The Paradox of Existence
by DragonLight


Chapter Eleven:  Getting to Know the Other You

*The Past*

Harry entered his office and stopped at the sight of the young man, sitting in one of the chairs he kept there.  At first, he couldn't identify him, since he was shrouded in shadow, but the longer Harry looked, the more a feeling of déjà vu overcame him.

The sight looked familiar, but at the same time not.

Then he remembered.  Ages ago -- it felt like ages, even if it wasn't -- Harry used to curl up in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room when he wanted to be left alone.  And like the young man in this chair, he had also kicked off his shoes and brought his knees to his chest to hug them.

A head resting atop his knees, an unruly mop of hair going in every direction; Harry couldn't reconcile this boy with his father.  But he was.  There wasn't another child in all of Hogwarts that could remind him that strongly of himself.

"May I help you, Mr Potter?"

James lifted his head, his brown eyes searching for his professor's eyes.  "Prolly not."

Staring at James, Harry sat, and while he waited for him to continue he spent the time trying to figure out his father a little.  James, at this moment, wasn't his usual boisterous, troublemaking self.  He looked troubled.

"Well," Harry said when it became obvious that James wouldn't continue, "if you don't think I can help you, why are you here?"

"My father."

Harry paused.  James's father.  His grandfather.  The concept was so abstract to him that Harry just stopped, or he would have, but he was expected to say something.

"Your assignments have showed a marked improvement from earlier this year in my class.  Surely it's too late in the year for a dressing down."

James attempted a grin, but only managed a half-hearted one at best.  "No," he said, drawing out the word until it was a good length longer than it should have been.  "That's not why I'm here, Professor Tyler."

"It seems I'm doomed to a guessing game then."

"I just wanted someone to talk to."

Dealing with his father was not something that Harry could handle, could even wrap his mind around, but taking that aspect of things away, Harry could manage.  It wasn't hard to talk to an upset student, he did it quite often.

"Why me?  Aren't you supposed to go to your Head of House?"

"Why not?"  James shrugged and looked away.  "Professor McGonagall would just coddle me.  I know she seems really strict, but with her Gryffindors she's like a second mother."

Grinning, Harry thought back at all the times that he had gone to Minerva over the years for just that reason.  After he was finished with school even more so.  She always had a tin of shortbread out and an ear ready to listen.  Often her advice was sharp and blunt, though Harry always knew it was the right advice.

"And I couldn't talk to my friends.  Remus, he has too much to deal with, and Sirius," James paused and looked at Harry before he continued.  "Sirius has his own set of family issues.  A lot of them.  He doesn't need mine.  My family is supposed to be his refuge."  James sighed.  "I thought of talking to Peter, but, I can't.  Something's off with him and I just... can't.  That sounds stupid, doesn't it?"

Harry shook his head.  "Not at all.  Following your instincts is very important, Mr Potter."  Oh, it was even odder saying it here than it was in class.

"Anyway, I figured I could talk to you.  You're like a sort of impartial third party."

"Sort of impartial?  Am I involved in a situation that I know nothing about?"

"You know about it, just not what I wanted to talk about."  James dropped his arms from around his knees and straightened up in his chair.  "I had a meeting with the Headmaster today.  My father and mother were there as well."

Harry nodded.

"My father wants to pull me out of Hogwarts."

Harry's eyes widened.  "Why?"

"I don't know everything -- but I do know a lot.  There were some plans that my father said *you* uncovered about an attack that You-Know-Who was planning."

True enough.  Harry had given that translation to Albus over two months ago.

"My father was going on and on about how you couldn't be trusted, and that you're probably a spy for You-Know-Who."  The small measure of arrogance that James had recovered with each repetition of 'my father' fell away with his next words.  "You aren't, are you?"

"Not the best of questions, Mr Potter.  You realise I could lie to you."

James's eyes widened and he pressed his lips into a thin line as he stared at Harry.

"But to answer your question, no, I'm not."

For a moment, Harry thought that James would run, convinced that his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was indeed a spy, but then James shrugged like it didn't really matter all that much.

"Well my father thinks that whatever information you're giving Dumbledore is all a plot to remove important people in the fight against You-Know-Who."

Hearing that name -- or not the name, really -- was starting to grate on Harry's nerves, but there wasn't much he could do about it at this juncture.  Telling his father to call him Voldemort probably wasn't the best idea.

"He was going to send my mother and I away to a house under the Fidelius Charm, but I wanted to stay in school, and I couldn't leave Sirius alone to deal with his family, so I said I wasn't going.  My mother is going, though."  James looked down at his hands.  "I don't know for how long, or when she'll come home."

