“Harry!” A hand grabbed Harry’s shoulder and shook him. “Are you drunk?”
“No.” Harry pushed away Severus’s hand and sat up. “Just resting.” He rubbed his face. “What time is it?”
“Three,” said Snape. He still wore Harry’s body.
“What were you doing with my body at three am?” Harry had the feeling he didn’t want to know the answer.
“I was in your office in the Ministry. What are you doing in my bed?”
Harry glanced down at the bed. After the confusing night, he’d gone into Snape’s room, laid down on the bed, and breathed in the smell of Snape. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but it had been oddly relaxing. “I was waiting for you. I wanted to know who you talked to so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself in the morning.”
Snape sat down on the bed beside Harry. He went through the short list of names and what he’d said. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“Can you change your face?” asked Harry. It felt odd to hear Snape’s voice coming from his mouth.
Snape downed a potion and transformed back to Dimitri.
“Your real face,” Harry insisted.
Slowly drawing his wand, Snape cast spells on himself, reworking the nose, his skin, and other tiny features until he was the man Harry remembered from five years before. “Is that better?” he asked, touching his nose to see if he’d made it the right size.
Finally! Harry had Snape again. Not Dimitri or himself, but the man he’d thought he’d lost. That huge hook nose and sallow, tired-looking skin weren’t as objectively pleasing as the new face Snape had made for himself, but in an odd way, they were sexier. More striking. It was the face of a man who’d been through horrors and had committed many himself along the way. It was honest and open, not just another mask. Just seeing it again sent a jolt of fire to Harry’s groin and part of him wanted to roll over and spread his legs like an animal in heat. It couldn’t be healthy to be so fixated on someone he barely knew. Someone he’d sworn he wouldn’t become involved with romantically again.
“Your hair is sticking straight up,” said Snape, amusement on his face as he carded his fingers through Harry’s hair, the digits leaving trails of electricity in their wake. “What else did you want to talk to me about?”
Enthralled by finally seeing Snape’s face, it took Harry a bit to remember why he’d originally come into Snape’s room. “I’m too tired to do it now. I want to compile our notes on various Death Eaters and pick out ones most likely to be involved with Nik. I want their likely nicknames and aliases, so if he mentions someone later today, I know who he means.” Unable to resist, he sat up and sniffed Snape. “You still smell like me. Did you steal my toiletries?”
“Yes,” said Snape, his voice tight.
“You’re so creepy,” said Harry without any heat. “I assume you went through everything in my flat.”
“I left your sleeping area alone.”
Harry pictured the porn and sex toys under his bed and said, “Good.” He flopped back on the bed, away from Snape and his familiar face and body. He wasn’t quite ready for all those memories to return again. Closing his eyes, he said, “I suppose you investigated Robards.”
“I double checked. He’s clean. I still don’t trust him, but-”
“You don’t trust anybody.”
“I wouldn’t be here if that were true,” Snape said quietly.
“Oh come on,” Harry opened his eyes. Snape still remained poised exactly as before. Light spilled in from the hall and cut across his face, making his nose look even larger and more hooked than normal. There was something terrible and tragic in the deep lines of his face and it didn’t make any sense at all that Harry wanted to kiss him, much less do so much more. “Who would believe me? They’d all think I’d gone mad. As soon as I brought someone around to see the proof, you’d vanish.”
“I’d have to,” Snape said, the majority of his expression hidden in the shadow. “But I know you wouldn’t deliberately put me in danger.”
“Hermione would keep your secret,” Harry insisted.
“She would regard my interaction with you as a cause for concern. Did she think our relationship healthy?”
Not in the slightest. Harry couldn’t blame her. He didn’t regard it as healthy. “No, but she doesn’t know you like I do. If you tried to . . .” Rape. Torture. Manipulate. “. . . hurt me, I wouldn’t stand for it. I’d report you in an instant. I don’t think you will though. Maybe that’s me being an idiot, but I trusted you, and I defeated him. And lived! I couldn’t have done that unless some - small though it may be - part of you cared.” Even if it was for all the wrong reasons.
Snape stood and walked into the shadows. From the darkness, he said, “I nearly killed you,” in a harsh voice.
Harry sat up, the sleep melted from him. “To save me from them?”
“I considered that. I also delayed letting you fight the Dark Lord. I tried to be certain that you would live, even though it was impossible.”
“It wasn’t impossible,” Harry pointed out.
“It should have been.” Snape emerged from the shadows. He’d changed out of Harry’s robes and back into his own. The tighter cut of the robes he now wore showed off the long, lean angles of his body. The line between his eyebrows was darker than Harry had ever seen. “I don’t know why you lived.”
