Chapter One - Breakfast of Champions
Severus looked smug as he tossed the Quaffle just past Harry’s fingertips and through the hoop. “I believe that’s my point.”
“Ha, ha. We’re still a hundred and ten to twenty.” Harry took the murderous glare as rote as he retrieved the ball. Snape turned his Cleansweep to the ground. He hit a little fast and stumbled on dismount. “Sev!” Harry nearly drove his Firebolt into the dirt but was brushed aside when he tried to help the older man to his feet. “Are you okay?” Sev looked a little peaked.
“If I can survive your blasted godfather I think I can manage to get off my own broom.” He dusted his knees, sneering. The ghastly bruises around his black eyes were long gone, but new, permanent shadows took in their place. Harry rolled his eyes.
“You’re still on about that? Come on, give him a little slack. It was a bit of a shock for him.”
Severus looked up from inspecting his robe for damage. He raised one eyebrow. “Sirius Black will receive as much lenience as he is willing to show me. So long as he continues to make attempts on my life,” a sallow hand beat savagely at a spot of mud, “he will remain on my list of people with whom I’d least like to spend ‘quality time’.”
Harry picked up their brooms. “I wouldn’t call one punch an attempt on your life, you paranoid git.” He reached for that thin, callused hand and was silently pleased when it clutched back. Sev grunted. The sun hung low in the horizon, throwing long shadows over the pitch. Harry started to lead him back to the castle.
“Slow down. Some of us aren’t children, you know.” Severus folded his lanky body into the Quidditch bleachers. Harry watched with concern as he rest his dark head in his hands. The man’s shoulders rose and fell in a carefully controlled rhythm.
“Do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?”
“I would still be in Madam Pomfrey’s questionable care had you the sense to make sure the door was locked before taking advantage of my delicate state.”
“Excuse me? I took advantage of you?” Three weeks of celibate convalescence had finally gotten to Sev. Poor Madam Pomfrey walked in to find him kneeling under the blankets, doing something quite unexpected to a rather naked Harry. Once the screams faded she’d decided he was better. “I’m not the one who tented the bed.”
“Your gift for the crude and juvenile never ceases to amaze me.” Severus slowly got to his feet. He looked tired. Not just worn out, but tired. He wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders, something he’d started since his return from the failed mission, and started him towards the comfort of the dungeon. Harry couldn’t help but notice that he walked a little slower than he used to. Hagrid’s words still haunted him. Ye probably know better’n anyone he’s a lot older than that. He looked up at that solemn, shadowed face. Snape glanced at him with sharp black eyes. The slender arm tightened.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Why? Did you put something in my dessert?” Harry glared. He stroked Sev’s back.
“You think I’d do something that obvious?”
“Subtlety has never been your strong point.”
Harry swatted him on the arse. Severus stifled an evil little giggle. “Prat.”
“A violent reaction is the sign of a guilty mind.” Harry screwed up his face and swatted Sev repeatedly. “Ow!” He swatted back, a thin smile breaking out on his haggard face. “You’re going back to your dorm tonight!”
“Aww…” Harry gave him the kicked puppy eyes. “I’ll get lonely.”
“You should have thought of that before you so viciously attacked me. Really, beating an old man sen—“ A pointed kiss shut him up. Sev huffed; he looked like a vulture ruffling its feathers. “So it’s bribery now.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Severus straightened himself and once again took Harry protectively by the shoulders.
“You really are the most insolent little twerp. I don’t know why I allow it to continue.”
“You know you love it.” Sev growled. Menace didn’t work so well when the bearer was twitching not to grin.
Harry was jolted awake by panicked shrieks. “Sev! I’m here!” Snape continued to shriek, wordlessly, growing louder with every second. His eyes were open, frantic, unfocused. Harry wrapped his entire body around the skinny, thrashing form beside him. “Severus! Calm down!” He shifted to hold Snape down. The weight only made him worse.
“Get off me! Let me go! Voldemort is dead! You don’t need to do this!” He struggled to push Harry off; the younger man held his ground.
