Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: Not mine. Blah blah.
Summary: Written for 'From Dusk till Down Harry/Severus Fest'
Challenges: 1) Mention Valentine's Day
2) Include as the first line "Severus Snape had decided to make the students
stop calling him "the greasy git" once and for all."
This story is for Lilith
Severus Snape had decided to make the students stop calling him "the greasy git" once and for all.
The story of his life, wasn't it? Severus Snape would decide something, most definitely, and then everything would go awry.
He should have expected that, he thought kneeling on the floor and clutching his chest as the aftershocks of 'Crucio' ripped through his body. And just imagine... as if the Valentine's Day was not bad enough as it was, with the deluge of pink ribbons and red hearts and with wasted lessons because of vacant-eyed students who thought only about the greetings they got or, worse, didn't get.
Spending this day to the accompaniment of Moody's wooden let clattering on the floor in inches away from his face was nearly unbearable.
"I see you." The hoarse voice had a strange intimate note in it, as if Moody was sharing a great secret with him. Snape rubbed his wrists - the bad thing about 'Crucio' was that he clenched his fists so hard his hands spasmed uncontrollably after that. And he really didn't want to think how useful a Potions Master with shaking hands could be.
He didn't look up, staring right in front of him through the hanging strands of sticky hair. His eyes stung with sweat and he half-closed them. Seeing Moody as a vague silhouette was unpleasant enough; the thought of looking at him directly made Snape sick.
He probably considers it a proof of my guilt, that I can't meet his eyes, Snape thought.
"I see you for what you are, you worthless traitor. Albus was always too trusting, and that's what ruined him. But me - you won't deceive me."
He swallowed convulsively, trying to cope with overcoming dizziness; his saliva tasted bitter. Too much Veritaserum; sometimes he wondered if Moody really believed that the normal dose wasn't enough, or if he knew the consequences of overdose very well and sincerely enjoyed the results.
But even those four of five doses had worn out by now, after hours and hours spent in the dingy room of Moody's office. Well, Moody was done with questions a long time ago anyway; he appeared to enjoy throwing accusations and curses much more.
There was probably no point in moving, not to mention that changing position was excruciatingly painful, but some almost non-existent shreds of dignity made Snape grope for the chair behind him and get up. Pain shot through his spine, and he barely managed not to hiss in agony, straightening and finally raising his head.
The artificial eye rolled in Moody's socket wildly. The scars on his face were like an uneven thick net, broken with a smile that made him look even crazier. Snape saw this smile and knew what would follow even before hearing a vindictive 'Crucio' again.
Back on the floor, clenching his fists and stifling his cries until they turned into soft, mewling sounds... He suspected Moody particularly enjoyed listening to that.
"You'll get what you deserve, you damned bastard," Moody whispered in a harsh, fervent voice, and Snape felt anger rise in him - and knew it was futile, he wouldn't be able to do anything. "For killing Albus."
I didn't kill Albus. He was so tired of denying, of repeating it. There was no sound in his voice, Snape just articulated the words. It didn't matter anyway; Moody didn't listen.
A game it all was; almost a tradition between them. Aurors coming for him to Hogwarts, at any time of day and night, taking him from bed or from a lesson... And hours, or sometimes a day, spent in front of Moody, questions answered so many times... or no questions at all.
"Pay attention, you scum." A blow was unexpected, coming from behind, and he choked with pain. Moody's assistants were taught well. And totally ruthless.
Snape rested his palms on the floor, supporting himself, looking at his slightly twitching fingers. The left hand was already swollen, a bruise spreading all over, left by a boot stepping on it.
He didn't want to pay attention to them. He wanted to be anywhere but here. Sometimes it seemed he was so tired he didn't want to *be* at all.
Distantly, Snape wondered what time it was. The state of his body suggested that it was probably late evening. The whole day spent here. The hated Valentine's Day. Could he ever imagine he would miss spending it at Hogwarts?
Oh yes, Hogwarts would be nice. Flocks of owls filling the Great Hall during breakfast, bombarding tables with brightly wrapped packages... and enormous cakes prepared by house-elves, all in detested red and pink colors. And indulgent, simpering faces of other teachers - as if he was the only one driven to the edge with students being even more stupid and distracted than usual.
He didn't even know if he got his traditional 'greasy git' card. The only Valentine's card he'd ever gotten - that came invariably every year. Bright red paper, golden ribbons... handwritings varied as well as the spells used to disguise the sender. But the content was pretty much the same. A bunch of insults, started with the sacramental phrase. Yes, traditions...
This year Snape had planned to teach them a lesson, those who sent it. He knew it was from Gryffindors, of course. The colors - red and gold - were quite a proof. That they did it anonymously only meant that their much praised courage was just a myth. He was going to make them pay. They would be thinking twice from now on before the words 'greasy git' would leave their lips.
