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Quid Pro Quo

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Severus was sure he was shaking. He could almost hear his fear radiating across the artificial silence induced by a well-placed wave of Dumbledore's wand. Yet, even through the unnatural quiet, the howling of the straining wind outside was palpable. It fiercely rushed around them, bringing branches and leaves along in its grasp, some of which were catching on the Headmaster's clothes. It could have been humorous at another time, but right now, nothing could be funny to Severus. Few things ever were, to begin with.

A pause was stretching between the two men. Dumbledore's last words to him rung in his ears. "You disgust me," he'd said. Those were harsh words, and they had shocked Severus into silence. He looked down at his hands. They were white and red at the same time from being wrung together too many times. He didn't care. All he could think about was the woman he'd always loved and would always love, and how precarious her position was. The Dark Lord was going to kill her. He was going to kill her and her entire family.

Dumbledore spoke again, breaking the eerie silence, contempt clear in his expression and crystal in his tone. "You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?"

That wasn't what Severus had meant, of course. Had it been? He wasn't certain anymore. He could not deny his resentment for Lily's husband. That should have been Severus by her side. He was bitter. Angry. Heartbroken. Yet he knew he only had himself to blame. His feelings were complicated, and not ones he could unravel now. He hadn't even been able to unravel them in his calmest moments, when the sun shone outside, and they weren't being tossed about by violent gusts of wind. His mind also wasn't quite in the most right of frames. He could barely hold a single cohesive thought.

Dumbledore's expression was unreadable as he stood impassively, holding his wand by his side. Severus reflexively reached for his own, as though seeking comfort, only to remember that it'd been thrown back when the Headmaster disarmed him.

A thoughtful look gleamed in Dumbledore's eyes. He stepped forward suddenly, and Severus automatically stumbled backwards. His back made contact with a tree and he barely kept his balance as its bare branches, stripped by the gusts around them, shook above him. And still, Dumbledore continued walking towards him. He did not stop until their noses were nearly touching.

Severus' breath caught in his throat when Dumbledore finally ceased his movements. Through his glinting half-moon glasses, the older man's blue eyes were sharp. Severus had been on the receiving end of piercing stares from them in his schooling days, and it felt no less intimidating now. Ordinarily, Severus would be easily taller than Dumbledore, but right now, he was downhill from the man and his back was bent as he shrunk in on himself.

The Headmaster raised his hand and Severus winced, bracing himself for the harsh blow that was sure to come. He would not make a move to defend himself, no. He needed Dumbledore to see how desperate he was - and he doubted that he had any capacity to fight what was to come, regardless.

But the strike from Dumbledore never came. Instead, his hand gently caressed Severus' hair. Severus stiffened, discomfort spreading over his skin as Dumbledore continued to stroke his head, as though comforting an injured dog.

"It must be so difficult for you, Severus," Dumbledore said softly. "To so humbly request my assistance at such a difficult time."

Severus felt a rush of hope. Dumbledore was sympathetic. He was compassionate. Was this not the reputation that had always preceded him? This unusual show of affection was nothing more than the man's eccentric nature - hadn't Severus always known of Dumbledore as a man who was peculiar and often childlike in his enjoyment of simple but strange things, like Muggle sweets and bright burgundy outfits topped with flowery hats?

"Yes," Severus said quickly. "Yes, I hoped you'd see -"

Dumbledore didn't seem to be listening. "It is painful, is it not? To feel such a burning desire for someone who has never reciprocated it?"

"I -" Severus didn't know what Dumbledore was getting at, and he didn't have time to ask questions, as all of a sudden, Dumbledore had placed one hand beneath Severus' chin and used his thumb to lift it upwards. He now found himself staring straight into the Headmaster's deep blue eyes, as if their proximity wasn't unnerving enough. He was finding it rather hard to breathe.

"It would be wonderful," said Dumbledore, "if no one in the world had to feel that type of pain again, wouldn't it?"

This wasn't how Severus had imagined this conversation going. He told himself, again, of Dumbledore's well-known oddness, and also his well-known compassion. He could certainly see something akin to kindness in the weathered man's face, though it was hard to tell through his own addled state. All he had to do was allow that kindness to save Lily.

