Chapter Five - Potions Masters Have Cold Feet
“How many times do I have to say it?” Severus sulked, but it still wasn’t going to change his mind. “You are not going to Diagon Alley by yourself.”
“Then how do you expect me to teach? Oh, that’s right, let my students make it up as they go along.” Harry stuck his tongue out.
“Ask Hagrid to pick them up. He’s going next weekend.”
“Oh, that’s clever, Potter, really clever. Send Hagrid, who wouldn’t know a dragon’s claw leaf from bloodroot powder. Yes, I can certainly see that going over well when the first years’ parents notice their children have all grown scales!”
“Then go with Hagrid.”
“Please. I’d be safer with Lucius Malfoy.” Sev yanked his cloak behind him in disgust and pawed through a cabinet. With open revulsion he pulled out apparently random things and threw them in a smoking, rather whiffy vat of neutraliser.
“Nobody’s going to touch you when you’re with someone nine feet tall.”
“They will if they know Hagrid!”
“Fine. Then I’ll go with you. It’s not like I don’t have any experience with Dark wizards.”
Two sharp, singeing eyes caught Harry. “You’re not going anywhere near Diagon Alley.”
“If you’re going, I’m going too.” He crossed his arms, Mrs. Skower’s spray in one hand and rag in the other. The gargoyle in the corner snickered; Harry shot it a look.
“Albus wouldn’t tolerate it.”
“Well, that’s just too bad, mate.” He sprayed a desk; the mildew on it steamed. “Remember, eighteen? Legal adult?” Harry scrubbed viciously.
“I hadn’t guessed.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re not acting much like an adult, legal or otherwise. I daresay you could do with a good spanking.”
“Kinky.” He ducked the flying puffball fungus. It hit the floor, POOF!, in a brown cloud of spores. Severus cursed. With stiff fingers he grabbed a whisk and dustpan.
“Harry, I have to go. Nobody else in the school knows where to get some of these ingredients—“
“So tell them.”
“—and I have other things to take care of as well.” The smashed fungus went unceremoniously into the vat.
“Like getting a new watch, you bloody great leech.” Harry tried not to grin.
“Anyone can get you a watch.”
“Not one I’ll like!”
“What, black?” Sev’s eyes narrowed. Harry had a thought. “You can go on one condition.”
“And what might that be, o bane of my existence?”
“Take Sirius and Professor Lupin.” The vial in Sev’s hand slipped and crashed.
“Take Sirius and Lupin. After all of the work they’ve done with Dum—“
“You’ve been breathing those fumes too long,” Severus pointed at the bottle in Harry’s hand. “I think I just heard you say that I should go to the busiest shopping district in wizarding Britain accompanied by a second-rate werewolf and your sociopathic godfather.”
“Yup.” Harry beamed.
Sev stared. His eye twitched in a most disconcerting way. “Are you trying to kill me? If you are, I’m sure you can just call up Walden Macnair and have him do it. It would be significantly less painful.”
Harry dropped his bottle and rag and walked up to Sev, letting his arms drape lazily around the Potions master’s neck. “Please? Lupin won’t let Sirius hurt you.”
Sev raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “I seriously doubt that even Albus Dumbledore could keep that maniac from transfiguring me into a slime mould. Or worse.” It was a blatant lie and they both knew it.
“Please?” Harry leaned up to kiss him. Sev grumbled but returned it anyway.
“No. The last thing I need is a dogfight.”
“He wouldn’t do anything if I was there.”
“NO!” Severus unwrapped Harry’s arms and swatted him on the arse. “You’re not going to Diagon Alley, no arguments.”
“Come on, we’ll go Saturday. If you think about it there’s no safer place to be.”
“Please, do go on. I need a laugh.” Sev rest his sallow chin in one hand, cupping his elbow.
“The place’ll be packed. How can anyone aim in a crowd like that?”
“Did it not occur to you that a Death Eater won’t care how many people he kills to get to you?”
