Title: Laws of Magnetic Attraction

Author: Go Seaward

Team: Postwar

Genre(s): AU

Prompt: Treason

Rating: Adult/NC-17

Warnings: See Snarry Games post for warnings.

Word Count: 16,500 +/-

A/N: Many thanks to florahart for excellent beta work, aided and abetted by my teammates, alisanne, igtow, iulia_linnea and snakeling, and with special thanks to igtow for period and setting help beyond the call of duty. Any remaining errors are obviously and entirely my own.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Yadda yadda.

 

 

Summary: Harry Potter, war hero, comes home after sustaining an injury in the service of his country-only to find that the war at home is much more dangerous.

 

 

 

Laws of Magnetic Attraction

 

I. WINTER

"May I help you, sir?"

Harry smiled at the man behind the counter--cute, a little young, maybe. Harry liked them older. "I'm looking for a pair of gloves for a friend. A female friend," he said.

"Absolutely, sir." The man stepped over, a little farther down the counter. He had a good eye; the more expensive ones were down that way, if they hadn't moved things since last Christmas. "Did you have a style in mind?"

"Um...." Harry smiled again apologetically.

"Is the young lady about your age?"

"Yes."

The man hummed a little bit to himself. "Is there a specific color she likes or wears frequently?"

"A lot of red..."

Considering, the man reached into the display and started sorting through the gloves there. Harry slouched a little and looked around--he hated shopping, though at least he hadn't been recognized yet. The store was decorated for Christmas, a large tree in the atrium and sprigs of holly scattered round the banisters. One girl was looking at him from across the floor--hmm, turn away, hope she didn't know who he was.

"About how large are the young lady's hands?"

Harry thought. "Small," he said. "She's..." He held his hand up at shoulder level. The man nodded and continued his search, starting to pull out pairs of gloves and lay them on the glass countertop.

Harry glanced around again surreptitiously. This section of the store was relatively uncrowded--many women with children were in the clothing sections; most of the men would be at work. Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw he thought a familiar man walking, and he turned, but the silhouette had disappeared into the ties. Unlikely, anyway; he was in the Southwest now. Harry glanced across the store and the same little girl was watching him. Oh dear.

Behind the counter, the man cleared his throat. Harry jumped and looked at the gloves laid out.

"We have a few options," the man said. "I've pulled some of our newest designs--"

Harry shook his head. "She's not that interested in fashion."

"All young ladies appreciate fashion," the man said. "Here. The stitching details on this pair are especially lovely, and this dark grey will go well with red."

"It's a little..."

The man smiled, obviously placating. "All right, sir. Perhaps this pair? It is tough to match red tones, but if the young lady..."

"Still lacking in imagination, I see, Mr. Potter."

Harry whirled around. "You're not supposed to be here!" he said, before he could help himself. "You're supposed to be in New Mexico!"

"My work there is completed," Snape said. "I am pleased to see you again, too."

"I was just--"

"Buying gloves for Miss Granger, as you have done for every holiday as long as I have known you."

Harry stared at Snape. Snape stared back.

He was doing a good job of not reacting to Harry's new appearance--others hadn't done as well. But maybe he'd seen photos in the papers. The glasses, the scar...not a pilot any more... Snape himself looked little different; how he had managed to spend so much time in the desert without getting a tan was probably some arcane secret.

After a pause, Snape turned to the man behind the counter. "He won't be buying any gloves today."

The man jumped to put his selections away. He kept eyeing Harry; he must have recognized him. Damn Snape. "I think I can dictate my own--"

"You're not buying the gloves," Snape said. "You have been buying her gloves for every Christmas since 1932; I think thirteen pairs is quite enough."

"And what do you know about buying gifts for--"

Snape grasped Harry's elbow and walked. "Unlike you, Mr. Potter, I am not forgiven every transgression by every person in this city, and so I have learned the finer points of etiquette. Your lack of awareness of your rudeness does not negate its existence."

"Excuse me, I am very--"

"Beloved by the people of this city. Your tragic story does not move me."

They were starting to draw stares.

"Will you at least let me--"

"No."

"How did you know what I was going to say?" Harry said, too loudly. One concerned woman selling perfume started to gesture across the store, maybe to a manager. Harry shook his elbow out of Snape's grip and took off. Even now he was faster than Snape and managed to beat him to a small alcove in a nearby wall. When Snape caught up, Harry was already leaning against the wall, arms crossed...let him try to accost Harry now.

"Not so impressed with your own fame now?"

"I was never impressed with it."

Harry glared at Snape. Snape glared back.

"This is hardly the place to have a fight," Harry said.

"Indeed. You shouldn't have started one."

"I shouldn't!"

A small child appeared in the opening of their hideout; they both stopped and looked at it till its mother retrieved it.

"Insisting on gloves. Really, I would have expected greater imagination, even from you."

Harry straightened. "Hermione likes gloves!"

"I doubt she likes thirteen pairs of them all chosen by someone with your atrocious taste."

"My taste isn't--and that's not the point, we're not arguing about gloves!"

Snape raised an eyebrow, but his eyes sparked--ooh, Harry had hit that one on the nose. Good. He usually felt far out of his depth with Snape. "So what are we arguing about, Mr. Potter?"

Lifting one hand to rub his temples, Harry said, "I don't know. What do we ever argue about?"

"Usually, you complain about your schoolwork, and I berate your intelligence."

"I'm not a schoolboy now."

Snape crossed his arms and mimicked Harry's posture. "Obviously not."

"So--you have no reason to talk to me." Harry started out of the cove. He had a brief glimpse of Snape's face, surprised, before he turned the corner and started back to the women's accessories.

"You are incapable of renewing acquaintance with an old teacher?" Snape asked from behind him.

"I have no desire to."

Snape caught up, and Harry walked more quickly. Snape matched him again, then suddenly stepped out in front, so Harry had to stop abruptly.

"He'll take one of each color," Snape said to a lady behind another counter.

"What size?"

Snape looked at Harry.

"Uh," Harry said, "she's about this tall, and--"

"Of course," the lady said. She named an exorbitant sum for three pairs of silk stockings, and Harry paid as she placed them in a bag.

"I hope she enjoys, Lt. Potter," the woman said, and winked.

Snape walked off. Harry was barely able to catch up. "I can't give her these!" he said.

"Why not?" Snape said. "Very few young women can afford stockings yet, Mr. Potter. Miss Granger will be the envy of many of her friends."

"But it's--scandalous, to buy her--"

"Nobody will know."

"The sales lady called me Lieutenant Potter!"

"All right," Snape said, "nobody who knows you will believe it."

"Excuse me?"

Snape had drawn up to the door to the street, and waited to reply till they had both made it out to the sidewalk. "Nobody who knows you will believe you gave an intimate gift to Miss Granger."

"I know what you meant, why did you say it?"

Luckily, there were enough people on the street that no one was paying heed to their conversation, because next Snape said, "I believe your tastes lie elsewhere."

A chill ran down Harry's back. "I can't believe you--"

"I have observed it myself, Mr. Potter. Or were you not looking at the glove clerk in a particularly obscene manner?"

"No, I was not!"

"Perhaps you don't consider it obscene? Interesting."

Harry grabbed the cloth at Snape's waist, holding him back so they could talk more quietly. Snape looked down at Harry's hand and smirked.

In a softer voice, Harry continued, "I wasn't looking at him like anything. I can't believe what you're insinuating."

"How much physics do you remember?"

"More than you'd believe."

Snape turned down a street--Harry realized, with horror, that they were heading towards his flat. Well...maybe Snape didn't know. "Magnetism?"

"Yes."

"Like repels like, and we have always hated each other."

Harry felt as if he'd been drenched in ice water. He yanked his hand away from Snape's clothing. "You're a pervert," he hissed.

"So are you," Snape said, entirely unconcerned.

"I am not a--"

"Of course, nobody would think it amiss if an old teacher were to visit you, even frequently."

"I'm not letting you in my house!"

"You probably don't bring men home, too risky--you're too famous, as you constantly remind me," Snape said, as if Harry had not interrupted. "But I'm an old friend. Trusted. I wouldn't tell anyone--"

"Are you propositioning me?"

"--and even if I did, do you think anyone would believe me over you, after why I left Hogwarts? I have no credibility left, in social matters."

"You're disgusting," Harry said. Snape turned again--they were heading to Harry's building after all. "I will absolutely not sleep with you."

Snape looked over his shoulder, raised an eyebrow. When Harry stood still and glared, Snape sighed and turned around. "So be it. Till we meet again," he said, with an ironic half-bow, and walked in the other direction.

***

"I don't believe you," Hermione said.

"Fine," Harry said. "He was still hitting on me."

"Snape?"

They both paused while the music got a little louder, then resumed speaking. "I don't know why," Harry said. "It was creepy."

"Did you consider it?"

"What? No!"

Tonks slid in the other end of the booth and passed Hermione a gin and tonic. "Oh, good, you've offended him!" she said. "That's always fun."

"Snape was hitting on him," Hermione said.

Tonks grinned, her face as expressive as always under her short hair. "Really? He mostly goes for younger men."

"What?" Hermione said.

"Hey--I'm young!" Harry said.

"That's why he was fired from Hogwarts, didn't you know? Mum told me. Taking up with a student."

Harry shook his head. "I don't believe you."

"I don't either," Hermione said.

Tonks toyed with her glass. Harry wasn't sure what she was drinking, but it was probably something that would have had him passed out in two minutes. Tonks always could drink him under the table. "I don't know who it was," she said. "But that's why."

"But he got another teaching job!" Hermione said.

"At the college level. Consenting adults and all that."

Harry shook his head. "It's still creepy."

"Oh come on," Tonks said. "I know you like them old."

Harry colored.

"Isn't he cute like that?" she said to Hermione, who smiled a little and scooted closer. "So anyway, if you're not going to dance with us, there's a man at the bar who's been watching you. Your type."

Harry glanced up, looked around. Around the bend of the bar, his eyes met another's. A little older; good. Dark-haired and thin. Harry smiled at him and the man raised his eyebrows.

"I'll be back," Harry said. Tonks smiled.

He got up and wound his way through the dense crowd. He kept his head down--there was still always the possibility of being recognized, and this anonymous man might have done the same, but he was...attractive. It had been a while.

