Title: With Pleasure
Author: It's a Secret
Giftee: Leni Jess
Word Count: ~10,000
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: After 10 years on the run, Severus Snape has returned to the wizarding world.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my wonderful betas for making this story far better than it was originally.
Harry Potter had just cleared the last piece of paperwork from his desk when a memo came fluttering into his office. He suppressed a mild groan as he grabbed the hovering paper airplane.
Harry, come quick. They found another one, and it seems to be rather upset. I’d like to avoid losing any co-workers if possible.
Thanks a million - H
Harry quickly made his way to the lift that could take him up to level 4, literally running into Amos Diggory as he exited.
“Thank goodness you’re already here, Harry. I was on my way to fetch you, but I suppose Hermione let you know?”
Harry nodded as the two quickly made their way towards the back offices, stopping short as they reached a room with a sign labeling it as ‘Beast Division – Intake room’. Before Harry could open the door, Amos quickly thrust a vial at him. Before Harry had a chance to do anything more than look at it in confusion, Amos answered the unspoken question.
“It’s anti-venom. I know you can get all buddy, buddy with them, but this one is being rather testy - it’s bitten two different people as soon as they’ve walked in the door. You have to stay alive long enough to talk to it if you’re going to calm it down.”
“You know, this is why I work with kids - at least when they bite me it’s not poisonous. I swear I’m going to start charging you for this, Amos,” threatened Harry.
Harry cast a quick repelling charm, hoping that would stave off any immediate attacks, and walked into the room, while quickly hissing, “Hello? The wizards outside said you were upset – I’m here to help…”
Hours later, the Runespoor was back under control and Harry was finally free to head home for the evening. Too tired to cook, and much too tired to deal with the nonsense that always erupted around him in a wizarding restaurant, Harry decided to head to one of his favorite Muggle hideaways – Balans – for a quick bite to eat. Since the restaurant was only about a half mile away from the Ministry, Harry decided to walk there to stretch his legs after a very long day at work.
As Harry left the Ministry, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, indicating someone was watching him, and forcefully held back a curse. Ten years later, and people still wouldn’t leave him alone. Thankfully, most of the time it was someone just wanting a quick picture of the ‘Chosen One’ and they’d leave without requiring any type of interaction. His hopes for an easy out were dashed when 10 minutes later he could tell that his mysterious shadow was still there.
There was no way he was leading a potential enemy (or groupie) to one of his non-magical hideaways, so he decided to go ahead and force the situation to a head. Not wanting to worry about the Statute of Secrecy, Harry ducked down a quiet alley and cast a quick Muggle-Repelling charm to keep away nosy bystanders. When he noticed a shadow stop at the alley entrance he said, “Look, whoever you are, if you’re looking for an autograph then contact the Potter-Black foundation and one will be owled to you for a small donation to the orphans’ fund. If you’re looking for trouble, I really think you’ve picked the wrong person. Otherwise, it’s been a long day, so why don’t you owl my office for an appointment tomorrow.”
“I see ten years hasn’t reduced the size of your head any, Potter. I couldn’t care less about an autograph. If this could be taken care of by an appointment in the Ministry, I assure you I would have taken that option rather than waiting for you to finally leave for the day. And, I assure you, if I’m looking for trouble, then I have absolutely chosen the correct person.”
It may have been ten years since Harry had last heard it, but he knew he’d recognize that sneering voice anywhere. “Professor Snape? Is that really you? Merlin, you’re still alive! We looked everywhere for you after the war, but –”
“Cease your babbling, Potter. I see your critical thinking skills haven’t improved, either. I was a Death Eater – of course I had ways to get out of the country and away from prosecution in case of You-Know-Who’s defeat. Any escape plan that was going to keep the Aurors off my trail would certainly be effective against the likes of you. However, I must admit I am interested in how you knew I was alive – after all, the last time you saw me I was all but dead.”
“Your portrait is still inactive,” stammered Harry. Seeing the blank look on the Potion Master’s face, Harry pulled himself together and continued. “Your headmaster’s portrait at Hogwarts is still inactive, so we knew you were alive somewhere.”
“Finally, a coherent sentence. I must admit I didn’t expect that portrait to remain intact long enough to give away my escape, but since I’ve yet to have Aurors or Hit Wizards breaking down my door I suppose the rest of my precautions were sufficient.”
“Professor,” interrupted Harry. “I’m guessing your ‘precautions’ didn’t include keeping up with news from the wizarding world – you were cleared of all charges less than six months after Voldemort’s defeat. The only people looking for you were doing it for altruistic reasons, not to drag you to Azkaban.”
That finally stopped Snape’s sarcastic comebacks long enough for Harry to gather up his courage and continue. “Look, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it had been a long day, and I still haven’t had dinner. I was on my way to a Muggle restaurant when I noticed you following me. Why don’t you join me? I can catch you up on major events from the last ten years, and you can let me know why you decided to follow me. As much as you seem to enjoy making nasty comments about my intelligence and ego, I doubt that’s the sole reason for showing up after being in hiding for a decade.”
After a moment, Snape replied. “I suppose that would be preferable to continuing to discuss everything in an alley, as long as you are absolutely certain that we will be the only wizards in the establishment. I’d like a few more details on this supposed pardon before I expose myself any further.”
“Trust me, Snape, this place is all Muggle.”
A few minutes later, the two were seated and Harry had ordered his long delayed dinner. As they waited for the food to arrive, Harry finally got a good look at his ex-teacher. Amazingly, the man looked younger than the last time Harry had seen him, rather than a decade older. He supposed that not being a double agent between the two most powerful wizards of the age would reduce anyone’s stress levels, but it was almost eerie – Snape currently didn’t look much older than Harry. Also, whatever Snape had been up to, he certainly wasn’t out on a beach getting tan – the man had never had a lot of color, but at the moment he was almost deathly pale.
Harry’s examination of his ex-professor’s appearance was interrupted when a server brought Harry’s food and Snape quickly cast a silent Muggle-Repelling charm around their table.
“I propose we start with a quick summation of the circumstances surrounding how I managed to be pardoned when I wasn’t even on this continent – I cannot believe the Ministry simply decided that all of the Death Eaters should escape punishment.”
