Written for snarry_holidays on InsaneJournal
When the Potter marriage ended, it did so with neither a bang, nor a whimper, but with a quick reminder from Ginny that Thursday next, Harry had to take the family crup for its annual check up. Harry nodded, gave Ginny his usual quick peck on the cheek, and Apparated home - alone - to his new flat.
He made himself a cup of tea using his new Muggle electric tea kettle, sat down on his new couch, and turned on his new television set. A snooker match, an interview with a Formula 3 driver, a 'where are they now?' documentary featuring the Bay City Rollers, a re-run of Emmerdale Farm - nothing was on that really interested Harry all that much, but that didn't matter. All he wanted was something to distract himself from the mystery of what the hell had happened to the marriage the whole wizarding world had agreed was "fated to be" . . . and what the hell he was going to do next.
The one thing Harry knew for certain was that his living arrangements weren't the only thing that had to change. It didn't take a master Legilimens to know that Harry hadn't been satisfied with the life he was living for many years. His marriage, his non-existent social life, just about everything apart from his children had started to feel wrong. Even his job as an Auror had long since lost its shine. Ron, while never a fan of all the paperwork required by the Auror's office, still loved being out in the field, but that too bored Harry to tears these days. He was far more interested in trying to get Hermione to talk to him about what she was working on now that she'd moved on from the M.L.E., although she'd only do so after she'd had a few too many glasses of wine, and then only in the vaguest and most mysterious way possible.
The solution to at least one of Harry's problems - the work-related one - came three weeks later from a most unlikely source: his daughter. Lily had returned to King's Cross, fresh from her first term at Hogwarts, dressed from head to toe in blue, and chattering about how wonderful all her classes were, especially Divination.
"Wasn't it amazing," she said breathlessly, "that Professor Firenze gave me permission to start such an important course two years before everybody else?"
Harry was still reeling slightly from the notion that the favorite class of his brilliant little Ravenclaw daughter was apparently Divination, of all things, when Lily looked up at her father and said in a flat voice, "A mystery unspoken within the Unspeakables; you'll find your home, but you won't stay long."
His daughter blinked rapidly a few times, then her eyes widened. "Isn't that cool, Dad? It's been happening all the time! I knew Slytherin's Quidditch team was going to beat Hufflepuff, too!"
Privately, Harry didn't think it took a seer-in-training to recognize that Hufflepuff's current team was pretty dismal, but that wasn't his chief concern at the moment. "What was that about a mystery, Lily?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure, but maybe you're supposed to get a new job, like Aunt Hermione did?"
"It's not quite as easy as all that to change careers, not for us old folks," Harry said with a smile. "Now let's see about getting you and your brothers back to the house. I'll bet your mum's been missing you lot as much as I have."
While it might have been difficult - or even impossible - for most people to leave the Aurors behind and take up a new position with the Unspeakables, Harry Potter had never been "most people." Less than a week after he told Hermione about the strange conversation he'd had with Lily, an invitation came from Gerraint Harper's office for Harry to drop by and 'have a chat.'
It was as simple as that.
After an intensive orientation period (which Harry thought privately had maybe been a little too intensive, since he was pretty sure he'd already forgotten some of the things that had been discussed in his training sessions), Harry was set up with a team of his own and an office just down the corridor from Hermione.
At first, Harry couldn't help but worry that he might have made a mistake in taking the job. He could see why somebody like Hermione, who loved research, would fit perfectly in this department. Even Ron, despite the fact that he would have hated to be cooped up inside for most of the working day, seemed better suited to the kind of work they did, especially where the strategy side of things was concerned. Harry had never been particularly good at long range planning of any kind; his strengths, he thought, were more of the intuitive sort, or at least they had been when he was a boy.
However, as Hermione reminded him one night when the two of them were sitting in her office, waiting for the in-house Potions supervisor to bring them the results of their latest study, quite a lot of time had passed since Harry was that young boy. He'd adapted and grown since then.
And it was possible that Hermione was right. More than once, Harper had said he was pleased with the work their group was doing, and Harry had settled in pretty well over the past few months with his new co-workers, all of whom seemed friendly and none of whom acted as if they cared that once upon a time he had been known as The Boy Who Lived. Harry had even taken to meeting up with a group of them at the pub after work on Fridays when he didn't have the children staying with him.
He glanced up at Hermione's clock and frowned. Something told him he'd be missing this week's get together. "Wasn't Kendra supposed to have dropped off the lab results by now?"
Hermione nodded. "I sent their department an owl a half hour ago, but I haven't had any reply yet. I was about to take a walk downstairs just before you dropped by."
"Don't bother," Harry said. "I'll go down there and see what happened to the paperwork before I pop over to the Moon and Sixpence."
"Are you sure you don't mind?" Hermione asked, frowning the way she used to do when she was forced to forgo a night of revision.
"I'm sure. Besides, isn't this Ron's night to cook dinner?"
Hermione laughed. "Are you sure you're not trying to convince me to stay here?"
"He's not that bad, is he?"
"Eighteen weeks in a row of bangers and mash, although, to be fair, his bangers and mash are quite good." She smiled at the photograph of Ron that sat on her desk, and the little Ron in the photo smiled back at her. "If you're absolutely positive you don't need me here, Harry . . . "
He shook his head. "I might not be the brightest spark in the tinder box, but I'm almost entirely certain that I can find the Potions lab without any help. Run along home to your gourmet sausage chef, and I'll see what happened to Kendra."
The Potions lab, as it turned out, wasn't as easily found as Harry thought it would be. There were fourteen doors on either side of the main corridor of the Research and Development level, each one identical to the others and none marked with even so much as a room number. It was only on his second walk down the hallway that his attention was drawn to one of the doors, due to a weak fluttering of wings from an owl caught in the transom above.
Harry quickly transfigured a spare bit of parchment into a step stool, then climbed up to see to the bird. "Hey little owl," he said reassuringly. "Keep calm, and I'll have you out of there in two shakes of your tail-feathers."
Stretching his arm above his head, Harry reached out, but instead of the feathered wing he expected to find, his hand closed around another hand, this one with long, bony fingers. Most definitely not an owl.
