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growing pains 06

23. 7. 2011

"I'll pick you up first thing in the morning. Promise," Harry chuckled as Albus' muffled protests vibrated through the mantle. As he met his gaze, Harry gave a shrug and grinned. "I hate to say it, but I really think he'd watch."

Perhaps it was a result of his heightened nervousness at finally being here in Harry's bedroom, but for the first time since he'd been restored to adulthood, Severus found himself unable to stop a chuckle. Within seconds, it broke out into an all out laugh, with Harry's rich laughter ringing along.

"Damn it, I've missed your laugh!" Harry exclaimed when they calmed, his features sobering.

Severus felt his own expression return to normal. Staring down into Harry's fire lit face, he found the courage to admit, "So have I. I think it was the thing I missed most when we were restored."

"Thank you for letting me hear it again," Harry said with an odd formality. Then he reached up to gently brush his fingers over Snape's bound hair. "Do you have any idea how you look right now with that fire light shifting over you?"

"How I look?" he whispered, his voice hoarse and raspy.

"All sleek and sensual . . . dark and mysterious," Harry said in a low tone that shivered right through him.

Every horrible experience in his past warned him not to heed those words. He knew what he was, what he looked like, and yet . . . Harry had asked him to promise to have faith in him.

He swallowed hard and tried to find something to say, but no words would come out. His gaze dropped under Harry's frankly appraising eyes. Heat flushed through him. Light headed and confused, he wished himself back in the sanctuary of his own rooms. Alone was bad, but it didn't leave him off balance like this. Last night's disaster was too much with him. He knew he couldn't do this. Despite Harry's willingness to put it all behind them, Severus knew it would all fall apart again. The anxiety of waiting for this new catastrophe to strike was making it difficult to even draw breath. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't . . . . He just couldn't.

"Severus?" a warm, moist palm cupped his cheek.

Severus snapped his eyes open at the heat of the sudden contact. His stomach was twisted in knots, the nut bread and tea he'd consumed threatening to make a reappearance. And, wouldn't that go over well?

He stared into Harry's tired eyes, not knowing what to say or how to say it.

"It's okay," Harry murmured in the tone one might use to soothe a frightened horse.

"I don't know – " He didn't even know how to finish that sentence.

"I do. It will be all right. Do you trust me?" Harry asked.

He gave a tight, affirmative nod and added a choked, "Yes," in case the gesture wasn't enough assurance.

"Close your eyes for a moment, then," Harry requested.

His nerves stretched tight, he did as requested. A strange sensation rushed across his skin and he could feel the power surge through the air. Suddenly, his legs felt cold, his waist, chest, and shoulders looser. Startled, he opened his eyes again and stared down at himself. Harry had transfigured his clothing. Instead of trousers, shirt, and boots, he found himself wearing his nightclothes. To be precise, he was wearing his favourite grey and white striped flannel nightshirt and a pair of fuzzy sheepskin slippers, the tea stains on the top of which exactly matched his own. Harry hadn't transfigured his clothes; he'd replaced them.

Shocked at the matter-of-fact display of a tremendously complex manifestation and substitution spell, he stared down at Harry's face. It was the same attractive, quirky face he'd known these last few months. The same innocent eyes. There wasn't a hint of pride or hubris over the incredible spellcraft Potter had just worked without a wand. At the peak of his power, Voldemort hadn't been capable of anything near that impressive. The only wizard he'd known who could come close to that level of ability was Albus, who was several hundred years old at his death.

Harry silently held out Severus' wand to him and said as though nothing extraordinary had occurred, "We'll just make like we're kids and going to bed at Hermione's and Ron's again, all right? That was never nerve-wracking, was it?"

He opened his mouth to comment and didn't know what to say. How did you ask someone powerful enough to rule the Wizarding World what he was doing teaching thirteen year olds how to avoid grindylows? So, he gave a quiet, "No," and watched as Harry unselfconsciously removed his own robes and clothes down to his underpants the old fashioned way.

Leaving the clothes in a messy pile on the floor, Harry retrieved his wand from the pocket of his fallen robes and passed it over himself, performing what Severus knew to be a quick cleansing spell that Hermione had taught them both five months ago as children. Clad only in a pair of sweaty, white cotton boxers that hugged his well-shaped arse, Harry moved to the dresser across the room to place his holly wand on top of it and pull his nightshirt from the second drawer.

He watched as Harry shouldered his way into a brown flannel nightshirt. As its loose folds fell around him, concealing that lean and muscular form, Severus decided that the woodsy colour suited his friend well.

Harry gave him a gamin grin and then reached up beneath his brown nightshirt to peel off his boxers. They, too, remained where they fell. At his pointed stare, Harry shrugged and said, "Dobby gets upset if I don't leave him something to do." Potter returned to him at the side of the bed and asked, "You ready?"

"As I'll ever be," Severus replied, calmed in spite of himself. It was foolish, really. There was no less pressure going to bed with Harry now than there had been five minutes ago, but the thoughtful manifestation of his own nightshirt and bedroom slippers had eased him immensely. The nightclothes didn't make any true difference, he knew. Nothing but two thin layers of flannel separated them now, but Severus still felt . . . protected by that shield.

Harry's insight, his ability to know what would comfort him, astounded Severus. Recognizing anew the gift he was being given here, Severus moved to the far side of the bed, toed out of his slippers, and climbed in as he would have done in the Weasleys' guest room two months ago, while Potter did the same on the other side. After slipping his wand beneath the fluffy feather pillow, Severus smoothed the royal blue duvet over his chest and laid back.

Once Harry settled in, the wall torch lights immediately dimmed. Only the hearth fire remained lit.

As they lie side by side in the dimly lit room, a new nervousness consumed him as Severus wondered what would happen now. This wasn't like anything he had known in his past. There was an almost wrenching innocence to the whole thing that moved him to the core, and, yet, it was the most joltingly erotic experience he could recall. Lying here in Harry's huge bed, smelling him on the sheets, feeling the other man's body heat seeping across the big bed, he'd gone instantly hard. He hadn't a clue what to do about it – if anything. Harry had said like at the Weasleys'.

Just when he thought the nervous tension would shatter him, Harry turned on his side to face him and asked in a soft tone, "How're you doing?"

The 'fine' died on his lips as he rolled onto his side and met Harry's gaze across the pillows. A whole three feet of space separated them. He wanted to be closer; yet, it wasn't his way to ask for such a thing. But Harry had asked him to have faith in him, and, why else was he here, if not for them to be closer?

His mouth dry, he tried to swallow. Failing that, he rasped out, "The bed seems so much larger than the one we shared at Hermione and Ron's."

"We don't have to stay at opposite ends, you know. I could move closer to you," Harry suggested with endearing care. He obviously knew how difficult all of this was for him.

Severus silently lifted the duvet and Harry slid over into the middle of the bed, his head now resting on the middle pillow instead of the one at the far end.

"You must be finding this terribly tedious," Severus remarked, embarrassed by his anxiety.

Harry's right hand reached out to touch his arm. "You're here. That's all that matters. The rest will work itself out."

"It will?" Severus asked, wondering where Harry got his certainty from – and his patience. This really couldn't be all that exciting for the younger man.

"Severus, I'm exhausted. It's been a hard two days. I'm not up for much more than a kiss and a cuddle." The reluctance with which Harry voiced that last bit convinced him of its truth.

A kiss and a cuddle. It sounded like heaven to his jumpy body.

Reading the nervousness and the silent plea in Harry's eyes, Severus shifted closer. Feeling strangely self-conscious, he laid his right arm over Harry's right side and leaned in for a kiss.

His nose got there two days before the rest of him as usual, and there was the unavoidable awkwardness of positioning his face so that this didn't turn into a comedy act. But Harry's body seemed to meld itself to meet him. Harry's head tilted in exactly the right angle for Severus' nose to avoid the painful, humiliating crush that normally was the result of those first few kisses. Harry didn't so much as crack a smile at his clumsiness. His lips just moved to meet his. Dry lips against dry lips, and then it was all moist, and warm, and juicy.

