“I haven’t seen your name in the papers lately, Potter.”
Harry glanced up slowly from his Firewhisky. When he absolutely couldn’t stand staring at the walls in Grimmauld Place anymore, he would come out to the Hog’s Head. There he could have the company of breathing humans in the same room without anyone actually trying to socialize with him.
But it seemed Severus Snape was determined to try.
“Hard to see what isn’t there,” Harry replied, and turned back to stare into his mug. Other people in the room were staring at them, but he knew they would look away when Snape moved on. Which he could do any time now.
Instead, Snape sat down on the other side of the table. Harry stared even harder at him. Snape shook his head. “Trying to see up your own nostrils, Potter?”
“There are spells for that if I want them. What are you doing here?”
“Getting a drink.” Snape showed his own mug. Harry eyed it suspiciously. It was opaque, so he couldn’t be sure what was in it, but it didn’t produce the billowing clouds of steam that he would have associated with Firewhisky.
“Well, you can have it in privacy now,” Harry said, and drained the rest of his mug, wincing as his ears and throat and nostrils and eyes all burned. Then he stood up. He was on the verge of wavering back and forth, anyway, although he hadn’t crossed the line. Time for him to go home.
“You aren’t fit to Apparate, Potter. Or Floo.” Snape was leaning back in his seat, cradling his mug on his lap this time and staring critically at Harry, as if he assumed he would be called on to rescue him. Harry nearly snorted. That had ended with the end of Hogwarts. He was competent to take care of himself, thank Merlin.
“Can Apparate just fine. Only had one.” Harry turned and walked out the door of the tavern. It was softly cold, the week before Midwinter, and Harry wrapped his cloak more firmly around him and turned on his heel to Apparate.
Someone grabbed his arm, and Harry choked in displeasure as he disappeared from the middle of Hogsmeade’s street and appeared in his own drawing room with a passenger. He already had his wand drawn when the familiar voice said, “Forgive me for checking to make sure, Potter.”
“Get out of here, Snape,” Harry snapped at him. He went into his kitchen to fetch the necessary ingredients for a strong cup of tea, and nearly stumbled over Snape following him. “I’m home, I’m fine, get out.”
“Not until you tell me why you allowed that ridiculous exposé to make such a difference to you.”
Harry snorted and began making his tea, ignoring Snape. But although Snape didn’t actually speak, he turned out not to be easy to ignore. He simply stood next to Harry and stared at him, and that stare still bothered Harry even with all the years between Hogwarts and now.
“Because it meant people knew I was ugly under my robes,” Harry finally muttered, and shoved a cup at Snape. Not because he was hospitable. Just because it would be ridiculous to keep ignoring him any longer. “I can’t get a date now because people look at me with pity in their eyes.”
“You tried to get dates after that article?”
“Yes, I did.” Harry winced as he remembered the way that the first woman he’d approached giggled nervously, and the first man made a smooth excuse about how he needed to go see a friend. Harry had heard them both laughing with their friends later. “I suspect I’ll need to move to the Muggle world to get a date.”
“The idiots who won’t date you are not the only wizards or witches in the world.”
“They’re the ones I was interested in.” Harry swallowed some more tea. “And I’m not willing to wait years for the fuss to die down the way it did after that article came out saying I was bisexual.”
“Why was your reaction to that article so different? I don’t remember you hiding away after Skeeter published it.”
Harry turned and looked at Snape in surprise. “Because I wasn’t ashamed of liking both witches and wizards.”
“You are ashamed of your scars?”
Snape’s voice had an odd inflection. Harry moved back into the drawing room, hoping the man would get the hint, but he continued to follow him. Harry surrendered with a sigh. “Of course I am. You don’t know how bad they are, Snape. At least Woodson didn’t manage to take photos to sell to Skeeter. Just the story.”
“They cannot possibly be as bad as my own.”
“Oh, come on. Other than the ones Nagini left on your throat and the Dark Mark, what scars do you even have?”
“No one else would dismiss those marks as you do.” Snape’s voice was as cold as the grave, and he set his teacup down on one of Harry’s tables with an offended thunk. “And I survived years of torture while fighting the Dark Lord. You think I do not have them?”
Harry turned to stare at him. “Yes, all right, fine. I apologize. But mine are still worse.”
“Would you care to back up that statement?”
Harry had no idea what Snape meant until he saw the man reaching up to unbutton the collar of his robes. Then Harry sighed aloud. “Do you know how ridiculous you sound, acting as though this is a contest?”
“You are the one who made it so.”
