Know Thine Own Heart

The Scandalous (and Spiritual) Tale of Mr Harry Potter.


Chapter 1  

London, 1816

The emerald-eyed clerk descended the stairs brightly, smoothing down his new jade-coloured satin waistcoat as he did so. With his free hand, he made a futile attempt to flatten down his (perpetually wild) ebony curls.

Charmingly fresh-faced on this, the morning of his society debut, he halted briefly upon the bottom step.

He could hear the sound of petulant raised voices coming from the drawing room.

Recognising the infuriated, gruff tones of his Godfather, he crossed the chequered floor of the entrance hall with a stealthy swiftness (borne of long practice). After debating with himself for an anxious moment, young Harry Potter threw caution (and good breeding) to the wind. He knelt at the drawing room door, wedging one green eye up against the keyhole, his spectacles pressing awkwardly into his face.

Never had he heard his Godfather expostulate so violently.

"Do not, I beg you, say more!" came the angry voice of his only relative, from within the room. "Be so kind as to give me that potion, Snape, and I shall see you out. You are not welcome in my house!"  

Mr Potter, of eighteen years this dazzling July morning, squinted in a most un-gentlemanly manner into the keyhole.

He was anxious to get a look at the despicable Mr Snape - of whom he had heard much from his Godfather, Mr Sirius Black.

Any mention of Mr Snape (an acquaintance from Mr Black's school days) was usually preceded with such descriptions as: "the odious Mr Snape," or "that detestable fellow, Mr Snape," or, upon the occasion that Sirius had imbibed too much of the good wine, simply "that traitorous dog, Snivellus Snape."  

To Mr Potter's great exasperation, however, the elusive Mr Snape appeared to be standing by one of the bay windows, and was obscured behind one of the (lavishly-padded) drawing room chairs.

His voice, nonetheless, floated through the keyhole; dark and rich as rippling velvet, and dripping with scorn.

"If you would only be so kind as to tell me Mr Lupin's personal address, I would not have been forced to come here at all!"  

Silently cursing the layout of the drawing room, Harry angled his head awkwardly, but still saw nothing.

He wished, not for the first time, that his Godfather had sent him to study magic at the school where he, Sirius, had grown up - then Harry would know all kinds of irresponsible enchantments that would reveal Snape to him…  

Sirius Black crossed his limited field of vision. Harry, shifting his knees in the dust, could just make out his Godfather's outraged expression.

"If you think I would trust a blaggard such as yourself with Mr Lupin's private address, you are much mistaken! I don't know why you are come to London; I only know you are not welcome here! Now name your price and get out," he sneered at the loathed man.

But before Harry could discern what price the arrant Mr Snape was fleecing Sirius with for his business, a firm hand fell upon his shoulder.

Looking up into the bloated face of their butler, Wormtail, he blushed.

"My, what a flush is now staining your cheek, Mr Potter! The young master should not be concerning himself with matters that are none of his business," hissed the butler, with asperity.

"I'm just listening!" Harry mouthed back, his face crimson - but the damage was already done.

There came the sound of hurrying footsteps from within the drawing room.

A moment later, the door was flung open by a man of Sirius' age (he was not yet forty). He scowled down at Harry with a face the colour of soured milk.

Harry, eyes wide, took in the odious Mr Snape's appearance. Shoulder-length and (fashionably) free and un-powdered (if greasy) black hair; a large, hooked nose, set too-large into a thin face… From which two dark eyes, like deep pools, scrutinised him intently.

Mr Snape was dressed elegantly in a sober black woollen coat, well cut. He also wore black breeches and stockings, and highly polished black shoes, which Harry was now far too close to for his own liking.

"Ah. The eligible Mr Potter, I believe," sneered the singularly unhandsome Mr Snape.

He stepped back from the young man kneeling at his feet as though Harry were most loathsome to him. Harry got to his feet stiffly, muted by a sudden anxiety. His eyes met with Sirius', who was peering with irritation over Mr Snape's shoulder.

"Harry? Go upstairs boy, this is none of your concern," Sirius ordered, sharply.

"On the contrary," murmured the unwelcome Mr Snape, his tone oily, "it is a pleasure to finally make the acquaintance of the most fashionable Potter son. I knew your father at school, boy. I suppose Black here has told you?"  

Harry nodded, curt and awkward.

Mr Snape took in his frostiness and sniffed, distastefully.

"Just so. I understand from the papers that today is your eighteenth? And that Mr Black has organised a most generous Ball tonight in your honour? What an end to the season it shall be."  

Snape's coal-dark eyes glittered as the surveyed Harry's new green satin outfit.

"Black," he called, over his shoulder. "Mr Potter is already somewhat of a dandy, do you not think? Then again," he scoffed, turning to observe Sirius' own blue satin jacket, (complete with ostentatious embroidery) "one can clearly see where he gets it from…"  

Sirius bristled at this, and Harry blanched, uncomfortably.

"Of course," Snape continued, "you are newly out of prison, are you not, Black? Has it been five years already? I suppose you are making up for lost time, after wearing rags for so long…"  

"It is his birthday, Snape - an occasion to which you were most certainly not invited," Sirius interrupted. "Now, if you would be so kind -" and he drew, from his breeches pocket, a purse, which he thrust most bad-temperedly into Snape's talon-like fingers, "as to leave my house."  

"I am going," sneered Snape, pocketing his payment before turning back to Harry and smirking.

"You look just like your father. A great pity," he sighed, holding out his hand for his hat, which Wormtail scurried away to procure.

Harry puffed out his chest.

"I am told that I possess my mother's eyes, sir," he said.

Snape's inscrutable black eyes bored into his own.

"Indeed. That, however, is little compensation. Good-day, gentlemen," Snape bowed to Sirius, a mere nod of the head. He then turned to Harry and gave a sickeningly patronising low bow, which made Harry's lip curl in distaste.

Snape's eyes met his again for a moment as the man raised his head.

"Enjoy your party, Potter," he sneered, as though it were the most trivial thing Harry could be doing on his birthday (or any day, for that matter).

And then Snape, receiving his hat from the butler in his spindly fingers - so like a spider, Harry thought - spun on his heel. Moments later, he was gone into the street.

The polished door slammed shut behind him.

Sirius exploded.

"You see Harry what an odious, slippery creature he is - I cannot bring myself to call him a man! That I should have to have dealings with him at all offends me most dearly. I wish he had not given up teaching and come to London; he runs a private business now, the dog. Oh, if only Remus were not so afflicted!" he exclaimed, waving his hands about crossly. Harry, still smarting from the encounter, said nothing.

It was a most unpleasant way to begin his birthday.  

Chapter 2  

Harry's birthday celebrations were to be held at the Spring Garden in Vauxhall. It was a pleasure garden of several acres, laid out with walks and amusements.

The merriment was to begin at four o'clock and continue, all through the evening, until the grand display of fireworks at ten. A fancy dress ball was planned for the evening, and many additional entertainments - including the supper boxes, the music room, the Chinese pavilion, a gothic orchestra that accommodated fifty musicians, ruins, arches, statues and a cascade - were made ready.

Sirius had spent months overseeing the preparations, in order to make Harry's introduction into society the most fashionable evening of the year. Harry's Godfather maintained that it was a dangerous time to be a wizard, and Harry would do much better by himself acquiring some 'real' skills and earning a decent living as a Muggle. Therefore, party invitations were sent out only to prominent members of Muggle society, and Harry's (distinctly non-magical) costume was sitting on the dummy in his dressing room.

The costume was magnificent, splendid, lavish (Sirius maintained)… Harry disagreed. He had detested the valiant peacock costume from the moment he set eyes upon it.

Sirius, however, had insisted tonight was to be his introduction, and he needed to be noticed.

In truth, the costume was as frivolous and hideous as the party itself, and Harry was counting upon losing his Godfather (and the loathed costume) in one of the mazes of 'dark walks' that criss-crossed the park.

Such dark walks had been the location of Harry's most clandestine fantasies for several years. He had walked them countless times since Sirius had brought him from the orphanage, at age thirteen, to live in London. Whilst it had nearly always been Sirius by his side on such outings, Harry's (fertile) young mind often wandered - and not in a direction which would have pleased his Godfather one bit.

Usually, Harry Potter was wondering about none other than Severus Snape.

Since his arrival in London, the mysterious Mr Snape had been quite the fascination for Harry - and for his best friend, Miss Hermione Granger.

Raised mostly as Muggles, their experience with magic was limited and clandestine. Sirius did not even know that Harry owned a wand.

Sirius had a small collection of magical books in his library, under lock and key, and Harry had read them all, in secret, as a young teenager. Neither his nor Hermione's guardians had seen fit to send them to the prestigious school of magic in Scotland, preferring a Muggle life and an introduction into London society for their young ones. Sirius, happy to speak of magic but not to let Harry use it, would to tell them tales of daring and intrigue from during his time at the secretive Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These tales had been met with rapt attention by the young people. Always, in these tales, the terrible ogre, Severus Snape, would appear, and would be (eventually) heroically vanquished by Harry's father James, or Sirius himself, or Sirius' friend, the eminent Mr Remus Lupin.

It was quite natural, therefore, given the mysterious nature of magic and their inexperience, that both Harry and Hermione had been spellbound by the idea of Snape - the dark wizard - as teenagers. Unwittingly, Sirius had talked Mr Snape up to be quite a character - one of scathing wit and hideous temperament; prodigious talent but significant lack of morals.

Severus Snape became quite the romantic anti-hero in Harry's young mind, and he and Hermione became accustomed to sit for hours on end, fervently discussing what the enigmatic Snape must be like in person (and in what inventive ways he would kill them if they ever took it upon themselves to visit him…)

Upon learning that Snape had returned to their old school as a Professor, Sirius had thrown a fit, and fifteen-year-old Harry had been secretly disappointed, for Scotland was a long way to travel to find someone you had never seen.  

 * * * * *

Hermione had teased him, only once, that his fascination with Professor Snape was more erotic enthralment than mere passing interest. Harry, certainly, had been more eager to talk of Snape than she. Harry had not spoken to her for nearly a week afterward, out of shock and indignation (and sheer will to disbelieve what she was implying).

Now, however, that he had met his favourite anti-hero in the flesh, he could not decide whether he was even more intrigued… or just disappointed.

He had not expected Snape to be genuinely rude - even though that was what Sirius' stories had inured him to expect. You never expected these detestable people to be horrible to you, Harry thought, thoroughly confused.

He had always imagined Snape as a dashing rake and a scoundrel, but in reality he seemed to be an extremely unpleasant individual. Certainly not one worthy of the obsession Harry had secretly harboured for him for the last five years…  

 * * * * *

"Insulting our dress, no less! And him in his inelegant black wool!" Sirius huffed.

Startled out of his reverie, Harry looked up to see Sirius admiring his brocade-laden coat in one of the hall mirrors.

"Sirius," Harry murmured, cautiously, "fashion nowadays is moving towards the abandonment of lace, embroidery and other embellishment, um, from serious men's clothing... The emphasis now is towards good tailoring, therefore Professor Snape was actually quite fashionabl…" Harry trailed off at the positively murderous look Sirius was giving him.

"A traitor! In my own house!" Sirius raged. Harry threw up his hands in irritation.

Sirius continued to splutter outrage at Harry's critique of Mr Snape's fashion all afternoon - outrage that Harry was, happily, oblivious to.

All that concerned Harry was informing Hermione Granger that he had, at last, met Severus Snape.  

 * * * * *

"Harry, what are you wearing? Gracious, you look like a great stuffed turkey!" Miss Granger exclaimed.

She bustled into the room to find Harry standing dejectedly before his looking-glass, rampant peacock feathers protruding droopily from his breeches behind.

"Isn't it awful!" Harry moaned, gathering up his beaked and bejewelled mask and holding it ashamedly over his face.

"Well, if you keep the mask held up to your face all night," Hermione declared, ensconcing herself in a flurry of blue muslin upon the window seat, "you might just avoid being made a laughing-stock…"  

Harry looked at himself in the glass once again and chuckled forlornly.

"Oh, Harry!" Hermione said, mournfully. "The feathers sort of… jiggle when you laugh… It is most grotesque!"  

Harry adjusted his collar and tried to see the humorous side - when a sudden thought occurred to him.

"Hermione, I quite forgot! Do you remember the stories Sirius used to tell us, of his days at the school of magic?"  

Miss Granger nodded; the frizzy curls of brown hair piled on top of her head jangled as she did so.

"Well, he came by the house this morning to deliver Mr Lupin's medicine - he has started a business in London and Sirius says he is quite the best, despite being a fiend - and I met him!" Harry announced, eyes glittering with tremulous delight.

Miss Granger looked decidedly unimpressed. She folded her gloved arms across her bosom.

"Well? What was he like?" she inquired, sharply.

Harry looked rather taken aback.

"Why are you suddenly so cross?" he exclaimed.

"I am not cross, Harry. You've had this obsession with Snape for years - surely you were not expecting him to live up to the standard you set for him? Did you expect to have… what was it you used to say… a spiritual connection to him?"  

Harry said nothing.

"Was it spiritual, then? Was he pleasant? What was it like?" Hermione persisted.

"Horrible." Harry admitted. "Not spiritual at all."  

There was a pause.

Then Miss Granger burst out laughing.

"You mean he did not carry you off the moment he set eyes on you and make passionate love to you? And you did not perform the Corde Amare together, within an instant of meeting -"  

The Corde Amare was a very old and potent love spell. Harry had read about it in a book he had found in Sirius' library. It required an immense amount of love, and was used to transfer skills between partners. Traditionally, it had been used on the battlefields of old. It was the most romantic spell Harry had ever seen, for it required that a person give up, out of real, spiritual love, something that their partner desperately needed… Harry, being a romantic at heart, had thought it most wonderful.

Hermione had teased him that he should go and find old Snape, and give him some of Harry's sexual potency. Harry had been highly embarrassed.

Now, Harry was on his feet in an instant, his hands balled into fists and his slender frame quivering in indignation.

"I know what you're about, Hermione, we've had this discussion once before, remember! Mind your manners!"  

"Harry, shush - and sit down! I do declare, the feathers on your tail do the funniest dance!"  

Harry sat, fuming, ignoring the irritating prickle of tail feathers against his bottom.

"Oh, Harry, I am sorry!" Mollified a little, Harry relaxed - only to leap to his feet once again when she continued: "To think, you've loved him all these years, and now you meet him, he is -"  

"I swear; if you were a man, Hermione, I should call you out!" Harry cried. "I wish for you to stop teasing me about Professor Snape! You do it mercilessly, and it really isn't fair! Think how you would feel if I teased you mercilessly about Mr Krum?"  

"Yes," Hermione sighed, "but I am marrying Mr Krum. It is all arranged, and it is not like I have any choice. If only there were anything there for you to tease me about!"  

Harry turned back to his reflection, bright red. Hermione was getting married; it was all so strange, so grown-up. She had been engaged for months now - her parents had arranged the match - and who did Harry have? He really needed to pluck up the courage to ask his Godfather whether it was acceptable to think of wizards that way…  

Chapter 3  

Harry peeked cautiously out from behind a statuette of two (vigorously embracing) young lovers.

Hermione was standing at one entrance to the dark walks of Vauxhall Park, keeping a lookout from behind her otter mask. She plucked out her handkerchief and delicately dropped it onto the grass.

Taking his cue, Harry broke cover and dashed past her, tails flouncing out behind him. He did not stop until he was safely hidden within the high foliage walls of the maze. Enveloped snugly in a leafy nook, he tore the feathers out of his breeches and stuffed them into the hedge.

Hermione caught up with him, giggling breathlessly.

"I swear, you must have met every person of note in Muggle London, and all of them looked at you as though you were quite mad, dressed like that!"  

"I know," Harry groused. "I will forever be known as 'that curious ward of Mr Black, who dresses most oddly and did you see his tail feathers waggle as he walked, my dear, it was most queer?' How could Sirius do this to me?"  

Hermione laughed.

"You did get a veritable avalanche of funny remarks, but at least you were memorable, and will be talked about. There is nothing worse than not being talked about. My own debut was a spectacular failure, as you well remember. We were all tucked up in bed by eleven, and everybody came away with the odd feeling that they had not been anywhere."  

"I do not want to be talked about!" Harry protested, disposing of the last of his tail feathers. "I wish to be left alone!"  

"I suppose this is most definitely the wrong moment for me to give you your birthday present, then?" Hermione sighed, snapping open her fan and fluttering it about her face.

"What did you get me?" Harry asked, hopeful that his evening would not be a complete disaster. He drew out his wand and cast a light (it was one of the few spells he knew, and it thrilled him each time he accomplished it).

"A pamphlet," Hermione declared, fishing about in her purse and retrieving, with some theatricality, a slimly-bound volume.

She presented it to Harry.

"It is highly illegal, of course; an underground publication." She leaned closer, voice low and mysterious. "Of erotic works by men, about men."  

"But I'm not interested in men!" Harry protested, gazing in enchanted horror at the book in his fingers, as though it would jump up and molest him.

"Honestly, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed, giving him a very searching look from beneath her knitted brows. "This is me you are talking to. You can be yourself."  

Harry gaped at her. Then remembered his manners and closed his mouth with an audible snap.

"I… this is unconscionable, Hermione. It is punishable by hanging, you know!"  

"Only if you're not careful," she reminded him.

"Hermione!" Harry said, scandalised.

"You have been too long in the company of people who are not forward thinking. Perhaps you could show that to Snape; get him to take you to Miss Suki's Molly House," Hermione giggled.

"I can't go there!" Harry gasped, clutching the pamphlet tightly against his chest.

"Or The Swan - gentlemen can get married there, you know. Of course, it's not above board, but -" she winked at him, smiling saucily. "I'm sure you could find someone to have a spiritual connection with, there…"  

"Spiritual - I don't want to marry him!" Harry hissed, prodding Hermione in the ribs.

Hermione drew out her handkerchief and dabbed at her laughter-misted eyes with it.

"Oh, Harry! Now that you are out in society you really ought to find a lady, or else people will start remarking upon it," she teased, her brown eyes twinkling at him.

"Would they?" Harry asked, eyes wide. "I… they can't send me to… to Azkaban, where Sirius was, for being - not that I am - just because I don't have a lady friend, can they?"  

Harry looked so aghast that Hermione was forced to stop being so mischievous. She snapped open her fan again and fluttered it at him, cooling him off.

"No, you silly ass! Just keep that pamphlet somewhere private, that is all. You are so naïve."  

Harry nodded seriously, staring silently at the grass. Hermione patted his arm consolingly.

"Have you never given the matter a great deal of attention, then? Whom do you think about in your private thoughts? Apart from Professor Snape, of course."  

Harry went pink at her teasing.

"I… both, I suppose. I'm not sure. I saw this red-headed girl on the street the other day and she was very beautiful…" Harry mused.

"But you have always had a special place in your heart for the odious Mr Snape, eh?" Hermione grinned.

Harry shrugged.

"I am not sure… I wish I knew. It would help, I suppose, if he wasn't so horrible," he sighed. "I don't know whether I wish to slap him or…" he trailed off.

"Or?" Hermione pressed.

"I don't know. Don't ask me to say such things, Hermione, you'll only get me into trouble. Imagine what Sirius would say if he knew I was even entertaining such notions!" Harry clutched the pamphlet even tighter, a troubled expression darkening his brow.

"Do not fret so," Hermione sighed. "It is not really so very bad a thing not to know, at our age. Affairs of the heart are the most complicated of all. Give it time."  

Harry nodded. Hermione gathered up her skirts.

"Shall we play hide and seek, then?"  

Harry picked up the pamphlet and tucked it inside his jacket.  

 * * * * *

Twenty minutes later, Harry was lost (or, to put it another way, very successfully hidden) in the park's maze of hedged walkways. The sounds of merry-making were very muffled and far-away by now. Harry wandered along the dark paths with just his thoughts for company.

Coming across a little gothic alcove of hedging and stone-work, Harry took the opportunity to seclude himself inside it.

He fished the disreputable pamphlet out of his pocket with trembling fingers and stared at the black cover. It looked innocent enough (it was, after all, blank.)

Heart pounding, he opened it to the first page and, holding the book secretively up to his face, cast a light from his wand.

With a thrill of anticipation, he began to read the dedication.

'We hope this latest edition will tantalise your senses, dear comrade. Allow yourself to be enticed by our witty and tempting heroes, tales of scandal and sexual delight, and pulse-quickening, shirt-ripping eroticism. May it excite your grandest passions and fulfil your most secret desires…'  

Eyes wide (and breeches significantly tighter), Harry had to loosen his collar a bit after that.  

 * * * * *

Ten minutes later, the game of hide and seek was well and truly forgotten.

Harry had one hand pressed awkwardly against the front of his breeches as he continued his reading.

Lurid sentences such as 'the velvet shank of passion between his legs', and 'they tumbled into bed, his Silken Cobra slapping Edward teasingly about the face and eliciting scandalous thrills of passion along Edward's own throbbing member' had Harry fanning himself with the little book, his cheeks flushed and his own groin hot and pulsing. He was mortified, but also aroused. Harry had never really been sexual; how it thrilled him now, to discover such words, such fantasies as these!

The story ended, and Harry turned to a page containing a poem entitled 'If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men' by Lord Byron.

The second verse ran thus:

'Oh, pardon that in crowds awhile  
I waste one thought I owe to thee,  
And self-condemn'd, appear to smile,  
Unfaithful to thy memory:  
Nor deem that memory less dear,  
That then I seem not to repine;  
I would not fools should overhear  
One sigh that should be wholly

Harry sighed too, wistful and enchanted, and fanned himself again. 'Wholly thine.' If only, some day, he could belong to somebody in such a way! It reminded him of the Corde Amare spell. If only he could find someone to love that much… It was what he longed for. Perhaps, some day…  

From out of the inky blackness that had closed in, unheeded, around him, there came a darkly amused chuckle.

Harry dropped the book, horror-struck.

He scrambled to extinguish the light from his wand and hide himself in the bushes. He crouched there, his heart in his mouth, listening; unable to hear anything over the pounding of his pulse.

Then came the rustling of leaves, and steady footsteps across the grass… Harry realised in terror that the book would be lying exposed, for all to see!

He struggled out of the bushes and came face-to-face with a dark man, who was bending down, lit wand in his hand, to retrieve Harry's birthday present.

Their eyes met.

"Potter," the man smirked, and Harry knew instantly whom he had encountered.

"Mr Snape," he gritted out, fingers itching to snatch his pamphlet back before Snape could examine it. But Snape was already straightening up, Harry's book grasped in his slender fingers. A self-satisfied smirk stretched across his thin, pallid face.

"Well well, what have we here?" Snape quirked a curious eyebrow, leering down at Harry in obvious amusement.

"Mr Snape, may I have my book please?" Harry growled, reaching out - but the insufferable Mr Snape only held the book higher.

"Temper, temper. Poor Potter, have we been caught reading something we shouldn't? Let me see now…" Snape flipped open the book.

Harry squirmed uncomfortably as the older man bent his (considerable) nose to it and began to read aloud:

"'An Ode To Sodomy'. Are you ready, Potter? Oh thou, beloved and most lovely; I burn to feel what it is like, to take all of you inside of me -"  

"Enough!" Harry cried, darting forwards and attempting to seize the book from Snape.

But the despicable Mr Snape was too fast for Harry, and had the book safely behind his back before Harry could reach it.

"From whom did you get such a scandalous publication, Potter?" Snape asked, pretending to be horrified.

As Harry shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot and mumbled that it had been a birthday gift, Snape seemed to be practically glowing in his smugness.

"Poor boy, to have to resort to such tatty periodicals to get your thrills… and it did thrill you, didn't it?" Snape's eyes flickered briefly to the front of Harry's breeches.

Harry covered himself with his hands, cheeks burning with shame.

"You ought to be more careful, Potter - such a book, in the wrong hands, could have dire consequences for your social standing. To fall from grace so soon after your society debut - such a tragedy," Snape continued, dark eyes glittering with malice.

"You wouldn't, Professor," Harry ground out.

Snape raised the eyebrow again, as though daring Harry to put him to the test.

Harry bristled in anger.

"Are you blackmailing me then, sir? Is that what this is to be?"  

"I have not yet considered all the possibilities available to me…" Snape mused, assuming a thoughtful expression. Harry loathed him at that moment, more than he had ever loathed anybody in his entire life.

Mr Snape was obviously adoring every moment of this.

"I am not afraid of you, you… detestable dog!" he spat back, itching to draw his wand and challenge Snape to duel for his book. But he knew nothing of such magic, and was concerned that Snape (who was clearly of very dubious morals) would know a great deal.

"My my, passions are running high this evening," Snape simpered, silkily. "I believe I shall be forced to keep this, until you have learned some manners," and he tucked the book into the inside pocket of his black coat.

"When shall I be allowed to have it back?" Harry barked, horrified.

"At a time of my choosing, when I have decided what I shall ask for in… exchange," Snape's eyes raked his body for the second time that day, and Harry shuddered.

He was about to reply, but Snape was already bowing, his sly smile still in place.

"Enjoy the rest of your evening," he sneered, "and I would advise against lurking in dark corners, Potter. Unless, of course, you are attempting to ambush unsuspecting young gentlemen. Good night."  

And he was gone.

Harry could have screamed in his frustration.  

 * * * * *

He was silent for a good deal of the night, after that.

Having been 'found' by Hermione (after some very half-hearted hiding at a little table in the pavilion, a glass of champagne punch grasped despairingly in his fingers), he proceeded to drink a great deal and brood, quietly.

He made regular trips to collect more punch, during which he indulged in a good sulk over the unscrupulous Mr Snape. When he returned from a particularly long brooding trip, Hermione leant across to him and whispered in his ear, in slight irritation:

"You're not wearing the willow for Snape, are you? I couldn't bear it if you were. You are supposed to be enjoying yourself."  

Harry wished he could tell her about the book, but he knew she would be angry, and he just wished to go home. He forced himself to be polite and to shake his head. The rest of the evening passed in a blur, and Harry's head spun as he allowed Hermione to drag him around the attractions and Sirius to attempt to introduce him to yet more people.  

 * * * * *

At a quarter of three, drunk on worldly concerns (and a good deal of champagne), Harry clambered into a carriage. Sirius got in after him, closed the carriage door, rapped twice on the ceiling, and the carriage lurched away.

Leaning against Sirius' black coat, eyes only barely open, Harry burrowed his face into the fabric at his Godfather's shoulder. He felt an arm come around him.

"Thank you for what you did tonight," Harry murmured. "I did enjoy it, and it meant so much to me that you were there." Blissful, he wrapped an arm about the waist of his only relative.

After so long living alone at the orphanage, Harry had been so grateful to discover the existence of his Godfather. Sirius meant everything to him.

He felt dear Sirius start with surprise, but then again neither he nor Sirius were ever very demonstrative.

Fingers slipped softly into his hair, which he thought odd, because Sirius never stroked his hair. He sometimes ruffled it a bit and mentioned Harry's late father - but maybe he had imbibed a little too much wine too, and it was always nice to be held…  

The carriage finally stopped, and Sirius motioned to Harry to precede him. Harry untangled himself from his Godfather and blearily half stepped, half fell out of the carriage and onto the pavement.

He was caught in strong arms, and looked up into the enraged face of… Sirius?

"Where the hell have you been, boy?" Sirius thundered, and Harry turned wildly to look back at the carriage - but the door had been closed and the carriage was rapidly speeding away.

"Who brought you home? I have not seen you since I tried to introduce you to Mr Jordan and Miss Johnson, and you burbled something unintelligible, then fell into a shrub!"  

He looked thoroughly disapproving, and Harry wisely bit back his snort.

"I… I don't know," Harry mumbled, turning to Sirius and trying to appear penitent. He swayed a bit.

"You don't know?" Sirius all but screeched. "Was it a man or a woman?"  

"Man," Harry whispered, staring down the road blearily at the retreating dark shape, his brain a whorl of confusion. "I thought it was you."  

Chapter 4  

Harry Potter was the sole (and somewhat overworked) clerk to the highly respectable apothecary Mr Horace Slughorn. Mr Slughorn was a portly, middle-aged gentleman of liberal education. He possessed a great passion for red velvet waistcoats and for port. His business catered for all, be they Muggle or magician.

On the morning following his extravagant party, the young man was sat dutifully at his little desk in the dim back room, sorting through a sheaf of papers requesting various prescriptions.

His verdant eyes ached and his head was decidedly sore. A great fondness for champagne, Sirius had assured him, grinning, would do that to a person. Harry had resolved never to drink champagne, or wine, again. He blinked back the mist forming over his tired eyes and tried to be attentive to his parchments.

Mixed in with the letters, there were also the usual requests for apprenticeship; Harry was always wary of these (and had been known to slip them to the bottom of the pile), as he had been promised the post himself, upon the commencement of his twentieth year.

The shop bell rang and Harry winced, painfully. When Mr Slughorn was busy at his compounds, it became part of Harry's duties to deal with the customers. He dropped his quill onto the pile of papers, strode into the shop front - and stopped in his tracks.

His headache immediately became decidedly worse at the sight of his lone customer.

Kneeling to examine the contents of one of the shop shelves was a person, the sight of whom made Harry flush with anger.

"You are almost out of Mugwort. When do you expect your next shipment?" intoned Mr Snape, not turning to look at Harry.

When he received no reply, however, Mr Snape lifted his head.

His eyes widened for a moment as he took in Harry standing awkwardly behind the counter, brows knitted together thunderously.

"Mr Potter," Snape righted himself, a sneer curling his upper lip. He bowed. Harry squirmed silently and his scowl deepened. "Well?"  

"Not for two weeks," Harry replied, smug at being able to frustrate Snape. "And it's not magic. If you were wanting to do dark spells with it - to kill people with."  

Snape frowned and turned away.

"What, no comment?" Harry blurted. Mr Snape slowly turned round and regarded him, coolly.

"What should I make comment on, Mr Potter?"  

"I don't know… Perhaps you could start with: 'Here is your book of salacious literature,'" Harry muttered, bitterly. Snape raised a dark eyebrow.

"Which window, at the house you share with the mongrel, belongs to you?" he said.

Harry blinked. That seemed an odd thing to ask.

"Two of the windows on the second floor are mine," he replied, ambiguously.

"Which two?" Snape persisted.

"Why should I tell you?" Harry sneered.

Snape, to Harry's utter horror, produced the aforementioned little black book from his coat pocket and turned it over in his spidery fingers.

"Is your employer in the back room?" he asked, voice quiet and unmistakably threatening.

"The two on the left!" Harry squeaked, terrified lest Mr Slughorn should take it into his head at that very moment to enter the shop. But Snape, apparently satisfied, was already tucking the book away in the dark folds of his coat again.

"Very well. Expect me. Good day," he bowed, smirking at Harry's pale face, and strode out.

Harry was unable to concentrate all afternoon.  

 * * * * *

Several weeks later, Harry was at his toilette, fiddling to tie his cravat in the Mathematical style. He wished somebody would invent a Charm for such a purpose. Then again, there might very well already be one. Harry knew so little of magic…. He sighed.

There came a tapping noise at his dressing room window.

He started in consternation - his small set of rooms resided on the second floor, how the devil? Abandoning his cravat to hang loose about his neck, he advanced to the window.

Peering out, he was astonished to see Mr Snape. Wearing a dark frockcoat of the most exquisite cut, he doffed his hat sardonically to Harry.

Harry opened the window and leaned out.

"Yes?" he inquired, simply, trying to sound aloof and unavailable. "I am rather occupied at the present moment."  

Mr Snape did not seem in the least surprised by his abrupt rudeness, or if he was, he hid it well. A smirk lifted one corner of his mouth as he took in Harry's state of undress.

"So I see. Are you at work today?"  

"You know I am - you have been into the shop every day for the past three weeks!" Harry griped, exasperated. Snape looked irritated and glanced warily at Harry's front door, as though he expected Sirius to dash out at any moment and assault him.

"I wish you would not speak so loud!" he hissed. Harry sighed again (loudly) and folded his arms.

"What do you want, sir?" he persisted.

"I wish to invite you to a Card Party this evening, at the house of a friend of mine," Snape stated, tapping his cane on the pavement.

Harry, blurting out the first thought that came into his head, said:


Snape frowned.

"You really are uncommonly rude - if I happen to come across your Godfather, I shall inform him of this."  

"By all means come in, sir, and make your suggestion in front of him personally!" Harry challenged, knowing full well that Sirius was out until the afternoon.

Snape flinched.

"No, thank you. I should like to have as little to do with Mr Black as possible. So, will you come?"  

"No," Harry said, resolutely. Mr Snape was thoroughly odd, and odious, and Harry wanted nothing further to do with him.

However, in the very next moment, Snape was withdrawing something black from his coat pocket, and Harry paled. Black eyes, like dark tunnels, glinted up at him.

"And now?" Snape murmured, fingering the book.

Then again…  

Some dark corner of Harry's mind was fascinated to discover where this mysterious man would take him. And he had never been to a card party - Sirius preferred to spend every evening at his club, and Harry had long since grown tired of Faro, which appeared to be the only game played there at the moment…  

"Yes," Harry replied, hastily. Snape smirked in satisfaction, tucked the book away again, bowing to Harry.

"Eight o'clock, then. I shall pick you up in my carriage, we must arrive the Muggle way," he nodded. Harry squirmed, nervously.

"Um, better not make it here… Around the corner, in the next road. I shall meet you there."  

Snape nodded again, brisk.

"Then I shall detain you no longer from your toilette," he said, silkily. Harry flushed cherry-red. "Good-day."  

 * * * * *

The Card Party was exquisite.

Sat in the drawing room of one of Snape's acquaintances (to term him a 'friend' was, Harry concluded, a bit strong) at a circular table, Harry sipped his sherry carefully. He felt very grown up.

Sirius did not often allow him out of an evening, and Harry had been feeling quite the pariah of late. He was curiously innocent for his age, and often lamented that Sirius had kept him too sheltered for his own good. Hermione, who was allowed out much more often than Harry, had often remarked upon Harry's naiveté.

"You are like a simple, un-plucked flower," she had said, once she had learned of his scheduled meeting with Snape. "Sirius has made you too trusting; he has been too protective of you. Do take care that you do not allow unscrupulous types to influence you. Mr Snape is dangerous."  

Harry, who had still not told her that Mr Snape had her pamphlet, had merely shrugged. Now, he looked about for Snape.

The man was off at another table, and had been for most of the evening, which was a tad perplexing. Harry had been forced to make conversation with complete strangers, which he found surprisingly tolerable, having had such little practice. The young woman to his left, Miss Abbott, who was attending with her mother, was at her first card party too. They discussed their nervousness together in hushed tones. They played (rather successfully) in tandem too, and Harry was starting to feel like he had made a new friend. The sherry was certainly making him very merry indeed, and he was becoming inclined to giggle at a wobbling French jelly on the refreshment table -

A bony hand fell upon his shoulder.

The sherry glass was abruptly removed from his fingers.

"Potter, come and play at this table. You know Faro, I assume?" Snape snapped.

Harry sighed inwardly.

"Very well, Professor. Miss Abbott," he bowed to Miss Abbott politely, and followed Snape to the Faro table, where he was seated at the Professor's side.

"What has happened to my sherry glass?" he asked, but Snape merely shrugged, watching the cards being dealt.

A man came around, carrying a tray of delicate little glasses, and Harry proceeded to take one. Snape frowned, and reached over to remove it from him again.

"You are not my father!" Harry hissed, holding the sherry glass out of the man's reach. Snape recoiled in horror and did not speak to him for many minutes.  

 * * * * *

"You really are quite ridiculous," Snape leant over to whisper in his ear, an hour (and five further glasses of sherry) later.

"Are you insulting me again?" Harry asked, airily.

He had quite lost track of what was happening in the game before him.

"Yes," Snape confirmed. He had just won a substantial sum of money; Harry, on the other hand, had lost most of his earlier winnings. "I want to take you home now," he finished, his voice dark and luscious.

Harry shivered in blurry anticipation.

"Indeed," he smiled, downing the last of his sherry.

Snape had to assist him in getting up, which seemed to embarrass the older man considerably. (The other guests seemed rather delighted by it.) As Harry staggered to the door, waving a merry goodbye to his newfound friends, Snape's fingers dug harshly into his arm.

He was rudely escorted outside and into the waiting carriage, where Snape all but threw him again a seat and turned on him.

"Where is your decorum? You are an intolerable nuisance! Sit up straight, damn you!" he snapped, into the darkness.

"I am foxed!" Harry proclaimed, waving his arms about dramatically.

"Yes, and wildly irritating," Snape growled. "Such unsuitable behaviour!"  

Harry rolled his eyes.

"And you act like you have a broom stuck up the back of your coat! Why are you so cross with me? You invited me to come out with you - why did you invite me, aside from the opportunity for blackmail?" he added, snidely.

"I have my own reasons," Snape muttered, morosely.

"Please indulge me - I shan't remember anything of this tomorrow, you are in no danger of exposing yourself - oh no!" Harry dissolved into giggles at his own words, and Snape had to physically peel him up off the carriage floor and onto the seat again.

Snape propped him into the corner of the carriage and sat back, looking very put-upon.

"Very well. Because I wished, out of curiosity, to learn whether you are more like your mother, or your father. If the first, we might possibly have been able to be acquaintances. If the second, I wanted nothing further to do with you."  

"I have my mother's eyes!" Harry mumbled.

"I know, it is most distracting," he thought he heard Mr Snape mutter, but concluded it must have been the wine, confusing his senses. For Snape, who was regarding him now with a condescending sneer, would never say things like that to him…  

"What have you concluded?" Harry inquired, nuzzling his face into the soft padding of the carriage wall.

"I am not sure," Snape admitted, quietly. "But I do know that you are uncommonly annoying," he continued, louder.

Harry yawned, sleepily.

"I believe I am like neither, for I never knew my parents," he said, sadly. "Can I have my book back now, then?" he asked.

Snape shook his head, sternly.

"Certainly not. I may have occasion to need to use it again," he sneered.  

 * * * * * 

How poor Harry managed to find his bed without waking the entire household, he had no idea.

But, half an hour later, there he was - still fully dressed, lying on his back on his bed and grinning to himself as he drifted off to sleep…  

Chapter 5  

Hermione's words of caution came back to him often during the following weeks, whenever Harry heard the cautious tapping sound at his window. Each time, Mr Snape would be standing on the pavement below, all too ready to dangle Harry's lurid pamphlet before him if Harry refused his invitations.

The older man never seemed to particularly enjoy Harry's company - he was not a nice man, and Harry was insulted on a nightly, if not hourly, basis. Yet, week after week, there Snape was, on the pavement below Harry's window, book in hand…  

 * * * * *

Harry often tried to reflect on whether he was being 'influenced' by the older man.

When Harry had finally found the courage to tell Hermione about his strange new nightly companion, her response had been less than helpful on that score.

"Don't go anywhere further with him, please Harry!" she implored him. "What if he tries to corrupt you? He has… dubious associations! His past is… is… he is dangerous to know!"  

Hermione had been his alibi for these elicit 'trysts' for three months now, and was becoming more irritating as the time passed. Harry was not sure whether she was correct or not, but he was truly becoming as fascinated by the sardonic Mr Snape as a moth drawn to a flame.

"You have been saying that for weeks now! What do you mean, corrupt?" he snarled. "You do not know him!"  

Hermione wrung her hands in her anxiety and Harry stormed from the room. Surely such warnings were extreme, to say the least? Mr Snape was far from pleasant, it was true. But, surely, he would never go so far as to actually hurt Harry?  

 * * * * *

One evening, Harry was undressing for bed, having determined that Snape would not call upon him that night, when he heard the familiar tap at his window.

Waistcoat undone and his hair in considerable disarray, he rushed to the window and threw it open.

"Off to bed so early, Potter?" Snape sneered up at him.

There was something about the way in which Mr Snape was stood in the shadows that struck Harry as not quite right. Snape never normally hid in such a way, even from Sirius (whom, he always protested, he could take in a fair fight).

"It is half past nine! I had thought you were not coming!" Harry protested. Snape batted off his reproach with a wave of his gloved hand.

"Are you joining us?"  

"Us?" Harry asked, bemused.

"Some of my former… associates. Of course, if you would rather not -" Snape added, hastily, glancing back down the darkening street.

"No! No, I'm coming, give me a moment," Harry grumbled, buttoning up his white waistcoat. Twenty minutes later and he was down on the street in his hat and coat. There was no sign of Snape.

Suddenly, however, the man emerged from the shadows. Grabbing his sleeve roughly, he hauled Harry up the street at such a pace as Harry had to half skip to keep level with him.

"Where are we going tonight?"  

His habitual question. Snape said nothing, but his face was grim.

"Do you have your wand with you?" he asked, as they rounded the corner of the street.

"Yes," Harry panted, "but I shall not need it, surely?"  

"Do you know any defensive spells?" Snape persevered, voice low.

"I, erm… that is to say… No," Harry mumbled, slightly ashamed. "I can make light and, erm, small birds…"  

"I see," Snape snorted.

"Are you taking me into danger, Professor?" Harry persisted, eyes wide. He was too trusting, and he knew it. It was one of his greatest faults, Hermione always said so.

Snape stopped in his tracks.

"Do you trust me, Potter?" he asked; turning, for the first time, to meet Harry's eyes.

"I… I believe I do," Harry replied, slowly. Snape's sickened sneer told him he had said the wrong thing.

"Then you are a fool," Snape exclaimed, suddenly. "Get back to the house! Do not - "  

"Ah, Severus! And young Mr Potter, I am delighted to make your acquaintance!"  

Snape spun around, pushing Harry protectively behind him.

The voice belonged to a tall, gaunt woman. She was a little older, perhaps, than Snape, and was dressed all in black, her elegant dress rippling down her body in dark waves. Her black hair was piled up, fashionably, on top of her head. She had a strong jaw, but any beauty in her face was maligned by a vicious glint, flickering sinisterly, in her dark eyes…  

"Little Potter! Do peek your face out from behind dear Severus and say good evening!" sneered the woman.

She was, Harry now saw, flanked by two more men in formal evening wear, looming out of the shadows behind her. He took an instant dislike to the three of them, but stepped out from behind Snape and bowed, politely.


"Oh! Isn't he a delight! I can see why you keep him on such a tight string, Severus!" she trilled, cackling nastily.

Snape looked disgusted and refused to return Harry's questioning look.

"Potter, this is Bellatrix Lestrange," he muttered, "and these are Mr Rookwood and Mr Mulciber."  

The men nodded their heads, gruffly. Mrs Lestrange clapped her hands, full of impatience.

"Well, let us not waste any more time! Into the carriage, gentlemen!"  

As if conjured from the inky blackness of the night itself, a black hackney carriage materialised at the edge of the pavement.

Harry shuddered at the sight of the terrible black horses that pulled it.

Snape ushered him into the carriage, head down. Mrs Lestrange joined them a moment later, as did Mr Mulciber. Mr Rookwood, Harry supposed, climbed up to sit with the driver.

The carriage lurched forwards, and they set off.  

 * * * * * 

The ride was long, dark, and silent.

Snape did not speak at all, and Harry did not know how to start a conversation with the woman opposite him, who was grinning at him all the while, and rubbing her hands together in apparent glee.

He was looking gloomily out of the window at the street lamps as they passed, and thinking to himself anxiously that he had no idea where they were, when suddenly:

'Potter. Do not react.'  

Harry jumped, and started to turn towards Snape - who, he supposed, had just spoken… But Snape was looking down, studying the silver head of his cane.

'I said do NOT react, fool!'  

Harry glanced at Snape out of the corner of his eye. He was certain that the man's lips had not moved, yet where was that voice coming from? Clearly, their two other companions did not hear the voice. Most strange…  

'Nod your head to show me that you understand.'  

Harry nodded, then scratched his neck to make it look as though he were merely stretching.

'You are in grave danger. This carriage has anti-Apparition spells upon it. You must understand, it was only on pain of death that I invited you out tonight. We must escape, before we reach our… destination.'  

Harry raised his eyebrows, as if to ask, where is that?

'You are being taken to the Hellfire Club, to meet a gentleman who you have been hidden from your whole life. You wonder why you have been so sheltered. Suffice to say, if you meet this man face-to-face, you will not live out the evening."  

Harry's blood ran cold. He risked another glance at Snape, but the man looked positively bored, next to him.

'Bellatrix is the more dangerous of the two. I will offer her friend some snuff, which I shall throw in his face as I Immobilise her. Whilst they are detained, you will open the door on your side and run. If something goes wrong and I am unable to follow, you must keep running, and not stop until you are home. Scratch your nose if you understand.'  

Harry did so, trying not to let his fingers tremble.

He could scarcely think straight. Why was this happening? He was such a fool to have trusted Snape. Hermione was right! How could Snape, his friend, have led him into such danger, even under duress? Was everything Sirius had told him about Snape true?

There was no time to consider all these, however, for Snape was fishing his silver snuff box from his waistcoat pocket at that very moment!

Harry watched in suspended horror as he flicked it open and turned the box to offer it across the carriage…  

As predicted, Mulciber reached forwards to dip his fingertips into it - and it seemed to explode in a gust of noxious powder. Snape's wand was out of his pocket in a flash; a whirl of thick ropes burst from the tip and bound Mrs Lestrange from head to foot.

Harry stayed to watch no longer - he leapt out of the carriage and hit the ground, rolling on the cobbled stones of the road. An angry, frustrated scream rent the air.

He scrambled to his feet and watched as the carriage continued on its way, one door flapping open - but Snape did not emerge. Harry realised that something was desperately wrong when the carriage began to slow, but still Snape did not alight!

