Fic: Remedial Potions - for [personal profile] tripperfunster

Dec. 21st, 2009 11:26 pm
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[personal profile] snarryhols posting in [community profile] snarry_holidays
Title: Remedial Potions
Author: Rita Skeeter. Duh.
Giftee: [personal profile] tripperfunster
Word Count: 15,199
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: All Snarry, all the time.
Warnings: None that I can think of.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: It turns out Harry probably shouldn't have spent his sixth year cheating, because now he needs Remedial Potions for real...
Author's Notes: Sorry it's not art, Tripp! I just can't compete. This is based on your mention of potions-made-me-do-it, but I ended up applying a somewhat fluid interpretation. I really hope you like it. To my beta, you know who you are: THANK YOU, and my soul is in the post. Oh, and in case any North Americans are not aware, Where's Waldo=Where's Wally in the UK.



The headmistress would be expecting him, so Harry couldn't quite bring himself to go home and hide in his bed. Half-way to the office, he realised his hands stung.

He looked down, and realised with a detached sort of embarrassment that his shirt was torn to pieces, and his palms and forearms were bloody and pockmarked with tiny fragments of cauldron. He banished them all in one go outside McGonagall's office, and patched up his clothes while breathing through the sting – but even so, he had the suspicion that McGonagall could see something had happened.

"Potions accident," he explained, and slumped backwards into an armchair.

McGonagall raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. She conjured sweet tea and chocolate biscuits. Harry tucked in gratefully, feeling a little more sane.

"You look as though you could do with something stronger," she observed. "Severus isn't..."

"Isn't what?" said Harry, just a little defensively. Then he shook his head to clear it.

"It was just a bit of an explosion," he said. "My fault. I got angry."

"Ah," said McGonagall, very diplomatically.

"I don't really –" Harry sighed, and started again. "I don't get Snape."

"In what way?" said McGonagall, again exceedingly diplomatic. She nudged the biscuits closer. Harry wondered how it was possible that she could look so very much like Dumbledore with so little visually in common.

"I thought he still hated me. I mean, he was really, really hateful to me –"

"Was he?"

Harry scowled at his digestive.

"Well. He glared at me."

"I've never known Severus to do anything else," she said, with a faint, fond smile.


"Yeah," said Harry, "But... it's. And I hadn't even done anything."

Harry winced. McGonagall looked tolerantly amused.

"So what makes you think he might not hate you?" she said, eying one overlooked little bloodstain in a way which made Harry think she knew.

Well, mostly knew.

Not that he could think of anything significant that she might not think of. Nothing significant at all.

"I –" he said, then stopped. "He seemed really worried about me."

McGonagall smiled openly.

"Well," she said. "That's reassuring." She sat back, considering him thoughtfully over steepled fingers. Harry looked down at his tea, uneasy.

"Alright," she said eventually. "I want you to consider something. You aren't sure whether he's a bastard or a saint, yes?"

McGonagall's inflection on bastard was enchantingly Scottish, and Harry wouldn't blush at a teacher swearing, not at all.

"Yeah," he said.

"Maybe," she said, with a glint in her eye, "He's both. Or neither. Or maybe – and this is the explanation I prefer to believe – he's spent so long pretending to be one or the other that he no longer knows who he is."

Harry looked at her thoughtfully.

"And you must consider," she continued briskly, "That not only has he given up his Saturday mornings for you, he has been relatively non-confrontational about it. I'm sure I can confide to you confidentially that he did not so much as argue when I presented your case to him."

"He didn't?"

McGonagall shook her head.

"Not a word. Saturday mornings, that was all he said. If I can be frank with you, Harry, I'm a little concerned about him. He's been very quiet in classes. Not so much as a detention, barely a point lost. His students are all too scared of what will happen when he recovers that detention's not been warranted, but it's alarming nevertheless. I don't know where to start, after what he's been through... I rather hoped he and you could – offer some mutual support."

"So did I," said Harry, wondering why it felt as dirty as a confession. "But I think maybe I've not done a great job."

McGonagall, surprisingly, patted his hand.

"I'm sure you'll sort it out," she said.

"Yeah," said Harry, mind wandering back over the past eight weeks. "Yeah, thanks."

He downed his tea, taking his cue to leave.

"Well, thank-you, Headmistress –"

"Minerva."