"And your father?"

"He said that there is no plot against him.  That it's all a trick to remove anyone from a position of power that associates too closely with Dumbledore.  He says he's staying right where he is and will continue doing what he's been doing."  James looked up and caught Harry's gaze.  "Professor, was there a plan to murder my father?"

If their positions were reversed, Harry knew that he'd want the answers that James so craved.  But their positions weren't reversed, and Harry was the adult, and his father the student.  One day he'd grow up, but Harry would never see that; he would only see the boy before he became a man.

"I'm sorry, James.  I can't disclose that information.  Hope for the best and pray for his safety."

James looked away, disappointed, and as much as Harry wanted to comfort him, he couldn't.  Resting a hand on James's shoulder, Harry offered as much as he could, and knew that it could never be enough.

A quiet voice, quavering slightly, broke the silence.  "There you are, Mr Potter.  Your parents were quite upset when you walked out of my office during our little meeting."  Settling a hand on the back of James's chair, Dumbledore paused, and acted every bit the old man that Harry knew he both was and wasn't.

"Everything's been arranged and your parents will be leaving from Hogsmeade tomorrow.  For the summer, we've asked if you could stay with Mr Lupin and his parents.  His parents agreed with the proviso that you are careful."

Harry watched Dumbledore move away from the chair and toward the desk.  "Now I'm sure that you would enjoy spending some time with your parents this evening.  Come along, Mr Potter."

Nodding, James stood and headed over to the door, but stopped halfway there.  "Thank you, Professor."

Harry smiled at James as he left the room before turning to Albus who was still standing at his desk.

"Octavian, I stopped Mr Snape on his way here for his tutoring session and told him that you had switched it to tomorrow after dinner due to an unforeseen emergency."

Curious, Harry tilted his head to the side and narrowed his eyes.  "How did you know that Mr Potter would be coming to speak to me, sir?"

"People who are similar often find solace in each other's company."  

Typical Albus and his typical too-knowing non-answer.  Some things would never change.

***

Severus glanced up from the potions essay he had managed to add three words to since entering the office.  Most of the last hour had been spent watching Professor Tyler instead of working, and because Tyler was reading a book and not paying him any attention whatsoever -- Severus made a disgruntled sound in his throat -- he could get away with just watching, and not worrying about the normal lecture about wasting time.  At least the evening wasn't completely bad.

"Professor?"

"Hm?"

"Could you help me with this essay?"

Not looking up, Tyler turned the page.  "What's the subject matter?"

"Potions."

Tyler coughed.  "I'm well aware of your abilities in the field of Potions, Mr Snape.  Trust me when I tell you that my ineptitudes in that field would make you lose all respect for me."

Severus doubted that.  "You're not good at it?"

"No."

Without realising it, Severus was sure, Tyler had just given him one of the things he craved the most.  A morsel of information about him.  It didn't matter how much he learned as he was piecing things together, but the more he learned, the more interested he became.

If only school subjects were similar.

Mentally, Severus crossed Potions off the list of subjects that Tyler could have taught before he taught Defence Against the Dark Arts.

It went quiet for some time as Severus scratched a few more lines and Tyler flipped a few more pages, but tiring of his essay, Severus set the quill down.

"What did you used to teach?  Before you came here."

"I taught Defence."

"You said you taught something else besides Defence."

"I did."

"Are you going to tell me what?"

Instead of answering, Tyler flipped another page and continued to read.

"Charms?"

A laugh.  "No.  Merlin, no.  It wasn't one of the standard classes."

Herbology, Transfiguration, and Astronomy joined Charms, Potions and the other classes that Severus had already managed to cross of his list.

"Oh.  I bet it was Care of Magical Creatures."

Tyler closed the book, but held his place with his finger.  "What makes you say that?"

"The way you fought that dragon."

Tyler nodded.

"So it was!"

"I didn't say that.  I just acknowledged that your reason was sound."

"Oh."  Severus turned back to his paper.

"Muggle Studies.  Now let me read."

"Muggle Studies?"

Drawing in a deep breath, Professor Tyler snapped his book shut and settled it on the arm of his chair.  "What is wrong with Muggle Studies?"

"Everyone knows that Muggles are useless creatures."

"I was raised by Muggles.  And before you bother asking, no, I am not Muggleborn; I was, however, raised by Muggles to act like a Muggle."  Looking over at the clock on the wall, Tyler stood.  "Your time is up.  Pack up and be on your way."

