Disclaimer: They belong to Rowling, not to me--I'm only taking them out to play. Please don't sue!
Author's Notes: Thanks to fabulous beta Dementordelta for catching my goofy mistakes and making this a much more powerful piece of writing. All remaining mistakes are my own.
Warnings: This is full of OotP spoilers. And Harry is slightly underage (16).
Severus Snape swept to the front of the room and pivoted neatly on his heels to face the sixth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins. His smile was particularly smug. Harry's heart sank further, if that was possible. Snape wasn't--he couldn't--could he?
"We will need a test subject," Snape said slowly, as if savoring the taste and texture of each word.
Apparently, he could.
The Potions master's eyes moved lazily around the room. The entire class stared down at their shoes.
Harry had been dreading this since the first day of the semester, when he saw "Truth Serums: Practical" on the NEWT Potions syllabus. He had hoped that the sinking feeling in his gut was wrong, that there was a limit to what Snape could do to students.
"Potter." Snape's black eyes glittered as they settled on Harry, and a feral grin spread across the sallow face. "Come up to the front of the classroom."
A horrible, wrenching inside-out feeling in his gut, like the pull of a port-key. What he would give for a port-key right now!
He glanced at his friends. Ron looked stricken. Hermione looked livid. Parvati was staring fixedly at a spot on her desk. Harry met Seamus' eyes, and Seamus shrugged.
Harry imagined staying in his seat, refusing to move. Or leaving the classroom and going straight to the headmaster! Better yet, whipping out his wand and casting the Cruciatus curse on Snape, watching that grin split into a howl as Snape twisted and writhed on the dungeon floor--
Harry raised his eyes to meet Snape's, and glared. He did not blink.
I am not afraid of you, he thought. He stood up slowly, without breaking eye contact, and marched toward the front of the classroom.
Snape was leaning forward against his desk, his long fingers spread on the glossy surface, his back eyes glittering into Harry's from behind a veil of greasy hair.
I am not afraid of you, Harry thought fiercely. He moved toward the front of the room, cutting through the tense air with long strides, and stopped in front of the Potions master's desk. Snape gestured to a chair facing the class, and Harry sat in it, glaring stubbornly at the wall behind his classmates' heads.
"Ms. Granger, bring a sample of your potion to Mr. Potter."
"But--" Hermione's voice.
"Two points from Gryffindor," Snape cut her off smoothly.
He heard Hermione walking toward the front of the classroom. Drop the vial, he entreated silently, Just let it fall, let it smash. Hermione pressed the vial into his hand, murmuring apologetically. He refused to look at her.
"Well, Potter, drink up, we haven't got all day!"
Harry turned slowly to glare at Snape.
I will get you for this, he thought, wishing he could burn a hole through the other man's head with his eyes. Snape smirked and cocked one eyebrow. Harry could hear whispers from both sides of the room, and Draco Malfoy's unmistakable chuckle.
He uncorked Hermione's potion and drank it down.
Severus nodded subtly to Draco Malfoy, who was smiling hopefully, light leaping in his silver eyes. Be patient, boy, you'll get your chance.
Brandishing his wand, he turned on Potter, smiling inwardly as the Gryffindors cringed.
"Lumos," he said. He held the light up to Potter's eyes, nodding when the unnaturally large pupils contracted sharply. Potter was staring straight ahead, his jaw oddly slack, a bit of saliva collecting in the corner of his mouth.
Pansy Parkinson squealed and whispered something about "...actually drooling!" to her neighbor, and Severus' mouth quirked into a smile. If Lucius got his way, and the match went through, Draco was certainly going to have his hands full. He wondered if Draco knew that in a few years he would be expected to marry that shrill little cow.
And then his smile faltered. Lucius was a fugitive, and in no position to arrange his son's marriage. And Draco...
His eyes closed. Draco's future did not look promising...
He snapped his eyes open and suppressed his thoughts savagely. He had no business thinking of--these things. Not now.
Besides, this was a great day. Here was the "Boy Who Lived," sitting slack- jawed, empty-eyed, and helpless in front of the class. Finally, after what, almost six years of searing frustration, he had the arrogant child exactly where he wanted him.
He stayed with Potter a moment longer, making sure that the potion was affecting the boy normally, and taking advantage of the opportunity to stare at him with impunity. There was something fascinating about the human face under a truth serum, completely out of its owners' conscious control, soft and unguarded as in sleep. Oh, it would kill Potter to be seen like this. Severus smiled.
Potter's skin was breaking out in a light sheen of sweat, which was to be expected; copious sweating was a normal side effect of the potion. The boy was finally beginning to look his age this year: his jaw had begun to take on the square contours of a man's face, though it still had a certain softness of youth, and his chin showed an almost imperceptible shadow of stubble. The scar on his forehead was clear, vivid pink, slightly raised and shiny, peaking through tufts of messy black hair. His eyes were enormous black mirrors ringed in green under heavy lashes.
Very much like his mother's eyes. Lily Evans' eyes, peering out of his James Potter's face. It was unsettling. But this was unmistakably James Potter's son.
He stood abruptly and turned on the Gryffindor side of the classroom.
"You will not speak," he enunciated carefully, his eyes moving from Gryffindor to terrified Gryffindor, "unless you are called upon." He gave the warning a moment to sink in. He turned back to Potter.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Harry James Potter," Potter replied in a curiously flat voice.
"Harry James Potter," Draco mimicked, and the Slytherins snickered. Severus ignored them.
"When were you born?"
"July 31st, 1980." Sweat had begun to bead on Potter's brow.
"Good," Severus turned back to the class, trying not to grin too maniacally as his eyes met Malfoy's. "Mr. Malfoy, would you care to test the efficacy of Ms. Granger's potion?"
The Gryffindor side of the room erupted.
"10 points from Gryffindor!" Severus raised his voice over the din, and narrowed his eyes dangerously.
Draco smirked, tossing the hair out of his eyes with a shake of his head. Draco's hair had really gotten quite long over the summer. He was looking more like his father every day.
"Right, Potter," Draco paused theatrically. He'd always had a dramatic streak, another trait that came straight from Lucius. Severus gave a snort that was halfway between annoyance and admiration.
"So," Draco continued casually, "are you shagging Granger?"
Harry's quiet reply was drowned out by a roar of outraged Gryffindors. It took 40 points from Gryffindor and a full-fledged Slytherin Death Glare to calm them down. Severus was enjoying himself immensely. He briefly reminded Draco to watch his language, and then turned back to the Potter boy.
"Go on, Potter," Severus prompted, steepling his fingers.
"Hermione's not shagging anyone," Potter replied in that dull monotone.
Granger bit her lip and closed her eyes, looking close to tears. The Slytherins burst into peels of laughter, and the Weasley boy actually started to charge at Draco (a very satisfying 30 points from Gryffindor) before Granger recovered and dragged him back to his seat.
Draco was about to speak again, but Potter beat him to it.
"Hey Malfoy," Potter slumped forward in his chair, his monotone slightly slurred, and underscored by honest curiosity, "are you shagging Parkinson? Because we all wondered--"
Pansy Parkinson squeaked, and Potter's voice was drowned out by outraged Slytherin shouts and hearty Gryffindor applause. Severus shot a penetrating glance at the Potter boy, who seemed unaware of the disorder he had caused. The boy's pupils were still dilated and he was still perspiring.
"That will be all," Severus silenced the room with a glare. "Mr. Potter, we are here to observe the effects of Semiveritaserum, not to satisfy your prurient curiosity. 10 points from Gryffindor." He paused. The students knew better than to object. "And five points for language. Mr. Malfoy, please continue."
In the next ten minutes, the class was privy to Potter's potions score (barely passing), a frank (and highly unflattering) assessment of Weasley's quidditch skills, and Potter's preferred brand of underpants. The Gryffindors had never looked so relieved to hear the bell ring. All in all, the class had been a triumph.
