Title: Shades of Grey
Warnings: See Snarry Games post for Warnings!
Word Count: 17,800
Summary: Curiosity killed the cat.
Snape had plotted and schemed to arrive at that very result, but until the last moment he’d had difficulties believing he’d managed to pull it off.
“Those in favour of clearing the accused party of all charges?”
One hand tentatively rose, then a couple more, followed by others, until all but a few had their arms up. Those did not even choose to press for conviction, going instead for abstention.
“Very well, Mr Snape. You are cleared of all charges, and free to go.”
Snape’s shoulders slumped in relief. He took a deep breath and nodded to the interrogators as the manacles restraining him opened. Slowly, he stood up, took a second to adjust his clothes, and stepped down from the accused’s stand.
Immediately, journalists flocked to him like a swarm of bees around a particularly tasty flower. He considered ignoring them, but it would probably make for bad press. Still, better to make a general declaration than answer potentially awkward questions.
“I am happy and relieved my sacrifices and actions in this war have not been in vain and have been publicly acknowledged. Now, I want to forget all about it and live my life the way I’ve always wanted to.”
He made to leave, but one particularly eager journalist asked, “Mr Snape, Mr Snape! How was your relationship with Headmaster Dumbledore?”
Snape paused and answered, not entirely untruthfully, “He was a benevolent mentor, a demanding employer, and above all, a very good friend. I shall miss him.”
He ignored the rest of the questions and pushed through the crowd towards the doors of the courtroom. In truth, he had no idea what he would do when he got out. His house had been burnt to the ground — along with his book collection. His money had been seized by the Ministry — they would probably give it back to him, now, but bureaucracy had a way to slow down any process for weeks or months. Going back to Hogwarts was completely out of the question.
Yet, Snape was free, and that simple thing was enough to supersede any inconvenience.
Just before he could reach the doors, he was waylaid by one of the people he least wanted to see.
“Snape,” Potter began awkwardly. He looked very much out of his depth, fidgeting and worrying his lower lip. “I— Would— Look, please don’t say yes out of gratitude, or anything like that, okay? But, erm, would you consider having a drink? With me?”
Snape looked at Potter dubiously. He looked painfully honest, and there was no sign of it being a practical joke.
Snape didn’t particularly want to go out with Potter, but he was intrigued by what had motivated the boy’s impassioned speech to the Wizengamot. And he could see all sorts of benefits to being seen with Voldemort’s Vanquisher.
With one hand, Harry tried to keep his brain from leaking out of his ear while he sorted through Severus’s stores. He grumbled an annoyed monologue under his breath; it helped him work through his frustration at his lover’s habits.
“I know he has some... He brewed a batch only last week... And okay, it’s flu season, but it was a really large batch... What kind of optimist doesn’t keep at least a vial of Pepper-Up during flu season...?”
Harry lifted yet another bottle to examine the label. This one seemed to be stuck, and when Harry tugged harder, a few sparks flew, stinging his hand.
Harry yelped and sucked the tingling skin. Taking out his wand, he prodded the bottle. Another volley of sparks dispersed in the air.
“What the hell’s this? And who uses an anchor potion for an inside ward?”
It picked at Harry’s professional pride. As one of the foremost wardweavers in Britain, he had encountered, at one point or another, most types of wards, and knew how to choose which suited the situation best. Anchor potions were usually reserved to external wards; seeing one inside was definitely strange.
Forgetting about his headache, Harry probed at the ward carefully, feeling it bend under his power, until something snapped and shoved him back forcefully. Harry grinned.
He cast a Colourful Magic spell on his glasses, and blinked at the sudden glow of the cupboard’s contents. Concentrating on the anchor potion again, he identified the ward’s magic and tested it again, releasing it before it could shove back.
“Hmm. Clever, clever. What on earth did you do to make it react like that?”
Harry tried a few other diagnostic spells, growing more puzzled and more impressed when they failed to behave normally. He stared at the anchor potion, trying to get answers from the specks swirling inside. Suddenly, he frowned and sharply rapped the vial with his wand. The specks all fell down to the bottom at once, in complete contradiction to all the laws of physics.
“Oh, wow. It’s backwards!”
Had Severus used an existing spell, or had he devised one of his own? Harry knew there existed a time-reversing spell to use on plants, but he’d never even thought to use it on potions, let alone a ward-anchoring one. Though if all the ingredients were plants...
Cautiously, Harry cast the only time-reversing spell he knew. Nothing changed, though nothing exploded either. He tapped the vial again, and the specks rose in a cloud, in standard behaviour.
“Well, that explains the anchor potion. Not really an anchor for the ward, just for the spell.”
This time all the diagnostic spells gave off normal results. Dismantling the rest of the wards was quick; Harry was well attuned to Severus’s magic, and they didn’t pose much of a challenge.
When it was done, the potion vial disappeared and in its stead stood a familiar shallow stone basin. Harry let his fingers trace over the engraved runes on the rim. There was a memory inside, as well as a wooden rack on the side, holding more than half a dozen vials. Harry took one and tilted it to the light. More memories.
He fought the urge to slid his nose inside; he’d never been able to resist the appeal of a full Pensieve. Not Dumbledore’s, not Severus’s, not Voldemort’s. All right, he’d had a good reason to look into the latter, and it had yielded one Horcrux, complete with the Apparition coordinates of the hiding place.
The shimmering surface looked inviting. After all, a small peek couldn’t hurt, could it? Before he could think better of it, he bent forward and pressed his face inside.
No matter how many memories Harry looked into, he would never get used to the sensation of falling towards nothingness.
He was badly startled to find himself in the middle of a Death Eater circle. Out of instinct, his hand went for his wand, then he realised that he was in a memory and couldn’t be harmed that way.
There was a pile of rags at Voldemort’s feet, and Harry choked on a breath when it moved and rolled over to reveal a familiar face. Nobody had known what had happened to Remus after he disappeared from Greyback’s pack, and they had finally written him as “presumed dead”.
This memory probably meant that Remus was indeed dead. It also meant that Severus had been there, had known. Why then hadn’t he said anything?
Harry looked around him, trying to identify Severus, but the porcelain white masks were faceless, terrifying in their similarity.
Suddenly, Voldemort spoke.
“Well, well, well. Little werewolf spy. How stupid did you think we were? Did you think I would not recognise your name, or that one of your former classmates or students would not recognise your face? Tsk. How utterly reckless and Gryffindorish of you. Crucio.”
Remus trashed around, screaming hoarsely. Probably not the first time Voldemort had cursed him, Harry realised. After an eternity, Voldemort raised his wand.
“You are going to die, you know. And I shall make an example of your death. Discourage any potential strays. Hmm. Severus!”
A tall figure detached himself from the circle of the Death Eaters. Harry looked at him, hoping for some kind of clues about his emotions, but he already knew he wouldn’t find any, even had Severus not worn a mask.
Severus dropped on one knee. “My Lord?”
“Severus. Didn’t the werewolf spy try to eat you, at one point?”
“Twice, actually, my Lord.”
Voldemort smiled, and Harry’s insides ran cold.
“In that case, you will not mind killing him, then?”
“I shall be grateful for the honour, my Lord.”
Harry felt sick. So Severus had killed Remus himself? No wonder he hadn’t told anyone. He hoped it had been quick and painless.
Voldemort gestured towards the body prone on the ground.
“He’s all yours.”
Severus stood up and circled Remus, examining him. He remained silent a long moment, occasionally taping on his mask’s chin with a finger.
Finally, he addressed Voldemort, “This will be an experimental spell; so there’s no guarantee it will work on the first try, especially as Transfiguration has never been my strong suit, but... I think you should find it entertaining.”
Voldemort leant forward eagerly. “What are you planning?”
“Transfiguring his bones to silver. I wonder how long it will take him to die...”
Severus’s tone had that detached quality he took when puzzling over a problematic potion.
Voldemort chuckled. “You’re always so creative! I like that. Well, show us.”
Severus murmured something Harry didn’t quite catch, while waving the wand along Remus’s body, starting with his feet. There was a moment of silence, then Remus started to scream.
Harry could not look any more. With an effort, he wrenched himself from the memory and fell down besides the potions’ cupboard, panting, his ears ringing, his head pounding. He was confused and in shock.
He put the wards back, his moves automatic. Nausea was rising. He barely had time to set the reversing-time spell on the potion before breaking in a run for the bathroom.
He fell on his knees in front of the toilet bowl and vomited. Once the heaves were over, he curled, setting his aching head on the cool porcelain. He knew he should get up, but he couldn’t find the energy to do so.
He must have passed out at some point, because when he came back, he was lying on the bathroom floor, and a cool, damp towel was trailing over his face.
“You’re boiling with fever, Harry,” Severus said. “Why didn’t you take Pepper-Up?”
“Couldn’t find it,” Harry mumbled.
Snape sighed. Harry felt his body move, and moaned weakly in protest. A hand on his cheek calmed him down.
“I’m only putting you to bed, Harry. You’ll be much more comfortable.”
Once Harry was unclothed and tucked in, he disappeared, heedless of Harry’s protests. Harry’s limbs felt like lead, and he could not even wipe the few tears that escaped his eyes.
Severus came back, a vial in his hand. He sat down on the bed. “Harry? Why are you crying?”
Harry tried to curl up around Severus. “Sick.” Another tear ran down, tickling his nose. “You left.”
“Silly,” Severus said, and Harry could hear the smile in his voice. “Drink this.”
“Pepper-Up?” Harry asked as Severus’s hand curled under Harry’s neck, lifting it.
“Pepper-Up wouldn’t work on what you have, Harry. It’s meant for the common cold, not for the flu. This is stronger.”
Harry felt the vial at his lips and obediently opened them. The flow was too fast, and he turned his head away. He coughed to clear his lungs, feeling his whole torso clench painfully. Severus pushed it back to his lips, more carefully, and Harry drank until there was nothing left.
He closed his eyes and felt Severus push his hair out of his face.
“Sleep, now. It’ll help.”
It was probably the best advice, and Harry followed it without protests.
After a fourteen-hour sleep, Harry was already feeling a lot better, though not at his best. Severus was sitting at his bedside, sleeping peacefully in his chair. Harry vaguely recalled a nightmare involving him and Remus, and shivered at the memory. He caught Severus’s hand in his, savouring the familiar texture of his skin and shape of his fingers.
Severus emerged slowly from sleep, and smiled at Harry when he saw him awake. Harry smiled back, loving that moment when Severus wasn’t conscious enough to guard his emotions.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Harry meant to say, but what came out was a raspy whisper. “Hrm.” Harry coughed to clear his encumbered lungs, feeling the phlegm dislodge from the back of his throat. Severus wordlessly handed him a clean handkerchief, and Harry spat in it.
“Hm, sorry. I’m feeling better, if you can believe that.”
Severus chuckled. “I brewed a couple of potions that should help you. Accio potions tray.” He caught the tray and placed it on the bed. He pointed to each vial in turn.
