|snarryhols (snarryhols) wrote in snarry_holidays,|
@ 2007-12-03 08:59:00
|Entry tags:||fic, post-dh: ewe, rated: nc-17|
The Golden Hour, for raitala
Title:The Golden Hour
Word Count: 8,600
Warnings: Post-DH. Willful ignorance of a negligible bit of chapter thirty-two and epilogue.
Disclaimer:None of this is mine. It all belongs to JK Rowling.
Summary:Harry has returned to Hogwarts to take over the Defense post. Trouble is, he has to share it.
A/N: Raitala, this sort of story is unfamiliar territory to me, but I hope you enjoy it! I know I can't name my betas until later, but you rock. I couldn't have pulled this off without you.
"Mr. Potter, please come out of there this instant!" There was a silence, followed by a sigh. "Harold James Potter, you cannot remain holed up in the visitors' quarters forever."
"You just wait and see," Harry muttered. He could practically hear the headmistress's fur rise at that. After his enforced "retirement" from the Auror division, she had invited him back to Hogwarts to co-teach the defense classes. She had assured him that his colleague in the classroom would help fend off any "fame-related discipline issues". She had failed to mention his colleague would be Severus Snape.
Harry pressed his cheek to the wood, then gave up, flicked off the warding, and opened the door. "I know Snape's not evil, but he still hates me." McGonagall folded her arms and gave him a stern look. "You know we won't manage a whole day without hexing each other." Dammit, it wasn't like McGonagall to pull the rug out from under his feet. It was more like--"The headmaster, I mean, Professor Dumbledore? He must have put you up to this."
McGonagall cleared her throat. "I assure you that no portrait--not even Albus's--put me up to this." She gave him a quick small smile. "You will both teach the defense class. Professor Snape has already agreed to it. If you choose not to, you are welcome as a guest, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice." The smile sank into a smirk. "Think of all the students you'd be abandoning to Professor Snape's tender mercies."
So he would be welcome, but quite useless, as he had been right before leaving the Auror division: a quick shot, a hard worker, and Harry Potter (the latter of which was analogous to walking around with a bull's eye painted on his arse). It had been such a big bull's eye, that Harry's placement on the team endangered his co-workers. Harry tilted his head forward till it was wedged in the doorway.
"Is Filch's job free?"
"Filch is still using it to play the merry terror of the astronomy tower."
Harry knew when he was beaten. "I'll think on it, okay?"
"The students arrive in two days. Please do think quickly enough so I can find a replacement if I must." She turned from the doorway. "You're Severus's equal, Mr. Potter." Then she was walking away, feet clapping hard enough against the floor that he could hear her retreat all the way to the stairwell.
. . .
By day two, Harry capitulated. He couldn't leave Headmistress McGonagall with only Snape as the defense teacher. Not that the man was incapable, he was simply Snape. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Hermione had agreed at the last minute to stand in as the interim Muggle Studies teacher. Both she and Ron would be moving into their quarters soon. Besides, as Hermione had pointed out during an aggrieved firecall he'd made soon after McGonagall's browbeating session, Snape was probably still recovering from Nagini's bite.
Harry was still convinced that Snape would make a point of conserving his resources just enough to terrorize both students and co-teacher.
He finished packing his trunk for the move from the visitors' suites to the faculty quarters, then left for McGonagall's office, for a meeting she had requested when he finally gave up and accepted the job.
The gargoyle let him pass, and he walked upstairs. On Minerva's desk, the lemon drops had been exchanged for shortbread. Although the lights were low, the wood paneling seemed to glow. The headmistress looked up at his arrival.
"Mr. Potter. Do come in." Even in low light, Harry saw right away that someone else was standing by McGonagall's desk. Only when his eyes adjusted and he saw the man turn, saw the eyes widen then narrow, did he realize what a complete and utter mistake it had been for him to acquiesce. McGonagall seemed to sense his keen desire to turn and flee. "I asked Severus to join us, so I could speak to you both."
"Mr. Potter." Snape stood stock still, and Harry took a moment to look closer. Snape's hair hung in thick strands over his pale face. He still looked himself, but some trick of good health and dim light made him look far better than he ever had before. Harry didn't even realize he was looking the man over: the hair was still black, the eyes Harry avoided, the nose was still like some craggy geological event, the mouth--the mouth was pursed in amusement. Damn. Desperate for a place to simply rest his eyes, Harry curled his head to the side and caught sight of the small dip on the side of Snape's neck where the skin folded in. Harry swallowed and looked away.
"I am to understand we will be teaching defense together." Harry nodded in response and kept his eyes glued to the floor. He heard Snape's robes rustle as he turned back toward McGonagall.
"Headmistress, are you sure this is a wise course of action? I could perhaps teach both defense and potions-"
"Don't be silly," McGonagall retorted. "You're still recovering, and, before you ask, there isn't anyone to replace you. Slughorn has refused to do another year, and we won't be able to find someone to replace Harry for another year, that is, if you don't get along."
"I doubt Potter will drive me from teaching, although perhaps he has honed his skill in that regard."
