Fic: Speak Low If You Speak of Love - for thesewarmstars Title: Speak Low if You Speak of Love Author: Can owls write? Hedwig always seemed rather shifty. Giftee:thesewarmstars Word Count: ~21,500 Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Harry/Severus Warnings: *Not-Epilogue compliant, Alive!Severus, Top/Bottom!Snape, Virgin!Snape, Experienced!Harry, Top/Bottom!Harry, very minor blood-play* Disclaimer: The world of HP and its characters belongs to Rowling. The author of this fic has borrowed them for the purposes of storytelling. No profit was or will be made. Summary: When a secret is revealed during casual conversation, Harry sees Severus in a brand new light. Will he be able to convince Severus to take their friendship to a whole new level? Author's Notes: Thanks to the brilliant whitecotton for all her spectacular beta work and Brit-picking. I seriously would not have finished this if not for her. Also, I would like to say thanks to atypicalsnowman for making certain I understood exactly what was desired in a fic. Last but not least, thanks to R, B and D for allowing me to pick their brains as I ironed out the plot. The title is a line from William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ Mod Note: This fic was originally posted here, but because the HTML on the offsite link was defying us, we're posting this the old-fashioned way. Enjoy!
Speak Low If You Speak of Love
~ * ~
December 19, 2007 (Wednesday)
“...I’ve always preferred being face-to-face when shagging. Seems a bit more intimate that way, don’t you think?” Harry paused in his storytelling, waiting for his companion’s answer.
Snape’s expression tightened into one of repulsion. “Any conversation on the subject of sex would be rather one-sided. I have never participated in any sexual act and do I ever desire to. It is messy, artless and debasing.”
Harry gaped openly in stunned disbelief at his colleague of seven years and closest friend. The revelation was delivered in a firm tone, but there was a note of uncertainty that, had his audience been anyone other than Harry, would have been missed.
After a moment, Harry managed to get himself together enough to reply lightly, “Yes, well, I can hardly blame you when almost all of your exposure was the fumbling attempts of students in the darkened alcoves and hidden corridors of Hogwarts. I’ve had to listen to you complain about it so much, I could probably recite every incident back to you.” He sobered and added, “Or Death Eater raids. We’ve discussed it before, so I won’t get into it now, but I understand as much as I possibly can. The war kept all of us from enjoying the finer points in life, but you most of all, I think. I didn’t bring up yesterday’s date to make you feel...” Inadequate? Pressured? “Like you had to compare cock sizes with me.”
The comment did as he had hoped, earning Harry a patented Snape Sneer and a change of subject.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon Harry paid only scant attention, his mind stuck on what Severus had said. That Severus Snape, renowned Potions Master and former professor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was a virgin was shocking to say the least. It was a shock, but the revelation was also, in Harry’s eyes, a challenge.
By the time they had moved onto the ins and outs of glass stirring rods over steel ones, Harry had promised himself he would prove Severus wrong in his assumptions about sex—that it was ‘messy, artless and debasing’. He sent up a small prayer of thanks to whatever higher power had convinced the extremely private Severus to invite Harry over to his new home in the States for the Christmas holidays.
Setting aside all thoughts on his Mission, namely to Seduce Severus Snape, Harry inquired, “Will you show me to my room, Severus? I don’t know about you, but I’m knackered and could do with a nap.”
“Indeed. Too much late-night cavorting?” The rich baritone drifted back as Severus led the way upstairs.
With a wave of his wand Harry levitated his luggage from the entryway to where he stood, in an unconscious, practiced move. “Nah,” he replied. “Just a last-minute Seeker’s match against Malfoy. He’s loosened up a bit since we were students and now I actually enjoy our competitions.”
Severus paused in the middle of the hallway, hand pressed against a door. “Are you and Mr. Malfoy...involved?”
The way he said the word implied he found the very idea vulgar, and Harry couldn’t agree more. He and Draco Malfoy might have put their differences behind them, but Harry would rather take a girl to bed than that prissy blond.
“No, not that it’s any of your business.” He sniffed. “We’re barely even acquaintances. It’s only when it comes to Quidditch that we get on well enough, and even then I’d rather be on Ron’s team when he’s at his worst than Malfoy’s.” He smothered a smirk at the relief in Severus’ obsidian gaze.
