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Natural Talents

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Severus Snape was the leading expert in an extremely niche subdiscipline of organic chemistry, the author of numerous very well-cited scholarly articles, recipient of every award possible that one could receive in his field without having died first, the most sought after speaker to every organic chemistry conference known to man. Every chemistry graduate student worth their salt wanted to study under him. All of this had led to him being the youngest tenured professor in the history of his University, with a large staff of graduate students manning his laboratory, all working tirelessly to cure diseases, to revolutionize industry, to unlock the very mysteries of the universe!

The only thing standing in the way of complete professional perfection was…Freshman Chemistry. A class that had been developed to torture brilliant professors who had far better things to do with their time than teach dunderheaded university freshmen.

He had argued ceaselessly over the summer with the head of his department, but Dumbledore insisted that teaching one class of Freshman Chemistry every three years was the standard for everyone in the department. No one was above it.

“Not even me, Severus!” Dumbledore had exclaimed jovially, standing from his desk and not so subtly moving toward the door. He clearly wanted Snape to leave, but he wasn’t done yet.

Snape stubbornly remained seated, leaving Dumbledore to let his hand fall limply back to his side and admit defeat for the moment. Snape struggled to think of an argument against having to teach the newest class of bumbling idiots the University allowed in this year.

“But…but you like the students!” Snape said wildly, wincing inwardly at how deranged he sounded.

There was a long pause as Dumbledore seemed to digest this proclamation. Finally, he leveled a long look at Snape. “You knew the requirements when you signed on. I believe this is a small sacrifice to make to maintain your access to our world-class research facilities and all the cheap graduate student labor that you need.” Snape knew a threat when he heard one. Besides, on some level, he knew he was being ridiculous, so he swiftly nodded his head. “Take the earliest class and the earliest lab session. The only people who will show up are the most dedicated,” Dumbledore finished kindly, well aware of Snape’s people issues.

Snape decided to press his luck, just a little. “And I can have Malfoy as my TA?” He didn’t particularly like Draco Malfoy, but Snape knew that Malfoy was determined to have him as his doctoral advisor and would therefore be motivated to do whatever Snape told him to do.

Dumbledore sighed wearily. “If I allow this concession, will I hear no further complaints from you?”

“You have my word,” Snape replied, sounding pompous even to himself.

“Then I shall make the arrangements,” Dumbledore said. Snape never needed to know that Dumbledore had already assigned Malfoy to the class.

==/==/==

Draco Malfoy was in the hallway outside of his office on the first morning of class, holding a cup of coffee out to him and wearing what Snape supposed was his best smile. He imagined the young women and a good portion of the young men in his class would be charmed by the sight of their objectively handsome TA, with his blond, slicked back hair and gray eyes, but all Snape saw were the Italian loafers that surely cost more than three months’ worth of rent for his modest apartment.

Snape huffed a disgruntled thanks for the coffee as he took it from Malfoy. The elevator ride down to the lecture hall was entirely silent, with Snape internally giving himself a pep talk. Just one semester. 32 classes, 16 labs, and then freedom for another three years…and I could easily afford a nicer place. I just like the easy access to my lab!

Malfoy had apparently taken his grimace as a commentary on the coffee. “Is there not enough cream, sir? If you let me know how you take it, I can fix it for next time.”

“Next time?” he inquired, feeling a little confused.

“Yes, sir,” Malfoy replied in a smarmy sort of voice. “On Thursday.”

“You intend to bring me coffee for every class?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good lord, no.”

He appreciated the gobsmacked look on his TAs face as he swept into the classroom. There would be no pandering to him with coffee. You either earned his goodwill through hard work or not at all. Feeling triumphant, he let his eyes roam over the sea of faces staring expectantly at him. A few small pockets of people had been chatting before class, but the lecture hall quickly fell silent at his glare.

He began his standard first day of Freshman chemistry class speech and felt that things were going as well as they could be expected. There was a mild sort of droning sound coming from somewhere in the upper left hand corner of the hall. At first, he was able to ignore it, but when it did not stop, he scanned his eyes over that section until he found the culprits. Two heads were close together, one whispering furiously to the other, who nodded along just as rapidly.

He paused in his speech and he could see the light glint off the glasses of the speaker as he turned his head back toward him.

“There shall be no speaking in this lecture hall. You are here to learn, not to socialize,” he proclaimed imperiously.

The bespectacled culprit turned a shade of red that he could see from his lectern, while his companion, a darker fellow, only looked bewildered. Incredibly, the red-faced man leaned in and whispered something to his friend again. Snape felt like a cartoon character with steam coming out of its ears. Freshman Chemistry was destined to give him a heart attack.

He motioned to Malfoy and whispered to him to tell the two chatty Kathys to meet him in his office after class. He decided yelling at someone was exactly what he needed to make him feel better.

Malfoy carried out his task with an almost maniacally gleeful spring in his step, but Snape did not care. The talking ceased for good and he could continue on with his lecture.

One down and only 31 left to go was his less than comforting thought as he made his way back up to his office. He groaned slightly as he remembered that he would still need to deal with his talkative students.

He had barely put down his briefcase when he heard the tentative knock on his door.

“Enter,” he said, quickly arranging himself so that he looked as intimidating as possible behind his desk, fingers tented evilly, eyebrow arched…also evilly.

