"Finally we have proof that Snape survived!" announced Harry, dropping a copy of the Daily Prophet onto Hermione's desk.
Hermione and Ron just looked at him oddly.
"The memory potion? It has to be Snape. Not one of us thinks it could be Lockhart, no matter what the Prophet says." Harry tried not to sound defensive. "There's not a single person in the Auror Office who actually believes it's Lockhart. He's back to doing what he's always done: claiming someone else's work as his own."
Ron and Hermione exchanged an exasperated glance. "Harry, this is the third time in as many months you've thought you found proof that Snape survived," Ron pointed out.
"They never found his body. We left him covered in his own blood in in the Shrieking Shack..."
"I remember. I was there," Hermione interrupted testily.
"...no one claimed responsibility for moving him. We'd know if it had been the Ministry. The surviving Death Eaters would have confessed if they took him..."
"Harry!" Hermione's sharp tone stopped his reiteration of something they'd all discussed several times, though not, to Harry's frustration, enough times to come up with a convincing theory of what could have happened to Snape. "Let's say you're right. Let's say Snape survived and snuck off somewhere to work on the greatest memory potion the world has ever seen. Let's even assume he'd decided to test it on Lockhart, and it worked. Why would Snape let Lockhart take the credit for inventing such an important potion? It doesn't make any sense."
In frustration, Harry sent a gust of wind from his wand to blow open that morning's edition of the paper. The pages flipped to an oversized photo of a smiling Gilderoy Lockhart, who was waving around a vial of the Miraculum Memoriae Potion for which he was currently being celebrated all over the wizarding world. Standing behind Lockhart was his nephew Aurelio, who, despite being several years out of school, had a large pimple on the side of his nose. The son of Lockhart's Squib sister, Aurelio now ran Lockhart's new apothecary, where business was booming.
"Snape would do it because…" Harry's brow creased, unable to come up with a suitable reason, especially with both Ron and Hermione looking at him. Especially Hermione, since Ron always looked like he might be persuaded to change sides and go along with Harry if only Hermione weren't around. "He must have a good reason." It was weak and Harry knew it, but he couldn't come up with anything better aside from his bone-deep feeling that Snape hadn't died, or at least hadn't stayed dead.
Ron was juggling his morning coffee. He'd taken to carrying his own sugar packets, nicked from Muggle coffee shops, since George had once substituted all the sugar at the Ministry with a powder that would seal a person's mouth shut for hours. "Why don't you test the new potion yourself, mate, and see if you can figure out how Lockhart did it?" he said, swinging a sugar packet back and forth before opening it. Both Harry and Hermione looked at him. "What?" he asked, bewildered. "It's a good idea."
"That's why I can't believe you came up with it," Harry admitted, folding up the offensive newspaper. The photograph of Aurelio tried to grab the edge of the newspaper as if to keep the opposite side from coming down on his head. Harry had chosen to focus on potions in the course of his Auror training, in large part as a tribute to Snape. It wasn't as though he had much hope of having a child to name after Snape someday.
"Your confidence warms my heart," grumbled Ron, taking a tentative sip of his coffee. He made a face and sprinkled in more sugar.
Hermione ignored him. "You could easily get a sample," she sniffed. "It's practically your job. The Ministry should have a record of it." Harry started to say something but she cut him off. "No matter who invented it."
Both Hermione and Ron exhaled in exasperation. "Is gone, whether he died that day or doesn't want to be found. I think all of us have to accept that." It was Ron who had spoken, looking a bit apologetic but determined.
"Fine. I'll test it myself, on myself, and see whether I remember anything from the night he died that will prove my theory," retorted Harry.
"On yourself! It would be daft to test a potion on yourself without someone to take notes on how you react and call for help if there are side effects," Hermione put in. "That's why there are Ministry regulations in the first place. Lockhart was suffering from terrible amnesia. His thoughts were all in a jumble. He remembered how to sign autographs, but he didn't remember spells any first-year can master. Whereas your memories are fine."
Harry didn't think it was the best time to mention that he intended to discover whether the potion could help him remember things he'd only seen as an infant, like his parents' faces and maybe whether Snape had ever visited them to see Lily's newborn. Ron and Hermione were sure to tell him it was impossible to recover such memories and a bad idea to try.
"Even Snape would agree that you'd be daft to try an untested potion without someone else to observe and report," concluded Hermione.
This only made Harry snort. "The Half-Blood Prince tested plenty of things without anyone around to rescue him if they went wrong, even dangerous spells like Sectumsempra. He would probably just say that I was exceedingly arrogant and had a penchant for trouble."
"That's true," Ron agreed, then flinched when Hermione took the Daily Prophet from Harry to smack his arm with it. "What? It is true!"
"At least make sure there are potions experts nearby in case you need help," she scolded, unfolding the paper again. "Look, there's a Potions conference in Paris next week. There are sure to be wizards from France and probably from America, where Lockhart isn't so famous and you might not be so recognizable. You can find some skeptics and test it with them." Fixing Harry with a look that reminded Harry of Ron's mum, she added, "You might even have fun. Make friends. Perhaps go on a date."
"Just leave my love life out of this." Both Ron and Hermione -- not to mention Molly, Arthur, George, Bill, Fleur, Ginny, Neville, Seamus, Parvati, Headmistress McGonagall, and lately even Draco bloody Malfoy -- had developed an unfortunate habit of asking whether Harry was seeing anyone every single time they bumped into him. It wasn't any of their business if he hadn't met anyone who excited him the way...well, the way certain of his memories excited him.
The new apothecary had premises at Diagon Alley's most fashionable corner. Instead of the modest old-fashioned swinging signs that most of the other shops had, Aurelio had installed giant boxed-in letters proclaiming that Lockhart's Famous Potions was open for business. Instead of the gloomy boarded-up look that the cauldron shop had, the Apothecary had bright spacious windows crammed full of tastefully lit bottles and rows of vials. Over the door was a painted image of Lockhart himself, one that Harry thought had been in progress when Lockhart had been a teacher at Hogwarts and had been hanging up in his quarters. Only now, Lockhart's nephew Aurelio had been painted in, nearly elbowing his uncle aside in a silent, pigment-fuelled battle for center.
Harry stood across the street for several moments observing the goings-on, thinking it might be a good thing Snape was not around to see this because he'd be rolling over in the grave that Harry was trying to prove he didn't have. That mental gyration made Harry shake his head as he crossed the street. A small crowd had gathered in front of the window, cooing over the potions for sale, though most of the witches, Harry noted, only stared into the shop, presumably hoping to get noticed. Well, they were about to get their wish.
"Ladies," he said, with courteous civility. He nodded to several of the women preening in the almost reflective glass. "Anything interesting for sale today?"
"Why yes," one lady with bright red curls said without turning around. "There's that new kind of gnome repellent right up front and --" She turned to complete her sentence and gasped as she recognized Harry. "It's Harry Potter!"
With a rush, all the witches and wizards crowded in closer to see if it was true, for even now, Harry didn't do much casual shopping in Diagon Alley for this very reason. Gritting his teeth, he acknowledged his identity, shaking several hands and refusing to sign several autographs. "How's the new memory potion, has anyone tried it?" he asked, trying to avoid being pressed back against the glass panes of the window.
"Wonderful stuff," one wizard exclaimed, an older gentleman with a wild mane of snow-white hair and a matching long moustache. "I can remember my wife's birthday without her even sending me Howlers to remind me."
"I used it to find a strongbox of troll warts that my husband hid before he died. He told me where he'd hid them years before but I forgot!" confided one witch. Before Harry could ask her why she would ever want to find troll warts, or even to hide them in the first place, another witch interrupted.
"I can remember so many things about when I was a little girl, before I even got my Hogwarts letter, and that's been nearly a hundred years ago now," she said.
That last quickened Harry's heart. He only had a few birthdays to remember, he didn't care about troll warts, but he did want to look into the past that was forever blocked by the limitations of his memory.
"Sounds amazing," he said with an air of confidentiality that of course included the entire crowd. There were nods and murmurs of agreement all around, almost as though everyone in the crowd had tried it. He could tell from his position that their little group was finally attracting attention from the proprietors inside the shop.
Aurelio stepped outside the door. "What are you doing here?" he asked, and if he was trying not to sound suspicious, he wasn't doing a bang-up job of it. Nearly everyone in the wizarding world knew that Harry had become an Auror but not many cared that he had chosen to specialize in the misuses and abuses of potions. Not many, but Aurelio -- who had stalled on sending a sample of any of Lockhart's Famous Potions to the Ministry -- was definitely one of the ones who did.
"Seems you're more famous than I am these days," replied Harry cheerfully, noting that this assessment delighted Aurelio. Harry had glanced at his Hogwarts records and discovered that Aurelio had been an entirely average student; while he had received no Ps or Ds, he earned few EEs even in Potions, and Harry doubted that anyone had ever given him an O in his life. "If your latest potion is as valuable as I'm hearing, you and your uncle may find yourselves candidates for the Order of Merlin."
There were gasps and applause from the gathered crowd and Aurelio looked pleased for a moment before some darker emotion caused his brow to furrow. "Of course, it would be foolish for anyone to start handing out awards until we've finished developing the potion completely."
"Surely you aren't saying that you've been selling a potion you aren't finished developing?" Harry asked with as wide-eyed and innocent an expression as he could muster. "What ill effects has it produced?"
"We haven't seen any ill effects at all," replied Aurelio loudly. "The potion works perfectly and doesn't cause any unintended results."
"Then you won't mind submitting a sample to the Ministry so that it can be properly tested and classified."
Heads swiveled to look from Harry to Aurelio, who blushed and stammered a bit. "Of course not, when we've finished developing it completely."
"I've been hearing that it's fully restored the memories of people suffering from amnesia and even dementia." With a gesture over his shoulder, Harry indicated the gathered crowd behind him. "You're telling me it's going to get even better? What more could it possibly do?"