"Go on," Snape snapped at the last students lingering in the doorway, "Potter will need to take an antidote to neutralize the potion. Not," he glanced derisively Potter's blank expression, "that anyone would be able to tell the difference if he didn't. Go!"
They left, hesitantly. He closed the door behind them.
Severus meant to give Potter the antidote immediately. Really, he meant to. He had it in his hand, and he was unstoppering it as he approached the boy.
But then he stopped short.
What if he did keep the boy under truth serum for a few more minutes? Didn't Potter deserve it, after all the brazen rule-breaking and the flagrant contempt for his authority? And didn't Severus deserve a chance to make Potter answer for his behavior?
And, if he was being honest with himself, wasn't this what he'd really had in mind when he added Semiveritaserum to the NEWT syllabus this year, after Albus insisted that he accept Potter despite the boy's obvious incompetence? He and Potter, alone in a classroom, and finally--finally!--Potter wouldn't have anyone to hide behind.
He wet his lips, set the antidote deliberately on his desk, and cast a locking charm on the door. Then he held his wand up to Potter's face to check the boy's pupils. They contracted sharply at his Lumos spell.
Severus smiled grimly. He summoned a chair with a flick of his wand and set it across from Potter. He sat.
Potter made no response. His eyes remained unnaturally dilated. His hair was plastered to his forhead, hiding the scar altogether, and drops of perspiration dripped steadily from his chin, forming a growing wet patch on the front of his robes.
Severus held his hands still with some effort He fought an uncharacteristic urge to wring them, clutch at the fabric of his robes, do something to relieve the tense excitement prickling through his body like a solid dose of his own, fortified pepper-up potion.
"Unlike Veritaserum, Semiveritaserum is not controlled by the Ministry," Severus explained. He was Potter's professor, after all. The boy might as well know what was happening to him. "Veritaserum completely bypasses the mind, forging a direct link between memory and speech. Semiveritaserum disconnects the mind from the emotions. Under Semiveritaserum," he grinned, "you will see no reason not to lie to me."
He considered what to ask the boy about first. There were so many choices! The midnight excursions under the invisibility cloak--the unauthorized Hogsmeade visits during Potter's third year--the gillyweed and boomslang skin that went missing from his office during the Triwizard Tournament--and Black--what really happened on the night Black escaped? Even now, with Black dead, the thought still made his throat close with rage. He would make Potter admit to everything: the obscene craving for attention, the pranks, the rule-breaking--everything.
But when he opened his mouth to begin, something entirely different came out.
"I suppose you're pleased with your precious father and his friends now--" Severus heard himself say.
He was so surprised that he stopped, mid-sentence, his mouth hanging gracelessly open.
Why had he said that?
But even as he asked, he knew the answer. Last year. The Occlumency lessons. What Potter had seen in the Pensieve.
Severus closed his mouth with an audible snap, then opened it again to curse loudly. Was there no limit to his capacity for self-delusion? He rubbed at the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, an old nervous gesture, inhaling the sharp traces of potion ingredients that had collected on his hands. He recognized scarab powder, concentrated extract of feverfew, the copper smell of spotted toad skin, powdered dragon's blood- -
Severus looked up, eyes narrowing sharply.
"I'm not pleased," Potter continued expressionlessly.
And something inside Severus Snape snapped.
"I suppose you're pleased with your precious father and his friends now--" Snape seemed to choke on the end of the sentence. His eyes widened and then slid shut. He raised a hand to his face and massaged the bridge of his nose.
It took Harry a moment to answer. He could feel sweat running into his eyebrows, following the grain of the hair and flowing down his temples. Snape looked strange, kind of taut and brittle. He found himself wishing that he could see the man's eyes.
Finally, he heard himself speak:
Snape's head snapped up, eyes narrowing viciously, and Harry was compelled to clarify his answer.
"No," he said, "I'm not pleased."
Snape's face seemed to explode. The dark eyes flashed and widened unbelievably and he lunged at Harry with a growl, lips pulled back from narrow, yellowing teeth. One hand tangled in the damp front of Harry's robes, twisted the fabric, jerked him forward, threw him back, and then jerked him forward again.
Harry flopped passively; the movement of his body didn't interest him. However, he watched Snape's eyes with great interest. There seemed to be a war going on behind those eyes: he could see flashes like gunfire, flaring like cannons and explosions like sheet lightning blazing in their depths. If he could just peer deep enough, far enough, perhaps he could make out--
"Don't contradict me!" Snape was shouting, lifting Harry bodily off the chair, his breath hot on Harry's face.
"Yes, sir," Harry said serenely, since Snape seemed to expect an answer. He was still squinting at the Potion master's eyes, sure that if he could only look a bit closer--
Snape dropped Harry and turned away in one smooth motion. Harry, breathing deeply, slid onto the stone floor in front of his chair. The surface felt wonderfully cool, even through his robes. He pitched his weight sideways until he fell, and curled in a gentle crescent shape with his cheek against the stone. Grit from the floor stuck to his cheek, cooling his skin.
He watched Snape's shoes hit the floor with swift precision, pacing in and out of his field of vision. He could hear the sneer in Snape's next intake of breath.
"Your father," Snape snarled, "was an arrogant bastard!" He stopped pacing just outside of Harry's sight, and waited for a moment. "Wasn't he?!" his voice rose alarmingly.
But Harry wasn't alarmed. The dark anticipation in Snape's voice didn't bother him. Snape's emotions rolled over him like waves breaking against a rock in a storm.
"He was horrible in your memory," Harry replied matter-of-factly. And his heart didn't squeeze painfully the way it usually did when he remembered the casual cruelty with which young James Potter tormented young Severus Snape. Perhaps because what he said was true, and truth in any form was solid, comforting.
Snape stopped short again.
"And Sirius Black!" his voice rose sharply in volume and pitch. Harry could hear his mouth contorting harshly around the name, reducing the words to sharp vowels and hard consonants. And for the first time since the battle in the Department of Mysteries Harry heard Sirius' name without feeling like he would never breathe again. Sirius was dead, that was true. When he was alive, Sirius had been a friend to Harry, and a friend to Harry's father. "Can you defend Sirius Black?"
"They were naive," Harry heard himself answering, "and cruel. But that's-- " He paused, and started again. "There are wizards who think they don't have to be decent to muggles and muggle-borns because of what they are. And they're wrong. But...those wizards can be decent and good to other wizards. My father and Sirius thought they didn't have to be decent to you because...well, because of something. And they were wrong. But...they were decent and good to me. People can be both."
There. He'd said it perfectly. He could feel the words shining before him, dazzling and perfect, precisely matching a bit of reality. The truth carried a wonderful feeling of lightness. His father and Sirius--they were horrible to Snape, and they were wrong, but they were still everything they'd ever been to him. And it was okay. He felt as though a great tension in his chest had loosened, and he smiled a lazy, thick-lipped smile, clumsily licking the salt off his lips.
The next thing he knew he was being hauled, bodily, to his feet, Snape's pale hands tangled in the dark fabric of his robes, the whites of his eyes spidered with livid red. His voice dripped with sarcasm, and something else, something deeper and a little hollow.
"So they were out of line, your father and his friends, were they, Potter? Perhaps they should have left the greasy Slytherin alone?" He dropped Harry unceremoniously into the chair. "Perhaps you should have been sorted into Hufflepuff, for you fair-mindedness and equanimity." He leaned closer to Harry's face, speaking in a harsh, frenzied whisper. "And I'm sure that you would never behave in such a manner, would you, Potter, you and your Gryffindor friends; you wouldn't take pleasure in humiliating Malfoy if he was weak enough--" and Snape's voice broke a little on "weak," squeaked like an adolescent's--"to be a suitable target."
Draco. Suddenly it seemed to Harry that the incident with Malfoy The Amazing Bouncing Ferret might have been something other than funny.
Harry nodded slowly. He heard himself speaking.