Harry was still a little drunk and maybe not remembering all the nuances of the conversation right, but he frowned heavily. “No, I don’t think that’s true.”
“You are the one who made it so,” Snape repeated implacably, and then he undid his robes faster than Harry could recover from his shock and pulled them over his head. His shirt—white and looking as though it had just come from the hands of house-elves—followed. Harry gulped a little as he stared at Snape’s chest.
“Do you see?” Snape turned towards the side and cocked out his hip like he was a Muggle model about to stride down a runway.
“Uh, I see some scars,” Harry said, forcing his eyes away from the definition of Snape’s muscles to the wide purple scars that twined across his ribs. “That doesn’t make them the same as my marks.”
“You would have to show yours to me for me to be certain of that.”
This was getting stranger by the minute. Harry wanted to say that he wasn’t that drunk and storm away into his own room. But Snape was glaring at him the way he used to when he thought Harry was sneaking around and stealing from his stores, and the challenge was as effective as it had been then.
“Fine,” Harry muttered, sounding a little petulant even to himself, and dragged the damn robe over his head.
“You look—well.” Snape sounded a bit strangled.
“No, I bloody well don’t.” Harry had to spend a minute looking down, because he was drunk enough to have forgotten exactly where it was, but then he found the mark where the locket had burned him. It was such a messy burn, squirming at the edges and with shiny flesh there that had made more than one of Harry’s lovers look queasy. Harry took a morbid satisfaction in it now as he pushed at it with one finger. “See? Yours just sort of look like stretch marks.”
Harry grinned. Snape had that note in his voice now that he used to get just before he started roaring at some unfortunate non-Slytherin student. “Yeah. And plenty of women have those, so it’s not as though you’re in bad company.”
“I see no other scars to compete with the burn you are showing me.”
Harry turned around, so Snape could see the puncture marks on his back where a baby dragon he’d tried to rescue from a smuggler had pounced on him. Luckily, the dragon had been too young to breathe fire, but Harry had taken the brunt of both teeth and claws before his fellow Aurors caught the baby and forced it away. “See this trail? All up my spine to my hip? So handsome, right?”
Snape was silent. Harry turned around, thinking he might finally have won, and saw Snape touching the scars Nagini had left, long, parallel slashes that made it seem remarkable he had a throat at all.
“Nothing to compare to this. You may have scars from a dragon, but not a snake.”
“I have scars from the King of Serpents.” Harry shifted so Snape could see the remains of the basilisk bite on his arm. “I’d be dead right now if it wasn’t for Fawkes showing up and crying on the place where the fang pierced my arm.”
“That happened in the Chamber of Secrets?” Snape’s voice had gone as low and soft as a stormcloud.
“Yeah. More deadly than yours, huh?”
“Albus never told me.”
Harry furrowed his brow, trying to remember now if he’d ever told Dumbledore that the basilisk had bitten him. Yeah, he thought so, but maybe Dumbledore had never seen the scar. He shrugged away the thought. “See? Worse marks than you. I win.”
“You have not seen where Fenrir Greyback attacked my leg.”
“Shit, you’re not—”
“No. It was not on the full moon. He does have a fondness for creating scars, however.” Snape bent down. Harry expected him to roll up the leg of his trousers, but instead, he simply shed his shoes and then pulled them off. The socks followed a moment later. And then Severus Snape was standing in Harry’s drawing room in his pants and holding out his leg. “See?”
Harry ripped his eyes away from where they wanted to go and told himself hastily it was natural, that he’d always thought some things about Snape being that tall and that—
Stop it, he snapped at himself, ears burning, and focused on the scars. He whistled softly. They looked at least as bad as Bill’s, twining up Snape’s leg. “It’s a wonder you can walk.”
“I am a Potions brewer. I did not accept the diagnosis of the Healers that would have confined me to a bed for a month or a cane for the rest of my life. I took care of the problem.”
Harry looked at him and knew his eyes were warmer with admiration than they had been in a long while. Snape shifted a step closer to him. “Your turn. Unless you are willing to give in and admit my victory?”
His voice had deepened. His eyes were burning in a way that didn’t make him look drunk, even though Harry knew he had to be. Why else would Snape be stripping and displaying himself like this?
It’s not a fucking display! It’s just a contest that he wants to win, that’s all. You fucking know that.
Harry swallowed strongly and pulled down his own trousers. Snape caught his breath sharply. Harry nodded. These were the scars that had made Woodson finally turn around and leave him, and had probably cost Harry some other love affairs as well, although until Skeeter’s article he hadn’t really thought about that.
