The Paradox of Existence

by DragonLight

Re-Posted: 12-21-2005
Rating: Explicit Sex
Genre: Drama/Romance
Summary: On Assignment for Dumbledore, in the past, Harry sees his lover from a new perspective, that of a professor.
Pairing: HP/SS
Beta: Heartfelt thanks and the deepest gratitude to Isis who worked with me for literally years on this. So no blaming her if you've found mistakes, understand! :D Thanks to Juice who was there for a grammar check whenever I needed it.
Acknowledgements: My thanks to Gaycrow, who is the biggest fan of this story and always gave me a reason to work on it. And to Sparrowhawk who never failed to give me a swift kick in the ass whenever I said I didn't want to do this anymore.

Chapter One:  Backwards and Forwards

Harry didn’t know how he had let Albus talk him into this.  He didn't want to be here.  Looking over at the assembled students in front of him, he watched as they shifted nervously in their seats and avoided his gaze.  The effect he had on these students --ones that had no preconceived notions about what he was like -- cheered him.  Severus would be proud.

He pushed away from the wall in the corner of the room, where he had been waiting for his class to enter and take their seats.  Walking past the window, he noticed quite a few students glance away, or open their mouths in silent gasps as the light caught on the hilt of the dagger he kept strapped to his thigh.  He leaned against his desk and took out his wand, casually rolling it between his fingers before facing the class.  

He wondered if any of them saw some sort of similarity between their classmate, James Potter, and himself.  It was doubtful; after all, he had grown his hair out long over the years and had acquired other scars -- besides the one on his forehead -- that distracted from his features.  But probably the largest change in his appearance had been when he got rid of his glasses.  He shouldn't worry about it too much; people saw what they wanted to see, and, if he was to believe his godfather, he was no longer a carbon copy of his father and instead was a blend between both of his parents.

Forcing himself to relax, he turned to pick up the class roster and begin.  

“I am Octavian Tyler, your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.” Harry paused and glanced around the room again.  “You are the sixth year Gryffindors and Slytherins, correct?”  The silence of the class indicated that no confirmation would be forthcoming, and he glanced at the roster.  “Am I correct, Mr. Black, or is your conversation with Mr. Potter too important to answer me?”  He had been curious about his father and godfather -- had, in fact, been looking forward to seeing them while they were still students -- but they had not been present the night before at the opening feast.  He had overheard McGonagall talking to Flickwick about a flying motorcycle and arriving late and... Pushing the thought away, he focused his attention on young Sirius.  The memory had hit too close to home, making him remember his own time at Hogwarts, and he was homesick enough without actively thinking about it.

“No, sir.  I mean yes, sir.  Wait, I mean no, sir.”  All the Slytherins and a good portion of the Gryffindors snickered.

Harry signalled for quiet.  “Well, which is it, yes or no?”

Sirius glanced over at Remus, who looked away.  “What was the question again?”

A choked laugh from the other side of the room caught his attention.  “Mr. Snape, pray tell, what is so amusing?”

“Nothing, sir.”  Followed by a smirk directed at Sirius.

“Well, now that that’s settled.  Let’s move on to the seating arrangements.”

A simultaneous groan from the class greeted that announcement.

“I’m glad to know that you all approve.  All right, everyone grab your things and move to the side of the classroom.  Mr Black, why don’t you take the centre seat in the front row?  Mr. Snape, the seat to the right of him.”  He continued placing Gryffindor and then Slytherin, until the entirety of the class was arranged into a Gryffindor-Slytherin checkerboard.  Over the years, he had found this arrangement the easiest means with which to maintain control.

“I’ve heard stories about this class from the other professors.  I warn you that I will not stand for any misbehaving.  While in this class, you will listen.  The things I teach you may very well one day save your lives.  There will be no pranks.” Harry turned a glare on the four Marauders. “No snide comments.” His glare moved to Snape. “And I expect full class participation.  Homework is assigned for a reason.  There will be no pointless essays.  I did too many of them during my school years, and I will not make you repeat those useless endeavours.”  He gazed around the room.  “The last thing that you should know is that I will in no way tolerate House prejudice.  If I hear of it, a suitable punishment will follow.  Follow these rules and we will get along just fine.

“The next order of business will be a short review.”  Harry turned toward the blackboard and started to write some terms down.  “Who can tell me about boggarts?”  Without looking, he called on a student, “Mr. Lupin, will you please enlighten the class.”

~~~

“He’s positively evil.  I mean, sitting me next to Snape." Sirius stabbed at his roast with his fork.

“Well perhaps if you weren’t talking during the first five minutes of his class, he wouldn’t have, Sirius.”  

“Oh be quiet, Remus.”  

“What I don’t get is why everyone is walking around on eggshells around him.”  James directed the statement at Peter and Remus.

“You... you mean that you have… haven’t heard?”

“Heard what, Peter?”  

A sharp, female voice from across the table answered.  “Last night, at the welcoming feast, Lucius tripped a first year Hufflepuff on his way to sit after he had been sorted.  When he finally got up and started to his seat, Lucius tripped him again.  Next thing anyone knew, there was a dagger embedded in the table a centimetre from Lucius's hand, and Professor Tyler was standing over him.  It was the angriest I'd ever seen a professor, which can't be a good sign for his temperament since it was a relatively minor discretion.  He got detention every weekend for a month.”  Lily narrowed her eyes.  “Of course, if you hadn’t been joyriding you’d have known."

James and Sirius looked up at the Head Table.  Professor Tyler was sitting next to Dumbledore, laughing at some joke the old wizard must have told him.

“Are you sure, Evans?”  

“Absolutely.  Aren’t I right, Remus?”  

They looked at Remus who nodded his head as he chewed, then at the Slytherin table where the seventh year Lucius was talking to Snape, and finally to the Head table, where Professor Tyler gave them a knowing look.

James quickly averted his eyes and turned back to his plate.  “Bloody hell.”

“My thoughts exactly,” muttered Sirius.

~~~

Harry looked at the Gryffindor table.  His father and Sirius must have heard about the Sorting feast, if the looks on their faces were anything to go by.  He couldn't contain the small thread of pleasure that coursed through him at the thought.  He knew all their tricks and wasn't about to let them get away with any of them.  After all, he had to amuse himself somehow.

“So, Octavian, why don’t you tell me a little more about your home?”

Harry tore his gaze from the group at the Gryffindor table.  “I've already told you everything that I can, Albus.  I'm sure that the headmaster at my previous post told you everything else you needed to know in his letter."  He smiled.   "So stop being a nosy old headmaster.”  

"What about that scar?"  

Harry’s fingers immediately sought out the scar on his forehead.  

“No not that one, the other one.”  Albus pointed to a scar that started on his right cheek and disappeared under the collar of his shirt.

“A war injury.  Not a particularly fond memory.  I had to wrestle the knife out of my opponent’s hand.  It wasn’t even that deep, and shouldn’t have left a scar, but it was just my luck that the knife had a rather nasty curse that kept the cut from being healed properly.”

“Well, I think it makes you look like quite the rogue."  Albus leaned closer and lowered his voice.  "Must be quite helpful with the ladies."  He lifted one bushy eyebrow multiple times in quick succession.

Harry choked on his pumpkin juice, eyes wide.  “Actually, it isn't.  Nor would I want it to.”  

For a moment, Albus just looked at him, and then a small smile found its way onto his face and his eyes glittered mischievously.  “So I need not warn the female members of staff then.  Just the men.”  Albus paused.  "Do try to control yourself around me, Octavian."

Harry dropped his goblet, its contents spilling across the table.  Most of the staff looked at him curiously as he muttered under his breath about annoying headmasters and bad jokes.  Albus laughed as he stood to leave the Great Hall.

~~~

Leaning back in his chair, Harry fidgeted with a loose string on the cuff of his shirt.  Albus had left him alone in the office twenty minutes earlier to take care of a 'situation'.  Belatedly, it occurred to him that Albus was probably watching him somehow, looking for signs that he wasn't what he said he was.  Since that was exactly the case, Harry had no intention of giving the Headmaster more of a reason to look into things.

Harry pulled out his dagger and cut the string off from the cuff, wrapping it around his finger and watching as the circulation cut off, turning his finger red, before releasing it.  He must have repeated that motion ten times before Albus opened the door and returned to their "meeting".

"Did I pass, Headmaster?"

Narrowed wary blue eyes met his.  "I don't know what you mean, my boy."

"Of course.  I believe we were talking about the real reason I'm here."

Albus nodded.  "The scroll.  My brother's letter said that you are a Parselmouth, a rare trait indeed."

"I find it useful on occasion."

"Can you read it?"

Harry shrugged.  "Never tried.  In fact, I've never seen the language written down."

Pulling a roll of parchment from within his sleeve, Albus held it out to Harry.  "A random selection of what we assume to be paragraphs.  Can you make anything out?  Copied by hand instead of magic, if that makes a difference."

Harry unrolled it and stared at the snake-like symbols curving across the page.

"Can I have a quill?"

Albus nodded and passed one over, a thoughtful look etched on his face.  

Turning the parchment over in his hands, Harry drew a snake in the top corner.  Visual cues always helped him focus.  "The grass is green, and life is short."  It seemed serpentine enough.  The sounds slipped off his tongue and while he was still thinking of them -- and his thoughts were still focused on snakes -- he started writing what he hoped was the same sentence.

Looking down, he saw shaky symbols that vaguely resembled those on the other side.  He flipped the paper from one side to the other trying to identify anything that looked similar.  After a minute he thought he recognized 'the', but he might have been mistaken.  The many facets of language had never been one of his strong points.  In the past he had always relied on Severus or the Headmaster for obscure translations; it was odd to find their positions reversed.

The Albus in his time hadn't mentioned that this wouldn't be easy, but what else had he expected?

Staring at what he assumed was 'the', he tried to force the part of his brain that knew Parseltongue to the forefront.  

"The we... I think this says 'the week'.  I'd need more time."  Sighing, Harry set the parchment down on his knees and looked up at Albus.  His face was a polite mask.  One that Harry had seen plenty of times directed at strangers.

Albus nodded.  "I expected as much.  It would have been nice if you could just look and start reading, but I suppose that would have been too much to ask.  I will bring this up to my colleagues and see what they want to do.  I'll get back to you over the next few days, Octavian."

Harry nodded.  Standing, he made his way to the door.  Hopefully he had given a decent performance of a neutral party out only for a profit, and, if he was lucky, the Order in this time would take him into their confidence and give him the access he needed.  This was one mission that he definitely didn't want to fail.

~~~

* Future*

“Remember, you can’t change anything.  No warning your parents, or Sirius, or Severus.  You are there to work with the past Order and to teach.  I believe we already went over the parameters of what you can tell the past me.  Do you understand, Harry?”

Harry watched as the headmaster walked over to where his phoenix, Fawkes, was perched.  "Yes, Albus.  We went over it quite a few times.”  

“You’re going because the Order needs someone who can translate Parseltongue, and I remember a Mr. Tyler -- who looked just like you -- who could do exactly that.”

“I know, Albus.”  His eyes followed the Headmaster to the window.

“Either Sirius or Severus will check up on you once a month.  They will make sure that you have everything you need.”

“All right, Albus.”  

Once again, Albus paced over to the phoenix’s perch.  “Remember, you cannot directly oppose the Dark Lord.  Stay away from him at all costs.  And don’t forget to give the impression of neutrality to everyone except the Order.  You will agree to keep their secrets.  You have no side in the war of the past, at least to the outside world.”

“Yes, Albus.”

Nine steps back to the window.  “That means you can’t take sides, Harry.  You can’t favour one House over another.”

“Like I do that now.”  

Albus paused halfway from Fawkes to look at the 25 year-old man sitting calmly in one of the plush chairs by the fire watching him pace.  “True, after your sixth year you didn’t tolerate House prejudices.  Not even from members of your own House.”  Albus paced the rest of the way to the perch.

“Severus said I had a paradigm shift when Draco blocked that curse from hitting me in the back.  Personally, I like smaller words, and prefer saying ‘I saw the error of my ways.’”  Harry sighed.  “Albus, you don't need to worry.  I know that things happen for a reason.  And even though many horrible things are happening now, I know that it could most likely be worse if I change things.  Besides, even with the loss and pain, I am happy with my life.  I don’t want it to change.”

Albus nodded.

“Is that all?”  

Albus started to nod, but then stopped and shook his head.  Sighing, Harry sank back into the soft chair.

“Just one more thing.”  

Harry raised his eyebrow, imitating Severus.  

“No propositioning the students.”

Harry laughed.  “What about the reverse?  What about if a student propositions me?”

“Harry!”

“All right, I got it.  Students are off limits.”

Harry stood and made his way to the door.  As he was reaching for the handle, the Headmaster once again called him.  “Harry, relax and enjoy yourself.  See the people you hold dear before the war changed them.  It’s almost a vacation.”  

“Yes, Albus.”  Harry was out the door, down the stairs and on the other side of the gargoyle before the realization finally dawned on him:  he would have to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts again.  He had thought that he had finally got out of that position two years ago.  With a sigh, Harry continued to move down the hallway to the Muggle Studies classroom where his students were waiting for their tardy professor.

~~~

That evening, Harry walked into the potions classroom, where Severus was privately tutoring two students.  Harry's eyes followed the movements of the long, graceful fingers as they hovered over each ingredient, as Severus explained their purpose to the young lady that sat across from him. When Harry had been a student at Hogwarts, Severus wouldn't have even considered giving anyone private tuition in the subject. Things had changed. Harry had learned what these students were just beginning to understand; Professor Snape was really a better teacher one-on-one.  

Harry waited for a pause in the lesson before quietly clearing his throat.  The seventh year Ravenclaw that had been taken under Sev's wing, so to speak, and was receiving advanced tuition in Potions, looked up.  “Hello, Professor Potter.”

“Good evening, Mr. Eytinge.  I hope I wasn’t interrupting your experiment?”

“No, sir.  I was just letting it cool before I bottle it.”

“Ah. Important step, that.  I don’t recall how many vials and beakers I cracked because I didn’t let my potions cool properly.”

“139 beakers and 257 vials.  And that encompasses all 7 years of your education.”  The pronouncement was made by a warm baritone from the other workbench.  The second year who was being tutored giggled at the look of righteous indignation that crossed Harry's face.  “That will be all for today, Ms. Ackers.  Clean out your cauldron and be on your way.  I expect you to be able to brew today’s potion flawlessly for the practical next week.”

“Yes, Professor Snape.  Thank you.”  The girl set to work.

“I couldn’t have possibly destroyed that many.  You’re making it up.”

A raised eyebrow was his only response.

“No, that is impossible, Professor Snape.  I most likely only destroyed fifty, at most.”

“Would you like me to go and retrieve my records, Potter?”

“That's quite all right.  You're probably correct.  Funny, it doesn’t seem that many.”

“Of course I’m right, Potter.”

“Oh yes, I keep forgetting, you are always right.”

“Well it is about time that you acknowledged the fact.”  The seventh year who had been biting his lip, started to laugh.  “Is something the matter, Mr Eytinge?”  

“No, Professor.”  The young man started to bottle the still slightly steaming potion.  He was on the third vial when the first one cracked.

“Like I said, a very important step.”  Harry leaned against one of the workbenches while Eytinge turned crimson, Ackers giggled and Snape glared.

“Mr. Eytinge, I will finish bottling the potion.  I’m sure that Professor Potter wouldn’t mind assisting.  His tally can’t get much worse, after all.  And, Ms. Ackers, I believe you have been dismissed.”  The two students knew a command to get out when they heard one.  

Harry moved over to where Severus was wiping away the remains of the spilled potion from the cracked vial.  He took the cloth out of Severus's hands to rinse it out in one of the sinks.

“I hold you responsible.”

“For the cracked vials, I didn’t expect anything less.  Is that two or three more to be added to my tally?”

“Two.”

“Ah.  How were your classes today?”

“I’m getting too old for this.”

Harry lifted his eyebrow on his way back to the workbench to start bottling the now cool potion.  “Old?  Sev, you aren’t old.  Albus is old.”

“Albus will outlive us all.”

“Of that I have no doubt, but he is old.  You are a child compared to him.”

“And you are an infant.”

“Severus.”  That one word held all the necessary disapproval that Harry needed to convey.  There was no way that he wanted to get into another argument about the difference in their ages.

“Fine.”

“Good.”

“So how was your day?”

“I had a meeting with Albus after lunch.  It ran over.  Again.  When I returned to my classroom it was a disaster area.  I promised the troublemakers detention with you; they calmed down quick enough.  I can’t supervise their detentions, after all.  I leave tomorrow.”  Harry whispered the last three words, and he wasn't sure that Severus had heard them at all until a vial fell from his fingers and hit the workbench, shattering.

Harry immediately started to clean the broken glass and the spilled potion.  “At this rate, Mr. Eytinge won’t have any potion left.”  He noted that Severus's knuckles had gone white where he was gripping the edge of the table, his eyes fixed to a point on the far wall.  "Shall I add another to my tally?"  Harry paused.  "Severus?”  No answer.  "Sev?"  Harry went to stand behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist and laid his head against Severus’s shoulder.  Feeling Severus's muscles tense, he backed away.

“Tomorrow?”

“Severus, you’ve known for a month.  Well, almost a month.  You were there for most of the prep meetings.  You'll see me in three to four weeks.  Not even that long.  You’ll even be checking up on me, so we'll see each other before the end of a month.  We have it all worked out.  As far as you're concerned, I'll only be gone a month.  I'm the one who has to travel to the past for a year.  If anyone should have separation anxiety, it's me.”

“I see that your vocabulary is appropriately expanding.  And I do not, in any way, have 'separation anxiety'.  In fact, I'm quite pleased that I will not have to deal with your incessant infantile behaviour.”

“Well, I see that you’re in a better mood.  Don’t worry; you’ll still have Sirius and Remus to talk to.”  Severus glared at him.  “I thought we could go to dinner at the Three Broomsticks tonight.  Just the two of us.  No ‘mangy canines’ keeping us company.  You can tell me all about what I’m supposed to do in the past.”

“Harry, you know I can’t.”  Severus's voice was clipped and exasperated.  It occurred to him that Severus must be tired of having that same conversation with him.

“I know."  Harry grabbed Severus's arm right above the elbow and started to pull him toward the door.  "Come on, let’s go.  Besides, this'll be the last time we'll spend any time together for a month.”

Severus snatched his arm away and fell into step next to Harry.

Chapter Two:  The Dragon Incident

*The Past *

Harry was going to have words with his godfather when he got back to his own time.  He didn't know what he had expected, but this wasn't it.  The essay that he had just read was copied verbatim from “Excessive Arguments on Ways to Classify Various Species of Dragons, Their Fire and Their Blood” by Hugh Newtit.  Harry had become very familiar with the volume when he had worked with Charlie Weasley in Romania after he'd finished at Hogwarts.  The book was old -- although thinking about it, it had probably been published within the last few years from this time -- but it did cover all the different systems one might come across when dealing with a colony of dragon experts.  Harry regretfully marked a T on the paper and wrote a note under it.  “If you need to ask why, look in the library under Hugh Newtit and his book on dragon classification.  See me after class.”

“Bet you love having your old job back.  I know how much you missed teaching Defence.”  Harry looked up at the sound of the rough voice.

“Sirius, speak of the devil!”  Harry set his mouth into a thin line and drummed his fingers against the top of his desk.

“I’m starting to think that you spend too much time with Snape.”

“Really?  I’m much more curious about how you passed your Auror qualification exam.”

Sirius sauntered into the room and locked the door behind him.  Perching himself on one of the desks, he cast a silencing spell over the room before turning to Harry.  “Why would you be wondering that?”

Harry made a show of clearing his throat before reading aloud from the paper he had just graded.  “'Dragon classification is one of the most fascinating topics that can be touched upon by an intelligent mind.  There are many unknown facets that have yet to be discovered about dragon physiology and anatomy; however, such means are not the only way to classify these magical miracles…'  Should I even bother continuing?”

Sirius had the graciousness to flush.  “I remember getting that paper back. I--“  Sirius stopped when he saw the glare.  “I forgot.  You can’t know what’s going to happen in the past anymore than you can tell about the future.  It could sway your reactions.  So are you having trouble separating our older selves from our younger selves?”

“Not particularly.  You’ve all changed so much.  You, Remus, Severus, even Malfoy Sr., all of you seem so much more carefree.  Especially the Marauders; it’s as if none of you have a care in the world.  Well, except James.  He's still trying to find a way to convince Lily to sneak out without alerting his deranged Defence professor to his plans.  You know, I'm still trying to figure out how my parents got together.”

Sirius blanched.   “You heard that?”    

“Yes. I also heard that I’m a spy for Voldemort, I’m a spawn of the devil, I’m a day-walking vampire, that I’m ‘positively evil’, and that I’m a pissed off werewolf.  I’ll excuse the last since you were arguing with Remus that week.  You really didn’t like me in school, did you?  It seems as far as you and your friends went, I was this year's Professor Snape.”

“It’s your own fault.  You sat me next to that greasy Slytherin git.”

“That's right, how could I forget your disastrous tryst in fifth year?  Though I have to admit, certain other incidents did cinch your contempt for each other.”

“How did you find out about fifth year?  I know that neither I nor Remus told you about it.”

“Severus.”

Sirius scrunched his face into a disgusted grimace.  “Enough about greasy Slytherins and stupid students.  Albus wanted me to check on how the translation was going.”

“As well as can be expected, since I've never seen written Parseltongue before.  It’s a disturbing sight.  I haven't made any real progress because I have only had access to the scroll a handful of times since I got here."  Harry shook his head.  "It's as if I'm on probation with the Order, like they're feeling me out.  I know that they doubt my loyalties, they're supposed to, though this Albus did assure me that they would eventually stop and give me full access.  If I had to estimate the amount I've finished, I'd say about two lines.”

“Just two lines?  And why are they supposed to doubt you?”

“I have to teach myself a whole new written language, Sirius.  Just because I can speak it doesn’t mean I can automatically read it.  It's going to take some time.  The knowledge is there, it's just locked away.  At times...”  Harry shifted the papers on his desk.  "I don't trust myself, Sirius.  Do you think that you'd be able to keep from changing things if you were faced with the choice every day?  As long as the Order keeps me out, then I don't have to face that choice.  I'm here for one reason, and that is to translate a scroll."

Harry could feel Sirius's eyes on him, but didn't look up.  He didn't want to see pity or sadness or any other negative emotion at the moment.  He'd known what he was getting into when he'd accepted the assignment and he would do what he had to do to complete it.

"Before I forget, Hermione sent this.”  Stuffing his hand into one of his pockets, Sirius pulled out a small box. Casting a re-enlargement charm on it, he held it out to Harry.  “She called it a care package.  Said something about giving you a little piece of home.”  

He smiled as he viewed the contents of the box.  Biscuits and pastries and even a few of Molly's homemade meat pies.  And, knowing Hermione, they'd all have a keep-fresh charm on them.  “Tell her I love it.  That it's just what I need after reading these horrid essays.”

Sirius flinched, but nodded and pulled a set of five vials out of another pocket.  “Snape didn’t know how you’d be sleeping, said something about nightmares.  Granted, I didn’t listen very closely since it involved thinking about you and Snape in bed together and I avoid all such thoughts.  Anyway, he said to give you these and that you would know appropriate doses.  Remus said to tell you that he thinks Snape misses you.  Says he’s been an absolute grump the last couple of days.  Personally, I don’t see a difference.  Of course, Remus says it’s because I don’t want to, and that I’m as dense as ever.”

Harry chuckled.  “Did Ron come back from Austria yet?  I know his mum and Hermione had been worrying about him.”

“No, the Ministry still has him there.  Hermione says that he’s all right.  Oh, and the teachers send their regards.  Of course, most don’t know where you are, but they all miss you.”  Sirius smirked and dropped a small bag onto Harry's desk.  “Here’s your allowance, young man, don't spend it all in one place."  He chuckled.  

Harry raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

"Albus said that your pay packet here should be supplemented, in case you needed to cover any unexpected expenses.  You've no access to Gringott's or any other wizarding financial institution, after all.  No savings to draw on."  Sirius shrugged.  "I don't question the old man, just do as I'm told."

"When it suits you to do so."

Sirius grinned.  "I think that’s it.  I’m supposed to be getting back.”

Harry stood and moved around his desk so that he could say goodbye.  “Are you sure you can’t stay for supper?  It's not like Albus would know.”

“Sorry, this is the testing visit.  Albus said to keep it short, and he will know.  He always does.  Don't ask me how, I don't know.  Don’t worry.  You’ll see me again in two months.  I believe Severus has demanded the next visit, and I'm sure it's for some perverted reason."

Harry shook his head.

"Take care, Harry."

“I will.”  Harry watched as Sirius withdrew the time turner from his robes, and with his wand tapped it while reciting the reversal spell -- the only way to go back to the time you left without having to live through all the time separating the two.

Harry stared for a minute at the space that his godfather had occupied, before grabbing a biscuit out of the box and returning to grading papers.  Sighing, he read the first few lines of his father's essay.  “Dragon classification is one of the most fascinating topics that can be touched upon by an intelligent mind.  There are many unknown facets that have yet to be discovered about dragon physiology and anatomy; however, such means are not the only way to classify these magical miracles…”  

And Harry had always thought that the Marauders had been creative.

~~~

“Quite a few of you disappointed me with your lack of essay writing skills.”  Harry watched as the young Sirius Black’s eyes flicked over to James Potter.  “Nott.”  The boy in the last row jumped when his name was called.  Harry walked over to him and set a parchment face down on his desk.  “Evans.”  Having finished returning all the essays, Harry leaned against his desk and surveyed the faces of his students; most were disappointed and only a handful looked content with their grades.  

“I told you that there would not be any useless essay writing in this class.  To prove this to you, the next class is going to be practical applications of what you've learned."  He was met with blank stares from the majority of the class, but only a handful of actually interested ones, Remus among them.  "Wednesday we will meet outside with the 7th year Care of Magical Creatures class by the groundskeeper’s hut.  There have been arrangements made to have two dragons with handlers brought onto school property.  I expect you to be able to classify the specimens, with back up explanations as to how they were classified.  The class following that, I’ll explain how dragon fire fits into our study of the Dark Arts.  For all of you who did not do as well as expected I suggest you revise.  No notes - after all, parchment does tend to be highly flammable.  Class dismissed.”  

Most students had already had their books in their bags and they quickly left the room, essays in hand.  As he watched the remaining students, Black attempted to stealthily shove his essay into his bag, but Snape noticed and made a grab for the parchment.  Sensing an impending battle, Harry moved to stand over the two.

“Something wrong?”  

Black shook his head before going back to shoving his supplies into his bag.  

Snape looked startled, but quietly replied, “No, sir.”  He blushed, his cheeks just taking on the barest hint of pink, before picking up his books and hurrying out of the classroom, and knowing Severus as he did, Harry was almost sure the young man was cursing his pale complexion all the way.  Not that he ever did anything to change it.  

As soon as the door closed behind him, Harry turned to see Sirius Black and James Potter shuffling from foot to foot, waiting for their expected punishment.  

Levelling a hard gaze at them both, Harry sighed and leaned against his desk.  “I’m not so much angry as I am disappointed.”  The two boys flinched at his choice of words.  Harry knew from experience that it always felt worse when teachers were disappointed than if they were just angry.  It was McGonagall's guilt trip of choice, after all.  James looked down at the toes of his shoes and tried not to look at him, while Sirius had done the opposite and was looking at the ceiling.  “I expected better from the two of you.”

James bit his bottom lip in an oddly reminiscent gesture.  “Can we have another chance, Professor Tyler?”

“The grade will stand.”  At this pronouncement the two boys seemed to deflate.  Harry shook his head.  “However, if you redo the essay by Friday afternoon so that I can have it graded in time for the practical lesson then I will see what can be done.”  Immediately, the two boys grinned and looked toward each other.  “This is your final warning.  If I ever catch either of you doing something like this again, you will find yourselves expelled so fast that you won’t even have time to say 'Gryffindor.’”

“Yes, sir.”

“I will not inform your Head of House.  This time.  As long as I have your solemn promise you won't repeat this with any of the other teachers at this school.”

“I promise, Professor.”  James looked him right in the eye.

“Good.  And you, Mr. Black?”

Sirius jerked his head in a quick nod.  “It was a stupid and foolish thing to do.  I won’t do it again. I promise.”

“Very well, then.  Off you go.  I’m sure that Madam Pince will point you in the right direction.”  The two boys hoisted their bags and started toward the door.  “One last thing."  They looked back at him.  "Stay away from anything written by Hugh Newtit.”

“Yes, Professor.”

Harry sat down in his chair as the door closed.  He had a vague feeling that he had just made himself seem like a pushover to the two boys.  Putting his head in his hands, he sighed.  The beginnings of a headache were noticeable around his temples and his shoulders.  Why couldn't he have taught Muggle Studies in this time, too?

~~~

Harry watched as Madam Pomfrey took care of the three students that had been burned during the practical lesson.  Luckily, the burns hadn't been bad; after all, he'd seen much worse during his time in Romania, but he still had no idea what had happened.    Salve and ointment applied, Poppy ordered that they all rest and she made her way over to him, waving her wand to remove the stasis spell that she had placed him under.

He breathed a sigh of relief as the tingling sensation from the spell vanished, but was soon flinching as she poked and prodded the gash on his chest.  He smiled slightly as she tutted at him irritably.

“What deluded you into thinking that wrestling a dragon would be a good idea, Professor Tyler?”

“Would you believe that I used to do it for fun?”

She made a disapproving clucking sound with her tongue.  "Take off your shirt.”

Harry leaned forward. “Why, Poppy, I didn’t realise—“

She cut him off quickly, a pink flush across her cheeks. “Nonsense.  I need to get a good look at that wound.”  

Grimacing, he lifted his arms to take off his shirt.  Finally managing the task, though with some difficulty, he surrendered to Poppy's not-so-tender mercies until a gasp from behind him made him turn.

“Is something the matter, Mr. Snape?  I already took care of those burns - is there another injury that I should be aware of?”

“No, Ma’am.”

Harry was startled at the meek tone coming from Snape.  His student's eyes were wide and his cheeks were red.  Harry's attention was drawn away from the young man, however, as Poppy grabbed his shoulders and forced him to turn further around.

“Gentle, Poppy.  I didn’t hurt my back.  What’s so interesting?”  Harry felt her fingers trace the large red and gold shield on his back and then the silver snake that wrapped around it, and could guess what she was thinking.  “About four or five years ago, I went out with a friend of mine.  The two of us drank a bit too much, and we ended up at a wizarding tattoo parlour. Somehow, I was convinced to have that put on my back.  I’ve grown rather fond of it.”  It wasn't commonplace for anyone to walk around with the symbols of two Houses entwined, especially those two houses, etched permanently into his skin.  But it represented who he was and he wouldn't take it back for anything.  The Gryffindor and the Slytherin.

Her curiosity satisfied, it still took Poppy some time to clean out the wound of all poison.  The substance that coated the claws of juvenile dragons tended to be more deleterious than that of an adult dragon.  Of course, this gave them the added protection they needed while going through multiple molting stages when they shed their skin -- and therefore their protective scales -- while growing, but made them much more dangerous to people of a mind to wrestle them.  Once all the poison had been nullified, it only took a few moments for her to heal it.  

Pulling on his shirt, Harry made his way over to where the three students were in bed recovering from their minor burns.

“Who can tell me what happened?  Professor Augustin and I were otherwise engaged when the three of you got burned.”

It was James Potter that answered.  He was the only one of the four students in the hospital wing that hadn't been hurt, and the only one that hadn't listened when Harry snapped at the class to return to the classroom until the end of the period.   “Well, after the dragon escaped and you jumped in front of it, Snape backed up into one of the heat resistant posts that we were using to test the strength of dragon fire."  Potter glanced at Snape, a smirk on his face.  "Obviously, he's a coward.  A real man would have--"

Lily broke him off and finished the story.  “The post hit the adult dragons we were working with.  We didn't realize that anything was wrong until a gush of scalding air touched us.  But there wasn't any fire."

“So the dragon was just full of hot air?”  Harry smirked.  Laughter was the best medicine.  At least there weren't any critics in this time to tell him how awful his jokes were.

“Professor, where did you learn to wrestle dragons like that?”  Severus's voice broke into the quieting laughter.  James and Lily looked expectantly at him while Sirius attempted to glare at the Slytherin for opening his mouth, but failed; it was obvious that all of the students were interested in his answer.  

It took Harry a moment to decide on a course of action, finally opting for an abbreviated form of the truth.  “I used to work with a dragon colony, though only for a short time.  I would help out a few of the handlers when the smaller dragons would get out of hand.  It didn't take long to learn that a quick way of getting one back under control was to make a slight cut between their claws on one of their hind legs.  It doesn't hurt them, just gives them a bit of a shock, but they'll stop immediately.  To do it, you have to get near to their hind legs, and to do that, you wrestle them.  Takes a while to get the hang of.”

The four students looked at him with mixed degrees of awe on their faces, and Harry had to keep himself from fidgeting.  Sirius finally broke the silence, but when he did, he didn't make Harry any more comfortable.  “That must have taken bollo-- nerves of steel.  Weren’t you scared?”

“No.  I’ve had worse things happen to me.”  Harry smiled at his students before standing up although his smile didn't reach his eyes.  The last thing he needed was any sort of hero worship.  “I'd better get going.  Madam Pomfrey will have my head if I don’t let you rest.  Mr. Potter, I believe your next class starts in fifteen minutes.  I expect to hear that you attended.”  Without waiting for a response he turned to leave.

Steps away from the door, he heard Sirius's voice.  "I told you that he had to have been a Gryffindor, James.  That's a galleon you owe me."

Chapter Three:  The Consequences of Saving a Life

Entering the Common Room, James spotted Sirius sitting in front of the fire.  He glanced around and his gaze landed on Lily perched at one of the tables, studying.  At least neither looked the worse for wear after today's incident.  He breathed a sigh of relief and headed over toward the couch where Sirius was sitting.

"Did you see it, Sirius?"

"Yeah."  Sirius hadn't turned to look at him, and was, in fact, just staring into the fire.

From the corner of his eye, James saw Remus and Peter approaching; they must have just got back from their last class, though for the life of him he couldn't remember what it was.  Remus made his way over and claimed the armchair next to him before Peter could, and Peter took the space on the floor in front of Sirius, a disgruntled look on his face.

The disruption in his view of the fire must have startled Sirius out of his stupor, because he sat up a bit straighter and actually looked around at the group that had surrounded him.

"What's wrong, Sirius?"

He shrugged.  "Well, I was contemplating the fire until Peter sat his fat arse down in front of it."

"Very... Very fu... funny, Sirius."  Peter didn't smile, and instead drew off toward the side, away from the centre of the group.

No one was looking at James, and since Sirius had already rebuffed his attempt to start a conversation, James turned his efforts to Remus and tugged on his sleeve.

"Did you see Professor Tyler today?  That was bloody brilliant!"

A disapproving cough sounded from the other side of the room, and James looked in the direction that it had come from.  Lily was glaring at him.

"Sorry, Evans, did I insult your sensibilities?"

Remus lowered his voice and leaned closer.  "You do realize that you aren't convincing her to go out with you."

"It's called 'playing hard to get'.  I saw it in a Muggle film."

Remus rolled his eyes.  "Well I don't think your technique is working."

"Never mind that.  Did you see him?  Running toward the dragon with his dagger drawn and-"

"You do realize that he could have died doing that?"

James stared at Sirius.  "Ah, so you've finally decided to wake out of your stupor.  About bloody time."

The sound of a book slamming made James look over his shoulder.  Lily was standing up and glaring at the group of them.  He grinned.  A pull on his arm forced him to return his attention back to his friends.

"I mean it, James.  He jumped in front of a goddamned dragon because it was going to attack the students.  He's lucky he only got hurt."

"But it was only a scratch, Sirius, and it wasn't like anything bad happened.  Don't be so serious, Sirius."

"You do realize that's an awful joke," Remus said.

"Well, I think we should call a truce.  The Marauders shouldn't prank him anymore.  How many of the teachers would have done what he did?"

"About time, it's not like any of our pranks ever worked anyway."

"He... he always figured them out."

Remus nodded, picked a book out of his bag, and started reading.

James had thought that the last prank had been brilliant; they just hadn't deployed it at the right time.  But the one that they had thought up a few days ago would be sure to work.  "You can't mean that, Sirius."

"They're right."

He leaned back into the cushions and crossed his arms.

"Lose something, Potter?"

He looked up at Lily who was dangling his failed Defence Against the Dark Arts essay over his head.  "Shite!  Give that back, Evans."

"You really should watch your language."  Lily jerked the paper out of his reach at the last moment.  "Such a shame if Professor McGonagall found out about it.  Didn't she mention something to you about your father wanting to be kept posted about your grades?"

"I mean it, Evans."

"What will you give for it?"

He lunged forward and since the paper was out of reach tried to grab her waist, but she stepped back.  

"Think about it, James."  Lily turned on her heel and headed for the stairs.

James stared after her before turning and grinning at his friends.  "She likes me."

~~~

"Are you all right, Severus?"  Lucius made his way across the sixth year Slytherin boys' dormitory to perch himself on the edge of Severus's bed.  "I noticed that you were one of the students who got burned during that class."

He didn't bother looking up.  "Don't you have better things to do than interrupt my revision?"  After a moment, knowing that Lucius wouldn't answer and wouldn't leave, he continued, "I'm perfectly fine.  If I wasn't, Madam Pomfrey wouldn't have let me out of the hospital wing."

"Professor Tyler made quite the impression on the students today."  He cut into Severus's thoughts.  "That dagger.  I never thought that I'd actually see him use it.  It's rather deadly, isn't it?"

The book shut with a snap.  "I'm glad that you've come to appreciate that dagger.  Or did you forget that the night of the opening feast I had to watch it come flying toward us?  All because of you."

Lucius waved his hand dismissively, and Severus reopened his book to flip back to what he had been reading.

"I'm talking to you.  Don't ignore me."

"I'm not ignoring you, I am simply choosing not to answer."

Glaring, Lucius snatched the book out of Severus's hands and started flipping through the pages, not really reading any.  "What is this, Potions?"

Severus reached for the book, but Lucius jerked it away, and paused to read one of the pages, his gaze skimming over the words quickly.  "This is Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Severus pursed his lips and glared.

"Don't tell me you're studying this rot again.  It's so much better to actually practice the Dark Arts instead of learning to defend against them."  He tossed the book to the side and it landed on the floor with a heavy clunk.  "Have you heard from your grandfather?  Did he send you any new curses, or hexes?  Poisons?"

"Do be quiet."  Severus started to lean over the edge of the bed to grab the book, but Lucius's hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"What's so interesting about Defence?"  His eyes narrowed.  "You always study, but never this much."  He paused with a smirk.   "No, it's impossible."

"Go away, Lucius."  Severus's gaze hardened.

"You like the Defence teacher."  Severus could see Lucius thinking of ways to use this information to his advantage.  "Why?  He certainly doesn't like the Slytherins at all."

Severus leaned back, his shoulders slouching.  "That's just it.  He doesn't particularly like any of the Houses, he doesn't take sides.  He doesn't prejudge us."  He reached over and grabbed the Defence book.  

"There has to be more to it than that.  Something to be gained."

Severus sighed.  "There isn't anything to be gained, but I don't expect you to understand that."

Lucius glared.

"It's his eyes."  He lifted the book to go back to his reading, but Lucius's hand fell on top of it, holding it in place.  There was no way he'd be left alone until he answered.  Even if he did feel like he only had an idiot's answer.  His eyes.  "There are shadows in them, deep shadows that aren't natural, that had to have been put there because of something, some pain that he went through.  And then there are times, during class when he's teaching, his eyes will spark, and that cold façade just melts."  Severus closed his eyes.  "I can feel his pain."

Lucius snickered.  "That's classic, that is.  Severus Snape has a crush on a teacher.  What happened to teachers being too old?  Or is it different when you think that the professor is attractive?"

"Shut up."

"Fine.  But what are you going to do about it?"

Severus lifted an eyebrow.  "I'm going to do nothing."

Lucius shook his head.  "You should check the school rules.  Last I saw, there were no rules against teachers and students fraternizing."  Standing, he straightened his robe and put on his most condescending expression.  The one that always got on Severus's nerves.  "Another trip to the library can't possibly hurt your reputation."

~~~

At the sound of the door closing, Harry looked up from where he was sitting contemplating the scroll in front of him.  He sighed in frustration, and pushed it away from him before returning the Headmaster's scrutiny.

"It's all right, Fabian, you can leave.  I would like to have a word alone with Octavian."

"'Course.  'Night, Octavian."

"Likewise."

The Headmaster took his seat after Fabian left and pulled two scrolls toward him -- one was the un-translated section of scroll Harry had been given and the other was his translation.  He briefly wondered if the Headmaster could read his writing, but then shrugged it off.  In the confines of the small, windowless room he'd been placed in, he felt like a student that was being tested instead of someone who held the key to deciphering Voldemort's plans.

Albus narrowed his eyes.  "How goes the translation, Octavian?"

The tone of voice and the look on his face were so familiar to Harry.  He'd seen them many times during the course of watching Albus question those he was suspicious of, but never had that look been turned on him.  He might as well be under Veritaserum for all the good lying would do him at the moment.  Not that he had any intention of doing so.

"As well as could be expected, Albus."  The deliberate use of the Headmaster's name put Harry at ease, and he motioned toward the parchment that Albus held in one hand.

Adjusting his half-moon glasses on the tip of his nose, Albus scrutinized the parchment, his eyes flying over the words.  Harry knew what he was looking at: the list of titles that Voldemort had given himself.

"Quite a pompous man Voldemort is, don't you think?"

Harry nodded.

"I suppose the phrases still in Parseltongue couldn't be translated."

"Not unless you want me to write a dissertation on the social structure in snake colonies."

"I see."  Albus returned to his reading, finally looking up when he reached the end, though there wasn't that much more translated.  "Attack plans?"

"As far as I could gather, yes."

"Any given timeframe for it?"

Harry shook his head.  "I'm afraid not.  It's what I was looking for when you came in, but I hadn't had any luck yet.  By all appearances, he just moves onto the next plan.  My guess is that he just kept the information to himself in case something like this happened.  After all, we have the scroll and someone to translate it."

"We?"

Harry coughed.  "I might not be fighting alongside the Order, sir, but I still am translating a scroll that will hopefully bring down the Dark Lord."

"For a price."

"All men have a price."

"You could be lying.  This," he held out the translation, "could be fake.  There's no one to tell us otherwise except the man who wrote it."

Harry nodded.  "The only way you'll know is if you take into account what I have translated."  There really wasn't a point to bringing up whether or not he was trustworthy.  If Albus didn't think so, he wouldn't have let 'Octavian' anywhere near the scroll.  But that didn't mean the man was going to take any chances, hence Fabian to keep an eye on him while he was working.

"I will inform the Weasleys about the possibility of an attack and arrange for a safe house.  Hopefully we'll be in time."

"Hope is all one can do in such situations."

Albus nodded.  "Sleep.  It's already past midnight, and I believe you've been working on this since shortly after dinner.  I've arranged for some tea to be left in your rooms.  Good night, my boy."

Standing, Harry headed toward the door.  Albus patted his shoulder on the way out, and Harry drew some comfort from it.  Saving the Weasleys was as important to him as it was to the Order, but he could never show that.  It would be worse than devastating to him if he had somehow skewed the timeline and had translated that plan too late.  It was certainly a thought he'd prefer not thinking about.

"Good night, Albus."

~~~

*Future:  Harry's Seventh Year*

Harry stretched, his back arching slightly off the bed, before he twisted toward Severus, settling his cheek against Severus's shoulder.

"Have you been possessed by a deranged feline, Potter?"

He turned his face so he could press a kiss to Severus's sternum and smiled.  "I've never heard you complain about it before."

"Obviously I've never been in my right mind before."

Harry shivered at the light touch of Severus's fingers down his spine.  "And you are now?"

"Of course.  Which also explains why I am about to kick you out and send you back up to Gryffindor Tower.  I should never have even let you down here tonight."

Harry rubbed his cheek against the chest beneath him, his tongue darting out to lick at one nipple before blowing a stream of air on it.  He both felt and heard Severus's sharp intake of breath, and he smiled.

"I could just stay here."

"You have N.E.W.T.s tomorrow, in case it has slipped your diminutive mind."

Harry frowned.  "Only my Defence one, and you know perfectly well that I can pass that in my sleep."

"Nevertheless, you should have spent the evening studying."

Harry sighed and rolled onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows.  "Why?"

"Even someone as advanced as you in the field could do with a basic review, Mr Potter."

Harry scrunched his nose.  "Don't call me that when we're in bed.  It's... just don't."

"Then I would suggest that you stop complaining."

He breathed in deeply.  "Then you should stop trying to kick me out."

Severus narrowed his eyes.  "Go to sleep."

"I have a first name, Se-ver-us."

Severus brushed his fingers through Harry's hair, pulling at it and forcing his head to turn up to face him.  "Good night, Harry."

Harry grinned and settled back against Severus's side.  The room was quiet, and he was nowhere near tired, so his mind wandered.  No matter the situation, Severus was in some way or form looking out for him.  Severus was either on his case about studying for exams or pulling him out of a situation that would most likely get him killed, and Severus was always doing such things.

"Why?"

"I'm afraid that you've forgotten over half of your question.  And you are supposed to be sleeping.  Do not force me to change my mind and send you back to the Tower."

"Why are you always there pulling me out of danger?"

"It's my job; after all, you are my student."

Harry made a face.  "Not because you love me?"

"Impertinent brat."

Harry narrowed his eyes, but dropped the subject.  He ran his hand down Severus's side, settling it on his hip, and with his thumb, he rubbed small circles over the bone.  "I think I might.  For sure.  Where you can't say it's a silly infatuation that I'll get over."

"You're confused.  Obviously the lack of a proper night's sleep has addled your brain.  This will be the last time you spend the night before any exams."

"Then it's a good thing that tomorrow is my last N.E.W.T."

"At last, Harry Potter leaves Hogwarts.  It's what the entire teaching staff has been waiting for."

"Your sense of humour kills me, Severus."

"If only."

"I don't know why I put up with you."

"When you've figured it out, please inform me.  I will be delighted to know what ailment of the brain consumed you so many months ago."

"You're a prat."

"I should kick you out of bed for that comment, Potter."

"But you won't."

"I'd suggest that you close that mouth of yours and-"

"-go to sleep.  I have a better idea."  He leaned up until he was close enough to run his tongue along Severus's bottom lip.  "Something much more satisfactory than sleep, and a much better use for my mouth."  Closing his lips over Severus's, he drew him into a kiss.

Chapter Four:  Odd Friendships

*The Past*

Harry rubbed his eyes tiredly before turning his attention back to the papers he had spread out in front of him.  A headache was looming right behind his eyes, and he wished he could just forget about the lesson plans that he was working on and go soak -- and perhaps fall asleep -- in a hot bath.  Unfortunately, that was not an option.  Sighing, he picked up his quill and wrote some notations in the margins.

He didn't even realize that someone had walked into the room until a shadow crossed the paper.

Immediately, he looked up into a face he did not know. How could someone sneak up on him like that, he wondered.  There weren't many people who could, and none of them were in this time.  Muttering a curse, he slipped his hand down to his wand and pulled it out of its holster.

"Can I help you?"

"I should be offended, I really should."

He knew that voice.  "Malfoy."

Malfoy's face fell into the lines of his familiar smirk.  "But what shall I call you?  Potter or Tyler?  Or maybe Octavian."  Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste.  Only after Harry had brought his hand back above the desk, sans wand, did Draco turn and lock and silence the room.

"Where's Severus?"

Draco brushed his hand through brown hair that really didn't suit him.  "Couldn't make it."  He picked up a paperweight that was holding down a stack of parchment, and Harry was forced to settle a book in its place.  "How have you been?  Working hard?"

"Why couldn't he make it?  What happened?"

"Can't you make my life simple for once and just answer the questions, Potter?  You're like that mangy godfather of yours, gnawing at a bone."

Harry leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, not saying anything, and he wouldn't until he had his answers.  

"He's in the hospital wing, not that he didn't try to get out, mind you, but Poppy would have none of it.  He had a bad run in with the Cruciatus at the last meeting.  Apparently the Dark Lord wasn't appreciative of his not knowing where exactly you were sent on assignment; after all, it's not like you could just vanish off the face of the planet."  Draco glared.  "I hope you're happy.  Severus is going to skin me alive for telling you."

"Thank you, Draco.  Why didn't he want me to know?"

Draco shrugged.  "He said that you would worry too much."

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose.  "Well someone has to worry about the git.  He certainly doesn't worry about himself.

Even with his eyes closed, he could feel Draco's eyes narrow.  "Headache?"

He nodded.

"How bad?"

"A non-Voldemort caused migraine.  I've been getting them off and on for the past month."

Draco heaved a sigh.  "You do realize that if you had told Sirius then Severus would have made up some of the potion you take.  Why you didn't insist on bringing some with you in the --"

"The first one set in about a minute after Sirius left.  I've tried the stuff that Poppy gave me, but it wasn't strong enough.  Which is why I didn't bring any.  I was hoping that I'd be able to wean myself off the stuff that Severus brews so by the time I got back, I could take a lot less of it."

"And as usual, your brilliant plan isn't working."

"Shove it, Malfoy."

They glared at each other, more for show than because of any actual animosity between them.  Harry was the first to look away, and he knew, without turning his gaze in Draco's direction, that Draco was smirking about it.

"I assume that Albus wants an update."

"You shouldn't be surprised.  Since the beginning of this thing, he's been saying that he has no intention of abandoning you in the past for a year."

"I assure you it's out of no love for me, Draco.  He just wants to make sure I don't screw with the timeline, and the best way to do that is to have people keep an eye on me."

Draco's face softened.  "Sirius is right; you've been spending too much time with Severus.  His dour outlook on everything is rubbing off on you."

Harry shrugged.  "So what does he want to know?"

"Did you feel him get called?  Is the bond affecting you?"

Harry looked at him.  "If it was, would I ask why you had to show up?"  Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply and forced himself to relax.  "Sorry.  We're in different time periods, so of course I couldn't feel anything.  I'm not bonded to the Severus of this time."

Draco dropped the paperweight haphazardly on the desk and placed his palms flat against its surface to brace himself.  "I keep trying to figure out why the two of you did that."

"It was just a blood rite, Draco.  You can read all about it in the library."

"In the Restricted Section."

"We aren't students anymore."

"In the Dark Arts books."

Harry shrugged.  It was something that Draco didn't understand, couldn't understand, and they had been through it enough times that Harry just didn't feel like rehashing the whole thing.  As it stood, Draco knew more than most about the bond between Severus and Harry.

"The translation?  Albus wants to check your progress with his memories."

"It's still a slow process.  I'm supervised every session, but I now have access to the entirety of the scroll.  As far as I'm aware of, the Order still has doubts about my trustworthiness, and a few are adamantly against my viewing the scroll at all, but Albus has enough sway to gainsay them."

Draco nodded and headed over to a chair, propping a foot up on the desk.  "So how are you getting along with your students?"

"Fine."

"Been following Albus's last directive?"

Harry narrowed his eyes.  "Did he put you up to asking?"

"More like demanded it actually.  Didn't tell me what he meant though."

"Then you can tell him that young Master Snape is just fine, and that I haven't done anything untoward."

Draco laughed.  "He's forbidden you from carrying on with a student?  Well that shouldn't be a problem.  If Severus is anything like he is now then he must be one obnoxious prick for a sixteen year old."

Harry shrugged.  "He's quiet in my class, and has been since shortly after the year started.  If I can read my students properly-"

"And you have been for years."

"-then I'd say he has a teenage crush."

Draco placed his fist over his heart - overdramatic, but then again, Draco was always one to exaggerate.  "It must be killing you to watch him fall for someone else."

"Not at all.  I believe that he's developed a crush on me."

Draco guffawed.  "I don't believe you."

"Ginny Weasley first and second year."

Draco shook his head.  "Snape?  A crush like that?  Impossible."

"He's the first to come to class, and the last to leave.  Shows up in my office at least twice a week to ask the most ridiculous questions.  Questions, I might add, that he knows the answer to perfectly well.  He never takes notes in class."  Harry looked at Draco.  In his opinion the last was proof enough, but he continued.  "I can feel him following me with his eyes every lesson.  It's unnerving.  Not to mention he blushes every time I acknowledge his presence with the least bit of kindness."

"And he talks about you constantly."

"I wouldn't know.  If I'm anywhere near him he won't talk, doesn't matter who he was chatting with before."

Draco sat up.  "Who would have thought that Snape was once a normal teenager?"

"Was I that bad during sixth year?"

Draco shrugged.  "I never noticed, and, from what I understand, neither did Granger or the Weasel.  Speaking of whom..."  He rummaged through the pockets of his coat and started to pull out various things.  "The box is from Granger, and she said that Weasley would be home by the time you got back.  Why you would want to even talk to that red-headed moron is beyond me."

Harry rolled his eyes upwards.  He might get along with Malfoy, but Hermione and Ron... He didn't think there would ever be anything resembling peace in that quarter.

"Severus sent you some more Dreamless Sleep and Pepper-Up and whatever else it is you dose yourself with.  I'll tell him you need some of his Headache draught.  He sent a book too.  Said that you'd been waiting for it to be released."  Draco held it out and Harry snatched it, skimming through the pages.  "What's it about?"

"Forming barriers and shields against advanced Dark Arts using basic spells that don't require complex rituals.  Remus and Severus have already drilled the stuff into my head, but it'll be nice to know what Rupert Knight has to say on the subject."  Harry closed the book and set it down on the desk; there would be time to look at it later.  "I'll have to charm it to look like something old and boring."

"I'd just cast the blank page spell.  And if you get the locking spell just right, you won't have to worry about anyone reading it at all."

Harry turned a questioning gaze on Draco.

"The spell all the girls learned in our fifth year to cast on their diaries."

"Wouldn't know, didn't spend any time trying to figure out what girls wrote in their diaries."  Harry's stomach growled and he glanced down at the watch on his desk.  It was almost supper and he had eaten nothing since breakfast.  "Care for a bite to eat?"

"Three Broomsticks?  I want to see what Rosmerta looks like now."

Harry grinned.  "Fine, but I better not end up in another Wizarding tattoo parlour."

"Then I wouldn't touch anything harder than water, Potter."

~~~

Severus had all of the various school charters spread out in front of him on the library table.  Each tome detailed the various regulations that had been passed over the years.  Severus decided that he would go back to the oldest issues just to make sure that it wasn’t an early law that had been taken for granted and not recopied in the newer books.  So far he hadn’t found anything that would keep him from having a relationship with Professor Tyler.  

Actually there were quite a few old laws that could be interpreted in a way that would encourage it.

Of course he had to convince his professor that he wasn’t just a silly child first.  That would have to wait until after he covered the rules.  As Severus thought about it, he came to the conclusion that it was quite ordered, like potion making.  Each step had to be completed before the next.  

Shaking his head, Severus picked up one of the older books and started flipping through the pages looking for any section that such rules might be under.  If he read each book cover to cover, it could take years.

“I heard about your grandfather.  My condolences.  I know you were close to him.”

Severus jumped and the book he was flipping through fell to the table.  Looking over the pile of books, he could see Black leaning against a shelf of books.  “It happened almost three weeks ago.  He wouldn’t have wanted me to dwell on it.  Besides, it’s not like he died.  He’s just in a ministry cell.  Four months there and a 500 galleon fine.  But then you didn’t come here to talk about my grandfather.  What do you want, Black?”

“I came to call a momentary truce.”

Severus narrowed his eyes and glared.  “Now why would you want to do that?  We’ve been doing so well at hating each other.  Let’s continue.  Go away.”

“I can’t continue trying to get you angry if you never get angry.  I’ve never had this problem before.  You always rise to the bait.”  Sirius gave Snape a very insincere smile.

“I have more important things to do than to have this immensely idiotic conversation.  Leave.”

“Something’s been bothering you.  Why don’t you just tell me so I can help and then we can go back to hating each other and fighting and what not?  Then everyone will be happy again.”  Sirius sat down across from Severus.  He examined all of the books on the table.  “Why are you going through the rule books?  Trying to get us in trouble?”

“No.”

“This is my point.  Your answer is supposed to be yes.  We are the bane of your existence.  You hate us.  We hate you.  It’s the way the world works.  We make your life unbearable and you and your friends do the same for us.  Wait, I forgot, you don't have any.”

Severus raised one eyebrow and looked at the boy across from him.  “You are so simplistic, Black.  I’m not attempting to get you expelled, but trust me that I would like nothing better.  I’m just trying to find some school rules on a particular matter.  It will go much faster if you leave.”

“You haven’t been acting yourself lately.  It’s really noticeable in Defence class when Professor Tyler is lecturing.”  

Severus could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and he cursed himself.  One day he wouldn't let his emotions show so easily.  They were causing him too much trouble.

Which became all the more obvious when Black next spoke, a lopsided grin on his face.  “You’re falling for a teacher.  That’s what you’re looking for.  Rules regarding student-teacher relationships."  Black shrugged.  "Well, you might as well stop looking.”

“What do you mean?”

“There aren’t any.  You are free to pursue any teacher you like.  James and I know every single rule in this school backwards and forwards.  We researched this one a couple years ago to make sure we had it right before we started… never mind.”

“I don’t want to know."  Severus paused, his eyes narrowing further.  "Why should I trust you anyway?”  

“Consider it one last favour.  Besides, I think that you hooking up with Professor Tyler is a really bad idea.  But I can think of a few up points.”

“You said there aren’t any school rules.”

“Nothing to do with rules.  It’s a bad idea because the man is bloody dangerous.  In case you don’t remember he took on a dragon, single-handed.  Of course he might just kill you, so that could always be considered a plus.”  

“I don’t think he would.”  Severus stood and started to pile the books into a neat pile.

“Now that I’ve done my good deed for the day…” Black leaned over and knocked the pile of books onto the ground.  Smiling, he turned and headed to the exit.

Severus glared at his retreating back.  “I’m going to make your life a living hell, Black.”

Sirius turned back around, his hands in his pockets and the stupid grin still plastered on his face.  “That’s what I expect.”

~~~

*Future:  Harry age 21*

Harry paced back and forth across the living room floor of the flat that he shared with Ron in London.  Looking up, he stared at the two clocks that were hung on the wall.   There were two hands on the wizarding clock, Harry's and Ron's.  Ron's hand was pointed at 'work' and Harry's was pointed at 'bored'.  Glaring, he turned to look at the other clock.  Six o'clock. On a Saturday.  

He had to do something before he drove himself insane.  This mandatory vacation was going to kill him.  So what if he worked too much?  Someone had to cover the slacking off of others.

Mentally Harry went through the options he had for the evening.  There weren't many.  Ron was on assignment, one that Harry had put him on.  So he could blame himself for that.  Hermione was still attending classes at University.  Sirius was taking his turn teaching Defence while Remus was out of the country, working for the Order.  

And Severus was busy.

Damn his procrastination.  When Harry called, Severus had pointedly said he had too much grading to do to entertain him and would, in fact, ignore him until the pile of papers was covered in red ink.