"Er, yeah, Minerva. Thanks for the tea. I should probably go and –" He realised he had no assignment to research this time. "– get back into bed," he finished lamely.

"Good idea," said Minerva kindly. Harry got half-way down the stairs before he remembered he'd meant to ask something.

"He's really ill, isn't he?" Harry said. "He takes this potion –"

Minerva looked at him with sad eyes. She nodded.

"He doesn't seem to get any better," he said.

"No," she said, straightening one tartan sleeve. "But then, I don't believe he wants to."


*


The nice thing about Auror training, thought Harry, is that it doesn't give you much time for thinking.

He'd been doing a lot of not-thinking all week. Not thinking about Snape's eyes blazing hatred; not thinking about Snape urgently saving him from poison at the risk of his own life. Not thinking about how ill he was or how much Harry'd been willfully ignoring it. Definitely not thinking about the Half-Blood Prince, or the fact that Snape was as bright and sharp as a star, and he never lingered on that still-persistent fantasy of reconciliation.

He wasn't even going to think about the other thing he was not-thinking about, though when he closed his eyes he caught a flash of that wide-eyed expression on Snape's face.

He'd been very keen not to let Snape think he was avoiding the lesson by being late, so he'd arrived early. This, he concluded, cringing outside Snape's door, was worse.

He knocked, cringed again when he remembered he hadn't knocked since the first day, and pushed the door open.

"Look," he said, and Snape looked up at him. Harry abruptly lost the ability to speak.

"I'm looking," said Snape dryly, after a moment.

"Er, yeah," said Harry. "Um, I'm sorry about –"

"Shut up, Potter," said Snape, and Harry was about to get angry when he realised Snape was saving them both the embarrassment.

"Alright," he said warily. "What's on the menu today?"

Snape gave him a withering look, which felt... strangely good. Snape hadn't given him anything but stony silence or ugly glares for weeks.

He flicked his wand at the board. A potion appeared. Harry recognised it. He also recognised the error, although he'd have to do some revising in order to explain why.

He pulled out the book that contained the correct recipe and set it down on his desk. Then he got to work.

Five minutes in and six stirs clockwise, he gave in to the impulse to speak.

"Curato," he said. "Latin for healing."

Snape looked up, looking startled and slightly guilty. Then he snorted.

"No it isn't."

He paused.

"Idiot," he added.

A short silence, in which Harry successfully managed to rein in his temper and complete his final stir. He began to carefully remove the wings from his dragonflies.

"But it is the faux-latin name of this potion," he agreed grudgingly. He wasn't quite meeting Harry's gaze. "Although this recipe bears surprisingly little resemblance to the original."

"Does it help your voice?"

"Not in the slightest," said Snape.

"Honey," said Harry idly. Snape raised an eyebrow.

"S'what Aunt Petunia used to give me for a sore throat."

Snape visibly tensed at the familiar name. Harry shrugged, a little apologetically.

"I was just musing," he said.

"Honey in potions, Potter," said Snape briskly.

"Is that a question?" said Harry, and frowned. His potion bubbled persistently; he hastily added the dragonfly wings. "Um – oh, I know. Wounds, scars, youth potions and stuff to do with skin. So I was right?"

"Yes," said Snape, and pointedly lifted up a jar of golden liquid next to his elbow. "But ten points from Gryffindor for complete lack of observational skills."

Harry found himself smiling.

"I don't see what's so amusing, Potter," said Snape. "You'll make a terrible Auror if you persist in this level of obliviousness."

Harry's smile faded.

"You'd be glad," he said. "You don't like Aurors."

"Can't imagine why," said Snape dryly. Harry realised he quite liked the gravelly edge to Snape's voice. "And that implies I care in the slightest what you do."

"You cared about me dying."

"In my classroom, certainly," said Snape. "If I'd let you die I'd be meeting your charming future colleagues in a matter of minutes."

Harry didn't buy this. But he didn't press it. He just smiled.

"This is the most you've talked to me since I started this class."

"For no good reason, and at great personal cost," agreed Snape, rubbing his throat in a manner which Harry might have been tempted to call self-conscious.

He returned to his potion. It was becoming more automatic now, the rhythmic chopping and crushing and stirring, comfortable in the warm circle of heat from his fire. He kept quiet for a while, not knowing quite what would come out if he tried to speak again. He kept his eyes on his potion.

