Severus's skin. "It is exactly what you always wanted."
At Potter's frown, Severus laughs, a harsh sound even to his own ears. "Don't fool yourself. You always hated yourself for liking cock."
Potter's expression hardens. The boy has grown into a man of twenty-two now. Severus must admit this. His face has thinned out, lost all of its boyish softness. Severus's eyes follow the strong line of Potter's jaw, see the stubble darkening his chin. His stomach clenches.
"Right. So I guess that's it then." Potter's voice is cool. When he turns to leave this time, Severus does not stop him.
According to The Prophet,the wedding is gorgeous. It is elegant in its simplicity—a fitting celebration for the bonding of a hero and his beautiful bride.
Severus does not look at the full-page spread of coloured photographs. Instead, he rips the paper clean in two.
Sometimes, he hates the man for sending the Healers after him. He should have died in that decrepit shack the night Potter finally defeated the Dark Lord. It would have been a fitting end, an appropriate penance for his sins.
Instead, he awoke in a private room in St. Mungo's, Harry Potter himself curled in the chair by his bedside, a vial of memories clutched between his fingers.
Potter returned the following week. And the week after that, and the week after that, until Severus became almost...accustomed to his presence.
Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised him, then, when Potter was waiting for him the morning of his release. He stood, slouched against the brick wall by the hospital entrance, hands shoved in the pockets of faded blue jeans.
Severus still remembers the way Potter smiled when he saw him. 'I thought, maybe, I'd buy you a drink.'
And because Severus did not want to return to Hogwarts, and because he did not even know if the house at Spinner's End was still standing, he said yes.
They'd ended up in Potter's bed at Grimmauld Place. It was absurd, of course, and Severus knew it wouldn't last. The boy was a hero, and Severus barely escaped standing trial for murder and war crimes. But sometimes, with Potter flushed and gasping and spread out beneath him, Severus fancied himself happy.
He points his wand at the kettle to set the water to boil and ignores the fact that his hands are shaking.
It's nearly a year before he sees Potter again. He tells himself it's for the best.
Business is steady. Severus has his potions, a comfortable flat off Frith Street in Soho and, for the first time he can recall, no obligations to anyone save himself.
It's raining when Potter pounds on his door. The fool's forgone an Impervius, and his fringe is plastered to his forehead. His glasses are fogged, and rainwater soaks the dark wool of his Auror robes.
Severus opens the door, stepping aside as Potter slips past into the entryway. He stands there shivering, dripping a puddle on the scuffed parquet floor. Severus summons a towel and Potter takes it, dabbing his face, his hair.
"Thanks," he says after a moment, handing the sodden towel back to Severus. "Can I come in for a minute?"
Severus nods and turns toward the sitting room. Potter follows but stops in the doorway uncertainly while Severus sits by the fire.
"I, er, it looks nice in here," he says after a long moment, and Severus barely manages not to laugh. His flat is the same as it's been for the last five years. The same threadbare rug covers the floor; the same wingback chairs flank the hearth; the same overstuffed bookshelves line the wall. Aside from a single framed photograph of himself and his mum on his first day of Hogwarts, there are no personal effects. Severus had taken very little from his father's house or his dungeon rooms. He hadn't wanted the memories.
"I assume you came to see me for a reason," Severus prompts when Potter says nothing else.
"I… Yes, of course," he says, running a hand through his hair. "There's a case—"
But Snape is already on his feet again. "I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but I'm sure you recall my feelings on the matter." He'd made them very clear years ago when he walked away from the Wizarding world. The Wizarding world that, while stopping short of prosecuting him for treason, was content to persecute him as a pariah and ex-Death Eater.
"Yes," Potter says, stepping into the room. "I know, and I understand—you know I do. That's why I wouldn't ask if it weren't absolutely necessary."
Severus shakes his head. "You have myriad experts and, I believe, a resident Potions Master at your disposal."
"But they're not you," he snaps. His fingers tug at the sleeve of his robe; his face is pinched and drawn.
Potter is tired. Dark circles purple his eyes, and Severus can see the lines etched in his face. He looks older than his twenty-three years. Severus sighs. "Tell me."
Potter's shoulders relax slightly, and he takes a step forwards. Severus motions to the chair across from him, and they both sit. "There's a poison." Potter leans forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. "So far, we've had six seemingly unrelated cases. It took us forever to find the link."
"Jeremiah Wellington, seventy-two. Kent. Louisa Owen, thirty-one. Islington. Mathilda Marion, seven. West Sussex. Harrison Becker, fifty-four. Surrey. Aditya Patel, twenty-three. Mumbai. Simon Langley, nineteen. Yorkshire." Potter's tone is clinical, emotionless, but Severus knows it's only a defence mechanism. He's always been helplessly empathetic.
Severus frowns. "Becker. I recognise the name."
"Yeah. You would. He was an informant during the war. And his sister, Cassandra, passed on information from her position in the Ministry."
He nods. "Langley?"
"Hufflepuff. Four years behind me. His entire family came to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. His brother Samuel was killed that night."
"And the others?" Severus's voice is steady, but he feels sick to his stomach. He should have known this had something to do with the war.
"Wellington had a daughter who was a code breaker for our side. She worked with Dumbledore personally. Mathilda's parents helped forty-three families of Muggleborns escape to the Continent over an eight-month period in 1997. Louisa Owen was an Auror, several classes ahead of me. Same year as Tonks." Potter's voice cracks slightly, and he looks down, scrubbing a hand across his face, pushing his glasses up to his forehead.
Though Severus will never admit it, he also misses Nymphadora. The werewolf had been intolerable, but her dry sense of humour matched well with Severus's own. He swallows. "And the Patel boy?"
"First cousin of Padma and Pavarti. He was in London visiting family—had never been to England before."
Severus stands and moves to the sideboard. He has a feeling he's going to need a drink. He pours a generous splash of whisky into a tumbler and holds it out to Potter, but he shakes his head.
"No thanks. I need to head back to the office."
Severus nods and sits down again. The whisky is honey warm in the flickering light of the fire. He takes a slow sip, enjoying the burn of alcohol in his throat, his stomach. "And you're certain it's not coincidence?"
"No. It took a while to find the pattern, but the connection is clear. Whoever's doing this is targeting Order members, family and friends, anyone who fought on our side during the war."
Severus traces the lip of the glass with his thumb. "How does the poison manifest itself? What are the symptoms?"
"The onset is slow. Victims report feeling a bit under the weather—like they're coming down with a virus or something." Potter runs a hand through his hair; it's still damp with rainwater. "But then things get weird. They experience dizziness, confusion, hallucinations."
Severus nods. None of those symptoms are overly striking. He knows a number of poisons that cause similar reactions. But Potter's eyes are dark. "Snape, they start losing time. They find themselves in places they don't remember going to, doing things they have no recollection of wanting to do."
"What kinds of things?"
"Dangerous things." Potter bites his lip. "Magical things."
"Have there been witnesses?"
"Yes. That's just it. Every single victim—even Mathilda—has done something to expose us."
Something cold twists in Severus's stomach. "And potential controversy with Muggles only feeds insecurity, fear, prejudice."
Potter nods. A strand of dark hair falls into his eyes and he brushes it away. "So far the damage has been minimal. Our team of Obliviators has managed to respond quickly enough to avoid panic. But whoever is orchestrating this, whoever is poisoning these people, it seems, would like to challenge the Statute of Secrecy. And you know what that means."
Severus sets his glass on the side table. "They would either have us exposed to bring us into conflict with the Muggles, or they believe in superiority and think exposure the most expedient means to control." Neither scenario is pleasant to consider. "And what of the victims? Have they recovered?"
Potter's expression darkens. "They're all dead, Snape. Every one of them. The poison, it feeds on your magic. And once it latches on, well, there's nothing they can do."
Severus takes a deep breath. He's heard of such things. "Poisons that feed on your mind, body, and magic are rare. They are exceptionally difficult to craft."
"That's why we need you."
"Leave me what information you have. I'll take a look."
Potter stands, fishing a small vial from the pocket of his robes. He hands it to Severus. "The Healers were able to extract a small sample from the last victim before his body metabolized it entirely."
Severus holds the vial up to the light. The liquid is inky and thin but black as jet. It shimmers slightly as he twists it between his fingers. "I'll run some tests, but unfortunately—"
"I know, I know," Potter cuts him off. "It's not pure. But it's all we have. We're not even sure how the victims were infected."
"If I can determine the exact nature of the poison, perhaps we will then know how it's delivered."
"Yeah, okay." Potter reaches out briefly, brushes his palm against Severus's arm. "Thanks for doing this. I didn't know who else to ask."
"I'll see what I can do."
Potter turns to leave but stops and looks back. "There's something else. The magical signature. It's familiar. I don't recognise it, but I feel like I should."
Severus brings the vial with him to work the next morning. He's not certain why he agreed to help Potter. Surely it has nothing to do with wanting to see the man again.
He thinks it must be part of his penance—that he can't seem to turn Potter away whenever he appears on his doorstep begging assistance. And the Potions experts at the Ministry are no doubt imbeciles. Someone needs to solve the crime, Severus supposes, before more wizards start dropping like flies. That wouldn't be good for business.
He sets the vial aside and turns his attention first to the two potions scheduled for delivery that afternoon. Though on its front his shop looks to be only a modest Muggle chemist specialising in homeopathic remedies, Severus conducts most of his business through owl post. Despite his rather dubious post-war status, there is still considerable demand for a Potions Master's product and expertise, provided, of course, that no one has to meet any ex-Death Eaters face to face.
And that's fine with Severus. Enduring client demands in person is akin to torture.
The first order is a simple yet potentially potent narcotic. Though the request is mildly concerning, the ingredients do not call for enough belladonna for the potion to be truly virulent.
The second order is a variation of a standard sleeping draught. He flicks his wand at the pewter cauldron to set the water to boil and begins chopping asphodel for the base, fingers moving precisely over the narrow roots.
When the mixture is complete, Severus wipes his hands on his apron and carefully cleans his knife, his ladle, before checking the temperature one more time.
