Title: Magnificent Penetration
Author: AbstractConcept (The Con Cept)
Genres Romance and humour
Summary: There is no fortress so impenetrable as the human heart...(unless maybe it’s the human head).
Word Count: 22,000+
Kingsley gave the group a hard look and said in his deep bass voice, “It's all fine and good that the Dark Lord is dead, but we can't stop now to tell each other how wonderful we all are, pat each other on the back and flatter ourselves. There’s more work to be done, and mutual masturbation is a waste of time.”
Harry stifled a laugh. He leaned over to Snape, who was the only one seated close enough, and muttered, “But it sure is fun!”
Snape gave him a dirty look, which Harry met with a cheeky grin.
“Potter, I heard that,” Kingsley said grimly. “This is not the time or the place. There are women present.”
“You only like it when there aren’t?” Harry inquired with faux innocence.
“Shut up, you fool,” Snape growled. The man turned his attention back to Kingsley, his lips set in a thin line.
Harry sighed. He would have expected Snape, of all people, to appreciate the appeal of wanking jokes. It was inconceivable that the man got any other kind of action, after all.
“You might try to focus somewhat on the discussion, considering the level to which it concerns you,” Snape told him, dragging him back to the present.
“It always concerns me,” Harry complained. “I’m sick of it. I killed Voldemort. Most of the Death Eaters are captured. It’s over. There are at least ten parties going on out there right now, and I’d really much rather be getting pissed at one of them than sitting around being lectured. Give it up, all right? Why can’t we just relax a bit? Why can’t I?”
“Because, as you noted, not all of the Death Eaters have been captured,” Kingsley explained. “And one of them is Lucius Malfoy. Now that we’ve got Draco, he’s desperate, and that makes him dangerous. And he’s sworn revenge on Snape for betraying the Dark Lord and, more specifically, his son.”
Snape glanced away. “Draco was safer in prison while the war was going on. He got a much shorter sentence than he would have done if he’d been free to do as the Dark Lord commanded. Lucius ought to thank me.”
Harry waved a hand dismissively. “I can see the worry; Snape’s in danger. What’s that got to do with me? Surely he can look out for himself?”
“We think you’re in just as much danger.”
Harry snorted. “Big damn change from the usual, then.”
“Our sources indicate Malfoy may try—”
“Let him try! Let them all try! So what? Are you telling me to be careful? I’ll be careful, already! I’ll watch my back and brush up on my defensive spells, not that they’ve ever had a chance to get rusty. I know how to handle it. Constant vigilance, etcetera, etcetera.”
“That isn’t good enough.”
Harry, in the act of rising from his chair, glanced up. “What do you mean?”
“Until Lucius is captured, I want the two of you to stay at Grimmauld Place,” Kingsley said.
Snape’s eyes closed briefly, and he let out a long breath. “Why don’t you just give me to Lucius?” he groaned.
Kingsley gave him a stern look. “We appreciate the information you provided us during the war,” he said. “It would be a great pity to let the sacrifices you made go to waste because you couldn’t get on with Potter for just a few days.”
Snape’s shoulders slumped. “I suppose it’s the most sensible thing to do,” he ground out.
“No way! You can’t lock me up in that mausoleum until who knows when just because Malfoy has a grudge. I’ve finally got my life back! I’ve finally got a chance!”
“It won’t be for long. Just until we’ve caught Malfoy,” Tonks pointed out earnestly.
“And we will make every effort to capture him quickly,” Remus added.
“Please, Harry. We want to keep you safe, that’s all. That’s all any of us wants.” Harry looked into Mrs. Weasley’s worried eyes and sighed a little in defeat. After all the woman had been through, he could hardly cause her more anxiety. He wasn’t the only one who deserved a rest.
“All right, then. As long as it’s not for long,” he stipulated. He cast a sidelong glance at his future roommate. “And as long as Snape doesn’t get up my nose.”
The man gave him a cold look. “I assure you, Potter, that I intend to spend as little time in your company as possible. While it is not a prepossessing house, I’m sure it’s large enough for the both of us.”
Harry flopped back in his seat, huffing. “That’s what you think,” he predicted darkly.
“Home, sweet home,” Harry said sourly, dropping his chest by the door. “I’d hoped I’d seen the last of this place, but I guess I should have known better, considering my luck.”
Mrs. Black must have heard the door open, because she began howling and raving. Harry winced. The words were hardly recognizable; just her usual torrent—Muggles and Mudbloods and vitriol, all run together and flooding the house, crashing from wall to wall and bouncing back again.
Snape stepped in behind Harry, slamming the door shut. “Be silent, you foul hag, or I’ll commit arson, so help me!” The woman didn’t stop, but her rage became somewhat quieter. “Where is that house elf?” Snape asked.
“Dead.” Harry didn’t meet the man’s eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s good, because if you start sharing your feelings and confiding your troubles in me, you’ll join the wretch, whatever fate he suffered.” Snape started forward and tripped headlong over Harry’s chest. He just managed to keep himself upright by grabbing hold of a rickety table and nearly knocking over the candelabra sitting atop it. After juggling the thing for a few moments, during which Harry had to try very hard not to laugh, the man managed to slam it back down on the table. He turned and glowered at Harry, breathing hard and trying to regain his composure. “Potter, pick that up!” he snarled, stabbing a finger at Harry’s trunk. “If I trip over it again, I’ll make things very unpleasant for you.”
“Like you could help doing that anyway,” Harry muttered, but levitated his trunk anyway and headed upstairs. Snape followed reluctantly and began opening doors all along the landing, giving a fleeting glance to each room before moving on. “What are you looking for?”
“I doubt I’ll find Shangri La,” Snape replied, “but I was hoping to find the least inhospitable bedroom possible.”
“I thought you’d be right at home here,” Harry said. “It’s missing the disturbing dead things floating in jars, but it’s got your usual dank and dark.”
Snape’s lip lifted. “Yes, just give me an iron maiden and some lovely chains rattling round in the attic, and I’m sure I’ll sleep like a baby.” He ducked his head into another room and quickly withdrew it with a grimace. “The only halfway decent room is the one across from yours. Why do all the others have massive cobwebs across the beds?” he wondered aloud. Catching Harry’s unabashed look of interest, the man stopped. “Potter, don’t you have anything better to do?”
Harry grinned widely. “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t.”
The look on Snape’s face was pained. “I hope Lucius chokes on a Galleon and dies a terrible, lingering death.”
Harry nodded a bit with a sigh. “Me, too,” he agreed wistfully.
“I’m bored,” Harry announced in a loud, frustrated-sounding voice.
Snape looked up from his book, eyeing the brat leaning against the doorway with his hands in his pockets, an ever so slight moue gracing his expression. Snape blinked a little. “I’m sorry. I was unaware that performing a little soft-shoe would be required of me. If you’ll just find me a top hat and cane...”
Harry sighed. “I don’t expect anything of you. It’s just...I’ve been wandering around for the past hour trying to find something to do that will keep me occupied and wouldn’t end in me suffering from a horrible curse, and there just isn’t anything.”
“You’ve come to the wrong place to find anything else,” Snape advised with a dangerous edge to his voice.
Oblivious, Harry wandered in and sat on the edge of the bed. “What are you reading?”
“How to Serve Potter,” Snape replied promptly. “Now go away. I haven’t harassed you, have I?”
“We’ve hardly been here five minutes. All right, two days. But that isn’t very long.”
“And yet you couldn’t keep yourself entertained any longer. Go stick your finger in the gargoyle’s mouth in the foyer and see what happens,” the man suggested.
“Ha. I know very well what’d happen. I saw it bite the handle off of the umbrella that fell over near it. Aren’t you bored?”
“I’m seriously annoyed; does that count?”
Harry flopped back, his fringe falling into his eyes. “I can see why Sirius hated this place so much,” he said quietly. “It sort of eats away at you, until you forget there’s any other world out there. It’s nothing but dust and darkness and vitriol and the dying, rotting dreams of a madwoman.”
“Very dramatic,” Snape told him sourly. “Go away and compose gothic poetry if the fancy takes you; only don’t spout it at me.”
“You don’t feel it? All the...you know, oppression? You don’t feel like you’re slowly suffocating in the dark, with no one knowing and no one caring?”
“I do feel chafed,” Snape muttered, “but I think that’s mostly due to an unwanted visitor who imposes on my time and refuses to let me be.”
Harry’s look was beginning to darken. “Excuse me for trying to be a ray of sunshine in your dreary life,” he grumped.
Snape wisely refrained from noting that a gangly youth sprawled across his bed, his hair a mess and a smudge of dust on his nose wasn’t what Snape would categorize as a ray of sunshine or, for that matter, anything else found wanting in his ‘dreary life.’ “If you want company, why don’t you bother one of your friends?” he suggested instead. “I can’t imagine the Order would seriously use either one in their little search, and you’re certainly high-handed enough to demand they drop everything, in any case, and pander to you.”
“I am not!” Potter responded, affronted. The look in his eyes softened. “But they can’t be working all the time. It would be nice if they’d drop in and let me know how things are going, yeah?”
“Indubitably,” Snape agreed absently, already absorbed in his book once more.
“Hey, thanks! That was a great idea,” Harry said, and the man looked up just long enough to see him offer an enthusiastic smile before shutting the door behind him.
Shaking his head a little, Snape reflected that Grimmauld Place was wearying, in its perpetual atmosphere of gloom.
Ah, well. If anyone’s will could overpower that of the Haunted House, it would be Potter’s. And even if it didn’t, at least it might keep him out of Snape’s hair for a while.
“Kearney, you can beat my bludger anytime.” Harry let out a low whistle and turned the glossy page. “God, Ireland’s got a hot team this year,” he muttered, nearly salivating over the photo spread.
“What’s that smell?” a voice drifted from downstairs.
“Eh? Probably from me airing out the linens earlier...bit stuffy,” Harry replied, distracted. “Here; Unguentmenti.” Harry waved his wand in the general direction of the hall. “That should take care of it.” With a sigh, he flipped another page and began worrying his thumbnail. “Mmm. Beautiful.”
Several lovely minutes went by in the Quidditch team’s company before Snape interrupted again, this time sounding angry. “Potter! What is that blasted stench? It smells like something’s burning!”
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?” Harry demanded. “I cast a Scented Spell already.”
Snape stood at the doorway, staring down the hall. “Why is black smoke pouring from the general direction of the kitchen?”
Harry dropped his magazine and bolted. “My roast!”
“Roast! You idiot!” Snape ran after him, watching as Harry yanked the oven door open and stumbled backward, coughing as more smoke billowed out. The roast was on fire, the flames snapping and popping. “You’re going to roast the both of us, if you’re not careful.”
Harry coughed, waving his hand in front of his face. “Aguamenti!” he shouted, and a jet of water sprayed from his wand. The flames leapt higher, forcing him back. Harry bumped into Snape and nearly fell over, the man’s hand on his elbow the only thing keeping him upright. “What the hell?” he choked.
“There must be grease in the oven,” Snape told him. “Get out and let me handle it!”
“I can do it!” Harry argued.
“Shut up and get out, you flaming idiot! Damn it!” Snape shoved him out of the room and quickly conjured a heap of dirt, smothering the blaze. Several bewitched breezes later the smoke was mostly gone as well.
Snape stood in the centre of the room, gazing in dismay at the carnage Potter had wrought. The ceiling was charred black and two of the counters were destroyed. The floor had a yellow tinge and everything was damaged from the smoke. The roast stood forlornly on the crooked and half-melted oven rack, withered and scorched to a misshapen lump of ash.
Harry peeked in the doorway, waving his magazine to help dissipate the smoke. “I’m really sorry,” he said, looking at Snape’s stiff form.
The man pinned him with one furious eye. “Oh, I expect that makes it all right, then,” he spat.
“No, I know it doesn’t, but I really am,” Harry said helplessly. “I think I may have left the Weasleys’ latest experimental firework out; they call it the Explodaganza...”
“You left a Weasley firework near an oven?”
“I said I was sorry.”
“You’re not! You’re insincere, arrogant, stupid, lazy and—” Snape snatched the magazine out of his hand—“you read puerile garbage!”
“Hey!” Harry protested. “That’s mine! Give it back!”
Snape glanced at the headline article and had to look twice. “‘We’ve got the biggest brooms?’” he read aloud.
Harry could feel a heat rivalling the fire racing up his face. “It’s a Quidditch magazine,” he said hurriedly.
“It’s a damned phallic fantasy bonanza, is what it is,” Snape countered, looking just a bit scandalized.
Harry ripped the magazine from the man’s hands, one page tearing at the corner. “Shut up! Mind your own business! Aw, look what you did to the end of Kearney’s broom!”
Snape sucked in a breath and drew himself up to his full height, glowering down at the brat. “CLEAN UP THAT KITCHEN, you worthless little deviant!” he snarled.
Snape stormed out of the room, and Harry flung the magazine after the man.
“There!” he shouted. “You need it more than I do! Maybe if you got a new broomstick and took the one you’ve got out of your arse, you wouldn’t be so horrible!”
Snape whirled and sent a curse at Potter, who ducked just in time. It careened off a counter and blasted a hole in one of the cupboards. Snape grimaced at Harry, breathing heavily. “And fix that, while you’re at it,” he ordered.
He whirled and was gone, leaving Harry’s heart thumping, his body coursing with adrenaline. He smoothed sweaty palms down the front of his jeans and bent to pick up his magazine. Harry tried to ignore the strange excitement the argument aroused in his stomach and glanced around the kitchen, instead trying to concentrate on all the work he had to do. “He really needs to get laid,” Harry informed Kearney.
Kearney gave him a glossy smirk and ran his fingers over his broom handle.
Heaving a great sigh, Harry folded the magazine and put it in his back pocket in place of his wand. “He’s not the only one,” he muttered.
“Oh, my god. What have you done?” Snape stared at the room, his expression revolted.
Harry took his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I was just trying to brighten it up,” he explained tiredly.
“So you felt daisies would be appropriate?”
“Well—well no. Daisies just sort of happened. I mean, the spell didn’t specify...”