Severus sat there shaking his head for a minute before he put his essay away and tossed his Potions book into his satchel.  Muggle Studies…

"Have a nice night, Octavian."  Biting his lip, Severus stood in the doorway hoping that this time things would end differently.

They didn't.

"Likewise, Mr Snape."

***

Harry sighed and tilted his head down so the hot water could beat down on his neck and upper back.  It wasn't nearly as effective at getting the tension out of his muscles as other methods, such as Severus's massages, but it worked well enough.  And it was a good excuse to skip dinner and the cacophony of a school full of children when they all sat down to eat.

Maybe he was turning into a prig as he got older.  As a student he had never minded the noise.

Harry shuddered and shifted under the stream of hot water.  Lifting his head, he let the water run over his face.  With the water pounding down on him, Harry finally felt that he could relax.  He didn't relax often, even here in this time where he knew he didn't have to be on his guard as often as back home.  Here the tension and stress just kept building, as it had when he was younger and felt that there was no one he could talk to.

Now there really was no one he could talk to.  No Sirius or Draco or Remus.  No Ron or Hermione.  No Severus.

It was almost as if he could feel the heat and hard lines of Severus's body behind him and Harry leaned back, humming low with contentment in the back of his throat.  Usually his daydreams didn't feel so real, but Harry blamed it on how tired and stressed and lonely he felt, and enjoyed it as much as he could.

His hand slipped down his stomach and he lightly stroked his cock, sucking in a breath at the touch.  He imagined it was Severus's hand, with his longer fingers, and Harry firmed his grip, trying to match Severus's, but it wasn't the same.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he lowered his head and tried to lose himself in the feel of the hot water and his hand.

His strokes became longer and there was more pressure against his back -- the wall, his brain unhelpfully supplied, because Harry didn't want it to be the wall, he wanted it to be Severus and he wanted the hand that was squeezing and pulling and bringing him closer to be Severus's ,because he missed him, and he was lonely, and he wanted him there.

He sobbed as he came, and arms reached around him and held him against a firm chest that wasn't supplied by his imagination, and a hand stroked his abdomen and side, and a mouth nuzzled against his neck and a thigh pressed between his, and Harry sighed and collapsed into the hold of his Severus's arms.

"About time you got here.  How long were you standing there watching me?"

"Long enough."  Severus's voice was warm and low and his breath whispered over Harry's ears, making him shiver.  Pulling the lobe of Harry's ear between his teeth, Severus nipped and bit and licked and sucked until Harry was growling and demanding that he stop but not stop, and that Severus knew perfectly well what he meant when he wasn't making any sense at all.

A small chuckle and Severus pulled away.  Plucking the soap from where it was lying, he started to systematically wash Harry and himself.  Harry couldn't help it; he laughed.  Severus was so serious and did things in such an orderly fashion when it came to everyday life and Harry was so scattered about…

Severus nipped at Harry's lips and then swiped his tongue along their plump curves.  "Behave, brat, or this will be the end of it and we shall talk for the rest of the night."

Wrapping his arms around Severus, Harry let the feel sink in: fingers scrubbing his shoulders, his back, his arse, and then his sides and his arms.  It'd been so long since he'd done something so mundane with Severus that he loved every glorious minute of its utter normalcy.

"Dunno if the talking is a threat, Sev."  Harry muttered as Severus slipped down to his knees to wash his legs.  Harry's hands were on Severus's shoulders to help him keep his balance as Severus picked up one foot and rubbed soap along the instep, hard, to keep Harry from kicking out because the bottom of his feet were sensitive to touch.  Severus was possibly the only person who knew that, Harry thought, and he lowered his head to rub his cheek along the top of Severus's head.

Then his cock was surrounded by a hot mouth and nimble tongue and Harry groaned.  He dug his fingers into Severus's shoulders, sighing and groaning and shaking his head.  Not yet, he wanted to say.  Draw it out, he thought, but the words wouldn't pass his lips as he threw his head back and let the sensation drag him to the edge again.

A final lick and a suck and Severus pulled away to stand.  Harry didn't know whether to curse the man for being a tease, or to just lean against him and be glad that on occasion Severus knew exactly what he was thinking.

Severus grinned and brought Harry's right wrist up to his lips and pressed a kiss there.  "Mine."

Harry hummed and looked at him with a question, but shoved it aside as he leaned up and claimed a kiss that tasted bitter and salty, yet sweet, and clean but at the same time not.  Harry breathed against Severus's lips, moving the kiss slowly forward on his terms.  Severus might have the advantage of being a sneaky Slytherin, but Harry wasn't going to let the man run roughshod over him and leave before he had his own way.  Like he had last time.

