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growing pains 08

24. 7. 2011

"Once again, thank you all for your hard work. It looks as though the OWL and NEWT exams will be especially comprehensive this year. I hope the students are up to it; your reports seem to indicate they are. Good work all around. If there aren't any more issues to be addressed, I suggest we end our meeting early and enjoy the fine weather," Minerva said with a bright smile as she called an end to the staff meeting a full twenty minutes early.

The sun was spilling in over the table, shining in his and Hermione's eyes. Even from five floors up, they could hear a robin singing in the gardens below.

They were all experiencing a touch of spring fever, Harry realized as Neville and Blaise disappeared from the room before most of them had even pulled their chairs back from the table.

"I have some homework I must grade," Severus softly said from his other side.

Harry looked at the nine-inch pile of messy parchments in front of his lover. If he had to wait until Severus worked his way through that, it would be July before he saw him. "Why don't you take it back to my place to do it? My rooms are only one floor away. We'll save time, and you know you always get through that stuff faster when I'm around," Harry joked in an undertone. Even though there was enough noise of scraping chairs and conversation as their co-workers left the break room table to cover anything private he might be saying, he hated the idea of embarrassing Severus in public.

Severus gave him a halfway decent glare as he whispered back, "That's because I can't think around you."

"I promise to be good," Harry whispered directly into Severus' ear, pleased by the helpless shiver he caused.

Those unamused eyes pinned him. To his surprise, Severus softly said, "Your being good was never in question."

Tickled by the compliment, he whispered back, "I'll even behave."

"Chance would be a fine thing," Severus groused.

But Harry smiled because he knew he'd won. When he looked up, it was just Severus, Ron, Hermione, and him left at the table.

He glanced over to where Ron was trying to help Hermione sort through about a foot of parchment that had spilled across the staff room table. She was currently bent under the table retrieving some of the casualties of her husband's earlier efforts to be of use.

When Ron felt his gaze upon him, he looked over and commented, "Minerva never said anything about Miller's position opening up. You don't think the bugger's gone and changed his mind, do you?"

"No," Hermione's strained voice emerged from under the table. "Miller told me this morning that he's been offered a position at Beauxbatons."

"So why do you think Minerva didn't ask us for recommendations?" Harry asked, giving in to the inevitable by taking the parchments away from Ron, who was only making a bigger mess of things and dropping every third paper.

"Perhaps she wished to avoid the usual argument on such a fine day," Severus said from beside him and added. "I'll meet you back at your quarters shortly."

Apparently, Minerva wasn't the only one who wished to avoid an argument.

Harry suppressed a sigh as Severus took his papers and left with a flap of his black, raven wing robes.

"I was so sure he'd come around," Hermione said as she finally achieved the vertical again.

Harry waited until he was sure the door was firmly closed behind his lover before he answered, "He's got his reasons. My dad and Sirius were right bastards to him."

"It's just a pity that Remus is getting caught in the fallout," Hermione said.

"I could just shake Severus; he's being so pig-headed about this," Ron said. "You know what a vicious streak he's got when he's mad. You know half of all those bad feelings had to be Severus' fault."

Harry found himself sighing again. "Maybe it was partially his fault, or even all his fault. But it was usually four to one when things got out of hand. It was never a fair fight, Ron, and my dad's group usually got off scot free."

"But Severus told me himself that Remus never baited him," Hermione said.

"He did?" Ron sounded stunned. "When?"

"When I was talking to him this morning during our third period break," she answered, finally getting the papers in order.

"Even so, Remus isn't completely blameless in everything that happened, either," Harry insisted, hating to see them so torn apart over this.

"What do you mean?" Ron questioned, pulling his hand back from the paper pile as Hermione swatted at it.

"Remus might never have taunted Severus like my dad and Sirius did, but he never stopped them, either. He knew it wasn't right and he just stood there and let it happen. I think that's what Severus has such trouble forgiving," Harry confided.

"Sirius and your dad were the only friends Remus had ever had," Hermione reminded.

"I know," Harry said. "But . . . we were the only friends Neville had at school during first year and he still found the courage to stand up to us when he thought we were doing wrong. I understand why Remus did what he did back then, Hermione. But I also understand why Severus can't forgive him."

"I just wish he could get past all that hate," Hermione said. "It's not good for anybody."

"Yeah, me, too," Harry said. Then, to lighten the sombre mood, he asked, "So, do you want to come to my place and help me be good while Severus grades his papers?"

"Absolutely not," Ron laughed. "I'm taking Hermione out to the far side of the lake so that we can be very bad. You and Severus are welcome to join us, providing you find your own spot." Ron looked at Hermione's tower of parchments. "No papers allowed, though."

"Thanks, but I think Severus really wants to get that work finished," Harry said, knowing that the last thing either he or Severus were going to want during a romantic tryst by the lake was to be several yards away from their foster parents.

"Well, you'd best go distract him, then," Hermione laughed, stuffing her mountain of papers into a bag that was large enough to hold a Holstein cow.

"Did you ever hear of size reduction spells?" Harry asked her.

"Did you ever try to find size-reduced papers after they'd tumbled into the grass?" she sassed back. Rising to her feet, she gave his cheek a quick peck.

Ron took her bag from her and the pair left him with a chorus of good byes and rude suggestions.

"Hello, Martin," Harry greeted the picture on his door five minutes later.

"The Slytherin is in there. He had your password, so I couldn't keep him out," the portrait of the red-bearded wizard reported, disapproval souring his usually kind face.

"We've had this discussion before, Martin," Harry said, trying to keep his temper. "You weren't rude, were you?"

"No more so than Solemnus' ill-gotten get," Martin reported.

Sighing, Harry went through the door without another word. Sometimes he could understand why Severus didn't want a portrait guarding his door.

He had to smile when he saw the state of his sitting room. In the ten minutes he'd been here alone, Severus had covered the coffee table with neat piles of parchment. His lover was currently sitting in the corner of the couch, grading homework on a large potions book in his lap, with a cup of tea perilously perched on the couch arm beside him.

"Wingardia leviosa," Harry said, levitating the mug before disaster could strike.

