Disclaimer: Characters and places in this story, which appear in the Harry Potter novels, belong to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros. and Scholastic. I don't make, or intend to make money out of them. They just wouldn't leave me alone.

Thank you: My Beloved Cindy Lou, Accompaniment from Trent and Ozzy. Unending Gratitude to Betas Kyohaku Celestiale Vespertina, Maruchina, Bettyblue, and Olivia Lupin - I couldn't have done it without you.

Author's Notes: Random lyrics shamelessly stolen from Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine." References to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappachini's Daughter." Influenced more than I realized by two lovely fics, Accio Snape's "Something to Live For" and Cybele's "Le Lien des Beaux RÍves."

Archiving: Please ask.

Virulentus Somnium

Part 3

By Salix


9 PM, Day 2


As Harry got ready for bed, Severus looked around his rooms, surprised at how sterile they were. He had expected more clutter, he realized; photos of friends, maybe Quidditch memorabilia, personal things, but the rooms were as bare as they had probably been when Harry moved in. Severus had to remind himself that that was almost two years ago. Odd, he thought. Doesn't he have any mementos of his school days? He doesn't seem to see his friends often... Then again, he suddenly recalled how Harry had grown apart from his schoolmates, even Ron and Hermione eventually, and had spent most of his last years at school at a distance from the others.

"I'm ready," Harry called from the bedroom, interrupting his train of thought. Severus entered the bedroom, briefly raising an eyebrow as Harry quickly slipped between the blankets in flannel boxers.

Is he blushing? he thought with some surprise. He's hardly indecent and I'm hardly the first to see him undressed. Severus levitated a chair from the living room into the bedroom, and settled into it, opening a book.

As Harry's breathing evened out and he stopped fidgeting, his thoughts kept turning from his book to Harry's odd blush. He's lived in a boarding school for seven years, for heaven's sake. It's not like he ever got any privacy. Severus suddenly recalled the bitterness in Harry's voice referring to the other boys' Silencing Charms, and found himself in the novel position of speculating about his former student's sexual life. Is he that much of a prude? Or just embarrassed at the thought of his friends masturbating? Or is it sex in general?

Hmm... I never saw Harry with any girls, or heard any rumors. Nor any boys either, he thought after a moment, despite the speculation that there may have been more to the tension between Harry and Draco Malfoy than simply hatred. Maybe he's just a late bloomer? Or one of the few to be successfully discreet? Or...?

Severus' thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a soft moan from Harry. He got up and went to the bed; Harry's face was flushed and he appeared to be breathing fast. Severus hesitated to wake him, as he didn't really seem to be having a bad dream, so he turned around to go back his chair. Behind him, Harry let out another moan, this one louder and quite clearly of a more sensual nature. He felt his face grow hot with embarrassment, but it was nothing to the feeling that gripped his body when he turned back to look at the young man and couldn't avoid noticing the growing tent in the blankets. He quickly went back to his chair and sat down, face burning, pulse throbbing with... Embarrassment? Arousal? He shivered as Harry moaned again and shifted in the bed, definitely breathing hard, almost panting.

Get a grip, man, Severus sternly ordered himself. So the boy's having a sex dream. Hardly an unusual experience for a nineteen year old...

I wonder who it's about, he thought before he could stop himself.

No, I do not! he yelled to his brain. Stop that. Take a deep breath and calm down. I should not be having these thoughts about him. He's...

Not a student anymore... piped up that annoying inner voice of reason.

He's still quite young. And I am a dirty old man, sitting here, trying to ignore my own erection, trying not to think about what his body looks like under those blankets, who he's dreaming about, what he's dreaming of doing to them. These are private dreams. I should just leave him to it. At least he's not having a nightmare.

He got up and left the bedroom, with the idea of pacing back and forth across the sitting room until his body stopped pulsing and Harry's dream was finished. But as he crossed the doorway, Harry suddenly screamed in horror. Without hesitating a moment, Severus rushed back to the bed, catching Harry's shaking body in his arms, holding him and soothing him as he was overcome with wrenching sobs.


Holding the trembling young man in his arms, Snape found himself suddenly surprised at how easy and natural it felt. He hadn't thought for a moment before rushing to Harry and taking him in his arms. His hand was gently stroking Harry's back, and he was shocked to hear himself murmuring comforting nothings like "It was just a dream" and "It's all right; I'm here now." When had he developed a nurturing side? He pulled away from Harry, suddenly awkward.

