“Don’t you dare quit on me, Professor! I refuse to lose you too!”
Severus Snape emerged from the liminal space between consciousness and the veil to find himself blinking up at the blood- and tear-streaked face of Harry Potter. This revelation was immediately overshadowed by the paroxysms radiating from his shredded neck and his left forearm. He closed his eyes again and swore--or tried to. Even his involuntary cry of pain came out more like a puff of air than a recognizable sound. He tried to turn away, to cradle his throbbing arm to his chest, but the abused muscles refused to move.
“I know you’re still in there,” Potter half-spoke, half-sobbed. “You’re too stubborn to go that easily. Fight it, you’ve got to!”
Granger appeared from over his shoulder. She gasped, gaze on the place where his skin felt on fire. “Harry. Harry, you’ve got to stop the spell. You’re killing him!”
“I can’t.” Potter heaved in a deep breath, which did nothing to lessen the panic in his expression. “I can feel them, Hermione. The Death Eaters. Voldemort is dead but most of them are determined to go down fighting. I stole his spell, I’m using their dark marks to drain their magic as fast as I can, but if I let up more people will die. The battle won’t end until they’re all either dead or squibs.”
“You’re draining Professor Snape’s magic too, and that’s the only thing keeping him alive!”
Severus could feel the truth of that in his bones. He’d fully expected, after giving Potter his memories, that he would bleed out here on the floor of the Shrieking Shack and no one would care. The fact that Potter and Granger came back--and that the Dark Lord was dead?--would probably have stirred stronger emotions in him if only he weren’t in bloody agony. He attempted to summon his voice, to point out that he was right here, but the effort only sent him into a wheezing fit.
“Shit,” Potter whispered. “I don’t know what--how can I fix it?” He twisted to fix Granger with a fierce look. “Can I share my magic? There’s got to be a way!”
She chewed her lip. “There is, but--”
“It’s incredibly difficult to undo,” she declared. “You can’t--”
“I don’t care.” Potter looked back down at Severus, green eyes searching his face and tearing up again at whatever they saw there. “Tell me, Hermione. Please.”
Oh, no. He had a suspicion he knew what she was thinking, and it was hard to decide whether he’d rather be dead than be magically indebted to Potter forevermore. And Potter bonded to him. He wasn’t worth it, not for the Golden Boy who had his whole life ahead of him. All Severus could do was to meet her gaze and will her to understand.
Her face softened, but she didn’t bother to translate the message. Instead, she placed Potter’s hands on Severus’s sternum and cleared her throat. “If you’re sure, Harry. Repeat after me, and focus on pushing your magic through to him. Not all of it, just… enough.”
Harry chuckled darkly. “I hijacked Voldemort’s parseltongue spell and I’m siphoning power from sixty witches and wizards right now. Not going to run out.”
Hermione closed her eyes, then, and recited the surprisingly complicated incantation with--as far as Severus could remember--no mistakes. He’d always suspected she had an eidetic memory, and this seemed to confirm it. There was no reason she’d have needed to memorize a five-hundred-year-old magical bonding spell intended for guild apprentices. And yet.
“Professor.” She fixed him with a fierce look. “You need to say ‘I, Severus Snape, do so pledge.’” She tapped her wand over his Adam’s apple and the stabbing-bright nettle feeling in his neck eased a bit. “It’s based on intent, I’m pretty sure, so it’s okay if you can’t actually make the sounds.”
Severus looked back and forth between her face and Potter’s earnest one, until he finally had to acknowledge he was going to be saved whether he bloody wanted to or not.
His vocal cords still weren’t up to the task, but he mouthed the words anyway.
“Is that it?” Potter’s palm went flat against Severus’s chest, absently running a hand over Severus’s ribcage. He probably didn’t even realize he was doing it. Severus could feel it, though--if being a direct recipient of Dumbledore’s magic felt like standing in a bright light, Potter’s felt like lying on the face of the sun. He was still vaguely aware of his body’s pain, the sharp knives of poison radiating out from Nagini’s bite and the inferno of the dark mark searing away his magic, but the relief washing over him with Potter’s magical infusion made his corporeal misery feel utterly insignificant in comparison. Severus shuddered and took his first deep breath since before the bloody snake attacked.
“Professor Snape.” Potter collapsed into a pile of limbs and choked sobs, his forehead resting squarely over Severus’s heart. “Gods, Professor. I don’t know what I would have done if we’d lost you. I’m so sorry.”
“You… fool,” Severus whispered. Already he was breathing more easily, and feeling better by the moment. “Utter Gryffindor.”
“Yes, well, this Gryffindor just killed Voldemort and is trying to save your damned life, so I’d appreciate if you’d save your insults until after we can get you to Madam Pomfrey.”
Severus summoned a glare, despite the fact the the Boy Who Bloody Lived was right. He did feel several steps further from death’s door. That didn’t mean he had to like it.
“As you wish, master,” he hissed.
Potter’s head popped up and he stared at Severus with his mouth a perfect “O” of confusion. Granger was practically wringing her hands behind him.
“It’s traditionally a bond between master and apprentice,” she explained quietly. “The apprentice consigns their magic to the master’s control and in return the master is able to share as much or as little of their combined power as he or she wishes. The connection weakens after two or three years, once the apprentice has learned enough to strike off on their own.”
“Not quite accurate,” Severus croaked. “But also not something we can fix right now.”
“You’re right.” Granger put a hand on Potter’s shoulder and stood. “I’m not sure Madam Pomfrey would be able to do anything more than you can, Harry, not now that you’re practically radiating extra magic. And the infirmary is already full--you saw how it was going back there. I need to get back and tell the Order what’s going on.”
Potter nodded. “Luckily, the excess power seems to include the Headmaster’s privileges. Hold on.” He pressed his palm flat skin-to-skin on Severus’s neck, covered Granger’s hand on his shoulder, and apparated them all to the castle.
“This is my office.”
Potter nodded and--without even bothering to reach for his wand--levitated Severus to lay across the massive wooden desk. “All the fighting has been upstairs so far.” He glanced over his shoulder at Granger. “Hermione, can you cast a sonorus and tell everyone Voldemort is dead? I’ll apparate you to the base of the main stairs. McGonagall is in the great hall, Flitwick is just inside the front gates, and Professor Sprout is in the infirmary.”
She blinked. “How do you--”
“I don’t know how, but I can feel them. Can feel everyone in Hogwarts right now. Like the Marauders’ map, but without even having to look.”
That sounded like another of the perks Severus had discovered after being made headmaster, not that he was going to say anything. He’d been able to track any of Hogwarts’ inhabitants by merely concentrating for a few seconds. It’s what let him keep appraised of what horrors the Carrows were inflicting on the students. Only one target at a time, though, and attempting to find more than three or four in a row always gave him a massive headache. If Potter was able to follow several hundred students, faculty, Order members, and Death Eaters at once...
“Hold on,” Potter said, and disappeared holding Granger’s arm.
His sudden absence felt like an arrow to the throat.
By the time he returned, probably less than thirty seconds later, the searing pain of Nagini’s poison had returned in full force and Severus was clawing desperately at his neck for air.
Potter ran to him and peeled his hands away from his wound. Which was bleeding freely again, Severus realized, judging from the fresh red blotches staining his hands. Potter swore and cupped Severus’s torn throat between his palms.