"You're right," he said, "we see Malfoy...the way my father and Sirius...saw you. But we would never have attacked Draco like that, unprovoked, and I wouldn't do-that-to him. To anyone. And neither would Hermione." He paused. "You're the one who's out of line."
"Shut up, Potter." Snape's eyes boring into Harry's with a familiar, aggressive hardness that Harry now recognize as subtle Legilimency. But in this state Harry seemed immune to its effect.
He had the feeling that he wasn't talking to this enraged, malevolent Snape at all, that there was a desperately hurt Snape behind the angry, malicious exterior, and that Snape needed to hear what he had to say.
"You...wouldn't?" Snape's voice was low and dangerous. "The great Harry Potter is above such...diversions?"
"I hope I wouldn't. Because I know what it feels like to be...humiliated, and..." Harry trailed off.
Snape did not move.
"I'm sorry that my dad was horrible to you at school," Harry said.
Snape seemed to collapse in on himself. He turned away from Harry, his profile dominated by the hard angles and an oversized, crooked nose. His expression was unreadable.
"Stupid boy," he whispered. He looked at Harry once again, swallowed painfully, and then turned abruptly away.
Severus tamped down his emotions down firmly, keeping his mind as coldly logical as he could, under the circumstances.
What was it about the Potter boy that wrecked havoc with his equilibrium? He was a spy, a double agent, reporting two powerful wizards who did not have his interests at heart, who were entirely capable of breaking into most peoples' minds. Controlling himself was Snape's specialty. It had kept him alive.
But that when he saw Potter he was suddenly 15 years old again, helpless fury tearing him up inside like a thousand flying razors, thinking that he was going to die at any moment because a human being couldn't be so full of rage and live.
He looked back at Potter. The boy was slumped halfway out of his chair, his face smeared with mud, his eyes huge and luminous. He looked very young, and at that moment, he looked nothing at all like James Potter. He was just a 16-year-old schoolboy drugged to the eyes, with no idea where he was or what he'd been saying.
Snape sighed and fetched the antidote. He pulled his chair next to Potter's, and steadied the boy on his chair with surprising gentleness. He held the back of Potter's head with one hand (Potter's hair warm and slippery under his fingers, soaked through), unstoppered the antidote with his teeth, and held it too Potter's lips. Potter closed his eyes to drink, his lashes strikingly dark against his pale cheeks, glistening droplets of sweat suspended between them. He tilted his head back, exposing a pale length of throat, his Adam's apple bobbing delicately as he drank.
There was a strange intimacy to the moment, and Severus was surprised to feel a pang of something like regret when Potter stiffened and flinched away from his hand.
Severus felt his eyes narrow and his mouth twist into familiar menacing, mocking lines. Potter jerked upright and turned to stare at him, wide-eyed, blinking.
"Get out, Potter," he sneered, "and for Merlin's sake, take a shower." He leaned against his desk to scratch out a terse excuse and thrust it into Potter's hand.
Then he rose with as much dignity as he could muster and stormed into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Harry clutched the seat of his chair, letting the parchment fall to the floor. The room was spinning nauseatingly around him; it took all his concentration not to pitch forward or sideways onto the floor. His eyes were dry and burning, and his tongue felt thick and furry in his mouth.
Gradually the room stopped spinning. He pried his fingers slowly from the chair and flexed them a few times. He rubbed his eyes, but the sweat on his hands only increased the stinging.
Beyond the pain, beyond the burning humiliation, there was only one thought in Harry's mind: the need to see Severus Snape suffer. His entire being was focused into a single point of rage.
Harry pushed himself to his feet, hands braced on the back of the chair. The floor lurched sickeningly under him, and he sat down again with a thump. Gritting his teeth, he tried again, and this time he managed to balance on his own two feet. Breathe, he told himself. In and out. Steady. The floor shifted a little, then stilled. He cautiously made his way toward Snape's office, rapped on the door, and pushed it open without waiting for an answer.
"Potter." Snape was standing behind his desk, sorting through a pile of parchment. He looked up with a nasty smile.
Harry charged forward, no longer caring that he might be overheard, or that Snape was a Hogwarts professor, or about anything at all except ripping that smug, self-righteous expression from Snape's ugly face as painfully as possible.
"You utter BASTARD!" he shouted, circling to Snape's side of the desk. To his surprise, Snape's smile faded. Harry was no longer thinking clearly, no longer thinking of anything but the rage pounding liquid fire through his veins. "You filthy, slimy--how DARE you ask me those things?"
"How...dare...I?" Snape's quiet voice was somehow more powerful than Harry's shouting. "I? Little boys who cannot keep their sticky fingers out of other people's memories should not cast stones." He sneered ferociously. His voice was clipped, precise, supernaturally intense. "Like father, like son, Potter. Both hypocrites--"
But Harry wasn't listening. Six years of suppressed rage was bubbling up inside him, drowning out Snape's voice and spilling over.
"YOU KILLED SIRIUS!" Harry roared. Snape snorted.
"Sirius Black died because of his own stupidity."
"Don't you DARE talk about him! You aren't worth the mud on his BOOTS! You--" Harry felt his face screwing up, his eyes burning, and he resisted it with all his might, focusing on Snape's face, anchoring himself in those bottomless black eyes, "you--you GOADED him, you PROVOKED him into leaving, you KNEW what would happen, you WANTED him to die, you--"
"HE TRIED TO KILL ME!" Snape bellowed, his face contorting, all semblance of control lost.
"YOU'RE GLAD HE'S DEAD!" Harry's vision blurred; his eyes were on fire, but he was past caring, "You--IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU WHO DIED! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU! I HATE YOU! I--" Harry's voice broke into a wail, and he was swaying on his feet, sobbing like a child and beyond caring, struggling for breath, his whole life a battle between screaming and breathing. The world was dimming, fuzzing over at the edges, and he was clinging to something solid and dark, something that smelled of slightly sour, with hints musk and sandalwood...
The next thing he knew he was being held upright, Snape's hands clawed tightly around his upper arms, tightly enough to make his hands tingle for lack of blood. He had never seen Snape look quite so pale.
"Get out," Snape said harshly, now holding Harry at arm's length. Harry struggled to find his footing. Snape let go so suddenly that he almost lost it again.
"Now," Snape rasped, turning his back on Harry. There was a peculiar tension in the way he stood, as if he were almost overbalancing, straining to hold himself upright.
"Now!" Snape whipped around to face Harry.
Severus stood at the center of his office, breathing heavily. He passed a shaking hand over his face and closed his eyes, not quite sure what to do. He suddenly felt very old.
What had he expected to happen when he put the boy under the truth serum? That Potter would break and admit that his father had been an insufferable, smarmy bastard? And what if he had? What then? Severus had a vague image of himself, vindicated, standing over Potter. And even now the image galvanized something in his mind, and he felt himself tense, his mouth twitching in anticipation.
But then...there was the image of the boy's--of Potter, he forced himself to say the name, to attach it to the unlikely memories--Potter's upturned face as he drank the antidote, arching into Severus' palm...Potter collapsing against him just moments ago, breathing in short, hot gasps...the flashes he had seen of the boy's own memories, of Potter bearing his relatives' abuse with quiet stoicism.
He opened his eyes and looked down at his hand, still slimy with Potter's sweat. Shaking himself, mustering a feeling of disgust, he wiped the hand on his robes.
For the next hour and a half he lost himself in a pile of second year essays. One and a half feet on the uses of angelica root, and not a decent effort in the pile. He smiled grimly.
He emerged from the essays feeling a little less hollow, a little more secure. The anger had faded to its usual ambient level, and the dangerous memories had dimmed to the point where he could suppress them.
Harry spent the next hour and a half in the shower. He stayed in the shower through Transfigurations period and most of dinner, just standing under the scalding spray, turning up the temperature until his skin was bright pink and his head swam with sensation.
But he couldn't stay in the shower forever.
When he emerged, the mirror clucked at him sympathetically.
"Been a long day, has it?"