Ignoring Snape's words of warning, (for, despite being young and innocent, he was no coward) Harry began to sprint frantically after the carriage, his hat flying off his head in his haste.

As he approached, fumbling in his breeches pocket for his wand, Snape and the other man practically fell from the open carriage door, wands seemingly forgotten as they engaged in a scuffle.

Snape, all teeth and clawing fingers, was pushed roughly down onto the pavement as the man atop him raised his fist, as if to pound Snape's face into the stones -  

Harry, lamenting his sore lack of magical training, pointed his wand at Snape's attacker and bellowed the only spell he could remember:


From the tip of his wand burst a swarm of small, twittering birds.

They hung in the air for a split-second, hovering and looking bewildered - then seemed to discern the intention of their caster and hurtled headlong, tiny wings flapping insanely, down the street.

They collided, beaks-first, with the side of Mulciber's face. The man gave a terrible, anguished shriek. He rolled off Snape, his hands clutching at his bloodied head.

Snape blinked, astonished; then seemed to get a hold of himself. He sat up as Harry reached him.

"You idiot!" he snarled, dark eyes locking onto Harry's, as Harry held out a hand to help him to his feet. "Why did you not run?"  

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" somebody screamed.

Harry yanked Snape to his feet just in time - the well-aimed spell blasted into the gutter, where Snape had lain not two seconds before.

Snape's immediate response was, to Harry's amazement, to wrap both arms about his rescuer - Harry felt a sickening jolt to his stomach, as though a fishhook had tried to pull him inside out - and then, by magic, they were somewhere else entirely.  

Chapter 6  

Harry stumbled, lost his balance, and fell. He felt so horribly sick. Snape merely staggered a bit.

"Where are we now?" Harry gasped, still lying in the empty road - although which road, he had no idea.

"We are a few streets from your house. I fear I was too rattled to remember your exact address," Snape mumbled, leaning against a lamp post and shaking his head.

"Oh my God!" Harry groaned, then turned over and was violently sick into the gutter. Snape wrinkled his nose.

"Who were those people?" Harry spat, when he had finished. He was kneeling, on all fours, in the road. A group of fashionable ladies and gentlemen, who had just walked down the front steps of a nearby house, were looking at them rather oddly.

"They and their master are the reason you have been raised as a dandy, rather than attending Hogwarts," Snape snarled. "Hogwarts is corrupt. Their master has eyes everywhere. He particularly has eyes for you," he spat.

"Eyes? As in, romantically?" Harry gasped.

"No, idiot, he only wishes to see you dead!" Snape snarled.

"What did I do?" Harry asked, eyes bright with terror.

"That is for your Godfather to tell you, not I. Ask him for the truth about your parents' death. Tell him the Death Eaters have come to London."  

"The… the truth?" Harry whispered.

"Yes. Come, I must Apparate you home," Snape sniffed. Harry brushed off his attempt to link their arms together.

"No! No, I never wish to do that again! You say we are close to my house? Then I shall walk," he declared, rattled.

"You cannot go alone, you stupid brat! Let me walk with you."  

"No," Harry shuddered. "I am not entirely sure whether I have forgiven you yet."  

"That is of little consequence," Snape snarled, ignoring Harry's seething and taking him roughly by the arm.  

 * * * * * 

They walked the few streets back to Harry's home in sulky silence, Harry's poor mind whirling with plots and intrigue and confusion...

At Harry's front door, the young man pulled his arm out of Snape's rudely and, without a word of thanks, marched up the steps and slammed the door behind him.

Sirius was out. Probably at his club, Harry thought ruefully. He resolved to wait up until his Godfather returned.

It was several hours later - when he had given up on waiting up for Sirius and was trudging upstairs to his bed - when he realised that Snape, for all his shortcomings, had nonetheless saved his life that night.  

 * * * * *

At breakfast the following morning, Harry was opening his mouth to ask a bleary-eyed Sirius the question that had been on his mind all night, when his eye fell upon the day's newspaper, and his heart almost stopped beating.

"Look at this, look!" he cried, wedging his newspaper in front of the one Sirius had raised halfway to his face.

Sirius coughed and set both down. Perplexed at Harry's sudden panic, he squinted at the tiny column at which Harry's incessant finger was frantically tapping…  

"Well, move then, so I can read it! 'Local Professor, businessman, and well-known pariah Severus Snape, was attacked last night returning home from a party.' God, Snape has all the luck, doesn't he? 'He was set upon by ruffians at around a quarter past midnight as he walked to his house, having escorted a mystery young man home' - you're going to tell me that was you, aren't you?"  

Harry nodded, miserably. Sirius snorted and saved his reprimand for later, continuing brusquely:

"'It appears that Mr Snape was beaten, robbed and left for dead. He was found only moments after the attack, but is reported to have refused medical aid, in favour of returning to his park-side terraced house, from which he runs his business, to recuperate alone. Many questions remain. Who were these vile men that attacked the venerable and infirm professor' - venerable and infirm my arse, Snape probably gave as good as he got - 'and who was the mystery man that Mr Snape took such pains to escort home earlier that evening? Fellow party-goer Gilderoy Lockhart, the celebrity novelist and adventurer, had this to say about the Professor' - Harry, where are you going?"  

Grabbing his coat from the back of his chair, Harry had darted from the room.

"Park side, it said?" he cried. "What number? Which park? Oh Sirius, do you have his address?"  

Sirius threw down the paper in disgust, and strode after his Godson. He found Harry kneeling before the large dresser in the hall and stuffing various items into a canvas bag.

Sirius watched, somewhat bewildered, as bandages were tossed in and Harry quickly rose, dashing into the kitchen and returning with the bag looking considerably heavier.

He had his coat on one arm only, and made for the door with such determination that Sirius only just managed to beat him to it.

"I absolutely and utterly forbid you from going! Do you even know where to find him?"  

Harry put down the bag and tried to tug his Godfather out of the way, but Sirius stood firm.

"Leave it, Harry! He doesn't need your help!" Sirius snarled, setting his back to the door.

Harry grabbed his arm and pulled, obstinate.

"He's all alone! He has told me he doesn't have any servants. He'll be all alone, and so ill!" Harry cried. "He must have left his card at Slughorn's shop - I shall go there!"  

"That is not your responsibility!" Sirius spat.

"It is! He is my friend," Sirius snorted at this, "and besides which, he was attacked after escorting me home, when he could just as easily have Apparated, or taken a cab, what was he thinking of? He saved my life last night, Sirius - without him, I might be the one in the newspapers, not him! Stand aside, Sirius!" Harry shouted, tugging at his coat with renewed vigour.

"I refuse to watch my own Godson rushing to the bedside of Severus Snape! What do you mean he saved your life?" Sirius demanded.

"He said to ask for the truth about my parents' death - I was almost kidnapped last night by… by Death Eaters, he said they were, and Mr Snape -"  

"WHAT?" Sirius bellowed.

"But that can wait! I absolutely have to go! I know you think he's not human, and that he doesn't deserve our concern, but he's been, erm, good to me -"  

"Harry, this is unconscionable! Where have you been going with him? You are a fool, boy, a damned fool! He is a nasty, greasy and unpleasant man, and I will not see him attach himself to you as he did to your mother!"  

"My… my mother?" Harry left off tugging at Sirius' arm and stood there, looking very young and confused.

"Your mother was very kind to Snape too, as a child. They were friends. More than friends - Snape became obsessed with her."  

"Did he… love her?" Harry blinked. That seemed, suddenly, to be extremely important to him.

"I don't know, but he wouldn't leave her alone. They had… a very public falling out - Snape couldn't help but let his nasty nature ruin it for him in the end - and they didn't speak for several years before you were born. Or after, and then obviously she…"  

"After their accident," Harry muttered, low.

"Harry… Dear Harry, it was no accident. Why do you think I have kept you indoors, out of society, for so long? I was trying to protect you. But then, recently, I discovered that Death Eaters had learned that you were living in London, despite all my attempts to keep you safe," Sirius whispered.

"What do you mean, no accident?" Harry trembled as he spoke.

"Your parents… they were murdered - my dear boy, I am so sorry I did not tell you before," Sirius cried, as Harry sank to the floor, a puddle of despair. "There are people out there who would do you great harm - I have been protecting you!"  

"Murdered? By whom?" Harry gasped out.

"By an evil man, who thought that you would grow up to have power to rival his own. He has spies, followers, all over the country. Hogwarts is crawling with his supporters - of course, we dared not send you there! We thought, instead, that if you grew up with little power, he would not see you as a threat, and would leave you be! We wanted to give you a normal Muggle life, a respectable one! We thought being a member of society would keep you safe! How wrong we were."  

"So now, he has found me? What am I to do?" Harry cried.

"I do not know, Harry - but the last thing you ought to be doing is associating yourself with Snape! He was one of Voldemort's supporters, a Death Eater - I'll bet he did not tell you that!"  

"Voldemort?" Harry whispered.

"That is his name, Harry - few dare speak it. Snape was a follower of his, claimed to have left his service, but we knew better! I have always suspected him - he was a lover of dark magic even when we were at school!" Sirius spat.

"Snape!" Harry cried, as though he had only just remembered him. "Snape saved my life last night! Some Death Eaters had forced him into inviting me out, but Snape got me away - I must go to him!"  

He scrambled to his feet - but Sirius had seized him in his arms in an instant, and fought to contain Harry's wild struggles.

"You are making a very grave mistake, boy!" he shouted, as Harry stamped and kicked at him. "Snape is trouble, has always been and will always be! He will try to corrupt you, or worse!"  

"What do you mean corrupt?" Harry exclaimed. "Why does everybody keep using that word?"  

"I told you he became obsessed with your mother - imagine if he grew an attachment to you! We have enough troubles as it is, Harry - put that bag down this instant!" Sirius shrieked.

In desperation, he struck Harry violently across the face. Reeling, Harry clutched at his cheek, regarding Sirius spitefully, as one would a hideous traitor. Sirius' heart clenched in pain.

"He was a Death Eater too, he is marked, like all of them!" he spat. "Did you never wonder how he knows them, you foolish child?"  

"You are mad," Harry hissed, taking up his bag again. "You have put me in the worst position to deal with all these horrors you claim to have been hiding me from! I know nothing! At least Snape has told me the truth! Now get out of my way!" Harry screamed.

Broken-hearted, Sirius slumped to the floor, his face twisted in misery. Harry stepped over him, unfeelingly, bag in hand.

In moments, he was out in the street, blinking in the golden morning sunlight.  

Chapter 7  

His progress was hindered by the red mist of fury that clouded his brain; he strode through the streets, half blind.

He (perhaps foolishly) felt no fear at being outside alone, after his narrow escape last night.

Instead, all he could conceive of was the blind idiocy of Sirius and Mr Lupin, to think they could hide Harry away from danger his entire life!

And now the Death Eaters were here, and was Harry ready to fight this evil? Not a bit of it!

Harry had never felt his youth and innocence so keenly. It cut him to the quick, and made him maddeningly angry. He felt as though the veil which he had been living behind his whole life had been torn brutally away, and now Harry was left, sorely inadequate and unprepared, in the face of danger.

Perhaps Snape, however, was to be his salvation. The one person who had not lied to him, who had not had him brought up as a mere prancing puppet - perhaps poor Snape, once recovered, would teach him magic to defend himself with?

Harry quickened his pace. He had to go to the shop, first of all. Surely, after all the visits Snape had made there of late, he would have recorded the man's address?  

 * * * * * 

When Harry arrived at Snape's towering, bleak townhouse, (Sirius' handprint still on his cheek) he realised that he had made one key error. How was Snape, reportedly beaten within an inch of his life, supposed to answer the door?

He tripped up the steps and tried the bell. There was an ominous clanging sound somewhere within the dark house, but then… silence.

Nothing appeared to stir. Harry leant over and peered into one of the almost-shrouded windows. The rooms within were all black. He saw nothing but shadows. He rang the bell again, and then it occurred to him that Snape had probably had reporters ringing his doorbell all morning. Of course he would not answer, even if he could…  

Harry felt in his pockets for his wand, only to discover it gone, forgotten. Disheartened, he sat down on Snape's front steps. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him, and he seized his bag and then set off down the road at a run.  

 * * * * *

He lifted his bag over the high back wall and lowered it carefully onto the other side, as far down as he could, before letting go. It landed with a 'whumph' on the stones of a tiny courtyard at the back of Snape's house.

Harry followed it over the wall.

Creeping across to the back door, around numerous pots overflowing with desiccated and sunlight-starved herbs and flowers, he found (to his immense relief) the door to be mercifully unlocked.

It creaked open at his touch.

Within, the house was lifeless, as though already in mourning. A cold fist of dread clenched around Harry's heart, prickling his skin and causing him to shiver. What if he was too late?

How dreadful it would be if he were come upon a dead Snape, battered and bloody and looming out of the darkness…  

 * * * * *

The kitchen was dreary and dark, as though uninhabited. Harry blundered around in the dimness, lamenting his lost wand, until he at last found a candle and a box of matches.

Once lit, however, the room was even more unpleasant.

Over at the sink, there were several towels and pieces of smashed china - a bowl, Harry guessed. They and the sink were splattered, in macabre fashion, with mingling blood and water.

The large oak table, which took up the centre of the room, was littered with objects; herbs, bottles, glass tubes, books, jars full of slimy looking dead things, and instruments of chemistry.

Here, too, there were drops of blood, as though Snape had been trying to concoct a remedy for himself only minutes after his attack. There was water all over the floor, in which dried and crushed things floated bleakly.

Harry swallowed, nervously. Visions of him finding Snape, dead and twisted, somewhere beyond this room, haunted him. Shouldering his bag and grabbing one or two things from the table as he passed, he tiptoed through the water and into the shadowy hallway beyond.

Candle held aloft as if to ward off evil spirits, he managed to make out the staircase in the gloom, and ascended quietly, listening all the while for signs of life. He wanted to call out, but he feared Snape might already be dead. It would be too awful to be answered by a dead man…  

The staircase itself was lined with dusty and veiled portraits, many of whom muttered darkly as he passed. At the top of the stairs, he paused on the murky landing to listen - but all was hushed, save for the hammering of his heart.

Sinister bookcases lined the walls of the dark upstairs corridor, interspersed with several doors. Harry made for the first one and tried the handle. It was locked. He tiptoed down the hall, trying doors as he went until, at last, there was only one left.

He tried the handle.

It turned…  

 * * * * *

"I warn you…" rasped out a voice from somewhere in the blackness, making Harry jump in bleak terror, "I may not look it, but I can and will harm you if you come any closer!"  

Harry stood in the doorway and lowered the candle, so that the light shone on his pale, earnest face.


There was a choking noise from inside the room.


"Yes. Er, Snape, are you alive? I read about your attack and I guessed you might… well, I know you do not have any servants, so I thought…" Harry trailed off, peering into the darkness to try and make out where Snape was (and, more importantly, whether he was a ghost or not...)

"Of course I am alive!" Snape spat out. "I thought you were a burglar, come to steal from a defenceless man!" Snape's scraping voice sounded as dry as sand. It cracked several times as he spoke.

Harry smiled, ruefully.

"You are hardly defenceless, sir, unlike me. Where are you? Can I light the lamps?" he asked.

"If you wish. I warn you, it's not a pleasant sight," Snape muttered.

Harry held his candle up to the wall, searching. He soon found a sconce with a candle in it, and a table below holding a rickety gas lamp. He lit both, then turned.

Against the wall opposite the door (and taking up most of the room) was an enormous canopied bed, draped in dark hangings. Lying within it, shrouded in shadow, a pale face rested like a moon in the night against the pillows.

Harry wanted to move closer, but did not quite dare, afraid of what he would see...

Snape clearly noticed his reticence. He snorted, turning his face away - in disgust, or shame, Harry could not be sure. He glided softly to the bed and peered over the lumpy quilts at Snape, who was still keeping his face resolutely averted.

"Look at me," Harry murmured, softly. Snape eyed him suspiciously, out of the corner of an eye which (Harry could now see) was rimmed with an ugly purple bruise.

When Snape turned his face full to Harry's however, Harry gasped.

Snape, embarrassed, turned his face away into the pillow again.

"No, look, I'm sorry, it was just a shock… Pity we don't know who did this to you. The papers have no clue -" Harry began.

"On the contrary," Snape snarled, interrupting. "I am perfectly aware of who my attackers were."  

"Why don't you tell the Runners? Or the Aurors?" Harry exclaimed, horrified. "They could get justice for you!"  

"My attackers were the delightful people who invited you out last night, in case you had not already guessed. You were foolish in coming here. As soon as I am well enough, I plan on administering my own personal brand of… justice. You need not concern yourself with that."  

Harry folded his arms, admonishingly.

"I think that is called revenge, Professor, and it's highly illegal."  

"Is it? Oh dear. Well, that puts me right off," Snape sneered, voice deep and gruff, still sarcastic even with half his face blackened with bruises and cuts. Harry guessed it was time to change the subject.

"Can I get you a glass of water, sir?"  

Snape's eyes widened, momentarily.

"If you would," he murmured.

Harry looked around, then spotted a large water jug on the dressing table. Upon inspection, it was, of course, empty, so he took it and trotted downstairs to the kitchen, returning with the full jug and a plate of bread and cheeses, which he had brought from Sirius' house. He poured Snape a glass of water and held it out, until it became apparent that Snape had no plans to raise his arms.

"My fingers are broken," Snape sniffed, eyeing the glass of water greedily.

So Harry crawled across the bed. He did not notice Snape's approving glances as, kneeling on the coverlet, he held the glass carefully to Snape's lips. Snape drank like a parched man in a desert; three glasses disappeared down his throat before his head flopped back, exhausted, his greasy hair fanning out across the pillow.

"Thank you," Snape croaked, then closed his eyes.

"Are you hungry, Professor?" Harry whispered, but there was no reply (apart from a deep, nasal snore).

Harry smiled and tucked Snape in, running a tender hand across his brow to check for signs of fever.

Satisfied, he left Snape to sleep.  

 * * * * *

Snape slept all day.

Harry had spent a fitful night, waking every few hours and drifting anxiously down the hall in a borrowed nightshirt, like a lost ghost, to check on Snape.

His patient awakened during the night for long enough to allow Harry to feed him a hastily re-heated bowl of soup (and to grumble about his sore hand), then slept again until mid morning.  

Chapter 8  

The days passed slowly, in a blur of healing potions and bubbling cauldrons by the side of Snape's sick bed (and Snape's caustic - and exasperated - instructions.) Harry did his very best to be a helpful assistant, despite his lack of experience. Snape appeared to notice this, and he seemed slightly appeased, if only for the moment.

"What is all this kindness in aid of, Potter?" he snapped, one morning. Harry poured his latest potion into a glass, a little frown creasing his forehead.

"Do you expect me to leave you alone to suffer, after you saved my life?" he said. Snape merely shrugged, but regarded him curiously.

Snape could also be caught, if Harry were astute enough to notice (which Harry was not), looking at Harry with a peculiar glint in his dark eyes; a look that had not been there before…  

 * * * * *

Harry entered the room quietly, carrying a bowl of soapy water and a washcloth. Snape eyed him from the bed, circumspect.

"And what," he muttered, "are you going to do with those?"  

"Wash you," Harry said, then coloured. "I mean, er… just your upper body, not your…" His face was so red now that Snape found himself forced to take pity upon him.

"I suppose we ought to inspect the bruising on my ribs," he sighed, then lifted his still-bandaged hands, awkwardly.

Harry set the bowl beside the bed and crawled up onto the sheets. He knelt beside Snape and lifted his fingers gingerly to the buttons of Snape's nightshirt.

Their closeness was… unsettling. Harry realised he was sweating. He had never undressed another man (or woman) before, and although this was not sexual… he felt timid, and cripplingly self-conscious.

Snape noticed the young man's fingers trembling as they slid the buttons from their holes.

"What are you afraid of?" he murmured. Harry flinched in embarrassment.

"Nothing, it's nothing," he whispered. He silently helped Snape by easing the material off Snape's shoulders, praying that his face was not completely aflame.

Why was this happening to him? It was only Snape…  

Snape glanced down at himself, his upper lip twisting when he saw the bruises.

"Looks painful," Harry murmured.

"Help me off with the shirt, then," Snape snapped.

Harry, still trembling, bent his head to concentrate on the buttons of Snape's cuffs and help him remove his arms from the sleeves -  

"Oh!" he exclaimed. "You have a tattoo!"  

Snape did not even look at his own arm.

"I know," he said, curtly. "Do not look at it."  

"Why not?" Harry asked, fascinated, bringing his fingers up to touch -  

"Stop," Snape hissed, fumbling with the blanket, trying to cover up his arm again.

Harry shrank back.

"Sirius said… you are marked. By… Voldemort. Is that it?" he whispered.

Snape gritted his teeth but said nothing.

"Are you… do you follow him still?" Harry asked. "Is that why you -"  

"No," Snape growled. "That is not why."  

"So you are not a Death Eater?" Harry said.

Snape looked very much like he wished himself elsewhere.

"As you can see, I was, once. It is up to you whether you believe a man can change, or not. Your Godfather clearly does not seem to think so," he said, stiffly.

"If you tell me you are not… on their side, then I will believe you," Harry whispered.

Snape stared at him.

"I have already proven that I will not let them hurt you," he said, crossly.

"Right," Harry whispered, picking up the sponge. "Good. That's… a start."  

 * * * * *

Snape slept like the dead during the following week, and Harry spent the bulk of the days in his library, browsing the sinister tomes. He was mentally up gathering questions to ask Snape, once the man was fully healed.

Two evenings later, the sun set over London and bathed Snape's bed chamber in a lovely apricot-coloured light.

Harry, oblivious to the beautiful colour his skin looked in the twilight, took his little cauldron off the boil, stirring it fastidiously.

Snape was, once again, regarding him most strangely. While Harry's back was turned, Snape's travelling gaze lingered guiltily over Harry's slender curves - areas that he had not thought to admire, previously…  

Harry, meanwhile, had finally summoned up the courage to ask Snape the questions which assaulted his mind almost constantly. He set the cauldron down.

"Professor," he said, gravely, missing Snape's hasty removal of his gaze from Harry's anatomy as he set down the spoon, "I need to ask you. Sirius told me about Voldemort, and my parents. He has kept me secluded, like a monk, for years, innocent of the outside world. I was totally naïve until I met you."  

Snape's eyebrows lifted; his dark eyes burned.

"And now," Harry continued, oblivious, "I feel my eyes have been opened. I need knowledge; I need not to be innocent. I need to know spells. Will you help me?"  

Chapter 9  

Snape's… tuition did not come in the form Harry had expected.

Any ideas he had held of nights entombed in the library pouring over books of dark magic, or sessions casting spells late into the night… were all proven false.

Snape did not want to give him lessons. He wanted to go out.

Harry wondered, not for the first time, whether Snape was playing games with him.

He wondered this a lot, especially when Snape did things like he was doing presently; patting his thighs sharply for Harry to perch upon his lap.

Seated on Snape's knees, (there were no other seats available in the gentleman's club) Harry took the wine glass which was hanging lazily from his companion's loose fingers. Cupping it in both palms, he took a sip.

Snape had yet to speak to him that evening, but such was typical. Since Snape's recovery, they had resumed their previous outings, but their evenings usually descended into arguments, or bouts of mutual sulking, and they never parted on good terms.

Despite Harry saving his life, Snape still barely spoke one civil word to him, always admonishing him for something, an exasperated look upon his thin, sour face. Harry did not know, some evenings, why he even agreed to go out, nor why Snape invited him, especially since he did not have Harry's book for leverage any longer. Harry had found it, tucked under his pillow, the morning after he asked for Snape's help to remove his innocence. He was not sure what this meant, or whether Snape was trying to tell him something…  

 * * * * *  

He thought that Snape must have misunderstood him, at least in part, when Harry had asked not to be so innocent anymore.

For Snape now turned up to meet him with books, ones on dark and beautiful magic. Hexes, curses, defensive spells… Harry practiced alone in his bedroom, on the nights Snape did not call for him. But Snape also, occasionally, gave him other books - ones like his illicit pamphlet.

Seductive novels, salacious leaflets and magazines brimming with pictures came into Harry's possession; of such exquisite filth and eroticism that they made Harry's pulse race.

He was enraptured by them and, when not practicing his spell-work, he was inevitably to be found with his nose buried in exotic tales of vivacious and delightful young men, his questing hand sliding down into the front of his breeches…  

Perhaps this was what Hermione and Sirius meant by corruption, he mused one evening, his chest splattered deliciously with the fruits of his orgasm…  

Harry had not spoken to Sirius since he had returned home, despite his Godfather's many attempts at reconciliation. Even Sirius' old friend, the genial and ineffectual Mr Lupin, had been sent up to attempt to appease Harry - but he had been turned away.  

 * * * * *

Tonight, sat on Snape's lap, in the smoking room of the gentleman's-only club on St James's Street, he wondered, in the back of his mind, what they must look like to the other gentlemen in the club (and whether one of them would report him to his loathed Sirius for his strange behaviour.)

He and Snape often sat thus, now. Harry was oblivious to quite how sensational it looked, his nose usually buried in one of Snape's books.

He had no idea of how Snape sat behind him, his gaze boring intensely into his back and his thin fingers itching to touch and to stroke…  

Harry glanced about. Nobody appeared to be looking in their direction.

"Have you finished with my wine?" Snape drawled, behind him.

Harry handed the glass back without a word. Snape muttered something dark about gluttonous young gentlemen.

"Is this all you intended for tonight?" Harry asked, voice low, glancing up from his book on defensive shielding spells. He looked around the club, which was enveloped in a hazed sea of tobacco smoke.

"I had intended for there to be conversation, but I see now that I was mistaken," Snape huffed, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, how can I talk to you if I am sat upon your knees?" Harry hissed. One or two gentlemen, glasses of port in hand, glanced over at them.

"Keep your voice down. This is a civilised establishment," Snape hissed back, and Harry wanted to hit him. He snatched back the glass of red wine and they sat there in silence, breathing in smoke, until Harry was quite giddy.

He suddenly felt Snape fumbling at his side. Much to his mortification, his coat was lifted and the waistcoat and shirt beneath pushed upwards. Fingers lightly grazed his now bared left hip, brushing over the skin.

"What are you about, sir?" Harry yelped; his tone severe and his cheeks rosy with wine and unease.

"I am ascertaining where you keep your wand, there is something digging most unpleasantly into my thigh," Snape rumbled impatiently, voice low.

"It is not with me; kindly put my coattails down, sir, you are causing a spectacle!" Harry scolded, pulling at his clothes and feeling severely harassed.

Now, several clumps of men were really staring. Harry was mortified and wanted to go home, but when he tried to leave, Snape pulled him unceremoniously back down onto his lap.

"Ow!" Harry exclaimed loudly, and heard several of the men tut with disapproval. "What is that in your pocket?" he squeaked, scandalised (and slightly bruised).

He realised, too late, what he had just said, as Snape coloured and grumpily pulled a snuff box from the pocket of his breeches.

"Take some and stop causing a scene," Snape ordered, not looking at him. He pushed the snuff box into Harry's fingers. Harry grimaced. He looked down at it, feeling like a complete fool - and noted, with interest, the crest.

"Is this Hogwarts? Where you used to teach?" he inquired, settling himself upon Snape's bony knees once more. Snape grunted something unintelligible over his shoulder and Harry sighed. "Worn out your sociable side for the evening, have you? I swear, your patience runs dry with uncommon voracity," he complained, opening the tiny box to examine its contents.

"It does not usually run dry so early in the evening," Snape groused, "in better company."  

"Dash it all, it was you that asked me here!" Harry proclaimed, snapping the box shut without taking a pinch. It was plucked impatiently from his grasp.

"Perhaps I was overly optimistic," Snape grumbled. "Once you have one of my books, you cease to be interested in speaking to me. I have often found it so."  

This time, the silence dragged on even longer. It was broken only by Snape's occasional sniffs as he partook of his snuff.

Snape did not, Harry noted, offer the box forward again - so Harry finished the wine out of sheer vindictiveness (not that he wanted the snuff, but it is still nice to be asked) and buried his nose in his book again. When the butler circulated, tray in hand and a disapproving look plastered on his pendulous face, Harry held out the glass, brazen and a little light-headed.

He heard Snape's tut from behind him as it was refilled, then settled down to enjoy it.

"Tell me about Hogwarts," he commanded, softly, nursing his glass of wine to his chest. He stared unseeingly at the pages of the book which lay open across his knees. Snape shifted uncomfortably beneath him. Harry wondered whether his companion's legs were going to sleep under his weight…  

"Why do you want to know about it?" He was sure Snape was regarding him with suspicion.

"Why did you leave?" Harry whispered.

"Because there were other matters that demanded my urgent attention in London," Snape said, curtly.

"Like… me?" Harry inquired, turning around. "Did you come here because you learned there were men after me - that they knew where I was?"  

Snape shrugged, refusing to meet his eyes. Harry sighed.

"Fine; tell me about something else. Anything!" he sniffed, waving his hands about, wine sloshing precariously.

"I am not in the mood," Snape snapped.

"Oh, very well, I shall have to tell you about Hermione's forthcoming wedding, then," Harry said, feeling very long-suffering.

"I wish you would not."  

Harry ignored him.

"Hermione is wearing white muslin, and we are all to wear white orchids, although heaven knows where I am to get mine! Couples procure the flowers for each other, you know, and I have no-one in the world…" he lamented, woebegone for a moment.

Snape snorted.

"I am sure that is a terrible affliction to you. No orchids for Harry Potter. How unbearable."  

"Be quiet. They are announcing it in the newspaper," Harry slurred.

"What, your eligible status?" Snape sneered.

"No, the wedding! Do pay attention!" Harry slapped him gently - and realised in the next moment how the wine had truly gone to his head.

(He took another sip.)

"My apologies," Snape scoffed, eyes flashing. Harry sighed, ungraciously.

"I wish you would not sound so sarcastic!" He leant back in the chair and whispered, confidentially: "I am a little concerned for Hermione, you know - she does not know her husband that well. I fear they are ill-suited."  

"He will be away at sea most of the time; I cannot see that as a problem," Snape said, unconcerned. Harry gasped in outrage.

"Mr Snape, I swear - you have the most unromantic soul I have ever known! Where is your spirituality?"  

"What? He is well connected, able, or so I have heard. He will keep her in tolerable comfort, what more can you ask?"  

"Oh, that would never do for me," Harry exclaimed, sipping his wine.

"No? What is it that you desire?" Snape's dark voice made Harry shiver. It must be the wine, he thought.

"Passion," he said, determinedly.

"Indeed," Snape growled, smokily. "Passion such as that which you can find in those charming books I have been supplying you with?"  

Harry coloured slightly.

"Yes," he whispered. "I want it like that, when I do eventually fall in love."  

"Like what?" Snape snarled. "Tell me. Describe your passion to me." Harry took another sip of the wine, to gather his courage.

"We… we'd have to have a… a spiritual connection, first of all," Harry whispered. "I want to be in love, to be consumed with passion; to make wild love with someone who -"  

Snape's fingers were just clenching painfully into the flesh of his thighs, and Harry was just about to remark that Snape's wand was digging uncomfortably into his bottom again - when Sirius appeared at the doorway to the smoking room, his face weary and his eyes overly bright.

"There is something, erm, up my arse," Harry whispered, wriggling. "Is it your wand?"  

"What do you think it might be?" Snape growled, low, in his ear. "Have a feel about and tell me…"  

 * * * * *

When Sirius saw Harry, and the way Snape was pawing at him, and the obvious discomfort of all the other members of the club, (who were trying to keep their eyes averted) he gasped.

He strode across the room and seized Harry's wrist, causing Harry to slosh his wine and nearly to drop his book.

"I knew it! I have been sent to collect you. You are causing a minor scandal," he hissed. "We will be lucky if it does not make the newspapers! Get up off his lap and come home."  

His eyes fell upon the book on Harry's knees.

"What is this? What has he got you reading?" he snarled. Snape looked murderous.

"I am teaching the boy to defend himself, unlike you. You would have him remain green and innocent forever," he sneered.

Harry, caught between the two of them, felt oddly exposed, as though Sirius had caught him doing something dirty. Harry tried to convince himself that he had been merely studying…  

"Still so naïve, eh Harry?" Sirius glared. "What are you teaching him to defend himself against, Snape - sodomy? Get up, boy!" And he dragged Harry roughly to his feet.

Harry tried to struggle, but Sirius hissed that he was not to cause a scene, and forcibly removed him from the room.  

Chapter 10  

"I am not supposed to converse with you," Harry said, loftily, a week later. "You are a wicked man, Sirius says, and are trying to corrupt me."  

Sirius, stood in the doorway, nodded his approval. He did not approve of Snape's attempts to broaden Harry's education - since that fateful night in the club (which had not made the newspapers, but only after Sirius had sent out several rather large cheques), Harry's room had been purged of all his new learning.

Gone were the defensive spell books, the volumes on dark curses and prohibited charms. Gone also was Harry's private collection of erotica. Sirius had removed it from his room without comment, but Harry had found the singed pages littering the back yard. He had collected them up, mournfully, and had hidden them beneath his mattress. Sirius did not approve of that either, that much was clear. He did not need to say so; the burnt pages said it all. The very sight of them, wounded and desecrated, cut at something in Harry's soul and hurt him most dreadfully. He knew now that he could never mention anything about liking wizards to Sirius.

Harry turned.

"He has gone," he said loudly, to Sirius.

That Sirius believed him to be penitent was vital - how else would Harry escape the house, where he had been imprisoned for two weeks?  

 * * * * *

Down below on the pavement, Snape nodded once in understanding and strode away, to seclude himself behind a hansom. Sirius inspected the street, seemingly satisfied, and patted Harry on the back.

"Well done, my boy," he smiled. "Our way is better, you will see that. We are making plans to remove you from London. That is far safer than anything Snape can teach you."  

After he had left the room, Harry turned the key in the lock and crept back over to the window. Snape was standing below, with his arms folded.

"He is so irritating," Snape snorted. Harry nodded. "If I take you out tonight," Snape continued, low, "it will be to Almack's, where all there is to drink is tea and lemonade. Scarcely anything to tempt you to corruption there," he sneered.

Harry opened his mouth to reply - then abruptly closed it again.

What if Sirius was right? What if Snape was trying to teach him dangerous things?

But he could hardly see how he could accuse someone of trying to corrupt him when they were inviting him out to drink lemonade…  

And he wanted to be active, to learn, rather than to hide away. Snape, to him, represented preparing himself to face… whatever evil it was that lurked in wait for him. Sirius represented running away. It was that simple.

Snape was scrutinising him with obvious impatience.

"Well? Surely you are not starting to believe your Godfather's drivel? Be ready in ten minutes; disguise yourself somehow. I will be around the corner in my curricle."  

Harry nodded.

"Give me ten minutes, then," he said, and closed the window.  

 * * * * *

"Do you know how to waltz?" Snape asked him, sometime later in the club. He handed Harry a glass of lemonade as they watched the dancing.

He was stood at Harry's side, rigidly, like a maiden aunt.

"You don't want me to dance with you, do you?" Harry replied, taking the glass and clinking it against Snape's before sipping it. "That would draw attention! I am supposed to be keeping a low profile - as you said, my disguise is somewhat lacking!"  

Snape looked murderous.

"Don't be a nuisance. Go and ask Lord Lovegood's daughter for a dance. If you do not spoil it by opening your mouth, you may be introduced to her father. He has some books I should like you to borrow."  

"If I don't -" Harry spluttered, indignant. He pushed his half-empty glass rudely back into Snape's free hand. "Very well. I shall see you later."  

Luna Lovegood turned out to be dotty, but very good-humoured. She was almost as terrible at dancing as Harry, but bowed very prettily to the couples which they accidentally bumped into. Much to Harry's relief, they bowed back, and laughed, and did not recognise him (he had tried to cast a spell over his appearance, but was not sure he had been all that successful).

Afterwards, Luna introduced him to her father, who told him about his projects. Harry sipped tea and nodded politely (some of Mr Lovegood's ideas were as eccentric as the old man himself).

All he could think of was how to broach the subject of Mr Lovegood's library…  

Luna dragged them both to the gambling table later to play Hazard, and Harry had very bad luck, but spent most of the rest of the evening laughing, drinking tea, and watching Lord Lovegood lose several thousands of pounds (shrugged off as inconsequential by the Lord.)

He gained an invitation to peruse their library, and quite forgot about Snape, until he saw the Professor prowling around the room, glowering at him from the shadows. The next time he glanced up, however, Snape had disappeared.

Suddenly, there was a voice in his right ear and he jumped, spilling his tea.

"Time to go - oh for heaven's sake, Potter!"  

Miss Lovegood, ever kind, dabbed at his knees with her handkerchief. Harry excused himself and went to follow Snape - who was stood, fuming, by a gilt column in the ballroom.

When Harry reached him, Snape turned on his heel and marched away.  

 * * * * *

Snape did not speak to him for most of the carriage-ride back to the house, preferring to look out of the window and ignore Harry's very existence. He was evidently in a dark mood, and Harry felt a twinge of guilt. Perhaps Snape did not mean for him to spend the entire evening with the Lovegoods, despite his insults at the start...

"Did you have a tolerable evening?" he inquired, expecting to be shot down in flames.

He was not disappointed.

Snape's head snapped round, and he regarded Harry with such a look of distaste, as if Harry had just crawled out of the sewers to sit down next to him.

"Do not speak!" he hissed. "Your very presence is irritating. My evening was a waste of time - although I noticed you having a more than tolerable time, flirting with that fool Lovegood's daughter -"  

"That wasn't what it was! You told me to go and speak with them, to get an invitation to their library!" Harry protested.

"Not for four hours!" Snape shouted, then turned away, his lip curled in revulsion.

Harry felt a little ashamed of himself. Snape was, despite all their sniping, the person who had been the most honest with him in his entire life. Harry owed him. More than that; he did not want to upset Snape. Snape was his companion; his teacher. Harry almost liked him, surprising as he found that now.

"Could we try again another night, later in the week? You and I, go somewhere less… overwhelming? Just us? Professor?" he tried, laying a gloved hand gently on Snape's arm.

"No," Snape snarled, snatching his arm away and returning to glaring out of the carriage window. "You use my company for your own purposes. You would not be interested in me at all if I had not books to give you - that much was made perfectly clear by this evening. Your Godfather has got to you after all."  

"He has not!" Harry cried. "I was not! I know you are not trying to corrupt me…" he trailed off.

Snape looked incensed.

"You are not sure, are you?" he said, scornfully. "Conniving little brat. It would serve you right if you never saw me nor my books again!"  

Chapter 11  

"He is an adventurer," Hermione whispered, awestruck. "Mr Lockhart! Isn't he dreamy…"  

Setting her Gallery of Fashion down upon her lap, she pointed across the canal towards a gentleman promenading graciously with his wife.

"Such an air of fashion!" she sighed, glancing down at her journal.

"Perhaps you could do something of that kind?" Harry replied, trying to be attentive but failing. Hermione scowled and took up her journal again.

"I think not. My future is already decided: marry Mr Krum and spend a lifetime producing offspring and writing boring letters to boring people," she announced.

Harry patted her gloved hand in sympathy.

"I thought you loved Mr Krum a little," he whispered. Hermione sniffed and adjusted her fashionable blue turban-style head-dress.

She would not meet Harry's eyes.

"He is tolerable," she sighed again. "Only tolerable, though. He likes to hold my hand. But as for conversation… Mama says that it is not uncommon for one to be completely unable to converse with one's husband. And he is often away, and will leave me to my own devices, so I believe we shall suit," she did not sound entirely convinced.

Harry cringed.

"That is never how it should be. Not in my mind," he shook his head.

Hermione, much to his surprise, pulled her hand away from his and turned on him, eyes flashing.

"Oh yes, well I admit it is not spiritual!" she sneered. "Of course, it is much more agreeable to be going on secret trysts with a man who blackmails you into accompanying him, who gives you distasteful literature, and who is rude to you at the slightest opportunity!" she challenged, glaring at him with disdain.

"They are not trysts, I wish you would believe that!" Harry cried. "And I have not seen him now for over a month; he evidently does not wish to be in my company!"  

Why did he sound so bitter at this? He could not quite fathom it, even after a month of loneliness. Of course, he knew what Hermione was implying, but it made no sense. Surely he was not seriously attracted to -  

"The sooner Sirius removes you from this city, and I go to live with Mr Krum, the better!" Hermione said, scathingly. "You have become quite distracted of late, I hardly recognise you. You go around to the Lovegood's far more often than you ought - they are not well thought of, you know. Their books will do you no more good than Mr Snape's would have done!"  

"I must learn to defend myself," Harry said, stubbornly. "I am making progress! If Mr Snape, Sirius, nor you will help, then I must learn what I can. It would be foolish of me to do nothing, and to wait for Sirius to finish making his plans. Even when we leave London, how he thinks we will be safe is beyond me."  

"With your strange ideas, I am surprised he allows you out at all," Hermione seethed.

"He does not, but I threatened to burn my bed if he did not let me come out with you," Harry grumbled. "I am sick of being indoors and doing nothing. He barely even lets me go to work!"  

Hermione rose, muttering something about going over and introducing herself to the adventurer, if Harry was going to continue to delude himself. Harry rose and bowed, dutifully.

He watched her flounce across the bridge and almost run to catch up to Mr Lockhart, her turban bobbing ridiculously in the wind. He smiled to himself. Then he realised that he was smiling because he was thinking about what sarcastic comment Mr Snape would have made at her retreating shape, and scowled.  

 * * * * * 

Hermione returned, not twenty minutes later, grasping her turban against her head as she practically sprinted down the canal path, her skirts hitched up in a most un-ladylike manner -  

"Harry!" she wheezed, cheeks pink with excitement. She collapsed onto the bench beside him. Harry took her fan out and wafted her with it.

"Harry!" she exclaimed, again. "I met him! Gilderoy Lockhart! A member of the Royal Society, and I met him! He says that, if we come along with him now, he will make an introduction for us!" Her eyes sparkled. Harry, knowing Hermione's great love of scientific knowledge, fanned her a little more enthusiastically.

"You'll come with me, won't you, Harry?" she pressed, taking her little bottle of smelling salts from her bag and sniffing them, before spluttering. (Harry checked to see that nobody of great social importance was observing them, then thumped her on the back.)

He was about to politely refuse - and then it occurred to him that, as a great seat of knowledge, the library of the Society would be the perfect one to enhance his knowledge of defensive spells… Surely it must have a Wizarding section?

"Of course," he replied, leaping to his feet in his enthusiasm and extending his gloved hand.

Hermione saw through him in a moment.

"I am surprised Mr Snape did not advise you to go there," Hermione sniffed, taking it and getting to her feet.

Harry bristled.

"No, he did not," he said, curtly. "As I said, he does not wish to see me. I don't even know where he is."  

That, however, was soon to change…  

 * * * * * 

They entered the Royal Society arm in arm (although Harry wished that Hermione would desist with squeezing and pinching his arm in her excitement, but endured it in order not spoil her happiness) and were shown into the Marble Hall.

It was very grand; brown polished marble adorned not only the patterned floor but the walls also. Situated in various corners were white busts of eminent Muggle men of science. After spotting a statue of Sir Isaac Newton, Hermione dragged him between them, breathless with enthusiasm.

Harry tried to feign some delight. He did not have a scientific mind, as Hermione did, and was desperate to get upstairs and find the Wizarding portion of the great library…  

 * * * * * 

They spent the next hour in the Garden Room, conversing with Mr Lockhart (or rather, listening to him talk of himself).

Finally, however, they managed to break away when Hermione requested, to Harry's relief, a tour of the libraries. Their host graciously obliged, leading them up the grand staircase and onto the first floor.

The library was gigantic, and most beautifully done out in gold fitting; the railings and chandeliers gleamed against the dark wood of the tables and the towering bookcases. The very spines of the books themselves seemed to glow in gold, brimming with tremulous knowledge…  

Harry stood, enraptured, in the doorway. Hermione had to tug him inside.

The ceiling was so high that the bookcases went up in many levels. Golden spiral staircases led the eye up not one level but three. Upon the top walkway, several men perused the books with little thought as to how high above ground they were.

Here, their host left them, and Harry trailed Hermione around as she quietly investigated shelf after shelf, stroking the spines of the books reverently with her gloved fingers. He was trying to work out where the books on magic would be kept, for it was a mystery to him. Of course, the books would not be easily available to Muggles… But where were they hidden?

Harry was just about to remark that perhaps they should go for some coffee, or find another library, when the sound of footsteps on the spiralling staircase behind him made him jump.

"Sorry, sir, I am in your way!" he said, and stepped aside.

Glancing up, however, he came face to face with Mr Snape - looking rather surprised (and not very pleased) to see him, and clutching a book tightly against his chest.

Snape was in his dark waistcoat and shirtsleeves, and looked rather dishevelled, as though he had been there for some considerable time.

Harry, heart pounding, bowed.

Snape tried to bow upon the steps, then realised it was foolish, and descended the last few hurriedly. He bowed to Harry, but still seemed a little perplexed (and not pleased either).

"This, er, this is my friend, Miss Granger. Hermione… this is Mr Snape, formerly a Professor at Hogwarts," Harry murmured, knowing full-well he must be beet-red but trying to make a proper introduction nonetheless.

Hermione curtseyed, a very knowing smile playing around her mouth.

"Delighted to meet you at last, sir. Harry has told me much about you," she twinkled.

Harry gritted his teeth and tried not to flinch as Snape's gaze fell, frostily, upon him.

"Indeed," Snape drawled, sounding uninterested. He did not, however, remove his gaze from Harry. Harry felt himself wilting under its intensity.