The movement of his cup seemed to attract Severus' attention from the paper he was working on, for he gave a distracted, "Hello."

"Hello, yourself," Harry answered, feeling his face crack into a happy grin as he took in how comfortable Severus seemed here. "How awful was Martin to you?"

"It's remarkable how effective reminding one of those portraits about varnish's flammability can be," Severus drolled.

"You didn't," Harry laughed.

"I most certainly did. Then I reminded him how I'd won the seventh year contest for controlled fire starting," Severus said.

"And here I was feeling sorry for you," Harry replied, his laughter deepening.

"Whatever for?" Severus asked, finally looking over at him.

Harry grinned as he moved to the couch. "I can't imagine." He looked at the piled papers on the coffee table. "How many classes do you have there? All seven?"

Severus gave a resigned nod.

"This is going to take you all night to get through," Harry complained.

"Thank you for pointing that out," Severus snarked.

Harry picked up the nearest pile. "Where's the answer sheet?"

The expression Severus shot him was priceless. "I've been teaching this subject for more than thirty years. There isn't an answer sheet."

"So how am I going to be able to help you grade this mess if you haven't got answer sheets?"

"You want to help me?" Severus seemed startled.

"I want to suck you, but I know there's no chance of that happening until we get through this." Pleased by how totally his words seemed to have derailed his normally unflappable lover, he asked, "So, how am I going to know if the answer's right?"

Severus gave a loud swallow and replied with impressive dryness, "I suppose it would be too much to hope that you actually might remember something you'd learned in first or second year Potions?" Severus paused to look at him hopefully. Whatever was in his expression caused the ends of those slender lips to twitch in a reaction that might have been either humour or irritation. After a moment, Severus gave an even dryer, "Apparently not. Well, sort through that pile in front of you and pass me Lydia Hanna's paper."

He did as requested. Severus spent a moment examining each of the answers before handing it back to Harry. "It's totally correct. If the answer sounds even vaguely like it, give them credit –"

"Even if they're a Gryffindor?" Harry quipped.

Severus gave him a mock glare. "Especially if they're a Gryffindor. If that pathetic excuse for a house doesn't pull their grades up this week, Minerva will be cross with me. At any rate, if there are more than four answers wrong, put the paper on the side for me to grade. Can you do that?"

"You know, I have been teaching for years now," Harry reminded, tickled as ever by his lover's sarcastic streak.

"So I've been told," Severus said completely deadpan, and then returned his attention to the pile in his lap.

Chuckling, Harry dug into the papers.

Within three minutes, he began to understand why Severus was so frequently frustrated with his students. The second years had missed answers that even he remembered without checking his cheat sheet, mistakes that clearly indicated that the students weren't paying any attention at all to the subject.

The sun had moved more than a foot across the floor in front of the window before there was any sound other than their breathing and the scratch of their quills against the homework parchments. Harry looked over at Severus' frustrated sigh.

"They do seem to be uncommonly dense when it comes to Potions," Harry commiserated.

Severus glowered at him and short-temperedly demanded, "Perhaps you understand now why I constantly petitioned Albus to give me the flashy DADA position. At least the dunderheads pay some attention in Dark Arts."

"But you're gifted at Potions, Severus. Even I remember some of this," Harry assured.

"Like?" Severus snapped.

"That you use ceramics when dealing with dragon venom," Harry quickly answered.

Severus' expression darkened. "The only reason you have any memory of that at all is because Longbottom didn't remember it in class and nearly ended his family line in Potions Lab that day."

Harry had to laugh, for it was true. Even now, he could vividly recall having to pull his face out of the way of a ceramic dish that was rushing past his desk faster than the proverbial speeding bullet to get to Neville before the dragon venom ate through his desk and dripped down onto his pants. Now that he thought about it, he was stunned by the number of similar close calls he remembered Severus averting. Though Snape was never kind afterwards, he always did seem to keep his students from coming to physical harm in his classroom, which, considering the nature of the subject he taught, was nothing short of miraculous.

"You're right. But . . . come on. Let's take a mental health break."

"A what?" Severus asked. His voice and expression were suspicious, but he didn't resist as Harry removed the homework from his hand to place it safely on the table.

"A mental health break. It's driving me crazy sitting so close to you," he complained, leaning in to kiss that scowling face.

"It's a very short trip," Severus sniped, but he didn't pull back.

When Harry's lips found Snape's mouth, all the tension seemed to seep out of that long, dark clad body he was leaning against. Harry breathed deep of Severus' sweet scent as he finally came up for air.

It still amazed him that Severus would allow this. But as his right hand started working the first of the dozens of tiny buttons on Severus' brocade vest open, his friend made no protest. To the contrary, Severus simply sighed as Harry's lips found his exposed neck.

"You like that?" Harry checked, simply because he loved to hear Severus admit to it out loud.

"No, it's utterly repulsive," Severus snarked, spoiling the effect with a desperate, "Lower . . . please."

Harry was only too happy to indulge him. The tender flesh of Severus' neck had a special flavour all its own. Harry sucked and nipped there, being careful not to mark – too much. The pleased sighs Severus was emitting told him his lover needed this as much as he did. It was so perfect, so right. It was so hard to believe that this could have been here within arms' reach his entire life and that he'd just failed to notice it. He could happily drown in Severus' mouth, spend forever in these arms, live for . . . .


Both Severus and he froze as his name was called several feet away from where they were busily necking. Horrified, Harry realized that he hadn't closed off his floo to visitors.

"Harry, you won't believe the news I've just had!" the familiar voice rattled away seemingly before the image even solidified in the hearth. "Minerva flooed me first thing this morning to – Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Embarrassment filled the deep voice. "I'll just . . . Severus!?"

As they both seemed to simultaneously recognize Remus Lupin's voice, Severus froze beneath him. Harry met his lover's horrified gaze for an instant before he slowly pulled back, making certain that there was nothing guilty or rushed in his attitude. He gave Severus' arm an encouraging squeeze before turning to face his hearth.

"Hello, Remus," he sat up and greeted the white-faced, black robed man with the shaggy grey hair gaping out of the flames at them. His old friend's facial scars were especially vivid against his ghostly white face. His erection wilted like a May daffodil at the interruption.