"Help students cheat on their Hogwarts exams," said an extremely cross voice somewhere at the back of the crowd. Harry whirled, but he couldn't see who had spoken. For a moment he could have sworn that it was Snape.
"It wouldn't be cheating if students could remember something they'd only read one time for the rest of their lives," objected Aurelio.
"That would be true only if every student had access to the potion." Reluctantly Harry stopped scanning the crowd for Snape and turned back to the person he had after all come there to investigate. "I understand that it's quite expensive. Will you be providing it for free to students?"
Another collective gasp from the crowd was followed by another round of applause. Scowling, Aurelio raised his voice to be heard over the sound. "As I said, it's premature to be discussing any of this, since the potion is still under development." Stepping back through the doorway, he moved to shut the heavy oak door.
As an Auror, it would have been within Harry's power -- indeed, it might have been considered his responsibility -- to take a sample of the potion without Aurelio's permission, using a spell to obtain it for testing. But Harry preferred not to have to resort to subterfuge. "Wait! I came here to speak to your uncle. He's probably mentioned to you that he taught one of my favorite classes." Harry didn't know whether Lockhart's recovery extended to the argument that had led to the accident in which Lockhart had lost his memories while trying to put a Forgetfulness Charm on Harry and Ron, but he did know that Lockhart was vain enough to accept the claim that the Chosen One appreciated his teaching. "I probably learned more from him than any other Hogwarts teacher except Professor Snape. But you must know all about Snape, since potions are your specialty. May I speak to your uncle, please?"
Aurelio looked, if possible, even more reluctant to allow Harry to speak to Lockhart, but he couldn't back down with everyone watching. Harry got the feeling he knew he'd been outmaneuvered when the door creaked open just a fraction. "I'll see if he's in," Aurelio grumbled, then, ominously, his face brightened and his voice raised as many notches as his expression. "He's so often busy in the laboratory perfecting his new creations."
Most of the crowd went "Ahhhhh!" almost as if they'd been coached, but one voice spoke up, "Or perfecting his autograph."
Harry whirled, but he was much closer to the front of the crowd than the back from where the lone dissenter had called out. There were too many pointy hats in the way. The voice had sounded like the same one as before, the sarcastic tone achingly familiar.
He realized that Aurelio had said something else, so he turned back, frowning at the shop entrance. "I'm sorry, what?"
Making an inscrutable face, Aurelio said, "Why don't you make an appointment to see my uncle? He'll be away next week at a Potions conference, but when he gets back I'm sure he'd --"
Frustrated at not being able to identify the voice from the edge of the throng of people, Harry straightened to his full height, which, though not very intimidating, was a hairsbreadth over Aurelio's. "Let me come in so we can keep our schedules private," he said and gave the door a firm push, stepping inside. The interior of the shop looked much as it had in its photographs in the Daily Prophet, with rows of colorful potions in ornate glass phials and bottles more suited to expensive perfume or liquor. The place looked and smelled like a fancy boutique, not a research laboratory, though there were a few requisite cauldrons and flasks producing steam in the corner behind the counter.
Aurelio glanced around nervously, but apparently saw nothing that might concern the Ministry, because he relaxed and even smirked a bit. "There, you see? Just an ordinary Potions shop."
"Right," said Harry, not sounding at all convinced. "Where's your uncle?"
"As you can see, he's not here." Aurelio gestured around the place as if inviting Harry to look for himself, which Harry was tempted to do. When he nudged a cabinet open with his foot, he was unsurprised to see nothing inside, as if the entire place were not a working store but a sort of theatrical presentation. "He may have gone out in search of more ingredients."
One thing Harry had ascertained from his research was that Lockhart only went out for significant publicity events. No one had spotted him with or without his nephew casually shopping in Knockturn Alley or visiting the herb farms that produced ingredients for the better-known potion makers in Britain, all places Harry himself had visited in his fruitless attempts to see whether Snape might be living an anonymous life as an herbologist or a brewer. "Are you sure he's not in the loo?" he asked.
"I'm certain." Tugging back the curtain behind the counter, Aurelio revealed a corridor with a door ajar, presumably the entrance to the bathroom. There was another room further back with its door shut. Following Harry's gaze, Aurelio added, "That's the pantry. He'd have no reason to be in there."
"Not even for ingredients to improve the potion?"
Once again, Aurelio scowled. "He wouldn't have shut the door behind him, would he?"
Harry had had enough of Aurelio's stalling. "All right, I'll make an appointment to see your uncle. If I can't do it tomorrow, then I'll come see him first thing in the morning the day he returns from his conference. But I'm not leaving without a sample of the potion. Whether it's perfected or not, whether it even works or not, the Ministry needs to be certain that it's safe."
Aurelio huffed angrily, but he took one look at Harry's determined scowl and nodded. "All right. I'll get you a sample." Reaching up to one of the shelves, he took down a frosted glass bottle covered with fancy swirl patterns around an illustration of a Jobberknoll. Harry thought that Aunt Petunia had had a bottle of Eau de Toilette that looked similar, though lacking the fine detail and polished edges of this one. Rather carelessly for a potions maker, Aurelio decanted a small amount into a vial, then retrieved a stopper.
"Wait," said Harry. "Let me smell that."
With another frown, Aurelio handed Harry the vial. After pinching his nose to clear it of the faint, artificially sweet smell of the shop, Harry took a deep breath, inhaling the contents. Whatever was in the vial smelled like a perfectly ordinary mind-enhancing potion as produced by a Hogwarts student...like damp, slightly burnt Jobberknoll feathers.
For a moment Aurelio looked confused, as if he didn't know what Harry was doing, bending over the sample. He looked almost like he wanted to lean over and find out what Harry was smelling, but he caught himself quickly and his face scrunched up into his customary unpleasant look. "He isn't gay, you know," he said.
"Isn't --" Harry nearly dropped the sample. "Isn't gay? Is that what you said? Who isn't gay?" For a wild moment Harry thought Aurelio was telling him something about Snape before common sense kicked in. If Ron and Hermione thought Snape was still dead, then Aurelio couldn't have any idea that Harry thought there might be a reason he wasn't.
Aurelio's sneer was firmly in place. "My uncle," he said as if to a moron. "I know he's flamboyant, but he isn't a poof."
Frowning, Harry tucked the sample into an inner pocket of his jacket. "Why do you think I care?"
Aurelio looked more confident now, with the door closed and no other customers in the shop. "Everyone knows about you, Potter," he said, "You're a poof." He didn't quite make it an accusation but it was one nudge away.
Leaning casually against the counter, Harry said, "Yeah, I know. I meant, why do you think I care that your uncle isn't?"
Pointing to Harry's pocket, Aurelio said, "Isn't this all just an excuse to get close to him? I don't believe for one minute that you care anything about potions."
Snorting at the preposterousness of the idea that he could ever under any circumstances have been interested in Gilderoy Lockhart, Harry tapped the pocket. "I just want to test this for the Ministry," he said, pushing away from the counter. "I'll let you know what the results are."
Like a snake, Aurelio's hand shot out, grabbing Harry's upper arm. It was a good thing Harry had been through Auror training; otherwise his first reaction might have been a hex instead of a pointed look. "Wait, you're really going to test it?"
Aurelio must have seen Harry's glare, for he loosened his hand, pulling it back into his robe sleeve. "I really am," said Harry, taking a step away. "Why, are you worried about something?" He kept his expression neutral. When no response came forth, Harry went on, "Let your uncle know I'd like to speak to him. Ask him to send an owl with a note confirming that I'll see him the day he returns from the conference." Aurelio nodded, looking like he wanted to say something else but not quite daring.
The crowd had not dispersed by the time Harry left the shop. If anything, it had grown larger, as if everyone in Diagon Alley had heard that the Chosen One might be having a confrontation inside with the creator of the Miraculum Memoriae Potion. Although Aurelio had claimed that rumors about Harry's sexual orientation were rampant, they didn't stop several witches from smiling at Harry and in a couple of cases nudging their daughters toward him as though they were expected to start a conversation.
With a cheery wave worthy of Lockhart himself, Harry made his way past them toward the Leaky Cauldron. He had no reason to believe that Snape -- well, whoever had sounded like Snape -- might have gone inside such a well known establishment, but it seemed more likely than the owl emporium or the newly reopened Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, now under the ownership of relatives of the late Florean Fortescue.
Indeed, no one who looked or sounded like Snape appeared in the Leaky Cauldron, not even anyone Harry imagined might have been Snape under Polyjuice or any sort of transformation spell or glamour, legal or illegal. As often happened in public places, Harry received effusive greetings from several people to whom he had been introduced once or never actually met at all. People had a habit of treating him like an old friend. It was one of the weird effects of being famous that made Harry uncomfortable, though obviously the entire Lockhart family craved such recognition. Even Snape had been eager to receive the Order of Merlin, though whether that had been for the celebrity status it conferred or because it would have enhanced his status among the Death Eaters whom he was trying to convince were his allies, Harry couldn't have guessed.
While he pondered the nature of fame, Harry had the fortune to encounter someone he actually did know who was an expert in popularity and potions both. "Hello, my boy!" exclaimed Horace Slughorn from behind a rather large tankard of ale. "I never expected to see the most famous Auror drinking with the ordinary folk in here."
Even away from Hogwarts, it seemed that Slughorn divided the world into those worthy of the Slug Club and those not so special, which made Harry want to laugh, though he still owed Horace Slughorn a favor for writing him an effusive recommendation to the Ministry as a top Potions student...something Snape would never have done. Harry was sure that Lockhart had been just the sort of person Slughorn had admired before the accident that had put Witch Weekly's favorite cover wizard in St. Mungo's.
"I was across the alley and thought I'd come see whether Professor Lockhart had wandered out of his shop," he explained to Slughorn. "You're a Potions expert -- what do you think about this Miraculum Memoriae Potion?"
Slughorn's brow furrowed. "I wouldn't have guessed that Gilderoy Lockhart had such a talent for brewing potions," he admitted. "But you've seen the Daily Prophet, I'm sure -- there's no denying that his potion seems to be all he claims. From what I heard about his accident at Hogwarts, his own recovery is proof of that."
