Author's Notes: Thanks to Charles for the beta, and Alex for the encouragement.
“... And, furthermore, *Professor*, if you have a problem with any of that you can kiss my Gryffindor arse!”
Harry Potter stood in the middle of the Potions classroom, chest heaving, eyes blazing, mouth twisted into a snarl that would have done Professor Lupin’s more.... well, lupine side proud. He had had enough, more than enough, and now, what little self control Harry had managed to retain through the years had snapped.
It was the fifth double potions class of the term for the seventh year Gryffindors, and somewhere a Ravenclaw had just won one of Hogwarts’ most hotly contested betting pools.
Inside Professor Snape’s dungeon all the students, even the Slytherins, were torn between admiration and complete terror. Since the end of the war tensions had eased considerably, social hierarchy had blurred, and most remaining students and faculty had found themselves greatly enjoying the new status quo. But, there was one line that was still not crossed, that no one had even dreamt about crossing. And that line was firmly drawn around Severus Snape.
Of course, not only had Harry Potter crossed that line, he had jumped over it and danced a little jig on the other side. And Hermione had thought his death wish tendencies would have come to an end with the destruction of the Dark Lord.
“Mr. Potter...” Harry’s name rolled out of Snape’s mouth. The man’s voice was such a contradiction. The tone was like the finest silk, while the actual words were like a bitch slap to the back of the head. "It would seem that not only have you once again stunned me with your lack of intelligence, verbal skills, wit and overall common sense, but you’ve managed to do the same thing to your classmates. Oh, no, wait. Vacant and slack jawed is how they usually look.” Here Snape paused, noting with well concealed amusement that the other students were still too flabbergasted by Harry’s outburst to even realize they had just been insulted. Knowing he’d have a good laugh over this later, when he was in his private rooms with several heavy silencing charms on the door, the Professor continued to bait his young nemesis. “Then again, after an incomprehensibly depressing seven years trying to pound anything into that hollow crevice you call a skull, I have to wonder why I continue to be surprised by what a pompous, arrogant, immature little imbecile you are, have been, and always will be." He sniffed and glanced down at the papers on his desk, making a quick notation. "Fifty points from Gryffindor. Now, sit down, before I have you spending the rest of your nights this year with Mr. Filch.”
Harry remained standing, and seething. “No.”
A black eyebrow arched in actual surprise. “No?” Snape wanted to roll his eyes. The boy did have a habit of growing a real backbone at the most inappropriate of times.
“No.” Harry ignored Ron’s frantic tugging on his robes trying to get him back into his seat. “You and I are going to have this out right now.”
Snape leaned back in his chair, a look of cold contempt in his black eyes. “Oh, we are, are we?”
Two bright spots of color had formed on Harry’s cheeks, his blood rushed through his veins, echoing in his ears. The situation had spiraled out of control and he knew it. But, he also knew he couldn’t stop. Whatever demon Snape had unleashed inside of him had to get out. “You can’t say things like that!”
“That’s strange, I was under the impression that this was my classroom and I could say whatever the hell I wanted. For example, sixty points from Gryffindor! And, every additional minute you remain out of your seat, your house will lose another ten points.”
The other Gryffindors flinched from the threat, but Harry was undaunted. “You utter bastard!”
Snape finally stood, his entire body rigid, animosity radiating from every pore. “Perhaps I should have made myself clearer. Sit the fuck down!”
“And, perhaps I should have left you to rot in Voldemort’s dungeon!”
The collective gasp from the rest of the class nearly sucked all the oxygen out of the dank room. Professor Snape recoiled, only slightly, but still, the effect Harry’s words had on him was visible.
And, seeing that reaction, a dark part of Harry’s soul took control of his mouth and in a low, dangerous voice, he twisted the knife. “But, we all make mistakes, don’t we, *Professor*?”
The words hung in the air for a moment, an eternity, while Snape regrouped mentally and emotionally. He had momentarily forgotten that Harry knew how to fight dirty, and wasn’t afraid of doing so if the situation called for it. It was how he had survived the war, after all. And, evidently for Mr. Potter, verbal dueling with Severus Snape was along the equivalent of actual dueling with Voldemort.
