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The Syntax of Things

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“Harder.”

Severus focused on Potter’s eyes and hardened his stare. A tremor of magic shifted around his head and his vision darkened just as a flash of Petunia's figure passed in front of his eyes. It faded out quickly; the barriers were solid again. Doing this without wands had been a bad idea, but necessary all the same. The close proximity in which they were standing left little to do with his hands, so Severus clasped them together behind his back and used his will to break in. The intensity of their practice caused Potter’s eyes to water; thankfully, it was caused by lack of blinking and not some dreadful new sentiment of injustice.

What bothered Severus, was that the boy was succeeding. He imagined the day Potter would master Occlumency and no one would know it was thanks to Severus. He’d lost his chance to be given credit when he decided to keep this a secret. An urge to slap Potter possessed him. This was the performance level he should have demonstrated since the beginning. This was what real concentration was.

A hand rested against his chest and Potter bent his head. “This is making me dizzy.”

“It requires a strong mind, I’m afraid. Those who are not as lucky must work hard.”

“Right.”

“You'd wish to stop?”

“No.” Potter looked up and Severus bore in.

Almost compulsively, Severus avoided the feelings that crushed against him every time Potter’s resistance weakened momentarily. He took the path of memories, poorly sketched into his mind and blurred by the passing of time. Childhood, he could deal with. Tom Riddle, easily.

Anything else was not acceptable.

He took the risk of shifting his eyes to Potter’s fixed jaw and the connection was lost. “You’re tensing all your muscles. Push me out without suffering next time,” Severus said dismissively as he walked passed him and collapsed on the sofa. Potter, of course, followed.

“You read minds like that all the time?”

“No.” Severus didn’t hate his life that much. People's minds was something he wasn't interested in. What people decided to spill out, was hopefully enough.

“Legilimency is not a mind reading spell. The mind has many layers, I’ve told you. Every thought of yours creates a dimension of its own. There is no fluency that can be read or shown in there.” He pointed at Potter’s head. “Merely interpretations of complex nerve actions.”

“Yes but, do you read your students’ minds?”

All in all, the defiance Potter showed to education was phenomenal.

“No. This cannot be done.”

Potter seemed to consider that. The lack of trust he'd developed over the last years was not unexpected, and yet Potter reserved what little faith he had left to put it in Severus. The latest adult promising to look after him in a long list of people who were now dead. Severus couldn’t bring himself to shudder at the thought that he could be next. He spared a passing thought of how mistaken he'd been to insist that Potter was arrogant. What he was, was far from that. Potter was clever.

Which was worse.

“But, I don’t understand. Trelawney reads people’s intentions too. Isn’t that a form of Legilimency? Because whatever she does, it works.”

“Does it?"

"Sometimes."

"Divination is not a respectful profession, let alone talent.” Sibyl was unlucky; that was her only talent as far as Severus was concerned. Prophecies weren’t made to be fulfilled. What people tended to do, when explaining their actions as ones of fate, was purely justification of deeds they could not stand to believe as their own.

“Are you friends?” Potter asked. He opened his bag to take out his notebook.

“Homework at midnight. Such a devoted student you are.”

“My day was a bit busy in case you missed it. Quidditch, you know?”

Severus smirked. “Ah, yes. Huflepuff won, I’ve heard.”

Potter scrunched his face irritatingly, but didn’t respond. Severus decided to push it a little, if only for his own amusement, but Potter stopped him. “You think people would hate me if they knew?”

“Knew what?” choked Severus. 

“That I’m –” Potter took a deep breath, and went on confidently, “gay.”

"Afraid of losing popularity, aren't we?” Severus responded after a pause.

“I don’t think I can keep it a secret for much longer. It’s suffocating me. When I’m out there I feel like I can’t even breathe sometimes.”

“You’re here now.”

What?!

Very well. Do make him feel safe with you.

Or even worse, comfortable.

Potter fished a box of something out of his bag and opened it. It contained chocolates, and Potter shoved one in his mouth hungrily. Did it take so little effort for Severus to calm him down these days?

“You know,” Potter said, “I’ve really tried to... stay away. I mean, I know it's bothering you. My being here. But I think deep down you might like it too. You're.. stern. You wouldn't let me be here if you... yeah. Want chocolate?”

Severus eyed him dangerously but Potter’s grin only widened. The hell with it. Snape reached out and took a chocolate. It had firewhiskey in it, and for the life of his he couldn’t remember when was the last time he tasted either.

“I’m obliged to train you.”

Potter snorted, another chocolate in his hand. “Not anymore.”

Point taken. Brilliant.

