I still despise Muggle London. In addition to the long list of things that I still despise about it, today I add to it the almost unbearable heat that wafts up from the pavement as I walk. I was reduced to removing my coat several blocks ago, and already can feel the sweat soaking through the back of my shirt. I refuse, however, to sink to rolling up my sleeves. As I walk the last block, I can't help but wonder where we will be this time next year. I have hopes that something will happen in the next two days that will put an end to this geographical seesaw that Albus set in motion. I am not by nature an optimist, but have allowed myself to hope that this will be last time I have to make my way to him here.
Ah. Hope - a word that until this last year rarely made its way into the syntax of my sentences. I've always thought of hope as just wishful thinking housed in a loftier word. But how the mighty have fallen. Since I last saw him, I've become intimately acquainted with the sentiment. I've hoped: earnestly hoped, longingly hoped, desperately hoped. I've spent weeks where I've tried to tear it out of my soul and stomp it underfoot, only to find myself scrabbling in the dirt to find it again and pin it back to my heart. He's reduced me to this.
I find that the hope of what may be has consumed me since I last saw him. It falls solely to him now, and that one simple thing he will say when the time comes. I've regretted that I ever gave him a choice at all. He would've gladly committed himself last year, and I could have completely avoided this year of uncertainty. But as miserable as it has been, I know it was the right thing to do. He needed this year, and some distance, to prove to himself that he was choosing wisely.
We'd agreed when he left last year that we'd correspond. And we have, at least weekly. Considering that we've spent only five days together in the past five years, there was, not surprisingly, a great deal we did not know about each other, things that two people who are considering spending a lifetime together should know. Letter by letter, I have come to appreciate the man that he is, from the mundane to the complex. I now know his favorite color and favorite foods. And I've sensed his soul. I've tried to respond as openly and honestly as he has, but habits of a lifetime don't die without a struggle. How difficult it was to lay out on paper what I've never confessed to another living soul.
So we've fleshed each other out, little by little, one for the other, and for my part, the experience has only made me love him more.
I am at his building now, a full five hours early. I know it no longer matters, but I'm sure he will have something to say.
The door to his flat is already open, so I knock on the jamb. He pokes his head into the hallway and grins when he sees me.
"Severus, you're incredibly early. I knew you would be."
Although I hate being predictable, I smile as I tell him, "You shouldn't be surprised. I almost came earlier."
He steps down the hall and takes my bag. "You're a mess," he tells me, laughing.
"Yes, well, it's hotter than the blazes out there. All the paving, I think." The flat, I remark, is surprisingly cool.
"It's called air-conditioning, Severus. Something good the Muggle world has hit on." The grin starts to fade, and suddenly he is giving me that look that I know so well. "God, it's good to see you." He leans over impulsively and kisses my lips lightly.
Oh. I feel the shock go through me as he pulls back to look at me. "I missed you," is all I can manage. He nods at this understatement, then beckons with his head.
"That's quite an admission, coming from you." He grins again, and I feel my knees weaken. I'm undone with a look. This can't last long.
Following him down the hallway and into his workroom, I am suddenly brought up short by the realization there is someone else here. Standing barefoot at the kitchen counter is man with no shirt, clad only in pants that have been cut off at mid-thigh. He is drinking a beer, which he sets down when he sees us come in. I stop at the couch where Harry puts down my bag and then turns to me.
"Severus, I'd like you to meet my roommate Andrew. Andrew, this is Severus."
While he moves off to close the blinds on the door, I nod curtly to the man. He is Harry's age, well-built, with a full head of brown hair tied back in a tail.
"Severus," he says smoothly as he steps around the counter, stretching out his hand. "So good to finally meet you. Harry's told me so much about you."
"He has," I state simply, still stunned by this endearing domestic scene.
The man laughs. "Yes, he has. In fact, I feel like we've already met, he's told me so much about you."
"Really." I turn to Harry and fix him with a stare. He is looking at me, a strange mixture of apprehension and bemusement on his face. I turn back to Andrew.
"So, you're living here, Andrew?"
The man picks up his beer and starts toward the couch. "Well, I did. Just moving out today. In fact, you almost missed me. Just have a few more boxes to load up. Harry was just helping me get things out of the way for you."