As he got closer, he started to get worried. In the dim light it was hard to tell what the man really looked like, and the press of people meant less chance of getting to talk uninterrupted. But if he didn't take the chance, it might be months--although this was two prospects in one week, even if one of them was Snape.

Finally he made it to the bar, and slid into the space between his voyeur and the next man over. "Bourbon," he said to the bartender, who nodded, and turned to pour.

"John," the man said.

"Frank," Harry said.

The man smirked a little. Maybe he did recognize Harry, but nothing to be done at this point. He was even better up close, broad-shouldered with a fine flat plane of stomach.

"Nice to meet you," he said, eyes running down, not quite subtly.

"You too," Harry said.

The bartender slid the glass across the bar, and Harry paid. He hesitated, then glanced at the bathroom.

The man smiled.

Harry smiled back, and walked away, back through the crowd. He maneuvered himself to jostle against the edge of a table, spilling a little of the liquor onto his shirt, just enough to excuse some time in the bathroom in case any reporters were watching...he'd had a few close calls in college.

Finally he was back at his booth, and he set the glass on the table. Hermione and Tonks grinned at him--they'd moved closer since he was last here, but Hermione was shooting glances into the room just often enough to make it seem like Tonks was an unwanted, overprotective chaperone. The two of them were practiced at this point. "Enjoy yourself," Tonks said.

"Thanks," Harry said. He squeezed himself through the crowd again, finally making it up to the lavatory. This was the worst part--the door was right next to the stage, so anyone watching might recognize him. He slipped in, head down as much as possible, and walked over to the sink. Nobody there--good. He ran a little water and started dabbing at his shirt.

Within a few moments, the door swung open again, letting in a cloud of smoke and jazz. Somebody walked up--behind him, good, it was probably--

"Did I tell you that you look very sexy with glasses?" Snape said in his ear.

Harry barely managed to avoid jumping right into Snape's chin.

"Snape, this is just--creepy!"

"I am your humble servant." One of Snape's hands came to rest on his waist.

"Anyone could walk in--"

Quick as lightning, Snape's other hand shot out and shut off the water, and Snape dragged him into one of the stalls and shut the door. Harry resolved to be manhandled less in the future.

"Now, Mr. Potter," he said. He'd maneuvered Harry around so they were face to face, far too close. Harry tried to back up through the wall, and Snape grinned and reached up, brushing Harry's hair off his forehead. "The scar looks good on you, too," he said, voice low and...rough.

"Get your hands off me," Harry said, but it was weaker. Snape knew just how to push his buttons--always had--but he hadn't expected these particular buttons to ever get pushed.

"Make me believe you," Snape said before he leaned in for a kiss.

It was--good. Much more than Harry expected (not that he had been thinking about it). Firm enough to brook no argument, soft enough to be sexy--Snape pressed forward a little, tilting Harry's head back, taking advantage of his height. He thrust his hips forward so they were pressed together in one long, hot unbroken line between sternum and thigh. Harry amended his earlier resolution on manhandling. One traitorous hand sneaked out and rested on Snape's lower back; the other was spread flat against the wall. Snape had picked a corner stall--good, it would take more effort to see two pairs of feet if anyone walked in.

The thought that Snape had done this before--maybe with a student--flashed across Harry's mind, a bright beacon, but he thrust it aside. Snape wanted Harry, that was obvious, he'd accosted him shopping and maybe followed him here--

"Someone else is coming," Harry said.

"I bought him a drink and gave him cab fare home," Snape said.

"No you didn't," Harry said. "They don't pay you that well."

Snape laughed, a little, low. "No, I didn't. But he isn't coming."

Harry decided he didn't want to know, especially with Snape's hand making good friends with Harry's waistband. Snape was still kissing him, insistent, breathing harshly through his nose. Harry broke it again. "Need to be quick," he said.

"You won't last long," Snape said as he got Harry's trousers open and started to shove them and his underwear down.

"I mean--someone will--"

"Your ego is the size of Russia," Snape said. He sat down on the toilet, clothed, and pulled Harry away from the wall towards him. Harry barely had time to brace himself against the walls again before Snape had pulled the rest of the clothing out of the way and sucked him down.

Harry managed to choke the noise that tried to claw its way out of his throat, but it was a near thing. Snape was good at this, damn good. Harry thought of this--in a classroom, at Hogwarts, at the university, and bucked forward a little. Snape made a grunting noise and the hand that had been so nicely caressing his balls slipped down to hold them, a vice grip around the top--okay, no more moving.

The door to the bathroom creaked open, and they both stopped. Rather comically, Snape stuck his legs up in the air so they couldn't be seen below the door. Harry realized Snape had undone his own pants and was stroking himself, even now, slowly, though he'd stopped moving his mouth. The other man relieved himself quickly and was out again just before Harry would have bust out laughing at the image of Snape, mouth full of cock and legs stuck out straight like an irate toddler, hard red erection at the juncture of his thighs. Snape seemed to take Harry's expression as a personal challenge and just--sucked--and Harry didn't realize he was coming till it hit him full in the stomach, a hard spasm of pleasure that had him on his toes, bent over Snape's head.

The hand disappeared from his balls, and Harry looked down--Snape was coming into it, trying to avoid getting anything on their clothing. Another weak twinge hit Harry's overtaxed muscles.

Post-orgasm, this seemed like less of a good idea. He pulled back, out of Snape's mouth, and tucked himself away. Snape was busy wiping the semen from his hand with toilet paper.

Harry reached for the latch.

"It's generally good manners to thank the person who gives you an orgasm," Snape said.

"It's generally good manners to ask first."

Snape sighed.

"Thanks," Harry said, as mockingly as he could--which wasn't much, given the relaxed and somewhat sated state he was in. He unlatched the door and closed it behind him. He felt as if he ought to wash his hands, necessary or not, so he did. Make Snape wait longer inside, anyway.

He lurked out of the bathroom as unobtrusively as possible, but the band had finished their set while he was inside, and nobody was watching the stage door. He made his way back over to the booth. Hermione looked at him expectantly, but he just finished the glass of bourbon in as few sips as possible and glanced at the door before he got up again.

He knew Hermione and Tonks were exchanging glances behind him, but he couldn't quite care. He hailed a cab and was silent all the way home.

***

Harry smiled at Hermione as she brought out another tray of food for the partygoers and set it on the sideboard. She smiled back and moved off to the other half of the room, where her friends from the last few years were clustered. She really did look lovely--she had managed to find something that turned her tight curls into soft waves, and the red skirt and jacket set off her coloring very well. Harry had considered proposing before--it would make certain things easier for both of them. But that would be a public spectacle, lots of press, people asking them their feelings for each other over and over again, and he couldn't quite stomach it.

"You all right there, Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry said. He turned back to Ron.

"I bet these ladies would love to see your medals," Ron said.

Harry looked at Lavender, who was sitting on Ron's knee, looking expectant. Susan raised her eyes hopefully from her armchair.

"Well, I have them packed away--"

"Come on, Harry, you wouldn't want to disappoint them," Ron said.

Harry made an expression he hoped was a smile. "Excuse me," he said, and Lavender and Susan nodded vigorously. He walked off to his bedroom.

Sometimes he just couldn't deal with Ron. They'd been so close once, but it seemed Ron would never get over Harry's...tastes. Their relationship was better than it had been before the war, but Ron still took every opportunity to needle Harry about his lack of proper feeling for women. Harry opened the door to his room, walked in. Nothing he could do about Ron's feelings, anyway. He hadn't really packed the medals away--they were in a velvet-lined box in his bureau. Never in sight, but never far from memory. He pulled them out and walked back to the living room.

Lavender and Susan both perked up, and Harry saw that one of Hermione's friends, Lisa Turpin, had joined them. Good, at least they were mixing a little--sometimes at parties Harry felt like he was trapped in 1939 and no new people would ever appear.

"Let me see?" Lavender said, and giggled.

Harry held out the two medals. "Purple Heart," he said, handing one to Lisa, "and Distinguished Flying Cross." He handed the second to Susan.

The women cooed over it. Harry looked at Ron, who rolled his eyes--well, some things hadn't changed, at least.

"Were you hurt very badly?" Lavender said.

Ron gave her a sharp look.

"It's fine, Ron," Harry said. "I wasn't hurt as badly as some of my friends, but I cracked my head open pretty well."

"It looks fine to me," Susan said.

"No--here." Harry lifted up his hair, and the women inspected the jagged scar on his forehead. "And I got some glass in my eyes. They don't let you fly planes with bad eyesight, so I'm--"

"Oooooh," Susan said.

"So he's back in town with us now," Ron said. "Is it good to be back?"

"Yeah," Harry said. Over top of him, Susan said, "But wasn't that raid a long time ago?"

"I spent some time at Walter Reed," Harry said.

At the door, someone knocked. Harry excused himself, went over and opened the door.

There, on the other side, was Snape.

More precisely, there was Tonks, dragging Snape.

"Hello, Harry," Tonks said. "Ran into an old friend, thought you'd enjoy his company." She raised her eyebrows.

Harry suddenly regretted not telling her about the other night at the jazz club, but he stepped back to let them both in. "Of course. Welcome."

"Evening, Potter," Snape said, with barely any inflection, and then walked across the room to the punch bowl.

Harry blinked.

"Harry?" Lavender called. Harry closed the door and walked back over to their group. "Was it very scary, flying over the ocean?"

"No," Harry said.

Susan and Lisa looked at him expectantly.

Harry stifled a sigh. "You're flying low, over the waves, to avoid detection," he said. "Everything looks the same in every direction. It's loud, but it's calm, and you've got a copilot in the cabin and a navigator telling you where to go. And what's waiting at the other end is much scarier."

They all nodded, enthralled.

"Anyway, I'm sure you all had much more interesting topics of discussion," Harry said.

"Who just walked in? I know Tonks, but I don't know the other gentleman," Lisa said.

"Oh, that's Snape," Susan said.

"Old teacher of ours," Ron said. "Had some...shady friends when he was younger. A few of 'em might've been involved in the attack that killed Harry's parents."

"Old teacher with that kind of background?"

"Dumbledore--that was the headmaster--had a lot of faith in him," Harry said. "And he seemed reformed."

Susan nodded.

Harry liked everyone, but he was starting to itch for a change of conversation. He said, "So would anyone like some punch?"

"Yes, please," Lisa said.

Harry nodded and walked off. Behind him, he could hear Ron saying, "He doesn't always like to talk about it..."