Well, best laid plans and everything.
"It's an abomination that someone like you keeps teaching our children." Moody's voice was so distorted with hatred that the words came like barking. "A murderer and a traitor. You are a monster, Snape, and I won't stop until I get you. I swear to you, you won't work at Hogwarts."
"You can take it up with the Headmistress," Snape muttered.
It was obviously a reckless thing to say. For one thing, he didn't know how long Minerva was going to stand by him. She was doing it, so far - at Albus' dying wish, apparently. But some more pressure from Aurors and from the Governors - and he would be sacked faster than he'd say 'Death Eater'.
Death Eater. Greasy git. Some things changed. Some never did. And he'd never be anything else in his life.
Pain seized him again even though he missed Moody casting the curse. It was so bad that Snape knew it was cast not by one person but probably with the aid of the other two Aurors in the room. His wrists felt as if they were going to snap. The floor was hard and cold and he pressed his cheek to it, trying not to cry - and failed. His voice came hoarse and pathetic, in a faint scream.
He didn't want to please them by screaming, fought so hard against it - all in vain, in the end. Moody and others laughed.
"Squealing like a cat, isn't he?"
The wooden leg stopped in front of his face. Moody's gaze was almost palpable, and Snape looked up tiredly. His vision was blurry, and the pain seemed to linger in his body, even though the curse had stopped.
"I watch you, Snape. If you try anything - do you hear me? - anything, you'll regret you were born. And if you try to harm Harry..." Oh no. The Boy Who Lived being dragged into it probably meant another few rounds of 'Crucio'. "He's our hero. Don't think I'll let you kill him, as you killed Albus."
Again. I didn't kill Albus. The words sounded automatically in his mind; he denied this accusation even when he felt too exhausted to do anything else.
Albus had been everything for him. His friend, his protector, his justification for living. How dared Moody say that? Without Albus, everything was falling apart. Sometimes Snape even didn't know why he tried to keep going.
Maybe it would be easier if he just admitted everything Moody was accusing him of, and signed a confession, and got a kiss from Dementors.
At least it would be over then.
The wooden base of Moody's artificial leg pressed onto his already swollen hand, and Snape clenched his teeth not to cry out. Pain was coming in dark waves, feeling like there was a vice tightening on his lungs. It built and built as Moody leaned heavier, and Snape expected hearing the bones crunch every moment now. Trickles of sweat ran over his temples, wetting his hair.
"Remember my words, traitor." The pressure was gone suddenly. "Get him out of here. I don't want to see his face."
Relief was enormous, making him feel weak and light-headed. Reeling slightly, Snape stood outside, gasping for fresh, cold air. It felt so good. It felt as if he had been breathing half-lungs in that interrogation cell with Moody - and could breathe again normally only now. And even though Snape didn't want to admit it, he always was afraid that one day Moody wouldn't order his thugs to get him out of there - would send him to Azkaban instead.
Like he could have been sent there many years ago, if Albus hadn't saved him.
He didn't deserve to be saved.
The sky was black and vast above him - moonlight so bright that stars were almost invisible. Yes, it apparently was late evening, perhaps even night. Snow was fresh and crumbly, sparkling like tiny bits of mica, so bright it was painful to look at. Snape took another deep breath, concentrating. Apparating in the state like that was the shortest way to get splinched, but he didn't want to linger. He didn't want to stay here.
Well, obviously his experience with Apparating in almost every condition proved useful. He even landed at the right place, safe and sound. Hogwarts grounds. Home. At least so far he could call it home - while Moody hadn't driven him out of here yet.
It was eerie similar to the times he had been coming back after the Dark Lord's summons, Snape thought. Even the pain in his body was the same. Only then he had known someone was waiting for him, no matter how annoyed he sometimes felt with Albus. On the other hand, it probably was better that no one waited for him any more.
The bulk of the Forbidden Forest behind him was dark and massive against the brighter sky. He could hear a thin sound of ice-covered branches ringing softly in the wind - the sound one can probably hear only in the depth of the night, with everything else silent.
The silhouette of the castle ahead was black, with only a few windows alit, and Snape felt quite relieved with it. At least the blasted day had apparently come to the end, and he wouldn't meet anyone but house-elves picking up gaudy trash and dismantling the cumbersome heart-shaped decorations.
Another Valentine's Day survived by the greasy git, he thought and felt his frozen lips move apart in a smile.
* * *
Do you know how I found out that I was in love with you? I remember the moment exactly even if I can't quite explain it. Everything was so simple. It rained. Streams of water were falling on the roof with a steady, dull noise. You stood in the arcade, with your hand reached out into the rain.