Harry turned to the night table for a drink of water. "Sorry about that," he whispered when he was more under control.

Snape waited a long moment as Harry got a tissue and mopped up his face. "There's no need to apologize. Do you think you might be able to tell me what the dream was about, though?" He was suddenly quite suspicious that what had clearly looked like a sexual dream had turned so rapidly into a nightmare. Even allowing for the fact that time in dreams could be so different that an entire plot could unfold in minutes, it was still a bit uncanny.

Harry tried to speak, but seemed unable to get any words out, so after a few attempts he simply shook his head and lay back onto the pillow.

Poor boy; he's exhausted, said a voice in Snape's head that sounded suspiciously like his long-dead mother's.

"Harry," he said aloud, slowly and hesitantly, "I do have one idea of something that might work. One of the books about dream curses suggests that the use of a potion which causes shared dreaming may be of help to the cursed dreamer. Two people take slightly different variations of the same potion, and must share the same pillow as they sleep. Both of them dream the same thing."

Harry looked interested, so Snape continued. "I had thought it might be useful if you continue to be unable to talk about your dreams; perhaps someone could share them with you instead." Harry's eyebrows shot so far up his forehead that Snape wondered if they met his hairline.

"However, we can discuss that possibility tomorrow. Tonight, I'm thinking that it is essential for you to get some sleep. Perhaps if you shared someone else's dreams, you could get some much needed rest."

Harry looked deeply skeptical. Snape himself was not entirely convinced that it would work; whatever curse Voldemort or his followers had hexed Harry with had outlived all of them, which gave a quite alarming indication of its strength.

"But who would take the other potion? Who would be willing to let me share their dreams?" asked Harry hesitantly, forcing himself to meet Snape's eyes.

Snape held his gaze for several minutes before he answered. "I would. If you wished."

What on earth are you thinking? he screamed to himself. Hush, you're thinking of Harry instead of yourself for once, scolded the motherly voice.

"You would be willing to do that?" asked Harry.

Snape thought for a few minutes. "Yes. I believe it has a good chance of success." He pondered a bit more. "Also, I believe I can also concoct a mild sedative, which should prevent me from having any unpleasant dreams. Just as a precaution."

And since I have nothing but unpleasant dreams, it should result in a night of essentially dreamless sleep for us both. And not compromise my privacy either.

Harry replied, "If you're sure, then... yes. Let's try it," with so much gratitude in his hesitant voice that Snape was touched, despite himself.

He smiled at Harry, a real genuine smile. "Get dressed then. We'll go to the Potions classroom and get started. It will probably take a few hours and I'll need your help."

Harry returned the smile. "Don't worry, I promise I'll do a better job than when I was your student. Believe it or not, I've learned a few things since then."


11 PM, Day 2


It's so amazing how he gets all caught up in this, Harry mused to himself as he watched Snape work. It's like everything else fades to the background. He really loves making potions. No wonder he used to get so irritated with us students. Harry sat on a stool across the large work table in front of the classroom. He and Snape had been there for at least an hour, Harry fetching items upon demand, chopping, and watching. Mostly watching the other man, as Snape became more and more absorbed in his work. He had made the base potion first, and set it aside to cool while he worked on the two individual parts that would be added to his potion and Harry's respectively.

Such sure hands, Harry noted as he watched Snape quickly mince some valerian root with a huge sharp knife. So strong. Effortless movements. Confident. Long, delicate fingers... very nice hands. Harry let his gaze wander up Snape's arms. Almost priestly, in those austere black robes. He'd laugh to hear that. Well, snort anyway. Not sure I've really seen him laugh. Although he did just smile, in my room. At me. A real smile, not a smirk. Genuine. At me. It was... lovely. Made him look so... nice. Younger. Less bitter. Smoothed out the furrows in his forehead, made his deep, dark eyes brighter.

Harry was amused and a bit surprised to have caught himself staring at Snape, superimposing his memory of that smile back onto the concentrating man.

I liked the way he looked when he smiled. I like the way he looks now, even not smiling. Studious. Intense. Mysterious. Not quite touchable, just a bit above everyone else. But not ugly or mean, like I thought he looked when I was a kid. Just... well... handsomely mysterious.