“Good morning, sir,” said the man with glasses. Snape noticed that he stood with his back completely straight and that he looked him directly in the eye. His friend, however, looked like he would run away at the smallest provocation, literally standing behind the other man and peeking around his shoulder.

“What are your names?” Snape inquired.

“Harry Potter, sir,” the man quickly replied.

There was a long silence as Snape waited for the other man to supply his name. For the first time, the man named Potter fidgeted a little. Looking guilty, he turned slightly and spoke rapidly to him in a foreign language. Snape thought it was probably Arabic, but he wasn’t terribly confident. Languages were emphatically not his thing.

The other man finally looked at him. “Reda Haddad,” he said in little more than a whisper. Potter gave him an encouraging sort of smile before turning back to Snape.

“Well, Mr. Haddad, Mr. Potter, why did you think the first day of Freshman Chemistry was the place to carry on a private conversation? Was my lecture not stimulating enough for you?”

Potter turned that familiar shade of bright red, whereas Haddad continued to look confused. Snape began to understand what the problem was even before Potter began to speak.

“I apologize, sir. Reda seems to have a hard time with English. I was speaking to him before class a little and when class began, I could see that he wasn’t able to follow along, so I was translating for him,” Potter said. “I am sorry, sir.”

“And are you Mr. Haddad’s university-appointed translator?” Snape asked acidly and then held up a hand when Potter opened his mouth. “That was a rhetorical question. You are clearly not, because there is no such thing. If Mr. Haddad can not understand enough English to follow along with my class then different arrangements will have to be made.”

He took a sheet of paper and wrote the name of the office that Haddad would need to visit to get his English assessed. Why the university had allowed him to enroll in classes before his English skills had been ascertained, he would never know. But that was not his problem.

“Mr. Haddad,” Snape said, holding out the piece of paper to him. The young man seemed to be reluctant to step forward to take it, but he eventually did snatch it out of his hand. Charming. “You are to go to that office,” he said, pointing to the paper, “and speak with them about your language limitations.”

He had tried to say it as clearly and slowly as he could, but he could see it did no good. He briefly wondered if the man had a rich family who had made a large donation on his behalf, thus leading to his acceptance.

“Mr. Potter, would you please translate?” he asked tiredly.

Potter immediately launched into an explanation in what Snape was now sure was Arabic. Haddad replied back, speaking rapidly to Potter in the same tongue, though it sounded strangely French as well. It had been a long morning and he found that he was exhausted. Finally, Haddad left, waving at Potter and blanching slightly at Snape’s scowl.

There was a moment of almost awkward silence, before Snape remembered that he held all the power here.

“What language was that?” he snapped.

“Arabic…sir,” Potter replied.

“Why did it sound French when he spoke it?”

“Oh, well, Reda is from Morocco,” Potter said, seemingly to think this was all the explanation that was needed. Snape leveled an unimpressed look at Potter, who seemed to understand that more was necessary. “And, of course, Morocco was occupied by the French for a long time, so their accent sounds a little French.”

“Ah,” Snape said, hoping to convey that he, of course, knew all about the French occupation of Morocco and he moved the conversation on before more could be said about it. “And how did you come to speak Arabic?”

Potter stood up a little straighter. “I was a translator in the army for seven years.”

“I see,” he replied, feeling more than a little surprised. Potter did not look much older than a traditional freshman, but he must be somewhere in his mid-twenties. “That must have taken a while, to be proficient enough in a language to translate.” He wondered at the time and the expense on the part of the army. He had always heard stories of using sympathetic locals for translation rather than training recruits.

Potter colored slightly, looking embarrassed but oddly proud. “Well…I have a natural knack for languages. I’ve been told I have a very good ear for picking up new ones.”

Snape was intrigued. He could tell that the young man in front of him was holding back out of modesty and he wanted to know more. “And how was this talent discovered?”

The quickest flash of a smile crossed Potter’s face and Snape leaned forward involuntarily, wanting to chase that smile and make it return.

“My French teacher took us on a school trip to France in Sixth Form. I had been struggling with French, but after three days, I was mostly fluent,” he explained. That quick smile flitted across his face again before disappearing. “Of course, most of what I learned was not fit for polite conversation in a British public school, but my French teacher was able to cultivate my…talent.”

There was a lot to unpack there. It was interesting that someone who could afford to attend a public school would have joined the military immediately after school, especially one with the natural talent at languages that Potter seemed to possess. He was also surprised with himself that he found himself wondering how Potter would sound speaking gutter French to him. Before he could continue his investigation into Potter’s history, the man spoke up again.

“I’m sorry to take up so much of your time, but I was also wondering if I could have permission to join your lab section.”

The change in topic caught him a little off guard. “My lab section? You do realize it’s at 7am on Fridays?” No one actually wanted that time slot. They usually only took it because they couldn’t fit the other ones into their schedule. He especially couldn’t understand why someone who had been called into his office on the first day of class would elect to spend more time in his presence.

“Yes, sir,” he said simply, not giving any additional explanation.

“Why?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

Potter hesitated for a long moment, clearly not wanting to say the reason. He apparently could not find a way out of it so he answered in a guarded voice. “I don’t like Malfoy.”

“I did not realize that you and Mr. Malfoy were acquainted.”

