Later that afternoon, he, Ron and Hermione all leaned on each other as they staggered back to the castle after their Care of Magical Creatures exam.
"My ankle," Ron was moaning, "my ankle - "
"Oh, pipe down," Hermione said in exasperation. "Harry sprained his on Saturday and you didn't hear him wailing about it, did you?"
"A sprain is not the same thing as a bite, Hermione! I'm lucky I have any foot left!"
"I warned you not to poke it," Harry said glumly, limping a bit himself. "Hagrid told us they had quick tempers."
"Look, who asked you two?" Ron demanded. "Oh, God, are we ever lucky Hagrid's teaching that class. Anybody else would have failed us for sure."
"Hagrid wouldn't fail anybody," Hermione agreed. "I bet you even the Slytherins all pass. And we did four TIMES the work they did." She sniffed. "He's such a softie."
"Oh, don't even pretend you mind," Ron grumbled.
"Of course I don't mind! You know I'm very fond of Hagrid! I'd never - what are you doing, Harry?"
What Harry was doing was disentangling himself from Ron, which meant Hermione had to bear nearly all his weight. "I'm just going to the library," he said. "Can you handle him? I need to get brushed up on Charms."
"But the hospital wing, you're limping - " Hermione protested.
"I'm fine," Harry said. "I just bruised my shin. I'll see you at dinner then?" Their replies were affirmative but distracted, no doubt exacerbated by Ron's dropping the handkerchief which he was using to staunch the blood.
He wasn't lying, not really, Harry told himself, as he trotted down the stone hallways. He was going to the library. He just wasn't going to stay there. Feeling vaguely sorry for Snape in his confinement, he thought he might bring him some books or something when he visited. Precious thanks he was likely to get for it, he reflected sourly, but he was going to do it all the same.
He supposed he should also feel sorry for Snape being stuck at Hogwarts, but the truth was, with summer's fast approach, that sounded like heaven to Harry. He sometimes dreamed of being allowed to stay at Hogwarts, even without his friends there, instead of going to the Dursleys'.
Harry nosed around the Potions section of the library, looking for something that might be interesting. To Snape, anyway. The only way Harry would ever like Potions was if he had that Concentration Charm on. Ugh. But most of this stuff looked pretty elementary, geared for students. Snape had probably read all of them already. Maybe down here in the corner. There, he could see some thicker tomes -
Harry had just found a fairly promising-looking copy of Asphodel and the Aboriginal Myth when a very familiar voice, accompanied by sudden footsteps just on the other side of the shelf, made him look up.
" - way it bit Weasley," Draco Malfoy's voice was chuckling malevolently. "Did you hear how he screamed like a baby? Face as red as his hair? Most flattering view of him I've ever seen."
Harry's hand clenched on the book. Two thick-voiced chuckles followed the gleeful remark, no doubt Crabbe's and Goyle's. "Yes, it's been a very good few days," Draco continued. "Weasley getting bit, that idiot Binns giving the exam, getting rid of the traitor ... " he laughed softly.
"You really think he's dead?" Crabbe whispered.
"Of course he is," Draco hissed back. "You think anybody crosses the Dark Lord and lives? No, the oily bastard's lying in pieces all over the countryside, you can be sure ... Dumbledore's just hushing it up until he can collect them all ... "
Harry sat still on the floor, mouth open and clutching the book, hanging on every word as comprehension and fury filled him in equal measure. Draco! Draco had - ?
"Serves him right," Draco continued, his voice suddenly going sharp with spite. "Turning me down - like he could do better! I'm just as glad he did, though; dunno what I would've done if he'd said yes ... the horror! It was only 'cos Father put me up to it ... " But his voice was definitely sulky. "Humph. A little too wrapped up in precious Harry Potter, just like everybody else, if you ask me ... well, he'll never kiss him again, you mark my words, the twisted old fuck ... "
Harry, who had been on the verge of flying over in a rage with the intent to smash Draco into many tiny pieces, froze in horror. Draco knew he'd kissed Snape? But how could he possibly ... ?