Satisfied, he finally picks up the small vial at the end of his worktable; it's warm to the touch. He feels a faint shiver of magic against his skin. The liquid inside is still black as pitch, but it has congealed slightly. He turns it between his fingers, measuring its viscosity, the way it slides up the sides of the glass.
Severus takes a small silver bowl from the cupboard and touches his wand to the wax sealing the vial. He murmurs an incantation under his breath. The liquid pulses slightly as his magic sparks against the latent magic in the potion. Carefully, he pours the contents of the vial into the bowl. It looks like ink, but Severus can feel the darkness inherent in the substance. It slips across his skin and tugs at his spine in a way that is vaguely, unsettlingly familiar.
Potter was right. He recognises the magic, but he can't place it.
He touches the tip of his wand to the mixture; its surface swirls and foams. Magic pricks his palm when he raises his wand again, and he watches the thin stream of blue and silver characters coalesce in the air before him, shimmer briefly, and disappear.
Severus takes a deep breath and runs the test again.
"The results are disturbing at best."
Potter nods but says nothing. The young man stands at the counter, arms folded across his chest. Severus looks out the window; he can see Muggles passing by on the street, arms laden with shopping bags. "There are potions known to cause a chemical hypnosis."
"Yes. Not unlike Imperio, but without necessity of casting and maintaining a spell."
"That explains the memory loss."
"Yes. It's a variation of Scopolamine, a type of Atropine poisoning."
"Atropine." Potter frowns. "Is that something I should have heard of?"
Severus shrugs and pulls a book from the shelf behind his desk. Its spine prickles with magic as he sets it down. "It's been around for centuries. References date back as far as the Middle Ages."
Potter moves around the counter to stand beside him. Severus can smell the scent of his soap, his aftershave, and it reminds him of the taste of Potter's skin. He exhales and opens the book, turning to the correct page for Potter to read. After a few moments, the man looks up again, eyes dark. It's clear from his expression that he understands.
"Nightshade family. That's a Class One prohibited substance."
"As it should be." Severus slides his finger across a line of text. "And Atropine combines belladonna, jimsonweed, and henbane…"
"All poisons in their own right," Potter finishes for him, and Severus can't help but be impressed. But this Potter is not the same recalcitrant student he remembers. No. This is a different Potter. In his standard Auror robes, gray wool fitted tight across his shoulders, Potter looks nothing like the boy he used to be.
"Years ago, when the Dark Lord first rose to power, there was a lot of experimentation." Severus turns a page in the book. "The concept of a potion-based Imperio was quite…appealing."
Potter nods. "That makes sense. Mind control with mass application."
"Yes. And, at the hand of a weaker wizard, the Imperius curse is unreliable."
Potter presses his palm to the countertop. His hand is thick and square. "I'm still amazed at how many Aurors are incapable of casting Unforgivables."
Snape's gut twists. He is all too familiar with tales of abuse at the hands of the Ministry's finest.
Potter must sense his discomfort. "We don't condone their use, Snape. Never have. Never will."
"Of course not." Severus's voice is sharp.
Potter frowns. "I wouldn't expect you to believe me. But there are still dark wizards out there, as you well know. It's important that our boys know what they're up against, that they understand the magic."
Of course Potter is right. "Unforgivables require both power and focus. Thankfully, I suppose, there are fewer wizards than one might think who possess the ability."
"But a potion with such capabilities…" Potter runs a finger across the page. "I understand the allure."
Severus nods and makes a decision; there is no reason to keep information from Potter, regardless of what the man might think of him. "I conducted much of the experimentation on potions like these during the first war. It was a pet project, per se, and I was…Voldemort's primary Potions Master." Even after all these years, the name still feels like ash on his tongue.
Potter does not react the way Severus expected him to. He does not look horrified or repulsed. He only furrows his brow in consideration and looks very much the Auror he has become.
Severus looks down at the text. "Thornapple, dogwood, nightshade. These have always been considered powerful enchantments by those skilled in the Dark Arts."
Potter says nothing; he waits for Severus to continue. "During the Middle Ages, physicians used Scopolamine as an anaesthetic during surgery. Until they were accused of sorcery, that is."
"Because of the hallucinatory effects?"
"Yes. Even then, Muggles and wizards alike recognised the mind-altering properties of such a drug. And the Dark Lord was convinced, if we could only find the right combination of substances, that a variation of Scopolamine could be used for mind control."
Potter runs a hand through his rumpled hair. It curls around his fingers and falls into his eyes. "He was right."
"Unfortunately so. While I was working to unravel the properties of this poison, I was struck by the similarities to the work I conducted during that time. The wizard responsible must not only be highly skilled at potions, but he must also be connected to the Dark Lord's inner circle. How else would he be familiar with the magical theories behind an experimental potion I worked on—at Voldemort's behest—over two decades ago."
"The magic is not mine," Severus says indicating the vial to which he carefully returned the extracted poison, "But whoever is responsible has incorporated my spellwork."
"Is there an antidote?"
Potter returns to Severus's shop three weeks later. Severus is sitting at his desk going over purchasing orders for next month's ingredients. He looks up when the door opens, the bell clanging against the glass.
"We caught the bastard," Potter says breathlessly. "Careless really. He was trying to purchase henbane and jimsonweed from the apothecary on Knockturn Alley." Potter isn't in uniform. He's wearing a gray jumper; his Muggle jeans are worn and faded. Severus refuses to think him attractive.
He sets his quill down. "Who is he?"
"Artemis Colston. Heard of him?"
Severus has. "He joined the Dark Lord's ranks early on. He always had an affinity for potions, though no clear talent."
"Well, he developed some."
Severus inclines his head; he can't disagree.
"But we got him," Potter says, moving to stand beside Severus's desk. "And we have you to thank for that."
Severus doesn't know what to say to that, so he says nothing.
Potter rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet. "I thought, perhaps, we could grab a drink."
Severus should say no. He knows he should, but Potter's smile reminds him of things he rarely allows himself to remember. "Five minutes?"
The walk to The Dog and Duck is surprisingly pleasant. Potter moves quickly, his hands shoved into his pockets as he keeps pace with Severus's longer strides. The air is crisp and clear, the late afternoon sun watery and pale.
"This your local place?" Potter asks as Severus holds open the door.
"I come here occasionally."
They wind their way through the maze of tables to the bar. Potter orders a cider, Severus a whisky, neat.
They sit in a booth in the corner. Potter props an elbow on the table and looks at Severus; it's unnerving. He sips his whisky and resists the urge to down it in a single gulp.
"So," Potter says after a long moment. "Thank you, again. We couldn't have done it without you."
Severus sets his glass down; the table is scarred and pitted. "Try not to get into a habit of relying on my expertise."
Potter laughs, a warm rich sound. "Never." He looks down, twists his glass between his hands. "But it's been good to see you again."
Severus doesn't respond; he takes another sip of whisky.
"It's been a while, you know?"
"And how is married life treating you?" Severus asks; his voice is a bit harsher than he intends, but Potter unsettles him. "Is wedded felicity all it's purported to be?"
Potter scowls. "It's fine. I mean, we're fine." He doesn't sound convinced, and Severus hates that this pleases him. Potter leans forwards, resting his arms on the table. He slips his glasses off; there's a pink indentation on the bridge of his nose. It's been over two years since they've slept together, and Potter's skin still makes Severus's stomach flutter. He downs the rest of his drink.
Potter is still staring at him. "What about you, Snape? Are you seeing someone?"
Severus hears a hint of a challenge there but thinks he must have imagined it. "I hardly think that's any of your business."
Potter tilts his head to one side. Something flashes in his eyes, but it's gone before Severus can read it properly. "No, maybe not. But we used to be friends."
Friends. The word sounds strange to his ear. Even when they were together, Severus isn't sure he ever thought of Potter like that. Though, perhaps he should have done. "Would you call it that?"
Potter frowns but does not respond. Instead he stands and heads to the bar. Severus watches as he manoeuvres his way through the tiny tables. His shoulders are broad now, and Severus thinks that they only serve to accentuate the narrowness of his hips. He wants to know what Potter would feel like underneath him again, and that idea is so disturbing he must push it to the farthest corner of his mind.
Potter returns with another round. His fingers brush Severus's as he hands him his glass, and Potter does not pull away immediately. His skin is warm, and it sends a not unpleasant shiver down Severus's spine. He closes his eyes and takes a breath. When he opens them again, Potter is watching him.
"So we were never friends. But there was a time when you couldn't get enough of me."
Severus doesn't know what to say. He twists his glass between his palms and tries not to think about Potter's hands, his mouth.
Potter takes a sip of his drink; his lips are wet with cider when he sets his glass down again. "There were days when we couldn't fall into bed fast enough."
Severus shifts; he's uncomfortable. This was not the direction he expected their conversation to take. "That was a long time ago," he finally manages.
"True." Potter drags his thumb down the side of his glass, tracing a line in the condensation there. "But you still think about it." He reaches out, but Severus jerks his hand away before he can touch him.
"Come on, Snape," Potter says, and his eyes are so dark, so intense that Severus feels exposed. "I may be shite at Occlumency, but I can still read you fairly well. And I know you still think about it too."
"It doesn't matter," Severus says sharply. He can't do this. He won't. "Things change."
They sit quietly for a minute. Potter drinks his cider. Severus can see the flex of his throat when he swallows. "You didn't want me to leave," the man says finally.
"It wasn't my choice." Severus looks away, staring across the crowded room. "And, as I said, it doesn't matter now."
"No, I guess not," Potter says, but his voice wavers slightly.
Severus frowns, turning back. "What do you want, Potter?"
"I..." He looks down, lip caught between his teeth. "I don't know."
"Then I suggest you go home to your wife and figure it out."
Over the next two weeks, Potter owls him five times. Severus incinerates each letter without opening it. He doesn't know what Potter wants, and he tells himself it's better that way.
Eventually, Potter stops trying.
It's several months before he sees him again.
Severus is crouched in front of a cabinet when the door to his shop opens, bell clanging. He stands and mutters a quick spell, feeling the wards slide into place.
"Is that where you keep the poisons and aphrodisiacs?"
Severus turns around. Potter is leaning against the counter, arms folded across his chest.
His gray Auror robe is open over a pressed white shirt and Windsor-knotted blue tie. Severus hates that he looks good. "I don't brew aphrodisiacs."