“We’re not,” Potter replied, huffing a little when he saw the questioning look on Snape’s face. “I went to school with literally of dozens of people like Malfoy. I can spot his type from a mile away, which is good because it makes them easier to avoid.”

Snape ran his hand over his mouth to hide the smile that was forming at Potter’s words. “And what, pray tell, is his type?”

Potter fidgeted again, a move that made Snape realize that he had been incredibly still for the duration of their meeting, despite the fact that Potter had been standing the entire time.

“Well…it seems to me that he’s a pompous prat with more money than sense,” Potter finally replied, looking frustrated with himself.

Snape, of course, agreed completely with Potter’s assessment of Malfoy, but he thought better of verbalizing that to him.

“I see. Very well, you may join my lab,” he said after leaving Potter in suspense for a few moments. “However, I want no more problems from you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir. I understand and I apologize again,” he replied and Snape could see the military discipline bleeding through. He still didn’t like that his class had been disrupted but even he could admit that Potter had only been trying to help.

“If that’s all…” he started, trailing off a little, hoping to convey that Potter should leave now.

“No, sir, that’s all. Thank you,” Potter replied. He made a swift exit and Snape shook his head. Freshman Chemistry had certainly proved more interesting on the first day then he had anticipated…

==/==/==

The rest of the semester passed quickly enough. Haddad had never reappeared in his class and Snape spared a brief moment of thought to his fate but decided he actually didn’t care all that much. Potter attended every lecture and every lab session. His natural talent for languages clearly did not extend to chemistry and Snape could tell that he struggled with the material. However, he could see the young man working hard, taking notes and following his instructions in the lab diligently.

Finally, the last lab session before finals arrived and he decided that he would reward the eight students who had shown up that morning by allowing them the hour and a half to ask whatever questions they wanted. Of course, he would never reveal exactly what was on the final exam, but the students peppered him with questions and he was able to clarify concepts and guide them to the appropriate sections to study a little closer. Potter asked a few questions, but mostly spent the time scribbling furiously in his notebook, looking relieved at the extra help. At the end of class, they all thanked him profusely as they filed out and he had to admit he felt slightly warmed by it.

Potter was the last to leave the lab and he stopped to thank him again. Standing across a small lab table from him, Snape finally noticed that Potter’s eyes were bright green behind his glasses. As Snape waved the grateful words away, he noticed that Potter’s elusive smile was back and Snape paused to admire it again. Potter’s hand gripped the strap to his backpack a little tighter as the moment stretched a little too long and Snape finally snapped his eyes away from the young man’s mouth, feeling even warmer than he had before.

Potter cleared his throat a little as Snape made a show of gathering up his things. “Well, anyway, thanks again, sir. Maybe I’ll see you around?”

“It’s possible,” he said noncommittally. “Good-bye, Mr. Potter.”

“Right, bye,” Potter replied, beating a hasty exit from the lab.

Shit.

He would have to have Malfoy grade Potter’s final exam now. There was no way he could be objective while thinking about those eyes and those lips. He hoped, he thought with a grimace, that he hadn’t been too obvious. It would not be good to be caught ogling handsome, straight students.

Now, thinking of them in the privacy of his own home later in the evening…that was a different matter altogether…

==/==/==

The following semester began without much ceremony and Snape was glad to return to his regular schedule of lab time, graduate student classes and academic conferences. He did think of Potter when he attended the annual conference in Paris and he couldn’t help but smirk a little at the thought of Potter scandalizing his French teacher with which parts of the language he had picked up so easily.

At the end of the spring semester, all the students who lived in his building moved out in a noisy rush one weekend and Snape tolerated it only because he knew he could anticipate a quiet summer before a different set of students moved back in for the fall semester.

He was therefore disappointed when the very next weekend, he could hear the unmistakable sounds of someone moving in right across from him. He rolled his eyes a little but comforted himself with the thought that it must not be a student, since they had all gone home for the summer.

He had been intending to go down to the pub for a drink and a light lunch, but he did not relish the idea of meeting his new neighbor quite this early. In fact, he hoped to avoid them at all costs. The sounds of moving quieted down for a while, so he felt safe to leave his apartment and sneak away.

Just as he was removing his key from the lock, his plans were thwarted. The door right across from him opened with a rush of air and he grimaced when he saw who exited the apartment.

“Professor Snape!”

“Ms. Granger,” he replied coldly, looking at the shocked face of Hermione Granger, graduate student in biology, protégé of Minerva McGonagall and all-around annoying know-it-all.

“I didn’t know you lived here!” she squeaked out.

“I do not make it a habit of sharing my address with strangers, so I see no reason why you should know,” he said, making to move past her down the hall. He was already seriously contemplating whether Granger moving in across the hall from him would be worth breaking his lease over, when another person appeared from inside the apartment.

“Professor Snape!” came the exclamation from none other than Harry Potter. He was starting to hate the sound of his name. “What are you doing here?” Potter asked, smiling at him in a way that made it seem like he was happy to see him. How strange.

“I live here, Mr. Potter.”

“Me too! As of about three hours ago,” Potter said, seeming much more relaxed than he ever had in class. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m being impolite. Professor Snape, this is Hermione Granger, Hermione, this is Professor Snape.”

“We are already acquainted…unfortunately,” Snape said, not bothering to hide the disdain in his voice.

Granger huffed in an indignant sort of way while Potter looked back and forth between them, clearly confused.

