Written for Lizard (...and at the bottom of the page is the ARTSES she made in return)

All a Matter of Taste
by Beth H
(c) 28 August 2006


Harry could still remember the first time he saw those feet.

It was the hottest night in an extraordinarily hot and humid summer, and the house at Grimmauld Place was stifling. No matter how many cooling charms the members of the Order cast, the house was always stuffy and uncomfortably warm, as if all magic except for the very darkest sort became sluggish and impotent within the walls of the old Black House.

Harry had been sleeping in nothing but his boxers for a week now, but on the very hottest night, even they felt oppressive. He'd spent most of the night tossing and turning fitfully in his bed and woke at three in the morning, sweaty and sticky and thinking how much more uncomfortable some of the other Order members must be, especially the ones who always looked as if they'd been permanently Spellotaped into their clothes, like Snape.

Of course, Harry didn't really have any way of knowing what Snape slept in (or whether he slept in anything at all). For that matter, he wasn't even positive that Snape slept. Maybe he just hung upside down from the rafters? Harry shook his head...the heat must be starting to fry his brains.

He lay back down and tried to get back to sleep, but eventually Harry had to admit that wasn't going to happen without some assistance. He sat up in bed, pulled on the faded denim cut-off shorts he'd been wearing under his robe the day before, and slipped his feet into his oldest, most comfortable pair of trainers. Hermione would probably tell him he was kidding himself but Harry knew he'd fall asleep more quickly if he went downstairs and had something to eat - maybe a helping of the raspberry pavlova that was left over from supper.

He opened the bedroom door and took one stealthy, don't-wake-anybody-up step out into the shadowed hall and immediately froze. There, at the far end of the hallway, coming out of the bathroom, was Snape. He was carrying two damp towels, and his hair was as wet as if he'd just this second stepped out of the shower, but he was already fully dressed in a set of robes that were buttoned all the way up to his chin.

Snape's feet were another matter entirely. It wasn't as if Harry had ever paid any particular attention to Snape's feet - oh no, of course not - but anybody would have noticed that Snape wasn't wearing his usual pointy-toed, wedge-heeled, quilt-stitched, calf-length, black leather boots. In point of fact, Severus Snape was barefoot...and all at once, for some bizarre reason that didn't really bear thinking about (especially since then he might have to admit to himself that this wasn't really such a new desire), Harry wanted more than anything in the world to touch Snape's feet.

Of course, there was no way that was going to happen. Just because he and Snape no longer hated each other as they had back when Harry was still in school didn't mean they had progressed to the kind of relationship where Harry would feel comfortable saying "So, Severus...um...I don't suppose you'd be interested in placing your long, narrow, pale feet in my lap and letting me rub them - from your heels to your soles to your toes - with strawberry scented lotions for hours on end, until you're so relaxed that you almost want to doze off, except then you won't be awake as - one at a time - I suck each long, beautiful toe and...."

"Mister Potter!"

There was no mistaking Snape's hiss and certainly not from that distance. How had he come so close without Harry noticing?

Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to turn his gaze away from Snape's feet, Harry swallowed hard, then slouched against the wall, trying to look as nonchalant as it was possible to look when one was lurking in a hallway at 3:00 in the morning.

"Is there some reason that you're hiding here in the shadows?" Snape asked casually. "Are you on sentry duty, guarding the rest of your unfortunate fellow inmates in this creature-infested house from attacks by roving gangs of Peruvian Corridor Gremlins?"

Harry frowned and looked up at Snape.

"There's no such thing as Peruvian Corridor Gremlins," he said - and almost instantly, he knew he'd probably just done a terribly foolish thing by looking directly at Snape before he stopped thinking about, well...that. After all, Snape hadn't needed to even bother saying a word to use Legilimency for years now, and...

Oh damn.

The sudden reptilian smile on Snape's face - mocking and a little dangerous - was all that it took to confirm that Harry had been absolutely right.

"Very interesting, Potter," Snape said in a low voice. "Apparently there are hidden depths lurking beneath that deceptively vapid exterior."

Harry couldn't tell if that had been an insult or a compliment, but he did know he had to get out of the hall before he did - or thought - something even more stupid. The pavlova could wait.

He nodded at Snape in one of those manly "all right, our business is concluded now, isn't it?" ways, then turned to go back into his room, but before he could step inside, he felt Snape's hands on his shoulders.

"Not running away, are you?" Snape asked.

Harry could almost feel the damned smirk boring into the back of his head.

He turned back around, trying to figure out how to glare at Snape without actually looking directly at his face. "Of course not," he said, sounding far less convincing than he had meant to sound. "I was just...."

He was just...something, but whatever that something was ceased to matter the moment Harry started to feel the sole of Snape's foot sliding slowly up Harry's bare calf.

"You were saying?" Snape murmured, and not for all the Galleons in Gringotts could Harry have completed his interrupted thought. All he could do was lean forward until his forehead was resting on Snape's shoulder, and enjoy the way the man's foot felt on his leg.

And then Snape pulled away.

"Or...perhaps," he said blandly, "I should just leave you to get on with your late night feasting. Surely mere toes couldn't possibly compare to one of Molly's fine puddings."

It took little more than a second for Harry to tug at Snape's sleeve, pull him into the bedroom, and lock the door behind them

To hell with the pavlova.

Comments, critiques, chit chat: beth-h (at) mrks (dot) org

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