“I don’t either,” said Harry with a shrug. “But I imagine it had something to do with my possession of the Cloak, the Wand, and the Stone, any one of which you could have taken. The fact that I was the true Master of the Elder Wand helped considerably. You could’ve kept it.”
Snape stepped over to sit on the edge of the bed. He was close enough that could’ve touched hands if they both extended their arms, but he still seemed as distant as he had back then before they’d grown closer together. Had they ever grow closer together or was it all an act?
“I couldn’t risk it,” Snape said, his voice low.
“Letting Voldemort live, or me die?”
Snape looked at him, his dark eyes roaming over Harry’s body. “Do you think I didn’t concern myself with your life? You wouldn’t have lived if he had.”
“That’s not a real answer,” huffed Harry. “No bullshit. No equivocation. Was it all about stopping Voldemort or did you care if I lived outside of my use as a weapon?”
“I cared,” said Snape, as if Harry had insulting him by asking the question. “That’s why I tried to be certain you would live.”
It was a long way from caring to loving, but at least Harry had got him to verbally admit he cared. “I didn’t take the second potion - or at least, what I thought was the second potion - because I thought you might try to stop me. I talked to Tom, the Horcrux-”
Snape’s eyebrows rose so far up his forehead, it looked ridiculous and Harry laughed.
“What did he say?” asked Snape.
Watching Snape’s face, Harry answered, “That you couldn’t be trusted because you were in love with me and would never let me leave you or die. He wanted me to give him control.”
Snape didn’t blink at the ‘in love’ part. He said, “He had control a few times. When you were given that hallucinogen, you stood and - you weren’t yourself. You spoke to Voldemort in Parseltongue.”
“I was in his head. Or, I guess, he was in mine.” Harry rubbed his face in his hands, not wanting to return to that time. “Why weren’t you at the ceremony?”
“He turned on me sooner than I expected.” Snape touched his cloth-covered neck. “I made sure to poison Nagini before I focused on healing myself.”
“Do you still have the scar?”
“Yes, although I glamour it away when needed.”
Harry scooted to the edge of the bed near Snape. “May I see it?”
Snape’s elegant fingers flew to his collar and carefully undid the first few buttons. He pushed aside enough cloth to reveal a shiny patch of pale, damaged skin spread across his neck and left collarbone. Little tendrils raced off from the main wound, most of them disappearing behind Snape’s neck, or under the cloth that still covered his shoulder and chest.
This close, he smelled like himself again and his flesh pulsed invitingly. Harry didn’t dare reach out and touch him. He had the feeling that if he pressed even his fingertip against that skin, he’d find it impossible to pull away. “Most of mine are from before the war,” he said instead, rubbing his fingers over the oval wound on his own chest.
“I should think yours make you easily identifiable.” Snape nodded to Harry’s hand.
“I hide it from Muggles,” Harry admitted. “I told one boyfriend. I said I was using expensive cream to cover it. But I said it happened in the prison. I didn’t want him launching an investigation into the school I pretended to have attended.” Enough of this idle talk. He glared at Snape and said the words he’d been wanting to say for some time, “You shouldn’t have left. You should’ve at least let me know that you lived. I couldn’t stand the thought that you had been yet another person who died for me.”
“If I had, it wouldn’t have only been for you. I had my own reasons.”
For my mum? The last thing he needed was another reminder of how Snape had been madly in love with her. Of how the protection for his own life had been an afterthought based on an old obsession. Heat rose thick and hot in Harry’s head. Before he could stop himself, he jumped to his feet. “Arsehole.” He turned to march from the room when Snape grabbed his wrist.
“I had to do everything I could to make sure he died,” said Snape, his voice low and his eyes glittering. “I couldn’t let him live. Not after everything he’d done.”
Harry ripped his hand away. “That doesn’t stop you from leaving a note. Oh, wait - you did. Only, you failed to mention the fact that you fucking lived. Bastard.”
Snape stood and took a step towards Harry, leaving only a few hand spans between them. “I was trying to protect you.”
Harry pushed him back towards the bed. “No. You were trying to protect yourself. To make sure no one knew you lived. It wouldn’t have cost you anything to tell me. Not a fucking thing.” A huge lump hung in his throat and he had the feeling that if he stayed a second longer, he’d start swinging his fists, so he marched to the door. This was exactly why he’d sworn off Snape in the first place.
Snape swept in front of his path, his strong hands clasping Harry’s shoulders, stopping him immediately. This close, with his partially open shirt and thinner robes, his heat and scent poured off of him, making it impossible for Harry to marshal his defenses. Harry’s heart slammed to a stop in his chest and he couldn’t move or think of anything other than those skilled hands travelling to other parts of his body.