“But there’ll be Ministry officials everywhere. As soon as one of them raised a wand—“
“And who says they would need a wand?” He tossed out another phial.
“Lupin would smell a potion a mile off.”
“Hardly. Unless you’re suggesting we take a fully formed werewolf into the shops with us. I don’t think you can get leashes for them.”
Harry sighed. He waved his wand at the broken vial on the floor. “Reparo! He’s still got a good sense of smell. Hell, if you want we can get Sirius to transform.”
“Can I have him fixed?” Snape muttered.
Harry gave him a look. Severus turned back to his cabinet, hunched and sneering. He threw a vial into the vat with rather more force than necessary. “Sev, please? I need to get out of here for a little while.” Snape paused.
“Out of the question.”
“What’s the good of keeping me safe if it’s just going to drive me insane?”
“You used to want to stay here all the time.”
“Sev…” Harry grabbed his rag again and swatted it halfheartedly across a shelf. Between being cooped up in the library and the way his lover had been acting lately, he was growing to hate the sight of the castle. He knew that one reason Sev was so insistent on going was to stock up specifically on wormwood and asphodel. Taking that ‘secret’ dose of Draught of Living Death every night had its toll. He was edgy, cranky - even more than normal Snape. Sometimes Harry would look at him and, for an instant, see nothing in those intense, exhausted eyes but fear. “Please. We both need to get away.”
Snape scowled. He groped at the back of the cabinet. “Three hours at the apothecary isn’t ‘away’.”
“So what is? A romantic week in Hunstanton?” The scowl deepened; those narrow shoulders jerked. “I’m going stir crazy, and lately I don’t know what kind of potion you’re on—” Harry bit his lip and swore softly. He hadn’t meant to say that. He braced for the brutal retort.
“I’ll speak with Albus.”
“I’m s—you’ll what?”
“He may have some better suggestions for escorts.” Severus looked distant. Quickly, he buried most of his upper body in the cabinet. “You’ll be miserable.”
“And you have to carry everything.”
“I wouldn’t dream of burdening you with your own shopping.”
“And I’m eating ice cream in front of you.”
“And if the Death Eaters show up you can deal with them yourself.”
“So what else is new?”
“Manipulative obnoxious brat.”
“Sadistic greasy bastard.” Harry turned back to the mind-numbing job of scrubbing every surface he could find in Sev’s classroom. His mind kept wandering, though. What kind of potion was he on?
Smooth lips, thin and insistent. Only the barest streak of shattered light between tangled lashes. Cool hands on warm cheeks, warm hands on narrow shoulders, the dizzying brush of long hair against his neck. No other contact, save the gentle, swaying touch of thighs between bent knees. A song of hope, of future, of fulfillment ran with his blood; the harmony of breathing, the delicate wet press of tongue to tongue made it a symphony. At these times, Harry could almost believe that, somewhere, there existed a merciful god. He opened his eyes, looked up into those black depths capable of so much cruelty or so much devotion, and for a fleeting moment he did believe.
Lips lingered, pulled away, hovered for one more tender brush. Down his throat they trailed, and along the curve of bone, every soft touch a statement that would remain unspoken. His own fingers sought the row of bumps along Severus’ spine. So many, so prominent when he arched into the touch. A tiny kiss at the point where shoulder turned to neck below Harry’s left ear elicited a gasp, a need for flesh on flesh. But, no, it didn’t come, and wordless affirmations ran over his shoulder, down his arm to fingertips clutched in a ruined, beautiful hand. They rest against a sallow cheek; he stroked it. Sev looked so solemn, so determined. Harry smiled at him. “Greasy bastard,” he murmured.
Sev didn’t speak, but smiled the wistful, sad half-smile he only showed Harry. Brevis Tui Tempus est. As if reading Harry’s fears he leaned forward and pressed their mouths together before returning to his particular brand of worship. He moved slowly, following the soft definition of muscles that ached from endless stacks of books. Time here was short, and Severus seemed set on filling as much of it as they could.
