caligryphy (caligryphy) wrote,
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So Lonely Without Me (1/5)

FIC: So Lonely Without Me (1/?)
Author: Calligraphy
Pairing: SS/HP
Rating: To NC-17, this part R.
Summary: Two men, two rooms. Takes place several years in the future, during the war.
Warning: If you see a glaring error in content or grammar, please drop me a line and I'll be happy to fix it. The same goes for kind suggestions of the literary variety. Think of it as one big party-beta. (Or don't read it. Or read it, print it, and take out a nice, fat, red pen.)

*****



“You’re up first.”

“Am I…?” Severus Snape finally glances up from the yellowed edges of the Daily Prophet. He has read it six times, cover to cover, including the advertisements. There are seven spelling mistakes in the culture section. He has marked each one with a ring of red ink. Each time he sees the crossword, he laments having finished it the first day.

Potter nods and takes the newspaper. “It’s ready when you are.” The younger man sinks into the armchair after Severus rises. It is the only chair in the room. Potter usually lies on the bed or stretches on the floor, bare toes wriggling.

“You know, Potter, if you wanted to sit in the chair, you might’ve simply asked,” he says, working apart the buttons on his outer robes. He faces away. Snape never looks while Potter undresses, and knows the same courtesy is extended.

“I don’t like the chair. It hurts my back.” The newspaper rustles. Potter always flips to the sports section. He seems to enjoy staring at the tiny Quidditch players whizzing from one side of the picture to the other.

Once he had stared for seven hours at the same picture. Snape had hidden the wands that night.

“Everything hurts your back.”

“Everything hurts your knee,” Potter sniffs.

“It is quite one thing for a man of my age to have stiff joints—“

“If you bloody well whine at me about how old you are again, I’m leaving,” he huffed.

“Dramatic, Potter, as always.” Snape tosses his robe on the peg by the door. He looses two buttons on his shirt and pulls it over his head. “Some days I think it is a wonder you’ve ended up here and not in the Royal Shakespeare Company.”

“Didn’t pass the audition.”

Snape catches his grin, then, and peels it away, tucking it out of sight until he can get into the bath. “The competition must’ve been possessed of an even more revolting flair for melodrama.”

“Nah, they were just taller.”

The grin threatens to return. “Is that what it is, Mister Potter?”

“I hate it when you call me that—what?”

“Is it as simple as a Napoleon Complex?”

“What.” The reply is flat. The newspaper folds.

“This desire to fulfill your destiny as the Savior of the Wizarding World—does it come from a sense of duty, or is it simply Short Man’s Disease?”

“Sod off, Snape,” Potter growls, glaring up at the half-bare Potions Master.

Severus allows the smile then, forcing it to be a little cooler than it wants. “See something you like?” The question slips off his tongue in honeyed, venomous tones. For just a split-second, he wonders how Potter would react to a serious offer. Then he sees the disdaining curl of soft, pink lips. Perhaps twenty years ago, his body might’ve held some interest. Now… “No peeking, Potter.”

A slight intake of breath, angry and strangled. A few muttered words.

“What was that?”

“A hex.”

“Your wand is on the nightstand.”

“I don’t need a wand to hex you.”

“Potter—“

“Water’s getting cold,” he cuts in suddenly, the younger wizard’s voice soft and lost. “Just go. I don’t want—I don’t want to do this tonight.”

*****

Potter uses too much soap and takes his time lolling about in the water like an aquarium fish. Severus never does. He wets his hair, scrubs the smell of close quarters off his body, uses a small amount of the inexplicably orange shampoo to lather his hair, and he rinses. By the time he finishes bathing, the water is still fairly warm.

Tonight, though, he decides not to get out of the bath just yet. Severus draws his knees up out of the water and lays his head back against the rim of the tub. The silence is not precious. The solitude is. He misses solitude, misses loneliness—the way it slips on like an old robe. Misses having his own chambers and a bath that could fill up over a dozen times in a night with near to scalding water. Misses being able to cast warming charms, cleansing charms. Misses the way he can’t pace and speak aloud to himself anymore—now there is someone to hear it.