He picked up a couple of glasses from the table and poured some punch. Snape was standing nearby, looking idly a piece of art on the wall, one of the relics from Harry's parents. "Having fun?" Harry asked.

Snape ignored him, instead turning a glare on the softly-playing radio when "Till the End of Time" came on.

Harry cleared his throat, and Snape turned a little, as if surprised he was there. "I said, are you having fun?" Harry said.

"Entirely," Snape said.

"Glad to hear it."

Snape didn't say anything else, and Harry wandered back to his group. He handed the other glass to Susan, who smiled and thanked him.

"Harry, you should probably put these away," Lisa said, giving him the medals. "Wouldn't want somebody to damage them."

"Of course," Harry said. He took them back to his room, folding them carefully into their box before closing the drawer and the door and walking back to the party again. The evening was odd--he felt in a kind of fog, moving through, not really connecting. Maybe that was to be expected, his first time back home for more than a week or two at one go.

Back in the main room, he wandered over by Hermione's group. Tonks and Snape were off to one side, marginally participating--the closeness between Hermione and Tonks was obvious to Harry, but only because he knew about it; there were little glances or half-smiles, brief, expressing amusement or conspiracy. Hermione's friends--all from after Harry had joined the army--were happier to let him be silent than his old friends were, so Harry stationed himself to one side and listened.

He noticed something odd before too long...Snape was ignoring him. Well, ignoring wasn't precisely the right word. If he did make a small comment, Snape would pay him just as much attention as he did any of the new faces of Hermione's group--Snape, too, had left the city before many of these new faces would have been his students--but no more than that. It was as if...he didn't care.

Harry could take a lot of things from Snape--had taken a lot, in years of being his pupil, first in secondary school and then at college. One thing Snape had never been was indifferent. What was going on?

Hermione rested one hand on his forearm. "Harry, perhaps you'd like to get something stronger than punch for our guests?"

"Of course," he said automatically and walked over to the bar, gesturing everyone over. Stir things up a bit. Hermione as hostess was always a good idea.

Snape asked for whiskey. He was as nonchalant as he had been all evening, but his fingers brushed Harry's just a little as he took the glass.

As soon as the guests were taken care of, Harry wandered over to Tonks and nodded at the kitchen. She followed him in.

"What the hell?" Harry said. "Why did you bring him?"

"Who, Snape?" said Tonks.

"Did you bring an invisible friend, too?"

"No need to be nasty, Harry." Tonks looked at him with narrowed eyes. " What is going on?"

"You know he hates me."

Tonks leaned one hip on the countertop. "That's why he was hitting on you last week, huh?"

Harry blushed.

"Oh come on, it's not like you've never been hit on before. Even if he's kind of strange, he is a friend of Mum's, just a little too young for that crowd."

Harry had to force himself not to shrink against the wall. Tonks would read that as a clear sign of--well, something, which it was, to be fair. "And a little too old for ours. He got angry when Perry Como came on the radio."

"Well, that's just music--Harry, what has gotten into you?"

"Nothing..."

"Well, whatever it is, you're dampening the party down pretty well. Stop it."

"Yes, mother," Harry said, and Tonks grinned back. Not that bad, then.

Harry enjoyed the company, usually, but he wasn't at all sorry to see the crowd start to dissipate within the hour. Ron took himself off with Lavender, and some of the girls followed, and then Hermione's friends. Snape didn't leave with them, and appeared to be waiting for Tonks. Only polite, of course, except that both of them had to know there was nothing to be gained by aping courting rituals here. Snape kept lurking in the corner, a smudge of black against the walls, till Harry went over to talk to him again.

"Shouldn't you have left by now?" was perhaps not the best opening line, but it was certainly true.

"I thought about it," Snape said, "but it's too enjoyable to watch you squirm."

"I'm not squirming," Harry said. Snape raised an eyebrow and tilted his head and suddenly Harry was remembering squirming for entirely different reasons. Snape smirked.

"It never ceases to amaze me how one as adored as you can be so utterly hamfisted," Snape continued. "A few kind words and you'd have had them all eating from your hands."

"I don't want them to do that," Harry said.

"I find that incredible," Snape said.

"You never did give me enough credit."

Snape moved a little closer. "I give credit where it is earned," he said.

"You seem to give other things easily enough." Harry wiped an imaginary bit of food from the corner of his mouth, just for emphasis.

Snape paused, mouth open a little, then changed tacks. "Bold," he said finally, "though your courage was never lacking."

"Neither was your cowardice," Harry said.

Snape's eyebrows furrowed down instantly. "You know nothing of my character!"

"You seemed perfectly happy to stay away from me all evening. Were you scared?"

"Did you care?"

From across the room, Tonks said, "We'll wait outside, Severus."

"No need," Snape said.

Harry turned; Tonks was giving him a questioning look. Harry shook his head a little--no, not what she was thinking, though he had a sudden traitorous thought that maybe it was--and said, "You can go, it's all right."

"See you later," she said, and Hermione waved, and then they were out the door, and it was just the two of them, alone.

"You did care," Snape said.

"I was worried about you. I thought you were ill from the lack of insults." Harry moved, rather deliberately, to sit in one of his armchairs. Snape came and--oh God--sat on the arm of the chair.

"It's nice to know you care for my health," he said.

It was hard to think with Snape so close, impinging on his personal space, in range of Harry's nostrils, a scent he hadn't realized he'd caught under the smoke and alcohol of the jazz club. "I just thought, if you were ill, I might have caught it."

"Highly unlikely," Snape said. "On the other hand, I did catch something from you."

"Quite well," Harry said. Hard to think, hard to think and maybe he shouldn't have said it, but it was true. Snape being this close was doing things to him, just like last time...

Snape raised an eyebrow. "Why, Mr. Potter," he said, "one would almost think you appreciated our last encounter."

"Maybe I did," Harry said. He'd been thinking about it. And--he knew Snape, he knew it was good. It wouldn't mean anything, if they did it again. Just sex.

"Would you like us to...repeat it?"

Harry swallowed. "Maybe I would," he said. He could feel something falling away, something he wasn't sure he could ever catch again, but Snape's hand in his going to the bedroom seemed like an acceptable substitute.

 

 

II. SPRING

Snape opened the door to the bathroom and stepped out. Harry took a moment to admire him in nothing but his underwear.

"I see you don't mind being late," Snape said when he noticed Harry watching.

"You're farther behind than me." Harry attached his suspenders to his pants.

"You move slowly."

Harry rolled his eyes and sat on the bed to put on his shoes. By the time he'd finished, Snape was fastening his trousers. When he saw Harry watching, Snape raised his eyebrows and reached for his own suspenders.

"Do you mind that I take pleasure in my clothing?" Harry said.

"No, but if you keep watching my clothing that way, we may not make it to the concert."

Harry smiled a little and reached for his jacket. "I wouldn't mind."

"That's because you have a crass, uncultured sensibility. If we are to continue spending so much time together, I refuse to speak to you unless you learn something of the finer things in life."

"Guess you should've been a musician," Harry said.

"I experience music, I do not play it."

Snape wasn't kidding about the speed--he was reaching for his cufflinks in the jewelry box on the nightstand almost before Harry had time to stop him. "No, wait," he said, as Snape touched the first.

"I'm sorry, did you wish my sleeves to hang open all evening? I can think of better items of clothing to--"

"No. Here." Harry opened a drawer of his bureau and picked up a small box. "It's been three months, you know."

"The time has passed interminably," Snape said as he took the box. He opened it and paused, just briefly, just enough that Harry could tell after watching him so long. "Thank you," he said. "They are..."

"You're welcome," Harry said. "Here, let me put them on for you." Without waiting for permission, he grabbed Snape's wrists and attached the cufflinks. They were quite lovely, if he did say so himself--silver, with tiny engraved snakes in the shape of an S; he had always teased Snape in school about the similarity of his name and the reptile.

He looked up into Snape's face, quite closer than he had expected, and there was an expression there that was unreadable to Harry. He paused for a second, and they stared at each other; then Snape looked away, and Harry turned for his tie.

"You should be prepared for questions about my lady friends, now that you have given me these," Snape said.

Harry chuckled. "You have lady friends?"

"I do not spend all my time in bed with you."

"Just most of it." Harry turned to the mirror, but Snape was already there. They jostled shoulders as each tried to tie his tie. Snape managed first, of course, and watched with amusement as Harry struggled with his own.

"You could have worn your uniform," Snape said.

"No, that has a bow tie as well," Harry said as one end slipped out of his grasp again.

"Here." Snape turned Harry to face him, batted Harry's hands away, and tied the tie himself. His hands were quick and precise as always, barely brushing Harry's throat as he knotted the cloth, then spun Harry round to the mirror again, white tie done up neatly along his collar.

Harry smiled at Snape, who watched him impassively in the glass. Harry still wasn't sure which was the real Snape, the one who constantly insulted him or the one who touched him with such gentleness and surety.

Snape looked down, and Harry turned to see him pulling out a pocketwatch. He sighed through his nose. "Late again," he said. "Let us hope there is a cab on the street."

There was. Snape directed the driver to the concert hall, and they sat in silence for a few moments.

"What are we seeing again?" Harry asked.

Snape paused to convey his annoyance, then said, "A varied program. The centerpiece is Berlioz's Harry in Italy, which showcases the viola."

"Ah, the viola, of course," Harry said.

"Do you know the difference between a violinist and a violist?"

"No," Harry said. "Well, I mean, one plays the violin, and one--"

"The violinist's head is bigger."

"Wait--what?" Harry said. "Is the violin heavier or something?"

"Never mind, Potter," Snape said in a tone of great exasperation.

"All right." Harry shifted around on the seat. "It's an appropriate name."

"What?"

"Harry in Italy."

"Chosen especially for you, I am sure."

The driver appeared to be giving Harry curious looks in the sideview mirror. Harry shoved his glasses further up his nose.

"Aren't you scientists supposed to be, I don't know, cold and rational?"

Snape raised an eyebrow. "What is your point?"

"Music."

"I am a physicist, not a plebian." Snape adjusted himself on the seat, letting one arm drape across the back so that his hand was near Harry's shoulder.

"A wh--"

"I can enjoy both culture and logic. They are not mutually exclusive."

"Hrm." Harry stared out the window.

After a minute or so, Snape said, "Also, I thought you might like the piece."

Harry didn't turn back, but he smiled a little as he watched the flurries fall from a cold March sky.