"Remus," Severus guardedly acknowledged as he sat up. His vest and shirtfront were open halfway down his chest.

Harry had to admire his lover's cool as Severus matter-of-factly buttoned his clothes, behaving as though it were perfectly normal for his childhood adversary to pop into the floo when he was having it away on the sofa.

"I'm sorry to disturb you. I'll . . . talk to you later," the completely weirded out Lupin said and quickly withdrew into the floo.

Worried that Lupin's interruption would upset his very private lover, Harry said once the flames were just fire again, "I'm sorry. I didn't think to turn the floo off when I got back."

"I'm sure you didn't expect to be snogging on the sofa," Severus said in a tone that was somewhere near normal.

Harry stared at Severus. Their gazes locked. He could see the shock in Severus' dark eyes, but there wasn't even a hint of the recrimination he'd dreaded. To his immense relief and delight, a spark of humour flared in the inky depths at the absurdity of the whole thing.

"I should have known us and taken proper precautions," Harry insisted. "I'm sorry."

"You don't owe me any apology. I'm an adult. I know what I'm doing. But perhaps you should go smooth things over with Lupin?" Severus stunned him by suggesting.

"I suppose you're right, but . . . we were in the middle of something." He hoped that didn't come out as whiny as it felt, but if the ironic smile that touched Severus' face were any indication, his complaint had emerged as bad as he'd feared.

"Yes, we were grading homework, which I must get through if we are going to have any time at all together this evening," Severus said.

"Touché," he laughed.

"Hardly. Another touché and none of my classes will get their homework back in time to prepare for their finals. Go talk to Lupin. I'll try to be done by your return," Severus promised.

Harry looked at the mounds of papers in front of them. "Do you really think I'll be gone that long?"

Severus stared at him as though he were as insane as he felt at the moment. "Lupin just discovered you in flagrante delicto with me. Do you really imagine it will be a short conversation?"

"God, how do I get into these situations?" he asked, running a distracted hand over his face. He didn't even know how he was going to address this issue with Remus. He could only imagine how his old friend must have felt upon finding him in a clinch with Severus Snape.

"You distract busy Potions Masters from their work; that's how you get into these situations. Now, straighten your robes and run along before Lupin dies of shock," Severus advised, picking up his pile of papers and quill again.

"You're being awfully good about this," he said as he rose to his feet, shaking his robes into shape around him. It was hopeless. They were as mussed as his hair. He did a quick straightening spell on both, which only worked on his clothes, as usual. "I rather thought you'd be happy to hear that Lupin died of shock."

Severus' gaze was unnervingly penetrating. "I would have . . . before you. I'm not a kind man, Harry, but . . . I don't want to intentionally hurt you."

Harry felt his stomach drop at the words. He could see how troubled Severus seemed by the very idea of hurting him. He'd never expected Severus to change at all when he'd entered this relationship. He'd expected every bloody day to be a battle between them. The efforts Severus was making to fit him into his life and make sure he was happy there amazed him. More than anything else, those gestures told him how much he meant to his lover. Maybe Severus might never heal enough to entertain the thought of teaching or associating with Remus Lupin, but if Severus could go this far for him, maybe it was more than enough.

He stepped back to the couch and leaned down for another deep kiss. Despite his workload, Severus never pulled back. It was finally Harry himself who disengaged from the kiss. Savouring Severus' taste in his mouth and the power seeping between them, Harry drew in a deep breath. When his head had cleared and his hopeful erection faded, he whispered, "I love you, in case you've forgotten. You still keeping count?"

Severus' eyebrow rose in an eloquent gesture that seemed both self-deprecating and slightly amused. "That was fifty-eight."

"In only four days?" Harry was a little stunned. He'd never been that verbal, but then, he'd never been with anyone like Severus before.

Severus nodded. He was trying to play it unimpressed, but Harry could see how pleased his lover was beneath his outer cool.

"Well, it's true," Harry said.

"If you plan on leaving, you'd better do so now. Another word, and you won't get out of here until breakfast," Severus warned.

Truly tempted, Harry chuckled and forced himself to step back from the couch. He really had to deal with Remus. "Don't tempt me. I feel like an errant schoolboy. How the hell am I going to talk to Remus about us?"

That got him a genuine, if evil, smile. "Fortunately, that is your problem, not mine. Enjoy your visit."

"Bastard," Harry groused.

"Yes, in all respects," Severus smugly agreed.

Recognizing that his throwaway comment might have been painful in light of Severus' actual family history, Harry found himself stumbling over his words to apologize. "I'm sorry. I didn't think. I didn't mean – "

"Harry, I know what you meant. Now, please, go visit your friend and allow me to finish this work."

Wanting nothing more than to crawl back into Severus' arms, Harry gave a reluctant nod and turned to the floo to collect his floo powder from the jar atop the mantle. A minute later he was tumbling out of the fireplace in the Black family's sitting room.

The room had undergone quite a few changes in the years that Remus had lived here. The walls were all freshly painted. Large, comfy, black leather couches and armchairs had replaced the mouldering antiques he remembered from his youth. Light and houseplants filled the room with life and vitality.

About the only thing out of place was the visibly upset man sitting in the middle of the sofa. Lupin looked almost shell-shocked by what he'd seen; his scarred, bookish features were blank and numb looking.

"Hello, Remus," Harry nervously greeted as he straightened up from his ignominious arrival and dusted the ashes off his blue robe.

Relieved, he saw Remus meet his gaze. "Hi, Harry."

Not knowing exactly how to begin, he started with a nervous, "I guess that was a bit of a shock, ey?"

"You mean finding you shagging Severus Snape in the middle of the afternoon? Yes, I'd say that was something of a shock," Remus answered with atypical sarcasm. Harry could hear the barely suppressed anger in his old friend's voice.

He sighed. "I'm sorry you had to find out that way, Remus. I was planning on telling you as soon as I saw you, but it's a pretty new development and I hadn't spoken to you since . . . ."

"Since you lost your mind?" Remus suggested. "Harry, has he got you under Imperius? How did something like this happen? I mean, I know you were close to him when you were both changed into children, but now that you're adults I thought . . . for God's sake, he's Severus Snape. He was a Death Eater. He was your father's worst enemy – "

This wasn't like Remus. Remus was always gentle, always supportive of him.