Giving a derisive snort, Harry answered, “Not hardly. In fact, while Kingsley was trying to sort out the mess at the end of the war, a few people in the Ministry decided to take advantage of the chaos and re-task the Muggle-born Registration Commission to be the Slytherin Registration Commission – their victims had changed, but their methods and punishments certainly hadn’t other than keeping things a little quieter.
“Hermione was still irate over the Muggle-born registration and was keeping a very close eye on Umbridge, so she discovered what Umbridge and her cronies were up to fairly quickly. Thankfully, even in a fairly hostile post-war environment, most Slytherins either had enough political pull to get away with a slap on the wrist or they had the sense to stay underground, so there was no permanent damage done, even before Hermione discovered the problem.
“Originally Hermione tried going through proper channels in the Ministry to get the committee disbanded and the participants reprimanded, but they had a lot of time in government service and knew how to work a bureaucracy. Finally, Hermione tried to get an appointment to see Kingsley directly, only to discover that his assistant was another one of Umbridge’s cronies, and all of Hermione’s requests for an appointment were being blocked. At that point, Hermione decided to pull her own fast one and came to me as a means to get to Kingsley. Once he knew what was going on, it was immediately stopped.”
Clearly at the end of his almost non-existent patience when it came to Harry, Snape snidely interjected, “And how, pray tell, does that explain how I received a pardon? I can’t imagine they pardoned all the Death Eaters simply because Umbridge shipped a few innocent Slytherins to Azkaban.”
“Hold your hippogriffs, I’m getting there,” groused Harry. “Believe it or not, this does relate to answering your question. To thank her for bringing the unauthorized committee to his attention, Kingsley named Hermione to the post-war judicial review committee, which was in charge of determining who should be prosecuted for crimes related to Voldemort. And here we get to why the beginning of this story was necessary – because without Hermione on the committee, you would probably still be a wanted man.
“At first, your case wasn’t brought before the judicial committee because, due to my testimony, everyone assumed you had died. A few months later when your portrait was still completely inactive, your status was changed from presumed dead to missing and your case was added to the list being reviewed by this committee. Apparently, some of the committee members had a bit of a grudge against you, so they decided to not tell me when they were reviewing your case in order to make sure my testimony wasn’t heard.
“You see, after viewing your memories…” Harry decided to not go into any further detail on that after seeing the dangerous look that suddenly appeared on Snape’s face. “Well, let’s just say that I was fairly outspoken right after the war about your innocence and you getting the recognition you deserved, even though at that point I thought you were dead and that you wouldn’t ever get the satisfaction of knowing you’d received an Order of Merlin.
“Without Hermione on that committee, they not only would have recommended you for prosecution, but possibly have pushed for convicting you in absentia. As it was, since we were able to raise quite a stink about their under-handed tactics, at the end of the day we got the rest of the committee to listen to the full facts and vote to clear you of all charges.”
Smirking, Snape said, “Well, I suppose it’s only equitable that for once your tendency, not to mention Granger’s, to stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong should benefit me, after the number of times that it nearly caused serious injury or death.”
“Git,” muttered Harry. Clearing his throat, he continued, “I doubt you’re interested past that point since it no longer involves anything to do with you, but, once the judicial committee wrapped up, Hermione used that as a stepping stone to getting a position with the Magical Creatures Committee – she’s head of the Being division now – and I ended up getting involved with other post-war reconstruction efforts.”
Surprisingly, an interested gleam appeared in Snape’s eyes. “So, Granger is Head of the Being division – very interesting,” he murmured. In a slightly louder voice, he continued, “Actually, I’d appreciate a chance to meet with Granger. Now that I know I won’t be arrested on sight, I’ll have to stop by the Ministry to see her.”
Snape then abruptly stood up, taking down the spells around their table in a single fluid motion. “Well, thank you for the information, Potter. I’d say it was a pleasure seeing you again, but I doubt even you would believe that blatant a lie. However, since we managed civility for the better part of an hour, I suppose you must be more tolerable than you were in your teens. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
“Wait!” cried Harry. “You haven’t explained how you survived or why you came looking for me after so many years. I haven’t had a chance to thank you -”
Snape quickly interrupted, “The answers to those questions are among the topics I wish to discuss with your friend. Since I doubt she’d bother keeping the information to herself anyway, I suppose you can attend my meeting with her. In any case, it would be redundant to spend time this evening going over those events. If you truly wish to thank me, Potter, you can make sure Granger is the only person to whom you mention my reappearance. I have no desire to see anyone else – I am only contacting the two of you because I have no other choice – so please don’t get it in your head to setup a happy reunion scene with any of the old crowd.”
Without another word or look, Snape quickly walked out the door. Harry thought briefly of chasing after him, but decided that he really didn’t want to make a scene in the middle of a Muggle restaurant. At that moment, the waiter stopped by to check if the order was satisfactory. Having served Harry several times in the past, he felt free to comment on his interpretation of the evening.
“Bad luck, mate,” the waiter commiserated. “First time I’ve seen you bring a bloke in here, and he walks out in the middle of your date. Still, Mr. Tall, Dark & Mysterious was definitely worth a try; too bad it didn’t work out.”
It took Harry a moment to process what the waiter was saying. Of all the ridiculous ideas – the waiter thought that he had brought Snape here for a date! “Nah, it’s not like that. He was one of my teachers from secondary school. I hadn’t seen him in awhile and we were just catching up.”
“Teacher, huh,” mused the waiter, a wicked glint appearing in his eye. “He really didn’t look old enough to have been your teacher, though he certainly could have given me detention anytime.”
That little comment sent Harry’s thoughts spinning as the fantasies he’d had sixth year about the mysterious Half-Blood Prince came back to him. Shaking his head to momentarily clear it, he realized the waiter had asked about his food. “It’s fine, thanks,” he replied. As the waiter left, Harry started eating his now lukewarm meal and thinking back to that confusing year – mixed among snogging sessions with Ginny were guilty fantasies about the author of the notes in his Advanced Potion-Making book.