***

"And then," Hermione said, "Seamus said we should get three pigs--"

"I know, I know!" Harry said, gasping for air. "Oh God. Get three pigs and let them loose in the school, I know, and then he--" He was laughing too hard to continue.

"He wanted these signs on their necks," Hermione said with a sigh.

"--number them, you know--one..." He ran out of air and collapsed on Hermione's shoulder.

"One, two, and four was the idea," Hermione said, almost sounding bored, though her lips twitched up a bit at the corners in amusement.

Tonks and Snape were watching them with identical blank expressions.

"It would've--" Harry thought he probably looked like an idiot, but was laughing too hard to care, though at least he managed to sit up again.

"Can you imagine--" Hermione said.

Harry broke in. "--Dumbledore's face--"

"He would have loved it," Snape said.

Harry stopped laughing. Hermione bumped his shoulder a little in solidarity.

"Yes, he would have," Harry said.

"Oh--" Tonks said, catching on. "That's right, I forgot, he--"

"Got me out of a bad situation," Harry said darkly. He was a little drunk.

"It's weird to think of you teaching them," Tonks said to Snape.

"Trouble, nothing but trouble," Snape said, "though there were other..." his voice dropped "...incentives."

Harry threw a piece of bread at him. Hermione looked shocked, but amused. "Pervert," Harry whispered across the table.

"We can't take him out in public," Tonks said.

"It will destroy my reputation, and that's saying something," Snape said.

Tonks's eyes sharpened. She looked like she was going to ask--had he, really?--but just then the waiter came up and set down their food. He exchanged an indulgent smile with Tonks and Snape before walking off again.

"Even the wait staff agrees with us," Snape said.

"How is Seamus?" Harry asked Hermione. "I haven't seen him since I've been back."

"Oh, haven't you heard?" Hermione said.

Harry raised his eyebrows.

"He's gone to seminary."

"I don't believe it," Harry said instantly.

"I'll show you a letter," Hermione said. "Severus, do you believe it?"

"Predicting the outcomes of my students is usually an exercise in depression," Snape said. He took a bite of his meal and grimaced.

"Something wrong?" Tonks said.

"It is interesting, what the people of the Midwest choose to label 'Mexican'," Snape said.

"Doesn't compare to the real thing?" Harry said.

"I did not have much chance to go out and try it. But no, it does not compare."

"You were busy, then?" Tonks asked. She took a bite of her salad.

"That's classified."

"Oooh, sexy."

"Not particularly," Snape said.

"Seamus is in seminary. Dean's actually teaching English at the same high school where I work," Hermione said. "Lavender and Ron, well..."

"Right," Harry said.

"I've lost touch with most of the others." Hermione dipped her sandwich into its sauce and took a bite.

"Shame," Harry said.

"Because you're so much better."

"Children, children," Tonks said.

"You don't have that many years--"

Tonks, reaching to reposition the vase on the table so she could see Hermione better, managed to knock her plate onto the floor. A waitress was there instantly to clean it up.

"--on me," Hermione finished.

"It's enough," Tonks said, and leered.

"Ooookay, stop!" Harry said, scandalized, as Snape grimaced into his plate again. Hermione and Tonks smiled at each other, and then Hermione winked at Harry, and things just degenerated from there.

***

He was floating in a grey nothingness. There was no movement, no wind, nothing but suspension in a soup the color of iron, ropes pulled taut around him, pressure on his shoulders. He didn't know how long he'd been there. He didn't know if anything was going to change--if anything could change--if there was anything left in the world but the mist, cold and wet on his face. He reached out but he couldn't feel anything, except the vapor clinging to his skin. He kicked his legs and swung a little on the ropes, but nothing changed around him.

He tried speaking, but the words disappeared, sucked into the void. He tried spinning up in the ropes, but they just untangled, quiet as a ghost.

Just as he was about ready to scream, there was a darker patch below him. He didn't know what it was, but he tried to get there--he swam, he kicked, he clawed, he contorted. And then he realized: it wasn't a change in air, it was something else, something hard, and instead of hanging suspended he was rushing towards it, too fast, too fast--and the air left his lungs and he--

"Sssh, ssh," Snape said. He was curled around Harry in the darkness of the bedroom, kissing Harry's jawline and making soft soothing sounds. It was so odd that it shook off the dream like nothing else would have--Harry had wandered the house for hours after such episodes, waiting for something to take that memory away, that recollection of the last few minutes he'd ever know the air under his own power.

"What the hell?" he said to Snape.

Sounding sleepy and irritated, Snape said, "I was trying to avoid getting kicked in the crotch, thank you."

"Sorry," Harry said.

"Want to make it up to me?" Snape ran his hands down Harry's arms.

"I thought I'm supposed to be the younger, insatiable one," Harry said as Snape rolled him onto his stomach and worked his pajama bottoms down.

"With age," said Snape, "I have learned pacing." His voice got muffled at the end as he slid under the covers and pulled the pajamas off Harry's feet. His head reemerged near the right side of Harry's waist. "Take your top off."

"You could try to seduce me," Harry said. "It's--what time is it?"

Snape, once again showing nearly magic clothing powers, was suddenly a long naked weight on Harry's back. "It's three a.m.," he said into the nape of Harry's neck. "Everybody else is asleep," he bit Harry's shoulder, "and I have the bottom apartment. We can be as loud" bite "as" bite "we" bite "want."

Harry groaned against the mattress.

"Do not move your hands unless I tell you to," Snape said, before grabbing Harry's wrists and lifting them up, twining them around the dowels in the headboard. There was a pause while Snape moved something around on the nightstand, and then his body was back, warm all along Harry's back and legs.

Snape's hard cock was resting somewhat insistently on the cleft in Harry's ass, and it twitched as Snape dug one hand under Harry's hips to grasp his erection. Harry tried to raise his hips up to give Snape more room, but Snape just pressed him down with his pelvis, driving his cock harder against Harry. Harry groaned a little when Snape squeezed him, just before slipping the other hand up Harry's ass and into his hole. Snape groaned when Harry made a winded grunt as two fingers breached him, right up to the knuckles.

"That's some good oil," Harry said when he could breathe again.

"Be grateful for it," Snape said. He twisted his fingers around a little, thrust them a couple of times before withdrawing them. Harry spread his legs a little wider as Snape pulled back to put some of the oil on his cock, other hand still doing insane things to Harry's own cock pressed against the bed.

The oiled hand, still slippery, grasped Harry firmly on his side before sliding down to his waist and then his hip, and held him in place as Snape eased in with one long, smooth motion.

Harry panted against his stretched biceps as Snape withdrew, just as slowly.

Snape started moving in and out, torso still flat against Harry's back, legs tucked between Harry's own. He seemed to undulate rather than thrusting, a slow roll Harry could feel from his knees to his lower back, Snape's sharp hipbones rubbing a slow insistent pattern against the lower part of his ass. Snape's cock was never still within him, and the hand was pressed up tightly against his shaft, fingers twitching every so often, driving him insane.

Harry tightened his hands around the dowels, and before long he could feel the hair on his legs prickling, working its way up as miles of Snape's glorious skin slid against his own, delicious friction, while his cock worked Harry's ass and his hand did crazy things at Harry's groin and then he was coming, hard, whole lower body bowing as he emptied himself onto the bed and Snape's hand.

Snape grunted again and pulled his hands out, and then both of them--the oily one and the come-covered one--were bracing Harry's hips, and then Snape really went at it, pulling Harry's hips up and rising to his knees, thrusting Harry closer and closer to the headboard. The new angle put better pressure on his prostate, which caused a few weak twitches from his spent prick, but mostly he held on and rode it out till Snape slammed even deeper and came with one long groan, little warning as usual.

"Hmm. That was nice," Harry said blearily as Snape got up to get them a washcloth.

"Quite," Snape said. He wiped them both up and threw the cloth in the general direction of the bathroom.

"Thank you."

"Good." Snape yawned. "Maybe you won't roll around so much now."

"Hey!" Harry turned to look at him. "Was that all that was--"

"Sssh," Snape said, and kissed him sloppily on the cheek before he rolled over and went back to sleep.

 

 

III. SUMMER

"And I'll have the Beef Boregwig--"

"Beef Bourguignon," Snape said to the waiter.

"Yes, sirs. Thank you."

"I see your French has stuck with you," Snape said when the waiter had gone.

"I took Latin."

"Ah, good. A language no one speaks natively, so that you can make as many errors as you like--"

"Latin has very definite rules," Harry said.

"Ah. Rules, which you are always so good to follow."

Harry picked up the wine list and looked it over. Snape was in this mood a little too often these days, it seemed.

"See anything you like?" Snape said after a few moments.

Harry squinted at the list. "I'm not really sure what to drink with a dish made with red wine."

"Well, let me see it, then." Snape took the menu right out of Harry's hands.

Harry glared at him.

"That was more effective before you had glasses."

"I'm sure the loss of my glare is the worst part of these," Harry said.

Snape looked up for a minute. "Sorry."

Harry pushed the offending article up his nose. "An apology. That's new."

"With a reception like that, you can guarantee it won't happen again."

"I'm not thirteen any more, you know," Harry said. "You don't have to discipline me."

"Would you like me to?"

Harry blushed a little.

"And you might as well be thirteen. I once took up with a student, as you constantly remind me these days."

"I don't constantly--"

"Someone else might not bring it up at all." Snape rubbed his chin. "Do you wish it had been you?"

"What?"

"The student. Do you wish it had been you?"

Harry didn't answer right away, and Snape smiled. "You weren't really to my taste back then, you know. Too short."

"Too short?"

"I dislike having to lean down."

"You didn't seem to mind that first night," Harry said.

"The novelty compensated."

"So what do you think now?"

Snape looked around surreptitiously; apparently no one was looking, because he said, "It matters less when you're horizontal."

"Couldn't have been horizontal at school?"

"Not unless you count my desk," Snape said.

Harry paused a moment and thought about that image. Or more than a moment. Maybe he should drag Snape into the bathroom and--

From away across the restaurant, Harry heard, "Ho, Potter!" He craned his neck around, and there was Colin Creevey with Luna Lovegood, gesturing frantically for him to join them.

"Excuse me," Harry said to Snape, and walked over to where they were standing by the door. They both looked much older than the last time Harry had seen them--fair, since it had been about a decade.