"All right," Harry said loudly enough for his voice to carry into the room behind the door. "Whoever's pissing about in there, give it a rest. Can't you see the owl needs help getting free?"
"Which is precisely what I was attempting to do before you blundered into a situation about which you knew nothing and interfered."
The voice was . . . it was impossible.
Harry leapt down from the step stool and, drawing by instinct on the kind of wandless magic he'd used when he was just a boy, he blasted the door off its hinges, then drew his wand and stepped inside the room.
"Yes, me," said Severus Snape. He was standing atop a chair. He had a little grey in his still-long hair and his voice was slightly raspy as if from lack of use, but it was still recognizably the man Harry had last seen over two decades earlier. "Perhaps you could refrain from attacking me until I free Fezziwig from captivity."
A moment later, Snape was standing on the floor, holding the owl in his arms. The owl - Fezziwig - was shaking a bit, but was apparently otherwise unhurt, and Snape - Harry was shocked to observe - was cooing quietly to the bird.
He had to talk to Hermione about this. Why hadn't she said anything to him about Snape still being alive and working for the Unspeakables, of all things? Surely she had to know?
All at once, a strange, happy feeling came over Harry. Snape was alive. This was a great thing, wasn't it? There was no reason to talk about it with Hermione. Of course she had to know. Everybody must know. He smiled. It would just be silly if he mentioned it to anyone. Better if he never mentioned that he'd seen . . . who was it again? He looked at the man holding an owl in his arms and smiled again. Right . . . it was Snape.
"Okay, I think I have to leave now," Harry said, as he reached out and stroked the barn owl's feathered head.
The man - Snape - sighed. "Of course you do. Did you wish to see Kendra's message before you left?"
"Sure," Harry said, then frowned a little. How could he have forgotten about that? It was important, wasn't it? Or maybe it wasn't that important after all? The odd floating feeling had come over him again. "The message. Right," he said, grinning a little. "Maybe I can find out later?"
"Make up your mind, Potter."
That was a laugh . . . Snape telling him to make up his mind! Snape, who hadn't even been able to make up his mind about which side he was on all those years ago. Except . . . he had, hadn't he? This was all so strange, Harry thought as he drifted toward the door. Almost strange enough to ask about it, but of course, he'd never . . .
Harry halted in his tracks and blinked his eyes. Why wouldn't he ask about it? Why couldn't he make up his mind about whether seeing Snape for the first time in decades was important or whether it was something he should just smile and forget about. It was almost as if somebody had put him under - Imperius!
Harry closed his eyes, trying to push the feeling of mindless happiness away so that he could think. Could somebody have cast Imperius on him without his knowing? It obviously hadn't been Ginny or the kids, and the idea that either Ron or Hermione would ever cast an Unforgiveable on him was completely absurd. But who then? The only time he'd been alone with anybody for any length of time over the past few months was when he met with Gerraint Harper who ran the damned department, and even if he was powerful enough to cast Imperius, there couldn't possibly be any reason why he'd do something that risky, especially not when everybody knew that Harry Potter was one of the few wizards able to shake off the spell.
Except everybody didn't know that, did they? Moody had known, but no, he hadn't really been Moody - he'd been a Death Eater. Apart from him, the only people who really knew were a bunch of school kids who hadn't been aware at the time just how rare Harry's ability was - and the older members of the Order of the Phoenix, most of whom had long-since passed away.
Why would Harper have cast Imperius? The answer was standing close enough to touch.
Harry opened his eyes, absolutely clear-headed again. This wasn't a ghost or an Inferi . . . Severus Snape was really still alive. And for some reason, there were highly placed people in the Ministry - the head of the Unspeakables, at least - willing to use any means at their disposal to ensure that even if somebody happened to cross Snape's path, that person wouldn't be able to focus on the fact that Snape was still amongst the living long enough to share the secret with anybody else. And so the question was: if they had risked using the Imperius on Harry Potter, how many others were under the same damned spell?
"Well done, Potter," Snape said, without a hint of the expected sneer in his voice. "I'm suitably impressed that you were able to free yourself from the Imperius curse so quickly."
"And I'm narked off that in the first five minutes of our grand reunion you've already used Legilimency on me," said Harry, "but since I probably owe you my life a few times over, I'm willing to forget about the fact that you're a trespassing git long enough to ask what the hell's going on?"
"Nothing is going on. As you have so cleverly discerned based on the merest of visual evidence so blatantly obvious that it wouldn't even fool a moderately bright flobberworm, I am alive. As for the rest of it, the message Fezziwig was attempting to bring to your floor before he flew into difficulties said only that Kendra's associate - that would be me, incidently - wouldn't be able to finish compiling the analysis of the potion you'd discovered until later this evening, but that the results would be delivered to your offices before morning." Snape settled the rather embarrassed-looking owl on one of the wall perches, then turned back to Harry. "If there's nothing else?"
"Nothing else?" Harry asked. "Nobody's seen you in over twenty years and . . . okay, look, maybe you don't want to talk about this here, but what if I invited you over to my flat to discuss what's going on? I don't have any groceries in, but I could order some pizza."
For a moment, Snape almost looked as if he wanted to accept the invitation, but then he averted his eyes and shook his head. "That won't be possible."
"Okay, if you don't want to come to my house, then how about yours? Do you still have that place up in Yorkshire? It wouldn't have to be a very long conversation, just . . . ."
"No, Potter!" Snape said through suddenly clenched teeth, grasping the edge of the table. "There will be no conversation. There will be no meetings at all outside this facility."
When Harry was in school, he was more than familiar with Snape's short temper, but this seemed like something else entirely. Beads of sweat were collecting on Snape's brow, and the knuckles of his fingers, where he gripped the table, were white.
"Look Snape," said Harry cautiously. "Are you all right? You look like you need to visit St. Mungo's or something."
At the mention of the hospital, Snape groaned, then before Harry's astonished eyes, he knelt down on the floor, slid his arms between his trouser-clad legs, and started rocking back and forth.
"Get out of here, Potter."
"But . . . ."