They figured out early on that the bath would give them as much water as they wanted, but the furnace (assuredly as old as the house itself) only enough hot water to fill the tub once a day. Severus can’t remember whose idea it had been to share. Of course it had been a practical suggestion, a reasonable suggestion. The first in got the hot water, the second at least got water that wasn’t ice cold—and it isn’t as if either of them is especially dirty, anyway. It is impossible when your living space is limited to two rooms. But there is something… disconcerting… about sharing the water. It is another forced intimacy in an already awkward situation.

Already Severus knows more about Potter than he ever wanted. He knows that Potter can only sleep with his back against a wall. He knows that Potter snores when he isn’t feeling well. He knows that Potter waits for him to fall asleep before he cries. He knows what Potter’s bare, slim legs look like—and the lean line of his stomach. He knows that some nights Potter gets cold and lonely in the bed and seeks out the other body for a bit of heat and comfort, his form tucking close against Snape as if using his Potions Master as a windbreak. He knows that Potter usually wakes up in the morning with an eager erection.

Severus Snape knows all this.

And he knows he is going mad.

He stays in the bath for several more minutes. The water will only be tepid, but there won’t be a remark. Potter could probably soak for hours in near freezing temperatures without batting an eyelash. Snape listens to the sloshing through the closed bathroom door when Potter bathes. The young wizard makes an incredible amount of noise for a process as fundamentally simple as a bath.

“Potter the otter,” Severus says quietly to himself, and sinks deep in the water.

*****

The door opens and closes with a soft click. “…Are you awake?” Potter whispers.

“Yes.” Severus can hear the rustle of cloth as Potter dries and dresses. He does not look. His eyes are closed—his face buried in the pillow. The double bed is comfortable enough, if a bit too firm for discerning tastes.

“Sorry.”

He opens one eye, but does not look. “Why?”

“Keeping you awake.”

“Yes—because I have so many important appointments in the morning.”

Potter sighs. “Why is it you always have to be so… you?”

“If I were anyone else, you would’ve killed me.”

“I still might.”

“You might try.” Severus burrows deeper into the pillow. The room is already uncomfortably cold, and the blankets aren’t warm yet.

“You wouldn’t know what hit you,” Potter shoots back, a few seconds too late.

“Shut up, Potter, it’s late. Get in.”

“You’re the one who complains if my hair leaves a puddle.”

He looks up then at Potter, dressed in his hideous Gryffindor gold pajamas. His glasses lie on the night table next to the clock that they’d finally turned toward the wall. That means those green eyes are unprotected, unfocused. The scar is inflamed. It always is, these days, but Severus can only see it after Potter takes his bath and pushes the wet hair away from his face. He rubs it with a towel—Gryffindor red—and it is only a moment before Potter realizes he is being watched.

“What? Am I doing something wrong? Is there a proper hair-drying technique I haven’t learned?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“Nothing, Potter, just get in.” Severus watches as Potter slings the damp towel over the arm of the chair and approaches the bed. He crawls easily over Severus and scoots underneath the blankets, arranging himself with a generous amount of sighing and flopping. Finally, he stills.

“Night, Snape.”

“You are the loudest boy in the entire Wizarding World.”

“I’m twenty-four, stop calling me ‘boy.’”

“Good night, Potter. …No dreams.”

“No dreams.”

*****

Severus wakes in the middle of the night, his forehead damp with sweat, his hands shaking, his tongue thick in his mouth. He hopes he hasn't been screaming; that embarrasses him even more than weeping. He rolls out of the bed and staggers to the bathroom.

He washes his face, relieves himself, gulps a glass of water.

When he returns, his side of the blankets are folded back in a sort of welcome. Potter stares at his shadow in the dark, squinting without glasses.

“Bad one?” Potter asks.

Snape nods. He isn’t sure if Potter can see it, and adds a yes.

“I had a nasty one an hour ago. Haven’t been able to go back to sleep.”

Snape grunts and eases himself back under the covers. “I didn’t hear you.”

“You looked like you were having your own. I almost woke you, but…” Potter smiles. “After the last time—I still have the bruise, you know.”

Snape grunts an acknowledgement. They lapse into a short silence.

“…I lied.”

“What are you blathering about, Potter?” Their voices sound sleepy, slurred. It is easier to talk this way, to let the antagonism slip under the pretense of exhaustion.

“You laughed. You looked like you were having a good time, at first. That’s why I didn’t wake you. Thought you might be having a good dream. …I did wake you—when it got bad. I thumped you with the pillow.”