One or two fellows turned from their books and shushed them, irritably.

"Are you a member of the Royal Society, Mr Snape?" Hermione asked, in hushed tones, glancing at the book in Snape's fingers. Snape nodded, brusquely, but did not look at her.

There followed a moment of somewhat excruciating silence, in which Snape stared icily at Harry, Harry stared, embarrassed, at the floor, and Hermione fumbled for something to say.

In the end, she settled for:

"Come, Harry, we must find ourselves another guide. I am afraid our host had to leave us, Mr Snape, and I was rather anxious to see the reading room and the room which houses artefacts of scientific interest… And Harry is anxious to see the Wizarding books, of course."  

"I'll bet," Snape sneered.

Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and turned away, walking quickly towards the door, eyes down. Hermione had just joined him and they were leaving the library, when the sound of hurried footsteps made them turn.

"Give me a few moments and I can show you both rooms," Snape whispered, looking rather harassed. He scrubbed his thin fingers through his greasy hair, as if to put it back into place.

Mortified, Harry would have refused him, but Hermione had already thanked him and agreed, and then they were out in the hall.

"What did you do that for?" Harry hissed, pulling Hermione aside, savagely. "The man positively hates me; you could see it in his face!"  

"Well, perhaps if you were a little more courteous towards him," she hissed back, pulling her arm free from his grasping fingers.

As she did so, Snape emerged through the library doors, dressed in his dark coat and looking considerably tidier. Book tucked under one arm; he held the other out to Hermione.

"Shall we?" he asked, ignoring Harry.

Hermione graciously fitted her arm through his, and they set off down the hall, Harry trailing them awkwardly and wishing he were never born.  

 * * * * * 

The artefacts would have been fascinating, if Harry had been in any state to consider them properly. As it was, the presence of Mr Snape kept him anxious and unsettled as they perused the exhibits. Snape and Hermione were caught up in some deeply scientific conversation. Harry felt rather young and foolish as he stood there alone, looking at a little brass model of a Transit of Venus in a glass case…  

"How on earth did you get an invitation here?" was suddenly hissed in his ear.

He started. Hermione, it seemed, had wandered away, and was eagerly watching a device in another case as it whirred and clicked very precisely.

"Hermione met Mr Lockhart at Vauxhall," he replied, shakily. Snape made a grumpy harrumph from behind him.

"That blithering idiot. You could have asked me if you had wanted an invitation," Snape almost sounded put out. Harry turned, bewildered.

"But I have not seen you in a month!" he hissed. Snape raised his brows.

"Do not chastise me, boy! You expected me to invite you out after you ignored me the last time?" he sneered.

"I am not a boy," Harry answered, riled. "I must do all I can to learn how to keep myself safe!"  

"Why are you flitting about town tonight, then?" Snape sneered. "Surely you are far safer walled up in your Godfather's house?"  

"I was going mad, stuck in there," Harry grumbled. "You were very unkind to withdraw your company. You know I need your help!"  

"I will not be used for what I can do for you," Snape snarled, clearly angry. "If you had a little tact, you would have given me something in return for all the favours I have shown you!"  

"What do you want?" Harry asked, bemused. "I will do whatever you wish."  

Snape scrutinised him for a moment, his deep, coal-fire black eyes smouldering. Harry waited.

"Come out with me now," Snape snapped, suddenly.

"But I have a prior engagement!" Harry hissed, nodding towards Hermione, who was still in raptures over some silly scientific trinket.

"Then break it!" Snape held out his gloved hand, impatient. "She will be alright here; she can get a cab home. I am sure Lockhart will chaperone."  

Harry, unnerved, graced Snape's hand with his own, and Snape dragged him from the room before he could even attract Hermione's attention to bid her farewell.

"What about the libraries? Where are we going? This is a very un-gentlemanly thing for me to do to Hermione!" Harry panted, as Snape escorted him rudely down the grand stairs.

"Be quiet! We are going nowhere if you do not hurry up!" Snape snarled.  

 * * * * * 

Harry was shepherded out of the building and into a curricle. He clutched his coat about him as protection from the crisp night air as Snape seized the reigns and abruptly whipped up his well-matched pair of stately (black) horses.

Twenty minutes later, Snape turned his curricle into Birdcage Walk and stopped. He got out and stood, one hand on the carriage side, beckoning Harry out with irate impatience. Harry hastened to scramble out and waited in the road, clutching his hat and cane awkwardly while Snape tied up the horses, then strode away into the darkness, cane in hand.

Harry hurried after him, jamming his hat down onto his head.

"I say, Mr Snape, why so fast?" he wheezed.

"We shall miss the first fight. You dawdle so much," Snape replied, bitter.

"First fight?" Harry gasped, half from excitement and half… apprehension.  

Chapter 12  

Thirty minutes later and Harry was having one of the most surreal experiences of his young life.

The Cock-Pit Royal was bustling; he and Snape were sat three tiers up on a rickety wooden bench. They had been lucky to find a seat - high up at the back, it was standing room only, and even then the crowd were tightly packed and troublesome.

The benches bordered a circular pit of about fourteen feet across, which was in turn encircled by a low fence. To keep the birds in, Harry presumed.

The gentleman to his immediate right jostled him and muttered something dark. Harry sighed, inwardly. He was already uncomfortable; Snape had, upon noting that the bench still had room for one, entered into an altercation with another gentleman to make him move over and allow Harry room to sit beside him. Harry would have been far happier standing at the back, but Snape motioned to him to sit down and, when he had begun to protest, gifted him such a black and morose look that Harry had sat immediately.

Something had got Snape's blood up tonight, that was certain. He was in a foul mood, and Harry had no desire to be on the receiving end of it.

They had, as Snape predicted, missed the first fight, but Snape bet extravagantly upon a black bird in the second. Harry thought, as Snape rejoined him and the fight began, that he might risk a bet of his own, later on.

But, as the black and the red went at each other in a vicious whirlwind of flapping and springing, Harry felt a little sick to his stomach. It was brutal, and the bellow of the crowd even more so.

Beside him, Mr Snape roared with the rest as feathers flew in all directions, even rising out of his seat in the excitement. There was a ferocious spark in his eye which made Harry uneasy.  

 * * * * * 

After fifteen minutes of needling, pecking and slashing, the fight was over, the black bird had sent the red to grass, and Mr Snape was on his feet, shaking hands with many of the elated strangers surrounding him. He set off to collect his winnings, leaving Harry mildly amused but also slightly bewildered.

"I put a bet on for you. On the grey," Snape leant over and murmured in his ear, on his return.

Harry nodded, and reached for his purse, but Snape waved his hand away, dismissively.

The second fight started, the pair seeming well-matched. After ten minutes, the fight was still on, although both birds seemed dazed and were attempting to avoid one another, rather than engage. They were secured, and released again by the handlers, but remained warily apart. Harry's bird was bleeding and the thought came to him that he had not been around such complete violence since the night of his parents' apparent murder - which ruined his enjoyment totally.

The thought that there was a man out there, lurking in the darkness of the London night, who wanted to inflict violence upon him so that he bled like that poor bird - and that Harry was woefully unprepared to fight back - caused him much anguish.

He sat, hunched and small, beside Snape, who was on his feet again, bellowing at the birds to stop ogling one another.

When the grey eventually lost, Harry did little more than shrug when Snape slapped him on the back in sympathy. Most of the gentlemen in their row had stood up, and Harry did also, determined to leave.

But the person to his right, seemingly still bitter about the unpleasantness of earlier, would not let him pass.

"Excuse me, sir!" Harry said, and tapped the man with his cane.

The man turned; his face red and his breath stinking of alcohol.

"Do not tap me, sir!" he snarled, and pushed Harry back, before turning away. Infuriated, Harry tapped him with his cane again, and the man whipped round again and fixed him with a watery glare.

"You are skating on thin ice, nancy boy! Time your esteemed companion over there taught you some manners beyond those needed in the bedroom!" he snarled, seizing Harry.

Harry, horrified, was just about to reply - when Snape pushed violently past him. In seconds he had his hands fisted in the other gentleman's coat, pushing him roughly to the ground.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HIM?" Snape bellowed, bending over the sprawled man, fists clenched and quivering. Harry could not see his face. He laid one hand in desperation upon Snape's shoulder, but Snape shrugged him off violently. He was busy clawing up the man on the floor and slapping him several times across the face.

Much to Harry's mortification, several of the crowd around them started to jeer. The next thing he knew, officials were marching up through the crowd. They hauled Snape, him, and the gentleman on the floor up, and out through the heckling crowd.

They were tossed out into the street, Snape's hands still on the lapels of the other gentleman's coat.

"Greyback!" called the unfortunate gentleman's companion, who had followed them out. "Leave him! He's not worth this bother!"  

Mr Greyback seemed to be backing down. He broke from Snape's grasp as though Snape might contaminate him and stumbled away. As he passed Harry, however, Greyback swayed precariously close. His foul breath puffing against Harry's revolted face, he sneered:

"Is he this rough with you when he fucks you? I'd be much gentler. Or do you like it rough?"  

From behind Harry, Snape gave an inhuman roar. He marched forward a few paces and dealt the other gentleman a smashing blow to the jaw, which sent him sprawling into the gutter.

"Stop, no!" cried Harry, darting forwards and trying to hold Snape back - but Snape wrenched free from his grasp, and went for Greyback again.

"Your actions are unpardonable, sir!" Greyback's companion gasped, heaving the staggering man to his feet and dabbing at his bloody nose with his cuff. "He demands satisfaction!"  

"What?" Harry gasped, light-headed with horror.

"What?" growled Greyback, blinking in confusion.

"Then you shall have it, sir! Name your second!" Snape snarled, swaying a little.

"Avery! Name yours!" the man replied, giving Greyback a vicious shake.

"Potter!" Snape shouted.

Harry, still in shock, staggered over and tried to exchange cards with Mr Avery, as was the custom. However, the gentleman would have none of it, and arranged for Snape to meet them the very next morning, in a secluded corner of Hyde Park.

It all happened so fast; it was so surreal. Harry felt as though he were in the middle of a nightmare. He had only ever heard of duels happening before, and what he had heard made him sick with fear. Surely Snape was not going to fight to the death for him?  

 * * * * * 

"You will not act as my second for the duel - I can find another in time," Snape said, as soon as they were perched in the seat of his curricle. "Greyback is… well, let us say he has certain other talents, which make duelling with him highly undesirable. You should not have to watch."  

Harry was consumed with a mixture of anger and fear.

"You know him? What on earth possessed you?" he cried, stirred into life. "Why did you feel the need to do that?"  

Snape mumbled something unintelligible.

"What?" Harry demanded.

"I said, I shall not come to your aid again, when people choose to slander you," Snape grumbled.

"You were not angry because he called me a nancy boy," Harry snapped blushing. "You were angry because he offered to -"  

"Drop it, Potter," Snape snarled, his hard eyes fixed on the road.

"What other talents does he have?" Harry asked, suddenly.

"Greyback is a werewolf," Snape said. "Although, fortunately, it is not the full moon. But one should not get too close. The way he had his hands on you…" he shuddered.

It was suddenly all too much for Harry. He felt as though he would be sick; and the curricle had not even started moving yet. Suddenly, a gloved fell upon his shoulder. Snape had turned to him, concern darkening his brow at Harry's sudden silence.

"Are you faint?" he asked, gazing deep into Harry's heavy-lidded eyes.

"A little," Harry murmured. "I should be much more at peace if you would promise me you will not keep your meeting tomorrow morning."  

Snape took the reins, whipped up the horses, and the curricle jolted forward.

"I shall promise nothing," he replied, his mouth set into a grim, determined line. Harry sighed.

"But what if you are killed?" he persisted.

"I am a man of honour, Potter. Or would you rather I lose that, also?" Snape sneered.

Harry placed one gloved hand gently on the older gentleman's arm.

"Please, Prof - Severus. Say you will not go. For my sake," he gazed up, hopefully, into Snape's dark eyes...

Snape turned to look at him - and it seemed, for a long moment as their eyes locked, as though he could not look away…  

The curricle swerved most dangerously. Harry cried out and clutched at the side - the moment was broken. Snape turned his attention back to the horses.

"Not even for your sake," he muttered.

Harry sighed in despair. This was all so terrible and yet… Snape's words warmed him, even though he could not for the life of him explain why.  

Chapter 13  

Harry sat on the edge of his bed, far too anxious for sleep.

He had sent Mr Wormtail with an urgent message for Miss Granger, and was hoping desperately that she would somehow manage to forgive him for abandoning her (and be at the park for six tomorrow morning…)

He untied his cravat, for he could not breathe. He was much troubled, and wished he could go and wake Sirius and have him sort out the whole, ghastly mess…  

But he could not. Sirius would probably never let him leave the house again; would probably feel betrayed, and tell Harry he was being corrupted…  

Harry did not sleep at all that night. Instead, he spent much of it pacing his room, half frantic with worry.  

 * * * * * 

When dawn broke, Harry realised that he ought to at least change his waistcoat, so as not to give the appearance of having been up all night. He changed unhappily, catching sight of his reflection in his looking-glass and seeing his drawn, miserable face looking back at him.

He wished, for the thousandth time, that Mr Snape was not going to fight.

What if he were killed, and all on Harry's account? It was too horrible to consider.  

 * * * * * 

At a quarter to five, Harry slipped from the house. He almost ran through the streets. When he arrived at the park, an hour later, he was exhausted - but delighted to find Hermione standing in the misty woods, at Snape's side.

He dashed towards them. Snape scowled at him as he approached.

"I thought I told you not to come, Mr Potter. Now I find you have invited an audience, also," Snape sneered. Beside him, Hermione bristled a little from beneath her white parasol.

"Me?" Harry muttered, leaning up on tiptoe to whisper into Snape's ear. "I asked you not to do this!"  

Snape seemed very tense, Harry noticed. He supposed he was anxious about the duel; he held himself very still as Harry placed a gloved hand imploringly upon his strong shoulder.

"Please. Accept his apology. Or make one to him. Anything," Harry entreated, standing very close to Snape. Before he realised fully what he was doing, he had slid his hand around the back of Snape's neck and was stroking the back of the other man's collar with his fingertips.

Snape shivered.

"No. It is too late."  

Snape would not look at him.

"But what if you are injured?" Harry pressed, moving his body irresistibly closer.

"Then it will be in the name of honour," Snape replied, rigidly.

"That's ridiculous," Harry muttered, unwrapping himself from Snape.

"Your honour," Snape reminded him, eyeing him reproachfully.

"I do not want you to fight for my honour!" Harry hissed. Hermione grabbed his arm then, and started to tow him away. Harry glanced anxiously back toward Snape, who stood about ten paces away, a column of black, with his arms folded.

"Stop distracting the Professor, Harry," Hermione demanded, pulling him away to stand behind a tree. "Would you have him branded a coward?"  

She released him - then rounded on him:

"What on earth were you up to with him last night?" she frowned, reprovingly.

Harry scowled.

"You make it sound to sordid," he complained. "I am ever so sorry for leaving you -"  

"I'll bet you are! Look at what it has come to! After you left me, where did you go? He wouldn't tell me why he got into trouble," Hermione continued, low. "What was he doing?"  

"Snape defended me when, um, Greyback said I was Snape's, um… you know," Harry muttered, fiddling with his gloves. Hermione shook her head; her curls bouncing about her face. Harry sighed. "He said Snape was seducing me and then he offered to be a better lover, and Snape went insane."  

"Ah," said Hermione, knowingly. Harry looked at her suspiciously.

"What does that mean, ah?" he glowered.

"Nothing at all," Hermione trilled, innocently, turning away so that Harry could not see the glint in her eye through her ringlets.  

 * * * * * 

All of a sudden, from the grassy clearing on the other side of the tree:

"Where is your second, Snape?"  

Harry recognised the poisonous voice of Avery and darted out from behind the tree trunk.

"Here!" he called, bustling over, coattails flapping in the breeze. Hermione paraded around the tree to watch the proceedings, twirling her parasol disapprovingly.

Greyback and Avery stood, opposite Snape, in the early morning mist that was swirling low to the ground. Avery was business-like; Snape and Greyback seemed deadly serious and intent upon duelling. They all regarded Harry with disdain as he took his place beside Snape.

"Finished?" Avery leered at Harry, who pursed his lips and seethed, silently. "Now we are all present, shall we begin? Remember, gentlemen; dumb shooting or firing spells into the air is not permissible in any case. Children's play is dishonourable on either side. I shall cast Subsisto Periculosus, and the caster who breaks the spell is the winner. The duel is then over. Any spell-casting after the duel is ended is not allowed," here, he glared at Snape, who sneered back.

"Produce your wands for inspection by the other's second," Avery then snarled.

Greyback thrust his wand into Harry's fingers. Harry stared at it in confusion. It was just an ordinary wand. He glanced up at Snape, who was handing his own wand over to Avery, a snarl twisting his thin lips.

Harry turned and gave Hermione an 'I have no idea what I'm doing!' expression - she threw up her hands and hurried to his side.

"You're looking for spell-enhancing magic," she muttered, producing her own wand and casting several stray spells over Greyback's wand.

Greyback was glowering at her mistrustfully.

"Can I have that back now?" he sneered.

Hermione nodded to Harry and he handed it back, just as Snape was snatching his own wand from Avery and cradling it possessively in his thin fingers.

"Stand twenty paces apart and I shall cast in the middle," Avery ordered.

Snape nodded briskly, his thin fingers skimming down the front of his black frock coat and undoing the buttons. He shrugged out of the coat and thrust it at Harry, then strode away.

Hermione seized Harry's sleeve and dragged him out of the way and into the shelter of the trees.

"Are we in any danger?" Harry asked, clutching Snape's coat to his chest.

"Honestly, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed. "A duel is not a brawl. I am removing you so that Mr Snape can focus solely on his duelling."  

"Me? I wouldn't get in his way!" Harry protested. Hermione rolled her eyes and said nothing, but she held onto Harry's arm as the two duelling gentlemen turned to face each other, twenty paces apart.

Snape rolled up his sleeves. Harry glanced mistrustfully at Greyback, who had shed his waistcoat and was bouncing in readiness on his tiptoes. Harry slid one hand inside his breeches pocket, rolling his wand around in his palm restlessly. He did not trust that man one inch.

"There is a certain romance about a gentleman brave enough and protective enough to be willing to risk death defending one's honour from another man who'd besmirched it, don't you agree?" Hermione remarked, smirking.

Harry bitterly bit back his retort. He was watching Snape, unusually, removing his black boots. Greyback was watching Snape also, his lip curling in amusement.

Hermione twirled her parasol and sighed.

"Relax, Harry. You've never had the chance to see a proper wizard's duel, have you? The Professor - well, former Professor - is rumoured to be one of the most talented dualists in the country. I'd not have missed this for the world," she said, breathily. "Of course," she added, "I'm really here to support you…"  

Harry watched Snape bow, an irritated jerk of the head, and raise his wand. Excitement prickled Harry's skin like lightening. He had never seen any wizard or witch duel, beyond for sport, and the opportunity to see a glimpse of the amount of power his 'friend' kept locked beneath that cool exterior…  

But then Harry started to worry. Snape was a dark man - what if he were to kill Greyback? Then he would have to flee, in order to escape punishment! Duelling like this was hardly legal, even though it wasn't exactly uncommon.

He gulped.

Stood between Snape and Greyback, Avery pulled out his wand. A ball of fizzling blue light burst from the end and hovered, a few feet above the misty grass, crackling quietly.

Harry gazed at it, enthralled.

"It's a Subsisto Periculosus, Harry; a sphere to absorb dangerous magic. It monitors the capabilities of the dualists. If the sphere senses that either Professor Snape or Greyback cannot handle a spell, it will absorb it, explode, and the duel will be over. So I've heard," Hermione whispered.

"Why?" Harry replied, enraptured. Real magic.

"Say Greyback had sent an Avada Kedavra and Mr Snape could not block it. There would be no more duel to fight. Only Muggles duel to the death. It is so vulgar."

Harry shivered.

"Are we ready, gentlemen?" Avery called.

Snape nodded tersely. Was it Harry's imagination, or did he sense Snape was looking slightly nervous? He watched as Snape ran the thin fingers of his free hand through his greasy black hair, and cuddled Snape's coat tightly.

"En garde!" Avery announced, stepping back.

Snape and Greyback raised their wands. Snape bared his teeth.


 * * * * * 

Hexes, curses and charms flew back and forth in a frenzied blur.

Although most of them were perfectly aimed, Harry found he was only comfortable standing so close to the action when Hermione enveloped them both in a bubble-shaped shield charm, which Harry kept renewing whenever it ebbed.

Watching Snape duel was captivating.

Harry realised he was staring open-mouthed at the raw power and the masterful, commanding presence the former Professor struck. His duelling style was confident and physical, yet always tightly controlled. Harry wished he could have half as much control over his own power. It was undeniably impressive.

Mesmerised by seeing all his teenage fantasies of dark wizards come true, he took a step forward, out of the bubble - and saw Snape's eyes flicker apprehensively towards him. Hermione prodded him hard in the back.

"Stop distracting the Professor!" she hissed.

"I'm not doing anything!" Harry replied, angrily.

"You clearly do not understand your own attractiveness - get back here!"  

Hermione hauled him back into the effervescent bubble.

Whether Greyback was distracted by their spat, or whether Snape just caught him off guard, Harry could not be sure - but, in the next moment, Snape cast a spell, and the sphere exploded.

Greyback froze; shock evident upon his face. Avery reluctantly stepped forward, looking decidedly unconvinced.

"He's won!" Harry breathed, scarcely able to believe it.

Hermione grasped his hand in relief - but Harry broke away from her and dashed toward Snape.

Panting, Snape's eyes blazed as he turned and regarded Harry with a look of triumph, his chest heaving.

"You were wonderful!" Harry exclaimed, punching Snape lightly on the arm. Snape, however, was regarding him with a very satisfied and intense look.

"What is my reward?" he growled, his deep voice making Harry shiver deliciously.

Harry blushed. Seemingly delighted by this, Snape allowed himself the luxury of slipping an arm about Harry's waist. Harry found himself pinned to Snape's side, but he was so light-headed that he missed Hermione's knowing smirk and laid his weary head on Snape's shoulder, overcome with relief.

"I declare Professor Snape the wi -" Avery began, bitterly.

But, before Avery could finish, there was a furious howl.  

 * * * * * 

Harry screamed as a bolt of green lightning exploded from the end of Greyback's wand, screeching towards him and Snape.

It missed them by inches, and smashed into a tree.

Throwing Harry away from him with an almighty roar, Snape fired off a return. It was well-aimed, but Greyback blocked it just in time. Harry found himself sprawled on his face in the dewy grass and looked up, face contorted in misery.

In no time at all, Snape was knocked backwards by the force of the return hex, which sliced through his shirt sleeve and drove him into the ground.

Harry winced as Snape seized his own bloody arm, snarling in pain.

"Severus!" he cried.

Scrambling up, pale face lined and contorted with fury, Snape pointed his wand square between Greyback's eyes and screamed: "AVADA KEDAVRA!"  

A burst of livid green light shrieked across the field and Greyback had to dive to get out of the way. The fatal spell hit a tree and Hermione gasped as it withered to ash before their eyes.

"Stop, gentlemen, stop, this is bad form!" she shrieked.

Seeing his enemy on the ground, Snape, black eyes glittering with murderous triumph, fired off another spell. There was a loud crash and a crack, as Greyback was lifted bodily into the air and collided with a tree. Horrified, Harry and Avery darted forward simultaneously to stop the duel - Avery with his wand held high…  

But Harry, impulsively, dashed towards Snape, his wand quite forgotten in his desperation to stop Snape from killing -  

"Sectumsempra!" someone shrieked. Harry felt something wet and hot splash across his cheek.

There was a horrible ripping, slicing noise; then Harry crumpled into a heap of ripped and bloody fabric and lay motionless.  

 * * * * * 


Harry heard the scream as though from far away; as though he were deep underwater…  

He writhed as the pain hit - a tearing agony sliced hotly into his chest - and the world around him swirled into black.  

 * * * * * 

Pandemonium broke out.

Hermione was screaming and crying as she ran, parasol falling from her fingers, towards Harry's crumpled body.

Greyback scrambled to his feet and, cursing at the sight of Harry's torn body, turned and ran as hard as he could away into the trees. Avery spat onto the ground where Harry lay and tore off after him.

And Snape…  

Snape was staring in disbelief between Harry and his own treacherous wand. The wound it has just caused was spreading Harry's blood, red like wine, across the lush grass.

Snape sank to his knees, one hand clamped over his mouth, his eyes wide with horror.

Through a veil of tears, Hermione drew out her own wand and, trembling, rolled Harry tenderly onto his back. She began muttering spells over him, but nothing worked. Harry, if anything, bled harder than ever. Frustrated, Hermione looked up to where Snape still knelt - his dark eyes haunted and his body frozen in terror - and shrieked: "I don't know the cure! Help me, Professor!"  

This seemed to snap Snape out of his trance. He crawled frantically across the grass, face white as a sheet, and knelt over Harry - but his knowledge of healing spells seemed to have deserted him and he just hovered, shaking, kneeling in the rapidly-growing dark red pool of Harry's blood…  

Chapter 14  

Harry was awoken by vigorous shouting.

"Give me back my Godson, you violent blaggard!"  

Harry's eyelids fluttered as he tried to open his eyes.

The room was shrouded in shadow, but the stark glare of a candle hurled vulgar light across Harry's face. He winced.

"Get that candle out of his face, Black!" Snape growled.

"What in God's name have you done to him?" Sirius yelled. Harry moaned softly and turned his face to the pillow.

Opening one eye, he blurrily made out Snape, hovering at the end of the bed. All colour had been drained from the Professor's sallow face; he clutched at one of the tall bed posts as though it were holding him upright. He looked shattered.

Sirius noticed Harry's open eye and seized his bandaged hand.

"You're coming home with me, Harry, never fear. I'll get you out of here," he promised, rumpling the sheets as he disregarded Harry's hand in favour of extricating his godson from the bed.

"Do not move him, Black!" Snape protested, darting around from the end of the bed to slap at Sirius' questing fingers. "He is not fit to move!"  

"A likely story," Sirius spat, hurling the sheets from Harry's body and gathering the young man up in his arms.

"Come on, Harry," he murmured, soothingly, "we shall go home. You never need associate with Mr Snape again!" And he carried Harry from the room, in his arms.

"Sirius…" Harry groaned, as they descended Snape's dark staircase, "he was duelling for my… my honour! It is… over with!"  

"Over with?" Sirius spat. "Look at the state of you! Anyone would think you were the one duelling, not Mr Snape. How I detest the very sight of that man!"  

"He was defending me!"  

"That is not what Miss Granger told me! As she saw it, it was villainous Snape's spell that hit you!"  

"That's not possible!" Harry gasped, in horror.

"And it was no accident too, I'll wager!" Sirius sneered.

"He would never!"  

"You have much to learn, my boy, about people and the ways of the world. Snape is not what you think he is - he has no honour. See to it that you remember this, and have no more to do with him."  

The last Harry saw of Snape was the man standing at the top of the stairs, leaning against the wall in obvious exhaustion and with a look of anguish twisting his ashen face…  

 * * * * * 

The City of Bath, one month later…  

Harry leaned wearily against a column and concentrated on his breathing.

He was still very weak, and had come to Bath to take the waters for his health (although he rather suspected they did him little good at all, especially with their odious stench). As they left the gathering in the pump rooms, Miss Granger walked attentively beside him, offering her arm to him in support.

They were taking the opportunity afforded by the fashionable hour to see and be seen about town, but Harry could still not walk far, and needed much rest. Hermione had persuaded him to join her in admiring the new Portland roses in a secluded little garden just off Brook Street. Still, she sensed that he was finding this afternoon's walk very tedious, and floundered for something to cheer him up.

She knew of only one thing that could.

"Have you heard anything of that odious Mr Snape recently, Harry?" she inquired, with a suddenness that made Harry stagger a little, and lean on his cane.

"Do stop calling him 'that odious Mr Snape', Hermione," Harry hissed. "Damn it, you never called him that until Sirius started doing it recently."  

"Well, I feel I have the right to use his full title. I have now met him, after all, and can see for myself how odious he is," she began.

Harry held up his hand with an air of finality.

"Do not speak of him. Sirius has banned him from the house," Harry said, mournfully.

Hermione scolded herself for bringing it up, and guided him through the little gate and into the luscious garden.

Once they were seated, Miss Granger set her fan aside, dipped her hand into her bag and produced a sampler, which she proceeded to work upon. They sat in silence for some moments, the only sounds coming from the street outside the garden, and Miss Granger's occasional rummaging in her bag for more silken threads.

"I am thinking of giving a piano recital in two weeks," Miss Granger commented, not looking up from her needlework.

"Oh yes?" Harry asked, distracted.

"I could… I believe it to be a thoroughly bad idea, but I could invite the odious Mr Snape," she continued, glancing at Harry and waiting until her words had sunk in before looking away.

Harry sat up straight.

"Hermione! But… why? You detest him."  

"I do, but… I know you have been missing his company, for all he was so nasty, and tried to kill you," Hermione sniffed, stabbing the sampler with her needle. Harry sighed and kicked at the grass.

"Sirius says he is too dangerous a fellow to know. He said I must never speak to Snape again."  

"When did you let that stop you before? This isn't exactly making you happy. Is it? Give me Mr Snape's address and I shall have an invitation sent to him," she sighed. "I may be making a grave mistake, but I hate to see you so unhappy. I… I am sure the curse he hit you with was not directed at you."  

"I… What about Sirius?" Harry asked, delighted.

"We could arrange for it to be on a night when Mr Black is occupied with his club," she replied, thoughtfully.

Harry considered this, intrigued.

"How should I know whether Snape will still speak to me? I should hate to… to ask him to be my friend, and for him to refuse. Especially in public."  

Hermione promptly picked up her white lace fan and snapped it open.

"I can teach you a way to avoid that. Are you paying attention? Watch my fan. Should I do this,' and she closed her fan, "that means 'I wish to speak to you'."  

Harry's mouth dropped open.

"Fans have a language?"  

"Only a limited one. I could design my outfit for the evening so that my fan is more… masculine - dark wood, perhaps… And then I could give it to you to hold for me."  

"But what if Snape doesn't understand? And I'm fluttering away saying all these meaningful things and he just thinks I need a visit to Bedlam!" Harry spluttered.

Hermione looked at him seriously.

"He is a man of the world, Harry. I am sure he's had this sort of thing done to him before."  

Harry looked dubious, but took the white fan when Hermione pressed it into his palm.

"So," she began, in her best governess voice, "closing it means I wish to speak with you. Carrying it in the right hand in front of the face says Follow me. Drawing the fan across your forehead says We are watched. Drawing it across your eyes says I am sorry. Letting it rest on your right cheek says Yes - and the left cheek for No. Dropping the fan says We are friends… What else might you need?"  

Harry tried to flap the fan and dropped it, thoroughly confused. But Hermione had not quite finished.

"Oh, yes - seeing as we are dealing with Mr Snape, you will be needing these too," she took the fan back, for Harry was clearly having trouble. "Opening and shutting it, like this, says You are cruel. Carrying in right hand says You are too willing - for if he wishes to carry you off into the bushes. And this," she finished, noting Harry's blush but having the good sense not to draw attention to it, "is for if you want to be carried off into the bushes."  

And she pressed the handle of her fan to her lips.

"What does that one say?" Harry asked, still rather pink. Hermione's brown eyes twinkled.

"It says Kiss me."


Chapter 15  

The next week, Sirius caught Harry practicing in the kitchen with Hermione's fan, and had the gall to ask Harry kindly if he had something he wanted to talk about. Harry was too mortified to say anything, and dashed back upstairs.

Hermione had written him a list of movements and their meanings, which he studied, if still rather dubiously. He was almost certain that Snape would take one look at him and the fan and snort derisively.

Or worse, laugh.

He took the fan to work several times over the next week, for he was now too embarrassed to attempt to practice in the house. Mr Slughorn noticed it on his little desk, but seemed to assume that it meant Harry had acquired a lady friend, and started winking at him a lot.  

 * * * * * 

A further week later and Harry was feeling thoroughly awkward, sat as he was in a little half circle around Hermione's beautiful rosewood piano (of six octaves).

On the other side of the circle sat, sure enough, Snape, looking as grim and unfriendly as ever. He was drumming his thin fingers impatiently upon his knee, as if he wished to leave. He would not look in Harry's direction, even when Hermione made a big show of giving Harry her fan to hold (although the interfering lady to Harry's left almost took it instead).

Hermione settled herself at the piano and began to play. The music was most delightful, yet Harry barely heard a note.

Heart pounding, Harry opened the fan, nonchalantly; as if he merely wished to study it.

He left it open and seemingly discarded on his lap for the first melody - but then, as Hermione was taking her applause graciously, Snape happened to look in his direction, and Harry lifted the fan gently and closed it, eyes boring into Snape's.

I wish to speak with you.

Snape dropped his gaze and Harry, thoroughly frustrated, wanted to fling the fan across the room at him. Harry waited for a response, but Snape seemed quite intent upon the piano solo, and Harry swore inwardly…  

However, not ten minutes later, he felt the prickle of magic at his side, and the meddlesome lady to his left suddenly decided that she really must get herself a drink this instant, and left her chair.

During the next flutter of applause, Snape was up and moving, surreptitiously, to take her seat. He sat next to Harry (who suddenly almost forgot how to breathe) and crossed his legs, waiting.

Whilst trying to appear most attentive to Miss Granger's playing, Harry clumsily drew the fan across his eyes, pretending to scratch his head.

We are watched.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw, to his disbelief, Snape glance down, brow furrowed - and then nod slightly.

During the next round of applause, he managed to drop the fan.

We are friends.

Snape bent to retrieve it for him and, as he passed it back to Harry (not looking in his direction), the fan brushed against Harry's thigh. Harry shivered. He took the fan and returned his hands to his lap, turning to smile beatifically at the lady to his right, who had glanced at him out of curiosity.

Harry wondered if his own face were red, for he felt hot with anxiety, and could scarcely concentrate on Miss Granger's piano playing.

All of his attention was focussed on the man at his side, whose face was almost (save for his rather large nose) obscured by the fall of his dark hair as he bent his head slightly, listening to the music.  

 * * * * * 

As soon as the final piece was finished, and Miss Granger was bowing graciously, cheeks pink with pleasure, to the polite applause of her guests, Harry took the opportunity to rise (as everyone else was doing).

Fan held in front of his face slyly, he begin to walk to the window.

Follow me.

At first, he was convinced that Snape had not understood his meaning - but then he felt, more than saw, Snape's presence behind him.

He turned around. Snape was staring at him, dark and brooding; the look in his eyes was so intense, so…  

Aflame. With what emotion, Harry did not know. Snape opened his mouth to speak, but Harry hurriedly drew the fan across his forehead, and Snape faltered.

We are watched.

He joined Harry in looking out of the window at the carriages rattling by in the street below.

"Your Godfather told you not to see me, I take it?" Snape murmured, hands behind his back and his eyes focussed on the street. Harry held the fan up to his right cheek, casually.


Snape nodded, seemingly satisfied.

"Are you well?" he asked. Harry repeated the movement and smiled sideways at Snape to emphasise this.

"Good. I did attempt to visit but, of course, my efforts were rebuffed," Snape sniffed, sounding rather sour. Harry drew the fan across his eyes again, but Snape waved his hand as if to brush his apology away.

"It was not your doing. You were injured, and would not have been, were it not for my actions. I am the one who must apologise."  

Harry, who did not have a fan movement for You are forgiven, nodded.

"Greyback was, unfortunately, not apprehended by the Aurors. He is still at large - you must be particularly careful when you are out. His master is very powerful, and they will undoubtedly be thinking of ways to get to you without causing too much of a fuss. You must be on your guard. Black informed me that you will be leaving London in a few weeks…"  

But then, much to Harry's surprise (he had been thinking, as he listened to Snape, of defensive spells, and duelling), Snape leant in much closer.

He whispered directly into Harry's ear, sounding incredibly ruffled and urgent:

"Harry, I cannot! Not here. May I call upon you during the week instead?"  

Bemused, Harry lifted the fan - from where he had been absent-mindedly resting it against his mouth - and pressed it to his right cheek. Yes.

He was about to turn and inquire of Snape why he wanted to call - but Snape had already turned.

After squeezing Harry's arm urgently and gazing at him again for a moment, he strode over to congratulate Hermione. Minutes later, Snape was gone.

Harry was left rather confused.  

 * * * * * 

Hermione made her way towards him. She prodded him in the side and took his arm, smiling.

"You look rather flushed. I take it that went well?" she inquired. "Not that I approve," she added, scowling.

"I… I don't know," Harry confessed. "He was talking to me about the duel and telling me to be careful - and I was listening attentively - and then he suddenly leant over and said 'I cannot', as if I had asked him to do something unspeakable! And then he asked to call on me - what?"  

"You were not doing that, I trust, whilst he was speaking to you?" Hermione chuckled, looking at where Harry had rested the fan (against his mouth). Harry shrugged.

"Yes? What's wrong with -"  

"Oh, Harry!" Hermione gasped. "You didn't?"  

Harry was sure his face had exploded in crimson, but he nodded, breathless.

"You asked him to kis… Here? Harry!" she exclaimed, looking rather scandalised.

"I didn't mean to!" Harry protested.

"Ha! I think you must have been doing it subconsciously… Oh dear. You'll just have to hope he thought you meant something else, when he calls on you… Oh, Harry, you are ridiculous sometimes," she chastened.

Harry wished the ground would open and swallow him up. He handed the fan back to Hermione, wishing he had never set eyes upon it…  

Chapter 16  

The wedding of Hermione Granger and Viktor Krum was a quiet affair, elegant yet simple. They had a little ceremony in the parish church, and there were few guests.

Hermione wore a dress of pink muslin, with a soft silk shawl, and a crown of flowers in her hair. Mr Krum was well turned out, and polite, and Harry wanted to like him. He could not help, however, but notice the forlorn look Hermione often took on throughout the day. She stood on Krum's arm and smiled, but in her eyes there was a look of… almost desperation. Harry wished there was some way he would help her, but there was not. She looked so much like a caged bird, it was so sad; particularly because her delighted family did not seem to notice.

Harry, meanwhile, had awoken that morning to find Sirius standing at the foot of his bed, holding a box (and frowning suspiciously).

"Have you sent out for anything?" his Guardian asked, eyes narrowed.

"No!" Harry protested earnestly, sitting up and clutching his bed sheets to his chest. Was it a death threat? Who could have sent him a present?

Sirius set the box down upon the coverlet, and drew out his wand.

"Cover your face," he ordered, softly. "We don't know what manner of horrors they might send you…"  

Harry lowered his face into his palm, peeking out from between his fingers. Sirius pointed his wand at the box and whispered a charm.

The lid flew open…  

"ORCHIDS?" Sirius cried, in surprise.

"O-orchids?" Harry stammered. "From whom?"  

"It does not say. Do not touch them! They might be cursed!" Sirius bellowed, as Harry crawled over and picked up the box.

He had a memory, then, of a conversation he had had, months ago…  

Knowing with certainty where the orchids were from, he picked one up and smiled at it. Sirius looked like he would faint with horror.

"Are you in pain?" he whispered.

"No," Harry smiled. "It is alright. They are from… a friend."  

"You don't have any friends," Sirius snapped. "Unless…" He snatched up the box, leaving Harry with only one orchid. "HIM!"  

But there was nothing Sirius could do about it; Harry wore the orchid all day. It concerned him, however - he had told Snape that only couples procured wedding flowers for each other…  

The wedding passed quickly. Before Harry knew it, Hermione and Victor Krum were setting off for their honeymoon to Victor's homeland of Bulgaria. Hermione was to live with Victor's parents for a few months; Harry knew he would miss her terribly.

"You'll be alright in Bulgaria?" he asked gently, wrapping her in his arms as they parted. "It is a long way…"  

"I… Promise you'll write?" she sniffed, clinging to Harry almost as though she could not bear to let go. "Promise you'll not… get yourself into bad company?"  

"You were the one who orchestrated our reunion," Harry hissed, knowing who she meant.

"I know, but… Be careful," she whispered, hands on the lapels of his coat. "He said he'd call on you. Just… have your wits about you."  

 * * * * * 

"Why is he here to see you?" Sirius growled, indicating with his head towards Harry's visitor, who was apparently in the drawing room.

"Who is it?" Harry put down his book, glancing curiously at the door.

"Snape," Sirius spat, bitterly. "He of the white orchids. He insisted he had an urgent invitation to visit you at home tonight. Stupid fellow would not leave until he saw you."  

Harry's heart started thudding, but he rose, dutifully.

"I'll go and see what he wants," he muttered.

"If he is rude to you, you have my permission to kick him out," Sirius grumbled, as Harry slid past him. "Or just to kick him."  

As Harry descended the stairs, a chilling sense of dread settled over him.

He was chewing on his lower lip as he straightened his waistcoat and wondered (as if he did not know) what could have brought Snape out to see him on a Sunday afternoon… He crossed the hall, his brightly polished shoes squeaking absurdly on the newly lacquered floor, and opened the door to the drawing room.

At his entrance, Snape, who had been perched on the edge of the seat of an armchair, hat still clutched in both hands, jumped to his feet. He bowed. Harry bowed also, his heart in his mouth…  

"Good evening, Professor," he smiled, shakily.

"Mr Potter," Snape murmured.

"I see the butler has not taken your hat. Allow me," Harry held out his hand invitingly and stepped forward.

But Snape made no movement to hold out his hat in return; gripping it awkwardly in his slim fingers. Harry faltered, empty hand still held out, clutching at thin air…  

"Oh, er, please, sit down, sir," he mumbled, blushing awkwardly.

Snape all but collapsed back onto the armchair, twitching fingers still clutching his hat. Puzzled by his guest's restless behaviour, Harry sat tentatively in the armchair opposite, hands clasped in his lap. He waited.

But Snape did not speak. Seemed to have forgotten how to - every so often he opened his mouth as if to begin, but then shut it again.

Disconcerted, Harry cleared his throat delicately.

"How may I help you today, Professor?"  

Snape said nothing.

Harry frowned, glancing at the clock.

"It is me that you were wishing to see?"  

"Yes," Snape snapped.

Harry risked another look at the man; his visitor's face was contorted now in a look of disgust, almost self-loathing… This was very bewildering. Why was Snape, usually so full of self-control, suddenly so nervous? Harry had never seen him this way before. It made him apprehensive about what was to come…  

Snape leapt suddenly to his feet and Harry, drawn by politeness, was forced to rise also. He almost tripped over the footstool in his haste, brows furrowed anxiously.


Snape dropped his hat onto the chair and strode across the room to the window, clearly agitated. He glanced out, unseeingly, at the street, fingers clenching and unclenching at his sides, before turning to find Harry hovering next to his chair, glancing down at his abandoned hat and radiating concern.

"Are you ill, Professor?" Harry murmured, eyes luminous. "Shall I ring for some tea for you?"  

"No!" Snape gasped, then cleared his throat unhappily. "No tea. Thank you."  

"Then perhaps something to eat? You do look pale -" Harry reached out a hand to try to turn Snape, to get a clearer look at his face…  

"Do not fuss so!" Snape retorted. Harry recoiled - but Snape spun around fast and grasped his hand, imprisoning it in both his own. "I… I apologise… How are you today?" he inquired, voice deep and gruff. Harry flushed as he looked down at his captured hand.

"I am well, sir…"  

"Good. Good," Snape repeated, then abruptly released his hand and stepped away, as though afraid that he could not control himself....

Harry watched, perplexed, as Snape walked toward the fireplace and gazed into the empty grate, his back to the young man.

"Sir?" Harry questioned, cautiously. Perhaps Snape truly was ill. He was about to advance, when Snape turned suddenly, and looked at him.

Harry stopped. He felt branded by that look; it was strangely hot, and it simmered with a dark, unspoken passion… Harry found himself blushing all over.

Snape walked fast towards him and, to Harry's endless shock, took Harry roughly in his arms. Harry froze. Oh! Was this really happening? Was Snape really going to -  

Snape's eyes burned as he looked down at Harry; some restless passion seemed to have seized him. Passion it was indeed - for, a moment later, Snape pulled Harry inexorably closer, bent his head - and tried to kiss him.

Harry gasped and pulled back in alarm, eyes wide as saucers. He was gripped with a sudden frenzy of confusion. Was this what he wanted? What would Sirius think of him if he -  

But Snape was having none of his concern.

He seized Harry again, firmly, one arm around Harry's back, the other angling Harry's jaw just so - and pressed their mouths together.  

Chapter 17  

A kind of wild excitement exploded through Harry's veins. Shocked to his very core, he wrenched himself away.

"Sir! What are you about?" he cried, but Snape had grabbed him again, heedless of Harry's struggles.

He was brought close once more, roughly; and then Snape angled his head and forced his mouth against Harry's for a second time, pushing his tongue inside and digging his fingers into Harry's back. Eyes closed in ecstasy, he clutched Harry tightly to him, kissing him hard…  

 * * * * * 

"Mmmmmf!" Harry groaned, writhing, trying to escape.

When Snape finally released him, Harry did feel half wild; his mouth felt ravaged and raw, and his whole body was flushed and singing with frightened pleasure.

"I cannot, I fear, afford to keep you in the manner to which you are accustomed, but I have faith that our future happiness will far outweigh any little fripperies which you currently enjoy here. Such… relative poverty… would be nothing if we were really intent upon each other," Snape groaned, taking Harry's face in both hands and pressing their foreheads together.