Snape glanced over Harry’s shoulder. “What the devil is this?” He snatched the booklet off the table. “‘Ten Sunny Spells to Brighten Your Home.’ Where did you get this nonsense?”
Harry reddened. “Hermione gave it to me. She thought it might help.”
“Wonderful. I suppose you can do a good doily to add that haute ‘old woman’ touch it’s missing.”
“Unless you count Mrs. Black,” Harry pointed out. “It’s got plenty of that.”
Snape couldn’t argue with this. “Yes. Nearly anything would be an improvement. I have to say the prior ambience matched my mood much more closely, though. Really, Potter—daisies?”
“I told you; the spell didn’t specify. It was all about concentrating on, you know, an image of nice surroundings. It suggested a field of flowers. I’m not real familiar with flowers, but I knew what a daisy looked like.”
“And so we acquire daisy wallpaper, a daisy tablecloth, a vase of daisies as a centrepiece, daisy chair cushions, a carpet with a pattern distinctly reminiscent of daisies, and oh—yes. A large framed picture of a daisy on the wall. Just how hard were you concentrating?”
“Pretty hard,” Harry admitted. “You’re lucky you didn’t get naked men,” he added under his breath. He’d forgotten that Snape was a former teacher, with eyes in the back of his head and ears like a bat.
Gulping, Harry stared down at the millions of daisies decorating the tablecloth. “Well. Er. That’s the first thing that came to mind when it said pleasant surroundings,” he confessed in a hoarse voice. He shut his eyes, waiting for the axe to fall.
“I see...I expect this is at least somewhat more socially acceptable, as far as decorating themes go,” Snape eventually said. He sounded slightly off balance. “But really, I can’t imagine wanting to eat in this Magnoliophyta monstrosity.”
Harry cautiously opened his eyes and gave the room a glance, avoiding Snape’s eyes. “Honestly, neither can I. It’s kind of...um...nauseating. But I don’t know how to change it back.”
Snape banished the entire display with a flick of his wand. “Really, what did you learn at school?” He stalked out of the room, leaving Harry with a sense of relief.
“Well, you weren’t the Charms professor, or I’d be casting aspersions on your teaching skills!” Harry called after him.
Snape didn’t respond, and Harry rested his forehead against the dark wood of the restored dining table. He really didn’t see how he could survive this much longer.
Snape laid back, one arm propped under his head as he stared, unseeing, at the evening light weakly struggling through the thick draperies. A movement caught his eye and his wand flicked before it had really registered. He glanced down at the doxy’s inert form on the carpet, then scanned the draperies for others.
His mind began churning over the day’s events even as another flutter appeared in the corner of his eye.
Potter and naked men.
Potter as a naked man.
The idea was rather astounding. Snape had never pegged the boy as a homosexual. On the other hand, he’d never dwelled too deeply on the brat’s sexuality in any case. One just didn’t, when one was a professor. Clear conflict of interest. Obvious abuse of power.
Too damn bad he’d never previously thought to abuse his power in quite that way.
Lazily, he flicked his wand again and another doxy dropped. Potter would make a passable diversion, if he could keep from being exasperating for five minutes at a time. He was attractive enough, fiery enough, fit enough. He was mentally sub-par, but Snape supposed if he discounted everyone his intellectual inferior, it would disqualify most of the human race.
Potter’s mulishness might well cause problems, though. His inability to treat the simplest conversation as anything but an invitation to all-out war could cause difficulties as well. Snape was aware that he tended to respond to Potter’s provocations in an extremely negative way, but even when he’d tried to be encouraging, the boy hadn’t taken it well. His mind drifted back to those thrice-damned Occlumency lessons. He had even been gracious enough to inform the boy that his first attempt at Occlumency was not as bad as it might have been, and the little monster hadn’t been at all appreciative.
He really was a beast.
On the other hand, he did have a bum one could bounce a knut off of, if one were so inclined. That should count for something; the knut one was bouncing, at the very least.
And all that misdirected passion...
Snape sighed, watching one last doxy tumble from the folds of the curtains. He hadn’t imagined for a moment that Potter really was reading those insipid sports magazines for the voyeuristic thrill of seeing muscled men swooping across the pages, but it seemed the boy wasn’t as prim as he’d suspected.
That was slightly encouraging, but Snape doubted very much that Potter was capable of making the leap between the vapid jocks he so enjoyed ogling and his greasy and unpleasant ex-Professor. It almost made Snape wish he had been kinder to the boy. A bit of arse-kissing then to trade for a bit of arse-plundering now? But no, Potter wouldn’t have been worth it, really. Besides, he likely wasn’t accustomed to thinking of any of his teachers as sexual beings.
Such a pity. A waste of that trim waist, pale skin, flashing eyes and rakish good looks. Snape sighed. There was always hope. Didn’t Albus used to say that? Idiot things like ‘Never surrender hope, or you’ve surrendered all.’ He could hope, if he liked. It certainly couldn’t hurt anything. Hope, and imagine...
Perhaps Potter would knock on his door late at night, shyly...
“I can’t seem to un-stick the knob on the water faucet,” he’d say, and Snape would become aware that Potter was nude but for a threadbare towel wrapped around his hips... “Perhaps you could assist?” No, Potter wouldn’t put it like that, and to have the voice off jarred the fantasy. “Give a bloke a hand?” Yes, much better...
And Snape would rise—hah, yes—as if to accompany the boy and resolve his predicament, only when Snape got close, he’d catch that hitch of breath, and his eyes would narrow. “Are you certain you can’t handle your own knobs, Potter?” he’d inquire archly, staring at the brat’s crotch for emphasis.
He rubbed his own crotch at the thought, caressing the aching hardness there.
Potter’s face would blaze, but his chin would lift. “Then you aren’t going to help?”
Before he could do more than turn away, Snape would grasp his chin harshly, forcing the boy to face him. “On the contrary; I’m more than willing to give aid, if you really need it...”
Oh, yes. That was good. Potter would swallow, Adam’s apple moving smoothly up and down that long throat...he’d whisper, “Yes,” as Snape’s fingers twitched the towel away, leaving him naked, vulnerable, deliciously erect.
Speaking of erect...Snape’s fingers had been diligently undoing his buttons, pulling himself free of the confines of his trousers.
Potter would give a soft cry as Snape wrapped his warm hand around his prick. “If you really are ‘stuck,’ a little lubricant would not go awry,” Snape would suggest with a predatory smile.
Harry would thrust into his hand, agreeing at once—so much more pliable than the obnoxious, real Potter. “Yes,” he’d moan, more loudly than before.
“Yesssss,” Snape echoed. His hips pumped up, pushing his cock through the circle of thumb and forefinger, one knee falling to the side.
The door swung back with a bang. “Snape, I got some curry for din—ohmygod. Ohmygod. Oh, my god.” Potter clapped one hand over his eyes and spun on his heel. Snape grabbed frantically at the blankets, clawing at them and attempting to burrow into them as much as humanly possible. “OhmygodIshouldhaveknocked,” Potter said croakily. “Oh. My. God. I’m so sorry,” he added, his other hand rising to try to cover his red face and reinforce the hand covering his eyes. “I’ll just go,” he said, taking a few panicked steps and running smack into a wall.
He hit it with enough velocity to dislodge his hands and bounce back. He was just disoriented enough to exchange a last horrified glance with Snape before fleeing into the night. Snape caught another strangled, “Oh my god,” as the boy ran, and he pulled the covers around him more tightly, rolling onto his stomach to bury his face in a musty pillow.
So Potter had been hitherto unlikely to think of his teachers as sexual beings, had he? Snape had certainly put a stop to that.
Oh, well. At least he’d managed to give the boy nightmares, anyway.
He supposed that was something.
Harry curled up under his covers, miserable and terrified. He’d locked his bedroom door and reinforced it with a couple of wards, but he doubted they would hold. Snape would know a way around them. Snape would find a way, if he was angry enough to want revenge.
Harry had no doubt he was angry enough to want revenge.
The worst bit was that Snape would almost certainly get his revenge, and wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of doing anything except opening Harry’s bedroom door.
He could probably see through blankets. Hell, he could probably see through walls. He could probably blend into the walls, using some chameleonic charm to turn the colour and pattern of the hideous wallpaper and fade right away. He was probably watching right now.
He’d probably caused it in the first place. Well, of course he caused it, really, but he probably had managed some sort of curse that had given Harry an erection, just so he could step out of the shadows as soon as Harry touched himself and cry, “Ah-ha!” and—and point and look, and humiliate the hell out of Harry.
Yeah, that was his dastardly plan, all right. Had to be. Tit for tat, so to speak.
Well, then, Harry just wouldn’t touch himself. He wouldn’t. Whatever curse Snape had caught him with, he would just resist it. Only...it really was a pretty damned overwhelming curse.
He shut his eyes against the memory of Snape’s engorged member, large and red and succulent, much larger than it could have possibly really been...
Okay, no. This wasn’t helping a bit. He should think about other things. Like Umbridge in a leotard. Hagrid and Madame Maxime. Anything but Snape. Funny, that; in the past, he would have considered Snape a formidable erection wilter, but now the man apparently owned a piece of Harry’s libido.
Really, who knew Snape was so handsome—from the waist down and under his robes, at any rate? Harry wished he’d got a longer look. He didn’t reckon he could knock on the man’s door and demand a second chance on the grounds that he’d been too embarrassed to stare properly before. Kind of a pity, really.
So had Snape cursed him to hardness, or was it all in Harry’s head? Really, he got hard at the least little thing sometimes, so it was difficult to tell. He’d never fantasized about Snape, but then he’d hated the man, and he’d never imagined any of his teachers as sexual beings.
Snape had certainly put a stop to that.
Could Harry fantasize about it? Picture the man kissing him?
...Not really. Snape didn’t seem to be the type to exchange lovesick gazes, twine hands together, or lean in for long, lingering kisses. On the other hand, Harry could easily imagine a hungry hand gripping his face, dark eyes smouldering, a brutal kiss...
Wow, that was—that was hot. That could be really fantastic. Snape wouldn’t be fluffy or sweet, but he’d probably know what he was doing and what he wanted, and he’d have no qualms about taking it.
He was probably brilliant in bed...nasty and domineering and completely unapologetic.
And probably straight as a board, if only because that would maximize Harry’s humiliation and minimize his chance of actually having a go at Snape.
It was so completely unfair. Harry clenched his fists and ground his teeth, and concentrated on imagining Dumbledore and Voldemort playing a round of badminton nude, in order to chase away his lust.
Harry peeked around the corner. No one was there. The lights were all off. Snape must have gone to bed. It was, after all, almost two in the morning. Surely it was safe to sneak downstairs and rummage round in the newly restored kitchen for a snack?
Not that he was afraid. Harry wasn’t afraid of much of anything anymore, let alone Snape...well, Dementors still scared the hell out of him, but after facing Voldemort and winning, Harry wasn’t impressed with many other threats.
He slipped down the stairs as quietly as he could. He hadn’t seen Snape for a couple of days...and he wasn’t in any hurry to face the man now. He could feel himself blush every time he thought about the man, prick exposed, deftly wanking himself off.
Harry balled his hands into fists. He was not going to think about that anymore. He would think about clean, wholesome things like clouds and laundry and...and getting a midnight snack.
As he rounded the corner, he ran into someone with an ‘oof,’ stumbling back and whipping out his wand. Barely conscious of the decision to do so, Harry cast a nonverbal spell to repel his attacker.
“Potter!” Snape’s angry voice snarled. “What the hell are you doing wandering round in the middle of the night and casting obstructive spells on innocent people?”
“Whoops. Er, Lumos,” Harry said. “But hey–that isn’t fair! I could ask you the same thing! Except for the obstructive spells, which you were obviously too slow on. What if I’d been Lucius Malfoy, come to kill you?”
“I’d have done a spell to braid that long blond hair into a rope and wrapped it around his neck,” Snape replied. “And just because I’m cautious enough to keep from hexing everything that moves doesn’t constitute slowness on my part. And I repeat; what the hell are you doing up?”
“Getting a snack!”
“You couldn’t do that at a decent hour?”
“No, because–um. Why are you up?”
“...For the same reason,” Snape replied grudgingly.
They stared at each other, and Harry felt his face begin to heat up. To his surprise, Snape’s normally sallow face turned just a little red, as well.
“Well. Er. Goodnight, then.”
As Harry made to pass the man, a thump sounded from down the hall, and Harry jumped, startled. “What was that?” He pointed his wand down the hall, heart pounding madly, and became aware that Snape’s hand was on his shoulder. It was an unfamiliar weight; not heavy or unwelcome, but he couldn’t remember the man...ever touching him before, really.
“Stop panicking over every little thing,” Snape told him severely. “You’re going to give yourself a stroke. It’s just the boggart. There’s one in the umbrella stand in the front hall.”
“Oh,” Harry said, relieved. “I can handle it.”
Snape opened his mouth as if to object, but then seemed to think better of it. “If you like,” he said grudgingly, removing his hand.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Right. Right. So I’ll just go...er...back in a few...” Harry changed course and headed for the front hall. How had he got himself into this? He’d only intended to grab a couple of biscuits or something, not prove he was capable of handling minor household infestations. He turned to see Snape still watching, and offered the man a weak little wave. Right. Boggart. He could handle that.
He crept into the front hall, trying not to wake Mrs. Black’s portrait. This had to be his least favourite room in the whole rotten house—with that woman who should have been a mother to Sirius always making a din and saying nasty things. She was worse than any boggart Harry’d ever met.
Not that it was much worse than the rest of the house; the whole thing was so mouldy and filled with despair and decay... Harry shivered a bit. Was it just him, or was it getting colder?
Somewhere in the back of his brain, Harry could hear the echoes of his mother’s screams, his father’s shouting, and by dint of effort, he shut them out. Now wasn’t the time to dwell on such things. He had something to prove to Snape...
A shadow shot out of the umbrella stand, mushrooming upward and coalescing into a cloaked figure, its scabby, skeletal hands reaching for Harry.
