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“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Hermione rustled the newspaper, her eyes worried, her mouth turned down. She looked as if she pitied him. “Who cares what people think? It’s all just silly gossip.”

“Yes, but this crosses a line.”

“It does.”

Harry sighed. He rubbed hard at his face, trying to block out the world. It wasn’t that bad. He didn’t care if the world knew he was still a virgin. He’d been through worse.

“You can’t let it get to you.”

He took their teacups to the sink. He stared out his charmed window. There was sunlight but just barely. It was weak like watercolor. He was glad Ron was at work.

“Let’s go to the park,” she said.

“All right.”

The park was quiet, the birds chatting lazily. It was spring but the air was chilled. Everything was waking up from winter.

“I can’t believe the Prophet got people to talk,” she said.

“I can believe it. Skeeter is very persuasive.”

They strolled slowly, their shoulders brushing. Harry smelled her curly hair, strawberry from her shampoo. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold; his cheeks probably looked the same.

“I’m tired of being mobbed. Sick of it, really.”

“I know,” she said. “It’s very difficult for you.”

“Nobody will want to be with me. Not for the right reasons.”

“You will meet the right person. These things take time.”

“It’s hard, you know, with you and Ron as my best mates.”

“We got lucky.”

“Yes,” he sighed. He was feeling very sorry for himself; he knew his whinging was pathetic.

“You should go away. Take a holiday. Ron and I had lashings of fun in Florida last year.”

“I’m not going to run away. I go to Florida and everything will be the same when I return.”

“Then keep your chin up. All you can do is crack on.”

He smiled. “I won’t let the bastards get me down.”

She squeezed his arm.

*

Harry wandered from the park without Hermione. She had to race to a meeting at the Ministry, but it’d been nice of her to pop by after seeing that bloody article. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and braced against the chill. He hated not being busy, especially on days like today, but he didn’t regret not becoming an Auror. In a lot of ways, the Ministry was just as bad as the rags for how they treated him.

He let his feet set the direction. He knew where he was going, but he didn’t want to think about it.

He’d liked Jacob and Ben; he’d even liked Myrtle, who, like the Hogwarts ghost, had been a bit swotty and annoying. All of those dates had been fine; but all of them had required dodging the press and he knew now that most of those people had swapped intimate details about him for gold. It was difficult not to let it get to him. He wanted to push the whole world out.

Taking a deep breath, he stopped in front of the Leaky Cauldron. He already felt the tension in his body, a heavy weight on his shoulders, a slight tightening in his chest. He used to love the magical world; it used to be what made his life worth living, but now it just felt like a chore.

The pub was dark and the shadows glowed as his eyes adjusted. He kept his head down, but Tom recognized him and raised a glass. “Fancy a pint, Harry?”

“No, thank you,” he said, and rushed to the entrance of Diagon Alley. He needn’t do this. He could turn back and go home. It wasn’t as though Snape wanted to see him.

He tapped his wand against the brick wall and let it dissolve in front of him. You are now Harry Potter, he thought.

Snape’s shop was in Diagon Alley, which surprised everyone who didn’t know the man. After playing spy for nearly twenty years, anyone who thought he’d rather do business in Knockturn was barking. Harry was surprised he’d opened a shop at all. Snape struck him as a bit of a recluse, but maybe he was just projecting.

The shop was bright and airy, which was another shock to strangers. No more gloomy dungeons for Snape. There was a bell on the door, but Snape was at the front counter. His eyes narrowed when he saw Harry.

“Good morning, Potter.”

Harry checked his watch. “It’s almost lunch time.”

“Yes, but that’s how the morning works. It comes before lunch.”

Harry smiled and shook his head. There was no reason for him to be there and they both knew it.

“How may I help you today?”

“I’m not looking for a potion or anything. I just thought I’d pop by.”

Snape stared at him. His face was unreadable and Harry hadn’t a clue what he was thinking. Snape nudged the open newspaper on the counter. “The Prophet continues to be obsessed with you.”

“So you read the article?” Harry felt himself go red.

“I did.”

“It’s probably the most embarrassing thing they’ve written about me.”

Snape quirked an eyebrow. “I daresay it is worse than the magical underpants article.”

Harry groaned. “You brought that up on purpose. You’ve always loved kicking me when I’m down.”

“Yes.” He inclined his head, a smirk on his lips.

“It’s very lonely, you know.”

“Ah, yes. Let’s hear your sob story.”

“Shut up, Snape.” It gave Harry a little thrill to be rude to his old professor. He was sure Snape would’ve had his tongue if he’d said that to him at Hogwarts.

But postwar Snape just smirked more. There was something different about his eyes, a look he had when Harry was around. It was mischievous and challenging and - dare he think it - fond. Harry liked it very much.

Snape was still a bit of a prick. He was still hostile and snarky and caustic, but only sometimes. He looked younger, too. More agile. Sometimes Harry even saw him smile.

“You don’t know what it’s like being me. I mean, you understand unwanted attention, of course you understand that, especially after the war, but I just want to breathe. I want the opportunity to date someone, fall in love with them, you know? Okay, maybe you don’t know, but I’m sick of not being able to trust anyone new.”

Snape rolled his eyes. “I’m not made of stone, Potter.”

“I didn’t say you were. I just -” Harry gulped. He felt out of his body, as if he was in another dimension. He pressed forward. “The thing is - the article was right. About everything. You understand? Everything.”

Harry saw Snape’s expression close. It was fascinating to see in real time. One second his eyes were bright, observant, the next they were diminished, hidden. Harry had said something that made Snape withdraw emotionally, as if he needed to protect himself.

“I have no idea why you’re telling me this.” Snape turned away to organize some vials in a box.

Harry shifted on his feet. He stared at the back of Snape’s head, trying to work it out. He didn’t know why he liked talking to Snape now, why he yearned for it. Hermione and Ron and Neville were all right, but Harry suffered Diagon just to see Snape.

“I like talking to you. Is that so bad?”

“I’m not Albus Dumbledore. You can’t just barge in here whenever you want to have a tantrum.”

“Hey. Fifth year is tough for everyone.”

Snape snorted. He turned back around, holding his organized box. His expression had softened a bit. “What would solve your problem? It’s not as though you can disappear.”

“I’ve definitely thought about it.” Harry frowned. “My problem is that everything feels out of my control. I wish I could slow it down, get the press off my back. I wish I was a good liar. I could tell the world I was married or something. Everyone would be focus on the lie and I could actually think clearly for once. I need everyone to look away long enough so that I have time to find someone who loves me for me.”

“You should just become a Muggle.”

“No way! You of all people should know -”

“You could take a potion that makes you invisible. That’s another option.”

He lowered his eyebrows. “How would I find a shag if no one can see me?”

“See, you are talking about two different things. A shag is quite different to falling in love.”