He glanced up, guiltily, and jumped when Snape was stood immediately in front of him. His arms were crossed, and he was watching silently, brows drawn together, but nothing harsh in his expression.

"How am I doing?" he said, and then wished he could cut out his tongue, because that hopeful note was something he'd never intended to let Snape hear.

"Fine," said Snape eventually. Harry stared at him. Snape just stared back, sockets dark and hollow but eyes sharp. Harry noticed there was a little red scratch beside his eye; a missed remnant of last week's drama. To have missed that, he thought, Snape must never look in the mirror.

Well, thought Harry, a weird pain stinging in his chest, neither would he if he looked...

Harry caught the thought. Snape looked sickly and underfed and his cheekbones were too much against his too-pale skin, and he never smiled, and his nose was too big, and he'd been a truly ugly teenager, but the things that were ugly about Snape now were not really based in the physical. No, Harry had learnt enough to realise that you could have a big nose or bad hair or be too thin or but you could still be – desirable.

Snape wasn't desirable, of course. But he was... compelling. Yes, that was it. Something in Harry, something quite frightening, liked the fact that the Snape inside was complex and brutal and smart and heroic and a little bit ugly. And he liked the fact that he didn't really understand him.

Harry realised he'd been staring too long. He felt strangely dizzy.

"You've got –" he said, by way of an explanation, and reached out towards the little red mark. Harry didn't realise he was actually going to touch it until his fingers were there; rough, reddened skin under his fingertips, Snape's hair brushing against his knuckles, and Snape's eyes wide and somehow – afraid.

Harry dropped his hand. He felt faint. He backed away from his cauldron, turning his head to escape the fumes.

Snape took a sharp step back and hit the desk behind him.

"You shouldn't put your head over that," he said coldly. "The fumes have dangerous properties."

And Harry could feel them perfectly well, was feeling quite dizzy with them in fact, but he had the feeling that wasn't all there was to this.

"Sure," he said weakly. He stepped away from the desk behind him, and fainted.

He awoke with Snape kneeling over him, cradling his head, a thumb on his eyelid as though he'd been checking his pupil responses. Snape was staring at him, and there was definite panic there. Harry felt a flush of something like triumph.

"Your ventilation is shit," he said.

"Your safety checks are non-existent," growled Snape.

"I like your voice," said Harry, and made a valiant attempt to stop his dizziness with willpower alone.

"You're an idiot," said Snape, alarm audibly hitching his breath.

"I'm alright," said Harry softly, and sat up. He was facing Snape on the floor now, hip to hip in the aisle.

He stared up at Snape, then down at his neck. His high collar didn't quite cover the patch of scarred skin, and Harry had the ridiculous urge to touch Snape again, to trace it with his finger.

"How come you're not on the floor?" said Harry.

"I am," said Snape dryly. Harry was so close he could practically feel the quiet rumble of Snape's tone.

"You know what I mean. And the other day, you had to have been poisoned too, but you weren't collapsed in a useless heap."

"Tolerance," said Snape shortly, and Harry's impulse to reach out became nearly overwhelming.

"I'm sorry," he said softly. "About –"

"Leaving me to die?" said Snape quietly.

"Er," said Harry, looking at the visible sliver of scar tissue. He was suddenly acutely aware that they were sat on the floor. And Harry's potion would be a total mess by now.

"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, about that. I didn't –"

"I was dead, Potter," he said. "Effectively. You wouldn't have known any different."

"I could have revived you."

"And waste time that could be more effectively spent dying yourself?"

Snape sounded scornful, which seemed unfair, considering Harry's lack of choice. Well, there had been a choice, of course. Just one with an obvious answer.

"You see," said Harry, pulling his knees up to his chin. "This is more like it."

Snape snorted.

"You, Potter, are as much of an idiot as you always were, twice as oblivious, and three times as reckless. Your ambitions are stupid and your fame is nauseating. There is nothing you can truly hope to achieve from this."

Harry elbowed him.

"You're not very convincing."

"Oh, just get up and get out, Potter."

Harry took a deep breath in. He felt much better now.

He stood up.

"Alright," he said quietly, offering Snape a hand. Snape didn't take it.

"But this is progress, you know."

He began to pack his bag. Snape stood up, graceful in a way Harry had never really contemplated, and began to clear up the day's disastrous efforts.