Your face was so rapt. As if it felt new for you, as if it was something you tried to figure out. Drops slid down from your fingers. I'd never seen you like that before.
I stopped and looked. You didn't notice me. And I couldn't look away. I knew then that something changed forever between us.
* * *
Oh shit. Had he just thought his day was over and he was free to crawl under his rock and stay there? Snape blinked, hoping against reason that his vision was deceiving him. The expanse of snow in front of him was white and wide, except for a black figure - a figure that got up from the sitting position and made a few steps towards him.
Snape knew who it was immediately, even before seeing the moonlight glitter on the rim of the glasses. Cold washed over him, his breath hitching, as he hastened his steps. His body resented the effort but he didn't slow down.
The boy stood, looking at him, brushing the long fringe away from his face. White snow was like fluffy fur lining his black robe.
"What happened?" Snape's voice, despite his best effort to sound normal, was a little breathless. Potter frowned, rubbing his forehead. His eyes under the hand were bright green and anxious.
"Happened? Nothing. Are you..."
Relief came over Snape with a dizzying wave, and the familiar feeling of anger and self-hatred with it. Self-hatred was more acute, even though he was not going to admit it. Nothing. What a fool. Was he really worried about the little bastard? What did he think? That evil Death Eaters burst into Hogwarts? Clearly, Moody was rubbing off on him.
"What are you doing here then? Waiting for trouble?"
He barked it before he could control himself, before recalling that he didn't have official authority over the brat any more.
Snape stood straight, ignoring the protests of his spine, staring down at the boy. It looked like it worked because Potter stumbled on his words once more:
"I... I wanted to be alone... and look at the stars."
"Look at the stars." He was not going to spare the annoying brat; let him sound as foolish as he was.
"So what?" Potter's voice became defiant. "You can't take points for it."
Right he was; and Snape regretted it bitterly. He raised his upper lip in a usual smirk - no matter how little he felt like smirking.
"Indeed, I can't. One would expect a professor's assistant to have more responsibility than a student. At least for himself."
The phrase was wasted - because the boy talked simultaneously, in his slightly husky, strangely tense voice:
"Are you... are you all right?"
Snape winced. It was all bad enough as it was, with his stupid fit of panic - as if Harry Potter needed his concern, as if he couldn't take care of himself; and now having to answer Potter's platitudes... he could be a Death Eater but even a Death Eater didn't deserve that.
Potter still held his hand against his face, half-hiding it, and behind it his eyes stared with the expression Snape couldn't decipher, not that he tried to.
He has this way of looking, Snape thought suddenly, as if his eyes gleam from inside, behind those stupid round glasses. Glasses and the scar - repeated in the newspapers and on the colorful posters too many times. A trademark of the Boy Who Lived.
He wondered bitterly, for an umpteenth time, why Potter was here, at Hogwarts. An assistant to another nonentity of a Defense teacher... He could have become an Auror, they would've grabbed him happily, the defeater of Voldemort and everything. And hadn't Potter dreamed of becoming an Auror, that was why Snape had to suffer through two additional years of trying to teach him Advanced Potions?
He said he didn't want to kill any more, Snape recalled Potter answering in an interview to some newspaper.
He also recalled one of Defense lessons this autumn that he had watched - a lesson held outside, on the brink of the Forbidden Forest; Snape saw it from the castle, by chance. Their *teacher* - he couldn't think about the woman without a wince - was nowhere to be seen; just Potter surrounded by third-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws who looked at him wide-eyed as he was explaining something. From there Snape couldn't hear what about, the wind brought only the echo of the voice - but Potter definitely seemed enjoying it. All the attention... what's not to enjoy?
Do you have any idea, Mr. Potter, that life isn't always kind?
Maybe the boy didn't but he, Snape, did. He brought himself forcibly back to the present - and to the green eyes full of apprehension. The boy looked as if he expected something - what?
There was snow on Potter's fingerless gloves and on the cuffs of his robe, and the snow didn't melt. Snape frowned. The idiot boy didn't even put a warming spell around himself, did he? And how long had he been there - *looking at the stars* or whatever he was doing?
"Are you all right?" the boy asked again, and now his voice was insistent, angry.
"Mr. Potter. I'm not intended to continue this conversation. Go back to the castle."
During Potter's last year at Hogwarts as a student, when coming back from the meeting with the Dark Lord, Snape sometimes had met him like that, loitering outside the castle. He had had the authority to make the boy pay then, and he had the authority to make him obey. Now Potter could easily ignore Snape's orders, couldn't he?
Anyway, what did it matter? He wasn't someone Snape was responsible for. He didn't need Snape to worry about him; no one did.
As Moody put it, it was an abomination he was still teaching here.
