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Severus Snape was happy. There was no other word for this feeling of non-feeling that resided in his chest. The hatred and enmity that had eaten at his soul for twenty years had faded at the sight of Remus Lupin cradling the limp body of the werewolf’s childhood friend. The sight had been so profound that Severus had gone so far as to press a comforting hand to the werewolf's shoulder. No words had been spoken when dull green eyes met black, but an understanding was reached. He could even, finally, look at his arm with the bare remnants of some faded design without flinching. The Dark Lord had no more control over him. And true to his word, once the smoke had cleared, Albus had done everything in his power to restore to Severus the Prince estate that had sat in abeyance since his grandfather's death some fifteen years ago.

So, now he had enough wealth to almost rival the Malfoy's and an estate to make any potioneer jealous. The manor was not as big as the Malfoy's, but it did come complete with the largest lab he'd ever had the pleasure to brew in, a greenhouse to rival Hogwart's, and a forest of fresh ingredients right outside his back door. Okay, it was a ten minute walk to actually reach the forest, but, between the Ashwinder nests and unicorn herd, it was well worth it. Not to mention how much his almost daily walks had improved his once sallow complexion: even Minerva had mentioned how healthy he was looking these days. And the Prince house elves kept him well fed, disregarding any tantrums he threw when they interrupted his brewing and forced him to eat. Eventually they had come to a mutual schedule and had clashed very little over the last two years. A home, wealth, prosperous potions business, no students, good friends, and health. Yes, Severus Snape was happy. Except for one small, little, green-eyed blight that danced always outside the edge of his vision, popping back up just when he'd thought he'd finally gotten rid of the brat.

First there had been the trials. It wasn't enough that Albus had spoken on his behalf. Oh, no, they'd had to call the Savior in to verify that, yes, Snape had in fact been a spy and been instrumental in helping Potter defeat the Dark Lord. Of course, Potter had been the ONLY witness to Snape’s actions that fateful day: namely the dispatch of that horrid snake and Snape’s lies pertaining to said dispatch, which had lead the egotistical, slit-nosed monster to believe that he had finally, finally killed The Harry Potter. This had led the Dark Lord into a sense of early victory, making him relax his guard and lower his defenses just enough for the boy to cast the spell to destroy the last remaining soul fragment of Tom Riddle. Therefore, Potter was really the ONLY one who could truly testify on Severus’s behalf; this did not make it any easier to accept the “Savior’s” help.

Then there had been the threats against his life, and, wouldn't you know it: the newly trained Auror Potter was put on the case. He had a sneaking suspicion that it might have something to do with his notoriously “sunny” disposition, Snape's not Potter's, that had seen all the other more senior Aurors suddenly too busy to take on Severus's case. With his usual alacrity Potter jumped on the case, and, thankfully, less than two months later a small sect of unmarked Followers had been apprehended. Potter disappeared back into the DMLE, and Severus went back to Spinner's End. Two years later, when the Ministry finally released the Prince estate, Potter and a small team of curse breakers sent out by Gringott's showed up to take a walk-through of the estate. “Standard practice, we assure you, Mr. Snape,” the large-nosed (and that was saying something coming from Severus) goblin had assured him. And now, seven years after the war, the brat had once again found his way back into Severus's life.

It had started with the greenhouse. One of the Rose Ferns had caught a cold. It shouldn't have been a big deal, except the Rose Fern had been next to a pollinating Widow's Weed and within a week his entire greenhouse was full of sniffling, sneezing, semi-sentient flora. So, naturally, he'd contacted Longbottom. It wasn't the first time he had dealt with the Herbology genius, and Severus was man enough to admit that just because Longbottom did not have a clue about potions didn't mean he wasn't a master in his own field. Only the man had been on his way to meet Luna and her husband down in South America, but he did promise to send over his best Plant Healer. Severus wasn't sure why he was surprised when he opened the door to a grinning Potter in the standard Longbottom Greenhouse robe uniform. Severus glared at him, taking in the soft green robe and black bag the man carried. He still had that ever-messy hair, still hid those emerald sharp eyes behind rounded spectacles, still kept in Auror-standard fitness if the cut of the robes was any indication. He'd grown a few inches since he'd left Hogwarts, though he'd always be at least a head shorter than Severus. The perfect height if one wanted to hold him close and rest their chin on top of that black mop, not that Severus ever thought of such things.

"Isn't it about time you settled on a profession, Potter?"

The irritating brat simply shrugged. "I'm exploring my options."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "This is what, your third job since you left school?"

"Fourth. Fifth if we count the whole saving the world thing. I did a year at St. Mungo's after I left Gringott's. Plant-doctoring is so much easier than people-doctoring. They talk less." He scrunched his nose up in a way that was not endearing at all. "Except for the Yelling Vines, especially when their Screaming Snaps bloom. I always carry a few vials of Head-Eaze for when I have to deal with them." He furrowed his brow. "You haven't got any of them have you?"

Severus narrowed his own eyes. "Neither the Snaps nor the Vines have any potions value, Potter. No, I do not have ‘any of them’."

He beamed. "Well, alright then. Lead the way, Mister Snape."

So he did. It wasn't the first time Potter had tromped through his house, but it was the first time since Severus had actually moved in, so, of course, the man had to eye everything they walked past. Nosy bloody Gryffindors. They stepped out onto the porch and followed the path through the carefully cultivated flower garden to the large greenhouse. Severus opened the door, and Potter stepped in. Severus went to follow the man but was immediately shoved back outside; the glass door was pulled from his hand and slammed shut. He glared at the green-eyed man who was now standing with his back pressed against the door. He opened his mouth to deliver a scathing diatribe, but, for once, Potter beat him to it.

"I thought you were supposed to be a brilliant Potioneer, Snape," Potter snapped with a glare. "Does that not include a detailed knowledge of plants as well?"

Snape snarled at the man. "Of course it does, Potter. I would even go so far as to bet I scored higher on my Herbology N.E.W.Ts than you did."

"And yet, I am going to assume you have not curtailed your greenhouse activities in the last week," Potter said as if Severus was the recalcitrant schoolboy.

"Why would I? The plants still need taking care of," he bit out.

Potter leaned his head back against the door and lifted his eyes to the blue sky above them. "Have you taken any extra precautions while inside the greenhouse? Face mask, bubble head charm, air purifying spell?"

"No. The common plant cold does not affect humans, Potter. Surely you know that," he huffed.

"And where have you gone over the last week? Anywhere outside the estate?"

What business of it was Potter's? "I don't see what concern my private life is to you."

Green eyes lowered to glare at him. "Just answer the damn question, Snape."

Severus blinked at the man, slightly taken aback at the tone. "No," he snapped. "I have not left my estate. Nor have I had any other visitors. No owls either. When the plants became sick, I stopped all production to preserve my ingredients."

"So you haven't harvested any new ingredients?" He sounded almost hopeful.

"Not from the greenhouse, no." His tone was less harsh, wondering where this line of questioning was going.

"What does that mean? Not from the greenhouse?" Potter asked suspiciously.

Severus waved his hand across the field. "I still have my forest."

"Bloody hell," Potter mumbled and pushed away from the door. Severus followed as he walked towards the house. "I need to use your Floo. Do you have house elves?"

"Two," he answered, discomfort beginning to ease itself into his mind. "They haven't been anywhere either. Potter, what the hell is going on?"

"Your Rose Fern did not have a cold, Snape. It had Fern Measles."

"Impossible," Snape bit out. "I checked the leaves myself. There were no white spots."

Potter turned his head to glare at Snape. "Not all measles manifest with spots, Snape." They stepped into the house, and Severus moved in front of the man to lead the way to his sitting room and the Floo. "So, yeah. Fern Measles plus pollinating Widow's Weed plus blooming Yellow Bells equals very not good. Every plant in the greenhouse is covered in a yellow powder, which means the Bells have already erupted. And you've been exposing yourself to it for an entire week." Potter grabbed a pinch of powder and tossed it into the Floo. "St. Mungo's Quarantine Department, Healer Frisco." He turned back to Severus, who was having a hard time keeping his jaw shut so as not to reveal just how slightly impressed he might have been at Potter’s competency. "Congratulations, Snape, you've just inherited a house guest." He stuck his head through the Floo, and Severus collapsed into a nearby chair. Bloody hell. He was going to be stuck with Potter for at least a month, and it was his own bloody fault. He hadn't even noticed the normally bright yellow pods of the Bell plant turning a dark yellow, and he should have. How the hell did his Rose Fern get Fern Measles? He thought over every moment from the last month, trying to determine what could have happened.

"Bloody hell."

"What?" He hadn't realized Potter had finished his call and was now standing over him.

He looked warily up into green eyes. "A customer gifted me with a bloody muggle house fern last month. I didn't even know they could get Fern Measles."

Potter shook his head. "They can't. But they can definitely carry it. Where is it?"

Severus averted his eyes as he felt his cheeks flush. "I threw it out."

Potter gaped in surprise. " You threw out a perfectly good plant?"

Severus glared at the man. "Well, it wasn't a very good plant after it died, now was it?"

He watched as Potter failed to bite back a grin. "You killed a plant?"

Severus crossed his arms. "I forgot that muggle plants need water every day. Now what did Mungo's say?"

"A containment crew is being dispatched from St. Mungo’s to cast wards around the entire property. I'll need to walk the perimeter to see how widespread it is. We can start with your usual path around the property and through the forest. Frisk is going to have some of my things delivered through Elf Delivery, and we'll need to call him if we need anything like food or supplies." He watched in fascinated horror as Potter began to unbutton his pale green robe. "Do I even need to ask if you know how to brew the antidote mist?"

Green eyes looked up, and he pulled his attention away from the nimble fingers. He glared at the man. "I'm sure even Weasley could brew the Measle Mist. The human variant is a bit more difficult, and I don't have all the required components since I apparently can't use any of my homegrown ingredients."

