Title: A Paler Shade of Guilt

Author: You'll never guess :)

Giftee: faynia and stormypups

Word Count: 17,000

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Harry/Snape, Harry/OC (Slightly)

Warnings:Nothing the rating doesn’t already imply.

Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: After a deadly encounter on the job, Harry is sacked and pressured to take a job as a professor at Hogwarts. Once he arrives, Snape is waiting with a plan of his own.

Author's Notes:The recipients asked for a clichéd story about Harry returning to Hogwarts to teach. I included some h/c and, if you squint, some het thrown in there. A great thanks to my beta, B!  
 

A Paler Shade of Guilt 
 

.:::. 
 

A wand was a wizard’s gold, valuable with ancestral honour. The feel of it within his hand was homecoming, cold wood like steel against the flesh, burning with its power and ready for the fight and thrill of the chase. His fingers tingled when not in contact with his wand, and he flexed the joints every so often, trying to ignore the pounding of need within his veins. His very blood felt the loss of his wand when not in hand, the loss of its power. The power scared Harry the most. 

Shades of light filtered through the blinds, falling upon Harry’s sweat drenched face. The skin under his eyes was swollen from irritation or crying, though he wasn’t too sure which one. He had awoken numerous times during the night to the distant sound of his own voice, shrieking within its trapped horror. It was the same image repeated during the nightmare – that poor boy covered in his own blood, his eyes drowned by the fear he felt within. The fear was mirrored by Harry, his heart thumping in rotation with his crazed mind and uncontrollable thoughts. I must help him. I must save him.  

I am useless. 

It was the same feeling that plagued him as he lay in the hospital bed now, clenching his fists around starched sheets and gritting his teeth against the scream that bloated his throat. It was his fault, his blind faith in humankind. He had trusted whoever had been behind the so-called leaked information. Now he knew it had only been a trap.  

A few years in the Auror division of the Ministry and the only thing Harry had learned was that most criminals hated him more than all the Ministry employees combined, even more than the Judges that had sentenced them to Azkaban. Over and over again his presence jeopardized his fellow Aurors’ lives, even the existence of the whole western side of their department during a bomb threat. Assassination and kidnapping plots, discovered ransoms that were meant to be used whenever the criminals were able to get a hold of Harry – all of it had once seemed like the last ditch effort of desperate criminals. 

It had all seemed so trivial when he was actually doing some good. Fighting evil – just like the old days. But recently he had been subjected to more desk work and longer hours of filing reports. A job that was meant for his temp or secretary. Then this.  

What had he done? This time his stupidity actually caused someone to lose their life. It was something he couldn’t ignore, couldn’t blink away and file back into his mind, only allowing it to surface to his consciousness when he was alone and ready to face the mistake. No, this was something that would always be there – an itch in his brain, his heart. It made him wish he could switch places with the young man.  

The whole situation angered him – after his Auror training and years of experience he should have known to investigate the information before rushing off like a damn fool. It was as if he was a teenager all over again and it was Sirius he wanted to save. To add more to his idiocy, once he realised it was a trap he had froze up, not knowing how to react. And, when he finally did act, his poor decision of attacking at the wrong moment killed that young man. As always, he allowed his emotions to get the best of him.  

He felt like a failure in every aspect of his life. Personally, he was unable to make a connection with someone seriously. He’d put his job ahead of every relationship in his life. His job became his number one priority, and now that was even going to shite.  

For reasons he couldn’t justify, anger and self pity were slowly creeping into his consciousness. He wanted to blame everyone for his unhappiness, though deep down inside he knew he was the only one to blame. He supposed he needed to learn how to open up and accept people for their flaws. 

There were sounds surrounding him, some distant and others too close for his own comfort. He tightened his closed eyes and took a silent, deep breath, hoping no one had notice he was awake. He wasn’t ready to face the world at the moment. A small voice in his head scoffed at his tormented thoughts, and he couldn’t swallow down the insufferable yawn that broke through his clenched jaw. He had to get over this self-pity that disturbed him – it weakened him. Once he had thought he was over weakness completely; now he understood that it had been inexperience at its best. 

He saw shadows move across his eyelids, possibly the movement of the nurse or Mediwizard checking on his vital signs. He wondered if they could tell he was awake just by his uneven breathing. He was never able to hide things, especially his emotions. He supposed he had never met a feeling that he didn’t want to broadcast. It was unnerving.  

“Mr Potter, I’m glad you are finally awake.” The voice was pleasant and feminine. Comforting and smooth. He cracked his eyes open and saw a young lady staring down at him with mirth. He awarded her with a slight smile and pushed himself up into a semi-seated position. Her face was kind and her body soft. He suddenly wanted to kiss her delicate lips and hold her close. A familiar feeling of loneliness made his lungs ache for air. Blood rushed through his veins with numbing tingling. God, he wanted someone to comfort him.  

“I was trying to hide it,” he said as he accepted his glasses from her hand. He peeked at her name tag placed perfectly on the gentle swell of her breasts. Olivianne. “Do you prefer Olivia?” he asked, forcing his voice into a careful wave of words.  

She nodded and her cheeks reddened. Harry didn’t miss the slide of her eyes to the scar on his forehead. His stomach convulsed with either arousal or anger, though he couldn’t identify the reason behind the feeling. Maybe it was because he knew she was so easily attainable, but something within knew that it was just a cover-up for an ignored desire. He frowned down at his hands, watching as his index and pinkie fingers twitched. His eyes widened suddenly and he looked wildly around for his wand. It sat faithfully on the bedside table, pointed toward him. He licked his lips as he felt his heart slow to a resting beat.  

“You had a visitor when you were asleep. I told her to come back in a few hours when you were awake.” Olivianne smiled down at him and motioned to the blinds. “Would you like me to close them for you?” 

Harry assumed it was Hermione who had come to check up on him. “Was she my age, short, with bushy brown hair? My visitor, I mean.”  

Olivianne blinked down at him. “Oh goodness, no. She was an older woman, very stern face. I think I remember her from Hogwarts.” It was obvious she was trying to fool him about her age. 

Harry furrowed his brow. “Professor McGonagall was here for me?” 

“Yes, that’s her name. Minerva McGonagall.” Olivianne blinked a few times as her eyes clouded over with memory. “I haven’t seen or thought about that woman since I left school.” She fanned herself. “Years ago, I guess. Too long ago.” 

Smirking, Harry responded, “I don’t think it could have been that long ago. You look really young.” 

She returned his smile, her lips stretching over pressed teeth. “You flatter me – Harry.” 

“I like it when you call me Harry,” he said casually, knowing that it meant wonders to the woman. “I insist all my friends call me Harry.” 

Her whole face was now consumed by a red tint. “You are too kind, calling me your friend. We have only just met.” 

Harry schooled his features into heartfelt seriousness. “I want to get to know you. Would you like that?” He dropped his voice to a tone he hoped seemed seductive.  

The colour upon her face spread down to the pale skin on her neck, down past the collar of her shirt. The flesh on her breasts was probably heated and warm, swelled with excitement. 

Olivianne swallowed thickly. Her eyes were wide. “I’d – like that very much.” 

Harry smiled sweetly at her. “That’s fantastic.” 

.::. 

The peas on his plastic tray managed to be both tough and mushy at the same time. He poked at his food with a fork and thought there should be a law against boiling chicken. It never came out well. He soon realised that no matter how much pepper he applied to his food it would never become any better, so he sighed and set down his fork, pushing away the tray with a dramatic whirl of his hand. 

He leaned back into lumpy pillows and clasped his hands together against his stomach, staring up at the dirt stains on the ceiling and following the cracks with his eyes. The arms of his glasses cut into the sides of his head where he rested against the pillows. He wrinkled his nose, trying to straighten his glasses without using hands. 

There was a knock on the door and a soft cough. He looked over and frowned. It was strange to see McGonagall standing there without her teaching robes on. She wore a fitted emerald and black dress, the sleeves draping down her arms in heavy waves of fabric. Her face was pinched but not unkind. Harry didn’t like it, and there was a moment of silence before he finally answered.  

He mustered a smile toward his former professor. “Professor, how have you been?” He watched as the lines on her forehead softened at his words. 

“I think it’s time you call me Minerva, Harry,” she answered as she motioned to the chair beside his bed. “May I?” 

“Of course!” He pushed himself completely up and rearranged the pillows so that he could lean against them with his back straight. He wanted to meet Minerva’s eyes and not have her glowering down at him as if he were a student again. 

“I heard about what happened,” she said, quietly respectful, “a horrible situation. Disgusting how criminals are trying to get ahead these days. At least during the wars there were rules – morals, even if it does sound like a crackpot idea now.” She clasped and re-clasped her hands in her lap. 

Harry looked down at the bedding. “Well, it was mostly my fault. I should have known better.” 

Minerva leaned forward and squinted at him, as if needing a better view of his face. “You can’t dwell on what happened, Harry. It’s very unhealthy.” She paused, it seemed, to let her words sink in. “You made the right choice. What if it really had been information about Féin’s whereabouts? You would’ve missed a perfect opportunity to end this dispute.”  

Crossing his arms over a white hospital shirt, Harry was finally able to look into Minerva’s face. “But it wasn’t, that’s fact. I’m an idiot for believing it. Someone is dead because of me.” He shut his mouth before the tone of his voice turned into a whine. He would rather shoot himself in the groin before he let his facade break in front of her.  

Breathing in deeply, he tried to smile casually but the muscles in his cheeks locked up like steel wiring. The expression upon his face, he knew, was one of great discomfort. Sometimes he felt schizophrenic, at his desire to hide things and his inability to do so. 

She waved her hand in the air dismissively. “Well, he had it coming.” After a short pause she continued, “Haven’t they put you on suspension?”  

“For my health,” Harry snapped involuntarily. Gritting his teeth, he pinched himself under the blankets for his slip up.  

“Yes,” McGonagall said simply, not completely sold. Her voice thinly masked the incredulousness of her thoughts. They stared at one another for a long moment; Harry inspecting the way McGonagall’s cheeks sagged with an emotion that he couldn’t completely identify. He looked, hard and forthcoming, trying to figure out why she was here.  

There really was nothing wrong with him. It wasn’t as if he expected his old professors to visit him while he was in the hospital. Searching her face, he realised with a surge of disgruntled anger that she was here to proposition him. Did she not think he was a good Auror anymore? Did she think that he had given up somehow on helping people?  

Minerva must have read the expression upon his face. “Now, Harry, please. . .” 