They stared at one another. Harry felt himself blush, but he didn’t know why. His breathing had gone a little strange, too. Snape licked his lips.

The bell on the door jingled and Shacklebolt, of all people, appeared. He started when he saw Harry. “Oh, I don’t mean to interrupt.”

Snape flushed a little. He was suddenly full of energy. “You didn’t interrupt. Come in, come in.”

“How are you doing, Harry?” Shacklebolt said.

“I’m okay. I’m surprised to see you away from the Ministry and with no bodyguards.”

“Me too. I slipped away before they could set off the alarm.”

“I know the feeling.”

Shacklebolt looked at Snape, and Harry suddenly felt as though he was intruding. He stepped away from the counter.

“I guess I’ll be going,” Harry said awkwardly.

“Goodbye, Potter.” Snape headed into the back room. As Shacklebolt followed, he put a hand on Snape’s arse.

Harry froze in shock.

*

The next day Harry was doing a bit of cleaning when someone knocked on his door. He had his wild hair held back with ribbon and his white shirt was streaked with dust. He spelled the muck from his hands and went to answer the knock.

Snape was at his doorstep. His gaze did a slow slide down Harry’s body, taking in the ribbon and dirt. His lips twisted into a smirk. “Mind if I come in?”

Harry thought about Shacklebolt and opened his mouth. He wanted to ask about the hand on his arse, but something else caught his attention. Mind if I come in? He wasn’t sure if Snape had ever talked to him like that. Not Let me in, Potter, but a question, almost shy.

“Yeah, of course. Please come in.” Harry stepped back, his mind still whirling.

Snape squeezed past, brushing against him. He was wearing cologne.

“I was just about to make tea. Want a cup?”

“Please,” Snape said.

Harry blinked furiously, then headed for the kitchen. He had no idea why Snape was being so nice to him. In the kitchen, he spelled two cups to the table and set the kettle to boil. He plopped two Yorkshire tea bags into their cups.

“Please have a seat,” Harry said, and the awkwardness made his skin tingle.

Snape sat down. He clasped his hands together on the table. He looked around pleasantly. “You’ve changed some things.”

“Yeah, but not much. I put in modern appliances.”

Snape nodded. “I like it.”

“Is it weird being back here? Does it remind you of Sirius and the Order?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”

Harry poured their water and let the tea steep. He laughed a little. “At first it did but not anymore. Do you remember sparring with Sirius in here?”

Snape smirked again. “That was fun.”

“Yes, Sirius enjoyed himself, too.”

“He had always liked embarrassing me. The problem was that he couldn’t leave. He felt useless.”

“Yeah,” Harry said sadly. He binned the bags and had milk and sugar soar to the table. He watched Snape fix his tea, counting how many spoonfuls of sugar. Snape liked it sweet with just a little milk.

Snape took a sip. “This is good. Thank you.”

Harry waved off his comment. The silence was awkward and heavy. Harry coughed. “So - ah. What are you doing here?”

“Do you not like me here, Potter?”

“I’m just surprised, that’s all. I’m the one who usually visits you.”

“Yes.”

“And Shacklebolt visited you -”

“He did.”

Harry stared at his tea. “You two seemed close.”

“We are not close.”

Harry frowned. “It seemed like it.”

“Then you were mistaken.”

“Oh.”

Snape inhaled deeply. “Potter.”

Harry looked up at him. Snape was about to tell him something serious, and he didn’t know if he wanted to hear it. “Yeah?”

“I have a proposition.”

“Okay.”

Snape inhaled again. His eyes were narrowed and he was clenching his teeth. For some reason, Harry knew this meant he was nervous. “Yesterday, you said all your problems would be solved if you could lie to the public, if you could make them think you were dating someone when in fact you were looking for partners elsewhere.”

“Yeah but I wasn’t really serious. It would never work.”

“I think it would and I’m here to offer my services.”

Harry didn’t understand. “You want to help me find someone? Like an actor or something?”

No. I’m here to be the actor.”

Harry blinked. “What?”

“I’m here to date you.” Snape gulped.

“You want to date me?”

“Yes.”

“But - as a joke?”

“No.”

“But - it wouldn’t be real?”

“For the public.”

“It would be real for the public?”

“Yes.”

Harry took a deep breath. “Jesus.”

“So many people would be enraged. Think about it.” Snape was smiling wickedly.

“I don’t know if I want people enraged.”

“Think of all the fangirls who would be heartbroken, crying into their pillows.”

“That’s not nice. I don’t want that.”

“Okay, fine. Think about how good it would feel to control the narrative for once. All the rags would be hysterical trying to know more and it wouldn’t mean a damn thing to you because you’d know it was a farce.”

Harry stood abruptly. He took his barely sipped tea and poured it down the drain. He wanted to yell but he didn’t know why. He wanted to look at Snape, get closer to him, but he didn’t let himself turn around. He clutched his counter. “What’s in it for you?”

“The publicity would be good for the shop.”

Harry turned around. He frowned hard. “You’ve never cared about publicity. You’ve never wanted attention like that.”

Snape raised his chin. “You don’t know me, Potter.”

Harry laughed. This whole thing was ridiculous. “How are we supposed to get people to believe we’re dating when you can’t even call me by my first name?”

He stood and came around the table. Harry backed against the counter but Snape just came closer. Snape rested his hands on Harry’s waist. “Is this all right?” he said softly.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed.

Snape leaned in. For one terrifying moment, Harry expected to be kissed. Snape said in his ear: “Harry.”

“Oh.”

“This can work.” Snape dropped his hands and stepped back. “I know how to make people believe lies. I did it for years.”

“Okay.” Harry was rattled. He didn’t even know what he was saying. “Yeah, okay.”

“Leave it up to me. I know exactly who to tell so that our relationship makes the papers tomorrow.”

“Oh. So soon?”

“Is that a problem?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Great.” Snape smiled. “I will owl you about our first date.”

“Okay.”

Snape ascended the stairs. He was leaving but Harry still had questions. Harry went after him, but when he made it to the ground level, Snape was gone.

Harry slumped against the wall. He blinked and blinked, trying to understand.

*

Harry spent the rest of the day in a daze. He finished cleaning, not really paying attention. He kept knocking over picture frames.

He wanted to Floo Hermione, but he didn’t think she would approve. He didn’t know if he could tell his mates. He didn’t know if people would believe he was dating Severus Snape if his mates knew it was all a lie.

In his bedroom, he stopped in the middle of decluttering his bedside table to think and think. He didn’t know how long he stood there. He could still feel Snape’s hands on him, holding him. The touch had been intimate. It had been commanding. Ginny had once held him like that, and it made him feel like a girl. He’d really liked it.