“Um…how do you two know each other then?” Potter asked, directing his question to Granger.

“Professor Snape thinks that I asked an impertinent question about his research at his last colloquium so now him and Minerva are in some sort of weird academic fight about it,” Granger said, rolling her eyes a little.

He had to admit that her summation of their relationship was mostly accurate, but he could see that Potter, who was clearly not familiar with all the infighting and politics of academia, did not fully understand the depths of his annoyance at seeing Granger.

He addressed Potter when he spoke next. “So, you see, Potter, having you and your girlfriend move in across the hall from…”

Before he could finish his explanation, both Potter and Granger interrupted him.

“Good lord! He’s not my boyfriend!” Granger blurted out at the same time that Potter practically shouted, “We’re not dating! Ugh!”

“Well you don’t have to sound so disgusted about it, Harry!” Granger snapped at him.

“But you’re like my sister. It is gross!”

It was Snape’s turn to look back and forth between the two of them and when they seemed to be finished with their outburst, he continued. “So, I take it from that display that Ms. Granger is not moving in?”

“That’s right, Professor. It’s just me,” Potter replied politely.

“That is slightly more acceptable. Good afternoon,” he said, stalking off before he had to spend another moment in Granger’s presence.

==/==/==

Despite Potter’s dubious taste in friends, he proved to be a good neighbor, which mostly meant that he was quiet for long enough stretches of time that Snape forgot he existed, though he could admit to himself that having Potter right across the hall from had served to remind him how attractive the young man was.

One balmy night, Snape decided to spend some time at the pub on the corner, enjoying their outdoor seating area before the horde of students came back and ruined things again. Potter was also leaving his apartment at the same time and he smiled at him as he finished locking his door.

“Good evening, Professor,” he said politely. “Where are you off to?”

Snape found no reason to lie, so he replied that he was going to the pub. Potter looked a little surprised.

“That’s kind of funny. That’s where I was heading too. They have a nice patio out back that I’d thought I’d enjoy,” Potter said.

Snape was not sure what the protocol was as they descended the stairs and walked out the front door. It was awkward now. Was he expected to sit with Potter? Or was Potter thinking of a way to ditch him and sit alone? This was quickly ruining his prospect of a relaxing evening, but there was no reasonable way for him to turn around now and return to his apartment.

Potter cleared his throat which broke Snape out of the morose thoughts he was now trapped in. “Would you like to share a table? Have a drink together…maybe?” he asked, trailing off a little, and Snape whipped his head around to look at Potter. He was slightly surprised to see the blush back on his face, his eyes wide behind his glasses. It almost looked as if Potter was nervous.

“Do not feel under any obligation to sit with me,” he replied, still unsure of himself.

“I don’t! I’d like to sit with you, if that’s okay with you?” Potter said quickly and now he really did look nervous.

“Very well,” he said, holding open the door to the pub for the younger man.

They made their way to the bar, each paying for their own drink and making their way to a shaded spot on the patio. It was awkward for a moment and Snape cast around for a topic to bring up. Luckily, Potter beat him to it. Unluckily, he decided to talk about Granger, of all things.

“You know, Hermione talks about the work that you do a lot,” Potter started.

He snorted a little. “I’m sure she does. Probably tells you how much of an idiot she thinks I am.”

“No! That’s not it at all,” he protested. “She actually respects your work quite a bit.”

“She has a strange way of showing it,” he replied, sipping his drink and wondering if this was going to turn out to be the worst pub trip ever.

Surprisingly, Potter laughed. “Yes, she does. She has a very…unique way of dealing with people. I understand that it can be off-putting to people who don’t know her. But she wouldn’t have asked that ‘impertinent’ question if she didn’t care deeply about the subject. I think she legitimately wanted to hear your opinion on it.” There was a long pause and Potter continued. “Just…something to think about,” he said gently.

Snape raised his eyebrow slightly at that. It had been a surprisingly diplomatic way of trying to resolve their dispute. “I shall keep it in mind,” he said, raising his drink a little in acknowledgement. “And how do you know Granger?”

“Oh, I actually knew her husband first,” Potter replied, looking a little uncertain. He swallowed a sip of his drink before he continued. “We were in the same unit in the army. Ron and Hermione had gone to school together and got married right before he left for the army and she started university. He would bring me home with him when we had breaks and that’s how I met her.”

Snape thought back to his interactions with Granger. They had been at several mixers together and he had never noticed her with anyone, nor did he remember ever seeing her wear a ring.

“I did not know that she was married,” Snape said.

Potter looked uncomfortable then, his shoulders hitched up almost all the way to his ears. “Well, she’s actually a widow. Ron…died in combat a few years ago.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” Snape said. He was horrified by the revelation that Granger had lost a husband and Potter had a lost a friend.

“Thank you. Yeah, seeing your best friend die in front of you really has a way of making you rethink your life. I got out of the army not too long after that. I had been planning on reenlisting, but just couldn’t after that. Besides, I felt like Hermione and the Weasleys needed me more back here,” he said, more calmly than Snape would have thought possible.

It was shocking to hear about Potter’s history. To have seen something like that, for one so young. The war was something he hardly ever thought about, a fact that he felt guilty about now, seeing as how people around him were obviously intimately familiar with it.

“I am…shocked, Potter,” Snape began, trying to gather his thoughts.