He heard the sound of a book sliding out of the shelf, and then footsteps receding again. Harry continued sitting on the floor, stunned, before he roused himself and, still clutching his massive book, staggered over to the circulation desk. Thankfully Draco & Co. were nowhere in sight. Harry's mind spun as he shoved the book in his bag with some difficulty and hurried as fast as he could to Dumbledore's office. He had to tell the headmaster. Draco Malfoy was the one who'd betrayed Snape, and Dumbledore -
Dumbledore surely knew that already.
Harry stopped dead in front of the stone gargoyle, staring blankly at it for a few seconds before mustering the presence of mind to stammer, "Ring Dings." As it slid open obediently, Harry reflected on what Dumbledore had said to him: "There are some details I am, after careful consideration, keeping from you." But why wouldn't Dumbledore want Harry to know that Malfoy was the traitor? Surely Harry, as a student, was in an excellent position to keep an eye on Draco.
Of course, Harry was also in a position to attack Draco the first chance he got, and all his impulses were definitely tending that way. He sighed. No doubt that was why the headmaster hadn't wanted him involved, not after the fire-setting fiasco. When was he going to learn to use his head ... ?
His visit with Snape that day was rather subdued, and only lasted a few minutes, since the Potions Master was tired, and not quite ready to forget the parting shot Harry had delivered the day before. Harry mentioned Draco, and wasn't surprised to discover Snape had known already. He was surprised to find that Snape was delighted with the book - delighted in a Snapeish sort of way, meaning he sneered a little less than usual and promptly furnished Harry with a list of other books to fetch from the library. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled like mad when Harry told him this, and gave him permission to visit Snape until the end of the term.
"You're doing him the world of good," he proclaimed, and added, "ready for your Charms exam yet?"
As it turned out, Harry was, and did fairly well on it, and his other exams. He divided his time between studying with his friends, actually taking the tests, scouring the library, and visiting Snape. He also did his best to avoid Draco and his gang completely; whenever he saw the younger Malfoy, he was filled with a rage that he hadn't felt even on learning the truth about Peter Pettigrew, and knew that he was in danger of losing control. That was the last thing he needed.
As for the issue of secrecy, there were a few awkward moments, especially when an incredulous Ron demanded to know why on earth Harry had a copy of Ten Essential Essays On the Toxicity of Mugwump Root in his bag, but he and Hermione always accepted whatever excuse Harry gave for his absences. Of course, Harry reflected as he entered Snape's sickroom one day, they weren't likely to start guessing at the truth, were they?
This was Friday, and Harry was infused with the normal mixture of relief and trepidation that came at the end of Exams Week. He was finally finished, but that meant he was finally finished, and next week he'd be going back to Privet Drive. Dreadful. He tried to put the thought out of his mind as he greeted Dumbledore, who warned him, "He's feeling a bit surly today."
"So what else is new?" Harry joked, careful to whisper, and mentally armed himself against any barbs that were likely to come his way. Snape was the worst patient he'd ever seen. Madam Pomfrey was lucky she didn't have to deal with him: Dumbledore looked ten years older after playing nursemaid for a week.
Snape was in bed when Harry came in, instead of sitting up. He had on his gray nightshirt; evidently he hadn't gotten up at all today. Harry blinked, but didn't voice his concern, seeing that Snape looked irritated already. Instead he fished into his bag and silently handed Snape Ten Essential Essays. Snape laid it on the bedside table, growling something that might have been thanks. They sat for a few moments in silence.
"How was your Divinations exam?" Snape asked, so abruptly that Harry almost jumped in his chair.
"Oh. Fine," he said, feeling kind of stupid. "I predicted I would get killed by Muggles this summer in a back-alley knife fight. She seemed to like it." Snape snorted. "How are you feeling today?"