"You said you owed me your fucking life," Snape said angrily. "If you want to repay me for that, the very least you could do is get the fuck out of here. Immediately."
Harry frowned, but nodded and started moving back toward the door. "I'll be back."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me in the slightest."
Taking out his wand, Harry repaired the door, then returned to his office, intending to return and check on Snape later that evening.
Two hours later, the promised report appeared on Harry's desk, written with a standard Dicto-Quill and unsigned. After a cursory glance at the numbers, Harry went back to the Potions lab, but the lights were out, the door was firmly locked and warded, and no matter how many times Harry knocked, there was no answer from within.
Harry vowed to find an answer to the not-unwelcome, but incredibly unexpected mystery of Snape's continued existence, but as he soon discovered, that was far easier said than done. He spent the greater part of the next fortnight working his way through his most trustworthy colleagues in the Unspeakables department, trying to discover if any of them would be able to provide him with some answers, but judging by their vague responses to his questions and the vapid smiles that came across their faces when he brought up the subject of Snape, it appeared that they all had been put under Imperius and given the same kinds of instructions that Harry himself had been given. Even Hermione merely smiled and changed the subject whenever Harry tried to ask her about Snape, despite the fact that she had apparently been working with the information from reports that Snape was in charge of preparing for a number of years.
Once Harry resigned himself to the fact that nobody who worked with the Unspeakables would be able to help, he turned his attention to friends and former colleagues outside the department. Harry no longer had access to the resources of the Aurors office, but he was willing to bet that Ron, at least, would be help him out even if assisting him wouldn't be strictly legal. However, Harry was never able to test out his hypothesis because the vow he'd taken upon becoming an Unspeakable kept him from saying a single word about specific departmental business with any outsiders. Breaking the Imperius curse had been a piece of cake in comparison, since Harry had never willingly agreed to keep from speaking about Snape.
He had also never agreed to keep from speaking to Snape, and after every other means of gathering information had resulted in dead ends, Harry realized he was going to have to go back and talk to the man himself, no matter how unwilling to talk to him Snape had appeared to be that first night.
He chose his time carefully . . . waiting until Kendra was out of the country at a conference. As soon as she left, Harry - having found out from Hermione just what categories of Potions-related tests couldn't easily be handled by researchers at anything less than Masters level - fabricated an emergency that required the immediate assistance of the Potions lab. He sent the request through standard channels; however, he made certain that the request didn't get transmitted until the very end of the working day.
And then he waited.
Three hours later - time spent coming up with ways to get into the Potions lab without having to resort to breaking the door down again - Harry removed a large Muggle pizza from the stasis charm he'd placed it under early that morning and carried it down to the Research and Development level. Even as he walked down the corridor, he knew that it was possible that other people had been assigned to the project, but Harry doubted it. Snape had always been unwilling to believe anybody but he was capable of handling the most difficult tasks, and Harry assumed that would hold true this time around too. Plus, of course, Snape had never been much of a team player, which made it all the more likely that he'd be alone in the lab.
Harry was just about to try the first of the seven unlocking spells he'd prepared, but before he had time to choose one of them, the door to the lab flew open and Harry was, once again, face to face with Severus Snape.
"Well?" Snape said, his arms crossed over his chest. "Is there some reason you're standing there gawking like a half wit? Get inside - and bring that damned pizza with you."
Patience is a virtue, Harry reminded himself for the sixth time, as he waited for Snape to finish licking the grease off his fingers in what had to be an intentionally obscene manner. The bastard had probably used Legilimency again and knew just how long it had been since Harry had . . . okay, maybe some old git licking pizza grease off his fingers didn't actually count as a sexual come on, but if you'd been in the desert long enough, even a kneazle's water dish started to look appealing.
As Snape leaned back in his chair, his hands absently stroking his full belly, Harry hoped was that he was finally going to get some answers to his questions. All he'd heard from Snape so far was a very long and very loud rant about how Harry had wasted three hours of Snape's time and God knows how many expensive ingredients for no other reason than to indulge his idiotic curiosity. It was all Harry could do to refrain from responding as hotly as he would have done when he was a schoolboy, but he was able to keep his mouth shut once he'd reminded himself that, for once, Snape was actually justified in his anger.
Except for the 'idiotic' part; Harry didn't think that there was anything even slightly idiotic about wanting to know how a dead man was still breathing.
Pushing the pizza box to one side, Snape sat back up and looked intently at Harry. "If I'm to be subject to this unasked for interrogation, there will be certain conditions set in place."
"Fine. What are they?"
"First, there will be no discussion of how it happens that I'm still among the living."
"This has got to be a fucking joke," Harry muttered. "Okay, look, Snape . . . what the hell was the point in agreeing to any of this if . . . ."
"I can not answer any questions you might have about my continued existence because I don't have any answers," said Snape. "I had taken the usual precautions during my time as a spy. I kept a bezoar on my person at all times. I had prepared a means of getting information directly to you or one of your cohorts if the need arose."
Harry nodded, thinking back to that horrible time in the Shrieking Shack and his frantic attempt to collect the memories that had been spilling from Snape.
"However, none of my precautions seem to have been the key to my sitting here before you. The last thing I remembered was taking what I believed to be my final breath, and then I opened my eyes to find myself, memories intact, recuperating in a small, windowless room which I have since discovered had originally been a storage room at the back of this lab. I have been here ever since."
Harry frowned. "When was that?"
"I'm not certain, although I believe Kingsley hadn't yet been named Minister for Magic."
"Wait, that was . . . .you've been here all that time?" Harry said, his eyes widening. "Even if nobody here has been allowed to talk about you, surely there were people who saw you coming or going in your neighbourhood or who passed you on the street in Diagon Alley."
"Shall I repeat myself? I have been here ever since."
"What . . . in these rooms?"
Snape nodded tersely, then held up his hand. "The second condition. There will no discussion of why I haven't . . . ." Harry watched as Snape started to shift uncomfortably in his seat. "Why I have been here all these years."
None of this made sense. Why would Snape even bother to talk to him at all if he wasn't willing to answer any of the questions he knew Harry would be likely to ask? And how was it possible that he hadn't left these rooms in almost two decades . . . and, more importantly, why wouldn't he talk about it?