Potter nodded as if he suspected as much and pulled his outer robe off to reveal jeans and a tee. "That's fine. No point in even attempting to inoculate ourselves before we've cured the plant life. I told Frisk to have Nev send over the appropriate ingredients when he wrote to inform him of my quarantine. I figured you'd want to brew it yourself, and I guess Frisk knows you because he didn't even try to argue."

There was a loud pop, and Severus jumped up, wand ready before he realized a large crate was now sitting in his parlor. He stepped over to it and reached down to pop the top open.

"I wouldn't do that," Potter said from where he still stood by the fireplace, robe in hand. He turned to the younger man.

"And why not?"

"That'll be my stuff and Kreacher's still a bit pissed at me. It's no doubt covered in hexes and such. Last time I opened something from him without checking I ended up bald for a week." Severus eyed the messy hair and thought that might be an improvement. "Everywhere," Potter added, and Severus felt himself blush. He backed away from the box and watched it float into the air. "So, where's my room?"

He turned to see the insolent brat grinning.

 

Severus could feel the new wards settle around him, and it was like an annoying itch that wouldn't go away. He had taken Potter around the perimeter of the estate and shown him his usual path through the forest. Potter, of course, had spent several minutes talking with the Ashwinders before they had moved on. Potter kept making notes on a floating scroll that followed them around and asking what seemed to be irrelevant questions every now and then. They eventually made it back to the house and parted, Potter heading in the opposite direction of Severus's suite to his own guest room so they could get cleaned up for dinner. Dinner had been rather silent, and Severus was relieved to see Potter head back to his room after dinner. He settled in front of the roaring fireplace and relaxed with his favorite book and a glass of Scotch.

The following day, Potter headed back out to the forest for a more in-depth study of the plants, and Severus went to his lab to start on the plant variant of the Measle Mist. He didn't see Potter again until dinner where they ate silently before the man once again disappeared to his room. And so it went, day after day for the first week... Which is why Severus was surprised when Potter tracked him down in the sitting room after dinner more than a week later.

"I wanted to let you know that I'm done with the assessment." He looked up from his book. "You'll be happy to know the grounds and forest are clear; you won't have to discard any ingredients you've harvested outside the greenhouse. There was a patch of Prickly Moss attempting to make a home on the north edge of the forest, but I dug it up before it engulfed your native plant life. I've got it re-potted and under a stasis charm in my room if you’d like it. I know some Potioneers will pay an arm and a leg for it, but I wasn't sure if you dealt in Magizoological potions."

Severus couldn't stop the impressed brow from raising. He nodded slowly. "I have dabbled in it a bit here and there. The Moss will be appreciated. Thank you."

Potter shrugged. "It's technically yours. I'd have just tossed it out. Anyway, we'll be able to concentrate our efforts on the greenhouse now. Two more days on the Mist, correct?" Severus once again nodded, a grudging respect building for this man that seemed to know more than he let on. "Good. I'll be spending the next few days mostly in my room if you need me. Please knock if you've need to come in. I've got specialized equipment set up in there that has a containment field around it, and I'd rather not get zapped if you breach it."

"Should I be worried about this 'equipment'?"

Potter chuckled. "No. It's mainly just a muggle computer, but the containment field required for it to operate is fairly strong."

"Why do you have a muggle electronic device? Surely it is not required for your current field of employment."

Potter looked slightly uncomfortable. "For my work with Neville, no. But I have other… hobbies."

"Hobbies. Is that what all these professions are for you? Auror, Curse breaker, Healer, and now Plant Healer--are all hobbies for you?"

Potter shrugged as he dropped into the chair across from Severus. "I just want to experience things. I was really only trained for one thing while I was in school, and I wasn't raised in the Wizarding world so my experience there is sorely lacking. I don't have a passion like you or Nev, Snape. I accomplished my life's goal when I was seventeen. Besides, I wouldn't mind reaching 120; that's the average age for a wizard, isn't it?" Severus nodded. "Then I've plenty of time to grow up and decide what I want to be. I'm only twenty-five after all. Most muggles that age don't even know what they want to do."

"So you flitter from job to job," Severus said, a note of disapproval in his voice.

"I do not 'flitter'. I sign a limited contract, my employers know exactly how long I will be staying at each position, and my goals for taking said position."

"And how long will you be with Mr. Longbottom's company?"

Potter shrugged. "Not sure. I actually don't have a contract with Nev. He asked for my help several months back while I was looking for a new field to try, and it just kinda stuck."

"For now," Severus added.

Potter stared into the fire. "I don't know. It's interesting. It covers a lot of different subjects. Potions ingredients, livestock feed, farming, forestry, gardening. It's definitely improved my potions skills," he added with a sly smile.

Severus rolled his eyes with a snort. "It is probably the least dangerous job you have held."

Potter nodded. "I guess I'm getting boring in my old age." Severus snorted and raised his book back up.

 

He had to hunt Potter down two days later when the Measle Mist reached the perfect shade of blue and was ready to distribute. Once they had cleared the infection from the greenhouse he would be able to start on the antidote for them, and he was anxious to have Potter out of his house. He searched the house first. The sitting room was empty, as was the kitchen, save the two elves working on dinner.

He made his way to the guest room he hadn't been to since showing it to Potter and knocked on the door. When there was no answer he called out "Potter!" and waited. Still no answer. "Potter, I'm coming in..."

He pushed the door opened carefully, remembering Potter's warning and cautiously stepped inside. He felt no containment field so the muggle equipment must be off. He looked around the not-surprisingly untidy room. Night clothes lay haphazardly on the rumpled bed, and Severus tore his eyes away from the silky-looking garments. An empty glass sat on the bedside table beside a thick book. He moved over to the desk and felt the slight ripple of a small containment spell. His eyes were drawn to a square, black object about two inches thick and just over a foot long. This was where the field was centered. He poked at the thing first with his wand then his finger. It was made of a hard plastic and looked like it might unfold. Carefully he pried the object open and was surprised at how easily the top flipped up. No locking charm then. He snorted. Until he realized there was nothing in the box. The bottom panel held several buttons that resembled a flat typewriter keyboard and the top part was a black slate. He poked at one of the "keys" and the slate immediately flickered from black to blue with large white letters, he immediately felt the containment field widen. He snorted at the ‘HP’ that flashed on the panel. The blue screen once again faded to reveal another picture, this one of a familiar castle. Only the picture was covered with a bunch of smaller pictures with small labels such as Photos, E-Mail, Rough Drafts, Completed, and many more. Severus touched a picture on the panel but nothing happened. He pressed another key, still nothing. Hmmph. Useless muggle contraption. He folded the thing back down and his fingers brushed against a pad of plain white paper. A box of muggle colored pencils sat next to the paper. Severus thumbed through the paper and paused when he saw a highly detailed drawing of a grey and black hippogriff, a girl with long blonde hair smiling gleefully from its back. He flipped to another page to see the same girl, er, woman?, more clearly now, feeding a carrot to a brown Thestral; which gave him pause, because he was fairly certain Thestrals didn’t eat carrots. Who was this woman? And he had thought Potter was gay, at least according to the rumor mill. He thumbed through several more drawings of the woman: kneeling in a garden, tools spread around her while her face was turned up to bask in the sun; in another garden surrounded by gnomes, sitting on a log surrounded by fairies. The pad was filled with drawing after drawing, and Severus had to admit the artistry was incredibly detailed and beautiful. He wondered if Potter had truly drawn them or had been gifted the filled pad by a friend. He shook his head. It was none of his business, he told himself sternly.

Severus left Potter's room and headed outside. He didn't have time for this. He pulled his wand out and made an arc with it. "Show me Prince Manor." A layout of the house and grounds appeared in a shimmering gold outline. He tapped the "map" with his wand. "Locatis." Four black dots appeared, the two elves were busily working in the kitchen, his dot appeared on the porch and, there. Potter was on the north end of the forest property line, pacing back and forth. Severus broke the locator spell and headed off in that direction. He didn't mean to approach in the stealthy manner he did, but years as a spy and professor sneaking up on rule-breakers were hard to break. In the end, he was glad he had. He slowed his steps as he heard Potter's voice.

"No. No, please," Severus slipped behind a tree and peeked out to see Potter still striding back and forth, a hand held to his ear. He didn't look hurt, only- frustrated. Potter spoke again, as if he'd been listening to someone. "Dammit, Amelia, you aren't even listening to me." Severus looked around for another person but couldn't see anyone. "I have no control over the situation. Quarantine means I can't leave… Well, you'll just have to reschedule. I've told you before not to schedule these things without my approval." Was he somehow communicating with someone? "You know what, I'm done with this conversation. You know how to get in touch with me." Potter pulled his hand away from his head and pressed a finger to a small rectangular object in his hand. The man sat down on the large boulder nearby and rested his head in his hands. Was Amelia the woman in the drawings? Had he just witnessed a lover's spat? He heard Potter's soft sigh and watched as the man held the object up again and swiped his thumb over it a few times before putting it to his head again. "Hey, Ron. Can I talk to 'Mione?" Oh. It was one of those muggle mobile things. No wonder he was on the north side, it was the weakest magical point of the entire property. "She'll probably call you in an hour once she calms down," Potter said. Granger must be on the phone, then. "Mione, please don't yell at me. You know she and I get like this when it's this close to deadline. I wouldn't involve you, but I haven't got reception at the house. Just tell her to schedule a meet for the third. I'll be out of quarantine by then, and it'll be safe for me to go out in Muggle London…." He nodded several times as Granger spoke on the other end. "No no, I told her some migrant worker at the greenhouse had come down with Measles so we were all stuck here for the incubation period… No, I'm working. I've come up with a brilliant idea and made plenty of progress on the Silver Dragon." He went quiet, then let out a rush of laughter. "That's horrible. No, tell him I said that. Worst idea ever." He chuckled into the phone. "Yeah. I should go, too. The Measle Mist will be done today, and I'm sure Snape is anxious to get rid of me… No, actually, it's quite nice. He's done an amazing job with the house; tell Ron no bats at all," he chuckled. "It's actually quite perfect out here. If I ever settle down, I'd want it to be someplace like this." He raised his eyes to scan the sky as if he were scanning Prince Manor, and Severus felt a rush of pride for his home. "No, I don't want to get into that, Hermione. No one wants to settle down with Harry Potter: they only want The Chosen One. Find me a man that can see past my scar, then we'll talk." A long sigh. "I love you, Hermione. Goodbye. Oh, tell Molly and Fleur that if Amelia can arrange it for the third I'll be at Page By Page in Mayfair." He nodded as he listened to whatever Granger was saying.