Finally the Potions Master found his voice again, though his usual smooth inflections were gone. “Get out.” He rasped.
“P-p-professor?” Hermione, with wide eyes and a pale face timidly spoke up.
“OUT!” Snape bellowed. “All of you! Now! GET OUT!”
The sane people in the room nearly trampled each other trying to get through the door, leaving Snape and Harry the only ones left in the classroom.
Both men eyed each other, neither saying anything, for several long minutes. The silence was oppressive, but it gave them time to think, and for Harry, time to start regretting. Snape swore he could see when the guilt began to seep into the Gryffindor.
“Professor...” Harry began, haltingly. “I’m s-”
“So, help me Potter, if the next word out of your mouth is ‘sorry’, I will hex you so badly you really will wish you had left me to the Death Eaters.”
Harry blinked a few times and finally sank down into his seat. “I honestly don’t know what happened.”
“I do. I was more of a bastard than usual, and you called me on it.” Snape slowly approached the seventeen year old, still a bit wary of the younger, but far more powerful wizard.
“But why?” In Harry’s bright green eyes confusion had replaced hatred. “Why did you have to say something like that? I mean, I know you’re you, but still... that was...”
“Completely and utterly heartless.”
“Yes.” Harry’s brow furrowed. “Please, just tell me why.”
“All right.” Snape nodded. “But, first, I need you to do something for me.” Harry looked at him, questioningly. “For the remainder of our time here, until you and I both leave this room, I no longer want you to think of us as teacher and student.”
“What are we then?” Harry asked sensibly.
“Veterans, Mr. Potter. We are veterans.”
Harry blinked a few times, not sure about this latest little twist in their strange relationship. “All right.”
Snape nodded and took a seat beside his former comrade in arms. His dark eyes no longer held malevolence, but instead were fathomless revealing nothing. “As you mentioned, you did saved my life, even if, in retrospect you regret the decision.” Harry winced, right on cue. Snape ignored him and continued. “I just decided to repay the favor.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “Repay the favor?! How exactly did insulting Neville’s memory save my life? Really, Professor, enlighten me.”
Snape studied the young man before him for a moment. Finally, he gave his answer. “Longbottom was a casualty. He was neither a hero, nor a martyr, and he most certainly was not your responsibility. None of them were. And yet, here I see you, day after day, with the weight of a thousand corpses on your shoulders. I’ve been watching you sink deeper and deeper into some sort of sanctimonious self imposed depression, and let me tell you something, Potter, protecting you from the Dark Lord was a necessity, but protecting you from yourself is damned annoying!”
“Protecting me from myself?” Harry repeated dumbly. He then snorted rather loudly. “Oh my God! You don’t think... I can assure you Pro-... Sna... *Severus*, I’m not about to take a swan dive off the Astronomy Tower, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Actually no. The thought of you committing suicide never crossed my mind. There are limits to even your stupidity.”
“You’re going to waste away, Harry. You’re friends may not have noticed it yet, but I have. I’ve seen the symptoms before. I recognize them in you.”
Harry turned away from the older wizard’s gaze. He swallowed a few times. “And, so what if you’re right? Why do you care?”
A strange light appeared in Snape’s eyes for a moment. “As I said, you saved my life. And, do you remember, Mr. Potter... Harry... what you said when you did so? When you rescued me from Voldemort’s little chamber of horror? Right after you killed Lucius Malfoy.”
Harry cringed, but even he wasn’t sure if it was due to the remembrance of his part in the demise of Draco’s father, or the condition in which he found his Potion’s professor.
“Do you, Harry? When I told you to leave me be, to save yourself?”
“What was it?”
“I said,” Harry swallowed around a sudden lump in his throat. “I said, no one is expendable.”
“No one.” Snape repeated. “Not even you.”
The two men sat together in a strange, companionable silence for a bit longer, each lost in his own thoughts and memories.
"Thank you." Harry said, finally. "For your concern."
Snape snorted, but did not offer any rebuttal for his actions.