That was a scary thought. A decade since he'd seen some of his old schoolmates.

"Hi, Harry!" Luna said. "How are you?"

"Oh--"

"We haven't seen you in a while," Luna said. "I mean, we heard all about you, of course, who hasn't? Can I see your scar?"

"Uh, sure," Harry said. He pushed his hair out of the way. Colin and Luna both made appreciative remarks. "So what are you doing these days?"

"We're journalists!" Colin said. "I take the pictures and Luna writes..." They smiled at each other, held hands briefly. Harry felt a flash of jealousy. He and Snape could never behave that way in public.

"What paper do you work for? I don't think I've seen Luna Lovegood in a byline," Harry said.

"Oh, well it would be Luna Creevey now, wouldn't it?" Luna said.

"Oh! Congratulations, I hadn't heard."

They smiled again. It was...strange, to feel so alienated from people he'd once been close to. They seemed happy, not drained by the war as he was, and they were just...living and loving, no regards for others' opinions.

"Anyway," Luna said, "we work for the New York Enquirer. We're back in town for Dennis's birthday."

Harry looked around. "Oh, is he here too?"

"No, he had a date," Colin said.

"Ah." Harry stood and smiled; they smiled back. He cast around for a conversation topic. "Have you done any good stories lately?"

"Well, we just got back from Sweden," Colin said.

"Oh? Aftermath of war or something?" Harry said.

"No," Luna said with a laugh. "No, it's really fascinating--they've been having these sightings of weird flying craft in the skies, and a hockey player saw a flying saucer crash into the forest, carrying life from another world."

"Ah," Harry said.

"We didn't find any evidence," Luna said. Harry watched some of the other patrons observing them out of the corners of their eyes, and tried to shrink in on himself a little. "My theory is that the government helped clean up the crash site so we could not show any proof, but we couldn't find any proof of that, either."

"Really," Harry said.

"Yes, so I was talking to G˘sta--that's the player, you know, very famous of course, and--"

"Is that Snape?" Colin asked.

Well, not the break Harry had been hoping for, but--"Yes, we were having dinner together."

"Dinner? With him?" Colin said.

"Don't you keep up with our teachers?" Harry asked, trying for innocence.

"Why would you want to stay in contact with Snape?"

"Yes, didn't you know he corrupted a student?" Luna asked.

"Apparently everybody knew but me," Harry said.

Colin looked confused. "What?"

"Nothing," Harry said. "Look, I should probably get back--who knows what he'll do, left alone for too long--" they both grinned at him "--but it was really nice to see you. Did you want my address? We could write..."

"That's all right," Colin said.

"We can look it up. We have contacts," Luna said, with relish.

"All right. It was good to see you," Harry said.

"You too!" Luna chirped, and Colin nodded. Harry walked back to the table, and when he turned around to check, they were gone.

"The Creeveys, I see," Snape said when he had sat down again.

"You knew they were married?"

"It was announced. I suppose you didn't notice."

Harry frowned. "When was this?"

"Oh, a few years ago. During the war."

"So...possibly when I was out of all contact, nearly dead in China."

"Might have been."

The waiter showed up with a bottle of wine--Snape must have ordered while Harry was away. He let Snape take a sip, then poured glasses for the both of them. Harry supposed he could drink before his meal came.

"Do I want to know how much this was?" he said after he had tasted it.

"I can pay for my own alcohol."

"That's silly. I have loads more money than you."

Snape glared at him. "I am not a kept boy, Potter, I can afford to feed myself."

"But--"

"No buts."

"You're being stubborn," Harry said. "There's no reason I shouldn't pay."

Snape sneered. "'Do I want to know how much this was?'" he said in a nasty voice.

"I just wanted to know how much to appreciate this."

"Obviously," Snape said. He watched Harry over his glass as he took a long, slow, deep drink.

Things didn't get much better over the course of the dinner. Thoroughly irritated, Harry led the way out of the restaurant, and almost didn't do his customary reporter check as they exited. But he did--and there, on the corner, next to a little planter of flowers, were Colin and Luna.

Damn. It.

Harry patted his pocket, as if he'd forgotten his wallet, and turned back into the restaurant. Snape had been a few steps behind, thank God. "Walk out with me," Harry said, "not too close. Head away from my flat--go home, actually."

Snape glanced around. "This is an inopportune place to break up with me, Potter."

"Colin and Luna are on the corner."

"Ah," Snape said.

"We'd best wait a couple of days, just in case they're following us. Enough to give them the idea that this was a one-off..."

"Oh Potter, how will I live without you?"

"Not now, Snape." He stalked out, softened his pace and smiled when Snape came out. "Thanks for the dinner," he said, a little loudly. "Good to see you again. Keep in touch."

"Good night," Snape said.

It almost didn't hurt to watch Snape walking away from him.

***

"I still think they were not waiting for us," Snape said.

Harry let his book fall to the table. "Would you just leave it? I've dealt with this kind of thing much longer than you."

"Oh, that's right, I'm sorry. I forgot I was dating a local demigod."

Harry snorted. "Dating."

"What else would you call this?"

"I don't know."

Snape rustled his newspaper a little, and Harry noticed that he was already dressed to head to his meeting. It must be later than Harry had realized.

"Anyway, do you think I like having to deal with people following me all the time?"

"Yes."

"God!"

"Would you prefer I lied to you?"

Harry closed the book. "I'd prefer you believed me!"

"You've always soaked up the spotlight. You did in school, you do now."

"I do not!" Harry thought about standing, then decided it would make him look like an idiot. "I hate it! I hide all the time now. If they're not asking about my parents--even though I've said I don't remember them, I mean, they'd be better off asking you if they want information--it's about the war, about my role, about all the..." Harry swallowed. "...the other ones who didn't make it, then or later. You think I enjoy that?"

"I think," Snape said, "that you wouldn't know what to do with yourself if everybody stopped loving you."

"They don't love me! They love--somebody else."

Snape rattled the newspaper again, apparently for effect. "An excellent comeback. I see why you are so popular."

"Fuck you."

Above the edge of the paper, Snape's eyebrows raised. "Language, Mr. Potter."

"I'm not a fucking student any more!"

"That's right, you're not!" Snape folded the paper. "You're not the tragic orphan. You're not the golden child, abused by his relatives, rescued by a friend of your parents'." His face was dark and angry, eyes blazing. "You're a war hero who nobody cares about, hiding in your flat, having sex with an old teacher because you can't be bothered to find someone you actually like. Nobody would follow you even to get a story on me!"

Harry saw white. "Is that what you think of me?"

"Apparently, it's better than what you think of me. Telling me to go home and not talk to you--for days!"

Harry slammed his open hand on the table. "I was trying to protect you!"

"You were trying to get your fans back!"

They glared at each other across the room.

"I'd tell you to leave, but unlike you, I have another life. Stay here or leave, I don't give a damn." Snape stalked out of the room and slammed the door.

Harry bent forward over the table and rubbed his temples. This was too much work.

After a moment, he leaned back, stretched. The fight still had his adrenaline up, and he was tense. To stay or to go? He looked around the room--chair, bookshelves, desk....desk. He'd always wondered, after all...who had been that student, the one that had been so scandalous even Dumbledore had to agree Snape had to go?

It was entirely wrong, of course. In no way was it appropriate for Harry to go rummaging through Snape's personal items. On the other hand, Snape wouldn't....well, Snape probably would care. But the way things had been going lately, maybe it would be the incentive they both needed to break it off.

Besides, the man was obviously delusional. Who cared what he thought these days? And if he was going to insult Harry--all the time; he barely said anything else--then maybe he deserved what he got.

Harry walked over to the desk and tugged on the topmost drawer. Boring, just some financial papers and a few physics journals. The second drawer was supplies, but the third--locked. Aha. Harry reopened the supplies drawer, grabbed a letter opener, and jostled and pried the third drawer till it popped open in his hand with a scrape and a groan.

Harry flipped through the papers. More financial things, probably more sensitive this time, and some instructions to his attorney. But there--aha, correspondence. Harry flipped through the envelopes. Dumbledore, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Weasley...

Wait. Harry squinted. That appeared far more like a "P" than an "A".

He grabbed the envelope. It was slit neatly along one side, very Snapish, and it looked like the good thick paper inside had been carefully refolded along the original creases. Harry withdrew the letter and opened it.

Snape--

We cannot see each other any more. I was almost caught coming back from your apartment last night. You know that I have hopes of the civil service, and I cannot do so with a mark on my record such as the discovery of your dalliance with me would create.

I will think of you often. The memory of your hands alone will keep me warm all this winter.

If you would be so kind as to return my other missives, I would appreciate the gesture. One cannot cover one's tracks too well, but I feel I cannot in good conscience destroy them; the emotions contained therein are too precious to me. Please burn this one upon its completion, I wish to have no memory of it.

Ever yours, Percy

Harry held the letter in his hands, turned it sideways. He could not believe it. Percy? Ron's uptight, hidebound brother? Not only had he been breaking the rules--and in such spectacular fashion!--but certain portions of the letter were filled with...well, it wasn't annoyance, which was Harry's usual experience of Percy's personality.

Percy Weasley.

But wait--Percy had left long before Harry graduated, yet Snape left with Harry's class. Harry remembered it well--walking out of Hogwarts, convinced he'd never have to see Snape again, and then seeing him on the first day at university. Had the affair been with a former student, then? How had Dumbledore found out?

Had Harry been wrong all along--was he really more what Snape wanted, and not a stopgap at all? If Percy had been older, he was closer to type.

Harry folded the letter and returned it to its envelope, resolving to make it up to Snape as soon as he returned. Really make it up. He began to plan as he flipped through the file again, looking for the envelope's original place.

What was that?

He pulled out a second envelope. The front only said "Severus Snape," in a hand obviously not Percy's. Another affair?

Harry opened it. The paper inside was cheaper and thinner than the kind in Percy's letter, but there was a lot of it. An awful lot. He reached in and removed the letter.

It wasn't in English, that much was certain. He squinted at it.

Wait, there was that funny B--

Was this in German?

Harry looked at the envelope again. The corners were battered, moreso than many of the other envelopes, but the writer could have been anywhere, any nationality. Still, just his name...

He flipped through more pages of the letter. Some equations he didn't understand, lots of talk--

One word jumped out at him suddenly. Plutonium.

Harry looked more closely at the letter. Uran jumped out at him...deuterium.