He shook his head violently. “No, Minerva, whatever you want from me – no. I’m happy with my life now – no.” 

Turning away from him, Minerva stared at the opposite wall. “You don’t understand, Harry. I feel as if I’m letting down Albus, with the way Hogwarts is going.” 

Harry squinted at her. “What are you getting at?” He hadn’t heard anything remotely bad about Hogwarts.  

“I’m saying that I’m losing control over Hogwarts – students aren’t learning, the professors don’t care anymore. I need your help, Harry.” Twisting her neck forward, she allowed him only partial view of her face. What he saw made his stomach churn.  

Minerva had never lied to him before. Searching her face, he doubted that the anguish he saw was misleading. There was just too much pain within her features – those saggy cheeks and pressed lips. 

“Well,” he said after a long moment, “what can I possibly do? I have a job – a career to handle and deal with.” He crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at the duvet again. 

Silence fell upon the room once more. It made Harry fidget awkwardly, moving his knees up and down, clasping and re-clasping his hands.  He waited for a few moments for Minerva to break the uneasiness. Finally, he tore his eyes away from the bed and glanced at her, squinting slightly through the frames of his glasses. If he saw something he didn’t like he could pretend the frame was blocking his view. 

It seemed as if she was waiting for something, her eyes shifting back and forth, sometimes resting on the window for a moment longer than normal. Harry felt suspicion cloud his senses. 

“What are you waiting for, Minerva?” he asked, his voice weary. A bundle of nerves was wrapped within his stomach, turning his intestines with anxiety. He gnawed on his bottom lip, the skin chapped from dehydration.  

Her eyes widened almost comically, then swerved to look at the window again. What was she waiting for? Harry was about to open his mouth to ask once more, but a quick tapping on the glass beat him to it. He looked over from his place on the bed, frowning deeply once he spotted the black owl. It was tapping feverishly on the panel, its beak yellow and peeling. Something was happening that he didn’t understand. It made him feel vulnerable and weakened. 

“What’s going on?” he asked again, his voice not as strong as he wished. He watched as Minerva jumped from her seat to open the window for the bird. It flew around the room in rotation, finally coming down to land on his bedside table. It clicked its beak together, lifting up its claw to him. A scroll was tied to its leg. He realised that the parchment was dampened by the morning rainfall as he looked closely at the letter. The ink was slightly smeared at the edges. 

“The mail always comes late,” Minerva said as she paid the bird absentmindedly and moved her chair closer to his bed. The expression upon her face was almost hungry as she waited for him to read the scroll. He felt blood rush to his head with fright, the fingers he held the letter with becoming numb. His heart beat in an erratic way, his throat tightening. He felt as if he were in a cage, locked up and chained, with nowhere to flee. 

“Open it up,” she said softly, but her voice held a powerful quality. It was almost comforting – almost. Gulping thickly, he tore the seal and fumbled with the parchment. It began as any other letter, reminding him of the acceptance letter he received from Hogwarts as a child.  

As he realised his sergeant was dismissing him of his duties and employment, a certain feeling of melancholy fell over him. It was strange, for it wasn’t because he had been fired, but because he felt as if he had let down Hogwarts as a whole. He had left that place with a heavy heart, but ambition thick in his system. Now he was out of the job, out of a career. Where would he go now? 

In these situations, he’d like to imagine what Dumbledore would have said to him. Now, however, he wanted to hide under his pillow from the outside world and his consciousness, if that was at all possible. He couldn’t face Dumbledore in his mind, imagine that look of disappointment on the older man’s features. 

Crumpling the parchment within his hand, he turned his attention to Minerva. Thick anger clouded his view as he saw the complete happiness on her face. After a moment of glowering at her, he asked, “How did you know this was going to happen to me?” 

She looked at him sheepishly. The expression was ugly and foreign upon a face that usually held confidence and knowledge. “I read it in the morning paper – you must have known that rumours have been flying about for ages now.” 

“Right, right,” he said, looking down at the tattered paper lying on his knees. He shook his head. “I’ve been sacked.” He laughed bitterly. 

“Please,” she said, assurance now creeping into her tone, “please, Harry. Hogwarts needs you.” 

“No.” His throat trembled around the word. For some reason he felt tears sting his eyes. “No! No! No! This is a set up! The whole goddamn thing!” 

Minerva blinked at him. “Albus would have wanted you to. Do it for him. Help save Hogwarts.” 

Defeat strangled the anger in his stomach, vomit coating his mouth. He allowed a single tear to escape his eye before quickly wiping it away. “Fine, fine.” He paused to close his eyes. An image of Dumbledore smiling at him flashed within his consciousness. “For Dumbledore, right?” 

Minerva nodded. “You’ll make a great Defence professor, Harry. He would be proud.” 

.::. 

“Now, if you please sign these forms we can properly release you.” 

Harry nodded sombrely as he took the papers from her. They glowed a bright gold as his quill scratched across the signature line. Even the fact that he would be able to go home didn’t brighten his mood. Ever since he’d been sacked a certain depression had cast a haze over his life. He felt no ambition and no pity. 

Handing the form back, he asked, “Erm, my friend was supposed to send me a change of clothes –” 

The woman cut him off. “Oh, yes, I have them right here.  Hermione Granger it was, right?” 

His smile was brittle. “Thanks. Anything else?” 

“No, but if you want to –” 

He didn’t allow her to finish as he made an escape to the loo. Once in there, he bolted the stall door and leaned his head against it, already feeling the cool sweat collect along his hairline.  

He closed his eyes to the aching light and tried to only breathe through his mouth. He hated this place – hated the smell and the feel of the floor against his feet, hard and bumpy. Most of all he hated the wenches who controlled it. During a time in which he craved respect and acknowledgement, all they did was criticize and treat him as if he were a child. And that fucking game McGonagall had played on him – knowing that he’d been sacked but still pretending as if he had a choice in the matter. 

What could he have done? He had to work, right? Then she had brought up Dumbledore and what he would have wanted Harry to do. The insufferable cunt. 

He took his wand out of his underpants and rested it against the toilet with the trousers and shirt Hermione had left him. He pulled the hospital clothes off and dropped them to the floor.  

Dressing quickly, his hair stood up on end from static as he pulled the shirt over his head. He fixed his glasses and tried to push down his hair, licking his palm and patting his head. Once out of the stall, he washed his hands and stared at his whitened face. He looked sick – defeated. It made him angry to see his pathetic appearance. 

He took a deep breath and schooled his features into neutrality before walking out into the corridor. The air was cooler and it was painful against his cheeks, his chest. Goosebumps formed on his arms and the back of his neck, the tips of his ears turning pink. He felt exposed as people rushed by him, some recognising him and others too preoccupied to do so.  

His hands strayed to the back pocket where his wand stuck out, uncomfortable against his spine. He twisted his fingers around the edge, wishing for the holster he usually had at his side. He didn’t like having his wand out of his sight.  

“Oomph.” He collided with something firm, like a chest plate. Blinking, the situation cleared as he stared into the surprised expression of – Olivianne. Olivia. “Oh, hi,” he managed, still trying to correct himself. 

Her cheeks reddened drastically. “Hello,” she responded, her eyes alight with an emotion he couldn’t identify. It was most likely excitement.  A small frown appeared along her lips. “You are being released today.” 

“I was released today.” He smiled at her. “I’m a free man.” Pointing to his clothes with a thumb, he broadened his smile to cheer her up. It did no good. After a moment he asked playfully, “Why so sad, Olivia?” 

The frown on her lips deepened. He stared down at her face, and in the harsh lighting of the corridor he saw the soft lines of her face, the indent of her top lip into a v-shape, the plumpness of her bottom lip. Her eyes were a hazy sort of brown, like a dust cloud. He felt his stomach tremble with desire. 

Coughing, he asked, “What should I do with these?” He motioned to the hospital clothes under his arm.  

Emotion flickered across her face. “You can follow me, if you want.” 

He stared at her expression as he registered the full meaning of her words. A clenching tightness began within his chest, transforming into warmth as it moved downward.  

She bit her lower lip and batted her eyelashes. Harry couldn’t help but grin at her deviance. Grinning back at him, she turned and began walking down the corridor, the white stitched coat she wore swishing around her knees. He watched the way her arse moved with each step, the fullness of it.  

Stopping abruptly, she took out her wand and pressed the tip of it against the door. Where it touched brightened into red and the door swung open. She motioned for him to follow her. 

He felt his heart pound as darkness fell around him. He sensed Olivianne’s movement in front of him and reached out, his fingers grasping the collar of her shirt. She made a noise, which sounded like the toll of a bell in the silence. His fingers fumbled for a brief moment with buttons.  

Bending his head, lips met flesh and he heard a satisfied groan. He allowed himself to fall into the bliss of it and forget his worries. 

.::. 

He never imagined how uncomfortable the wooden chairs at the head table could be. He tried not to dwell on how strange it was to be in the Great Hall and not sitting at the Gryffindor table. Eyes flickered over to the table, his mind only seeing ghost faces from the past. It made him sad to know different students occupied the school now.  

The light from the candles was more potent at this seat, forcing him to squint to really take in the room. The changes were inconspicuous – it took him a while to realise that a certain painting was missing, or a suit of armour had been replaced. He arched his neck and forced his gaze to his plate, moving his food around without eating.  

It was incredible that he was back at Hogwarts. The weeks before September 1st seemed like a dream now – it all seemed so unlikely, staring down at all these children as if he were the one in charge. His head swarmed with confusion as his brain itched with hysteria.  

McGonagall was speaking about the beginning of the school year now, and Harry allowed his mind to drift to other things. He inspected the room with his eyes turned downward. It seemed the students were paying more attention to him than McGonagall, and he quickly averted his eyes all the way. Catching Hagrid’s eye, he smiled broadly at him as he spotted the red tint on his cheeks. He was relieved to know that he had Hagrid’s support when it came to teaching. Hagrid knew how it felt to be thrown into teaching without any previous experience.  

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of black hair, as if the head had turned very quickly. Something within sank as he inspected Snape’s almost hidden face. The damned bastard – lucky to be alive in Harry’s opinion. He doubted Snape had changed over the years.  

An invisible hand twisted his insides – he was equal to Snape – not some scared child or messed up teenager. Snape had to treat him with respect, and he didn’t have to take his shitty attitude.  

This was fantastic. 