Harry's mouth opened to him and their bodies slid together for that cuddle Harry had requested. Within moments he was lost in the taste and vibrant warmth that was Harry Potter.

Harry rolled over onto his back. Severus felt himself being pulled over on top of him by arms that had been strengthened by years of hanging onto a speeding broomstick. Settling on top of that warm, hard body was the most incredible sensation Severus could remember feeling. He was intensely aware of their bare, hairy legs twining together, and the bony feel of Harry's hip as his erection pressed instinctively against it.

He pulled back from the kiss and froze, remembering that Harry had asked for only a kiss and hug. He started to pull his lower body away, but Harry made a protesting mewl and his hand slid straight down Severus' back to his butt and pushed him back to where he'd been. The hand stayed there on his bottom, a warm pressure that made him tremble with anticipation.

It had been so long since anyone . . . would Harry even want that from him? His breath hitched in his chest at the possibility and his blood turned to quicksilver in his veins.

Their culture made it so hard for men to ask to be taken, even when they were in bed together. Always in the past when Severus had found the nerve to request it from a partner, they'd been more than happy to indulge him, but afterwards their attitudes had made it plain what they'd thought of him, how his need had diminished him in their eyes, and he'd always felt dirty afterwards. Dirty and used. Somehow, he knew in his soul that if Harry were to indulge him that way, it would be different with Potter.

But that wasn't for tonight. Tonight was for kisses, and cuddles, and whatever else Harry was up for.

Harry's other hand hooked his neck and pulled him down into another kiss. Once they were absorbed again, the hand left his neck to stroke his hair. Severus shivered as the silver and leather clasp that bound it in place was popped open and dropped onto the bed. His hair cascaded down around their faces like a silky black curtain.

Harry's fingers proceeded to tangle themselves in it, grasping it like he'd never let go. The kiss deepened, their tongues met in a dance that was becoming wonderfully familiar.

Severus buried his own hands in the bird's nest of shaggy black tangles that was Harry's hair. It felt soft as ermine fur beneath his fingers.

The kiss was all he was, all he wanted to be. Its sweetness ran through him. In its enticing depths he found an acceptance and a promise such as he'd never known. This wasn't furtive; it wasn't dirty. The feeling he felt here in Harry's arms was transformative. For perhaps the first time in his life, Severus knew that come morning, his lover would still be there – and still be his lover. This wasn't just an urge of the flesh, an itch to be scratched and forgotten come morning. This was . . . .

He gasped into Harry's mouth as the hand left his hair to trail down his back, joining its companion at his bum. Those strong fingers pressed down through his nightshirt, learning the shape of his arse.

His heart jolting at the sensations those exploring fingers induced, Severus broke the kiss, threw back his head, and moaned.

"You like that?" Harry's passion roughened voice whispered. "Is it okay?"

He wanted to answer, truly he did, but the rush of pleasure made words impossible. All he could do was whimper, thrust down at Harry, and hope that Harry understood.

Harry seemed to. His fingers gave the flat mounds he was touching a tentative squeeze.

Red-hot ecstasy ripped through him. Severus couldn't believe that the cry that filled the room was his own. Another minute or two of this and he'd be reduced to a puddle of pulsating protoplasm. Merlin knew, his cock was certainly headed that way with the way it was throbbing.

It almost seemed Harry read his mind, for Potter's hands pushed and prodded at him until Severus slid his hips a little to the right. They both made a startled noise as their flannel covered groins settled together.

"That's not going to work," Harry said.

Severus gave a protesting cry as those hands abandoned his bum. Harry grabbed hold of his nightshirt and tugged it up above Snape's nonexistent waist. Then Harry struggled to do the same with his own. Severus lifted his hips a bit to allow the obstruction to be removed, and then . . . and then Harry's calloused palms reclaimed his bare bum and guided him back down.

Their cocks met in a steamy bump that sent skyrockets shooting off through his nervous system. One of Harry's hands abandoned his butt long enough to guide his head back down into one of those marvellous kisses. Then it was back on his bottom, cupping and squeezing his most sensitive area along with its partner and Severus lost all higher thought.

All he was was sensation, and that sensation was going to immolate him. Everything he was, everything he was ever going to be, was offered up to this feeling. He would have sacrificed his life, his integrity, his entire world to keep it. Only, for the first time in his miserable existence, Severus knew that his joy was not going to come with that kind of price tag. Loving Harry wasn't going to diminish him or weaken him in any way. To the contrary, Severus could feel the power of this emotion warming and healing all those cold and hurt parts of himself that had all but shrivelled up and died from atrophy.

It was simple frottage; it shouldn't have felt this good, but the sensations rushing through him as he humped down against Harry's sweaty erection were nearly sublime. And, every time those knowing fingers squeezed his bum, the 'nearly' that had qualified his earlier assessment disappeared and he knew true perfection.

Had he been more self-aware, he would have held in the noises he was making. But there was no control left in him. As he rocked against Harry and reacted to those masterful squeezes, he cried out in a truly embarrassing manner.

Harry didn't seem disturbed or put off by it, though. He was making his own share of noise as he bucked up to meet him.

It seemed forever and no time at all before he felt the gathering in his body and the world seemed to melt around him as ecstasy transformed him into pure power. This was what the heart of magic felt like, he realized as every touch-starved cell in his body rejoiced at this never before sharing. No pain, no shame, no hurting, there was nothing but pleasure and tenderness here in Harry's arms.

Harry froze below him, and he felt hot spurts hit his stomach as his own shaft sprayed Harry's belly with its sticky, hot gift.

When it was through, he collapsed down on top of Harry, buried his nose between Harry's shaggy hair and sleek neck, and tried to remember how to breathe. He could feel Harry going through a similar process below him. He knew that he was too heavy to stay here on top of his smaller partner, but when he made to roll off, Harry's fingers dug into his naked bum and refused to allow him to move. Those fingers stayed there, and he was preternaturally aware of them as his breathing steadied to something near normal.

"You okay?" Harry murmured after a long time of just hanging on to each other.

"I'd say that was considerably more than a kiss and a cuddle," Severus said when the various pleasure-blasted pieces of his brain reassembled enough for coherency. Because he was free to do it, he leaned down and kissed the tip of Potter's slightly upturned nose, the action veiling both their faces behind a curtain of black hair.

Harry's hands rose from his butt to either side of his face. His fingers carded through his hair and then pulled him down into another kiss that was slower than the previous ones, but no less sweet.

When he raised his head for air an eternity or two later, he stared down at Harry in absolute wonder. Never had he seen Harry so relaxed or so happy. There actually seemed to be a glow to Harry's features. His sleepy, green eyes certainly had a strange light in them as he smiled up at him.

"I could kiss you forever," Harry said, reaching up to run his index finger along the line of Snape's jaw.

Even after the incredible orgasm Harry had just given him, that tender touch made him shiver.

"I wouldn't object," Severus replied.

Relief washed over Harry's features, as though he'd been in some doubt of that fact. "Good, that's good."

Severus felt a small smile twist the corners of his lips as Harry nearly cracked his jaw on an enormous yawn. He looked so beautiful with his cheeks flushed with pleasure and eyes still a little dazed. He felt so warm and welcoming beneath him. Severus didn't know if he'd ever felt this warm in his life.

Harry's hand slipped down to his back and started to softly stroke. "Do you think you could sleep? I know you had a nap at Hermione and Ron's."

"I'll be fine," he promised, already feeling a pleasant lassitude seeping through him. It had been nearly twenty years since he'd had sex two nights in a row.

"You'll stay, won't you? I mean, you won't sneak back to your rooms once I fall asleep?" Harry looked legitimately concerned by the possibility.

"If I leave, then you won't be able to kiss me forever," Severus answered, because he knew it would make Harry smile.

"Brilliant," Harry sighed and settled back against the pillows.

After the briefest of hesitations, Severus shifted to the left and slid off Harry onto the cool sheets. He settled his head on same pillow with Harry's, and threw his right arm and leg across Harry's warmth.