"I only recently heard you resumed teaching." Great, Harry, that was brilliant, brilliantly stupid. Hermione had mentioned some valiant Slytherin's discovery of Snape in the Shrieking Shack--still alive--and Snape's ensuing slow recovery. He could remember the look on her face, penetrating, as if she were looking for some hidden clue to how he felt about Snape. Before he stepped in McGonagall's office, he could have freely confessed to not knowing how he felt about Snape. Sadly, he now had an all-too-clear idea of how his body felt about the potions master.
"As Severus is still Hogwarts's potions master, he will be working with you only as your sparring partner and to help with the discipline issues we discussed." Harry had a brief vision of Snape, dressed in the black dueling robes of his second year. That Snape would probably hex him down before the entire class was embarrassing; but the idea of Snape bearing down predatorily upon him was equally frightening and arousing and therefore more frightening. Harry chanced a look up at Snape's face to gauge the man's reaction to his official position as hexatorial assistant. Snape looked as though he was looking forward to it. Harry felt ill.
"Is that all, Headmistress?" Merlin, he was even turning out more sour than Snape.
"Minerva, Harry. 'Headmistress' is simply too unwieldy." She grinned. "Welcome to the faculty, then." She patted him fondly on the shoulder and sat back down behind her desk, still watching her two defense professors. The silence stretched painfully until McGonagall broke it with something more horrible. "Severus, I would show Harry to his rooms, but I must prepare for the Welcoming Feast. Might I ask you to do the honors?"
"You can call me Harry, you know." Harry wound his way down the circular staircase. He could practically feel Snape's eyes watching him from behind. He ignored the prickling sensation running up his back at the thought. He would not let Snape get a rise out of him that way.
"Very well, Harry. Come." His voice seemed to coagulate in Harry's pores, blocking the air. He walked past Harry and then twisted away briefly, pulling his wand from his robes and flicking it toward the wall. The torches sprang to life and pushed the darkness farther back into the passage. Snape began to walk again, faster now, and Harry was forced to jog to catch up with the other professor's longer stride. They climbed more stairs to the top of the northern tower, until Snape stopped before a worn oak door. He pulled a rusty key from his pocket, and, without warning, grabbed Harry and wrapped both their hands around it. Harry felt a flash of heat skitter through him that had nothing to do with magic.
"What are you--"
"Calm yourself," Snape growled, dropping Harry's hand so suddenly the key fell to the floor with a clang. "The wards are linked to you now." Stooping, Snape snatched the key up and stepped back.
"My room is down the hallway, should you require me." When Harry said nothing, Snape continued, "And by 'require', I mean you are mortally wounded and incapable of movement save for working your mouth; as that is usually the last organ that stops working for Gryffindors."
Before his brain could intervene, Harry opened his mouth. "It's not quite the last."
Snape looked closely at him, his eyes glinting in the light. The prickling returned full force.
"Yes, I suppose that Gryffindors in particular have certain organs they heed over survival instinct and common sense." Harry couldn't occlude but he could deflect.
"Does it disturb you that Dumbledore claimed we might sort houses too early?" Fuck. He only made it worse. "I mean, you know, maybe you have um... Gryffindor parts that outlast the rest?
Harry was gifted with a gut-withering sneer. "You are an idiot if you think me a hero."
"And yet you are a hero."
A muscle twitched in Snape's jaw. "I'm no Gryffindor."
"Maybe the capacity for heroism isn't solely a Gryffindor trait. Maybe it's available to everyone." A better deflection. That didn't sound half bad.
Snape's lips thinned, but the corners turned upward. "You'd turn snakes into lions, Potter?"
Disconcerted, Harry grinned, pushed the door open with an awkward shove, and barricaded himself in his foyer.
. . .
Harry paced and fidgeted before his first class; it had been years since he'd taught Dumbledore's Army. Still, everything was in place and ready to go except Snape, who had pointed out in advance that his last class before this one was full of idiots, the likes of which would probably delay him. Harry had decided to start the third year with the boggart lesson because, in hindsight, it had been one of the more enlightening classes he could recall from his time as a student. What Remus had taught them about the nature of fear had been just as important as the lesson about defending against it. Harry felt a pang of loss at the memory. He would give anything to have Remus back again.
The boggart, still trapped in the wardrobe sitting in the corner, gave an impatient thump.
When Neville conjured and crossdressed Snape in quick succession, it had all been rather hilarious. But he wasn't quite sure what he would do if some version of Snape managed to claw its way out of the wardrobe while the man himself was in the room. It wasn't altogether unlikely. If Harry fell down laughing, the real Snape would promptly hex him into a coma. Harry looked around the classroom; the students were nearly settled, but Snape still hadn't arrived. Probably a potions accident in his last class.
"All right, everyone. Books out, wands away for now." He lectured briefly on the theory of boggarts and quickly came to the point where the students would have to face the little bugger themselves.
"The spell to counteract a boggart is 'Riddikulus.'" He swept his wand forward and snapped it down. "Everyone get in a line facing the closet. I'll demonstrate first, and then you can all have a go."
He stepped ahead of the students and was about to unlatch the wardrobe, when he heard the classroom door creak open behind him. At that instant, the boggart broke loose with a bang. The air before the wardrobe rippled, and a dementor flew toward him, skeletal and foul. Caught off guard, Harry raised his wand as students screamed and broke out of line, scrambling to hide behind their desks.
