Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Rating: PG for now; probably NC17 eventually, if Snape and Harry have their way.
Notes: This is *extremely* AU. It's set in Harry and Company's seventh year, and it assumes that Voldemort has been defeated entirely at this point. An "Oh, brilliant, it only took half a year to kill him for good, so we've got the rest of the year off from Battling Utter Evil" sort of thing. Sirius has been exonerated, and he's the DADA teacher for the year.
Text appearing in single quotes ' ' within double quotes " " indicates dialogue quoted directly from the orignal play. Lines have been cut and/or edited for clarity or brevity in places, but otherwise, all dialogue is verbatim.
Too Wise To Woo Peaceably
When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room, he found it empty, except for Ron and Hermione, who appeared to be studying, but as soon as he walked in, they both glanced up, appearing relieved.
"Are you okay?" Ron stood up and went to meet him. "We saw you go off with Snape, and we wanted to make sure you were all right."
Forcing a laugh, Harry moved to sit down in the chair across from Hermione. "I'm fine. Snape's proved he's one of the good guys, remember?"
"We know he wouldn't hurt you, Harry, but the two of you are a bit like oil and water," Hermione said, obviously trying to be tactful.
Funny, I thought we were more like instant combustion, he thought, slumping in the chair a little. "I'm fine, really."
He glanced at his two friends; Hermione was perched on the edge of her seat, watching him with concern in her eyes, and Ron had sat down again, claiming the chair beside hers. Seven years of trust and camaraderie... They knew him better than anyone, even Sirius, and he knew better than to think he could hide anything from them for very long.
"We didn't quarrel, but something did happen between us," he admitted heavily. Lowering his gaze, he studied his clasped hands as he struggled to find the words to explain the situation to them. They weren't going to like what he was about to say, but perhaps he could phrase it so the blow was lessened. "There's something... strange going on between Snape and me, and it has been for a while now. I don't know when it started. Maybe with the play rehearsals, maybe even before. All I know is that Colin saw it before I did."
"Saw what?" Hermione asked gently.
He drew in a shaky breath and lifted his head to look at them both. "Tonight, I went to his quarters to practice the stage kiss, and we kissed for real, and it was my idea. I wanted to, and it was brilliant. Probably the best kiss I've ever had, and that's saying something, especially compared to Fred."
Silence fell in the Gryffindor common room. Ron stared at him, his eyes wide as any House Elf's. Little clicking noises emerged from his throat, but no actual words. Hermione pressed one hand to her mouth, smothering a gasp.
"But, Harry," she said. "He's a teacher!"
Harry laughed again, genuine laughter this time. Trust dear Hermione to focus on that aspect rather than all the myriad personality conflicts a relationship with Snape would entail.
"He's -- he's Snape!" Ron exclaimed, finding his voice at last.
"Are you in love with him?" Hermione asked, cutting to the chase as she usually did.
"I don't know," he replied candidly. "Tonight, I wanted to shag him in the worst possible way--"
Ron started making clicking noises in his throat again.
"--but love? I dunno." He shook his head. "I don't know what I feel for him yet, or if it's just hormones, and we agreed we shouldn't... ehm... go any further until I figure it out."
"That's for the best," Hermione told him, reaching out to pat his shoulder reassuringly. "It could be just an infatuation, after all."
"Yeah," Ron chimed in, a hopeful note in his voice. "I mean, you're my best friend, and I'll still like you no matter what, but it was weird enough when you were dating my brother."
"We weren't so much dating as shagging each other senseless as often as possible," Harry informed him, the somber expression on his face belied by the mischievous twinkle in his green eyes, and Ron clapped his hands over his ears.
"Too much information!"
Laughing, Hermione rose to her feet and gathered her books, parchments and quills, then turned to Harry, serious once more. "I know it's a difficult situation," she said, her voice laden with sympathy. "And if you ever want to discuss it, we're here for you. We may not agree with you choosing Snape as your significant other, but Ron and I want you to be happy. Right, Ron?"
"Oh, er... right," he agreed as he scrambled to collect his own study material. "It's just..." He straightened, looking Harry in the eyes. "I'm not sure Snape'll be the one to make you happy, you know?"
"Yeah, I know." Harry stood up as well. "That's why I'm not rushing into anything, all right?"
Ron breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. "All right." He paused, then added, "And if it's just you're a bit randy, you could always send Fred an owl. I'm sure he'd be delighted to... ehm... pay you a visit."
"Thank you." Harry regarded him with mock-gravity. "It's good to know I have your blessing anytime I want to spend a night of unrestrained passion with your brother."