Harry shrugged, wiping the steamy lenses of his glasses on his bathrobe. He checked his reflection without interest. His skin was puffy from the heat. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen.
Shoulders slumped, he left the bathroom ("chin up, dearie!" the mirror called after him). His stomach grumbled gently, reminding him that dinner was almost over, and it was still empty. But he was exhausted, and the last thing he wanted to do right now was face dinner in the Great Hall. Maybe if he lay down for a few hours, he could sleep a little, and sneak out to the kitchens after everyone else was asleep. He crawled into bed, drew the curtain securely, and immediately fell into unconsciousness.
Harry woke in total darkness. He felt a million times better, except for his stomach, which cramped painfully. He hurried out of bed and into his invisibility cloak.
He was moving toward the door, tucking the Marauders Map into his pocket, when his foot caught on the hem of the cloak and he went sprawling into a pile of Ron's Quidditch Weekly back issues. The magazines scattered noisily and Harry pitched forward, landing on his stomach in the middle of the pile.
Someone snorted loudly. Ron shifted in his sleep and muttered something unintelligible.
After a moment everything was quiet, and Harry breathed again, absurdly grateful that Ron had not woken up. He felt guilty for avoiding his friends--Ron and Hermione must be worried about him, especially since he hadn't shown up for dinner--but he couldn't bring himself to face them, not yet, with everything so fresh in his mind.
The time he had spent under the truth serum felt somehow separated from real life. Everything had been different, in ways he couldn't explain. He had felt...invulnerable, as if nothing in his life could touch him. Supernaturally confident, because all the answers in the world were just hanging in the air before him, waiting to be picked up. For an hour he hadn't been afraid; everything had fit together perfectly and beautifully in his mind. He remembered a wonderful feeling of peace with his father and Sirius, and strangest of all, an odd feeling of tenderness for Snape.
Snape. His mind balked at the thought of his Potions professor. There was just...too much there; too much emotion, too much history. It was a mess of strange, powerful thoughts, and he wanted to stay well away from them.
Snape was a petty and cruel. He also was a victim. And a spy, and a Death Eater, and a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore trusted Snape. Harry had seen Snape as a child, crying as his father terrorized his mother, as a teenager, awkward and vicious and bullied, and as an adult, ready to deliver two innocent men to the Dementors. Snape had humiliated Harry in front of the class with sadistic glee. Snape had carefully supported Harry's head while Harry drank the truth serum antidote. It was just...too much. He had to put it out of his mind.
Harry stood up silently, picked his way through the scattered magazines. He hurried down the stairs and through the common room. The Fat Lady's portrait swung closed behind him (she was snoring softly in her frame, and didn't seem to notice him passing), and he plunged his hand into his pocket for the Marauders Map.
The pocket was empty.
He checked his other pockets. Nothing. He must have lost it when he fell.
Right. Just brilliant.
Well, he certainly wasn't going to risk going back for it; in the dark, in this state, he would probably bring the entire dormitory down. Besides, with the invisibility cloak, he shouldn't need it. He would be careful. He squared his shoulders and continued toward the kitchens.
Walking through Hogwarts at night filled him with a feeling of quiet excitement. The school hummed with dormant magic. He felt a peculiar intimacy with the building itself, as if in the dim and quiet he could feel its rhythms. He crept past the sleeping portraits, down the stairs to the entrance hall, and down the corridor toward the kitchens. He glanced quickly about, and then tickled the pear in the painting, and swung it open.
Severus Snape was sitting at a long wooden table, holding a steaming cup of tea with both hands. As the painting swung open, his head snapped up.
"Potter!" Snape rose, his eyes narrowing.
Harry's knees threatened to buckle, and a peculiar sensation of numbness spread through his body. He was not ready to face Snape, not now.
Snape moved slowly around the table, staring at the spot where Harry stood. He stopped in front of the painting and crossed his arms, long white fingers standing out against his black robes.
"Potter, I know you're there," Snape whispered, advancing slowly, "I can hear you breathing."
Harry closed his mouth quickly and concentrated on breathing deeply and evenly through his nose. Snape's eyes darted around impatiently, as if he thought he could strip the cloak from Harry by sheer force of will. Harry took a silent step back. And another. He told himself that he was safely hidden, that Snape could not possibly see him, but he was sure of nothing where Snape was concerned.
Suddenly Snape lunged forward, waving his arms wildly in the space where the painting opened.
Harry would have been fine, if he had kept his head and stayed where he was. Instead he scrambled backwards, tripped over his invisibility cloak again, and fell hard on his back.
A moment of disorientation. Harry's hand went instinctively to straighten his glasses, and Snape came into focus, standing over him like a great black bat. The hood of Harry's cloak must have been dislodged in the fall, because Snape was looking right at him, eyes glittering with recognition and triumph.
Inexplicably, Severus felt his anger fade. Perhaps it was the look of poorly concealed terror on Potter's face. Perhaps it was because Potter looked so young. Perhaps it was because, in that moment, Potter was completely at his mercy. He sighed.
"Get up, Potter."
Potter blinked, eying him warily. Severus stepped back impatiently.
"I said get up. And take off that ridiculous thing."
Potter's disembodied head rose jerkily. A moment later his body came into view as he rolled the Cloak off his shoulders. He clutched it to him protectively, watching Severus with nervous, animal eyes.
"Go on," Severus said irritably, gesturing through the painting, toward the kitchen. Potter backed away.
"No thanks, I'll just--"
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"You will not go without dinner simply because you had the misfortune of running into me."
"How did you know I wasn't at dinner?" Potter's eyes narrowed. Severus was starting to lose his patience.
"Dark magic," he snapped.
Potter fixed him in an odd, penetrating stare. To his horror, Severus felt his eyes shift away uncomfortably.
"You--" Potter suddenly smiled. "That was a joke, wasn't it?"
Mortified, Severus drew himself up to his full height, staring down his nose at Potter with all the derision he could muster. Potter met Severus' eyes, and his smile died. He looked at the ground, and then looked back at Severus. Finally, he proceeded through the painting. Severus followed him.
An army of twittering house elves immediately assaulted the boy, giving Severus a few moments to collect his thoughts.
Obviously, Potter did not have permission to leave his dormitory at night to break into the Kitchens. Under normal circumstances, Severus would take great pleasure in confiscating the invisibility cloak and taking as many house points as he could. Although he was sure that Albus would have had the cloak back to the boy within a week. He scowled.
Tonight--well--it might be prudent to spend some time with the boy, he decided, to make sure that Potter wasn't suffering from any unforeseen side-effects. Besides, he didn't want to have to answer the inevitable, bothersome questions if the boy fainted from hunger before breakfast. Certain things could be overlooked, under the circumstances.
The house elves produced several sandwiches and some pumpkin juice at Potter's request. When Potter had convinced them that he didn't need anything else, he loaded the food onto a tray and sat down across from Severus. Severus sat stiffly, wrapping his hands tightly around his teacup.
For a few minutes, the only sound was Potter stuffing himself with food.
"For Merlin's sake, chew with your mouth closed!" Severus snapped.
"Sorry," Potter said, looking anything but apologetic. He was tucking in a remarkable amount of food for someone so slender.
Severus cleared his throat. Potter looked up at him with trepidation. For some reason, this didn't please Severus as much as it should have. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
"Are you...recovering well?" he asked formally.
Potter put down his sandwich and wiped his hands on a napkin.
"I guess so." He didn't take his eyes off Severus. They were puffy, rimmed in red, and in the yellow light of the kitchens, against his pale face, they burned vividly green. It was quite disconcerting. Severus fixed him in a glare, and the unsettling eyes shifted to Potter's shoes.
"The eye irritation will be gone in a day or two. You can rinse your eyes with cool water to treat any discomfort."
"The eye irritation an indirect effect of Semiveritaserum," Severus explained, not sure why he was still speaking. "Truth serums tend to suppress the involuntary reflexes. That includes blinking. The eyes dry out fairly quickly."