“Don’t know what you’re trying to do,” he muttered. It was unlikely he’d be able to hold the magical gouges closed with just his fingers, but the bloody stubborn boy never did have much sense. “You’ll never--oh! Potions! You must have some around here somewhere. What do you need and where do I find it?”
Severus coughed and suddenly realized he could breathe again. “Can’t leave,” he wheezed. “Don’t go.”
“I’ll summon them--”
“Potter!” Severus closed his eyes and gulped in a lungful of air. “If you persist in trying to save my life, you must not go more than an arm’s length from my person. Don’t you understand? I have no magic. You have appropriated even the last bit you hadn’t already stolen through the Dark Mark. My body cannot fight the poison if you sever the connection. The bond is literally the only thing keeping me alive right now.”
Potter looked down at his hands on Severus’s neck and flinched, but he didn’t pull away. “I’m not going to abandon you now, Professor,” he whispered. “Never again. But don’t you have something? Blood replenisher, anti-venom, something?”
“In my private lab, off my chambers. Not here.”
“Okay.” Potter bit his lip, wrapped an arm more firmly around Severus’s shoulders, and then suddenly they were standing in an awkward embrace in the middle of Severus’s bedroom. Potter murmured a quick scourgify and lowered him onto his duvet. “Um. So. Blood-replenishing potion I know. Pain potion? Dittany? I… I’m drawing a blank here.”
Severus let his eyes drift closed. “Those will do,” he admitted. “I’ve been taking the antivenin for months now, but of course today was the one morning I was unable to get back to my stores. How did you apparate us here, anyway? I keep these rooms warded so tightly even the house elves can’t get in.”
Oh, that led to a disturbing thought… “If I find you’ve been skulking about my chambers with your bloody cloak--”
“No! I just... saw it in your mind, I suppose. When I--when you gave me those memories. And then after that spell in the Shack I didn’t even have to think about it.”
Merlin only knew whether Severus would ever be able to intimidate the boy again, but it was looking more and more unlikely. Not now that Potter had the Elder Wand and the combined power of the Dark Lord’s entire army and everything Severus had once had at his disposal. “Cupboard in the sitting room,” Severus sighed. “Please don’t break any holes in my door or furniture when summoning them.”
Potter didn’t even have to speak--one moment his gaze went unfocused, the next he was holding both the blood-replenishing potion and Severus’s entire private dittany stock. He quickly packed the dittany around Severus’s neck wounds and offered the potion bottle with a little apologetic shrug. “You can swallow now, right?” he asked.
Severus drained the bottle in answer. “I keep my pain potion in the top drawer of my nightst--”
“Got it.” Potter handed him the distinctive bottle out of thin air.
The relief the potion brought was immediate, and strong enough to overwhelm Severus’s discomfort with the fact that it had been sitting side-by-side with a vial of his home-brewed lubricant. Hopefully Potter didn’t sense the surroundings of wherever he non-verbally summoned items from.
Potter stood there a while longer, staring stupidly down at him, then shifted one hand to Severus’s shoulder and let out a sharp breath. “I can see it healing!”
The blood-replenisher felt thick as it spread throughout Severus’s body, tingling as it went. The rest of his cuts and bruises were all but a memory, now, leaving only the ache in his throat as a souvenir of Nagini’s strike. Even--
Severus tugged back his sleeve and stared at his left forearm. It was bare. No trace of the fatal tattoo which had haunted him for more than half his life. He let his arm flop heavily back onto the mattress. “Potter,” he breathed.
“Along with your magic,” Potter murmured. There was regret in his tone.
Severus sighed. “I’d have given up a lot more than just my magic to be free of him,” he admitted. “I wasn’t expecting to survive this war.”
Potter looked stricken. “Surely you didn’t want to die?”
Had he? Severus wasn’t sure he knew what he wanted. Not recently, at least. There were times, soon after Lily was killed and he defected to Albus’s dubious protection, that he would have happily allowed himself to be murdered if only to see his best friend again. His only friend. Albus had always been frighteningly perceptive, though, and Severus had never gotten the chance to find out whether he was actively suicidal or merely indifferent to his own continued existence.
Then the Dark Lord rose again and he couldn’t afford the luxury of wanting anything. Not life, not death, nothing except that when all was said and done, the Dark Lord would no longer be a threat. To anyone. Severus was useful, and he threw himself into that identity single-mindedly because the alternative would have involved admitting he didn’t know why he was doing it.
To Potter’s question, though, he merely pressed his lips together and looked away.
A hand came down on his shoulder again. “Professor,” Potter said. “I… it may be selfish of me, but I’m glad you survived. I don’t want to lose you.”
Severus huffed. “Seeing as I need to remain within a few feet of you for what could possibly be the rest of my life, Potter, I’d say you got what you wanted.” He closed his eyes. “There’s still a war on upstairs, you know. Hogwarts will gain a legion of new ghosts tonight.”
“Yeah. Hermione’s gotten the message out, though.” Potter paused a long moment, then started speaking in a low monotone. “All the death eaters are dead or unconscious except for the Malfoys and Fenrir Greyback, who never took the dark mark. All three Malfoys surrendered their wands and are under incarcerous in the Great Hall. Flitwick is bleeding badly but he’s got Greyback stuck in Hagrid’s hut with some pretty impressive charms. Professor McGonagall is on her way to--now she’s got Greyback locked underneath Hagrid’s table, which she’s transfigured into a cage. He’s bitten three students tonight. Only Luna survived. I can’t track the dead like I can the living, but I think we’ve lost about a dozen students, all told. Also Sinistra, Lupin, and--” He choked out a sob. “And Ron. I can feel him getting fainter, Professor.”
Severus put his hand over Harry’s on his shoulder. “Concentrate,” he directed. “I believe you can heal him from here.”
Harry’s fingers tightened, although not to the point of pain.
“Picture moving him to the infirmary, with his wounds already bandaged and tended to. A sleeping draught already in his system so he can rest. Use that extra power, Potter. The magic you stole from me included Headmasters’ privileges, like apparating us here. Those come from Hogwarts herself. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of what you’re channeling right now, but Hogwarts is making her magic available to you. Use it.”
There was a long pause, during which both of them held their breath, then Potter let out a long groan and sank to the ground. “It worked, I think,” he said quietly.
“What else can you do from here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Try.” Severus rolled over to his side, which put their faces in line with each other. Potter’s eyes went glassy for a moment--he finally learned to focus inward?--and then he surprised Severus by sitting up straight and stripping off his shirt.
“I think…” Potter lowered himself to the floor, pressing his bare shoulders and back and arms to the stone. “There’s too much,” he said. “My head can’t hold it all. But Hogwarts--the castle can. And she wants to help. I can feel it.”
Severus arched an eyebrow. “Comfortable?”
Potter flashed him a hint of a smile. “Bloody freezing, but I’m guessing you knew that. Skin contact is helping, though.” He closed his eyes and Severus could see him relaxing, bit by bit. “If I fall asleep,” he said, “wake me up when it’s all over. And then we’ll both face the aftermath.”
Together. The sentiment went unsaid, but Severus could feel the shackles of the bonding spell as clearly as if it had been shouted.
It’s not like he had a choice, did he?
From the floor less than three feet away, Potter went still. And Severus waited.
