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The first thing Severus Snape was aware of was that something unpleasant was stuck to his skin. The second thing was that the something unpleasant had the all-too-familiar smell of drying blood. Shortly thereafter, his memory began to return. While ordinarily the lack of amnesia was a thing to be grateful for, Snape was already beginning to suspect that, in this particular instance, he would really be much happier not remembering.

His eyes were closed. He was lying on his side, face pressed uncomfortably against a hard floor. The Shrieking Shack, his brain informed him. The Shrieking Shack? What in Merlin's name was he doing --

Voldemort. Nagini. He clawed blindly, instinctively, at his neck; the robes were stiff and unyielding, soaked through with dried blood, so much blood. His searching hands touched blood on his robes, blood on his throat. All dry, he realized suddenly. Under the layer of blood, his throat was fine. Unmarred. Unblemished. Perfectly ordinary.

Snape pulled himself upright and looked around. He was, in fact, in the Shack, and it was barely still nighttime. The faint light of an approaching dawn shone through the window, illuminating his surroundings enough to reveal the truly astonishing quantity of drying gore that he was sitting in. Nonetheless, someone must have managed to heal him. But how? He had lost so much blood, and it would all have happened too quickly.

And, more importantly, who would have done this? And why were they not here now? The room was silent, and though he could not quite see into the shadows at the corners, presumably empty. Surely his benefactors would wish to greet him. Ah, well, perhaps they had been called off to fight elsewhere. No doubt they would expect him to join in, he thought resignedly. Hadn't he done enough? He had been fighting so long already, just one more night...

Snape stood up, the better to take stock of his condition. Other than the coat of blood, he felt fine, he realized. No, more than that -- he felt good. No aches, no pains, no stiffness or soreness, none of the perfectly usual bodily complaints that he had grown accustomed to over the years. Better than he had felt in a while. He must find out the name of that healing spell; truly, it was amazing. The only side effect was this odd tingling, buzzing sensation, almost a headache; it felt as if his brain had received a dose of Skele-Gro.

He stretched, lazily, and stepped backwards, in the direction of the door. Oddly, as he moved, the headache increased to an unpleasant level. Well, if that was the only side effect of this mystery spell, it was most definitely still worth --

"Hello," said a man's voice from behind him.

Years of reflexes took over, and he had his wand in his hand, turning, ready to disarm. He noted the details quickly, dispassionately, as the man moved out of the shadows. Not someone he knew. Perhaps mid-30s, brown hair, brown eyes, an odd beige robe, likewise reaching in his robes for his -- sword? For the stranger was wielding not a wand, but a rather large and deadly-looking blade.

What was going on here?

The man edged further out of the shadowy corner, slowly, his eyes fixed on Snape's. Light glinted off the sword. As the stranger stepped forward into the light Snape saw that what he had taken to be an bizarre sort of robe was one of those long Muggle coats, which the man was wearing open over a pale sweater and nondescript dark trousers.

Neither of them moved. Snape held his wand pointed directly at the man's sword, considering his options. Was Expelliarmus effective against swords? He'd never before had the occasion to find out. At any rate, the man was still far enough away for the sword to be merely a threat and not yet a danger, but Snape would have to act soon, before the stranger took it upon himself to close the distance between them.

"I intend you no harm," the stranger said quietly, still gazing intently at him. His voice was even, relaxed, as if the situation hardly troubled him at all.

Something about his attitude seemed -- well, sincere. Reassuring. Inviting trust. Just the sort of manner that a Death Eater would love to cultivate, and therefore not to be trusted. Snape kept his aim steady.

The man, clearly trying a different tack, now almost smirked. "If I had wanted to kill you, I would have done it already. I assure you, I shall not harm you."

Snape finally found words. "I would find that more convincing if you did not have that -- that weapon." He tried to summon the imperious tone he usually reserved for haranguing the incompetent first years in Potions, but the hoarse rawness of his own voice shocked him.

A few more moments passed as the man considered this. Then, very slowly, the sword began to lower and the man's free hand rose, palm out, the symbol of surrender. That was far too easy.

"All right," the man said, having switched back again to the low calming voice, which was ridiculous, really -- Severus Snape, in need of reassurance? Pfft. "Let me just sheathe my sword," he continued, "and, look, you can keep your wand out if it makes you feel better."

Still with exaggerated slow movements, the man opened his coat, moved as if to place his weapon into it, beneath the fabric. To Snape's eye, the sword seemed to be disappearing. An Undetectable Extension Charm? On the coat?

