Harry glared across the room at Snape. He didn’t know why he’d agreed to this. It wasn’t the stupidest plan he’d ever had, in fact it was working. A little too well.
Snape spun under the arm of a handsome blond bloke. He danced with grace, not too much, or it would’ve been obvious, but just enough for Harry to know that he was much better at it than Harry could ever be.
Hermione slid up alongside Harry. “I see Harry is having a lot of fun,” she said with a wink.
Harry couldn’t keep his eyes off his ‘clone’. Snape played him better than anyone else ever had. “He is enjoying himself, isn’t he?”
“You should as well.” She nudged him with her elbow. “I know charity galas aren’t your thing, but you’ve been single too long. If your coworker,” she nodded towards Snape, “is single, you should ask him out. He seems to know you very well.”
If only she knew. Harry sighed and slowly shook his head. Even without their past, Snape wasn’t the sort of person you asked out on a date.
She squeezed his arm and turned to walk away.
She stopped and glanced back at him.
“How did you know?”
“I was standing near Harry, talking to another guest, when I mistakenly said that this will be the first time in ten years that Alchemy will be offered at Hogwarts. He corrected me.”
Harry had no idea Alchemy had ever been offered at Hogwarts. He quaffed his glass and headed to the bar for a refill. There were a lot of handsome men in the room, some of whom had expressed interest in him before. He’d just never felt comfortable with anyone who knew about his past. Sooner or later, they wanted to know about his prison experience, and he didn’t trust anyone but his best friends with the details. Muggles didn’t know, they didn’t ask, and when he’d told his one boyfriend, Jon, part of it, Jon had listened without judgement or question.
Robards, the head of the Auror Department, caught Harry’s eyes from across the room and started walking over. Not wanting to talk to his boss after he’d had three glasses of champagne, Harry raised his glass in salute, then dropped it on the bar and darted across the room to Snape. He tapped the blond on the shoulder.
“May I cut in?”
The blond man reluctantly left. Snape posed exactly how Harry normally did when starting a dance. Awkwardly, Harry took his hand and put his other hand on Snape’s waist. Merlin, he even somehow smelled like him. Had Snape stolen his clothes?
Snape pulled him around the floor, stepping exactly how Harry did when he danced. Harry snapped, “Would you stop that?”
“Stop what?” asked Snape, his eyebrows rising in an expression that the real Snape would never show.
“Being so damn uncanny,” hissed Harry.
“I thought that was the point of this little farce.” He sounded amused. Was that how Harry sounded when he was amused?
He’d expected Snape to skulk around the edges, not hit on handsome guests. “Why were you dancing with him anyway? He’s going to expect something from me.”
“People talk to you. I also want pictures taken.” Snape nodded to the roving band of photographers. “The Death Eaters may not have the clout or skill to follow you in person, but they’ll be reading the papers. A little closer now, we want to be photographed.” He pulled Harry tighter against him. If it had actually been Snape, with his body, and his smell, and his changed, but still the same face, Harry probably would’ve popped a boner, but it was . . . himself. He’d spent time chatting and associating with others who’d been disguised as him, but none of them had left him feeling that he was looking in a mirror.
“Relax,” said Snape softly, his lips near Harry’s ear and his voice all wrong. “You look as though you wish to flee from me at a moment’s notice.”
“Just act a little more like you.”
“Is this better?” said Snape, his voice deep enough to raise goose pimples on Harry’s arms.
Wordlessly, Harry nodded.
“A lot of people have been watching you,” said Snape, his eyes flickering over the crowd as he spun them both around.
“They normally do.” Harry claimed the lead and took them closer to the edge of the floor. Snape effortlessly followed. “I don’t take them seriously unless they try to follow me from an event, or enter my home.”
Snape’s brows knitted. “Has that happened often?”
“Once or twice, normally a fan rather than someone trying to hurt me. Thankfully that’s pretty much died down. I work on private cases, so I seem really boring to the public eye. I’d avoid things like this entirely, except that I’ve found it’s better to occasionally pop up on their radar so they don’t chase after stories.”
“Let’s get a drink,” suggested Snape, his eyes surveying the dance floor with shrewd calculation. He’d probably seen the head photographer for the celebrity gossip section nip off to the loo.
Harry was ready to call it a night, but Snape seemed to know what he was doing, so he allowed himself to be led back to the bar. Snape fetched drinks for both of them, then steered Harry to a corner with an excellent vantage point of the entire gathering. Bored of surveying the crowd, Harry plopped down on one of the fat sofas that lined the edges of the room.