"Ah," Potter says. "Your clientele is more the death by potion type. No time for love, then."
Severus shrugs. "To what do I owe this…pleasure? Are you here in an official capacity?" His voice is calm, disinterested, but coldness pools in his stomach. There are those at the Ministry who would have him shut down without a thought, and the last thing he needs is an investigation into his business practises and commissions.
Potter doesn't respond. He walks along a line of shelves, inspecting their contents.
"I sell nothing illegal."
"Right. And bloodroot, foxglove, and angelica are all perfectly harmless." But Potter's voice is not condemnatory, and Severus relaxes slightly.
"I grant that, in certain doses or amalgamations, the effects can be rather deleterious, but they are not restricted."
Potter stares at the neatly ordered rows of jars filled with roots and herbs and dry ingredients. "Muggles buy this stuff?"
Severus nods. "I provide detailed warnings, instructions for use. And I restrict the purchase of potentially dangerous combinations of substances." He watches warily as Potter finishes his inspection. "Anything toxic or potentially harmful to Muggles, I keep warded." He indicates the cabinets lining the back wall. "Here or in my lab."
"And they really think you're some sort of herbalist?" Potter turns, and Severus sees the hint of a smile playing on his lips.
Potter glances down at his shoes, and for a moment he looks unsure.
"What are you doing here?"
"I was in the area."
Severus raises an eyebrow. "You were in Soho?"
"I was after I Apparated." Potter has the grace to blush.
Severus knows that the pink that stains his cheeks spreads down his throat, his chest when he's aroused. He swallows.
Potter takes a step closer.
Severus takes a deep breath and ignores the pounding of his heart. "What do you want?" He is horrified to hear his voice shake.
Potter reaches out and touches his arm; his other hand brushes against his chest. "You."
"Stop." Severus can hear the lack of conviction in his voice, and he worries everything is about to fall apart.
"I still think about you at night. Even when I'm with Gin. I imagine what you feel like against me, on top of me—"
"Stop," he repeats.
"I still want you." Potter's voice is low and rough. His thumb slides along the back of his hand. Severus knows he should pull away, but his head is swimming, and Potter is so close he can feel the heat from his body against his skin.
"I made a mistake."
Severus tries to step backwards, but Potter catches his arm again, fingers warm through the cotton of his shirt. Severus looks at him. His jaw is strong and squared. Severus can see the stubble there, and he wants to drag his tongue across it. He wants to shove him against the counter and suck him off. The thought is not as unsettling as it should be. "You should go Harry. Please—"
He cuts him off with a kiss. His lips are soft and warm, and Severus's hands settle on his hips; the wool of his robes is rough under his palms. Severus lets his mouth open against Potter's, and Potter's hands curl round his biceps, pulling him closer. His body is lean and firm against his, and Severus feels himself growing hard.
Pulling away to catch his breath, Potter slides his lips down Severus's throat. "I'll leave her."
The moment shatters.
Severus steps backwards. His chest aches. "Enough."
"I will. I mean it." Potter's eyes are bright, his cheeks flushed. "I—"
"I said enough." Snape steps back. His hands are shaking. He doesn't like it. "Is it true?"
Potter frowns. "What?"
"The rumour. That Ginevra is expecting your first child."
Potter doesn't look at him; his shoulders slump. "Yes. She's sixteen weeks."
Severus nods, ignoring the coldness that twists in his stomach. "June."
Potter shoves his hands in his pockets. "Yeah."
Snape sighs. He feels tired and very old. "Go home to your wife." The words taste acrid on his tongue, but his voice is cool.
Potter looks like he wants to say something, but instead he shakes his head, face shuttered. Then he turns and walks away.
The door bangs shut behind him.
James Sirius Potter is born 12 June 2005. Severus thinks Ginevra and Potter's choice of names is downright appalling. And, though he knows it's irrational to hate an infant, he can't help be glad he is no longer teaching. After all, the namesake of his two childhood enemies is sure to be a terror.
Severus turns from the wall of glassware. He so rarely ventures from his little corner in Soho, he should have known this wouldn't end well.
Potter is standing there, a dark haired boy propped on one hip. Severus mentally notes the month and realises the child must be nearly a year old by now. "Mr. Potter." Severus inclines his head. "And—"
"This is James," Potter says proudly. The boy ducks his head, pressing his cheek to his father's neck. "He's a bit shy."
Potter's ancient green jumper has seen better days. One cuff's beginning to unravel, and there's a stain at the neckline. His hair is rumpled and there are shadows under his eyes. He looks exhausted. He looks fantastic. "The child resembles you," Severus says after a moment.
Potter smiles. "I saw you through the window." He glances to the shopfront as though confirming that one could see out to the street. "We're just out running a few errands for Gin."
Severus nods. The child is looking at him now. One of his round cheeks is smeared with what looks to be chocolate biscuit crumbs. Gods, some children.
"What brings you into this part of town?" Potter ventures after a moment. "I didn't think you came out much."
"I don't," Severus agrees. "I need a new supply of glassware." He motions to the display behind him.
"And you can't do that by owl order? Surely they handle fragile deliveries."
"Yes." Severus selects two beakers from the shelf. "But with magic you risk compromising the purity of the glass. Any first year could recall that detail."
Potter smiles and looks entirely unabashed. "Right. That's why you never shrink cauldrons or clean then with spells."
"Glass is the same. I cannot risk a beaker or vial compromising the efficacy of a potion."
"Of course." The boy squirms in Potter's arms; he shifts him to his other hip. "Well, we should probably go. It's getting close to his naptime."
Severus nods but doesn't know what else to say; Potter never fails to throw him off kilter.
The man turns but then stops and looks back. "Can I buy you a drink sometime?"
Severus should say no, but Potter's smile is warm and open. "Why don't you stop by my flat after work one day this week."
Potter smiles. "Yeah. That'd be great."
"So, I never had the chance to apologise for the last time—when I came to see you in your shop."
They are on Severus's sofa, drinking Severus's whisky. He takes a slow sip and waits. He does not look at Potter. Though Severus hasn't forgotten that ill-advised kiss, he doesn't want to talk about it, either.
"That was inappropriate," Potter continues after a moment. "And I'm sorry."
"You were unhappy," Severus says carefully.
"Yeah." Potter leans forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. He's taken off his robe. It lies discarded on the back of a chair. His shirtsleeves are rolled up to his forearms.
"Are you still?"
"I'm not sure." He frowns. "No. I mean, that's not true. Jamie is the best thing that's ever happened to me." He looks at Severus. "He's a right handful, sure. But, Merlin, he's amazing."
Severus nods; he'd rather not delve into the exploits and alleged talents of Potter and Weasley's toddler. "You're a good father," he offers instead.
"I hope so." He sets his glass down on the coffee table. "Every day there's something new to bollocks up, but we're trying."
"Naturally," Severus says, standing to get the bottle of Ogden's from the sideboard. He pours Potter another drink. "And children are incredibly resilient. I doubt there is much you can do at this point to damage him too severely."
Potter shakes his head. "Thanks, Snape. That's a real comfort."
Severus shrugs. "Take your upbringing, for example. Hardly the ideal environment for a child."
Potter takes a sip of his whisky but doesn't respond. They don't talk about their respective childhoods; both are rife with memories they'd prefer to forget.
"And yet," Severus continues after a moment, sitting back down beside Potter, "you've turned into a fairly tolerable young man."
Potter laughs. When he looks at Severus, his eyes are bright. "Fairly tolerable. Coming from you that's quite the compliment."
They're quiet for a while after that. Severus finds he simply enjoys the man's presence beside him. The even sound of his breathing. The clink of ice in his glass. The warmth of his body beside his. It's pleasant in a way that is appealing, comforting, and unsettling all at once.
"Gin's talking about going back to work." Potter's voice cuts through the silence.
Severus turns to face him. "And what do you think about that?"
"The Harpies want her back. She can get her old job in marketing, but that means travel." He flops back against the cushions with a sigh.
"And I'm not sure that's a good thing for Jamie if she's away all the time." Potter runs a hand through his hair; Severus recognises the agitated gesture. "I work ridiculous hours already."
"I imagine you have sufficient family willing to mind the boy while you're both working."
"Yeah. Molly's great. Jamie is always welcome there, and Hermione has worked from home ever since Rose was born. She says she'd be happy to keep him some days."
"Then what is the problem?"
Potter holds his glass up to the light as if measuring its contents. Then he downs the remaining whisky in one gulp. "The problem is that I want her to go back to work. That she'll be gone some weeks and alternating weekends is bloody appealing to me."
Of everything Potter could have said, Severus is certain he wasn't expecting that. He sips his drink to mask his surprise.
When Potter looks at him again, his eyes are sad. "And what kind of husband does that make me?"
It's a quarter past one when the Floo flares. Severus can see the green light down the hall, and he wonders yet again if he should change the wards.
He stands and carries his cup to the sink to rinse. When he turns around again, Potter is there, leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded across his chest. His cheeks are pink with cold and most likely alcohol. His hair is even more dishevelled than usual, and he's still wearing his Auror robes. He hasn't been home.
"Rough day?" Severus asks.
"Yeah," Potter says. He sits down at the kitchen table without further explanation.
It is no longer an odd occurrence to have Potter in his flat. Perhaps Severus should feel guilty that the man's not home with his family. "Surely your wife is expecting you."
Potter shrugs. "Probably not. She'll be asleep by now anyway."
Severus sets the kettle to boil before taking two clean cups from the cupboard. Potter looks like he could use some tea.
"PG Tips, really?" Potter says, looking at Severus when he slides the tin across the table.
Severus puts a bag into his own mug and pours the water. "I suppose I've been around Muggles for too long."
The man laughs and fixes his own cuppa. "I won't tell anyone, Snape. I promise."
Severus hides his smile behind the lip of his cup. The tea is hot and bitter, and though he has already had too much tonight, he enjoys the thrum of caffeine in his blood.
"Well," he says after a few minutes, "since you're in my kitchen in the middle of the night, I suggest you tell me what happened today. Or, perhaps I'll simply adjust my wards. Then I might get a decent night's rest every once in a while."