The next page was a table. Harry couldn't read anything, but there were percentages and weights.

Harry felt like somebody had dumped ice water down his shirt. How could--there was no way Snape would have--would he?

His hands were shaking a little as he flipped through the letter for anything, any sign, any clue. Maybe Snape was hiding this letter because he had corresponded before the war and didn't want anyone to know. Maybe it was an old friend.

There was still the problem that this man thought Snape could read ten pages of German without difficulty, but there were other explanations. There had to be.

Harry reached the end of the letter; the signature was unreadable. He flipped around to the front, and--

There it was.

The incriminating evidence.

17 Juni 1943.

Harry slammed his fist into the desktop as hard as he could. Damn it, damn it, damn it. How could he have been so stupid? Why else would Snape have wanted to--war hero, of course he wanted Harry close, to vouch for him, he'd never liked him all along it was just a game--

They had to get him for this; they had to. Snape couldn't know Harry had found the letter. In his other hand, he realized he was holding Percy's letter, clenched so tight the paper had creased. His heart stopped for a moment, and then he realized it was the perfect opportunity.

With a dissociated calm, he found a blank piece of paper and lifted Snape's pen. I cannot see you right now. What you have done is beyond all propriety. He left the note on the desktop, next to Percy's letter. He didn't bother to hide the broken drawer latch--why should he? Snape knew he'd gotten the letter. In fact, better make it look...Harry picked up the folder with the letters and scattered them around. Make it that much harder to find the missing letter--trust Snape to keep them all in order. Looking at the envelopes on the floor, Harry realized he wasn't holding the only letter from the unknown German. But if he took them--if Snape had friends overseas, he could get out before they'd had a chance to--better leave them.

Harry walked out of the room, careful to step on a few of the letters. He barely noticed he was out of the house and into a cab, and then he was home. He had some phone calls to make.

***

"Would you like something to drink?" Oliver asked.

"Yes, sir," Harry said.

Oliver laughed, rich and warm. It was nice to hear after so many months of acid from Snape--no, no, don't think about him yet. "Chuck the 'sir,'" Oliver said. "The door's closed, no need to stand on ceremony. What would you like?"

"Got some Scotch?"

"Always," Oliver said. He opened a cabinet, pulled out a bottle and two glasses, and poured. "So what brings you to Washington?"

"I needed to talk to you," Harry said.

"Ah." Oliver recapped the bottle, put it away, and walked back to his desk with the drinks. "Let's enjoy this first."

"Sure." Harry accepted the glass and took a sip. It was excellent--Oliver always had the best. "How's Alicia?"

"Good, good," Oliver said. "She's expecting our third."

"Oh, congratulations!" Harry said. "I didn't know you had more than Joe."

Oliver nodded. "A daughter, Mary. Here, you want to see a picture?" He passed across a picture frame that had been sitting on his desk. Two small faces peered back at him, smiling. "Great kids, Oliver." Harry set the picture frame back on the desk.

"Yeah, I know." He grinned. "How about you? Proposed to Hermione yet?"

"You know we're just friends." Harry took another sip.

"You ought to settle down. Give yourself something to do."

Harry shifted in his chair a little, uncomfortable. "Yeah, I know."

"Have you been holding up all right?"

"Yeah. I--I mean," Harry said, "I still haven't figured out what career I want, but..."

"Well, you've got the money to live on."

"Yes."

"Oh sorry." Oliver put down his glass, folded his hands. "I'll drop it."

"Oh, no. I don't remember my parents at all."

Oliver relaxed a little, the tension leaving his shoulders. "All right. Police officer, your dad was, right?"

"Yeah. He and my mom were killed in 1923. They were trying to put some reforms through, catch a lot of the organized crime, and...somebody didn't like my dad helping."

"Ever thought about police work yourself?"

"Maybe. It's not flying, though."

"No, it isn't." Oliver smiled wistfully. "I'm mostly deskbound myself these days."

"Well, that's good for me, since I needed to--"

"To talk to me, right."

Harry drained his glass. "There's an old teacher of mine. Severus Snape."

Oliver nodded.

"I've been corresponding with him lately. Looking for a new job, all that. He was--you know, in the Southwest during the war, a physicist."

Oliver nodded again, comprehension in his eyes.

"I was over at his house the other day, and I noticed this on a bookshelf." Harry took the letter out of his pocket and passed it across.

Oliver took the envelope and removed the contents. "On his bookshelf, huh?" he said with a raised eyebrow as he unfolded the papers.

"Yeah. I don't know why he left it--"

"It's all in German," Oliver said, suddenly focused.

"Did you look at the date?"

He flipped back to the front, and his face hardened. "That's--do you speak German?"

"No, do you?"

"No." Oliver put the papers back inside the envelope. "I'll pass it along to a translator."

"Thanks. It, uh--I saw the word plutonium inside," Harry said.

Oliver nodded. "This is his name, on the envelope?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"Do you have his address?"

"Yes."

He passed a piece of paper and a pen across the desk, and Harry wrote down Snape's address, phone number, and employer, just for good measure.

"We'll have somebody check this out. Thank you, Potter."

Harry nodded.

"Did you want me to notify you if anything...?"

"If anything comes of it," Harry said, "I'm sure I'll here about it."

Oliver smiled. "Tell me about it. These damn journalists, they're everywhere...just like cockroaches..."

"I know what you mean. Look, I should probably get going, leave you to your..." Harry gestured at the desk

"Sure thing. You should stop by more often, Potter, it's always a pleasure." Oliver stood up and walked over to the door.

"I'm not here very often," Harry said as Oliver opened the door, "but I'll try to visit when I'm around." He paused, took a breath, unsure what to say, and then grinned. "Thank you, Major Wood," Harry said. He saluted and walked down the hallway.

"You're never going to get tired of that, are you," Oliver yelled at Harry's retreating back. Harry held up one hand in one final wave.

 

 

IV. AUTUMN

Harry sorted through the ties hanging from a rack in the store. One of the clerks lurked helpfully just out of Harry's peripheral vision. They always wanted to tell him which clothes to buy, which mostly just irritated him.

Snape had enjoyed helping him pick out ties. Well, picking out ties for him would be a more accurate assessment, with a judicious amount of insulting Harry's personal taste--

He didn't want to think about it.

He hadn't seen nor heard from Snape since that day in his office. Nearly four months, two-thirds of the time they'd...been together. Six months of sleeping together, practically living together, in which he never realized Snape was a traitor. And he had to be, because if he was in town at all, Harry would have seen him. He knew it.

Harry pulled down a tie, dark red except for a gold fleur-de-lys pattern. The clerk, now just barely visible, nodded approvingly and looked as if he might take a step forward; Harry turned away, to another rack. Snape would have--

No.

It was much harder than he would have expected, being without Snape. He'd gotten used to the regular sex, to not needing to constantly analyze the people around him: is he or isn't he? If he is, does he want me? Would he tell reporters?

Flipping through the ties, Harry thought about which ones Snape would like, and deliberately tried to pick the others. He couldn't--he just--it was unbelievable, a nightmare, still. Not just that Snape had been sympathetic to the Germans--though that would be bad enough--but to give them information? On making bombs? Harry still wasn't sure how he could have missed it. Or rather, how he could have ignored it--because obviously there was something wrong with Snape. He'd insulted and threatened Harry, and Harry had put up with it for his hands and his mouth and the other way he'd treated him--leading him around, strong and gentle, and it had felt so good even as he'd--

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw a shadow moving across the floor and jumped. It looked just like Snape--the stride, the coloring--but he was in jail, certainly, or being questioned. Harry whipped his head around but the man had disappeared.

"Is everything all right, sir?" the clerk asked, concerned.

Harry nodded, still twitchy. Something was very odd here--

Suddenly, Harry realized what was going on. He'd been in this store three times in the past year: once to buy Hermione's Christmas present, when he'd seen Snape again for the first time since the start of the war, and twice with Snape, buying clothes. Of course he was going to associate the store with Snape's presence.

"Did you consider this one?" The clerk pulled out another tie; damn, Harry had forgotten to shoo him away. The clerk laid it on Harry's palm, brushing his fingers. "I think the color would be excellent on you," the man continued. He looked into Harry's face.

Oh, oh right.

"I do like it," Harry said, holding the man's gaze, "but I'll need a suit to go with it."

"Yes, of course." The man's eyes curled up in a slight smile. "Let me grab something, and I'll show you to the fitting room."

"Thank you," Harry said.

The clerk walked over to a different area and chose a grey suit with white chalk stripes. "This way," he said, and Harry followed him.

The man drew the curtain and hung the suit on a peg by the door. He held one finger up to his lips, then stepped forward and kissed Harry.

He was soft, yielding: as far from Snape as Harry could get. He reached one hand up to stroke the back of the man's neck, feeling the fine hairs there. Blond, a little heavyset. Opposite of Snape, again. Good.

Harry turned them around, so the man's back was against the wall. He pulled back and the man smiled at him. Harry wondered if he should have gotten the man's name, then decided he didn't care. He kissed him again, and reached down to undo their trousers.

Despite his exhortation to be quiet, the man made a soft groan when he realized what Harry was doing. Harry pressed their cocks together and started stroking them both with one hand.

The clerk's hands shot out and grabbed Harry's hips, pulling them more tightly together and squishing Harry's hand in the process. He worked it out, then started undoing their shirts, getting more clothing out of the way, undulating his hips against the rough pubic hair and smooth skin of the other man's groin.

After a moment, the clerk moved his mouth down and started kissing along Harry's jaw. Harry let him do it, planting his hands on the wall beneath the man's armpits and thrusting more strongly against the other man's cock.

The other man looked down at the floor, and seemed about to pick Harry up and throw him down, so Harry insinuated a leg between his knees and thrust his thigh up along the man's balls. He watched with satisfaction as those blue eyes rolled up into his head.

They kept thrusting, moving together, slowly then faster, Harry's cock dragging against the hairs of the man's belly. Soon enough Harry shot all over their bellies--good thing he'd gotten the shirts out of the way--and that seemed to spur his partner on, moving into the sticky mess until he came too.

Harry panted and watched his face. The other man grinned back.

Suddenly, Harry realized how stupid this had been. He had nothing to clean himself up with--and neither did the clerk, who undoubtedly had to go back to work. But just as he thought it, the other man grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped both their stomachs off, and then folded it and put it into an inside hidden pocket in his jacket.