Snape joined him. “Look a little more lively. We’ll not be pictured together if you look miserable.”
“The whole reason I've had Ron or Hermione take your role was so that I wouldn’t have to look lively. I’m here. That’s- Do I really sit like that?” He arched an eyebrow at Snape’s prim posture.
“When you’re agitated or nervous.” Snape relaxed against the sofa, pressing comfortably against Harry’s side. He adjusted his pale blue robes. Harry recognised them as his own, but Snape had tailored them or something, because they looked a hell of a lot better on him than they ever had on Harry.
“Are you sure you haven’t been stalking me? Because you are too good at playing me.”
Snape chuckled in his own voice, a deep rich sound that went straight down Harry’s spine. “When I pick a character I ape certain motions that I’ve observed over the years, but mostly I try to figure out the individual’s key motivations and work from there.”
Harry glanced out over the crowd as he sipped on his drink. “So what’s my motivation?”
After a moment, Snape said, “You wall yourself off from the world even as you seek its approval.”
Harry shot him a critical glare. “I don’t care what they think of me.”
Snape arched an eyebrow at him in a very Snape way. “You want them to respect you, but you think that they don’t.”
“They don’t. You saw that bloody video.”
“They do,” Snape said, his face melting back into a more ‘Harry’ expression. “They criticised the hell out of Albus, but they still respected him. I don’t see why you don’t embrace your role.”
Had Snape gone daft? “Because I’m not some bloody saviour.”
Snape said nothing, just looked at him.
Harry hated the weight of his stare. Certainly Snape didn’t see him as a hero. “And besides, they don’t respect me as an Auror.”
“How can they when you don’t take on many public cases?”
He had a point. “My coworkers respect me. That should be enough.”
“Your coworkers are your friends and allies.”
Harry shook his head. “Robards is anything but my friend. I don’t know why he seems disappointed I can actually do my job.”
“He hoped you be easy to manipulate.”
Harry stared at Snape. “How do you know that?”
Snape’s eyes flickered over to Robards. “I assumed, based on what I have read and observed. You’re headstrong, but that isn’t shown in your portrayals. If all I had seen was the media, I’d have thought you’d be someone easy to control. Why don’t you take on more leadership roles?”
It was the last question he expected to hear from Snape. Harry sipped at his drink as he pointed out, “I teach an Auror class.”
“Outside of that. I know you sit on the board of the directions of several charities, but Mrs Granger-Weasley is normally the public face, is she not?”
Harry nodded. “I hate kissing arse and these galas. I’d much rather they write me a check.”
“And you ran The Scientific Wizard without any public acknowledgement.”
Giving Snape a cheeky grin, Harry raised his glass in salute. “Couldn’t have you figuring it out.”
Snape gave him a slight roll of the eyes before he continued, “In other words, outside the Auror department, only your friends and those who keep close tabs on you know how much you’ve done.”
“After so many years of hearing you call me ‘arrogant’, I’m surprised that you think I should aggressively push to a more public position.” The idea of having his life fall under even more scrutiny sounded like a quick descent to hell. He settled back, stopped from completely relaxing by Snape’s disguise.
“It isn’t arrogance if you’re better than them,” said Snape quietly, but firmly. “Robards is an idiot who runs the department more out of concern for politics than for catching Dark wizards. You’ve already closed the equivalent of half of the cases he did his entire career.”
Harry had no idea how many cases Robards had closed. “How do you know these things?”
Snape perfectly mimicked Harry’s cool dismissal. “I have my sources.”
“Arsehole,” Harry muttered into his drink. In his training, he’d learned to hide many of his emotions, but he could never stop the pink from staining his cheeks. Snape giving compliments and suggesting he take power? Maybe he was taking his role of playing Harry a little too far... “I can’t exactly step up to a position that isn’t open. We lost a lot of Aurors in the war, and many have been in their positions for only a few years.”
“Then make a new one,” said Snape, his eyes oddly intense for their green colour. Had there always been flecks of gold around the irises? He’d never noticed it before, but they were striking, maybe only because Snape’s fire couldn’t be contained behind them. He’d nearly been consumed by it five years ago, but still some part of him wanted a taste.
Harry tore his eyes to the dance floor. “Bloody hell, I can’t do this. Maybe we should switch roles.”
“We could go to the restroom and exchange capsules, but-” Snape gave the tiniest nod to a photographer sneaking shots of them. “we’d be faced with questions about what we were doing that took us so long.”