For the first time since he'd started the lessons, walking out of the room suddenly felt like effort.


*


He had strange dreams all that week. He couldn't remember them, but he knew they were dark and frightening, like standing at the edge of a precipice, on the lip of a cauldron with nowhere to go but down.
*


Snape was quiet when he returned. The instructions for the next potion were up on the board.

"Good morning," said Harry brightly. "You know, you ought to get some better lighting in here."

Snape cast him a look. It was unexpectedly ugly. Harry stopped in his tracks.

God, Snape really didn't want them to be friends. Harry couldn't quite make himself believe it, except the bottom seemed to have dropped out of his stomach.

His cauldron was set up and simmering softly, but Harry didn't feel particularly good about it. The weather outside was fierce and windswept today, and there was an unpleasant draft through the cracks in the door. It made the torch-light flicker, illuminating the damp stone and making Harry feel like the walls were closing in. Snape seemed to have chosen the most noxious potion possible, and the smell was making him sick and aching.

He kept his eye on Snape. For the first time, Snape wasn't even looking at him

After half an hour of silence, the hurt had faded – and he was absolutely furious. He set his pestle down and silently rounded the desk, coming to stand next to Snape. He crossed his arms, and waited until Snape noticed.

Snape glanced at him and jumped. Then he turned to face Harry, eyes glittering with annoyance.

"Good morning," said Harry coldly, before he could speak. "Sorry, I just thought I'd say it again, in case you didn't realise I'd arrived."

Snape stared at him, looking angrier than he had any right to be.

"What's wrong?" said Harry, trying to take a more tolerant route but ending up at accusing. rage flared in Snape's eyes.

"Oh, forgive me, Potter, if I haven't given you enough attention yet," he spat. "Your precious little ego will have to wait."

"That's not what I meant," said Harry, biting down a more vicious retort. "I just meant – oh, you know what I meant! You're being... off. What have I done?"

"Absolutely nothing," snarled Snape. "You've behaved entirely true to form. Which is exactly my point. Don't let shared experiences fool you into thinking I have any reason not to hate you. You're a spoiled, arrogant, stubborn brat."

"You know that's not true," said Harry, stepping forward, resisting the urge to shove Snape, hard. "You know I've had just as much shit as you. You just don't want to admit there might be something here!"

Snape looked a little panicked, and panic made Snape angry.

"What, Potter?" He spat, with unnecessary venom. "What could possibly be here?"

"I don't know," spat Harry, "But I'm starting to realise it might not be worth the effort."

Harry had a horrible moment of self-awareness, just a moment before Snape's hands were bunched in his shirt and his back was up against the wall. It hurt, but what hurt more was the child inside him, the one that still cried at night in the cold and dark, locked in a cupboard and convinced that no-one, no-one, was ever going to love him. That crying child was why he raged at Snape's injustice, his rejection, hatred blooming like an ugly weed – but Snape had never had the friends he had, never known what it was to have people really care, and he'd had just the same rejection to deal with. People telling him he wasn't worth the effort. Even his mother.

It was a shock, sudden and painful, to feel what he had always known about Snape.

But it made no sense. How could he hurt Snape? Snape didn't even like him, didn't want to be bothered with – except no, that was nonsense, he'd always wanted approval even as he feigned disinterest, he'd wanted it from Dumbledore and wanted it in the Order of Merlin he desperately coveted, and he'd wanted it most of all from Lily.

Snape stared at him, wild and a little absent, angry without seeming to know quite what he was doing. Harry wondered if this fight was really going to be about something as... absent... as his mother and father. It'd been a long time since he'd looked into a mirror and seen anyone but himself.

"You presume too much," spat Snape. "You presume I care at all for your speeches. You're selfish, Potter." The hands pushed him again, just a little, and Harry tensed, resisting. "You're only here because of what you want from me. Potions help and some delusions of a happy ending."

Harry's hands came up to push Snape away. Snape didn't shift. It was unsettling, how weak he looked and yet how strong he seemed.

"You don't have a clue what I want," said Harry, distracted and hot. "You've only ever been able to see other people in me. But I'm not them. I didn't even know them!"