Not surprisingly, Harry was asleep within moments. Feeling how sticky his stomach and groin were, and guessing that his companion must be in a similar state, Severus strained to reach his hand over under the far pillow for his wand, without disturbing Harry. He snagged its end, pulled it to him and performed a quick cleansing spell on them both. Once their bodies and nightshirts were returned to their former cleanliness, he tucked his wand under their pillow, settled back down, and took a deep breath of the Harry/sex scented air.

No disasters, not tonight. Barely able to believe the living reality he was now free to touch, he lay on his side watching the firelight shift across his sleeping lover's face.

Seventeen years ago when he'd first laid eyes on the boy, Harry had been the picture of his father, hated for no more reason than that on first sight. But now . . . though the resemblance was still strong, Harry's face wasn't nearly as broad as James' had been. And James hadn't had that cleft in his chin. But more than all of that, James had never had the kindness in his face that Harry did. Both Potters had been handsome men, but James' looks had been a bit too perfect, his features etched with an arrogance born of cruelty, while Harry . . . .

The sickeningly sentimental side he was developing where his lover was concerned wanted to insist that Harry had the innocence of an angel in his features. To some degree, it was probably true. Throughout his school years, Harry had traded on that wide-eyed innocence to talk his way out of trouble, just as his father before him had used his charm to do the same. But there was more to Harry than just that, so much more. The pain and loneliness he'd suffered as a child had left their marks there, too. Even when asleep, there was the slightest hint of worry to his features. It moved Severus more than the innocence ever could, because it was something to which he could relate. There had never been a time when he himself could be deemed truly innocent, but pain and loneliness, he knew them well. Finding them there in Harry's face, he resolved to do his best to sooth them away. He mightn't be able to do anything about the past that had put them there, but he could do his best to see that the future was different for Harry.

Providing Harry wanted him to, of course. Normally, he would have chided himself that he was making some major assumptions here, but Harry had promised – as had he. I, Severus Snape, shall do my utmost to have faith in Harry Potter. With the way the Wizarding World was, that might be the only vow he'd ever be able to give Harry, but somehow, he sensed that it just might be enough – for both of them. And, wasn't that an unusual thought for him to be entertaining, he thought, almost chuckling out loud at the absurdity of him having faith in anything.

But if there ever were anything in this world that he could allow himself to believe in, it would be the man slumbering at his side. The fact that he was here at all with Harry was a miracle in itself. Choosing to indulge Harry and try to believe, Severus closed his eyes, breathed in another deep breath of Harry, and allowed sleep to claim him.


He wasn't used to sleeping with anyone anymore. The two months Severus had bunked in with him when they'd been children had accustomed Harry to having someone warm snuggled around him in the night, but the six weeks since their restoration to adulthood had reinstated his former patterns. As much as he loved having Severus there with him, he was intensely aware of his presence, even when deeply asleep. That was why his eyes snapped instantly open when he felt Snape's banding arms carefully release him and all that wonderful warmth pull away. Then the bed dipped and Severus slipped out, furtive as a thief.

After being up for nearly forty-eight hours, a few hours sleep wasn't going to be enough for him. Harry was still so tired that it was difficult to think straight, let alone figure out what was going on. The room was pitch black, so it was still deep night in the castle. There was only one reason Severus would be sneaking out like that.

So much for promises, Harry thought, squeezing his eyes shut so that he wouldn't have to see Severus walking away. There was a part of him that wanted to sit up and make it as difficult as possible for Severus to leave, but what was the point? If a vow of honour and the sweetest loving in memory weren't enough to keep Severus here with him, what would? He had nothing to give but himself, and, obviously, that was never going to be enough for anyone.

He hadn't cried since he was a schoolboy, but as he felt Severus moving further and further from the bed, he wanted to do so now. He heard a door ease open and close, and then nothing but resounding silence.

The cynical voice of experience, which sounded very much like Severus at his worst, laughed at him inside his head, berating him for being such an utter fool. It was Severus Snape he was dealing with. The man was so damaged and bitter he couldn't even understand simple friendship. How could he ever have expected Snape to stay? If there were any blame to be apportioned here, Harry knew it wouldn't be falling on Snape's shoulders. Severus had warned him from the start that he couldn't manage even a friendship. Why hadn't he listened? Why had he set himself up for this incredible heartache, yet again? Was he insane? Severus Snape was –

The thunderous gurgle and gush of one of Hogwarts' ancient toilets flushing filled the bedroom, cutting Harry's thoughts short. The bathroom . . . Severus had simply gone to the loo . . . .

Nearly giddy with relief, Harry squeezed his eyes shut and waited. Another rush of water sounded. Was the man really in there washing his hands with the freezing water at this god forsaken hour of the morning, Harry wondered, nearly laughing at the idea. He'd had his hands and mouth all over that cock in the last few days. Though he was impressed with his lover's fastidiousness, he did feel that it was taking things a bit too far. But, god, he loved him for it.

Brought up short by the sleepy thought, Harry stared at it. Loved him for it.

Did he love Severus? Well, as a friend, of course, he did, but was he in love with Severus Snape? They'd had fantastic sex a couple of times, and Severus was his best friend in the world right now, but, did that equate to being in love? And, if it didn't, what were the promises they'd made last night in aid of?

It was too late in the night, or too early in the morning, to tackle anything too profound, but even half asleep, Harry knew this was important.

Although Severus' exit from the lavatory was nearly soundless, Harry felt the stirring of power in the air that was the earmark of the greatest of wizards. A second later, the duvet lifted, blowing icy air in over him, and then Severus slipped back into the other side of the bed. Although Harry could feel his friend shivering from the cold, Severus made no attempt to come closer. Probably to keep from waking him, Harry realized.

Harry shifted across the three feet or so of space separating them, twined his arms and legs around his shivering lover, and pressed a wet kiss onto Severus' temple. Severus' feet were freezing as they curled around him and leached all the warmth out of his own. But Harry just gasped, tucked his head onto his lover's chest, and let the sleep vibes unfurl through him. It felt incredible to have someone here in the dark to snuggle up to, even if that someone had feet like icicles. But, for all that he was rather bony and had the coldest feet in the Wizarding World, if not the entire planet, Severus was the most wonderful pillow he'd found. And he smelt so good.

"I'd hoped not to wake you," Severus whispered in a sleepy voice.

Harry felt his lover's arms settle around his back in a welcoming, if tentative, embrace. Severus was always so unsure of his reception, so uncertain in even the simplest of social interactions. Though he could barely think straight, let alone force his eyes open, Harry appreciated how much courage it was taking for his friend to even attempt intimacy.

"'mmm not awake," he replied. Breathing that sweet scent that was particular to Severus deep into his lungs, he made himself totally comfortable by distributing most of his weight onto his bedfellow. Severus' flannel nightshirt felt soft as velvet beneath his cheek.

Severus gave a grunt and breathy chuckle that thrilled him even though he was still mostly asleep.

It made him so happy that Severus was comfortable enough with him to allow himself to laugh that Harry felt he ought to say something. What he was trying for was 'Love your laugh,' but that wasn't what came out. His brain definitely living a separate, estranged life from his better sense, Harry heard himself mumble, "Love you."

In a perfect world, his companion would have been too drowsy to notice and the incident would have passed, but he felt Severus freeze beneath him like he'd just doused him with ice water.

Suddenly far too awake, Harry held his breath, waiting to be told what a sentimental idiot he was to be making such blubbering statements two days into a rocky relationship. But after a few minutes of that muscular lockdown, Severus' body relaxed beneath him and became his organic pillow again. The older man released a shuddery sounding breath, his right hand began to rub Harry's back in reassuring circles that felt utterly amazing, and Severus leaned down to press a soft kiss to the crown of his head.

When it became clear that Severus wasn't going to kill him or leave him for his indiscretion, Harry gave up worrying about it and allowed sleep to seduce him again.

The next time he opened his eyes, grey light filled the room. The waterfall-like rush of rain outside the casement windows announced that it was pouring again. The air biting at his ear told him that the bedroom was still cold and damp outside his duvet, as castles were wont to be, but under those covers, he was warm and snug.