The man dropped his now-empty hands to his sides. "Now do you believe I'm not going to hurt you?" he asked, sounding for all the world as if he was completely unconcerned to be at the opposite end of a wand owned by someone who knew the Unforgivable Curses.

Did this idiot think it was a game? Snape felt the mask of blood on his face crack slightly as his lip curled into the familiar sneer. "How naive you are."

His tone should have fazed even a Death Eater. The stranger merely blinked.

"I doubt you can offer me any reasons," Snape continued, "as to why I shouldn't just hex you as I please and return to the fight." He jabbed his wand slightly in the air for emphasis.

The stranger smiled, a quick brilliant flash of teeth, and tilted his head. "Funny you should ask. I have several, actually."

"Oh?" Snape could feel the anger rising in him. The man was infuriating; a quick Stupefy would only improve matters.

"First," the man said, sounding almost smug, "any curses you may be considering will certainly be less effective than you think."

That was just asking for it. Snape mentally preceded that Stupefy with a Tarantallegra. Much more satisfying.

"Second," he said, "that battle of yours is long over. They're saying You-Know-Who is dead," he added in exactly the same tone a Muggle might report the football scores. Just a piece of information.

Still, it was the oldest trick in the book. Of course Snape wasn't going to take his attention away to check the Dark Mark under his sleeve. Not even Neville Longbottom would fall for that. Who knew what this lunatic would do next? He moved his wand arm, trained it on the man's heart.

"I hope you know who, uh, You-Know-Who is," continued the man, as if he didn't know. How could he not? Was he a Muggle? He couldn't have gotten to Hogsmeade if he were. It was a mystery, one that Snape certainly did not have time to deal with.

"Naturally," said Snape. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have business to take care of that does not include you."

Snape's fingers twitched on his wand. Three, two...

"That brings me to the third reason," the man said, "which is that you have much more important things to worry about, now that you've died."

The wand fell from Snape's nerveless hand, clattering on the floor.

"I'm not dead," Snape said, mostly because it was the obvious thing to say, and having dropped his wand, he was clearly all out of cleverness. He looked numbly at his only method of defense, now lying out of reach.

The stranger bent down and picked up Snape's wand. Snape waited for the man to use it against him, but he merely reversed it and handed it back. Small mercies.

"You'll probably want to clean your face."

His face? Oh. The blood. "Tergeo," Snape said, listlessly, and watched in a daze as the dried blood fell, like dust, from his face and robes. One clump peeled off his cheek and drifted slowly downward.

The man, clearly trying for a convivial tone, said, "It hits everyone hard at first."

Snape stared at his perfectly opaque hands in mounting confusion. "I'm not a ghost."

"I didn't say you were still dead," he pointed out. "I said you had died. There's a difference."

"I am in no mood to play word games," said Snape, icily, in his best professor voice, as he gathered his wits about him. "And revival of the dead is, as anyone knows, impossible. A child's tale." He barely stopped himself from deducting ten points. "So, sir, I thank you for having arrived in the nick of time to save me, and I'll be on my way."

The stranger, obstinately, was standing in the way of the door. "Do you think you survived losing that much blood?" He gestured, with a jerk of his chin, at the bloodstains.

"Obviously, as I am still here," Snape retorted, crossing his arms.

The man refused to back down. "I don't think you understand me. I got here just now. You were long dead. I didn't do anything."

"Very well," said Snape sarcastically, "so I brought myself back to life."

Amazingly, the man nodded. "Exactly right." And he said it without a trace of irony.

"It's a life I'd like to get on with," Snape snapped, irritably. "Sooner rather than later." He resolutely ignored the whisper in the back of his head that there wasn't that much about his life he enjoyed, anymore.

The man sighed. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, for people like us."

Snape glared at him. "I should hope I have very little in common with you."

"We're both Immortals," the man said, and it was very clear from his tone that the I was capitalized. "Congratulations."

"I think I would remember if I had the Philosopher's Stone."

The stranger sighed, yet again. "It's not because of anything -- it's, it's you." He added, more to himself than Snape, "I'd forgotten how hard this was to explain to wizards."

Snape stared at him, in silence.

"Look," the man tried once more. "Whoever your friends are, whoever you're waiting for -- they think you're dead. They know you're dead. There's a lot you need to know. And if you're dead to them anyway, what does it hurt to be dead a bit longer?"