Potter doesn't react to the threat. Instead, he traces his finger along a groove in the worn tabletop. "We think there's an accomplice."
"Artemis Colston. We believe he was working with someone else."
"It's been over two years since the last victim."
"I know," Potter says, twisting his mug between his fingers. "He never said anything to indicate that he wasn't operating alone, and the attacks stopped once we caught him. Yet, in the last two weeks, we've had three people check into St. Mungo's with alarming symptoms."
Severus picks up his cup but, finding only dregs, sets it down again. "Surely Healers still have the antidote. I haven't heard of any fatalities."
Potter leans forwards. A lock of hair falls into his eyes, and Severus must resist the urge to brush it off his forehead. "No fatalities. And the poison's makeup is clearly similar. It responds to your treatment."
"But…" Severus prompts when the man doesn't continue.
"But something is off."
Severus frowns. "In what way? The antidote should neutralise the Atropine's deleterious effects."
"And it does," Potter says, finishing his tea. "Mentally and physically."
Severus understands. "But their magic."
"Yeah." Suddenly Potter looks very tired. "Unfortunately it seems there is nothing we can do." He presses his fingers under his glasses and rubs his eyes. "The potion is every bit as virulent if left untreated, but there is something more rudimentary in its composition."
Severus nods. "As though an apprentice was following in the footsteps of his master?"
"Yes. And he's stumbled onto something that—while perhaps no longer lethal—is equally concerning."
Severus slides his thumb down the side of his mug; the porcelain is still warm to the touch. "I assume you'd like me to take a look?"
Potter nods. "Yeah. The last victim, Nicolas Whitmore, we received confirmation today. His magic is completely gone." Potter shakes his head. "He's eleven years old. Received his Hogwarts letter last week."
Severus has run the test three times now. On the surface, the makeup of the poison appears exactly the same, but that doesn't explain the change in pattern.
The same potion, consistently brewed, will not manifest in dissimilar ways. And yet, the last three victims' illnesses have progressed differently than the original seven exposed to Colston's Atropine.
Though this poison still affects the wizard's mind, body, and magic, it attacks the magic first before any physical symptoms develop. And, despite the antidote, once the poison has latched onto a wizard's magic nothing can be done.
No. The victim will not die as Colston's had before Severus created the potion to counter the Atropine's affects, but once one's magic is lost, it never returns.
Severus surmises that this must be the intent. After all, Colston's successor must know that Healers now have a physical cure. So he's manipulated the poison in such a way that, while no longer fatal, it will still mete out unspeakable havoc.
"God Snape, you're gorgeous."
"And you're pissed."
"Maybe. But that doesn't mean it's not true."
Warmth slips through Severus's veins at the words, and for the briefest of moments he imagines taking the man to bed. But, of course, he won't. "Don't be absurd," he says sharply.
Potter only smiles and rests his cheek on his palm. "I've always thought so, you know. Even when I hated you."
"And I thought you were a arrogant brat with ridiculous glasses and ludicrous hair."
Potter laughs. "Yeah, but you like me in glasses."
Severus wants to disagree, but the man will know he's lying. He takes a sip of whisky. According to Potter, Ginevra has taken James to the shore for the weekend to visit her brother and his wife.
"Gin's talking about having another kid," Potter says suddenly, reaching across Severus to set the bottle of Ogden's back on the table. His arm brushes Severus's as he leans too close.
"Oh," he says carefully. He knows this shouldn't surprise him. After all, the man's married; he has one brat already. There is no reason the idea should unnerve him.
Potter leans back against the cushion and closes his eyes. He scrubs a hand across his face, pushing his glasses up on his forehead. "We haven't had sex since Jamie was born."
The statement surprises Severus. Though he knows Potter's marriage isn't ideal, he assumed the man hadn't been celibate. He takes a slow sip of whisky and tries to ignore the warmth of Potter's body beside his.
"Sometimes I'm not sure I can do this." When Potter looks at Severus, his eyes are shadowed.
"We all do what we must."
Potter frowns. "After all this time, when I lie next to her in bed at night, all I can think about is you." He downs his drink and stands. "How pathetic does that make me?"
Severus doesn't respond, but he thinks, perhaps, it's not so pathetic after all.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Potter shrugs. They're in Severus's shop. Potter leans against the counter, arms crossed. His Auror robes are open over faded jeans and a t-shirt proclaiming the name of some Muggle band in peeling letters. He's been out doing fieldwork. "I wasn't sure you'd approve."
Severus looks up from where he's restocking his store cupboard. "It's your wife I can't imagine approved of such a ridiculous thing." Albus Severus Potter. Severus shakes his head. Talk about giving the child a complex.
"Gin never minded you much. She was decent at Potions, anyhow."
Severus concedes the point with a grunt and reaches for the box of lavender.
"Not that she ever understood our…association, but she realised it was important to me."
Severus is not sure what Potter has told his wife about their relationship; very few people know they were lovers.
"And with Al being born so close to the anniversary." Potter frowns. "Well, it's just something I had to do."
Severus stands and runs his hands down his thighs, smoothing the front of his trousers.
"You don't mind, do you?" Potter asks after a moment.
"Aside from the fact that it's a horrid choice and the boy will no doubt be teased mercilessly?"
Potter scowls and Severus can't help but laugh.
"No. I don't mind."
Severus rolls over and glances blearily at the clock on the wall. It's half three in the morning. He rubs a hand across his face and sits up, reaching for his dressing gown. He has no idea what Potter wants, but it best be important.
The man is standing in the living room, Albus Severus in his arms. James is beside him, clutching at Potter's trouser leg, his navy blue peacoat hastily bundled over his pyjamas. Any irritation Severus may have felt is quickly replaced with concern at the look on Potter's face.
"Gin's out of town this week," Potter says, voiced edged with panic. "And Al—God, Snape, he's burning up."
Severus takes the boy from Potter. His head lolls to the side and, though his eyelids flutter, he does not wake. Potter's right. He's far too hot. He presses his palm to Albus's forehead. It's sticky with sweat, and wisps of dark hair cling to his temples. "Take Jamie to my room," Severus tells Potter. "He must be exhausted."
Potter nods but does not move. His eyes are fixed on the baby, a stricken expression on his face.
"Go. I've got him," Severus says firmly, and Potter stoops to pick up the older boy. Severus can hear him murmuring softly as he walks down the hallway to the bedroom.
He carries Albus into the kitchen and rummages through the cupboard for the right vials. He finds what he's looking for and sets them on the countertop. Then he shifts the boy in his arms so he can unbutton his pyjamas. His skin is flushed and pink, and Severus can feel the quick flutter of his pulse under his fingertips.
Severus hears Potter behind him and turns. "Did you get Jamie down?"
"Yeah," he says, running a hand through his hair. "I think I upset him. He was asking for Gin, but he's settled now."
Severus nods. "Have you given Albus anything?"
"Fever reducer. About an hour ago."
"Store bought?" Severus asks, uncorking a vial.
"Yeah. Didn't help. Do we need to call a Healer? I almost brought him to St. Mungo's but—"
Severus cuts him off with a glare and tilts the boy's head back so he can pour the potion into his mouth. He holds his chin, making sure that he swallows. Albus sputters slightly but does not open his eyes.
"I didn't know what else to do," Potter says softly, curling his fingers in the hem of his jumper. He's pulled it on over bare skin, and he's still wearing his pyjama bottoms; they're covered with miniature Snitches.
"You were right to bring him here," Severus says, opening the second vial. Albus whimpers but drinks it down.
"Will he be all right?"
"Of course he will be. The potions will reduce his temperature."
Potter nods but does not look convinced.
"Fill a bowl with lukewarm water," Severus instructs, summoning a flannel. "It will help draw out the fever."
Potter takes the mixing bowl from the shelf in the pantry and turns the tap, waiting for the water to warm.
"Here," Severus says, handing him his son. "Hold the compress to his forehead."
Potter smoothes the boy's hair back from his face and dabs the flannel to his temples before pressing it gently to his forehead. His hands are shaking.
"He'll be fine," Severus says again, walking to the cupboard for another potion.
After a quarter of an hour, Severus gives Albus another dose. The boy is listless; his breath is ragged and wet. Potter warms the water again and replaces the compress. Severus runs his wand over Albus's body murmuring an incantation; he watches as a line of silver symbols shimmer over the boy's head before fading.
"What does that mean?" Potter asks.
"It means the potions are working. It shouldn't be long."
Severus makes a pot of tea, and Potter murmurs his thanks when he slides a cup across the table toward him, but the man does not drink. His attention is entirely focussed on the boy. Severus's chest feels oddly tight.
Finally, Albus's fever breaks. Severus holds a hand to his forehead, brushing damp curls from his eyes. His skin is still warm, but he's no longer too hot. Severus sighs in relief.
Potter reaches out and catches his hand in his. His fingers are cool and wet from the flannel as he stokes his thumb back and forth over Severus's knuckles. "He's all right," he whispers.
"Yes." For just a moment, Severus imagines leaning over to kiss him. He stands, pushing his chair back with a loud scrape.
"Go check on Jamie. See if you can get an hour or two of sleep. I'll watch Albus."
"No, I…" Potter protests. "You've done enough already."
"Nonsense. And you won't do him any good if you get sick as well."
Potter doesn't move.
"Just lie down for a little while," Severus says, taking the baby from him. "I'll come get you if I need anything." Albus curls against his chest with a snuffle. Severus brushes his palm across the top of his head; his skin is cooler now.
Finally, Potter nods and stands, pressing a kiss to Albus's forehead before disappearing down the hall.
Severus takes Albus into the living room and waves his wand at a couch cushion, transforming it into a passable cot. Carefully, he lays the boy down on his back. Albus shifts slightly, bringing one small fist up to his cheek.
Severus sits down on the sofa. His entire body is tense, muscles tight and achy. He takes a book from the side table but does not read. Instead, he watches his namesake sleep, thin chest rising and falling steadily now.
He must have fallen asleep because next thing he knows he wakes to pale early morning light streaming in through the window. He stands to check on Albus; the boy is still dozing peacefully in his makeshift cot. Severus presses two fingers to his forehead, his cheek. The fever has not returned.
