|snarryhols (snarryhols) wrote in snarry_holidays,|
@ 2007-12-02 09:19:00
|Entry tags:||fic, post-dh: ewe, rated: nc-17|
A Tolerable End to an Unfortunate Situation (1/2), for perfica
Title: A Tolerable End to an Unfortunate Situation
Word Count: 11,000
Rating: NC-17 (just about!)
Warnings: DH spoilers, swearing
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JKR. This is just for fun!
Summary: In which Snape causes rather a stir by being emphatically not dead. perfica wanted Snape back, PWP in an unusual situation and a series of events conspiring to keep them apart, with a happy ending. I hope very much that this suits – happy holidays! :)
To say that Severus Snape, cold, harsh and cruel by reputation firmly backed by fact, was annoyed when he awoke in the forbidden forest, stark naked, freezing and with the distinct conviction that he’d been happily dead, would be to win the – sadly now defunct – prize of “understatement of the year”.
It was certainly a testament to Snape’s iron control of his emotions when, rather than rendering the air a colourful shade of blue with a stream of choice swearwords, he simply curled his lip, glared at the small stone he held in a death-grip in his left hand and hissed (albeit between clenched teeth) “Albus!” And, after a moment’s thought and an expression that betokened a gradual and horrified realisation, “Potter!”
The spectacle of a dead, naked Snape walking into the Great Hall at the exact moment that Harry Potter was handed his Order of Merlin, First Class, was one that will go down in the history books.
* * *
Harry Potter stood and stared, as his brain quietly fused and refused to work. Was he dreaming? Was this all a terrible hallucination? Or had Snape come back as a ghost, to spend the rest of his life – or was that death – haunting Harry, because he’d failed to save him from Nagini?
Harry glanced quickly around the room, to see if it was only himself who’d been granted this bizarre vision. He was quickly reassured. Everyone looked to be in a state of shock. He looked back at Snape. At naked Snape. Snape. Naked. Nude. Clad only in a layer of mud, and wearing an expression that would sharpen any knives that happened to be in the vicinity.
“Potter!” Snape said quietly, his voice dripping with venom, “What is the meaning of this?”
Harry shuddered. He’d wished so hard that he could go back and save Snape. The man was unpleasant and cruel and he’d driven Harry mad – but watching Snape’s memories had irrevocably changed things for him. Snape cared for him. For him, Harry. Whatever harsh punishments he’d given him, however cruel or unfair he’d been, he’d still spent his adult life trying to protect him – the son of a man he’d hated, and the best friend that he’d wronged.
Still, even in his wildest dreams, he’d never thought that having Snape back would be so, so, so… So uncomfortable.
Harry’s brain reminded him that Snape was naked. Totally. Completely. And that meant that if his eyes travelled down Snape’s body just a little bit further he’d see… Harry tried to stop himself, but it was impossible. Surely no-one could withstand the awful pressure of not looking? His eyes travelled inexorably downwards to take in Snape’s cock, hanging large and limp between his legs. It was… impressive.
Harry blushed and, because he knew – he didn’t know how he knew, but he felt it deeply and painfully – that Snape had seen him look, and possibly was even reading his mind right now, he blushed harder. He could practically feel the temperature in the room drop.
It was almost impossible, but Harry forced himself to look up, into Snape’s face. The man’s eyes were dark and cold.
“If you’ve quite finished, Potter,” he sneered, “I would appreciate it if you’d lend me your robe. Unless you enjoy the view, of course? Don’t let my acute humiliation prevent you from milking every drop of enjoyment from this situation. I’m quite sure you feel you deserve your just payback. Don’t mind me.”
Harry tugged off his robe and thrust it in Snape’s direction.
Snape grabbed it, and folded it around him. “Tie, Potter.”
Snape glared at him as if he were an idiot.
Harry shrugged it off and watched in silence as Snape fashioned himself an impromptu belt from the Gryffindor tie. He almost felt impressed that Snape was just as terrifying, even now. He risked a quick glance at Ron, who was gazing at Snape with open-mouthed shock. Even the other staff members seemed entirely at a loss.
“Well?” Snape barked. The sleeves of Harry’s robe were too short, and Harry could see the stain of the dark mark across Snape’s left arm.
“Eloquent as ever I see, Potter,” Snape said, glaring at him.