That left one person.  Harry sighed before heading over to the fire.  Tossing in a bit of floo powder, he stuck his head in the fire and spoke Draco's name.  He had a feeling he was going to regret this.  As usual.

~~~

The Broomsticks looked the same as it had the last time he'd met Draco for drinks there.  It looked the same as it had since school.  It was something that Harry was grateful for.  Lack of change was nice in a few things.  It meant stability.

Draco was, as always when they met for drinks, at a corner table.  A bottle of firewhiskey was already sitting in the middle, and there was one tumbler upside down at the chair across from him.

"Starting without me, Malfoy?"

Draco smirked and lifted his glass in a silent toast.  "I do try."  He nodded after Harry took his seat, and reached across the table to turn over Harry's glass and pour him a portion.  "So why here?  And why me and not one of your sycophants?"

"Why not you?"  Harry took a long drink and poured himself some more.

"Oh, I'm sure that Severus could have found some way to entertain you down in those drafty dungeons of his."

“Shut up, Draco.  Or did you forget that we’re keeping it quiet?”

“Sooner or later your godfather will find out, and then the whole world will be made aware of it as he is carted off to Azkaban for killing Severus.”  

"I'm hoping for later, personally.  I don't want to have to come between those two anytime in the near future.  I have enough to deal with, thanks."

Draco shrugged.  “That still doesn’t answer why we’re here instead of you heading over to the dungeons.  Wasn’t the last visit to St. Mungo’s proof enough that the two of us shouldn’t go drinking together without supervision?”

Harry ran his fingers through his hair.  "I'd really rather not think about it.  Alcohol poisoning and blood loss should never go together.  Besides, I have to spend some time with someone other than Severus.  Didn't a wise man once say that man could not exist on sex alone?"

Coughing, Draco glared at Harry.  "Not amusing, Potter.  Don't forget I have a picture in my head to go along with that."

"Knocking on a professor's door is a very important thing to do."

"You make a lousy comedian."

"And here I thought I was doing a bang-up job."  Harry laughed, and even Draco stopped glaring and chuckled slightly.

It was nice, this camaraderie that they had built up over the years.  Once all the hate had been removed from their bickering -- a miraculous feat in and of itself -- it was fun to trade barbs with someone who would return them with equal gusto.

Harry took another drink and watched Draco watching him.  He knew what Draco was doing because he was doing the exact same thing: counting scars, and changes in appearance from the last time they had seen each other.  It must have been months.

Draco's hair was hanging down in his face, and he was much more relaxed than he had ever been at school.  His ego was still intact, however.  But then, any Malfoy without an ego wouldn't be a Malfoy.  Looking over Draco's shoulder he caught sight of the butt of a revolver sticking out of a holster hidden in his jacket.

Some things never changed.

"I miss my gun.  I miss most of my weapons, actually.  I hate relying on just magic to save my arse if I get in trouble."

Draco looked at him as he poured more whiskey into his glass, ignoring the bit that splashed over his hand because he wasn't looking at what he was doing.  "Then why don't you carry them?  Death Eaters are too obsessed with the stupidity of Muggles to ever check for Muggle weapons on a person.  Got me out of a few scrapes."

Harry nodded.  "Not always the case, but in general it's a good rule.  Unfortunately the Ministry thinks like them a little too often.  I'm not allowed any visible weapons.  So my gun is in its case somewhere in Severus's rooms."

"Damn.  You'd think they'd want to keep you alive."  Harry felt Draco's eyes rake over him again.  Looking for hidden weapons, no doubt.  "Your dagger and some darts.  Shite, Potter, have you gone barmy?"

"That's all I could hide easily.  Even now that Moody doesn't spot check me any more, I'm still in the habit of not carrying much more around than my wand."

Shaking his head, Draco emptied the last bit of whiskey into Harry's glass and signalled Rosmerta to bring a new bottle.  “Why are you even with the Aurors, anyway?  I mean, I’m sure that you’d be more use to the Order than the Ministry."  Rubbing his fingers over his jaw, Draco looked like he was thinking, but it was really too casual of a gesture for him, in Harry's opinion.  "I hear that Albus is looking for a new teacher next term."

He'd been right.  "Yes, the Defence Against the Dark Arts position."  Harry shook his head.  "He's offered me that job every year since I've come back from Romania."

Rosmerta set another bottle down between them.  "No fighting.  No knives, no... whatever else you two are carrying.  I don't care how pissed you get.  Any blood spills on my floor, and I'll just cart your bodies outside and leave them there."

"Oh, Rose, you know you'd miss us if we were to die and leave you forever.  Who would you yell at for destroying your bar?"  Draco said, smirking.

"No one, and that would be a good thing."  Rosmerta slapped him on the shoulder.  Draco alone was a common fixture in the pub, Harry knew.  It was only when the two of them were both there and there was alcohol involved that things could get... out of hand.  "You break any of my tables this time--"

"And there won't be anything left for St Mungo's to fix.  We know."  Harry grinned at her and, returning the smile, Rosmerta left them to their conversation.

"So take the job.  It'd be worth it to be closer to Severus, wouldn't it?"

"I don't know if I want to live with Severus."

Draco waved a finger at him.  "That's not an excuse.  You could live with him now.  In fact, you did live with him for a while there."

Harry didn't say anything.

"Whatever happened to that arrangement anyway?  You moved back in with Ron fast enough."

"Severus is impossible to live with."

Harry turned away from Draco's questioning stare and took another drink.  "In case you've not noticed, he's a stubborn git."

Draco snorted.  "Of course he is.  You've only realized this now after being with him for..." Draco paused.  "Bloody hell.  Four years or so."

Draco would know.  He was one of the only ones who did.  Him and Albus.  Everyone else thought something else.  Harry wasn't sure what exactly, but he didn't care either.  They never asked.

Harry took out a pen and summoned one of the napkins that Rosmerta had folded off to the side of the bar, and started drawing.  "I've always known.  The problem lies in the fact that I'm pretty stubborn too.  Makes for some nasty fights."

"Fights?  And why don't I ever see these fights?  They must be spectacular.  I'm surprised the dungeons are still intact."

Harry glared.  "We don't fight."

Draco poured more whiskey into both their glasses.  "Then how would you know?"

"I just do."

Draco nodded and drained his glass.  "Of course you do.  All-knowing Potter.  Didn't realise you did that well in Divination."  Draco snatched the napkin from under Harry's pen causing a line of black ink to go through the middle of the picture.  "What is this, and you better tell me, Harry, or I'm going to tell Rosmerta that you're drawing all over her napkins."

Harry glared and snatched the napkin back.  "The Potter family crest."  With his wand, he undid the last line that Malfoy had caused and took a drink.  A shield with a snake wrapped around it.  It wasn't too bad, if a bit shaky.  Harry drained his glass and tipped the last of the second bottle into it.

"That is not the Potter family crest."

"How would you know anyway?"

"Don't be daft.  My father."  At Harry's blank stare, Draco continued, "He had it on some documents.  Your grandfather always used it as a seal next to his signature.  And it looks nothing like that."  Draco paused to drain his glass.  "It was a sword-"

"Across a rose, that split a shield.  I know.  It looks like some little girl's romantic idealism at its worst."

Draco shrugged.  "Well it certainly doesn't look like that."

"I'm changing it to something more appropriate."

"Well I suppose as the only Potter left you can do so, not that I see a reason to, but no one ever said you had any sense of reason."  Draco smiled when Rosmerta set down a new bottle.  "So why else don't you want the teaching job?"

"My whole life is Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Makes you especially qualified, doesn't it?"  Draco refilled their glasses.

"I was planning on it actually.  Sev is right.  I'm not doing as much as I could be."

"You've already discussed this?  He's told you that you shouldn't be with the Auror division?  What happened to 'He supports all my decisions, Draco'?"

"We talked about this years ago.  It's the one that he didn't agree with.  There's an exception to every rule."

"Solves the mystery of why you moved out, though."  Draco slid out a thin stiletto from his sleeve and started toying with it.

"I wouldn't suggest carving anything in the tables, if I were you."

"Not even 'Harry Potter loves Severus Snape forever'?"  Draco smirked and balanced the tip of the blade on his finger.

"Put the weapon away or I'll take the firewhiskey!" Rosmerta yelled from her place by the bar,

"You're no fun today."  Draco flipped the stiletto and slid it back into its wrist sheath.

"Show-off."

"Haven't I always been one?  When you have a talent-"

"-make sure you abuse it?"

Draco licked a drop of whiskey from the corner of his mouth.  "There's got to be a reason that you've changed your mind other than Severus knocking some sense into you.  You're more likely to not take the job in a vain attempt to prove him wrong."

Whiskey sloshed out of both glasses as Harry poured it.

"Admit it.  You just want to be closer to Severus."

Sighing, Harry whispered, "I can't get closer to Severus."

Draco shook his head.  "I must not be hearing you right.  You live in London.  Severus lives in Scotland.  I'd say that's pretty far apart."

"Do you think we've had enough?"

"Never such a thing as enough, Harry.  Never."

"Doesn't matter where we live.  Together or separate.  We're bonded."  Harry downed his full glass of firewhiskey and then did the same to Draco's.

"Hey!  You don't go drinking a man's whiskey after giving him news that requires it."  Draco, instead of pouring more whiskey into his glass, took a swig from the bottle instead.  And then poured them each more.

Harry looked at his before shrugging and taking a sip.

"Since when?"

"About a year."

The whiskey glass almost tumbled out of Draco's fingers.  

Harry smirked and, drawing his dagger, placed the tip of it under Draco's chin and closed his mouth.  "You're being rude."

"Weapon away."

Rolling his eyes at Rosmerta, Harry turned back to face Draco who was still staring and not saying anything.  Not drinking either.

"I'm shocked."

"Then you need to drink more."

"So do you."  Draco poured the next two glasses, and the ones after those.  "I have an idea."

The bad feeling that Harry had earlier made its reappearance.

~~~

"Jesus, Harry, close your door!  That's not what I want to see when I stumble out of bed in the morning."

Harry sighed and rolled over onto his back.  Yelping, he sat up and reached around to touch his back.  He groaned.  What had happened last night?

"If you two are doing what I think you're doing that door better be shut.  While you're at it, add some silencing charms 'cause, ew Malfoy."

"Malfo-- Oh shit."  Waving his hand at the door to close it, Harry turned and saw Draco passed out next to him curled onto his side.  "Dray, wake up."  Harry prodded him with his elbow.

"I have the biggest headache."  Draco groaned.  "Of all the faces I could have woken up to, why did it have to be yours, Potter?  What happened?"

"My guess?  We got pissed and you had to help me home, but then we realized there was no one to help you home."  Harry collapsed back against the pillows and then gasping in pain, he rolled onto his side.

"Silencing charms!"

Harry glared at the door.  "When did Ron get back?  He was supposed to be gone until Monday."  Twisting, but being careful to not lie on his back, Harry glanced longingly at the bathroom door.  "And why is the door so far away?"

"I'd rather know when you got the tattoo."

Harry jerked around, biting down on his tongue as the nerves in his back screamed.  "I don't have a tattoo, I can't have a tattoo."

"Tell that to the tattoo on your back."

"Shut up, Draco.  Tell me what it is."

"Your new family crest."  Draco rolled off the bed and grabbed for his shirt, laughing.

"Oh, this has to be your fault, Draco.  Stuff like this is always your fault.  I'm going to kill you."

Draco darted through the door.  "You have to catch me first!  See you around, Weasel."  He was through the floo before Harry had even made it out of the hallway.

"Bastard."

Ron was laughing into his breakfast when Harry came into the kitchen.  "Is there a reason Malfoy just tore out of here half-dressed and with no shoes, looking rather well shagged?"

Harry opened his mouth to protest, but then remembered that Ron -- and practically everyone else -- thought that Harry and Draco were in a torrid off and on again relationship.  Harry had no clue how that became the accepted verdict on his love life, but he wasn't going to change what they were thinking.

"Because I woke up this morning with a tattoo and decided he had to die."

"A tattoo?"  Ron stuffed a forkful of food into his mouth.  "That's bloody brilliant."  Pushing his plate over to Harry, he held out his fork.  "Want some?

Chapter Five:  Detentions

*The Past*

Severus stared straight ahead, not paying attention to anything or anyone.  He needed a plan of some sort.  Professor Tyler had rebuffed every one of his attempts to get to know him, and had caught on to his constant question-asking in his office when Severus had mistakenly asked a question that he had already answered that day during class.  After that, Tyler hadn't been nearly as patient with him.

So Severus thought up other ways that he could spend time with his professor.  Tyler never needed help, avoided dinner in the Great Hall more often then not, and was terse whenever Severus asked him any sort of question in his office or bumped into him in the hallway.

This latest plan was not one of his best, he'd admit, but it might work.  Severus had been trying to get detention with Tyler for the last two weeks.  The only one he did manage was with Black and Lupin.  It had been just his luck that Black had decided to pass notes.  And not just any notes, but ones that had to zip across the length of the room.  Professor Tyler had not been amused.

Black was an idiot.  He should know by now that Tyler never tolerated misbehaviour in his class.  It was why Severus was trying so hard to misbehave, but it was almost as if Tyler didn't want to give him detention.

This was his last chance before Christmas holidays.  There wasn't a teacher in the school that would hand out a detention to be served over holidays.  Not even Tyler.  It didn't matter.  He wasn't allowed to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas anyway.

"Mr Snape, I asked you a question."  Tyler's sharp voice penetrated Severus's little bubble of distraction.  "Do you have an answer for me?"

Severus looked down at his book, then at the board.

"Apparently not.  It seems that the grounds outside the window are more interesting than this lecture.  Pity that the grounds won't be covered on your end-of-term test."

"Sorry, sir."

Tyler nodded.  "Five points, Mr Snape.  Do pay attention."

"Yes, sir."

But Severus didn't pay attention.  It only took a moment for him to fall back into his thoughts about what to do.   Besides, if he did manage a detention for not paying attention, then so be it.  Sighing, Severus stared out toward the Great Lake.  Being a giant squid would be easier.  Much easier.  Then he wouldn't be trying to get a professor's attention.

Severus nearly jumped when a book slammed down onto the top of his desk.  "Mr Snape!  Ten points from Slytherin."  Tyler left Severus's book on the desk and folded his arms across his chest.  "Paying attention now?"

"Yes, Professor Tyler."  Perhaps angering the professor into giving him a detention wasn't a good idea at all, in any way.

"Good.  I shall tell you this once.  If I have to reprimand you one more time during this class period, you will be serving detention this evening.  Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir."  Severus swallowed uneasily.  Excitement and anxiousness warred in the pit of his stomach.  This was it.  Any little step out of line would land him in detention even if it would normally only get points deducted.  If he wanted this, he had to do it.

Severus stared at Professor Tyler as he walked down the row of desks in the middle.  The way he talked, the way he moved, the passion he taught with -- like the class really was about life or death -- all of it made Severus want to push the limit of his relationship with him.  Tyler wasn't classically beautiful with his scars and messy hair and his lack of imposing height, but he was something, and Severus wanted to know what.

One more disruption.  Severus began tearing little pieces off the corner of his parchment and crumpled them.  Lining them all up in a neat row, he started to flick them at Black.  One hit his cheek, and then his hand, another one landed in his ear.  Each time one hit him, Black would turn and glare at him, but it didn't stop Severus.  One even landed in his mouth, and started Black coughing.

Tyler turned and looked at them, but didn't say anything before returning to teaching.  He had not, unfortunately, seen what was going on.

He didn't see Black push the pile of books off Severus's desk, and for that Severus was grateful.  He certainly didn't want Black to be sharing a detention with him.

"What do you think you're doing, you useless, idiotic Gryffindor?!"

Severus could hear Professor Tyler's sharp intake of breath from across the room.  And braced himself for a very angry professor to come bearing down on him.  He wasn't disappointed.

"Mr Snape.  I don't know how many times that I've mentioned the fact that I will not, under any circumstances, tolerate House prejudices in my class, but I do know that I've told you that if you strayed out of line once more this lesson you'd be receiving detention--"

"But-"

"No.  Be quiet.  I will see you here promptly at eight this evening.  Any further disobedience and I shall be turning you over to your Head of House to deal with."

"Yes, sir."

~~~

Severus clenched his fists as he made his way down the corridor to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom to keep his hands from shaking.  He could feel the muscles in the back of his neck squeezing tight with tension, and, not for the first time, wondered if this had been a good idea at all.

That Lucius ribbed him the entire afternoon and evening didn't help.  Stupid prat.  And he'd stolen Severus's pudding at dinner since, as prefect, he decided that "naughty children" shouldn't be given sweets.

Not that Severus thought he could have eaten it, but still.

Lifting his hand, he knocked once, and heard Tyler beckoning him into the room.

The classroom looked nothing like it had that afternoon.  All the desks were piled up in the centre and the walls from floor to ceiling had been turned into tall blackboards.  Severus could feel his hands cramping up already.

"Professor, I'm sorry--"

"A minute or two tardy is not anything to concern yourself over, Mr Snape."  Tyler was sitting at his desk in the corner, marking and not looking at him.  "As you can see the room has been transfigured a bit for your detention.  If you'd please place your wand on my desk, you can get started.  The sentence for your lines is at the top left-hand corner of the back wall."

"My wand?"

"Yes, to guarantee that you do not take the quick way out.  Come on.  I doubt you want to stay here writing lines all night.  And don't write too large, and make sure that it's legible."

Severus nodded, and dropped his wand on the desk when he went to pick up the piece of chalk.  There were quite a few pieces, all a putrid shade of pink except one.  Severus hated pink.  He took the white.  It was an extremely small piece.

Severus had a feeling it wasn't magicked to work forever either.  With a longing glance at his wand, Severus moved to the back of the room where there was a small ladder waiting for him and the words "I will not insult Sirius Black during class" in crisp writing at the top of the wall.

"Professor?"

"That was the final infraction of the day, Mr Snape.  In addition, you know my feelings on House prejudice.  I thought it was fitting."

It disturbed him that Tyler hadn't even looked at him to know what he was going to ask.  A sigh escaped as he set chalk to board and started writing - and then quickly stopped.  The chalk had let out an awful sound.

He tried again.  A horrid high-pitched squeak was made no matter how lightly he pressed on the board with the chalk.  Severus glared at it, and then glared at Tyler.  He went to switch to one of the putrid pink pieces.

Half a wall of glaring pink that seemed to shimmer with sparkles later, Severus decided that he had most certainly learned his lesson.  Maybe.  Somewhat.  But regardless, he had had enough of the pink chalk.  Of course his detention wasn't over until Tyler said it was over, and he had only been writing the line for a half hour.  

This wasn't how he had thought his detention would go.  He couldn't even see Tyler at his desk since Tyler had his back to Severus , and he was on the other side of the room, and that didn't really didn't help them have a conversation.

Even when Severus had to switch pieces of chalk -- which he had to do quite often -- Tyler stayed bent over his papers marking.  The one time that Severus tried to say something, Tyler had shushed him and motioned him back to the board.

It wasn't fair.

And the sentence was irritating him.

"I will not kiss Sirius Black during class."  At least that was something that Severus could guarantee wouldn't happen.  Besides, Tyler would probably not even look at what he'd written anyway.  Just send him off.

Changing words was addictive though, and by the time he'd made headway onto the third wall the sentence wasn't anywhere near what it had once been.

~~~

Setting down his quill, Harry stretched in his seat before standing.  He hated marking essays; students often didn't have much of an imagination when writing, but just regurgitated facts that he already knew inside and out.

At least for the most part Snape had been quiet and did his lines without complaint.  And in pink chalk as well.  Harry hid his smile behind his hand.  Severus detested pink.  Always had since he was a lad of four, if Harry remembered right, and Harry knew he had.

Maybe this detention would… Harry shook his head.  No force found in the natural world would make Severus Snape and Sirius Black get along.  Not even threats from Harry had made them behave.

"All right, Mr Snape, let us see how you did, shall we?"

He heard Snape's sharp intake of breath behind him, but ignored it.  He'd probably slacked off in the middle and let his handwriting sink to the lower depths of legibility that Harry knew it could.  Even if Severus denied it every chance he had.

It became apparent that wasn't the case.  With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Harry skimmed over the rest of the sentences.  By the end, Harry wanted nothing more than to send Severus away and hold his head in his hands, but he would not give in to that.

Unfortunate for Severus.

"Public displays of affection would not be tolerated in this classroom, so it's a good thing that you wouldn't kiss Mr Black."

Harry heard the groan and the uncomfortable shuffling behind him.  Setting his jaw, he continued his ridicule.  It never set as well with him as it did with Severus, who at times revelled in it.

"Mr Snape, I do not recall Mr Black becoming a professor.  He'd make for a rather horrible professor, I'd think."  And it was true.  Sirius spent more time yelling at his students when he was a professor than teaching them.  "As for kissing Professors, I find that a highly inappropriate action.  "As for your latest change--"

"I want to.  I'd like it very much."

"Getting… buggered by a professor is an even more inappro--"

"I don't care."

A grim smile in place, Harry stared at Snape.  "I think that you should leave, Mr Snape.  I'm docking Slytherin twenty points for this."

"I don't want to go.  I don't care.  Professor--"

"Please leave."

"No."

"Then I have no recourse other than to remove myself.  If, when I return in an hour, you are still here, I shall bring this matter to your Head of House."

"But…"

Harry didn't wait.  He turned on his heel and fled.  And felt a fool for doing so.

~~~

*Future:  Harry's sixth year*

Tightly clasping the dictionary that threatened to slide out of his sweaty hands, Harry stopped in front of Professor Snape's office.  He was being ridiculous.  He had served detention with Snape plenty of times.  And he knew his professor better now then he had any of those other times.

Then again, that was what was making him so nervous.  He had every intention of taking advantage of this detention.

He only hoped that Snape wouldn't kill him.  It was a distinct possibility, though.  Harry swallowed and opened the door.

The door ajar, Harry could see Snape bent over some scrolls, his finger tracing the words as he jotted something down on a sheaf of parchment next to him.  Research, was Harry's guess.  Snape had been doing the same thing when Dumbledore had sent him down to the dungeons over Christmas holidays so they could leave on a "favour" for the Headmaster together.

Harry shuddered.  Snape had been completely different on that trip.  Had kept Harry in check, even, and had managed to save Remus's life when Harry couldn't.

Remus said he didn't begrudge the life-debt he owed to Snape.  That there could be worse people to owe his life to.

Thinking about it, Harry realised that he was right.  Maybe.  Snape did take life-debts very seriously.  Not that he'd ask Remus for anything.  Harry was sure that Snape would rather poison himself than ask anyone for anything.

These weren't new thoughts.  Harry had been thinking about them off and on since they had gotten back from the holidays.  And about what Snape had said to him over their dinner the night he saved Remus because Harry had been too upset to do anything.

"Letting your emotions get the better of you, Harry, will never lead to anything good.  When you lose control of them, you will make idiotic mistakes, and then the consequences you're left with will be more than you can handle.  Pay attention to the task at hand.  It's even more important in life than in Potions class."

It'd been the first time he'd called him Harry too.  That alone had been enough to confuse Harry thoroughly.  The rest, Harry was still trying to work out, but it sounded almost like good advice.  And he'd called Harry 'Harry', and that was what kept going around in Harry's head. As well as the fact that he had liked the way it sounded.

Harry knew he half fancied himself in love with Snape, and if not in love at least in lust.  The first time the sound of Snape's voice entered his head when he was wanking in the shower, it had shocked him.  And had made him come harder than he had before.  Disturbing at first, but eventually…

Snape's hands, even stained with potions; Harry saw them in his dreams curling around his cock, with Snape's voice whispering in his ear.  Just his name.  The nicest Snape had ever been.  Once he'd seen Snape above him, his face calm, like it was now when he was researching, and his eyes intense.  That had been a pleasant dream.

Harry had never thought a dream starring Snape could be pleasant.

Licking his lips, he pushed the door open a little more, and stepped inside.  If he was lucky, he'd be able to stand there for a minute and watch Snape work.  More features that Harry would memorise and add to his dream repertoire.  He was most definitely in lust.

Though the first signs of affection for the snarky bastard were there too.

Harry had made a habit out of watching Snape.  In class.  At meetings.  During detention.  During private tuition.  He never stopped.  And while he was adding things to dream about, he was slowly learning things too.

Remus, while not a friend per se, was a close comrade in arms.  Albus was always treated with the added layer of respect, and to a point caring, that Harry would think of treating a grandfather with.  Malfoy was, as Harry always figured, treated as a favoured nephew.  Even if Malfoy wasn't all that bad -- he had, after all, blocked that curse from hitting him -- he still shouldn't be favoured.

Sirius… Snape hated Sirius.  Made that perfectly clear, but in some instances he did listen to what Sirius had to say.  Even if, more often then not, he immediately refuted it - and then told him what an idiot he was.

Snape was a confusing, fascinating man.  A puzzle.  And he was someone Harry shouldn't get to know.  So Harry decided that he'd like to get to know him.

"Potter, do stop staring off into space.  I trust you've brought the dictionary I requested?"

Harry nodded.

"Well then, I'm sure you have heard what this detention consists of.  I do not care what words you use, I assure you that I have heard them all before.  Begin."

"Yes, Professor."

His fingers clutched around the fat spine, Harry moved to stand in front of Snape's desk.  He only hoped that Hermione's charm for marking the pages in order worked.  She'd probably given him a faulty charm when he told her that he was going to pick his words ahead of time so he could bother Snape.

Ron had thought his plan brilliant.  But then Ron would, as long as he thought the words chosen were to embarrass and ridicule.  Not quite the case.  Harry grimaced.

"Tabby:  a cat with a striped or brindled coat.  I had a babysitter growing up who had lots of cats, some of which were tabbies.  Sun:  the star that is the central body of the solar system, around which the planets revolve."  Harry sighed.  He bet that Snape liked this detention so much because it had the potential to bore his students to death.  "Quidditch becomes increasingly difficult to play when the sun is shining in your eyes."

Snape wasn't even listening.  He was scratching at his parchment with his quill, ignoring Harry.

"Private:  belonging to some particular person or persons."  Harry shrugged.  "I always wondered what it'd be like to be someone's private property."

Snape's eyes flickered up from the table for a brief moment, and Harry couldn't help but smile.

"Taste:  to have a particular flavour.  I bet you taste like the potions you brew."  

Snape was ignoring him again.

"Lick:  to pass the tongue over the surface of.  It is always wise to start with licking--"

Snape glared.

"--when eating ice cream, Professor."  Harry smirked in return.  "Study:  application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation, or reflection.   It's much more important to study potions than to think about snogging."

Snape snorted, but didn't look up.  Probably thought Harry was being smart, which he was.

"Homework:  schoolwork assigned to be done outside the classroom.  Potions would be more interesting if my homework consisted of studying you."  Harry drew in a deep breath and held it, waiting for a reaction, any reaction.

Snape didn't look up at him, but his quill paused for a moment.  That could possibly be a good sign.

"Habiliments:  clothes worn in a particular profession, way of life.  Hermione said that your robes are the standard habiliments for school masters.  I think you'd look better without them on at all."

Snape snapped his quill down.  "Potter, that was two sentences and the word wasn't even used in the second."  His eyes only flickered to Harry once.

"Sorry, professor, won't happen again.  Kiss:  to join lips as in affection or love.  I've always wondered what it would be like to be kissed by someone who sees the real me."  Harry turned his face down and flipped to the next word without looking up.  He could feel his face getting hot and thought that maybe this idea of his had been rather stupid.

But he didn't want to give up.  The worst that could happen was that Snape would laugh at him and send him off to the Tower with less points than Gryffindor had had at the beginning of his detention.

"Seduction:  the act or an instance of seducing, especially sexually.  Seduction is a tricky business."  Without pausing he flipped to the next definition.  "Process:  a systematic series of actions directed to some end.  "It's a process that I'm sure I've screwed up tonight."

Licking his dry lips, Harry glanced at Snape.  He wasn't writing anymore, but his head was still bent over the scroll.  His finger wasn't moving over the words, however.

"Show:  to prove or demonstrate.  Sometimes an individual will do something stupid to show someone their feelings.  Live:  to remain alive.  I guess I'll just have to live the rest of my life without knowing your taste."

Harry knew he was being an idiot, but couldn't stop himself.  He couldn't even look at Snape to see if he was even listening.  Or if he even cared.

This whole plan of his was going to backfire.

"Habile:  skilful or dexterous.  I've noticed how habile your hands are, and I think this is a bloody awful sentence, but it fits the definition."

"It is a bloody awful sentence, Potter."

Blanching, Harry turned the page harder then he should have, ripping it.  "Lust."  Snape was going to kill him.  "To have a passionate yearning or desire.  I, uh, I…"

"Let me guess.  You lust after some Quidditch professional."

Harry looked up.  Snape was staring at him through lidded eyes.  The only time he stared at Harry like that was when he was in trouble.  Though the rest of Snape's body language didn't scream trouble.  Maybe…

No.  "No!  I, uh, I lust after the professor who haunts my dreams."  Not quite what he had originally intended, but it worked.

"I see."

Before Snape could stop him, Harry continued with the next word.  "Sincere:  without pretence or deceit.  My words have been sincere."

"Stop, Potter."

~~~

The night had been an unmitigated disaster.  Pouring himself a snifter of brandy, Severus collapsed into his chair, and stared at the fire in the grate.  There was always a fire in his rooms.

His dungeons were a cold place.  Lonely as well, if he had to be honest with himself.

That must have been why he'd been tempted by Potter-- Harry-- Potter.

He should have made sure the boy had left when dismissed.  He shouldn't have let him circle his desk.  And he most definitely shouldn't have let him kiss him.

As much as Severus would like to think that he hadn't known what was going on with Potter during that detention, he did know.  There were signs.  How nervous he was, how he couldn't meet his eyes, how he looked completely determined after Severus had told him to leave…

How he didn't leave.

Potter had gone around the desk and fallen to his knees in front of Snape before he had a chance to move and pull the brat out by his ear.  Looking down at Harry's upturned face, he saw something he wanted, but knew he was too old to have.

He wondered…

Severus hadn't thought of Tyler for years.  It was ironic that this boy with the same scar and the same eyes had cornered him in the same position he'd cornered his professor all those years ago.

The scar and the eyes were the extent of the similarities though.  Tyler had been a man, not a boy.  Harry, however, wasn't really a boy.  He was at that awkward stage between boy and man that Severus remembered so well.  He'd made a fool of himself enough that year.

And he hadn't just thought of Potter as Harry.

He sighed and covered his eyes with one hand.  The too-sweet taste of Potter's chocolate-and-pumpkin-juice flavoured kiss was still there.  Reminding him that he hadn't pushed the boy away, but had instead grabbed his arms and pulled him closer until a semblance of common sense reappeared and he pushed Potter as far away as he could.

Severus was damned.

At least Potter wasn't foolish enough to utter platitudes of eternal devotion and love.  Love doesn't exist at sixteen.

Severus had discovered that the hard way.

Chapter Six:  After effects

*The Past *

When the door slammed open, Severus looked up from the book he was reading.  It seemed that Harry had already reverted back to his undesirable habits in the two months he hadn't seen him.  Making a note to have a word with Harry about pounding around like a herd of hippogriffs, he set the book down, but Harry stormed past him, waving his hand at the door and slamming it.

Without a word, Severus stood up and followed Harry through the sitting room, stopping in the doorway to the bedroom.

Harry was there ripping at the buttons of his robe and tearing his shirt over the top of his head, all the while grumbling something so softly that Severus couldn't make it out.

He hadn't seen Harry this upset since he'd worked at the Ministry and came home cursing Fudge every night.

Something must have been gone terribly wrong.

Never a better time for a bit of humour, in Severus's opinion.

"Professor Tyler?"

Harry stiffened.  "Mr Snape, I believe I requested that you vacate my classroom, not follow me to my private chambers.  Get out, or I will tell your Head of House."

Eyes narrowed, Severus paused, trying to figure out when exactly he had shown up.  The only conclusion he could come to was the evening of one of his detentions with Tyler.  Most likely the pink-coloured chalk detention, if Harry's discomfiture was anything to go by.

Severus had hated that chalk.

Toeing off his shoes, Severus walked across the floor, and went to stand behind Harry.  He settled one hand on his hip and with his other traced the snake and watched as it calmed down from its previous agitation.  

His head bent close to Harry's ear, Severus breathed, "but, Professor Tyler--"

"I said go awa--" Harry spun around.  "Severus, you arse!"  Rubbing his forehead, he glared and stepped back.

Severus let him have the small measure of space.  "What, no welcoming kiss?"  He smirked as Harry's eyes narrowed further.

"I'm in no mood to deal with your sadistic sense of humour."

Running his thumb along his fingertips, Severus stood quietly and watched Harry.  Part of him was pleased that he'd had some sort of effect on his professor while he'd been at school.  Another part of him was quite annoyed by that same fact.  Harry should be beyond the point of being flustered because of schoolboy crushes.

But he hadn't been beyond them either when Harry had approached him, Severus reminded himself.  Coming to a decision, Severus spun on his heel and retreated back to where he had been sitting.  He could sense Harry following him, the air almost crackling with Harry's confused emotions as he wondered what Severus was doing.

The look of shock he received when he turned, hand outstretched offering a snifter of brandy, was smothered and replaced with one of understanding as Harry took a sip.

"Trying to placate my temper, Severus?  I thought you knew by now alcohol has the opposite effect."

Severus lifted one shoulder in a small shrug and took a swallow of his own.  "You deserve something decent after dealing with complete dunderheads day after day."

Harry raised an eyebrow.  "Including yourself?"

"I assure you that on this particular evening, my sixteen year old self was indeed a dunderhead.  However, should you repeat that to anyone, this time or ours, I shall have to…"  Harry's shoulders were shaking as he tried to keep signs of his mirth from bubbling over.  "Mr Potter."

Harry snickered and quickly turned and walked back to the bedroom, shucking the last of his clothing as he went.

"Impertinent brat.  Do not walk away from me while I am--"

"Scolding me?"  Harry tossed the words over his shoulder as he rooted through a drawer.

Folding his arms over his chest, Severus refused to agree and scowled as he watched Harry's search.  The brat still had no idea of which drawer anything was in and probably wouldn't until shortly before he had to leave.  It was no wonder Harry hated moving, though he had done enough of it in the past.

Severus let his eyes wander over the planes of Harry's body, pausing to admire the curve of spine and backside, the innocent tilt of his head (even though innocent was not a term Severus would apply to Harry any longer if, in fact, he had ever used such a term in regards to Harry), and even the mess of hair on top of his head.  "Do you even know what you are looking for?"  Severus went to stand behind him and smoothed a hand down his back before letting it rest on Harry's hip where his fingers clenched.  Harry was his.

"No."  Harry slammed the drawer shut and tugged at Severus's hand until it was resting flat against his stomach.  Harry leaned his head back against Severus's shoulder.

Running his chin along the top of Harry's head, Severus breathed in deeply.  Lately his rooms had started smelling more of potion ingredients and less of Harry.  Granted, it hadn't been as long as he was missing from Harry's life, but for someone who relied on his sense of smell, the change had been a disturbing one.

"You're in a right snit.  Perhaps I should just go?"  A truly idle threat and Severus was sure Harry knew that.

"You could."  But even as the words left his mouth Harry entwined their fingers.  "Or you could stay."  He sighed, shifting back and pressing closer.  The hand not caught in Severus's reached up and back to settle on his shoulder, his fingers brushing his neck.  "I'd rather you stay, Sev."

"Hm."  Severus lifted his hand to pull the fingers that had tangled in the stands of hair at his neck away.  Keeping a grip on Harry's wrist Severus moved to stand in front if him.  "I didn't think you appreciated intelligent conversation."

"I can.  On occasion.  If I try really hard."  Tilting his head back, Harry looked up at him, smirking.  Severus had always distinctly liked the height advantage he had over his Harry.  Reaching out, he ran a thumb over Harry's bottom lip and watched as Harry closed his eyes.  His.

"I suppose I could take pity on you and devise something else to occupy our time."

"Mm.  I wouldn't mind that."  And then Harry flinched, twisting his head away and drawing Severus's attention away from his lips, and to the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders.

Severus took a step forward, forcing Harry to take one back.  He continued pushing Harry until the back of Harry's knees hit the bed and Harry fell onto it, sitting.

"First things first.  Turn over."

Harry snickered.  "Sounds out of order to me."

"Do not be impertinent."

"Yes, Sev.  I do try not to be impertinent.  Sometimes."  But Harry rolled over onto his stomach without further comment.  Severus pulled some small vials out of one pocket and set them aside before he rolled up his sleeves and settled on the bed next to Harry.  Harry, for his part, had turned his head to look at Severus through hooded eyes as he took off his boots and set them against the frame of the bed.  "Ever neat, Severus.  How do you live with me?"

"With great difficulty, I assure you."  Kneeling on the bed, he moved to straddle Harry's hips.  Pouring a measure of oil from one of the vials onto his hands, he rubbed them briskly to warm it before setting his hands on Harry's shoulders.  He lowered his head until he could whisper in Harry's ear, "Not, however, because of your slovenly habits.  You can be quite orderly when you attempt to be, Harry."

Harry's response was a low groan as Severus's fingers dug into the taut muscles, urging them to loosen with firm pressure and soft strokes.  "Mm.  To the right, just a bit, plea-- ah!"

Severus could hear the grimace in Harry's voice as he hit the knot of tension and pressed down, but he continued his self-appointed task, and eventually could feel Harry's muscles relax under his ministrations.  His hands moved lower, rubbing oil into Harry's middle and lower back, working on the muscles that hadn't been quite as tense as the ones in Harry's upper back.  A soft snuffling sound drew Severus's attention and he leaned over. Harry's eyes were closed and his breathing had evened even out.

With a quick slap against one round buttock, Severus managed to wake Harry from his light doze.  Harry jerked up under him and mumbled that he was not asleep and that there was no excuse for Severus to do that.

"There is always an excuse for punishment in your case.  I just don't always need to find the reason prior to administering it."  Severus smirked and traced his finger down Harry's back and down the cleft of Harry's arse.  The sharp intake of breath was hard to miss, as was Harry pushing up against his finger.

Severus's stomach clenched and he moved off Harry to stretch out next to him.  He hadn't received a proper welcoming and had no intention of carrying things further without one.

Rolling over onto his side, Harry looked at Severus, the question obvious in his eyes, but quickly answered as Severus lowered his head to claim Harry's lips.  They were his along with the rest of him, Severus reminded himself with pleasure.  He loved every nuance of taste, from the intoxicating flavour of the brandy they'd share, to the chocolate that Harry must have snuck from somewhere, to the hint of berries covered by all the rest.  And under all that was the taste of Harry.  He'd never had succeeded in getting enough of it since that first taste years ago.  Severus's tongue toyed with Harry's, drawing it into his own mouth, and the kiss deepened further.  He caught Harry's sigh and held it in the timeless space that was their kiss.

Severus pressed him back into the mattress, never breaking the kiss.   Harry's hands were clenching in the fabric of his shirt threatening to rend the material, but Severus ignored it and cradled Harry's face in his hands, wayward strands of hair teasing his fingers with ghostlike brushes as his mouth moved over Harry's.

Breaking the kiss with a groan of his own, Severus rested his forehead against Harry's for a moment regaining any composure he had left, which he was sure wasn't much at all.

"That is how you properly greet a lover you haven't seen for some time, Harry."

"Ah.  Suppose I should file that information away somewhere so I don't forget it."

"These lessons aren't for my own edification."

"Course not," Harry chuckled.

As usual Harry's hands couldn't stay idle, and Severus felt them sliding under the fabric of his shirt, running along his sides and chest, pressing harder in some spots and sliding softly over others.  Knowing his body as no one else ever had.  The sign of a treasured lover, in Severus's opinion.

He saw the dilemma in Harry's eyes.  No way to undo the buttons that lined the front of his shirt without removing his hands.  Severus, not feeling rushed, felt no need to help him.  "Trouble, Harry?"

"Care to lend a hand?"

Severus shook his head and brushed his lips against Harry's.  "Since when do I go out of my way to help you?"

"Miserly bastard."  Harry bit his bottom lip, one hand shifting over to pinch and twist Severus's nipples.  

Severus growled.

"Serves you right."  But Harry was smiling, and with a quick movement had lifted his head and taken the first button between his teeth, working it loose from its hole.  Then the next and the one after that, until Harry must have felt that he could manage to get Severus's shirt over his head, and manage it Harry did.

His arms threatening to collapse as Harry's lips went to work on his skin, Severus stared down at the self-satisfied smirk on Harry's face.  He really should be used to the way those lips worked a type of magic all their own, but he wasn't.  Nor would he ever be.  Closing his eyes, Severus sighed as Harry licked and sucked at all the spots where his fingers had been moments before, drawing invisible lines across his body.

If he missed this after only a week, how much more must Harry have missed it?

Severus rolled until he was on his side, and now it was his hands moving over Harry's body and his lips nipping and licking and sucking Harry's salty skin, leaving of trail of small marks, some more red than others, but all marks that only he could leave.

Possessing Harry had never seemed so important to Severus before.  Normally deft fingers fumbled as they groped for the other vial.  The smell of herbs and oils escaped when Severus pulled the cork out of the top.  Letting some drip out across Harry's lower abdomen, he traced the path of it down through the coarse, springy hair that surrounded Harry's cock, wrapping his fingers around Harry's prick and stroked the oil into the flesh with firm pressure that made Harry suck in a breath between his teeth.

Squeezing, pulling, running a thumb along the head, Severus watched each small reaction of Harry's, his gut twisting with arousal and his cock growing hard and heavy.  Leaning down, he kissed the spot right behind Harry's ear that always dragged shivers and groans from Harry.

"Are you sure you'd rather me stay?  You don't seem very relaxed with my presence," Severus breathed.

Harry wrapped his hand around Severus's and pushed it down in a long stroke.  "Don't wanna relax, Sev.  Want you."  Harry turned his head and caught Severus's lips, drawing him into a long kiss until both of their hands stilled on Harry's prick, and when Harry broke the kiss it was only to roll over onto his knees.

Severus smoothed his hands down Harry's back and sides, only taking them off Harry long enough to undo a clasp and slide them under the waistband of his trousers and pants, pushing them down.  Severus could hear Harry's quiet bubbling laughter as he made a right twit of himself twisting and turning on the bed, trying to kick off the rest of his clothes.

"Loathsome spawn," Severus muttered, but affection tinged his voice, and when his hands returned to glide along Harry's skin, there wasn't a bit of angry tension in them.

"Love you too, Sev."  Harry was smirking at him over his shoulder.

Severus ignored the endearment and picked up the vial, tilting it and letting the thick, slick, oily stuff dribble down Harry's cleft.

Parting Harry's cheeks, Severus slid a well coated finger between them. Pressing against the tight ring of muscle until the digit slid in and then another, he relaxed Harry's muscles as much as he could, knowing that he was driving Harry mad with each thrust and turn.

"Severus… stop.  No, don't… but stop."

His lips curled up as he slid his fingers out of Harry.  He was well aware exactly what Harry meant.  Slipping one arm around Harry's waist, he pressed his chest against Harry's back and his lips against the curve of Harry's neck as he stroked lube onto his own cock and positioned himself.

Harry tensed with the first thrust, but relaxed into the drawn out rhythm Severus started.  Severus breathed in the scent of his Harry, revelled in each contraction and relaxation of muscle he could feel wherever their bodies touched, swallowed at the groans and grunts from Harry as he pushed him higher and closer to his own release, sucked in a breath at the sight of Harry's down-turned head and his fingers bunching the duvet with white-knuckled strength.  Severus's senses swam with each little sign of pleasure, his own rippling along his skin like electricity, setting the small hairs covering his arms and legs on end and sending shivers along his spine.

He moved faster, feeling as if he was almost out of breath, his lungs clenching for air that he kept sucking in, but it all smelled of Harry.  His Harry.  It was as if was starved for it.  Grunting, he thrust deeper and harder, moving his hand down to wrap around Harry's prick and pull until even the unintelligible grunts and groans turned into a soft keening sound, and Severus knew that Harry was close.

"Severus, God, please, Sev."

With a last hard thrust, Severus lost himself, his hand still moving frantically on Harry even as he came.  In the haze covering his senses, he heard Harry's shout and felt the hot, sticky strands shoot out and cover his hand and Harry's chest and the bed.  Severus collapsed against Harry's back.  Harry's hand came up; he threaded his fingers through Severus's hair, holding him there.  Breathing heavily for a moment, Severus rolled to his side, taking Harry with him and holding him against his chest.

"Missed this," Harry mumbled.  "This.  Missed the other too, but this more."

Severus nodded, knowing that Harry couldn't see his agreement, and kissed the top of Harry's head.

"I know you missed it too.  Don't have to tell me."  Harry shifted until he had tangled their legs.  Severus would have a problem getting out of this, but he couldn't bring himself to care much at all at the moment.

Arching his back, Harry twisted so he could catch Severus's lips in a quick kiss.  "Mm.  Tired?"

With a nod, Severus agreed.  Harry relaxed against him; soon soft snuffling snores reached his ears, and Severus closed his eyes to sleep.

~~~

Harry curled into the warm body next to him, breathing in deeply.  Severus.  Home.  Drifting awake slowly, Harry opened one eye to make sure he wasn't dreaming.  He hated it when his unconscious mind played games on him making him think he was home with Severus when he wasn't.

But Severus was there, sitting up in the bed and reading a book.  His favourite potions text, actually.  The one that Harry had taken from the library in a fit of homesickness and then hidden on the shelf of his bookcase when he realised what a dolt he'd been for doing so.  It figured that Severus would find it.

"'Mornin'.  Goo ook?"  Harry asked while he yawned.

Severus looked down at him with a pained expression, but Harry didn't pay it any attention.  Severus could translate his early morning mumblings without any help from him.  He'd been doing it for years and would continue to do it for years to come.

Severus was stuck with him.

"You're only asking to be polite.  You know perfectly well my opinions on this text."

"Rather me be impolite?  Can do that too."  Harry grinned and shifted until he was sitting and could lean his head on Severus's shoulder.  And annoy him by reading over his shoulder.  Or at least appear to.

Severus snapped the book shut.  "Stop that."

"Yes, Sev."

"Brat."

Harry's grin widened, but he didn't move or make any response.

"I brought a supply of headache potions.  Your little experiment didn't work, it seems?"

Harry shook his head.  "I think Poppy's current brews are even weaker than the ones she has now."  Harry paused.  "That makes no sense.  I meant…"  Harry groaned.  "God, I can't make sense of time at this hour of the morning."

"You rarely make sense.  This is not a new fact; however, I did understand.  It's not surprising as you've been taking this potion for too long.  It would take some time for you to be able to achieve any effect with a smaller dose.  I didn't think that this experiment of yours would work while you still had to teach."  A pause.  "I suppose we were awful as students.  Much as you were as a student."

Harry closed his eyes as a vision of last night's detention appeared in his head.  Severus had sent all thoughts of the horrible experience out of his head last night, but now they'd returned full force.  "God awful."  Not that his handling of the situation had been any better, running away as he'd done.

"Harry?"

"Hm?"  Shaking himself, Harry tilted his head to look at Severus.  "Oh.  I was thinking about last night's detention."

"Did it involve a ridiculous amount of pink chalk?"

"Unfortunately."  Harry propped his chin on Severus's shoulder.  "Severus…"  He didn't know what he wanted to ask.  Knew that even if he had known what to ask Severus would probably refuse to answer him.  And he'd be well in his rights to do so for many reasons.

"I was a hormone ridden fool at sixteen.  Quite incapable of controlling my emotions.  I threw quite the fit after you stalked off furious with me that night."  Severus blinked and then a choked laugh escaped his lips.  "Such a bloody little fool."

"Severus--"

"I suppose you're going to tell me not to be so hard on my younger self?"

"I was going to say that you're too hard on yourself, but I suppose… but then--"

Severus placed a finger over Harry's lips.  "Enough.  I do not wish to talk about this.  We shall have some tea and toast, talk, and then I shall be off to give my report to Albus.  Satisfactory?"

"Your schedules are always satisfactory to me, just don't expect me to follow them."  Harry chuckled as he moved to snatch a kiss.  He pushed Severus against the headboard and waited for the protest.  When Severus opened his mouth to do so, Harry silenced him.


Chapter Seven:  The Passage of Time

The Christmas holidays passed both much too fast and much too slowly.  Harry would rather be done with the year.  Finished with the scroll and finished with the students.  But he wasn’t finished with either.

At least Snape and his crush had been gone during the holidays.

It had only been Harry, the Headmaster, some of the faculty and a handful of students.  And the scroll.  It was the scroll that Harry spent the most time with.  Without the burdens of classes or papers to grade, or -- heaven help him -- detentions, Harry was able to get quite a bit of it done.

He almost missed the presence of his father and his friends.  It made sense, the more he thought about it, that they wouldn't stay at the school during the holidays; after all, they -- unlike him -- had family to return to.  It was strange to see just how drastically things had changed in a single generation.

Harry tried not to dwell on it.

It was easier when the students reappeared and classes went back into full swing.  Of course, with classes resuming, Harry had less time with the scroll, and the feeling that he would never get done once again swamped him.  If he delayed even a bit, everything would change.  He kept telling himself that over and over again even though he knew it would only lead to worry and stress.  

But Severus wasn't there to tell him not to.

Young Mr Snape was though, much to Harry's dismay.  Midway through the first lesson back, Harry stopped and informed the class that their seating arrangement would be changing.  Snape and Black were now in the back row.  It might lead to Black causing more trouble, but at least Harry's nerves were much calmer without having to look the sixteen-year-old Snape in the face.

Snape was much quieter after returning from holidays, and Harry didn't really know what to make of that.  Of course he was relieved, but he had spent too many years with the adult version to know that Severus Snape never gave in easily.  That was ingrained into his Severus, a character trait.  This Severus was probably no different.

Which meant the young man was thinking.  Severus thinking could lead to problems.  Problems that Harry didn't want to contemplate, so he set them aside for more enjoyable things.  Like talking with his father and godfather and Remus, and even Peter.

It began with the stories that Harry told the class.  They weren't anything spectacular, were in fact very vague, but he was a teacher that had actually done something other than teach.  Thinking about it, Harry realised that having teachers with practical knowledge of the field was pretty rare, even for him, and that it was those teachers and those stories that he liked the most.  It probably explained why he taught that way.

James and Sirius and Peter were rather interested in becoming Aurors, and while it didn't surprise Harry all that much, the fact that they came up to ask him his opinion on the books they were working with to prepare for the exam and interview before admittance to the program did.

He didn't mind helping them at all, and soon their meetings after class became common.  Even his mother joined in on occasion, much to his father's transparent pleasure.  It was really the only time he didn't see his parents fighting, and Harry could see that there was something between them.  Even if Remus and Sirius still said that James didn't have a chance.

Once Lily joined the little group, though, Remus came less frequently.  At first Harry had no idea why, but then he saw Remus walking the grounds late one afternoon, and he broached the subject.

Remus as a young man was quite different from the one that Harry knew.  This Remus wasn't as surefooted as the one in the future.  He had a lot of growing to do before then, Harry knew, but still it surprised him to find that this Remus had no idea what he was going to do once he left the safety of Hogwarts.

"I can't do anything.  I'll finish here and I might as well…"  Remus sighed.  "Do nothing."

Harry shook his head and laid a hand on the young man's shoulder.  "You're letting them beat you.  Never let them win."

~~~

"… and then because you were in such a good mood when all the students got back, everyone thought you must have spent the holidays in some brothel on Knockturn.  Half the Slytherins insisted that they had seen you, in fact."

Harry shook his head and leaned back in his chair.  "Yeah, that's exactly what this professor did over the holidays."

Sirius chuckled.  "Well, it made sense at the time."

"Of course it did, sixteen year olds always think about nothing other than sex.  They dream up these ideas that everyone is sleeping with someone."

"Did you?"

Harry glared.  "None of your business.  Besides, I don't remember.  Sixteen was an awful long time ago."

The visits each month from Sirius, Severus, or Draco were the highlights of Harry's time.  The longer he was away from home, the more he missed it, but no matter how much he missed it he didn't have the option of going back until after the year was done and his duty to the past Order completed.  The little titbits of news that whoever was visiting him passed on was a solace he was grateful for until the next visit.

Harry needed this lifeline to his time and his life because as each day passed he felt himself becoming more entwined in the lives of those in the past.  It was as if Devil's Snare had tangled around his legs and was pulling him tight against something.  Time.  It was a tangible thing to Harry.  Something that he wished he could escape.

~~~

Harry slammed the quill down and shoved the parchment into his sleeve before heading off to the Headmaster's office.  He didn't make it that far, and was steered back into the little room that he always used to work on the scroll.

"You seem agitated, Octavian.  Did you uncover something?"

Harry swallowed past a lump in his throat.  Of course he couldn't explain to the Headmaster why this was bothering him as much as it was, but he needed to get the information out.  "Harold Potter.  There is going to be an attack, sir.  It's not like the other ones.  He's planning on 'making it a lesson'."


Chapter Eight:  Raiding a Kitchen – Raiding a Heart

Lifting his head from his desk, Harry blearily looked at the watch he had taken off and set on the desk.  Two in the morning.  Severus was going to kill him.  One day he'd learn that he shouldn't grade essays late at night.

Rubbing at his eyes with one hand, he put the essays in the bottom drawer of his desk and set off to the kitchen.  Maybe the house-elves would have something that he could eat before crawling into bed.  All evidence gone might save Harry from a second lecture about--

Harry stopped and leaned against the wall.  There was no Severus waiting for him downstairs in the dungeons.  He didn't have to brace himself for the usual lecture about falling asleep over essays, missing dinner, and eating at two in the morning before going to bed.  He wasn't Professor Potter, he was Professor Tyler, and he was stuck in the past doing a job that he didn't want to do anymore.

He missed his home.  He missed his friends and family.  He missed Severus.  And the fact that he had woken up thinking he was back there just made the pain all the more acute.

Harry's hand was on the portrait, about to tickle the pear and gain entrance to the kitchen, when a shuffle of feet reached his ears and he paused.  Shifting slightly, he turned his head toward the sound.  Breathing.  Scared breathing, fast and shallow.  And the scrape of cloth.  It really was amazing what he could hear when he actually listened.  Severus was right.

Putting on his best Severus "you're out past curfew, what do you think you are doing?" expression, Harry reached out and feeling the slipperiness of an invisibility cloak, grabbed and pulled it off the surprised boys.

"Good evening, gentlemen, or should I be saying good morning?  A little late to be roaming around the castle, don't you think?"

Remus just squeezed his eyes shut and sighed, while Potter looked at him with his jaw set and defiance obvious in his stance.  Well, at least Harry knew where he picked that up from.  Black was doing a fairly good job of looking torn between being defiant and wishing he could hide. And Peter was glancing around trying to find a way to escape.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Harry looked at them.  "At least you remembered our appointment."

The boys stared at him blankly.

"For that talk we were going to have.  About unauthorized wandering around the school."

Harry grabbed an apple from the stash of food they had in their arms and banished the rest back to the kitchen with a wave of his wand.  The Marauders groaned, but said nothing else.

Taking a bite, Harry smirked at them and motioned for them to follow him.  "I should thank you for remembering that I missed dinner.  Come on then."

He hadn't gotten very far when he again felt the brush of material that wasn't there against his arm.  Pausing, Harry once again pulled another invisibility cloak off of more unsuspecting students.

"I didn't know that there were so many students with such cloaks.  Perhaps I should alert the Headmaster.  Someone should be going through students' trunks.  Maybe Mr Filch."

Snape blanched, and Malfoy didn't look much better at the thought of the school's caretaker going through his things.  Of course the same thing would have made Harry terribly uncomfortable as well.

"Well, it looks like we'll have some more company, boys.  How about the two of you joining us for our little talk?"

~~~

Pointing to the area in front of his desk, Harry ordered the boys to stand there and not talk.  "Your traipsing around the castle interrupted me in the middle of some very important work that I had to set aside in order to go and fetch the lot of you."  This wasn't at all the case, but it was a ploy that always worked.  Omniscience in professors was expected, as Harry had learned.

Now that he was in his office, Harry didn't know what he was going to do with them all.  He wanted to make it a real punishment, and not just an afternoon spent copying lines in Professor Tyler's office.  And he didn't want to pawn off his responsibilities as a teacher assigning detention onto another professor.

Looking up from his desk, he examined the boys in their groups.  The Gryffindors on one side, the Slytherins as far away as possible.  For all that they didn't get each other in trouble, the two groups were doing quite a bit of glaring.

Harry sighed.  He was never going to get away from House prejudices.

Coming to a decision, Harry pressed the tips of his fingers together and coughed slightly.  The boys, in turn, started to fidget, and Harry took a bit of tired joy from it.

"Mr Lupin and Mr Pettigrew, as neither of you have landed in my office over the last month, you are dismissed.  Ten points have been deducted from Gryffindor each and you are to meet Madam Pince in the library for your detention tomorrow.  Off with you."

They just nodded, and with apologetic backward glances to their two friends left the room.

"I am really quite tired of seeing you in my office.  Over the past month, I have stopped more scuffles and pranks then I have ever had to in all the years I've taught.  I do not find it amusing."

The four boys looked down at the ground, but didn't say anything.

"Now.  I will not confiscate the cloaks, though I'd be well within my rights to do so.  However, I will not be seeing them again, do I make myself clear?"

A cacophony of "yes, professor" reached his ears.

"The House system, while it does have its virtues, also has quite a bit of failings.  I think this might be a good time to show you that just because you're in opposing Houses doesn't mean you can't… work together."

Harry reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a bunch of cords before moving to the front of his desk to lean against it.  "I think… yes, Mr Black, why don't you switch places with Mr Snape?"  He waited until the two young men complied, dismay in every line of their faces.

Perhaps this was going to border on the cruel, but Harry didn't care at the moment.  These were students.  They were not the adult versions that he cared about so much.  Any guilt he was feeling really was misplaced.

First he approached Malfoy and Black.  "Give me your hands.  Your other one, Mr Malfoy.  Thank you."  Within moments their arms were bound from wrist to elbow with a thin grey cord.  Then he moved to his father and Snape, and soon their arms were bound together similarly.  All four of the boys had looks of horror on their faces.

"I've been thinking of what to do with the lot of you, and this is what came to mind.  You see, you will share each other's lives from five past eight every morning until dinner.  On Monday and Wednesday you will be attending the Slytherin classes that Mr Malfoy and Mr Snape attend.  On Tuesday and Thursday you will be attending the Gryffindor classes.  Friday," Harry paused, thinking.  "Oh, I suppose which ever class you can convince your counterpart to attend.  And on the weekend, well, I just suppose you'll have to spend time in each other's company."

Potter was staring at the cord binding his arm to Snape's with disgust.  "For how long?"

"For a week.  A full seven days.  Starting tomorrow morning."

Pulling his wand out, Harry muttered a Latin incantation and touched the tip to each of the cords.  It almost looked like it was melting into his students' skin, and, he supposed, in a way it was.

As soon as the cords disappeared, the boys jumped apart as quickly as possible.

"This is a joke.  It has to be!"

"No joke, Mr Malfoy.  I'm afraid you've been subjugated to my evil whims."

"When my father hears about this..."

"Yeah," James jumped in.  "I'll tell my da!"

Harry grinned.  "I assure you, I have the Headmaster's full support in this punishment."  And even if he didn't, it wouldn't be hard to get.  Albus, no matter the time, would see the humour in a punishment such as this.  "I have no fear of either of your fathers."

Malfoy and Potter growled but didn't offer further arguments.  It was rather shocking to see how similar the two could be.  Disturbing really.

"Now, before I forget, I'll offer a little advice.  Breakfast is not for sleeping in.  Enjoy the rest of your night, boys."

Turning away from the four grumbling boys, Harry looked down at his desk.  He knew they hated each other, and he knew that this punishment wouldn't work to keep them from hating each other, but hopefully, if his luck would hold out, it would teach them a lesson and they'd keep out of trouble around him for the rest of the year.

It didn't have a chance in hell of succeeding.

“How could you do that to me?!”  

"I believe I did it to the lot of you, Mr Snape."  Harry clenched his fists, his nails digging into the wood of the desk top.  He shouldn't be surprised.  He would have been furious as well.  He couldn't turn and face the young Severus even though he should.

"That's not what I meant.  Why me?"

"I don't see a difference.  You had no reason to be out of bounds after curfew.  You were caught.  You were punished.  That is the end of it."

"You didn't punish Lupin or Pettigrew."

Sighing, Harry turned toward Severus.  "I took points for being out, and assigned them detention with Pince."

"But they didn't get punished like the rest of us!"

Harry clenched his jaw.  He knew what this was all about, and he knew that this wasn't going to get him anywhere.  Severus's concept of fair obviously hadn't changed.

"You're right, I didn't."  He was so tired, and getting into an ideological conversation with an upset sixteen year old was making Harry snappy.  He knew that as well, but he didn't bite back the words that came next.  "Not that it is any of your business."

Severus glowered.  "It's not fair!  Teachers aren't supposed to have favourites.  But just like all the other teachers here, you do.  And of course it's the Gryffindors.  I thought you were different."

“You think all the teachers have favourites?  Well I’ll admit some do.  The Heads of the Houses do.  They favour their houses.  So with those exceptions you still think that ALL the rest of the teachers favour the Gryffindors.  Why?”

Harry should have expected the answer, and part of him did.  He wasn't as surprised as he felt he should have been when Snape muttered, "Potter."

No matter what, Severus would believe the things he thought he saw, and it would continue to the point where his blind hatred of one name would cross generations.  Harry didn't even pretend to hope that he could change that now.

"So the entire school gravitates around Potter and his friends?  Interesting.  But I don't agree."  Why was he doing this?  Why didn't he just snap at Snape to go back to his dorm before he landed himself another detention?

Because he was Severus, and Harry missed his Severus.  Young or old, at three in the morning it didn't matter.  Harry hated himself for that.

"It's true. Everyone favours him.  Even you!"

Harry only caught sight of Severus's cheeks turning pink before the young man turned away and looked at the ground.  

Severus Snape was jealous, to be sure, but as for why, Harry had no idea.

"So you think that I favour Potter and that… upsets you, Mr Snape?"  Harry shook his head.  "I honestly don't see how I do so."

Severus refused to look at him.  "After classes, you are always talking to him and the other idiot Gryffindors."

Severus Snape was sulking.  With his arms crossed across his chest and his glare spitting black fire, he slouched down in his chair and looked so much like the older Severus that Harry's stomach twisted.  Of course, his Severus didn't add the petulant whinging.  Harry was always left to figure out what the problem was on his own.  This, as annoying as it was, was much easier.

"They asked."

"What?"

"They ask for stories.  After class they ask me if there are any other interesting things that I've seen or done that pertain to the lesson.  And, since I see no reason not to humour them, sometimes I oblige."  Harry paused, watching the look of confusion on Severus's face.  "At times they ask for advice instead, and as their professor, I feel honour bound to give it.  I would do the same for anyone."

Some of the petulance drained away, but the sulking remained.  The sulking always remained.

"Mr Snape, I do not play favourites.  I have not played favourites for longer than I've taught.  Have not since I was your age, if you must know.  The fact that you have not been tossed out of my office is proof of this."

"Then why didn't you punish Lupin like you punished us?  Is it because of what he is?"

Harry should be used to having his every action questioned, but from this young man, it bothered him.  He knew that he could just refuse to answer.  Should just refuse to answer, but… part of him wanted to.  Wanted to prove to this Snape at least that there was some sort of fairness in his actions even if he couldn't see it.

“No.  I did not exempt Lupin because of his lycanthropy.  Which you aren’t supposed to mention anyway.”  

Severus didn’t even flinch at the reminder that he wasn’t to discuss Remus's ‘illness’ with anyone, teacher or student, regardless of whether or not they knew.

"Then how can you justify it?"

"Exactly what I've said already.  Over the last month the four of you have repeatedly landed in my office for one thing or another.  I've been handed more complaints about hexes, fights, and anything and everything the lot of you can think up than I desire to count.  You go after each other constantly, and I'm tired of it.  So I assigned a punishment that I hope might curb your behaviour."

"Why do you care?  It's not like you're Head of either House."

Harry shook his head.  "You're my students.  That's enough of a reason to care, to make sure that you don't get hurt, be it by another student or any outside danger.  One of you could cause grave harm to the others."  Harry narrowed his eyes and captured Severus's gaze with his.  "But you already know that, don't you?"

Snape snapped his head to the side.

"Besides, I got tired of my fellow professors bickering over what's to be done with you.  I told them that I would deal with the group of you.  And this is how I've chosen to do it."

"So you don't care?  It's all because you feel responsible for us?  You don't care about anyone at all!"

Harry was taken aback.  "I don't?  A little presumptuous of you, I'd say."

Severus shrugged, but after a minute his body relaxed and he almost seemed to collapse into himself.  "I care."

The words were so quiet that Harry thought he had imagined them for a moment.

"I care that you care.  I want you to care."  Severus's voice dropped in volume even more, but he didn't stop.  "About me."

Harry swallowed.  He could have ended the conversation so many times.  Severus could have been back in his dormitory sleeping and hating him for being an unfair prick.  But instead Harry had let the conversation continue until he was no longer in control.  He closed his eyes for a brief moment.  Now was certainly not the time to give any sort of concession to young Mr Snape.

"Of course I care.  You're my student and it does matter to me what happens to you."

"That's not what I mean!  I want you to care about me as a person.  The way I care about you!"

Steeling himself, Harry lied.  "I don't understand a word that is coming out of your mouth, Mr Snape."

Severus took a deep breath and stared at him, every line of his stance filled with determination.  "I love you, Pro- Octavian."

Shit.

He wasn't strong enough to deal with this now.  He was being offered something that he couldn't allow himself to have.  Ever.

Harry wanted to reach out and take everything that was offered.  He could feel the desire to touch Severus when he was young and vulnerable and open and there.  Right in front of him.  This wasn't his Severus, but one day he would be, and Harry wanted him.  But there wasn't any grand emotion behind it, he knew that.

It wasn't love.  Not for him, and not for this Severus Snape.

"You don't love me."

"I do!  I think about you constantly.  I'm jealous when I see you talking closely to anyone else.  I want to be that person, no matter who they are.  I want you to pay attention to me.  Only me."

"That's not love.  That's infatuation."  Harry couldn't run from this.  He had to deal with it.  If he had dealt with it after that detention, then maybe he wouldn't be in this position at some godforsaken hour of the morning.  "You don't know what love is."

Severus stepped up to him, and for a minute Harry thought of backing away, but foolishly he stood his ground.

"Then show me," Severus whispered, then settled his lips over Harry's.

Chapter Nine:  The Talk

Harry didn't return the kiss, even though one small part of him wanted to.  Clutching Severus's shoulders, he tore his mouth away and pushed the younger man back.  Severus stumbled and ended up sitting in one of the desk chairs.