"Expecto Patronum!" Another voice spoke the words in time with Harry's. Black flickered at the edge of his vision, and he felt a sudden heat at his back. He turned his head, nearly hitting a pale hand extended over his shoulder, a wand held tight in its grasp. A collective gasp from his students reminded him that he was supposedly teaching a class. He turned back, the boggart, cornered by his stag patronus and now Snape's doe, had transformed into something else. It whirred in circles directly before Harry and then the flight suddenly left it. Harry watched, his heart constricting, as the dark ragged cloth grew thicker and visibly heavier, drifting downward onto the floor. The black material twitched and separated into blood-soaked hair and cloak. He could discern the outline of a long body underneath.
The room had gone deathly quiet. There was a rattling breath, and the whisper, "Look at me..." had to be audible to everyone there. Crap. Harry jerked forward and raised his wand again. Oh Merlin, the students were watching. They'd seen Snape on the floor, dying. They'd seen. . .everything.
"Riddikulus!" The darkness of the robes split into stripes and rose up into a pair of possessed pajamas, which teetered back into the wardrobe at Harry's urging. They even folded themselves neatly before settling into the darkness. Perhaps even boggarts felt a little guilt? He hoped so. Harry shut the latch with a shaky flick. He didn't dare look Snape in the eye. Bloody hell. He could barely even look at his students.
"Class dismissed," Snape barked sharply.
The class rolled its scrolls, closed its books, and launched itself through the doorway and out into the hall in a unified mass. Now that the boggart was gone, there was, of course, Snape to deal with. And Snape would never let him live this down.
"Look, I'm sorry." He was uncomfortably aware of the silence as he righted the furniture upended in the students' panic. "I never meant for that to happen."
"Potter. . ."
"The damn thing broke out of the closet, and--"
"I mean, I was expecting the dementor, but I wasn't expecting it to change--"
"Harry!" He looked up at that. Though the lines of his mouth were straight, Snape's eyes glimmered internally with something. . .The effect it had on his face was frightening. Snape turned his head, and after a moment so did Harry. They both stared at the window, bright with sun and dry leaves.
Below it, shining even brighter, stood the stag and doe. They were absorbed in each other, and no matter how much Harry wanted to break the moment and yell at his patronus to cut it out, he couldn't. Instead, he watched, spellbound, as the doe nudged its nose upward until the stag bent its head down. She looked for all world as if she were whispering a secret in his ears. Harry fancied he could see the words of it, misty and jumbled, rising and tangling in Prongs' antlers--no, they were leaving. The two deer blurred and disincorporated into a mess of white clouds, which soon disappeared altogether.
By the time he'd stopped staring and turned, Snape was gone.
. . .
On nice days, Harry held his office hours out in the courtyard. He was gratified to find his students stopping by more often simply because he was now so accessible in the short golden hours between classes and Quidditch. Even after Voldemort's demise and the eventual dispersal of dementors, the weather had stayed chaotic. From his seat in a corner, Harry observed the results of the summer drought: a landscape dry and drained of color. All that remained of summer lay scattered and rushing underfoot.
As the last students filtered back into the castle, Harry recast his warming charms, holding on to the spell as the glow seeped through his cloak. He leaned back against the stone wall and took off his glasses. He'd finished his student meetings for the day. It was nearly sunset.
He pulled off his glasses with his right hand and palmed his wand with the left. "Opticula Solus." He rapped the plastic rims hard and watched with satisfaction as the lenses darkened to a pink, before setting them back on his nose. Harry relaxed into the conjured heat and waited for the last seconds before the sun set. He'd found the spell when he was researching defense tactics based on spell light. Though it turned out to be useless for defense, it was a means of capturing the sun. If cast correctly, the spelled glasses cast everything in a fiery glow a few hours into the night.
The light filtering through lit the dead leaves and bare trees with a visible warmth. The sun dipped lower until it was a molten pool filling the gap between the mountains across the lake. It thinned to a brilliant, shining line, then disappeared. Suddenly the sky lit up, and the thin wisps of cloud turned to flames overhead. Harry turned his face upward so to catch the light in his bespelled glasses.
Harry could not remember how long he sat there, snug between the spell-warmed stones. He knew only that every time he opened his eyes, the world gleamed with a red-gold flame and a sharpness of light that came only in autumn. He barely noticed the passage into night, and that, each time he closed his eyes, it was for a little longer. Sod it all. There weren't any rules against professors napping in the courtyard during dinner. As he sat there, he dreamt that the sun was up again, it seemed so warm. It drew closer, and the air felt moist and hot against his face. . .
"Potter!" Harry's eyes flinched open and came to rest on Snape, standing over him, a blaze of sunlight in the dark night. Snape turned his head to the side and peered at Harry. Though Harry had thought up some mundane reason for his presence in the courtyard, his ready explanation was forgotten. He simply stared. The sunlight played over Snape's face. His hair, his skin seemed illuminated from inside. Harry was suddenly dizzy at the idea that Snape belonged in the sun even at night, that the red and gold suited him quite well, that in the late-burning daylight he was so beautiful. He tried to smother the giddiness rising like bubbles in his blood.