The wardrobe was empty. The myriad books and parchments and bottles that lined every surface were carefully stowed in a trunk with three locks. Harry’s smaller student trunk had been rearranged four times to make room for the rest of their possessions. A few things they would need in the morning, robes and such, lay neat and lonely on the dresser. Tomorrow, Professor Vector would come to take over Slytherin House and, with it, the chamber meant for its Head. They would move to a slightly larger suite away from the dungeons. It was warm and airy and had large windows facing the Quidditch pitch, and Harry’s stomach lurched at the thought of it. Sev would never adapt properly, and he, after so many months and memories in the cold and damp, wondered if he could either.
That gentle mouth brushed across his belly now. He tangled a hand in the thick, wiry, black mess that draped him, trying not to notice the streaks of grey just beginning to mar the temples. Severus rubbed his cheek against goosepimpled skin. Those long eyelashes tickled. Harry squirmed, and two careful hands wrapped around his hips. He stroked Sev’s upper back, still caressing his hair; potential quivered under that pallid skin. Butterfly kisses traced the bottom of his ribcage. A few people, a very few Harry knew of, had wanted to give him this reverence before, but for the wrong reasons. Sev allowed him no illusions, no pride in what had been forced upon him; hatred made him human, so every small touch, every tiny sanction of lips, had been earned. And Harry loved him for it.
Gradually those hands, warming slowly, traveled down his body, moved up and down his thighs in slow, promising strokes. Air was suddenly scarce. Sev traced his nose down the middle of Harry’s abdomen, barely further than his navel but enough for his warm, controlled breath and a stray bit of his hair to draw a soft moan. “Are you sure this is what you want?” Sev whispered.
“Yes.” The word rasped in his throat.
“You still want your name beside the greasy Potions master’s?”
“Yes.” His Latin was pitiful, and he knew he would mangle it horribly, but he spoke before he could stop himself. “Brevis Noster Tempus est.” The warm current on his skin stopped. Harry felt Sev’s forehead on his belly. A shaking hand entwined his.
“So it is.” Harry gasped when a hot cheek rubbed the side of his shaft. Black hair shrouded it from blurry view. His spine rippled at the hesitant brush of lips against his foreskin. Fingers squeezed. He braced himself. Suddenly, Sev pulled up and hovered over Harry. He looked grave. Slender fingers pushed the hair back from Harry’s face. “I want to see you, you obnoxious little brat.” Harry’s chest fluttered. He rose up on his elbows to touch his mouth to the greasy Potions master’s. Finity burned. He opened their mouths, desperate to taste him, to have everything, before time ran out. Sev met him with equal need. Rapid hands tried to memorise every detail of that slim body. There wasn’t enough time, whether a minute or a century. Brevis Tui Tempus est; Brevis Noster Tempus est; Brevis Mei Tempus est. The futility exploded in Harry’s brain and burned itself down to a simple truth: time is short; use it.
Trembling with effort, his hands glided slowly over Severus’ back. He let go a shuddering breath when he felt the man’s weight settle on him, and the innocent purity of skin against skin. Sev pushed Harry’s arms to the bed. He rubbed them, from shoulder to wrist and back then down Harry’s sides before repeating, with deliberate intensity. With the distance between them gone, Harry’s erection pressed hard into that hollow stomach. He squeaked. Sev smirked, face flushed and glossy. His own member was pressed against Harry’s backside, between his body and the thick claret bedcovers. For all of the overpowering sensations this sent through Harry’s body, it seemed oddly secondary. “What are you thinking about?”
Sev frowned. “You usually ask things like that after. Getting bored with me?”
“You’re too much of a pain in the arse to get bored with.” Harry lay his cheek against Sev’s. “I just want to know.”
The long fingers moved lightly from his triceps to his wrists. They clasped his hands. “My family.”