“This one is for your nose, this one is for your throat, and this one for the headache you probably have.”
“Not right now, but I can tell it’s not far.”
“Right. How are your lungs? Cough for me.”
“How romantic. I’ve been waiting all my life to hear those words.”
“Valentine’s Day is in two months. Not that you’re going to get any romance from me anyway. Well? I’m waiting.”
Harry snorted and forced a cough out, wrapping his arms around himself in a vain attempt to keep it from hurting.
“It has reached your lungs, I’m afraid. You’ll need another potion. I’ll brew it; I don’t have any at hand.”
“Did you spend the entire time I was sleeping brewing potions for me?”
Severus shrugged non-committally. Harry smiled.
“I love you, you know that?”
Severus traced the side of Harry’s face with a finger.
“You’ve told me often enough.” Looking suddenly embarrassed, he went on, “Are you hungry?”
“Not really, no. Well, I am hungry, but I don’t really feel like eating.” Harry made a face. “My throat hurts too much.”
Severus rose. “What about vegetable soup?”
Harry thought about it. “That would be acceptable, yes. Do you need help?” He threw back the covers, ready to stand.
“Don’t you dare getting up! I think I can manage heating up the soup on my own, and you should be resting.”
Harry didn’t feel so bad that he needed to stay in bed, but he was willing to indulge Severus’s need to coddle him. He smiled brightly at Severus and pulled the covers back up.
“Can I go to the toilets by myself?”
Severus frowned suspiciously at him. “You may, as long as you go back to bed immediately afterwards.”
“Yes, sir!” Harry mock-saluted, grinning when he caught Severus bite back a smile.
“You’d better be in bed when I come back,” Severus repeated, standing up.
“Oh, you can bet on it,” Harry said with a leer.
“To rest, Harry, only to rest,” he threw over his shoulder.
“Damn.” Harry hadn't been quiet enough, and he heard Severus laughing all the way down the stairs.
After a couple of days, Severus’s solicitousness stopped being cute and started being overbearing. Harry chafed, and Severus pronounced him the “worst patient ever”.
Severus finally let him go after the fifth day, laden with potions, a couple of warning charms, and a thick woollen scarf. Harry escaped to his office, where several owls had left letters and droppings. There were also little ash piles where Howlers had burnt out.
Harry made a straight pile with the letters and scourgified the rest. Quite a few letters were from irate customers wanting to know why he hadn’t kept his appointment. With a sigh, Harry composed a template letter apologising and inviting them to contact him and set another appointment. He already knew he would be working a double load until the New Year; people wanted to take advantage of the home-improvement tax-rebates before the end of the fiscal year.
The weeks passed quickly; Harry often left at dawn and came back home late, only taking the time for a shower and a quick dinner before falling into bed.
He had no time to think, let alone to dwell on that strange dream he’d had when he was sick. The dream was probably an hallucination from the fever, though it had seemed very real at the time. Soon Harry had forgotten all about it.
Christmas came and went with only a quiet celebration between the two of them. Although Harry was invited to the Weasleys’, like every year, Severus had no taste for such large gatherings, and Harry did not want to subject him to Ron’s or the twins’ tactless remarks.
It was already February when Harry went into Severus’s potions store again. The first thing he saw was a small vial made of green glass, that seemed very familiar, somehow.
Harry frowned, trying to remember where he had seen it before, and why it seemed so interesting. He made to pick it up, to examine it more closely, but some ward flared up, sending sparks into the air.
That jogged his memory. Harry breathed the time-reversing spell, then took off the wards effortlessly. A Pensieve! There was indeed a Pensieve inside Severus’s stores, that was no hallucination.
Harry looked at the shimmering surface apprehensively. He had no clear memory of what he had seen there, but he remembered well enough that Severus had still been posing as a Death Eater, a dedicated one. Should he look?
But why had Severus hidden those memories? Harry knew what he’d done, what he’d had to do to keep his cover. It made no sense.
Harry hesitated. Severus was away on a conference. He would be gone two days, more than enough time to view all the memories. He had to get to the bottom of this.
Or at least, it was enough justification to put his nose inside the bowl.
The memory was familiar; presumably Severus hadn’t touched it since Harry had seen it last. This time, Harry forced himself to watch it through the end, until Remus finally lay unmoving and silent on the ground, his face still contorted with pain. Harry felt the urge to close Remus’s eyes, even knowing it was impossible.
Severus was impassive, impossible to read. Once Remus was dead, he turned towards Voldemort, who had observed the process with something like childish glee. “Shall I get rid of the rubbish, my Lord?”
Voldemort nodded, and Severus waved his wand at Remus. A flash of light enveloped him, and when Harry had finished blinking off the retinal impressions, Remus’s body had disappeared completely.
The clearing left place to nothingness and Harry realised that the memory had ended. He lost no time getting out of it.
Carefully, Harry put the memory into the only empty vial, setting it aside so that he could find it easily to pour it back into the Pensieve when he was done.
He took the next from the rack. He noticed that the memory was fluid, not congealed like Slughorn’s had been. It was likely genuine, then.
The scene that greeted him was a different one from the last time. Severus was alone with Voldemort, in a room Harry recognised as the dilapidated living room of Riddle House. Severus was on one knee, his mask discarded to the side, as he described how Malfoy had let the Death Eaters inside Hogwarts.
The air of unholy glee on Voldemort’s face was enough to make Harry feel sick, especially when Severus started relating Dumbledore’s death. When Severus had finished, Voldemort remained silent for a minute, then said, “So you have chosen your side after all, my little turncoat?”
“My Lord?” Severus’s tone was innocent and wondering.
“Come on, Severus. I know you. Your loyalty is only to yourself. But you’ve rather burnt your bridges there. Does that mean you are finally convinced I can win?”
Slowly, a smirk spread on Severus’s face and he chuckled. Harry looked on, horrified. Severus shrugged.
“Dumbledore was already dying, anyway. Some sort of poison that was eating his hand. And Potter has no chance whatsoever against you.”
“And you do not think that the Order of the Phoenix can bring me down?”
“The Order of the Phoenix is an aptly named fowl that will run around aimlessly now that you’ve cut off its head.”
Voldemort laughed heartily. “Oh, Severus, I had missed your sharp tongue.”
They were now outside, just down from Hogwarts towards the Forbidden Forest, near the Headmaster’s tomb.
In fact, Snape was standing before the white stone monument, his arms crossed and a wry expression on his face.
“I’m sorry, old man,” he said suddenly. “But my loyalty is first and foremost to myself. And you were losing. I cannot say that I look forward to a world controlled by the Dark Lord, but it’s better than being dead.”
Snape turned his heels and left without a back glance, oblivious to Harry’s incredulous eyes.
Harry ran to be ahead of Severus and looked at his face. There was genuine grief there for a moment, but soon his face hardened, leaving all emotion behind.
Nothingness caught Harry by surprise and he wrenched himself from the memory.
Snape was in a small study, probably in Riddle House again, since Voldemort was sitting across from him. They were speaking in low voices, their heads close together, despite the wards Harry could glimpse shimmering on the walls.
“It is of the utmost importance that those items still be where I placed them. I shall disclose the location of each in turn, and you will go and report back to me.”
“Outside this house, in the woods, there are the ruins of a house. Inside I’ve hidden a ring, gold with a black stone —”
“Engraved with a coat of arms?”
Voldemort’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “How do you know that?”
“Last summer, Dumbledore came to me. He was dying of a curse, his flesh withering. He was wearing the ring you are describing, though the stone was cracked down the middle.” Snape’s tone was apologetic.
Voldemort cursed, at length. He stood up to pace. “That makes two for sure. Severus, it’s essential that you check the safety of the others.”
“What are they, my Lord?”
Voldemort snorted. “Never mind that; I do not trust you that much. Very well, the next object I want you to check is a small golden cup with two finely wrought handles. The last time I saw it, it was used by the Archbishop of York for the Eucharist.” He smirked.
Snape was startled by that, enough to let it show clearly. Harry sympathised; he remembered his surprise and his dismay when he had learnt. It had been a stroke of genius on Voldemort’s part, too, because retrieving it from the aumbry had been the Devil’s own work.
“The Archbishop of York, my Lord?”
“It is in York Minster. I suggest you go to an office. If it isn’t used, you will have to find it yourself. You should not have too much trouble, as it’s obviously magical. Not that the Muggles would know what they’re looking at, of course.”
Snape still looked a little shell-shocked. “Of course. Should I go now, my Lord?”
Snape stood up and bowed respectfully, before sweeping out of the room.
They were in a narrow, darkish corridor. The wallpaper was hideous, though thankfully faded, peeling in places. Harry wondered where they were. Maybe Snape’s childhood home in Halifax; it seemed consistent with what Harry knew of the place.
Snape opened a door without knocking. Malfoy was sitting at a dilapidated desk, a small sheet of parchment before him.
“Draco, I —”
His eyes fell on what Malfoy had been writing. Malfoy froze. In two strides, Snape was inside the room. He took the parchment and scanned it, before throwing it back onto the desk.
“Have you no sense, Draco?”
Harry squeezed by the two men to get a look at the parchment. He could not see much, except his own name at the top of the page. What did it mean? Harry didn’t recall ever receiving a letter from Malfoy. He’d have remembered, especially after his sixth year.
“Actually, I think that for the first time in my life, I am showing sense.”
Malfoy’s calm tone surprised Harry. Malfoy must have matured a great deal after his flight from Hogwarts.
“Opposing the Dark Lord? Plotting behind his back? Spying for his greatest enemy?”
“Going with what my conscience dictates, rather than my survival instinct.”
“That much is obvious!” Even Harry cringed at Snape’s censoring tone. “Potter has no chance to win, and you know it!”
“Actually, the Dark Lord’s behaviour has been more and more erratic recently, and Potter definitely stands a chance to win. But I agree that he can use all the help he can get, which is why I’m providing some.”
Snape shook his head in helplessness.
“Draco... I made a Vow to your mother to protect you from harm. You’re not making it easy on me.”
“Then leave this room. You never saw any letter, you never had any reason to doubt me.”
Malfoy met Snape’s eyes squarely, never flinching. With a start, Harry realised that he wouldn’t have minded friending this Malfoy. But Malfoy was years dead, his body never found.
Snape looked at Malfoy for a minute; Harry was quite sure he was using Legilimency on him. After a moment, he nodded. Never saying a word, he left the room and closed the door behind him.
Harry emerged from the Pensieve with a thousand questions whirling inside his head. So Malfoy had been his spy amongst the Death Eaters, had he? Harry had never suspected it, not in a million years.
It didn’t make complete sense, though. There was quite a little information Harry had got from his spy that Malfoy couldn’t possibly have known; he just hadn’t been that high in the Death Eater hierarchy.
Harry shook his head. There were still a few memories to view.
They were all in the same vein: Voldemort directing Snape to Horcruxes and Snape reporting that they were safe. The only strange thing was Snape assuring Voldemort that Slytherin’s locket was still at the bottom of the bowl when Harry knew for a fact that by that time, there had been no locket left, fake or otherwise.