"I don't need the history lesson, thank you all the same," Harry interrupted before things could get too far out of hand. "And, no, Severus does not have me under Imperius. If it's any of your business, the entire thing was my idea."

"Your idea," Remus repeated, as though the words had no meaning.

"I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but I'm in love with him, Remus. I think . . . I think he might be the person I've been searching for my entire life," Harry softly confessed.

"Merlin's beard! He does have you under Imperius!" Remus insisted, appearing seriously concerned by the possibility.

"Oh, for . . ." His words died at the absolute concern on Remus' face. His scars were standing out like fresh wounds. Remus' blue eyes were flashing as Harry had only seen them do once before – on that fateful night at the Shrieking Shack when he'd actually seen his teacher transform into a werewolf. Remus was obviously deeply troubled. "Look, there's nothing underhanded going on here. He's the best friend I ever had, and . . . ."

That worried look on Remus' face wasn't getting any better. "Harry, I've known Severus Snape for thirty-eight years. He's not capable of friendship or loyalty. After Thomas Riddle, I think he is the most powerful dark wizard Hogwarts has ever turned out. When he was eleven – "

"He knew more curses than a fourth year. I've heard it all before," Harry said.

"He was so powerful no one in the same year as him could face him one on one. It seemed sometimes like he could get right into your thoughts. He was the scariest bastard I ever faced, and I'm including Voldemort in that estimation."

"Which was why you Marauders always ganged up on him?" Harry snapped back, truly angry now.

Remus blinked. "What?"

"I know what my dad and Sirius used to do to him. It was never a fair fight. He was always outnumbered."

Remus' face grew red with anger. "He was a treacherous Slytherin bastard with no loyalty. He wasn't even true to the members of his own House, Harry. For years, he was Lucius Malfoy's lapdog, but then he had an affair with Lucius in seventh year and put a curse on him that – "

So, Severus' seventh year 'intended' had been Malfoy. He'd suspected as much, but hadn't felt it his place to pry that far into Severus' private life.

"Gave the bastard boils every time he got it up. I know," Harry completed.

"He told you about that?" Remus seemed as shocked by this as by discovering them on the couch before.

"All of that is ancient history, Remus," Harry insisted. "You don't know the real Severus, and you never did."

"And you think you do?" Remus challenged, staring at him like he was an impertinent ten-year-old. "Voldemort practiced Legilimens and he never sussed on that Snape was spying on him. What makes you think you're smarter than Voldemort?"

Tired of the pointless argument, Harry tried to remove all the anger from his response as he said, "I'm not smarter. I just know Severus, in my soul kind of know him. Remus, our wizards powers blend into each other."

Remus' mouth, which was opened for another round of quarrelling, snapped shut with an audible click of his teeth. After a stunned silence, he asked, "They do?"

Harry gave a cautious nod, unsure how his honorary uncle would take that bit of personal information. For that matter, he wasn't even certain that Severus would want anyone to know about it, but that power exchange was the only thing he could think of that would convince his prejudiced friend that Severus wasn't using him.

"I never felt that, not ever," Remus softly confessed.

"Me neither. I know you have a really bad history with Severus, but . . . he's good to me. I swear it. We . . . fit." Seeing that Remus was actually listening to him, he added, "It would really make me happy if you could accept that. I know the two of you could never be mates or anything, but . . . it would be nice if I didn't have to choose between you."

Remus' expression was hard to judge at the moment. He still looked stunned, but the numbed quality had left his blue eyes. In its place was something that Harry would almost identify as a grudging respect, if he didn't know how outright impossible that would be.

After a moment's silence, Remus said, "I'd lose, wouldn't I?"

Giving the answering nod of confirmation to that question was one of the hardest things Harry had ever had to do. Remus was one of the foundations of his life. He didn't want to lose him. But, he wouldn't abide this type of open warfare over his choice of lover. Severus was in his life for the long haul, if Remus couldn't accept that, he would never be comfortable with either of them.

"God, Harry, you never take the easy path, do you?" Remus asked, a slight smile quirking his lips.

His knees nearly giving out upon the return of his friend's normal good cheer, Harry crossed to the couch and sat down beside Remus. "No, but Severus makes it easier for me."

"He does?" Remus sounded interested rather than doubtful.

"Yes. I know it's hard to believe, but . . . under all that snark, he's a good man."

"I'll have to take your word for that, Harry. I . . . I hope you're right, for your sake. I wish you'd chosen anyone else on the planet, but . . . I wish you luck. You deserve some happiness." Remus seemed to mean the words.

"Thanks," he whispered, all choked up.

They stared into the flames in the hearth, obviously both at a loss for words.

Finally, Harry turned to Remus and asked, "What was your news? You seemed awful excited when you first flooed in?"

Remus chuckled. "Well, I'd actually come to thank you."

"Thank me?" Harry echoed.

"For recommending me to Minerva for the Charms Position. I start in September. She told me that one of her most respected professors had come to her to argue my case. I – I don't know how to thank you enough, Harry," Remus' voice shook with emotion.


"Yes?" Lupin responded, seeming to get a hold of himself.

"It wasn't me, though I wanted to," he confessed.


"Severus had made it plain that he would shoot me down at the staff meeting like he does every time I recommend you. It seemed like a hopeless cause," Harry reluctantly said.

Lupin didn't seem offended by his statement. Instead, his confused friend asked, "Ron or Hermione, then?"

"I doubt it. Everyone knows how Severus feels about you. They know Minerva won't risk another scandal like that one in our third year," Harry said.

"But who else would have done it, if not the three of you? Neville?" Remus questioned.

Harry thought about it, but it didn't feel right. "No, if none of us were willing to take on Severus over the issue, I doubt Neville would. He always supports us, but he leaves the actual suggesting to one of us."

"Who does that leave, then?" Remus asked.

Harry considered the question. There was only one viable possibility. "It had to be Severus."

"Are you insane? He wouldn't piss on me if I were on fire."

"He makes your Wolfbane potion for you every month," Harry reminded.