“I’m sorry, but do you think you could call me Harry? I really hate being called by my last name,” Potter, or rather, Harry said, looking apologetic.

“Of course, I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.” This conversation was turning into a real minefield.

Harry shrugged affably. “You didn’t know. It’s just…after 7 years of school where they called me Potter and then 7 years of the army where they called me Potter, I’m pretty over it, if you know what I mean. I didn’t mind when you were my professor, but it seems a little weird if we’re going to be friends.”

Friends. That was interesting. “Then you should call me Severus.” Harry smiled broadly at that and Snape relaxed a little. They were silent for a while, sipping their drinks and enjoying the warmth of the summer evening. A waitress came around and they ordered another round.

“I did have a question…one that I’ve been curious about,” Snape began and he could see Harry wincing a little, not knowing what was coming, but nodding for Snape to continue anyway. “You mentioned that you went to a public school. I wonder why someone in the position to attend a school like that would elect to join the army after school.”

Harry looked relieved and Snape assumed he was glad to not be asked follow-up questions about his friend’s death. “I actually wasn’t ‘in the position’ to go to public school. I was a charity case. I applied everywhere with the help of a school counselor at primary. She thought I had potential,” he said with a wistful, almost disbelieving look on his face, like someone seeing potential in him was a ludicrous thought. “I just wanted to get out of my aunt and uncle’s house so boarding school seemed like a fantastic idea.”

Although he strongly suspected he already knew the answer to his next question, he asked anyway. “And why did you live at your aunt and uncle’s house and not with your parents?”

“They died when I was a baby,” Harry replied, hiding his face behind his glass as he took another long drink.

“Christ, Harry, you have quite the tragic backstory,” Snape muttered, shaking his head at the hand that Harry had been dealt.

To his surprise, Harry burst out laughing. It was quite the pleasant sound and he found himself smiling along with him. “I know, right? An orphaned war veteran whose best friend is dead and is attending freshman university classes as a 25 year old. When you put it all together like that it does sound pretty bad. But there’s been some bright spots too. I mean…give me a minute to think of them, but I’m sure I can come up with something.”

“I hope there’s a bright spot in this story soon. I’m becoming depressed,” Snape said, hoping that Harry would know that he was joking.

The smile never left Harry’s face as he tapped a finger thoughtfully against his chin. “Oh, here’s one! As soon as school was done, I joined the army which means I haven’t seen my family in almost eight years!”

“Ah, yes, just what everyone loves to hear. The orphan being estranged from his only family for almost a decade.”

“If you knew the Dursleys, you would understand that that is a major bright spot.”

“Well, with a name like that…”

“Exactly,” Harry said, smiling brightly. “What about you? What’s your tragic backstory?”

“Not as tragic as yours, of course. Just your typical story of an intelligent woman trapped in a borderline abusive marriage with a drunken laid-off factory worker who could never quite understand why his only son liked books rather than football,” Snape said, trying to be offhand but he couldn’t quite manage flippant when discussing his father.

“I’m sorry, Severus,” Harry said sympathetically.

“My mother passed during my last year of school. Her funeral was the last time I ever saw my father. He died a few years later. My only regret was that I could never tell him to his face that his son was a poof, as he would have called it.” Snape smiled to himself at the thought of Tobias Snape’s face if he ever found out he was gay. While he was reveling in the imagined reaction of his father, Harry had sat back in his chair, looking a little stunned. Snape was immediately suspicious. “Is that something that you have a problem with?”

Harry shook his head quickly. “No, not at all. Just a little surprised, you know?”

“I see,” Snape said and the silence was immediately awkward.

“It’s just…me too.” Harry blushed a little but looked him in the eye as he said it.

“Oh,” Snape muttered and now the silence was awkward for a different reason altogether.

“Well, I’m going to go to the loo. Order another round, if the waitress comes by?” Harry asked and he looked relieved when Snape nodded his agreement.

Snape take the few moments while Harry was away to order his thoughts. Just because they were both gay didn’t mean that they couldn’t be friends. Harry’s sexual orientation changed nothing about him or their interactions. You’ve always thought he was attractive; maybe now you have a chance a treacherous voice whispered in his head. He actually scoffed out loud at the thought. Harry’s sexual orientation certainly had not changed the fact that he was way out of Snape’s league.

The next round arrived at the table at the same time that Harry did and Snape was ready with the question about Harry’s major (Arabic; “can you believe all these translator jobs make you have a degree when you already have the necessary skill?”) and Harry asked Snape a question about his research in turn (boring; “but very satisfying…I would explain more, but I wouldn’t want you to fall asleep in the middle of a pub”) and Snape instead told him a few funny stories about his lab assistants. The rest of the evening was spent in the same pleasant way, with no more awkwardness and quite a bit of laughter.

They walked back to their apartments together and as Harry put his key in his lock, Snape was debating if he was really going to say what he wanted to say to the young man.

“Harry,” he began and Harry immediately turned to him with a hopeful expression on his face. “If you would like to tell Ms. Granger to email me the next time that you see her, I will be happy to meet with her.”

“Oh…okay, Severus. I’ll tell her. Good night,” Harry said, slipping into his apartment.

There, that wasn’t so hard. Though that hopeful look on Harry’s face left him feeling both perplexed and strangely hopeful himself.