I bet he was. I'm still standing holding my coat. As the man sprawls on the couch, I throw it down beside him and move toward the kitchen and the Glenlivit I'm hoping is still there. It is, and as I pour myself a drink, I ask casually, "So how long have you been living here, Andrew?" At this, I see he and Harry exchange a meaningful glance, and something settles in my chest with a thump...my heart.
"Uh, since Christmas. I lost my flat and Harry was good enough to take me in."
Ah yes. Harry and the saving thing, saving Muggles now. Young...male...Muggles. "Was he? Well, that's Harry, isn't it? Always willing to help out a hard luck case." I shoot the boy an intentional glare. He returns it, the apprehension replaced with irritation. The bemusement is still there.
"So, how was your trip down?" Andrew asks me as I take my place on the other end of the couch, pointedly ignoring Harry.
"Wonderful. I do so enjoy these little trips to see Harry." I make no effort to hide the sarcasm. There is an uncomfortable silence till Harry breaks it.
"Look, Severus, he...."
I cut him off. "So, Andrew. You say you're moving out? Not on my account, I hope? I'm only here for the day, as I'm sure Harry has told you."
The man has the nerve to look at me with amusement. He looks at Harry, then smiles as he says to me, "I was moving out the end of the week anyway. Have a new job, and needed to get a place closer. So it just seemed it'd be better to go a couple of days early, since you and Harry...."
I hold up a hand. "I appreciate it, Andrew. Harry and I do have this rather annoying little obligation to attend to each year. But I'll be gone tomorrow night."
Now Andrew looks confused. Harry moves over to take a seat on the floor facing the couch, obviously not wanting to sit between the two of us.
I cut him off again. "Andrew, it seems you know all about me, but Harry's never once mentioned you in his letters." I shoot the sitting boy a withering glance. "How do the two of you know each other?" As he answers, I am on my way back to the counter, then return to the couch with the bottle. As I sit, I see the two of them mouthing words at each other.
"We were at uni together, in the same studio group. Got to know each other quite well."
I down my second drink. "Ah yes, the studio groups. Harry's told me about those." There is still some silent communication going on between the two of them. While they are at it, I finish my appraisal of the young man, and decide that yes, he is gay. Don't ask me how I know. I would have known it had we met in other circumstances as well. A stereotype perhaps, but true nonetheless.
The young man seems hesitant about what he's about to say. "Look, Severus, Harry's told me about the...magic...and the school where you teach." This was inevitable. He wouldn't be able to hide this and be in a relationship...with someone. I look at Harry over the bottle as I pour another drink. He is watching me, still irritated, but the bemusement replaced by alarm,
"Severus, I consulted Mr. Weasley before I told him. He met Andrew and talked with him, and decided that, given the circumstances...um, his living here...it was alright to let him in...on a few things."
"Oh, right," I say amiably. "And Andrew, I suppose they made you sign the Muggle-Magical Nondisclosure Agreement?"
He nods. "It was no problem, really. It made things a lot easier for Harry, not having to hide it all the time."
"Yes, I'm sure it made things a lot easier for him." I set my glass down, deciding I've had enough. "And what do you think of our Harry...being the big celebrity and all?" I ask him archly.
The man stares back at me blankly as Harry clears his throat in an attempt to get my attention. I look from one to the other, then back again. Suddenly, I know I've crossed a huge, forbidden line.
"Er, Andrew, what Severus means is me being the Quidditch champion. It's rather a big thing in the Wizarding world."
"Oh right, Quidditch...the football game. You were pretty good at it then?"
"Yeah, really good. Could've gone professional."
I'm miserable now. Whatever he's done, I have no right to betray this part of his past to anyone, especially a Muggle.
Andrew looks at his watch, then directs the question at me. "Harry and I were just about to pop around the corner for a bite to eat at Il Travatorre, little Italian place. Would you like to come with us? We won't be long."
No, I prefer to cut out my heart and serve it up cold on a platter.
The boy's looking almost ill now. The irritation and alarm are gone now, replaced by abject misery. "Andrew, maybe another time...," he offers.
I protest. "No, the two of you go. I had no right to show up so early. Besides, I've had a rather disturbing day. I'll just stay behind and...watch the television."