He vividly remembered just how horrified he was when he discovered the identity of the Half-Blood Prince the same evening that Snape killed Dumbledore – so much so that he fully repressed any thoughts of sexual interest towards men for the entire next year. If it hadn’t been for a drunken, passionate kiss from Kingsley at a post-war victory party, who knows how long that might have continued. Instead, he and Kingsley had a very comfortable relationship for six months or so until Harry decided to accept a job offer in the Ministry. He still cared for Kingsley, but by that time they both knew that their relationship wasn’t meant to last forever and neither wanted allegations of bias in the workplace.
However, the mildly suggestive comment from his waiter made Harry realize that, while he’d happily figured out his attraction to men, he’d never really resolved his feelings toward the first man to unintentionally inspire such feelings. Unconsciously, Harry let his mind drift. Snape was certainly more physically attractive than he had been years earlier. The man was no Adonis – the nose was still large and the teeth were still crooked – but the paler skin was actually quite striking with his hair, and fewer wrinkles from less stress didn’t hurt either. However, none of that could change the fact that the man was still an ass who could barely stand to be in the same room as Harry, so Harry supposed it really didn’t matter. Laughing to himself, he tossed enough Muggle money on the table to cover his bill and left for home. For the moment, he just needed a good nights sleep – he’d talk with Hermione in the morning and figure out where to go from there.
The next morning, Harry headed into work early to catch Hermione before either of them had any meetings or appointments. Once she got over her shock, her insatiable curiosity got the better of her, and she insisted they had to meet with Snape that same day. Unfortunately, they had no mutual time free anytime during the day, so they agreed they’d both stay late that evening. Once that was settled, Harry hurried back to his office to owl a quick note to Snape.
Hermione and I have compared schedules, and the first mutually free time we both have is this evening at 7. I’d apologize for the delay, but considering your desire for privacy this may be preferable anyway since most, if not all, of our colleagues will be gone by the time you arrive. Security won’t allow anyone through after hours except by appointment, so I’ve left word that I am expecting you, under the name John Smith. Just give them your name, and you should be allowed straight through.
My office is part of the DMLE, but thankfully is located on level one, so you don’t have to worry about running into any Aurors. It’s the third door on the right after getting off the lift.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you have a conflict and cannot make it this evening.
Hours later, Harry was finishing up his daily paperwork while waiting for both Snape and Hermione to arrive. His day had been long, but ultimately successful and he honestly couldn’t wait for Hermione to get there so he could tell her the good news. Speak of the devil....
“Why are you smiling like the Kneazle that got the canary, Harry? Anything to do with our visitor?”
“No; it’s even better, Hermione. I finally found the proof I needed to put away that bastard I was telling you about last month. As we speak, both kids are in a loving foster home and their no-good excuse for a father is sitting in a Ministry holding cell awaiting trial.”
Hermione squealed and ran around the desk to hug him. “That’s wonderful, Harry! Oh, I’m so happy! For the kids, absolutely, but for you too – I know how much that case was tearing you up. I bet it’s times like these that you don’t regret giving up Auror training to start the Child Welfare department, even if a lot of the time it isn’t as glamorous as other areas of the DMLE.”
All Harry could see at the moment was Hermione’s ever-bushy hair, but there was no mistaking the sound of a clearing throat from the door.
“I’m sorry to interrupt such a touching scene, but I believe you’re expecting me.”
Hermione sprung back from Harry and turned toward Snape to greet him. She had only taken one step in his direction, and hadn’t even gotten the word hello out before she suddenly froze. She quickly evaluated him from head to toe, before shaking her head sorrowfully.
“I’m so sorry, Professor. I suppose I know now why you asked to see me.”
Snape sighed heavily, shut the door behind him, and glided toward one of the empty seats in front of Harry’s desk. “I should have guessed that you wouldn’t need an explanation once you saw me in person – your job precluded that possibility. Honestly, I was a little surprised that Potter didn’t pick up on it last night, but since my assumption about him being an Auror was clearly incorrect, I suppose it’s at least mildly understandable.”
Harry looked confusedly between the two. “Can one of you please explain what you’re talking about for the non-genius in the room?”
Hermione sat down in the other available chair, clearly telegraphing to Snape that it was up to him to relay whatever the two of them were discussing. “I would have thought you could have guessed by now, Potter – though this does support my long-held suspicion that your DADA grades were due to your celebrity rather than any actual learning on your part.”
Smirking at the younger man’s scowl, Snape continued, “Let me lay out the obvious facts in a way that even you might understand. First, I look younger than I did a decade ago. Next, I’m even paler than when I lived in a dungeon. Finally, the head of the Ministry’s Being division has just expressed her sympathy toward me. Put all those together and you have…”
Feeling foolish for not spotting the obvious earlier, Harry murmured, “So the rumors are finally true – you’re a vampire.”
“Thank you for stating the obvious, Potter. To answer your question before you bother asking it, I was turned moments after you left the Shrieking Shack by a rogue vampire who was loosely allied with Voldemort. Speaking of rumors though, if the rumors I’ve heard are true, that’s a problem I hope Granger can help me resolve.”
Turning to Hermione, he continued, “The reason I requested this meeting was to determine whether or not the rumors that have reached me about a new potential cure for vampirism have any veracity.”
Hermione looked momentarily shocked, before schooling her face into a more neutral expression. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the man who spied on Voldemort managed to find out about that. Whether or not you’ve been in contact with wizards, you would’ve required at least minimal contact with the vampire community and I know many there have been rather excited by the limited information we’ve released.
“The answer here isn’t simple. Yes, we’re working on a cure, and we have some very promising developments. However, it’s definitely still in testing. We haven’t been successful in every case, and we’re still trying to work out the variables that cause success versus failure.”
“Well, I suppose it goes without saying that I am willing to assist you in this endeavor. If there is a potion involved, perhaps I can review the theory behind it.”
Initially, Hermione shook her head. “The potion component is not where we’re having difficulties. The problem lies in the elements necessary in the accompanying ritual, so unless you have a heretofore unknown talent in ritual construction…”
Hermione trailed off, and a look that Harry was all too familiar with crossed her face – it was the look Harry had dubbed ‘I’m having a flash of utter brilliance, rather than just my normal genius-level thoughts’.