“You needn’t explain your preferences to me, Harry.” Pushing open the door, he waved Harry inside. “This will be your room for the duration of your stay. I ask only that you tidy up after yourself as I have no house-elves here and refuse to spend my holiday cleaning up after you.”
Harry laughed at that. “An extended holiday, since the world-renowned Potions professor I assist at Hogwarts decided to end his classes three days early and take us both to the United States. Don’t worry, Severus, I’m quite used to cleaning up after myself when there aren’t house-elves around.”
“Though I highly doubt that I have achieved world recognition for my work as a professor at Hogwarts, I shall accept your compliment. I’ll leave you to get settled, Harry.”
Severus disappeared the moment Harry set his bags down, leaving, Harry mused, to see about preparing dinner. Thinking about it, Harry grimaced, recalling Severus’ last foray in the kitchen. While he was pleased that Severus trusted him enough to invite him into his home, Harry didn’t trust Severus enough to not accidentally poison them at meals. So, he decided to neglect his unpacking and forego his nap in favor of ensuring an edible dinner.
Dumping his luggage by the bed, Harry considered it would be a fair exchange for the free board Severus was offering if Harry were to cook. Then Severus would be free to use the time reading or researching his latest improvements on the Wolfsbane potion.
Harry reached the kitchen just in time. Severus hadn’t yet pulled out the decrepit-looking cookbook the previous owner of his little American-style bungalow had left behind. Harry rushed forward and caught him by the sleeve of his white button-down.
“I’ll do dinner,” Harry hurried to offer, wincing when he realized just how eager he sounded.
Severus missed nothing and his dark eyes narrowed. “I thought you were ‘knackered’, Harry. Perhaps you should rest, instead.”
“Yes, but you see, this is one of the few things I can do, aside from coming back to life, vanquishing dark lords and driving my professors insane.” He grinned lazily despite the rather sinister glare directed towards him.
“Are you offering to prepare all the meals, Mr. Potter?” One brow arched.
Though silently cheering inside at his first victory, as every little win counted in Harry’s opinion, Harry pasted on a rather horrified expression. “Offering? No, I mean—I just thought—tonight?” he asked in a near-whimper.
“Oh no, I think not. Since you are so certain of your prowess in the kitchen, I shall leave all three meals and tea time to you. Be aware, Harry, that I am in the habit of eating on schedule. Breakfast at 7 am sharp, lunch at noon and supper at 6 pm, with tea at 10:30 am and 4 pm on the nose.” He smiled smugly before sweeping out of the room, and Harry wondered for the first time since he had begun seeking out his company how someone could make stalking look sexy.
~ * ~
December 21, 2007 (Friday)
Two days since his arrival, Harry was still pondering the problem of Severus’ virginity. Harry just couldn’t get his head round that idea. Sweet Merlin, a virgin! How in blazes...? Of course, Severus wasn’t the greatest looking bloke, what with the perpetually greasy hair and slightly jaundiced look, but he wasn’t so horrible that someone wouldn’t want to have sex with him. His voice alone would bring someone straight to orgasm...if he weren’t always using it to dress people down and otherwise rip what little self-esteem they had to shreds. Harry’s included.
Harry threw himself into the armchair, which was set at a neat angle before the hearth, and stared into the flickering flames. His mind had been working non-stop since Severus had disappeared into the library downstairs—barring all former Gryffindors from following—trying to figure out a realistic plan for seducing him. He bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy locks, waiting for inspiration to strike. He became so lost in thought that he didn’t notice the time passing.
It came as a shock, then, when Severus cleared his throat, yanking Harry from his ruminations and sending his heart pounding. He smirked, only one corner of his mouth lifting.
“Severus!” Harry gasped, clutching his chest. "Severus. How, um...tea?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind, though I am loath to interrupt this rare moment.” When Harry only look confused, Severus chuckled, the sound dark and decidedly deadly when combined with Harry’s suddenly raging hormones. “You were thinking. A rare occurrence, even at your current age.”
Harry stood up and glared, the heat racing through his veins cooling. “You’re making fun of me,” he accused, heading for the kitchen.