“Get a hold of yourself, Sev! It’s Harry! Nobody’s going to hurt you!”
“I won’t let you hurt Harry!”
Harry grabbed his lover’s constricted face. “I am Harry! Wake up!” Snape only fought harder. Harry felt the muscles in his legs start to give under the onslaught. It was the second time this had happened. “Severus, you’re having another nightmare. It’s not real. Wake up and look at me! Please!” He forced Sev’s eyelids wide and stared into those frenzied black depths. “Look at me!” The hands beating against his back hesitated. Snape’s eyes focused.
“Harry?” His voice was so weak.
“It’s me, Sev.”
“You’ve got to get out of here. They’ll k—“
“We’re at Hogwarts. Nobody’s going to hurt us.” Last time, he’d tried to shove Harry through the Floo into Dumbledore’s office before Harry realised what was going on. Embarrassment at turning up starkers in the headmaster’s fireplace aside, it only drove home the severity of the flashback. He stroked Sev’s white widow’s peak. It was a sharp, still startling contrast to the rest of his heavy, black hair. “We’re in your room. I’m the only other person here. Nobody’s going to hurt either of us.”
The frantic struggle beneath him faltered and faded. Harry felt Sev’s harsh, rapid breathing, the staccato fortissimo of his heart. Snape turned his head. In the low firelight, tiny lines around his eyes looked like chasms. Harry pressed his lips to them, refusing to cry. Sev was only forty, and barely forty. Nobody that young had a right to be so old. “Ah.”
Harry rolled to the man’s side. He leaned his forehead against Sev’s, stroking his scrawny body, trying to lure some of the quivering tension from those thin scholar’s muscles. He kissed him. “I love you.”
“Don’t say that.”
Sev sat up abruptly. He threw back the heavy claret duvet and got up to stare at the embers in the fireplace. His hands were clasped behind him, dark silhouette edged in tarnished golden light. Harry followed him and wrapped his arms around that thin waist. “Don’t do that, Harry.”
“Why not?” This was far worse than last time. At least then he’d just broken down in tears.
“Because I said so, you dim little boy.” He shook Harry off and grabbed his dressing gown from the closet. Knotting it tightly, he muttered, “You need to get back to your dorm.”
“I’m not leaving.” Harry crossed his arms. He wished he had his glasses, but they lay on a table across the room and he wasn’t about to budge.
“I’m not going anywhere, Severus.”
“Go back to your room, or—“
“Or what? You’ll deduct points?”
Severus’ eyes flashed in the way that said he was starting to lose his temper. “You,” he hissed, “are a spoiled, ungrateful, defiant, miserable little brat who needs to learn to respect his elders.”
Harry frowned. “If you’re my elder then act like it.”
“Excuse me?” That voice wound around his neck, soft and deadly as silk.
“You heard me.” This was really getting old. “What happened?”
Snape’s hands gnarled into claws. “That,” he whispered, “is none of your damn business.”
“Like Hell it’s not. After all the nights I stayed with you, terrified that I was going to wake up and find you dead, I think I deserve a little information.”
“That information is private business between myself and certain unfortunates I once misguidedly called friends.” Severus pressed him against the fireplace, hot breath burning his face. Harry remembered why he’d hated Snape for so long.
“I didn’t realize I was an unfortunate.”
“Get out, Potter.”
“No. What did they do to you?”
“Nothing. Get. Out.”
“You don’t wake up screaming like tha—“
“GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!”
Harry jumped. Sev’s eyes were unreadable behind a wall of cold fury. Shaking, feeling for the first time in months like Snape’s student rather than his equal, Harry grabbed his robe and pulled it on inside out. Without another glance at his former teacher he pinched some Floo Powder from the mantle. “Gryffindor common room!” The words were hoarse. The familiar disoriented sensation of the Floo was nothing compared to the churning in his skull. He fell out of the fireplace, hard, and scrambled up the stairs of the deserted tower to hide. It was the first time he’d stayed there since Sev left the hospital wing. He spent a long, whimpering night, drifting in and out of restless sleep.