The most wonderful part of it all was that he was still curled around Severus, in seemingly the same position that he'd been in when he'd fallen asleep the last time. The quality of his companion's breathing told him that Severus wasn't sleeping. Snape's hand was still on his back, but it wasn't rubbing him anymore. He had the terrible suspicion that his friend had lain awake since his early morning trip to the loo. Probably because of what he'd said, Harry self-consciously realized.

"Good morning," he greeted, not quite ready to raise his head or face what might be in Severus' eyes.

"Good morning," Severus replied, sounding as formal as though they were in the Great Hall at the teacher's table.

Feeling his lover's tension, Harry forced his head up to gaze down at Snape's face. Severus' hair was mussed, but not much. Though it was the same stark profile and long nose he'd been staring at for fifteen years, a shiver of desire went through him as he took in that familiar visage. Severus seemed changed somehow – less distant, less homely, no that was wrong. He didn't seem homely at all. At the moment, Severus was one of the most exciting sights he'd ever laid eyes on – sleek, sensual, and downright sexy, for all that he could nearly touch the other man's nervousness.

"Do I owe you another apology?" Harry asked, hating the awkwardness, wondering if it would be between them every time they woke up together – providing what he'd said last night didn't send Severus running for the hills again.

"For?" Severus asked, something like dread hardening his eyes.

"For what I said when you came back to bed this morning. I wasn't thinking straight."

"Are you claiming diminished capacity?"

Harry recognized that tone. It was the one Severus would use in the schoolyard whenever Crater and his goons started that Death Eater garbage.

"No, but . . . . You, er, mightn't have wanted to hear that yet," Harry said. He debated cutting off the 'yet,' but left it in because he knew if this was going to work, they both had to start trusting, had to start taking risks. But, for all he knew, Severus might never want to hear those words from him.

"I've never heard it at all, at least, not in a romantic context. Hermione said it to me five times when we were children, and Ron once," Severus reported.

Once again, Harry was reminded of the differences between them. For all that they'd both had abusive childhoods, he'd known love in his life. He couldn't recall how often someone had said 'I love you' to him. They mightn't have always meant it, but they'd said it.

His friend was forty-eight years old. What must it have felt like to go that long without ever being told that he was loved? If not for Hermione and Ron, Severus might never have heard those words at all. That Severus had kept count of the number of times he had heard the words told Harry how much it mattered to him. But that still didn't necessarily mean that Severus wanted to hear it from him, as a lover.

Deciding to go for broke, he asked, "Did it bother you that I said it?"

"That depends."

"On?" Harry questioned.

"Whether you meant it," Severus said, in a tight and brittle tone that would have been all too easy to fracture.

Remembering how just such a tone had precipitated their argument Friday night, Harry sighed. He wished they'd have had longer to get used to each other before he had to go and get so sloppy. But it was a done deal now and all he could do was try to run damage control. Which, of course, was impossible, because all he had was the inconvenient truth. "Yes, I meant it."

Severus' eyes slid closed and he hissed in a sharp breath.

Harry couldn't interpret the emotions that flashed across those abruptly vulnerable features, but it didn't look like anger. When Severus reopened his eyes, something had changed. Harry couldn't say what, but there was a certain quality to Severus' expression that had never been there before. Meeting his gaze, Severus softly whispered, "Then no apologies are necessary."

Harry grinned. "We're all right, then?"

"So it would seem," Severus replied, obviously trying for his normal cool. He didn't quite make it, but even so, Severus was far more reserved than anyone Harry had ever slept with in the past.

He didn't know how to deal with it. Last night Severus had said that asking him if he wanted to be with him was like asking if he wanted to continue breathing. That sounded like Severus had it bad for him. Yet, he could see how hard Severus was struggling to hide his feelings. The mixed signals he was getting were frustrating, but the way Severus was looking at him gave him the feeling that it had nothing to do with him. If this was strange for him and he had no idea how to act, how strange must it be for Severus, who'd had no real relationships at all?

Hoping that it was all just nerves, Harry softly questioned, "How are you doing?"

Severus reached out to touch his cheek with his long, elegant, yellow-stained fingers. That, in itself, was encouraging, because if Severus didn't feel confident of him, he certainly wouldn't have been caressing him. "I don't know."

That touch slithered right through him. Harry gasped in a sharp breath and tried to ignore how his morning woodie pulsed to life as he asked, "Did I overwhelm you again?"

"No . . . yes . . . . I don't know," Severus answered, his fingers playing havoc with his control. Even though it made it hard to think, Harry was grateful for the contact. If it were going badly, Severus wouldn't have wanted to touch him at all. Beyond being merely reassuring, the way Snape's fingers were stroking over his cheekbone in an absent-minded manner was very endearing. It was almost like Severus couldn't stop himself from touching him or wasn't doing it consciously.

"Well, that's definite," Harry laughed. Turning his face to press a kiss onto Severus' knuckles, he asked, "How do you feel?"

"Like I've just added magnesium sulphate to electric eel hearts," Severus replied swiftly enough.

"English, Severus," Harry requested, stifling a chuckle. After Friday night, he was nervous about taking things too lightly with Severus, at least until they were more accustomed to each other.

"It feels . . . as though something is about to explode," Severus said.

"I know. It feels that way to me, too," Harry admitted.

"It does? But you said . . . ."

"I said . . . ?" Harry prompted.

He watched a faint blush touch Severus' cheeks. "That we were all right."

"We are all right, and we'll be even better," Harry assured. "But that doesn't mean we can't be nervous, does it?"

"You're nervous?" Severus sounded astonished.

"Of course, I'm nervous," Harry answered, reaching down to cup Severus' cheek. With his long hair falling back from his face, Snape's strong bone structure was highly accentuated. "I want to make you happy, but I don't know what you like. I'm sure you're feeling the same way. We have a lot to learn about each other."

"I have much to learn, in general. I've never done this before."

Harry could tell how much it took for his proud lover to admit that. "Neither have I – with you. This is a new world to us both. We'll be all right, Severus. May I kiss you?"

"Yes, please," the reply was almost shy, but Harry was beginning to love that quality in his friend.

The instant their mouths touched, Harry knew that his words were true. Unbelievable as it was, this was going to work. They were going to be all right. The kiss felt like finally coming home after a three-month quidditch tour. Only, there had never been anything this real waiting for him then.

Severus' lips were pliant beneath his. The moment he swiped his tongue across them, they parted to allow entry. Startled, Harry realized that Severus must have performed some teeth cleansing charm, for his mouth tasted like cinnamon and cloves.

He wished that he'd had similar foresight, but Severus didn't seem dissatisfied with his kiss. To the contrary, Severus gave a pleased sounding grunt and those long-fingered hands came up to grip his hair and pull him in closer. An eternity or two later, they parted for air.

Harry gazed down at his lover. Severus' eyes were bright as polished onyx, his cheeks flushed with passion, his lips berry red from kissing. With the long, thick locks of his glossy hair spilling across the white pillowcase, Severus Snape looked downright edible, which was a strange thought to have about someone dressed in a primly buttoned nightshirt.

Catching sight of the long, somewhat delicate line of Severus' neck, Harry lowered his head to explore it. The moan Severus released when his tongue licked the back of his ear sounded as though it had been torn from the depths of his being. Loving the silky, tasty glide of skin beneath his mouth, he nuzzled his way down that sleek throat.

This was definitely a sensitive spot for Severus. Every sucking kiss and nibble brought a startled cry of reaction from Severus. Harry spent a long time exploring that pale skin before he hit the obstruction of flannel nightshirt.

"Can we get rid of this?" Harry asked, tugging on the offending collar.

Feeling the sudden stillness that claimed his friend, Harry raised his head to meet Severus' eyes. The open trepidation there was bewildering. It wasn't as though this was their first time. They'd been naked together on Friday night.

"Of course," Severus agreed, though everything Harry knew about the other man was telling him that this was something Snape very strongly didn't want to do.

He didn't want to get naked? Confused, Harry sat up.

"You do want to do this, don't you?" Harry checked. After Friday night, he was unwilling to take any chances.