"Are you ever going to call me Harry?" Snape's eyes burned a hole right through him. "Snape?"
The potions professor didn't move. "You look like a snake sunning itself on warm stones." Snape's voice reminded him of that molten puddle of light between the mountains, but Snape's voice was pure heat, and it pooled in a more inconvenient place. Snape raised a hand toward Harry's face, and Harry was suddenly convinced that the oxygen available was dependent on the distance between them. Both were running out.
He forced himself further back against the wall, feeling less like a snake than a mouse that was about to be swallowed by one. His eyes tracked Snape's movement when he withdrew his wand and pointed it at Harry's face. Harry had the sudden, crazy thought that Snape had finally lost his marbles and decided to do him in. But really, he'd saved Harry's life so many times, if it were anyone's right to take it away, it was Snape's.
"Opticula Clara." Harry felt the tip of the wand run over the top rim of his glasses and delicately brush his forehead. The sunlight drained from his vision, and the darkness, pierced only by the flickering light of torches in the castle, rushed into the sudden emptiness. When he could finally see again, he barely made out the outline of Snape, dark and still and standing too far away. Snape raised his head slightly.
"Look at me now, Harry." His face was unreadable. "What do you see?" He didn't wait for an answer. Instead, he blended seamlessly with the crisp night and disappeared from the courtyard.
Harry opened his mouth, but nothing came out. The bubbles that had but a moment before been roiling beneath his skin now lodged in his throat. Snape didn't understand, but Harry choked silently and said nothing at all.
. . .
The next time it was warm enough for Harry to use the courtyard for office hours, he was surprised to discover that Snape had set up a small tripod and cauldron close to Harry's habitual "office" space. Harry almost turned back, then changed his mind. Bugger it. He could do this, no problem.
For the rest of the afternoon, every time a student walked toward the shared corner of the courtyard, Harry would stand to greet them and Snape's dark eyes would flash up to ensnare whichever poor sod had the bollocks to approach. The student might as well be a fly in a web. Snape glared, Harry gawked, and every last one of the students squirmed free of that sticky liquid malice and bolted for safety.
What the hell did Snape think he was doing? Granted, the classroom setup was hilarious, and Harry was so distracted by the hiccoughing laughter that threatened to spill out of him that he cast his warming charms half-cocked. When he sat down for the fifth or sixth time after yet another student had done a runner, he did so between a stone too hot and another still cold. He jumped back up with a yelp, and heard an all-too-familiar snort.
"Oh, blow it out your bunsen burner!" Harry bit out.
"This is magic, Potter. If you can't even tell the difference between art and science, then my work has only begun."
Harry backed away in mock-horror. "You're not going to try to teach me potions again?"
Snape raised his head to look Harry in the eye. "I'm only doing my job, Potter. Minerva assigned me to help you maintain discipline in your classes."
"So why are you out here, then?"
The dark eyes narrowed. "Your students are getting too close to you out here."
Harry crossed his arms in exasperation. "I don't think this is quite what McGonagall had in mind."
"Headmistress McGonagall, you impertinent twit. That girl sitting with you last time you were here? You were oblivious to her infantile overtures."
"Overtures? She was asking for a clarification of the homework!"
Snape's voice dropped low in his throat. "As she does, every week." Harry watched as he placed a stasis charm on the steaming cauldron and stood up. Snape had always been unpredictable, but this was ridiculous.
Harry looked around in desperation, but the students hanging around the outskirts of the courtyard showed no inclination to rescue their defense professor. Snape's eyes glittered as he moved closer, and Harry stumbled backwards, catching his heels on the uneven cobblestones still slippery with leaves. He cursed McGonagall for sticking him with Snape, he cursed his students for not staging an intervention, he cursed every defense teacher he'd ever had for never demonstrating defense against potions professors.
He tried to regain his balance. "Look. You don't need to protect me from my students."
Snape's answering snarl made the hair on his neck spike. Perhaps there were saints for adult students of insane professors? Hagerty of the Hairy Eyeball might work. Snape would probably keep pushing until both their tempers snapped and they ended up dueling in broad daylight, out here where everyone could see. He liked his job. He didn't want to get fired just because Severus Snape was a jealous arsehole who objected to Harry's students practically hanging round his neck. Merlin. Snape was right. His heart racing, he backed against the wall and sat. At the very least, he could keep Snape a bent knee's length away from him.
All well and good, until Snape was pressed tightly against those very knees. Harry stopped praying that the saints would protect him and started praying instead that his groin wouldn't give him away.
"Potter, you little fool, you have no idea why I was willing to let the Dark Lord kill me do you?" Snape muttered to Harry's upturned face.
Too bad there wasn't a way to melt through stone. Harry scooted as far back as he could on the bench. Although the wall was still spell-warm, it was nothing compared to the heat rolling off Snape's body.
"Because you loved my mother?" He was transfixed by the way Snape stared at him. For a moment, Snape looked just as he had when Harry had seen him through his bespelled glasses, luminous with inner fire. Harry felt the paralysis, the sense of being hunted, creep over him. Snape merely smiled.