“Oh.” Snape turns on his side, facing the door to the hallway. The door that anyone wandering down the hallway wouldn’t see. The door that is warded and protected by so many spells that it would be easier for an assassin to drill through the floor or down through the ceiling rather than twist the knob. Of course, the rest of the room is warded, too. “Thank you,” he adds, feeling charitable.

“You’re welcome.”

Potter is quiet for a few minutes.

“It was that bad, Potter?”

“Worst this week. …I think I’m beginning to panic.”

“I was beyond panic weeks ago.”

“You were not.”

“Was, too,” Snape retorts. Childish? Yes. But Potter is a child, after all. Even if he is twenty-four.

“Were not—you’re snarky, but you’re not scared.”

“That’s because I am well into utter despair, thank you.”

“That’s two thank yous! Who are you and what have you done with my nasty old Potions Professor?”

“Severus Snape? He’s gone ‘round the bend. I’m his replacement,” he mutters into the pillow.

“Well. I’m Harry Potter. It’s nice to meet you.” A hand creeps around his side. Severus takes it and shakes, trying not to notice the heat of skin and how good just the smallest brush of contact feels.

“Charmed, I’m sure.”

Potter laughs, a clear, bell-like sound, and Severus smiles into the pillow. They are quiet again for a time. “I like you when you’re like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like this.”

“Someone else?”

“When you don’t hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Potter.” He means to say ‘I don’t *hate* you’ as if to suggest *loathe* or *despise* is a more apt term. But the sarcasm—it fails—as it does so often late at night in bed with bloody Harry Potter. ‘I don’t hate you’ sounds almost… fond. Severus shapes the words noiselessly on his lips. *I don’t hate you.* The admission makes his stomach wrench just a little—and it surprises him that he feels better for having said it.

The answering snipe doesn’t come. A few moments pass. “I don’t hate you, either, Snape. …Are you still awake?”

“Stunned, but awake.”

“Shut up,” Potter laughs, and Snape can almost hear the eye-roll that accompanies.

“Potter doesn’t hate me—black is white, up is down, the moon is made of green cheese.”

“And Voldemort’s given up his end of the war to care for poor, blind orphans in the south of France.”

Snape snorts. He wants to laugh. “Please—you’d sooner find me in bed with Harry bloody Potter.”

“You are in bed with Harry bloody Potter,” the younger man says. “Ah—if only Rita Skeeter were here.”

“Who knew you’d stoop to this for a headline?”

“Who knew we’d stoop to this to save our lives…?” The laugh in Potter’s throat bubbles up at a strange and hysterical pitch.

“…Of the prices to pay—this one is not so high,” Severus ventures.

Potter shifts restlessly. “Do you think—“

“They’ll come for us.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

“Soon—a week? Soon—a month?”

“Soon.” Severus says it so often that he can no longer attach any sincerity to the word.

“That’s not enough of an answer anymore. What if they’re dead? What if no one knows we’re here—what if they’ve sold us out—what if the war is over and Voldemort’s won? Dumbledore secreted us away—he can’t do the same for himself. What’s to stop the assassins from gunning for him? What’s to stop Dumbledore from dying—he’s the only one who knows where we are—the only one—“

Severus feels for a hand in the dark and latches onto it. The wizard next to him takes ragged gulps of air. “That’s why we’ve got our wands, Potter,” he breathes, forcing his voice to calm. “If no one comes, if the food stops arriving, if there is an emergency—we can break out.”

“And what if he told you we could break the wards to get you to agree to this? What if we can’t break out? What if he did it to protect us from ourselves like the day he—”

“You’re paranoid, Potter.”

“That’s why I’m still alive.”

“You’re still alive because they caught you in time.” Severus lets out a long breath. The hand he grasps wrenches away all its heat and comfort. Just for a moment, his fingertips skate over a hard line of scar tissue at Potter’s wrist.

“Fuck you,” hisses Potter, “how dare you bring that up—I was—I was…”

Snape had heard all the rumors, the explanations. ‘Stress,’ Minerva had said. ‘Shock,’ Lupin had said. ‘Yes, it is unfortunate. Lemon drop?’ Dumbledore had offered.

“Don’t you look at me, Snape,” barks Potter, kicking the blankets off. “Hand me my glasses.”

“What for?”