A short silence. Severus took a swallow of his tea, which had gone cold.
"Why did you do it?" Potter asked suddenly. Severus' head jerked up from his tea. "Sir," Potter added quickly.
"Do what?" Severus asked. But he knew. He suddenly wanted very badly to get away.
"Why did you make me drink that potion, in front of everybody? Why did you let Malfoy ask me those questions?"
Severus felt his upper lip curl. He was retreating, moving back into his mind, letting his mental reflexes handle the situation.
"It was a class demonstration," he said nastily. "I suppose you think you are so special that you should be exempt from class participation?"
Potter's face went red.
"You could have asked the questions yourself. You could have had--anyone but Malfoy--" He leaned forward, his eyes burning, a new hardness in his voice. "And I guess you had to keep me after class, too? It was part of the demonstration to keep me after class and say horrible things about my father when I couldn't answer back?"
Blood rushed to Severus' face. He suddenly felt nauseous.
"I'm warning you, Potter," he said softly, "I will not be spoken to like that." Harry's mouth dropped open.
"You will not--" he shut it again with a snap. "How about if I give you a draught of truth serum first? Then can I--"
"You are out of bed after curfew!" Severus fought to keep his voice at a reasonable volume. "Do not push your luck."
"Are you threatening me?" Potter looked like he was about to laugh. Severus saw red.
"Keep your voice down!" Now Severus was half out of his chair, leaning over the table toward Potter. The nausea intensified, and he felt briefly dizzy.
"Keep my--KEEP MY VOICE DOWN, SHOULD I? YOU GIT!"
Severus was on his feet, his hands stiff and flat on the table, his face barely a foot from Potter's face.
"I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!"
"You're a coward," Potter spat through an expression of unmitigated disgust.
For one awful, dizzy moment, Severus was sure he was going to lunge at the boy. No. No, this was not James Potter, he told himself desperately. Severus was not a student anymore. Potter was a student, a 16-year old student, and Severus was a Hogwarts professor, and there were protocols to consider. He had certain responsibilities. He could not simply whip out his wand and curse the boy into the next world. Stay calm. Cold. Impersonal. Take points. Give out detentions.
He drew himself up to his full height and glared down his nose at the boy.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor," he said with as much derision as he could muster. Authoritative and bored, utterly disdainful. Perfect. "And an additional forty points and a week's detention for being out after hours. Do not challenge me, Potter," he added preemptively when Potter opened his mouth to speak. "You will come out the worse."
Potter closed his mouth. He stood still for almost a full count of five, glaring at the table top. Severus watched the struggle on the boy's face with fascination. Finally, Potter looked up. He suddenly looked like he was about to cry. Or start shouting. Or both.
"Right then," Potter said shortly. A pointed pause. "Sir." He snatched up the invisibility cloak from where it lay on the bench, marched across the room and stepped out through the painting.
"Oh, and Potter," Severus called after him, "I am going to have to confiscate that cloak of yours."
Potter whirled around to face Severus. He shook his head slowly and backed away, moving deeper into the shadow of the hall, hugging the cloak against his body. Severus stepped through the painting and followed. It swung closed behind him.
"Potter," Severus grit his teeth. "Hand it over. Now."
Potter's eyes were hard as flint in the flickering candlelight. His voice was pure steel.
The situation was rapidly spiraling out of control. Potter's eyes cut into Severus, hit him in a deep, raw place, lancing old, unhealed wounds. Severus dropped his principles with a rush of joyous abandon.
"No?" he spoke softly, advancing on Potter, feeling almost deranged. A spark of fear lit in Potter's eyes, and Severus felt a shiver of satisfaction.
But Potter did not retreat. Severus stopped, inches from the boy, who was, disconcertingly, only half a foot shorter than he was.
"No," Potter hissed with sudden venom.
Their faces were so close. Potter tilted his head back to meet Severus' eyes. His glare did not waver. Warm moisture from his breath clung to Severus' mouth and chin.
"You don't frighten me," Potter spoke in a low, intense whisper.
"Oh, don't I?" Severus said, his lips barely an inch from Potter's. He moved his head in a small, sudden arc as he spoke, tracing the line of Potter's jaw with his breath. Potter shuddered almost imperceptibly. A strange, relentless mass of energy was building in Severus' body, a feeling that wasn't quite numbness, a tingling like blood rushing back into a sleeping limb, except this was feeling was centered around his--
Merlin. Oh, Merlin.
He was aroused.
Potter's face was changing, his jaw softening and his eyes widening. Severus realized that his thoughts must be plainly written on his face. He made an odd, strangled sound in the back of his throat. But he could not bring himself to look away.
Violent, uncontrollable feelings, old and new, whipped around his mind with gale force, decimating his common sense. His mind was a vortex, a howling storm of chaos and hunger, and the eye of the storm, the source, the singularity, was Harry Potter. Harry Potter, who was not quite James Potter. Harry Potter, who sometimes looked at Severus with something like understanding. Where did James Potter end? Where did Harry Potter begin?
"What do you want from me?" Potter said hoarsely. Severus could not speak. He closed his eyes, pressed his lips together, excruciatingly aware of Potter's closeness, of the heat radiating off Potter's body, and his own body, falling into a kind of helplessness, wracked with wave after wave of shudders. He needed to step back, to pull away before he did something dreadful.
A light touch on his cheek. And, against his will, he felt his head turning; he was pressing his cheek into the touch, feeling as helpless as a child, and unable to open his eyes. He was melting, he was dying, his cock twitching convulsively in his trousers. He made a high, animal sound, almost a whimper.
He hid his face in Potter's hand, pressing his lips against the soft palm.
Harry froze, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. He felt sort of stretched, frozen in time. He was standing less than a foot from Snape, his right hand flush against Snape's lips and cheek, pressed against the prominent, hooked nose. He could feel Snape's breath, alternately warm and cool on his palm.
The seconds ticked by, and Snape did not move. Harry was beginning to wonder if this wasn't a dream; maybe something had gone wrong with the truth serum, and he was still in Potions class, having a bizarre hallucination.
But that was impossible; the potion had been Hermione's, and Hermione didn't make mistakes.
Snape looked...strange, somehow. His face lacked its usual air of studied intensity. His lips were slightly parted, pursed against Harry's skin, frozen in a startled expression that Harry had never seen before. His eyelids fluttered minutely, like butterfly wings. He shook almost imperceptibly; the vein at his temple twitched rhythmically, and the skin around his eyes was pinched, as if he were in pain.
Harry's arm was beginning to ache, but he didn't dare move. The moment was so charged, so fragile; any second now it would shatter, and reality would reassert itself. And then Snape might actually kill him.
His only chance was to run for it, bolt back to Gryffindor tower before Snape realized what was happening and went off like a bomb. There was no way Snape could keep up with him physically, and if Snape tried to hit him with a spell--well, he'd dodged curses from angry Death Eaters before, hadn't he? He ought to be able to deal with anything Snape could throw at him.
Still, Harry did not move. His legs felt peculiarly heavy. Something squeezed at his heart, making it difficult to breathe. He could not take his eyes off Snape's face.
His mind screamed for him to go on! Do it now! Run! Hurry!
Instead his hand, shaking slightly, stroked down the side of Snape's cheek, his fingertips lingering over the thin lips. Snape's face was sandpapered with uneven patches of stubble, but his lips were unbelievably soft, like velvet. He traced Snape's mouth slowly, lightly, and the vein at Snape's temple throbbed harder than ever. When Snape exhaled in a rush of hot breath, a shock of sensation traveled down Harry's arm and shuddered up his spine. Suddenly, Harry was breathing very hard. Suddenly, he didn't want to go anywhere.
He swayed dangerously close to Snape, slid his hand down the man's neck and clutched the thin shoulder to steady himself. The next thing he knew a vice-like grip had closed on his wrist. When he looked up, Snape's eyes had opened, blank, bright slabs of obsidian flickering with little sparks of cruelty. The heat in those eyes took Harry's breath away.