Or maybe all those scenes had happened before the Headmaster’s death. Who knew? They weren’t dated.
Once he was done, Harry carefully removed any traces of his passage, pouring the memory of Remus’s death back into the Pensieve, weaving the wards again and setting the time-reversing spell on the potion.
It was Sunday night, and Severus was supposed to arrive soon.
Harry didn’t know what to do. He had spent the day thinking about the memories he had seen, trying to find flaws in his reasoning, trying to cast Severus in the best possible light, but in the end, he had to acknowledge the truth:
Severus Snape had not always been a loyal member of the Order.
Harry felt dizzy; his world-view had been turned upside down. One of the reasons why he loved Severus was that he had always been there for him, even though they sometimes had to maintain some appearances. And now it turned out to be all false.
Severus had not even been a loyal Death Eater either, which Harry could have understood, he supposed. He’d just been an opportunist who’d played, brilliantly, both sides against the other, only picking Harry’s when the victory had been certain.
Harry paced on the rug in front of the Floo. He wanted to confront Severus immediately, to demand explanations, justifications, anything. But he had an idea of how well that would be received. Severus might love him, but it—
Did Severus love him? Really? Or had he only seen a relationship with Harry as potentially advantageous for himself? He’d certainly never said the words, not that Harry could have trusted them anyway.
Harry flung himself on the sofa, hiding his face in his hands. Just at that moment, the Floo whooshed, heralding Severus’s arrival.
Great. Perfect timing.
Harry let his hands fall and kept his gaze on them.
“Harry!” The man’s tone was as joyous as it ever became. He leant down to kiss Harry on the cheek. Harry flinched away.
Harry hated the concern he could hear in Severus’s voice, hated that he couldn’t tell whether it was real or feigned, hated himself for looking and raising all those questions.
“Are you ill?”
“No... Yes...” Harry stood up suddenly, startling Severus. “What does it matter?” He left, barely catching the door before it could hit the frame.
He went up to the bedroom they shared, looking around and wondering how he could sleep in the same bed as Severus. With angry, jerking movements, he took off his clothes, and after a few seconds’ hesitation, put on pyjamas. After very short ablutions, he lay down on the far side of the bed, his back to the door, his body tense and rigid.
Severus entered a few minutes later. Harry tried to even his breathing to give him the impression he was sleeping; he wasn’t sure he succeeded in fooling anyone.
Shortly after he had confirmation of his failure when Severus slipped into the bed and touched his shoulder lightly.
“Harry? What happened? Why are you upset?”
Harry gritted his teeth before answering, “Nothing. Nothing happened. None of your business.”
He could feel Severus physically recoil.
“Quite. When you are over behaving like a petulant child, let me know.”
With that, he turned his back to Harry, as far away from him as he could and still be in the same bed.
Harry’s eyes stung, and he blinked a few times. There were at best only two feet separating them, but it could as well have been two thousand miles.
After a fitful night, Harry woke up very early. A quick glance told him that Severus was still clutching his side of the bed as if his life depended upon it.
Harry padded out of the bed silently. He threw on a few clothes and decided to shower in his office. He planned to work for as long as possible, then come back home and sleep, minimising the chances of contact with Snape.
That plan worked well enough for a couple of days, until Severus decided to take matters into his own hands.
Harry was studying blueprints for a house he had just contracted to ward, when someone entered.
Without looking up, he asked, “Do you have an appointment?”
“I don’t need one.”
Recognising Severus’s voice, Harry paled. His quill fell from his suddenly nerveless fingers, leaving a few ink stains on the blueprints. He tried to smile engagingly, aware that it probably made him look a little demented.
“Severus? What are you doing here? Is there some sort of emergency?”
Severus crossed his arms, looking down his nose at Harry. Feeling a little at a disadvantage, Harry stood up.
“Emergency, yes. It has become urgent to address your behaviour of these past few days.”
“Stop that, Harry!” Severus sounded really angry, and Harry became a little frightened. Who knew what he was capable of?
“You’ve been avoiding me, and I want to know why. What happened when I was away?”
Harry looked away, unable to answer, unwilling to actually say the words out loud.
“Did you meet someone else?” Severus’s voice was very level, as it the answer did not really matter.
“You know I’m not like that! I would never betray you.” Bitter, Harry forced the rest out. “Unlike you, it seems.”
“What on earth are you talking about? I was in Amsterdam for a potions conference, not a visit of the red-light district.”
“I’m not speaking of our relationship, you bastard. I’m speaking of the war.”
Snape didn’t look as if he understood. “You already knew I was a Death Eater in the first war, and I became a member of the Order before you were even born. What is this all about?”
“Don’t be glib. There was only one man you were ever loyal to. Yourself!”
Severus paled and stepped back. To his credit, he didn’t try to deny it.
“You’ve been in my Pensieve.”
Harry raised his chin defiantly. “Yes.”
“Wasn’t the first time enough for you? Have you no respect for the privacy of others, Potter?”
The use of his last name hurt; Severus hadn’t said it, especially with that hateful tone, since that first night when he had taken delight in ridding Harry of the last shreds of his innocence.
“Just as you have no respect for the value of human life. You don’t care who dies, as long as it’s not you, do you?”
Severus looked at him contemptuously. “I am a survivor, Potter, and I make the most of the hand life dealt me.”
“You didn’t have to torture Remus the way you did! You could have used a Killing Curse on him, quick and painless!”
“Good God, Potter, what part of ‘Unforgivable’ do you not understand? A Killing Curse would have torn my soul; I prefer to reserve it for really important occasions.”
“Like killing the Headmaster.”
“Indeed.” Snape sneered at him unpleasantly.
Angry beyond words, now, Harry spat out, “You disgust me!”
“Of course I do. You’ve never seen the real me before. You’re even less intelligent and perceptive than I gave you credit for.”
“Why would you become my... my lover, then, if I’m so stupid and intellectually inferior?” Harry goaded him, but he really wanted to know.
“Can’t you think? Even tried and found not guilty, I’d never have been able to walk freely in the Wizarding World. I needed someone of good standing to help me whiten my reputation. And lucky for me, you approached me first. Of course, it helped that you were quite a good fuck, too.”
Harry felt as if Snape had punched him in the chest. “A good fuck? That’s all?”
“Come on, Potter.” Snape’s tone was mocking. “You came to me with your crush on the Half-Blood Prince and your hero worship for the Order spy.” He uncrossed his arms and opened them wide. “Look at me, Potter. Look closely. You’ve never seen me before. You’ve been in love with a ghost, Potter. I hope it keeps you warm at night.” Snape let out an exasperated sigh. “I’ll have your things sent up to Grimmauld Place.”
Severus stalked out of the office, and Harry fell back on his chair, like a puppet whose strings are cut. His eyes blurred and he wiped them angrily.
Harry tried to concentrate on the blueprints, telling himself he was well rid of Snape. It didn’t work, and ultimately, Harry gave up.
He carefully rolled the blueprints back into their tube, straightened his desk, and locked his office. Once out on the street, he stopped, at a loss. Clearly drinking was in order, but where? Harry wanted to be able to get drunk, but without finding it plastered all over the next edition of the Prophet. A private room at the Leaky Cauldron was probably his best bet; Harry knew he could trust Tom to keep his mouth shut.
A few minutes later, Harry was ensconced in a little room with a table and chairs, and an alcove bed half-hidden by curtains. Harry idly wondered whether Tom rented it by the hour, then dismissed the idea with a bitter laugh.
Soon he was well on his way to being completely drunk. The second bottle of Firewhiskey on the table was more than half-empty, and his thoughts and emotions had dulled to a comfortable buzz at the back of his head.
The door behind him opened and closed with a click. Harry tried to turn his head to look at the new arrival, but the room started spinning, and he gripped the chair arms lest he fell over.
“Harry? Tom told me you were here...”
Harry finally managed to face her. “Hi, Ginny!”
“Harry?! Tom was right; you’re completely pissed.” She shook her head. “Harry, you shouldn’t drink, especially not alone. Come, let me take you,” she grimaced, “home.”
Harry’s good mood crumbled. “No home,” he said sniffling. “Sev’rus threw me out. Bastard. Said he would send my stuff to Sirius’s house. Don’t want to live there, Ginny.”
“Oh Harry!” Her tone was odd and Harry squinted at her; she was beaming. “You’d best come to the Burrow with me.”
She reached out a hand to Harry, who took it. It was soft and small, easily engulfed by his larger one. She tugged on it and Harry stumbled up. He nearly fell over, and clutched at the nearest available support, which turned out to be one round hip.
Harry was standing very close to Ginny. She smelled very good and spicy, her figure was all curvy and soft, and suddenly Harry was seized with an irresistible impulse.
Her lips tasted sweet, and she kissed him back enthusiastically. Her arms looped behind his neck, and her body pressed against his. Ineffectually, Harry tugged at the buttons of her robe, wanting to touch her skin.
She laughed against his lips, then pulled him with her until they fell on the bed. Harry rolled over her, at last remembering an unclothing spell.
Harry woke up with a foul taste in his mouth and a herd of hippogriffs trampling down his brain. The sunlight, even filtered through the curtains, hurt his eyes. He rolled over, trying to escape it, and his hand fell on a warm, naked body.
His hungover confusion cleared up instantly and he sat up, looking at Ginny in disbelief. His breathing grew more and more shallow, until he thought he would pass out, but he managed to stave off a panic attack.
He retrieved his wand from the wreckage of clothes and silently cast a sleeping spell on Ginny. Once he was dressed, he looked in dismay at the feminine clothes and frilly underwear still strewn on the floor. What should he do with them? Harry had no experience with either one-night stands or women’s clothes. Awkwardly, he gathered them and put them on the chair.
He gave the room a last look to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, and left. Downstairs, he found Tom wiping the bar.
“Tom? Next time I want to drink alone, please don’t send up anyone, including known friends.”
Tom waved his rag at him. “I was worrying for you, lad. You’re not one to drink a lot, and I thought the little Weasley would manage to snap you out of it. She did, didn’t she?”
Harry rubbed a hand over his face, knocking his glasses askew in the process.
“Let her sleep it off, okay? How much do I owe you?”
“Four Galleons for the drinks, and eight for the room.”
Harry handed him the money and waited for his change.
“Can I use your Floo?”
“Help yourself,” Tom said, nodding at the Floo powder pot.
Harry took a pinch of powder and threw it in the fire. “Hermione Granger’s home.”
Belatedly, it occurred to him that maybe taking the Floo when hung over wasn’t the best of ideas. He surreptitiously scourgified the mess he’d created, and set off in search of Hermione.
He found her in the kitchen, preparing breakfast.
“Harry?” She frowned. “You look awful.”
“I feel awful. Do you have some Hair-of-the-Dog?”
Hermione’s eyebrows shot up. “Maybe. Let me see.”
Her potions cupboard reminded Harry uncomfortably of Severus’s, neat and well-stocked.