Severus followed, choosing to sit at the island rather than the table where they usually dined. As he watched Harry fill the kettle and pull out the biscuits he had baked earlier that afternoon, Severus traced the atrocious crab design on the chipped tile. It was high time, he realized, for him to start redecorating.
Severus had bought the little bungalow in Salem to escape the memories of his Death Eater days. To forget that he would have died, alone and forgotten, if not for the brother of the very man he had sworn loyalty to and then killed. Aberforth Dumbledore had found him, saving his life by finding the vial of antivenin in his robes, and literally forcing it down his throat. He had then convalesced at Aberforth’s home, his only visitor being Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World and young man who felt he no longer had a purpose in life.
During his year of recovery, Severus had been without a voice, and Harry had lent him his own. Their relationship had been awkward to say the least, filled with painfully loud silences and battles of will fought only through their eyes. When he could speak again, he had assumed the brat would leave, but he had remained, offering up his home at Godric’s Hollow.
He had, it turned out, renovated his parents’ home with the help of Weasley and Granger. The two weeks he had practically lived at Aberforth’s had been the direct result of him declining to continue his relationship with the Weasley girl. Thankfully, Harry had realized that his goals—or rather, lack thereof—were very different from those of Ginevra Weasley, and so a clean break was made. It was a healthy choice for them both to part ways; especially considering how alike she was to Harry’s mother. In Severus’ personal opinion, of course.
The rattle of his cup and saucer being placed before him startled him, causing him to snag his fingernail on the jagged edge of a tile, lifting the nail and causing the finger to bleed. Quite a bit, in fact, he was surprised to note. But before he could do more than grumble, Harry had set aside his own cup and was reaching for his hand.
Severus watched in fascination as Harry brought the finger not to the little sink that rested to his right but rather to his mouth, sucking lightly. The sight of Harry’s lips wrapped around his finger, of the gentle pressure of his tongue against the wound, was unlike anything Severus had ever felt and for the first time in all his forty-seven years, Severus wanted. Instead of soothing him, it sent a peculiar fission of want straight to his groin, snapping him out of his daze.
“Stop it, you fool,” he snarled, snatching his hand away and pointedly ignoring the slight trembling as he turned on the tap. Harry was regarding him blandly, sipping his tea as he waited for Severus to calm down.
“Need a plaster?”
“No. What on earth possessed you to put my finger in your mouth?” Severus demanded as he reached for his tea once more.
“I dunno. Seemed a good idea at the time. Sorry if I offended you.”
With a scathing glance in Harry’s direction, Severus took a sip, eyebrows shooting up. “Brandy?”
“I figured you could use the extra kick since you’ve banned all magic.”
“I come here to get away from all of that. After watching you carelessly levitating all and sundry—”
“It was my luggage, hardly ‘all and sundry’ I should think,” Harry muttered under his breath.
“—around, I realized that I should make my desires for this trip clear.” He paused when he noticed the pink stain spreading across Harry’s cheeks, eyes narrowing suspiciously, but chose to ignore it for the time being. “Back in England, there is hardly a place one can go where magic is not being used. This is my sanctuary. My home away from home, so to speak.”
Harry nodded. “I get it, Severus, really. And it’s not so bad either.” Severus snorted, but Harry pressed on. “I spent the first eleven years of my life thinking magic wasn’t real and every summer while attending Hogwarts pretending that it didn’t exist. Well, I tried anyway. The point is, I understand. Being free of it is like shedding this huge weight. That part of you becomes a whole other person and for these few weeks we’re not Potions Master Severus Snape and Savior Harry Potter. Instead we’re just Harry and Severus, two blokes from across the pond vacationing in what was once a witch-hunting hotspot.”
This earned him one of those crushed-velvet-and-steel-revolver chuckles that had his cock at half-mast before he could even think ‘down boy.’ He shifted behind the counter, thankful for the buffer. He could only imagine Severus’ reaction should he realize just what effect he was having on his once-hated student.
‘McGonagall in red lacy knickers dancing for Dumbledore’s portrait. Hagrid and a blast-ended Skrewt. Filch and the Giant Squid.’ Confident that there were now no erections in the near future, he relaxed once more.
“Yes, but the town is quiet and devoid of wizards, amazingly enough. It was the original draw. The school which is so famed was, I believe, originally built here but then later moved several towns over. It retains the name to honor the founders only. Apparently very few are willing to risk the possibility that this town is cursed.”