"Yes," he said. "It would be wonderful."

"No one should ever have to experience it," Dumbledore replied.

"No one," agreed Severus.

Then Dumbledore closed the gap between them and kissed him.

Severus gasped, his hand coming up to shove Dumbledore away. The shock of the older man's actions had taken some of Severus' strength, and he only managed to lightly push the Headmaster. Dumbledore took a step back to steady himself, but none further.

"What is the meaning of this?" Severus hissed.

"Alas," Dumbledore sighed. "I believed we had a connection. I believed we understood each other. I was sure I understood your position so well, and the pain of your unrequited love for beautiful Lily. But, perhaps… yes, perhaps I was mistaken -"

"No!" Severus exclaimed. He could not lose the Headmaster's favour now. "No, you understood. You understood perfectly."

Dumbledore shook his head. "But how could I have, if the connection I believed we shared was never there?"

"It was!" Severus cried. "It was, I swear it. It was there."

Dumbledore appeared to perk up right away. "I am glad to hear that, Severus. And you also expressed your agreement that no one should ever feel what you are burdened with."

"I suppose I did."

"So you will not deny me that who I desire, I am sure."

"I would never, of course."

"Then what seems to be the problem, Severus?"

Severus realized what Dumbledore was hinting at. His breath caught in his throat, but he managed to croak out a single word. "Me?"

"Is that so unusual, Severus?"

The words fell out of Severus' mouth in a haste. "No. No, of course not."

"But it is, isn't it?" Dumbledore said. His voice was low, and if not for the Silencing spell he had put on the area, Severus was sure he would have never been able to hear it. "You are not accustomed to others desiring you, are you, Severus? Especially not men, with your traditional Pureblood values."

Severus felt his heart race in his chest, his stomach flutter with anxiety, his blood run cold and hot and cold again. It was not that he had no interest in men. He had certainly considered it, many times over his lonely years. But his mind and soul were preoccupied by one and one alone: Lily Evans, the woman he wished to save. And, of course, the Dark Lord would be furious if he showed interest in his own gender. But when you loved someone as much as he loved Lily, that was never a problem.

And yet, a part of him did wonder what it would be like for someone to truly want him as much as he wanted Lily - or even just a fraction of that desire. What would it be like, to be on the receiving end of that type of passion, that type of infatuation?

If Dumbledore was bothered by Severus' silence, he didn't show it. Instead, he stepped forward once more, making sure as little space as possible remained between them without physical contact. Severus dropped his eyes instinctively, avoiding the Headmaster's gaze, which he feared could see into the deepest trenches of his heart.

"You do want to save lovely Lily, don't you?" Dumbledore whispered.

Severus glanced upwards. Dumbledore's pupils were so blown open they appeared almost entirely black. "I do," Severus said quietly. "I do want to save her."

"I understand," Dumbledore said. "I would do the same for the object of my desire." He glanced down at Severus' lips, then back up to his eyes. "Perhaps, Severus, we could arrange… a quid pro quo."

In spite of himself, Severus felt heat rush to his cheeks, fighting the natural chill that came with the wind. He was flattered, to be sure, and even a little flustered. But he just didn't feel that way about Dumbledore. Yet, he desperately needed Lily to be saved. And wasn't that all he wanted? He thought so, but it was getting blurry. Did he want to be desired, too? His already scrambled mind was reeling even further.

Severus steeled himself and spoke. "What is this quid pro quo?"

Dumbledore grabbed him by the shoulders and brought their lips together once more. It felt like the breath was getting knocked out of Severus. He couldn't make sense of anything. All he could feel was hot breath against his mouth, and the deft fingers of Dumbledore's hand working at the buttons of his cloak.

"Wait, please, I have never done this before," Severus tried to say, but the sentence never managed to leave him. Dumbledore was pressing against him, and a warm hand, shocking against Severus' wind-chilled flesh, snaked its way into his cloak and came to rest on his thigh. Severus gasped and he felt Dumbledore's tongue push its way into his mouth. Before he could process this new feeling, another new one was added - a pressure against his underwear, rubbing up and down. He felt himself hardening, and shame overcame him.

