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The Syntax of Things

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Severus had a migraine. He silently wondered how it was even possible for plain physical agony to be so intense. He had never imagined that such a torture could be endured. Yet here was he, both conscious and in the middle of the splitting torture. 

Able not only to think, but to observe the process and make calculations about it. The invisible wire around his skull was closing in with faint cracking noises. How much farther could it shrink? Since he used the last painkiller, he hadn't brewed more. Foolish, to think that one could live with a Potter without needing painkillers. He cracked his neck, wishing for death. His death. Dumbledore's death. Voldemort's. 

Making a mental note of all the deaths he should take care of, he pushed the thought aside and coughed hard.

“Are you alright?” Potter was sitting on the sofa, one leg up at the table. Filthy brat. Was he alright? When Dumbledore offered him a chance to repent, he did it with no desire to ever meet Lily’s son in his life.

“My head might just explode.”

For when he did meet Lily’s son, it was Potter’s son, and there was nothing loveable, nothing interesting for Severus to see. The years passed and he didn’t stop being Potter’s son. His father’s revolting ghost kept hovering over his head, shadowing him with his features, his wit, his memory.

“Oh. Did you take a pain killer?”

“I must brew one.”


Such verbal fluency.

Damned boy. He was the centre of attention since the first moment, and there was no person in Hogwarts that would be displeased by his disobedience or lack of manners. Except Severus. Severus had seen what others didn’t. And as ironic as it was, now he could see again, what others had never seen. 

He was determined to despise the boy. To help him for Lily’s sake. Liking him had not been in the plan. Enjoying his company had not been in the plan. Waking up with Potter curled up against his chest had certainly not been in the plan.

“You don’t look like you can brew anything at the moment.”

“Because I can’t.”

And responding to these urges towards familiarity was absolutely unacceptable. Not only sinful, not only depraved – but absolutely, thoroughly, downright wrong.

It was the circumstances. Spending too much time with someone was bound to break the ice, and when combined with brain activities – he coughed again. His brain had no activity at that moment. 

“Could I brew it for you?”

“No, be silent.”

Sharing the bed with James Potter’s son. Now, this was a secret he would carry to his grave. He allowed himself a moment to think of Draco and his new task.

He decided that if his headache didn't stop within the next ten minutes he would throw himself under the nearest car.

“I have aspirins.”

Severus glared. Or he tried to. 

“Aspirins, you know. For headaches and such. Muggle medicine, but even Madame Pomfrey has it. I must have some in my trunk, I’m going to check.”

Right. Aspirins. He was about to beg Potter to leave him alone with a good dozen of them, but the boy had already fled upstairs.

When the clock read nine and Snape hadn’t barked from downstairs that dinner was ready, Harry descended on his own.

Snape was just getting up from the sofa to pick up a bottle from the table. His face was flushed and his hair damp.


Snape looked at him as if he'd never seen him before. It was a look of surprise, or maybe disbelief. "I remember..." he said, "I remember how Dumbledore was telling me about the Sodding Hat and I thought it impossible that you’d end up in Gryffindor. You contradicted me.”

Harry gave him a confused look. “Excuse me?”

Snape closed his eyes as though concentrating. "I excuse you. Leave."

Harry stepped closer and placed his palm on Snape’s forehead. It wasn’t fever. “How much did you drink?”

Ignoring his question, Snape took another gulp straight from the bottle. His chest heaved dangerously.

“If you're still here, not enough."

“Right,” Harry said with a straight face as he snaked his hand under Snape’s and snatched the bottle away. It was rather empty – Snape leaned forward to take it back but Harry stepped away.

“Harry. Give it back.”

“You’re talking nonsense,” Harry muttered.

“Give it back, Harry, for God's sake!” He still made no motion of standing. He seemed to try out the word, trying to figure out how it sounded on his tongue. “Harry. Harry, Harry.”

Harry gulped a bile of daring sentiment that was stuck inside his throat; it pitifully landed between his lungs. “You must... stop drinking this. You have a problem.”

Snape got up, coughing into his palm again. "It runs in the family."

Harry stood still, trying to figure out what was happening. Snape couldn’t be that pissed. It had only been a couple of hours after all. What had happened?

He glanced over at the table and noticed it. The aspirin pin box laid open next to an empty glass and Snape’s wand.

“You mixed aspirins with alcohol, didn't you?”

Snape shook his head. “Don’t worry; I won’t kill myself just yet. Maybe next week,” Snape said as he fumbled his way to the staircase. When he reached it he glared upstairs as though it was the stairs’ fault that it had so many steps. Grunting to himself, he took hold of the wall and sighed.

“Hadn’t you taken aspirins before? I thought you had!”

Snape looked at him as if he were dumb. “I’m a Master Potion, Potter,” he explained. “Why would I need it?”

Harry nodded once. “Um. Okay. Listen, you shouldn’t have mixed them with alcohol. You’re a bit drunk at the moment.”

Snape scratched the wall in an attempt to hold himself up. “And what are you going to do about it, hm? Want to know when I had my first drink? It’s an interesting story. Father had beaten the shit out of–”

He didn’t want to hear that. “No, you listen. You’re not well.”

Harry watched him as he attempted to climb up the stairs and stumbled over the first step before sitting down. That struck Snape as hilarious, for he broke into laughter.

And once he began, he couldn’t stop. He laughed until he was gasping for breath, shaking his head. He tried to move and stand up, swaying like he was following his vision’s spinning around the room. He tilted violently and he almost fell again, still grunting with laughter.

“I never get drunk – God - so fucking much.”

That was enough. Harry caught him, dragging him up to his feet. He placed Snape’s arm around his shoulders and steadied him.

“Snape, are you listening?”

“I’m not deaf.”

“Right. Come on.”