“I’m going to the bathroom—just give me—“

Snape snatches the glasses a moment before Potter arrives, groping blindly at the night table. “It’s cold. I’m not spending tomorrow playing nursemaid all because Harry bloody Potter wanted to cry himself to sleep in the bathtub.” He tucks the glasses underneath the bed. Only then does he realize his mistake.

One warm hand presses into his shoulder, holding him down as Potter’s wand digs hard into Severus’ side. “Give me my glasses.”

“No. Go to sleep.”

“Damnit, Snape, I’ll snap your wand!”

“Very well, I’ll break your glasses.”

“And then I’d snap my own wand. And where would we be?”

“I imagine… at Dumbledore’s sweet, sweet mercy,” he chokes out.

Potter doesn’t speak for a few moments. “…So… nothing at all would change…?”

“You’d be blind.” And Snape gasps as Potter flops back to his own side of the bed. “Have you gone completely mad?”

“I’m trying, Professor. Boy, am I trying.” Potter slinks back under the blankets. “Freezing.”

“It’s only November. It will get worse.”

“What happened to Snape the Optimist?”

“He tends to be put off by being assaulted in his own bed.”

“It’s half my bed. …Think we could get the dumbwaiter to send us some blankets?”

“You could try,” he hazards, though the sudden shift to docile little Harry Bloody Potter seems suspicious. “Though some form of spell or charm would likely be more convincing than cooing at it like an agitated owl.”

“No magic,” chimes Potter with a yawn, “or they’ll be able to find us.”

“I know that. …Silly boy,” Snape adds, feeling a bit at sea. His skin tingles. And some traitorous part of his brain is trying to convince him to move closer to the warmth on the opposite side of the bed. He shivers.

“You’re cold, too?”

Snape pulls up the blankets a little further. “Unseasonable temperatures.”

*****

He stares at the closed bathroom door for minutes. No sound comes from beyond. Finally, he raps his knuckles gently and calls, “Potter…?”

No answer.

Words, mostly the names of deities he’s never believed in—interspersed with profanity, spill from his lips. “Potter. …Potter!”

No answer.

*****

“You bloody little snot!”

“Fuck off, S-S-Snape,” Potter manages weakly, his head drooping against his chest.

“Why didn’t you just hex yourself? Hmm? Oh, no, mustn’t do things the efficient way, of course not, not for Harry bloody Potter—“

“Don’t call me H…”

By the time Snape manages to drag the sopping mess—Harry Bloody Potter, still in his pajamas—out of the bathtub, the boy is unconscious and chilled to the bone. Potter looks blue—no. His skin is waterlogged and opalescent. He looks like a fish, flapping, shivering uncontrollably on the bathroom floor. Snape curses, snarls, spits, and rips the wet clothes off—at any other moment, his hands would’ve been shaking. He hefts Potter up by grappling the shorter man around the waist and drags the nearly dead weight into the main room.

Severus uses his own towel to pat the worst of the wetness away. Then he shoves the blankets aside, plops Potter in the center of the bed, covers him, and with fingers that tremble only from adrenaline, removes his own sleepwear.

“Deal with this, Potter. We haven’t got a fire,” he murmurs to no sensible ear, and climbs in next to Potter, wrapping his limbs around the man—the boy—the boy! Snape pulls up the blankets over their heads, hoping to trap more heat. He takes Potter’s hands in his own, rubs. After a moment, he turns the m—the boy—towards himself. He places Potter’s hands under his arms, snakes a warm thigh between frozen knees, and clutches him close.

Potter’s lips are inches away. They don’t look so pink, so perfect. Not now.

Severus warms them.

*****

“This is very wrong,” he tells the room.

The room does not answer.

Potter is unconscious, but his breaths are deep and even. He is warming up, slowly but surely.

Severus locates a cold spot near the younger man’s collarbone. “Very wrong,” he whispers, pausing to kiss that bit of flesh. He manages to stop himself from nipping, sucking, biting—but oh, how he would mark Potter if only—

“This—honestly—is wrong. This is a new low. …I’ve been low. …This is lower.”

Snape is grateful that the room, once again, chooses to keep any moral judgement to itself. After all—this is not rape. No. Not even bordering on that infamous four-letter word—not with Severus still in his pants and deliberately avoiding the parts of Potter lurking below the waist and above the knee. But he is taking a fair amount of advantage with the rest.

He combs his fingers through the black shock of hair, pulling the last droplets of bathwater out with precise, steady movements.