"It's just... it's like... no one else wants to even acknowledge what happened.” Harry’s nervous hands began to twist the edges of his robes. “Oh, sure, there were the parades and medal ceremonies, and things like that. But those weren't real. Not really real. They were just things created to make us feel good about ourselves."
"And, you don't think we should feel good?” Snape asked softly, hoping the younger man would continue. “We did win, after all."
Harry sighed deeply. "Yes, I know. And, I don't know, maybe we should be celebrating the fact that we beat the Death Eaters, but that's all they want to do. It seems like no one wants to talk about all the bad things that happened. All the sacrifices. All the people we lost. Did you know that until you said his name today, no one had mentioned Neville at all in the past three months. And, Hagrid... nobody ever talks about Hagrid anymore."
"And, you think we should, what, revel in the passing of our brothers-in-arms?"
"I certainly don't think we should sweep them under the...” Harry’s eyes turned shrewd. “You're trying to get me riled again, aren't you?"
Snape blinked. "Would I do that?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "All I'm saying is..." He groaned. "I don't know what I'm saying."
"You're saying you're extremely frustrated. You're saying you don't believe we should accept the triumphs without acknowledging the horrors. You're saying, you're a survivor of one of the worst wars the wizarding world has seen in hundreds of years and...” Snape scowled. “Oh, hell, now I don't know what I'm saying."
Harry grinned. "Must be catching."
"Mmm. Quite." The Potions master tried to look stern, but surprisingly enough when faced with Harry’s smiling countenance, he just couldn’t. With a dawning horror, Snape felt his own lips begin to twitch at the corners.
Harry’s eyebrows rose. “Severus?! Are you...”
“Did I mention that if you tell anyone what went on between us in this room today I’ll have you cleaning the Slytherin toilets with your toothbrush?”
“Uh, no, sir.”
“Well, now I have.”
“Uh, yes, sir.”
Snape snorted and threw his hands up in the air. “Oh, go ahead and laugh, Potter, before you blow a blood vessel in that dank expanse of nothingness otherwise known as your head.”
For once Harry obeyed him without question. For a brief while, when the teen’s arms were wrapped around his stomach and his breath was coming in wheezing gasps, Snape was afraid he might have to transport the younger man to the hospital wing. Finally Harry got control of himself again, that infectious smile still on his lips.
“Thanks. I really needed that.”
“I’m quite glad I was able to provide amusement for you.” Snape said dryly.
“You’ve done more than that, and you know it.” Harry’s voice had become serious, though there was still a light in his eyes that had been sorely missed... at least, by some people. “Severus, I was wondering...”
“Do you think we could do this again?”
Snape thought for a moment, mentally weighing the pros and cons of what would certainly turn out to be a talked about development in their relationship. He worded his response carefully. “If you need me, I will be there for you.”
Harry’s smile turned wistful. “I know you will. You always have been.”
And suddenly, before Snape could do anything other than gasp in honest surprise, he found himself with a seventeen year old Gryffindor straddling his lap and kissing him with a mind boggling proficiency. His arms wrapped around Harry’s waist seemingly of their own accord, pulling that young, lithe body flush to his own.
Forbidden fruit is said to taste the sweetest, and to Severus Snape, Harry Potter tasted very sweet indeed.
After what seemed like far too short a time, the melding of lips and tongues ended as Harry pulled back, taking one last nip at Snape’s bottom lip before he returned to his own seat.
For the first time in a troll’s age, Severus Snape was well and truly flustered. “What...”
Harry was calm, outwardly, at least. He gently stroked a finger down Snape’s cheek. “If you’ll permit it, that was the beginning.”
“Because underneath all of this silly posturing, you care about me, and I like you.”
Harry’s finger softly pressed against Snape’s lips. “And, we’ve been through hell, and you and I deserve to have something good. Unless I’m wrong. Am I wrong?” Harry removed his finger from Snape’s mouth and leaned back in his chair waiting for an answer, his nonchalant posture belying nothing of the storm of nerves that had to be raging within.
Snape swallowed a few times and then said the first thing that came into his head... which is never a good idea. “I really am going to take sixty points from Gryffindor you know.”
Harry’s grin was quick and sexy, and something Snape had a feeling he’d be seeing a lot more of. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
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