His mood picked up as power surged within him. For the first time he truly realised why he felt so uncomfortable to be back at Hogwarts. He felt as if he were a confused child again – fighting Voldemort and afraid of a certain Potions Master. But now, as he repeated over and over again, he was an equal to Snape. A strange thought popped into his mind – he wondered how Snape felt about him teaching now. Teaching his favourite subject; probably angry as fuck, if Harry knew anything about the old bat. 

.::. 

Harry invited Hagrid to his rooms after dinner. He was excited to relax with his old friend, sharing a few tumblers of whiskey together as they caught up. They reclined in threadbare chairs Harry had dragged from Grimmauld Place a few years back. Before, the arms had only been frayed from years of the Black family’s use, but now there were stains from chocolate and tea, even dried ketchup from the many times Harry had dropped his hamburgers. 

Hagrid was two or more drinks into his drunkenness, and his cheeks with beamed a cheerful ruddiness. His beetle-like eyes glittered with a warmth that made Harry stretch his limbs and sink further into the chair. As the night went on, Harry asked questions about how Hagrid had felt beginning teaching without any previous practice. 

“I was scared out of me mind,” Hagrid said, laughing. “’m surprised I even got this far.” He spread his large hands out in front of him, showing his astonishment. The way he looked at Harry made him smile broadly. A true smile. It had been a long time since Harry had felt happiness. 

A fire crackled next to them. Harry felt the warmth tickle the skin on his neck and arms. He was so relaxed that he didn’t hear the knock on the door. 

“’arry, there’s someone at the door,” Hagrid said, the beefy fingers muffling his words as he rested his head against his palm. 

Harry struggled to stand, and he adjusted his glasses as he walked to the door. There was some more knocking. Harry opened the door just as a pale fist came at him. 

Snape looked uncomfortable and snatched his hand away. He didn’t exactly glare at Harry, but there was something like mistrust within his eyes, though the sneer was ever apparent and deeper. Harry watched as the muscle on his cheek twitched with – anger, nerves? Harry couldn’t quite tell. 

“Potter,” Snape said tersely, his voice dry, “I was instructed to give you my old lesson plans. It will help you create your own.” He produced a book from his robes.  

Harry kept quiet, waiting for the trademark demeaning comment. He could already hear it – I do not support indolent children who feel as if they can do everything or Celebrity Number One, how delightful. They all sounded ridiculous and he shook his head. 

“Are you refusing my help?” Snape crossed his arms, the book still in his hand. A strange expression fell across his abrupt features.  

“What? No – I mean, I do want your help.” Harry wiggled his toes and bit on the inside of his lip. He swallowed thickly. “Will you come in? Hagrid’s here and I’d like to ask you a few questions.” 

If Snape had looked disgruntled just a moment before, he looked almost outraged now. It was strange, for Harry had never taken the time to really watch the man. A lot could be seen in just his body language. 

“What sort of questions, Mr Potter?” 

Harry blinked at him. “It’s Harry now. I doubt you call your other colleagues by their last names.” 

Snape’s mouth twisted. There was a moment of silence before he said, “I will not pretend to like Minerva’s decision of hiring you, but I won’t refuse if you need my help.” 

Amused, Harry felt his mind struggle with the puzzle of Snape’s true thoughts. He was just so much more awkward than what Harry had remembered. How strange was it to think that Harry was now causing this man to fidget and clasp his hands together? God, payback was a bitch.  

Harry was unable to hide the smile. “Yes, I do need your help. Please come in, Severus.” The word burned in his throat. 

He saw just the slightest movement of Snape’s mouth, as if the man was trying not to scream in a fit of rage. Stepping back, Harry motioned for Snape to come in. He knew Hagrid had been listening the whole time and wondered what the gigantic man thought. 

Snape was a defeated shadow as he walked into the room, nodding swiftly at the company before settling himself into one of the threadbare chairs. He moved to the tip of the cushion to lay the book flat on the table. He did not relax his frame. 

“What did you need to ask me?” Snape asked as he batted his hand at the glass Harry tried to offer him. 

Harry smiled down at him sweetly, his lips pressed together with the slightest of pressure. He paused to take his seat across from Snape, then to refill Hagrid’s glass. Hagrid looked between Snape and Harry with something like amusement in his eyes. 

“Just that – I know you were DADA professor for a year.” He watched Snape struggle to keep his blank expression. It was all in the eyes. “I’m very inexperienced as you’ve mentioned before. Could you give me a few pointers?” 

Snape’s hand was in a claw-like form, his nails almost digging into the arm of the chair. His eyes were doing a sort of whizzing in their sockets. It was amusing. “Well,” he began, his voice like thick oil, “you can’t allow the students to control you. Whatever they do – whine, complain, cry – you need to ignore them and do what you see as best.” He paused to finally look Harry in the eyes. “You can’t be afraid of them.” 

Oh, the urge to ask Snape if he was ever afraid of his students burned in Harry’s throat. It felt almost painful for Harry to control himself and swallow down the need. He grunted noncommittally and swirled his drink in his hand. He reached for the book on the table. 

Flipping through it, Harry mumbled, “It reminds me of my sixth year of school.” 

“Why is that?” Snape snapped, obviously assuming Harry was speaking of Dumbledore’s death. 

Harry shrugged and looked up at Snape. He smiled, his lips twisting in on them self. “Oh, it’s just that your handwriting takes me back.” 

Snape blinked at him, his eyes like pools of discomfort with unsettled waves. The light from the fire cast strange shadows across his face; the abrupt hook of his nose looked even uglier. Harry was intrigued.  

“I was just telling ‘arry about how I felt when I began teaching. I think he’s a bit scared, to tell yer the truth.” Hagrid winked at Harry. 

Snape nodded. “Well, starting anything new is daunting. You have to be prepared.” He looked at Harry with scepticism. 

“How did you feel when you first year of teaching?” Harry asked, not completely sure if Snape would even answer. He stared at him with the challenge. 

The fine wrinkles around Snape’s eyes tightened. After a moment of restless movement from Hagrid, the springs from the chair groaning with each shift of weight, Snape answered, “I was – scared, yes, but I knew what I had to do. Nothing would have stopped me from completing my job.” The thinness of his knees caught Harry’s attention as he re-crossed his legs. One could almost describe them as knobbly, but not in Snape’s company of course. “I’m surprised McGonagall didn’t make you Head of Gryffindor.” 

Harry shrugged. “Professor Whitlock has been here much longer than I have. She deserves it.” 

“She’s better for the job,” Snape added, nodding. 

“Yes,” Harry said simply and took a large gulp of his drink. He set it down on the table and rubbed his hands together. “Well, it’s been nice, but I think I should be getting to bed.” 

Snape was on his feet in minutes. “Yes, good idea.”  

A loud cracking erupted as Hagrid got to his feet. Harry waved off his look of guilt. “Don’t worry about it, Hagrid. I’ll fix the chair.” 

.::. 

Darkness clouded his vision. Sweat was a layer of ice against his neck and palms, the skin chilled with fear. It was as if he didn’t have his glasses on, though he could feel the pinch of them against the bridge of his nose. A shearing noise – loud enough to cause pain – filtered through the darkness. Without warning, the reddened face of Féin appeared. Floating without a body, the bloated skin under his crazed eyes seemed to pulse with anger and deliberation. There was a slight smile upon Féin’s lips, his small front teeth poking through the faint line. The head tilted sideways and Harry felt the presence of someone behind him. 

It was the same scene Harry saw over and over within his nightmares. That boy bleeding profusely from his head wound caused by the stunning spell Harry had fired at him. The boy had grabbed at his own head, fingers entwining around the red stained locks of hair plastered to his forehead. He reached for Harry with bloody fingers, and all Harry saw was red as he drew his wand without thinking. Crimson wetness against his cheeks and the tip of his nose, the grip on his jumper loosening.

Harry was swimming through a red cloud. However, something was different this time. He could feel a pull on his eyelids and he blinked open, expecting salty pain from the blood. But he was face-to-face with the bloodied boy – he was kissing the bloodied boy. The boy’s rancid breath filled Harry’s mouth and lungs; the chill of his lips a strange sensation. Harry imagined he was mouthing a corpse, but the tightness in his pants told him otherwise. 

Icy fingertips ran up and down his back, over his sharp shoulder blades. The nails dug into his skin, perverse without restraint. Harry arched into the touch as he wrapped his hand around the boy’s belt. He hesitated, not sure of what to do next. In that moment of hesitation, he awoke. 

A scream erupted around him, and once again, he wondered if was just in his head or from his own throat. He lay with the duvet twisted around his ankles. Through the loud pounding of his heart he realised he had an erection. Astonished, he rolled over and tried to remember exactly what his dream was about. He could only see brief images of lips and blood. It was disconcerting and he tried to ignore the twist of arousal in his gut, but it became too much and soon he was quietly pulling himself off. He wondered if his silence meant he was ashamed. 

Something like knobbly knees flashed within his mind as he came. 

.::. 

Harry stared at the young faces before him. It was strange the way they looked at him. Their eyes were bright with – admiration, expectancy? Harry wasn’t too sure. He did know that standing in front of children wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be. It was almost as if he could feel their acceptance of him. Was this what it felt like to hold your newborn child?  

The only matter that concerned him was that he still hadn’t finished the lesson plans. Every professor at Hogwarts had to show the school board their plans before the first month of school was over. Would they expect too much from him or did they understand that first time teachers would struggle in the beginning? Would his students expect too much from him as well? He really didn’t want to become Hagrid, where every student dreaded coming to class because the lessons just weren’t fun. 

How was one supposed to make lessons fun and informative? God, Harry needed a cuppa. He blinked to concentrate and smiled back at a student who was eying him. Luckily, today the students were only filling out information cards, and he was only checking for supplies. He remembered how Snape used to do it – ten points off if the student didn’t have the book, five points off for reach supply item that was missing. All he had to check for was the book and the dropping cushion for older classes when they began defensive spells. 

He could tell a hushed like atmosphere consumed the room. The undercurrent of excitement was like a tingling against his palms. He closed his hand around his wand briefly, only for the numbness. It worked. He felt the dryness of his throat and swallowed several times in succession. 

After he had collected all the cards and checked for books, he tapped his wand against the chalk board and the rough outline of subjects that he had gotten from Snape appeared. He cleared his throat. “Please copy this down.” He waited while the students took out quills and parchment. “With each new segment, we will begin with the fundamentals and the magical theory that is behind it. Sounds good?” He grinned widely as the class nodded. He noticed how a few girls in the front row nodded vigorously. He widened his smile to show his teeth for them. 