The jagged scars cut in near lightning bolts across Potter’s wrists. A letter opener, he’d heard. Stolen from Albus Dumbledore’s desk after a meeting, concealed in the pockets of his robe—Harry had waited until nightfall to try and end his young life. He hadn’t managed it.

Neither had the Death Eaters in the rather kamikaze assault the next morning.

And the evening following.

‘I have a place, Severus. It is not quite ready. But it should serve. No more than a few weeks. …It was made for one, not two… but the boy cannot be left alone. Do you understand?’

“Yes, Albus,” Snape repeats quietly, his mind clearing as he pauses to lick the corner of Potter’s mouth. Har—Potter fits against him, just a few inches shorter, thicker in build. Scarred, smooth, soft, hard—his hands map the textures of the cool skin—and finally Snape insinuates his tongue between the man’s lips.

“This is very wrong,” he gasps out, pulling back, quaking with tension.

But Potter does not tell him no.

*****

Severus wakes to a glassy green stare.

“Hullo,” the wizard whispers, stretching against him, heated skin sliding deliciously over his own—slick sweat, pebbled nipples, fine hair—and beneath it, the crackle of pent up magic.

“Potter,” he mutters, beyond greetings. His right leg is imprisoned between two muscled thighs.

“I’m not waking up,” Harry states firmly, tucking his face close against Snape’s chest. “I’ve decided. This is a dream, I can do what I want, I am not waking up.”

“Potter,” Snape hisses, and a very warm wizard twines himself further in the embrace. Potter’s knuckles absently stroke his lower back. “This is not what it app—“

“This is a dream, Professor,” he sighs, drowsy. They both are, after the long night. “It’s a dream. From now on. A dream. And in the dream, I don’t have to hate you, you don’t have to hate me, and we can—take care of each other. All right? …All right?” Harry pleads. “Because it’s a dream, you see?”

Severus smells the shampoo on Potter’s hair. He could fight—he knows. He could snap just once and bring back a swift dose of reality to their little prison.

But Potter is warm. Potter holds him like a dragon curls around its gold.

“Your glasses are under the bed,” he says finally, and Harry sighs, and he sighs, and sleep claims them again.

*****

He and Harry spend the day in bed.

They have never done it before; their routine was established days after arrival. Usually, Snape wakes first, begins his morning ablutions, and by the time he finishes, Potter is awake. They eat breakfast with a moderate amount of sniping. Afterward, Potter begins a complicated series of exercises. The full sequence takes him two hours. Snape reads one of the newspapers, or one of the few books. Sometimes he writes. And Potter finishes his exercises and excuses himself to the bathroom to clean up.

Breakfast comes automatically, the hatch of the dumbwaiter thumping its arrival. It gives them tea, toast, butter, jam, eggs, and two sausages apiece. Today, Severus brings the tray to the bed and they prop it up across their laps.

“The eggs are always too salty.”

Severus can’t think of anything nice to say. “Eggs are eggs, Potter.”

“But these are salty.” Potter is naked underneath the blankets. He does not seem to mind.

After breakfast, Severus excuses himself to the bathroom. He lets the water out of the tub and hangs Potter’s wet pajamas. He relieves himself, brushes his teeth, washes his hands and face.

When he emerges, Potter has replaced the empty tray in the dumbwaiter. Severus’ side of the blankets is folded down. “Come back,” the younger man says.

Severus does.

*****

They do not move much. Neither do they speak. When Severus shifts or turns, Potter shifts with him. He refuses to investigate what may or may not be happening below the covers—whether or not Potter is hard, whether or not that supple body will arch into his hands.

Before supper arrives, Potter rolls out of bed to use the bathroom. “I’ll be five minutes,” he calls back. The man’s arse is glorious.

Severus turns the clock from the wall and times him.

*****

“You skipped your exercises,” he says finally, the tension of two hours’ silence becoming unbearable.

“I know,” Potter sighs. “I promise I’ll be a good little killing machine tomorrow.”

“Morbid, Potter.”

“But true.”

“Be quiet.”

“…Did you want a bath tonight?”

Snape frowned.

“I know what you’re thinking.”

“You’ve never been that good at Occlumency, Potter.”

“You’re thinking—will he do something terrible while I’m in the bath. Or—will he do something terrible while he’s in the bath.”

“That was not what I was thinking.”

“Yes it was.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“Yes it was.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“Yes—it was.”