Harry picked up the empty pizza box and folded it in half, then dropped it in the basket for the House-Elves to remove in the middle of the night. He glanced surreptitiously over at Snape, who was breathing heavily and whose fingers were clenched tightly around the chair's armrests.
"You never worked with a smuggling ring, did you?"
For a moment, Snape just blinked in confusion, then his expression reverted to its old familiar sneer. "Of course not, you pillock."
No, of course he hadn't, Harry thought, working through his sudden insight. But what if it wasn't a matter of not wanting to talk about why he was still here, but rather of being unable to discuss it? Harry couldn't see how Snape could have been placed under the same sort of Imperius spell that seemed to be affecting everybody else who had anything to do with the Unspeakables; using that Unforgivable on him would have interfered too much with his ability to do the Potions-related tasks they'd been assigning him.
However, Snape's physical reactions looked almost identical to the responses of the Unicorn Blood smugglers he and Ron had brought in for questioning the year before last. The three men had all been placed under Circumscription spells to keep them from revealing any of their organization's plans. Of course, the one who'd cast those spells hadn't been terribly powerful and in the end, it took less than ten minutes before Harry had been able to break the spell's hold. If Snape was under a similar Circumscription spell, he'd surely have been placed under it by a more powerful wizard than Willie "The Slug" O'Malley, but the basic principles should be the same. If Harry just pushed a little harder at the very thing Snape didn't seem to want to talk about, they should be able to find a way past the spell.
"I was wondering," Harry said. "Whatever happened to that house your father owned in York?"
Snape, predictably, didn't answer, but the glare he gave Harry spoke volumes.
"You could probably go stay there on your holidays." Snape still said nothing, but Harry could see that he had started to fidget - and Snape never fidgeted. "Maybe fix the place up a little?"
"What asinine game are you playing at, Potter," gritted Snape between clenched teeth. "Has someone cast a memory spell over you or were you just not listening when I said I refused to discuss anything related to . . . this?
Maintaining a completely bland expression, Harry watched as Snape's hands gave up their death grip on the chair's armrests and . . . slid up and down the length of Snape's thighs? Hmm . . . this was absolutely not the sort of reaction he had been expecting.
"When you say 'this,' do you mean asking about anything related to you being outside these walls?"
Snape was breathing so quickly now that it sounded like panting and breathy moans were coming from his throat. By the look of the expression on Snape's face, Harry suspected he wanted to wrap his hands around Harry's neck, but he made no move to get up from his chair. In fact, it looked as if Snape was actually sliding down in his chair and moving his hands towards his -
"Change the fucking subject!"
"Spinner's End, right?"
Snape's first response to this final prod was a growl, and his second was . . . Harry didn't even have time to avert his eyes to give the man some privacy before Snape had slid the hem of his robes up over his narrow hips and had clutched at his long, thick cock with both hands.
Once he did that, Harry couldn't look away.
Up until this moment, Harry would have said he couldn't remember ever having given a moment's thought to the idea of Severus Snape masturbating, but now that he was actually sitting there and watching it, Harry couldn't imagine why he'd ever wanted to think about anything else. Long, firm strokes with one hand, starting at the base and working their way up Snape's cock, drawing his foreskin up over the dark red cock head with each stroke. With his other hand, Snape reached between his legs to massage his balls.
Snape's eyes were closed, and whether it was in blissful response to what he was feeling or an attempt to ignore the unwelcome visitor in the room, Harry didn't know. He only knew two things for certain, as he watched the speed and intensity of the strokes increase. The first was that watching while Snape masturbated was absolutely and incontrovertibly wrong. The second was that what Harry wanted most at this moment was to learn what that long, hard cock tasted like.
Had he ever wanted another man's cock in his mouth? Harry couldn't remember. There hadn't been any real privacy at Hogwarts and the Gryffindor lads had quickly shed any self-consciousness when it came to wanking. They'd even tossed each other off every now and again, although admittedly, that only ever happened when the Gryffindor Quidditch team had scored a big win or the boys had been able to smuggle a bottle of Firewhisky into the dorm or the holidays were approaching or . . . all right, maybe they'd tossed each other off more than just every now and again. But the point was that Harry had never wanted it to go any further, and yet right now, as Snape groaned with completion, Harry could almost feel the cold floor tiles beneath his knees, could almost taste the thick, bittersweet flavour of Snape's come on his tongue, could - -
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Potter?" rasped Snape.
Horrified, Harry moved backwards as quickly as he could, scrambling away on his hands and knees. He'd been so close, so damned close to actually putting Snape's cock in his mouth, and what the hell had he thought he was doing?
"God, Snape. I'm so fucking sorry. I thought I recognized the spell . . . that if I could get you to talk about . . . Christ." He could hear Snape push himself out of his chair, and Harry braced himself for whatever retribution was in store for him. At the very least, he expected to be transformed into something small and vulnerable that Snape would have no trouble crushing under the heel of his boot. "I have no clue what came over me."
To Harry's shock, Snape's response was to raise one corner of his mouth in an almost-smile. "It's a powerful spell," he said quietly, sounding as if he was drifting off into a post-coital sleep. "I'm not surprised you got caught up in it."
"What is it?"
"The spell?" Snape said. "As you might imagine, whoever cast it hasn't been inclined to discuss the particulars with me, but it appears to be a combination of a subject-specific aversion spell and an extremely potent . . . ."
"Aphrodisiac?" Harry offered.
"Are you absolutely certain you passed your N.E.W.T.s? Of course it's not an aphrodisiac, you idiot . . . or do you imagine I've fallen in love, somehow, with my own cock?"
Stunned that he actually understood how somebody could at least be infatuated with Snape's cock, Harry decided not to respond to the last part of Snape's sentence. "Not an aphrodisiac. What, then?"
"More like a sexual compulsion spell. Similar, but it doesn't require that there be any particular object of interest. As you saw, even . . . er . . . self-pleasuring is sufficient."