“What about them?”
Sev leaned his head against Harry’s in a limited hug. “Nothing worth mentioning. Anyway, you’re my family now.” Thin lips touched his ear. Sev crossed both of their arms on Harry’s chest and rest his chin there. His black eyes were distant, even when he met that green gaze.
“Can I ask you something else?”
“You can ask.”
“Why won’t you tell me what the Death Eaters did?” Severus’ eyes widened. Harry quickly added, “I’m not asking what they did, I just want to know why you won’t tell me.”
“That’s a very personal question,” he warned.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “Sev, we’re starkers, you’ve all but got your nob up my arse, and you know I’m about to punch a hole through you. If there’s any time to ask a personal question, it’s now.”
Severus gave him a slightly annoyed look. “Cheeky.” He thrust his hips, once. Harry squeaked as his skin was pulled tight around jumpy nerve endings. “You’re certainly right about nearly having my nob up your arse,” he said in a slightly strained voice.
“Just answer the damn question,” Harry muttered through clenched teeth. His eyes had crossed.
“But I’ve always wanted a guinea pig.” Severus drew his hips back slowly. Harry squeaked again.
“Oh, you prick…”
“Damn right.” Sev closed his teeth over a bit of Harry’s throat and didn’t ease pressure until he’d received a soft whine for his efforts. He studied Harry for a moment. “It would hurt you more to know.” His eyes darkened, and some of the flush drained from his face.
Harry kissed him between his dark eyebrows. “Thank you.” It was an unsettling answer, and it only gave more weight to what Harry already thought happened. However, it was more than he’d given up before and he’d done it willingly. Telling Sev how wrong he was would have to wait. “That’s rather distracting, you know.” A mischievous smirk tugged at Severus’ mouth.
“What? This?” He wiggled his hips. Harry cursed. His heart was ready to break out of his ribcage. Reflexively, he bucked. Sev’s wicked giggle was shattered by a cry. Face buried in Harry’s chest, he breathed hard, back arched and legs twitching. Harry freed a hand to stroke that trembling black hair, those convulsing, wing-like shoulder blades. In a moment he groped his small bedside table for the nearly empty vial Sev had pulled out of his cabinet so many months before.
“You’ll need to make some more tomorrow,” he murmured. He’d never thought about why Snape would have something like that in his office.
“I didn’t make it.”
Sev looked up. His eyes were slightly round with embarrassment. “I confiscated it from a student who made it on a dare. She bloody near got away with it.”
“You know how far a drop goes.” Harry nodded. “If you step on one, it goes about five feet further.” Harry giggled. His shaking body quickly turned it into a gasp. Sev’s teeth reflexively clamped down.
“Oh, my god.” He found a sallow hand and urgently pressed the vial into it. Severus took his face and kissed him, long and deep and slow. Passion was tempered by something far deeper, and strengthened for it. He dribbled a few drops of the precious liquid on his fingers and reached down. Harry wrapped his arms around the man’s neck; a smile touched his lips as Sev bit his. In a moment he slid a slick finger into his lover, who keened. It wriggled torturously. Sev’s eyes narrowed pleasantly – he adored making Harry beg like this, and so did every chance he got. It didn’t take long for the moans and whimpers to be broken by a tremulous, “Please?” He looked thoughtful, mouth twisted in a playful smirk. The horrible, glorious teasing doubled, trebled. A stretched finger touched a particular spot and Harry screamed. “Please please please please please, god, please!” He was sure Sev could taste the pulse in his lips.
The Seeker’s body shook as Severus slowly removed his fingers and shifted his weight. Legs wrapped around his waist and held firm. Harry gave a wordless shout as Sev breached him, slowly, oh so slowly. Their hands fumbled and squeezed until red half moons rose in their skin. Sev’s full, panting weight fell against Harry when he could go no further. He clenched that mess of rabbit’s fur hair. The legs around him pulled tight and locked. Harry looked at him with half-closed eyes. For the first time in weeks, Severus managed a real smile. It obliterated some of the shadows in his face. When he finally did move, it was unhurried, both lazy and deliberate, enough of that smile still clinging to his lips to make him look his true age.