"For the protection of the Wizarding World, not for me. He'd never do anything to help any of the Marauders." After a silent moment, Remus added, "Nor would I, were I in his shoes to be honest."

"Maybe he didn't do it for you," Harry voiced his sudden realization.

"How's that, then?" Remus asked.

"Maybe he did it for me. We were discussing, well, arguing the issue last night and I told him how worried I was about you. I think he went to Minerva this morning. It's the only thing that makes sense. She would never hire you on if she thought Severus would cause another scandal. He must have done it."

"I can't see it, Harry. Severus Snape just isn't that self-sacrificing," Remus argued.

"Remus, you don't know him – you really don't. He – "

"Yes?" Remus encouraged, seeming willing to listen.

"He'd die for me," Harry softly admitted.

"You sound so sure of that," Remus said, his voice sounding oddly hushed.

"I am," Harry answered. "I think I'm the only person who's ever really known the real Severus."

"Well, if what you say is true about his recommending me to Minerva, that might just be the case," Remus surprised him by agreeing. "But you'll have to excuse me if I withhold judgment at the moment. It's nearly too much to take in. I'm going to make us some tea. Then, I want you to tell me how you fell for Severus Snape."

Hearing the disbelief that still lingered in his old friend's voice, Harry chuckled and promised, "I'll do my best. Most of it's private, though."

It was nearly four hours later when he flooed back to his rooms, totally exhausted from talking. Harry knew that, if nothing else, he had managed to convince Remus that his feelings for Severus were legitimate, and not the product of any dark magic. He could tell that Remus still thought he was crazy for loving Severus, but at least his father's sole remaining friend wouldn't be openly accusing Severus of Imperius. That was probably the best he'd ever be able to hope for in this situation.

As he steadied himself upon landing in his sitting room, his smile turned into a grin. Severus was still there. Not surprisingly, his lover was still on the couch, but to Harry's astonishment, the homework pile was done. Severus was relaxing in his grey and white striped nightshirt and bathrobe over a potions journal, with a cup of tea steaming at his side.

The only illumination was that of the hearth he'd just flooed in through. The room was filled with islands of orange light among the comfortable dark shadows of his furnishings. Severus looked particularly sexy with the firelight playing across his features.

Harry couldn't believe how good it felt to come home and find Severus waiting here, how . . . established it made their relationship feel to him. In all the time he'd been with Julius while touring with the Cannons, he hadn't once come home to find Julius waiting for him like this. Well, aside from that time that he'd caught him in bed with someone else, but he wasn't sure that counted.

This counted.

"Welcome back," Severus greeted, something like nervousness in his dark eyes as their gazes met.

"Hello, yourself," Harry grinned.

Severus searched his features for a long moment and then said, almost inanely, as if searching for something to say, "I take it you've eaten?"

"Yes," Harry answered. He knew he was missing an entire level to the conversation here, but his distracted mind was caught by the pile of completed homework on the corner of his coffee table and could move no farther. He knew how long it would have taken him to get through that work had it been his. "You got through that entire mess while I was gone?"

"You were gone for hours, Harry, and, I have been teaching this subject for more than thirty years," Severus replied. He offered up his mug to him as Harry approached the couch. Even from three feet away, he could feel Severus' power embrace him with a warmth like stepping into sunlight. It reminded him of his mostly pointless discussion with Remus. What he had with Severus wasn't something he could ever explain to anyone, it was a gift to be savoured. More grateful than he could say, Harry took a deep sip of the milky brew as he settled at Severus' side as Snape quietly asked, "So, how did it go?"

Abruptly recognizing Severus' nervousness, he moved closer and laid his arm across the back of the couch, so that he was touching his lover down his entire left side.

"Not bad, once he got past the initial shock," Harry answered, leaning over to kiss Severus' cheekbone.

"How did you convince him that I don't have you under Imperius?" Severus asked, sounding as though he'd been privy to their entire conversation.

"You weren't monitoring us, were you?" Harry asked with an indignant chuckle.

"Hardly. It's what I'd suspect, were I Lupin," Severus calmly replied.

Harry was startled to see something like worry in the back of Severus' eyes. It suddenly occurred to him how difficult it must have been for Severus to send him off to speak to Lupin about their relationship. Severus knew Remus had no reason to support or encourage their relationship, and would doubtless be doing his best to discourage him from pursuing it. Severus wasn't confident in them lasting at the best of times. It must have been hard for his lover to let him go, knowing someone he'd respected from childhood would be bad-mouthing him.

Appreciating what Severus must be feeling right now, he softly said, "You're right. He was suspicious at first, but I managed to convince him that there was nothing nefarious going on."

"How did you do that? In his place it would have taken nothing short of Veritaserum to convince me," Severus said.

"Well, now that you mention it . . . ." Harry laughed, even though he knew Severus was dead serious. "Fortunately, I'm a bit more verbal about my feelings than you are. I, ah, told him that our wizards powers blend together. I hope that's all right?"

Severus gave a tight nod. "What was his reaction?"

"Well, I think he still believes that I've lost my mind, but by the end of the evening, Remus was in no doubt that I was exactly where I wanted to be."

"And are you . . . exactly where you want to be?" Severus quietly questioned, his muscle tension betraying that the inquiry wasn't nearly as light-hearted as he might have wished.

Harry held his lover's stare, hating the nervousness that was still there. But at least Severus had had the courage to ask. A few days ago, even that would have been beyond him. "Well, I'd rather that we were making each other all sweaty and crazy in bed, but barring that, this will do."

For once, he said the right thing. Severus' lips twitched upwards in the corners and after a moment's hesitation, he allowed a real, if small, smile to show.

"You, ah, spoke to Minerva this morning about Remus, didn't you?" Harry asked.

He didn't know what type of response he anticipated. Denial seemed the most likely. But Severus simply stared at him for a moment before answering, "The recommendation had to come from me, Harry, or she would never have chanced taking him on again."

"I didn't ask you to do that," he reminded. "I wouldn't ask you to do something that made you so . . . uncomfortable."

"I know. Whatever happens, it's entirely on my head," Severus said, obviously expecting the worst.

"You did it for me," Harry said.