“Actually, now that I think about it, you may be the perfect person to assist us, Professor. We know a variation of the ritual that will always work, but it has very specific requirements, and we hadn’t found a tester who fulfilled all of them. It was discarded as a possibility over a year ago due to the unlikelihood of finding someone who could perform the ritual. I know if we could successfully complete that version once, it would most likely lead to a breakthrough in our efforts toward a cure. You see, the one element that we’ve been unable to find was a vampire who was an Occlumens before they were turned.”
“It is a somewhat obscure branch of magic, so I can see where that would be difficult. I must admit though, that I cannot see the connection between mind magic and a cure for vampirism. Before we go any further, would you mind sharing the details of this ritual?”
“Of course, Professor,” said Hermione, almost stumbling over her words in her eagerness to begin the explanation. “You see this is magic at its most fundamental, if you think about it. As you know, when a human is changed into a vampire, they are changed physically and mentally.”
Before she could go any further, Harry piped up, “What do you mean mentally? We only learned about physical changes in DADA.”
Cutting Snape off before he could ridicule Harry again, Hermione quickly said, “It’s not something that’s well known among the general populace, but when a vampire is changed their mind becomes permanently protected. It’s similar to what an Occlumens can do after years of study, but it’s apparently just a byproduct of the change. Also, have you heard tales of how vampires are sometimes said to enthrall their victims?” Seeing Harry’s nod, Hermione continued, “That’s another example of a mental change that can happen. There are a few others, but those two are the most common.
“Now, there is a potion that was developed a few years ago that theoretically can undo the changes that happen when a human becomes a vampire. The problem, as we quickly discovered, is that the potion is not enough on its own. At that point, we started looking into possible rituals to augment it. We realized that a ritual linking a vampire’s mind and body with a human’s after they’ve taken the potion should be sufficient to overcome the inertia.”
Still listening to his friend, Harry mentally thanked Merlin that Hermione had finally learned to provide an explanation that didn’t include every last detail of available information. He shuddered to think of the hours of explanation about every detail of researching the ritual that his friend would have shared a few years ago. Tuning back into the ongoing discussion he heard, “Unfortunately, since a vampire’s mental shields are not conscious, they cannot be lowered by most vampires. Our hope is that a vampire who was an Occlumens before the change might be able to lower their vampiric mental shields enough to achieve the necessary link.”
Snape, who up until Hermione’s last sentence had been listening intently to her explanation, suddenly slumped slightly in his chair. Hermione noticed it at the same time as Harry and asked, “What? Is that assumption wrong? Are you not able to control your vampiric shielding, even with prior experience as an Occlumens?”
Snape suddenly stood and began to pace around the room. “No, that assumption is correct – I have full control over the mental shielding I gained as a vampire. The problem is my Occlumency shields.
“When the vampire who turned me entered the Shrieking Shack, I couldn’t see who was there and feared that the Dark Lord had returned to confirm my death. If it had been him, it would have been disastrous for him to learn of the memories I’d provided to Potter, so I poured every bit of my remaining strength into making sure my Occlumency shields were impregnable.
“Something happened when I was turned – I don’t know if any victim who was also an Occlumens would experience the same since, like you, I’ve never found another vampire Occlumens. While I can control the vampiric shielding, I’ve not been able to lower my Occlumency barriers since I was changed.
“If I were a weaker Occlumens this wouldn’t be a problem since a sufficiently strong Legilimens can break Occlumency barriers. The problem is my Occlumency shield was strong enough to withstand a concerted effort by the Dark Lord himself, so I sincerely doubt we’ll be able to find someone who can overcome it.”
“Damn,” muttered Hermione. “If it were anyone else, I’d say either the Aurors or the Department of Mysteries would have someone strong enough, but, considering that mind magic was one of Voldemort’s strengths, that’s next to impossible.”
Still pacing, Snape muttered, “I doubt I’ve ever missed Albus as much as I do right now – he’s the only person I know who could have possibly accomplished this.”
Hermione looked at Snape, skepticism clear in her eyes. “Headmaster Dumbledore was stronger than Voldemort in mind magic?”
“No, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Albus didn’t excel at mind magic the way the Dark Lord did, though he was a more than adequate Legilmens. Far more importantly, he had a prior connection to my mind – he and I used Legilimency between us so often that we could all but read one another’s minds at a whim. I think a previous connection like that with enough magical strength behind it could work, but the whole thing is moot since Albus is dead.”
Harry, who had been intently listening to the other two, quietly said, “Maybe not.”
Hermione and Snape quickly turned in his direction, clearly having almost forgotten that the other wizard was in the room with them. Hermione asked, “What do you mean, Harry?” while Snape simultaneously snarled, “Don’t be an imbecile, Potter. You were there when I killed him.”
“I didn’t mean Dumbledore, you git,” snapped Harry.
Turning to Hermione, Harry took a deep breath to calm himself and said, “I meant that the whole thing may not be moot.” Seeing the realization dawn in Hermione’s eyes, Harry held up a hand in caution. “I don’t know if it will work, and I certainly am not willing to become the go-to person on this like I am for magical snakes, but I’m willing to try this one time to test your theory.”
“I swear Potter, it doesn’t matter how old you get you still sound like someone has given you a Babbling Beverage,” snarked Snape. He turned to Hermione and continued, “I don’t suppose that you’re willing to translate since we don’t all speak Potter.”
Eyes narrowed, Hermione replied, “Professor, you really need to learn when to curb your tongue. If Harry is correct, he is your one and only chance to possibly be cured, so a little courtesy might be appropriate.”
“Don’t be absurd,” Snape sneered. “Potter has no ability in mind magic nor the requisite power –”
“Correction, Snape – I had no ability in mind magic the last time you and I saw each other. Since then I found an instructor who was actually interested in teaching me, and I’ve become quite proficient. In my job I need to be able to both subtly shift through a child’s mind and potentially hammer through shields protecting the memories of abusive guardians so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time honing my abilities.”
“So you can perform Legilimency on children and their parents – that doesn’t mean you’ve got the strength to get through shields that withstood Voldemort!” snarled Snape.
“Maybe not,” admitted Harry. “But it’s your only shot. All ego aside, I’m the strongest wizard alive today in Britain, I’m trained in mind magic, and, while I may not have the amount of exposure the Headmaster had, I’ve seen more than a few of your memories. It might just work, and I’m willing to try if you are.”