There was hunger in Severus' eyes as they regarded him, Harry could see it without even looking for it. Yet, there was uneasiness as well, more than there should be given the fact that they'd made such amazing love for the last two nights.

"Yes, I do. It's just . . . ."

"It's just?" Harry gently prodded.

Severus took a deep breath and said, "It's very bright in here this morning."

Abruptly understanding the cause of the hesitation, Harry looked at this man whom everyone he knew had called 'ugly' at some point or another. His heart hurt for his friend. Sex shouldn't be this hard. Doing his best to hide anything that might be viewed as sympathy or pity, Harry gave a mischievous smile and asked, "Don't you want to see me in the light? I mightn't be very tall, but what there is of me is choice."

The joking approach worked as he'd hoped it would. Severus seemed to rally as he gave a droll, "Is it now?"

"So I've been told. You could check it out for yourself, if you'd like?"

The corners of Severus' mouth briefly twisted upwards and he gave a sharp nod. "I'd like, very much so."

"So would I," Harry said and tugged his own nightshirt off. He could have used magic to remove both their pyjamas, but somehow doing it oneself seemed more exciting.

Apparently, it was almost too exciting for Severus' tastes or perhaps simply too nerve-wracking. Harry saw that pronounced Adam's apple he'd been nuzzling bob in a sudden gulp. Then Severus sat up, threw him a strangely speculative look, and shouldered out of his nightshirt. If Harry didn't know better, he'd say his lover was actually frightened, if not downright terrified – which made no sense. Granted, they'd both been blinded by a haze of passion and firelight on Friday night, but he'd seen Severus naked.

Harry's gaze followed the grey and white striped nightshirt as it rose upwards. Severus' lap was revealed first. That huge, beautiful cock was still mostly somnolent, but Harry sensed that it was Severus' nerves that were responsible for that rather than any lack of interest. Snape's flat belly came next, followed by bony ribcage and slender, smooth chest. Harry watched all that long black hair come settling down around Severus' bare shoulders, and felt the breath catch in his lungs. Severus was so damn beautiful. Perhaps no one else on this earth would have the same reaction he was feeling right now, but Harry didn't think he'd ever seen anything as arousing as that long, slender form.

"Gods, you're incredible," Harry whispered.

Severus' lowered gaze jumped to his face as if to verify his sincerity, then Severus gave another gulp and reached for him.

That kiss was fast becoming the foundation of his universe. Harry revelled in it, letting Severus take the lead, welcoming the other man's tongue into his mouth. He couldn't believe how damn good it felt. He melted against Severus, and slipped his arms around him to move in closer.

Needing to feel more, he flattened his palms against Severus' thin back and started to stroke, only to freeze at an unexpected obstruction. His fingertips felt around. The skin over that painfully slender back wasn't as smooth and soft as it was everywhere else. Feeling the deep rills and bumps in what should have been just warm flesh, Harry pulled back from the kiss in confusion.

Severus went still as death in his arms. Harry hated the barely masked fear that hardened Severus' features as he opened his eyes and visibly shook off the sensual haze that had been softening his face. Without a word, Severus pulled free of his embrace and turned so that his back was clearly visible to him.

Harry didn't know what to say as his horrified gaze took in the patchwork of long, slender pink scars crisscrossing Severus' back. This, then, was why Severus had been so hesitant. Stars knew, it was reason enough. There was hardly an inch of flesh anywhere that hadn't been torn up. The scars didn't look like they'd all come at once, for some of the marks were clearly laid down across older ones. Harry didn't know if that made it better or worse. He couldn't conceive the amount of pain these injuries must have given Severus. That they'd gone completely untreated and healed naturally was obvious from their presence. Had Poppy or any other mediwitch worked on these wounds, there wouldn't have been these kinds of scars.

"I suppose I should have warned you about this," Severus said in that dead sounding voice he used whenever something hurt him too much to hide.

Harry swallowed hard and tried for calm. He could sense how close Severus was to balking. The murderous rage gripping him wasn't going to help the situation. He could tell by how pale those marks were that most of them had been there longer than he'd been alive. Losing his temper at this point was only going to hurt his friend.

Taking a deep breath, Harry fought for control as he choked out, "Your grandparents?"

It was a damn good thing the bastards were dead. If they weren't, Harry knew fully well he'd end up in Azkaban over this.

The gulp Severus gave seemed to shake his whole body. Then he stiffly whispered, "Most."

Most? What the hell did that mean? Not even sure he wanted to know, Harry nonetheless heard himself echo, "Most?"

"The majority are mementos of my loving grandparents," Severus said in a brittle tone. "But the others . . . you saw how Voldemort punished his followers for failure. Often in the course of my career as Albus' spy, the conflict of interests would force me to appear . . . less than competent in Voldemort's eyes. Because of the importance of my Potions expertise to his cause, Voldemort couldn't maim me as he did the others who failed him, but he would always make his displeasure known."

"Did Professor Dumbledore know about these?" Harry asked, his stomach churning at the damage to Severus' back and the idea that the leader they'd both loved had knowingly sent Severus back for more of the same.

"Of course not," Severus snapped. "Albus would never have allowed me to return had he known, and I had to go back. The information I was able to obtain was invaluable. That pipeline to Voldemort's plans couldn't be risked because of Albus' sentimentality."

So, Severus had kept what he'd suffered to himself for the sake of their cause. Humbled by his lover's courage, Harry stared at yet another cost of their victory. Shamed, he remembered how every member of the Order, besides Albus Dumbledore, had mistrusted Snape. Whenever the Order of the Phoenix assembled for those rare, but necessary, parties to let off steam, Severus had never been invited, or, if he had, he had never deigned to attend. If Tonks or Remus stopped by the Order's Headquarters to report after a mission, it nearly always turned into a friendly dinner, but never with Severus Snape. The man would show up, report his information, and then quickly leave. Not that Severus would have accepted an invitation or made it easy for any of the others to become close to him, but the fact that none of them had ever tried to befriend this man who had suffered so much for their cause weighed heavily on Harry's conscience now.

"The scars are . . . quite repulsive, I know," Severus said into the ensuing silence.

Harry took a deep, shuddery breath. The past was over and buried. He couldn't dig the wrongdoers up to punish them for their crimes against his friend, any more than he could change how he'd behaved towards Severus when young. All he could do was offer what comfort he could – as though anything he could possibly say or do would ever alleviate the pain Severus had endured alone and unloved. Well, not any more. Severus wasn't alone, and he would never again be unloved, not if he had anything to say about it.

Finding his voice, Harry firmly corrected, "The cruelty that inflicted them is repulsive. The scars are just skin and memories, like the one on my forehead."

Then, because he could almost feel Severus' disbelief, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against the most garish and horrible of the collection, a deep line that ran from Severus' left shoulder blade straight down to the top of his right buttock.

Severus released a shocked hiss of breath in response, his entire body jerking at the unexpected action.

Harry took hold of those bony shoulders in a sturdy grip, then slipped his tongue out and bent to trail that scar straight across Severus' back. It was harder and slicker than the rest of Severus' skin, but no less appealing for all of that. If anything, these souvenirs of ancient hurts made him feel more for Severus, for they moved him in ways that Harry didn't even understand. All he knew was that those scars made him feel even more protective and devoted to his lover than he'd ever thought possible. Not that Severus Snape needed his protection. The child or man who could endure this was probably strong enough to withstand anything alone, but that proud self-sufficiency made him want to ease Severus' burdens.

He seemed to be doing a pretty good job of just that now. Apparently, Severus really enjoyed what he was doing. As his tongue moved across that reminder of old cruelties, Severus' response wasn't just a hiss, it was an all out cry.

Harry raised his head back up and studied his lover. Without being told, he knew that no one had ever before caressed or loved these scars. Severus was still so self-conscious about them. Taking in the stiff spine, Harry would almost say Severus was ashamed. No way was that going to continue. He mightn't be able to change the past, but he could affect the present and future.

A thousand words of reassurance leapt into his mind, but he instantly disregarded them. Severus didn't trust words. It was always actions that proved truth to him. So, action it would be.