This time Severus didn't even attempt to control his laughter. It was harsh with irony, but welcome all the same. "Well, I certainly didn't do it for Lupin."

"Thank you," Harry whispered, sinking in for another lazy kiss.

When he pulled back a breathless time later, Severus warned, "Don't thank me too quickly. We may all live to regret this. I'm not . . . well, contact with any of the Marauders has never brought out my finer qualities."

Hearing the legitimate worry, Harry brushed his fingers across Severus' brow. "Remus isn't a Marauder anymore, Severus. He's just a man, the same as you and me."

"A werewolf, actually," Severus corrected. "There is a bit of a difference. You do recognize that if he fails to take his potion, my sentimental impulse will have put all of our students in mortal peril?"

Reading the legitimate concern, Harry nodded. "I know . . . and I appreciate the chance you're taking, but . . . Remus hasn't missed taking his potion once since my third year, has he?"

"Harry, I stand over him until he consumes it. I don't give him that option anymore." Severus seemed braced for an explosion after his words.

It didn't take much for Harry to imagine how strained those full moon meetings must be if Severus were making it clear each time that he didn't believe that Remus had the integrity to be trusted to take his potion on his own. Beginning to realize how embarrassing this entire situation must be to Remus, Harry began to appreciate how much he was asking of these two old enemies to coexist here for his sake.

"Well, at least we'll know he's had it, then. We won't have to worry," Harry said at last. He didn't like the idea of Remus being humiliated like that every month, but . . . his old friend had missed his potion in his third year, to near disastrous results. While it was true the circumstances on the night Sirius had escaped Hogwarts had been extenuating beyond belief, Harry could see Severus' point. Someone could have died.

"That's all you're going to say? No 'he can be trusted'?" Severus practically sneered.

Clearly, Severus had been bracing himself for all out war over this.

Harry sighed. "Remus is a werewolf, Severus, and this is a school full of innocent children. Precautions have to be taken. Personally, I can't think of anyone who would be better at guaranteeing the students' safety than you." When he saw Severus' gaze lower, he softly said, "It will all work out."

"Will it?"

Hearing his lover's fear, he hugged Severus close to him and assured, "Yes, I promise."

"How can you know that? Remus and I barely managed during your third year, and there was so much less hatred between us back then," Severus said. "I . . . don't want you to end up hating me, Harry."

Reading how real that fear was, Harry stroked his lover's back and challenged. "How could I hate you? Every time there has been a conflict between us, you have chosen my happiness over your own. I know how hard this was for you to do and I know that you only did it because of me. Remus might be one of my oldest friends, but you're my lover, Severus. You come first with me. You always will."

He could see how much Severus wanted to believe those words; he could also see how impossible that much faith still was for him.

Wondering if the subjects he'd been waiting for the right time to address would ease Severus' worries, he turned on the couch so that he was facing his friend and threw his right arm across Severus' robe-covered stomach.

"There are some things I've been wanting to discuss with you," Harry said. "Important things. Do you think this is a good time?"

"That sounds ominous," Severus quipped as dozens of invisible barriers popped up around him.

"No, not ominous, just . . . important," Harry promised. "Okay?" At Severus' guarded nod, he began, "You know that school is closing for the summer in less than three weeks." Another tight nod met his words. Harry could tell how his friend's tension had increased nearly astronomically. "Well, I know you normally stay here at Hogwarts all summer. Were you planning on doing that again this year?"

Harry was careful to ask. He knew what he wanted for them, but he was also leery of forcing Severus into too much, too soon. If Severus wanted to stay here at Hogwarts, he wanted his lover to know that he'd be right here with him.

Severus' gaze dropped and he gave a subdued, "I hadn't really thought that far ahead."

"You hadn't? That doesn't sound like you," Harry tried to lighten the mood.

His effort failed miserably. Severus met his gaze and softly admitted, "It's hard to make future plans when you're living in the moment, waiting for everything to fall apart."

That was the truth Severus lived with day in, day out, Harry recognized. The man had spent his entire life waiting for disaster to strike. Well, no more. He was here to make sure that didn't happen to Severus anymore, that his life was more than endurance and misery.

"I, ah, was hoping our talk might keep that from happening," Harry said. At the eloquent arch of Severus' left brow, he continued, "Since I started teaching at Hogwarts, Ron, Hermione, and I normally spend the holidays together. We usually spend the summer travelling, and then stop off at the Burrow for a week or so."

"The Burrow?" Severus repeated, totally blank.

That ramshackle homestead had been so much a part of his world since he was eleven that Harry had just naturally assumed that Severus would know about it as well, but now he realized that Severus would have had little cause to know anything personal about the Weasleys until this past year.

"The Burrow is Molly and Arthur Weasleys' place. It's not as bad as it sounds. Since everyone's all grown up and got their own place, there's actually plenty of room for guests now. If you don't want to stay with them, we could always come back here early," Harry quickly offered.

"You . . . wish me to come?" Severus appeared legitimately stunned.

"Of course, I want you to come," Harry tried hard not to snap. "What do you think I'm telling you all this for?"

"To inform me of your plans?" Severus replied.

Seeing that Severus wasn't trying to be difficult, but that he really had feared that he would be put aside for the entire summer, Harry took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. Trust didn't come overnight, or even after four days of incredible loving, he reminded himself.

"Our plans," he corrected.

"Our plans?" Severus echoed.

"Yes. I want us to be together. If you don't want to travel, then we'll stay here, but . . . I hope you'll consider going. It's always great fun. This year we were planning on touring the Greek Islands. I've only ever seen them in passing on quidditch tours, and, well . . . I'd like to get you alone on a deserted beach. I want to see the world with you at my side, Severus. What do you think?" he ended in a rush.

He could tell how thrown Severus was by his expression. His lover looked nearly as shell shocked as Remus had before.

"I've never been farther than London in my entire life," Severus said.

"I know," Harry said, stroking Severus' shoulder.

"I . . . don't travel well," Severus warned.

"You don't know that. You've never done it before. You're so curious about everything . . . you might love it. We could try it, and, if you didn't care for it, we could come back here."

"You would do that? Cancel your plans for me?" Severus seemed astonished.