“I don’t understand,” Harry managed to say, when his mouth deigned to obey him in the slightest. “I thought you were dead. Nagini bit you… You gave me your…” His mouth went dry. “You died. I know you did.”
“And yet here I am, Mr Potter. And it is all thanks to you. Now it only remains for me to discover for what awful purpose you have resurrected me.”
Snape’s look of disdain deepened, and Harry wondered exactly how he did it. Even dressed in Harry’s too-small robe, fastened with a tie in the wrong house colours, Snape cut an impressive figure. He was too thin, and his hair was longer and more dishevelled than usual, but he still made Harry feel as if he was in for a month of detentions. But Harry was certain that, whatever this bizarre resurrection was, he, Harry, was not to blame.
“It’s not my fault,” he protested weakly. And then, after a brief pause, his scrambled thoughts offered, “Are you going to take points? It’s past the end of term.”
Snape’s gaze turned withering. “Stop blathering, child.” He held out his hand, and the object within it. “Be so kind as to enlighten me, Mr Potter. What is this? As warm and as pleasant as it is to be ripped back to this tiresome existence, I require confirmation that your use of this object has not endangered me in any way. To make myself perfectly clear, Potter, will or will not a ravening beast turn up at any point during this charming reunion to attempt to drag me into the nether hells, or is that part postponed for later enjoyment?”
“I don’t… What…” Harry said dazedly, and then he focused on the stone in Snape’s hand. The stone he’d thrown into the forbidden forest, hoping it would lie there undisturbed forever. The sodding resurrection stone. He hadn’t a clue what had happened, but there was no doubt that something had. And it was, technically he supposed, all his fault. Snape was going to kill him. “Shit!”
Snape curled his upper lip disdainfully. “Indeed.” He paused for a moment. “Five hundred points from Gryffindor,” he said experimentally.
“But that’s not fair!” Harry said, “I’ve finished school now. You can’t punish the others for something I did. I don’t even know what I did!”
Snape smiled grimly. “To be reinstated when you discover what dark magic you utilised to bring me back from the dead, and whether it will have a permanent effect on my health.”
“Me?” Harry squeaked, seeing his happy thoughts of his first summer without Voldemort or the Dursleys receding at a rate of knots.
“You,” Snape confirmed, grimly. “My laboratory, in half an hour.”
And then, despite the robe, the tie, the mud and the fact that the assembled company had all had a good look at his marital equipment, Snape managed to sweep away in a terrifyingly dignified manner.
The hall was silent for a moment. And then all hell broke loose.
* * *
Twenty-five minutes later Hermione and Ron half-pushed, half-dragged Harry to the door outside Snape’s office.
“Well it was nice knowing you, mate,” Ron said with mock heartiness, holding out his hand for Harry to shake.
“Honestly, Ron,” Hermione said, shaking her head and trying not to laugh. “Don’t listen to him Harry. How bad can it be?”
There was a loud crash and an irritated exclamation from the other side of the office door. The three friends paled slightly, and looked at the door apprehensively.
“Very bad,” Harry said gloomily, and then paled further. “Merlin, did they even leave his stuff in there? He’ll go mental if anyone’s touched his stuff. What if…”
“Oh Harry, just get it over with,” Hermione said a little crossly, and rapped smartly on the door.
Ron and Harry leapt to stop her, but it was too late. The deed was done.
The door opened a crack and Snape emerged, nose first. Harry tried not to shudder. It had always been a nose with character, and it was safe to say that death had not improved it.
“Miss Granger. Mr Weasley,” Snape said with an unpleasant smile. “How nice to see you again. Potter!”
Harry jumped and tried not to squeak. “Yes?”
“Follow me.” Snape retreated, leaving the door slightly ajar.
Harry glanced at his friends and gulped. Ron whacked him on the shoulder so hard he staggered, and Hermione gave him a swift hug.
“See you at dinner, Harry.”
“Yeah, good luck mate.”
Harry turned and looked at the open door with trepidation, feeling a bit stupid. He’d been alone with Snape before in his office. Granted, that hadn’t gone so well, but he’d survived more or less intact. Why was this any different?
Ah yes, Harry’s treacherous brain reminded him. Because now he knew the truth: that Snape had ruined his career and his reputation for him, and had – ultimately – given his life for his sake. Harry gulped. Just a small thing then.
Still, he’d faced Voldemort. How hard could facing Snape be? Harry tried to pull himself together, pushed the door open and entered. It shut behind him with a soft snick. Harry squared his jaw and walked forward. He could do this.