His breathing fast and harsh, Harry glared at Snape.  He wasn't angry with him, not at all.  He was angry at himself, at the situation, at the complete lack of control that he was so familiar with.  That he hated.

Severus Snape would be going back to his dormitory.  And Harry would curse himself for even answering the first of young Snape's questions when he was safely locked in his rooms.

Harry looked at Severus, his face hidden in his hands.  He was just a boy.  A boy that fancied himself in love with a professor.  This was a bad situation.

"I've ruined things.  I've ruined everything."  Severus's voice was quiet and torn at the edges.

"There was nothing to ruin."

"Any chance I had is gone."

"You had none."

Harry's whole body was strung taut with tension.  In minutes he knew he'd start to feel the aches in his shoulders and calves.  Even his fingers.  He needed to get Severus out.  But he'd proved to himself just how horrible he was at that.  Why couldn't Severus Snape, any Severus Snape, be manageable?

Harry supposed that was part of his charm.

"How can you say that?  How can you think that nothing exists between us?!"

"Because nothing does, and nothing ever will."  He'd say penance for that lie later.  "You are my student, I am your teacher.  That is the only relationship that can, or will ever, exist between us."  

This was sounding too familiar to Harry's ears.  And while the outcome of the last time he'd been in such a conversation was to his liking, he wanted the opposite ending to this one.  All he needed was a little luck.  And lies.

"You can be with me if you want to.  There aren't any rules against this."

"However, that hinges on the belief that I want to be with you, Mr Snape.  For all you know, I could have a woman stashed somewhere."  Fat chance that, but worth a shot.

Severus stared at him with no emotion.  It was as if the concept that he could have been straight never occurred to him.  "You're... no.  You don't like women.  I'm sure of that."

"Really?"

Severus nodded.  "Had you had such proclivities you..." He paused, and for a moment Harry thought he had him.

"You left.  After my detention, you left.  You didn't laugh and say you liked women.  You left.  You're no more straight than I."

Clenching his hand into a fist, Harry cursed himself.  It had never occurred to him to behave so, to hide his persuasion, and just as his Severus always had, this one guessed the motivation behind his actions.

"Point taken.  Though you have not proven your main point.  I have no interest in being with a child."

"I am not a child!  You know nothing about me.  Nothing about my life!"  Severus glared.  "I'm not a child."

Harry's lips turned up in a cold smile.  "And you, Mr Snape, know nothing about me.  Pursuing this relationship makes you foolhardy enough to be placed in Gryffindor."

Severus shrunk back in his chair, his eyes wide and unblinking as he stared at Harry.

"I am not nice.  I am not understanding.  I am not patient.  On quite a few occasions I've been called a heartless bastard."  Harry paused.  He wasn't quite lying, but he was exaggerating the truth quite a bit.  Not that it mattered.  This Severus Snape needn't know what he was like.  It didn't matter.  It'd be better if he never knew.

"You're wrong.  It's all an act."  Harry could see Snape swallow hastily and swipe at his bottom lip with his tongue.  The young man wasn't so sure of himself anymore.  "You're just upset.  The Octavian Tyler that I've seen is not those things."  Severus stood up.  "You say that I don’t know you and that if I did I wouldn’t want a relationship.  So let me get to know you.  The Octavian Tyler that I’ve seen is the most fair, unbiased individual I’ve ever met.  If I’m wrong and you’re right then I wouldn’t want a relationship.  What harm can there be?”  

"No."  One word, and with it the end to one of the worst conversations in his life.

But Severus didn't back down.  "Why not?  I'm not going anywhere until you agree."  Severus shrugged.  "It'd be awfully hard to explain why I was in here so late at night, maybe all night.  It could ruin your reputation with the teachers and students."

Harry flexed his fingers, imagining what they'd feel like strangling the little bastard.  Severus Snape at this age should not be blackmailing him.  Whether or not it was something that his Severus would do.

"Once a week you can come to my office for an hour long tutoring session.  As long as my attention is not required by any other student or teacher, you can sit and finish your homework."  Harry bit out each word between clenched teeth.  "Or, if you so insist, we can talk.  Now, get out."

Severus grinned before turning and scrambling out of the office.

A small glass paperweight in the shape of a prism shattered against the door seconds later.  Sliding down into his chair, Harry waved his hands at the shards before he summoned it back to his hands to look at.

Severus had given the prism to him when he had first started teaching.  It was a practical gift.  Most of Severus's gifts were practical.  Setting it down, he looked at it, and cast a thin beam of pure light into it so he could watch the light break up into so many colours.

This Severus, in this time... Harry didn't know what to do.

~~~

*Future:  Beginning of Harry’s 7th year*

The cool glass clutched tightly in his hands, Harry waited.  The room was silent, except for the crackling of the fire.  The perfect atmosphere for thinking, and Harry was attempting to think, but he was more nervous than anything.  

Sneaking into Severus's room hadn't been the best idea that he ever had, especially since he could have been wrong and suffered some horrible demise at his attempt to breach Severus's wards with a bad password.  But his luck had held, as well as the password that Severus had used at the end of the summer.

And now he was sitting and waiting for the explosion he was sure would happen as soon as he was discovered.  Though he couldn't let things stand as they were.  Severus couldn't continue to ignore him.  Couldn't pretend that everything that had happened during the summer didn't occur.  It had, and it was there, and Harry knew that he needed to know what it all meant.

For Severus.

He was sure what it all meant for him.  It didn't matter if Severus thought he was young or foolish or anything else.  He knew what he felt, and if he had to force Severus to believe it, then he would.  He wasn't giving up without a fight.

The door slamming shut startled Harry out of his reverie, and he sat up a little straighter and clutched his pilfered brandy a little tighter.  And he didn't look at the door.

Though he could feel the second that Severus caught sight of him sitting there in the chair across from his; a prickling sensation between his shoulder blades that made him want to fidget and reach behind him.  He rubbed at his neck, and didn't dare turn around to make sure that Severus was indeed looking at him.  Harry didn't know what to do if he was just being ignored.

“So this is where the Famous Harry Potter has hidden away from the world.”  

Harry flinched at Severus's -- or maybe this was Snape -- lack of inflection.  The cool monotone made him more uncomfortable than Snape's yelling ever did.  Severus.  Severus's yelling.

"I'm not hiding."

"Really?  That filthy mutt that deigns to call himself a man just spent the last fifteen minutes threatening me for murdering you over the summer."

Severus was coming closer.  Harry could hear the swish of his robes as he crossed the room, but still Harry didn't take his eyes away from the fire.

"He's searching the castle for your lifeless body even as we speak.  Wouldn't take the word of your friends," Severus flung the word at Harry, "that you must be alive as they've spent the whole week with you."

Harry laughed, but the sound rang hollow to his own ears.  Trying a smile instead, he finally turned to look at Severus, who had taken the seat across from him and was looking at him.  Passively.  

Harry swallowed.  "We have... I think we should talk.  So I came down here.  No hiding.  Just didn't tell anyone where I was going."

Severus gave him a clipped nod.  "You shouldn't be drinking."

"You shouldn't have let me try any over the summer.  I've discovered I like brandy."

Severus said nothing for a moment, and Harry wondered if he had misstepped.  If the joke had been the wrong thing to say.  He wondered if everything he'd been doing was wrong.  Shaking his head, he turned back to the fire, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do, supposed to say now.

"Aren't you the least bit worried about your godfather wandering the castle looking for you?  All sorts of evils could befall him.  You should go."

Harry shrugged and sipped at the brandy.  "He knows I'm fine.  He's just trying to be difficult.  I told him I found the summer 'tolerable'.  I would have told him I didn't mind spending time with you at all except that I kinda like having a godfather and didn't want to kill him."

"Pity.  The world would have been so much nicer."

Harry gave a half-hearted smile.  Severus and Sirius would never like each other.  The world would end first.  But Harry didn't really want it any other way.  They wouldn't be them, and Harry really liked them the way they were.  Except for when he didn't.

"I meant it, you know.  What I said."

Severus wasn't looking at him.  "You've said many things, Mr Potter, and I'm sure that you haven't meant all of them."

Biting his lip at the sound of 'Mr Potter', Harry chewed on it while he tried to figure out where to go next.  Severus was impossible.

There really weren't that many directions he could take this conversation.

"I meant it when I said I love you.  I do."

Severus's fingers dug into the upholstery of his chair, and Harry watched as his knuckles turned from pale to red to white. He didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign.

"Don't say such things, Potter."

Bad sign, then.  "It was 'Harry' this summer."

"It is no longer summer.  You are back attending classes, and I am back to teaching them.  Whatever nonsense occurred this past summer shall not continue."

There wasn't any argument that Harry could offer if Severus really didn't want to continue their relationship.  Especially since there wasn't really a relationship, just a hope that Harry had been harbouring.  But he wouldn't leave without knowing one thing at least.

"Why?"

"It's relatively simple.  You are now my student once again."

"I've always been your student.  Nothing is different."

"This summer, Potter, you were acting as an operative of the Order of the Phoenix, assigned to work with me by Albus Dumbledore."

"Harry.  If you expect me to listen to your argument then you can call me Harry.  Please, Severus."

"The dynamic this summer was different.  I was your mentor, Harry, not your teacher.  Now that we are back at school, I am once again your professor and you are now back to being Potter, the bane of my existence."

Harry leaned back and sighed.  One victory coupled with a loss.  He wasn't gaining any ground at all.  "That's just an excuse.  You're hiding behind your excuses. I wish you'd stop."

Severus's eyes narrowed.  "I am doing no such thing.  Now, I insist that you vacate my quarters immediately.  And I wouldn't bother coming back.  The password shall be changed as soon as the door closes behind you."

Harry closed his eyes for a minute.  The glass he held was no longer cool.  Instead it felt like it would slip out of his hands, his palms had gotten so sweaty.  Setting it on the small table next to him, Harry slipped off the chair to his knees.

"Don't push me out."

"I do not plan to bother with you.  You are to show yourself out.  With magical help, if need be."

"Not your rooms.  Not..."  Harry pulled in a harsh breath between his teeth.  "We shared a lot this summer, Severus."

"And what do you think we shared?"

"Secrets.  Emotions.  Our souls."

Severus snorted.  "Our souls?  You must be joking.  Where do you find these concepts?"

Harry didn't say anything; he didn't need to.  Instead he watched as Severus, most likely without thinking, lifted the brandy glass from the table and took a sip.

"We saved each other's lives.  You suffered a breakdown and chose me to confide in.  I'm sure had anyone else been there, you would have chosen them.  Likewise, as far as I am concerned.  You were convenient."

Harry's chest clenched at the complete dismissal.  "Liar."

Harry watched as Severus stiffened in his chair and narrowed his eyes.  He might have pushed too far, but Harry didn't care.  It needed to be said.  If he ended up on his arse outside that door, so be it.

He had a feeling he wouldn't, though.

"You don't confide in people just because they're convenient.  You'd rather die first."

Taking the glass out of Severus's limp fingers, Harry drained it.  He could see Severus restraining himself from snapping at him about how to properly drink brandy.  It should be savoured, he'd say.

"Just... like... you."  Harry smiled when Severus raised an eyebrow.  Good that he didn't know what Harry was muttering about.  He'd dismiss it as sentimental cack, no doubt.

"I've spent the entire summer breaking through your walls in order to get to know you."  Harry grabbed onto the armrests, making sure that he wasn't touching Severus in any way.  He had no intention of making Severus more skittish.  He liked where he was just fine.  "You aren't going to just slam those walls back up again.  I did not confide in you because you were there, no matter what you may think.  I knew that you would understand, in a way that others couldn't.  The same reason that you confided in me.  We shared our souls."

Severus shifted so that he wasn't looking at Harry anymore, and was instead looking over Harry's shoulder at the fireplace.  "Stubborn as always.  I don't imagine it's occurred to you that there are school rules against such scandalous relationships?"  Severus's gaze flickered to Harry's face and then away again.  "Rules we must abide by?"  

Harry shrugged.  "I suppose that they'll just have to bend one more rule for the 'Boy-Who-Lived.  You're always saying how I think the rules don't apply to me anyway."

Severus's fingers brushed against Harry's arm as he clenched his fist.  "Insufferable brat.  There are reasons-"

Harry took in a deep breath.  "No doubt.  But it's not like you'll change my grade or anything.  I've always been horrid at potions and I always will be.  I'd be put out if you started marking me well in that class.  Or were nice to me.  You wouldn't be Severus then."

Severus started to say something, but Harry didn't even give him a chance to finish the first word before covering Severus's lips with two of his fingers.

"You don't care about the rules any more than I do.  It's just another excuse that you're using.  I know you now.  Don't play games like this.  I'm not stupid enough to fall for them."  Harry let his fingers fall away as he sat back on his heels.

"I never thought you stupid."  Severus's voice was low, and he wasn't looking at him at all; his head was completely turned away.  "However, I do think that you don't apply yourself nearly as much as you should."

It was enough of an admission that Harry had to keep himself still, and he dug the tips of his fingers into his thighs to keep from doing something foolish.  Severus didn't hate him.  Might not love him, probably only borderline liked him, but didn't hate him.

"You're right.  But why should I bother?  My life has been predetermined since I was an infant.  Let it take its course; after all, I'm not in control."

Severus's head snapped back, and his eyes caught Harry's in their gaze.  With one hand, Severus reached out to tilt Harry's head up.  "You are in control of your life, Harry.  You make your own choices, for better or for worse.  If you choose to walk out of this castle upon completion of your studies and not look back, I would not blame you.  Never say that you are not in control of your life.  Don't give anyone else such power over you."  Severus's face hardened and his voice turned bitter.  "The wizarding world has asked too much of you and has not done well in its responsibility to you.  Myself included."

"What?"

"Your hearing is not impaired.  I've failed in my responsibility to you.  As a teacher.  As a mentor.  As an adult.  I should stay away from you."  His voice dropped.  "Though it is hard to want to."

Lifting himself up from where he was resting on his heels, Harry shook his head.  "No.  I won't let that happen.  I don't want that.  It's not true."  

Severus settled a hand on Harry's shoulder.  "You can't stop me."

"Watch me."

They stared at each other until Harry broke the contact by standing.  Setting his shoulders, he turned and started to the door.

"Where are you going?"

Harry smiled.  He had him.  "I thought you had kicked me out."

"Running away?  Giving up halfway?  Very un-Potter like."

"Would you rather me stay, Severus?"

Harry counted his breaths between his question and Severus's answer.  Almost too many.  He almost took another step to the door.

"If you would like."

Biting his lip, Harry turned and approached Severus.  "You aren't going to change the password to lock me out?"

Severus waved his hand, dismissing the question and Harry smiled.  This was the closest he'd get to Severus admitting that he didn't mind his company.

Harry leaned over and captured Severus's lips with his own.  He knew the moment that Severus surrendered to the kiss, could feel the stiffness melt away as his fingers pushed down on Harry's.  He could feel it in the way Severus's other hand went up his arm, fingers curled around his neck.  And even without those little physical signs, he just knew it, like he knew so much else.  It was a feeling.  And it was right.

He pressed closer, pushing one knee up on the chair between Severus's legs.  His fingers clenched in the fabric of Severus's robe at his waist, and Harry moved to deepen the kiss, but Severus broke it.

Startled, Harry looked at Severus.  He'd been so sure.  He knew.

The lines around Severus's eyes deepened, and he frowned, making a crease in his forehead.  Harry might have known, but Severus still wasn't sure.

Unclenching his fingers from Severus's robe, Harry moved his hand to Severus's cheek and rested it there.  He shifted a bit, just looking at him, trying to figure out what he should say.  "I want this, Severus.  I've thought about it and I'm sure.  You should know that.

"I didn't figure this out when my head was clouded with other thoughts."  Harry smirked.  "Much more inappropriate thoughts.  No matter what happens, no matter what decisions we make in the future, I want you to understand that I want this.  Not just sex.  Something more substantial.  Right now I could give you everything I have to give and be happy if you took it."

Pausing, Harry pressed his lips lightly to Severus's for a moment, but pulled back before the kiss deepened.  There was still more to say.  "It's not free, though.  Because I want the same from you."

They stared at each other.  Severus wasn't moving, or blinking, and it almost seemed like he wasn't breathing.  Too much.  Harry had gone too far.  He couldn't accept the littlest victory; he just had to keep pushing until he got what he wanted.

Harry knew that would be his downfall someday, but why did it have to be that day?

One heartbeat, and then another and another.  Harry's hand slipped from Severus's cheek to his shoulder, his fingers going lax as his chest tightened.

But then Severus wrapped his hand around Harry's neck again, pulling him forward for a kiss, and Harry knew that he might not have won that battle, but he hadn't lost it, either.  Maybe it was a draw.

Chapter Ten:  The Week From Hell

*Past*

Remus and Peter stared slack-jawed at James and Sirius as they finished growling out their story about what had happened after they had been sent back to the dorms.

"And as the door slammed shut we heard Snivellus screeching about how unfair it all was!  As if he deserves special treatment for having a huge nose or something."  Sirius kicked off his shoes.

"Seven days tied to that slimy git."  James glared at nothing in particular.  "I'd rather scrub chamber pots."

"You!  I have to be dragged around by the most vainglorious peacock in the school.  I think I'll chop Malfoy's hair."

"Second most vainglorious peacock in the school," Remus muttered.  "This is a joke.  Tyler wouldn't do something like that, it's… It wouldn't be right.  You'll miss classes.  You have to be making it up."

James scratched at his arm.  "I wish it was just a joke.  What will Lily think?  All this hanging about with Snape."  He groaned and lay back on his bed.  "She'll never speak to me again."

"She barely speaks to you now."

"Shut up, Sirius."

Looking back and forth between the two pranksters, Remus tried to find a hint of a joke in either of their expressions.  There was nothing.  He shook his head in wonder.  Tyler really had beaten them at their own game this time.

~~~

The following morning saw the impossible.  Sirius Black was early to breakfast.  And not only was he early, he was awake, fidgeting with the sleeve of his robe and staring at the doors of the Great Hall without blinking.

Remus elbowed him, and Sirius turned his attention back to his plate but didn't eat anything.  Peter kept asking what had happened to his normal bottomless appetite and Sirius kept responding by flicking bits of sausage at him.

When Snape and Malfoy walked through the doors, Sirius's head shot up quickly, followed by the rest of his body.  He narrowed his eyes in anger and didn't move from his position.  James had stood as well and, pushing past Sirius, went to say good morning to the two Slytherins.

Most of the students at breakfast (and even most of the teachers) were watching with rapt attention.

A quick nod, and Snape followed James to the table where they took their seats.  A low curious buzz started at the Gryffindor table and carried throughout the hall.  This had to be one of the oddest things the students had seen in some time.

Then the rumours started.  First it was a huge prank that the Gryffindors were playing on the school.  They were going to do something completely unexpected and were pretending to friend the Slytherin as cover.  Then there was the truth, but no one gave it much credence.  That Tyler would bind the Gryffindor to the Slytherin was just too far-fetched.

Or was it?

Malfoy was still standing by the entrance to the Great Hall and Sirius was still glaring.  Neither had moved.  And then it happened.

It was as if they'd been hit by an anti-gravity spell.  Their bodies lifted off the ground, and they took off, flying toward each other, meeting over the Hufflepuff table where they collided and spun out of control.  Sirius hit the floor hard and was pulled under the table where Malfoy had landed.

Twin groans escaped and the two boys glared at each other.  From the Head Table Tyler's laughter could be heard even though he quickly smothered it.

The whole bonding thing didn't seem all that far-fetched, after all.

~~~

The whole school decided that Potter and Snape looked good with purple hair the next day.  Some students even went out of their way to tell the boys that they almost looked like twins.  Especially when they glared.

Of course that caused more glares, and when they realised that, they quickly tried to hide their expressions.  Which didn't work.  So one would always try to storm off and end up on his arse only five feet away.

The students were having as much fun with the prank as Tyler was.  He was always lurking around watching the boys and snickering behind his hand.  It was as if there was a whole level to the punishment that only he understood.

By lunch everyone had heard what had happened.  Snape had slipped a potion into James's pumpkin juice at breakfast that was supposed to change his hair colour, but somehow it had ended up carrying over and changing Snape's hair as well.

Dumbledore, for his part in the hilarity, complimented the boys on their fabulous fashion sense and decided that it'd be a wonderful idea to add some colour and flair to certain persons.  Tyler was one of them, and the laughter turned on him when Dumbledore flicked his wand and forced Tyler's hair to turn a startling colour of green "to match his eyes."

Smiling, Tyler turned the tables.  Albus's hair and beard turned shocking blue and even appeared to start twinkling when he laughed.  

"To match your eyes," said Tyler.

It was even better the next day when Tyler's hair had returned to normal, but Dumbledore's was still blue.

~~~

It was bound to come to blows sooner or later.  Half the school was surprised it had taken as long as it had.  No one knew what Malfoy and Sirius were arguing about, but it didn't really matter.  What did matter was the curse that Sirius cast.

Malfoy was completely bald and the Great Hall was silent.

Except for Tyler who turned to Albus.  "Don't even think it."

Everyone waited for Malfoy's retaliation, and they saw it at lunch that afternoon.  Or at least, they thought it was Malfoy's payback.  Malfoy seemed to be enjoying it, anyway.

Sirius's hair was down to his ankles and Remus and Lily were taking turns pulling it or prodding it with their wands as Sirius grimaced and told them to knock it off.  Nothing would cut through the long black locks, and with every compliment Sirius received on his hair his glower turned blacker than his name.

By supper Sirius's hair had grown more than anyone had expected.  Somehow it had even managed to ensnare a house-elf.  Sirius did his best to ignore the little creature's pleas to be let loose, but he was obviously failing as a deep red flush crept up his neck and face, even turning his ears red.

The first boy that commented how pretty he looked when he blushed barely managed to miss Sirius's fist.

Shaking his head, Tyler had approached the Gryffindor table where the boys were sitting and told Sirius that his hair would be much more manageable if he would just take the time to braid it.  Sirius crossed his arms and scowled.

With a quick flick of his wand and a muttered spell, Tyler returned Sirius's hair to its usual shaggy length.  As well as Malfoy's -- though his wasn't shaggy or unkempt -- who was finally able to discard the hat he'd stuck on his bare head.

~~~

No one was prepared to see a screaming James being led down the hall by Madam Pince the next day, an armless, quiet Snape next to her.  The missing appendage was floating along on its own beside the trio as they made their way to the hospital wing.

Never before had Poppy had such a good patient, but she kept having to scold James for his blubbering.  It wasn't as if his arm had been cut off, after all.

~~~

No one saw what happened the next day because the four bonded boys had spent most of their time outside by the greenhouses, unable to move.

They were carted up to school proper by Hagrid and handed over to an annoyed Professor Tyler.

"Thought by now the four of you would have given up.  It seems I'm wrong."  He crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at the four bodies looking up at him from their prone positions on the ground.  "I'm sure it was a fight, but as I have no idea who threw what, I'll just leave it to your Heads of House to figure out and deal with."

The Gryffindors heard his laugh until McGonagall, dragging them along by their ears , pulled them around the corner.

~~~

No one saw Malfoy or Sirius at dinner the next night.  It didn't take long for the rumours to start circulating around the Hall that they had figured out a way to kill each other.  The rumours changed quickly when Malfoy strode into the Great Hall a few minutes after eight with a book under one arm and a smug expression.

Rest in Peace, Sirius Black.

His eulogy had been almost completely planned when Sirius stumbled into the dorm that night, cursing all Malfoys -- present, past, and future -- and Sprout's Devil Snare.

An hour later, smelling like bruise-healing paste and still cursing Malfoy, Sirius rolled over and tried to fall asleep.

~~~

The next day no one quite knew what to make of Sirius Black, wearing nothing but pants, flying through the open doors of the Great Hall.  He looked bleary eyed and battered, dragging a leg from a suit of armour.  Or what to make of Malfoy getting hit by the leg of the armour as he flew out of his seat at breakfast and crashed into Sirius over the Hufflepuff table.

The Hufflepuffs bemoaned the loss of their breakfast for the second time that week.

~~~

Harry contemplated the four boys sitting in front of him that night.  They'd run into his classroom exactly at the stroke of eight and held out their arms.  Instead of undoing the bond right away, he barked an order at them to sit.  They did.

He wondered if he could talk them into jumping through a hoop in order to get the bonding cords off.  It was possible, but they really had given him enough entertainment that week without him forcing them to do anything else.

"You all realise that it could have gone easier for you if you had just behaved, and endeavoured to get along for a week."

The looks on their faces let him know just how impossible and insane the four thought that idea.

Harry sighed.  Well at least he had had some good laughs out of the whole mess.

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."

Chapter Twelve:  An Indelible Mark on Your Soul

*The Past*

Harry sucked in a sharp breath between his teeth and pillowed his head against his arms on top of his desk.  Being sick always made him feel like a child, completely out of control of everything around him.  His head throbbed and his chest was tight; he couldn't think, couldn't breathe, could only sit there and pretend it was all going to go away.  Which it wouldn't.

At the knock on the door Harry attempted to lift his head off the desk, but doing so caused bright colourful lights to flash in front of his eyes and a wave of dizziness to wash over him.  He swallowed heavily and let his head fall back to his arms with a groan.  "Enter."

Albus strode into the office, his features switching from his normal over jovial ones to a look of concern as he took in Harry's pale features.  "How are you feeling, Octavian?"

"Slightly under the weather.  I'm sure I'll be right as rain in a few days."  Harry paused to grimace.  "Nothing a little Pepper-Up won't cure."

"Hm."  Albus didn't believe him, and Harry couldn't find cause to blame him; after all, he did have a mirror in his room and was perfectly aware of how he looked.

"Didn't you say the same thing last week?"

Ignoring the question was the best course of action in his present state, Harry decided.  All he wanted to do was sleep, and the sooner Dumbledore got what he wanted and left, the sooner Harry could attempt to pick himself up from his desk and go to his rooms.

"What brings you here, Albus?"

"It seems I am the bearer of bad news.  The attack against Harold Potter that you translated did indeed happen just as you'd outlined.  Harold didn't make it."

Harry swallowed and forced himself to sit up.  "Poor James."  It was all he could say.  The information was so confusing to him on an emotional level that he had no idea what to do with it.

"The young Mr Potter has his friends around him.  I'm sure that he'll pull through right enough.  That, however, is not what I'm here to discuss, Mr Tyler."

Harry raised an eyebrow.

"I should have tried harder to convince him that we could trust your translation, Octavian.  I just…"  The Headmaster trailed off.

Harry was surprised that he recognised the look on Albus's face.  He'd only seen it a handful of times and never had it been directed toward him.  Usually it was Severus on the receiving end, when Albus had to go against his recommendation because the Order had decided that whatever Severus had reported wasn't trustworthy.  It was always the times that Severus's recommendations would have saved lives, and Albus always thought that he should have known.

Albus was feeling guilty.

Harry shook his head.  He couldn't deal with Albus when he was like this, especially when he felt like he was going to fall over.  "You couldn't have known.  My references weren't exactly exemplary."

But Albus didn't give up.  "The letter from Aberforth should have convinced me that you were trustworthy."  

A wave of guilt broke over Harry.  That letter wasn't actually from Aberforth.  It'd been a forgery, along with every other document that Harry had handed over to the Headmaster when he'd presented himself for the Defence Against the Dark Arts job at the beginning of the year.  Everyone involved with getting him to the past successfully had been counting on the fact that Albus's brother was fairly absent-minded and wouldn't remember such a letter if Albus decided to ask about it.  Wouldn't be able to definitely refute writing it either.

"He didn't remember me when you contacted him."

"My brother doesn't always remember to wear socks, either."  Albus waved his hand dismissively.  "Nor does he always remember names.  But that is neither here nor there, my boy.  I should have taken the translation seriously.  The majority of your others did occur, but I think that this was one I wanted you to be wrong about and let myself be convinced that you were potentially trying to lure us into a false sense of security.  I am sorry for that."

"Headmaster…"

"The Order has decided to grant you unrestricted access to the scroll.  We plan to take you seriously from now on.  Something we should have done from the start."  Albus rested his hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezed.  "Now drink up.  We're counting on you."  With a wave of his hand a goblet of Pepper-Up appeared in front of Harry.

Albus watched as Harry took the first swallow, and then, nodding in satisfaction, he took his leave.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and groaned, but not in pain this time.  He hated it when Albus -- or anyone else for that matter -- said things like that.  It always made him feel as if the weight of the world were resting on his shoulders, and Severus never helped matters, by assuring him that it was, but that he could always toss it aside if he so chose.  Pushing the uncomfortable thoughts aside, Harry brought his mind back to focus on a more mundane topic.  His health.  He had no idea what was wrong.  He never stayed sick long, and usually a bit of Pepper-Up did cure him when he was well and truly sick.  Maybe he didn't have a touch of the flu as he thought.  Severus, no doubt, would be able to figure out what was wrong.

But Severus wasn't here, just his younger self who had started to avoid Harry as much as possible.

Then it dawned on him.  He'd have to keep a closer eye on the young Severus Snape for signs of an active Dark Mark.  A little touch of Pepper-Up wouldn't do anything, if Harry's guess was right.

~~~

"If you want, you can borrow my notes, James."

It figured that James Potter would get Lily where he wanted her when he didn't want her there, Sirius thought as the group walked down the hall toward the Defence classroom.  Lily had been quite nice to James since they got back to the school late Friday, but James wasn't really paying all that much attention.

Lily should just sod off and let James grieve.  Not that Sirius really understood the concept.  Any family members he'd lost he'd be much better without.

Sirius was forced out of his thoughts when he ploughed into Remus from behind who had stopped a few feet away from the Defence classroom and the group of students gathered around the door.

"Is Professor Tyler late?"

"Uh, no.  But he is sick, and we thought--"  The student that had been answering Remus's question was cut off by the door slamming open and hitting the wall.

"In.  Sit.  Be quiet." Tyler growled, and then muttering, "I thought students knew how to open a bloody door, for Christ's sake."  He stalked back into the room.

Sirius paled slightly.  "Sick or furious?"

"Doesn't matter, it's equalling out to the same thing.  Come on.  I bet we have a pop quiz."

Remus groaned, as did Peter, but Sirius brushed the news off.  He'd just walk up to Tyler and say that they had all been at a funeral and hadn't finished getting the notes and should be excused.  Whether or not they had the weekend to catch up.  Yeah, that was exactly what he was going to do.

But the idea died a quick death as Sirius walked into the classroom, Peter ducking behind him so he wouldn't be seen, and caught his first good look at the professor.

Even with his messy hair and casual attire, Tyler always managed to look together when he taught classes.  But now he looked mercenary and dangerous and it was no wonder that no one wanted to go into the classroom.  His hair wasn't tied back and it cast deep shadows across his pale face.  The man had no colour.  His eyes were sunken in and heavy lidded, and he looked as if he hadn't eaten a proper meal for days.  Why he wasn't in the hospital wing was anyone's guess.

The students wouldn't mind another teacher for a few days.  But Sirius knew that Tyler wouldn't let something like a being really sick keep him from teaching classes.

"What is it, Black?"

Sirius swallowed and approached the desk, his prepared speech refusing to come to him.

"I think Professor Tyler expects an answer, Black," Snape whispered in his ear, and Sirius spun on his heel to confront the boy.  A few days gone and he and his friends had returned to find that Snape had miraculously gained popularity, both with the Slytherins and with a few other students as well.  He was more insufferable than ever.

At least, Sirius thought as Snape rubbed at his arm, the git had hurt himself.  Served him right having a bruised arm.  His head had probably had been so swelled, he couldn't see where he was going and ran right into a wall.  How Sirius would have loved to see that!  

"Take your seat, Mr Snape," Tyler barked.  The professor's eyes were narrowed at Snape, watching every move as if he didn't trust him.  How very interesting.

"As for you."

Sirius started.

"The four of you are to accompany Ms Evans to the library where she will go over the work you missed last week.  You will have to complete the same essay that I am assigning the class during class today, and I expect it day after tomorrow.  I do trust that my generosity in not making you sit the quiz will be thanked by my not hearing a single complaint from Madam Pince about your behaviour."

The all chorused their agreement in one way or another.

Nodding, Tyler turned away.  "A moment, if you will, James.  They rest of you can wait for him outside and then you will all be on your way."

Sirius looked over his shoulder at Tyler placing his hand on James's shoulder and quietly speaking to him.

~~~

"My sincerest condolences to you, James.  No one should ever lose a parent like you did.  I know it doesn't seem like much coming from a professor you barely know and who didn't know your father… But, I am sorry for your loss.  You must miss him terribly."

Harry dropped his hand from his father's shoulder and watched the boy look at him.  James nodded quickly, his lips pressed tightly together to keep from saying something, though Harry had no idea what, and then he turned and headed to the door.

He'd probably handled that badly, but couldn't think of another way to do so.  Not when his head felt as if it was full of cotton batting.

Turning back to the class, he sank down into his chair and stared out at them.  The whole school had heard by now that Tyler's classes were different from usual.

"Parchment, quill, and I'd better not see a single book."

The students stayed quiet as they did what they were told, and only a few students hesitated with either smug or worried expressions.  It didn't surprise him at all that Severus was looking at him, his features a mixed cloud of smugness and worry.

The worry faded as he reached over with his right hand to rub at his left forearm.  Harry sighed under his breath.  He'd been watching this Severus for the last few days and hadn't liked what he'd seen.  Severus was still reacting to the burn and pain of having magic drained from him, but he didn't have to deal with the effects of having that magic drained.

Harry did.

Growling, Harry snapped at his students to get to work, forgetting that he hadn't yet set the essay, and with a flick of his wand a piece of chalk levitated itself from his desk and wrote the assignment.  Every head bowed over paper as they set to work.

Harry wished that he could lower his head as well, just to rest for a moment, just to pretend that if he were to lift Severus Snape's sleeve he wouldn't see a Dark Mark disgracing the pale skin of his arm.  Damn it.

Rubbing the back of his neck, he looked down at a blank piece of parchment he'd arranged in front of him, and dipping a quill into some ink, started drawing random lines and squiggles.  His head was too clouded to do anything productive, let alone grade the batch of horrid essays his last class had set on his desk as they left.

A cough from the doorway drew Harry's attention, and he saw Minerva standing in the doorway, blocking someone who was anxiously trying to get around her.  Her eyes shone with concern, and Harry felt a pang of guilt clawing at him for making everyone worry over him.

"Hello, Professor.  What can I do for you?"

"I was hoping you could tell me whether or not I should believe this man's claims as to being an acquaintance of yours?"  Minerva stepped aside and a tall man with ruddy blond hair walked a few steps into the class.

Narrowing his eyes, Harry looked the man over.  Yes, there was indeed something familiar about him.  He was tall with a thick build, and had deep lines etched into his face from either frowning or laughing too much.  Feeling his students' gazes on the stranger as well, he snapped at them to return to their essays.

The glint of bravado and ego that appeared in the grey eyes finally tipped the scales.

"Yes.  We both taught at my former position."

"So Mr Hearst was telling me.  I shall leave him with you then, Tyler."

Harry bent his head as Minerva turned to leave.  "Be good while I bring Mr Hearst to my office or there will be hell to pay."  Harry jerked his head to the side and directed his visitor toward the office attached to the classroom.

"Trusting of the little buggers, aren't you?"

"I can't find it in me to care if they cheat at the moment."  Harry took a linen handkerchief from his pocked and coughed harshly into it, cursing at the metallic taste of blood in his mouth.

The door shut with a bang and Harry turned to his visitor who had crossed his arms over his chest and had his best glower plastered on.

"What the hell is going on with you, Harry?"

Harry grimaced.  "Nothing.  It's nothing, Sirius.  Just a touch sick."  He sighed, feeling the need to cough again, but he smothered the urge.  "I'll be back after class.  I'm not that trusting."

Sirius wrapped his hands around Harry's shoulders and pushed him down into his office chair.  "Even I can handle administering a test or whatever they're doing.  Don't forget who taught you everything you know."

Harry bit back the reply of "Severus" that was just dying to escape.

"You sit.  I'll teach."  Whipping around, Sirius made for the door and bolted down the stairs.  As the door shut, Harry heard Sirius announce to the class that he was watching them for the remainder of the period, and if they thought Tyler was bad, they should wait to see what the raw side of his temper looked like.

Harry snickered behind his hand and coughed again in to the handkerchief.  Sirius was a puppy when it came to disciplining students.  All bark and growl; but compliment him, and he'd roll over and let you scratch his stomach.

Summoning a glass of water, Harry moved over to one of the wingbacks and collapsed into it.  He fell into a light doze as he waited for the class to end, and Sirius for come back and start the inquisition.

~~~

"Right," Sirius said as he sat down.  "I've got McGonagall covering this class, and she asked some other professor to cover your next.  She seemed relieved that someone was able to convince you that you aren't capable of teaching for a day or two while you get better."

"You didn't convince me, just went on and did what you bloody well thought best."

"Oi!  Don't get so snappy.  Knew you spending as much time as you do with that git would have a bad effect on you."  Sirius sighed and slumped into the chair by Harry.  "You're sick.  I'm your godfather and I know what's best for you."

"And I won't be getting better in a day or two.  This," Harry waved a hand in front of him, "isn't going to go away with a couple days bed rest.  I might as well keep teaching classes."

Sirius narrowed his eyes.  "Why not?  I've not seen you this sick before.  Is it one of those weird things where everyone is immunized for some bug, but since you're from, you know, you're not?"

Harry shook his head.  "No.  Did Sev send any potions with you?"

"Headache draught and Dreamless sleep and whatever else you pour down your throat.  I think I caught a stimulus potion or two in there.  We really need to have a word about that, and did you know that the stupid git tried to lecture me about how tiresome and rotten I was to you as a student.  I mean, really, if anyone was a right pain in the arse, it had to have been Sni- Snape!"

"Shut up, Sirius."  Harry shook his head and sunk lower into the chair.  "Don't insult Severus."  A smothered cough.  "And yes, I tell him not to insult you to me too.  So it's fair.  God, sometimes I think I'm the mature, responsible, older one."

"Hey, you don't get to be insulting either!"

Harry tried to grin, but broke off the attempt when a coughing fit hit.  Cough after cough, robbing him of air and making his lungs feel scratched and raw.  He hated this feeling. But he was stuck with it until someone could bring him some of the potions he needed.

Nausea rolled through Harry.  He didn't think he could last a full month in this condition.  Maybe he could find the books and brew the potions himself, but then Albus, the past Albus, would figure things out and the future Albus would know, and…

Harry groaned as the coughing finally subsided.

Sirius was looking at him.  "Why are you coughing up blood, Harry?"

"Bloody hell."  His handkerchief had dropped to the floor while he'd been coughing.  He hadn't wanted Sirius to know.  Why did he have to find this out when Harry's head felt like it was going to explode and he wouldn't be there to deal with the fallout?

Maybe not being there to deal with the fallout was a blessing of sorts.

Pulling another square of linen out of his pocket, Harry swiped at the blood covering his lower lip and part of his chin.  He swallowed, grimaced, and turned to look at Sirius, determined to wheedle his way out of the story.  But the look in Sirius's eyes let him know that there was no way to wheedle out of the telling.

"The bond is acting up.  It's not supposed to, but it is."

"No bond that I've ever seen acts like this.  Not even Snape's Mark."  Sirius shook his head.  "Soul joining bonds don't have this sort of effect, Harry."

Harry rubbed at his forehead and closed his eyes.  He was so tired.  "It wasn't a soul joining bond that Severus and I performed the rite for.  It was a life blood bond."

Horror, plain simple stark horror, covered every inch of Sirius's face, and then it fell into the clear sharp lines of furious anger.  Sirius shot out of his chair and loomed over Harry.  "That son-of-a-bitch turned you into a well!  I swear I'm going to kill him!  When I'm through with hi--"

"Sirius!  We turned each other into wells.  It was a mutual thing."

Sirius slumped, the anger and air knocked out of him.  "When you said you were bonded to each other I thought it was the wedding kind of bond.  Like I'd just got stuck with some new in-law I wasn't particularly fond of."

Harry lifted an eyebrow.  "Married?  Severus and I?  Eternal wedded bliss?"  A half-hearted laugh.  "Oh, that just sounds funny, Sirius."  Harry shook his head.  "No.  Our bond was to tie us together, intimately connect our lives through our magic.  It's not quite the 'well' concept, or rather, it is, but it works both ways.  I can pull his 'life magic', for lack of a better term, into me, and he can pull mine into him."

"But I've never seen you this sick before, and I know you've been bonded for almost five years, Harry.  I know I would have noticed if you'd been this sick.  I'm not that dense.  And how can you even be this sick when he isn't even here?"

"It did happen, just once, but Severus found and brewed a potion that would suppress the bond to a point."  Harry could see the questions in Sirius's eyes and when he opened his mouth to ask them, Harry just shook his head.  "I'll tell you the whole of it, Sirius, but you have to promise me to sit there and not say one bloody word.  Do you understand?"

Harry waited for Sirius's nod before he continued.  "Our bond connects our life blood.  It's a complex series of Dark rituals so when one of us has our life magic lowered it allows us to pull on the bond shifting the balance of magic so that it can strengthen our own.  That's the 'well' concept that you mentioned."  Harry narrowed his eyes in thought, not sure if he was doing a good job of explaining, but unsure how to do a better job.  Severus always made more sense explaining this type of thing.  Harry knew exactly how it worked, but could never quite explain it right.  "Anyway, there was an unforeseen complication because of Severus's Dark Mark.  In order to sustain himself, Voldemort can pull life magic from his followers, willing or not.  It drains Sev --though in a different way -- and Severus ends up pulling from me."  Harry sighed.  "When it gets bad like this, I take potions to suppress it to a point while Severus consciously controls it from his end, not allowing the bond to evenly shift the magic balance."

"You let that bastard do that to you?!"  Sirius had stood and was now pacing and glaring.

Harry set his jaw.  "Sirius."  He shook his head.  "I will not sit here and let you keep insulting my lover."  The choice of words was deliberate.  "I warned you once.  Just try me again.  If you want to know what is going on, then I suggest that you shut up."

Sirius's mouth snapped closed and he flung himself back into his chair, sulking and angry.  Harry didn't care.  Sirius should know better by now that no matter what, Harry would not let Sirius talk about Severus so callously whether or not Severus had been at fault.  And Severus certainly wasn't at fault this time around.

"All right.  I wasn't expecting the bond to become active here, for the simple reason that I'm not bonded to the Severus of this time.  My thinking, as well as Severus's, was flawed.  This Severus can unconsciously pull on the bond that he doesn't even realise exists.  It's a weaker pull, so the effects didn't start as quickly and it took over a week to get to this point, but this is as bad as it gets.  But I'm going to need those potions to function."

Sirius nodded, still looking unhappy and furious, but Harry couldn't fault him for either emotion right then.

"I'll go back and explain the situation to Albus--"

"You won't mention a word of this to Albus!"  Harry broke in.  "You're to go to Severus.  Not to Albus."

"Why the bloody hell not?  I'm sure that--"

Harry shook his head.  "He doesn't know, Sirius.  Nor will he EVER find out.  If he finds out that our bond isn't the soul joining that he thinks it is and that Severus and I initiated a life blood bond instead, he'd make us get rid of it.  Severus and I have no intention of doing such a thing."

"He likes the idea of you two, I don't.  So why would he want you to get rid of it?"

Harry let his eyes fall shut.  This was one reaction he didn't want to see.  "Because we could kill each other, unintentionally or intentionally."  He sighed.  "If Voldemort ever finds out about Severus spying or that we are connected in such a way and decides to kill Severus, then I go with him, painfully.  The reverse can be said too.  Severus has felt the effects when Voldemort has drained me, just as much as I have."

"All right, I won't mention this to Albus."

Harry opened his eyes at Sirius's calm tone, but quickly wished that he hadn't.  The rough gravel sound of Sirius's voice was calm, but everything else about the man spoke of icy anger.  He wouldn't want to be anywhere near Sirius when he did explode.

"I am not, however, going to guarantee that your lover," Sirius threw the word back at Harry with every bit of force that Harry had originally thrown it at him with, "will not come out of this without a bruised and bloodied face."

"Don't you lay a finger on Severus, Sirius."

They stared at each other, eyes locked, and as Harry watched a little of the anger melted away.  Sirius was still furious, but he didn't look to be in a murdering rage anymore.

"Why can't the two of you ever be normal?  You couldn't exchange rings and recite love poetry, you just had to go and make sure that you could always make the other's life a living hell instead."

~~~

A shadow fell over the page Severus was reading and he looked up.  Potter was standing over him glaring, practically snarling.  This had been going on since Potter's momentous return to Hogwarts earlier in the week.  It was getting tiresome. The Gryffindors really did not have refined manners, he decided.  Professor McGonagall must let them run wild for seven years.  No doubt this batch wouldn't accomplish much once out in the world.

Severus watched him for a moment, not speaking, before turning back to his book.

"I bet you're thrilled, Snape; after all, my father won't be bothering your family anymore," Potter ground out from behind clenched teeth.

Drawing in a deep breath Severus turned to all the lessons his grandfather had taught him about proper behaviour, about treating even those you loathe with respect, given the proper occasion.  "You have my condolences for your loss, Potter."

"You don't care!"  Potter was right, he didn't, but that wasn't really the point of offering his condolences, was it?  "You don't know what it's like to have a family!"

"Shut up, Potter."  Severus stared steadily at the pages of his book, never taking his eyes off of them even when the corners began turning red.

"Why should I?"  James hunkered down next to him, lowering his voice to a chilly whisper.  "It was probably your father that did it.  He would have done just about anything to get rid of mine."

"While your theory is probable, it does not involve me.  I didn't do it.  I'm not to answer for my father's actions."

"Let it go, Potter.  You've no call to harass him."  Lucius had come to stand over the two boys.  His eyes caught Severus's and with a silent reprimand told the younger boy to calm himself.

Potter shot up.  "How do you know that?  He could have done it!"

Malfoy shook his head.  "No, he wouldn't have."

Narrowing his eyes, Potter approached Malfoy.  "Then again, it could have been you."

"I assure you, it wasn't.  Neither am I sorry about it, so don't expect condolences from me."  Malfoy settled his hand on Potter's shoulder and pushed back lightly enough to just get Potter out of his face.  "Do stop trying to lay the blame."

"Someone killed him."

Severus snapped his book shut and stood.  "And the aurors will find out who it was.  Stop trying to do their job, Potter.  I assure you, you're bad at it."

"The perpetrator won't be found on school property," Malfoy added.

James clenched his fists by his sides.  "Everyone knows where your family loyalty lies, Malfoy.  I'd say the same for Snape, but we only know about half of his."

Clenching his teeth together until his jaw ached, Severus fumed.  He could feel the anger bubbling under his skin and his fingers ached to close around Potter's throat and squeeze until his superior attitude and smirk fell away with every breath he couldn't take.

"Stop, James."  Evans was running over to the small gathering.  "Leave Snape alone.  He hasn't done anything."  She grabbed Potter's elbow and tried to draw him away, but Potter shook off the touch.

"Just go away."

"Yes, mudblood, go away, and take your little puppy with you."  Malfoy smirked at both Potter and Evans.

Potter growled and his whole body tensed.  He was spoiling for a fight.  Severus could feel it.

"Stop it.  This argument is nothing but rubbish."

"Why am I not surprised to see greasy, slimy Snivellus harassing a guy that's just lost his dad?"

Figures that Black would find the most inopportune time to enter a conversation.  "Shut up, Black."

Black shook his head.  "Don't think so.  Leave James alone.  He did nothing to have to deal with the likes of you."

"If your friend could keep his fat mouth shut, I wouldn't even be acknowledging his rather unspectacular presence, you moronic imbecile!"

"Bastard!"  Black stepped closer until he was a finger's width away from Severus.  "I heard what your friend said to Lily, and I'm sure you were busy insulting James, as usual.  I don't let people talk about my friends like that, Snape!"  Black reached out and slammed Severus back against the tree, his head hitting the rough bark with a sharp bang.

Groaning, Snape twisted and grabbed Black's fist which was heading straight for his nose.  "You should get your hearing checked.  As usual, you didn't hear a word and jumped to the wrong conclusions.  Why aren't I surprised that you went off half-cocked?"

Black knocked him to the ground, and using his bulkier build to pin him there, raised his fists to pummel Severus.  Cringing, Severus struggled under Black's weight, pushing against him with his arms, until Black moved up and settled his knees on Severus's upper arms.  Now Black was sitting high on his chest, and Snape could feel his lungs tightening, but he couldn't move and couldn't breathe.  He should have hexed the Neanderthal when he'd first showed up.

A large, strong hand covered Black's shoulder and pulled him off Snape.  Black was dangling a foot off the ground in Hagrid's grip.

"'Ere now.  Whas goin' on 'ere?"

Then the shrill voice of Professor McGonagall was heard.  She had her skirts in her hands as she hurried toward the large gathering of students.  "Black!  Snape!  What's the meaning of this?"

Someone must have run to get the teachers because Snape could see the profile of his Head of House hurrying over as well from his position still on the ground.  This was not good.

Simeon Amygdalus roughly pulled Snape up off the ground and held his arm in a strong grip.  A grip, Severus thought, that no one in their late eighties should have.

McGonagall was looking at them, shaking her head.  "I don't know what to do with you.  None of the punishments to date have seemed to have any effect.  While I could expel you both on the spot-"  Amygdalus was nodding his head in agreement, "I won't.  As much as I hate to do this since he's been feeling under the weather, I think I'll get Professor Tyler's opinion."

The boys groaned.  Sick Tyler was worse than a healthy Tyler and a healthy Tyler's punishments had been bad enough.

"What say you, Simeon?"

"Aye.  He's got a way with doling out punishments.  Would work even better if he added lashes with the strap."

Severus shuddered.

"Lupin, go get Professor Tyler.  I believe he's in his office."

~~~

Remus skidded to a stop in the doorway of Tyler's office, one hand wrapped tightly around the jamb.  "Professor Tyler."

Tyler turned from where he was leaning against the desk next to a brunet who had taken a seat on top of it.  "Yes, Mr Lupin?"

Dragging his attention away from Tyler's visitor, Remus looked at his professor and snapped his mouth shut.  Tyler looked normal.  Well, he didn't look sick, at least.  His eyes were still a bit shadowed, but he seemed better.  Licking his lips, Remus tried to start again.  "Professor McGonagall sent me to get you.  Sirius and Snape were trying to kill each other."

Tyler sighed.  "Were they?  Very well.  Tell Professor McGonagall that I will be there directly."

Nodding, Remus didn't move.  The other man's mouth was hanging open and he looked shocked.  Perhaps he should have found a better way of wording that.

"Off with you, Mr Lupin."

"Oh, yeah, right.  Sorry."  Remus took himself off, casting looks over his shoulder as Tyler leaned closer to say something quietly to his guest, who was shaking his head.

Remus didn't think that Tyler appreciated having his visit interrupted.  Sirius had better had better have a good reason for picking that fight.

~~~

Draco slid off the desk and brushed out his coat.  "If you think that I'm going to just leave while you get to have all the fun of tormenting our tormentors, then you'd better start rethinking things, Potter."

"Draco--"

"No.  I bet watching you rip into Sirius and Severus when they're kids and can't talk back is fifty times better than watching you rip into them as adults.  You're not robbing me of my entertainment."  Draco brushed past Harry and made his way out the door.  "Come on, Harry, don't keep those troublemakers waiting for their punishment."

Stifling a sigh, Harry grabbed his robe and pulled his arms through the sleeves as he followed Draco out the door and through the castle.

It wasn't hard to miss where he was supposed to go.  Lots of students were gathered around and staring, waiting to see what would happen to the two fighting students.  Being expelled wasn't unheard of for either party, but Harry had another idea.

One way or another, he'd teach the students that watching a fight wasn't really as fun as they thought.

Draco was pushing his way through the students and clearing Harry's way.  He was a little too excited with the idea of watching Harry play teacher.  Shaking his head, Harry stepped from behind Draco and took in the scene.

"Simeon, Hagrid, I think you can let them go.  Don't think they'll start anything right now.  Will you, boys?"

The two boys quickly shook their heads and muttered their agreement, and were then promptly dropped on the ground.

Harry heard Draco's quiet laugh next to him, but ignored it.

"So, who's going to tell me what this is about?"

The boys glared at each other, but didn't offer up any explanations.  Must be over something foolish and they didn't want to make matters worse.  They would never learn, Harry thought, shaking his head.  Of that he was well aware.

"All right then.  Minerva, gentlemen.  I know exactly how to handle these boys.  No reason for you to stick around.  I'm sure you've better things to do."

The group of teachers and the groundskeeper moved off, as did many of the students, but Harry stopped them.  "I didn't, however, dismiss you lot of gawkers.  You're all to stay right here.  In fact," Harry continued, his eyes never leaving the two boys who were trying to slink into the crowd, "I want you to all form a nice circle around these two.  Make sure everyone has a good view."

Harry settled one hand on Severus's shoulder and his other on Sirius's.  "Now, don't try to sneak off.  You're the main attraction."  The colour drained from the boys' faces and they struggled against Harry's grip which only made it tighten.

"All right, you lot, listen up!  If Mr Snape and Mr Black want to beat each other to bloody pulp, I say we go ahead and let them."

The crowd didn't seem to agree.  Looks of shock were plastered on most of the students' faces and they were backing away from him.

"What?  You mean you all weren't gathered around watching them do just that before the other professors showed up?"

A few students toed the ground with their shoes and others looked away.  At least they were ashamed.  They wouldn't make a move to stop a fight, but when a teacher caught them…

"Go on, both of you, have at it."

Draco sputtered and hurried over to him.  "Ha- Octavian, you can't be serious about this?  They'll kill each other!"

"I quite agree with Mr--"  McGonagall had returned and was looking at Draco who quickly averted his eyes.

"This is…"  Harry floundered.

"Jason.  Jason Devonshire.  I heard Octavian was sick and came by to see if I could sort him out as I've done in the past."

"Mr Devonshire."  McGonagall paused to look at Draco oddly again.  "I am grateful that you know Octavian well enough to have been of some help.  But as I was saying."  She turned her hard gaze on Harry.  "This is not what I expected when I sent for you."

Harry grinned his most self-effacing grin.  "Trust me.  I know what I'm doing, Minerva.  The boys won't come to any harm that they can't undo."

McGonagall was still looking wary of the whole situation.  "Well, if you're sure.  You do have Dumbledore's approval in general for your methods."  McGonagall inclined her head and stepped back.

Harry once again raised his voice.  "Any student that leaves this field of noble battle will be serving detention with me."

The students toward the back that were slinking away returned.  If they had wanted to watch two boys bloody each other up, they would.  And they'd feel awful about it the entire time.  A teacher's presence had that affect.

Severus and Sirius were just watching Harry and the others talk, but they weren't actually doing anything.  Just standing there.

"What are you waiting for, boys?  Go on.  Throw punches, tear hair, break fingers."

Draco was tugging at his shirt.  "Octavian."

Snapping, Harry turned.  "What?  I'm in the middle of assigning punishment.  Can't it wait?"

"Not.  A.  Good.  Idea."

But Harry didn't pay him any attention, just drew him off to the side and sent sparks up with his wand.

Severus and Sirius just stood there for another second and then as if all their energy left them in one go, collided with each other, fists flying and teeth bared.

Harry watched them with narrowed eyes.  A good fight with long-lasting bruises might keep both of them out of trouble due to sheer pain.  Nodding in satisfaction, he kept his eyes focused on the boys as they pounded each other.  "So, why is this a bad idea?"

Draco spluttered before finally getting control of his tongue. "You have to ask?  What if they pull their wands?"

Harry shrugged.  "They won't.  Too stupid to do it the first time, too stupid to pull them now.  If wands aren't the first things out it'll take a good knock down before either of them thinks to draw and aim.  At least when they're fighting each other."  Harry shook his head and pulled out two long polished sticks of wood from a behind a fold in his robe.  "Besides, I swiped them," he said, grinning.

"Sneaky bastard."

"I've learned from the best."

The boys had stopped rolling and were staring at their wands in Harry's hands.  A long stream of blood was running from Severus's nose and down his chin.  Sirius had obviously landed a hard punch, and Harry barely managed to hide his flinch.  Grimacing, Sirius bunched his fist and then stared at one finger that was bent at a rather odd angle.  He never would be able to get that healed properly, Harry knew.

Pushing Severus off him, Sirius scrambled to his feet and held out his hands.  "'Nough.  I…"  He panted and doubled over breathing heavy.  "'Nough."

"Good.  I'm glad one of you came to your senses."

Severus was picking himself up off the ground and brushing himself off.  He flinched as his hands passed over numerous scratches on his face and arms.  Shuddering, he limped over to where Sirius was standing.

Harry turned to where the group of students were still gathered.  "All right, now that you all feel properly ashamed you can go off to dinner.  Maybe next time you'll do something instead of sitting around like a bunch of useless logs, hm?"

The students shuffled off, some throwing looks over their shoulders at Harry and the boys that were still in front of him.

"I hope you learned your lesson."

Draco narrowed his eyes and looked at Harry, aghast.  "There was a point to your madness?"

"Must you undermine my authority, you graceless lump?"

"Every chance I get."  He smirked.  "I could have done better."

Crossing his arms, Harry stared at Draco, daring him to back down, which he didn't.  "Fine.  What would you have me do with them then?"

Draco's eyes flashed with a demented gleam.  "Make them heal each other up.  No medi-witch.  They're what," Draco paused for dramatic effect, looking the boys over, "sixteen.  Should know at least the standard set of healing charms."

Harry rubbed his thumb along his chin.  He should have expected that.  "All right then.  You heard him.  Heal each other to the best of your abilities.  Do a half-arsed job, and you'll be visiting me for a detention."

The boys flinched and glared at each other, but eventually set to work.  Amused, Harry watched the tight grip that Sirius had on his wand and the tell-tale twitch he'd make when, Harry suspected, Sirius was thinking of casting a hex instead of the healing charm that he was supposed to.  

When they were done, they stood silent and sulking, and waited while Harry circled them examining their arms and necks and the back of their heads.  Severus's nose was still crooked and Sirius's finger still looked injured, so he shrugged and dismissed them.  If they weren't so quick to beat each other up, it wouldn't have happened, but at least now Harry understood why Sirius could never completely bend his finger.

"Do you want to drop down to the pub, Devonshire?"  Harry fought back the urge to shake his head at the false last name.

Draco seemed to think about it for a moment before nodding.  "I have a new dagger to show you, filled with a lovely poison."  He sneered at the boys who were still standing behind Harry.  "Tell me, Octavian, do you threaten the little brats with knives and daggers?"

Harry rolled his eyes.  "Stop trying to terrify them.  You're as bad as… as one of our old professors."

Draco laughed.  "I think I should take that as a compliment.  Yes, I think I will."  Watching the boys blanch, Draco grinned.  "I've come across a couple lovely poisons lately, you know.  I'll tell you about them while we walk down to the pub."

Harry nodded, not finding the conversation all that odd, and he didn't even blink when Draco pulled out the glass dagger to show him as they walked, just took it out of his hands and tilted it, watching the blue liquid that filled it move sluggishly from one side to the other.

Draco was walking backwards in front of him, his eyes sparking and flashing in amusement.  Harry snapped out his hand and yanked Draco to the side when he looked like he was going to walk into a tree.

"It'd help if you were watching where you were going, you idiot."

"I'm not!"

"Yeah, I can tell."

Draco glared and pulled out a square piece of metal from under Harry's sleeve.  "Still tipping them?"  He stopped, and looking pointedly at the group of boys staring, grabbed Harry's hand and slit his palm open with the sharp metal.

Harry sucked in a breath and pushed Draco, hard.  "You little shit!  That hurt."

"I want to know what it's tipped in."

"Could've asked."

"Not as much fun."  Brushing himself off, Draco pulled his thumb across the wound, smearing it with blood that he held up to his lips and swiped at with his tongue.  "American Nightshade?"

"Don't think so.  I don't like those effects."  Harry paused, tasting the blood on his hand as well.  "No, it's not.  Black Nightshade."

"You always did have a thing for causing paralysis and near death."

"Could have been worse.  The ones in my boot are covered with an Oleander based poison."

"Haven't you been almost killed by that stuff enough times?"

Harry shrugged and took out a handkerchief to wrap around his hand.  "Thought I'd repay some favours."

"Aren't you nice?"  Smirking, Draco held out a hand and stopped Harry, pointing at him to turn around.  "Timber!"  And then he dissolved into laughter as little Peter Pettigrew slipped to the ground.  "Oh.  The poor babies.  No idea what their teacher is capable of."

"Ferret."  Harry grabbed Draco by the arm and started pulling him away from the group of white faced, trembling boys.

~~~

*Future:  Harry, age twenty*

Severus stared at the array of objects he had laid out on the table.  Nothing seemed to fit, and to someone who didn't know what was going on, it looked like a hodgepodge of things pulled from trunks and closets. With a single addition from Harry's collection of weapons.

When this was over he was telling that goddamned mutt that his godson did not need anymore weapons.  His wand should be enough.  But Severus knew that wasn't always the case.  There were times that he had had to rely on weapons other than his wand, weapons he had had to use to defend people, innocent people that didn't deserve what was happening to them.

A slit of bonds with a stiletto, or poison given gladly to end what would only be more pain.

He knew what he was defending.  He knew what, or rather who he wanted to protect.

And he knew the best way to do it.

He picked up the stiletto.  It wasn't Harry's favourite, he knew that much, but it was small and sharp and would do exactly what he needed it to.

If he could convince himself to do it.

Cutting into his skin wasn't high on his list of priorities.  Not ever, Especially not during sex.

"Severus, what are you doing?"

Severus cut the tip of his finger, watching the blood well just a bit before he stuck his finger into his mouth.  

He felt Harry's fingers opening his hand, pulling the knife out and setting it on the table.

"Sev.  I'm not going to ask again.  What are you doing?"

Pulling the finger from his mouth, and purposely not looking at it, he walked up behind Harry and looked over his shoulder at the arrangement that had grabbed the younger man's attention.

"What does it look like, Potter?"

He could feel Harry tense, could sense his unease.

"It looks like the preparations for a ritual that by all accounts you shouldn't be thinking about."

"I can attest that I was not thinking about the ritual as I set these things out."

"I've read that section forwards, backwards, and everything in between the lines.  I know what you were thinking about."  

Harry turned to look at him.  He hadn't looked nearly as bad as he had a few weeks ago, and Severus would like to think that had something to do with his going to Albus and complaining about what the Ministry was doing to him.  Slytherins took care of their own.

"It's a stupid idea.  We aren't doing it."

"You realize that you change your reasoning constantly."

Harry shrugged.  "At least that way you don't have a chance to come up with an argument in the small amount of time that we have."

Severus moved forward only enough to lay his hand on Harry's waist.  "And how do you know that I don't have an argument prepared for whatever excuse you have."

Harry narrowed his eyes.  "Severus, I would never, never ask you to cut yourself.  It makes you uncomfortable, and that's perfectly understandable.  The last place I want you to be uncomfortable is when you're with me."  Harry's hand slid up his arm, to his shoulder, and finally around the back of his neck.  "Tell me you understand, and that you'll give up this crazy idea."