“Is it?” Harry whispered, awed by the very idea.
The look Severus gave him implied what little intelligence Severus thought Harry had, was gone. “Of course not, you idiot. I did thorough research before choosing this land. In fact, the magic that lies deep within this area is quite pure. But that is neither here nor there. Tell me, what is on the menu for the evening.”
“Boston Clam Chowder.” At the look of eager anticipation that lit Severus’ face, Harry silently awarded himself House points.
“Truly? I’ve heard their version is quite delicious, though I haven’t ventured down to any of the local pubs to find out if it were true.” And he never would. The spy in him would never trust pub or street fare, even amongst Muggles.
“Yes. I got the recipe from the old woman who lives up the hill. She said she’s lived here her whole life and the recipe had been passed down by the women. I did the shopping this morning while you were reading. Even got bread bowls.”
Tea was taken not in the kitchen but on the back porch by the gas heater. Harry gazed out at the snow-covered yard, imagining the garden of delights that would bloom come spring. There was even a small pond towards the back, beneath a willow tree, and he fancied it a pleasant spot to sit and dream on warmer days.
Severus cleared his throat. “I am glad to hear you’re getting out and about. I was afraid you would see my ban on magic as a restriction on your...other needs.”
“Other...? Oh, yeah, right. Well, not to worry. I’m not much of a person for one-offs, so I’m hardly likely to go trolling for bed partners. But you should go out as well. Mingle, have a little fun.”
“I am hardly the type to go to a pub by myself for drinks. Humans are, in general, too bold once they begin drinking, and I don’t see why I should be forced to humor their desires for social interaction.”
“Um, because you’re human too? And you don’t have to go alone. Go with me. Consider it simply a change in scenery. We’ll take in a pint or two and listen in on the conversations around us to see what the local gossip is.”
The obsidian gaze was unreadable, but Severus’ next words could be taken as his concession. “And when would this outing take place, might I ask?”
“Hmm, well, I’ve already got everything I need to make supper and it’ll go to waste if I don’t use it tonight. It’s Friday, so maybe tomorrow?”
“I suppose I don’t wholly dislike the idea.”
Harry rolled his eyes at the rather lackluster response, but he didn’t take it personally. After seven years of close company with Severus’ acerbic nature, Harry had grown a rather tough skin to the insults.
“All right then. I’m going to head inside and get a start on the cooking. I’ll let you know when supper is ready.”
“Please do. I shall remain out here a while longer, enjoying the tranquility of the afternoon.”
Harry smiled inwardly and made a mental note to check on Severus in half an hour. It wouldn’t do for him to fall ill only two days into their holiday because he had fallen asleep outside on a winter day. As he set to work preparing their meal, he began to hum, losing himself in the routine of cooking.
~ * ~
December 22, 2007 (Saturday)
Harry felt a small amount of pride in his ability to convince Severus that their walk along the marina—on a moonlit night, no less—was simply for digestive purposes. He had been relaxed, the tension in his shoulders melting away as they took in the sights, and Severus had seemed almost regretful when they had turned back, heading for home. It was that sense of peace that prompted Harry to make his next suggestion.
“I booked us a trip to Winter Island for Christmas Eve, since you said you didn’t want to get sucked into all the normal festivities.”
“Did you? And if I were to say that I have no interest in visiting this island with you, or anyone else for that matter?”
“No skin off my back. I’ve heard it’s quite pretty, though. The fresh, crisp air will do you good.”
“I can get that here.”
“Well, yeah, but this is a change—”
“Yes, yes, a change in scenery Very well, Potter, we’ll go, if only to keep you from harassing me that all I do is sit around and read.”
Harry grinned, the smile growing wider when he saw the faintest of blushes tinge Severus’ cheeks. “You won’t regret it, sir.”
They had reached Severus’ house and Severus paused, standing somewhat stiffly with his hand on the door, to give Harry ‘Look Number 2: You’re an Idiot, Potter’. “You have not once used that honorific since you insisted upon maintaining this...this...”
When it seemed he was at a loss for words, Harry prompted him. “Friendship?”
Severus nodded and continued. “I fail to see why you should do so now.”