She thrust the little vial at Harry. “What happened, that you drank enough to get a hangover?”
The potion tasted as horrid as Severus’s, and was just as efficient. Harry shook his head to clear it, suddenly feeling famished. He looked askance at the sawdust in Hermione’s bowl.
“Do you have anything I can eat while I tell you? Not muesli.”
“Weetabix?” Hermione handed him the bright yellow box.
“Thanks.” Harry put two biscuits into a bowl, then a third. He drowned them in milk and waited for them to soften.
“I did something stupid,” he began. “No, several things, actually.”
Hermione encouraged him with a smile.
“Severus has a Pensieve, and I looked inside.”
“Harry! Didn’t you learn anything the first time?”
“That’s not the point, Hermione! He killed Dumbledore!”
Startled, Hermione said, “Well, of course he did.”
“No, you don’t understand. He didn’t do it on Dumbledore’s orders. He wasn’t a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Well, yes, he was, but not a loyal one.”
“Harry,” Hermione interrupted. “You’d better start at the beginning. What exactly did you see, in that Pensieve?”
In between bites of his cereal, Harry described every memory he’d seen, trying to place them in chronological order. Hermione listened attentively, paling when Harry glossed over Remus’s death, but otherwise showing no emotion beyond the need to understand.
Harry went on. “I didn’t want to confront Severus, but I felt rather confused... and disgusted, to be honest, and... well, I wasn’t behaving normally, so he confronted me. We had words, and long story short, he threw me out.”
That still stung. Harry still wasn’t sure he had meant to leave Severus, but at any rate, he would have preferred doing it on his own terms.
“So you went and drank to excess.”
“Yes. And...” Harry sighed. “Then I did something really stupid.”
“Wow.” Hermione’s tone was all kinds of sarcastic, and Harry glared half-heartedly at her.
“I had sex with Ginny.”
Hermione looked as if she barely resisted the urge to bang her head on the table in frustration.
“And how did that came to pass?”
“I was drunk, and Tom let her in my room...”
“Drunk is not an excuse, you know.”
“Don’t scold me, please, I know. I’ve got absolutely no excuses. I was a beast; I used Ginny for my own selfish pleasures; I’m sorry. Okay. Now what should I do?”
Hermione shook her head. “Harry, you’re an adult. I can’t, and I won’t, tell you what to do or think. You should apologise to Ginny, that much is clear. As for the rest...” She sighed heavily. “Whatever Severus did before, he still was the one to deal the final blow to Voldemort. And you know, the four years you’ve been together, you’ve been happier than I’ve ever seen you, rarely moody or depressed. Whatever his reasons to agree to a relationship to you in the first place, and I’ll admit I’ve wondered, he’s certainly come to care greatly for you.”
Harry nodded along at the points Hermione made. At the last, he spoke up, “You think so?” Even he was surprised by how whiny that sounded.
“You care for him a great deal, don’t you?”
Harry made a face. “I love him. Or I thought I did. He said I never saw him for what he was, that I fell in love with a fantasy. It’s... it’s not completely wrong.”
“I really couldn’t say, Harry. I don’t know him nearly as well as you do. But you did have the biggest crush on the Half-Blood Prince when you were sixteen.”
Harry let out a short, self-derisive laugh.
“Look, Harry, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. Where will you be staying?”
Harry felt himself blush. “Well... Do you mind if I crash on your sofa? I really don’t want to stay at Sirius’s house.”
“Your house, Harry, yours. For almost fifteen years, now. And of course I don’t mind.” She checked her watch, then glanced at the table in dismay.
“Go to work.” Harry ushered her out. “I’ll take care of the washing up.”
“Thanks, Harry.” Hermione pulled on a coat and took her bag. “See you later.”
Harry went back to the kitchen. He stacked the bowls and set them in the sink, before enchanting the sponge. A quick scourgify took care of the table.
In her living room, Hermione had a small, old-looking desk. Harry took a quill from the pot and opened the small bottle of ink. He opened one drawer; there was Muggle paper inside. Harry hesitated, but remembered that Muggle paper tended not to react well to the Palimpsest charm he would no doubt need several times.
The next drawer yielded several rolls of blank parchment, and Harry helped himself to one. He unrolled it, sticking the corners to the desk so that it wouldn’t snap shut again, and paused, his mind suddenly as blank as the parchment.
“I hate writing letters,” Harry grumbled.
Hermione often said that you should start writing, because once you’ve begun, it becomes easier, but of course, she rarely was at a loss for words.
Harry took a deep breath and wrote “Dear Ginny”. He stopped, to consider what he had written. Should he use “dear”? Wouldn’t Ginny get the wrong idea? Though it wasn’t a very loaded word, as words go, especially in that context. And “Ginny” on its own was a bit cold.
Harry let it stand, and started thinking about the first sentence.
Three hours later, he was about done. The parchment had been scratched so many times that it was transparent in some places, and there were too many ink stains to count.
Hermione Apparated in, startling him.
She laughed. “It’s past noon, Harry.”
“You don’t have classes this afternoon?”
“No.” She put her book bag on the table, and started unloading the books on one of the already existing piles. “I’d planned to go to the library this afternoon, but I thought I’d better see how you did. Anyway, both the Intranet and the Internet are down, so I can’t look up the books I needed.”
Harry had a vague notion of what Internet was, but Intranet sounded like a new thing. “What’s the Intranet?”
“Hmm, well, it’s a little complicated. All the computers on the campus work together in a network, see? Mainly I use it to access the library catalogue. I wish I could use a spell.” She made a face. “Madam Pince taught me some awesome ones when I was at Hogwarts.” Her eyes caught Harry’s letter. “Is that your letter to Ginny?”
“Yeah.” He handed her the roll. “What do you think?”
Hermione took it and unrolled it.
I apologise for last night. I was drunk and feeling sorry for myself, but I’m not trying to excuse my actions. There is absolutely no excuse for using you the way I did.
I may have given you false impressions, but the truth is that I am not looking for another relationship at this time. I want to work out my relationship with Severus. I love him and I know he loves me, and I want to do everything to make sure we get over this rough patch and make a future together. I am sure you will understand.
Please accept my most sincere apologies; it wasn’t my intention to hurt you.
Hermione blinked a few times, taking more time than Harry knew she needed to read the whole thing.
“Well?” Harry asked anxiously. “Is it good?”
“Be honest. I know my writing skills aren’t that great.”
“It’s... Well, if Ginny ever decides to speak to you again, I’ll be surprised. On the other hand, you certainly won’t have to fend her off now, not if she has an ounce of pride.”
“I did want to discourage her. I managed, then?”
“Beyond your wildest dreams, I’d say. Harry, if I received that letter from someone I’ve been intimate with, I’d hex their bollocks off.”
Harry winced. “I don’t want to hurt her. Can you help me, you know, soften it?”
Hermione shook her head, but apparently it was more from hopelessness than from refusal. “Men! I suppose I’d better do. You’re handling the Snape situation on your own, though.”
“Thanks, Hermione, I appreciate it.”
“We’d better get some lunch first. Did I remember to buy groceries?” she added, walking to the kitchen.
Harry supposed the question was rhetorical, and followed silently. Hermione had her head in the fridge, her hmms amplified by its hollowness. She straightened, her face doubtful.
“I suppose we could make sandwiches, if you don’t mind not having much choice about the filling.”
Harry laughed. “It’s fine. I’m not picky.”
Hermione smiled back at Harry, then handed him a bag of sliced bread and a container of ham.
“There are pickles in the cupboard above you.” Hermione turned to pick a knife from the drawer.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” she said as she began to efficiently make ham-and-pickles sandwiches.
Once the letter was sealed and sent off with Hedwig, who had turned up halfway through lunch, Hermione turned to Harry.
“Shouldn’t you check the Black House? You’ll need your clothes.”
Harry sighed, not really looking forward to it.
“Number twelve Grimmauld Place!”
Harry stepped into the Floo. After an eternity of spinning, he was spit out of the hearth in the visitors’ parlour, rather queasy. Harry still hadn’t managed to determine how, but Floo trips to and from the Black House were always more unpleasant than anywhere else. Probably a ward developed by an unpleasant Black ancestor, of course, but Harry still hadn’t succeeded in unravelling it.
The house was dark and Harry took out his wand, performing a cautious Lumos; you never knew what could be attracted to the light, here. There was nothing in the room, and Harry wondered where Severus could have left his things.
Or maybe he hadn’t done it. Harry squelched the hesitant hope that raised in his heart. He did need some time away from Severus, to analyse the confused feelings the man aroused in him.
He went out in the corridor, trying to be as quiet as possible. Harry thought the most likely room might be the kitchen, so he tried it first.
And indeed, here they were. Two trunks were set side by side between the table and the stove. Harry sat down heavily on a chair. So Severus had done it. He’d really done it. It felt so final, and yet Harry still wasn’t sure he wanted to cut all ties with Severus, not that way, with things left unsaid between them.
Looking at those two small trunks, Harry found it hard to believe that his whole life could fit inside. And yet... They had not so much lived together as Harry had lived at Severus’s. The house had been his, gifted by the Ministry as compensation for the loss of the house on Spinner’s End; the furniture inside had all been chosen and paid for by Severus. At the time, Harry had not minded, because he’d been in love, but now, it galled, to have only ever been a guest in his lover’s home.
Harry shook himself out of his self-pity and considered his options. He could not miniaturise his trunks; he owned too many things that wouldn’t take kindly to being reduced. There was nothing to it: he would have to Apparate with one trunk at a time.
There was also the question of where to Apparate to. Hermione’s sofa could only be a temporary solution; he would have to find himself some place to live in the long term. The Black House was out of the question; it was dark and oppressive, not to mention dangerous in the way only old Wizarding homes can be.
For the time being, he could keep his trunks in his office. Maybe he could set up a small bunk bed there, too.
Harry sighed. Gripping one trunk solidly, he concentrated on his destination, expanding his awareness of his body to include the trunk and all it contained. Harry folded on himself and appeared into his office.
He repeated the process with the second trunk, then opened them both to make sure everything inside was in correct order.
Every little trinket he’d ever bought seemed to be inside, carefully wrapped in paper. Harry would rather have pegged Severus for the kind of man who tossed away the possessions of the lover he had kicked out; that he had taken the time to protect them from breaking was disconcerting.
Filing the observation for later consideration, Harry quickly packed a few clothes before Apparating back to Hermione’s flat before she could wonder where he’d gone.
He was welcomed with a frown and an abrupt, “I’ve been thinking.”
“Hmm?” Harry dropped his satchel by the sofa, and poured himself a cup from the teapot on the table.
“Doesn’t anything strikes you as weird, about Snape’s ward on the Pensieve?”
Harry made a face; the tea had grown cold. He warmed it with a spell, even though it did nothing for the taste.
“Well, there was this really cool time-reversing spell; I told you about it. I’d never seen anything like that. Very clever.”
“Maybe, but... You’re an experienced wardweaver, Harry. It stopped you for all of what? Five, maybe ten minutes.”