"Intent?" Harry gasped, into Snape's mouth.

Snape felt for him. It was that simple. Oh God…  

"Yes. You would have nothing to fear - my new housekeeper is a lady of upmost respectability and can be relied upon to say nothing. Perhaps, thinking about it, we ought to hide it from her also… But it will not be a problem," Snape replied, stroking Harry's temples with his thumbs.

"Why would it have to be secret, sir?" Harry whispered, feigning ignorance in a desperate attempt to bring himself more time to think.

"You are so… addictive," Snape purred, kissing him again. Harry, lips red, started in surprise and confusion and tried to pull back, but Snape continued: "We can be married in secret; you know very well the law does not sanction a union such as ours - but that is no barrier."  

"S-secret?" Harry stammered, pretending to be bemused. "We should… keep it secret…" Snape was so achingly, breathtakingly close… Did Harry want him?

"We can tell your Godfather you are to be my apprentice - he is not to know that we do not sleep in separate bedrooms!" Snape smirked. Suddenly, he leaned closer: "God, I cannot wait to be inside you!" he growled.

"Professor!" Harry cried, scandalised. To hear Snape say it like that, to be so blunt and brutal - Harry was suddenly struck with terror. It was one thing to quietly and safely fantasise in his bedroom, alone… but the thought of committing acts of wild and desperate passion with another man…  

It was tantalisingly sexual, delicious, scandalous… and petrifying.

What would Sirius say?

It seemed, in the next moment, that Snape had guessed the source of his hesitancy. He stroked Harry's hair tenderly and pressed a kiss to his forehead - before sinking to his knees before Harry. Harry's hands flew to his face in his dismay.

"You are shy," Snape said, looking up at him and reaching for his hands. "It is alright, Harry - you can speak freely with me. When we are married… I know you are young, and it has been a shock to you to discover your attraction... I will be gentle. You are still so beautifully innocent. But you need not hide yourself from me any longer," Snape finished, silkily.

"Hide myself?" Harry exclaimed. Did Snape know him that well? Or was he guessing?

"Yes! I have struggled, and had never any intention of declaring my true feelings, but for the realisation lately that you had… perhaps, begun to return my affections," Snape murmured, gently. He rose, then bent toward Harry, peppering Harry's face with kisses.

Harry moaned.

"In faith, Professor, I hope you have received no such impression! I fear you are mistaking friendship for affection, and seeing feelings where there are none!"  

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when he regretted them, but how could he profess… anything to this man, when Sirius was doubtless in the next room? He was not in love with Snape, of that he was sure. But did he want to… to make love with him? His mouth went dry at the thought. He realised, mournfully, that he really was still so painfully naïve.

He did not know his own heart.

Snape frowned, and released him.

"Then what was that little demonstration of yours the other night, with Miss Granger's fan? Did you not ask me to kiss you?" Snape growled.

"No! It was a mistake - and I wish you would not speak of such things in this house! What if Sirius were to hear you?" Harry hissed.

"And I wish you would not bring up your relatives whilst we are having this conversation," Snape cried. "Any affection I have for you is in spite of your relatives, not because of them."  

"Oh very fine!" Harry exclaimed, his hands flying up in horror. "How can you speak to me of affection, and then insult my family?"  

"This is not easy for me, Potter! I have been solitary for many years - you cannot know of my struggle, I suppose; of how I have warred with myself over the right thing to do. I came to London to protect you - the last thing I expected was to come to feel this way! But I believed that any mortification on my part at breaking my silence would be recompensed when I had assurance of your affections -" Snape said.

"I do not have any affection for you! I meet with you out of politeness, out of… of childish curiosity! I needed your help to make myself strong; your books, you -" Harry felt as though his heart was breaking. Why was he rejecting Snape, when he had fantasised about him for half a decade?

But how could he be with Snape, be with another man, in that way? The fact that it was a man would make him an outcast from society - the fact that it was Snape would most assuredly mean Sirius would never speak to him again. He had only had his Godfather for five years - he could not go back to being without a family! It would destroy him.

Snape gasped; jerked away, as though Harry had slapped him.

"You… you are turning me down?" he asked, anger clearly bubbling just beneath his cool façade. "You are that heartless?"  

"I am not, sir, but I… I cannot…" Harry wanted to cry; to scream and claw in frustration and despair.

Snape stood, gathering his irritation to him like a cloak. When he looked down at Harry, the dark gaze was carefully, and coldly, shuttered.

"With such cold regard for the turmoil that I have felt these past months?"  

Distressed, and with no idea how to right the situation, Harry looked about wildly, as if the answer could be found within the room itself.

"I am truly sorry to have caused you pain, Professor Snape, but -"  

Snape made a disgusted snort and spun about, hat quite forgotten, and headed for the door in a whirlwind of black. Harry, totally bewildered, flung himself down upon the sofa and brought up his hands to cover his face, but his traitorous eyes fell upon Snape's hat before his hands could cover them.

"Professor!" he cried, jumping up.

Snape stopped dead, hand on the handle of the door, and turned sharply; hope sparking wildly in his dark eyes…  

Seeing it, Harry almost died of embarrassment when all he could do in response was… hold out Snape's hat to him. At the finality of the gesture, the spark in Snape's eyes died as rapidly as it had risen. He strode across the room, looked down at Harry with a strange intense scrutiny that Harry had never known before, then rudely snatched his hat from Harry's trembling fingers and turned away.

"I apologise for having wasted your time, good day," was all he said, and it was so cold, so formal, that Harry realised a door had been closed somewhere; that things could never be the same again between them, and this caused him a slicing pain.

He wanted so desperately to make amends, to soothe Snape, to apologise - to kiss him, even - but he did not know how.

"I… I feel…" he tried, but Snape could, it seemed, hardly bear to look at him.

"Look at me," he whispered, but Snape shook his head.

"I cannot," he murmured, and this upset Harry horribly. He closed the space between them and laid his hand, soothingly (he hoped) upon Snape's arm.

"You are… I don't care what Sirius says about you, you are my friend. We were just reaching an understanding, please do not -"  

"Clearly we were not, if I came to such a different conclusion to you," Snape growled.

"Don't let this be the end between us, please Professor," Harry implored, not wanting Snape to leave with it all as awful as this. He needed more time; he needed to think, to talk to his Godfather, and write to Hermione, and to…  

When he glanced up, he found Snape looking at him again; a searching look, eyes scouring his upturned face.

"I…" Snape began, then broke off, in favour of gazing into Harry's lovely eyes. Harry still had hold of his arm. "I do not… with great regret… it would cause me too much pa…" he stopped.

"Please," Harry moaned, distraught.

"I cannot believe you had no idea - did you not read the annotations I wrote in that book of yours?" Snape whispered, his voice rich and seductive as black velvet, as melting chocolate, as dark honey...

"Book?" Harry murmured. Then he realised. He retrieved his book from where he had hidden it at the back of the bookcase and opened it, intrigued.

Snape had written in it, in his cramped scrawl.

Lewd things.

Love notes to him.

Harry went red with arousal and fear. He was beginning to panic. The words were so sexual, so violently passionate. Snape had been harbouring these feelings for him all along, for months… Sirius would certainly never even want to see Harry again, after this…  

"Take it back!" he screamed, hurling the book at Snape - then immediately wishing he had not, as he saw Snape duck and rise again, snarling at him.

"I thought you liked men, Potter! Do you not? Or is it I that am so unsuitable?" Snape shouted, sneering.

"I… I can't be… I am not… I don't think… I do, but… you don't understand! I can't feel this way!" Harry screamed.

"You need to accept REALITY, you stupid brat!" Snape screamed back, throwing his book back at him and gathering up his possessions. He flung open the door, which crashed back on its hinges and revealed Sirius, stooping at the keyhole, his face white and drawn.

Harry moaned again, in horror. Why, oh why, did he not think to put up a Silencing charm? What a fool he was! He deserved this; deserved to be humiliated, and shamed -  

As the front door closed on Snape's departing shape, Sirius rose. He looked at Harry as though he had seen a ghost; as though he did not recognise Harry's face. As though Harry were not his Godson but an intruder, come in off the street…  

Harry drew his wand in a fit of despair and slammed the door on Sirius, flinging several locking spells at it, before throwing himself down once more upon the sofa and giving vent to several angry, desperate sobs.  

 * * * * * 

Harry sat in a daze on the little window seat, staring blindly at the carpet. He was horrified by what had just happened - horrified and, even more worryingly, passionately aroused.

To have been propositioned in that way by a man - and by Snape of all people - seemed almost impossible!

Yet, Snape was here, not thirty minutes ago…  

And Harry turned him away.

The door banged, and Harry looked up, heart flying into his mouth, convinced Snape had returned, perhaps to carry him off by force - but it was Sirius, not Snape, who stood in the open doorway. Wand in his hand and a wild look on his face, it seemed he had finally broken through the mess of spells that Harry had hurled at the door…  

Harry scrubbed his hands over his face.

He knew Sirius' first thought will be to insult Snape; to claim Snape was acting unreasonably; to call him a villain, a vile seducer, a monster… But for Sirius to blacken Snape's name again now would be just too much, adding insult to injury, after what had just happened… Harry got up. Tear-stained face averted, he pushed past Sirius and ran upstairs. He could not bear it.  

Chapter 18  

Harry lay awake into the early hours of the morning, hard and aching, tossing and turning feverishly in sweat-drenched sheets. He was plagued all night long by terrible thoughts.

What if it was merely his inexperience with men, and his fear of what society (and Sirius) might think of him, that had clouded his judgement about Snape? Hermione's book and all Snape's literature had certainly been most… stirring… Surely Hermione had been right, all along - that his fascination with Snape was really far more than he had allowed himself to believe?

Surely it is impossible for a person not to know their true feelings? he chided himself.  

 * * * * * 

He worried silently over this all the next day, crying off sick in the evening when Wormtail called through the door that Sirius wished for his company downstairs, to play cards.

Instead, Harry paced his room. He was so confused; he wanted to run to Snape's house and… what?

He was not sure. But he could not get the thought of Snape's kiss out of his mind. And he was stirred to madness by the memory of it.  

 * * * * * 

He tried, in vain, to sleep, but his fevered brain would not let him rest. He kept dreaming of himself and Snape, locked in ever more disgustingly erotic positions together. Snape was naked; he was naked; they were naked together, licking each other with mouths open wide… He was so erect, but he could not bear to touch himself - the moment he tried, his mind flooded with memories of Snape, ugly and unpleasant; yet he made Harry so hard, so painfully hard -  

He got up.

Lay down again.

Beat his fists against the bedroom wall. How could he not have realised? It was like Snape's kiss had opened the floodgates in Harry's brain, and now all his repressed sexual fantasies were pouring through…  

Instead of sleeping, his feet urged him to walk. He slipped from the house, thinking of nothing but his desperate desire to feel Snape's hands on him again.

Bundled up in his cloak against the bitter chill of the night air, he stole through the streets.

It was a quarter of one when he knocked on the door to Snape's dark townhouse. What he would say to Snape, he did not know. He just… wanted to be kissed again. A big ball of need, he wanted something physical, wanted…  


There was no answer. Harry wished he had not left his wand at home in his haste. He pounded upon the door desperately, until Snape flung open a window, several floors up, and scowled down at him.

"Leave me be!" Snape snarled. "You are beyond contempt! Go back home, little boy!" He made to shut the window again.

"Wait," Harry cried, heedless of any passers-by, or of Snape's neighbours in the surrounding houses. "I must speak with you! I am going insane!"  

"You are insane? You were not the one on bended knee!" Snape's dark eyes glittered down at him in the gloom.

"I cannot think straight since you kissed me! What did you do to me? Come down here and do it again," Harry cried.

Snape looked down at him as though Harry had just suggested they run naked through the streets.

"You are quite mad. I shall do no such thing," Snape snarled.

"Why not?" Harry faltered.

"Because you are selfish! How would it be for me, if I were to know you in that way again, and then you drew back and said 'thank you for being my experiment, Professor Snape, but actually I think I was mistaken'?" Snape shouted, incensed.

"I thought you wanted to!" Harry said.

"I do want to, you irritating little brat, but not to satisfy your curiosity! This is all just a game to you; you do not care for me! You are merely intrigued - you want someone to touch you!" Snape scoffed.

"A game? How dare you! I feel like I am on fire!" Harry cried.

"You thought I would be desperate enough that I would fall at your feet over so generous an offer?" Snape said scornfully. "You're just like your father. Spoilt and arrogant! One kiss and all you can do is think with your dick!" Knowing he had touched a particular point of pride with Harry, Snape smirked down at him most horribly, causing Harry to redden with seething anger.

"You bastard!" Harry yelled up at him, feeling like a little dog barking up at a cat in a tree. "I came to offer you what you wanted! I had thought you to be my very dear friend, when all along all you desired was to get me into your bed!"  

"Friend? Is it so base, so disgusting, to want affection, especially from one whom you admire?" Snape snarled. "You will not paint me as the villain for having desired you!"  

"I have been raised to think that men cannot… with men! Sirius would disown me! And, despite that… I find that I want to! This is not about affection! I am eighteen, Professor…" Harry blundered, glancing about. He made a snap decision. "Sod Sirius; take me to your bed, I might grow to love you in time!" he cried, desperately.

At his last words, however, it seemed that he had truly tried Snape's patience too far.

"You disgust me, Potter! GET AWAY FROM MY HOUSE!" Snape screamed, slamming the window shut and leaving Harry bereft, and fuming. He was surrounded on the street below by a dozen confused and concerned people; all aware that they had heard something they shouldn't…  

Harry glanced around, his eyes misty with hot tears. He let out a scream and darted away, like a fugitive, into the night…  

 * * * * * 

He wanted to jump off a bridge, to hang himself (how apt, for if anyone had reported their conversation, that would surely be what would happen to him).

He supposed he should return home and confront Sirius. Forget about Snape. Leave town with Sirius. That was surely his path now. And yet… he felt as though he would never be the same again. He was humiliated, and broken, and… and angry, yes! Bitterly angry! How dare Snape turn him down - how dare…  

But he could not summon up the anger to hate Snape. He so desperately wished that he could. But instead… he just wanted to kiss him again.  

 * * * * * 

He rounded the corner into his street, where his house had been, not an hour ago.

Instead of his home, there was an enormous ball of screeching yellow fire.  

Chapter 19  

Harry stood there, shocked to the core. Watching, frozen, as his home burned…  

Trembling at the unreality of it all, he could not move as people in the street rushed past him, yelling and shouting and waving their arms ineffectually - as his home, and the houses either side of it, blazed in a roaring inferno…  

Then the horrible reality of it all crashed into him like a tidal wave.

"NO!" Harry screamed; feeling like his whole body was being wrenched out through his throat…  

 * * * * * 

As the building flamed, and his whole life went up in licking tongues of smoke, all Harry could think of (as he tore and screamed and writhed in the tight grip of one of the fire officials) was Sirius.

Sat in his chair, head lolling to one side; dozing softly, as he had often done, whilst Harry wrote a letter at the desk in the study…  

Is he still in his chair now? Waiting for Harry to come and play cards with him?

Certainly, if he was, he would never rise again.  

 * * * * * 

The fire raged all through the night.

Harry had to be held back as the fire crews pumped water into the blazing building.

The horror clawed at him from inside; he was inconsolable.

People brought hot chocolate, and blankets, but Harry threw them into the gutter and charged back towards his home, before hands grabbed him again…  

 * * * * * 

As the flames dulled to damp, hissing embers in the harsh light of the morning, the people crowded around the burnt-out shell of his home started to dissipate.

Harry stood before of the blackened ruin of his Godfather's house, alone. He felt wrung out, truly.

Cold dawn began to illuminate the guttered buildings; Harry could see straight into their old rooms. He forced himself to look. He was terrified of what he might see, even though they had brought Sirius' body out several hours ago. They could not find the body of the butler; presumably, he was still inside…  

Someone tried to pull him away, but he would not go. He sank to the pavement, but there were no more tears left to cry. Each attempt brought painful, racking sobs, but his body had no more to give him.


 * * * * * 

A young couple passed on the other side of the street, their arms about each other, strong in each other's presence.

Harry, sitting in the gutter, watched them through red-rimmed eyes. He wanted to run, screaming, and tear at her hair and his cravat and beat them until they were as black and ruined as his home. It seemed as though he has been through a world of pain, since he was last as peaceful as they…  

He could not conceive of being so unreservedly happy now. That was some other Harry; that young man, who went to work and played cards and gambled the evenings away; so useless, so pointless…  

 * * * * * 

He got to his feet and walked away. His feet, unthinking, carried him over the cobbled streets, as the streetlamps guttered and the cruel, grey dawn showed him a whole city full of people, full of families.

His last waking memory that morning was of curling up in a doorway, in his sodden and singed cloak. Of pulling the damp material up over his face to hide it from the light, the day, and the people.

And then he was granted the relief of oblivion, and remembered no more.  

Chapter 20  

When he awoke, in the glow of the evening's streetlamps, he had no idea where he was, or who he was.

He had not eaten in over a day, but grief seemed to have closed down his insides, for he felt no hunger. Instead, all he felt was disconnected; different. Fundamentally different, somehow.

Cold. Numb.

It finally occurred to him that he had no place to go. Nor did he have his wand; it must have been in his room, destroyed by the fire…  

So he walked, and tried not to think, until he was so exhausted and so lost that it was all he could do to crawl into a doorway and wish for death.

But sleep was a long time coming.  

 * * * * * 

More than once during the long, freezing night (as Harry lay wrapped in his cloak and shivering) he thought of Snape. There was no-one else whom he could ask; everyone else had family; it would be too painful to bear; seeing them all so happy together... Just go to Snape, his self-preservation instincts screamed at him, trembling with the cold, and confess love, or something. Pretend to love him, accept his proposal; and he will take you in. But Harry could not. He would rather freeze than lie; perhaps that other Harry would have lied, but he was different. He hoped it was his sense of decency that kept him there, out under the frosty night sky, but he worried too that it was his pride.

You do care for him, his mind supplied. Even though it is not love, it must be something… Go back, explore it with him, beg him to kiss you again…  

No. That would be playing games with Snape. What Harry felt was purely physical. It was not enough. He would not ask Snape for anything. Even if he were to, Snape probably would refuse him anyway. He hated Harry, now.  

 * * * * * 

Finally, as the cold fingers of the dawn once again heralded another, anguishing day, Harry slept.  

Chapter 21  

"That's a nice cloak."  

Harry started, sitting upright and blinking rapidly. For a moment, the bright light surrounding him made him believe he had encountered a golden angel… Sirius?

But then his eyes adjusted to the bright morning sun and he realised he was being spoken to by a young man, about his own age, with shockingly orange hair.

"Oh, er, thank you," he mumbled.

"Why don't you sell it? Could get quite a bit for it, expensive cloak like that. Then you could buy food."  

Harry blinked.

"Do you want to buy it?"  

"Me? Bloody hell no, how'd I afford a cloak like that?" the young man gasped.

"Then why did you suggest that I sell it?" Harry frowned.

"Because you look half dead, mate. Sorry to have bothered you," grumbled the young man, shoving his hands deep into his coat pockets and scowling at Harry as he turned away.

"No! Wait! If… if you help me sell this, I'll buy you breakfast!" Harry clambered up. The other man shrugged.

"Sounds fair. Name's Ron, by the way. Ron Weasley."  

"Harry Potter."  

They shook hands awkwardly.

"You new to this then?" Ron asked, as he motioned for Harry to follow him down the street.

"Why do you say that?"  

"You don't stink," Ron shrugged again. Harry smiled a little. "And your clothes look half decent. You could sell those too, replace them with something cheap - especially that pocket watch, bloody hell!"  

Harry had pulled his watch out of his pocket to check the time. He blushed. He felt guilty owning something so obviously valuable, especially in the presence of Ron, who did not look as if he had ever owned anything half so precious in his life.

"How come you're sleeping on the streets if you own stuff like that?" Ron's voice betrayed that he was jealous.

"There was a fire… I lost my Godfather. Everything," Harry whispered.

"Lost him?"  

"He died. My parents died when I was one. I've nowhere to go."  

"Oh blimey, mate. I'm really sorry," Ron fidgeted, uncomfortable. There wasn't much Harry could say to that. He shrugged his shoulders.

There was a silence, whilst Ron chewed on his lower lip, thoughtfully.

"Look, my family haven't got a lot, we live near the docks, but you're welcome to come home with me. Mum won't mind one more, not if you see her right with some of the money from that cloak of yours. I'd love to offer to take you in for nothing, but with food being so tight and all…"  

"No, it's… it's more than generous," Harry blurted, "thank you. But I won't impose on you like that."  

 * * * * * 

The rest of the day passed in a blur. Harry sold his coat, his hat and cane, his pocket watch, and even his cravat and boots. He did not care about any of it, not really, but Ron seemed so anxious that Harry be able to survive on his own. It almost made Harry feel human again.

They shared a breakfast of pound cake, sitting under the canopy of the market stall of a friend of Ron's, who slipped them hot cocoa when his master's back was turned.

Harry, who was now rather cold (but it was better than feeling numb, so he was glad of it), blew on his cocoa, sadly.

"You got any plans, then, for what you'll do now?" Ron asked, his mouth full of pound cake. He had eaten most of it - Harry suspected he had not eaten in a while, and he was not hungry himself.

"I have my work - Mr Slughorn might let me sleep in the shop after hours," Harry mused, eyes downcast.

"Right. Well, I'd better get going, then," Ron got to his feet, awkwardly.

"Where do you work?" Harry asked.

"Got a stall in one of them alleyways next to the market, by the new French coffee house. Selling whatever I happen to come across, y'know…" Ron looked shifty.

Harry nodded. He dug into his pocket and shoved a handful of coins in Ron's direction.

"For your mum, and your… your family. I have no need of it all," he mumbled.

Ron's eyes went wide, but he did not refuse so generous a gift. He clapped Harry on the back, wished him the best of luck, and told Harry that, if he was ever at the docks, to look them up. Harry thanked him, and crawled out from under the stall table.  

 * * * * * 

He pushed open the door to Mr Slughorn's Apothecary and was met with a shock.

Most of the drawers lining the walls had been pulled out and strewn violently across the floor. The once neatly-labelled glass jars behind the counter were all smashed. The door to the back of the shop was hanging precariously off its hinges.

"Mr Slughorn?" Harry called, his heart thumping in his chest.

He tiptoed over the mire of ingredients littering the floor and peered into the murk at the back of the shop. His little office was empty; his papers had been tossed in all directions (and even set alight in some places). In Slughorn's workroom, which was also in a terrible state, cabinets of ingredients were open, smashed; ravaged.

Amongst all the chaos, however, Harry noticed something strange; an old armchair, in a dark corner of the room. He frowned. That, he was certain, was not there on his last visit. He snuck across the room and tapped it cautiously with his fingers.

There was a groan, and the creaking of springs, and then Slughorn's bulbous head popped up through a tear in the fabric. He gasped; saw Harry; gasped again.

"You've alive! Mr Potter!" he exclaimed.

"Who did this?" whispered Harry.

"Mr Potter, you are not safe here, you must leave!"  

"But, sir, I have nowhere to go! I was hoping I could continue my work as your -" Harry tried.

"NO! No, that will not do, I should never be able to work in peace again! They might come back!" Slughorn cried.

"Who might come back, sir?" Harry pressed.

"Death Eaters! It was they who torched your house, did you not know? It is in all the papers - such a disaster! Your name in all the papers! Where ever you go, you will not be safe, you must hide! Leave London!" he wailed.

"How do you know this?" Harry asked, stunned beyond comprehension.

"That horrible man was in here only this morning - what's his name - Snape! Or Snip. But he was here, looking for you - he is one of them, you knew that, of course? He said that Wormtail, your butler, turned against you! Set the fire burning from within! His old master went to him recently and ordered him to kill you and your poor, unfortunate Godfather! Mr Potter, I am so sorry - and now you must leave! My nerves will not withstand this any longer!" Slughorn wailed, distraught.

"Sir, do you know of any place I could go -" Harry began.

"Your society friends will not help you now, Potter! You must go underground, for all our sakes! Please, Mr Potter, leave, before they return!"  

Harry stood. And ran.  

 * * * * * 

"Look, er, Ron?" he whispered, later that night, curled up on a pile of rags on the Weasley's attic floor. "There is something you ought to know about… about me."  

"Go on then," said Ron, picking dried mud from his fingernails.

Harry shifted, uncomfortably.

"I'm… I'm sort of a wanted man," he confessed.

Ron's head snapped up.

"What did you do?" he gasped.

"Me! Nothing! But… Mr Slughorn says there are a group of men who want me dead, because of my parents, I suppose. They burned my house, ransacked his shop - they will be looking for me."  

"They'll not think to look here!" Ron scoffed.

"I wouldn't have thought so, but… I am not safe to be around," Harry admitted, expecting to be thrown out.

"Look, Harry. I don't know you that well, but from what I can tell, you are a decent bloke. You've been very kind to my family. If anyone wants you, they'll have to go through me first, alright?" Ron swaggered. Harry smiled. He did not deserve such kindness, he truly felt he did not. But he was safe.

For now.  

Chapter 22  

Six months later…  

Harry Potter, a battered top hat perched on his unwashed head and three streaks of mud adorning his cheek (from their frantic dash, only an hour ago, to escape an outraged grocer), took a deep breath and yelled:

"Sweet cherries for sale! Off the boat this morning, fresh as you please!"  

"Oi, Harry!" Ron nudged him. "Keep it down a bit, eh? That old grocer only has his shop in the next street!"  

Harry grinned sheepishly. He turned away to serve a trio of ladies in silk gowns, who grimaced at his dirtied attire.

"What can he do?" he asked, turning back to Ron, who was trying to pick the mud from his hair. "If he comes over, we outrun him, like we did last time!"  

"Yes," Ron grumbled, "but then we lose not only the cherries but the cart as well!"  

Harry sighed. They had spent too long painting and refurbishing their little barrow, which they found languishing in a canal by the docks, to lose it now.

"Someone needs to sneak round and see how much he's selling them for," Harry muttered, kicking the freshly-painted board upon which they wrote the days' prices.

They had an advantage in this dirty, impoverished street; their barrow was the only one able to display its prices. It was a far cry, Harry knew, from when he used to sit and write letters in Sirius' study, but customers seemed more willing to look if they had an idea of the price. Ron, who could not read at all, watched Harry paint the prices up each morning with wonder. Harry had offered to teach him, but Ron merely shook his head and grinned.

"Got you now, ain't I!"  

It warmed Harry's heart every time; Ron thought he would always be around. Perhaps he would.  

 * * * * * 

As Ron scampered down the street, wearing Harry's stolen top hat to disguise his shockingly orange hair, a pair of gentlemen strolled past their barrow.

Harry's heart constricted.

One was his own age, dressed in a fashionable tailcoat, his cravat tied in an elegant knot and his collar starched so that it stuck up above his jaw. The other man was older, more distinguished. For a moment, it could almost have been his former self, out shopping with Sirius…  

But Sirius was dead. And that other Harry - whose only concern was which knot to tie in his cravat of a morning - was dead also.  

 * * * * * 

Harry had had little time to brood on his misfortunes over the past six months. Except, that was, at night, when the dark world closed in on him.

He lay on a pile of laundry in Ron's attic room, wrapped in a blanket which was more holes than cloth, and cried silently whenever he could be sure Ron was asleep. He was not sure exactly what he cried for; for Sirius, he supposed, and for his old, pointless life. For tea with Hermione (who was still living in Bulgaria - unaware, Harry supposed, of her friend's situation). For work in the Apothecary, and fashionable evening jaunts with Snape…  


When he thought of Snape, even after all these months, he still felt such… longing. Terrible, all-encompassing, physical longing.

He quashed such a thought.

Harry had not seen nor heard of Snape in half a year, since that night Snape turned him away in the street.  

 * * * * * 

He had wondered, at first, whether Snape's house had been the victim of an attack also. But a late-night expedition to the street where Snape lived had shown all of the houses to be intact, and unsullied by fire. Angry, Harry had surmised from this that Snape was truly in league with the villains, and was just as evil as Sirius had once warned him.

But, if he was evil, then why had he helped Harry to escape from Death Eaters, why had he fought for him? Why had he sworn to protect him?

Why had he proposed to him?

Harry tried not to think too deeply about this. He had other concerns, now. Anyway, to hate Snape was far easier than to… care for him. Caring for people brought only pain; everybody Harry cared about ended up dead. So he tried to hate Snape instead; he put all of his energy into it. Harry wanted to hate, to be heartless. It would be easier to be heartless.

No Corde Amare for you, he thought to himself. He wished to render himself incapable of that deep a love. To be alone must surely be better than to be broken-hearted…  

Some nights, he almost convinced himself it was so.  

Chapter 23  

Another, and more pressing, of Harry's concerns, was trying to keep himself alive when there genuinely were men out there who wanted him dead.  

 * * * * * 

Harry squinted into the darkness. He was on his way home, pushing their little barrow down a dark alleyway. It was the end of a long day, and he was exhausted.

He had, however, scarcely enough time to make out the figure lurking in the shadows, when there was a gasp. A deep, cold voice snarled:


Harry's heart stopped. He felt the cold, prickling urge to back away as the sinister figure, dark robes swirling like mist, began to approach fast… But then he was consumed with a hot, irrepressible anger, as Harry realised that the swiftly advancing figure was none other than Rookwood, his face horribly scarred from their previous encounter.

The next thing he made out (as the man lunged at him out of the darkness) was ten sharp fingernails. A pair of white, thin hands reached for his throat. Harry cried out. It was a thin, watery wail; yet the advancing spectre halted. He seemed to be looking at something - or someone - behind Harry.

From somewhere far off, there was a shout, and a beam of bright blue fire burst out of the darkness - a hex! Harry ducked, terrified, flinging himself behind his barrow.

Screeching down the alley, the blue fireball morphed and transformed, sprouting fangs and a forked tongue. In an instant, it had shot over Harry, and smashed into Rookwood's surprised face.

Harry smelt the horrific sizzling of burning flesh, but did not stay to see more. Dragging the barrow behind him, he ran for his life.  

 * * * * * 

Harry was sat under their little barrow, stoning peaches. Above him, Ron was laying out yesterday's battered peaches on the cart, displayed on a bit of dirty blue cloth. It had been a terrible morning; they had tried (foolishly) to steal a flock of white doves, but been caught. Ron had bruises on his back and Harry was sporting a fetching black eye.

The dark man, who had paused beside their cart, turned and glared down his overlarge nose at Ron.

"Have you seen a young man with dark hair and glasses?" he snarled.

Ron shrank back behind their stall. Harry tried to pop his head up, but Ron shoved it back down again. This was happening more and more frequently; Harry was convinced he'd seen Greyback prowling the street the other week.

"No," said Ron, automatically.

Usually, that was all it took… Today, however, the man was not so easily convinced.

"I do not believe you," he hissed. Harry suddenly froze; shivers of ice trickled into his veins at the sound of that honey-rich, sinfully black voice…  

"Who are you?" Ron blurted. "Are you one of those men who are after him?

Harry sighed beneath the cart. Ron was not the sharpest tool in the box. Harry made himself ready to run for it.

"Yes, I am," sneered the voice. "If by 'after him', you mean wanting to ring his scrawny neck for being so foolish!"  

"How dare you," Ron hissed back. "Get out of it, I don't know who the hell you are but you have no business threatening -"  

"Just tell me where he is, you carrot-headed idiot, or else," threatened the man.

Harry had had enough. He scrambled up and, moments later, was face to face once again with the odious Severus Snape.

"Leave him alone!" Harry snarled. "It's one thing to insult me, but another to insult my friends!" Snape stared at him in horrified astonishment, as though he had seen a ghost.

"Potter?" he whispered.

"The same. Still alive, no thanks to you and your comrades," Harry replied.

Inside, he was trembling. He knew that he would have to leave Ron and his family, after this. Now that Snape had seen him, he would have to find somewhere new to work. Perhaps he ought to leave London altogether.

"Where did you get that?" Snape croaked, staring at him. Harry blinked. "That black eye," Snape persisted. Harry's hand flew to his face - to the wrong eye - and he turned away, humiliated.

"Nowhere, erm… would you like a peach?" Harry whispered, as if he were imparting some luscious secret. He was trying to stall for time, until the crowd around them thinned a little, and he could run.

Snape bent over the cart and murmured directly into Harry's ear, his large nose almost in Harry's tousled hair;

"Are they as soft as your skin?"  

He gripped Harry's wrist, roughly, his fingernails sharp against the tender skin. Harry reached down with his free hand and picked up a peach, slipping it into Snape's palm and lifting his eyes alluringly. Their faces were so close, and the ripe, lush smell of peaches so succulent and ambrosial, that Harry felt for a moment as though a golden glow had descended upon his little cart.

It was as though they were right back in Sirius' sitting room, and Snape was just about to take Harry into his arms again - he shook himself and scanned the street. Not time to run yet.

"Feel for yourself," he whispered, squeezing Snape's fingers meaningfully against the smooth flesh of the peach; feeling the older man's fingertips rubbing against both the velvety plumpness of the fruit and the pliable fleshiness of his own palm… He breathed in softly, savouring the succulent moment, as Snape's slender fingers stroked delicately over the inside of his wrist…  

Harry tried to bolt.

Unfortunately, Snape still had hold of his wrist, and dragged him back.

Snape seemed to snap out of his trance.

"Potter!" he hissed, "I must speak with you in private! Do you know what this means, that you are alive! This is extremely important!"  

"I will go nowhere with you, ever again!" Harry replied, loudly. "Kindly leave me alone sir, or I shall call for the Runners!"  

Snape glared at him, the fingers of his right hand clenching and unclenching, as if he were debating with himself whether to drag Harry away here and now, in front of the whole street.

"I shall return. Do not go anywhere!" he commanded, then strode off down the street, dark coattails flapping out behind him in his haste.

The first thing Harry and Ron did, when they had established he was well and truly out of sight, was to push the barrow into another road.  

Chapter 24

"The way the cake goes in the mouth is important," Harry was saying - holding a cake carefully aloft while an overtly powdered woman opened her mouth in a quite hideous fashion - when he became aware of eyes scrutinising him from across the street.

"Don't look now," Ron's voice was low in his ear, "but that man Snape is back. Outside Fortescue's. Don't look now," he added, when Harry tried to turn around. "We'll have to run for it."  

Harry, wiping his fingers on his apron, turned - but it was too late. Snape was already there.

"What filth are you trying to flog today?" Snape sneered. "Where do you get these trinkets?"  

Harry turned and looked at the battered cakes in their shabby boxes.

"Our suppliers are none of your business!" he said, hotly. Snape's head snapped up sharply and those cold, black eyes fixed him with a glare that fairly burned with anger.

"I told you not to leave, yesterday! You are coming with me!" Snape snarled, claw-like fingers gripping Harry's slender shoulder.

"Unhand me, sir!" Harry protested, struggling to break free.

Ron grabbed his arm with a cry of 'Help!' and tugged, too, but Snape was unwilling to let go.

Suddenly, there was a shout of:

"Now what's all this then?" and, to Harry's great relief, he saw one of the Bow Street Runners rapidly marching towards them.

Snape, glaring at Harry as though this were somehow his fault, abruptly released him. He was away and into the shadows before the officer could reach them.  

 * * * * * 

Snape had not gone far. When Harry rounded the corner, on his way to buy them some luncheon, he was seized.

He gasped in surprise when Snape dragged him into an alleyway and pushed him up against a grimy brick wall. Snape forced him up against the stones, Harry struggling in his arms, and pressed their bodies tightly together.

"Let me go!" Harry gasped, fingers clasping the lapels of Snape's immaculately tailored coat. Even after all this time, the scent and the feel of Snape against him made him… weak with wanting.

He paled at the realization of this; of his own desire. How fervent it still was; worse, even, than before. After so long, after he had sworn to hate Snape…  

"Are you unwell?" Snape asked, grazing the back of his gloved hand down Harry's cheek.

Harry smiled shyly, despite himself. He craved the attention of this dark, strange man, even after all that had happened. He was still enclosed in Snape's strong arms, and this did make him a little light-headed…

"Come with me. I must speak with you," Snape groaned. He was evidently as overcome as Harry was.  

 * * * * * 

Snape guided Harry to a very genteel and proper little teashop in the next street. As Harry sat and blinked and looked around the cramped interior with its towers of cakes, Snape reached into his pocket and pulled out his purse.

"What would you like to drink?" He asked, proffering the menu to Harry, who took it in surprise and stared it. There was nothing on there which he could afford. He would not accept charity from Snape.

"I am not thir… I cannot afford anything," he admitted, boldly, looking Snape straight in the eye. Trying to be strong and proud, he pushed the menu back across the table. Snape looked back at him, his gaze inscrutable.

One corner of Snape's lip curled up in a slight smile; he lifted the menu and glanced at it, before flipping it over to the back and glancing at the list.

"Would you like something hot or cold?" he asked, looking at Harry levelly. Wondering whether he was being ridiculed, Harry shifted in his chair and said nothing.

"Perhaps, if I order a pot of tea and a selection of cakes, we can share, would that be acceptable? You look like you have not eaten in weeks," Snape sneered.

Harry did not reply, and so Snape took it upon himself to order for them both. After the waitress had taken their order, Snape removed his gloves and set them upon the table top. He looked at Harry seriously.

"You did not think to come to me, not once, in all these months?" he said, bluntly.

Nothing like getting to the point, Harry thought.

"Of course," Snape continued, nastily, "you would not. You would not have spared me one single thought, I suppose. I have been driving myself half mad trying to find you. But that would not concern Harry Potter at all."  

"I didn't ask you to look for me," Harry grumbled, mortified.

"What did you think I would do, when I discovered what had happened? You did not think to come to me, after the declaration I made - you did not think I would wish to help?" Snape said, sharply.

"I said no to you," Harry muttered. "I thought -"  

"You thought I would see you out on the street, because we were not engaged?" Snape demanded, savagely.

Harry glanced about. A genteel coffee parlour was not the place to be having this discussion.

"I had thought, sir," he snapped, "that you would want nothing more to do with me. You turned me away - you said it would be too painful for us to associate any -"  

Snape waved his protestations away, impatiently.

"You are an idiot. Well, you shall come and live with me now. You have no choice."  

"I cannot live with you!" Harry hissed. "You are a Death Eater! They are looking for me - I only just escaped with my life the other night -"  

"I am aware of that, I was there!" Snape said, crossly. Harry paused. Snape was there? Then he realised. The blue fire, which became a snake… Of course. Snape regarded him with an amused, calculating look.

"They will not come to get you soon, not if they think I am keeping you for some purpose," Snape said. "We will have time."  

Harry opened his mouth to protest, when Snape suddenly added:

"However, I cannot afford to keep you in my house for nothing, unless… Unless, of course, you have changed your mind? About… what we spoke of once before?"  

Harry realised what was happening. He paled. He wanted to touch Snape so badly… But he could not allow himself to!

"Leave me alone!" Harry gasped. He leapt to his feet and bolted out of the shop. Behind him, he heard Snape curse, and the patroness' cry of 'Hey, sir, you have not paid!'  

But then he was swallowed up into the crowd outside, and he ran and ran, until he could run no more.  

 * * * * * 

As the sun set, and the blazing sky turned blood red, Harry sat on a rooftop in the dockyard, clutching his knees up to his chest. He was watching the lights of the great ships as they passed out, heading for the harbour mouth.

He had often wondered what it would be like to go to sea. Perhaps he ought to do that; perhaps he ought to stow away tonight, leave London.

He was clearly not safe here. He could not even afford a wand.

Snape was right; he was a fool.

He did not notice the figure, standing in the shadows behind him. He did not notice anything at all, until his world went black.

By then, it was too late.  

Chapter 25  

Harry awoke at nightfall with his head in a bucket, a chain about each ankle and a headache that echoed around inside his skull like a shriek in a dark tunnel.

He wanted to vomit.

Luckily, the bucket was not far away.  

 * * * * * 

When he finally stopped retching, he wiped the saliva and snot from his damp face, lips red and throat raw, and remembered.

Three days he had been here, locked in the basement of a house, God only knew where. He had seen no-one in all that time, and was getting desperate. Surely someone ought to have come for him by now - if not to rescue him, then to take him to Voldemort? Harry had no doubt he had been captured by Death Eaters.

But where were they? He was afraid, and miserable. He wished someone would tell him what was going on. The only sign that Harry had not been forgotten about was the food. It arrived three times a day, pushed under the door.

He crawled over and wolfed the food down the first time without even thinking (until afterwards) to check whether it had been poisoned. He shrugged off the thought by deciding that, if somebody wanted to kill him, they would have had ample opportunity before the bread arrived.

Other than that, he did not see a soul.  

 * * * * * 

One morning, he awoke after a sleepless night of clawing the plaster off the wall behind him - to the sound of the basement door opening. Harry leapt to his feet and flattened himself against the wall, tense and coiled, ready to dive should any hexes start flying in his direction…  

"Snape!" Harry hissed, momentarily delighted. Then his optimism faded. "So it is Death Eaters, then?"  

Snape eyed him warily from the doorway.

"What is Death Eaters?" Snape asked, brow furrowed.

"Ssssh!" Harry whispered, wincing. "They'll hear you!"  

"Who will?" Snape scowled, glancing behind himself.

"My… my kidnappers! Thank God you managed to get in on their scheme - they have held me here for several days already!" Harry bewailed.

Snape turned around again. Blinked, then gave Harry a look, which Harry could not quite decipher.

"Yes," Snape said, flatly. "Most fortunate."  

"Do you think you can release me now, or are there too many of them?" Harry asked, nodding to the door and the other rooms, in which his captors must be located. Snape looked awkward. "Do you think they're going to harm me?" Harry added, suddenly.

"I… no. Probably not," Snape said.

"Is it a ransom thing, then, do you think?"  

"It might be," Snape said, circumspect.

"But I have no money!" Harry cried. "It is all so hideously unfair! Are they bringing Voldemort? What of him?"  

"I… about releasing you…" Snape began, carefully. He wrung his spidery hands together most awkwardly.

"That is alright, I know you will when you can. This cannot be easy for you," Harry soothed, and gifted him a shy smile.

Snape stared at him. Then turned on his heel and left the room.

"Wait!" Harry called, but the door was already closed.

So, Snape was here.

Harry didn't know if that made things better or worse.  

 * * * * * 

Nights in the basement were dark, and warmth was scarce. Harry lay shivering upon the bare floor tiles, curled up with his arms crossed over his thin chest. Nights like this made sleeping on the Weasley's dirty washing pile seem like such luxury. Harry sighed, and his breath curled out of his mouth like smoke. It was so cold.

Sometime during the night, the door opened.

Harry awoke to the sudden knowledge that something was leaning over him in the dark, like a vulture about to feed on a corpse. It shocked him awake like ice trickling down his spine. Harry froze, terrified. Was it a Death Eater? Was it time? Was it Voldemort?

"H-hello?" he whispered, but his voice came out as no more than a puff of icy air.

He could hear the man breathing - at least, it smelled like a man, and his breath stank of alcohol. Breaths which rasped out almost like growls. Then there was a tiny groan.

"Are you in pain?" Harry moaned, sitting up a little, even though he could not see. Visions of Greyback, in wolf form, prowling the house at night flitted through his mind. Was it Greyback here, now? About to - "Who are you? Where's Snape? Go and get Snape, and let me go, please -"  

The person bent over Harry further (Harry could feel the warm puffs of breath on his face, and this chilled him all over) and… inhaled.

Deeply. Smelling him.

Harry, fully expecting to be bitten into at any moment, recoiled in an instant, lashing out with the clawing fingernails of his free hand.

"Fuck OFF!" he shrieked, as his scrabbling fingers connected with the hot flesh of a face. He sank his nails in and the man barked out a drunken scream. Moments later, there was the thundering patter of blundering footsteps, and the oppressive weight lifted.

The man had gone.

Exhausted, terrified, Harry fell into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he found there was blood under his fingernails.  

 * * * * * 

Snape opened the door just a little and set his face to the crack.

Harry could only see the one eye, and half the man's mouth. It was a little bit sinister.

He wondered what they were doing to Snape in the upstairs rooms. Harry was still curled up on the floor - he unfolded himself now, and crawled across the stones. As far as the chains would let him.

"Are you ok?" he hissed. "Somebody tried to… God knows what they were doing last night!"  

Snape nodded.

"Come in, quick," Harry motioned.

"I… cannot."  

Harry stopped in his tracks, on all fours. He frowned.

"Why? Come in, please," Harry implored.

"No," Snape snapped. "Stop asking."  

"It's just a bit creepy for you to peer in at me like I'm some sort of Peep Show!" Harry moaned.

The door was slammed shut. A plate of food was pushed under the door and slid along the floor towards him. Starving, and more than a little confused, Harry ate it bent over the plate like a dog.  

 * * * * * 

"Shield your eyes," Snape said, and Harry awoke with a start. Snape was crouched at Harry's side, wand in hand. There was a bandage on his left cheek, showy white in the darkness. Harry's heart started beating fast, like the patter of summer rain.

"Why? Are you… what have they done to you?" Harry whispered. Snape ignored him, and set his wand to the chain at Harry's left ankle. He muttered something; the tip of the wand turned white hot. Once the wand touched the metal, sparks began to fly.

Harry watched, fascinated.

"Are you releasing me?" he breathed.

Snape glanced up at him and scowled.

"I'll burn your foot off if you don't let me concentrate," he sneered, then turned his attention back to the chains.

"Why don't you just Banish them?" Harry grumbled. Snape's lip curled.