Snape moved with the speed of thought, lunging at Harry, swooping down on him like a great bird, capturing Harry's face in shaking hands and jerking him forward into a deep, startling kiss.
Harry had kissed and been kissed before. But never like this. Kissing Snape was nothing at all like kissing Cho, with her soft, timid lips and dainty, hastily retreating tongue; nothing like kissing Oliver Wood, who had planted a firm, wet kiss on Harry's mouth in the locker room after the Quidditch Cup Harry's third year (and then blushed, stammered an apology, and never mentioned the incident again).
Snape's kiss was bruising, clumsy. He gripped Harry's face hard with both hands, pulling him forward, clutching him with clawed, trembling fingers. The world contracted to a single point, a single thread of awareness of harsh, hot sucking. Snape seemed to want to dive into Harry's mouth, twining their tongues together, making soft, deep noises that vibrated in Harry's throat. His teeth bit into Harry's lips, and struck Harry's teeth jarringly.
Harry's tongue was melting into Snape's, their mouths a tangle of searing heat. Shudders flowed through his body like hot liquid, turning his muscles to jelly. His knees wobbled and he grabbed at Snape for support, clawing his way up the long back, and finally locking his arms around Snape's neck, the invisibility cloak still clutched in one hand.
He was kissing Snape. He. Was kissing. Snape. And he liked it. It was an odd feeling, to be thrilled and horrified at the same time.
Thrilled, horrified, and suddenly, hopelessly aroused. Snape must realize--he couldn't help but notice--their bodies were so close, almost touching--
Snape arched his long body against Harry's, and Harry felt something unmistakably hard rub against his stomach. He gasped, pulling the air out of Snape's lungs in a burst of suction. Snape jerked away, panting.
For a long moment the only sound was heavy, ragged breathing, oddly synchronized, echoing through the hall. Snape's greasy hair was in disarray, his nostrils flared, his eyes wild. He was staring at Harry with an expression of...was it loathing? No, Harry realized, it wasn't loathing. It was panic.
"Get out of here," Snape's voice was high and brittle. He was breathing hard, bent, almost doubled over, arms wrapped tightly around his chest.
Harry shook his head. He wasn't sure what was happening, and he wasn't sure where it was leading. But something had shifted in his mind. The disconnected images of Snape in his head--the sadistic bastard, the hunted teenager, the man who had touched him so gently that afternoon--seemed to have merged, and the sum and total was standing in front of him, snarling and panting and looking absolutely terrified.
Harry stepped forward.
"I'd rather not," he said, his voice surprisingly quiet and calm, if a little out of breath.
Snape glared at Harry, his teeth bared, his eyes narrow and bright. Harry did his best to keep his face impassive, his heart hammering in his ears.
Finally, Snape dropped his eyes. When he spoke his voice was quiet and rough, his lips still curled back in a snarl, barely moving around the words.
"If we are going to persist in--this, we ought to go back to my rooms."
For a moment, the air around them seemed to gel with tension.
"All right," Harry replied. A shiver of sensation moved through him. His skin was on fire; his head was swimming.
Snape's hands were clenched into fists, his knuckles whitening against his robes. He was glaring at the floor, his face distorted with frustration and disgust, but something about him seemed almost broken, overwhelmed. Harry could feel his own heart thundering through his body. His cock throbbed and rushed with sensation, bending awkwardly against the front of his trousers. His lips felt swollen and raw.
Snape nodded once, curtly, and turned his back on Harry in a whirl of black fabric. Harry followed him down the stairs, into the dungeons. They made several abrupt turns, and stopped halfway down a corridor that Harry had never seen before. Snape moved in close to a door and whispered a few words.
The door swung open, and Harry followed Snape through a spacious, dimly lit room. A few torches burned on the walls, illuminating some shadowy pieces of furniture. Enormous oak bookshelves lined the walls, holding not only books, but jars and beakers of all shapes and sizes, elaborate mechanical contraptions, and a few creepy-looking artifacts that Harry would not have been surprised to see on sale in Knockturn Alley.
They entered a short hall, passed a dimly lit kitchen, and stopped in the doorway to what was obviously Snape's bedroom. Snape hesitated a moment, then whipped around to face Harry.
"This is your last chance, Potter," he spat. "The door is behind you. Leave now."
Harry did not move.
Snape pressed his lips together and nodded briefly. He turned and led Harry through the open door.
The bedroom was completely dark until Snape lit the fireplace ("Incendo!"). It was smaller than the first room, and sparsely furnished. There was a large, unmade four-poster bed to Harry's right, and a bureau pushed against the wall to Harry's left, next to a closed door. A set of wilted-looking black robes lay on the floor by the bed, and a gray nightshirt was flung carelessly over a haphazard pile of books on a nightstand. Snape's eyes flickered over the mess.
"I wasn't expecting company," he said.
Harry drew in a shaky breath, wondering what he was supposed to do now. The tension was unbearable, but he didn't what to say, how to start. It was a peculiar kind of torture, standing there, more aroused than he had ever been in his life, his mind racing, feeling terribly young and terribly ignorant. His hands felt clumsy and useless at his sides. Snape watched him intently, the long body shaking as if in a strong wind.
Finally, Snape spoke.
"Are you certain that you want to--"
"Yes!" Harry moved further into the room and set his cloak on the bureau. Snape did not object. Harry started unbuttoning his trousers, then stopped, stricken, and looked up anxiously. "Do you want me to--"
"Yes!" Snape bit his lip. "I mean, if you wish."
"I--I do." Harry stopped, suddenly bashful. "Will you--"
But neither of them moved to take off their clothing.
"Should we put the lights out," Harry suggested hesitantly, "or--"
"If you would prefer--"
"Well, I don't care--"
"It's no bother--"
"No, this is fine, really."
Snape had a haggard, desperate look about him, and Harry was sure that he didn't look much better. He was lightheaded; all the blood in his body seemed to be rushing and pulsing in his groin. And Snape was so close.
Before Harry could lose his nerve, he closed the space between them in a few long strides, and reached up to capture Snape's face between his hands. In one swift, sweet motion, he pulled Snape down and kissed him hard.
Snape's tongue plunged into his mouth. And that was it, oh yes, that was it, the culmination of everything. The kiss was jerky and uncoordinated, unbearably sweet, exquisitely, explosively fine. Harry's mouth closed desperately around Snape's. Their lips bruised, and their teeth occasionally clattered together, but it didn't matter, nothing mattered except for the ragged, steady current of energy shooting through Harry's body, making his muscles tense and ripple, setting every nerve on fire. Snape clutched Harry's shoulders, and his hips jerked forward, an exquisite hardness jabbing Harry's stomach--Merlin--rubbing against his--oh Merlin--
Harry's knees wobbled. A spasm of sensation turned the world inside-out for an instant.
They tugged ineffectually at each other's clothing. Finally, Harry tore his mouth away from Snape's, disengaging for long enough to open the front of his trousers, releasing the pressure on his erection. Sweet Merlin, that felt fine.
Snape swept forward, catching Harry off-balance, his body connecting powerfully with Harry's. Harry stumbled backward to avoid falling. Snape's hands clutched at the back of Harry's head, pressed him into a deep kiss, raked hard over his neck and chest, then circled around to his back and clawed at the fabric of his shirt. The kiss was a tangle of hard and soft, wetness and heat, sliding, slippery mouths and faces. Cold air rushed into Harry's mouth as Snape's lips left his, slid over his chin and sucked hard along the edge of his jaw.
They were moving, Snape was steering them in what felt like circles and Harry was stumbling backward, losing all sense of direction. Everything seemed to shift around them until Snape was the only solid thing in the world, and Harry clung to him. Finally Harry's legs connected with the high edge of the four-poster bed and he fell onto the mattress. Snape fell on top of him, breathing raggedly.