“Well, perhaps I am making the point that even after two years, you occasionally address me as ‘Mr. Potter’ when I always call you by your first name. It makes me doubt your friendship.”
Severus grimaced, but waved away the worry as well as waving Harry into the house. “Had I found your presence intolerable, you would have been left in no doubt by the end of week four.” He paused a moment, considering. “Would you prefer that I address you only by your given name?”
Harry thought he would prefer him to stop being so formal period, but aloud he replied, “If you don’t find it too complicated, then yes.”
“Then ‘Harry’ it will always be.”
For his part, Harry was trying to convince his cock—which seemed to have decided it was very interested in Severus—to not stand to attention for something as simple as his name and ‘always’ said in the same sentence. Cheeks on fire, he edged toward his favorite chair, taking up a cross-legged position instead of his usual lazy sprawl to hide his untimely erection.
While trying to force down his body’ reactions, he considered why it was necessary. It seemed that when his brain decided to do something, it apparently didn’t intend to do it by halves. One reflection that Severus wasn’t that bad a bloke sexually, and suddenly his voice was like a Siren’s call, sending all blood straight to his cock.
“Christmas Eve, you said?”
The deep baritone voice cut through Harry’s thoughts, jolting him into the present. “Yes. Is that a problem?” He sincerely hoped it wasn’t.
“I was under the impression you would be visiting your friends.”
“Er, I hadn’t planned on it. I told them I’d come by on Boxing Day. You’re invited as well, though I already explained I’d have to warm you to the idea.”
The look of surprised confusion was out of place on Severus’ usually stoic face, and Harry frowned. This insecurity was a new side to Severus that Harry hadn’t believed existed, and it was something he wasn’t sure he liked. It gave Severus an air of vulnerability he had never possessed before.
“Surely it would be preferable to simply go without attempting to persuade me to join you?”
“It would probably be simpler, yeah,” Harry said with a smile. “But preferable? No. I enjoy our conversations. Spending time with you, be it alone or with others, makes me happy.” They were bold words, and he hoped they wouldn’t put Severus off.
“Harry,” Harry corrected.
Severus sighed. “Harry. Perhaps it would be in your best interest if you spent some time alone with your friends.”
“Do you want me to leave you alone here?”
That gave Severus pause, and Harry watched the internal struggle through the tensing of his hands and the thinning of his lips. It was only more proof of just how well he was beginning to know Severus.
“It would be selfish of me to request otherwise.”
“Fine, so don’t request it. Severus, my friends have invited us to their house for Boxing Day. It will only be Ron, Hermione and their daughter, Rose, who is very well behaved. They’ve just told me they’re expecting their second child sometime in the New Year. I would find it greatly pleasing if you would accompany me.”
“I was unaware that Granger’s intelligence had diminished so greatly after the war that she would choose to procreate with the youngest Weasley son. I shall be certain to inquire as to when the children can be expected at Hogwarts so as to secure my retirement beforehand.”
It was the same acidic Severus that Harry knew and loved best. He grinned openly. “You know, one day you’re going to give me a complete heart attack by simply saying ‘yes’, and then where will you be?”
“Reading peacefully in my study, no doubt.”
The insult rolled right off Harry who only threw back his head and laughed. As the sounds died in his throat and he relaxed into a more natural pose once more, he caught a glimpse of something raw in Severus’ eyes. It made him want to leap out of his chair and straddle his lap, but he knew better. Severus’ reaction would go one of two ways, and neither would be in Harry’s favor. Desire would have to take a back seat for the time being.
“I think I’m going to turn in for the night, seeing as how it’s nearly midnight.” Harry stifled a yawn as he climbed back to his feet. “I thought I’d take in a bit of the town’s more well-known history and visit the Salem Witch Museum tomorrow. Any chance you’d care to join me?”
For a moment, it looked as though Severus would refuse, and though his eyes did not brighten nor his lips curve up into a pleased smile, there was a subtle shift in the air around him.
“I imagine there is little truth to what was perceived as witchcraft back then, but I should like to visit there myself.”
“M’kay,” Harry murmured on another yawn. “I’ll—I’ll put the brochures and maps in my bag as soon as I get to my room. G’night, Sev’rus.”