Snape actually snarled, hands still twisting Harry's shirt up, body an inch away and radiating heat. Harry didn't like it – didn't like the sense of rising alarm and rising awareness, the feeling that somewhere, a line was being crossed. That a line could be crossed. Snape had overstepped his mark as a teacher many times, and in his worst moments he'd broken jars and pulled on Harry's arm, but he'd never been like this – violent, physically touching him, able to hit him or curse him or do whatever he liked because they were on their own time now, and supposedly equals.

And Snape was breathing steadier now, but quickly, like he'd been running, and that panicked look was emerging again, and Harry didn't want to know what it was that scared Snape so much. No, he didn't want to know, and his potion was boiling over, thick, heavy fumes pouring over the lip, and he'd already added the Calamus so there was no telling what effect it would have, and that was all this was – the strange and alien side-effects of a dangerous magical substance. Except there wasn't a this, even though Harry knew there was something, something going on in the space between them and the expression on Snape's face and the hands loosening on his shirt, and he didn't know what it was except bad.

He believed this wholeheartedly for the split second it took for Snape to reach up and grab his hair, pulling it back as though to look for an answer in Harry's face. He still believed it as he licked his dry lips.

He didn't know quite when the lie shattered. He didn't know who did it. He wasn't even thinking the word kiss. He was just feeling, feeling a mouth over his, pressing hard, and it felt enough like a battle that it was easy to fight back with an open mouth and sharp teeth. And, oh, terror was rising in his chest, a bloom of heat sparking his fingertips, flooding with adrenaline ready to fight.

Except it really wasn't a fight.

Panic stopped Harry breathing and he pulled away, but then Snape tried to pull away further and Harry couldn't deal with meeting his eyes and admitting – admitting anything, anything at all except that hot slick feeling and the warmth of a body against his. He pulled Snape back.

Snape slammed his hands back on Harry's shoulders, pressing hard, as though if they hurt each other they could imagine something else. But Snape was winning, whatever the game was, because now Harry was pinned by the length of Snape's body pressing him to the wall, and there were hands in his hair and his legs felt weak against the assault.

It wasn't a good kiss – applying such a word to it would be ridiculous, because it was hot and wild and incautious, barely a kiss at all, with an edge of desperation. But it was... Harry didn't want to think what it was. Harry didn't want it to be real, so he closed his eyes and slid his hands over Snape's chest, mind flickering over the notion of imagining someone else – he felt a little sick at the thought, and clung a little harder. Snape shifted his hips, and someone – Harry didn't want it to be him – made a noise like nothing he'd ever heard, something part fear and all desire, and it was too much to handle.

He pulled his head back, hitting the icy wall with a dull crack. He kept his eyes closed, his hands tight around fistfuls of robe, and tried to remember what it was to breathe. Snape stayed close; his breath was on Harry's neck, harsh and ragged.

"I –" began Harry, horrified when it came out breathy and pleading. "I don't –"

"Don't," said Snape, no more composed. It was startling, to hear that hitch in his breath. Startling and sort of powerful, a bit heady and dangerously exciting, and because it stopped Harry thinking he pushed his hips up into Snape's.

"What –" said Snape, though it was barely a word, and Harry bit his lip, eyes still closed, and tried not to groan. Snape caught his hands, as though to hold Harry back, but then he was pressing Harry back, pressing his whole body against Harry, and there was hot, solid evidence of guilty pleasure pressing into his thigh.

Harry tried to move a hand to pull Snape's mouth back to his, but Snape was still holding on to his wrists, as though the only way he could hold onto this was through the illusion of power. Harry let him have it, let him take responsibility for this, so that Harry could feel that it wasn't his fault when he opened his eyes and begged Snape to kiss him.

Snape's wide-eyed, naked stare was becoming addictive, but not quite as addictive as the harsh sensation of a rough tongue over his. Not quite as addictive as sharp teeth pulling at his bottom lip. Not nearly as addictive as the little shivers that ran through him every time Snape shifted his hips, and nothing like as much of a thrill as Snape's hands scrabbling at his shirt.

Snape tore the buttons without moving away, and Harry rolled his shoulders to shake it off. The wall at his back was icy, but Snape's body was too hot, and it felt feverish and Harry wondered, through a haze of heat and confusion, if the motion of Snape's hips against his would actually drive him insane.

Then Snape tore himself away. Harry stared at him in panic, shirt gone and shivers chasing themselves over his skin, and the hot, dark look in Snape's eyes made him itch. Snape looked wild now, robes creased and hair mussed, stood crooked and off-balance like a puppet on string.