“Could you please pass the crumpets?” Dumbledore nudged him gently. Harry’s head slipped from his hand. He blinked furiously.
“Huh? Oh.” Squinting, he located the plate and passed it to the headmaster, who took one and cheerfully toasted it over his wand.
Most of the staff had noticed his lack of glasses and the large circles under his eyes when Harry came into the small room they used for meals in the summer. They also noticed the conspicuous fact that he was alone. Madam Hooch poured a mug of coffee and handed it to him from the small, round table next to Harry’s. “You look like you need a good kick-start this morning.”
“Cheers.” He tipped in a few sugars and threw back as much scalding hot liquid as he could. It blistered his palate. Harry set the mug down with a thump and put his head on the table. “Why do mornings have to be so bloody early?”
He heard the door open. It was probably Professor Sprout, who came to breakfast late every day with fresh dirt under her nails. Harry felt something tap his arm. He opened one bleary eye to see his glasses. The person who held them looked about as bright eyed as he felt. “Finally.” He woke up a little bit as the world came into focus.
Severus sat down next to him and grabbed a grapefruit. He never cut them in half, instead preferring to peel and segment them like oranges. It was quite a messy undertaking that resulted in a pile of thick skin and tough membranes and rather a lot of splatter. He never did it on a good morning. Sev plunged his sharp fingernails into the reddish skin, not looking at Harry. “Sorry,” he muttered under his breath.
“You should be.” Harry picked up a bit of toast and glopped it up with blackcurrant jam. He gnawed on it for a moment, pensive. The rest of the staff tried to avoid looking at them. “Greasy bastard.”
“My, you two certainly are cheerful this morning.” Snape gave Dumbledore a look that said he was just as cheerful as anybody else in this room, thank you very much, and should it become necessary he might even show it. Harry just folded up his toast and stuffed it in his mouth. “Of course, making up is half the fun.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows innocuously. “Yes, Severus?”
Harry quickly put a hand on Sev’s knee and squeezed. The grapefruit fell, forgotten. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate topic for the breakfast table,” Snape said in a strained voice that promised much, much more. Professor Sinistra tittered. A well-aimed look from Snape shut her up. Harry tried to vanish into his robes. There was still rather a bit of tension regarding the whole situation.
“Come, now, Severus,” Professor Flitwick motioned with an eggy fork. “We’re all… most all adults here.” Professor Vector was trying desperately not to laugh. Madam Hooch, the corners of her mouth twitching, patted Vector’s back. Snape shoved his chair back so hard it tipped over when he stood up. Dishes rattled as he slammed the door.
“Oh dear.” Harry could barely see. He shook. The headmaster put a hand on his arm and motioned his head towards the door. Harry ignored it. “Do you n—?”
“NO!” He slammed his fists on the table, knocking over his half-empty coffee cup. Dark brown liquid bled into the white tablecloth and splashed on the floor. “I don’t need to talk! I need all of you to stop treating us like a couple of freaks!” He sent Professor Vector a pointed glare, daring her to laugh. Her eyes glazed.
“I’ll bet. You think this is funny?” He stood, very nearly knocking over his own chair. Pain shot through his fingers as he dug them into the table. “Do you think I fucking planned this? Do you think he did?”
“I…” The rest of the staff was stone silent. Several were stone still. Professor Dumbledore looked annoyed with his faculty.
“Think what you want. I don’t give a shit anymore.” He stormed out just as Professor Sprout walked in.
“Good morning, Har—“ he sneered at her. The door nearly came off its hinges when it slammed.
He finally found Sev in his office. Harry nudged the door open – it wouldn’t groan before a certain point. Snape sat at his desk, eyes closed, oblivious. Harry watched him draw the tip of his wand away from his temple. A long, black strand followed. That’s odd. Dumbledore’s was silver. He decided it must be due to whatever colour a person’s hair was, although that seemed a bit silly. The filament dropped into the Pensieve sitting in the middle of the desk. He opened the door the rest of the noisy way. “Sev?”