Handsome? Gods, next I'll be thinking he's sexy. Harry felt his cheeks color with the beginning of a blush.

Well, if the shoe fits, he thought with some surprise, chewing his bottom lip. There's just something about him...

"If you're quite done staring at me, Mr. Potter, I wonder if you might be persuaded to go fetch some skullcap and mugwort for the last stage of the potion?" Snape asked, with barely concealed amusement.

Harry jumped and practically fell off the stool in his embarrassment as he ran to the store room for the herbs. Shit! Bad enough to be thinking such things, about Snape of all people, but to be caught at it... He is going to have a field day with this. Why do these things always happen to me? Why can't I just have a normal life?

All right, calm down. He saw you staring, he didn't read your mind thinking about how he looks.

No, but he has been doing an amazing job of reading my thoughts lately; I wouldn't put it past him to have some idea of this one as well. I must be so transparent, so obvious...

Harry returned to the table with the herbs, and Snape instructed him to begin grinding them together with a special bronze mortar and pestle. When he was finished, Snape added a pinch of the powdered herbs to each of the two crystal goblets he had already prepared with the rest of the potion. The herbs fizzled and disappeared in a cloud of blue smoke, and the liquid in the glasses turned a deep indigo.

"Now, for the final ingredients we need something from each of us. As the dream-sharer, your glass needs one eyelash from each of your upper lids, untouched by you. As the dreamer, my glass needs the same, plus two hairs pulled from the root, from the nape of the neck." Harry blinked at him. "Come here, then, and take off your glasses."

Harry walked over to Snape's side of the table and removed his glasses. Snape moved closer as he reached out and took Harry's face in his hands. Smooth, warm hands, Harry thought as his pulse quickened. He looked up into Snape's dark eyes and felt like he was seeing them for the first time, deep and hinting at unchartable depths and hidden secrets. He closed his eyes as Snape reached towards them, and felt the man's hands, surprisingly gentle, touching his eyelid with a warm finger. A twinge of pain followed as Snape pulled out one single lash with a pair of tweezers. Harry tried not to flinch, but couldn't stop the involuntary reaction as his eye filled with water. Snape must have noticed, because his fingertip gently traced the eyelid and soothed away the sting and the moisture. Then the other eye. Harry realized he was holding his breath and could feel the other man's body, not touching him, but just barely an inch away. Snape was still touching his face and hadn't drawn back. Feels nice... Harry thought, I wonder why he hasn't moved? He opened his eyes to find Snape staring down at him, with a completely unreadable expression on his face.

Snape cleared his throat as he stepped back. "All right then." He carefully dropped the lashes into Harry's cup, where they too dissolved, but soundlessly, as the liquid turned even darker. "Your turn," he said as he sat down on a stool so Harry could reach him more easily.

Harry took a slow breath to try and steady himself, unconsciously wiping his sweating hands on his robes as he drew closer. Snape's eyes were already closed, and Harry wondered if the dim lighting in the room was responsible for the color starting to stain Snape's cheeks. He reached out a shaking hand and laid it gently on the man's cheekbone, turning his face towards him. He took up the tweezers and held down the eyelid with one finger as Snape had done, as he pulled out a lash. Snape didn't flinch at all, but his eye did water. Again mimicking what Snape had done to him, Harry lightly traced the man's eyelashes, soothing and wiping away the tear.

When he had finished the other eye, Harry turned from the plate where he had carefully laid the lashes to see Snape looking at him again. Harry couldn't read his expression at all, and his insides began to feel like they were shaking, just like his hands were. He cleared his throat before he murmured, "Turn around," and was surprised at how compliantly Snape followed his order. Harry reached out and gently touched the back of Snape's head, bending it forward as his fingers stroked the silky black strands. Not greasy at all, but smooth, silky, lush, so dark and full, like midnight, like ink, so black, no wonder it looks wet, but it's not, it's soft...

Harry's fingers combed through the locks, down to the nape of Snape's neck, caught up in the delicious sensation. As his fingertips met flesh, they both shivered and Harry reluctantly forced himself to focus. He gently separated two strands of hair, followed them to the root, and quickly pulled. Nether of them said a word as Snape took the hair and lashes and added them to his goblet. The hairs seemed to thicken and melt into the potion, turning it a brilliant purple.