The boy's eyes flashed as if he wanted to argue, and then he turned and walked towards the school.
For a moment Snape felt a strange urge to walk next to him, then reminded himself he didn't want to keep any more company with Potter than it was absolutely necessary.
He lagged a little behind and spat blood on the snow. In the moonlight the blood looked black, not red. As ill luck would have it, Potter chose exactly this moment to look back. His eyes seemed wild. Snape walked past him briskly.
He didn't want to talk any more; he didn't want to explain anything. He was just too tired.
* * *
Is it laughable? Am I a fool for wanting it - for wanting you? I want to touch your face. It is not a perfect face but I wonder if your lips would feel soft against on my fingers.
If someone told me a few years ago that I would think about it, I would find it a great joke.
I try not to think about it; it's futile all the same. You'll never want to... you'll never think about me like that.
But I suppose it can't be helped. I can't get you out of my mind.
* * *
In his quarters, finally alone, Snape made a stumbling step forward, clutching the back of the chair not to fall. Pain pierced his damaged hand but he didn't let go.
"Lumos," he muttered through the clenched teeth. Right in front of him, on the table, there was a rectangular piece of a marzipan cake, in all its pink and red glory. It looked like Albus kept giving orders to the house-elves, even staying at Hogwarts as a portrait. And Snape wouldn't be able to live without this cake, would he?
Below the plate, the crude red-and-gold Valentine card lay, as Snape thought it would be. He wondered who put it there. House-elves? Minerva? They likely knew what it contained.
The cake, the card... oh what a proper celebration he had. He chuckled, flinching as pain reverberated through his body. More and more, all of it reminded a farce... and he really couldn't laugh, with his ribcage bruised like that.
He took the card, opened the envelope. The handwriting was small and clear, and even without a second glance Snape knew it was changed. He had means to find out who the author was - but he was not going to bother. He had had a perfect plan how to make everyone who had anything to do with these letters pay.
Yes, right. Snape had planned today's lesson quite well - in such a way that his Slytherins wouldn't suffer, just Gryffindors. A small amount of substance covering their cauldrons, a big splash... and they would be spilling their secrets to anyone who would want to listen.
Minerva had substituted for him today. And the truth was that Snape wasn't sure that he wanted his revenge any more, that he wanted anything any more. He felt so tired that it seemed he couldn't even move from his place. He closed his eyes, swaying slightly.
Too tired to live.
Get a grip. It wasn't the first time; everything wasn't the first time - the Valentine card, Moody - and Snape knew that it even wasn't the last either. He should've gotten used to it. He knew what to do. Swallow some potions. Take a shower. Go to bed. And tomorrow he'd be able to function again. As he always did.
Only what for?
This question Snape didn't like to ask - and yet asked more and more often lately. Before, when Voldemort was still alive, he at least had the reason, trying to redeem himself, to pay his debt. But now... it felt as if he'd outlived his use, was just moving and talking like a puppet, with nothing behind it.
It can be all over, he thought again. And Moody would be happy. And Albus... probably Albus would meet him there.
He reached blindly and dipped his fingers into the soft whipped cream of the cake, brought it to his lips absent-mindedly. The cream was pink and tasted with cranberries. His fingers were grimy with the dirt from the floor in Moody's office.
He heard a noise behind, swirled around, nearly crying out with pain - yanking out his wand at same motion.
The wand pointed at the nose of the Boy Who Lived. Potter stepped away, a comic
expression on his face, his arms thrown apart for balance.
"Wow, that was fast."
"How did you get here?" His voice sounded hoarse; the boy was going to be his end tonight. Green eyes behind the round glasses were deceitfully innocent.
"The door was not locked."
"Don't lie." He never, never forgot locking and warding his door. Was he so worn out tonight that he forgot about it? Snape huddled involuntarily, pulling his collar tighter, and stopped himself forcibly from this pathetic gesture, straightening. "Never mind. Why are you here?"
"I'm sorry." Potter sounded almost as if he meant it. The boy's face was very pink. What's wrong with him, could he already get a cold? Snape wondered distantly if there was any way he could coax Minerva to put a prohibition on *staff* being outside after the curfew.
"You probably want to rest," Potter said hastily, in a strange indecisive voice that Snape hadn't heard from him before. "I just thought... the night was cold... Do you care for a cup of tea?"
"Tea." He couldn't believe it.
Only now he saw that: levitated behind the boy, a tray with a steaming teapot
and two cups.
Harry Potter. In his room. Offering him tea. What was the world coming to?
Snape shook his head, trying to disperse the feeling of unreality. Potter obviously was getting out of his mind with boredom if he was so desperate for a company.