"Perfectly well," Snape snarled. "Dumbledore has some bee in his bonnet just because I was light-headed this morning." He plucked irritably at the coverlet, which by now was deep purple and matched the drapes. Harry thought the colour rather suited him, actually, though Snape never seemed comfortable in anything but black.
"Why was that?" he asked before he could stop himself. Snape glared at him.
"I'm sure I don't know," he said scathingly. "I'm no doctor. And neither is he. Madam Pomfrey would never stand for this coddling nonsense."
Harry wasn't too sure about that, but felt more compelled to stick up for Dumbledore. "He cares about you. He's just worried."
"How touching," Snape sneered.
"Look, I know you don't like being cooped up in here," Harry said in exasperation. "I wouldn't either. And Dumbledore probably wishes he had his room back as much as anybody." True to his word, the headmaster had been sleeping in the study.
"He's welcome to it," Snape shot back. "I'd give it back with all good grace, that I can promise you."
"Chance'd be a fine thing," Harry grinned, unable to see Snape doing anything involving good grace.
"Oh, shut up," Snape grumbled.
"Fine," Harry said amiably, having just spotted a tray of sweets and a pot of hot tea sitting by the window. He went over for a closer look. "I'll just eat instead of talk. Who sent these?"
"McGonagall sent the sweets. Dumbledore makes the tea."
"Nice of them," Harry murmured, sniffing the air. "Smells good. Is it that mint tea the headmaster had last time?"
"I'm sure," Snape said, his voice remarkably sour. Then, sarcastically, "Do help yourself."
"Thought I might." Harry had already popped a Cockroach Cluster in his mouth. He filled two cups of tea. "You take sugar?"
Surprise, surprise, Harry thought, but refrained from rolling his eyes. He handed Snape the warm mug - and their fingers brushed.
He felt like someone had struck him with a Jelly-Legs Jinx, and sat down rather quickly so Snape wouldn't see. His effort at remaining cool was a little spoiled when his other hand shook and sloshed the tea around in his own mug. But Snape didn't seem to notice; indeed, his own hand seemed to be shaking a little, though that might have been because he wasn't feeling well. Rattled, Harry blew on the hot liquid and took a careful sip. Damn. He'd been able to keep thoughts like that to a minimum over the past few days, and had rather hoped he'd be able to escape the school year with his dignity intact.
"Well," he said a little too brightly, "The feast is tomorrow night and we all go home Sunday morning. You'll be able to leave then - nobody here to see you, we'll all be gone, that's good, eh?" Then he snapped his mouth shut, aware that he was beginning to babble.
Snape, who hadn't looked at him since accepting the tea, frowned into his cup. "Yes," he said slowly. "You'll be gone."
That wasn't much help, conversation-wise, though Harry wasn't entirely sure why he suddenly felt the desperate urge to fill the silence up. They'd sat without talking before and it hadn't bothered him. "What'll you do this summer?"
"Research, I expect," Snape answered, still staring into his cup. "Not much else to do, is there?" He shifted on his elbow, evidently intending to raise himself to a better sitting position so he could drink without choking, but the mug wobbled and some of the hot tea spilled down onto the front of the nightshirt. He hissed in pain, setting the mug on the bedside table with a clatter. Alarmed, and not thinking at all, Harry put his own mug down and quickly leaned forward, taking one of Snape's hands in his and pulling it away so he could inspect the damage. It didn't seem too bad, certainly not bad enough to merit the way Snape had frozen all of a sudden -
Harry suddenly realised that Snape's face was now only inches from his own, that he was standing crouched over Snape's body, clutching hard at his hand, his breathing elevated. He stared dazedly into those dark eyes, twin coals that seemed to have caught fire.
"Oh," he said, helplessly. Then he was leaning in to kiss Snape, wanting that more than anything and wanting it enough to risk being shoved away and yelled at. But he wasn't shoved away - his lips pressed hard against those thin ones, they opened for him, and Harry was inside, his tongue clumsily renewing acquaintance with the other.