Severus let out a half-sob. Dumbledore was already pulling Severus' briefs down. The next thing Severus knew, Dumbledore's right hand had wrapped around him and was moving up and down in a deliciously slow motion. Unable to close his mouth as Dumbledore kissed him again and again, a moan escaped, rushing out of his parted lips.

Dumbledore pulled away, and Severus saw a look on his face that he'd never seen before: hunger. Pure, unfiltered hunger. "Sounds like you're enjoying this, Severus," Dumbledore smiled.

Severus did not want to. He did not want to enjoy this with anyone but Lily - and if she never became an option, he would avoid such undertakings altogether. "No," Severus tried to say, but Dumbledore began moving his hand more quickly, and the protest morphed into an embarrassing keening cry.

"Now," Dumbledore said. "Touch me, too." He guided Severus' hand to him, his stroking rhythm on Severus never letting up for even a moment. Severus could only follow instinctually - but when he felt the hardness beneath Dumbledore's robes, his breath hitched. He tried to move his hand, too, but he couldn't - he was frozen.

Likely losing patience with Severus' inability to function, Dumbledore stopped his ministrations, and Severus regretted the sharp feeling of loss that rushed through him when he was left untouched. Was he truly that… lonely?

Before he could think it through - which would be an amazing feat in his state - Dumbledore had grabbed him and roughly shoved him around, turning him so he was bracing his arms against the tree, with his back facing the Headmaster.

"Dumbledore," Severus choked. "What are you -"

Dumbledore practically threw his cloak open, nearly tearing the fabric in his hurry. Severus' head was a mess, and he barely registered that his bare arse was out in the open on this hill, for anyone who may pass by to see. There was a whisper of Dumbledore's voice - a spell Severus couldn't quite catch - and a very unusual sensation spread through Severus' lower half. It was a cold one, and it felt like he was relaxing against his own will.

Something hot and hard pushed against Severus' entrance. He automatically attempted to resist, but it was in vain. Dumbledore pushed into him, and a painful burning caused Severus to shout. This was not how he would have wanted his first time to go - it hurt so much that he was calling out with each tiny movement.

"Oh, Severus," Dumbledore said. His breath was warm against Severus' ear, making him shiver. "This is all I've dreamed of."

Severus could not say the same. "It - it hurts."

"Of course." There was another hushed whisper from Dumbledore, another unknown spell, and the pain dissipated significantly. It was still uncomfortable, but a dull ache had replaced the agony of before.

Another whisper from Dumbledore meant yet another obscure spell, and that's when Severus felt another change in sensation. Instead of discomfort, to his horror, he felt pleasure begin to bloom in his stomach. Dumbledore hadn't changed his thrusts, his angle, his movement, or anything else, but somehow, everything felt so good. Severus moaned as Dumbledore thrust deep into him. He tried to ignore the rising rush of lust growing, but he found that he simply could not.

"I am so happy that you enjoy this as much as I do," Dumbledore breathed.

"It is not - I do not -"

"No?" Dumbledore asked. "But your body betrays your mouth." He reached around and grabbed Severus in his hand, stroking him with an expert grasp.

Severus sobbed, bucking his hips forward automatically as he squirmed, attempting to wrench himself away while craving more of that incredible shudder-inducing fervour from Dumbledore's hand. His legs were shaking; he could barely remain standing. Another whisper from Dumbledore and all remaining reason was clouded over by heady desire, and for a brief moment, Lily left his mind altogether. He began mindlessly canting his hips forward and backward, no longer torn between getting away and getting closer, and instead torn between Dumbledore's hand and his thrusts.

"Dumbledore," Severus whimpered. "I'm going to -"

"Come for me, Severus," Dumbledore said, his voice thick. "Come for me."

Severus' pleasure reached its peak, and, with one final mewling cry, he spiralled over the edge, Dumbledore's hand bringing him even further than he thought humanly possible. He heard Dumbledore groan, and the Headmaster's grip over his left arm tightened. They tumbled down from their high together, gasping and trembling in every limb.