Figuring the conversation was nearing its conclusion, Severus stepped back and made his way down the path so as not to be found eavesdropping. Potter was an enigma. Who was Amelia? The girl in the drawings? Who was she to Potter? Obviously not someone he was planning on settling down with. And why did that thought loosen the knot in Severus's stomach? And what was Potter's little hobby that required a muggle computer ? (He remembered the man calling it that now.) And, apparently the rumors were true as Potter had just openly admitted he was looking for a man to date? Well, not exactly, he supposed, as Potter had been under the impression he was having a private conversation. And why the bloody hell did Severus care?

His steps had lagged, and he'd barely moved he realized when he heard the rustle of footsteps behind him. He turned just in time to see Potter round the bend in the path. Startled green eyes widened at the sight of him. "Snape."

"There you are, Potter," he growled. "I've been looking for you. The Mist is ready."

"Oh, excellent. Let me get my protective gear on." He caught up to Severus, and the two of them headed back towards the house. "I think two doses of a generalized application; then we can reassess the greenhouse and see if any of the plants need additional treatment."

Severus nodded. "I made enough for five or six general applications, so there should be no fear of running out. I received the ingredients from Longbottom yesterday, so I will start on the human variant after the second general application. It doesn't take as long to brew." They stepped up onto the back porch. "We can start on it as soon as you have given the all clear."

Potter nodded. "Excellent. I'll just go get changed and meet you back here in a quarter hour."

Severus nodded and opened the door to allow Potter inside. He closed the door behind him, and they went their separate ways. They met back up at the specified quarter hour mark and an entirely clothed Potter, complete with muggle face mask, took the small pest sprayer Severus had filled. They headed out to the greenhouse, and Severus waited while Potter entered and covered the plants and floor with the Mist. He emerged almost a half hour later, cast a cleaning spell on himself, and pulled the mask from his face.

"I think we had better count on three applications. I swear there were more yellow spores than last week."

Severus nodded, not surprised, and pointed to the sprayer. "There's enough in there for the second dose. Once you've sprayed tomorrow I will refill it."

Potter placed the contraption beside the greenhouse door. "I'll be sure to spell it clean twice and rinse it with an augamenti before I take it down to the lab."

"I appreciate that," Severus said as they headed back to the house. They stopped at the back porch and Potter cast another cleaning spell and carefully stepped out of the robes, unbuttoning them as opposed to pulling them over his head. He laid the garment over a lounge chair.

"Do you mind if I use your kitchen?"

Severus eyed the man. "Why?"

"Oh, I found this recipe I've been dying to try, and, since I really don't have anything to do while the Mist does its thing, I thought I'd make myself useful and fix dessert."

Severus shrugged. "If my elves come squealing to me…" He let the sentence hang as they stepped into the house.

Potter beamed. "Thanks."

 

A week later, Severus had to admit that Harry Potter wasn't as horrible a house guest as he had assumed the man would be. He'd written off the man's scarcity the first week with his need to inspect the forest and grounds. But even now the man was barely noticeable unless one counted the early evenings he spent bouncing around the kitchen. Severus should have realized the young man still had a way with house elves. Of course they'd relished the idea of working alongside the great Harry Potter and had made room in their kitchen for him. And the desserts the man came up with, well, Severus would make room in his kitchen too. So dinners were nice, and as the days wore on they became longer, each man lingering over their meal, dessert, and wine to prolong the civil conversations. Severus grudgingly admitted to himself he'd missed having the companionship and conversation of another human on a regular basis. And Potter had long outgrown his ums and ers, or maybe that was simply because he had no need to prevaricate with Severus any longer. Except when Severus mentioned the computer.

"Oh, um. I- er, just use it for research and keeping in touch with some muggle friend's I've made." Severus didn't mention the drawings or the fact that he had actually seen the computer. But he did remember what computers looked like back in his younger days.

"You lug around a computer simply for that? I can't imagine shrinking charms are conducive to muggle devices," he said, intentionally sounding uninformed, hoping to get some information out of the man.

Potter laughed and Severus thought he might admit he liked the sound of it. "Actually, what I use is called a laptop. I have one of those big bulky desktops at home, but when I'm on a job I have my laptop. It's a lot smaller and lighter to carry around. It actually looks like a large plastic notebook. I could show it to you some time, if you wanted."

Severus took a sip of his wine and carefully studied the man. "I would be interested in perusing it at some point."

Potter smiled. "Alright. I'll set it up tomorrow before dinner and afterwards I can show it to you."

He nodded his approval.

"Remember what I said about the containment field," Potter reminded him the following evening as they made their way into his bedroom. He couldn't help but notice that Potter had at least cleaned up a bit. No tempting nightclothes were strewn on the bed, and, although the duvet was wrinkled, he had at least attempted to make the bed. The book still sat on the table but the empty glass had been moved, presumably back to the kitchens. His eyes went immediately to the desk, but it too had been cleared of the papers and pencils. Damn. He had been hoping to ask about the drawings. Potter stepped over to the desk, sat in one of the two chairs, and motioned to the other. "Don't do any magic if you can avoid it, and once I power this up, the field will engulf us. Any attempt to leave can cause bursts of electricity to shoot from the laptop, and they hurt worse than a stinging hex."

Severus nodded and watched as Potter lifted the top, unfolding the black "box." His eyebrow lifted at the sight of the blue screen and white HP. Potter chuckled.

"It's actually the company name. I'm not that conceited." Severus looked at him skeptically and turned back to the laptop as Hogwarts once again flicked into view. He noticed at once that some of the small pictures were no longer where they had been the week before, almost as if Potter had hidden them from Severus. He watched as a small white arrow appeared on the screen when Potter moved his fingers over part of the ‘keyboard.’ "These little icons," he pointed to one of the small pictures, "open up a file or program. This one takes me to my email. That's like owl mail--only on the computer. Except I can't access the internet here at the house because of all the magic. I'd have to take it to the far north part of the property. Your magical wards are weakest there, but not so weak you would need to worry about attack," Potter hurriedly assured him.

"I know exactly how weak and how strong my wards are, Potter." He watched the man blush and turned back to the laptop.

He tapped his finger on the small black area of the bottom part he had been using to control the floating arrow that moved along the screen, and a panel opened on the top half. "When I click to open a file or program, it pulls that particular program up on the screen." He pointed to the panel that now hid the picture of Hogwarts. The "screen" was now full of more pictures. He recognized many of the Weasleys, Longbottom, Minerva with Hogwarts in the background, and several of Potter and some severe looking brunette in front of various shops. He "clicked" on a picture of himself and a well-built blonde man about his age. "This is my cousin Dudley. He's the one that actually got me interested in computers and taught me how to use them."

"The bully," Severus said, surprise evident in his voice.

"Yes, well, he's grown up since I left Privet Drive." Severus heard the tightness in Potter's voice and understood the subject of his childhood was off limits. He pointed to a picture of several people huddled around a table, smiling and holding drinks.

"Your muggle friends?"

The picture enlarged and Severus saw right away he had been wrong as several familiar faces came into focus. "Actually, no. That's the D.A. reunion a few months ago. We were celebrating Dean and Seamus's engagement." And Severus could see the happy couple in the back of the group, the proud Irishman flashing a silver ring. The picture shrank and another was pulled forward. Granger, Weasley, and a young man with short-cropped dark hair stood before a large white gazebo.

"One of your muggle friends?" Severus tried to keep his tone neutral.

"Yeah. Randal. Hermione's cousin actually. She tried to set us up, but it's hard dating a muggle when your life is so entrenched in the Wizarding world. We're still pretty good friends though. We hang out when I'm out near Cambridge, that's where he lives." The picture shrank and Severus pointed to a different one and it enlarged to show Potter in front of a bookshop with the severe looking woman.

"Another friend?"

"Amelia." Severus bit back his surprise at the familiar name. "We've done some… work together out in the muggle world."

"So you don't just dally in the Wizarding professions?" Was that a teasing note in his voice? Did he just flirt with Potter? Bloody hell.

"Um, er, no. I've- done a few muggle things as well. Life experience and all." The picture of Amelia shrank and the file of pictures closed out. "There's other programs on here as well. The standard typing program, artsy things, a few games. The internet is the best though, it's a network that basically links computers together. You can find almost anything there." Severus raised a brow at Potter's declaration and the man laughed. "Almost anything , Snape. If a muggle can think it, it's on there."

Surely not… Severus cut the thought off and by the pink of Potter's cheeks he guessed the young man knew what directions his thoughts had gone. "Anything." Potter coughed to clear his throat and closed up the laptop. "It's getting late. I shouldn't keep you up."

Severus took his cue and stood along with the other man. "Quite informative, Potter. It is- interesting- what technological advances the muggles have come up with."

Potter nodded. "Yeah. Sometimes I'm saddened by how much some wizards allow their perceived superiority to hold us back."

Severus studied the man for several seconds. "Your generation is changing that, though. Most wars are fought at the time that those actively fighting are too old to make any changes, and those not fighting are too young to understand the implications. It is rare that a war falls on a generation that is young enough to recover quickly enough to effect the next generation." He quirked his mouth in a teasing smile. "The Weasleys alone will produce enough offspring to effectively push the Wizarding population into the next era, spearheaded no doubt by Granger's progeny. I think we will see more wizard-muggle integration in the next fifty years than Tom Riddle saw in his entire lifetime."