* * *
“Well sit down, Potter,” Snape said, swaying slightly as he stood by the fireplace, glass in hand. “There is no need to stand there gawking like I’m an exhibit in a zoological garden.”
Harry sat down hastily, and then did a double take. Snape swaying? Since when did Snape sway? The man moved with all the sinuous motion of a snake. He certainly didn’t wobble. Unless he was holding a glass of honey coloured liquid, with a rather empty decanter on the mantelpiece beside him. Ah. Harry’s brain fitted the pieces of the puzzle together. Merlin’s balls, Harry thought rather dizzily, Snape’s pissed. His jaw dropped.
“I am not inebriated, Mr Potter,” Snape said suddenly, his eyes evidently picking up on Harry’s glance from glass to decanter. “I am merely attempting to pickle my innards in a no doubt vain attempt at achieving longevity. Tell me Potter,” Snape said, swaying alarmingly as he released the mantelpiece and clawed his way into his chair. His elbows hit the desk in front of him with an eye-watering crack. “How did it come to this?”
Harry winced. “What?”
Snape took a long draught of Firewhiskey and, for a moment, there was silence, broken only by the sound of Snape coughing. “I can never win,” Snape muttered darkly. He looked down into his glass. “Even in this.” He leant forward onto the desk between them, his dark hair falling across his face.
Harry tried to shift his chair back surreptitiously. “What do you mean?”
Snape didn’t look up, but his knuckles whitened around the glass. “James Potter,” he spat, “despite everything was a better man than I.” Snape took a vicious gulp of Firewhiskey. “He died for you. In the end it seems I couldn’t even get that right.” He hurled the glass into the fireplace, the alcoholic dregs making the fire flare and splutter.
Harry got ready to yell at Snape – did Snape think he wanted people to die for him? Was he some kind of moron? – when he noticed something very disturbing. Snape had his head in his hands and his shoulders were shaking.
Harry sat, frozen in indecision. If it were a friend crying Harry knew exactly how to handle it, to a given level of hysteria. Hermione suited a tender hug; Ron a bear hug followed by a couple of friendly punches on the shoulder. Everyone else got a combination of the two.
Harry considered the possibility of hugging Snape with some trepidation. His tried and tested formula seemed unsuited to such a recipient. For all he knew the man was simply laughing hysterically in silence and, upon application of a hug, would rise up and destroy him. The thought that Snape was wandless was strangely uncomforting.
Harry’s discomfort grew. He couldn’t just sit there, could he? Snape’s awkward, hunched shoulders and short, quiet breaths were oddly affecting. Even when breaking down, the man appeared to be holding himself in with an iron will. Harry came to a decision. He shifted his chair around the desk to Snape’s side and, very gingerly, put an arm around his shoulders.
Snape instantly stiffened, his whole body tensing. Even his breathing had stopped.
Harry resisted the urge to snatch back his arm and flee for his life. He’d defeated Voldemort; surely he was man enough to hug Snape? Besides, it was done now, and there was no backing out, Harry thought gloomily. It wasn’t as if he could pretend his arm slipped. In fact, he thought with an edge of hysteria, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Harry tugged Snape’s stiff body away from the desk and, doing his best not to catch Snape’s eye, put his other arm around him. He tensed slightly, as he waited to be hexed into oblivion. It was only a loose hug, but there was no knowing how Snape would react to having his boundaries breached quite so spectacularly. Gods, Harry thought, has anyone even ever hugged him before? He tried to suppress a treacherous well who would? He was, for starters. He tried not to groan. He was sure this was a very bad idea. He almost wanted Snape to hex him. At least that’d show he was back to his old self, Harry thought with a sudden grin.
But Snape didn’t say anything, didn’t move. Just sat there, frozen, in Harry’s arms.
Harry wondered if it were possible to feel more awkward.
And then, the oddest thing happened. Snape relaxed. Harry could practically feel the tension seep out of Snape as he unwound, leaning into Harry’s awkward embrace as his muscles unclenched. And Harry learned, after a few moments, that yes it was possible to feel more awkward, but in an odd, highly personal way. Because, and there was no way around this revelation, hugging Snape felt, well, nice. He was all bones and sharp angles, but his head fit snugly against Harry’s, his hair soft and smelling of some potion reminiscent of freshly cut grass. Harry found himself rubbing soothing circles on Snape’s back, as the man leaned against him, Snape’s arms resting lightly on Harry’s lower back. When Harry felt a tear wet the back of his neck he had to almost forcibly restrain himself from planting a kiss on the side of Snape’s head, as he felt a wave of tenderness rush over him.