Severus walks to the kitchen to set the kettle to boil and get another potion from the cupboard. He'll have to replenish his supply. He hears movement and turns to see Potter in the doorway. The man's hair is mussed; he's pulled on one of Severus's undershirts.
"Is Albus okay?" Potter asks, glancing over his shoulder to the living room. "I didn't want to wake him."
"Yes. His temperature is back to normal. I'll give him another dose of potion once he wakes."
Potter's relief is visible. "Thank Merlin," he says, taking the cup of tea with a gracious smile. "Jamie's still asleep."
"Let him," Severus says. "Last night was no doubt difficult."
Potter sets his cup down on the table and stretches his arms above his head. The thin t-shirt rides up, revealing an inch of pale skin. Severus can see the swell of Potter's morning erection under the soft cotton of his sleep pants. He feels his cheeks warm and looks away quickly, but not before Potter notices him looking.
The man smiles lazily and takes a step toward Severus. "It was nice, sleeping in your bed again."
Severus doesn't know what to say to that, so he takes a sip of his tea. It's hot and bitter against his tongue, but the twist of warmth in his stomach has nothing to do with the drink.
Potter tilts his head to one side, looking at Severus. "Your sheets smell like you." There is a note of something in his voice that Severus cannot place, but then the man laughs.
"Though, Jamie puts off heat like a furnace and you…you were always cold."
Severus feels distinctly uncomfortable. "Yes."
Potter frowns. "Are you happy?"
That is not a question Severus is used to considering. "I am not unhappy."
Potter steps closer; Severus wants to pull him into his arms. Instead he asks, "Are you happy?"
"I have my sons. I wouldn't trade that for the world."
"But…" Snape prompts.
Potter looks at him. His eyes are green and bright behind his glasses. "But I'm not sure this is how I ever imagined my life to be.
Snape steps out of the Floo and stumbles over a pile of building blocks.
Potter's sitting room is cosy and warm. Two mismatched chairs flank the hearth; a worn leather sofa sits opposite. Toys litter the colourful woven rug. Snape avoids a miniature replica of the Hogwarts Express and brushes ash off his cable-knit jumper.
Potter's on the floor, his back against the sofa. He's wearing an old Cannons t-shirt and baggy khaki trousers. There's a bottle of Firewhiskey between his thighs; it's half empty. When he looks up at Snape, the firelight glints off his glasses.
"Your wife, Mr. Potter?"
He frowns. "You used to call me Harry. I liked that. Gin's not here. She took the boys to the Burrow for the weekend."
Potter looks down at the bottle between his legs. "Yeah. I guess I am."
Severus sits down on the floor next to Potter, pulling his knees up to his chest like he did when he was a boy.
"I thought I could make a difference, but now I'm not so sure." Potter leans his head back against the cushion, closing his eyes; Severus's eyes fall to the pale column of his throat. "They promoted me."
"I'm sorry?" This is not what Severus expected him to say.
"I killed a man today, and they promoted me." He looks up again and takes a swig of whisky right from the bottle. "We finally caught up to Jarvis Quinn."
"Who?" Severus asks, taking the bottle from Potter. He sets it on the coffee table.
"Artemis Colston's apprentice," Potter says, dropping his hands between his knees. "We found his safe house today. There were seven of them holed up in there." Potter sighs and hangs his head; his fringe falls into his eyes. "They came out firing Unforgivables. Three of our men were Crucioed. An Avada missed Banks's shoulder by a half an inch."
Severus reaches out and places a hand on the small of Potter's back. His skin is warm underneath the cotton of his t-shirt.
He looks at Severus, and his eyes are red-rimmed; it's clear he's been crying. "I killed a man, and they're promoting me, Snape. I'll be the youngest Head Auror ever."
Severus does not know how to respond. He strokes his hand up and down Potter's spine, feels the steady rise and fall of his chest. "It was the right thing to do," he finally says.
Potter laughs, a harsh sound. "That's what Kingsley said too."
"You caught the man, right?"
"Yeah. He had four brewers staged there. They were planning something big."
Severus nods. He does not move his hand.
Potter sighs and scoots closer, resting his head on Severus's shoulder. Severus puts his arm around him and gently pulls him against his chest. Potter exhales; his breath is warm and laced with alcohol. With his free hand, Severus stokes Potter's hair, carding his fingers through dark strands.
He knows he should help the man to bed, but Severus thinks he'd like to hold him for a little longer.
Severus, as a rule, does not venture into Wizarding London if he can help it. However, the Malfoy New Year's Eve party is something, he's found, he cannot avoid.
Draco and Astoria have outdone themselves this year. Their two-story Georgian townhouse in Kensington, though modest in comparison to the Manor, is still exquisite in its simple luxury. Draco, Severus must admit, has developed some sense in recent years, and his tastes have never run as ostentatious as Lucius's.
The black and white marble floor of the entryway is polished and gleaming, and the balustrade is decked with heavy boughs of evergreen and enough fairy lights to illuminate the dungeons of Hogwarts.
Astoria greets him at the door. "Professor," she smiles. "So glad you could make it." She extends her hand, and Severus takes it, pressing a kiss to pale skin. Sapphires and diamonds glint on her finger. "Draco is in the parlour," she says. "He'll be glad to see you."
Severus nods, and Astoria steps by to welcome the next guest, the red silk of her robes brushing his arm as she passes. He takes a glass of champagne from a passing tray and moves through the foyer into the next room.
The ceiling has been charmed to look like a night sky, and snow drifts down lightly, disappearing just before it reaches floor. Holly adorns the ornate mantelpiece, and a large Christmas tree stands in one corner.
"Severus!" Draco stands from where he's sitting beside his mother. "It's been too long."
He allows Draco to pull him into an embrace. The man smells of expensive cologne.
"Only since the christening," Severus says, stepping back. Scorpius was born just months after Potter's second brat. They'll be the same year at Hogwarts.
"Yes, well," Draco smiles. "You should see how he's grown."
Narcissa laughs, and he turns to her, bending to kiss her cheek. "You look lovely," he says, taking in the French cut of her pale blue robes. Aside from the lines around her eyes and mouth, one would never guess how hard Lucius's imprisonment has been on her. Though Severus knows she spends most of her time in Bristol with her sister Andromeda. And Lucius, if anything, was always wise with the Malfoy finances. The majority of the Manor is closed off now, but Narcissa still has more than enough Galleons to live comfortably for the rest of her life.
"Darling, you're far too pale," Narcissa says, looking up at Severus appraisingly. "Too much time in that lab of yours." A strand of white blonde hair falls from the chignon at her nape and curls around her throat. Narcissa has always been a beautiful woman.
"Yes, mother," Draco says, placing a hand on her shoulder. "But we all know he enjoys it. Merlin knows why."
A ripple of whispers diverts their attention. Severus turns. Potter and his wife stand in the doorway; his palm rests on the small of her back. Ginevra looks resplendent in cream silk. Her hair is pulled up off her bare shoulders, and a few tendrils fall in curls about her face. Severus can't help but wonder how Potter could ever not want her.
Potter leans forwards, laughing at something Ezekiel Rochester of Goblin Liaisons has said, and Ginevra smiles. Severus feels a twinge deep in his chest.
Potter looks amazing. He hasn't managed to tame his hair, but his black robes are perfectly tailored, buttoned over a pristine white shirt and narrow black tie.
"I had to invite them." Draco brushes an imaginary piece of lint off his shoulder.
Severus understands, of course. Potter's Head Auror now. Draco would be a fool not to include them. Severus frowns as Ginevra places a hand on Potter's arm; he can see the sparkle of her engagement ring from across the room.
"You don't have to talk to him, you know." Draco is looking at him now, concern marring his sharp features. He's misinterpreted Severus's expression.
"No. Of course not," he says, turning to nod to Narcissa. She smiles and takes a sip of her champagne.
Severus heads off in search of the bar.
Severus is nursing his second glass of red wine when Pansy Parkinson (now Nott) appears at his side. From the look of the diamond drops at her ears and the rubies encircling her throat, Theodore must be doing well at Gringotts.
She leans in to kiss his cheek. Her dark hair is cut short in a sleek bob, and it swings forwards over her ears.
"It's always a pleasure, Professor."
"I am no longer a professor," he says but smiles at her. Parkinson may have been misguided during her school years, but she has always been an intelligent young woman.
"No, of course not. You have your books and your potions in that Muggle shop of yours." She sips her wine; her lipstick leaves a glossy smudge on the glass. "We'd never see you if Draco didn't insist on your presence at his gatherings."
He inclines his head. "I imagine not."
She laughs, a clear bell-like sound. "Well, It's good to see you haven't changed. Now, I should probably see where my husband's run off to."
Severus nods and signals a house-elf for another drink.
"Oh," Pansy says, turning back. "Potter, of all people, asked if I'd seen you. Merlin knows why, but Theo insists on talking to him. Something about Quidditch, I believe."
"It sounds titillating," Severus says, twisting the stem of his wine glass between his fingers.
Pansy laughs again and walks away in a swirl of velvet and expensive lace.
Potter finds him in Draco's library. Severus is perusing the shelves. Draco has an impressive collection of Muggle literature, though, Severus thinks, perhaps he shouldn't be surprised.
"Pointy-faced prat has a lot of books."
Severus chuckles but does not look at him. Potter's too close. Severus can feel the heat from his skin, can smell the man's aftershave lotion.
Potter puts a hand on the small of his back. Severus tenses. "Your wife, Mr. Potter."
"Harry," he says softly; he has not moved his hand. "And she's not looking for me. I promise."
"How can you be so certain?"
Potter's hand slides to his hip. "She's dancing with Michael Corner. I think she's partial to him."
Severus turns. Potter's eyes are wide and bright behind his glasses.
"I don't think anything's happened yet, but she mentioned something in passing once. They work together, you know." Potter's fingers stroke back and forth along the fabric of Severus's robe. "I'm pretty sure she fancies him."
Severus takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
Potter sighs. "Strangely, I don't think I mind." He takes Severus's hand; Potter's palm is warm against his. "I'm a bit distracted, you see."
He allows Potter to lead him to the sofa. The leather groans as they sit. Their thighs touch, but Severus does not pull away; he's not certain he's breathing.
"Tell me you think about me," Potter says after a moment, and his voice is rough.