Potter smiled at him. "Yeah. I like to think so. It'll be interesting to see how they fix the magic/technology interference. Perhaps I should write Flitwick with the challenge to his 'Claws."

"And what?" Severus asked with a smirk. "Put yourself up as the prize?"

Potter looked horrified. "Merlin, no! They're children." His brow furrowed. "Besides, I've played that part before. I won't be someone's prize." Severus was shocked at the underlying venom in the man's voice.

"I didn't mean-"

"I know." He shook his head. "It's okay. Don't worry about it." Green eyes darted around the room before landing back on Severus. "I, um, know it's your house and all, but, um, would you mind…"

"Oh. Yes. Right." He moved towards the door and gave Potter one more piercing look before stepping from the room.

 

The human variant of the Fern Measle vaccine took three days to brew, had to be taken within twenty-four hours of turning sky blue (once it began to resemble cornflower or lapis it had to be discarded), and had to be taken every three days for two weeks (five doses). Another week was always added on during quarantine to make sure there were no lingering side effects. Severus had just bottled up the third dose and was cleaning up his lab. He hadn't seen much of Potter since the man had shown him the laptop and he was curious as to what the man was doing, besides making wonderful desserts, to stay busy. He slipped the two vials into his robe pocket and headed outside. The sky was almost the exact shade of the potions clinking in his pocket, and there was a soft breeze that wafted through his hair as he stepped from the porch. That was one of the things he liked about his newfound potions lab. The ventilation was a thousand times better than it had been at Hogwarts, so very few fumes clung to his hair. It had been years since he'd been able to claim such clean, grease-less hair. He loved the feel of the soft strands brushing against his neck, it was almost sensual, like a lover's touch. He shook the mawkish thoughts from his mind and set out towards the forest to find Potter.

He wasn't surprised to find him at the north side of the forest. He was surprised to find him leaning against a tree, a pad of paper propped against his tented knees as his hand moved swiftly over it, thin fingers covered in charcoal. Severus watched him for several minutes as the small northern clearing appeared in charcoal on the paper, then gained a crystal clear pond complete with jumping firefish and ice toads. Severus could almost see the gray lily pads turning to ice as the frog leapt from one to the other.

"It would be better in color," Potter's voice startled him, and he jerked his eyes up from the drawing to meet green.

"It's quite good."

Potter's cheeks turned pink. "Thanks. It's just something to pass the time."

Severus moved to settle down beside the man. "May I?" He held his hand out, and Potter passed the drawing pad over to him.

"It's just a hobby, you know," he said quickly.

Severus nodded but ignored him as he flipped through the pages. It wasn't the first pad of drawings he'd seen on the desk. The girl didn't make an appearance in any of the drawings, nor were they colored, but that did not detract from their beauty. He saw several familiar scenes including his flower garden, a nest of Ashwinders, and a mare and colt unicorn. There were sketches of Hogwarts and its grounds as well as the Burrow and other places he didn't recognize. Near the back of the book, there were several rough sketches of profiles, all recognizable.

"I never really realized how much all the Weasleys looked alike until I started practicing the profiles," Potter said near his shoulder.

Severus nodded, seeing his meaning. "I suppose with the age and personality differences it is easy to see the distinction. How long have you been drawing?"

"Dean taught me a few things during school, and I took a few muggle art classes after leaving Hogwarts. It helps me to relax."

"You have a natural talent," Severus said, not looking up from the drawing of a rearing Thestral, wings spread wide.

"My muggle art teachers said the same thing. Though they claimed I had a fantastic imagination," he added with a laugh in his voice.

Severus turned the pages back to the pond and handed the book back. He looked up at Potter, "Have you thought about trying wizard drawing?"

He shrugged. "I've dabbled a bit, but it's more interesting to give the illusion of movement rather than draw a still life and infuse it with movement."

Severus nodded his understanding. It took great skill for an artist to instill that kind of magic into his work. Severus pushed himself to his feet and dusted his robes off as Potter stood. "You could probably make a career out of that particular hobby, Potter."

The man got a funny look on his face and shrugged. "Probably. Did you need something or were you just out walking?"

Oh. He had nearly forgotten why he'd sought the younger man out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the two vials. He handed one to Potter who took it and pulled the cork out. He gave a small salute and drank it down. Severus copied, though without the salute.

"Three down," Potter said, handing the vial back to him.

"Yes. Two more to go." He headed back towards the house and Potter followed. "I imagine you are ready to return home."

Potter shrugged. "Actually, it's been kinda nice out here. Like a little vacation. You have beautiful grounds, the Ashwinders are fairly friendly, and I absolutely adore cooking in your kitchen. The company's not too bad either." Severus slid his eyes towards the man to see the large smile on his face, eyes forward as he walked. He chuckled. "Don't be so suspicious, Snape. I've grown up a bit, and I've learned to appreciate your particular sense of humor."

"The nuances of my humor were never intended for young ears, Mr. Potter."

"I'm beginning to see that. Though I bet you and Minerva spent hours at wordplay. She has a different style than you, but no less cutting when it comes to decoding the message."

Severus couldn't stop the quirk of his lips. "It did always make things interesting. Tea was never dull with that one."

"I bet the two of you spent hours railing about the students and incompetent DADA teachers. Oh," Potter said with a small jump to his step. "Which DADA professor did you two hate on the most?" Severus tightened his lips. Potter's shoulder nudged against his own. "Come on. You can tell me. I'm not a student any longer."

Severus looked over at Potter to see the bright smile and wriggling eyebrows. He rolled his eyes. "There were three that were most likely the worst."

Potter furrowed his brow. "Three? Any of them my years?"

"Two," Severus said tersely.

Potter skipped again, and his hand shot out to grab Severus's arm. For some reason he didn't feel the need to jerk from the young man's touch. "Let me guess." Severus raised an eyebrow, fairly certain Potter would have no trouble identifying the targets. "Lockhart and Umbridge."

"Ah. So you did pay attention to more than rule breaking during your school years. I'm somewhat impressed."

Potter chuckled. "As if it weren't obvious. Lockhart was a complete idiot, even a twelve year old could figure that out. And Umbridge, well, I don't think there was a single person in that school, other than Filch, who actually truly liked her."

Severus frowned at the memory of the "high inquisitor" and her damn Hem Hems . "No. I don't suppose there was."

"Who was the third?" Potter asked as they reached the edge of the forest.

Severus frowned at the memory of the one-time DADA professor he despised. "There was a man, years before you got there, not long after I had started. He flirted and hit on every single professor there. His term was cut short just before Easter holidays when he was found in a compromising situation with a seventh year."

He glanced over to see Potter's jaw gaping. "But… that's… Isn't that illegal?"

Severus nodded. "Very. I believe he ended up in Azkaban."

Potter gave a vicious nod. "Good. Just because a student might have a crush or fantasize about their professor is no reason for the professor to force themselves on the student. It's just wrong to abuse your position like that, regardless of how much the student thinks they may want it."

Severus nodded. "I agree. I know I am not very good looking, but even I had my share of blushing students. Usually Ravenclaws who appreciated my intellect."

Potter turned and smiled at him. "Plenty of Slytherins too, no doubt."

He gave a small nod of acquiescence. "I don't recall any Gryffindors, though."

"I'm sure you had your share of Gryffindor admirers." Severus shot the Boy Wonder a look, and Potter chuckled. "Gryffindors might be foolhardy, but they've no death wish. There are some places even Gryffindor bravery won't allow them to tread."

"The Potions Master's private quarters," Severus guessed.

Potter quirked his head as he held the door open for Severus to precede him into the house. "Is that where you usually received your declarations of love?"

Severus nodded. "Yes. Inevitably I would find some seventh year knocking at my door minutes before the boats sailed. I learned to stay in the Great Hall with the other professors. It seems very few will profess their love for the horrid potions professor with so many witnesses."

Potter chuckled. "Then they weren't worth it. If I were to confess my love, I wouldn't care who was watching. I'd reach across the table and pull you in for a mind-blowing kiss and ask you out for coffee."

"Just coffee, Mr. Potter?" Somehow they had made it to the sitting room and they settled into their usual chairs.

Potter shrugged. "Start small. I doubt you could have handled an entire meal with me back then."

"We seem to do just fine now."

"Ah, but I'm older now. And we don't exactly have much choice."

He didn't like the way that sounded. "So since you didn't reach across the staff table and kiss me or anyone else senseless and ask them out for coffee, am I to assume you were one of the rare few who had not developed a crush in your exhaustive, life-threatening seven year stint at our glorious establishment?"

Potter chuckled. "I never said that, Snape."

"Ah," Severus said with a smirk, "the ever-laudable Lockhart was it?"

Potter recoiled in horror, and Snape laughed. "Egads, no! That egocentric prat? Never."

"Oh come now," Severus teased, yes, definitely teased. "Even the level-headed Granger lost her head over that one."

"Yes, well, I'm not exactly one to go on looks." There was a hidden meaning in those words: he just couldn't decipher it right now.

"So who was it?" Severus asked with no hope of an actual answer.

Potter smirked. "I don't think I want to tell you?"

"What? Is this one of those areas that even Gryffindors fear to tread?" He was getting too close to his own truths.

Potter crossed his arms in a casual pose rather than defensive gesture. "Or perhaps Slytherin enough to know how to bide my time."

Severus felt his stomach knot. "So, what? You're still waiting? Still pining for old Flitwick?"

As intended, Potter laughed. "You know me so well, Snape. I don't know why I try to hide things from you. Yes, I have a height thing. The shorter the better. I like to feel tall."

And even Severus had to laugh at that. "Touché, Potter. I can recognize when a topic is off limits. You haven't experienced any side effects from the potion have you?"