Harry snorts in disbelief. He stands, disgusted with me, and probably himself. "You do that, Severus," he tells me flatly. "I'll be back in an hour." He leans in and has the audacity to tilt up my chin so he can look me in the eye. "Don't go anywhere. We have an appointment, remember?" I nod glumly and wrench my face out of his grasp. He stands, considering me for a moment, then turns to go.
I do briefly consider the television, but haven't the slightest idea of how to turn the damned thing on. And besides, I'm not sure I can even get up. So the only thing within reach is the Glenlivit, and that's as good a distraction as any other.
When I hear them come in again, it is dark. I hear urgent whispering in the hallway, then footsteps as someone walks into the room and kneels beside me where I still sit on the couch.
Perfect. It is Andrew, probably come to make his confession.
"Severus," he begins hesitantly, and I want to stop him and tell him it's not necessary, that I'd told Harry last year that I wouldn't hold him to anything. "Severus," he begins again, and I force myself to focus on his face. "It's not what you think, me and Harry. Really. I know what you're thinking, but it isn't like that at all. Harry just took me in because I needed a place for the rest of the year." He pauses, and leans in to see that I'm listening. "I would've liked it to become more, me and Harry, but he made it clear he wasn't interested. That he was waiting for you. He didn't tell you about me living here because...well, he thought you'd come to the wrong conclusion." He looks at me sympathetically. "He was right, wasn't he, Severus?" I stare at him as the whole humiliating truth sinks in. I nod at him dumbly. He pats me on the shoulder after he stands, then says softly before leaving, "Have a good life together, Severus. Take care of him."
As I hear him leave, I know with frightening clarity that I'm going to be sick.
My wretchedness and humiliation are complete as I sit on the floor in his bathroom and lean with my back against the wall. I have been repeatedly sick. There's been nothing left in me for the past half-hour, but still my stomach insists that there is. He is sitting in front of me, cross-legged on the floor, the green eyes filled with concern. He's seen me in worse condition, but this time I am entirely responsible for the state that I'm in.
Showing remarkable restraint and maturity, he has said nothing since his one-word refusal when I asked him to leave me to suffer in private.
I must have dozed off, for he is gently shaking my shoulder. "Come on, Severus, I think you're done now. Let's get you up." After a moment of fumbling, he has me on my feet, then shuffles us a few feet to the side and pushes me into a chair by the sink. I hear water running, then feel him move my hair from my face before wiping it thoroughly with a cold, wet cloth. This act of tenderness cuts through my drunken stupor, and I cannot help the tears that spring unbidden to my eyes. I have behaved abominably and deserve to be turned out, and perhaps will be when the time comes. I can't help but think how differently this night could be unfolding. As he wipes the tears from my eyes with the cloth, his kindness cuts me to the quick.
He guides me carefully back to the couch, then tells me, "Don't sit yet." The experience of him undressing me is totally wasted given my drunken state. He keeps his hands round my waist as he moves behind me, then buckles my knees with his own. We topple backward ungracefully onto the couch. After some rearranging, he has me much as he did that third year in the dungeons. Encircling me with his arms, he pulls me back against his chest, his legs on either side of my body. He summons a blanket to cover us, then sinks back into the couch. I feel myself on the edge of oblivion, but must say something before it takes me.
"So sorry, Harry...so stupid."
"Shhh. Severus. Not now. We'll talk in the morning...now, sleep. I've got you."
With this comforting thought, I obey.
I'm afraid to open my eyes, knowing what the light will do to my head. I can hear him moving about in the kitchen, so I cautiously open one eye. He's clearly been waiting for this, because he's beside me in an instant. I feel him sit on the couch at my elbow, so I open the other eye slowly.
"Good, you're awake. Sit up and take these." He's holding out two, small white tablets and a glass of water.
I groan in protest. "No, I don't think so. Hangover Potion...in my bag."
He stares at me in disbelief. "You have Hangover Potion in your bag? Whatever for?" When I don't answer, he takes a moment, then figures it out. "You came prepared to get drunk," he says flatly. "In case I told you I'd changed my mind." It's an accusation which I answer affirmatively with my silence.
"I can't believe you thought so little of my...character that you'd actually think I'd change my mind and let you come here without telling you first."
"And I can't believe you let me come here without telling me about Andrew first," I throw back at him.