“I remember from when I was a student that over the course of the summer I had forgotten a lot of what was taught to me. Sounds familiar?” A few people laughed. It encouraged Harry. He laughed as well. “I don’t want to sound like Umbridge here, but I think it’s better if the student understand the magic before using it.” 

“Who’s that?” asked a boy. 

Harry blinked at him, then looked around the room. “Do any of you know who Umbridge is?”  

“No.” 

“Nope.” 

“Who?” 

“Er,” Harry began, looking down at his desk. “She taught here for a bit. Wasn’t nice – Ministry and all that.” His students blinked at him. 

A blonde girl raised her hand. “Wait, wasn’t she the one who scarred your hand? I read about it in that book about you.” This caught the class’ attention. 

Harry felt his face flush. “I wouldn’t read that rubbish.” 

The girl stared at him. “So it isn’t true?” 

Harry crossed his arms over his chest. “I didn’t say that.” 

“Then what are you saying?” spouted another kid. 

Harry was stunned. After a moment he said, “I’m saying that it’s none of your business.” He felt a chill run through the room. 

.::. 

“Yer weren’t too harsh on them. Don’t feel bad.” Hagrid stood awkwardly in the small office Harry was given. He transfigured a chair to fit the giant man and motioned for his friend to sit down. “Could yer make me some pillows?” 

Harry transfigured his cloak into a long pillow. Hagrid sighed happily as he sat back. “I’m gettin’ old, ‘arry.” 

“I just don’t think I made a good impression on them,” Harry said, then sighed. He rubbed his face quickly with his hands. He pushed on his eyeballs through his eyelids. He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. “I’ve spent all these years – running from the past. Then suddenly I’m here.” He flapped his hands around. “I guess it shocked me when they asked me to replay what happened. I hadn’t expected them to be so curious.” 

Hagrid opened his mouth to respond, but a soft pop interrupted him. An elf with leathery brown skin stood in front of the fireplace. Its floppy ears wiggled. “Professor Potter?” Its enormous eyes peered at him. “Prawny is here to help Professor Potter. Prawny brought Professor Potter his mail.” She handed him envelopes. “Does Professor Potter need Prawny’s help with anything?” 

Harry gaped at Prawny. “But I don’t want a house elf.”  

Large tears began to well up in Prawny’s eyes. “Is it Prawny, Professor Potter? Prawny been bad?” 

“No, no!” Harry said hastily. “Jesus . . . no – no more, Prawny. Thanks.”  

Prawny bowed low and disappeared. Harry looked to Hagrid and saw the amusement in his face. “Just – shuddup.” He sat heavily down at his desk and began to open the mail, avoiding Hagrid’s eyes. 

“Yer know, I never got any elf,” Hagrid said after a long silence.  

Harry didn’t look at him. “What is that supposed to mean?” he snapped, the parchment cutting his finger as he ripped open the envelope.  

Hagrid shrugged and pulled out a tin container. He began to roll a cigarette for himself. The movement of his fingers caught Harry’s attention. He stared as Hagrid evened out the black tobacco. “Want some?” 

At first Harry thought to decline, but suddenly the feel of thick smoke in his lungs seemed good. Harry nodded slowly and waited for Hagrid to finish. He leaned forward to put the ciggy in his mouth. He allowed Hagrid to light it as he inhaled deeply. 

Burning heat filled his lungs and scalded his throat. He coughed repeatedly as he rubbing his chest. “That – is not tobacco,” he choked, his voice raspy. 

Hagrid chuckled. “Good, ain’t it?” He took the joint from Harry and sucked. Harry was astonished. 

“That’s illegal, Hagrid!” 

Hagrid’s eyes began to droop. “Only fer Muggles.” 

“I’m not an idiot – we’ve done raids for that kind of narcotics.” 

Hagrid’s eyes seemed to widen. “It’s illegal? When did that happen?” 

Harry laughed. “About twenty years ago, friend. Now give it here.” 

Looking suspicious, Hagrid cradled it against his chest. “Yer not throwing it away. I paid good money fer it.”  

Harry rolled his eyes. “No, I just want another drag. Give it here.” He inhaled deeply and sighed happily. The world became fuzzy at the edges, the feeling in his lips and fingers disappearing. He probably was drooling. 

“Who’s that from?” Hagrid asked as he took back the joint. 

Wiping unsuccessfully at his mouth, Harry answered, “Hermione. She gave me a list of books that could help me with my lessons.” He rubbed his wet fingers against his forehead. “So – much – pressure.”  

Hagrid shrugged, his back slipping further down the chair. “Don’t over think it. The board will give yer some slack, unlike me. I struggled so hard for their acceptance – still thought I couldn’t teach, but I showed ‘em, right?” He winked at Harry. 

“Right,” he said slowly, trying very hard to focus his thoughts on opening the second letter. He didn’t know how long he was tearing at the letter before Hagrid asked if he needed help. 

“No! No! I – can – do – this,” he said through gritted teeth. He opened his mouth to explain how exactly he was going to open the letter, but there was a knock on the door. Overpowering fright exploded within him and he jumped out of his chair. “Quick! Hide it!” he said a bit too loudly.  

Hagrid quickly snuffed the joint out against the back of his shoe, and Harry waved his wand around, clearing the smoke and smell.  He cleared his throat. “Yes, come in.” 

A girl poked her head through. “Excuse me, Professor, but could I have a word with you?” 

He struggled to place her. Curly black hair, dull eyes, a flushed face. Slytherin tie. He pushed his biases toward the house of Slytherin away and smiled. “Yes, hello. I was just talking with Professor Hagrid. Would you like to take a seat?” 

“I’ll be goin’ now,” Hagrid said as he got to his feet. He looked behind himself and sighed softly when the chair didn’t crack. 

The girl peered at Hagrid with curiosity. He inched by her through the doorway. Harry brought her attention back to him by offering her a seat again. 

She smiled softly at him and rubbed at her nose. Her skin was blotchy, as if she had been crying.  

Blinking, Harry forced the cloudiness of his thoughts to disappear and he sat down to face her. “What did you want to see me about, er . . .?”  

“Frita, sir, Frita Fitzgerald.” She smiled at him.  

What a god awful name, he thought, trying very hard not to allow his shock to show on his face. He also tried not to laugh. Clearing his throat, he asked, “What can I help you with, Frita?” 

Her lower lip trembled. “It’s Professor Snape, sir. I was hoping you’d talk to him for me.” 

Brows creasing, Harry frowned at her. “About what, exactly?” 

Tears began to trail down her round cheeks. “H-he won’t allow me to try-out for the Quidditch team, sir. Says a girl like me wouldn’t be good enough. I think it’s because he doesn’t want girls on the team.” She paused to stare openly at him before continuing. “I hoped you would talk to him about it – maybe even sign my permission form instead of him?” 

Harry felt himself gaping. Of course Snape would do something like this – he had always been the competitive type. He took the form from Fitzgerald’s hands. With a rush of negative remembrance, he realised it was almost identical to the forms he struggled with during his school years. If it weren’t the Dursleys not willing to sign the forms, professors like Snape had always been there to mark his grades down. Even give him detention during pinnacle games. 

Anger drummed within him. Like always, Snape couldn’t be trusted with the students. Nothing had changed since the war – he was still nothing but a greasy bat who was jealous of others. Maybe Fitzgerald wasn’t good enough to be on the team, but damn it, she should at least be able to try out.  

Snape couldn’t be trusted to make the right choices for the kids. Always allowing his biases to get in the way. Well Harry was here now and he was going to find out what in the hell Snape had against this girl.  

Snapping out of his thoughts, Harry smiled brightly at her. “Don’t worry, Frita. I’ll talk to Professor Snape.” 

Her eyes darted to the form in his hand. “And . . . if you are unable to get him to sign it, you will?” She smiled weakly at him. “Please, professor?” 

Nodding, Harry responded, “Yeah, sure.” He stood up. “I’ll get back to you, okay?” 

Her expression darkened. “Promise?” 

“Yes, I promise.” 

.::. 

“Snape, are you in there?” Harry banged on the door to his office. Pain shot through his knuckles.  

The door flew open. “What is all your ruckus about?” Snape asked, crossing his arms. His hair was especially greasy today.  

Harry glared at him and pointed a finger into his face. “One word – Frita Fitzgerald.” 

Snape gave a sardonic sigh, the air whistling through his nose. “Technically, that is two words.” He glared back at Harry. “I knew she would get some idiot to fight her little battle. It looks like she picked the best person – idiocy-wise, I mean.” 

Harry straightened his back. “Oh, shuddup. Stop trying to spin this as if it’s her fault.” 

Snape’s eyes widened sarcastically. Her fault? Potter, it’s nothing but her fault.” Snape ran his finger over the form in Harry’s hand. “I’ll sign her little form when she isn’t failing my class.” 

Rolling his eyes, Harry said, “Snape, please. We both know that you fail the students you don’t like.” 

“No, I only did that to you. You were special.” Snape took a step back and waved his hand into the room. “Let’s continue this argument inside.” 

“Snape . . .”  

“Oh, so it’s Snape now? I thought colleagues referred to each other by their first names?” His voice was sticky with taunting.  

Harry swallowed down his anger and stomped into the room. His shoulder brushed Snape’s chest. Turning to Snape, he said, “Make me believe Fitzgerald deserved her grade.” 

“I don’t have to do anything for you.” Snape sat down at his desk and began to poor himself some tea. “Something to drink?” The tone of his voice grated on Harry’s nerves. He felt himself flush and the pounding heat on the back of his neck. 

Not answering, Harry took a seat across from Snape and glowered at him. Snape poured him a cup anyway. “Do you take sugar?” 

Harry nodded tersely and looked away. He accepted the cup silently. 

Sipping on his tea, Snape leaned back and ran his finger along the edge of the cup. After a moment he said slowly, “Miss Fitzgerald refuses to do the homework assignments I give her. We have study groups and she doesn’t participate. I don’t want someone like that on the Slytherin team.” 

“Or maybe because she’s a girl? You don’t want to lose again this year?” Harry snapped. 

Snape laughed. Snape laughed. Harry blinked at him. He couldn’t suppress the surprise on his features. 

Snape spotted his expression and his face darkened. “You are an absolute fool. Do you know that?” 

“I’m not!” Harry heaved a breath. “You can’t talk to me like that.” 

“Why not?” Snape said, setting down his tea. He leaned over the desk, resting on his hands. He stared down his nose at Harry. “I’m not the one who was too stupid to know when people were setting me up.” 