When Severus finally regained some sense of composure, he was on the ground, a complete mess. The wind was blowing his hair over his face, sticky with sweat, but he could barely lift a hand to fix it. Dumbledore had collapsed next to him and was breathing heavily, face red, robes in complete disarray.

Breathless, Severus attempted to right himself. He pulled his underwear back up and attempted, fruitlessly, to neaten out his cloak. Any attempt he made was quickly reversed by the never-ending wind. He settled for mismatched buttons, just to cover himself up.

When he had managed to fix himself up, he looked up to see that Dumbledore was already back to his normal, well-presented self. Not a trace of their debauchery remained on the older man. "I am truly glad for this turn of events, Severus," he said quietly. "It was certainly unexpected, but don't many often come together in times of trouble?"

Severus said the first thing that came to his mind. "So Lily will be saved?"

"It is in my interest to save the boy only," Dumbledore said. "According to the Prophecy, this is the boy who will strike down the evil of Lord Voldemort."

"But -" Severus was confused. He thought he had been clear about his real concern - Lily Evans, and the danger to her life, not her son. "But -"

Dumbledore didn't let him speak any further. "I believe that concludes our time together. Thank you for calling me out here, Severus. I shall be on my way." He waved his wand and the muffled silence that had once surrounded them dropped away. The howling of the wind returned sharply, sounding far too loud to Severus' ears now, yet still distant as he struggled to process this new information.

A drop of rain fell onto the tip of Severus' nose. He glanced upwards as more began to drop. The cold drizzle snapped him back to his senses, and he shouted as loud as he could over the deafening gusts around him. "This was not part of the deal!" he yelled, hurriedly forcing himself to his feet.

Dumbledore, who had already made his way a few meters down the hill, stopped in his tracks. "I do not recall any deal being struck, Severus."

"But it was you who spoke of a quid pro quo," Severus cried.

Dumbledore turned around suddenly. His expression was hard. Set. Any kindness that Severus may have seen there before was completely gone. He now wondered if it had ever been there to begin with, or if he had just imagined it. Or was it still there, but imperceptible through the rainfall?

"I was attempting an innuendo, Severus," Dumbledore said. His voice was very lighthearted, almost deliberately so, as though calculated. "To give and receive equally in our enjoyment. Perhaps it fell short. You must forgive me. I am quite rusty in the department of flirtation."

"That is not what occurred. It directly followed -"

"Oh, Severus. My dear, dear Severus." Dumbledore was chuckling, as though he knew something Severus didn't. "Was it truly that good, what we shared? So much so that it has affected your memory?"

"But we -"

"We were two men, indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, as many men do." Dumbledore's voice overpowered Severus', which was wavering, weak with uncertainty and fear.

"But I -"

"Would you hold our ecstasy above my head as some form of agreement, Severus?" Dumbledore asked. He offered a smile, but all it seemed to do was make him look colder, especially as his long silvery hair began to darken from the wetness of precipitation. "How archaic of you."

Severus was at a loss for words. "I…" He trailed off uncertainly. The rain started to fall harder. His black cloak was beginning to fuse to his skin uncomfortably.

"Very well, then," Dumbledore nodded. "Thank you for informing me of the Dark Lord's plans. I will keep the young boy - Harry, I think his name is? - safe."

"No!" Severus cried. "No! Not just him. Please - Lily Evans - please, she doesn't - she shouldn't have to die."

"This will cost such valuable manpower, Severus," Dumbledore said. "You must understand, I am not full of infinite resources."

Severus crumbled, his knees giving out beneath him, and he fell to the grass beneath. Every remaining shred of hope he had felt vanished. A part of his brain registered how cliche this must look - him, slumped on the ground in the rain, wind whirling around him.

"Was that all you wanted from me, Severus?" Dumbledore asked. "For Lily to be saved? You saw my desire and used it against me, in hopes of acquiring who you truly love?"

"No," Severus gasped. But Dumbledore was right, wasn't he? That was exactly what he had done, wasn't it? It was difficult to remember now. So much had already happened. He'd done all of this out of selfishness. All he had wanted was Lily safe.