Harry didn't know what he found more strange: that he and Snape were actually sitting down and having a discussion about such a personal subject with so little antagonism on either of their parts - or that Snape had just used such a prim word to describe one of the hottest wank sessions that Harry had ever seen. Neither of those were the biggest mystery, though.
"I'm still confused."
Snape shook his head. "Why doesn't that surprise me in the slightest."
Ignoring the not-unexpected jab and taking advantage of Snape's uncharacteristic willingness to talk, Harry said, "Okay, so they connected two spells somehow. And the first was an aversion to . . . what? Talking about the outside world?"
"Its scope seems to go further. At most times merely thinking of returning to the world outside these walls is sufficient to trigger the associated response."
Harry nodded. "And that trigger was chosen because intense sexual desire is so distracting?"
"Yes, and because performing sexual acts in front of complete strangers would be . . . unwelcome."
Thinking back to his schooldays and the way Snape had always been so buttoned-up - much more so than even Professor McGonagall - Harry thought that 'unwelcome' wasn't the best word to describe the way Snape would feel if he were forced to display himself sexually in front of other people. He'd probably be absolutely mortified. Of course, this begged the question - and an interesting one it was, too - of why Snape didn't seem to be particularly embarrassed about having jerked off in front of him, but Harry thought it might be better to leave that question for another time.
"All right, well then the other big question I have right now is how are you talking about the aversion spell without . . . you know."
Snape shifted in his chair. "There appears to be a certain . . . refractory period, during which time my thoughts and words are my own."
"And you never tried to leave during those times?"
"Of course I did," Snape snapped. "However, there are limitation charms on my wand and, so I've been given to understand, fairly extensive wards within and around the building, which would make leaving impossible even if I were able to perform Apparition without a wand, which I am not. In any case, I no longer have access to any of my funds, and my home - such as it was - is no longer standing. That last bit of news was transmitted, quite cheerfully, during one of my post-recovery interrogations."
"I'm sorry to hear that . . . about your house," Harry said.
"It was a rubbish tip," Snape said dismissively. "The point, however, is that even if, by some chance, I found myself free, I'd have nowhere to go."
Harry thought about that, about Snape, back out in the real world with nowhere to live and no chance of making a living because of the sexual compulsion spell, unable to think about anything but wanking, twenty-four hours a day. And then maybe Harry would run into him one day and Snape would be leaning up against a tree in a park, maybe wearing old Muggle clothes - a black tee-shirt and some tight jeans, unbuttoned just enough for Snape to be able to slide his hand down there and . . .
"Feel free to return to your part of the conversation whenever your fantasy abates."
Harry could feel a hot flush run up from his neck to his temples. Legilimency again, and yes, Snape was a complete arse, but what the hell was wrong with him? Bad enough that he'd tried to . . . well, to do what he'd tried to do, but now to be turned on by the thought of Snape forced to jerk off in a public park. He might as well give up his job and go to work producing Muggle pornos.
"We have to do something about this."
"About your fantasy?" Snape said - and Harry could almost hear the leer in his voice.
He narrowed his eyes and glared at Snape. "Do the words 'piss off' mean anything to you? No, about getting you out of here."
"What a startlingly original thought, Potter. If only I'd considered that. Oh wait, I forgot . . . I had considered it, but . . . ."
"Yes, I know. Limits on your wand, wards surrounding the Ministry, and all that. But if I can figure out a way to circumvent the wards, then we might have a chance."
"And you think they'll refrain from checking your wand as they'll be checking everybody's wands if one of their prize captives simply disappears from their grasp? You may be the Chosen One, but that doesn't mean . . . ."
Harry shook his head. "I don't need a wand to Apparate. I haven't for years."
For a moment, Snape said nothing, then finally he responded. "Ah. Would this be one of the talents they don't know you possess?" he asked slowly, looking really interested for the first time.
"Didn't you know, Snape?" said Harry, raising one eyebrow. "That was one of the first things they sent along with the Chosen One starter kit."
Despite the glib assurance he'd shown to Snape before leaving him for the evening, Harry wasn't entirely complacent about the likelihood of his being able to remove Snape from the Ministry buildings, at least not without leaving so obvious a trail that not only would Snape be taken back into custody, but Harry would also be under suspicion of aiding and abetting, no matter how well Snape was able to occlude his thoughts. Harry didn't relish the idea of being separated from his children by what could amount to a twenty year stay in Azkaban if the powers that be were to spin the Snape situation.
It wasn't until, late that evening, when Harry was thinking how much easier it had been to sneak around back when all he'd needed was an Invisibility Cloak, that the answer came to him. The cloak itself, of course, wouldn't be of any help since protective warding recognized all witches and wizards, along with most magical beings and creatures, regardless of whether they were visible or not. However, what if Harry were able to disguise his own magical signature so that it was identical to Snape's? If that were possible, then the two of them could get out at the same time, and nobody would be any the wiser about Harry's role in the adventure.
Of course, if Harry turned out to be wrong about the way to accomplish this signature merging, both he and Snape would probably end up hideously splinched, with their body parts spread out across half of London, but . . . maybe Snape wouldn't actually ask for any specific details.
As it happened, Harry never found himself in the position of defending his plan to Snape because Snape appeared to have more pressing concerns when Harry returned to the Potions lab late Saturday night - and the moment Harry walked in the door, Snape began berating him.
"Where, exactly, in this foolhardy plan of yours, did you make room for deciding where you were going to deposit me if, by some twist of fate, this actually works?"
Harry's first instinct was to castigate Snape for his complete lack of gratitude for all the risk Harry would be taking on his behalf, but looking at him standing stiffly against the wall, with his arms crossed tightly over his chest, an unexpected wave of sympathy came over Harry. This wasn't the voice of arrogance; it was the voice of a man who seemed frightened that he was going to be abandoned to his own fate the second the first stage of the plan was complete.
"I wasn't actually planning on depositing you anywhere," Harry said. "What I'd planned on doing was having you stay with me, if you wouldn't mind."
Snape looked intently at Harry, but Harry knew better by this point than to meet his gaze. There was no reason for Snape to know all the reasons behind Harry's interest in having Snape as his houseguest, after all.