The sun had finally risen, making the interior of the Shack easier to see. Snape's eyes were drawn, once again, to the bloodstains. If that was all his blood, he had lost more than enough for it to be fatal. Maybe -- maybe he really had died. Died and been reborn -- a new dawn, a new day, a new life. No more Order, no more Death Eaters, no more Voldemort. No more spying and skulking, and definitely no more Gryffindor-Slytherin double classes. Maybe this life would be better.

He didn't know quite how long he was lost in thought, but when he finally dragged his eyes away from the gory scene, he found that the other man had been staring at him, smiling a strange, oddly wistful smile. Now that he could see him properly in the light, Snape was certain he didn't know him, because he certainly would have remembered him -- with that smile, the man was rather astonishingly good-looking, warming a long-dormant part of his heart. Reflexively, Snape began to stamp down on the emotion -- and stopped. It was, after all, a new day. The corners of his mouth twitched; it was the nearest he felt he could come to returning it.

"I did die, didn't I," Snape said, quietly. It wasn't a question.

The man gave a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. "You did."

Snape let out a breath that he didn't even know he was holding. "All right. "

The man smiled, a bright glorious smile. "As I said, there's a lot you need to know. I think we'd best go somewhere else to discuss it, somewhere where we won't be disturbed."

"Or recognized," Snape added.

The man, who clearly had not recognized Snape, nodded thoughtfully. "I have a house," he said, "or, at least, I did have. Hope it's still there." He frowned. "It's close enough to Hogsmeade for us to get there, but not close enough that we would be disturbed."

Dangerous, letting him pick the place, but, well, if it came to that Snape had his wand, and his wits. And still, he wanted to trust the man. If it was a curse making him feel thus, it was a good one. "That is... acceptable. With one condition."

"Yes?"

"Your name," Snape said. "You expect me to go with a complete stranger?"

"Pardon my manners." The man had the good grace to look abashed. "I'm Adam Pierson. These days I study history, Muggle history, in the States. Call me Adam." He smiled that heartbreaking smile again, but didn't extend a hand, possibly because Snape's hands were gripping his wand. "And you...?"

"Snape," Snape said. "Headmaster of Hogwarts," he added, at the man's uncomprehending look.

Adam grimaced, theatrically, in a sort of understanding way. "I see why you're worried about being recognized."

"Quite."

"So," Adam said, trying on another smile. "What should I call you?"

Snape resolved to remain immune. "Professor."

Adam's face fell. "Oh."

Time to change the subject. "Shall we go?" Snape asked curtly. A thought occurred to him. "Where are we going?"

"We can Apparate to the other edge of town," Adam said, perfectly businesslike. "I'll need to Side-Along. Never could Apparate, myself."

What, was he a Squib? "Fine. Are you ready?"

In reply, Adam held out his arm. Snape took it. Adam's hand was warm in his own, Snape found himself thinking, idiotically. Solid. Alive. He shut his eyes, and they disappeared.

***

Thankfully, due to the hour and the war, the streets of Hogsmeade were deserted. Actually, Snape reflected, it was probably mostly due to the war -- it was, after all, morning, and usually people were up and about by now. But, the fewer people to see, the better.

Adam looked around the empty streets in satisfaction. "Thanks, Professor," he said, apparently having taken Snape's naming request at face value. "This is perfect." With his free hand, Adam pointed at the lonely road leading out of town. "This way."

Snape was suddenly, uncomfortably conscious of Adam's other hand, still clutching his own. Their eyes met, Adam's hand slowly fell away from his, and again they were separate. The other man's mouth quirked, and then he turned and set off down the road. Snape followed.

After a few minutes of trotting along the road in silence, Snape cleared his throat. "So, Mr. Pierson--"

"Adam," the man reminded him.

"Adam, then. If you don't mind me asking. You're clearly not a Muggle, as you're here in Hogsmeade, and you can't Apparate. What manner of wizard are you?"

Ahead of him, Snape could see Adam's shoulders rise, a shrug. "A poor one, I'm afraid." His voice sounded a little regretful, but only a little. "I can do a few simple spells here and there. The Orac -- er, a witch once told me I didn't have much of the gift. My talents," and here Snape could almost hear a smirk, "lie elsewhere."

So he must be a Squib then. Snape frowned, as a thought occurred to him. "You led me to believe that your home here is magically shielded --"

"Oh, it is," Adam called back to him, airily. "The very best spells. I may not be a skilled wizard, but that doesn't mean I can't befriend my betters."