“And what of the other part of the ritual? Are you just as willing to try that as well?” hissed Snape darkly.
“With your attitude, I’d be lying if I said I was eager, but needs must, I suppose.”
“Really…” drawled Snape. “So the Golden boy is willing to offer up his almost certainly virgin arse to his nasty old Potions professor. You do realize that is what Granger meant by joined in body, correct Potter? Since you’re entering my mind, the ritual will almost certainly call for me to enter your body.”
“If you’re trying to provoke me Snape, it won’t work. I’m not a teenager anymore, and my arse is certainly not virgin.”
Seeing the surprise that even Snape couldn’t hide, Harry mockingly continued, “If my orientation shocks you, I have to say you aren’t terribly observant for a spy. Did you not notice that well over half the couples in the restaurant last night were the same gender? Or did you simply think it was common for a single straight man to frequent an overwhelmingly gay restaurant?”
Before Harry could go any farther, Hermione jumped in. “Harry, stop. This is counter-productive, and you know it.”
Seeing that both men were holding their tongues for the moment, Hermione pressed her advantage. “Now, I have to agree with Harry that this is at least worth a shot if you’re willing, Professor Snape. However, I think tempers are running a little high to try right this second, though the sooner the better from a research perspective. I’ll go collect a sample of the potion and the instructions for the ritual. Once you have everything you need, the two of you will go and hold a civilized discussion, perhaps over dinner and drinks. Hopefully, at that point you’ll be in a slightly better mindset to try the ritual.”
Harry looked questioningly at Hermione. “Hermione, don’t you need to witness the ritual to gather the necessary data for your cure?”
Hermione actually blushed a bit. “Well, yes, but there’s nothing that says I have to witness it firsthand. I can give you a magical recording device that can capture all of the information I’ll need so I can review it later. I figured that would be easier on all of us.”
Relieved beyond measure that he wouldn’t need to have sex with his ex-Professor in front of his closest female friend, Harry nodded his agreement. Hermione rushed out of the room, presumably to gather the materials they’d need that evening.
Harry looked at Snape for the first time since Hermione interrupted their verbal sparring match. Far from the nasty expression he’d shown earlier, Snape actually looked contemplative. Before Harry could say anything, Snape spoke up. “While I still don’t believe for a second that this will succeed, I suppose I really should thank you for being willing to try. ”
“I’m not doing it for your sake, but you’re welcome anyway,” muttered Harry.
An awkward silence descended as the two men waited for Hermione’s return. Eventually, Snape said, “Are you certain you don’t object to the physical aspects of this ritual? No matter what your gender preference is, I can’t imagine I was ever on your list of prospective partners.”
Harry chuckled, remembering his reminiscences from the night before about the mysterious Half Blood Prince. “You might be surprised, Snape. Besides, we’re talking about sex for the purpose of a ritual – that’s a little different from randomly bringing you home just to shag.” Suddenly, Harry stopped and looked at Snape in concern. “What about you? I mean, I know you want the cure, but you’re not into blokes. Are you going to be able to do this?”
Snape looked at Harry curiously. “Wherever did you get the impression that I was heterosexual?” Before Harry could say anything, Snape answered his own question. “Ah, of course – I see where you might have gotten that impression from the memories I gave you in the Shrieking Shack. While your mother is the only person I have ever loved, that certainly does not mean she was the only person I ever desired. Suffice it to say I am not a 50-year old virgin and that my tastes run to both genders.”
Neither man said anything further, each lost in their own thoughts, but the silence didn’t seem quite as oppressive as it had just a few moments earlier. Before too much time had passed, Hermione darted back into Harry’s office carrying one of her now ubiquitous bottomless bags, though this one thankfully was not a beaded purse.
“Here we go – this should be everything you need,” she said as she started pulling items out of the bag. “The potion is here; you can take it up to 8 hours before completing the ritual, but it’s effective immediately. You’ll need to drink the entire flask and, as a warning, it’s unpleasant at best. Here’s the magical recording device – just tap it with your wand three times just before you drink the potion to turn it on. A simple Finite Incantatum will turn it off. Finally, this scroll has the incantations you’ll each need at various points in the ritual.”
Both men spent a few minutes making sure they had the correct pronunciation of each part of the incantation before Hermione continued.
“You each say the first part of the incantation, in unison, just before Professor Snape drinks the potion. Harry, you’ll need to say the second part once you’ve successfully gotten through Professor Snape’s Occlumency shields. I doubt you’ll be able to hold that connection for long, but as long as you successfully retrieve at least one memory that should suffice.
“Professor, the final part of the incantation must be said upon initial sexual penetration. The final step that seals the ritual is that you must bite Harry as you climax.”
Both Harry and Snape looked at her in horror. “You never said anything about being bitten, Hermione” was heard in stereo with “Are you out of your mind, Granger? I have never drunk straight from a human, and I don’t intend to start now! The point is to cure me, not damn Potter as well.”
“Hush up, both of you! I said bite, not drain him dry, Professor. And Harry, after seeing all the ‘love bites’ that Kingsley left on you, I wouldn’t think you’d be too terribly opposed to biting during sex.”
That last bit effectively shut both men up, though for different reasons. It wasn’t very obvious, but if you looked closely you could see just a bit of interest behind Snape’s generally neutral expression – Hermione had yet to meet a vampire who could totally ignore the fact that a potential sexual partner enjoyed being bitten during sex and had chosen her words carefully. Harry, on the other hand, simply looked dumbfounded that Hermione was teasing him about his sex life, in front of Snape no less!
Before either man had a chance to say anything, Hermione put everything back in the bag and handed it to Harry before walking quickly toward the door. “Now, unless you need me I should get home and save Ron from the little monsters. However, if you have any questions or anything unexpected happens, I’m only a Floo call away.”
As soon as the door clicked shut behind her, Snape turned to Harry. “I suppose we should be on our way as well. I believe Granger’s idea of food and drink to be a good one – if you are amenable, we could return to the same establishment we visited last evening.”