Shacklebolt had something to do with it. Maybe it was his idea, maybe -

Harry needed to stop thinking so much, but he still had so many questions. Shacklebolt had rested his hand on Snape’s arse and the next day Snape was offering to fake date him. It didn’t make any sense. If Snape was in a relationship with Shacklebolt, why would he offer to make the public think he was dating Harry? Unless - unless this was a way to help Shacklebolt, too. Maybe they were in love but it would hurt the Minister politically if people knew.

Harry dropped to his bed. He felt crushed. This had nothing to do with him and everything to do with Shacklebolt and Snape.

*

In the morning, Harry woke up to a note fluttering above his head. It was from Snape: I’m downstairs. We need to talk as soon as possible.

Harry crawled from bed and got dressed and brushed his teeth. He tried to tame his hair but he was too groggy to put much effort into it. Downstairs, Snape perched on his sofa, legs crossed.

“Good, you’re awake. I apologize for Flooing in without asking first, but I was afraid the story would break before we were ready.”

“Right,” Harry said, voice thick with sleep. He sat down next to Snape. “What do we need to talk about?”

“What will you tell Granger and Weasley?”

“I don’t know.” Harry looked at him. “I will tell them that we grew close because I felt like I could talk to you, like I could trust you to understand.”

Snape nodded.

“I will tell them that I’ve felt like something was between us for a while. It was weird but it felt right. I will tell them that I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Snape looked away, his cheeks just a little pink. “You can tell them that I felt the same way, but I - I didn’t believe you could ever fancy me.”

Harry stared at his averted face. “Who made the first move?”

“Me of course.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you are an oblivious person. You have no idea what’s right in front of you.”

“I’m not oblivious!”

Snape raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, shut up.” Harry headed for the kitchen. “I need coffee.”

They went downstairs and Harry waved his wand, turning on the magical lights and brightening his charmed window. He started the coffee, which brewed in a matter of moments, and found the cream in the fridge. He poured them both cups without asking.

After a few gulps he could think clearly. “We had a fight and you kissed me.”

Snape gazed down at his cup. “I can see that happening.”

“Us fighting? Me too. What were we fighting about?”

“Albus Dumbledore. Sirius Black. Your mother. There are so many things.”

“I don’t want to fight about my mum. Let’s say we were fighting about Sirius.”

“I said he was a terrible godfather and you disagreed.”

“Everyone knows I’m still loyal to him.”

“You still blame yourself for his death.”

Harry nodded.

“I said something like, ‘You shouldn’t blame yourself. He was an idiot and he emotionally manipulated a teenage boy. He wanted to die.’”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Yes.”

“He was struggling. He would never mean to manipulate me.”

“And I never meant to get your mother killed but we must own our mistakes.”

“You still don’t care that my dad died, too. Even to this day, you don’t care.”

“I care because you care.”

“They were heroes. My dad and Sirius.”

Snape drained his coffee. “I was the hero. They just died young.”

Harry’s mouth fell open.

Above their heads, the Floo flared to life. Harry heard the roar of flames.

“Harry? Where are you?” It was Hermione.

“Maybe he’s out,” Ron said.

“Down here!” Harry said, his heart thumping. This was the first test.

There were footsteps on the stairs. Snape pulled Harry into his arms and kissed him.

“Oh, bugger!” Ron yelled.

Hermione screamed and dropped something.

Harry felt as if he was under water. Snape tasted like coffee and smelled like soap. His lips were soft. Harry pulled away, his face so damn hot. Snape was blushing, too.

“It’s on the front page. I didn’t believe it at first,” Hermione said.

Harry tried looking at them but his mind whirled. He could barely focus his eyes. “W-what are you talking about?”

“The article, mate.” Ron’s voice shook.

“Let me see,” Snape said. He took the newspaper from Ron, then read the headline and snorted.

“What does it say?” Harry said.

Potter in love with older man. Of course I’m not important enough to be named in the headline.” Snape laughed wickedly. “There’s a photograph of us.”

What?” Harry grabbed the newspaper. There was a magicked photograph of them holding hands. “This photo isn’t real. People will know it isn’t real. Who is the source?”

“The Malfoys,” Hermione said, disgusted.

Harry glared at Snape. “You told the Malfoys?”

Snape shrugged. “I’m very close to Narcissa.”

“But - it was supposed to be a secret! You know how I don’t like publicity!” Harry didn’t know where the words came from.

“Wait, hold on,” Ron said. “Are you saying it’s true?”

“Of course it’s true, Weasley.”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Ron said.

“Don’t be rude,” Hermione said, but she sounded worried. “Harry, can I talk to you alone for a moment?”

“We can go up to the parlor.”

“Don’t leave me alone with him!” Ron said.

“I don’t bite, Weasley.”

“Ronald, stay here. Have some coffee.”

She and Harry went up to the parlor, which was newly dusted and shiny with polish. She turned to him, confused, distraught. “What are you doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I had no idea about you two.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, it was kind of a surprise to me, too.” He smiled weakly, but her expression didn’t change.

“He was in love with your mum. He was a Death Eater.”

“Yeah,” Harry said slowly, feeling very uncomfortable. “But he is also a war hero.”

You’re a war hero.”

“I don’t have a monopoly on bravery, Hermione.”

Her frown deepened. “You used to hate each other. He was so cruel to us as children.”

“Yeah . . . I’ve been meaning to talk to him about that.”

“How can you find him attractive?”

Harry opened and closed his mouth. He wanted to say, I don’t find him attractive, but he realized that wasn’t true. He was attracted to Snape.

“What’s the matter?” she said.

“Nothing.” He rubbed at his face, hoping he looked casual. “I fancy him, all right? I just do. He’s . . . intelligent and funny. He’s not the most good-looking bloke, but I don’t really care about that. He’s interesting.”

“You deserve better.”

“Just trust me, okay? He’s not a bad person. I’m not better than him or anything stupid like that.”

She sighed. “You know I will support you. We both will support you no matter what you do.”

“Good,” he said, so relieved he felt lightheaded. It meant something that she and Ron accepted his relationship with Snape, even if it was fake. “Let’s go back down before Ron faints.”

She laughed.

Down in the kitchen, Ron and Snape sat at the table, deep in conversation. They barely looked up when Harry and Hermione appeared.

“There is no way that Maloney will help the Magpies beat my Cannons. No way.

Snape gestured angrily. “You live in a fantasy world, Weasley. I have more chance winning Witch Weekly’s most handsome than your Cannons have at winning the Cup.”

Ron snorted. “Everybody always underestimates my Cannons. One day they will win and you all will be sorry.”

“I’m not holding my breath.”

“Sorry, but the Cannons aren’t winning this season,” Harry said. He came over and sat next to Snape, who smiled warmly at him.

Ron stood and looked at Hermione. “Are you done interrogating Harry? I need to head to work.”

“I wasn’t interrogating him!” She smiled tightly at Harry and Snape. “Have a good day. It was nice to see you both.”

“You too,” Snape said, bowing his head.

When they had gone, Harry turned to him. “I didn’t know you had it in you.”