"I would have thought that if a Hogwarts professor came up with a miracle potion, it would be you," Harry told him, trying to look earnest. He didn't have to say that he always figured Snape was a more brilliant potions innovator, since Slughorn, like nearly everyone else, believed Snape to be dead. "If you were going to work on a memory potion, what would you use?"
"Certainly Jobberknoll feathers, and ginseng and Chinese moss, but I hardly need to tell you that," chuckled Slughorn, who had flushed with pleasure at the compliment, or maybe because of the ale. "Of course, the tentacles of species of jellyfish that glow in the dark are also valuable in enhancing memory, but they are quite expensive."
"I'm sure that wouldn't stop Lockhart," put in Harry, making a mental note to see whether the potion he'd taken from Aurelio glowed in the dark. "What about rosemary?"
"That would improve the taste, but I'm afraid its effects as a memory enhancer are largely anecdotal. If not for Ophelia in Hamlet, I doubt that anyone would still be using it."
Harry was impressed that Slughorn remembered his Shakespeare; he only remembered about rosemary being for remembrance because Hermione had dragged him and Ron to a production of Hamlet that wasn't nearly as much fun as watching the witches in Macbeth. "Are there any ingredients you can think of that Lockhart might be using which could be dangerous?"
"Nearly anything used to excess can be dangerous, as you know." Slughorn was shaking his head. "But I've never heard of anyone suffering from a memory potion to anything like the degree that Lockhart suffered from his own memory charm."
"Thank you, Professor." Harry had been thinking of giving Slughorn a whiff of the sample he had taken from Aurelio, but he didn't really think at this point that Slughorn knew much about potions that Harry hadn't picked up from the Half Blood Prince's notes, and he did think that Slughorn was likely to brag about being asked. He was going to have to tell Hermione there was really no choice but to test it on himself.
"There is no possibility that I am letting you test that potion on yourself," Hermione scowled once Harry had admitted his intentions the next day during their pre-work breakfast. "Let me say that again, because you had that glazed look you get in your eyes when you think I'm being stern. You are not testing Gilderoy Lockhart's memory potion on yourself --"
"But Hermione," Harry began.
"And if I find out you're even still thinking about doing it, I will put a nanny charm on you to let me know the instant you uncork the vial."
"But -- wait, you can do that?"
Ron, who was seated slightly out of Hermione's range of vision, had a commiserating look on his face. "Oh yeah, mate, you do not want the nanny charm." He drew a line across his throat and made a croaking sound.
Hermione shot Ron a glare but, instead of looking offended, she looked satisfied. Harry suspected his own eyes weren't the least bit glazed over now. She'd begun the lecture with all sorts of dire warnings about magic going haywire and wizards who didn't know how to handle themselves with unfamiliar magic and rounded off by pointing all the many instances -- and indeed there had been so many that Harry had forgotten about that he thought he might need a dose of the memory potion just to get her point -- of Gilderoy Lockhart being a stupendously bad teacher.
Glumly Harry had just about decided she was right when she sprang the nanny charm on him. He huffed out a breath that blew up his fringe. "All right, what if I go to that Potions conference and find someone to help me test it? It sounds like a lot of people will be there, even Lockhart himself."
Hermione exchanged glances with Ron, who did his best to look as though Harry was the most brilliant Auror that had ever caught a bad wizard. "I suppose that would work," she admitted. "You'll still be in range of the nanny charm if you misbehave."
Harry gulped. "I'll go pack."
He ended up with a bag small enough that he didn't even need to shrink it down for the trip. After all, he wasn't on the lookout for promising men, so he could leave the arseless chaps at home. And he only packed one tight fitting crop top. He was going to Paris, after all.
After clearing the conference at work, he put in for a Portkey and renewed his translation charm, which he hadn't used since that one case in Yorkshire. There were groups landing all around the park just on the outskirts of Paris, where Harry presumed the conference organizers had privacy spells in place. The hotel looked like a modest bed and breakfast on the outside but was quite posh inside, as conference hotels tended to be. He'd registered under the name "Harry James," a thin but adequate fiction to keep any press frantic enough to still be on his trail off the mark.
He'd just tossed his bag on the bed in his room when a hand clamped over his mouth. A thousand bitter thoughts flashed through his mind. He should have entered an unfamiliar room with his wand out. He should have registered as Roonil Waslib. He should have let Hermione put a more sophisticated nanny charm on him.
"Don't struggle," a voice said, and Harry froze. It was the same voice he'd heard in the back of the crowd at the Apothecary shop. "I"m not going to hurt you." The fingers were very tight across his mouth. Harry could detect a scent, because the man was very close to him, though Harry couldn't even see a shadow of him. The scent reminded him of Potions lessons in the dungeon and only one man had ever smelled that way to Harry. He gave the slightest of nods allowed by the grip on his jaw.
He was desperately trying to think of a way to communicate so he could see if the voice belonged to the one person who could get Harry not to struggle when abruptly the hand let go of him and Harry was free. Free, and in the company of Severus Snape.
"I knew it was you!" he said, and before he could stop himself, he flung his arms around Snape's waist and held onto him.
"Potter! What are you doing?" Snape sputtered. "Tell me you haven't already drunk that abominable potion and taken leave of your senses!"
"If I had, I'd only remember all the times you saved my life." Oh Merlin, Harry's eyes were watering. "And more of the details from the night you gave me your memories." Rather than looking as moved as Harry felt, Snape looked embarrassed and cross with him. "I knew you weren't dead! I kept trying to tell everyone but no one would listen to me. They all told me I was mad. I knew that if anyone could make a memory potion that could cure Lockhart, it had to be you..."
"Potter!" barked Snape again, this time to shut him up. "I have created no memory potion and I don't believe for a moment that Lockhart has either. He wouldn't have been the least bit capable before his accident, let alone afterward." Believing his point had been made, Snape tried to pull out of Harry's embrace, but Harry's arms refused to let go, and Snape's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You did test it on yourself, didn't you. Obviously it's already caused brain damage."
"No, of course I didn't." Harry decided not to mention that this was largely because of Hermione's threats. "I'm just really happy to see you. I thought you were dead!"
Snape's eyes rolled just as elaborately as they had when students made particularly stupid comments in his classroom. "You just told me that you believed I wasn't dead," he pointed out.
"I really, really hoped. Didn't you ever have a feeling that something was true even if you had no rational basis..."
"You mean something like suspecting a classmate might be a werewolf?" asked Snape sourly.
"No -- well, fine, something like that." Snape's eyes rolled again. Harry decided to ignore this because Snape hadn't tried again to extricate himself, at least not yet. "No one ever found your body. There's no portrait at Hogwarts. If anyone could have fooled You-Know-Who, it was you."
"Not just the Dark Lord. The entire world believed me to be gone." For a moment Snape looked smug, then his smirk vanished. "Why in Merlin's name would you be happy to see me? Even you are clever enough to prove that that liar Lockhart and his buffoon of a nephew couldn't have produced a miracle memory potion. No one could make a potion that does what he claims."
Harry took a moment to let that sink in. Snape was saying that Lockhart's potion was fake, as he'd half-suspected all along. Which meant that Harry would never be able to use it to remember his parents' faces or save his own recollection of Lupin's voice for Teddy before time started to dull his memory of it. Which was a shame, but not enough to diminish Harry's good mood. "You just complimented me," he crowed. "You actually snuck into my hotel room to find me. I think you're glad to see me too." And with that, he planted a kiss on Snape's mouth.
For the first moment Harry was afraid Snape was going to splutter and shove him aside, demanding to know what he was doing. For only for the first moment, though; then Snape made an inexplicable noise that was not any sort of protest and Harry felt himself really being kissed. Not the fumbling sort of kisses he'd shared with girls in school, nor the more experienced yet not entirely enthusiastic ones he'd shared with men after confirming what he had long suspected about himself. This was a hell-for-leather, balls-in sort of kiss, and Harry was breathless by the time Snape released him.
"Now," Snape said, "you've obviously come to Paris to elicit help on the --"
"Wait a minute, you can't kiss me like that then switch topics!" Harry yelped. Snape's abrupt departure had left him gasping like a carp.
Snape stared at Harry. "You kissed me," he pointed out.
"That wasn't just me," Harry argued. He was tingling still in places that kiss had reached that no other kiss had even gotten friendly with. "You are glad to see me, aren't you?" The interval for a snarky dismissal passed, and Harry grinned. "You are!"
Snape cleared his throat. "I did come all the way to Paris to help with your endeavor."
"You mean you want to nail Lockhart as much as I do," Harry said, not minding that Snape hadn't declared happiness at seeing Harry. Just knowing he'd been right about Snape being alive was enough for now. "Have you seen him -- Lockhart, I mean?"
Snape shook his head. "I tried to disguise myself and get an appointment with the rotter, but that nephew of his made some excuse."
"He did the same to me," Harry said. "I got a sample of the potion, though."
Snape was still shaking his head. "No, you got a sample of a potion, but you did not get a sample of any miracle memory potion that Aurelio keeps locked up in that shop."
Harry thought about this a moment. "There are testimonies from customers --" he began.
"Falsified or bought."
Harry considered this too. "I spoke to several people outside the shop when I went to visit the other day. They told me they'd gotten results." He had a sudden vision of opening a box of troll warts and shuddered.
"There are potions that can temporarily enhance recollections and there is the power of suggestion. The entire fracas over this particular memory potion is only that, though Aurelio seems intent on touting this potion as a breakthrough. It isn't. And we're going to prove it."
There was something in the way Snape said we that Harry decided he liked at once. "All right, how are we going to do that? And do you have to stay out of sight while we do it?" Suddenly Harry pictured himself telling Ron and Hermione that he wasn't mad, that Snape was really alive, only to have Snape vanish again and have no way to find him. He made a grab for Snape's sleeve, reassured by the firm arm beneath it. "You aren't going to disappear again, are you? Whatever it is you're hiding from, the Ministry will protect you."