It was oddly silent in the headmaster’s quarters, Severus mused. Strange to know that the Dark Lord was dead--as were several others, people he’d known as schoolmates and students and colleagues--but if he closed his eyes it could have just been any other night. Any of a hundred nights, when the Carrows stalked the castle and he had been forced to snatch bits of sleep in between terrifying the students and spying on all the Death Eaters he could reasonably surveil.
The one big difference was Harry Potter, snoring softly on the floor beside the bed in the faint moonlight.
Severus rolled to the edge of the mattress and watched while the boy slept. No, not boy--a young man, now. He hadn’t seen Potter since bringing him the Sword of Gryffindor, and before that it had been the better part of a year. Potter’s chin was dark with stubble and the muscles of his forehead were tight with strain, even in slumber. A boy forced onto a madman’s quest. The Dark Lord certainly had been mad, by the end, but Severus couldn’t help but feel Albus deserved the same appellation. Oh, the former headmaster had tried to declare his plan inscrutable, too complicated for any mere mortal to understand and find fault with it, but Severus Snape was no “mere” anything. Albus may have been a powerful wizard but that didn’t mean he was the better strategist.
Albus had intended for the boy to die.
Maybe he hadn’t wanted it to happen, but he certainly didn’t hesitate to do what he considered “right” no matter how abhorrent that “right” was. Potter, Severus, himself? All acceptable casualties in the pursuit of his bloody Greater Good.
You’re only one for three, old man, he thought with a twist of malicious pleasure. Potter and I survived despite you.
Severus blinked and found himself looking down into Lily’s green eyes. The moonlight sifting in through the gauzy curtain didn’t truly allow him to examine Potter’s eye color, but Severus knew it well enough.
“How are you feeling?” Potter asked.
Severus took stock for a moment. “Tired,” he finally admitted. “You?”
“Bloody, sore, and still exhausted.” Potter flashed him a hint of a smile. “Or ‘bloody sore,’ pardon my language.”
“You killed a man tonight and watched as he and his followers assaulted those close to you. You’ve earned the right to whatever profanity you choose.”
Potter huffed. “I killed more than one, I’m sure. Not all the Death Eaters got back up again.” His face grew more difficult to decipher. “I’m very glad you’re not in that group,” he added softly.
“As am I.”
“Good.” Potter yawned and sat up, popping his shoulders one at a time as he stretched. “Merlin, I could sleep for a week, but… er. Not quite yet.” He shot Severus a sheepish look. “Loo?”
“I suppose I shall have to accompany you.”
Potter winced and ducked his head. “Crap. This is going to be awkward, isn’t it.”
That was one word for it. “Yes, master,” Severus replied. “I await your command.”
“Merlin, please don’t. That’s--it’s wrong. And creepy.” Potter shuddered. “As if I could ‘command’ you to do anything.”
“Technically, Potter, you can. I’m not strictly obligated to comply, but that’s what the bonding spell is for. To prevent apprentices running off half-cocked before they understand the dangers of not knowing what they don’t know.” Truth be told, Severus wasn’t one hundred percent sure he remembered the specifics of such an old and obscure spell, but it wouldn’t hurt to convince Potter that he did. “In my case, all you have to do is cut off my access to your magic and I die within minutes. Rather an effective bargaining chip.”
“You could.” Severus silenced the boy’s protest with a level look. “Save your words; they’re not going to change the reality of the situation.”
“I’m not Voldemort.” Potter stood, suddenly looming over where Severus was still prone on the bed. “I’m not him and I’m not Dumbledore, Professor. I don’t wish to be anyone’s master but my own.” He let out a long sigh and his shoulders sagged. “I know, it’s not up to me. Nothing ever is. But I really do need the loo, so we’re going to have to work on the logistics now and we can get back to arguing later. Acceptable?”
“I suppose it will have to be.” Severus struggled to a sitting position, nearly toppling head-first over the side of the bed and into Potter’s waiting arms.
“Easy,” Potter murmured. “It’s probably going to be a while before you’re up and walking. Shall I apparate us?”
Severus shook his head, them grimaced. “Just… some support would be appreciated.”
With liberal help from Potter, he managed to shuffle on shaky legs to the door of the en suite. Potter transfigured an end table into a narrow daybed and lowered Severus into it. “I’ll only be a minute,” he promised.
Severus expected some pain, as the toilet was farther from the door than he and Potter had been since Potter returned to his quarters after apparating Granger, but luckily the stinging sensation didn’t materialize. Potter opened the door again less than the promised minute later. “Okay?”
“Wash your hands, Potter.”
“Making sure you’re all right first.”
“I’m fine.” Tired but alert, actually.
“I was trying to focus on passing you magic through the bond. Could you feel it?”
“Since I’m not actively dying, you can assume it worked. I presume we will finalize the details as time goes on.” And since they were here already… “I suggest you take advantage of my relatively benevolent mood to have a shower,” Severus suggested. “I will signal you if something changes--leave the door open.”
"I know, I'm a bit ripe." Potter glanced down at his own bare chest and blood-smeared jeans and pulled a face. “If you’re sure?”
Severus raised an eyebrow in answer.
“Yeah, okay.” Potter bit his lip. “You’re a mess too, though. WORBY!”
A house elf appeared before them with a deep bow. Severus vaguely recognized him as one of the elves usually in charge of the kitchens. “Savior Harry Potter has called, sir?”
Potter smiled at him, visibly taking the house elf aback. “If you please, Worby, Headmaster Snape has been injured and needs to remain exactly where he is for the time being. Could you please assist him in getting cleaned up and dressed in something more comfortable while I’m in the shower? If he has trouble breathing or needs my help in any way, please do interrupt me. I won’t mind.”
Worby bowed low again, his grey hair nearly scraping the floor. “Of course, Master Potter sir.”
The bathroom door shut enough to muffle the sound of the shower, and Severus was face-to-face with one of Hogwarts’ more senior house elves. He managed to prop himself up on one elbow so at least their heads were level.
“Savior Harry Potter is Headmaster,” Worby muttered to himself in a low voice as he turned and went to rustle through Severus’s wardrobe. “Professor Snape is nasty squib now. Savior Harry Potter requests Worby pretend Professor Snape is Headmaster; Worby will do as Savior Headmaster Harry Potter wishes.”
“I can hear you,” Severus called out dryly.
Worby blatantly ignored the comment. “Comfortable clothes,” he continued in the same undertone. “Professor Former Headmaster Snape sir does not wear comfortable. Professor Former Headmaster Snape sir wears stiff and black and frightening to students. Worby will fix.” He rummaged until he found Severus’s lone pair of pajama bottoms--a pair which were rarely worn, as Severus usually slept in either his day trousers (when he expected to be awakened in the middle of the night with some emergency or another) or nothing at all. They were a rather bold tartan plaid, a gift from Minerva several years prior, but Worby held them up in front of himself and instantly they changed to a plain black. A moment later they were on Severus and his bloody robes were nowhere to be seen.
They were comfortable. “Thank you.”
Worby’s long ears twitched. “Professor Former Headmaster Snape is welcome, sir,” he declared. “A t-shirt is wished, sir?”
“That would be fine.”
