He sleeps the sleep of the righteous. He lies on his back, straight as a knight, body ridged under the threadbare coverlet of Slytherin green and gold he has never thought to replace. His toes point at the ceiling: his knees are precisely aligned. Across his chest, his arms lie crossed, his hands folded. Above the ragged edge of eiderdown, his face, all its planes and angles speared by the light of a single candle, echoes the points of a curlicued, gothic ceiling. On his head Snape wears a nightcap, unextravagent in its single point, into which he has tucked his hair. Just above the hem of the eiderdown and beneath the prominent rise of Snape's Adams apple you can see the collar of his nightshirt, which is long, and coloured that indeterminate shade of gray that can only be produced by multitudinous laundering. It may once have been striped, but this only Snape's aunt can tell you, and she is long dead.
On Snape's bedside table is a glass of water, as people who drink one too many whiskeys before bed tend to have, and a bookmarked copy of Havorford's Lesser Potions of the Umbelliferous Family, carefully aligned to the edges of the tabletop. There is a beeswax candle, unscented, lit, in a pewter stand.
Snape wakes, he will reach, before his eyes open, for his wand, which
lies under his thumbs and over his heart. He will check the wards on
his bed, on his bedroom floor and ceiling, on his door: on the empty
frames of pictures that once, before Snape banished witnesses, homed
Slytherin notables of time long past. Beyond, his bedroom, his study,
which is also his living room, and his bathroom, and finally, the spider's
web of interlacing spells that guard his door.
For all the years of his life, Snape has woken to the sense of the world as a broken thing and himself broken with it. There are parts of him stunted, kicked out of shape, tangled, and he has grown round them as an oak tree embraces the coils of a barbed wire fence. In the moments before he reaches for the robes that hang neat and straight on a hanger and the boots lined up by his door, Snape tallies his sins like a miser, belts himself together, and dons his armour for the day. This is Snape, waking to walk his daylight hours in a carapace of scorn and pride, brittle as cinder toffee, cracked as a porcelain bowl loved by the ocean.
Do not ask of what Snape dreamed.
Rather, let the day draw you in. Snape rises, dresses, breakfasts. He will be teaching today. He should be gathering his notes, straightening his sleeves, composing the mask of his face and all the broken pride under it. But all the detail is gone. For six months Snape has had a single purpose, and that purpose was consuming, ravenous. Gone, it has left him empty as a fireplace on a summer's day.
But today is Thursday. Snape should beware of Thursdays, of time setting traps outside his front door, of snares and dreams. He is a fool. He opens his door, and finds the world changed and become new.
There is no corridor outside his door, no sheltering darkness, no familiar walls. Sunlight strikes the stone and cuts it to brightness; in front of him, a garth with all its grass green and springtime velvet., and surrounding, cloisters, arched like a sea-serpent's back, and above all the roofs of Hogwarts and all the flags thereon, flying. The flagstones at his feet are smoothed and even. Between cracks of the stones, shadowed, spring moss, and lichen, flowering, and the little purple flowers of a creeping violet. It is a rare violet, digitalis morcumbus, and if one was not well-acquainted with the properties of violets one could assume it was the same plant as its even rarer cousin, digitalis morcumbus alpinus, used for the most difficult and expensive of heartwarming potions.
It is the first installment on a debt Snape has no wish to acknowledge. He lets his door shut behind him, not with a bang but a hiss, girds his anger, and walks to the archway at the end of the cloister, where the stairway curls into shadow. His robes furl behind him, his feet are placed deliberately just so, and he does not look back. He does not look back. He will not look back.
He looks back.
"You owe me nothing, Potter," Snape says. He says it loudly, so his voice echoes through the vaults and arches and across the violets. "Nothing."
His mouth shuts on the words like the snap of a stick. He can hear his own breathing, and the sound of the breeze across the garth, and the noise of children beyond the door.
Harry Potter says nothing. He sits on the low wall outside Snape's door. He has taken time to change into his robes, but he wears them loosely, with his jeans underneath. He has a wand in his hand and a cut-glass bowl at his feet rainbowed in light. He is watching soap bubbles rise in the air, insubstantial as promises, beautiful as sin, smiling, in the morning.
'Did you think I did it for you?" Snape says, not shouting, vicious as the snap of a manticore's jaws.
Above the grass bubbles lengthen, twist, flatten: grow wings, ragged and misformed, rise in sunlight, burst in sparks. Harry Potter is making butterflies. On the day he killed Voldemort, on the day he vanished, the sun stopped in its tracks and the stars rained down from the sky. He has only to raise an eyebrow and the world changes to suit.
Snape says, "What do you want?"
He says it as if the words have been dragged out of him, low edged, and he says it even as he moves, robe, hair, elbows, all spiked angles in motion. He is running away, and taking his shadow with him, elongating across the slabs. He has almost reached the archway: he is within a fingersbreath breadth of the stair, when he turns again.