They stood very close again, Harry's hand still on Snape's arm. Snape turned, bringing himself still closer, gazing down at Harry. "I have no need of the Ministry. I can protect myself." He shook his head when Harry started to protest this. Frowning, he added, "Until now, I've found it easier to stay dead than to re-enter living society."
"Until now?" Harry asked, aware that he was practically leaning against Snape again. Snape had come back for him, Harry knew it somehow. And just as he knew it, he knew he didn't need to make Snape admit it. "What do we have to do first?"
"Let me see that potion sample."
Quickly, Harry performed a summoning spell, though he had to release Snape's arm and pull out his wand to do it. He'd become better at nonverbal spells during Auror training, but he was afraid that if he didn't concentrate, he might spill the sample. "I thought about showing it to Slughorn, but I really didn't think he was going to detect anything besides Jobberknoll feathers and Chinese moss."
Uncorking the vial, Snape took a whiff and made a face. "The feathers have been scorched," he said crossly. "And the moss was dried, not even fresh. I suspect the reason this is being hailed as a miraculous memory potion is the presence of oil from the ayahuasca vine. It causes susceptibility to suggestion -- and it can be lethal if administered improperly."
"Slughorn guessed there might be expensive jellyfish bits in it," reported Harry, impressed that Snape could tell so much from a single whiff.
"Does it glow in the dark?"
"I haven't had a chance to check."
Snape aimed his wand at the lamp, then at the window shade, leaving the room in total darkness. There was no glow from the vial, whose outlines Harry couldn't even see. "No jellyfish parts," pronounced Snape, whose voice sounded even sexier than usual with all the lights out. He must have aimed his wand at the lamp again because it slowly began to brighten, not so fast that it made Harry's eyes water, but enough to make him want to take off his glasses. "I think we can rule out --"
Then Snape spluttered again because Harry was kissing him again. He hadn't been wrong earlier -- kissing Snape made him tingle in places that no kiss, indeed no experience in his life, had ever made Harry tingle. And again, Snape was kissing him back quite enthusiastically, with one arm around his waist and the other gripping his arm.
Not without reluctance, Harry pulled back in alarm. "The potion! Where --"
The vial was floating in the air beside him. "Luckily for you, I can perform Wingardium Leviosa while distracted," muttered Snape.
Harry considered this. "You mean you could just keep it there while we..." He moved in for another kiss.
"While we...eat dinner?" inquired Snape.
Harry supposed that that was probably a good idea, even though he could have kept kissing Snape for another hour without ever thinking about food. He did want to find out where Snape had been living and how he'd survived the snake attack in the first place. "I'm guessing you don't want to put in an appearance in the dining room, so let me see what sort of takeaway we can get."
Thankfully there were takeaway menus included in the conference packet. They had a pleasant argument over curry versus pizza which Snape won merely by saying, "I haven't had a good curry since--" then managing to look wistful despite Harry's certainty that before that moment he would have sworn that was an expression Snape's face could never pull off. They were bent over, studying the various menus, faces close enough that Harry would have expected anger and resentment but instead he saw character where he'd only seen derision before. Then again he'd never dreamed he'd willingly have a private dinner with Snape's face or any other part of Snape at all and that was making him think of other private pursuits they might engage in.
"I suppose you have a right to be curious about how I survived," Snape admitted once their order was placed. There was a note of eagerness in the statement. Harry supposed that if he'd pulled off what Snape had he'd be bursting to toot his own clever horn too. "I expect you worked out the antivenin."
Harry nodded though he didn't mention that when he'd first begun discussing his theories about Snape, which had been nearly straightaway when no body had been found, it was Hermione who'd told him all the reasons why antivenin wouldn't have worked. "Though obviously that wasn't enough," he prompted.
"It was the late headmaster who drew up the plan," Snape said, sitting back in one of the room's chairs as if to distance himself from Harry and his possible reaction.
"I saw all of that in the memories you gave me," admitted Harry, "about the plans you and Professor Dumbledore worked out to give you more access to the inner circle, I mean, not about how you might die." He'd deliberately used Dumbledore's name since Snape seemed reluctant to. Harry took a seat across from Snape and rested his arms on his knees. "I admit I was angry for a long time after you did what you did, but I see now it was what Dumbledore wanted, and I've made sure the Ministry knows that."
Snape nodded. "There was a certain element of risk, in any plan we drew up. I began to carry all sorts of magical remedies, dittany for example. Of course if the Dark Lord had used the Killing Curse we wouldn't be having this conversation right now, no matter what precautions I took." He turned his face slightly and looked at Harry full on. For just a moment he imagined Snape must be feeling the same thing Harry was, the unreality of being civil toward one another, and with the kisses still tingling on their lips, quite a bit more than civil.
"Even with all my precautions," Snape went on, after a moment, "I was almost a goner until that dratted bird showed up."
It took Harry a moment but he worked it out. "Fawkes!" Snape nodded. "Of course, magical tears."
"Their magic can heal nearly all on this side of death," Snape said, "and even so, it was a very near thing."
"Would their magic enhance a memory potion?" Harry asked him.
"I suppose it would, but phoenix tears aren't something even a celebrity like Lockhart could walk into an apothecary and purchase. Nor could he steal them, and no one could obtain them for him. The birds are impossible to domesticate and will only produce tears when they choose to do so." Snape frowned faintly. "If Lockhart had shown the late headmaster any true loyalty, Fawkes might have cured him after his accident. He'd have no source of phoenix tears. Nor would that blighter Aurelio."
Harry's laughter was interrupted by a knock. By the time he had sorted his Galleons from the pounds and Euros that were also in his wallet and argued with Snape that he should get dinner since they were in his hotel room even though Snape was insisting that, since he'd broken into the room, he should pay, then set out the plastic forks and napkins that had come with the curry, wishing he had candles to make the meal more, um, sociable, he'd forgotten about the phoenix tears. "What do you want to do next?" he asked.
Snape stiffened a bit. "Contrary to your obvious belief, I did not return to wizarding society only to indulge my libido with a former student..."
"I didn't mean what do you want to do with me!" yelped Harry. "If you don't want to indulge your libido, kissing me is a pretty strange way to show it, but I meant what do you want to do about Lockhart and the potion. You could walk right out of here, you know -- your name has been cleared, and everyone knows what a genius you were, tricking the Death Eaters."
Snape had shoveled a forkful of food into his mouth and Harry thought he was blushing, though it might have been from the spice. He took his time about swallowing, wiping his mouth and clearing his throat. "Ah," he began. "Have you had a look at the schedule? There's a panel tomorrow morning on medicinal potions. The experts there are sure to be as skeptical as we are of Lockhart's claims."
Harry really wanted to get back to discussing Snape's libido, but he tried to concentrate on the topic at hand. "You think we should announce there that we think it's a fake?"
"Certainly not. You should wait until you have proof." Harry was disappointed that Snape said you and not we. He was about to voice this concern when Snape added, "Surely you know that they've invited Lockhart to give the keynote speech?"
"What?" Harry yelped again. "No, I didn't know. I barely had time to look at the schedule before you pounced on me. That means every major potion maker in the world must be here!" He pondered this, sipping tea and giving Snape a thoughtful look. "It's the perfect place for you to come back to life."
Snape went pale. "So that every potion maker in the world with a grudge against me could send me to my actual death?"
"How many Potions masters could possibly --" He looked at Snape again, sighed and shrugged. "We'll just make sure that doesn't happen. With so many credible witnesses around, this will be the perfect time."
"Obviously you haven't met many Potion masters," grumbled Snape.
"Only the ones at the Ministry. And you." The space between them filled up again, thickening with something that had always been between them but had always been unsubstantiated until now. Harry thought his body might be at an odd angle because it felt as though he was leaning toward Snape, like two ingredients in a potion that needed to be blended to make magic happen.
"Don't you think about anything else?" Snape snapped as though Harry had spoken his emerging desires aloud.
"I didn't say anything!" Harry sputtered. He made a frustrated sound. "And no, I don't, not when you're here and real and alive and I've wanted --"
"Wanted?" prompted Snape, folding his arms over his chest.
"You know what I've wanted. I just never thought I could have it until now." He sucked in enough oxygen and courage to remain upright.
"How do you know you want it? I might always want to be on the top. My cock might not be big enough for you, or I might be cruel in bed --"
Hearing Snape talk about being on top and showing Harry his cock was not exactly making Harry forget about the fact that they were alone, and he was pretty sure Snape hadn't just come back to expose a potions hoax, because if he'd wanted to do that, he wouldn't have broken into Harry's room. Or at least Harry didn't think he would. So he did the one thing he knew that would convince Snape he didn't care whether he wanted to be on top or bottom: he stepped in close again and kissed him.
Snape had been still running on about some reason or another why this wasn't a good idea, but when his lips pressed into Harry's it must have seemed like a good idea because he kissed back and wasn't the least bit shy about it. "I don't care about those things," Harry said, having managed to get his arms around Snape's waist. "I don't mind finding them out with you, but I want a chance to find out."
The noise that emerged from Snape's mouth might have signified exasperation or merely that Harry was squeezing too tightly. "What makes you think I want to find them with you?"
Huffing a bit, Harry squeezed again. "You did sneak into my room here when you could have found me somewhere innocuous in London or turned up Polyjuiced. And you aren't exactly resisting when I --" Rather than explaining, he kissed Snape again.
"Don't blame me if you're disappointed by the answers," muttered Snape, though he was sliding his hands down Harry's back as he spoke.
"I'm already not disappointed." Moaning, Harry pressed into the hands now cupping his arse. "I don't care how big your cock is -- mine's completely average, maybe not even, but I haven't seen that many. And you can be on top if you want."
"I haven't seen many myself, and not for a very long time," Snape replied, relaxing perceptibly. "If you're certain you want this, I have no general preference for position."