It felt, in a way, like comforting Hermione, only Snape’s body fit more interestingly against Harry’s, his closeness as once bizarre and appealing.
Snape shifted slightly and Harry tried not to flinch. There was, he reflected, “I’m hugging Snape” awkwardness, and there was “I’m enjoying hugging Snape awkwardness”, but with “I’ve just hugged Snape and now he’s going to look me in the eye” could only come a whole new utterly intolerable level of awkwardness.
“You may be surprised to learn, Potter,” Snape said in Harry’s ear, “that when I requested your help in investigating my current predicament, this was not what I had in mind.”
Harry didn’t reckon there was much he could say to that. It certainly hadn’t been on his list of possible activities. He relaxed slightly. Snape’s voice was low and hypnotic, and although the words sounded like his usual sarcasm, they lacked the harsh delivery that was standard Snape practice.
“Nevertheless,” Snape continued, “Given that I had no expectations that you would actually be able to help me discover how this stone works, and whether I am in imminent danger of being expelled from this life once again, this meeting has been both useless and…” Snape paused, and Harry winced as he waited for the inevitable explosion. “Strangely comforting,” Snape concluded, to Harry’s unbelievable relief.
Snape pulled away stiffly and studiously refused to meet Harry’s eye as he neatened his robe. It was almost, Harry thought unbelievably, as if he were nervous. Then he looked up, and Harry found it rather less terrifying than he’d expected. Red-eyed, his face still wet with tears, Snape was both dignified and yet more human than Harry had ever seen him before.
“However,” Snape said, an edge of steel creeping into his tone, “do I have your word that you will not spread the tale of my unfortunate lapse in standards amongst your chattering friends?”
And with those few words, the old Snape that Harry knew and despised snapped back into place, a glare upon his face, his lip curled disdainfully. It was almost, Harry thought, as anger flooded through him, as if his slip into being normal had never happened. He wondered why he’d even bothered.
Harry glared back. “No,” he said. “I won’t promise.”
“Pardon me,” Snape said with icy politeness, raising an eyebrow. “Did I hear you correctly, Mr Potter? Are you disobeying my direct instructions?”
“Look, Snape,” Harry said, trying to keep his temper in check. “You know I’m going to tell Ron and Hermione, so there’s no point in promising. You don’t trust me as it is. Besides,” Harry continued, “would it really kill you if, I dunno, a few people in the world saw you as a human being with actual feelings, rather than a hard-hearted bastard?”
It occurred to Harry, a fraction of a second too late, that he’d just told Snape that most of the world did think of him in those terms. He felt a pang of guilt for a moment, but his anger won out. It’s true, he thought rebelliously, and what’s more, Snape would have to be an idiot not to know it.
Snape rose with the speed of a striking viper and reached for a wand that wasn’t there. Harry mirrored his movements and found, to his horror, that he was pointing his wand at an unarmed man, a curse on his lips. They both stood, frozen, for what felt like an age.
“Well get on with it, Potter,” Snape said testily. “Send me back to the deep sleep you so rudely tore me from.”
Harry frowned and half-lowered his wand. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said loudly, glaring at Snape, who glared back with a will.
Snape was just opening his mouth to reply, his lips already curled into a sneer, when the door to the office crashed open and, simultaneously, the fireplace flared green and ejected a stream of Aurors, who surrounded Harry and Snape.
“Don’t worry, Harry,” one shouted, as three burly wizards surrounded Snape and immobilised him. “We’ve got him, you can put your wand away.”
“But… What…” Harry stammered.
The men forced Snape into the fireplace and Flooed away.
Harry grabbed the arm of one of the departing Aurors. “What in Merlin’s name are you doing?” he yelled.
The man frowned. “Arresting Severus Snape, of course. Don’t worry, Mr Potter, he’ll not be out of Azkaban for a long time. You’ve no need to worry.”
Harry gaped at him. “But you don’t understand…”
The man patted Harry brusquely on the shoulder. “We don’t know how he managed to hide from us for so long. It was a good trick he pulled, making us think he was dead. Fooled you and all, didn’t he?” He shook his head grimly. “Still, he won’t see daylight for the rest of his life I reckon.”