Two swathes of house elf magic in quick succession and Severus’s bare chest was suddenly covered and no longer sticky with dried substances he didn’t want to think about. Much less scratchy than scourgio, Severus thought to himself. Nowhere near as good as a real bath, of course, but he’d been trying to avoid thinking about how to approach Potter with that request. This staved off that need, at least.
“Does Professor Former Headmaster Snape sir require anything else?” Worby asked.
Now that I’m slightly more presentable, yes. “Could you please check whether Minerva McGonagall is awake and available? I need to speak to her.”
Worby bowed and vanished, reappearing a minute later with Minerva in tow. “Deputy Headmistress Professor McGonagall, sir.”
“Severus!” Minerva thanked and dismissed the house elf, then strode forward and enfolded Severus in as fierce a hug as could be expected considering he was still lying on a daybed and she was the taller one for once. She promptly sat on the floor, arthritis be damned, and pressed her gnarled hands over his. “I was so relieved to hear you’d survived,” she whispered. “I owe you a massive apology.”
“You believed what you were meant to believe,” he said.
“Still.” She pulled back and cupped his chin in her palm, a gesture that made him feel eleven years old again. “You have grown into a great man, Severus. I know not everything is over…”
“...But the Dark Lord is dead,” he finished for her. “I’ve heard.”
“Yes.” She dropped her arm and smiled brightly at him, despite the late hour and the exhaustion she must also have been feeling. “Miss Granger said something about a bond?”
Severus held up his left forearm, bare of the dark mark, for her to see. “Typical plan for the Golden Trio--forging ahead without a thought for the consequences. Yes, Granger helped Potter invoke a bloody apprentice bond.”
He was rewarded by a full two seconds of shock on her face before she pulled herself back together. “I see,” she finally said. “And you’re mad that they saved your life, why?”
“I did mention apprentice bond? You heard me before.”
Minerva rolled her eyes at him, and it occurred to Severus that she was the only person on the face of the planet who would do so. “If this is about your pride, Severus--”
“It’s about permanence,” he spat. “A few years would be no big imposition in the greater scheme of things, giving wizarding lifespans, but Potter took my magic. Siphoned me dry along with every other Death Eater bearing a mark. What do you think will happen after the apprenticeship period wears off?”
Understanding filled her features. “The apprenticeship bond doesn’t affect existing magic,” she said slowly. “It merely redirects your new magic as your spirit creates it, until your magical reserve has grown large enough to handle your new power. But if you have no magical reserve left and your spirit no longer produces magical energy....”
“...Then I’ll never be free of it. Ever. Especially if, as is likely, my body will need a constant magic infusion to fight off the aftereffects of Nagini’s venom for the rest of my miserable life.”
“Potter leaving my side even for a few minutes was enough to re-open the wounds.”
Minerva shot a significant look at the bathroom door.
“Fine,” Severus amended. “Apparently he can consciously direct magic my way… while he’s thinking about me. In the shower, which I’d rather not consider.” Merlin only knew if Potter’s showers were wank time the way Severus’s occasionally were. Hopefully fantasies about the Weasley girl wouldn’t make Potter suddenly forget Severus existed. “What happens when he’s burned through all the extra magic he siphoned from the Death Eaters, though? Who’s to say he’ll even have enough magic to share, let alone that he’d want to?”
“That, my dear, is bullshit.” Her Scottish burr came through even more strongly than usual when she swore, which wasn’t often. “Harry Potter went back for you, Severus. Despite the battle not being done, despite his friends and classmates still fighting, he went back to rescue you because he damn well thought you were worth it. And he was right, even if everyone else in his life doubted him for it. Ronald Weasley is in the infirmary sleeping off what ought to have been a fatal curse. And yet Potter is here, with you, instead of at his best friend’s side.” She glared at him. “Think on that, and tell me if you come to any conclusions about Harry Potter’s loyalties.”
The sound of the shower in the background stopped. Minerva patted Severus’s cheek one more time, then heaved herself to her feet with several loud creaks and groaned. “Merlin, that gets harder every time. Give it a while, Severus, and see if you two can come to some sort of compromise. I know it irks you to be in an apprentice role to a student, even in name only, but consider this a chance to take stock of your life before you have to go live the rest of it.”
By the time Potter re-emerged from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel with his spiky hair sticking up in all directions and smelling like Severus’s shampoo, Severus was deep in thought.
How could he take stock of a life he never expected to have?
Freedom came at a frustratingly slow pace. Severus spent the next six weeks regaining his mobility one stubborn inch at a time, all the while accompanied by Potter poking around his rooms and--more often than not--talking a mile a minute about people and details Severus couldn’t give two shits about. After much trial and a handful of painful errors, they managed to establish a “safe” distance as no farther apart than approximately four metres unless Potter was actively, purposely concentrating on pushing magic toward Severus. Luckily, this allowed Severus to set up camp on the sofa in his sitting room and Potter could flit about the small space without necessitating any particular restrictions.
“We need to get out,” Potter declared one day.
“Outside. For some sun. And to talk to people.”
“I despise people, Potter. You should know this by now.”
Potter merely grinned at him. “I do know, actually,” he retorted. “And even though there is a window in the bedroom, I also know you’re likely to turn into a vampire if you don’t at least acknowledge the outdoors once in a while. Aren’t there some potions ingredients you’d like to collect?”
“I’m hardly in any state to brew,” Severus reminded him. Not that he could anyway, not without magic. He had yet to manage even a single lumos from his borrowed wand. Even if his original hadn’t been lost in the battle, Severus doubted it would have made a difference.
Potter shrugged. “You can tell me what to do, then,” he declared. “I know for a fact that Madame Pomfrey is running low on a number of her staples, though, especially the pain potions and the sleeping draughts. We’re not the only ones with nightmares.”
Severus shuddered. The nightmares weren’t new, either, but waking up to Potter’s concerned expression looking down at him made them infinitely more humiliating. Luckily neither of them were prone to talking in their sleep. Potter did tend to come awake abruptly with a spell on his lips, though--after he set fire to Severus’s lilo two separate nights, he started sleeping with his wand inside his shirt. It was the best compromise they could find between him waking in a panic that his wand was gone versus casting curses against imagined enemies in his sleep. Potter said that it was comforting to feel his wand against his skin even if he couldn’t immediately draw it.
“I would prefer we not acknowledge any nocturnal occurrences of any sort in this room,” he told Potter. “I’m a man who is accustomed to my privacy--”
“Hey. I get it.” Potter plopped down on the sofa next to him, sprawling in an indolent way Severus was sure he’d never done even when he was Potter’s age. “You’ve spent most of your life trying to convince everyone that nothing gets through to you. Acting like whatever twisted crap the Death Eaters liked was fun for you too. Now Voldemort is finally dead and you shouldn’t have to pretend anymore, but it’s not that easy. The war doesn’t feel finished. Hell, my scar hasn’t twinged once since the battle but I keep expecting it to any moment.”
Severus growled. “Potter, which of us is the master Legilimens? Please refrain from attempting to read my mind or to create some fantastical story about how I was secretly ‘the good guy’ all the way along. Life is rarely so simple.”