He was not going to drink tea with Potter. It was ridiculous. He would be a fool if he agreed. He wanted nothing else but to be left alone.
But the castle was so quiet, the time closing to midnight, and the disgustingly bad day of his life was about to pass. Having tea... how much harm it would do?
"Just one cup." Snape almost couldn't believe he said it. And he said it so incoherently that Potter had every reason to pretend not to hear him. For a moment Snape thought it was exactly what was going to happen. Potter's eyes narrowed. Then he smiled and put the tray on the table.
Oh no. Anything but great. Snape wanted immediately to take his words back - how didn't he understand it at once? He'd given in, yielded his ground.
But somehow he felt he almost didn't care. The teapot was hot and he felt frozen. Tea would be good. And after that he would take his potions that would knock him out senseless till the next morning.
"I could have made tea here, you know."
"Yeah. Like you would," Potter mumbled.
The liquid poured to the cups was rich and amber-colored. Snape noticed Potter's hand was trembling just slightly and wondered why. The boy put the teapot down - and then his fingers reached, touching the Gryffindor Valentine card cautiously. He looked up at Snape who met his eyes directly.
Too tired to play games. He didn't even know if he felt anything about this thing at all, if it mattered for him. Just a part of his life; a part he didn't like - but then, was there any part of his life that he liked?
Potter looked away first. His lips moved, as if he was preparing to say something. He swallowed audibly.
"I wrote you one like this. Two years ago, in my sixth year." Snape couldn't say he was surprised. He didn't remember what was in the letter two years ago, whether it was inventive and witty or rude and obnoxious. Should have paid more attention, knowing that the Boy Who Lived deigned to write him, shouldn't he?
"It's a game," Potter added quickly. "Like truth or dare. Students play in the common room. If you're chosen, you can't refuse. Of course, there are spells to cover the identity, so that you..."
"And I suppose you wanted to refuse," Snape said bluntly, interrupting him. He didn't want to discuss it. It was just a letter. Potter's eyes flashed - as if Snape said something hurtful.
"No, but... you see..."
He really was tired. Why did he even agree to this ridiculous idea of having tea with Harry Potter? Potter was the last person he wanted to see.
Or maybe not. Maybe of all people who hated and despised him, in Potter's attitude there was at least something personal.
Snape brought the teacup to his lips. Tea was sweet and smelled with blackcurrant leaves.
"Do you know when I got it first?" He didn't know he was going to say it, it happened as unexpectedly for him as it probably was for Potter. The boy looked at him, shook his head. Why was he telling it, for Merlin's sake? "My sixth year. I think you can guess who started it."
It had hurt then. Two years later he had been out of Hogwarts and forgot it. But when he returned as a teacher, it started again. Some pranks really had a tradition behind them.
"I can stop it," Potter said.
For a moment the words didn't register. Snape just stared and then laughed. It hurt his ribs but he couldn't help it. It was too absurd.
"Stop it? You're going to stop it? Why? It's just a letter. Just a stupid letter that comes once a year."
And if I'm not here next year, I won't receive it, he thought. If I am in Azkaban. Or at St. Mungo's.
He stopped, frowning, seeing Potter's wild stare. Did he say it aloud? He must be really losing it. And what did he say anyway that made Potter look so horrified?
"No. It must stop. I'll make them."
"For Merlin's sake, Mr. Potter, it's just a childish prank."
Curious that it was him who was saying it. Green eyes narrowed.
"I don't mean the letter," Potter said very quietly. "And you know it."
What then, he wanted to ask - and caught Potter's gaze, followed its direction - until looking at his own swollen hand, the bruise on it blue and purple. Snape winced in self-disgust, pulled the sleeve lower to hide it.
"They have to leave you alone." There was something almost painful in Potter's voice, something very urgent. "You don't deserve it. I know you were on our side."
Oh, thank you! Finally, after seven years of doubting him at any opportunity, the boy decided to accept it. Why do judge Moody for being just a bit more pigheaded? Snape felt the boy's stare, and it made him uneasy.
"I'll make it stop," Potter repeated. "I won't let them take you again."
"Just how are you going to do it?" No, he was not seriously discussing it, was he? Potter's words meant nothing. "Taking into account that you barely can manage your own life." It sounded good. Scowl him; he saw Potter's eyes darken and pressed for advantage. "Taking into account how I found you, in the snow, freezing." Those were trashy words but he kept saying them anyway. "You were sitting in the snow, and it's February..."
The boy's face rippled, but Snape barely had time to notice it - because suddenly Potter stepped towards him, so very close that he couldn't see his face any more. Just as fast, Potter's arms wrapped around him, pulling him closer, clutching convulsively - and Snape felt the boy's hot breath against his neck. He's probably really feverish, Snape thought absent-mindedly. Feverish, delirious, raving mad... And then all his thoughts were dispelled at the feeling of hard, hot body pressing to him.