Placing a kiss on Severus' left shoulder, Harry manoeuvred himself so that he was sitting behind Severus, with his legs stretched out on either side of his taller friend. As he shifted around behind him, Severus never even moved, sitting still as a statue, almost as though he were still expecting Harry to bail on him.

Once he was settled to his satisfaction, Harry slipped his arms around Severus' thin waist, rested his chin on his lover's right shoulder, pressed his chest against that scarred back, pulled Severus as close as possible to him, and stared down Snape's front.

Although he could sense how emotionally uncomfortable Severus was, Severus made no protest.

Harry pushed his face through the sleek curtain of Severus' hair to find his neck. He nuzzled behind the right ear, and felt the helpless shiver that coursed through his lover.

Harry ran his hands over Severus' smooth chest, refamiliarizing himself with the area. There were several scars here as well, something that looked like a knife wound at the top of Severus' right breast, another that looked like a burn below the shallow belly button, and a larger one whose origin Harry couldn't even guess above his left hip. His friend was no stranger to pain, be it physical or emotional. Harry was resolved to make Severus equally acquainted with pleasure.

"What are you thinking?" he whispered into a nearby ear.

"That it is unfortunate that you will be short-changed in regards to your partner's attractiveness," Severus surprised him by actually admitting.

Harry caught the end of Severus' rather small earlobe between his teeth and gave it a playful nip before contesting, "I'm just short, not short-changed. Besides, nobody with this on them," Harry reached down to collect Severus' impressive cock into his hand and was pleased to see it grow even bigger, "could possibly 'short-change' a lover."

Severus gasped in reaction, his head tilted back over Harry's left shoulder, exposing the full line of his throat. While Harry's hand pumped that beautiful shaft to fullness, his mouth feasted on the vulnerable expanse of white neck. He loved the feel of that rock hard, moist shaft in his palm, almost as much as he loved getting past Severus' guards enough to drive his reserved friend crazy enough to make these kinds of noises.

He'd meant only to make a point, but the pleading, sensual cries Severus was emitting as Harry manipulated that mighty cock made him realize how cruel it would be to stop. Severus had known so little joy in life, and it wasn't like this was a hardship. He loved making Severus lose his cool, loved feeling the shudders his touch caused shake them both. Enjoying every gasp, pant, and helpless outcry he elicited, Harry worked at his lover's pleasure.

Every time Severus cried out, the sound vibrated through Harry's lips, which were still nuzzling Severus' neck, and reverberated through his chest, which was still pressed tight to Snape's back. It was a tickly sensation that shivered through him like the play of warm breath over his neck. Those sounds and vibrations were erotic as hell, and Harry found his own penis rising to the occasion, pushing mindlessly at the flat, muscular behind pressed against it.

Harry slowed in his ministrations as he became aware of something strange. He wasn't just feeling Severus with his fingertips and epidermis. There was an odd tingling running through him wherever their flesh was touching. Although it was unique to Harry in a sexual encounter, it wasn't completely new to him. He'd experienced that same sensation every time Severus, Albus Dumbledore, or Hermione walked into a room. Great wizards projected their power, the way fire radiated its heat. It was Severus' wizards' power he could feel thrumming through the thin body he held so close, seeping from Severus into him, while his own distinct energy did the same to Severus.

His mind seemed to freeze as he realized what was happening. There was a reason sex and magic had been so closely linked for millennia. Sexual intercourse raised both psychic and magical power. The love they were making right now was sending both their internal power reservoirs skyrocketing.

He'd never had intercourse with another wizard anywhere near his own strength. Severus' thaumaturgical energy called to his own, causing lightning bolts of energy to spark through him. Those psychic energy bursts were as thrilling as the physical stimulation, giving him the same kind of jolt he'd received the day Mr. Olivander placed his wand in his hand, like he'd just found the perfect circuit. It was a rush like nothing he'd ever known, fierce and almost frightening, because the potential seemed limitless.

As those unique sensations rocked through him, Harry couldn't help but wonder why they hadn't felt this before. But maybe the connection had to do with the comfort level between the wizards. The last two times they'd made love, it had been too rushed and there had probably been too much nervousness for them to relax enough to sense each other's power, but this morning, it was like taking hold of a live electrical wire – sizzling and intense. Every touch, every nuzzling kiss, seemed to feed the psychic power-well, building until the energy felt like it would explode and take both of them along with it.

Harry gasped as the magical energy crested, shooting such a sheer blast of power through them both that Harry felt as though his nerves were literally melting. He gave one last mindless tug on Severus' shaft and felt his lover shower his fist with his warm, sticky gift. The ejaculate gushed so high that it splattered not only Severus' belly, but his chest as well.

Severus' groan was still tingling through him as Harry clutched his panting lover while his friend came down to earth. His own world was focused completely on the warm body in his arms. His cock was still a swollen, needy torment, but he was so blown away by the energy exchange that they'd experienced that he was hardly aware of it.

He'd read about that kind of union in Wizarding World novels, but he'd never believed it real. It had sounded too much like a literary invention or piece of fantasy. He wracked his mind, trying to recall what those books of Hermione's had said about this.

It was rare, that much he knew, very rare. The level of trust required for this type of power exchange, and the degree of emotional investment needed were nearly unheard of. Though Harry had never had an easy life, the Wizarding World was a savage and brutal place even by Dursley standards. There were so few means of viable employment and such limited marriage potential that wizards were forced to compete with each other almost from birth. Your family and your housemates were about the only people you could ever totally rely on in the Wizarding World, and even within the school houses, competition was encouraged through such institutions as house prefect and Best Boy and Best Girl. Marriages were still frequently arranged, and what with the Wizarding World's almost Victorian approach to sex, it was damn near impossible for a wizard or witch to ever be as free to explore their sexuality as Muggles were. Sometimes a person got lucky and they found a mate that suited them, like Ron and Hermione or Molly and Arthur Weasley, but most wizards ended up like Seamus Finnegan, marrying for all the wrong reasons, and paying for it for the rest of their lives. It wasn't even easy to find sexual compatibility in the Wizarding World, as Harry had learned through his disastrous affair with Julius, let alone the kind of affinity that would permit the co-mingling of power.

But he'd found this nearly mythical connection here with Severus Snape on his third day of loving him. What that said about their feelings for each other, and their sexual and emotional compatibility awed him. He'd been lovers with Julius for over three years and never felt a hint of it once.

Eventually, Severus seemed to rouse himself. Snape took hold of the hand that was still resting on his now limp penis and lifted it to his face.

Harry shivered at the gentle kiss that Severus gave his sticky hand, and then gasped as his lover's tongue lapped the spilt semen off. Then Severus turned to face him.

For perhaps the first time, there wasn't even a hint of uncertainty in Severus' gaze. The man looked stunned beyond reckoning, but not nervous or insecure as he asked, "I take it that power exchange is not a normal part of intercourse for you?"

He knew he was staring at Severus like he'd lost his mind, but he couldn't help it. How could something like that ever be 'normal'? He felt like Severus' power had just branded his soul.

Barely able to speak, between his astonishment and arousal, Harry shook his head 'no' and grated out, "You?"

"Kindness isn't even a normal component in my affairs." Severus looked away from him for a moment, then met his gaze again and asked, "You do realize how . . . uncommon such a connection is?"

Harry nodded again and admitted, "I never believed it was real."

"Oh, it's real enough," Severus countered, but despite his words, there was still an air of utter shock about him.

"I . . . I never felt anything like that in my life," Harry confessed.

"Nor have I." Severus' eyes studied him for a moment, and then he softly said, "I don't believe that it is something we can control. If it displeases you – "

"No, it doesn't displease me – how could it?" Harry quickly answered. "I . . . it awes me." Worried, because Severus was such an intensely private person and this was the most intensely not-private, intrusive experience he'd ever encountered, he softly questioned, "What about you? Is it too much too soon?"

Severus took a deep breath and then answered, "The existence of this . . . connection tells me that everything you said last night is true."