Harry breathed deeply. “Expecto Patronum!” he hissed. An insubstantial mist trickled from his wand. Damn. He had to try harder. He had to think happy thoughts. I can fly, I can fly, he gibbered in his head. Come on, Potter. Get it together. What was a good memory to use? The Dementor was drifting closer. Harry could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead, and rubbed his face with the back of his hand.
“The death of Voldemort,” Harry muttered. He shut his eyes. He could see Voldemort falling, could picture the man’s robes collapsing inward as though their occupant had been somehow drained from them. He could remember the trickle of blood running out of the sleeve—blood that was black, robbed of colour in the night.
No! Harry thought as everything spun into darkness.
Potter, you idiot, he heard dimly, as if someone were speaking to him from a great distance.
His eyes slammed open to see Snape grabbing him, hauling him up. “Come on, you lazy little wretch,” the man snarled. Harry did his best to comply. “Hurry, damn you!” Harry couldn’t understand why the man was so angry. He couldn’t understand why his face was so pale...
Just as Snape dragged him from the room, Harry glanced over his shoulder. Albus Dumbledore stood by the umbrella stand, his face sombre. His eyes were haunted, and Harry fancied that the front of his robes glowed slightly in silent accusation where the curse had hit him.
“Oh,” Harry whispered.
“Shut up,” Snape growled.
“I—I’ll take care of it tomorrow. I shouldn’t have tried—this awful house, haven’t eaten all day—no wonder I wasn’t up to it.”
“I shouldn’t have made you.”
“You didn’t make me do anything. You couldn’t make me do anything. I’ll try again tomorrow,” Harry added insistently.
Snape nodded a little. “Thank you. I...don’t want to face him again,” he muttered so quietly that Harry wasn’t sure he heard right. “Are you injured?” the man added in a louder voice.
Harry shook his head. He felt a bit dizzy, but that was all.
“Are you certain? You require no aid?”
“You could try mouth to mouth,” Harry suggested hopefully before he could stop himself.
Snape stared at him, his expression taken aback.
Harry stared back, holding his breath.
The moment of shocked stillness lingered, drawn out painfully...
Harry surged upward, both hands coming up to frame Snape’s face, holding it in place as they kissed. Snape’s arms were somehow suddenly all around him, pressing him tightly to Snape’s body. He could feel one of Snape’s hands on his bum, and god almighty, that was more thrilling than it had any right to be.
Oh, it was good. It was wet and deep and writhing and frantic, and less a kiss than a competition in which Harry had to get the clothes off of his opponent in under a minute flat, or he lost.
And conversely, if Harry did manage it, they’d both win.
Snape slammed Harry painfully against the wall, his hand releasing Harry’s arse and moving to the front of his trousers. Clever fingers jerked Harry’s fly open and plunged right down into his pants, and Harry gave a whimper as he felt warm fingers brush over his prick.
“Ohshit,” Harry whispered, trying to buck up into Snape’s hand, but he was already on his tiptoes. Damn the man for being so tall, anyway.
There were too many hands and forearms in the way, but Harry did his level best to navigate through them to get to Snape’s crotch, as well. He could feel the man harden beneath his palm.
He struggled to get Snape’s robes opened, but almost as soon as he managed it, Harry found himself spun around and pressed face-first against the wall. “Hey—what are you—?” he gasped.
With a flick of his wand, Snape banished Harry’s clothing to the floor and Harry shivered as cool air caressed his suddenly bare skin. Snape’s pants soon joined the pile of clothes, but otherwise Snape remained dressed and Harry flushed with the realization that he was the only one completely naked.
“No lubrication,” Snape grunted. “But keep your legs together—I’ll make do—”Snape’s hand snaked around Harry’s waist and grabbed his cock again before Harry could untangle the meaning of the words. Then Snape was pumping him, and words could not give voice to the pleasure Harry felt.
Every nerve ending was singing with joy, as Harry rose and fell on the balls of his feet in time with Snape’s jerks. He felt something against his back, and his brow wrinkled just a little. “What’s that?”
“You’re too damned short,” Snape sighed.
But that didn’t seem to stop the man; Harry could feel the head of his prick, slick with precome, sliding along the indent of Harry’s lower back as Snape thrust. Harry quivered with an unfamiliar jolt of excitement.
Snape’s lips were at the shell of his ear, and Harry could feel them move as Snape mouthed wordless expressions of pleasure. The man’s prick was warm and slippery along the smoothness of Harry’s back, and it made Harry wild with excitement, if only because it was just a suggestion of what they could be doing, of what more there could be.
Suddenly, Snape halted, and Harry felt the wet heat of Snape’s emission spurting over his body; a rivulet slipped down, trying to insinuate itself between Harry’s cheeks. The word Harry floated and swirled intimately into the channel of Harry’s ear. So soft it merely tickled, so powerful it thundered through his veins, and he threw his head back against Snape’s collarbone, crying out as he climaxed.
A terrible shriek answered him, and Harry started, feeling Snape do the same. “What the—?”
“The portrait,” Snape gasped. “You must have woken the harpy.”
“Sorry,” Harry answered, sounding equally winded. “I forgot myself.” Harry noticed that he had added yet another stain to the foul tapestry that graced the wall.
Snape was staring toward the front hall, his expression disgruntled. “I should...I should shut her up,” he said reluctantly.
Harry didn’t agree; the boggart was still there. On the other hand, Harry was spent. Neither of them was up to dealing with the new crisis. “Forget it,” he suggested. “We’ll just soundproof our doors and let her scream herself out.” He leaned down and retrieved Snape’s pants from the floor, casting a quick scouring charm and offering them back with a bashful grin.
Snape hesitated, but then accepted the cloth. “All right,” he acquiesced quietly. “We should get to sleep.”
“I still need to get something to eat,” Harry told him, trying to stuff one foot in the leg of his trousers without falling over.
“There are apples in the kitchen,” Snape advised him. “I promise I haven’t poisoned any yet.”
“All right, then,” Harry said, scooping up his shirt and making for the kitchen. “See you in the morning?” he added over his shoulder.
Snape shrugged and smiled dryly. “We can hardly avoid it, can we?”
Snape sat in the drawing room, gazing broodingly into the fire. His feet were propped on one of the house’s little, not-quite-level tables. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, other than it hissed if he opened the drawer.
It had been nearly a week since he’d slept with—no, fucked—no really, messed about with Potter, and though they’d had uncomfortable run-ins a few times, the subject of impending sexual relations had not arisen again.
Which should have been good. Should have been...expected. Snape should be happy to not have the brat simpering all over him, and undoubtedly sleeping with Potter could only lead to such behaviour. But Potter hadn’t even broached the subject, although he might have hinted at it once or twice, by the way he licked his spoon at dinner or wandered around half-dressed after baths. On the other hand, that could just be Snape reading more into the situation than actually existed.
There just wasn’t anything else to do at Grimmauld Place.
“Oh. Oh—hi,” Harry’s voice suddenly chirped from the doorway. He seemed a little nervous, twisting his hands awkwardly. “I just finished my latest Quidditch mag. Good stuff. What are you up to?”
“I’m doing all there is to do in this god-forsaken place, which amounts to nothing.”
“I’m sure we could find something to do,” Harry informed him, sitting an arm’s distance from Snape on the sofa. “I mean, like...cards?”
“I do not engage in such useless activities,” Snape rejoined haughtily.
“Like buggering blokes up against walls?” Harry shot back.
Snape made to answer, but the boy abruptly drew his wand and a flash of light shot past Severus’ ear. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” Snape demanded.
“There was a doxy,” Harry explained. “Third one I’ve seen today.”
“Oh. Yes, I had a few in my bedroom last week.”
“There’s another,” Harry nodded. “And one under that chair, I think.”
Snape pointed. “And one just on the end of the curtain rod.”
“Bet you can’t hit it from here,” Harry challenged.
Feeling slightly irked, Snape twitched his wand, knocking the unfortunate bugger off its perch. “Get the one under the chair, if you’re so clever,” he anted.
Harry grinned widely, eyes coming to life, and he reached down, steadying his wand as if playing a game of billiards. When the curse went off, the entire chair was lifted off the ground for a moment before returning to earth with a ‘thunk,’ one arm falling off as it jarred.
“Doesn’t count if you destroy the furniture,” Snape told him imperiously.
“Yeah?” Harry flicked his wand again and sent another doxy toppling from the mantle. “Two points,” he said smugly.
“But you lost one point for destroying that fine antique chair,” Snape baited him. He smiled just a little. “There’s something under the bed in the back bedroom that reaches out and tries to grab your legs when you go past. Try to get rid of that.”
Harry deliberated. “How big?”
“You aren’t afraid, are you?”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Bet you five Galleons I can go right under that bed and come out with its hide, whatever it is,” he said with great relish.
“You mean I get five Galleons and you get ripped to pieces? What’s the catch?”
“Very funny,” Harry replied. “I can take it, whatever it is.”
“Then do so with your wand, and at a distance. I’ll not be blamed for your untimely and undignified demise at the hands of a monster under the bed. What would the rest of the Order say?”
“All right, at a distance. But I can still take it down,” Harry said agreeably.
“And if you lose, what do I get?”
“You want more than the satisfaction of watching me fail?”
“I’ve seen that too often already.”
“What do you want, then?”
Snape could only contain the hungry smile so much. “I get to take you into my room for two hours and do what I will, no questions asked.”
The expression of shocked delight that registered on Harry’s face was rather rewarding in its own right. “Wow. That doesn’t really match up to five Galleons, does it?”
“Up your ante,” Snape advised.
Harry seemed to be thinking furiously. “Um...er...a blow job?” he suggested in an embarrassed voice.
“Bourgeois,” Snape opined, “but easily granted.”
“Great,” Harry said enthusiastically. “I’ll just go dispatch the beast, then, and be right back for my prize.”
“Oh, no. I have to be watching. I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you. I’m coming with.”
Harry’s grin spread even wider. “Right...race you?”
Snape managed to hold onto his dignified sneer for just a moment. “What do I get if I win that?”
“Something less than ‘in your bedroom for two hours doing what you will, no questions asked,’ but leading up to it, I think,” Harry suggested.
“Very well.” Snape adopted a horrified look and pointed a trembling finger.
Instincts honed for just such occasions, Potter spun to see what was creeping up behind him, and Snape elbowed him aside and Apparated. From the top of the landing, he could hear Harry screech about the unfairness.
“That’s cheating, that is!” the boy cried in indignation.
“That’s clever strategizing!” Snape retorted.
Potter popped up beside him, pushing his glasses up his nose and rolling up his sleeves. “Right, you. You just wait until I’ve had that monster.”
“Are you sure I’ll compare?” Snape inquired dryly.
Trying hard not to smile, Harry stomped past, still grumbling, “You just wait.”
Snape smiled at his back. “Not for long, I won’t,” he murmured. Severus watched him go, suddenly struck by the bizarre realization that he enjoyed Potter’s company. Even outside of their one stimulating, if rather rushed bout of sex, Potter was entertaining, engaging, even. What, then, would happen when Potter tired of him, as he surely would?
“You coming?” Harry said over his shoulder, his smile teasing and wicked.
Snape shook himself out of his reverie and turned his mind from improbable things. He just wouldn’t let himself get attached, that was all. He had control over that. “Oh, yes,” he growled, trying to return to playful banter. “I’m coming, and so shall you.”
Harry laughed, throwing his head back, completely unguarded and uninhibited, and Snape sighed a little. He already wanted the boy. He hoped he could keep the sex casual. It was the only way.
Harry had got his blow job, but then Snape had also got his two hours—rather more, actually, Harry realized, looking at the clock. It was gone midnight, and he’d spent a glorious evening being banged every which way possible. The fact that he’d had to fight some sort of bogeyman before he could do so had only served to get his heart racing in preparation.
This was fantastic. He squirmed, resting his head against Snape’s arm, but the man shoved him away. “Cuddling is discouraged.”
“Do you ever let anyone in?” Harry demanded.
“What do you mean, ‘in?’”
“Like...you know. Um. Your heart, I mean.”
“Do I ever let anyone in my heart?” Harry could hear the sneer in the man’s voice. “God almighty. There are hardly throngs of people trying to get in, you know,” he added as an afterthought.
“Yes, I know it’s not Club Med, and that in place of cruises, martinis, and beautiful views, you get served sarcasm in heaps, cynical remarks are tailored in response to your every spoken word, and the only decorations are evil things floating in jars...”
“What’s a Club Med?”
“Never mind. Let’s put it this way; I realize it’s blackened and shrivelled and dreadfully underused, but do you?”
“Shrivelled and underused like your brain? No. Would you please change the subject? The sex is all well and good, but if I have to listen to you drone on about kittens and snuggling and true love and that sort of rot, I’m afraid I’ll have to stuff you in the umbrella stand with the boggart.”
Harry’s smile was sly as he crossed his arms behind his head and looked up at the cobwebs hanging from the light. “I’m going to get in,” he said firmly.
Beside him, Snape gave a slight shudder. “You really are deranged,” he muttered. “You can leave any time now,” he added.
Harry laughed. “And what if I don’t want to?”
“My bed, my rules.”
“All right, I’m going,” Harry said with a great sigh, hopping out of Snape’s bed. “But I’ll be back soon enough, I reckon.”
“And rule number three; the trunk in the attic is off limits. It doesn’t open unless it wants to, and I’m not going to spend a panicked hour or so trying to kick the thing into submission while you suffocate from your own stupidity.”
“Fine,” Harry said evenly. “But if I catch you first, you have to cuddle with me tonight.”
“Potter, forced cuddling does not induce true love. It makes people rather loathe you, I believe.”
“Touching is an integral part of any relationship,” Harry argued earnestly. “It creates a bond, and anyway it’s my choice, and that’s what I want.”
“What about the sex?”
“We both know you’ll give me that in any case,” Harry replied with an impish wink. “Now, you start out in the basement, and I’ll start out in the attic, and we both count to one hundred—no cheating this time, you Slytherin bastard!—and then it’s free for all, every man for himself, etcetera, etcetera. Ready?”