Severus closed his eyes, trying to get a hold on himself, to achieve some measure of control. His mind was shattered and racing, his thoughts a cauldron of tenderness and loathing, panic, resentment, and anger. An alchemy of dark and light, boiling and blending and adding up to this wild, raging hunger. He wanted to grab the boy and shake him. To collapse against Potter and weep out all his sorrows and frustrations. He wanted to consume the boy, to feed on the light in those vivid eyes until it flickered and died out. To touch Potter's skin reverently, to worship him like a supplicant at an altar of light.
Potter blew his mind wide open, bathed it in cold, hard brightness, vast and dizzy, relentless and dazzling. There was no place to hide, not from himself, not from Potter. He was being undone, and Potter was the cause, and the remedy. To touch Potter was to be consumed by sweet waves of dark sensation, to drown out the horrible brightness with simple, overpowering desire.
Potter whimpered, and Severus opened his eyes. The boy was pinned under him, flat on his back, his trousers open and a pair of cotton boxers sitting low on his hips, his lips slightly parted, and his tongue glistened between them. His eyes flickered in and out of view as his glasses flashed in the firelight.
Severus swept the boy into his arms, one hand wrapped firmly behind Potter's neck, holding the exact spot where he had held Potter this afternoon to administer the truth serum antidote. Potter stared up at him, his green eyes wide and wild beneath the glass, his lips parted and slightly soft.
Severus lowered his body slowly over Potter's, drew Potter's lower lip into his mouth and sucked gently, then kissed him full-on, caressing the small tongue with his own. Potter made a surprised sound, an unbelievably arousing sound. His hands slid up Severus' body, leaving hot tingling trails through the rough wool of Severus' robes, wrapping around Severus' shoulders, moving down his back and finally squeezing his arse. A wave of blinding sensation rushed through him and he moaned deep into Potter's throat. He was crushing the boy's lips, kissing him wildly, unable to prevent his own hips from grinding exquisitely into the heat of Potter's erection. So hot, so hard, even through their clothes. Severus was not going to last long.
He shifted his weight and let himself fall to Potter's side, allowing his hands access to Potter's whole body. His hips, which seemed to have a mind of their own, moved against Potter's thigh, and he made a high, involuntary sound, almost a whine. He ran his hand down Potter's slender side, hooked his thumb over a hip bone, (which felt very warm, even through the fabric of Potter's trousers) and finally moved his hand toward the hot space where Potter's trousers opened in a V. Potter's erection tented his boxer shorts, twitching in a steady, needy rhythm.
Severus propped himself up on one arm and circled his palm over the thin cotton. The fabric stuck damply to Potter's skin; he could feel the feel the softness of the skin and crisp roughness of pubic hair. Smoothness and heat. Potter whined, thrusting into Severus' hand. There was something unbelievably pure about the boy's desperate abandon, his face shiny with sweat, his hands grasping and twisting at the sheets, his glasses slightly foggy and askew.
Potter's cock was burning beneath his hand. Severus' blood was roaring in his ears, his heart pounding through his body. Potter's eyes were wide open, shining with hot and cold lights, and Severus was suddenly certain that if he didn't look away he would sink into those eyes and never find his way back. He wondered what he looked like to Potter, from behind those eyes.
Harry arched upward into Snape's smooth, long-fingered hand, losing track of the sensitive, subtle movements, losing track of where and how he was being touched, aware only that a great wave of sensation was building in him, rising and cresting and threatening to crash. Snape leaned forward and his face swam into focus, the dark eyes flickering with gold in the firelight.
Harry's eyes slid closed as the wave of sensation overtook him. Snape's erection was moving desperately against his thigh, Snape's hand was--oh yes--sliding into the opening at the front of his boxer shorts, pulling his erection free. God--it was so good he could taste it, little wisps of pleasure, slightly metallic, curling at the back of his throat. The sliding, shifting pressure of Snape's hand--the sounds Snape was making, grunting hotly in Harry's ear--the hardness grinding against Harry's hip--and now something else was fluttering against Harry's hip in a burst of motion, and Harry realized that it was Snape's other hand, that Snape was stroking and grabbing at himself under his robes--it was just too much, and Harry exploded. His muscles spasmed to his fingertips and he heard himself cry out, heat pulsing through his body, explosions like firecrackers going off in his head; he was spinning, shuddering, drowning, whirling on the axis of Snape's furiously pumping hand.
* * *
Harry slowly came back to himself. At first he was only aware of his own gasping breath, and the last, illusive sparks of pleasure crackling through his body. Then he felt the cold dungeon air chilling his groin and stomach. His boxers clung to his skin in goopy patches, and there was a large damp spot on the side of his pants, low on his hip. But he couldn't have--which meant Snape must have--oh.
He opened his eyes and sat up, straightening his glasses. Snape was no longer beside him. In fact, Snape was nowhere to be seen. But a sliver of light shone from under the door by the bureau, and Harry could hear a muffled sound of running water.
Harry tucked himself back inside his boxers and stood shakily, holding up his sticky pants with one hand. He made his way across the room knocked at the door. The sound of running water abruptly ceased. Silence.
"Er," Harry said. What was he supposed to call Snape? Severus? His mind balked. Alright, not Severus. But it didn't seem right to call him Professor after what had just happened. "Er," he said again.
The sound of running water resumed, and he waited uncomfortably for another half a minute. At which point the door swung open and Snape stalked past him without so much as a glance. Harry turned and looked after him, mouth hanging open.
"Hey--" he called. Snape swept out of the bedroom.
Harry looked into the bathroom, brightly lit and inviting, and then looked after Snape. Finally he chose the bathroom, reasoning that when he faced Snape, he might as well be comfortable. He retrieved his invisibility cloak from the bureau, entered the bathroom, and shut the door.
He sat on the edge of the tub and tried a few cleaning spells, which helped some, but he couldn't seem to get the damp spots out of his clothes. Finally he gave up and zipped his trousers over his clammy boxers. He splashed his face with cold water, and finished with a perfunctory glance in the mirror.
He looked awful, his eyes still bloodshot, his hair standing on end, his clothing rumpled and untidy. But there was nothing he could do about it, so he shrugged and left the bathroom.
Light poured out of the kitchen and into the hallway. Harry squinted and approached uncertainly. Inside, he could see a small round table and an assortment of cabinets and cupboards.
"Oh, do come in." Snape appeared at the far end of the kitchen holding a steaming teapot. His hair was standing up even more than Harry's, and it had an unsavory, greasy look, clumping together in tangled strands. His eyes moved over the wet spots on Harry's trousers, and he sneered. "Have a seat. Make yourself at home."
Harry sat at the table, watching Snape warily. Snape dropped the teapot onto the table, stalked toward a cupboard, retrieved two mugs, and slammed one of them down in front of Harry. He dragged his chair all the way around the table, as far away from Harry as possible, poured himself a cup of tea, and sat. When he didn't offer Harry anything, Harry helped himself to some tea. There was no milk or sugar in sight. He took a small sip, and almost choked; it was nearly as strong as Hagrid's.
He took a deep breath, his stomach fluttering nervously.
"Er, I'm not sure what to call you now," he said. Snape stared coldly at Harry.
"You will call me 'professor' or 'sir,'" he said, his face stiffly blank. The fluttering in Harry's stomach froze and hardened, and something tightened in his throat. "What happened tonight was" Snape paused, his lip twitching, "regrettable. I hope you are not operating under the misapprehension that it changes anything."
A short silence. Somewhere, a clock ticked.
"So you still hate me," Harry blurted, before he could stop himself. Snape looked uncomfortable. "Well?"
"There's no need to be melodramatic, Potter," he snapped. Harry leaned forward with a glare that was worthy of Snape. To his surprise, Snape's eyes flickered away. "I don't hate you," he said irritably, not meeting Harry's eyes. Words bubbled out of Harry's mouth before he could stop them.