"Don't," begged Harry, and he couldn't have ever imagined begging like that. He could see Snape swallow.

"You have no idea what you're doing," said Snape, voice cracking and breathy and unfamiliar.

"Ah –" began Harry, but his voice failed him. He swallowed thickly. "And you do?"

Snape straightened up, and Harry couldn't cope with this conversation or Snape's fight for composure.

"Come here," said Harry, all steel and desperation, and Snape closed his eyes and stepped forward. He put a hand in Harry's hair, and that strange tenderness was almost too much for Harry, almost unbearable. He leaned up into a kiss.

It was real, this time, raw and physical but an undeniable kiss, with purpose and intent. Snape was taking something from him, fulfilling some deep need, drawing out Harry's breathy gasps and feeling Harry's hopelessly fluttering heart. Those elegant hands roamed again, blind, with no more goal than to touch, and keep touching, never stop absorbing every inch of Harry's skin – Harry dug his nails into Snape's hips and held on tight.

Snape pulled his mouth away, panting and never more than a breath away, and Harry groaned and threw his head back as Snape's hips bucked and sent a pulse of pleasure that connected every muscle he had like a bolt of electricity.

"You –" said Snape, barely coherent. It gave Harry a strange rush, to hear Snape's voice shattered and wild and know that he was responsible. "I –"

"Shut –" began Harry, but didn't get very far, because Snape slid a hand into Harry's jeans.

Harry bucked, his neck snapping back again, and it was very nearly enough but not quite. And Snape seemed to need this so urgently, his mouth on Harry's neck and on his collarbone, panting, sucking, biting hard on Harry's lower lip. Harry could feel the tremble in Snape's hand, they were both shaking, and he'd never tried so hard in his life not to lose control, because this could never, ever end.

But Snape was sliding to his knees, and Harry wondered if it was exhaustion or the fact that this was overwhelming, too overwhelming, turning his brain to a mess of feeling; but it was better than that because before Harry could even think, there was hot, wet pressure wrapping around him. Harry could have screamed, but he didn't, mouth open silently as an urgent mouth worked him, and it was too obscene to watch, the best thing he had ever felt. It was too much, far too much, his back arching until his spine cracked, and when his control broke it felt too good to be real.

Through his delirium, Harry wondered if this was about control again, because he didn't think he'd ever be able to feel that good without Snape again. His knees gave way, and he ended up slumped bonelessly against the wall, opposite Snape, who was wiping his mouth with a strange, unsettling expression.

Harry swallowed. He didn't want to speak, didn't want to move, but he had the feeling he should.

Snape shook his head.

"Get out," he said, and it wasn't unkind, but it was urgent, and it stung.

"Uh –" said Harry, and closed his eyes. "Uh, if you like. But what about –"

He reached out to Snape. Snape caught his wrist. He shook his head again.

"We're done," he said, voice gravelly and low. "This is done. It doesn't have to be analysed. And don't try and manufacture some palatable explanation."

"Palatable explanation," said Harry slowly, in a voice much rougher than his usual.

"Things happen," said Snape, not looking at him.

"Do this thing all the time, do you?" said Harry coldly, getting up and doing up his trousers to regain some semblance of dignity. Snape just stared at him.

"Thought not," said Harry. "Well, surprisingly enough me neither. But what the hell, if you want me to go I'll go. I suppose nothing's changed for you, so I might as well go before you call me a brat again."

Harry wasn't going to clear up this time. He just picked up his shirt, Summoned his bag, and left before Snape could make him feel any worse.


*


Harry managed to convince himself that he was ill that week. Certainly, nobody else needed any convincing. He couldn't concentrate, he slept poorly, and in quiet moments he felt panic and nausea rising in his throat.

He'd never imagined his life to go this way. He'd had everything planned out, ordinary things in a logical progression, children and a sunny little house in the country, with a pretty girl like Ginny to love him, and it hadn't seemed too much to ask.

Harry wanted life to be normal.

For the first time in his life, Harry tried drowning his sorrows in Muggle alcohol. It was disgusting, but at least that in itself was distracting. Then he looked at the single empty glass, and thought about Snape, alone in his rooms, probably drinking himself to sleep in exactly the same way.

He put it away. He put it all away, boxing everything off into a corner of his mind, and vowing never to open it again.