“What about a trial?” Harry asked, feeling stunned. After Snape’s death he’d done his best to put everyone straight on Snape’s true allegiance, but it was tough work and he knew that not everyone was convinced.
“He’s already been tried,” the man said. “Didn’t you know? Sentenced to life in Azkaban.”
Harry gaped. The news that there’d been a trial – and he hadn’t been informed, let alone allowed to give evidence – was an unpleasant shock. What the hell was he going to do now?
The man took advantage of Harry’s silence to step into the fireplace and vanish.
Harry sat down heavily at Snape’s desk. He felt numb. All he knew for certain was that he was Snape’s only hope – and he owed it to him to get him free, whatever the cost.
* * *
It was Hermione’s idea that Harry should send Snape a letter. They were sitting on a sofa in the silent Gryffindor common room. Almost all of the students had returned home for the holidays, but Harry had decided that Hogwarts was the best location from which to launch his “free Snape” campaign, so of course Ron and Hermione had stayed to help.
Harry frowned at Hermione. “What good will a letter do?”
“It might cheer Snape up,” Hermione said brightly, not looking convinced. Then her expression softened. “And it’ll make you feel better, Harry. Ron and I can’t help noticing that you’ve been a bit, well, grumpy lately.” Hermione nudged Ron, who jumped and flushed.
“Er, yeah, mate,” he said guiltily. “Downright moody. Sorry.”
“I can’t help it!” Harry practically yelled, then took a deep breath. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I just can’t believe that Kingsley let this happen.”
“He’s trying his best, Harry,” Hermione said softly, “you know he’s right.”
“What, that my word isn’t good enough evidence?” Harry said, in danger of losing his temper again.
Hermione shook her head emphatically. “You know I didn’t mean that, Harry. I meant, what he said about your word being the only evidence in his favour.” She pulled a face. “Snape did a lot of bad things,” she said, looking uncomfortable. “Whether he was a spy or not is not really the point, in some peoples’ opinions. He still did them.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest, and then closed it. He looked from Ron to Hermione. “Do you both think that way?” he asked finally.
Hermione’s eyes looked suspiciously watery. Harry hoped she wouldn’t cry. “Do the ends ever justify the means?” She sighed, and shook her head. “But he was so loyal to our cause; and to you Harry.” She smiled weakly. “That makes him OK in my book.”
Harry turned to Ron, who was looking uncomfortable. “Ron?”
Ron squirmed a bit. “He could have killed George,” he said finally. “He nearly did kill George.” He shrugged and looked unhappy. “But he didn’t. I don’t know. He’s a total bastard, but he’s our total bastard. I’d like to pin him down and kick him until my leg drops off,” Ron continued, a dreamy look spreading across his face, “but he doesn’t deserve life in Azkaban. So I say we help him get out.”
Hermione reached over and squeezed Ron’s hand. “OK Harry,” she said, sounding businesslike. “You get writing, and I’ll get on to Kingsley. If he can’t swing us a private correspondence between the hero of the Wizarding World and a convicted death eater, then he’s not the man I think he is.”
Harry pulled a quill and parchment from his bag and then froze. “What the hell am I supposed to write?”
Ron laughed unsympathetically. “That’s your problem, mate. I wish you luck.”
* * *
Is this stilted, lifeless prose really the best you can do after a well-rounded education and such life-experiences as yours? By the Four Founders, Potter, if your vacuous correspondence is the only entertainment I can look forward to during the coming years, I am strongly minded to imbibe this bottle of third-rate ink and end it now.
Your last afforded me a little amusement, although I am frankly quite appalled by the quality of your vocabulary. I suggest you invest in a thesaurus forthwith, otherwise I shall remain unconvinced that your ham-fisted attempts to insult me truly come from the heart. “Greasy haired git”? Honestly, Potter, I have been called far worse by far less intelligent men than yourself. You do yourself no credit.
Nevertheless, I am filled with sufficient ire to wish to repudiate your bold statement that I am a “stranger to shampoo”. We all have our flaws, Potter, and unless things have changed dramatically since my brief sojourn with the dead, having overactive sebum glands is not a hanging offence. So, if this ordeal should ever be over, I charge you to remind me to deduct ten points from Gryffindor for insolence.