About ten minutes after that, moving at a brisk jog, they were well past any inhabited areas and into the countryside, when Adam suddenly veered off the road. If he was following a path, Snape couldn't see it. Whatever had been here was long since overgrown.

Snape picked his way down the embankment, following Adam between a pair of scraggly trees. "I find it curious that there is no sign of anyone living anywhere around here. You expect me to believe you have a home?"

"Wouldn't be much of a secret if anyone could find it, would it?"

"Secret?"

Adam made an affirmative sort of noise. "Believe me, you won't find it unless I intend it to be found. Assuming it's still there."

"What?"

"I haven't been there in a while." The man didn't even sound sorry. "Probably still there, though."

Snape harrumphed.

"But don't worry, it's quite secure. We'll be safe and undisturbed."

Even said so cheerfully, the words themselves did sound ominous. "How do I know I can trust you?" Snape asked.

There was a thoughtful pause, silence broken only by the sound of rustling grasses as Adam continued onward. "I suppose you can't ever be sure. Feel free to keep hold of your wand, then. I would, if I were you."

Well, what sort of reply had he expected?

Adam stopped. They had come to the edge of a small clearing, so far away from the road now that Snape was not entirely sure he could find his way back unaided.

"We're here," he said. "I think."

"You think?" If only the man's back hadn't been to Snape, he would have seen one of Snape's best withering glares. "There's clearly nothing here." This spot was obviously not of interest. Which was, he realized, probably one of many defensive spells on the area. First, make it uninteresting.

Adam ignored him. "Right," he said, possibly to himself. "Let's see if this works."

Snape waited for him to reach into his coat again, and this time draw out a wand, but the other man did nothing of the sort. Instead, Adam shoved back the sleeves of his coat, and made a complicated gesture with his hands. He murmured a few sentences in what must have been a magical language. Snape, listening closely, heard not a word that he recognized, and he was familiar with a great many languages of magic.

The air in front of them shimmered, and where there had been wilderness there was now a rather large and grandiose building. The whole thing was solid stone -- a few floors high, with a long row of facing windows. It was all done in a rather old style -- Snape thought he recognized some of the architectural flourishes as resembling those of Hogwarts.

"This is -- impressive."

Adam turned to look at him, and Snape could only hope his jaw wasn't hanging open in shock.

"Thank you." A small smile.

"Is anyone living here?" Snape managed to ask, when he felt he had regained his composure.

Adam shook his head. "No, er, people. But it's being... maintained. I left instructions."

Adam stepped up to the grand front door, which swung open at his mere touch. He was right when he said he knew the best. He stepped inside, turned on the threshold, and beckoned to Snape. "Come on in."

The inside was even more impressive than the outside, as the main door opened directly onto a huge room, airy and high-ceilinged. Columns stretched at least two stories high. Gleaming floors reflected the light from sconces spaced around the room. The furniture was probably antique, wood-trimmed and upholstered, but the well-chosen couches looked as new as if they'd been made yesterday. A ornate staircase -- was that marble? -- led to the second floor.

The effect was rather spoiled by the seven or so house elves standing in the middle of the room clutching buckets and brushes, staring wide-eyed at the new arrivals.

For a few tense seconds, no one spoke. Then one of the house elves asked, timidly, "Master?"

Adam nodded, spreading his arms wide. "Yes."

The house elf ran up to them and wrapped his whole body around Adam's leg. "Master! Master! Master has come back!"

The remaining elves cheered. Snape was sure the commotion was bringing every elf in the house to see them. He supposed it was understandable, since their master clearly had been away for some time.

"Master looks just like they said in the stories!" a second elf screeched in joy.

Adam peered down at the hugging elf, still clutching his leg. "Brant, is that you?"

The elf disentangled himself, and shook his head slowly. "Caris. Brant is Caris's great-grandfather."

"Ah, yes, I can see the resemblance."

"Just how long have you been away?" Snape asked, suspiciously.

"Oh, only about two hundred years."

"Two -- hundred?" The words stuck in Snape's throat.

Adam only grinned, as more elves tripped down the staircase, calling his name.

About twenty minutes later, after they had been individually introduced to every house elf by name, the excitement was beginning to wane. Snape perched on one of the couches and tried to stay out of the way. It wasn't hard -- the elves weren't terribly interested in him once Adam had explained he was only a guest.

As Adam finally looked up from admiring a baby house elf held out by its beaming parents, he met Snape's eyes and rose to join him. "Sorry about that, Professor. They're quite glad, as you can see."