"I…I do," Severus admits; he can feel his heart thudding against his ribs.
Potter shifts closer. "It's nearly midnight," he says. When he reaches out, his fingers are warm against Severus's cheek.
"Yes," he manages. His throat is dry and tight. His tongue feels like sandpaper in his mouth.
Potter takes his glasses off and slips them in his breast pocket. "People usually kiss at midnight."
"Yes," Severus says again, amazed his mouth has formed the word.
Potter leans forwards. "Severus." And then Potter is pulling him toward him, cupping his face in his hand.
When Potter kisses him, he tastes of whisky and spice. His mouth is soft and warm; Severus clutches the front of his robes and wants to kiss him forever.
He opens his mouth against Potter's, and their tongues slide together. He moves his hands. One twists in Potter's hair, holding his mouth to his, the other slides down his back. Potter is warm and solid against him.
Somewhere in the distance Severus can hear the string quartet play the opening notes of Auld Lang Syne. Music drifts through the closed door.
This is mad. Severus knows it is. Anyone could open the door, could see Harry bloody Potter gasping against him.
Potter's hand slides down his chest. "Gods," he says into his mouth, as his palm presses against Severus's prick.
Severus groans. He's already hard. He rocks into his touch, and Potter's fingers stroke him through his robes. Their mouths are open and wet as his teeth scrape Potter's lip.
The door bangs open.
Potter jerks away. His cheeks are flushed. They're both short of breath, and it's painfully obvious what they've been doing.
Severus turns to the door. A house-elf stands there, wringing her hands.
"Misters Snape and Potter," she says breathlessly. "You is missing, sirs."
"No," Severus says, trying to keep his voice calm. "We're not missing. We're right here, having a conversation."
"Yes, well," the elf says, looking over her shoulder nervously, "there is witches and wizards looking for you."
Ginevra appears then. A flicker of confusion crosses her face when she sees them. "Oh, Harry, there you are."
Potter looks flustered.
Severus stands. "Mrs. Potter," he says quickly. "We were discussing your husband's most recent case. The potions involved are intriguing."
"Of course," Ginevra says, but her voice is tight. "Well, it's good to see you again, Professor."
He forces a smile.
Potter holds out his hand to his wife. She curls her fingers around his.
Severus's gut twists, but he says nothing. Potter doesn't look back as he walks from the room.
"I'd like to suck you off, Snape. For old time's sake." Potter leans forwards; his eyes are bright. It's enough to take Severus's breath away. "It was always brilliant fun. You must admit that."
"You should go, Harry."
Potter frowns. His hair is rumpled from his running a hand through it, and his cheeks are pink. He's beautiful, and Severus hates that.
He closes his eyes and tries to pretend that his heart isn't pounding in his ears.
After a moment, Potter stands with a sigh. He can see the press of his erection against Potter's flies, and it makes him ache. Severus looks away as he adjusts himself.
"You know," Potter says, turning to pick up the tin of Floo powder from the mantel, "if you were wondering who gives better head, you or Gin, it's you. Hands down."
Severus takes a deep breath as Potter disappears in a swirl of green flame.
His cock is out before he's reached the loo. He groans as he wraps his hand around it, feeling the throb against his palm. He lets his fingertips brush the head; it's already damp, and his thumb slides across the pre-come welling there.
Severus wonders if Potter is at home now doing this same thing. Or, if he's gone to Ginevra in their bed. He shoves that image away and imagines Potter, trousers down around his thighs, back pressed to the door of their en-suite, gripping his cock.
Severus thrusts into his fist with a groan, and he bites his lip, thinking of the first time he'd sucked Potter off in the loo of the downstairs bar at The Tottenham.
His knees had ached as he knelt on the grimy floor in the narrow stall, but he hadn't cared. Not with Potter's fingers clutching at his hair and his cock in his mouth. He'd barely swallowed around him before Potter had come, gasping and shaking, dark head thrown back against the cracked tile wall.
Only later, when they were once again ensconced in the musty bedroom at Grimmauld Place, did Potter admit that Severus had been his first. He refused to acknowledge how much Potter's inexperience had turned him on.
"Gods," Severus gasps as spunk streaks through his fingers, splattering against the basin. He leans forwards, resting his forehead against the mirror as he tries to catch his breath.
The bottle sits on the coffee table between them. Severus tries to remember how much was there to start. He thinks it was perhaps one-half, maybe three-fourths full. It's nearly empty now, and his head feels pleasantly light, his thoughts muddled with whisky.
"You always have the best liquor," Potter says. His voice is softly slurred and Severus laughs, glancing at the bottle of Ogden's.
"And your tastes have always been wretchedly plebeian."
Potter shrugs. "Maybe. But you never seem to mind." He lifts his arms above his head and stretches. His jumper rides up, and Severus's eyes fall to the pale swath of skin exposed above the waistband of his trousers. He wants to trace the line with his tongue.
Potter catches him looking and smiles. His cheeks are flushed with alcohol. He doesn't pull his jumper back down.
"I've missed this, you know." Potter reaches for his tumbler. When he sets it down again, his mouth is wet with whisky. "Being with you again."
But Potter cuts him off, pressing one finger to his lips. "I know. We're not doing anything." When he drops his hand, Severus can still feel the heat of his touch.
His body feels tight, wire-taut, and Severus can almost feel the press of Potter's mouth against his. He's aching to kiss him again.
Potter moves closer, his thigh touching Severus's. Severus can smell his aftershave—the faint citrusy sandalwood mixed with musk—and it reminds him of the first night they were together, Potter's fingers tugging at his shirt buttons while he sucked along the tendon on the side of his neck.
Severus shifts his hips; he's getting hard, and he's sure Potter can tell.
The man reaches out, slides a fingertip across the back of Severus's wrist.
Severus jerks and goes to pull his hand away, but Potter catches it in his. His skin is soft and warm, and he pulls Severus's hand closer, thumb sliding against his palm. Then Potter places Severus's hand on his thigh. Severus can feel the tautness of lean muscle under his fingers when Potter shifts, and slowly Potter guides Severus's hand up his leg to his hip, then back down to his knee. The wool of his trousers is soft under his palm. Severus moves his hand again, just brushing the inside of his thigh; Potter groans.
They shouldn't be doing this. Severus wants Potter too much, and it's wrong. But he can't stop touching.
Potter's breath catches and his hips thrust slightly. Severus can see the swell of his cock against the placket of his trousers.
Severus closes his eyes. He can hear his heart pounding in his ears and he moves his hand, fingers just grazing the bulge of Potter's prick. They both groan.
Potter covers his hand in his, rocks up into the press of his palm. Severus bites his lip and does not look at the pinkness of Potter's cheeks.
"Go home, Potter." But even as he says it, Severus's fingers trace the outline of Potter's erection, feeling its size and shape.
"Can't. I'm too close." Potter's voice is low and rough. "Gin'll surely notice if I show up with spunk stains on the front of my trousers." The words send a shiver of want down Severus's spine. He's too far gone to mention the effectiveness of cleaning charms.
His knees barely protest as he slips to the floor between Potter's legs.
"Here," he says, placing a hand on the man's thigh. "Open your trousers."
Potter's eyes flutter open, pupils wide. "What?"
"You heard me." His fingers brush over the bulge of Potter's cock. Potter gasps, hands fumbling with his zip. Then his cock is out, against the white cotton of his pants.
Severus swallows thickly. Potter is just as gorgeous as he remembers, thick and flushed and framed by a short thatch of dark curls. Severus's mouth waters, and he licks his lips.
"Been dreaming of this," Potter says, and he's breathless. Warm fingers trace the curve of Severus's cheek. "Of your mouth on me again. Go on, Snape," he whispers. "Suck me. Get me off."
Severus's hand barely shakes as he curls it around the base of Potter's prick; his skin is hot and damp to the touch. Potter groans, thighs falling open, as Severus licks a line down his shaft.
Severus breathes deeply, the musky sweaty sweet smell of him crowding his senses, making him ache. Gods, he's missed this.
Potter gasps as he takes him in his mouth, sucking gently on the head. The man's fingers clutch at his shoulders, holding him there, and Severus swallows around his prick.
"Fuck," Potter breathes, head falling back against the couch cushion. "You're gorgeous like that Snape, with your mouth on my cock."
It's all Severus can do not to press a hand between his own thighs.
A thrust of Potter's hips and his cock slides almost all the way down Severus's throat. His eyes sting, but he's wanted to do this for weeks, and Potter tastes amazing.
"I'm not going to last." Potter's breath is already ragged.
Severus sucks harder, and Potter arches again.
"Gods, Snape, I can't—" Potter's hand is in Severus's hair, fingers twisting so tightly it hurts. He gasps around Potter's cock and Potter groans.
He loves doing this. Loves tasting him, feeling him move beneath him.
Severus puts his hand on Potter's hip, holding him still. He wants to make him come. He can feel Potter's muscles tense under his palm, and Potter cries out, his whole body shaking as his cock pulses. Severus swallows as warm bitter fluid covers his tongue, fills his mouth.
Severus sits back on his heels. He is hard—so fucking hard, his cock pressing painfully against his flies. His trousers are tented, and he sees Potter's eyes, bright and unfocussed behind his glasses, fall to his lap.
Potter licks his lips. His skin is pink, his hair mussed and sticking up even more than usual. He's positively gorgeous, and Severus wants nothing more than to turn him over and fuck him into the couch cushions.
Potter smiles lazily. "You want me, don't you? Want to feel me around you again."
Severus does. Still, something cold still unfurls in his stomach at the thought. He might have just sucked Potter off, but hasn't yet sunk so low as to fuck a married man.
Potter slides to the floor, his hands at Severus's belt.
Severus stops him, fingers curling around his wrist.
"Stop. Go home." He hates how desperate he sounds, but he won't let this happen. It would be too easy, and Severus knows if he falls for Potter he won't be able to pick himself up again. "I won't come between you and your wife."
Potter laughs, but when he speaks his voice is sad. "I'm afraid it's too late for that, Snape. Can't you see you already have?"
"You've been fighting."
Potter sits down on Severus's stool only to stand back up again. He runs both hands over his face pushing his glasses up to his forehead. "Yeah. Over Jamie."