Snape drew himself up to his full height. “I’m ready, you little tease. You’d better watch your back.”
“Sounds promising!” Harry exclaimed, giving Snape one last rascally leer as he left the room.
Snape made his way to the kitchen where he counted to approximately eighty before coming back out. Potter might Apparate, but Snape fancied the boy would be more likely to go room to room. Potter liked the hunt; Snape was more of an ambush sort of player. He’d lurk behind the drawing room door, he decided, and wait until he saw Potter’s feet before attacking.
Trying hard not to rub his hands together or cackle, Snape skulked through the house and got into position. Oh, the anticipation...waiting in the dark, every sense heightened, listening for Potter’s footsteps, hands twitching as they made ready to grab the boy...
Potter had dubbed the game “Sneak-and-Sex,” and they both enjoyed it with no reservation. What else was there to do in this drafty old mausoleum? Besides, it kept them in shape, and sharp as well. Who could ever hope to sneak up on them like this, vigilant and ready for action?
Abruptly, Mrs. Black’s portrait began shouting in her unpleasant voice, and Snape cringed. The clumsy brat should have been more careful than to set her off. Harry knew how disagreeable it was to have her wailing in the background while they tried to consummate things.
A floorboard creaked, and Snape drew in a sharp breath. Yes, yes...a little further, boy... He ran a tongue across his teeth, heat already pooling in his stomach. He felt like a predator, waiting to carry off his struggling prey. His blood thrummed, his breath quickened.
A shadow darkened the doorway, and Snape waited. After Potter took a few tentative steps into the room, Severus pounced. He had the boy flat on his stomach on the sofa, moaning, in mere seconds, his wand knocked from his hand.
It hadn’t been difficult; the boy wanted to lose. Snape nipped his earlobe before caressing it with his tongue. “Sloppy work,” he murmured.
“Snape? My god! I knew we should have given you to the Dementors!” a panicked voice yelled.
Snape fell backward in his rush to get off the man, and suddenly there was a voice in the doorway. “Who’s there? What’s going on?” Harry demanded. “What happened?”
“I’ve been attacked!” Moody sat up, his clothes in disarray, his normal eye wild and his magical one wilder. “Sex—sex fiend!” he accused in his gravelly voice, pointing a condemning finger at Snape. “Pervert! Rapist!”
Harry clapped both hands to his mouth to smother the laughter.
“I was expecting someone else,” Snape said coldly, with as much poise as he could muster.
“It was just a misunderstanding,” Harry choked out, helping Snape up off the floor. “No harm done.”
Mad-eye Moody glared at them both. “Just a misunderstanding? People don’t go round biting other people’s ears for any sane reason!”
“He’s impugning my grip on reality,” Snape observed with affront. “What nerve!”
“Calm down,” Harry pleaded.
“Ha! Wait until the Order hears about this!” Moody exclaimed, stomping from the room. Harry followed, but returned quickly when Snape stayed frozen.
“Are you all right? What do you think they’ll do?”
Severus sighed heavily. “I hardly dare to imagine,” he said glumly. “Upstairs.”
“I’m getting at least one more good fuck in before they come to cart me to St. Mungo’s,” he explained.
Harry gave him a lopsided smile. “All right. But even if they do drag you off, I promise to visit and bring you grapes.”
“Upstairs. Now,” Snape ordered.
Harry saluted with an impertinent grin. “Yes, sir!” he said, and Apparated.
Hands trailed down Harry’s back, gentle, almost worshipful. Harry thought it was strange how Snape could be so—so careful with his actions, and so utterly heartless with his words. Harry supposed it might have something to do with potions; potions didn’t care if you screamed at them, but they sure as hell didn’t tolerate being stirred the wrong way.
Which was good; Snape knew how to stir Harry right, anyhow. Harry moaned softly as the man’s hands were replaced by his mouth. Nothing tender there—he used lips, teeth and tongue with impartiality, sucking the back of Harry’s neck, nipping his shoulder, grazing Harry’s hip with his hot tongue.
Harry clenched his fists and buried his face in Snape’s pillow, choking off a wail as Snape speared him with that incredible probing tongue. He felt the tension of Malfoy and Moody and Grimmauld Place evaporating, to be replaced by the thrilling tension of this—of quivering sexual need. All of Harry’s restlessness and doubts were driven away by the ministrations of Severus’ wet tongue, his groping hands, the heat in Harry’s stomach, the clenching of his muscles, the throbbing weight of his prick trapped in Severus’ hand.
Then Snape mounted him, hard, driving all trivial concerns away completely, leaving Harry nothing but an empty vessel, eager to be filled.
Harry panted, pled, and prayed aloud, sweet blasphemies on the nature of God and Heaven, while Snape laughed softly. Snape hissed things in Harry’s ear that Harry would never want repeated; whispers about the eagerness of Harry’s entrance, the heat of Harry’s body, the obscenity of Harry’s mouth filled with Snape’s name.
And in the end, with both of them on their knees in Snape’s shuddering old brass bed, they prayed together, though Snape’s prayers seemed to be built on Harry alone, and Harry was devoted only to the cock penetrating him.
Harry threw his head back, a spike of pleasure running up his spine. Even at his worst, Snape was still worth this—this magnificent penetration, this glorious moment when flesh and soul came together and had meaning.
Snape thrust deep, and Harry came, one leg slipping almost out of the bed as his foot lost purchase in the sheets while he tried to drive himself harder onto the man’s prick. Snape held him down, but Harry didn’t care so long as he was held, and then Snape came as well, a growl and grimace and a bone-deep tremble before he pushed Harry away.
Panting, the man fell back, reclaiming his pillow. “I’m spent. Go to bed.”
Harry hesitated, then shook his head and complied. He could stay and shout and stomp his foot, but with Severus acting this way, then obviously doing so would make no difference. It was time for a tactical retreat. It was time to strategize. Harry grabbed his robes and scooted out of the room to use the shower. By the time he came out, Snape’s room was dark, and Harry retreated to his bedroom.
Harry stared out the window—or at least at the window, as it was so covered in grime it was nearly opaque. As often as they had sex, Snape always insisted they sleep in separate rooms afterward, and even though Harry was usually exhausted, he found suddenly being sent off to his own cold bed anything but conducive to a good night’s sleep. And what happened if one of them woke up in the middle of the night and wanted a quickie? They’d only have to go to all the trouble of crossing the hall, anyway.
He frowned fiercely. Snape was completely inflexible about trying anything but a casual fuck, and the situation gave Harry misgivings. He wasn’t used to being anyone’s dirty little secret, for starters. Ever since he’d started Hogwarts there were masses of people who’d give their right arms to be seen with him.
Not that he wanted Snape to be like that, exactly, but...as it was the man gave Harry the strong impression that he could take or leave him. That was really insulting. What did Harry have to do to get the man to actually enjoy his company, anyway? Harry was sure he could manage it, if he could only figure out what the man wanted in a prospective partner. Snape had been frustratingly silent on the subject, though.
Harry squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. It was a challenge, then. He wasn’t some hormonally psychotic teen anymore, and he wasn’t a fuck-toy. He was a match for Snape in every possible way, and a good catch, besides.
Harry crawled into bed and pulled the covers up round his ears. In a matter of weeks, Snape would never look at another man—or a woman. Harry was sure he’d have the man wrapped around his little finger... However hard Snape man resisted, Harry wouldn’t give up. He was in for the long haul.
Severus Snape might not realize it, but his heart was under siege.
“Potter, get up.” To further motivate the boy, Snape yanked back the covers and pulled Harry’s feet out of bed.
Harry yawned and gazed at him rather blearily. “What’s wrong?” he asked, feeling round on the nightstand for his glasses while squinting at Snape. He sat up, looking like he was trying hard to be nonchalant despite the love-bites which decorated his torso.
“For some inexplicable reason, Longbottom is downstairs. I can’t get anything out of him other than frightened squeaks and indecipherable stutters. You speak fluent idiot; see what you can decode from his inanities.”
“That isn’t nice,” Harry reproached with a slight smile, wiggling his feet into slippers. “You know you just scare him speechless. What’d you do, swoop down on him and start using big words and calling him names the moment he arrived?”
Snape hesitated. “Of course. It’s what I do. He knew I was here; he should have been prepared for that.”
Harry laughed. “Come on; I’ll run interference and find out what’s going on. You just back me up and try not to look too bloody terrifying, would you?”
“What would you have me do in order to accomplish that?”
“Well, wipe off that permanent scowl, for starters. Try not to loom too much. Refrain from telling him what a waste of sperm and ovum his conception was. You know?”
“I’ll try,” Snape grumbled, following Harry downstairs. “But only in the interest of finding out possibly vital information.”
They found Neville in the drawing room, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, his round face pale. “Hey, Neville,” Harry greeted him cheerfully, and he managed a feeble wave in response.
“What brings you round? I’ll bet it was that adventurous nature of yours, eager to explore the danger-ridden nooks and crannies of Grimmauld Place,” Harry suggested.
Neville smiled crookedly. “Er, Kingsley sent me, actually,” he said in apologetic tones. “There’ve been...rumours...”
Snape drew himself up to his full height, ready to dispute any slurs against his reputation.
Harry turned his head and said sharply, “What did I just say not five minutes ago? No looming,” he rebuked, and Snape subsided a bit, shoulders curling in sulkily. Harry ignored the seriously dangerous glare Snape gave him. “I’m sorry, Neville,” Harry added, explaining, “It’s just his way. What’s this about rumours?”
“Moody said Snape was biting people and inviting unauthorized visitors to the hideout,” Neville explained.
“I never invited any unauthorized visitors,” Snape rejoined immediately. Neville’s eyebrows shot up, and Harry grinned over his shoulder.
“So they said someone needed to stay here and make sure you weren’t—um—you were—er—you got along all right,” Neville finished lamely.
“Longbottom, what would your recourse be even if I were going around ripping people’s throats out with my teeth?” Snape asked icily.
“Ah...well...I’d inform the Order,” Neville suggested.
“Brilliant,” Snape spat. “Longbottom, your very conception was a complete waste of both sperm and ovum.”
Harry’s mouth opened as if to protest this blatant plagiarism, but after a long sideways look at Neville, he seemed to think better of it. Instead he growled, “And I told you not to do that, either. Look, why don’t I deal with this? You go upstairs and put your feet up and pretend we don’t exist, all right?” Harry pointed with his wand.
Snape bristled at the idea of being left out, but he finally turned away with a huff. “Fine. I’ll go sharpen my teeth to points,” he grumbled.
“They suspect we’ve been fighting. They sent him along because they think we need keeping an eye on,” Harry explained.
“But what good is Longbottom? If we were going to rip each other to shreds, what could he possibly do besides stand there and wring his hands?”
“Neville is a brave fighter,” Harry countered. “He followed me into some really dangerous situations in the past.”
“And made them twice as dangerous with his presence, I don’t doubt.”
“It’s possible they didn’t have any other use for him,” Harry admitted.
“That I’ll buy. Shoving him off to be a nuisance to us seems far more likely. How do we get rid of him?”
“Poison him?” Harry suggested, eyes bright.
“Ha.” Snape scowled. “Well, what do you suggest, otherwise?”
With a sigh, Harry shrugged. “This too shall pass,” he said. “We can live with it for a few days. Just ignore him. He’ll get bored and go home.”
“Hmph,” Snape responded, crossing his arms over his chest.
Harry sat at the foot of Snape’s bed, eyes narrowed in thought. He reached over and ran a finger over Snape’s ankle. Severus fought back the shiver that threatened to slip down his spine. “What are you doing, brat?” he grumbled.
“Want a foot massage?” Harry asked casually, pulling one of Snape’s feet into his lap.
“A foot massage. Where I rub your feet,” he explained. Snape watched, mesmerised, as Harry unlaced his shoe and gently worked the shoe off his foot.
“Are you buttering me up for something?” Snape demanded suspiciously. He was sure Potter was playing some sort of game; each move meant something, each action was surely calculated. Snape counted his toes to make certain none were missing.
Harry chuckled. “Sort of.” He ran a gentle thumb over the wiggling digits, eyeing Snape’s foot with an air of calculation. Perhaps it was some sort of twisted chess game, with Snape’s feet as pawns. And if he lost them...upwards Harry would go, making for the heart.
Why, then, did Snape not begrudge the boy trying?
“Well. So long as it’s all above-board manipulation,” Severus huffed, allowing Harry to remove the other shoe and pull both of the man’s feet into his lap.
Harry’s clever hands began rubbing the balls of Severus’ stocking feet, thumbs working into his arches. It felt surprisingly good; Snape had heard of such things before, but never expected them to be offered him, willingly and happily.
And Harry did seem strangely happy, the glimmer of a small smile flashing forth whenever Snape hummed in pleasure. Harry stroked each individual toe through the cloth of Snape’s socks, and tenderly caressed his heels, all with an odd expression of contentment about him.
Snape let out a long sigh, feeling the tension draining from his body.
“Good?” Potter queried with an arched brow.
“Mmm,” Snape agreed lazily, eyes drifting shut. “Good.”
“Can I work my way up a bit now?”
“Hmm?” Severus blinked.
Harry’s grin took on a naughty edge as one hand slid up Snape’s knee, fingers brushing over his thigh. “You know...work my way up,” he repeated.
Snape batted the boy’s hand away. “With Longbottom in the house? What the devil is the matter with you?”
Harry stared. “I didn’t imagine you’d be a prude. It’s just Neville.”
“He’s here to watch us; that’s his function. Do you want him scrambling back to the Order with details such as the peculiar warbling cry you make whenever I hit your prostate just right?”
Harry was beginning to look distinctly unnerved. “I—I guess not. But does that mean no sex?”
Snape breathed out heavily. “Perhaps he’ll only stay a day or so. You were the one who wanted to wait him out. So...we’ll wait him out.”
Harry sighed, pushing Snape’s feet out of his lap. “All right,” he answered, then bent to place a quick kiss to the tip of Snape’s toe. “But I’m only waiting a couple of days, Severus. If he’s not gone by then, I’m coming to get you, like it or not.”