The box slid off Potter’s lap to the cushions and stayed there. “I could safely say,” Severus drawled, “that your company is as nonchalant as people say.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “You could just admit it. You like me. I can tell. People say I'm boring?”

Severus would have responded if drowsiness hadn’t struck him so profoundly. He blinked his eyes into focus and rested back against the cushions of the couch, deciding to stay there until he felt better.

“I'm not boring. Romilda Vane wants me.”

“Vane?” 

“Yes. Everyone knows it. She always follows me around.”

“Hm. Could it be because of your name or because of your wealth?”

“It’s because she likes me. It can happen, you know.”

There were many desperate people in this world, undoubtedly. “You don't stand a chance."

“Why not?”

“You are nothing but another entitled Potter. The girl has brains, she’s not for you.”

“I should ask her out.”

Severus grunted. “This is a school, and not a beer house, I am afraid. Romilda Vane takes her education seriously, unlike you.”

“She’s beautiful,” Potter mumbled. “That’s all I’m saying. I'd never noticed before. I never… noticed.”

She was indeed, possibly the prettiest in her class.

“Please, Potter. What is she to you, another challenge, perhaps? An achievement to brag about to your filthy friends? If I see you near her, you'll regret it."

“You don't get to tell me what to do.” Potter exclaimed.

Severus grabbed him by the hair and twisted. 

“What the-” Potter covered Severus' hand with his own.

I may be interested in Romilda Vane, after all,” he said dangerously. “And you’ll stay away from her.”

“You? You are a professor. You... can't."

“I don’t care.” Potter was going to stay out of it or he’d pay. “Potters. Always convinced that they deserve anything they want. Full of themselves, thinking life owes them. What is your plan, then? Are you going to pretend, convince her that you’re something better than you are? Isn’t this what Potters do? Alluring girls. Taking advantage of them."

"Have you lost your mind, Snape?"

"I am responsible for the safety of my students. If I see you around her I'll ruin you."

“I will talk to her whenever I want,” Potter said. "I will ask her out. There is nothing you can do."

“I’ll assist her,” Severus decided, plans of confessing his love already taking form inside his head. “She has so much to learn from me. You have nothing to offer her.”

“You’re hopeless,” breathed Potter, a foolish grin on his face as he made himself comfortable on the couch. “I’m the Chosen One.”

Severus ignored him. At last, he'd met a woman of elegance. A woman who knew how to charm a man.

“Hey. I’m straight.” Potter broke into a giggle that ceased suddenly a few seconds later, and Severus couldn’t help but wonder if he was drunk. “Thank God I’m straight.”

“Talk to her, and I might make an announcement at the Great Hall tomorrow morning. About a student named Kevin, perhaps. You filthy poof.”

“No. You can’t.”

Severus thought hard about this. If he was to befriend the girl it would have to be done carefully. He couldn’t afford more mistakes in his career. Let Potter believe that he was free to do what he wanted. He would come up with his own plan, and this time, he'd make sure to let the girl know that Potters were not to be trusted. “She has a will of her own. She’ll choose.”

“But what if she chooses none of us?” Potter asked. 

Severus rolled his head to look at Potter’s reddened face. Their eyes met. “And what if she chooses both?”

“I saw her the other day – she was dancing in the middle of the common room – she almost crashed on me by accident,” Potter said sheepishly. “What do you mean both?”

“You will not turn her against me. Not this time. My office has already turned into a little nest for you these days – why not keep a door open for her too?”

Potter sighed. “I dunno.”

“She doesn't care,” he said. “It’s your name that does it. Your fame. Do yourself a favour and stay away.”

Potter shook his head. “I don’t want to.”

Almost asleep, Severus adjusted himself and let his hand rest on his crotch. His fingers brushed his trapped cock softly. “I’d give her everything,” he decided. “And you dare to believe you deserve such an angel.”

“You think she’d like to marry me?” Potter asked in a hushed voice. “I’d like to marry her.”

“I'd like to fuck her,” said Severus. “And then marry her.”

“I don’t want you around once she says yes. I don’t trust you.” Potter lifted his head from the cushions, but abandoned whatever he was attempting to do and let it fall back again. “Beautiful.”

“Your damned father made the same mistake. He’s dead,” Severus recalled. “If you happen to repeat his faults I will murder you myself.”

“It’s not a mistake, it’s the rightest thing,” Harry corrected.

“I’ll have to be careful.” Severus blinked into focus, but lost his concentration again. “I’ll keep her for detention. Find some time alone. Then we’ll see.”

“That's not fair. I love her. You don’t. You can’t love.” 

“Can’t I?”

“Her hair is beautiful,” Harry said. “I think I love her as much as I love you.”

Severus sighed and he looked away. “I think I love her that much too.”