"Are you sure this is the right place to talk about this?" Ten points to Gryffindor, for being capable of speech under duress. Harry tried to imagine what they must look like. Save for the insistent pressure on his knees, Snape was doing nothing more than hovering over him. Breathing on him. Watching him like Harry was a hot meal on a cold, hungry day. And Harry felt each as if it were a physical caress. So it was just Snape accosting another teacher on a sunny afternoon. Nothing unusual about that, except Harry's reaction to it.
"I remember you following my doe to the frozen pond to retrieve the sword I laid there. I remember your idiotic antics." Snape bent down closer to Harry and whispered, "Your serpent's tongue."
"I'd forgotten that," Harry gasped. "Voldemort's death took that ability from me."
"Pity," Snape said. "When the Dark Lord used Parseltongue, I almost lost my life. But hearing you hiss like that is one of the most erotic memories in my keeping. I think of it . . . often."
Harry was instantly hard. No, harder. He said, "Why are you doing this? Why now?"
"I've lived through two wars, the latter in service to two men of dubious sanity. I nearly died because of them." Harry swallowed guiltily. Surely Snape meant, because of you. "But I'm free now." One hand reached out to touch his face. "Free to take what I desire."
Harry forced himself to meet Snape's eyes. "And what about my desires? What if I don't want this?"
Snape's hand dropped, and though they remained open, his eyes seemed to slam shut. And before Harry could say something--an apology, anything--the potions master had stormed back into the castle. Harry stood from the stones, finally feeling the afternoon chill seep in. He did not want to deal with the open courtyard and so made his way back to his rooms.
How could Snape want him? What would his mother think? Oh Merlin. He had loved Harry's mother. And though Harry had watched him be attacked by Nagini, had watched the blood rush out over the dry floorboards and seen the light in his eyes, the light he had never noticed before, dim and die out, he had done nothing. He had taken the freely offered memories and left. If one of the Slytherins hadn't come looking for Snape, he would have died. Harry had given up far too soon.
The thought that he might be a substitute for his mother made him shrivel. He had fix this somehow. If he was going to spend the rest of the year in a classroom with Snape, he would have to make amends, at least before they started the upper years on dueling.
. . .
Harry was truly dreading the introduction to formal dueling he had planned for the first days of December. Beyond the second-year dueling club and that one awful night in the graveyard, fourth year, Harry had no tutelage in the area. Thus, he found himself drowning in customs, laws, and particular family histories when he really began to research the subject in depth.
Snape seemed to have abandoned his cause of "protecting" Harry since their encounter in the courtyard, but Harry still felt those eyes following him. Whenever Harry searched that pale face out of the back of the classroom, Snape was already watching him, typically with a piercing stare, the intensity of which made Harry shiver. Harry looked away from Snape, cheeks hot, as soon as he met that charring gaze. These days he felt like the one who'd been mistakenly sorted into Gryffindor. He had never before been so thankful for his bulkier winter robes. No matter how much he would have liked, he could not suppress his physical reaction to Snape's constant, silent attention.
Still, he was quite sure he was doing a good job of concealing his inevitable reaction toward Snape, or he thought so until Hermione sat in on one of his classes and followed him back to his quarters afterward.
"Harry, what is going on between you two?" Hermione settled at the kitchen table and watched him fidget. Harry became quite interested discerning the bottom of his cup through the black tea--dark, nearly overbrewed--churning like those damn eyes. He rose from the table, looking everywhere but where he knew he ought.
"He's not even looking at the students at all. His eyes are always on you." Harry paced back and forth on the already worn carpet. He hated to ignore Hermione, but he secretly hoped she would either leave or latch onto a more pleasant train of thought. He nearly tripped midstride when a thin reedy smile rose up on Hermione's face. It wasn't a bad look, but Harry knew that it was the bad look, the kind that signified that Hermione knew, and not even obliviation would remove her from imminent unfortunate revelation.
"Of course, it's always been like that."
"What do you mean?" Innocence, false innocence even, had its good points; namely, it exchanged ignoring Hermione for ignoring what she meant to say.
"Even when you were a student, even when Neville was about to turn us into little bits of particulate--" Harry made a sound of protest. "--Don't give me that, even you know Neville was a disaster in potions." He smiled and kept pacing. "Even then, he was always watching you. I can't imagine how Snape could have kept up the energy to hate you with all the time he spent keeping an eye on you."
"A very close eye," she amended.
Riddikulus. It might even work.
Harry paced off the carpet and back to the kitchen table where Hermione nested like a kneazle amongst his research.
"He hated me before the war; why would he act differently now?"
"Oh, come on. Doesn't it strike you as odd that your second-most-hated enemy willingly bled his most private memories out for your perusal? Or that, accepting death to be imminent, wanted to look into your eyes?"
Harry wondered if avoiding people's gazes was becoming a habit for him.
"If you're so confused about the laws related to dueling--" She gestured at the books with her tea. "--ask Snape. He probably knows them better than anyone, and I am sure he would be willing to help." She smirked and took a slow sip from her teacup.
Harry shook his head. "I told you, he's done with it. He just looks at me a lot; that's not a signpost for love. It's a signpost for 'someday, somehow, I will learn to cast the killing curse with my eyeballs'." Even he didn't sound convinced. He couldn't bring himself to talk to Snape after class. He wanted to apologize, but how do you apologize for leaving someone to die?