Finally, to address the other matter, I hope this letter will serve to soothe your anxiety that I have, as you so charmingly put it, “done away” with myself. I am irked that you think it takes so little to drive me to the edge. If the Dark Lord couldn’t do it, there is no reason why a dank cell, a few over-bold rats and an irritating correspondent should do the job.
Let me assure you that, rather than being a clumsy subterfuge, my passing reference to my problem follicles was merely that – a passing reference – and not, as you seem to have taken it, a plea for advice.
Firstly, I was being more than a little facetious. Secondly, I remain more than unconvinced that any Muggle remedy could be superior to my own home-brewed concoctions. And thirdly, it is rather a moot point at present, given that in the past two weeks I have been acquainted with soap and water only once, and that all too briefly.
In short, Potter, I fully expect that in a few years I shall have developed such a coating of grime that my hair will be the last thing that anyone will notice. But, when I have grown my own mould colony on my skin, let me reassure you that I shall think back upon your words and feel immeasurably comforted by the knowledge that my hair is no longer the first thing to offend reluctant viewers.
* * *
Harry found, much to his own surprise, that, after a few letters, he was actually starting to enjoy corresponding with Snape. In written form, Harry found he was able to enjoy Snape’s cutting humour, and it was strangely pleasing to engage with someone – Harry had to admit – brainier than himself, who wasn’t Hermione. Snape was rude, sure, but he was almost as rude about himself as he was about Harry. Harry felt sure that Snape was, in a bizarre, unlikely kind of way, actually trying to be amusing. He supposed that Snape must be getting some kind of enjoyment out of it, or he wouldn’t be writing back. No one was making him, after all, but however rude or silly or stupid Harry was in his letters, Snape just kept replying.
After a month of correspondence, Harry found himself sending – and receiving – anything up to five letters a day. His hands were starting to become permanently ink stained, where his quill complained against overuse, and his fingers ached. But, to his surprise, when he thought of Snape, the remarkable word that formed in his mind was “friend”.
And finally, after much discussion and to-ing and fro-ing, it was agreed by the Ministry that Harry could visit Snape in jail. The problem was that they were still no closer to getting Snape freed – illegally or otherwise.
“He’s going to kill me,” Harry said, panicking.
“He won’t,” Hermione said sharply. “He knows you’re doing your best.”
Ron and Harry exchanged looks.
“He’ll kill you,” Ron said glumly. “He’ll think you’re only visiting to rub his nose in it.”
“Professor Snape is an adult,” Hermione snapped. “He will think no such thing.”
“Quick, Harry!” Ron said, grabbing Hermione’s shoulders. “Get McGonagall! Someone’s stolen Hermione and replaced her with a lunatic!”
Hermione squirmed out of his grasp looking cross. “Well at least I’m trying to help, Ronald,” she said sternly. “There’s nothing else we can do at the moment. The visit is a good first step.”
“I want to break him out,” Harry said flatly.
“But that’s illeg…” Hermione started, and then stopped, looking determined. “I agree.”
Ron and Harry gaped at her, and she went a bit pink.
“What?” she replied crossly, standing up. “Well I’m going to the library to look for ideas. We don’t have long. You two can sit here gawping all night, or you can come and help.”
Ron and Harry grinned at each other and mock saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”
* * *
The morning of the visit, Harry still had no idea what Hermione’s big idea was. She was being very discreet about it and, Harry thought gloomily, that was probably a bad thing. Whatever she had up her sleeve, it was not going to be fun. The only thing he knew for sure was that it involved some of Snape’s hair, harvested from one of Snape’s brushes. This did not bode well.
“If I don’t leave now, I’m going to be late,” Harry said anxiously, as Hermione fussed over a disgusting looking potion. “What is that? Please don’t tell me I have to drink it. Whatever your plan is, Hermione, it better be good,” he said darkly.
Hermione frowned with concentration. “Shush.” She made a complicated wand movement and the liquid fizzed and popped, turning clear. Her face relaxed. “It worked! Drink up. The whole thing, please.”
Harry complied. A strange tingling feeling buzzed along his limbs. He wondered if his hair were standing on end. It wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but it was uncomfortable and the feeling wasn’t going away.
“Er, Hermione,” Harry said. “What…”
“You’re a Portkey,” Hermione said firmly, and glared at him as if to prevent argument.
“That’s brilliant!” Harry said, and as he grinned he could see Hermione relax a little. “How does it work?”