Blushing, Harry nodded. "None of the ones I've seen excited me because they weren't yours. I wanted this for a long time. If it's all the same, I'd kind of like you on top." Pausing, he considered what he was offering. "You do want this, don't you? It's not just so you can recruit me to whatever plan you have to humiliate Lockhart?"
To his satisfaction, Snape looked aghast, then pressed closer so that Harry could feel a cock that was plenty big nudging his thigh. "Does that seem like part of a mad scheme to recruit you? I could unmask Lockhart without indulging in passionate sex."
The way Snape said passionate made Harry break into a wide grin. He leaned back on the bed, tugging on Snape's hips to make him follow. "I just wanted to make sure you felt the same way," he admitted as Snape's fingers slid under his shirt, pushing it up.
"As you said, I could have contacted you in a thousand other ways besides being alone with you in your bedroom." The shirt flew off and to the floor. With a happy whimper, Harry started working on the far-too-many buttons on Snape's robes, hearing Snape gasp at his touch. "I did think it was possible that you still loathed me."
Lifting his head so that he could shake it, Harry said, "I never loathed you. Once I saw your memories, everything made sense. Well, I thought you might have been in love with my mum, which was not really a happy thought. But I also thought you didn't seem to like her that way, if you know what I mean."
Snape was looking at him intensely, reaching out one finger to slide down his chest. "Yes, I know what you mean," he replied. "I don't want to think about the past. Take off your trousers -- I want to see all of you."
Blushing again, Harry started undoing his belt. "I will if you will." His fingers fumbled as he shoved down the jeans he'd worn to travel as inconspicuously as possible, stepping out of his shoes, then stripping off his underwear over his stiff cock. "Well...is it big enough?"
Snape was gazing at him with the nearest thing to appreciation that Harry had ever seen from him. "I need to investigate more closely," he murmured, urging Harry back onto the bed, and Harry thought his lip was quivering.
Leaning back, Harry spread out obediently. "I want to see yours too."
"As you can see, it's quite unexceptional."
Snape was flushed, though whether that was because he actually believed his own words or knew it was false modesty, Harry couldn't tell -- even without being fully hard, Snape's cock was impressive. Sighing happily, Harry leaned up to kiss his thigh. "It's perfect. Is it all right if I --" He could feel Snape's fingers sliding into his hair and took that as permission, kissing the base of the twitching shaft.
"It never felt perfect before now." Snape cleared his throat, turning so that he could kiss along Harry's cock.
That made Harry more confident, and he did the same to Snape. "Don't make me come too fast," he warned, then swirled his mouth around the head of Snape's cock. "I haven't done this in a long time."
"Not as long as it's been for me." Snape's nose buried in his pubic hair, inhaling him, and Harry couldn't hold his hips still, crying out.
"Oh fuck you obviously remember how!"
He felt Snape chuckle around his cock, which made him buck and groan again. "It's coming back to me," allowed Snape, his tongue flicking across the tip of Harry's cock.
"It's just going to be coming if you do that!" Harry was trying to stroke Snape's balls but it was very hard to concentrate with Snape blowing softly over his cock. "I thought you wanted to be inside me!"
The moan that came out of Snape's mouth vibrated with the same urgency as the tremor that went through his thighs. "I want that very much. I have a potion that will help." With a silent spell he summoned it from a trouser pocket.
Harry couldn't help giggling nervously. "Do you always keep that in your trousers?" Snape looked distinctly embarrassed, shaking his head and looking at the floor. "So you were planning for this! You said you thought I loathed you."
"I wasn't planning for it precisely, but I hoped..." Blushing was improbably a good look on Snape. "It's my own formula. Much better than any commercial potion that would be available even from some of the renowned Potions masters at this conference." Snape poured out a bit, reaching to caress Harry with slippery fingers. "I knew you had my memories. I hoped that you would understand. I said some things that were not forgivable..."
"You also said you didn't want to think about the past. I don't either. I want to enjoy --" With a cry as Snape's finger pressed inside him, Harry clutched at the bedcovers.
"Let me know if I cause you discomfort." Harry was pushing down on the finger, trying to get it right where he wanted it, and he could see that Snape enjoyed this reaction, fingering him, teasing his arsehole. "You're even more responsive than --"
Harry cried out again as the finger brushed over his prostate. "Oh fuck! Than who?"
"Than I imagined."
Two fingers were stroking in deep, making it hard for Harry to focus. "You imagined this? With me?" Snape nodded, watching his fingers rather than meeting Harry's gaze. "I kept imagining it with you and -- fuck! Right there! -- thought I'd go crazy if I couldn't find you!"
"I hoped that was why you were looking." Looking up, Snape eased the finger out, spilling out more potion to use on himself as Harry watched breathlessly. "I could not fathom why else you would have expressed an interest in Potions at the Auror Office. You've done well there, I've heard."
It was hard to remember what they were talking about as Harry watched Snape coat his own cock with glistening potion. "Where? Oh, the Auror Office. People tell me things because of my stupid scar. You'd be loads better at the potions."
"There are other qualities required of an Auror at which I would not excel." The disdain on Snape's face, even as he slid his hand away from Harry's arse, made Harry grin. "That was never one of my ambitions, certainly not now."
"Me neither. I mean, it was, but it wasn't the most important thing." Harry was trembling as Snape knelt between his legs, guiding them up. "I found you."
"Now let's see how good we are at this."
"Promise --" Harry fumbled for his hand. "If it's terrible, if I go off in ten seconds or something, promise we can try again."
"This is already not terrible." Grunting, Severus pressed against his entrance, hair falling over his face until Harry reached up to push it behind his ear. With a groan he pushed down to take Severus's cock in, though Severus went still to let him adjust before sliding in deeper. "You feel -- I'm not hurting you, am I?"
Harry was groaning loudly. Quickly he shook his head. "Oh god keep going!"
Severus slid back and forth several times before reaching to take Harry's cock in hand. "Keep your legs wrapped around me," he ordered, and Harry couldn't have said which was more exciting -- being given directions in bed by Severus or having his cock stroked by him. He squeezed his legs around Severus experimentally and was rewarded with a groan. "Yes, perfect!"
For his own part, Harry was bucking into Severus's hand, shuddering and crying out. "That's -- keep doing that!" He wailed in pleasure as Severus sped up his movements, feeling Severus's long hair brush over his face. Mindlessly Harry reached up to push it aside. "Want to see your face when I come!"
"I want to see yours when you come," agreed Severus breathlessly, giving his head a toss to shake his hair behind his shoulder. Again Harry reached up with trembling fingers, stroking the hair behind Severus's ear.
"Hope you want that to be soon!"
With a soft moan, Severus turned his cheek to brush it against Harry's fingers. "I want that very much," he conceded.
Between what Severus was doing with his hand on Harry's cock and what Severus's cock was doing in Harry's arse, Harry couldn't spare thought to say anything else. He cried out again and again, clenching around Severus, bucking into his fingers, and all too soon he could feel his balls tightening. Bucking, he cried out, "Oh god I'm yours -- " and spurted over Severus's fingers. Through the eruption he heard Severus roar his name.
Harry's hips were still bucking as Severus slowed, holding on to him, panting. Because Severus seemed to be in no hurry to pull away, Harry clung to him with his arms and legs.
"That was -- oh fuck -- amazing!"
Severus's head lifted. "What did you say, before?"
Blinking, Harry tried to remember. "I, um, did I call you Severus? I mean, I can call you Severus, after that, right? It's not like I'm your student any more."
Severus was already nodding. "You may." He studied Harry's face, swallowing, then clearing his throat. "There at the end. You said you were mine."
Harry knew he was blushing but he smiled anyway. "Um, yeah, I think I did." He thought that Severus might pull a face and pull away, but Severus only nodded, looking down at their hips.
"Slytherins are very possessive."
That made Harry laugh, though he was still breathless and his arm was still around Severus's neck. "So are Gryffindors. At least I am, anyway."
Letting himself slip out, Severus rolled beside him, chest pressed against Harry's. "I believe we both remembered enough to make that satisfactory."
"That was a lot better than satisfactory! You know you gave me a full O." With a happy sigh, Harry wriggled closer. "You might have more practice. I never met anyone I wanted to do it with more than a couple of times. It never felt right."
He felt Severus stretch languidly against him. "My practice is not recent. Did that feel right?"
"It felt perfect." A hand slid over his hip and Severus's foot rubbed his own, as possessive as he had claimed. "Better than perfect, because it was with you."
"I never expected you to feel that way." While Severus talked, Harry pressed closer, angling to snuggle, since he had thus far encountered a surprising lack of resistance. "I hoped, once you saw my memories, that you would understand and perhaps forgive, but that's a long way from wanting to engage in passionate sex."
It was easier to ask with his face practically buried in Severus's armpit, "Are you going to freak out if I tell you I wanted the passionate sex for a while? Even before I understood or forgave you."
"If you didn't forgive me or understand my motives, how could you have wanted anything to do with me?" Severus asked somewhat crossly.
Harry rubbed a finger across one of his nipples. "Didn't you ever want someone you didn't completely understand just because it was, um, kind of hot and forbidden?"
He felt Severus quiver beneath his touch. "As long as that isn't your only reason for being here now." Severus arched his chest toward Harry's hand. "Do that again."
Smiling, Harry drew a circle around the nipple. "You aren't only here because I used to be your most troublesome student, are you?"
"If you were still my student, we would not be having this conversation naked." Making a pleased sound at the caress, Severus shifted so that Harry could reach the other nipple. "I don't desire you because you were forbidden. Surely you realize you're a very attractive young man."
"I'm completely ordinary. Most people are only interested because my scar is famous."
Severus petted through his hair and over the back of his neck. "You have much more interesting qualities than your scar. Lockhart is walking proof that fame is overrated."
Snickering, Harry rubbed his cheek against him. "I'm glad you think fame is overrated, otherwise you'd probably be more interested in Aurelio."
"Aurelio inherited his uncle's brains," noted Severus sourly.