"I take that as a personal affront.  I used logic and sound reasoning to come to this conclusion."

Harry sighed and leaned his head forward. "We've been talking about it for months, and neither of us has convinced the other of our opinion.  Can't we agree to disagree and be done with it?"

"Give me one solid reason why you don't want to."

"Give me one solid reason why you'd want to spend the rest of your life with someone who -- how do you say it -- 'will be spending the rest of his life skirting death, and when it does catch up with him, it will be in the most horrific and painful of ways'.  And we can't forget what you followed that statement with, Sev.  'Mark my words, Potter, one day you'll manage to get yourself killed, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was tomorrow.'"

Severus glared.  "I've given you my reason."

"And quite a good reason it was too.  Don't think I didn't hear you, and don't think I don't treasure that memory.  God, Severus, it meant the world to me, but I could lose you because of this, and I'd have no one but myself to blame.  And what about side effects?"

"There aren't any."

"You don't know that.  We both already have bonds, we may not want them, but they're there.  You don't think that would affect ours?"

Severus reached around Harry and grabbed the knife.  Running the flat of the blade against Harry's arm, he took in a deep breath.  "It's something I'm willing to risk.  Of course, I understand if you'd rather not.  It's awfully risky and dangerous..."

"That's not fair."

He lifted one shoulder.  "It's a wonder you live up to either House.  I think I finally see why you call yourself Houseless."

"You are a prat."

"That is a fact."  Twisting his hand not even a fraction of an inch, the blade cut into Harry's arm and a bright red line marred his skin.

"Stop."

"You've told me before it doesn't bother you, said it's rather interesting."

"But it does bother you."

Severus shrugged and lowered his head to the cut.  His tongue darting out, he licked the very edge of the cut.  He swallowed the blood down, the metallic taste making him feel a little sick.  Especially since it was someone else's blood.  Harry's blood.

"Severus, stop."  Harry tore his arm out of Severus's grasp and moved over to the table.  "We are not doing this.  I will not let you cut me again, and I sure as hell won't lift a knife to you.  We are not mingling blood.  No.  You hate everything about this ritual except the end result."

"The end result is what matters.  The rest will pass from memory soon enough."

"Stop being a fool."

Severus's eyes narrowed.  "I am not a fool."  Moving to loom over Harry, he lifted a hand and curled it around the back of Harry's neck.  "Blood to blood, to mix and tie-"

Jerking away, Harry shook his head.  "Stop."  Closing his eyes, Harry looked down at the floor.  "Severus, are you sure?"

He nodded.  "Are you?"

"As I can be."  Harry undid the clasps of his robe and tossed it over into the corner.  "We do this right.  Since there is obviously no convincing you otherwise."  Throwing his shirt as well, he headed over to Severus and started on the long row of buttons.  "You can help, you know."

Their fingers tangling and hindering more then aiding each other, they somehow managed to get Severus's long academic robes undone and flung over a chair.

"You look sombre."

Harry didn't look up; instead he set to work on the buttons on the cuffs of Severus's sleeves.  "It's not everyday I let someone slit my wrists."

Severus tangled one hand in Harry's hair.  "I don't ask for much from you--"

Harry scoffed, but Severus chose to ignore it.

"- but this, I want."

Harry nodded and lifted Severus's hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to his palm before entwining their fingers and leading him into the bedroom.  He paused, and looked over his shoulder at the table of various junk from both their lives laid out.  "I suppose we need all that."

"For it to work properly, yes.  It must be turned to ash."

Harry shut his eyes.  "I liked that quill.  Accio things to be burnt."  Harry waved his hand at the pile and started back toward the bedroom.

"You shouldn't waste energy like that.  This ritual will absorb most of it."

"If either one of us has the energy to waste, it'd be me.  I'm younger."

Severus growled as he watched the pile of things he'd carefully laid out fall to the ground in a heap.

"What?  There couldn't have been anything glass on there since we need ashes, and we have to use a silver basin to collect the blood.  Nothing breakable."

Severus just glared.

"I know, all that hard work, and I made a mess.  This surprises you?"

"It's a very important ritual, Harry, I thought--"

"That we could make a huge deal out of it.  I'd rather not.  Really.  The quicker it's over with, the quicker I can sleep through the night without wondering if you're still mad at me for being so wishy-washy about doing this."

"If you aren't sure--"

Harry closed his lips over Severus's and drew him into a kiss.  Severus could feel his fingers undoing the buttons of his shirt, his hands tracing over his skin and pushing the shirt off his shoulders before pulling away.

"When am I ever sure about anything?"

"That is not comforting."

"No, it isn't, but then, I still don't see how you can find me comforting."

"You aren't.  You are a brat--"

"I'm twenty!  Too old to be a brat."

"Nevertheless, you are.  You are also a constant annoyance, and you never fail to get into trouble that you shouldn't rightly be in."

"All the doubts I've ever had about our relationship have been swept away," Harry said dryly.

"Do be quiet."  Taking Harry's hand, he pulled him forward and ran his hands along Harry's arms.

"Sev, I know.  This is important to me because it's important to you.  I just don't like the way it looks in that book."

"Of course not.  That book was written in such a way to discourage people from attempting to perform these rites, similar to the way Defence books are written.  The advanced books describe--"  Severus twisted a lock of Harry's hair around his finger until Harry flinched.  "Do not mock me with a yawn, you insufferable--"

Harry broke away laughing.  "I know, it's not fair.  None of your students listen to your lectures the least I could do is pretend to pay attention."

"Can we get on with this?"

Swallowing, Harry sobered.  "Yeah.  But I'm not using that thing you found."

"What thing?"

"That knife."

"We will not use the dagger that your useless, flea-ridden godfather bestowed--"

"We won't.  I…"  Harry licked his lips.  "I found something.  For this.  It's not part of the outside fight.  Something used for fighting shouldn't… You know…"

Severus nodded.  "So you've just been being difficult."

"When aren't I?"

Harry was reaching up to the top of the wardrobe, pulling a thin black box down and clutching it tightly in his hands.  Releasing a deep breath, Harry held out the box to Severus.

"You start.  Do we?"  He glanced over at the bed.

Severus shook his head.  "No.  We--" He broke off, looking down at the blade set against the velvet.  "An athame?"

"Contrary to your beliefs, I'm not an idiot and I'm perfectly capable of reading up on proper ritualistic devices that are used in this sort of thing.  Without Hermione's help.  Without anyone's help."

"Then you know these should be made specifically to the ritual?"

Harry nodded, sinking to the floor by the heap of stuff he had summoned and began pulling off his boots.  "I had it made.  He won't ask any questions because he doesn't remember making it."

Severus said nothing, just picked up the knife and knelt facing Harry.

"Severus?"

"Hm?"

Harry's eyes were watching him reorganise everything into neat rows, the basin up righted and set in the middle.

"Nothing.  Just… When this is done…"

"When this is done, you'll be mine to guard and protect."

"And lov--?"  Harry nodded, seeming to have made up his mind about something.  "And you'll be mine."  He held out his right wrist over the basin his veins blue against white skin.

Severus traced his fingers lightly down Harry's arm.  "You've no idea what…"  Severus fumbled for words that for once refused to come.

"What my insane amount of trust in you means.  You're wrong, I do.  I wouldn't be doing this otherwise.  Now go on," Harry said in a deep gruff whisper.

Setting knife to skin Severus drew the athame down Harry's vein, drawing forth the blood that would mix and tie with his own.  


Chapter Thirteen:  Don't Push Me Away When I'm Trying to Care

*The Future*

The knock drew Severus out of his silent contemplation of the fire.  For a moment longer, he just stayed where he was, gazing at the leaping flames and debating if he should answer the door.  Only to slam it in the person's face.  He was not in the mood for company.  But Severus eventually stood and set his wine glass down, moving to the door and opening it a crack.

"Lupin."

"Severus.  Just the man I wanted to see.  May I come in?"

Drawing the door further open, Severus spun on his heel and returned to his wine, chair and contemplation of the fire.  "I don't see how I can stop you."

"Ah.  I, for one, can see many ways you could have.  A 'no', for example, would have worked.  Or even shutting the door and not permitting me to enter."  Remus came around the back of the chairs and made a motion with his hand, silently asking permission to sit in the chair opposite from Severus.

Harry's chair.

Shaking his head with a sharper movement than he intended, Severus stood and took over the chair that Remus was about to take and pointed to his own.

With a curious nod, Remus sat.  "I'm sure you want to know why I'm here."

"Not particularly."

"Well, you seemed a trifle... off at dinner tonight," Remus continued.  "I just thought that I would pay you a short visit to see what was bothering you."

With a grunt, Severus summoned a second glass and poured Remus some wine.  "Since you've disturbed my solitude, you might as well have some wine as well.  I'm sure you'll appreciate the vintage."

Remus swirled the wine around in the glass and stared down at the liquid, but didn't lift the glass to his lips.

"I assure you that it is not drugged or poisoned."

A quick nod and Remus took a sip.  "A very good vintage.  One that Harry bought to drink with me, in fact.  I recognize it.  You supposedly think it's inferior and refuse to drink it stating your preference for brandy over wine and Italian over French if you must imbibe any."

Severus shrugged.  "No Harry."  It really was a perfect explanation.

Remus said nothing, much to Severus's discomfiture.  If the man had to invade his personal space he could at least chatter on endlessly about nothing as he usually did.  If Severus had known that Remus was just going to sit there than he would have slammed the door in his face and been done with it.  Maybe.

"I take it that you've no desire to think of Harry?"

"I've every desire to determine whether or not I'm a selfish bastard.  Harry is only minimally involved in my thoughts."  That was an outright lie.  Severus swallowed back the wave of nausea.  If Harry was only minimally involved in his thoughts then Severus would be drinking brandy and marking instead of drinking wine and fire gazing.

"All right.  I can't follow that.  How… why are you trying to figure out if you're a selfish bastard?"

"I went to see Harry three nights ago."

"Ah.  Right."  A pause and Severus watched Remus take another sip of wine to disguise his furrowed brow and the questioning glint in his eyes.  "Wait.  Wait.  You weren't supposed to go and see Harry three nights ago.  Sirius was supposed to go today."

"The time turner… fell into my hands and I saw no reason not to make use of it while it was in my possession."

"Of course."  Remus bit his lip.  "And how does that lead to the determination that you're a selfish bastard?"

Severus shrugged and stared at the fire waiting for Remus to say something else or to change the topic.  But nothing was said and the topic wasn't changed.

"I could have changed things," Severus ground out.  "Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse.  I don't know.  All I know is that I kept everything the way I remembered it because I didn't want to lose Harry."

Severus watched Remus's eyes dart about the room searching for something and finally coming to rest on the small vial Severus had set on the mantle earlier when he'd started his fool's quest into the motivations of his soul.

"What was in the vial, Severus?"

"A mild truth serum."

Shaking his head, Remus opened and closed his mouth a handful of times before settling on something to say.  "Why would you take it?"

"A rather pathetic reason, actually.  So I wouldn't lie to myself."

"You did not come up with that on your own.  You just wouldn't."

"You're right, I didn't.  Originally it was one of Harry's bright ideas.  I don't know what possessed me to listen to him the first time, but I did.  It seems to work.  I do end up admitting the truth to myself, even if I don't want to."

"Be glad it's me sitting here and not Sirius."

"Black would never have made it through the door."

A nod.  "No doubt."  Remus took another sip of wine before setting his glass down.  "What did Albus have to say when you returned the time turner?"

A bitter smile turned up the corners of Severus's lips.  "He was sitting right here with his hand extended when I walked into my rooms.  Just looked at me and asked how well my husband was holding up."

Remus thumped the heel of his hand against his chest as he started to cough.  "Albus called Harry your husband?"

"He does it to both of us quite often.  I'd happily strangle the man on occasion."

"And I wouldn't blame you."  Remus chewed at his lip.  "So… What did happen with Harry?"

Reaching up to rub at his eyes, Severus breathed in heavily.  "I dragged him halfway across the castle so I could give him a memorable goodbye kiss in front of someone."

"The truth, Severus."

"If I was lying to you right now, I'd have to swallow back a wave of nausea."  Severus pointed to the vial.  "Remember?"

"Why would you do that?"

"I had to kiss our Defence teacher where my sixteen year old self would be sure to see me do so, leading to my younger self running off to do something immensely stupid.  So I, here in this time, could selfishly keep what I want."

Remus leaned back and pressed the tips of his fingers together.  "Selfish?  Perhaps.  But no more than I or, I think, Harry."

"Meaning what, Lupin?"

"Meaning that Octavian Tyler affected your life like he affected mine and Sirius's and James's and I'm sure others' as well.  I don't want any of that to change and if it had meant my sneaking off to visit Harry in the past and do something with dire consequences, I probably would have.  If things changed, then so many things that I have worked for would be in vain."  Remus licked his lips, his gaze locked on the fire similar to the way Severus's own had been earlier.  "If things changed, I wouldn't have done everything that I have.  Being alone, the only Marauder left, let me focus on my life.  It sounds selfish, and maybe it is."  Shaking his head, Remus paused.  "I've thought about what would happen if James and Lily were still alive, if Sirius hadn't been incarcerated.  After thinking about it, I realised that even having them around wouldn't have made my life any easier.  It probably would have made it harder, in fact, because I never would have left England."

"What did you do all those years?  Not a word was heard from you until your return to come teach all those years ago."

He shrugged.  "I followed Professor Tyler's advice."

Severus swallowed a mouthful of wine.  "His advice?  Couldn't have been that good, this is Harry we're talking about."

"You don't believe that.  Do not make yourself ill on account of my presence forcing you to be your irascible self, Severus.  Harry's not a fool and he knew what to say when he caught me moping by the lake throwing rocks at the squid."

"I suppose it was something beyond 'nice aim'?  Only Black would have found that a life changing conversation."

Remus snorted.  "Quite a bit more.  He told me to follow my passions, and if my passion was the field of Defence then I should go and master the field whether or not anyone thought it was proper.  That I would find a way through life doing so.  So I did."

"Doesn't explain how you followed his advice though."

"I travelled and learned everything I could about Defence Against the Dark Arts wherever my travels took me, and when I was done, I wrote books on it.  A handful of them, in fact."

"Pity they weren't published.  I'm sure they would have been very entertaining, Lupin."

Remus raised an eyebrow and stood walking over to the shelves that housed his books.  Not Harry's, not his resource manuals, but Severus's private collection of books.  Some of his most treasured possessions.  Severus watched Remus's fingers glide over the spines until he reached one and pulled it out, bringing it back to where he was sitting and handing it over to Severus.

"Advanced Defence Techniques by Rupert Knight.  You expect me to believe you're Rupert Knight?"

"One of the most mysterious writers currently published."  A smile.  "And yes, I do.  I'm not fool enough to submit my writing under anything but a pseudonym.  No one would publish a book by a werewolf.  I know that."

Severus flipped through the well worn pages.  It was a book he often referenced, one of the best Defence publications in recent times, one he'd used to teach Harry from.  He lowered his head in acknowledgement.  "I'm impressed, Lupin."

"We're all selfish, Severus, from time to time.  Look at it this way.  I don't know how Professor Tyler affected your life, and I wouldn't expect you to tell me.  I'll just hazard a guess, if you don't mind.  No confirmation needed."  Remus narrowed his eyes to stare at Severus, and Severus fought the urge to flinch back from his gaze.  "If you hadn't joined the Death Eaters, our side wouldn't have one of its best spies.  Harry wouldn't have had the confidant he so terribly needed.  And I wouldn't have a good friend."  

"You're becoming maudlin, Remus."

He smiled and opened his mouth to respond, but a sharp banging on the door cut Remus off.

"I don't care how you do it, Draco.  Tear down his goddamned wards if you have to!  Just get me in there!"  Sirius's voice burst through even the heavy wood of Severus's door.

Standing, Severus moved to the door quicker than he usually would have and flung it open.  Draco toppled through the lack of barrier and Black barrelled in right after him, walking around him and rounding on Severus, forcing him back against the wall.

"Can I help you?"  Severus ground out.

"How dare you?!"

"How dare I what?"  Severus had his wand in his hand and levelled it at Black's chest, daring to give him a reason to hex him so hard he'd go flying across the room.

Sirius closed his hand around Severus's throat.  "You turned my godson into a fucking well!"

"Fuck."  Draco breathed and collapsed into the couch.

Black rounded on the young blond.  "You knew?"  His teeth were bared and in that moment he looked the part of a grim in human form.  Draco pushed himself back into the cushions of the couch and held his hands out in front of him.

"You knew what they'd done and you didn't tell me!"

"Sirius--"

"Harry's your friend and you didn't say anything!"

Remus settled his hand on Black's arm and pulled him off to the side.  Severus had moved away from the wall, but still had his wand clutched in one hand.  He glanced over at Draco and quickly received a nod and a crooked eyebrow.  Shaking his head, Severus turned away from Draco and looked at Sirius who was still seething with anger.

"I think someone needs to explain to me what's going on."  Remus looked at both Draco and Severus in turn.  It was Draco who answered.

"He's talking about their bond."

A sharp laugh, bitter and hoarse, escaped Black.

"There's more to it, isn't there?" Remus prodded.

Draco glanced at Severus and receiving a slight nod, started talking.  "The bond Severus and Harry have… it's not what you think.  They entered into a life blood bond."

Severus watched the two Gryffindors through narrowed eyes.  Black looked like he was ready to lunge at Severus again and Remus was so shocked that it was plainly obvious for once.  Glaring, Black tugged his arm away from Remus, but didn't attack.  Severus wasn't foolish enough to lower his guard though.

"We don't have time to talk about this.  Harry needs potions.  He's sick and it's all that bastard's fault!"

Standing stock still in the middle of the room, Severus barely breathed.  He saw Draco stand from the corner of his eye and do what Draco always did when Harry was sick from the bond and Severus was too ill from Voldemort's mercilessness that he couldn't help Harry.  He went to gather up the potions Harry would need.

"You won't--"  Severus coughed to clear his throat.  "You won't find any out, Draco.  They've all been put away."  Raking his hand through his hair, Severus moved toward a closed cabinet.  "Go be useful in my office and fetch a divided potions box," Severus snapped.

Draco didn't flinch at the order, just left, casting a last look over his shoulder at the still silent Remus and livid Black.

Once Draco left, it was as if a thick fog settled around Severus.  He could hear the murmurings of Remus and Black across the room, but they were distant and incomprehensible.  The only thing that could pierce the fog was the clink of the bottles Severus was pulling out of his locked cupboard methodically.  He knew what vials he needed and where they were.  His fingers rhythmically closed around bottles and vials, setting them down in a neat row.  So many effects and no way to know which ones Harry was experiencing.  Black wouldn't be able to tell and if Harry was indeed ill, it wasn't likely that Harry was up to giving Black a list of what he needed.  If the mutt would have sat still enough to listen, which was doubtful.

Severus cursed himself under his breath.  Selfish bastard he was indeed.

A slight touch to his elbow, and he turned.  Draco had set the box down next to the row of bottles and vials and was silently placing them into the individual compartments.  Severus met eyes the exact shade of Lucius's without the malice.  He nodded and stepped away, allowing the younger Malfoy to finish.

"We need to tell Albus, Severus."

"No.  You do so and I will poison your next batch of Wolfsbane potion regardless of the fact I count you a friend."

Black growled, but Remus settled a hand on his chest.  "I don't agree."

"I don't care.  It is not your business."

"Let it alone, Remus.  Sirius, stop growling."  Draco had the box under one arm and was pointing his wand to his temple.  "You're not going either, Severus.  I'm the closest thing to a full medi-wizard in the room, I'll go."  A muttered spell and Draco's hair darkened and fell into his eyes.  "Where's the time turner?"

~~~

*The Past*

Sliding through a door barely pushed open, Severus crept into the infirmary and cast his gaze about for Madam Pomfrey.  He made his way slowly toward the matron's desk in the corner, hoping that she'd be there, but she wasn't.  Not surprising for three in the morning; there were charms on the door that would inform Madam if someone was looking for her.

At least she wouldn't ask questions when she gave him the sleeping draught.  Usually Severus didn't have a problem going to his Head of House, but recently he just couldn't bring himself to confide in the man about what had been bothering him.  Rubbing his arm, Severus walked between the long line of beds.  His thoughts weren't really focused on the room or its surroundings, instead he was immersed in thoughts of his Mark and his new master.  The Mark burned all the time, a constant reminder of his choice yet Severus didn't know if he had made the right one.

Of course he had.  There wasn't a better choice.  Voldemort was strong and powerful.  No one could argue that.  He even had Dumbledore worried about the fate of the wizarding world.  No one in recent times had managed that.

"Snape?  What are you doing here at this time of night?"

Severus caught the gasp before it escaped and turned.  "I could ask you the same, but we both already know the answer, don't we?"

Lupin nodded.  For a moment his eyes narrowed in a silent question, but the look disappeared.

"Was it a hard transformation?"  Severus wasn't sure what made him ask, other than the fact that part of him was curious.  He'd never actually hated Lupin for all that Lupin had horrible taste in friends.  The Shack Incident hadn't really changed anything except for the fact that he was now wary and scared of Lupin.  It made sense that he'd keep his distance from Hogwarts' resident werewolf.

"Slightly worse than normal, but I've quite recovered.  Thank you for asking.  I'm still curious as to what brings you to the realm of torture otherwise known as Hogwarts' hospital wing?"

"Madam Pomfrey isn't that bad."

Remus nodded.  "I suppose.  She's nice enough to me, but then again my affliction isn't my fault."  A pause, and Severus swallowed at the pointed reminder.  "However, if you're hurt and could have avoided it, then you better beware.  Explains why she's so tough on the Quidditch players, doesn't it?  They could avoid getting hurt if they just stopped playing."  Remus smiled.

"You're awfully talkative tonight, Lupin."

"I've been on bed rest for the last two days.  I tend to get so bored all I can do is sleep.  Most of it has to do with healing up though.  Of course come the middle of the night, I'm wide awake.  You just happen to be the unlucky sod who was walking through the infirmary when my book got dull."

Severus glared.

"So why are you here, Snape?"

Part of him knew the quickest way to end the unwanted conversation would be to just answer the question, so pushing aside the desire to tell Lupin to sod off, Severus forced the answer past his lips.  "Sleeping draught."

"A sleeping draught?  I thought for sure you were here about your arm.  You were rubbing it as you walked in and have been for days on end.  Did you hurt it?"

"None of your business, Lupin."

Remus pulled back at the sharp tone.  "I apologize for attempting to carry on a conversation, Snape.   I was only trying to be polite."  Picking his book up, Remus opened it and started skimming the pages, but Severus still caught the muttered, "It's no wonder Sirius ended your relationship so quickly."

"Let me guess."  Severus' s voice was cold.  "Because of my friendship with Lucius and other Slytherins that he'd rather forget existed.  Like Regulus."

Peering over the edge of his book, Lupin shook his head.  "No.  He didn't like Lucius and he can't stand his brother for various reasons, but he thought you were fairly interesting.  At least at first."

"At first?  Of course, how could I forget that once Black tires -- which he does very quickly -- he turns into a complete sod bent on torturing others."

"Not really.  He doesn't make a laughingstock of all his past relationships, just some.  It's not one of his more favourable traits."

"Assuming he has any."

"He does.  But he didn't end things because he tired of you."

"I doubt that, but for the sake of argument, I suppose I'll allow the possibility.  His friends.  The lot of you couldn't stand me."

"Not quite right, either.  James can't stand you.  In case you needed help figuring that out.  I tolerated you, as did Peter.  I chose to continue doing so.  You aren't nearly as bad as you were when we were younger, although the tendency to be an utter jackass seems to be returning."

The only one of James's little group who resorted to words instead of violence.  Lupin, though not on the same level as himself, Severus thought, was the only one of the group who knew how to spar and match wit.  It was a shame, in a way, that he didn't have anyone of intelligence to practice with.  "Well then, do tell me why the noble and honourable Mr Black wanted nothing to do with me after such a short time."

Remus shrugged.  "You never talked to him."

"We talked."

"According to Sirius it was about totally inconsequential things.  Nothing of significance ever passed between the two of you.  So he got bored.  You're the one who says he has a short attention span.  Is it any wonder?"

"And why would I tell that ignoramus anything of import?  If I wanted my personal business to be bandied about the school then perhaps I would have told him something."

"Sirius isn't like that.  He never told us what you talked about, if you talked at all.  Usually you were fighting.  Sirius keeps his confidences."

"Does he?"

"That was a one time thing."

"If you so insist."  Severus shrugged.  "In my opinion, there is only enough room in his miniscule mind for one secret, and that is yours, Lupin.  Everything else just leaks out of his brain through his mouth."

Remus stared at him, his eyes filled with pity Severus didn't want or need, and just as Severus opened his mouth to tell Lupin that, Remus started talking.  "You really need to learn to trust someone, Severus.  If you don't, then who are you going to confide in when the pressure becomes too much?"  Not waiting for an answer, Lupin turned in the bed and brought the covers up over his head.  A muffled "nox" and the circle of light around the bed vanished.

Severus stood there staring at the lump in the bed for a moment before shaking himself and turning to leave.  Forget the sleeping draught.  The conversation with Lupin had given him enough to think about.  Sleep was out of the question.

In the end, it had never occurred to Severus that Remus had used his given name.


Chapter Fourteen:  A River of Souls

*The Past*

Safely ensconced in the folds of Lucius's invisibility cloak, Severus wandered the hallways searching for a particular door that would lead to a certain professor.  Normally he wouldn't have done such a thing, but since Severus had learned that rules were bent for others, he couldn't bring himself to care as much about rules and regulations as he had before.  Especially if breaking the rules in this case would lead him to Professor Tyler.

Severus had been thinking about what Lupin had said to him that night in the infirmary.  Maybe he was right.  He had to trust someone, and if he wanted a relationship with Professor Tyler than whom else should he go to when he needed someone to talk to?  This way he would only have to go through the telling of the tale once, and to only one person.

Turning the corner, Severus followed the path Professor Tyler always took to get to his quarters; at least Severus thought that was the case.  The other path Tyler took didn't lead to anywhere at all, just down a hall with no doors and no turns.  The castle was a truly odd place.  As evidenced by the first door Severus tried to opened.  Well, try wasn't the right word.  The door did open - to a brick wall.  The next was empty and the third caused all sorts of cleaning supplies to start tumbling out.  Thankfully Severus was able to shut the door before the mops and pails and everything else clattered down the hall and gave him away.

The last door at the end of the corridor had a plaque which read "Professor Octavian Tyler". It was so bloody obvious that Severus initially decided that it had to have been a joke.  No professor would announce to students (the majority of which disliked him a great deal if not outright hated him) where he slept at night.  It was just asking for a myriad of pranks.  But Severus chose to risk it and set fingers to doorknob, receiving a jolt for the effort.

Knocking, of course, would be a wiser course of action than attempting to sneak in, especially if trying the door a second time led to something worse than a mild shock.  Severus wouldn't put it past Tyler to hex his doorknob.  Rapping three times on the door, Severus rocked on his heels and waited for the door to swing open and for him to be granted entrance.  At least he hoped that was what would happen.

Seconds turned to a minute and Severus began fidgeting with the corner of his cloak.  Maybe it was a trick door, but instinct told him it wasn't and that he should just wait -- patiently -- for the door to open.  Tyler wouldn't leave someone standing outside his door all night.  That was inconceivable.  Wasn't it?

Just when Severus was about to turn away, the door opened, and a bleary eyed Professor Tyler stood in its place.  Severus swallowed, two thoughts racing through his head.  The first, that he had awakened the man, was followed quickly by the second:  he was going to die a painful death.

"Take off that cursed cloak.  I could hear you through the thrice damned door."

Severus squeaked, cursing himself for being so undisciplined, and drew the cloak off.

"Bloody hell, couldn't you have at least been a descent person to talk to in the middle of the night?"

The words were slurred and Severus realised his mistake, gaining a new sort of confidence at the same time.  Tyler had not been woken up from a sound sleep at all.  He was good and sloshed.  Drunk might be easier than half asleep.  

Long hair, that wasn't tied back, fell in messy waves around his professor's face.  A clump of it was sticking to his bottom lip, and Severus's fingers itched to reach out and brush it away, but he knew better.  Never offer fingers or hands to deadly beasts.  They were likely to be bit off.  Severus tore his gaze away from Tyler's face and looked elsewhere, his eyes landing on the sight of a long healed scar wrapping along the triceps of Tyler's right arm.  Swallowing, Severus looked down at Tyler's bare feet.  There was something strangely intimate about seeing a person barefoot that Severus never quite understood.  His face heated, and he looked away yet again.

"Seen enough?"

"Uh-"

A nod.  "What are you doing here, Mr Snape?"

"Uh, I, uh, I needed someone to talk to and you seemed to be the best candidate."  The words toppled out one after the other, blunt and to the point and somehow embarrassing.  

"At three o'clock in the morning?  Don't you keep normal hours?"

Severus was at a loss for words so he shrugged, turning his face away and his eyes to the ground.  Part of it was natural, but part of him knew that if he wanted to get anywhere, it would be best to seem timid and anxious.  Even if he was timid and anxious.  "I… I couldn't sleep."

"So you naturally assumed the rest of the castle would be awake because it was your bloody whim to seek someone out?  Typical."  Tyler sounded annoyed, and for the first time since he'd left the common room under Lucius's invisibility cloak, Severus thought it might not have been a good idea to seek Tyler out after all.

"I'm sorry, sir.  I just--"

"I apologise for being so short with you."  Tyler had covered his eyes with one hand and was rubbing them.  He sighed.  "I will admit that this isn't the best time, but if you truly need someone to talk to then I'll listen."  Taking a step back, Tyler made enough room for Severus to squeeze by, and Severus, taking no chances that the offer would be rescinded, darted in.

"Sit."  Tyler was pointing at a chair positioned across from the couch.  It looked far more comfortable than any of the furniture which graced the Slytherin common room and Severus sank into it with a luxurious sigh.  His elbow bumped a book that was resting face down on the arm of the chair, and curious, Severus picked it up and leafed through the pages.  Every last one was blank.

"Nothing of interest there."  Tyler was looking at him through half-closed eyes from where he had slouched on the couch.

Severus stared.  Swallowed and then stared again.  Tyler had one foot tucked under him and the other leg extended out the length of the seat.  Resting one arm along the back of the couch, his fingers rhythmically brushed the fabric as his flexed his fingers.  Whatever Severus had come to say slipped out of his mind when Tyler lifted a tumbler half-filled with amber liquid to his lips.  Licking his own, Severus watched Tyler sigh and relax back even further into the cushions of the couch.

"You said something about talking.  Talk."

Severus coughed.  His mouth had gone dry and the words weren't coming, but he forced out the first sentence, and after that first sentence floated between them, Severus found each successive word easier to say until the whole story of what had brought him here in the middle of the night lay bare between them.  Each fear and concern, each question and answer he had asked himself over and over again.  He told Tyler about the burn of the Mark when it was seared into his skin.  And he told of each reason he had for joining the ranks of the Death Eaters.  All but one.  The fact that Tyler himself had been the final impetus never passed his lips.  It hung unspoken in the back of his mind.

Tyler, for his part, didn't move from his position on the couch.  His face was schooled into a mask of blankness, not a single emotion -- especially the expected disgust -- flickered on his face.  Severus was glad for that.  It seemed the rumours about this particular man were true.  He didn't care about the war that raged all around them.  It didn't matter who won, Voldemort or Dumbledore or the Ministry of Magic.  Tyler would not be swayed by either side.  That impartiality appealed to Severus.  He hadn't come to be judged.  At least that is what he believed.

But he was asking Professor Tyler to do so with every word that fell from his lips.

~~~

Harry leaned back, sipping at another glass of firewhisky as he listened to the story pour out of Severus's mouth.  He didn't quite remember just how many tumblerfuls of the alcohol had passed his lips.  That line of thought vanished as the story unfolded.  Schooling his gaze to one of indifference, Harry listened, fascinated, to Severus as he explained his reasons for initially joining the ranks of the Dark Lord.

This was a topic his Severus always avoided at all costs.  Harry had never pressed the subject, but it didn't stop the bottomless well of curiosity that made him want to know everything about the man he was bonded to.  Harry wouldn't pry, and in turn, Severus would not pry into Harry's life.  They would not push the other into revealing things they thought better left alone, and if they died without knowing everything about the other, then so be it.  It was something that Harry could tolerate.  It wasn't necessary.  What they knew about each other was inconsequential because what truly mattered was that they understood each other.

Maybe now Harry would relent and reveal some of those facts that he'd never whispered.  It was, after all, only fair now that his younger self had gone spilling some of Severus's most guarded thoughts and secrets.

Harry wondered if Severus, his Severus, had realised how very blind he was when he was sixteen.  Almost immediately, Harry berated himself.  Of course Severus knew.  Severus would probably be the first one to admit it, if he admitted such things.

This young man was blind to all the horrors Voldemort committed.  He was a young impetuous fool, and Harry struggled to keep the censure out of his eyes.  It wasn't completely Severus's fault.  Only mostly.  If he was to believe the words that tripped over themselves to tell a tale Harry was quite sure he deserved to hear.

It seemed that Mr Riddle liked to convince his followers that he was morally right before he showed them the more vicious side of his regime.  The joys of torturing and killing half-bloods and Muggles were hidden away from the impressionable young men (and on occasion women) like Severus.  So instead of a story filled with horrific sights -- which Harry had to admit to himself he had half expected -- he was being regaled with all the good things the Dark Lord was trying to accomplish and bafflement at how those who opposed him could possibly do so.  How everyone believed the horrid lies about kidnapping and torture which were just simply wrong.

Harry's chest tightened listening to the words.  Sadness, for a brief moment, threatened to overtake him, drown him, but Harry didn't let it.  Instead, his mind turned to all the conversations he'd had with the older Severus.  His Severus was full of self-ridicule.  He criticized all the decisions that he had made while growing up, never whispering to Harry what those decisions had been, just that they were wrong, wrong, wrong.  And not worth repeating.  Harry knew so much about his Severus, but not this.  Not what he was now discovering from the lips of a younger version of his lover.

This blindness of young Severus was a weakness, and Harry's Severus despised showing any form of weakness to anyone, most especially Harry.  Even if Severus was no longer weak in such a way, he had been at one point, and that was enough to hide this from Harry.  At least that was what Harry thought.  His Severus always looked at all the possible angles and never stepped into any situation, other than Death Eater meetings, without full knowledge of what he was getting himself into.  In the future, Severus looked at having to attend those meetings as his punishment.  Harry had always thought it was a punishment for following the Dark Lord in the first place, but now, listening to this younger version of his lover, Harry wasn't quite sure that he had it right.

Harry's mind was not focusing on any one thing; instead so many conversations were running through his mind that Harry couldn't help but make connection between them that he would never have made had he been sober and in complete control of his thoughts.

The young Severus stopped talking and tilted his head to the side, waiting for Harry to say something.  Running his fingers through his hair, Harry decided he didn't know what he should say.  What he wanted to say was "stay away from that horrible monster!" but Severus didn't need that advice.  He needed to find his own way to the conclusion that Voldemort was indeed a monster and not the man he purported himself to be to his followers.  Harry, though, still had to say something and settled on stating what he had always believed.

"Mr Snape, you seem to be trying to convince yourself that you did the right thing.  Not trying to convince me."  Harry paused.  "All I have to say to that is, as long as you did it for the right reasons, as long as it is a cause that you believe in, and as long as you can live with yourself while doing it, then it is your decision to make.  No one else can make that decision for you.  You are, after all, the person that you have to live the rest of your life with.  And if you can't stand the person you've allowed yourself to become then it's going to be a rather horrid life for you."

It was also the end of any level of coherence Harry could expect from himself.  Shifting slightly, Harry started to get up so he could escort the young Mr Snape to the door.  He closed his eyes and stretched his arms upward, arching his back as he did so.  Letting out his breath slowly, he lowered his arms and opened his eyes.  Severus's eyes were wide and filled with conflicting emotions, and lacking the sureness Harry had come to expect with his Severus.  Shrugging, Harry swung his legs over the edge of the couch.

Severus looked away.  "You must think me a fool, Professor.  I always seem to come across as someone who can't handle making his own decisions.  I suppose I was just worried that I had made the decision too hastily."  Severus swallowed.  "I know my Lord is trying to change things for the better, and I know he is probably going about it in the best way.  He must be better informed than I am.  I'm only a sixth year, but still…"  Severus's eyes flicked from Harry to the floor and back.

Harry was almost positive that Severus didn't even realise he was rambling on.  It was a refreshing change to his Severus that always weighed each word with care.  A genuine smile flitted across Harry's face and Severus's babbling stopped.

Cocking his head, Harry looked at Severus.  He didn't trust his voice to say what he wanted to.  Whenever he drank too much firewhisky -- and he was almost sure that he had -- Harry ended up making a fool of himself.  Something he was determined to prevent tonight.

"I've never actually seen you smile before, Professor.  Even when your friend visited.  You just never seemed like the smiling sort."

Harry's smile didn't disappear, only got bigger.  Perhaps Albus was right, he thought, this was almost like a vacation.  Spending time with a Severus that didn't have nearly as many worries as his Severus would be a nice change.  As long as nothing happened between them it would be perfectly acceptable to talk to the young man, right?

"Everyone has an off day now and then, I suppose.  You just happened to catch me on mine."  Harry stood and swayed slightly as the blood all rushed from his head.  Being the sober one, Severus jumped up and grabbed Harry's elbow to keep him from falling.  A nod.  "Well, I guess you should be going, Mr Severus."

"Perhaps you should lay down, Professor.  You don't look well."  Severus's hand tugged at Harry, trying to pull him back toward the couch so he could help him sit down, but Harry didn't want to sit, so he tried to pull free and ended up stumbling against Severus.

Frowning, Severus turned him and Harry cupped his cheek in one hand.  Confusion clouded the familiar yet unfamiliar features of Severus face and Harry frowned in turn.  "So much lost.  Such beautiful eyes filled with emotion.  I'm so--" Harry leaned closer.  "Sorry."  Without another thought to the consequences of his actions, Harry swayed forward the last little bit and covered Severus's lips with his own.

~~~

Severus stretched when he woke, savouring the ache through his body.  He was sore in places, but it was a pleasant sort of sensation.  He'd spent the night with Professor Tyler-- No.  Octavian.  A sleepy slow grin stretched his lips and he rolled over to see if he could catch sight of his professor.  The grin widened, he liked the sound of that.  His professor.

Octavian, however, was not in the room, and Severus climbed out of the bed.  His clothes were folded and placed in a neat pile on a chair by the door, and he headed over to them, past the door which led to the bathroom.  The shower was running.

That, at least, answered the question of where his errant professor had got to.

All thoughts of Octavian in the shower vanished when Severus's eyes alighted on the note laying primly on top of Severus's pile of clothes.

*//Mr S Snape,

I would advise you to vacate my rooms immediately.  You see, I have regained my sobriety.  For your own personal safety, I suggest you remain as far away from me as possible for the remainder of the school year.

I expect you gone before I reappear.  If not, something worse, much worse, than detention with Filch awaits.

Professor O Tyler//*

Crumpling the paper in his fist, Severus glared at the bathroom door and flung the wad of paper at it.  He would have felt better if it had made a satisfying sort of shattering sound, but it didn't and all he could do was seethe.  Like a child.  The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth as he tugged his clothes on.

It wasn't over.  Tyler wanted him, Severus was sure.  He wouldn't have taken him if he didn't want him.  Now that he knew what to look for to get past Tyler's defences (particular large quantities of alcohol being imbibed) Severus had plans for paying another late night visit.

Tyler had never met a determined Severus before.

~~~

Harry heard the bedroom door slam followed shortly after by a dull thud of the outer room door slamming as well.  He was alone.

He slid down the tiles and groaned.  How stupid had he been to allow himself to drink that much.  More than he would have if Severus had been there, but then that had been the whole point to his drinking.  Severus -- his Severus had not been there.

Not that they ever did anything to celebrate their anniversary, but they never ignored it either.  It just was, just like everything else about them.  And last night had been their anniversary.  Harry sighed, scraping his nails across the bond mark on the inside of his right wrist.

It would have been fine had the young Severus not appeared at his door.  Harry would have just finished off the bottle of whisky and fallen asleep on the couch probably while reading, all the while missing Severus and trying not to think of him.  But none of that had happened.  Instead, Harry had found himself listening to the younger Severus talk about what he had done, and then Harry had done something beyond foolish and idiotic.

His eyes were prickling, but Harry refused to admit to any tears.  It was easy to do so in the shower with the water running over his head trailing down his face in long rivulets.  He was furious and angry at himself and the situation, but he was not going to shed a tear over it.  He scrubbed at his skin, wishing to wash the guilt down the drain, but he couldn't.  Guilt never washed away like that.  It stained his skin in a way only he could see.

Of course the irony was the his Severus knew exactly what was going on between 'Professor Tyler' and his younger self, but Harry couldn't stop feeling like he had cheated on Severus.  There wasn't an end to the circular logic, Harry knew that, but neither could he stop thinking about it.  Anyway he looked at it he felt guilty and angry at himself.  Then his thoughts turned to his Severus and Harry wondered if Severus was furious with him for his complete lack of self control, for giving in to Severus's sixteen year old self.

The water was cooling, but Harry stayed where he  was, his head down turned with the water beating down on it and his right wrist gripped in his left hand, the bond mark staring up at him accusingly.

~~~

*The Future:  Summer Between Harry’s Sixth and Seventh Year*

“Stop being such a baby.”

“I am not acting like an infant.”  A sharp hiss of indrawn breath filled the small room.  “That hurts!”

“I barely touched you.  You know, it would hurt a lot less if you’d just sit still.”

“Your bedside manner leaves something to be desired, Potter.”  Severus tried to move away from the hand that was coming closer to him.

Throwing up his hands in frustration, Harry glared.  "Would you just sit still?!  It's only a salve without a single ingredient that will cause pain.  You should know because you MADE it!"  Harry gripped Severus's shoulder before he could jerk away again, but the older man twisted out of his grip anyway.

"It stung the last time."  Matter-of-fact.  "What are you trying to put on it anyway?  For all I know it could be something completely inappropriate to the wound.  And--"

Harry glanced skyward.  There was not a worse patient in the entire world than Severus Snape.  And he was stuck with the man.

"--I don't need your help.  I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself.  In fact, I've been doing so since before you were born, so if you would kindly bugger off I'll see to this myself."

That was it, Harry decided.  He grabbed Severus's arm, yanking it toward him, provoking a gasp from Severus, and rubbed his salve covered fingers into the gash on Severus's shoulder.  Another hiss issued from Severus's lips, turning into a growl at the end.

"To answer your question," Harry said, stepping back and releasing Severus's arm.  "It's a pain numbing and disinfectant salve.  Clearly marked in your neatest handwriting, sir.  As for why it hurt the first time.  You wouldn't sit still and were pulling the cut open wider tearing the flesh and muscle.  The reason that I am helping you is because you can't reach the gash to tend to it yourself.  If you could, I'd just let you lick your injuries like the wounded animal you are.  Sir."

Stepping around Severus, Harry bent over and looked into Severus's eyes to check the dilation of his pupils.

"What are you doing now?"  Though Severus didn't snap his eyes closed.  Probably because Severus didn't trust him at all, Harry thought bitterly.

"Is your vision blurry?"

"No."

"Good."  Standing up, Harry grabbed a clean cloth from the table and went to wipe off any excess salve that hadn't absorbed into his skin.  Casting a healing charm, Harry watched as the skin knit together - the only sign that there was ever a cut there a sharp red line which would fade but never completely go away.  Just one more scar to a man who already had so many.

Harry traced the line with his finger, to make sure that the spell had sealed properly but also because he could get away with it.  Another time and Severus would have hexed him across the room, but right now, Harry could get away with splaying his fingers across the taut flesh and muscle as long as he pretended he was checking the injury.

Severus didn't stop grousing, and Harry really didn't expect him to.  He just ignored all the snapping insults and groaning complaints about how he did everything wrong.  It was the way Severus dealt with his pain.  It was also leagues away from Harry dealt with his own.

The first time Severus had pulled him out of a bad situation, Harry had had five gashes in parallel lines across his chest, and a stab wound in the side.  He had automatically curled up and closed his eyes, trying to silence even his breathing.  He had wheezed out a gasp when Severus had picked him up off the ground and brought him to safety.  After he'd been healed, Severus had ripped into him for making him think that Harry had died.

Of course it was probably because Severus thought that a dead Harry meant that he'd failed his duty.

"Was it bad?"

Harry shrugged.  "I could see the bone, but it was your shoulder blade and part of that is exposed through the muscle anyway.  I don't know enough to tell you if the muscle suffered any severe trauma."  Harry ran his fingers and hands over Severus's back one last time.  "It's healing all right, and-- I must have been mistaken."

"Hm?"

"I thought I caught the scent of Oleander, but you're not showing any of the symptoms of Oleander poisoning."  Harry paused.  "Who would have thought I'd ever learn anything remotely interesting about potions?"

"Prat."

"That was an awfully juvenile thing to say, Professor.  I thought you saved such comments for my godfather."

Severus's eyes narrowed, but he didn't say anything, just grabbed Harry's hand and tugged Harry in front of him.  Fidgeting, Harry pulled his hand from Severus's grasp and took a step back.

"We should check that puncture wound, Potter."

"I can do it myself."  Harry lifted a hand to his eyes and rubbed at them.  He'd been staring too long trying to check Severus's wound.  His eyes felt strained, and the exhaustion from lack of sleep must have been catching up with him because he felt a little off.

Severus was staring at him.  Harry could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, and when Severus opened his mouth, the words cut through him, sharp and hard.  "You said you smelled Oleander?"

A sharp nod sent Harry's head reeling and he collapsed against the table.  Propping himself up with one hand, he rubbed the other against his eyes and sighed.  He was just over tired.

"Did it ever occur to you that you could have been the one poisoned?"

Harry lost his balance when he titled his head back to look at Severus, and fell backward.  Severus caught him before he hit the ground.

~~~

The first things Harry saw upon waking were the cracks in the ceiling.  They were very familiar cracks as Harry had woken to the sight of them twisting along the painfully white ceiling many times before.  With a sigh and muttered curse, Harry pushed himself up and looked around the hospital wing.

"You, Mr Potter, have proven that you are even more of an idiot then I have previously assumed.  I assure you that if you ranked toward the bottom of the echelon of intelligence before, you rank at the bottom now with perhaps Longbottom just slightly under you."

Harry swallowed and leaned his head back and closing his eyes.  "I told you I thought I smelled Oleander.  I'm not the potions master who should have been able to identify it a mile off."  Rolling onto his side, Harry looked at Severus.  He was surprised to find him sitting in a chair by his bed reading a book.  He'd obviously been there a while.  Some sort of bittersweet emotion that Harry didn't really want to examine wrapped around his chest and squeezed.  "How long was I out for?"

"A week."  Short and clipped and Severus's tone had an edge of anger to it.

"Sorry," Harry said, instantly sheepish.  "I shouldn't have snapped.  I should have been able to tell I was the one who was poisoned."

Severus nodded.  "I did not sit there and drill symptoms into your head so that you could get poisoned and not recognize the effects."  Severus dragged in a harsh breath between clenched teeth.  "You are lucky I was there, you idiot boy.  It has obviously been a complete waste of my time training you to identify some highly dangerous poisons by scent alone."

"It's not like you did any of it out of the goodness of your own heart, you giant bat!  Not that you have one.  Dumbledore told you to train me."  Harry rolled over, turning his back to Severus and squeezed his eyes shut.

“You are the most impertinent brat I’ve ever met, Potter.”

“Where is the Headmaster sending us next?  I want to get out of here.”

"What makes you so sure you'll be working with me?"

All Harry heard was venom in the other’s voice.  "Well he sure won’t send me off alone.  And just because I did something stupid he isn’t going to take Sirius or Remus off assignment to ‘baby-sit’ me as you call it.  I'm afraid you're stuck with the honour."

Severus ignored him.  "We’ll be picking up where we left off.  Between your visions and my mark we might actually be able to track Voldemort to his new headquarters."

"Hiding place."  Harry narrowed his eyes and crossed him arms.  From the corner of his eye he caught Severus glancing upward at the ceiling and stifling a sigh.

"Quite right, Potter, his hiding place.  Since your visions get stronger with proximity, as do the pains in your scar and my mark, we should be able to determine where he is hiding."

"Stupid, stupid, stupid.  We should be spending our time building up a defence, not planning an offence.  'One is always stronger on one's home ground.'"

"I have never admitted to comprehending the Headmaster."  Severus stood with one swift motion.  "Whenever you are ready, I will be waiting for you at the front doors."

The door to the hospital wing slammed behind Severus and Harry jumped out of bed.  It wasn't that he was excited about going back out with Severus, more that he wanted to avoid any further lectures about promptness from the man.  Pulling his shirt over his head, Harry caught the scent of spice and potions ingredients.  His bag must have been stashed in Severus's private rooms.  With a sigh, Harry caught himself wishing that he had been stashed in Severus's rooms for the last week as well.  Not that Severus wanted him there of course.

All the way down to the entrance hall, Harry's thoughts remained on his odd relationship with Severus.  The pair of them had been working on this brainless -- in Harry's opinion -- scheme of Dumbledore's  since the end of the school year and with each week they spent in close company Harry fancied himself more in love with Severus.  In his more optimistic moments, Harry thought that maybe Severus found him a bit attractive as well, but those moments were short and far apart.

One of those moments was not when Harry reached the bottom of the main stairwell.  Severus turned a glare on him and called for him to stop dawdling.  With a roll of his eyes, Harry half jogged the remaining distance and stopped in front of Dumbledore who gave him a quick pat on the shoulder and wished them both good luck.

Harry wished his benevolent smile to Hades.

~~~

"Potter."  Severus pushed a small vial at Harry, but Harry didn't look up from the page he was staring at.  "Potter."  

With a disinterested sigh and his eyes glued to his book, Harry ignored Severus, his lip curling up at the corner in distaste.

"Potter."  Severus's tone moved from impatient to annoyed and the vial slammed down next to Harry's untouched dinner.

"Stop calling me Potter.  I assure you that you cannot attach any distaste for the name to me as I know barely a thing about my family, and I refuse to count my caretakers.  Poor excuses for caretakers let alone family."

"Potter--"

"If you want me to answer than come up with a different name."  Harry turned another page.  "You can call me Harry, but no, you'd never do that, Professor.  So how about Black, Weasley, or Lupin?  At least I feel like I belong to those families."  Harry whinged.  "But I doubt you'd use those either."

"Drink the damned potion, Pot-- Harry," Severus snarled.  "You have trace amounts of Oleander in your system and it is acting as a mild depressant."

"Thank you, Professor."  With a nod, Harry returned to the book that Severus was damned certain he was not reading a single word of, ignoring the existence of vial and potion.  He did shovel a spoonful of the god awful cottage pie into his mouth, however, after Severus pushed the plate against Harry's elbow for the fifth time that night.  He shouldn't have to coddle the boy, but Dumbledore had put Harry in his care and he wasn't about to fail the assigned duty.

"One normally moves their eyes when one reads a book."

"Not if the book is there as a simple pretext so a conversation can be avoided."

Severus tapped his nails against the wood table and bit back a growl.  Damned brat.  Acting like an infant who doesn't like the taste of cold medicine.  "Why won't you take the potion?"

Harry shrugged and turned the page again.  "This is how I should feel."

"Expound upon that."

"I'm not an essay that you can write comments on so you'll just have to deal with my saying as much or as little as I please."  Snapping his book shut, Harry stood to leave, but Severus grabbed his elbow in a firm grip and wouldn't release him.  "Let go, Professor."

"If I'm expected to spend the remainder of this accursed summer in your company than I deserve to know what makes you unbearable, and that, Mr Potter, is what you will be if you don't take the damned potion."

"I'm already unbearable as far as you're concerned.  You've been telling me variations on that since I was eleven.  Besides," Harry continued, "what gives you the right to know anything about me?  It's not like you give a bloody damn.  You make that quite clear every day!"  Wrenching his arm away, Harry took off through the door and went into the small hotel bedroom.  

Severus snatched the vial off the table and stood to follow Potter, his chair scraping against the floor before falling over with an angry clatter.  If he got his hands around the boy's neck he was going to squeeze hard enough to--

Severus stopped just inside the room, listening to the satisfying slam and rattle of the door.

Potter was on the bed lounging indolently on his stomach with the damned book propped up on the pillow on the same page Harry had been not-reading twenty minutes ago.  The brat couldn't even keep page numbers straight.  It was no wonder he did so abysmally in his classes.

"Don't you know everything that book has to offer yet, Potter?" Severus growled.  "You forgot the vial."

Harry ignored him and Severus, giving in to nervous energy, started pacing.  Each footfall was a resounding thud against the floor.  And he certainly didn't glance over at the round curve of Harry's arse in those trousers which were much too tight and would have been put to better use strangling the idiot mutt who had given them to him.  After he was stabbed with the dagger which was strapped to Harry's thigh, yet another gift the boy did not need.

"Madam Pomfrey demanded that I give you this potion with your dinner.  I suggest you take it as I do not need the mistress of Hogwarts' hospital wing swooping down upon me with a vengeance."

"And I care why, exactly?"  Rolling over, Harry stared at Severus through half closed eyes.

Severus was feeling like the room was too small and temperature too high.  Dealing with Potter would give him an aneurysm before the end of the month, and for a brief time, Severus had actually thought that he would be able to last the whole summer with a surprisingly bearable Potter.

Brushing a lock of lank hair out of his face for the umpteenth time, Severus gave up.  There was no telling what was going through Potter's head, and on top of that, Severus still hadn't figured out how to deal with him since that incident around Christmas last.

Thoughts like those would lead him down a treacherous path, though, and Severus banished the image of Harry in front of him with his lips parted, about to kiss him, with a ruthless shake of his head.  He didn't have time for that nonsense.  Slumping down onto the edge of the bed, Severus extended the vial toward Potter.

Harry grabbed it and swallowed the contents in one gulp.

"Why do you let me get away with anything I want?"

"Since when do I allow you to do that?  I was under the impression I was constantly stopping you from doing such."  Severus turned to look at him, and Harry met his gaze with a steady one of his own.

"It depends.  As my professor you are a complete and utter shit."

Severus glared, but Harry didn't flinch.  "Last Christmas, Dumbledore put you in charge of me and since then you've been my mentor in the Order.  As such you let me get away with anything.  I've screamed at you, called you every name I could think of and even some that I had to look up in a book-"

"What book?"

"'1001 Ways to Insult Your Postions Master' by Fred and George Weasley.  Has a bonus chapter on the other professors as well."

Severus scowled.  "Why are you telling me this, you realise--"

"What are you going to do?  Most of the insults are pretty easy to memorise and if you get McGonagall to remove the copies in the common room you still can't confiscate them from individuals unless they bring them into your class, and they'd have to be pretty stupid to do that.  Not to mention that Fred and George will only send new copies."  Harry shrugged.  "Besides, I'm the only one who will insult you to your face.  Most everyone else is too scared to do so, or too interested in licking your shoestrings."

"Leave my Slytherins out of this."  Clenching his fist against his thigh, Severus cursed.  "Will I ever escape those two menaces?"

"No."

Taking a deep breath, Severus turned away.  "Because you are old enough to make your own decisions."

Harry's response was slow in coming, and Severus knew the abrupt change back on to topic was, in all likelihood, the cause.  "And if I make the decision to insult you and make you miserable?"

"That is your choice to make, and I know you are the one making it."

"How do you know that Sirius isn't rewarding me every time I insult you?"

"While that sounds like something your cur of a godfather would do, I doubt it.  I would appreciate, however, being told the reason for your sudden hostility toward me.  You've been… tolerable so far this summer and I had hoped the pattern would have continued as unlikely as that would be."

"I've decided that I don't want anyone to have faith in me."  When Harry's reply came it was quiet and Severus didn't know how to respond.  It surely wasn't what he had been expecting and he never handled the unexpected well.  Such territory was commonplace when dealing with Potter.

Severus took a deep breath as Harry shifted and changed position on the bed.  He was used to the boy's restlessness; he always fidgeted in class and now shouldn't be any different, but for some reason it was and Severus didn't know what to make of it.  He stared at Harry's fingers as they brushed across the floor chasing dust mites.  "And what is wrong with people having faith in you?"

"I'll end up letting someone down.  I won't be what everyone expects me to be."  

"And what is it you think everyone expects of you?"

"To be a Gryffindor all the time."

Severus didn't say anything at first.  What was there to say? "Excuse me."

"There are qualities in me which are distinctly not Gryffindor in nature."  

"Your Slytherin qualities."  Severus nodded, but carefully kept his expression as stoic as possible.  He had noticed those qualities ages ago.  Harry's abilities to disappear into the shadows and to be ignored, the cunning he showed in certain rare situations.  He had a brain and on occasion even seemed to use it, as much as Severus didn't want to admit to that.  He didn't have a Slytherin's ambition though, and was left with the Gryffindor tendency to coast through life.

One would have to actually look to see those traits though, as Harry hid all of them behind his foolhardy Gryffindor courage.

"You knew?  You knew that the hat tried to put me in Slytherin?"

"I thank it everyday that it did not.  A born Lion among the House of Snakes?  I would have stepped down as Head of Slytherin."

Harry smirked.  "No, you wouldn't have.  You'd have learned to live with me.  You're a Slytherin, you'd have adapted."  

"Granted."  Another Slytherin trait Harry had in spades.  No matter what anyone threw at the boy, Severus knew that he would adapt to the situation and emerge from it relatively unscathed.

Standing, Harry paced to the window, but didn't look out.  There was nothing to see as the first thing Severus had done upon their arrival that evening was shutter it.

"It shouldn't matter if you let others down as long as you don't let yourself down."

Turning, Harry leaned against the sill.  "Sometimes I'm more Slytherin than Gryffindor, but this time I'm more Gryffindor than Slytherin.  A Slytherin looks out for their own interest over that of others.  A Gryffindor looks out for others' interests over their own.  You're similar in that regard," a pause, "Severus."  Severus said nothing at the use of his name and only raised an eyebrow at Harry's presumption.  Ducking his head a bit, Harry hurried on.  "I can acknowledge I have the qualities of both Houses in me, but personally I don't want to choose which one I associate with the most.  I'd rather be Houseless then to be classified as the quintessential anything.  I know people expect me to pick, and they all expect me to pick Gryffindor.  How can I be either one or another when I can see both?"

Severus stood and went to stand right in front of Harry.  Taking Harry's chin between his fingers, he tilted Harry's face up and met Harry's stare.  "You are neither and you are both.  The answer to your question lies inside of you.  Be whatever this," Severus settled his free hand over Harry's heart, "tells you to be."  Severus had meant to be brusque and abrupt and cruel and he cursed himself for ten times the fool that he sounded like he cared

Severus moved to take a step back, but before he could, Harry settled his hand over Severus's.  "And there's the problem.  I want to be free to be myself, but I know that some people I hold close won't accept who I see myself as and whom I choose to associate with."  Dropping his hand, Harry backed up a step.  "I want to love whoever I want."

Severus nodded, the muscles in his jaw tensing.  "Then do so," he ground out.  "Don't let anyone stop you."

"It's not that easy.  You see, I think I'm in love with you, but you're the one that is out to stop me."

"There is no advantage to that."  Severus started to back further away, but he stopped.  Their places reversed, Severus would not have admitted what Harry just had; knowing rejection was imminent would have kept Severus's lips sealed.

Severus was sure that this was all a mistake.  He was just the object of a misplaced infatuation and eventually Harry would come to understand that and move on.

Harry swallowed, his eyes sliding shut and shoulders sagging.  "I was right."  With a shake of his head, Harry looked up, eyes bright with insubordination and obnoxiousness.  Exactly what Severus had come to expect over the years teaching him.

With a shrug, Harry tried to brush past him, but Severus grabbed his arm and twisted it until Harry was facing him.  "You should know that as far as I am concerned you are never right, Potter."

"Really?"  There wasn't any defiance in Harry, just weariness and acceptance.  It bothered Severus, but he would never admit it.  Ever.

Drawing in a deep breath, Severus let his free hand brush Harry's cheek for a moment before he dipped his head and covered Harry's lips with his.  In the back of his mind he knew it was the biggest mistake he had ever made, but he couldn't bring himself to care as Harry opened his mouth under his and tentatively returned the kiss.  

There was something between them.  Some tangible thing that existed and twisted its way around them, joined them on a completely inappropriate visceral level.  Severus would have banished it, if he knew how and if he hadn't wanted to keep it.  This was madness, sweet and bitter madness, and he clung to it as he pulled Harry closer and kissed him harder.

Chapter Fifteen:  Descent Into Madness

*The Past*

The quick succession of knocks sounded on his door again.  With a glare, Harry stood and set the book he'd been reading on the armrest of his chair.  Wrenching open the door, mid rap without warning, Harry readied a retort, but it caught in his throat.  

Sirius was standing there, awful blond hair and all, but a step or two behind him was Severus.  Severus with red hair.  Severus with deep burgundy red hair.  And they weren't arguing.  Just standing there.  Harry scrubbed at his eyes with his knuckles, sure that he'd be proven wrong when he opened them again, but no, Sirius and Severus were still standing there getting along from the looks of things.

The demons of hell would be building snowmen any minute now.

"Are you planning on moving, or do I have to tackle you?"  Sirius grinned.

Shaking himself out of his momentary shock, Harry moved away from the door.  "You've not killed each other."

Severus didn't reply with his usual caustic remark about stating the obvious, and Harry felt his stomach drop.

Sirius, though, was oblivious.  "Amazing, isn't it?  We had a lovely conversation, in fact."  Sirius looked back over his shoulder at Severus. "All about how stunning he looks as a redhead."  Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and looked around.  "Anyway, I wasn't supposed to be here since I came last time.  In fact, Albus was all set to send Snape, but Snape for some reason invited me to come along.  Seeing this as the golden opportunity it was, I told him I would on the condition that he went under a disguise spell.  Rather brilliant of me, I think."

Harry paled at the information.  Severus didn't want to see him alone.  Of course, Severus knew what had happened since he had already lived it and now wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.  Swallowing, Harry ripped his gaze from Severus and turned back to Sirius.  "Seems a very unSeverus like thing to do."

"Yeah, well, I wasn't exactly not surprised to be asked to tag along too.  One would think he would want to do whatever you two normally do."  With a shudder, Sirius looked away.  "But when I asked, all he said was that he didn't--"  

Severus made a point of trodding over Sirius's toes as he brushed past Sirius.

"Greasy fucking git!"  Sirius's eyes narrowed.

"Sirius!" Harry barked.

His godfather's head snapped around to look at him.

After a quick glance at Severus, who was not looking at him, Harry abandoned the lecture he was about to give.  Sirius never listened to it anyway, and Harry just didn't have the energy to get into it.  "Anything interesting happen?"

Three sentences into the whole 'Have to get Harry the potions before Albus finds out story', Harry tuned Sirius out.  Sirius loved to listen to his own stories, and Harry usually didn't mind indulging him, so over time it became easier to think about what he wanted to think about.  This time it happened to be the fact that Severus obviously didn't want to be alone with him.  Or maybe it was that Severus didn't want to see him at all.  Sighing at his melancholy thoughts, Harry slouched down in the chair he had taken.  He turned when Severus's finger tapped his shoulder and with a smile, Harry took the tumbler Severus was holding out to him.

Scotch.  It contained scotch.  Not their drink.  The brandy was sitting on the sidebar untouched.  Looking up, Harry caught sight of Severus settling into the chair on the far side of the room; the one where he had left his book.  He had an excuse to go over there.  He could get his book and... But the thought died with a sigh, and he turned, muttering locking and silencing charms before looking at his godfather instead.

"Well, Sirius, what does Albus want to know?"

Stopping his next story almost mid sentence, Sirius grinned at Harry and then glowered.  "You could have poured me one.  Wouldn't have killed you, Snape."

Severus shrugged.

"He hasn't said a word since we got here.  I think he's trying to be difficult.  What do you think, Harry?  Personally, I'm glad the slimy shit hasn't spoken up once."

"Sirius…"  Harry groaned.  "Severus is always difficult."  Harry rotated the glass in his hands before taking a swallow.  "It's the way he is, but you know that.  You're the one who went to school with him."

Brushing the comment aside, Sirius squared his shoulders and started talking.  "Albus wants to know the usual.  Personally, I don't see the point.  Everyone knows you're going to do your job."

His focus shot, Harry tilted his head to look up at the ceiling.  His brain refused to lock on what he had to say and report.  He'd rather be talking to Severus - alone - but at the same time he didn't.  Sirius's presence kept any private conversation between the two of them from happening anyway.

Harry was almost positive that was the reason behind Severus bringing Sirius along.  The two men hated each other, yet they had shown up on his doorstep with no loss of blood or limb.  There was no use asking Severus if he was right, Severus wouldn't tell him and Sirius was probably clueless about the situation as usual.

So Harry did the only thing he could: he reported on his mission.  "As I told Draco, the hit on Harold Potter was accomplished by Voldemort.  It did cause the Order here to trust my translation more, at least to a point."  His voice fell into the tone it always affected when he was reporting, cold and indifferent.  It was as if nothing could faze Harry anymore, and that could very well be true.  "Counter actions have been taken against the attacks I've uncovered.  In most cases the counter actions have been so well coordinated it doesn't seem like anyone knows of the attacks beforehand.  There was one attack I translated which failed to occur.  The family is still under watch, just in case."

Sirius yawned.  "Cut and dried as usual."

"Simple minded as always, Black."  The sharp slash of Severus's voice into the conversation made Harry look up.  It was the first time Severus had spoken since arriving.  "What had always appeared to be random attacks were actually strategic moves, planned months if not years into the future.  Think of it as a chess match.  Right now we are successfully blocking moves.  Having Harry here gave us the edge we needed to win the first go around."

"I'm not an idiot, you good-for-nothing Slytherin shit."  Sirius ground out ever word from behind clenched teeth.  "What do you see in him," Sirius said, jerking his head at Severus, "anyways, Harry?"

"Curbing your tongue, Black?  Or you just can't come up with anything more intelligent to say?"

"Do I look like I want to irritate my godson?"

"That has never stopped you before.  I am amazed to see you act with any sort of forethought."

Harry rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and sucked in a deep breath.  "Severus, stop baiting Sirius.  You know he'll give in.  I'm not going to get mad at him if you induce him into insulting you on purpose."

"But it is so entertaining to watch you trounce your godmutt under the excuse of so-called 'practice'."

Bounding out of his chair, Sirius grabbed Harry's arm and tugged.  "That's what we haven't done in a while, Harry!  Practice match."

Harry's gaze flickered over to Severus.  Severus's smirk just proved that he had a plan and everything was going according to it.  "Is there a reason you want to see me thrash Sirius, Sev?"

"Since when have I ever needed a reason for wanting to see that ignoramus flattened?  But if you need one, I do think I can conjure up a proper reason."  Severus glanced down at his nails in what seemed to be casual indifference.  "We cannot allow for your musculature to deteriorate, now can we?"

Harry took a leisurely swallow of scotch while Sirius downed the rest of his in one large gulp.  Eyeing his godfather, Harry set his tumbler down.  "Perhaps you're right."

At least this way, he wouldn't be thinking about where his relationship had gone wrong, Harry mused, if it had, in fact, gone wrong.  He didn't know what Severus was thinking as Severus wasn't letting on that he was thinking at all.  A trait which annoyed Harry to no end, but one which he was also quite familiar with.  With a final glance at Severus, Harry sighed.  He wondered if he would ever find out.