“It’s been two weeks,” Harry hissed.
“You can wait another day,” Snape insisted, glancing uncomfortably at the stairs. “And this is a private matter, not to be discussed at the dinner table. Stop arguing about it. He’ll be down any moment.”
Harry slammed his fist beside his plate. “Severus Snape, you are an unmitigated coward.”
Snape’s lip twisted unpleasantly. “I am not a coward,” he snarled. “I did everything for the Order—sacrificed everything!”
“Which doesn’t mitigate your cowardice; I think you chose your role specifically so that any ‘fighting’ you did would be indirect and rarely confrontational, and you could choose the winning side.” Harry baited.
Snape looked furious. “I gave more than you ever could have; my role was much more demanding, mentally, emotionally and often physically. You never suffered the Cruciatus Curse or the Dark Lord’s Legilimency. You’re all bluster and impetuousness, no forethought, no subtlety, no caution or willingness to suffer, at length, for a cause.”
“Is that what we’re doing right now? Suffering at length? Because I’m suffering, but I doubt it means anything to you at all.”
Snape let his breath out in a long hiss, and Harry noticed that he clutched his fork like he wanted to stab something with it. “Potter, you are clearly unhinged. A minimum amount of inconvenience and sexual frustration is turning you into a wretched little bastard.”
“You’re damn right I’m sexually frustrated, you selfish old bat!” Harry shouted.
Snape made a frantic motion with his hand for Harry to lower his voice, and Harry subsided sullenly.
“You’re damn right I’m sexually frustrated,” he repeated in a softer voice. “I’m used to you throwing me down on this table, yanking my pants down and telling me I’m a nasty boy and I like it, and that’s just breakfast!”
Snape looked away, a red tinge of embarrassment—or perhaps arousal—creeping up past his high collar. “Use your hand,” he recommended in an undertone.
Harry put his head in his hands. “I want you,” he said fiercely. “And no substitution will do!”
Snape put his hands flat on either side of his plate, and Harry noticed for the first time that they were shaking a little. He met Harry’s eyes, something dark and wild and desperate flickering across his face for just a moment. “Perhaps...if you can be quiet about it, for once in your sodding life, instead of howling my name to the heavens...”
Harry was already out of his seat. “I can. I will,” he said breathlessly.
Snape jerked his chair back, as well, nearly knocking it over in his haste.
Neville trotted down the stairs and smiled at the two of them. “Hello,” he said. “What’s for dinner?”
“On the stove,” Snape directed. “If you’ll excuse us...I need a word with Potter.” He turned and swept out of the room, and Harry’s eyes followed eagerly.
“We’ll be down in a couple of hours,” he assured Neville.
Harry smiled. “Well...you know Snape. He uses long words.”
Neville seemed confused, but nodded, and Harry tried not to run from the room after Snape.
Snape let out an unsteady breath, feeling Harry’s fingers dig into his shoulder. Severus had to admit, he’d never had quite such a tactile lover before. Harry liked to touch...he was always letting Snape’s hair stream through his fingers, or twining his legs around Snape’s, or pressing kisses along Snape’s wrists, down the backs of his hands to his fingertips.
It made things...intense.
Snape was unused to much physical contact, and didn’t invite it. It normally made him uncomfortable. With Harry, Snape often ended up pushing him away, demanding his own space, wrapping it around him like armour, but sometimes, he suffered it in silence.
Occasionally, he suffered it gladly.
Potter’s body shifted beneath him, muscles straining as Severus held him down. Potter’s teeth were digging into his lower lip as he struggled not to cry out, his cheeks flushed. His fringe bounced with every thrust, and a needy whimper forced its way past his teeth.
“No noise,” Snape reminded him.
Harry nodded hard. Oh, but he did everything hard, Snape thought with admiration. He lived hard, he fucked hard, he stormed through life like a diminutive dark haired hurricane.
“Please,” Harry grunted, and Snape leaned down, kissed him deeply, and muffled his ejaculations the best he could. Harry went rigid as he came.
Harry’s legs wound round him, his hands tangled in Snape’s hair. Severus pulled away. Harry lie there, spent and sweaty, his eyes half-shut, his body limp, chest still heaving.
He favoured Severus with a sleepy smile, and he lifted one hand weakly. Snape imagined Harry’s hand on a chess piece, his breathy murmur saying Checkmate, but instead he merely reached up to brush a lock of Severus’ hair behind his ear. “That was marvellous,” Harry murmured. “You were marvellous.”
He probably wasn’t playing games, not in this post-coital contentment. He was just...being himself, which was terrifying enough. Potter was laid bare, exposed and spread on Severus’ bed, but Snape was the vulnerable one. He rested his forehead against Harry’s with a heavy sigh. “So were you.”
“I win again!” Harry exclaimed triumphantly, tossing his cards down.
Neville sighed. “You always win,” he said wistfully.
“Yeah, you better be grateful for that,” Harry replied, scooping up the deck. “Want to play again?”
“I don’t know...it honestly isn’t all that exciting after the fiftieth game,” Neville said. “I’m kind of getting bored.”
“Aw, come on! Snape never plays cards with me. Well, he did once, but he cheated and I caught him at it, and that led to—er, never mind. But we’ve never played again. He says cards are even more contentious than politics—and I told him that’s only true when he’s cheating, but...” Harry trailed off, shrugging.
“Oh! Look, an owl,” Neville said with evident relief. Harry recognized Kingsley’s hawk owl, Ajax, circling the table a few times before dropping a letter in front of Neville. Neville promptly ripped it open and read the missive to himself. “Uh, looks like I’m needed elsewhere,” he said. “Sorry about that.”
“That’s fine,” Harry said. “We can play any old time. Keep us informed, eh?”
Neville grinned brightly, following the owl back to the Floo. “Sure, Harry. You just take care. Hang in there, and try not to let Snape push you around too much.”
Harry gave him a lazy salute and got up and began clearing the table. He suddenly had a sensation of being watched and looked up to find Snape in the doorway.
“Was that Longbottom? Where does he think he’s off to? Doesn’t he know I’m going to invite a dozen people over for dentally inclined orgies if he turns his back?”
Harry laughed. “Give him a break. He doesn’t enjoy being here any more than we enjoy having him here. He misses his garden, for one thing. Apparently it’s really impressive, but it needs a lot of care.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. I always said the boy was the next best thing to compost.”
Harry gave him an arch look. “You know, now that we have the place to ourselves for a bit, you could pay up.”
Snape’s eyebrows lowered. “Pay up? Pay up? What rubbish are you spouting now? I don’t owe you anything.”
“Oh, that’s not true. You lost our last little game. I found you before you found me, and you owe me.”
The man appeared to think it over. “Severus Snape does not cuddle,” he announced haughtily.
“Severus Snape is loony enough to speak of himself in third person, anyway,” Harry pointed out. “And I won, and you’d better give me what I want.”
After a long sigh, Snape held out his hand to Harry. “Very well, my stunted stud. Let’s go upstairs and relieve some tension. It would be a mercy to have you let it all out for once, instead of making smothered hissing noises that seem to indicate imminent implosion.”
Harry snuck downstairs. “Nope; he’s still not back. Come on.”
“I don’t want to! Why does it have to be downstairs, anyway?”
Harry turned on the man. “I don’t know! It’s just the picture I have in my head,” he explained. “Other people, when they’re shagging madly and enjoying it, often hang about the house naked. I’ve seen movies, you know. They do!”
Snape couldn’t argue with the bit about the movies, since he didn’t know what the devil they were, but he did give the whole thing his best argument. “Other people don’t have idiots like Longbottom dropping in without warning. Easily startled idiots. Idiots who report back to the Order.”
“To hell with the Order,” Harry proclaimed, yanking Snape out of the bedroom and leading him down the hall. “Do you think I’m going to live the rest of my life based on what the Order wants?”
“I don’t know. Are you planning on spending the rest of your life at a nudist colony? Because it isn’t just the Order, you know; the whole of decent society may have some objection to your flopping your bits all over the place in public.”
“It isn’t public. I’m indoors! I’m in Grimmauld Place!”
“That’s another good argument against it!” Snape said, although Harry had already led him to the drawing room and was pushing him down on the couch. “Who knows what kind of evil devices and unnatural creatures are just waiting for a chance to snip something off?”
Harry laughed, clambering on top of the man despite his objections and dire warnings. “Ah, but you forget the one argument that overrides all your arguments!”
Harry crawled up Severus’ body, snuggling his chin against Severus’ chest. “I’m Harry Potter.”
“That’s ruining the game,” Snape protested. “That isn’t how it’s supposed to work. I’m supposed to accuse you of thinking that way, and you’re supposed to deny it. Overruling me by saying you’re Harry Potter is suspiciously high handed of you.”
“I think that’s enough on the subject of my staggering arrogance for one day,” Harry huffed. He reached over to the nearby table and picked up his latest magazine. “Oh, look. It’s got a spread of the top ten players in the sport right now.”
“You could have been one of them,” Snape observed, just to see what Harry said.
“Nah...well, maybe. It would have been a lot of work, though, and I couldn’t spare the time for training. Kind of a pity; these blokes are fit.”
Snape glanced down at the glossy pages. “They are at that,” he admitted. “Look at the shoulders on that one.”
“Mmm,” Harry hummed in agreement. “Shame he’s married.”
“I don’t know about that,” Snape said, shifting a little. The tangle of arms and legs was less uncomfortable than he’d expected, but Potter was still putting his leg to sleep. “I wasn’t planning on taking him home to meet my mother.”
“Do you have one?”
“Did you think I was hatched? I did, but she’s dead. Oh, isn’t this the one you like so much? The Irish player?”
Harry craned his neck. “Oh, yeah. That’s Kearney. You know, I actually met him after a game once and—well—we—you know. It was very good. Talk about a notch on the old Potter broomstick,” he laughed.
Snape felt his blood run cold. And was that what he was, as well? “Really?” he said, keeping his voice even. “What on earth happened? You’re not seeing each other still?”
“No. Well, I haven’t got a mother to bring blokes home to, either, so one night is usually as much as I can deal with. He did, er, owl after that...he was kind of clingy, actually. Not what I was expecting. I mean, I wanted a ride on his broom, not happily ever after. I mean—uh—it was all a bit much. And I had Voldemort to deal with, still. But he’s nice to look at,” Harry added generously.
Snape’s smile was sour, although Potter couldn’t see it. So that was Potter’s way, was it? Fuck and fly. He was just the type. Then why was he insisting on all this cuddling nonsense with Snape? Because you keep telling him no. You’re a challenge. And the moment he actually thinks you’re interested in more than a fuck, he’ll become uninterested in a hurry. And of course they were stuck together, as well. Potter had a limited number of sexual resources at Grimmauld Place. “You lost your infatuation for him rather quickly,” Snape pointed out.
“Well, you never met him in person,” Harry replied.
Snape shoved the boy off of him and got up.
“Wait! Where are you going? We’d hardly started!”
You just want to end it on your terms, Snape thought nastily. “Upstairs,” he told Potter in a curt voice. “Longbottom will be back soon, I’m sure. I’m too kind-hearted and compassionate to traumatize him further.”
“Yeah, but...” Harry followed. “Wait for me! If we have to do it upstairs, it’s fine, but I—”
“We are doing nothing, Potter,” Snape interrupted. He slipped into his room and shut the door firmly behind him.
“Don’t be like that,” Harry pleaded. “Kearney didn’t mean anything to me,” he added hopefully.
Snape didn’t say anything. He waited until the hall had been silent a long time before creeping out to take his bath and wash away any filth Potter had left behind. He was well aware that Kearney meant nothing to Potter. Neither did anyone else, he was sure.
Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted, he tried to tell himself. And anyway, at least I ended it on my terms.
Neville still hadn’t returned by the next morning, giving Harry yet another worry to add to the growing list. Severus was distinctly chilly to him at breakfast, no matter how many times Harry tried to insist that he and Kearney wouldn’t have lasted. He should have known better than to talk about an ex-boyfriend. After all, how would he like it if Snape had gone on about his old conquests?
Come to think of it, Harry wasn’t sure he had any. Who might they have been? Lucius Malfoy? No, Lucius wanted him dead. But then again, a lover spurned might just feel that way. Maybe he felt Severus betrayed him. Harry tried to picture the two of them, younger, in bed together, Snape’s long finger tracing Lucius’ smirk...that was kind of hot, actually...
“Potter. Stop grinning into your oatmeal like some sort of imbecile and get the dishes done,” Snape grunted.
“All right, all right,” Harry said, pushing his chair back.
“I swear, you’re utterly helpless without having to be told to do every little thing. It’s a wonder you can accomplish simple things like respiration without guidance. You’re such an exasperatingly torpid twit. I never had such problems with Draco.”
Harry’s head snapped up at this observation. Draco? That was right...Snape and Draco had been on the lam together for a while. For some reason, the idea of the two of them having to share a bed was a lot more distressing than the idea of Lucius was. He imagined Draco in Severus’ bed, gazing up at him with frank sensuality, pulling Snape forward with nothing but a crook of his finger... Harry’s insides seemed to twist unhappily at this.
But that was ridiculous. Snape would never have slept with a student. Of course, Draco wasn’t his student; he was an ex-student, just like Harry. And come to think of it, that would certainly make Lucius angry enough to kill.
Harry couldn’t stand the uncertainty; he opened his mouth to ask, but a thump from the drawing room interrupted him. “Good news!” Neville’s cheerful voice rang out. “They caught him! They caught Malfoy!”
He was suddenly in the doorway, wide face split by a smile. Harry could feel the joy rising up inside, a crescendo of relief and exhilaration...and then he met Snape’s eyes. Snape, who had also perked up, blinked a little, his expression reverting to its typical scowl. “Well. That’s just wonderful,” he said, sounding as though he had a mouthful of acid. “Does that mean we can leave?” Snape asked expectantly, turning to Neville.
Neville nodded. “They don’t think Pettigrew’s enough of a danger to warrant keeping you here. You can go anytime you like.”
“Now would be the preference,” Snape said, and was out of the room, robes snapping, just like that.