In a flash Harry’s teacup went skidding across the desk. He whipped his hand in the air to – hit Snape? Grab for his wand? He hadn’t decided, even when Snape’s warm fingers wrapped around his wrist. The hold bit into his bones.  

The flatness of his belly was exposed, the length of his jumper shortened by his raised arm, the air chilling his flesh. The slide of Snape’s eyes down to his bare stomach was unmistakable.  

“It seems unprofessional for professors to walk around the school without their robes on, don’t you think?” Snape said quietly. He closed his eyes briefly, then released Harry’s wrist. 

Harry rubbed at his wrist as he took a step back from the desk. He felt unbalanced, almost victimized. How dare Snape touch him like that? However, his heart wouldn’t stop its painful ricochet in his chest. He couldn’t stop his harsh breathing either – it was so embarrassing. 

Turning his head, a sheet of black hair covered Snape’s face. “If you feel so intensely about Miss Fitzgerald’s problem, why don‘t you help raise her pitiful grade in my class?” 

Through the blanket of hair, Harry spotted how flushed Snape’s cheeks were. A feeling between fright and arousal punched through him. He fled.  

.::. 

Back at his office Prawny appeared and handed him a note. “From Professor Snape, sir.” Her big eyes watched him as he read Snape’s letter. 

      Potter – 

If you need help with your lesson plans come to my office tomorrow after dinner. 

SS 

Harry stared down at the note for a long moment. Forgetting Prawny, he blinked at her once he raised his head. Should he accept the offer? He really needed the help. . .  

“Does Professor Potter need anything else from Prawny?” She looked up at him hopefully.  

Harry shook his head. “No, you are dismissed.” He ignored the sound of her departure as he threw some Floopowder into the fireplace. “Hermione Granger!” he yelled. 

After a few moments Hermione’s head appeared. “Harry!” she said. “It’s so good to see you!” The flames licked at her bushy hair. “How was your first day?” 

Shrugging, Harry said, “All right, I reckon. Could have been better.” 

She frowned at him. “What happened?” 

“I made the mistake of mentioning Umbridge. The students asked a lot of questions I didn’t want to answer.” 

“Doesn’t sound too bad,” she answered, watching him. 

Harry shrugged again. “I guess you just needed to be there.” Pausing, he said, “Snape offered to help me with my lesson plans. Do you think I should accept?” 

Her smile was puzzled. “Oh! I wouldn’t have expected that from him.” 

“Well, he does hate me,” Harry said softly, unable to look at her. The memory of his flushed face crept into his mind. He wrinkled his nose. 

Hermione sighed. “I wouldn’t do it if you will only fight with him.” 

He grunted as he ran his hand over his face. “I – don’t know, Hermione. I mean – I would like his help. I would like to have a better relationship with him. It’s just – so hard, you know?” 

Nodding, Hermione looked at him, saddened. “I understand. At least you are trying. Is he?” 

“Is he what?” 

“Trying. Do you think he wants to stop fighting with you all the time?” 

Harry thought for a moment. “I have no idea. I mean, sometimes it seems like that. Then he taunts me and everything just explodes.” 

“Well, old habits do die hard.” Hermione grinned at him. “Maybe you can use the time with him as a stepping stone. Start a new with him, so to speak.” 

“Hey, can I come over for dinner?” He tried not to sound too hopeful. 

“Um, yeah – Ron’s having McCorkle over, though. Is that all right?” 

“Oh,” he said, his face falling. “Well, yeah – it’s fine. Not my house.” 

Hermione looked a bit sheepish. “I just know it – would be hard for you to be around old – colleagues – so soon after.” 

Harry faked a smile. “Don’t worry, I don’t care.” 

“Okay.” She was unconvinced. 

A few minutes later and Harry was brushing off the soot from his trousers. He schooled his features into neutrality and pledged to not allow his expression falter over the course of the night. So what if McCorkle was with him during the raid that killed that young man? He had his job now because he hadn’t allowed his emotions get in the way of completing his mission, unlike Harry. This was something Harry had to just accept. 

He was a professor now – at Hogwarts. He had to repeat it to himself to make it believable. It seemed nothing in his life made sense anymore.  

“The casserole is almost done, Harry!” Hermione called from the kitchen.  

He nodded even though she couldn’t see him and followed the sound of voices to the dining room. Ron greeted him with a wide smile and McCorkle looked – surprise? Angered? Harry wasn’t too sure. 

“Hey, everyone.” He took a seat next to Ron and nodded toward McCorkle. “How are you?” 

McCorkle gave him a pressed smile. “Fine, just fine, Harry. How is your new job as a professor?  

“So you know?” Harry asked as he poured himself some pumpkin juice. 

“Harry, everyone knows,” Ron said, his casual expression dissipating. “It was all over the Prophet a few days ago. I’m surprised none of your students have showed you.” 

“He’s probably the number one heartthrob on campus now,” Hermione said cheerfully as she brought out the casserole. It smelled delicious – god, Harry loved the nights he spent with his closest friends. 

Harry laughed. “Yeah, well I’m sure I didn’t make any friends today.” 

“Why’s that, mate?” Ron asked as he used a spatula to serve himself. 

Sighing, Harry answered, “They asked about Umbridge – I sort of told them they could stuff it.” 

Hermione gasped. “You didn’t!” 

“Well, I technically didn’t tell them to shut up, but it was implied. I just wanted them to mind their own business.” 

McCorkle nodded in agreement. “As they should. I remember meself then – complete devil, you should know. Wouldn’t trust my old self with a sickle.”  

Snorting, Harry asked, “Did Professor Snape teach you, by any chance?” 

McCorkle’s eyes widened with knowledge. “Damn right, he did. The bugger. See, I remembered him when he were just a student himself, walked around as if he had a stick up his arse, he did. Then suddenly he was my professor, demanding respect from students like myself, who remembered what an arse he had been during school.” McCorkle made a rude noise. “Yeah right, like I was goin’ to give him any of my respect. He had to only o’ been about twenty – twenty-two.”  

“Wow,” Hermione said. “What a strange situation. Can you imagine having one of your peers become your professor?” 

Ron laughed and looked to Harry. “Wouldn’t it have been funny to see Malfoy, or even Neville trying to teach us?” He slapped his hand against the table. 

“Speaking of which, isn’t Neville teaching Herbology now?” 

“That’s what I heard,” Harry said as he shovelled food on to his plate. The casserole was some sort of broccoli, cheese and chicken mixture. Harry dumped lots of pepper over it. “He’s never in the Great Hall, though.” 

“Well that’s because he eats all his meals at the Leaky Cauldron.” Hermione paused to take a sip of her wine. “I think it’s so nice that he got married.” She stared pointedly at Harry. 

“What?” Harry said, looking back at her. “Oh, no – don’t start that. Like anyone would want me.” He waved his fork to add emphasis and a piece of broccoli flew off the end and hit the wall across the room. Harry acted as though he didn’t notice. 

Hermione huffed. “Don’t talk like that – you are an attractive man. Everyone I’ve known had a crush on you!” 

“Like who?” Harry asked. 

“Oh, I don’t know – maybe someone by the name of Ginny –” 

“Don’t start with that,” Harry said as he groaned in unison with Ron. 

“I’m not,” Hermione insisted. “Felicia, Amelia, Luna –” 

“No, that was me, darling,” Ron said cheekily.  

Me for the matter.” 

Harry gaped at her. “No! Never!” 

Ron rolled his eyes. “Old news, mate. She was all over you in fourth year. You had to see it.” 

Harry looked at Hermione. “You were?” She, in return, looked at McCorkle. 

“Yes, I did have a thing for you. That’s why Viktor was so jealous of you.” 

McCorkle laughed heartedly. “Well, luckily for my mate Ron here, you got over it.” 

Hermione wiped at her nose. “Of course I did. I knew Harry and I were better at being friends.” She smiled weakly at Harry. There was a moment of dead silence before she said quickly, “Anyway, Harry, I think you should accept Snape’s offer.” 

“What offer?” Ron asked, straightening up in his chair. 

“Nothing – he just offered to help me with my lesson plans.” 

“They didn’t show you before they hired you?” McCorkle asked. 

“No! Nothing!” Harry responded, indignant. “You’d think they’d take a bloke aside and tell him his job description. Or hell, even hire someone who actually knew what he was doing.” He rubbed at his temples with a finger. “It’s just – McGonagall talked about how Hogwarts was going downhill – how I could help. But from what I’ve seen there’s nothing wrong with the place!”  

“You need to stop believing everyone,” McCorkle said. “And anyway, everyone knows that McGonagall will surely get more funding from the school board if you’re on staff. 

“I know that!” Harry snapped involuntarily. His face reddened. “Sorry.” He hoped his voice sounded sheepish. 

“Yeah, but you and Snape don’t work well together,” Ron said. “Whenever you blokes meet it’s like the Chudley Cannons and Puddlemere United playing the ultimate game. Simply war, mate.” 

Shaking his head, Harry responded, “It’s not like that anymore. In many ways Snape has changed over the years.” 

“Really,” Hermione said, interested. “It sounds like your opinion of the man is changing.” 

“Not really,” Harry said quickly. “He’s still a batty bastard. But – I mean – if he really wants to help me, it’s not like I’m going to refuse.” He grinned. “Allow him to waste his time on imbeciles like me.” 

Everyone laughed. “You know, Harry,” McCorkle began, “I think you’re going to make a wonderful professor. You’re very likable, always have been. Don’t call the score before the Snitch is caught.” 

Harry beamed. He really hoped he could be a good professor. He sure was going to try. 

.::. 

That night Harry dreamt of old friends who he had lost during the war. He remembered that he stood in a pool of blood, with the corpses of Lupin, Colin, Fred, Dumbledore, Dobby and, strangely, Snape floating like the Inferi he’d encountered in the cave. Their pasty flesh and tortured expressions stared up at him. He couldn’t keep his eyes off Snape’s corpse and he waded through the blood, pushing past the rest of the bodies, trying to grab a hold of Snape. If only he could touch Snape – somehow drag him from the pool and revive him, everything would be better. He was convinced that Snape would put an end to the wretched guilt he felt. Even in his dream the guilt was almost too much to handle; even in his dream he wanted to forget and wished for unconsciousness.   

He awoke with a pain in his chest and the feeling of blood around his legs. He kicked off the bedding and looked down just to make sure it had only been a dream.  His throat hurt and when he closed his eyes all he saw were those black, vacant eyes staring up at him. As he fell back asleep he decided to invite Olivianne over for a cuppa. Just for a little peace in his life. 

.::. 