Snape remained frozen for a few moments, allowing Harry's kiss but not encouraging it, as if stunned. Then he made a hoarse, growling sound in the back of his throat and Harry felt a hand come down on the back of his neck like iron, while another seized his hip, pulling him down onto the bed. Never loosening his hold or breaking the kiss, Snape rolled over until Harry was nicely pinned under him - I suppose he really is feeling all right, Harry thought vaguely - and proceeded to suck Harry's tongue hard into his mouth, still making those growling noises.
Harry had thought he'd remembered it all: the way Snape tasted, the way he felt - he'd dreamed about it often enough. But this was no stone balcony, and the temperature wasn't a thousand below zero. This was a soft bed beneath him, and another body lying right on top of him, wearing a thin nightshirt instead of a winter-weight robe. Harry felt his limbs start to move of their own will, twining around Snape like ivy, his legs snaking around one of the other man's, his arms going up around Snape's neck. He felt himself getting hard and couldn't seem to stop his hips from rubbing, catlike, against Snape's thigh, moaning deep in his throat at the incredible sensation this produced, even through the layers of clothes ... and God, that mouth was so hot, and wet, and it tasted like mint-flavoured tea ... he couldn't stop clinging, could hear himself groaning into the kiss - this was - he was -
Snape tugged their mouths apart, causing Harry to gasp, but he didn't go far, moving instead to tug Harry's collar aside and lick and suck hungrily at his throat. One hand stayed on Harry's hip, the thumb rubbing in little circles, while the other moved from his neck to trace a path down his spine with fingernails. Harry's hips jerked and he moaned, brain blown, unable to process all the sensations.
"Whoever else did this to you," Snape hissed in his ear, "you didn't like it so much - they didn't make you feel this way - " he took an earlobe between his teeth and worried it, moving up to nip the ridge of the ear, and then to lick the space behind, as if mapping the whole area.
Harry whimpered incoherently, mouthing at Snape's cheek, temple, ear, whatever part of him he could reach. "N-no," he finally managed as his mind eventually processed the non-question. "Oh, God. Oh, please." He didn't know what exactly he was asking for, but his hips had continued to move against Snape, and he knew that in a few moments he would certainly -
Snape's hand tightened on his hip, forcing him to stillness, and Harry couldn't stop a soft wail of despair. He was so close he could taste it.
He could feel Snape's forehead come to rest against his own, could hear the other man's harsh, frustrated pants for air, could feel - good Lord. Pressing into his stomach, that had to be - he moaned again, a thready, desperate noise.
"We can't," Snape managed.
"Oh God," was all Harry could reply. Lips brushed gently against his eyebrow, his temple, his cheek and nose, as if unable to come to a complete halt. His own lips mouthed desperately, uselessly into the air. Long fingers were gently tugging his collar back into place, covering the tiny bruise that had begun to form.
Little by little, Snape began to pull away, and as that mesmerising body heat receded, Harry began to calm down and remember exactly where he was. In the headmaster's bed. And if Dumbledore were to come in -
"Shit," he gasped, eyes flying to the door and his arousal freezing up, but there was no disapproving Dumbledore glaring at him from the doorway. He relaxed fractionally.
"You see? Bad idea," Snape muttered in a strained voice, no longer actively kissing and touching Harry, but not untangling their bodies all the way either.
Harry took a deep breath. "Good idea," he corrected, amazed at how breathless he sounded, as if he'd been running for miles. "Just not here."
Snape merely shook his head, black eyes glazed over, looking thoroughly pole-axed. Harry unwound himself from the older man, suddenly remembering how they'd been locked together just a few days ago in their desperate flight. This was much more pleasant. Soon they were mostly separate again, lying side by side on the bed among the thoroughly rumpled covers, their hands the only body parts still entwined. Snape made an effort to pull his hand away, but Harry tightened his grip.
"You'll write to me this summer," he said firmly, pleased that he'd got his voice back. "Give you something to do besides research."