~~~

Watching Harry from the relative safety of his chair, Severus drank he scotch and admired the play of muscle under Harry's skin as he stretched and prepared himself for a session fighting Black.

Knowing Harry for as long and as intimately as he had, Severus could see the telltale signs of stress permeating Harry's stance and attitude.  Harry had been unusually withdrawn and edgy; usually it was much harder for Severus to bait him into a fight.  Not much could get to the younger man.  Severus should know; after all, he had been the one to teach Harry how to stay calm in most circumstances.  Even knowing what could and would get to Harry and lead to a fight, verbal or physical, didn't mean Severus took advantage of the knowledge often.  It took too much time and energy and Harry tended to try and ignore Severus's taunts.  Draco, however, could get Harry hip-deep into an argument without blinking.

Once, Harry had told Severus that Draco had an easier time of it because their arguments always led to sparring and sparring with Draco was 'relaxing'.  It was easier for Harry to spar with someone of a similar build, which Draco was.  Of course, not all -- in fact, not many -- of his opponents were near his size.  Voldemort, for all his protestations that it was the magical prowess which mattered, still picked brawn over brain, and in some cases, innate magical talent.

Stress and tension kept Harry away from sparring with Black or Severus, and knowing that and that Harry would be stressed when he showed up tonight, Severus had come prepared with taunts and jabs much worse than the ones he had employed.  They hadn't been needed, though, and Severus couldn't stop himself from wondering why.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Severus looked again at the men squaring off.  He knew what weapons they'd use and how they'd fight.  Neither of those mattered in the scheme of things, Severus knew.  In the end it would come down to who wanted to win more.  Black was loose and relaxed, looking for all the world as if he was shooting the breeze with an old chum instead of trying to knock out Harry.  Harry, however, was battle-ready.  His muscles were compressed and tense; he was ready to spring.

Had he been the type, Severus might have felt bad for Black.  But he wasn't.

"Getting slow old man?"

"Who're you calling slow, boy?

"You're admitting you're old, then?"

The insults were routine and meant to rile each other up, though they failed more often than not.  This could go on for hours, the slurs spiralling down becoming base and degrading.  Everything was going exactly as planned.  Harry would waste at least an hour battling the mutt and Severus could think about his bonded, and the current situation they found themselves in, without anyone, especially Harry, the wiser.  Harry and Black would attempt to cut each other to ribbons, and Severus could avoid the conversation he just knew was bound to happen.

He could have not come at all.  It would, perhaps, have been the wiser course of action, but Severus had needed to see Harry, if not talk to him.  To see how he would behave in Severus's presence.  To see if Harry would act guilty or as a condemned man.

Severus wasn't sure if he'd seen either.

Lifting the tumbler of scotch to his lips, Severus paused and let the scotch run over his tongue and burn his throat.  For years, he had denied the fact that Harry was 'Octavian'.  Eventually, however, he had reached the point where he could not deny it any longer.  The realization had left a bitter taste in his mouth.  Severus hadn't wanted Harry to be 'Octavian', because if he was Octavian then that meant Harry and his younger self had been involved.  Almost immediately, Severus had taken the thought and shoved it behind a locked door in his mind never to be thought about except for the few times it had escaped to plague him during moments of self-doubt.

Why would Harry do something so wrong?

Severus would never take another lover, but that was exactly what Harry had done.

While Severus would never let certain things cross his lips, he could admit them to himself.  Not always easily, but he could.  One of those things was that he loved Harry.  Granted, Harry was much freer with such words then he was, but it didn't mean Severus didn't return the sentiment because he did, many times over, if Severus was to be truthful with himself.  He would never express it as often as Harry did, and he didn't need to.  Harry knew how he felt.  He'd even told Harry once, five years ago, but it didn't make the statement any less true.

The verbal jabs had begun to descend into the realm of the disgusting and crude.  It'd been what Severus had expected, but he couldn't keep himself from a small shake of his head as he refilled his glass with scotch.

“So, Sirius, did you find your mate last time you were in your animagus form?”

“Well there was this poodle…”

“That’s sick.”

“You asked.”

With a grimace, Severus sunk back into his chair and pretended to watch the fight.  He actually did watch for a moment, following the cord of muscle in Harry's arm as he tried to twist the knife out of Black's hand, but when Black broke the hold, he also blocked Severus's view and the last thing Severus wanted to see was Black's mangy arse.

The two fighters fell to the ground and Harry rolled on top of Black, his hand at Black's throat and his knees falling to either side of Black's hips, but Severus didn't notice.  He saw Octavian Tyler staring down at him, or rather a younger version of himself.

Why had Harry taken his younger self as a lover?  True, when Severus had been a student, he had shamelessly taken advantage of the fact that 'Professor Tyler' was drunk.  What bothered him was that he knew Harry well enough to know Harry had never and would never be drunk enough to just have sex with another person.  If that had been the case, Harry and Draco would have long before this point in time since Severus knew they were mutually attracted to each other, at least a bit.  The most either had done was fall asleep in the other's room after a spectacular piss up.

Severus's eyes narrowed as he stared down into his scotch.  Harry was his.  Not his younger self's.  Not anyone else's.  But was Harry sleeping with his younger self the same as Harry carrying on an affair with another person?  He knew they weren't the same, but at the same time, they were, and for all of his intelligence, Severus was having beyond a difficult time separating them out.  What he wanted to know more than anything was Harry's reasoning for his actions.

This, however, wasn't a conversation Severus could have with Harry.  Not now.  It would end up in a fight.  A very loud fight, the thought of which started a throbbing behind Severus's eyes.  Severus knew given the situation and the problem he should just leave and let Harry stew, but he couldn't.  It would hurt Harry, and if Harry was hurt who knew what would change?

In order to keep the timeline in balance, time travellers needed to walk a precarious path.  This task was Harry's, as well as, to a point, the task of those who visited him.  This was why Harry was not allowed to know the events which would occur in the past - his future as Tyler.  Severus had wanted nothing more than to change it.  He wanted to tell Harry everything that had happened between himself and his former teacher.  It had been a desperate desire to change the past -- and ultimately his future.  Until he thought about what it would mean:  changing the past, and the future, could cause him to lose Harry.

It wasn't worth the risk.  He loved Harry more than anything else he had in his life -- a fact that Severus would never actually tell Harry.  If Harry inferred it on his own, fine, but he would never confirm such an allegation.  So Severus stayed silent about the past, never breathing a word, and forming a precarious balance.  Severus's current anger at the situation, his lover, and himself was disrupting that balance.  The twisting of his gut and the tightening in his chest wouldn't go away until he had the row he knew was coming with Harry.

But he stopped himself.  When it came down to it, Severus knew Harry's personality and reactions.  He knew how Harry would respond to a fight.  Harry was unsure about Severus's reactions.  It was obvious with every glance and look Harry cast at him and with every bit of tension Severus could see strumming through Harry's body since he opened the door.

Harry needed some sort of reassurance.  Reassurance that Severus just couldn't offer him right now.

The easiest thing for Severus to do would be to avoid all visits.  He'd let Black or Draco go back.  Albus, however, had other plans -- the meddling old fool!

So instead of working in his private laboratory, Severus found himself sitting here, years in the past wondering what his lover could possibly see in his sixteen year old self.  Severus had been a spoiled know-it-all, nearly as bad as Draco and Granger combined.  Not as spoiled as James Potter, of course, but nonetheless his Grandfather had given him anything he had wanted.  Yes, he had to admit that he had been weak as a child.  Harry wasn't attracted to weak individuals; he surrounded himself with strong-willed friends who never had any problem thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.  Except for Weasley, but one could not avoid sycophants, Severus supposed.  He might not admit such to any of Potter's friends, but they were individuals who Harry could be moderately proud to surround himself.

So what had possessed Harry?

Severus's memories of being a student under 'Octavian Tyler' were for the most part inappropriate, in his opinion and he'd rather not think about them, but he did.  He clutched the glass in his hand tighter and tried to banish the thoughts of him sleeping with his Professor, trying to think of anything else, but the thoughts wouldn't come and the image stayed in his mind.

Harry was his.  As an adult Severus fought to keep the young man safe.  He fought to be with him as both lover and friend.  He fought for Harry because he loved him.  Harry was his and his younger self had done nothing, nothing to deserve Harry.

Sharp stinging pain lanced through Severus's hand.

"Severus?"  Harry's voice was firm and made Severus look up into his green eyes laced with concern.  "Are you all right?  Did you cut your hand when the glass shattered?"

Severus looked down at his hand, taking in the numerous cuts crossing his palm.  The price of hiding anger.  He clenched his hand into a tight fist and looked back up at Harry.  "No, Harry, there were no cuts.  I'm fine."

"Are you--"  Harry nodded.

"If you two have finished your little skirmish, I suggest that Black and I be on our way."  Taking out his wand, Severus muttered a spell, and the glass shards were no more.  Then with another wave, he undid the spell that had kept the furniture out of the way while Harry and Black had fought and the pieces slid back into their proper places.

Harry was still looking at him as if something was terribly off.  "Is something wrong?"

"No."  Shaking his head, Harry turned and moved to the door.

Black's eyes were narrowed and he kept looking between Severus and Harry.  It was obvious that the cretin was thinking very hard.  The pieces of the puzzle were slowly sliding into place and the conclusion that there was some sort of trouble between Harry and Severus was bound to be made.  Severus hated the goddamned mutt.

"Well, we were going to take off, but if you two need a minute--"  Black cut off after one withering look from Severus, but he didn't stop.   "I need to use the facilities.  Through there, right?"  Black didn't wait for an answer before heading into Harry's bedroom and closing the door.

"Sev?"

"No.  We are not having this conversation now.  It will wait until you come back."  Severus swallowed.  "We can't have this conversation now."  Snapping his head toward the bedroom door and away from Harry and his hurt, confused expression, Severus raised his voice.  "Black!  Quit eavesdropping.  We're leaving."

Throwing an apologetic look at Herry, Sirius exited the bedroom and tugged on the chain of the time turner hidden under his shirt.  He pressed a length of the chain into Severus's hands, and with a grimace, Severus pulled the chain over his head and suppressed the urge to yank on it in order to cut off Black's air supply.  A muttered incantation and they were popping out of the past.

~~~

Harry dropped down onto the couch summoning the bottle of scotch Severus had opened, forgoing his glass all together.  Severus's impassive mask had gone up, but not fast enough.  Harry had caught a glimpse of the emotions in Severus's eyes, before they'd dulled and became unreadable.  Severus was hurt.  Hurt and extremely angry.

Harry really had no one to blame but himself.

One long swallow of scotch led to another and that one led to a third.  It was going to be a long night.  Sleep was out of the question.  These problems with Severus… Well it wouldn't be the first time he had drowned his problems in one type of alcohol or other, Harry thought as he took yet another swallow.  Of course, he forgot that it had been a similar action that led to those problems in the first place.

Sometime later, a sharp knock on the door startled Harry from his sprawled-out position in front of the fire.  A chill swept through his body.  Harry just knew he didn’t like what was coming, but he forced himself up off of the floor to go and answer the door.  

The last person he wanted to see was standing there and Harry slammed the door.  Glaring, he waited for the pounding to resume.  It was not that easy to get rid of a young Severus Snape.  When the knocking started, harder than the first time, Harry reopened the door and looked into the face of a younger version of his lover.

"Go away, Mr Snape.  I'm in no fit state to entertain today."

"You look perfectly fit to me, Professor."

Harry sucked in a breath.  "I thought I had told you to stay far away from me."

"You did, Professor, but I just couldn't stay away.  I need to talk to you about what happened between us."

Harry didn't move from his position blocking the doorway.  "That's too bad as I don't have any intention in discussing the matter with you.  Be on your way, Mr Snape.  I do not desire to be in your presence."

Severus edged closer and Harry reflexively took a step back.  That was more than enough room for Severus to duck beneath his arm and worm his way into Harry's sitting room.  Harry bit back a growl and glared as he turned around to face the brat.

Harry fought the urge to flinch as he found himself being looked over.  Each scar and line was being observed and filed away into the young Snape's brain and Harry hated that.  He hated that Severus could see everything.  Things that he had hidden from people whom he didn't trust, and he certainly didn't trust this young man.  Severus's gaze paused when it hit his right pectoral and the letters that were carved into the skin there.  'TMR'.  Enough was enough.

"What do you think you are doing, Mr Snape."

Severus started, his gaze leaving his chest and catching Harry's eyes.  "I came for a visit."  He swallowed.  "Professor?  You don't look all that steady.  Perhaps I should help you lie down?"  Severus stepped forward and rested his hand on Harry's arm and Harry flinched, but not enough to dislodge Severus's hand.

"I know you're mad at me," Severus continued.  "I was hoping that I could change that."  He looked at Harry's face, false apology written in the lines of his young face.  Harry hadn't spent as many years with Severus as he had without learning how to tell when he was lying.  This younger version wasn't nearly as good.  "I don't want you to be mad at me."  The last was true enough.

"Then go away."

"I can't!  Please, Octavian, just sit down."

Harry narrowed his eyes, but did not move.  Shaking his arm out of Severus's grasp made Harry lose balance and falter forward.  "I'm never drinking again," he mumbled.

Severus grabbed him before he fell.  Gratefulness flashed in Harry's eyes, and then vanished as Severus's lips covered his in a demanding kiss.  Harry hated it.  He hated the familiarity of the lips and the smell of this young Snape.  The kiss lasted an infinite moment and then was over.  "I'm going to hell."

"Then I'll go with you."

Harry's voice was deadly quiet.  "Get out."

"No.  You know you want this as much as I do."

Neither knew who started the next bruising kiss or the one after which followed.  Neither cared.

Harry started as the cool hands resting on his hips clenched.  He dragged his mouth away from Severus's, wishing he could think, but his brain was so cloudy from both alcohol and the rush of desire that was coursing through him.  The body pressed up against him was hard and so willing that he just wanted to take even if it was wrong.

The hand that had got his attention was moving up his side, tracing the scars that it came across and making Harry tense up.  This was not his Severus.  This boy had no right to touch his scars in such a way.  He pulled away and looked at the young man.

Black eyes filled with determination looked back.  Harry knew that there would be no dissuading him.  Part of him wondered if he even wanted to.  Severus's hand rested on his chest and Harry looked at the pale fingers, slightly smaller than the ones he was used to.  Severus pushed him back and he stumbled backwards into his chair, followed by Severus who landed on top of him.

"Don't try to get rid of me.  It won't work."

Harry narrowed his eyes.

"It's obvious what you're thinking.  It's written across your face, Octavian."

Sucking in a deep breath, Harry tried to push the boy off of him, but failed.  Severus's balance was much better than Harry's at the moment, and part of Harry had wanted to fail, it was a part of him that he hated so much at the moment.  Soft, thin lips landed on the side of his jaw and started kissing a trail down his neck, nipping every so often.  Breathing was all Harry could manage, and it occurred to him that perhaps indifference would be the best course of action.

It was impossible to remain so as the mouth moved to his bare chest and a small tongue darted out and touched his left nipple.  Harry sucked in a breath between his teeth.  He was definitely going to hell.

Severus slid from off the chair and onto the floor in front of Harry and started to fumble with the fastenings at Harry's waist.  Harry might not be able to manage indifference, but he resolved to not actively help the young man either.  Maybe Severus would get frustrated and leave him in peace.  Not that there was much of a chance of that happening; this Severus was just as stubborn as his Severus.  The thought made Harry's erection wilt just as Severus managed to open the front of his trousers.  A disheartened sigh escaped the young man's lips and Harry brutally used it to his advantage.

"Believe it or not, I do not want you, Mr Snape.  Now, go."

Severus smirked and then lowered his head and set to work on reviving Harry's fading erection with his mouth.  There really was no hope, Harry could feel himself hardening as Severus sucked and licked.  His breath hitched in his throat and his eyes slid shut as Severus focused on the head, the shaft surround by one smooth hand that was entirely too still.  He didn't want to watch his traitorous body react as he slid as far as possible into the warm, wet mouth.  Harry's hips jerked and he groaned before he could stop himself, and then Severus stopped, and Harry made the mistake of sighing in relief.

Severus's hand wrapped around his wrist, surprisingly strong and he pulled Harry down off the chair so that he'd land on top of him.  Severus's erection was pressing against his hip, and Severus wasted no time in pressing kisses against Harry's jaw and neck and collarbone.  Harry could smell his own arousal mixed with Severus's scent.  Almost the same as his Severus's, just a bit different.  There was a hint of wood to it that made it sharper, but not, unfortunately to Harry, any less desirable.  Growling, Harry gave in.  He ran his hands down Severus's body.  Too soft in some places, too hard in other, and yet exactly the same in others.  It would be like fucking someone who looked almost the same.  Just a willing body.   Yes, that was all that young Severus Snape could be to Harry, a willing body.

Harry shoved at Severus's robe, forcing him to sit up as he ripped it off over the young man's head and cast it aside.  He ran his hands over the pale, smooth, scarless skin, similar, but not nearly identical enough.  The missing scars threw Harry for a moment, but he settled his mouth where neck met shoulder and bit down, drawing a gasp from Severus.  With a grim grin, Harry sucked and licked at the bite, drawing the blood nearer to the surface until it was a red and angry looking spot marring Severus flesh.  His fingers dug into Snape's hips as he repeated the process on his collarbone and then his chest.  Severus was moaning with quiet cries begging for more were all that Severus could managed.  Severus's hips bucked against Harry's and his fingers were clawing at Harry's arms.  So responsive, so eager, so young, so desperate.

Harry grabbed his wand and summoned the bottle of lubricant from the other room and forcing the thought of who had brought it for him out of his mind.  "Turn over."

Severus did so without hesitation, and Harry took a moment to stare at the more gangly limbs as they scrambled.  Wrapping his hands around Severus's hips, Harry pulled the young man over onto his knees.  He refused to take him looking at that face.  He couldn't.  He wasted no time in preparing Severus.  As much as he hated the fact that he wanted this, he would not hurt the young man either.  Not physically.  Not like this.

Sucking in a deep breath that smelled of sex, Harry entered Severus in one quick motion, then stilled, heat pouring off of his body.  He didn't move at all, even when Severus squirmed under him.  With his bottom lip caught between his teeth, Harry finally started to thrust.

His control was slipping quickly and he reached around to grab Severus's cock and started to pull it in time with his own thrusts.   He could feel it when Severus came warm and sticky across his hand and with a final push Harry let him self go, coming hard, and he rested his head in between Severus's shoulder blades, sobbing his relief and self-hatred in one breath.

Pulling out, Harry rolled to the side, bringing his arm up to cover his eyes.  Only one thought entered his mind.  If his Severus didn't kill him first, he'd let Voldemort do so.

~~~

*//…So you see, both of us wanted this.  You can't deny it, Octavian.  Don't try.  This time I get the last word.

Severus Snape//*

Harry tossed the scrap of parchment into the fire.  The little cretin had left while he'd been asleep so he wouldn't have to deal with an angry professor.  Clenching his teeth, Harry swore that he was going to make Severus's life hell.  He really was.

But in the next moment the deep rage dulled.  He couldn't be too angry with Severus.  As an adult his Severus was manipulative, managing to get what he wanted from anyone with the exception of perhaps Dumbledore and Voldemort, and, sometimes, Harry.  Clearly Severus had been no different as a young man.

That was why Harry's real anger and disappointment were with himself.  He knew what Severus was like, and yet he had still allowed himself to be manipulated.

Godforsaken alcohol.  It was more trouble than it was worth.

~~~

*Future:  Harry's Seventh Year*

Dumping his books onto the worktable, Harry slouched down on the stool and dropped his head into his arms.  He didn't bother looking up when Severus stormed into the classroom in his typical overdramatic style.  Usually, he would make an attempt to show more respect, but today he just didn't care.  He didn't know how to make himself care.

Harry had woken up shortly after going to sleep the previous night when his scar started sending shooting pains through his head, piercing his eyes so he couldn't see and sending jabs of searing ice down his spine that left him shivering and sweating and biting his lip in an attempt not to cry out and wake anyone.  From experience he knew that pain relieving potions and charms wouldn't work; the pain was as much a part of him as his scar.  Whoever Voldemort had tortured the night before -- and Harry was glad that he'd learned to block out the dreams -- Voldemort wanted Harry to know about it.

It wasn't the lack of sleep that made Harry lethargic and unable move.  Harry was used to not sleeping, and the pain from his scar was routine.  Dumbledore's news right before class, however, was not.

The Headmaster had taken Harry aside to bring him up to date about the situation with his godfather.  Sirius had gone missing a month earlier and no one in the Order had seen him.  Harry had been worried, but was made slightly less so  when he was told that the Order had agreed to send Remus out to look for him, but they had lost contact with him too.

Severus had been called the night before and had returned that morning with information concerning his godfather and Remus.  Voldemort had somehow found them both and had handed them over to his Death Eaters.  As toys.  The only reason they had even escaped was because of the full moon and not a single one of the Death Eaters had wanted to step in front of a growling werewolf.

Sirius had transformed and herded Remus away from the Death Eaters, and they were now missing again and probably hurt as well.  And there was no one available to go look for them.

"And Professor Snape, sir?"  Harry had asked.  "How he is?"

"I can't tell you that, Harry.  He's back and will be teaching classes."

"But that doesn't--" And Dumbledore had strode off leaving Harry in the corridor with no answers.  It was pointless trying to figure out had badly Severus had been tortured, if at all, the night before.  Severus always kept his walls firmly in place while in public.  So with one final look at where Dumbledore had disappeared around the corner, Harry turned and made his way to class.

Another sharp pain shot down Harry's spine from his scar, but Harry lacked the energy to even move his hand to his head.  He just kept his head down, feverishly wondering how something could hurt so much without showing the least bit externally.  He almost groaned, but knew better than to draw even more attention to himself.

Any hope that Severus would go easy on him for the class period was dashed as soon as Professor Snape opened his mouth.

"Mr Potter, I will not have obvious acts of inattention carried out in my class.  If you cannot stay awake during classes then I suggest that during the night you partake in what us mere mortals call sleep."

It wasn't so much what Severus said, more so the tone that he had used.  Harry had become quite capable at reading the subtle nuances in Severus's voice, and today his voice contained the sound of loathing that Harry hadn't heard for quite some time.  Squeezing his eyes shut, Harry dragged himself into a sitting position and looked toward the potions master.  Cold eyes narrowed at him, and Harry flinched back as if he had been slapped.  He didn't understand the mood that Severus was in, and decided that it might be best to rally whatever strength he could and be as attentive as possible for the remainder of the class.  Harry's resolve to pay attention during wavered though and soon his head was once again drooping down.  The lack of sleep and the jabs of pain from his scar mixed with the too loud clinking of vials and student chatter was making his head throb.

"Mr Potter!  I know that you haven't had the most inspiring of influences in your life.  An uncle who cannot control his impulses and most likely belongs locked up in a Muggle zoo, since that is the only place that he could possibly benefit society.  And we cannot forget your 'father', can we?  A lazy, good-for-nothing, cursed individual, no better than a rabid mutt.  Considering who you are, one should be able to expect better than that.  Since you obviously have no brain and can therefore not perform the simplest task, you could at least stay awake!"

Harry had lost what little colour he had had by midway through Severus's lecture.  The majority had no clue as to what Severus had meant, but there were a few in the class that did.  Severus wasn't talking about James Potter and Vernon Dursley, but was in fact talking about Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

Harry could barely think.  He knew what Severus was saying, but he didn't know why.  Insults to his family hadn't occurred since the end of his sixth year.  They hurt Harry as none of Severus's other insults did.  Why would his lover do such a thing?  It was one thing to insult the Dursleys and even James Potter (there would never be a way to mend that rift and Harry had come to learn how to ignore the insults to his father with more ease than he had in the past), but Sirius and Remus were the only family he had left.  Severus was being deliberately cruel again and Harry desperately wanted to hit him.

The entire class was staring at Harry waiting for what they were sure would be a spectacular blow-up.  But it didn't happen.  Instead, Harry silently gathered his books and stood.  Stumbling over his feet, Harry left the room without looking over his shoulder to see how Severus took his desertion.

~~~

"He wasn't in Charms."

"Or Divination."  Ron shoved the food around on his plate, an unusual thing for him to do, but Hermione didn't seem to notice.

"Have either of you seen him?" Dean whispered from across the table.

"No.  He wasn't in the Tower before dinner, either."  Hermione caught Ron's eye.  Ron had wanted to go and check the Order training areas, but he didn't have the passwords to get into them, and there was no way that he was going to ask Malfoy.

At the Slytherin table, things weren't much better.  Draco sat apart from most of the other Slytherins and wasn't touching his food either.  Dumbledore had called him to his office midway through Arithmancy to inform him that his mentor, Sirius, was still missing.  The rest of the day's happenings started clicking into place.  How upset Harry must have been with Severus.  Granted, the two always bickered and sniped and greatly disliked each other, but Draco was almost positive that they had come to mutually respect each other from what he had seen when he found them working together.  Draco's gaze wandered over the Gryffindor table.  After leaving Dumbledore's office, he had gone straight to the training rooms to see if Harry had gone there, but there had been no sign of him.  Weasley and Granger could tell him if he was in Gryffindor Tower though.

A friendship of sorts had begun to develop between him and Harry, Draco thought, and Harry was the one person in his year that Draco felt he could talk to Harry and trust him enough not to betray anything that was said, and right now, Draco wanted someone to talk to about Sirius.  Determined, Draco stood and headed over to the Gryffindor table.

"Weasley, Granger."

Ron and Hermione both snapped around to look at Malfoy.  Disbelief was etched on Hermione's face, and Ron was sure that his faced probably had the same look on it.

"Seen Potter?"

"Shove off, Malfoy."  Ron turned, knowing that his face was going red with anger.  Malfoy's mere presence was still able to rile Ron.

"Just leave him alone, Malfoy.  He doesn't need the likes of you making his life and more difficult."  Hermione started to turn away, but stopped when facing the doors.  "Harry."

"Leave them alone, Malfoy."

Draco cocked an eyebrow.  "Look what the cat dragged in.  You look awful, Potter.  Gone to weep about the nasty things the Professor said?"  Draco was looking at Harry, taking in the signs of strain around his eyes and how his lips were pulled tight in pain.  But his eyes weren't quite as dull as they had been when he'd left the dungeons, and he was smiling.

"Where have you been?"  Hermione jumped up and wrapped her arms around Harry in a hug which Harry returned.

"I spent the day visiting Hagrid.  He's still recovering from that bite from the sick acromantacula he was taking care of.  We talked for a while.  I slept.  Then my dog Snuffles found me.  Looked like he'd run all the way from London to get here.  Professor Lupin had found him in the Forbidden Forest.  Lupin says he's going to keep Snuffles down in his room, if I don't mind."  Harry turned toward Draco.  "What are you still doing here, Malfoy?  I'll deal with you later."

"I'd like to see you try, Potter."  With a nod, Draco turned on his heel and headed toward the doors of the Great Hall.

~~~

"No, Harry.  Stop.  Don't throw your weight.  For that type of slash you want to use just your arm and wrist.  Draco, if you keep moving away like that and don't put your weight down on your feet properly, Harry's going to knock you over and you won't know up from down."  Sirius shifted against the wall on the far side of the room watching Draco and Harry practice.  They were getting better with weaponry though Sirius would have preferred to return to boxing.  Knowing how to punch something, particularly big nosed bully teachers would have been much more to his liking at the moment, but they'd gone beyond hand to hand without weapons a long time ago and if the boys had wanted to hit a particularly vile looking greasy professor they were perfectly capable of doing so with out Sirius pausing their training to make sure they could do it right.

Sirius had always enjoyed playing around with Muggle weapons, but had never expected to be asked to train Draco and Harry in how to use them, but when Dumbledore asked, he had jumped at the chance taking them through hand to hand combat with and without weapons, to making sure that they could both shoot a gun.  Dumbledore might have a screw or three loose, but he was right when he said that Death Eaters would never expect someone to pull a gun on them and fire.

Originally Ron was going to train with them, and Sirius had hoped that he would, but Ron was adamant about becoming an Auror, and after all his trouble with the Ministry, Dumbledore had put his foot down.  If Ron wanted to join up with the Aurors after he finished school, that was fine and Dumbledore gave him his blessing, but neither would Dumbledore accept split loyalty from anyone, so Ron was not allowed to be inducted into the Order.  There were exceptions.  Arthur Weasley, and Nymphadora Tonks as well as Kingsley Shacklebot, but no more.

Harry backed up and out of the fight ring holding up his hand asking for a break.

"What's wrong, Potter?  Am I too tough for you?"

"Yeah, you are."  Sirius could see Harry roll his eyes from where he was standing.  "No, I have to take something."  Rubbing his head, Harry headed over to Sirius to go through his bag that he'd left at Sirius's feet.

"You all right?"

Harry nodded, but didn't look up at him.  "I just need a few minutes.  Please?"

"'Course."  Stepping away from Harry, Sirius went to stand by Draco, who was stretching out his arms.  "Cramped up?"

"A little."  Sirius grabbed one of Draco's arms at the elbow and pulled Draco's arm up and behind him.  Draco grunted his thanks and turned his eyes to look at Harry.  "What's with him," he asked as Harry lifted a vial and drank down the entire contents.

"Headaches, I'd imagine."

"But potions and charms don't work on headaches caused by his scar.  Even I know that."

Harry had dropped the vial back into his bag and had leaned his forehead against the stone wall.

"True, but from what Ron's told me, Harry hasn't been sleeping at night so he's tired and weak during the day.  By the time the pain from his scar fades, a regular headache replaces it.  The lack of sleep isn't helping either."  Sirius dropped Draco's arm and took the other one, repeating the stretch.  "Harry's been getting steadily better since the beginning of the year, and now all of a sudden it's back to bad.  Ron thinks that Harry had a boyfriend that was taking his mind off of things and maybe," Sirius coughed, "doing other things with him, but now it's got to be over with whomever.  Harry's made curfew every single night for the last couple of weeks at least.  I've no idea how to make it better either."

"Can't Severus brew up some Dreamless Sleep for Harry to take?"

"It's not dreams keeping Harry awake.  It's his link with Voldemort.  Sometimes he still has visions no matter how much he works to block them, but most of the time it's just pain.  No matter what it is though, Dreamless Sleep doesn't work.  The only potion that has worked is Draught of Living Death, and Harry has refused to take it, no matter how bad the pain is."

"Because it's so highly addictive?"

"Exactly.  Harry's probably been living off of PepperUp and pain numbing draughts."  Sirius stepped away from Draco.  Harry had stood up and was heading back toward them.  "End of the week I'm pulling him in to see Poppy."

Sirius started back to the wall, pausing to rest his hand on Harry's shoulder for a moment.

"Ready to have your arse pounded into the ground, Malfoy."

"You don't think you're actually going to win, do you, Potter?"

Harry shrugged.  "We'll see."

~~~

“What are you brewing?”  Draco leaned against the worktable that Severus had his ingredients set up on.

“You want to study potions for a living, why don’t you tell me.”

“Without looking, my guess is pain numbing draught and PepperUp.  Am I right?”

“Correct.  Poppy said she’s been running low.  I just made her a batch last month.  It should have lasted for three months.  Since you’re here, you can help.  Stir that cauldron over there.  Fiftee-“

“I know, Severus, fifteen times counter clockwise and then five times in a figure eight pattern.”  The potions master just nodded his head, and the two men worked patiently for a few minutes.

“How did you know without examining the ingredients?  I doubt that you guessed by smell.”  Severus looked around his private lab.  He had brewed over fifteen potions that day alone.  Even he couldn’t tell what he was brewing by smell.

“I didn’t.  I just came from practice with Sirius and Harry.  Harry’s been downing the stuff for two weeks; he’s been in a lot of pain.  Do you know anything about it?  You’re his mentor, after all.”  Draco watched as the older man tensed.  Draco had gotten the feeling that Harry hadn’t been going to his meetings with Severus; after all, he would have come across the two of them talking when he visited his Head of House, and he had done so plenty of times since the school year began months ago.  “I didn’t think so.  What’s been going on?  You and Harry haven’t been getting along lately.”

“Not that it is any of your business, Draco, but Harry has decided that we cannot work together.”

“Is it because of what you said?”  Severus didn’t say anything.  “Why did you say those things during potions class two weeks ago?  You knew that it would hurt him.  I didn’t think that you had wanted to do such a thing.”

The older man continued to stubbornly remain quiet, but Draco knew that he had gotten his point across.  A change of topic wouldn’t hurt.  “Anyway, Harry is really toning his muscles.  I mean, in ways that Quidditch just can’t.  He’s good looking; even I have to admit that.  I wouldn’t mind having a go with him.”  Draco looked at Severus with an impish expression.

“He has enough people using him, Draco.  He doesn’t need to add you to that list.  Stay away from Potter.”

Draco was taken aback by the sharp tone.  Severus had always been prickly, but usually he curbed his tongue around him.  “You think I would use Harry?”  Severus’ lack of faith hurt him.  He had known Severus since he was a small child; never had Severus shown a lack of confidence in him.  It was as if Severus had always known he would do the right thing.  “Why would I hurt a friend?  It’s not like I have many of those at the moment.”

Severus did not look at Draco.  “I didn’t realize you had become friends with him.”

“We’re getting there.  When he stops calling me Malfoy, I’ll know we are.”

“And why would he stop calling you that?”

“Because I told him to.”  Draco sighed and began chopping up one of the ingredients that was out.  “That’s not the point.  I said that I’d like to have a go at a relationship with Harry, not that I was going to.  I spend enough time around him to know that he’s seeing someone.”  Draco paused in his cutting to think for a moment.   “But  it doesn’t seem that anyone knows who it is.  Do you know?”

“And why would I know that?”

“Because you used to talk to him all the time.”  The cool gaze that Severus gave him caused Draco to turn back to the cauldron and begin stirring it again.  “Never mind.  I’m sure that if Harry wanted to tell someone, he would have.  This potion will be ready to cool in a minute.  Do you want me to apply a slow cooling charm?”

“No.  It’ll be curfew soon.  You had better be getting back to your dorm, Draco.  I’ll finish up here.”

Draco finished his stirring and placed the ladle down.  Straightening his robes, he turned to the potions master.  “Goodnight, Professor.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Malfoy.”  The return to formalities relaxed Severus.  As the door to his lab closed behind the young man, Severus frowned.  Too many things had disturbed Severus during his chat with Draco.  Too many things.

~~~

Harry waited until the last minute to walk through the door into the Order meeting.   Even last minute wasn't last minute enough, though, as there were still a few people missing and the meeting would not start without them.  Sighing, he watched Dumbledore finish his conversation with Mr Weasley and decided that now was as good a time as ever to corner the Headmaster again.

"You wish to speak to me, Harry?"

Harry jerked his head in a quick nod.  "I was wondering if you've thought about my request from earlier this week at all, sir."  Harry shoved his hands into his pockets.

Dumbledore glanced around, and then took Harry's elbow and led him away from the small group that had been talking near them.  "Harry, I happen to think that you work much better with Severus than you could with another Order member, even Remus."

"But I can't work with Severus."  Harry kicked at the ground with the toe of his trainer.  "I just can't, Headmaster.  You have to let me work with Remus."

Shaking his head, Dumbledore looked down at him.  "Perhaps I have assumed too much.  There is something that you must understand about your mentor, Harry."  Harry bit back the retort that he understood Severus just fine, thanks.  "He can be quite defensive at times, and I am afraid that he lets his temper flair with certain people at the wrong times."

"I'm sorry, Headmaster, but that wouldn't come as a surprise to any of his students."

Dumbledore tapped the tip of his finger against his lips and smiled a bit.  The only person, besides Sirius, that would smile at his cheek.  "Perhaps, you're right, but I am thinking along different lines, Harry.  You aren't just Severus's student --"

Harry's heart stopped for a moment.  If the Headmaster knew…

But if he did, Dumbledore didn't mention it.  "There are times that Voldemort does not use magical techniques to torture a person.  I'm sure you must realise that."

"I know.  He likes to leave marks, so he'll resort to Muggle methods on occasion, but not always."

"No, not always."

The Headmaster was looking at him, waiting for Harry to piece together the puzzle like he always did.  "He- Voldemort - he tortured Severus that night, didn't he?"

Dumbledore said nothing.

"Why didn't either of you tell me!"  It was getting harder to keep his voice just above a whisper.

"It did not concern you, Harry."

"Didn't concern me?  The welfare of my mentor, my guardian in the Order, didn't concern me?"  Of my lover? He added silently.  Harry sucked in a breath and took a step back from the Headmaster, straightening his back as he did so.  "I will not work with Severus.  It isn't possible.  If he doesn't trust me enough to tell me that he's been beaten…"  

"Harry-"

Harry shook his head.  "No.  Besides, I can't work with someone that insults my family just because he is having a bad day.  It was one thing before he started to mentor me, but now…  Not in front of the whole class.  I'd never treat him with such disrespect."

"I discussed that with him, and he knows that what he did was inappropriate--"

"He's not a child to be chastised and neither am I, Headmaster."

"If you were to talk to him-"

"I will not talk to or see Severus until he apologizes for his actions."  The squid would attend classes before that ever happened.

"Harry, how exactly do you expect Severus to apologise if you will not meet with him or talk to him?"

"Exactly."

~~~

"Bugger."  Harry glared at the strap of his satchel that had broken again.  The third time that day.  Either Goyle had suddenly learned which way to point his wand or Harry's spell work was becoming horribly shoddy.  Shoving all his books back into his bag, he reached out to grab the ink bottle that was rolling away.

Giving up on stretching to reach it, Harry stood, determined to chase it down, but then a hand reached out of the shadows and grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into one of the hidden corridors.  Harry's hand was on his wand in the next minut,e and when he cast Lumos, Harry's wand was pointing at Severus's chest.

Severus arched an eyebrow, but ignored the fact that Harry had his wand pointed at him otherwise.  "Potter, we need to talk."

Harry threw his wand into his bag and tried to turn away, but Severus's didn't let go.  Severus's fingers were digging into his arm, and Harry knew without looking that there would be angry red marks left behind.

"I don't want to talk to you, Professor.  Please let go of my arm."

"No."

"Let go of my arm, Severus.  I need to get to back to the dormitory.  It's almost curfew."

Again, Severus raised an eyebrow.  "Since when have you started to give a care for school rules, Potter.  No matter, you are not going anywhere until you listen to what I have to say."

"I'm not exactly feeling charmed to stay and listen."  Harry jerked his arm even though he knew it would be useless and that Severus would not release him.

"I shall endeavour not to behave the way that I did previously."

"And what way was that?"

"Come downstairs and we will talk."

"No."

"Harry, I want to," Severus floundered for a moment, "fix things."

"No.  I told the Headmaster that I wouldn't talk to you until you apologised and I meant it."  Harry glared, and all the anger started pouring out.  "They beat you and you didn't tell me!  You just went off at me for no reason.  And I should have known.  I could feel the unhinged glee that always means torture, but I had thought you would tell me, but you didn't.  You don't trust me!  You don't respect me.  You don't care about me at all.  In fact, I wager that--" Harry stopped. Glaring, he jerked his arm free from Severus's suddenly lax grip and spun on his heel ready to storm out of the alcove.

Severus's fingers latched onto the collar of his robe.  "Harry, I'm…"

"A greasy git.  I've known that since I started here."

"I'm sorry."

Harry looked back over his shoulder. "The Headmaster made you say that because he didn't want me to work with Remus."

"No, you impertinent brat, the Headmaster did not make me say that.  I've been trying to give you detention for the past week--"

"Pervert."

"One more outburst from you and I'll--"

"This should be interesting."

Severus spun Harry around and shoved him against the wall clamping a hand over his mouth.  "Shut up, Potter."

Harry blinked.

"I have been trying to make amends for my actions for over a week, but Granger has appeared each lesson with a note signed by our esteemed mediwitch saying you are too ill and that attending my class would only make matters worse.  You've not come to any training sessions at all, and Black, the insufferable mongrel, would not offer any assistance.  Now, you will listen to what I have to say whether you like it or not.  Do you understand?"

Harry nodded.

"I shall try not to behave as harshly as I did.  There was no excuse for it and we have come to an accord.  You will work in class and I will refrain from insulting your family.  Even if you were on the point of drooling into your cauldron.

However, it has also been brought to my attention that I should have informed you of certain events that occurred during the meeting I attended.  I shall try to keep that in mind as well.  Are you satisfied?"  Severus removed his hand from Harry's mouth.

"You're going to tell me if they hurt you?"

Severus nodded, though he seemed reluctant to do so.

"I'm still angry.  You've no idea how furious I've been at you."

Severus ignored him and ran his thumb along Harry's scar.  "Did it hurt?"

"Of course it hurt!"

Severus closed his eyes.  "Am I-?"

"I suppose.  But if you ever do something like this again, I'll make it even harder on you."  Harry leaned up and brushed his lips against Severus's.  "I will.  I need to go.  Can't risk a detention with Filch.  I have this professor that is tutoring me in remedial potions and he'll be furious if I miss because I have to sit detention.  Even if it is all said professor's fault."

"The professor is never at fault."  Severus kissed Harry again before letting him go.

"Good night, Sev."

Chapter Sixteen:  I'm Talking, but You Aren't Listening

*The Future:  Toward the end of Harry's Seventh Year*

Severus stared at the door for minutes after it clanked shut behind Harry, but then he tore his eyes from the slab of oak and looked around the room, taking in everything.  The mussed sheets on the bed, the two glasses on the side table by the chairs, the pile of essays he hadn’t yet finished marking, a book that Harry had been in the middle of reading, the quill that Harry kept "forgetting" here as an excuse for him to come back.  So many little things that were out of place.

The bed should be made; it was only a little before midnight, and Severus never went to bed that early.  There should only be one glass on the side table; Harry shouldn’t be drinking during training sessions.  The pile of essays should have been graded hours ago.  Harry’s quill and book shouldn’t just be left lying around his chambers.

But Severus didn’t want to change any of those things.  He liked the way that Harry seemed to belong in his dungeons.  And that disturbed him.  A man in his late thirties shouldn’t like the idea that a seventeen-year-old boy fit into his life.  

Severus wasn’t fond of how Harry had wormed his way into his life.  Into his heart.  Yet the boy had done so.  And worse than that, Severus had allowed him to.

Severus had given into the need to be with someone who understood him; both the darkness that encased his soul, and the light he stood in.  Harry understood and, even better, never judged him for it.

He wondered if he should put this much emotion into a relationship with someone who was only seventeen.  The heart did odd things at that age; it tended to be fickle.

Standing, Severus walked over to his desk, and snatching a quill, he sat and started marking the essays that he had put off for better pursuits while Harry had been there.  After a time, though, he noticed that the quill he was using was not one of his straight, rigid crow feather quills.  It was flexible and colourful and the tip showed signed of being chewed.  Something that Severus would never do, but Harry would.

Severus snapped his eyes shut and slammed his fist against the top of the desk.  There was no escaping that boy.

Slowly, Severus stood and left the desk, the essays, and the broken remains of Harry's quill, and retreated to his workroom.

~~~

"Headmaster?"  Severus entered Albus's office, approaching the empty desk.

"The study, Severus."  Changing directions, Severus headed through Albus's sitting room and into the study beyond that.  Albus was seated at a massive desk covered with what looked like chessboards of various sizes and shapes.  Some were floating above others or were tilted at odd angles.  None of the pieces, pieces whinch in Severus's opinion looked nothing like chess pieces, were falling.   Sticking charms no doubt.  How the game was played, however, no one knew, and Albus never said.  At times, though, one might happen upon the Headmaster sitting at the table and moving one of the eighty odd pieces from board to board.

"Tea?"  A single cup of tea was floating toward him.  Knowing it was useless to deny the proffered cup, Severus snatched it out of the air.

"I haven't come for tea, Albus.  I've come to resign."

Albus looked up from his game.  "How is Mr Potter's training going, Severus?"

"Fine."  Severus snapped.  "Did you even hear me, Albus?"

"Had you said something?"

Pressing his lips together into a thin line, Severus glared.  Albus was being purposely difficult.  Again.  He looked on as Albus picked up one of the black pieces and moved it.  "I said that I have come to resign," Severus said enunciating each word as if he was talking to a person hard of hearing.  Which seemed to be the act that Albus was playing.

"Harry is showing the signs?"  Albus turned and stared at him with wide, deceptively innocent eyes.  "Signs of what, my dear boy?"

"Potter has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion."

"How can we talk about Harry's training if we don't discuss him?"

Severus opened his mouth to answer, but was forced to snap it closed when Albus started talking again.

"Sirius has been telling me how well Harry has been doing in his training.  Both Harry and young Mr Malfoy."  Albus paused long enough for a breath, but not long enough for Severus to cut him off this time either.  "Has his magical training with been going well, Severus?"

'Fine. I believe I already told you that, Albus.  It really shows that you don't listen."

"My hearing is perfect.  You came up here to talk with me about Harry's training."

Severus could feel his right cheek start twitching with a nervous tick.  An image of his hands happily strangling Albus popped into his mind.  "Actually, Albus-"

"There's a problem with Harry's training?"  Albus seemed crestfallen.  "I was going to send him out over the Easter holidays.  He would be invaluable when we attempt to take Voldemort's stronghold."

This comment successfully startled Severus out of his recurring daydreams of Albus's untimely demise.  "What?"  Albus couldn't send Harry into a situation like that.  He wasn't- "He's not ready, Albus!"

His gaze flickering toward Severus, Albus summoned a plate of biscuits.  "Care for one, Severus?  The house elves made these especially for me."

Severus jerked his head in a terse refusal.  "I mean it, Albus, Ha-Potter's not ready to be sent out into the field on such a mission."

"Sirius seems to think that Harry is ready."

Severus curled his lip in disgust.  "Good-for-nothing mangy mongrel."

"What was that?"  Albus's eyes were sparkling in amusement.  "I didn't quite catch what you said, Severus."

"Oh, you heard me.  You were the one who said your hearing was flawless," Severus said, his voice sharp.

Crumbs falling into his beard, Albus devoured a biscuit.  "I've decided that Harry shall be going on his first overt mission."

Severus sighed.  It never ceased to amaze Severus how Albus could talk about something so serious and yet look so ridiculous.  Some tea had dribbled down his chin to mix with the crumbs.  "I'm sure that Sirius and Remus can keep an eye on him."

"Those two canines?"  A bitter edge had entered Severus's voice.  "They're more likely to get him killed than anything else."

"Severus."  Albus's tone was reproachful.  "You know perfectly well that Remus and Sirius would do anything for that boy."  Brushing the crumbs out of his beard at last, Albus leaned forward, resting his elbows on the armrests of his chair and steepling his fingers.  "Harry has been progressing magnificently."  He waved his hand at the empty chair near him, motioning for Severus to sit.

Severus shook his head.

"Sit."

Severus did so.  That tone always managed to make Severus feel like a schoolboy, a feeling which he hated.

"Now, Severus, why don't you tell me how far Harry got in his training last night.  I believe that you are working on shielding?"

"He was doing much better at mutating his shields than he has been.  They switched fluidly, and almost faultlessly."

"Good.  I'm glad that he's come so far."  Albus paused before taking another bite out of one of his biscuits.  "Training him hasn't been a problem?  He mentioned that you had been a little… short with him last week.  When he was having trouble mutating his spells."

Severus didn't answer immediately.  He didn't quite know what to say; he had lost control of the conversation the second Albus had opened his mouth.  Severus sipped his lukewarm tea while he tried to phrase his response.

"Severus?"

"No, Harry hasn't been too much trouble.  It had just been a trying day.  Whatever you had said to him before our last training session must have stuck.  He was able to learn much more quickly."

Albus's eyes widened.  "I only showed Harry a few tricks.  Harry, Severus?"

Severus smirked.  "Yes.  Harry is Mr Potter's first name, is it not?"

Albus munched on a biscuit as he regarded him.  "I hadn't realised that you were on such good terms with young Harry.  It's about time, I must say."

"Harry and I have come to understand each other."  Severus vanished his cup and the dregs of cold tea that were left. Successfully getting Albus off a topic was an achievement.  "Now, I came to discuss my resignation."

"Was the tea not to your liking, Severus?"

"Albus," Severus growled.

"Would you like another cup?"  Albus had already summoned a new cup and was pouring tea into it.

"No, Albus.  My resignation."  Severus reached into his robes.  "I have my letter here."  He pulled out an envelope, and attempted to hand it to Albus.  The Headmaster did not take it.

"Put it away, Severus."  Albus's sharp tone changed in the next second to his usual jovial one.  "Have some pudding with me?"

Severus shook his head.

"A lemon drop then?"

Again.

"Why?"

"My integrity will not allow me to remain here as a teacher."

"Why ever not?  Tell it to be quiet."

"Albus, be serious."

"I like being Albus Dumbledore, thank you.  I have no intention of ever turning into Sirius Black."  Albus grinned at him.

"That joke has been going on since I was a first year, Albus.  Don't you think that it is a little old?"

Albus scrunched his nose.  "I'm a little old.  The joke is fairly new.  Besides, I like it.  I find it humorous."

"My letter, Albus."  Severus once more extended the letter.  Albus ignored it.  "Why won't you take it?"

"You never did tell me why."

"I find that I cannot in good conscience stay and teach."

"Care to explain?"

"It's all in my letter."  Severus pushed the letter closer to Albus.

"I touch that letter, and you'll head straight out the door.  I know you, Severus.  There is a reason for this."  Severus watched as Albus warmed his tea and set a biscuit on the saucer before handing it to him.  "What's troubling you, my boy?"

"Nothing."  Severus took the tea and cradling it in his hands, turned his face away from Albus.

"Do you regret taking Harry on and mentoring him?"

"More than you will ever know."  Severus had said it out loud even though he hadn't meant to.

"How so?"

"He is an impertinent brat who doesn't know how to respect his betters."  Severus spit out each word through clenched teeth.

"Really?  I have always found Harry to be tremendously polite."

"Perhaps you have not spent enough time with him then."  Severus stood up and moved to the other side of the room.  He did not want to talk about this with Albus.  He didn't want to talk about this at all.

"I don't think that a few hours a week training him in advanced spell casting can impose on you too much."

"It imposes on me more than you understand!  Harry has this way-"  Severus snapped his mouth shut and crossed his arms.  Albus knew how to get to him.  Just like Harry.

"This way of what? Severus?"

"Nothing, Headmaster.  Take the letter."

"No.  I will not let you leave this school.  You leave and your life is forfeit."  Albus levelled Severus with a hard glare.  "The only reason that Voldmort hasn't killed you yet is because of the information you supply him about my 'little' force."  Severus looked away; Albus continued.  "Besides, I don't think that Harry would like seeing you dead.  I think that he has become a trifle fond of you, Severus."

"Too fond."

"I beg your pardon?"

Severus swallowed.  It was the only way out.  "He's become too fond, Albus.  I am not made out of stone."

Albus smirked.  "Of course not, Severus.  You couldn't move if you were made of stone.  Let alone teach."

"You are being purposely obtuse."

"Severus, I understand that the boy's affections must unsettle you.  Explain to him that you are not interested.  Push him away, harshly if you feel you must.  Harry is resilient.  He'll bounce back.  Like a Muggle rubber ducky."

Severus couldn't understand how a plastic duck would bounce.  "Too late for that, I'm afraid."  Severus's back was still turned so he couldn't see Albus's face.

"I see."  Severus couldn't hear a single shred of emotion in Albus's response.

"Then you understand why I must resign?"

"I understand that you are using me to escape your problems."

Severus turned around to face Albus.

"I will not have it."  Severus could read nothing in the Headmaster's expression as Albus spoke.  "You got yourself into this situation so you can get yourself out of it."  There was a slight pause.  "If you want to, of course."

"Albus-" Severus stopped at Albus's raised hand.

"I suggest you talk this over with Harry.  Make sure you do so soon.  He has been quite busy preparing to leave."

"Leave?"

"Yes, Harry is moving to Romania at the end of the year.  He wants to work with dragons for a time.  The two of us have been arranging everything with Charlie Weasley."  Albus paused for a moment to pick up another biscuit, and soon looked like his normal eccentric self.  "He hasn't mentioned it?"

"No."  There was an emptiness somewhere, in his head or chest.  A vagueness that hadn't been there a moment ago.

"Well, I'm sure that he was going to tell you."

"Of course."

"Why don't you get back to your work, Severus?  I'm sure that you have a rolls and rolls of parchment to grade."  With that, Albus dismissed him and turned back to his odd chess game.  Picking up a grey cross, he set it next to one of the white pieces, but Severus couldn't make out the shape.

Severus set down his cup, ignoring the rattle that his trembling hand made and turned to leave.

Half way to the dungeons, he realised that the entire visit had been horrible.  He was still in possession of what he didn't want - his resignation letter - and was now faced with losing what he did want - his Harry.

~~~

By the time that Severus reached his rooms in the dungeons, he had given out three detentions, removed a total of 175 house points from the other three houses, and even managed to make a group of Slytherins scatter out of his way.

Most pleasing, though, was the sound of the door slamming shut.

Harry was leaving.  Heading straight for the drinks cabinet, Severus ignored everything else in favour of pouring himself a snifter of brandy.  The thought that at the end of the school year he would be alone had Severus gulping down two glasses.  Pouring yet another, Severus went to sit and brood.

He had told himself that children that age were fickle.  Now the proof of it had been thrown into his face.

Harry hadn't mentioned that he was going anywhere.  He was, in all likelihood, going to leave without ever bringing it up.  Severus had asked, and Harry had always said he didn't know what he wanted to do after he left Hogwarts.  That he would probably stay and work with the Order if only because that was what everyone expected him to do.

Severus hated when Harry said such things.  Harry was young, he should be able to go out and experience life.  See that the world had more to offer than deranged murderers who obsessed over his death.  Severus had told him that.  Repeatedly.  But the thought that Harry hadn't talked to him before making the decision - perhaps wouldn't at all - tugged at Severus.  Hurt him.  Harry had maintained that they were in a "relationship".  Weren't people in "relationships" supposed to discuss things?

Severus hadn't dated much when he was younger; in fact, he hadn't at all during his final year at Hogwarts.  He'd been too busy trying to repent for his sins.  He still was, for that matter.

His seventh year had been spent learning how to spy on the Dark Lord.  Of course, he wouldn't have had to learn that if it hadn't been for what he had thought was love.

Did Harry think that he was in love with him>?  He had said as much, but Severus knew not to trust it.  He knew because he had once thought he was in love with his teacher.  He had been wrong.

The nervous way that his heart had clenched in his chest when Tyler was around hadn't been love, though Severus had thought so for many years.  All Tyler had been was a young man's foolish imaginings about poetic love.  It hadn't been real or even close to the what the reality of love was.  In fact, Severus still wasn't sure what that "grand" emotion was.  He did know that what he had had with Tyler was most certainly a pale imitation of what he currently had with Harry.

His relationship with Harry was far from perfect.  They sniped, yelled, and at times, honestly despised each other.  Severus even threatened to kill the brat on occasion.  Harry would only smirked.

But Severus would lay down his life for Harry, and knew that Harry would do the same for him.  Severus wasn't sure if that was love, but it was something, and whatever it was, it was certainly stronger than what he had had with Octavian Tyler.

It now was easier for Severus to understand Octavian Tyler.  Harry had pursued him just as he had pursued Tyler.  In the end, a relationship, of sorts, had developed.  One that had ended with harsh words and actions.  And a sharp dose of reality.

He didn't know how similar his relationship with Harry was to his with Tyler.  It was certainly different.  There were times when it seemed that Tyler had hated him, wanted him dead.  Then there were the times that he had seen… something, in the older man.

Perhaps it had been a misplaced sense of affection that Severus had taken to mean something more.  Perhaps it was all just wishful thinking on the part of his younger self.  But if anything had been there, it hadn't been for Severus.

Severus's eyes landed on the door.  In a way, he wished that it would just open and that someone, anyone, would come and save him from thinking.  Well, anyone other than Black.  Or Albus.  He didn't think he could tolerate the other teachers either.  He didn't want to deal with Remus constantly asking him what was the matter, or with Draco's pleasantries which Severus regarded as idle chatter.  Harry… he could deal with Harry.

Harry would sit in his chair -- Severus didn't know when the chair the boy always sat in had become his -- and not talk.  He would read, or work on assignments, but he wouldn't interfere.  He would just be there.  The only person Severus knew who could do that.

But soon Severus wouldn't have that reprieve.  Damn the brat.  And damn his inconsiderate nature.

Severus reached out to grasp the glass he had set on the side table, and his hand brushed a piece of paper he hadn't noticed before. Picking it up, he squinted at Harry's messy scrawl.  Wouldn't he ever learn proper penmanship?

*//Sev,

Came by to talk to you.  Wanted to tell you that I've finally decided what to do with myself after Hogwarts.  It's all set too.  Albus -- I mean the Headmaster -- and I have been working on it for weeks and just finished the final details yesterday.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.  You were right about my getting away from here.  I'll stop by later.