Potter laughed. "Interesting segue, Snape. No. I'm fine. No symptoms either. You?"

Severus shook his head. "No."

Potter nodded. "Good. I'd hate for either of us to come down with the measles. I'm not a very good patient, and I doubt you're any better. Like they say, Healers make the worst patients."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Is that what they say? I thought it was just Gryffindors."

Potter rolled his eyes. "If we are going by house traits, I would think the only decent patients would be Ravenclaws."

Severus stood from his chair and made his way over to the drinks cabinet. "And why is that, Mr. Potter?" He poured out two glasses of scotch as he listened to Potter's explanation.

"Well, like you said, Gryffindors would be too antsy to get out there and get something done. Slytherins, I think, would drive their Healers and nurses to distraction, malingering and dragging their illness out as long as possible. Hufflepuffs would spend the entire time feeling guilty that someone else was taking care of them. But Ravenclaws, well, give them a nice thick tome and they won't leave the bed for days. Thank you."

He took the drink from Severus and took a sip. Severus settled back down in his seat and sipped at his drink while he contemplated Potter's words. "I am afraid that I might have to agree with you on that assessment, Potter."

The man smirked over his glass. "Don't be afraid, Snape. We were bound to agree on something eventually. I imagine if we covered enough topics we would find one or two more areas in which we are of similar minds."

Severus forced a mock shudder. "Perish the thought, Potter. Perhaps I should rush those last two doses before we start singing duets together."

Potter laughed. "I promise not to break out into anything resembling a musical number, Snape. I'll leave the dancing to the professionals."

"Me and my furniture appreciate the sentiment," Severus said with a salute of his scotch.

"But you have to admit," Potter said after a moment of silence, "it hasn't been too bad having me here."

"You are not as intolerable as one would have suspected, no. And the desserts are worth the intrusion of my space."

Potter chuckled and shook his head.

 

Severus slipped the final dose of the vaccine in his pocket and had to admit to a reluctance in presenting it to the man who at this very moment was most likely dancing around his kitchen as he prepared some delectable dessert. No doubt it would tempt Severus with the very vivid notion of leaning across the table and savoring the lingering flavor of it on Potter's mouth. A shiver raced down his spine. A part of him could not wait for the next week to be up and the tempting man to be gone from his house. Another part balked at the idea, having grown used to the company and pleasant conversations. The last few days, somehow, Potter had talked him into allowing the young man into his lab to draw while Severus worked. The dolt refused to show him the drawings, however, and he had to admit to more than passing curiosity. He contemplated sneaking back into the man's room, but he took that drawing pad with him everywhere he went so it would most likely be a fruitless endeavor. He sighed, resigning himself to never knowing and headed to the kitchen to deliver the last potion.

He paused at the doorway. Potter was wearing a pair of tattered muggle jeans that clung to his lithe frame, tanned skin peeking out through the rips across the thighs, and splatters of paint scattered over them. Severus bit his lip when he saw a white almost-handprint on the curved backside as if the wearer had gone to wipe his hands off, forgetting they were covered in paint. The dark blue tee Potter wore stretched across his shoulders as he worked, mixing whatever he had decided on for dessert. The man was indeed humming to himself and swaying his hips to some beat in his head. Severus watched the erotic movement, his eyes following the delicious sway of hips until a curse fell from the man's lips. Severus was jolted from his reverie by the sound of wood clattering against the counter. He looked up as Potter jumped back.

"Dammit."

"Problems, Potter?"

Green eyes and flushing face turned to him. "Oh. Uh, no. The mixing spoon just slipped. Guess I didn't have as good a hold on it as I thought." His eyes fell to Severus's hand and the brightness in his eyes dimmed just a fraction. "Oh, er, is that the last dose?"

"Yeah, uh, yes," Severus answered, wondering why Potter didn't sound more excited.

"Oh. Well, I'm, uh, making a chocolate gateau to, um, celebrate our last dose."

"Hmm," Severus replied as he stepped into the kitchen and handed the vial over. He secretly hoped Potter was horrible at making gateau, as if he needed another reason to want the man around.

"Do you like gateau?" Potter asked, taking the vial.

It had been his mother's specialty. "It's been years since I've had one, but my recollections of it are not unbearable."

Potter nodded. "My aunt used to make them all the time, but I never had one until I got to Hogwarts. It's one of the first things I learned to make." They tossed their potions back and placed the empty vials on the counter. Potter turned back to the bowl on the counter. "Everyone seems to love it. For New Year's I always gift the Weasley families with their own personalized cakes. It takes a lot of time but," he shrugged as he poured the chocolate mixture into a pan, "it's not like I've got anyone wanting to spend New Year's eve with me."

Severus supposed at one point in his life he would have made some sort of cutting remark about self-pity or something to the effect, but the way Potter had said it made it sound matter of fact. As if this were a foregone conclusion, a part of life. "You don't spend the night going from club to club with your other single friends then?"

Potter popped the pan into the oven and shook his head. "No. The whole drinking and partying thing isn’t really for me." He turned to look at Severus. "I tried it a few times, but I spent the entire night on edge, always looking over my shoulder." He shook his head. "No. If I'm going to drink I'm going to do it at home with people I trust or by myself."

Severus nodded his understanding. "I rarely drink in public, and when I do, I limit myself to one glass. It's amazing how long one glass can go when you are determined."

Potter laughed as he gathered up his used dishes. "Of anyone, I've no doubt you could pull it off. My friends don't even ask anymore."

"It's good of them to respect your decision."

Potter snorted. "Well, it's not like they can fault me for it. Even now I still get death threats."

Severus gaped at that. "You?"

Potter nodded and ran a finger along the inside of the bowl before popping the chocolate covered digit in his mouth. Oh god . "There are those that still think I want to take Riddle's place." He rolled his eyes and stuck his finger back in the bowl. Severus sat down before the effect of the man's simple actions became apparent. "Please. I could have been the next Minister of Magic. I don't want that kind of power."

"It's something people have never understood, Potter," he said, his eyes following the finger. "And doubly so about you. Even most Gryffindors would have snatched up the opportunity with both hands." The tongue darted out to lick along the long digit, and Severus licked his lips.

Potter shrugged. "Yeah. I know. 'Course then there are those that are disappointed I didn’t follow their life plan for me." He turned and stepped over to the sink to rinse out the bowl and Severus almost sighed in relief until the man leaned over the sink and his tight jeans stretched even tighter over his backside. "Join the Auror Corp, marry a nice witch, have lots of little saviors. That sort of thing."

"It's still not out of the question," Severus said as he watched the play of muscles along the younger man's back as he washed off his utensils.

Potter snorted. "I think the whole gay thing pretty much nulls out most of that."

Severus sighed audibly. "Only the witch part. You can still get married, you know?"

Potter turned his head to look at Severus. "Not as long as I'm still considered a prize I won't. And what about the whole little saviors part?"

"I'm sure there's someone out there who can see past all that," he was glad the man had turned back around and couldn't see the slight coloring he knew was on his cheeks. "And there's adoption or potions for the other."

All movement stopped from the other man and Severus was afraid he had said something wrong. A soft sigh came from the man at the sink. "Are you saying there are potions that can help a wizard get pregnant?"

"Well, it takes two and it's a bit like what the muggles term In Vitro, but essentially, yes. I'm surprised Granger hasn't mentioned it."

"The subject never came up," Potter said softly. Silence reigned in the kitchen for several minutes before Potter went to drying the dishes. "Have you ever considered it?"

Severus's head snapped away from the back window. Potter was running a towel absently over the mixing bowl. Severus swallowed and took a calming breath. "I have... considered what it might be like to have a progeny. I doubt I would be able to carry a babe, though." He held up a hand at Potter's obvious declaration of Severus's non-antiquity. "I do not mean my age, Mr. Potter. I have led a... hard life and I do not think my body would be able to handle the strain of a full term gestation." Potter's eyes glanced down at Severus's arm and he nodded.

"But if you had a partner willing to be the bearer?"

"I would not simply settle for anyone, Mr. Potter. I have standards."

The man laughed as he picked up the dripping utensils and began to dry them as well. "I've no doubt about that. How many would you want?"

This time Severus didn't try to hide the pink of his cheeks. "One or two would suffice, I think. What of you, Mr. Potter?"

It was Potter's turn to turn a delicious shade of pink. "Well, since I didn't know it was possible until about five minutes ago I can't really say. But, I think," he added quickly before Severus could comment, "that I would be willing to carry a child or two for the man I loved. I think I would demand a committed relationship first though."

"Marriage," Severus stated as Potter placed the last of the dishes on the counter for the elves to put away and moved to sit down at the table a thoughtful look on his face.

"I'm not so sure," he said, surprising Severus. "I mean, marriage is just a piece of paper, right? And that slip of paper doesn't guarantee that my spouse of choice is going to be a good father. No, I had more of something like a pre-nup only for the child. You know, in case things didn't work out between us, at least the kids would still be taken care of."

"That is- rather mature of you, Mr. Potter. I had not thought of such a thing."

Potter shrugged. "Muggles do it all the time." He smirked, "Though it's usually done after the fact. I'd just want to make sure my children were loved."

"I've no doubt that any child of yours would have an abundance of love and affection showered on them. Regardless of who the other parent was, I've no doubt the godparent would be a Weasley."

Potter chuckled. "True. I think I would be in more trouble than ever if I didn't name Ron and Hermione godparents to at least my firstborn."

"Ah," Severus said with a wry grin, "Article one of the pre-custody agreement: choice of godparents of firstborn to go to one Harry James Potter."

The young man laughed and Severus soaked up the sound. "All subsequent godparents to be discussed at length as pertains to each additional child," Potter added.

Severus shook his head. "I've no doubt you would be in control of naming those as well, Potter. I can't see anyone overriding anything you have to say."

"You wouldn't hesitate," he pointed out, though no malice colored his tone.

"Only were it in the best interest of you or the child."