"Because they are charmed against it. Just in case you had mastered wandless magic on your little jaunts. Which, evidently, you have not," he smirked. The manacle fell to the floor, broken open like an egg. Snape immediately set to work on Harry's other foot.

"How many of them are there upstairs?" Harry asked, readying himself for his flight.

"I… do not go upstairs. Listen. I must speak with you."  

"I can't hang around!" Harry hissed, incensed. "As soon as this chain is off, I'll run," Harry whispered. "You know I'll run."  

"You'll not get far," Snape grumbled, malevolently. The metal snapped.

Harry felt a rush of ecstasy. He was free.  

Chapter 26  

Harry was off like a shot - out of the basement and up the stairs. He skidded across the entrance hall, flung open the front door with a triumphant 'Ha!' and was about to bound through it when -  


Some invisible force grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him back inside. The door slammed itself shut. Harry ended up on his arse on the chequered tiles, blinking in confusion.

Snape came up the stairs. He was watching Harry guardedly.

"I… what?" Harry stammered, clambering to his feet. "Why can't I…?"  

"Listen," Snape began, as Harry turned, but he got no further as realization dawned on Harry's face.

"Snape?" Harry whispered, suddenly disorientated, and turned to find the man standing in the doorway, watching him unblinkingly. "SNAPE!" Harry screamed. "What the HELL is going on? Why are we in YOUR HOUSE?"  

His voice echoed around the empty hall.

Snape gave him no answer.

Noticing the bandage again, Harry sprang forward, hands outstretched. He seized the white gauze in his fingers and ripped the bandage away from Snape's face. Snape stepped back, a horrified, ashen look contorting his pale, gaunt face -  

Four ugly furrows were dug into Snape's sallow cheek, and still had not healed…  

It was these, more than their isolation, which finally made Harry realise.

"There's just you?" he whispered.

Snape's eyes blazed.

"This past week, there was just -" Harry began, eyes darting about for a way of escape.

"I'll be in the kitchen when you have had enough," Snape drawled, and stalked away.  

 * * * * * 

Snape sat in the kitchen, cup of tea in hand, whilst the sounds of frantic scrabbling echoed throughout the house.

The banging and crashing noises finally stopped. Snape took his (cold) cup of tea upstairs and went methodically from room to room, until he found the young man sobbing silently before a chimney breast. Snape ran his hand over the cup, muttering a spell, before passing the cup and saucer down to Harry.

Curled up in the ashes of the grate, Harry looked up bravely and took it in his trembling, sooty fingers. He sighed, scrubbing the back of his hand across his eyes. He wiped a line of soot across his face, then bent to take a sip from the cup.

"Why were you trying to get out up the chimney?" Snape said, at last.

Harry barked out a harsh, miserable laugh.

"Ran out of ideas," he replied.

"Hmph," Snape nodded.

"It was just you," Harry moaned, suddenly. "So… you're not going to release me?"  

"I was trying to explain," Snape snapped, sighing. "I have just released you, in case you failed to notice. But you shall not leave this house."  

"You really think I'd stay with you?" Harry cried. "I already told you no!"  

"I don't think you'll stay," Snape corrected him, "hence the chains. It is not safe for you to live on the street. I never meant to keep you down there for a week, but when you jumped to the wrong conclusion -"  

"So you're going to keep me here by force, you degenerative old bastard?" Harry demanded, incredulous.

Snape regarded him coolly.

"You do not seem to appreciate just how many people there are out there who want you dead, Potter," he said, and his voice was cold and hard. "You have been woefully reckless; how you survived is a mystery."  

"You're not interested in my safety," Harry spat, "you just want to keep me here, so that I can belong to you, so that you can leer over me in the dead of night! I will not be your personal property!"  

Snape's eyes narrowed; his thin face paled with anger.

"You ungrateful little -"  

"Ungrateful! Ungrateful? You bastard - you have locked me up in your basement, and I am supposed to be grateful for that?"  

"Yes!" Snape snarled back. "Where else do you have to go?"  

"I was perfectly fine as I was!" Harry shouted. Snape looked like he wanted to punch him. He lurched towards Harry, eyes blazing. Harry set his teeth and tried to scramble up.

"Come on then!" he snarled, ferociously. "Hit me, Snape, go on!"  

Snape slammed his fist into a wall.

Harry froze in shock as blood began to ooze from Snape's knuckles.

"You're mad," he whispered.

"I am not mad!" Snape shrieked, and suddenly he was pulling his wand from his robes with his undamaged hand. "I am the only chance you have got, Potter! You will obey me! You are to be my personal servant, and I WILL NOT BE ARGUED WITH!" he spat, when Harry opened his mouth.

"You want me to bathe you, and dress you?" Harry sneered. "You haven't a hope in hell."  

Chapter 27  

Snape handed his caped greatcoat and cane to a sleek footman and tossed his gloves nonchalantly onto the marble-topped hall table.

The butler took his card, favoured him with a (rather condescending) low bow and then led the way, in a very stately manner, to the Pink Saloon, where Lady Umbridge was reclining, discarded embroidery balancing on her wobbling bosom.

She was most resolutely asleep, and snoring rather thunderously, her cap having slid down over her nose.

With her stout feet propped up on a plump footstool and her bosom rising and falling windily, Snape was reminded, unpleasantly, of a large pink toad.

Her pink parlour was decidedly stuffy and ostentatious, dripping with lace and peppered with gaudy china kitten ornaments. Snape, a slim pillar of black in the garish room, waited to be announced and wondered whether the showy décor was going to bring on one of his headaches.

He wished he had thought to bring his snuff. Or a blindfold.

"Mr Severus Snape, my lady!" announced the butler, in very grand tones.

Lady Umbridge shrieked, awakening with a start, and clutched at her pink lace cap. Snape eyed the butler mistrustfully as the man backed out of the room and closed the door.

"Snape!" Lady Umbridge gasped, brushing her embroidery (a kitten, Snape noticed) aside and heaving her squat figure out of the chair.

Her grotesquely-pink muslin dress ballooned about her as she curtseyed, curtly, to Snape's polite bow.

"Dolores," Snape murmured.

"Sit, Snape, sit," she snapped, her voice high-pitched and mousey brown curls bouncing about her reptilian face, "and tell me what you want. I am rather busy."  

"So I saw," Snape sneered, his thinly-veiled contempt twisting his sallow face.

He did not sit.

Instead, he approached the fire and stood, warming his coattails in its meagre glow.

"I was told that you require the services of a potion maker; something about a touch of gout, my friend said…"  

"My business is nothing to you, Snape!" Umbridge squealed. Puffed up with indignation, threw her cap at him and huffed back to her seat.

"On the contrary, I wish to help you," Snape said, silkily, bending to retrieve her cap and dropping it distastefully onto a footstool. "At a small price, of course. It is my business."  

Umbridge regarded him with contempt as she picked up her embroidery and began stabbing her needle petulantly into the material.

"You spurned my patronage once before, when I asked you to help with that," he griped.

"I am aware of that, ma'am. But… of late, I find myself, and my finances are... rather under an indisposition," Snape confessed, flicking open his pocket watch impatiently as he wondered how many more potential clients he would have time to visit today.

Lady Umbridge's eyes lit up with wicked delight.

"I had heard..." she bit her lip, her eyes sparkling. "How old is he, eighteen?" she breathed, sounding like a fiendish child.

"I do not know what you mean," Snape snarled, a dull flush appearing on his pale cheeks.

"Come now, Snape. People are beginning to talk, have you not heard? Rumour has it that young Mr Potter and yourself are embroiled in a torrid, scandalous affair," Dolores chuckled, stabbing her sampler with malicious glee.

"Is that what they say?" Snape scoffed.

"Indeed. They say he was once a charming creature, and that you have him 'kept' for your own despicable purposes," she sniffed. The smile faded from her toad-like face, like a cliff crumbling. "I, of course, know the true reason."  

"Which is?" Snape barked, harshly. 'Kept' would be a fine chance. Harry, of course, had refused to be cowed, or silenced, since Snape had taken him home. He did not even seem grateful.

"You are grooming him for the Dark Lord, is that not so?" Dolores crowed. Snape blinked. The toad-like woman held up a hand when Snape opened his mouth, "Do not answer. I trust that can be the only explanation why you would have afforded the brat your protection for the past month, rather than handing him over straight away. Our Lord is waiting for you to bring Harry to him, Snape, and he will not wait long," she sniggered.

"You see right through me, Dolores," he simpered, bowing to her. As he raised his head, he encountered her triumphant smile.

"Just so," she trilled. "As for my gout, it has gone - I am so sorry to have wasted your valuable time," she beamed, but her smile had sharp edges. "Would you like some tea?"  

"No, thank you," Snape snarled, turning towards the door.

"Snape?" Lady Umbridge called, as he reached it. He turned, lip curled in a disdainful sneer.

"On your way out, can you ask the butler to bring me some of the pink tea? Oh!" she exclaimed, "and give my warm regards to dear Mr Potter, when you next see him! Which I am sure will be very soon," her eyes twinkled.

Snape slammed the door so hard that the china kittens on the hall table rattled and mewed in alarm.  

Chapter 27  

Harry set the pan to the back of the stove and sighed, wiping his greasy hands on his apron. He was Snape's servant now, and with that came responsibilities, and hard work. Harry did not mind the work. It was the captivity he found so difficult; Snape still would not let him leave the house. The enchantments surrounding it kept Death Eaters out… and Harry shut in.

He supposed he ought to feel safe, but he did not. He remembered the look he had seen on Hermione's face on her wedding day - how like a caged bird she seemed. He felt like that, now.

He glanced up at the clock. It was nearly seven. Mrs McGonagall, the housekeeper, left in the evenings. Left him alone… with Snape. It was his fourth week above-stairs, and Harry already looked forward to the evenings with a mix of pleasure and… terror.

Snape would inevitably require his company; there was nothing Harry could do about that. He had tried, but Snape would carry him down from his attic bedroom by force. He had not yet brought Harry a wand, and so Harry was rather at Snape's mercy. Therefore, they would sit together in the evenings in the study, the lab, or the drawing room. Snape would deal with his correspondence, and Harry would polish something, or help Snape inventory his ingredients, or wash the (perpetually filthy) basement floor, while Snape hovered protectively over his bubbling cauldrons and scowled at him.

There was nothing untoward about these evenings, save for the fact that Snape insist they spend them together.

Yesterday, however, they were in the drawing room, and Harry was ensconced comfortably in a little upholstered chair, a tray of phials at his feet ready for labelling…  

 * * * * * 

Snape sat on the sofa by the fire, re-reading an academic paper, which had sent him into a foul mood ever since its arrival that morning. He had a white quill in his hand, an inkwell balanced precariously on the sofa arm, and was scratching away furiously, making indignant corrections all over the (now rather abused) paper. Occasionally, he would mutter to himself, or curse, or make a beeline for one of his swollen bookcases. He would pluck out a volume, consult it, and return to his seat looking either triumphant or sour.

Snape had just returned from one of his forays into his extensive library, as Harry placed a carefully-labelled phial back into its slot in the tray and was reaching for the next, when:

"Come and sit beside me," Snape purred, still scratching something onto his paper in his cramped handwriting.

"I am comfortable here, thank you," Harry murmured. The further away he was from Snape, the further he was from temptation…  

Snape's head snapped up.

"Considering the lengths I am going to keep you here, many would argue that I would be perfectly within my rights to ask for a lot more than for you just to sit, now GET OVER HERE!" Snape roared, banging the seat beside himself with a clenched fist.

"I DO NOT WANT TO BE HERE," Harry roared back. "I am not your property! I was happy with Ron - I feel trapped here," he broke off as the silver inkwell wobbled in terror and toppled, pouring molten black ink all over Snape's lap.

The air turned blue with curses.

"Bloody hell. Wait, I'll sort it out -" whipping Snape's wand from where he had stuffed it down the side of the seat cushion, Harry pointed it at Snape's lap and muttered: "Evanesco."  

"NO!" Snape yelled, watching in horror as the black ink was banished into oblivion. Not just the spilt ink - but the ink with which he had been making his 'corrections' for the past two hours!

The virgin paper flaunted itself before Harry's eyes. He clapped his hand over his mouth in dismay.

"Oh no, oh I'm so sorry, I didn't think -"  

"No," Snape snapped, fixing Harry with a glare. "You didn't."  

"Can we get them back?" Harry asked, fishing the top sheet off the pile and tapping it hopefully with the wand. Snape's annotations remained firmly absent. Mortified, he held out the sheet for Snape to take back. It was rudely snatched from his fingers, and a moment later Snape was on his feet, the spoilt papers sliding off his knees and spreading all over the floor.

"That is the last straw. You will recompense me for the loss of my work," he growled, advancing on Harry - who backed away, hands raised beseechingly.

"Please, no, you would not hurt - "  

Treading upon all the (now forgotten) papers in his black Hessian boots, Snape strode toward Harry, seized him by his shirt and tore it violently open. Very cruelly, he bared Harry's skin at the neck and shoulder. Harry struggled, frightened by the pitiless look in Snape's cold black eyes.

Snape bared his teeth in a snarl and fought to contain Harry's struggles; he grasped the young man firmly in his iron grip, and buried his large hooked nose in Harry's neck. Harry gasped, and beat at Snape's back with his fists.

"Unhand me, sir!" he yelled, as Snape's hot mouth sucked luscious purple bruises into bloom upon his throat…  

 * * * * *

Harry shivered at the memory and rubbed absent-mindedly at his neck, the bruises still fresh. He had broken free, and their encounter had ended there, but today he was vividly aware that Snape was more than likely to ask for his favours again.

He had refused, from the first, to bathe and dress Snape. Undressing him, however…  

That very morning, Harry had been trying to cook the breakfast when, all of a sudden, there were lips at his neck. Startled, Harry tried to wrench himself away, but Snape had his grip tight around Harry's biceps, and was holding him still.

"You cannot do it like this," Harry moaned, tense and stressed and undeniably aroused.

"Hmmm?" Snape's considerable nose nuzzled into his hair, just behind his ear.

"You cannot shut me up in here and take what you want," Harry moaned, exasperated and excited all at once.

"We will talk about this later," Snape muttered, glancing up at something, and suddenly the wet pressure on Harry's neck was gone. He felt oddly bereft.

"Later? Snape, please, I've already told you -"  

But Snape had gone. Harry was left frustrated and… hard. He was rapidly coming to realise that he could not deny his desire for Snape for much longer.

He still did not think it was love… but whenever Snape was close to him, Harry got so desperately aroused, like an animal in heat. Whenever Snape touched him, Harry wanted to moan and lick him. They could not go on as they were, not for long. Somebody was bound to crack. Well, Snape had already cracked.

But Harry was bound to follow.  

 * * * * * 

That evening, Harry knocked on the door to Snape's study, prepared for another evening of… temptation.

"Take off your shirt before you come in," Snape's voice called, through the door. Harry growled to himself. He wanted to, truly, but Snape did not deserve it. Snape had him captive - surely he ought to refuse, on principle?

Pulling his shirt over his head, he dumped it unceremoniously onto the floor. He pushed open the door to Snape's study - and cried out in surprise.

Snape was sat back in his chair, his legs spread. His black breeches were open and - to Harry's amazement - his long, thick erection rose out of the opening, curling upwards blindly into Snape's fist.

Snape, one hand wrapped lazily around his cock, raised his eyes to Harry.

"Close the door," he murmured.

Transfixed by the sight of another man's cock (and Snape's was huge), Harry did as he was told.

"I remember," Snape said, silkily, "the night of the fire. You, standing before my house, begging me to take you to my bed." His black eyes glittered almost sinisterly.

"I was… confused," Harry said, instantly, wrapping his arms about his bare chest. He was, however, unable to take his eyes off Snape's cock.

Snape stroked himself slowly, clearly luxuriating in the feeling of being watched.

"I turned you down that night out of pride, but it has been many months since then. I was a fool. I want you any way I can have you," Snape continued.

Harry said nothing.

"Do you like it?" Snape asked, suddenly. His hand stilled. Harry, realising what Snape referred to, blushed.

"Yes," he whispered, guiltily.

Snape raised his brows, expecting more.

"I… it's beautiful," Harry said, clutching himself tighter and digging his fingers into his sides. "I want… to have it in my mouth." Snape smiled, wickedly.

"Then why are you all the way over there?" he said, low.

"I… I don't feel I ought," Harry replied. "You have me prisoner, after all. And… I have been warned against you, so many times."  

"By Miss Granger? Your late Godfather? Where are they now?" said Snape, his voice dripping with scorn. "They are gone, and you are an adult now, not a naïve little boy. If you want to go to bed with another man, who is to stop you?"  

"Sirius would -" Harry began.

"No," Snape's voice was cold. He stuffed his erection back into his breeches. "You will not use him to hide behind. Stop being afraid of your own desire! First you were blind to it, then you were afraid of it - now, you are here, in my house, and there are no barriers between us! All I ask is that you know your own heart, you are quite impossible!"  

"I am not afraid," Harry interrupted, "and I do desire you. But I do not love you. That was what you wanted, was it not?"  

"If I say I do not mind -" Snape began, but Harry had turned on his heel and left the room.  

 * * * * * 

Later that night, as Harry was walking about the house by candlelight, checking that all the windows were locked, he paused at the door to Snape's bed chamber.

I want you any way I can have you.

Harry opened the door, and froze in surprise. Snape was naked. Caught in the moment he was about to pull his nightshirt on over his head. The older man paused; they stared at each other.

Harry gulped. His desire was there, in the flesh, before him! Harry had never been so rock-hard in all his life. Snape was lean, wiry; so masculine, it was exactly what Harry longed for…  

Snape was right; Sirius was dead, and Hermione gone. What did it matter if Harry felt nothing for Snape, if Snape did not mind? Why was Harry denying himself?

Even as he watched Snape, he could see the older man's cock filling with arousal; becoming longer and thicker, pulsing with -  

Harry walked up to Snape and placed a palm gently upon Snape's chest. He could feel Snape's heart beating against his palm, proud and strong, beneath the sparsely-haired skin.

Snape closed his eyes and breathed in.

"Harry…" he began. "I… I'll let you go. If you really cannot bear it -"  

He opened his eyes. Harry was gone.  

 * * * * * 

A peek inside Snape's bedroom, the night after, found Harry alone, padding listlessly about the room in Snape's dressing-gown, a bottle of red wine in his languid fingers. He was sipping, occasionally, straight from the bottle. His green eyes were strangely bright in the light of the single candle.

Trailing his fingertips languidly over the trinkets adorning Snape's dresser, he lifted the wine to his damp mouth and took another swig. He leant against one of the wooden posts of Snape's huge bed, still drinking, rubbing his back against the post, like a lazy cat. When he lowered the bottle from his lips, a mischievous smile twisted them.

He set the bottle down on the carpet, then lowered his hands to the belt of the dressing-gown.  

 * * * * * 

Snape, mouth open, tore himself away from the keyhole and crept a few steps along the hallway.

Removing one of the paintings from the wall with shaking fingers, he set it down as silently as possible. He pressed one eye, somewhat disbelievingly, to the small peep-hole that it exposed in the red wall beneath.

Inside the room, Harry had the dressing-gown draped loosely behind his exposed shoulders. He was leaning against the post, pressing his bare flesh against it. He had his head thrown back, and was laughing quietly to himself, somewhat manically. His eyes reflected… some sort of maniacal pain; an internal struggle. Snape knew not about what. He could only gaze on, in a mixture of awe and astonishment, as Harry shrugged the dressing-gown completely and let it pool around his ankles; exposing his body completely, for he was naked beneath.

Snape stared, through the tiny hole, at Harry's golden body, his own mouth suddenly parched. Harry bent and picked up the wine bottle, taking a long sip, his lips red and stained; Snape's eye roved with admiration over the beautiful tender flesh of Harry's bottom.

Gasping, Harry set down the (now almost empty) bottle on Snape's dresser, and swayed charmingly across the room, as though dancing to some unheard gypsy melody. He paused before Snape's wardrobe - then, animated by some wicked delight, turned and dashed back across the room, seizing the bottle again.

He returned, with it, to the wardrobe, which he then wildly flung open. Convinced the boy was about to pour red wine over his clothes, Snape could not move to stop him; so transfixed was he by the sight of Harry, utterly naked and utterly, utterly stunning, in his bedroom…  

But the boy did not do as Snape expected.

Instead of pouring the wine on the clothes, he lifted the bottle once more to his lips, and proceeded to empty it down his throat, gulping it down. He choked, then flung the empty bottle away from himself and darted towards the bed. He flung himself down upon the quilted coverlet, a wicked grin stretching his face.

Lying on his back, he spread his thighs invitingly, and allowed his palms, fingers spread, to travel down his slender body, over his pink nipples and concave stomach, and down to - Snape adjusted his collar - cup his half-erect cock, and fondle his soft, heavy bollocks…  

Eyes closed in ecstasy, he began to grope himself thoroughly, curling his fingers around his cock and coaxing it; fisting it into life. His free hand roamed scandalously over his own flushed skin; pinching, scratching and stroking. He slid his fingers often, as he pumped his rosy cock with abandon, to squeeze his balls, as if trying to fend off an approaching orgasm.

He gasped.

Snape, one hand pressed desperately over the impossibly hard bulge in his own breeches, allowed himself a tiny groan at the sight.

But then Harry was up again, rolling off the bed, legs in all directions. He ran to the open wardrobe, parted his legs, and…  

Snape watched the young man's bare shoulder shake as his wrist, obscured from view, worked his cock furiously. He watched Harry contort a little; groan, then shudder, buttocks clenching, as the young man pumped his lush release all over the hanging garments before him.

Harry collapsed against them, panting, mouth open on a moan, pressing his face into the shoulders and arms of Snape's dark coats and white shirts. He found a pair of breeches, draped carefully over a wooden hanger, and seized them in both hands, pressing his face into the crotch and inhaling.

Snape had had enough.

Feeling his own groin pulsating feverishly, he could remain the passive voyeur no longer. Leaving the painting leaning against the wall, he strode to the door and flung it open, soaking up (with satisfaction) the startled squeal of surprise that Harry made at the sight of his employer standing masterfully in the doorway.

"Snape!" Harry yelped, releasing Snape's breeches and tumbling head-over-heels backwards into the wardrobe in surprise.

Snape leant against the doorframe, folded his arms and smirked as Harry clambered out. The young man's face was streaked with globules of his own come - seemingly, he had accidentally brushed his face against Snape's soiled clothes.

Snape's smirk tightened.

"Enjoying yourself?" he asked. Harry looked up at him from his position on the carpet, naked and on all-fours, face red with shame and alcohol.

"Do I take it you have made your decision?" Snape continued. "Or was this little… experiment of yours, supposed to help you reach a conclusion?"  

Harry glanced at the floor - then looked up at Snape, a spark of defiance in his green eyes.

"Want a go now, Snape, do you?" he grinned.

"No," Snape sneered. "First of all, I am going to make you lick your filthy ejaculate off my clothing. And then I am going to tie you to the bed until morning."  

He stepped into the room and slammed the door.  

Chapter 28  

Several weeks later…  

"Are you going to rob me of my innocence at all tonight?" Harry asked, looking rather bored.

He lay on his front on Snape's canopied bed, in nothing but a red corset and seamed stockings, his bare ankles crossed.

Snape stood some way off, in the shadows. Unperturbed, Harry continued to read his little brand new little black pamphlet of filthy tales (newly annotated too) and did not look up when he heard Snape quietly close the bedroom door.

Snape crossed to the fire in his dark dressing-gown and stood, his back to Harry, looking into the flames. He suddenly reached for the poker and thrust it brutally into the dying flames. The fire roiled and surged again, flames leaping higher. The warmth caressed the Harry's bare shoulders and the backs of his bare thighs. He wriggled a little on the bed.

Snape turned around and watched him, eyes blazing in the flickering gloom. Still brandishing the glowing poker, he advanced towards the bed; a malevolent dark shape in the semi-darkness...

Harry gave the hot poker but a glance, turning back to his book.

"You would not use that on me," he murmured.

Inside, however, his heart was beating against his corseted chest with vigour. He was not sure he truly believed his own words. Especially not when the look in Snape's eyes was almost… murderous with passion.

"Roll onto your back," Snape whispered, voice low and menacing. Book held up before his face, Harry did so.

Sprawling on his back, exposed to Snape's deadly gaze, Harry felt utterly sexual and oddly… powerful.

"What tales of base seduction are you reading tonight?" Snape continued, as he approached the mattress.

"This?" Harry inquired. "It is The Monk, by Matthew Lewis."  

"Read it to me," Snape commanded, softly. His eyes never left Harry as he stood over him, looking almost sinister in the half-light.

Harry held the book closer to his nose and read aloud:

"'He had already committed the crime, and why should he refrain from enjoying its reward? He clasped him to his breast with redoubled ardour. No longer repressed by the sense of shame, he gave a loose to his intemperate appetites: while the fair wanton put every invention of lust into practice, every refinement in the art of pleasure, which might heighten the bliss of his possession, and render his lover's transports still more exquisite.'"  

"Enough," Snape growled. He was still wielding the hot poker. Harry closed the book and set it aside, gazing up at Snape with a look (he hoped) of calm self-assurance.

Snape would not hurt him, surely he would not? Yet… Snape was a dangerous man. Harry eyed the poker with ever-increasing apprehension.

"Would you harm me, s-sir?" he asked. His voice stuttered as he spoke.

"Would you like me to?" Snape murmured gruffly, his scorching gaze causing Harry to flush.

"In faith, no," Harry whispered, almost pleading now, his pulse fast and erratic…  

Snape stared at him for a few moments longer. Harry realised his chest, in the tightly-synched corset, was heaving.

Snape abruptly turned away and flung the poker back down by the fireplace. He crossed to the cupboard, opened it, and retrieved a bottle of champagne. Approaching the bed again, he placed the bottle between his knees and began to work out the cork with his slim, nimble fingers. Harry watched silently, still on his back.

The cork popped. Harry watched it fly out and hit the bed canopy; bounce off, then drop down somewhere onto the carpet.

He did not notice where - for, the moment the champagne began to flow - a glorious fountain of sparkling bubbles - Snape lifted the bottle.

He poured it all over Harry, who cried out.

"It's cold!" Harry exclaimed.

"Luxuriate in it," Snape whispered, as Harry writhed (it was icy cold), then scrubbed his hair back from his face with both hands.

Snape proceeded to pour the champagne over Harry's body. It cascaded over him; his face; his chest; his stomach, peeping out from below the corset…  

He gasped, arching his back. Snape began to pour the liquid over Harry's groin and Harry moaned, reaching down to pump his rapidly-firming cock and grab at his balls, spreading his legs wide.

The torrent of champagne over his dick was maddeningly delicious - but it suddenly ended, and Harry groaned.

"Roll onto your front, take your buttocks in both hands and pull them apart," Snape ordered, harshly.

Harry scrambled to obey, noting that Snape still had a couple of inches of champagne left in the bottle. Spread out on his front, thighs apart, he dug his fingers into his plump little bottom and parted his cheeks, invitingly.

There was a moment of exquisite tension, where Snape seemed inclined just to gaze upon him, rather than pour the alcohol - then Harry felt a cold splash, and a delectable fizz on his exposed, sensitive flesh…  

He moaned, loudly, and the spill dried to an agonizing trickle, drips slithering teasingly down between his buttocks and over his balls. Wriggling again, like a beached fish, he waited for more - but nothing came.

He heard the clink of the empty bottle as Snape set it down on the bedside table, and lifted his head.

"Are we going to indulge in decadent pleasures now?" he murmured, rolling onto his side and feeling his now erect penis bob, firm and throbbing against his damp stomach.

Snape said nothing. He shrugged out of his dressing gown, laid it over the back of a chair, and advanced to the bed, naked. Harry bit his lip in anticipation.

Snape climbed up onto the mattress, lifted the wet sheets, and slid in beneath them. Harry sat up, confused.

"Come," Snape murmured, patting the pillow beside him.

Harry scooted over, the soaked corset clinging to his body. Snape lifted the sheets so that Harry could slide stickily beneath them. The bed was wet through, yet Snape lifted an arm to indicate that Harry should snuggle up against his side, which Harry did, awkwardly. He laid one palm gently on Snape's chest; his wet head on Snape's shoulder. Snape settled the covers over them both, then leant over and produced a red ribbon from under his pillow.

"Hold your wrists together," he muttered. Harry did, obediently, and Snape bound his slender wrists. Harry flexed his fingers, bemused.

"Not too tight?" Snape sniffed, reaching for his wand.

"No…" Harry replied. Snape extinguished the fire with a terse wave of his wand, and darkness closed in around them.

"Right," Snape snarled. "Now, suck me."  

 * * * * * 

Weeks passed. Harry tried to take advantage of Snape's magical library once more, but as soon as he and Snape tried to train, they started arguing, and then they were fucking, or as good as. Harry demanded that Snape buy him a wand, but Snape refused. As soon as Harry picked up a suitable wand, Snape complained, it would be recorded, and Voldemort would know; would be angry with Snape. They could not risk it; they had to lay low and not attract attention. Soon, therefore, the training dried up.

They had little time for it in any case; Harry worked around the house all day, and spent all night writhing and screaming in Snape's bed.

Harry felt alive, for the first time in months. Now, he was a sexual being; gone were the days of being naïve and innocent; of shy smiles and anxious touches. Harry learnt how to suck cock. He adored it. It was almost worth being held captive if he could enjoy that with Snape…  

Now, of an evening, Harry would be synched into a corset by Snape, spend the evening half naked, and end up covered in come. He supposed he was happier than he had been in months; he felt grown-up; powerful. Nothing mattered when he was in Snape's bed; not Sirius' death, not Voldemort, not his magical training… Even though he was still held captive in Snape's house, he stopped asking Snape to release him.

Snape, he reflected, had corrupted him well and truly this time; but he did not care. Harry loved every moment of it.  

 * * * * * 

One night, Harry could be found bent over before the fireplace, clinging to the mantle with both hands. Snape, lengths of white cord wrapped around his wrists, placed his knee in the small of Harry's back and pulled.

"I can't… breathe!" Harry gasped, as Snape tied the strings firmly and stepped back, one hand extended. "Is it designed to be pulled this tight?"  

Harry took Snape's hand, panting, and was escorted elegantly to a chair. He perched on the seat and allowed Snape to take his delicate ankle in one palm, slipping a stocking from his pocket. Harry sat back in the chair a little and watched, breathlessly, as Snape slid the white stocking over his foot and teased it over his ankle and up to his thigh.

Snape's fingers lingered somewhat over the creamy skin there, just inches from Harry's balls, and Harry shivered.

"Did you want to do this to me all of last year?" Harry gasped, suddenly, as Snape produced a second stocking and, kneeling at Harry's feet, began to slide the stocking over the arch of Harry's foot.

"Every moment," Snape answered, voice gruff; his attention focussed solely on Harry's stockinged thigh.

"Do you think anyone out there knows what we do together?" Harry smiled. Snape slid both palms, fingers spread, all the way up Harry's thighs, heading towards Harry's groin. Harry wriggled and squirmed when they went no higher.

"Do you think Voldemort knows?" Harry continued, fanning himself with his hand.

"Perhaps. He thinks you are here to be indoctrinated. He is waiting for that," Snape frowned, laying his head broodingly upon Harry's thigh. "Now, do you wish to talk, or do you wish to…" His breath ghosted scantily over Harry's unclothed manhood.

"Oh, God please don't stop," Harry groaned, his voice trembling with barely suppressed passion. His eyes fluttered closed as Snape opened his mouth and began to lick his balls.  

 * * * * * 

One night, Harry lay on a bed of straw that had been strewn wildly over the kitchen table. The straw tickled and scratched at his naked skin as he squirmed, trying to get comfortable.

Snape stood over him, buttoned up to his throat, a riding whip in hand. His thin face held a very grave expression.

In the dim light, Harry squinted up at him in expectation, waiting. Candles burned in their sconces, glimmering in apprehension...

"You are a pony. I need to check your teeth and genitals for health problems before I buy you. Get on all fours," Snape muttered, low. Harry twisted onto his front and wiggled up in the straw. Facing forwards, he could not see Snape as the man rustled behind him. His skin tingled in anticipation. He was so exposed; Snape could see all of his body if he circled him…  

The saddle surprised him at first, when the leather thudded down onto his back, straps swinging and buckles clinking. As Snape started securing them under him, across his chest, he supposed it made sense. The saddle was not so heavy as to be uncomfortable, even if Snape had secured the straps a little tight… He wriggled.

He could hear Snape at his back; the straw whispered and he could just make out the 'plink' of bottles, and a 'glug', as something was poured out. Suddenly, he felt a cold touch as a slick probe teased his most sensitive area. Sliding over the wrinkled pucker of his arsehole, Snape's slippery finger encircled it a couple of times, toying with him maddeningly, then gently pushed in.

Snape had never done this before.

"What are you doing?" Harry gasped, throwing his head back and groaning as Snape slid his finger in all the way up to the knuckle.

Snape did not reply; instead, he began to move the finger tantalizingly in and out, massaging Harry's passage soothingly. Harry wiggled his hips deliciously and moaned, eyes dropping closed. Snape slipped another finger in to join the first.

Soon, both fingers were scrumptiously sliding in and out of Harry's loosened hole, and Snape popped in a third, making Harry writhe and grind his arse back onto Snape's fingers; urging them to probe deeper, fuller, inside him.

Abruptly, all three fingers slid out (with a gorgeously slick 'pop') and something larger and colder was nudging into him.

Coarse, long hair brushed the back of Harry's thighs.

"What's that?" Harry whimpered, turning his head to see, but all he could make out was Snape's pale face in the gloom, concentrating sternly on pushing the butt plug up Harry's bottom.

Harry allowed his head to flop down onto his chest as he braced himself, letting the cold, hard invasion slip into him. He felt wondrously full. Snape pushed the plug full in with his thumb and twisted it, making Harry squirm a little and causing the horsehair tail to swish ticklishly against the backs of his prone thighs.

"A… a tail?" Harry gasped turning his head again to try and see. Snape was smirking down at him.

"Indeed. You make a very pretty horse. Swish your little tail," he whispered, petting Harry's hair tenderly.

Feeling very debauched, Harry smiled to himself and wiggled his hips, causing the tail to swing from side to side.

"Lovely," Snape purred. "Now then…" He walked around to face Harry, his boots clicking smartly on the stone floor.

"Open your mouth," he murmured. Harry obediently opened and let Snape prod his gums and inspect his teeth, turning Harry's head from side to side to get a good look. Snape closed his mouth smartly.

"Fine," he muttered, "but what about your…" he trailed off. Harry wondered where he was going, until he felt Snape's hands on him, squeezing his hips.

Snape frisked him analytically, patting his hands down Harry's thighs, as though he were really examining, not groping. He twisted the plug in Harry's bottom again, causing Harry to buck and his tail to thrash wildly.

"Is this what intercourse feels like?" Harry asked, wide eyed, luxuriating in the feel of his gloriously-stretched hole. Snape paused behind him, hands drifting to his belt buckle.

"Would you like to find out?" he growled.

They had not had penetrative sex, not yet. Harry was… waiting, for something.

"Are you erect?" Harry gasped.

"Of course I'm bloody erect," Snape scowled.

"Oh…" Harry broke off.

Was this the right time to give up his virginity? Or should he make Snape wait a little longer?

Snape seemed to sense his deliberations, for he patted Harry's bottom regretfully.

"Another time," he muttered, distracting Harry by slipping his fingers under Harry's bottom to fondle his heavy balls. "Whinny for me."  

 * * * * * 

On another night, their activities started with Harry, again in his corset, tied by his wrists to the mantle. The fire burned low in the grate; the room was dark except for the tiny flickering flames.

Snape, shirt hanging open and a glass of wine in his white gloved hand, stood to Harry's left, checking the cords that had his bound wrists secured. Harry turned his head to follow Snape as the man returned to his chair, plonked the glass on a little table and took up a pack of cards. He shuffled them, glancing up to find Harry's lustrous eyes upon him.

"Part your legs," he ordered, then returned his dark gaze to the cards.

Harry spread his legs obediently, inching his ankles apart. His bare buttocks glowed, fleshy and peach-coloured, in the firelight. Snape took up his wine glass again; sipped, and placed it down on the mantle, before Harry's face.

He cut the deck and showed a single card to Harry.

"Don't tell me what you see, but remember it," he directed, low, and Harry stored the Queen of Hearts away in his brain, dutifully. He nodded. Snape took out his wand and cast a protective shield over the fire; the heat immediately lessened.

"Not too hot?" Snape inquired, nodding to Harry's naked cock, which was at half mast. It twitched under his scrutiny.

"No," Harry whispered.

"No, what?" Snape snapped.

"No, sir," Harry said, louder. Insolently.

Snape picked up his glass and held it to Harry's lips, for Harry to take a sip. When he took the glass away, Harry's mouth was red and luscious and Snape, it seemed, could not resist.

They did not kiss often, but he lowered his face and brushed their mouths together. Harry's eyes sparkled when they parted, and Snape walked away.

"That was naughty," Harry said, softly.

"Do you remember which card I showed you?" Snape asked, from somewhere in the room, ignoring him.

"Yes," Harry replied.

"This is an interrogation. I will try to get the answer out of you. You must resist, is that clear?" Snape informed him. Harry nodded, excitement jolting along his every nerve in anticipation of what Snape might do.

Suddenly, Snape's voice was at his ear.

"What card did you see?" he hissed. Harry shook his head.

"I can't remember."  

"Liar," Snape sneered. "Filthy little liar. I ask again: what card did you see?"  

"I'm not going to tell you," Harry growled back, bristling a little.

"You whore. Tell me!" Snape barked.

"No!" Harry snapped, vehement.

"This is your last opportunity. If you defy me again, there will be consequences. Do you understand? Now tell me what you saw!" Snape roared, seizing Harry's chin in his slim fingers and jolting it around to face him. His face was contorted in harsh lines and his eyes were flashing.

"You'll just have to punish me, because I am not going to tell you!" Harry shouted back. He saw the spark of pleasure in Snape's eyes, and Snape's clasp on his chin lessened, almost tenderly.

"As you wish," Snape muttered, a smirk quirking his thin mouth. He dropped Harry's chin and stepped away. The next thing Harry knew, there was a hand clenching one of his buttocks.

"Brace yourself," Snape murmured, into his ear, and Harry did, for he knew Snape did not mince his words. A moment later, he realised why.

The cane whistled as it sliced through the air, and it smacked his bottom wish a harsh 'swat'. Harry wailed, half mortified and half… exhilarated!

He panted, head down, the heat from the fire starting to make him sweat; trickles sashayed down his temples and the backs of his thighs. Snape spanked him again, and again, teeth clenched, and Harry gritted his teeth to stop himself from crying out. When there were four red stripes blossoming across his tender behind, Snape stopped, and bit his ear.

"Tell me what you saw, and I shall stop," he hissed, fondling Harry's raw bottom.

"I shan't tell you," Harry replied, obstinate.

"Very well," Snape said, grimly. He propped the cane by the fireplace, for Harry to see, and returned to his fondling. Harry winced a little, but enjoyed the rough caress, especially when Snape sank to his knees and began to lick along the stripes raised by the cane.

"You taste delicious," Snape murmured, his mouth full of Harry's buttock.

"Flattery will get you nowhere," Harry said, over his shoulder. Snape chuckled.

"You asked for it," he smirked, rising to his feet and placing one hand between Harry's shoulder blades, pushing forward a little, so that Harry's wet arse stuck out slightly. Making sure Harry remained in that position with a disapproving glare, he paused to remove his gloves.

Harry waited.


Snape's palm came down on his flesh - not too hard, but firm. It tingled. Snape paused again, gauging Harry's reaction. Harry held his breath and waited.

Snape raised his hand again. This time it came down hard, then retreated for a moment, before coming down twelve times in quick succession, vigorously.

By the end, Harry was gripping the mantle with both hands and baring his teeth, eyes scrunched shut. Snape collapsed slightly against his back, hands on the mantle beside his own; Harry could feel Snape panting against the back of his neck, feel his chest heaving.

They gasped together.

Harry could also feel Snape's erect cock, pushed painfully hard against his left buttock, as if it were trying to burrow through the material of his breeches to get to Harry.

"Ohhhh," Harry moaned, shaking his tousled, dripping hair.

Snape groaned against his neck, then pulled himself up off Harry shakily and - to Harry's surprise - set his teeth to the ribbons securing the back of the red corset.

When he was unsuccessful, he growled, and tried to rip the back apart with his fists. Harry was jerked about clumsily, his bound wrists pulling in their bonds - until Snape gave up and staggered over to retrieve his wand.

From then on, everything happened in a blur; the corset was split open and ripped off him, his bonds were cut, and he and Snape ended up in a heap on the carpet. Harry ran his hands over the bulge in Snape's black breeches and the man's firm thighs, fascinated - until Snape grew impatient and brought his hands forcibly to the opening of his breeches.

Harry pulled out Snape's long, thick, leaking erection, and lowered his hungry mouth over the head. Snape barked and paused, and pushed both thumbs up Harry's bottom, pumping his hips upward into Harry's salivating mouth…  

 * * * * * 

Harry stood, a half hour later, before the mirror in Snape's dressing room.

His back to it, he peered over his bare shoulder, stroking his warm bottom with tender, probing presses of his fingertips.

It was still red from the spanking.

Harry was rather proud of his well-attended-to bum cheeks. He turned this way and that, admiring the flushed, bruised skin. He turned to face the mirror, completely naked, and noticed that his neck and chest were still splattered with Snape's ejaculate. He trailed his fingertips in it, absent-mindedly.

What, he wondered, would Sirius have thought of all this? Or Hermione? They would hardly recognise Harry now. They would think he was corrupted; they would blame Snape.

They wouldn't have understood.

Harry needed this. Now that he had accepted his attraction, he needed to be desired; needed Snape, physically. He couldn't help himself.

Love - Harry's coveted spiritual connection - didn't even come into it. He just… needed.

This was something far more exotic than love, far safer; it meant Harry did not have to feel at all. Did not have to feel any of the pain he had been in for the past year. Did not have to love. Anyone he loved died, eventually.

Love, spiritual love, was dangerous. Lust, on the other hand… was harmless. Surely?

Snape entered the room in his dressing gown. He paused when he saw Harry. He watched him for a moment, then approached, fingers brushing over the dressing table and ensnaring his cravat as he passed.

Harry looked up to see, in the mirror, Snape standing behind him. Snape held his gaze for a moment. Then he dropped his eyes and collected Harry's hands, drawing them together behind they young man's back and wrapping the cravat around his wrists to secure them together.

Hands bound behind his back, Harry followed Snape into the bedroom.  

 * * * * * 

Harry and Snape were, in Snape's words, 'practicing'. Harry had had a long working day (after a late night) and was too exhausted to 'play' properly, so Snape had allowed him to come straight to bed.

A slim, illicit book of anal sex positions was open and somewhat discarded at the end of the bed. A tired (but nonetheless aroused) Harry was on all fours, naked, with Snape equally naked over him, his chest to Harry's back. Snape's large cock was brushing wetly in between Harry's thighs as he humped him, and Harry humped back. Snape interlinked their fingers and they ground against each other.

"You'll like that one," Snape growled, into Harry's messy hair. "Rear entry is very pleasurable."  

"What's the next one?" Harry asked. Snape reluctantly clambered off him and rolled onto his back.

"Straddle me," he murmured, reaching for Harry. Harry dutifully slid one leg over Snape's hips and settled himself above Snape's stomach. He reached behind himself and lifted Snape's cock, sliding back so that it fit snugly between his buttocks, pointing upwards.

Snape dug his fingers into Harry's hips and gruffly told Harry to 'bounce', which Harry did, tightening his thighs and feeling very wanton as Snape began to thrust up against him. Snape pulled him down by the hips to meet his thrusts, and threw his head back in pleasure.

"What's next?" Harry smiled, slowing slightly. Snape lifted Harry off and rolled on top of him, Harry flat on his back and Snape lying between his legs.

"Lift your arse a little," he muttered, bracing himself over Harry's body and beginning to thrust against him again. "God!"  

"Another?" Harry panted, needing to stop as this position trapped his cock between their slick bodies; he was in danger of finishing too soon.

Snape knelt up, draped Harry's legs over his shoulders, and began to bump their hips together again. Harry felt silly, folded in half like this, but he supposed it must be pleasant for Snape, who had his eyes closed.

"On your side," Snape groaned, pulling away a little.

Harry rolled onto his right side, and Snape came up behind him, resting his left hand possessively on Harry's bottom before lifting Harry's left leg a little and sliding his cock in to nestle once more between Harry's thighs.

"This one's nice," Harry smiled, sleepily, warmed by Snape's chest against his back. He allowed Snape to hold his leg up a little and to thrust into the space between his thighs.

"On your front; spread your legs," Snape panted, against the back of his neck. Harry obediently rolled onto his front and spread his legs wide.

Snape crawled over him, flush against Harry's back, pressing him down into the mattress, then lifted himself up, straightening his arms, and positioning his cock to slide between Harry's buttocks again. Harry, feeling languid and sleepy, spread his legs a little wider and allowed Snape to rut against him.

"God!" Snape said again. "I can't wait to bury myself inside you. When?"  

Harry lifted his head suddenly, feeling his prick twitching hard against the mattress at Snape's words. He was so close.

"I - wait!" He gasped out. "Do you think… would you say… that we have a spiritual connection?"  

"We will be connected," Snape said, very determinedly. "When I fuck you up the arse. Now get on my lap," he growled, rolling off Harry and crawling up the bed to lean back against the pillows.