"There was nothing to tell," he declares hotly, "and besides, had I told you in advance, the truth he told you last night, it would only have given you more time to prepare to be ridiculously obnoxious."
It is too much. My growing anxiety over the past year, my deductions about his relationship, albeit false, my inexcusable treatment of the both of them, my descent into drunkenness, my humiliating sickness of the night before, and now this...it all proves too much. To my horror, I feel the burning as my eyes fill with tears for the second time today, and I will them to stay where they are.
But he sees them. "Oh, Severus, I'm sorry. I never dreamed you would feel so insecure over this. I thought I'd made it very clear last summer how I felt." I successfully blink back the tears, and even though I know why, I wonder again at the fact that he even cares for me. Using the tip of a finger, he brushes the moisture away from my lashes, then leans down to kiss me gently on the forehead.
Without a word, he goes to my bag to retrieve the potion. As he returns with it, he asks me, "Why ever didn't you use it last night?"
"I deserved last night," I tell him.
He laughs softly. "That comedy of errors? You didn't deserve it any more than Andrew or me. We weren't trying to deceive you, Severus. We'd planned for him to be gone well before you came. I would've eventually told you, but when you arrived so early, well, things just got a little out of hand, didn't they?"
I've already taken the potion, and am waiting for it to take effect, so I only nod in reply.
"You do believe me, Severus? About Andrew? It's true what he told you. I was never even tempted."
I sigh. "I believe you, Harry. And I'm sorry...for the whole of it. If you want to boot me out after this, I won't blame you. I acted the fool."
He laughs and leans in close to my face to whisper, "What are you talking about, boot you out? Good God, Severus. I love you. Are you learning-impaired?" He watches as I struggle to push myself up. Finally I am sitting, the potion now working, and the world is slowly coming into focus. I feel the dull ache behind my eyes begin to recede
He watches me, amused. "Actually I found the way you reacted kind of touching. It settled any questions I might have had."
Touching? Leave it to the boy to describe my behavior with such a word. "You doubted that I care? I recall making a promise to you last year."
He smiles. "Yes, you did, but it seems like I'm not the only one here with a few insecurities."
Touche. Perhaps with that the score is even. Probably not, as he has not insulted my friends or been sick in my rooms.
With this truce in hand, I manage to shower and dress while he makes us breakfast. He watches me with a sly grin as I make my way to the counter. I know that look, and although I feel almost myself again, I'm hoping he'll leave whatever he is up to until I've put something into my queasy stomach. I should know better.
"I think we should start over."
I eye him warily from over my tea. "Start over?"
"Yes." He flashes me a grin, then says, "You're incredibly early."
Oh. It's a gift, then. He's giving me a pass on the whole bloody mess. I smile back at him. "You shouldn't be surprised. I almost came earlier." Of course, knowing what I know now, I would've definitely come much later. I will never forget the events of the past twelve hours, but now they have ceased to be important any longer. Although we both were at fault, the scales of generosity tip a little more in his favor, I think.
We settle into the familiar rhythm of the past anniversaries we've spent together. He works at his desk while I read on the couch. I catch him looking at me intently several times, and suspect that once again I am the subject of a sketch. He looks up, at odd moments, to find me watching him too. And so, hour by hour the day passes, the heat building slowing between us, all the stronger now given the unforeseen detour we have taken. We both know where this is taking us, but neither of us, it seems, wants to hurry it along. We are savoring the process, and Harry, it appears, has learned how to tango.
I am surprised when I awake sometime in the early evening, my exertions of the night before having caught up with me. I see him sitting on the other end of the couch, only his eyes visible above the sketchbook resting against his knees. He studies me for a moment before looking down again, the charcoal scratching on the pad. "Harry," I chide him. "Don't you have enough of me?"
He answers without looking up. "I'll never have enough of you, Severus." The heat is turned up a notch.
After supper, I'm surprised when he brings out a chessboard. "I didn't know you could play."
He mocks me. "Yes, Severus, Harry can play." I decide that he needs to be taught a lesson. He looks at me solemnly as he sets out the pieces, and I feel a sudden jolt of desire. Ah. He knows what he's doing here, and I have no choice but to play along. I return the smoldering look, and am satisfied when I see the spark of desire in his eyes too.
I am stunned an hour later when I am fighting for my life. I can't begin to imagine who taught him to play, but I'm starting to realize that I could very well lose.