Harry pushed the long, dangling hair behind his ears. It was a futile affection because it never stayed. Exploring the long, gaunt body with one hand he gathered all of Sev’s hair in the other and gripped it at the base of his skull. Sev turned his face and kissed the inside of Harry’s elbow. Those black eyes closed for a moment and reopened, tipped slyly down. “Is this your subtle way of telling me to cut my hair?”
“Only if you want to kip on the floor.”
“Hmm… I can think of substantially preferable places to sleep.” The wiry bunch slid from Harry’s fingers as Severus leaned forward to nuzzle his throat. Harry sighed, content, and left a moist cluster of lip prints on the narrow shoulder in front of him. Sev’s back was arched enough to let the bumps on his spine rise up. Harry walked them with his fingers. It barely crossed his mind how prominent they’d become. He let his palm flatten out against Sev’s backside, enjoying the surreal dual sensation of the gentle rise and fall. Their dog tags were warm on his chest.
“I love you,” Harry murmured. Sev barely flinched.
“I know.” Only once had he ever said it, so close to death he was delirious. Harry cherished that bittersweet memory. Even in the midst of making love, the man couldn’t say it. Then again, if he could, he wouldn’t be Sev.
The slow rocking brought a slick layer of sweat to both their bodies. Harry’s hand started to slip and he clenched. Severus whimpered and involuntarily thrust. Harry’s scream caught in his throat and came out as broken, choking noise. He buried his face in the angular crook of neck and shoulder and tried to control himself, very aware his lover did much the same. Too soon, too soon, there was too much time left in the world. Make this last forever, make there be a forever, break the ageless tyranny of Snapes. Nails dug into sallow skin, urging against desperate entropy. His hips jerked. Rings of muscle squeezed gorgeously in response to Sev’s cry. Harry felt someone’s tears soak his hair.
Neither of them could slow the burning demands of frenzied nerves, their utter perfection flawed by its own transience. Sev lifted his head and managed to close his mouth over Harry’s whimpering lips. Harry clung to him for dear life. He was going to die, or soon wish he had.
Severus suddenly cried out to any gods willing to listen. Writhing, searing heat flooded Harry; sizzling tears spattered his chest and melted the last threads of control. The world went white. He was dimly aware of his wail, of the sticky liquid rapidly pooling on his stomach. Every nerve in his body turned inside out, sensation resonating on itself again and again and again and again and again. Somehow, he opened his eyes and had a dim view of Sev, pink and shiny and panting and overwhelmed and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Neither of them moved for a long time. Harry held him tightly, refusing to believe they might be separate beings. Sev’s arms around him were safe, needy, possessive and possessed. Too soon the mass filling him so comfortably lessened, softened, slipped away. He held on with his legs, knowing the futility of his effort. With a kiss and a rare look of apology, Severus fell to Harry’s side and held him. His oily hair was tangled and spread out over his face. Harry brushed it back, smoothing the snarls as well as he could, so Sev wouldn’t have to let go. A tear welled up in one black eye and fell, pooling on the side of his beaky nose. “Sev…” he kissed his beloved nemesis. “What’s wrong?”
The man shook his head. “Nothing.” His breath trembled with leashed pain.
Harry held him tighter. “Tomorrow?” Sev shook his head again, reluctantly nodded. “I’m sorry.” Harry’s jaw ached. “I’m so sorry.” Those thin arms tightened around him, fingers digging into his back.
“You know what. It’s my fault y—“ A slender finger sealed his mouth.