“About that. I’d expect it would stump someone who isn’t familiar with ward spells, though.”
“Exactly! If Snape had really wanted to keep you out of his Pensieve, why didn’t he use blood wards? You wouldn’t have been able to unravel those!”
Harry nearly spewed his tea. “You can’t convince me that Severus wanted me to go in his Pensieve. He was really angry about that. And with reason: it’s a breach of privacy, and the second time I’ve done it to him.”
Belatedly, Harry realised that a letter of apology wouldn’t go amiss. Whatever he had seen in the Pensieve, the actual act was still assimilated to mind-rape, and punishable with a half-dozen years in Azkaban.
Or maybe he should try to apologise in person, and get some explanations from Severus while he was there. Yes, that sounded like a good idea. Possibly foolhardy and deathly, but Harry hadn’t been sorted into Gryffindor by mistake.
Harry finished his cup of tea before saying, “I’ll be going to work tomorrow. I can’t neglect my office for too long, and it’ll let Severus have some more time to calm down. On Saturday, I’ll go see him.” He hesitated. “If I can’t make it back by Saturday night, don’t worry. If I still haven’t contacted you by Monday morning, er...”
Hermione’s mouth quirked up. “I’ll mount a rescue. All right. Seems like a good idea to me. Now, I went to buy groceries this afternoon, so we can actually get a decent meal.”
Harry laughed. “My, wonders never cease.”
“Hush, you. For your cheek, you can peel the vegs.” Hermione pushed him, still laughing, towards the kitchen.
Harry woke up on Saturday morning with a sense of foreboding. Confronting Severus was necessary, but he anticipated more dreadful words before the day was over and the perspective made his stomach churn. Severus had always known how to cut to the quick.
The polite thing to do was to Apparate outside the house and wait to be granted permission to come inside. Harry just hoped Severus was at home.
Gingerly, he knocked, using the bronze dragon head at the centre of the door, knowing that those knocks would reverberate throughout the house and that Snape wouldn’t be able to ignore them. He heard some noise inside, but the door didn’t open. He knocked a second time.
When it failed again, Harry thought that Severus must have left already; he decided to go wait inside. No need to give gossip fodder to the neighbours.
He reached for the handle, but it slid about ten inches upwards.
Harry tried to grip it again, only to watch it slide down to the bottom left corner. He wasn’t in the mood to chase after a reluctant door handle, especially when it was clear it didn’t want to be caught. And of course Muggle neighbours meant he couldn’t do magic and unravel the wards.
Well, there was nothing for it.
Sod the neighbours. Harry started to beat his fists on the door while yelling, “Severus Snape! Open this door right now!”
Snape opened the door suddenly and Harry, unbalanced, nearly fell into his arms. Embarrassed and angry, he straightened, righting his clothes. Severus looked ready to throw him out, so Harry barrelled past him inside the house.
“Get out!” Snape said between his teeth.
Harry took a stand, his feet firmly planted on the ground, his arms crossed, his head high.
“No. We need to talk.”
“We’ve both said enough already, don’t you think?”
“Actually, we said either too much or not enough. At any rate, we can’t leave things as they are. I want — I need explanations.”
Snape passed by him into the kitchen. He filled the kettle and set it on the stove, lighting the ring with a flick of his wand.
“You do not deserve any.”
Harry winced. “Maybe not. I still want to hear them, though.” He leaned against the doorpost, watching Severus busy his hands, a sure sign of his nervousness. Maybe he wasn’t as unaffected as he pretended to be. “I thought I knew you. And now I discover that you’re a complete stranger. I want to understand, Severus.”
“Be careful what you wish for.”
“Isn’t the truth always better than a lie?”
Severus snorted. “I would not know. I’ve lived most of my life under one lie or another.” He carefully measured up tea leaves and put them in the warm teapot.
“About that...” Harry struggled to find the right words. “How can you have wanted Voldemort to win?”
Severus sighed. “Typical. Give you half the information, you reach the wrong conclusion; give you all the information, you reach another albeit equally wrong conclusion.”
“I never wanted Voldemort to win. But by the time Albus died, I had absolutely no trust in either you or the Order to finish the job. And I always intended to end up on the winner’s side.”
“So once the odds were in my favour, you came back to my side.”
Severus looked at him squarely.
Harry closed his eyes and forced himself to count to ten. The kettle whistled, startling him. Severus poured the water into the teapot and sat down, waiting for the leaves to steep. Harry sat down facing Severus.
“Who was the spy? Malfoy, or you?”
“Both. Draco only at first, then I gave him some information to pass onto you, and when he was killed, I wrote myself.”
Harry remained silent, respecting the grief he could see in Severus’s eyes. At last, he offered quietly, “His contribution should not have been forgotten.”
Severus shrugged. “It is too late, now. How would you justify it? And he’s dead and all his family with him; it would profit no one.” He poured some tea for himself, proposing none to Harry.
“Still...” Harry knew Severus was right, and yet he couldn’t help feeling guilty.
“Leave it, Potter.”
Snape gave him a long look. Not quite a glare, but not quite neutral either.
“Please,” Harry repeated. “Can you tell me, at least, why you tortured Remus the way you did. His death... it must have been horrifying.”
There was pity now in Severus’s eyes, and Harry didn’t like it one bit.
“Tell me, what do you think would have happened if I had used something quick and painless? Not an Unforgivable, because I never use them if I can help it, but killing spells are a dime a dozen to a man with my knowledge.”
“I — I don’t know!”
“Voldemort would have been extremely displeased.”
“I don’t understand. He was the one who gave you that order.”
Severus looked away from Harry, staring at the bottom of his cup as if he believed in tasseomancy.
“I am a half-blood. I’m a very good Potions Master, it’s true, but when I joined, Voldemort already had two of those. I wanted him to notice me, so I acquired a reputation for... inventive torture. For making up spells on the spot that would kill a man slowly and painfully.”
Unbidden, Harry’s memory began to replay parts of Remus’s torture. He sprang out of the kitchen to the loo, where he threw up what little he had eaten at breakfast. When the heaves had passed, he noticed that Severus hadn’t left the kitchen; he missed the times when Severus would hold his head and wipe his brow.
Harry rinsed his mouth with a little water from the tap, checked himself for stains and performed a breath freshening charm. He wandered back into the kitchen.
Severus was standing at the window, his back to the door, drinking another cup of tea. Harry looked at him, trying to reconcile this new knowledge with the Severus he knew. He wondered how much of Severus’s sadism was natural. It had been obvious in the classroom, where Snape had taken pleasure in bullying and belittling his students, but in the four years they had been together, Severus had never shown this side of himself.
Severus turned. He startled visibly when he saw Harry, his cup clanging in its saucer.
“You haven’t left.”
He sounded rather amazed by the fact. Harry was, too.
“No,” he said softly. He bit his lips, wanting to ask but not sure whether he was ready to hear the answer. He took a deep breath and, in the rush of the exhalation, asked, “Did you like it? Torturing people?”
Severus froze. Then, with an ugly sneer, he fired a question of his own, “Why else would I have done it?”
Harry felt red hot anger surge through him, then leave him just as abruptly. It wasn’t an answer; it was an evasion.
“Severus,” Harry insisted, “did you enjoy it?”
Severus set the teacup on the table and turned back to the window.
“I enjoyed having the Dark Lord’s favour. And it was only Muggles and blood traitors.”
Harry could imagine a seventeen-year-old Severus, all nose and gangly limbs, using Arithmancy to predict Voldemort’s behaviour and what would please him most the way he predicted the effects of a new potion, then settling on torture as the most likely course of action. And of course he would rationalise his behaviour to himself.
“Why burn his body? I would have liked to give him a decent funeral, at least.”
“Werewolf body parts can be used in a number of potions. I didn’t care to have the Dark Lord make me brew them.”
Or to hack up a former classmate and colleague. Not that Severus wouldn’t deny the thought with his dying breath.
“Have I answered your questions to your satisfaction, Potter?”
Typical Snapish defence mechanism: when cornered, attack. Harry resolved not to lose his temper and to look past Severus’s bursts of anger. He stepped inside the kitchen and took Severus’s face between his hands before kissing him. Not much more than a peck on the lips, but insistent enough to show Harry wasn’t giving up.
“I’ll have other questions, but right now, why don’t we enjoy lunch and inconsequential conversation?”
Severus was looking a little bewildered, but after a minute, he nodded. Harry released a mental sigh of relief.
Harry would much rather have stayed and asked Severus questions, but he had an idea that it would be too much too soon. He had left after lunch, though not before letting Severus know he was staying on Hermione’s sofa and would soon relocate to a transfigured camp bed in his office. Harry wasn’t above using emotional blackmail to persuade Severus to let him come back.
Because Harry very much wanted to come back. He still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but he had lived with Severus for four years and refused to believe that he could have been so totally wrong about the man. There was probably a perfectly innocuous explanation. There must be.
Harry Apparated back to his office. With a quick Floo call, he let Hermione know that he was still alive and in one piece but would be back by the evening only.
Much like Severus, Harry needed some time alone to think. Severus hadn’t given him many answers, but Harry knew better than to stop at his words when trying to read him. What Severus hadn’t said was just as important. Harry wished he could watch Severus again when he answered his questions or even examine a few of Severus’s memories more closely.
There was nothing to it; he needed a Pensieve. Now, where could he go to acquire such an item?
Harry warded his office securely and went out on Diagon Alley. It was Saturday afternoon, and the street was bustling with noise and activity. Harry winced and pushed his way through the crowd.
Harry had no idea where he should begin to look. Mentally, he reviewed the shops in Diagon Alley, dismissing them one by one. There was none that looked likely to sell Pensieves. Which left Knockturn Alley. Maybe Burke would sell some, or know where to find them.
Harry boldly entered Knockturn Alley. The trick to remaining unmugged was to look as if you knew where you were doing. Looking dangerous and ready to face any kind of threat helped, too.
Harry reached Borgin and Burkes without incident. He entered and browsed around, waiting for Burke to appear. There were no Pensieves on display, so Harry settled to look at a collection of divining bones he could have sworn were human.
Burke entered. “Mr Potter,” he greeted Harry cautiously.
Harry nodded back. “Mr Burke. I wondered if you could help me?”
“Oh, I’d be delighted to do so. What did you need?”
“I’m looking for a Pensieve.”
Burke looked slightly startled; Harry supposed it wasn’t an item in such great demand.
“Do you want to use it, or is it for decorative purposes only?”
“To use it.”
“I have a small selection of Pensieves in the back room. A couple are slightly cracked and therefore useless to store memories in, but the rest is sound and working. Please follow me.”
Harry wasn’t quite at ease. He took out his wand and slipped it in his sleeve, easy to access, before following Burke. The corridors were small and dimly lit, and Harry made careful notes of the passages they took.
The back room turned out to be large enough to host a rock concert. There were dozens of artefacts stored there, including a dozen Pensieves.