Harry

P.S. I saw my quill, by the way.  You owe me a new one.//*

Severus sniffed.  Perhaps he would have to re-evaluate his opinion on Harry's nature.  Then again, perhaps not.  Harry could have waited for him to return.

~~~

*The Past*

"Five points from Slytherin, Mr Snape.  This work is far below expectation."

Severus looked up from his essay.  Professor Tyler was standing over his desk looking down on his work.  His impeccably neat, detailed, well-thought-out work.  "But, sir-"

"Talking out of turn, Snape?  That'll be ten points from Slytherin."  Professor Tyler turned and walked over to lean against his desk.  Staring at him, Severus completely forgot about his essay.  "You aren't paying attention to your test, Mr Snape.  I think your inattention deserves another five points from Slytherin."

A wad of parchment hit the back of his head, but Severus didn't turn around.  Tyler would probably dock him points for cheating.  Or worse, rip up his test and send him to his Head of House.  Today wasn't going as well as he had planned.  When class was dismissed, he couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief.

Too soon.

"Your tie isn't tied properly, Snape.  And it's a little too loose.  School regulations demand that I dock you 15 points for improper uniform."  Tyler smiled pleasantly, and retreated to his desk.

"I don't know, Snape.  Your shirt doesn't seem to be totally tucked in.  What did Professor Tyler say about improper uniform, Remus?  Fifteen points, didn't he?  As prefect it's your duty to remove those points."  Black smirked at Severus.

"Shut the hell up, Black!  No one asked for your opinion!"

"Mr Snape, there is no yelling in the hallways.  That'll be detention and another five points."  Tyler had not stayed at his desk, but had gone to the doorway to watch the confrontation.  Or maybe the confrontation had brought him to the door.  "Wait for me in my classroom."

Potter and Black were looking at each other, worry in their eyes.  Tyler was usually fair and didn't tolerate House rivalry.

"You're looking well, boys."  Severus's heart dropped a few inches.

"Yes, we're doing quite well, Professor.  How are you doing?"  Potter, as always, was the spokesperson.

"I'm doing very well.  Thank you for asking.  My day has been looking up."  Tyler winked at Black and Potter, and Severus's stomach dropped along with his heart.  "Such good manners deserve five points.  Don't you think so, Mr Potter?"

Potter and Black beamed.  Even Lupin behind them smiled a bit.  "Thank you, Professor!"

Black chuckled, and then turned to smirk at Severus where he was standing right inside the classroom door.  Glaring, Severus kicked the doorjamb and hobbled into the classroom.  

"Ten points from Slytherin for damaging school property, Mr Snape."  Tyler whistled as he strode into the classroom.

Severus was seething.  His eyes were narrowed as Tyler sat down behind his desk.  The only spot of hope was that Professor Tyler had agreed with his note and decided to pursue a relationship.  That could explain the points he was losing.  It was a cover-up.  And detention-

"Your detention will be served tomorrow night at 9pm."  Severus's heart soared.  "You are to meet Mr Filch at his office, and he will be assigning you some work to do.  Without magic."  Then plummeted down through the ground.

"Filch?"

"Filch.  Good day, Mr Snape."

Severus flinched at the demonic smile curling Professor Tyler's lips.  Maybe the letter hadn't been such a smart idea.  It had always been a fault of his, that innate need to have the last word.  "Thank you, sir.  I hope that you have a good day too."

Tyler tormented him for days.

"This homework is late.  It was supposed to be in five minutes ago.  Ten points, Mr Snape."

"But. Professor. Class just ended, everyone's not even out of the room yet."  Severus sighed.

"Do not talk back."  Tyler picked up his quill.  "Report to Filch at the normal time for your detention."

And later that week as Severus and Lucius were sprinting down the hall, late for a House meeting, they ran into Tyler rounding the corner and skidded to a halt.

"No running in the halls.  That's five points off for each of you."  Tyler looked them up and down.  "Your shoes are scuffed, Snape.  Improper uniform again.  Another fifteen points."

Severus opened his mouth to answer, but Lucius pulled on his arm.  "Shut up," he hissed through clenched teeth, "or it'll be another detention.  Your fourth this week."  Letting go of Severus, Lucius turned to Professor Tyler.  "Have a nice day, Professor."

A nod was his only reply.  Tyler turned and headed the opposite way down the corridor.

"What did you do to royally irritate him?"

"I don't think you want to know.  Ask me again later."

But even trying to follow the rules to the letter never worked.

Severus tapped his fingers against the top of the table in the library.  He was working on his History of Magic essay.  Causes of the Goblin Revolution of 15-something-or-other.  There really were too many of the things to count.  Unfortunately Professor Binns was obsessed with them.

"Mr Snape, this is a library, not a concert hall.  Cease your drumming," Professor Tyler whispered from a few feet away.

Severus stopped at once, clenching his fist until his knuckles turned white.

"Oh, I almost forgot.  Five points for disturbing the peace."

~~~

Severus paused in the doorway.  A few feet down the corridor were Professors Tyler and McGonagall.

"Now, Octavian, don't take me wrong.  I want Gryffindor to win the House Cup, but aren't you being a little hard on Severus Snape?"

One eyebrow rose.  "Do you think so, Minerva?  I just don't know."

"The boy has lost close to a hundred points in the last five days.  And had detention four times!"

"Ah, yes."  Tyler sighed.  "Mr Filch was just telling me that the trophies and cases have never shined brighter."  He smiled.

"Octavian, I've never had a problem with Snape.  He's one of the brightest, most well behaved boys in his year."

"But he's conceited.  Everyone needs to be taken down a notch now and again."

"He might be a bit full of himself, but everyone has their faults."  McGonagall shook her head.  "I don't think that we should punish the students for just being."

"Don't worry, I'm not."  Tyler's voice was clipped.

"The reasons you use are downright petty, Octavian!"

"Are they really?  What about this one, then?"  Tyler turned and looked right at him, and Severus knew that he'd been caught.  "Snape, stop hiding in that doorway, you've heard enough of this conversation.  Or didn't your parents ever teach you that it was impolite to eavesdrop?"

McGonagall whipped around and spotted him.  Holding out a hand to stop Professor Tyler's rant, she sighed.  "Ten points from Slytherin, Mr Snape.  I'm afraid that Professor Tyler is right.  One shouldn't eavesdrop on teachers' conversations."  Shaking her head, she moved off.

Snape made to duck into the classroom and hide until Tyler disappeared, but Tyler was quick, and his hand wrapped around Severus's arm before he had a chance.  "You got off too lightly.  For listening in on my conversation, you get a detention.  Meet Filch at nine."

"Yes, Professor."  Severus hung his head after Tyler made it down the hall.  His life was hell, and Professor Tyler was making sure that it stayed that way.

~~~

Harry pushed the quill and parchment away from him.  Leaning back in his chair, he tilted his head up to look at the ceiling.  It wasn't enchanted like the ceiling in the Great Hall, but the cracks of the old castle gave his eyes something to focus on that wasn't parchment.

He was done.  After nine months of translating written Parseltongue, he was done.  The sad part was that over half the scroll had been self-aggrandizing crap.  Wading his way through it had been tedious, highly annoying, and for the most part useless.

Useless because working out the various details of each attack was like trying to find a specific wand in Ollivander's - it could be done, but unless you were Ollivander, it could take days, months or maybe years.  He had barely uncovered the plot against the Weasleys in time, but that had been when he had just started translating the scroll.  There had been attacks against the Aurors, other Ministry officials, Order members, and others.

He just wished that having learned about the attacks he had been able to stop them.

Out of all the attacks that he had translated, only a handful stuck him personally.  The first had been the attack against the Weasleys.  The thought that Voldemort had tried to kill them all had been a blow to the stomach that had left him gasping for breath.  The twins, Ron and Ginny - none of them had even been born yet.  Harry had almost lost his adopted family before ever getting the chance to know them.

The second had been his grandfather.  He had never met his grandfather, but a part of him had always thought that maybe his grandfather had known him, but that hadn't been the case.  His grandfather had died long before Harry had ever been born.  The irony of the situation had left Harry reeling for days.  His grandfather, his namesake, had been killed because he didn't trust the translation of his grandson.  Granted, Harold Potter hadn't known that the man who was translating the scroll was his grandson, but Harry couldn't help wondering if the knowledge that Harry was his grandson would have made any difference.  If it was simply that Harry was a Parselmouth, an ability associated with the Dark, then it probably wouldn't have made any difference at all.  To this day Harry couldn't speak Parseltongue in front of Ron and most of the Weasleys without them overreacting to it.  Even more irony was to be found in the fact that his father had named him after his grandfather, without ever knowing that his son would go back in time and end up being responsible for his namesake's death.

Harry shifted in his seat.  Thinking of these two attacks, one successful and one not, made him think of what he had just translated.   The end of the scroll had been the details of another attack, a large scale one.  Mass slaughter of a group of children, so that Voldemort could demoralize the Wizarding community.  His plan was clearly to demolish the idea that parents could send their children to school and know that nothing bad was going to happen to them.  Voldemort was going to destroy the Hogwarts Express while every child who attended the school was onboard.  Harry had no idea how it was going to be stopped, and he would likely never know, unless he asked Albus when he went back to the future.  He wasn't welcome in the strategy meetings of this Order.

What if he hadn't translated it all in time?  For all Harry knew, he could go back and find that everything was different.  If he didn't get the information to Albus, then Severus, his father, Sirius, Remus, all the other children that he had got to know would die on the train.  He himself would never be born.  Voldemort would still be in power.  The weight of this settled on his shoulders and he slouched down in his chair and sighed.

If he could, he'd rush up to talk to Albus immediately.  But that was pointless.  It was four in the morning, and Albus would surely be in bed.  At least Harry thought that it was four in the morning.  He looked around the windowless room.  There was nothing on the walls, and the furniture only consisted of his and one other chair, and the table.

There would be time in the morning.  It was only mid-May; the train didn't leave with its human cargo until mid June.  There was a month left to figure things out.

Which also meant that there was only a month left to figure out what was going on in his life.  A life which seemed to be falling apart around him.

The last time that his Severus had come to visit came to mind.  He had wanted to talk to Severus, explain that it had all been a mistake.  That he didn't mean to sleep with him.  Well, the younger him.  God, he was so confused.  It was almost as if they were two different people, but at the same time, Harry could see the qualities that assured him both Severuses were actually one and the same.

Harry knew that he was different from the way he had been at sixteen and seventeen.  He had grown up, and subconsciously, he knew that Severus must have done so also.  But to actually see Severus when he was young and vulnerable, when he was weak, had just thrown him.

Severus had strength of character that Harry had always noticed, even while Harry was being yelled at when he was thirteen years old.  As he got older, Harry began to admire that quality in his professor.  That admiration, along with being paired up with Severus, had led to respect and ultimately, love.

When faced with the young Severus Snape, Harry couldn't help but see someone young and foolish with childish ideals who would eventually grow up into someone older, and infinitely wiser.  But he also had qualities that attracted Harry to this young version of his lover.  His vulnerability was just one.

Severus Snape, at sixteen years of age, was someone that Harry could inherently relate to.  He had insecurities, he wasn't sure of everything he was doing, and at times, Harry thought he could see a little foolhardiness in him.  All things that he would never associate with Severus as an adult.

And that was something that Harry had to admit to himself that he wanted, even if it was only temporary.  In this relationship he was the strong one.  The partner who was sure of himself.  He was the adult.  It was a heady feeling to be the one who was looked up to.

His relationship with Severus had never been that way.  At first he had looked up to Severus.  Severus was older than him, had experienced more than he had.  That was one of the reasons that Harry had left after he finished Hogwarts.  He needed to experience life.  Life without an insane megalomaniac following him around and trying to kill him.

When he had come back, his relationship with Severus had changed.  After a year he was no longer dependent on his lover.  He had learned to stand on his own two feet.  That didn't mean their relationship was simple and easy to manage.  The fact that Harry had left both weakened and strengthened their relationship.

It had been weakened because Harry had left.  They didn't see each other for the entire year.  Severus had sent him letters, but they were, more often then not, emotionally detached.  Severus was letting him go so he could grow.  He had grown.  That year was also the year that his relationship with Draco had really developed into a friendship; after all, they couldn't kill each other in letters.  It had started out with Albus telling Draco that it would be his responsibility to inform Harry of what was going on in the Order.  It had grown from there.

Harry remembered one letter from Severus better than all the others.  It had been about Draco.  Harry had been living with Charlie, who noticed the amount of letters he received from Draco, and had wrote home about Draco and Harry thinking that they were romantically involved.  Somehow, Severus had found out about it -- probably from Sirius or Remus, who hadn't known about their relationship at the time -- and had written Harry a nice note telling him that he was to pursue any relationship that he wanted to.  That he wouldn't get in the way of Harry's happiness.  Harry had left Romania a month and a half early because of that.

It was that which had showed them how much their relationship had strengthened.  Harry came back, and the first thing he did was not running to tell Severus how wrong he was.  He invited Draco to dinner instead…

~~~

For the second time that night, Harry found himself banging on one of the Hogwarts doors.  This time there wasn't anyone around so Harry just pounded and pounded with his fist until the door swung open.

Without giving Severus a chance to say a single word, Harry swept inside and threw his coat on the couch.  "What were you thinking, sending me that tripe?"

The door closed with a grating clank and Severus stalked over to the desk he had been working at.

"Don't you dare start marking right now.  I came all the way back from Romania to talk to you."

"And to go to the Three Broomsticks for a piss up with Draco."

The softness of Severus's voice stole some of the wind from Harry's anger, but it built up quickly again when he remembered just why he had gone to dinner with Draco at the pub.

"Your own fault for that.  I took him for dinner because I knew that if I came back here and said that you were full of shite you would have only replied with something along the lines of 'how can you be sure?' Well, I'm sure.  I'm very sure."

"Of what precisely?"  There was absolutely no expression on Severus's face, and that only made Harry angrier.

"That you're full of shite!"

Severus's eyes sunk closed and he reached up to squeeze the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.  "Harry-"

"Good to know that you haven't reverted back to Potter!  At least I don't have to return to calling you sir.  Not sure that I could do that with a straight face." Harry spat.

"Would you be quiet?!"

Crossing his arms over his chest, Harry glared.  "Why?  So you can tell me what an utter idiot I was for leaving?  I needed to go, Severus!  I couldn't stay here and wait to die.  But I thought…"  Harry's voice lowered a bit and took on a sad tone.  I thought that you understood that.  I thought you'd still be here.  Even if you don't love me, I thought that you must have cared about me a little when you said…"  

Harry stopped.  Severus had looked away.

"I am an idiot.  For believing you, I guess.  For thinking that my loving you was enough."  The words were coming again, and Harry couldn't stop them.  "You probably think that I'm some stupid kid who doesn't know what he wants.  But I do know.  I don't want Draco.  I don't want to live with the dragons on the Reserve.  I want you."  Harry sighed.  "But it looks like you don't want me."

"Whatever gave you that idea?"

"Your letter, for one."  Harry looked at the ground and kicked at the floor with the toe of his trainer.

"Remus had told me how difficult it must be for you to be separated from your 'boyfriend' -- Merlin, I hate that term -- and for a moment, I had thought that you'd told him about us, and I had, in fact, started a scathing piece of correspondence to you in my head when he said that you and Draco must have been together for months before," Severus said.

"Remus knows shite.  I don't tell him anything.  God, he wrote to me twice twice the entire time that I was there.  Usually it was just a footnote at the end of one of Sirius's letters which went on about how lucky I was to be living out in the world, and that it was a good thing I wasn't stuck in some dank and mouldy dungeon with the likes of Severus Snape."  Harry took a deep breath.  "And no matter how much I wanted to tell him that I like spending my time in dank and mouldy dungeons with Severus, I couldn't because he'd lose his mind and kill you and then I'd have to hate him forever, and I don't want to!"

"Are you quite done?"

"No!"  Running his fingers through his hair, Harry started pacing.  "And then, just when I thought that things couldn't get worse between Charlie hitting on me that once -- I wrote you about that -- and Draco telling me how everything's gone to hell here, and Sirius making his letters attacks against you, you go and decide not to write me for three months even though I sent a letter back with Draco's every single damn week."

"Now?"

"No.  Then you had the gall to write me a note dismissing me in order to find happiness with that prat Malfoy!  What the hell, Severus?  Did doxies eat your brain while I was gone?"

"The young are--"

"If you dare call me fickle with my emotions, I'll hex you."

"--easily swayed."

Curling his hand into a fist, Harry bore down on Severus.  "Damn it.  Why do you insist on pushing me and pushing me?  Do you think that I'm just going to give up on you?"  One hand curled around Severus's bicep.  "Don't answer that."

"Then why ask?"

Squeezing his eyes shut, Harry rubbed at them with the heel of a hand and groaned, but he never let go of Severus's arm.  "Damn you.  Right now, I'm so angry with you that I'm tempted to do something awful, but I won't."

Harry opened his eyes to look at Severus who was staring at where Harry's fingers were digging into his arm.

"Don't play the self-sacrificing arse, Sev.  If you don't want me say so, and I will walk out that door and I won't look back.  You aren't responsible for me anymore; you aren't my mentor."

"I shall always be responsible for you."

"I don't want you to be."  Harry settled his hand on the back of Severus's neck.  "Don't you think that it's time I took care of myself?  Prove that all the lessons you and Albus and Sirius taught me didn't leak out my ears?"

"I would like to."

"Severus, it's not that hard, just--"

"Being responsible for you is not something that I mind."

Harry narrowed his eyes, his fingers loosening their grip on Severus's arm.  "Can't you say anything easily?  It'd be so much easier if you said, 'Harry, I don't want you to leave because I've become attached to you.' And that didn't even have any awful words along the lines of like or care or -- dare I say it -- love."

"You are an immature brat."

Smiling, Harry moved so he could press his face in the crook of Severus's neck.  Severus didn't want him gone.  Harry sighed when he felt Severus's hands come to rest along his back.  This was right.  This is what he'd been missing for the last year.

~~~

Harry let the memory slide away and sighed.

That had been the start.  In the end, though, Harry had changed.  He wasn't as easily swayed and had finally started to grow beyond the childish behaviour and Severus finally started treating him more like an adult.  They'd become more equals, and could build their relationship on that.  Neither stronger nor weaker than the other.

It was a relationship that Harry cherished.  No matter how hard he looked, he wouldn’t be able to find another like it.  It fulfilled him in a way that the rest of his life couldn’t.  With Severus, he wasn’t ‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’, or a commanding officer in the Auror Division of the Ministry, or a member of the Order of the Phoenix, or James’ son, or anything else that people could label him as.  He was just Harry.

And Severus was Severus, no matter what time Harry was in.  No matter how much Severus got on his nerves, Harry loved him.  And now, Harry missed him.  Missed him so much, in fact, that he was looking for his Severus in a sixteen year old.  And, to a point, finding his lover there.  Not the mature older, man that Harry always associated Severus with being but the essence of his Severus was there.

Harry had reached for that, along with all the other things that attracted him to the young Severus Snape, when offered.  Knowing it was wrong, but at the same time not caring.  

Thinking about it, Harry saw everything.  He knew what he was doing was, in a sense, wrong.  He knew why he was doing it.  But none of this meant that, when faced with his Severus, he would be off the hook.  When he went back to his own time, he would have a lot of explaining to do.  To someone who was hurt, and angry as hell at him.

And at that moment, Harry wanted nothing more than to go back to his Severus.  What the young Severus had was not what Harry needed.  What Harry needed was his Severus.  The equality, understanding, and love that Harry could only find with him.

Harry swore that he would leave Hogwarts the first opportunity he could get.  Now that his obligation to the Order was done, Harry wanted out.  And he knew just how to go about it.

~~~

Harry muttered the password and waited until the gargoyle moved aside.  As he approached the door he thought of everything he planned to say to the Headmaster.  Luckily, he could do it all with a clear conscience.  Well, an almost clear conscience.  Just as he was about to knock, Albus’s voice drifted through the door.  “Come in, Octavian.”

Pushing open the door, Harry made his way into the office.  It was surprisingly similar to the office that Dumbledore kept in the future.  Only a few things were different.  “Headmaster?”

“I’ll be right there, just have a seat, my boy.”  Harry sat down in one of the seats across from Dumbledore’s large desk.  Turning his head he noticed that Fawkes was preening his feathers.  He had always liked Dumbledore’s phoenix.  The Fawkes of this time period ignored him, however.  Albus had told him not to worry about it too much.

Albus entered his office from the back room and sat down at the desk.  He shuffled around a bunch of his papers before turning to Harry.  Picking up a small bowl, he held it out.  “Lemon drop?”

Harry almost laughed.  Albus hadn’t offered him a lemon drop since he had threatened to turn his skin purple for a week if he did.  That had been in the future though.  This Albus didn’t know the hazards of offering Harry lemon drops.  “No, thank you, Albus.  I’m not particularly fond of lemon drops.”

“Biscuits and tea then?”

“No, I’m all right.  I’m here to discuss the scroll.  I’ve finished translating it.”

“That’s nice, my boy.”  Harry watched as Albus signaled for Fawkes to come over to him.  The phoenix spread its wings and landed on the armrest of Albus's chair.  

“I assume that you would like to know what it says.”

“All in good time.  I’m sure that there is no great rush.”  Albus slowly petted the phoenix and looked at him with twinkling eyes.  “How have you been?”

“Fine, Albus.  I think that you should hear this.”

“I’m sure.  You’ll tell me in a minute.”  Albus scratched lightly under Fawkes’ beak, and the phoenix seemed to purr in response.  “How have your classes been going so far?”

“Fine.  Albus, I think that you should hear this.”  Harry continued before he could be interrupted.  “Voldemort is plotting to blow up the train.”

“That’s nice, Octavian…” Albus trailed off.  “Blow up the train?  What train?”

“The Hogwarts Express.”

“And when was he planning on doing this?”

Harry wanted to scream.  When did he think that Voldemort would want to blow up the train?  His annoyance brought out his sarcastic streak.  “When all the students are on it, of course.”

“I don’t quite follow you, Octavian.”

“On the way back to King’s Cross on the last day of the term.”

“That isn’t very good news.  Why would he do that?  I know that he has been looking into recruiting students from the school.  He wouldn’t want to blow them up, now would he?”

“I don’t think that Voldemort particularly cares one way or the other, Albus.  In the scroll he says that the loss of a few potential followers would be worth the destruction of a generation.  This will have a horribly crippling effect on the Wizarding world.”

“Oh dear.  Did he say how he was going to go about it?”

“No, it was rather vague.  The only real details were that it would be destroyed somewhere between here and London, and that he was going to employ some sort of magical bomb.”

“Definitely not good.”  Dumbledore continued to stroke the feathers on Fawkes’ back, a contemplative look on his face.  “But I think that it might be possible to avoid the situation.”

Harry’s eyes widened briefly before returning to their semi-expressionless state.  “Only you, Albus.”  The Headmaster turned his questioning gaze on ‘Octavian’, and Harry elaborated.  “Only you could take the potential destruction of a train full of students calmly.”  Nothing was said for a minute; Albus neither agreed nor disagreed with Harry’s assumption.  “So, what are you going to do?”

Albus didn’t respond immediately, instead continuing to pet the phoenix.  “I think a complex series of illusion charms should be acceptable.  We’ll postpone the end of the term, I think.”  Albus moved his hand from the phoenix to his beard, his fingers tangling in its length.  “Of course the students won’t know.  The morning of departure we’ll have to come up with an acceptable excuse, and somehow make sure that none of the students owl their parents.”

“Keep them under house arrest.  Don’t let them leave their common rooms, shut down every fireplace, and lock all the windows.”

“A little harsh, don’t you think?”  Albus attempted to extract his fingers from the tangle he had gotten them in.  “I was thinking more along the lines of sending all the owls away.  After all, we wouldn’t want to raise suspicions.”

Harry rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.  “As if all the owls suddenly disappearing wouldn’t raise suspicions.”  He let out a harsh sigh.  “I stand by my suggestion.  Of course it is up to you and the Order to determine the course of action that shall be taken.”

Nodding his head, Albus ended the topic of conversation.  “If that is all, Octavian?”

Harry didn’t move; his hands tightly grasped the arms of his chair.  “There is one other thing I wanted to discuss with you, Headmaster.”

“You said you have finished the scroll, is there more?”

“No.  That was the last of it.  Now that I think about it, the writing ended rather abruptly.  That could be the reason for the sketchy details.”

His fingers finally released, Albus twirled the tip of his beard around his finger.  “A possibility.”  Picking his wand off the desk Albus waved it in a distracted manner.  A teapot appeared on the desk along with two teacups and saucers.  “I shall think about that later, however.  What did you want to discuss with me, Octavian?”  Before giving Octavian the chance to answer Albus held out a cup of steaming tea.  “Tea?”

“No thank you, Albus.”  Swallowing Harry pressed on.  “I need you to fire me.”

Albus blinked a few times before he started to stir his tea.  The silence stretched for a few minutes before Albus responded.  “I’m sorry, Octavian, but I just can’t gather up the desire to set you on fire.”

Harry knew that Albus's hearing was flawless.  The old man just always chose to hear what he wanted to hear.  “No, Albus.  Fire me.”

“Neither do I think it appropriate to set a fire for you.  I’m sure that you covered pyro-mechanic charms during your studies.”  Albus calmly sipped his tea, watching the younger man across from him, blue eyes twinkling.

“Albus, you don’t understand.  You should fire me.  But since you don’t want to grasp the concept of that-“

“I can grasp the concept just fine.”  Albus seemed affronted.  “I did extensive studies of various pyro-mechanic charms when I was a student.”

Harry groaned.  He was doing this on purpose.  “Another way of putting it would be,” Harry paused to take a breath.  “I need you to ‘let me go,’ or terminate my employment.  Something along those lines.”

“Let you go where?”  Albus smiled at him benevolently.  “Do you need a few days off?  I’m sure I can arrange for one of the other teachers to cover your classes for a couple of days.”

Harry was reaching the end of his patience.  “Let’s try the last one, Albus.  Terminate my employment with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite follow you.”

“What’s there to follow?”

“Well, Professor Augustin is building a maze for one of his Care of Magical Creatures classes.  The students have to train a puffskein to get through it for their final.  We could always follow one.”

Harry didn’t know if he felt like laughing or crying.  Dealing with Albus was always a surefire way to get a headache.  “Albus, I know that you understand what I’m asking you to do.  Is there a reason you choose to pretend you don’t?”

Albus didn’t answer him.  Just refilled his cup, and summoned a plate of biscuits from somewhere.  “Biscuit?”

Harry wanted to scream; he hated dealing with Albus.  The frustration that such encounters led to always seemed interminable.   “Fine.  I would like to tender my resignation, effective immediately.”  Albus just stared at him with wide eyes, a look of confusion on his face.  This was going to be a long conversation.  “Do you need a formal letter of resignation?”

“Nonsense, my boy.  There is no reason for you to resign.  You are a wonderful teacher, the students all love you.”  A grumble issued from the back of Harry’s throat.  He wasn’t quite sure about all the students.  Albus ignored him and continued.  “Besides which, it’s already mid-May.  Term ends in a little over a month.  I’m sure that you can hold out.”

“It’s not that, Albus.  I’ve done something unforgivable.”

“None of the students have complained of you trying to cast the Unforgivables on them during lessons.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly before opening them to look at Albus again.  “I’ve been ‘carrying on’ with a student.”

“Carrying a student?  I don’t see how that is unforgivable.  Hagrid told me about it.”

Harry shook his head in confusion.  He had lost track of the conversation again.  “Hagrid?”

“Yes, he said that you carried the first year Ravenclaw, Ms. Tavers I believe, to the hospital wing after she fell and skinned her knee.  Quite chivalrous of you.”  

Harry barely recalled the incident.  “Of course.”

“There, you see, no reason for you to resign.  Rather exemplary behavior, in my opinion.”

Harry dragged the conversation back on topic.  “That’s not what I meant by ‘carrying on.’”  Before Albus could once again veer off into something completely off topic, he continued.  “I’ve engaged in a relationship with a student.”

“Of course you have, my boy.”  Albus folded his hands on the desk and smiled.

“That doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would it?  All good teachers form relationships with their students.”  Albus's smile didn’t waver for a second.

It took Harry a moment to get back on track.  Some of the images that had popped into his head with that phrase had disturbed him.  “Not that kind of relationship.”

“What kind?”  

Knowing the quickest way out of this round-about conversation would be to state the blunt facts, he opened his mouth to do so but was interrupted before he even had the chance to speak.

“Another cup of tea?”

Harry shook his head.

“How about some sandwiches then, I’m starving.”

“No, Albus-“

“Pie?  I always liked the lemon sponge pie the house elves bake.  It’s delicious. Have you-“

“Do not play any more games with me, Albus.  I am sleeping with a student.  I think that I should be let go, but since you refuse to do so I am tendering my resignation.”  Harry got everything out as quickly as possible.  He sighed when he saw Albus wave the house elf he had summoned away.  Finally.

“I see.  Well, here is what I have to say on the situation.  It is not against school rules,” Albus paused to raise a hand in order to stop ‘Octavian’ from interrupting him.  “It is not against the rules, although it is not considered appropriate.  However, I do not have to fire you over such circumstances, and I choose not to.”  Albus paused for a breath before continuing.  “Now, as for your resignation, it is really quite simple.”  Harry felt much better at the sound of that.  All Albus had to do was tell him what to do.  “I will not accept it.”

“What?”

“I will not accept it.  It is too close to the end of term; I will never be able to find another teacher to fill in.  You are a remarkable teacher.  You understand your subject better than many of our previous professors.  It’s like you were raised in Defense Against the Dark Arts.”  Albus paused for a moment and set some papers in front of him.  “I see no problem with you continuing out the year as a professor.  If you are uncomfortable with your actions then I suggest that you not repeat them.”

Harry propped his elbow on the armrest of his chair and rested his head against his hand.  “I can’t convince you to change your mind?”

“No.  My suggestion is that you go downstairs, pour yourself a drink, and relax for the evening.  You’ve had a trying day.”

Harry knew he had been dismissed.  He stood to go.  There was no way in hell he was going to take Albus's suggestion though, tempting as it sounded.  

~~~

Twenty-five minutes later Albus was startled out of his work by a series of loud thuds on his desk.  Looking up, he saw bottle after bottle appear and line up.  Albus was surprised at the variety of liquors.  Finally, a note appeared in front of him.

*//Albus,

To safeguard me against foolhardy behaviour, please accept my gift of every bottle of liquor I had in my rooms.

Octavian Tyler//*

Albus shook his head, bemused by the younger man.  Setting the note aside, he began puzzling over how Octavian Tyler had managed to get through all the wards that surrounded his office, in order to send the bottles to him.  

Twenty minutes later, he was still trying to figure it out.


Chapter Seventeen:  The Gryffindor and the Slytherin.

*The Past*

“Hello, Professor.”  

“Thirty points for being out after curfew, Snape.”  The door started to swing shut, but stopped when it hit Severus's foot, which he had placed against the frame.  Professor Tyler glared at him with narrowed eyes.  Severus audibly swallowed.  “What do you want?”

“I wanted to see you.”  When that didn’t garner a response Severus tried a different tack.  “I came to apologize.  I should never have left that note.  It was rather juvenile.”

“Damn straight you shouldn’t have, Snape.”  Professor Tyler’s frown changed to an unholy grin.  “Be on your way.  You wouldn’t want to lose more points, now would you?”

“But, Professor…”

“Yes?  But what, Snape?”  Professor Tyler’s voice was cold.

Severus took a deep breath.  He would not let anyone, even Professor Tyler run roughshod over him.  “Perhaps we can discuss this inside, Professor.  You can have a drink and we’ll talk.”

A sharp bark of laughter was Professor Tyler’s response.  “It won’t work Snape.  You see, I’ve donated all of my liquor to a good cause.  I’ve sworn off alcohol for the foreseeable future.”  Professor Tyler looked at Severus with a penetrating, measuring gaze.  Severus had the feeling he had been found sorely lacking.  “Good night, Mr. Snape.”  The door slammed shut on its hinges so hard that it rattled in the frame.  Quite a feat, since the door and frame were both made out of solid oak.

Severus sighed and started to move away down the hallway.  He’d have to figure out another way to get in to see his Professor.  He had no intention of letting him go.

~~~

“Have you gone insane, Severus?”  Lucius stared at his friend, aghast.

“I’m in full control of my mental capabilities, Lucius.  I’m telling you that it will work.”  Severus was standing over a cauldron, stirring carefully.  There was no way that he was going to ruin this potion.

“You are going to drug Professor Tyler, and that’s not insane?”

Severus gazed at the ceiling.  That was the fifth time Lucius had repeated the information since he had told him his plan.  He wouldn’t have done so, but he needed Lucius’ help.  After all, he didn’t have access to any type of alcohol, but Lucius’ supply was rather extensive for someone that still attended the school.  “Would you be quiet?  I do not need the entire school to know what I’m planning.  I could get expelled.”

“Do you honestly think that this will work?”

“Actually, I do.”  Severus lifted some of the potion out of the cauldron with a ladle.  Lifting it to his nose, he gingerly sniffed it.  Nodding his head satisfactorily he moved the ladle under Lucius’ nose.  “You see this?”  At Lucius’ slight nod Severus continued.  “This is an Inhibeo Reducto potion.  Do you know what it does?”  Severus's voice was condescending.

Straightening up, Lucius smoothed out his shirt.  “Of course I do.  It diminishes the strength of one’s inhibitions.”  Lucius sounded affronted.  “A fourth degree dark potion since it allows someone to influence another’s actions.  They’d do something that they wouldn’t normally.”

“Correct.  It does allow one to influence another who is under its effects.”  Severus had gone back to stirring the potion.  “It stops someone from analyzing a situation too closely.  Think of it as getting drunk without the need for copious amounts of alcohol.  And since Professor Tyler has been known to get drunk on occasion…”

“I think that you are just trying to make yourself feel better about drugging a professor.”

Irritated, Severus removed his hand from the stirring rod.  He couldn’t stir the potion too fast or else it would be ruined and he’d have to start all over again.  “Would you stop saying that?  All I want to do is talk to him.  And in the mood he’s in he won’t let me do that.”

“So why don’t you just let him calm down.  It sounds like the more intelligent course of action.”

“I don’t have that long.”  Severus sighed and sat down on a stool.  The potion had to cool for fifteen minutes.  “Professor Tyler seems like he’s the type to hold a grudge.”

“I’ve noticed.”  Severus knew that Lucius was thinking about the past couple of weeks, and all the points that Severus had lost Slytherin.  “I heard a group of Ravenclaws talking the other day.  They were wondering what you had done to anger Professor Tyler.  It seems it’s just you that he’s after to destroy.”

“Don’t remind me.”  Severus's voice was quiet.

“What do you see in him, anyway?  It can’t be the sex.  No sex is worth what he’s doing to you.”

“You don’t understand, Lucius.  There’s something about him.  He has layers.”  

Lucius’ eyebrows rose in what Severus found to be a slightly mocking way.  “Don’t give me that shite about his eyes again.  It was one thing when you were infatuated with him, it’s another now that you’re sleeping with him.”

“His eyes are still fascinating.”  Severus said, and Lucius snorted.  “But that’s only one of his physical attributes that I find appealing.”

“I thought I said that it can’t be about sex.”

“It’s not.”  Severus took in a deep breath.  “It’s about power.”  It wasn’t just about power, but there was no way that he would tell Lucius that he thought he was falling for the Defense Professor, as distant and cruel as he could be at times.  Severus knew that he could change Professor Tyler.  He just needed time and the opportunity.

Lucius’ eyes widened.  “What?”

“Professor Tyler is one of the strongest wizards that I’ve ever come into close contact with.  I’d have to be insane to give him up.”

Lucius opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before finally speaking.  “What about our Lord?”

“The same,” Severus smirked.  “But Professor Tyler is much younger.  Nicer to look at too.”

“But just as sadistic.”  

Severus looked at Lucius sharply.  “What do mean by that?”

“Haven’t you seen the way that he looks at you during meals?”  Severus shook his head.  Lucius continued.  “He wants you dead.  From the looks I’ve seen, he would happily hang you from those manacles in Filch’s office while he skins and disembowels you.”

Severus swallowed.  “He… he wouldn’t.  He’s just angry.”  Although he wasn’t too sure of that.

Lucius snorted.  “It is your life.  If you want to take it into your hands and die, then far be it from me to stop you.”  Lucius was watching Severus as he went back to his potion.  “What do you need from me?”

“A bottle of your strongest firewhiskey.”

“That’s how you’re going to administer the stuff?”

“The second dose, at least.”  Severus ladled the potion into three different vials.

“The second dose?”  

Severus turned and looked at Lucius, whose mouth was hanging open.

“That’s not a good look on you at all, Lucius.”  Lucius’ mouth snapped shut.  “That is what I said.  I don’t think that one dose will work enough.”

“And how are you going to get him to take the first dose?”

Severus pocketed the vials and started to clean out his cauldron.  “I’m bribing the house elves in the kitchen to slip it into his pumpkin juice.  One dose should work enough that I can convince him to have a drink.  That’ll be the second dose.”

Lucius nodded and the two young men walked back to the Slytherin dorms.  Severus waited until Lucius had handed him a bottle of firewhiskey.  He left the dorm to stash the bottle in his trunk, when he returned to Lucius’ room, he saw him sleeping on his bed.  Taking out his wand he approached Lucius.  With the wand close to Lucius’ temple, Severus whispered the word “Obliviate.”

“Sorry, Lucius.  I really don’t want anyone finding out about my plans for tomorrow evening.”  Exiting the room, he headed down to the kitchens.  He had some house elves to bribe.

~~~

Severus knocked on the door again.  He had been standing outside of Professor Tyler’s room for over five minutes, and there had yet to be an answer.  Severus knocked one more time and stepped back to wait some more.

Suddenly the door was flung open.  No one was there; it just opened.  “If you are going to annoy me all night then please do so from in here.  I do not feel like having a conversation while standing in the doorway today.”  

Looking into the room, Severus saw Professor Tyler sitting in the large overstuffed chair by the fire reading the book that was his constant companion.  He quickly entered and shut the door behind him.  Grasping the bottle of firewhiskey tightly in one hand, he approached his professor.  “A drink, Professor?”

Professor Tyler looked up from his book and gave a short nod.  Severus looked around for the glasses but could not find them.  “In the cabinet to the right.”  Severus moved quickly and took out one glass.  He was about to pour when Professor Tyler interrupted him.  “First off, I have no intention of taking a shot.  Put it on the rocks.”  Severus nodded.  “Second, I’m not stupid enough to drink something from you without you drinking first.”  Severus paused for a moment before reaching for a second glass.  One dose shouldn’t affect him too badly.  The potion was fairly diluted.  He quickly went about preparing the drinks.

Severus kept one glass and handed the other to Professor Tyler.  When he didn’t lift the glass to his lips Professor Tyler just looked at him and motioned for him to take a sip.  Severus gulped down half the glass and then sputtered.  Looking at Professor Tyler he saw the corner of the older man’s lips curve up slightly.  At least he was good for entertainment.  He watched as Professor Tyler knocked back the whole glass.

“What happened to not drinking it in one shot.”

“I could smell the Inhibeo Reducto potion in it as soon as you handed me the glass.  I assume that my pumpkin juice was similarly dosed?”

“Yes, Professor.”  Severus bit his lip; he hadn’t meant to say that.

“I see.  The pumpkin juice could mask the scent, but not this.  You’ve never been under the influence of this potion have you?”  Professor Tyler seemed uncommonly relaxed.

Severus shook his head.  “No, Professor.  Have you?”

“Many times.  By the time I was eighteen, I had been subjected to this potion approximately ten times.”  Severus's eyes widened.  “I had a friend who thought it was amusing, a couple of friends actually.”  Professor Tyler’s eyes glazed over slightly.  “I don’t think that it ever turned out quite how they expected it to.”

“How so?”  Severus recognized that it was the potion that was making him more talkative.  He was sure that it was doing the same for Professor Tyler.  “What happened?”

“I disappeared most of the time, got away from them and their deranged idea of a truth game.  Usually I would try to just go to sleep.”  Professor Tyler put his glass down on a side table.  He stretched before he spoke again.  “What brings you here, Snape?”

Severus had fixated on the way that Professor Tyler’s shirt had been pulled up when he stretched.  It took him a minute to respond.  “I came to talk.”  The statement was probably belied by the way that he moistened his bottom lip with his tongue.

Professor Tyler stood and moved over to a long table that was positioned against the wall.  A large black velvet square rested on the top.  It was the only piece of furniture that seemed out of place in the whole room.  “So, talk.”  

Instead of saying anything he watched as Professor Tyler removed the dagger with its sheath from his hip and set it to the side of the velvet.  “You aren’t still mad about what happened a couple of weeks ago, are you, Professor?”

“I am.”  Professor Tyler had slipped one hand into his boot and was pulling out some small square projectiles, one by one, and laying them on the velvet.

“What are you doing?” asked Severus, intrigued enough to forget his previous topic.

“Disarming.  I have to tip some of my weapons.”  The causal way that Professor Tyler said it set Severus's teeth on edge.

Having finished with his boots, Professor Tyler was rolling up his shirtsleeve.  On his right forearm was a thick band that had five small darts stored in it.  “Do you always carry so many weapons?”

“Of course.”  Professor Tyler was now rolling up his left shirtsleeve.  On that forearm was another thick band that sheathed two stilettos.  “In the past I’ve been known to carry more.”  Professor Tyler unhooked the two arm guards and laid them out before removing the darts and stilettos.  It all seemed very methodical.

“What did you mean by ‘tip’?”

Professor Tyler looked at him as he removed his wand holster.  The holster was set aside while the wand was placed in one of his pockets.  “I tip my weapons in various poisons.  It makes my job easier.”

Severus eyes widened.  “You were an assassin before you became a teacher?”

A soft chuckle was his response.  “Hardly.  Though what I did isn’t any of your business, so I suggest you drop it, Mr. Snape.”  Professor Tyler’s hands were now at his hips as he pulled a thin cord from behind his belt.

“What’s that?”

“A garrotte.”   He laid it at the top of the cloth.  

“What’s it for?”

Professor Tyler turned and leaned against the table facing him, crossing his arms.  He looked rather dangerous.  “For strangling people.  If you do it right, you can almost take off someone’s head.”  Severus's hand unconsciously went to his throat.  Professor Tyler raised an eyebrow.  “Something the matter, Mr. Snape?”

Severus quickly shook his head.  Professor Tyler reached under the table and took out three different jars.  Opening one at a time, he placed an assortment of the projectiles into each before resealing it.  At the end he still had a couple of weapons out; these were rolled into the cloth, along with the garrote.  

“If you are constantly armed, then what do you do when your weapons are put away?”

“I always keep my dagger with me.  I sleep with two darts under my pillow, one poisoned, one not.”  Professor Tyler put everything away before going back to his chair and picking up his book again.  “Of course, I don’t need weapons.  Like I said, it just makes my job easier.”

Severus's mouth was dry.  There was something disconcerting about the way Professor Tyler had said that last sentence.  “There was a reason you did that while I was here, wasn’t there?”

“Of course.”  A page of his book was turned.  “Why don’t you tell me what it is?”

“I don’t know, sir.”  Severus mechanically lifted the glass in his hand to his mouth and took a swallow of the liquid.

“I’d be careful of that stuff if I were you.”  Severus looked down at the glass, remembering that he was dosing himself with an anti-inhibitor potion and quickly put it down on the nearest table.  “You have to understand I am not someone to be messed with.”

“I need to understand that you’re dangerous?”

“Yes.”

Severus shrugged.  “I knew that as soon as you arrived at this school.  I was on the opposite side of that dagger when you sent it flying toward Lucius.”

Professor Tyler narrowed his eyes.  “And you don’t care?”

“Not at all.  Risk can be good.  Without risk large gains are not often made.”  He thought he heard Professor Tyler mutter the word ‘Gryffindor’ under his breath.  Severus bristled.  “I am not a Gryffindor!”

“You say it as if being a Gryffindor is a bad thing.”

“It is!”

Professor Tyler laced his fingers together and leaned forward.  “One day you will discover that there is more to this world then what house you were in while in school.  Houses don’t matter.”

“What House were you in?”

Professor Tyler shook his head, “I didn’t have a House.”

“You didn’t go here?”  Professor Tyler shrugged.  He didn’t offer up any more information.  “But you have that tattoo.”

“What does my tattoo have to do with this conversation?”

“It shows the houses of Gryffindor, in the shield, and Slytherin, because of the snake.”

Professor Tyler leaned back in his chair.  “It doesn’t have so much to do with Houses as it does with the symbols that represent those houses.”

Severus narrowed his eyes in confusion.  “What do you mean?”

“The red and gold symbolize loyalty and courage.  The snake, cunning and subterfuge.”  Professor Tyler took in a deep breath.  “The mixing of those things into one symbol serves to remind me that all four are necessary in order to survive in the world I live in.  Among other things.”

“Survive in the world you live in?”  The older man wasn’t making much sense.

“As a child, you live a sheltered life, protected by home and school.”

Severus cut him off.  “I am not a child.  Nor am I sheltered.”

Professor Tyler closed his eyes for a moment.  When they reopened they seemed darker, more troubled.  “If you insist.”  Severus could have sworn he heard a whispered ‘for now’.  “That doesn’t change the fact that you are young.  You haven’t seen everything that the world has yet to offer.”  Professor Tyler took out his wand, and sent his book flying toward the bookshelf.  “You have not seen the effects of war, famine, or disease.”

Severus didn’t know what to say.  He hadn’t seen those things.  He hoped that he never would; they didn’t sound pleasant.

It was obvious that Professor Tyler wasn’t expecting an answer.  He continued.  “There are other things.  Atrocities that humans do to each other that they shouldn’t.  Torture, rape, murder…” Professor Tyler took a deep breath.  “Have you seen that?”

Severus shook his head.

Professor Tyler nodded.  “When you see all those things and more, then you will understand why some people carry such weapons as mine.”  Professor Tyler summoned his dagger; Severus closed his eyes, not wanting to see the thing fly towards him again.  When he opened his eyes the dagger was resting in Professor Tyler’s hand.  “I carry weapons to defend myself and others against certain individuals that think they have the right to commit such atrocities.  Others carry them to defend such a right.”  Professor Tyler turned his gaze to Severus.

Severus flinched at the bright green eyes.  No longer were they stunning; they were scary.  There was something shining in them.  At first Severus thought it was anger, but then he wasn’t sure.  Professor Tyler didn’t seem angry.  

“What would you carry a weapon to defend against, Mr. Snape?”

~~~

*The Future:  Harry Age 21*

Severus stormed into his rooms, and slammed his books and papers down onto his desk.  The stupid, insolent, juvenile delinquents.  He’d kill them all, every last one of them.

“When I get my hands on whoever put that blasted dungbomb into the strengthening solution…” The sound of the bathroom door closing cut him off.

That’s right.  Harry was supposed to drop by tonight.  Severus vaguely recalled something about going to dinner.

“Thought I heard you grumbling.”  Harry stepped out of the bedroom dressed in nothing but a towel.  “What did they blow up now?”

Severus took a deep breath.  The towel was hanging loosely from Harry’s waist, droplets of water clung to his skin and his hair.  “Three rows of worktables.”  Severus watched as water dripped from Harry’s hair to his floor.  “You’re wet.”

“That’s stating the obvious.”  Harry smirked when Severus glared at him.  “Three rows?  Quite an accomplishment since there are only six rows to begin with.”

“Accomplishment?”  Severus let out a harsh sigh and sunk down into his desk chair.  Pulling out his wand, he absentmindedly cast a drying spell on Harry.  “Do we have to go out tonight?”

“It’s just dinner, Severus.”  Harry crossed his arms.

“I’m sure that I’ve mentioned I detest the concept of the ‘date’.”

Harry smirked at him.  “Good thing it isn’t a date then.”  Harry cast a cleaning spell to clear up the water that had dripped onto the floor.  “Besides, it was your idea that we commemorate my departure from the Auror division of the Ministry.”

Severus glowered.  “I must have been momentarily out of my mind.”  

“You probably were, Severus.”  Harry turned toward the door.  “I’m going to go get dressed.”

Harry hadn’t gone two steps before Severus stopped him, his voice quiet and tense.  “What is that thing?”

Harry turned back around.  “What is what thing?”

“On your back.”

Harry reached his hand behind him and absently scratched the tattoo on his back.  “Oh, that.  Draco convinced me to get it.”

"When?”  

“A couple of weeks ago, when the Ministry ordered me to take a weekend off.”  Harry had a confused look on his face.  “Remember, Sev?  I offered to spend the weekend here, but you had too much work to do.”

Severus nodded weakly in assent.  

“Well, the only person available was Draco…”

Severus finished for him.  “And whenever you go out with Draco, you get into the most inane situations.”  Severus rubbed his eyes.  “Just go get dressed, Harry.”

“Let me guess, you don’t like it?”

“It’s not that.”  Severus drew in a deep breath, casting about for something reasonable to say.  “I just never thought you the type to have something permanently etched into your skin.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders, and entered the bedroom to go get changed.

Severus didn’t move from where he was sitting.  He couldn’t believe it.  That tattoo.  The same damn tattoo that was in the same damn place on Octavian Tyler’s damn back.

Severus had noticed many similarities between his past and present lover.  The exact same scar on their foreheads, the same color eyes, the same scar on their right bicep, the same build and height.  There were countless physical similarities; countless similarities in their personalities, too.  But Severus had always pushed them to the back of his mind.  After all, as long as there were enough things different between the two, he could deny that Octavian Tyler and Harry Potter were one and the same.  He didn’t think he could do so any longer.

When Harry had first come to school, Severus wasn’t looking for signs of Octavian in the students.  As far as he was concerned, Octavian had disappeared, just like he said he would.  Before he even knew who Harry was, Severus had looked out over the group of first years and saw forest green eyes, and a lightning bolt shaped scar hidden by a shock of black hair.

The sight had shocked him, but he had been able to brush it aside.  For a moment Severus contemplated that perhaps this was Tyler’s son, then Potter’s name was called, and he could see the resemblance between James and Harry.  For the following five and a half years he had once again pushed the memory of his relationship with Octavian Tyler out of his mind.

While Harry’s scar had ignited the spark of remembrance, it was Harry’s eyes that really reminded Severus of Octavian over the years.  He watched as Potter went through incidents, and confrontations with the Dark Lord.  And after each one Severus had seen a new shadow enter the boy’s eyes.  There had been similar shadows in Octavian’s eyes.

It wasn’t until after Harry finished Hogwarts that more substantial similarities started to emerge.  Some of the personality traits had surfaced before, but Severus had noticed more when Harry had joined the Ministry.

The personality trait that Severus remembered the most was Tyler’s sarcastic sense of humor.  It bore a striking resemblance to his own dry wit, but with a twist.  In Harry’s sense of humor, Severus found the same twist that he had associated with Tyler.  

Severus looked up as Harry exited the bedroom.  He was dressed as he always was when he wasn’t on duty with the Aurors.  A pair of fitting leather pants, a long-sleeve cuffless shirt and a pair of boots.  His dagger, of course, was strapped to his thigh; Severus was sure that Harry had a few other weapons on him, too.  His hair wasn’t quite long enough to pull back into a tie, stopping shortly before his shoulders.

The sight reminded him of Octavian Tyler, and it wasn’t the first time it had done so either.  Octavian really looked like an older Harry.  A version of Harry that was slightly more battle worn.

The evidence was becoming overwhelming, and the tattoo was the final straw.  Harry could very well be Octavian Tyler.  And that, thought Severus, was highly disturbing.

~~~

Dinner had been a rather uneventful affair in muggle London.  Well, it had been uneventful once Severus had convinced Harry that it was indeed necessary to leave the dagger behind at his rooms in Hogwarts.  Harry was rather attached to the blasted thing.

Yes, dinner had been reasonably ordinary.  The conversation, on the other hand, had been most troubling to Severus's peace of mind.

What had most bothered him were Harry’s future plans.  Harry had told him he was going to be taking over the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.  That, in and of itself, wasn’t overly distressing.  But Harry’s course plan reminded Severus a little too much of Professor Tyler’s classes.

Professor Octavian Tyler had engraved himself into his students’ memories.  He had been a terrific Defense professor, and fair to all the houses.  However, some of his methods had been a trifle unorthodox.  When he was in a rather bad mood, Tyler would give out surprise quizzes.  Those quizzes hadn’t always been exactly safe.

Severus's class, for example, had spent most of the year learning to defend against physical attacks and high level curses.  Tyler would attack, and if you didn’t end up in the hospital wing -- you passed.

Harry had just outlined a very similar course to Tyler’s, including the surprise quizzes.  Severus knew that Harry hadn’t heard about Professor Tyler; he never mentioned the man, and Sirius and Remus tended to not talk much about specific teachers that Harry didn’t directly know.

Severus took a deep breath and shifted very carefully, easing his shoulder from under Harry’s head.  His lover groaned and then twisted until he was lying on his stomach, one arm under his head.  Severus sat up and leaned against the headboard.  It never ceased to amaze him how Harry would start at the slightest disturbance, but if it was Severus the little brat would stay contentedly asleep.

Severus turned his thoughts inward once again.  The evidence was in no way conclusive, but Severus could see the distinct possibility that sometime in the future Harry would be sent back to the past to carry out some plan, most likely of Albus's making.  Which would mean that Harry had entered into a relationship with Severus's younger self.

He was sure that, given time, he could accept the fact that his former professor –- whom he had carried on an affair with –- and his current lover were, in all likelihood, the same person.  What he was more interested in, at the moment, was how this new information would affect his relationship with Harry.

He and Harry had their difficulties, a fair share of them.  They were both stubborn and were, at times, difficult to get along with.  But they had overcome all the problems they had to face so far.  And Severus knew that there were even more ahead.

He wasn’t too worried about Harry’s friends finding out about their relationship.  Harry had made it clear that he didn’t care what his friends’ opinion of their relationship was.  Neither did Harry have any intention of choosing between his friends and Severus.

There were only two reasons that existed for not telling anyone.  The first was to protect Severus's well-being.  It could not become common knowledge that he was involved in a relationship with anyone, let alone The-Boy-Who-Lived.  It would endanger his position as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix.  

The second was infinitely simpler.  They just never bothered to tell anyone.  They were both immensely private people, and didn’t think that it was anyone’s business.  Severus had informed Albus, and Draco had… stumbled upon the information, but other than those two people, no one knew.

Eventually those close to Harry, and therefore Severus, would discover their relationship.  Likewise, it would also come to certain people’s attention that Harry was Octavian Tyler.

There had to be a reason that Harry had been sent to the past.  As his student, Severus had never come to know why Tyler had come to teach, or to where he had so suddenly disappeared.  He had not even learned this when he’d been Tyler’s lover.  But even as lovers, they hadn’t been all that close, even though toward the end he had shared some emotionally charged moments with his professor.  He had even fooled himself into thinking that he was in love with the man.

Severus knew better now.  In recent years, Severus had come to believe that what he had had with his former professor was just lust.  The fact that Harry was Tyler didn’t change that.  But Severus had also thought that it had just been lust on both sides – and now the situation was now infinitely more complex.  

Severus quickly looked down at Harry, who hadn’t moved since Severus had shifted out of his position as the younger man’s pillow.  Severus had no way of knowing what Harry had been thinking as Tyler, why he had slept with him.  Harry hadn’t been sent back to the past yet, and until that occurred he wouldn’t have any way of knowing.

But he couldn’t waste any time thinking about that now.  It would only lead him in circles, and there were no answers to be had.  Severus would not consider these thoughts until Harry was sent back to the past.

Severus looked again in Harry’s direction.  He was still sleeping on his stomach, the sheet low enough so that the tattoo was visible.  The silver snake moved sluggishly over the red and gold shield, but it seemed content.  The few times that Severus had seen it before on Tyler, the snake was never content.

Severus shifted and traced his finger down Harry’s spine.  A pleased sigh escaped.  The corner of Severus's mouth lifted, the closest he usually ever came to a smile.

Getting out of bed, Severus pulled on a robe, and padded out of the bedroom into the living room.  The fire was dying down, but there was still enough for what he had to do.

Knowing what would happen in the future in no way helped Severus to determine what he should do in the present.  To do that, he would have to talk to the only person that knew all the details.

Taking a pinch of powder from a small container on the mantle, Severus threw it into the fire.  “Albus Dumbledore.”  

The sleepy head of the Headmaster appeared in Severus's fireplace.  “Severus?”

“Was there a reason that Octavian Tyler was teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts during my sixth year?”

A puzzled expression crossed Albus's face for a moment.  “Why do you ask, Severus?  Do you realize it’s the middle of the night?”

Severus swallowed, his mouth dry.  “Because ‘Octavian Tyler’ is sleeping in my bed at this very moment.”

Albus's puzzled expression quickly switched to a surprised one.  Severus always enjoyed talking to Albus when he first woke up; the old man had a hard time hiding his reactions.  “I don’t think that Harry would appreciate that overly much.”

“Oh, I don’t think that Harry would mind.”

The bushy eyebrows under the bright purple nightcap rose.  “You don’t?”

“I think it highly unlikely.  You see, Headmaster, Harry Potter is Octavian Tyler.”

~~~

“Severus?”

The sleepy voice started Severus out of his musings.  His conversation with Albus had lasted an hour. Afterwards, he sat in his reading chair pondering over the conclusion the two of them had made.

“Go back to sleep, Harry.”

Harry stretched and sat up.  “Can’t.  You think too loud.  What are you thinking about anyway?”

“The future.”

A carefree smile appeared on Harry’s face.  Severus realized it had been quite a while since he had seen that.  His own frown deepened as he thought it would probably be a while before he saw it again.  Their lives weren’t necessarily at a point where either of them could be carefree.

“Did you hear me?”

Severus shook his head before leaning his head back against the edge of the chair.  Severus hadn’t even realized that Harry had said anything.  A sigh from the younger man reached his ears.

“Stop being so sombre.  Relax.”

Severus's only response was a noncommittal grumble.  With his head back and his eyes closed, he didn’t realize that Harry had moved out of the bed until the other man was kneeling next to his chair.

The touch on his arm made Severus look down at his lover.

“What’s wrong, Sev?”

Severus looked away.  “Nothing.”  He felt Harry’s fingers settle on either side of his chin.  The younger man forcibly turned Severus head to look at him.

“Stop it.  I know that something is wrong.”  Severus still didn’t respond.  He would let Harry come to his own conclusions.  He wasn’t disappointed.  “We can either tell them, or let them figure out about our relationship on their own.”  Another one of the smiles that Severus hadn’t seen very often crossed Harry’s face.  This one was a tad mischievous.  “I’d much rather see them fumble about making excuses as to why we spend so much time together, and what possessed Albus into giving me a set of rooms in the dungeons.”

Severus couldn’t help himself, an amused grunt escaped from his throat.

Harry smiled again, and quickly pressed his lips against Severus.  “Don’t think too much.  You have final exams to administer next week.  I’m sure that you want to make them even more impossible than they are right now.”  

Harry made to move away but Severus grabbed his wrist.  He pressed his fingers against the bond mark that he knew was there.  The feel of it beneath his fingers soothed him.  He pulled on Harry’s arm and the younger man bent down to press another kiss to his lips.  Having a lover that knew him so well was a definite advantage.

Severus didn’t release Harry.  Instead he shifted in his seat and pulled Harry toward him until the younger man took the hint and straddled his thighs.  He leaned forward to press his lips against Harry’s throat.  Harry moaned, and tilted his head to the side, giving Severus better access.  Severus brushed his hands up and down Harry’s sides, his hands sliding low on his lover’s hips, never coming into contact with anything other than skin.

“Forgetting your clothes, Potter?” Severus mumbled against Harry’s throat.

“Your sleep pants are too long, I’d trip.”  Harry was untying Severus's robe.  “Didn’t think that I’d be spending the night.”  Harry slid his fingers underneath the edge of the robe.  His hands ghosted along Severus skin.

“I’m sure that you have a pair in one of my drawers.  You spend enough time here,” Severus responded, between nips along the line of Harry’s throat.  

“Not nearly enough time.”  Harry pulled away from Severus.  Severus looked up at him; Harry’s gaze was hard.  “Are you happy that I took the teaching position?”

“When have you ever known me to be happy?  I’m not sure that I understand that emotion.”

“Really?”  Harry lowered his head, and took the lobe of Severus ear between his teeth for a moment.  He ran his tongue over the shell of his ear.  “Are you sure about that?  You’ve never been happy?”  

Harry’s warm breath against his ear almost caused Severus to shiver.  He repressed it.  “Perhaps once or twice.”

Harry kissed his way down Severus's throat.  “Enlighten me.”

Severus swallowed.  Harry could always make him lose his train of thought.  “Bed.”

Harry’s had reached his collarbone, pressing small kisses and bites along it.  He stopped for a moment.  “The bed made you happy?”

Severus ran his fingers down Harry’s spine.  Harry arched his back, his hips pressing forward.  His erection pressed against Severus's own.  Severus groaned.  “Getting you into that bed over there would make me happy.”

Harry chuckled.  “I think I’m rather comfortable right here.”

Changing tactics, Severus scratched his nails across Harry’s lower back, and subsequently across the tattoo.  Harry twisted his upper body away, and stood up.  Severus raised his eyebrow.  The tattoo must be sensitive to touch, Harry had never reacted like that before.  

“Actually, the bed does look more comfortable.”  Harry turned and made his way across the room.  

With his back turned Severus had a perfect view of the tattoo.  The snake was moving faster, but didn’t seem agitated; instead it seemed rather excited.  It dawned on Severus that it might reflect Harry’s moods.  Severus smirked, and got up to follow his lover to the bed.

He pushed all other thoughts out of his head.  He would have plenty of time to think about them later.  Right now he had his Harry in his bed, and no one was going to disturb them.

There were definitely advantages to a lover that knew him so well.  He was sure Harry had started this on purpose.

Then again there were also advantages to having a lover as young and limber as Harry.  And at that moment Severus had every intention of putting those advantages to good use.

Chapter Eighteen:  A Shadow versus the Real Thing

*The Past*

Severus Snape didn’t move for a long time.  The Death Eaters were still gathered around the trembling body of the teenage boy.  He was huddled down, his face buried in his knees.  They had already raped and murdered his little sister; her body was sprawled not too far away.  Severus didn’t think that he would ever get her screams out of his head.

It was Severus's first meeting with the older Death Eaters.  He had been chosen, along with Lucius and a few select others, to start attending the full meetings, the meetings where things ‘got done’.  At least, that was what Severus had been told.  

Severus tried not to look into the center of the circle, but morbid fascination made his gaze wander toward the sight.  The little girl had been no more than twelve years old.  Her hair had been golden blonde with a slight curl.  Had been, until the blood had pooled around her head, and had turned it a ruddy red.  She had been pretty, as far as girls went.  And now she was dead.  

Three Death Eaters had taken part of her torture.  Two held her down as one ripped off the skirt she was wearing.  That one had beaten her, until she stopped crying.  But when he finally forced himself on her, she had screamed.  Lucius had grinned over at Severus as he held the boy down, forcing him to watch his sister’s rape.  She had been silent when she died.

Afterward Voldemort had said that it had all been done because she was a muggle, and therefore useless.  He had said that she was too filthy to be killed with magic.  Her parents were to be sent a picture.  Her brother was going to take it back.  And take the blame for her rape and murder.

The whole thing had been overkill, but it appeared as if he was the only one who realized that.  Severus's gaze slid to the boy.  He must have sensed Severus staring at him because his eyes locked with Severus's.  There was no life in the boy’s eyes.  A shiver went down Severus's spine at the sight.

Someone had seen the small movement of the boy’s head.  “Crucio.”  Severus couldn’t tear his gaze away as the boy convulsed and writhed on the floor once again.  Over the last half an hour he had been subjected to the Cruciatus curse multiple times.  

As quickly as the curse started, it ended.  Severus watched as the boy took in large gulps of air, his chest heaving.  A trickle of blood ran down his chin from where he had bit his lip in pain.  Severus quickly looked away; he could no longer stand to watch.

Instead Severus stared at Lord Voldemort.  He was standing toward the edge of the circle, a cold sneer plastered on his face.  He was nothing like he had been during Severus's initiation and the meetings that Severus had been able to attend afterward.  Then, he had been personable, and Severus had felt like he wanted to please him.  

Now, Severus realized that he had no choice other than to please him.  Failure would no doubt result in the sight that had greeted them when they arrived.