“No. You're lying.”

Snape’s breath smelled heavily of whiskey, and he was so close that Harry feared he might get drunk too. “Lying about what?”

Snape just looked at him, trying hard to focus his eyes. “You were there.”

Harry blinked. “I’m taking you back to your room, can you walk?

“I’m not crippled,” he snapped defensively.

He carried him to his bedroom carefully, Snape’s moves hindering rather than helping. The shoulder that was not being supported on Harry had sagged downwards, and his weight kept slithering through Harry’s grip on his arm.

Snape struggled, but Harry ignored him. This would be so much funnier if Ron was here. Only the pranks they could do...

“Be cooperative now.”

“Sod off.”

If a fully conscious and alert Snape could be bitter and stubborn, a drunk one was just impossible to get on with. Lifting Snape’s hand from his shoulders, he turned around to steady him before helping him to the bed. It didn’t work right.

Snape got hold of his shoulders and lost his balance at once. Harry fell on the bed and was immediately covered by Snape’s unconscious body.


Not unconscious. Harry’s head sagged in the pillow as he stared up the ceiling. Snape shifted a little bit and stayed there.

Harry's life sucked.

And breathing was becoming more and more difficult as the seconds went by. A strand of dark hair fell on Harry's cheek. Was the man even breathing? His nose must have been buried into the pillow.


Snape grunted in acknowledgment.

He placed his palms against Snape’s shoulders and pushed. “You’re suffocating me.” He pushed harder. How heavy was he exactly? He looked too thin to weigh that much.

With another firm push he rolled him over on his back and Harry sat back. Snape inhaled deeply, and it occurred to Harry that he hadn’t been able to breathe for some time.

Snape weakly tugged at his own coat’s collar. “Suffocating,” he agreed before bursting into low laughter. Pushing his hand away, Harry undid the first buttons of his coat and inner shirt. “That’ll do,” he said at last, but Snape had closed his eyes again.


That was it; he had passed out. Harry rubbed his palms on his thighs, not knowing what to do next. Snape choked again and Harry poked him on the head.



“Should I owl Dumbledore?”

Something was funny about this question too, as it appeared, because Snape risked another series of coughing to express his laughter. 

He couldn’t leave him like that. Sleep here again – no, Snape would be furious.It was Harry's fault. He should have warned him about drinking.

Maybe he should lift his head a little, just to make sure that he was going to be alright. Just that, and then he’d live. Still sitting next to him, he leaned over him to catch the pillow and slide it under his head. Snape showed his appreciation with a sigh of relief and nothing else. Well. He should leave. He should – Snape’s eyes snapped open.

Too close. He was too close. It occurred to him that he should back up now, and yet he couldn’t keep himself from staring – the black eyes, the parted lips, the tears of laughter that made the long eyelashes stick together. He stayed still as the darkness poured out of those eyes and seemed to fill the room and drown him in it.

It was a wonder, if Snape could understand who he was looking at - if his eyesight was blurred or steady – but he observed Harry’s face slowly, as though he had all the time in the world to do just that. Every second seemed to announce its departure with a soundless heaviness that lasted excruciatingly long. His lips could almost brush the skin –

Snape raised a hand, too certain, too quietly, and placed it on the back of Harry’s neck. And Harry was too startled to do anything, so he didn’t shift, or move, or speak, and he wanted to lick his lips but didn’t dare take his tongue out just now. Then Snape grasped him fiercely, as though a sudden sobriety had struck him - and Harry locked his eyes with Snape’s until both of them closed them together, slowly.

Harry leaned down.

Their lips barely met, and as Harry sampled the touch for a second, he couldn’t tell if this impossible emotion inside his chest had just spurted, or if it was something perpetual, something that knew how to hide all along but was aching alive and confident all the same. At first, the brush was so soft that he thought he had imagined it. 

Once he parted his lips, Snape’s tongue attacked him so deeply that he didn’t know who was breathing for whom, but his mouth and tongue tasted like warm honey and fire water. It wasn’t exactly harsh; it was more like a whisper than a sound, more like the memory of a kiss than a real one, careful and measured and yet desperate.

A strong, gut-wrenching terror kicked into his stomach, but he ignored it defiantly as he slid into mindlessness, and all he felt was skin and teeth and wetness, and all he heard was their breathing, and a soft moan that had to be his own.

It ended too soon. Their lips parted as plainly as they had met, and Snape looked up at him for another long second before drifting to sleep. The hand on his neck crept on the sheets and stayed there.

Harry's jeans were suddenly too tight. He allowed himself a minute of shock, and then a few more seconds of smiling like the idiot Snape always accused him of being.

Then he got up, promising himself that the panic would come later. He tucked Snape with a blanket and loosened another button on his shirt just in case, before fleeing to his room.

He suddenly knew what was missing with Cho.

Severus woke up in the middle of the night, sliding off his coat to sink better into the comfort of his bed. The window curtains had been pulled open – how absurd, he never opened the curtains – and he knew that he should remember something - something should have frightened him to his death by now.

The moon looked like melted mozzarella to his bleary vision. Was he tired, intoxicated and in love? Or was he sober, asleep, and alone? His lips tingled with something – like the memory of a nice kiss, but prostitutes never kissed him, and the curtains were never opened.

He couldn’t tell whether he should stick to his awakening, or just let this comforting sensation lull him in sweet oblivion. One thing was for sure, there had been pain in him, too much pain, and now that pain had left with the suddenness of lighting.

The mozzarella cheese was swallowed wholly by a thick cloud of smoke, and it was surely the smoke of a well baked Italian pizza, with grilled ham and fresh warm tomato on top. He sniffed the air in expectation, and almost smelled it there, with the crust yeast and the peppers and the garlic pork and the happiness.

Oh, the happiness.