"My plans are to be with you. If we're not together on a Grecian beach, then we'll spend the summer working our way through Hogwarts' rooms, one by one," Harry grinned.

"Working . . . oh." Severus flushed.

Loving how flustered his lover was by all this, Harry asked, "So, will you think about it?"

Severus' gaze slipped away for a moment. When next it met his own, the panic seemed to be under control. "I don't need to think about it. I'll go."

"Fantastic!" Harry cheered, hugging his friend tight.

"You may regret it," Severus seemed compelled to point out.

"No chance. We're going to have the time of our lives," Harry promised his sheltered lover.

Severus reached out a hand to brush back his ever-rowdy hair from his brow. "Was that all you wished to discuss? You did say important 'things'."

Harry grinned. Severus never missed anything. "There was just one other thing. You, ah, mightn't be as eager about this one."

Severus appeared amused, rather than alarmed, as he replied, "I consider myself forewarned. Go ahead."

Harry took a deep breath. This was just Severus. There was no reason to be nervous. Severus loved him. If he knew nothing else, he knew that. But there were degrees to loving anyone, and his next request was going to push Severus pretty hard.

"I want us to be together," Harry said, needing that said upfront.

"Yes, and . . . ?" Severus prompted.

"I want us to live together. When we get back from our holiday, I want to move down into the Slytherin dungeon with you," Harry announced as calmly as he could in the face of Severus' utter shock.

"You want to . . . move into the Slytherin dungeon?" Severus repeated.

"With you," Harry confirmed. "I thought about inviting you to live here with me. These quarters are bigger and have more light and a better view, but you're Head of House. You've got to be accessible to the Slytherin dorm on a 24-hour basis. I figured it would make a lot more sense for me to move down there with you."

"You've given this some thought, I see," Severus said. His luscious, deep voice was slow and lazy, but Harry could see how hard his brain was working.

"It's all I've been able to think about for days," he admitted. "Well, that and the holiday. I know it's a pretty big step."

Severus shifted back a bit from him, but only far enough away so that they had an easier line of sight to each other's eyes.

"Is it too big a commitment?" Harry asked as the silence deepened.

Severus gave a negative shake of his head, which Harry supposed was good.

"What, then? You don't exactly seem . . . happy," Harry pointed out, trying not to be upset over that fact.

Severus' hand moved from his hair to his cheek. He couldn't even define the emotions in Severus' eyes at the moment as that dark gaze studied him.

Severus finally appeared to force himself to answer. "I don't know how to take this . . . how to take you in stride. It's all so much, Harry, after spending your entire life alone."

Harry nearly sagged in relief. "I know."

"You do?"

He held those doubt-filled eyes and tried to explain. He knew he had as much of a chance of convincing his sceptical lover as he'd had of swaying Remus to their cause this afternoon, but he still had to try to relay his feelings to this incredible man. "Do you think there's ever been anyone who cares about me the way you do? This morning you campaigned to have someone who has been your enemy longer than I've been alive come to work here – all for my sake. I know what that took, and what it's going to cost you to coexist with Remus. That . . . kind of love isn't an easy thing to accept with a shrug, Severus. No one's ever . . . moved me the way you do. So, I do get what you're talking about."

He wasn't disbelieved. Severus didn't look as though he believed it himself, but the softening of his expression made it plain that he accepted that his lover felt that way.

Severus leaned in to hug him. He held on for a long time, feeling the power seeping between them while he breathed in the heat and scent of his lover, the closeness relaxing him.

He smiled as Severus caught a hank of the hair at the front of his head between his fingers and slowly let the thick, dark tufts rain down to cover his lightning scar. After a moment or two of that, Severus quietly questioned, "You seriously wish to move into the Slytherin dungeon?"

"More than anything," he admitted, not caring how needy it sounded.

Severus appeared to consider the idea for an eternity or two longer, before he cautiously allowed, "I suppose we could give it a try, see how it works out."

Just like that, Harry knew how it would work out, the same way everything else had between them – brilliantly. He was meshing their mouths together before Severus had finished his sentence, then, a heartbeat later, he was drawing his taller lover down onto the sofa. The way their flesh accommodated each other's bodies was almost a promise of how their lives would fit together. Harry felt it with every kiss, and, just as importantly, he could tell that Severus did, too.

"Harr-reee . . . ." that breathy, drawn out sound was the last he heard nearly every night.

Loving the glazed look that was coming over Severus' face, he quickly stripped his companion down, and then dealt with his own clothes just as fast. Their garments landed in a wide circle around the sofa, but that was par for the course most nights with them.

The couch was small, but neither of them seemed to mind. He settled on top of Severus as comfortably as he would have in the centre of their king sized beds. Those slender, but powerful thighs spread wide, and his hips sank down between them. There was nothing in the world like that feeling of sliding down between Severus' thighs, of feeling them grip him tight and hold him between them.

His hands reached out to stroke Severus' sides and chest. These places might all be familiar to him now, but the rush touching them gave him would never become old.

Just like their kisses. Every day they just got hotter and deeper. Tonight, they were feeding off each other's mouths as though they were buddy breathing and kissing was the only way to get oxygen into their lungs. It certainly felt that way to Harry as his tongue got friendly with Severus' tonsils.

Severus' large hands were moving restlessly over his back and butt, spurring him on. His lover's power was seeping through every inch of skin where they came into sweaty contact, and he could feel his own doing the same. It truly was an open channel.

Harry felt the thighs gripping him spread even farther apart. Severus gave a grunt and sudden movement as he doubled himself over by pulling his legs up between them, leaving himself completely vulnerable, completely open.

The move sent Harry's throbbing erection sliding between his lover's flat buttocks. He gasped as he ended up where he wanted to be.

This was the part that always blew his mind. For his entire life, he'd viewed Severus Snape as the most aggressive, alpha wizard he'd ever met. It didn't get any more formidable than Severus in the Wizarding World. To have this man surrender to him night after night, to not just tolerate his penetration, but to actively seek it, was the greatest blessing he'd known.

There was no change in the routine tonight. The breath caught in Harry's chest as Severus manoeuvred himself to where he wanted to be, lifting his bottom up at him for easy access.