Fingers tangled in Severus's hair, he pulled and backed Severus against the shower wall.  Tongues tangled, and they clung and scratched and clawed at each other blissfully, until Severus groped about with one hand to shut off the water and pushed Harry toward the bedroom with the other.

So maybe he wasn't in complete control, but neither was Severus and that's what mattered.  It was only fair that Severus's cool composure was as shattered as Harry's.  They tumbled toward the bed, fingers and lips touching wherever they could reach, slick skin slipping and sliding and drawing groans and gasps and hitches of breath from each other, and Harry paused a moment to look at Severus.

He loved watching Severus like this, unguarded and open and not hiding.  So much time was spent hiding that Harry tired of it and the unabashed look in Severus's eyes told him so much more than any words rarely -- no, never uttered -- ever could.

He stopped with his hands splayed across Severus's chest, and watched him.  The black eyes followed his and soon Severus was looking away, leaning up to catch Harry's nipple between his teeth and tug.

Harry grunted, and tried to capture Severus's gaze again, knowing that he had to, knowing that there was something in Severus's urgency and demanding behaviour.

"You're in an odd mood today."

Severus didn't answer.  Instead he stroked down Harry's arm and wrapped his fingers around Harry's wrist.  "This makes you mine."  Awe and reverence and a hundred other things that Harry only heard on occasion, but made all the more worthwhile for their rarity, filled Severus's voice.

Grabbing Severus's wrist in his hand, Harry ran his fingers over the small mark on the inside of Severus's right wrist.  "I know.  And this," he scratched at it lightly, "makes you mine."  Harry narrowed his eyes.  "I still say I'll change it one day if I ever figure out how."

Severus tugged Harry's arm until he lost his balance and was sprawled on top of him.  "No.  I don't want that to change.  I belong to you and don't mind the fact."  His voice was gruff.

Turning, Harry slid off from on top of Severus and leaned on his side.  "I know.  Not that.  The bond mark."  Not letting go of Severus's wrist, he brought it to his lips and kissed the mark, mimicking the action from the shower.  "So tell me, Severus."  Harry's lips moved against skin.  "Is today one of those odd days where you feel the need to get rid of an excess of emotion, or have you been drinking?"

"One of those days," Severus intoned.  His eyes were closed.  "My Slytherin.  You are.  I marked you as one when I burned my family crest into your wrist."

"Does that make you my Gryffindor, then?"  Harry shook his head.  "Only you would enjoy the irony of the symbols branded on us."

Severus's lips curled up at the corners.  "Can you blame me?"

"I can try."  Harry settled his lips against the bottom of Severus's sternum, mouthing silently against his skin how he had missed him.  His lips moved slowly across Severus's skin, adoring even the pale silvery lines that crossed Severus's body in places. Some scars Harry had seen when they'd been fresh injuries, red and swollen; some had always been there.  There would be more, and he would draw his fingers along those with the same care that he did to the ones there now.

Severus's fingers carded through Harry's hair, pressing against his scalp and along the muscles in his neck.  "You have been missed, Harry."

"By you?"  Harry pressed his fingers into Severus's hips and nipped at the sharp projection of bone.

Severus dragged in a jagged-breath.  "Among others, I suppose."

Harry smiled and setting his chin on Severus's stomach, looked up at him.  "So glad to know that you feel my absence, Sev."

"Of course I do.  There aren't any sharp body parts digging into the softer portions of my anatomy.  I sleep much better."

"Utter rot," Harry mumbled, and pressed his nose into the springy hair surrounding Severus's cock.  "I bet."  He paused to kiss the base of the shaft.  "That you've."  A small lick.  "Not got."  A longer swirl under the head.  "A wink of sleep."  He swallowed the head and sucked, humming around it inquisitively.

Severus grunted and cursed, digging his fingers into Harry's shoulders while his hips bucked, pushing deeper into the hot, wet cavern of Harry's mouth.  "Obnoxious brat," he breathed.

Harry pulled away, licking one last time at the slit.  "You know you like me obnoxious."

"I know no such thing."  Severus glared, but there wasn't any heat in it.  It was just something that Severus did and Harry caused, and it was familiar and home.

A smile crossed Harry's face, and he looked away partially ashamed that a glare had had that much of an effect on him.  He rolled over to the side and pulled out the bottle that Severus had left the last time.  It was quickly taken out of his fingers.

"Hey!"

A kiss pressed to his shoulder, and Harry collapsed onto the bed, turning to look at Severus who was coating his fingers.  He was lying on his back, somewhat propped up by pillows, his legs spread and his cock jutting out proudly.  Harry had never seen a more beautiful man in his opinion.  There was Severus, and that was it.