Snape’s piercing eyes never left Harry’s. “If I had hurt you...” His face twisted, as if even the thought of it pained him. “If I had damaged you... I couldn’t have lived with myself. I had to be certain that if we knew each other afterwards, it was because you wanted it. Freely. I had to be certain that your desire for contact did not arise from co-dependence or Stockholm Syndrome. It had to be you.”
Had it? Already, Harry’s cock pulsed thick and heavy in his pants, even though Snape had barely touched him. His body screamed for more, even though he’d convinced himself that he’d only desired friendship or, at the very least, proof that Snape lived. Maybe it was the drug, but he’d become addicted to Snape. Intellectually, he knew Snape was a dark, walled off bastard who had trouble being honest. So why did he crave him so desperately? Why did it hurt to stand here and not give in to the urge to taste and touch every inch of that body he knew so well? No. He had to be firm. “You had no right to make those choices for me. I know my own self and you should trust my judgement.”
“I see that now,” said Snape gravely.
Bloody hell. A few words, that look of concern, and suddenly Harry couldn’t hold onto his anger anymore. Only Snape could completely disarm him. He needed a moment to think. He stepped back, out of the reach of Snape’s arms. “Don’t ever decide what’s best for me again. I needed help after the war. I was a mess. After everything...” He took a deep breath and stared at the carpet, unable to look at the man who’d been the cause of so much pain. “I needed somebody who understood. I’m better now. I don’t need you. But I needed you then. And you left. If you leave again, I won’t forgive you.”
“I won’t,” said Snape. “Not on purpose.”
Harry let out a sigh and met Snape’s eyes with disappointment. “You always have to have a way out, don’t you?”
“I cast the Sacred Bond of Thebes, Harry,” said Snape, his expression pained. “That’s what I did during that ceremony. If you die, and I can restore your body, I’ll die so you can live. I can’t promise my life because Merlin knows how close we’ve both come to death.”
“Get rid of it,” insisted Harry.
“I can’t. It’s done. And,” his face hardened. “I won’t. You already gave your life so that others may live. It’s only fitting that I do the same for you. After everything I did to hurt you-”
His chest tightening, Harry had to look away.
“I will gladly give you another chance at the life you deserve.”
Staring at the carpet, Harry said through gritted teeth, “I don’t want anyone else to die for me. Why can’t you understand that?”
“You forgive more easily than I.”
Although he didn’t support it, Harry understood. Snape didn’t believe in redemption, he probably thought it beyond his reach. Instead, he’d been fueled by vengeance. Harry glanced back up at Snape. “You thought the spell would work when he killed me. You didn’t expect to live.”
Snape nodded slowly. “I had to be certain that you’d live.”
“I don’t need a protector.” I needed a friend.
“Obviously,” said Snape, his sarcastic drawl brought a smile to Harry’s lips.
“I must’ve given you a lot of heart attacks.” Looking back now, he’d done a lot of incredibly brash things. It was amazing they both had lived.
“You don’t know the half of it.”
There. That playful banter. That’s what he missed. That’s what he’d needed to hear after the war. It was too late to go back and recover those dark days, but maybe they could work towards a healthy relationship now. “Be prepared for another one. As soon as I get home from work, we’ll go over our plan, then head out and-” Harry held up a warning hand. “before you try to convince me otherwise, I’m going to be Ben. Nik knows how Ben acts and I know how to play him. We’ll switch after work, I’ll Floo to Ben’s place, then leave from there.”
“Someone from the Ministry needs to watch you,” insisted Snape. “If he’s followed you here, he has a plan.”
“I can handle it,” Harry said firmly. “I’ll have Ron do it. Just have the information I need ready for when I return from work.”
“Very well,” said Snape.
Harry stepped around Snape and left for his room. In the doorway, he paused. “If you need anything, let me know.”
“I have everything I need,” said Snape quietly.
Harry walked back to his room and shut the door. He threw himself across the bed and took a deep breath. What was wrong with him? Half of him wanted to go back in Snape’s room and kiss him. Maybe he should try it just to get it out of his system. “Bad idea,” he reminded himself. Snape was not the type of bloke he needed to be falling in love with. He needed someone honest and kind. An equal. If he were one of those men who could separate sex and love, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but he knew that the second he started kissing Snape, he’d fall in love again. And then Snape would hurt him. Or disappear again. Or lie constantly. Or go around killing people.
Ugh. Harry buried his face in his hands. Hermione had been right. He should’ve left things alone. Interacting with Snape was like playing with fire, and already he was dangerously close to being burned.