A man had been magically skinned and quartered.  His body was hung in pieces along the side wall.  The white mask of the Death Eaters was still in place over his face, the only reason that Severus had been able to tell he had once been one of them.

After they had all gathered in the traditional circle, Voldemort had casually waved his hand toward the body.  “A lesson, for our new friends.”  Severus had known that it was a warning for himself and the others that were new to the full meetings.

That was when the girl and her brother had been brought in.

Severus felt as though he were going to be sick; he had recognized the voice that had cast the last Crutiatus on the young man.  It had been his father’s.  Severus restrained himself from looking around the circle for him.  He wouldn’t be able to identify him with his mask on anyway.

He was trying to listen to the words that were flowing out of his Lord’s mouth, but the roiling in his stomach distracted him.  He could feel the thickening of saliva in his mouth and the bitter taste it had.  The metallic smell of the girl’s blood was causing his throat to start contracting.  Severus swallowed; he had no intention of being sick in front of these people.

He heard the memory charm being cast, and snapped his head around to look at the man who was kneeling in front of the boy.  He was remaking the boy’s memory.  Telling him that he had kidnapped his sister, tied her down, and then raped her.  After, when she had started to cry, he had hit her and slammed her head against the ground until she died.  He was told that he had taken a picture to show his parents.  

With a shudder the young man opened his eyes, and looked over at his sister.  A guttural scream escaped his throat, and tears started pouring down his face.  “Sarah, no!”  He was shaking his head.  “NO!  I didn’t do it!  I didn’t!”  The last words were barely recognizable through the boy’s sobs.  

Severus followed the boy’s gaze.  He was looking at his hands in horror.  They were covered in blood.  He looked down at his clothes; they were covered in his sister’s blood also.  “Oh my God.  Sarah!”  The boy stood and stumbled toward the door.  Leaving the body of his sister behind.

Severus knew that when the boy finally returned to his house, the picture would be found.  He was most likely going to go insane with the guilt.

When the door shut behind the frantic boy, some of the Death Eaters began to laugh.  Voldemort just smiled.  Severus thought that it wasn’t quite the smile of a sane man.  Not for the first time since the meeting began, Severus wondered what had impelled him to join.  He couldn’t quite remember.

The meeting ended not long after.  Severus couldn’t wait to escape.  The girl was still lying on the ground, her body forgotten.  Severus forced himself to look at her, burning the image of her broken body into his mind.  He had been part of her death.

A hand landed on his shoulder.  Expecting Lucius, Severus looked behind him.  His father was behind him, his mask removed.  For the first time in his life Severus saw a smile on his father’s face that was directed at him.

“I’m proud of you, Severus.  I know you caught that boy’s gaze to make him move.  You did good, my son.”

Severus managed to get all the way back to Hogwarts and the dormitory bathroom before he threw up.

~~~

Harry snapped awake at the erratic banging on his door.  A dart hit his closed bedroom door before he realized that the noise was coming from the main door.

He threw off the covers, and headed to answer the door.  On his way he cast the Tempus spell.  It was 5:30 in the morning.

As soon as the door was in sight Harry waved his hand to open it.  It flew open and a black-robed figure fell into a heap on the floor.  

“What the bloody hell is going on?”  Harry made his way over to the pile of limbs and robes that he was sure was Severus Snape.  “Mr. Snape?”  Harry had barely finished getting the boys name out when he was knocked over.  

Harry managed to get to his knees.  Severus was clinging to him, shaking hard.  He could feel the tears coursing down the young man’s cheek where Severus's face was pressed against his chest.  Harry automatically wrapped his arms around the boy, and started to stoke his back in a soothing manner.

“Shhh.”  Harry took a deep breath.  He had no idea what was going on.  “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Severus just shook his head.

Harry had dealt with upset students before, mostly first years suffering from bouts of homesickness.  That was nothing like the soul wrenching sobs that were coming from Severus.  He had never seen anything like this.

He pushed Severus away slightly so he could look at him.  Severus's head was downcast, his hair falling in damp, lank waves around his face, obscuring his features.  His shoulders were still shaking.  Harry could hear his raspy gasps for air.

Harry grabbed Severus's chin in-between his fingers and forced him to look up at him.  Severus's eyes were bloodshot.

“Talk to me, Severus.  I’ll listen.”

At Severus's nod, Harry pulled him back into his embrace, and just held the trembling young man.

After a minute, Severus started to talk in a quiet, shaking voice.

As Severus's story poured forth, Harry could feel his heart breaking.  His Severus never talked about what he saw at Death Eater meetings with him.  And certainly Severus had avoided all mention of what he had seen when he was younger.

“It’s my fault too, Professor.  I was part of it.  I was there, and I didn’t do anything to stop it.  I might as well have killed her myself!”  Severus's voice broke, and he started sobbing again.

Harry could feel tears prickling his own eyes.  He forcibly willed them away.  He could not afford to be emotional.  

He wished he knew what to say.  He kept a constant stream of soothing sounds issuing from his mouth.  

Harry knew Severus, and he knew that Severus, even the younger version, would never believe he wasn’t at fault for the girl’s death.  He also knew that this wasn’t a time for a lecture.  All he could do was comfort this younger version of his lover and hope.

Harry wrapped his arms more firmly around Severus, and started to shift so he could get his feet under him.  Once he managed that, he stood, with the sixteen year old in his arms, and moved to the couch.  He settled them both down, Severus pressed into his side.

Eventually Severus's sobs stopped, and his breathing calmed.  When Harry felt Severus's muscles relax, he knew that the younger man had finally cried himself to sleep.

Harry sighed.  He summoned his wand before lighting a fire in the large fireplace.

Harry thanked god that it was the weekend, and neither him nor the young Mr. Snape would be expected at breakfast or classes.  

Harry spent the time waiting for Severus to wake staring into the fire.

~~~

Severus started awake from his nightmare.  He lay perfectly still, breathing heavy, trying to figure out why he was dreaming something so horrible, when his memories from the night before flooded back.  The Death Eater meeting, running to Professor Tyler, his emotional breakdown.  Could he have been more stupid?  The last thing that he had ever wanted his professor to see was to see him lacking in control.

But last night he had been.  When his father had approached him after the meeting, he had lost it.  His father’s approval was the last thing that he wanted.  He hated the man.  His father had ignored him his entire life. He never cared how well Severus did in any of his classes, or how much trouble he had gotten into over the course of the year.  He cared about nothing other than his drinking, his women, his political position, and his money.  As far as his father had been concerned, Severus was nothing more than a mistake from one of his affairs.  A mistake that he had been forced to adopt and accept as his heir because Severus's grandfather demanded it.

Severus turned to face the back of the couch, then realized where he was.  He sat up quickly, hoping that that Tyler wouldn’t be around so he could sneak out without having to answer any awkward questions.  Luck, however, had never quite been on the Slytherin’s side.

“I see that you finally decided to join the land of the living.  And I had just started to believe that you were going to be sleeping all day.”

Severus looked around him, finally spying the teacher standing in the doorway to his bedroom, leaning against the frame with his arms crossed over his chest.  For once the older man didn’t seem stern and forbidding, like he always had appeared.  There was a gentleness to his eyes and face that, to Severus, didn’t seem to fit with his idea of Professor Tyler.

Professor Tyler moved from where he was standing in the door, and walked past the couch to a side table.  There he picked up a tray, and carried it over, setting it down in front of Severus.

“I’m not hungry, Professor.”

Tyler nodded his head, but removed the lid covering the plate anyway.  “I figured.  So it’s toast and juice.  Just one slice.  I expect you to eat it all.  And when you’re done we’re going to have a nice long talk.”

That was not what Severus wanted to do.  He took his time, ripping his toast into tiny pieces before putting one in his mouth.

“Take as long as you need, Mr. Snape.  I’ve got all day.”  Tyler’s voice contained just a hint of laughter.

Severus took his time eating.  Professor Tyler didn’t watch him.  Instead he wandered back into his bedroom.  Severus debated throwing the remainder of the toast into the fire, and was just about to do so when Tyler called to him from the other room.

“I don’t think so, Snape.  I said I expect you to eat the toast, not feed the fire with it.  I’ve never been fond of the smell of burnt toast.”  Again, that small hint of laughter.

Severus had no idea how the man knew what he was thinking.  It was unnerving, this side of his professor that seemed to think that everything was a joke.  Severus's forehead creased in thought.  It was almost as if his professor expected him to act this way when he woke up, like he knew how he’d react.  But that didn’t make any sense.  Severus didn’t even know himself how he was going to react.

Severus decided that the best thing to do would be to stop thinking and just eat his toast.

The second that Severus finished, Professor Tyler walked out of the other room.  “How was your breakfast?  Disgusting?  Should have known.  There’s just no pleasing people like you.”  He picked up the tray and carried it back over to the side table.  Severus assumed that the house elves would get to it later.

“People like me?”

Tyler smirked at him good-naturedly.  “You know the type.  Dark and moody.  The ones that think if they stare into the bottom of a cauldron long enough they’ll discover the answer to why the universe doesn’t work the way they think it should.”

“Potion brewing-“

“-is a noble and pure art form, I know.”  At Severus's questioning gaze Professor Tyler explained.  “I happen to know one or two Potion Masters.”  Tyler narrowed his eyes in thought.  “Well one Master, and one that thinks he’s a Master.  That’s a quote out of some old dusty volume that they like to throw at me when they think that I’m getting too ‘cheeky’.”  Tyler’s gaze hardened.  “How are you feeling?”

Severus felt off balance.  This wasn’t what he had expected from his professor at all.  But it was what he needed, even though he hadn’t known that earlier.  It wasn’t Tyler’s normal behaviour, but it felt like it should have been.  And that’s what Severus needed, a sense of normalcy.  “Well, I don’t feel like the world is spinning in the wrong direction any more.”

“Well that’s good, I’d hate to see what happens to gravity if the world actually did start spinning the other direction.”

Severus's eyes widened.  “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”  He knew that his disdain could be heard, but he didn’t care.

His professor smiled at him.  “Now I’m positive that you’re back to your old self.”  The smile disappeared a moment later, and Severus was once again on the wrong side of one of Professor Tyler’s measuring gazes.  “You had no idea what you were getting into when you decided to join the Death Eaters, did you?”

The abrupt turn around startled Severus for a moment.  He realized that the kind, laughing man he had seen for a few minutes had disappeared, and it was the professor whom he had spent the last year attempting to figure out in front of him once again.  He wanted the relaxing atmosphere from a few seconds ago back.  “No, sir.”

“Why did you do it?  What possessed you to do the equivalent of selling your soul to the devil?”

Severus licked his lips; his mouth had become suddenly dry.  He couldn’t bring up the words to say that it wasn’t that bad.  He knew Tyler was right.

“I can’t tell you.”

Professor Tyler’s eyes narrowed in anger.  “Can’t or won’t?”  His voice was cold, like he had expected the answer and was upset that it was given.

“Won’t.”  Severus knew his voice sounded small, like a child’s.  But after last night he didn’t think that he’d ever be able to consider himself a child again.

“Who do you think you’re protecting by not talking about it?  I assure you, not yourself.  It’s going to eat at you.”

“It was stupid.  I shouldn’t have done it, but I did.  And it was for a stupid reason.”  Severus sank back into the couch, his shoulders hunched and his arm crossed.  “Why do you care anyway?”

“Because you are under my supervision.  Because you gave me the right to pry into your life the moment that you came in here last night.”

“I came here last night because I thought you cared.”

“I do.”

“As a lover or as a student?”

Professor Tyler’s eyes looked away for a moment before turning to rest on him once again.  “Does it matter?”

“Yes.”

“As a student.”

Severus flinched.  It felt as if he had just been slapped.  “Then what was I?  Just someone you used when you couldn’t have your lover?  Are those his initials, Professor?  T.M.R.  Did he carve-“

Shut up."

Severus snapped his mouth closed.  The man sitting across from him wasn’t his professor, and certainly wasn’t the man that had greeted him upon waking.  He wondered just how many facets existed to Professor Octavian Tyler.

“Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.”  Tyler’s voice came out as a whisper, but still managed to be forceful.  

Severus realized that this was who he would face if they were to meet on opposite sides of a battlefield.  This was the man that carried those weapons he had been so careful to show Severus.  And now Severus knew why.  Tyler had known they were on opposite sides.  He had known just what type of man the Dark Lord was.

“Why didn’t you stop me?” Severus whispered.

“Stop you from what?”

“Going to the meetings.  When I came to you the first time, I told you that I had joined Dark Lord, but you didn’t do anything.”

“Exactly.  You had already joined him, what did you expect me to do?”

“It’s all your fault, Octavian!”  Severus stood glaring at his professor.  “I joined him because of you.  That’s why I ‘sold my soul’.  Are you happy now?  You know.”

Severus turned away, and didn’t see his teacher’s eyes close or his fists clench tightly.  He didn’t see when Tyler ran his fingers through his hair, yanking out the tie that held his hair in place.  And he certainly didn’t see the single tear that his teacher angrily swiped away.

“Why?”

“Because I saw you with your lover, and I thought that the only chance that I would ever have had just disappeared.”  Severus didn’t turn around.  “Because I listened to Lucius, who told me that the Dark Lord could give me power.  And who in their right mind could refuse someone with power?”

“Don’t you get it?  I’m not worth that.  I don’t matter.  I’m leaving at the end of the year.  You never really had a chance.”  Tyler’s voice had started out quietly but grew in volume with every word.

Severus turned to face his teacher.  He couldn’t see his face; it was hidden by a curtain of hair.  “You can’t leave.  If I don’t have you, I have nothing.  I’ve destroyed my life, and the only thing I have left is you.  I love you!”

Tyler shook his head.  He didn’t say anything for a moment.  Eventually, he looked up at Severus, his eyes dark.  “I’m sorry.  But I don’t love you.”

“Then what is this thing going on between us.”

“Lust, and me being stupid and giving into the whims of a child.”  

“I’m not a child.  It’s because of my Mark, isn’t it?  Because of what I’ve done.  Because I’m a Death Eater.”

“No, it’s not.  The Dark Mark on your arm would not stop me.  And it’s obvious that you aren’t happy in your choice of being a Death Eater.  The truth is that I can’t love you because you are just a child.  One taste of hell isn’t enough to make you grow up overnight.”

Severus wished he could see his professor’s face.  But Tyler hadn’t moved at all.  “But I want to be with you.”  Severus's voice sounded petulant even to his own ears.

“You can’t.”

Severus didn’t say anything.  It felt as if someone was squeezing something in his chest, keeping him from breathing properly.  He turned around and ran out the door, slamming it behind him.

~~~

Harry sighed when the door slammed shut.  He had known exactly how that conversation was going to go.  He had gone through a very similar one his sixth year.  He had hated every minute of it, and the last thing he had wanted was to force Severus through it.  But it had to be done.  He had a future to go home to.

Harry pushed his hair out of his face.  Strands still fell into his eyes, but he knew that it was a losing battle.  He could never get his hair to behave, no matter how long it was.  

The words that Severus had said were still ringing in his ears.  “It’s all your fault, Octavian!  I joined him because of you.”  Whatever reason Severus had for joining the Death Eaters, he hadn’t expected that to be it.  The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth.  

Harry stared into the fire.  He couldn’t think about that now.  He had the rest of the school year to get through, and wondering at Severus's reason would just eat at him.  He’d wait until he returned to the future.  

Harry, instead, turned his thoughts to the younger version of his lover.  Severus's reaction to Harry’s behaviour when he had woken up had been amusing; the poor boy hadn’t known what had possessed his professor.

Harry would be the first to admit that he didn’t know everything.  In fact, sometimes he believed Severus when he would tell him that he knew absolutely nothing.  But Harry did know one thing.  And that was what his lover needed after a particularly bad Death Eater meeting.

Severus always said that he needed to be alone.  Harry, however, knew better.  Severus needed to be distracted; he needed things to be normal.  And the only way that Harry knew to do that was to do what he always did.  Annoy the man.

Severus could never hold down food in the morning after going to a meeting, but if he didn’t eat then he would be in the hospital wing before he got halfway through his first class.  Harry had seen it time and time again.  So since Harry had started to live with Severus he had made sure there was always toast the next morning.  It had been amusing to realize that this Severus was going to toss the toast into the fire.  Harry couldn’t remember how many times his lover had succeeded in doing just that before Harry had developed a sixth sense for it.

Harry sighed.  It was a familiar role that he had played out that morning.  His role of the impertinent Gryffindor brat.  It was one that he was used to, but it had felt odd with the younger Severus.  He didn’t want the younger man to know that side of him.  He didn’t want the younger man to know him at all.

Harry looked toward the fire again.  The dark smoke was curling into abstract shapes.  He didn’t want this Severus to be hurt.  He knew that if this Severus had been hurt, then his was.  And he had done it.  His Severus would probably say something along the lines of “what goes around comes around”, and then shrug when Harry asked for a proper explanation.  Harry thought that he just might have gotten it this time.  The only problem was:  where did this circle of punishment start?

He had repeated some of the same words that Severus had said to him during his sixth year.  “I don’t matter… But I don’t love you… Because you’re a child… You can’t be with me.”  The memory was a painful one for Harry.  Severus had accused ‘Octavian’ of not loving him because of his mark; Harry had accused Severus of the same because of his scar.  Harry hadn’t thought of himself as a child either.  By the time he had been sixteen, he had faced more than just a ‘taste of hell’.  Looking back, Harry realized just how much of a child he had been at the time.

And that is where things differed.  Harry had told the younger version of Severus that he was just a child.  Severus, on the other hand, had agreed with Harry, saying that Harry wasn’t a child-

No, that wasn’t right.  Severus agreed that Harry hadn’t had a chance to truly be a child, but for his own sanity he had to think of Harry as one.  Having a childhood and being a child were two totally different things.  Harry hadn’t had a childhood, but his thought processes had been those of a child.  So Severus had been able to honestly say that Harry had seen things that no child should have, but in the next sentence say that Harry was still a child.

And like a child Harry had demanded that Severus prove it to him.  And in a moment of logic that Harry couldn’t quite figure out, probably because it was Severus he was dealing with, he was answered.  “I don’t have to prove anything to you, Mr. Potter.  And that is what makes you a child.”  

Harry leaned back in his chair, and stared at the ceiling.  “You couldn’t do it, Sev.  You couldn’t prove me wrong except in one thing.  Children expect answers and adults know that answers do not always exist.”  

~~~

*The Future:  Harry age 20*

“Ron, last time I checked, my desk was not a chair.”  Harry brushed past one of the department secretaries and into his cramped office at the Ministry of Magic, Auror division.

“Last time I checked, your chairs weren’t supposed to be used as storage.”  Ron waved his hand at the pile of papers that covered both of the small chairs.  “And last time I sat in your chair, you got mad at me.”

“Cut the cheek, Weasley.”  Harry hid his smile, and went to sit in his seat behind the desk.

“You’ve been spending too much time at Hogwarts with those slimy Slytherins.”

“I’d be careful of what you say, Ron.  You never know who’s behind you.”  

Ron twisted around to see if there was anyone behind him, and fell off the desk.  The look on the redhead’s face was just too much for Harry; he started laughing.

“Very funny, Harry.”  Ron got to his feet, and rubbed his backside.

“What do you want?”  

“You didn’t put me on the assignment roster, sir.  I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing this week.”  Harry looked up.  Ron’s good humour had vanished, and Auror Ronald Weasley was standing at attention.

Harry rolled his eyes.  He was starting to hate this job.  “Cut it, Weasley.”  Ron’s relaxed slightly, but Harry could still feel the tension cutting into the good humour that the two shared.  “Are you sure that it wasn’t up?  I know that I put you on something.  Wait a minute.”  

Harry rummaged around on the desk for some papers.

Eventually, he got up and went over to the two chairs that were covered.  He had to talk to the head of department about getting a few filing cabinets.  Finally he found what he was looking for, his copy of the week’s roster.  Ron’s name wasn’t on it.

“What did I do with you?”

Ron bit at his bottom lip, obviously to keep from laughing.  

“Is something funny?”

“Hermione would never be this disorganized.”

“I see that you haven’t seen her office lately.”

Ron’s professional demeanour dropped.  “You’re joking.  Hermione’s office, a mess?  I don’t believe it.”

“It’s true. Aha.”  Harry finally found a parchment with some illegible scribbling on it.  He turned it around a few times until he figured out which side was the top, and squinted his eyes to read the writing.  “You’re supposed to be on the team heading to the Malfoy estate.”

“Come on, Harry.  Not that.”

“You’re team head, I put two others with you.  You’re bringing in Lucius Malfoy, and gathering anything that can be used against him.”  Harry narrowed his eyes.  “Be selective, Ron.”

“I’m on that team because you want me to protect the little bastard, don’t you.”

Harry had to choose his wording carefully.  The last thing he needed was for the wrong person to overhear this comment.  He’d be in front of the advisory board in a second.  “I expect you to do the right thing.”

Ron gnashed his teeth together.  Harry had seen this look before.  Ron was sulking.  “Fine.”

“That’s all.  I’ll redo the assignment roster and have it up within a couple of hours.”

Ron turned on his heel, and headed out the door.  Harry only caught snatches of what he was muttering.  “Stupid… boyfriend… cheating… bastard…” was mixed in with a lot of unintelligible grumbling.

“Weasley doesn’t seem very happy with whatever assignment you’ve given him, Potter.”

Harry looked up from his desk to see his least favourite Ministry official walking into the room. Cornelius Fudge.  “Hello, Minister.  How can I help you?”

Fudge walked into the room, and looked around with a disparaging gaze.  He glared at the stack of papers that were on the chairs before turning to face Harry.  “I was looking over the assignment roster and -”

“I know.  I’m fixing it right now.”

“I’m glad to know that, Auror Potter.  We can’t afford to have you go out on the field right now.”

“What!?”

Fudge took out a handkerchief and swatted at his forehead.  “I’m sure that you understand the need to keep our strongest aurors here.  It’s people like you that keep this division running.”

“I’m not taking myself off the roster.  We’re short-handed this week.  I’m needed.”

“Of course, it’s really not my job to tell you what to do,” said Fudge, crumpling the handkerchief in one fist.  “I’ll just take this to Moody and let him straighten you out.”

That had probably been the worst idea Dumbledore had had in recent years, persuading Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody to leave retirement, and head up the Auror division of the Ministry.  Half the Aurors under him thought he was a genius; the other half thought he was a crackpot old fool.  Harry was somewhere in between.

“There is no reason to get Alastor involved in this, Minister.”  

“There is every reason.  If you are short-handed then get some Junior Aurors to fill in.  They need the field work.”

Harry shook his head.  The Junior Aurors just didn’t have the experience needed.  “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t have any JA’s under me.  Their rosters are done by someone else.”

Fudge stuffed the handkerchief into a pocket, and placed his podgy hands palm down on Harry’s desk.  “Now see here, Potter.  That roster better be taken down and fixed or else you will find yourself going up against the advisory board for insubordination.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Quite, Minister.  I’ll just inform Alastor that you were nosing around and playing with the schedules again, and that is why my name was taken off the roster.”  

Fudge breathed in heavily through his nose.  “No reason to do that.  After all, I just have your best interests in heart.”  Fudge moved to the door.  “I’ll just be going now.  I expect to hear good things about you, Potter. Oh, one other thing.  In addition to the files and reports you have to process, I need copies of them, in triplicate, by the end of the week.  Hand signed by all parties.”  Fudge started to head out the door, but turned around.  “I almost forgot.  Make sure to mark all the pertinent information.  I tend to get bogged down with work, it’ll make my life so much easier.”

Harry sighed and looked around his office.  The piles on his office chairs accounted for only a third of the paperwork he had to deal with; the rest was in stacks on his desk, on the floor, and even on the windowsill.  With all the things magic could do, thought Harry, it was a shame nobody had yet come up with a spell to speed up paperwork.

~~~

“Look, Potter, I know that you wanted to go out on assignment, and I know that I told you it would be best if you took that mission.  But with Cornelius nosing around, like the little mole he is, I can’t have you going.”

Harry closed his eyes and clenched his teeth together.  So this is what Ron felt like earlier when Harry had assigned him the Malfoy estate.  “But, sir…”

Moody raised his eyebrow at the formality; Harry visibly relaxed.  “Harry, get that paperwork for Fudge out of the way tonight.  And don’t get too upset when he tosses it into the bin in front of you tomorrow.”

“Alastor, what’s the point?  All the best field agents have been stuck behind desk jobs for the last six months.  Half the aurors are scared of getting a good review.  Too many of those and they might end up behind a desk.”

“You know as well as I do that Fudge is downplaying the need for aurors.  He’s still trying to convince the populace-“

“That everything is fine in the world, and that Dumbledore is a bumbling old fool that’s panicking.”

“Exactly.  Now be quiet while I finish what I was saying.”  Moody tapped one finger on the desk, his glass eye floating about freely, as usual.  Harry avoided looking at it.  “Tomorrow, after Fudge gets his paperwork, I’m going to temporarily reassign you and a few others.  Albus has informed me of something that he doesn’t think the Order has the manpower to handle.  I’m sending five of my top aurors -- that includes you -- to meet up with an anonymous source.  I’m sure that you’ll be able to handle it from there.”

“Yes, sir.”

Moody waved his wand toward the door and it opened without a sound.  “Go on, Potter.  You’ve got paperwork to do.”

~~~

“What part of ‘dinner at seven with me and Hermione tonight’ didn’t you understand?”

Harry sat back on Ron’s couch.  Hermione had left the flat over an hour ago; Harry had just stumbled out of the fireplace.  “The ‘at seven’ part.”  Harry sighed and put his head in his hands; he had a massive headache.

“It’s 11:30.”

“I know.”

“What have you been doing?”  Ron sat down on the footstool so he could look at Harry.

“Paperwork.”  Harry lifted his head.  “I’m sorry, Ron.  It’s just-“

“I’m not really interested in your excuses, Harry.  I know the Ministry’s been overworking you.  I just didn’t think it would be impossible for you to sneak away and have dinner with your two best friends.”  Ron stood up and paced over toward the kitchen.  “We’ve barely seen you since you’ve moved out of here.  And that’s saying something since you moved to Hogwarts, and Hermione only lives in Hogsmeade.”

It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried to see them; he just didn’t have time.  Hell, he didn’t even have time to see Severus all that often, and he lived with the man.  “Ron, I… I better go home.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want that lying bastard that you’re living with to worry about you.”

Harry lifted both eyebrows slightly.

“I saw Draco with a girl at the Leaky Cauldron last week.  And the week before that he was with a guy at the Hog’s Head.”

“Since when do you go to the Hog’s Head?”

“Sirius saw him, but he didn’t want to tell you.”  Ron turned to face Harry.  “If you two are having problems again-”

“It’s fine, Ron.  Dray and I are fine.  I already knew; it’s not what you think.  Just, please, don’t worry about it.”

“You’re my best mate, Harry.  I do worry about you.”

“I know.  But really, it’s not what you think.  Draco and I are getting along fine.”  Just not in the way that you’re thinking, he silently added.

“Fine.  Just remember you can always move back here.  With the schedule the Ministry has you on, it might be for the best.”

“Maybe.”  Harry didn’t particularly want to move back in with Ron, but the arrangement did have its advantages.

“Don’t forget to stop by and pick me up on your way to work tomorrow.”

“What time do I have to be there?”

“The team leaves at oh-five-hundred.  So that means that we’d have to be there at least by 4:30 in the morning.”

Harry sighed.  Another night with little to no sleep.  By the time he apparated to Hogsmeade and walked up to the castle… “Right then, I’ll be here at 4:15.  See you tomorrow.”

“Today, Harry.  It just turned midnight.”  As soon as Ron said that the old fashioned clock in the corner started to toll the hour.

~~~

“Shite.”  

Severus groaned and rolled over.  He flung his arm out to where his lover usually slept, but the place was empty.  

“Fumbling around in the dark will only lead to bruised and bloody toes, Harry.”

Harry growled low in his throat.  

Severus looked over at Harry’s muggle clock.  3:30.  He didn’t remember Harry coming home the night before.  “How was dinner?”

“You’re awfully talkative for this time in the morning.”

“You’re coming in awfully late.  The least you could do is let a decrepit old man like me sleep.”

“You were sleeping when I got home at 12:30.  If I hadn’t stubbed my toe you’d still be asleep.”  Harry cast a weak Lumos and looked under the bed.  “In fact, just go back to sleep, Severus.  I’m running late enough as it is.”

“Late?  It’s 3:30 in the morning, and you’re running late?”

Harry stood up.  In the weak light Severus could see the bloodshot eyes and drawn features of his lover.  “Yes, late.  I have to be at Ron’s by 4:15.  Which means that I actually I have to be there at ten till to pull Ron bodily out of bed.”  Harry turned around.  “Where the bloody hell are my boots?”

“By the door, where they always are.”  Severus sat up, the sheet falling down to his waist.  He watched as Harry exited the room.  “Why do you have to go in so early?”

“I don’t know, maybe because I’m required to?”

Severus raised an eyebrow at the sharp tone.  “Care to rephrase that, Potter?”

Harry heaved a harsh sigh.  “Sorry.  I have to see a team off on assignment.  Make sure the prelim work checks out… Never mind.”

Severus smirked.  Harry knew him well.  Details were fine when concerning potions and spying, but he wasn’t interested in the minutia that was Harry’s job.  “You brought it on yourself by staying out so late.  If you had gotten home earlier you wouldn’t be this short tempered.”

Severus caught Harry rolling his eyes at him in his peripheral vision.

“If you must know, I never made it to dinner.”

“Why not?  Draco was telling me how much you were looking forward to it.”

“I had paperwork to do.  And don’t get mad at me for talking to Draco more than you lately.  He was helping me coordinate the raid on Malfoy Manor.”  Harry shot him a quick glance.  “Which is what I have to go and make sure goes off without a hitch this morning.”

Severus raked one hand through his hair.  It caught in quite a few snarls, and he glowered.  He had been momentarily jealous of Draco.  It hadn’t been pleasant.  “They’re overworking you, Harry.”

“You think that I don’t realize that?”  Harry was hastily buttoning up a shirt.

“You’re better than a desk job.  The Ministry is wasting you.”

“Well then, tell that to Fudge.  He pulled me off the active roster yesterday.”

Severus narrowed his eyes.  “Why?”

“Because he’s a prick.”  Harry pulled on a boot.  “I don’t know.  And Moody agreed with him.”  The other boot slipped on.  “I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything.”

“Come back to the Order.”

Harry walked over to the bed and stuck his hand under his pillow.  “I can’t.  I really don’t want to teach Defence.  We’ve been over this.”  He brushed his lips against Severus's.  When he pulled away his dagger was in his hand; he slipped it into his boot.  “Besides, if I stick it out long enough I’ll make head of department.  Then maybe I can get things done.  Above board.”

“You want to get things done officially?  Good bloody luck.  Not with Fudge as Minister.”

Harry sat at the edge of the bed.  Severus watched as he closed his eyes for a moment and then swallowed.  “It’s pointless isn’t it, Severus?”

“You’re acting like a stupid Gryffindor.  Haven’t you learned anything?  Nothing in the Ministry is ‘above board’.  Why do you think that that the majority of politicians were Slytherins?”

“I am a Slytherin.”  

“According to you, you’re Houseless.”

Harry glared.

“And to me, you will always be an impertinent and petulant Gryffindor brat.”  

“I love you too, Sev.”  Harry sighed then stood and walked out of the bedroom.

I love you too.  Severus had never actually told Harry he loved him, but this wasn’t the first time that Harry had responded with that when Severus had called him a hotheaded Gryffindor with that.  He wasn’t sure when he had fallen in love with Harry, but he had.  His jealousy of Draco and the amount he worried about Harry was proof.  Of course, that didn’t mean that he would ever actually tell Harry.  

Severus got out of bed and walked out into the living room.  Harry was rifling through a stack of papers, pulling some out and stuffing them into a satchel.

“I might not be behind that desk much longer.  Alastor is pulling me out.  Something about a favour for Albus.”  Harry looked up.  “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you?”

“No.”  All he knew was that it was bad, and that wouldn’t help Harry.  He’d find out the details soon enough.  But if Harry got hurt…

“Harry?”

Harry paused and looked up at him again.  “What?”

Severus swallowed.  “Bond with me.”

Harry snorted, and closed up his satchel.  “I never took you for the soul bonding sort.”

“That’s not what I was talking about.”

“Then what… Not the well thing?  You aren’t talking about that?”  Harry set his satchel on the table.

“Actually, I am.”

“Why?”  Harry’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“I want to make sure that, in your Gryffindor stupidity, you don’t get yourself killed.”

“No.”  Harry shook his head, picked up his satchel, and walked to the door.  “I’ll see-“

“I love you, that’s why.”  The words were out before he could stop them.

Harry turned and looked at him, not speaking.

“Bond with me, Harry.”

Harry turned the knob.  As he was walking out the door he looked over his shoulder at Severus.  “You’re crazy.”

Chapter Nineteen:  Dreams, Hope, and Love

*The Past*

Harry rarely paid attention to the morning post.  He didn’t bother with the Daily Prophet – it’s articles rarely showed any journalistic integrity --  and the Quidditch magazines of this time were out of date to him.  And he never received any letters, for obvious reasons.  But this morning there was something that grabbed his attention.

Winging its way to the Slytherin table was a Peregrine Falcon, a scroll clutched in one of its claws.  This was an unusual sight.  Falcons were rarely used to deliver post since they were so unreliable.  This wasn’t due to their bad temperament; it was actually because they wouldn’t deliver a letter after just being told the person’s name.  The receiver had to give the falcon a signal.  Therefore both the sender and the receiver had to know the falcon.  

Harry waited.

Within moments a whistle sounded from the Slytherin table, and the falcon flew to the outstretched arm of Severus Snape.  Harry narrowed his eyes and tried to think of who would send a letter to Severus by falcon.  It took him a moment before he put the pieces together.  Severus's grandfather.

Harry watched as Severus unrolled the scroll and stared at the writing.  Lucius was attempting to lean over and see what was written, but Severus pushed him off.  The young man’s face paled; he quickly stood up and left the Great Hall, his robes flying out behind him.

~~~

Severus ran out and made his way toward the lake, the parchment he had received that morning clutched in his hand.  He settled under his favourite tree, a large beech located near the lake; it was tall enough to hide behind if anyone was looking to find him.  Severus didn’t want to talk to anyone.

His life was falling apart.

// Severus,

To say that I am disappointed in you is an understatement.  I am incensed.  I never thought that you would degrade yourself to partake in the baser pastimes that have so entertained your father over the past years.  When he informed me of your latest exploits, I began to wonder if I did well in raising you.  I know that I failed your father; have I similarly failed you?

I chose to align myself with Tom Riddle long before he became known as Lord Voldemort.  Because of this, I have a much more stable position than his lackeys, which he refers to as his Death Eaters.  For some reason, they find that title admirable.  I find it repulsive and far below any respectable wizard.  If I had known then what I know now about Voldemort, I would not have chosen to ally myself with him.

I tell you now that Voldemort is not sane.  He has become obsessed with the destruction of all muggles, and those witches and wizards who choose to associate with the lower echelons of our society.  Though I agree with his sentiments about muggles, half-bloods, and mudbloods, I do think that he is going about ridding the wizarding world of their nuisances the wrong way.

Murder is not a suitable pastime for any well-bred gentleman.  Yet he delights in it.  Why you have chosen to follow him is beyond my comprehension.

I will not have a murderer in my house.  That is the reason your father is not allowed to enter the manor.  The same can now be said of you.  I do not want to see you or hear from you until you find a way to fix the mess that you have gotten yourself into.

Your father has graciously agreed to keep you at his residence in London.  I know that you do not appreciate having to stay with him, but remember:  ‘you reap what you sow’.

Solvanius Snape//

Severus crushed the crisp parchment in his hands.

He wasn’t allowed to go home.  The refuge of the manor was denied to him; in fact, he was expected to stay with his father in the flat he kept in London.  He might as well have been sentenced to hell.

Severus remembered the last time he had to spend the holidays with his father.  He had barely escaped the majority of his father’s drunken rages, not to mention the times he had to wander Diagon Alley and later Piccadilly Circus waiting for whatever whore his father had brought home that night to leave.

Severus sighed.  He had other options; he didn’t have to spend the summer holidays with his father.  Perhaps he could convince his stepmother to allow him to stay with her in Italy.  He couldn’t suppress an ironic smile at the thought.  Who was he fooling?  That would never happen; she absolutely detested him and his whole family.  All because of his father.

There was always Lucius.  Severus was sure that he could manage to convince his friend to invite him over for some extended visits, which would almost add up to the whole summer.  Lucius spent a great deal of time alone; his parents were constantly travelling, and he rarely went with them.

But would that help matters?  He had lost his grandfather’s approval.  All because of a mistake that he already regretted.  Staying with Lucius or his father wouldn’t aid in getting himself out of the Death Eater circle.

Severus clenched his teeth.  A lackey.  Voldemort thought that they were all his minions.  No wonder his grandfather didn’t agree with it.  Severus had always been taught to be his own master, not anyone’s subordinate.  He should have thought more about what he was doing.  

There was no way out of this situation.  At least, no way that he could see.  The only person that he would even consider going to was Tyler, but he refused to subject himself to the humiliation of going to Tyler for help.  Not after the last conversation they had had.

~~~

Harry looked out of his office window.  He had heard from his fellow teachers that Severus had skipped all of his classes for the day.  No one had seen him -- at least no one who was telling.  Harry had the feeling that Hagrid might know, but he couldn’t just go up to him and demand to know where Severus was hiding.

He had finally succeeded in getting Severus to leave him alone; not in the best way, but the boy was staying far away from him.  And yet Harry knew that something wasn’t right.  He shouldn’t get involved.  But he couldn’t just let Severus stay hurt.

Harry turned away from the window, and decided that some exploration of the Hogwarts’ grounds was in order.

~~~

Severus didn’t notice the person that settled on the ground next to him until he heard his name.  At the sound he started, and turned to see the one person he didn’t want to.  “Professor Tyler.”

“Mr. Snape.”  Tyler propped his head against the tree and looked toward the sky.  “I’ve heard that you didn’t find your classes today exactly appealing.”

“I had more important things to do.”

“Such as?”

“Don’t pretend you care, Professor,” Severus sneered.  

“But I do.”

“Because I’m just another bloody student?”

A thoughtful looked crossed the professor’s face.  “Not exactly.  As much as I regret certain things, you can’t be just a student to me.”  Severus looked up, but Tyler didn’t stop speaking.  “That doesn’t mean I care for you as more than just a student.  At least not at this point.”  Tyler’s eyes had a far away look, like he was lost in a memory.

Severus didn’t respond; he didn’t know what to say or how to react.  He tried to hide the flush that he knew covered his cheeks by turning his head away.  He had a chance -- in the future -- but it was still a chance.  He opened his mouth to say something, but snapped it back shut.

He didn’t want to hear Tyler’s reasons why they couldn’t be together now.  He had heard them enough.  And he didn’t want to jinx his chances for the future; Tyler could always take back what he had just said.  The silence lengthened.  Severus felt an intense need to say something.  To stop Tyler from thinking.  To stop himself.  “It’s just a childish problem, Professor.  And you aren’t interested in children.”

“I teach them.  Or were you referring to something else?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t agree.”

A harsh sigh.  “Of course you don’t.”

“Care to explain that comment?”

“Not particularly.”

Severus heard some shifting next to him, but refused to turn his head to see if Tyler was getting up to leave.  He continued to stare at the lake.  “I think you had better.”

“Isn’t it what you expected?  A childish answer from a child?”

There was no response from the man next to him.  Perhaps one thing would go right and Tyler would leave him alone.

“I’m not a child, you know.”

“You honestly believe that?”

“I’m sixteen.”

He heard a soft laugh from the man next to him.  “That doesn’t mean you think like an adult.”

“That’s not true.  I do think like an adult.  I’ve made adult decisions, haven’t I?”

“What do you consider an adult decision?  Your choice of joining the Death Eaters?”

He nodded.  It was a decision that he had come to himself, albeit with some help from Lucius.

“It wasn’t an adult decision.  It was a stupid one.”  Severus could hear the scorn practically dripping off the words.

“I’m responsible for someone’s death.”

“Ah.  So being responsible for a death makes a person an adult?  I don’t think so.”

Severus's grip tightened on the letter in his hand.  His voice came out in a whisper.  “I do.  I could say it makes me a murderer, too.”

“Being ‘responsible’ for murder and actually committing it are two different things.  But it still doesn’t make you an adult.”

Severus glanced over to see his professor rub tiredly at his eyes.  He didn’t understand how Tyler could think that killing someone didn’t make him an adult.  Severus certainly felt like one after that meeting.  And the letter from his grandfather…

“If you want to count responsibility for death as a cornerstone of adulthood, then I became an adult when I was fifteen months old.  My parents were killed because of me.”

“That makes no sense.  You couldn’t even realize you were responsible.”

“All right, I’ll give you that one.  The first time I actually killed someone with my own hands I was eleven.  The next time I was responsible for a person’s death, I was fourteen.”

Severus finally turned to look at Tyler, shocked.  “Eleven?”

“I didn’t want to or mean to.  But he was trying to kill me.”  Tyler paused, and turned to look at the lake.  “Since you consider yourself an adult, and murder is how you gage that level, tell me.  When have you killed another person with your own hand, knowing the full extent of that action and all the consequences that go along with it?”

Severus looked at the ground.  “I haven’t.”

“I see.  The first time that I did so, I was sixteen.  I used the Killing Curse.”

Severus couldn’t think of anything to say to that.  To be able to use the Killing Curse successfully before becoming a full wizard was astonishing.

“Don’t tell me that being able to kill someone in cold-blood is a qualification for being an adult.  It isn’t.  And I didn’t feel like one after I did so.  I felt like a murderer, even if the action was taken while defending myself and those younger than me.”

Severus rubbed at his eyes.  

“If those are the only basis you have for being an adult, then I suggest you go back to the proverbial drawing board.”

“Excuse me?”

“Just a muggle expression.”

They once again lapsed into silence.   Tyler’s eyes still held that far away quality.

“What about having to take care of yourself?  Would that count?”

“What?”

“My grandfather has decided that he cannot harbour a murderer.  I’m to live with the other murderer in the family, my father.”

“And your father isn’t exactly interested in your welfare.”  

It hadn’t been a question, and Severus didn’t treat it as one.  Instead he turned so he could look at Tyler.  It looked like Tyler was thinking of something, but what?  Other than what had slipped out after the Death Eater meeting, Severus hadn’t told him anything about his family.  “My father cares for no one but himself.”

“Are you close to your grandfather?”

“He’s the only person I ever considered family.”  Severus shoved the letter at him; Tyler took it and looked it over.  He read it silently.  Severus tried not to look at him, but his eyes kept returning to the thoughtful and worried look on the older man’s face.

“You aren’t a murderer.”  Tyler’s voice was so harsh a shiver travelled down Severus's spine.

“I guess that depends on whom you’re talking to.”

Tyler didn’t answer.  Severus had hoped he would.

“Can I fix this?”

“Fix what?”

“Everything.  My life.”  Severus sighed.  “While I’m at it, do you think I could stop loving you?”

“Infatuation is not love.  You love what you think you see about me, not what is actually there.”  Tyler moved until he was crouching, his weight on the balls of his feet.  Tyler’s green eyes shone with a pain that Severus didn’t understand.  “As for the other, your life is yours.  No one, including me, can help you fix it.  I’m afraid you’re on your own.”  Tyler stood, and Severus watched him disappear into the castle.

~~~

That night Severus wandered up to the Astronomy Tower.  The Slytherin dungeons had seemed too oppressive, and he didn’t want to attempt to sneak out of the castle to sit by the lake; the view from the tower was just as good.

Pushing open the door, he looked around; he didn’t think that anyone would be up there.  He was wrong.  Sitting on the floor, with his back against the wall was Professor Tyler.

“Mr. Snape.”  Tyler’s eyes were closed.

“How did you know it was me?”

“You’re the one student I know that sneaks out after curfew on an almost regular basis.”  One green eye opened to look at him.  “What brings you here?”

Severus licked his lips.  He had come up to the tower to think, but he didn’t want to tell Tyler that.  “I don’t know.”

“I see.”  

It was quiet for a time.  Severus couldn’t think with Tyler leaning against the wall.  

“Do you have dreams?”  Tyler’s voice was quiet.

“Sometimes.  I never really remember them.”

The corner of Tyler’s mouth lifted.  “Not what I was referring to, but amusing, nonetheless.”

Severus tilted his head to the side.  “What were you referring to?”

“I gave up on dreams a long time ago.”  

“Why?”

Tyler jerked, it was as if he had been somewhere else and forgotten that Severus was in the room.  As if he had been talking to someone else.  “Only fools have dreams.”  His voice was much stronger than it had been.

“That’s not true.  If you don’t have dreams, then what do you have?”

There was no answer from Tyler, and Severus hadn’t expected one.

“I’ve always dreamed of becoming an expert in Potions, and working alongside my grandfather.  More recently I’ve dreamed of power and respect, things that I feel I don’t have.  I thought that if I had those, then you’d want to be with me.”  Severus sighed.  “I’ve spent so much time thinking about such things.”

Tyler opened his eyes; if Severus had expected an answer, the chill in his professor’s eyes let him know one was not forthcoming.

“I hoped that you would eventually notice me.  See me as more than a student.  See me as an equal.”  Severus never took his eyes off of him.  “I’ve hoped that you’d fall in love with me.  That hope is what keeps me going.  Because I’m in love with you.”

Tyler’s expression didn’t change; he just kept staring at Severus with cold, almost emotionless eyes.

“And it’s not an infatuation either.  It can’t be.  It hurts too much when you say it’s not love.”

Tyler’s eyes narrowed and appeared to grow brighter.  Severus had finally coaxed a reaction out of the man, but now he wasn’t sure he wanted one.  “You think that hurts?”  Tyler shook his head.  “You speak of dreams and hope and love.  You don’t even know what those really are.  You think everything is that simplistic?  It’s not.”  Tyler stood and faced the open window.  “Don’t make me your hope.”  

Severus just stared at him.  At that moment Tyler seemed so much older then before.

“Don’t you get it?  Life isn’t about dreams.  Life is pain, darkness, and futility.  And if you still have something to hope for once you realize that, then you understand hope.”

“But-“

“And love.  The only thing you got right there is that being in love is painful, but not for the reasons that you say.  Love is so much more.  No matter how much you might fight, when it comes down to it; you’d do anything for that person.  You’d die for him.”  Tyler turned to look at him.

And Severus realized then that his professor was in love with someone.  Or had been in love.  Even though Tyler was trying to hide it, Severus could see the pain in his eyes.  

“Love isn’t always a happy experience.  It’s something that you have to fight for, because there isn’t always a happy ending.  Those are for fairytales and morons.”

“Professor?”

Tyler shook his head.  “Don’t say anything.”

Severus nodded.  What else could he do?

“You are a brilliant young man, Severus Snape.  You’re proud and, if I’m not mistaken, fiercely loyal.  You just have to choose to whom or what you want to be loyal.”  

Tyler moved away from the window and approached him, and Severus squeezed his eyes shut, not knowing what to expect.

Severus felt a cool hand touch his cheek; he opened his eyes to see Tyler inches away from his face.

“I don’t love you, and I’m sorry for that.  But I’m sure that I could love the man that you’ll one day grow to be.”

And before Severus could do or say anything, Tyler pressed his lips against Severus's for a brief moment.  Tyler broke the kiss and left.

~~~

*The Future:  Harry Age 20*

Draco paused in the hallway and watched as a group of students scattered when they saw Severus coming around the corner.  It seemed that Severus was back to his old self -- his ‘old self’ being the way he acted before he got together with Harry.

It was actually a rather subtle change, only visible if you knew him well.  The lines around his eyes were deeper, as though he never stopped glaring.  He wasn’t as lenient with the students, but that wasn’t a big change; Severus was never lenient with his students.  More points were being taken, and Draco had even heard rumours about Severus taking points from his own House.

To most of the inhabitants of Hogwarts, nothing appeared all that unusual with the Potions Master.   Draco doubted he would have noticed if he didn’t know the man as well as he did.

Draco watched as Severus stalked down the hall approaching the place where he was standing.  “Severus?”

Severus paused and lifted one eyebrow.

“How are you?”

He blinked.

Draco cleared his throat.  “I see.  Seen Harry around?”

That comment got Draco what the students referred to as the ‘Death Glare’ and a growl.  Severus immediately turned on his heel and swept down the hall.

Draco shook his head.  That certainly could have gone better.  

He hadn’t seen Harry in a little over a week.  Severus hadn’t mentioned him in the same amount of time.  If something had happened between them Draco was sure he would have heard about it.  Not from Severus; the man never talked about his relationship with Harry to anyone but Harry.  But from Harry.  After all, who else could his former classmate complain to about the overgrown bat he had taken up with?

It could be that nothing had happened, and Harry was away on assignment.  But that was a long shot.  The Ministry had taken to working Harry even harder then they were before, and it usually involved copious amounts of useless paperwork, not actual work.  

There was one way to find out.  If anyone knew what Harry was up to, it would be the Weasel.

Draco moved quickly down the hall and entered Granger’s office.  If Weasel would know about Harry, then Granger would know about the Weasel.

At his entrance, Granger looked up from whatever she was writing at his entrance; her eyes narrowed as she watched him manoeuvre around the piles of parchment and filing cabinets.  Draco finally stopped in front of her desk, grabbed the stack of parchment on the chair, and without looking around he dropped it on the floor, not noticing as it scattered.  He sat down.

“What do you want, Malfoy?”

Draco plastered on his most flirtatious smile.  “You are looking absolutely ravishing today, Ms. Granger.”  He leaned forward, grasped one of her hands and began to lift it for a kiss.  She wrenched her hand away.

“Get your smarmy mitts off me!”  

Draco attempted to look apologetic, something that he had never quite mastered.  “So sorry.  Weren’t we supposed to research something for Albus today?”

Granger huffed in exasperation.  “We were supposed to do that two days ago.  I finished.  Don’t worry, I’ll tell Dumbledore the conclusions I came to when I meet with him this afternoon.”

Draco didn’t say anything.  Now that he didn’t have to worry about that research he could focus on the best way to phrase his request.

“You don’t have to stay,” she continued.  “Actually, Malfoy, I’d prefer it if you left.  Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”

Draco smirked.  “Not particularly.  Only you.”

“Get out.”

Perfect.  “As soon as you tell me how to get in touch with Weasel.”

Granger slammed down her quill.  “I don’t know any weasels.  In fact, the only rodent I know is the ferret sitting in front of me.”

“Funny.”

“I thought so.”

Draco wished, once again, that he had been successful in his attempts to get in touch with Harry on his own.  “How can I get in touch with Mr Weasley?”

Granger smiled at him evilly.  “Which one?  There are several around you know.  Quite a few of them work at the Ministry.  I’m sure that you can find whichever one you’re looking for at their office.”

Draco glared.

“For example, the Mr. Weasley can be found at the Misuse for Muggle Artifacts office.”

“Don’t make me say it.”

Hermione blinked innocently.  “Say what?”

“Fine.”  Draco took a deep breath.  “How can I get in touch with Ronald?”

“I assume that he’s been exactly where he was all week.”

“And where is that, exactly?”

“Harry’s office.”

Draco stared at her.  “What’s he doing there?”

“Paperwork, I imagine.”

“Isn’t that Harry’s job?”

Granger bit at her bottom lip.  “It would be, if anyone knew where Harry was.”

That didn’t sound good.  “What do you mean by that, Granger?”

Granger sighed and folded her hands primly on top of her desk.  “I mean that he’s disappeared.”

Draco felt like the air had been knocked out of him.  He took a few breaths.  “That doesn’t worry you?”

Granger’s eyes flashed.  “Of course it does!  He’s one of my best friends.  And if it wasn’t for a – for a jerk like you, we’d probably know where he was.”

Draco was sure that she had been about to call him something far worse than jerk.  “What did I do?”

Granger rolled her eyes.  “Let me think for a moment.  Perhaps cheated on him?”

Draco raked a hand through his hair.  If it wasn’t Sirius or Remus harping on him about breaking Harry’s heart, it was someone else.  When were these idiots going to put two and two together?  It wasn’t that impossible to see that Harry and him had never been together.  “It’s not what you think.  Harry and I haven’t seen each other as often as we used to.  He prefers not to spend all his free time around me.”

“Because you cheated on him.”

“Because he’s stressed about work.”  Draco stood up.  “Are you sure you haven’t heard from him.”

Granger picked up her quill.  “Positive.”

“I’ll be going then.”

“Good riddance.”

~~~

Draco stared at the office door that Weasley had just slammed in his face.  Their conversation had lasted less then five minutes.  It appeared that the Weasel really had to do all of Harry’s paperwork.  The bloodshot eyes and gaunt features of the man attested to it.  Not for the first time, Draco wondered just how much parchment went through that office.

But that was neither here nor there.  Weasley hadn’t helped him at all.  All he had said was “No one knows where Harry is, you bastard, and it’s your fault.”  Followed by, “Get out of my office.”

Draco hadn’t been able to resist replying that it wasn’t his office.  That’s when he had been rudely shoved out the door.  No one showed him any respect.

There was one more person that he had to try.  Moody.  Draco headed toward the man’s office, not without a little trepidation.  Moody didn’t exactly like Malfoys, after all.

“Get into my office, ferret.”  The man was as odd as Dumbledore, able to see through doors and invisibility cloaks.  At least Draco knew how Moody managed it.  That damned eye.

Draco stood in front of the desk.  This was the first office he had been in that didn’t have parchments scattered all over the place.  He could actually see the wood floor.

“What do you want?”

“I was wondering if you could tell me how to get in touch with Harry.”

“You never give up, do you?  No one else has been able to give you answers, so you end up here.  Dumbledore, Granger, and Weasley have all failed you?”

“Are you related to Dumbledore by any chance?”

“That crazy old fool?  Not bloody likely.”  Moody’s glass eye moved to look at the back of his head.  That had always disturbed Draco.  “I don’t know where Potter is.  If I did, I couldn’t tell you.  He’ll probably be back eventually.”

~~~

Two weeks later Draco still hadn’t heard from Harry, and Severus was even more unbearable than ever.  All Draco’s overtures to the Headmaster that the resident Potions Master was going to destroy Hogwarts and should really be sent on vacation were rebuffed.

It only got worse when the Daily Prophet found out.

Draco had been sitting between Severus and Poppy at breakfast, as he normally did, when the owls delivered the morning post.  Teachers and staff always received theirs first, so Draco wasn’t surprised when the first thing that fell was his copy of the Prophet.  The surprise came when he unfolded it to see the headline “BOY-WHO-LIVED VANISHED Along With Four Other Aurors”.

“Accio, Accio, Accio Daily Prophet!”  Severus could not see this.  He couldn’t know about this.  This was bad.  Stacks of papers flew at him; perhaps that hadn’t been a good idea.

From under the stack of Prophets, Draco was trying to remember the spell to set paper on fire.  He should remember it, it was so easy.  “Pyro…”

The Prophet that was sitting directly on top of his head was lifted off.  Obsidian eyes met his.  “Incendio.”  All the papers around him burst into flames.  

Definitely not one of his better ideas.

Draco brushed ashes off himself; he paused as he heard sizzling.

“Don’t worry, dear, I’ll get it.”  Draco felt Poppy’s hand in his hair.

“You set my hair on fire.”  He turned his head to see Severus looking at the front page of the Prophet.  Oh Shit.

Without warning, Severus stood and left the table, the Prophet resting on top of his still unfilled plate.  Draco grabbed it, and was about to turn it to into ash when Albus grabbed it from his hands.  

“Now, Draco, share the news.”  The twinkle in the Headmaster’s eyes quickly dimmed.  He was the one to cast the Incendio charm on it.

~~~

A few days later, on his way through the Great Hall, Draco passed the House point meters.  He normally only glanced at them to make sure that Slytherin was still in the lead, but this time stopped cold at what he saw.  Gryffindor actually had negative points.  He never thought it was actually possible for a House to have negative points, but there was the proof.  Hufflepuff wasn’t faring much better; they were in the high twenties.  Ravenclaw had seventy.  And Slytherin… Slytherin only had one hundred points!

Draco leaned forward and looked at the tally scroll.  Most of the points had been taken off by Snape.

That wasn’t a good sign.  Draco had heard Severus was taking off House points right and left, for the smallest infraction.  But to actually take points from his own House?  Something was definitely wrong.  Draco had the sinking sensation that it had something to do with the missing Potter.

He was supposed to be heading to the infirmary, but instead made his way down to the dungeons.  Someone had to stop this nonsense.  The teachers were trying to compensate for the rapid lost of points, but there was only so much they could do.  Most everyone had stayed clear of Severus for the last week -- Draco included.

Pushing open the Potions classroom door, Draco slipped inside.  Gryffindor and Hufflepuff fifth years.  Great.  The dimmest of the dim.  “Professor Snape?”

Severus whipped around and leveled his gaze at Draco.  It took a lot of will power to keep from unconsciously swallowing.  He was not going to let Severus intimidate him.  “Twenty points from Slytherin, Mr. Malfoy.  What do you want?”

“You can’t take points from Slytherin because of me, Professor.”  At least, Draco thought he couldn’t.  He almost smirked, but decided against it.  “I had to come down here.  Madam Pomfrey insisted that you were needed in the hospital wing.  She was adamant that I tell you immediately.”

“Utter nonsense.  Get out of my classroom, Malfoy.”

There had to be a way to get Severus out of the classroom and to the hospital wing.  Once there Draco was sure that Poppy would tranquilize Severus; after all, she had been threatening to do just that all week.  “But, sir, she said you had avoided your physical exam for the last five years, and that you needed to get up there.  The governors are going to check the staff medical records tomorrow.”

Severus growled at him, and moved until he was standing directly in front of Draco.  The younger man had to tilt his head all the way back to look at his face.

“So help you, Malfoy, if you’re lying about this, I’ll have you for potion ingredients.”  Severus stalked through the door, and Draco let out a breath.  It was the first time that he had ever believed that particular threat.

Regaining his composure, he turned to face the class.  They were all staring at him with wide eyes.  “What are you all looking at?  I’ve just saved both your Houses from permanently residing in negative numbers.”  Draco moved over to pick up the text book from someone’s desk.  Flipping through it he stopped at a random page.  “This looks good.  Don’t know what it’s on, but there are questions on page 190.  Answer them.”

Draco set the book down on the desk and moved over to Severus's seat.  Sitting down, he picked up a book and started to flip through the pages.  It was a book on Dark Rituals; not Severus's normal reading material.  Closing it, he looked at the cover.  “1001 potions that every Master should know.”

~~~

Draco spent the next day avoiding Severus at all costs.  He really disliked the whole idea of having his organs gracing several of Severus's potions.  He much preferred them to stay right where they were.

But he had to talk with Severus sooner or later.  This behaviour couldn’t go on.  True, the students always had to walk around on eggshells around him, but the majority of teachers didn’t, and they all were.  

Besides, if he continued this behaviour, someone would start wondering about why.  And that led to a lot of questions that Draco didn’t want anyone thinking about.  Especially Voldemort.

Draco stopped and knocked on the door.  He didn’t know whether or not Severus would actually answer; after all, the man wasn’t speaking to anyone.

The door opened, however, and Draco stepped into the dim room.  It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the lighting, but when they did he made out the back of a head of someone sitting on the couch.  He made his way around to look at the person.

And stopped dead in his tracks.

Harry was sitting on the couch.  He looked ragged, like he had just swam the length of the Great Lake through the muck and sludge at the bottom.

“When did you get home?”

One eye opened; Draco could barely tell it was green, Harry’s eyes were so dilated.  “A half hour ago.  I was trying to sleep.  What do you want?”  Harry’s voice was raw.  It sounded as if he had been subjected to the Cruciatus one too many times and didn’t have access to the proper potions after.

“Nothing.  I’m going to go.”

Harry’s other eye opened.  “Are you ok?”