Harry watched, eyes heavy lidded, as Severus drew one finger down his own chest, past his cock and to his hole.  Licking his lips, Harry was transfixed by the sight of Severus preparing himself.  With a shudder, he pushed his face into Severus's side, breathing in the scent of skin and soap and them as well as the faintest traces of potions that always seemed to cling to him no matter what.

Harry kissed and licked and sucked at Severus's skin, loving every little spasm and movement brought forth by his lips or Severus's own fingers.  Out of the corner of his eye, Harry could see Severus's eyes slide shut and his jaw go slack as he pushed another finger in, twisting.  Pressing his lips to Severus's he sighed, his hand settling over Severus's on his knee, pushing it out just a little wider, opening Severus a little more.

Harry nuzzled his neck and chest, and whispered in Severus's ear how he always loved watching him do this, how it was better than being allowed to prepare him himself.  How seeing Severus this way was always breathtaking.

"If only it would take your breath," Severus's voice was shaky.  "Then you wouldn't be prattling on end…" he swallowed, "endlessly."

A grin and Harry was pulling Severus's hand away, shifting in between his knees and positioning himself against Severus's entrance.  "I can try to be quiet," he said as he pushed in slowly.

Severus shook his head.  "Don't bother."  A groan.  "Just move, you brat."

Pressing his forehead against Severus's chest, Harry breathed in deeply.  "If you insist, you impossible grump."  He thrust hard, Severus's fingers digging into his back as he buried himself.  "Damn, it's been forever, Sev."

Harry could feel the forced laugh.  "For you maybe, not quiet as long for--" The end of the sentence cut off and morphed into a long moan when Harry's rhythm picked up and his hand fit around Severus's prick pulling and squeezing.

"So, damn," Harry grunted -- the pull and squeeze of Severus's arse was driving him insane.  "Missed you, love you, want you, you're home.  Home.  Damn."  He bit his lip, putting an end to his babbling, and pushing his face against Severus's neck, he pressed kisses and sighs and groans instead of words onto Severus's skin.   He was moving faster, wanting to prolong the feeling but knowing he couldn't.  He just couldn't.  Growling, he came, his fingers flying over Severus's cock, and as his own orgasm powered through him, he could feel the push and throb of Severus's cock in his hand as he came as well.

Grunting, Harry sank against Severus's sweat and come-slick skin, and kissed his shoulder.  Severus's hands were stroking up and down his back, soothing and familiar.  Harry didn't bother moving or rolling off Severus, just stayed pressed against him and muttered the cleaning spell, not giving a damn if it was a waste of power or not.

"I do hope you don't do that in front of students."  Severus's voice had that heavy post-sex quality to it that Harry loved.  It made ignoring the slight censure so much easier.

"Do I look like an idiot?"  And placing two fingers over Severus's lips, Harry continued.  "Don't answer that."

"Wandless magic causes eyebrows to rise and tongues to wag."

Harry slid off Severus, but kept their legs entwined.  "And no one will know if I use it in my chambers."  He sighed and settled his head on Severus's chest so he could listen to the steady beat of his heart.

Severus had fallen silent again, running his fingers over Harry's arm and side, tracing Harry's own scars, and had Harry not been so very comfortable with Severus he would have flinched.  Could feel the weak desire to do so anyway.

"Where did this one come from?  I don't know."  A change of subject.

"It's old."

The hand on his side stilled.  "Yes, from before."  But Severus didn't press him further and his hand moved to run through Harry's hair.

"End of sixth year.  Rampaging Hippogriff."  Harry shifted.  He was getting tired, could feel his eyes getting heavy, but he didn't want to sleep yet.  Wanted to keep talking.  Even if it was about one of his damned scars.

"Hippogriff was third year, and if I remember correctly," and Severus's voice let Harry know he had, "it was Draco that had been hurt.  Not you."

Harry smiled at the memory.  It was a mean cruel memory, but Draco and his relationship had been mean and cruel at the time.  "No, this was another Hippogriff.  A human one that I didn't pay the proper respect to.  Or so he says.  We stopped the carriage we were in and got into a fight."  He shrugged.  "It was a long time ago, but we agreed to remember it.  He has a scar too."

"I should ask Draco to show it to me sometime."

"He won't.  Too proud."  A kiss.  "I got him better than he got me, though he got me first.  Was fun."  Harry yawned.  He was getting sluggish and his words were slurring together.  "You stayin'?"