Harry's cock twitched.

"Thank you," the man said, genially. "Will that be all, sir?"

"I'll take the suit," Harry said, and the clerk winked at him.

***

The phone rang. Harry picked it up. "Hello?"

"Hello, Potter."

Harry set the receiver down.

 

A few minutes later, it rang again.

"Hello?"

"It's rude to hang up on--"

Click.

 

Ring.

"I don't want to talk to you!"

"Harry, are you all right?"

He relaxed. "Oh, hi, Hermione."

"Who's been trying to call you?"

"Nobody," Harry said.

"Right. Well, did you want to meet tomorrow for lunch? Tonks is busy, it could just be the two of us."

Harry smiled. "Is she really."

"Yes," Hermione said, and Harry could practically hear the irate "obviously" tacked on the end. "Pick me up at 11:30?"

"Sure. See you then."

"Bye!"

Harry hung up the phone and returned to his correspondence.

 

The phone rang yet again. Maybe plans had changed. "Hello?"

"Potter, I'm coming over to talk." The line went dead.

Damn. It.

 

When Snape showed up at the door, Harry let him in. He knew Snape would be persistent, and he'd rather get it over with, kick the man out one last time.

Snape stepped in, then stopped dead when he saw the gun in Harry's hand.

"Are you planning to kill me?" Snape asked.

"I"m not planning on it," Harry said.

Snape paused. "Do you think I'm that dangerous?"

"I don't know."

"Right." Snape looked around, took off his coat and hung it on the coat rack. "Where are we talking?"

"In the den," Harry said.

Snape nodded and waited.

"Oh please, after you," Harry said.

Snape looked at him warily, but led the way to the den. He sat in his usual armchair; Harry sat across from him, still holding the revolver, though he was careful to aim it away from both of them.

"I didn't know you kept guns," Snape said.

"It's a good thing I do."

"Although you are paranoid enough. I suppose you wouldn't want to be without protection."

Harry said, "This isn't a good time to make me angry, Snape."

"Quite." Snape settled himself into the chair a little more. "So it has been four months, Potter. I was wondering when you were planning on contacting me again, although it looks as if you were not planning on doing so."

"I thought I'd wait till you were in jail," Harry said.

"Ah."

"Want to tell me how you got out of that?" Harry could tell he was sitting aggressively, perched on the edge of his chair, leaning slightly forward. He didn't care.

Snape folded his hands. "One doesn't get sent to jail for doing nothing wrong."

"I saw that letter--"

"Speaking of doing wrong," Snape said, "I notice you haven't apologized for breaking into my personal files."

Harry rubbed his thumb along the cylinder of his gun absently. "It's a good thing I did, though. Are you still passing information?"

Snape sighed. "I didn't pass information."

"So somebody in Germany was giving it to you. Why did you keep the letters, rather than passing them on, if there was nothing going on?"

"You have no conception of--" Snape said, his voice rising.

"I saw that letter!" Harry practically screamed.

Seeming to realize the danger he was in, Snape backed off a little. "There was nothing in that letter--nothing--that would have helped either my project or the war effort."

"I saw that letter! It had plutonium written on it--uranium--numbers, weights, percentages--what was that?" Harry inched forward on his chair.

"Wrong."

Harry choked. "Of course it was wrong! How could you even--"

"No, Potter. The information in it was wrong!" Snape was starting to yell again as well, and he'd abandoned his deliberately-relaxed pose.

"So you were correcting them? That's not any--"

"No, I was making it worse!"

"Yes!"

"No, you idiot child! The Germans! I was giving them WRONG INFORMATION!"

Harry stopped, breathed. Snape watched him, color high in his cheeks.

"Do you think I could have corresponded with anyone in Germany otherwise?" Snape said. "From where I was? Somebody knew, Potter, somebody knew and let the letters through!"

"Oh." Harry tried to calm himself. "Why didn't Oliver--"

"A major, in the Army Air Force? Why would he have any reason to know?"

"Then why didn't you--"

"Because it was none of your business!" Snape said. "There are things we don't talk about, Potter. That is one of them."

"Oh."

"Oh is right. Are you going to put away that gun?"

Harry thought about it. "No."

"NO?" Snape said. He stood up. "If that's the kind of reception--"

"It still sounds wrong to me!" Harry said. "I don't believe you yet."

Snape looked at him with narrowed eyes. "If that's what you think--"

"I don't know what I think yet," Harry said. "But you should go."

Snape straightened suddenly. "Are you kicking me out?"

"Of course I'm kicking you out!"

"But I didn't do anything!"

"You still treated me like shit," Harry said. "I need to think about this."

Snape still looked stunned.

"Did you think I would take you back, just like that?" Harry said.

The lack of an answer was response enough.

"It's not happening," Harry said. "I want you to leave this house, and I don't know right now if I ever want you to come back."

"I should have some say in this!" Snape said. "You broke into my private papers, you reported me to the government without even asking me first what had happened--"

"If you had ever treated me with that kind of respect," Harry said, "maybe it would have been returned."

Shocked, Snape stared at him. He looked--almost hurt. Right now, Harry didn't care.

"If I ever want to talk to you again," Harry said, "I'll call. You should leave now." He moved his hand on the gun, just for emphasis.

Without a word, Snape got up and walked out of the room. Harry's eyes burned holes in Snape's back all the way out the front door and down the path to the road.

***

The first snowfall came early. Harry put on his boots and walked out into it.

He hadn't gone on any snowy walks last winter. He'd been with...he'd been busy most of last winter, and solitary walks with soft white flakes falling on his face were one of his favorite pastimes. He was sorry he'd missed out on it, especially given the reason.

He still hadn't made his mind up about Snape. It was so hard to know...so hard to decide what he really wanted. He missed the regular, convenient sex. He didn't miss the constant arguments.

Looking back, he hadn't been surprised at all to see Snape that first day in the store. He'd known, somehow, from that first glimpse out of the corner of his eye. There was just something about Snape, something that tied them together. Snape might insult him, might denigrate his family and friends, but somehow he always gave Harry room to do Harry things without feeling like he was endangering what they had. And there was something about Snape's presence that was comforting.

But obviously some of that was an illusion. If it wasn't, he would have known about Snape's wartime activities, and he wouldn't have had to snoop--he wouldn't have looked like an idiot for reporting Snape to Oliver--

No time to be angry now, though. The cool snow was icing his coat and turning the city into a fairyland. He never got tired of watching it: the way it fell slower than rain, making its gentle way down, unhurried, coating everything in a smooth even layer of white.

The store clerk had been stupid. Looking back, Harry hadn't even really been attracted to him. But--well--he was willing. And it was nice to get to touch somebody, even a little bit, even if it didn't mean anything.

Even if it didn't mean anything... Snape had spoiled him more than he thought.

Had it meant anything? That was the question. It was hard, so hard to know if he really felt something for Snape, really felt that connection, or if it was just...that he had been alone so long, and didn't know anyone else who was...like them. Well, Hermione and Tonks, but they were a meeting of minds only.

Should he or shouldn't he call Snape? That was the question. Things had been bad, and Harry hadn't noticed until the very last minute, when it had been so bad it exploded. Harry didn't like explosions of any kind...he'd had enough to last a lifetime.

To stay with Snape, or move on, or think about it more. That seemed like too many options. Maybe he needed to wait a little longer. He could still feel the trigger cold in his hand, still understood what it felt like to wonder if Snape would threaten him, to wonder what he'd do if Snape was a danger...

He hadn't been. But the fact that he could suspect it didn't bode well.

Harry looked behind him, at the wet footprints visible in the road where he'd walked. A sign of what had happened, but he was moving ahead, moving on. Right. The footprints showed only where he'd been, not what was going to happen in the future.

Move on. Harry turned his back on the marks in the snow and walked forward, towards home.

 

 

V. WINTER

Harry came tumbling into the room, covered in snow. "Sorry I'm late," he panted. "Your street's just covered in snow, Ron."

"Sorry," Ron said, not apologetically at all. "Have a seat, have some wine."

Harry smiled at Hermione and sat down. His cheeks still felt bright as lobsters. "What did you want to tell us, Ron?"

"I asked Lavender to marry me," Ron said.

Harry grinned and stood again up to hug him. "Congratulations!" he said. "Way to tell me before I sat down."

Ron laughed into his shoulder and didn't pull away from his hug. That was new, at least since he'd found out about Harry's...tastes.

"That's excellent, Ron," Hermione said, hugging Ron too when he sat back down. "How did you propose?"

"Oh..." Ron turned a little red and put his feet up on the coffee table, trying to hide his nervousness, it seemed. "I took her down by the lake--"

"In the winter?" Hermione said.

"She likes the lake," Ron said loudly, defensive. "Anyway, I took her down there, and we watched the snow fall for a bit, and then I got down on one knee and I asked her and she said yes."

"When's the wedding?" Harry said.

"Oh--probably in the summer," Ron said. "I mean I still have to talk to her family, of course, and--well, we have to have lavender, you know?"

Hermione grinned.

"Yes, of course," Harry said.

"So it's not a shotgun thing," Hermione said.

Ron choked. "No! It's not! We're not--I mean, she isn't--she's a good girl, Hermione!"

"And I'm not?" she said, raising her eyebrows as she took a sip of the wine.

"It's not the same," Ron said.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, I forgot, we need men for everything."

"Oh--er," Ron said, "that's not what I meant..."

Hermione waved her hands. "It's all right."

"You and Tonks are...?" Ron asked.

"Things are going quite well, yes, thank you," Hermione said. "We were thinking of possibly taking an apartment together."

Harry nearly choked on his own mouthful. "Do you think anyone would...?"

"It's common enough," Hermione said. "Not--like us, I mean, just two women living together."

Ron nodded. "Harry, you need a...uhm, you need somebody too."

"Actually, I'm..." Harry swallowed. "I'm thinking of getting back together with Snape."

"Oh," Hermione said. "Oh, really?"

Ron just looked shocked.

"Yeah," Harry said. "I think...maybe I really do miss him, and not just the sex, you know? I miss, I don't know, his perspective on the news every morning." He smiled wryly. "Maybe it will last longer, this time."

"But he's so mean!" Hermione said.

Ron laughed. "That's a nice way of putting it," he said.

"Yeah, he can be, but..." Harry paused, thought. "He knows me," he said.