Hermione frowned into her cup. "Harry, don't you see that--" A knock on the door interrupted her. With a sharp look at Hermione, he called out.
"Who is it?"
"Potter." Snape called without preamble. "Your notes on dueling customs are unconstructive, unhelpful, and, completely asinine. In fact--" Harry moved to open the door before Snape could extend his diatribe. Maybe Hermione was right, and this was Snape's idea of a love sonnet. Snape's eyes widened then hardened as they fell on the two of them. He glided over the threshold as if he were Harry's personal dementor and made a beeline for Hermione, who, in the face of the advancing Severus Snape, looked undecided as to whether she should laugh or run for the floo.
"It's Mrs. Weasley now, is it not?" He looked down his nose at her.
"Yes, Ron and I were married this past August." She raised her hand to shake his, but dropped it feebly when he answered her peace offering with a glare.
"And where is Mr. Weasley?"
Hermione shrugged. "Ron plays pick-up Quidditch today." She turned to Harry and was about to say something else, when that suspect smile curved over her face. Harry could only watch as she got up from the table and sauntered slowly over to him and gifted him with a bear hug. She bent in until her mouth was by his ear.
"What are you doing?" He whispered shakily.
"Enraging the man who loves you."
"He doesn't--" He looked over Hermione's shoulder at Snape. He was pretty sure Snape did not catch a word of what either of them had said. He looked ready to explode.
"Lust then? By the way, Ron is going to come by later." She stood back a bit, but kept her arms tight around him. "He says he hasn't seen your quarters, and he's rather sure you've got a perfect view of the pitch and--"
"Mrs. Weasley," Snape snapped. "Professor Potter and I require some time to compare notes." He looked sideways at Harry. "No doubt mostly my notes. Perhaps it would be wiser to adjourn to my rooms?"
Harry did not want to be stuck alone in a room with Snape. A small part of him thought it was a marvelous idea, but he sat on it.
"Um, I'm sure Hermione wouldn't mind us staying here with her..."
Hermione cast a smug look at Harry, and let go of him with a quick peck on the cheek. "I'd love some peace and quiet to check out some of your defense texts here." Maybe Hermione was the one who had been mistakenly sorted into Gryffindor; Harry saw a teacher conference with the sorting hat in his future.
He turned back to Snape. "How about the staffroom?" At the questioning eyebrow, Harry weakly replied, "There'll be tea." Snape was obviously fed up with both of them, as Harry found himself seized by the arm and propelled out the door. His last view of Hermione was that wide grin. One of them would pay for this, he was sure, but of the three, he wasn't sure who.
"Look, Snape--" Harry said as he was quickly dragged along toward the staffroom. "--Severus!" Snape turned to him, his eyes glittering in the torchlight. He seemed about to say something, but instead he moved to the side and, with a see-saw motion, pushed Harry through the door into the staffroom. Harry landed hard against the wall, and when he had gathered himself, he found himself facing Snape, gripping his arms and looming over him like a lethifold about to devour.
"Why are you dallying with Mrs. Weasley?" The words came out in a tar paper hiss. Harry struggled to pull back even though his body wanted desperately to lean forward. He was so torn, he didn't move at all. Snape shifted, his cloak fell forward and around Harry in a whirl of warm cloth.
"Hermione's my best friend. She's married to Ron." Snape never released his hold on Harry, but at this, his grasp tightened painfully. Harry had the sudden idea that, if he angled forward just a bit, he could clarify everything. It would take very little movement to show Snape how his body felt about him in close quarters. He took a deep breath, then another, and rested his shoulders on the wall. Gryffindor through and through? Pathetic, more like.
"I'm not dallying with her." Harry felt the felt the fingers wrapped around his arms loosen. "And it's none of your business if I were." Crap. Wrong thing to say. Snape looked down at him as he had at Hermione.
Snape stood stock still. "It is most certainly my business. You are my business."
What the hell was that supposed to mean? "Look, what do you want?" Harry knew what he wanted had nothing to do with Hermione and everything to do with jumping this man in a closet. "Hermione is running amuck in my rooms, and you—you're accosting me for no good reason!"
"My reasons are good. But if they are not clear to someone as dim as yourself, then perhaps you should go back to your friend." Snape's voice was acidic. "We will discuss the introduction to dueling when you can find time in your busy schedule." With that, he whirred around and left Harry alone in the staff room. Harry fancied he could see a trail of incandescence follow him out of the room.
. . .
Harry came to class early in hopes of catching Snape and explaining what he wanted to do for the introduction to formal dueling. Snape had managed to avoid speaking to him since Hermione made a hash of things, and Harry did not want to demonstrate formal dueling with that between them. Though, come to think of it, he couldn't remember a time when there wasn't something between him and Snape. He walked over to the huge fireplace lit to beat back the winter chill. The bowl on the mantel contained just enough floo powder for an emergency trip to the hospital wing or for a quick escape. He was willing to bet he would use it for one or both of those reasons by the end of the class.