Snape blinked innocently. “What?”

“You being nice to my mates. You being nice to me.”

“I’ve been nice to you.”

“You don’t smile at me.”

“I save my smiles for the right moment.”

“You especially don’t kiss me.”

“We had to make an impression. I think they bought it.”

Harry sighed. “I think they bought it, too.” He wanted to lean closer and say, How about you kiss me again?

“Are you free tomorrow night?”

Harry’s stomach squirmed. “For a date?”

“Yes. Somewhere public. A nice restaurant.”

“I’m free, but I don’t know any nice restaurants. I’m not a nice restaurant kind of person.”

“Don’t worry. I know some.” Snape rose from his chair. “I should be going. The shop won’t run itself.”

“All right,” Harry said, though he was sad to see him go. They walked up to his Floo, which was still warm from its previous use. “Will you owl me the details?”

“Yes,” Snape said, not stepping into the fireplace yet. They hesitated, staring at one another. Harry didn’t know if he should do something, like shake his hand.

“Well, thank you helping me. It means a lot.” Harry smiled, but he knew his gaze was confused.

Snape raised his hand as if to wave, but his fingers brushed against Harry’s cheek. “Make sure to shave before tomorrow night. Remember, you want people to think you’re trying to look good for me.”

“Right,” Harry said, tingling from his touch. He wanted nothing more than to kiss Snape again, but he remembered Shacklebolt and felt cemented to the floor.

“Goodbye,” Snape said, still hesitating, still gazing at Harry intensely. He stepped into the Floo and disappeared with a whirl of green flames.

Harry let out a heavy breath. He collapsed on his sofa and covered his face. He was so fucked.

*

Snape owled him the following afternoon. The restaurant was in a posh part of Diagon Alley, and the mere fact that something about Diagon Alley could be posh was a sign that times were changing.

His owl sent Harry into a fret. Harry had hours before their date, but he had no idea what to wear or what to expect. He took a long, hot shower, trying not to imagine Snape in date clothes. He didn’t own date clothes, right? Harry tried to imagine him showing up in one of those fashionable three-piece robe suits and his brain nearly flat-lined.

After his shower, he stood in front of his wardrobe for a long time. Purple dusk filtered through his curtains and he had to light some candles with his wand. He wanted to Floo a mate. What does one wear on a date with Severus Snape? He imagined asking Neville and Ginny this. They would roar with laughter. He would have more luck just asking Shacklebolt. Minister, please tell me: What should I wear on a fake date with your lover?

Harry groaned and picked out casual but nice emerald robes that made his eyes pop. He put on the robes and went to stand in front of the mirror in his toilet, which was old and tarnished and had snakes curling up its sides like vines. “Conceited,” the mirror coughed after he’d been there for a good fifteen minutes.

He should ask Snape about Shacklebolt tonight. Just get it over with. He could better navigate the whole farce if he knew exactly what Snape wanted to achieve. He thought about them for about the hundredth time. When had their relationship begun? Perhaps during the war, but which one? What if Snape had been in love with his mum and Shacklebolt at the same time? It was an interesting thought.

He stared at himself some more. He was nothing compared to Shacklebolt. His face still looked boyish, immature. Sure, he had personally killed Voldemort, but Shacklebolt had spent decades fighting Death Eaters, ensuring that the magical world didn’t become utter shite. He was seasoned and capable and mature. He was Snape’s equal, not some awkward man who was young enough to be his son. Snape had never hated him the way he’d hated Harry.

“It doesn’t matter!” Harry said to the air and stomped from the toilet. The mirror said something in response, but he didn’t hear it.

It was so strange that Harry found Snape attractive in the first place. It was so strange that he was dying to kiss him again. Harry never had a type and fancied both men and women, but fancying Snape took it to a whole new level. He just . . . liked it. The hostility. He thought back at all the times he’d made Snape lose control, screaming, throwing things, and it was kind of hot. It wasn’t right; grown men shouldn’t treat their students like that, but Harry could appreciate it in retrospect.

Snape had calmed down. He didn’t glare at Harry, or at least not all the time. He listened to him and gave him advice. He encouraged him when others warned him about potential mistakes. Sometimes, when he thought Harry wasn’t paying attention, he gazed at him with deep warmth.

Harry left his house early so he could walk to the Leaky Cauldron. He also needed time to quiet his thoughts. London was chilly but busy with Muggles streaming past to their restaurants and cinemas. Harry wore a light coat to cover his robes, but he was sad that he had to hide. Sometimes he really missed being a Muggle.

The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley were not as busy as the Muggle streets, but shoppers and patrons still rushed to their next destination. Harry kept his head down, knowing it was useless.

“Harry!” someone said. “Harry, over here!”

He looked up and his heart sank. It was a reporter.

“Sorry, can’t talk,” Harry said. “I’m in a rush.” He quickened his steps, but the reporter kept pace.

“No worry, Harry! Just tell me - when did you start fancying Severus Snape? We’ve all read the biographies. He hated you when you were a student!”

“Yeah, but it was more complicated than that.”

The reporter raised his eyebrows. “Are you saying there was something going on? Even though you weren’t seventeen yet?”

“I know how old I was,” Harry snapped. “And no. Nothing was going on.”

The reported tripped on the kerb but didn’t slow down. “Are you sure? Because the school board needs to know if past professors were predators.”

Jesus, he’s writing the headline as we speak, Harry thought. “You can quote me: There was nothing between Severus Snape and me when I was at Hogwarts. Our romance is new and we would just like some privacy right now.”

“How is he in bed?” the reporter said, giving a stupid wink.

“Oh, fuck off,” Harry said, and escaped into the restaurant. Luckily the host stopped the reporter from following.

“Your date is already at your table,” said the host, which made Harry narrow his eyes. He followed the host without a word, allowing another person to take his coat while he walked.

Snape stood once he saw Harry. He wore well-tailored black robes and his face shone with a potion. He helped Harry into his chair, then took up his own seat. Harry had never seen him so well-groomed.

“Might I suggest a wine, gentlemen?” said the host.

“Don’t bother,” Snape said kindly. “I already have a choice in mind.”

“Very good,” said the host, bowing. “Your server will be with you shortly.”

Harry tried and failed not to stare. “Snape,” he said, then coughed when his voice shook. “Severus.”

“I’m glad we’re using first names now,” Snape said, smiling gently.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to get over you smiling at me.”

“Do you like it?”

“Of course.” Harry gulped some water. He was sweating. “This is a nice place. Good choice.”

“Thank you. I hope you were able to avoid the reporters.”

“There were more than one?”

“Yes. They bombarded me in front of my shop. Someone tipped them off that we were eating here tonight.” His black eyes glittered with humor.

“You told them?” he whispered.

“Narcissa.” Snape gave his attention to the approaching server.

“Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you for dining with us tonight. I’ve heard you already know your choice of wine?”