“I know, Professor,” Potter replied. “My mother--”
“Your mother was my first, and in some ways only, childhood friend,” Severus said bluntly. “You seem to have formed the impression that everything I’ve done since your birth was on her behalf, in some sort of undying devotion to her memory. That was a conveniently heroic story for you to believe, but it is also without nuance. I fight for the good things she reminds me of, but not because I’m trying to make it up to her. I do it because those ideals are worth fighting for. Worth me, specifically, directing my energies toward making them more plentiful in the wizarding world. I am not a Gryffindor, Potter. I don’t waste time chasing after unattainable dreams.”
“Um.” Potter abruptly flushed bright pink. “On the topic of dreams and ‘nocturnal occurrences’… I probably ought to tell you that you had an ‘occurrence’ a few nights ago. I thought it was a nightmare, but when I got up close to your bed I saw that… well. You weren’t in pain like I thought.” He bit his lip. “You were only mumbling, but it was enough that I figured out what was going on. That, and you were kind of humping your mattress.”
Severus stared at him. “Potter…”
“Idon’tcarethatyou’regay,” the boy said, all in one big rush. “Or bi, or whatever. You kept saying that you needed ‘him’ to wait and ‘he’ was going to enjoy a good fucking. I think. Like I said, you were mumbling. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you I knew, and I didn’t want to, but I realized you’d be angry at me later otherwise. Sir.”
Shit. Severus’s mind raced. “I suppose you stood and watched, then?” he snapped, with more venom than he intended.
Potter shook his head quickly. “I was only checking to make sure you were okay, like I do every time I feel you having a nightmare. Those scars are never going to heal if you don’t get more sleep.”
Feel? His body language said he was still holding back about something. Severus arched one eyebrow, silently demanding the boy continue.
“...I, um. The bond gets louder when you’re emotional over something,” Potter admitted. “I can’t always tell what emotion it is, but I can tell when your outward expression and your feelings don’t match. Like whatever was in that letter you got yesterday--the bond flared and I knew you were sad or frustrated, but it doesn’t tell me why. And you didn’t say anything, so I let it go.”
“Astonishing,” Severus said drily. “You showing restraint. Call the Prophet.”
“Oh, shove it.” Embarrassment was quickly replaced by anger. “I’m not a little kid anymore. I’m not going to break! You think I don’t know why the bond flutters every time you take a shower, even though you’re trying your best to be quiet without a silencing charm handy? News flash, Professor: I wank in the shower too. It’s been nearly two months with us cooped up here--there’s no point in pretending we aren’t both grown wizards who have bodily functions and feelings and needs like anyone else.”
“Interesting.” Severus sat up straighter, making the most of his height advantage even though they were both seated at opposite ends of the couch. “Because I seem to recall a conversation, way back at the beginning of this mess, where you claimed the way you kept your magic flowing through the bond was because you were consciously thinking about it. About me. You expect me to believe that focusing on your greasy potions professor turns you on?”
"Ha!" Potter twitched, startled at the volume of his own outburst, but he didn’t back down. “Sorry,” he said in a more reasonable tone of voice, “but yes. You’re not the only one who’s gay.”
He shot up off the couch and closed himself in the bedroom before Severus could think of a reply. It was more than four metres away, but from the bond Severus still felt… nothing.
*The conversation*, as Severus came to think of it, made things silent and awkward between the two of them for several more days. They both still had nightmares, of course, but now if one woke the other up they merely exchanged a quiet nod in the dark before attempting to go back to sleep. Sleep rarely came. Severus also avoided touching his cock any more than was absolutely necessary for showers and urination--the thought that Potter might sense something through the bond, no matter how fleeting, was an effective libido depressant. Potter, too, was taking shorter showers than usual and avoiding Severus’s eye.
Eventually Severus got sick of it all. “We’re going to the greenhouses,” he announced to Potter. “You’ll want shoes on.”
Potter looked up from where he’d been sitting on the sofa and reading a book about Quidditch history. One with plenty of pictures, presumably. “Are we?” he asked.
Severus narrowed his eyes at him. “You were the one bemoaning how Poppy needed the infirmary restocked. I have finally reached my limit of tolerance for you moping around my quarters.” And my personal stock of dreamless sleep potions is nearly depleted. Merlin only knew whether Potter had ever learned to brew a decent cauldron of the stuff, but at least Severus could set the boy to working on a batch of pepper-up while he himself prepared all the ingredients. Perhaps under very careful scrutiny and direct orders, Potter might manage the magical parts of the brewing without creating too much of a disaster.
He was prepared to harangue Potter into compliance, but his so-called master was already lacing up a pair of ratty trainers. “Brilliant,” he said. “I can apparate us if you wa--”
“I prefer to walk,” Severus interrupted. “As I have yet to see the state of the outside of the castle.”
Potter grimaced. “The walls are still standing, at least.”
That was hardly reassuring. The two of them had rarely left Severus’s quarters since the war, and even then it was only at Poppy’s insistance that Severus needed exercise. The first time, he barely made it to the Great Hall before being so winded Potter apparated them both back and put Severus to bed. It had been a mortifying experience which Severus had no intention of repeating.
He was feeling much better now, though. Still a near-constant ache as his body fought the incursion of Nagini’s venom and came to a reluctant stalemate with the poison, but he was able to breathe without wheezing and his muscles no longer randomly failed to support him. Severus grabbed a rather warmer cloak than was strictly necessary for such a sunny day and led the way downstairs.
“Oh,” Potter said when they got outside. The two of them stopped halfway across the lawn and stared side-by-side at the castle. Hogwarts had stood for centuries with barely any cosmetic change since she was first created by her founders--even during the goblin uprisings, even during the plagues which ravaged wizard and muggle alike at the turn of the last millennium, even through the great siege of 1260. Her interior had been altered and redecorated and magically rearranged and yet her walls stayed strong.
Now she was… different. Wounded, Severus’s brain supplied. The walls still stood in the same places, every stone correctly aligned, but her aura was dull. A terrible sense of wrongness pervaded the grounds.
“It actually feels better than she looks,” Potter said quietly. “Hogwarts’ magic, I mean. The castle expended a lot of energy into protecting her inhabitants during the war and now she’s prioritizing the important things first.” He caught Severus’s look and quickly shifted his gaze away. “The, ah. Everyone in the infirmary, for starters, and then the rest of the humans and house-elves and all who make their home on the grounds or in the Forbidden Forest and were injured when Voldemort came. Also the Room of Requirement was heavily damaged by fiendfyre--nobody’s been able to get into it so far, but the castle tells me she’s merely keeping it aside until the staff are ready to sort through the damaged enchantments. Not as much structural damage as you’d think, but the parts you can’t see are the ones that will take the longest to set right.” He blew out a long breath. “Bloody weird to see the walls still standing like nothing ever happened, though.”
Severus bowed his head. He’d gotten glimpses of Hogwarts the entity as Headmaster, little hints of intelligence or personality or humor behind the castle’s magic, but apparently Potter could see it all. Could interact with the castle as its own totality. The ramifications were staggering. He turned abruptly and continued toward the greenhouses.
“Did you start teaching right after you graduated?” Potter asked, trotting doggedly at his heels. “Was your potions mastery at Hogwarts? Professor McGonagall said you’re the youngest instructor the school has ever had. Did you end up teaching anyone who was a student while you were still here your seventh year? Oh--did you have Slughorn all seven years, or was there someone before that? When did--”
“Please,” Severus growled, “spare me the interrogation. At the very least, restrain yourself to one question at a time.”