This was so different from what he'd had with Julius. There was never any disagreement, never any jostling as to who'd top, never any hard feelings. There was only sex, and joy, and mind-blowing love. All the things he'd always known intercourse should have been, but never was – before Severus.

As Severus shifted up to meet him, Harry silently summoned the lubricant from the bedroom and carefully coated his fingers.

The hiss Severus gave when Harry's slicked forefinger finally slid inside almost undid him. Everything was so intense with Severus. Half the time, he could almost come from simply the noises his lover made.

The keening, whimpering one currently sounding was probably his favourite, but he loved them all.

Harry spent a long while caressing and working that snug ring of muscle to earn its permission to enter. When it finally gave its silent agreement, Harry quickly coated his shaft with the pine-scented lubricant. He positioned himself, and then slowly eased in. He loved to watch his cock disappear into that tiny opening.

Focusing on what he was doing, Harry pushed his glans through the guarding sphincter muscle. It was like piercing a virgin every time, for Severus' entrance was as tight as the first night he'd taken him.

The squeeze was sublime, the most perfect fit he'd ever known. The penetration was nerve-wrackingly slow, but that seemed to be the way they both preferred it.

It still amazed him that they were so well matched, that their needs dovetailed each other's so perfectly.

Those first few nights together, he'd been terrified that Severus was simply humouring him by allowing him to be on top. He'd been waiting for inevitable night when Severus would demand to turn to the tables, or, worse yet, do what Julius had done and use his accommodation as a bargaining tool to get what he wanted in other parts of their relationship. But, that hadn't played out as he'd feared. After sex, it was always Severus who acted as though he'd been granted what he wanted most; it was Severus who had behaved as though his partner had the upper hand and that he was at his mercy. It was only in the last day or so that Harry had come to understand that Severus really did look at it that way, as though he were doing him some incredible favour by taking him.

Harry's brain had some trouble getting around that concept. To him, taking had always been natural, as it had seemed to be for the majority of his partners. Throughout his life, he had constantly been in the position of having to convince another dominant male to permit him to be on top. To him, it was a miracle that Severus would want him to take him, for he knew how rare it was for one wizard to be able to trust another far enough to admit to that kind of need. He would be grateful till the day he died that Severus would permit him to take the dominant role in bed, even occasionally, let alone every night.

But apparently, his reaction wasn't typical. What little Severus had told him of his experiences seemed to indicate that there was some type of stigma in the Wizarding World to preferring to be on the bottom that Harry couldn't comprehend. It was clear that Severus had been belittled by the men who'd taken him – because he'd permitted himself to be mounted. The entire idea made him sick to his stomach.

It was bad enough trying to convince another dominant male to let him do what he wanted, but what must it have been like for Severus? To be willing to take the submissive role in bed, perhaps even to need to take the submissive role, only to have the man whom you'd gifted with your trust and body turn around and ridicule you?

Was it any wonder Severus had such trust issues? His lover's courage still amazed him. He'd never loved anyone as much as he did this often-disagreeable man.

Their mouths still fused together, Harry began to thrust. The rhythm found him immediately and caught him up in its irresistible pull. In, out, in out . . . They were the perfect circuit, his shaft in and out of Severus' tight body, both their powers coursing back and forth between their close pressed flesh, the incandescent pleasure blasting through their every nerve . . . .

He lost himself in Severus and knew that his lover was doing the same. For this perfect moment in time, they were one being, one need, one love. With every thrust and kiss, the pleasure grew, until their bodies were a single flare of burning desire.

All too soon, ecstasy melted them. The delight crashed through him like a tsunami. Harry felt himself still and spasm deep inside Severus, and, almost instantaneously, his stomach and chest were spurted with his lover's sticky gift. It went on and on forever, claiming all they were and all they would ever be.

They remained frozen together in climax for that eternal moment, and then, finally, that searing heat receded. Reality ripped them into two separate entities again, with only the open and still bleeding power conduit reminding them of what they'd been but a few breaths ago.

Harry sighed as his penis deflated and he slipped out of Severus. It was always over too soon. They never seemed to be able to hold onto that instant of perfection – which was probably a good thing, since it only made them want to try all the harder as soon as they were able again.

He reached out to carefully ease Severus' hips back down onto the couch and help him straighten out his cramped legs.

Though Severus winced with pain, no comment was given. He'd never yet voiced a single complaint, Harry realized, even when they'd gotten too wild and Harry knew his lover had to be hurting.

Despite Severus' silence, Harry always tried to make sure he took care of Severus afterwards. As soon as they were both semi-coherent, Harry scooted them around until he was lying on the bottom with Severus on top of him. Struck by the night chill of the castle, he summoned an afghan from the bedroom to cover them both. As the sweat cooled off them, he rubbed the scarred skin of Severus' lower back until the other man was openly dozing in his arms, sated and as at ease as a pampered cat.

For a long time after Severus drifted off to sleep, Harry laid awake, simply holding him, his mind racing with the events of the day. There was a part of him that loved these quiet times best.

Occasionally, he'd find himself staring at Severus' harsh profile while he slept and it would strike him how strange it was that they should be lying here together. Six months ago they had barely been able to have a civil conversation, and now . . . now Severus Snape was his entire world.

If he'd needed any proof that it was the same for Severus, today would have given him more than sufficient evidence. In less than a day, Severus had shown mercy to a hated enemy for his sake, agreed to change the habits of a lifetime by travelling with him, and consented to give up his close-guarded privacy to share his entire life and home with him. You didn't get much more proof than that, Harry decided, not without someone dying.

But Harry didn't want anyone to die. He wanted them to live. In fact, lying here tonight squashed in this too-small couch with Severus, Harry felt as if a whole new world and life were opening up for them. Loving Severus certainly felt like he'd been given a new lease on life.

He didn't know where this new life would lead them, or what trials might befall them in this sometimes small-minded world, but the one thing he knew with utter certainty was that Severus Snape would be there beside him, loving him. And, somehow, he knew that would be more than enough, for them both.

Soaking in Severus' warmth and power, Harry released a deep breath and gave himself over to sleep, and the new life that awaited them.

The End





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