“I can do this all night, Potter.”

“I know—so can I.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can. Don’t argue. I don’t want to fight anymore. Please,” Potter whines and pushes his nose against a bony shoulder, his breath whuffing softly across Severus’ collarbone.

“You started it.”

“Then I apologize. Sir.”

“Don’t call me sir when you’re nuzzling me.”

“I’m not nuzzling. …What should I call you?”

“I don’t know.” Which is true.

“I’ll call you whatever you want. …Please don’t call me Harry Bloody Potter anymore.”

“What should I call you, then?”

“Potter is fine.”

“You wouldn’t like me to call you Harry?”

“I’m not hoping for miracles.”

“…Since we are dreaming…”

“Yes?”

“If you would call me Severus—and refrain from any mention of my current or past state of greasiness—I would be amenable to calling you Harry.”

“…Deal.”

A pause. Sometimes Severus thinks he hears crickets. Which is impossible, so perhaps he is on the border of hallucinating.

“Severus?” The word ghosts across Potter’s lips. Something new—something strange.

“Harry,” he answers, just as hesitant.

“I’m going to have a bath. Do you want first or second?”

“Whose turn is it?”

“Yours,” Harry says, and Severus nods though he knows Potter is lying. “Do you want me to run it for you?”

“No. …I’m leaving the door open,” he decides. “And when you bathe, I expect you to do the same.”

“…Fair enough,” Potter sighs.

*****

When he and Potter pass, Severus notes that Harry has pulled on a wrinkled pair of trousers. Severus nods at him, slightly relieved that Harry Bloody Potter is not Harry Literally Bloody Potter. “Won’t be warm long.”

“Right.” The door between them closes halfway.

As Severus dresses in his nightclothes—gray and black, very sensible, cotton—he listens to the unimpeded sounds of Potter bathing. The splash when he drops his lower body into the tub—the sloshing as a bar of very sensible soap begins to rub its way up tight, muscular legs—possibly between spread thighs—the rasp of the soap cool and harsh on such soft skin—perhaps Potter is touching himself. Perhaps he wants a bath so that he can be without the penetrating stare of another. Perhaps he is leaning back in the tub right now, his neck tense, his eyes on the half-open door as his fist jerks over stiff flesh. Maybe Potter is biting his lip, half wanting to be interrupted, half dreading.

Severus sits on the edge of the bed, his fists clenched. Potter takes a long time to bathe, usually. Usually. Dread wins out against want. He pulls the covers aside and climbs into bed. It is still warm from the day spent just… lying in it.

Fully aroused, confused, and awake, Severus settles back.

It sounds as if Potter is washing his hair.

Almost of its own accord, his right hand sneaks down, skates his stomach, ducks underneath the waistband, and finally grasps his engorged shaft. His thumb pets the weeping head a moment before he settles into a steady rhythm, his eyes on the door. If he can finish before Potter emerges…

But he wants Harry to see—he does—he wants Harry to watch him do this—he wants to kiss Harry and fuck Harry and be fucked by Harry—he wants Harry to sneer and insult him while the man forces his body against the bed—he wants Harry to sit across his hips and whisper such beautiful lies—this is so good—I want you—I need you—

I don’t hate you.

Severus comes with a gasp. Pleasure and guilt jelly his bones for a few moments. Potter is not out of the bath. The Potions Master eyes his wand with longing, forces himself to his feet, and cleans himself up with a spare dinner napkin—which he then places in the dumbwaiter. He closes the hatch, hears the thump, and opens the hatch. The napkin is gone.

He imagines putting their wands in the dumbwaiter. He imagines tearing out his heart and putting it in the little wooden box, closing the hatch, hearing the tiny thump.

He only hears water.

“What are you doing in there, Potter—ballet?” he snaps.

*****

Snape wakes up screaming.

Harry huddles next to the wall. Either he doesn’t hear, or pretends not to.

*****

It is as if yesterday never happened.

Potter does his exercises. Snape cleans up, reads.

The hatch on the dumbwaiter sticks at lunchtime. Severus smashes his fist against it. It opens easily.

“Are you trying to fucking break it?”

“Oh, I’m sorry—have you now deigned to speak to me?” Lunch is tomato soup, crackers, and chicken salad sandwiches.