A loud sigh reverberated through Potter's chest - and his arms clenched around Snape even tighter, and oddly, despite the pressure on his ribs, it didn't hurt.
It felt so strange; unreal, yes, the right word - like something shifted and he got to another world, or to another body. And there, for a moment, being an impostor, he got the chance to experience something that was not meant to him. Someone else had to be held like that, in warm, strong arms. Someone else had to be held by Potter. Why he, Snape, got in this place, he didn't know.
It had to end; had to end very soon. The boy must've been really confused, not to know what he was doing. He'd come round a moment later and realize, realize everything...
Snape's body went rigid, his muscles strained as he waited for the inevitable - as he tried so hard, so carefully not to touch the boy, not to clasp his hands on Potter's robe. He knew what kind of intimacy *was* fit for him. Something like six months ago when Moody brought his men to rape him - and he hadn't even seen their faces, just felt them entering his body. 'Whore. Traitor, murderer and whore,' Moody was saying.
Snape winced - and the tight grip of the boy's arms loosened, and for a split second Snape felt regret. Yet Potter stayed close nevertheless, looking at him with a strangest expression that Snape couldn't understand. It was not sudden realization and disgust in any case.
"Am I hurting you?" Potter sounded hesitant and almost - guilty? "I'm sorry."
Sorry? The Boy Who Lived apologized twice a night. That was something new. Snape stepped back, putting a distance between them, snapping his control back in place.
"Do you need to see Madame Pomfrey, Mr. Potter?"
The boy looked totally and most annoyingly puzzled. "Poppy? Why?"
"Because you obviously don't control your actions."
"What?" Potter frowned, and then, a moment later his gaze brightened up. "Ah. You mean... that." He looked at his arms that Snape had felt clutched around him just half a minute ago.
There was an expression on Potter's face that he didn't like at all - something suspiciously like pity. Snape shook his head, letting his hair fall over his face, half-curtaining his view.
"There was nothing I couldn't control about my actions," Potter said, "sir."
Hmm, sir... That was such a rare thing, to hear this address from Potter, it must've meant something - and his voice sounded... it sounded sincere, Snape thought for a moment.
"I meant it," Potter said. "I mean I wanted to."
"Wanted what?" Something suggested to him that he shouldn't have asked that. Potter looked somewhat pained, frowning, and now there were whole two steps between them.
If all of it is a prank, I'm going to kill him, Snape thought. I'm so tired.
"Um... to hug you?" Potter said in a very small voice.
Snape felt anger rise in him, accumulated for the whole lousy day of his, and now he could care less how exactly Harry Potter sounded and how - shy? confused? anxious? - he looked.
"And what made you think I wanted to be hugged?" It sounded silky but Potter cast a nervous glance at the teacup in Snape's hand, as if expecting it to be thrown at his head at any moment. Idiotic boy.
"You don't, do you?" Potter asked, and there was something uncharacteristically sad and unsure in his voice. "I'm sorry. I thought..."
"I don't know what you thought." It made Snape feel better, being in his usual mood, his words lashing; he almost didn't feel so worn out at this moment. "I don't know what idea wandered into your thick skull about being a protector of the whole world, defending the weak and the needy. But I'm not weak and I don't need protection, and if I suddenly need to be comforted, I will surely look for it somewhere else but in the arms of the
Potter gulped; Snape felt good. He still could take the boy down a peg, couldn't he? Even though he couldn't take points. Potter's eyes, angry and bright, flashed as he looked at Snape, panting. And then he took a deep breath and blurted out:
"I was not comforting you, you fool! I was... making a pass at you!"
It didn't make sense at all; the words didn't even merit Snape's attention. He snorted.
"You don't understand, do you?" Potter's voice was strange - self-absorbed, as if he was talking to himself. Suddenly Snape wanted to interrupt him, before he said something they both would regret. "You don't feel anything, right? It's just me. Just me. I thought you might feel, sometimes it seemed to me... But probably not, probably I imagined it all,
The look he was giving Snape was impudent, and he should've stopped it, should've shown the boy his place. But Potter... technically he wasn't even a boy any more. A young man.
And Snape remembered how the body of this man felt against his.
"Did you ever wonder why I decided not to be an Auror? Or was it too much to expect from you - to think about the Boy Who Lived? Is it how you call me for yourself - the Boy Who Lived? I hated how they treated you, you know - how Moody treated you. I didn't want to be like them. I started working here... do you know why? Do you think it's easy? Slytherins hate me, and my own House thinks I should cover their pranks - and mostly I don't know how to make them respect me. Do you know how difficult it is?"