"Well, one of them came up with this Miraculum Memoriae thing, and I don't see how Lockhart could have invented it before it was used on him in the first place." Harry hadn't thought about his ostensible reason for being at the Potions conference in quite a long time. "That's the real mystery, isn't it -- not whether the potion for sale works, which we're both pretty sure it doesn't, but what cured Lockhart in the first place."
"Assuming Lockhart really has been cured."
Harry's brow furrowed. "You think he's being controlled instead?"
Shrugging, Severus replied, "Perhaps it isn't really Lockhart."
Of course. Harry laughed out loud. "It's someone with Lockhart's face and a fully functioning memory! I can't believe Hermione didn't think of that." Then he frowned again. "But if it's Polyjuice, even if someone could get his hair for the potion, who would know enough about Lockhart's personal history to pull it off? Aurelio's the only one who gets close to him, and people have seen them together. At least, I think they have -- there are photos of them together."
Propping his head on his hand, Severus stretched out beside Harry. "The photos could be real enough as long as Lockhart doesn't have to speak."
"But he's supposed to be speaking at this conference. The keynote speech." Harry tried not to be distracted by Severus's foot rubbing over his. "Can we prove if it's not really him?"
"If that smarmy nephew is indeed using Polyjuice, it would be difficult to counteract with a spell. Otherwise one of us would have discovered that Moody wasn't himself long before we did while he was at Hogwarts." Tilting his head, Severus indicated Harry's wand. "We would have to keep him from re-dosing."
"The keynote speech is supposed to be an hour long. What's the longest Polyjuice can last? He'd need to keep a flask or something the way Barty Crouch, Jr. did, right?" Harry tried to remember whether he had seen any suspicious flasks while he was in Lockhart's shop, but pretty much everything he'd seen there could be deemed suspicious. "I have an idea. I could offer to introduce him. Then I could go on for a really long time about what Lockhart was like as a teacher -- lots of nonsense, of course. And I bet people will want to ask questions after his speech no matter what he says. Even if I can't find whatever potion he's taking, I might be able to stall him for long enough to make a difference."
Since the keynote speech was supposed to be the highlight of the conference, it was scheduled for the next evening after the banquet. There were, of course, talks and panels scheduled throughout the next day, and as much as Harry grumbled about attending them, Snape made it clear that lounging about in bed all morning was not on offer. Since he'd insisted it after a rather rigorous bout of lovemaking, Harry didn't put up more than a token protest. After all, it was important for Harry to be seen at the conference and to casually ask other attendees their opinions about the Miraculum Memoriae Potion, so that questions would be buzzing about the speech even before it started.
There were times during the day when his mind drifted back to the extraordinary memories that he and Snape had made together. He'd never thought that, by following Ron and Hermione's advice, all his dreams would come true and nearly all his questions would be answered. Since he was never one to believe in luck, even with Felix Felicis, a small part of him wondered if he would go back to his room and find no one there, with the bed made and everything else some sort of potion-induced hallucination. Good thing his arse reminded him every time he sat up that what had happened the night before had been no dream.
After they'd discussed plans for unmasking the faux Lockhart, Snape had alluded to vague preparations that he needed to make before the big event. Harry had been watching Snape get dressed and hadn't asked any questions because he was more focused on the next time he would be getting Snape undressed.
While he was coming out of the world's most boring talk on Proper Chopping Techniques For Medicinal Substances, Harry caught a uniformed hotel employee looking at him very intently just before disappearing through one of the service doors. Harry took a step toward the door, but stopped when the man's face appeared in the tiny window and very deliberately winked at him. It had to be Snape, he thought, grinning and turning toward his fellow Proper Chopping enthusiasts exiting the lecture hall.
"Getting excited for the keynote speech tonight?" he asked a small cluster of witches and wizards. "I wonder what Lockhart is going to say and still keep his potion a secret."
A lively discussion began about whether Lockhart was a miracle worker or a fraud, with the younger Potions masters wanting to believe he had achieved the impossible while the older ones recalled the scandal after it had come out that Lockhart himself hadn't achieved most of the things he'd claimed in his books. The debate might have continued had one of the witches not asked, "Aren't you Harry Potter? Will you sign my program?", forcing Harry to make a hasty retreat, explaining that he needed to work on his speech introducing Lockhart.
After he'd written some notes about such incidents as the escaped pixies and the Dueling Club disaster, he speculated with a group of American potion makers about the efficacy of jellyfish tentacles, since the Americans were less impressed with the legend of the Chosen One and many MACUSA officials believed that the threat from Voldemort had been exaggerated. Under other circumstances, Harry might have argued that point with them, but he needed to be certain all the non-European wizards, including the Potions master of Mahoutokoro and the herbology experts from South America, were aware of Lockhart's reputation and would be inclined to reveal whether they were providing Aurelio with any unusual ingredients.
If only he could have persuaded Snape to sneak away with him, Harry would have been happy to skip the banquet, but Snape wasn't in the room when Harry went back to change for dinner and he couldn't find the disguised hotel employee. He didn't want to sit with any fawning British wizards, though Cormac McLaggen gave him an effusive greeting, and he doubted there was anyone else present whom he'd met more than once or twice, so he'd resigned himself to eating alone, going over his introductory speech, when to his surprise Romilda Vane sat down beside him.
"You know I'm not..." began Harry.
"Not interested, not available, yes. I have grown up, you know," she told him, and the two of them had a rather friendly conversation over dinner. Romilda was no longer obsessed with finding a famous boyfriend, having discovered at Hogwarts that she had a talent for developing and enhancing love potions, but she was still well-versed in gossip and was able to tell Harry the history of nearly every Potions expert at the conference, including which ones were rumored to have held grudges against Gilderoy Lockhart. Though she knew little more about Aurelio than anyone else Harry had questioned, she knew quite a lot about his uncle.
"Then Lockhart's sister's not a Squib?" Harry found himself whispering as the organizers of the conference rose to take the podium.
"She's a Muggle, like Lockhart's father and other sister. His mother was the only witch in the family, and the only thing she ever wanted was for Gilderoy to become the most famous wizard in the world."
"She nearly got her wish," mused Harry. "And now her grandson wants to restore the Lockhart name to glory. Do the people you've talked to here actually believe in his potion?"
"I'm pretty sure every witch and wizard here either wants to imitate it or to prove that it's a fake," Romilda replied. "Love potions are reliable sellers, and nobody's even talking about them. Do you know that when Lockhart was a student, he once sent himself eight hundred Valentines? Breakfast in the Great Hall was canceled because of all the owl droppings."
Quickly Harry wrote that into the notes for his introduction. The organizers had wrapped up thanking various sponsors and were already talking about the Boy Who Lived. It was about to be Harry's turn to speak. He mounted the podium to enthusiastic applause, which was gratifying considering his lack of reputation here as a Potions expert, and not all non-English wizards, of which there were many at the conference, cared about British boy heroes.
All during the banquet, Harry had kept an eye on Lockhart up at the head table. For the guest of honor, Lockhart was surprisingly subdued, though his presence had caused quite a few whispered speculations that Harry could overhear. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the wait staff swept in with unusual efficiency, clearing away dishes and cups. As the waiter levitated Lockhart's dishes to the hovering tray above, there was a moment when it looked as though Lockhart was going to argue about holding on to his water glass. The server waited patiently but determinedly while Lockhart took a swallow, then disengaged the glass from the gripping fingers as though they had locked around it, sending the glass to the tray floating over their heads.
The clock for the Polyjuice potion to wear off, Harry knew, was now ticking.
"I first met Professor Lockhart," he began once the applause had subsided, "as an impressionable student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." He managed to work in all the bits from his notes and even got a laugh when recounting the Cornish pixie story. In order to stall, he was perfectly willing to make it seem like Lockhart was the brave professor who'd swooped in, wand blazing, to save a schoolroom full of hapless students.
Finally the audience started to get restless; more than once Harry saw the telltale flare of a chrono spell, and he started wrapping it up, darting a glance at Lockhart, whose blond curls were starting to droop a bit. With a manufactured burst of drama, he announced, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, the inventor of Occamy egg yolk shampoo, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League, Third Class honoree of the Order of Merlin, five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award, and my friend and teacher...Gilderoy Lockhart!"
Getting hastily off the stage, Harry edged along the banquet tables, letting his eyes adjust once he was out of the glare of the stage lights. "And thank you, Mr. Potter for that, er, rather complete introduction," Lockhart said when he'd hurriedly set his notes down on the podium. He looked every inch the golden boy, and when he smiled, more than one dreamy sigh rippled through the hall.
"That was quite a job," came Severus's voice directly behind Harry.
"Sev --" Harry began.
"Shhh," Severus ordered, and Harry felt him materialize practically beside him. There was a hood pulled low across his forehead, but it was the un-potioned Snape. Until that moment, Harry hadn't realized how much he was worried that the night before and that morning might have been a dream.
"It wasn't easy," Harry said, keeping his voice quiet.
"You killed nearly half the time," Severus said, his shoulder brushing Harry's. "And he's got no way to Polyjuice now."
"Thank you, thank you," Lockhart said again, though the applause had clearly stopped. Then he coughed, the most patently false cough Harry had ever heard. Beaming, Lockhart turned toward the wings. "Excuse me, might I have a glass of water?" he asked, his smile bringing out the dimples in his cheeks.
"Oh no," Harry said.
"Not to worry," Severus told him with complete confidence. Harry turned to look at him.
"The waiter --" began Harry.
"The water --"
"My own concoction." They both watched as Lockhart took the glass of water from the waiter who had cleared away Lockhart's dishes. Somehow Lockhart passed it in front of his baby blue robes behind the lectern, then swallowed about half the glass.
"You doctored the water?" Harry asked in admiration.
The smirk was visible even beneath the hood. "Now the popinjay will go on with his no doubt self-aggrandizing speech, fully confident that his disguise will stay in place."
Harry leaned in and said, very quietly, "You are going to get such a blow job tonight, Severus."