Their general design was somewhat similar: a stone basin engraved with runes. They were all different, though, and Harry had a sudden suspicion.
“Pensieves, are they always one of a kind?”
Burke glanced at him. “Yes, of course. They’re generally attuned to the family they’re first created for.”
“Wouldn’t that prevent someone who is not from this family from using them?”
Burke threw another glance at Harry, who winced.
“The design of the Pensieve is attuned to the creator’s family. It doesn’t influence its behaviour.”
Harry nodded. “Which ones are useless?”
“The two along the wall.”
Harry walked around the Pensieves, examining each one closely while comparing them to Severus’s. In the end, he chose a small Pensieve, about one foot in diameter and a couple of inches high. He staggered at the price announced by Burke. Eyeing the man in suspicion, Harry halved the number. Burke smiled slyly.
After a few minutes of very satisfying haggling, Harry left the shop, his new purchase carefully wrapped up.
He lost no time in going back to his office and setting it up. Harry chose to see again the memory of Severus at the Headmaster’s grave, though he wasn’t sure of the mechanics of a memory of a memory.
After a long fall into nothingness, Harry arrived at the edge of the lake. Severus was standing by the Headmaster’s vault, while his own memory self stood frozen a few feet away.
Harry watched the memory a few times, concentrating on Severus’s face and voice. The repeated viewings allowed him to catch a few things he had missed the first time, like his fists clenching or the catch in his voice.
Harry still wasn’t sure how to interpret it all, but one thing he knew was that Severus’s mask of indifference hid a multitude of feelings. Whatever he might say, clearly Dumbledore’s death was a highly emotional topic for him.
Suddenly, Harry wanted to see Dumbledore’s death again. He wanted to search Severus’s face for clues that this had, at the very least, been distasteful.
Harry scooped the memory from the Pensieve back into his head, then concentrated on that awful night, until he had a strand of silver as long as his arm.
When he entered the memory, Harry realised his mistake; instead of just selecting the scene at the top of the Astronomy tower, Harry had pulled out the whole evening, starting at Dumbledore’s and Harry’s Apparition at the cave.
Harry did not want to see that; he wanted to leave the memory. And yet he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Watching in horrified fascination, for the first time he realised how the scene might look to an observer. Harry had forced the potion, the poison, onto Dumbledore, heedless of his protests, tricking him to make him drink.
Harry felt hot tears gather in his eyes and roll down his cheeks. Even after more than thirteen years, he still missed Dumbledore. Did Severus, too? He had never asked. Dumbledore’s death had always been a sore subject between them, even when Harry still believed he had acted on the Headmaster’s own orders.
Harry wondered whether Dumbledore could have survived the evening. It was highly doubtful; the Headmaster had already been weakened by the destruction of the Gaunt ring, on a decline for most of the year. In that sense, Harry was as responsible as Snape, and his own way of dealing death had been far less humane and painless.
Drying his eyes, Harry hopped on the broomstick his memory self had already mounted. He did not care to learn what would happen if he passed beyond the edges of the memory’s universe.
He watched the end of the memory with attention, marvelling at how young and easily swayed Malfoy had been. A couple of minutes more, and he’d have accepted Dumbledore’s proposition. At once, Harry rebuked himself sharply. It didn’t do any good to dwell on dreams, and what was done, was done.
Severus’s face was distorted by hatred and disgust, but who knew whom those feelings were meant for? Dumbledore, Voldemort, Severus himself? There was no telling.
Harry emerged from the Pensieve, his feelings as raw as they had been on the actual day, though much different. He couldn’t help feel pity for Severus, even though he knew the other man would hate it.
With a start, he realised how late it was. The memory had been very long, and it was well past dinner-time. quickly, Harry wove a few wards around his office and Flooed back to Hermione’s flat. He didn’t bother warding the Pensieve itself; he was confident that nobody would be able to enter his office.
Hermione was working at her desk when he arrived.
“Sorry. I lost track of the time.”
She smiled at him.
“Don’t worry. When I didn’t see you coming, I Flooed. I saw you were in a Pensieve, so I kept your food warm.” She gestured towards the kitchen. “Whose Pensieve was that, this time?”
Harry blushed; he had deserved that. “Mine.” He retrieved his plate from the kitchen and sat down on the sofa to eat. “I bought one this afternoon. Did you know that every Pensieve has a different design? Severus uses Dumbledore’s.”
“Really?” Hermione abandoned her books to sit on the armchair facing Harry. “I thought it had been lost.”
“Evidently not, though I’ve no idea how and when it came to him. It doesn’t really matter, anyway.”
“Why did you buy one?”
“I wanted to watch a few memories again. What’s good about Pensieves is that they’re completely objective. And... You know, Severus can say he killed Dumbledore for his own personal gain all he wants; I think he’s deluding himself. Watching those memories, it was obvious it hurt him, a lot.”
Hermione frowned. “I don’t understand why he would do that. It doesn’t exactly cast him in the best light, does it?”
Harry thought he had a good understanding of Severus’s reasoning, but it wasn’t easy putting it in words. “Severus... he’s highly uncomfortable with emotions. He doesn’t know how to deal with them and he tries to rationalise them as much as he can. Do you know how Muggles are able to ignore all instances of magic because it doesn’t fit with their world view? Severus is a bit like that.”
Hermione nodded, but she pointed out, “That’s strange, because I’ve always thought he was a very emotional man. He keeps a tight lid on his feelings most of the time, but... Remember how he exploded at Sirius and Remus, at the end of our third year?”
“Which is why he’s so good at deluding himself.”
“Harry?” She hesitated. “You still love him?”
Harry put his empty plate on the table. He leaned forward, looking at his knotted hands. He nodded.
“You intend to go back to him?”
Harry nodded again.
“How can you do that, when he tortured Remus in that manner?”
Harry fidgeted. “About that... Did I ever tell you about the cave where Voldemort had hidden the locket Horcrux?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Hermione sounded baffled.
“It’s not that different from Severus’s actions.” Hermione started to protest, but Harry shushed her. “No, listen. The Horcrux was in a basin containing a potion. The only way to empty it was to drink the potion, and of course it was a slow acting poison. I— I forcefed it to Dumbledore.”
“I had given my word, Hermione! And it was necessary. We were at war, and sometimes you have to do distasteful things. Horrible things.”
They remained silent for a moment. At last, Harry said, “I’ll go see Severus again tomorrow, and I’ll stay at my office after that; I’ll transfigure a bunk bed.”
“You’re welcome to stay here!”
“I know, and thank you. But no offence, Hermione, I need my privacy.”
She chuckled. “All right. Do you want to go to bed right now?”
Harry didn’t want to chase her from her own sitting-room, but he was genuinely tired. “If you don’t mind.”
“Of course not!” She stood up and gathered the books and papers she had been working on. “Good night, Harry.”
“Thanks. You too.”
Harry wasted no time in preparing himself for the night. Less than ten minutes later, he was out like a lamp.
This time, the front door opened at his touch. Harry took that as a very good sign.
He set down his burden on the low table in the sitting room and went in search of Severus. He was, no surprise there, preparing a Potion in his lab.
With a glance, Harry took in the state of the lab: ingredients carefully prepared, spread on every available surface, a small flame banking under a nearly empty cauldron. Severus had barely begun.
“How long?” Harry asked.
Severus didn’t even look at him. “A couple of hours.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll be upstairs.”
Severus waved a hand at him, as if swatting away an impertinent fly. Harry grinned. It had only been a week, but he still had missed this.
Two hours from now would bring them nearly to lunch. Harry looked inside the cupboards; they were desperately empty of fresh food. Harry frowned and thought back. Had Severus seemed thinner? He tended to stop eating in periods of stress.
Well, that was easily remedied.
Harry took off his robes; he wore Muggle trousers and shirt underneath. He Transfigured his heavy winter cloak into something a little less inconspicuous and left. He knew there was a vegetable market close by.
It was too early in the season for the small young potatoes Severus liked, so Harry chose a few of the big winter ones. The tomatoes were the generic kind, bland-looking and bland-tasting, nothing comparable to the funky black or green ones Severus grew in summer. Harry took a couple anyway; once they were cooked, it mattered less.
Harry also picked a few essentials, enough for lunch and dinner and a couple of days more. At the hen farmer, he chose a plump chicken, big enough to leave leftovers for a few meals.
Nearly one hour had passed; Harry hurried back home and began to cook. Once the chicken was simmering in its broth, he diced the potatoes evenly and put them to sauté.
Harry was setting the table when Severus emerged from below. He definitely had lost weight, his colour almost sickly in the harsh daylight.
“Sit down,” Harry said, rather forcefully.
“I’m not very hungry—”
“You’ll eat nevertheless.” Harry glared, even though it didn’t seem to impress Severus.
Harry went to the kitchen to carve the chicken. When he came back, Severus asked, “What’s this?” while showing the Pensieve.
“A Pensieve.” Severus’s eyes clearly said what he thought of this answer, and Harry hurried to continue. “I bought it yesterday. I have something to show you, but it’ll keep until we have finished lunch. Sit down.”
At last, Severus obeyed and Harry served him generously. For all of his protests, Severus must have been rather hungry, because he finished everything in record time before helping himself to a second serving.
Harry didn’t mention the meals Severus must have missed during the past week; it would serve no purpose, save angering him. He wondered how much sleep Severus had got, too. There were only light circles around his eyes, but Severus was a chronic insomniac, and any sleep missed was sure to be felt dearly and to worsen his already volatile temper.
Good food tended to mellow him, though. Severus sat back in his chair with a contented sigh.
“Well, now will you tell me what is in that Pensieve?
“Ah.” Stalling for time, Harry took the plates and brought them back to the kitchen. Truth be told, he wasn’t sure exactly how to justify his impulse. “There’s a memory inside.”
Severus cocked his head to the side. “No? You don’t say.”
Harry chucked; it diffused the tension a little. “Shut up, you git. I think I need you to watch it, to show you I understand.”
“That you understand what?” Severus’s tone was dangerous.
“That you did what you had to do.”
“I do not need your understanding.”
It was like pulling teeth. “I know. But maybe you’d like it anyway. And you’d never believe my say-so. So here’s proof.”
Severus looked between the Pensieve and Harry. Then, with a sneer and a swirl of robes, he left the dining-room table and went to the Pensieve. Gracefully, he knelt on the floor and slid his nose in the silvery liquid.
Watching him was nerve-racking, Harry decided. There was no point in waiting around; the memory lasted hours. Harry washed up the dishes quickly, then righted the kitchen until it was cleaner than his Aunt Petunia’s.
Severus was still in the Pensieve. Harry just hoped he stuck around for the second memory. It was from the not-a-honeymoon holiday week they had taken near the beginning of their relationship. Their days and nights had been filled with excellent sex, but Harry’s favourite memory was that moment of closeness and shared beauty when watching a sunset together. It was a reminder of better days, one Harry hoped would spur Severus forward.