Potter huffed. “I was only curious.”
“You’ve never shown an interest in learning before now--am I to presume you’ve finally matured?”
“Maybe you’re just more interesting than the stuff I was supposed to be learning before.” Potter jogged the last few paces to catch up to Severus’s stride and then flashed him a hesitant smile. “You’ve got to admit, you’re kind of a secretive bastard sometimes.”
Potter stopped dead at the sound of Severus’s laugh and stared at him. Severus quirked an eyebrow and swept a mocking bow toward the greenhouse they were rapidly approaching. “After you,” he declared. “I will allow you one question and then we will both require earmuffs to harvest the mandrake root.”
“Oh. Um.” To Potter’s credit, he did think a moment before speaking. Will wonders never cease. “In that case… tell me about how you became a teacher.”
“That’s not a question.”
“No, but I still want to hear your answer.”
Severus sighed. “It’s not as dramatic as you might assume.” Neither was it something he was proud of, but… “You already know I’d been recruited into the Dark Lord’s service during my student years at Hogwarts.”
“I will not go into the chain of events which precipitated that occurrence, only that the result was me taking the Mark my seventh year. One of the incentives the Dark Lord promised me was that I would be able to get my potions mastery--he was paranoid even then, always worried that one of his followers would try to poison him. He claimed he saw my potential. And, indeed, a long-retired potioneer by the name of Hans Zinkel came to Britain to train me thanks to the Dark Lord’s influence. I don’t expect you would know his name, but his research into the confluence between curses and potions in the forties and fifties laid the foundation for much of current dark arts potioncraft theory.”
“So you studied how to make evil potions.”
“Evil is in the mind of the potioneer, Potter, not in the potion itself.” Severus bit his tongue before he could deliver a longer lecture--no doubt it would be wasted in present company. “But if you’re being simplistic, yes. I finished my mastery in just over two years--well short of the Potioneers’ Guild guidelines, but the Dark Lord had a long reach. I was instructed to approach Headmaster Dumbledore for a job replacing Horace Slughorn, who was being pressured to retire. Other… events.... happened in the same timeframe, resulting in me having a rather more honest discussion with Albus than the Dark Lord anticipated.”
Potter blinked at him. “My mother was killed.”
Potter’s lips tightened. “So you started teaching and spying at the same time,” he concluded.
Severus bowed his head.
A hand on his arm startled him into looking back up--and straight into Lily’s green eyes.
“Thank you for telling me.” The boy kept the contact a moment longer, then dropped his hand with an abashed look. “And thank you for--for trying to do right by her.”
“I was not in love with your mother.”
Potter smiled sadly. “I think you were, even if you won’t admit it. Even if that’s not the full reason you switched sides.”
Severus leveled a look at him. I thought we’d already covered this… “I do not feel sexual inclinations towards women, Potter,” he snapped. “Stop trying to romanticize something that’s not.”
To his complete surprise, the comment had the exact opposite of its intended effect. Instead of shutting the boy up, it made him laugh. Severus stared.
“There’s a lot more to love than sex,” Potter declared. “One of these days you’ll believe me. And you should know…” He bit his lip and let his gaze slip down Severus’s body and back up again. “Honestly, your arse would be wasted on a girlfriend.” And with that, he spun and went to hold the door open to the greenhouse. “Coming?”
The next two hours of work in the greenhouse was maddening. Severus wanted to spit and hiss and demand why, exactly, Potter had opinions on his potions professor’s arse to begin with, but common sense told him Potter would either refuse to answer or would use his curiosity against him in some way. It already felt like he was. Severus's experience with partnered sexual activities was limited, but what little he’d done had mostly been with men. A large amount of theory and a small amount of practice. Potter’s mortifying recap of Severus’s dream a few weeks earlier had revealed that secret painfully quickly. Not much either of them could do about it now.
The boy… young man, Severus reminded himself… was no longer a student. Was no longer a boy, truly. He’d barely been allowed to have a childhood, with the Dark Lord’s long shadow looming over him, but that childhood was long gone now. We both grew up too fast.
“Professor?” Potter asked, cutting into Severus’s mental diatribe. “That’s the last of the dittany in the greenhouse. I think there’s another patch of it at the base of the astronomy tower, but it’s not flowering this time of year. Do you want us to harvest that too?”
“That’s white dittany,” Severus said. “Not as potent for our purposes. Although I’m pleasantly surprised you managed to correctly identify the plant even though it wasn’t already in a labeled jar.”
Potter chuckled. “Neville’s a genius, I'll have you know. He and I have helped Hagrid harvest plants more than once. Apparently infant nifflers need crushed dittany leaves as part of their diet before they get old enough to dig for themselves.”
“I’m encouraged to hear Longbottom has redeemed himself in at least one subject,” Severus said dryly, “since he’s got a lot to answer for in potions.”
“Oi, no need to be mean to my friends.” Potter glared, but the heat in his gaze dissipated quickly. “Sorry,” he said a little while into their terse and silent walk back to the castle. “I know that’s not the real you. I expect old habits are hard to break.”
“Not the ‘real’ me? Explain.”
Potter bit his lip. “It’s…” He glanced up at Severus’s face, then back down at the path. “You say things like that, but I don’t sense the right emotions behind it. I’d always thought you insulted me and the other Gryffindors because you hated us--but that’s not right, is it? You do it to avoid letting anyone get close to you. Caring about people makes you uncomfortable. You’re a very private person, and I'm trying to respect that. I… I think I would have been a lot more like you, if I hadn’t met Ron and Hermione at the very beginning of our first year. Life with the Dursleys didn’t exactly set me up for healthy interactions with peers, romantic or not.”
Severus didn’t realize he’d stopped moving until Potter paused and stared back at him. “I’m not afraid of people,” he finally managed to get out. “I’ve lived at a busy school for nearly two decades now.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re okay with anyone caring about you. Or you about them.”
Presumptuous brat. “I’m not a sociopath..”
“You’re not an island either. No man is.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “Paraphrasing seventeenth-century poetry, Potter?”
“Is it? Cool.” Potter shook his head. “Look, I’m just saying, the bond lets me see that you’re human and that’s not something either of us can change right now. Don’t let it freak you out.” He wrinkled his nose adorably. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“There are many things about our situation that freak me out,” Severus replied. “Please don’t imagine that you could understand any of them.”
“Fair enough. I’ll make a guess at one more, though.” Potter got a thoughtful look on his face. “I bet you hate not being able to brew things yourself right now. I don’t know how much of the ingredient preparation requires the witch or wizard doing it to be using magic at the time, but I’ll make you a deal: I promise I’ll do my absolute best to follow your instructions to the letter as long as you don’t lose your temper with me if I misunderstand something and screw it up. Agreed?”
Severus blew out a breath. “Agreed.”
“Excellent.” Potter took the basket of dittany and mandrake root from him and sketched a formal bow toward the castle. “In that case, let’s apparate to your lab and get started.”
“I don’t understand the difference between dicing and mincing,” Potter complained some hours later. “Why is the batch that you did correct and the one I did wrong? They look exactly the same to me!”
“Because,” Severus explained with the last remaining shreds of his patience, “they are two completely separate things. Take that piece there.” He flicked a crumb of dittany stem away from the pile with his fingernail. “Cast engorgio on that and on one from what I did.”