"For a bit, perhaps.  Do you want me to?"

Harry curled closer.  "Stupid question."

At the very edge of sleep, Harry almost thought he heard Severus say "Perhaps."  Shaking his head, he sank into unconsciousness, content for the moment.

***

When Severus jerked awake, he found that somehow during the night -- that he hadn't meant to sleep through at all, even partially -- Harry had managed to curl his arm over Severus's chest and acquire his shoulder for a pillow.  Clingy brat.  Though the thought was tinted with fondness and the desire to have Harry back, in the right time.

Without his usual care for not waking Harry, Severus untangled himself and turned to look for the small clock that Harry always kept by the bed. It wasn't there.

"Don't do that."  Harry had sat up as well and was rubbing at his eyes.  "You startled me.  I could have knocked you out."

Shoving aside the images of times that Harry had almost done so, Severus cast around for his wand with his hand.  "I never meant to sleep."  He could have sworn that he had brought it to the bed.

"S'all right.  What time is it?"

"That is what I am trying to determine, but your clock seems to have disappeared."

Harry grinned.  "That's 'cause I didn't bring it."  Turning over, Harry grabbed his wand from the bedside table, muttering a quick spell.  A shimmering clock face appeared overhead.  It was only shortly after one in the morning.  Groaning, Harry collapsed back against his pillow, complaining about insane lovers that woke perfectly normal people at all hours of the night.

"When have you ever been normal?"  Severus punctuated the question with a quick kiss pressed to Harry's temple.

"I've always been normal, thank you very much.  It's the rest of the world."  Harry rolled onto his back and flung an arm over his eyes to block the light that Severus had summoned once he had found his wand.  "Why'd you need to know the time, and what reason could you possibly have for turning on a light?"

"I have to leave."

"If you wanted to wake me up there are nicer ways," Harry grumped.

"As amusing as watching you wake up when you have no desire to do so is, Harry, I must go."

"You came here by time turner, right?"  Harry wrapped his arms around Severus's shoulders and rested his head on Severus's back.  "Then why not just go back to sleep and go back in the morning.  When the sun has risen."

"The time turner came into my possession in a rather unscrupulous manner--"

"You stole it."

"And," Severus continued, ignoring Harry, "as I left without informing Albus--"

"The less Albus knows the better, in your opinion."

"-- in the middle of the night--"

"Figured you should be sneaky about it."

"-- I deem it necessary to return in the middle of the night."

"Uh huh.  I'm sure Albus already knows, Sev."

"While that is probable, that is not the only reason I think I should depart now."  Severus twisted so he could climb out of bed, and Harry's arms fell away.  "It is not appropriate for me to stay here all night while there are students about."

"Really?"

Standing, Severus stretched and moving away from the bed, began collecting his clothes.  "A professor should never let his lover stay the night.  A professor shouldn't--"

"You do realise you sound rather idiotic right now.  I stay the night in your rooms all the time and no one knows it because they don't want to see it.  With a few exceptions.  Technically my rooms are down the hall from yours."  Harry paused.  "Though I don't think I've ever been in them."

Severus said nothing.

"People believe what they want to believe, and in our case, most want to believe that I just enjoy annoying you."

"Exactly."

"I couldn't have proved your point for you.  I was trying to prove my own."

Severus smirked.  "Most people still believe that you are currently in a relationship with Draco because that is what they want to believe.  He publicly saved your life, you are close friends, and he has firmly established himself on the side of the 'Light' by going against his father.  People want to see you with a beautiful person, Harry--"

Harry rolled his eyes.

"And Draco is that.  And the public likes nothing more than a reformed sinner.  Draco is that as well."

"Severus--"

"No one -- not even most of those that know about our relationship -- wants to see you with me.  There are too many doubts as to my loyalty, as there should be.  I am old enough to be your father.  I am not considered attractive.  Those truths…" Severus raised a finger to keep Harry from arguing. "And the fact that we're quite good at bickering and fighting constantly is what gives us a very convenient alibi that we've chosen to use."

Harry was glowering, and Severus was sure that given a chance this could move into a roiling argument, but Severus had no intention of letting it get that far.

"However, here, you are in a precarious position.  The Albus of this time and some members of the Order have doubts as to your loyalties.  You're not fully trusted."

"I know."

"Having a strange man visit in the middle of the night without informing the Headmaster, especially when said strange man has a Dark Mark on his left arm, is a sure way to make sure you're not granted access to the scroll ever again."  Severus sighed.  "Harry, it is essential that you finish translating that scroll.  You know that, I know that, and Albus knows that.  Too much could change if you don't."