Exhaustion hit him so quickly that Harry barely had time to do as he had promised before he collapsed face down on the bed, one shoe off and the other dangling, his trousers halfway to his knees and shirt rucked up, exposing his back to the chill.
He was so sound asleep, he didn’t hear his door creak open or the softly muttered insults delivered with fondness. And come morning, he struggled to recall if it was he who stripped off all his clothes and tucked himself into bed, positive that Severus would never take such a liberty.
~ * ~
December 24, 2007 (Monday)
The trip to the island had been fun despite the freezing temperatures. Cheeks pinked from the cold and nose relatively numb, Harry hunkered down on the couch beneath a heavy blanket, a mug of white hot chocolate gripped firmly between his hands. The cold made his bones ache but there was something comforting about getting warm the old-fashioned way, rather than using the ever-popular heating charms.
It didn’t hurt that Severus was the one to suggest sharing their body heat while they were on the boat headed home, much to Harry’s delight—and his libido’s. Or that he continued to let Harry cling to him until they arrived, only shaking him off long enough to make them hot drinks.
Harry stole a quick glance at Severus, seated beside him, his heart skipping a beat at the sight. Careful not to betray himself, Harry leaned back and let his head tilt to better watch Severus as he dozed lightly.
Only in sleep was Severus’ face so relaxed. The pallid skin had taken on a healthier glow during their outdoor excursions and there was the faintest hint of color in his cheeks. The lips were still thin, but the hard, unforgiving line they formed by day had fallen slack, the corners pulled up in what could almost be called a smile. The teeth were still as crooked as ever, but the color was better now that Harry had them both drinking lighter teas and no coffee.
Without thinking, Harry leaned over and traced the hooked nose, gently rubbing at the bump near the middle. He wondered if it was a genetic attribute or if there was a story behind it. ‘No doubt a gift from his arsehole of a father,’ Harry thought spitefully.
He jerked back in surprise when a steel grip closed around his wrist and Harry found himself falling into the black gaze, pinning him. The sensation was strangely reminiscent of falling into a pensieve, and he unconsciously reached out to grip a thin yet strong shoulder, steadying himself. He gulped in a breath when Severus’ mouth opened and his name was whispered.
It happened of its own accord. There was no conscious decision, only the sudden realization that Harry was kissing—kissing—Severus. And it was all too clear that while Severus wasn’t protesting, he also didn’t know what to do. So Harry did what he knew how to do best: he took control of the situation.
The hand on Severus’ shoulder moved up, curving over the back of his head, long fingers tangling in the slightly oily locks. Using the fistful of hair, he gave a soft tug and hummed his appreciation when Severus acquiesced, tipping his head back. Not one to give up his advantage, Harry moved forward, pressing closed-mouthed kisses along the strong jaw then nibbling the bottom lip until entry was permitted.
It was the sound of Harry groaning that snapped Severus out of his daze, and he drew back, eyes flashing dangerously. Harry, for his part, was trapped between horrified embarrassment and shocked pleasure. He stuttered, blurting out a flustered apology as he peeled himself off Severus.
“Oh, shit! Shit—fuck—bloody hell! Oh, fuck. I am so, so sorry. Here I am, practically forcing myself on you after you’ve let me stay with for the holiday—I swear, Severus, I didn’t mean to do it like that. I mean, I wanted to, but I know you’re not like that—er, like me... Bloody buggering fuck!”
He bolted for his room, letting the door slam as he gasped for breath. When a wrathful Severus didn’t hex the door off its hinges, he let out a ragged sigh of relief. His escape—for it could be seen as nothing less—would allow Severus to put the blame of what happened on Harry and being tired. Hopefully he would take that long-winded and awkward apology and hear what Harry had truly been saying: he wanted to kiss him, but didn’t want to force it on him.
Severus remained frozen on the couch, hand still outstretched towards the door, phantom kisses heating his face. His mind had gone blank some time ago and he worried that perhaps Harry had somehow cursed him with a kiss. A thought only an idiot would have, but the very act had driven away all his senses.
Clearing his throat, Severus stooped, lifted the blanket to be folded and put away, then scooped up the forgotten mugs and carried them to the kitchen. As he went about his nightly routine of shutting down the house and preparing for bed, Severus’ thoughts kept returning to the feel of Harry’s lips on his, and he found that while he was still mildly shocked, he hadn’t disliked it. Even more, it hadn’t been nearly as disgusting as he would have thought.