Harry wondered if this oddly formal speech was Snape’s way of trying to be polite; it was a little unnerving, but better than the typical nasty comments so he decided not to question it. Motioning to Snape to precede him out of the office, Harry quickly set the wards that he used to lock up each night before answering.
“Actually, why don’t we just head to my place? We can have a bite there, and that way we don’t have to worry about setting wards or having Muggles overhear us during dinner.”
Clearly taken aback, Snape hesitantly replied, “That would certainly be acceptable as well.”
As they exited the lift and entered the Atrium, Snape continued, “What is the best way to get to your residence?”
Thinking about it for a second, Harry said, “It’ll probably be easiest if we apparate Apparate to an empty alley. It’s a bit of a walk, and you’re not keyed into the wards so we can’t apparate Apparate straight there or use the Floo.”
With a hint of his usual snark, Snape said, “Logical, though I’ll need a location – there are a lot of empty alleys in this city, and that only works if we end up in the same one.”
“Oh, I’m still living at Grimmauld Place – that alley that was used during the war is still usually deserted. Meet you there?”
Seeing Snape’s quick nod, Harry quickly apparated Apparated away from the Ministry. Before he’d even opened his eyes, Harry heard a soft pop and knew that Snape had arrived. Without saying anything, they exited the alley and headed toward Grimmauld Place.
“Hold here,” said Harry quietly. “I’ve got to key you into the wards, and it’s a bit trickier than usual since I have to get around the vampire wards.”
Harry made a show of rummaging in his pocket for keys, just in case any Muggles were watching, as he was manipulating the wards to allow his ex-professor to enter. After a few seconds, he opened the door saying, “That should do it – welcome to my home, Professor.”
As they entered, Harry headed straight to the kitchen. Snape followed, but lagged behind a bit as he took in the complete renovation that had occurred in the former Black home. Everything that had identified this as the house of a dark family was gone and in its place was a pleasant, welcoming home.
Catching up with the younger man as he entered the kitchen, Snape said, “This is an impressive renovation effort, Potter.”
“Thanks. You’re seeing the results of years of work, but the end result is totally worth it in my opinion.” Rummaging around, Harry quickly pulled out the necessary elements to make sandwiches, along with a bag of crisps. “It’s not fancy, but it’s a little late to start cooking now.”
“I thank you for the offer, but I ate before our meeting, so I’m not hungry. I wouldn’t turn down a drink, if you have something available?”
“Sure thing.” Harry turned back to the cabinets behind him. “I’ve got Butterbeer, tea, and pumpkin juice – I’ve also got a bottle of Ogden’s and a couple of bottles of wine if you’d prefer.”
“A glass of wine would be much appreciated, Potter.”
Harry quickly pulled a couple of glasses out of one cabinet, and a bottle of wine out of another. He opened the bottle and poured two glasses, handing one to Snape. “I’m guessing you won’t object to red,” he said with a small smile.
“No, though after tonight I may have to swear off for awhile.”
Snape sat down with his glass as Harry fixed himself a quick dinner. “I’m surprised at the apparent lack of a house-elf, Potter. I remember two of them from your sixth year, though admittedly my information is rather out of date.”
Harry winced slightly, having never forgotten the pain of losing Dobby. “Dobby died saving me, Ron, and Hermione from Malfoy Manor before the end of the war and Kreacher died of old age a couple of years ago. It’s just me here, so I don’t really need an elf, and I didn’t feel like getting another lecture from Hermione on elf rights.”
“I see,” Snape said quietly. “I apologize if I’ve brought up a painful subject.”
Harry waved off the apology. “No worries – you couldn’t have known.”
“Since I am so clearly out of the loop, why don’t you bring me up to speed on our mutual acquaintances while you eat your sandwich?”
They spent the next half hour or so with Harry rattling off the highlight of ten years of history on various Order members and Hogwarts students.
“…and the funniest thing was the look on Ron’s face when he realized she was serious.”
“I can imagine. Despite his father’s fascination with Muggles, I doubt your friend had ever even heard of a bride not changing her name, let alone asking him to change his name to Granger instead. That’s a very progressive idea for the Muggle world, let alone the Wizarding.”
“Yeah, but that’s Hermione for you.”
“So, now that I’m current on everyone else, what about you, Potter? You’ve been curiously quiet about your own life.”
“Well, there’s not much to tell, and I wasn’t sure you’d be interested. I’m guessing you know the details of the battle at Hogwarts?” At Snape’s nod, he continued, “Well, I already told you what happened with the judicial review committee. After that, I got an invitation to join a new DMLE sub-division they created after the war – the Office of Child Welfare. My initial plan was to train to be an Auror, but with the number of orphans at the end of the war, this seemed more important. That’s pretty much my life now, other than spending time with Hermione, Ron and the rest of the Weasleys.”
Harry finished the last of his wine and stood up, “Well, now that I’m fed and we’ve both relaxed a bit, I suppose we should really give this a try.”
Snape hesitantly nodded, “If you’re still sure you’re willing to make the attempt, Potter, I agree that we should proceed.”
Before Snape could say anything else, Harry interjected, “Please, call me Harry. I can hear your disdain for my father every time you say Potter and I think, for this evening at least, that we need to leave as much of the past hostility behind as we can. Please understand, I’m not defending him – I’m just saying that it isn’t helping an already difficult situation.”
“I suppose you’re correct…Harry,” replied Snape, looking like he’d just eaten one of Dumbledore’s sherbet lemons. With obvious reluctance, he continued, “If you wish, you may call me Severus – you’re correct that the situation does call for it.”
“Thank you, Severus,” said Harry lightly as he stood. “Why don’t we move to the drawing room where we can be a bit more comfortable? I’ll fix some tea and meet you there.”
Harry bustled around the kitchen quickly gathering the necessities for tea, before following Severus up to the first floor. When he entered the drawing room, he noticed that Severus had emptied the bag Hermione had given them onto a low table near the largest couch. By unspoken agreement, both men settled onto the nearby couch and fixed a cup of tea. Severus set his cup down after one sip and said, “I suppose I’ll go ahead and get the preliminary elements taken care of.”
He activated the magical recording device, recited the first portion of the ritual with Harry, then quickly drank down the potion. Harry envied the fact that the potion which even Hermione described as unpleasant tasting didn’t seem to faze Severus, though he supposed it was just one benefit of being a Potions Master.