"No problem," Snape said dryly.

"Do you need anything?"

Snape didn't need to think about it. "You promised me answers."

"Answers. Right. You'll have them. Anything else?" Adam's gesture was clearly meant to encompass the whole manor.

It was an interesting question. People usually didn't ask him what he wanted. Instead, it was Snape who made the sacrifices. He spied, he carried out orders, he did everything he could to be a faithful servant to both sides. He didn't get to have desires. So what did he want? He allowed himself to consider the possibilities. Here he was, returned from the dead. It was a new day. He could have anything, do anything, be anything he wanted. Snape opened his mouth.

"Breakfast."

"Excellent choice."

***

Adam snagged the last piece of fried bread and meticulously spooned out a generous dollop of lemon curd. "And that's," he paused to take a bite, "pretty much the rules of being an Immortal."

He had promised answers and breakfast, and delivered on both simultaneously. The house elves had somehow managed to whip up a full breakfast for both of them, and it had been delicious -- on Adam's urging ("You're Immortal! Might as well live it up!") Snape had opted for an extra rasher of bacon.

And then, of course, Adam had spun an almost unbelievable tale about Immortals. There was still a small pool of blood on the table from where Adam had slashed his arm to the bone; the flesh had knit together before Snape's shocked eyes. He had been saying something about holy ground this and taking heads that, that Snape hadn't really caught because he had been too busy staring at the man's slowly dripping arm.

This was it. This was real immortality.

Voldemort would kill for this. Had killed for this. Had killed for even less than this. And, as Adam had said -- and when had he decided he was going to believe the fellow, anyway? -- the irony of it was that Voldemort never could have it. You had to be born with it. And Severus Snape, the Dark Lord's most traitorous follower, had been born so lucky. And apparently, he'd been informed, also must have been adopted. After the immortality, this was not perhaps the shocking revelation it once would have been. Him, immortal. His new future, thousands of years long, stretched before him, a dizzying array of possibilities. Think of all the work to be done, all the new potions to discover, all his, if he could only keep his head. What was he going to do with all this time? What did he want?

"...questions?"

There was a blur of motion, waving at the far end of the table, and Snape belatedly realized the other man had been trying to get his attention for several seconds. "Hmmm?"

"I said, any other questions?" Adam polished off the last bite of bread and swung his legs up, indolently, on the table, and his arms wide. Ask me anything, his body language said. I know it all. Adam smiled at him again, an odd smile, something warm with an edge of an emotion he couldn't quite place. Snape felt like he'd seen the smile before, on someone else, a long time ago.

Snape fixed his gaze on a point above Adam's shoulder, at the far end of the room. "Why here? Why me?"

"Funny story, that." Adam's smile widened again, into a full-fledged grin. "I'd been wanting to come back to Hogsmeade for a while, see the place again. I got here yesterday, and there appeared to be a battle going on. You'd know more about it than I would, I suspect. The war." The statement seemed to amuse him. He'd probably seen it all. A lot of wars. How old was he?

Snape made a small agreeing noise.

"So, right," Adam continued. "There I was in the middle of your war, and I was making my way out of the area when I sensed you were near. I'm sure you did as well. We can tell when other Immortals are nearby."

Snape remembered the odd sensation he had felt when they met. "I can still feel it," he agreed. "It's less bothersome now, though."

"It does that. Anyway, I sensed you, came to check it out, and there you were."

It was a good story, certainly. Snape paused, thinking about everything Adam had told him. "Why didn't you kill me? You said we kill each other, and you had the opportunity."

Adam's head snapped up. The question seemed to take him aback. "It isn't like that," he said, softly. "Firstly, you're new, you've got no power to speak of. There'd be no reason. Secondly, it should be a duel, and you don't even know how. Wouldn't be right." He scrubbed at his face. "One of my friends would be thrilled to hear me telling you that," he muttered.

"I can duel!" said Snape, indignant. "I ran the school dueling club, I'll have you know." He wasn't some sort of child.

"With swords?" Adam asked lightly.

Snape glared at him, the Gryffindor-melting special. For some reason, the look only made the man smile.

"That's what I thought," Adam said. "And I'd like to teach you."

"At my age?" Snape gaped. The best duelists were made young; it was as true of wands as swords.

Adam shrugged. "Better late than... well. You know. You've got time to get it right. And you've got to learn."

It was ridiculous. It was absurd. It was -- "Agreed."