But why would he want to kiss him of all people... Possibly Harry had confused respect for something more. He recalled their conversation during their trip to Massachusetts and felt a twinge of worry. Or it could be pity for the forty-seven-year-old virgin? Either way, the brat had questions to answer, but they could wait until tomorrow.
~ * ~
December 25, 2007 (Tuesday)
The dawning of a new day brought with it the uncertainty of the previous night’s events. Unable to face someone twenty years his junior, Severus locked himself in his room, claiming the onset of a cold. If Harry suspected the lie, he didn’t let on.
Upon reflection, Severus decided that while the kiss may have been a pleasant ending to a rather enjoyable day, it was a mistake in the long run. He had spent the last seven years making unspoken apologies for what should have been unforgivably atrocious behavior towards a student in his care. While it had taken him only a year after his recovery to see Harry as ‘Harry’, and not some form of James or Lily, he felt that his grasp on these all-too-human emotions was still tenuous at best. How was he then to go from friends to possibly something more at the risk of losing someone very important to him?
And did he want the bother and chaos of discovering what that something more could be?
It was Harry, after all, who had suggested that he remain in hiding for an additional year, despite having had his name cleared posthumously. It had been Harry—too old for his youth—who had encouraged Severus to figure out if what he truly wanted to do was teach, and then stood beside him as he made his re-entrance into the Wizarding World. Severus had met with resistance, tight-lipped hostility and open hatred, but during every moment, Harry had remained steadfastly by his side.
As his friends had slowly moved on, marrying, starting families, Harry had seemed content to visit Severus at Spinner’s End. They had begun splitting their time between their respective houses, parting only on the nights when Severus’ research overlapped Harry’s various dates with both men and women alike. As time had progressed, Severus had watched the slightly awkward teen blossom into a beautiful young man who had no trouble finding bed partners.
It was the only real dividing line between them, Severus reflected. In his youth he had been the social outcast: poorly dressed, indifferent to his appearance and hygiene, and quick with his temper. His life at Hogwarts had been riddled by taunting, mockery and fights, while his home was little more than a place in which to be abused. There had been no sanctuary and his peers were his enemy.
Joining Voldemort’s ranks had given him confidence in his potions skills, and he found his time consumed by experimentation, research and the desire to simply stay alive. Had there been time for dalliances, he had trusted no one enough to allow them into his bed. When he took on the role of spy and became a professor at his hated school, it had disgusted him to see students frotting in alcoves, degrading themselves and others by flaunting their bodies and bragging about their experiences. What care did he have for wet kisses and messy trysts when he could be furthering his knowledge?
Severus cursed himself roundly for having admitted to his lack of experience. What had he been thinking to tell Harry that? Yes, he had wanted to stop the innocent questions about preferences in lovers, but why had he felt it necessary to admit he had had none? No doubt the wretched boy pitied him.
Before his thoughts could go much further, though, there was a knock on the door. It opened only wide enough for Harry to put his head through, an unruly lock falling over one eye and those hideous glasses perched on his nose. He looked...adorable.
“Severus? I brought you some soup and crackers as well as some tea. I won’t stay long, but I wanted to make sure you had a proper meal before heading out.”
“It’s Christmas day!” The realization made Severus frown.
“Yes, so I was going to go out for a bit. So you can rest.”
There was a tinge of hesitancy in Harry’s voice that hadn’t been there in nearly five years. Clearly, he thought he was doing Severus some huge favor by leaving him alone—which he was—but being alone on the holidays was always upsetting for Harry, something he had mentioned only once but it had left a lasting impression on Severus. The blame obviously belonged to Harry’s Muggle relatives, but even knowing that changed nothing.
“I should think that after eating whatever it is you have made me, I shall be adequately revived enough for conversation. Or even, perhaps, a game of chess?” It pleased him to see Harry blush.
“I’d like that, if you’re certain I wouldn’t be a bother?” Harry stepped all the way into the room bearing a tray, which he slid onto the bedside table. But rather than leave it there, he produced a small lap tray with legs and set it up. Once the food was suitably arranged, he leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to Severus’ cheek.
“Merry Christmas,” he whispered, before disappearing.