“Another word out of you and I’ll make you clean the last cabinet by yourself.” Ah. The cabinet of potions gone horribly, horribly wrong, sarcastically known as the Neville Longbottom Hall of Fame. “I don’t see a problem with switching Houses this once.” Harry nearly choked. Eyes wide, he leaned his head against Severus’ breastbone.
“Greasy Witherin bastard,” he muttered, very close to tears.
“Obnoxious Gryffindork brat.” Those lips brushed his forehead. “However,” Sev warned softly, “don’t expect me to be so forgiving when Quidditch season starts.” Harry nodded vaguely. He couldn’t really do much else.
Harry woke up to see Sev, dressing gown hanging open, grab his wand from the bedside table. He wanted to say something, but for some reason did nothing but watch through half-closed eyes. The desktop was empty of all but a quill and an inkwell, and Harry soon found out why. Sev unlocked an empty drawer and pulled out his journal. Tapping the wand across the cover – the opposite direction from what he used to seal it – he muttered an incantation. Harry listened. His sleepy brain roughly translated the Latin to, “Give me myself.” He silently thanked Irma Pince for the language section.
For a long time he lay there, listening to the scratch of the quill. It was a rapid, angular sound. Suddenly, it changed. The strokes became long, slower, here and there marked by a rapid series of tiny dots like Morse code. Sev glanced back. Harry, head still on the pillow, didn’t move. His breathing, despite his body’s protests, was deep and even. The long, slow scratching started again. He drew for what felt like hours; Harry tried to imagine what those talented hands of his were creating. Sev finally put down the quill and rubbed his temples. He probably hadn’t slept a wink – even the disturbingly diminished effects of Draught of Living Death kept him in a tossing, whimpering state through the night. He waved the ink to dry it and closed the book. When he tapped his wand over the cover again Harry heard him clearly, “Me praesideas.” Protect me.
Sev locked his journal away once again and pushed himself to his feet. He’d lost weight. If it kept up he’d be a skeleton by Halloween. At least he won’t have to worry about a costume. Harry forced his face into the pillow and choked back a sob. “Harry?”
He held his breath. Carefully, he coughed. In a moment the duvet was tucked around him more tightly. A cool hand pressed against his forehead, touched his cheeks, tousled his hair. If Sev knew Harry was awake he’d have a stroke. He pretended to stir at the touch, and the gentle, almost parental, attentions stopped. “Sev?” he asked in a weak, hopefully drowsy voice.
“Go back to sleep. It’s only a quarter of four.”
“You still awake?”
“I had some things to finish packing.” Harry froze. They’d tossed little lies and exaggerations around during fights and such, but to Harry’s knowledge this was the first time Sev had lied. It had to be innocent – he was so secretive about that journal – but the thought that Sev could lie to him so easily scared him. The duvet lifted and a cold, slight body slid into bed. Harry cuddled up automatically. He couldn’t think of anything to say until two chunks of ice pressed against his legs. It took a minute to realize what they were.
“We’re getting you some slippers this weekend.”
“I hardly think there’s a need.” Sev’s chin settled on top of his head. “Go to sleep.”
“Not until you promise to get some slippers. Your feet are freezing!”
“You’re much better for warming them, though.” Harry smacked him lightly.
“Git.” He was rewarded with a soft, lingering kiss.
“Sleep. Or it’s scrubbing down cabinets tomorrow.”
“Yes, Professor.” Sev snorted. He would look cute if not for the enormous hollows around his eyes. Harry snuggled closer and wondered what else that book contained. He realised he could find out. If he’d heard the spells correctly, he could probably unstick the pages. A crippling pang of guilt filled him. Stupid, stupid Harry! How can you even think of doing that? It’d destroy him if he found you reading his journal. A hand ran over Sev’s back; if he pressed just a little bit he could feel ribs. He couldn’t do that a few months ago. Leave it as a last resort. Talk to Madam Pomfrey first. He hid his face in Sev’s chest. His mind kept telling him to read the journal, just read the journal, and these thoughts scared him sick.
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