"I confess that I predicted this, Severus," Dumbledore said, his voice somewhat sad. "I had a feeling that you did not truly feel the connection you claimed to have experienced. Alas, I was blinded by my own emotions for you. At my age, I should know better than to fall for such blatant deception, and yet… the heart wants as it does. You know this, do you not, Severus? Better than most."

"I -" Severus swallowed nervously. He could barely see through the raindrops on his eyelashes, joined by tears that he hadn't noticed had begun to flow.

"Oh Severus, how it pains me so to see your pain," Dumbledore sighed.

Severus looked up at him, his eyes fighting the impending rainfall to stay open. He vaguely knew that this would be the perfect time to make one last appeal to Dumbledore's kindness, but no part of his mind was functioning anymore, beyond whatever was keeping him alive.

"Just for you, Severus," Dumbledore said gently, "I would consider an arrangement of sorts."

The most animalistic, base part of Severus leapt forward, grasping onto Dumbledore's words like a lifeline. "Yes, anything - please - anything at all."

Dumbledore lowered himself to Severus' level and took his hand. "To save Lily's life, resources are necessary. To have insight into Lord Voldemort's mind would be a valuable asset. Though it is not a required benefit, it will be one I can find ways to use."

Severus struggled to comprehend what Dumbledore was saying. Some semblance of thinking ability shot through. "You want me to be a double agent."

"Oh, it is not a matter of what I want, Severus," Dumbledore said. "It is a matter of what would make it worth my while to help you, without placing you into too precarious a position. A child is easier to hide, you understand. A mature witch? Hardly as simple."

Severus nodded slowly. It was not as though he had much other choice, and this might be a good deal. Dumbledore was his last hope, and he was already extending so many opportunities for him. He would be foolish not to take them. "I'll do it."

"And what about her husband, Severus? The man she loves more than anything else in the world?" Dumbledore was watching him closely. "Is it fine for his life to be sacrificed, for your personal gain?"

"I -" Severus did not like Potter. In fact, he hated him. But what if Dumbledore judged him harshly for expressing those feelings? "Then, him too. Hide them all, then. Keep her - them - safe. Please."

Dumbledore shook his head. "More resources down the drain."

Severus swallowed nervously. "How else can I make myself useful?"

"Some Professor positions are open at Hogwarts," Dumbledore replied. "Do you fancy yourself a good teacher, Severus?"

A good teacher? He was merely 20 years old. Had any Professor at Hogwarts ever been so young? "I - I can learn."

Dumbledore sighed. "You are unsure. I will not settle for second best for my students, of course. You understand."

"Yes, of - of course, yes."

"Perhaps you would benefit from learning by example."

"From you?"

"Certainly, I can give up some of my free time to aid you." Dumbledore smiled once more. This time, to Severus, he seemed more genuine. Warm, even. Maybe. "I do enjoy knitting and bowling and other such hobbies, but I am happy to sacrifice some of the little hobby time I have if it will make this work, Severus."

Severus attempted to stem a renewed flood of tears, but it was indistinguishable from the rain, and he could not tell if it was working. "You would do that for me, Dumbledore? Despite my poor life decisions?"

"Of course, Severus. As you would for Lily. We are not so different, you and I." Dumbledore rested a comforting hand on Severus' shoulder. "I will make space for you in my chambers."

"In your - in your chambers?" Severus must have missed some crucial information in their exchange. He wouldn't be surprised, in his barely conscious state.

Dumbledore looked amused by his exclamation, as though Severus had said something extremely odd. "Yes, of course. Many people learn best by proximity, and it would allow me to make the most of my time to work while guiding you. Kill two birds with one stone."

Severus nodded slowly. "Yes. I - I see that."

"Good." Dumbledore stood up and extended his hand down to Severus, smiling. "Let us begin, then."

Lily's face and her beautiful green eyes filled Severus' mind. He took Dumbledore's hand.

The wind and rain continued to rage around them, but Dumbledore's smile did not waver. "Come, my dear Severus," he said. "We have much to do."