"As a matter of fact yes," Snape said.
It seemed his words cut through the thicket of Potter's speech, making the boy stop and look at him in a kind of bewilderment.
"Yes, I know how difficult it is."
He could see anger in the boy's eyes. Potter's hands clenched as if he, Snape, said something outrageous.
"You don't know anything!"
Snape peered down at him. Then the boy sighed and said very determinedly: "Anyway. I'll try one more time. Just one."
Snape didn't have time to ask what it was supposed to mean - because Potter was right next to him again, covering the distance between them in one step - and Snape felt hot rough hands on his face, cupping it. And a moment later there were lips, covering his, pressing, insistent and yet strangely gentle, nudging on his mouth, making him open it - and a hot tongue slid into it.
It couldn't be happening, he thought. Harry Potter was kissing him. It couldn't... it was too unreal to even think about it.
So he didn't think. He kissed back, met this tongue invading his mouth - how many years hadn't he kissed? It was a wonder he still remembered how to do it. And had it always felt like that? Hot and desperate and tasting warm and like blackcurrant - and the hands held his face firmly but gently, and his breath was caught, and yet he wanted it to go on and on...
He gasped when their mouths parted - and recalled how to breathe again, and opened his eyes - he didn't even remember closing them. The rough fingers still touched his face, although not holding it - and Potter's mouth looked pink and slightly puffy - kissed - an utter evidence of what happened. He'd kissed Potter; Potter has kissed him. It was insanity.
"And now you can blast me into the wall," Potter said.
A good idea. As soon as he'd recall how his wand functioned. Oh Merlin, he really didn't have self-control at all - if a kiss could turn him into such a mush. Potter had just got a perfect weapon over him.
His fingers hovered near to Snape's face as if he wanted to touch him again. Why would he? Touching a greasy git had to make him cringe in horror. Potter's eyes were dark-green, serious - and the voice, quiet, sounded nearly desperate.
"It's a bad timing, I know. You're tired. But I decided I would do it today. I thought it was the right day, Valentine's Day and everything. And then they took you away - and you didn't come back for so long... and I waited and waited..."
You don't mean it, Snape wanted to say. But even saying it would mean that he, for a moment, admitted that it could be true, could be like that - that there could be some sense in the boy's words.
"Stop it, Mr. Potter."
"Whatever you're doing. Your joke. Your prank. Your foolishness."
"It's not a joke!" His eyes looked almost iridescent in anger. "What do you think I am, joking like that? Use 'Legilimens' on me if you want to see the truth."
"I don't want to see anything!" Fear rose in him, hot and swelling, demanding him to hurt the boy - before Potter would hurt him. "You come here, stroll in, without any regard to someone else's feelings, with your stupid ideas. What is it? Another game, like writing the card? Kissing your former Potions Master? You couldn't refuse, no matter how you tried? You'll always be a Gryffindor, won't you?"
"It's not a game! Do you hear me?" Now it was more like their usual way, Snape thought absent-mindedly, yelling at each other... He saw Potter's chest heave - and his face was very pale now, except for the red stains on his cheeks.
"Do you think I like it?" The boy sounded almost peevish. "When I was in the fifth form, there was a girl I liked very much. I always felt like such a fool around her. It's like... like your life isn't your own any more, like you're giving it to someone. And you even didn't notice anything. Like you didn't notice when I waited for you then, when you returned from Death Eater meeting. Did you have any idea?"
He didn't. But the boy also had no idea... the boy had no idea about anything. So young; so passionate; so... alive.
"Do you think I wanted to feel like that about you?" Potter's voice sounded resentful, almost comically accusing - like he wanted to put the blame on Snape. "I hated you, do you know it? And you still hate me, right? Right?"
What arrogance. Such anticipation of being reassured. But there probably was something infectious in the boy's delirium - because Snape felt drawn into it, into answering the question that was not a question at all.
He didn't hate him. Not for a long, long time - so long that it seemed an eternity. How could he? That day when they had brought Potter to the infirmary, his lips blue and breath rattling in his chest with such an odd sound that it seemed to be about to stop at any moment - and the Dark Mark had faded on Snape's forearm, and he knew it was all over - he already didn't hate him. He thought that if the boy died, he wouldn't ever feel whole again.
The boy had become a part of him. Well, he was quite capable of hating a part of himself. But not Potter.
And having the boy here, at Hogwarts, was like touching fire again and again - painful and yet something he couldn't stop doing.
Well... it wasn't Potter who was insane. It was him. Thinking like that about an eighteen-year-old boy, an idol of the wizard world... Join the club, Severus Snape.
And he still could feel the taste and warmth of Harry Potter's lips on his.