Hermione said, "Somebody else could--"

"Maybe not," Harry said. "And--he knew me before..." He waved at his glasses. "So he understands a little of...what I lost."

"It's just a little scar," Ron said. "That's not--"

"All right," Harry said. "He knew me when I still thought I could fly."

Ron and Hermione both looked down, silent.

"I don't know why, really. But I think...I think I want him back. Anyway, so..."

Hermione frowned and looked up. "So you believe him?"

"About what?"

"What was going on with those letters."

"Oh. I--I don't know, it still sounds fishy to me," Harry said. "But--even if I don't have the whole story, I think that if it was anything really bad, they wouldn't have let him go."

"Well, if that's what you want," Ron said.

Harry nodded. "It is."

"All right," Ron said. "I just don't want any details, right?"

Harry frowned. "Details?"

"Who did what to whom, you know," Ron said.

Harry narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Ron..." he said.

"Yes, Harry?"

"Are you making a joke?"

Ron grinned. "I might be."

Harry grinned back. "Well, good. I don't want any details about you and Lavender, either. Ew, girls!"

Both Ron and Hermione looked offended at the same time, which was a neat trick.

"Do you want details about Tonks, then?" Hermione said.

Ron looked thoughtful. "Um...."

Hermione smirked. "Well, she's got kind of small--"

"OKAY OKAY NO," Ron said. Hermione burst out laughing.

"Ron," Harry said, "in the years that I was gone--I mean, did you ever--"

Ron raised his eyebrows.

"Have you had sex with a girl?"

Ron turned bright red.

"Oooooh, Ron!" Hermione said. "Good for you."

Harry gave her an odd look. She looked coolly back. "If he thinks it's best, then good for him for waiting."

"We'll have to wait outside his window with pots and pans in the summer, then," Harry said.

Hermione grinned. Ron looked scared.

"Definitely," Hermione said. "And we'll have to think of some creative gifts--"

"Anyone want some more wine?" Ron asked desperately.

Harry laughed, but let him change the topic. "Yeah, sure."

"Please," Hermione said.

Ron got up and went over to the bar with their glasses. "Same bottle?"

"Sure," Harry said.

Ron poured the drinks and brought them back over.

"To a new year," he said.

"A new year," Hermione and Harry chorused. They toasted each other and drank.

***

When he heard the knock, Harry opened the door. Snape was standing on the other side, smothered in a black coat.

"What, no gun this time?" he said after he'd stepped inside and unwound his muffler.

"I asked you here this time," Harry said.

"Only three months." Snape stripped off his gloves and laid them out on the table just next to the radiator to dry. "I'm impressed, I thought it would be weeks."

"Look, can we--can we not?"

Snape looked quickly Harry's way, then down again as he unbuttoned his coat. "I suppose I can be charitable this evening."

"Thank you," Harry said.

"My pleasure." Snape cut another glance at Harry, a different one that made Harry feel rather warmer than he ought this close to the door.

"I'm sorry," Harry said.

Snape hung his coat on the coat rack and bent down to remove his boots. "For?"

"You know. For--the letter, and everything."

"Indeed." Snape stood up again. His sock-clad feet looked oddly vulnerable. "Were you really upset by Mr. Weasley's letter as well?"

Harry motioned Snape ahead of him. "Do you refer to all your lovers by their title and last name?"

"Indeed," Snape said. "Although not exclusively them, or I should have been kicked out of Hogwarts long before I was."

"True," Harry said, hearing the litany of Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Longbottom, Mr. Finnigan in his head. He watched Snape walk and wondered which way he would turn.

"My life would have been much more interesting, though," he said. The bedroom it was, it seemed. Snape took the chair, so Harry sat on the bed.

"It sounds like it has been pretty interesting as it is," Harry said.

"Almost as much as yours. I have, for instance, never been hidden from the Japanese by Chinese farmers."

"Hmm." Harry looked down at the bed.

Snape seemed to take the hint. "So why did you wish to speak to me?" he asked, leaning back in the chair.

"I thought--it seemed like you wanted to...see me again," Harry said.

"The firearm cured me of that."

"For all I knew, you were a spy," Harry said. "It seemed reasonable."

"I'm astonished you made it through Hogwarts, let alone university," Snape said.

Harry's hands tightened on the bedspread, but he didn't let himself rise to the bait. "So did you? Want to see me again?"

"I did," Snape said. "Whether I do now is a different matter."

Harry waited.

"I might be persuaded," he said finally.

Harry nodded. "How should I do that?"

"Think of something."

Harry smoothed the bedclothes under his hand and thought. He looked up; Snape was watching him with an even look, waiting, judging. Harry felt very tense, and decided to stall for time. "Why did you want to be with me in the first place?"

Snape blinked, and Harry felt momentarily triumphant. "You're a very attractive man."

"I am?"

Snape smirked a little. "As if you didn't know that."

"I--I mean, that's why?"

"Also, you're obviously homosexual. Safe bet."

Harry must have looked surprised, because Snape smiled outright.

"At least I don't sleep with men half my age," Harry said.

"Neither do I. You are closer to sixty percent of it." Snape looked very pleased with himself.

"You've been waiting a long time to say that, haven't you," Harry said.

"I thought I wouldn't get a chance."

"Now you have."

Snape took a breath. "What do you want from me, Potter?"

"I--" Harry thought. "I want to start up again," he said, finally. "Not where we left off, but--from somewhere in the middle. When it was good."

"I don't think we can do that," Snape said.

"I don't either. But I'd like to try. I'd like something like it."

"I'm not going to change."

Harry rubbed his thumbs along the edge of the bed. "I know. But I know you. I think I can ...get used to it."

"I'm not sure I want someone who has to get used to me."

"I think anyone would," Harry said frankly.

Snape nodded, thought for a moment. "All right," he said. "Let's try."

Harry looked up again. "Really?"

Snape nodded.

Harry started to stand, wondered if he should. Instead, he held out one hand. Snape came across the room, bent down, and kissed him.

It was just as good as Harry had remembered.

***

Harry watched trees pass by the window. "I can't believe you bought an automobile," he said.

"It's a practical machine," Snape said.

"It seems frivolous."

"No, it seems practical." Snape turned the car onto another road. Harry was more than a little scared--Snape didn't seem that comfortable behind the wheel.

"So where are we going?"

"You'll see."

Harry was a little fuzzy on the streets this far south of downtown. He tried to imagine where they might be going.

More trees passed by the window, on a long median down the center of the road. Hmm, one of the boulevards, then. Harry looked at Snape, who seemed to be enjoying the drive, in a manic and tense sort of way.

"How much have you driven?"

"Enough," Snape said.

"That doesn't make me feel better."

"I can think of something that would, but I think you'd prefer I didn't do it while driving."

"Pervert," Harry said. Snape smiled grimly.

Up ahead, lights started to lift into the sky. Harry frowned at it, then realized what it was--they were driving to the airport.

"Are we going somewhere?" Harry said.

"No, we're standing still. Obviously."

"I mean--we're heading to an airport. Are we flying somewhere?" The thought of flying terrified him. He loved piloting, he loved being part of making the plane run. But being a passenger, while hamfisted idiots steered up in the cockpit?

"No."

"All right."

They drove for a few minutes, Harry watching up ahead for another plane. Then Snape slowed, pulled over, and stopped. He turned off the ignition.

"So....?" Harry said.

"So," Snape said.

"What are we doing?"

"We're watching the airplanes."

Another one took off in front of them, lights lifting slowly from the ground, heading north. Good choice for the wind, Harry noted. Well, of course; civilian air traffic couldn't be that incompetent.

"Did you do this when you were a child?"

Harry snorted. "If my aunt and uncle were feeling generous, maybe I'd get to go with them to buy groceries," he said.

"Ah."

"I decided I wanted to fly when I came to Hogwarts," Harry said. "Ron brought me down here."

"A marvel of human technology," Snape said. Harry couldn't tell if he was serious or not.

"Beautiful night," Harry said finally.

"Hmm."

This wasn't anything like Harry had thought it would be. He felt...wistful, but not jealous or angry. Maybe he was coming to terms with it. Not that he was willing to be a passenger, but still...that was a part of him, what had happened. But maybe it wouldn't be such a big part, given time.

It struck Harry that he knew very little of Snape's work during the war.

"Did you actually see a mushroom cloud?" he said.

Snape looked at him oddly. "Yes."

"Really?"

"There's a very simple explanation."

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. If this was anything like high school, Snape's "very simple explanations" could take hours. "Oh?"

"The exploded material heats the air around it, and all of it wants to expand. The air is thinner above it, so most of the energy goes straight up. Then, it gets to a place where the density of the atmosphere changes rapidly, and it rolls out like a sphere from the point where the column of ejecta hit the boundary."

"I thought you meant an explanation for why you saw it." Harry smiled.

"I should think that would be self-evident."

"Hmm." Harry turned to look at Snape, who was watching idly out the window. "You're sexy when you're competent."

"I'm sexy all the time, if the frequency with which you jump me is any indication."

"This is a different kind of sexy," Harry said.

"There's more than one kind?"

"The other kind is mostly because you're available."

Snape smiled, small and almost secretly.

He was right: it wasn't like it had been before. But it was good. He'd come up with the idea to bring them here, let Harry experience something he thought he'd enjoy, with little advantage to himself.

"Army intelligence thinks I'm keeping an eye on you," Harry said.

"You seem to be enamored of non sequiturs tonight." Snape's expression didn't change, and Harry wondered if he cared. "And are you?"

"Sorry?"

"Keeping an eye on me?"

"I haven't decided yet," Harry said.

"You should."

"Keep an eye on you?"

"Decide."

Harry nodded. "It would be an excuse. If you--ever wanted to move in with me."

"I think," Snape said, "that it would be you who moved in with me. Your decorating taste is atrocious."

Harry leaned his head back against the seat. "But not yet."

"One should hope so."

"Still."

"Potter, I think we should first make it to the stage where we do something other than fuck and argue."

Harry laughed. "Fair enough."

A plane came in for a landing, this time. The lights glowed, pale points in the air.

"This isn't fucking or arguing," he pointed out.

"It could be seen as a precursor to one or the other."

"Still. Thank you."

Snape didn't respond, but his hands relaxed a little where they rested on the steering wheel.

Harry tilted his head back and watched another plane take off, fly far away into the dark night sky spangled with stars.

 

-END

 

 

 

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