"The preschool issue?"
Potter nods as he paces back and forth. The red wool of his robes whips around polished boots as he turns sharply. "I went to Muggle Primary School, and I turned out just fine."
Severus bites back the comment on the tip of his tongue and turns back to his worktable. He listens to the click of Potter's heels on the stone floor as he carefully adds a measure of dried dragon's blood to his cauldron. The mixture hisses slightly and Severus replaces the lid, watching the steam collect in droplets underneath the glass.
"He gets plenty of magical education and exposure at home," Potter says. "I want him to be well-rounded."
Severus sets the ladle down and looks at Potter again. "And do you truly believe, between yourself and Arthur and Mrs. Granger-Weasley, he will be ignorant of the Muggle world?"
Potter stops pacing and scowls. "No. I suppose not, but Gin won't even discuss it."
Severus leans back against the table, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why is this such a concern to you?"
Potter glares. "Because it's my son, of course! His education is bloody well important."
Severus sighs. "Of course it is. No one is trying to tell you otherwise. But Hippogriff Hollow is a perfectly reputable establishment. James will not lack for education."
Potter's shoulders slump. "I know."
Severus takes a step forwards. "Then stop making yourself miserable." He brushes a hand down Potter's arm; the wool of his robe is rough against his palm. "Your wife, your brothers-in-law, the majority of your schoolmates attended Wizarding primary school, and most of them are neither complete ignoramuses nor insufferable bigots. Jamie will be fine."
Potter looks up at him, lip caught between white teeth. "I know. It's just—"
"Stop," Severus says, catching Potter's hand in his. He knows why Potter is really in his shop, and though he hates being the man Harry bloody Potter runs to when he's furious with his wife, he's never been strong enough to send him away. "This isn't why you're here."
Potter shakes his head; his hands settle on Severus's hips.
"Does your wife know where you've gone?"
"No. Though I doubt she'd care much if she did."
Severus isn't entirely certain about that, but he knows better than to press the issue. He runs his hands down the man's back to the curve of his arse; his fingers squeeze his buttocks, and Potter groans. He doesn't need to feel the swell of Potter's cock against his thigh to know that he's hard. Potter's breath is already ragged. "Is this what you want?" he asks softly, mouth tracing the curve of Potter's ear.
Severus walks them backwards so the man is leaning against his worktable. He runs his fingers over the wand and star emblem on the front of his robes, signifying Head Auror.
Potter shivers. "You like that, don't you?" He smiles, but his voice is rough. "Imagining what it'd be like to fuck the Head Auror."
Severus doesn't respond, but Potter knows how much the thought arouses him.
"Go ahead, then," he says, rocking his hips forwards into Severus. "I want you to."
"No," Severus says, turning Potter around. The man leans forwards, arms resting on the surface of the table. Severus pushes his robes up to his waist and reaches around to cup his cock through the fabric of his trousers. He loves the feel of him against his palm, the hot, heavy line of his prick sliding between his fingers. Slowly, Severus pulls at his zip and slides his trousers and pants down at once. Potter groans as his hand curls around him, stroking lightly; Severus's fingertips twist, thumb slipping over the head, and Potter shudders against him.
"Gods, Snape," Potter breathes. "Yes."
Severus kneels behind the man and runs his hands up and down his thighs, watching gooseflesh rise there as the cool air hits his skin. He spreads Potter's arsecheeks with his fingers and drags his tongue down his crease. The man gasps and arches back into him, pressing his arse against Severus's face.
Severus chuckles and laps at him slowly, tasting the musky coppery tang of him against his tongue. Potter's cock is flushed and hard against his stomach; his fingers clench at the edge of the table so tightly his knuckles are white.
"Fuck," he gasps. He's already shaking. "Don't stop."
As if he would.
Severus licks and sucks at his arsehole while Potter writhes against him. The man presses his forehead to the tabletop and spreads his thighs as far as he can with his pants down around his ankles. Severus exhales against him then pushes his tongue inside. Potter cries out and clenches around him.
When he comes, his spunk spatters white against the gray stone of the floor.
Severus sits back on his heels, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He's so hard it hurts.
Potter looks over his shoulder. His cheeks are flushed. His fringe is stuck to his forehead with sweat, covering the scar. "Fuck me, Snape. You know you want to."
Severus shakes his head. He tells himself he still has a modicum of self-restraint left.
"It won't take long," Potter says eyeing Severus's crotch pointedly. His trousers are tented noticeably. "You're nearly there as it is."
He's not wrong. But Severus stands and adjusts himself, wincing slightly as fabric grazes sensitive skin. "You should go home. I'm sure you're wife is wondering where you are."
Potter frowns, but he does up his trousers and straightens his robes. He doesn't look back as he walks from Severus's lab.
"Ginny wants to try for another baby."
Potter's pacing is making him anxious. The man has always had far too much energy. Severus tries to focus on the accounts book in front of him, but he can't. Not with Potter in his shop.
"She says it will be good for us. Help us move on, or some rot. Says she's always wanted a girl."
Severus looks up. "And what do you think?"
Potter runs a hand through his hair. "I think two is enough to handle. I think if she hadn't fucked that ponce Michael Corner we wouldn't be having this conversation to begin with."
Severus decides now is not the time to mention that Potter hasn't exactly been faithful.
"What should I do?"
Severus suddenly feels ill. And the fact that Potter is here at all, asking him these questions, is so absurd that he laughs. "You could ask for a divorce."
Potter stops pacing and stares at him. He looks so desperate, so...miserable that Severus almost feels sorry for him. Almost.
"But Jamie and Al…"
"Are young. They would be fine."
"No. I can't. It's just not right."
Severus has had enough. "I hardly think, Mr. Potter, that I am the person you should come to for marital advice." His voice is harsh.
Potter pales and bites his lip. Severus does not look at his mouth. "I'm sorry. I haven't a clue what I was thinking."
"I imagine you weren't, as usual." He regrets the words nearly as soon as he's spoken them, but from Potter's injured look, he knows they had the desired effect.
The man's eyes flash briefly before he shutters his expression. "You're right, Snape. I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry to have bothered you. I should go."
Severus wants to say something, say anything to stop him, but his mouth can't seem to form the words.
When the door bangs shut, it sounds achingly final. Severus stares at his desk for a long time.
When news of Ginevra Weasley Potter's pregnancy hits the paper, Severus is not certain what he feels.
He wonders if this means he's seen the last of the man. He thinks that might be true, for a while at least, and knows he should be pleased.
Severus tells himself it's for the best, that he's better off without him. But he also knows that's an utter load of bollocks.
"You look dreadful." Severus walks over to the sideboard. "Drink?"
"Yeah." Potter wraps his arms around his chest, hands clenching his elbows. He is ridiculously underdressed for the crisp November weather. Snape does not like that he finds it so goddamned appealing. Potter's green t-shirt is worn and faded. A hole at the neckline shows a flash of pale skin, and his jeans hang low on too slim hips.
Severus pours the whisky. Firelight glints off the cut crystal. He hands the tumbler to Potter.
"Ginny lost the baby."
Severus sets the decanter down. "What?"
"The baby. She went into St. Mungo's, but there was nothing—" Potter's voice breaks. He looks down.
"I'm sorry," Severus says, and he is. Ginevra was at twenty-one weeks. While not unheard of, miscarriages so far into the second trimester are rare.
"Gods, Snape," Potter says after a moment. "I'm fucking devastated."
"That's to be expected." He puts a hand on Potter's shoulder, and the man looks at him sadly. His eyes are red rimmed and bloodshot.
"We were so excited, and now...now Gin says she needs some time."
Severus frowns. Since the pregnancy, Potter's marriage had been improving. "Where is she?"
"She took the boys to the Burrow for a while."
"I'm sorry," he says again.
"It was a girl. We were going to call her Lily."
Lily. Severus's chest aches, both for his own Lily and the baby Potter will never know. He wraps his arms around the man and pulls him against him. Potter's breath is ragged, and Severus knows he's trying not to cry.
"Can I stay here?" The words are muffled against Severus's chest. "Just for tonight?"
He can't bring himself to say no.
That night, Potter simply follows Severus into his room.
Severus says nothing. He just sits, unlaces his boots. He thinks, perhaps, this has always been inevitable. Potter watches as Severus unbuttons his shirt, then he stands and undoes his trousers, pulling them off and folding them neatly before hanging them in the wardrobe. He turns to Potter. "Are you certain?"
The man nods and moves forward, lifting his arms so Severus can pull his t-shirt over his head. Then he undoes his zip, pulls his jeans and pants down his thighs. Potter's half hard already. He leans in, and Severus can feel warm breath ghost across his neck. It's familiar and intoxicating.
Potter's mouth is on his cheek, his throat, and that simple sensation draws forth a multitude of memories he's tried hard to suppress. They skip across his mind like stones, some slippery, some jagged and sharp, but all brilliant.
His chest is too tight; it shouldn't be this difficult to breathe.
"Stop," Potter whispers. "I know what you're thinking. And I've made up my mind. I want you."
Then they're kissing. Teeth scrape against lips, and Severus's hand falls to the curve of Potter's arse, tugging him closer. The other curls around his neck, palm warm against smooth skin; his fingers thread through dark hair, and Potter lifts his face up for another kiss.
The man is not tall; Severus is nearly a head taller. Still, Potter seems to fit perfectly against him. His palm slips down Potter's spine and his fingers splay across his back. He realises he has always known, despite trying to forget, exactly how the man feels against him—the soft expanse of skin, the narrow jut of hips, the press of a thigh between his.
Their tongues slide together, slow and soft. Potter's arms are around his waist, and they stumble together until they're on the bed. The coverlet is bunched beneath them, but Severus doesn't care because Potter's legs are around his waist; his heels dig into his thighs. Potter looks up at him; his eyes are dark, pupils blown. His glasses are fogged; Severus takes them off and sets them on the nightstand before kissing him again.
Potter's fingers trace lines on his chest; his thumbnail scrapes over a nipple.
"Potter," he gasps, rocking his hips against his.
"Harry," he says. "I like it when you call me Harry."
"Harry." Severus presses another kiss to his mouth.