“Don’t be a prick—we depend on that thing. Treat it with a little courtesy. Of course, it is you we’re talking about, and I don’t think someone like you would know courtesy if it bit you—“

“I am not some bloody nanny here to take your abuse, Potter! Here,” Snape snarls and picks up the wands from the nightstand, flinging them at Harry. “Make yourself useful and kill yourself properly.” He barely has a moment to register the unguarded shock on Harry’s face before he flings himself into the bathroom, slams the door, braces his back against it, and hangs his head until his dignity has dissolved in a rain of silent tears.

*****

A quiet knock. “Supper’s here.”

“…I don’t want it.”

“It’s roast and potatoes. I think the waiter wanted to smooth things over.”

Snape’s stomach rumbles. “Not hungry.”

“…I want to smooth things over, too.”

“Go away, Potter.”

“No, I—thank you. I know you… I know you’re here because of me. It’s all my fault. I know that if I weren’t such a sodding wreck, you would probably be in a place where they at least gave you your own bed and something new to read—“

“For Heaven’s sake, Potter—shut up.”

“I’m sorry. …Please come out?” It isn’t even a whine—it is a plea. “Please?”

“So lonely without me?” he grunts.

“…Yes.”

*****

Snape doesn’t mention the bath. Neither does Potter. They usually don’t skip the bath—Snape has expounded on the perils of letting their personal hygiene go even for a day or two in a closed room—but neither brings it up. They eat and drink in relative quiet. Then they dress for bed, each man facing an opposite wall.

It is somehow easier to talk when lying down.

“The potatoes were excellent.”

“The roast?”

“Abysmal.”

“Good word.”

“There are many of those in a large book called the Dictionary.”

“Why get one of those when I’ve got you?”

“It’s a wonder you graduated.”

“…Do another big word.”

“Verisimilitude.”

“Another one.”

“Prestidigitation.”

“It’s really cold tonight. Soon, we’ll be able to see our breath in here. …Do you mind if I got a little bit closer? You’re nearly as good as a space heater.”

“Whatever you like, Potter.”

Potter smells like bathwater and that orange shampoo. His lips are pink and perfect and Severus does not torture himself by looking over at them. “Mm. …I thought Slytherins were cold-blooded.”

Snape feels the man beside him tense as he realizes what he’s said. Before the boy can stammer apologies, the older wizard decides to let him off the hook. “Only figuratively.”

“Warm. …Do another one.”

“Declivitous. Go to sleep.”

“No dreams.”

“No dreams.”

*****

He wakes up wound around Harry. The younger wizard nuzzles his neck.

“H… Potter?”

“This doesn’t have to be miserable. Us being here. You don’t have to…” Lips move against the pale flesh above Snape’s collar, and he whispers, “I can do things for you.” Green eyes rake the visible length of his body. “To you.”

His voice catches in his throat and before Severus can confirm that this is, in fact, not a dream, Potter prods him gently onto his back and hooks one leg around his waist. The boy slides astride him easily, keeping most of his weight on his knees.

“Potter,” he gulps, his quiescent cock stirring at the sight of the young man above him unfastening buttons.

“Shh,” he warns, staring down at a point near Snape’s eyes. “This is happening. And it’s Harry, remember?” The pajama top parts and slithers off solid shoulders, revealing a nearly smooth, finely muscled chest. “…Severus?”

Snape closes his eyes and opens them again cautiously. By the dim light from the bathroom and without his glasses, Potter looks almost comical. His hair sticks up—he blinks uncertainly—his chest rises and falls as if he’s run a marathon, belying the young man’s nervousness.

“This is what you want, isn’t it?” Potter asks, the question low and rasping. He places his hands on his chest and strokes down, slow, slow, drawing the penetrating gaze across the flat of his stomach. “Isn’t it?” he presses, rocking his hips.

Severus puts a hand on Potter’s hip, where smooth skin vanishes under the elastic waistband of the pajama bottoms, and stills the motion. “What is it you want, Potter?”

“Harry,” he corrects. “I don’t want anything. I want you.”

“So I’m nothing, Potter?”

“Wh—no, you’re not nothing—don’t make this hard. It doesn’t have to be,” Potter pleads sweetly, his breath minty and fresh enough to make Snape wonder if he’d gotten up to brush before beginning the seduction. The younger wizard leans closer, offering that perfect, pink mouth. “Don’t you want to kiss me?” he whispers.

Chapter 2

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