They both stared at the potions for a long moment. "The sedative is in my room," said Snape. "The, er, my bed is... bigger... than yours. I think we should sleep in there." Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "I don't know how quickly this potion takes effect; it would be safest to be ready for bed and drink it just before lying down." Harry nodded his agreement again. "So... we should go get changed," Snape finished awkwardly. He took both goblets and swept out of the classroom towards his chambers, Harry trailing behind.


1 AM, Day 3


The clock in Snape's living room was striking one in the morning as Harry knocked at the door, awkward in his boxers, t-shirt, and school robe. Snape also seemed a bit awkward in his pajamas and dressing gown. The tension grew as they walked wordlessly into Snape's bedroom, each to opposite sides of the large four-poster bed hung with gauzy green silk. Harry tried not to feel self-conscious as he took off his robe; there was absolutely nothing revealing about what he was wearing. Still, he was having a difficult time trying not to think about being in bed with Snape, of all people, and sleeping closely enough to share a pillow with him.

"It is bigger than mine." It was a moment before he realized he'd said those words out loud, just as Snape was taking off his dressing gown, and the skin all over Harry's body almost burst into flame with the fury of his embarrassment. Snape's eyes rounded until he looked almost like a house elf, a slight flush coloring his cheeks as well, as Harry gasped and stuttered, "I mean the bed, the pillows!"

Snape blinked rapidly a few times, clearing his throat. "Yes. It... they... are." Both quite studiously kept their eyes focused on the bed and refused to even glance at the other. "Well, er..." Snape took a deep breath. "If you're ready then, we should just get started." Snape actually blushed as he realized the possible double entendre, but Harry missed it, so focused was he on his own embarrassment. He simply nodded and took his goblet, barely glancing at Snape to see that he had his, and they both drank their potions at the same time.

Clumsily, hesitantly, they both got into bed, trying hard to not look at each other. Harry could feel himself shaking inside, unsure if it was from the potion or nerves. He lay down with as much of his body on his side of the bed as possible, slightly angled, with his head on just the corner of the pillow. After a few moments, Snape whispered dryly, "It's important that your head stay on the pillow all night, Mr. Potter. I suggest you move closer; I won't bite."

Harry flinched up and away at Snape's tone of voice, flooded with old feelings of humiliation as a student in the Potions classroom. He made himself lie back down, scooting fractionally closer.

Of course he can tell how far away you are, you stupid git! He can probably hear how fast your heart is beating! He just wants the spell to work, not to be close to you at all. He doesn't like you. He'd surely make fun of you if he knew this was the first time you'd been in bed with someone else, even just to sleep. I bet he can tell. I bet he can read you like a book, like he's been doing lately, seeming to know everything you think. He knows you were looking at him in the Potions classroom. I bet he knows what you were thinking. I bet he knows you're gay. I bet he can tell you're a virgin. He's probably laughing to himself right now, at how awkward you are, how pathetic you are, "Poor Potter, such a disappointment, such a loser that no one ever even kissed him. So worthless--"

"Harry?" Snape's questioning voice interrupted the chorus screaming in Harry's head, expertly beating him into a million tiny wretched pieces. "Are you all right?" He rolled over onto his side, facing Harry, a puzzled expression on his face. "I know this is... well, highly unpleasant for you, but you're as stiff as board. Relax. I promise, you won't have nightmares. I don't see any possible way this potion could fail."

Harry took a deep breath and unclenched his hands and unscrewed his eyes, looking up into Snape's concerned face. He felt something inside him melt a bit and the internal chorus faded away into a whisper. "I know. I trust you. I'm sorry," he mumbled.

Snape lay back down. "Don't be sorry, just go to sleep," he ordered. "Relax. And Harry?" He cautiously reached out for the clammy hand of the young man next to him, gave it a light squeeze, and whispered, "Sleep well."

Harry's hand tingled as the warmth from Snape's touch traveled up his arm and spread through his whole body. He had a lot to think about; the way he had felt in the Potions classroom tonight, how scared he was that Snape would know his darkest secrets, the confusing way the man seemed so concerned and caring one moment and sarcastic the next, then saying that Harry must find it unpleasant to be in bed with him (hardly), and finally that gentle touch of his hand... But sleep began to pull at him, taking him away from a world of confusion and fear and loneliness, and after a brief struggle, Harry submitted, and was deeply asleep in minutes.

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