“But you PROMISED!” Fitzgerald screeched. “You promised you’d sign my permission form if Snape didn’t!” 

Professor Snape,” Harry insisted, leaning against his desk and watching the girl wind herself into a fit. He paused to stare down at her. “Look, Professor Snape has agreed to give you permission to try out if your grade in his class improves.” 

Fitzgerald pouted and flung herself into a chair. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” she said miserably, her cheeks reddening. “It’s not like I’m good enough to be picked. What’s the point?” 

“Don’t say that,” he said quickly. “I can help you.” 

She laughed. “What? Help me with Potions? I read Skeeter’s biography; you were horrible on the subject.” 

“I wasn’t awful. I just wasn’t motivated. However, I meant that I could help you with your Quidditch skills.” He watched as her expression brightened. “But,” he added, his voice holding a warning, “only if you raise your grade. You are an intelligent girl, you can do it.” 

Fitzgerald’s expression was almost greedy. “You will keep your word?” 

Harry nodded. “Don’t we have about a month before try-outs? You show me some proof that you’re studying and I’ll start to coach you. Deal?” 

“Yeah, deal!” she agreed, standing up. 

“Now get out of here, and go study!” Harry said, laughing. 

She stuck her tongue out at him. “I have to eat dinner first!” 

“Well, then eat dinner and study at the same time.” 

Fitzgerald laughed at that. “Sure will, professor.” 

.::. 

“So, I made an agreement with Fitzgerald,” Harry said as Snape opened the door for him. 

Snape cocked his head to one side. “Really?” 

“Yeah – I agreed to give her Quidditch lessons if she improves her grade.” 

Snape drew his features into taunting shock. “Are you sure that conniving bitch didn’t make you agree to anything you weren’t aware of?” 

Harry gaped at him. “Don’t talk like that about her. She’s not –” he lowered his voice, “– a bitch.” 

“Oh, how innocent you are,” Snape said, laughing. He took out a black leather book and set in down on the desk. 

“I’m not innocent,” Harry said swiftly. The force of Snape’s gaze made Harry look away. “So, erm, let’s get to work. I really need to get this ready for my classes.” 

Snape seemed amused. “Fine, professor. Let me see what you have.” 

After a few minutes Snape paused from telling Harry how to fix his lessons to stare at him. Harry stared back, openly and without any boundaries. What he was looking for, Harry had no idea, but after a few moments it became uncomfortable. Harry laughed and looked away. The room suddenly felt too hot.  

Snape’s eyes were still on him when he glanced back. What he saw caught his attention. He watched as Snape’s expression transform into something almost predatory. It was all in the eyes – the desire within the depths. The expression was frightening. 

“Stop it,” he said suddenly, tearing his eyes away from Snape. He didn’t like what Snape was doing to him – playing fucking mind games. It was the only reason for why he felt that pull of arousal in the pit of his stomach. There was no way he could actually be attracted to Snape. Not a fucking chance in Hell. 

“What if I still refuse to sign Fitzgerald’s form even after she raises her grade?” Snape ventured, pink suffusing his pale cheeks. “What if I take it to McGonagall and yell about how the girl needs to focus on her studies?” 

Harry squinted at him. “What are you getting at?” The man was being completely ridiculous, and he stood to rest his hands on the desk. This time he was going to be the one who stared down his nose. “Stop,” he said through gritted teeth, “playing fucking games with me.” 

Snape met his height and pinned his wrists to the table in an iron-grip. Strands of his hair curled under his chin and Harry followed the lines of aging across his face. They were like webs of mistrust embedded into that paste-coloured complexion.  God, Snape was one ugly son-of-a-bitch. Harry wanted his cock tonsil-deep inside Snape’s mouth. Blinking, his last thought shocked him – but, fuck, it was so true. How absurd.  

Loosening his fingers, Snape moved his hands up Harry’s forearms, pushing up the sleeves of his jumper as he went. The smoothness of his palms and the calluses on his fingers created a strange, but enjoyable contrast. He felt the static pleasure of Snape’s touch surge through his body, down his spine. It tightened into a balloon of warmth near his groin. He swallowed down a gasp as he felt his erection. As he watched, the full bloom of colour on Snape’s cheeks moved down his neck, the skin gleaming with perspiration. Snape’s eyes were dilated and glittering, his thin lips parted in an expression almost of surprise. 

Seeing Snape in such a heightened state was liberating. Harry grinned pretentiously and leaned forward, his voice like silk as he said, “Do I arouse you, professor?” 

It seemed his question startled Snape out of his trance. The man sneered violently and snatched his hands away. Harry doubted he had ever seen a dirtier look. He felt almost sheepish as he watched Snape withdrawal back into himself. 

He clutched the back of his neck. “Look – I don’t know what I’m doing here.” 

“Obviously,” Snape said darkly. He crossed his arms protectively over his chest. 

“I don’t want you to stop helping me,” Harry said earnestly.  

Snape sniffed. “Of course you don’t.” 

“I’m not using you, if that’s what you’re implying. I just – this is so strange, you know?”  

Snape looked away. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

“I just want to succeed,” Harry said softly, dropping his arms to his side and hanging his head. “I want to make Dumbledore proud.” 

He watched as Snape’s legs stiffened. He imagined those knobbly knees hidden beneath black trousers. “Albus is already proud of you,” he said, his voice rusty.  

“Yeah,” Harry answered weakly, but he was charmed by Snape’s words. They were almost – nice. He smiled briefly before his expression clouded over with grief. “I should go.” 

Snape didn’t respond, and he looked up, his gaze searching. Harsh lines consumed Snape’s face with a visible struggle. Harry felt he was witnessing something too private and turned to leave. He thought he heard Snape’s voice as he shut the door, but he ignored it and continued on his way back to his rooms. 

.::. 

Fitzgerald had improved dramatically over the past few weeks. The reports Harry received from Snape were positive – it brightened his days to know that he was getting somewhere with the girl. He started coaching her on the first week of their agreement and she was gaining skill rapidly. He felt that familiar swell of pride now as he watched her fly through the air, hair plastered to her head. 

“Okay, I’m releasing the Snitch now!” he yelled, hoping she could hear him over the roar of moving air. He’d been careful to instruct Fitzgerald on every position of the game, but he secretly thought she prevailed as a Seeker. Maybe he was biased. 

An hour had already passed since they began and the sticky feel of sweat collected on the back of Harry’s neck, his dampened shirt stuck to his skin. As the time went on, Harry realised that a dark shadow of a figure sat in one of the bleachers, watching him with Fitzgerald. Every so often Harry would crane his neck around to get a better look. He decided that it was Snape out there in his black clothes that made him look like some sort of paedophile.  Smiling, he took secret pleasure in poking fun at the way Snape was dressed. It made him feel better about himself and the twisting anxiety in his stomach. 

Touching down, Fitzgerald looked for his approval. He rewarded her with a wide smile and a nod. She held the Snitch out to him. 

“Very good,” he said casually. “I think you have a great chance of being picked for the team.” 

She grimaced. “What? You doubt me?” 

Shrugging, he answered, “I didn’t say that. I said you have a good chance of being picked.” 

“Can you maybe talk to the Captain? If Alton knew that Harry Potter wanted me to be on the team . . .” 

“That’s ludicrous,” Harry said, baffled. “You have to earn this on your own. You Slytherins, always trying to cheat your way into things.” 

She stuck her tongue out at him. “You Gryffindors with your morality.” 

Laughing, they arrived at the bleachers were Snape was stationed and stopped. Fitzgerald straightened her back when she saw Snape, and Harry couldn’t help but grin humorously. “Severus,” Harry called out and he spotted how Snape rolled his eyes at Harry’s use of his first name. 

Carefully climbing down, Snape stood in front of them and nodded once to Fitzgerald. He turned his attention to Harry. “Can I have a word with you?” he asked, his voice obviously implying that Fitzgerald should get lost. 

“Um, sure,” Harry said, looking down at Fitzgerald. “I think you should get some dinner in you.” 

Fitzgerald glanced between them. She had a strange expression upon her face.  

“Go away,” Snape said abruptly, glaring down at her. She rolled her eyes, then waved to Harry before walking back to the castle. “Let’s walk,” he said to Harry, striding past him without looking back. 

Harry was puzzled by his attitude and was curious to find out what Snape was up to. Walking quickly toward the forest, Snape’s cloak of black fabric bellowed behind him, whipping in the slight wind. Harry decided it was about time for Snape to get a better wardrobe.  

Once they neared the boundary of the forest, Snape stood and turned to stare at him before placing his hands on Harry’s cheeks. He thought to ask what Snape was doing, but his mind came to a complete standstill as their lips met. He was stunned and stiff, and he could tell that Snape was disappointed at his reaction. A warm tongue trailed along his closed lips and he felt his fingertips curl with arousal. It was the same feeling as holding his wand in his hand. The power from within. 

Slowly, he opened himself to Snape’s demands and wrapped his arms around the slight man. Something like a groan issued from Snape as Harry met his tongue, and his bony fingers found Harry’s shoulders, grabbing hold and pushing him against a tree. Harry stumbled over his feet in the process, but the roughness of the bark against his back was a rewarding feeling. Every nerve in his body was alight with feeling and he pushed himself against Snape, arching into the searching fingers that were roaming down his back. 

He felt the tip of Snape’s nose brush against his face with each kiss, the pressure of their lips bruising. His flesh was numb with pleasure and his pants were becoming uncomfortably tight. Gasping, he broke away from Snape, watching as the man recovered himself. Snape’s face was unbelievably flushed; his black eyes round with desire and beads of sweat dripping down his temples. His hair was slicked against his cheek at some places.  

“That was . . .” he had no idea how to interpret the kiss. Gulping for air, he straightened his glasses with trembling fingers. 

“Serenity,” Snape said calmly, his body rigid as he stared at Harry.   

“I need a cuppa, or something stronger,” Harry said, looking away from the enigma in front of him. Pulling down his jumper, he motioned for Snape to follow as he made his way back to the castle. 

.::. 

Back in his rooms, he poured Snape and himself a tumbler and waited for an explanation from Snape. He gulped down his drink, the whiskey burning his throat and his frequent licking chafing his upper lip. What a strange situation to be in. He marvelled at the man in front of him, not able to wrap his head around the knowledge that Snape’s tongue had been in his mouth only minutes before. 

I kissed Snape, Harry thought, repeating it to himself for it to sink in. I kissed bloody Severus fucking Snape. And I liked it. Harry was still surprised that his tongue hadn’t been oily. He wondered if Snape was just as astonished as he was. 