“Well, Harry, the next step is all yours. I’ve lowered my vampiric mental shielding, but as I warned, my Occlumency barriers are as strong as ever.”
Harry took a deep breath to center himself, looked Severus in the eye, and firmly cast, “Legilimens!”
Merlin! Severus’ Occlumency shields were so strong it was like trying to use Legilimency on Hogwarts. Harry, not one to give up easily, poured more power into the spell. He could feel the barriers shaking under the assault, but wasn’t able to find a weak point to exploit. He knew that he had more power available, but worried that if he used much more he ran the risk of shattering the barriers, versus simply breaking through them at a single point. Not sure what effect that would have on Severus, Harry stopped the spell to think through alternatives.
The disappointment was clear on Severus’s face, though there was also a hint of respect there too. “Well, that was a lot better than I was expecting, but it seems even that isn’t enough.”
“Don’t give up yet,” replied Harry. “I can push harder, but I really didn’t want to risk what that might do to you. Before we try that route, there are a few things that I think are worth discussing as alternatives.”
“Well, in my line of work when I run across a kid who’s built up natural barriers and I don’t want to risk messing with those, we’ll sometimes use a strong Calming Draught to force the barriers to relax a bit. I don’t know if that would help in this case-”
“The moonflower in the Calming Draught would react poorly with the nightshade in the potion I just consumed,” interjected Snape with a tolerably mild smirk. “The most likely reaction would be to put me in a near-comatose state for the next six to twelve hours.”
“Well, the basic idea might work, even if adding more magic to this is a bad idea. Let’s see if getting you to relax a bit might let me get through your shields using an amount of power that won’t potentially scramble your brains. Before you say it, I know that won’t work to bring Occlumency shields down all the way, but it might weaken them just enough that I can push through.”
“And how, pray tell, do you propose I relax? I’m not sure I’ve ever been what anyone would term relaxed in my entire adult life.”
“Frankly, I’d normally suggest a good wank or shag, but since we’re supposed to do that later, it’d be counterproductive at this point,” said Harry, deciding that this wasn’t the time to be coy. “The best alternative I have would be a massage. That might relax you enough that I don’t have to completely overpower your shields.”
Instead of immediately refusing as Harry had expected, Severus actually looked intrigued. “Do you have any experience giving a massage?”
“I play Quidditch, so yes - post-practice massage is pretty standard.”
“If you truly think this might help, I suppose we can try,” Severus conceded with obvious reluctance. “Having never had a massage, I must ask you, what should I do?”
Harry was stunned - how in the world could Severus have gotten to almost fifty years old without ever having received a massage? He supposed that massages and spying didn’t mix well, but Voldemort had vanished for over a decade the first time and had been gone for another decade this time.
Determined that he’d think about the implications of that later, Harry made a quick decision about whether or not to change their location. The sofa wasn’t conducive to either a massage or the sex portion of the ritual that would likely follow. However, he didn’t think bringing Severus to his bedroom was the best idea either, since there were pictures of his parents and Sirius prominently displayed. Thinking quickly, Harry realized that a few quick changes and they’d be set for the evening in their current location. He motioned to Severus to stand, banished most of the furniture to rest against the walls to clear the center of the room before transfiguring a nearby ottoman into a king-sized bed, complete with sheets and pillows.
“Let’s start by getting rid of robes – it helps to have to go through only one layer of fabric for this - then, stretch out face-down. I have a feeling I should start with your neck and back since that’s where most people hold most of their stress.”
Surprisingly, Severus moved to comply with little hesitation. As he was removing his robes, he simply commented, “But the point of this exercise is to be able to perform Legilimency – you’ll need to be able to establish eye contact for that.”
“First, let’s get you relaxed. Then we can worry about Legilimency.”
Severus lay down on the bed with his arms stiffly at his sides. Harry sat beside him and decided his arms were a good place to start - not too intimate and it would get Severus into a more comfortable position for later. Harry picked up Severus left hand, and started to gently rub. When Severus tensed slightly, Harry gently said, “Relax. I’m not going to do anything to hurt you, I promise.”
Severus didn’t really relax, per se, but the extra tension went away and he didn’t make any further protest, so Harry continued. Severus’s hand was reasonably relaxed, but Harry supposed it made sense that a Potions Master would need nimble hands. His arm, particularly the forearm, was a completely different matter, so Harry set out to relax those muscles as much as possible. After finally eradicating a particularly stubborn knot of tension, Harry actually heard an almost inaudible sigh of relief, or maybe even pleasure, from Severus. Heartened by his apparent success, Harry placed the now relaxed arm back comfortably on the bed and continued on with the massage.
A half hour later, Harry’s own hands and arms were starting to cramp up, so he knew that he would have to stop soon. However, he’d managed to work on Severus arms, neck, back and shoulders. He’d gotten several more of those quiet sighs, each a little louder than the last, and could definitely see the decreased tension in the way Severus was lying, so the massage was definitely a physical success – now he just had to see if that would translate to the mental relaxation they were hoping for.
Harry stretched out next to Severus and gently turned his head so that they were facing each other. Harry ran two fingers across Severus’s eyebrow and continued down the high cheekbone. Just as Severus languidly opened his eyes, Harry whispered, “Legilimens!”
The shields initially seemed as strong as during the first attempt, but, this time, as they resonated under the strength of Harry’s assault he could sense minute weaknesses. Harry added a bit more power and focused on one of the almost imperceptible fissures. After just a moment more, the crack opened just wide enough for Harry to push his way through – success!
Apparently, the massage had Snape fairly aroused, because the first memories that Harry encountered were past sexual encounters. Not wanting to invade Severus’s privacy any more than absolutely necessary, Harry quickly said the second incantation in the ritual, then immediately let up on the spell and retreated from Severus’s mind.
When Harry refocused on the face in front of him, he saw an odd combination. The eyes showed happiness that the ritual would now likely work, tinged with just a bit of awe at the fact that Harry had succeeded where Voldemort had failed – and it was all topped by just a hint of a blush on the man’s otherwise pale face.