"Whatever you are doing, Mr Potter, it won't -"
But Harry Potter is, at last, looking at Snape. It is a frankly carnal evaluation. It sizes him up, the cant of his hips, the strength of his arms, the length of his legs, his hands. It's a look which says, and bluntly, that Snape would look his best on his back with Harry Potter's cock up his arse, preferably screaming. More frightening still, it is a look that knows what it bares and wants it anyway, wants it more, most, because it is Snape, vicious tongue and potent words. It wants to crawl into Snape's cracks and own them.
Snape stops breathing. His shadow, lengthened, shudders like a startled unicorn.
Harry Potter looks away. He says, carefully, "I'm sorry. But I thought you should know."
is madness,' Snape thinks. He looks away, up, stares at the sky, all
its shades of blue drifted into forever, and in it clouds shape for
his pleasure, orders and patterns forming and fading like wraiths.
Snape's shadow, moving, tides over the knees of Harry's jeans, hesitates, and sends a creeping finger up his thigh. It moves smoothly, slowly, little rushes of confidence, curves round the hollow above his knee and kisses his inseam. Emboldened, it rushes his inner thigh and hesitates at his crotch, lingering in the curve of his hips and seeping through the seams of his pockets.
Snape says nothing at all. He cannot.
Harry rocks back on his heels, head thrown back: he is watching, through darkened and half-closed eyes, not the inexorable caress of the shade, but Snape's face. At his crotch, shadow slides round to the base of the zip of his jeans, creeps upward, outlining with thin, sure fingers the line of what is now an undoubtedly erect cock. Shadow fills the valleys of denim, licks across the full rise of flesh and retreats, runs, quick and sure and lascivious, up all the full rise of flesh and cloth and sweeps round the head of it, licking darkness.
Harry Potter's hands stay at his sides, but his fists are clenched and where light does pick out the line of his muscles all his body is tense and taut.
"If you would touch me now," Harry Potter says, and wets his lower lip, "Just once, I would come for you."
"I'm not even sure," he says, and it is clear now that somewhere in the last five minutes he has lost the battle to keep his breath even and his skin from flushing. "If you'd need to touch me."
Snape closes his eyes then, but he hears Harry Potter come, not with a scream but a with a gasp all the more violent for its bitten-off harshness. He can't remember when he last breathed: he itches for his wand, his rooms, his sanity: opens his eyes and sees his own shadow come crawling back to him and Harry after it. Harry's eyes are black with want and green as grass, and this Snape knows because he is watching Harry and Harry is looking right back at him, all the way, until Snape's shadow curls under his robe and the boy kneels at his feet.
"You want me," Harry Potter says.
And quite suddenly Snape knows he is nothing but want, desperate with it, skin crawling, belly aching, light headed and flushed, made, himself, into something strange and new. "Harry," says Severus, as if his name alone is the darkest of all unmentionables, an incantation to suck the soul from the body and set it free amongst the stars...yet he is not dead. For the breath stirs in his lungs and burns his throat, and under his fingertips Harry's heart beats to the same rhythm as his own.
"You promised me apricots," says Severus Snape.
"So I did," says Harry Potter, and smiles.
He sleeps on his side, limbs askew and uncovered, half on, half off, a rucked quilt of Armenian silk dyed with dragon scales, and against its brilliance his pale flesh burns. His feet tangle in a comforter spun with the fine feathers of a phoenix's breast, and his head rests against a pillow stuffed with eider and covered in Egyptian cotton, fine to the skin as the Irish damask of his sheets. Against the white of the pillow his hair, all its fine strands mussed and tangled, lies in a blur of black dark and soft as the eye of a unicorn. His face is downturned, all its angles gentled by sleep, and there is a lift to his mouth that on anyone else would be a smile to move mountains. His left hand rests on his chest: his right is outstretched, and just within its reach is his wand, lying caught in a tangle of indigo silk.
Snape no longer sleeps in the dark. His bedside table, his armoire, his chests and trunks, his windowsill, gleam with the light of a thousand miniature candles, and as they burn the scent of sweetgrass and pine wreaths through the room. Snape's robes are scented with smoke and incense, and lie discarded and crumpled just past his doorway, and his shirt, its mother of pearl buttons scattered across the floorboards, hangs from his wardrobe door. His boots have been kicked under his armoire, half their laces obliterated. Tomorrow morning Snape will mend his shirt, relace his boots, and hex his robes into pristine formality, but not tonight. Snape's nights are...no longer his own.
Tread carefully. In the crook of Snape's arm, covered by his quilt against the cold, lies his student, his lover, his lord. If you look closely, you can see the tufts of dark hair and the scarred hand that rests on Snape's shoulder, but do not - do not! - come nearer.