The students, all of them sixth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins, seemed to sense his wariness as they walked in. They circled the long dueling platform and whispered amongst themselves in muted tones. Harry watched one of the Gryffindors walk over to a clump of Slytherins and surreptitiously place several galleons in a waiting hand. The little bastards were betting-- he started walking toward the group when the classroom door slammed shut behind him. Snape, right on time.
He gave Snape a quick glance. The combination of Snape's surly expression and the students' quick exchange of words and galleons seemed portentous, a sign of an invisible thunderstorm building inside the room. He shook off the feeling and turned to the class.
"Today, Professor Snape and I will demonstrate a mock duel for the class, and then we will review the tenets that form the foundation of modern dueling rituals." Silence. At least the betting had stopped for the moment.
"Professor Snape?" He gestured to the set of stairs up to the platform and followed the professor as he climbed them silently. He had meant to ask Snape if dueling would be a safe classroom activity. He knew Snape could beat him with his wand hand tied behind his back, but Harry didn't want to set back his recovery. He had hurt Snape enough as it was.
Harry stopped just short of the platform's centerpoint. Snape spun to face him, his dueling robes fitted to his body. Harry's eyes traced the buttons all the way up to Snape's chin. Dear Merlin, I will not drool. He looked away. He had practiced the movements; he could do this. They both raised their wands in salute then whipped them down simultaneously. He turned away and walked the ten requisite paces back, then turned again. He raised his wand to chest-height and settled his other hand behind him in a mirroring position. Snape watched him settle into position. Harry counted to three. Snape attacked.
"Confringo." The air exploded in front of Harry. He was lifted off his feet and set down hard on his arse near the end of the platform. He stood up and moved back into position for the counter, desperately trying to think of something that wouldn't do any lasting damage.
"Rictusempra." Snape batted the spell away with a muttered "Protego" and threw a blasting curse at Harry. Harry jumped to the ground just before the wooden boards supporting him shattered into small splinters. He regained his balance and shouted a tongue-tying curse that went wide of its target and smacked into a windowpane with a loud crack. He was so focused on the ball of fire lobbed at him in return that he barely noticed the students backing away from the platform. Snape gave him an infuriating grin. Sod it. If Snape was going to kill him, he would bring the potions master down with him.
He aimed his wand at the platform. "Glisseo." He watched with satisfaction as the platform transformed into a smooth slide and deposited Snape on the floor in front of him. Snape, true to form, landed on his feet, and shouted out a repelling jinx on impact. They started trading jinxes and curses back and forth at a steady pace. If he weren't losing so badly, Harry would have said he were having a hell of a time. In a few short moments, bits of Harry's hair were singed at the ends, and he had managed to give Snape scales before the man shook the jinx off. Snape threw another blasting curse at him, and Harry heard a few students scream as he was slapped backward onto the floor. Snape only then seemed to take notice of the students still watching.
"Class dismissed!" Snape roared. Nobody moved. Snape glared. "Get out now!" Harry had never seen a classroom empty so fast. The door slammed shut behind the last student, and Harry snapped a room-sealing spell on it for good measure. When he turned back to finish the fight, he was met with Snape's wand pointed at his chest.
"Expelliarmus. Incarcerous." The magical ropes drew Harry up flat on one of the long desks before knotting themselves intricately between the table legs. Harry knew he was done for.
"It's against the rules to use two spells in succession without counterattack." Maybe he could have his nonessential Gryffindor parts removed, like his mouth. Snape picked his way around the debris until he was standing over Harry. Harry tried to look away, but Snape bent down over him and swallowed the world.
"The duel ended when you were knocked from the platform, you twit. From that point, we were engaged in what is known as a brawl." Harry ignored the breath stirring his hair and his own quickly rising arousal. Both were burning away his righteous anger at being blown back on his arse for all his work.
"I was trying to go lightly on you."
"I was not required to reciprocate." Snape's eyes dropped down to look at Harry's lap. Harry felt himself grow even harder under Snape's gaze. He did not notice the hands landing on his knees until fingers began trailing up his thighs. He jumped at the sensation, but there was no possible retreat. "Although, I am not opposed to reciprocal activities as a rule."
"So you are only against those we employ to avoid killing each other?" Harry ground out.
"Careful, Potter." Snape's voice rumbled through him. "Or my hand just might slip." One hand drifted almost casually from thigh to groin. The other hand moved to hold him by the hip, fingers pressing hard into the crease. There was no hiding his reaction to that. He felt his breathing quicken; his senses were bent on analyzing every point of interaction--every particle between the two of them--the number of which was even then decreasing rapidly.
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but the words melted into a protracted moan. Harry took a gasping breath and tried again.
"Don't you think we should finish this somewhere private?" Harry didn't quite know what this was. All he knew was that Snape always got to him, always got under his skin or, in this case, under his robes.
"That is your perennial excuse." Snape traced the outline of his erection through his plackets. "How do I know you won't run as soon as I loosen your bindings?"
"I--I swear." Snape pressed down hard as he rounded the tip of Harry's erection. "I swear by my Gryffindor parts." He looked up to gauge Snape's reaction, but was distracted by a groan from the sealed door. Someone was breaking up the warding from the outside. Dammit. Snape grabbed up Harry's wand from where it lay on the floor and turned, pointing his own at Harry.