Harry opened and shut his mouth. Now? Just now? It was all over? But it was so fast! “Great news, Neville,” Harry said, trying not to sound just a little panicked. “I need to go pack.”
“You want any help?”
“No! No, I’m great. Look, we’ll get together and celebrate later, right? I’ve just...I’ve just got to go and...”
“Sure, Harry,” Neville’s puzzled voice followed him up the stairs, which he took two at a time.
Snape’s room was already nearly bare of his things, and Harry’s stomach clenched. He had only a few minutes to make his case. “When will I see you again?” he blurted. Damn. He sounded as desperate and pathetic as Kearney. He hadn’t meant to do that.
“You won’t.” Snape’s voice brooked no argument and spared no feelings.
“Why not? I thought we were really getting on well,” Harry said in a small voice.
“So? We’re returning to the real world, in case you hadn’t noticed. It’s over.”
Snape turned, glaring. “Because I said so. I’m ending it. On my terms,” he added in a strangely fierce voice, his back ramrod straight, his chin high.
“You mean you’re ending it because I might decide to end it myself someday? That’s crazy.”
“It’s perfectly reasonable, especially under the circumstances. You’re just the sort who wants nothing more than a good time; it should please you.”
“What evidence do you have of that?” Harry demanded. “I was the one who wanted more than sex—at every turn! I was the one who wanted to try stuff like cuddling!”
Snape turned his back. “Perhaps. And then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the main point of having a conquest is other people knowing you’ve made a conquest, and that’s when you get bored. Really, Potter; you just aren’t worth the effort.”
Harry had taken a deep breath to let loose a lot of solid reasoning, but this last knocked the breath from him. “I’m not worth it? I’m not worth it? You—you malicious old bastard! You’re the one who isn’t worth it! You’re the one who never tries—you’re too afraid!”
“Oh, that’s right, I’m the coward,” Snape spat. “I’d nearly forgotten.”
“You are,” Harry whispered. “You just take the easy way out, every time. The only reason you want to end things on your terms is so you can make sure they never begin. You never fight for anything. Nothing’s worth it to you. You’re going to end up miserable and alone because you won’t let anyone in, Snape. And you know what? That’s not my deficiency. That’s yours.”
Harry turned and ran down the stairs before Snape could answer. He might not get anything out of it but the last word, but last words counted for something to Snape.
He ran into Neville on the landing and hastily wiped his eyes. “Um, I’m going to go out and get a drink,” he said. “I’ve just...been cooped up too long.”
Neville stared. “Are you all right? What about your things?”
“I’ll come back tonight after—after he’s gone,” Harry said viciously. “I just can’t stand to be stuck here with him for one more minute.” He pushed past Neville.
“Are you sure you’ll be all right?” Neville called out anxiously.
“I’m fine,” Harry grated. “Stop fussing. I’ll be back tonight,” he promised.
Snape unpacked the last of his things and banished his luggage with a sigh. It had taken him most of the day to get around to it, but he really didn’t want to be reminded of Potter. He’d spent the bulk of the day back in his labs, fiddling around and trying to distract himself by deciding which ridiculously complicated potion he’d start on next.
Eventually, he’d given up and gone upstairs to put everything away. He hated unfinished business. Then he wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Spinner’s End was much more comfortable than Grimmauld Place; there were no suspicious fungi except the ones in jars stored in his lab, the furniture was all solid and dependable, and there was no one waiting to leap out at him...
...and demand copious bouts of sexual intercourse, he realized ruefully.
Perhaps he should have given Potter the benefit of the doubt. After all, they’d been having sex for weeks, with no sign of the brat abruptly losing interest. And Potter did seem hell-bent on making more of it all than just your usual sexual tryst. He wanted to cuddle. He wanted to talk. He appeared interested in Snape, his viewpoint, and his life.
Severus tried to tell himself that it wouldn’t have lasted any length of time outside of their captivity; surely the horror of Potter’s friends and admirers would have turned his head... Except that it had never made a whit of difference to Potter before. Harry was fiercely independent, and would argue with a close friend or colleague as quickly as he would an enemy. It was actually one of the traits Snape liked and respected.
Oh, hell. He owed Potter an apology, didn’t he? He’d become paranoid and let his worries overpower his common sense. If Potter had really wanted to give him the boot, he wouldn’t have made a secret of it.
He supposed he ought to go and track the ruddy beast down and let him know that, while Harry certainly had many negative characteristics that drove Snape quite round the bend, Snape was inclined to admit being a playboy wasn’t one of them. He put on his cape and dithered over the buttons for a few moments. Admissions of this sort really weren’t his thing. And chasing the boy down would look bad. Wouldn’t he seem weak? Perhaps it would be better to wait for Potter to come to him...
A knock sounded on the door, and Severus sighed with a mixture of relief and apprehension. It was just as well to get it over with, but he hadn’t even girded his loins properly. All the same, he took off his cape, smoothed his robes and went to answer the door.
“What the deuce are you doing here?” He was genuinely perplexed. Of all his students, few would have the balls to turn up on his doorstep, and he never would have listed Longbottom among the number. Still, there he was, bright faced and terrified.
“Have—have you seen Harry?”
“No. Why? What’s gone wrong now?”
Longbottom looked at his feet, his face crinkled in worry. “We didn’t catch Malfoy. We caught Pettigrew.”
“I would have thought even a complete idiot like yourself would be able to tell the difference with nothing more than a cursory examination,” Snape told him dryly.
“He was polyjuiced. It didn’t wear off until just a couple of hours ago. We tried to contact you, but your Floo was blocked, so they sent me over.”
“I had it taken off the network years ago. Lucius is still loose?”
Longbottom nodded. “And Harry never came back.”
“What do you mean?”
“He...seemed upset. He said he was going out for a drink, but that he’d be back for his things, only...he never came back.”
Snape swallowed, trying to ignore a sinking feeling of dread. “Does the rest of the Order know?”
“Yes. They were sure they’d be able to find him quickly, that he was just off celebrating, but he hasn’t turned up, so now everyone’s out looking.”
“That’s stupid,” Snape remarked. “Wasting time when you know he’s already been captured.”
“But we don’t know he’s been captured,” Longbottom protested, though his voice was apologetic. “We only suspect. I thought he might be here with you...”
Snape couldn’t meet his eyes. “Why would you think that?”
“Er...well...I’m not deaf, and I know you think I’m a complete idiot, but I’m not...a complete idiot,” Neville responded. “Having great rows or avoiding each other for days, then disappearing into your room for hours? Calling each other names and always snapping to attention whenever the other walked in the room? And that peculiar warbling cry he makes... Don’t worry; I’m not going to tell anyone. But I really had hoped you’d seen him.”
“I haven’t. Not since leaving Grimmauld Place.” Snape let out a long breath. “Take me to Kingsley and then get the others together. We’re going about this the wrong way.”
Longbottom seemed relieved that someone else was taking charge. “Yes, sir.”
Harry’s head lolled to the side. Everything seemed to be swaying a bit. And yet he wasn’t moving; his arms and legs were still. And kind of paralysed, now that he noticed. How odd.
“Nnngh,” he managed.
“Don’t struggle,” a cold voice advised, and Harry realized he was being carried. He tried to look up at his captor, but everything seemed rather swimmy.
Was it Malfoy? It had to be Malfoy. But the Order had caught him, hadn’t they? How had he got away? How had he got his hands on Harry?
Try as he might, Harry couldn’t remember running into the man. All he could recall was visiting the pub, having a few beers and wondering how things had gone wrong. Snape had seemed so exciting at first—so different from the blokes he was used to being with. And in the beginning, he’d doubted he could get the man to take him seriously, but it was such a lot of fun to try. Except in the end, he’d really thought he’d got in. He’d been sure Snape was seeing him in a new light, and suddenly a lot of things that had been impossible were...well, not so outlandish. Curling up with Snape on the couch, flagrantly nude and totally comfortable with one another, Harry had got the crazy feeling that it could always be that way.
He really was crazy to have thought it could all work out with someone like Snape. Snape didn’t have actual feelings. The man was just a bundle of neuroses and dislikes and drives, with no tolerance for stupid things like cuddling on sofas. And no loyalty. How had Harry forgotten what Snape had done to Dumbledore? Sure, supposedly it was all for the good of the Order, but it was really just another way for Snape to hide, wasn’t it? He wasn’t true to anyone but himself, and he’d never found a cause worth fighting for...
“We’ll be there soon,” Malfoy’s voice assured, dragging Harry’s sluggish, twisty thoughts back to his current situation.
He could remember going to the pub, and brooding about Snape, and drinking...he didn’t really have enough that he should feel like this, though.
“Whrrr,” he managed to gurgle, which was as close as he could come to demanding to know where they were going.
Malfoy laughed softly. “Somewhere safe,” he said in smooth, dulcet tones of smug promise. “Somewhere safe.”
By the time Snape arrived back at Grimmauld Place, the rest of the Order had gathered. Apparently Kingsley had realized they had a problem, and was trying to take the situation in hand. Everyone was gathered around the table, with Kingsley at one end, lecturing them.
“Now that we know where he is, we go in and take him out,” Kingsley was saying, and Snape had the feeling that out had more than one meaning.
“I’ll take over from here,” Snape announced, striding to the front and displacing Shacklebolt. Everyone looked surprised.
“Snape, I don’t think—” Kingsley began.
“I know, and that’s the problem. Malfoy has had several hours alone with Harry because you refused to accept, immediately, that you had a crisis. Now you’re talking about trying to kill the man. I’m astounded that Potter isn’t already dead, merely from the overwhelming waves of stupidity pouring out of this room.”
Kingsley frowned. “We haven’t done anything yet.”
“That’s part of the problem. The other part is that the only possible action you’ve come up with is even worse than doing nothing. Kill Malfoy? Why?”
Ron Weasley raised his hand. “Um, because he captured Harry and is probably going to torture him?” he suggested angrily.
“Rubbish. Malfoy’s not the sort. If it had been Bellatrix or Fenrir or one of the others, I’d share your concern. But Malfoy isn’t a sadist, nor is he insane. At worst, he’s a committee.”
Weasley looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“He has goals, probably several of them. That’s why he did this. Some of them may even conflict with one another. Any guesses as to what they are?”
Granger raised her hand, the overly well-mannered chit. “We know he wants Draco set loose.”
“No, we know for certain. It was in his note.”
She gestured to the table, where a short letter was graced with Malfoy’s distinctive handwriting. I’ve got Potter. Release my son, and Potter will be released as well. Send correspondence via house elf to the Room of Requirement. It wasn’t signed, but Snape could easily tell who had written it, even discounting the actual words. The characters were somehow smug, particularly the ‘q.’ How a ‘q’ could be smug, Severus didn’t know, but by Merlin, this was a smug ‘q.’
“Ah. And no threats to harm Potter, you’ll notice, though I imagine he shouldn’t need to spell it out.”
“We’ve got to go in there and show him he can’t do that to Harry!” Weasley exclaimed, bringing a fist down on the table for emphasis.
“We’ll do just that,” Kingsley promised.
“Don’t be foolish. I doubt Malfoy will hurt Potter, though Potter will almost certainly make him want to do so. It’s not practical to storm the castle, especially not Hogwarts.”
“We wouldn’t be storming Hogwarts, Severus,” McGonagall reminded him. “And the castle is on our side.”
“And do you know a way into the Room of Requirement? Especially when it’s being used by someone else?”
She looked uncertain, and the other faces in the room mirrored the emotion. “I don’t think you can get into the room when someone else is using it,” Granger said hesitantly. “Not if it’s just one person, and he’s blocking you. But Harry’s in there, and surely he’ll want out?”
Snape thought this over. “Harry probably isn’t in a position to want anything. He may well be in a drug-induced sleep. That’s what I’d do.”
“You’re a conniving old double dealer,” one of the Weasley twins pointed out, his voice full of resentment.
Snape smiled at him grimly. “So is Lucius. Aren’t you lucky there are two of us?”
Lucius practically dropped him, but at least whatever he landed on was soft. Harry took a moment to swallow his heart, which had leapt into his throat during the fall, and tried to get his bearings. Everything was fuzzy around the edges, and it made it so difficult to process things correctly.
Malfoy moved away, and Harry finally got a look at his face—not that it helped. Harry could just about imagine the Aurors asking, “Did you get a look at the man who kidnapped you? Would you recognize him if you saw him again? Is this the man who did it?” and Harry would shake his head sadly and say, “That sort of looks like him, but I’m afraid the man who did it had a much blurrier face.”
“Feeling all right, are we?” Malfoy asked with forceful cheer.
Harry had rarely felt worse. His head pounded, and his limbs refused to move whatever he did. His train of thought also seemed to be derailed, or at least seriously off track. He moaned pitifully, and Malfoy offered him an icy smile.
“Good. I’m not sure how long it will be until you need a second dose, so do let me know if you get to feeling ambitious enough to try to move, would you? For now, you can just stay there and contemplate the mysteries of the universe.”
Harry rolled his eyes, trying to take in the room. His attention caught on a big, boxy sort of thing, and he tried to think where he’d seen it before. “Gngh,” he grunted.
Lucius followed his gaze. “The Vanishing Cabinet, you mean? Don’t worry about that; I’ve disabled it for now,” he told Harry.
The Vanishing Cabinet. Draco had used that to get into Hogwarts. Harry felt a flood of terror; they were in Hogwarts! What if Malfoy attacked the students? And Harry was helpless—he couldn’t move.
“Don’t get upset,” Lucius advised, turning his back and going to a small desk that had suddenly come into existence. “You’ll just be here until my demands are met, and then you’ll be free to go back to your freewheeling, happy life of waving from parades. Unless my demands aren’t met, of course. Then you won’t be leaving at all,” the man added as an afterthought.
Harry strained, trying to get to his feet, but his limbs were leaden, and he seemed to have no control over them.
What could he do? And who would stop Malfoy if he couldn’t? Ron and Hermione would probably do their best, but Malfoy was more than a match for them. And what about the Order? Harry was sure they cared, but probably not as much as they would have when Voldemort was a threat. Now Harry’s job was done. He wasn’t as important to them, was he? And he was least important to Snape, who would probably wash his hands of the whole thing and insist Harry had it coming...