“We do,” Snape said. “Beqaa’s Cabernet Sauvignon. I trust it’s authentic, made by the Lebanese elves?”

“It is, sir.”

“Sounds good,” Harry said, not knowing a damn thing about wine. The server listed off the menu and they both chose the beef tenderloin with tail of veal. “I’m surprised you didn’t choose the fish.”

“I never developed a taste for it,” Snape said. The server poured their wine, which was darker than blood and tasted nothing like grapes.

“I have to ask you something,” Harry said, unable to meet his eyes. “I have to do it now before I lose my nerve.”

“You never lose your nerve.”

“Sometimes I do.” He bit his lip, gnawing. “Did you . . . agree to date me because of Minister Shacklebolt?”

Snape blinked. “Kingsley?”

“I saw . . . in your shop. He put his hand on you.”

“We are friends.”

“Yeah, but . . . he didn’t touch you like a friend.”

“Oh.” Snape fiddled with his serviette, a small frown curving his thin lips. “You saw that.”

“Yeah.” Harry gulped his wine, his stomach churning.

“Kingsley is very special to me.”

“I figured.” Harry tried to smile, but he felt his heart breaking.

“We have a complicated history. We have been friends for a long time, despite all of my secrets.”

“So . . . friends. What does that mean exactly?”

Snape looked into his eyes. “Are you asking if we’re shagging?”

“Are you in love with him?”

“No and no.”

Harry hesitated, not understanding. “But he touched your arse.”

“He does that sometimes as a joke.”

“A joke?”

Snape sighed. “You were a child during the war. I don’t expect you to understand.”

Heart pounding a little slower, Harry whirled his wine in his glass. “Try me.”

Snape’s expression became harsh. “We are friends now. Sometimes we were friends then. I don’t need to like someone to fuck them, Harry.”

“Merlin.” Harry felt himself blushing.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes, but . . . you said you weren’t shagging him now.”

“I’m not.”

“He just comes around sometimes and puts his hand on your arse?”

“Maybe he knew you would see.”

“What?”

Snape shrugged.

“He’s the Minister of Magic. He doesn’t just go around teasing people like that.”

“Becoming Minister doesn’t change a person completely. He’s always liked having a laugh, especially when it comes to me.”

“And you allowed it?”

“I deserved it back then.”

“That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about,” Harry said.

Snape didn’t flinch. “You want me to apologize?”

“Only if you mean it.”

Snape sipped his wine. He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Harry. I’m sorry for taking out all my anger and trauma on you and your peers.”

Harry stared. “I didn’t expect you to be so . . . self-aware.”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I was in a very dark place then. I wanted to die. I had planned on it, actually.”

“You were going to kill yourself?”

“No, I just assumed the Dark Lord would do it for me.” He smiled sadly. “I thought you would be the only one to defy him and remain alive.”

“He did kill me.”

“You killed each other.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Harry fell silent for a moment. “You know, Hermione is still hurt. A lot of people are still hurt because of you.”

“I’ve been meaning to have a conversation with her. I’ve already apologized to Longbottom.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “When?”

“Last year? I wanted to make sure he’d be a better professor than me.” Snape finished his wine and the glass magically refilled. “I think of that time as the lost years. I lost my youth to the war.”

“You made a big mistake. You wanted power.”

“Yes, and I was stupid enough to think becoming a Death Eater would give me a better life. I wanted to hurt Muggles as my father had hurt me. I wanted to kill every Order member because of what Potter and Black did to me. I wanted to own your mother.”

Harry shifted in his elegant seat. “Do you still love her?”

“I will always love her,” Snape said softly.

“Oh.” Harry glanced around and spotted someone very important in the media. “Did you know Diana Diego is here? Editor of Witch Weekly?”

“Is she watching us?”

“Yes.” Harry leaned over, minding their wine glasses, and kissed him. Snape was still for a moment before kissing him back. He tasted like wine and something sweeter.

“Harry,” Snape whispered.

“Your dedication to this farce is impressive.”

Snape laughed quietly.

When their dinner arrived, they dug into their tender beef and elegant veg silently. The food was so good that Harry couldn’t speak.

“The beef melts in your mouth,” Snape said.

Harry hummed and took a bigger bite. Snape laughed.

Once Harry finished his dish, he glanced over at Diego and found her scribbling furiously in a notebook. There was something about it that made him very sad; he had to remind himself why they were faking a relationship in the first place.

“I should make this all worthwhile, eh?” Harry said.

Snape stilled. “What do you mean?”

“I need to find someone to have a real relationship with. I need to start putting myself out there again.”

“I suppose,” Snape said stiffly.

“I think I’ll pop over to a Muggle gay bar tomorrow night,” Harry said, watching him closely. “My favorite is The Yard. What do you think about that?”

Snape’s eyes were burning. “Do what you please. Make our farce worth your time.”

Harry played with some leftover juice on his plate. “Do you not want me to go tomorrow night?”

“Do what you please.”

“Great,” Harry said, suddenly angry and not really understanding why. “I think it’s time for the bill.”

“Good idea,” Snape said, wiping at his mouth. He stood and helped Harry from his chair with a cold hand. “I’ve already taken care of everything, so you can just leave.”

“Okay.” Harry knew when he was being dismissed. “Have a good night.”

Snape kissed him chastely on the cheek. “Goodbye,” he said, his voice trembling with rage.

*

The Yard was a small club that catered to loads of Muggle tourists. Harry liked going there because of the anonymity, but sometimes he was still recognized. He could probably move to rural China and encounter someone who’d heard of him.

The club was busy, which was good and bad. It meant he had options, loads of options, but it also meant getting a drink involved elbowing blokes out of the way and shrieking at the bartender. He wasn’t the type to feed off the party atmosphere, and he mostly found the pounding music and sweaty bodies overwhelming.

He was hovering at the tail of the bar, nursing a pint, when a man with dark eyes and thick wavy hair approached him.

“Can I buy you a drink?” the man breathed against his ear.

Stupidly, Harry replied, “Already got one.”

“Oh.” The man turned to leave, but Harry said, “But you could buy the next one.”

“Great.”

Harry sipped his pint and gazed around the room. He should say something else, but he didn’t know what.

The man leaned against the bar, casual and long-limbed. “Come here often?”

“Yeah, a bit.”

“Me too.”

They stared at one another, and the man laughed. “I’m Tim.”

“I’m James.” Harry gave him a smile.

“Oh, lord. It might be a deal breaker if you go by Jim.”

“Fortunately, I don’t.”

Tim laughed again and drew closer. “Want to dance?”

“I’m not very good. I might injure you.”

“That’s all right. You can kiss me and make me feel better.”

Harry blushed. Tim was gazing at him very intently. He liked that Tim was flirting with him, but it also flustered him and made his thoughts come to a screeching halt.