Adam grinned again, another pure jolt of happiness. "Excellent." Some small part of Snape's mind observed that he seemed to be trying to say anything to make the man look at him like that. How strange of him.

"But why me?" Snape couldn't help but ask again. "So you wouldn't kill me, but why teach me?"

"Haven't had a student in a while. I thought maybe it was time." Another shrug, and the return of that strange smile. "Besides, I quite liked you."

Liked him? "I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good person," Snape said flatly. "I've done some horrible things in my life."

"Haven't we all." Adam seemed unfazed. "I'm sure I've done worse."

"I've been a Death Eater." Surely anyone with any sense would pause at that.

Adam shrugged. "Can't be that bad; I've never even heard of you."

"I threatened to kill you," Snape pointed out. The man just didn't seem to care. At least he couldn't say he hadn't warned him.

He chuckled. "So have most of my friends, Professor; you're in good company." Adam kicked out, spinning, pushing his chair away from the table and standing up, in one fluid, graceful motion. It was probably the sort of grace that helped save his life in combat.

Likewise, Snape stood, albeit less beautifully, and cleared his throat. "It's Severus, actually."

"Is it, now?" Another smile caused a disconcerting blaze of warmth within Snape. "Well, Severus, I'm very pleased to meet you." Even hearing Adam say his name made him ridiculously, ridiculously -- he didn't know what.

Snape came around to Adam's side of the table, and as one they turned toward the door. "Where to?"

"We could fit you out with one of my old swords, put you through a few exercises," Adam suggested flatly. "There's a salle off the main room, on the right." He made no move toward the exit, and his tone of voice suggested that it wasn't his preferred destination.

Snape turned to look at him, to see what it was that could make him sound like that, and as he did so he realized that Adam was right there, awfully close, a scant few inches away. Close enough to touch. He swallowed.

Adam had very long eyelashes, he noted, an inane observation if ever there was one. His eyes were hazel, as Snape had suspected -- it had been hard to tell earlier in the dark and then from the other end of the table. And Adam's mouth was wearing that warm grin again, the one he still couldn't quite place that gave him a feeling he couldn't place either. Snape's pulse pounded in his head.

All of a sudden Snape realized what the feeling in his chest was, and what the smile on Adam's face meant, and he leaned forward and kissed him.

For the first few seconds, there was nothing more than the dry warmth of Adam's lips and the heat of his breath on Snape's cheek, and even that was exhilarating. Then Adam made a quiet sound, almost a moan, and Snape felt fingers tangling in his hair as the kiss was returned in earnest.

He tasted like -- well, actually, he mostly tasted like breakfast, which made a fair amount of sense given the circumstances. He was warm, and alive, and it was so simple, so easy. Adam's tongue brushed against his, then retreated to lick slowly along his lips, and Snape felt the tingling sensation in his chest settle somewhere distinctly lower.

They broke apart. So close that his face was blurry, Adam fixed darkened eyes upon him. "Or, there's that option." His voice was low, dangerous, full of laughter, and it sounded like this was the choice he'd wanted to make all along.

"I assume," said Snape, struggling to catch his breath, "that you've somewhere more pleasant in mind than the salle."

"Oh, certainly," Adam replied, grabbing his hand.

Snape could feel a smile he'd not worn in years forming on his face. "Intriguing."

"Come on, then."

The scenery passed by in a blur -- doors, hallways -- as he was led. He was half-conscious of being pulled up the ornate stairs and down another corridor, past some paintings he couldn't manage to focus on. Adam dropped his hand to pull a huge door open, and then Snape found himself, unsurprisingly, in a rather large bedroom. Done in much the same style as the rest of the place, it was practically palatial -- but Snape's eye was immediately drawn to the great bed in the middle of the room.

"Well?"

"I like it," Snape said, honestly. "I like you."

It was almost like a duel, then, as Adam rushed him, wrapped himself around him, moved him. Snape's skin felt like fire at every place they touched. He met Adam's lips with his own and parried as best he could, spinning them around until now he was pushing Adam backwards.

Adam laughed against his mouth, feral, and ran a hand down Snape's back to his hip, pushing back, taking the momentum and sliding past, trying to regain the upper hand, until finally they both crashed sideways on the bed, next to each other. It was a draw.

They kissed again, and Snape felt a hand move down his leg and begin to tug his robes upwards. "I've always wondered what you lot wear under these things."

"You mean I'm your first wizard? I'm touched." He bit Adam's ear lightly. "You'll just have to wait and see, won't you?"