As was typical of Lockhart, the speech revealed nothing of how he had accomplished a miracle memory potion, but instead focused on his past accomplishments, which Harry knew were in fact the work of other wizards and witches whose achievements Lockhart had stolen. The retellings weren't quite as dramatic as in his books, for Aurelio did not have the same flair for self-promotion as the original Gilderoy Lockhart, but he seemed to know the material as well as anyone who'd devoured Lockhart's books. If anyone in the audience doubted that this could be Lockhart, Harry saw no indication. Few people had ever heard about the extent of Lockhart's incapacitation when he disappeared after his time at Hogwarts. The amount of fan mail he still received was proof that little gossip ever left St. Mungo's.
"...so my distant travels to the Amazon paid off," the man at the podium was continuing. "With the discovery of a species of jellyfish heretofore unknown to Muggles and the wizarding world alike, and with spells of my own devising to enhance their properties, the Miraculum Memoriae Potion was a natural development..." His hair, noted Harry, was turning a dull brown, and the famous smile had lost its gleam.
Aurelio must have been able to sense that something was wrong, for he emitted another fake cough, then took a large gulp of the water. When he began to speak again, his voice had changed timbre, and he rushed his words.
"But to say any more before the potion has been perfected would be taking credit for an accomplishment not yet earned. So with that, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your time, and I leave you..."
"Just one moment." Snape's voice was as arresting as ever, and as it boomed across the room while Severus rose to his feet, throwing back the hood. There was an audible gasp from the crowd at the banquet, followed by applause, as if Lockhart might have accomplished the additional miracle of bringing the professor back from the dead.
Aurelio -- for Harry could now see that it was Aurelio behind the podium, with a pimple beginning to show on his face -- looked entirely panicked, as though he didn't have the faintest idea what to do. Then, with all eyes still turned in Severus's direction, he grabbed his glass of water and began to dash from the podium.
"Stop that impostor!" shouted Harry, his own voice not nearly as dramatic as Snape's, but his outstretched finger pointing at the fleeing Aurelio had the desired effect of turning attention back to the false expert and his false invention. "That man is not Gilderoy Lockhart, and there is no Miraculum Memoriae Potion."
"Of course I'm Gilderoy Lockhart!" Aurelio tried a charming laugh, but the crowd had risen to its feet and he was having difficulty finding a path to the exit while at the same time fumbling with the small flask that Harry could see clutched in his hand. "Poor Potter has had such a hard time, no longer the most important wizard in the world, you can see it's driven him a bit loopy, but if you will please excuse me..."
Before Aurelio could escape, Harry pulled out his wand and shouted, "Accio Polyjuice Potion!" The flask flew out of Aurelio's grip and into Harry's hand. "This is not Gilderoy Lockhart, and I'm going to prove it!"
"Don't --" warned Severus, but it was too late. Harry had already flipped open and taken a gulp from the flask. The taste of Polyjuice was as vile as he remembered, and he staggered as it began to change his appearance, stretching his jaw painfully and enlarging his bum so much that he felt his trousers rip.
Again there was a gasp from the audience. "That's really Lockhart! He'd Polyjuiced himself to look like Potter!" someone shouted.
"You imbecile," growled Severus in the direction of the voice. "This is still Potter, Polyjuiced to look like Lockhart. That boy over there is Lockhart's dunderhead of a nephew, Aurelio. Gilderoy Lockhart is not at this Potions conference!"
"I am Gilderoy Lockhart! Ask me anything!" Aurelio shouted, still trying to escape through the press of conference guests, tugging his robes high to disguise his face.
"What did you have Harry Potter do when he served detention with you?" Severus demanded of Aurelio.
A ripple of buzzing comments went through the crowd, but it quieted when Aurelio's voice, not sounding at all like his uncle's now, said, "Why, Harry Potter was such a fine student, he never served detention."
Even Harry snorted at that one, though his mouth was smiling Lockhart's ridiculous smile. He started to refute it but Severus held up a hand.
"I happen to know that Potter served many detentions, some with me, but one especially memorable one with the real Lockhart, addressing envelopes for his autographed photos!" Harry didn't ask how Severus had known this, but he was glad he did. The crowd reacted with titters, some guffaws and renewed bursts of buzzing commentary. Severus ignored them as he turned toward Harry. "Can you confirm this, Potter?"
Harry nodded vigorously, feeling his hair doing odd things his own had never done when he moved his head. He wondered if Severus was going to go on, destroying what little reputation Lockhart had left, but by now, two burly wizards had caught up to Aurelio and had him by each arm. The Polyjuice had all but worn off; all that was left were a few incongruous strands of gold among Aurelio's limp brown hair.
"Where is your uncle?" demanded Severus. "I know he isn't in St. Mungo's Hospital any longer and hasn't been for the last few months. What have you done with him, you scoundrel?"
Hearing Severus say the word "scoundrel" gave Harry a stiffy, though with Lockhart's unfamiliar cock it felt smaller. He knew he still had the better part of an hour to live in Lockhart's body, and there was no way he wanted Severus to lust after him like this. He willed his -- Lockhart's -- cock down and focused on Aurelio, who was sputtering indignantly.
"Like any of you care about him," Aurelio said. "I'm the only one who ever went to visit him in there. I'm the only one who listened to his stories of all the good things he's done for the likes of you!" He tried to lunge out of the grip of the two security wizards, but they weren't budging.
Harry felt like pointing out that all of Lockhart's stories were made up or bolstered by experiences from other witches and wizards, but he waited to take his cue from Severus, who was reaching into an inner robe pocket from which he drew out a small vial. "I have here Veritaserum --" he began, only to have about a dozen wizards and witches draw out similar vials. Severus looked nonplussed.
"You don't have to dose me," Aurelio sneered, casting a malicious eye on the crowd but not struggling any longer. "My uncle is safe. He's at a private spa in Bath, signing the exclusive proofs of purchase that come with the Miraculum Memoriae Potion." The gold locks in his hair had finally faded. "I use the potion proceeds to pay for his care." Whether this was true or not, Harry knew, would be the subject of an investigation, though he was inclined to believe it, since Aurelio needed his uncle close enough to take his hair so he could Polyjuice himself, yet far enough from London to avoid attracting attention.
As Aurelio was led away, Severus started to come toward Harry, but he was immediately accosted by several colleagues who began peppering him with questions about his survival. The rest of the room was still buzzing with opinions about miraculous memory potions and whether Snape had actually killed Albus Dumbledore or whether some other wizard had framed him, but Harry -- still disguised as Lockhart, and therefore taller than usual -- was given wide berth. Finally Severus broke away and came over to him, looking so stern that Harry immediately got another stiffy.
"That was reckless," he said, "and now I can't give you your victory kiss for --" He pulled a pocket watch out of his robes and looked at it. "Approximately twenty-seven more minutes."
"You're going to give me so much more than a kiss in twenty-seven minutes," Harry said, knowing he was smiling with Lockhart's grin when Severus shuddered.
"Don't worry, I'm going to use the time to berate you for taking a strange potion." With a decidedly not-joking air, he urged Harry toward the doors to the corridor.
"Harry!" It was Romilda, holding out a vial of something pinker and more sparkly than Polyjuice or Veritaserum. "It's one of the love potions sold at Lockhart's shop. It's rubbish. I'm fairly certain it contains toad urine." Both Severus and Harry wrinkled their noses. "I assume the Ministry will shut down the place anyway, but make sure no one tries to sell the remaining stock or all potion makers will have a bad name." She ducked her head briefly at Snape, who nodded at her, making Harry realize she must have been a tolerable Potions student while at Hogwarts when she wasn't hiding illicit love potions in chocolates.
"Thank you," said Harry, wincing as he saw a gaping McLaggen, an intoxicated Slughorn, and several other people about to descend upon himself and Severus.
"Out," Severus ordered him before any of them could come closer, glaring with enough ferocity that no one else tried to approach until he and Severus were safely in the stairwell. "Lockhart's exceedingly well fed arse has ripped your trousers," Severus informed him.
"I can feel that. It's a bit drafty back there." Harry was grinning, but Severus glowered as he took his arm, and a moment later Harry was sorry he'd eaten so much at the banquet, for his stomach wrenched in a sidelong Apparition. When the disorientation faded, he found himself back in his room at the hotel. "How much longer?" he asked, trying to catch his breath.
"Perhaps ten minutes. Which I shall spend in the loo. I have no desire to carry the memory of Lockhart's face transforming into your own." With a swoop of his robes, Severus disappeared behind the closed bathroom door. A moment later Harry heard the bath faucets turn on.
As he struggled out of his too-tight clothes, Harry caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He knew that Lockhart was rumored to be handsome, but he didn't feel handsome wearing Lockhart's face, he felt like a fraud. He had stripped off and was performing a spell to repair his split seams when he heard a loud pop and turned, hoping that Severus had Apparated out of the tub to invite Harry to join him.
Neither of the people standing in the middle of his hotel room blushing scarlet was Severus. "Hermione!" he yelped, grabbing his shirt to try to cover himself.
"Professor Lockhart!" she shrieked, covering her eyes. "I'm sorry, we were looking for Harry Potter! I thought this was his room!"
"I am Harry! I took Polyjuice to prove that that dolt of a nephew of Lockhart's was doing the same thing to pretend to be him!" When Ron stole an incredulous glance as if to try to see Harry through Lockhart's features, Harry desperately tried to tie the shirt around his waist in a way that covered his front, only to realize that it left his entire bum exposed and visible in the mirror behind him. "Hermione, you're supposed to be the clever one, even if you did once Polyjuice yourself into a cat!"
"Oi, Harry, it is you!" Ron looked like he didn't know whether to be relieved or even more embarrassed. "It was Hermione's idea to come. They told us downstairs that you'd only just left the banquet..."
"To come upstairs and change! Did it ever occur to you to knock?" Harry felt an odd sensation in his nose and chin. Stealing a glance behind himself in the mirror, he could see his own scar on Lockhart's forehead, and his hair was definitely turning brown. "Look, the Polyjuice is wearing off, and I'd really rather be alone when I turn back into myself so I can put on some proper clothes."