"So you wouldn't have any objections to my friends being godparent's to your children?"

Severus nearly choked on the air he was attempting to breath.

"Hypothetically, I mean," Potter added quickly.

"Right, yes, of course," he said, catching his breath. "No. I would not mind. Granger is, as has been stated numerous times, a very bright witch and Weasley has distinguished himself not only in his protective nature of you and his family but has a tactical nature that one does not expect. Of course, if you ever repeat that I will be forced to deny such utterances and take points from Gryffindor." Potter chuckled. "But, I suppose, as godparent's there could be worse options."

"And who would you choose? As your child's godparent."

Severus studied the man for a long moment, long enough for the tanned cheeks to turn an uncomfortable shade of pink. "Honestly?" The man nodded. "Everything aside, Potter, if I were looking for a godparent for my child I would want someone I was sure would never leave my child wanting, even if they were sorted Slytherin. I would want someone that would love any child placed in their care unconditionally. Someone who would look past their name, as I was unable to do for many years. In short, I would want someone better than myself."

"Like Molly and Arthur?" He supplied carefully.

Severus shrugged. "I suppose they are an option. But I was thinking more along the lines of you."

"Me?" The shock was evident in his voice and Severus couldn't help the satisfied smile. "But…"

"But what, Potter? I can admit when I was wrong. We've both admitted past mistakes and moved on. Do you care what house Teddy is sorted into?"

"No, of course not," he said quickly.

“Would you love him any less if you were gifted with your own child?"

"Absolutely not!"

"And do you think you could love a Snape, if he was entrusted to your care?"

Green eyes softened and an odd look crossed the man's face. "Absolutely," he said softly and Severus had to remind himself they were talking hypothetical children that would probably never happen.

"There you have it. Not many people would be willing to love a Snape," And he knew he wasn't talking hypothetical in that moment.

"People can be idiots," Potter said and for a second Severus allowed himself to believe the man wasn't talking about children either. He pushed the maudlin thoughts away and smirked.

"I've been saying that for years, Potter. I'm glad to see you've finally learned something from me."

Just as he'd wanted, the atmosphere in the kitchen lightened immensely and Potter stood. "Well, it had to happen eventually. Do you want some tea?"

Severus blinked at the man. Was he really offering him tea in his own home? Potter must have realized what he'd said because his cheeks turned bright red. He opened his mouth to most likely apologize, but Severus waved him off. "It's fine. Yes. I'd love some tea. That gateau is starting to smell lovely, and I'm afraid my stomach might protest if I don't appease it soon."

Potter smiled. "I think there are still some biscuits left over from yesterday." He turned to rummage through the cabinets, and Severus couldn't help but think how domestic they had become in the last few weeks. He pushed out the vague inkling that he would miss this in a few weeks.

 

It was probably for the best that Longbottom and a Gringott's representative had shown up to give the All Clear. It avoided the awkward goodbyes that were sure to carry over from the night before. Dinner had been a quiet affair, and, though they had little to say, they still lingered over their desserts. Several times Potter had opened his mouth to say something only to close it without uttering a sound. Severus wanted to grab him and demand he speak his mind, but some deep part of him was afraid the words would somehow form a rejection. A rejection of what, he couldn't say. It wasn't as if they had become lovers in the few short weeks Har- Potter had liv- stayed in his house. They might be termed ‘friends’ at this point, though it was hard for Severus to say, since separating from his other friends after an extended visit had never left this gaping hole in his chest. In the end, Potter and the others had taken a tour through the greenhouse to verify the containment had been cleared out, Longbottom promised to stop by in a few days for a follow up, and the two now ex-roommates shook hands cordially as they said goodbye. There was something off about Potter's smile, and Severus could do little but sniff disdainfully. He had a business to get back to and Potter had… hobbies to pursue.

Immersing himself in the back order of potions took the better part of a week and even the house elves seemed to understand his obsessive need to brew and not think. Though what he was supposed to be not thinking of he wasn't quite sure: he was trying not to think about it. He wasn't not thinking how he missed the anticipation of what was for dessert. He wasn't not thinking of pleasant after-dinner conversation. He wasn't not thinking of laughing emerald eyes, of dark head bent over white paper, charcoal stained fingers, or cheeky smiles. Soft laughter, raven black hair glinting in the sunlight, and private conversations at the north end of the forest didn’t enter his thoughts either. And he most certainly was not thinking of the empty guest room that sat at the end of the hall.

...Which is perhaps why he was startled one morning when a large white owl flew in bearing a box and scroll. He untied the mail and fed the owl a treat he kept on hand for deliveries. The bird gave a soft hoot and swept off. It wasn't until he slid out the small envelope that topped the entire package and flipped it open did he realize the owl had been Potter's. The note was short. A small thanks for your impeccable hospitality. Thanks for not killing me. Harry. His lips quirked up and he withdrew the scroll. His mouth gaped open as he stared down at the unfurled scroll. It was one of the drawings Potter must have done while he was in the lab. It showed Severus standing over a boiling cauldron, steam rising as he added ingredients. He could almost see the small lacewings fluttering from his hand to the brew. The work station around him had various other ingredients spread out, a silver knife laid carefully to one side. Behind him, vials and ingredients lined the wall. It was so vibrant, the colors so exact, he almost imagined he was in his lab. But the part that caused his breath to catch in his throat was himself. Potter had drawn him almost- handsome. If he hadn't known it was himself he might have said beautiful. And there was no doubt Potter had drawn it, his messy name was scrawled in one corner, the H and P the only distinguishable letters in the entire signature. Normally, Severus would have stashed the picture in some forgotten drawer like he did all his other photos of himself, but Harry had drawn this, colored it, taken the time to send it to him. Did that mean the man was still thinking of him? Did he have as much trouble not thinking of their month together as Severus did? Or was this just a token of gratitude? Except... Severus looked back at his face: was this how Harry saw him? This tall, confident, good-looking man in the picture? He sighed and lowered the picture, his fingers brushing against something and he looked down to remember the box. He set the drawing aside and flipped the top on the cardboard box. His heart stopped at the small chocolate gateau decorated with a familiar yellow-belled plant. Upon closer inspection he could see the tiny white "measles" that dotted the plant's leaves. Severus smirked and shook his head. Brat.

It wasn't until he was sliding a forkful of the delicious cake into his mouth after dinner that he finally admitted he had been thinking about Potter. Too much. He supposed if he could admit that Longbottom was decent at something, that Granger was in fact a smart witch, and that Weasley had some merit, he could at least admit to himself he missed Harry. Not his desserts, not his company, not the easy banter, all of which were commendable traits but, no. He missed Harry. He wanted to tell him about the ridiculous order Mrs. Arndeo had placed, he wanted to admit the spectacular screw up he'd had that afternoon when he grabbed bat spleen instead of lizard spleen, he wanted to ask his opinion on whether he thought the blood carnations looked a little wilted. He wanted to press his lips to Harry's pink, bowed mouth, run his tongue along that tanned neck, slide his hands over that taut arse and press him down onto Severus's bed. He had a royal blue duvet he'd love to see next to Harry's naked flesh, compare it to flashing emerald eyes. Damn. Severus pulled his thoughts back to the cake with a sigh. There had been times during Potter's stay that Severus had gotten the impression the man might be open to more than friendship. Severus's eyes widened in realization, a smirk spread across his lips.

That was it. They had definitely crossed the line into friends. And friends met for lunch or coffee on occasion. So he simply had to ask Potter to join him for lunch. No big deal. Just two friends having a friendly meal and conversation. Yes, that was the ticket. A few lunches, maybe tea, then Severus could invite the man over for dinner and get a feel for how their relationship might progress. Nice and subtle, very Slytherin. Of course, if Potter gave off the right vibes, Severus's smile turned almost evil, then there was no reason he couldn't go Gryffindor and invite the man to stay for breakfast. No need to cause the elves extra work, Potter, my bed's big enough for the both of us. Oh yes, Severus, and the rest of him, liked that idea very much. The only problem was finding the man. He had no idea if Potter was still living at Grimmauld Place or if he'd bought his own house. He supposed he could send an owl, but that seemed so impersonal, not to mention planned and he wanted the invitation to seem spur of the moment. The thought of having Longbottom send the man out to check his greenhouse just seemed too unprofessional and therefore tacky. He could haunt around Diagon Alley hoping to run into the man, but people might start to notice if it took more than a day or two. A memory suddenly came to him from several weeks earlier. Potter sitting on the boulder in the northern clearing, muggle mobile pressed to his ear. "…if Amelia can arrange it for the third I'll be at Page By Page in Mayfair."  Severus popped his head up to look at his calendar, Saturday the third was three days away. He would spend his time finishing up his brewing and getting a head start on the regular orders. Severus finished his cake with renewed energy. He was a man with a plan.

 

Severus sighed as he stepped from the train onto the underground platform. He hated muggle transportation, it was so crowded. And he was fairly certain there had been one or two women watching his backside, and not in the friendly, compatriot way. He was absolutely sure these muggle jeans were indecent, he could feel the way they slid across his thighs with every step. Not to mention his bits could hardly breathe. How did Potter wear these bloody things? He made his way up the steps and stepped out onto the busy sidewalks of Mayfair. It had been years since he'd come here, since he'd had a reason to. Not that he'd had a reason the last time other than mere curiosity. He looked around and clenched his jaw tight to keep it from gaping open. How the hell was he supposed to find one bloody shop in this place? It would take him all day to locate a single store among all these small shops.

"Bloody hell," he mumbled to himself.

"Bit much, innit?" He turned to find an elderly man standing near the Underground exit. Brown eyes twinkled up at him and the old man smiled. "I remember when it was just a quiet shopping mall." Severus doubted it had ever been just that.

“I don’t suppose you are familiar with this area?” he asked hopefully.

The old man chuckled. “Been wandering these streets since I was a lad. Need help finding something?”

“Actually yes. Some place called Page by Page.”