"That's a good thing, right?" Harry supposed he should have been upset that Severus had still doubted his veracity, but there had never been anything in Severus' life that inspired either trust or belief. After seeing the scars that his caretakers had left on Severus' back, he was amazed that his friend could have faith in anything.

"A very good thing," Severus murmured and leaned forward to kiss him.

"Gods," Snape gasped, pulling back as another power burst shot between them. "Doesn't it abate after climax?"

Harry chuckled at the expression on his lover's face, though he could sympathize with the worry. It really did feel like the pleasure bursts would kill them if the energy levels got much stronger.

"I don't know. The books said . . . ." Harry broke off.

Their gazes locked. Harry could almost see Severus remembering the same details he was.

Severus licked his lips and voiced the thought that was in both their heads, "That it grows exponentially with each union."

"Can you live with it?" Harry asked, scared because he was almost afraid of the power of the connection himself. He couldn't imagine how it must feel to Severus, who knew so little of pleasure to start with.

"Either I learn to live with it, or I live without you," Severus said in that lush cultured voice of his. He nearly melted Harry's bones as he continued, "I don't find the latter an acceptable option."

"I don't think I could live without you now," Harry gave into his mushy impulse, but then qualified with a wry, "Well, at least not comfortably."

Severus gave another of those earthy chuckles that Harry loved and said, "Certainly not with that erection burdening you. Would you like me to do something about it?"

Relaxing at the urbane teasing, Harry widened his eyes to their most innocent, and whispered, "Please."

It worked like a charm. Severus gulped, all levity leaving his expression. It really did seem that Severus couldn't resist him at all.

That dark gaze trailed down his front to his still throbbing erection, which Severus' words had turned into a frenzied, needy demon. Severus' yellow-stained fingers reached almost tentatively for him.

This power flare was even worse than the last. From the breath Severus hissed in, one would have thought he'd just had his erection squeezed instead of having done it to someone else.

"Let's get more comfortable. Perhaps that will help," Harry suggested.

Severus gave him one of those 'surely, you jest' looks, but made no other protest.

Lying back on the mattress, he guided Severus down beside him, turned on his side to face him, and took the man's mouth in a deep kiss, doing his best to ignore or try to integrate the power exchange into their loving. But it was like trying to integrate the lightning of a summer thunderstorm into your nervous system. Every flash was that explosive.

Giving up on the idea of regulating the power, Harry decided to just concentrate on the kiss.

Severus didn't taste like cloves and cinnamon anymore. He tasted like his own semen, and that was somehow better. It was certainly hotter. Between the taste and the power exchange, Harry didn't think he had a chance of holding out for two minutes.

Those long-fingered hands were stroking his back, setting off a shiversome series of sensations that rivalled the kiss.

Finally, the need for air forced them apart again. Gasping in Severus-scented breaths, he stared at his lover, barely able to believe what Severus was doing to him – physically, emotionally, or psychically.

Severus' right hand slipped between them. Still lost in the mysterious depths of those dark eyes, Harry cried out as his left nipple was lightly squeezed, his hips bucking forward in instinctive response as his nerve endings sizzled under the joint barrage of pleasure and power.

"You're amazingly sensitive," Severus whispered, even the warm brush of his breath against Harry's skin feeling like a caress.

"You're . . . amazingly good. Oh, God . . . ." Harry sobbed as that talented hand collected his penis.

He squeezed his eyes shut as the feelings became too much. Something soft and rather ticklish swept across his upper thighs – Severus' hair, he absently realized – and seconds later a hot, wet suction surrounded his shaft. Then his testicles were gathered up in Severus' hand and masterfully rolled.

Panting, he tried to take in enough air, but that wasn't happening. All there was was feeling: Severus' hot mouth surrounding his cock, Severus' hair surrounding his groin, and Severus' power all around and inside him. He arched up into that warm mouth and palm. More than just accommodating or accepting him, Severus seemed to flow with him. His partner's free hand slipped around to his bum to encourage closer contact as Severus deep-throated him with the expertise of a Muggle porn star.

It made no sense at all that this man who had known nothing but pain and ostracism in his life could possibly be so lethally efficient in bed. Harry had had dozens of lovers in his life, and not a single one of them had been as in sync with him as Severus. Because of how close they were, Harry had expected it to work with Severus, but he'd expected it to be work as well. He'd imagined that it would all be like it was when they'd first woken up this morning, awkward and stumbling. He'd anticipated having to coax Severus like a frightened colt through everything they did, but once Severus moved beyond his initial apprehension – most of which was caused by his friend's lack of confidence in his appearance and sexual appeal – Severus Snape was as formidable a lover as he was a wizard, and that was quite formidable, indeed. When this power conduit that was opening between them was added to the mix, there wasn't anything or anyone that Harry had known before in his life that held a candle to what Severus made him feel. The sex alone was unbearably intense, but the melding of their magics and the emotion of it all was beyond comprehension. The human body simply wasn't designed to endure this much joy.

Harry felt himself undone. There was no other word for it. There was simply too much pleasure coursing through him. His heart was pounding so loud, he thought it would deafen them both, if it didn't burst. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. All he could do was feel, and there was too much of that. Ecstasy this sharp wasn't supposed to come from a blowjob. This level of response was reserved for some of the arcane positions in those tantric yoga books that Hermione had. It wasn't part of the real world. At least, it had never been part of his until now, with Severus.

Burying his fingers in that silky fall of hair, he moaned with each glorious suck, crying out helplessly as the sharpest of delights coursed through him. Sanity a distant memory, he was mindlessly begging – for what, he wasn't sure – mercy or more, or perhaps both, though he knew he couldn't take much more and remain sane.

Severus' name was on his lips as the delight raging through him obliterated him. His reality and body exploding at the same time, Harry grasped onto Severus' bare shoulders for dear life as he came in Severus' mouth. Stunned, he felt a hot pulse of ejaculate spray his right knee as his lover climaxed again . . . with no physical encouragement from him, but, then, who needed the physical when their Wizards' power was doing all it could to fuse them into one entity?

The orgasm seemed to go on forever. When it finally released him, Harry felt like he'd been cut down from a rack.

Their hoarse, rasping breaths filled the room, drowning out the rush of rain outside the window and the crackling flames in his hearth.

Totally annihilated, he lay there for a long time, gasping for breath. Severus' head was pillowed on his left hip. His lover's warm breath brushed over his deflated organ with every exhalation, causing stirrings in it that should have been utterly impossible in the wake of such an overwhelming orgasm.

Needing more contact, he reached blindly downwards. His hand landed in the centre of Severus' back, on top of the thickest batch of scars. His mind still more gone than present, Harry absently stroked over the bumpy flesh, learning the indentations by feel. Already, he could tell which one was that thick strap mark he'd kissed earlier.

Severus lifted his head to look up at him, and all that hair came falling down to veil his face.

Harry used the hand not occupied with Severus' back to brush the hair clear. Never had he seen those strong features look so soft or open.

They stared at each other, neither seeming to know what to say in the wake of such an immolating climax.

Finally, Harry found his voice and the words that had to be said. "I know I didn't mean to say it to you this morning, but I do love you. You need to know that."

Even after everything that had passed between them in this bed, it still seemed difficult to impossible for Severus to accept his words. Harry saw how abruptly uneasy Severus became.

"You don't have to say anything," Harry quickly assured. "I just . . . wanted you to know. Is that all right?"

Because if it wasn't, he'd just blown everything here.

Severus swallowed loudly. "It is . . . more than all right. Do you require a similar declaration from me?"

Require. Harry stifled a sigh. Severus still didn't get it – possibly never would, Harry recognized. But that was all right. Severus felt it. What they'd just shared proved how much Severus loved him in a way words never could.

"All I require of you," Harry replied, leaning over to kiss Severus' blue-stubbled chin before rising back up to meet his gaze, "is that you keep your promise to have faith in me. Can you do that?"

He released the breath he'd been unconsciously holding as Severus nodded. Those dark eyes were studying him as though they were committing every detail of his features to memory. "Harry?"


"Except for what Hermione and Ron showed me, I know naught of love, but . . . if ever I did feel it for someone, that someone would be you. Is that enough?"