Harry shut his eyes, slumping back. No one was going to rescue him; no one could. If life had taught him anything, it was that you had to take care of yourself. He just had to figure out how to do that while immobilized and helpless...
Snape pored over every piece of paper brought to him. Weasley had had that map of Potter’s; it was affixed to the wall now, though it didn’t show Malfoy and Potter in the Room of Requirement. Potter could be dead, for all Snape knew. He had to trust Malfoy was not that stupid. And Lucius was probably not physically abusing the boy. He wasn’t the sort to strike someone with a fist, anyway. Of course, Malfoy was perfectly capable of casting any number of nasty spells that wouldn’t dirty his hands, but Snape doubted he was doing so.
Tapping his quill to the piece of parchment in front of him, Snape frowned. He’d done up a list of possible ways of breaching the Room of Requirement, everything from smoke to fireballs, each as unlikely to work as the next.
The room wasn’t exactly a new addition to Hogwarts, but it hadn’t been common knowledge until fairly recently. As far as Snape knew, there was no entering the room if the person already inside didn’t want you there.
Lucius was intelligent and, for a Death Eater, quite rational, but there was a good chance he’d kill the boy and himself rather than return to Azkaban. And if he thought his demands wouldn’t be met, he’d be far less likely to release Potter unharmed.
How should he answer Malfoy’s note? Should he string the man along and try to buy Potter time? Should he try something cunning—a message to the boy, perhaps, or a sly spell which disabled whomever opened the missive? No, that would be dangerous. He was playing with Potter’s life.
Severus leaned back in his chair, tapping his fingertips together. He tried to suppress the hot indignation bubbling up inside. Potter was his, blast it, and Malfoy wouldn’t try anything if he knew what was good for him. Snape spent a few moments’ reflection on what he’d do to the man when he got the chance; turn him into a sack of oats and feed him to one of Hagrid’s repugnant beasts? Force a poison down his throat—one that gelatinised the innards? Give him over to the Weasley twins and their inventive, though nasty, little minds?
He rubbed the bridge of his nose slightly. This wasn’t getting Harry back.
Well, he’d start with an answer. That might buy a little time, and anyway...it was always important to keep an open dialogue. Snape flicked a tongue briefly over the tip of his quill, thinking deeply. What did he wish to say to Malfoy...?
Harry woke to the sound of Malfoy humming softly. It was somehow creepy; Lucius’ tone was so gentle, so at odds with kidnapping and possible murder...
“How are we feeling?” the man inquired. “Shall we switch to the other potion? I do want you awake enough to communicate, should I need to prove to them you’re still alive.”
Harry blinked a little. The words seemed to be coming from far away, distorted, like they’d bounced around in an echoing tunnel before reaching his ears. He was tired and thirsty, and wanted nothing more than a drink and a long nap. He tried to sit up and focus on the man, but his body wouldn’t cooperate.
There was a popping noise that startled Harry, and suddenly there was a house elf in the middle of the room. “Dobby is here, Harry Potter!” he said defiantly. “Dobby is making sure you is all right!”
What Harry wouldn’t give to be able to massage his temples. “Harry is...I’m okay, Dobby,” he said. A glass of water appeared near his head, and he blinked at it in bemusement. “How did that happen?”
“You is wanting a glass of water,” Dobby advised. More loudly he added, “But what you is really wanting is—ouch!” Dobby broke off as Lucius kicked at him, just grazing him.
“You forget whom you serve,” the man said coldly. “Have you a message for me?”
“...Yes,” Dobby said grudgingly. He held up an envelope and let it hang in the air. “Dobby is checking back on Harry Potter later,” he warned, and vanished.
Lucius opened the envelope. “Dear Malfoy,” he read aloud, “Take your demands and shove them up your pretentious arse...how very rude,” he said, arching his brow. “Love, Severus. The man is getting cheeky in his old age. I do hope I’m not going to have to send him one of your ears before he begins to respect me. Still, we have time.” He settled back into his chair and began to compose another note. “Plenty of time,” he muttered.
Severus...Severus had written back to Malfoy. What did that mean? Had Malfoy demanded a ransom from Severus? Had Severus denied it because he didn’t care about Harry? Harry began to feel dizzy again, and rested his head. At least Severus would know what happened to him. Harry swallowed hard, as Malfoy began humming quietly again. Harry was starting to doubt he’d get out of this one alive, and moreover, considering Severus’ response to Malfoy, he was beginning to wonder if he should even bother trying.
Feeling defeated and unwanted, Harry shut his eyes, drifting away on a shimmering potion once more.
Snape reread the note Lucius had forwarded to him. It was short and to the point, which was something of a relief. At least the man wasn’t grandstanding with interminable speeches about how they would all pay, and in what ways the debt would be exacted, or droning on about how Potter had ruined everything, or bragging about his brilliance and so forth. Instead he’d merely written My son. Everything in my vault transferred to a neutral bank in Europe or South America. Two of the latest Nimbus version broomsticks, not tampered with. Forty-eight hours head start. You have one day, and the clock is ticking, Severus.
Severus looked up. He’d commandeered Albus’—now Minerva’s—office and thrown everyone out so he could mull the situation over, but he knew the restless masses would not wait forever. “What is it, Longbottom?”
“I thought—um—maybe you should tell Ron to quit hurling hexes at the wall. Not that it’s so very dangerous to Harry, but I don’t think they have any hope of working and the last Impedimenta bounced off and hit him in the head. Hermione tried reasoning with him, but he’s not in a very reasonable sort of mood, if you know what I mean.”
Snape sighed. “And what do you expect me to do about it?”
“Tell him to stop on pain of death?” Neville suggested. “In that tone of voice you get that could curdle stone? It’s only that the rest of us are trying to work out what to do, and it’s very difficult to concentrate with him cursing like that...”
Snape stood. “Very well. I’m beginning to feel a bit frustrated myself. I suppose the siege is on, and we’ll just start with Plan A and go from there. Did you bring Harry’s things, like I asked you?”
“His chest is just outside the door.”
“Lug it in, then,” Severus said, gesturing. Neville did so, staring at Snape as the man set his wand on the desk and said, “Engorgio.” Then he opened Harry’s chest, rummaging round inside.
“What are you doing?” Neville asked, plainly puzzled.
“Psychological warfare,” Snape muttered. “We have no idea whether Lucius is able to see us from the other side of the wall, but my bet would be that since he’d require it...well. At any rate, I mean to show what I’m fighting for. As soon as I can decide what I’m fighting for,” he added speculatively. “Certainly not old Quidditch magazines. Why does he keep them? One of his sweaters? Symbolic, yes, but it lacks a certain something...” Snape’s eyes gleamed. “There,” he breathed. “Yes. I was wrong to accuse him of being a playboy. He doesn’t let just anyone into these,” Snape said softly.
“And...er...by letting Malfoy know you’ve been—um—intimate with Harry is going to...ah...make him realize the kind of enemy he’s got now?” Neville suggested.
Snape looked up sharply. “Something like that,” he acknowledged. He fastened Harry’s underpants to the end of the stick and hoisted it. “Come along,” he said.
“If you say so,” Neville said dubiously. “What’s Plan A, anyhow?”
Snape glanced at Longbottom over his shoulder. “Corrosive acid,” he replied airily.
Lucius swivelled back and forth in his chair, looking amused. “Corrosive acid; exactly what I’d expect of our esteemed Potions Master, but no, I’m afraid that won’t work...”
Harry blinked a little. In the past several hours, Lucius had switched from a red potion to a blue potion, forcing them down Harry’s gullet. The blue potion was better, in Harry’s opinion. He still had little control of his body—it felt like he’d been dropped into a vat of some thick mud—but his mind was a bit more clear and his tongue no longer felt cemented to the roof of his mouth.
“Severus?” he said, his voice raspy.
“The one and only. Look at him; as though adding more would help. He should know better. I still don’t quite fathom the underpants, though. I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me with those.”
Harry squinted. The wall was transparent, though obviously not to the people on the other side. Severus was pacing back and forth, scowling in frustration while Neville and Ron poured a smoking substance on the wall. Hermione and McGonagall were nearby, talking with Kingsley, and standing up against the opposite wall was some sort of flagpole with...
“Those are my underpants,” Harry noted in surprise.
Lucius glanced at him briefly. “That hardly explains things,” he said, mystified. “I really think the dear man’s gone around the bend. Which is fine; it affords some entertainment, at any rate. We may be here rather a while before they begin to take me seriously.” He smiled a little.
Staring at the underpants, Harry began to smile, too, as he worked out what it all meant.
“What are you grinning about, you doped-up lunatic?” Lucius inquired curiously.
Harry couldn’t seem to stop smiling. “He’s not trying to tell you anything,” Harry told him. But the message he’s sending me is coming through loud and clear.
Severus would come for him soon. He was sure of it.
Harry supposed he still ought to try to get loose. It’d be damned bad form to stop being a hero and start being a victim this far along in his life.
All the same, he was looking forward to seeing what Severus cooked up.
“Plan B,” Severus said with a sigh. He supposed he should stop pacing like a caged animal; if walking back and forth and imagining what he needed so badly was going to have any effect, the room would be open by now, with Potter at his feet, trussed up and naked. He turned his attention away from the wall, glaring down at the mess on the floor. It was beginning to eat through the mortar. “And clean up this rot,” he added.
“Who, me?” Neville looked worried.
“A bit of free advice, Longbottom; if you act as though the order is aimed specifically at you, so will others. If you play deaf, like Weasley, some other chump, such as yourself, will be sure to assume it’s for them. Understood?”
“I don’t think trying to escape all personal responsibility is a very good life plan,” Neville objected.
“Nonsense. It’s at least as valid as assuming personal responsibility for everything,” Snape pointed out. “And where are you going, Weasley? I told you to clean up that acid.”
Weasley gaped. “But you were talking to Neville,” he argued.
“Like hell I was. I need Longbottom for Plan B. You’re extraneous; you clean it up. Come along, Longbottom.”
“Where are we going?” Neville trotted along behind him like an obedient dog.
“Oh. You think some sort of magical creeping plant with vines will be able to work through the mortar?”
Snape stopped and looked at him, surprised. “You don’t?”
“Not in any practical time frame,” Neville contended. “There are a few strong enough to do it, but it could take months. And I don’t think there are any extracts that would be more effective than the corrosive acid.” Snape noticed the distinct lack of ‘ums,’ ‘ers,’ and ‘uhs,’ in Longbottom’s speech as he talked about his favourite subject.
“Damn and blast. Plan C, then?”
“What’s Plan C?”
“Do I have to think of everything myself?” He headed back to the hallway, where Weasley was currently trying to sop up the potion in a rag, watching it disintegrate in his hand.
“Um. What if we tricked Malfoy into wanting to see out, like, you know, wanting a window? And then we could break the window,” Longbottom suggested.
“No good. I’m fairly certain he can already see out.”
“Well...you’re the self-appointed leader,” Neville pointed out. “You think up a good Plan C,” he challenged.
Severus thought long and hard. What could he possibly use against Malfoy? Could he...send the Boggart in with a house elf? No, the house elf wouldn’t be able to control it, and it would probably end up as clothing. And even if it did get in, it had a good chance of becoming a Dementor and attacking Harry, who mightn’t be able to fight back. Snape didn’t even know what it would become upon meeting Lucius—a split end, perhaps?
“Fine. Everyone take a break,” Snape said quietly, motioning for them to leave. “Here’s Plan C,” he told Longbottom in an undertone. “Reverse psychology.” He raised his voice. “If you like him that much, you can keep him!” he addressed the wall. “I couldn’t care less. Here, I've written a list of possible demises for you. I'm particularly enamoured of the idea of throttling him; it’s got that hands-on touch...”
He waited a minute, then dragged Neville away, leaving the hall abandoned.
“Er, I don’t think that’s going to work,” Neville pointed out.
“It was worth a shot.”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Not literally, of course.”
Neville looked at the wall, his brow furrowed. “Hang in there, Harry,” he muttered.
Snape said nothing, but something inside echoed the sentiment. They were running out of time.
Harry gazed up at Malfoy. “Your hair is like a waterfall,” he said with wonder. Everything seemed sparkly. He shut his eyes and opened them again slowly, but everything still seemed to shine. There wasn’t anything wrong with his eyes; perhaps there was something wrong with his head.
Very slowly, one of Malfoy’s eyebrows rose. “Is it?”
“Uh huh. It’s very pretty. You have very...pretty...hair. ‘S a pity you’re such an ugly bugger on the inside,” Harry noted. “Not like Snape. Snape’s just the opposite. Snape looks really mean and nasty, but inside he’s just a big fluffy kitten with greasy hair and crooked teeth. That uses loads of long words to be rude at you. But he’s still very pretty, on the inside. He’s Harry Potter’s man, through and through,” Harry announced. He gave this some thought and giggled.
Malfoy didn’t look especially interested, but then there wasn’t anything else to entertain him, either. Perhaps that’s why he encouraged Harry by observing, “You are in a good mood, considering you’re drugged and kidnapped and likely about to die.”
“Naw...you wouldn’t do that,” Harry said. “You’re way too incompetent.”
Lucius’ eyes narrowed.
“But yeah! Hey, yeah! I am in a good mood! I feel pretty good. I feel pretty...oh, so pretty and witty, and gay,” Harry said with a laugh, and gave the man a sunny smile. Snape was coming for him. Snape was trying. It was just so—unexpected and wonderful. Harry had to admit his light-headedness probably wasn’t hurting his mood, either. He felt like he could walk on air, he was so pleased.
Lucius was looking rather sour, which only served to bolster Harry’s high spirits.
Harry couldn’t do much, trapped as he was, unable to move, but he’d do what he could. “Say, why don’t we have a sing along?” he said with sudden inspiration.
“I beg your pardon?”
“LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN, FALLING DOWN...” Harry belted out.
“Stop that, or I’ll stun you.”