"Finite Incantatem." He dragged Harry toward the fireplace and upended the floo powder into the fire. "Severus Snape's quarters." Then he stepped into the flames, hauling Harry along with him.
. . .
The floo spat them out into a spare room illuminated only by the fire behind them. Bookshelves lined the walls wherever possible, but Harry focused on the large bed before him and the hands that moved up from behind and turned him to face Snape.
"What do you want?" Harry's words came out in a whisper. Snape dropped his eyes down to look at the full length of Harry's body, the heat in them burning higher than the firelight. He dropped a hand to Harry's groin. Harry knew Snape could feel his cock pressing against his palm. He stifled a groan.
"I just--I don't know." At Snape's raised brow, he replied, "Maybe I'm just thankful for all you've done?" The change in Snape was instantaneous. He snarled, and quick as a snake, he wrapped his hand tighter around the bulge in Harry's robes.
"This..." He squeezed, talking over Harry's moan, "--has nothing to do with mere thanks." Harry sagged forward into Snape's hands. The long fingers drew back just far enough to caress. Harry couldn't agree more, and he would agree more, if only Snape would press a little harder.
Snape backed Harry up against the bed, then pressed in and kissed him furiously. Harry gasped, and Snape dove in as if he would devour Harry from the mouth innward. When Harry turned aside to breathe, Snape's mouth sought him and herded him back with nips and bites. He seemed intent on swallowing Harry whole...
The kiss slowed, and Harry finally regained enough sense to pull away. Somehow, without his knowing it, his arms had come up to hold Snape in a grip as tightly as the one he found himself in. Two could play at this game. Harry maneuvered a hand up to the first button of Snape's dueling robes and popped it open. He pulled his wand from Snape's pocket and drew it down the length of buttons on Snape's frock coat and watched as they fell off the cloth. It wasn't quite the result he had hoped for, but it was a step in the right direction.
Snape snorted and pressed him back into the mattress. His face curved into Harry's neck. Harry felt a hand wrap around his on the wand.
"Glisshabille." It felt as though Harry's clothes had turned to liquid. His robes, his shirt, everything, dripped off him, settling into a smooth array of fabric on the bed underneath. Snape nudged his way downward, and bit down hard on his shoulder. Harry hissed, and Snape smiled into the wound. Nudging a thigh between Harry's leg, Snape pressed in, capturing Harry and leaving him in no doubt as to as to Snape's interest and incapable of concealing his own. Swift hands trailed up and down his chest. He made noises that certainly did not fall within the realm of the Queen's English. That damn voice found his ear again.
"Harry, what do you want?"
Harry looked up. Snape's face was lit from the fire, and the red flickered over his hair as it had through Harry's once-enchanted glasses. Harry had a horrible feeling that his Gryffindor parts knew something that he didn't. His mouth opened of its own volition. "To know you." He blinked up at the pale skin colored red and gold, and the black hair, greasy but flame-flecked in its gloss. "I see you. I want you."
Snape found a spot that made Harry's knees melt. He rolled his hips over Snape's thigh, bucking off of it at the contact. Harry felt like the ocean, the waves, and this tall body rose and fell and moved against him and with him, from crest to trough. He broke away, gasping.
"Tell me honestly, is it because of my mum? " Snape stilled, but didn't pull away. There was a moment in which the only sounds were Harry's soft pants and Snape's ragged breaths. The thigh pressed tightly between his legs move back, and Harry barely stoppered the whine that tried to come through. He followed the heat back toward Snape's body, collapsing briefly upward into Snape.
Snape followed him as he sank back into the mattress; Harry felt a burning hardness brush his own with the movement. Snape bent forward, minutely for lack of space between, and whispered, "I have spent years protecting you from fools, madmen, and defense professors. When I looked Nagini in the eye, I knew exactly who I was doing it for."
"So it was because of--it was for me?" Harry smiled. "So this is something between us?"
Snape pressed himself into Harry's body, as if he could mold himself to its curvature. "I would say that there is much between us, and none of it hate."
. . .
At the behest of several anxious sixth-years, Professor McGonagall dismissed her transfiguration class early and ran to the defense classroom. She pushed her way through the crowd of students lingering outside the shut doors. She concentrated on the sounds coming from the room. The hall was awash with murmuring and whispers. Several of the students were arguing about a bet, but a sudden thump and a series of creaks loud through the closed doors rose in a chilling cacophony over the students' isolated conversations. She tried "Alohamora", but the doors didn't budge. They were warded, then. She forced the sealing into a visible form and started the slow process of dismantling it bit by bit. After several moments, the doors squealed open. The classroom was in chaos: the dueling platform sat partially collapsed in the middle of the room. All around it, upturned chairs and tables littered with scorch marks were strewn about the room. Her eye wandered to the hearth. The fire burned merrily as if it hadn't been witness to a magical free-for-all. The bowl of floo powder sat overturned and empty on the floor. The professors were nowhere to be found. She turned back to the students waiting in the hall.
"Run along now. It is nearly lunch. Your defense professors will not want you to have worried needlessly."
"Professor McGonagall," one of the Gryffindor students piped up. "Who won?"
McGonagall smiled and shut the door with a quick flick. "I daresay they both did."