Hermione tensed again, and looked very nervous. “Well, you’re keyed to Snape’s magical signature, so it doesn’t matter if anyone else touches you, you won’t go off by mistake.”
“OK,” Harry said, not seeing what the problem was. “So having to hold hands with Snape isn’t exactly my idea of a party, but that’s it? Zip, and we’re out of there?”
Hermione went read. “Er no, not exactly.”
Harry experienced a sinking feeling. “Then what?”
“I’m so sorry, Harry!” Hermione wailed. “This is old, not-exactly-legal magic. Magic from that time is so primal, all blood exchange and fluids and…”
“Snape and I have to bleed all over each other?” Harry interrupted incredulously. “That’s not exactly going to be subtle.”
“No, no,” Hermione said, looking distressed. “Saliva will work just as well.”
Harry blinked. “We have to spit at each other?” he asked, stupidly.
“Mate, you’re going to have to snog Snape,” Ron suddenly interjected. He’d been sitting off to the side silently during the conversation, looking green.
“Thanks, Ron,” Hermione said severely. “Not exactly a gentle way to break it to him.”
Harry went white, then red. “That’s a joke, right?” he asked.
Hermione’s nervous face told him she wasn’t joking.
“Merlin,” Harry said faintly.
“It should work almost instantly,” Hermione said apologetically. “You’ll be transported to a safe house I’ve arranged with Kingsley. We’ll get you out as soon as we can, but you’ll have to lie low until we’re sure you won’t be arrested for aiding a criminal. We’ll be working on a pardon for Snape, of course, it but it could take a while.” Hermione folded her hands and looked prim. “This is illegal you know.”
“Almost instantly?” Harry said, and groaned. “Almost?”
“Well I haven’t been able to test it,” Hermione said, sounding irritated. “I was more concerned about making sure you get through the wards in one piece, rather than by the fact you’ll have to touch lips briefly with another human being.”
“Not quite human,” Ron muttered, and shut up when Hermione glared at him.
Harry screwed up his face and sighed. “Yeah, thanks Hermione.” He looked at the clock. “Shit, I’m going to be late. Wish me luck,” he said gloomily.
Ron looked even greener. “Rather you than me, mate. Rather you than me.”
* * *
“Potter,” Snape said, as soon as Harry entered the dimly lit cell. He wondered how Snape could even see to write, it was so gloomy. “If you don’t tell me I can leave this hell hole shortly I will garrotte you with my own hair, and dance upon your festering remains until the end of time.”
“Er, hello,” Harry said nervously. The guard that had brought him to the cell showed no signs of leaving. “Listen mate, can you give us a moment alone?”
The guard shook his head, and looked reluctant. “I’d like to help, Mr Potter, I really would. But it’s against the rules.”
“It’s just, Severus here is my boyfriend,” he said, trying simultaneously to look lovelorn and ignore the small explosion from Snape across the cell.
The guard looked a mix of uncomfortable and incredulous, so Harry pushed his point. “I’d be so grateful if we could have a minute to kiss hello. I’ve missed him so much.”
“Yes darling?” Harry said, hoping that Snape would get the message that he really should shut up before he, Harry, socked him one to the jaw.
Snape opened his mouth and then closed it, looking deeply irritated.
Harry took a step towards Snape, and the guard flinched. “Are you sure?” he half-whispered. “I mean, look at him.”
Harry looked. Snape’s glare had turned almost deadly. He wasn’t as dirty as Harry expected, but a fresh bruise coloured his cheek and there were dark circles under his eyes. Harry had the oddest urge to laugh, and had to fake a coughing fit to cover it up. “Love moves in mysterious ways,” he said, trying not to grin.
The guard looked slightly ill. “Well if it’s like that…” He shook his head. “You could do much better, Mr Potter, if you don’t mind me saying. You can have five minutes, but I’ll have to lock you in, mind.”
“That’s fine,” Harry said. “Thank you so much.”
As the guard left, and the door clanged behind him, Harry suddenly felt like he was in a lift plummeting fifty floors at high speed. Succeeding meant he’d have to… A cold sweat sprang up on his brow.
“Are you quite well, Potter?” Snape said tartly. “If you’re planning to expire imminently then I would appreciate it if you would save it until after you’ve helped me to escape. I presume you actually have a plan, or was that little charade simply a means of launching yourself into a new theatrical career?”