"All right," Snape replied faintly, his breathing still shallow and unsteady.
"I turn sixteen in July, you know," Harry continued.
"Mm-hm. Age of consent in Britain. I found that out." Snape's breath caught.
"You're still my student," he said feebly.
Harry leaned over and brushed a kiss against the other man's forehead, awed by his own daring. "Remember? Famous Harry Potter doesn't pay attention to rules. First time it'll be to your advantage."
Snape closed his eyes, and Harry finally let go his hand as he scrambled out of the bed. It was almost dinner-time; no doubt Dumbledore would be poking his head in soon.
"You would be willing," Snape finally said, in a low, haunted voice, "to lie to Weasley and Granger? And everybody else? Sneak around behind their backs with someone who could choose to pass or fail you depending on how you please him?"
Harry blinked. "Not willing, exactly," he said eventually. "It's not like I'd want to, but if I had to ... and you wouldn't do that," he added with quiet confidence.
"I might," Snape snapped, the glazed look finally leaving his eyes.
"But you wouldn't."
"But I MIGHT. I am your TEACHER. Do you have any idea how much power I have over you?"
Harry glared at him. "Fine," he said flatly. "I can take that, if you can take being with someone who could get you sacked by going and crying to the headmaster that you took advantage of him if you gave him a bad grade." Snape turned a little pale. "But you know me," Harry continued. "D'you honestly think I'd do something like that? For God's sake, I just flew through a burning forest with Voldemort on my tail, you KNOW I've got more guts than sense."
It was Snape's turn to blink, and then his lips actually twitched. "I do hope you're not waiting for a denial," he said dryly.
"I'm not," Harry said, relieved that the other man, if not in complete agreement with him, was no longer arguing. Then he bent and shouldered his bag. "I have to go. I, um ... " he frowned, suddenly realising. "I'm not going to see you again before I leave, am I? There'll be no time tomorrow, and Sunday morning ... "
"I'll survive, I'm sure," Snape said, but something in his voice made Harry take notice.
"You'll miss me?" he asked, trying to sound casual and failing miserably.
Snape's lips thinned into a line. "I rather think I'll find ways to fill the time."
Harry nodded, trying not to smile, trying to think of something to say that wouldn't ruin everything by being stupid or awkward. "Well, I'll miss you," he said eventually, and couldn't help a snort. How about that? He was really going to miss Snape this summer. He dared to lay a brief hand on the gray-clad shoulder and was reassured when it wasn't shaken off. Maybe they ... maybe they could.
"I-I'll see you next term," he managed, and fled the room before he said something really stupid.
To his surprise, Dumbledore was still at his desk in his office, apparently hard at work. "I see you survived," he said amusedly, not looking up from the parchment on which he was scribbling in his uniquely loopy hand.
"Uh, yeah," Harry said, "yeah, it was ... fine." At that, the headmaster looked up. For a second Harry was speared on that piercing blue gaze and he had that feeling again, the feeling that Dumbledore knew absolutely everything that went on in his school, and that what had just happened in his bedroom was no exception. Harry began to sweat, and to wonder if he had the gumption to lie outright to Albus Dumbledore; he'd better, if there was any chance at all of having what he suddenly wanted more than - well, anything. It was rather like a madness, really ...
Dumbledore gave him a little half-smile, and Harry felt his muscles relaxing all at once. He almost staggered. "I am sure he appreciated your visits," the old man said gently. He stared again at Harry for a few moments. "Funny, how people's minds work ... yes, I believe I said that to you once before about Severus ... "
"Sir?" Harry asked, a little nervously.
Dumbledore waved his hand, turning back to the parchment before him. "Nothing, nothing. Just an old man's wandering mind, Harry. Go down and have your dinner. I'll see you at the feast tomorrow."
Harry nodded and escaped, feeling weak-kneed, for more reasons than one.
Part 10 | Non Anime Fanfiction