He couldn't possibly be as nervous as he looked, Harry thought. His insides were clenched so tight in reaction to Severus' admission that he could barely breathe. Severus had given him more than he'd ever dreamed possible with that last avowal, yet his lover looked almost afraid. Staring into that uneasy visage, Harry could see every betrayal and disappointment Severus had endured etched in his face. Well, this wasn't going to be one of them.

Finally finding his voice, Harry whispered, "You're enough . . . for me."

It was clear that Severus didn't know how to respond.

Sensing that neither of them could take much more of this naked honesty, Harry pulled Severus close to him and simply held on for the longest time. Gradually, the tension left that long, warm form.

"If we're going to make breakfast, we'd better start moving," Harry said into the quiet a long time later.

"Breakfast?" Severus repeated, as though he'd never heard the word before.

Harry chuckled. "Yes, breakfast. I don't know about you, but I'm famished, and if we don't make an appearance after last night, Hermione will be flooing in here the minute breakfast ends."

"She wouldn't," Severus said, but he didn't sound quite certain of that fact.

"Oh no?" Harry challenged. "It's Hermione we're talking about here."

He had to smile at the alacrity with which Severus attained the vertical.

Harry grabbed his wand off the night table, passed it over them both while mumbling a quick cleansing spell, and then fell upon his armoire while Severus sat naked on the bed and watched him gather his clothes together with maniacal speed. Two minutes later, he was completely dressed in blue jeans, black tee shirt, his black boots, and brown robes.

Looking back at the bed, he felt his pulse drum and his throat tighten. Severus was sitting with his back propped up on a mound of crisp white pillows against the headboard and his hands tucked behind his head. His skin was nearly as pale as the bed linens. Except for what he had on his head – the lustrous black cascade that fell like silk over his slender shoulders and the pillowcases and made Harry's fingers twitch to touch it just looking at it – Severus was nearly hairless. He had a faint smattering under his arms, nothing at all on his chest and belly. His pubic mound, however, was as well endowed as his scalp. The black curls rose in an artful swirl against his creamy belly. While his legs . . . they were as furry as Harry's own.

Gazing at the sensual sprawl that was normally considered Hogwarts' most uptight professor, Harry wanted nothing so much as to fling himself back onto the bed and start all over again. The bluish-black shadow of stubble on Severus' jaw was looking especially lickable at the moment.

But the thought of Hermione interrupting him was enough to chill even his ardour. Swallowing hard, he said, "Come on. We'll floo over to your place, so you can change, and then walk up to breakfast together. We should be able to make it."

"I can floo back and join you in the Great Hall in a few minutes," Severus said. "We needn't both be delayed."

"If you think I'm walking into that Hall without you, you've got another think coming. We'll scare Hermione and Ron to death if we don't arrive together." Seeing the hesitation enter Severus features, he demanded, "What? What's wrong now?"

"If you floo back with me, everyone will see us leaving my quarters together," Severus stiffly answered as he sat up, all that sensuous looseness leaving his body.

For almost a minute, Harry really didn't get it. "You can't be serious? We've been leaving your quarters together for breakfast for weeks now."

"Yes, but . . . ."

"But?" Harry prompted, totally confused.

"If the Headmistress were to question me on those previous occasions, I could say in all honesty that nothing improper had passed between us," Severus softly replied. "I can't say that anymore, Harry."

"Nothing 'improper' has passed between us," Harry gently corrected.

"Perhaps not in our eyes, but the Headmistress – "

"Isn't going to call us on the carpet for falling in love," Harry said. "I told Minerva that I was a homosexual before I signed my contract. I made it clear to her that I didn't intend to spend my entire life alone, that if I should find someone, I would want that person to live with me here at Hogwarts."

"You did?" Severus appeared pole-axed by the concept. "What did she say?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" Realizing that his trite response wasn't going to satisfy his worried friend, Harry softly supplied, "Minerva said that it wouldn't be a problem as long as I maintained proper decorum. As long as you don't plan on shagging me in the corridors, I think we'll be all right."

"Harry, that's you. The authorities have always made exceptions to the rules to accommodate you. Even if Minerva were willing to look the other way, the Board of Governors would surely terminate my contract. They've been looking for an excuse to dispense with my services for over twenty years."

Harry considered the argument, and then gently asked, "What if they do? If they fire you, they're going to have to fire me, too."

Severus stared silently up at him for a long moment, as if judging his seriousness. Apparently seeing that he wasn't joking, a faint flush touched Severus' cheeks and he lowered his gaze. "You know how limited employment opportunities are in the Wizarding World. If I lose my position here . . . ."

"You'll what? Have to give up teaching? You don't even like teaching, Severus. It's the research opportunities here at Hogwarts that have always interested you more than the teaching end of your job ever did. If they won't let you teach, then you can spend all your time doing the research you love."

"Where? Harry, I am as infamous as you are famous. Everyone knows of the Dark Mark I bear. If I lose my position at Hogwarts, I will not find another. I must be sensible."

He hated the note of fear in his proud friend's voice. Taking a deep breath, because he knew how explosive an issue this could become, he softly said, "You know I made a bloody fortune playing quidditch. If they kick us out of Hogwarts for being lovers, we'll form a partnership and open a lab."

"A partnership," Severus echoed.

"Yes, a partnership. We have options, Severus."

Slowly, the anxiety eased from those tense features. Confusion seemed to take its place as Severus softly said, "But . . . you love teaching. You would sacrifice that for . . . ?"

"I sacrifice nothing," Harry said. "I want us to be together. That's the important thing for me. I'd prefer us to be together here, but if that's not possible, then we'll start a lab and you can do your potions work full time."

"While you?"

Not really giving it his full attention when faced with the absolute shock in Severus' eyes, Harry shrugged, "Who knows? Maybe I'll crusade for gay rights in the Wizarding World. It doesn't really matter, as long as we get to be together. We've earned some happiness."

"You . . . wish to be open about what is between us?" Severus questioned, his misgivings almost palpable.

A tight fist seemed to close around his heart. He knew he was pushing too hard here, but he couldn't live a lie again, not even for Severus. Hoping he could make himself understood, he softly said, "I know you're a very private person. I won't ever embarrass you in public, but . . . I won't sneak around like we're doing something wrong, either. I did that last time. Never again."

"Last time?" Severus asked.

Harry took a deep breath and explained, "He didn't want anyone knowing about us, not even Ron and Hermione. I couldn't keep something that big from them, of course. He was never comfortable with them, and it was a total disaster. I can't do it that way again, Severus. Please don't ask it of me." He reached out and cupped Severus' cheek. "I want us to begin as we plan to go along. I love you and I'm not ashamed of people knowing it. I know we can't broadcast it or anything, but I refuse to hide what I feel for you like it's something dirty, because it's not. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."

Severus gulped. His lips parted as though he were about to speak and then closed shut again.

"What?" Harry asked, running his index finger over those lips, loving the tremor he caused in them.

Severus swallowed loudly and said in a thick voice, "It's all . . . so much to take in."

"I know," Harry said.

"You do?"


Those dark eyes studied him for a long moment. Finally, Severus said, "You underplay its importance, but I know your family and home are here at Hogwarts. If this goes badly, you will lose it all."

"Your family and home are here, too," Harry reminded.

"No one has ever risked anything for me before," Severus said.

"Me, neither. It will work, Severus. We just have to refuse to let anything rattle us. Will you try?"

The two breaths it took before Severus once again nodded seemed the longest wait of his life. All the tension seemed to drain out of him as he realized that Severus was willing to try to meet him half way.

"Thank you," he whispered.

"No, thank you, Harry," Severus said.

Their lips were suddenly mashed together and they were holding onto each other for dear life. Knowing what would happen if they didn't douse these flames quickly, Harry ripped his mouth free and reminded, "Unless we want Hermione here in a half hour, we'd best get moving."

Severus gave another nod. Harry was beginning to recognize that it was something Severus did when he was feeling too much. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing this morning.

A fast kiss, followed by a frantic search for Severus' discarded nightshirt, and they were on their way to meet the day.






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