Snape scowled. It was a different scowl than normal, though: it wasn’t disdainful, just hurt. Without a word he picked up the Pensieve and locked it in his desk. He patted his knee. This was totally unlike him. Harry locked the door, though, and sat down on that thin leg, head resting on Severus’ shoulder, arms around his waist. He felt cool fingers tangle his hair. Sev’s other arm wrapped around his chest. “I should have thrown you out the moment you touched me.”
“You don’t mean that.” Did he?
“Why wouldn’t I? You’re noisy, arrogant, obnoxious, stubborn, foolhardy, annoying—“
“I get the picture.” Harry squeezed him tighter. He had never seen Sev like this. “I cussed them out if it makes you feel any better.”
Snape snorted. “An immature reaction at best, but the most I could expect from you.”
“They stopped laughing.”
Severus sighed heavily. “I’ve always been a very private man, Harry.” This was true. Sev never spoke of his childhood, or his life outside Hogwarts, or even much about his time as a Death Eater. “I am not… accustomed to so many people knowing anything about my personal life, and even less so to being mocked for it.” Harry flushed. His stomach dropped out. This was all his fault.
“There it is. Very quick to the selfish judgments today, Potter.”
“A more appropriate answer might have been ‘thank you’. Do you think I would allow my colleagues to treat me like a joke for just anyone?”
“Um, what do you mean, you allow them?”
“It’s a good thing you’ve got looks, because you’re certainly lagging in the brains department.” Harry gave him a weary look.
“Very funny, Snape.”
“Yes, I rather thought so myself.” Harry smacked his chest and settled on his shoulder again.
“Are you trying to tell me you love me?”
Sev’s breath paused. “Should I be?”
“Don’t. It might ruin your image.”
“I mean, who could ever picture Severus Snape acting all romantic and disgusting, especially over the famous Harry Potter? It’s not natural.”
“You might even do something drastic, like wash your hair.”
“I do have a large supply of extremely rank rodent parts that needs to be sorted, you know.”
“God, can’t even take the piss, can I?”
“Not if you know what’s good for you.”
“Scary Snapey.” Severus turned his head and gave Harry the iciest look he was capable of. Harry kissed his nose. “Can I ask you something?”
“You can, and may, but I don’t guarantee an answer.” So what else was new?
“Why haven’t you told me anything about yourself? All I really know is what Sirius said.” And that little thing about cherries, but that didn’t seem relevant right now.
“I’m impressed. You haven’t once tried to kill me in my sleep.”
“Yet.” Sev raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to answer my question?”
Severus frowned. “What do you want to know?”
“Um… where are you from?”
“A little more specific?”
“I didn’t mean that little.” A pointed glare told him that train of discussion was over. “Okay… any brothers or sisters?”
For an instant Harry thought he saw a flicker in those hard eyes. “No. None.”
“Just you.” There was no trace of sentiment or emotion in those words. The man was unreadable. Harry decided not to linger on it, impossible though it felt. He would have to be overwhelmed later.
“Any old exes I need to be afraid of?”
“Sorry.” He shifted a little. Sev didn’t offer much in the way of cushioning. “Do you have a middle name?”
Snape pursed his narrow lips. He dropped his eyes. “Perditus. After my father.”
“Severus Perditus Snape.” Harry tasted the new addition to the name he found himself wanting more and more to say. It really was a beautiful name, in a sharp, sibilant sort of way. “It suits you.”
Those black eyes were unexpectedly chilly. “Please don’t say that.” It wasn’t a request. He gently pushed Harry off his lap. “I need to work.”
“On what?” Harry stretched. His tired muscles ached.
“It’s none of your concern.” It couldn’t be his case to the board of school governors because that had been sent the week before. Harry had written one, too, but he didn’t know if they would even pay attention to it. Sev opened a large, leathery book written in pointy, Medieval-looking script. He unfolded his reading glasses and put them on. They magnified his eyes, and the shadows and lines around them. “Bugger off.”
Harry sighed. “Yes, dear.” Severus growled but kissed him back. “Bastard.”
“Brat.” He dipped his quill and was writing before Harry had even left the room.
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