"You've hated me from the moment I met you! 'Mr. Potter, our new celebrity,'" Harry mimicked. "I hadn't done anything!" Rather than responding with anger, Snape seemed to retreat. Harry was expecting anger. He didn't know how to handle this...evasiveness.
"Oh, hadn't you?" Snape said darkly, staring fixedly at his tea. "You were exactly like James, you know, the same--"
"No," Harry cut him off, "I wasn't."
There was a short silence.
"No," Snape said softly, "you're not."
The moment stretched. Harry was now thoroughly confused. He could hear the vague, comforting rumble of the castle shifting. Snape stared moodily at his tea, his long fingers clutched around his mug. The silence between them seemed immense.
"This...changes things," Harry said. Snape recoiled, his face twisting with a familiar sneer.
"You really are simple-minded--" He stopped short, and closed his eyes. When he opened them his voice was quieter. "Think about it, Potter. Do you really feel differently about me than you did yesterday? Of course not. Certain things are...clearer now. But nothing has changed."
"So you still hate me," Harry confirmed. He watched in disbelief as Snape actually smiled, a small, twisted, tight-lipped smile.
"And I suppose you like me?" Snape asked, amusement--amusement! lacing his voice. "I put you under truth serum and left you to the tender mercies of Draco Malfoy. I did my best to turn your godfather and the werewolf over to the Dementors. Do I need to remind you of these things?" Snape's voice grew colder as he spoke. "Do you think I'm sorry, Potter? Do you think I've reformed?"
"But--" Harry struggled for words, and his brain refused to cooperate. "You--" He tried again. "We--" Another false start. Snape seemed to be enjoying his discomfort. "There was--" And finally, he found his tongue. "You can't just ignore what--what happened. Things have changed--"
Snape's smile widened.
"I haven't changed," he said, "Have you?"
"Obviously not," Snape cut in, "you're as thick as ever, Potter."
"Oh," Harry said.
There was a moment of silence. Snape leaned back and steepled his fingers.
"Do you remember your first year at Hogwarts? You and your friends were convinced that I was trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone." Harry nodded. Snape smiled nastily, his eyes gleaming. "And you learned a lesson, didn't you? You learned that being," he paused briefly, "an 'utter bastard' does not necessarily make one evil. Right, Potter? Well, this is another lesson: an ill-advised wank in the middle of the night does not make up for six years of enmity."
Harry struggled to suppress a wave of fury and resentment. Snape was shrinking in Harry's mind, losing his humanity, once again becoming the spiteful, unfair bastard who Harry had resented since he was eleven years old. Harry was shrinking too, being pulled back into the familiar role of frustrated, righteously angry student.
No. He didn't want things to go back to the way they had been between himself and Snape. He remembered Snape in the hallway, eyes filling with terror, pressing against Harry's palm like a small child hiding its face, and later, the surprising gentleness with which Snape had held him. He did his best to ignore the contempt and malicious enjoyment in Snape's eyes.
"I'm sorry I called you a bastard," he said. Snape shot him a derisive look.
"You shouldn't be. I'm not sorry I called you stupid."
Harry's hands clenched around his mug. He did not trust himself to speak.
"You cannot walk into class tomorrow expecting anything to have changed," Snape continued.
"Don't worry," Harry said curtly, "I won't."
Snape regarded Harry for a long moment. Harry glared at him.
"So I'm supposed to just forget about...this?" he asked.
"I certainly hope so." Snape said. He continued before Harry could speak. "You need to get back to your dormitory, Potter. Breakfast is in three hours."
"Yes, I'll have to walk back to my dormitory. Can I keep my cloak, then?"
"Yes, you may keep your cloak," Snape replied without interest, and Harry felt a vague stirring of disappointment. He gathered his cloak and stood up.
He hesitated a moment, and then marched over to Snape's side of the table, threaded his fingers through Snape's greasy hair (which was so snarled that he didn't get far), and pressed his lips against Snape's mouth. It was not a kiss, exactly. He was proving a point: things had changed. He could not have done this to Snape yesterday. Things were different now.
Snape did not move. His lips yielded softly.
Harry pulled back a few inches and stared at his Potions professor. Snape's eyes were closed, his face pinched. The only sound was the hiss of his soft, nasal breathing. Snape looked...exhausted. Defeated.
Harry felt his anger fade. He was suddenly very tired; his limbs were heavy, and his eyes watered. His shoulders sagged. The only thing he wanted in the world was to curl up in bed and forget that any of this had happened.
He picked up his things and moved toward the door. When he paused to look back, Snape was staring at him, his eyes burning with something that was not quite pain, not quite resentment. Harry turned away quickly. Swallowing hard, he pulled on his invisibility cloak and headed back toward Gryffindor Tower.
Well, that had been sordid. And awkward. And clumsy. And wrong on more levels than Severus liked to imagine. The greasy old schoolmaster jumps his fresh-faced young student for a round of midnight wanking. If the universe were just, Potter would be in Dumbledore's office in a few hours, demanding that Severus be sacked. But Potter would never humble himself enough to tell the headmaster what had happened. For once, Potter's arrogance would work in Severus' favor.
Except that Severus would almost rather be sacked than face Potter tomorrow in class, knowing that Potter knew that Severus hadn't a shred of dignity left. Once again, he had lost, and Potter had won. It was humiliating. Potter was half Severus' age, and he was not even particularly bright, yet he managed to outmaneuver Severus time and again. Could Severus be blamed for despising the boy, for taking petty victories where he could?
Potter decimated Severus effortlessly. People looked up to Potter and his ilk. They followed him blindly. They handed him whatever he asked on a silver platter. He was a Gryffindor, and Gryffindors charmed the world into overlooking their sanctimonious cruelty and careless mistakes. Gryffindors made messes, and Slytherins dealt with the consequences. Was it any wonder so many Slytherins had been so easily deceived when the Dark Lord arrived, promising them a well-ordered future and a place in history?
Severus' eyes slid closed. What he had done...it boggled the mind. Potter was his student, of course, and half his age, but the pathology of what had happened tonight ran deeper than that. Potter needled at him like a splinter in his mind, a scab that Severus couldn't help but pick. He couldn't look into those oblivious, impetuous eyes without itching to drive a sliver of hurt and uncertainty into them.
The world seemed to be in on a conspiracy to convince Potter that he was some sort of superman, and Potter swallowed the notion with relish. Potter had been so impossibly lucky that Severus was beginning to feel it could not be luck at all, that reality actually bent around Potter, conforming obligingly to his whims. Severus was no better than anyone else; he had been charmed by the boy, hadn't he? Tonight was proof of that.
This was entirely Albus' fault. Things had been...manageable before the Occlumency lessons; he had loathed Potter, certainly, but the loathing had been simple and straightforward. Now his feelings toward the boy were anything but simple, and fluctuated so erratically that Severus was becoming violent and unpredictable. His behavior had been monstrously inappropriate at best, bordering on criminal at worst. What had possessed him to give Potter truth serum? He had--Merlin!--he had built a sixth year curriculum around this mad obsession with the boy.
He simply could not control himself around Potter, no matter how many talks he had with Albus, no matter how many times he told himself that Harry was not James. Perhaps the fact that Harry Potter was not quite James Potter was the biggest slap in the face of all. He threw Severus completely off balance, alternately fulfilling and upsetting Severus' expectations.
Severus could not leave the boy alone. He could not get Potter out of his mind. The world was in an uproar; there was a war on; Severus was balanced on a razor's edge between the two sides, and he couldn't stop thinking about a wretched sixteen year old boy. The salt on Potter's skin. Potter's single-minded, penetrating gaze; the way his thoughts moved shamelessly, recklessly over his features. Such a sensitive face, achingly expressive, vibrating like a finely tuned instrument.
Severus dropped his head into his hands, rubbing his temples. He was exhausted, and his mind was running in circles. Tomorrow, in class, things would be clearer. He would put Potter back in his place, sneer at the boy, make him seethe with a few well-placed barbs. And slowly, things would get back to normal, go back to how they were. They had to.
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