Harry scrambled into his lap, astride him, and took both their cocks in his hand, squeezing them together.

"When?" Snape repeated. He gasped, then reached over and plucked a phial of oil from the bedside table, upending it over their joined erections. As the oil slid down over the head of his penis, Harry moaned, loudly.

"I… soon. Soon," he groaned.

"Louder," Snape snarled, grabbing both their cocks in his hand and batting Harry's own hand away. He squeezed hard, eliciting a deliciously drawn-out howl from Harry as the young man began humping their groins together…  

Ten minutes later and Harry's eager hands had smeared the oil all over Snape's bare chest. He was currently massaging Snape's cock with his oily fingers, using both hands to slide up and down, twisting his palms over the head and making Snape weep with pleasure…  

So much for spirituality.  

Chapter 29  

Mrs McGonagall swept into the kitchen at eight one morning, her fingers fairly dripping with lists. She had accepted Harry quite readily into the household, believing him to be nothing more than a servant; a stray Snape had found on the streets. Harry, bleary-eyed, sat at the kitchen table, clutching a cup of hot chocolate (and trying not to rub at his sore nipples - Snape had been rather rough last night).

"The Professor has finished his latest creation for his biggest patron - the Malfoys are invited to tea in three weeks. There is a lot for us to do," she announced, bustling about the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron and setting lists on every available surface.

Harry's head shot up.

"The Malfoys? Who are they?" Severus never mentioned them to me, Harry nearly added, but managed to bite his tongue. He supposed Snape and he never really talked, not really. They were usually too… occupied. So he would not necessarily know if Snape had finished a potion.

"Yes. Their son has been invited too, so you will need to help me make up two rooms for them, and they are bringing their servants, but the Professor has not told me exactly how many yet," Mrs McGonagall added, looking frustrated. "Plus, since they do not live in London, we will be honoured with many guests, wishing to pay their respects. Which means a lot of food must be prepared."  

Harry nodded, dumbly. He was listening, a little. But he was more concerned with how he and Snape were going to continue their… activities with a house so full?

"It's about time, if you ask me. The Professor needs someone else around."  

Harry blinked.

"What? He's got us," he said. He has me very frequently, he did not say.

"Tsk, Mr Potter, we are no company. We have such little time - we'll have to take on extra staff for at least two weeks. I will go into town now, and you must get out the silver forks, the white china, that soup tureen with the cherubs on the handles which the Professor hates… someone will have to scrub the entrance hall floor, polish all the doorknobs in the house - are you listening, Potter?"  

"Y-yes. Sorry." Harry stuttered, pulling himself to his feet.  

 * * * * * 

If Harry had very little knowledge of the status of the Malfoys in society, he guessed that they must be of a strata level with that of royalty, for all the fuss that was made over their visit.

McGonagall returned mid-morning, trailing a gaggle of people from town, who swamped the house all day for the next fortnight in soap, boiling water and polish. The cleaning went on and on interminably; Harry was exhausted every night, but when he tried to talk about the Malfoys, Snape distracted him with something sexual.

Despite Harry's exhaustion, Snape had no mercy, and their games continued with full force.  

 * * * * * 

The park was hushed.

Somewhere far off, a string quartet played a quiet, haunting melody. A small crowd of evening wanderers were gathered inside the pagoda, like restless spirits, to listen. Candles burned low in the lamps which lined the park pathways; the maze of walks was quite dark now, and empty.

It was raining softly, and the unearthly, baleful melody wailed softly around the park, rustling the damp trees.

Down one dark path, a young lady and her lover turned and ran in fright at some peculiar, unnatural noises, like the snarling of rabid dogs, or the moans of some departed spirit…  

Pressed into the bristles and prickles of the tall, dark hedge, Harry writhed in his bonds and snarled. Several religious-looking symbols had been dripped onto his bare chest in red wax. The stone bench where they met on Harry's birthday had been converted into a low altar; a white cloth was laid over it, on which sat two softly burning white candles, a knife, and a bowl of water.

Snape stood, smartly dressed in priestly black and a white dog collar. He made the sign of the cross over Harry's thrashing body and stepped back when Harry spat at him.

"Whatever demon has possessed you, it shall be cast out!" he cried.

This was not at all what Harry had meant by a spiritual connection. Harry struggled and played along as best he could, although he had little idea what a possessed person would do (besides, as Snape had ordered him to, trying to seduce the priest to prevent an exorcism…)

"If you let me free, I'll do anything," Harry hissed, spluttering when Snape picked up the water bowl and flicked 'holy' water at him.

He was erect, despite the strangeness of the role-play. He thought it must be the park; being naked and exposed like this outside, for anyone to see, felt deliciously wicked.

"You are an evil creature," Snape replied.

"Yes," Harry said, wiggling his hips so that his erect penis bobbed seductively, "but this body is virginal. Let me stay and you can use it for your sexual pleasure, Father."  

"You would try to tempt me?" said Snape, archly, spraying more water at him.

"I would show you the sins of the flesh," Harry entreated, lustfully. "I would show you sensual pleasure. Do not cast me out and I will reward you with my virgin body."  

Snape's eyes travelled down his naked skin, considering.

"No! I will be strong!" he exclaimed.

"I see you looking at this body with lust!" Harry countered, eyes flashing. "You covet his body; you desire this young man! I can give him to you! Release me and take him!"  

"You are wrong," Snape denied, but he sounded unsure.

"Come to me," Harry chanted, "come and use this body for your pleasure, to fulfil your darkest longings. You crave me, I see it! Give up your yearning and let me show you deepest bliss, let me satisfy you in every way imaginable -"  

"Enough!" Snape cried, and he snatched up the knife and was at Harry's side in a moment, the knife slicing though the ropes as though they were butter.

Harry was free and flew at Snape as though he were really possessed, wrapping his naked body around Snape's fully-clothed one and clinging to him as he ripped the dog collar away to bite and suck at Snape's neck. His legs were around Snape's waist; his ankles crossed in the small of Snape's back. He felt it when Snape plucked at the buttons on his own breeches and drew out his rock-hard prick, smearing the head of it, a little desperately, over the soft skin behind Harry's balls, and up into his crack.

Harry's eyes flew open as the questing head sought out the opening to his body and pushed in, just a little. It hurt as it pressed inward. Harry struggled.

"No! Don't take it yet!" he cried, trying to lift himself up and off Snape's large cock.

"Just a little way in," Snape gasped, voice very gruff and hoarse, "Please, just a little -"  

Harry considered this. Was it sex if it was only a little way? He was not entirely sure why he was still making Snape wait. He desperately wanted to have sex, after all…  

"Alright," he panted, knowing full well that, if he but said the word, Snape, drunk on passion, would ease himself fully in and they would be having full sex, here in the park. He was not quite ready for their first time, not quite there yet, especially not dry like this. It was inevitable, true, but he did not want it to happen here, where he used to come for walks, so often, with Sirius…  

"You are thinking of someone else," Snape panted, digging the fingernails of one hand sharply into Harry's buttock to bring him back. "Do not think of someone else whilst we are like this."  

To console him, Harry gently rubbed his own erect cock against the wool of Snape's dark coat, so that Snape could feel how hard he was.

"Put it in me then," he murmured, breathily, "just a little way."  

He moaned as Snape grabbed his buttocks in both hands and burrowed his cock upwards, against his tense hole, with only the slick secretion of pre-ejaculate to ease its passage.

It pressed painfully, and then Harry felt it as it popped past the ring of muscle and slid, about half an inch, inside him.

"Oh…oh…oh!" Snape moaned. "Yes, Harry, yes."  

Shocked with sensation, Harry bit his lip and came against Snape's coat, spasming against him. As his body rocked and jolted, Snape slide a little further inside him, and the contraction of his anal muscles made Snape scream and grab at him and try to bury his cock fully inside as he orgasmed too, into Harry…  

Snape's legs gave way and they collapsed, panting, onto the dark grass. Snape's cock slid out, smearing semen down the back of Harry's thigh. They lay there, entangled in the flickering candlelight, listening to the music and the beating of their hearts.

"I'm so sorry," Snape panted, covering his face with his arm.

Harry felt Snape's come drip out of him.

"Am I a virgin, still, do you think?" he asked, gazing over at Snape's screwed up face.

"I… am not sure," Snape admitted, scrubbing his hand across his flushed cheek. "I got… carried away. You were just so… I'll never forgive myself."  

"I am not sure, either," Harry sighed, rolling away to curl up unhappily on the grass. Snape curled his body around Harry's from behind, wrapping a soothing arm around him.

"I think a virgin is one who does not know the grinding and thrusting pleasure of real sex," he said softly, into Harry's ear, "which you still do not."  

"No," said Harry, smiling a little, slightly reassured.

"You will someday," Snape murmured, kissing his ear.

"Yes…" Harry wriggled back against him.

"With me," Snape added, moving his lips lower to suck sloppily at Harry's graceful neck.

"Yes…" Harry whispered, turning his head and allowing Snape, just for once, to kiss him full on the mouth…  

 * * * * * 

Harry and Snape were in the parlour, playing at Speculation. The object of the game was to be the holder of the highest trump at the end of the round.

Harry sipped delicately at his glass of wine and tried to concentrate, which was difficult, as the parlour was rather chilly.

He lifted his tightly-bound wrists and flicked a card onto the table. Snape smirked, and they both turned their cards over. Snape's smirk widened. He deftly collected up the cards. Harry shifted uncomfortably.

"Is there a problem?" Snape purred, glancing up from the card table to take in Harry's predicament.

Harry wiggled again, his bare bottom cold on the wooden chair.

Snape's gaze dropped to Harry's lap, where his Chastity Belt was locked securely via five leather straps - two about Harry's waist, one encircling each thigh and one beneath his balls. A leather pouch fit very snugly over his penis, preventing him from becoming too erect. It was rather restrictive, not least because Harry's bound wrists were attached to his thighs by a length of cord.

He had to aim and throw the cards at the table - more than once, he missed, and Snape would be forced to lean underneath the table (smirking all the while) to collect them for him.

"We shall have to think very hard about what to feed all the Malfoys, when they arrive," Harry said, suddenly.

Snape glowered at him and threw down his cards in annoyance.

"When were you going to mention them to me?" Harry demanded.

"I wasn't," Snape sniffed. "They are none of your business."  

"Of course," Harry sneered. "I'm only stuck in this house, unable to go out, unless you take me - I only have to do, what, all the bloody cleaning for them! Which you don't seem to notice, and I'm exhausted, but no, you just want to fuck - what's wrong now?" Harry demanded, eyeing Snape's cards and realising, frustrated, that he would have won that round.

"You are here for your own protection - and I wish you would not talk of housekeeping matters during our evenings together," Snape replied, grumpily, folding his arms and settling back moodily in his chair. "It is hardly conducive to arousal, even when you are dressed like that."  

Harry blinked, slightly surprised.

"What would you rather I talk about?" he asked, perplexed. "You don't want to talk about them, you don't want to talk about anything - whatever happened to all those books on magic you used to give me -"  

"You could," Snape interrupted, nodding towards the belt, "tell me how you feel in that… contraption."  

"I'm cold," Harry replied, sulkily.

Snape threw up his hands in disgust.

"What is wrong with you?" Harry cried. "You gave me this…uncomfortable thing… to wear, in order to keep my chastity! I can think of few things more chaste than discussing the housekeeping, and the horrible Malfoys, whoever they are - unless you wish to talk about God? Or Voldemort?" Harry yanked at his wrists in irritation.

"I did not really expect you to be chaste in it!" Snape groused, getting to his feel tetchily and stooping to untie the cord that bound Harry's wrists to his thighs. Relieved, Harry lifted his (still bound) wrists for Snape to release, but Snape ignored him and returned to his seat. He collected up his cards, glancing over at Harry's discarded hand and smirking.

"Ah. Pity that. You would have actually won, for a change," he simpered. Harry curled his lip and sneered back, but said nothing. He woefully watched Snape sorting out the cards and suddenly had an odd realization of the surreal twist his life had taken of late. Such thoughts came to him often, these days.

Once more, he wondered what would poor Sirius have thought, if he could see Harry now? Harry sighed.

"What is the matter?" Snape snapped, scornfully, dealing out the cards with vitriol.

"I am merely thinking of poor Sirius," Harry began, mournful. Snape was on his feet in a second, eyes blazing. Rearing up, Harry thought, like a spitting cobra from one of Hermione's history journals…  

Snape turned the little table over in a fit of fury - cards burst, fluttering, into the air. They showered down around a distraught Harry and scattered all over the floor like confetti.

"What madness has seized y - no!" Harry scrambled out of his chair as Snape made a grab for him with his talon-like fingers. He darted behind the chair and shoved it desperately in Snape's direction. Snape, lips twisted in a snarl, back-handed it out of the way and lunged.

Harry cried out. Evading Snape's clutches by inches, he twisted and darted for the door. Heaving it open, he fled down the passageway, the Chastity belt squeezing at his thighs and the leather wedging itself awkwardly up between his buttocks.

Snape charged out of the parlour, growled, and dashed off after him.

Harry, reaching the main hall, had to make the sudden decision of whether to run up the stairs to the bedrooms (too suggestive), or down into Snape's basement laboratory (no way out, but rich in places to hide)…  

He darted down the dark steps, blundering into the wall at the bottom and feeling his way, frantically, along the tiny passage, until it opened out into the cavernous basement room.

The dimly-lit room was lined with bottles and jars and cabinets, and criss-crossed with wooden benches, on which a myriad of darkly simmering cauldrons bubbled over low flames. Hearing Snape's rapid footfalls upon the stairs, Harry dashed across the room and squatted behind one of the benches, heart pounding.

Snape reached the bottom of the steps and paused.

Harry listened, nervously, as the older man began to prowl throughout the room, hunting for him.

"I will have you," Snape growled; voice echoing, low and menacing, "you wild, wanton creature."  

Harry stayed silent.

"Come out," Snape continued, "and let me rip that chastity belt off you."  

Harry shivered.

He realised that Snape was going to pass by his bench soon, and started to crawl away, shuffling over the cold stone floor on his hands and knees.

Suddenly, from behind him -


Harry screamed, scrambling to his feet as the spell blasted toward him and dashed itself to pieces over the stones. Skidding around a table, he turned, panting, to see Snape marching over, wand raised and pointed at him.

"Put your wand away!" Harry gasped, but Snape was already muttering an incantation under his breath. The next moment, Harry crashed to the floor as his feet were yanked out from under him. Harry found himself being dragged backwards by his ankles; as if some invisible chain were hauling him in, like a catch of fish, towards Snape.

Snape was smirking at him with a look of triumph on his thin, sallow face.

Harry tried to claw at the stones to wrench himself away, but the charm was too strong. As he passed, his bound hands seized the leg of a table, laden with equipment and ingredients.

He ended up dragging the table, its legs squealing as they scraped along the floor - and then suddenly it fell, crashing backwards as its legs were pulled out from under it, just as Harry's had been. He watched, horrified - then glanced up at Snape's face. Snape's expression was livid. Harry turned wildly back to the mess of ingredients and broken glassware strewn all over the floor.

Then Snape was on him. Grabbing him by the hips, by the leather straps of the chastity belt, he hauled Harry up off the floor, onto all fours and roughly manhandled him around to face his -  

"Mmmmmurgh!" was all Harry could say in protest as Snape, one hand harshly holding the back of Harry's tousled head, tugged his breeches open and drew out his musky erection, stuffing it roughly into Harry's open, gasping mouth.

"Suck it," Snape snarled, his hips jabbing forward viciously as he dug the fingernails of both hands into Harry's scalp.

Harry's eyes watered. He brought up his tightly bound wrists to try and hold the base of Snape's cock; to take back a little control. His fingers trembled as he slid them over the front of Snape's breeches; over his turgid flesh.

Snape's thick cock jabbed at the back of Harry's throat, and he gagged. Snape groaned and did it again. Lips stretched and sore, Harry retched. He was going to be sick, he was sure of it.

"Ah!" Snape pulled out of Harry's abused mouth and leant back against one of the workbenches, his wet cock hanging, raw and heavy, from the opening in his breeches.

"You need to learn to cover your teeth," Snape groaned, fingers fluttering cautiously over his tender penis.

"You need to learn to control your temper - and to not force it down my throat!" Harry snarled, from the floor, tilting his chin up defiantly.

Snape's eyes sparked with anger.

"Then get over here and do it properly," he sneered.

Half an hour later and the room was quiet. Snape leant against the workbench, hands behind his head, Harry's head bobbing up and down deliciously in his lap.  

 * * * * * 

"Again?" Harry snapped, several evenings later. He was so tired; really not in the mood to play tonight. Sometimes, it irked him that all he and Snape did was… touch each other. It would have been nice, once in a while, to just sit and talk. They never did that any more.

Snape was looking suspiciously at him, a tangle of leather (which Harry recognised as his chastity belt) hanging loosely from one thin finger.

"What are you reading?" asked Snape, quietly.

Harry tipped the book up so Snape could see the blank cover.

"I'm reading your 'annotations'. They're completely filthy, you know," he added, burying his nose in the book again.

"Yes," Snape smirked, looking rather pleased with himself. He crossed to the bed and slid one cold hand beneath the sheets. It petted Harry's bare bottom, kneading the plump flesh almost roughly.

"You like taking liberties with me, don't you!" Harry exclaimed, swatting indignantly at Snape's questing hand with his book.

Snape withdrew it, looking sulky.

"Are you going to remain in such a foul mood all evening?" he asked, coldly.

"Why?" Harry did not glance up from his book.

"Because I wish to go out. With you. To The Swan," Snape finished, regarding Harry coolly.

He flung the chastity belt down onto the bed. Harry regarded it disparagingly.

"The last time I wore that, you didn't let me orgasm," he growled.

"It is to protect your chastity - I thought you wanted that," Snape sneered.

"I think that's long gone by now," Harry sniffed.

"Not quite," Snape snarled back. "I haven't fucked you yet."  

"Yet?" Harry challenged. "Is that why we are going to The Swan? I thought I couldn't go out, unless it was for sex?"  

"You can if I drop the spell, as I did for our little park outing…" Snape replied. "It takes a while to remove - I have spent an hour this afternoon doing just that, as I am going to The Swan on business. You are going because I desire your company, now put this on and get dressed, or we shall be late."  

 * * * * * 

The interior of The Swan was glorious. Harry, fully dressed and seated to Snape's left on a purple velvet cushion, sipped delicately from a flute of champagne.

He removed, from his thigh, the wandering hand of the young gentlemen to his left…  

Snape, deep in conversation with an elderly gentleman, (who was himself doted upon tenderly by a pretty young man with hair like spun gold) appeared not to notice. Harry wondered how a man could come to a place such as this and be concerned only with business? The sumptuousness of the semi-private room in which they had found themselves was a little… intoxicating.

The lamps were low and seated in ruby red glass holders, which made the room (and Harry's cheeks) glow a deep and sensual pink. The walls and ceiling were painted a glossy cherry, and swathed in luxurious golden fabrics. The purple cushions were plump and full, the tables stocked with an array of delicious liquors in coloured glasses, and the air saturated with clouds of cigar smoke…  

Snape took a puff of his own cigar and a sip of his champagne, and returned to his conversation.

Harry huffed, bored, and once again removed the hand that had wandered, this time, all the way into his lap. He glared up indignantly at the gentleman, whose hand he had now had to return five times. The man, seemingly a little older than Harry, and who Harry had never seen before, merely shrugged and gave him a rakish grin, before leaning closer and muttering:

"Who can blame me? And you clearly aren't getting any attention from your beau," he nodded at Snape.

Harry sniffed. This was true. He did not belong to Snape, anyway. Plus, the man's attractive young face was very close, and he smelled most enchantingly of perfume, and Harry was on his fourth glass…  

"Alright," he whispered, parting his thighs a little and allowing the man's gloved hand to slip gently between them. His eyes fluttered closed as the questing hand cupped the growing bulge in his breeches.

"What are you wearing, under there?" the man whispered, into his ear.

"My… chastity belt," Harry whispered back, feeling very naughty and arching his hips up into the caress.

"Gracious!" gasped his new friend, squeezing him harder. "Is that for the benefit of He-who-is-so-steadfastly-ignoring-you?"Harry nodded, breathless, his eyes cracking open to glance at Snape, who was still deep in his negotiations.

"Come somewhere else with me and we'll see about setting you free," the man murmured, voice rich with promise, running his hand down the inside of Harry's thigh.

Harry nodded again, heart pounding, body and brain intoxicated with arousal.

The man stood, gripped Harry firmly by the arm, and pulled him to his feet also. Harry turned to glance at Snape, who did not even seem to notice his absence.

"Let me get a couple of my friends to join us," the man hissed, manhandling Harry through the crowd of smoking gentlemen and into another, darker room.  

 * * * * * 

Here, the lamps burned low. Reclining upon great piles of cushions, languorous men lay, intertwined. The relative silence of this room was thick and damp with wet, licking sounds, and heavy panting. Harry allowed himself to be lead over to where a pair of men sat, fondling each other gently.

"Gentlemen - this is my new friend, er -" the man glanced at him.

"Harry," Harry whispered, smiling shyly. The two men on the cushions returned his awkward smile. His new friend leant over and whispered something to them, and their smiles widened.

They shifted over to make room between their bodies, and held out their hands for Harry to sit between them.

"Hello, young Harry," murmured one, kissing his jaw wetly. Harry moaned.

"I am Michael, and this is Vincent. You already know Cedric, I see," he nodded to Harry's new 'friend.'  

Someone's hands - Harry could not make out whose they were - slid over his thighs and started to caress his neglected erection again.

"Yesss," Harry groaned, parting his legs wider and throwing his head back as lips suckled at his neck.

"He likes that… Harry, we'll do something for you, if you do something for us. Are you game?" whispered Vincent, into Harry's other ear.

Harry's eyes cracked open, sparkling with mischief. He nodded.  

 * * * * * 

Satisfied, Snape sat back in his seat and reached for his glass. The order he had just jotted down in his notebook was not as substantial as he had hoped, but it would keep him them afloat for a few more months. The Malfoys would be arriving soon. Snape could scarcely afford food for him and the boy - let alone a whole party of Malfoys, accustomed as they were to the finer things…  

He drained his glass, turned to his left and realised, through the haze of tobacco smoke that was filling the room, that Harry was not by his side. He frowned. Where was the dratted boy?

Taking leave of his new client, (who was, by now, too preoccupied with his young man to notice Snape's polite bow) he collected his hat and cane and wandered into the next room. Squinting at the bodies of men sprawled over the cushions, he tried to make out where Harry had gone. Irritated when none proved to be Harry, he slipped into the next room.

This room was far darker than the others.

Upon the floor, in the gloom, Snape could see writhing, pumping forms - and hear their moans. He squinted. Nearest to him, three men sat, sprawled out across the cushions in their pleasure, whilst the dark, tousled head of a fourth man bobbed incessantly in their alternate laps.

Snape frowned again, pressing one hand absent-mindedly against his filling penis. Where on earth was Harry?

The dark haired man, who had been so busy, pulled his mouth off the cock he had been so eagerly lavishing with saliva, and turned his attention to the man in the centre of the three. The cocks of the men to either side of his new partner were gripped tightly in his fingers, one in each hand.

Pleasuring three at once, Snape thought, pressing his hand against himself again, in frustration. He needed to find Harry immediately, and get him to a more private location…  

It was to his utter shock, therefore, when the man who was now receiving the most glorious, moist oral pleasure, sank his fingers into his lover's hair and groaned "Oh, Harry!"  

He stared, eyes wide, as Harry, one cock in each hand and his mouth deliciously filled with a third, stimulated all three strangers with gusto. One of the men (whose penis was clutched in Harry's fist) leant forward and started caressing Harry's still-clothed buttocks.

The man whom Harry was orally pleasuring groaned loudly and forced Harry's mouth down hard over his cock, hips jerking involuntarily in orgasm. Harry gurgled helplessly. Snape could bear it no longer.

"Potter!" he snarled, bounding forward and seizing Harry by the back of his collar. He hauled Harry's backwards (and away from the three surprised gentlemen).

Harry ended up sat unceremoniously on his behind, blinking in confusion, red mouth wet with saliva and chin streaked with pearlescent come. He gazed blearily up at Snape, who stood, hands on his hips, towering over him and looking furious.

"What do you think you are doing?" Snape hissed, incensed. He waved one hand at Harry and his dishevelled appearance.

"Sucking cock," replied Harry, defiantly.

"Why?" Snape snarled.

"Because you were pretending I did not exist," Harry stated, wiping his chin on his sleeve.

"I was busy," Snape replied, "trying to complete a business deal!"  

"Well, why did you bring me here, then, if you were busy?" Harry cried, getting to his feet and throwing an apologetic smile at the young gentlemen he had just been… yes, well. Snape did not wish to think any further about that.

"That is it," he snapped, grabbing Harry's arm and forcing him roughly from the room. "You are intolerable, ungrateful, ridiculous - and you will be mine. Tonight."  

Chapter 30  

Outside in the cold night air, Snape flagged down a Hansom Cab and shoved Harry rudely into it.

Once inside the cab, Harry was flung against one wall.

"Stop throwing me about!" Harry shouted, fisting his hands in the front of Snape's coat as Snape, snarling, forced himself upon him.

"You will kiss me, now," Snape hissed, pushing Harry into the corner of the carriage and clawing at his face with both hands. "That chastity belt won't keep you safe tonight," Snape growled, and he mashed their mouths together.

The carriage jolted and bounced over a stone - their noses crunched together, and Harry moaned in pain. Snape, however, showed him no mercy; he forced Harry's mouth open and thrust his tongue inside. Harry gasped, his mouth full, and scrabbled against Snape's chest as Snape crushed him into the cushions, almost on top of him.

"You taste of them!" Snape spat. "Why did you do it? Are you so obsessed with sex now that you'll do anything?"  

"No!" Harry said, indignant. "It's just sex! Why are you getting so het up about it?"  

 * * * * * 

Ten minutes later and Harry was being dragged up the front steps as the carriage clattered away. Snape fumbled for the key in his pockets, before swearing, glancing about, and using his wand to unlock the door.

He kicked it open and hauled Harry inside, slamming it behind them.

"Get up those stairs, if you please," he snapped, hands already undoing his belt.  

 * * * * * 

Snape did not stop even to light the candles as he entered the bedroom - Harry had all of two second's notice, as Snape pointed his wand in the direction of the fireplace and snarled "Incendio" - before he was on the boy, pushing up against the bedpost and kissing his neck.

"I - wait!" Harry moaned. "Shouldn't we talk about what we're going to -"  

"No talking," Snape snapped. "You did not waste time talking with those gentlemen in the club! I cannot believe you did that! And you wonder why I do not let you go out?"  

"They were… nice," Harry said, weakly, heart hammering as Snape ripped open his shirt.

"Shut up, idiot," Snape said. He knelt down, then, fingers tugging at the buttons of Harry's breeches. Harry toed off his boots and stockings and shrugged himself out of his torn shirt and waistcoat.

The next moment, Snape had spun around and seized something from the drawer of his dresser. He turned back to Harry, a knife in his hand. Harry paled, but Snape advanced towards him and pulled at Harry's breeches. Harry struggled to undo the buttons, stepping out of his clothes, before Snape set the knife to the leather of the chastity belt, slicing it open.

When he had one side open, he took it in his hand and ripped it off. Harry cried out, for suddenly he was completely naked. His cock bobbed eagerly up against his stomach. Snape growled, dropped the knife, and grabbed him.

He slid his hands up Harry's thighs and cupped his buttocks in both hands, clenching hard. Harry leant his head happily on Snape's shoulder and moaned softly. Snape squeezed his bottom, kneading the flesh in his palms, his fingers digging in…  

One of Snape's hands slid back and around, and Harry flinched as he was penetrated by one stained, bony finger.

So much for foreplay, he thought.

"Enjoy that?" Snape murmured, into Harry's ear, inserting another finger up Harry's bottom.

"I'm a bit… dry," Harry said, frowning. He bounced up and down on Snape's fingers, trying to make them go deeper. Snape gasped and wedged his hand further up inside Harry's body; fumbling for his wand and casting… something which made Harry feel very slippery. He shivered.

"Better?" Snape snapped, curling his fingers to stroke Harry inside.

"Much," Harry snapped back, eyes fluttering closed. Arousal spiked sharply to his groin.

"How did you know those men?" Snape growled, suddenly. Harry's eyes snapped open, flashing with delight.

"You mean the ones I was sucki -" Harry began, but Snape clapped his hand over Harry's mouth to stop him.

"I do not want to hear about that," he snarled, his face very close to Harry's. "You are mine; you belong to me! Who knows whom you might have encountered - what if you had been sucking off a Death Eater, what then?"  

"I do that every night," Harry sneered back. "Wouldn't be anything new."  

"You're a whore," Snape said, savagely. "Why did you do it? You are disgusting to me!"  

Harry wilted a little - then anger sparked inside of him; he slapped Snape around the face and wrenched himself away, muttering:

"Bastard. If I'm so disgusting then you can just sleep alo - "  

He got all of two steps, however, before Snape seized his wrist and pushed him roughly over the bed. Harry was sprawled across the mattress. He felt Snape's weight across his back; Snape had always been stronger than him, and it made him helpless, which he detested.

Snape fumbled around at his back, and seconds later Snape's large, blunt cock was pressing harshly against the back of his thigh.

"It would be obscenely easy to fuck you now, Potter," Snape snarled, in his ear.

"Go on then," Harry grunted, gritting his teeth, bracing himself. "If you must. Old man."  

Snape stepped back and swatted at his bottom, cruelly, lip curled.

"You don't frighten me," Harry sneered. "I haven't done anything wrong! Bet you couldn't shag me if you tried, anyway. Bloody impotent old git."  

That worked. Only not in the way Harry had intended.

Everything happened in a blur.

Snape lunged for him, grabbing his throat, lifting Harry clear off the bed and slamming him into the floor. Still gripping him by the throat, Snape crawled on top of him, staring into his eyes, searching for his fear...

Harry grinned.

"Much better," he choked.

Snape, kneeling astride his body, fumbled at his flies with his free hand and pulled out his cock again. Shuffling forward on his knees, he held it down for Harry to suck, pushing it deep down his throat. Harry choked and coughed, but Snape pushed it deeper.

"Seeing as you were so eager to do this tonight, here," he said, cruelly.

Harry thrashed about beneath him, and sank his fingernails into Snape's balls. Snape growled and pulled back. Harry, coughing, glowered up at him, lips wet and sticky. Snape gripped his wet cock in his fist.

"Just fuck me with it then, stop messing around," Harry snarled.

Snape's eyes flashed fiercely. He got up off Harry - who whipped out from under him. He made it as far as the bed before Snape grabbed him again, bent him over the mattress and pushed into him, hard.

"Oh! Oh my God!" Harry screamed, eyes wild, nerve endings exploding with arousal and pain.

Snape grunted, teeth bared, and laid his forehead on Harry's bare shoulder, eyes squeezed shut. Harry gasped. It hurt; it felt strange, like he needed to go to the toilet. He tried to force his quivering muscles to relax, pushing a little, but he was very tight. Snape must be having difficulty not -  

"Don't you dare come!" Harry ordered, urgently, twisting his head to look anxiously into Snape's face. Snape snorted.

"I'm…trying… not to," he gritted out.

"So much for bloody preparation," Harry gasped, feeling full up from his head to the tips of his toes. Stuffed. "What if you've torn me inside?"  

"You're fine," Snape muttered. "You're slipperier than an eel."  

To emphasise his point, he pulled almost completely out and then pushed back in - and was rewarded with a satisfying squelching sound. Something glutinous dripped down the back of Harry's left thigh.

"Get on with it, then!" Harry said, impatiently. Snape, panting, teeth bared, fucked him a little bit. Shallowly.

Harry didn't much like it; he wanted to be used hard, but Snape wouldn't bloody… Snape grabbed his hair suddenly and forced his head round. Their eyes met; both sets of pupils wide and dilated with feral arousal.

Snape pushed into him all the way and Harry hissed; bared his teeth. His eyes fluttered closed as Snape began to thrust into him, over and over.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

"Don't close your eyes," Snape mumbled, into Harry's naked shoulder. He wrapped his fingers around Harry's eager erection and squeezed hard, shoving his hips up against the boy's bottom over and over and over -

Harry knew Snape was speaking, but he didn't hear him. He bit his lip and his face lit up as his lips quirked in a blissful smile.

Don't stop. Yes. Yes. Don't. Think. Just. Fuck. In. In. Yes. Yes!

Snape said it again. Harry slid his fingers reverently over Snape's nose…  

Snape raised one hand and slapped the dizzy expression off the boy's face.

"Fuck!" Harry gasped, eyes stuttering open. "What was that for?"  

"Listen to me when I speak to you," Snape growled.

Anger flared in Harry's green eyes and suddenly Snape was pushed roughly away by the shoulders. He lost his footing and fell over backwards - and Harry was up, crawling away across the mattress.

"I can't believe you just slapped me during sex - don't slap me during sex!" Harry cried.

Cursing, Snape clawed his way to his feet.

"You slapped me," he grumbled, crawling after Harry, bollocks heavy and swinging beneath his hard cock, which poked out of his trousers.

Harry leapt off the bed like a cat and took refuge against the wall, hands against the cracked plaster; fingers splayed, chest heaving.

"Come and get me," the boy growled.

Snape picked the young man up and fucked him up against the wall.  

 * * * * * 

It was wild, grasping, biting, rough… The result of months - years - of pent up aggression and attraction…

Harry bit Snape's shoulder twice during. He kicked Snape in the back when he wound his legs around the older man's waist, pulled Snape's hair too hard, poked him in the eye more than once, bit his tongue, and clawed so hard into his back that Snape felt he would lose his erection from the pain…  

Harry grunted, and groaned. Snape was rough, and he was sore inside already.

Snape hadn't even taken his clothes off yet either (although Harry was dimly aware that he might have shredded the back of Snape's shirt with his fingernails). Harry was crushed too hard against the wall, and his erection was trapped painfully against Snape's hip. His head kept banging backwards against the wall with each thrust.

Snape's greasy hair was in his mouth and eyes and nose, and he was going to have bruises on his bum from Snape's tight hold…  

It was bliss. Almost.

"I'm not a nail!" Harry growled, suddenly.

"What?" Snape asked, sweat trickling down his temples and streaking his hair.

"You don't have to bang away like that!" Harry spat. "I'm sore. I'm new at this, and you're not treating me very gently!"  

Snape bit him, and didn't alter his thrusts. If anything, they became even harder.

"Fucking rude brat," Snape snarled, pressing the flat of his tongue to Harry's collar bone.

"Stop being so nasty to me during my first time! If you had any technique, or were even remotely considerate! I thought you cared for me," Harry gasped.

"Right, that's it," Snape snapped. He pulled out and dropped Harry unceremoniously on his arse. Harry rubbed the back of his neck and groaned.

"Get on the bed," Snape ordered, pointing at the bed sharply. "I'll show you."  

"I'm not your bitch," Harry said, defiantly. "It's not all about sticking it in and pounding away."  

"No?" sneered Snape. "Then how exactly does one have sex? Seeing as you are the expert?"  

"I am not an expert," Harry said, curt.

"Evidently you are, if tonight is any indication," Snape replied, bitterly. "Four men in one night. Go on, Potter, show me where I've been going wrong all these years."  

"'All these years,' of course," Harry snorted, clambering up.

"What?" Snape snapped.

"Nothing," Harry sniggered, trotting over to the bed and bending over the edge of it, raising his bum and parting his legs to give Snape better access.

Snape stood by the wall with his arms folded, for a moment. Just to be difficult.

Harry shook his bum at him impatiently. His buttocks wobbled most delightfully… Snape strode over and seized the young man's hips. Harry turned and arched his back. Delicious.

"Put it in and grind your hips," Harry ordered, spreading his legs a little wider.

"Grind, indeed. Stop ordering me about," Snape grumbled, but he grabbed his cock in one hand and spread Harry's buttocks with the other. He smeared the head of his erection around the stretched hole and then pushed in.

Harry grunted.

Snape kept pushing in, until he was balls deep. Then he sighed.

"Go on," Harry panted. "Grind your hips into my ars - ooooohhhhh!"  

Snape pushed his hips up against Harry's bum and began to grind, slowly, in circular movements.

"Feel good, uh?" he snarled, into Harry's ear. Harry threw his head back and grinned.

"Uhuh," he smirked, bringing his tongue out to lick his red lips. Snape could smell the sweat clinging to his back and his tousled dark hair. He pressed his mouth to the back of the boy's neck and licked.

"Lift my leg up," Potter moaned. "Gets it in deeper."  

Snape slid his hand up under Harry's right thigh and lifted it up.

"Where did you learn these, ah, tricks then?" Snape panted.

"The book - you remember? The one I got on my birthday, which you took - "  

"I remember," Snape gasped. "Louder."  

He thrust deeply in and bit Harry's shoulder. Harry screamed.

Snape's bite deepened and Harry flinched. He tilted his hips so that his bum was higher and his back even more arched, and groaned.

"Oh, fuuuck, yes, Severus!"  

Leaving Harry to hold his own leg up, Snape grabbed Harry's buttocks in both hands, getting a nice round handful of flesh and squeezing.

"Fuck me really slow," Harry murmured, "so I can feel it going in and out, every inch of you..."  

Snape gritted his teeth. Slowly, he eased himself nearly completely out, then gradually - achingly slowly - pushed back in. Harry gave a groan that reverberated all the way down to his toes.

"Move back a bit, so I'm away from the bed," he whispered, urgently. Snape, reluctant to pull out, shuffled backwards, taking Harry with him. When they were about a yard from the bed, the young man bent over at the waist and grabbed his own ankles, then placed his hands on the floor.

"Right," Harry whispered. "Pound me, please."  

 * * * * * 

An hour later they were still at it. Harry was bedraggled, and exhausted, but still he couldn't stop, didn't want it to finish. Nor, it seemed, did Snape.

"Uh! Fucking like this is so naughty isn't it? Fucking me in the arse," Harry panted, squirming on Snape's lap.

He'd managed to get Snape's trousers open, and his shirt partially undone and hanging off one sallow shoulder. He was making the most of it now, as he bounced, by nipping and licking Snape's sweat-slicked skin.

"I wish you'd stop talking like a whore," Snape groused, thrusting upwards into him. "You've had entirely too much practice saying ridiculous things to people. Must have been that job of yours," he snorted. "All those ridiculous things you sold out of the back of that wheelbarrow…"  

"How would you like me to talk, then?" Harry snapped, eyes narrowed.

"I don't want you to say a word," Snape rasped, pumping his hips up, harder. "Unless you wanted to be romantic, which you don't."  

Harry got the impression Snape was… fishing, for something… Something he wanted Harry to say. Harry had no idea.

"You don't like dirty talk?" Harry asked, raising his head.

"I don't like it when it sounds scripted," Snape snapped back. "Can't you just be honest?"  

"Alright, then!" Harry scowled. He knew he ought not to let Snape get to him, but he was tired, and sick of being insulted, especially during his first time. "You've got your elbow in my side and your cock prodding entirely the wrong place and I wish you'd wash your hair!"  

Snape shoved him off as though Harry had been on fire.

"I fucking detest you!" Snape shrieked, on his feet in an instant and pacing. "Spoiled, ignorant, arrogant, useless, moronic, spoiled -"  

"You used that one already," Harry tutted, from the floor. "I know none of them are true - you did propose, after all!" His back was sore now, and his wrists ached. He was going to be bruised in the morning. "Stop moaning like a girl and get it in my arse," he murmured, sulkily.

Snape folded his arms and turned away, nose in the air, wounded. Harry kicked Snape's coat, which lay puddled on the floor. Then he smirked.

"Want me to hold myself open for you?" he grinned, and got himself onto all fours.

Snape paused in his brooding and stared at him.

"Yes," Snape growled. Harry reached back and parted his buttocks with his fingers, pulling them apart. "God, you're so stretched open," Snape murmured, and Harry blushed happily.

Snape crouched down, slid back into him and started slowly rocking the two of them together, his chest against Harry's sweat-slicked back. Running his hands over Harry's sides, palms open to touch and stroke, he suddenly slid his fingers down the backs of the young man's legs.

"Do you truly have nothing to say to me?" Snape panted. Harry pretended not to have heard him.

Snape rolled them over, so that he, Snape, lay on his back, and Harry straddled him. Harry obediently lifted himself up and sank down, bouncing up and down on Snape's fat cock. Snape's fingernails dug harshly into the flesh on his slender hips as Snape, every time Harry came down from a bounce, shoved his hips up ruthlessly, thrusting himself deep inside Harry.

Harry lifted his arms above his head and stretched erotically, and Snape's hands left his hips and slid up, fingers splayed, through the sheen of sweat moistening Harry's chest. Harry's eyes fluttered closed. He sighed.

"Mmm," Harry smiled. Snape tried to sit up, lift his face and kiss Harry on the mouth, but Harry turned his face away - and continued bouncing.  

 * * * * * 

Half an hour later…  

"YES! GOD! Fuck me HARDER!" Harry screamed, on his back.

"Fucking. Hell," Snape panted. "I've. Wanted. To. Do. This. For. So - ah!"  

Snape braced himself, elbows either side of the young man's shoulders, and started ramming himself in and out, fast, his balls slapping Harry's buttocks with every inward stroke.

Harry threw his head back and howled.

The bed squeaked horribly. Harry's head was banging repeatedly against the headboard and both his legs had gone to sleep from being up in the air for so long. Snape's discarded trousers were still hanging off one of his calves. Harry bent his legs and grabbed the backs of his knees, pulling himself more open.

"Come on, is that the best you can do?" Harry panted, grinning provocatively and licking the sweat from the side of Snape's face.

Snape pulled back, eyes dark with lust. In a moment, he had Harry on his front, bent over a stack of pillows with his arse in the air.

"I'm going to come in you," Snape growled. "Now."  

Harry moaned as Snape buried himself deep inside his arse in one long thrust, and snarled, biting down into Harry's pink shoulder as he shuddered his orgasm into Harry's body.

'Oh,' said Harry softly, over and over. He could feel Snape's cock convulsing inside him.

Snape slumped against him, weight heavy on Harry's back for a moment; then sat up. Gingerly, Harry reached around and pulled his buttocks apart, so that Snape could see his stretched and leaking hole, pink and still twitching. There was a gurgling sound, and a large, bubbling glob of white cum slithered out and slopped onto the mattress.

"Good?" Harry panted. Snape squeezed one of his buttocks and nodded, breathing hard.

"Good," Snape murmured. He sounded out of breath, and looked rather cross.

"You could smile," Harry snapped. "Or look remotely happy."  

"I am happy," Snape gasped, glowering at him.

"You sound exhausted," Harry smirked. "Too much for you, was it, old man?"  

"Don't wind me up now, brat, or you'll regret it later," Snape grumbled, flopping gracelessly down on his back beside Harry, who stayed on all fours, propped up on his elbows.

"So… that's all sex is, then?" Harry asked, cheekily. Snape moaned and rolled over.

"Why, did you not like it? Confused again, Potter?" Snape sneered.

"No," Harry growled back.

"Good, because I think there's little question now that you are a sodomite. You moan too prettily, when I take you hard, to be anything less," Snape smirked, running his hand up Harry's inner thigh. "All those months of trying to deny it…"  

"Leave me alone!" Harry snarled. Snape ignored him; his other hand slipped across Harry's chest and began to toy deliciously with one of his nipples.

"You will kiss me," he said, suddenly. "I don't care if you want to keep pretending, but you will kiss me now." And he leant over; pressing their dry mouths together and making Harry writhe in his arms.

Harry didn't even have time to ask Snape what he was supposed to be 'pretending' - before Snape demanded another go.  

Chapter 31  

Throughout all this, the house was still being cleaned from top to bottom. The three weeks passed so quickly; McGonagall remained behind late several evenings in order to help him (which made the sex awkward), but there seemed an unending progression of rooms to clean, beds to make, linens to wash and floors to scrub.

It was past midnight by the time Harry dragged himself, exhausted, to Snape's bedroom door. The moment he stepped inside, however, he was seized, and Snape slid one hand down his buttons and the other inside his breeches.

"Please, Professor, not now! I'm exhausted, aren't you exhausted?" Harry groaned, sagging against the closed door.

"The Malfoys will be arriving in three days. Let me take you tonight, for I am not sure how we will carry this on in secret," Snape growled.

"No," Harry murmured, trudging to the bed and stripping quickly, sick with tiredness. He just wanted Snape to go away, but Snape was at his back, helping him undress and sliding his hands deliciously all over Harry's bare skin.

"You're utterly obsessive, aren't you," Harry groaned, eyes drooping even as Snape's eyes widened.

"Don't be insolent," Snape snapped, guiding him into bed and removing the last of his clothing.

Harry crawled under the sheets, giving Snape a shove as the older man tried to embrace him again.

"Can't we just do it in the morning?" he mumbled. Snape sighed somewhere above him.

"If we must," Snape muttered.

"Alright then…" Harry whispered, unable to keep his eyes open. He just wanted to sleep, so badly, his whole body ached…  

 * * * * * 

Harry woke sometime before dawn, to find himself squashed against Snape, his head on his master's shoulder.

He had apparently slept all night in the circle of the man's arms. This was not usual.

He tried to stretch. He was hot and uncomfortable - his shoulders and back ached, as if he had been lying in an awkward position for many hours. Snape's greasy hair had flopped into his eyes; the man's nose was buried in his hair. Snape's mouth was open and he was snoring thunderously, breath moist on Harry's face. Surprised the noise had not awoken him sooner, Harry lay in this sweaty cocoon with Snape and suddenly felt so sorry for this solitary man, who had, Harry suspected, driven away everyone he had ever cared for, including Harry's own mother.