==/==/==

When he awoke the next morning, he had a slight headache and an email from Hermione Granger in his inbox, timestamped at just after midnight, asking for a meeting that week. They certainly hadn’t wasted any time.

Snape saw Harry a few times that week coming and going, but they hadn’t had another opportunity to chat since the night at the pub. On Thursday, he had arranged to meet Granger in his office first thing in the morning. Unsurprisingly, she was waiting for him in the hall when he arrived.

“Good morning, Ms. Granger,” he greeted her as he unlocked his door.

She narrowed her eyes a little at him and followed him into the office. “Good morning, Professor Snape.” There was a pause as he set his things down and she sat in the seat across the desk from him. “I was a little surprised when Harry said that you would meet with me. In fact, I’m surprised by a lot of things he told me…” He raised his eyebrow at her and she fidgeted a little in her chair. “You didn’t agree to this meeting because you know what happened to my husband, did you?”

He was a little flummoxed, because he thought for sure that she was going to accuse him of agreeing to a meeting to try to get on Harry’s good side and he had been fully prepared to lie through his teeth. Instead, he was able to react completely honestly. “Of course not, Ms. Granger! Believe me when I say that has nothing to do with this meeting.” She relaxed a little at that. “You are, by all accounts, a brilliant scientist…and Dumbledore ordered me to bury the hatchet with McGonagall before classes began again.”

She laughed at the disgruntled look on his face and looked relieved. “See, that makes so much more sense to me.”

“I was thinking a cup of tea would be nice,” he said, raising his eyebrow in what he thought was a polite inquiry as to whether she would also like a cup but the murderous glare coming from Granger made him stop before he could turn around to switch on his electric kettle.

“Excuse me?” she hissed out.

“I…was going to make myself a cup of tea and was trying to ask if you wanted one as well?” Snape said, annoyed with how uncertain he sounded but feeling completely confused. He had thought he was on such better ground with Granger.

“Oh,” Granger said, immediately turning bright red. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” she said, her voice muffled by the hands she had placed over her face. “It’s just…this would not have been the first time a male professor asked me to make him a cup of tea at a meeting and I just…I assumed. And now I realize I’m an idiot. I’m sorry.”

“Please…do stop apologizing and answer my question about tea. I’m in even more desperate need for a cup now,” he said, knowing he sounded exasperated. This meeting was going even worse than he had thought it would.

“Yes, sir. A cup of tea sounds lovely. Thank you for asking,” Granger said, having removed her hands from her face. Although she was still flushed, Snape appreciated her effort to be polite.

“Fantastic,” he muttered as he set about making the two cups. As he handed Granger her cup, he was compelled by his curiosity to ask about who had asked her to make him a cup of tea.

“Lockhart,” she replied with a roll of her eyes.

“I am not surprised at all,” Snape said.

“I had been planning to ask him to be my outside member, but…after that I’m not so sure.”

“I take it I’m the next on your list, then?” he asked acerbically.

“No, actually, you were the first on my list, but after that fiasco at your colloquium I thought I had no shot,” Granger replied honestly.

“Well, then. Tell me about your project and I will decide if I would be appropriate as your outside member,” he said, willing to listen to her with an open mind.

Forty-five minutes, a short PowerPoint slideshow, six handouts and a dozen well-answered questions from Snape later, he agreed to be the outside member of Granger’s dissertation committee. He was left with three chapters of her dissertation and a time scheduled in two weeks to meet again. He had known, of course, that Granger had the reputation for being a know-it-all but he could see now why McGonagall had taken her on as a student. All of Granger’s talk was backed up with raw intelligence and an almost disturbing level of organization. In another life, he could have easily seen her becoming the Prime Minister.

==/==/==

Later that evening, he heard a knock on his door and was not surprised to find Harry standing on the other side. Harry invited him out to have a drink again, which he happily accepted. They spoke at length again and Snape decided he would need to watch himself around Harry. He was just too good looking, especially when he was looking up at Snape with his big green eyes, thanking him so sincerely for agreeing to help Granger.

He didn’t have much time over the next week or so to ponder his relationship or lack thereof with Harry. His latest experiment was reaching a critical stage and it culminated one day when he found that it needed round-the-clock attention.

He stumbled back to his apartment early one morning after almost 36 hours in his lab. He had taken a few quick cat naps, but he was still beyond exhausted.

He took out his key card and pressed it to the lock. The light never turned green, so he removed it and tried again, smashing it against the lock. The damn thing had just worked for him at the lab. What was wrong with it now? he grumbled to himself. Stupid fucking technology.

Just then, Harry turned the corner, sweating profusely in a pair of athletic shorts and some sort of weird t-shirt with no sleeves. Before he saw Snape, he lifted the half shirt thing to his forehead to wipe away some sweat, revealing just how fit, in every sense of the word, Harry was. Snape turned back to his door, his eyes wide, now desperately pushing his key card against the door. He knew he was too tired to not do something completely stupid in front of Harry, especially a half-dressed and sweaty Harry.

“Severus! What are you doing up and about at this time of the morning?” Harry asked as he walked up to him. Good lord, the man was still breathing heavily from whatever form of physical exercise he had been partaking in. Before he could answer, Harry looked down at the key card in his hand. “What…are you trying to do?”