I'm thinking six moves ahead when he startles me by saying, "What do you think the Headmaster wanted, Severus?" I think this is possibly a distraction tactic to interrupt my strategy, so I set the piece down to delay the game, then look at him.
"I expect it was for us to be friends, Harry." We both know this cannot be entirely true, as we're sitting here together on yet another July 31st. "What do you think he wanted?"
Without permission, he is removing the pieces and placing them back in the box. Only the board sits between us when he looks up at me and says, "I think he wanted us not to be alone. I think he knew that both of us would end up that way if left to ourselves. I think he wanted to fix it so we couldn't be...alone."
I nod at him. "Not bad for twenty-four, Harry." He smiles at me then, the green eyes soft and inviting. Still the eyes of the raven-haired boy, but also the eyes of the man, fully aware. I read the decision there, and ask him gently, "Are you sure, Harry?"
He laughs softly as he closes the distance between us.
We stand at the kitchen counter and pour the Glenlivit. I am not going to down the customary libation, as I don't think my stomach will allow it. We toast the old man, and after a hasty sip, I set down my glass, then reach over to take his and set it down too. Without a word, I lead him through the workroom and down the hallway into the small bedroom. I have never been in this room before, so I light the small lamp and take in the room. There is a bed - that is enough. The light remains on, as I know that seeing each other, on this night, is imperative.
There is no frantic rush to fulfillment this time. If I taught him anything last year, it's that the process is to be as pleasurable as the act itself. Not that he doesn't tremble under my hands as I slowly undress him, but he waits for my touch now, and revels in each soft caress when it comes. He stands still before me as I take my time exploring each newly exposed patch of skin, kneading it, kissing it, causing gooseflesh to rise. He cannot keep quiet, however, and I thrill with each gasp and moan that my hands and mouth elicit from him. Not one inch of him escapes my attentions, and I finally step back when I know that he is close to the edge. What a sight he is, a picture of ecstasy that stands before me. Taking care not to touch him, I lean in to kiss the already parted mouth.
Without breaking away, his hands find me and begin stripping away what still separates us. Keeping his mouth on mine, he probes gently as his hands take their time in disrobing me. I am the statue now, eyes closed, as he kisses his way down my neck and onto my chest. Then he's kneeling before me as he tugs down my pants. My knees shake as he trails his tongue down the inside of a thigh, and I moan his name as he slides his hands between my legs to part them. When I realize what he is about to do, I instruct him gently, "Harry, no."
Looking down, I see him looking up at me, panting, a question in his eyes. Drawing him up, I tell him, "Not this time."
He understands, and I pull him toward me. As bare skin meets bare skin, we both gasp at the contact, hard against each other. Ripples of pleasure break over me as I feel him bring a knee up between my legs. When I grab him from behind and pull him up towards me, he finally groans my name, "Severus." I feel my resolve to delay wearing thin and know that if I am feeling this, then he must be near the breaking point also. Hitching him up, my arms round his waist, he instinctively wraps his legs around me as I carry him to the bed.
In one fluid movement, I have both of us on it, and now I must pull back a moment to just look at him, to fix this moment in my memory. He opens his eyes to look at me and I drink in the sight of this beautiful child, now a man, the color high in his cheeks, the black hair spilling out over the pillow, the green eyes dilated with expectation and passion...for me. I am filled with a rush of gratitude, to him for opening his very soul to me, and to the meddling old man who was wise enough to see beyond our burrs and prickles to what we could become.
He reaches out for me in protest at this lack of contact, and I fold him in again. Time seems to stop as we explore each other: tasting, touching, grasping, smoothing, sliding. I find his secret places with delight, and cry out in pleasure as he finds mine. Time after time, I pull us back from the edge, smiling as he moans in mounting frustration.
I slide off him and lay at his side, raising myself so I can watch him as I prepare my hand with lotion he has placed at the bedside. Gliding my hand down over his belly, he arches into it as I slide it down still further. He eagerly parts his legs to allow me access, then freezes, knowing what I am about to do when I force my hand between the folds of that lovely behind. I probe him gently with a fingertip, then push in once I am past that first, resisting piece of flesh. He gasps out in pleasure, squirming against it, pleading for more. I smile as I oblige, slipping in first another, then another finger, gently pushing to widen him as I slide them in and out. His moans are a mixture of pleasure and pain as I continue the intrusion. He pushes himself down to meet the upward rhythm I have set, his hands clenched in the bed sheets beside him. When I am sure that I've done all I can to make him ready, I crawl back over to cover his body with my own, then press in to make him stop moving.