Before Harry could say anything, Severus’s hand threaded through his hair and cupped the back of his head. A heartbeat later, Severus leaned forward and captured Harry’s lips in a gentle kiss that quickly grew more intense. Just as Harry’s head was starting to spin from lack of oxygen, Severus pulled back slightly and rested his forehead against Harry’s.
“Thank you. I still can’t believe it worked, but thank you nonetheless.”
“You’re welcome, Severus, though we’re not done just yet,” Harry teasingly replied.
“Indeed we’re not,” murmured Severus silkily. With no further warning, he fiercely kissed Harry while rolling both of them so he was above Harry, straddling his hips. Without breaking the kiss, Severus quickly started unbuttoning Harry’s shirt. Harry returned the favor, but he couldn’t match the dexterity of a Potion’s Master, so was only halfway through the buttons as Severus was removing Harry’s shirt. Once that was complete, Severus’s lips left Harry’s as he kissed down Harry’s jaw before focusing on his now bare neck.
From the first moment Severus’s lips touched his neck, Harry couldn’t control the soft whimpers coming from his lips. He’d known for a long time that his neck was one of the most erogenous zones on his body, and he was quickly learning that no one knew how to draw pleasure from a neck quite like a vampire. However, when Harry felt the first hint of teeth against his skin he brought himself out of the sensual haze he’d been drifting in. “Severus, not yet – that has to come at the end.”
Severus drew back enough that Harry could see his face – his black eyes gleaming with lust. He didn’t say anything at first, though Harry could feel those deft fingers lightly tracing the fresh marks on Harry’s neck that Snape couldn’t take his eyes off of. Eventually, the older man met Harry’s gaze once more and purred, “Then, by all means, let us continue.”
Severus recaptured Harry’s lips and slid his hands down to caress Harry’s chest and torso as Harry finished removing Severus’ shirt, carelessly tossing it to the side. Harry was fascinated by the perfect pale skin, idly wondering if Severus would be fortunate enough to keep the complexion once the vampirism was cured. Wanting to see even more, Harry began unbuttoning Severus’s trousers, making sure that his fingers gently brushed against Severus’s erection as he worked.
With a low growl, Severus switched his focus from Harry’s chest to removing his remaining clothes as quickly as possible. As soon as they were both naked, Harry wrapped one leg around Severus’s waist - both men groaning as their erections brushed against each other.
Severus gathered Harry as physically close to him as possible – one arm wrapped around his waist and the other threaded through his hair, both pulling him flush against the older man. He kissed Harry deeply, then released him to trail kisses down Harry’s neck and chest. Unlike before, this time he continued kissing down Harry’s body, stopping to gently play with Harry’s navel, before moving on to nuzzle and kiss the younger man’s erection.
Hearing the longing whimper that resulted from his playing, Severus acceded to the unspoken request and took Harry’s cock into his mouth. Thanking Merlin that he’d long ago mastered non-verbal casting, Snape continued to enjoy his lovers cock while silently casting a lubrication charm. Severus had no idea the last time Harry had bottomed, so he took time to carefully prepare him. Wanting to overwhelm his lover, he started a double assault on Harry’s senses by massaging his prostate while continuing to orally pleasure him.
When he noticed that Harry was about to climax, Severus reluctantly released his cock with one last lick and removed his fingers from a now much relaxed arse. As he moved to position to bury himself within that tempting arse, he heard Harry growl, “Don’t you dare stop there – fuck me now, Severus.”
“With pleasure,” purred Snape as he thrust into Harry. Holding back from the urge to immediately start moving within that glorious tight heat, Severus held still to give Harry a moment to adjust. In the meantime, he moved one hand so he could stimulate Harry’s cock as well. As soon as Harry shifted his hips, telegraphing to Severus that he was ready to continue, Severus gave into his own desires and began thrusting, quickly building up a demanding pace. Severus was thrilled when Harry hips met his thrust for thrust – he loved it when he could tell his partner was as into sex as he was.
Severus knew he wouldn’t be able to hold out much longer, so he finally let himself return his attention to Harry’s neck. It had been torture to stop earlier – Harry was more responsive to having his neck played with than anyone he’d met as a vampire and it turned him on more than he could possibly explain. First he lightly touched the smooth skin with just the tip of his tongue and the gentlest pressure from his lips. Hearing Harry’s moans grow louder, Severus switched to alternating between sucking fiercely and worrying bits of skin between his teeth, all the while continuing to pound into Harry.
Severus realized that he wasn’t going to be able to hold his climax any longer and, at the moment it hit, he bit into Harry’s neck right at the most sensitive spot. Harry screamed and Severus could feel the force of the other man’s climax by how tight he clamped down on Severus’s cock. Severus took one swallow of the rich blood before quickly withdrawing his teeth – he didn’t want to risk losing control if he drank much more.
Both men lay there for several minutes in post-coital bliss, too drained to do anything other than breathe heavily. Suddenly, Severus felt a rush of magic wash over him. It didn’t exactly hurt, though the feeling was uncomfortable, and Severus was concerned for a moment that Granger hadn’t mentioned this. Harry, clearly noticing that something was happening, sat up. “Good, it’s starting,” he said quietly. “Are you okay?”
Severus nodded. They couldn’t do anything other than wait, and thankfully the feeling vanished after only a few minutes. As he was mentally evaluating himself for any changes, Severus suddenly realized the blood lust, his unwelcome constant companion for the last decade, was gone. He ran to a nearby mirror and saw no immediate change there until he opened his mouth and realized that he no longer had fangs.
“It worked,” he whispered. Then, a little louder, “It actually worked!”
Turning to Harry, he continued, “Thank you – I know it could not have happened without your help.”
With a small smile, Harry answered, “I can honestly say it was my pleasure, Severus.”
With a pang of regret, Severus realized that he really should leave now that the cure was finished. No matter how much Severus had enjoyed the evening, he didn’t want to be rude and overstay his welcome now that the reason for his invitation was over. Before Severus could begin to formulate his reluctant goodbye, Harry continued, “In fact, I’d love it if you’d stay the night, or possibly even longer.”
Severus’s eyes widened in surprise, but he recovered quickly. Deciding to not look a gift horse in the mouth, he gave a very small smile and pulled Harry close to him. “With pleasure,” he murmured.