Snape glared at him. “I am clearly trying to get into my apartment,” he said scathingly. He turned back to the door, his briefcase suddenly feeling very heavy. He slumped a little as he tried again. “But my key card isn’t working any longer. And now I’m going to have to call IT and I hate calling IT. They always act like you’re the biggest idiot in the world when things stop working!”

“Oh-kay. How about I try to help you before we resort to calling IT?” Harry asked him gently, taking the key card along with the rest of his keys out of his hand.

He angled his body in between Snape and the door and he could hear his keys jingling a little as Harry attempted to open the door. Some quiet part of Snape’s rational mind told him that it would be politer for him to step back to give Harry more room, but he was too busy watching a drop of sweat roll down the back of his neck. His internal debate about whether he should lick it off of Harry’s neck was interrupted by Harry triumphantly opening the door.

“How did you do that?” he demanded angrily, all thoughts of sweat and licking escaping him at the moment.

Harry looked carefully at his face and seemed to reach some sort of conclusion before shrugging a little. “Must have just been luck. Severus? Are you…drunk?”

He was offended by the insinuation that he was drunk!

“I am offended by the insinuation that I’m drunk!” he huffed out, swaying slightly on the spot. He allowed Harry to take his arm and drag him further into his apartment. “I have been in my lab for a day and a half watching over an experiment! Preposterous!” he ranted to his living room.

“Of course, I’m sorry for assuming,” Harry said quietly as he maneuvered him onto the couch.

“Besides! I only had two glasses of champagne with Malfoy when the experiment was a success!”

“Right…” Harry replied and Snape could feel his shoes being untied and tugged off. “Socks on or off, Severus?”

“Off! I’m not a barbarian!” he shouted as Harry pulled his socks off. His indignant mood was soothed a little by Harry’s warm hand wrapping around one of his feet and giving it a squeeze. Harry moved closer to him and gently pushed on his shoulders until he was laying back on the couch.

“You would probably be more comfortable without your trousers on, but I feel like that might be a little inappropriate in your current state,” Harry explained as he covered him with the throw from the back of the couch.

“Mmm…trying to get into my pants, are you?” Snape said in what he hoped was a saucy kind of voice.

His eyes popped open when he felt the back of Harry’s hand stroke down his face. Harry was very close and was looking at him with what he could only interpret as fondness in his addled state of mind. “Don’t say anything you’ll regret when you wake up, okay? Just close your eyes,” he whispered.

==/==/==

When he woke up, he felt like shit. He groggily sat up, squinting at the clock on the wall and saw that it was late in the evening. He would never sleep through the night at this rate. Who knows how long it would take him to get back on a regular schedule?

As he rubbed his eyes, he tried to piece together how he got back to his apartment. The last thing he could remember clearly was Malfoy breezing into the lab at around 3am and helping him with the last stages of his experiment. At some point around five, a bottle of champagne had appeared and Snape had been convinced to drink a glass. No…it turned out to be two glasses.

His stomach reminded himself of its presence at that moment and he got up to fix himself something to eat, still thinking about his morning. He could remember standing in front of his door, but there had been something wrong with it. Oh, yes, the key card wouldn’t work.

Severus, you idiot he thought. The key card was for the lab. He had a traditional key for his apartment door. It hit him like a thunderbolt the next moment. Harry. Sweaty. Licking? Oh god, it all came rushing back. He really was an idiot. He could well imagine the good laugh that Harry was having at his expense.

He sat back down on his couch, feeling worn out even after having slept for 12 hours. He miserably nibbled on his toast, thinking about how he would never be able to face Harry again. His eyes landed on a folded sheet of paper and he realized it could only be from Harry. He cringed, not knowing what could be in the note and almost too afraid to find out.

He delicately unfolded it and looked at it through one squinted eye.

Severus,

I had to take your keys with me to lock your door. I will be home all day, so pop over when you wake up so that I can return them.

HP

Well that wasn’t so bad. He headed to his room to take a shower and he decided that it was best to get the next encounter with Harry over with as soon as possible. He felt better after the shower and the change of clothes.

He crossed the hall and knocked on the door to Harry’s apartment, prepared as he could be to meet his fate. He was pleasantly surprised to see that Harry looked happy to see him and he was ushered into the living room.

“Are you feeling better, then?” Harry asked as Snape perched awkwardly on his couch.

“Yes, thank you,” Snape replied stiffly. There was a long pause. “Do you have my keys?”

“Oh yeah, hold on,” Harry said, rushing to the front entry and taking them off the small table next to the door. Snape held out his hand and immediately stood up when Harry dropped them onto his palm. He began to make his way out of the apartment, but Harry stepped in front of him. “Wait! I hope…I hope you’re not embarrassed or anything by this morning. I was happy to help.”

“I must admit…I do find myself a little embarrassed,” he said simply, not seeing a point in denying the awkwardness of the situation he had put them in earlier in the day.

“It’s okay. Really, don’t worry about it. I know that you aren’t…interested in me in that way, so I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable. I know you were just joking about the pants thing,” Harry said, looking shy all of a sudden, sitting down onto the couch heavily.

“You think that I am uninterested in you? You’re the one uninterested in me…aren’t you?” Snape replied, feeling adrift in the way this conversation was turning out. He perched himself gingerly on the couch next to Harry.

Harry scoffed. “I am very interested! I’ve asked you out twice!”