Snape was intense; fanatical; ruthless - in his work as well as in pursuit of things he wanted. And he wanted Harry.

Harry wished he felt something in return.

He had reasoned, over the past few weeks, that he must feel something.

To keep going to bed with Snape, he mustn't be totally heartless… But, ever since Sirius' death, he had felt so… numb, emotionally. The excitement, the trepidation, with which he looked forward to his and Snape's outings last year had gone, and in its place he felt…  


Exasperated. Aroused physically and yet… empty, inside.

Harry barely ever let Snape kiss him. He did not feel it would be right. Yet, he was aware, now they had begun having sex, that Snape would see it as something more.

As a… higher commitment, an expression of… feeling.

Harry was not sure what he felt, above the physical; above his enjoyment of the blissful sensations Snape evoked in him. Snape was keen to explore different avenues of sexuality, and Harry enjoyed them with him because… because they were so impersonal. Being a doll, or a pony, or a devil, meant that it never had to be Harry and Severus.

That, however, was what Harry knew with chilling certainty was Snape's true desire; for Harry to love him in return. To make love with him.

Harry was not sure he ever would.

At least Snape had never actually said the words to him. Fortunately, he did not think Snape ever would do. Snape just was not the type.  

 * * * * * 

The night before the Malfoys were due to arrive, Harry and Snape went at it like wild animals. It was not at all spiritual. Harry was on his knees on the polished wooden floor of Snape's sitting room, naked, shaking, his back arching as Snape pulled out of his body with a wonderful oozing pop.

Snape smeared the head of his cock around the rim of Harry's stretched arsehole, then lined up and tried to push back in. Harry, unable to see what was going on, frowned as the organ slipped, and slid excitedly across his left buttock, spreading a line of goo as it slithered.

He heard Snape grunt out a swear word, then felt him try again, the fingers of one bony hand digging harshly into the plump flesh of Harry's rump.

Harry sucked in a breath as he was spitted, precisely this time, and with excruciating slowness. He wiggled, frustrated, and Snape's fingers dug into him like talons.

"Stay. Still!" Snape groaned, and Harry wondered whether Snape wanted to slap him. But he was needy, and flushed all over. He pushed his bottom backwards, blindly - then felt the muscles give and Snape's cock burrowed between his arse cheeks, stuffing him.

"Ah! Ooohhh…" he howled, head of sweat-straggled hair dropping to rest against his arm as Snape grabbed his hips in both hands and seated himself fully inside him.

He ground his hips hard into Harry's arse, causing Harry to moan as the cock up his bottom massaged him from inside…  

Harry threw his head back as Snape started, cautiously, to thrust into him, breathing out hard on each push in.

Snape started petting his hips, patting and stroking, pinching even. Harry, eyes slitted into green crescents, panted and gasped as Snape bucked and shoved behind him, each thrust pushing Harry forwards. He ended up using his hands not just to hold him up, but to push himself backwards to stop him sliding forwards onto his face.

Snape sped up his thrusts, and Harry felt each shove ripple through his body, causing his knees to crunch against the hard wood floor as thrills jolted along the length of his spine.

"This! Isn't! Going! To! Work!" he gasped out, almost in time with Snape's thrusts. He could almost feel Snape frowning behind him.

"What's wrong?" Snape growled, pausing, his cock still balls-deep in Harry's arse.

Harry took advantage of suddenly not being rhythmically jolted forwards to gasp for breath.

"I… it's my knees - can we do a different -" but he did not even finish his question before Snape had pulled out and clambered to his feet.

Harry looked up, still on all fours, to see Snape still frowning down, arms folded, behind him.

"What would you prefer?" Snape asked, irritated.

"Um… maybe if you sit down, over there," Harry nodded his straggled head at an armchair, and Snape immediately strode, stark naked, towards it.

Harry took a moment to admire his dimpled buttocks, before suddenly Snape had sat down in his chair, legs parted, and was glowering at Harry for still being on the floor. Harry stared at him.

When we have sex, I don't have to think. When we have sex I can forget Sirius, and the pain. All I have to think of is your body. Is that… wrong of me?

Harry crawled painfully over to him and paused in between Snape's hairy legs. He knelt up, taking stock for a moment, looking up at Snape with gratitude brimming in his emerald eyes, until Snape lost patience and grabbed him.

This time the sex was strange, and far more intimate.

Snape was sat bolt upright, Harry's hips mashed into his groin, his cock up Harry's arse, Harry's body crushed tight in his arms.

In this position, they could kiss too, but they did not; Harry would not allow it.

Although he did give in a little and allow Snape to lick his face.

"Are you… enjoying it?" Harry asked. It was a little off-putting; the way Snape's face was almost… anguished.

"Are you on at me to smile again?" Snape groused. Harry shrugged. "It is evident that I am enjoying myself, is it not, by the fact that I am rock hard? Stupid boy."  

Harry bounced in Snape's lap, and wondered whether, if he placed his hands back on Snape's bony knees, he could watch Snape fucking his arse. But, when he leant back too far, Snape's thick cock bent at an awkward angle and Snape growled as it popped out. Before Snape could protest, Harry clambered off Snape's thighs, turned, gripped Snape's cock to position it, and lowered himself back down.

He bounced a little until it slid inside.

Snape's spindly fingers slipped under his buttocks, helping to lift him, as Harry raised his feet and placed them on the chair astride Snape's legs.

He leant his body back, laid his wet, tousled head against Snape's forehead, braced his arms on the arms of the chair, and let Snape thrust upwards and screw him.

"Shit," Snape said, into Harry's right ear, pumping his hips upwards. Harry, thighs spread and arse clenching around Snape's considerable cock, moaned.

"I can't… it's too... shit," Snape repeated, sagging into the chair and blushing. Harry collapsed back onto him, frustrated. He chuckled.

"What is it now?" he smiled, turning his face to nuzzle into Snape's sallow cheek.

Snape looked a mess; his greasy hair was straggled in two mussed curtains about his sweaty face. When Snape blushed, Harry thought, smiling, it was not a mere gentle reddening of the skin, like a dusting of powder. Snape's unfortunate, ashen complexion was red in blotches, an unattractive, dark mottling. But, at that moment, Harry suddenly felt that he'd never seen anything more wonderful. It was a strange thought. Impulsively, he tilted his head and kissed the tip of Snape's large, slightly clammy nose.

"I… it… wasn't… we must have the angle wrong. It's certainly in now," Snape gasped. "I enjoyed… thrusting into you."  

"Do you want to try it, um, with me on my back?"  

Snape nodded against his skull. Aching, Harry slid off him, and got down on his back on the rug which meagrely covered the hard floor.

This time, however, when Snape settled over him, and Harry raised his legs, wrapping them around Snape's thin waist, it just felt right.

Harry could see Snape's face like this, even though the greasy curtains of his hair hung down and tickled Harry's cheeks. Snape braced himself, hands either side of Harry's head on the polished floor, and it fell to Harry to guide Snape's cock back inside him. Snape's eyes were frantically searching his face as he began to thrust again, speeding up fast -  

And suddenly they were making these delicious squelching noises, like boots moving in luscious mud. The sound was incredible and Harry moaned in wonder, digging his nails into the sweaty skin of Snape's strong back.

"I want… so much," Snape gasped out, "to be married to you -"  

Harry's widened in surprise, just as Snape's face contorted suddenly with desperate pleasure. Harry sucked in a breath as the older man, teeth clenched together and eyes closed tightly, growled - and came.

Harry dug his fingernails even further in and Snape made a sudden series of deep, sobbing noises, then collapsed on top of him.

Petting him gently, Harry realised with a jolt that he had scratched deep, painful looking furrows in Snape's white back.

He hadn't come, either, but he did not care. He was sore, and… sticky, and blissfully lethargic, nonetheless.

He rolled Snape off him, lowered his cramped legs stiffly, and stretched his deliciously aching body out.

Rolling onto his front, he lay flush against the older man's side and almost drifted off to sleep...  

 * * * * * 

Snape, eyes still closed, panted a little, then turned his head and buried his nose in the sweaty hair at the nape of Harry's neck.

Harry sleepily hummed his approval and Snape's mouth slid wetly from the back of his neck around to his jaw. Snape inhaled, deeply, and Harry angled his head away to give him better access. There were hands on his hips, kneading the muscles of his back, his buttocks… Harry writhed and wanted more sex, but Snape seemed content to just nuzzle and mouth at him, sloppily.

Harry suddenly found himself being encouraged to kneel up on all fours. He shrugged, grumpily, and felt so exhausted that only his legs made it; his elbows gave way and his face thudded back down into the rug, where it stayed.

Snape huffed, and slid an arm under him himself, lifting Harry's back; angling him just so…  

Harry shivered when he felt something warm sliding within him. Something glutinous, like raw egg; and then the whole lot just slopped out in one go, smearing down the back of his thigh and pooling on the rug.

Snape made a pleased-sounding grunt, and sucked at the snail-trail left on the skin in the crease of Harry's buttock. Harry propped himself up on his elbows and craned his neck to look over his shoulder.

"Have I made a mess on your floor? I'm sorry, I -"  

"I don't care," Snape interrupted, his voice gruff.

He took Harry into his arms again, and the way he enfolded Harry so tenderly in his embrace made Harry's numb heart ache…  

Snape nestled full-length against his back, spooned around him.

He nuzzled Harry's hair and neck with his large nose.

Breathed Harry in.

Kissed his shoulder.


"I love you," he whispered, eyes closed in bliss.

A soft confession, laying bare his heart…  

Harry's own heart stopped in pure terror.  

 * * * * * 

Oh, God!

Snape had never said this to him before, not even when he was proposing! Harry suspected Snape had never confessed it to anyone before; had never trusted another soul enough to lay himself open like that!

He truly wished he could hold Snape's hands, and love him back. He felt awful; sick, like his body would shut down from mortification.

At least, he thought ruefully to himself, he felt something, after months of emptiness...

He then realised that Snape was waiting for his reply. Behind him, Snape's body was tense, his breath held.

At last, Snape must have been hoping that his affections were returned. Must have been trusting that they were. After all, they had been making love for months now.

Perhaps he assumed that Harry could not touch him if he did not love him.

Harry felt disgusted with himself.

"I…" Harry started; then faltered, unsure.

How would Snape respond if Harry told him the truth; that he loved no-one, that everyone he loved was dead? That his very ability to love probably went up in smoke along with everything else. It was too heartbreaking and horrible. Harry wanted to weep.

Did that make him a whore, because he had been sleeping with Snape, knowing he didn't love him?

And now, Snape would surely be upset. Harry could hardly bear to hurt him again. And yet… he could not lie. Snape had a right to know the truth.

"What is love?" Harry laughed, half-heartedly, trying to be flippant. "By its very essence, it is impossible to define, to understand."  

"Yes," Snape muttered, looking vexed, "but you must know whether you love or not. Even someone such as I know this. Tell me what you feel, when we make love." He paused, smiling a little. "Tell me how you love me."  

Tell me how you love me.

"I… it is like… I feel…," Harry murmured, ever so quietly. Then: "I'm so sorry."  

Chapter 32  

There was a horrible moment before the realisation seemed to sink in - and then Snape released him as if he has been burnt, as though Harry were white-hot.

"What?" he demanded, recoiling from Harry in sheer disbelief; eyes wide.

"I… I love no-one, it isn't just you," Harry tried to explain. "You have been incredibly kind to me, and I am fond of you, and respect you -"  

"Fond. FOND?" Snape screamed. His voice cut through Harry like a knife through butter. Harry shuddered.

"Please, do not do anything rash -" he cried, reaching for Snape.

Snape gave vent to an animalistic roar of pain at this, and raised his hand as though to slap Harry hard with the back of it. But Harry cowered, too ashamed to fight back; ready to take any punishment - and Snape froze.

"How can you not… We have been… intimate… every night for… for months," Snape choked out. "How can you feel nothing?"  

Something inside Harry twisted painfully and he wanted to be sick.

Perhaps I am not heartless after all.

"It isn't you, please understand."  

"I cannot believe you would refuse my love not once, but twice, after all I have done for you!" Snape shouted. "You WILL love me!"  

And he lunged for Harry, who screamed.

He writhed and tried to get free, but Snape was on top of him, pinning him to the floor, fumbling between them, reaching between Harry's legs to squeeze his almost-limp cock, brutally.

Harry, panicked, elbowed Snape in the chest. Snape groaned, winded, and rolled off him, wheezing. Harry tried to scramble over him and flee for the door, but Snape seized his ankle and dragged him back forcefully across the floor. Pinning Harry on his back, he backhanded him, hard, across the face.

Outraged, Harry scrabbled at Snape's neck and face with his fingernails, scratching harsh red furrows into Snape's right cheek, to match his back. Snape winced and spat in his face, trying to restrain Harry's wild, clawing hands. He managed to grab hold of one of Harry's wrists, and brought it to his mouth, eyes glinting, biting cruelly into the flesh and making Harry wail.

Harry flailed, brought his free hand up, and punched Snape square in the face.  

 * * * * * 

There was a sickening 'crack'.

Blood dripped, thick and syrupy, from Snape's nose.  

 * * * * * 

Snape roared in shock and rolled off him, clutching his broken face.

Harry made a desperate dash for the door, but was grabbed around the waist as he crawled. Pulled backwards, he was thrown down forcibly onto his front, his face in the rug.

"Please," Harry sobbed, gasping. "I can't help how I feel!"  

"Do you even know how you feel?" Snape screamed. "I do not believe you are sure! Give yourself to me again - I will show you!" He set his teeth to Harry's bare shoulder.

Suddenly, the thick length of Snape's cock, seemingly stirred by Harry's vigorous thrashing, was pressing painfully hard into the back of Harry's thigh.

He struggled as Snape tried to push himself inside; he knew Snape would have no mercy; had gone wild; would tear him horribly…  

God help me!

Harry turned his face to gasp for air and realised his shoulder was covered in Snape's blood, and there was blood on the floor -  

"Stop! Your nose! For God's sake, Severus, stop!"  

Snape stilled at the sound of his own name, on top of Harry, his hand on the back of Harry's thigh.

He rolled off Harry without a word, leaving Harry lying on his face in a pool of blood.  

 * * * * * 

Harry sat up, curling in on himself to hide his nudity. Snape took a few shaky steps, retrieved a handkerchief from the pocket of his discarded coat and stood, his bare back facing Harry. He made a horrible sobbing noise as he pressed the cloth to his bloody nose, and Harry suspected, suddenly, that Snape might be crying. He wanted to crawl over and look, but supposed he ought to spare Snape any further humiliation.

Snape's shoulders shook as his body was racked with - what Harry was now sure were - silent sobs. He ached to place a soothing palm on Snape's back, to trace the bumps of his spine through the pallid skin…  

But he did not. He remained on the other side of the room, curling his fingers uselessly against the bloody rug.

"Is there someone else?" Snape asked, all of a sudden.

Harry wanted to sob too at the brokenness in his voice, at what he had reduced Snape to.

"No," he said, as kindly as he could, "there has never been anyone else."  

Snape sniffed.

"And yet… I am not enough for you?" he demanded, voice thick.

"Don't," Harry began, sadly - but Snape spun around in anger and Harry saw his poor, tear-streaked face and his bloody nose and felt such pain. It tore at him inside to cause Snape such agony - in a moment of weakness, he was tempted just to lie; to confess love, and thereby soothe Snape's poor broken heart. But he could not. He could lie to Snape.

"I adore you," Snape said, looking straight at him, dark eyes bright and wet with sorrow. "Please, if you have any kindness in you, I beg you to -"  

"Do not beg me, please, sir! I won't let you dishonour yourself so!" Harry cried, rising, his heart threatening to burst from his chest for all it was throbbing.

Snape's gaze shifted from desperate to cold in moments.

"And you wondered why I never smile. Get out of my room," he whispered, lowering his head to rest it in his hand.

Mortified, Harry approached, but Snape's head snapped up and he roared:

"OUT! GET OUT!" with such force that his nose started to bleed again.

Harry fled; the sight of Snape's blooded, tear-stained face forever burned behind his stinging eyes.  

 * * * * * 

Harry blundered down the stairs, still naked, and into the kitchen.

He bent frantically over the sink and heaved, his stomach in knots, until he was sick. Then, trembling, he sank onto the cold tiles of the kitchen floor, clutching the dripping dish cloth to his chest and weeping.  

Chapter 33  

"What are you doing on the floor, Mr Potter?" The stern voice carried a hint of unease.

Harry looked up to see the Housekeeper standing in the doorway, hands framing her slim hips. He was still in his nightshirt, curled up mournfully on his little pile of rags on the kitchen floor. He had not slept down there in weeks, months, and had forgotten how uncomfortable it was.

Still, it had been the ache in his heart, not the ache in his bones, that had kept him from sleep all through the long night.  

 * * * * * 

All day, to Harry's immense relief, both he and Snape busied themselves with preparations, and did not cross paths.

Harry, convinced he was going to be asked to leave, started in his spare moments (of which there were few) collecting up his few possessions.

In the afternoon, the extra servants returned for one final blitz of polish and hot water. The house so bustled with people that Harry was always occupied, and the entire evening passed in a blur. He had not seen Snape once.  

 * * * * * 

That night, having seen all of Malfoy's advance party to their varying levels of sleeping accommodation, ready for the Malfoy family's arrival on the morrow, Harry curled up by the fire in the drawing room, half-heartedly cleaning a large crystal decanter.

McGonagall, who had remained for the evening, sat in an armchair, stitching up a tear in a net curtain.

The only sound was that of the crackling fire. Harry desperately needed to talk about anything, to relieve him of his swirling thoughts. He groped for something to talk about.

"What is Master Malfoy like?" he asked.

McGonagall glanced up at him; a momentary flickering of her eyes.

"Makes little difference what he's like to you, Mr Potter. You don't have to like him; we have to serve him."  

Harry wordlessly went back to polishing the decanter.

"Draco Malfoy is known throughout society as being a charming and graceful young man. Very well educated, of course, but you would expect that, with all his father owns," McGonagall said, eventually.

"What does he look like?"


"Blonde. Willowy. The same age as yourself, I suppose. He looks like his father."  

"Are they nice? Do you like them, as a family?"  

"It is not our place to like or dislike those we work for. I wish you would get that into your head. But, between you and me, even should we dislike the young Mr Malfoy, I suspect that, once he arrives, he will be here to stay."  

"Why?" Harry froze.

"It has recently been expected that young Master Draco would come and work for the Professor, once he comes of age."  

This was news to Harry.

"And work for him? H-how?"  

"Why as his apprentice, of course, how else could a Malfoy work here? He's too well educated to do anything as menial as your job."  

Harry's eyes fell. This was unsettling news. Who the hell was Draco Malfoy?

"Why does Snape need an apprentice?" Harry spluttered.

"Because… because the Professor is alone, and well-respected, and Draco Malfoy is young and… and very beautiful. Do you understand now?" The housekeeper's eyes sparkled as she looked at him.

Harry's whole body had gone cold.

"Is… is that… allowed?" he hissed.

"Oh, it will never be made public. But I can envisage our needing to clean only one bedroom, eventually," she smiled, wryly. "But you must keep all this a secret. The Professor told me in the strictest confidence."  

Harry wished his heart would get back down, out of his mouth. Blood was pounding in his ears and he could hardly breathe.

"Potter? What is it?" Mrs McGonagall looked at him as though he were mad.

"N-nothing. I've finished. May I go to bed now?" Harry stammered.

She gave him a piercing look.

"What are you thinking, Harry Potter?" Harry stared at the carpet.

"Please, can I go?"  

"Yes. But be down at six tomorrow morning. Looking presentable - try and tame that bird's nest on your head for once," she chuckled.

Harry picked up the decanter and fled the room.  

 * * * * * 

He managed to quell his panic attack until he had gotten upstairs to his room.

Only then, once he had shut the door and slumped his back against it hopelessly, did he allow himself to gasp for breath, his eyes stinging. Snape had been promised to Draco Malfoy? For how long?

Was Harry just a distraction until Malfoy came along? But, if he were… why had Snape proposed?

He did not know why this caused him so much anguish; he had just told Snape that he did not love him! This news about the Malfoy heir should bring him peace, not… torment.  

 * * * * * 

Morning was heralded by a dull grey light, snaking in through Harry's grubby windows and smacking him awake.

He had dreamed all night of wandering the streets, alone, and of knocking on doors, seeking sanctuary. All the doors were opened by Snape, who asked him the same question over and over.

When Harry was not able to say yes, I do love you, the Snapes slammed their doors in his face.

By the last door, just as he was waking, Harry's reply had changed from no, to I don't know, but please don't… not Malfoy!

It was very unsettling, and reminded him of the urgent fact that, when Snape did finally ask him to leave, Harry had nowhere else to go.  

Chapter 34  

The table was laid, the food prepared. Downstairs in the kitchen, the table there was set with jellies, pies, wild foul, bowls of sticky glazed fruits, cakes… Harry's newly sparkling decanter was filled to the top with blood-red wine.

The morning and afternoon passed in a blur, and at five thirty Harry found himself standing in a queue in the entrance hall, one face amidst many, as the servants who had been hired for the occasion lined up to welcome the guests.

Snape strode down the stairs, in a swirl of black robes.

His cheek and nose had been healed, but his hair was rather greasy and his eyes, Harry noticed, were still red.

Harry felt awful as he watched, and bowed his head in shame.

"They are late." Snape snarled, once he got to the bottom of the stairs.

Glancing up at the grandfather clock, which Harry had wound in a daze, a few hours ago, he sniffed, then silently perused the line-up.

He paced, waiting, his robes flapping out behind him gracefully. When he came to Harry, however, he stopped. Harry risked a glance up.

Snape's black eyes were cold and unforgiving.

"Couldn't you have at least attempted to sort out your appearance for our honoured guests, Potter?" he snarled.

Harry, who was expecting harshness, much to his mortification found his eyes prickling as his face heated up.

"I did try, Professor," he ground out.

"Well, not hard enough. You cannot meet the Malfoys in that state - get downstairs."  

Humiliated, Harry had to step out of the line, with ten pairs of eyes following him as he trudged away, towards the kitchen stairs.

Once he reached the kitchen, he sat on a chair and stared into the banked fire, trying to feel nothing at all, as it was his fault entirely if Snape now detested the very sight of him.  

 * * * * * 

Harry was slumped silently on a stool, dragging a heavy stick through a bubbling copper cauldron of laundry and soapy water, when suddenly there were hands in his hair.

"Come on, come on, Mr Potter, what are you doing? Potter, come over to the water. We need to flatten your hair down," the housekeeper cried.

"What for?" Harry mumbled, setting the stick down.

"The Malfoys are here, and are in need of refreshment. Take that apron off - you are to serve the sweet wine and cherries in the Drawing Room immediately."  

"Me?" Harry blinked.

"He asked for you," the lady replied, frowning at him and wetting her hands.

"Who did?" Harry persisted.

"The Professor! Come on, boy!" And she pushed his head down into a bucket.  

 * * * * * 

Harry entered the Drawing Room silently. He was carrying a tray laden with a large bowl of sticky cherries (which were winking in the candlelight) and the wine decanter.

Nobody looked up as he closed the door.

Snape was stood by the fireplace, his eyes fixed on an intoxicating young blonde who, in sneering tones, was recounting some story which periodically made all the other occupants of the room chuckle. Harry heard nothing; the blood was pounding in his ears again. All he could think of was getting the wine and cherries to the table without spilling anything in front of Snape.

His second entrance to the room, the tray laden, this time, with glass goblets, saw Draco Malfoy (for this was he) still talking animatedly. Everyone, Snape included, appeared enraptured by him.

Harry felt inexplicably sick.

He placed the tray on the little table, and set to pouring the wine and adding cherries to each full glass. He wondered whom he was to serve first…  

Guessing, he loaded the full, wobbling glasses onto the tray and set off towards, presumably, Malfoy Senior, his eyes fixed on the eight glasses of liquid swirling around precariously. Once he reached Malfoy, he lowered the tray. The blonde man reached out regally with one graceful hand and plucked a glass away, without even glancing in his direction.

He went around the room silently, almost jumping every time the occupants burst out laughing, until there were only two glasses left on the tray.

Now it was time to serve the host and his guest of honour.

He started towards the fireplace but, in his nervousness (and his desperate desire not to spill the wine onto the tray) he forgot to watch out for the footstool, which had been kicked into the middle of the floor in the excitement…  

 * * * * * 

The tray spilled out of his hands in slow motion.

So slowly; (it seemed to take forever for it to fly from his grasp as he fell) until it crashed into the lap of the young blonde.

Harry wished that it had been forever, for forever would have given him enough time to run. But, as it was, it was over in a few seconds, and Harry found himself flat on his face on the floor, the room around him having gone deathly silent (oh God, oh God no, no…)

Trembling, he raised his head.

A deep red stain was splattered across the young man's groin and up his impeccable white shirt.

"Oh," was all Harry could say.

Snape hove into view next, looking murderous.

"Draco, I do apologise for this idiot - his incompetence is just -"  

"Look at my shirt!" the blonde wailed.

"I am aware - Potter! Send one of the others in to clean up this mess immediately, I do not want to lay eyes on you again, do you understand? I am so sorry, Draco, it is just unbelievable -"  

"It really is, Severus. You would think that it took very little intelligence to just walk carrying a tray -" the blonde complained, sulkily.

But those were the last words Harry heard as he all but ran from the room, his face flaming.

So that was it. He was to leave. It was over.

McGonagall met him on the stairs, his eyes brimming with unshed tears.

"How did it go? Alright?" she asked, frowning as she caught sight of his distraught face.

"I… I poured wine all over Draco Malfoy's crotch." Harry said, in a daze. McGonagall went white.

"Why?" she asked, hands flying to her face in horror.

"Someone needs to go and clean it up. I've got to go and get my things," Harry mumbled.

"What did the Professor say?"  

"He said he never wanted to set eyes on me again."  

"I'll go and speak to him - it *was* an accident, wasn't it, Potter?"  

Harry nodded, dumb.

"Then I'll sort this out. Go and boil some water," and she was gone.

Harry slumped onto the steps.

Draco Malfoy was beautiful. So beautiful, it had clearly taken Snape only moments to become besotted, now Harry had refused him.

Harry pounded his head with his fists.  

 * * * * * 

Two hours later, Harry was sat in the sweltering kitchen, straining glossy cherry jelly through thin muslin and stubbornly trying not to weep.

Mrs McGonagall returned triumphant, and told him that, although Snape had been livid, she had succeeded in letting Harry stay, at least for the moment.

Harry did not know whether to be relieved or disappointed.

A thick white china bowl sat before him on the table, half full with iced water. Resting in the water was a copper mould, which Harry was carefully filling with different layers of coloured jellies. As he waited for the cherry layer to set, he turned mechanically to a bowl of white jelly and began to whip it into a froth to make it opaque.

Further up the table sat a completed plate of glistening and brightly-coloured jelly and cream bombes, resting on a bed of succulent and sticky crystallised fruits.

McGonagall came in, wiping her hands on her striped apron.

"Beautiful, these." She picked up the plate of coloured jelly spheres in one hand and lifted it up to the light, admiring.

Harry smiled, sadly. My peace offering.

"How is the champagne jelly for tomorrow?"  

"It's set, I'm going to add the fruit and put another clear layer on around it."  

"Good. I'll take these through. They are discussing the terms of young Mr Malfoy's apprenticeship. I believe Mr Snape is seriously considering employing him before the week is out. These should aid negotiations nicely," she winked, and bustled out, carrying the plate.

Harry wanted to scream and throw china and jelly around the room (why did I not poison the bloody jellies, why?), but instead he merely sat there, inert, staring at the wall.

The doorbell rang.

Harry got up, in a daze, and went into the hall. He opened the door and peered out, unconcerned - until he saw who was standing on the step, ringing her hands in her anxiety.

"Hermione?" he gasped.  

Chapter 35  

"Oh, Harry," Hermione exclaimed, for the umpteenth time, looking around the kitchen with her brows tightly knitted together.

"What?" Harry snapped. "This was my best option. At least Snape has, erm, offered me some refuge. There are people out there waiting their turn to try for my life, Hermione."  

He was hardly going to tell her that he couldn't physically leave the house. She would have exclaimed 'Oh Harry' again, and he would have thrown her out.

"It is a far cry from what you are used to, that is all," Hermione muttered.

Harry sat defensively on his stool, in his rags, and regarded her levelly. How do you know what I am used to? he thought. It has been over a year since you left.

"What do you want, coming here?" he asked, aloud.

"Harry!" Hermione cried. "I am your oldest friend! Why treat me so harshly? I have been back in the country for only a week - I had no idea about Sirius -"  

"I am different now. I have to work," Harry interrupted. "Mrs McGonagall will be back at any moment - please send my regards to your husband -"  

"I have left him," Hermione whispered, drooping - and Harry stopped short.


"There is no… what you used to call, once, spiritual connection. Do you remember?"  

Harry shrugged, outwardly dismissive (of course I remember). Hermione scrubbed a trembling hand through her unkempt hair.

"He is… just so cold," she sniffed. "And jealous, too. Jealousy can be such a potent emotion. Victor used to admire my knowledge of books - now he finds it exasperating, because I have all this knowledge that he does not…"  

"Jealousy," Harry repeated. He knew all about that.

"He went away, to sea - and I came straight home. He does not know, yet. I must go into hiding - my parents will be mortified when they find out what I have done!" Hermione breathed.

"You… you'll be alright," Harry said, awkwardly.

"I believe so," she whispered, "but ever since I left, I fear… I fear I will not find anyone else. One, often, does not know what one has until it is gone. What if I have given up my only chance -"  

Their situations seemed so painfully similar that Harry could not bear it. He turned away. He knew it made him seem cold, but he could not stand to cry in front of her.

"Is this," Hermione said, and she waved her hand at Harry, seemingly indicating his apparent nonchalance, "what he has done to you?"  

"A lot has happened in the last… I don't even know how long it has been. I am not the idealist I once was, since Sirius died. I have not the optimism I once had, Hermione, and that has nothing to do with Snape," Harry gasped.

Hermione was silent. Harry dug his hands into his pockets and glanced awkwardly back at the door.

"You can't stay. How did you find me at all?" he added.

"I asked around. Saw Slughorn. He said you'd been spotted at the docks, I found the red-headed boy you'd been dealing with…"  


"Yes. His family have been kind enough to put me up for the past day or so. My own parents do not yet know I have left Victor - they would be heart-broken…" she trailed off, her eyes glistening.

Harry wanted to reach over and hold her, but it was though an invisible wall had been erected between them, after so long.

Hermione drew a pocket handkerchief out from her purse, and dabbed tremulously at her eyes with it. Then she rose.

"You could come back with me, you know," she said. "You don't have to stay here."  

"I…" Harry trailed off. "It probably won't be for much longer," he mumbled.

"Where will you go?" she asked him.

"I… don't know," Harry admitted, voice small.

"What has he done to you?" she whispered.

Harry, glancing about wildly, caught sight of the crystal decanter sitting on the sideboard. He seized it, and pushed it into her hands.

"Sell it," he hissed, turning away. "It will keep you and Ron well. Now you must go. Goodbye, Hermione."  

She gazed at him for a moment, clutching the decanter. Then he heard the sound of her footsteps and, a moment later, the door closed.  

 * * * * * 

Hermione's parting words stayed with him all afternoon as he worked, speaking to no-one.

As night fell, Harry knew he desperately had to talk to Snape. At a quarter to one, Harry padded down the hall, completely naked, and paused outside his master's door.

He knocked, cautiously. Snape's voice came through the wood, loud and clear:

"Not now, Draco. Another time."  

Harry's heart shrivelled.

Snape thought he was Draco, ergo Draco had done this before...

"I need to see you, sir" he whispered, voice low.

"You… ah. And I have told you no. Go back to bed," Snape commanded, through the door.

"Please don't make me stay alone tonight, please sir -" Harry hissed, digging his fingernails into his palms as he waited to see how Snape would respond.

There was a deep sigh from within.

"Alright." Harry froze. "Come in, then!" Snape snapped.

Snape was, for all he knew, inviting Draco Malfoy into his bedroom! Harry pressed one palm flat longingly against the door and closed his eyes.

From within, the bed springs creaked as Snape, evidently impatient for Malfoy's affections, rose from his bed…  

 * * * * * 

When Snape opened the door, in his nightshirt, he found the corridor empty.

"Potter?" He murmured. "Where the blazes did you go?"  

Chapter 36  

The neat, immaculately groomed young blonde was sat stiffly on a stood in the hall, when Harry emerged from the kitchen the next morning, a bucket and mop in hand. Harry was supposed to wash the floor - he shoved the mop viciously into the bucket and slapped dirty water across the tiles.

The blonde merely sniffed, as if trying to expel something undesirable.

Harry wanted to pour the dirty water all over Malfoy's smug blonde head. How dare he ensnare Snape's affections so quickly! Harry had known Snape for well over a year - Draco barely knew him at all! Draco had no comprehension of the kind of man Snape was; no idea of all the times Snape had saved Harry, fought for him, cared for him… Draco did not appreciate Snape!

One often does not know what one has until it is gone. Harry hung his head and cursed himself for being the worst kind of fool.  

 * * * * * 

"Potter! Wake up!" Harry sat up, thrashing. It was afternoon. He had fallen asleep, his face in the eggs. Mrs McGonagall stood over him, hands on her thin hips.

"You are to clean the Blue Room, next to Master Snape's. It is to be Master Malfoy's bedroom. He is staying. It has all been finalised. The Professor has an apprentice."  

Harry leapt to his feet, brushing egg from his clothing. It took a moment for the import of the housekeeper's words to sink in.

The Professor has an apprentice.

Harry's heart stopped. What was Snape trying to do to him? Was this his way of getting his revenge? Or was he truly in love? He sat down, hard, by the fire, and picked up the poker.

"Oh dear! You must do that, and I must go out - I don't know why the Professor says you are not to go out, it is most inconvenient! It is Draco Malfoy's birthday tomorrow. I wish we had more warning for these things, I keep telling the Professor -"  

Harry, knowing he would be chided for it but not caring, shrugged defiantly and poked the fire hard, feeling vindictive.


"Mr Potter! Kindly show a bit more respect! This is going to be the most important occasion this household has seen in years!"  

Harry frowned.

"Why? It's only a birthday."  

"It is Mr Malfoy's twenty-first year. It is now also the day that he and the master begin their contract. The signing will be on his birthday - and the proposal is expected soon after!"  

"No!" Harry cried.

The housekeeper blinked, surprised.

"Mr Potter! Keep your voice down!"  

"Malfoy can't live here! He can't - Snape can't -"  

"Silence! I won't have this! It is none of your business what the Professor decides!"  

"I… he… he can't!"  

"The Professor will gain a great deal from having Lord Malfoy's patronage. Taking young Malfoy as his apprentice ensures many years of financial support -"  

"I'd rather live on the street!" Harry protested. He meant it. He would have to go; he would go to Snape and beg Snape to release him. There was clearly no choice.  

 * * * * * 

Harry had moved through despair and was seething by the time dinner came around. How dare Snape - and Malfoy - do this to him! He was grateful that, at least, Draco Malfoy had gone out for the evening to the theatre. Harry hoped his carriage overturned on the way home.

"What is this?" Malfoy senior snapped, as Harry petulantly slammed his plate onto the dining room table.

"Conger eel, sir. Roasted and stuffed," Harry said, glaring pointedly at Snape.

Snape's lips thinned unpleasantly.

"Well, Severus," Malfoy smirked. "How delightful this all is. Where did you train, boy?"  

Harry missed a beat.


Malfoy nodded, looking contemptuous.

"Oh! Er…" Harry squirmed, glancing at Snape, who rolled his eyes.

Collecting his wine glass in thin, nimble fingers, Snape swirled the wine around the glass leisurely and smirked.

"Potter's not a chef - as you well know. He's a… stray, we got him off the street when his mongrel Godfather met with a most… unfortunate accident," Snape said silkily. Harry's face turned beet red with anger.

"Ah well. I suppose he's quite decorative, eh Severus?" Malfoy leant over, got an eyeful, and squeezed one of Harry's buttocks. Harry squealed and resisted the urge to punch him.

Snape put down his glass sharply.

"Potter!" he barked. "Stop hanging about and bring the rest of our dinner!"  

Harry darted gratefully out of the room, much to the amusement of Snape's guests. Cheeks flaming, as he shut the door behind himself, Harry heard one guest mutter something, and the entire room burst out laughing. He leant against the door and cursed softly, squeezing his eyes shut in humiliation.

"So, Severus," he heard Malfoy say, through the door, "he's been living here for a while now. When do you intend to gift him to the Dark Lord?"  

"In my own time, Lucius," Snape said, coldly.

"It's merely that… the Dark Lord is under the impression you keep him here for some sort of indoctrination… but I can clearly see that is not the case. Are you screwing him, is that it?"  

There was a clatter as somebody dropped their glass.

"What business is it of yours, Malfoy?"  

"One does like to know… Do not tell Draco, of course - he would feel betrayed. I fear he rather likes you. But what am I to tell the Dark Lord, when I see him next? He is most anxious to know why you do not bring him young Mr Potter. I think his patience has almost… run out."  

There was a silence.

Harry did not wait to hear any more. Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater. Were they all Death Eaters?

Why was Snape inviting Death Eaters into his house?  

 * * * * * 

Another day passed, and yet still Harry did not ask Snape to let him leave. He was not quite sure why. Draco Malfoy was strutting about the house like a peacock, draping himself nauseously over Snape at every opportunity. It made Harry sick with jealousy. He tried to pretend he was not jealous - but it was useless.

"What are you making?" Snape said, sounding contemptuous as he leant over Harry's shoulder. Harry jumped, and glanced about. They were alone in the kitchen.

"Kisses," he snapped. What you and Malfoy do all day down in your filthy basement…  

"I beg pardon?" Snape blinked.

"Kisses. Baked egg white with lemon and sugar. They come out as little powdery biscuits that crumble in your mou -" he sighed.

"What a lot of nonsense," Snape interrupted, snorting softly. "Guests arrive and everybody goes mad."  

Including you. Mad for that little blonde rake…  

"Was there anything else you wanted?" Harry ground out.

"Yes, I wanted to find out what the plans are for the ladies' lunch tomorrow? Lady Malfoy's guests will be arriving at midday."  

"I thought we'd serve them lavender lemonade with crushed ice in the drawing room, then cucumber sandwiches and scones with lemon curd and clotted cream. Then…I thought we could finish with these little marzipan roses that I saw in the market last year -"  

"Ridiculous fashionable frippery." Snape waved his hand, dismissively and Harry deflated. He'd tried so hard on that menu, wanting to impress Snape, somehow…  

"When are you going to 'gift' me to Voldemort, then?" he said coldly.

Snape froze.

"You were spying on us?" he demanded, nastily.

"Funny, you never mentioned this when you were screwing me," Harry sneered back. "Had enough of having me around? Am I like a worn out toy - you're giving me away when I won't play anymore?"  

"You know I am not gifting you to anyone," Snape snapped. "Although I was tempted, the other night," he added, darkly.

"How dare you! I thought you had me shut up in here for my own protection!"  

Snape looked incredulous.

"You must have a very low opinion of me," he snarled. "To think I would -"  

"I think I am a lot less safe since the Malfoys arrived," Harry interrupted.

"I think you ought to shut your insolent mouth!" Snape snapped back.

"I want to leave!" Harry yelled at him. "Let me go!"  

"You will not leave!" Snape shouted. "Where would you go to? Back on the street?"  

"Anywhere but here!" Harry replied. "I'll not stay here to watch you canoodle with that blonde poodle!"  

Snape smirked. Harry blushed.

"That affects you, does it? Good," he said, spitefully.

"So you are canoodling with him!" Harry cried, aghast. This was too much.

"I never said that. But it upsets you. You are jealous," Snape declared. He folded his arms, smug.

"I am n…" Harry trailed off. "Get out of my way," he snarled. Pushing Snape aside, he ran from the kitchen.  

 * * * * * 

Harry slipped surreptitiously into the fainting room, carrying a tray of little crystal whisky glasses. They were full of flavoured crushed ices of all different colours, and each with their own tiny spoon. Lady Malfoy was reclining on a couch, her hands on her sides and her corseted chest heaving. Lady Parkinson, busily fanning her hostess with an ostrich feather fan, glanced up and glared at Harry for invading their private sanctuary.

"What are those?" she asked, sharply.

"Sweet flavoured ice. Ma'am," Harry said, trying to be patient.

Lady Parkinson laid her fan impatiently upon a little guilt table and stalked over to where Harry stood. From the couch, Lady Malfoy, her cheeks blotchy and damp, lifted her head weakly.


"Yes, Narcissa. Would you like a cup?"  

"Please," panted the woman, struggling to rise.

"I'll take this." The tray was lifted ungratefully out of Harry's hands and carried over to the fainting hostess. Harry rolled his eyes and slipped silently out of the room. As he was closing the door, he heard footsteps.

"Potter? What were you doing in there with the ladies?" a voice snarled.

Harry spun around. Snape was standing a scant metre away, his arms folded and a look of suspicion twisting his sour face. Harry refused to be cowed.

"I brought them some crushed ice, Professor. It's so hot today."  

Snape opened his mouth; then closed it again. His eyes narrowed.

"Are the ladies to be the only recipients of this favour?" he snapped.

"Why, do you want some favours, yourself? Draco Malfoy's favours not enough for you?" Harry replied, before he could stop himself.

Snape's hands appeared on either side of his head, trapping him against the wall.

"Don't play with me, Potter. Bring something to cool the gentlemen down immediately."  

"Yes, sir," Harry gritted out. "Shall I use my tongue? Would that please you?"  

"What were you really doing in there?" Snape growled. "Is this who you refuse me for, one of these prattling peacocks?" And, seemingly unable to restrain himself, despite their animosity, Snape kissed him roughly.

Delighted, Harry pushed him away.

"Wait, he panted. "Not like that."  

"Not like what?"  

"Not… rough. I won't do it rough. I -"  

"You will do it how I tell you to!" Snape snapped, cutting him off sharply. "I thought you were jealous?" he added, before Harry could say that he'd do it gentler, if Snape wanted -

Riled, Harry snarled at him.

"I am. But I… won't. We do it gently, or not at all. I won't be second to Malfoy."  

Snape's eyes widened.

"I see. You have changed your mind, then? You love me now?" Snape sneered. It was clear he didn't believe a word Harry said.

"I…" Harry stammered. "I think I..."  

"You just cannot stand not being the centre of attention! You refuse me, but you would not see me with another? So you are jealous? A pity then," Snape said, coldly, "that you have already made your choice."  

And he was gone.  

 * * * * * 

The birthday of Draco Malfoy passed with great celebration, but Harry caught a cold, and spent the days following it in bed, complaining of a terrible sickness. Confined to his room, coughing and spluttering, his only companion was the housekeeper, who brought him bread, soup, and oranges at irregular intervals.

Snape stayed away - too preoccupied with his new apprentice, Harry supposed, bitterly.

It was very lonely in his attic room - and he was surprised, therefore, when a knock came at his door on the fourth day.

"Come in?" he rasped out - then had an explosive coughing fit. Gathering the bed sheets to his chest, he tried to sit up a little. His head swam and his vision blurred for a moment, before he realised who had entered his little room.

Draco Malfoy, lip curled, closed the door and leant his back against it.

"Potter," the young man sneered. "Still pretending to be ill, I see?"  

"I am ill," Harry said huffily, sniffing. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be stirring something?"  

The blonde barked out a laugh.

"I have taken the afternoon off - potions are so very dull, after all. And all we do at the moment is make cough remedies - it all gets very trying on one's patience…"  

Cough remedies. Harry cleared his rough throat and wished someone had thought to bring him some.

"Even so, I have been glad that you are out of the way. Severus seems… so very distracted when you are around."  

"Stop distracting the Professor, Harry!"  

Hermione's voice resounded in Harry's head, the memory of the duel all but forgotten… Harry blinked.

"Are you listening to me, Potter? The Professor and I worked late last night. Close quarters, all that grinding and stirring… But you wouldn't know about that, would you?" Malfoy sneered.

Harry wound his fists in the sheets to prevent himself from punching him.

"He taught at my school, did you know that? He was my professor for seven years. And my head of house. So I am used to him - I have been under him before," Malfoy continued, smirking.

Harry bared his teeth.

"What do you want?" he ground out. "Get to the point, and go."  

Malfoy sniffed.

"My father says that you are not safe whilst you remain in this house. He says he knows men who are waiting for Severus to deliver you into their hands. He says… they will not wait much longer."  

Harry felt a chill seep into his bones.

"Why do you care?" he spluttered.

"Because I want you out. You are ruining mine and Severus'… You have to go. I thought you would be grateful. Severus seems to think he can keep you here indefinitely."  


"It is in my interests to see you gone, therefore I am offering you," and here, Malfoy drew a purse from his breeches pocket, "this." He threw the purse onto the bed. The coins inside clattered.

Warily, Harry leant over and emptied the purse, expecting very little. To his surprise, Guineas and Sovereigns fell out across the mattress.

"There's about a hundred pounds' worth, there," Malfoy sniffed. "It is nothing to me, as I am sure you know, but if you are remaining here purely because you have nowhere to go, then this will give you the means. I want you gone by the end of the week. My father returns the day after tomorrow, to stay for month. Your presence here makes his relationship with his master very awkward. If you left soon - "  

"Yes, I understand," Harry snapped. The blonde turned to the door - then paused.