Harry said nothing.  Instead he flung off the covers, quickly pulling on a pair of pyjama bottoms before turning his back to Severus and crossing his arms.

Severus watched the snake of Harry's tattoo hiss and shift restlessly and knew that what he had said had been listened to and accepted.   Pulling on his shirt and doing up the buttons, Severus watched and waited patiently for Harry to do or say something.

"I know you're right, Severus.  I just… Bloody hell."  Harry sighed.  "I think you may have been right all those years.  I am a dunderhead."

Severus smiled.  Harry would never change in some ways.  "You aren't an idiot.  You do, however, have an awful habit of acting first and then thinking."  Sobering, Severus lost the small smile.  Harry had yet another burden to carry this year, in addition to all the others he carried constantly.  And he had to do so alone.

Not just the scroll, though that was the most important burden he had.  Harry had other burdens that Severus knew could potentially break Harry.  And as much as Severus wanted to save him, he knew he couldn't.  It was why he was there, at this exact time, after all.

Harry turned toward him, an unbelievable grin on his face as he tried to lighten the mood.  "Nothing to ask me?"

Severus shook his head.  "You've been granted a reprieve from debriefing.  I've heard that you're under stress."

Harry's grin turned grim.  "You could say that.  And I don't want to talk about it."

Grabbing the first shirt his fingers came into contact with, Severus tossed it at Harry.  "Come along.  We're going for a walk."

Harry raised an eyebrow.  "Why?"

"I need to leave."

"No matter what you believe, Sev, that statement does not explain everything."

"If you must know, and I'm sure you must, I would rather walk across the castle with company than without.  You are to escort me to the dungeons."

***

Severus Snape stood transfixed at the sight in front of him.  Rounding a corner from a sojourn to the library, he had skidded to a halt when he heard footsteps.  He'd managed to shrink into the shadows before Professor Tyler and his companion had rounded the corner and stopped by one of the windows lining the corridor.

He'd hoped that they would continue on and that he'd not be caught out of bounds again.  Not after the last punishment.  Severus shuddered.  But the other man that Tyler was with -- Severus didn't recognise him -- grabbed Tyler by the arm and bent his head to kiss him.

The dark haired man was much taller than Tyler and dressed oddly, but Severus barely spent a moment on that detail.  His fingers were pressed to either side of Tyler's face, and Severus could only watch in fascination as his mouth moved over his professor's in such a way it was obvious that he'd done it a million, two million, maybe three million times before.

Severus's heart plummeted as he watched Tyle-- Octavian's hands move smoothly along this man's back, one moving up to tangle in the black locks of hair.

Dark lashes resting against his cheeks, Octavian sighed, breaking the kiss, though his lips remained only a whisper away from his partner's.  The taller man's arm wrapped around Octavian's shoulders, and he pulled him closer, flush against his body, holding Octavian still with his hand gripping Octavian's hip.  He whispered something, and Octavian's eyes shot open at the same moment that the other man bent his head to resume their broken kiss.

Severus could hear their muffled groans, and he looked away, almost immediately turning back.  It was such an intimate embrace that he knew he shouldn't watch it, but he couldn't help it.  His heart squeezed even tighter when they finally broke apart and Octavian's lover -- there wasn't anyone else it could have been -- rubbed his thumb in slow circles along Octavian's cheek.

Octavian looked so… Severus couldn't describe it.  All he knew is that he wanted Octavian to look at him that way, and that it would never happen.

He didn't even notice when Octavian's lover disappeared down the hall, or when Octavian turned and left.  Severus's head was bowed, and he was looking at the book he clutched in his hands, watching small drops of water splash onto its leather-bound surface until he realised that they were tears and that he was making them.

He swiped at his eyes angrily.  Dropping, the book, he took off for the Slytherin dungeons, his footfalls heavy against the stone.  Not caring who heard him.

Not caring if anyone saw him.

***

The older Severus Snape leaned down and picked up the fallen book.  Running his thumb over the damp spots and smearing them, he shook his head.

Harry would kill him if he knew what he'd just done.

He slipped the book into his jacket and took out the time turner, sinking into the same shadows that a much younger Severus had been hiding in only moments before.

It was about time he returned that book to Madam Pince.

***

Severus ignored Lucius when he tore through the entrance to the common room.  He headed right for the stairs, planning to go straight upstairs to his room to hide behind the curtains of his four-poster, but Lucius stopped him with one word.

"Severus."

Lucius Malfoy always got what he wanted.  It was best not to argue with him.

"What's wrong?  Did Tyler catch you again and assign another horrible punishment?"