"Missed you," Harry licks at the corner of his mouth. "It's been too long."
"I need you to be sure," Severus says, hand brushing over Harry's cheek. He can't stop shaking.
"I am." The man arches beneath him; their cocks slide slickly together. Harry looks down between them. "Oh, Severus, that's—" he breaks off in a moan as Severus moves again. Then he rolls to the side; he skates a hand down Harry's chest, over the flat planes of his stomach. Harry shivers, muscles clenching.
"Please," he breathes. "Touch me."
Severus's throat is dry as he curls his fingers around Harry's prick. He hisses, arches up, thrusting into his fist. Severus presses a kiss to his forehead, his temple.
"Gods, yes…more" he moans, bucking up, fingers twisting in white sheets.
Harry is gorgeous when he's aroused; Severus has always known this. He twists his wrist, swipes his thumb over the smooth curve of pink cockhead, and Severus knows he is close from the raggedness of his breath.
"Wait," the man gasps. "I want you to fuck me. I want you to be inside me when I come."
Severus inhales shakily; he's certain he's never wanted anything this badly before.
"Do you have lube?" Harry asks, propping himself up on his elbows.
Severus turns, fumbles in the nightstand for the small vial of oil. He couldn't do magic now if he tried. His fingers shake a bit as he uncaps the bottle. It spills over his fingers, runs down his hand. He reaches down between Harry's legs, brushes his fingers over his opening. Harry hisses, eyes wide at the sight, watching as Severus pushes one fingertip inside.
"God, yes…" he groans, hand curling round his own cock. "Get me ready."
"You like this, don't you?" Severus asks. His voice is not his voice; it's too low, too breathless. He adds another finger; Harry is tighter than he remembers.
"What do you want?" Severus whispers, fingers fucking him slowly, pushing, pressing, twisting inside him. "Tell me what you want."
"I want you to fuck me." He catches Severus's wrist, pulls his hand away.
Severus nods and slides his hand down his aching cock, smearing the remnants of oil there, then he positions himself between Harry's legs, and Harry reaches between them to line him up. Slowly, slowly, Severus pushes in, rocking in shallow, careful thrusts until Harry grabs his hips, pulls him forwards with a groan.
"Yes," Harry breathes, throwing an arm back, bracing himself against the headboard, and he is so tight and warm that Severus has to grit his teeth and try, try not to come. "Fuck yes…" Harry gasps, jerking his hips up. Severus hisses and pushes up on his forearms to fuck him in short, quick strokes.
Harry arches into him, meeting each push of his hips with his own. His feet press into the mattress, and Severus sucks at the tendon in Harry's neck; his skin is salty sweet.
"God, Snape, make me come." Potter is shaking beneath him.
Severus reaches between them to curl his fingers around his cock. It's hot and damp against his palm.
It's too much.
Severus comes hard, mouth open, hips jerking. Harry groans, tensing around him, making Severus gasp again. And then he's coming too, cock spurting over his hand; thick warm strands smear across their stomachs. Harry trembles beneath him, and Severus can feel the pounding of his heart against his chest.
Harry shifts, and Severus's cock slips out. He collapses beside him. Harry takes Severus's hand, pulls his fingers to his mouth. He sucks on them greedily, tasting his own come.
Severus groans and feels his cock twitch again.
"Oh," Potter says after a few moments. "I can't even remember the last time it's been like that."
Severus stands up.
The bedsprings groan as Harry rolls over. He watches, cheek resting on the palm of his hand, as Severus walks to the bathroom, runs water over a flannel.
He comes back to bed and wipes the cloth over Harry's stomach and thighs. The man's skin is breathtaking.
"We'll sleep now?" Harry says, when Severus is done. His voice is softly slurred. Severus banishes the flannel to the hamper.
"We'll sleep." Harry is warm as Severus curls around him.
Potter is still plagued by nightmares.
Severus is researching variations on Dreamless Sleep when the door to his shop opens. He looks up from his notes to see Ginevra Weasley Potter standing there. She's dressed casually. Her green sweatshirt is emblazoned with the Holyhead Harpies logo, and she's pulled her hair back in a ponytail.
"Mrs. Potter." Severus sets down his quill.
"Harry's been staying with you," she says without preface. It isn't a question.
Severus nods. He's uncomfortable, and it's not a feeling he's used to.
Ginevra sighs. "I'm not mad, you know." She twists her wedding ring on her finger. "I was at first, mind. But I realised that was rather hypocritical."
"I never meant for anything to happen."
"Yes, well." Ginevra looks down. When she looks up again, her jaw is tight. "That really doesn't matter now."
"No," Severus says slowly. He's still not certain what she wants, and that unnerves him.
"I fell in love with Harry when I was eleven. I had my entire life planned out. Marry the hero. Raise the perfect family." She smiles sadly. "When he proposed, it was a dream come true, and I think part of me will always love him. But we're shite at being married."
"You haven't been happy."
"No." She shakes her head. "Not for quite some time. I hoped the baby might—" She stops, pressing her fist to her mouth. "But things don't always turn out the way we'd like them to."
Severus doesn't know what to say, so he waits for Ginevra to continue. She wipes a hand across her face; her eyes are damp. "I know you and Harry have been…close for a long time."
"There was not—"
"Please, Professor." She holds up a hand. "In fact, I know Harry's been in love with you since he was nineteen."
The statement is so unexpected, so surreal that Severus is at a loss for words.
"It's strange, admitting that your husband is in love with another man." She laughs softly. "Especially you. To think, for so long I believed you actually hated each other. But, at this point, I'm almost relieved." She takes a deep breath. "I'm asking for a divorce."
Severus frowns. "Harry."
"Harry will have to understand. We're not happy. He knows that, and staying married out of some misguided attempt to do what's best for Jamie and Al is not the right thing to do."
Severus nods. He's told the man as much himself.
"Besides," Ginevra says. "Michael and I would like to give things a go. See what happens." She looks at him evenly. "Take care of him Severus. Merlin knows he needs it."
"I'm getting a divorce."
Severus opens the door and Potter slips past him, a bottle of Firewhiskey in his hand.
"So I heard."
Potter smiles. "I thought, perhaps, we could celebrate."
The bustle and general pandemonium of Platform 9 ¾ is something Severus thought he'd never have to experience again. Now, it seems, he'll be subjected to it for the next decade. The sacrifices one makes.
He scowls as he stands behind Potter, watching as the man goes through a ridiculous regimen of sentimentality. You'd think James wouldn't be home in three months for holiday.
Potter is crouched in front of the boy, hands on his shoulders. James's eyes are bright with excitement and nervous energy. Other children move past, arms laden with parcels, carts overflowing with trunks and cages. James's owl, Malachi, watches the commotion impassively from his perch.
"But what if I am Sorted Slytherin?" James says, concern bleeding into his voice.
Severus snorts, and James turns on him with a glare that could rival one of Severus's own.
"I think what Severus means," Harry says, shooting him a baleful look of his own, "is that we don't think you've got too much to worry about."
James doesn't look convinced. He twists his fingers in the hem of his Weasley jumper and bites his lip.
"If that boy is Sorted anything but Gryffindor," Severus says under his breath, "I'll sell my shop and—" Another look from Harry cuts him off. He sighs and forces himself not to roll his eyes.
"Jamie, you are brave and strong, and one of the most loyal friends I've ever met. The Hat would be foolish to put you anywhere but Gryffindor."
"But what if it doesn't?"
"Then Uncle Ron will disown you for sure," Albus offers with a smirk.
James glares again, but his brother's words clearly bother him.
"Uncle Ron will do nothing of the sort," Ginevra smiles reassuringly at James. She puts a warning hand on Albus's shoulder, and the boy shoves his hands in his pockets sullenly.
"Don't listen to him," Harry says, and the boy frowns. "He's just jealous that you get to go and he doesn't."
"Am not!" Albus retorts before another glance from his mother silences him.
"And," Harry continues, eyes on James's face, "we'll be proud of you no matter what. Any House that gets you will gain a great wizard."
James opens his mouth to protest, but Harry cuts him off, brushing his hand across his cheek. "But, if it really means that much to you, you can always ask to be put in Gryffindor. The Hat will take your request into consideration."
"Really?" James smiles, eyes wide.
"Really." Harry hugs him. "Now go. You don't want to miss the train."
James turns to his mother. She shifts the little girl in her arms to the other hip before stooping and pressing a kiss to James's cheek. "We love you. Don't forget to write."
James nods. "Malachi will want some exercise, anyhow." Then, with a last wave to Albus and to Severus, he dashes toward the Hogwarts Express.
They stand there for a few more minutes, watching as the last of the students pile on board. Harry runs a hand through hair. It's as messy as ever, but his temples are streaked with gray. Severus's own dark hair is threaded with more silver than he'd like.
"Never thought I'd see the day," Harry says, placing a hand on the small of Severus's back. "Makes me feel old."
Ginevra laughs. "It had to happen sooner or later.
"And how do you think I feel," Severus asks, after a moment. "I still recall both of your first days."
Harry smiles, leaning over to press a kiss to Severus's shoulder. "Yes, well, we all know you're positively ancient."
Severus glares, but there's no venom behind it.
"Well, I'm not sure about you three," Ginevra says, "but I need to get this little one back to her Papa before he worries we've gone missing."
"We're not missing, Mummy," Margot says, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck. "We're right here."
Ginevra laughs, brushing her red curls back from her forehead. "No, sweetie, I guess you're right. But we should still get home to Papa anyway."
Harry takes Albus's hand as they watch Ginevra and her daughter disappear through the barrier. "And what would you two like to do this afternoon?" he asks, looking at Severus and his son. "Fortescue's?"
Albus laughs. "You only want to go to Diagon Alley so you can stop by Quality Quidditch Supplies."
Severus rolls his eyes. The boy has a point. But Harry only smiles. "Let's make a deal, then. Ice cream first, and then you two can go look at slimy smelly things in Slug and Jiggers while I check out the new Firebolt in Quality Quidditch."
Albus looks up at Severus, eyebrows raised.
He inclines his head. "That would be agreeable to me."
No, Severus thinks as he follows Harry and his son back through the barricade. There won't be a Potter in Slytherin this year. Two years from now, though, might be another story altogether.