"We can't Apparate directly to your home, you know. If anything went wrong, it would be too simple for . . . ."
"I know," Harry interjected. "It would be too easy for them to track us down, which is exactly why we're going to do a series of Apparition jumps, starting with one that leads from here to the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron. Listen Snape, I'm almost forty years old. I really don't need to be pulled along by a set of leading strings, not even by you."
"Perhaps not," Snape muttered, starting to sound agitated once again. "However, this multiple Apparition plan of yours brings up another . . . issue."
Harry waited to see if Snape was going to say anything further, but he said nothing, just gripped the edges of his robes the same way he'd held tightly to the arms of his chair just before he'd . . . oh, right. Talking about their plans had to be triggering the Compulsion spell.
As he watched Snape fight the effects of the spell, Harry wished he could say that there wasn't a hidden side of himself that was enjoying this. Not the parts that were upsetting or embarrassing for Snape - although he had to admit those would have been the parts he liked best when he was a teenager - but there was no denying that watching while Severus Snape grew increasingly aroused was hotter than anything he'd experienced in years.
"Look, Snape," Harry said, fighting the impulse to lick his lips. "I know this is difficult to talk about, but how long, on average, do you reckon these 'refractory periods' usually last?"
"An hour," Snape said tersely, his right hand starting to clutch at his cock. "And yes, since your prurient interests clearly won't let you rest until you gather every detail, it will be necessary for me to . . . reach completion if I am to be anything less than a complete millstone around your neck during our travels."
"Did you really just say 'reach completion?'" Harry said with a laugh. "Are you sure you were born in this century?"
"Aside from the fact that I was born in the twentieth century, which as you might recall we are no longer in, yes, I said 'reach completion,' you impudent brat," said Snape, in a voice that sounded surprisingly amused, especially given the circumstances. "Perhaps it's because I still think of you as my student despite your incipient crow's feet and greying temples. If I did not think of you in that manner, I might, instead, say "coming like a freight train."
Later, there might be time to consider whether the accusation of crow's feet at the corners of his eyes was an accurate one, but at the moment, the image of Snape 'coming like a train' was driving every other thought from Harry's mind. "About that," Harry said, willing his voice not to squeak and remind Snape, once again, that he'd known Harry before Harry had even entered adolescence. "I don't suppose you'd like . . . a hand, so to speak."
The truth was that he fully expected Snape to refuse, despite the fact that Snape now seemed to be completely unable to stop rubbing at his cock through his robes. However, Snape just gazed intently at Harry for a moment, then inclined his head in assent.
Snape leaned back against the back of Kendra's chair, and started to unbutton the front of his robes. It seemed to take forever, the slow reveal, but for Harry, who was growing more aroused by the moment as his anticipation grew, the timing was perfect. Since becoming a man, he'd learned to appreciate the slow tease more than he ever would have believed possible back in those months after the war when all his wishes were instantly granted.
It took just three steps before Harry was close enough to Snape to touch him. Two deep breaths before he was able to convince himself that, yes, this was welcome, that Snape wanted this. Wanted him. One tug on Snape's unbuttoned robe before it slid off his shoulders, and in the next moment, Snape was naked and there was his cock, jutting out from the thatch of dark, almost black hair at his groin.
Snape took Harry's hand in his own and drew it hard to his chest, holding it there for a moment against his fast-beating heart, before sliding it slowly down toward his erection. But Harry shook his head and dropped to his knees as he had done the night before. This time, though, it wasn't just a fantasy.
As with so many things in Harry's life, including his first kiss with Cho Chang and the final confrontation with Voldemort, the reality of having a man's cock in his mouth wasn't exactly the way he'd imagined it would be. If he ever commissioned Rita Skeeter to write a tell-all book about Potter's First Time, Harry was pretty certain he wouldn't be sharing the fact that Snape had been forced to all but clout him on the head to keep Harry from biting down a little too firmly or that he'd tried to take Snape's whole length down right away, which only resulted in Harry gagging so desperately that Fezziwig flew down from his perch to see what was the matter.
But then it got better, from the tantalizing hint of musk that Harry could smell as he pressed his face into the warmth of Snape's crotch to the moans he was able to draw from Snape's unwilling throat as he slid Snape's foreskin back and circled his tongue around the ridge between shaft and head. And when the first tell-tale signs of come appeared at the very tip of Snape's cock, Harry didn't give Snape a chance to pull away - not that Snape looked likely to offer anything of the kind - he just took Snape in completely and held on tight to Snape's narrow hips until Snape 'came like a freight train,' straight into Harry's mouth.
Harry glanced over as Snape got himself dressed, marveling at how sated and maybe even . . . happy Snape looked. He couldn't help but feel a little smug at having been a large part of putting that expression on Snape's face. Harry rubbed at his aching jaw, then shook his head and smiled: he wouldn't mind his jaw aching like this again, as long as it was in such a good case.
And then it was time to leave.
The truth was, Harry wasn't feeling absolutely certain that his plan was going to be a success, and what was worse, he realized he'd barely given a thought to how the children would feel if Ginny had to Floo in to Hogwarts and tell them that their father - the Hero of the Wizarding World - had been arrested and was currently lying on a lumpy cot in a tiny cell in Azkaban, missing half his appendages. Of course, if that was the likely outcome, wouldn't his little Seer-in-training, Lily, already have written to him, telling him not to do whatever it was he was planning?
Harry nodded. "Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking about appendages . . . okay, never mind."
"If you don't want to make the attempt tonight . . . "
Now Snape was starting to look worried, or at least the ever-present furrow in his brow was deeper than it had been a moment ago. Harry placed his hand on Snape's forearm in what he hoped was a reassuring way and shook his head.
"No, I think we have to do this tonight."
"In case you lose your nerve?"
"For the last time," Harry said, hoping he didn't sound as exasperated as he felt. "Keep the hell out of my head."
"It doesn't take Legilimency to see that you're afraid of the outcome," said Snape with a sneer.
"And I suppose you aren't?" Harry retorted hotly. "You haven't even tried to get free, have you?"
"We weren't talking about me!" Snape snarled. "If you hadn't been so pig-headed as to . . . ."