Potter did so, until the pieces were the size of galleons.
“What do you notice?”
“Yours is nearly cubical,” he said with dawning realization in his voice. “Mine is…”
“A mangled mess.”
Severus looked meaningfully at the last remaining dittany leaves.
“I’ll give it a try.” Potter transferred the leaves to his cutting board, then paused. “Thank you, by the way.”
“You haven’t yelled at me once this afternoon. I learned a lot today, actually.”
“I had hoped you’d be capable of the activity.”
Potter’s face fell. “And there we go with the insults,” he said. “Is it really so hard to believe I might be better at potions when nobody is breathing down my back, throwing extra ingredients in when I’m not looking, or taking house points all the time?”
Crap. “I apologize,” Severus murmured. “It is, as you so aptly pointed out, habit.”
“Can we put the teacher-student thing behind us? I know the students will be back at Hogwarts in a few weeks, but I won’t be one of them. I intend to sit my NEWTs and stay as long as I can help Hogwarts heal, but I’m not coming back as an eighth-year.”
Severus inclined his head, partly to keep from having to make eye contact. “I shall… try.”
“Good.” Potter abruptly grabbed Severus’s hand and pumped it twice. “Nice to meet you,” he declared. “My name is Harry. What’s yours?”
“Go with it,” Potter mouthed. “Please.”
Very well. “Severus Snape, at your service,” Severus replied. “But please, as we are to be colleagues for the foreseeable future, call me Severus.”
Potter--Harry--lit up like a lumos charm. “Thanks,” he said through a giant grin. “I think I will.”
This one was relatively PG rated, but come find me on Twitter at @wendyqualls if you want to try some of my original (non-fanfic) smut. I've got a new book out (written as Wendy Qualls) and it's quite possibly the kinkiest thing I've ever written :-D
Following the success of the trip to the greenhouse, Harry declared that they were due to visit Diagon Alley and buy a replacement for Severus’s wand. Gerrick Ollivander was not completely recovered from his kidnapping and the subsequent hospitality at Malfoy Manor, but Hermione had assured Harry the shop was open and being staffed by Ollivander’s son Grant. Still a family business, clearly. Severus took the time to put on his most severe teaching robes and down an anti-nausea potion before allowing Harry to side-along apparate him the appointed alcove.
They weren’t two steps into the shop before the senior Ollivander himself hobbled out of the back room to greet them.
“Greetings, Severus, young Potter,” he said with a bit of a wheeze. “Have you--but no, surely your current wand suits your needs? The Elder wand, no?”
Harry shook his head. “I, err, keep that one hidden in a safe place--no sense inviting trouble. We’re here about something for Headmaster Snape, actually. His was broken during the final battle and he’s been unable to get away from Hogwarts until now.”
Severus noted that Harry managed to avoid commenting on why he was “unable to get away”--leaving Ollivander to assume his headmaster duties kept him too busy, no doubt--but Ollivander merely bobbed his head and turned toward the near wall. The shelves were nearly invisible under a plethora of boxes, balanced precariously in stacks which surely must have been held in place by magic because even a light breeze should have tumbled them down to the ground. Ollivander reached on tiptoe to extract first a grey box, then a navy one, then a third which was turquoise with pink sparkles. Severus was abruptly reminded of Albus.
“Unfortunate, but understandable. You are wise beyond your years--but then that’s not a surprise, I suppose. Here; larch with veela hair core. Ten and a half inches.” Ollivander whipped the lid off the grey box and offered the wand to Severus, then took it away almost before Severus’s fingertips made contact with the wood. “Right, not that one. Here. Ebony with unicorn hair, twelve and a quarter inches, reinforced grip--not that one either, I see. My word, you have changed, Master Snape, haven’t you? If I recall correctly, when you started at Hogwarts you were paired with a ten-inch hornbeam wand with dragon heartstring core. A wand for a passionate, focused young man. Hornbeam rarely performs for the unworthy.” He put the turquoise box back without even opening it and bustled to the opposite side of the store.
Nearly twenty minutes and several dozen wands later, Severus was starting to think this whole trip had been a waste of time. What was Harry expecting to see happen? None of the wands reacted because Severus obviously had no magic left with which they could react. Hardly reasonable to expect sparks or flowers or whatever else Ollivander seemed to be waiting for.
“Sir,” Harry said quietly when Ollivander paused to stare at Severus with a thoughtful frown, “do you have any hawthorn? The one I’ve been using and occasionally letting the headmaster borrow is hawthorn with unicorn hair--”
“Which originally belonged to the young Master Malfoy, yes, I’m aware,” Ollivander interjected. “It performs adequately for you, Mr. Potter, but that is because Hawthorn is rarely temperamental. It’s a simple wood and suited for simple wizards. No, hawthorn won’t do. For someone such as Master Snape…” He trailed off into nothing.
Ollivander jerked as if bitten, then turned on his heel and retreated to his workshop without even acknowledging them. He returned a minute later with a large, flat box wrapped in silver ribbon. The top was covered in dust.
“Indulge me, if I may,” he said quietly. “I made these twinned wands long ago--the first year after I finished apprenticing under my father, actually. They’ve been languishing in my personal quarters for well over half a century. Waiting for the right owners. Given your completely understandable reluctance to employ your current wand for everyday use, Mr. Potter, I think you’re entitled to a new one. Poplar with dragon heartstring, twelve inches each. Please, try.”
Harry shot Severus an unreadable look over the man’s head, but obediently took one of the two wands in the box. Severus closed his hand around the other.
That was the only way to describe the vibrations that spread from the wand all the way up to Severus’s shoulder. Harry gasped, obviously feeling the same thing. A faint noise escaped the young man’s throat; something small and carnal. Severus shivered.
“You feel it,” Ollivander said. “Try a periculum minimus, both of you.”
The wand was moving even before Severus consciously directed his arm in the correct gesture for the charm. Normally he’d have expected a small jet of red sparks, size and duration determined by the strength of the spell cast. Given the current state of his magic, even a lackluster reaction would have been cause for celebration.
Instead of a limp rivulet of light, though, a bolt of red light shot true and clear from the tip of Severus’s wand and connected high in the air to an identical one coming from Harry’s. The two charms met in the middle and produced a veritable fountain of red fireworks. The delight in Harry’s face must have corresponded to the shock on his own.
Ollivander clapped and bounced on the balls of his feet in a strange parody of a celebratory dance, ever-present limp temporarily forgotten. “Excellent!” he declared. “Oh, I’m so thrilled to see these wands finally find a home. Poplar for integrity and clear moral vision, dragon heartstring for power and strength. I can think of no better wizards to wield them--and with your complementary magics, you two should be able to work couples magic with ease for the rest of your lives together. It’s so rare to find a partner whose power resonates completely with one’s own, gentlemen. So incredibly rare. My son and his wife are among the lucky few, and it’s truly an astounding thing to see them cast together. I wish you many years of happiness.”
Severus suddenly realized his jaw was hanging open, so he snapped it shut. Before he could deliver the blistering set-down such an assumption deserved, though, Harry was grabbing his hand in warning.
“Thank you,” Harry told the man. “Whatever price you’re charging for the pair, they’re worth it. Can you bill them both to my Gringotts account?”