Quickly, Harry wrote a note to Severus reminding him to contact him at his office and setting a tentative date for dinner on Friday evening. The delay annoyed Harry, but he had a business he could not neglect. And he wanted to take his time seducing Severus.
He placed it where Severus couldn’t miss it, then Apparated back to his office.
Hedwig was waiting for him there, a letter in her beak. She dropped it on Harry’s head, the sharp corner pulling a pained “Ow!” from him, and flew to the top of the cupboard.
“What ruffled your feathers, girl?”
Harry opened the letter; it was from Ginny. Well, it might explain Hedwig’s behaviour, though Harry had never taken Ginny for the kind of person who took her anger out on owls.
The letter was short and rather business-like.
I would like to see you. Would you meet me for drinks at the Leaky Cauldron on Wednesday at 6?
Harry didn’t really want to see Ginny, especially when his relationship with Severus was still on shaky legs. Yet, after the way he had behaved towards her, he supposed he owed it to her. Sighing, he sent an answer. At least she hadn’t insisted on meeting him at his office; it would be easier if they were in public.
Taking off one of the empty drawers from the file cupboard, Harry Transfigured it into a bunk bed. It looked extremely narrow and uncomfortable, and the springs creaked when Harry tested the mattress. He tried to change it into something a little more inviting, but to no avail.
Harry spun on his heels, his wand pointing at the intruder, then chuckled deprecatingly when he realised who it was. Severus’s head was floating in the Floo, looking uncharacteristically unsure.
“Harry, may we talk?”
Harry put his wand away, and reached his hand out invitingly.
Severus took the hand and stepped inside the room. He tried to pace, but the room was small and the bunk bed took too much room.
“I— I didn’t know what happened in the cave. I knew he was dying, of course, he had been since July. But I thought he had just used the last of his strength. I had no idea...” He whirled on Harry. “How could you?”
“I gave my word. Just as you gave yours. You did kill him at his request, didn’t you?”
“Of course.” Severus sat down heavily on the bed. “He was the only one who believed in me. No one else did, not even myself.” He sighed and wrapped his arms around himself. “So when he died... I had no hope left. Of course I turned to the Dark Lord!”
Harry sat down beside him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
“I’m not proud of what I’ve done. I should have had more faith in Albus. He believed in you, believed you could do it. I should have trusted him.”
“And how differently would you have acted?” Harry asked softly. “Your motivations would have been different, yes, but the end results would have been the same.”
They remained silent for a long moment before Harry spoke again.
“Severus? There’s something I don’t understand. Why didn’t you use blood wards? The time-reversing spell, it was ingenious, but I’m a professional ward-weaver. You had to know it wouldn’t stop me for long.”
Severus glowered at him. “Maybe I thought you would respect my privacy. Can’t imagine why I thought that.”
Harry blushed. “Hmmm. I owe you an apology. Several, in fact. For the first time I did that, too. Sorry.”
“Indeed.” Severus looked satisfied.
“I never spoke of it to anyone, though,” Harry pointed out. “Well, I did ask Sirius and Remus what the hell they were thinking, but that’s all.”
“What were they thinking?” Severus clarified.
Harry shrugged. “They were fifteen-year-old boys. They weren’t thinking. You taught teenagers for fifteen years, didn’t you notice?”
There was affection in Severus’s voice and Harry sagged in relief against him, settling his head on Severus’s shoulder. Slowly, Severus wrapped an arm around Harry’s waist, bringing him closer. They basked in each other’s presence for several more minutes, until Severus’s watch chimed up.
Severus extricated himself and fished around his pocket for his watch. He opened it, read the message with a frown of displeasure, then closed it with a click. He stood up.
“I’m sorry, Harry, but I have a potion to attend to.”
Harry stood up, too, and nodded. Severus hesitated, then shook his head decisively.
“I’ll see you on Friday, then.”
Harry wondered whether Severus had been about to ask him to go back home with him. If that was the case, he agreed, however reluctantly, with Severus’s decision. They both needed the time apart.
Severus went to take a pinch of Floo powder but Harry stopped him with a hand on his arm. Slowly, he slid the hand up to the neck where it curled and pulled until Severus’s mouth was level with his own.
From there, it was the work of an instant to kiss Severus, lips against lips first, then, as they relaxed, tongues sliding together and teeth clinking, until they were both out of breath.
Harry stepped back, his hand never leaving its comfortable place. Severus’s lips were swollen and red, shiny from saliva, and Harry couldn’t resist a second kiss.
His other hand pulled on Severus’s hip until their bodies were flush together, both their erections obvious to the other. That kiss lasted even longer, until Severus broke it and laid his head on Harry’s shoulder, his nose buried in his neck.
“I should go.”
“Hmm. Probably,” Harry said weakly.
Neither moved for a couple of minutes, then Severus reluctantly straightened, releasing Harry. He took a pinch of Floo powder, then, with a last look at Harry, left.
Harry stared forlornly at the hearth for a moment before shaking himself out. Quickly, with no wasted movements, he shed his clothes and settled for a nice, but ultimately unsatisfying, wank.
If there was one thing Harry really wasn’t looking forward to, it was meeting with Ginny again. The last time he had seen her, she was naked and in the same bed as him; there was bound to be some embarrassment.
Nevertheless, Harry was on time on Wednesday evening when he entered the Leaky. He scanned the room, but there were no redheads.
He went to the bar to wait for Ginny. Tom was sporting a large grin. Before Harry had time to speak, he said, “She’s waiting for you in the same room as last time.”
Harry sighed inwardly; he had counted on their meeting being public. He hoped she wouldn’t try anything; he didn’t want to have to spell things out. He liked Ginny all right, just not that way.
“A Butterbeer, please.”
“Smart lad!” Tom winked at him as he drew the drink.
“Smart? Why?” Harry asked. He pushed a few Sickles towards Tom.
“Alcohol inhibits performance, lad!”
Still puzzled, Harry took his glass and started for the stairs. Halfway there, he suddenly understood what Tom meant and nearly dropped his glass.
He shot a horrified look at Tom, who winked back and put a finger on his lips. The only thing that kept Harry from telling him the truth was the knowledge that he wouldn’t be believed.
Many people disapproved of his relationship with Severus, and that he genuinely chose him over Ginny Weasley was beyond their understanding.
At least Tom wouldn’t go sell the stories to reporters. Harry gritted his teeth and went up.
The evening was off an inauspicious start.
On the landing, Harry had a momentary blank. Had Tom given him the first or the second room on the left? His memory of that evening was enshrouded in drunken haze.
Harry concentrated, trying to remember. All right, he was reasonably sure it had been the first door. He hoped he wasn’t wrong; that would be awkward.
He knocked, softly. An unmistakably feminine “Yes?” came from inside. It sounded like Ginny, so Harry entered.
Ginny was standing by the bed, her shapely legs displayed by a short Muggle skirt. Harry firmly pushed away any and all feelings of attraction.
She smiled when she saw him. Before Harry could guess her intentions, she had looped her arms around his neck and was kissing him enthusiastically. Harry, encumbered as he was with his glass, did not react immediately.
Ginny was a very good kisser, Harry knew that. Yet he couldn’t help compare it to the steaming kiss he had shared with Severus on Sunday evening. This one lacked something; Severus’s had completed him.
Gently, he pushed Ginny away. It looked as if he would have to be blunt, and then some, after all.
“Ginny, you received my message, didn’t you?”
Ginny immediately went on the defensive.
“I did, but it didn’t make sense. Harry, you can’t want to go back to Snape!”
Piqued, Harry said, “Of course I do.”
“He threw you out!”
“He had some damn good reasons!” How dare she judge Severus without knowing anything about the situation!
“You’re always finding him —”
“No, Ginny. It’s the truth. And honestly, do you think I’m going to throw a four-year-old relationship out of the window just because of a small misunderstanding? I’m not that petty or fickle, Ginny!”
“You made love to me!”
Was that how she saw it? He had been so drunk it was a miracle he had managed to perform at all; it would be a mistake to read too much into his actions.
Well, time to deliver the fatal blow, then.
“No, Ginny,” he said, his tone implacable. “I didn’t ‘make love to you’. I fucked you. As I would have fucked any other warm, willing body that came to me that night.”
“But... you love me!” Tears were gathering in her eyes.
“Yes, I do.” Harry could almost see the hope rising again in her, and he hastened to continue. “You’re my best friend’s little sister; I’ve known you for almost twenty years; I even dated you back in school. Of course I love you. But I’m not in love with you, and I never will.”
Tears were sliding down her cheeks, but at least she wasn’t making a huge spectacle of it. Harry wanted to hand her a handkerchief or something, but expressions of sympathy would most likely not be welcomed.
He waited until Ginny had herself under control, then said, gently, “I value our friendship, but I’m not going to let it come between me and Severus, ever. That night was an aberration.”
Harry probably should have expected what happened next, but he hadn’t thought she would try much, and so was taken by surprise.
Ginny took him by the front of his robe and threw him on the bed, twisting them as they fell until she was on top. She straddled him and began to remove her clothing.
“An aberration, was it? I’m going to prove the opposite, Harry Potter!”
Harry wriggled, but she had his arms pinned under her knees. He was getting desperate, especially as his cock began, understandably but quite inappropriately, to take an interest in the half-naked woman on top of it.
Ginny, of course, could not miss it.
“Ah, so you see you want me!”
Harry was angry and embarrassed. “I’m a man! We get unwanted erections all the time! Doesn’t mean I’m planning on sticking it anywhere near you!”
Harry had so far exercised restraint. The time for that had passed, now. With a spell, he threw her away. She hit the wall with a rather sickening thud.
Harry stood up and took out his wand. She was lying unconscious on the floor. Keeping his wand cautiously on her, Harry came closer to make sure she wasn’t injured seriously.
Harry had picked up a couple of diagnostic spells during the war, and he ran them now. Nothing was broken, he noted with a sigh of relief, but she’d probably have a spectacular bruise on her back for several days.
Harry wondered what he should do, now. He couldn’t leave her like that for the house-elves to find her in the morning. Yet there was no way he was going to dress her while she was unconscious. Harry could not repress a smile; he had often deplored that it was impossible to spell the clothes off someone else, but it was the first time he complained about the opposite.
He sobered quickly; his problem wasn’t going away. He levitated Ginny on the bed and pulled the coverlet over her naked body. He then debated whom to call. No matter what he did, Ginny would end up humiliated.
The best path was to call someone who already knew most of the particulars.
There was a little Floo powder on the mantle. Harry threw it into the fire, said the place, knelt and put his head in the green flames.
Hermione was studying at her desk. She startled, sending several sheets flying.
“Harry! Is everything all right?”
Harry tried to look offended, but he had a feeling he had failed completely. “I call you even when there is no problem!”
She smiled brightly. “Not so often, though.”
He stuck his tongue at her as she continued, “You look a little frazzled.”
Harry’s smile vanished. He sighed. “Ginny wanted to meet me. I agreed and now I’ve run into a few... problems.”
“Don’t tell me you slept with her again!”