On Saturday morning he woke up early, and couldn't quite bring himself to resist following routine. The box in the corner of his mind was open, and Harry began to realise that all this worrying and anxiety didn't really mean anything.

Snape knew more than Harry liked to admit. Nothing changed. Harry hadn't been transformed.

Just the perspective was a little different now.

He had to go back, anyway; he had to thank Snape for the lessons – because despite all Harry's expectations, he had helped – and tell him he didn't need any more. And he had to apologise to Minerva for missing their last chat.

And he had to scream and shout and rage at Snape until he made Snape see what a mess this was.

The Hogwarts dungeons were cool as usual, and Harry appreciated it today, because his skin felt feverish. He almost expected Snape not to be there – but he had to be, didn't he? He had to be at the desk, making his weekly healing potion. If Snape was anything like Harry – and Harry was beginning to realise that in many ways, he was – he wouldn't want to move his brewing spot, couldn't acknowledge that something significant had happened there.

He didn't knock. The door creaked open. Snape froze with his hand over his potion.

"What are you doing here, Potter," he growled.

"Coming to see if you feel as shit as I do," said Harry, and shut the door. He looked at Snape, who looked sickly and pale and as if he'd slept about as well as Harry.

Snape managed to keep composure much better than Harry; he raised an eyebrow.

"I'm fine," he said. "And your consideration is touching."

"Don't do that," snapped Harry. "Don't be like that just because you're scared."

Snape sneered.

"I'm not scared," he said, "Because there isn't anything to be scared of."

"Yeah," said Harry. "Right."

There was an uneasy pause. Harry looked at Snape, but the memory of his flushed face, his dark eyes – Harry swallowed, and looked at the wall. That didn't help much.

"I don't know who I am any more," he started.

Snape opened his mouth to speak.

"Don't say it," snapped Harry. "You know what I mean. Better than most people, I think. I don't know who I am any more, who I'm going to be, I've not really got a clue about anything. After, after the other morning – I don't even bloody know which way is up."

"What is your point, Potter?" said Snape.

"My point is... I don't know who I'm supposed to be any more, and neither do you. And I've never been more terrified of anything in my life than I am of whatever's going on here. But that's not a good reason to ignore it."

"Spare me," snapped Snape. Harry stepped closer. "You're just scrabbling for some sort of heroic justification. Whatever absolution you're hoping for, you won't find it here."

Harry took another step.

"You sound so sure that you're right," he said. "What if you're not? What if this is actually something significant? And I know it's significant, because I've never done anything like that, and because it's you, and because I think that knowing too much about each other does make us... different –"

"If you fancy yourself in love –"

"Don't flatter yourself," said Harry, closing the gap between them just a little more. "I'm not an idiot – not all the time at least. I just think this might be something we can't ignore."

"And why is that?" said Snape, looking warily at the shrinking space between them as if he wasn't quite sure how it had happened.

Harry closed the gap, and pulled Snape down into a kiss. It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but he'd never been short on bravery. Snape responded as though he didn't know how to stop, and it was terrifying, still, but when Harry stepped away they were both breathing hard.

"Because," said Harry, "I don't know anything for sure any more, except that I want to do that again."

Snape swallowed. He looked startled, twitchy, like a wild animal cornered.

"What are you expecting, Potter? What good can you possibly think will come of this?"

Harry shrugged.

"I don't know. But, for the foreseeable future at least, I'm going to need Remedial Potions."

Snape snorted.

"And you expect me to inconvenience myself to keep teaching you for the foreseeable future," he said. "How typical of you."

Harry was surprised to realise that Snape wasn't being entirely serious. He smiled, a little weakly, but he felt the tension in his stomach ease.

"No promises," he said, "No expectations or anything. And we don't have to tell. But we are going to have to talk –"

"No talking for now," growled Snape, and pulled Harry closer. "If you're going to commit yourself to lunacy, I'm going to take advantage."

Harry felt a fluttery panic, a feeling that nothing was going to be the same, as Snape's fingertips pressed into his shoulders. But he kissed Snape anyway, and it felt hopelessly good and hopelessly wrong, and there was no good reason for any of it, but it felt like maybe that would be... alright. Snape, whatever he said, wouldn't be taking advantage.

Maybe, he thought. Maybe. That's all I've got for now.

And he was going to take what he could get.

~fin

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