The man’s brown eyes lit up. “Ah. Old Jacob’s place. His family’s been running that bookshop for near a hundred years.” He pointed to the left. “Just down two streets and to the left. It’s about midway down the block.”

Severus gave a sharp nod. “Thank you.”

“Anytime. Good luck. Hope you find what you want.” He ambled off and Severus headed the direction he indicated, his thoughts along the same lines. Why would Potter be making an appointment at a bookstore? He made the trek down the street, side stepping shoppers and vendors alike. He slowed his steps as he turned the corner and carefully read the shop signs as he passed each one.

The bookshop was non-descript in that it was like every other shop on the street: chocolate brown façade and a large display window filled with offerings. This week’s special was the latest in a children’s series called Lily of the Valley and the Missing Snuffles. Severus paid little attention to the cartoonish poster that featured a pair of hills and a large black dog and stepped inside the shop. It reminded him of Flourish and Blott’s: bookshelves filled to the brim, homey, comfy. He had no idea what time Potter was supposed to be here but he was the type of person that could spend hours in a bookshop, even a muggle bookshop. He started at the front to peruse the New Releases displays, picked up some murder mystery that sounded half interesting, and placed it back on its table. There was another display of cookbooks, an arts and crafts display, and another large display of the new Lily of the Valley book. Severus stopped and gaped at the table.

He recognized the girl on the front of the books. Last time he’d seen her she’d been feeding a carrot to a Thestral and she’d looked older, but it was the same blonde hair and emerald eyes from Potter’s drawings. He snatched one of the books up and flipped through it. There was the girl in the garden with a gnome peeking out from behind a large pumpkin, by a large fireplace snuggled up beside an overlarge black dog. Picture after picture in Potter’s distinctive drawing style that he had come to know in such a short time.

“If you’re here for the reading, it’s not ‘til eleven-thirty.”

Severus looked up to see a thin, older gentleman with wire-rimmed glasses standing behind a counter. “I’m sorry?”

The man pointed to the book in Severus’s hand. “The reading isn’t until eleven-thirty.” He looked around the store, “You bring your daughter for the reading?”

Severus shook his head. “Oh, no, I-“

“Oh, well,” the man cut him off. “If she hasn’t read them, they make a good series.”

“Series?”

The man pointed back down at the table and Severus looked down to see several more books with various designs. The girl stood staring up at a brick wall as it seemed to melt away, the words Lily of the Valley and the Secret of the Wall arched across the top. He picked it up and flipped it over to read the back. “When Lily is sent to live in Godric's Valley with her uncle she soon finds herself in a strange new world.” Severus’s breath caught in his throat, and he flipped the book back over, this time reading the entire front cover. Lily of the Valley and the Secret of the Wall written and illustrated by H. P. Evans. His stomach clenched. Another book, the girl standing in front of a display case that held a familiar looking hat, a red-headed girl in blue robes and a boy with black hair in green robes stood in the background. Lily of the Valley and the Witch's Hat. He flipped the book over. “Lily is still learning all about the secret place her uncle introduced her to, but she never dreamed that putting on an old brown hat would lead to finding new friends.” He glanced down at the fourth book on the table. The girl stood beside a forest, a full moon evident in the night sky and glowing yellow eyes in the darkness of the trees. Lily of the Valley and Uncle Moony's Secret. He rolled his eyes and flipped the book over. “Lily's new friends, Sal and Row, help Lily understand that being different isn't always a bad thing.” He pulled out the first book and flipped it over, “Uncle Moony's large black dog has gone missing at the same time an old friend comes to visit. Lily just knows "Paddy" is somehow responsible, if only she could prove it.” Severus snorted. Only Potter would turn his deathly childhood into a children’s book. He looked up at the man.

“These are all of them?”

The man nodded. “Just the four. There’s rumors that the next one will have a dragon in it. That ought to be interesting.”

made plenty of progress on the Silver Dragon.

“He’s got an interesting imagination, the author.”

Severus’s head shot up at that. “You said something about a reading?”

“Yeah.” The man pointed towards the back of the shop. “The author always does three or four readings with the release of each book.” Severus remembered the pictures of Potter and “Amelia” on the laptop. “We were lucky to get him this time. We had to reschedule due to a conflict last month. Since you’re here so early, you might be able to get an autograph. If you purchase a book.” Severus smirked at the man’s salesmanship. “He and his agent are in the back setting up with my son. I can ring you up if you’d like.”

The man smiled at him, and Severus chuckled. “Alright.” He handed the books over and stepped up to the register.

“She won’t be disappointed.”

“Who?” Severus said distractedly.

“Your daughter,” the man said with a smile.

“Hmm,” Severus said as he handed over the money. The man put the books in a bag except for the newest release, which he held out to Severus.

“He’ll only sign one,” the man said. Severus nodded and took the book and bag. The man immediately lost interest in Severus as the door opened and an elderly lady walked in. He stepped from around the corner to greet her.

Severus made his way carefully to the back of the store. He heard Potter’s voice as he slipped through two rows of books. The wall of books at the back ended at an open area where chairs and small tables were set up in an obvious attempt to entice the customers to sit and enjoy their purchase. He saw Potter in all his mussed hair, green-eyed glory. He wore muggle khakis and a short-sleeved green button down that showed off his tanned arms. Severus’s stomach clenched at the good-looking man as he beamed at the brunette standing beside him. Potter leaned against the table that held more copies of his book and crossed his arms.

“I told you, my little sabbatical as you like to call it, did me a world of good.”

“Well, it better have,” the brunette, Amelia, said, sounding surprisingly like Granger. “The Silver Dragon was a week late to the editors.”

Potter reached out and placed a hand on the woman’s arm. “Listen, Am, I’m thinking about a magical greenhouse with plants that scream at Lily and weeds that sneeze at their own pollen.”

The woman narrowed her eyes at Potter. “I don’t know, Harry. What would be the plot? I mean, what can you do with plants?”

He could almost hear Potter roll his eyes. “I’m thinking Lily needs a new friend. The gardener’s son. He’s a loner who loves plants and spends all his time in the greenhouse. No one likes him because he’s always dirty but Lily sees past the dirt to the lonely boy beneath.”

Severus felt his heart clench, having no doubt in his mind who Harry’s inspiration for that little boy was. “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” a deep voice said as a tall man moved into view. Harry’s jaw tightened as the man placed a hand on his shoulder. The man smiled predatorily at Harry, “We still haven’t discussed that coffee after this is over.”

Harry moved out of his grip and sat down behind the table. “I’m sorry, Michael, I try not to get involved with people I work with,” Harry said coldly.

“But we don’t really work together, Harry,” the man cajoled, standing over Harry. “And you so fascinate me. I’d love to know where you get your inspiration. The story behind that scar,” the man reached out to move Harry’s fringe out of the way and Severus stepped forward ready to hex the man for touching his Harry at the same time as Harry jerked back.

Amelia noticed him first and smiled broadly. “Did you want an autograph before the reading?”

“Yes,” Severus said slowly as he moved towards the table and placed the book on the yellow tablecloth. He leaned forward, resting one palm on the table and the other on the book. Green eyes watched him in trepidation. Severus studied him, saw the man’s breath quicken, watched as the eyes drank him in. He ran his fingers over the raised lettering of the book beneath his hand. Screw the plan.

“Severus,” Harry breathed, “Did you get my gift? I was going to ow- write you next week when I had time. I just-“

"I never thought of you as a prize,” Severus interrupted him, needing to get the words out before the small amount of Gryffindor courage he’d found left him, “and I never saw the scar, and I haven't thought of you as your father in years. And I just thought if you were going to keep popping in and out of my life..." He paused and looked into the hopeful green eyes, "I just thought I'd rather have you in it more than out."

Harry's hopeful look changed into a cheeky grin as he stood and leaned across the table. "You missed me."

Severus sneered, or tried to, though he was afraid he failed miserably as those beguiling eyes twinkled up at him. "I miss dessert."

Harry's hand slid across the table to cover Severus's still on the book, then continued up his arm, over his shoulder, and down to rest over his pounding heart. "You missed me," he repeated.

"You're an idiot," but it's hard to make a whisper a snarl, at least a meaningful snarl. He swallowed as he felt the hand over his heart curl into a fist, felt his shirt tighten just slightly. He gasped as he was pulled closer to those enticing pink lips he had thought of kissing one too many times.

"You missed me," the words breathed across his lips seconds before his mouth was covered by a delicious warmth. He gasped at the unfamiliar sensation, and Harry took the opportunity to sweep his tongue between their parted lips. He sighed into the mouth that slid over his, let his tongue slide over the welcome invader. His fingers curled, nails scraping along the smooth cover of the book and fabric from the tablecloth filling the other fist. At some point Harry's fist released his shirt and slid up to cup his jaw line just under his ear. He leaned into the touch as Harry's mouth closed over his and he pressed small kisses to the corners of Severus's mouth. "You missed me," he whispered one last time.

Severus's eyes fluttered open to meet shining green. He sighed in defeat. "I missed you."

A thumb slid over his heated cheek, green eyes twinkling. "I missed you too. Would you like to have coffee when I'm done here?"

Severus pulled back, finally remembering where they were, and Harry's hand fell from his face. He looked down at the book under his hand to see the now familiar blonde riding the Hippogriff. "Just a hobby, Mr.- Evans?" He raised a dark brow and Harry smiled sheepishly.

"Just something to pass the time,” Harry said with a smirk.

“You do dabble, don’t you, Harry?” his eyes slid down to the table between them. “Well, it’s not the Head Table.”

“Yes, but was it mind-blowing?”

Severus looked into mischievous eyes, “I don’t think I’ll answer that, Potter. Someone needs to keep your ego in check.”

The hand was back on his shirt. “And you always do that, don’t you, Snape? I can always count on you to keep me grounded.”

“You can always count on me period, Harry.” He felt his heart fill at the blush on Harry’s cheeks.