Even by the time they got to their shared bedroom, the bright scarlet hue in Ron's face still hadn't faded.
"O, mischief strangely thwarting'!"
Ron's heart-rending cry was audible even over the bustle of activity backstage, and Harry stood close enough to the edge of the stage that he could hear the dialogue plainly. Don John had just informed Don Pedro and Claudio that he had "proof" of Hero's infidelity, which was false proof he and his men had fabricated, but the naive young Claudio believed it nonetheless, and now the suffered agonies of a broken heart.
Ron was doing a remarkably good job of portraying anger and anguish, without seeming too melodramatic, and Harry would have enjoyed the scene immensely had he not been so preoccupied. But he was preoccupied, and had been for nearly two weeks, ever since the kiss. Outwardly, the dynamic between himself and Snape hadn't appeared to change. They bickered onstage as Beatrice and Benedick, and appeared to ignore each other offstage. They were careful not to touch more than they absolutely had to, and if anything, it would probably seem to the casual observer that the temperature of their relationship had plummeted.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Harry found it difficult to keep his eyes from straying to Snape, seeking him out wherever he was, and when he let his gaze wander up and down Snape's black-clad form, he remembered the all-too-brief glimpse of what was concealed beneath those loose robes, and how it had felt to be pressed against that lean body. Sometimes, Snape caught him watching, and when their eyes met, Harry was surprised the very air didn't catch fire between them. Snape's expression may have shown nothing but his usual disdain, but those dark eyes told a different story of what lay simmering beneath the surface of his cool, remote exterior. One such look, and Harry was instantly aroused, not only by its intensity, but also by the memories it evoked, memories of one kiss that hadn't been nearly enough to satisfy him.
And so, they had watched and circled one another, the slightest brush of skin on skin enflaming Harry, and he doubted he was alone in that reaction. He wasn't certain which of them was the predator and which the prey; perhaps they traded off at times. All he did know was that the tension was growing between them, stretching out into a thin, taut line that could snap at any moment, and he had no idea what might happen if it did.
One good thing that had happened in the last couple of weeks, however, was that his new glasses had arrived, and he had been alternating between wearing them and wearing his contacts, since the contacts tended to get a little uncomfortable after a long day, particularly if he spent a great deal of time studying.
Somewhere nearby, a door creaked open, and out of the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Anne rush toward the dressing rooms; out of curiosity, he turned to see what she was in such a hurry for -- and the reason became perfectly clear.
Snape stood in the doorway of one of the dressing rooms, adjusting the wrist of one of his sleeves, and Anne approached him with a pincushion in one hand and a clipboard in another.
"How's that, then?" she asked. "Does everything fit all right, or does Madam Fischu need to make any adjustments?"
"It seems fine to me," Snape replied, and Harry agreed mutely.
Oh, it was a fine sight. More than fine.
Snape was apparently trying on his costume for size, the first glimpse Harry had gotten of any of the costume designs, and he gave his full approval to whomever had come up with the idea of putting Snape in deep indigo blue trousers tucked into black boots, a white drop-sleeved shirt, and a long, indigo blue waistcoat embroidered with silver. The cut of the clothing seemed to be 18th century rather than 16th, definitely old-fashioned, but somehow appropriate nonetheless. Much Ado About Nothing was a play that could easily be transferred to almost any time period, and Harry liked the costume designers' choice.
The shirt Snape wore had a lace-up V neck which he hadn't yet bothered to lace all the way; while Anne circled him with a critical eye, he picked up the laces and began threading them through the holes, pulling the neckline closed more tightly, and before he could stop himself, Harry closed the distance between them and batted Snape's hands out of the way. It was all he could do not to reach out and skim his fingertips across the light dusting of chest hair the shirt revealed.
"A proper scoundrel never laces his shirt all the way up," Harry informed him solemnly, trying to ignore just how tempting Snape looked in trousers instead of robes; they fit him just snugly enough to tantalize, without being too tight.
"And you would know this how?" Snape folded his arms, and Harry found himself mesmerized by the graceful fall of the cuffs across Snape's hands.
"I've seen more Muggle movies and television shows than you," Harry reminded him. "I know all about scoundrels."
"I thought perhaps you were going to reference personal experience."
He stared up at Snape, his eyes narrowing with speculation, but Snape's expression was bland, almost bored. Had Snape heard of his brief affairs? Hogwarts was a small place, and it was entirely possible that rumors had circulated, despite his attempts to be discreet. Still, it wasn't as if he'd left a string of broken hearts in his wake, or that he'd gone through partners like tissue paper. Far from it, he could still count the number of partners on one hand, and they had all known going in that Harry wasn't looking for a long-term relationship with them.
Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps Snape thought he wasn't interested in making a commitment, but that wasn't true. He did want to settle down; he simply hadn't found the person he wanted to settle down with. Was he to remain celibate while he looked? he wondered indignantly.
"My personal experience isn't all that vast," he replied with quiet dignity. "And I'm neither interested in scoundrels nor in being one. I haven't yet given my heart to anyone, because when I do, it'll be theirs for life, and that's the sort of decision I want to be sure about before making it."
"The heart seems to have a mind of its own sometimes, Potter. Don't be surprised if it makes the decision for you." Abruptly, he turned to look at Anne, who had retreated to a discreet distance. "Are we finished here?"
"Yes, Professor. Everything seems to be in order with the costume."
"Good." With that, Snape pivoted sharply and marched back into the dressing room, slamming the door shut behind himself, leaving Harry to wonder about the possible implications of his words.
The problem, as Harry saw it, was that his relationship with Snape seemed to be one of extremes. First, he couldn't stand the man, and now, he was lusting after him. There wasn't much middle ground to be had there. When he sat down and thought about it, he realized he didn't know much about Snape at all; he had no idea if there was any basis, however slight, on which they could form a satisfactory relationship that encompassed more than just sex. Perhaps, he thought, it was time to cut through both the antagonism and the haze of passion, and see if they could simply talk to one another. If they could, perhaps that would begin to answer the questions regarding his feelings. If they couldn't... Well, that would be an answer of sorts as well.
Of course, that had seemed like a much better idea back in the Gryffindor dormitory than it did once he was down in the dungeons with his fist poised to knock on Snape's classroom door.
It was the Saturday of a Hogsmeade weekend, and Hermione wasn't so foolish as to schedule a rehearsal all weekend. If she had, most of her cast would have been quite put out, but things were progressing smoothly enough that they could afford to take a break, and Hermione herself had made plans to visit the town with Ron. They had invited Harry to go with them, but having recently been to London, he wasn't in a shopping or browsing frame of mind. Instead, he'd opted to do a bit of studying... and then he'd decided to pay a call on Snape. Snape's office had been locked up tight, but the door to his classroom was slightly ajar, and Harry could see torchlight flickering within.
Well, he thought, steeling hWell, he thought, steeling hght result, here's hoping for the best.
And he knocked.
Harry rolled his eyes. Typical irascible tone. As if it would hurt the man to be polite once in a while.
"It's me." He poked his head around the door and saw Snape glance up from his cauldron -- one which appeared larger and more well-worn than those the students used -- with an expression that was a mixture of annoyance and distraction.
"What is it, Potter?" Snape turned his attention back to whatever he was brewing, a bilious green potion that smelled pleasantly of chamomile.
Despite not having been asked in, Harry entered the room anyway and leaned against the edge of Snape's desk, watching. Snape ignored him, moving to his cutting board, where he proceeded to chop up some dried herbs that Harry didn't recognize; his motions were quick and sure, and his precision with the cutting was little short of amazing. Harry became absorbed; in all his seven years at Hogwarts, he'd never actually seen Snape brew a potion, and he began to understand a little bit why even those who didn't like him respected his ability.
Snape's entire attention was focused on what he was doing, and he cut and measured ingredients with a deftness that spoke volumes of his mastery, and he never once consulted a book. He dusted a few of the herbs into the mixture with graceful motions of his long, thin fingers, nodding as if pleased when the brew began turning a darker green. His face was more relaxed than Harry had ever seen it; a little furrow of concentration had formed between his eyebrows, but his mouth wasn't pressed into a hard line, and his expression was one of studiousness, not contempt or anger.
So this must be where he's most happy, Harry mused.
"D'you mind if I stay and watch?" he asked quietly.
"Would you actually heed me if I said yes?" Snape turned back to his cutting board and began ladling snails out of a jar, not bothering to look at Harry.
"Then why did you bother to ask?"
"Purely to be an annoyance to you."
"Congratulations on a job well done."
There was irritation in Snape's voice but no venom, and Harry smiled, wondering if the key to interacting with Snape was just that simple: if he snarks, snark back, only don't get angry about it. Without the heat of anger fueling him, Harry found he liked the banter. It was fun, and it kept him on his toes, trying to get the last word.
"I can help, if you like," he offered.
"Cut these." Snape indicated the snails. "And do try not to make your usual hash of it."