"Of course, we're so sorry." Hermione's face was still bright red. "Just promise me that even if you're going around taking Polyjuice, you won't do anything so daft as to test the Memory Potion..."
"The memory potion doesn't work," explained Harry as patiently yet quickly as possible. "Lockhart's as loopy as ever, Aurelio can't even make a basic love potion, and now everyone knows the truth." His voice sounded more like his own now in his ears, and when he looked in the mirror, he looked mostly like himself, albeit with a streak of gold in his hair. "If you'll please go downstairs, I'm sure you can get a full report from McLaggen or someone else who saw the whole thing, and I can get some rest. I promise I'll tell you everything tomorrow."
At that precise moment, the bathroom door opened and a completely naked, freshly washed Severus strode out, announcing, "Your twenty-seven minutes are up. Now let me lick all traces of Polyjuice off of your fine, tasty prick..."
"Professor Snape!" gasped Hermione.
"Granger!" barked Severus, making a less-than-successful attempt to cover his large cock with his hands. He glared at Ron, who looked as if he'd sink through the floor if he knew a spell for it.
Hermione had covered her face with her hands, but she peeked at Harry between her fingers. "I know you've been a bit obsessed, but please tell me you weren't so desperate for Snape that you Polyjuiced a...a..."
"Rent boy," supplied Ron.
"What? No!" said Harry. "This is Snape, in the, er, flesh."
"How dare you," growled Severus, almost straightening up until he remembered to keep his hands over his cock. "Granger, Weasley. Still causing as much trouble as you did pursuing trolls in the Hogwarts dungeons. What in Merlin's name are you doing here?"
Harry had already grabbed Hermione's arm and was pulling her bodily toward the door. "They were just leaving."
"But...how did he...and are you two..." Gulping as Harry pointed his finger to indicate the door, Hermione shook her head. "Right, you'll tell us later." She glanced back at Snape, then quickly dropped her eyes. "Professor, will you make sure that he doesn't try any untested..."
"OUT," Severus and Harry roared together. She did not need to be asked again, for Ron tugged her out the door. He tried to wink at Harry, but mostly ended up winking at Severus instead, and the glare he received made him dash into the hall, closing the door behind him. Before Harry had time to put a spell on it, he heard the lock click in place and knew that Hermione had made certain no one else would disturb them.
"Sorry about that," muttered Harry.
He found himself on the receiving end of one of Severus's eyerolls. "Your friends aren't always going to be popping in like that, are they?"
"They better not or they'll find out how good I've become at hexes."
Slowly Severus let his hands drop away from his half-hidden cock. "Now that the Polyjuice has worn off, I'd rather see how good you are at other forms of magic."
The sight of Severus's cock made Harry's perk up immediately. "After today, I think we've both earned some experimentation."
He urged Severus toward the bed, watching as Severus maneuvered to sprawl back on it. "You should have earned yourself detention for your reckless behavior, as Miss Granger so intelligently pointed out."
Grinning, Harry climbed onto the bed, kneeling between Severus's legs. "You can give me detention any time you like. Anyway, I'm not the one who was running around the hotel Polyjuiced all afternoon -- I just swallowed a bit to prove a point."
"I took Polyjuice that I brewed and dosed myself." Severus pointed at Harry accusingly, which for some reason was very hot. "You took a potion off a lunatic and swallowed it without even testing it."
Shrugging, Harry bent to nuzzle Severus's thigh. "He's had the whole world convinced he's Lockhart for months now. I figured it had to be pretty good Polyjuice. Either that, or it really was Lockhart, and he really had created a miracle memory potion, and then I'd just have been testing it like I was supposed to be doing." With a cheeky grin up at Severus, he added, "Is it safe to ask whether I can use some of that lube you brew yourself, or should I take it downstairs and ask some esteemed potion maker to help me test it first?"
Smirking, Severus performed a Summoning Charm. "I am an esteemed potion maker and I approve your use of this on my arse."
"I do love hearing you talk about your arse." Smirking back, Harry spilled some of the lube over his fingers. "Anything special I should know about its use, O Esteemed Potion Maker?"
"Use a lot or you really will get detention."
Though he tried to look serious, Harry broke into a grin. "The kind where you bend me over your desk?"
"I've never given that sort before but I might make an exception for you." Severus's knees bent up invitingly, so Harry rubbed a hesitant finger behind his balls. "I did come back from the dead for you."
"You could have come back sooner. Before my friends thought I'd gone insane believing you were alive." It was hard to say which was harder to believe: that Severus had returned or that he was letting Harry's finger stroke around his entrance, eyes fluttering shut in pleasure. "It would have been a loss to so many people if you'd disappeared forever, not just me."
Severus opened one eye. "Name one."
"Those idiots who were just in here, for starters. And your Slytherin friends. And the Headmistress." Bending his head, Harry nuzzled Severus's cock as his finger pressed inside the tight space. He felt a hand clench in his hair. "I'm not hurting you, am I?"
"The opposite." The fingers petted through his hair as Harry massaged the small opening, stretching it. "Apparently you know what you're doing."
"You never used to trust me to know what I was doing."
"You've had several years on your own and haven't managed to get yourself killed. You even made it through Auror training." Severus sounded satisfied about this, or maybe he was satisfied with the way Harry was sucking the head of his cock, sliding his fingers free to reach for the lube again.
"Why did you come back, then?"
Lifting his head up, Severus reached out, rubbing a thumb over Harry's mouth. "You already know."
"But I want to hear you say it." Harry's lubed fingers gave his cock a slow stroke.
Severus watched as if mesmerized. "I learned that you were looking for me. I wanted to understand why."
Smirking, Harry stroked himself dramatically. "You wanted to know if I had feelings for you."
He could see Severus trying and failing to disguise his arousal. "I thought you might have feelings for me."
"I did! Romantic feelings! Sexual feelings!" Leaning over him, Harry brushed a kiss over his mouth. "So much I'm afraid of rushing this!"
Severus's knees pressed against him. "Show me how you wanted me. You aren't rushing me. I want you!"
Even in his dreams where Snape was alive and came to find him, Harry hadn't dared to hope to hear those words. He rubbed his cock over the stretched entrance, pressing forward. "I mean, I hope I can last!"
With a low growl, Severus arched up to meet him. "If you come too fast, you're getting detention so you can do it right."
Moaning, Harry pushed in deep, reaching for Severus's cock. "I want that anyway! Over your desk or any way you like!" Tight muscles clenched around Harry, who wailed, stroking faster, moving his hips as he pumped in and out. He thought he should probably not be as excited as he was by thinking about Snape being professorial with him, but his cock loved everything about it. "You're as hot as I dreamed you'd be!"
His fingers twisted on Severus's cock, drawing a choked groan from him. "And you're as bawdy!"
Even old-fashioned words sounded wicked sexy when Severus said them. Harry could feel himself getting close. "Can't help it, I love fucking you!"
"You give me too much credit, you're the one --" Bucking into his hand, Severus went rigid. "Oh Harry!" With a soft grunt, he erupted over Harry's fingers.
It was the most erotic thing Harry had ever seen: Severus Snape with his head thrown back, slack-jawed in pleasure, with Harry's name on his lips. "Oh fuck, yes, that's amazing!" gasped Harry, thrusting feverishly. His hand hadn't stopped moving on Severus before he too came, with a final hard thrust inside the tight, grasping heat of Severus's arse.
They both panted for several minutes, breathless both from the sex and from trying to have a conversation all the while. "I might have known you'd be a talker," muttered Severus, though he did not sound at all put out.
"I might have known you'd be really good."
"You didn't?" Severus slid his hands over Harry's back.
"You know I did. I thought about it a lot. Though it's a lot better doing it." Grinning, Harry looked up. "Better than I could have imagined."
"I'm glad you imagined it." A finger traced over Harry's hip. "And that you wanted me to return."
"More than anything." His cock was sliding out, so Harry shifted, flopping at Severus's side. "More than being an Auror, even. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense. I only felt right when I was working on potions and looking for proof that you were still alive."
Severus's hand returned to Harry's hip and Harry remembered what he had said about Slytherins being very possessive. He really liked that idea. "I'm glad you never gave up," Severus was saying. "I wouldn't have come back if I hadn't learned you might not be averse to seeing me."
"Never?" Harry frowned at him. "I meant what I said before -- there are other people who will be glad to see you. You saw downstairs. No one was screaming and hiding under the table. Everyone wanted to talk to you." He could tell that Severus was trying not to look pleased about this, distracting Harry by tracing an initial over Harry's skin. An S, of course. "Now that everyone knows Lockhart is a fake, you're the most famous Potions master in Europe again. You could even work on a Miraculum Memoriae Potion."
Not even a Slytherin Quidditch victory had ever made Severus smile the way he did then. "If I were to open an apothecary, I'm afraid I would need a collaborator."
Grinning back, Harry stretched against him. "Well, I'm afraid Aurelio will be in prison for a while. And Hermione seems happy where she is, and you know Ron -- it's not his best subject." Wrinkling his nose, Harry added, "Draco Malfoy might take the position if you offered it to him, but don't blame me if he tries to hire someone to do all the chopping and stirring for him."
"I've no intention of working with a Malfoy. But if you aren't interested in the position..." Severus's fingertips slid suggestively down Harry's belly.
"Oh, are you offering it to me? I accept." Harry sighed in pleasure. "We'll need a lab. You'd better come stay with me while we find one. I have plenty of room for all your herbs and flobberworms."
"Is that an offer?" Again Severus smirked. "I accept." Leaning in to kiss Harry, he said, "This has been a very successful Potions conference. The most successful I've ever attended. All the same, I'm glad it's over."
"And we won." Harry's arms slid around him. "Well, we unmasked the Lockhart scam. We still don't know how to make a miracle memory potion."
"I have faith in our ability to devise anything we wish together," Severus told him, letting Harry snuggle. "We only need to find the secret ingredient."