"Who said anything about waiting?"

A resurgence of the duel commenced, as Snape found his robes being unbuttoned with all due haste, callused hands caressing his neck. He bought himself some time by lifting Adam's shirt up and leaving it over his head, but was flummoxed by the Muggle fastenings on the trousers. Two pairs of shoes on the floor later, Snape realized he had lost the second round, as he himself was naked. Adam still wore his trousers, invitingly half-undone though they were, and Snape had the distinct impression that the man was trying not to snicker.

"Thought there wasn't anything under there," he said with satisfaction -- and something that sounded, strangely, like admiration -- as he apparently decided to take pity on Snape by kicking the rest of his clothes off. Not that he gave him any time to admire the view, either, as he immediately pressed himself against Snape, ducked his head down, and nuzzled at Snape's shoulder.

Snape found himself contemplating the long line of Adam's back, the only part of him he could see. Adam's skin was shockingly pale, although perhaps it shouldn't have surprised him. The word "Immortal" had made Snape think of burly, bronzed, muscle-bound supermen, but that wasn't right at all. The man was clearly fit, but not grotesquely so, and that plus the light tracery of scars here and there under Snape's fingers only confirmed the story. Immortal, but still a man.

It was almost too ordinary; Snape was abruptly reminded of the other times. Anonymous men, meaningless faces, strangers in alleys and back rooms, the times when the loneliness had been too much to bear, but it had never truly healed anything. And now here he was again in bed with almost a complete stranger.

He must have frozen in place, or some such thing -- sloppy work for a spy, letting your feelings get the better of you -- because Adam stopped licking his neck and pulled back to look him in the eye, his face serious.

"Having second thoughts?" Adam's voice was soft, kind, solicitous, probably the same voice he used with scared virgins. There had probably been a lot of those, over however many years he'd been alive. "We don't have to, you know. You don't owe me anything. I just thought it would be... fun."

"I know," said Snape, lamely, pushing back the cold lonely feelings as much as he dared; it was ridiculous, really, to be so overcome. "It's just been a long time," he added. Even though it wasn't quite what he'd been thinking, it was as much as he could say.

Strangely, Adam seemed to hear what he hadn't said, and brought a hand to Snape's face, lightly stroking his hair with the backs of his fingers. It was a gesture far too tender to be used by a bit of trade, and Snape found himself relaxing. They might have just met, but whatever this was, they couldn't be strangers.

A laugh, a teasing, light question. "You haven't forgotten how, have you?"

"Forgotten-- no, of course not," he said with more annoyance than he actually felt, just to see what the man would do.

Adam's reaction turned out to be another long kiss. The man kissed like he meant it, intent, focused, confident. Snape wondered idly if this was part of the lesson, but as Adam freed a hand between them to stroke across Snape's chest, and then, very slowly, lower, Snape found that his wondering was of an entirely different caliber, and he thrust up into Adam's waiting, knowing hand. At the same rhythm, Adam began to rock slowly against Snape's hip, and it was simple and so good and Snape could feel himself smiling. He was alive. He was happy. When was the last time he'd been happy?

The hand slipped away again and Snape barely stopped himself from moaning in annoyance. He opened his eyes -- when had he closed them? -- to see Adam smiling at him with the air of one who has a great and joyful secret.

"I was hoping," Adam whispered, "that you would like to fuck me. That is, if you do that sort of thing."

A wave of pure lust washed over Snape, and he thought for one ecstatic, embarrassing moment that perhaps he was going to come without Adam even touching him again.

"I -- Yes. Yes." Snape finally forced the words out.

"Right. Hold that thought." Adam bounced off the bed and bent over to examine the contents of his pockets on the floor.

After half a minute, Adam still hadn't found whatever he was looking for, and Snape heard quiet swearing grow louder.

He ventured a guess. "Can't find condoms?"

"Don't need 'em, unless you've got a thing for latex." Adam waved a distracted hand at him as he turned the pockets inside out. "We can't either of us get diseases. Not so much as a cold." He frowned and turned his attention to a small table by the bed, opening and then slamming the drawers. "No. Can't find the damned lube, and I'm not doing this without any."

Snape found himself smiling again as he reached for his wand. "Allow me?"

Adam turned around to stare at him, confused; the view was beautiful. "Allow you what?"

Snape tapped the wand against his fingertips and murmured the spell that, for a few glorious days in fifth year, had made him the most popular student among all his classmates. His hand felt slick.