Pushing himself away from the desk, Harry moved to the cutting board and picked up a spare knife and a snail; it was still alive, and its little radulae undulated against his skin as he held it down and began slicing into it. They worked in silence for a while, which didn't bother Harry as much as he thought it might. It wasn't a tense silence, and he didn't get the feeling Snape was anxious to get rid of him.
"So what is it?" he asked, after he'd finished all the slicing and sorting Snape instructed him to do.
"A sleeping draught for Minerva," Snape replied absently, intent on measuring a precise amount of valerian. "She managed to anger Peeves to the point he's taken up banging pots and pans outside her door all night. He'll get tired of it soon enough, but until then, she needs this to get any rest at all."
He straightened, stirred the contents of the cauldron a few times, then stepped back.
"Now it just needs to simmer a while." For the first time since Harry entered the room, Snape turned his full attention on him. "Now then. I can't imagine you're really interested in this, so what was it you wanted?"
"Nothing, I..." Suddenly, Harry found words coming out of his mouth that he hadn't expected to say. "I suppose I should thank you, is all."
"Thank me." Snape's eyebrows climbed almost to his hairline. "Whatever for?"
"You've looked out for me far more than I ever realized," he admitted, meeting Snape's gaze steadily. "Starting with Quirrel and going right up until the end. I never thought of it before, or showed much gratitude, but you've helped keep me alive, and I am grateful."
Snape shrugged and looked away. "I would have done as much for any student. I have done, in fact."
"I know." Harry nodded, his expression turning puzzled. "But you act like you hate most of us, so why have you tried so hard to keep us all safe?"
"Hate is a very strong word, Potter, and despite all appearances to the contrary, there are very few people in the world for whom I have harbored or do harbor outright hatred." Snape gazed into the depths of his cauldron, as if the bubbling liquid within held answers he sought. "Dislike, however... Well, that I must confess to. Can you possibly conceive how frustrating it is, Potter?" He fixed Harry with a piercing stare. "Teaching class after class of apathetic children, whose minds expand no further than the next outing to Hogsmeade? This--" He made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the entire classroom, "--is the foundation for their future. They're preparing for the rest of their lives now, and yet they have no more conception of that than those snails you just chopped up."
Snape shook his head, scowling. "I harbor no illusions that Potions is of much interest. It's all wand-waving and charms to them. The subtle intricacies of brewing potions is too much like real work! It takes time, patience, and skill to master the art of potions, but that's too difficult, and so they come in and doze off, or pass notes, or daydream -- anything but pay attention. They're content to do the bare minimum amount of work needed to pass, and anything above and beyond that is inconceivable because it would mean having to think about something for a change, and God forbid they should do that."
"And you, Potter..." Snape whirled on him, and Harry took an involuntary step back; this was far more than he'd bargained for when he began the conversation, but he got the impression it was something Snape had been carrying around for a long time.
"Your grades could have been almost as high as Miss Granger's, but you paid far more attention to the Quidditch field than to the classroom. You didn't apply yourself, you just breezed through. You're almost as bad as that godfather of yours. He was stupid, and careless, and thoughtless -- and I almost died because of it. At least the only person you've almost gotten killed is yourself, more times than I care to count, because you never stop to think. You just hare off, acting on your gut instincts and letting them rule you. And look where it's gotten you! Have you learned anything from all the times you've landed in the thick of trouble that way? Noooo."
Snape broke off, closing his mouth with a snap, his hands clenched at his sides.
"Quite finished?" Harry asked, and Snape nodded curtly. "Maybe I do act too impulsively at times, but if you ask me, you don't act impulsively enough. I can't even begin to imagine what you've got all bottled up inside you, but it's enough to turn you into an uptight, surly old bastard who could stand to ease up on all the control for a change, loosen up, and learn to have fun." He paused, then added as inspiration struck, "Maybe that's why you like acting so much. It gives you a freedom you're not willing to give yourself."
"That's your opinion, is it?"
"It is," Harry replied, meeting Snape's gaze and refusing to back down.
They stared at each other for what felt like a very long time, and it was only when the potion gave a noisy burp that Snape blinked and looked away.
"It needs stirring," he said, waving at the cauldron. "Make yourself useful while I clean up the mess."
"Right." Harry grasped the large wooden spoon sticking out of the brew like an unlikely Excalibur and began stirring slowly and evenly, as Snape had always taught. No more words passed between them, but he had the feeling enough had been said, and now they both needed time to think about and digest the conversation. He did, anyway. It had revealed a different side of Snape that he hadn't expected to see, and he needed to find out how it fit into his overall perspective on the man, and how it affected his feelings.
But deep down, he was pretty sure he already knew the answer to that.
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