“Having one off in the loo would make me stand out,” joked Harry. Snape gave him an amused look that was more Snape than Harry.
Finishing off his drink, Harry stood. “Let’s dance a bit longer to make sure they get some good pictures. Only this time-” He jabbed Snape in the chest as Snape stood. “-stop dancing like me. I have no plans to dance again for quite some time, so you won’t be giving anything away.”
Placing a firm, strong hand on Harry’s lower back, Severus led him to the side of the dance floor. They clasped hands and Snape moved his grip to Harry’s hip. How much of his new familiarity was due to him being himself and how much of it was just an act for a camera? Then again, was Snape ever himself, or just roles he played for various purposes?
Quietly, Harry asked, “Do you think there’s a large group?” The Auror Department considered the UK mostly cleaned.
“No,” answered Snape in the same soft tone. “A dedicated one.”
That could be much worse. “Why don’t they just go live their lives? Some of them have. Why can’t they all?”
“Why are you an Auror?” Snape asked again.
Harry had the feeling he wasn’t just asking that to make a point. “I’ve seen what happens to unchecked power.” He glanced at the scars that now adorned the back of Snape’s hand, rubbing his thumb across the edge of the permanently scarred flesh. “I don’t trust the Ministry. If I’m on the inside, I have a better chance of cutting off the darkness before it spreads too far.”
“It isn’t your job to save the world.”
“No,” agreed Harry. “But I do what I can. I’m one of the few Aurors who refuses to step outside the boundaries. I wouldn’t mind if they were restricted even more to support the rights of the accused.”
“You’ve never obeyed the rules.” On Harry’s face, the expression was quite mischievous. “Why start now?”
“Oh come on,” Harry laughed. “You must admit that ‘because I said so’ is no basis for law. Besides, someone had to save the innocents and keep the Death Eaters at bay. Speaking of which...” He half expected Snape to refuse to answer, but he had to ask. He had to pick his words carefully. Anyone could be listening in. “During that year were you so against my godfather because you believed him to be guilty of his crime?”
“Yes,” said Snape simply. The next song had more of a beat, and his hand pressed against Harry’s hip, showing him how to sway.
“And you thought he would hurt me?” It wasn’t right looking into his own eyes. He couldn’t make out a thing behind the glasses. Was it Snape just being in character or was he entirely emotionless about those events?
“If he betrayed her, he would certainly cause you harm.” Snape spun Harry, then pulled him closer, the fronts of their robes pressed tight against each other. Not close enough for their groins to brush, but close enough for Harry to be reminded of the mere inch or two that separated them.
Bulbs flashed and Harry plastered a smile on his face. He didn’t dare ask the question that had been haunting his thoughts for these five years: Did you always think of my mother when you looked at me? He feared that Snape would end the dance, leave the room, and never come back. More importantly, he feared he would say, ‘yes’. Instead, he asked a milder one, “Did you expect I’d find you?”
“I expected you to be so busy, you had no reason to bother. I certainly wouldn’t have written that letter had I known.”
“You would’ve.” Harry said proudly. “You can’t stand people being wrong, especially when they’re very publicly wrong or people like Hermione.”
Snape’s eyes flickered over to where she danced with Ron. “She’s so certain all of the time.”
“So are you!”
Snape’s expression shifted to one that was far more Snape than Harry. “I know what I speak about.”
“Not always, including the situation we were just talking about. I can list a hundred more examples.” Then, just because he knew it would take the piss out of Snape, he added, “You and Hermione are exactly the same in a lot of ways.”
Snape closed the small distance between them, pressing his now equally sized body against Harry’s. In a voice that was deep, soft, and all Snape, he said, “Careful, Harry. There are some insults too grave to bare.”
A shiver shot down Harry’s spine, while his legs turned to jelly. Holy fuck, that was exactly what he’d missed - the teasing familiarity laced with a hint of danger. It was a good thing Snape hadn’t used his given name more often. All the blood in his body had headed straight to his groin. He pulled back to give himself room to breathe. The only thing that kept him from completely short-circuiting was that he was dancing with himself.
“That should be good enough,” commented Snape, his eyes on the reporters.
“So we can finally leave?” breathed Harry.
“You can leave,” said Snape. “I’d like to do a little more scouting.”
“I don’t want to hear any stories in the morning about what I did,” said Harry under his breath and in mock scolding. “No snogging, no matter how handsome he is.”
Snape tried laughing in Harry’s voice, but it sounded a bit too high for Harry’s ears.
“Lower,” he said before he pulled away and hurried from the room before he could change his mind.