Snape refused to say anything; because anything he would say was going to become his undoing. Because he didn't trust his voice to sound steady enough. His eyelids felt agonizingly heavy all of a sudden. He knew he didn't have to let himself loose, had to keep control. But he felt so badly tired. And then something went wrong. The floor was slipping away from under his feet. Snape knew he should've shaken himself upright, before it was too late, and knew he wouldn't have time.
Strong arms caught him, supporting him - and Potter was too close again, hard and hot and green-eyed. Snape's vision was swimming - but these eyes he could see clearly.
"They've really worked on you, haven't they?" the voice was soft and sad, the edge gone from it completely - and something in this voice was such that for a moment Snape wanted to give in to it, to believe the words it said. "Bastards."
"Yeah, right." The arms were persistent and didn't let him go, until lowering him into the chair, like he was crippled or a child, and Snape frowned, hating both himself for this weakness and hating Potter for witnessing it. Potter was still here, his arms still wrapped around Snape, even though he didn't need support any more. Potter's chest nearly touched his.
And there were fingers again, fingertips rough, running over his face, brushing his hair. He frowned. It was wrong; a mockery, a prank. It had to be.
Potter couldn't want it. Fingers touched his lips. Were gone for a moment. Then touched again, with something cold and fluffy on them. He opened his lips just slightly and felt the sweet, cranberry taste. Cream; cream from the cake.
He didn't like whipped cream. Then he licked Potter's fingers anyway.
He felt the boy change his position, slide on the floor, squat next to him - staying as close as before. It was dizzying and wrong and yet Snape couldn't bring himself to push Potter away.
"Don't make me go," the boy said.
Damn; he should have made him - it was easy, had to be easy now, when Potter didn't argue, just begged. And yet Snape's lips didn't move, as if he forgot how to speak.
"I knew it," Potter said triumphantly.
Foolish boy, what could he know? Snape felt the arms around him again, pulling him closer, pulling him up, insistently, and it was supposed to be rough and careless but it wasn't. It didn't hurt.
The lips touched his face again, kissing his eyelids, his lips and his nose, and he could feel Potter's glasses, their metal rim getting into the way. But it didn't matter. Nothing mattered. For now all Snape let himself think about was the present moment - and Potter... Potter kissing and holding him. He wouldn't think about anything else.
He didn't need protection, he said, but he suddenly felt exactly that - protected. Safe. In the arms of the boy twice younger than him - foolish, impulsive boy who probably didn't know what he was doing.
Snape should've been wiser about it but he couldn't. Potter's fingers quickly pulled the buttons of his robe. Snape's breath hitched suddenly at the touch of the hot fingertips on his skin. He heard the rustle of clothes and knew there was little left to cover him, and didn't care. If Potter backed up seeing him - so let it be. Deserved it, for his foolishness.
He heard a small sound Potter made, a gasp - and a moment later the fingertips ran over his ribcage, touching the ugly stains of bruises there.
"I'll make it stop," Potter said again. Whatever. Since he'd given in, the words didn't mean much.
He felt the warmth of Potter's breath over his collarbone, and then it was gone. Instead, Potter's hard fingers squeezed his hand, pulling him somewhere. Bedroom? Snape followed. The hand let him go.
"Where is your nightshirt?"
"Yes. I know you have that very ugly one."
"Is it some fetish of yours, Potter?"
The boy chuckled.
"No, you silly. You need rest. You need to take something. You need to lie
"You have a strange idea of what 'making a pass' constitutes."
Hot palms lay on his face again, lips on his lips. "Trust me."
It was out of question, he didn't trust anyone, let alone Potter. But Snape didn't want to argue now. He suddenly thought he didn't want to remember this day for Moody, or for the Gryffindor's Valentine. He'd have different memories of it.
He remembered how potions tasted, bitter and astringent, the glass of vials cold pressed to his lips. He remembered being in bed then, and a thin, hard body pressing against his, separated just with flimsy layers of clothes. It was not cold any more, Potter must've lit the fire. Or it simply was not cold any more.
He remembered Potter sigh and fidget, settling more conveniently, like he wanted to belong in his bed. Snape muttered:
"And what now?"
The boy fidgeted some more and snorted a little.
"And that's all?"
"Later," Potter said.
He remembered that and nothing more before sliding down under the wave of darkness and letting the day and the night be over at last.
* * *
Do you know how many times I dreamed about it? You and me, in this bed, with the only sound of the crackling fire and trembling flame of the candles casting shadows on the ceiling above us. Your eyes move quickly under the lowered eyelids as you dream. It's not a good dream, I can see it on the frown between your eyebrows. I settle closer and you sigh a little, relaxing slightly.
You trust me when you are asleep. You don't fight me. You look so vulnerable. You need me.
Sleep. You're safe with me.