“I am.  I hope you are, too.  Bye.”  Draco beat a hasty retreat.

~~~

Harry had sunk back into an exhausted sleep the second the door closed behind Draco.  His friend’s behaviour was odd, but was in no way odd enough for him to waste what little time he had to sleep thinking about it.

It seemed like a second later when he snapped awake at the sound of a slamming door.  Severus must have come back.  He shifted slowly on the couch, and turned to see his lover.

Severus was staring at him, his eyes cold, his arms crossed over his chest.  It reminded Harry too much of when he had been a student.

“What are you doing here?”

Harry lifted his eyebrows.  “I seem to remember living here.”  Harry sunk back into the cushions.

“Really?  I thought you vanished.”  There was a strange emphasis on the last word that Harry didn’t fully understand.  “Where were you?”

Harry let his eyes sink closed.  Severus was probably just upset that he hadn’t been able to get in touch with him.  It would pass.  “Rio.”

“Rio?  Did you enjoy watching the scantily clad boys on the beach, Harry?”

“I didn’t get a chance to go to the beach, so I’ll have to say no.”

“But you spent three weeks there?”

Harry opened his eyes.  Severus's tone of voice hadn’t changed; he looked irritated as well.  “I didn’t spend three weeks in Rio.  I spent a day in Rio, we met up with some representatives from the South American Ministry, and the next day a guide took us into the Amazon.  I spent the remainder of my time there, except for yesterday, when we returned to Rio to portkey back here.”  Harry moved, though not as carefully as before.  He groaned as pain shot through his chest.

“What happened?”

“Zabini.  The idiot thought it would be a good idea if I adopted a bloody anaconda.”  Harry imitated Zabini’s voice:  “Being a Parselmouth and all.”

Harry watched as Severus's hands fell to his sides.  “You were on assignment?”

“Where else would I be?”  And Harry realized that Severus thought he had just run away from everything.  He struggled to stand up.

“I don’t know.”  Severus's eyes looked him over; he knew what he looked like.  He had made the mistake of looking in the mirror before collapsing on the couch.  “What exactly was this assignment?”

Harry sighed.  It was like being debriefed all over again.  Maybe for once Severus would settle for a shorter version.  “Voldemort decided that he needed to flex his power as a Parselmouth more.  Forget Nagini -- why settle for just one huge snake when he could have more?  He tried to get control of juvenile anacondas.  Large enough for what he wanted, but not as physically dangerous as an adult.  Still didn’t listen all that well.”

“Continue.”

Harry sunk back into his place on the couch.  “Most of the information about anacondas is false.  There is a large mysticism behind what is known mostly due to the natives that live in the Amazon.  Voldemort took that information for fact.”  Harry smirked.  “In other words, he didn’t do his homework.”  

Severus responded with an answering smirk; the moment passed between them quickly.

“It seems that while dangerous – what large constrictor wouldn’t be – they aren’t the killing machines that they are made out to be, only needing to eat up to four times a year.”

“He tried to make them eat too much?”

“Basically.  They became unruly, and since proper care wasn’t taken with the ones they had caught, the snakes became frightened and started to attack whatever crossed their path.  Voldemort seemed content with that.”

“Why couldn’t one have just eaten him?”

Harry laughed.  “I wish.  No such luck.  By the time we got there, Voldemort had started to try the same with adults; the largest he had was about forty feet long.  I think it had gone insane.  If a snake can.”

“Is that the one that Zabini thought you should adopt?”

“How’d you guess?  It almost crushed me.  Therefore my sore ribs.”  Harry closed his eyes again.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m attempting to go to sleep.”

“Here?”

Harry opened his eyes again to look at Severus.  “It’ll take too much energy to get to the bed.  Is that a problem?”  His eyes drooped shut again.  He felt the couch sink next to him.

“Is that such a good idea?”

“I’m sure that a bed would be more comfortable, but-“

“No, being here, in the dungeons.”

He wasn’t hearing this.  Severus had not just taken the same tone of voice he had used when Harry was still a student, before he had convinced Severus that he loved him.  The nuances he was hearing were all a product of his extremely overtired mind.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think you do.”

Harry gave up on trying to sleep; it wasn’t going to happen.  He opened his eyes and turned to face Severus, pulling one foot up underneath him while trying to hide a grimace of pain.  “Is this about me not being sure I want to bond with you?”

“No.”

“Then what is it about?”

Severus turned his face away.  Harry didn’t know what to make of what was going on.  Severus had never been this… If Harry didn’t know that it was impossible, he’d say that Severus was insecure about something.  

Harry reached out and put his hand on Severus's thigh.  He felt the muscles tighten under his fingers.  “Talk to me.”

“I don’t feel like talking to an idiotic Gryffindor right now.  I’d rather you left.”

“I know this arrangement isn’t working out.  I’m not getting enough sleep, and I keep disturbing you when I do get home.  I already talked to Ron about moving back into the flat.  Since I had a few days off, I thought I’d stay here, and we’d discuss it later.”

Severus pushed Harry’s hand off his thigh and stood.  So that hadn’t been what Severus meant, and Harry had probably just made the whole thing worse.  He lifted a hand to rub at his forehead.

“The sooner you leave the better.”

Harry’s nails scratched at his scar as his hand closed in a fist.  “What the fuck is going on, Severus.”

Severus had been in the process of pouring a drink; he set down the decanter at Harry’s words.  “You don’t curse.”  

“I do when I haven’t slept more than 20 hours in three weeks, and I come home to find you mad at me!  What did I do?”

Severus lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip.

Harry raked his hands through his hair.  “Tell me, please.”

Severus turned to face him, his arms crossed as he leaned against the table behind him.  “You’re a stupid, foolish, impudent Gryffindor.”

“I love you, too…”  Harry closed his eyes, the last part of their conversation from over three weeks ago ringing in his ears.  “I-“

“Just leave.  And for the record, Potter,” Harry flinched, “the only crazy old fool in this castle is Albus.”

“That’s not what I meant, Sev.”  Harry forced himself to stand and walk over to Severus.  He reached out and grabbed both of Severus's arms.  “I heard you.  And those three words kept me upright better than any PepperUp or any other stimulant that was forced down my throat.  Gods, Severus…”

Neither moved until Harry released Severus's arms, stepping back, around him.  He poured himself a portion of whiskey and downed it.  Harry set the glass down on the table before raking his hands through his hair again.  “A Well, Severus?  You don’t have to become a Well to prove that you love me.  You don’t have to keep me safe.  You trained me to do that well enough on my own.”

“And if I choose to?  If I choose to show my loyalty in such a way?”

Harry looked down.  “I can see it now:  Auror Harry Potter gets killed while on assignment.  Miles away, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Severus Snape slumps over his desk.  Dead.  And no one can figure out why.”  Harry turned his gaze to Severus.  “Why give me that kind of power?”

“You expect an answer to that?”

“No.”

“You need sleep.”  Severus moved until he was standing in front of Harry.  He placed one hand on Harry’s cheek.  “Your eyes are bloodshot, and you look like you can barely stand.  Why didn’t you just go to Weasley’s to sleep?”

“Because I wanted to see you.”  Harry closed his eyes and leaned into the hand that was softly caressing his cheek.  “I’ve started thinking about leaving the Auror Division.”

Harry felt Severus's other hand settle on his lower back, a gentle pressure urging him to move.  He took a step forward and felt the hand leave his cheek to grip his arm at his elbow.  “Where am I going?”

“To bed, Mr. Potter.”

Harry leaned into Severus, and didn’t open his eyes.  “So I finally get to sleep?”

“When was the last time that you really slept?”

“A week before I left to go on assignment.”

Harry felt himself being pushed onto the bed.  He opened his eyes and grabbed Severus's pillow, hugging it to his chest.  “I’ll think about it, Severus.  But if we do bond, it’ll go both ways, because I’m loyal to you too.”  He looked at Severus's face, and watched as the lines faded a bit.

“I’ll pack the book, when I help you get your stuff ready to go back to Ron’s.  While you’re working for the Ministry, you need a more convenient place to sleep.”

Harry nodded before he closed his eyes.  The last thing he felt before he fell asleep was a pair of lips pressed against his scar.

Chapter Twenty:  Leaving and Coming Home

*The Past*

Severus had never been so confused in his life.  His fingers trailed to his lips where Tyler had kissed him.  He immediately pulled his hand away, thinking how stupid the action was.

So Tyler had kissed him.  Big deal.  It wasn’t like they hadn’t done more than that.  But it was.

There had been something in that kiss.  Something that Severus didn’t fully understand.  Something that had felt like a promise.

It had been a chaste kiss – nothing like the ones they had shared before.  Just two sets of lips pressed against each other.  But there was something deeper, something that hadn’t been there in any of the others.  Was it possible to touch someone’s soul through such a kiss?

Severus had felt Tyler’s pain; had felt it during the entire conversation in the Tower, and it had carried over into the kiss.  Along with so many other conflicting emotions.  Pain, loneliness, contentment, love – to name a few.   But was the last for him?

Severus could hope.  Then again…  

Hope.  A chill went down Severus's spine just remembering the look on Tyler’s face.

Tyler was everything that Severus had ever wished for.  He was powerful, but controlled; an obvious man of conviction; knowledgeable in his field, and in life.  But at what price?

It was obvious that sometime in Tyler’s life he had given up hope, at least for a time.  Had he found hope when he found love?  Had Tyler been thinking of that person when he kissed him?

Severus sighed.  He had been asking himself the same questions since that night two weeks ago, and he hadn’t been able to come up with any answers yet.

Tomorrow was the leaving feast, and it was Severus's last chance to do something.  He had no idea what.  In order to take an action, he had to understand what was going on in Octavian’s head.  It was a basic strategy in chess: learn what your opponent was thinking.  It had been a lesson that Severus's grandfather had taught him.

His grandfather.  That was another problem.  One he couldn’t figure out how to solve.  One that he would set aside for the moment.

By the lake, Octavian had said that at some point he could care for Severus as more than a student.  Did that mean that there was a chance something could develop between them?  After he finished school?  Severus wanted to find out.

As much as Octavian said otherwise, Severus knew the man did care for him.  Could love him.  All Severus had to do was wait, and be patient.  That had never been one of his strong points, but he would do it.

Because no matter what Octavian said, Severus knew that he was in love.

But Octavian would want nothing to do with him as long as he was in Voldemort’s service.  Neither would his grandfather.  The only two people he really cared about in the world.

He had to get out.

~~~

Severus glanced around the Great Hall.  Octavian hadn’t been at the staff table at the start of the feast, and there was still no sign of him.  The feast was almost over, and tomorrow the train left for King’s Cross.  Tonight was his last chance to talk to Octavian.

Severus felt a tug at his sleeve.  He snapped around and fixed Lucius with a glare.

“You weren’t paying attention, Severus.”  Lucius sighed dramatically.  “Is that any way to look at the friend who kindly invited you to stay for over half the summer?”

“I’m sorry, Lucius.  You were saying?”  Severus cast another furtive glance at the teachers.  Tyler still wasn’t there.

“So you’ll spend the first two and a half weeks of the summer with me at Malfoy Manor.  My parents will prefer to have you there anyway, Severus; after all, Narcissa is supposed to visit.  I don’t know what they think is going to happen.  Just because they are telling me to marry her, doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to her.”  

“She’s not that bad to look at, for a female.”

“Of course not.  Do you think that my parents would tie me to someone that wasn’t physically appealing?”

“There’s more to life than appearances, Lucius.”

“Obviously.  There are bloodlines too.  Is there someone interesting at the staff table, Severus?”

Severus swung around in his seat.  “No.”

“Oh, I see.  Someone interesting is missing from the staff table.  Tell me, Severus, what did happen between you and Tyler?  I’ve been dying to know what happened those times you didn’t return to the dormitory until early morning.”

“I didn’t take you for a gossip.”

“I’m not.”  Lucius sounded affronted, but Severus was sure it was an act.  “But knowledge is power.”

“You have enough of that.  Why should I give you more?”

“Because I’m a dear friend?”

“I told you what happened with my grandfather.  That’s enough.”

“You didn’t have any choice but to tell me after you asked to spend as much time at the manor this summer as I could possibly arrange.”

“Exactly.  That’s an even exchange.”

Severus saw Lucius’ eyes narrow and his mouth begin to open, but whatever he had been about to say was cut off when Dumbledore stood and clinked a spoon against his goblet.

“May I have your attention.”  The hall quieted.  “I know that the feast is almost over, and some of you are anxious to get back to your common rooms and pack for the return trip tomorrow.”  

Severus looked around and saw many faces blanch; it was the same every year, Dumbledore made the procrastinators self-conscious for putting off their packing.

“It is my unfortunate duty to tell you that there will be no train leaving for King’s Cross tomorrow.”

The level of talking, which had been a steady background murmur, rose.  Dumbledore was forced to send sparks up with his wand to regain the attention of the students.

“No one can leave the castle or their common rooms until your Head of House instructs.  There will also be no use of Owl Post or Firecall to inform anyone outside of the castle.  It is a precaution that must be taken for your safety.  Prefects and Heads of House will now escort the students back to their common rooms.”

Severus had barely been able to make out the last of what Dumbledore was saying over the noise of students.  Some of the first years had actually begun to cry, and were now clinging to the robes of older students.

The Slytherins were all ushered out of the Great Hall by Professor Amygdalus.  

Severus had to talk to Octavian.  

As his head of House turned the corner, Severus grabbed Lucius’ sleeve and pulled him to a stop.  “I’ll be back,” was all he said before ducking down a side corridor and running to Professor Tyler’s rooms.

When he reached the door, Severus noticed that the plaque that had decorated the outside was gone.  He didn’t knock first, just tried the door.  It swung open.

To a deserted room.

Severus made his way through the living room as quickly as possible, past the furniture that was piled against one wall, and to the bedroom door.  

There was nothing in that room either.

Severus spared a moment to look at the room before he turned and made his way to Octavian’s office.  There was still a chance he hadn’t left the school yet.  Dumbledore said that no one could.  Maybe he had just packed everything up.

Severus made it to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and pushed the door open.  At least this room didn’t feel as empty.  Severus made his way past the desks and to the door that led to Octavian’s office.  He placed his hand on the handle, but didn’t turn it.

Severus's throat was dry.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to turn the handle and see another empty room.

But he did.  And it wasn’t empty.

Octavian’s back was to him.  He was slipping something around his neck, and a small overnight bag was at his feet.

“Octavian?”

His professor didn’t say anything; he just stood there, his back still turned.  The only sign that he had heard was the slight stiffening of his back.

“You’re leaving?”

Octavian nodded his head.

“But you can’t.  The Headmaster.  I-“  Severus stopped himself to take a breath.  He was sounding like an idiot.  “The Headmaster said that no one could leave.”

“By train.”

“But Hogwarts is in the middle of nowhere.  The only form of transportation is by train.  It’d take you days to get anywhere else.”  Severus's brow furrowed in concentration.  “Unless you aren’t going far.  Are you moving to Hogsmeade?  Or going somewhere nearby, a muggle town, perhaps?”

Octavian turned to face him.  “I’m not really going anywhere.”  His voice was neutral.  “Aren’t you supposed to be in the Great Hall for the feast?”

Severus shook his head.  “It’s over.  We’ve all been sent back to our common rooms.  Octavian-“  Severus stopped when Octavian touched his shoulder, directing him out of the office and into the classroom.

Octavian took his hand off Severus's shoulder and leaned against his desk.  “You came here to say something, I assume?”

Severus swallowed and took a breath.  “I… I came to tell you that I’m going to try to leave the Death Eaters.  I…”  Severus looked at the toes of his shoes.  “But I need your help to do it.  I can’t do it alone.”

“You’re stronger than you think you are, Severus.”

He shook his head.  “I’m not.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.  And even if I did, I wouldn’t know how.”

Octavian wrapped one hand around the back of his neck as he took a breath.  “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do.  I wish I did.”  He licked his lips.  “But I do know this.  You’re resourceful; you’ll think of something.”  Then Octavian’s voice dropped to a whisper, “You always do.”

Severus took a step toward his professor, but Octavian stood and moved back to the office door.  He looked at Severus.  “Learn to rely on yourself, not others.  That’s your best asset.”

“Octavian?”

He lifted one eyebrow.

“I’m not going to see you again, am I?”

“No.  In fact, it’d be best if you forgot all about Octavian Tyler.”

That was an odd turn of phrase.  “Forget all about you?”

“You heard me.”  Octavian went through the office door, and it closed behind him.

Severus stood there staring at the door, not moving for at least a minute.  Then he was moving toward the closed door as quickly as possible, needing to say something.  Anything.  His stomach was knotted, as if it was already too late.  But Tyler had only gone into his office.  There was no way out from there.

The door swung open, banging against the wall.  The room was empty.  No Octavian, no bag, no anything.

But it was impossible to apparate from inside of Hogwarts.  Everyone knew that.

“Severus?”

He was an idiot.

“Severus?”

Severus clenched his fist.  An idiot.  Sixteen and in love.  Merlin, it even sounded stupid.  That’s what he told himself, ignoring the suspicious pain in his chest.

What was love, anyway?

“Severus?”

Nothing worthwhile, if this is what happened.  Not even a ‘goodbye.’  Just a bloody vanishing act.

A hand landed on his shoulder, and Severus jumped.  “Severus?”  He looked up at the Headmaster.  Severus could see concern lining the old man’s face.  The Headmaster squeezed his shoulder gently.  “Why are you here?”

Severus looked down.  There was no excuse for his not being in the Slytherin dormitories.  He just shook his head.

“Professor Tyler told me this morning that he was planning on leaving today.  He had somewhere to be.”

The Headmaster’s hand slipped down to press against his upper back, pushing him away from the empty office and classroom.

“Come along, we’ll have some tea in my office, and I’ll tell Professor Amygdalus that you’ve been accounted for.”

Severus moved his feet without thinking.

“You seem troubled.  Is something the matter?  I know that you looked up to Professor Tyler, my boy…”

Severus looked up into the Headmaster’s blue eyes.  Yes, there was concern, but there was this look that reminded him of his grandfather.  A dash of Slytherin cunning.  This wasn’t the bumbling old fool that all the students thought him to be.    “Was he working for you?”

“He was a teacher here.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

Dumbledore just looked at him for a moment before starting to walk down the hall.  Severus moved to catch up.  He fell in step beside Dumbledore.

“Headmaster?”

“Yes?”

“If someone made a really bad mistake, and they regretted it, and they wanted to fix it, but didn’t know how to, what would they do?”

Dumbledore ran a wrinkled hand through his beard.  “A mistake, you say.  One that marks you, perhaps?”

Severus swallowed.  He shouldn’t have said anything, but he had.  “Yes.”

The Headmaster stopped and turned to face Severus.  “What do you know about chess, Mr. Snape?”

“I know how to play.”

“Would chess be easier to play if you knew your opponent’s move beforehand?”

“Of course.”

Dumbledore nodded and continued walking.

Severus stood there pondering over the exchange.  And he knew then what he had to do.  It wouldn’t get him back into his grandfather’s good graces anytime soon, but it would work to get rid of the stain that joining Voldemort had become on his soul.  He hurried to catch up to the Headmaster.

~~~

*The Future*

The sound of falling boxes caused Remus to look up from where he was working at his desk, and toward the small storage room attached to his office.  

“What happened?“  Sirius sat up from where he was dozing in one of the chairs.  

“Some boxes fell, that’s all.”  Remus walked over to the storage room.  “Aren’t you going to give up?”  

“He’s coming back today, and I want to be here to say hello.”  Sirius yawned.  “Besides I want to see him before that… you know.”

“I don’t think that Harry would like to hear you talk like that.”  Remus grabbed the handle of the door and twisted.  A few boxes toppled out and onto the floor.  “It took me forever to stack those.”

“You must have stacked those ages ago.  Don’t you ever dust in here?”

“Told you.”  Sirius went over to the small room, and peered over Remus’ shoulder.  “How have you been, Harry?”

“I’ve been better.”  Harry moved some more boxes to clear his way to the door.  “I forgot that you actually use this room, Remus.  I’ll help you restack everything.”  Harry smiled at the two men.  “It’s good to be home.”

“We’re glad to have you home.”  Sirius grabbed Harry into a massive hug.

Harry patted Sirius’ back.  “It hasn’t been that long, Sirius.”

“Let the man breathe.  You act as if you haven’t seen him in years.”  Remus shoved the last box back into the small room and closed the door.  “Welcome home, Harry.  And I will be taking you up on that offer.”

“Now you I haven’t seen in a while, Remus.  How are you?”

“Much better.  Now that you’re back, maybe this one,” he said, pointing at Sirius, “will finally leave me in peace.”  

Harry’s smile grew.  “He’s been that much trouble?”

“I’m here you know,” Sirius grumbled as he returned to his chair.  “Don’t you want to tell Remus everything that happened?”

“I’m sure that Harry would much rather go down to the dungeons and relax, Sirius.”

Harry sat down in the nearest chair, an old wooden one that Remus kept around for his detentions.  Supposedly it was cursed to be the most uncomfortable chair in all of Hogwarts.  Harry didn’t notice.

“Why would he want to go down there, it’s cold and wet and-“

“Don’t be daft, Sirius.  Of course Harry wants to go back to his rooms.”

“Actually, I think that I’d much rather stay right here.”  

Remus and Sirius turned to look at him.  Harry had pulled one leg up, and wrapped his arms around it, his cheek pressing into his knee.  

“Something wrong?”  Remus stepped toward the young man.

“I bet that Harry’s just realized that he has to go back to that wanker.  It’s all right, Harry, I’ll tell him that you want nothing to do with him.”  Sirius made to get up.

“He’s going to kill me,” Harry whimpered.

“Who is?”

Harry snapped his head up.  “Remus, can I stay here for a while?”

“Stay here?”

Sirius leaned back in his chair, and started to laugh.  “Don’t tell me it was true.”

Remus looked back and forth between the two men.  “What was?”

“Did you, Harry?  Did you really?”

Harry glared at his godfather before pressing his forehead against knee.

“Sirius, you aren’t making any sense.”  Remus walked over to Harry and placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Do you want to talk about what happened in the past?  It must have been difficult for you.  I remember that James’s father died that year.”

Harry looked up at Remus for a moment.  He closed his eyes and turned his face away.

Sirius was still quietly laughing to himself.  

“Would you shut up, Sirius!”  said Remus, glaring.

Harry shrugged his shoulder, and the older man’s hand fell away.

“If you aren’t ready to go down to the dungeons right now, you can stay here.  I’m just doing some work.”  Remus turned his head.  “You can have Sirius’ seat.  He was just leaving.”

“I was?”

“You were.”

“It’s not that bad, Harry,” said Sirius, still snickering.  “He looked a lot better when he was sixteen.”

“What’s the matter with him?  And who looked better at sixteen?”  

Harry looked up; Draco was standing in the doorway.

Sirius smiled.  “I’ll answer the first.  You should be able to figure out the second on your own, Draco.”

Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Harry cheated on Snape with Snape.”

Draco’s eyes widened and it was obvious he was trying to keep from laughing.  “That’s classic.”

“That makes no sense.”  Remus said, returning to sit behind his desk.

“It makes perfect sense, if you think about it.”  Harry whispered.  His chin was resting on top of his knee, and his eyes were half closed.

“Didn’t you hear the rumour toward the end of the year?”  

Remus shook his head.  “I probably did, but that doesn’t mean I remember it now.  It’s been quite some time since sixth year.”

“Everyone thought that Snape was shagging Professor Tyler, but everyone was too scared of that bastard of a teacher to confront either of them.”  Sirius turned his head to look at Harry.  “Sorry.”

“I know what my students think of me.  And no matter what time period I’m teaching Defence in, as long as I’m teaching it, they think I’m a bastard.”

“You and Severus?  He was sixteen, Harry.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Harry shook his head, ruefully.  “It was very obvious he was sixteen.”  

“What I want to know is why?”  Sirius propped his feet up on the desk.  Remus pushed them off.

“That’s between Severus and me.”

“Speaking of Severus, he sent me up here to see if Harry had come back.  Said they needed to ‘talk’.”  Draco went over and sat on his haunches next to Harry.  “Good luck.  And remember when he kicks you out you can always move in with Sirius.  I’d invite you to stay with me, but you’d be in the way.  I do have a social life, after all.”

“That’s all right.  I’m staying right here.”  Harry shifted in his seat.  “The way I see it, I’d never be able to find a more comfortable chair in all of Hogwarts.  I’ll just transfigure my book into a blanket, and I’ll be set.  Maybe Severus will think that I never came back.”

“You do realize that’s the chair that Professor Amygdalus used for detentions?  Remus dug it out of storage when he came to teach.  Trust me, it’s uncomfortable.”

“And you would know that, considering how many detentions you had, Black.”

Harry snapped his head around at the sound of Severus's voice.

“Shut up, Snape.”  Sirius growled.

“I’ve never met someone more asinine than you.  Then again, what should I expect from a dog?  I don’t know why Harry - or anyone else, for that matter - bothers with you.”

“And Harry deserves better than you.”

Snape raised an eyebrow.  “Who are you suggesting?”

“Draco.”

“Don’t get me involved in this.  As an already unwilling participant in Harry’s love life, I demand that you leave me out of it.”

“Will you two stop it?  I feel like I’m sixteen again and watching Professor Tyler telling you to beat each other up.”

Draco laughed.  “I remember that.”

Grey and obsidian eyes glared at Draco simultaneously.  “Shut up.”

“But Harry’s back.  Even odds.  We can take you.”

Harry tilted his head to the side and whispered, Draco, “Do you realize how mad Severus probably is at me right now?”

“I take it back.  Living sounds much nicer.”  Draco stood up and patted Harry on the back.  “It was nice knowing you.  Maybe I can save your hide from going into Severus's cauldrons.”

Severus raised his eyebrows.

“Then again, maybe not.”  Draco took the ten steps to the door and walked out before anyone could stop him.

Severus went to stand in front of Harry’s chair.  He looked down.

“You hurt him and I’ll…”  Sirius paused.  “I don’t know, but I’ll think of something.”

Severus looked toward the desk.  “You’re a disgrace to wizards every time you open your mouth, Black.”  He turned back to Harry.  With one finger he turned Harry’s head until it was facing him.  “Come back to the dungeons.  These… people you choose to associate with are annoying me.”

Harry bit his lip.  Severus didn’t seem angry, but then it was always hard to tell what Severus was feeling; he had been a spy too long.  Going anywhere with Severus when he was of an uncertain mood wasn’t high on Harry’s priority list.  He loved the man, but there was only so much he could take.

“I like it here.”

Severus shifted his hand until it was cupping Harry’s cheek.  In a voice just loud enough for only Harry to hear, he said, “We need to talk.”

Harry sighed.


Chapter Twenty-One:  “Confusion is Nothing New”

Harry walked alongside Severus down the deserted dungeon corridor.  Neither had said a word after they had left Remus's office.  Usually silence didn’t bother Harry, especially when he was with Severus.  But today it just seemed ominous.

Granted, Severus didn’t seem upset.  He acted as he always had.  But Harry couldn’t tell if it was just that: an act.  Severus had been mad at him before, and was perfectly capable of hiding the fact from him.  It was moments like this that made Harry wish that Severus couldn’t read his emotions.  

He hated the silence, but didn’t want to break it.  It was a buffer, a false sense of normalcy, security.

Harry didn’t know if anything was going to be normal again.  He had learned too much about the man standing next to him from a sixteen year old.  Learned things that he didn’t think Severus would ever tell him.  Just like Harry never talked about some of the tortures he had suffered at Voldemort’s hand, Severus never talked about his early days as a Death Eater.  And now Harry knew.

He knew about Severus's grandfather.  The words in that letter were embedded in Harry’s mind.  He knew that Severus still had that letter, not that Harry had ever seen it.  It had been the last thing his grandfather had sent to him before he died, when Severus was twenty.  When the estate had been settled, Severus had been surprised to discover that he had inherited everything, bypassing his father.  Severus never went back to the manor.  One night Severus had bitterly told Harry that he had most likely been the lesser of two evils.  Harry had always thought that Severus's grandfather had hated him.  That he was disappointed that his son’s only child had been a bastard.  

But Harry had been wrong on that account.  Severus had been happy living with his grandfather until he had joined the Death Eaters.

For which Harry fully blamed himself.  Even though he knew it was going to have to happen, the last thing that Harry had ever expected was that he was the one that had driven Severus to ultimately join.  

And Severus knew this, but he still wanted to be with him.  Or had he waited until Harry had gone back and caused the chain of events, so he could better explain to Harry why it couldn’t be?  

Harry wrapped his left hand around his right wrist, his fingers pressing against the bond mark.  He took a deep breath.

“Were you planning on making a potion, Potter?  The only thing that lies further down this corridor is my private potions lab.  But I thought you would have known that, after nine years.”

Harry stopped.  He turned to look at Severus.  He was standing in the open doorway to their chambers.  Their chambers.

Harry shrugged; he didn’t think he could say anything without sounding more foolish than usual.  He stepped past Severus into the living room.

~~~

Severus stared.  It wasn’t as though there were anyone down here that was going to see them.  See him staring at Harry.  The last time he had seen Harry was when he had accompanied Black into the past.  At that point he had decided against all conversation.  He hadn’t known then how he felt about what Harry had done.

But for the two weeks since then, he had done nothing but think about how he felt about it.  He still wanted to know Harry’s reasons for doing what he did, but they were no longer necessary.  He didn’t need to know what had caused Harry to have an affair with his younger self.  With him.

Through logic, he took the fact that ‘Octavian Tyler’ and Harry Potter was the same person and put it aside.  Severus had examined his relationship with ‘Tyler’ from every angle he could think of.  It hadn’t been happy.  But it had shaped him.

He had made choices based on what he had seen and heard about Tyler.  His choice to join the Death Eaters.  His choice to leave.  For many years after Tyler had left, Severus had been angry.  Angry at Tyler, angry at himself.  It had passed.  And he had learned to appreciate what he had learned.  Love had been one of those things.

Tyler had been right when he had said that Severus had fallen for what he thought he saw, not what was actually there.

This is where Severus had added Harry back into the picture.  Now, Severus could see everything that ‘Tyler’ had hidden from the students.  Had seen it when he went to visit Harry.  Had known it, because he knew Harry.

Harry dropped his bag, and kicked it against the wall.  It was a habit that Severus usually found beyond annoying.  But for once it was welcome.  Harry was home.

Severus had missed him.

He closed the few feet of distance between them in two strides.  Harry’s back was to him.  Severus didn’t touch him; instead he watched as the muscles tightened, and Harry stood a little straighter.  

It had been obvious the moment that Severus arrived in Remus's office that Harry was unsure of his reception.  Severus had been able to read Harry’s level of insecurity from the time he was a first-year.  And even though Harry hid it now behind bravado and determination, Severus could still see it.

Harry was still too nervous, he could tell, for the talk he had planned.  It was time for not words, but actions.

He wrapped his arms around Harry’s chest, and pulled the younger man back against him.  Harry didn’t relax at all.  Severus lowered his head so he could whisper in Harry’s ear.

“You’re mine.  Do you realize that?  I don’t share.”

Harry heaved a sigh.  “I know.  Sev-“

“Hush.”  He turned Harry in his arms.  He took Harry’s face in between his hands, and stared into the green orbs.  Pain, guilt, and love were hidden in the shadows of Harry’s eyes.  He brushed his thumb against Harry’s cheek.  Harry closed his eyes.

“Stop.”  Harry’s voice was soft.

Severus lifted an eyebrow, although Harry couldn’t see the expression.

“Just, don’t.  I-“

Severus slipped one of his thumbs down to brush against Harry’s bottom lip.  “Do be quiet, Potter.”

Harry pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, stopping Severus's touch.  Severus moved his hand slightly; he applied pressure at the corner of Harry’s mouth until Harry released his bottom lip.  Then Severus lowered his head, and drew Harry into a kiss.

As he pulled away from the kiss, Harry turned his face away.  Dropping his arms from around Harry, Severus stepped back.

“You’re impossible.  But then again, you always have been.”  Severus moved toward the couch.

“You’re angry.”

Severus grunted noncommittally.  “I don’t want to talk about it right now, Harry.”

“Of course not.”  Harry went to stand in front of Severus, glaring down at him.   “Let’s just torment Potter.  That’s your favorite game, after all.”

Severus raised an eyebrow.  “It is?  I don’t recall.  I have to admit it sounds like fun.”

Harry crumbled.  The indignation left his face and only confusion remained.  Severus reached out a hand and pulled on Harry’s arm until he was sitting next to him.

“I meant it.  I don’t want to talk right now.”

“Don’t we need to?”

Severus sighed.  “Sometimes things happen for a reason.”  He reached out a hand and traced the scar that crossed Harry’s cheek with his finger.  “It’s gotten lighter.  It’s not as bad as when you left.”

Harry brushed Severus's hand away.  “I hate it when you do that.  Can’t we get this conversation over and done with?”

“Words can get in the way at times.”  He leaned forward, bringing his and Harry’s face closer together.  “Don’t you agree?”

Harry licked his bottom lip.  He didn’t say anything.  Neither did Severus.

They didn’t move.

Harry narrowed his eyes, and looked at him.  Severus didn’t know what he saw, but some of the tension that had been visible in Harry’s body dissipated.  Severus stood and offered his hand.

“You need a hot bath.”

Harry didn’t move.

“To relax.”

Harry stood and made his way toward the bathroom.  Severus moved over to his desk and sat down.

He didn’t want to talk about what happened, not yet.  He just wanted to prove that nothing was going to change.  What had happened to him in sixth year had affected him, and he learned to deal with it and moved on with his life.  Harry would do the same.  He adapted to situations; he was half Slytherin, after all.

Severus picked up a pile of essays.  He quickly read through the top one before marking it and setting it aside.  He listened as he graded; he heard the water turn on and eventually turn off, he heard when the water started to drain.  At that point he set down his quill, and went to the bedroom.

He was standing in the doorway when Harry exited the bathroom, holding the towel around his hips.  Severus had always appreciated Harry’s body.  He let his gaze linger on the angles of Harry’s body; the protrusion of hipbone, the bend of his collarbone, the angles of his face.

Harry was looking around the room.  He supposed it must be a little strange after living alone for a year.  The two times that Harry had moved in it had taken him at least a week to figure out where everything was.  Severus supposed it was going to happen all over again.

“What are you looking for?”

Harry jumped.  “I’m trying to remember what’s in the different drawers.”

“Ah.”  Severus left the doorway and entered the room, closing the door behind him.  He started to loosen the buttons of his robes.  At Harry’s look he shrugged.  “It’s late.  I’ve had enough of marking for one night.”

Harry nodded, but didn’t move.  Severus stood in front of the bureau, undressing.

Severus watched Harry shift his weight from one foot to the other.  “Is something the matter?”

“No.”  Harry said it too quickly.  He started to take a step forward, but stopped.

Severus dropped his outer robe and shirt over the back of a chair.  He turned to Harry.  “Would you stop fidgeting?”

Harry nodded.

Severus sighed.  This was becoming ridiculous.  He walked over to Harry, and grabbed Harry’s shoulder.  “Nothing is going to change.  Not tonight, at any rate.  I have no intention of talking about Octavian Tyler or anything else right now.”  Severus's anger dissipated as quickly as it appeared.  He dropped his hand from Harry’s shoulder.  “Relax, goddamnit.”

Harry lifted his hand and brushed Severus's hair from his face.  “I don’t know if I can.”

“I’m sure you can.”

Harry closed his eyes.  Severus placed his lips next to Harry’s ear and whispered, “Are you uncomfortable?”

Harry didn’t move, but Severus felt the tremor that traveled down his spine.  Placing a hand on Harry's back, Severus stroked his hand up and down over the bumps of Harry's spine.  They were slightly more protuberant then they had been in the past, yet another proof of how hard this past year must have been on Harry.  Severus brushed the pads of his fingers against Harry's tattoo, tracing the lines perfectly though he could not see them.

Severus knew that Harry had been through too much.  And he still didn’t know the effect he had had on many of those close to him.  After Remus had come clean about being Rupert Knight, Severus had heard other stories about the things Octavian Tyler had been responsible for, directly or indirectly.  He was sure that Harry would eventually learn all about them.  But for now, he just wanted Harry to have some peace.  

As Severus continued to stroke Harry’s back, he felt Harry shift under him, wrapping his arms around his waist and pressing his face into his shoulder.  The hot puffs of breath against his collarbone turned to light, open-mouthed kisses, and he exhaled and twisted a hand into Harry’s still wet hair.  Harry looked up, startled.

“Sorry.”  He loosened his grip, and Harry closed his eyes, leaning back into Severus's chest.  Severus smiled and leaned down, nipping at the lobe of Harry’s ear, his tongue darting out to lick at the small drops of water as it dripped from his still damp hair.

Harry shivered in his arms, and Severus smirked as he shifted so he could reach the pulse point behind Harry’s ear; he breathed in the scent of sandalwood from the soap that Harry used as he traced the vein down his neck, gently sucking on it, relishing the moans that escaped from Harry’s mouth and the way he moved and pressed against his body. He knew that Harry had no idea he was making those sounds, those movements, and that made it all the sweeter.

He tightened his grip on Harry’s hip, and Harry jumped slightly, the muscles tensing throughout his body, his mouth slightly open in a silent gasp, his body arching away from Severus, his head tilting to the side.  Severus took the opportunity to sink his teeth into the exposed throat, just enough to drag a groan from Harry as he released the grip he had on his towel.

Harry threaded one hand through Severus's hair, nails scraping against his scalp as a hand tightened on his waist, pulling him closer, chest to chest.  Severus took pleasure in the feel of tense muscles sliding under skin, hands massaging his scalp, his back, moving down his arms before a pair of lips covered his own in a harsh kiss.

Harry’s tongue swiped at his bottom lip, and he opened his mouth, their tongues sliding over each other.  It was more a battle for dominance than a kiss; they pushed at each other, each trying to get the upper hand, neither winning.  Severus took Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth and bit down, not quite hard enough to draw blood.   Harry’s nails dug into his back, sending shivers down his spine.  He arched his back as those nails scratched down his back, stopping when they came to the top of his trousers.

Harry wrenched his head away, and Severus, now deprived of his lips, moved to his neck, licking and nipping, leaving small, angry red marks in his wake.  Harry shifted restlessly against him, his fingers coming to rest on the fastening of his trousers.  He clumsily started undoing them.  

Severus was lost in the feeling of smooth skin under his fingers and mouth; he stroked and kissed, touched anywhere he could reach with his lips and hands, not stopping when Harry twisted and tried to move away, tried to draw his attention to other things.  He stopped when the cold air of the dungeon caressed his body, causing shivers that were smoothed away by Harry’s hands and lips.  Severus kicked aside his pants, wrapping his body around Harry’s.

Severus returned to running his hands over his lover’s body, his fingers ghosting over the puckered, roughened skin of his scars, leading to gasps and moans.  He ran a thumb over Harry’s nipples and watched, enraptured, as his pink tongue darted out to lick at his lips, eyes hooded and dark.  His hand trailed down and stopped when it reached the springy thatch of hair that surrounded his erection; Harry arched back, trying to push himself into his hand, sucking in a breath through clenched teeth.

“How many times have I told you about the virtue of patience?”  Severus slid his hand around the thick shaft, thumbing the tip; he pressed his lips to the crook of Harry’s neck, breathing in and tasting the thin film of sweat that covered his body.

“Screw patience.”  Harry’s hands came up to grasp his face, and Severus was caught in yet another kiss, as harsh as the one before.  It was becoming increasingly hard to think with Harry’s lips and tongue and taste and smell surrounding him, but he never stopped stroking him and soon they fell to their knees, the shock of the hard, cold floor snapping him from whatever lust induced-haze he had been in.

Severus raked in a deep breath.  He pulled his hand away from Harry’s cock, but didn’t cease touching him; he pulled him closer, until their bodies were touching, their erections rubbing together drawing gasps and groans from each of them.  It wasn’t nearly enough, but it was too much; and then Harry thrust his hips forward, increasing the friction, sending more shocks of pleasure through him, and Severus couldn’t take it anymore.  He placed his hands against Harry’s chest and was about to push, but Harry fell willingly on to his back, his breath coming in harsh pants, his eyes almost shut, his cock hard and jutting away from his body.

Severus closed his eyes and swallowed before moving away from Harry and toward the small nightstand at the side of the bed.  He fumbled with a small bottle before managing to close his fingers around it and returning to Harry’s side.  His legs were drawn up against his chest, spread open, and Severus's breath caught in his throat, all thought fleeing from his mind for a moment as he looked at him.  He felt his own hand ghosting across his abdomen and down his stomach toward his erection; he squeezed once, twice, his eyes closed, his voice hoarse as he groaned Harry’s name.  

“Oh god.”  Severus opened his eyes at the sound of Harry’s breathless voice and fell to his knees next to him, pressing his lips to the corner of Harry’s mouth while he opened the small jar and dipped his fingers into it, coating them.  He moved until he was between Harry’s knees, tracing one slick finger up the inside of his thigh and then down the cleft of his arse.  He paused when he came to the ring of muscle at his opening, running his finger over it, using only the tiniest hint of pressure.  He heard Harry’s breath hitch in his throat, and he leaned down to cover his mouth with his own as he slid his finger in to the knuckle, swallowing Harry’s groan.  He brought his other hand to Harry’s hip, pressing down to keep him still, to keep him from pushing back against his fingers.

Severus slid in a second finger and then a third, and by the time he was finished preparing him, Harry was trying to move, but his hips remained still from the pressure of Severus's hand, and his upper body couldn’t move from under his persistent mouth, and when Severus removed his fingers, a long moan escaped from his lips and he could feel the tightening in Harry’s muscles as he tried to get them back.   He felt Harry’s hand running up his arms and over his back, drawing him closer, but he pulled back so that he could coat his erection; only after that did he let Harry draw him down, so that their bodies could press together.  

He shifted until he could feel the tip of his cock pressing against the puckered opening; with his hand, he guided himself in until he felt the ring of muscle give, and he slipped in partway.  He stilled for a moment, then pushed in the rest of the way with one thrust.  The grip Harry had on his shoulders tightened along with the muscles in his arse, and Severus had to close his eyes and breathe in deeply to regain a modicum of control.  

He pulled out as far as he could without completely leaving the tight, hot hole, before slamming back in.  “Se- Sev- Severus!”  Harry’s breath was coming in shallow gasps, blowing across his skin, sending shivers down his spine as he thrust, Harry pushing his hips up to meet him.  

Severus started to reach between their bodies to grasp Harry’s cock, when his head was brought down, and his lips claimed in a kiss.  Severus pressed their bodies together; he could feel the wet head of Harry’s cock against his stomach, and every time he moved, it rubbed against his abdomen, and Harry’s fingers pressed harder into his back, and his arse muscles would clench tighter around him, and it was almost too much to take.  He drove into Harry harder, and he pushed back harder, and soon he felt the hot spurts of come covering his chest, and then he was coming, and he didn’t know how long it lasted, just that it kept going, and Harry held onto him and pressed his forehead against his shoulder when he collapsed against him.  He buried his face in Harry’s hair and drew a deep breath in.  He was home.

“Harry, I-“

“Hush, Severus.”  And Harry’s hands rubbed down his back; he tried to pull away, but Harry just wrapped his arms around him, holding him there, and Severus gave in and closed his eyes.

~~~

Harry rolled onto his side and stared.  Severus was sleeping next to him, the lines on his face still hard.  Even in sleep the man never relaxed.  Harry reached out, about to touch Severus's cheek, but pulled his hand back.

Last night hadn’t been normal for them.  Not that it had been new either.  It was just that sex was usually never that possessive between them.  Comfort, not possession is what usually came to Harry’s mind.

It wasn’t that he and Severus weren’t possessive of each other.  They were.  It just happened to manifest itself in other ways.  Such as their bond.

Harry shifted until he was lying on his back.  He hadn’t been able to sleep more than an hour since climbing into bed.  

Tossing aside the covers, Harry swung his legs over the edge of the bed.  He certainly didn’t want to wake up Severus.  Harry was confused enough as it was, and listening to Severus would only further that.

The last thing that Harry had expected was to come home to a lover that didn’t want to talk about what had happened over the last year.  Well, it had been a year for him, if not for Severus.  

Harry looked over at the bed.  Severus had turned on his side, his back to Harry.  He could see the places where his fingers had slightly bruised Severus's back.  Shifting, Harry knew he had similar bruises on his hips - from where Severus had held him – as well as scratches on his shoulders, from the floor.

Harry wrapped his hand around his neck and looked around the room.  It didn’t seem like it was part his.  Intellectually he knew it was; after all, he could see his belongings lying in their normal places.  But the whole thing with Severus…  Both of them.

Harry couldn’t even figure out how to differentiate between the two.  They were both Severus, one older, one younger; but they were the same man.  One would eventually become the other.

It was too damned confusing.

Time away.  That would do it.  He couldn’t stay here.  There were other rooms in the castle.  There were the rooms that Albus had given him when he came to teach four years ago, even though the old man knew perfectly well that Harry never had any intention of using them.

Before Harry consciously knew what he was doing, he had summoned his trunk and begun throwing clothes and books and anything else into it.  He stopped as quickly as he had started.

He couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t just move into another set of rooms.  But he couldn’t sit here awake wondering what last night was all about.  And Harry absolutely refused to wake Severus up.

He didn’t have a death wish, after all.

And he certainly didn’t want a worse headache then the one he felt lurking behind his eyes.

Harry threw on some clothes and headed out of the bedroom, through the living room, and out the door into the dungeon corridors.

He needed to think.

~~~

Harry pressed his forehead against the glass of the window.  He had forgotten that it was the beginning of the rainy season when he had left.  It was pouring outside, the sky dark as if it was already the evening.  In actuality, it was barely noon.

Harry had just spent a good four hours talking to Remus, another conversation he didn’t know how he felt about.  And Harry had thought the only life he had had any effect on was Severus's.  Remus had certainly set him straight.  

Harry wondered if he was starting to have another paradigm shift.  His whole world seemed to be changing.  All he wanted was something stable.

Something that wasn’t affected by his mere existence.  In the past.

The shadows around him shifted, and Harry saw another reflection line up next to his.  One with red hair.  He straightened up, and looked at his best friend.

“Miss me?”

Harry grinned.  “Like the air I breathe.  It seems like forever, Ron.”

Ron patted him on the back.  “Not close, but close enough.”

The two of them started walking down the hall toward Hermione’s office.

“When did you get here?”

“Hermione called me yesterday to tell me you were coming home.  I figured that you’d be busy with, well, you know.”  Ron grimaced.  “Anyway, I thought I’d drop in to say hello.  Oh, and whatever you do, don’t tell Moody that I’m here.  I told him I was sick.”

Harry couldn’t help but smile.  “I’m sure that I’m the first person that Moody will ask.”

“You never know.”  Ron opened the door to Hermione’s office and the two of them walked in.  “Told you I’d find him, Hermione.”

“About bloody time, too.  What took you so long, Weasel?”

“What are you doing here, Malfoy?”

“Dumbledore dumped him here shortly after you left to search the castle for Harry.  He thought it would be good for the four of us to ‘catch up’.”  Hermione laced the last of her words with a liberal amount of sarcasm.

“What happened to the truce the two of you had going?”  Harry sat down in one of the chairs while Ron perched himself on the corner of Hermione’s desk.

Draco and Hermione pointed at each other.  “It’s all her fault.”  “It’s all his fault.”

“That’s just scary.  I should have stayed home.  Don’t you agree, Harry?”

“I guess I’m just used to their squabbling.”

“I do not squabble.”  Draco leaned forward.  “So where were you hiding?  I don’t see copious amounts of flesh missing from your hide, so I assume that Severus chose not to use you for potion ingredients.”

“I wasn’t hiding.”

“Remus mentioned that you had stopped by to talk to him.  What happened?”  Hermione turned to Ron.  “Would you sit on a chair?  You’re messing up my papers.”

“We talked.  I learned a lot.”

“Like what?”  Only Hermione could put that much enthusiasm into her voice when talking about learning.

“Did you know he writes books?”

“Of course.”  At Harry’s sharp look, Draco continued.  “While you were gone, a group of us had decided to figure out how much of an effect ‘Octavian Tyler’ had on our lives.”

“Octavian Tyler?  Wasn’t he the one that wrestled dragons?”

“Where would you hear that story, Ron?”

“Bill started school a few years after Tyler left.  But the story never stopped circulating.  The older students used to tell it to first years in order to scare them.  ‘You never know, Professor Tyler might come back’.  When Bill told Charlie, Charlie started reading everything he could find on dragons.  Started his obsession.”

“No.”

“Yes.  But what’s the big deal about some professor that taught here while Harry’s parents were in school?”

Hermione looked at Ron, a smile creeping across her face.  “Harry was Octavian Tyler.”  

Ron looked from Hermione to Harry and back again, his mouth slightly opened in shock.

Harry put his head in his hands.  “Tell me the Charlie thing was a joke.”

“Wish I could, mate.”

Harry sighed.

“Professor Tyler and his,” Draco cleared his throat, “’sadistic idea of punishment’ is the reason that my father never let any wizard cut his or my hair.  The only time he would ever let a muggle near him.  Still trying to figure out that one.  Care to explain?”

“Do I have to?”

“Well anything that pokes fun at a Malfoy should be entertaining.  Especially if you can arrange it so that this Malfoy is humiliated.”

“Shut up, Weasley.”

“Make me, Malfoy.”

~~~

Harry looked around Dumbledore’s office.  It certainly looked different than the last time he had seen it.  Granted, the last time Harry had seen it he had been years in the past.

Harry moved around the desk to the sitting room.  The large table with its myriad ‘chess boards’ was set up against the wall.  But there was no sign of Albus.

He picked up one piece and put it in his pocket.  Then he started to randomly change the positions of many of the pieces.  One piece he knocked over and he conjured a little white flag waving above it.  He took a black piece and surrounded it with white pieces.  He conjured a white flag over this one, too.

Stepping away from the table he admired his handiwork, and decided that there wasn’t anything else he could possibly do to the set.  He made himself comfortable in one of the comfortable armchairs.

“Harry.  I’m surprised to see you here.  I thought that I would see neither hide nor hair of you all day.”

“I took the day off.”

Albus walked over to the table of chess boards and looked at the mixed-up pieces.  “Harry, what did you do with Voldemort?”

“Voldemort?”

Albus nodded.  Harry stood and made his way over to stand next to Albus.  He pointed to the piece he had surrounded by white pieces.

“Very funny, Mr. Potter.  Just because you understand my strategy board does not mean you can come in here and mess around with the pieces.”  The twinkle in Albus's eyes went against his sharp tone.

“It won’t happen again, I promise.”

Albus turned back to the board.  “Last time I checked, you had not defeated me, Harry.”

Harry sighed before picking up the piece that he had knocked over.

Albus held out his hand.

“What?”

“Hand it over.”

“Hand what over?”

“Severus.”

“How do you expect me to do that; I’m not sure where he is.”

“His piece, Harry.”

Harry dug into his pocket and pulled out the little gray cross that represented Severus.  “Do I have to?”

“Yes.”  

Harry opened his hand, and Albus took the piece and placed it back on the table.  With a swish of his wand the strategy board rearranged itself back to how it was set up before Harry had entered the office.

Harry returned to his chair, and Albus sat down in the one across from him.  Within minutes they both had a cup of tea in their hands.

“Why are you here?”

“I was hoping that you’d be able to reassure me.”  Harry set his cup aside and crossed his arms.

“About what, my boy?”

“That I didn’t have an effect on everything.  That I’m just Harry Potter.  That…”

“That your life wasn’t as necessary in the past as it is in the present?”

“Maybe.”

Albus took a deep breath and then released it.  “Harry, everything happens for a reason.”

“Severus said something like that last night.”

“He’s a very intelligent man.  And so are you.  You know that I can’t reassure you.”

“You could at least tell me that ‘Octavian Tyler’ didn’t change you.”

“Why would you think that a single person wouldn’t have an effect on me?”

Harry almost laughed.  “Nothing can affect you.”

“You seem to be forgetting that I’m only human, Harry.”

Harry sighed.  “So what did I do to you?  I’m collecting stories.”

Dumbledore chuckled.  “How many do you have?”

“Remus, Draco, and Charlie.  That’s not even bringing up the Weasleys in general, my family, Severus…”

“You’re getting there.”  Albus summoned a plate of biscuits.  He held it out to Harry and let him take one before picking his own.  “Remember when I first started to teach you about spell roots, Harry?”

“Of course, it helped me with my shield training.  Not to mention it was the basis for learning wandless magic.”

“And what did I make you do so that you would learn how spell roots are used?”

“You made me pull down the wards that surrounded your office and put them back up.  You said it was necessary to understand how complex spells are put together before I learned how to mutate them into another kind.”

“Exactly.  And now you can do it without a second thought, even though I’m constantly changing them.  Not many people could get past my wards, now or then.  And those that can must have known me for a very long time.”

“So?”  Harry picked up his tea cup and took a sip.

“I still have those bottles of alcohol you so graciously sent me.”

Harry bit his lip to keep from laughing.

“I wondered for a very long time how someone I barely knew could get through my shields.  I ended up remaking them stronger.  I did the same to the ones surrounding Hogwarts.  Tyler forced me to check for weak points.”

“Did you find any?”

“Not many, but a couple.  I have to admit I was rather complacent at the time.  We were winning the war; Voldemort spent much of his time in hiding.  It was a good thing.”

“It doesn’t do much to reassure me.”

“Then I won’t even mention my personal shields.”

Harry stared at him.

“Do you know how long it takes to re-transfigure over a hundred single strands of hair back from being twinkling lights, Harry?”

Harry smirked.  “Four days, I’d imagine.”

“Quite right,” said Albus, smiling.  Then he put down his cup and looked at Harry from across his half-moon glasses.  “There is only one other thing that springs to mind when I think of Octavian Tyler.”

Harry looked at Albus from over his tea cup.  He raised an eyebrow.

“The Defence Against the Dark Arts curse.”

Harry choked on his tea.

“Are you all right, my boy?”

Between gasps for air, Harry was able to get out a single word.  “What?”

“I asked if you were all right.”

Harry glowered.

“Oh, the Defence curse.  Well, ‘Tyler’ was the first teacher that only stayed a year, and after that I had a rather hard time keeping any instructor for more than that.  Until you took the job, that is.”

“So you blame me for both the curse and its end?”

Albus nodded his head happily as he chewed on a biscuit.

Chapter Twenty-Two:  The Paradox of Your Existence

Harry headed down to the dungeons.  He didn’t have a choice anymore.  He had avoided the conversation with Severus long enough.  It was after midnight now; he had left the dungeons early.

He didn’t know if he should be disturbed by what he had learned from Remus, Draco, Ron, and Albus.  It was all a little much to take in.  If he had had such an effect on their lives, what type of an unseen effect had he had on Severus's life?  Much of it was obvious, but was there something else?

Harry opened the door to the rooms he shared with Severus.  He didn’t enter, just looked at Severus, head bent over a pile of essays, writing comments on them.  Severus's hair fell forward, hiding his face from view.  

Harry swallowed and walked into the room, closing the door behind him.  Severus didn’t stop marking.  Harry had half expected him to.

“Severus?”

“You came back.  Your trunk is only half packed.  I assume you’re here to finish what you started?”

“It was stupid.  I hadn’t thought about what I was doing.  I thought that it would be best if I left.”

“And how did you come to that conclusion?”

“I thought…”  His reasons had sounded much better that morning then they did now.  “It doesn’t matter.  I want to talk to you about your sixth year.”

Severus put down the quill and turned to face him.  “What do you want to know?”

“Don’t you blame me for everything that happened to you?  You would have never gotten the Dark Mark if it wasn’t for me.  You would have been able to live with your grandfather.  You wouldn’t have had to become a spy.  I’m sure there’s more.”

“You’re right.  There is.”

Harry took in a deep breath and waited.

“I wouldn’t be working at Hogwarts if I hadn’t become a spy.  I would never have given you the time of day because I never would have met you.  And we wouldn’t be together now.  That’s not something I want to lose, Harry.”

“Your life would have been better!”

Severus stood and walked to him.  He grabbed Harry by the arms.  “I’m happy with the life I have now, Mr. Potter.  And that includes having you in it.”  Severus released Harry’s arms, and Harry stumbled backwards.  “If I had wanted to, I could have changed things.  But I didn’t.”

“You were young, you made decisions-“

“That is not what I’m talking about.  I made a decision at the age of sixteen because I saw the professor I thought I was in love with kiss another man.”

Harry didn’t say anything.

“I didn’t drag you around the castle in the middle of the night without purpose, Harry.  I knew what I was doing.  I knew what I was damning myself to.  And I did it so I could have you!”

“My head hurts.”

Severus actually chuckled.  “I’m not surprised.”

“What do you mean?”

“That night I dragged you down to the dungeons, when I ‘borrowed’ the time turner…”

“You knew that you were watching…”  Harry rubbed his fingers against his forehead.  “This is just confusing.  You knew what was going to happen?”

“Yes.  I knew that I would listen to Lucius, make a choice I would later regret, eventually turn to Albus, and spend many years in misery.  And I, not you, had to make that choice.  I had to decide if I wanted to go through that.  And what influenced me was you.  If I didn’t do those things, not only would the past change, but the future would also.  Can you guess why I did it?”

Harry clenched his fist.  “For a really stupid reason.”

Severus turned so he was no longer looking at him.  “I don’t think it is all that stupid.  Not that it was an intelligent decision either, mind you.  But I think that I have, in some way, profited from it.”

Harry moved past Severus and sat down, raking a hand through his hair.  “I’ve spent the last year learning about a man that I’ve dedicated my life to, and I did learn.  A lot.  Things that you’ve never talked about were revealed to me.  And I still don’t understand you!”

“Is it necessary that you do so?”

“Yes!”

“Is that why you packed?”

“Started to.”

Severus settled in the chair opposite from Harry.  He offered a brandy glass to Harry.  “Excuse me?”

Harry took the glass, taking a sip before he responded.  “I only started to.  I changed my mind half way through.  I wasn’t going anywhere.”  Harry looked up from his glass.  “Did you think I was?”

“Perhaps.”

“I wouldn’t have, you know.  I was just…  It was just…”  He didn’t know how to phrase it.

“All too much?  Everything that happened.  You weren’t expecting to have such an impact, were you?”

Harry sighed.  “No.  And it’s even worse than I imagined.”

“Worse?”

“When I left, I had no intention of being pivotal in anyone’s life.  But then you developed a crush on me.  And Remus looked so down, and my father came to me, and the Marauders needed advice, and…”

“Harry, I know you were listening to me when Black and I went to check on you.  If that scroll wasn’t translated –“

“I know.  That’s what I went there to do.  But all this other… stuff.”  Harry waved a hand in an all-encompassing manner.

“You might have been sent to just translate a scroll, but - whether or not you want to hear it – you had an effect on the lives of many people.  Myself included.”

“I shouldn’t have.  It shouldn’t have been possible.  I wasn’t born yet and…”

“So, you weren’t born.  What does that have to do with anything?”

“Everything.”

“Don’t you understand?  Your existence, Harry, it’s…”  Severus set his glass down.  He moved forward closing the distance between them.  With a hand under Harry’s chin he forced Harry to look at him.  “It’s the paradox of your existence.”

Harry just stared at him.

“You had to do all those things.  If you hadn’t, then who knows?  If you hadn’t translated that document then the Hogwarts Express would have been destroyed, along with all the students on board.  You would never have been born.  If you hadn’t helped Black learn to read, then-“

“What?”

“Black.  He wouldn’t have passed his Auror qualification exams.  He always said that ‘Tyler’ had told him the books he needed to memorize in order to pass them.  Same with Potter… your father.”

“So?”

“So, if Black and Potter hadn’t become aurors there might not have been a reason for your parents to go into hiding.  Hence…”

“No Secret-keeper.  Sirius wouldn’t have… Damn it!”

“Would you have changed things, Harry?  If we had been allowed to tell you the effect you had on our lives, would you have changed things?”

Harry looked down into his brandy glass.  The amber liquid didn’t hold the answer he was looking for.  He heard Severus shift, leaning back in his chair.

“It all comes down to contentment.  How happy you are with your life.  Doesn’t it, Severus?”

A noncommittal grunt was his answer.

“Is ‘I don’t know’ a valid answer?”

This time his answer was the brandy bottle clinking against his glass as Severus poured him another portion.

“It’s not as simple as it appears, is it?  I mean sure, you wouldn’t have become a Death Eater if I could have helped it, and if I could’ve kept Sirius from spending time in Azkaban-“

“That’s conjecture.  I’m sure the mutt would have done something else to land himself in there.”

Harry paused long enough to glare at Severus.  “If I could have somehow changed things so that Voldemort wouldn’t have gone after my parents… but…”  Harry licked his bottom lip.  “But what else would have been different?  Voldemort’s spell wouldn’t have bounced back; his first ‘reign’ might not have ended.  My parents would have been alive, but so would Voldemort.  They could still have been killed for another reason.  I might not have been sorted into Gryffindor.  My friends could have been different.  I might not have ended up with you.”  He stared intently into Severus's eyes.  “A lot of things would have been different.”

“True.”

“So I was right then, it’s a matter of contentment.  But if I said I wouldn’t have changed anything, isn’t that equivalent to saying that I’m glad my parents died?”

“Do you think so?”

Harry chewed on his bottom lip.  “No.  It’s being happy with what I have, not wanting to go through the unknown.  There are enough things unknown now.  Besides, it couldn’t have possibly happened any other way.”

“What makes you so sure of that?”

“If I had changed things, who’s to say that in the reformed future I would have even lived to the age of twenty-five.  In fact, there was no guarantee that I would have even been born.  It’s another paradox.  If I had changed things, I might not have been able to go back in time to begin with.”

“I always thought there was a possibility that there was a brain in that head of yours.”

“I could be wrong.”

“Highly likely.  You are a Gryffindor, after all.”

Harry sighed and leaned back against his chair.

Severus placed a hand on Harry’s forearm.  “Why did you do it?”  It was barely audible, but Harry caught the curiosity and… was it pain? ... that laced the words.

“Do what?”

“Have an affair with a student?”

Harry really didn’t want to have this conversation, but he knew it was bound to happen sooner or later.  “I didn’t.”

“Really?”  Severus removed his hand from Harry’s arm and leaned back in his chair.

“No.  I had an affair with you.  It is a completely different concept.”

“How so?”

“It was you, but not you.”

“Meaning?”

Harry leaned forward slightly.  “Meaning that I love you and that this sixteen year old ‘you’ approached me and offered something I couldn’t refuse.”

“What was that?”

“The chance to see you when you were still insecure, without your hard shell.  The chance to be the older and more intelligent one.”

“Highly unlikely that you were ever more intelligent, even if I was only sixteen.”

Harry ignored the comment and continued.  “To be part of your life.  You’ve been a part of my life since I was eleven.  And I missed that feeling.  When you approached me, I wanted you.  Even at sixteen I could see the things that I loved about you, in you.”  He looked over at Severus; he was looking into the fire and drinking from his glass.  “You seem to be taking this well.”

“Harry, I had a very long time to get over Tyler.  And I had a long time to adjust to the fact that you were him.”

“When did you realize?”

“The night I first saw your tattoo.”  Severus turned to look at him.  “What bothered me the most when I realized, was a return of feelings I had sealed off at sixteen.  I had always compared my relationship with you to the one I had with Tyler.  I never compared it to any of my others.  I had always chalked it up to the teacher-student problem.  But I continued to do it after you finished Hogwarts.  I suppose that on some level, you must have reminded me of him.”

“I was a lot different when I got my tattoo.  I know that.  I acted nothing like I did when I went to the past.  Or now for that matter.”

“It must be similar to what you meant.  What makes you Harry Potter was still there.  Your essence, so to say.”

Harry leaned back in his chair.  They didn’t say anything for a time.

“So, this is one of those things that we accept and move past.  That changes us and the way we see things, but we don’t dwell on.  Because doing that would just cause more problems.”

“Most likely.”

Harry turned to look at Severus.  His head was back and his eyes closed.  Harry took another sip out of his glass before putting it down and standing up.

“We just stop talking about it.  You don’t care?”  Harry leaned over Severus's chair.  One hand on each armrest.

“Not particularly.”  Severus opened his eyes and smirked.  “I have work to do.  Just because you got to go on vacation doesn’t mean the rest of us did.  Let me up.”

“You call what I went through a vacation?”

“You don’t?”

“More like Hell.  But…”

Severus lifted an eyebrow.

“But if it got us to this point, then I’d do it all over again.”  Harry pressed his lips to Severus's.

Severus kissed him back for a minute before pushing him away.  “I meant it.  I have papers to grade.”

“It’s after midnight.”

“I do my best marking at this time.”

“If you consider failing over half of each class your best.”

“No matter what time I do my marking, half of my class would fail.  That’s what happens when all the students in this school are dunderheads.”  

Harry smiled.

“You think that’s amusing?  Just wait until you see the grades that Black has been divvying out in your Muggle Studies class.  I think the prize goes to the outstanding 10 out of 10 he gave to one student that wrote a 3 foot essay about how muggles use light bulbs to turn on cars.”

“He didn’t.”

“I think he just gave everyone 10 out of 10.  Reading is not one of Black’s talents.”

Harry shoved his hand into his pocket.  “I guess I have a lot of work to get back to on Monday.”  He took a few steps back from Severus's chair and leaned against the side of the mantle.  “Sev?”

Severus raised an eyebrow.

“Nothing.  I just wanted to give you this.”  Harry pulled his hand out of his pocket and tossed a small object over to Severus.

Severus grabbed it and looked at the tiny gray cross in his hand; it looked vaguely familar.  “What is it?”

Harry grinned.  “Control.”  He started heading into the bedroom.  “I think I’m going to get some sleep.”

“Harry?”

“What?”

“Aren’t you going to explain this?”

“Maybe later.”

“Impertinent Gryffindor brat.”

“Love you, too, Severus.”  Harry shut the bedroom door behind him.

Severus shook his head.  He’d find out later.  After all, it wasn’t like either of them was going anywhere.  They had time.  They were content.

End.