He’d been held and tortured for two days by Dark wizards who thought their children could use the practice in getting over compassion and scruples. The burns had mostly healed with little other than shiny patches of skin left behind, but the marks from acid were more permanent. And Harry had a weird-looking knot of muscle near his knee where they’d dislocated the kneecap. The Healers had managed to fix it enough that it didn’t ache and he could walk normally most of the time, but it looked undeniably strange, rising like a little volcano among his leg hairs.
Snape slid to his knees. Harry knocked all the stupid thoughts that wanted to manifest out of his head and just shrugged when Snape tilted his head back to look up at him.
“Yeah.” His voice was husky. Harry coughed to clear his throat. “Torture. So it wins for strangest-looking, right?”
Snape reached for his wand. Harry watched him warily, but didn’t actually back away, even when Snape aimed the wand at him. The incantation was murmured low enough that he couldn’t hear it, but the buzzing effect of a Sobriety Charm took up residence in his skull at once.
Harry groaned a bit and rubbed his temples. Then he leaped away from Snape. “Oh, what the hell—” His face was burning. He turned so his forehead was leaning against the cool glass of a window. “Shit. Sorry, Snape. Can you leave, please?” He thought about asking the man not to tell anyone that he’d seen his scars, but then decided he didn’t need to worry about it. Snape had been drunk, too, and he’d have to tell people he’d also been mostly naked in Harry Potter’s flat.
“I think not.”
Harry whipped around. He’d thought Snape had stayed crouching on the floor, or maybe stood up and started towards the door, intent on putting this behind him as much as Harry was. Instead, Snape was right behind Harry, and his arm was sliding around Harry’s waist, and he bent his head until his breath was on Harry’s lips.
“The scars you showed me do not frighten me,” Snape said. “The fact that you do not run away from mine is an attraction. And I still cannot allow you to be alone. You might slip into the persona of the brooding hero, and then where would the wizarding world be if another Dark Lord attacked?”
“But you don’t need to—”
“Need to, no. Want to? Yes.”
Snape did kiss him then, and Harry found himself leaning against Snape with a gasp. No one else had ever been this intense. There were only so many ways that he could be kissed, and Harry thought he knew them all, but the pulse of Snape’s tongue into his mouth, the way his hands closed mercilessly around Harry’s neck and hair and hips, the long line of his erection against Harry’s groin—all of it made Harry succumb as if he was sinking into deep water.
Only when he drew back from the kiss did he remember something. “I don’t want to do this while you’re drunk. You have to perform a Sobriety Charm on yourself, too.”
“I already did. While you were getting the tea.” Snape tilted Harry’s head to the side as if he owned him and bit calmly at his neck, making Harry suddenly find out that his knees were elastic. Snape caught him and held him up, his teeth still fastened in place.
“But then—the whole conversation about scars—”
“I wished to see what sort of self-loathing obstacle I must overcome. But no, I was not drunk.”
“You just wanted to get me naked.”
“That was the ultimate goal, yes,” Snape said without a trace of shame. He slid his fingers into Harry’s hair and lifted him back for another kiss that whirled Harry into the riptide, then lowered his head enough to breathe into his ear, “The bedroom awaits us.”
Harry led the way, holding onto Snape’s arms and walking backwards, letting Snape steer him. He had to look into his eyes, to wait for the minute when they would flash with mockery and Snape would laugh and tell Harry how stupid he’d been to think for one minute that this was serious.
It would hurt, but not as much as sleeping with Snape and then waking in the morning to find him gone. And another new article on the front page.
But Snape did nothing except return that same intense look, and kiss him again up against the doorframe before they slid into bed. Well, Harry slid into bed. Snape paused with his thumb and forefinger hooked in the waist of his pants, gaze so burning that Harry could feel an invisible scorching on his skin.
“I want to see you first,” Snape whispered.
Harry could feel himself turning red as a sunset, but he reached down and slid his pants down his legs. Snape’s eyes were on him the whole time. Harry took them off and kept his gaze fixed on Snape’s face. Looking at his own springing cock was beyond him right now.
“You are beautiful.”
“Look, you don’t need to compliment me just because Woodson and Rita Skeeter together are—”
“I do not say things I do not mean. Not anymore,” Snape added after a brief pause. “You are beautiful, and I wish you to call me Severus. And watch me,” he added, with a slide of his voice that would have sent Harry’s thoughts straight into the gutter if they hadn’t been there already.