“Or we can just continue talking,” Tim said easily. “Doesn’t matter to me.”

“I think I prefer that.”

Tim opened his mouth to continue, but someone wrapped their arm around Harry and pulled him close.

“Darling,” Snape said.

Harry’s mouth fell open. He was speechless for a moment. “What are you doing here?”

“I just thought I’d check up on my boyfriend,” Snape said, his voice deepening.

“Boyfriend?” Tim raised his hands and stepped back. “I’ll just be going.”

“Good idea,” Snape said, giving him a scorching glare.

Harry pushed away lightly, not wanting to make a scene. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I was sitting at home, minding my own business, when I realized that it just wouldn’t do if someone saw you pulling Muggle blokes. You don’t want a scandal, do you?”

Harry ground his teeth. “How am I supposed to meet people?”

“I don’t know,” Snape said, motioning lazily. “Get creative.”

Snape had never reminded Harry more of his old, nasty self. Harry left him at the bar to go out on the terrace, which was empty and cold. He needed to clear his head. A few minutes later, Snape joined him, offering a shot of whiskey.

“Trying to get me pissed?” Harry grabbed the small glass from his hand.

“A peace offering,” Snape murmured.

Harry shrugged and downed the shot, wondering if it would make him sick. It’d been a while since he mixed beer and liquor.

“I didn’t mean to anger you.”

“Well, you did.” Harry stared at the black hazy sky. London was never truly dark. All the lights made the night glow faintly.

“I think I saved you,” Snape said. “It was obvious that man was an utter pillock.”

“You just didn’t like him because he was good looking,” Harry said, feeling vicious. He knew Snape was jealous, but he wasn’t going to be the one to force him to admit it. Snape could play his games. Harry didn’t want any part of them.

Snape was silent for a long time. He gazed up at the sky too. “Perhaps,” he said quietly.

“Get me another one,” Harry said, shoving the empty glass into his hand.

“Okay.” Snape went back inside.

Harry leaned on his elbows and covered his face. He was just so angry and he didn’t know what to think.

Snape returned with two shots. He gave Harry one and sipped the other. Harry downed it without looking at him, then he grabbed the other right as Snape was raising it to his own lips and downed that too.

“You’ll sick up,” Snape said.

“I don’t care.” Harry left him on the terrace, not caring if he followed. His world was blurring now, and he finally had the courage to squeeze onto the dance floor. It was so crowded that men just pressed against each other, rocking to the thumping music. Harry closed his eyes and let himself be grabbed.

“You’ve a nice arse,” someone yelled into his ear. Harry turned around and kissed him, not caring who was watching, not even caring who he was kissing. The stranger laughed against his mouth. They both tasted like alcohol.

Then everything went still as though someone had pressed pause on Dudley’s old video cassette player. Snape slipped through the crowd like smoke. “That’s enough,” he growled.

“You’re not allowed to use magic around Muggles.”

Snape snorted. “Are you going to rat on me?”

“Maybe.”

Snape grabbed his hand and dragged him from the dance floor, which caused a number of the frozen men to fall down like mannequins.

“You’ve hurt them!”

“They will be all right.” Snape was pulling him toward the exit.

Harry tried to yank away, but his hold was too strong. “I’m not ready to go!”

“You are drunk. I’m doing you a favor.”

“Damn it, Snape!”

Snape waved his wand and everything started up again. There were a few yells from the men who’d fallen. Snape pulled Harry into the shadows.

“Call me Severus,” he growled, and turned them before Disapparating.

*

They landed in Harry’s foyer and Harry was finally able to shove him away.

“You did that just to be an arse!”

Snape didn’t back down. “I did that for your own good. You’ll see that once you’ve sobered up.”

“This has nothing to do with me being pissed.”

“You can’t go around just snogging any bloke you see.”

“Why?” Harry said savagely. “Because you don’t like it?”

“Of course I don’t like it!” Snape sounded dangerous. He still held his wand.

“You damn coward.” Harry came at him, not knowing what he would do. He pushed Snape against the wall, wanting to wrestle him, but their mouths came together, and he didn’t know who had initiated it.

Harry kissed him hard, fingers digging into his shoulders. Snape clawed at his back, pulling him so close it was hard to breathe. Harry bit his lower lip, which made Snape groan deeply. He licked into his mouth, wanting to taste him, but whiskey overwhelmed everything.

“Harry,” Snape whispered liquidly.

“Shut up,” Harry said, still angry. He slipped his tongue into his mouth, wanting to gag him, but he fell into the kiss, their lips softening, caressing. He remembered what it felt like to be fifteen, so lost, so afraid. Snape had enjoyed hurting him. He’d loved forcing himself into Harry’s mind, consuming his thoughts and memories. He’d wanted to break him. He’d wanted to command him.

“Darling,” Snape said, drawing back. “You’re drunk. It’s not right.”

“When has that ever stopped you?”

Snape went still. It was as if he’d been doused with icy water. “Let’s get you to bed before you say something you will regret.”

“Oh, fuck off!” Harry stormed upstairs, tripping more than a few times. Snape tried to follow but Harry pointed his wand at him. “I want you to go home.”

“Okay,” Snape said evenly.

Harry went to his bedroom and slammed the door. He muttered to himself as he wrestled with his belt. His head was spinning and his cock didn’t know if it wanted to be hard or not.

He landed face first on his bed, crushing his hands, and didn’t move until morning.

*

A few days passed and Harry didn’t hear from Snape. He was grumpy and confused. He closed his Floo and strengthened his wards. He wandered listlessly through Grimmauld Place, glaring at the Black heirlooms, not understanding why he still had them. He needed to bin it all. Maybe he could offer it all to Narcissa Malfoy. Thanks for your help! It sure did ruin my life!

His life wasn’t ruined. He just didn’t know how to proceed. He didn’t know what was true.

He thought about Tim and that bloke he’d kissed. He thought about Snape. Severus.

He wanted to see Tim again. He wanted to kiss that bloke again. He wanked to the memory of his mouth, so fleeting. His eyes fluttered as he fucked his hand, and Snape always found a way into his thoughts. He was casting a spell from faraway, positioning himself in the center of Harry’s mind. I command you to only think of me.

He wanted Snape. He wanted their relationship to be real. But Snape refused to be honest about his feelings, if he had any. Everything he’d done could be confused, warped. What? he’d say, blinking innocently. You are confused, Potter. I don’t fancy you. I was only trying to help.

Harry drew his wand and shot a spell at a tiny porcelain snake. White shards flew, scattering like dust, and Harry felt marginally better. He wanted to aim his wand at Snape. He wasn’t sixteen anymore. He’d learned how to shut his mind and mouth. He’d learned how to curse without guilt.

When an unfamiliar owl tapped at his parlor window, he jumped from the sofa to accept it. He was weightless with excitement. He gritted his teeth when he saw the owl was from Ron.