And then, as abruptly as if somebody had switched off a light, Snape was silent. He took a deep breath, and Harry was almost certain it was followed by a shuddering exhalation, as if all the fight had gone out of him. Harry waited a second to see if Snape was going to say anything more, but he said not a word, and whatever his reason for retreating from the verbal battle, Harry felt uncomfortable at the thought of continuing to goad Snape.
Once more, Harry reached out and touched Snape's arm. The brief, darting glance Snape gave Harry in return was oddly blank, neither conciliatory (which Harry, needless to say, hadn't expected), nor accusatory; it was simply resigned. Not a terribly enthusiastic response, of course, but given the history between the two men, it couldn't be interpreted as anything other than a mark of pure faith.
When Snape had accused Harry of being afraid of the outcome, he hadn't known just how right he'd been, but in the end, it seemed as if Harry's fears had been entirely misplaced. Merging his magical field with Snape's had taken surprisingly little time, especially considering Harry had only practiced the technique once, and then only with one of the salamanders that lived in his fireplace. Say what you like about Snape, but there was very little similarity between him and a lizard.
Once the fields were merged, Side-Along Apparition proved to be simple; however that didn't mean that Harry hadn't needed to take precautions. He started by Apparating the two of them to a dark, secluded side street in Diagon Alley, then through sixteen other jumps before finally bringing Snape through the wards he'd placed around his flat.
After showing Snape where he could wash up, Harry excused himself and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. He could have made tea magically in one-tenth the time, but looking at the shell-shocked expression on Snape's face, he thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to give his house-guest some time to acclimate to his new surroundings without feeling as if anybody was breathing down his neck.
By the time he brought out the tea, Snape was sitting in Harry's favorite chair, leafing through a copy of Autosport.
"I thought you could use a cuppa," Harry said.
Snape just grunted in response, but he took the cup from Harry and wrapped long his fingers tightly around it as if he were trying to leach some of its warmth into his hands.
"You know about racing?" Harry asked, inclining his head toward the magazine.
"Da did," Snape murmured. "He used to like Fittipaldi, back when I was in school."
"How can you not know who Emerson Fittipaldi is? He won the Formula One World Championship twice. Drove for Lotus, then McLaren, then he had his own . . . ."
Harry knew he should probably let Snape know he'd just been taking the piss about not knowing the name of one of the greatest drivers of all time, but watching Snape rant about something like motorsport - something that wasn't a matter of life and death, that wasn't even part of the wizarding world - was fascinating. He was just as passionate and vocal as he'd always been, but there wasn't any of the anger or hysteria that had characterized him in the past.
" . . . oh, why am I bothering?" Snape said in disgust. "You probably weren't even out of nappies back then. Typical, that you'd . . . ."
Incredible. Here he was, getting scolded in his own home like he was some kind of naughty child, and instead of getting annoyed, all he could do was imagine what would happen if he tried to distract Snape from talking, what Snape would do if he walked over to him and pressed him up against the window. If he placed his hands on either side of Snape's face, tilted it just so and kissed him once, then once more, then . . . .
"Potter, have you been placed under a Confundus Charm? You're looking even more bewildered than you usually do."
"What? No, I was just . . . um . . . I think I'll go make us something to eat."
When Harry reached the relative safety of the kitchen, he shook his head in disbelief. Maybe he had been Confounded. There had to be something to explain why he couldn't stop fantasizing about Snape. He wished he could blame it on the Compulsion spell, but there hadn't been any sign that what Snape thought of as the refractory period had come to an end yet.
It was probably safer all the way around for Harry to just concentrate on cooking for the time being. He opened the door to the fridge, then knelt down and took out the chicken and mushroom pie he'd picked up at Marks & Spencer earlier in the week. He was just about to take out a bag of frozen chips from the freezer, when it struck him that maybe Snape didn't like chicken or mushroom or both.
"Snape!" Harry called out from the kitchen. "You don't mind chicken and mushroom pie and chips, do you?" When there was no reply, Harry peered through the doorway. "Pie and chips?"
Now it was Snape's turn to look slightly Confounded. "Sorry," he said. "I've grown unaccustomed to being asked my preferences about anything. But yes, pie and chips is fine." Snape looked at Harry with a diffident expression. "Would you like any assistance with the preparations?"
Did he want Snape in there? He could almost imagine it, Snape in his kitchen, grumbling about the lack of fresh vegetables and how Harry didn't have any dressing apart from one half-empty squeeze bottle of Heinz Salad Cream. He could see his children sitting around the kitchen table while Snape finished preparing a meal for his namesake's birthday. It was a completely bizarre image, yet for some reason, it felt right, and that feeling of rightness was the most strange aspect of this whole weird situation.
"Uh, no. That's okay," said Harry. "Why don't you go into the lounge and watch the telly or something. Do you know how it works? Snape started to glare, but Harry raised his hand. "Before you start getting all stroppy, you've been away a long time and televisions are a little more . . . high tech than you might be used to."
"I'm sure I'll be able to figure it out, Potter." With that, Snape swept out of the kitchen.
When Harry went to check on him a few minutes later, the television was tuned to Channel 4, the television remote was resting on Snape's chest - and Snape was fast asleep.
It wasn't until they'd finished eating and the dishes had been washed up and put away that Harry realized what had been niggling at him for the past two hours: Snape still wasn't showing a single sign of discomfort or distraction, which surely he should have been since everything around him was a reminder that he was no longer being held in the Potions wing. And yet, there he sat, drinking coffee and eating chocolate biscuits, looking as relaxed as if he was on holiday.
"What are you playing at?"
Setting the cup down on the end table, Snape turned toward Harry and frowned. "What, precisely, do you mean?"
"Just what I said," Harry answered slowly, as everything finally became clear. "Sitting comfortably in my chair as if you hadn't just spent the past 48 hours lying through your teeth."
"Pardon me," Snape said with exaggerated politeness. "Would you like your chair back?
"What I'd like is for you to tell me the truth," Harry said angrily. "What I'd like is to hear why you thought it necessary to lie to the only person who's bothered to help you in decades. What the hell were you thinking? There never was a Compulsion spell, was there?"