“No! Oh God, no. But she wanted to, so I had to defend myself and... Hermione, she’s out cold and half-naked. Help me, please?”
Hermione stared at him for a moment. “How the hell do you keep getting in those situations?”
“I wish I knew.” He paused. “Please?”
“Oh, very well. Move aside; I’m coming over.”
Harry felt as if a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders. “Thank you!”
“You’re going to owe me, Harry.”
“Whatever you want.”
He withdrew his head from the Floo and stepped back. Hermione appeared a few seconds later, walking out as gracefully as if she had been doing it all her life.
She took in the situation. “Is she all right?”
Harry nodded. “Just unconscious; nothing broken or anything.” At Hermione’s look, he explained, “I threw her into the wall. Wandless magic.”
“Well, this is certainly a mess.” She gathered Ginny’s clothes. “Didn’t she have a robe?”
Harry shook his head and Hermione raised her eyebrows.
“I don’t think that you being here when she wakes up is going to help the situation any. Is the room paid for?”
“I’ve no idea. Not by me, at any rate. Should I ...?” Harry hesitated.
“It probably would be better, yes. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.” She hugged Harry. “But I expect you to tell me all the gory details later.”
Harry returned the hug gratefully. “Of course. Thank you again, Hermione. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“Get into even worse scrapes, I expect.” Gently, she pushed him towards the door. “Now, shoo.”
Wearily, Harry walked down the stairs. Tom frowned when he saw him.
“And then some. Did you serve alcohol to Miss Weasley before I arrived?”
“Why, of course!”
“Figures.” Harry patted his pockets for his moneybag. “How much do I owe you? Room and all the other expenses?”
Tom was looking inquiringly at Harry, who carefully schooled his face blank.
“Are you checking in now?”
“Well, they’re still up there, but I can’t imagine they’ll stay for much longer.”
“They?” Both of Tom’s eyebrows shot upwards. Harry spluttered when he realised what Tom was implying.
He closed his eyes and counted to ten. Much calmer, he said, “I asked Miss Granger to come over and deal with Miss Weasley. God, you’ve got a filthy imagination!”
“All right, lad, I believe you. That’ll be three Galleons for the room and one for the drinks.”
Harry counted the gold coins and handed them to Tom, who put them one by one in the register. The opening flared blue every time a coin passed through.
Harry pointed to the box. “This working as it should?” He had woven the Genuine-Money wards himself.
Tom smiled. “Quite well, actually. Thanks for it; biting on change is unhygienic.”
Harry nodded. “Well. Time to leave. I know I can count on your discretion.”
“Don’t worry about that, lad.” Tom waved him to the Floo.
Harry had never been dressed so neatly in his life. A bit of magic kept his hair flat on his head, and his robes’ colour actually matched.
That didn’t prevent him from being a nervous wreck by the time he walked up the few steps to the front door of their home — Severus’s home for now, but maybe not for much longer. He knocked.
Nobody answered, and Harry could hear no noise inside. He peered at the windows and saw lights in the sitting room. Frowning, he knocked again; maybe Severus hadn’t heard him the first time.
There was no more reaction than the first time, and Harry started to worry. What if Severus lay hurt inside, or worse? He tried the door handle. While it didn’t move away, it didn’t turn open either.
Harry narrowed his eyes. He had installed those wards himself; it should be easy taking them off. He had barely unravelled the first ward that the front door opened on a livid Severus.
“You have some nerves, you fucking bastard.”
Harry, startled, looked at him, his mouth slightly open.
“Go fuck yourself, and don’t even darken my steps again.”
With that, delivered in the coldest tone Severus could muster, he closed the door. Harry regained his senses quickly enough that he had time to slip a foot in the gap, crying out in pain when the heavy door crushed his foot.
“Wait! What are you speaking about?”
Severus opened the door again; Harry resisted the urge to hop around on one foot while rubbing the other.
“Your ‘little bit on the side’, you two-timing prick. Were you hoping I wouldn’t find out? Tell me, Potter, did you start fucking her before or after I kicked you out?”
“Her? Who, her?”
Severus let go of the door and folded his arms, his back ramrod straight, looking down his nose at Harry. “Ginevra Weasley.”
“Ginny?” Harry waved his hands in dismay. “Look, I was drunk, she wasn’t you, and she wasn’t exactly reluctant, okay?” If possible, Severus’s expression grew even chillier. “For God’s sake, it was only the once!”
“Really? That’s not what I was given to understand.”
Harry opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it. “Can we please discuss that inside? I don’t fancy informing all the neighbours.”
Severus looked at him until Harry thought he would refuse, then, without a word, turned on his heels in a flurry of robes reminiscent of his teaching days. Harry closed the door and followed him into the sitting room.
Severus had his back to him, and his posture was as uninviting as possible. It didn’t deter Harry, who put a calming hand on his shoulder. It was shrugged off sharply, and Severus glared at Harry over his shoulder.
“Who told you? And what were you told exactly?”
Harry had intentionally used his softest, most reasonable tone. The tactic worked, and Severus was marginally calmer when he answered.
“Tom, of the Leaky Cauldron. He was bragging about being the catalyst to your new romance.”
Harry sighed. “When you threw me out, I went to the Leaky for a room and a drink. Tom was worried about my drinking alone, so he sent Ginny up.” Harry shrugged. “As I said, I was drunk, horny, and she was there and not you.”
Severus turned to face Harry, a strange expression on his face. He took Harry’s shoulders in a painful grip. Leaning into Harry’s face, he said, his tone vitriolic, “And did you like it? All those soft curves and that warm cunt to plough into?”
“Yes! Yes! I liked it!” Snape recoiled away, as though he’d been struck. Harry continued, heedless. “But not as much as I like you fucking me, you bastard. I love you! I wish I didn’t, because God knows you don’t make it easy on me, but I love you, whatever you’ve done in the past.”
Harry was jerked forward, his lips mashing with Severus’s in a violent kiss that stole his breath. Severus’s hands were everywhere, tugging and tearing at fabric. A few buttons popped off, and suddenly there were teeth at his throat, nipping at the exposed skin. Harry raised his chin to give Severus better access.
Harry tried to open Severus’s collar, but he was frustrated by the myriad buttons that covered him. In general circumstances, he found those buttons sexy, accentuating as they did Severus’s lean form, but now they were getting in the way. Harry knew there was a spell to undo them all at once, but his brain was not supplied with enough blood to cough it up.
A minute later, it didn’t matter any more, because Severus was manhandling him to the sofa, directing him to kneel backwards on the seat. His robes were tossed up over his back and a spit-slicked finger entered him. Harry’s breath caught and he bore against the finger, trying to get more of it inside.
With only a few perfunctory movements, Severus prepared him before entering him slowly. Severus was large, and spit was nowhere near an adequate lubricant, but Harry welcomed the burn spreading through his lower back. Severus had always been a considerate, even careful, lover, and it was exhilarating to be able to make him lose his composure and act so roughly and urgently.
Severus draped his body over Harry’s back, his arms wrapping around him. They were both clothed, so it didn’t feel as intimate as Harry would have liked, but there was a certain arousing naughtiness in not being naked. The position also gave Severus’s mouth direct access to Harry’s ear and back.
Severus was pushing inside him, every millimetre a new source of pleasure to Harry. His voice rough, Severus whispered, “You’re mine. No-one else’s. And you’re not to stray again. Ever.”
Largely incoherent, Harry answered, “No. Yours... only yours.”
“Yessss.” Severus thrust a little harder, his cock hitting all the right places inside, making Harry grunt in pleasure and shove back against Severus. Harry’s hand snaked towards his robe’s fastenings, trying to get access to his cock. Severus growled and batted his hand away, trapping it beneath his on the sofa’s back.
“You’re mine, and you’ll come when I say.”
Harry moaned; he was ready to come now. Severus’s movements became more frantic, until he was slamming hard, Harry’s arse pushing back to meet every thrust. They were both panting harshly, Severus’s arms around Harry almost painful in their grip.
“Please,” Harry sobbed. “Please, Severus. Want to come.”
“Then come. Come for me, Harry.” Severus turned Harry’s head until he could kiss him, his tongue mapping every millimetre of Harry’s mouth.
Harry let pleasure invade him completely. His vision blackened out, his awareness reducing to the cock in his arse and the tongue in his mouth. His orgasm was almost painful in its intensity.
Harry slumped on the sofa, distantly feeling Severus stiffening behind him and coming deep inside him.
After a few minutes, Severus slipped out of Harry. He sat sideways on the sofa, pulling Harry’s down on his lap, heedless of the possible come stains. Harry curled up against Severus’s chest, content to let his heartbeat lull him to a doze.
Suddenly, he sat up, knocking Severus on the chin.
“Sorry.” Harry kissed the sore spot better, but he wouldn’t be distracted. “Tom told you about Ginny? I thought he was discreet! And I know he doesn’t like you much, but I wouldn’t have thought he’d gloat like that, in your face.”
Oh, of course. “You know entirely too many eavesdropping spells for an upstanding citizen,” Harry said, grinning.
“I was passing through to Muggle London on Wednesday. When I overheard Tom talking about you to his wife, of course I listened in.”
“Eavesdroppers never hear anything good,” Harry added in a sententious tone.
“You’re a fine one to talk. What is it about you and Pensieves?”
“They’re shiny! How could I resist?”
Severus rolled his eyes, then pushed Harry off gently.
“Stand up, magpie. You’re heavy.”
Harry made a face at the nickname, but he didn’t complain. Less chances of it sticking, that way. He stood up, his robes falling back in place, squelching congealing come into his skin.
The sensation was one he did not care about, so he retrieved his wand and cleaned himself. He looked at Severus for permission, then did the same for him. A few Reparo spells took care of the lost buttons and torn fabric, until they both looked as if nothing had happened.
Harry stretched, enjoying Severus’s open look of admiration, then abruptly folded on himself and tried to stifle the loud noises coming from his stomach.
“I’m afraid I had planned on kicking you out, and I don’t have food here.”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “What had you planned on eating?”
“Hm. I did not feel like eating.”
Stress again. It was good to know that Severus really cared, though Harry would have preferred he take care of his health.
“What about a curry from the Raj’s? Except you’ll have to go buy it, because I don’t have Muggle clothes here.”
Severus raised an eyebrow and sighed a long suffering sigh.
“Are you, or are you not, a wizard?”
Harry squeaked embarrassingly when his clothes were Transfigured on him, his flowing robes turned into form-fitting jeans and jumper. Well, two could play this game.
“You know, I never seem to choose something that’s to your tastes. So you really should go with me.”
With those words, he turned Severus’s dreary black robes into dress trousers and a loud Hawaiian print shirt. Harry enjoyed the storm gathering in Severus’s eyes before going “Oops!” and changing it to a more sedate black shirt.
“Yes, it’s probably better. Clearly you can’t be trusted alone in public.”
Harry laughed as they went out in the street. There still was an undercurrent of tension between them, but Harry knew they would work through it, in time.
Don’t forget to close this window to go back to vote and review!