Open your Floo, you arse.

Rolling his eyes, Harry waved his wand and his fireplace roared to life. A moment later, Ron emerged from the green flames. Harry fell back on the sofa.

“What the bloody fuck is wrong?” Ron demanded, shaking the soot from his red hair.

Harry crossed his arms. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“You closed your Floo. You haven’t answered Hermione’s owls. You know how she worries.”

“I don’t care.”

Ron eyed the shards on the floor. He raised his eyebrows. “Did you have a row?”

“No.”

Ron sat down next to him on the sofa. He glanced at him, then looked away. He tapped his fingers together, obviously dreading what he was about to say. “Is this about Snape?”

“Jesus, Ron. Just send over Hermione if you can’t talk about it.”

“I can talk about it.”

“Are you sure? Because I’ve spent the last couple of days angry and - and heartbroken.” He hadn’t known before he said it. He was heartbroken.

Ron sucked in a loud breath. “Okay. Tell me about it.”

Harry barked a laugh. “Don’t be stupid. You don’t want to hear about it.”

“I’m here to listen.”

“I don’t - we don’t do shit like that. Mates don’t talk about their feelings.”

“Just fucking tell me.”

Harry dropped his head back and rubbed his face. He needed a shave. “Snape has been playing games and I hate it.”

Ron gave him a look that said What did you expect? but remained silent.

“I know, okay? I know it’s stupid but he’s changed. Or at least I thought he changed. He’s nicer now, more relaxed. He seems to really like me.”

“But?”

“He’s a coward! He doesn’t want to commit. He’d rather hide behind this stupid fake -” Harry stopped. He’d forgotten.

Ron laughed. “Hermione owes me a Galleon! I knew it was fake.”

“Just the relationship part. The feelings are real.”

“I was still right.”

“The weird part is Snape suggested it. He offered to be my fake boyfriend, but it just turned into a mess. Why offer to be my fake boyfriend if you fancy me?”

“Why did you agree to it?”

“Because I didn’t know I fancied him! I mean - I did know, sort of. I knew but I didn’t really think about it.”

“But then you two -” Ron grimaced “- snogged and you realized that it was real for you.”

“Yeah.”

Ron sighed. “It’s obvious what you must do.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “I already know we need to talk, but I’m not going to be the one to reach out.”

“How do you know he hasn’t tried reaching out? You closed your Floo and ignored owls.”

“I closed my Floo to everyone but him.”

“Ah.” Ron studied the floor for a moment. He was picking his words carefully. “Maybe you need to be the one to break the ice. I mean, it’s not like Snape is a bloke who likes to be vulnerable. He wouldn’t wear all those buttons otherwise.”

Harry cracked a smile despite himself. “What if he refuses to see me?”

“Then say fuck it and move on. Honestly, he’d be mental to turn you down.”

He raised an eyebrow and Ron flushed.

“What? You’re Harry Potter. You’re young and fit. Anyone with eyes can see he’s mad about you.”

“No way. Snape makes everyone think he hates me. That’s his thing.”

Ron shrugged. “Maybe it was before, but he was practically gagging for it when Hermione and I saw him here.”

“He was faking it.”

“No, mate. He wasn’t. Even I could see that and I’m the one who’s got the emotional range of a teaspoon.”

“Fuck,” Harry said.

“Yeah.”

“You really think so?” Harry just wanted to hear Ron say it again.

“Yep.”

“And he offered to be my fake boyfriend because he was scared or something?”

“Makes sense to me.”

Harry stood, his thoughts blurred. He should go to Snape now, but he needed to shower first. “What’s today?”

“It’s Tuesday. Why?”

“I should wait. He’s probably in his shop. I wouldn’t want to disturb him.”

Ron shook his head. “Go now. I’m sure he’s dying to see you.”

“Thanks, mate.” Harry hugged him and Ron clapped him on the back.

“Take care of yourself. If you want to shag bloody Snape, then do it. I’m not going to stop you. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Harry smiled sadly. “I can’t help how I feel.”

“I know.” Ron went to the Floo and threw some powder into the flames. “Owl Hermione when you get the chance.”

“Yeah.”

Ron waved and disappeared with a whirl of green. Harry climbed the stairs to his en-suite. He was already thinking about what he would wear.

*

An hour later, Harry was in front of Snape’s shop, his hair still a bit wet and his face shiny from an aftershave spell. The shop door was locked and the curtains were drawn. Harry went to the side of the building and climbed the teetering stairs to Snape’s flat.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again. “Open up if you’re in there. I need to talk to you, Severus.”

The door swung open. Snape stood before him, his mouth twisting. “What do you want?”

“I want to kiss you again.”

Snape looked shocked and a little scared. He stomped away, leaving the door open for Harry.

The flat was dark and smelled strongly of potions. Nearly every surface was covered with books and ingredients.

“Close the door,” Snape barked.

Harry did what he was told and followed Snape to the sitting area. Snape crossed his arms, waiting for him to speak.

“Any new articles?” Harry asked, motioning to the newspapers on the table.

“Yes but nothing unexpected.”

“Anything about you assaulting Muggles at the Yard?”

“I didn’t assault them.”

“You could have been more careful.”

“I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Harry breathed deeply. “I know it’s been a couple of days, but you really hurt me.”

“How did I hurt you?” Snape said.

“I wanted you to tell me the truth. I didn't want you to hide anymore.”

“I was trying to tell you the truth!” Snape said. “It was right in front of your nose!”

“I needed to hear it,” Harry said, matching his anger. “I’m not some bloody mind reader. You said it was fake. You never said you fancied me.”

“I shouldn’t have to! If you had any brains at all, you would have known.”

“You sound like a child,” Harry said.

“How dare you.”

“How about you write it down on a note? Shape it like a butterfly and let it flutter over to my desk. Do you fancy me? Check yes or no.

Snape glared daggers. “I was trying to help you. I pitied you. How can you still be a virgin, Potter? It’s just sad.”

Harry halted like he’d been slapped. “I was waiting for the right person and was stupid enough to think it might’ve been you.”

Snape’s expression crumpled. He turned away as if it hurt to look at him. “We aren’t right for each other, but I wanted it. I wanted it so much.”

“You need to talk to me.”

“I don’t want to talk.” Snape turned back to face him. “I want to fuck you so hard you can barely walk.”

Harry gulped. He felt lightheaded. “I want you to be my first. I - I want to feel you come inside me, but first I need to know it’s true.”

“What do you need to hear? That I can’t stop thinking about you? That I’m desperate for you to be mine?”

“Only if it’s true.”

Snape paused. He looked nervous. “I wanted to make sure you felt the same way. You’re young and beautiful, and I should be dead. I needed to know before I made the jump.”

“That’s why you offered to be my boyfriend?”

“Yes.” Snape looked away, his jaw pulsing. “I’m not used to going after what I want. I’m not used to getting what I want. Sure, there was Kingsley but that was never serious.”