"No thanks? Not one word?"  

Harry gazed at him, mute.

"Ungrateful arse," Malfoy muttered. "I wish I had given you shillings now, instead - it is all you deserve."  

And he left, slamming Harry's door so hard the window pane rattled.  

 * * * * * 

The following morning, Harry was still feeling weak, but he was desperate to leave his room.

The bag of coins under his pillow called out to him all night long, whispering that he could go anywhere now, even leave the country; nothing tied him to Snape any longer…  

Except the spell. Harry had tried to go out of the back door, but had been blown backwards.

Snape, despite his anger, still had not removed the spell. It gave Harry hope.  

 * * * * * 

Harry was pouring strawberry lemonade into a cut-glass jug when Snape came down the stairs and paused, just inside the kitchen. Harry looked up and froze. Snape looked just as care-worn as Harry felt.


Snape sighed.

"Lady Malfoy tells me she requested mock-turtle soup for tonight," Snape said, derisively.

"Yes, she did. It's in the jar in the saucepan, waiting for dinner to start. Sir."  

Snape nodded. He strode over to the saucepan of hot water and lifted the lid off the large, earthenware jar. He bent and sniffed the soup inside.

"Fashionable food," he muttered, darkly, putting the lid back down. He walked slowly over to the table under the arch, and his eye fell upon the half-made gingerbread house that sat on the bread board on the kitchen table. Unfinished, it reminded Harry of an ancient ruined castle. Snape went over to look at the lines of lines of boiled sweets, waiting like soldiers ready to storm the walls of the bread house.

"You still haven't let me go, yet," Harry whispered.

They stared at each other across the table. Harry had sudden image of him and Snape writhing and thrashing on the confectionary-covered table top, lips and tongues and hands and sweets all over each other…  

He blinked. Snape was still staring at him, his gaze hot and intense.

"You are looking better," he murmured. "The potions… helped?"  

Harry - to his mortification - blushed.

"I… yes. Thank you, sir."  

Snape stepped closer.

"How do you feel? May I?" and he laid one palm gently on Harry's forehead. Harry's eyes drifted closed.

"You are still a little hot," he heard Snape mutter, very close now. "Potter…"  

"Yes…" Harry whispered, swaying closer. Snape had been looking after him, after all…  

"Come to the library tonight, after you have finished," Snape said, his voice deep and molten.

It thrilled along Harry's very nerves and he shivered. Snape wanted to see him in private. That meant he was either ready let Harry go, or… he wanted to give it another try. Harry was pretty sure, now, what he wanted. It had taken, to his shame, Draco Malfoy to show it to him, but at least he finally knew. The jealousy he had felt would drive anybody to distraction - he could not see Snape end up with that nasty little ferret! Snape was good, and brave, and he and Harry fit together perfectly.

At last, Harry believed he knew his own heart.

The day could not go by fast enough.  

Chapter 37  

At eleven, mindful of the loud screeching laughter emanating from the drawing room, Harry slipped into the library.

Mrs McGonagall had taken a tray of brandy (with one glass) in at around seven o'clock, before she had left for the night. Snape, it seemed, had left his guests to entertain themselves.

Harry had waited until he had finished his other tasks to collect the tray. He wondered how much brandy Snape had got through, in four hours?

The library was dimly lit. Four oil lamps flickered between the bookshelves, casting tremulous shadows which loomed out of the darkened corners and seemed to almost breathe in the sparse light... Harry shivered.

Where was Snape?


Harry jumped and clutched at the door handle blindly.

"Yes, sir?"  

He squinted into the gloom. Snape was sitting at the desk - which was unusually bare apart from the tea tray - a slim book balanced in one slender hand. How he could see to read in the near-dark, Harry didn't know.

"Come to take your tray, Professor."  

"It's here." Snape sounded tired, less acrid than usual. Harry advanced cautiously. This was not normal; he was expecting to have his head bitten off at any moment.

As he reached the desk, two of Snape's elegant, languorous fingers turned a page of his book.

"How can you read in this light?" Harry muttered. Snape ignored him.

"Lady Malfoy wants a garden party on Wednesday. Kindly inform Mrs McGonagall and make the appropriate arrangements," Snape muttered, his voice slurring as he spoke.

"Lady Malfoy likes to entertain, doesn't she sir." Harry sighed, collecting Snape's tray.

The brandy bottle was empty.

Harry was instantly on his guard. Snape was drunk.

"Don't presume to make comment on Lady Malfoy's proclivities, Potter." Snape hissed, blandly turning a page of his book and not looking up.

Holding the tray warily, Harry paused.

"You… wanted to see me, sir?" he asked.

"What? Oh, yes," Snape paused. "I am being blackmailed."  

Harry's eyes widened.

"By whom?"  

"Malfoy. Senior."  

"Oh," Harry whispered.

"You thought I let them in here for the money? Mrs McGonagall needed to be told something. No, Malfoy said he would bring the other Death Eaters here unless I saw his son right with a job. I had to acquiesce - I cannot fight off a whole group, alone. The protective wards around this house will not last long. But now… the terms have changed."  

"C-changed? How?" Harry asked.

"He wants more," Snape said, grimly.

"Why… why don't we just leave? We could run away -"  

"They would find us."  

"What does he want?" Harry asked.

"Place the tray on the chair," Snape said, suddenly.

Harry blinked, suddenly acutely aware of his breathing in the silent room.


"Just… put the tray on the armchair to your right."  

Cripplingly self-conscious, Harry took a few shaky steps to the red leather chair and lowered the tray onto it. He turned. Snape was sat at the desk, book forgotten, both pale hands resting on the dark wood. His expression was unfathomable in the darkness; Harry could barely even make out his features.

"Come here." Snape's voice rumbled, softly.

Harry advanced. As he got closer, he could see Snape's dark eyes gazing up at him. So intense... Harry bit his lip, mesmerised.

"Get up on my desk and lie down, on your back."  

Harry paused.


"What part do you not understand?" Snape whispered, his voice cool and soft.

Harry opened his mouth; then faltered. Feeling like a strange jumble of arms and legs, he clambered gracelessly up onto the polished wooden desk and lowered himself down backwards until he could feel wood against his shoulder blades.

"Straighten your legs out."  

Harry did. Snape rose, towering over him. Harry, confused, gazed up at him.

"Can you show me your stomach?"  

"Pardon?" Harry squeaked.

"I'm not going to ask anything more of you."  

Harry bit his lip.

"Lift up your shirt," Snape snapped.

Harry paused. Then, with trembling hands, he grasped the fabric of his white cotton shirt and lifted it out of his trousers, lifting it upwards until his full hands hovered over his ribcage. Snape was looking at his exposed skin as though he had never seen it before. Almost speculatively, his eyes took in the smooth, pale flesh, the treasure trail of dark hair leading down from Harry's navel into the waistband of his black breeches…  

"Could you lift it up a little higher?" he growled.

Heart hammering, Harry lifted his shirt until he was exposed to just above his nipples. What on earth was Snape looking for? Just how long was he going to stand there, gazing at Harry's slightly concave stomach with those penetrating eyes?

Penetrating… Harry suddenly realised a more immediate problem: if he lay here for too much longer, Snape was sure to notice the bulge of the erection that was slowly firming itself up between his legs…  

Well, good. Snape did arouse him. Snape should know this.

The air in the room seemed to vibrate. Harry's skin felt hot, flushed. He wanted to pull his shirt off; he wanted Snape to touch him; he felt sexual under that hot gaze…  

"Thank you, you may get up. I just wanted one last look, before he…" Snape stopped, averting his eyes; turning away.

Harry was left, holding his shirt up round his nipples, his elbows sticking out at odd angles, his eyes huge, feeling like an idiot as he lay on Snape's desk.

"He? Who?" he asked.

Snape was silently retreating between the bookshelves, his back to Harry. Harry hurriedly sat up, blushing fiercely, stuffing his shirt back into his trousers with trembling hands. Suddenly, Snape spoke again:

"Lucius has made a… highly inappropriate request. I am bound to inform you of his offer, no matter how sickening I find it to be."  

"What does he want?" Harry said.

"Apparently, Malfoy senior has been watching you about the house, these past weeks," Snape sniffed.

"Uh?" Harry whispered.

"Oh, for God's sake! He has asked for you! In his bed!" Snape spat, looking disgusted. "I strongly advise you to say no."  

Harry felt sick.

"How… how…"  

"How much? This isn't a business deal," Snape sneered. "I am trying to work out ways to put him off. Perhaps," he added, bleakly, "we should leave, after all."  

"No... How… naked? For sex?" Harry whispered.

"Malfoy tried to claim it was not sexual, that he just wanted to look…" Snape ran a hand unhappily through his greasy hair. "If you believe that, you'll believe anything."  

Harry smiled ruefully.

"And, if I do… will he go? And leave us alone?"  

"This whole thing is totally ridiculous," Snape snapped. "He says he will, but -"  

"Good. I'll do it, then. And then we'll go - we'll leave London!" Harry cried. "We'll go somewhere far away. We have been wasting time, these past weeks - we could have been training - you could have bought me a wand, instead of just being concerned with shoving bits of yourself up my -"  

"Don't you dare start on that, you impudent brat!" Snape screamed. Harry shot to his feet.

"Fine! But we're doing what I say!" he shouted.

"You think Malfoy will stop at just looking at you? You're so disgustingly naïve, you make me sick -" Snape raged.

"It doesn't matter - I'll do it and then we go. That's all there is to it."  

 * * * * * 

Snape summoned him to the library in the morning. Lucius Malfoy was there, sitting in an armchair, his long legs crossed casually. Snape, stood in the corner, glowered at Harry as he entered.

"Potter," Malfoy smirked silkily, rising from his chair. "I understand you have agreed to my offer. Severus is being rather grumpy about it," here, he glanced snidely at Snape, who was sulking thin-lipped in the corner, clutching a glass of wine. "I am sure you and I will have an enjoyable time without him."  

Harry shuddered.

"Yes, sir."  

"I have watched you, these past weeks. Cooking, and all that. I am greatly looking forward to discovering what" his blue eyes glittered, "delicacies… are on offer."  

Harry glanced over at Snape, still sat in his chair. His master was not looking at them; instead, he was glaring into the fire, but Harry was certain he had heard every word Malfoy said. He was sure of it, by the way Snape's fingers were white as they clasped the arm of his chair. Turning back to Malfoy, Harry nodded seriously.

"Yes, sir. Does tonight suit you?"  

He kept his eyes lowered.

Malfoy nodded. He chuckled to himself and swept out of the room, leaving the two of them alone. Harry sank into the nearest chair.


Snape still refused to look at him. All Harry got was a growl in response.

"What… should I wear? Should I… should I wear the corset? Do you think that's -"  

Snape threw his glass of wine into the fire.  

 * * * * * 

"Don't speak. I won't… don't speak," Harry whispered, that night, pulling the cloak around his shoulders. "Please close the door."  

Behind him, he heard the library door shut, quietly. He could hear Lucius moving towards him, softly, in the gloom.

Harry took a deep breath. He felt unwell. He very much did not wish to do this…  

"You can sit in the armchair, if you like, sir."  

There was a silence, during which Harry almost turned around, believing the room deserted - but then footsteps made their way over to Snape's armchair. There was the familiar creak of the springs. Harry nervously pulled the cloak tighter about himself.

"I thought… I dressed up for you." Harry cringed internally at his own words.

He steeled himself and slid the cloak from his shoulders in one smooth motion, hearing it rustle to the carpet and settle. There was a dark chuckle from behind him.

"What do you want to…" Harry trailed off, gesturing to his own body helplessly. There was no movement from the armchair, so he supposed that was his signal to continue.

"I, er, didn't know if you'd like this, but you can always take them off if… if you don't." he continued, unhappily, running his sweaty hands awkwardly down his corset-clad sides.

The satin, boned corset was a deep, lustrous green, and clung to his slender frame from just below his nipples down to his hips. It had been nigh on impossible to lace alone. Harry had asked for Snape's help, but Snape had refused, and stormed out of the room.

But the corset was now tight, which had made slipping into the dark green lace knickers… tricky. The myrtle-green stockings and suspenders had been even harder, as Harry had found it difficult to reach his toes, laced up as he was.

Harry spread his legs a little. Just get this over with, he thought, and then we can leave.

"You may… approach… if you'd like." He whispered. He held his breath.

All of a sudden, there were lips on the backs of his thighs. He was being… licked. A harsh, clammy tongue was licking the creases of his buttocks. He almost bolted.

"Delectable," Malfoy purred. Harry closed his eyes and tried to suppress his shudder.

"Spread yourself open," Malfoy's voice hummed against his flesh. Harry swallowed down the bile that threatened to claw its way out of his throat, and reached behind himself…  

Ten minutes later and Harry was dizzy with nausea. Malfoy was licking him… there… and was making these horrible snorting noises. Harry dug his fingernails into his own backside and tried to pretend it was Snape, but Snape never made those noises. Malfoy pushed a cold, sharp finger into him.

"Ah!" Harry gasped. "Ow! What a -"  

The door was flung open.

"This ends now!" Snape shouted, from the doorway.

"Er," Harry faltered. Malfoy stood, smoothing down his coat and long blonde hair.

"Severus," he smirked. "Did we not have an agreement?"  

"Get out of my house," said Snape, voice low and menacing. "I don't care what you do to me, but you will leave!" His face was white and his teeth were bared. He fumbled in his pocket for his wand. Malfoy smirked.

"I haven't finished," he said, clearly.

"I TOLD YOU TO GET OUT!" Snape bellowed, whipping his wand from his coat pocket and pointing it at Malfoy. The blonde sneered at him.

"This is the last straw!" Malfoy snapped, rumpled, clutching his coat about him. "Let me have the boy, or -"  

"I believe," Snape whispered, silkily, "that you have misunderstood me. There will be no more 'having' of Mr Potter in my house. You will go."  

Malfoy's lip curled.

"How dare you, Severus - after all I have done for you," he hissed. "The Dark Lord will hear of this - of how you have inconvenienced me, been so ungrateful. You are keeping pretty Potter here for yourself - I believe the Dark Lord's patience has run out. As has mine."  

"How terrifying," Snape said. A flick of his wrist, and Malfoy' coat buttons did themselves up. "Make yourself presentable and leave."  

Malfoy snarled. His eye fell on Harry, standing resentfully by the fireplace. He stalked forward and pushed Harry hard, consumed with bitterness and humiliation. Harry crashed into an armchair and went flying.

The next thing he knew, Snape had Malfoy by his long blonde hair and was hauling him out of the room. Malfoy screamed in pain; Snape manhandled him into the entrance hall, spelled open the door and hurled the blonde down the front steps with a roar.

"You will pay for this!" Malfoy spat, scrambling up. "I will have satisfaction!"  

"You won't get it here," Snape smirked, and slammed the door.

"You certainly showed hi - " Harry trailed off at the furious look on Snape's face. He tried to back away, but Snape hurtled across the hall and slammed Harry up against the wall, hands at the boy's throat. Then he kissed him.

"That was foolish!" Harry gasped, when Snape eventually released him. "Who knows where he has gone?"  

"I would rather die than see you with another man," Snape growled.

"You would?" Harry moaned. "You still… Still?"  

"Always," spat Snape, glaring at him. "You doubt me, that is most gratifying!" he sneered.

"I thought that, after I said no, er, again, that you didn't -"  

"No," Snape snapped. "It… did not change. I tried, but -"  

"I have changed," Harry blurted. "I was wrong. After I saw you and Draco… I got so jealous. I'm such a fool, for it to take him to show me! I really do -"  

"Severus?" Draco Malfoy stood at the top of the stairs, taking in the scene with confusion. Snape had Harry pushed up against the wall; Potter was wearing a corset, and his legs were wrapping themselves seductively about Snape's waist. "Why is Potter dressed like…"  

"Because I'm his, you stupid little weasel!" Harry cried. "He's been fucking me for months, he loves me!"  

Snape snarled at him, but it was worth it just to see Draco's thin face pale, and crumple.

"What?" the blonde whispered. "S-Severus?"  

"I tried," Snape cried, waving his hand at Malfoy junior. "But you're just so…" he gripped Harry by the hips, "addictive," he muttered. Harry started to smile - he opened his mouth to tell Snape that -

A bloodcurdling shriek echoed throughout the house.

They all froze.

"What's th -" Harry began, but Snape dropped him and backed away, wand in his hand.

"Get into the kitchen," he muttered.

"What is it?" Harry persisted.

"The alarm. Death Eaters. Malfoy was quick," Snape growled. "Draco, come down!"  

"What?" spluttered the blonde.

"Go outside to your father! They'll hurt you if you stay," Snape shouted. Draco blundered halfway down the stairs, then stopped.

"What'll they do to you?" the blonde whispered, gazing at Snape with damp eyes.

"Just go," said Snape, morbidly. "Whilst you still can."  

"Can't we Apparate out?" Draco cried.

"No," Snape snapped. "There are spells. They would take too long to remove."  

There was a loud bang, and the glass in the door cracked.

"Oh no…" A trickle of cold sweat ran down the side of Harry's face, which Snape noticed and struggled to suppress the urge to lick away. "We don't even know how many there are."

"Nothing we can do about that now," Snape muttered. "You both need to leave… out through the kitchen and over the back wall, quickly!"  

"What about you?" Harry cried.

"I shall lead them upstairs - give you time to get to the door," Snape said, manhandling Harry towards the kitchen. "Get to the door, and I will drop the spell that keeps you here! Get going!"  

"No!" Harry hissed, struggling. "I'm not leaving you!"  

The door was blown off its hinges.

"Come to me, Draco," snarled Lucius, standing amidst the splinters with his wand drawn.

Behind him, Harry recognised the faces of Greyback, Rookwood, and Avery, as well as several other men who he did not know. "We are here to take Potter for the Dark Lord."  

"Over my dead body," Snape growled, flinging Harry behind him.

He muttered something, and the air between Harry and the door started to shimmer.

"So be it, traitor!" hissed Avery, drawing his wand. Draco screamed, and fled towards the back of the house.

Snape, dragging Harry, pushed him towards the kitchen door. Harry looked back. The Death Eaters had entered the house - but something was slowing them down. Snape's curse made them look as if they were walking through heavy treacle.

"Goodness," Harry whispered. "That's really -"  

Harry ducked as a curse whirled bitingly over his head.

"It doesn't stop spells - only people - MOVE!" Snape yelled, starting up the stairs.

Someone cast a hex. It burst through Snape's defensive wards and hit Snape in the back, as he climbed the steps. He cried out. Another spell burst through and snapped Snape's wand clean in half.

Harry, who was halfway to the kitchen and watching Draco Malfoy scale the back wall, ("They're not even here for you, you little coward!") turned. Snape had stopped, halfway up the staircase, and was snarling frantically as he looked down at his feet - which were frozen to the carpet.

Snape looked down at him; eyes shrieking, looking deranged.

"GO, POTTER!" he screamed. Harry instantly started to run back to him - Snape's eyes went wide and blazed as red sparks flew out of the end of his broken wand.

"What the fuck are you doing, you idiot?" he howled, "GET OUT!"

Ignoring him, Harry darted up the steps, wrapped his arms around Snape and tried to pull him free, but Snape was stuck fast. Another curse whipped past wildly, slicing into Snape's shoulder; tearing into the thick black robe and searing the white flesh beneath.

Snape flinched, gritting his teeth - Harry raised his messy head and peeked miserably at Snape's shoulder - dark red blood was creating a damp patch on the black material…  

Then, there was a whistling, followed by a splattering sound, and Snape winced and shuddered, his knees buckling. Harry's hands slid down the muscular back, searching - and then encountered another warm, wet patch, at one slim hip.

In panic, Harry looked up into Snape's face, his green eyes large and frightened. Snape's face was drawn and white - the thin lips bloodless and trembling, the eyes dark and frantic.

"Please! Please! You'll die!" Harry begged. "How do we get out?"  

"In my pocket - aaah!" Snape tightened his arms around Harry and buried his face in Harry's soft neck. He fumbled in his breeches pocket and pushed something wooden into Harry's hand.

A wand.

But before Harry could use it, Snape suddenly wrenched Harry to him, roughly, and brought his mouth down on Harry's, hard.

"Upstairs," Snape gasped out, pulling back quickly. "Out of the first floor window."  

"I can't," Harry whispered, miserably.

"You can," said Snape, panting. "When I die, the wards will drop. You will be free to leave."  

"I don't mean that! Why can't you just drop them now, and come with me?"  

"I can't - it would take too long. The only way to remove them fast enough for you to escape is if I - "  

"No! You can't!" Harry screamed. "I'd never leave you! I love you!"  

Snape's eyes widened.

He grabbed Harry's slim wrist in his clammy hand, the other hand fumbling about in his pocket again.

"Then go," he snarled, and pressed something from his pocket into Harry's palm, closing his fingers around it. "If you love me, then go. Find Dumbledore," he hissed.

Harry shoved the item into his pocket, without looking at it.

"Who? I'll never - wait!" he began. "I can help you - there was a spell, I read about it, years ago! To transfer power, or potency, or -"  

"Sectumsempra!" someone shrieked.

Harry watched in horror as Snape's neck, arms and chest were slashed by an invisible sword. Snape's eyes widened. He tried to cry out, but the tear in his throat was too wide. Blood began to pour down his front. He collapsed on to the steps in a heap of ripped and bloody black fabric, and moved no more.

"Oh, shit!" Harry gasped. There was no time to do Corde Amare now - not that Harry even had sufficient power to achieve it! The shimmering protective spell crumbled, and suddenly there were eight Death Eaters running up the stairs towards them.

Harry grabbed Snape's arms and dragged him to the top of the steps - then turned.

"Stay away from him!" he screamed, wand raised - and suddenly the enormous armoire on the hall landing sailed past him and crashed down the stairs, bringing all the Death Eaters down with it. Harry gazed in horror at the wand, which was crackling with blue magic.

"Harry! What the hell's going on?" someone shouted - and Harry turned to see that, framed in the window at the end of the first floor hallway, was -  

"Ron?" he yelled, dragging Snape behind him down the hallway. "Help me!"  

The Death Eaters below were struggling to their feet.

"No time, come on! Leave him! We've come to get you!"  

"I can't!" Harry screamed.

"He's kept you prisoner for months, what do you mean you can't?" Ron yelled. "What are you even wearing? I've got a ladder, come on! Hermione's down here!"  

"I can't leave him!" Harry yelled back. "We've got to -" but Ron had reached in through the window and seized Harry by the laces of his corset.

He pulled. Harry tensed, waiting for the magical explosion - but his shoulder slipped easily through the window.

"What?" he gasped, turning round to gaze at Snape, who was making a dark, sticky puddle on the hall carpet. "NO!"  

"There they are!" someone screamed. Harry looked up to see Greyback advancing on him down the hallway.

"Little Potter; love the costume, such a delight," Greyback sneered.

Ron pulled at him again, harder - and Harry fell backwards through the open window. The only thing he remembered, as he fell, was his surprise at hearing Snape scream as the Death Eaters reached him.

"He's not dead! Wait, he's not dead!" he howled, but then he hit the ground, and everything went black.  

Chapter 38  

"Harry? Harry? Wake up."  

Harry sat up. Hermione screamed and dropped her book. Ron, who had been asleep in an armchair, flailed about in surprise and scrambled to his feet.

"Harry!" he exclaimed. "You're awake! We were so worried - you hit your head when you… It's been a week!"  

Harry clawed his way out of bed. Fortunately, he was no longer wearing the corset.

"Where are you going?" Hermione asked, as Harry disentangled himself from the bed sheets.

"Severus is not dead!" Harry muttered, looking about for some shoes. "I have to help him! I have been a fool for so long - I will not desert him now!"  

Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. Hermione sat down regrettably on the edge of Harry's bed, wringing her hands in her lap.

"I am so sorry, Harry," she said. "The house was set on fire. Severus Snape was tortured for having allowed you to escape. They never found his body."  

Harry Potter digested this information in a horror-struck silence. All of a sudden, he broke into a hideous sob and, in his despair, lashed out at the nearest objects he could reach. A lantern and an inkwell went sailing on to the carpet.

"Calm down, Harry, and sit down, please! This has been a terrible shock for you. Some tea, perhaps?" Hermione blurted.

"DAMN THE TEA TO HELL!" Harry screamed. "SEVERUS! Oh, GOD! I'd just… we were going to… I'd finally…"  

"Harry -" Hermione began.

"He can't be dead! He can't be!" Harry cried, sinking to the floor.

Ron and Hermione looked at each other again.

"I… it's for the best, Harry," Hermione whispered. "He did kidnap you, and… corrupt you -"  

"I love him!" Harry screamed. Hermione froze.

"I… do you? After all this time? You always denied it before…" she broke off, looking up sharply at Ron. He turned away from her.

"Where are we?" Harry interrupted.

"Oh, er, hotel room," said Hermione, glancing about. "We… eloped. Ron and I. You never heard?"  

Harry shook his head.

"Oh," he said. "Well, erm, congratulations."  

"We're going to Gretna Green to get married. We thought we could try to find Hogwarts, too - you could come with us, and we could work out a way to stop Volde -" Hermione began, but Harry cut her off.

"I have to find Severus' body," Harry interrupted, standing up.

"But don't you want to find Hogwarts?" Ron asked. "Hermione said… you can do magic? You've got a wand now, is that it, and -"  

He paused. Harry had just had a thought and had reached into his pocket, pulling out the item that Snape had pressed upon him in those final moments…  

At the sight of it, Harry collapsed in floods of tears upon the carpet.

"Is… it is magical, do you think?" Hermione whispered, staring at the ring in dismay. "Did he give it to you for protection?"  

Harry just cried harder. Hermione knelt at his side.

"Let me test it," she said, drawing her wand.

Harry opened his palm and let her mumble spells over it for what seemed like forever… When she finally drew back, however, her face held a puzzled expression.

"It's just a ring - I don't understand. Harry? Why would he give you just an ordinary ring? Harry?"  

 * * * * * 

Weeks passed.

Harry trained. At last, under the instruction of Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts' former Headmaster, he was able to put into practice some of the magic he had learned from Snape. The old man was shocked at the amount of (slightly dark) magic Harry could perform. Much to Hermione's surprise, the wand that Snape had procured for him proved perfect.

"It should be impossible," she said, awestruck, "for one wizard to purchase the correct wand for another. How on earth could he know what would suit you? You must have had some kind of connection, something very deep -"  

Harry smiled sadly and clutched his wand to his chest.

"Spiritual," he whispered, mournfully.

Ron and Hermione came with him to Scotland (they were fugitives from society, after all - Hermione was wanted for bigamy). Their marriage was very quiet, even more so than Hermione's first. Harry was the only witness; he sat on a pew, alone, turning his own engagement ring over and over in his fingers, as though he could bring Snape back through sheer force of will.

Harry wore Snape's engagement ring constantly, much to Ron and Hermione's dismay. His one thought now was of revenge for his poor Snape; on Malfoy, and on those whom he worked for. His new his purpose in life was to make himself ready to destroy Voldemort. Then, and only then, would Snape be avenged.

One evening, as Hermione sat, book in hand, she turned a page and cried out in triumph. Harry, panting, shirt open, came in from the training room at the back of their little cottage.

"What?" he enquired, doing up his buttons. His engagement ring glinted in the candlelight.

"At last!" Hermione breathed. "It might be a way for you to destroy Voldemort -"  

"What is it?" Harry snapped, hurrying over. She turned the book around for him to see, eyes flashing, animatedly.

"Ye Olde (and Most Potente) Laws of Sexual Magic?" he read; eyes wide. "Why would you show me this?"  

"It's a way of creating a highly powerful magical energy - the act itself, combined with these rituals, could give you -" Hermione began, eager.

"No," Harry said curtly, cutting her off.

"But Harry," Hermione implored, "it has been months, and this is the only feasible idea we've -"  

"I said no," Harry hissed. "Find another way. Even if there isn't, I won't - I'll die first. I'm engaged, Hermione. Severus would never do that to me, and I could never -"  

"Snape is not going to do anything, Harry," Ron interrupted. "He's dead."  

Harry screamed, black magic crackling from his fingers. Ron and Hermione recoiled; clutching at each other as Harry stormed from the room.

Sat on the back steps, magic still fizzling from his fingers, Harry dropped his face into his hands, heedless of the sparks that were singeing his hair. He sobbed tears that were golden and sparkled in the light of the sunset. There was an empty ache in his weary heart.

He felt, now, that he would always be alone.  

 * * * * * 

Harry started having dreams in which he had died.

Harry often dreamt he was in a tomb, with Snape; all rotten and unspeakable.

Harry could not bear to roll over and look at him. He lay in Snape's grave (did Snape even have a grave, had the Death Eaters cared enough for him to bury him?), beside the dead man, facing away. He was staring at the earth before his face (how he could see underground was beyond him, but it was a dream).

Bravely, he raised his hand to try and stroke Snape's face… But, when he rolled over, Snape was as perfect as a slumbering marble statue, and it was Harry's hand that had rotted away.

His bones clicked painfully as he tried to touch Snape's frozen, white face… As soon as he pressed them against Snape's stone skin, his poor fingers crumbled to dust before his eyes.

Snape's eyes rolled open and his irises were white too; marble.

One night, the dream changed midway. Instead of being dead too, Snape was trapped somewhere; alive. Alive and trying to reach him. It was horrible.

He could see Snape's red-rimmed eyes, gazing imploring out at him through a sea of white mist.

Snape's very eyeballs were red; he looked almost inhuman, like a tormented spirit. He moaned, as though in anguish, and the sound chilled along Harry's nerves like fire.

It seemed that this Snape wished for death; to join Harry, to sleep, to rest  

Harry reached out a hand desperately, and Snape tried to reach out also, and touch him. But their fingers slipped through each other's, like air. Snape's fingers were not even solid.

"Come back," Harry cried. "My Heart, my Heart! Come back to me!"  

"Find me," Snape whispered, and blood dripped from his mouth. "Help me, Harry. Find me. I need you."  

When he awoke, trembling, his bed sheets wet with tears, Harry packed a bag.  

Chapter 39  

"Harry?" Hermione was standing in the doorway, looking anxious. Ron stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder. They watched him, warily.

"I have to go back to the house - I have to find Severus' body, bury him properly. I'm going back to London," Harry said, frantically, stuffing clothes into a bag.

"He's not there!" Hermione cried - then clapped her hand over her mouth in terror.

Ron winced. He tried to push her protectively back; to get her to stand behind him.

Harry froze.

"How do you know?" he said, suspiciously. "Do you know? You know something!" The pillow he was holding spontaneously burst into flame.

"Please, Harry, he's bad news - he's been bad for you ever since you met him!" Hermione implored. Harry glanced down at the fire in his hand. He blinked, and it was gone.

"He's no good to you now, anyway," Ron interrupted, "after what they've done to him."  

"I… what?" Harry snapped. He barrelled across the room and seized Ron by his lapels. "Tell me where he is, now!" he screamed. "You've been keeping it from me all this time?"  

"We… we did, at first. But then we realised we ought to be trying to find him, ever since you refused to do the sex magic!" Hermione protested. She flew to a drawer and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, thrusting it beseechingly at Harry.

"This is from Draco Malfoy!" she sobbed, tears brimming in her brown eyes. "We wrote to him - we told him you were alive! He lives with Snape - he is his carer; I think he was forced into it, to stop Snape escaping. Snape is… was… injured. We didn't lie to you about that. But they didn't kill him."  

"You've been writing to Severus?" Harry said, coldly.

"No. To Malfoy. He is the only one we've written to. It took us so long to find him, and then he took simply ages to reply -"  

"So he could be lying about Snape."  

"No! Well, yes -"  

"Just as you lied to me," Harry said.

"No, Harry, we didn't - it was for the best; you and he, you just were not right -"  

Harry pulled out his wand.

"Tell me where he is," he growled, "or I'll kill you."  

 * * * * * 

Harry walked down the cobbled street, alone.

White mist swirled through the silent town. It was desolate. The house he had been directed to looked abandoned. Harry supposed that was why they had chosen it.

Harry knocked on the door.

There was a scuffle, and a hushed voice murmuring something in frantic tones, and then the heavy door was pulled back. A thin, ferrety white face appeared in the crack. Watery grey eyes gazed up at Harry in horror, then in wonder, then glazed over and overflowed with tears.

"You! Thank God!" Draco wrenched the door open a little and sank onto the dusty floor, his back against the wall.

He looked thin, and haunted; a mere shell of a man, and Harry almost felt sorry for him. Whilst he, Harry, had grown strong and powerful, Draco Malfoy had withered. There were lines in his pale, drawn face which spoke of anguish; his clothes and hair were unkempt and dusty. With his white blonde hair and his stricken features, he looked almost spectral.

Harry realised that Draco was speaking in a hushed whisper. The other young man had his blonde head in his hands and was beating his skull with his palms, as though he had gone insane.

"I can leave, I can leave this place! Thank God!"  

He appeared to be talking to himself, rather than to Harry.

"Where is he?" Harry demanded, eyes flashing.

"DRACO? You drivelling waste of space! Who is it, Draco?"  

Harry staggered; clutched at the wall for support. That voice! Deep and luxurious, it thrilled along every part of him, bringing his dead heart to life once more. Numb with shock, he almost collapsed on top of Draco.

"It's for you, you old bastard!" Draco bellowed.

"Tell them to leave, imbecile! I take no visitors," Snape shouted back.

Draco sprang to his feet, his taut body trembling. Fists clenched, his face puce-red with loathing, he sneered.

"Shut your mouth, you shrivelled old serpent! I don't have to take your rot any longer!" he cried. Harry listened, eyes wide, in stunned silence.

"Is the door shut? I can feel the draft, send whoever it is away!" Snape complained.

"Go die!" Draco screamed.

"I swear, Malfoy, you little -"  

"Stop snivelling!" Draco slammed the door, hard. Harry had to jump out of the way. "It's shut, are you happy?"  


"He's never happy," Draco muttered, and stormed off down the darkened hallway.

Harry followed, cautiously, and paused at a doorway to watch Draco pull out a moth-eaten carpet bag and start shoving things into it.

Draco glanced up from an armful of starched linen and scowled.

"My debt is paid. This was father's punishment, for letting you get away," Draco sniffed. "He shut me up in here with him - where the hell were you?"  

"I… my friends told me he'd died," Harry mumbled. Draco smirked.

"Some friends you have. Well, now you are here, he's your responsibility. I am only released if someone comes to care for him in my place - so I'm off. He's in the room at the end of the hall," he growled, low.

"Draco? Draco, where is my supper?" Snape yelled.

"You can whistle for it, you mad old fool!" Draco screeched back, dumping the linen in the grimy bag. "He's your responsibility now, lover," he added, glaring at Harry reproachfully.

"Responsibility?" Harry hissed. "What's wrong with him?"  

Draco's thin face broke into a malicious smile. His eyes twinkled malevolently.

"You'll find out…" he replied, evidently delighting in being mysterious. "Why would they want to kill him, when they could make him suffer so much more by keeping him alive? I think they eventually planned to kill you in front of him."  

Harry swore at him and turned to look down the passageway. Draco pushed rudely past him, hefting the enormous carpet bag behind himself.

"His supper is on the cooker," he mumbled, shoving Harry roughly out of the way.

"Where are you going?" Harry asked. Not that he cared.

"To my parents'. Or, if they won't have me back yet, I'll… I don't know, it's none of your business!"  

Harry held up his hands in a placating manner. He shrugged. As he was about to speak, however, Draco yanked the door open, pulled his bag through it, and turned, his face twisted into a nasty sneer.

"I am not sure he will want you back, by the way," he snapped, and stepped through the door.

Harry seized his elbow.

"Why?" he snarled.

"He knew you were alive," Draco sneered back. "He knows. All this time. It has been killing him, I think. Thinking you had deserted him. Perhaps that was father's intention. You left him there, in that house -"  

"I thought he had died!" Harry interrupted.

"Yes, well," Draco sniffed. "You can make it up to him now - tell him where you have been all these months. He'll forgive you. Or not. As far as I'm concerned, you can both go die."  

He wrenched his arm away and slammed the door.

"Malfoy, you little snot? What are you doing now?" Snape demanded.

Harry did not know how to reply. A sudden fear had gripped him.

Was Draco right - would Snape refuse to forgive him? To Snape, he must be the worst villain imaginable, to have left him like that...

Snape's irate shouted commands rang in his ears (Snape, upon receiving no reply, started to shout incessantly for Draco, obviously to wind Draco up) as Harry entered the kitchen.

Something on the hob had long boiled over; a nasty smell of burning lingered even though the liquid had extinguished the gas. He lifted the pan lid; soup, of some description. It was slightly congealed and smelt awful.

Harry tipped it down the sink.

Snape had gone quiet by the time a trembling Harry had scraped together a tray of stale bread and butter, cold chicken, and a pot of tea.

He carried it silently down the narrow passageway and pushed the door open tentatively with his foot.

"Draco? Draco, where is my supper?" Snape hissed.

The cup and saucer rattled as Harry carefully closed the door with his bottom, hands firmly gripping the tray.

He knew he really ought to speak, to forewarn Snape of his presence, but something was keeping him mute.

"Ah. Hurry up, will you?"  

The room was small and very dimly lit with gas lamps. The walls were lined with looming, stuffed bookcases, which oppressed the tiny space and made it seem almost… cell-like. There was one dirty window, in the wall to Harry's left. Snape (although Harry could not yet see him) was sat in a high wingback chair, facing towards a tiny, flickering fire, his back to the door.

Through the gloom, Harry could see the top of his head, and the thin fingers of one hand tapping out an impatient rhythm on the arm of the chair.

He summoned up the courage to speak - but was thoroughly unprepared, however, for Snape's reaction to his voice.

"Where would you like me to put the tray, Severus?" he croaked.

Snape was out of his chair in an instant.

But something was clearly amiss - instead of turning to look at Harry, Snape blundered frantically into the little table beside his chair.

A thin-fingered hand reached out, snatching at the empty air, and came into contact with the tattered curtain which half-obscured the grimy window. Snape pulled, as if for support - the curtain gave way, and both it and Snape went crashing to the floor, taking the little table with them. Books, a cup, a wand which Harry presumed must be Snape's new one - they all scattered across the floor.

Then… silence.

In the curious light which filtered in through the dirty window, dust motes swirled noiselessly through the air.

Harry only realised then that he had dropped his tea tray. Tea was weeping from the cracked pot into the carpet. He barely noticed the splashed burn of hot water on his thigh.

"Severus?" he whispered.

There was a groan.

Stepping over the cracked crockery, Harry approached the chair. Cautiously; as one would approach a wounded animal. He was just fumbling for his wand to light a better fire when a claw-like hand swiped through the air, narrowly missing his face, and connected with his arm. He pulled out his wand and light burst from the tip just as Snape raised his head from the floor…  

Harry got the shock of his life at the sight of Snape's poor, mutilated face.

He cried out; fell backwards, flinching away, leaving Snape to prowl around in the darkness alone.

"What did they do to you?" he whispered, more to himself than to Snape.

"Potter? Potter, is that you?" Snape's voice was rasping; there was more than a hint of desperation to it. Harry realised he was being cruel, and held out one hand.

"Here," he whispered. "My hand, here."  

Snape's hand flailed helplessly, until at last they connected. Snape imprisoned his hand in both his own.

"Potter?" he growled, then lifted Harry's palm to his face - pressed his face clean against it - and inhaled deeply, breathing Harry in.

"My hands are dirty," Harry protested, "don't put them against your poor face, you'll only -" Snape dropped his hand as if touching it hurt him. He practically threw it away from himself. Harry skin tingled where Snape had touched him.

"What happened to you?" he gasped out. Snape snorted in the darkness.

"So," he said, voice sounding acrid and bitter, "you are alive, at least. I had wondered. Been having a nice time, have you? Wherever you have been?"

"I didn't know," Harry mumbled, miserably.

"Didn't know what?" Snape hissed back. He did sound thoroughly resentful. Harry did not blame him.

"Did not know you were alive!" Harry cried. "Hermione and Ron - they lied to me, told me you were…" he broke off. "Hermione wrote to Draco, did he not tell you?"  

Harry stopped - he had spied something on the ledge under the window. Sheaves of papers, the handwriting on which looked suspiciously familiar... He lunged for them.

"Here they are!" he cried, his hands full of slightly weathered (and dusty) envelopes, all bearing Hermione's handwriting. They had been opened, he saw - then a horrible thought occurred to him.

"Draco didn't read them to you, did he? You did not know my friends were looking for you?" He wanted to kill Draco in that instant. If the weasel were still there, Harry felt that he probably would have done it. Harry dropped the letters. They fluttered to the floor.

"Of course he did not," Snape snarled, as though this were somehow Harry's fault. "What do they say?"  

Snape groped around and picked one up. He shuffled the letter out of its envelope and held it up before his sightless eyes.

"Ah yes," he sneered, pretending to read it, "most informative. Of course I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL IT SAYS!" he screamed, balling up the letter in his fist and throwing it in Harry's direction.

"I'm sorry," Harry moaned. "They kept it from me - told me you'd died, told me… They didn't even tell me you had lost your si -"  

"DON'T SAY IT!" Snape screeched, and Harry fell silent.

He wanted to reach out and touch Snape, but he did not dare. It truly seemed as though the months of loneliness had frozen Snape's poor heart.

Snape sighed, and made himself more comfortable on the floor, his back against a bookcase. He stretched his long legs out in front of himself and let his head fall back until it thudded against the bindings of the books.

"How did you survive?" Harry finally asked. "I thought you were dead - the wards let me go. You said I'd only be free if you died…"  

For a while, it seemed as though Snape had not heard him; the only sound in the room was the mournful crackling of the dying fire.

"I… I do not know… Sheer force of will, perhaps," Snape murmured, finally. "They… did this," he motioned to his blind eyes, "and left me for dead. The next thing I knew, Draco was there. I don't even think he was returning to find me. I think he was returning to pick over the ruins of that house for his belongings…"  

"His father sent him back, there was a spell to keep him here… I'm so sorry I wasn't there," Harry whispered, hugging his knees up to his chest. "You must have thought… You must hate me. But I did not desert you, not knowingly."  

Snape sighed again.

"I thought you must have lied, that last time, when you said you lo…" Snape broke off, and Harry's heart clenched to see there was water brimming in Snape's extinguished eyes. Perhaps there was still hope. Perhaps Snape could still forgive him?

There was a silence. Harry wanted so very badly to close the distance between them.

But Snape did not seem to trust him. Harry could hardly blame him. The man had spent months thinking Harry had left him. Why would be believe Harry now?

"Your eyes," he whispered. "Can they be healed? I know magic now - perhaps I could -"  

"I know of only one way," Snape muttered, darkly. "You won't like it."  

"I'll do anything for you; anything," Harry groaned. "You have done so much for me; I would have given my life for you -"  

"You would have to give up a portion of your own sight," Snape snapped. "And it is magic far beyond anything I have seen performed before. Not that I can see, now."  

"Why beyond?" Harry asked. "I have power, now."  

"It is not about power. It is about… it is a spell only lovers can perform -"  

"The Corde Amare!" Harry breathed.

Snape's head snapped round.

"You know of it?" he whispered.

"I read it once, in an old book of Sirius'…" Harry smiled, sadly.

"Well," Snape said, grumpily. "You will have read, then, of how great a sacrifice it is. Of how much love is required. After all this time… I thought you had left me. I do not think you care for me enou -"  

"I'll do it," Harry said. "You once asked me to know my own heart. Well, I do. I was young when we first met, and afraid. Then Sirius died, and I was convinced I ought to block out all my feelings, to stop myself... But I could not, not when I realised I was about to lose you to Draco. You have been incredible; been patient with me all this time… You have loved me, throughout everything. It is time I did something for you."  

"I remember," Snape said, suddenly, "the last thing you ever said to me."  

Harry smiled.

"However," Snape went on, "you need not carry on this farce. The Corde Amare is a great sacrifice. If it is no longer true - or you said those words to me merely out of gratitude, or pity…" he sucked in a breath. "If you have returned now out of pity, I wish you to leave! Leave me now and… never come back. The spell will not work, in any case, if you do not mean it. Gratitude is not enough. I know you have in you to be so kind, but do not give up any part of your sight for me. I can survive… without it."  

Harry, blinking back his own tears, reached across with his left hand and gripped Snape's fingers tightly in his own. Snape frowned in confusion - then realised. His hands started to tremble.

He seized Harry's hand, fingertips smoothing over the ring; counting the fingers to discover which one Harry wore it on…  

"We're engaged, do you not remember?" Harry whispered, softy. "We possess a… a spiritual connection… Even thought I thought you dead, I still loved you. I love you now. Please believe m -"  

Snape leapt at him with a cry and kissed him, forcing their mouths together almost painfully.

Harry enfolded Snape in a cocoon of arms and legs and kissed him back.

"I… Harry," Snape moaned, broken, pressing his palms to Harry's cheeks in despair; as though he were trying to see with his hands. "Is it really you? My… my heart would burst… for want to see your face," he confessed, crying into Harry's mouth. Harry clung to him, sobbing against Snape's lips; clawing at Snape with his fingers; straining him close…  

"I think I have enough power to… to give you some sight without losing my own… I am willing to risk it, to try," Harry gasped, as Snape kissed his jaw. "I would do anything to make you happy..."  

Snape brought their mouths together again, and Harry's body opened out for him like a flower in bloom.

Neither of them spoke for a very long time.  

When they finally broke apart, the first words out of Harry's mouth were: "Corde Amare…"  

Green eyes met black.  

They stared at each other for a long time, before Snape's face broke into a smile.  



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