“Harry?” They turned to the woman standing there, and Severus barely noticed the frowning man beside her.

“Right,” Harry said, pulling his hand back. “I have to get to work.”

“I expect an explanation, Potter.” He tapped the book beneath his hand and pushed it across the table, “and my autograph.”

Harry chuckled and sat back down, pulling the book close to him. He gave Severus a wink and picked up a pen and proceeded to scribble something in the book. He blew on it to help dry the ink and closed it. He slid it across the table, his palm flat on the book. Green eyes sparkled up at him. “No peeking until you get home tonight.”

Severus glared at the man. “Because you’ve never looked where you weren’t supposed to.”

He could tell by the glimmer in the green eyes he hadn’t taken offense. “Mmm. But I’m a Gryffindor. We were made to break rules. Promise.”

Severus sneered. “Fine, brat. I won’t look until I get home.”

Harry beamed and released the book. Severus snatched it up and tossed it into the bag with the others. He felt a hand on his arm and he turned to look at the woman standing beside him. “Right this way, Mr. Snape.” He followed her over to an overstuffed chair. “So you’re Severus. Harry speaks very highly of you.” He raised his eyebrow at her as he settled into one of the chairs. She settled in next to him.

“How did he get involved in all this?” He waved a hand at the line of children and parents forming in front of the table.

“I found him in the park,” she said. “I had taken my niece one Saturday and there was this man sitting on a bench with this little boy and he was spinning this fantastic story about three friends who learned how to turn into animals in order to keep their werewolf friend company. I assumed it was an allegory about cancer or some such thing to help the boy understand his father’s death. But the story he was telling and the pictures he was drawing just had a way of pulling you in. I asked him if he’d ever published before, and he said ‘no, but it sounds fun’.” She gave a soft huff of laughter and shook her head. “Fun. Who makes a life decision because it sounds fun?”

Severus let out a bark of laughter that caused several parents to turn their heads. “Harry Potter, that’s who. The things that man has done on a whim, I swear he’s going to be the death of me.” Severus sighed. “I thought I was finished chasing after him.”

He watched the smiling man as he greeted the little girl in front of him and chatted for a minute. “I get the feeling Harry is the type of person one is never really done with.”

Severus blinked. “No. And the thing is, you don’t mind. One day you wake up and realize life is better because Harry is a part of it. And he might be a reckless, head-strong idiot, but you wouldn’t change him if you could.”

“You’re in love with him.”

He turned to look at Amelia and saw her brown eyes studying him intently. He turned back to Harry just as green eyes looked up at him for a split second. Severus nodded. “I just wish I knew when it had happened.”

“Does it matter?”

No, it didn’t. But he’d be damned if he allowed one more day to go by before Harry knew.

 

“What about coffee?”

Severus looked down at the shimmering green eyes and flushed cheeks. He reached down between them and tugged Harry’s shirt from his trousers as he ran his tongue up Harry’s neck to lap at the sensitive lobe. “I can call a house elf if you wish to stop.”

Harry clutched at Severus’s shoulders and pressed his hard cock against Severus’s thigh. “Don’t you dare.” One hand slid up his arm to clutch at the thick hair, pressing Severus’s head against his neck. “Are you finally going to show me your bedroom, Severus?”

Severus growled and started walking backwards, dragging Harry with him. He pulled him into the large room he called his own, but before the man had a chance to take in the décor, Severus pulled his glasses off and tossed them on the table. He pulled Harry down onto the bed and rolled them so he was on top. He covered Harry’s mouth with his own and pressed his tongue inside the heated cavern. He was swimming in bliss as his hand slid down to work at the buttons of Harry’s shirt. He worked his way up as his tongue explored Harry’s mouth, and Harry’s own hands slid under Severus’s shirt. He pushed the green shirt open and moved his mouth down to lick and nip at the exposed skin.

“Is this okay?” He whispered.

Harry arched beneath him. “Merlin, yes.”

Severus laved and pinched, sucked and twisted at the exposed nipples, Harry’s soft moans filling the room. He kissed his way down the tanned torso, swirling his tongue in the sparse hair, pressing his mouth to the toned abs, dipping his tongue into the shallow naval. He kissed at the spot just above Harry’s trousers, grabbed the fabric with his teeth and tugged on it. Harry arched beneath him, his hands in Severus’s hair. Severus moved up and pressed a chaste kiss to Harry’s cheek as his fingers played with the button of the trousers.

“Is this okay?”

Harry nodded, green eyes fluttering open. “I want it all, Severus.” Fingers slid down to stroke his neck. “I want you, Severus. I’ve dreamed of having you inside me for a long time now.” Green eyes glinted with mirth. “I’ll even beg, if you want.”

Severus smirked. “A Potter begging me. That has some merit to it. Perhaps next time I’ll have you on your knees.”

Harry chuckled. “Severus, if I’m on my knees, my mouth better be doing something other than begging.”

A groan slipped from Severus’s lips. “Sweet Merlin, Harry.” His fingers made quick work of Harry’s trousers and he slipped his hand beneath the fabric to cup the hardness beneath. Harry groaned and arched up into his touch. “If I suck you off, will you recover quick enough for a second orgasm while I’m inside you?”

“Fuck, yes,” Harry moaned as he reached down to push his trousers and pants off. Severus laughed as he wriggled out of his own clothes. “Fuck, you’re so hot.” He ran his hands down Severus’s torso, and once more the man was glad of his daily walks to the forest. He moved back down the slender frame and licked a path up the bobbing erection. He felt a surge of pride at Harry's pleased hiss. His tongue circled the head before closing his lips around the soft tip. Harry groaned and arched his back. Severus slowly took him in, sliding his tongue over the smooth skin as Harry's cock slid over the roof of his mouth. Harry gasped, his hand clenching in Severus's hair. Severus's hands were busy holding the thin hips down to keep the young man from bucking. "Fuck," Harry moaned as the tip of his cock slid down Severus's throat. It had been years since Severus had taken a man that deep and he was glad to know he still had the talent. And that Harry appreciated it. He moaned around the man and Severus felt hard thighs slide against his ear. Harry had opened for him and Severus took advantage. He moved one hand from the slender hips to grasp the base of Harry's prick as he slid up and sucked at the head. Severus looked up to see the man moaning, gasping for breath, his fingers and toes curled into the blue duvet. Beautiful. He lowered his head again and let the saliva slide from his mouth to pool at the base of Harry's cock. He slicked his fingers in the pool of liquid and moved the hand further down. He sucked Harry down again and slid a wet finger across the puckered hole. "Fuck, yes. Oh god, Severus." He had never thought his name sounded so sweet. He teased at the man's hole, sliding his finger over the hole, pressing the tip in and out while his mouth and tongue teased at the leaking cock. Harry's desperate clutching at his hair, urging Severus on, and the small thrusts of hips indicated Harry's pleasure and imminent orgasm. Severus pushed a finger completely into Harry at the same time he sucked him down hard. Harry came with a howl and an arch, his salty come rushing into Severus's mouth and he drank it down.

He barely gave the man time to recover before he was sliding a second finger in. He moved over the man and covered Harry's mouth with his own and let the man taste himself. Severus held his free hand out to catch the lubricant as it flew out of the drawer.

"Mmm," Harry said as he pulled back, gasping for air. "Merlin, I've never tasted so good." He looked up at Severus through lidded eyes and ran strong hands over his chest. "You're... mmm..." he wiggled his hips as Severus moved his fingers inside him, "so good at that. Ah," hips thrust as a third finger was added, "that too. Next time I'm going to work you open with my tongue before I fuck you." Severus slid a finger over Harry's prostate to show his approval of that idea. Harry grabbed his neck and pulled him back down for another harsh, ravishing kiss. Tongues dueled as fingers teased and Severus's cock was leaking, begging to slide into tight warmth. He fucked his fingers into Harry hard and fast until the man pulled back from the kiss gasping. "God, Severus. Please. Please fuck me." Severus moved quickly, sliding his fingers from Harry's tightness and slicking up his own cock. In no time he was pressing in, slow so as not to push himself over the edge he was teetering on. Harry's eyes were closed tight, fist clutching his knees as they held his legs open for Severus. He could tell the man was just as close as he was. Once past the initial barrier he wasted no time in burying himself to the hilt with a cry of surprise from Harry and his own satisfied moan. Legs wrapped around him and hands pulled him down for another bruising kiss. Hands in hair, sliding over shoulders to clutch at his back. Mouth on neck, teeth nibbling at ears. Whispered words of more, yes, harder were the only indication he had started moving. Arms braced on either side of the dark head and Severus was pounding into the man beneath him. Green eyes fluttered, closing at the incredible sensation but not wanting to lose sight of Severus. For his part, Severus kept his eyes open as he watched the play of emotions on the younger man's face. He could tell when Harry was getting close and reached between them to encourage the man's orgasm. He gripped the leaking cock and tugged. Harry came hard once again, spilling himself over his stomach and Severus's hand. Severus held back his own impending orgasm as he milked Harry dry, the body clenching around him making it harder. Finally, when he sensed Harry was an empty mass, he thrust in deep a few more times before emptying himself with a cry, pulsing deep inside Harry's silken cavern and coating him with the ropes of semen that pulsed from Severus's body. He crashed his lips to Harry's for a fierce kiss as he slid from the man's warm body. He collapsed beside the man and pressed a gentle kiss to the salty shoulder.

"I love you, Harry Potter." There was no answer immediately and he wondered if he'd made a mistake in saying the words too soon. A second later, Harry's hand reached out and grabbed the book that had come soaring into the room. He turned and held it out for Severus. It was the book he had signed earlier. Severus gave him a look, but took the book and flipped it open. The signature was familiar. From years of grading essays and the last few days of staring at the picture the man had drawn. But it was the words above the signature that caught Severus's eyes. He blinked and read it again.

I love you too, My Severus. -Always yours, Harry.