“I really wouldn’t. Snape is probably going to send Dobby to check on me again soon. And you know Snape isn’t going to give something for nothing, so you’d better be sure he knows I’m all right...my fair lady,” Harry whooped.
Lucius’ hand tightened on his wand, but he breathed deeply and bore the suffering.
Harry bared his teeth in a grim smile. He doubted Malfoy would let him get away with it for long, but he would damn well get his digs in while he could.
The next time Severus passed through the hall with the Room of Requirement (heading for the loo, and not checking up because he was worried about Harry at all) he caught Weasley senior and his son digging away at the mortar with a stick of metal.
“What the devil do you think you’re doing?” he asked in his coldest voice.
“It’s a ravenbar, and you use it to open things,” Arthur told him with a determined expression. “And we believe we can pry Harry out of there, if we’re given enough time.”
“Good lord—why don’t you use a spoon? It would hurt more. The expression is crowbar, and perhaps if you had a thousand years, Lucius would die and it would work. But so long as he’s in there, wanting to be protected from you crackpots, the room will acquiesce. Frankly, I wish I were in there with him. The company is better.”
Arthur glowered, and Ron’s whole body tensed up. He flung the bar away, its metallic clatters making everyone within earshot flinch. “Fine!” he roared. “What do you goddamn want to do, then, since you’re supposed to be the leader? You wanted to do this! You wanted to fight! Then fucking fight for him!”
Snape shook his head slightly. “Do you really wish me to fight, Mr. Weasley? It’s what Potter requested, as well. Do you need a pointless display of smoke and sparkles in order to believe something is working? Do you want a pretty show to clap and gasp at?”
He stormed down the corridor and shouted, “Everyone back!”
As the crowed rushed away, Severus drew one hand into the air, a whisper of sparks trailing after his fist. The air seemed sucked out of the hallway, drawn to Snape’s hand, now charged with power. He flung his outstretched hand toward the room, snarling “Glomus Ignis!”
Everyone threw themselves to the floor as a huge, roaring ball of light exploded from Snape’s fingertips and burst as it slammed into the wall, reverberating, the foundations shaking, lancing after-effects of its orange flames imprinted on everyone’s eyeballs as the fireball died away. The wall was blackened, dented, but not penetrated.
“You see? That is what good fireworks are. They are for entertainment. Malfoy wants safety, and by Merlin, he’s got it. No flaming stupid frontal assault will ever...would ever...” Snape trailed off, his expression abstracted.
The Weasleys looked a bit disheartened, but he pushed past them and headed back to his office. Frontal assaults never worked. Blowing things up and screaming never gained anything.
No, if he was going in, he’d get in with a whisper.
Lucius pinched Harry’s nose closed, then waited until the boy had to open his mouth for breath or die before pouring a double dose of Befuddlement Brew down his gullet. Potter spluttered, probably coughing up as much potion as Lucius managed to get into him.
Harry glared up at him, eyes watering. “I hate you,” he choked out.
“You mean I haven’t charmed you with my sadistic ways yet? I wonder how Severus did it,” Lucius replied with a sneer.
Dobby popped into the room with a response from Severus, and Lucius snatched it away. “Get out,” he snapped at the elf.
“I is checking on—” the house elf began.
“GET OUT,” Lucius snarled, and Dobby vanished. He couldn’t risk the house elf slipping some sort of aid to the boy. Carefully, Lucius opened the envelope and slipped out the parchment. “I very much doubt that you’ll survive seven more hours in Potter’s company, but if you should by some miracle manage it, you’ll find none of your demands met. You forget yourself, Lucius; I know how spineless you truly are. I might also remind you what lengths I’m willing to go to when need be. Harm the boy, and you will regret it. Regards, Severus.” Lucius sniffed. “Impertinence,” he muttered. “The man is supremely overconfident.”
Harry smiled drowsily. “But he’s soooooo good in bed,” he purred.
Lucius blinked a little. “He’s right in a way, though; this really is a far greater torture than I ever imagined when I first hatched the scheme.”
“He’s got a huge cock,” Harry went on, oblivious. “It’s monstrous and beautiful and...and...tastes of chicken,” he added, snickering.
Lucius let his breath out through his teeth in a long, frustrated hiss. “He’s not taking this any more seriously than you are,” the man muttered.
Harry nodded, eyes gleaming with drugged abstraction. “Yes...he’s like that,” he said.
Lucius knelt beside the boy, taking up a hand and pointing his wand at Harry’s palm. “Sectusempra,” he growled. Malfoy summoned a piece of parchment as Harry paled, staring at his hand as the blood welled up.
“You cut me,” Harry noted, his tone amazed.
Lucius’ smile was feral as he pressed Harry’s bleeding palm to the piece of paper, pulling it away to reveal Harry’s bloody handprint. “Let’s just see if he takes me seriously now, shall we?” He grabbed up a quill and dragged it across the crimson liquid puddled in the cup of Harry’s hand.
Then he brought the quill across the paper in harsh strokes. You’ve now altered the timeframe; one hour to go. Don’t forget, Severus—I’ve nothing left to lose.
Blowing softly on the paper, Lucius glimpsed Harry’s glazed eyes, still staring at the blood now beginning to crust on his skin. He could heal the boy, but he didn’t see the point. Either Snape would cooperate soon, or Harry Potter would lose a great deal more blood than that.
“We could tunnel underneath,” someone suggested.
“Don’t be an imbecile; we’re on the seventh floor,” Snape pointed out. He set the parchment down on his desk and smoothed it anxiously. Potter was injured. Potter was injured because Severus wasn’t thinking clearly enough, wasn’t acting fast enough, wasn’t doing enough. He pressed his palms to his eyes, rubbing hard. Forty-odd hours without sleep—no wonder he wasn’t thinking clearly.
“A hurricane. The force of the wind would surely tear down the wall!”
“And every other wall in the building. Any other clever ideas?”
“We could lower the temperature of the stones to the point where the structure becomes brittle,” Granger mused.
“No, we couldn’t. The room serves Lucius’ needs. It cannot be tampered with in such a way.”
“I’m making an executive decision,” a sombre voice said, and Severus looked up to see Kingsley in the doorway, flanked by the Weasley twins, which gave Severus a twinge of uneasiness. Shacklebolt’s arms were folded across his chest—in Snape’s eyes a sure sign of defensiveness.
Severus said nothing.
“What decision?” Longbottom asked nervously.
“Fred and George have come up with a way to disarm—or possibly even destroy Malfoy.”
“Using the latest in pyrothaumaturgic technology, we believe that by mixing Bulbadox powder with, er, a number of other ingredients which must remain trade secrets, we can concoct a mixture which will detonate on meeting with air.”
Snape stared, left speechless by this insanity. “You mean the Explodaganza? That masterpiece of idiocy that ruined the kitchen at Grimmauld place?”
“Would that work?” Ron asked nervously.
“It’ll blow Malfoy’s head clear off,” George said nastily.
“Or it could bring down the whole castle,” Snape interjected angrily. “Or kill Potter as well. How do you know how nearby Potter will be when the envelope is opened?”
“It’ll be a fairly localized explosion,” Fred promised. “One metre diameter.”
“It’s the best option we’ve got,” Kingsley said. “We’re running out of time. Harry has less than half an hour left. We need to move now.”
“You can’t,” Snape insisted, panic tight in his chest.
Kingsley gave Snape a hard look. “I’m through arguing, and I’m through negotiating. Boys, get me a list of what you need.” He turned and strode out of the room without looking back. The rest of the room emptied as well, some glancing nervously at Snape over their shoulders. Soon, no one was left besides Snape and Neville.
“Idiots,” Snape spat. “They’re going to kill him!”
“So what do you want to do?” Neville asked. “We can’t just cave in! We can’t just fold,” he insisted.
Snape stared at him. “Oh, yes we can,” he breathed. “In fact, that’s exactly what we need to do.”
“I’m still bleeding,” Harry murmured, watching a rivulet of blood run between the floor stones. Lucius didn’t answer. Harry tried to close his hand to staunch the flow, but he could barely make his fingers twitch. It was really too bad, because he burned to make a fist.
Lucius was pacing, eyes cool, disinterested in Harry’s plight. “You have only a quarter of an hour left,” he pointed out. “I don’t mind dying, you know,” he added conversationally. “It would be far easier than seeing my son spend the rest of his life in prison.”
“It seems Severus ran out of tricks. He really didn’t try very hard, did he?”
“He—cares about me,” Harry said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Harry said, though he sounded uncertain even to himself.
“I’ve never known Severus to care for anyone but himself. If he tolerates your presence, it’s generally because he has a use for you.”
“A man does not march under the flag of another man’s underpants if he doesn’t feel loyalty,” Harry insisted. “He’s trying to save me.”
“Is he?” Lucius nodded to the hallway, where Kingsley and the Weasley twins seemed to busying themselves with an envelope. “He’s not even around anymore. Perhaps he’s given up.”
Harry blinked fuzzily. The room seemed to be spinning even more than it had done earlier. “Maybe,” he acknowledged quietly. “But I’m not giving up on him.”
Lucius shook his head a little. “Ten minutes, boy. Do you think that’s enough time for him to do anything useful?” He went back to his chair and folded into it. “We’ll give him ten minutes. Then I’m the one who’s giving up.”
“It’s ready to go,” Fred said.
“Where’s Dobby?” George asked anxiously.
“I’ll find him!” Neville volunteered, snatching up the envelope.
“Whoa, be careful with that!” The twins were both white as sheets. “Don’t shake it!”
“Sorry,” Neville said. “I’ll be right back with Dobby.”
“You could leave the envelope and—” before Kingsley could finish his sentence, Neville had rounded the corner.
“Hurry up!” Snape whispered, gesturing impatiently. He stepped back and Neville rushed into the room, shutting the door behind him.
“What are we going to do with the...the stuff inside?” Neville inquired.
“I’m going to banish it,” Snape answered. He flicked his wand and Neville winced slightly.
“Where did you send it?”
“What? He’ll be furious!”
“It was the only place I could think of at short notice which was far enough away that the resulting explosion wouldn’t be felt, yet was within a reasonable distance, taking into account my abilities.” He carefully peeled open the envelope. “Here, hold this.”
“You could die,” Neville pointed out earnestly. “Malfoy could kill you. You know that, don’t you?”
Snape gazed into the distance, his eyes unfocussed. “Potter trusts me—more fool him. But lives are easily come by. You could even make one on accident. Trust is far more difficult to establish. I’m going in.”
For a moment Neville blinked as if considering this statement. “I still think this is a bad idea,” he moaned.
“Have you got a better one?”
“That was a rhetorical question. If you have a better idea, employ it on your own time,” Snape suggested. “Ready?”
Neville nodded miserably. “Good luck,” he said.
Dobby popped into the room. “One last letter; I do hope it conveys how terribly everyone will miss you,” Lucius intoned. “Since there seems to be a distinct absence of Malfoy heir in the vicinity.” He worked a finger under the flap, ripping the letter open.
Something black fell out, pinwheeling to the floor, and both Lucius and Harry stared at it for a moment, baffled. At first it looked like a bit of black paper, folded many times over, but when Harry looked closer, it seemed somehow far more substantial than any paper; something complicated, more than the usual three dimensional object, yet condensed into a simple square.
It rose, billowing out and upward, a curl of smoke at its feet, straightening to look Malfoy in the eyes and say, “Hello, Lucius.”
Lucius opened his mouth, but before he could do anything, Snape struck him in the face. Lucius stumbled backward and Snape grabbed the man’s wand. The wrestled for a moment before Snape tore it from his grip.
One hand delicately touching his face, Lucius gaped. “You punched me in the nose!” he said, his voice rife with accusation. Harry felt he didn’t quite have the right, considering he was a kidnapper, among other things, but then Lucius Malfoy’s default setting had always seemed to be indignation. “Are you some kind of barbarian? Have you no shame?”
Snape briefly closed his eyes. “Shame I am well acquainted with. It was time I lacked. You never even considered defending yourself physically, did you?”
“I never considered ripping all my clothes off and eating meat straight off the animal, either,” Lucius replied hotly. “There are some things civilised wizards just don’t do.”
Snape glared at the man and the door to the room suddenly burst open, Harry’s friends and supporters pouring in. Kingsley grabbed hold of Malfoy, and the twins were both ranting about the lack of exploding, though Ron contended that what Snape had done was a pretty brilliant trick all the same.
Everyone was talking at once. “Everything worked out fine, so why worry about how it happened?” Kingsley said. “And besides, I want to get Malfoy back where he belongs. Incarcerous.” Malfoy managed to keep his feet as the ropes shot out, whipping around him and binding him securely. He sneered at Kingsley, who smiled. “I’m in such a generous mood, I might even give you what you wanted and put you in the same cell as Draco.”
“My god, never let me complain that you don’t know how to punish someone effectively,” Snape marvelled. “A week with Draco and he’ll be ripping that long blond hair straight out. I know whereof I speak,” he added with quiet horror. “Good luck with your new roommate,” he told Lucius as the man was dragged out of the room.
Sighing, Snape sank to his knees beside Harry, lifting his head. There was a small pool of blood congealing beneath him. “Such a bleeding heart,” Snape said dryly. “Where are you injured?”
“Just my hand,” Harry said, trying to wave it in a grand, dismissive sort of way, but he could barely flop it over.
Severus drew his wand over the cut, sealing it. There was a thin white scar remaining along Harry’s palm, and he ran a fingertip over it. “I’ll have to take you down to the hospital wing,” Severus said. “At least until the potion’s worn off.”
“And after that?” Harry asked.
“Perhaps, when you’re strong enough, we’ll spend your convalescence stalking each other through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts and horrifying the children by shagging on or up against every available surface,” Snape promised. As he carried Potter out of the Room of Requirement, Harry looked over his shoulder. The wall outside the room was dented and charred, and the stones on the floor had bubbled and blistered.
“It took some effort, but you got in,” Harry said with a smile.
Snape’s lips quirked, and he arched a brow at Harry. “So did you,” he admitted softly. “So did you.”
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