With a surprising calmness from the young man and an overabundance of joy from the elder wandmaker, Severus and Harry finally escaped the shop. Harry barely let them get out of the way of foot traffic before wrapping an arm around Severus and apparating them back to Hogwarts.
As soon as they were inside the castle’s wards, Severus pulled out his new wand and cast a simple lumos. The tip instantly flared a brilliant white.
“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Harry said.
Good didn’t even begin to describe it. Being able to cast spells again felt more analogous to having a limb reattached, or to a full-body hot-air charm after having been submerged in the Great Lake in January. He quickly ran through a diagnostic of sorts, progressively more difficult and complicated spells, and they all felt effortless. Instinctive. Severus found himself, possibly for the first time in his life, at a loss for words.
“I’ll stand here,” Harry suggested, “and you keep walking toward the doors. I won’t try to channel magic your direction. We ought to see if you can… well.”
Severus turned his back even before the young man finished speaking and strode on down the path. Almost as an afterthought, he levitated the wands’ empty box alongside him as a visual gauge of his magical control. Before, there had always been a pulling sensation, rather like taffy being stretched past its breaking point. Now he was farther from Harry than he’d been since the day of the battle, and it was--
Painful. Fuck. He blinked up at the sky, No warning, not even a flicker. Probably how dogs feel when they choke themselves at the end of their tether, Severus fumed at himself. Somehow he’d gone from a brisk walking pace to flat on his back with--seemingly--nothing in between. Only the feeling like his throat was being torn out again.
“No!” Harry screamed, then there were rapid footsteps and Harry was kneeling at his shoulder and peering closely into his face. Too close, but Severus was hardly in any position to complain.
“Any…” Severus coughed and massaged his trachea. Bloody hell. The pain was already going away, but his voice sounded like sandpaper. “Any other experiments you want to conduct today? Levicorpus, perhaps? With enough power behind it, you could throw me like a shot put.”
A strangely amused but embarrassed look came over Harry’s face. “Sorry,” the boy said, pressing his lips together. “Was just remembering the first time I helped Ron de-gnome the garden at the Burrow. Levicorpus would have been helpful then. I wasn’t entertaining the thought of doing anything like that to you, I promise.”
“Nice to know you have finally, after seventeen years, learned that there are inappropriate times for humor.”
Harry winced. “Really, Prof--Severus. I don’t think of you like that anymore. I know we’ve pissed each other off for most of our acquaintance, but I didn’t know about you then.”
“You weren’t supposed to,” Severus pointed out. Not that it matters anymore. “It’s all moot now, obviously. Although given Ollivander’s propensity for gossip, you may have a difficult time disentangling yourself from me socially in the future. You all but implied we were a couple.”
“The alternative would have been to let the gossip be about how your magic is suffering.” Harry sat back on his heels and looked down into Severus’s face, all traces of his earlier mirth gone. “Do you really want the public to know that you’re helpless right now?”
Like hell I am. Severus struggled to his feet, ignoring Harry’s smoothly proffered hand, and brushed the dust off his robes. “If you think me helpless, you severely underestimate me. I don’t need magic in order to kill someone. I don’t even need a potion. If you’re feeling sorry for me--”
His diatribe was cut off by a sudden pressure against his lips. Severus tried to suck in a breath, but any oxygen was quickly driven out by Harry’s tongue exploring the seam where their mouths met. Harry pressed again, languidly, then drew back to look Severus in the eye.
“I think sorry is the furthest possible emotion from how I feel for you right now,” he breathed. “You are an amazing wizard, intimidating as hell, but also one of the best men I have ever known. I’d have died years ago if it weren’t for you. I’ve had a thing for you for years, too, although until recently it scared the piss out of me to imagine ever giving you the slightest inkling how I felt. Because I know how thoroughly you’re capable of shredding me when you want to.” His hand stole up over Severus’s shoulder to settle along the bare back of his neck, raising goose pimples on Severus’s flesh. “Please, I need… I want to slide inside those mental walls of yours, get to know the real you. To touch you all over and convince myself that this isn’t all in my imagination. I, err.” He reddened. “I want to suck your cock until you couldn’t possibly flay me alive with your sharp tongue because you’re too busy making other noises, to tell you the truth. I’ve pictured it so often.”
Severus tried not to let his complete and utter shock show on his face. “You’re telling me you want--why?” Merlin knew eligible young men weren’t lining up to offer Severus blowjobs even when he himself had been younger and less battle-scarred. Damaged. Marked. To hear those words from the wizarding world’s golden boy…
Harry gaped at him. “Are you serious? How could you not know how sexy you are?”
Damn it, this had to be a prank. A trick somehow. “I am quite certain that I have never been called ‘sexy’ in my life,” Severus snarled. “Desist this cruelty at once.”
“Well you have now.” Far from being deterred, Harry looked cheered by Severus’s words. “Should I present my evidence? First, your hands.” He caught Severus’s arm before Severus could object and ran the pad of his thumb gently over the tracery of veins on the back of Severus’s hand. “Long, elegant fingers, so precise. Sometimes I get hard watching just watching you prepare potions, you know--the way you can do five things at once, manipulating ingredients and tools and your cauldrons all so effortlessly. Graceful. And of course there’s your voice.”
“Oh?” Severus did take pride in his voice, as a matter of fact. It was perhaps the one vanity he’d allowed himself to cultivate. His vocal control wasn’t back to where it had been pre-Nagini, but then again the castle had been devoid of students--other than Harry, his brain supplied--who might have noticed. No one had ever implied it was one of his better features before, though.
“Definitely,” Harry declared. “I think you know damn well what effect your voice can have on other people, Severus. You use it to intimidate more often than not, but there are times you sound like pure liquid sex.”
Seriously? Severus raised an eyebrow.
Harry visibly shivered. “That, right there,” he murmured. “More than anything else, your composure and your presence make me want to see what it would take to break through. You’re always so controlled--what are you like when all that control is washed away? I want to make you want me, Severus. To want me so badly you can’t hide it anymore. That is the sexiest thing I can bloody imagine. I’ve been waiting to say anything until you had your magic back, until you were feeling more yourself again, but--as you keep pointing out--I’m merely a Gryffindor. I’m pants at waiting. And obviously you don’t need magic to eviscerate me where I stand. Please, I can’t take it anymore. What can I do to convince you I’d be worth taking a chance?”
You’re not the one taking the chance, Potter. Harry. Severus swallowed hard, his throat suddenly dry. If this had been one of his Slytherins, he’d have assumed it was all part of an elaborate ruse--but Harry Potter was just as bad at subterfuge as he was at waiting. Although apparently he could read Severus’s emotions through the bond, which meant Severus wasn’t likely to fare much better. As for patience…Nobility was a Gryffindor trait. Severus never claimed to be a Gryffindor.
“I might be amenable to negotiation,” he finally admitted. Harry beamed. “I reserve the right to claim you have appalling taste, though.”
“Pot, kettle.” Harry’s smile didn’t dim one bit. “Would you like to do the honors?”
Severus abruptly realized that yes, he could probably apparate, now that he was able to do magic. It might not have been the wisest spell to start with, given the chances of splinching himself, but at the moment his libido was overshouting his brain. He closed the gap between himself and Harry, slung an arm around the young man’s waist, and removed them both to his bedroom.