Setting his drink down on the table, Harry stood confidently in front of Snape, staring at him evenly and ignoring the rapid beating of his heart. “Why’d you do it?” he asked, his voice strong. 

“What’s wrong with you?” Snape asked in return, his expression a barrier for any true emotion he was feeling. 

Harry shifted his eyes to the ground. “I don’t know what you mean.” 

Snape took a step toward him. “I’ve bribed Prawny with butterbeer into telling me about what you do. She says you scream in your sleep, cry some nights. So, I repeat my question – what is wrong with you?” 

“What’s it to you?” Harry snapped as his stomach dropped with dread. He was not in the mood to tell Snape why he was having those dreams. All he wanted to do right now was fuck Snape’s brains out. 

“Someone needs to look after you,” Snape answered quietly. It was the first time that night he looked unsure of himself. After a long pause, he asked, “What do you dream about?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Harry said defensively and went to turn away, but Snape had closed the gap between them in two long strides and wrapped a strong hand around Harry’s shoulder. He pulled Harry around and forced him to look up. 

“Tell me,” Snape insisted, his voice calming and rich. He moved his thumb slowly up to caress Harry’s cheekbone. The sweet gesture made Harry’s eyes cloud over with tears. 

“I dream – I dream about blood,” he said finally, his voice breaking. “I dream about the people I’ve lost, friends who I will never see again.” His chin trembled. “God, it’s all my fault.” 

A single tear ran down his cheek and Snape wiped it away with his thumb. Those black eyes were consumed by something Harry had never seen before – something caring and warm. He felt safe as he looked into his eyes. 

“It’s not your fault.” Snape’s grip on his face tightened. When Harry didn’t respond, he said, “Listen to me. It’s not your fault.” 

Harry laughed. “I know that.” Shifting his feet, he tried to look away but Snape’s hold was steadfast. 

“It’s not your fault,” Snape repeated, refusing to break eye-contact. 

Sudden anger rushed through Harry, and he fought to get away. “Let go – of me!” he yelled. 

“No,” Snape said softly, his eyes bright. “Not until you understand that it wasn’t your fault.” 

“All right, it wasn’t my fault. I understand!” Harry tried to twist away again. He felt like a caged animal. 

“It’s not your fault.” 

Harry’s eyes were wild. “You shut up! Just shut the fuck up! It’s none of your fucking business –” 

Snape leaned closer to his face. “Harry, it’s not your fault.” 

Images from his dreams flashed within his mind, forcing his stomach to churn with disgust. Vomit coated his throat and he felt tears sting his eyes. He wanted to get away – he wanted to punch Snape in the face for attacking him like this. His limbs had a mind of their own as fingernails embedded themselves into Snape’s neck, his face crushing into Snape’s chest to hide the endless tears that were streaming down his face. 

Panting, Snape stood still as Harry wept into his buttoned vest. Harry could feel the man’s heart beating rapidly under all the layers of clothing. Pressing closer, he wondered if his proximity aroused Snape, if that frequent whistle of air through his nose was any indication that he was struggling to catch his breath. Harry didn’t know how to respond to Snape’s peculiar ways.  

Was he attracted to Snape? No – yes. Did he mind not knowing why Snape had decided to become his psychologist? Absolutely. Raising his head up, he searched Snape’s face for any evidence of his true feelings. All he saw was an aging, wounded man who was incredibly aroused at the moment.  

His eyes darkening, Snape must have seen something in Harry’s face, because soon he was kissing Harry once more, his lips urgent and his mouth fouled by the whiskey. It was a sloppy meeting of lips – Snape’s tongue lapping at Harry’s mouth. The taste of tears mingled with the spiciness of Snape, and it created a foreign, almost delicate acceptance between them. 

After a long moment, Harry thought to pull away, but was instead flung over the arm of a stained chair, his face smashed into one of the cushions. He gulped for air, anxiety and fear drumming in tune with his crazed heart. Struggling to right himself, a warm hand pushed him back into the chair, fingers of the other hand deft in freeing Harry’s arse from his trousers. The air chilled his flesh as his pants fell to his knees. The pressure of Snape’s hand caressing his butt cheeks was too much, and Harry sobbed into the cushion, not truly comprehending the emotions within him. 

Snape abruptly stopped at the sound of Harry’s cries and the air became even colder as he stepped back. Automatically Harry pushed back for Snape’s touch, his quieting sobs transforming into whines of desperation. He mumbled incoherently as he heard the sound of Snape’s zipper and felt the warmth of his body once more. Biting down on the cushion, he felt the head of Snape’s cock push through his cheeks and up. It was too dry and he flung his hand out in search of his wand.  

Leaning over, Snape pinned Harry more securely to the chair, immobilizing him to the point of panic. Snape moaned as his thrusts became quicker, rubbing himself dry between Harry’s butt cheeks. Harry could finally latch on to the images that were racing through his consciousness. It felt as if he was dying, and his brain was struggling to comprehend what was happening. Dreams that he remembered and others that he had long forgotten until now rushed across his closed eyelids. Faces of the dead peered up at him and the sensation of floating on a wave of blood surged within, wet and cold, and liberating. Another round of weeping bubbled up in his throat, but they turned into gurgled moans as his teeth clenched tighter.  

It suddenly all stopped. Cursing, Snape backed away, leaving Harry dazed and unsatisfied. Harry struggled to twist around. Face flushed with exertion, Snape trembled as he stood in front of Harry, his glistening cock half-deflated and hanging out of his trousers. “What the fuck is that?”  

Numb hands fumbled with his pants as Harry looked to where Snape was pointing. He didn’t know what he felt when he saw Olivianne’s forgotten jumper twisted around one of the legs of a chair. He wanted to look at Snape and ask, “So what?” Really, what business was it of Snape’s who he fucked?    

He decided to play coy. “Are you jealous?”  

A single vein in Snape’s temple pulsed as he stuffed himself back into his pants. Snape opened his mouth as if he thought to respond, then snapped it closed. His eyes were whizzing in their sockets again.  

Harry smiled viciously. “I fucked her last night.” 

“Like I give a fuck,” Snape said, turning away.  

“Were you going to fuck me, or were you just afraid?” Honestly, Harry had no idea why he was saying such things. It was almost as if he had a vendetta against Snape for telling him it wasn’t your fault.  

Snape’s hand jerked to his wand, but after a long pause, he turned away and swept out of the room. The room felt oddly lonely as Harry sat down in one of the chairs. His mind was still racing. Did he regret saying those things to Snape? Yes. No. Of course not. Leaning forward, he unwrapped the jumper from the leg and stared idly at it. Maybe he’d give it to Hermione for her birthday. It wasn’t as if he had any desire to see Olivianne again after knowing how it felt to have Snape’s cock against his arse. God, why didn’t he go further?  

He was still staring down at the jumper as the fireplace burst with flames and the head of McCorkle appeared. “Harry!” McCorkle said brightly, “How are you?” It only took him a moment to realise something was wrong. “What happened, Harry?” 

Harry blinked at McCorkle. Wizards really needed to invent something like caller-ID for the Floo Network. Harry had no desire to talk to anyone right now. “Erm, nothing really. Just confused.” 

“You know what would make things better for ya?” McCorkle said, “A pint. We’re at the Hog’s Head at the moment, thought it’d been good to see ya.” 

“Oh, I don’t know,” Harry said, looking away. “I really don’t feel up to it.” 

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” McCorkle paused. “It’ll help you to forget,” he added wisely. 

Harry could tell that McCorkle wouldn’t take no for an answer. He sighed. “All right, I’ll meet you there in twenty.” He stood up and dropped the jumper to the chair. 

McCorkle smiled widely. “You won’t regret it, Harry.” 

.::. 

The pub was crowded with weekend visitors, so much so that no one seemed to recognise Harry as he weaved through, looking for McCorkle. What happened with Snape still resonated within him, the feeling of Snape’s confident hands and even more confident cock penetrating his consciousness. Beads of sweat collected along his hairline and his heavy travelling cloak trailed behind him, swishing over the back of his legs. 

The glare from the candles reflected against Harry’s glasses, blinding him periodically with flashes of gold. He squinted through the crowd, head craning from left to right. After a moment he saw that McCorkle was alone, seated in the far back by the loo. Harry waved to him in greeting, but McCorkle had his head turned downward, the pale balding of his head facing Harry. 

Regret twisted his stomach. He should have stayed home – it seemed McCorkle was in the same bollocks mood as Harry. Hesitating, he decided to chat with McCorkle for a few minutes, then apologise and skip out. Being alone with his thoughts and liquor in front of the fireplace was the only place Harry wanted to be. A lot had happened in the last hour or so – Harry was a fool for accepting McCorkle’s invitation. 

“Hello,” Harry said as he came in ear distance of McCorkle. The man looked up and stared at Harry for a moment, then smiled softly. Harry’s own smile faltered. Was there something wrong? 

“Harry,” McCorkle said in return, not completely looking at Harry. His eyes flashed briefly to the loo door. “How have you been, mate?” 

Harry felt unnerved. “All right,” he answered, sitting down across from McCorkle. He waited for the man to respond. 

“That’s good, just good.” McCorkle took out a hankie and dabbed at his forehead. His cheeks were strangely flushed. 

Harry stared at him. After a short pause, he asked, “What’s wrong, McCorkle? You seem a bit distressed.” 

“Want a beer, Harry?” McCorkle asked suddenly. Harry swiftly shook his head. 

“You can tell me what’s wrong,” Harry ventured casually. “Maybe I can help.” 

McCorkle’s eyes flashed to his face. “Maybe you can.” He paused to glance at the loo door again. “See. . . . it’s me friend, Harry. I don’t know what to do with him.”

“Ah, I was wondering where your friends had happened to. I was under the impression you had company.” 

McCorkle nodded quickly. “Yes, I did – do. He’s in the loo right now. He’s horribly sick.” 

Brows furrowed, concern etched itself into Harry’s features. “Is there any way I can help? Does he have alcohol poisoning?” 

“Could you take a look at him?” 

Harry looked at him, puzzled. “Sure, but I don’t know how I could help him.” I know someone who could, though, he thought quickly. He smashed the idea from his mind. 

McCorkle smiled brightly at him, almost relieved. “Great! Follow me into the loo. . .” 

They moved the few steps to the loo, and McCorkle allowed Harry to enter first. The moment he pushed open the door a horrible suffocation fell upon him. It felt like an invisible rope was looped around his neck, twisting tighter and tighter by the second. Harry gave a shocked gasp and his hands feebly clawed at his neck. Nothing was there. 