“Twice? Are you counting the first time at the pub?” Snape tried to quickly think back to both of their pub outings. Had that been flirting?

“Well, yeah. I asked you if you wanted to join me at a table, so yeah, I’m counting that one,” Harry huffed.

“I hadn’t realized…,” Snape said, feeling like an even bigger idiot than ever.

“So,” Harry said, drawing out the vowel a little and bringing Snape’s attention back to him. “Are you interested?”

“Of course, I am! Look at you!” he exclaimed.

Harry blushed deeply and looked away, drumming his fingers against his leg. Snape wasn’t quite sure what they were supposed to do now that their mutual declarations had been concluded.

“I think,” Harry began in a contemplative voice, scooting a little closer to him on the couch. “that we should kiss.”

Harry did not wait for him to answer, which was good because Snape had little idea what to say. Instead, one of Harry’s hands slid into his hair, pulling him closer to draw him into the kiss, while the other slid along the outside of his thigh. Snape could hardly decide what he should concentrate on more, the tongue sliding across his lips or Harry’s hot hand pulling him across the couch until he was pressed firmly against his side.

Snape was the one to break away from the kiss finally. He was getting too excited, too quickly and he needed a moment to organize his thoughts before he did something rash, like push Harry down on the couch and suck his soul out through his cock. He stared into the distance, trying to arrange his thoughts about what had just happened. He had just kissed one of the most attractive men he had ever been acquainted with and he hadn’t even been the one to initiate it! He brought a hand up to his lips and the feeling of the wetness still lingering on them made him even harder.

“I’m sorry, Severus,” Harry groaned out, flopping back onto the couch and covering his eyes with his hand. “I didn’t mean to just jump right in like that and make you uncomfortable.” With his eyes covered, Harry could not see the hungry look that Snape was directing toward him and the sizeable erection that Snape could see pressed against the tight fabric of Harry’s jeans. “I should have waited for permission and I’m just really sorry,” he muttered miserably.

As Snape stood up from the couch, Harry sat up quickly, removing his hand from his face, which was the very picture of guilt and worry. He opened his mouth, most likely to apologize again Snape thought to himself, but he cut himself off when he saw Snape step in front of him and sink to his knees in between his legs.

“No apology necessary, Harry,” Snape said as he made quick work of undoing the fly of Harry’s jeans.

He looked up at Harry’s stunned face as he took out his hard cock and stroked it. Harry seemed to be torn between looking at Snape’s face or Snape’s hand on Harry’s cock. He took pity on him and lowered his mouth and sucked Harry down in one go, opening his throat and taking in the entire length of Harry’s cock. One advantage of not being the most attractive of men was that he had to use other means to entice someone to share their bed with him and he was rather proud of the expertise he had developed in the field of sucking cock.

Judging by the frantic way that Harry twitched on the couch as Snape held his hips down, he thought that Harry might also appreciate his talents. He pulled back a little to look up at Harry and he discovered that he was gripping his hair in his hands, his head thrown back against the couch, not looking at Snape at all. He seemed to be muttering something quietly as Snape caught his breath for a moment.

Not one to waste any time, Snape took Harry back into his mouth, moaning as he felt Harry’s cock thicken even further and he knew that he was close. He felt Harry’s hands thread into his hair and he prepared himself for the press of the hands to hold him down while Harry came in his mouth. He found himself amazed when instead of being rough with him, Harry gathered his hair in his hands and pulled it away from his face. He glanced up briefly to see Harry looking at him with clear adoration in his eyes as he held his hair gently. He wasn’t sure what to make of Harry’s behavior so he redoubled his efforts on Harrys’ cock.

“Baby, I’m coming,” Harry gasped out and Snape would never admit in a million years that Harry calling him baby almost made him come in his pants like a teenager. He loosened his grip on Harry’s hips a little in order to allow him to buck up into his mouth and Harry came for what seemed like an eternity into his willing mouth.

Harry’s hands let go of his hair finally and Snape pulled away to lick his lips. He found himself being abruptly hauled up into Harry’s lap, his trousers being opened and his cock being gripped in a firmly confident hand. Harry jerked him off with little ceremony and Snape was glad of it. He was rock hard from having made Harry come in his mouth and he was not in the mood to be teased. Harry’s other hand came up to his mouth and he eagerly sucked two fingers into his mouth, wondering if Harry was going to get hard again. After too brief a moment, Harry popped the wet fingers out of his mouth and brought them around to the delve into the back of Snape’s trousers, pressing up against Snape’s entrance in a way that had him immediately coming all over Harry’s hard stomach.

His eyes drifted shut as he came down from his orgasm and he slumped down onto Harry’s shoulder. He found that Harry’s shoulder was a very comfortable place to rest his head and he thought semi-deliriously that he might actually be able to sleep through the night now.

Snape protested only a little as Harry made him stand up and come to the bathroom to get them both cleaned off.

“This time, I am going to take your trousers off, Severus,” Harry said, as he laid him down gently in his bed. “And tomorrow…I am going to take you on a date that you actually know is a date.”

He grunted in response, thinking of how surreal the last 48 hours of his life had been. Never one to let someone else have the last word, he roused himself enough to tell Harry one last thing.

“Yes,” he said, slurring only slightly in his post-orgasmic exhaustion, “and then you will bring me back here and whisper filthy French in my ear as you fuck me.”