Harry swallowed and focused on Snape’s hands as he moved the thin cloth that still covered his cock. It was thick enough to make Harry reach for it instinctively, and red enough that he wondered how Snape was still standing. Snape shuddered a little as Harry’s hand brushed the tip, and then murmured, “I am unwilling to let you bring me off this way.” He grasped Harry’s wrist and moved it.
“What did I tell you?”
That tone made Harry shudder all over, and his hips pumped into the air. “Severus!”
Severus gave him a small smile and shifted closer to the bed. Harry trailed his fingers over the head one more time, and then Severus pinned his hand to the bedspread and leaned over to suck on one of the scars that crossed Harry’s chest. Harry didn’t even think he remembered showing it to him.
Harry groaned and flopped back on the pillow, his eyes shut, drifting. He’d never thought he’d have this again. A mouth, warm and eager, and a hot cock poking him in the side.
And someone willingly there next to him.
Harry opened his eyes. He hadn’t remembered closing them. He didn’t want to miss a second of this. And Severus smiled at him as if he knew what Harry was thinking, and lifted his mouth from the scar.
“You are ready to ride me?” he asked, as if he was inquiring about the weather.
Harry laughed because he couldn’t help it. Severus only looked him complacently in the eye. That shows how much he’s changed, Harry thought as he reached for his wand on the table next to the bed. He would have thought I was laughing at him if he was still the man he was during the war.
“Not yet,” he said. “Give me a moment.” He pointed his wand at his arse and Severus’s cock and cast the same spell, because he was too impatient to wait. “Oleum.”
Severus started as the liquid appeared there, and caught a breath that made his eyes darken and flutter. “You have cast this spell often?”
“Yes. I prefer to bottom.” Harry laid his wand aside as carefully as he could when he couldn’t look away from Severus’s face, and what his little announcement had done to mantle his cheeks with a flush and his eyes with a glitter.
“Then the question becomes if I am ready,” Severus whispered, holding his hands out so that he could scoop Harry off the bed. “And the answer to that is yes.”
Harry groaned as Severus slid into him. Yes, the spell was enough. It had been some time since he’d cast it, and he didn’t want to remember the last time. It had been right before Woodson had gone to the papers.
But that was all right. That was perfect, because it had brought Severus to him.
Severus sank in with a kind of unhurried, implacable grace, and pulling at him and snarling at him did nothing. Harry had to stop pulling and snarling anyway when Severus was fully-seated. He arched his neck back and bit his lip and shuddered and writhed, and still there was someone inside him and leaning over him and they weren’t going anywhere, and his scars were all bare to the world, and it was wonderful.
“Stop squirming, or I will come right away.”
Harry kept on squirming, because he couldn’t help it. Severus pinned his other wrist, and began to thrust. Then Harry squirmed on purpose, because it made things feel even better. The bubbling, burning feeling inside him, as if pleasure was boiling water filling him up, was something he’d never felt before. He jackknifed his arse down and moaned deep in his throat.
The word was a hiss guttural enough that Harry wondered for a wild moment if Severus spoke Parseltongue too, if maybe he’d got the ability from his brush with Nagini. But Severus was rocking on top of him, eyes narrowed and his panting breath filling Harry’s face, and then he reached down and performed some kind of cruel, natural twist at the end of Harry’s cock.
Harry followed him into bliss with a shout. He honestly wasn’t sure if Severus had started to come first or he had. But he decided to think “followed” because it was probably true, and Severus would probably like it better.
Never underestimate the comfort of a lover who can read thoughts out of your unprotected mind, he thought hazily.
“I did hear that.”
Severus’s voice was low and lazy and exhausted. Harry rolled over to kiss him. “I know,” he said, and separated himself from Severus with a soft sigh. “But in the meantime, we’re going to rest, right? Before you start making me suffer for what I just thought?”
“I am not going to make you suffer again. Rather, I am going to make it my business to see that you do not suffer.”
Harry shut his eyes. His hand was resting on one of Severus’s scars, the purple ones that he had mocked by calling them stretch marks. But he didn’t know which one, and he wasn’t going to open his eyes to see.
“If you knew what that meant to me,” he murmured.
Severus’s hand was on his basilisk scar. He closed it heavily down for a second, and held it there for much longer than a second. And then his hand slid off, limp, and Harry blinked and looked up to see that Severus was limp, all of him, and breathing softly right in the middle of the wet puddle they’d made on the sheets.
Harry slowly lay down next to him. His head whirled. He didn’t know what they would see when they woke up in the morning.
But he went to sleep with his hand still on Severus’s scar.