Severus didn't turn, just shook his head before leaning against the wall.  "No, but I wish him to hell.  Go away, Lucius."

"No.  Talk.  You aren't in trouble with the Headmaster, are you?  Or worse, Simeon?"

Knowing that Lucius wouldn't leave him alone, Severus turned and sat down on one of the steps.  "No.  Both the Headmaster and our Head of House are still blissfully unaware that I'm trying to coax the current Defence Against the Dark Arts professor into a scandalous, clandestine affair."

"Then what happened?"

"I made an unwanted discovery on my return trip from the library.  Octavian Tyler has a lover."

"Really?"

"They were kissing in one of the more out of the way hallways I was taking to avoid being seen."  

"Tyler snogging in the halls.  Oh, that is good."

Severus glared.  "No, Lucius.  What I saw was not a quick snog and grope.  Nothing like what the others sneak up to the Astronomy tower to do.  This was different."  Severus pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead.  "This was two lovers who knew each other very well, saying goodbye.  They didn't need words.  It was incredible."  Letting his hair fall around his face, Severus rubbed at his eyes with his hand.  "I hate him."

"Incredible?"

"Must you latch onto the wrong things, Lucius?"

Lucius waved his hand.  "How do you mean incredible?  I mean, I've seen lots of kisses, and I wouldn't call any of them incredible.  And what makes you so sure they were saying goodbye?"

Severus sucked a stream of air in between his teeth.  "Tyler had obviously just woken up, as he was only half dressed.  His lover," Severus spat the word, "was fully clothed.  Can we stop this foolish discussion?"

Standing up, Severus made to continue up the steps, but Lucius grabbed onto his arm and wouldn't let go.

"How do you know it was incredible?"

Lucius was not letting this go, and the more he asked, the more Severus replayed the kiss in his heads.  The tilts of their head, their sighs, their small touches.  It was too much.  He hated them.  Octavian, the bastard who kissed him, and Lucius.

"I don't know.  I just do.  It was all passion and touch.  The type of kiss that you dream about and when you wake up you feel completely unsatisfied and wanting to know what could come after."

"Lucky Professor Tyler."

Glowering, Severus pushed Lucius away from him.  "You can join him in hell!"

"Stop overreacting, Severus.  It cannot be that bad."

"Professor Tyler has a lover, Lucius.  I'll never have a chance now.  I should just give up."

Lucius paused, thinking.  "Perhaps you just need to get his attention."

"In case you've failed to notice.  I've been trying that.  He couldn't care less about any student in such a way."

"Not a student.  A powerful wizard."

Severus stopped.  "I'm listening."

Lucius looked around even though there wasn't anyone in the common room at such a late hour as this other than the two of them.  "You know my father is a servant of the Dark Lord," he whispered.

"Everyone knows that.  So is mine.  Over half the Slytherins' parents are."

Clearing his throat, Lucius latched onto Severus's arm and pulled him back down so they were both sitting in the shadows of the stairs.  "The Dark Lord is looking for individuals, talented wizards with a desire to succeed.  He promises power, Severus.  With that you could impress even Professor Tyler."

"Rather a juvenile reason to go bending my knee to the Dark Lord."  Severus shook his head.  "How do you know this anyway?"

Lucius swallowed, his eyes quickly glancing at Severus before darting away.  He rolled up his sleeve.

On his arm was the Dark Mark.

"I joined him over Christmas break.  It hurt and burned for days afterward, but it is worth it, Severus.  He could help you, and not only with Tyler.  He could help you become the most notable potions expert in all of England.  People would respect you for your own merits and strengths.  No one would think less of you because you're a bastard."

Severus glared, and Lucius flinched, but continued on.  "You're acknowledged as his heir, the only child.  Even if he did have children legitimately that wouldn't change.  Your grandfather dotes on you.  You grandfather is one of the Dark Lord's contemporaries.  I've seen him.  Just think how proud he'd be of you, Severus."

His grandfather had never given him any indication that he wanted Severus to ally himself with the Dark Lord where his own loyalties lay.  But maybe Lucius was right.  If the Dark Lord could give him all that.  Respect and power… Maybe he would be able to get Octavian's attention.

"Next weekend is a meeting."  Lucius's voice cut into Severus's thoughts.  "My father has put in an excuse for my absence.  I have to attend a dinner party in the name of familial duty.  I'm sure I can get you invited.  Tell me by midweek."

Lucius stood, and rolling down his sleeve.  He started up the stairs, but halted a few steps above Severus.  "Just think about it, Severus." ♦

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