“Did he touch your arse in front of me because he knew how you felt?”

“Yes, that bastard. He wanted to make sure you knew I was bent.”

“Are you bent?”

“Yes, for the most part. Your mother was the exception.”

Harry sighed loudly. “I don’t want to be her replacement.” He tried to suppress a grimace. “I don’t want you to think about her when you’re - with me.”

“She belongs to someone who lived long ago. You don’t understand what you mean to me.”

“Then help me understand.”

“I’m not sure if I have the words.”

Harry stepped closer. He ran his fingers along Snape’s jaw. “I feel like I can face the world when I’m with you.”

Snape sucked in a breath. “I’m only alive because of you.”

“I thought you had died. I left you to bleed out.”

“You gave me hope that the world could be a better place.”

“Severus,” Harry said quietly.

“Please,” Snape said. “I want you.”

“Yes.”

“I want you but it’s impossible for me to imagine.”

“I’m like any other bloke.”

Snape drew him close. “No, you’re not.”

They kissed deeply, hotly. How could so much emotion be conveyed through lips?

“Please.”

“I need you,” Harry said, his hands buried in his robes. “I need you inside me.”

“God, I’ll be your first.”

“Severus.”

Snape guided him to the bedroom, which was empty and tidy. Snape pushed him down on the bed and kissed him hard.

“Get these stupid robes off,” Harry said.

“You smell incredible.” Snape buried his nose in his hair, then his neck. He opened his mouth and sucked, turning Harry to liquid.

“Fuck, that feels good.”

“Just wait,” Snape murmured. He sat back and quickly undid all his buttons. He discarded his robes and underthings, and he helped Harry remove his clothes, too.

Trembling, Harry smoothed his hands over his warm chest, feeling the hair there, and going further until he grazed his belly. The lighting was dim, but Harry could see his erection, big and insistent. His mouth watered.

“Can I touch you?”

“You better.”

Harry wrapped a gentle hand around him and stroked. Snape was warm and heavy, and he jerked against his palm. Harry lowered his head so he could taste Snape.

“Like that, darling.”

Harry licked the crown over and over; then he sucked it into his mouth. Snape groaned deeply and his cock leaked precome.

“Am I doing it right?”

Snape rested a hand on his head. “Take me deeper.”

Harry opened his mouth, letting saliva escape, and took him deeper, almost to his throat. He bobbed his head slowly, getting used to the feel of a cock in his mouth. He sucked at the head, then went back down, over and over.

Snape groaned. “Just like that.”

Harry quickened his bobbing, sucking a little harder, his glasses sliding down his nose. He was moaning it was so good. Snape’s thighs shook.

“Fuck, fuck.”

“I want you to fuck my mouth,” Harry said, voice gravel. He wanted to know what it felt like.

Snape grabbed his head with both hands and thrust hard and deep into his mouth. “Stay nice and wide. Just like that, baby.”

Harry moaned high and desperate. He was coming without warning, his hips rocking against the sheets. Baby.

“God damnit,” Snape gasped, and he had to push Harry back, his cock dripping wet and jerking with the need to come.

Harry hid his face. “I’m embarrassed.”

Snape urged him to look up. He framed his face and kissed him. “You perfect creature.”

“You haven’t come yet.”

Snape urged him on his back. He kissed down his stomach, lapping at some of his cooling semen. He took his softening cock into his mouth.

“Oh, shit.” Harry arched and let his eyes roll back. Snape’s mouth was so fucking warm and silky, and his tongue - fuck. He hardened again so quickly it was a little painful.

“Do you play with your arse, Potter?”

“Oh my god.”

Snape dipped his tongue into his slit. “Answer me.”

“Of course.”

Muttering a spell, Snape spread lube over his fingers and on Harry’s arse. He caressed his hole, rotating and probing. When Harry was relaxed, he pressed inside.

“Fuck,” Harry panted.

Snape moved in and out slowly, letting Harry get used to the intrusion. “I don’t want you to be in pain.”

“A little pain is nice. I like the burn.”

Gazing into his eyes, Snape pressed a second finger inside. Harry widened his legs and arched into it. He wasn’t nearly full enough.

Snape thrust his fingers, watching every tremor on Harry’s face.

“Fuck me,” Harry said. “Now, I want it. I want to feel you.”

Snape withdrew his fingers. He cast another lube spell and slicked his cock. He crouched into position and pressed his cock to his hole. They were both trembling.

“Ready?”

“Please, Severus.”

Snape thrust inside, wet and hard and way too big. Harry cried out. Panting, Snape pushed in to the hilt and stopped.

“Fuck, you’re big.”

"You’re killing me,” Snape groaned.

Harry’s mouth was open. He was trying to breathe, but all he could do was gasp.

“Is it too much?” Snape said, shaking.

“No, no.” Harry twisted beneath him, needing more, needing to escape. “Just - move.”

Snape pulled out a little and thrust back in. His hair was hanging in his face. “Fuck, your arse.”

“Tell me.”

“Your perfect, virgin arse.”

Harry kissed him sloppily, swallowing his moans. Snape started a gentle rocking. Harry tried meeting his thrusts, but he couldn’t move. The sensation was weird. His hole hurt, but there was something deeper that made him light up. He was afraid he was bleeding.

Snape picked up speed. Remarkably, Harry was opening up for him, and the pain was lessening little by little. Snape was talking. He was crying.

“Oh, Harry. Fuck, fuck.”

“Severus.”

“I love you. Please, I’ve always -”

“Harder,” Harry said. “Fuck me harder.”

Snape thrust hard and fast, his bollocks smacking. He buried his face in Harry’s neck, his thrusts losing rhythm. “Please,” he whined.

“I love you, too,” Harry said, delirious, overwhelmed. He loved Snape because he was brave and strong and intelligent. He loved him because he could trust him. He loved him because he was his first.

Snape came hard, his lips pressed together. Harry tried to watch his face but he could barely focus his eyes. Snape wrapped a hand around his cock and tugged. Harry orgasmed, shooting between their stomachs, pushing Snape out.

When it was all over, Snape sagged on top of him, breathing deeply. Harry kissed his damp forehead and buried his hands in his hair. He closed his eyes and dozed, too.

“Did I hurt you?” Snape murmured, sounding utterly relaxed.

Harry was somewhere between dreams and reality. “No.”

“Really?”

“I will heal.”

Snape sighed and pulled him closer. “Are you mine now?”

Harry blinked awake. At some point he’d lost his glasses, but he didn’t have the strength to look for them. “Yeah.”

“No more random blokes at clubs?”

“No more Shacklebolt?”

“God, no.”

“Good,” Harry said, nestling closer. “You’re my boyfriend now.”

“Christ.”

“Tomorrow we’ll snog outside your shop and give them something real to report.”

Snape kissed him.