"Brilliant," Adam breathed, and he leapt back on the bed.

Snape reached for him, and there followed several awkward seconds of too many elbows and knees before he finally got Adam turned toward him. He reached over and slid two slippery fingers inside him, as easily as anything.

"Good?"

Adam panted and thrust back on Snape's fingers. "More."

Snape obligingly pushed further into that inviting warmth, back and then in again. Adam gasped and contracted hard around his fingers. His eyes were wide and unfocused, and it was quite possibly the most arousing thing Snape had ever seen. He had done this to him.

He kept up a slow, easy rhythm -- the same skill needed for brewing a good potion stood him in good stead here, yes, but in this case much more gratifying -- and admired the play of taut muscles under his free hand as Adam arched against him. All things in time, all things in their proper order. He had the time now, all the time he could ever want.

Very good. He hadn't realized he'd spoken, but Adam answered him.

"Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but, mmm, if you'd like to fuck me with something other than fingers..."

"Indeed," Snape said, and slowly he pulled his hand out. "Turn over?"

It had been a while since he'd done this, but Snape found that his body remembered better than his mind did. Moving on instinct and muscle memory, almost like a dream, his hands were gripping Adam's hips, his cock against Adam's arse, and he pushed, and he pushed, and oh--

Beneath him, Adam cried out -- pain? pleasure? both? -- in a language Snape had never heard before.

"All right?" Snape asked, trying not to move, in case he had hurt him, trying to go against every instinct he had.

A laugh, then, which Snape felt all through him, and how strange was that? "Better than all right. You're not hurting me. Move already."

So Snape did.

He had thought that this, of all the things, would be the duel again, but it wasn't, and it was strange how much it wasn't. There was no vying for control here; they were even, matched, with the same goal. He thrust forward; Adam rocked back to meet him. Not a duel, then. A dance.

Perception came to Snape in fragments, broken pieces of sensation. His hands, clenched against sharp hipbones. The tang of sweat as he kissed the back of Adam's neck. The ripple of movement beneath him, carried from spine to shoulder blades like the waves of an ocean. Adam's voice, a hoarse, low moan with every movement. The heat, so much hotter there than anywhere else, and so right...

Like almost all things, it couldn't go on forever. Snape missed the tempo, sped up, thrust raggedly forward, just a little more, just a little more, harder, there -- and he was gone, coming hard, clutching Adam with all the strength he had.

He was dimly aware, as the wave of pleasure ebbed, of Adam shifting his weight under him, Adam freeing a hand to snake up and edge one of Snape's hands off his hip, pulling it down toward his cock. Both their hands, together, wrapped around him, one stroke, two strokes, and then Adam groaned out something in that incomprehensible language of his and came, shuddering, into Snape's hand as they collapsed together down onto the bed.

***

The next thing worth remembering that Snape was aware of, some indeterminate amount of time later, was that he was lying on Adam's chest and Adam was petting his hair. It was an oddly pleasant sensation. He couldn't recall anyone having done that since he was old enough to brush it himself.

"I was wondering," Snape said drowsily, half of a question.

"Hmm?" Adam's chest rumbled under his ear.

"Is this--" he gestured, to indicate the situation, "going to interfere with that working relationship you offered?"

"God, no!" A laugh vibrated against him, delighted, amused. "It's practically a tradition."

Snape raised his head. He would have sworn he was going to glare at Adam, but somehow he only ended up grinning. Clearly he was a new man. "You sleep with all your students?"

"Nah." A hand ruffled Snape's hair again. "Just the pretty ones."

Snape was fairly sure no one had called him pretty since he was five years old, and even then they were probably just being polite. And yet he didn't mind it as much as he thought he would. "Hmph."

Adam laughed again and shifted under him, away. "Ready for some swordplay now? Just as much fun, I promise."

It was such a ridiculous question that Snape forwent the obvious pun. "Now?"

"Why not? Already warmed up."

In a flash, Adam was up off the bed, heading toward the door, not even bothering with the clothes strewn about the floor.

"We're still naked," Snape said, amazed. "Don't you want clothes?"

"Also traditional for athletics," Adam called back from the doorframe, grinning. "Don't you remember the ancient Greeks?"

"Not personally."

Adam smirked and disappeared down the hallway. "Come on!"

A thought occurred to Snape as he began to climb out of bed. "Do you remember the ancient Greeks?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Shaking his head ruefully, Snape followed, eager to see what the rest of this new life would hold.