It came as no surprise when Snape offered no response.
"Was there even an Aversion spell? Was any of it true, you manipulative bastard?"
For a moment, it appeared as if Snape wasn't going to respond to this, either, but then he shrugged. "Define any, Potter."
It was all Harry could do to keep from hexing him. "You made me feel sorry for you, you son of a bitch. Poor guy, I thought. How humiliated he'd be if he had to strip off and wank in front of strangers. You knew that was what I was thinking. You knew that was why I offered to . . . ."
"When you've been a prisoner as long as I was, Potter, you take your pleasures where you can," Snape snapped. "As for my poor maidenly sensibilities: did you truly imagine that after seven years of sharing a room with eight other young men and close to two decades in the company of various Death Eaters - to say nothing of sharing post staff meeting saunas with Filius Flitwick and Hagrid - I'd be even the slightest bit shy about displaying my body, especially if it meant the difference between being held captive and freedom?"
Harry scowled. "You did a hell of a lot more than just prance about naked, Snape."
"So I did. As did you, as I recall, and you most definitely weren't under any spell."
No, he hadn't been, had he? If Snape hadn't been placed under a sexual compulsion spell, then there wasn't any way Harry could blame anything but his own over-eager libido for the way he'd behaved. God, was he really sexually deprived enough that getting down on his knees and sucking Snape's cock without an invitation seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to do? What kind of a pervert was he?
And what kind of a pervert was Snape? Or had he set up that whole scenario just to get Harry to make an arse of himself?
"Of course I didn't."
Shit. Legilimency again. When was he going to remember that Snape didn't need a damned wand to crawl around in his head?
Wait - what had Snape just said?
"You didn't?" Harry glared at Snape. "Excuse me if I find that a little hard to believe."
"Believe what you want, Potter. If you still choose to imagine that everything I do has some nefarious purpose, there's nothing I can do to stop you."
The expression on Snape's face was a combination of disbelief and something else, something that Harry had never expected to see there. Harry wasn't a Legilimens, but he didn't need to be to recognize desire. Snape had fucking well wanted him! That part wasn't feigned, he was almost certain of it.
"Why?" he repeated.
"Perhaps I just needed your assistance to free myself from confinement. Isn't that the most likely answer?" Snape asked.
"No, you know it isn't," said Harry. "Oh, I don't doubt that you weren't able to get out without my help, but there were a dozen other explanations you could have given me that I would probably have believed. Even if you'd wanted to use the Aversion ruse, all you would have had to say is that whenever you thought about the outside world you were subjected to a variant on the Cruciatus curse, and I probably would have fallen for it. But no, you wanted me thinking about sex, wanted me on my knees sucking you off. Wanted me to make you moan."
Harry was still angry, but there was a rebellious corner of his mind that was totally focused on the fact that Snape seemed to be surreptitiously pressing the heel of his hand into his groin as Harry ranted at him. Now that he knew there was no spell directing Snape's actions, there was only one likely explanation. "Or was getting out of the Potions wing not really your chief concern? "
"Of course I wanted to get out, you imbecile," Snape said sulkily.
"Yes, but you'd been trapped there a long time, hadn't you? I expect you'd given up any real hope years before of ever getting free." The stubborn set of Snape's chin, coupled with his refusal to say anything told Harry he was on the right track. Sometimes he really did miss being an Auror, he thought as he took a long, hard look at the man he was interrogating. "To say nothing of the fact that you're so much of an egotist that you didn't really believe I'd succeed where you'd failed for so many years. So what was it all in aid of, Snape? Was it all just a way of getting a Potter notch on your bedpost?"
"Who's the egotist now?" Snape snarled, pushing himself up from the chair. "Do you really imagine that the idea of a sexual encounter with you was more attractive to me than the opportunity of escaping from a place in which I was likely to be imprisoned for the rest of my natural life? Not bloody likely! And it wasn't as if you weren't salivating for it."
"Are you out of your bloody mind? I never . . . ."
"You've been thinking about blowing me since you were fifteen years old," Snape said mockingly. "It was half the reason you were so crap at your Occlumency lessons. You had no focus. None, whatsoever, and it spilled out into every damned session. Imagine trying to teach somebody when all you can think about is sex. It was absolutely . . . ."
"Wait a minute," Harry said, taking a step forward. "All you could think about during those lessons was sex?" Until this moment, Harry could have sworn that Snape's face was completely incapable of exhibiting any color but his usual sort of sickly pallor. However, there was no mistaking the fact that Snape was blushing. "You've wanted me for that long a time?"
Snape shook his head, but he was averting his eyes, and Harry knew with complete certainty that he was lying. He grabbed Snape by the chin and forced his eyes up to meet his.
"Look at me!" said Harry . . . and Snape did.
It was difficult to say what Harry had hoped would happen when he said 'Look at me'; it's possible that even Harry himself hadn't been entirely certain what he had intended. There were no new revelations yet to be shared between the two men. Harry had never been able to hide his thoughts or feelings from Snape - and every single one of Snape's memories had long since been spilled out before Harry on the floor of the Shrieking Shack.
No, there was nothing new, except maybe for the understanding that passed between Harry and Snape at the moment their eyes met, something which said that maybe they'd always known each other better than they'd known anybody else.
Nothing new, except maybe the kiss with which they'd sealed that understanding.
"You're aware, aren't you," said Snape quietly, his eyes closed and his forehead resting against Harry's brow, "that there's still a fair chance the Ministry will track me down."
"And if they do, it would be far better for you if they didn't find me at your home."
Harry raised one hand and placed it against the side of Snape's face. "I know," he said, rubbing his thumb gently over Snape's eyebrow. "Let me worry about that."
"I could just be using you for protection from the Aurors, you know."
"You could be, but I don't think you are."
Snape leaned back and gazed at Harry. "No? What makes you so sure."
"Because," Harry said, "I'm almost entirely certain that you're using me for sex."
"Ah . . . and what are you using me for?"
"I'm using you for exactly the same thing," Harry said with a grin. "Isn't that convenient?"
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