He stills beneath me suddenly as he understands what it is that I now require - he must ask me for what is to come. Pulling my face up to his, he frames my face with his hands and all but swallows my mouth with his own.
When he finally pulls away, he says to me, breathless, "Please, Severus, now."
Propping my arms on either side of his head, I take his face in my hands and kiss him chastely. "Harry." His eyes fly open. "I've done what I can to prepare you, but this is going to hurt, this first time."
He nods, brushing the hair back from my face. "I know, but do it anyway, Severus. I need you now, inside me."
I slide off him and help him position his knees. After taking a moment to prepare myself with the lotion, I spread his legs wide as I press in, stopping just short of penetrating him. My hands at his hips, I give a gentle command. "Harry, eyes wide open now." His eyes fly open again, then soften as he takes in my face leaning over him. I push into him slowly, and seeing the pain in his eyes, I tell him softly, "Breathe, Harry, breathe." He is gasping, wanting to close his eyes so I won't see the pain there, but I tell him, "Look at me, Harry. Don't close your eyes." I watch the lines tighten around his mouth as I slowly advance, until I feel myself fully sheathed in him. Leaning my full weight into him now, I hear him gasp again. "Breathe, breathe," I tell him again and again.
Slowly I feel him relax around me, see the mouth soften, see the pain gradually fade from his eyes. I pull myself back, then thrust forward again, working to set up a gentle rhythm, in and out. He relaxes even more as I continue to move, and I smile as he begins to thrust back, his eyes dulled with pleasure. Without prompting, he hooks his ankles behind me, and I sense him trying to pull me in deeper and faster.
And still I hold those green eyes with my own as we move in tandem, pushing in, pulling in. He's grabbed my shoulders, and uses his entire body to leverage me in deeper still. His own erection is hard beneath me, and I move a hand between us to grasp it. At the touch, he cries out my name, and I stroke him in time with our thrusting, which has now become an almost desperate pounding of my hips into his.
Soon he is reduced to begging. "Oh God...Severus...please...oh fuck...." I just smile and pick up the pace even more, stroking him firmly between us as we move.
Soon, I too am trembling with need. He screams as I push at a slightly different angle, and so I repeat it again and again just to hear him cry out.
We are both so close now, so I move to finish him, wanting to see the look on his face as he comes. His eyes roll back as his whole body arches, and he makes no sound as his body is taken over by his release. His hips jerk forward in a burst of staccato-like movements as he spills out between us. As I feel him relax ever so slightly beneath me, I abandon myself to the need I've been holding back so that he would climax first. I'm without control now, thrusting deeply and wildly, and I feel the heat suddenly focus deep in my pelvis. He has grabbed my shoulders again, pulling me toward him, urging me on with each push from his hips. Just at the edge of it, he nudges me over with the words from those glorious lips. "Come Severus, now." I explode inside him, the heat streaking out of me to fill him, and I give myself up to the last involuntary spasms as he puts his arms around me to pull me in close. I fell him twitch around me in response, and suddenly spent, I lay my head against his chest as I gasp out his name in pleasure.
"Harry, Harry," I say it over and over. It must become tedious, for he pats me on the back and says, "I know, Severus. I'm here."
"Afterglow," I tell him. He lifts his head to look at me quizzically.
"Afterglow. It's what this feeling after sex is called. Brought on by the physical act itself - the release of endorphins in the brain." We are lying contentedly, still entangled in one another, the bed damp with the sweat of our love-making.
He considers this, then leans in to kiss me. "Whatever. Go to sleep, Severus. You had me up all last night, and tonight too." He kisses me again, a tongue lingering on my lips. "Not that I'm complaining." With that he settles back on my chest, and is soon fast asleep.
I, however, am drunk for the second night straight. This time, not on Glenlivit, but on Harry. I am intoxicated with him: the sight of him, the smell of him, the feel of him, the soul of him. And I pray that I'll never be sober again.