“Fall to your knees, Harry Potter.” The voice was ever more potent in reality than in his dreams, an Irish twang that sent Harry’s heart ricocheting. Godphrick  Féin

Gurgling noises escaped Harry’s throat and he fell sideways, the hard tile bruising his shoulder. His legs kicked in defeat and his hands wrapped around his neck fruitlessly. The pressure let up just a bit as Féin knelt before Harry. 

“This isn’t revenge for Marshall’s death,” Féin said, and he smiled at the recognition on Harry’s face. “Yes, the young man you murdered then cried about in the hospital. I know all about that. See, my spies, like McCorkle, advised me to wait longer before killing you, but I felt like your time has been up for a very, very long while.” 

He smiled sickly at Harry and leaned even closer. “No, Harry Potter, this isn’t because of Marshall. I just feel that the world would be such a better place without you in it.” 

Remembering what he had learned during his training, Harry fought to keep eye-contact as he clearly envisioned his wand in his cloak pocket. If only he could focus on retrieving it without Féin knowing.  

Féin looked to the men standing behind him. “Hoist him up for me,” he ordered. 

All thoughts of his wand disappeared as the pressure on his neck became unbearable. He choked haggardly as his body was raised into the air by the invisible rope. The veins within his neck popped and shuddered, a hidden weight behind his sockets pushing at his eyes. His glasses fell from his face and landed out of sight. Féin’s pale, saggy face became a blur as he raised his wand and pointed it at Harry’s chest. 

“This is for all the ones who suffered with your triumph,” he said softly. 

Anxiety exploded in Harry’s stomach and he braced himself for the inevitable pain. However, there was a hesitation, and Harry cracked his eyes open. Suddenly he realised the whole room was trembling. The walls seemed to liquefy into paste, folding and twisting, though still keeping their solidity.  

Féin’s cronies rushed to the door, waving their wands over it. A red siren erupted from their wands simultaneously. “Someone is trying to get in!” one of them yelled. 

Snarling, Féin took out his wand and shot a spell at the door. All that Harry could make out was a shadow moving quickly, seen through liquid glass.  Féin’s face fell into harsh, angry lines. One could almost mistake them for worry. 

Something exploded from above and bits of the ceiling came crashing down. “Who the FUCK IS DOING THIS?” Féin screamed. “DID WE LOSE COVER? DID THAT FUCKING MCCORKLE RAT US OUT?” He turned to Harry and slashed his wand through the air. 

Harry yelled in pain and shock; blood began to seep into his robes and a throbbing ache developed in his chest. 

“Who is out there, Potter? ANSWER ME!” Féin snarled. “FUCKING ANSWER ME RIGHT THIS MOMENT, OR YOU WILL DIE, JUST LIKE YOUR PITIFUL FUCKING PARENTS!” 

The door burst open and what seemed like flames shot through the door. Harry felt the heat against his face and the flames licking at his trainers, though all of this was forgotten as an enormous fiery phoenix flew into the room. The flap of its wings was a blur to Harry, who couldn’t digest his shock, or believe how fucking lucky he was. The bird screeched and a new set of flames poured from its beak.  

Smoke collected in the air, adding to the sensation of choking. Harry struggled within his confinement. Would the bird burn him to death? The horrible image of Crabbe in the Room of Requirement flashed across his mind, and Harry tried to suppress a shudder. This would not end up like that. 

Through the smoke, Harry spotted the same shadow, moving steadily closer. It seemed as if the shadow was directing the phoenix with its wand. Flames shot out once more from the phoenix, but this time they created a ring, which floated into the air and wrapped itself around Féin and his cronies. In a last ditch effort, Féin screamed something and a blackened cobra sprung from his wand. For a brief moment the shadow was caught off guard, but that was just enough time for the cobra to fling itself forward and slice its teeth into the shadow’s shoulder. There was a horrible scream. 

Panicked, Harry focused all of his strength in retrieving his wand. To his surprise it appeared quickly within his hand, and he used it to cut himself free from the robes that bound him. He fell unceremoniously to the ground before surging to his feet. He raced over to where the shadow lay, bleeding. 

It was the second time in his life that he saw Severus Snape in a pool of his own blood, but this time Harry was more experienced in helping snake-bite victims. Without giving it much thought, Harry crouched down to Snape and pulled his hand away from the wound. Harry closed his eyes in concentration as he remembered the healing charm. The words felt like oil spurting from his throat. It was a strange sensation. 

Harry looked into Snape’s eyes and wrapped his arms around the man. “Thank you,” he said into his chest. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Féin and his men struggling against the fiery restraint, and he decided that they would keep until the Ministry was called.  

Smiling down at Snape, he Apparated them away. 

.::. 

“YOU CANNOT STOP ME FROM SEEING HIM!” Harry screamed, flinging his arms into the air. 

Blatant shock showed on Pomfrey’s face. “But he needs his rest, Potter. The charm you performed on him was mediocre at best. It’s bad enough that Professor Snape refused treatment in the hospital wing.  

“We can make this hard, or we can make this easy –” 

“And I still need to treat your chest wound,” Pomfrey said, glaring at him. 

“Let him in,” Snape said, his voice like gravel. 

Harry smirked at her before walking into the room. He stopped near the doorway, completely taken aback by Snape’s headquarters. Before, he usually imagined Snape living in a dungeon like place, with dripping water and moldy stones. He did not expect Snape’s room to be filled with blinding light from twin windows that were bigger than him.  

Complexion whitened, Snape seemed drained of strength and colour as he lay against propped up pillows, exhausted. A glowing emerald light engulfed the shoulder where he had been bitten. Every now and then it would pop and sizzle, and Snape would grimace, his hooked nose sucking in air. A shadow of emotion flickered across his features when he saw Harry. Struggling to smile reassuringly, Harry pushed away the anxiety that twisted his stomach. For the first time in hours he felt the aching pain in his chest; the dried blood against his flesh and clothes.  

“Is it painful?” It was the only question Harry could voice. He took an unsteady step toward the bed then stopped, unsure of himself. He had no idea what Snape was thinking at the moment.  

Snape snorted and leaned further into his pillows. “Stop dawdling and come over here.” Sick humour twisted his lips. “I’m not going to bite.” 

“I just wanted to thank you – for saving my life,” Harry said as he sat down on the edge of the mattress. 

An expression close to anger filled Snape’s face. He laughed weakly. “No – Harry Potter – you saved my life.” He looked away and said lowly, “Fucking typical.” 

“How did you know where I was?” 

The bashfulness on Snape’s face was apparent. Slight colour washed into his cheeks and Harry blinked. “I – I was jealous. I thought you were going off to meet whoever that jumper belonged to.” He wouldn’t meet Harry’s eyes. 

Harry couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “You insane bastard! God – ” He scrubbed his face with a hand. “Thank Merlin you let crazy ideas like that control you. I’d probably be dead now if it weren’t for you.” 

“No, Potter!” Snape said suddenly, his voice trembling. “I was the one who was going to help you! After you saved me in the war, I knew that one day I had to repay you.” 

Harry was still laughing. “You are fucking insane, you know that? You don’t have to be suddenly indebt to someone after they do something nice for you!” After a moment he sobered. “Is that why you played the – it’s not your fault game with me?” 

“It wasn’t a game!” Snape insisted. “You needed help in curing your guilt – someone to save you from your ghosts, so to speak.” 

“Oh, was that how you were going to repay me?” Harry asked, crawling closer to Snape in the bed. All this talk of debts was making him hot. “So,” he said after a pause, “was rubbing yourself dry between my arse always in your plan?” 

Snape sucked in air quickly. His eyes widened slightly. “No,” he answered softly, his chest beating up and down. “I surprised myself – when I developed feelings for you.” 

Groaning, Harry kissed the corner of Snape’s mouth and rested his head against his good shoulder. “If it makes you feel any better, my feelings are the same. Surprise and all.” 

“How do you know what I feel?” Snape ventured, his voice humorous. 

Harry shrugged awkwardly. “It’s all in your eyes.” 

“Really.” They fell in silent for a few minutes.  

“Sn – Severus, are we in a relationship now?” Harry asked, renewed anxiety drumming within him. 

“I suppose so – if that’s what you want.” 

“I do.” 

.::. 

When Harry awoke the next morning he felt an unbelievable suction around his cock, forcing his sleepy eyes to roll into the back of his head. Fingers caressed the inside of his thighs and Harry allowed his legs to fall open carelessly. He struggled to not thrust into the wetness, but the pressure building up was unbearable. 

Moaning, he lifted the duvet off Snape’s head and a new wave of arousal hit him as he saw his cock go in and out of Snape’s lips. Snape looked up and caught his eye, and the heat within those black depths made Harry’s stomach spasm.   

There was a loud pop and Prawny appeared. Harry shouted and came just as Snape was pulling back. White jets of come splattered Snape’s face. 

Prawny looked at them without blinking. “Professor Potter has a visitor, but Prawny can tell her to go away.” 

“No, no – I’ll see whoever it is outside,” Harry said as he pulled up his trousers. Snape looked mortified with his hair tangled and standing up. 

Harry laughed at his expression and closed the door behind him. He expected to see Hermione, but wasn’t too surprised when he saw that it was Fitzgerald. 

“Professor, guess what!” she said, bouncing slightly. “Alton saw me fly and he said I had potential!” 

Harry smiled down at her, amused. “Really? That’s amazing.” 

Her expression became serious. “What really happened to Professor Snape, sir? Because everyone is saying that he’s dying!” 

“No, he isn’t dying.” 

“Oh,” Fitzgerald said as she handed him a card. “Well, you should give him this anyway. He could save it until he really is dying.” 

Harry laughed. “I sure will.” He stared down at her. 

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I’ll go away now. Promise to give it to him?” 

“Yes, I promise.” 

Back in the room, Harry threw the card onto Snape’s lap. “You’ll never guess whom it’s from.”  

“The Dark Lord,” Snape said flatly. Opening the card up, red and pink hearts exploded into the air. Then cursive bubble letters wrote in front of Snape’s face, “So sorry to hear you are dying, Professor Snape. Hopefully you don’t suffer too much. Sincerely, Frita Fitzgerald.” 

Harry laughed loudly, dropping down to lie next to Snape. “I think she likes you.” 

A horrified expression came over Snape’s face. Harry didn’t stop himself from kissing Snape soundly. 
 
 

***

 

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