Harry wondered how he could explain the plan to Snape and remain unharmed.
Snape glared at him. “Nothing at all? I would have thought that even someone with as limited intelligence as yourself could have…”
“Oi,” Harry interrupted. “I have a plan.”
“Well?” Snape said testily. “If you could action it this side of the veil, I would appreciate it.”
Harry licked his lips nervously. “This is going to be really weird,” he said, taking a few reluctant steps closer to Snape.
Snape backed up, and then tried to cover his retreat with a sneer of contempt.
“I’m going to kiss you,” Harry said nervously. “Don’t go mad, it’s all part of the plan.”
Snape looked at him in a very unkissable way.
“It’s Hermione’s plan, not mine,” Harry said with feeling.
Snape glared, and didn’t look reassured.
It took Harry all his courage to take another step forward.
“I presume my personal feelings on this matter are not to be taken into consideration?” Snape all but hissed.
Harry glared. “You’re not exactly my dream come true. Lets just get this over with.”
Snape didn’t move, just looked at Harry, and odd expression on his face – almost nervous, Harry thought.
“Um,” Harry said. “Um, just stay still. Hermione said it should be instant.” Almost instant, his treacherous brain added.
He had to rise onto half tiptoes to reach Snape’s mouth, which annoyed him so much that he only noticed that nothing had happened when it was all over. Snape’s lips were warm and dry, and the brief peck wasn’t quite as dreadful as Harry expected. Just like kissing Hermione. Only he didn’t kiss Hermione on the lips, because Ron would kill him. And Hermione wouldn’t have glared at him with quite such an icy expression, even if he had kissed her, despite Ron.
“Such romance,” Snape said nastily. “I can’t help but notice that nothing has occurred, Mr Potter.”
Harry tried to think back to Hermione’s instructions. She’d said something about old magic, and blood and saliva and… oh shit. Hell, Harry thought, even blood would have been better than this. When Ron had said he’d have to snog Snape, he’d really meant snog – with, ugh, tongues and all. This was going to be grim. Harry considered explaining to Snape, but the man was looking at him with a strange, part contemptuous, wholly indescribable look, and he wasn’t sure he was feeling strong enough to put it into words.
So he didn’t, he just moved, one hand pushing Snape hard against the wall, the other tangling through Snape’s hair and round his neck, pulling his head down to meet his own. It was a desperate kiss, but these were desperate measures, and if he stopped to think, he just might die at the thought of what he was doing.
For a frozen moment Snape was horribly unresponsive, holding himself rigid and still against Harry’s attack. Then something in him evidently snapped and he kissed back, with what felt like a kind of hot anger.
Harry was horrified by how well Snape kissed. The feel of Snape’s lips on his, his bones digging into Harry’s where their bodies pressed, sparked off Harry’s nerves in an unusual, almost unbearably erotic way. Harry pushed harder against Snape and Snape’s fingers curled around his shoulder, biting in.
Harry let out an involuntary “ouch,” and Snape instantly relaxed his grip, his fingers sliding round to Harry’s neck in a way that made his insides flip.
This was not how kissing Snape was supposed to feel.
Harry’s skin was buzzing, and he realised that the potion was tingling into action. It was now or never.
He wrapped himself even tighter around Snape, aligning their bodies. Snape made a noise that wasn’t quite a protest as their hips bumped, and Harry slipped his tongue inside Snape’s mouth and hoped for the best.
Snape jerked slightly, but the movement only pushed him closer into Harry’s grasp.
Harry felt very peculiar. His whole skin, his insides, even his hair seemed to be vibrating and – the horrible thing was – he couldn’t quite distinguish what was the potion having its tingling effect, and what was Snape. Because this kiss was moist, but in a way that was nothing like kissing Cho Chang or Ginny, or any other of his (albeit few) conquests after. It was warm and sexy and… and… fantastic. There was no other way to describe it. Snape’s tongue moved against Harry’s as if Snape were actually enjoying it, and he was gentle and maddening and this was bliss and torture all in one.
And then, with a sickening wrench, Harry became simultaneously aware of three things. One: the potion was working. Two: He was completely and utterly aroused. And Three: So was Snape.
But before he could process these mind-boggling points he was overwhelmed by pain. He had thought that Apparating was bad enough, like a fish-hook tugging at his guts, but this felt a million, million times more uncomfortable. He blacked out.